SIKH INSTITUTIONS — MALFUNCTIONING
Plu qyvyho pweIAY jyvyhI kwr kmweIAY
(We reap what we sow) ………………………. (Guru Nanak Dev)
Human institutions take long time to establish. These are developed, sustained and improved in their functioning if nurtured and managed by committed, enlightened, far sighted, self-less and altruistic men and women. In return the institutions act as beacons of light for the concerned human beings who enrich themselves and upgrade their living benefitting from their salubrious impact. The institutions and the people constituting them are interdependent and complementary to each other. Those who have managed their institutions well have derived immense benefits from their efficient functioning and made progress in various human activities, whereas they who let their institutions deteriorate were left far behind.
The Sikh institutions are of two types : firstly ; the core ones, and secondly; the supportive, procedural or evolutionary. Monotheism, the Gurus, gurdwara, Sangat (congregation of equals) Pangat (service – dispensation as equals), Langar (common kitchen), castelessness are the core Sikh institutions. These are bed rocks of Sikh value system and no compromise is acceptable regarding their concept and practice. Various other supportive institutions such as family, educational units, ecunemical management, political parties, social organisations, birth, death, marriage ceremonies are procedural or supportive for maintaining unimpeachable faith and practice in the core Sikh institutions. If the supportive, complementary or procedural institutions play their roles efficiently, these will enhance the trust of adherents in the core institutions and in return improve their own usefulness. So the proper functioning of the supportive institutions, for example political parties, religious establishments, educational foundations, sports gymnesia, musical academies, social groups, financial institutions etc. require that these should have capable and honest persons at helm of their affairs. Such persons are to come from the general Sikh populace. I am of the opinion that most of the Sikh institutions have not failed, these are breathing and needed but most of these are not delivering the benefits, which should accrue from them. The cause is not any major inherent defect in the supportive Sikh institutions but lies with the persons managing them and in the last analysis in the people who throw up inefficient persons at the helms or acquiesce in the perching of the corrupt, incompetent and undesirable persons as their leaders/managers.
What to do ? Solution lies in education. By education, I do not mean the sheer imparting of bookish instructions in a school or college. I mean imparting knowledge, skills and temperament to deal with situations we encounter. This education starts with the individual and his family and is imparted most effectively in the family unit itself. If parents do not educate their children to be good human beings and good Sikhs how can they expect to run various Sikh institutions well ? If family-units rear good Sikh children, they as grown-ups shall certainly be better suited to manage the institutions. To do so parents shall first of all have to abide by certain norms of human conduct.
Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das did not install their offsprings as successors since they did not come up to the expectations of the Gurus; Guru Har Rai debarred his son Ram Rai from guruship when the latter flunked in conduct and integrity by distorting the Gurbani :-
imtI byeImwn kI instead of the correct version
imtI muslmwn kI pyVY peI kuimAwr
(Var Asa, Guru Nanak Dev)
Various Sikh Gurus and their celebrated followers attained martyrdom to safeguard the cherished institutions. Maharaja Ranjit Singh voluntarily presented himself at the Akal Takht to undergo punishment for his misconduct.
Washington categorically refused to continue as President of the USA after the expiry of his second term. While serving as President, he incurred a debt of $ 60,000 to meet his expenses. His successor John Adams who was the first to occupy the White House, after spending his first night in the White House wrote on November 2, 1800 to his wife Abigail :
“I pray heavens to bestow the best of blessings on this house. None but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels through their scholarly exegesis presaged the death of decadent imperialism and the advent of socialism. They had envisaged the emergence of socialism in highly industrialised societies first. The Communists overturned the Czar of Russia who failed to change in light of the circumstances whereas the highly industrialised England, and other European Kingdoms, made the necessary structural and functional changes and thus not only stalled the intrusion of Communist regimes in their countries but Kings / Queens continue in newly adjusted roles in many countries till today. Islam with its more progressive use of technology and education held sway over large segments of the globe but its institutions could not effect the desired modifications in their functioning and thus lost ground to the technologically more advanced Christian powers after the fifteenth century. Sheikh Mohd. Iqbal in the beginning of the twentieth century, while visiting Europe, said :-
jlwil pwdSwhI ho ik jmhUrI qmwSw ho
judw ho dIn isAwsq sy qo rih jwqI hY cMgyzI
“Be it regal grandeur or show of democracy, Politics bereft of righteousness is plunder.”
He clearly observed and concluded that whatever the system of governance if it was not based on good human values it would not deliver the desired results.
These historical factors illustrate how good institutions are established and how their lofty functioning adds to better value system and greater human welfare.
Lesson to be learnt is clear and eloquent : good institutions are evolved and maintained by righteous value system, capable people emerge through moral education, right training and sound skills. To achieve these objects we must prepare and exert ourselves. And the best and earliest endeavour must start from the individual and family. Sikhs should not wait for a messiah to descend from heavens to improve their lot. Such an idea / dream is against their creed. We must strive at the root level : village, street, town. Singh Sabha pioneers worked at the grassroot level and their efforts culminated in the Gurdwara Reform movement which created the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Shiromani Akali Dal. The SGPC and SAD played stellar roles in attaining a number of accomplishments in social, political, economic, religious and administrative spheres. Of late, SGPC, SAD, Chief Khalsa Diwan and many other Sikh institutions had not been functioning as per the expectations of the people. The main reason is not any major structural defects in these institutions but it lies on the shoulders of most of the men and women running these institutions. So we must exert to ensure that right and deserving persons hold the helms of these institutions so that they function for the welfare and in the interest of the people. First step in my opinion should be the proper development of a family unit and provision of right type of educational / technological facilities so that the new generation is well prepared to cope up with the exponential technological expansion and its impact on human affairs. This will go a long way toward efficient management / functioning of Sikh institutions existing as well as to be evolved anew.
A manager/leader in religion, politics, economics, social or any other field cannot be expected to discharge his duties well unless he is adequately conversant with modern technology, for example, e-mail, fax, scanning besides being a scholar of his scriptures, religious lore and practices.
Further I would say that so far the best practical method of choosing the right persons as leaders in different spheres of human activities is the one based on the people’s choice, that is through ascertainment of people’s views and that can be done best through fair and smooth elections. The White World has after lot of vicissitudes and hard experiences evolved a system of election which is rarely doubted these days. We must learn from their experience. The election is the best system to know what people want and if it is not made flawless it is not the fault of the system but it is because of inefficiency and corruption of the persons responsible for its proper functioning. The remedy lies in holding periodical elections to different institutions regularly, more frequently and in proper manner. In Punjab various administrative, political, religious, economic, educational and social institutions have been paralysed by not holding elections to their managements. This has grossly stunted the growth of these institutions and competent leadership at various levels.
I am sorry to say that most of the Akali leaders now running the government have not sustained confidence of the people in their modus operandi. Whatever their self delusionary assessments of the outcome of elections in the beginning of next year, people are not going to endorse their re-election to power. So earlier they set about mending their ways, the better for them, Punjab, India and Sikhs. In so doing they will be taking a step toward the proper functioning of various institutions.
CofIlY pwKMfw (Guru Nanak Dev)
May we imbibe Gursikhya (Guru’s teachings), shed off hypocrisy and act straightforwardly.