Sunday, September 1, 2019

Girls, Girls, Girls



From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.


Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.

When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.
From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.
That mouth which praises the Lord continually is blessed and beautiful.
O Nanak, those faces shall be radiant in the Court of the True Lord. ||2||

So, I’ve gotten several phone calls and texts over the last two week from Kaurs I know wanting to talk to me about  disrespect from Singhs within our Panth. That on top of the things I’ve been seeing on social media have driven me to write this post. 
Ya know one of the things that brought me to Sikhi is the concept of equality  for all, no caste, color, gender, nationality etc. Everyone and everything is Ek but I’m starting to get the impression that we don’t practice what we preach or advertise to everyone else.  How do we preach equality and respect for everyone if we don’t even practice it from within our own Sangat?
The above Shabad speaks to the importance that Guru Nanak place on women in the Panth and the absolute respect that should be shown to them.   Some of the things I have read on social media and been told to me by Kaurs I know gives me cause for alarm. The Akahl Takht recently asked that Singhs in India protect the women from Kashmir as it was believed that these women weren’t safe traveling through India in the current climate.  It’s a sad cultural statement when women can’t travel freely without fear but it’s admirable that the Sikhs recognize it. Trust me when I say I know it’s epidemic around the world and in all cultures but our Guru orders us to be and do better! What disturbs me even more is that we have these same issues within our own Sangats and homes.
We have initiatives within the western Sikh communities that demand our governments give equal rights and treatment for all people including women but it appears we haven’t done our own house cleaning in a lot of ways.  These initiatives that spend so much time demanding no hate and equality for all from external organizations and governments need to assist our community with the same issues.
I agree that we should protect the women in our lives, I believe in some old fashioned way that it is our duty to do so.  I also believe that we should be empowering the women in our lives to be strong and independent. We should be encouraging them to take a much larger role in Sangat, in the Gurdwara and in the world. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Am I Growing Up?!





Okay, so I'm sitting here while writing this and trying to process my thoughts. So bare with me if the flow isn't smooth, but here goes nothing.

I am 20 and will be 21 in October. Sometimes, I think people forget that. Sometimes I think I forget that. But you know what? That's okay. Because, well,...

I'm happy. I am finally able to get rid of my old driver's license with that picture that looks nothing like me now (lol). And while most people my age are excited about being able to legally drink, I'm getting finally send in my application for my concealed carry license and make my first firearm purchase.

But also

I'm stressed. I am a junior in college, and I'm stressed about needing to land an internship. With my lack of real job experience and an "eh" GPA, having success in that arena will be tough. Sometimes I think impossible. I wish that employers understood that my resume DOES NOT reflect my talents or accomplishments accurately. Worse comes to worst, I'll just have to camp out under a bridge somewhere in Austin (lol).

But also

I'm restless. I'm ready to travel to the world. I've been ready to travel the world. The only thing that is holding me back isn't necessarily money, but my parent's (mostly my mother's) suspicious of the outside world. What I don't think she realizes is that I'm just as unsafe here in the United States (where we are having mass shootings every other week) as in India. Heck, at this point I think northern India might be 5% safer than here. One thing I will say though is that unless it is the US or Canada, I'm never moving out of the country. All I want is a simple home, a decent Sikh husband, animals, and at least two kids. You hear that Waheguru ji?! That really ain't too much to ask.

But also

I'm passionate. I know this has to be apart of my life purpose because I never in my entire life put so much effort into one thing for a long period of time. Whether it's this website, the Youtube channel, or the Facebook page, I don't need the motivation to maintain it, and I feel satisfaction by putting my heart, soul, and mind into it. And I firmly believe it is going to be something big, something impactful. I just got to be patient and let it grow.

But also

I'm regretful. There are some things I've done (or said) that I could have done better over these last two years. And there are some things that I shouldn't have done at all. Whether it is in regards to my academics, my social life, the Sikh community, my finances, etc. there are some places where I screwed up. But then again, screwing up is apart of life. All I can do is learn from the experience, move on, and hope the situation resolves itself.

But also

I'm thankful. Thankful to those who have helped me along this journey of mine for the last two years. Some have come and gone. Some have come and gone then come again. And some have been with me throughout the whole time period. If it hadn't been for these people, not only would I not be a Sikh today, I probably would have done moved back to Fort Worth by now. So with both hands folded, I say "Dhanvaad ji".



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

We are not a product of fearful men

So I just finished watching a documentary called "Free Solo", ever since it's pre release some of my friends told me "You have to watch it".  For some reason I waited for a pretty long while.  There are times I know I have to be in a certain place before I watch things and this morning seemed like a good time.

It brought to mind the word "Courage", so I thought today I would try and convey my thought on being courageous.  Ya see the word courage means different things to different people but I understand it to mean being scared but doing it anyway.  I also know it to mean that you know what the consequences of that action may be and that you have decided that the risk you are going to take is worth the possible consequences.  It's easy to pursue a course of action that requires little to no sacrifice but when that sacrifice could possible have the consequence of death then things start to get real.

Courage can be a reflex as a result of training and preparation.  In the military we like to call it muscle memory when the fighting begins and fear is overridden by reflex as a result of training and preparation.  We just act because we have trained our body and mind respond in a certain manner in response to a certain stimuli.  Sikhi stresses this very thing through Nitnem, Simran, Seva, and Rehat.  Things that we train our mind and body to do will come naturally when most needed.

I saw a T-shirt the other day that had the American Flag and a soldier on it, the stripes on the American flag were made of muskets and the shirt read "We are not a product of fearful men".  To most Americans and especially those that have served in the military that is our legacy and what we strive to live up to.

As Sikhs we are not a product of fearful men!  There is story after story of Sikhs that had the courage to stand when no one else would.  Martyrs that would rather sacrifice themselves than violate the principles of Sikhi. Sikhs that stood up to insurmountable odds even though the end result would be their death.

In my opinion one of the most courageous souls in Sikhi is Bhai Mardana.  As a convert I see how he served Guru Nanek, this is a man that was a convert from Islam and without fail served the Guru in every capacity that was asked of him.  He left his family and traveled on every  one of Guru Nanek's Udasi's because the Guru asked him to.  Never leaving the Guru's side even when they were were face to face with lepers.  I'm amazed by his courage.

There is the story of the Sava Lakh, 40 Khalsa and Guru Gobind Singh faced down 10 Lakh of Mughul soldiers.  Without hesitation these 40 Khalsa fought for and protected their Guru.  "Call me Gobind Singh only when each of my Sikhs will fight with more than one and a quarter lakh of enemy."  We do call him Guru Gobind Singh.

There are so many more stories, so many more courageous siikhs even today.  I guess all i really wanted to say is be courageous in pursuit of your faith, be courageous in the protection of the innovent and always remember:

"we are not a product of fearful men"







Monday, August 5, 2019

Just one little Step?


