A robust transparency is necessary at this time in our history.
We pledge to advocate and participate in thoughtful
Therefore our objective is to actively promote diversity and cultural competency, explore issues of color and gender, and inspire people
who have a history of being marginalized, using social media and other
means as platforms to inform various communities of the life experiences
and concerns of marginalized people with regard to the necessity for social
action, dialogue, inclusion, compassion, tolerance, and cultural literacy to
expand and improve human relations going forward, in order to better facilitate
the current worldwide shift in global consciousness from tribalism, instability,
and extremism, to harmony, cooperation and enduring peace. In addition, we
welcome and support other organizations that promote the transformation of
consciousness as taught by spiritual teachers like Guru Nanak Dev and others.
Communication and Cooperation Works
“When the adversity will hit, the communication will break.
Never break the communication, neither with an enemy nor
with a friend. Keep communicating. That’s what God does.
Just understand. Communication is vibration. Keep vibrating,
but positively. Never listen to negativity.” The Siri Singh Sahib
"Do not criticize anybody. Everybody is good within his own atmosphere.
Try to show your best nature. There are three types of people: Fanatic,
Liberal, and Lazy. Lazy are lazy because they are lazy. Fanatics have
got hang-ups. They do not reach anywhere because they are stuck. They
don't know what to do next. So whatever little they have, they feel it is their
kingdom; they don't want to be disturbed and they do not want to enter into
anybody's life. The Liberals of the New Age -- the Age of Truth, these people
want to know who they are, what they are, and why they are." Yogi Bhajan
"When a totally complete, comfortable, happy man touches an unhappy man,
he brings happiness. Life is a sharing. We share our sorrows and we share
our happiness. And if somebody is in sorrow, and we pour our happiness
into that person, we make him happy. For that we need clarity of the mind.
We need the strength of the soul. We need enlargement of our point of
view. We need tolerance. We need courage." The Siri Singh Sahib
Sat Nam. A student recently asked me what the Sikhs think about the ongoing conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. My reply was to advise him that Sikhs need to deal with the tribalism that exists within Sikhism before we can deal with Middle East issues. Otherwise we are seen as hypocrites.
Note: Discourse is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt. It is meant to drive people to action against injustice. Question is are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues to do with tribalism, race, religion, and gender?
BTW: Discourse on these subjects is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt. It is meant to drive people to action against injustice. Question: Are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues to do with tribalism, including race, religion, and gender?
"Sikh's have always been easily identifiable and there is a good reason for this.
We stand out so we can be identified as spiritual warriors. We are the ones
that are supposed to be relied upon to stand up and defend others. Are we
living up to that legacy at this time or has our community become insular?"
"Tribalism: The social tendency to live in loyalty to a tribe, social group, club, clan or gang (a tribe within a tribe or tribal hierarchy, a kind of pervasive and insidious social-group infection) especially when combined with an unfair treatment or strong negative attitude toward marginalized people outside the group. Religious organizations are particularly prone to tribalism. The Shiite vs Sunni of Islam and the Baptized vs Non-baptized of Sikhism are just two examples of many." See Explanatory Notes.
Subsequently, a Sikh gentleman of Punjabi heritage replied, stating that, "tribalism does not exist amongst the Sikh community."
Although not using the term 'tribalism', Sardar PPS Gill appears to strongly disagree, stating in the following missive that, "It’s time Sikh institutions are reformed." Additional commentaries follow. Read on.
Sardar PPS Gill
Senior journalist and former
Information Commissioner of Punjab
It’s time Sikh institutions are reformed.
For quite some time, the role and function of Sikh institutions in articulating the Sikh aspirations, expectations and frustrations has raised fresh questions. Particularly, on the erosion in the autonomy, independence and sovereignty, or whatever remains, of the apex organs: SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) and Akal Takht.
Given the hire and fire policy in respect of the clergy, religiously followed by the 'politicised' SGPC at the bidding of its political bosses, a subservient attitude is discernible. Even the system of appointment or removal of the SGPC President is arbitrary and politically motivated. In the prevailing cloistered religio-political system, the incumbents are expected to show 'unalloyed loyalty' to their political masters.
The politicisation of the SGPC and Sikh clergy is a cause of concern, given the contradictions and opaqueness in decision-making. Why has there been a continuous erosion and denigration of these institutions? Even as the jury is out on the juxtaposition of religion and politics, the fact is that vested interests have politicised religion. Religion has not been evoked as a detergent to cleanse politics.
Then there is the growing cult of sants, mahants, babas and gurus; sects, cults and deras. Punjab provides a fertile ground for them to flourish, ostensibly under 'state' or 'political' patronage. The key Sikh institutions have failed to checkmate these.
Understandably, a majority of those who flock to the deras is from among the 'weaker sections', 'Scheduled Castes and other backward classes'. The deras are not just a vote-bank, but something more than that.
This vast section of society feels left out of the state's 'welfare schemes' denying them economic emancipation, social equality, income generation, employment opportunities and affordable, quality education and health delivery services. They have been ignored and marginalised by the Sikh religio-political leadership. This has alienated them, depriving them of societal recognition, respect, equality, and human dignity.
