Are Sikhs to be a Minority For Ever? KAMALDEEP SINGH
Continued from Wednesday, August 29, 2012 ...
To recap: I believe we need to study the impact and impications of the Partition of Punjab in order to not only understand why we Sikhs have gone against the very ethos of Sikhi today, but allow us to heal as a collective and learn from them.
As a drect result of the above, as a collective our practice is no longer at the level it used to be.
Sikhs were submerged into the majority of other Indians all over the subcontinent and some wrongly began to worship pictures of the Gurus, remaining ignorant of the following:
"You sing lullabies to your stone god - this is the source of all your mistakes." [GGS:1136]
The material form of the idol makes no difference as one is clearly going against the spirit of the teachings.
Sikhs are instructed not to mistakenly worship even the Gurus as they too are but " slave of God." (Dasam Granth: 137]
If we contravene these principles, essentially we are no longer directing our prayers towards God, but wrongly towards a confluence of lines and colours. An image may appear in one’s mind. However, tThe Guru Granth teaches us that God is actually beyond form [GGS:283] so we are creating a wrong view from the outset.
As well, worshipping of idols does not yield a positive outcome [GGS:1264].
We are also taught that Divinity resides within us, and that if we wish to develop on a spiritual plane, we need to look inwards and not be confused like the deer seeking its own inner musk outside of itself. [GGS:1336].
When we pray to an idol, all it does is that it wrongly begins to re-inforce the idea that divinity is outside us, it makes us revere a stone or rock, and feel that it has sway over one's life.
Amongst other things, it also fragments people into different groups, compartmentalizing and boxing them up with the creation of artificial psychological barriers. Having broken from the source, new rules, prayers and practices surface, further distancing us from the teachings until they are but a distant memory.
It then proceeds to create people who are not strong, divided, and disunited. When a problem occurs on a wide scale, they will not come to the aid of the others as they do not see it as their problem. This continues ad finem, ushering in their ultimate decline.
COUNTER POINTS TO "THE NUMBERS GAME"
Aspiring to be a non-majority is definitely not in our DNA. The millions of Punjabis living in Pakistan today is testament to this. Had this been the case, then they too would have the same mode of thinking and would have died out a long time ago.
1 Guru Nanak travelled far and wide to teach about how to experience naam and showed the flaws in the logic of rituals. (Feet towards Mecca, watering the distant fields or those of ancestors, etc.) Thus in many respects it was proselytizing as the Guru ultimately wanted them to follow the path he was showing.
2 A form of clergy via Udasis and Munjis were started and set up accordingly by others Gurus as the dharam grew, to help build upon the ever growing masses.
3 The sakhi regarding Guru Nanak dispersing good people far and wide is also read as wanting Sikhi to grow the world over.
4 Not in agreement that Sikhs are meant to be singled out. Sikhi’s very foundations are dyed in love and acceptance which can really only lead to one embracing the dharam as their interaction grows. It was customary for Hindus to make their first son a Sikh and to marry their daughters into the households of Sardars. This in itself shows how naturally open, accepting and integrated Sikhi actually is.
5 The full saying is: "chirriaa(n) to mein baaz tudau(n), gidrraa(n) to mein sher banaau(n), sava lakh se ek ladaau(n), tabey Gobind Singh naam kahaau(n)." - 'I will teach the sparrow to take on the eagle, the jackal will transform into a lion, I will make one man take on a legion, only then will I deserve to be called Gobind Singh'.
Context is important. Sikhs were being hunted as they refused to be converted by others and remained true to the dharam. Sikhs naturally defended themselves as they wished to grow, prosper and propagate the faith. Had we any inclination of being a non-majority, there would have been no need to defend ourselves. One would simply have accepted the treatment meted out and consequently converted over time.
The purpose of sayings such as these was, and in fact still is, to infuse a sense of strength and power into Sikhs as well as infinitely lifting the spirit.
6 Being an outstanding individual is a by-product of following the teachings. However, this does not mean that one should essentially isolate oneself. One only has to look at successful people in different spheres to see how they create a huge body of individuals to further propagate their success. They are also, in the vast majority of cases, highly connected too.
7 Singh and Kaur are the surnames given to us by Guru Gobind Singh and all Sikhs have this by default. This is at a time when people did not even sit with one another. Thus the beauty in doing this ensured that everyone from different walks of life came together as one and were enjoined in a common bond, reinforcing that we are all of one family and naturally helped each other.
8 Sardar and Sardarni are the titles others give us due to the sacrifices our ancestors made, the power they wielded and for upholding the dharam. We are not alone in this matter however.
