This report aims to understand and explore what it means to give in a Sikh context, how giving is conceptualized and understood through Sikh history, and how it is understood and practiced today.The report analyzes ideas conveyed in the Nam-Dan-Isnan (Identifying-Giving-Cleansing) doctrine from a Gurmat (or Guru’s Way) perspective, as inferred from Bani (wisdom), Tavarikh (history), and Rahit (lifestyle).
The Bani section explores Nam-Dan-Isnan as it is found in primary and secondary texts. The Tavarikh section traces and analyzes conceptions of giving, both charity and philanthropy, from their beginnings with Guru Nanak Sahib through their development, institutionalization, and application through time and context over 553 years — covering the Guru Period, the Khalsa Raj, the Sikh Empire, the Sikhs and the Crown, and the Sikhs and the Indian State. The Rahit section explores present-day understandings and application of Nam-Dan-Isnan doctrine in Sikh institutions and organizations across India and the diaspora. It explores the following questions: How are Sikh organizations spending their money? Is there more of an emphasis on short-term charity or long-term philanthropy and institution-building? What is the relationship between homeland and diaspora in the context of giving?
A global survey, included in the report, was responded to by more than 700 self-identified Sikhs from 23 different countries. Its purpose was to gain insight into Sikh understandings of giving, especially regarding its application in the current realities and needs of the Panth (Sikh collective). The majority of respondents (59%) said that impact and outcomes most inform their perspective on the effectiveness of Sikh nonprofits, followed by public relations and social media, and transparency. The majority of respondents (56%) said that Sikh nonprofits do not do enough to stay accountable to the Panth and expressed a desire to see philanthropic projects that address the long-term needs of the community.
This report makes recommendations based on Gurmat to help individuals and institutions better understand giving within the Nam-Dan-Isnan doctrine. It also provides criteria that individuals and institutions can use to evaluate nonprofit organizations from a Gurmat perspective.