by SS Dr. Sat Kaur Khalsa, Secretary of Religion
2021 (Third Quarter)
It started with a phone call from Satsimran Kaur in early January 2004. She told me that the Siri Singh Sahib’s health was failing and it was time to start preparing for his passing. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Yes, I knew this was inevitable at some point. I just wasn’t quite prepared for it to be real yet.
She explained that a small group (called the “transition team”) had started to meet. The group was asking for Ministers to serve the sangat at the time of his passing by communicating the news and helping to provide the necessary emotional support.
The transition team was more focused on the public—logistical details, the memorial service, and communication with the world at large. I agreed that the Ministers could play an integral and crucial role in helping the sangat to handle the grief surrounding the Siri Singh Sahib’s death.
Much of my work as Secretary of Religion takes place quietly behind the scenes, where I focus on supporting Ministers so that they can serve to the best of their abilities. At that critical time in our history, for most of us, there was great innocence, devotion, and reverence for our teacher. His passing would evoke much grief.
I met with our Assistant Secretary of Religion, Dr. Shanti Shanti Kaur. We realized that a lot of what we would deal with in our communities after the Siri Singh Sahib’s passing would depend on the initial message and the delivery of that message. We shared that information with the transition team as well.
It was clear that we needed a resource group of Ministers in our global communities who could convey the message. This was not the kind of news to deliver via e-mail. It needed to be a human voice by phone or in person. We generated a small list of people who could serve in this capacity.
We helped craft the initial message and made sure it also included suggestions for how to support people immediately upon receipt of the news, as well as later on.
The handful of Ministers we had selected had the ideal qualities for delivering the message and supporting members of their sangats around the world. We also recognized the need for a more in-depth understanding of the grief and recovery process.
Grief and Recovery
In order for Ministers to serve the unique needs of our spiritual community, we sought to craft information about the grief process that would incorporate some of our dharmic and yogic technologies in addition to traditional grief teachings. What was born out of this need was that Dr. Shanti Shanti Kaur and I developed a handout and training module entitled: In a Yogic Model, Grief is the Integration of Change.
We determined that the best way to convey the depth of information in this training would be to create a DVD of an actual workshop. We recruited a handful of Ministers to participate in an in-person training, which we filmed. A new Minister in Espanola, SS Sarb Nam Kaur, served as our video photographer. We sent the DVDs out to the Minister volunteers who agreed to serve as point persons in their geographic area.
(Author note: We are currently considering editing the DVD of the grief workshop and making it available as a resource for Ministers on our website.)
Upon reflection, I realize that our current Regional Minister Coordinator infrastructure is an outgrowth of the work done to support Ministers and our sangats at the time of the Siri Singh Sahib’s transition.
Again, these are grassroots, volunteer Ministers who are willing to be the point persons for communication and building a sense of community among Ministers in their geographic area.
I so appreciate the work of these individuals and meet with them multiple times a year so that they can better serve the Ministers in their area and members of their sangat.
The Siri Singh Sahib’s passing was a huge event in the decade of 2000 to 2010 that dramatically changed how we operated as a community. It was an essential and painful piece of our history. He brought us to the feet of the Guru. That is our blessing. I trust the Guru will carry us unto infinity.
Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji ki Fateh!
About the Author
SS Dr. Sat Kaur Khalsa has been serving as Secretary of Religion for Sikh Dharma International since 1991. Dr. Sat Kaur is a long-time member of the International Khalsa Council and the Khalsa Council Executive Committee. She also serves as a liaison between the Office of the Sikh Dharma Secretary General and the Office of the Bhai Sahiba and is an Officer of the Sikh Dharma International Board. Dr. Sat Kaur maintains a full-time psychotherapy private practice in Santa Monica, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She counsels individuals, couples, and families to support their personal and spiritual growth. She is a published author.