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I leave my body as the kirtan reaches my ears and rushes through my veins. The human in me dies every time I listen to a verse from the Guru Granth Sahib, and for that moment I dissolve into the infinite. Nothing matters, I am free and unbound by the fake facade of maya, the materialism, around me. The presence of an infinite creator overcomes my consciousness and I merge with content. My soul reaches a state of equilibrium and for that moment, there is no need to strive for anything else. All hunger dies. I listen with my ears not to mere words, but sacred truths revealed through the vibration of cosmic love. There is no language that can translate the ecstasy which overcomes my being. I am a Sikh, a learner, of the true source of creation, God.

I believe in the hukam, will, of Waheguru and pray for His grace and mercy in the lives of all. I am not perfect, but I strive to be a more understanding and compassionate soul. I try to listen and recite the Japji Sahib, Rehiras Sahib, and Kirtan Sohila daily. I understand the importance of implementing the teachings transcribed in the Guru Granth Sahib into my everyday life. I try to gain more knowledge regarding Sikhism by referencing Sikh history, movies, documentaries, and books. I listen to Katha from great Sikhs like Sant Giani Maskeen Ji for inspiration and understanding. I do not intoxicate myself with alcohol or drugs of any kind, and I am a student in medical school with an intent to help others in their time of need. However, some may say that I am not a true Sikh. I have short hair and a trimmed beard. I am not Amritari.

We went to dinner at Uptej’s dorm suite today, and we were joined by another Sikh medical school student, Bhavneet. Uptej is an Amritari Sikh woman who keeps her hair neatly wrapped in a dastaar. Bhavneet also keeps her hair covered and has been waiting to take Amrit for many years now, because she believes it is the most important part of Sikh Rehat, discipline. However, she went a little further saying that only an Amritari Sikh could claim Sikhism their path, because without Amrit a follower is not a true Sikh. However, the Gurus believed that all are created equal and that there is no such thing as a Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or Jew because all life is One. Many Hindus and Muslim saints are also included in the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib further illustrating that all humanity is one regardless of race, religion, caste, or creed. We all come from one divine light.

Sikhism is based upon the universal oneness of the universe and its creator, God, who is infinite and without form. No mortal has the tongue nor the ability to fully describe the intensity of God’s power, benevolence, and beauty within every single atom of the universe in which His grace resides.

Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw, kudriq ky sB bMdy ]

“First God created the Light; by His power he created all people equal.”

eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw, kaun Bly ko mMdy ]1]

From One Light came the entire universe. So who is good, and who is bad? ||1||

logw Brim n BUlhu BweI ]

“O people, in doubt wander not, my brothers,”

Kwilku Klk Klk mih Kwilku pUir rihE sRb TWeI ]1] rhwau ]

“Creation in Creator, and Creator in Creation, Totally filled in all places. ||1||Pause||”

mwtI eyk Anyk BWiq kir swjI swjnhwrY ]

“The clay is the same, but various ways by the Fashioner.”

nw kCu poc mwtI ky BWfy nw kCu poc kuMBwrY ]2]

“Nothing is wrong with the pot of clay – nothing is wrong with the Potter. ||2||”

sB mih scw eyko soeI iqs kw kIAw sBu kCu hoeI ]

“The One True Lord abides in all; by His making, everything is made.”

hukmu pCwnY su eyko jwnY bMdw khIAY soeI ]3]

“Whoever realizes the Hukam of His Command, knows the One Lord. He alone is said to be the Lord’s slave. ||3||”

Alhu AlKu n jweI liKAw guir guVu dInw mITw ]

“God is unseen; He cannot be seen. The Guru has blessed me with this sweet molasses.

kih kbIr myrI sMkw nwsI srb inrMjnu fITw ]4]3]

“Says Kabeer, my anxiety and fear have been taken away; I see the Immaculate Lord pervading everywhere. ||4||3||”

I understand the importance of the Sikh Rehat of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji and the vital attributes of the Khalsa brotherhood. The Khalsa kept Sikhism strong through the Mughal raj when there was a small bounty for the head of a Sikh. The sacrifice of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji’s sons who would rather die than lose their faith and convert to Islam at such young ages. Sikhism has sacrificed thousands upon thousands of lives for justice, freedom, tolerance, and understanding of God. I cannot even begin listing all the sacrifices in Sikhi. Baba Deep Singh once said, “Sir jaave ta jaave, mera Sikhi sidhak na jaave” (If my head is severed, let it be, but don’t severe my Sikh way of life). These sacrifices cannot be forgotten for the love of God was so strong in these souls.

During the volatile contextual history of Guru Gobhind Singh Ji, it was highly important to distinguish a Sikh from a Muslim or Hindu. If the religion and the message of Sikhism were to survive, a new identity of fearless warriors was to be created known as the Khalsa. However, in a new world of globalization and cubicles that identity is becoming harder to keep especially in Western countries. One must make a harsh decision now, either live and assimilate in the West or keep the roots of the Khalsa and its bana with prejudice. Does Sikhism reside so much in the look or is it more concentrated in the heart and faith of the mind? I personally know the attachment I have to Sikhism in my heart and the relationship that I hold with Waheguru in high regards. There is a very powerful and intrinsic love I have for my people, religion, and faith. If the time ever came to shed my life for  a greater cause, I can most certainly say that Sikhi would be the infinite force behind my passion for justice and truth. No matter if I do not have a pugh or a long beard, in my soul I am a Sikh of the Gurus. I know my relationship, what is yours?

