Often times when I travel and talk to people about SikhNet I might get a question like, "So what do you do for a living?" They know I work on SikhNet but assume that this is just a seva, a hobby of mine in my free time, without realizing that this is a full time job for me and the others who work at SikhNet. Do I do this job for the money? Absolutely NOT! I could earn a lot more money working for a big corporation somewhere. But I do this work instead because it is fulfilling and impacts thousands of people every day. Yes, I do get paid by SikhNet to do this work. How else would I be able to support my family and have the time to do this work? The difference for me is that my motivation is not money, but my desire to serve. From this service I create so many blessings for myself and my family. It is such a gift to be able to serve this way, and is more fulfilling then any high paying corporate job could ever hope to be.
In the west I only know of a few Sikh Organizations that have full time paid staff, and I can count them on one hand! In fact most of them were started recently and pretty much all by Sikh Youth. I often wonder why we don’t have more Sikh Organizations and more people tackling the many needs of the Sikh community.
There are a HUGE number of talented professional Sikhs around the world, but most are focused in professional careers. Many that I have spoken to say they would prefer to make a bunch of money in their career and then donate it to a good cause. The problem is that there still needs to be organizations and individuals serving the needs of Sikhs today. Secondly, people need to actually support these organizations. We often hear about the latest new multi-million dollar Gurdwara that was built around the corner from another Gurdwara, and yet all the same issues are there with little of the real change that is required to meet the needs of our new generation of Sikhs. The Gurdwaras efforts end up being focused on how to bring more people to Gurdwara so more funds can be raised for the Gurdwara. If we bring in X ragi then we can make this amount of money. Often times for people managing Gurdwaras it seems to be more about power, social status and control in a community than truly meeting the needs of the Sangat and being the Gateway to the Guru’s Court.
I think the needs of our youth are not going to be met by the existing older structures. The change is going to have to come from our younger generation of Sikhs that really understand the needs of our generation and are able to get the job done. But will we support them? If we only allow our kids to pursue normal mainstream jobs, then who is going to do this much-needed work? Will we donate to Sikh organizations instead of funding the older political structures? I’m not saying you shouldn’t give money to your Gurdwara and community, but think about how that money is serving the community and the growth of awareness of Sikhi and the actual impact that it is having as a result. I think many of the new organizations (SikhNet included) are a great "investment" because the impact that they have for a small amount of money is huge. In comparison it seems wasteful to me how much money is spent in the older Gurdwara organizational structures.
When I was visiting Surrey, British Columbia (Canada) I was talking with some of the new "Youth Committee" that now manages Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. I was shocked to find out that they do all this work as seva on top of their normal jobs. I can only congratulate them for doing this seva…..and KEEPING UP with it all! This is no small seva task that they do every once and a while. This is an every day job on top of their normal jobs. They are working all the time non-stop, from morning through night between their normal job and then every other moment. I wondered why couldn’t these people do this as their full time (paid) job and give much more needed (and balanced) time to create an even larger impact in their community? The answer seemed to come down to politics and other people’s impression that by doing this work as a paid staff that they were "doing it for the money". People might accuse them of profiting from the job. This is pretty bad. We should support them and let them do more in the community!
I think seva is awesome and everyone should do seva, however there are limits to the kinds of seva that can be done and amount of things that can be done with this limited amount of time. If we had more Sikhs working in Sikh organizations full time we could do SO much more and so much faster. It is such a fulfilling job working full time in service towards others! Then everything becomes seva!
With SikhNet we have tried to invite more volunteer sevadhars but for most of the projects it doesn’t work out. Specific skills are often required and normally a larger commitment of time is needed to get something worthwhile accomplished. When someone is doing something as seva in their free time you can’t expect them to have much time and accomplish a lot of big projects. Doing few things make projects take a LONG TIME. Projects don’t have the reliability and attention that is really needed on a day to day basis for their success.
When I look at the projects that we do at SikhNet, we have a huge number of ideas and projects that need to be worked on, however the limitation is always financial support and finding the right people to work as part of the team. If we all want these types of organizations and services for our community we have to start investing not only our dasvandh but also allowing our youth to be involved in this type of work.
My prayer is that as parents we encourage our children to to follow their heart even if the career they choose isn’t the norm. We should encourage our youth to be involved in Sikh organizations and grow spiritually as a result of this service. As youth we should do what we are passionate about and not just look at a job as a means for getting money. I personally would want to do a job that I really enjoyed and that gave me satisfaction way beyond a paycheck. Let’s invest in our tomorrow.
Please share your thoughts on this topic. What has been your experience? Read this other related perspective by Guruka Singh about careers.
Below is the SikhNet video "We can be leaders" which I think fits very nicely with the theme of this blog post.
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