On 2018 and What I Learned

2018 (in my opinion) was not a great year for society in general. I know that for my own personal life, I had a lot of up and a lot of downs. But there are a few things that I learned in 2018 that I am grateful to have learned. So let's jump into it, shall we?

Don't Let People Take Advantage of Your Platform

I wouldn't quite call myself a public figure yet....but I'm a public figure. And as a result of that, I attract different people from different cultures across the country and world. Most are decent people who like either reading my blog, looking at my infographics, or just like me in general. But then there are those 10% who see your platform as an opportunity to spout their own ignorant, narrow-minded views or their own brand. I believe in free speech and that every day has a right to say what they believe, but eventually people cross a line. And if you keep letting them cross the line, they will continue to do so. Therefore, there comes a time when you must block them (whether on social media or in real life).


If It Stresses You Out, Get Rid of It

Social media can be stressful. Money problems can be stressful. Taking too many hours in one semester can be stressful. So sometimes the only course of option is to get rid of it. Does social media stress you out? Delete, deactivate, or just go silent on your account. Money is coming in like it use to? Get rid of expenses that are not necessary (no matter how much you find it enjoyable). Enrolled in too many classes or fixing to fail a class? Drop it. And if anyone has a problem with that, no that they aren't the ones being affected by this stress.

Set Boundaries

If someone tells you to stop doing something or saying something, stop. And if they don't stop, find out a considerate way to make them. Earlier this year, I had to almost put a restraining order on a former teacher of mine who is an evangelical Christian and cannot accept the fact that I'm Sikh. After being harassed by her, I warned my mother (who is in her Sunday School class) that it didn't stop, I would take legal action. Well, guess what? It stopped. But that doesn't mean I still don't have classmates from my past (also evangelical Christians) who try to get in contact with me with I presume to be a hidden motive. This fall semester, I had a few former classmates/friends of mine texting me and asking for my address. After the incident with the lady above, I refused to give it to them. One has been consistent though, so I've decided to give her my address back home. So that she can send whatever she wants to send (I don't know what it is since I haven't gone back for holiday yet) without knowing where I actually live.

Exercise and Diet Matters

Eating chips for dinner does not have a good effect on your body (trust me, I know). Nor does drinking a can of soda a day. NOR does not moving your body do any good. It starts to negatively affect you mentally and even spiritually. The good news is though, you can change your habits. Which I have started to do. Please pray that I continue to get rid of my bad habits.

Don't Let Anyone Neglect You

Sometimes as human beings, we pour out too much of ourselves into someone who does not care about us or cares very little. We keep doing it expecting to get the same amount of love, attention, and engagement in return. Which then makes us an easy target to be taken advantage of. So here's my rule of thumb. Put as effort and emotion into a friendship, relationship, or partnership as that person puts into you. And sometimes, it's best to just let a person go. That doesn't mean that they'll always be that way or that they'll never be a part of your life again, but for now, it would be best to just let it be.

You Will Fail

I have taken several "Ls" this year. It is, unfortunately, a part of life. What matters is how you are going to bounce back from them Ls. If you give up, your life is done. Don't give up. And don't keep it inside either. Discuss your failures and concerns with those you trust.

So I hope you found this advice helpful. I would like to thank all of those who have supported me, loved me, and listened to me during this past year. I just pray that I can be an asset for those who have been a real asset to me this year. So let's lift a glass (of juice) to 2019 being a better year than the last. May everyone have a blessed holiday, may we not forget our shaheeds during this month, and may we all have a Happy New Year. Nanak Naam Chardi Kala Tere Bhane Sarbat da Balla!




You Might Be A Sikh If

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

First off, Happy belated Fourth! I would like to bring awareness to our new website, Embracing Sikhism. It is a project between a few sevadars and I to better help introduce people to the Sikh faith. Check it out at the link below. Suggestions (and sevadars) are welcome

Embracing Sikhism

Now, this is meant to be more of a funny piece. I think when most people will read this, they'll completely be able to relate. So let's get into it!

