Sunday, December 30, 2018

Common Questions I Get From Sikhs

Before we get started, you can read part one by clicking the link below:

Common Questions I Get From Non-Sikhs and Sikhs

1. What are you studying?

I'm a business major. Next question.

2. Do you eat Indian food?

Now, if I didn't eat Indian food, I would sure have a hard time ever eating langar. Yes, I eat Indian food. Before I became a Sikh? No. It was a whole new experience for me and it took my stomach a few months to adjust. When it comes to eating it, I'm a simple person. Just give me daal, rice, and roti. If want anything else, I'll usually ask.....Dang it! Now I want some parantha.

3. Do you do yoga?

Under this question, I'm going to add others. "Are you apart of 3ho/Sikh Dharma?" "Do you do Kundalini yoga?" "Do you follow Yogi Bhajan?" "Are you from New Mexico?" The answers to all of these are a flat NO. First of all, I'm sort of a Nihangni. Secondly, I personally see yoga as an exercise in order to prepare your body to meditate. All Sikhs should do something to keep your body in shape for meditation. I prefer weightlifting, running/walking, and Zumba (didn't expect that, did ya?). Moral of the story, stop judging people based off of their skin color.

And for those souls who haven't yet, please read my whole conversion story.

My Conversion Story

4. Is your kirpan sharp?

Hell yeah it is! Want me to test it on ya?  LOL. Being serious for a second, what's the point of carrying around a dull kirpan? You might as well not be carrying around a kirpan at all. Could you imagine if the Khalsa back in the day went around carrying one of those unusable ones they usually give out at Amrit Sanchars?! Sikhs wouldn't exist today. I would also like the make the comment that a kirpan doesn't necessarily have to be a "Sikh style" kirpan. Tactical knives work just as well.

5.  Where is your hometown?

Sikh person: Where are you from?

Me: Fort Worth

Sikh person: Huh?

Me:...I'm from near Dallas

Sikh person: OH! You are from Dallas

Me: ....sure 😑

I'm am from Fort Worth! Not Dallas! There is a huge difference.

6. Am I a vegetarian?

This is a complicated question. You see, I believe that if a Sikh is going to eat meat, it should be jhatka meat (which is historically what Sikhs consumed). But since the vast majority of meat in the US comes from the factory (and we all know whats happens there) it can be difficult to find ethically raised/killed meat. On top of that, I'm a college student. My first priority is to keep myself from starving, not really being conscious about what I put into my mouth (unless it's halal).

Now for those of y’all who believe in being vegetarian and vegan, more power to ya. I’m not gonna argue with you or put you down because 1) Guru Nanak said not to be arguing about this topic and 2) everyone has a right to believe what they believe in.

Ok, so that's all I got. Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year! And if you stare at this picture long enough, you will be blessed with one whole year of protection....maybe. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!



Thursday, December 20, 2018

What I Learned in 2018 (and Thank Yous)

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!




Saturday, December 15, 2018

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.






Thursday, November 29, 2018

Stuck Between Two Worlds




Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! Before I get started, I would like to note that everything written here are my own views and opinions and does not reflect anybody elses. Thank you. 

As the title states, I am stuck between two worlds. But first of all, hi! For those who are reading my blog for the first time, my name is Jasmine Morris (or as Sikhs know me, Gurpreet Kaur). I am an Amritdhari Sikh from Texas and you can read more about how I came into Sikhi to the right. Ont top of that, you can also discover how I became a Nihang Singhni in one of my previous blog posts down below. 

Now that we have gotten introductions out the way, we can get back to the topic at hand. So what exactly are the "Two Worlds" that I am stuck between? For me, it's the "mainstream" Sikh community and the Sikh Dharma community. As I hope everyone knows by now, not all non-Punjabi Sikhs are affliated or come to Sikhi through Sikh Dharma (or as some people like to refer to it as, 3HO). The same way there are a few Punjabis who are apart of 3HO. But of course people just find it easier to generalize. 😑

There are some things I've found troubling about both communities. I definitely do not agree with some of the things Sikh Dharma teaches and does. The same way I do not agree with everything "traditional" Sikhs teaches and does. But the segregation of the two communities is bad. Ever since becoming a Sikh, some Sikhs friends I know personally (Punjabi and non-Punjabi) have made it a point to purposely avoid those Sikhs in the white clothes and turbans. And on the flip side of things, I've noticed people who are apart of the Sikh Dharma community who do not interact with people outside of their group. There's valid reasons why people from both sides act this way but I won't expand on that. All I will say is this needs to stop!