“A disciple who walks one step towards Guru to take his refuge and goes to him with devotion and humility, guru advances to receive him (devotee) by taking million steps.
He who unites with the Lord by remembering the incantation of the Guru even once, the true guru remembers him millions of time.
He who makes an offering of even a shell before the True Guru with loving worship and faith, The True Guru blesses him waaith the countless treasures of invaluable wealth that is Naam.
The True Guru is a repository of compassion that is beyond description and understanding.  Therefore myriad salutations to him because there is no one else like him.” 
Bhai Gurdas Ji  Vaar 111


I had read this in several translations and they all seemed a little watered down. I had read one translation that didn’t even feel like anything that I’d read before. Then I found this one and it finally made sense. Ya see, most of the time the first couplet is the only thing quoted but in my own readings I’ve discovered that only reading one couplet can lead to misrepresentations of actual meaning.

All of that being said what does it mean to take one step? I suppose since everyone follows a different path to meet Waheguru then taking a step towards Guru can mean a lot of thing. What I do know that although the number of steps we can take are finite the number of step Waheguru can take are infinite.

I read a Facebook comment recently that no matter how much you do you aren’t a member of Sadh Sangat until you took Amrit…so I suppose in their mind the first step towards Guru is Amrit Sanchar (Khalsa Initiation). In my personal situation I think my first step was acknowledging that I was Sikh and pursuing my place in the faith.

The second couplet could actually be the step you take by doing Naam Simran and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be remembered by Waheguru? My opinion and forgive me if I’m wrong on this but the second couplet is actually the key to this Vaar. Remembering Naam and doing Simran is at the center of Sikh practice.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it but the third couplet talks about giving with loving worship…I understand this to mean that all things we do in the name of Waheguru are to be done with loving worship. Doesn’t matter how much Simran you do or how much money you give or how much Seva you do, if it’s not done in loving worship then why are you doing it?

The fourth couplet goes to my first statement. Wahegru is infinite and so are his blessings and to that I can’t say too much more.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr said my conclusion best:

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Sunday, July 28, 2019

How Writing Saved My Sikhi



March 2017. That was when I wrote my first journal entry. I don’t remember where the idea of keeping a journal came from, but if I hadn’t done that, not only would I not be the blogger I am today, I would also not be the Sikh I am today. But it was exciting to think of the prospect of it being filled over time with all sorts of things. What exactly? There were no limits. 


In it, I could write my dreams. My dream to one day be a granthi and to help run a Sikh learning center here in North America (particularly for Sikh converts). My dream to have a mini-jhatka farm one day, where Sikhs (vegetarian or not) could purchase ethically raised or grown food. My dream to have a graduate from UT and have a career somehow revolving around Sikhi. I personally believe that one day, these dreams will become reality, but that’s not the only stuff I include in my journal. In my journal, you can find poetry, pictures, rants, newspaper clips, important events, and random stuff printed from the internet. You can say, it’s sort of like a scrapbook (except better). Who knew that this would eventually end up saving my Sikhi. 

Let’s rewind back to earlier this year. Maybe even to as far back as last fall. I was tired of Sikhs looking down on each other (inwardly, outwardly, or both). I was tired of Sikhs looking down on each other because some Sikhs do this, while others do that. Because some Sikhs practice this while others practice that. Because some Sikhs eat this while others don’t eat that. Because some Sikhs end their Mool Mantar at Gur Prasad, while others end it at Nanak Hosee Bhi Sach. Sadh Sangat ji, where is the Ek, the Oneness, in all of this? I have Sikh friends from all up and down the spectrum. And though I might disagree with them on some issues or concepts, they are still my brother/sister at the end of the day. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you are following YOUR interpretation of Gurbani to the best of your ability, you are a Gursikh. 

This all became overwhelming for me. I wanted to walk away from being Amritdhari, walk away from being a Singhni, and walk away from being Sikh altogether. Many do. That’s when I decided to take refuge in my journal. I had just finished my initial journal and was about to start in the new journal that my friend Manjit had given me for my birthday. While I wrote, my clarity of thought became better and I began to establish my own identity/idea of what being a Sikh meant and more. Writing gave me an outlet to talk about my frustrations. Whether it was about religion and my family, religion and university life, religion and my race, my Sangat, the online Sangat, etc., I could tell my journal(s) without being judged.

Eventually, with the help of 2-3 people, my journal, and the Guru, I bounced back. I decided that what I believed in is what I believed in. And if anyone had a problem with it, they could walk themselves out of my life. No longer would I be feeding into the divisions within the Sikh community, but keeping focused on the seva that I was meant to do. 

In conclusion, I say this. Writing can be healing. For people like me, we write better than we speak. And like I stated earlier, a journal can’t judge you or even tell your secrets. So are you frustrated? Write! Are you happy? Write! Are you sad? Write! Are you unmotivated? Write! Do you feel like someone might have licked the bucket of ice cream that you had just purchased from the store? First, report this to the proper authorities. But then, write! You just don’t know what might come out of it as a result. 

Authors Note: Yes, that is my dog. Yes, that is a Pug. And no, she was not supposed to be in the picture 😂. Also, check out our latest project www.embracingSikhism.com. Sevadars are welcome.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

How do you practice? (Toronto Singh's Camp, Final)

"I have been searching for the Saints; I have seen so many Holy and Spiritual people
The Hermits, Sannyaasees, ascetics, penitents, fanatics, and Pandits all speak sweetly

I wandered around lost for a year, but no one touched my soul.
I listened to preachers and teachers, but I could not be happy with their lifestyles.

Those who have abandoned the Lord's name, and become attached to duality - why
should I speak in praise of them?

So speaks Bhikhaa:  The lord has let me to meet the Guru.  As you keep me. I remain:  
As you protect me, I survive." SGGS

I know this may be hard to believe but until I went to camp I had never stepped foot in a Darbar Sahib.  No Gurdwara near me and no other Sikhs in my area made my Sikh practice very personal.

I often thought to myself that I was doing it wrong or I was missing a message somewhere.  The one thing I did have was a couple of years of studying without the weight of religious politics and million different points of view.  It allowed me to find my feet and foundation before setting off into the world.
The first night of camp everyone was busy getting the Darbar Sahib put together, you could see the care and intent in everyone's eyes as they were working.  When it was finished...I mean it was beautiful!  Guru was coming and I was clueless as to what to do, how to act..It was complete sensory overload.  The kind you see in the movies where time slows down and vision gets fuzzy.  I vaguely remember being present for Guru's arrival.

I went back to my room and changed clothes if I remember correctly after Guru's arrival.  Somewhere along the line I ended up back at Darbar Sahib and there was this beautiful music playing, washed my feet and hands and walked into the Darbar...I was stuck...couldn't move hardly.  I had watched live feeds on the internet and thought for sure I knew how to act but in the presence of Guru I couldn't remember how to Matha Tteykna.  I knew I was supposed to, honestly did but I was at a total loss.  I walked a little further and Mandeep was standing there.  I looked at him and remember asking him what to do...I heard him say approach and then give me some hand gestures and I walked forward to the Guru, I was intimidated and at peace all at the same time.  I performed a Matha Tteykna dn took a seat in the back of the Darbar Sahib.  What an awesome experience.