1. You or another family member have kirtan streaming on the living room tv a lot

2. You've ripped through a pair or two of  your kachera

3. You've gone to use to bathroom...but then realize you've tied your kachera too tight

4. You've tied your turban...just to realize you forgot to put your kangha in

5. You're writing or trying to type but your kara constantly keeps hitting the desk

6. You're asked how to pronounce your name (more than once for most of us)

7. You're asked, "What's that thing on your head?"

8. You got a harmonium, tabla, taliyaan, chimta, dhol, etc. at your house

9. You've been mistaken for Muslim (or called Osama)

10. You have a khanda on the back of your car or in your front windshield

11. You drink cha almost on the daily (don’t forget the biscuits!)

12. You have a room solely dedicated to Guru ji or you have a sacred altar like thing

13. You spend $20 or more on shipping to purchase religious items (mostly talking to American Sikhs here)

14. You go over another Sikh’s house and the first thing they want to do is feed you (and don’t you dare reject it)

15. You find kangas just randomly around the house

16. You wake up for Amritvela...just to fall back asleep five minutes later

17. You get hyped every time you see a Sikh person on television

18. Your profession is related to the medical field, business world, police department, military, or politics

19. You’re a poet, artist, musician, singer, or writer

20. People look at your turban...but you can obviously tell they’re afraid to ask questions

21. You can’t just walk into a store and find something related to your faith (which is way easier for other religions)

22. You wonder why we celebrate other holidays more than our own

23. If you were mistaken for a girl as a kid (talking about Keshdhari guys here)

24. Christian missionaries take one look at you and start heading your way

25. You have WhatsApp (on a serious note, I didn’t even know Whatsapp existed until becoming a Sikh).

26. You see another Sikh in public and you get hyped

27. You try looking up shabads during kirtan and literally just Punjabi Artists singing it comes up

28. You tell your non-Sikh friend you got a smagam/nagar kirtan to go to and they’re like “Huhhhh???”

29. Prashad is bae

And lastly...

30. You tell a person you’re SIKH and they say “Oh, I’m so sorry” *facepalm*

So that’s all I can think of for now. Feel free to comment down below stuff I might have missed. I sure there might be a few.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.






How to Celebrate Guru Nanak's Birthday

As many Sikhs already know, Guru Nanak's Gurpurab is coming up November 23rd. It's one of the biggest holidays on the Sikh calendar (if not the biggest). Here are a few ways you can celebrate

1. Go to the Gurdwara

Yes, this is an obvious one but you should really do it. Gurdwaras do different things for Gurpurabs and they celebrate it on different days. But being around that celebratory atmosphere is amazing.

2. Decorate

What is a celebration without decorations? Light candles, put up posters/photos, or whatever you feel like doing. I know a few Sikh families that turn on their holiday lights for the festivities.

3. Learn about Guru Nanak

It doesn't help to touch up on Sikh history. Take one of your books off the shelf and read that chapter on Guru Nanak. You can also watch documentaries, movies, or short clips about him.

4. Listen to Music

There's plenty of shabads speaking on Baba Nanak. Listen to them. There's also plenty of songs about there about Guru Nanak Dev ji. Listen to them.

Anyways, if you have anything else you would like to add to the list, please comment. Otherwise, Happy Gurpurab!


Phrases and Shabads that Sikh Converts Should Know




The Gurmantar

The Gurmantar or "Waheguru" is the most common way you will hear Sikhs describe the One. When you break down the word Waheguru, "Wah(e)" is like wow or wondrous and "Guru" means teacher (or someone who brings you from darkness to light). So the most simple translation of this word is "Wow Enlightenment/Enlightener" while the deepest translation would be "Praise to the One who brings us from Darkness to Light". This is also the most common mantra used to do Simran (which is the remembrance of Ik Oankar).






The Mool Mantar

Next to the Gurmantar, the Mool Mantar is the second most common mantra Sikhs use to become Ik Oankar conscious. It goes...


Ik Oankar

Sat(i) Naam

Karata Purakh

Nirabhau

Niravair

Akaal Moorat

Ajoonee

Saibhan

Gur Prasad

Jap

Aadh Sach

Jugaadh Sach

Hai Bhee Sach

Nanak hosee bhee Sach


For a good understanding of what the Mool Mantar means, watch this playlist by Bhai Satpal Singh:

Nanak Naam (Mool Mantar Interpretation)


These are some of the characteristics of Ik Oankar laid out by Guru Nanak in the very beginning of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib. It is also the first part of Japji Sahib (one of the morning prayers Sikhs are supposed to recite). Now it should be noted that there is a little division between some Sikhs on where exactly the Mool Mantar ends. Some say it goes just to "Gur Prasad", while others say it ends with "Nanak hosee bhee Sach". This is a bunch of silliness and you should come to your own
conclusion. 





Ardas

The Ardas is the formal Sikh prayer that basically opens or closes any Sikh related activity. If there's something you should memorize, it definitely should be the Ardas. I think it is also important to know that the first part of the Ardas was authored by Guru Gobind Singh and is taken out of the Dasam Granth. The rest was added later on.


