Initiatives to bring diverse Sikh organisations and gurdwaras around one table are always welcome. They should be supported.
At working level, uniting Sikh diversity becomes practicable only when individual or “jathebandi” aspirations to “lead” are set aside, and real differences recognised and ring-fenced. Not understanding differences under the very large Panthic umbrella will almost certainly delay or even doom initiatives to unite. Whilst it is for jathebandis and ambitious individuals to exercise self-restraint in their desire to “lead” and to impose own interpretation of Sikh tradition, real differences need recognition.
One area is the question of interpreting Guru Granth and Guru Khalsa Panth twin track approach (symbolising piri-miri respectively) in the context of the status of (i.e. “maan-maryada”) of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. The “authority” of Sri Akal Takht Sahib flows from, and is not independent of, mainstream Guru Panth tradition.
Events in recent years have shown that one goal before Khalsa Panth is to ensure that the status of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as the voice of the collective body of Sarbatt Khalsa Panth is not eroded. The global Sikh community has seen divisions arising from the manner in which directives have been issued from this highest of Sikh institutions entrusted with the interpretation of Gurbani and Gurmat. The 18th Century mechanism of Sarbatt Khalsa has been eroded or even lost due partly to practical reasons as the Panth has expanded; and, also due to outside political ambition to control the Sikh decision making process. Whatever the real reasons, a large section of the global Sikh community is keen to see restoration of the maan-maryda of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as the voice of the Khalsa Panth when interpreting Gurbani guidance from which flows Sikh miri-piri (temporal- spiritual)whole-life tradition.
In the meantime, initiatives to unite Sikh organisations of different persuasions need to recognise the real differences and divisions which exist due to confusion about tracing the real “authority” behind the institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, to the collective will of Khalsa Panth. Open recognition of this problem will lead to a practicable approach to unity on other real issues which face us in the UK, in Europe and globally.
Longer term Sikh solution to the decision making process at Sri Akal Takht Sahib may be provided by internet and information technology e.g. through cyber forums supported by panels of Gursikh scholars.
However, in any healthy and diverse community such as the Sikhs, complete agreement on all ideological issues may not be possible and that should be accepted from the outset.