New Futures and ‘Insight into Sikhism’

Those Sikhs that chose to embrace Sikhi (often termed as ‘goray Sikhs’, are sometimes seen as an enigma.

For many of us Sikhs of Panjabi-background, those Sikhs that chose to embrace Sikhi (often termed as ‘goray Sikhs’, but by no means are all of them of such ‘gora’ background) are sometimes seen as an enigma.  Too often stereotypes and easy labels such as ‘hippie’ or ‘weird’, knee-jerk opinions on ‘yoga’, or even a certain ‘guilt’ in terms of our own relationship with our Guru tend to be expressed in hushed tones. However, such labels only dehumanize those that we should be most embracing as brothers and sisters of a shared Guru.

A recent article in a local Surrey newspaper recently has me re-thinking how as a Sikh community we can continue to strengthen our Qaum.  Reading about Hari Nam Singh Khalsa’s own evolution was not only inspiring, but also a point for reflection.

The Oakville, Ontario resident is the host of the only English-language program on Canadian television that provides knowledge about Sikhi.  His “Insight into Sikhism” airs on Saturday mornings throughout Canada (you can click here for Canadian times and channels).  On the show’s website, the program’s purpose is described as:

    Each week, host HariNam Singh Khalsa explains aspects of the Sikh religion and its relevance to modern day issues. Insight into Sikhism introduces the core principles of Sikhism in a simple and basic format in English for everyone to understand. HariNam Singh’s mission is to spread the universal teachings of Sikhism to people of all faiths.

Although I have never seen the show (if you have, please do comment and let us know your thoughts about it), it seems like a remarkable and much-needed project.

Describing his own evolution and how the program started, Har Nam Singh’s interview states:

    For a restless young man who’d been on a spiritual quest since he was a small child, there was something about the faith that spoke to him on a deeply personal level.

    “This is the religion I want” he thought.

    It took years of study.

    He learned to read and speak Punjabi to study the scriptures in the original language.

    His name was given him by a mentor shortly before he was baptized.

    As a result of his studies, Khalsa became known for discussing principles of the faith in clear, simple terms.

    That led to a career as an educator about Sikhism, which led to an unexpected career as a television host.

However, the point of reflection I initially mentioned has to do with questions regarding the difference between our generation and our parents’ and the hope for greater interaction between these two sections of our commmunity.  Sikhnet’s famed Gurumustuk Singh has been a sort of ambassador for many years.  I wonder if in some ways as his own personal story closer parallels ours in that he was born of Sikh parents as opposed to himself making his own leap of faith (although by no means to suggest that he didn’t choose his own path) better helps Sikhs of Panjabi background connect to him (or it could be that he is just a really nice guy!).

In many locales the communities are separate due to geographic locations (I don’t know too many Sikhs of Panjabi backgrounds that live in Espaniola, but I am sure there are some!), but I have been pained to hear about locales such as Phoenix where the divisions run much deeper.  So my point for reflection is that in the upcoming generation, especially that of Gurumustuk’s son Narayan Singh, etc., will we see greater overlap and connection in our community.  Muslims have been far more successful than us (although by no means am I trying to suggest they don’t have their own hierarchies) in becoming a much more ecumenical religion (while it is true that they have had a much longer history and contacts to do so!)  As the children of immigrants in subsequent generations will continue to lose their Panjabi language, will we be able to learn and connect with our brothers/sisters of the faith that are creating new and innovative paths (such as and the program “Insight into Sikhism”) to keep their Sikhi?

Rules of this conversation, this post is NOT the place to talk about Yogi Bhajan Singh or yoga.  Maybe we’ll have those discussions later (we’ll see), but this is NOT the place and those types of comments will be deleted.  Ok, now go ahead!

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