You can listen to all of the Kirtan all you want on the internet but it will never hold a candle to being in Darbar and feeling it in person.  Yes I said feeling it, not listening to it.  I lisgtened to it on the computer semi regularly before camp but the first time I experienced it in person it was life changing.  That's not an exaggeration, to hear the music and the extraordinary voices being performed with such conviction was an experience I'll never forget and hope I'll be able to find it again.  I was standing outside the Langar Hall one morning and the kitchen window was open...Kirtan was playing in the kitchen and all I could think was how beautiful is that!  These men are doing Sewa and listening to Kirtan...what a blessing.

Speaking of Sewa, I'm not sure what my expectations were or what anyone else's expectations were of me.  What I did learn was Sewa in a lot more than just volunteering.  I have volunteered all of my life and there is always some sort of self satisfaction but when I was with the Singh's it was completely different experience.  It wasn't abut  me at all, it wasn't work at all, it just wsa.

I say all of this to say...I found my faith and started building a new practice based on what I knew and what I learned.  Individual faith is an evolutionary process and in my experience will change and develop over time.  What my practice was before camp is not my practice now and my practice now won't be what my practice will be a year from now.  As we learn we grow and friends...I have grown.



No one could put Humpty Dumpty together again (Toronto Singhs Camp 2019 #2)

There are a lot of things that people don't know about me, I tend to be a pretty private person and keep my feelings to myself.  This blog has been a huge departure from that frame of living.  So I suppose I'll let y'all in on some personal secrets.

Before I left for Singh's Camp I was pretty broken emotionally and spiritually.  I had spend several months burnt out completely.  Concentrating on work, on my children, my responsibilities at home and to my wife were impossible.  Writing blog posts helped some, my poor wife was at a loss for how to help me.  I've said it before, sometimes we can't see the forest through the trees.  I was not even seeing the trees anymore...I was way deep in the weeds and there wasn't any forest.

So I pack my bags and get on an airplane and head to Singh's Camp with the hope that I could find some answers, find myself and maybe...just maybe put a couple of pieces back in their place.  So I let the safety of my bubble here in the USA and headed for Canada.  I was solo, unarmed physically and emotionally in a place I literally didn't know anyone except through a couple of social media posts and a hand full of direct messages from Jaspaul Singh.  (I think I've seen this movie before LOL)

The  morning after my arrival I wake up and for for my morning walk in Brampton outside of my hotel.  I spoke to Harjaap Singh via text and we discuss when he's going to pick me up and I make sure I'm ready to go; he picks me up at the hotel and off we go!  I was a foreigner in many more ways than one and an unknown quantity for everyone at the camp.

I get to camp and try to help where I can but honestly had no idea what was going on or what I was doing.  I spent that night unable to sleep well trying to make sure I wake up for Amrit Vela (3 am) so I can participate fully as I can (didn't make it) and by mid day was completely dehydrated and an anxious mess.  Mandeep Singh sees me in the Langar Hall and I discover just how observant he is.  He says I get it, you're instinct has kicked in.  You're sitting with your back to the wall marking the exits and watching everyone but at some point you have to engage with people.  That actually put me at ease...crazy right!?!?  I'm not sure how he feels but that statement and several conversations  later I felt like I had made a lifelong friend.  Sometimes our connections don't require explanation.

When I woke up after my second night it was like the darkness had lifted, I was able to talk with the Singh's there and to my surprise over the next couple of days they had started approaching me.  If I wasn't shocked enough they started asking me questions too.  How does this happen because in my world it's not normal.   Jaspal (who boldly claims he spells his name correctly)  offers me a bunk in his room because he has air conditioning.  Harjaap who takes me to get a cup of coffee and clear my head.  Amitoj who takes the time and has the patience to speak with me about Simran.  Bhai Manvir Singh for just giving me a hug on the first night I was there.

To every other Singh that was there that I have failed to mention I am grateful for your kindness and patience.  Thank you for helping to put me back together again...even though you didn't know that's what your were doing.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

I was sitting next to Joe on a plane the other daaayyy (Toronto Singh's Camp 2019 #1)


The titles has nothing to do with this post but I promised a poor soul named Joe that Listened to me drone on for 2 1/2 hours on my flight home from camp.  Joe was with his wife traveling to see his mother in California...sometimes I talk too much LOL.

The title of this post would have been something like "Embracing our differences".  I just spent a week with a bunch of Singh's from all over, different backgrounds, cultures and nations.  It was one of the most beautiful thing's I've ever experienced.  A group of men with so much passion for their faith and each other.

I know for a fact we had Canadians, Americans, Brits and Punjabi's there.  Within that there were AKJ, Nihang, Thaksali's and for all I know there were more.  There were some Singh's there I would refer to as Ultra orthodox, Orthodox, non conformists, Singh's searching for their faith and one convert with an anxiety disorder.  There were teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs, soldiers, civil servants as well as little Singh's as young as four years old with their fathers.

Diversity comes in so many ways, shapes and sizes.  We take for granted all of the rich diversity we have in our own Panth.  I have the misfortune of reading so much hate and discontent on social media from within Sikhi itself yet I spent five days with this amazing group of men and discover it is possible it is possible to put aside our differences and worship together in peace and harmony.  To sing Kirtan, do ardas, perform Sewa and just play.  We can find peace together as a Panth that is whole if we would just embrace our differences instead of insisting that everyone else is just wrong.

We are a faith that will not stand for forced conversion yet people within our own Panth insist that their way is correct and demand that everyone else do it their way.  That is a form of at least coerced if not forced conversion.  The Mughuls insisted that everyone do it their way and only their way is right...Sikhs shed blood to make sure that didn't happen yet we fight among ourselves saying the same thing that the Mughuls did and the Hindu's are doing now in India.

We are Sikh's, we are defenders, feeders of the hungry and compassionate above all things.  I have seen a united Panth and it is strong and passionate.  I will forever strive to see a united Panth that is whole and undivided despite our differences.

It can be done..I have seen it...I have experienced it and WE need it.


Monday, July 8, 2019

A Lone Non-Punjabi Sikh in the Heart of the Bible Belt

What it’s like to practice Sikhi in the heart of the Bible Belt



Honestly, this is my very first blog post ever…so if it seems scattered forgive me.  I suppose I will start with telling you my story.

My name is Brian, I live in Biloxi Mississippi which by the very nature of it’s geographical location seems like a strange place to be from and talk about Sikhism.  Wait!…It gets stranger, I’m a middle aged man of German descent raised in the Lutheran tradition so there ya have another anomaly  in the matrix, A Lutheran in the deep south.  “So what you’re saying is you’re a middle aged white guy of European descent who somewhere along the line decided all on your own that you’re a Sikh?”  Yep
So I guess you’re asking yourself at this point “How the heck did that happen?”  Well honestly it’s a long story but not a difficult one to understand.  I spent 25 years in the US Military, Active duty, National Guard and Reserve.  I’m third generation military and my son was the fourth so I guess you could say it’s the family business to some degree.  I was raised a military brat, my father retired from the military when I was 15 years old and we settled in Biloxi MS so that’s where the story will begin.