Thus, deras flourish as they provide their followers 'recognition', something neither the governments nor Sikh religio-political leadership gave them. While the governments ignored them, Sikh institutions never welcomed them into their fold. Resultantly, there are sharp divisions based on religion, caste, creed and class in villages, where segregation is widespread. Proof lies in the existence of separate cremation grounds, gurdwaras and dharmshalas for different communities. [Tribalism?]
Strangely, in the wake of the countrywide outcry against 'atrocities' on the minorities, cow vigilantism, saffronisation of institutions, the Akali leadership has maintained a silence for fear of annoying the BJP or losing a Cabinet berth. And, the religious wing never made any attempts to 'own' the estranged sections that opted for deras and invested their faith in 'gurus' and 'babas'.
To reverse this trend, it is time the government implemented its 'welfare schemes' and changed its approach towards dera followers. It is also time for radical reforms to restore dignity, independence, sovereignty and autonomy of the Sikh clergy and SGPC. It is equally important to restore 'inner democracy' in the SAD. Punjab must maintain communal harmony, peace and tranquility, which is ever so fragile.
Often, concerned scholars, not necessarily neutral, have suggested alternatives to ride out the crises. Since conflict, contradiction and confrontation dominate the Sikh institutions and Sikh psyche, scholars need to cooperate and coordinate in the larger interest of the state and the Sikhs.
Have there been attempts to reform or restore lost dignity of these institutions?
One attempt was initiated at the World Sikh Sammelan in Amritsar in September 1995, with Sikhs settled abroad demanding a broad-based SGPC with a representative character; widening its ambit, worldwide. Then (between 1994 and 1996) by a retired Army Colonel, the late Gurdip Singh Grewal, floated the idea of setting up of a Global Sikh Senate. But all such attempts were scuttled by those who hold sway over them, fearing the loss of hegemony and control, since they drew 'power' from these institutions. Numerous seminars have been held to 'forge' unity in Sikh religio-political folds. These attempts have remained stillborn.
Grewal’s idea was to enable the Sikh community at home and abroad to meet the challenges and adapt itself for optimum viable prosperity moving into the 21st century. He believed that such a senate was imperative for globally integrating secular Sikh social order: Sikhs, he believed, being a consensual society, the senate could create a virtuous circle of consensus for the prosperity of the entire community.
He was of the opinion that the existing imperfections were on account of two factors: one, the casting of Sikh politics into an archetypical mould of thoughtlessness and attitude of confrontation; two, the guardians of gurdwara-based politics, generally ultra-orthodox, maintained a stranglehold on the Sikh affairs, obstructing enlightened minds from participating.
At the 1995 World Sikh Sammelan, it was also resolved that a World Sikh Council and Zonal Sikh Councils be set up under the Jathedar of Akal Takht. The concept was aborted due to differences cropping up among the power-wielders. The then Jathedar, Giani Puran Singh, disbanded all units in March, 2000.
With the Akali leadership, having parceled various religio-political institutions between themselves for decades, showed little or no interest either in the World Sikh Council or in the concept of Global Sikh Senate.
Besides the key reforms needed for reinventing the SGPC, SAD and Akal Takht, other pending issues include: failure of the Sikh leadership to either get an All-India Gurdwara Act enacted, in the past six decades or to rein in the growing cult of sants, mahants, babas and gurus; sects, cults and deras; or on the voting rights of Sehjdhari Sikhs in SGPC elections. The matter is in the court.
It is time the government recalibrates its policies and approach towards nearly 50 per cent of the population that believes in deras and feels alienated, and the religio-political Sikh leadership comes out of its orthodoxy-shell and think of out-of-the-box reforms.Source.
Studies of human behavior reveal that the actions we undertake as individuals are closely related to survival, more importantly, survival on our own terms. Naturally, such a notion implies that we should be able to act relatively free or independent of any debilitating external influences—otherwise that very survival might be in jeopardy. In viewing the instinct for survival in this manner we imply that a basic aim or goal, as individuals, is to improve our capacity for independent action.
The degree to which we cooperate, or compete, with others is driven by the need to satisfy this basic goal. If we believe that it is not possible to satisfy it alone, without help from others, history shows us that we will agree to constraints upon our independent action—in order to collectively pool skills and talents in the form of nations, corporations, labor unions, mafias [tribes], etc.—so that obstacles standing in the way of the basic goal can either be removed or overcome.
On the other hand, if the group [tribe] cannot or does not attempt to overcome obstacles deemed important to many (or possibly any) of its individual members, the group must risk losing these alienated members. Under these circumstances, the alienated members may dissolve their relationship and remain independent, form a group of their own, or join another collective body in order to improve their capacity for independent action.Download pdf for more. See 'Tribes' The Movie.
Like most Sikhs, we too have attended oodles of discussions on and about Sikhi over the years. The attendance is often heavy with both young and old Sikhs, and we parse issues that confront us, our colorful history, and our direction forward.
The primary purpose: to engage both young and old in an inter-generational conversation. Quite expectedly, the narrative often highlights the nobility of Sikh teachings and ideals, and our slipshod practices. Some speakers aim at our silly ways and rue the inevitability of the times. We often condemn others: often Hindus or the British for the debasement of Sikh practices. And that’s where the story usually ends until we meet, to revisit similar themes again.
And we wonder: Surely, as adults, we Sikhs have some meaningful role in this inevitable decline of Sikhs and Sikhi, or don’t we?
