LETS START A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHO IS OUR GURU? Over the past several years many important issues about disrespect towards Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji have been brought to the attention of the Sikh community in the United Kingdom, when we would assume that there should be greater awareness of the philosophy and traditions that must be adhered to by all Sikhs in order to maintain reverence for our Guru. In theory, respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji should start from the Gurdwara. It is generally expected that our committees must take responsibility and lead by example and Guru Jis sangat expect no excuse for not maintaining respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. It is believed that a Gurdwara is the home of our Guru, yet we regularly neglect our King and focus on everything but Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Gurdwaras are a bastion of Sikh spirit, of Sikh ideals, Sikh practices, and Sikh existence. They are a positive and benevolent fortress of Sikhi. Gurdwaras were set up by the Gurus to be the powerhouse of Sikh life and living - to inspire, to activate, to unite and take forward human society. The opponents of the Sikhs throughout history were always deeply distrustful and hostile to the activity and moral strength Sikhs obtained at Gurdwaras in Guru Ji’s abode. Indeed, the Indian states wholesale attack on the Sikh nation in 1984 began with a destruction of the primary Sikh Gurdwaras (Darbaar Sahib, Akal Takhat, and over 70 other significant historical Gurdwaras across Punjab). Today we find that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is being left on shelves in Gurdwaras, shops and homes alike. Sach Khands in Gurdwaras are not being given care and attention. People in their homes across the country are struggling to do Guru Ji’s seva. Biirde Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji are not being looked after in accordance with the respect and Maryada that should be assumed to Guru Maharaj. It is common knowledge that Saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji are being shipped in containers to be subsequently sold privately on the open market (e.g. recently Maharaj was being auctioned on EBAY to the highest bidder, and there are several Saroops of Guru Maharaj in the British Library yet we sit back and allow this disrespect). The misuse of Guru Ji’s name by Gurdwara Committees and other organizations, including non-religious organisations (e.g. holding so called sports tournaments and organizing tournaments that are in blatant disrespect of Guru Ji’s principles for example alcohol is freely available at many of these tournaments) is common place. The Khanda is being misused by Meat shops and Off Licenses by displaying the Sikh nishaan on their shop fronts. Calendars and Punjabi newspapers carry adverts for alcohol and meat along with pictures of our Gurus, are being published and freely distributed even though this is a form of open contempt for Sikhi. Yet if a Granthi mis-spells or mis-pronounces our name in Ardas or if somebody associates an individual with something they would not want to be associated with, for example a news article or advert we would make every effort to disassociate any perceived connection in a sapashtikaran or take legal action for libel. But where is our joint responsibility to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji? Are we all experiencing a death of conscience when it comes to our own personal duty towards Guru Ji? We collectively need to generate an understanding of and enabling of joint responsibility to begin to reduce and eventually stop these beadbis. Why can Sikhs not use Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message of peaceful parchaar as opposed to extreme and forceful measures? Why are we within the Sikh community unable to have dialogue and open discussion about important issues without either making political points against opponents or perceiving criticism as a personal attack on our character? Maybe this is one of the reasons why our family models are also no-longer the strong infrastructure that outsiders have often complemented us on. Our high level of distrust and objection to criticism, even if the criticism is valid, possibly stems from our collective inability to communicate and analyze a problem or issue leading to enormous inefficiency and unaccountability within the Sikh community at large. It is the responsibility of each and every person in public office, be they the Pardhaan, Stage Secretary, Langar sevadar, Giani, Kirtani, Sant, Katha Vaachik, or Dhaadhi to teach and explain respect of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to the sangat. A number of Incidents over the last 12 months have brought a lot of issues to light. The Respect for Guru Granth Sahib Ji Campaign has highlighted one particular beadbi; we again have started taking Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to hotels, clubs, and bars for weddings and Akhand Paaths. If our Local Gurdwara accommodates 250 people and our desired guest list amounts to over 500, we some how think taking Guru Ji to a Five Star Hotel is justified - When will we realize that these practices are about requesting Guru Ji's blessing as opposed to enlarging our own ego's and stature. This practice is against a Hukamnama from the Akal Takht. There were many occurrences around this campaign, and the issue even reached the British Press, showing the inability of Sikhs to follow Guru Ji's hukum wholeheartedly on the grounds of their own selfish manmat. Rather than those things occurring why not correct our ways. Rather than let those individuals be successful in abusing the principles of our Guru and rather than let a small minority of individuals revert to extreme measures to deal with these beadbis. An example of a totally peaceful approach to these situations was when last August alone; the Respect for Guru Granth Sahib Ji campaign re-arranged 16 weddings to take place in Gurdwaras as opposed to Hotels, Pubs and Clubs, in co-ordination and through communication with Gurdwaras, Families of the Bride & Groom and general sangat. Unfortunately there is now a school of thought that seems to think that they are wiser than Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji when it comes to the use of the Sangats money (Golak) and the estate of the Gurdwara. Money is being used for practices that are against the teachings of Guru Ji; so-called 'banqueting halls' are springing up in Gurdwaras in which alcohol and meat are openly provided. Yet we have the audacity to demand that no person is allowed to enter the Gurdwara under the influence of alcohol; hundreds of pounds are spent on signs to prevent non-Sikhs entering Gurdwaras under the influence of alcohol, and homeless people who may be desperately hungry for food are turned away from Gurdwaras because they smell of alcohol. Yet some of those very same Gurdwaras are charging money for hiring of social function halls where they are allowing the serving and consumption of intoxicants and meat within Gurdwara boundaries. Is this what Guru Ji intended for us to do? Are we really doing