Saturday, October 26, 2019

I Have No Faith

(Author's Note: I recently had to lock my twitter account and block several accounts due to some suspicions I have. All I'll say is Mom - or Mom's informant - if you're reading this, I'm gonna ask you nicely to please stay away from my social media and my online stuff in general. Thank you. If you're not my mom, keep scrolling.)

Authenticity. Something that folks love to talk about but very few people have. Me? Ha! I wouldn't say that I am fully authentic. Well, at least not up until this past week.

You see, more than a week ago I had a breakdown as a result of three things: my mental health, my academics, and a crisis of faith (which is what I will be focusing on in this post). I have been struggling with all three areas since around the month of August, and instead of dealing with these things head-on, I let everything boil up inside of me (which eventually leading to an explosion). At that moment, I began to wrestle back and forward with two options that were stuck in my head. Either 1) run away from everything and everybody or 2) just end it all. The last time I remember feeling this much in the dark was when I actually attempted suicide years ago.

I found myself alone and needed someone to reach out to me. (And Isn't it funny how when you NEED someone to reach out to you, that's when no one does or seems to notice something's off?). So finally, an Uncle in SA did. He was seeing if I and another friend of mine were going to be at the Gurdwara Sunday for a special program. I said no and that I'm suffering a lot mentally. He then said I should reach out to Aunty ji (his wife) and tell her what's going on.

And boy, did I. I told her everything (and I mean absolutely everything). Stuff I had told no one. All the foolishness  I had been dealing with this past year, all my doubts regarding school and religion, and all my feelings in regard to how I felt about certain areas of my life overall.  I won't go into detail about what happened after that or what specifically we discussed, but I definitely can say getting everything off my chest felt like a huge relief.

Then that Sunday, I felt like I should visit my local UU church. I had visited a UU church before for an interfaith event, but this time, I would be going to find some answers to the questions I was struggling with. 

For those who don't know, a Unitarian Universalist church is NOT a Christian church. It is a congregation that promotes these 7 principles:

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are apart.

And what I love about UU churches, is that the congregation is composed of people from all walks of life. You got your liberal Christians, your Buddhists, your "spiritual not religious" people, your Jews, your Agnostics/Atheists, etc. What is preached in the pulpit is drawn from a variety of sources. 

Well, the sermon for that Sunday was "faith". As a former Agnostic (maybe even current), I hate the word faith. It literally means "believing something without evidence".  And in my head, it also means "blindly following something". And even though Sikhi is supposed to be more of an "experience" then a "faith", I haven't experienced anything. And for those who have, great! But it's your reality, not mine. Same way if a Christian comes up to me and claims to have been healed by Jesus. I'm not going to say "You're lying". I'm just going to acknowledge that that is their reality, not mine. And I can only base my own beliefs on my own experiences.

So back to the minister.  As he started out his sermon, the first thing he did was talk about the definition of faith as described in the book of Hebrews (that's a book of the Bible for ya'll who don't know). The verse in Hebrews basically explains the meaning of faith (which is almost identical to how I described it). But then he went on to talk about how faith can be also described as "trust" (a word I can vibe with). We trust that our plane is going to get us to our destination, even though we don't know how the plane works and we can't look into the future. We also trust in our "sixth sense". If a situation doesn't feel right and something is saying "leave", we leave. 

Furthermore, he said that there are two types of faiths that people have: faith in something inside of themselves and faith in something outside of themselves. In order to figure out what our "faith" is, we must sit down, go inwards, and even though it might be painful, be honest with ourselves about what "faith" matches up with our own ideals. 

After sitting down and having tea and donuts with the congregants after service, I left that church realizing two things. 

1. I really do not have faith in anything inside myself 


2. I definitely did not have 100 % faith in anything outside of myself (whether it's humanity as a whole or God)

"Maybe I'm not a Sikh. Maybe I really don't believe in this stuff. And maybe .... Sikhi is wrong? Ugh, I didn't have to deal with these questions when I was an Agnostic."

(Author's Note: I realize that there are secular Sikhs. And that's cool and all, but let's be honest here. Almost all secular Sikhs still identify as Sikh because of the cultural ties they have to the community and the fact that their family history revolves around Sikhs and Sikhism. The same can be said for secular Jews. I, on the other hand, do not have that. Ain't no way I could be secular and Sikh at the same time.)

And since I'm being honest here, I also realized while walking out of that church that the only thing keeping me attached to this path are all the things I've accomplished in the span of three years as a Sikh (this website, my Youtube channel, my book, the interviews, my infographics, receiving Amrit, being in the Panj, the community I've built up around me, etc.). I know if that I were to let this path go, all three years of hard work, networking, hustling, and writing would go down the drain. It would also mean that all the money I spent on Sikh related stuff (probably $1000+ if you total it) would mean nothing. And all the hassle getting my IDs updated to match my outward appearance would be a waste. I would just be another statistic. Another black Sikh who left the fold after being fed up with the way things were going.

But hey, I've also fallen this year. I went from doing paath to doing no paath. From being unselfish to being selfish. From doing simran to doing little to no simran. And worse of all, falling out of love with the Guru. With these things combined altogether, there are times where I'm reallyyy strongly tempted to break my amrit but don't out of fear. I know for a fact there multiple contributors to all five of these things, but that would take a whole nother page to write about.

Tbh, I believe this is what happens when you don't appropriately balance religion with other areas of your life. I didn't make time to check in on myself properly because of being so wrapped up in religion sometimes. Sure, we can dedicate our daily lives to sticking to all the rules, but the moment we fall, we fall HARD. Especially if you're playing like something you're not. And frankly, I'm tired of my religious identity being at the forefront when interacting with other people. I would love to talk about things other than Sikhi on my Twitter timeline and other social media platforms. But (and this is partly my fault), most of the people who follow me only are interested in the Sikh side of me or my Sikh posts. If I were to drop my Sikh identity, over 75% of my followers would probably be gone. Forget that I have other interests and that I have opinions on stuff not regarding religion.

That being said, until I get my sht together and figure myself out, you won't be seeing me post about Sikhi or going to the Gurdwara or just doing anything Sikh in general. I'm just gonna do me. Because at the end of the day, that's all I can be. If you stick around, great. If you like me for who I am, great.  If you think I'm the biggest manmukh on the face of the planet, you're probably right. And for those few Sikhs who think I'm just doing this for attention (or are secretly happy that I'm going through this) excuse me while I give you the bird.

This is my reality and my truth. Am I a Sikh? The honest answer is "I don't know". And I'm gonna have to be comfortable with that answer for now until something changes it otherwise. That being said, if you reached the end of this article, let me just say that you're a real one. But also, another thing. Solidarity and acceptance are welcome. Advice, preaching, and closemindedness aren't.

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.