Bikramjit Singh Sandhar, The Young Sikh Leader

Discussion in 'Sikh Youth' started by Admin Singh, Nov 22, 2009.


  1. Admin Singh

    Administrator Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,500
    Likes Received:
    4,736

    Bikramjit Singh Sandhar - The charismatic new leader of the controversial but influential Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.

    When he was elected leader of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara – one of the largest and wealthiest Sikh temples in Canada, and definitely the most controversial – Bikramjit Singh Sandhar was up all night, meditating and reciting prayers with a circle of friends.


    The Sikh leader, who bristles at the term “fundamentalist” but whose young slate of candidates was considered very conservative, kept to his practice of saying prayers, which he does three times every day.
    It's all part of being a Sikh, he says. Other keys to his brand of Sikhism: no alcohol, no drugs, no adultery and no cutting of any body hair. While Mr. Sandhar's beliefs may be considered orthodox, the man himself comes across as anything but. He is a rousing, inspirational speaker who quotes the Sikh scriptures regularly, but whose demeanour is calm and positive.
    It's that confidence and optimism that helped him respond to angry attacks during the election at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, which for the past decade has been the front line in the battle over Sikh religious customs in Canada. The temple is controversial for its battles, but also closely watched by other Sikh communities across the country because of its size and influence. The resounding victory last week of the young, religiously conservative slate, which claimed two-thirds of the 21,700 votes cast, is sure to spark similar movements in temples across the country.


    The Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara made national headlines 12 years ago when fundamentalist Sikhs tried to remove tables and chairs from the dining hall, insisting that the religion required everyone to sit on the floor on mats for a ritual meal as a sign of equality, since furniture and place at a table can confer status. Mr. Sandhar was not involved in that clash, which turned into a ****** skirmish.


    Since then, moderate Sikhs maintained control of the temple, but that leadership was ousted by the youth slate, led by Mr. Sandhar. Their campaign was considered Obamaesque – with a charismatic leader and run by energetic, tech-savvy young people.


    Mr. Sandhar, 43, is one of the elder members of the slate, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s. He strongly believes that Sikh youth are looking for more from their religion than many temples currently provide.


    “We're trying to bring about a change in the gurdwara,” he says. “We want to make sure people find out the real meaning of Sikhism, instead of just hearing about quarrels that have been going on for years.”


    Along with more religious instruction, Mr. Sandhar says that providing activities for youth is crucial to keep them off the streets and away from negative peer pressure.


    He is also critical of labels that draw distinctions between moderate Sikhs and fundamentalists. For him, there is just Sikhism. “You cannot believe in some things and not others and still say you believe,” he says. “It's like saying you only believe in five of the Ten Commandments.”


    Sikhism embraced by the youth slate involves belief in the Sikh scriptures and saying prayers three times a day. As baptized Sikhs, they make a commitment not to cut hair and to wear a comb, a steel bangle on the right arm, a white cotton undergarment and a symbolic sword.
    “It's the uniform you wear,” Mr. Sandhar says.


    Mr. Sandhar's adherence to ritual raised fears during the election campaign: Some temple members campaigning for the status quo questioned whether clean-shaven men or women in jeans would be stopped at the temple doorstep. They asked whether tighter restrictions would be imposed on who could chant hymns for the congregation.


    Mr. Sandhar responded with a compromise: Tables and chairs would be provided for those who need them and everyone else would use mats. He insists that the youth slate intends to open up the temple to more people, not restrict it to fewer.


    “So now it is not the issue of tables and chairs,” he says. “Now it is about learning why we are at the gurdwara, what that really means – the basic fundamentals of Sikhism. People do not know it.


    “You have to know why you come to the gurdwara. People do not even know the names of the gurus. ... For the last 10 or 12 years, all they knew about was tables and chairs.”

