Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Youth involvement in the Gurdwaras

hmrY msqik dwgu dgwnw hm krj gurU bhu swFy ]

hamarai masathak dhaag dhagaanaa ham karaj guroo bahu saadtae ||

My forehead has been branded with His brand; I owe such a great debt to the Guru.

Guru Raam Daas Ji (SGGSJ Ang 170)

To encourage, promote and instigate Sikhi in the youth is the responsibility every Gursikh. It is the mission of each Gurdwara to promote this everywhere in general and specifically in the western world. We should also be aware that as parents, we must strive to be good working role models for our children; not only to teach them the ideals of Sikhi, but also show them how to not just practice Sikhi…but to live it. This topic is dedicated to the Sangat by the Sangat.

Academic Education is the main thing that is being drilled in the mindset of Sikh children all over the world. Very few are lucky ones who also get spiritual/religious knowledge from their elders at home. The core problem of our youth not being attracted to Gurdwara, I believe, comes from the fact that, we, as a Sikh community are lagging behind in building a solid foundation for Sikhi by lack of spiritual/religious education. There is a need for continuous education in this area, throughout the grade-school years of a child.

In most Gurdwaras the Punjabi Schools are set up to teach Gurmukhi. It is known fact that without being able to read Gurmukhi, children will not have the ability to read Gurbani. But limiting these children to learn Gurmukhi is not enough; hence there is a need for some recommendations to improve upon the religious education of our children/youth. These recommendations are based on many ideas already put forth by the Sangat and used in the Gurdwaras around the world; but there are still many more that can take advantage of these ideas.

TEACHING OF GURBANI

It is also important to understand that Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Angad Dev ji, our second Guru Sahib, construed the Gurmukhi alphabet thus we become automatically obliged to learn the language of our Gurus. Sikh children should be taught Santhiya (expression of bani), by a person learned in the art of reading it in the proper manner. Yet still the problem exists in attracting youngsters to the classes. Parents have a crucial role here. They must encourage their children to not just go to Punjabi classes but also to Gurbani Santhiya classes. The whole image of learning in a Gurdwara must be changed. People involved in educating these children should have a positive attitude and be optimistic about their objectives. Simple techniques like announcing the class should take place in every Diwaan and visual encouragement like posters should be utilized.

I congratulate those parents who came to this country, are working and earning by the sweat of their brow whilst also trying to balance out cultural and religious education of their children. However increasingly, there are also some parents who block their children from walking the Sikhi path. I have heard of many instances in Sikh youth Camps; where a Sikh youth has approached me and explained that they are trying to keep their Kesh, however their parents totally discouraged it. Many girls are discouraged from taking Amrit by their own parents. Preventing someone to become a Gursikh is a massive blasphemy. The sad part in all this is that Sikh community does not want to intervene in these situations. Some Gurmukh members of the Sangat should get together and form a domestic problem committee that helps resolve these kinds of family disputes. Gurbani makes reference to Bhagat Prehlaad whose father Harnaksh prevented him from meditating on the one creator and sustainer of the universe – Waheguru. Harnaksh met an awful fate at the end. Non-practicing Sikh parents must not forget that ‘working hard to earn money’ is important, but sowing the seeds of Sikhi in personal farm will allow their children to reap the goods long after they are gone.

Peer pressure is another problem that we must not ignore. Many Sikh children at high school/universities sacrifice their ‘Sikhi Saroop’ in order to assimilate with the mainstream. It is natural to waiver one’s mind when there is no inner strength and no outer support. Guru’s answer to this is ‘Saadh-Sangat’ and keeping up with recital of Bani. With Guru’s kirpa, High Schools/Universities experiences will also be positive when we lay strong foundation of Sikhi in the grade school.

At University level, Organizations of Sikh Students are making lot of positive efforts. However there is a continuing contest for the attentions of student’s minds between the organizers of Sikh events and Bhangra organizers. The positive side of this is that at least there is some attachment to the Punjabi culture and language. Most of these youth are left usually confused when it comes to religion or culture. Confused about what is being a Sikh or a Punjabi. Most of these students are people who are eager to learn. Yet their main criticism about Sikhi can be narrowed down several issues:

  • When they do attend the Gurdwara, the majority of the youth do not understand what is being said by gianis, ragis, or what Maharaj ji is trying to tell them.
  • They cannot stand the politics of the Gurdwara and the constant ramblings in the place of Guru, which undermines worship.
  • When they do understand someone, they cannot understand why they are being talked down to.

It becomes difficult to explain to students at this stage the concept of Miri and Piri (Spiritual and political power). The reason being their spiritual growth has been stunted.

Thus education of the youth is the key to establishing Sikh leaders of the future. The solution is to provide Santhiya to youth once they have learnt Gurmukhi. Then explain or have youth research the meanings of the Guru’s word. Every Gurdwara should invest in a teacher of Gurbani.

UNDERSTANDING OF GURBANI

There is a gigantic lack of Sikh preachers who can communicate with youth in English language. Thus the youth miss out on understanding the Guru’s word. So the main problem for the Sikh youth is the lack of understanding of Gurbani. How can be bring a change there?

