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!"