Monday, July 8, 2019

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

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 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." 


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.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Happy Women's History Month


Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh. In the United States, March is declared as Women's History Month. And as someone who is a woman and a Sikh, I've decided that I am going to focus this month on learning the history of women in regards to Sikhi. Unfortunately, there are not that many Sikh resources out there that focus on solely Sikh women. I find that when the Sikh narrative is told, women are 95% of the time left out. And when there is a woman included, it is usually focused on ladies like Mai Bhago, Mata Sahib Devan/Kaur, Mata Gujri ji, or Bebe Nanaki. The reality is that there are way more women who are significant to Sikh history then what is presented. And we as a community must make sure there is equal representation. Because as Guru Nanak Dev ji says:

"Among all the women and men, the One's light is shining."

So how exactly can we make sure women are equally represented?

1. Educate Yourself

There are books out there focused on Sikh women (though few). They are not that expensive and are not that long. I highly recommended Principal Sewan Singh's book "Noble and Brave Sikh Women", because it focuses on significant female figures from a historical perspective rather than a mystical perspective. And not just women living during the Gurus times, but after as well.

Noble and Brave Sikh Women

There's also "Sundri". A historical fiction written by Bhai Vir Singh.

Sundri (English)

Lastly, the book "The Guru's Gift" explores the lives of not just Sikh women who wear dastars in North America, but the general view of women in Sikhism as well. The co-authors themselves are anthropologists who are not Sikh, so it's interesting to read what they have observed from their perspective as well.

The Guru's Gift: An Ethnography Exploring Gender Equality with North American Sikh Women

 There are also articles out there on Sikh women. One is "10 Bada*s Sikh Women in History" written by the editor in chief for Kaur Life, Lakhpreet Kaur. I highly encourage everyone to look it up and read it. It's a very quick read.

In regard to videos, I encourage everyone to check out the short film animation "Kaur" produced by Sikhnet. Follow the main character, Saibhang Kaur, who struggles with pursuing her passion for science since she is told it's a "boy thing". In order to encourage her, Saibhang's grandmother recounts to her granddaughter the story of Mai Bhago and how she led an army of 40 men into battle.

Kaur - by Sikhnet

2. Leadership Does Matter

Can someone tell me why the majority of our leadership within the Panth are still male? Can someone tell me why the title of "Sant" seems to be exclusively for Sikh males? Can someone tell me why we went from having a significant number of female preachers (such as Bibi Bhagbhari) under Guru Amar Das ji to having very few? The Sikh community is slowly changing this, but as females, I feel that we can not wait for change itself. It is time that we stop hiding back in the langar hall kitchen and claim our seat at the table. We are Kaurs! Whether you define that as "princesses" or "lionesses", our Gurus have given us the power to have a voice as well. Several of the major world religions have a one up on us in regard to female representation. And seeing that this is the 21st century, Sikhs should be ahead of all of them. And I mean ALL of them. So to all the females who are reading this, be a Granthi. Be a warrior. Be a Sant. Be an educator. And to all the males who are reading this, encourage your sister, your aunts, your mother, your wives, and your female friends, to pursue these routes. And if anyone tries to block them, stop them.

3. Celebrate 

As Sikhs, we love to honor our Gurus, our shaheeds, and others who have done significant things in the past. And even those who are doing significant things now. We hang up pictures of them. We celebrate holidays revolving around them. And we tell their stories again and again. This is one thing I love about being a Sikh. But what does this have to do with women? Oftentimes if you walk into a Gurdwara and they have pictures up of martyrs or just great Sikhs in general, 99% of them are Singhs. If you are on a Gurdwara committee or have any say about it, how about you hang up pictures of females as well? What a difference it would make if a little Kaur could walk into the Gurdwara and see someone up on the wall that looks like her. And even though none of the Gurus were female, let's have a dialogue about their wives. They did significant things as well. Mata Kheevi ji (Guru Angad's wife) is actually mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib.

"Balwand says that Khivi, the Guru's wife, is a noble woman, who gives soothing, leafy shade to all. She distributes the bounty of the Guru's Langar: the kheer - the rice pudding and ghee, is like sweet ambrosia."