I am not saying that ya'll cannot disagree with each other. But I am saying that there needs to be a healthy dialogue  (which, by the way, should not take place on social media). And there needs to be a move for integration so that one side can benefit from the other. Because yes, BOTH sides have some things going good for it that the other side needs. 

From my own personal experience, most (let's say, 90%) of the Sikhs apart of my circle here in Texas are immigrant Sikhs or non-Punjabi Sikhs not affliated to 3ho. The rest are Sikh Dharma. And I can say that disagreement and integration is possible. But of course if we are going to throw rocks and stones at each other like we all are not human, we're in trouble. REMEMBER, REMEMBER, REMEMBER that the SAME LIGHT that is in YOU is also in the person on the other side. Therefore, you should talk to them (whether irl or on social media) like God and Guru is present. 

Now so you might be asking why I choose the picture I did. No, it isn't clickbait lol. But the answer is simple. If people with contrasting views such as Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Yogi Bhajan, and Baba Nihal Singh can be in the same room together at the same time without falling out, the Sikh community can as well. 

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Celebrating 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!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Phrases and Shabads that Sikh Converts Should Know


Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! Title pretty much explains it. So let's get straight into it



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 God" 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 God).



The Mool Mantar


Next to the Gurmantar, the Mool Mantar is the second most common mantra Sikhs use to remember God. 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 God 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 DasamGranth. The rest was added later on.


Here's a link to the full Ardas here:


Ardas (In Punjabi and English)


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 God! Victory belongs to God 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 meet God, can find Him 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 Lord King.


ਗੁਰਸਿਖੀਂ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਭਾਲਿਆ ਲੈ ਧੁਰਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਵਾ ॥
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.


ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਕੀ ਘਾਲ ਥਾਇ ਪਈ ਜਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵਾ ॥
gurasikhaa kee ghaal thai piee jin har naam dhiaavaa ||
The works of the Guru's Sikhs, who meditate on the Lord's Name, are approved.


ਜਿਨ੍ਹ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਜਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਜ ਕਰਾਵਾ ॥੨॥
jin(h) naanak satigur poojiaa tin har pooj karaavaa ||2||
Those who worship the True Guru, O Nanak - the Lord causes them to be worshipped in turn. ||2||


ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਮਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਹੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ ਹਰਿ ਤੇਰੀ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥
gurasikhaa man har preet hai har naam har teree raam raaje ||
The Guru's Sikh keeps the Love of the Lord, and the Name of the Lord, in his mind. He loves You, O Lord, O Lord King."






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!





Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I Do Not Know What I Want to Do With My Life

The title says it all. I'm am really being vulnerable admitting it but it is true. For those who don't know me in real life, here is some information about myself.

Background Information: 
I currently attend the University of Texas at Austin and am a student at one of the top business schools in the country (in regards to the undergraduate level). I am a sophomore and almost have enough credits to be a junior (thanks to AP and dual credit). Everybody who attends UT is intelligent but I'm at the lower end of the spectrum when comparing myself to my peers (basically, don't expect for me to have a 4.0 GPA). No where near that actually. Everything else you want to know about me is on my LinkedIn (yes this is a plug)

My LinkedIn

Continuing what I was saying.....

I know for a fact what things I'm passionate about, and numbers are not one of them (so all ya'll accounting and finance majors can keep that).  I know that whatever I do in the future, I want to be helping people and using my business education to aid with that. So basically, working with social enterprises (not-for-profit, for-profit, etc.) to help bring some good in the world. Honestly, if I could I would just drop out of school and devote all my energy into the Panth and interfaith work (but as my mom would say, that's not gonna bring you any money in and that I could forget that idea).  But I really am kind of fed up with school and I really do think that the modern higher education system is a scam. But I got to do something (plus my parents would be angry if I didn't go).  And this semester.....oh boi. If on a scale of 1-10 you asked me how much I study I would say.......a 2. If it's not something I'm not passionate about *cough cough* accounting *cough* I won't study. No matter how much I yell at myself that I need to study, my mind says no. And on top of that, ever since the semester started I physically feel drained. I would describe it as depression but without being mentally depressed. Some of my grades have suffered but I really don't care anymore. But tbh, I probably will care a whole lot when finals roll around 😕

But back on topic, I don't know what I want to do with my life. Most of my classmates are recruiting for the Big Four and Fortune 500 companies, but I'm not about that life. I don't want a lot of money, just enough to pay the mortgage and take care of my kids. I don't know, maybe this all stems from the fact that I'm living off campus this year (which means more likely to slack off). Or maybe I need to transfer schools (which would be a huge blow since being at UT is a golden opportunity to advance ahead in life). Or maybe do have a little depression going on. Or maybe I need to take a break (which is probably not going to happen). Or maybe I am really not meant to finish school and do something else with my life (don't think I don't hear all ya'll Punjabis grasping in shock 😂).

