Saturday, November 9, 2019

I Have No Faith (An Update)


(That face you make when life decides it wants to become overcomplicated all at once)


Well, well, well. Where do I even start? Over the last two weeks (feels like months), I have been figuring myself out. Documenting my thoughts, feelings, and realizations while trying to sort things academically and spiritually. It hasn't been easy, but here are a few conclusions I have come to and decisions I have made.


I Do Have Faith...But Not In What You Might Expect

In the previous article, I stated that I had no faith in anything inside of myself or outside of myself. Turns out, I actually do. As for inside of myself, I have faith in...

- My ability to plan and get stuff crossed off my to-do list
- My ability to travel solo
- My writing skills (or influence behind my writing)
- My critical thinking skills

As for outside of myself, I have faith in...

- The power of weapons
- My parents (for the most part)
- The power of being an upstander and how it can change the world if we stop being bystanders
- Those who serve to protect us every day
- The mission/purpose of the Khalsa (to fight for justice and for the freedom of mind and body)
- What the Gurdwara is SUPPOSED to be (a place for temporary refuge, the education of people of all ages, langar (for those who NEED it), etc.
- Humanist values

If you haven't noticed by now, God and Guru are nowhere on either of these lists. Because I have to be honest with myself and say as of RIGHT NOW I have no faith in these things. That doesn't mean it's not subject to change, or that I've made a decision, but it is what it is. And keep in mind that I'm still figuring things out. So both of these lists are bound to get longer as time goes on.


Decisions I Have Made

1. No More Being a Religious Social Media Influencer

I have come to the conclusion that some of us "influencers" use social media to act like something we aren't or want to be. Some of us use social media to make up for our spirituality that ain't there. Not only is it inauthentic, but I believe it's unhealthy at the end of the day. Therefore, I won't be discussing Sikhi on my personal social media anymore (except for special occasions). Heck, I already started this like a week back. I'm restricting it to just our Facebook page, the Youtube Channel, and Sikhnet. And even then, I really won't be doing anything big for a while. I'm still trying to figure out who I am.


2. I'm Reading for Me

Let me tell ya'll something. When I first came into Sikhi, I recited nothing in Gurmukhi. Because 1) I wasn't dealing with the Sikh community yet so I didn't think there would be an issue and 2) that's how I preferred to do it. This changed when I started messin' with Punjabi Sikhs. "Nitnem must be recited in Gurmukhi" is the message I got from those around me and those online. And because of the constant pressure, I caved in. I started reciting Nitnem in Gurmukhi, and 2 years later, I quit doing my nitnem. Why? Because unlike most people, I value UNDERSTANDING over pronunciation and accuracy. Because let's be real, even those who "understand" what they are reciting don't TRULY understand what they are reciting. Recitation has become a ritual to them, and they aren't grasping what they're saying. They don't grasp the fact that "the True One Itself is All". They're too busy trying to make sure they can get all 5 Banis done. So that gives me two choices: (a) reciting the Banis in English and understanding or (b) pleasing others and being worried about pronunciation the whole time. Hmmm. I choose the first.

But let's forget about Nitnem for a second. I have been reading the scriptures of other religions as of late and adding them to my personal library. Actually, yesterday I went to my local Half Price Books store in search of books we've read in my History of Religions of Asia class (The Sutras, the Vedas, etc.) and I bought one book containing Buddhist scripture. Unfortunately, I didn't find much else but was shocked to find that someone had dumped a bunch of Sikh books there. And let me tell you, Half Price Books almost NEVER has books about Sikhism. I picked up a few and came to the conclusion that whoever owned it must have been someone who is/was a yogi because some were by SDI (Sikh Dharma International).

(My Personal Library)

But back on topic, I am currently reading the Book of Mormon and penning down own my honest analysis of it. Don't ask me why I choose that book, but if I release my analysis in the future, hopefully the LDS won't decide to do a drive-by on me 😂 Next on my list is either the Quran or the Analects. Most likely will be the Analects if my Quran doesn't come in soon.

"Um, yeah. That sounds fun and all but why are you doing this?" Because you can't put Truth in a box. And if you say that truth only lays within your religion, then you need to take off the blindfold and break out of your bubble. Because you're wrong. Truth lives in religion and outside of religion. On the flipside, falsehood lives within religion and outside of religion. It's up to you at the end of the day to use your critical thinking and decide what's true and what's false. End of story.