Muslims also carry the honorific of Janab (sir), but one does not find them relegating themselves to a non-majority status.
9 The Khalsa is the physical manifestation of Sikhi and is rooted in the teachings of the Guru Granth. When one immerses oneself in the essence of Divine Wisdom, the mind becomes pure and, thus, so does the body [GGS:637, 69, 110). The dharam teaches that we are all divine and that we should work towards dissolving the ego. In doing so, one no longer acts under its impulses and reverts to their natural state.
Sikhi seats us where we are ultimately headed, thus helping to ensure that we are on track from the outset.
Strength may be physical, mental, and spiritual, however its effects are exponentially multiplied as the amount increases. Therefore, regardless of holding ‘The Truth’ it becomes meaningless if one cannot exert any power due to lack of numbers and consequently one is quickly dismissed.
Looking into history one will see that propagation of the dharam has been there from the very beginning.
Alongside the four great journeys of Guru Nanak, his son Sri Chand, after becoming enlightened at the feet of his father, started his own institution. He established the order of Udasis whose sole aim was to further Sikhi and they would go to far off places attracting people to the teachings.
Banda Singh Bahadar, a convert at the very hands of Guru Gobind Singh, did the same as he redistributed land to their rightful owners.
And the Singh Sabha Movement in the 19th century produced similar if not even better results, countering the proselytizing of Christians and Hindus in the heart of Punjab.
REBUTTING QUALITY vs QUANTITY
To produce quality, quantity is needed. This is true whichever aspect of life one looks into.
To go against this is, with the greatest of respect, flawed and self-defeatist. Whilst it may sound good in theory, it is in reality generating a mindset which will reduce Sikh influence on society, Sikhs themselves, and ultimately storing up problems for the future.
I am of the belief that one of the main drivers for going against this is that we are wrongly being pushed to emulate the Jewish faith by a few. This is primarily fuelled by their desire to ensure things do not change and because they are attracted to their perceived high levels of financial gain and apparent clout.
It has been noted by many, however, that as soon their back is turned, choice phrases are used to express their real feelings towards them, which have not changed in all honesty, therefore it is short-lived at best. They may identify with them but it is ultimately misplaced.
The need for finance and clout has been borne out of necessity as their numbers are quite small and they do not invite people to their faith due to their belief that that they are an exclusive community.
Sikhi is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to this matter. It is a fully open and welcoming dharam that invites all to embrace it and has historically had a constant flow of people following the Guru.
There is no need to accept this emulation especially when it is not in keeping with the teachings or our history. If we do adopt it, then ultimately we will be setting ourselves up for everything else that comes with it.
If Sikhi is to prosper, then it’s ‘jor’ – strength and power, if you will - that needs to be founded on the teachings, not on what others do.
The 'quality vs quantity' argument has also surfaced, I believe, as a defensive reaction to the apparent stagnation of young Sikhs who are seen to be actively engaging in the dharam today. As discussed earlier, this is due to not engaging with Sikhs beyond the superficial so they are inclined to look elsewhere for spiritual fulfilment or join the majority, simply because it is easier.
One will find that many other faiths are facing the very same challenges, yet instead of accepting their apparent fate, they are rising to the occasion and educating about their teachings, catering to their needs and inviting others to do so.
Quality vs quantity is also another way of saying that one wishes to be left alone. This has most possibly occurred as their knowledge in this sphere is severely lacking, otherwise one would naturally actively engage with all.
It is through quantity that an individual becomes immersed in the practice and is thus brought up living and breathing the dharam.
Many will note that the Khalsa appeared when the time was perfectly ripe and Guru Gobind Singh took amrit at the hands of the punj pyaarey indicating that the energy, strength and power of the panth lay not solely in the hands of an individual or group of people, but in the collective body of Sikhs who were synergised, immersed, and permeating with the wisdom of the teachings.
Thus it naturally follows that the greater the quantity of Sikhs, the greater the quality is produced.
Quantity gives one a strong sense of belonging and firmly roots an individual, shaping their outlook and naturally orientating them towards the dharam from the very beginning.
This in itself goes a long way towards helping to produce relaxed and well grounded Sikhs who take an intuitive approach towards the dharam and are happy and at peace with themselves, the Guru, and ultimately God – the state of sehaj, if you will.
Whilst this article may have gone against the grain for some, it needed to be said, not only to give balance to the one-sided arguments which are well meaning but ultimately self-defeating, but to also effectively counter and re-address the issue so that Sikhs come out and engage with everyone in a stronger, more organised and coherent manner with a sense of drive, purpose and urgency.