Whatever it is, all I know it is in God's hands now. I've been prayed about this a lot to Guruji lately that whatever I'm meant to do in life, lead me in that direction. And I don't know what that direction is but what I want from ya'll is not career advice or "you need to blah blah blah"  but positive vibes/thoughts/prayers. Seriously, I never ask to people to pray for me but I need some right now. And for those who actually do it (which I know 90% of ya'll won't) thank you.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!

P.S. I'm sorry I rambled. This is just me turning my raw thoughts and feelings into words. I been keeping some stuff in for a long time and need to get it out.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Converting into Sikhism (Sikhi) Part 2

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! If you have not read part 1, I strongly encourage you to do so. And as always, resources and contact form are to the left.

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. Do an Ardas

It is important to have Sangat, but it is most important Sadh Sangat. You do not want to end up with the wrong group of people. That is why it is important to do an ardas to Guru ji first to help you find the right people. This seemed to have worked for me ;)

2. 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.

4. 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 having a discussion with them first to see what they're 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. Remember, resources are to the left. And I will be posting two of my playlists down below. It's important to note that all of the videos in my playlists are either in English or have English subtitles

Informative Videos about Sikhs and Sikhism

How to - Sikh Edition




Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!





Saturday, October 13, 2018

Converting into Sikhism (Sikhi) Part 1



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 to become a Christian. 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) One Immortal Being (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 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 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 hand washing 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, 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 you can email me and I'll make sure to ship one out to you.

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 pray to God to wake up for Amrit Vela, 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.




Part 2 

To view part two of this article, click here





Friday, September 14, 2018

The Girl in Blue

About the Last Post:
I am a critical thinker and questioner. Most of my friends who come into Sikhi are also critical thinkers and questioners. There's nothing wrong with this. But don't think you're going to bully us into having "blind faith" or into adopting your ideology.  This is a warning. 

NOW, the real post begins

How do I even begin this? It's kind of feels weird to even speak about it. But I guess it's time to claim my truth (in a more public fashion).



I am an Akali Nihang Singhni....in training (lol). Why "in training"? Well, I hold a high regard for the title. It is not something you just go around claiming. And until I feel worthy enough to claim it fully, you won't really be seeing me sling that title around. Plus, there's this thing in the Sikh community where groups tend to be hostile toward other groups, and on top of that, many people isolate themselves to just those within their group. I think this is very counterproductive and I refuse to isolate myself from others. No matter who you might be, if you claim to follow the teachings and writings of Guru Nanak Dev ji to Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji, you are a Sikh in my eyes. No question about it. 

Now, how exactly did I come to this? Honestly, it's been a long time coming and for the rest of this post, that's exactly the question I'll be trying to answer. 

Side note: For those who haven't read my conversion story yet, I suggest you go read it. Once you click on the three white bars up at the top, you should see a section called "My Conversion Story" to the left. There's a link that will take you right to the word document. 

My Story:

Let me start out by saying that I have always been fascinated with the physical fitness side of Sikhi. "Wait, there's a physical fitness side to Sikhism?!" Yes, and there has been since the beginnings of this dharam. I remember while doing my research on the history of Sikhism that I discovered that physical fitness use to be a thing for Sikhs. For example, we know that Guru Angad Dev ji instituted wrestling (mall akhara) into the daily lives of his followers. We can assume he did this not only to keep them spiritually healthy but physically healthy as well. Then as I dove deeper into my research, I came across the concept of Sant Sipahi (Saint-Soldier in English). The idea put forth by Guru Hargobind that Sikhs are not only supposed to be saints but warriors as well. This fascinated me and is one of the many reasons why I wanted to become a Sikh. Then, we have the creation of the Khalsa in 1699. From what I understand, the Khalsa was a group of initiated Sikhs set up by Guru Gobind Singh ji to physically fight not only against the Mughals but all oppressors across the globe.* Keep in mind though this is NOT the event from which the Akalis originated. The Akali Nihangs (an armed warrior order) was set up by Guru Hargobind after the martyrdom of our fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev ji. 

