The Spirit of Langar

After attending a recent workshop organized by the Sikh Research Institute on The Guru: Connecting with the Divine Light, I have been pondering much of what was discussed. The focus of the workshop was becoming Guru centered and one of the questions that arose in the discussion was related to the discrepancy we see today between what our Gurus teachings say and how they are actually practiced. What many of us struggle with is asking difficult questions about whether our words and actions follow those principles that have been bestowed upon us in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Its dismaying to constantly hear about the divisions being created in our community. So, I was happy to come across a press release from Sikhcess, relaying information about a forthcoming global langar project providing an example of unity:

Today, Sikhcess, a community service organization, unveiled definitive plans to feed the homeless worldwide through its Feed the Homeless campaign on March 1, 2008. Sikh communities throughout the globe will participate, with efforts to feed the homeless and needy in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. [link]

I think this is what our Guru Ji intended when the revolutionary concept of langar was introduced. And to me, it is a good example of how Sikhi is working today.

Through this ideal of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind.

matakhivi.jpgThe literal meaning of langar is The Anchor and when Guru Nanak Dev Ji started the tradition (later solidified by Guru Amar Das Ji) it was intended to unequivocally bind the community together under the principles of vand chhakana. Langar was to be kept simple and accessible for everyone to partake in. Needy people knew where to go if they were hungry and thus the community, regardless of class hierarchies, was bound together. Unfortunately, today in the Diaspora, langar is losing its meaning. For example, does it continue to be simple and nutritious? Are we providing langar for the needy and homeless? Take one look at our langar halls today — perhaps we will notice how they have transgressed and swayed from their initial purpose. In the past, langar was prepared from the collaborative dasvandh with the sangat, complete with humility and dedication, pooling in physical seva as one. Today in many Gurdwaras, it has become the responsibility of individual families to take turns to provide this seva.

Have we swayed far from remembering the spirit of langar or do you think it still fulfills the purpose as set forth by the Gurus? What else in our traditions has remained true to its original purpose? Many people fear we are losing our roots but I prefer to think there are enough people working to sustain the Gurus word in its true essence.


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4 Responses to “The Spirit of Langar”

  1. Anandica says:

    Another trend I have seen is "catering" of Langar. People seem to be too busy to make langar themselves, but want to get approval from the community for "providing langar", so they pay money to have someone else make all the food. Simple is a word that doesn't desribe the current trend for the type of food served for Langar. It's like attending a wedding, which is not to say that it is bad, but if those meals are made by the Sangat I can understand and appreciate them wanting to put in the time and energy. However, with the growing number of Gurdwaras, we are seeing communities disperse out. The sense of "community" is more difficult to come by, and add the politics of the Gurdwaras, and the overall sense changes even more.

  2. Anandica says:

    Another trend I have seen is “catering” of Langar. People seem to be too busy to make langar themselves, but want to get approval from the community for “providing langar”, so they pay money to have someone else make all the food. Simple is a word that doesn’t desribe the current trend for the type of food served for Langar. It’s like attending a wedding, which is not to say that it is bad, but if those meals are made by the Sangat I can understand and appreciate them wanting to put in the time and energy. However, with the growing number of Gurdwaras, we are seeing communities disperse out. The sense of “community” is more difficult to come by, and add the politics of the Gurdwaras, and the overall sense changes even more.

  3. […] with those less fortunate than ourselves.Guru ka Langaris a way in which we distribute this concept in the Gurdwaras. Dasvandhis donating a tenth of our earnings. It’s interesting that there […]