Hence this diatribe. The past often appears rosier in retrospect. We won’t overlook the times of Sikh glory – the worldly triumphs we had while remaining reasonably connected to our religious roots and practices.
True that in the period of the Gurus and immediately afterwards, there were hair-raising battles with both Mughal rulers (Muslims) as well as the Hindu majority. The third way (Sikhi) was not acceptable to either of the two larger religions in India. There was often a hefty price on a Sikh’s head if he openly lived with the markers of his faith. Sikhs and Sikhi were then perceived as threats to the philosophy and power of the establishment — Muslims and Hindus.
But within decades after Guru Gobind Singh, Sikhs had fought their way to triumph. They established Sikh governance in the greater Punjab, even extending into Tibet and Afghanistan. The outstanding Sikh General, Hari Singh Nalwa, was able to command and control Afghanistan. Much of India, too, tasted a degree of independence as Muslim dominance collapsed. The larger India returned to several quasi-independent nation-states. For much of this we credit the over two-centuries of Sikh struggle, largely in Punjab and other pockets.
These historical realities along with the struggle for independence shaped north-western India – largely Punjab and Punjabis. Until the British and French came by sea, all traders, invaders, conquerors, Greek hordes and early Aryan settlers entered India via the Khyber Pass through the northwest corner that connects Afghanistan to Punjab. (Now half of Punjab constitutes Pakistan, the other half is part of India.) This prolonged hybridization of Punjab enriched its genetic pool, resulting in greater vigor. We find similar enrichment in the Balkans and the United States as well.
It is not surprising then that Punjabis (primarily Sikhs) led the fight to seal the Khyber Pass to every wannabe conquistador. Such a transformational shift is not attained in a day or even a year. Early results, however, were evident within decades of the post-Guru period (the times of Banda Bahadur.) It took the Sikh message about 240 years and 10 generations of Gurus to become realized.
The next 50 years were the Golden Age for Punjab; Sikhs ruled the greater Punjab, justly and sagaciously; land reforms were established. All three religions – Hindus, Muslim and Sikhs – were treated justly and equally, and lived in peace. The ruler then was a Sikh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
In the meantime, the British had entered India by sea and conquered almost all of India. A hundred years later the British annexed Punjab in battles where non-Punjabi Indians sided with them against the Sikhs. It is true that the British won by perfidy and betrayal by some of the non-Sikh commanders in the Sikh army.
We usually mark this as the time when Sikh values, teachings and practices began their downward slide; today the rot continues.
Why and how?
Centuries of immigration and hybridization shaped the Punjabi mindset. They are a pragmatic people. In the British-Sikh wars Hindus and Muslims aided the British. The British won the battles but learned to value and respect Sikh skill, will, strength, dedication and determination in war. So, they preferentially recruited Sikhs into the army, and opened many English-speaking schools – in fact, they made allies of Sikhs and encouraged them as faithful friends. At one time 40% of the British-Indian army officers were Sikh. More significantly, the British encouraged, nay required, that Sikhs maintain their articles of faith while serving in the army. The Sikhs saluted the Guru Granth at their recruitment. Thus, the British ensured Sikh loyalty.
This was very shrewd of the British, we would say. It is equally obvious that Sikhs (the ruler Ranjit Singh, his statesmen and generals of the time) lacked the foresight to look beyond their own lifespans. Coming to terms with our own shortcomings is never easy but such are the necessary lessons here. Perhaps Sikhs put aside their times of struggle too readily and forgot to remain vigilant! Did they forget that those who do not remember their history live to repeat it?
How did the pragmatic Sikhs see the new reality emerging in front of their eyes? Clearly, their new world would be ruled by the British. The British led Indian army provided them a semblance of Westernization and dignity. This shaped their reality and the nature of their future. The Sikh connection to, and reliance on, their primary traditional institutions, particularly the gurduara, lessened. The gurduara and its granthi were transformed and, in fact, dramatically down-graded, largely by these changed ground realities.
Engrossed in their new realities, expectations, standards of living and behavior, Sikhs increasingly delegated the responsibilities of their religious institutions and education to granthis, who effectively became caretakers of gurduaras rather than specialists in education on Sikhi.
Look around: The granthi, often the most educated person in the community, whether in the village or even in the best Indian urban setting has now become somewhat of a "gofer." (Before you take umbrage at our blunt assessment, we ask you instead to look at the reality.) At the gurduaras around you, how often do you see scholarly exchange or extended vichaar to improve your connection to Sikhi? Our officer-corps, whether civilians or from the armed services — largely Sikhs in the latter — are some of the most westernized Indians. But the British insisted that the turban and long unshorn hair of the Sikh soldier be maintained. They strongly enforced it.
This is how the British won the loyalty of the Sikh servicemen and the Sikh community. The British-led Indian army necessarily created a hybrid Sikh culture. The Sikhs responded positively to the respect and consideration they sought. Even the rural Sikhs saw that token westernization would be a powerful path to material and worldly success. No surprise then that the gurduara inevitably became more symbolic than meaningful to the Sikhs. As we said, life had made Punjabis and Sikhs into a superbly pragmatic people.
How well had Punjab evolved in only 240 years or so, with 10 Gurus? Sikh ascendancy and rule had been quick, efficient and effective. But it disappeared even faster. Why? Genetic hybridization had created a very pragmatic people. How they saw the future? How the British saw the Sikh talent pool? How they came together in mutual respect!
