VigilT. SHER SINGH
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
A candlelight vigil is planned for Sunday, August 12, at the White House in Washington, D.C. Commencing at 7:00 pm sharp. On the north side of the White House at Lafayette Park. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
I laud those who are organizing it. It’ll prove to be an anchor to the vigils similarly being held all over North America, and other parts of the world as well.
Wish I could be there. But for the distance, I would have been there. I do hope and pray, though, that 10,000, nay, more, will turn up for the evening. And, keeping in mind the parking challenges in the area, please plan ahead and come early. (The park is also easily accessible by metro via the McPherson Square stop on the Blue and Orange lines.)
I have been sent an agenda for the evening and one thing on it baffles me. An hour - the first hour, a complete hour - has been set aside for speeches.
Why? Who? What? Where?
Are you serious?
I’ve scratched my head over it all day and, frankly, I haven’t been able to come up with a single intelligent and worthwhile thing that can be said, or needs to be said that evening. Not a phrase. Not a word.
We don’t even need to know who is there, dignitary or not.
It’s a V-I-G-I-L, for heaven’s sake!
Candle light is one of the necessary components.
The other is S-I-L-E-N-C-E.
Come in silence. And go in silence.
The only thing that should break that silence is simran. Or a shabad or two. And, of course, an ardaas. Nothing else.
The series of events that will have brought you together that evening will not need an introduction. The purpose of being there will need no explaining. No, we don’t need to know who organized it … after all, it is seva, isn’t it?
Please, please, DO NOT turn this into a PR event.
No, please do not have any banners, not even a single one, to tell us who sponsored the evening. You don’t need any flags either. No literature about Sikhi or anything else. Or about the “sponsoring” groups.
Please don’t raise money at the vigil.
Nothing. Just come. Just be there. Just stand there. Be together. And pray.
Singing of a shabad or two would be ideal. But don’t make it overly classical or in raags. The kirtan should be soft and gentle and meditative.
Wish you could bring Dya Singh over and get him to do his multi-faith chant. It would raise the dead, it would be so perfect and ethereal. You have time to fly him over … but I know, I know, it’s an idea too outside the box.
How about Snatam Kaur? Surely you can get her to donate an evening of simran and shabad in her magical voice.
If you really want to be inspired, and be inclusive - also find someone who can sing Amazing Grace. As well, invite a cantor from a synagogue. And a muezzin too. Again, no introductions or explanations. Just hymns.
And the ardaas. Other than the invocation, it should totally be in English. American English. The translations should be in Western idiom. Loud enough so all can hear and participate as a sangat. Have a proper speaker system, if you’re indeed going to have shabads and an ardaas. It’s easy to rent a portable unit which requires no hydro connection.
No issues over shoes and head coverings. Heads do not have to be covered, if some don’t want to or haven’t come prepared. You don’t need a supply of gurdwara-style rumaals and scarves. Shoes do not need to be doffed. Even during the kirtan and ardaas.
Whatever you do, let it be simple. Let it be something that will silence the city around you.
The occasion demands it.
Thank you for doing it.
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 08, 2012, 8:37 AM.
Please do heed Sher Singh ji's advice. To be heard, silence would be the most powerful tool. You would be setting a new standard for the whole world to watch.
2: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), August 08, 2012, 10:30 AM.
Please reach out to your nearest 3HO community. Ask for someone to play "Peace for all, Love for all, Light for all" on the guitar during the candle lighting. Three simple meditative sentences. That is what we are planning for the Atlanta Vigil.
3: Harman Singh (California, USA), August 08, 2012, 10:32 AM.
I could not think of any two more ethereal voices than that of Snatam Kaur and Dya Singh for that evening. Sometimes, in moments like these, silence can speak volumes.
4: DisVimther Kaur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 08, 2012, 10:57 AM.
Yes, silence. Very well explained. Let's do it together.
5: Harpreet Makkar (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), August 08, 2012, 11:17 AM.
Enough has been said and heard on the tragedy already. Please listen to the request/ appeal/ suggestions (any way you take it!) above. Please do not take the impact out of this event and belittle the departed souls with unnecessary speeches ...
6: Autar Singh (Subang Jaya, Malaysia), August 08, 2012, 11:30 AM.
The Naujawan Satsang youth of Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya organised a Candlelight-cum-Prayer Vigil at the Gurdwara on the evening of Wednesday, August 8. About 250 people from all over the Klang Valley attended the vigil, which was from 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm. The programme included kirtan, simran and ardaas. Two counselors from the US Embassy joined the sanggat in the vigil. A very meaningful evening.
7: Morrissey (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 08, 2012, 12:11 PM.
We only have one shot at this. This is our "closing ceremony" as all will fade away thereafter. If you have any pull (especially in Washington), please forward Sher ji's suggestions and make it happen.
8: Amar (Virginia, USA), August 08, 2012, 3:08 PM.
