So You Think You Can Serve Your Gurdwara?

Blogged by: sikhpulse

seva.JPGThe Christian community is confronting the development of the Sixth American: those individuals who do not exist in or identify with any particular space and ultimately congregate together. These integrated congregations are hopeful signs that the elements of discrimination and racism which infiltrated most churches over the last two centuries are slowly being eradicated.

Strangely enough, Sikh-Americans arent evolving in the same direction. In less than fifty years, Sikh-Americans have (get this) provided an anti-model for our adopted culture by dividing into self-identifying congregations, sects and denominations!

This may in part be explained by our natural connection to our social networks. Like members of other faiths, we choose to go to a place of worship that is attended by our families. We go where our friends attend. We go where our language is spoken. We are segregated by whether we are brand-spankin-new-citizens or third-generation Sikh Americans. We are separated by our interests and our jobs.

Yet now in nearly every major US city, ego, anger, and political infighting have helped to split a unified gurdwara into five polarized ones. We now have different ways of worshipping and understanding our Guru. We may choose to go to one that has a langar hall with tables and chairs. We have waiting lists for getting married at the gurdwara with the fancy zip code that is sprawled out on a grassy knoll, but we either dont make efforts to get involved with seva otherwise or arent accepted by the self-segregating sangat that usually attend. We bicker intensely over who is behind our gurdwara fund management and invest a huge amount of energy crafting lawsuits against one another, but our energy suddenly fizzles out when it comes to addressing how to make these funds work for our community, both Sikh and non-Sikh.

Perhaps I can offer a firm slap to the back of our heads to remind us what a gurdwara is: it is a place of individual learning and spiritual growth and a center for the sadh sangat as well. It is a place where thoughts may be debated and challenged openly and then acted upon by the community as a whole. It is here where we continue to develop a spirit of chardi kala among our community.

When will we see ourselves as part of a sangat? When will we start to see our currently fractionated community as an extension of our family? When will we be willing to take ownership of and responsibility for ourselves and community? Were moving backwards at a pace faster than I’m comfortable to admit, and a majority of us dont even recognize it. As long as we continue to ignore or think lightly of the situation, todays divided gurdwaras will (and are already starting to) quickly recreate the social, economic, and political injustice and inequalities our Gurus and sangat steadfastly fought against centuries ago. What are you going to do to stop this?


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12 Responses to “So You Think You Can Serve Your Gurdwara?”

  1. SKB says:

    I find the articles on this site to be thoughtful and that's why I enjoy reading this blog. A friend and I were discussing this exact issue a few days ago. The coversation focused on our issues with our local gurdwaras. What we finally concluded was that WE have to take an active role in our gurdwaras and change them into what we want them to be.

  2. SKB says:

    I find the articles on this site to be thoughtful and that’s why I enjoy reading this blog. A friend and I were discussing this exact issue a few days ago. The coversation focused on our issues with our local gurdwaras. What we finally concluded was that WE have to take an active role in our gurdwaras and change them into what we want them to be.

  3. sikhpulse says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comments, SKB. It helped to reassure me that my thoughts on TLH and sikhpulse.wordpress.com are shared by our sangat more so than not. Hopefully our interpersonal and blogged discussions will soon lead to the next and more important step of revolutionizing our gurdwaras for ourselves and the future Sikh panth.

  4. sikhpulse says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comments, SKB. It helped to reassure me that my thoughts on TLH and sikhpulse.wordpress.com are shared by our sangat more so than not. Hopefully our interpersonal and blogged discussions will soon lead to the next and more important step of revolutionizing our gurdwaras for ourselves and the future Sikh panth.

  5. Jay says:

    I'm not as optimistic that we can make such drastic changes in existing gurudwaras.

  6. Jay says:

    I’m not as optimistic that we can make such drastic changes in existing gurudwaras.

  7. veer says:

    Sikhpulse,

    This was a very articulate and clear piece. Articles like these are also seva as your increasing awareness and trying the make the community better. I greatly appreciate it and hope you continue for many years to come.

    I remember my dad saying that Gurdwaras aren't just a place to pray but a meeting place for the community. Recently, I am flooded with ideas of starting organized activities in gurdwaras to serve the community like chess clubs, sports, guest lecturers, organized rational and polite debates/discussions. I just want kids younger than me to be exposed to a more enriched environment so that they can become successful and get to know other people in their community.

    But I unfortunately feel discouraged because of my tuty footy punjabi and maybe being perceived as a outsider trying to make gurdwaras more western. Also, I hear scary stories of talvar fights in gurdwaras!

    Although I may not have the confidence yet to try to reform my local Gurdwaras, I strongly encourage any intelligent, articulate(in English and Punjabi) and preferably young individuals to try to make the North American Gurdwaras more than just places to pray and eat langar.

