Gurdwara Funds: A Fine Line…

Often on this blog we have discussed what role our institutions should play in our lives and recently I had an opportunity to examine the issue anew. In a recent gurdwara council meeting I attended, one gurdwara decided to give a large sum of money to a group putting on a bhangra program. The group was not affiliated with the gurdwara. I will admit, I did not say anything at the time because I do not attend the gurdwara that decided to do this, but the incident did get me thinking about gurdwara funds and the concept of daswand.

When a gurdwara collects funds from the sangat it does so under the pretence that the money is being collected to be put to some higher use, a use that we ourselves could perhaps not put it to, whether it be spiritual or practical. Usually we give the money as part of our daswand or some random seva to the gurdwara, but I think in every case it is understood that we are giving the money up to be put to a use that our Gurus would have used it for something necessary, something practical, and fundamentally good.

And as I write this post, some questions that I havent even answered for myself come to mind – Is the daswand I give to the gurdwara something I have a right to control can I decide where it goes? If Sikhi is to be treated like a democracy, I would argue that absolutely I have every right to vote on where the funds go or at least have a chance to say something. But even in such a vote should there be limits? Shouldnt the funds of a gurdwara be spent on activities, which embody Sikh ideals and values? Presently, I am inclined to believe that sangat should have a say in where gurdwara funds are spent, but also that the options for spending funds should be limited to projects that actually embody and promote Sikh ideals.

But back to where we started I brought bhangra up because it is something that can be debated Im not contending that it is an anti-Sikh activity, but at the same time, I dont really think bhangra is something that perpetuates the Sikh way of life either. So I guess the dilemma in my mind in determining where the gurdwara should be spending its funds and where to draw the line


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12 Responses to “Gurdwara Funds: A Fine Line…”

  1. Harpreet says:

    i agree to. but singh i think it is sort of not understanding there mentality. the same thing happened uphere like your bulldog bhangra. the guruduara here donated money to our ucdavis competition that we held a few years ago. i was one of the people that wnet and i think my opinion has changed to. when we went the guruduara gave us money but it was more to just support us "youth" and encourage us. i think now we shouldnt have gone, bt i know this now and not then. so i know what you are sayng but i don't thnk that you get there mentlity to.

  2. baingandabhartha says:

    I agree. Although I am a great proponent of bhangra, it is an activity that promotes punjabiyat not Sikhi. There is however nothing wrong with promoting punjabiyat-Sikhi and punjabiyat are closely intertwined. Individual members of the sangat should donate if they want for bhangra-I am guessing you are talking about Bulldog Bhangra in Fresno-the sangat should not have to bankroll it. Our community does precious little when it comes to volunteering or charity (giving to the gurdwara to build another huge sparkling gurdwara is not charity).

  3. baingandabhartha says:

    I agree. Although I am a great proponent of bhangra, it is an activity that promotes punjabiyat not Sikhi. There is however nothing wrong with promoting punjabiyat-Sikhi and punjabiyat are closely intertwined. Individual members of the sangat should donate if they want for bhangra-I am guessing you are talking about Bulldog Bhangra in Fresno-the sangat should not have to bankroll it. Our community does precious little when it comes to volunteering or charity (giving to the gurdwara to build another huge sparkling gurdwara is not charity).

  4. Harpreet says:

    i agree to. but singh i think it is sort of not understanding there mentality. the same thing happened uphere like your bulldog bhangra. the guruduara here donated money to our ucdavis competition that we held a few years ago. i was one of the people that wnet and i think my opinion has changed to. when we went the guruduara gave us money but it was more to just support us “youth” and encourage us. i think now we shouldnt have gone, bt i know this now and not then. so i know what you are sayng but i don’t thnk that you get there mentlity to.

  5. Camille says:

    I totally disagree with funding bhangra through daswand. Daswand, in my opinion, is an extension of seva and should serve others. I think it's ok for bhangra organizations to fundraise (and announce these efforts) at the gurdwara, but not through the gurdwara.

    While many Sikhs have a strong affinity with Punjabiyat, the religious intent of daswand, like Sikhi, is not restricted by affinity with nation, culture, ethnicity, etc.

  6. Camille says:

    I totally disagree with funding bhangra through daswand. Daswand, in my opinion, is an extension of seva and should serve others. I think it’s ok for bhangra organizations to fundraise (and announce these efforts) at the gurdwara, but not through the gurdwara.

    While many Sikhs have a strong affinity with Punjabiyat, the religious intent of daswand, like Sikhi, is not restricted by affinity with nation, culture, ethnicity, etc.