Here's a link to the full Ardas here:

Ardas (with English Translation)


Common Slogans you will hear Sikhs chant from the Ardas are....

"Degh Tegh Fateh!" - "May the Kitchen and Sword be Victorious"

"Nanak Naam Chardi Kala Tere Bhane Sarbat da Balla" - "Nanak, with Naam comes Chardi Kala and with your blessings, peace for everyone."






Anand Sahib

Anand Sahib is a collection of hymns in Sikhism, written in the Ramkali Raag by Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of the Sikhs. Anand means "happiness" or "bliss". This bani concludes the morning prayers of the Sikhs and also concludes all Gurdwara services (with the exceptions of ones that take place late in the afternoon).







"Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh"

This is the traditional Sikh greeting passed down by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji. It means, "The Khalsa (or Pure Ones) belong to Vaheguru! Victory belongs to Vaheguru as well!" This is also called the "GurFateh".






"Bole so Nihaal! Sat Shri Akaal/Akaaluh!"

Though there can be different versions of the jakara, "Bole so Nihaal! Sat Shri Akaal" is the most common battle cry you will hear in the Sikh community today. It means "One will be blessed/fulfilled who proclaims that the Timeless One is the ultimate Truth". This is also said at the end of every Sikh activity.

I also think that it is important to note here that "Sat Shri Akaal" (or as some say, Sat Shri 'Kaal) is the traditional Punjabi greeting. Besides the GurFateh, this is the second most common greeting you will hear Sikhs say.






"Guru Maneyo Granth"


"Guru Maneyo Granth" (Granth Be Thy Guru) refers to the historic statement of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), shortly before his demise, on affirming the sacred scripture Adi Granth as his successor, thus terminating the line of human Gurus. It is often quoted at the end of the Ardas.

It says: "Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe."

"Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created. All the Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru. Consider the Guru Granth as embodiment of the Gurus. Those who want to discover Ik Oankar, can find It in its hymns. The pure shall rule, and impure will be no more, Those separated will unite and all the devotees shall be saved."

Raj Karega Khalsa is a common slogan you will hear taken from this proclamation. It means "The Khalsa (Pure Ones) will rule!"





"Jithe Jaye Bahe Mera Satguru"



This shabad comes from Ang 450 in the Shri Guru Granth Sahib. This is often recited during Sukhasan (when the Guru is being retired for the day). It says...

jithai jai bahai meraa satiguroo so thaan suhaavaa raam raaje ||
Wherever my True Guru goes and sits, that place is beautiful, O Ik Oankar.

gurasikhee(n) so thaan bhaaliaa lai dhur mukh laavaa ||
The Guru's Sikhs seek out that place; they take the dust and apply it to their faces.

gurasikhaa kee ghaal thai piee jin har naam dhiaavaa ||
The works of the Guru's Sikhs, who meditate on the Naam, are approved.

jin(h) naanak satigur poojiaa tin har pooj karaavaa ||2||
Those who worship the True Guru, O Nanak - the One causes them to be worshipped in turn. ||2||

gurasikhaa man har preet hai har naam har teree raam raaje ||
The Guru's Sikh keeps the Love of the One, and the Naam of the One, in his mind. He loves You, O Ik Onkar, O Oneness."






I hope this was helpful for those transitioning into Sikhi (or even those who are already apart of the Panth). Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!





How to Convert to Sikhism

Photo Credit: Creative Photo Team



Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! This post (is for those who are interested in converting into Sikhism (properly called Sikhi) or those who are just getting started on their spiritual journey. Feel free to use this as a guide, but keep in mind that what I say is not diamond. I am an imperfect person so always look to the Guru for help first. And never do ANYTHING that you feel is not justifiable in your eyes.


How to Officially Convert into Sikhism:


There is no official way to convert into the Sikh faith. In the Islamic faith, a person says the shahada to become a Muslim. In the Christian faith, a person says the sinner's prayer and is baptized. Even in Buddhism, most will take refuge in the three jewels as a way to convert. But this is not the case for Sikhi. According to the SGPC, a Sikh is any being who believes in (1) The Immortal (2) the Ten Gurus (from Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh ji) (3) The Shri Guru Granth Sahib (4) The utterances and teachings of the 10 Gurus and (5) one who believes in the "baptism" bequeathed by the Tenth Guru and owes no allegiance to another religion. If you can say that you believe these 5 things, then congrats! You are automatically considered a Sikh.


Naam Karan:





Many people will want to adopt a new name once they embrace the Sikh faith. This is not required, but for some people (including myself) this ceremony makes a person feel like they are officially apart of the Sikh community. If you want a Sikh name, follow the following steps.