    TEMPLE A BEEHIVE OF ACTIVITY


    The Guru Naka Sikh Gurdwara is a majestic building along a busy commercial thoroughfare with chain-store shopping centres next to smaller stores sporting signs in Punjabi. The temple – with “One God” prominently displayed on the wall below the dome – draws a steady stream of worshippers throughout the day. More than 200 people can be found in the dining hall at lunch. The temple collects around $100,000 a month in donations for maintenance of the facility and for charity.


    In recent years, according to Balwant Gill, the temple's outgoing president, there have been extensive renovations, new facilities built and $2-million in debts paid off. They provided a Punjabi school, supported hospitals and offered scholarships to encourage education. They translated Punjabi prayers into English for Canadian-born Sikhs unfamiliar with the language.
    He wonders: What else could have been expected of them?


    Mr. Sandhar's answer: The temple does not offer enough to spur a young person's attachment to the religion.


    That is why the Surrey Sikh youth slate adopted an ambitious agenda of increased services to appeal to youth, women and seniors, with a focus on expanding educational services to encourage spirituality and teach the Punjabi language, Sikh religion and culture. It also commits to closer ties between the temple and the community and to greater pride in being a religious Sikh.


    “Those things [education, sports and religion] are key to keeping children away from trouble,” Mr. Sandhar says.

    BAPTIZED AT 30


    Mr. Sandhar makes his living as an insurance broker and mutual-fund adviser, and lives on a suburban cul-de-sac in Surrey. On his living-room wall, there is a photo of Sant Teja Singh, who helped Sikhs in Vancouver organize when the Canadian government in 1908 came up with a plan to have all Sikhs in Canada move to the British Honduras (now Belize). A high-school basketball trophy, from the days before he embraced the traditions of the Sikh religion, sits on the fireplace.


    His appeal to youth stems in part from his personal history. He grew up in Canada but spent enough time in India to develop a deep attachment to the country. He was not raised in a religious home, but he went back to India for an arranged marriage. He and his new bride made a commitment to embrace the traditions of Sikhism on the day before he came back to Canada in 1993.


    He was almost 30 before he was baptized and started wearing a turban.
    He says he began with a lot of questions about the religion. As he learned more, others asked him questions. “The answers just popped up. I don't even know how that happened. And I thought, ‘I have to remember that one, that was a good answer.'”


    His faith grew as his questions were answered. Once he knew how to recite religious hymns, he began to get up three hours before sunrise to meditate and say his prayers.


    Mr. Sandhar places unity of the membership as his top priority. He sees his critics at the temple as people to win over, not as opponents.
    Despite the youth slate's unequivocal victory, he says he thinks about those who did not back him. “Seven thousand people did not vote for us,” he says. “Our goal is to make sure we can bring those 7,000 along with us.”


    Robert Matas is a member of The Globe and Mail's Vancouver bureau.
     

    Attached Files:

    Vikram singh, susan and spnadmin like this.
  2. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh SPN Sewadaar
    Analyst Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2005
    Messages:
    2,957
    Likes Received:
    2,950
  3. spnadmin

    Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,574
    Likes Received:
    19,171
    May perhaps someone tell me what is meant by "pendu." I take it to mean "country bumpkin." Or maybe someone whose is hopelessly out of date (like me). The word was used on the Internet a lot about 2 years ago. Then it disappeared. Now it is cropping up again on many Punjabi and Sikh sites. Thanks.

    As for the young man -- I need another explanation. The purpose of langar is to celebrate equality. Everyone is on the same level on the floor. With tables and chairs, everyone is still on the same level. Is the purpose of the hukamanama behind floor-sitting to celebrate equality or to sanctify a tradition? Should Sikhs be in the business of creating rituals for that is how it seems. I like sitting on the floor -- but that is just me -- there is no holiness in it because I am not there yet. :}8-:

    So that seemed to be the main theme of the election. And there had to be more to it than where and how we park ourselves for langar.
     
    susan likes this.
  4. kds1980

    SPNer

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2005
    Messages:
    4,482
    Likes Received:
    2,736
    Pendu simply means a person from Pind(village) .As villagers do have more traditional mentality and habits.They are also not well educated and also Don't have Gentlemen's manners ,so It is now a derogatory word
     