At the end of the day, numbers are important no matter how one cuts it. We get angry at the author for articulating the obvious or even attempt to ignore it, pretending it does not matter and continue to sing kumbaya around the fireplace, but ultimately naivety has a costly price attached to it.
In summary, the dharam comes with growth prebuilt into it intrinsically. The Guru naturally practiced it in pretty much every sphere, and history has taught Sikhs what happens when we go against it.
Let us not make the mistake of operating from a non-majority mindset.
Aim to be in the holding majority wherever you reside.
Kamaldeep Singh is a Senior IT Consultant with several years' experience in the Investment Banking Sector. He is currently working for a leading financial brokers in London, England, which is listed on the LSE and is a FTSE 100 company. He lives in Ilford, Essex with his wife Sarabjeet Kaur and family.
August 31, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Satwinder Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), August 31, 2012, 10:48 AM.
Well said, Kamaldeep Singh. The prevalent and defeatist "wisdom" argues against all this and pigeon-holes Sikhi into an exclusive group, contrary to what it actually is - vast, like a river, meeting the ocean. An all-inclusive religion.
2: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), August 31, 2012, 12:35 PM.
Fantastic article! The acceptance of the supremacy of the shabad Guru - Guru Granth Sahib - regarding all matters by Sikhs will lead to the unity of Sikhs. Discrimination between the sangat of the Guru of any kind is anti-Sikhi and should have no place in the community. Our aim should be the spread and the growth of Sikhi. A strong and flourishing Sikh religion spread all over is the only way for the welfare of the Sikh community and the world at large. The basic definitions of Sikhi, Sikh and Khalsa should only come from the shabad Guru and Guru Gobind Singh's own writings. We need such writers to come out in the open and be bluntly honest to suggest ways and means for the spread and the growth of the Sikh religion.
3: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), August 31, 2012, 1:23 PM.
We lost the Sikh empire to the British. We lost our roots to the Partition of Punjab. Today, we are losing much of what we have in a deteriorating India. Many of us do not know what is Sikhi. I myself have seen Sikhs finding solace in the photos of the Gurus in their houses as well as idols of Hindu devis and devtas. Did we become like the Brahmin gone astray who wanted monopoly over religion and instead of showing the way ended up being a thorn in the growth of his dharam. If the answer is 'no', then the above article is a wake up call for all the Sikhs individually and collectively.
4: Dr. Pargat Singh (Nottingham, United Kingdom), August 31, 2012, 5:45 PM.
In the ideal world, yes, most SIkhs would probably prefer not to be a minority all over the world for the reasons that Kamaldeep Singh has given. It is also true that other faiths "are rising to the occasion and educating about their teachings, catering to their needs and inviting others to do so". But for Sikhs what form would this invitation take? How do we increase our numbers? Whilst Sikhi welcomes voluntary converts, proselytism, deemed a meritorious act in some faiths, is largely discouraged and in fact would be seen as offending other faiths which is against the tenets of Sikhi. I entirely agree with Kamaldeep Singh that a sense of "drive, purpose and urgency" is needed, perhaps starting with bringing our own youth back into the fold.
5: Jogishwar Singh (Lausanne, Switzerland), September 01, 2012, 5:10 AM.
I normally never post comments on any article. Kamaldeep Singh's excellent piece has made me break this rule. Kamaldeep Singh has highlighted the defeatist mindset of Sikhs today, befuddled by Bollywood, casteism, financial gain, short cuts via deras & babas, greed. I could go on and on. To justify this state of anti-Sikhi, a minority mindset is justified. In the name of integration, Sikhs are dropping Singh and Kaur from their names, desperate to please the whites by calling themselves Joe, Bob, Rob and what have you. Discarding the glorious names given by Dasam Padshah, Sikhs, especially those in the US and Canada, are reducing themselves to the level of ordinary Joes and Toms. Integration is of the mind and spirit, not of physical appearance or names. Racist whites will never accept a non-white person, be he/she shorn and named in a western way. Non-racist whites will not only accept physical and colour differences but admire adherence to one's own faith. This, at least, has been my life experience of over 30 years of living in Europe. I wish we had more Sikhs like Kamaldeep Singh to make us aware of how, to justify our material comfort and cowardice, we are distorting our ethos, religious values and morals. Welles Hangen (I believe) wrote several years ago: "Sikhs are a nation of lions led by donkeys". Well, we still have people like Kamaldeep Singh to make us aware of where we are going astray. May Waheguru Almighty take Kamaldeep from strength to strength!
