Guru Nanak founded Sikh Religion and through the succeeding nine Gurus, it bloomed into its final graduation in the birth of Khalsa on 30th March, 1699. He had laid down the guidelines in a succinct manner.
If thou yearnest to play the game of love,
Step on to my path, with thy head placed on thy palm.
And once thou settest thy feet on this Path,
Then lay down thy head and mind not public opinion.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1412
The same were followed by all the gurus. When Guru Arjun Dev was martyred, it was abundantly clear that peaceful means alone were not sufficient to stem the tyranny. Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom confirmed it.
When all other measures have failed,
It is justified to unsheathe the sword. Zafarnama
Before highlighting Khalsa’s role in the 21st century, I will like to enumerate a few of Khalsa’s attributes as ordained by the Gurus.
— To maintain the natural God-given form.
— To maintain its ideals :
– Uphold truth and righteousness at all costs.
– Protect the weak against tyranny.
– Live Sikhi.
– Universal brotherhood.
– Sarbat da bhala (welfare for all).
Challenges in the 21st century — and Khalsa’s role
Threat to Sikh identity
On my recent visit to Anandpur Sahib, I saw a sea of humanity, including a lot of Sikhs, going to Naina Devi. They carried red flags and had red bands on their foreheads with the words ‘Jai Mata Di’. Inside Kesgarh Sahib Gurdwara, most of the Sikhs wore parnas not turbans and had cut beards and hair. The only turbaned and full bearded people were the sevadars. This is the seat of a holy Takht where only three hundred years ago Guru Gobind Singh administered amrit, thus creating Khalsa. We may explain that, a) fervour and enthusiasm diminishes with time; b) we are surrounded by 98 per cent depilated citizens; c) our children in schools and outside are outnumbered by children of other communities; d) parents, especially mothers, are not devoting enough time to religious teaching of their children; e) audio-visual and print media are not conducive to growth of Sikh religion; f) recent happenings in the political field have taken away elan and pride among the Sikh youth; g) the preaching of Sikh tenets are in the hands of unsuitable people; h) practice of what is preached, occupies a back seat and low priority in all world religions; i) the break-up of joint families where grandparents formed the bedrock of religious and spiritual training. There are many other causes. As a doctor, I feel that the more serious the disease, the more vigorous the methods of treatment. We may not reverse all the trends, but we can find solutions. Sikhs have to be brought back to the fold. Chetna Lehars, well-trained preachers, missionaries, committed parents will bring sweet rewards. This is the foremost role of the Khalsa in the 21st century.
The traditional Sikh professions of farming and soldiering are not remunerative / available. Small farms are not viable; and Sikhs’ intake into the armed forces has dropped from 31 per cent to 7 per cent due to changed government policy. So, other vocations and diversification will have to be resorted to. The affluent members amongst us must provide job opportunities or vocation to the weaker members, but no doles.
The rural scenario is not conducive to higher education. Some of the rich urbanites must own up rural families and children for formal and technical education either individually or by pooling our resources together.
Coaching classes organised in gurdwaras for medical, engineering or other profesional colleges, administrative services, computer science, with committed retired voluntary Gursikh instructors are an urgent need. I have a firm belief that Khalsa is an intellectual giant, at times sleeping. Let the 21st century wake up the giant. Let us not wait for the government’s or SGPC’s efforts. We have enough resources. Let Khalsa share its riches (daswandh).
This unique gift of the Guru is gradually getting diluted. Sewa as known to us is : manual, mental, or material. At present, I will highlight the material sewa. The Khalsa of the 21st century is expected to contribute more than daswandh towards such well run institutions like the World Sikh Council, Institute of Sikh Studies, Gurmat Prachar Sewa Society, Sikh Press, Central Sikh Orphanage, and many others. These will all decay unless watered with currency. Please make sure the money is well spent.
It is an irony that the intellectuals attending today’s seminar are not affluent and the affluent members of the Khalsa are not attending. So, who will contribute ?