this to help the Sikh community find affordable venues because they say it wasn’t just amritdharies who paid for the Gurdwaras? If barbers become rare and it becomes hard to obtain off-licenses are we also going to have barbers and theke set up within Gurdwara community halls? An incident occurred in Leamington last year where an elderly members club were holding a diwaali party on the grounds of the Gurdwaras estate which was also attended by some members of the Gurdwara committee and a local MP. Alcohol and meat were served on the menu; unfortunately the methods used to highlight this blatant beadbi were ill-advised. It is not much consolation to hear subsequently the Gurdwara Committee immediately after this incident passed a motion that any such activities that are blatantly against our Gurus teachings will not take place on the grounds of the Gurdwara estate. Ironically, within touching distance the same activities occur regularly at the Tachbrook Centre virtually every weekend. The Tachbrook Centre is a banqueting hall based on the Gurdwara’s estate. This is a practice not unique to Leamington but found adjacent to several Gurdwaras and bought by the Gurdwaras through Guru Ji’s golak. Surely any building which has been obtained on the back of the Sangat (be it directly or indirectly) is to be deemed as part of Guru Ji’s estate? If so, then the sign which says outside the door to the Gurdwara that intoxicants are not allowed must also have jurisdiction on all parts of the Gurdwara’s premises. Sikhi is not about money - never was and never will be! This was made clear when Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji chose to stay with Bhai Lalo instead of Malik Bhago. You don't have to pay to go to the Gurdwara; you don't have to pay to partake of langar. You don't have to pay to embrace Sikhi. You don't have to pay for Vaheguru's guidance. You don't have to pay to become a member of the Khalsa panth, through the baptism of death and life (khande-di-pahul). Why do you have to pay to conduct an anand Karaj or any other activity? It seems some Gurdwara committees are charging extortionate fees for weddings, for Guru Ji’s blessings and for Gurbani to be recited charging upto £2,000. Sangat is also occasionally being charged for the tea at a wedding on a per head basis, as opposed to on a Seva basis. For six days a week Langar halls are there to emulate Guru Ji's free kitchen, but on the seventh day the same Gurdwara facility takes on the role of a restaurant. Will this mean that only the rich will be able to go to certain Gurdwaras? Are we heading towards a star rating system for Gurdwaras like hotels and restaurants where if you can afford the price you can get wed at the five-star Gurdwara, otherwise you have to go to a single star Gurdwara? Masands and Mahants in bygone history brought in crude practices that put a wedge between the sangat and Guru Ji. Is history repeating itself? Has our local Gurdwara become a business centre? Is it a money making scheme? Are Gurdwaras there to teach Sikhi or make money? Are Gurdwaras there to educate our children or pollute their minds with anti-sikhi principles? Is this really Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's vision of why Gurdwaras were originally built? Would Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji have spent millions of pounds on marble and gold and putting up buildings that the rich can be proud of in which to wed their off-spring or for coach parties to visit from other parts of the country? Would Guru Ji have spent the money on feeding the poor and educating the world about Sacha Soda? There is progress and then there is true progress. All these beadbis only go on because we do not see our Guru in the light we should. We don’t see Guru Ji sitting on their throne in the Gurdwara. We don’t see them as our saviour now and after death, we do not value them, we don’t see them as Jaagdi Jot. We even find it impossible to have a ten minute conversation regarding Guru Ji without referring to them as a book or 'it'!!! When Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji ordered the Khalsa Panth to look to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj as our last and eternal Guru, they gave us a clear indication of their vision for the Panth. We have stopped listening to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and now have spin offs that use Guru Ji as a mere reference book, as opposed to our Eternal Guru. Sikhi is not just a private personalized religion; or something that one does to only find private solace or 'shanti'. For that, there are plenty of private sects advertising across the world preying on many nervous and fragile minds, manipulating them to join these passive Guru-worship groups, to address their individual fears, phobias and desires. The Khalsa is a global vision; the Khalsa warrior is a global mind, a global citizen. The Gurdwara’s role must first and foremost be the upholding of Sikh ethics. In reality there is open disregard for everything to do with the ideals and spirit of an ethical Sikh way of life. Gurdwaras are being drained of their Gurmat purpose and endless sacrifices that have gone into initiating and sustaining these institutions. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the living/eternal Guru of the Sikhs and the physical manifestation of Vahegurus spirit. Respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the duty (Jeevan) of every Sikh. This commentary is an open invitation for all sangat to unite and take collective responsibility. A true Sikh never prays for private wealth or private gain. Instead, a Sikh always prays for "sarbat da bhalla" - abiding fully with Vaheguru's global hukum (earthquakes, tsunamis, life, death, bliss, sadness, or whatever ordained). A Sikh accepts that graceful participation in the entire journey of life - as given and shaped by Vaheguru is a fulfilling and purposeful experience. Mistakes will be made as we are all human but it is one thing unknowingly making mistakes and another knowingly. We must begin to put things right. If you think you can assist with giving guidance to help tackle the above issues or if your Gurdwara wishes to take a lead in tackling the issues we have highlighted we will sincerely welcome your support. We are currently compiling a list of sevadars, Gurdwaras and organizations who want to be part of this conversation and play a role in preventing the further erosion of Sikhi values by upholding the venerable satkar for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Please provide your considered guidance; it will be respectfully welcomed and listened to. We wish to develop a genuine Khalsa alliance to uphold Sikhi principles in our institutions. Any individuals, organizations or Gurdwaras who wish to play a role in this endeavour can email on email@example.com or contact us on 07951 748015. Most of all we urge all Sikhs to take the task of joint responsibility and stop leaving our collective problems for someone else to sort out. We must be honest about Sikhi principles and not selfish about compromising these principles for our own benefit or for the benefit of our friends, relations or acquaintances. Khalsa Alliance.