But when I actually started to interact with people from the Sikh community, I found that for some strange reason, the warrior aspect of Sikhi (you know, the physical part) had all but disappeared. Everywhere I went, all I could see were chubby Sikhs sitting and indulging themselves in food and comfort. Hell, even I got a little pouch 😂 Not that its' a bad thing to enjoy the pleasures in life, but why weren't people hitting the gym every now and then. Then, I discovered that most Sikhs wear completely dull kirpans. "Dull kirpans? What's the point of wearing one if the kirpan is dull?". This further confused me (along with a few other things I had observed). What had happened to the Sikh community? What had happened to the Khalsa? I mean, there was Gatka but I could tell that this was probably not the same type of martial art practiced by Sikh warriors historically. Look more "modernized". I also noticed that at some Gurdwaras I visited, shastars were placed in front of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but I didn't know why. "It's obvious that these are an important part of Sikhism, but why does it seem nobody cares?"

Then when I expressed my concerns about these things, people shot back at me. "The kirpan is symbolic! It is not an actual weapon!" "This is extremist thinking! We do not need this sort of thinking over here!" "We are in the West! Why do we need to know self-defense or a martial art?!" "Guru Gobind Singh radicalized Sikhism. Sikhs do not fight!"

My confusion (and frustration) intensified. And with that, I shut my mouth.

I don't remember when I first quite learned about the Akali Nihang Singhs. Pretty sure it had to have been during the first couple of months of being a Sikh. I admired them a lot, and what I knew of their beliefs, I agreed with (some of which could be considered controversial).** “Wow. I sort of think this is what Guru Gobind Singh envisioned when he created the Khalsa Panth." But since most reside in India, I decided not look deeper into it. Then I moved to Austin in August 2017. Right before moving, I had planned on taking horse lessons from a certain well known Singhni from here. To bad that right as I got here, she got up, left Texas, and moved. I thought of then taking horse lessons provided through my university but sort of fell through too. "Oh well", I said. 

Then I met two others here following Nihang rehat. Thought it was cool and didn't quite contradict my own personal beliefs. But like everything else, I threw it in the back of my head. Too focused on transitioning into my first year of college. 

Then in December/January, I became a Singhni (a dastar wearing Kaur). That was a HUGE transition for me. But after getting over the initial shock of it, I looked myself in the mirror and said "Wow. I look like an actual daughter of Guru Gobind Singh." After that, that warrior spirit which I had basically extinguished came into existence again. And as time progressed, it slowly began to grow. In April 2018, I received Amrit, and as a gift, one of my friends from the UK sent me the book "Warrior Sikhs". I read through some of it and thought it was pretty neat, but like most things, I threw it in the back of my head. 

Okay, this is getting long so I'm gonna speed this train up. One day on Facebook I acknowledged my
interest in Nihangs. Brother from the UK hit me up. Learned some things. Was shocked (in a good way) about what I was learning. Continued to learn from him. Connected with a few other Nihangs through social media. Couldn't believe this was actually happening. Decided one day this is the path I wanted to go down. The End. 

😂😂😂

So there you go. I won't go on rambling. There are a few things that I left out since this post is getting really long. I hope that I offended nobody (since that seems to be my talent lately) and forgive me for any mistakes I've made. Especially grammar-wise. Ok, now I'm going to end this.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!

*Even though the Khalsa is supposed to physically fight against oppression, that is not the only way we're supposed to combat evil. We also can this through political means, verbal means, writing, protest, etc. 

**The same way a person might be a Democrat or Republican and not agree with all of the parties policies, is the same way I might not 100% agree with the positions Nihangs take on things. More like 85%. If you think about it, even people within the same group often disagree on what they really believe or how they should act. We're human. This is to be expected. And I'm just trying to be honest.

Update (7/16/19): With the passage of time, comes growth. I've come to realize over the past year how meaningless these titles are and how much these jathebandies have caused division within the Sikh panth. Though I do still follow some of the rehat of the Budha Dal, I know longer affliate myself with the organization or call myself a Nihang. I am purely a Sikh of the Guru now. And hopefully, Sikhs will come together and reclaim that as well.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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!"





Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Family

Warning: This is going to be a LONG one. Or maybe it's just long to me. Idk. Just read it. Forgive me for my grammar as well. I'm going to come back tomorrow and probably revise. Enjoy!



