In our last article we covered the importance of regular face-to-face group meetings for Sikh soc members. These not only build lasting friendships, but also help the exchange of ideas and experiences of the Sikh way of life. It was postulated that there exists a type of weekly event that involves no organising, yet achieves the goals of networking which are so critically important to Sikh societies. You might ask that if this hypothetical event is so simple, why are we not doing it already? Well, living in a culture where we are usually trying to go one better than Mr Singh across the road, it’s easy to lose sight of one’s objectives. In this respect, what we are talking about is nothing new, just something borrowed from the world of pragmatism.
However, before we go on to discuss this weekly event in any detail, it seems prudent at this point to ask why we network at all and what, if anything is to be gained from sharing our experiences? The idea that students learn from analysing their experiences is fundamental to the hermeneutic model of inquiry. By the time we reach university our ideas and perceptions of Sikhi, more often than not are based on over a decade of introjections from our parents, rather than a self-determined rational analysis. For some of us, entering university is the first real chance to share our experiences of Sikhi in a (hopefully) non-judgemental way.
As we get older there often comes a realisation that as with many things in life there isn’t always a clear cut answer to every problem. Very rarely are things black and white, rather they are in varying shades of grey. Though the Guru Granth Sahib contains the universal and necessary truths that we hold so dear to our heart, it is up to us on an individual and collective level to derive and apply contingent truths from the Shabad in to the real world.
Just as light can be described to exist paradoxically as both a photon and as a wave, so can God be described to exist as sargun (personal) and nirgun (absolute). Extending along these lines we believe in Sikhi autonomously, whilst at the same time we live Sikhi collectively in the sangat. The goal of Sikhi on an individual level is absorption into God (brahmgian), but on a collective level is the creation of a God conscious utopian society.
It is on this individual level that simran helps us attain brahmgian and it is on the collective level of expanding the frontiers of knowledge through networking that helps us work towards this utopian society – for which a well functioning Sikh society, that is fit for purpose is a necessary and elementary building block in working towards this ultimate goal. We must search, discuss and debate our history as well as the divine knowledge revealed within the sacred pages of the Guru Granth Sahib so that we are ever ready to meet the emerging challenges of the 21st century and beyond. The words made famous by Isaac Newton come to mind: ‘If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’.
An article by Gurpreet Singh [Committee Support], Kiran K Sihota [President] and Nicky Bharij [Secretary] – Southampton University Sikh Society, 2010-2011