  5. spnadmin

    Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,574
    Likes Received:
    19,171
    Thanks
     
  6. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh SPN Sewadaar
    Analyst Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2005
    Messages:
    2,957
    Likes Received:
    2,950
    You know I had this table and chair debate years ago, and basically won the debate that even at a table people were sitting equally, and then some person stated that we should do things how the Guru's did them years ago. So I made a list of things we should ban, in order to incorporate the Guru's time:


    • Patiala style pugh
    • electricity
    • amps
    • gas
    • modern hygenine and cleaning
    • cookers
    • tv's
    • lights
    etc etc

    The chair issue, is like other issue, caste, meat, sexism etc etc all distractions from the truth. People who are concerned with these trivial issues are ideal candidates for being booted out of the Sikh community.:thumbup:
     
    susan, Admin Singh and spnadmin like this.
  7. kds1980

    SPNer

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2005
    Messages:
    4,482
    Likes Received:
    2,736
    I don't Know the situation Outside India .But for Indian Gurdwara's There should be no table chairs.Reason.

    1)Unneccesary wastage of money in Purchasing table and Chairs

    2) The Gurdwara's located in rich area's will use it as show off that they have chairs while the other colony Gurdwara's don't have

    3)If it will be introduced in India then when one cannot be surprised that 2 langars would go side by side 1 for rich on table chairs and one for poor on floor

    And there are many more reasons
     
  8. spnadmin

    Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,574
    Likes Received:
    19,171
    Randip Singh ji

    I can always count on you for a straight no-nonsense reply. May I add to the list? Just off the top (probably there are other items I will remember later)


    • spending endless time discussing whether to shower with your kechera tied to one leg
    • reciting Japjui Sahib when making any food item for dinner because it will taste beter
    It is a cruel but true fact that those who do claim to be "panthic.xxx" :eek:
     
  9. spnadmin

    Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,574
    Likes Received:
    19,171
    kanwardeep ji

    I understand your explanation :wah: But was it necessary to have a hukamnama about it, as did happen. In fact someone was actually excommunicated over here for failing to throw out all the chairs and tables, continuing with them, instead of making everyone sit on the floor.

    That is wasteful also. The sangat had to pay for the tables and chairs at some point.
     
    satnamr46 likes this.
  10. Admin Singh

    Administrator Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,500
    Likes Received:
    4,736
    Practically, sounds fair to me. Let us see how things turn out to be...
     
    susan and spnadmin like this.
  11. spnadmin

    Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Messages:
    14,574
    Likes Received:
    19,171
    Aman ji

    Your are right to point that out. I am being too harsh I know. The question I have about the "youth slates" everywhere is whether they will carry on with the important things like keeping young people more invested in the sangat and making gurmat schools relevant to them. Are these genuine goals? This group is behind the creation of a shelter for battered women. Will they move on with that objective? Or will the sangat become mired in discussions of tables and chairs. Whenever I read of a reformist election -- it also worries me whether the ability of the sangat to find a place for a broad range of practice is going to be tolerated, or whether the sangat will be badly split.

    A note: One tiny little gurdwara near me is probably the most spiritual place I have ever visited. Women and little girls do the kirtan along with men. A woman is one of the assistant granthis. People know one another there and welcome immigrants by embracing them and making the passage much easier. The sangat has such loyalty. The place is not well off because it is small, but the most beautiful space is all around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. I don't know why I don't go to that one. AND they have tables and chairs.
     
  12. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh SPN Sewadaar
    Analyst Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2005
    Messages:
    2,957
    Likes Received:
    2,950
    Sorry. Strongly disagree.

    What a waste of time and effort arguing about tables and chairs. There should be no hukamnama on this.