I am the only non-Christian in my family. If you didn't know that by now, I don't know where you've been. But you can kind of infer that from the fact that I'm apart of an African American family in the United States where 79% to 83% of AAs* claim Christianity as their religion. This number most likely increases when just looking at blacks specifically in the South. When I trace back my family history to as far back as I can (to my great great Grandparents), everyone has identified as a Christian. And the denominations my family has adhered to all fall under the Protestant umbrella. We've had Holiness, Methodists, Baptists, Black Baptists, Evangelicals, and maybe AME adherents in our family. And of course, there are those who claim to be non-denominational. The reason I'm telling ya'll all this is so that ya'll can kind of get a good feel of my religious background. But today's blog isn't really about me (at least the main part of it sort of isn't). I will be discussing religion in regards to my family members. But I should also note that I will only be talking about those who reside currently in my household. So unless they are relevant to the discussion, I will not be bringing up my cousins, grandparents, some of my older brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. We will just be focusing on three people (my dad, my mom, and my brother Cory). So let me just jump into it.

*African Americans

My Father:
My father grew up in Bryan/College Station, home of the Texas A&M Aggies. And he is not afraid to tell you how "conservative" (aka prejudice) the town is. But we won't go into that. My father grew up in the black Baptist church. His family wasn't really religious but they attended church every Sunday. He was also baptized through that church.  Growing up, he was like most AA boys from Bryan. Not a criminal, but not an angel either. They didn't really practice their religion and did what most teenage boys do. After he graduated from college, he went into the military. Apparently, he actually converted to another religion while in the military. I learned this after a random conversation he was having with a pastor one day. He didn't say what he converted to, but I honestly am curious about what it was. When I was born, he wasn't attending church. And to this day (except for a few brief periods), he doesn't attend church. He says pastors are crooked (which some are), and honestly, he doesn't want to. For years, my mom has prayed and prayed for him to come to the Lord, but from what I can see, that ain't happening. This is just who he is and being religious or spiritual is not on his agenda.

 When I first told him I was a Sikh (this was over text btw), he said that he didn't care. He told me "Just keep your eyes and ears open". I understood exactly what he was trying to say and have remembered his advice. That was all he ever said about my religious conversion until this past June. When I started regularly wearing the turban around them, he said,  "Don't you ever take that rag off your head?" Now, the old me would have lashed out at him for that comment. But after being away at college and becoming more mature, I just paused for a second, toke a breathe, and said, "Yes, I do." Then went on about my day. The only other time he talked about my conversion was when I had a big argument with my mother over it. He interrupted the heated conversation and said, "I really don't care for the religion. I'm not a religious person. Ya'll know that. I don't care for you wearing that rag every day. You know, usually if people grow up Catholic, they stay Catholic. If they grow up Baptist, they stay Baptist. But she's chosen what she wants to follow and she ain't gonna change. [Addressing my mother] So please can you chill and we just not talk about it? Can you please just chill about it for me? Let's not even talk about it. [Addressing me] Just know that we love you." And of course, my mother continued to on a tirade about and how she wasn't going to roll with all this. But I'll discuss that in the next paragraph.

My mom:
My mother grew up in Fort Worth, TX. Her family did not start attending church until she was 13 years old. That is after my granny (RIP) watched an evangelical pastor on the TV and said the prayer of salvation. Both of my grandparents on my mom's side were raised in the church, but like my dad, they kind of did whatever they wanted. After starting to regularly attend church, they changed. And if I remember correctly, the church my mom attended was United Methodist. She told me she was a candle girl (people who handle the candles in church). But she still wasn't as religious as she is today. Through her 20s, she attended the black Baptist church. And when she had me, she was still in the black Baptist church. We started to transition out of it when I was in the 3rd grade. That is when we joined Southwood (now Crossway) Baptist Church. And I liked being apart of the mainstream Baptist denomination WAY more than being of the Black Baptist community. *You can read up more about to the left*. This was also when we started to become exposed to the evangelical movement. If you don't know what Evangelicism is, look it up. Often times, the Baptist denomination and Evangelicalism go hand in hand. This is when my mom became really religious.