  8. veer says:

    Sikhpulse,

    This was a very articulate and clear piece. Articles like these are also seva as your increasing awareness and trying the make the community better. I greatly appreciate it and hope you continue for many years to come.

    I remember my dad saying that Gurdwaras aren’t just a place to pray but a meeting place for the community. Recently, I am flooded with ideas of starting organized activities in gurdwaras to serve the community like chess clubs, sports, guest lecturers, organized rational and polite debates/discussions. I just want kids younger than me to be exposed to a more enriched environment so that they can become successful and get to know other people in their community.

    But I unfortunately feel discouraged because of my tuty footy punjabi and maybe being perceived as a outsider trying to make gurdwaras more western. Also, I hear scary stories of talvar fights in gurdwaras!

    Although I may not have the confidence yet to try to reform my local Gurdwaras, I strongly encourage any intelligent, articulate(in English and Punjabi) and preferably young individuals to try to make the North American Gurdwaras more than just places to pray and eat langar.

  9. Jagdeep Singh Mahal says:

    Although this website may be founded by proponents of progressivism, this site has an intolerance and ignorance of circumstances. There is a general negative attitude towards any form of seperation amongst sikhs on this site. However blanketing every issue by propogating the need for unity or by disparaging the "factionalists" the issue and the argument is severely retarded.

    The notion that if Sikhs seperate then all sides are to blame is supremely naive. I'm not here to argue that unity isn't important or essential. Just to argue against the Langar Hall posters' naivete about the whole issue. It mirrors when right-wingers would label people treasonous or against the troops throughout the iraq war, and i'm sure you progressives would hate to be compared to right wingers. But the thought process is strangely similar.

    Allow me to explain. The notion that any form of splitting or in-fighting amongst sikhs ought to be blindly condemned does not acknowledge the underlying issue. By the Langar Hall unity idea, if namdharis, radhaswamis, nirankaris were to create their own gurdwaras around the us and real sikhs established their own, but all ran under the mantra and banner of sikhi this seperation ought to be condemned. Although this obviously is an extreme case, but casting such a general principle should be able to be generally applied.

    But what is more common is a break over ideology. I've been to gurdwara's that will shudder at Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale's name, and others that celebrate his life at every occasion. This is an actual issue. Expecting the two sides to kiss and make up is daft. Personally I would never support or go regularly to the former. Because as much as a gurdwara is a house of guru sahib, it is a congregation of the panth, and if a shaheed of the panth is disparaged at a gurdwara, then that is no gurdwara.

    And these seemingly minor differences aren't minor at all. The larger issue is the Sikh vs the American-Sikh. Blindly saying that all "American Sikhs" should get a long refuses to even hint at the fact that perhaps there are some sikhs who do not properly follow guru sahib di rehat, and therefore there seperation is more a willful choice to create their own unofficial sect.

    And this is all similar to when right wingers condemned anyone against the iraq war as being against the troops, because they refused to acknowledge that there could be any justified and patriotic reason for having such an opinion.

    So please do not lay such principles of behavior that are ignorant to real issues. These ideals that are put forth are part of Sikhi, but our religion isn't about simply accepting everyone, but about loving everyone yet being discerning about the sadh sangat.

    The Langar Hall has just whittled itself from its promising beginning to a site with a heavy heavy left wing bias on all issues. And I'm not a fascist or hard-core capitalist. But I do realize that only seeing something from one end obfuscates the issue.

  10. Jagdeep Singh Mahal says:

    Although this website may be founded by proponents of progressivism, this site has an intolerance and ignorance of circumstances. There is a general negative attitude towards any form of seperation amongst sikhs on this site. However blanketing every issue by propogating the need for unity or by disparaging the “factionalists” the issue and the argument is severely retarded.

    The notion that if Sikhs seperate then all sides are to blame is supremely naive. I’m not here to argue that unity isn’t important or essential. Just to argue against the Langar Hall posters’ naivete about the whole issue. It mirrors when right-wingers would label people treasonous or against the troops throughout the iraq war, and i’m sure you progressives would hate to be compared to right wingers. But the thought process is strangely similar.

    Allow me to explain. The notion that any form of splitting or in-fighting amongst sikhs ought to be blindly condemned does not acknowledge the underlying issue. By the Langar Hall unity idea, if namdharis, radhaswamis, nirankaris were to create their own gurdwaras around the us and real sikhs established their own, but all ran under the mantra and banner of sikhi this seperation ought to be condemned. Although this obviously is an extreme case, but casting such a general principle should be able to be generally applied.

