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Is it End of a Civilization?

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Is it End of a Civilization?

By: Arvind Singh

Amritsar Times.

Are we witnessing the end of a Civilization? Is our own Sikh civilization slowly self-destructing? Thirty years ago, eminent Sikh Historian Khushwant Singh had predicted that Sikh civilization is in decline and there may be no Sikh left by the year 2000.

Was he right? Sikh not only survived but celebrated the 300 Years of Khalsa with pride in the year 1999. Today Sikhs thrive in Punjab, Rest of India, South Asia, UK, and here in North America. Nishaan-E-Khalsa award at the Tri-Centenary Celebration at Anandpur Sahib, Khushwant Singh admitted that he was wrong.

Reality check

But was he far from truth in his earlier prediction? Sikhism today stands at the same crossroads as Buddhism did in year 500 AD. The Sikh civilization is facing challenges coming from several directions:

Will Sikhism survive in India? Sikh civilization has undergone dramatic transformation after the Sikh Genocide of 1984 where thousands of Sikh Youth perished. There is widespread Apostasy in Punjab. In most of the villages, it is disheartening to see that 60-80% of youth have shorn their hair and no longer wear turbans. Alcohol and drug abuse is common practice. In several villages you rarely spot a young Sikh boy with Patka.

Our ancestors…

We all are proud of our ancestors and their achievements. We are proud of our spiritual and moral mentors, our Gurus and the path shown by them. We are proud that they had the courage to take on the invincible Mughals and finally seal the Indian border from centuries of invasions and plunders. Recalling their sacrifices and their resistance against evil heartens us. We are proud to recall the struggles of early immigrants to the USA and how they have established as one of the most prosperous immigrant community in US.

How did they achieve so much? Was it just luck? Or mere coincidence? If they were the high achievers then why decline in that situation now? Today we are concerned about our lost glory and anxious that our lost glory is restored. Today we pray that our weaknesses eradicated. Did we ever analyze why this is happening to us? What was the strength of our ancestors? In my understanding our Glory, Honor, and prominence comes from the teachings of the Gurus. Our ancestor’s strength stemmed from their beliefs. It came from their total faith in Guru Granth Sahib and power of Saadh Sangat.

Do we realize that it was Gurbani that enriched the souls of our ancestors and it was Amrit Ceremony that electrified the Sikh warriors to display amazing courage? Our heritage is based on deeds and not mere words. Today you hear older generation lament about the lack of culture and religious knowledge among the youth. When we deplore our degeneration, why don’t we realize that our separation from Gurbani and Sangat is the main cause of our downfall?

There is only one place where we can get both Gurbani and Saadh Sangat. It is the Gurdwara! Gurdwara is the place of our Guru: Sri Guru Granth Sahib. We get the opportunity to meet and listen to our Guru in Gurdwaras. It is also an example of Community Worship. Guru Nanak preached the benefits of community worship.

The Gurdwaras have regular scheduled programs. Regular Morning Prayer service on Nitnem is held in the early morning daily. Additionally, recitation of Asa Di Vaar is performed on weekends. In the evening recitation of Rehraas Sahib is performed.

There is plenty opportunity for the youth to participate and contribute in the Gurdwaras. You could participate in regular services held in the Gurdwaras and join the group of volunteers who provide valuable SEWA in various ways.

Sign of Hope…

Recently the events after 9/11 tragedy has shown a very positive outcome for the Sikh Community. The Gurdwara managements felt helpless at the turn of events and looked up to the youth for help. A number of young Sikhs took initiative and too control of the situation. Their hard work brought benefits to the entire community. Their achievements are highly commendable!

Learn from past Mistakes

Let’s get back to basics, understand the message of Gurbani. Unite by not politicking like your parents generation. There is an example of what the Jews did in 1945. In a meeting in Paris they decided that to strengthen the community. They will not waste their efforts in criticizing the actions of fellow Jews. Learning their languages and the scriptures (Back to basics, active role) Challenge every Jew to strive for excellence in his/her field of endeavor. (Gaining strength, active role) There is a lesson for us to learn from this story. Learn your own language and scriptures and then you will benefit from the teachings of the Gurus. Indulge in speaking Punjabi with each other. Be proud of your own culture, your language, and your people. Study Gurbani and listen to Shabads, you will enjoy it. Read Punjabi Literature by various acclaimed writers and poets.

There is so much depth in our literature. Go to library and borrow Punjabi literature from there. If your library doesn’t have Punjabi books, ask for it to be added. Learn about Waris Shah, Bhai Veer Singh, Mohan Singh, Amrita Pritam, Nanak Singh and many other famous Punjabi writers and poets. If you don’t understand Punjabi, you may want to study the English translations available from various sources.

Cultivate respect for your fellow Sikhs. Make a commitment that whenever you see a fellow Sikh, you will take the initiative to greet him with “Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh”. You could also wish them “Sat Shri Akal”. A little effort from you might make the day for the fellow Sikh. Remember that a Gursikh is the image of our Guru. As Guru Gobind Singh Ji said, “Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas.”. This also means that if you are preserving the Sikh appearance, then you need to also take the responsibility that comes with it. Discourage criticism of fellow Sikhs and Sikh institutions. Support them in any way that you can. Don’t criticize or tell them how to do it right. Instead join in and make the difference you would like to see. Appreciate and reap the benefits from the established institution of Gurdwara.

Visit your Gurdwara Regularly! Aaye Mil Gursikh Aye mil, too mere Guru Ke pyareya.

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