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