The British played a shrewd, measured and winning hand. They courted and won Sikh friendship, even though in India’s’ struggle for independence fully 65 to 68 percent of all freedom fighters who were hanged by the British or sentenced to life imprisonment were Sikhs. The Sikhs were a minority as they still are — barely two percent of India’s burgeoning billion. The larger Indian society gave them little support then, and offers even less today.
Under the British, 40% of the officers in the Indian armed services were Sikh, but this is not true anymore in free India. Sikhs remain a minority but they did not get swallowed up by Hinduism, as Buddhism and Jainism did. We think the independent Sikh identity saved them from Indian mythology’s Boa Constrictor embrace. Hinduization still impacts us, often passively, because of large Hindu numbers, cultural misinterpretation and miscegenation.
Our cultural habits have become largely secular in an attempt for the minority to merge with the mainstream. Think back: What are the early lessons — essential advice — drummed into the head of Indian children and adolescents irrespective of their religious identity? They begin and end with: study hard, get good grades, get a good stable job and marry well. Isn’t that a fair summary of what was drummed into our heads? Where is Sikhi in this truly secular message? Sikhs essentially did what a pragmatic people would do.
In fact, our relationship to the two languages critical to us changed dramatically. Competence in English defined our proficiency at work in the new world. Skill in Punjabi defined us within our community. We never saw the need to pick up a book on poetry, history or philosophy in English because it would likely not be work-related, and we didn’t pick up a book on philosophy, history or poetry in Punjabi because Punjabi had become increasingly limited to social banter and easy, crass humor.
Ergo, the life of the mind became increasingly unexplored in English or Punjabi.
In this mixed and sometimes sorry tale, Sikhs too have a responsibility for their place in contemporary Indian society. Let’s sketch it briefly.
Free India’s policies today disrespect the Sikhs in history, in religion or in their place in society, in fact India seems to be on a path that ignores Sikhs entirely while Sikhs are too busy to even notice. For a minority, as Sikhs are, the drive for material success outweighs Sikh teachings and values. But where is accountability?
Just look at Bollywood, often seen as the culture of modern India! Sikhs are a presence there, but as buffoons, for the cheap joke and easy laugh, without a thought about the damage to our image in the larger society. Punjabi music, catchy as it is, promotes liquor and drug culture and we don’t notice. Why don’t we produce good literature, wholesome entertainment, great music (remember music is in our blood) and movies for the mainstream population for meaningful impact on society rather than following the rotten Bollywood path? Do we have shortage of talent or skills, or is it common sense that is missing?
We need some introspection and we need to own our responsibility rather than shifting the blame to the British or Muslims or Hindus or the Indian government, gurduaras, granthis and management.
We need to be proactive rather than being retroactive in damage control. We need to rediscover what Gurbani means to us, and what we want for and from Sikhs and Sikhi. Just repeating lines of Gurbani – parrot like – won’t work (Dithae mukt na hovaee jitcher sabd na karay vitchar, Guru Granth p. 594.)
Our focus needs to shift from more and expensive vestments (rumalas) for the Guru Granth, or gold and marble in gurduaras to our own community and its education and understanding, so that we become a more progressive people. We need to learn lessons from Jews!
Our downhill slope is not the invention of the British, Muslims and Hindus alone; we, too, have collaborated mightily along the way. An equal place at the table of this or any society should define our goal.
T.S. Eliot reminds us of “the cunning passages and contrived corridors of history that deceive us by vanities.” Stay in touch with Sikh history and you will become an optimist – multi-layered and incredibly complex.
The rot set in more than 150 years ago; it continues today. Isn’t it time to say, ENOUGH? It’s for us to define and construct the cure. The buck stops with us. -- Source.
How to get Sikhs fighting each other
Since the beginning of Sikhee, like other religious groups [tribes], we too have the capacity of finding reasons to become disagreeable with each other.
I decided to start a ‘list’ to gauge how ridiculous we are as a community when it comes to our practices, rituals and general living as a community. This list was prompted by the sometimes very silly disagreements, sometimes turning to violence, of the recent and current ‘Dasam Granth’ (DG) issue.
So we shall start with that. That itself is not one issue but leads to other sub issues. If someone does not pick it up right away, I am putting all this down as a form of ridicule. And I shall only list ‘some’ of the issues with the DG. There are many!
Is there an authentic Dasam Granth?
Was it compiled by dhan dhan Guru Gobind Singh Ji?
Are the banis in DG authentic or are at least some of the banis in DG authentic?
Can we have a DG parkash alongside the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), maybe a few inches lower than the Guru Granth Sahib Ji?
Should we sing ‘Deh Shiva’?
Should we remove all banis of Guru Gobind Singh Ji because none are in SGGS? On DG itself, O yes, there are many more issues!
Where does Mool Mantr end?
What segments of Gurbani must be included in evening nitnem (daily prayer) of Rehras Sahib?
Should tables and chairs be allowed in langgar halls of Gurdwara Sahibs?
When should kirpan bhet be done for deg/parshaadh and what should the ritual be?
Should a separate kauli be set aside with parshaadh presumably for the Granthi Sahib so that he does not miss out?