Many Sikh youth question the religion they have inherited, and see it as beautiful but too restrictive. Too many black and white rules, rehats, guidelines, and strict regulations. The passion dies inbetween the thirst for God and the rules and regulations laid by panthic associations such as the SGPC. The relationship between a human soul and God is an extremely personal and inner one, because God is indeed within all creation. We are apart of His divine glory, so who can tell us that this is the way and that is not. The Gurus understood the unbiased lens of spirituality and thus expelled all notions of this way and not that. We are a people lost in a world of trial, and God is the only hand that can guide us but is everypresent if we just take the time to look. I am not going to let society, organized associations, or any giani tell me that my Sikhi does not follow the rehat when indeed my love is only growing for Waheguru everytime I utter His praise or contemplate His glory. No one can take my faith from me, so I follow the path of the Gurus who understood my desperation to surrender. Everysingle atom is Khalsa by birth, and so everyone is joined by a brotherhood blanketing all creation. A Sikh is one who is supposed to understand when he recites, “Nah Koi Bari na he Beganna,” (There is no stranger or enemy).

Guru Nanak believed, “Truth is HighHigher Still is Truthful Living”. In the Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak says that God only understands the language of love and that comes from the heart with true devotion. We must not branch, divide, and corrode the message of compassion in the Guru Granth Sahib but instead we must unite and accept with love all who walk the path of the Guru and those who do not. Sikhism has many enemies like the RSS, and many fear that a more liberal perspective of Sikhism will create dangerous Hindu influences, but we must not forget that the journey to God is a personal voyage and not a political one. In terms of spirituality and personal growth, we must stand united as a sangat to different views and accept the appeal of the Gurus who opened the door to oneness without a need for rituals, superstitions, castes, creeds, and such. They understood Waheguru’s depth so they were open-minded for they comprehended the vastness of His creation.

Every human reaps what he sows within the reason and will of Waheguru’s will. Those who do good will be taken care of in this life and that after, no matter if the person is a Sikh, Muslim, Christian, or Jew. All men are created one and all the labels that have been created just build more walls hindering the light of divine’s present within the heart and mind. We must learn to see the stars we lay under as everyone’s all the same. I make it a spiritual practice to respect every soul no matter the view or the ideals. Within all resides His creation, so who am I to judge.

Sikhism should no longer be exclusive but rather all inclusive as it was meant to be. Maryada is a must, but tolerance which preaches righteousness and truthful living is more important. Let people follow the path as they will without judgement, lest you be judged by your own actions. Lets stop dividing and instead begin uniting as humanity with justice, valor, integrity, courage, and love within our hearts.

What do you think? Who gets to be a Sikh? What if someone is not ready for Amrit? Many shaheeds during 1984 came from the West with cut hair and died in the fields of Punjab for justice, were they any less brave or Sikh? Will loosening the definition of a Sikh make Sikhism weaker as a panth? How do you see the future of Sikhism? How do we prevent secluding Sikhs without kesh by current Sikh definitions?

I believe these questions must be answered in a changing world desperately in need for the words of the Guru Granth Sahib appealing to a universal truth. Ek Oankar, God is One.

(“Sansar Samundey Taar Gobindey” – Please carry me across the world-ocean, O Lord of the Universe – Kirtan sung by Bhai Manpreet Singh.)

Man runs into many walls in the worldly nature of society. We are continuously stabbed and pinched by the jagged wrath of society judging, sneering, and gossiping our every move. The experiences of life and the way in which it substantially molds our perspectives strengthens the notion that life is not easy. There are many struggles and too many dead ends. When the road finally straightens and all seems serene, right then life surfaces and reminds man that nothing here is pure bliss. Beyond our control or liking, life continues to happen. Some may call this destiny, kismaat, or others may believe that our decisions lead us to our goals. Neither is known for certain, but one thing that remains unquestioned is that life is not a script written by us. We did not choose our birth nor our inevitable death; hence, we have control over very minimal attributes in life itself.

The life we have been given is a chance beyond that of impossible, so I call it a miracle. No two men are handed the same fate at birth. Some are born to families where loving parents honor parenthood, others are given a meager life of survival. Some are born to the riches of an empire of kings and queens, others are born in shanties of poverty and starvation. Some are born to the whims of prosperous times, others are born to die in the hands of tyranny, genocide, and evil. Some are always thinking of ways to help others, while others are always plotting the destruction of foes. Countless are given a healthy body that functions to do work, others are born vulnerable to handicaps and death. Countless are seeking God in caves, statues, books, and churches. Countless diminish the power of God and drown themselves in their own egos. However, throughout all of these infinite differences one component is universal and that is the pursuit of happiness. Every single soul on Earth seeks happiness, but the way to achieve it is perceived by each man separately. No two people on Earth share the same thinking, because each has unique experiences that have sculpted their minds. The perceptions begin setting in stone and begin crystallizing over the years. Whether the crystallization of ideals hardening into stone helps man or hinders him depends on the quality of life experienced and the thoughts materialized thereof.