In addition, when we observe certain holidays, remember the women. When we celebrate Mela Maghi, remember Mai Bhago who led the 40 liberated ones. When we celebrate Vaisakhi, remember the mother of all the Khalsa Sikhs all over the world. When we celebrate the birthday of Dhan Dhan Guru Nanak Dev ji, let us remember the one who loved him so much and later became the first Sikh, Bebe Nanaki. As Abigail Adams urged her husband John Adams, "Remember the Ladies!"

Forgive me for my errors and mistakes. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Gurdwara versus The Church




On the left: Ministerio Gracia (formerly Southwood Baptist Church and the church I use to attend)
On the right: Austin Gurdwara Sahib (the only standing Gurdwara in the Austin metroplex, but NOT the one I attend) 


I have been a part of the Sikh community for about two-years now and have attended Gurdwara services across the state of Texas. From Dallas-Fort Worth, to Houston, to San Antonio, and to Austin (where I currently live). I haven't visited ALL of the Gurdwaras (I've visited about 80%), but I have a good picture of the lay of the land here. As a former Christian, when I compare the Gurdwaras to the church, I see a lot of room for improvement for the Gurdwaras. I'll touch on this more below. 


Note: I would like to add that the following is written from the perspective of a Sikh from Texas. For those who live in Canada, the UK, California, NJ/NY, etc., you might not be in the same situation or not be able to relate. Congratulations! But a lot of Sikhs living across the country will be able to. I would also like to shout out three Gurdwaras that I think are doing a fantastic job in not just the Sikh community but their local communites as well. They are as follows: Sikh Dharamsal of San Antonio, TX, Gurdwara Nishkam Seva, of Irving, TX (Dallas), and the Sikh Center of the Gulf Coast Area (Houston). 

Classes:


When it comes to the church, not only do you have a nursery for babies and Sunday School, you have classes for those over 18. Some churches have young adult class (targeting at college students), ladies class (which my mom use to teach), men class, Senior Saints (aka old people class), classes for people who don't speak English (so for people from Mexico, to India, to Kenya, etc.), and this list gets bigger the bigger the church is. In these classes, we are not only learning about our religion, but we are supporting each other spiritually.

When it comes to the Gurdwara, what do we have? Khalsa school. Period. And Khalsa schools/Sikhya classes only go up to a certain age. Where does that leave all the Sikhs over 15-16 at? "But there's camps!". First of all, not everyone can afford to go to the camps or are able to. Secondly, you can not create a solid Sikh lifestyle based on a few days out of the year you go off into the woods. It is important that Sikhs of all ages are continually learning no matter what stage they're at. Heck, the word "Sikh" means learner. 

Bhai Sahibs/Granthis:


For the most part, pastors at Churches are pretty approachable and are available to go to for help or advice. And let's say you speak Spanish. Someone at the church can translate what the pastor is saying to you (or they can at least find someone to do it). It makes the church feel that much more welcoming to the outside community and like a place of acceptance and comfort. On top of that, you might have deacons, ministers, bishops, priests, nuns, etc. who are versed in the religion and that you can approach if you don't feel like approaching the head. 

First of all, I commend all the people who take care of the Gurdwaras on a daily basis. It isn't easy (especially living in the conditions some of ya'll do). But don't you think it would help a lot if the people taking care of the Gurdwara could not only speak Punjabi but the language of the local people? Or better yet, who are approachable?  I'm looking dead at you Gurdwara committees and Presidents. There are a few Gurdwaras here in Texas where the Granthis speak English. And that makes the experience that much better and makes the Gurdwara feel that much more welcoming. Not only is it great for Punjabis who cannot speak Punjabi (like some Sikh kids I know can't) and converts who cannot speak Punjabi, but great for interfaith activities as well. I'm not saying get rid of the hour-long Punjabi kathas (which are necessary), but can you please do at least a 15-minute katha in English? Pleassseeeeeee? Plus, being bilingual would help knock down a huge barrier for Bhai Sahibs/Granthis (which I notice are solely isolated to the Gurdwara because they cannot communicate with the community around them). 

I would also like to add that we need more lady Granthis. Just saying. 

Physical Fitness:

Now, Christianity only is better at Sikhi than this probably by 5%. And since we are on the topic of physical fitness, no, the basketball courts do not count. I'm talking about a weight room. Or a gatka room. A room all Sikhs can come to and work on their fitness. Sikhs eat a lot (which we aren't supposed to anyways according to Gurbani 👀), which means we have a lot of calories to burn off. So get a treadmill set up or kettlebells or dumbells, or something and have Gurbani playing in the background. Dasam Bani is especially great for this. 