1. Get in contact with the Gurdwara president or someone on the Gurdwara committee. Let them know that you are interested in a naming ceremony. Then negotiate a time and day to do it.

2. Invite friends and family to come and attend. This is not required, but who wants to celebrate this milestone in their life alone?!

3. Arrive at the Gurdwara. For information on what happens during a Naam Karan, click the following link:

https://www.thoughtco.com/before-you-select-sikh-baby-name-2993017


Gurdwara Etiquette:




1. Before going to the Gurdwara, make sure to clean up. This could be as simple as washing your hands, face, feet, etc. or as intricate as taking a full body shower. Either way, make sure you look decent and are clean. Make sure your clothes (whether Western or Eastern style of clothing) are clean and modest as well.

2. Arrive at the Gurdwara with your head covered (either using a bandana, chunni, scarf, or turban). Some choose to pay their respects to the Nishan Sahib. Whether you do that or not is up to you.

3. At some Gurdwaras, you might have to walk through water before you enter. This is done to wash the dirt off of your feet and help keep the Gurdwara clean. Some Gurdwaras might have someone responsible for washing the devotees' feet. Some Gurdwaras have handwashing stations. Whether you utilize them or not is up to you.

4. Remove your shoes and place them in the Jora Ghar (shoe station). But be warned. This area can often get chaotic and shoes often get moved around (or in the absolute worse case, stolen). I suggest you put your shoes somewhere where they are less likely to be bothered.

5. Go inside the Darbar Hall (where Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji is enthroned) and matha tek (bow). Some will also circumnavigate the throne. Whether you do this or not is up to you.

6. You have two options now. You can either sit down (facing the Guru) or head off to the langar hall. For those who haven't had breakfast, lunch, etc., the langar hall usual has some snacks set out to eat.

7. Keep in mind that when you are sitting toward the Guru that it can be considered rude to point your feet towards It. If your legs are starting to cramp or if your butt is going numb, feel free to get up, exit the Darbar Hall, and walk around. Then return to the service.

8. For those who want to do Chaur Sahib seva, get up and wash your hands first. Than kindly walk up to whoever is doing it, ask for the seva, accept the siropa, and commence with the activity. If someone comes up to you and asks for the Chaur Sahib, kindly give it to them, place the siropa on 'em, and matha tek afterward.



9. During Ardas (prayers), stand facing the Guru Granth Sahib with your hands folded. To avoid getting distracted, it is best to do it with your eyes closed.

10. During hukamnamas (readings from the Guru that are randomly selected),  Sikhs are supposed to sit on the ground. Take the hukamnama as daily guidance from the Guru that day.

11. When someone comes around to give you Prashad, cup out both of your hands to accept it. Some Sikhs might refuse to give it to you if you reach out with just one hand.

11. When eating langar, sit down on the floor. This rule can change based on your age or disability. In some Gurdwaras, the signal to start eating is "Bole so Nihaal! Sat Shri Akaaluh!". But that doesn't mean you can't start eating until the jakara. Make sure to not waste food.


Treatment of Gutka Sahibs:


1. A Gutka Sahib is a book containing shabads we are supposed to read daily. If you do not have one, you can acquire one from the Gurdwara for free or by shopping online. OR if you meet the following qualifications, I am willing to ship you a Gutka Sahib.

(A) You come from a non-Sikh background and family (B) You are new to Sikhi (embracing it in the last 2 years)
(C) You are from a non-South Asian background (unless you’re multiracial)

2. It is considered respectful to cover Gutka Sahibs with a Rumalla Sahib. Again, to acquire a rumalla, ask for one from your local Gurdwara or by shopping online. It is also considered respectfully to ordain a special place to place your Gutka Sahibs. Do NOT put it on the floor.

3. When reading from a Gutka Sahib, cover your head. Remember, this is Gurbani you are reading. So the same way you would treat SGGS ji, treat your Gutka Sahib.

4. A pothi stand can help when sitting on the floor and reading from Gutka Sahibs. They can be bought online.

5. To carry around a physical Gutka Sahib with you during the day, put it in its own pouch and carry it around. You can also use a khajana (which can be bought online).


Amrit Vela:




1. Amrit vela is a very important part of a Sikh's life (and one of the hardest to do). During the Amrit vela, we meditate, chant, and do our morning Nitnem. Even though the timing on Amritvela is contested, it is generally accepted among the Sikh community as being between 3 am and 6 am (or 3 hours before dawn).

