The purpose of my short intervention is to try and understand the paradigm of relationship between the devotee – chela – the Sikh mode of worship, the Sikh organization and the dynamics of environmental changes on this paradigm.
I am approaching the question as a lay devotee. My simplistic understanding is that communion with God will be facilitated provided I live my life according to the persuasions of my faith and I am fortunate enough to receive beneficent grace of God.
Understanding the persuasion therefore seems an important step in pursuit of this spiritual journey. At the same time my lay impression is that the average Sikh’s consciousness is primarily a product of learning from life – home, school and social intercourse – as may be the case with several other social groups. The last two factors do not contribute to promoting any understanding of Sikh ethos especially in the Diaspora environment. The primary sources of Sikhi input therefore possibly are home environment plus driblets of Sikh thought picked up during whatever reading, reciting, listening one is exposed to.
Internalization of learning comes through personal acceptance of teaching and living by it. Merely being conscious of rights and wrongs is only the first step. Living in truth implies development of conscience that continuously guides, nay persuades the person to make choices that are in keeping with the teaching. Such choices are not easy to identify, even less easy to live by and almost impossible if the persuasion is not understood or worse seen as dogmatic and not reasoned.
We hear and utter every time as a part of our invocation – jo prabh ko milbo chahai khoj shabad mein ley – that the search of shabad will lead the seeker to the Lord. The persuasion also tells us that – sacha sabad vichar sach samaneya – by reflecting on shabad one can merge in truth, achieve liberation.
Gurbani emphasizes that for understanding of shabad, khoj, vichar, soch are essential. Only thinking and pondering over the riddles of life will provide any insight into the path of truth. This process of seeking higher knowledge is aided by discussion with and through guidance from the gurmukh and the sangat. The gurmukh understands the shabad through soch, vichar and then explains it to the seeker[s]. The sangat, an assembly of seekers, are also the shared resource for the uncharted spiritual journey. Verily in such search the seekers can take various, seemingly different routes to actualize the possibility of personal and even collective communion with the Divine.
In this setting, sharing insights through conversation[s] promotes collective learning and is also instructive for the khoji. Such process should be a uniting, not divisive experience. If, as may happen, the search is vainglorious, it well may lead nowhere, be barren, futile and only make for feuds [vad/vivad].
Organized religions represent very complex organizations. Leadership models in complex organizations are not static, monolithic. Their dynamic structures are designed to bring together the synergy of diverse functions to a shared objective in an environment of continuous change and challenge.
We are persuaded to recite nitnem daily in sangat or by ourselves; participate in or listen to kirtan and live a purposeful, responsible, ethical life with mind attuned to God. We also must not be idle bystanders when the society is confronted with the issues of right and wrong, justice, equality et al. In other words reason, belief, faith and action are to guide our responses. Our houses of worship and our worship service are to facilitate our endeavor.
My question is that given the emphasis in Gurbani to lean on guru or gurmukh and sangat for learning, the commended media being kirtan, simran, khoj, vichar preferably in the precinct of a Gurdwara:
- What can our religious organization do to help our urge to learn?
- Is the way our service is structured conducive to promote learning?
- Who are our gurmukhs – ragis, kathakars, granthis, or the committee bosses? If not, who else and how does one find them, connect with them or they connect with the seekers?
- What is our sangat in today’s gurdwara [mega to small community congregating at home] and the role they play in khoj/vichar?
- How can we facilitate this model in the changed and changing world we are living in?
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Sep 18, 2002