Thursday, March 2, 2006

What is the proper protocol for death in Sikhism?

This post started as a comment at Sikhi Seeker's blog post on Ironic Idealism, but somehow ended up here. Death is one of those things I haven't had to deal with or haven’t had much experience with especially in the Sikh tradition. Growing up, all I remember was the death of my grandmother on dad side. I was like five or six year old. The only thing I remember is that my father and myself driving from Bias near Amritsar where we lived to the village where she lived. Men and women waiting for for my dad in white at the front courtyard of the house, some women in murmuring cries in veils, yet still peaceful. I am watching her covered body from a distance, laying on ice and later just getting busy playing with kids. I don’t remember but I think it was a day or two before the actual funeral. I was not allowed to go to the funeral at shamshan ghat. I wish I had been given the opportunity to learn and take part at Gurudwaras, home when it came to Sikh functions. In a sense, it was a very sheltered life when it came to learning about proper protocol on death or learning Sikhi. All very little I have learned about Sikhi or how to handle death in Sikhi has been learned from just watching things here and there at weddings, Akhand paths, reading and writing essays on Gurus in some schools. Sometime, I wished I had been given the opportunity to learn real Sikh tradition and kind of envy the people that have grown in a more gursikh environment from early on and have learnt how to do kirtan, play tabla, do ardas, perform Akhand paths, sevas at gurudwaras etc. There was not much effort on part of the parents to instill Sikhi. I don't understand, why things were just taken for granted and left for others and schools to teach? Even though I have older brothers and sisters, but I kind of grew up as an only child and they are much older than me and were out of home by the time I was born. From my previous posts, some of you out there may get the idea that I know Sikhi and must know my Banis, the right protocols for Sikh functions and other Sikh things. But in actual life it is totally the opposite and most nerve wrecking for me. Therefore to this day, I dread the thought of dealing with death and religious functions at home or Gurudwara such as Akhand Path because had never had to deal with it in my entire life. What would I do if my father or mother passes away tomorrow? I don't even know what the right protocol would be or what to do? Let us just say that there are good chances I am going to end up having to deal with my parents welfare and I am not counting on much help from other siblings. Would I go to the Gurdwara first and ask someone to help me or would I go to the hospital or call police/sheriff? Where will the bodies be taken and who will be taking them? What are the steps? The thought of this whole process just seems overwhelming to me since I have not had any experience with it at all. It is very sad that some things were just taken for granted and were never taught or allowed to be taught. I wish there was a really good book or a course on “Intro to dealing with death in Sikhism ” that takes you step by step as to what to do, where to go and how to deal? I don’t mean general Sikh protocol but more specifics like do’s and don’ts. I really can use some help here from some people in order to prepare myself for the day (Gurumustuk if you are reading this post out there by chance, I am sure there are thousands like me out there that can use this help!!). I am sorry, if some of the questions seem so simple and dumb on the issue.


Blogger Sikhi Seeker said...

These questions aren't simple and definitely not dumb. I mean we all need to know and for that have to ask someone who knows and can help. I myself was over-sheltered (as u call it) especially over this issue. I remember my parents attending sevreal funerals backhome over my course of growing up. They never took us with them and we never really asked why. All I knew was that the dead body is taken to Shamshan Ghat and burnt there, I assumed mostly in the presence of men (not too sure). For us kids, it was a day of total wreck, being home alone:P and that't that.
Yes, someone who's been through every step on the way can probably help to educate - but the price is high. The one who goes through it, has to deal with those super-sensitive feelings all theough, reliving the hardest time of their lives, to hell educate others. But someone SHOULD do it, methinks. If you know MSingh ji (another Sikh blogger), his father passed away not too long ago. But I think it is brutal to ask to direct others in the right course at a time when wounds are fresh and heart sensitized...

10:07 AM, March 03, 2006  

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