    There are poor Gurudwaras with no Chappati making machines too, should that be banned? I know Harmandhir Sahib has one. Do we need a Hukamnama for that?
     
    spnadmin likes this.
  13. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh SPN Sewadaar
    Analyst Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2005
    Messages:
    2,957
    Likes Received:
    2,950
    I don't understand how this is fair?

    Who decides who sits on a chair?
    The elderly?
    Disables?
    Person with sprained knee?
    Will there be a chair police?

    Every single house I visit in India and UK has chairs and tables. No one I know sits on the floor and eats. Why should a Gurudwara be different?

    If they want to go back to basics then they should ban from Gurudwaras other things like:

    • Electric Pakha?
    • Microphones and loudspeaker.
    • Chappatimaking machine.
    • They should ban using taps and draw water from wells
    We live in the 21st century. Sitting on the floor is a non issue, just like travelling to the Gurudwara in a petrol car is a non issue.

    I really do not have the time of day for people such as Sandhar who do not have the common sense to be leaders and reak of fanaticism. Sorry, end of rant.;)
     
    susan, spnadmin and Admin Singh like this.
  14. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh SPN Sewadaar
    Analyst Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2005
    Messages:
    2,957
    Likes Received:
    2,950
    Exactly!!

    We cannot get the basics right yet we are concerned about tables and chairs. Bigger issues are :

    1) Gender equality
    2) Caste equality
    3) Sehajdhari and bringing Mona's into the fold
    4) Attacks on Sikhism by Western scholars
    5) Attacks on Sikhism by fanatical sects with Sikhism (AKJ, DDT, Namdhari etc)
    6) Attacks on Sikhism by quai Sikhs (Radhaoswami, Dhadriawala etc)
    7) Conversion of Sikhs to other faiths (especially Christianity)
    8) Corruption and SGPC

    The list is endless.

    Tables and Chairs should be used in order to sit on and decide on these issues.
     
    spnadmin and Admin Singh like this.
  15. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mentor Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Messages:
    1,762
    Likes Received:
    2,766
    Something here really gripes me. I guess it's just semantics, but why are those of us who are more traditional referred to as "Conservative" or " Fundamentalist," while those who oppose us are called "Moderates"? It seems to me that they are at the other end of the spectrum and should be called "Liberals" or (I don't know the opposite of "Fundamentalist, somebody please help me here.") BTW, although I am Sikhily conservative, I am politically pretty liberal (with a small "l"), some would even say radical.)

    Perhaps I am just an old fuddy-duddy, but I treasure the meaningful customs we have. There is a reason for taking langar while seated on the floor, as already mentioned. Doing things because they were done that way in the days of the Gurus is, IMO, a silly, spurious argument.

    The question to ask is: "What is the reason for doing this?" We as Sikhs are progressive in our ways and beliefs, and there are some values and customs that - being specifically, meaningfully Sikh - we should keep. To me, this includes langar on the floor. I don't think there is any meaningful discussion to be had on that subject, however, as Akaal Takht has ruled. I really don't care if women wear jeans to the gurudwara, as long as they do come. I have no problems with the local language being used as a first language at gurudwaras, although Gurbani should remain in the original languages, possibly with translation on a screen, as is often done.

    Some values I believe in keeping are the 5 K's and emphasising the importance of Amrit as a goal for each Sikh. To me these are part and parcel of being a Sikh, not "trivial matters." Some issues, such as casteism and sexism, I see as applications of truth, hence they would come under the heading of "Truthful Living."

    So, dear randip singh, boot me and my ilk out of the community (I would say Sangat), if you will; hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders (Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.) I really think you'd miss us.

    I also deep believe in the specifically Sikh value of chardi kala.


    Remain in chardi kala, brother ji!

    :ice:
     
    Vikram singh and Admin Singh like this.
  16. B.Khatra

    SPNer

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    No offence to anyone, but you guys have done exactly what Bikramjit Singh was saying is the problem with most of the (canadian) sangat. This thread has been turned into a debate about tables and chairs. Perhaps instead of blindly judging him as a "pendu", look at what it is the man intends to do.

