image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Year 2022: State of The Panth

 In August 2003, Prof Gurtej Singh made his keynote State of the Panth speech to the Third Annual Conference of the Singh Sabha International in the USA. He gave a long list of negative influences at work, both, from within and outside, the Sikh community. However, he did conclude with a positive note.

To the question in my mind was:- What is the main reason for the survival of Sikhi of Guru Nanak for over 550 years despite so many threats to its survival? Following the pointers given by Gurtej Singh, the question can be asked as three questions: Did Guru Nanak Sahib bring to humankind a new and more wholesome world culture? Is the Sikh way of life (Sikhi) a spiritual and existential leap for humankind? Can the life-style shown by Guru Nanak save the world facing seemingly impossible social, economic, political and environmental challenges today?

Most impartial observers, even with a passing knowledge of the Sikh way of life and Sikhi institutions, can only answer the above questions in the affirmative. Unlike Abrahamic traditions of crusades and jihads against each other, Sikhi teaches that there is only One Creator Being of ALL regardless of apparent diversity. Discrimination of any type under any pretext is not acceptable. There are no separate God and Devil &ndash good and evil &ndash entities in Sikhi. Evil is a passing human condition which can be cured. There is hope for humankind. God remembrance, serving, sharing, and collective decision making in all spheres of life &ndash social, economics and politics - are concepts visible in Sikh institutions and admired by the world.

The reasons for our own failure to follow the path of Guru Nanak are generally well known. At the top of the list are Bipran-ki-Reets creeping into our way of life. And on to other obvious factors such as selection procedure for holders of senior positions at central Sikh institutions failure to follow Gurmat tradition regarding interpretation of the Sikh Constitution, Guru Granth Sahib, by Panth-approved Gursikh scholars failure to follow collective decision-making procedures and processes failure to encourage own research and wider dissemination to counter divisive, distorting and corrupting influence of external politics and Sikh studies the use of modern capitalist or communist isms to justify much earlier and more advanced progressive Sikhi values the waste of daswandh collected by gurdwaras, and, the destructive impact of colonisation of Panjab after 1947. The above is just a part of the much-repeated long list of negatives.

However, Prof Gurtej Singh concluded that no Sikh will tolerate the obliteration of the wholly beneficial work of our great Gurus and something surely will be done in the right direction.

Thousands will be misled away from own Sikh heritage thousands will re-discover Sikhi and, thousands will be guided towards Sikhi from other communities. Because, the revolutionary mar-jeevra path (Panth) of Sikhi is the unequivocal response to the threat to human survival. Global institutions like United Nations have been and will continue to learn from and move towards Sikhi universal values.

The pace at which the world makes the paradigm shift towards the universal values taught by Guru Nanak Sahib will depend on human progress and the urgency dictated by the challenges to human survival.

Khalsa Panth will always remain in Chardhi Kalaa (positive spirit) and work towards Sarbat da Bhalaa (Wellbeing of All).

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Ret&rsquod (UK)