    But what is more common is a break over ideology. I’ve been to gurdwara’s that will shudder at Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale’s name, and others that celebrate his life at every occasion. This is an actual issue. Expecting the two sides to kiss and make up is daft. Personally I would never support or go regularly to the former. Because as much as a gurdwara is a house of guru sahib, it is a congregation of the panth, and if a shaheed of the panth is disparaged at a gurdwara, then that is no gurdwara.

    And these seemingly minor differences aren’t minor at all. The larger issue is the Sikh vs the American-Sikh. Blindly saying that all “American Sikhs” should get a long refuses to even hint at the fact that perhaps there are some sikhs who do not properly follow guru sahib di rehat, and therefore there seperation is more a willful choice to create their own unofficial sect.

    And this is all similar to when right wingers condemned anyone against the iraq war as being against the troops, because they refused to acknowledge that there could be any justified and patriotic reason for having such an opinion.

    So please do not lay such principles of behavior that are ignorant to real issues. These ideals that are put forth are part of Sikhi, but our religion isn’t about simply accepting everyone, but about loving everyone yet being discerning about the sadh sangat.

    The Langar Hall has just whittled itself from its promising beginning to a site with a heavy heavy left wing bias on all issues. And I’m not a fascist or hard-core capitalist. But I do realize that only seeing something from one end obfuscates the issue.

  11. Gurdwara llc article says:

    Gurudwara Sahibs now are more along the lines of business entities, with a very good tax shelter.

    At first glance it seems many in the U.S and Canada have incredible energy to promote Sikhism, none acquire to take money for Sewa of the Sikh Community.

    It seems that as the Gurdwara Sahibs started being build, these Sikhs or their spirit was the first to go, as the power of greed pushes very hard, without and within.

    The take overs begins as the business minded start scheming, firs the plan has to pay for itself, check that off the list once the Gurdwara has been built. Next the caste card is quickly played to consolidate the numbers.

    For the facade of equality like minded business venturist from other castes are even tapped to join the framework. The pay off for them are like those for for small pryamid vendors who sell company product to their families.

    In this case the controlling caste of Gurdwara llc., needs the other caste to come to their business and make donations, while providing their time and services, no longer for Sewa, but for an altruistic cause.

    The committee will hire a bhai, who will answer directly to them and be provided with living wages. The bhai's get the extra advantage of getting 'donations' for performing what have become Sikh rites, as well not to be confused with Sewa.

    Just 'pay up and someone will play up'.

    When the younger generation starts to note how these things work, they will easily start to recognize the business that has opened within the Gurdwara.

    Sangat has turned into community caste collaborative.

    Sewa becomes revenue and services accounted for.

    Keertan becomes the key acts of the sponsored events.

    Kaatha become seminars on company moral, and our dear ally 'useful shame' can never be allowed, because a business cannot afford to have activities of the Soul take place in a work environment.

    Blogger 'Sikhpulse' there is no going backwards here, just opening up Shop.

    [Please stick with one name on the blog, switching handles will get you banned. --Admin]

  12. Gurdwara llc article says:

    Gurudwara Sahibs now are more along the lines of business entities, with a very good tax shelter.

    At first glance it seems many in the U.S and Canada have incredible energy to promote Sikhism, none acquire to take money for Sewa of the Sikh Community.

    It seems that as the Gurdwara Sahibs started being build, these Sikhs or their spirit was the first to go, as the power of greed pushes very hard, without and within.

    The take overs begins as the business minded start scheming, firs the plan has to pay for itself, check that off the list once the Gurdwara has been built. Next the caste card is quickly played to consolidate the numbers.

    For the facade of equality like minded business venturist from other castes are even tapped to join the framework. The pay off for them are like those for for small pryamid vendors who sell company product to their families.

    In this case the controlling caste of Gurdwara llc., needs the other caste to come to their business and make donations, while providing their time and services, no longer for Sewa, but for an altruistic cause.

    The committee will hire a bhai, who will answer directly to them and be provided with living wages. The bhai’s get the extra advantage of getting ‘donations’ for performing what have become Sikh rites, as well not to be confused with Sewa.

    Just ‘pay up and someone will play up’.

    When the younger generation starts to note how these things work, they will easily start to recognize the business that has opened within the Gurdwara.

    Sangat has turned into community caste collaborative.

    Sewa becomes revenue and services accounted for.

    Keertan becomes the key acts of the sponsored events.

    Kaatha become seminars on company moral, and our dear ally ‘useful shame’ can never be allowed, because a business cannot afford to have activities of the Soul take place in a work environment.

    Blogger ‘Sikhpulse’ there is no going backwards here, just opening up Shop.

    [Please stick with one name on the blog, switching handles will get you banned. --Admin]

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