Should chair seating be allowed in Darbar Sahib?
When should langgar ardaas be done?
Should a special plate full of langgar first be brought before SGGS for Ardaas before
langgar can be served?
Must one have a pela around one’s neck when doing Ardaas?
Should a golak be right in front of SGGS?
The list of course is not exhaustive. You can keep adding to it ad infinitum.
My point is that the most important virtue in Sikhee, as I learnt, is nimerta (humility) which is developed with sincere sewa, leading to Naam. Having a good time comes a close second!
I am amazed at the rift that has occurred not only amongst friends, even families, on these differences, even here in my homeland Malaysia, especially on this Dasam Granth issue. And interestingly, anyone who professes a status quo is ostracised by both sides! The two opposing sides have themselves in some instances come to blows, beard ripping and unturbanning of each other.
So, I am proposing an official third ‘party’ – the status quo party. If it was OK with Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji and his Malaysian team of Granthis, then it is good enough for me.
Yes, with new information and learning, our procedures can evolve. It does not happen overnight. Let me cite you an interesting example.
To convert from oil divas to electricity, in Darbar Sahib (Amritsar, Punjab), going back to the late 19th century, took 11 years of bickering and sometimes violent opposition! We like to believe that we have matured from then. But, not so. We have not learnt how to disagree without becoming disagreeable.
I believe time has come for us to be able to practice our faith as we sincerely wish to, and allow each ‘group’ to practice as each feels comfortable. We cannot change that nor enforce ones will upon the other.
I shall write further on this/these issues in my usual light hearted manner within my own shortcomings and limited knowledge. But I was virtually born in a Gurdwara in Malaysia, to a savant and a qualified Granthi Sahib and during the wonderful life and times of Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji. So some of that Sikhee has rubbed off on me. And I feel I can pass it on to the younger generations who are sometimes left completely bewildered with our behaviour as a Quom. -- Source.
Malaysia-born Dya Singh, who now resides in Australia, is an accomplished musician and a roving Sikh preacher. The Dya Singh World Music Group performs full scale concerts on ‘music for the soul’ based on North Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music with hymns from mainly the Sikh, Hindu and Sufi ‘faiths’.
I viewed the hour-long TV Special on Sikh-Americans and their Sikhi last Sunday on CNN, as part of the series, "United Shades of America". It was well done and I enjoyed it very much.
I thought all the Sikhs interviewed were devout and articulate and representative of a variety of ages and professions. There was an intellectual, a soldier, an actor, a politician, and a prosperous farmer with deep roots in America. There were even some young gatka practitioners.
I recall a photo or short video clip during the program of some 'Western' Sikhs, but I wish one of them had also been interviewed. This would have made the case that Sikhi is not a race, ethnicity, or nationality, but a religion with principles and a Scripture open to all. True, our origins were in Punjab, and we have an alphabet and language from there that is central to our faith. But a Western convert would have shown the public that although most Sikhs still live in India and most are of Punjabi ancestry - there are many others around the world.
I also believe that Sikhs who are blessed to have been born into our faith need to be reminded every now and then of certain historical realities: for example, the first of our Ten Gurus to have been born into a Sikh family was our Fifth Master, Guru Arjan. Therefore, and I write this both proudly and humbly at the same time, we converts have something significant in common with our first four Gurus! [See Definition of Tribalism.]
Guru Angad, formerly Bhai Lehna, was originally a devotee of the Hindu goddess Durga. Meeting Guru Baba Nanak was the turning point in his life, when he embraced Sikhi.
Guru Amar Das spent most of his life as a devout Hindu who used to do his ritual puja and engaged in fasting and pilgrimage. He became a disciple of Guru Angad at the age of 62. Yet, look at all that he accomplished thereafter! For example, he prohibited the practice of sati, developed the Langar as an integral part of Gurdwara life, and he wrote great poetry. He became the Third Master at the age of 73. Guru Amar Das advocated the re-marrying of widows and disavowed the Hindu practice of burning of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres, long before the British arrived and enacted laws against the hideous practices.
And then, we recite Guru Amar Das’ composition, The Anand Sahib, at every diwan, every morning, every evening.
The message here, I suggest, is that the essence of Sikhi is transformation. Regardless of our background, Sikhi offers us a path to greater spiritual enlightenment, and to more and better sewa.See More Fatehpal Singh Tarney.
I was interviewed for this segment (United Shades of America) several months ago here in Yuba City by the producer Kamau Bell when they came to film several people here in town.
It had involved quite a bit of advance planning... I was to walk along a path at Lake Ellis (near to Yuba City) with cameramen every few feet recording me and Kamau as we talked, with an eventual sit down conversation.
My message contained precisely what Fatehpal Singh is pointing out as missing: Sikhs come in all colors and nationalities.
I spoke about my own experience, how I am an integral part of our region's Sikh community and have been for 30 plus years and spoke of my close association with the Punjabi American Heritage Society (founding member, past president).
I got a call a few weeks back slaying that unfortunately, my interview ended up on the cutting room floor.
The 'Western/American' Sikhs were cut from the documentary [United Shades of America]; are they an important part of the story, or are they seen as a fringe group? We don't see ourselves as tribal, yet many 'Western/American' Sikhs see 'Punjabi/Indian' Sikhs as 'other', and vice versa.