She made us go to church every Sunday (and punished us somehow if we didn't) and tried to conduct Bible studies on Saturdays. She enrolled us in Vacation Bible School every year and eventually became the Sunday School teacher of the Ladies class there. Sometimes, we would listen to or watch evangelical pastors on the radio/tv. Pastors such as Pastor Robert Jeffress, Pastor John Hagee, Pastor Joyce Meyer, Bishop TD Jakes, Pastor Joseph Prince, Dr. Charles Stanley, Pastor Tony Evans, Pat Robertson, and on, and on, and on. She heavily encouraged us to just listen to Christian music (vs. secular) and banned us from watching things such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spongebob.....yes, Spongebob. It was through her, my religious community, and my church that I became influenced to become a religious evangelical Christian. But again, this isn't about me. We left Southwood my Junior year of high school (for reasons unspoken), and went to a black Baptist church for a little while. By that point, I was an Agnostic and just done with religion in general. But of course, I'm not stupid enough to tell her that. Then my senior of high school, we started attending Southcliff Baptist Church (where she still attends to this day). In fact, one of my old teachers that I've known since the 4th grade is in the exact same Sunday School class as her. She was like a second mother to me.....that is, until I finally admitted to her over email that I converted. And I told her like I told everyone else. "If you're chill about it, we can still be friends. If not, then I wish you well."  She then basically replied that she wasn't going to chill, that she was going to do everything that she can to convert me back, and started harassing me. On top of that, it was during midterms time this past Spring. Finally, I had enough of it and called my mom about it. "Mom, if you don't stop her, I'm calling the police putting a restraining order on her! I'm already stressed because it's midterms time and this is causing me to have a mini breakdown!" That brought a stop to the harassment. I know they talk about me, but as long as she stays away from me,  I'm good. And it's also the reason why I'm apprehensive about associating with people from my past. But back to my mother. As you can guess, she did not have a good reaction when I told her that I converted. It was winter break this past January. The good thing though is that I got to go straight back to Austin after winter break was over. She seemed to be getting along fine...that is, until I came back home for the summer.

For the first half of the summer, she was passive aggressive not necessarily toward me, but my religion and my religious community. For example, I have a drawing of the Gurus up on my wall. While I was waking up, she walked into my room, went over to the picture, and sort of mean mugged it. She thought I was sleeping but was shocked when I looked straight up at her and said "Hello!" Yeah, she never did that again (lol). Also, like I stated earlier, she listens to Christian radio 24/7 in her car. And doesn't care who is in the car with her. But out of respect, I would turn kirtan off when she got in the car with me. One day I said "F that!" and decided to keep playing it anyway (regardless if she was in the car or not). When I started doing this, the expression on her face while riding in the car with me was not good. And finally one day, she told me "Can you turn that down?!". Keep in mind that the kirtan was basically background noise and you couldn't fully hear it. I didn't respond to her and she didn't say anything else. Then there was that time where she tried to basically imply that my religion might be a cult and there's also that time where she asked me if "my religion encourages splitting up families?". It pisses me off just thinking about some of the things she has said. So finally, I decided to set down and call her out on her bs.

That didn't go so well. I tried to get her to watch a documentary about Sikhism, or at least let me explain what Sikhism is, but she wasn't having it. She still won't let me her down and formally teach her about the faith. I've even invited her to go to a Gurdwara (since she's somewhat suspicious of Sikhs) but she says "I...I...I don't feel comfortable going." So basically, I've done all I can do and now the ball is in her court. I will say that after that conversation the passive aggressiveness has for the most part stopped. We can even somewhat enjoy each others company. But I will never forget what she said. "I ain't gonna roll with it! If it doesn't acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I ain't accepting it or rolling with it".

Cory:
Cory is one of my three brothers. He was born a year and a half before me as a preemie. He was diagnosed with Mental Retardation (now properly known as IDD). And later on in high school, he was diagnosed with Autism (as well as a few other mental disorders). But if you just looked at him, you wouldn't be able to tell he's a person with special needs. But once you start talking to him, you'll figure it out. Cory had the exact same religious upbringing as me. But like most people with disabilities, they truly comprehend things (especially religion). He just goes along with what is taught to him. He loves listening to Gospel music (because of the beat/rhythm/etc), goes to church with my mom every Sunday (doesn't really have a choice), and constantly says "Granny is in heaven". She passed away 3 years ago (???) and I think he has a hard time processing exactly what death is. But other than that, he isn't really religious. None of my siblings are. Just spiritual people. I haven't told him that I converted because Cory wouldn't even understand what conversion is. He sees that my outside appearance has changed but pays it no mind. One day, I was wearing my turban, and he said, "You look really nice" and kept walking. That has been his only remark.

So there you go. If you made it this far, you honestly deserve some type of reward. But I'm broke lol. So instead, I decided to include some pictures here at the end. Enjoy!




I don't exactly remember what this drawing/project was about. But I made it. And it was laminated for some reason.


This is a picture of the certificate I got from attending Vacation Bible School in 2008. It is at this event that I said the sinner's prayer and became saved. For those who don't know, Vacation Bible School is an event put on by churches every summer to convert non-Christian kids and those kids who have grown up in a Christian household (but haven't accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior).



I probably drew this picture when I was 14 years old or 15 years old. When I found it today, the first thing I thought was, "WTF?!". But then I figured out exactly what younger me was trying to say with this picture. I'll let ya'll figure it out the message by yourselves. 