6: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 4:59 PM.
The name 'Kamaldeep' has been tucked in my memory as 'one in a million'. Years ago, someone used to post very intelligent pieces on the old sikhnet forum. Not sure if that was the same Kamaldeep. Well, my perception must be flawed because I find myself agreeing with all the three articles here. Sher has discussed our strength in elitism. The best are always a minority and we need not be ashamed of a minority status. Kamaldeep argues that we must not be lulled by such elitism. We must be proactive, multiply, and spread the word. I agree with both. Not spreading the Guru's word is one of the worst mistakes. But to do so, we need to stand out, be distinct and be different, and thus we will continue to be a minority, in the near future at least.
7: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 5:05 PM.
I do not want to write a book here. Some people compare the Sikhs with the Jews. We cannot do so. The Jews have been business people (money lenders, jewelers, diamond traders) with free access to modern arts and education. Sikhs come from an agrarian background with little interest in education. The Jews do not stand out as being different, as the Sikhs. The Jews are one tribe. They support and trust each other. A Jewish handshake is well known as binding. Sikhs suffer from tribal divisions and mistrust. I am not an expert but, as far as I know, the religious scriptures originating in that geographic area (the Middle-East) tend to prescribe rules for everything. Only those who live by those rules are God's 'chosen' people. Additionally, a Jew is a Jew by birth. Sikhi does not endorse this and thus our needs are different. But we can still learn from the struggles faced by other minorities.
8: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 5:07 PM.
The truth is that at present we are hiding our treasures. Today, in the modern wasteland, we are not elite by any measure. We are neither the best nor the most intelligent. We gloat over our history, our heritage and culture, but all we show for it is bhangra and gatka. We have not created a single modern world-class leader or a Nobel laureate. Our elitism lies in our gurbani. We take pride in having gurbani which we recite often, but we make little effort to understand it. Our best books are written only for the Punjabi. We are unable to learn the art of presenting our Sikhi without adding cultural eccentricities and without persistent usage of the Punjabi idiom.
9: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 5:10 PM.
For starters, instead of reciting 'Nanak naam chardi kalaa' among those who cannot identify a single word of Punjabi, we could try saying, 'Nanak sayeth: in God's worship resides true welfare and in God's Will resides the welfare of the entire world." Instead of repeating our golden rule, 'Naam juppo, wund chhukko ..." in a literal form, we could try the modern idiom while preserving its true intent. E,g., "Worshipping God, sharing food with the hungry, and living an honest life..." We need to also learn that the words "God's Name" have a place in gurbani, but they do not resonate well in the vernacular.
10: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 5:12 PM.
All suggestions are important because action is required in many areas. For example, we need to write Sikh philosophy in a form that is readable for an English reader. We need to get out and introduce ourselves to the world instead of guarding the golak. Guru Nanak made every Sikh household a gurdwara ('ghar ghar andar dharamsaal' - Bhai Gurdas) and a place of worship. Instead, we worship only on the weekend, in large gurdwaras that are necessary as community centers, and then we fight over the money so collected. Money is always an issue. The golak was necessary in the old times. This needs to change now.
11: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 01, 2012, 5:14 PM.
Thus, we cannot move forward unless we free ourselves from the albatross of our golak. We need to impose a mandatory limit on the langar menu. Feeding the homeless should be integral to our langar activity. We must campaign to stop selling parshad outside our gurdwaras in India, stop selling akhand paths, and remove the golak from the place of worship. Convert to accepting the offerings with a check or a credit card wherever possible. Cash can be accepted but only with a proper written receipt. This will be a good starting point. This will get rid of the selfish. Only the honest leaders will remain standing then.
12: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), September 02, 2012, 1:32 AM.
The Guru teaches us 'aai panthi sagal jamati", which means brotherhood of mankind. The Sikh, wherever he or she resides, cannot and should not have a minority mindset. To my understanding majority of the others also do not see Sikhs as a minority. The others all start seeing Sikhs as one of their own. This I think is because of the inherent inclusive nature of Sikhi. Guru Nanak was claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. The child Gobind Rai, by holding both the hands of Pir Bikhan Shah, proclaimed that he was to be the Guru of all. The shabad Guru is the eternal testimony that it is the Guru of all mankind. Sikhi is the universal religion of the modern world. Thus Sikhs should always have a majority mindset and always aim for the expansion and growth of Sikhi.
13: G.C. Singh (USA), September 02, 2012, 8:57 AM.