2. There are several tips for waking up at Amrit vela. Read them below

https://www.sikh24.com/2014/06/10/7-tips-for-becoming-an-amritvela-riser/#.W794_mhKg2w

3. There are a few additional methods you can use to help establish your Amrit vela practice. One is to determine that you will wake up, and the second is to take a bath/shower when you do wake up ( Once that water hits you, you'll become fully alert). And the third is to go to bed on time. This means going to bed around 8:30 to 10 pm.

Following these steps, waking up should become less of a struggle.


Having a Saroop in Your Home:






*
Please Note: Do NOT bring Guru ji into your home unless you know for a fact that you can properly take care of it. If not, I suggest for you to keep volumes of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji. They are given the same treatment as Gutka Sahibs.
1. Make sure you have a room that can be completely dedicated to hosting the Guru. Some even have a bedroom and bed for putting the Guru to sleep (Sukhasan). When the Guru is enthroned again, we call this Prakash.

2. Clean the room.

3. Make sure Guru ji has a proper takht (throne). You should also have a complete set of rumallas to cover the Granth with.

4. You should wash your hands before handling the Shri Guru Granth Sahib. When placing the Guru on top of your head, a clean cloth should be placed between your head covering and the Granth.

5. This area should be seen as a Gurdwara. Therefore, shoes should be removed and your head should be covered. Also, everyone should sit on the floor just like at the Gurdwara.

6. A Chaur Sahib always accompanies the Guru.


Learning How to Play a Traditional Instrument:


For those who want to participate in kirtan, there are several ways you can learn how to play an instrument.

1. Go to the raagis. Raagis have a lot of experience playing their instruments. If they can speak English, don't be afraid to approach them and ask for some lessons. Some might charge, some might give it to you for free

2. Ask members of the sangat to teach you. I find this way to be more personal as well. Lessons are typically more lax and chill this way. Don't be surprised though if you still get charged

3. Check out Indian classical music schools in your area. This is a more professional setting and can be more expensive. But if you have the time and money, go for it! Don't let hesitation hold you back

4. You can also self-teach yourself music. This is the hardest way to learn an instrument, BUT it is possible. There are videos on Youtube you can use to help get you started.

5. Some "western" instruments are allowed to be played in the Gurdwara. Check with your Gurdwara first to see what they allow and what they don't allow.


The Amrit Sanchar





Ever since 1699,  Sikhs have been getting initiated into this army/brotherhood/sisterhood called the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa in order to combat oppression and spread light and truth throughout the whole world. For those Sikhs who want to join the Khalsa, they must go thrown this ceremony called the "Amrit Sanchar".


Video of Amrit Sanchar

Video of Amrit Sanchar (2)


There are certain steps that must be followed during an Amrit Sanchar, but I will not get into that now. What is important to know is that once you receive Amrit, there's a code of conduct (called the Rehat Maryada) and a uniform (called the 5 ks) you must abide by. The rehat maryada changes based on what group you receive Amrit from. For example, if you receive Amrit from the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), you can eat meat but just not ritually sacrificed meat (halal and kosher). BUT if you receive Amrit from AKJ, you must adhere to a vegan diet. But know whoever you take it from, AMRIT IS AMRIT. And is a huge, life-changing commitment. It is recommended that Sikhs practice living the Khalsa lifestyle at least a year before receiving Amrit so that you know you are ready.

10 Officially Recognized Mainstream Sects in Sikhi


Integrating Yourself into the Sikh Community:


For people coming into Sikhi, finding the right Sangat for them can be challenging but definitely not impossible. Here are some few tips to help you meet people within the Sikh community


1. Go to the Gurdwara

Most people at the Gurdwara tend to be standoffish. That doesn't mean though that that is the case for everyone. There are some Sikhs (especially converts) that will approach you and offer you assistance. Don't be afraid to be honest about your desire to join the community. They will be more than willing to help. If one Gurdwara doesn't work out, go to the next one.

2. Join Sikh Organizations

Depending on where you live, there might be Sikh organizations. Don't be afraid to reach out to them. They should be happy to help. If you end up not liking one, join another one. Or better yet, start your own.

3.  Use the Internet

The internet is a good way to get into touch with Sikhs. Facebook is one of the main social media platforms that Sikhs use to keep in contact with each other. But be warned! Do not friend/follow any Sikh person without first having a discussion with them or checking their page out. There's a lot of creepy people out there.

