Welcome to SPN

Register and Join the most happening forum of Sikh community & intellectuals from around the world.

Sign Up Now!

En Garde: The Vatican & The Akal Takht

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by IJSingh, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Sep 24, 2004
    Likes Received:
    En Garde: The Vatican & The Akal Takht
    by I.J. SINGH

    In this season, Passover, Easter and Vaisakhi speak to us and our neighbors. These high holidays come at about the same time every year and remain defining days for Jews, Christians and Sikhs.

    This year, however, Easter and Vaisakhi present some unusual but significant lessons for Christians and Sikhs - it has become a time that calls for some reflection and a sobering inward look.

    For centuries, but particularly for the past decade or so, an ever increasing storm has been buffeting the Roman Catholic Church.

    For the five years since he became the Pope, Benedict XVI has found little peace from the sexual scandal swirling around him. Under the lens is his time as Joseph Ratzinger, the Archbishop in Germany, and later as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that had overall responsibility for such cases starting in 2001.

    That "To err is human" is a universally understood truism but not to the average Christian when applying it the Pope. The Pope's words carry infallible authority when he speaks from the Chair of Saint Peter on matters of faith and morals. He is the visible head of the mystical body of Christ.

    To question him or to cast aspersions on his conduct "is to attack the church universal," says the Rev. James Martin, the Jesuit culture-editor of America, a Roman Catholic Weekly magazine. Martin continues that "Over the past 100 years the office of the Pope has taken on greater stature and importance for the average Catholic."

    I personally found it unnecessarily preachy, even offensively galling, that in his annual message "Urbi et Orbi" -- To the City and To The World" - delivered from the balcony of the Vatican this year, the Pope never once mentioned the sexual scandals that have just about ripped apart the Catholic world. But he did touch upon the many trials facing the world: conflict in the Middle East, drug trafficking in Latin America, earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the fate of Christians in Iraq and Pakistan, even the raging conflicts in Africa.

    All I can say to this is to cite Shaikh Farid from the Guru Granth; his words exhort us to use our intelligence not to explore the shortcomings of others but to look within ourselves -'Jay too akal lateef kaalay likh naa lekh/ apnay gareeban sio(n) sir neeva(n) kar vekh'.

    The Pope's words seemed to me akin to burying one's head in the sand, particularly since the Catholic hierarchy, like any efficient bureaucracy, has circled the wagons and almost united in condemnation and rejection of any criticism.

    And then I couldn't resist thinking about the travails of the Akal Takht, largely representing the seat of temporal authority in Sikhi.

    But before I go further, let me make one thing perfectly clear - that the Akal Takht is not the Vatican; its head (Jathedar) is not the Pope. The Roman Catholic version of a pyramidal hierarchy with its inherent ecclesiastical authority was never the model of governance in Sikhi and, I fervently hope, never will be, even though I have seen Sikhs and the media erroneously drawing parallels between the two.

    The current fanning of the flames on and about the Akal Takht seems to have started from the episode(s) involving Prof. Darshan Singh with some fuel to the fire being added by the conflict around the playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, the author of "Behzti" and "Behud."

    But we have a longer history to this - from the excommunication and shunning of Teja Singh (Bhassaur), Professor Gurmukh Singh, Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana, among others, as well as the visiting of sundry punishment to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Surjit Singh Barnala, Buta Singh, Pashaura Singh, and many others. This list is, at best, incomplete.

    Now we have a flash fire burning, destroying good people in its wake. The current case of Darshan Singh seems to have polarized the worldwide Sikh community as nothing has in the past. (I do not write to defend or attack Darshan Singh here; that's absolutely not my purpose today.)

    The reason may lie in the near iconic status that Darshan Singh has enjoyed over many decades, stemming from his kirtan and discourses, and also because many Sikhs now view the current Akal Takht as a bureaucratic reality with little independence, sagacity or credibility.

    This does not mean at all that there are no defenders left of the Akal Takht and what they see as the historical authenticity of its authority. This does not disturb me quite so much. History shows a cyclical path with an ebb and flow in the fates of men and institutions. Time has a way of working out the mazes and complications in our lives, as long as we keep after the problems with honesty of purpose and openness of heart.

    Those that seemingly want to wipe the Akal Takht out of existence, I think, are bent on biting off their nose to spite their face. Their anger and frustration are righteous but are not productively channeled. They remind me of those who want to destroy the Church, as some defenders of the Church allege. The obverse side of the coin has those who want to destroy the critics of the Church turning a blind eye to the sins and failings of those acted in the name of the Church.

    The so called "defenders of the faith" are equally blind. They see any questioning of the Church or the Akal Takht as an attack on the fundamentals that has to be resisted with all and every weapon in their arsenal.

    Both the defenders and attackers of the Akal Takht remind me of the troubles of the Roman Catholic Church today. Militants both - not fundamentalists, but extremists both. We need them both so that the issue will not die but the solution is not what either side has.

    The Catholic Church has now begun to fight and mount an aggressively vigorous defense that minimizes its own failings. In labeling its critics ant-Christian or anti-Church there is an element of denial of its own sins.

    I see a similar strain in the knee-jerk defense of the arbitrary procedural policies of the Akal Takht. The critics of the Church are not anti-Christian, nor are the critics of Akal Takht anti-Sikh.

    Whether it is the Roman Catholic Church that is under the microscope or the Akal Takht, we don't want to throw away the baby with the bath water; we also don't want to batten the hatches, close our ranks and flame out those who disagree with us.

    What troubles me is that the community is roiled so much that all civility has been lost. I know that the path ahead is cluttered with potholes, but the fog of rudeness only makes the way forward harder to see.

    Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin that continues to be rocked by sexual scandals of the Church, asks us to see that "...the truth will set the church free, even if the truth is hard to digest."

    Guru Granth reminds us: "Such sabhna hoi daroo paap kadhhe dhoye" - meaning that truth is the panacea that will free us of our sins.


    April 7, 2010

    Attached Files:

    • Like Like x 5
  2. Loading...

    Similar Threads Forum Date
    Sikh News Sikh Temples Want Garden Of Remembrance In Bristol Park For Sikhs Who Died In World Wars Breaking News Jul 23, 2016
    Arts/Society Backyard Vegetable Garden Language, Arts & Culture Dec 27, 2013
    USA Gurmukh Singh, Immigrant Held in Detention, Reunited with Garden Grove Family Breaking News Oct 11, 2013
    Science Debunks the Organic Fantasy Garden Health & Nutrition Sep 6, 2012
    Well regarded peoples views on Sikhism Interfaith Dialogues Mar 13, 2012

  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
    Expand Collapse
    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jul 4, 2004
    Likes Received:
    well written as usual...IJ Singh excels in putting the truth in as short an essay as possible..easy on the read...:happy:
    • Like Like x 1

Share This Page