Kids Corner


The Sikh Art of Soldiering:
Remembrance Day







The following is an excerpt from remarks delivered at The Sikh Remembrance Day Ceremony at the grave of the WW1 Sikh-Canadian War Hero, Pvt Buckam Singh, in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday, November 8, 2015.


Amidst all of the blessings we enjoy in this wonderful land -- such as all that we have seen unfold in the recent Canadian federal elections, and since -- we need to remind ourselves continuously that we have so much to be grateful for, these gifts that we receive from time to time which help make us tolerate the rest that comes our way.

It is in that spirit that I want to talk to you today about one of the greatest gifts we are blessed with in the Sikh way of life.

I refer to ‘Soldiering’ which is central to being a Sikh.

To grasp the concept fully, we first need to understand that it applies not just for those Sikhs who join the armed forces, but to every Sikh, male and female, no matter which path they choose to take in life.

There are several important aspects to the Sikh idea of soldiering to which each one of us, each man and woman, is conscripted to by our Faith.

1   First, we are all, A-L-L, to lead the life of a soldier. Not just those amongst us who go that huge extra step by joining our nation’s military and serving society to the max. But, all of us -- civilians, as well as service men and women.

2   It is not a role or a responsibility which makes us any higher or lower than anyone else. Instead, it puts us on an equal footing with all other Sikhs.

Just as we are a community without a priesthood … because we are all priests.

Just as we are not to leave initiative and entrepreneurship to others … because we are all in the business of saccha sauda, committed to the True Bargain.

Just as we are not to relegate labour to the less fortunate … because we are all enjoined to labour in even the most humble, the most menial of tasks and chores.

So are we all, A-L-L, soldiers. That is, if there is a good fight that needs to be fought -- no matter what the arena, no matter what the weaponry -- each one of is expected to join the fray, using our separate strengths and skills.

3   Our Elders have taught us the art of soldiering, not by the book, but by example.

When Guru Nanak witnessed the atrocities of Babur the Invader, as he laboured in one of the tyrant’s prisons, he raised his voice loud and clear against even him, and brought the oppressor to his knees before him.

When Guru Gobind Singh went to battle, each one of his arrows were weighed down with a pinch of gold … so that its target and his family could mitigate their suffering necessitated by war.
When one of the Guru’s warriors, Kanhaiyya, went into the battlefield to give water and balm to the wounded, he was armed with the edict that he was not to distinguish between friend and foe.

When Buckam Singh gave his all in the First World War, his resolve was powered by the duty he knew he owed to humanity and his beloved homeland.

When Harjit Singh Sajjan used brain and brawn against the Taliban, he was armed with compassion and fearlessness, qualities that we know will hold him in good stead as a leader.

*   *   *   *   *

The net result is that every Sikh is to sport the honesty and integrity, the commitment and determination, the focus and the energy, all being the hallmarks of a soldier, in everything he or she does in life … in peacetime and in time of conflict.

But above all, we are told, just being a soldier is still not good enough if it doesn’t go hand in hand with the loftiest of principles and values.

A soldier without discipline, a soldier without allegiance, a soldier without direction, without accountability, without integrity, without loyalty, without compassion … is worth nothing, will achieve nothing.

The art of soldiering must therefore be married, forever welded, to spirituality.

Hence, the birth of the Sikh ideal of the sant sipahi -- the saint soldier.

But, I hasten to add, sainthood in Sikhism is not of the airy-fairy kind that is found only in folklore and legend. The Sikh saint is one who remains steeped in worldliness but rises and remains above it. By being the constant learner, humble and in the service of others. Free of pride and arrogance. Clean and fair. Without enmity, even against the enemy. Without fear, and without the need to strike fear in others. Tending to the weak and the oppressed.

That is what sainthood means to the Sikh. Not perfection, but perfect humility and selflessness. A goal which is achievable by each one of us, not just the so-called chosen ones.

And that is what makes the Sikh soldier the IDEAL soldier.

It is what every Sikh aspires to -- to be a sant sipahi, a saint soldier. An ideal not monopolized by Sikhs or Sikh soldiers but upheld by all good soldiers in this extraordinary land.

An example taken to heart by so many of the good men and women gathered here today. The men and women in uniform. And the likes of our new leaders of which we have such a rich sampling amongst us here today: Minister Navdeep Singh Bains ... Minister Bardish Kaur Chagger ... Member of Parliament Raj Singh Grewal …

All proving that the concept -- this ideal of the Saint-Soldier -- goes hand in hand with being a citizen of this most beautiful country on earth, Canada.

Remembrance Day 2015

November 9, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Taran Singh (London, United Kingdom), November 09, 2015, 8:17 AM.

Very true. We need Sikh Regiments in UK, Canada, Australia, etc. As long as our youth are military hardened, disciplined and mentally and spiritually nurtured in Sikhi, no harm can come towards our panth. Gurus made the Khalsa Panth and gave us these institutions so that wherever we live, we do so as nation builders.

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Remembrance Day"

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