ਗੁਰਸਾਖੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿ ਹੋਇ
A Blue print for Proper Propagation of Sikhism
It is indeed creditable that Sikhism has come to occupy the fifth position among the major five organized religions of the world in such a short span of five and a half centuries. It must have been due to the Divine sanction behind its birth as is the common belief among the Sikhs. The credit for nurturing this infant dispensation into a fully blossomed, forever flourishing religion, providing spiritual sustenance and peace to the needy and the troubled goes to the ten Sikh Gurus. They, though their words, deeds and verses created a distinct spiritual pathway and a religious way of life and created a small community of followers to follow this pathway. In between, they also created their own sacred canon and a scripture while also incorporating in it the sacred verses of more than thirty pious Indian Saints. Some of these spiritual savants were either Sikh Guru's predecessors or contemporaries whose verses conformed to their own vision of cosmic power and their own humanitarian values. It is this composite sacred Sikh scripture which again, as per the Divine will, came to occupy the hallowed position of being the eternal Guru of the Sikhs after the end of the line of ten living human Sikh Gurus. It is this message of faith in the eternal presence of the sole Divine power both in its immanent and transcendent form, with its primordial creative power and its unbiased universal love for its whole creation and its unstoppable benevolence which keeps its followers continuously engaged in dual activity of keeping remembrance of the Divine as well as remaining engaged in the altruistic activities of being householders and social workers at the same time. Rendering help to the needy at the time of distress comes instinctively to them as a result of their inbuilt spiritual and moral orientation. It has been so since the beginning and it is being manifest at a global level now. It is so spontaneous, so natural and so irresistible that it can no longer be resisted. It is this message and the spirit which is responsible for the continuous proliferation of Sikhism.
But can Sikhism survive and go on a proliferating on the basis of its inherent message and spirit alone? Should not this message and spirit continue to be replenished and invigorated continuously from the well-spring and the fountain head from which it has originated? What if the supply line gets muddied and adulterated or contaminated by the forces of status quoism or intolerant religious rivalry? What if the present proponents of this Sikh spirit or its next generation proponents get cut off from its source either because of their own linguistic handicap of being not able to read their scripture in its original medium Gurmukhi or because of the shortage of well-educated and well-trained Gurbani interpreters and guides? The harsh fact is that even after one hundred years of their existence, the two main representative Sikh religious organizations – The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Chief Khalsa Diwan, whose main responsibility it was to formulate a well-designed curriculum for the Sikh Gurdwara preachers and establish a Sikh Training Institute, have so far remained grossly unaware of their major responsibility. As a result, while the Sikhs, Sikh Gurdwaras and Sikh communities have spread in large numbers both in India and abroad, there has been no systematic creation of any cadre or cadres of Sikh preachers well-versed in correctly reading, interpreting and fluently articulating the main Sikh scripture and other Sikh classics upto an acceptable level. A cursory glance at a cross section of the present Sikh clergy in our rural and even urban Sikh Gurdwaras will provide a fair assessment about their poor educational, mental and general awareness caliber. Neither are their wages and other allowances commensurate with the nature of services they are expected to render. How long can this adhocism continue to run the system? Does not the modern educated Sikh youth, with a sizeable section among them, not even literate enough to read the Sikh scriptural script Gurmukhi/ Punjabi is already feeling alienated from its own religion and its fundamental values? It is mainly because there are very few among this existing cadre to communicate with the modern educated Sikh youth at a wavelength of their own orientation. It is a dichotomy which is increasing by the day and needs to be addressed at the basic institutional level on a priority basis.
Therefore, The two above mentioned premier Sikh institutions/ Organizations either individually or in collaboration must set up a wholesome Training Sikh institute for the training of potential Sikh preachers of various categories for catering to the most important task of proper delivery of Sikh sermons from the Gurdwara pulpit at the rural, urban, metropolitan Sikh shrines and other Sikh platforms. A tentative blueprint for the establishment of such an institution and its curriculum may be prepared on the basis of following suggestions/ lines:
1. The Institution so designed and established need to prepare its curriculum for producing three categories of Sikh preachers meant to work and preach the Sikh gospel at smaller village Gurdwaras, bigger urban Gurdwaras and at inter-religious forms at the national and international level.
2. At the end of their training, they need to be awarded diplomas, degrees and postgraduate degrees commensurate with their period of training and the curriculum covered.
3. This training Institute, in order to confer these diplomas and degrees, need to be affiliated to one of the two leading public sector universities of Punjab so that its certification carries worldwide academic credibility. Its credibility can be further enhanced if this certification is endorsed or embossed with the seal of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as well. A provision may also be made to add more credits to the earned diploma or degree if the candidate so desires and works extra hours to earn these added credits.
