The objective of this article is to highlight some Sikh religious practices and celebrations, costing Sikh community approximately $380millions per year in Canada. There is a proposal to utilize these valuable resources in a more effective manner, which would raise Sikh community’s image to a level, that will make Sikhs, a “model society” in Canada.
Sikhs are often described as a “minority with a majority complex”. One can see Sikhs in most professions, there is no aspect of life where you will not find a Sikh. They revel in freedom and despite all the difficulties, Sikhs are nation- builders at every level and celebrate the good life they enjoy in Canada.
It is very obvious that Sikhs are hard workers, very successful and intelligent people, however they also have some weaknesses. For instance, the majority of Sikhs are not aware of Guru Nanak’s philosophy. It is not that, they do not want to learn, it is (our religious institutions) Gurdwaras responsibility and they are not doing their share of the duty.
Sikhs spend hundreds of $millions on Gurdwara buildings, indeed the Gurdwaras are beautiful structures with lots of gold plated domes. The basic objective of the Gurdwara was to teach Sikhism to Sikh Sangat or the Gurdwara should be a Sikh Education Center, but instead, they are acting as worshiping or social centers.
Sikhism was started as a society based upon Truth, Facts, Purpose, Logic, Relevance, Reasonable, Practical and Scientific way of life to become good human being( citizen). The dishonest and corrupt religious leaders turned it into an “Organized Religion” and started the “Belief System” with full of rituals and superstitions to gain power and control over the naïve Sikh nation. The centuries old “Belief System” does not guide us (Sikhs), how to become good citizens in 21st century of science and technology. The Sikh community could not escaped from their corrupt religious leaders, religious institutions, illiterate Deradars, Babas and Sants.
What is a Belief System? A strong or unshakable belief in some thing especially without any proof or evidence. During the time of Guru Nanak, people were accepting the falsehood easily and did not care to find out the “Truth” since they were taught to have faith without any question. Guru Nanak advised not to have faith in any traditions or rituals, suggestions or teachings before its proper evaluation e.g. First ,evaluate everything, then buy/accept/adopt.
There are Three main traditions or rituals, the by-products of the Belief System, Sikh community is involved with, such as : 1 Akhand Paths 2 Langars 3 Nagar Kirtans .
1. Akhand Paths : This is the most expensive tradition Sikhs are practicing, which has no importance in Gurmat. The followings are the estimate figures to show how much Sikh community is losing per year in Canada for this purpose?
A. In Gurdwaras and in Private Homes there are approximately 150,000 Akhand Paths performed every year at a cost in the range of $1000.00 to $5000.00 with an average cost of $2000.00 per Akhand Path.
Total cost of Akhand Paths per year : 150,000 X $2000.00 = $300,000,000.00
B. Akhand Path related cost to the Sikh sangat : There are more than 200 registered Gurdwaras in Toronto area (GTA) or 250 in whole Ontario. Just on safe side for an estimate purpose, I am using a total of 400 Gurdwaras in Canada. During Akhand Path and on weekends, Sikh sangat gather in Gurdwaras in the range of 100 to more than 500 with an average of 250 per week. All the sangat make offerings and donations at the Gurdwaras in the range of $1.00 to more than $20.00 with an average of $10.00 per person. Cost to the Sikh sangat or income to the Gurdwaras:
400 X $10.00 X 250 sangat X 52 weeks = $52,000,000.00
C. There are usually Kathakars, Raggies, Kirtan Jathas to entertain the sangat, in turn sangat make offerings to these people in the range of $1.00 to $10.00 with an average of $2.00 per person.