I am impressed by the ton of simplicity and commonsense put forth in this article. From what I hear, most of the vigils being held around the country are following these principles. But one I got dragged to last night was exhilarating and disappointing at the same time. It was a service held by a gurdwara run by Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Rockville, Maryland. The kirtan and simran were moving. However, the evening took a turn for the worse when one of the organizers, a fellow called Rajwant Singh, insisted on turning it into a political evening and dragged in, at the vigil outside, political speaker after speaker. The sangat did not look happy and even tried to rescue the evening, but this chap insisted on running it as a dog and pony show and would listen to no one. Sadly, I have just received an e-mail indicating that he is planning a vigil of his own outside the White House in Lafayette Park TONIGHT! To preempt, I suppose, the big event on Sunday. Members in his congregation need to talk to him. He's planning a similar circus tonight, with speakers who will again laud him, I'm sure, as a "Sikh Leader", as he describes himself. I absolutely insist on not going tonight - but I'll be there on Sunday. But I do hope members of the congregation will speak to the speakers directly and politely ask them to desist from being thus used to mar a time which should have nothing but prayer. Please, somebody, intervene tonight!
9: Birenjit Kaur (Washington, DC, USA), August 08, 2012, 3:52 PM.
I too have my concerns over the endless self-promotion. It wouldn't bother me if it wasn't for the fact that this man behind these spurious vigils subsumes the field, leaving the bureaucrats and politicians comfortable in the belief that he represents community interests, while he does nothing to address the community's best interests! That is, while he does nothing meaningful, and because of his occupying the field, nobody is able to, or allowed to, step into the role. Somebody needs to have a serious talk with him. If he won't straighten up, maybe somebody should have a serious talk with the bureaucrats and politicians, including in the White House. I hope he'll respond to the concerns raised here and present his position to the community. His politicization of the prayer vigil to further his personal political ambitions is just not acceptable!
10: R. Singh (Canada), August 08, 2012, 7:32 PM.
Thank you for voicing our concerns so well. This affliction that we have, i.e., the urge to blurt out something at the sight of a microphone needs to be curbed. Speeches and celebrities and politicians alike can let go of this occasion to speak, let this be maintained as a silent, dignified tribute to the victims and act as soothing balm for the survivors and family members.
11: Jamel Kaur (Melbourne, Australia), August 08, 2012, 8:16 PM.
Dya Singh (Dad) is available to come. If the organisers would like to get in touch with me now, I'd be happy to put him on a flight. email@example.com. InterACTION (Australia's youth in action group) are hoping to do some seva and something similar here in Australia in the next week. Love, Light and Respect - Guru Rakha
12: Sukhmani Kaur (Washington, DC, USA), August 08, 2012, 11:18 PM.
How can you hold an event in DC and not have any politics involved? You are asking for too much. Who goes to the gurdawara to really pray and take in the meaning of the bani? 80% of us go to socialize, so what did you expect? I went last night to the "United We Stand", and had conversations with everyone about who is getting married, who is pregnant, when people's anniversary parties are coming up and who is dating who! I did not expect this, and wish we all would have sat on the ground like we do at the gurdwara and prayed, but no ... it was just everyone standing around gossiping ... making themselves known and that's about it. I have tried on many levels to convince the organizers of this event not to have speeches but they will not budge, as the program has been "set in stone", and unfortunately, they are not open to suggestions. In my personal opinion i think even if it isn't what or how we expect it to be, we should still attend, because in the end it does show unity.
13: Raj (Canada), August 08, 2012, 11:20 PM.
I heard a moron called Prakash Singh Badal is coming to States to attend one event. Please ... please ... do not make this political We have gained nothing from these so-called jathedars, sants and leaders. Keep it simple, meditative and respectful.
14: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), August 09, 2012, 1:13 AM.
I think unfortunately this is one of those "old country" things that the self appointed leaders of the community have brought over to the new world. Anyone ever watch Punjabi politicians in Punjab pose for a picture? I remember one done at a sports event where all of the politicians squeezed in together as hard as they could to get in the shot and they were each man handling a young sportsmen's trophy. lol. Sher Singh has brought up some shockingly simple, yet effective ideas.
15: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 09, 2012, 9:15 AM.
Of such a "leader" is said: he wants to see where the people are going so that he can lead them.
16: M. Kaur (Washington, DC, USA), August 09, 2012, 9:50 AM.
Reading the comments above, I have to agree. Washington, DC's sangat is just as political as its geographic surroundings. Yes, I have to agree that the vigil on Tuesday night started beautifully but the sour taste of politics crept in and became substantial and overwhelming. There was a powerful spiritual message being conveyed and then the strong puff of politics swarmed over the peace and tranquility of the evening, and snuffed out the glow of the candles. Now I am happy to report that the evening at Lafayette Park last night, north of the White House, was beautiful. Yes, there were speeches, led by our young professional Sardars and Sardarnis. Sartaj Singh led the night with speakers like Dr. Natasha Kaur, Navdeep Singh (SALDEF), and Hanna Kaur, and concluded by Bhai Gurdarshan Singh in prayer. Everybody had lit candles and we had a few moments of silence. Later on, we mingled in with the crowd to share our thoughts and answer their questions. Langar was served in wrapped portions to everyone with drinks and snacks. All politicians were kept at an arm's length, their requests to speak were denied. Finally, please note: the bigger, main event planned for Sunday at the White House is in two parts: first, a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, and then the vigil in the evening at the White House.
17: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), August 09, 2012, 8:10 PM.
We want silence. Method - remove "we", the ego. Remove "want", the desire. And we will have - silence.