Dasvandh Network: Are You Part of It Yet?
INDERPREET SINGH (Taken from SikhChic post 11.21.2013)
“The outer conditions of physical life remain unequal all the same, but the heart of man has, in the rich intoxication of the inner abundance of the Guru, become limitless in its givings and forgivings. And on this continuous exchange of soul and on the basis of an intoxicated memory of the sweetness of human Nature, are laid the deep foundations of the social structure of the Khalsa society. Service of each other is more pleasure than duty in every Sikh’s home. His physical existence is to be spent in the service of love that seeks no reward on earth or in Heaven, except that in the service of the Assembly of the Saints of Simrin, the Sadh-Sangat, lies fulfillment of life itself. This is Discipleship as universal as the human heart itself that beats with love and breathes the spirit of God …”
— Puran Singh, Spirit of the Sikh
I wonder how service to others can feel less like a chore and more like an ineluctable responsibility done out of nothing but love as is described above by Prof. Puran Singh.
The more my family and I discuss the importance of dasvand(the Sikh practice of tithing), the more we realize it is less about giving.
It seems counter-intuitive to conceptualize donating at least one-tenth of one’s earnings as anything but an act of giving and our first attempt is to reinterpret it as “sharing” in line with the vund chhakna principle.
To “give” or “share” something implies it is ours to begin with and that doesn’t strike a chord with Guru Nanak’s tera, tera, tera (literally: ‘Yours, Yours, Yours!) ideology either — “All is Yours, O Lord!”. For most of us today, practicing giving one’s dasvand seems extraneous and unnatural. However, according to Sikh tradition, dasvand is really the idea of living up to one’s responsibility as a citizen of the world and as a foot soldier of the Guru Khalsa Panth.
What if we began to reconceptualize dasvand as a discipline, not a chore; out of responsibility, not guilt; as love, not enterprise?
From stories preserved and shared by our ancestors, I have learned that those who did not contribute dasvand were metaphorically chastised as chor or thieves. In fact, if per chance a Sikh was not able to contribute his dasvand, he would refer to himself as a chor in that he was not returning to the Guru what was the Guru’s to begin with.
Trying to rationalize this today does lend itself to the implication that dasvand should be given out of an obligation or out of guilt, lest one be labeled a thief! But we are indeed able to lend credence to this idea that at the end, all is Waheguru’s and our role is to live in harmony with all that is given to us.
The Guru Granth Sahib is replete with indications that “Waheguru, everything is yours …” as the Fifth Nanak eloquently reveals:
Mind, body and even wealth are yours
You are my Master Divine
My life and body are your capital,
It is thine to wield, dear Lord! [GGS:106]
If my mind, body, and even wealth, are already Waheguru’s and by implication the Guru’s, then these things really don’t belong to me. They are simply a means to sustain my existence. Were I to truly realize and live my life knowing and believing that “my” mind, body, and wealth are the Guru’s, then I may perhaps then truly, instinctively exude the spirit of Sikhi.
From this perspective, the discipline of dasvand would become second nature or instinctive.
Such a proclivity toward giving one’s time, earnings, and services are the wheels that move the panth forward. Prof. Puran Singh continues to share his understanding of this “borrowed capital” which we must return. He writes that a Sikh, forever a disciple of and forever indebted to the Guru,
“becomes a vehicle of the gift of the Guru, and goes on giving as He directs. Nothing is his own, his body is only a medium for Power behind, to display themselves in his actions, thoughts and feelings. The Sikh realizes that the capital of grace given by the Guru is not for squandering. He feels he has no right to give gifts out of the wealth that is not his in any sense. It is this great humility which is misunderstood by the multitude as something resembling the pride of aristocracy and the dark ignorance of the dualistic consciousness.”
We, the Sikhs, move forward together and as such we also fall together. It is for our own personal and, therefore, for our collective benefit to feel loving responsibility toward the panth and an expression of this love is the practice of dasvand.
Logistically speaking, practicing [and hopefully, with enough practice, embodying] dasvand couldn’t be easier, given initiatives such as that of the Dasvandh Network (“DVN“).
Not only does DVN make fulfilling our panthic responsibility of dasvand convenient, it also exposes us to many wonderful projects being led by organizations and individuals alike. DVN is an online giving platform focused on rekindling the spirit of dasvand within our community.
It hopes to achieve this rekindling by: providing an online platform aimed at exposing the community to the amazing work being done on the Guru’s behalf, inspiring other activists, and starting educational programs in Khalsa/Punjabi Schools around the country (www.dasvandhboxes.org), as well as speaking events at gurduaras, retreats and camps.
Through their crowdfunding platform, they provide a unique means for Sikh donors and causes to connect. They charge no administrative fees, consistent with their firm beliefs in the Guru’s message of selflessly serving the panth.
Personally, my family and I had thought that we had the discipline down pat and had it simplified: we have a special “Dasvandh Savings Account” in the bank and it automatically collects 10% of our earnings; it’s an account we do not take out of for personal use or finances, nor do we look at it as a personal asset.
This, we thought was an efficient and automatic way to incorporate the discipline within our life.
But DVN is making things even easier.
Now we actually have a platform to connect and contribute to the causes that are near and dear to us in an easy and user friendly way. DVN is a worthy cause in itself and is an enabler of other worthy causes delivering panth ki jeet and extending to sarbat da bhalla!
I dream of the day when our august institutions and disciplines are back on track. They remain with us through our association with gurbani, our rehat and stories of our ancestors. If we strengthen our association with these, our children will surely transform into progeny.
saaddi sikhi kesan suasaa(n) naal nibhe
“May our Sikhi be sustained by each breath and each strand of unshorn hair…”
[The author is a technology professional working for a multinational technology firm as its Director of Solutions. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the Sikh Research Institute, the Board of Advisors of the Sikh Coalition, and a member of the Energy Conservation Commission for the Town of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, USA.]