SikhTribes.com is informative; I enjoyed reading it, but I wonder if very many Sikh visitors can ever see themselves as tribal? See Explanatory Notes.
Regarding, 'Christian Preacher Admires Sex Equality in Sikhism' [see article].
Yes, of course Sikh Gurbani teachings are the best for female gender equality, but how many Sikh people practise what they preach? For the past 15 years of running a group called Sikh Women's Alliance, I have not seen many changes, which give me hope.
In fact the inequality pressures on women have become greater, what with expensive weddings and keeping up with your peers, i.e., who does the most over the top wedding and reception party at £100,000 venue, which is then the talk of the community? And what about the rising statistics proving female Infanticide is still rife, gender selected abortions, celebrations of boy births in Gurdwaras, parties, ladoo distributions, and sponsoring of programmes on radio stations to show off, and the reading of a long list of extended family names?
Parents of girls are still expected to give gold and gifts to the boy's family to show off how rich they are, and fake Balle Balle. How many women are on Gurdwara Management Committees or Sikh organisations? Female voices are silenced, as the Sikh community does not want to openly admit how badly some of them treat their daughters-in-laws and wives. [See The Case of Samia Shahid.]
A majority of Sikh organisations are mainly fronted by fierce looking men who see women as inferior, and only good for cooking langar or reciting Gurbani in Gurdwara buildings, which do not provide them with safe community centres, or disability facilities.
The SGPC of Darbar Sahib in 2016 is still not treating Sikh women as equals by allowing them anywhere in the inner sanctum of their control. No hukamnamas or edicts coming out from Amritsar, which decree that women must be treated equally, and not killed in the womb.
Domestic violence from drug and alcohol related addictions of many Sikh boys who are not working and able to look after there wives and children. Women get blamed for everything wrong that happens in a marriage.
Last year, when we held a conference on the theme, 'Why Asian women are still not getting equality in the 21st Century' in Ilford Gurdwara, we asked the Granthi in charge of that Gurdwara to say a few words from the stage as to what Gurbani says about gender equality, as people do listen to his discourses.
He refused, saying that our Sikh community does not listen to what is said from the stage, and that elderly women will carry on making younger women feel inferior if they do not give birth to boy babies.
He said that no amount of preaching that people should celebrate Lohri and distribute pink Ladoos on birth of baby girls will make any difference. This Granthi left before we started our conference, and we women talked to each another about inequality.
I was not surprised at this Granthi's attitude, as years earlier, when that Gurdwara first opened, I visited with my two daughters. This Granthi was giving a sermon that women are sapnis (snakes) who turn themselves into different forms, i.e., money, courtesans, chandi, etc., to corrupt the man.
I was glad my two daughters could not understand his deep Panjabi as they would have been offended. I verbally complained to one of the Trustee Advisors who told this Granthi that some women had objected to his sermon, and also at the fact that he was expecting everyone to touch his feet and treated him like God. This Granthi has now toned down his sermons, but every now and thenwe still get preachers coming into Gurdwaras saying that women are impure, as they menstruate.
Why do all these rules only apply to women and not men, some of whom stink of alcohol and tobacco? [See Definition of Tribalism.] But they are allowed to give shoulder to Palki at the Golden Temple. But God help any Sikh woman who dares to touch the Palki, as the sevadaars will yell at them, and tell them to move away from the Palki.
No wonder my two daughters married non-Sikh husbands, as they are very happy that they do not have to contend with the gender inequality in the Sikh faith.
Do not blame the girls. Look at the way the community and rival relatives are denigrating our own daughters and women? Why are our youth marrying out of the faith in droves? SWA logo is 'Love and Value the Daughter' and make her feel she is a Princess, not a burden.
I find I very much appreciate the letter by Mrs. Balvinder Kaur Saund of the Sikh Woman’s Alliance.
The frustration and disillusionment is clearly felt. These traditions, the over the top weddings, the double work load and lack of appreciation for the value of women in the family – it all exists and we see it daily.
The emphasis on boys is all too real.
You have my 100% agreement there. Last week, our local Gurdwara elected a new board: out of the 150 candidates listed, only one woman. I don’t think she made it.
And the list goes on… you stated it all. But where do we go from here? These deep seated cultural ways have little to do with Guru Nanak’s revolutionary message to us but everything with the old ways, brought from the home country.
But it is not always bad. Sometimes, when done right, these traditions produce strong family bonds that weather economic challenges; they produce strong families, secure children, with young parents that get a head start at life with a solid degree, no debt to their name, a nice home and often a spouse well suited to make a good partner and mother to the young. Elderly parents help where they can and are provided for and honored.
But many times that is not so. How can this be turned around? What can we do to bring about a change, a new day? Since we have so little control over others, we need to start with ourselves.
My thoughts goes like this: If every woman who gives birth teaches her child the reality of this inequality, the reality about the pain it causes that will eventually affect them, speaks about the beauty of Guru Nanak’s message… I am convinced it is only when we go that deep that a change will come about.
And just like in Guru Nanak’s times, it took tremendous courage in the face of adversity, it took going against long held traditions that had lost their meaning… The times are calling out for us to stand up.
And those of us who are older can use our wisdom to support those that are younger. As a wise teacher once said, “Unless every woman becomes a sister to every other woman there will be tears on this earth.