When I was Active Duty I was stationed in the Washington DC area and when I got off of active duty I worked in very large Emergency room at a not so prestigious teaching hospital in the area.  That was literally my first contact with anyone of the Sikh faith and didn’t know it.  A large contingent of our residents were Sikhs that had done medical school in India.  Some wore turbans, some didn’t but the majority of them had the last name of Singh.  Fast forward 20 years or so and here I am in the middle of (for several years) a crisis of faith,  I’m speaking to a friend of mine named James about this crisis and he says to me “Who are the nicest people you’ve ever met? “ (speaking about a faith based group).  I paused and thought about it…the Sikhs I met at the hospital two decades prior.  He said look at what they believe and why they believe it, you may find some answers.  James took his own life several months later after losing his battle with PTSD.  So that’s what I did and a couple of years later here I am…talking to you.

So back to the title “A Lone Non-Punjabi Sikh in the heart of the Bible Belt”,  I live in a county that has over 300 churches of close to just as many denominations and not a single Gurdwara.  There are two Vietnamese Buddhist Temples and a Synagogue.  So needless to say with just those figures alone I’m outnumbered and unsupported locally LOL.  I think there may be one Punjabi family on the coast that owns a liquor store outside of the Air Force base here, at least I have seen a gentleman with a Dastaar going in and out of said store frequently so I’m going to assume he owns it.  That being said I have relied on my internet skills (insert smirk) to reach out and learn as much as I can.  It’s not easy to make Punjabi Sikh friends, I can only speculate as to why but a white guy from the south asking if he is welcome at your Gurdwara didn’t have a positive result when I contacted the closest one to me (it’s an hour from me) and the next closest one to me is three hours away.  Now I’m whining and you don’t want to hear any of that.

I am starting this blog in the hopes that this will help me stay on my path and maybe…just maybe someone will actually read it and reach out.  In the meantime I’ll keep watching my videos, reading my Nitnem and studying the Gurbani the best I can.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Babas, Sants, and Mahapurakhs


I already know just by the title of this blog that some people are not going to be too happy with this piece. But I've been meaning to write it (and there is no other better time than now).

Maybe it's because I've from a different culture. Maybe it's because I use to be Agnostic and skeptical of everything. Maybe it's because I was raised in the West.


But when it comes to saints, babas, etc., I admire them for what they've done for Sikhs/the Sikh community, but I don't follow them. Why? Here's why.

Division Within the Panth

Now, let me just say that they are not doing this on purpose. They are just preaching what they consider to be the ultimate truth. But that's the problem. The people who follow them consider what they say to be the ultimate truth as well. This then leads to the formation of jathebandies (groups). And we know how having jathebandies has affected our Panth. "Well, you're not a real Sikh if you don't or do xyz." "Well, if you don't follow what Baba XYZ says, then you're going to hell. He's a mahapurakh." You get what I'm trying to say.

It's great to have different interpretations of a religion (which is something that happens in every faith), but when it gets to the point that people are completely discounting others based on minor differences in belief, then there's a problem.

The only way we are going to get Ekta (Oneness) within the Panth is if we have these different viewpoints but DON'T push yours onto your fellow Sikh brothers or sisters. Your rehat is your rehat. My rehat is my rehat. We are both Sikhs/Amritdharis at the end of the day. So chill.

Side note: Now that I think about it, it's really sad that Sikhs can coexist with other religions at the end of the day but not with each other. Like, really think about that.

Contradictions



Oh boi. So if all of these people are supposed to be on a higher spiritual plane (or in tune with Ik Oankar), why is it that they all have different answers regarding different subjects within Sikhi? Like, for real? Because the reality is that what they are teaching is not THE truth, but their interpretation of Truth.

Which at the end of the day, our beliefs (well, for some of us) are based on our interpretation of the material we are reading. It is also based on how we were raised, were we grew up at, and what we currently know. We could all be right. We could all be wrong. Either way, I will never say, "My words are the truth and the ONLY truth" or even give that impression to someone. Don't be lazy and do the research for yourself. This leads me to my next point.

Sources

Baba: "Sikhs should not do xyz"

Me (In My Head): "Um, where exactly does it say that in Gurbani? Better yet, where does it say that in any of the authentic rehitnamas, Granths, or the puratan janamsakhis?".

That goes to say DON'T be a blind follower. If someone says something (and they don't give a source on where it comes from), automatically a red flag should go up. And no, stories of the supernatural do not count as a source for me. Why? Because supernatural events literally happen to people in every religion (supporting their confirmation bias). And even if they give you a source, make sure they are using an authentic one or are not twisting it. Some people (especially jathebandies) will twist a line in Gurbani to mean something that it does not. Or they take the line completely out of context.

This is honestly why I prefer to learn about Sikhi through academic sources rather than through parchariks or Sants. Authentic sources (for the most part) don't have bias. Parchariks and Saints do. Hell, I do.

Gender Imbalance

Now, go type into Google images "sikh saints". How many women do you see? Maybe one or two. You cannot tell me that there are not more "enlightened" Sikh women out there. It is so embarrassing to me when Sikhi is the dharam that teaches gender equality, but faiths such as Hinduism and Christianity have more women saints (or generally preachers) than us (and it's seen as the norm).

Oh, that's right. Women should just sit down and shut up (as Singhs have told me on the internet).


At the end of the day, do not tell me what Sant "so and so" says or what Baba "so and so" says or what Yogi "so and so" says. Tell me what my Guru Says! Don't tell me what I should do because of what mahapurakh "so and so" says. Tell me what I should do based on what Gurbani says or on what our history shows! 


But you know what, I'll be honest. I'm proud of my generation of Sikhs (and most present-day Sikh converts as well). Because some young people have realized that "Hey, some of what we were taught (or what our parents/grandparents were taught) might not exactly be rooted within Sikhi." And when it comes to the converts (well, the ones who aren't following a certain person), we tend to question everything. I believe this will only lead to the betterment of the Sikh community.

Serve the Saints. Serve humanity. Jap (chant) Naam with the Sadh Sangat. But don't blindly follow anyone.

Forgive me for my mistakes.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.





Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Check Your Privilege Ji


"How could you leave Sikhi?! You shouldn't leave Sikhi because of people. Only follow God and the Guru."

This is the phrase some people have not only said to me when I've been in the valley
but SEVERAL people who I have either seen leave Sikhi completely or who have thought about leaving Sikhi. It honestly infuriates me when people from a place of privilege try to tell others how they can feel and how they can't feel. "Gurpreet Kaur, what do you mean by 'from a place of privilege' ?" Ok, ask yourself the following questions:





Do you come from a Sikh family (regardless of where they are on the religious spectrum)?

Do you speak/write/understand Punjabi, Hindi, and/or Urdu?

Do you look like most of the people at your Gurdwara? Are they of your same background or ethnic group?

Do you live near a Gurdwara?

Are you a male (which unfortunately is a question I have to ask regarding the Sikh community)?

If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then you are privileged. Now, what does that have to do with what I'm going to discuss? People born into Sikhi (for the most part, Punjabi people) have to realize that for those coming into the faith the hurdles are 3x that of someone who was born into the faith.


