A review of the Sikh Research Institute’s First Webinar

Update: wow, I did an AWFUL job of summarizing SRI’s first webinar. (Apologies to the good folks at SRI) Here’s a better summary:

Sikh Theology – A Gurmat Framework: The first session comprised of introducing an approach to Sikhi and recognizing how Guru Nanak Sahib revolutionarily delivered a message of Oneness through illustrating a direct connection between ideas and practice. We engaged in understanding what ‘Guru’ means in the Sikh context and how we can begin to comprehend the Guru’s wisdom, Gurmat. To develop this understanding, three facets of bani (scripture), tavarikh (history) and rahit (lifestyle) were introduced. The greatness of a religion is when harmonious balance between Ultimate reality and visible form is exemplified thru the aforesaid facets. We concluded with Puran Singh’s rendering on the Guru’s vision, “It sweetens you and your sweetness sweetens all life around. At your sight, the lamb and the tiger must drink at the same pool.”

And some info on session 2:

Bani – The Message: In session two, we continued to build on our understanding of the Guru’s message; We engaged in actively learning about the scriptural canon, the Guru Granth Sahib. In covering topics as the compilation, contributors, structure, language and content of Guru Granth Sahib, we tackled questions such as, “How do we know Guru Granth Sahib is the Guru?” and “What is the Sabad Guru?”; thus, facilitating and inspiring us to continue to build our personal relationship with Guru Granth Sahib.

And 3:

Tavarikh The Revolution: Having concentrated on the written form of our Gurus message (Bani) last week, this week in session three, Tavarikh The Revolution, we will turn our focus on to how our Gurus exemplified The Message. We will walk through the lives of Guru Nanak Sahib through Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and try to understand them through a social, political, economic and spiritual framework. We will cover a range of issues, from touching on the ramifications of negating the need of a Divine intermediary, to the economic center created by the Guru Sahibs, to the activism of both social and political kind. In surveying the inspiring history of our Gurus, we hope to remind ourselves of how relevant, active and exemplary the revolution of Sikh? is.

I appreciate opportunities to learn about Sikhi since there are so few. So I was happy to hear about the Sikh Research Institute‘s new webinar series. I also don’t have time or finances to make it out to Texas for SRI’s more in depth courses, so I definitely appreciated attending for free for a brief 90 minutes (from the comfort of my pajamas).

This was the first SRI event I’ve attended, and I have to say that I really like their approach to their work.

The Sikh Research Institutes mission is to facilitate training and development while inspiring Sikh values, create global awareness of Sikhi, and deliver solutions to the key challenges faced by the Sikh community. (emphasis added) [link]

sikh_research_institute.jpgThe topic of the webinar was “A Gurmat Framework.” If you’re thinking that that’s quite a broad topic to tackle in 90 minutes, then I agree. But- this is where the benefit of SRI’s facilitative approach comes in- they weren’t claiming to teach The Gurmat Framework that held the only truth of Sikhi, but rather proposed three things that could provide a structure for A Gurmat Framework, and generally encouraged a wider community discussion on anything beyond that. The three suggested bases for a framework were:

1. Gurbani

2. the examples of the lives of the Gurus

3. the Rehat (considered to be formed on the basis of Gurbani and the lives of the Gurus)

(If I missed something, misunderstood, or have distorted anything, please do let me know. My memory often fails me and I didn’t take notes.)

The three proposed bases are kind of difficult to disagree with (unless you think the Rehat wasn’t actually representative of Gurbani and the lives of the Gurus, and I may be in this camp.)

The actual presentation was only about 45-60 minutes (there was time in the beginning for administrative instructions, and at the end for questions and answers). I wish I could share more about what the substance of the presentation was about but I didn’t know how to save the presentation material (if that was even possible), and this is all I remember.

One way that I think the webinar could be more helpful is if the presentation material were made available after the webinar, so attendees could go back to chew it over, if we wished (it was Saturday after all, my mind may have wandered, and I may have been multi-tasking). And I also think it would be helpful to have some reading material beforehand (I’m a nerd) to have a better idea of what the presentation is going to be about. Otherwise, any questions that come up during aren’t necessarily going to be as thoughtful as they could be, if participants know more about what will be discussed and have a chance to think about it beforehand. I think any class is most worthwhile when students have read something about the subject beforehand and based on that, can participate.

My suggestions are procedural because I think the substance of the presentation was handled well. It may have been at a very general level, but the topic is broad and time was limited, so I think it was handled appropriately.

If you’re looking for answers, you might not be satisfied. But if you’re looking for a structured environment within which to develop your thoughts, then you should check it out. There is a waitlist for this coming Saturday’s webinar on Bani, but registration is still open for the following 2 Saturdays on Tavarikh (history) and Rahit (lifestyle).

Did any of you attend? What did you think?


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3 Responses to “A review of the Sikh Research Institute’s First Webinar”

  1. There seems to be a hestitation on the parts of many Sikhs to use a word that is so frequently used in Gurbani. The word I'm referring to is "DHARMA." As far as I'm concerned the SIKH Dharma IS the Gurmat framework given by the Gurus. Point #2 "the examples of the lives of the Gurus" is referring to the Guru's Dharma, but avoiding the word Dharma. Likewise rehit and Gurbani are integral and prescribed parts of the Sikh Dharma. I think we should embrace and revive the importance and meaning of this word. For myself, as Khalsa, I live for the Guru's Dharma, I live by the Guru's Dharma, all my happiness, the ability to live in Chardi Kala and practice Sarbat Da Bhala comes from the Gurus' Dharma.

    Kudos to the organizers and participants of these webinars. While religion has failed so many, focusing on Dharma (i.e. Gurmat framework) can really benefit humanity at this time.

  2. There seems to be a hestitation on the parts of many Sikhs to use a word that is so frequently used in Gurbani. The word I’m referring to is “DHARMA.” As far as I’m concerned the SIKH Dharma IS the Gurmat framework given by the Gurus. Point #2 “the examples of the lives of the Gurus” is referring to the Guru’s Dharma, but avoiding the word Dharma. Likewise rehit and Gurbani are integral and prescribed parts of the Sikh Dharma. I think we should embrace and revive the importance and meaning of this word. For myself, as Khalsa, I live for the Guru’s Dharma, I live by the Guru’s Dharma, all my happiness, the ability to live in Chardi Kala and practice Sarbat Da Bhala comes from the Gurus’ Dharma.
    Kudos to the organizers and participants of these webinars. While religion has failed so many, focusing on Dharma (i.e. Gurmat framework) can really benefit humanity at this time.

  3. look says:

    Being stick on one [point and think in a way that only we are right and others were wrong then it is not a right approach to live life with pleasure as it is not necessary that all the time one will be right and other will be wrong.