Youth Perspective: The State of the Khalsa Today

Growing up in America, I have been observing what has been happening in the Sikh Community.

Ever since I began learning about Sikh History, I was fascinated by the extreme bravery and courage of our Sikh brothers and sisters. What I found even more awe inspiring was hearing about the day our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji created the Khalsa in 1699. There are plenty of interpretations of what happened that day, but what we know for sure is that five men were turned into committed Sikhs ready to give their head to their Guru. So, what was the whole purpose for establishing the Khalsa? Why did Guru Gobind Singh Ji decide to create a community of sovereign individuals? Was it necessary?

During Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s time, I believe Sikhi was at its purest. When the Khalsa was created, Guru Ji essentially established how Sikhs were to live their lives and get closer to Waheguru. With a living Guru presiding over the state of the Khalsa, everyone made sure to be in their best form. By form I mean not just their saroop ‘appearance’ but also who they were on the inside (ethics, morals). Any individual can keep his or hair and wear all the articles of faith, but what makes one amritdhari or formally initiated? I am sure everyone has their own views when it comes to the significance of partaking in the Amrit Sanchar ceremony but here is my take.

When you make the decision to become formally initiated, you are stepping up to become a committed follower of the Sikh Faith. This doesn’t mean just focusing on one part of the Sikh Faith like simran/paath (meditation/prayers) and forgetting the other parts of Sikhi.

I recently attended a seminar for SALDEF’s Leadership Development Program held in Los Angeles. The first night we had a guest speaker who I became good friends with by the end of the program. His name was Angad Singh and in his presentation, he said, “Sikhi isn’t a menu, you can’t just pick and choose what you feel like practicing.”

Growing up in America, I have been observing what has been happening in the Sikh Community. I have noticed that some of the individuals that start gurdwara fights are amritdhari! I believe the Sikh Panth (community) has been infected by a virus, the panj vikar (five vices) are beginning to consume members of the community. Most significantly, lobh or greed has turned those people that have taken a vow to be true representatives of Sikhi before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji into criminals.

Not too long ago in the community I live in, an amritdhari lady was arrested for shoplifting!! The police removed her kirpan and the public witnessed all this go down. To put things in perspective, this situation is analogous to a police officer in uniform committing a crime! There is no doubt that even as amritdharis we make mistakes and are supposed to learn and continue to better ourselves. However, I believe that amritdharis have a duty to control themselves as they have literally taken an oath in front of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji to abide by Sikh principles.

The need to create a sovereign people was because all the ten Guru’s teachings and the faith’s principles were practiced by individuals that felt the passion inside them to be true Sikhs of Waheguru (almighty creator.) But when these committed people who have gone through a special ceremony begin to be consumed by greed and other vices, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of taking amrit?

Going through Khalsa School at my Gurdwara, I was taught that on Vaisakhi 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji turned five ordinary men into extraordinary Singhs (lions) ready to give their lives for Sikhi. Students in Khalsa Schools are taught about the image of the Khalsa but not enough about how the Khalsa is supposed to act. More focus needs to be placed on the ethics, morals, and values that go along with being amritdhari.

I mentioned that Sikhi isn’t a menu where you can pick and choose what to practice. Especially those that are amritdhari have a duty not only to remain committed to the faith, but also to defend it. The ‘defend’ part has slowly been pushed aside as the Panth has been lulled by kirtan. I am not saying Kirtan is a bad thing, however there has to be a balance between meditation and action.

This brings me to the Sant Sipahi concept, Sikhs are supposed to be Saint Soldiers. In today’s world, that concept has become unbalanced, Sikhs have forgotten about the Sipahi part. I am not sure how many amritdhari Sikhs even know how to use their kirpan. I have heard and seen some amritdhari Sikhs tie or stitch their kirpan to their gatra, so the blade cannot be taken out. To me that is absurd, the whole point of a Kirpan is to be able use it in defense of others, it’s not a symbol, it is an article of faith.

There is a lot that needs to be fixed internally within our community, but in order to begin figuring out solutions, the Panth has to come together. Unity is key to start taking the steps to resolving these crucial issues. We cannot be apathetic about this, we must become aware of our actions, especially in today’s world. We cannot forget about all our Sikh brothers and sisters that were killed for their commitment to the faith in the Vadda and Chotta Ghalugharas as well as the Sikh Genocide perpetrated by the Indian Government. Whenever I sit in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, I imagine all ten Gurus around the holy scripture looking down at me and I wonder what they would think of their Sikhs today?

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