There's arguable linkage, a much ignored connection, between the issues of Sikh gender inequality and banning marriages between Sikhs and non-Sikhs. Both are aspects of tribalism. Watch Tribalism For Those Who Dare.
Until Sikhs deal with and overcome the failure to practice Guru Nanak Dev Ji's teachings re gender equality, including the issues presented by Balvinder Kaur Saund and Siri Pritam Kaur Khalsa, there can be no resolution to the mixed faith marriage issue for Sikhs.
Janam Da Firangee, Sikhi Mai Mangee
Through the years, from my experience as a youngster and in my informal conversations with non-Sikhs at interfaith gatherings, I have learned that all faiths have adherents who are too preoccupied with trivial details rather than authentic spirituality. There is often a fine line between important, visible symbols and adherence to one's faith, on the one hand, and superficiality on the other.
In my local sadh sangat, there are what I refer to as constant watchdogs, always on the lookout for real and imagined practices they consider undesirable. There is one fellow, for example, who reprimands elderly sardars who do not completely cover their hair and under-turbans with their dastars. Apparently, he has no appreciation of the fact that senior citizens may well be contending with vision impairments, nerve disorders, Parkinson disease symptoms, and other issues, and therefore may not be able tie their dastars as well as they did in their younger years. I always thought that respect for the elderly was a fundamental value.
I just had an experience with another watchdog who told me that I did not have my rehal (X-shaped foldable book-rest) in the proper place. I have a small prayer book stand on which I have a Nitnem and an English-Punjabi/Punjabi-English dictionary. Of course, I usually have this in front of me in the diwan hall, but when it is very crowded and when I prepare to stand for the ardaas, I place it to my side so that I neither interfere with myself nor anyone else.
This particular fellow chastised me and said that the rehal should always be in front of me. I wonder if he would have said anything to me were I perceived to be a Punjabi Sikh [tribalism] rather than a Westerner. I am sad to say that there are Punjabi Sikhs at my gurdwara in south Florida who still consider me an outsider [marginalized] despite my having been a Sikh for almost 40 years; having been a member of this sadh sangat for 30 years and having been only one of two Western Sikhs to have been presidents of predominantly Punjabi sadh sangats in North America.
Sikhi is not a race; nor an ethnicity; nor a nationality. True, a particular language and alphabet is central to our faith, but our faith consists of a set of universal principles that are meant to be lived by, not dogma or ritual.
We also have a person who is concerned with the position of people's feet relative to our Guru Granth Sahib. A lady at the age of 72, was re-positioning her legs and feet on the diwan floor, when this person who was in the line waiting to mattha-tek said something to her. He reprimanded her for pointing her feet at our Guru Granth Sahib when she was merely changing her body position.
Shouldn't this fellow have been focusing more on his obeisance to Guru Sahib than on the body adjustments of other devotees?
I am reminded here of the story of Guru Baba Nanak in Mecca. His feet, considered unclean, were facing the Kaaba and a mullah was offended and gathered a crowd in protest. Baba Nanak said, “Brothers, why are you so upset?” The mullah replied, “Because the sacred stone represents God and you don’t put your feet in the direction of God. That is bad!” Baba Nanak replied, “If you can tell me where God is NOT, I will gladly point my feet there.”
As I have written many times before, one of my heroes has been the late Khushwant Singh. I have the strong feeling that he would agree wholeheartedly with my opinions here. Sikhi should be about love, forgiveness and humility. What I often see in some amongst us is arrogance and intolerance. We Sikhs experience prejudice and discrimination on a regular basis. Shouldn't we simply focus on being kind and forgiving to each other?
I am reminded of something from an Urdu poem which in translation goes something like, “My face was dirty, but I was obsessed with cleaning the mirror! -- Source.
"Man’s greatest achievements have come about by talking,
and the greatest failures by not talking." Stephen Hawking
"The typical tribalist will even marginalize the Creator if
the actions of the Creator are contrary to their
The biggest threat to organizations and innovation is tribal politics,
i.e., an organizational culture, which
doesn't accept failure, and/or doesn't
accept ideas from outside, and/or cannot accept change." Hari Singh Bird
"It is here that we remember that, even when hatred burns hottest, even when
the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward.
We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different." Barack Obama
“We are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism, or
ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an 'us' and a 'them'." Barack Obama
Question: How does one know when tribalism is a likely issue? Answer: When dialogue between opposing parties is non-existent.
When diversity is minimal or nonexistent and exclusion is the practice.
When there's a lot of yelling and telling, not enough listening and learning.
"Man is so weak that he has not created a universal system.
All he has created is a political system. A political system is an
outright system where a bunch of people (tribe) rules other people.
As long as a bunch of people will rule other people, God shall never
become our ruler. As long as people will rule people, it will be difficult for
mankind to realize that God is our ultimate ruler." Yogi Bhajan11/18/1984
.) No human being is without prejudice. The human mind was created to make choices, e.g., to discriminate between up and down, in and out, black and white, etc. Therefore, we must remain aware of the tendency to use this discretionary ability to marginalize and even repress people with whom we differ. We need to constantly see to it that we advocate for pluralism and against tribalism in the interest of justice and fairness. See This Is Racism.
.) Open dialogue between conflicted parties is the only pathway to resolution. Discourse is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt. Discourse is meant to drive people to action against injustice. Question is are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues of diversity, including race, religion, and gender?