I agree with Sardar Jogishwar Singh that Sikhs are a nation of lions, led by donkeys. Unfortunately this situation will continue because when you are occupied and enslaved in your own homeland, it is your masters who impose the corrupt collaborators and and the worst among you, as your leaders. The DNA of such minions ultimately gets implanted through out the entire Sikh body in every corner of the world as can be seen in many of our institutions in the diaspora. The only solution is for the the Sikh nation to regain its sovereignty, by having effective levers of political economic and military power in our own hands.
14: Aryeh Leib (Israel), September 04, 2012, 4:12 AM.
I agree with much of what has been said, both in the article and in the comments. Coming from inside Judaism (and still there in the physical sense, although I feel myself to be much closer to Sikhi in a number of ways) I'm in a position to clarify some of the points of comparison made thus far. Judaism, according to the Torah, is intended to be an inward-looking minority; included in Mankind, but not to be seen as part of it. And this fact has distinguished its 3500 year old history. Yes, it's a good model from which to learn how to live in Diaspora, as regards local communal institutions that have always been part and parcel of every viable Jewish community outside the Land of Israel (i.e., hospitality for travelers, visiting and caring for the sick and the indigent, providing education, etc.). But diaspora, regardless of its long history, has always been viewed as a temporary situation, pending the coming of the Messiah and the return to Zion - spiritually and physically. By the way, the view of Jews as possessing, "high levels of financial gain and apparent clout", represents a very narrow perception of a present-day situation; poverty and powerlessness have characterized Jews in the Diaspora for much more of their history. As for, "The Jews do not stand out as being different, as the Sikhs.", if I were to send you a picture of myself, in full Hasidic bana (sic!), you would be quickly disabused of such an idea!
15: Kamaldeep Singh (London, England), September 04, 2012, 1:34 PM.
Jogishwar Singh: Life too has taught me that acceptance, admiration and respect only comes when it is seen that dharam is central to your being. Staying true does work. Though it may take longer, its effects are a lot more far reaching. Remaining firm, grounded, and respectful makes one a force to be reckoned with. Yuktanand Singh: the gurdwara has been mismanaged. Sikhs donated quite heavily for the betterment of the community, however we were betrayed and left in a weakened state. Strengthening the system so that characters of this nature are kept away from these positions is important.
16: Kamaldeep Singh (London, England), September 04, 2012, 1:35 PM.
Dr. Pargat Singh: proselytizing about the daram is central to Sikhi. The Guru did this, we are instructed to do so: "The Guru's Sikh, and the Sikh's Guru, are one and the same; both spread the Guru's teachings" [GGS:444] and we have always invited people to become Sikh. Offence is neither here nor there really. If the tenets direct us to call others to Sikhi and one does so, then it is perfectly fine as they are acting in accordance. It is through education that our numbers will increase, the invitation to become Sikh will naturally appear through sheer momentum, and young Sikhs will automatically stay connected to the dharam because of this.
17: Aryeh Leib (Israel), September 05, 2012, 4:15 AM.
I think that the method of proselytizing, to conform with the Guru's teachings, would have to differ in a fundamental sense from that which we see in other faiths (ie. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism within its own ranks). These faiths begin with the underlying premise that their faith is the only true approach to the Divine, that all others are in error, and that those who embrace other faiths are contributing to the diminution of God's Presence in the world. Sikhi, as far as I understand it, firmly rejects these notions. In this I echo Dr. Pargat Singh's sentiments. I also agree with Dr. Yuktanand Singh that, in order to develop any sort of appeal to the religiously-disaffected in society the Dharam has to get its own house in order. If a survey on basic knowledge, beliefs and practices could be taken today among the world's population that calls itself "Sikh", I fear the results would be disappointing indeed. Anarchy seems to represent the flip side of having no hierarchy, to speak of. This is the result of the stage of Kalyug in which we live today - an explosion of communication marked by everyone talking and almost no one listening, and the relegation of "Truth" to the realm of, "just another opinion".
18: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.), September 06, 2012, 5:52 AM.
The article by Kamaldeep Singh is immensely thought-provoking! I completely agree with him. I believe our erroneous belief about not spreading the message of our Gurus is due to our disregard to reading and analyzing the lives of our Gurus. We overemphasize akhand paatths, for example, with little review of social and political reforms by them. We need to study Sikhism also in a comparative way in relation to other world religions to comprehend the unique concepts introduced by our divine Masters. We need to start adult and children gurmat classes in every home and gurdwara to first educate ourselves, family and friends, and then colleagues and neighbors and the world at large.