Cost to the sangat : 400 X $2.00 X 250 X 52 = $10,400,000.00
Now if we add above three figures in A, B and C it will give us some idea how much Sikh community is paying for Akhand Paths per year in Canada:
$300,000,000 + $52,000,000 + $10,400,000 = $362,400,000.00
2. Langars : Guru ji started this tradition for fellowship, brotherhood or sisterhood and equality to serve the unfortunate (poor) or underprivileged. This tradition is one of it’s kind in the world, found only in Sikhism. This tradition cost in the range of $1000.00 to $2000.00 with an average $1000.00 per event (included in the Akhand Path cost). The following is breakdown cost for information only :
Cost of langar : 400 X $1000 X 52 = $20,800,000.00
I would like to mention here the Khalsa Aid a Sikh organization serving Langar to the needy and hungry people regardless of race, colour or creed internationally. My humble suggestion to a family or an individual, who wish to serve Langar at the Gurdwara, donate this money to Khalsa Aid instead. This would be the true service (seva) to the humanity.
3. Nagar Kirtan : This is the latest celebration appeared in Sikhism. There is no mentioned of Nagar Kirtan during the Guru period. Guru Arjan composed Guru Granth Sahib in 1604 and no mentioned in history that any Gurus had Nagar Kirtan or paraded Guru Granth Sahib in streets. There are approximately 40 Nagar Kirtans paraded every year in Canada and the numbers are going up every year, one wonders why? These celebrations must be very profitable to the Gurdwaras involved, otherwise why go through all this headache?
These Nagar Kirtan celebrations cost Sikh community 10 to $20millions one way or the other, every year in Canada.
These events would serve better and achieve more to every body if performed in a city park settings, with only fraction of the cost.
Discussion : The above listed three traditions or celebrations practiced by Sikhs, do they meet Gurmat philosophy? The answer is definitely “No” as the tradition in Sikhism should be Truthful, Practical, Relevant, Factual, Purposeful, Logical, Reasonable and Scientific, in other words these traditions do not meet the above criteria. These three traditions only serve the Belief System or it commonly known as a Blind Faith, which generate large profit for our religious leaders and the Gurdwaras. This is the reason, they do not discourage the Sikh sangat against these traditions, and the Gurdwara numbers are increasing and they are getting bigger in size, in Canada and every where else. The above figures of $380millions is for Canada per year and if we add USA, UK, India and other countries, the total would be $Multi-billions per year. I am sure this may be greater than some developing countries annual budget. It seems like, our religious institutions are $multi-billions industry, with no transparency and or accountability to the stakeholders. The Sikh community should learn from Jewish community who have suffered similarly as Sikhs for their survival and existence. They invested in education and the results are obvious, where as the Sikhs invested on religious institutions and rituals. Jewish community being highly educated and united, they become the most advanced and progressive society in the western world. Jewish population is approximately 14 millions compared to about 30 millions Sikhs in the world.
One wonders who is at loss ? The answer is, the Sikh community.
Sikhs practice 3 main religious traditions (rituals) and celebrations, such as :
1 Akhand Paths 2 Langars 3 Nagar Kirtans
Sikhs spend approximately $380millions on Akhand Paths, Langars and
Nagar Kirtan celebrations every year in Canada.
Proposal : This large sum of money ( multi-millions) could be put in good use such as in Education (schools, colleges, universities), Health Care (hospitals, cancer centers, nursing homes), Senior Citizen Homes, Sikh Study scholarships to Sikh and non- Sikh students and so many other community based programmes.
Sikhism considered to be a most modern and a scientific based society, utilizing this large sum of money in a positive way, Sikhs would become a Model Community with positive image in Canada.
Guru Nanak emphasized to use wisdom to find out what is right and what is wrong, with the intellect, one should read to discover the Truth. Let us all become Guru’s Sikhs (Gurmukhs) by following Guru Granth Sahib’s philosophy. This is the only way we can get rid of the old corrupt Belief System, which is costing the Sikh community $multi- millions. My advice, stop losing $millions and put this large sum or part of it ( keep the rest for yourself) to good productive use, so every body would take advantage of it in Canada.
Note : Re Akhand Path number, 100,000 were mentioned, just in GTA on Gurbani Vichaar TV programme by one of the guest. I used 150,000 for all over Canada , which is quite a reasonable figure. Every thing else is rough estimates.
Ramjit Singh Mann