Support Groups/Social Services:

As I am editing this, my friend Navdeep reminded me of something else that churches have that a lot of Gurdwaras don't. Say if you are suffering from an addiction or mental illness. A lot of urban churches will have something to help you recover from it, alongside side any psychiatric help or rehabilitation you are doing. The Gurdwaras (apart from a few in the UK I know of) don't have this. Now, Sikhs are highly educated. You can not tell me there isn't a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or therapist in your Sangat. Or someone who can fulfill that role. The Sikh community cannot be strong until it gets over some of the issues that people are privately dealing with. It's time that Gurdwaras not just become places of social gathering but of healing.



So yeah. That is all I have to say for now. I could say more about these are the big ones I can think of. If you are on a committee, or are a president, or are a sevadar at your local Gurdwara, I pray that my words inspire you to action. If not, Waheguru. For those who read this till the end, I am very much appreciative of and always love having your support. Until next time, Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! 


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How to Block Out the Negativity in the Sikh Community



Earlier in the year, I felt horrible. Why? Because I was constantly surrounding myself with negativity on social media and in real life. I honestly thought about leaving Sikhi. And I have actually seen people leave Sikhi because of it. So I decided to disappear for a little while, sat down and had some discussions with a few friends, chilled by Lady Bird Lake here in Austin, and learned so much about myself and life in general then I had learned in the last couple of months. I came back feeling better than ever and knowing how to handle certain situations. Someone who is new to Sikhi (or maybe even old) might ask, how do I block out the negativity? Here are a few strategies that you'll find useful.

Thanks to Jermaine for inspiring this. You are the goat 🐐 .... now let's jhatka it 😂 AYE! AYE! I see some of ya'll runnin with your pitchforks toward me. If you can't take a joke, well...read below. This is especially for you.

1. Read Gurbani

Reading Gurbani (whether you define that as just the scriptures from SGGS ji or scriptures from all three Granths) washes away negativity. It teaches you how to spend your life in a productive and effective way. The most important thing though is to implement what the scriptures are saying into your life.

2. Do Not Argue

First of all, it's best to stay away from hot button topics within our community (unless asked for your opinion for a valid reason). Those are as followed: Khalistan, the role of women in Sikhi, meat-eating, the authenticity of certain Sikh scriptures, what is the original rehat, 3ho/Sikh Dharma,
 and stupid stuff like keski (turban) vs. kesh (hair). If you're reading this, it is likely you aren't an expert in Sikh theology or ideology. So please don't pretend to talk or type like you're one. Secondly, don't get into arguments. Just by avoiding the topics above, the likelihood that you will get into an argument with someone is cut down by 85%-90-%. Gurbani also has the following to say about arguments. *Hopefully ya'll can zoom in on it* Read the whole thing and think about this every time before you say something to your fellow Sikh or type something



3.  Meditate/Do Simran

Instead of arguing or getting into heating discussions, how about we do something that will actually help us toward our goal (merging with the One)? Everything else is really a waste of time. There are different ways you can do Simran (which simply means the remembrance of God). You can listen and sing along to kirtan. You can do Gurmantar. You can do Mool Mantar. Just see what works for you. 

4. Do Seva

If you're filling your day full of volunteer work while doing simran (whether at the local park or the Gurdwara), you won't have time to be paying attenton to what's going on around you. I think for some Sikhs the problem is that they have nothing better to do with their time. So get in contact with the volunteer coordinator at your Gurdwara (if they have one) or look at the following website and type in your country, city, or whatever they ask you to 



5. Surround Yourself w/People with Positive Energy

Now I've been blessed with the intuition and gift to know when people are BSing me, hiding something from me, don't like me, are jealous of me, think they're more intelligent than me,
 taking advantage of me, or just like being negative. Even some of my friends fall into one of these categories sometimes. Unfortunately, though, I have not been blessed with the gift of calling people out or saying what's truly on my mind. But hey, why deal with this when you can just surround yourself with positive people in the first place? That means being careful about who you allow on your social media and being careful about who you allow into your life. If someone is constantly making you smile, laugh, checking in on you, and you feel comfortable around them, that is a positive person to have in your life. If every time someone comes around and you say "Oh no" or "What are they up to now?" or you frown, that is someone to stay away from. If they say something snide, rude, or snarky to you, just ignore it. In the words of Soorma Singh, "You gotta learn just not to give an F!" 