"But Gurpreet. My family is made up of all monas who drink and smoke and blah blah blah." Listen, at least your family still associates with you (and probably gives you a roof over your head and food). For most converts, their relations with their whole family is either strained or non-existent. On top of that, when you say phrases like the one above, you are directly or indirectly downgrading another person's struggles. Basically, it's like you're saying, "I go through stuff as well so your stuff is actually not that bad." Non-empathetic and not very Sikh like.


"Well, I could never leave my Guru." Well, thanks lil 'Preet. I'm happy to know that your faith is vastly stronger than the majority of people's. Can you please sit down for a second and realize that not everyone's faith is up to par yet? Or, you know, a mahapurakh? Thank you.

Realize that when someone comes into Sikhi, their support system is gone. They have lost all connection with their previous religious community. They have most likely lost a big chunk of their friendship circle (with some friends who start to actively harass them to come back to their previous faith). Looking at Christian people here. And in all honesty, they are starting over. For some, they are not near a Gurdwara or do not have access to physical saroop of the Guru Granth Sahib. And for most, the language barrier can be quite irritating.


All this wouldn't matter though if Sikhi was an individualistic faith. But that is FAR from the truth. Let's look at what Gurbani has to say.

"Join the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; vibrate and meditate on the Jewel of the Naam." ~ Guru Arjan Dev ji

"Still, without the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, he will not feel satisfied. Without the Name, all suffer in sorrow." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"Join the Sat Sangat, the True Congregation, and find the Lord. The Gurmukh embraces love for the Lord." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"O most fortunate ones, join the Sangat, the Blessed Congregation; purchase the True Word of the Shabad." ~ Guru Arjan Dev ji

"The waves of greed are rising up within him, and he does not remember God. He does not join the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, and he suffers in terrible pain through countless incarnations." ~ Guru Arjan Dev ji

There are countless more verses that I could use. And let's be real for a second. If the Gurus meant for this to be a 'stay at home and don't bother with other people' faith, we should go ahead and tear down all the langar halls and Gurdwaras across the globe. Because if you're a Sikh, you most definitely will be dealing with other Sikhs in one way or another. And Sikhs can be...I'm not even gonna go there.


Humans need interaction with other humans. The effects of being a loner are very bad in the long run. Please watch the following video explaining the side effects of loneliness.






So what is the correct (and honestly, Gursikh) response when someone says they are thinking about leaving Sikhi? It's simple. I will give you an example.

"I'm sorry ji to hear that you are having such a rough time. I know that our community can be a lot to deal with. Is there any way that I can help you or is there any problem I can assist you in solving?"

Not only does this response not downgrade their feelings, but it shows that you care. And for some people, that's all they need.

If we want to fix our community, we must begin to work on ourselves first. That means if several people are saying that our community is full of racism, sexism, ego, exclusivity, lust, etc., we must step back and make sure we are not contributing to this ourselves. To see the change, we must be the change.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

P.S. Be on the lookout for my next post "Babas, Sants, and Mahapurakhs: Hurting the Panth?". You won't want to miss it




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Duality and Our Diet


Now, before I even get started writing this piece, I know that there will be those who flat out disagree with me. And you know what? That's okay. I personally think there should be room for different interpretations of Gurbani in the Panth. But what I will not stand for though is people snubbing their noses at those who disagree with them or saying stuff like "you are not a real Sikh". About that, Guru Nanak said:

"The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom. What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?.... Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, devour men at night. They practice hypocrisy, and make a show before other people, but they do not understand anything about meditation or spiritual wisdom." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

Secondly, for this article, I will only be using Gurbani from the Guru Granth Sahib and Bhai Gurdas ji's vaaran since almost all Sikhs accept the authority of these two works. I could also use historical evidence (such as the janamsakhis, rehatnamas, historical accounts written by Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs, etc.), but I won't be doing that today.

Thirdly, I realize that I am imperfect, and that being so, my words are not Gurbani. I will say upfront that I personally believe in jhatka maryada (where an animal is raised ethically and killed by the single strike of a sword or axe). And historically, this is what the Khalsa followed. But again, I won't get into history today. I am currently working on matching my own diet to my ideals.

The Deunification of the Panth

I personally believe that this whole "trend" of Sikhs being vegetarian or vegan did not begin until more than a century ago with the growth of "Baba" or "Saint" culture.  And almost all the Sikhs I have met who claim to be vegan or vegetarian are influenced or follow a group that was founded by a Baba. With the exception of the Damdami Taksal and the Budha Dal, all other mainstream "jathas" in Sikhi were founded by a Baba. Akhand Kirtani Jatha (AKJ)? Founded by Bhai Randhir Singh ji. Dodra? Founded by officer Jaswant Singh (otherwise known as Khoji). Neeldhari Panth? Founded by S. Harnam Singh. Sikh Dharma International? Founded by Yogi Bhajan. Then there are offshoots like the Naamdharis, Nirankaris, etc.

Even though all of these guys made significant contributions to the Panth, what exactly  makes me skeptical of Baba culture (as I like to call it)? Well, this might be the former Agnostic side of me coming out, but all of these Babas/Saints (who are supposed to be enlightened beings) contradict each other on several issues. For example, just by glancing over this list, I can tell you that all of these men would give you different answers to what is kirtan, how it should be done, and how Simran should be conducted. Don't believe me? Just go and look up all their rehat maryadas for yourself. They would also contradict each other on small issues such as what a Sikh should wear. Now, if all of these people are suppose to be connected to "Ik Oankar", why all these different ideas? I could go further into that, but let's keep going with my article.

Now that you understand why I generally distrust Babas, I will give a rundown on what I think Gurbani teaches on this issue

1) Everything is "Ik Oankar" and contains a life source

Sikhi is a non-dualistic faith. Meaning that at the end of the day, we realize that everything we see and touch and feel is "Ik Oankar" or God.


"In the eye of the Saint, everything is God." - Guru Arjan Dev ji

"God Himself is everything; those who are in their ego cannot even speak of this." - Guru Amar Das ji

"Waaho! Waaho! You are wonderful and great, O Lord and Master; You created the creation, and made us. You made the waters, waves, oceans, pools, plants, clouds, and mountains. You Yourself stand in the midst of what You Yourself created." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The entire Universe is the form of the One Lord" - Guru Arjan Dev ji


And on top of that, everything (yes, everything) has a joon in it. Guru Nanak describes this in Gurbani.

"I took the form of so many plants and trees, and so many animals. Many times I entered the families of snakes and flying birds." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

"Mortals, forests, blades of grass, animals, and birds all meditate on You." -Guru Nanak Devi ji

"For several births, you were a worm and an insect; in so many incarnations, you were an elephant, a fish, and a deer. In so many incarnations, you were a bird and a snake. In so many incarnations, you were yoked as an ox and a horse. Meet the Lord of the Universe - now is the time to meet Him. After so very long, this human body was fashioned for you. Pause. In so many incarnations, you were created in rocks and mountains; in so many incarnations you were aborted in the womb; in so many incarnations, you developed branches and leaves; You wandered through 8.4 million incarnations."