4. The curriculum for all these courses must include correct reading and recitation of the sacred Sikh scripture, making full use of distinct Gurbani grammer, correct interpretation of Gurbani verses based on the fundamental tenets of Gurmat and Sikh philosophy, knowledge of basic postulates of the major oriental and Semitic religions and their philosophy, traditions and practices as well as Sikhism’s distinct philosophy and way of life which distinguishes it from these earlier religions. It must include the study of Sikh Guru's genealogy, the chronology of each Sikh Guru’s Guruship and their distinct contribution to the construction and consolidation of the religious pyramid of Sikhism during the Guru Period including its culmination in the declaration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. In addition to the teaching-learning about every aspect of Sikh scriptures' text, including its multiple dialects, prosody, musical measures/ ragas, sequence of tabulating its verses and their proper pronunciation, it must include whole or selected verses from Bhai Gurdas, and Gurbilas series, including Panth Parkash and Suraj Parkash and Janamsakhi literature. Similarly, the curriculum must cover the entire Sikh history from Guru Nanak's birth to the beginning of the Third Millennium including all the major historical events, their dramatis personae, galaxy of Sikh martyrs and evolution of the Sikhs as a religious community/ nationality despite periodic setbacks and the survival of Sikh identity, Sikh values and emergence of Sikhs as a distinct community at the national and international level. Sanctity and significance of Sikh Kakkars / symbols and need to follow the laid down Sikh code of Conduct based on these symbols as an exercise in character building must also be included in the curriculum. The Skill to hold or address a virtual class or audience or hold a discussion and skill to handle and operate modern audio-visual aids should form a part of curriculum. The quantum of syllabus or curriculum should vary according to the level of certification prescribed but no basic component of Sikh theology, history and Sikh philosophy should be excluded at any level. A small capsule of training in spoken English and functional knowledge of English grammar may be added to the curriculum.
5. Faculty for such an institute need not be permanent barring the few members of the faculty who need to carry on the everyday administrative duties as well. Eminent scholars on Sikh scriptural linguistics, Sikh theology, Sikh philosophy, Sikh history etc need to be engaged in a course-wise teaching, each course spanning over a semester. Each session should include two semesters leading to a four semester or two years for a diploma course and six semester or three years for a degree course with each course having six months to one year apprenticeship at the end of each academic course. Senior secondary examination pass certificate and a graduate degree in Humanities may be made eligibility criterion for admission to the diploma and degree level courses respectively under this scheme.
6. Since in the initial stages, suitable candidates for these courses may not be forthcoming, some sort of financial incentive need to be devised. This objective can be realized if the founding Sikh organization volunteering to set up such an institute makes an earnest appeal to the sizeable section of Sikh entrepreneurs and philanthropists both in India and abroad to fund the training of these students for this noble cause. While making such an appeal, the spirit and motive behind this venture need to be highlighted and an urgent need to set up this long delayed institute need to stressed upon. Some of the other representative Sikh Institutions engaged in Sikh academic and literary activities can popularize this idea through holding seminars, webinars and conferences. Once the urgent necessity, relevance and credibility of this institution is realized and the faith and trust in the organizing capacity of the volunteering foundational organization is upheld, the funds are likely to flow. The CSR route for seeking funds for a public cause from the potential Sikh entrepreneurs can be gainfully exploited in this respect.
7. A suitable salary structure and package for boarding and lodging facilities at par with the current school/ college lecturer may be suggested and made to be applicable across the board with an endorsement from Sri Akal Takht Sahib and general opinion of the entire Sikh community once such a cadre of Sikh preachers comes into being.
8. Besides fulfilling the religious purpose of propagation of Sikhism on a sound footing, the venture can also generate significant employment for the Sikh youth. Once this cadre of qualified Sikh preachers with valid academic certification and endorsement from the highest Sikh authority comes out, the Sikh Gurdwaras in US, and some other European Countries are likely to offer them employment as it is alleged that in some of these foreign Gurdwaras fugitive asylum seekers have managed to become Sikh preachers without having either any knowledge about Sikh religion or any inclination to be in this profession. Since Sikhism has neither any tradition of voluntary enlistment of preachers like the RSS nor Madrasa like Islamic recruitment nor even empanelment of Christian missionaries for the propagation of its religion, a systematic raising of a well-trained cadre of Sikh preachers will go a long way in putting Sikhi parchar on a firm footing. It will not only streamline and crystallize the essence of Sikh Guru's gospel and rid it of the many myths, medieval beliefs and superstitions with which it is laced at present while being delivered not only by the half-baked and less educated Sikh clergy but also by the self-styled sant, babas and derawalas. Once this properly trained cadre of Sikh preachers come into being, they will not only put Sikh parchar on a firm footing but they will also be able to strike a rapport with the modern Sikh youth through their well-prepared sermons.
9. Therefore, it is the most opportune time to deliberate upon the scope of setting up an authorized institute to nurture, propagate the Sikh religion on proper lines and ensure its teaching in a uniform mode and correct format. Otherwise, there is a very possibility of Sikhism's disintegration into several compartments and sects. Already irked by the half-baked propagation of Sikhism by the existing not-so-well-read Sikh clergy and the mythology laced arbitrary propagation of Sikhism by the Self-styled Sant Babas and Dera babas, there are rumours afloat among some of the elite American universities sponsored scholars of Sikhism of establishing a cyber Sikh University to study Gurbani and its philosophy in isolation of all its existing religious institutions, history, tradition and practices. There is a large audience of modern Sikh youth waiting to be weaned away by such an alternative of a purely academic stream. Sikhism, in its integrated form, is a composite culture and value based way of life consisting of spiritual aspiration, altruistic social involvement and active participation in service of humanity. To preserve and propagate this integrated Sikh approach, it is necessary that a well-informed, committed and dedicated cadre of its exponents be raised and made to carry on this noble task with commitment and dedication.
ਜਿਸ ਦੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਸਚਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਅਲਾਏ ॥
ਓਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਆਪਿ ਚਲਦਾ ਹੋਰਨਾ ਨੋ ਹਰਿ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪਾਏ ॥
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 140