 THIS NEXT ONE IS A BIG ONE SO PLEASE READ. THIS IS MY PERSONAL BENTI TO ALL SIKHS

5. Stop Dwelling on Negativity

For the last month, the Sikh community has been like a broken record player. "OMG, our Panth is so divided". "OMG, why are Sikhs always attacking each other." "OMG, Sikhs should stop attacking XYZ group or XYZ person". "OMG, the Sikh community is falling apart". Listen, it's great that we might recognize a few things wrong with our community but just constantly talking about it is not going to bring about a solution. All it does it make Sikhs look disharmonious and keeps people away from Sikhi. And it's frankly annoying. Look, this is Kalyug. This stuff most likely ain't going away. So my benti to the Sangat is 1) focus more on Simran and 2) decide to put mostly positive
energy out there. How? Well, share articles of Sikhs excelling. Share videos talking about Sikh history or showcasing Sikh celebrations. Write about how everyone can become closer to God. Uplift and encourage your fellow Sikh brother and sister. If you see someone doing a good job, shout them out. Discuss ways we can contribute to society and tackle social issues/injustices. Just anything that brings light into the world.

If you read this far, I hope you will not praise my writing but actually implement these things into your life. If not...why'd you read it in the first place?! 😂 Keep in Chardi Kala ji! Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

"Okay, Mom"

For those who don't know my family situation, PLEASE click on the link below:


So, I need everyone's advice. And this is in regards to my mother. You see, my mother has stopped being OPENLY hostile towards Sikhi which is a step in the right direction. But there's one thing she still seems to be lacking which is respect. Whenever I am with my mother, I automatically tone down my religion. I do not want to make her uncomfortable in any way or disrespect her beliefs. But she doesn't seem to hold the same sentiment. For example, whenever she is driving in the car with me I do not put on kirtan. Instead, I put on the news or just a regular radio station. But whenever I am in the car with her, she almost always has it on the Christian radio stations (such as 94.9, 90.9 Heaven 97, etc.). And instead of saying anything about it, I usually just put my headphones in and ignore the preacher talkin on the radio. 

Another thing she does is always quote the Bible. For example, there might something going on on the news and she'll then say, "Well, you know the Bible says xys". And instead of me saying what Gurbani says, I just say "Okay, Mom" or nothing at all. 

Then there are the constant exclamations of "Praise Jesus!". And I'm like "Okay, that's cool. But would you like it if I said "Dhan Guru Nanak!" every time that I was in your vicinity? Probably not. 

These are just a few examples of the things I have to go through when I go home. Even my grandparents aren't that, how do you say, Jesusfied. And she always asks me why I act like sometimes I don't want to go home. Well, this is a huge reason why. I'm uncomfortable around her and her basically throwing her religion in my face. When I do the exact opposite out of respect. 

So I need ya'lls advice. For those who have not grown up in a Christian family (more specifically a Protestant family), please try to understand the mentality we are dealing with here. Thanks

-
-Gurpreet

Friday, January 11, 2019

Adopting the Five Kakaars

So, this one is for those of ya'll who might be thinking about adopting one or more of the kakaars. The advice I will give on this stems mostly from my own experience.

Kirpan: 

It is important to check what the knife laws are in your country and state. The only countries I am aware of that have outright banned the kirpan are Italy and Denmark. Everywhere else, the laws change. For example, in Texas, we can wear swords in public if we want to. BUT certain places such as hospitals, mental health facilities, schools, etc., the blade must be 5 and a half inches or less. This leads to my next point.

For those who are in university, check with the school to make sure it is okay to be carrying a kirpan. I visited the Office for Inclusion and Equity, sat down, and had a conversation. I also was able to get it in writing that I can warry a kirpan as long as the blade is at maximum 5 and a half inches. For those who work, I suggest you check with your company and notify them as well.

If you ever have legal issues, I suggest contacting the Sikh Coalition to know your rights.

Now, for those who wear their kakaars 24/7, they can find that sleeping with a  normal sized kirpan can be difficult. The solution is to either wear a smaller kirpan or get a dori kirpan. A dori kirpan is what we Nihangs wear especially when doing ishnaan or going to bed. It does not get in the way that much compared to a regular kirpan.


