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Opinion A Student In Search Of A Sangat

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
June 5, 2011

A student in search of sangat

The State News - June 5, 2011


Sangat is an important concept in Sikhism. In English, it roughly translates to “company.” From an early age, a line from my first morning prayer stuck out: Japji Sahib. Those who surround themselves with sangat stay true to their values.

During the school year, I mostly rely on non-Sikh sangat. They are my classmates, mentors and best friends. I am fortunate to know them and have gained from all of them. But to understand Gurbani (Sikh scripture) deeper and to play an active role in Sikhism’s future, it is important for me to keep up with those Sikh friends I call sangat.

For the first time in a long time, I was able to connect with Sikh sangat at an annual youth retreat on Memorial Day weekend.

Promptly after check-in, evening prayers commenced. A larger room was made into a diwan hall — the room where a Sikh congregation sings and prays. In a diwan hall, Sikhs sit cross-legged on the floor, separated by gender and equidistant from our holy scripture, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. It must have been six months since I heard sangat singing religious hymns, what we call keertan.

Gurbani tells Sikhs to meditate and vibrate on God’s name, to never forget him. Hearing keertan at retreat last weekend reminded me what that is like.

But beyond listening to keertan, the retreat was a place for discussion. This year’s theme was Rehit, a Sikh’s code of conduct. Sikhs have produced an official document, the Rehit Maryada, outlining these principles. Accordingly, the retreat began with a brief history of its conception in 1945.

One-hundred-seventy-five giants of academic and religious stature took 12 years to craft it. The finished product was ultimately a compromise among men of differing factions, an achievement whose process was not unlike that of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

But just like the original U.S. Constitution, our Rehit Maryada carries with it flaws that require amending. While the vast majority of the document is in line with our Guru’s message, it is stained with sexist language and certain statements that leave thoughtful Sikhs perplexed. A large part of our discussions were focused on how to change these flaws within Sikhism’s existing religious institutions.

Another presentation discussed how social media could be used to advance selfless service, what Sikhism calls seva. If Facebook and Twitter have the power to overthrow tyrants in the Middle East and become a marketing treasure trove for corporations, it surely could be used by Sikhs to better serve us and the world.

It was also discussed how social media could be used to expose hate crimes and injustices facing Sikhs around the world. The presenter went as far as to tie seva to activism; he said Sikhs should take up causes that speak to us and do them in the spirit of selfless service.

From time to time during group discussions, elders added their two cents. They cited Gurbani from memory to answer questions and gave valuable insight to a mostly young crowd. I only can hope to be so wise when my beard becomes as white as theirs.

For me, sangat such as this only happens a couple of times a year; we all come back home for a break, and we visit someone for their birthday or go on retreat. I never get every question answered, but I get to ask many — and I always learn a lot.

Admittedly, the camp food was, well, camp food. It probably wasn’t a good idea to bring dress shoes to walk on dirt trails, and it is a fact of life that three mirrors in a bathroom are insufficient for 15 Sikh guys to tie turbans all at once.

Regardless, the retreat this year, like every year, was a much needed escape into the hands of my Sikh sangat.

When history regarding Sikhism’s Renaissance is written — and it will be written one day — perhaps retreats such as this one will be recorded as the places where Sikhs reformed our religious institutions to meet the demands of new generations.

Until then, I’ll just have to continue to vibrate on God’s name and get sangat any place I can find it.

Ameek Singh is a State News guest columnist and an international relations junior. Reach him at sodhiame@msu.edu.

Oct 29, 2010
I tried to send a mail to Ameek Ji on the address in his article but apparently the address was not recognised - however I add the content here to share with the family of SPN

Ameek Ji,
I read your article with interest and I thank you for bringing these points to the notice of people.
Acting on the highlighted points will create the urge necessary for Sikhi to get on track again.
On any journey if there is no Goal in mind we will just wander and end up discovering new things some good some bad or possibly waste our time creating new beliefs.
For the future of Sikhi we need to find that Goal, I will not mention it because that is actually what is missing, and to my mind the fired up generation of whom you are one will help us direct to with Sangat and Gursikhi in mind.
It is this Goal that all Sikhs have to agree to so that any individual who finds his own route to that Goal will still end up there without arguing with others choosing different route. Hopefully that will unite us to stand up as a community of principles, hard work, and sharers of the god given wealth with ALL.
The changes to documents and codes of conduct at this stage are an academic exercise and diversion of effort to find the Goal.
Advancement using the social media - I thank the Lord for this boon - it is very powerful and also full of danger in wrong hands. If you look at the Sikh sites on the web about 95% are misguiding people about Sikhi.
Again those experts who know how to handle it should help to arm the rest of us to share and contribute.
Exposing injustices - I have been reading the 'I Accuse' book written by Jarnail Singh and am pleased to see that he has documented some of the concerns that have not seen the light of justice for Sikhs in Punjab India.
I feel similar exposure of more of the same needs to be recorded and shared with people inside India - he found that majority of Indians do not have the knowledge of what happened in Punjab and rest of India against the Sikhs - the press and media was clamped to hoodwink the nation.
Those who find it out now are mostly sympathetic to Sikh cause.
The lack of ‘social media’ in Punjab India is the reason why people like Badels can order the Sikh contingents in Indian army to rebel against the Army and destroy the lives of those soldiers and he himself stays put in the aftermath still knifing the Sikh nation. The problem is this engrained.
Sikhs have a task very similar to what Guru Nanak had when he tried to instil some order to humanity in India. Now as a group of Nanak's followers and children of Gobind Singh we have the duty to educate the world and in particular India about fairness, truth, rights of humans so that we can applaud good and learn from bad to improve further. I am now convinced it is not going to come from 'Hinduism' that is what it all started from. This requires all of us to be SIKHS first!

The Sikh community is doing and must continue and expand its help ‘wand shakna’ with all the world so that people find out about this Noble concept from a race that sacrificed Gurus for freedom, human rights, justice and protection of Truth.
If this reaches you and can find time to respond may be we can discuss further if any of what I say resonates with your thoughts.
Best Regards


May 11, 2011
Dear veerji,

A true sikh always finds a saadhsangat around him. For your queries you can visit to www.tuhitu.blogspot.com and read the real sikh stories of our Gurus and gursikhs who followed their guru preachings more importantly then their lives. I have also recently come in contact to the Guruji's saadsangat and have learned a lot from these stories. Now I am fully devoted towards my Guru and trying to improve myself everytime.

I hope you will also get all the answers of your questions in Guru Granth Sahib ji as the Akal-Purakh communicate to His Sikh children through Guru Granth Sahib ji.

well apart of it I must tell you that, since we do not understand gurubani everytime we can consult to any gurusikh person in the gurdwara for our queries. And the most important thing that I must tell you that always discuss with the gurusikh person about your thoughts and everything you think. That would really help you improve yourself

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