Sikhi: Always Learning


My brother Shamsher and I grew up with the values that our parents instilled — the Sikh way of life. Sikhism prioritizes serving others, helping those in need, earning an honest living, and connecting with the "Divine" through meditation or naam simran (if you want to be on trend, call it 'mindfulness').

The word Sikh means "student." Sikhs are always learning and growing. The minute you say "yeah that's it, I'll stop here" is the moment you cease to be a Sikh (imho). Here's my quick feature list for the Sikh religion -- it's quite unlike what people traditionally think about when they say the word 'religion':

  • No creation story. Science tells that story.
  • First-names are gender neutral -- an example of the extreme gender equality built-in to the Sikh faith.
  • Most sacred place / location / temple is your own mind.
  • Purpose of life -- to be connected to the present Moment -- to be in the 'zone' without hatred, fear, doubt -- just Oneness.
  • Scripture -- 100% poetry compiled at the time of the Sikh gurus (1469-1708 CE) about how to connect to the Universe. Incorporates hymns from other faiths as well that met the Guru's standards.
  • Music -- all Sikhs learn to be musicians that perform the poetry in scripture with instruments.
  • Fitness -- The Sikh gurus espoused the 'saint soldier' mentality. You have the humility of a saint and the strength of a warrior when it comes to serving people in need.
  • Sikh gurudwaras (places of worship) in America and the world serve free meals at an epic scale. A Sikh 'battle cry' is "victory to the serving bowl" like a battle is won when the oppressed get food and shelter.

Anyway that was a quick list that I just threw together, but it's actually pretty cool. You'd be surprised at how things I learned growing up as a kid are the same principles found in a $90/year mindfulness meditation app (I prob share this feeling with many people of faith). Sikhs are also terrible at marketing because we explicitly do not seek to proselytize. We felt the sting during 9/11, and we woke up and realized that no one knows who we are (and I was a volunteer as a sophomore in college for both SALDEF and Sikh Coalition).

Due to my amazing education, acceptable public speaking ability, and my own interest in the topic, I've been thrust into the position of representing Sikhs in interfaith and other contexts. I'm currently the Sikh Religious Life Leader at the Lawrenceville School (my high school) and I have participated in nationwide Sikh camps, Parliaments of World Religions, and even organized the Seattle Sikh Retreat a couple times.

Here's a YouTube video by acclaimed journalist Colleen Mckown, she followed me around to one of these speaking events in 2013:

Here's me and some friends in 2010 at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity:

As I get older, it's something I continue to engage with and understand more.