Kachera:

Tell me why nobody ever told me underwear does not have to be worn with kachera? I figured this out months later after I started wearing them. So I'm just telling you that now so you do not have to go through the pain of it. I suggest also buying multiple pairs of kachera. So when one pair gets dirty, you can just switch out into another pair. And when one rips (which will happen), you can simply replace it.  Also, if you are going to machine wash your kachera, make sure to tie the string beforehand. Because if you don't, most likely the string will go back into the tunnel part. And let me tell you, it is VERY inconvenient to spend 30 minutes trying to fish it back out.

Kesh and Keski:

For this one, I'm going to divide it by gender. Because different genders struggle with different things.

Girls - For most of us, we've had hair on the top of our heads all our lives. So we know how to take care of it. The only thing we're not used to is body hair. There is really nothing you need to do to take care of body hair. It's just a matter of self-confidence. At first, it's gonna be like "AHHHHH" but after a few months, you get used to it. If you get smack from your family for not shaving (which I did), just ignore it. They cannot force you to shave (at least, I don't think they can).

Boys - Well hello there. Most of ya'll have had body hair for most of your lives but not a lot of head hair (except for a few exceptions). For most of ya'll, it will a new experience having a joora, man bun, afro, ponytail, dreads, braids, etc. So here are my suggestions to ya'll.

First of all, the easiest way to learn hair care is to ask your sisters or your mother. If they are not comfortable with that, or if that is not a possibility, find a good hair stylist and get hair care tips as well as recommendations from them. And please, PLEASE look at the ingredients of the products you are putting on your hair. Make sure most (and better yet, all) the ingredients are natural. Try to stay away from chemicals as much as you can. Also, try to stay away from using heat as much as you can. This goes for girls and boys.

Secondly, the same thing I told the girls I'm going to tell you. If your family gives you flack for keeping your kesh, you are just going to have to ignore it. I always say people coming into Sikhi (or those from not so Gursikh families) have to have a backbone. Don't let people's comments get to you.

Thirdly, I know nothing about beard care. Sorry lol.

For Both Genders - Coloring your hair is looked down upon in Sikhi. So if you do it and plan on becoming Amritdhari, I suggest you stop.

Now, we will get into Keski. Taking care of a dastar isn't that hard once you get use to it. Here are a few quick tips on that.

1. Own several. Sometimes one dastar might not want to tie one day. So use another one.

2. Keep them hung up. Not only does this show respect to the dastar, but it helps keep the wrinkles out.

3. Steam and turban material go together. If you take steamy showers, put your turban in the bathroom with you as well. Or just turn on the shower, put your turban in there, and keep the door closed for like 15-30 minutes. Makes it easier to tie.

4. Preferably hand wash your dastar. But for people like me who can't do that, machine wash it. And do NOT put your turban material in the dryer. Always hang it up and let it air dry.

5. For the few months, no matter what turban style you wear, don't get upset because it looks like crap. Tying a turban takes practice and experimentation. Even I don't tie a 100% perfect turban. And for the ladies, if you really care that much about how your turban looks, just throw a chunni over it. Guys, ya'll are out of luck 😂

Kangha: 

Ain't much to say. Just keep it off the floor and keep multiple. If you lose one or one breaks, just replace it.

Kara: 

Get one that fits you. Less banging against the table that way. Keep them off the floor. Etc. Etc.


Where Can I Get the Kakaars?

The easiest and less expensive way to get them is from the Gurdwara. Most Gurdwaras should have them in stock and they are given away for free. Just let them know you need it.

If that doesn't work out, look online to purchase them.


Hope this helped. And good luck on your journey.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Resources for Sikh Converts (And All My Creations)

This is the mother load you've been waiting for! A goldmine of resources with all of them being in English (this varies for the websites). Please do enjoy! And check back for updates! Don't forget to share it with those you know.

Note: A mention does not equal an endorsement. Thank you.



"Derby #13 Q&A - Where to start if we're new to Sikhi?"

Books


Collection of Free Online Sikh Books in English

Sikh Book Club

Youtube Playlists


Information about Sikhs and Sikhism

"A playlist for everything about Sikhs and Sikhism. Covers a wide range of topics from the founding of Sikhism to the plight of Sikhs residing in America"

How To - Sikh Edition

"For those who want to know how to do something"

Facebook Group





Websites