    While I don't know Mr. Sandher personally, I can say that after researching his ideas, if it all goes through, he will bring major change to the Surrey Gurdwara. Perhaps the biggest thing is that there will no longer be a "President" and other countless roles(Treasurer, Vice-Treasurer, Jr. Vice-Treasurer, Assistant Vice-Treasurer, Super Vice-Jr. Treasurer etc.). Instead they will divide the board into "task groups" that focus on different issues. Eg. Weddings, Youth, Womens Services, Kirtan, Education etc. We all know that Gurdwara's have been politicized to such an extent that being the President is as high as being a Member of Parliament or MLA. This is a very humble and daring move on his part.

    Please see what his party stands for yourself before declaring him as a "fundy" or any other foolish, generalizing term.

    Sikh Youth Campaign – Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey, BC
     
    spnadmin and Admin Singh like this.
  17. Admin Singh

    Administrator Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,500
    Likes Received:
    4,736
    Your point is well taken, however, Sikhs have voted for a change and the whole Sikh Sangat is curious as to how things turn out to be. And if you would read the later posts, you would realise that this is not just another table-chair thrashing topic.

    Welcome to SPN!! :welcome:

    :happysingh:
     
  18. B.Khatra

    SPNer

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thanks for the welcome! This seems like a great forum, I'm disappointed I didn't find it earlier.

    But back to the topic...I did read all the posts in this thread and almost all of them relate to tables/chairs, fundys/modys and all that stuff. It seems most of you agree about the topic but the point is that's immedietely the first thing brought up whenever a Gurdwara politics topic arises.

    Really, I hope you all see(no matter what your personal views on the matter are) that tables and chairs have been used by the moderates and fundys as a political tool. The old leaders that have messed up the Gurdwaras make tables and chairs the front and center issue, instead of their shady accounting or the social programs that they intend to introduce.The one thing that I applaud Sandher and his party for is that they did not make the table/chair debate the center of attention in their campaign. They won the support of the sangat by making promises that actually involve legitimate issues and concerns the Sangat should have. Whether Sandher upholds his promises remains to be answered but so far things are looking pretty good.

    I think we shouldn't be so quick to judge Sandher without seeing what actually ends up happening(his party won't take over till the New Year). Until then, I will remain optimistic.
     
    spnadmin likes this.
  19. Admin Singh

    Administrator Supporter SPNer

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Messages:
    5,500
    Likes Received:
    4,736
    Khatra ji,

    Again you are generalizing, when a person refers to table and chairs, there he also mentions about issues quoted below. What most of the forum members are saying is that we are looking forward to Mr. Sandher going over and above these petty issues like table and chairs and do something more important issues plaguing Sikh Sangat these days.

    Again, as i said earlier, we are looking forward to what actually materializes. We the Sikh Sangat, who voted for change look forward to the biggest Gurudwara to lead by an example.

    Khatra ji,

    Would you be kind enough to let us know what changes (his electoral agend) Sandher ji promised to Sikh Sangat, which eventually won him the elections.

    Gurfateh!





     
    spnadmin likes this.
  20. B.Khatra

    SPNer

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Sikh Youth Campaign – Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey, BC

    ^Here is their official website, you can explore their agenda in detail there. But to summarize, their two biggest promises(atleast imo) are the "Mai Bhago Safe House" for victims of domestic abuse and the restructuring of the commitee from the typical inefficient,formalized system, to eight task groups related to specific goals. (Youth Development, Senior Support and Projects, Women’s Issue, Social Justice/Human Rights, Religious Outreach/Interfaith, Health and Wellness, Weddings/Festivals and Facilities)

    I think the next step should be some sort of auditing/watch dogging of the Gurdwara's finances...We all know this is probably the biggest problem with Gurdwara management. Until we reach this stage in our Gurdwaras, I won't be completely happy. But if Sander can deliver the new structure of task management he promised, it will be a major step forward.
     
Loading...

Share This Page