Sikhi, Light, and Social Activism

Recently, when I was watching Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalras speech that he gave at a Gurdwara in Toronto in 1995, I found his metaphor of Light and Darkness particularly inspirational for social activist. He said (English translation of Panjabi),

There is a fable that when the Sun was setting for the first time, as it was completing its journey, light was decreasing and the signs of Darkness were appearing. jyot.gifIt is said, lamentation was rife amongst the people that the Sun will set, Darkness will spread, no one will be able to see anything, and what will happen to us? Everybody was worried, but the Sun set. In order to show its strength, Darkness set its foot on the earth, but it is said far away, in some hut, one little Lamp lifted his head. It proclaimed, I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light. And it is said, watching that one Lamp, in other huts other Lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these Lamps stopped Darkness from expanding, so that people could see. I believe, today when Darkness is trying to overwhelm Truth with full strength, then if nothing else, self-respecting Panjab, like a Lamp, is challenging this Darkness. And I pray to the Guru, who identifies with Truth to keep this light lit.

Even though Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra was talking about all those individuals who make-up Panjab and were fighting against the Darkness of the lies prepuatated by the Indian State and were trying to spread the Light of Truth about the murders during the 1980s and 1990s, I would like to extend this metaphor to talk about local and global social activism. As Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra said about the Lamp, I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light. I believe our activism needs to start locally we need to start with spreading Light around our local communities and preventing Darkness from engulfing them. Too often I have seen activism begin globally, but have little effect locally because we fail to understand how global issues take a unique form in the local context. Therefore, with little knowledge of the local context we try to implement global solutions that mean very little and let Darkness spread. Dont get me wrong, I think the global and local should constantly be in dialogue and inform each other, but solutions are based on local implementation. As we become more strategic and effective at local implementation, I think we can inspire more Lamps to spread the light around themselves and begin to build local activism into a larger global social movement with practical solutions.

Also, as Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra spoke about how one Lamp arose and inspired other Lamps to also arise, I began to think how social activism is a form of seva which makes it a crucial component of our spiritual journey as Sikhs. To some degree, I kept equating the Lamp and its Light to the Divine Light that resides in all of us. As Sikhs, our spiritual journey is based on seeing the Divine Light (jyot) of Truth in others and ourselves. It is this recognition that makes us act. We act to fight the Darkness (i.e. injustice) that engulfs and dims the Divine Light in people and ourselves. As we allow this process to take place, our individual and communal Divine Light becomes more visible, larger, and stronger in fighting Darkness (i.e. injustice).

What does everyone else think?


bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark
tabs-top


7 Responses to “Sikhi, Light, and Social Activism”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    Powerful post Phulkari. Thanks for this post on Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra. Displaying the Sikh torch of Truth in the darkest hour, stands Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra shoulder to shoulder with Garja Singh, Bota Singh, the Kaurs of Shaheed Ganj Lahore, Udham Singh, and Dilawar Singh, Parnaam Shaheedan Nu!

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    Powerful post Phulkari. Thanks for this post on Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra. Displaying the Sikh torch of Truth in the darkest hour, stands Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra shoulder to shoulder with Garja Singh, Bota Singh, the Kaurs of Shaheed Ganj Lahore, Udham Singh, and Dilawar Singh, Parnaam Shaheedan Nu!

  3. Jodha says:

    The 1995 video is one of the greatest Sikh speeches recorded on tape. Very powerful and moving.

    Sardar Jaswant Singh Khalra ended with a plea to protect human rights:

    From a human rights platform, I will definitely say this to you, the Khalsa was created to protect human rights – the human rights of the world. And if you can’t protect your own human rights, you will lose your identity.

    View more background on the speech and the Khalra case here.

  4. Jodha says:

    The 1995 video is one of the greatest Sikh speeches recorded on tape. Very powerful and moving.

    Sardar Jaswant Singh Khalra ended with a plea to protect human rights:

    From a human rights platform, I will definitely say this to you, the Khalsa was created to protect human rights the human rights of the world. And if you cant protect your own human rights, you will lose your identity.

    View more background on the speech and the Khalra case here.

  5. […] a champion for human rights), Navkiran Kaur Khalra (daughter of the late Shaheed for human rights, Jaswant Singh Khalra), and Jasmine Kaur (a human rights lawyer and member of […]

  6. […] a champion for human rights), Navkiran Kaur Khalra (daughter of the late Shaheed for human rights, Jaswant Singh Khalra), and Jasmine Kaur (a human rights lawyer and member of […]

  7. I really like how you believe you studied and the manner you represent your views in this text. I accept as true with your manner of wondering. thanks for sharing.