How to Choose Your Sangat

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Over the last three years, the Sikh community has taught me a lot about interacting with people. One of those things is to be careful who you associate yourself with, who you talk to, and who you invest your energy into. That all being said, 

Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to find the right Sangat.

Do they cater to you/are they welcoming? 

For example, I can only attend a Gurdwara, where I know that 1) there is English implemented somewhere 2) I feel comfortable enough to talk to people and 3) the Gurdwara is involved in doing seva in the local community. If a Gurdwara doesn't meet any of those three criteria, I know that that's probably not the right one for me. 

And you might be a person who needs group meditation and chanting. If you know that's what you need and they don't have it, then that might not be the right community for you. But also, I wouldn't move on so fast, because you never know. The Gurdwara might let you start a meditation group or a book club. 

Lastly, look around in the darbar hall during services. Do you only see one type of people? That might be a red flag (but then again, it's only a flag).

Can you see yourself growing spiritually? 

This is a big one for me. Because for me, it's important that I see myself grow into a better person who is living a more ethical and authentic lifestyle. If I'm going to my local Gurdwara every day and feel like I haven't learned anything or felt lead to be a better person, than that's a problem in my eyes. The same way that if one of your aims in life is to become more selfless, but it feels like the people around you are leading you in the opposite direction, you might want to find a different Sangat. 

Do they like you for you? 

Can you be yourself around these group of people? One thing that I learned a few months ago is that some people will only like you for one aspect of yourself. Meaning, some people could only like you for being a "white" Sikh who wears bana or a "Mexican" Sikh who can read Punjabi. They don't value the whole you (your interests, hobbies, etc.). And unfortunately, most usually don't find that out until after the fact. But ask yourself this question. "If I turned around today and decided to pursue another path, would this person or group of people likely still be around?". If the answer is no, I would strongly reconsider the purpose behind those connections. Because those who understand Sikh philosophy will understand that we are all on our different journeys and that we should love each other regardless of what path we're on. As Guru Nanak said...

"See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis (those trying to connect with the Ultimate Truth); conquer your own mind, and conquer the world." 

Are they narrow-minded?

 Yes, it is okay to hang around with those who have the same beliefs as you. But there is a huge diversity of thought within the Sikh community and there is a huge diversity of thought in our world. If someone refuses to hang with another person or have a respectful dialogue with another because a) they are a part of another group b) they don't follow the same lifestyle as them or c) they don't believe exactly the same way as them, that is a red flag. Remember, at the end of the day, we are all human and have to recognize the spirit of life that resides within one another. Because when we don't do that, that's when tribalism happens. 

And lastly...

Your sangat does not have to be just those who reside within the four walls of a particular Gurdwara. The word Sangat simply means "congregation". In modern terms, this means your posse, your gang, your homeboys/girls, and/or your squad. The people who are a part of your Sangat all don't have to go to the same place of worship as you. One could be from the Nanaksar Gurdwara. One could be from the Singh Sabha Gurdwara. One could be from an Akali Gurdwara. Another could be from the local mosque. Another from a local church. Another from a local humanist society. Another from a local mandir. Another from your job. Another from your gym. Another from a fandom that you're involved in. You get the point. As long as you feel that they are helping you to advance on your path and reach Sat (Truth), you can say that they are your Sangat. Which is one of the reasons why I am now involved in the Unitarian Universalist community. Not only because I feel I can bring my whole self to the community and feel accepted, but because it brings together people from all different types of backgrounds to help you advance toward the Truth or your Truth. 

I hope this article was helpful. Please forgive me for any mistakes made.

The Pure Ones Belong to All, Victory belongs to All as Well

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