So I am the least likely person to be writing this. My Panjabi is terrible. I rarely go to the Gurdwara. And worst of all, my rotis are anything but round. I simply am not the idealistic definition of a Sikh. But before we go any further, I want to tell you about a conversation I had a year ago. I was chatting with a good friend of mine and this conversation quickly escalated into an argument. An argument about Sikhi. Although he and I both grew up in Sikh homes. Both children of hard working immigrant parents. Both surrounded by the love of our grandparents, chachas and aunties. We had wholly different experiences with Sikhi.
You see; I am a female.
I know the story of Sikhi is that men and women are equals. And when that ideology is set against the contrasting culture of India’s rampant misogyny, Sikhi is revolutionary. That is simply extraordinary. After all, Guru Nanak Sahib said, “from her, kings are born.” Yet today, we as females are made not only to feel inferior, but filled with doubt about what Sikhi actually stands for. I was frustrated, lost and angry. And vented these emotions to him.
He tried to persuade me about the power of Sikhi. So I shared with him an experience I had. I had not been home to my pind, Madhopur, since I was four years old. Though it was so long ago, I remembered how the wheat fields danced for me and how the sun spread its warm embrace through the sky. A quarter of a century later, my mum, dad, Bea ji and I returned home. I connected with my ancestral home, visited with distant family, knocked back gol guppay and like any good Sikh, made my way to Harmandir Sahib.
We were there for three nights. And during the wee hours of one morning, we went to watch Sri Guru Granth Sahib being ceremoniously moved from Akal Takht. I noticed my Dad was participating in the procession, but my mum and Bea ji stood idly next to me. So I whispered to my Bea ji, “why aren’t you with Dad?” Her hushed response emptied my heart. “Because, Pindie, we are not allowed. We are women.”
After sharing this story, I asked Dad, if our faith is founded on equality why do we as females face such inequality? He was left speechless.
A few days passed and he somehow managed to persuade me to come to a SikhRI event. I stubbornly attended. And from a place of confliction and confusion, I began to connect.
I connected to the poetic prose of Inni Kaur and the magnetic force of Harinder Singh. I connected to the space they created to ask my stupid, innocent questions. I connected to the Guru’s way of thinking. And so began my journey with Sikhi.
I know there are others like me. Who are just as lost. Just as puzzled. And just as disheartened.
Yet, we continue to ignore the fact that our youth are being neglected and not taught about what it means to be a Sikh. Our grandmothers and mothers are being treated as if they are second class in the most sacred of spaces. Our leaders are falling silent in speaking up for injustices that face humanity, from the farmers of Panjab to the wars that divide us. And we are becoming less concerned about keeping Sikhi alive and thriving.
We as a community are at a crossroads. And it’s time we meet the challenges that face us and build for the future. After all, if you truly believe in something, and you truly believe in it’s work, you have to be willing in making that work happen.
If we rise up together, we can reclaim the promise and ensure the future of Sikhi.
Much gratitude. Much love.
Question: Pindie 'Kaur' Dhaliwal is a Sikh woman, but how would anybody know she is a Sikh?
I have often wondered if Sikhs suffer from binary thinking [tribalism] as, perhaps, indeed do the Indians generally. Leaving the person only two options. Generally if you are not with me you are against me!
The Dasam Granth is an example. It is either all ascribed to Guru Gobind Singh Ji or not at all. Either all is in, at par with Guru Granth Sahib Ji, or it should be condemned in its entirety. Even though dedicated scholars / researchers have clarified the contents quite critically many times.
If one is critical of the goings on in India you are anti-India. A Sikh is either pro-India, or even speaking up about atrocities against Sikhs, the Sikh rights, Sikhs as an identifiable distinct group, or any thoughts along those lines, makes a Sikh a Khalistani. If one is critical of the Hindutva agenda then one is anti-Hindu.
Above might be outstanding examples but I am sure one can think of other issues along those lines. The present Taksal issue also falls in that category. Yet, to me, for a thinking person to go into the binary thinking mode, requires a special effort, unless one is a politician or one wants to maintain one’s moral high ground to impress one’s following. Things are rarely black and white. In fact, I believe, there are more shades of grey, and those are the challenges. Binary thinking only helps to stifle robust discussion at best or help to polarise the community at worst.
However outstandingly brilliant one might be, one’s own thoughts stand untested if one is not prepared to listen to all that the other is saying (or trying to convey), with interest, [In fact one should welcome and be obliged for that], rather than selectively picking out what one likes or dislikes.
At the end of the day it is about preparing a common platform to convince the (Sikh) masses out there, to move in a common direction, not just half a dozen (or perhaps a bit more!) intellectuals. That is the real challenge and binary thinking [tribalism], in people (and their groups) that matter, to me, is one of the obstacles!
The Gods, Demons, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Turks and Hindus; come from different countries and seem different because of their garb.
However, their eyes are the same, their ears the same, their bodies are the same and their habits are the same; after all, they are all an admixture of the elements; earth, air, fire and water.
The Allah of Muslims and The Abhekh of Hindus are the same, the Puranas of the Hindus and the holy Quran of the Muslims are the same; all have the same beautiful form and have been created by the One Lord." -- Guru Gobind Singh