As Sikh children, we were told to give back. In fact giving back to one’s community, or Dasvandh, was one hallmark among my many memories as a Sikh child. My parents gave ten percent of their income in tithings. It’s part of Sikh tradition to give a tithing, even if very small, at every temple.
I have been away from the 3HO Sikh Dharma community for nearly two decades, so it is from a healthy distance that I observe the ongoing legal battles between all of the for-profit companies (Akal Security, Golden Temple Foods, Yogi Tea, etc), non-profit companies (Sikh Dharma International, Sikh Dharma Worldwide, Siblings of Destiny, et al.), the familial heirs to Yogi Bhajan’s personal fortune, and his personal assistants, who are staking a claim to the very large sums of money involved among all of these entities.
It’s complicated, it’s convoluted, and, for many it’s infurating! (I think I can say this and be heard by believers and non-believers alike)
One of the reasons these legal battles are impossible to appreciate is that it’s about millionaires fighting with other millionaires about who gets to keep the pot of gold. And a pot of gold it is. Akal Security has received about $30 billion in federal contracts in its existence.
And then there are the rest of us. There are those who remain in “the dharma” and continue to work for meager wages. There are those whose homes are the property of the 3HO Sikh Dharma non-profit religious entity. There are those who simply walked away from all of it, and re-built their lives one step at a time. And there are those who were born and raised there and:
1) worked for a 3HO Sikh Dharma business or organization for minimum wage
2) were discouraged from attending college, or
3) attended college eventually, but paid his/her own way, borrowing in order to do so.
4) did not attend college, and fend for his/her selves in what ways he/she can.
5) that financially cover one’s own therapy and counseling. (I’m hoping everyone is doing this regardless, by the way)
As for me, all of the above.
I am successful and fulfilled in what I do, which is good. But I can’t say that going out on my own as a young adult totally alone was not immensely challenging. Or that I didn’t encounter some major hurdles. And I cannot say that I would not have greatly appreciated my community giving back to me in some form of support in return for my contributions to them.
But as I left to forge my own path, all I heard was Sayonara. No, what I literally heard was, “you will be a drug-addict prostitue lying in the gutter”.
But alas, this is the way of the world much of the time. Religions don’t give plebians support, and Tithings aren’t a choice. Tithings are an obligation. It’s one’s holy duty to give to the church. And to ask anything in return other than salvation or pure bliss is showing greed and discontent.
At the Sikh Dharma Worldwide website: http://sikhdharmaworldwide.org/ you will see information on ways to give, but not much on community engagement and outreach. You will see pages that have been set up to accept donations that will cover their incurred legal fees. There is a website and domain dedicated to Tithings alone called http://www.dasvandh.org/. They do, however, “give” in the form of political contributions. To both parties. In large sums. State and Federal.
After the legal mess, most of us have an idea of the net worth of Sikh Dharma International and all of its “nesting dolls” of non-profits and for-profits. I ask, when are they going to give back? Have they set up a college scholarship fund? Have they set up a fund to help young adults go out into the world to succeed? Have they instituted any sort of support structure for its young members so that they may move forward, move upward, and thrive? Has Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri offered up any of her personal fortune to help others? Have Peraim Kaur and Kartar Singh, after receiving their settlements offered to help anyone recovering and surviving this cultic environment? Has the Kettle Foods empire ever offered to help out? Or, for that matter, any one of the multi-million dollar businesses, that benefitted from the hard work and dedication of ashram devotees, who often worked for very little pay, offered up support?
And yet, and yet… there are people right under their noses in Española who live in dilapidated mobile homes.
It’s time to give back. It’s time to offer to heal wounds and mend hearts.
There is a generation of adults who suffered as children, and there are more generations to come–who as children suffered needlessly due only to your callousness, your narcissism, and your dogma.
And to my 2nd and 3rd generation readers. We can heal our wounds by finding ways to give back to our communities too. I have hope that we can take that grain of advice and we can polish it into a beautiful, shining pearl.
We have come this far.