As Sikh Dharma has re-emerged in the Western Hemisphere, a tradition has re-awakened among the Khalsa in the West. We have remembered the powerful force of giving one-tenth of our earnings back to the Guru. Siri Singh Sahib Ji told us:
“It is a priority that we must have land. It is a priority that the payments of the land must be made. It is a priority that for our future children there should be a place. It is a priority that we must build something for tomorrow.”
What is the secret of the tenth part? Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master, told his Sikhs one-tenth of the earnings they received did not belong to them but belonged to God. When we give it back to Him, then all of the wealth and prosperity which is ours is revealed to us and is bestowed upon us.
Dasvandh is a pure and simple business with God. The ten-fold return represents our interest and dividends already waiting to be paid to us from the profit sharing pool. To join the “credit union’ and begin collecting our multiple returns, we must contribute our one tenth.
History of Tithing
Sikhs first began bringing offerings to the Guru during the time of Guru Nanak. Guru Amar Das started the formal tradition of serving lungar when he called upon his Sikhs to bring a portion of their crops and earnings to share in the community kitchen. During the time of Guru Arjun, the Guru’s House fell upon difficult financial times. Guru Arjun’s older brother, Prithi Chand, had performed certain dishonest acts which corrupted the system, and the Guru’s court and lungar began to fall short of cash. Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha became so concerned that they went to Guru Arjun asking what solution could be applied. Guru Arjun knew the Cosmic principle to reverse the trend and multiply their prosperity. He told his dear beloved Sikhs that the problem was simple: they had to collect the tenth part of everyone’s earnings to contribute to the Guru’s Court and the Guruka Lungar. Twenty-two Masands were appointed who went to visit the Sikhs on their farms and in their outlying villages each month, bringing them news of the Guru’s mission and collecting the tenth part of their earnings to build their community bank.
Parkash Singh said in his book The Sikh Gurus and the Temple of Bread:
“The Sikhs were given the realization that their concern was not merely their personal salvation, but being members of a community they also had a large set of duties and responsibilities. The ideal service of this larger context became intimately bound up with the concept of the Sikh Sangat. So the ideal of service for the Sikh ceases to be merely individualistic and involves a sense of corporate responsibility. A corporate sense could only arise if certain obligations were definite and universal so that the character of a corporate liability is evolved.”
Sharing Our Earnings
All Sikhs should share their earnings with others. They should spend one-tenth of their earnings in charity, depositing cash or kind in the common pool. From that pool, multiple returns will spill forth providing wealth and total sustenance to all of its contributors.
In Sikhism, “The Provider” is an often repeated attribute of God, and considered to be an important characteristic of the individual as well as the larger Sikh Body or Khalsa. The manifestation of the great benevolence of the Khalsa pours forth from the individual contributions of each of the Guru’s Sikhs multiplied many fold; and like a fountain, it showers the blessings from the common pool on all of those who open their hearts and arms to receive.
Parkash Singh said: “The Sikh concept of charity or dhan is not merely ‘giving alms.’ It stands for service. The exhortation of dhan was meant to create an economic agency, which through offerings made to the Gurus served to keep the Sikh Lungar alive. Later on, it crystallized into the institution of Das Vandhh and the Gurus established masands for its collection.”
The Siri Singh Sahib told us the principle was true then, as it is true today and will be true tomorrow. He said:
“These things are a priority over today. So far, all of our structure is being maintained, but now we are asking people: ‘Do you need your future?’ Then you give one-tenth for it! It is insurance; it is paying the premium, it is a participation in your own future. Because it is a law of the Universe that one-tenth of your income you must dedicate to God, to God’s work. This law is not made by me. It is a law from the time immemorial. If you say that you can’t do it, it is because you don’t have the endurance to do it. You don’t have the continuity to do it. You don’t have the values to do it.”
He also told us that people will look to us as their teachers and leaders in the world we are building for tomorrow. As Ministers we are teachers. We must give ourselves as an example and everyone must understand that they should give one-tenth because we are giving our all. But we as the leaders and Ministers have to give people the assurance first.
Now is the time for Sikhs to heed the call and share in the tradition that has brought us where we are today. It begins with a faith and an intuition about the reality of our own consciousness.