Links to some helpful websites will be below:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sikhconverts/

https://mysimran.info/simran-in-your-city/

https://www.sikhcoalition.org/get-involved/volunteer/

https://www.unitedsikhs.org/short_form/join.php

https://www.jakara.org/volunteer


Doing Seva: 


Want to do seva at the Gurdwara? There's plenty of ways to! Just watch the video below

Types of Seva at the Gurdwara


Memorizing Nitnem:




There are two ways that help people memorize Nitnem. The first is to recite Nitnem every day. Doing this over and over again, you'll eventually just start naturally memorizing things. But for some people (like me), this doesn't work. So instead, we memorize pauri by pauri.

Here is a book and cd by Snatam Kaur to help those who want to memorize Japji Sahib

Meditation of the Soul (Book and 2 CDs)

Another link to help people memorize Japji Sahib

Japji Sahib Playlist


Memorizing Gurmukhi:





There are multiple ways to learn Gurmukhi. The first one is to reach out to someone in your Sangat for help. Either that or join a Gurmukhi class. The second is to use flashcards. And the third way is to watch Youtube videos. Links to help you will be down below

Basics of Sikhi Gurmukhi Series

Punjabi Alphabet Video

Learn Sikhi Online

Punjabi Flashcards



That's all I have for now. Feel free to check out the resource tab or to get in contact with us.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!








How the Sikh Community Could Improve (Yes, Even We're Not Perfect)



Authors Note: I originally published this article back in September on my blog, and it received a mostly positive and also somewhat negative reception. Know that this piece is targeted at those who are new to the Sikh faith and explains to them some of the shortcomings of the Sikh community. The reality that Sikhi is perfect, but we are not. Also, for those who are new to the faith, feel free to check out my Youtube channel by clicking the link below. 


Now into the actual article


"Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! I'm up late tonight writing this, so if I sound incoherent during some parts, that's why. But who knows, maybe this is the best time for me to flex my writing muscles. Anyways, let's get straight into it.

Oftentimes as converts, we come into the Sikh community thinking that everything will be 100% perfect and that we have joined the most perfect community on Earth. But after a few weeks of being around our fellow Sikh brothers and sisters, we come to a rude awakening. That is, that this community is farrrrr from being perfect. To some, this revelation can be shocking. For others (including myself), it isn't surprising at all. What are some of the shortcomings we might see within the community? Let's discuss.


1. Sikhs and Their Businesses

I find that there are a lot of successful entrepreneurs and businessmen within the Sikh community. And as a business student, this is inspiring. But not all businesses follow what some Sikhs would consider "Gurmat". Some Sikh owned stores sell alcohol and tobacco. Some Sikh owned restaurants might serve halal or kosher meat. Some Sikhs might even have a marijuana business. To newcomers in the faith, this can be shocking. But we must realize two things: 1) Some Sikhs feel justified to do this since they themselves are not partaking in the act of drinking or smoking and 2) not everyone who claims to be a religion follows it. The same way you have Muslims who eat pork and Jewish people who don't observe the Sabbath (like, at all), there are Sikhs who don't follow all the principles of their religion. But does that mean we should judge them? Absolutely not. Because I can bet a lot of money there are certain things we all should be doing as Sikhs on a daily basis, but we're not. So let's all work on ourselves before trying to work on our neighbor.

2. Gender Inequality 

Update: I've gotten a lot of heat because of this section. Unless you want to have an actual conversation about it, don't message me saying  "Stay in your own role stupid girl!" That makes you look bad. 

Sikhi is a religion that promotes full gender equality. So why is it that women can not sing at Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) or be apart of the Panj Pyare? In the words of Emma Gonzales, "I call BS!". The reason women can not do kirtan at Harmandir Sahib is really stupid and I'm not even going to discuss it here. But I can say with confidence that almost all of the Sikh community agrees that this goes against Sikhi. Even petitions have been started to get rid of this rule. But until the SGPC and the Akal Takht change their minds, all we can do is talk and raise our voices against this injustice. Now, when it comes to the Panj Pyare situation, I know I am walking onto a landmine by discussing it. Basically, from what I've been told, people who don't support women being apart of the Panj Pyare say that "Historically, the Panj Pyare was all men. So we are trying to replicate history." Ok then. If ya'll are really trying to copy history, let's do this. From now on, all the Panj Pyare have to have been born in Northern India. They must either have the names Dhaya, Dharam, Himmat, Mohkam, or Sahib. If you don't qualify, oh well. Sucks for you. Say what now? You think that's dumb? Oh, I thought we were trying to be "historical" remember? Please find a better excuse then to why women can't be Panj Pyare. Thank you.