Preaching of Sikhism
This is our grey area. Thanks to Sikh missionary schools / colleges, enlightened preachers are being trained now. But, are they getting suitable appointments thereafter ? In fact, every Sikh is a preacher. My slogan for the 21st century is : LIVE SIKHI, and preaching will follow. As for preachers, these should be well selected, well-trained, well-versed in relative theology, and above all well-paid. Their creature comforts should be well looked after. The Khalsa of the 21st century must have a cadre of highly motivated, highly intellectual, dedicated preachers knowing good English, good first aid, besides the knowledge of computers. Such missionaries are in the pipeline.
Bhai Kanhaya Spirit
Let us spread this spirit in the 21st century. How many of us are aware that the real Red Cross movement was started by Bhai Kanhaya in 1705 when Guru Gobind Singh gave him an ointment to apply to all the wounded in the battle, regardless of their religion, while serving them drinking water ? Jean Henri Dunant started his Red Cross much later in 1864. This is the Khalsa’s role in the 21st century. All our gurdwaras must have an attached hospital / dispensary where specialists work with missionary spirit and paramedical staff both with missionary and material spirit. Free medicines be given and investigations carried out. This is the call of the next century. There is no paucity of funds. Finer details can be worked out. I must add that a senior doctor must be in charge and he / she should be a member of the executive committee of the gurdwara.
During my sojourn in the armed forces throughout the country, I found people knowing Sikhs but not Sikhism. Sikhs, because of their distinct identity. Let every Khalsa be a missionary in words and deeds. We urgently require a positive media cover, print media, i.e., written words, a Sikh press and a separate TV Channel where a true and positive picture is projected. Guru Granth Sahib on internet and CD is an excellent development. Let the 21st century unfold itself in this manner. Sikhism is too wide-ranging, secular, and global in its outlook to be confined only to the Sikhs. Let Khalsa disseminate it universally. Let us also avoid internecine squabbles.
Here I will request the Sikh intellectuals to play an aggressively positive role. This class has taken a back seat for too long; your participation is overdue. This is a sewa with intellect. The message from such seminars should spread widely, more so to the rural areas, where Sikhs are not conversant with their basic tenets and are gradually getting absorbed into a non-Sikh milieu. The Gurus spent 239 years, raised the cowardly, crestfallen, un-motivated rural folks into a pulsating, vibrant class of Khalsa. Within a span of three hundred years, we are relapsing into the original state. Let the task of Sikh studies be coordinated through apex bodies like the World Sikh Council, Institute of Sikh Studies, and World Institute of Sikh Education and Research (WISER), Gurmat Prachar Sewa Society, Manav Sewa Trust, and such others. These committed bodies should work in unison.
Role of youth in the 21st century
The Sikh youth are a neglected lot. Neither parents nor institutions have given them their due. Thus greatest apostasy is amidst them. Youth are our bulwark of strength for the next century. Let us guide them, give them position of importance, position of responsibility. Let the elders step aside at places and hand over some key-result-areas (KRAs) to them. Let the 21st century bloom them. They should be involved in all decision-making bodies and in large numbers. They are bold, mature and intelligent.
Role of women
The Gurus gave equal status to women five centuries back, whereas the rest of the advancing world is now struggling to give them 33 per cent reservation. How fair and farsighted were our Gurus ! But have we given them equal status ? If not, let Khalsa women in the 21st century get equal participation, let them walk the entire family on the Sikh path. Their role is prominent, let their voice find echo, be heard and heeded. In our history, they have not lagged behind in devotion or sacrifices.
The Khalsa in the 21st century should safeguard its identity, live Sikhi, break the racial barriers. “Manas ki jaat sabhai ekai pahchanbo”, preach and practice goodness for all, embark on Bhai Kanhaya’s concept of human service, promote and propagate Sikh studies. This requires great coordination, great dedication, great finances with transparent management.
We have it all in us — the Khalsa, the saint-soldier.