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.