by MSS Hari Singh Bird, Winter Park FL
As someone who has been involved with the gurdwara and Solstice security for decades, I would like to address what I see as a general absence of security/soldier consciousness within all Sikh communities around the continent by quoting the Siri Singh Sahib, who said:
“Human is a blend of Saint and Soldier; this is a complete person.
If you are not a Soldier your sainthood will be kicked around.
If you are only a Soldier, not a Saint, you will start kicking others around.”
The Siri Singh Sahib was asked to express his priorities at a Solstice Sadhana gathering in the early ‘70s. His reply was, “Security, Security, Security.” Since the establishment of the Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles until this very day, a sevadar is posted at the door of the gurdwara as ordered by the Siri Singh Sahib. Security has been a priority consideration since the earliest days of 3HO/Sikh Dharma.
While recently speaking with a sangat member regarding the subject of gurdwara security, she mentioned how she thought she would respond to an active shooter event within her community. She said her first instinct would be to physically cover any potential victims with her body as a shield. I advised her that this would be exactly the wrong action to take.
I suggested that she think about the instructions given by airline attendants concerning an in-flight emergency. Passengers are advised to take self-saving actions first by utilizing their oxygen mask on themselves before attempting to assist anybody else.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, in reality, self-preservation must be the first response in order for other potential victims to be protected and defended. Contrary to the unfortunate outcomes of numerous recent horrific events, an active shooter attack is not a situation where potential victims are without recourse.
Training and Security
This is addressed in numerous, simple and surprising ways in a survival training video called Survival Edge, Active Shooter Survival, available at ACTCert.com (ACT stands for Attack Countermeasures Training), which I urge all Sikh Ministers to acquire for viewing and sharing in your respective communities.
The video provides a reality-based, step-by-step training program that covers how to protect yourself and others from extreme violence, including responding to an active shooter, managing workplace violence, improving gurdwara security, becoming better prepared, saving innocent lives and surviving terrorism.
Though the outcome of the active shooter event in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last year was horrific, those murders might have been preventable to some considerable extent. There are specific actions, had they been taken, some even at the time of the attack, that could have possibly mitigated the outcome.
Since the incident, many Sikhs have opined that as unfortunate as it was, it was the will of God and Guru. This is true. But I opine that the event did not just happen in order to happen. It happened with a clear and challenging message to the Sadh Sangat that action is required in the interest of our sacred duty as Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh, i.e., it is a Sikh’s sacred duty to defend the weak and protect the innocent.
A Sacred Duty
My question is, what are we collectively doing in the way of securing our communities in order to meet this challenge, whereby we honor our sacred duty?
My concern is that with the passage of time, the memory of the Oak Creek massacre and other tragedies will fade away. I strongly encourage Sikh Dharma Ministers to act now to meet this ever-present challenge not out of a sense of reactionary fear but with the same attention and fearless dedication as our beloved Siri Singh Sahib.
As a member of the Solstice security team, I am working to help develop programs and awareness and am happy to receive communication from sangat members to discuss this topic.
About the Author
MSS Hari Singh Bird Khalsa has been an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister since 1973. A native of the Midwest, Hari Singh is of American Indian heritage by way of his father and the Cherokee and Modoc nations, a former member of the United States Marine Corps, and a KRI Certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher. Since 1969 he has been a student of Yogi Bhajan, who is the founder of 3HO, the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization and the Master of Kundalini Yoga.