By Paguman Singh | OPINION |
Guru Ji’s 550 anniversary celebrations are being planned by Sikhs throughout the world through their Gurdwaras, Sikh Societies, Sikh Institutions, Charity Trusts and individuals.
The joy of celebrating this Gurpurb could be increased if we add new elements to the traditional akand paaths, kirtan and katha. The new addition could be improved understanding of Guru Ji’s message to the world.
As Gurbani, the divine message given by Guru Ji, is the light for the world we could begin by improving the understanding of Guru Ji’s message amongst ourselves, specifically children and youths.
Children and youth from Sikh families read or hear Gurbani. While they have full respect for Gurbani, their understanding of the message in Gurbani is limited. If they are proficient in Punjabi, they read Gurbani but spend little time in understanding the message within the verses in Gurbani. Others who do not read or write Gurumukhi are further disadvantaged.
The lack of understanding affects their ability to inform non-Sikh friends in schools and colleges about their belief and the basis of the Sikh philosophy of life. Another drawback is that many of our children and youth lack Punjabi language skills both in reading and understanding, which prevents understanding.
The million-dollar question: How can we device a method to engage the children and youth with the objective of improving their understanding of Guru Ji’s message?
The programs below may, if implemented with dedication and zeal, lead to an improvement in the understanding. However marginal the gains, an attempt should be made as the option of following the traditional method only will and has not proved effective.
In the Gurdwara, the Sunday program provides an opportunity to get the Sangat and the youth involved. The regular Sunday program ends in all Gurdwaras with kirtan and Anand Sahib before the Ardas.
A new component can be introduced just before Anand Sahib. One pauri of Jap Ji Sahib read by the whole Sangat. At the end of the pauri reading, a youth then reads the meanings provided in Punjabi version slowly so that all can hear and comprehend. This could be from Darpan prepared by Prof. Sahib Singh, which is accepted by the Panth.
This will be followed by another youth reading the English meaning of the Pauri. This can come from the book The Beauty of Jap Ji Sahib (Team Awat) prepared by learned scholars and in accordance with Prof. Sahib Singh’s Darpan. The whole process would take about 10 minutes. The following Sunday, the next pauri would be read and explained. The whole process completed in 40 weeks (38 pauris and 2 saloks).
If the sangat wants the whole of Jap Ji Sahib to be read, it is up to the committee to decide but the explanation presented should be one pauri at a time.
1. Celebration of Guru Nanak Ji’s 550 Parkash Anniversary would be participation of the whole Sangat.
2. Understanding of the message contained in Jap Ji sahib will increase amongst all Sikhs as well as others who attend the Sunday program.
3. Youths will get involved as they will be given the duty to read and explain the meanings of the Pauris.
The Book, The Beauty of Jap Ji Sahib will be used for the program. At present 300 books are available.
A humble request is that each Gurdwara gets Youths (both genders) for the program. Youths should take turns in presenting the meanings and so a pool of youths should be selected. If this program starts in February 2019 it will take 40 weeks or 10 months to complete a full circle.
The Book, The Beauty of Jap Ji Sahib, will be given to all youth or elders who are interested in learning the meanings and later understand Jap Ji Sahib better. However, each person receiving the book will have to register on to a learning website/ facebook page. This will be strictly managed for learning only. All participants will have to update their individual records through the web on which Pauri of Jap Ji Sahib they have read. The manager of the program will contact the person who is not reading the book or who has not responded by filling up the updates. An attempt will be made to reach out to all participating in this web learning program to celebrate Guru Ji’s 550 Anniversary.
A monthly gathering over tea just one hour will be arranged for participants to share their views and enjoy the company of other learners.
A half-day seminar in a university in Auckland (or in your respective cities and towns) on “Contributions of Guru Nanak to religious thought and spiritual developments” or any other title be held. Three speakers could be invited to present papers on the subject followed by discussions.
It is proposed non-Sikh professors from the universities in New Zealand be approached to present papers and one Sikh from New Zealand to provide the final paper. Invitees to the seminar could be from all the communities and all walks of life. This will take the message of Guru Nanak beyond the Sikh community.
In the event the media covers the event, either in print or through the electronic means, the frontiers of coverage will become wide.
This program requires planning and execution which can be easily done if all Gurdwaras and Sikh societies agree to cooperate and work together.
Paguman Singh, a retired senior official of a Malaysian-based social security organisation, has been involved in Sikhi parchaar for more than three decades. He now resides in New Zealand.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Guru Nanak in Nepal (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2018)