Vain humility

I was at a religious function recently that was at a gurdwara (Sikh temple) and something that took place there has compelled me to vocalise my rant.

Sikh prayers culminate with what is known as Ardaas; when you ask God for forgiveness and pray for whatever you desire. Some gurdwaras have adopted a practice that is in no way religious but has become cultural, and goes against the very grain of humility.

Sikhs are known to be charitable. It’s part of our values; “seva” meaning selfless service. As part of this, its common for congregations to give donations to the gurdwara. These donations are used for the upkeep of gurdwaras where food is served seven days a week.

However, some people – rather than make a private donation – insist on their name being attached to it and being declared in the Ardaas. So you hear the gyaani (priest) announcing “X family gives £X” and this list is tirelessly long! In fact, at times the list of “humble donors” can be longer than the actual Ardaas itself!

I appreciate gurdwaras – like churches and other places of worship – rely on the generous giving of their congregations. After all, they’re registered charities. But isn’t the true meaning of charity ‘selfless good’? Isn’t the aim to help others without expecting anything in return – be that praise or acknowledgement? And surely when it comes to a religious donation; that transaction is between you and God. So why should the whole community hear that you donated £5 or £50?!?!
It becomes an issue of status. People who give more will be seen beaming with pride. As if to imply “I’m doing well and I can prove it by dishing out so much to the gurdwara.” That may be the case but if you were truly humble, you wouldn’t need your name announced.
At this last function I’m referring to, a woman donated money on behalf of her late husband. So now people are giving to God even in their death!
When did faith become so selfish? When did it become about you and not about God or the less fortunate? And yet so many elders in the community wonder why younger generations are gradually moving away from their local gurdwaras.
The corruption at places of worship and other such politics I’ll leave for another blog on another day. For now, all I can end on is think twice before a “humble” act and question who you’re doing it for…

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