  7. Singh says:

    bhaingan

    agreed…and to clarify, it doesnt matter the non-sikh project is, my point was simply that perhaps we should be more proactive in knowing where our daswand is going.

    also, a bit of a tangent, but as for building huge buildings with gurdwara funds not being charity – i dont think that the daswand has to be put to a charitable purpose in the most traditional sense…buildings are not always bad. in my mind the problem arises when the buildings that spring up so often are not used for anything other than that once a week program on sunday mornings. if we are going to spend so much money on these structures make them count. they should be places where the sangat and others can grow and learn about sikhi. a good example of this is fremont gurdwara, they have done such a great job of creating a community center and i would definitely say that that money is very well spent.

    harpreet,

    i think i understand the committee members' mentality – they want a more proactive sikh youth and they think that this (providing funds for bhangra competitions) is one way of supporting and nurturing that base of sikhs. i get that and respect the attempt. but i also think its quite lazy. committees rarely (in my experience) implement projects and seek out pro sikh projects…why is this? if their mentality is to get the youth involved – why do they not themselves organize projects which facilitate such youth participation? why not fund more camps and leadership activities?

    camille,

    i agree whole heartedly with your first paragraph :), but could you expand on the the last sentence please…

    finally – i would like to reiterate that this post was not about the merits of bhangra – i was thinking more generally when i wrote it. should gurdwaras support kabaddi, karate, gatka, gidda, basketball… would break dancing competitions be OK? and why or why not…

  8. Singh says:

    bhaingan
    agreed…and to clarify, it doesnt matter the non-sikh project is, my point was simply that perhaps we should be more proactive in knowing where our daswand is going.

    also, a bit of a tangent, but as for building huge buildings with gurdwara funds not being charity – i dont think that the daswand has to be put to a charitable purpose in the most traditional sense…buildings are not always bad. in my mind the problem arises when the buildings that spring up so often are not used for anything other than that once a week program on sunday mornings. if we are going to spend so much money on these structures make them count. they should be places where the sangat and others can grow and learn about sikhi. a good example of this is fremont gurdwara, they have done such a great job of creating a community center and i would definitely say that that money is very well spent.

    harpreet,
    i think i understand the committee members’ mentality – they want a more proactive sikh youth and they think that this (providing funds for bhangra competitions) is one way of supporting and nurturing that base of sikhs. i get that and respect the attempt. but i also think its quite lazy. committees rarely (in my experience) implement projects and seek out pro sikh projects…why is this? if their mentality is to get the youth involved – why do they not themselves organize projects which facilitate such youth participation? why not fund more camps and leadership activities?

    camille,
    i agree whole heartedly with your first paragraph :), but could you expand on the the last sentence please…

    finally – i would like to reiterate that this post was not about the merits of bhangra – i was thinking more generally when i wrote it. should gurdwaras support kabaddi, karate, gatka, gidda, basketball… would break dancing competitions be OK? and why or why not…

  9. Camille says:

    Hi Singh,

    Sure. If the gurdwara leadership finds it appropriate for someone to make a fundraising announcement about something not specifically seva-related (e.g., by posting fliers or announcing in services for a bhangra team), and people choose to donate to that, then such an announcement should be fine. I believe there should be a higher degree of scrutiny for where gurdwara funds go (after all, they are organizations/institutions with specifically spiritual- and service-based missions) than for non-seva pleas for donations of money.

    I would argue this is NOT the same as the daswand that many of us donate directly to the gurdwara or when we mutha tek. I would also argue that, generally speaking, donations and daswand are not necessarily the same thing. While I certainly donate to organizations that do not provide a specific service (e.g., arts foundations or policy advocacy campaigns/initiatives), what I count my daswand towards causes/programs that provide some redistributive service. So, examples would include donating to scholarship funds for under-resourced/underprivileged students, or disaster relief, or to help establish funding for a woman who has left an abusive husband, or giving to organizations that provide direct services.

  10. baingandabhartha says:

    wow, consensus!

  11. Camille says:

    Hi Singh,

    Sure. If the gurdwara leadership finds it appropriate for someone to make a fundraising announcement about something not specifically seva-related (e.g., by posting fliers or announcing in services for a bhangra team), and people choose to donate to that, then such an announcement should be fine. I believe there should be a higher degree of scrutiny for where gurdwara funds go (after all, they are organizations/institutions with specifically spiritual- and service-based missions) than for non-seva pleas for donations of money.

    I would argue this is NOT the same as the daswand that many of us donate directly to the gurdwara or when we mutha tek. I would also argue that, generally speaking, donations and daswand are not necessarily the same thing. While I certainly donate to organizations that do not provide a specific service (e.g., arts foundations or policy advocacy campaigns/initiatives), what I count my daswand towards causes/programs that provide some redistributive service. So, examples would include donating to scholarship funds for under-resourced/underprivileged students, or disaster relief, or to help establish funding for a woman who has left an abusive husband, or giving to organizations that provide direct services.

  12. baingandabhartha says:

    wow, consensus!