Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wavin’ Flag

It’s tradition here…

On the morning of Guru Nanak Sahib’s Gurpurab, shortly after the conclusion of Asa Ki Vaar, the entire sangat makes its way outside for a short nagar kirtan around the parking lot led by the Panj Pyaaray, concluding at the Nishaan Sahib.

After a short ardaas, sevadaars leap to the base of the Nishaan Sahib and hoist a beautiful new flag, replacing the weathered one, to the sounds of bellowing jakaaray.

I’ve seen it dozens of times
Sometimes I take it for granted
But this morning, I wanted to see it
And despite the cold, I wanted my children to stand with us and watch it too.

I wonder if other faiths celebrate their founder’s birthday by hoisting a flag.

I don’t believe Guru Sahib created the order of the Khalsa for us to be mere spectators
Simply reciting prayers, sitting in sangat – then watch the rest of life go by

He did not create a religion for us…he created a way of life
He gave us his uniform and the inspiration to move mountains
He gave us this unique look and identity, not to isolate ourselves from society
But to provide us a sense of discipline and a code to live by
So we can in turn give back to humanity

To me, this Nishan Sahib means that we are to live a life bigger than ourselves
To serve a greater cause

Why did I stand out there to watch the flag being raised?
Because that greater cause often comes at a price.

There have been so many sacrifices…
Those who gave their tomorrow for our today
So we could live our lives…
With purpose

Often times we look back at our history and take such inspiration from the sacrifices
But rarely look any further

Sometimes I wonder…what was it?

What made the Chhotte Sahibzadey, a 7 and 9 year old, give their life before giving up their faith?
What drove Baba Deep Singh to march in to his final battle win the Afghans?
What made Bhai Mani Singh endure being cut limb by limb before renouncing his faith?
What made Bhai Taru Singh choose to be brutally tortured before giving up his Sikhi?

History tells us why they did it
But what motivated them?
What inspired them?
What gave them the courage?

I believe it is the Guru’s Shabad that allowed them to live such extraordinary lives
And give their life in such extraordinary ways
To live and die with dignity
And empower ordinary people in the process

The Guru’s Shabad…the Word…has given our people courage for over 500 years.

So how fitting we raise the flag on the day we remember Guru Nanak
Who revealed the word to the world.

I’m not sure what kept us out there in the cold watching the Nishaan Sahib flying high
But I couldn’t stop looking at it.
I wanted my children to see it
And hold that image close
So it stays etched in their minds forever

Who Speaks For You?

In a recent news article, the SGPC has decided to respond to the many challenges Sikhs outside of Punjab face post-9/11 (better late than never, eh?). In particular, the issue of the “Turban ban” in France and the “Turban pat-downs” for air travelers in the US. How do they intend to address these issues? Creating and distributing brochures.


The Tribune reports “The SGPC today decided to make foreigners aware of the Sikhism by facilitating literature in different foreign languages apart from raising the issue with the UNO and all embassies in New Delhi.”  SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar said,

We have decided to provide a detailed information about the Sikh identity, history, culture and five Ks to foreigners in their country and in their own language…We will also send brochures about the Sikh identity to the UN Secretary-General and all embassies in New Delhi.

Although I’m pleased to see the SGPC finding ways to make itself relevant for the millions of Sikhs living outside of India, at the same time I hardly think brochures is the best approach. In a related story, the SGPC is considering appointing 10 representatives across the Diaspora to “deal with the problems being faced by the community abroad.” Essentially, giving Sikhs outside of India more of “a say.”

A say in what?  Who knows?

As I thought about these new initiatives from the SGPC, as well as researching their history a bit – I’m having trouble understanding the real purpose of this organization. On the one hand, the SGPC was created in the 1920’s to keep the British out of managing Gurwdaras. And in the process of reclaiming these Gurdwaras, they (along with the Singh Sabhias) ousted mahants and non-Sikh practices out of the Gurdwaras.  In addition to managing historical Gurdwaras, the SGPC also runs several educational institutions. However, the SGPC is also referred to as the “mini-parliament” of the Sikhs, as it states on it’s website. which to me is a completely different set of goals. This implies that they are the representatives and decision makers on behalf of Sikhs all over the world. Is this really the case?

So what is the relevance of the SGPC in 2011?

Do we really need the SGPC to speak on behalf of those of us living outside of India?

Do they have the resources or the influence to speak to our issues? Or should we leave these matters to the civil and human rights organizations who have the skills and experience to be effective (Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, United Sikhs etc.)

And if the SGPC finds itself with loads of time on their hands, why not get back to some of its roots and reclaim some of the Gurdwaras that have fallen in to the hands of modern-day mahants and rid the non-Sikh practices we are seeing today?  Are all Gurdwaras the SGPC is managing today falling inline with the Rehat Marayada? The same document they coordinated and rubber-stamped years ago?

Maybe they can use their resources to address issues in their own backyard, like holding granthis and parcharaks to a certain standard rather than leaving it up to the Babas to promote Sikhi. Or perhaps they could lean toward charity work and support efforts to address female feticide, drug abuse, farmer suicide, Punjab’s water crisis…take your pick!

My opinion…we’ll make our own brochures, thank you.

What’s yours?

Hemming My Blessings

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.” – Author Unknown

With the Guru’s grace, Spirit of the Sikh has completed its second year.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who continue to read and comment on the blog, even though my posts have been fewer and further apart than the previous year.

I was very happy to see a lot more comments and dialogue. I hope to see more of this in the year to come and I plan to be more disciplined in responding to all comments in a timely manner and facilitating the discussions further. Often times the comments raise more profound points than the original post themselves…I look forward to hearing more of your views.

Some of you mentioned you would like to start your own blog to document your experiences and stories, but are hesitant to start or afraid you will not be able to maintain it. Consider this an open invitation to send me your pieces as a guest blogger here on Spirit of the Sikh so we can share your thoughts with this small yet insightful group of readers.

As we move in to year three, I again hope to write a little more poetry (a failed promise from last year) and share some reflections on Baani to align with some of my personal goals…Why reflections on Baani?

To keep the flame lit. 

I’ll close with Prof. Puran Singh, who explains so eloquently in his book (and the blog’s namesake) Spirit of the Sikh

If you know Him, how can you forget Him?  Keep the flame alive.  I leave it to you what shall be the needs of the moment – within you.  You alone shall know how to keep the light of Nam burning, your heart is the shrine; the lamp of Nam is lit and it burns therein.  And in the background He stands.  You are the priest of that sacred shine.  There is silence lit by Nam.  There is the song lit by silence.  You have to pour oil, you have to trim the wick and you have to keep it burning.