3. No More Dressup

It's time to hang up the bana. Yeah, I know. I look good in blue. But hear me out. I don't want to give others an impression of something I'm not. Nor do I want to be like most people who look ultra-religious (righteous on the outside but angry, hateful, greedy and lustful on the inside). So, no more of that. Time for me to look like me.


4. No More Gurdwara

😱 < Some of ya'lls faces when ya'll just read that line

With the exception of Guru Nanak's birthday (and other special occasions I might be invited to), I won't be going to the Gurdwara anymore. Frankly, attending the UU congregation has done more for me spiritually this entire month than what the Gurdwara has done for me the entire YEAR. On top of that, there's no role I play in the Gurdwara so there's nothing to hold me down there.

But I will say one thing. The other day I came to the realization that whether I decide to remain Sikh or not, I can still visit the Gurdwara and be who I am. No one is going to be preaching at me that I need to believe the things they believe and or else I'm doomed. Everybody will just be chill, and talk about the Oneness, and all that jazz. It's the complete opposite at most Christian churches (which is why you won't see me at one).


5. This Website is Going Nowhere

This website is going nowhere (no matter what happens to me spiritually). I could become 100% atheist and still have this site up. Why? There is a desperate need regarding resources for non-Punjabi/Convert Sikhs. And this website has helped a lot of people. Any way I can be of service to people I will.

Edit: Oh yeah. And Kaur Supremacy DEFINITELY ain’t goin’ no where. Got to keep y’all Singhs in check


Conclusion


You might be wondering after reading all this what exactly is keeping me from letting go off my Sikh identity. Well, there's a few things, but I won't disclose what they are. This is a private journey, something I need to work out myself. That doesn't mean though I want to keep those who follow me or are around me completely in the dark. Whoever is cool with my decisions, cool. Whoever ain't can hit the door. And honestly, if you've made it this far, you're a real one (unless your my mom or someone who knows her, then move on because there's nothing to see here). But seriously, you really are a real one if you read through the whole thing. So thank you, thank you, thank you.















Saturday, October 26, 2019

I Have No Faith




(Author's Note: I recently had to lock my twitter account and block several accounts due to some suspicions I have. All I'll say is Mom - or Mom's informant - if you're reading this, I'm gonna ask you nicely to please stay away from my social media and my online stuff in general. Thank you. If you're not my mom, keep scrolling.)


Authenticity. Something that folks love to talk about but very few people have. Me? Ha! I wouldn't say that I am fully authentic. Well, at least not up until this past week.

You see, more than a week ago I had a breakdown as a result of three things: my mental health, my academics, and a crisis of faith (which is what I will be focusing on in this post). I have been struggling with all three areas since around the month of August, and instead of dealing with these things head-on, I let everything boil up inside of me (which eventually leading to an explosion). At that moment, I began to wrestle back and forward with two options that were stuck in my head. Either 1) run away from everything and everybody or 2) just end it all. The last time I remember feeling this much in the dark was when I actually attempted suicide years ago.

I found myself alone and needed someone to reach out to me. (And Isn't it funny how when you NEED someone to reach out to you, that's when no one does or seems to notice something's off?). So finally, an Uncle in SA did. He was seeing if I and another friend of mine were going to be at the Gurdwara Sunday for a special program. I said no and that I'm suffering a lot mentally. He then said I should reach out to Aunty ji (his wife) and tell her what's going on.

And boy, did I. I told her everything (and I mean absolutely everything). Stuff I had told no one. All the foolishness  I had been dealing with this past year, all my doubts regarding school and religion, and all my feelings in regard to how I felt about certain areas of my life overall.  I won't go into detail about what happened after that or what specifically we discussed, but I definitely can say getting everything off my chest felt like a huge relief.

Then that Sunday, I felt like I should visit my local UU church. I had visited a UU church before for an interfaith event, but this time, I would be going to find some answers to the questions I was struggling with. 

For those who don't know, a Unitarian Universalist church is NOT a Christian church. It is a congregation that promotes these 7 principles:

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are apart.

And what I love about UU churches, is that the congregation is composed of people from all walks of life. You got your liberal Christians, your Buddhists, your "spiritual not religious" people, your Jews, your Agnostics/Atheists, etc. What is preached in the pulpit is drawn from a variety of sources. 

