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Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! This post (is for those who are interested in converting into Sikhism (properly called Sikhi) or those who are just getting started on their spiritual journey. Feel free to use this as a guide, but keep in mind that what I say is not diamond. I am an imperfect person so always look to the Guru for help first. And never do ANYTHING that you feel is not justifiable in your eyes.
How to Officially Convert into Sikhism:
There is no official way to convert into the Sikh faith. In the Islamic faith, a person says the shahada to become a Muslim. In the Christian faith, a person says the sinner's prayer and is baptized. Even in Buddhism, most will take refuge in the three jewels as a way to convert. But this is not the case for Sikhi. According to the SGPC, a Sikh is any being who believes in (1) 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 congrats! You are automatically considered a Sikh.
Many people will want to adopt a new name once they embrace the Sikh faith. This is not required, but for some people (including myself) this ceremony makes a person feel like they are officially apart of the Sikh community. If you want a Sikh name, follow the following steps.
1. Get in contact with the Gurdwara president or someone on the Gurdwara committee. Let them know that you are interested in a naming ceremony. Then negotiate a time and day to do it.
2. Invite friends and family to come and attend. This is not required, but who wants to celebrate this milestone in their life alone?!
3. Arrive at the Gurdwara. For information on what happens during a Naam Karan, click the following link:
1. Before going to the Gurdwara, make sure to clean up. This could be as simple as washing your hands, face, feet, etc. or as intricate as taking a full body shower. Either way, make sure you look decent and are clean. Make sure your clothes (whether Western or Eastern style of clothing) are clean and modest as well.
2. Arrive at the Gurdwara with your head covered (either using a bandana, chunni, scarf, or turban). Some choose to pay their respects to the Nishan Sahib. Whether you do that or not is up to you.
3. At some Gurdwaras, you might have to walk through water before you enter. This is done to wash the dirt off of your feet and help keep the Gurdwara clean. Some Gurdwaras might have someone responsible for washing the devotees' feet. Some Gurdwaras have handwashing stations. Whether you utilize them or not is up to you.
4. Remove your shoes and place them in the Jora Ghar (shoe station). But be warned. This area can often get chaotic and shoes often get moved around (or in the absolute worse case, stolen). I suggest you put your shoes somewhere where they are less likely to be bothered.
5. Go inside the Darbar Hall (where Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji is enthroned) and matha tek (bow). Some will also circumnavigate the throne. Whether you do this or not is up to you.
6. You have two options now. You can either sit down (facing the Guru) or head off to the langar hall. For those who haven't had breakfast, lunch, etc., the langar hall usual has some snacks set out to eat.
7. Keep in mind that when you are sitting toward the Guru that it can be considered rude to point your feet towards It. If your legs are starting to cramp or if your butt is going numb, feel free to get up, exit the Darbar Hall, and walk around. Then return to the service.
8. For those who want to do Chaur Sahib seva, get up and wash your hands first. Than kindly walk up to whoever is doing it, ask for the seva, accept the siropa, and commence with the activity. If someone comes up to you and asks for the Chaur Sahib, kindly give it to them, place the siropa on 'em, and matha tek afterward.
9. During Ardas (prayers), stand facing the Guru Granth Sahib with your hands folded. To avoid getting distracted, it is best to do it with your eyes closed.
10. During hukamnamas (readings from the Guru that are randomly selected), Sikhs are supposed to sit on the ground. Take the hukamnama as daily guidance from the Guru that day.
11. When someone comes around to give you Prashad, cup out both of your hands to accept it. Some Sikhs might refuse to give it to you if you reach out with just one hand.
11. When eating langar, sit down on the floor. This rule can change based on your age or disability. In some Gurdwaras, the signal to start eating is "Bole so Nihaal! Sat Shri Akaaluh!". But that doesn't mean you can't start eating until the jakara. Make sure to not waste food.
Treatment of Gutka Sahibs:
1. A Gutka Sahib is a book containing shabads we are supposed to read daily. If you do not have one, you can acquire one from the Gurdwara for free or by shopping online. OR 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).
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
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.
The Amrit Sanchar
Ever since 1699, Sikhs have been getting initiated into this army/brotherhood/sisterhood called the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa in order to combat oppression and spread light and truth throughout the whole world. For those Sikhs who want to join the Khalsa, they must go thrown this ceremony called the "Amrit Sanchar".
Video of Amrit Sanchar
Video of Amrit Sanchar (2)
There are certain steps that must be followed during an Amrit Sanchar, but I will not get into that now. What is important to know is that once you receive Amrit, there's a code of conduct (called the Rehat Maryada) and a uniform (called the 5 ks) you must abide by. The rehat maryada changes based on what group you receive Amrit from. For example, if you receive Amrit from the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), you can eat meat but just not ritually sacrificed meat (halal and kosher). BUT if you receive Amrit from AKJ, you must adhere to a vegan diet. But know whoever you take it from, AMRIT IS AMRIT. And is a huge, life-changing commitment. It is recommended that Sikhs practice living the Khalsa lifestyle at least a year before receiving Amrit so that you know you are ready.
10 Officially Recognized Mainstream Sects in Sikhi
Integrating Yourself into the Sikh Community:
For people coming into Sikhi, finding the right Sangat for them can be challenging but definitely not impossible. Here are some few tips to help you meet people within the Sikh community
1. 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 first having a discussion with them or checking their page out. There's a lot of creepy people out there.
Links to some helpful websites will be below:
Want to do seva at the Gurdwara? There's plenty of ways to! Just watch the video below
Types of Seva at the Gurdwara
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
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
That's all I have for now. Feel free to check out the resource tab or to get in contact with us.