So those who preach that they are vegetarian or vegan because life only comes from eggs and animals, clearly, according to Gurbani, this is false. When we read Gurbani, everything needs to be read from a place of non-duality and oneness. Realize that God is us, and we are God. Realize that we ultimately originated from the same source as the elephant, the water, and the blade of grass. 

2) No matter if you are vegetarian, vegan, or neither, you are still killing/removing life

In order for our bodies to function, it is necessary that we take the life of another (whether plant or animal). We can not avoid this. 

Now let's talk about Bhagat Kabir ji. Bhagat Kabir ji was so intuned with Naam that he did not want to cause harm to literally ANYTHING. 

Regarding plants he says: 

"You tear off the leaves, O gardener, but in each and every leaf, there is life.  That stone idol, for which you tear off those leaves - that stone idol is lifeless. In this, you are mistaken, O gardener. The True Guru is the Living Lord. Pause. Brahma is in the leaves, Vishnu is in the branches, and Shiva is in the flowers. When you break these three gods, whose service are you performing?" 

Regarding killing a chicken he says: 

"Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible, and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false. You say that the One Lord is in all, so why do you kill chickens?

If you read the whole Shabad, you see that Bhagat Kabir ji is addressing a Mullah (a title given to a person who is formally educated in Islam). Now, for those who aren't familiar with the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), animal sacrifice is carried out in order to please God, receive forgiveness from God for sins, or to receive a blessing from God. So basically here, Bhagat Kabir ji is saying, why are you sacrificing an animal for God when God itself is in the animal or is the animal? Basically, this is a pointless ritual and could be used as an argument for why Sikhs don't eat halal or kosher meat. 

He then goes on further in the shabad, implying that really, killing is an illusion. 

"You seize a living creature, and then bring it home and kill its body: you have killed only the clay. The light of the soul passes into another form. So tell me, what have you killed?"

Basically, if you take the stance of Bhagat Kabir ji, animal sacrifice is pointless.

While we are on the topic of Bhagat Kabir ji, let's also bring up another shabad that people like to bring up.

"Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish, and wine. - no matter what pilgimages, fast and rituals they follow, they will go to hell." 

Now, what do all of these three things have in common? They also can be used as intoxicants *gasps* "So you're saying fish is an intoxicant?" I'm saying that there are fish that can get you high (aka hallucinogenic fish). And some groups in the past have used fish to do exactly that. And from what I have personally been told, Bhagat Kabir ji was addressing one of these groups. 

3) Sikhs should not eat anything that has been exploited or produced through exploitation

"Kabeer, they oppress living beings and kill them, and call it proper. When the Lord calls for their account, what will their condition be? 

It is not okay for Sikhs to eat anything that has been oppressed, abused, or produced by the oppressed or abused. What does that mean? Jhatka meat is allowed, but no factory meat (which is what 99% of the meat in America is). The way factory meat is produced is horrific, to say the least, and we Sikhs shouldn't be supporting that. That's also why some people do not drink milk or any dairy products. Because of the treatment of animals when it comes to producing dairy products.

Gurbani also alludes to the fact that plants (yes, plants) might be able to feel pain. Here is this shabad by Guru Nanak

"Look, and see how the sugar-cane is cut down. After cutting away its branches, its feet are bound together into bundles, and then, it is placed between the wooden rollers and crushed. What punishment is inflicted upon it! Its juice is extracted and placed in the cauldron; as it is heated, it groans and cries out. And then the crushed cane is collected and burnt in the fire below. Nanak: come, people, and see how the sweet sugar-cane is treated!" ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

Now, let's hop over to the religion of Jainism for a second. Jains do not believe in eating meat, eggs, gelatin, or (get this), anything that grows underground (including potatoes, onion, and garlic). Why? Because they realize that when you pull something up from the ground or are cutting something, you are taking that's plants life away. And usually not in the most careful way. They will only eat plants that can be plucked from above the ground because plucking it won't kill the whole plant (i.e. apple trees).

So as a Sikh, if your main priority really is mercy and non-violence, don't be hypocritical and follow the Jain diet. 

And heck, I'll just throw this randomly in, but look at from where you are buying your clothes. Did a 5-year-old child from China working 12 hours a day produce it? If so, doesn't' this destroy your whole point of being merciful towards others and non-violent.  Sat Sangat ji, realize that I am not only talking to ya'll but I am also talking to myself. 

4 ) Sikhs Should Not Eat Alot 

Now, here is one idea that I have not seen among people on both sides of the spectrum. As Sikhs, we are yogis (people actively trying to become one with the One). Yogis do not eat a lot because physically when you eat a lot, your body becomes heavy/drowsy and meditation becomes more and more difficult. So whether we eat meat or vegetation, we should only eat as much as our body needs. I purposely try to follow this.

"Feeding and pampering your body, your life is passing away" ~ Guru Arjan Dev ji

"They burn away the bonds of the world, and eat a simple diet of grain and water. You are the Great Forgiver; You give continually, more and more each day." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The Guru has revealed the stores and the city within the home of my own heart, where I intuitively carry on the true trade. Sleep little, and eat little; O Nanak, this is the essence of wisdom." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The nights are wasted sleeping, and the days are wasted eating. Human life is such as precious jewel, but it is being lost in exchange for a mere shell." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji 


5) Bhai Gurdas' jis Vaaran

For those who don't know, Bhai Gurdas ji is the original scribe of the Guru Granth Sahib and his writings were deemed "the key to interpreting Gurbani" by Guru Arjan Dev ji. Almost all Sikhs agree on the authenticity of his writings. Now, this time around I won't be giving my views or opinions on what he has to say surrounding this issue and will let the reader come to a conclusion themselves.

How Our Instruments For Kirtan Are Made

"A handsome tree got cut itself and got manufactured into a rebeck. A young goat underwent the mortification of getting killed itself; it distributed its meat among the meat-eaters. Its intestines were made into gut and the skin was mounted (on drum aka tabla) and stitched. Now it is brought in the holy congregation where melody is produced on the instrument. It creates the melody of Raag as the Shabad is heard. Any one who worships the true Guru, the God, gets absorbed into the equanimity" 

On the Goat

"The proud elephant is inedible and none eats the mighty lion. Goat is humble and hence it is respected everywhere. On occasions of death, joy, marriage, yajna, etc. only its meat is accepted. Among the householders its meat is acknowledged as sacred and with its gut stringed instruments are made. From its leather the shoes are made to be used by the saints merged in their meditation with the Lord. Drums are mounted by its skin and then in the holy congregation the delight giving kirtan, eulogy of the Lord, is sung. In fact, going to the holy congregation is the same as going to the shelter of the true Guru." 

Origins of Life

"Four life originating mines (egg, fetus, sweat-born, and vegetation) and four speeches (para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari) were assimilated into each other and the drama of transmigration was enacted."