Well, the sermon for that Sunday was "faith". As a former Agnostic (maybe even current), I hate the word faith. It literally means "believing something without evidence".  And in my head, it also means "blindly following something". And even though Sikhi is supposed to be more of an "experience" then a "faith", I haven't experienced anything. And for those who have, great! But it's your reality, not mine. Same way if a Christian comes up to me and claims to have been healed by Jesus. I'm not going to say "You're lying". I'm just going to acknowledge that that is their reality, not mine. And I can only base my own beliefs on my own experiences.

So back to the minister.  As he started out his sermon, the first thing he did was talk about the definition of faith as described in the book of Hebrews (that's a book of the Bible for ya'll who don't know). The verse in Hebrews basically explains the meaning of faith (which is almost identical to how I described it). But then he went on to talk about how faith can be also described as "trust" (a word I can vibe with). We trust that our plane is going to get us to our destination, even though we don't know how the plane works and we can't look into the future. We also trust in our "sixth sense". If a situation doesn't feel right and something is saying "leave", we leave. 

Furthermore, he said that there are two types of faiths that people have: faith in something inside of themselves and faith in something outside of themselves. In order to figure out what our "faith" is, we must sit down, go inwards, and even though it might be painful, be honest with ourselves about what "faith" matches up with our own ideals. 

After sitting down and having tea and donuts with the congregants after service, I left that church realizing two things. 

1. I really do not have faith in anything inside myself 

and 

2. I definitely did not have 100 % faith in anything outside of myself (whether it's humanity as a whole or God)


"Maybe I'm not a Sikh. Maybe I really don't believe in this stuff. And maybe .... Sikhi is wrong? Ugh, I didn't have to deal with these questions when I was an Agnostic."


(Author's Note: I realize that there are secular Sikhs. And that's cool and all, but let's be honest here. Almost all secular Sikhs still identify as Sikh because of the cultural ties they have to the community and the fact that their family history revolves around Sikhs and Sikhism. The same can be said for secular Jews. I, on the other hand, do not have that. Ain't no way I could be secular and Sikh at the same time.)


And since I'm being honest here, I also realized while walking out of that church that the only thing keeping me attached to this path are all the things I've accomplished in the span of three years as a Sikh (this website, my Youtube channel, my book, the interviews, my infographics, receiving Amrit, being in the Panj, the community I've built up around me, etc.). I know if that I were to let this path go, all three years of hard work, networking, hustling, and writing would go down the drain. It would also mean that all the money I spent on Sikh related stuff (probably $1000+ if you total it) would mean nothing. And all the hassle getting my IDs updated to match my outward appearance would be a waste. I would just be another statistic. Another black Sikh who left the fold after being fed up with the way things were going.

But hey, I've also fallen this year. I went from doing paath to doing no paath. From being unselfish to being selfish. From doing simran to doing little to no simran. And worse of all, falling out of love with the Guru. With these things combined altogether, there are times where I'm reallyyy strongly tempted to break my amrit but don't out of fear. I know for a fact there multiple contributors to all five of these things, but that would take a whole nother page to write about.

Tbh, I believe this is what happens when you don't appropriately balance religion with other areas of your life. I didn't make time to check in on myself properly because of being so wrapped up in religion sometimes. Sure, we can dedicate our daily lives to sticking to all the rules, but the moment we fall, we fall HARD. Especially if you're playing like something you're not. And frankly, I'm tired of my religious identity being at the forefront when interacting with other people. I would love to talk about things other than Sikhi on my Twitter timeline and other social media platforms. But (and this is partly my fault), most of the people who follow me only are interested in the Sikh side of me or my Sikh posts. If I were to drop my Sikh identity, over 75% of my followers would probably be gone. Forget that I have other interests and that I have opinions on stuff not regarding religion.


That being said, until I get my sht together and figure myself out, you won't be seeing me post about Sikhi or going to the Gurdwara or just doing anything Sikh in general. I'm just gonna do me. Because at the end of the day, that's all I can be. If you stick around, great. If you like me for who I am, great.  If you think I'm the biggest manmukh on the face of the planet, you're probably right. And for those few Sikhs who think I'm just doing this for attention (or are secretly happy that I'm going through this) excuse me while I give you the bird.

This is my reality and my truth. Am I a Sikh? The honest answer is "I don't know". And I'm gonna have to be comfortable with that answer for now until something changes it otherwise. That being said, if you reached the end of this article, let me just say that you're a real one. But also, another thing. Solidarity and acceptance are welcome. Advice, preaching, and closemindedness aren't.