Anyways, forgive me for my mistakes, errors, etc. Hope you somewhat enjoyed this post. Until next time, Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!





Saturday, July 21, 2018

Updates

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! Went through and edits/corrected all of my previous blog posts. I encourage those who haven't to go back and also read the old ones. And like I said in my previous post, I added a resources section and contact form to the left. Just click on the three white bars up at the top.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Common Questions I Get From Non-Sikhs and Sikhs

*Before getting into this months blog, I would like to draw your attention to the left. If you click on the three white bars up at the top, you will notice I added a resources section. It has everything from learning about what Sikhism is to where you can buy Sikh apparel. I tried to make it to where it caters to mostly American Sikhs (since it seems like our resources are lacking in comparison to other countries). I've also added a contact form! Messages go straight to my email :)

ATTENTION SIKH PEOPLE: Ya'll don't have to read this first section. It's really meant for people who are not Sikhs. But if you want to read the whole thing, go ahead. Scroll down to the "Bonus Paragraph" to read something more "relevant".

As a Sikh living in Texas, it is not surprising how curious people can be about my faith. As most Sikhs know, people in the United States are not aware of who Sikhs are (or for that matter, that Sikhs even exist). Heck, before I became a Sikh, I didn't even know that Sikhs existed. It's like a secret community hidden away from the public eye. But back on topic, I find there are a few questions that I seem to get asked a lot by my fellow Texans. So I decided to answer them here.


1. A Sikh? What's that?

"Well, the word "Sikh" literally means disciple or learner. The word became associated with the followers of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. The religion "Sikhism" originated in the northern region of India known as Punjab. It's evolved into the fifth largest world religion and shares similar beliefs with a lot of the other major world religions. We believe in One God, but not in the same way as the Abrahamic sense. For example, Sikhs believe God to be Nirankar (without Form).  He* is gender neutral and resides within everyone (regardless of class, nationality, etc.). A Sikh's duty is to serve humanity, remember God at all times, and work hard to better mankind."

Honestly, this is such a hard question to answer because there's so much to be said. So I just usually follow it up with "Are there any specific questions you have about the religion?"

*In the English language, instead of saying "It" we just automatically say "He". It's a complicated situation. Also, the most common way you will hear Sikhs address God is Wahe Guru. The simplified translation of this is "Wondrous Enlightener". The overly complicated translation of this is "Praise be to the One who brings us from darkness into light".

2. How do other Sikhs (meaning Punjabi Sikhs) react to you?

Now, I tend to get this question from Indians or Indian Americans who aren't Sikh. Which I definitely could understand why they would ask that question. It's the subtle way of asking, "Do you find that Punjabis are racist toward you?" Here's what I would usually say:

"Being a minority within a religion, you definitely stand out. And some might be sort of wary of you at first. BUT, over time, what makes you different kind of becomes an advantage. Because wherever you go people know who you are or at least know your face. And at every samagam I go to, I have at least one person approach me out of curiosity and ask me how I got into the faith. I find this personally enjoyable and as a way to further integrate myself into the community. Now, are there Punjabis out there who are racist? Yes. Is this the majority? No. The thing is you're going to find ignorant people within every religion, but that shouldn't stop you from being who you are."


3. I thought only Sikh men wear the turban. Are there other Sikh women who wear the turban? Why?

"First, I would like to say that for everyone (regardless of gender) wearing the turban is a choice. Same way there are Sikh men and women who choose to wear the turban, there are Sikh men and women who choose not to wear the turban. Even though Sikhs have been donning turbans since the time of Guru Nanak, it became an official part of the Sikh religion during the time of our tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. He bestowed on us distinct articles of faith to make us recognizable in a crowd.* When he did this though, he was not just addressing one gender. He gave these gifts to everyone (men as well as women), seeing that Sikhi is a religion that gives full gender equality. Historically, there were few Kaurs who wore the turban (most likely Nihangs). Almost all women stuck to wearing chunnis (a shawl like scarf most Sikh women still wear today). But as time has gone on, more and more Kaurs have decided to include the dastar as apart of their uniform. Some, to connect more with their faith. Some, to be recognizable in a crowd. Some, because they believe this is what Guru Gobind Singh wanted in the first place. Etc. Etc.

In summary, the Sikh turban does not just belong to one gender but both. If you want to see pictures of Sikh girls wearing turbans, just look up "Singhnis" or "Sikh girls in turbans"

*For more information about the turban, watch the following 30-minute documentary done by the BBC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9PQ2kp-z-o&t=513s

4. Are you from India? Where in India are you from?

This is ANOTHER question I tend to get from Indian immigrants. While asking me this question, they look me up and down with a look of confusion on their face. I just know that in my head they're trying to figure out what race I am and I kind of find these encounters funny. Here's usually how the conversation goes:

Person: You are a Sikh?