Different Diets, Same Destination

"A goat was caught by a lion and while about to die, it gave out a horse laugh. The surprised lion asked why it was so happy at such a moment (of its death). Humbly the goat replied that the testicles of our male progeny are crushed in order to castrate them. We eat only wild plants of arid regions yet our skin is peeled and pounded. I think about the plight of those (like you) who cut the throat of others and eat their flesh. The body of both of the proud and the humble will become dust ultimately, but, even then the body of the arrogant (lion) is inedible and that of the humble (goat) attains the status of edible. All who came to this world have to die ultimately."

Bhagat Sadhana

*For those who don't know, Bhagat Sadhana is one of the Bhagats who's bani is included in the Guru Granth Sahib. His occupation was that of being a butcher, and he is mention in Ang 858 and Ang 1106

"Dhanna, the jatt (farmer) and Sadhana born in a known low cast butcher got across the world ocean."


Conclusion

In conclusion, I leave ya'll with these two quotes by Guru Nanak:

"Some eat meat, while others eat grass. 
Some have all the thirty-six varieties of delicacies,
While others live in the dirt and eat mud.
Some control the breath and regulate their breathing. 
Some live by the Support of the Naam, the essence of the Formless Lord.
The Great Giver lives; no one dies.
O Nanak, those who do not enshrine the Lord within their minds are deluded. "
~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"What good is food, and what good are clothes, 
if the True Lord does not abide within the mind?
What good are fruits, what good is ghee, sweet jaggery, 
what good is flour, and what good is meat?
What good are clothes, and what good is a soft bed, 
to enjoy the pleasures and sensual delights? 
What good is an army, what good are soldiers, servants, and mansions to live in?
O Nanak, without the True Name, all the paraphernalia shall disappear." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji



It is my benti (request) to the Sangat that instead of following these Babas/Sants/Brahmgyanis (which are in a way breaking apart the Panth and causing friction between ourselves), we should read Gurbani (whether it be from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Dasam Granth, or Sarbloh Granth) for ourselves, do the research into our history ourselves, and realize that whatever conclusion we come to is solely OUR conclusion. We should not push our way of thinking onto other people and should not deem anyone as not Sikh. Whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, or vegan, as long as you are following Gurbani as you understand it to the best of your ability, in my eyes, you are a Gursikh.

Forgive me for any mistakes I have made. I sure there are many. I will probably add more shabads later when I have the energy to. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh. 

P.S. There are some valid reasons for being a vegetarian. Including helping to combat climate change or in order to combat health problems. That's fine, but saying it is for religious reasons is kind of.....eh. That's all I'll say. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Two Different Journeys, One Destination


With the blessing and a request from the author, today I will be giving my opinions on the written piece called "Sikh Spiritual Practice: The Sound Way to God". Before I even opened and read the book, I decided to take a quick glance at a few of the reviews that it had already garnered. Let's just say that they're very..antithetical. "Oh god", I groaned. "I really hope I'm not getting into something that I don't want to." But in spite of what people were saying, I drove to the lake, picked up the novel she had sent me, did a quick skim of the table of contents, and began to read.

The first few chapters were an excellent read. She covers the basics of Sikhism pretty nicely, discloses on her own journey into Sikhism (which by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed), and discusses the beauty of the Shabad. There's even one concept she created and that I found in there and have come to like called "shabad yoga". Shabad yoga is basically picking a shabad that you connect to and practicing it a certain amount of times each day. Not only do I think this practice will help Sikhs implement Sikhi into their daily routines more, but it also will have a positive effect on their psyche.

She then goes on to elaborate about Sikh practices and traditions (including Nitnem, the Amrit Ceremony, the protocols of attending a Gurdwara, etc), while incorporating her own personal stories and the stories of other Sikhs into the narrative. Out of all the stories, there was one in there (that comes from an article called "A Miracle During World War II) that I am somewhat skeptical of, but at the same time, I can't totally discredit it. The rest of the stories I think any normal person can easily relate to.

One thing that I find very respectable about this book that I have not seen in the majority of other Sikh novels is that she constantly pushes having respect towards Gurbani. For example, it is heavily advised that the reader should cover his or her head before we chanting any of the multiple shabads found in "The Sound Way to God". This is something that even some Gurdwaras have seem to stop implementing and that needs to start being pushed again.

Now, there are a few sections in this book geared towards people who practice Kundalini Yoga or who are a part of the path of Sikh Dharma (the organization). For those who don't fall under these two categories (including myself), you have two options. Either you can skim through those sections to get a better understanding of what people who have followed that path believe (which is what I did) or completely skip over them. That solves a lot of the "issues" that people have had with the book.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who might be new to Sikhi or interested in knowing about the Sikh way of life. I think that it would even be a good read for those who were born into the faith, since I've heard over and over again about how a lot of born and raised Sikhs weren't taught the "why" or even "what" behind things. I can tell that Mrs. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa really did put her full energy into writing, and for that, she deserves some recognition.


Amazon


My New Book

Like Kirpal Kaur K., I've also published a book. Called "My Journey into the Sikhi: A Tell-All by an African American Covert", this book gives the reader never before seen information into not only how I got into Sikhi but the events that took place all the way up until the point I toke Amrit. Several copies of my novel have already sold, and it's something that I believe you don't want to miss out on. It is only $4 on Amazon so that all people (regardless of socioeconomic background) can have access to this inspiring tale.

Amazon

I would like to end on this note. Even though we come from completely different backgrounds, our opinions might differ on some things, and our journeys are completely different, I think it is so amazing how both of us (and others around the world) have started embracing Sikhism. And to that I say, "Dhan Guru Nanak".





Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How to Be Tyar bar Tyar in the 21st Century (Also Book Release!)



As a religious minority and a racial minority living in the United States, I sometimes wonder why Sikhs in America do not think it's important to know how to defend themselves. Some say it's because they don't want to be or appear as "extremists". Others have told me that the US is safe and that there's no need to bring any of THAT over here. In either case, this is not a good attitude to have.

As Sikhs, it is important that we balance ourselves by being both sants (Saints) and Sipahis (warriors). Yes, you can fight injustice and oppression with the pen, your words, and your actions. But with the steady growth of mass shootings and terrorist attacks across the globe, this is not the time for Sikhs to be putting our shastar down. Quite the opposite. In the Lone Star State, we have this saying: "In Texas, we don't call 911." And I personally believe that as Sikhs, we shouldn't completely depend on the police for protection, because we are meant to BE the police ourselves.

So for those "extremists" who haven't closed out the browser yet, here are some ways that not only you can physically defend yourself but defend others as well.

1. Enroll yourself and your family in a self-defense class 

Our body is a complex machine, and if tuned right, can become a weapon. Learning how to defend your body from harm is never a waste of time (especially for Sikhs). We have seen several cases of Sikhs across the US being physically assaulted and beat up for who they are. On top of that, we have seen several Sikh children being physically bullied for who they are. Now let's think about this for a second. Do you think little "Johnny" would hit little "Manvir" if he knew little "Manvir" could hit back? Probably not. Same goes for adults. If someone knows you aren't defenseless, the threat of them attacking you does not completely go away but significantly decreases.