3. The Gurdwara Setting

I've kind of already touched on this in a previous post or two, but some Gurdwaras can be flat out uninviting to outsiders. I mean most here in Texas are friendly enough, but there's a few that give me really bad vibes. And I honestly feel lucky to have loving Sangat from all over the state of Texas, because some of the nightmare stories I've heard from other converts across the US make me wonder how Sikhs could conduct themselves in such a bad manner. Here's the usual scenario I hear:


New Sikh:


*Goes to Gurdwara thinking it's gonna be such an enlightening and warm experience*


"I can't wait to go to the Gurdwara! Sikhs are so welcoming and loving and blah blah blah."


*Walks in*


*Either everyone stares (not in a good way) or completely ignores the newcomer*


*New Sikh starts to feel uncomfortable and goes and sits down in the Darbar hall*


*Attends the service, but has trouble following along because there are no English translations displayed and nothing is said in English*


*Heads to langar hall afterward*


*Nobody talks to or approaches that person. Sits alone*


*Person goes home devastated. Contemplates whether or not to go back to the Gurdwara*

This is just a basic outline of what I typically hear from those new to the faith. The stories vary though (and not in a good way). This is why I urge all Gurdwara committees, presidents, and Sangats to PLEASE reach out to new attendees. It doesn't take but 5 seconds to say "Hello. We are glad you attended our service today. Please reach out to us if you need any help." That simple.

Drama:

You would think that people coming into the religion would know there's a lot of drama within the community, but surprisingly some don't. And when they discover it, oh man, it can be hard for them to comprehend. You see, they don't understand that there's drama between Gurdwaras, drama between people on the Gurdwara committee, drama between people in that one Sangat, etc. etc. It's a normal thing that occurs. There's drama between the jathebandies (AKJ, Dodra, Sikh Dharma, Taksalis, etc.) and drama within the jathebandies. There's drama on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on all of social media. No matter where you go in this community, you will find drama. My advice to everyone would be DON'T participate in it.


So yeah, that's the blog for this month. Could say more but think this is enough. Thanks to those who recommended I talk about this topic. This one is dedicated to ya'll. Anyways, good night and I'm out 😴

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!"





How to Think Critically (Enough is Enough)

I originally was not going to do a blog post this month. But after getting some of my mojo back, I said to myself, "Might as well update the blog". So here I am lol.

There's something though that I've been needing to get off my chest (actually several things but I'll save those for another day). There are some "bad" patterns that I see in the Sikh community that I saw growing up in the evangelical Christian community. For example, I see a lot of Sikhs just in taking information from preachers, teachers, etc. without ever questioning their validity or the validity of what they're saying. As someone who was at one point was a firm agnostic atheist*, I learned how to have critical thinking skills and how to differentiate the truth from what is false. This, in turn, turned me into a questioning person. For example, if someone claims that XYZ is a sin, I'm not just going to sit there and shake my head like a little kid (no matter how much religious authority that person might have). I'm going to ask questions. "Who said it was a sin? What is your source? How authentic is this source? etc." If they can not answer those questions or become hostile, then I'm going to become highly suspicious. I find this happens a lot with sakhis. A person will post or tell me a sakhi and I will ask them where it comes from. I find that most people do not know and are just parroting what another person has told them. This does NOT mean the sakhi isn't true. It just means that I don't have a reason yet to believe it actually occurred.

Anyways, for the entirety of my spiritual journey, I've been told by others what to believe. Since this was an entirely new faith to me, I needed guidance where ever I could get it. Sometimes that guidance conflicted with someone else's guidance, but none the least, I accepted it.* Now I think that enough is enough. I think it's time for me to stand on my own two feet, do my own research,  and have my own opinions on things. Heck, I already have some (but a few are too controversial to put out there and I don't like drama). I encourage others in the Sangat to not be spoon fed ideas*, but instead go out there and learn for yourself.  It is important to challenge your own beliefs to figure out what is true and what is not true.

Forgive me for my mistakes and if I triggered anyone.....get over it lol. But seriously, this is not targeted at a particular person or persons. I use this blog to write down my thoughts as they come and go. And this obviously doesn't apply to everyone. I hope that everyone is enjoying their summer and that ya'll are staying cool and hydrated.

GurFateh Ji,
Gurpreet Kaur

*Just because someone has never been agnostic, atheist, etc., does not mean they do not have critical thinking skills

*For example, Simran. I have been told how to do Simran probably 10 different ways. And they tend to follow it up with, "This is the only correct way to do it. Everyone else is wrong." First of all, the goal of Simran is to remember God and dispel ego. Last time I checked, I don't think the vast Oneness (which you are already apart of) cares about how you do it. As long as you're doing it with loving devotion, you’ll reach a state of Egoless-Conciousness. Second of all, if you keep doing the same thing, you're going to keep getting the same results. If one method of Simran does not work for you, do not keep forcing yourself to do it. Do what connects you to Waheguru

*There's a difference between being spoon fed information and learning the basics of a religion. Of course you need someone to help you set the foundation. But once you have the necessary tools and training, I wouldn't depend on others to build your own house.