Me: Yes.

Person: *confused look* Where are you from? Are you from India?

Me: No. I was born here in Texas.

Person: *still looking confused* Where are your parents from?

Me: Texas

Person: *confusion intensifies*  Where are your grandparents from?

Me: Uhhhhh, Texas 😂

The conversation goes on and on until I think they get the point. I kind of just chalk this up to them not knowing American history (and therefore not knowing about slavery). They don't understand that African Americans have been in the United States for almost 400 years and did not necessarily "immigrate" here.


Bonus Paragraph!

Common Questions I Get From My Fellow Sikhs:

1. How did you become a Sikh?

This is by far the number one question I get from other Sikhs. To them, it's intriguing to see someone like myself following Sikhi. Even though I get this question the most , I always seem to get caught off guard about it. So I tell them the short version of my story.

Christian > Questioning/Having Doubts > Research/Prayer > Secular > Eventually felt a pull to keep looking > Research/Prayer > Sikhi

Now if you want to know the full story, there is a Google Doc on the left-hand side of this blog. Feel free to have a read

2. Where are you from?

Now, this is basically like question #4....but a little bit different. When dealing with Punjabi Sikh children, some things are said that can be considered...offensive. But I don't hold it over their heads since they are still children. One thing I find quite shocking though is that a few kids ask me the question "Are you really from Africa?" or something similar to that. First of all, I've never indicated that I'm from Africa. So I have no idea where they might have gotten that idea from. Second of all, Africa is not a country (like most kids think). And third of all, no, I'm not from Africa.

After thinking about it for a while, I came up with two hypothesis about why they would make these type of statements.  Either (1) the Texas education system is horrible and these kids ain't learning jack or (2) these kids are in such a cultural bubble, they know nothing about other cultures. But like I said before, they're kids. So can't be too up in arms about it.

3. Do you know Punjabi?

No. When it comes to the Punjabi language, almost all of my efforts have gone into reading and writing it. I have not started to work on speaking and understanding it. I know a few words but that's it. This doesn't mean though that I'm not going to work on conversating in Punjabi eventually. Nothing about having a language barrier between you and other people in your spiritual community is fun. But my main focus right now is to be able to read and write Gurbani.

4. Have you been to India yet?

No, I have not been and I have no plans on going. I would not feel safe traveling to India. Period.

5. How did your parents/family react?

Planning on doing a blog post about this in August so I won't give too much away here. But, I am definitely the black sheep of the family, and my mother is verbally hostile toward my religion and anything related to it. That's all I'll say for now.

6. Are you Amritdhari?

It's funny. Right after I became Amritdhari, I have not been receiving this question. I use to get it all the time before becoming one. So either people aren't asking it anymore because everyone knows my business or they just don't care anymore lol.

7. What is your "other/real" name?

.....This question triggers me so much. By asking this question, you're assuming by my outward appearance that I have "another" name. That conversation would be really awkward if my Punjabi name was actually my legal name. And yes, I do have "another" name, but why does it matter in this situation?! My legal name is Jasmine but Sikhs call me Gurpreet (the name given to me by the Shri Guru Granth Sahib). I tell all Sikhs to call me by that name or else I'm eventually going to call you out about it..eventually. So how about when I tell you my name is Gurpreet, we just leave it at that.


And that's it for this month's blog post. As always, thanks for reading this blog. Sorry for the grammar errors or mistakes. And be on the lookout for the next blog post (My Family).

GurFateh ji 

Gurpreet 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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.

Before I get into this, some of ya'll might want an update about how the fam and I are doing since I came home this summer. I'm here to inform you that that will be a blog post for another day (most likely toward the start of the fall semester in August). So stay tuned for that.

So, there's a lot of things I want to cover in my blog, a lot I have to say. But in order to keep this somewhat organized, I will just focus on one topic. It has been a year and a half since I first started learning about Sikhi and became a Sikh. It has been an interesting journey so far and I have met a variety of Sikhs from all kinds of different backgrounds. Sometimes, I've had wonderful experiences being a Sikh; sometimes, not so much. But no matter how hard it has gotten, I have never regretted the choice I made to join this community. 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 an agnostic*, 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,
Jasmine aka 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 God cares about how you do it. As long as you're doing it with loving devotion, your work is being accepted. 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.

Update (7/21/2018): *Claps for self*