Firstly, there is availability of Technology that can be put to use to understand Gurbani in translated and transliterated form; while it is being sung by the raagies. With the use of software created by Sikhitothemax it can be projected onto a screen with the projector and a laptop; for the sangat to read along and understand the meanings.

Secondly a ‘Weekly Youth Diwaan’ in which young people do all the services; should be organized in all Gurdwaras. The program should be well advertised in and around the Gurdwaras in the city. It should open to everyone regardless of age, but should be conducted by the youth; under the loving guidance of the Gurmukhs. In such Diwaans or even in regular Sunday Diwaans, after the Granthi Sahib takes the Hukamnama from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj, a volunteer should be called forward from the youth to come and read out translation of the hukam. This will help shed youth’s anxieties in taking lead roles later in Gurdwaras and it will build their understanding of Gurbani.

RAISING PAATHI SINGHS/SINGHNIAN

All Gurdwaras has Akhad paths, but youth normally do not participate in it due to hesitation. To overcome this hurdle, Sehaj paths should be started, in which only young people participate. Granthi Singhs of the Gurdwara or other Gurmukhs should sit side by side with these children when they recite path to make any corrections.

Following this it will be great to reward these children with prizes and Sirapaos. This will increase the confidence of these children to come forward in future. These types of events are essential for the continuing development of Sikhi and the youth.

RAISING LEADERS

As mentioned earlier, there is a genuine lack of young Sikh leaders today. We need many organizations that train leaders of tomorrow. Gurmat Camps held by IIGS are doing great job since last 50 years in this area. Also another organization called the Fellowship of Activists To Embrace Humanity, FATEH is doing great Sewa of the Sikh Community. FATEH runs a Change across Borders (CAB) program, where the individual travels to Chandigarh in Punjab and undertakes a 9 month course in the different skills of human development inspired by the teachings of the Sikh gurus. Classical kirtan tuition, Gurbani Santhiya, Gurmat, field trips to places of historical and cultural interests, gatka, Sikh History, talks by eminent Sikh scholars are amongst many other priceless activities under the curriculum. After 6 months of study, the participants spend a further 3 months on a field project. This project could be in the villages or at the FATEH office. The CAB program is aimed at creating ‘ambassadors and catalysts’ who will return to their home-country to inspire other youths. At an individual level, CAB aims at helping the participant to become useful citizens.

In addition to above, there are other courses available. Sikh Missionary College provides a 2-year Missionary Correspondence course. Thus the youth can study at their own in the comfort of their home. Damdami Taksal in Punjab also accepts students to learn Gurbani and take lessons on discipline of the Gursikh. Degree graduates or youth with genuine love for Sikhi should be encouraged to go on these programs. These courses are invaluable products that should be sold to the public. The Gurdwaras committee should make it their responsibility to encourage and motivate parents and youth alike to consider these courses.

Our local Gurdwara has been involved in preparing & distributing langar to the homeless people. It is a highly satisfying and pleasurable experience for the participants. Involvement of youth in such altruistic leanings will not only lead them towards the Guru but also will improve the standing of the Sikh youth both spiritually and worldly manner.

Many Sikh students live away from home at university level. The Guru’s home is mankind’s abode. Gurdwara committee should consider setting up funds aside for students. For example, if a student is enduring financial problems, the Gurdwara may be running discretionary award on the condition that the student involved, must be able to perform some kind of sewa (administrative, sewa of older people or volunteering in the Punjabi/Gurmat school) whilst at university in their spare time.

At the end I would like to add that for the suggestions to work to their complete effect; there is a need for a plan of action. Each Gurdwara; for being on various stages of development as far as youth involvement is concerned; needs to adopt their own strategies with the youth involved in their set-up.

6 Comments:

Blogger Confused Khalsa said...

Please keep writing (and distributing) these articles, a real eye opener.

Confused Khalsa

4:25 PM  
Anonymous punjaban said...

Massi Ji,

Is this article about your gurdwara or some other gurdwara. I mean i read the distributing food to the homeless stuff. I want to know who did it and what was the process involved.

Great Suggestions btw!

Take Care!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Singhni said...

Thank you Punjaban. Yes, I mentiioned it about our Gurdwara. We have a homeless shelter (I think in the community center of the city) near our Gurdwara that provides shelter to homeless beginning Nov. until Feb. Our gurdwara sangat provides Sunday dinners for all those months...mostly youth groups go there to serve. It first started as sikh awareness program but turned out to be great way of youth involvment and teaching sewa-bhaav to kids; especially the ones who are born with silver-spoon in their mouth.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Singhni said...

Thank you Khalsa Ji for your kind compliments!

10:22 AM  
Blogger Jonh Neo said...

Hey Singhni, This is a good article site.
i found many information here.
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http://global-in-arm.com
Good luck, Singhni

9:39 PM  
Blogger AnJaka said...

Hey Singhni, Happy merry christmas.
see you soon, Singhni

1:57 PM  

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