The Struggles of Non-Punjabi Sikhs

Just a forewarning. First of all, I know there are Indian Sikhs who aren't Punjabi. But when I say "Non-Punjabi Sikhs", in this case, I am referring to white, black, Asian, etc. Sikhs. So there's that. Second of all, some of ya'll Punjabi Sikhs will be able to relate to some of the things I say. So it's great that we can all come together and relate to the struggle somehow lol.

Oh, and this might be long. But bless my hard work by reading it anyway. And as always, excuse me for incorrect grammar. Thank you ji πŸ™

The STARES:

Have you ever been the only white/Indian/black person in a room? Feels awkward, doesn't it? You know what doesn't help? When half the room decides to stare at you for a very uncomfortable amount of time. Ok, not half the room but a handful of people in the Sangat. I know I'm black. You don't need to remind me of this lol. But to be fair, how many times in your life will you have met a black Sikh? So that's excuses you....for now. And to my convert Sikhs, if you hang around Sangat for enough time, the stares will stop eventually. So just endure it for now.

Language Barrier:

Now, I already made a blog post about this so I'm not going to go in depth. But I'm going to make a bold claim here. If Gurdwaras don't start integrating other languages into their services, Sikhi is going to start disappearing generation by generation. Now, I already hear some of y'all. "Learn Punjabi Gurpreet!" Yeah, sure. But what am I (and other converts) going to do in the meantime? Learning a language takes time.

Different Cuisine:

Before I became a Sikh, I had zero experience with Indian food. So when I converted and started eating Indian food, let me just say it was a rollercoaster ride. My taste buds were in agreement with the new food, but my stomach....yeah, it wasn't. This resulted in frequent trips to the bathroom lol. Now, I crave for Indian food. Like Maggi and pakoraπŸ‘Œ

Different Style of Clothing:

Growing up, I've always been a shirt and jeans person. I mean, it's normal to wear jeans and a t-shirt here. But not in a Gurdwara πŸ˜‚ Literally almost all the ladies are dressed in traditional Punjabi suits. I don't own any personally, but I enjoy dressing up in them. That doesn't mean though I'm going to give up my jeans and t-shirt. I don't care how much the aunties talk (LOL), it's what I'm most comfortable in. That's probably another reason why a few people might stare. Plus, have you seen how expensive it is to buy suits? Like, danggggg

Sangat:

We would love to think that all Gurdwaras are places of welcome and love. But there are some Sangats out there who are flat out mean, exclusive, and racist/casteist. I've heard multiple stories from several Sikh converts who have gone to Gurdwaras and been flat out ignored, rejected, discriminated against, etc. As Sikhs, we are supposed to be nirvair (without hate). What picture does that paint of Sikhs when they behave in this way? I've been to a few Gurdwaras and been ignored. It is not a good feeling. It drives people away from Sikhi, Sikhs, and must importantly, our Guru. Also, I've had experiences where it's time to receive Prashad in a sangat (not the one I'm attending now), and the guy handing out prashad pretends like I'm not even there and acts like he's going to skip me. Like, you can tell when it's done intentionally versus when it's accidental. And since prashad is one of my favorite foods, that is an automatic way to get on my dislike list. So I make a benti to the Sangat. Please, PLEASE say hi if you see a new person in your sangat, and ask them how they're doing. That could change their whole view on the Gurdwara. Remember, a lot of us converts are coming into Sikhi without our families, friends, and community in general. We are looking for Sangat, a family who can help us grow.

Learning about Sikhi:

Thank God for the internet, because without it, my knowledge of Sikhi would be comparable smaller to what I know now. There should be some Sikh organization here in the US catered toward helping converts learn about this religion (sort of like Basics of Sikhi). Heck, I am an aspiring entrepreneur so might just go ahead and do it myself. So, anybody willing to invest in my project? No? Didn't think so πŸ˜‚

So, I'm going to end this. Hope you were enlightened. As always, if I offended anybody, just know I didn't mean to offend you. I'm just expressing my thoughts, on my laptop, on my blog. I leave you with this funny pic.


Update (7/21/2018): I honestly love this blog post. Now that I've 85% integrated myself into the Sikh community, I can help other converts integrate into it as well. And lol, that lady though.