2. Be armed 

Now, keep in mind that I'm a citizen of the United States who lives in the state of Texas. Texas has some of the most lenient laws in the whole country when it comes to weapons. But I know I have some readers reading this who live in countries that have huge restrictions when it comes to weapons (including the kirpan). If so, you have a valid reason for why you definitely might not want to be armed and should just look at number 1 and 3.

For those to whom this doesn't apply, I encourage you to look up what as a citizen of your country you can legally carry on your person. For example, in the state of Texas, carrying swords in public is completely legal (except for a few places like hospitals, government buildings, etc.). And as long as you have an LTC (license to carry), you can carry a handgun.

"Why do we need a gun? Isn't that a bit excessive?"

I'll tell you why. Read the title again. This is the 21st century, and in the 21st century, the weapon of choice to use (for good and bad) is the gun. Even Guru Gobind Singh ji  himself owned a gun. Wouldn't you rather bring a gun to a gun fight than a knife, or even worse, nothing?! And even in a knife fight, most people's kirpans are 100% blunted or completely unusable, so what then? It's sad that this is the reality we face, but again, it is reality.

P.S. For good kirpans, I would highly recommend ordering from Khalsa Kirpans. And for good, usable swords, I would recommend buying from Cold Steel.

3. Security 

Most Gurdwaras as they are are totally unprepared for a crisis, therefore making the Sangat sitting ducks. After accidentally coming across one of the videos showing the shooting in New Zealand, I saw first hand what happens when you have a bad guy with a weapon wanting to hurt defenseless people. It's not pretty.

Since then, there has been a call for Muslims by Muslims around the US to take up arms in order to protect the mosque (American Muslims Contemplate Taking Up Arms In Self Defense (HBO). I think it's time for Sikhs to raise the alarm and pressure their local Gurdwaras into hiring some type of armed security or enlist volunteers. Either that or getting an action plan in place. The Sikh Coalition has done a great job when it comes to jumpstarting this effort. Their resources can be viewed below.

National Gurdwara Security Preparedness


Conclusion 

At the end of the day, as Sikhs, physical aggression is our last choice. But we must not be naive about what is going on in the world around us and acknowledge that for ourselves and for the innocent, it would be irresponsible for us not to be tyar bar tyar. But then again, what do I know? I'm just a little ole girl from Texas.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

Oh, and before ya'll go, I recently released my book "My Journey into Sikhi: A Tell-All by an African American Convert" on Amazon. It's a book showcasing my transition from being a Christian, to an Agnostic, to a Sikh, and finally to an Amritdhari. It is currently #24 on the Best Seller Sikhism list and available as both an ebook and paperback.

My Journey into Sikhi: A Tell-All by an African American Convert

And on my next post, I will be reviewing the book "Sikh Spiritual Practice: The Sound Way to God" by Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa. Until then, Gurpreet out! And happy belated Vaisakhi!



Friday, March 15, 2019

Being Sikh in the Black Community

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh. I had previously planned to release a blog today on the subject  “How to be Tyar bar Tyar in the 21st Century”, but in light of recent events in New Zealand, I think that it’s best if we postpone discussing that subject. For those who might have been affected by the event, please know that the Sikh community stands with you and supports you.

I’ve instead decided to talk about something that has recently affected me in the realm of social media. You see, a couple of days ago my interview with BBC was released and listened to by Sikhs all over the world. And since I get anxiety about watching videos, or even listening to interviews of myself, I have not sat down and listened. A lot of people told me it was good, but that it also leaned towards the negative side of things. So in response, I did a Youtube video focusing more toward the positive experiences I’ve had as a convert (which I’ll link below)

My Experience with Punjabi Sikhs

Everything was well and good...until I got one notification. Someone had responded to the interview not on my social media account but on another page. They had also mentioned or “@“ me. I went and read the thread she had written and became irritated. This was an African American Sikh lady out of California who I had spoken to one time before. And the topic had solely been on hair. We had disagreed with each other back then and she basically stated that I had chosen religion over culture (and for her vice versa). That was that. More than a year later, we both had interviews and they both released on or near the same day. One of my friends had pointed hers out to me and I was like “cool”. And then I got the notification hours later. Didn’t really think it was going to be about anything. Until I read one of her following comments.

“In my interview..., I mentioned some black folks have been willing to fully immerse themselves into Sikhi which means taking on parts of Punjabi culture. This is one of the bw (black woman) I was thinking about when I said that....". That instantly sparked a tiny flame of anger within me. I also proceeded to read some other comments she had written about me, and I'll be honest. I got pissed off and reacted. I showed the thread to my homegirl and she agreed with me that the thread was showing me in a demeaning light. And that none of the statements were true. In my head I thought:

"How could she be saying this? She's literally only spoken to me once and is judging me solely based on what she sees on social media. And what Punjabi culture is she talking about?! I don't do bhangra. I don't wear Punjabi suits. I wear bana when attending Sikh functions but that's apart of my rehat. And heck, bana ain't Punjabi. I don't cook any Indian/Punjabi food for the most part. So what is her deal? She (nor 95% of people on the internet) do not see my personal life. And her saying this is basically like calling me a brown "oreo"*...This hurts."

And it especially hurt since this was not only someone from the same race but from the same religious community. On top of that, it should be noted that the majority of her social media is composed of people within the black community. For the majority of black Sikhs, we face this kind of attitude from people within our own race. In general, in order to be considered "black", you must be three things: democrat, Christian, and straight. Well, I am straight. But politically I'm independent (leaning left) and religiously I'm a Sikh. So I instantly do not fit into the mold (nor do I ever want to). And the moment you step out of that bubble, you are instantly considered "less than". As in, less than black. Your own community looks at you weird and some ridicule you. But here's the thing. When it comes to most African Americans, they are stuck in a bubble and are ignorant in regards to other cultures/religions. They don't know things such as "Sikhism do not equal Punjabi culture". Heck, even some Sikhs don't know that. All they see is that you're hanging out with Punjabi people a lot more, eating, singing, and praying with them. This sort of reminds me of how many of my white Sikh brothers and sisters are viewed as "traitors" by some within their own race. It's sad. It's really sad. But it's the reality we face.

For me, becoming a Sikh doesn't mean abandoning my culture. I still go to my relatives' houses, eat, and talk loud. I still go to the beauty supply and stock up on hair products (heck, even more so now). I still like to listen to Gospel music or jazz. My mother and I still sit down and watch shows like Martin, the Bernie Mac Show, Ricky Smiley, Good Times, etc. etc. All of my family and my non-Sikh friends still call me Jasmine since I love both of my names and never plan on changing my first name legally. I still love sitting down with older black folk and discussing their upbringing and our history. Yada. Yada. You get the picture.

The fact of the matter is that being a devote Sikh does not mean taking on parts of Punjabi culture. It means bringing the light of Sikhi into your own culture and uplifting it. I believe as the black community becomes more educated and diverse, I will no longer have to discuss these sort of things (whether in person or online). The bottom line is that I'm black, I'm Sikh, and that I couldn't be happier about it.

*Oreo is a demeaning term people (more often African Americans) use towards AAs to say that they are black on the outside but another race on the inside.