Institutional Lapses in the Religious, Educational and Social field
Prof. Gurnam Kaur*
In the present day situation, if we make an observation around us, we will be noticing that though we are successful at many fronts as far as the worldly achievements are concerned, yet we are a failure as far as our basic institutions are concerned with respect to Sikh Religion. I will be talking about Educational and Religious institutions.
Educational institutions are a very potent medium to impart religious, ethical and moral teachings alongwith the formal education. In the family the elderly people especially the mother and the father generally act as religious leaders and teachers and have deep impact upon the child’s religious attitude. In the school the teacher is to guide the child and lead him on the path of religion or spirituality. According to the studies done by social anthropologists “Youth associations with common residence (Maunerhous), special customs, duties, and special leadership are known in many primitive (Australia, Africa, Polynesia) as well as in the more highly developed societies.
We know that wherever Christian Missionaries went and preached Christianity the first thing they did was to open convent schools and medical aid centres alongwith the churches so that they can help the poor and attract them towards Christianity. The schools played a much bigger and greater role to spread the message of Christ among the people of alien lands. To attract and train them in Christianity the education was made free to those who embrace Christianity and this practice is still continued. The educational institutions specially attached to religious organization, play very significant and important role in the cultivation of genuine spiritual realization, fostering of reverence for religion, stress upon proper religious preparation, the discipline of the mind and body which are of great value for the development of religion.
Now what about the Sikh educational institutions? Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee is the main administrative body of the Sikh historical shrines or main Gurdwaras in the old Indian Punjab. It is responsible for all sorts of arrangements of the Sikh institutions and preaching Sikhism in every way. It does not lack sources or funds. It lacks motivation and aptitude towards education. In the last few years, SGPC opened some institutions of higher education like Degree colleges, engineering colleges and medical or dental colleges etc. but have taken no interest in the basic education i.e. primary or high schools and there are no special facilities to attract the students towards Sikhism. In the colleges also there is no special training in Sikhism, when at the same time the two examples of DAV institutions and Christian institutions are before us who give special instructions to their students in their philosophy and religion. Religion as common subject is taught only in two Khalsa colleges. Khalsa College at Anandpur Sahib and Khalsa College Patiala. No other college is established on the pattern of Khalsa College, Amritsar. When the teachers are recruited to the Khalsa Colleges, nobody bothers whether they have any interest in Sikh religion. There are other Khalsa colleges or schools run by the private managements but they also do not recruit special and separate teachers trained in Sikh thought and Sikh history to teach Sikhism because for them it is more a lucrative business than the service of community. So there is no arrangement to teach Sikhism as an academic discipline.
There are a few crore tribal Vanjara and Sikligar Sikhs who are the followers of Guru Nanak but are very poor and uneducated. Our SGPC is least bothered to open Primary or secondary schools for them. They can fall prey to Christianity or Islam any time.
Religious Institutions or the Institution of Gurdwara
Third comes the institution of sacred place i.e. the place of worship. This place which originally was called “Dharamsal”, the place where religion resides became Gurdwara, the residing place of the Guru. Like any other religion, in Sikhism also sacred place of worship i.e. Gurdwara is very important. We can say that it is rather more important because Sikhism being a societal religion lays greater stress on Sangat or congregation. Man is to learn religion and practise spirituality in Sangat. There is no concept of individual salvation or Mukti. The concept of salvation in Sikhism is concerned with the emanicipation of the whole Sangat i.e. society. Wherever Guru Nanak Dev Ji went on his journeys he established the Sangat over there. After the journeys he settled down at Kartarpur and set the complete pattern of living for the Sikh: Kirtan Karna, Nam Japna and Vand Shakna i.e. to earn one’s livelihood with honest means, to ever remember God and to share ones’s earning with the needy ones. His successor Gurus consolidated the institution of Sangat and Pangat. Guru Arjan Dev gave the Institution of Gurdwara to the Sikhs in the form of holy Darbar Sahib where the holy Granth after compilation was placed and set the whole tradition in full form while appointing Baba Budhaji its first Granthi. Guru Gobind Singh bestowed Guruship on the Granth Sahib for all times to come to seek guidance for the Sikhs. So, the whole tradition was set by the Gurus themselves which is something very unique and important.
I would not like to say anything about the preachers in Sikhism. All know it well that they are not qualified people in Sikh history, Sikh thought, leave aside the other religions. Anybody who knows Gurmukhi and cannot find work anywhere else becomes a Sikh preacher. Gurdwara and Guru is “fBEkftnK dk Ekt” in some other sense, not in this sense.
The Sikh Gurus were well-aware a fact, that institution of Sangat and Pangat for whose activation, the Gurdwara was the best place, was established and given uppermost importance. According to the Guru the holy congregation is the Satguru’s school where Lord’s merits are learnt. The Sangat is united through the recitation of the Bani with God as well as with the fellow-beings. The Gursikhs who open their ears to listen and hearts to receive the Divine truths are elevated and united to God. Is our Gurdwara playing the destined role or no ? No, Gurdwara has become the centre of our quarrelling. If we give any attention to Gurdwara that is only for the marbling of it, to make it all uncomfortable for the Sangat. Our preachers have been telling the Sikh community how to die as a Sikh because that is the need of the politician for the Morchas and Dharam Yudhs to snatch power but they seldomly tell the youth how to live as a Sikh. It is the function of this Institution (Gurdwara) to expound the implicit content of the spiritual experience conveyed through the Bani and to defend Sikhism against doubt from within and attack from without. The private monasteries deras are increasing day by day and preaching their own message in the name of Guru Granth Sahib. The more and more Sikhs are attracted towards them. Why? Because Gurdwaras are not functioning in the right direction. The Sikh masses want peace of mind but our sacred places are delivering everything barring Peace of mind because of the present state of Sikh politics. We should be awakened to the present situation and should try to save the younger generation. You can say that Bhagati and Shakti, Miri and Piri, Spirituality and Worldliness are combined in Sikhism. It is an excuse for the wrong doings because it is nowhere told in the whole of Guru Granth Sahib that Shakti should hijack Bhagati or Miri should dominate Piri or worldliness should guide spirituality how to behave. Guru has given us everfresh Shabad model in the form of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and it is all powerful to guide us on all times and places.
Let us be awakened to the fact what sort of educational institutions we should have which can match the global requirements and teach basic tenets of Sikhism. We should have our own modern media to teach Sikh culture and history to our children so that they can feel proud of it. As parents, teachers and leaders, we have to set an example for our children because today’s children are not so simple and easy to convince. They get information about everything through media and they put so many questions. Let us try and answer their queries.