“dukh daaru sukh roag paaya jaa sukh taam naa hoi” (Pain became the medicine, and happiness the illness).” In the Rehras Sahib, a Sikh prayer, the Guru warns that pain is a vital component in remembering God. Man begins to drown in his own fallacies if the pain and sorrow of living never existed. There would be no betterment of the spirit as the Earth would become the ultimate Heaven of bliss. Pain and suffering bring man to his knees, and he silently begins to surrender as he realizes that his place in the universal power of God is very small and minute. I never understood and I still have a hard time fully understanding how man can be so arrogant and egocentric when he is but an atom in the size of infinity. However, our existence has a purpose; no matter how small our effect on the universe. The life we lead day in and day out is lived for a reason, because our desire to keep on moving through even the worst proves that we are not ready for the final transition – the transition of death.

“Nanak dukhiya sabh sansaar (Guru Nanak, a man of such high spirituality and Godliness was not spared from pain and suffering and neither is the rest of the world).” Life keeps us on our toes. We somehow believe that our future is still in our own hands endowing ourselves with power and authority. However, what stops a car from ramming you on the highway on the way home? What stops a close member in your family from getting an illness that proves fatal? What stops the wildfire behind your home just a few feet away? It just happens faster than a blink of an eye – life. Some were lucky enough to question how they survived, others had no opportunity to ask as they were swiftly taken. Appreciate your transient senses in the present moment with all there is to be thankful for. Plan for the future and make proper precautions, but never forget that at the end of the day, life does not wait. No one is ever ready to battle the stringent winters and cold throws of despair. God becomes the hand, man so desperately seeks, for guidance across the massive ocean of mental and worldly gaps. We will never truly know everything or become perfect, so we merely surrender and pray for His mercy.

The Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, continually warns man not to leave the world behind to find happiness. A man will not find happiness away from the world in which he lives. Running to remote caves, islands, and other areas will not help man find peace and content. He should live a balanced and disciplined life with God always on his lips and mind. I had at one point decided that I would lead my own life, and leave the people around me far away. I somehow believed that I was more righteous than them. The whole time I forgot that everyone has the God of light within, and every positive thing I do for someone else I am doing for God. Positive energy reciprocates into a positive lifestyle that sheds all the vices that make us so cruel and human. Actions speak louder than words, and positive actions are the real visible products of a pure soul. I decided that each man and woman on Earth was going to be a family member. I will respect every soul, because hatred will only cause me to hate myself. I will grow infinitely as a person accepting and loving all. Words hurt a lot less, because I smile a lot more. Backstabbing still pinches nerves, but no longer leaves me on the floor with blood squirting out of my heart. Like a bullet proof vest of love, I ward off the negative energy of the world and continue walking down the universal path of God.

In a recent movie called, Into the Wild, a young man leaves his seemingly perfect life in the pursuit of freedom and happiness away from the people he grew up with. He gets into Harvard and on the surface he has a perfect family life. However, he has grown up through rough times. He drives his new car for hours into the desert until he runs out of gas. He then burns his car and his wallet, leaving his identity and life behind. He was sick of the world, and how it so fatally butchered happiness. There was more to life than materialistic fulfillment, because the void within is so much deeper. He runs in countless circles on his voyage to the wilderness of Alaska. When he finally makes it, he starts going through depression and aimlessness. Life just becomes primitive and alone. There is no one else just him and nature. One day he accidentally eats a poisonous herb and begins to slowly die as his stomach and digestive system stop functioning. Too far from civilization, he stays in his shelter. In his notebook in his final days he wrote, “There is no happiness alone, it only exists in the company of others.” The movie was based on a true story. Life is meant to share, explore, and sail through in the company of fellow men dealing with the same journey in different ways.

Attachment begins to recede as one embraces God and his will. Surrender breeds selflessness in His submission. The limited time I have with those I love is minimal. All too soon it will be over. The moments I share with those whom I love dearly become precious treasures in a temporary life. We are all simply guests waiting in a room questioning what is on the other side of the wall. A barrier of dimensions shall sprout when death finally comes, but it will be nothing to mourn but rather to rejoice. A life well lived is a life emerged in the light of the Lord, Waheguru. Uniting with the supreme power and energy is the last hopeful stage in the soul’s progressive journey into the infinite unknown.

Be happy this very moment. Breathe and remember how grand the gift of living is. Be thankful. Look into the sky and reflect on the stars billions of light years away, and whisper to them that this life is beautiful. Just as they radiate from the depths of darkness in space, radiate your own life in the midst of worldly coldness. Warm the cold air in which you live every moment of the day. The choice is simple, “Be the candle to guide yourself and others or be the darkness of despair?

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