What do you do for a Living?

What do you do for a Living?

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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5 Responses to “What do you do for a Living?”

  1. S Singh says:

    Great read! I'm a Sewadar at a Gurdwara (on a committee). If Gurdwaras were treated like businesses (with millions in asset and revenue) they would have paid staff to manage them. Yes, Gurdwaras operate heavily on volunteers, but there are certain roles of a Gurdwara where you need full-time, paid, staff. Gurdwaras are not simply about hosting weddings, they offer many services where sewadars are incapable of doing.

    Take a look at any faith group in North America, and they will have paid staff that operate many of their services. I'm not saying forget sewa, just supplement it where needed.

  2. The new City Sikhs organisation in the UK hopes to do just this – "City Sikhs is a vibrant group of young Sikh professionals from a variety of industries and professions who are passionate about creating positive change within society and inspiring people to be the best they can be". Their executive board consists of some of the most intelligent, most highly qualified and connected Sikhs in the UK. This is something to definitely look out for!!! Everyone join up at: http://www.citysikhs.org.uk/

  3. Ramandeep Kaur says:

    Please forgive me if anyone feels offended.

    I have been reading yours and Guruka Singh blog recently. I live in Surrey and had recently moved from USA .Reason I moved to Surrey was I wanted to give myself and my daughter the same culture ,the experience of living as Sikh. Living in New York, she would not even have got an opportunity to know about Sikhi.I hated the glance I always got from people for my husband .I always felt as I was suffocating.
    I decided to move where people recognize us and chose surrey, canada. I loved the fact that there are so many Gurdwara’s .I was thrilled .But once I started living here and started going to temple, all I saw at the Sikh temple was people coming there to have jalebi's and sweets. Ladies wearing lot of jewellery's, makeup .Elder people spending their entire day at Gurudwara's because no one is home and they would wait there for the entire day for their kids to return. I was shocked.I stopped going to the temple for a while.

    Back in India ,we will go to gurdwara but in simple clothes, we will have langar only after we did seva for hours .That was Gurdwara for me . I never go that feeling of calmness here at surrey that I got at my local gurudwara in India . We have so many Gurdwara’s here at Surrey, we have so many means to reach the Guru but yet we fail .Why is it so ?
    I don’t know.. But for myself, I have found my way .I feel serenity at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple these days. I don’t know what this new management is doing but I find peace now. I don’t get distracted even by my 2 year old who is running around while I am sitting listening to prayers at the Gurdwara.
    I know this has nothing to do with what both of these beautiful people wrote the blog but I just feel that they both were little bit disappointed during their stay at Surrey. I think what we need in Surrey is people who can guide us in the right direction. We need you guys here. I keep on watching all the you tube videos posted by sikhnet but still I yearn for more and more because its only thru sangat we can get to God. Physical presence of people like you is needed here


  4. Rai Singh says:

    Satinam Jis,

    This topic has a lot of different aspect. I´m really agree with Gurumustuk, but let me add something… what about on the countries where we´re just in the beginning and the number of sikhs is not more then 30 persons and where we still don´t have any kind of formal organization, even Sikh Dharma as religion is not legal yet.

    What Gurumustuk present is something that we all ready realize, even with this little community.

    Here in Chile we use a term called "burn out", and this is what I see every time when the people give almost the 50% of their time to seva with out receiving nothing in change. With the time they feel the community is not in balance, because they give a lot but the money is also needed to live so the next time they prefer a Paid Job instead of do a lot of seva, because finally the house and family need money anyway.

    I hope you can understand my idea, is some late here and I have to do some prayerhomework before to go bed.

    Rai Singh.

    PD: I´m moving from Santiago to Valdivia (Chile) at the end of this year, if someone has a contact to a job there please contact me, I feel is this PD is in the same vibration of the topic.

  5. ajit singh says:

    i think gurumustuk singh brings up a really important point in this article, ive totally got to agree with it. i think if we as a community can have a number of individuals who can devote their full time and energy towards our community ie gurdwaras, sikhnet etc we should encourage them. unfortunately everyone withing the community (at least here in toronto) finds one way or aother to turn that into a bad thing rather than supporting each other.
    i might just sound like another youth frustrated with the committee dramas in our gurdwaras , but i guess thats because i am.
    i look forward to the steps taken by the new mexico sangat in supporting our small sikh community, and i really hope to be a part of that someday.