by Lakhpreet Kaur
We all know that our Sikh Panth has a lot of challenges creating a society that the Gurus envisioned. In our efforts to create a more resilient and fair Panth, we sometimes forget all great things about being a Sikh and the wondrous things about Sikhi that keep us invigorated. So, take a moment and stop “doom scrolling” and do a little “joy scrolling” with these 13 reasons why I love Sikhi. In no particular order…
Whenever inequality, hate, discrimination, or divisiveness in society (and sometimes our Panth) is getting me down, I take solace in the fact that Guru Sahib sees all of us humans as equals, worthy of Divine love. While circumstance might make it hard to live freely and my “labels” or “boxes” confine me, Gurbani reminds me these are all constructs and I can spiritually and mentally transcend them.
Gurbani doesn’t ask us to change or alter our bodies as a necessary step to merge with the Divine. The Gurus don’t ask us view our bodies as shameful but rather, as wonderful vehicles to do seva, to experience Waheguru’s gifts, to be with others in Sangat….they ask us to embrace this human opportunity to find ways to connect with Waheguru. As revelaed to Guru Arjan Sahib (Ang 12):
ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥ bhiee paraapat maanukh dhehureeaa || This human body has been given to you.
ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥ gobi(n)dh milan kee ieh teree bareeaa || This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe.
In this paradigm, we can break free of the idea that bodies are simply ornaments for viewing pleasure or that our value lies in our bodies. We can reshape it with Guru’s idea of beauty…
ਜਿਨ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਪਿਰੰਮ ਕੀ ਜਿਉ ਬੋਲਨਿ ਤਿਵੈ ਸੋਹੰਨਿ ॥ jin a(n)dhar preet pira(n)m kee jiau bolan tivai soha(n)n || Those whose inner beings are filled with the Love of their Beloved, look beautiful as they speak. Guru Ram Das Sahib, Ang 301.
My father once said, “If the Guru’s Gurbani is a beautiful meal, then raag is the embellished platter upon which it’s served. Together, the two nourish the soul.” A raag is a musical structure or set of rules of how to build a melody. T.M. Krishan writes, “In its totality, a raga is a combination of musical heritage, technical elements, emotional charge, cognitive understanding and aural identity.” In Sikh kirtan, it sets the mood and tone for the words of Gurbani which we are about to hear, and adds a deeper dimension to the kirtan. Some Janamsakhis say that when Guru Nanak Sahib would be Divinely inspired he would tell Bhai Mardana, “I have Shabad in Siree Raag,” for instance. “Play something in that raag,” and Guru Sahib would go on to sing. I feel that singing in raag helps us connect with the Gurus at a personal level.
Poetry has the power to move the heart so, it’s no wonder that the most famous historical words ever penned are love poems – and in our history, they are love poems to the Divine. Dr. Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh writes that Guru Nanak Sahib’s “…response to the singular infinite Reality was a poetic outburst…. the Sikh Gurus utilized the poetic medium to awaken their followers with an appreciation for the infinite One. The poetry of the Sikh Gurus can be summed up as a reflexive phenomenon – simultaneously a celebration, articulation, understanding, interpretation, and application of Guru Nanak’s Divine.” The have gifted us a beautiful and elegant art.
Guru Granth Sahib provides a timeless and universal message of love and peace that appeals to the heart and the mind. Guru Granth Sahib speaks to us as individuals and as society. When we are comfortable, Guru Granth Sahib challenge us. When are challenged, Guru Granth Sahib gives us comfort. We could spend lifetimes searching for such wisdom, but we have been so lucky to inherit this map of life.
“Wherever I go in the world, I just open a phonebook and look for the name ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’ and call them up to see if they want to get together.” This was a phrase many of us heard growing up from friends or relatives who would travel often. We have an immediate connection and shared history with folks we have never met; it’s a beautiful thing that our hospitality spread across the globe along with our enterprising spirit. And anytime we feel a little homesick, we just keep our eyes peeled for the orange Nishan Sahib on our travels.
I LOVE the fact that social justice and striving for a better society is a pillar of Sikhi. Our Gurbani illustrates that social justice is inherent within Sikhi as codified through Miri-Piri. The strong women in our history like Bibi Nanaki, Mai Bhago, and Mata Khivi have showed us that we cannot be spiritual without also being socially engaged. If the Divine is within everyone, we must fighting for a just, fair, and compassionate society for all, regardless of social categories. So, standing in solidarity with others who are marginalized is a spiritual duty that gives me life and purpose.
We have a legacy of strong Kaurs from skilled equestrians to sovereign soldiers, from unwavering heads of household to resilient captains of organizations. There are the names we know, and there are the names we don’t know. And yet, they have all helped build and shape our Kaur collective. It’s awesome knowing that today, we continue their stories.
Music! Specifically, strings! The Gurus gifted us with Gurmat Sangeet as a way to connect with each other and with the Divine. Before the vaja took over and colonized our music, tanti saaz (Sikh musical instruments) were the dominant mode of kirtan. Some of these the Gurus invented like the taus, while others were created by Sikhs in the Guru’s court, like the dilruba. There has been a recent resurgence of these instruments which is awesome since I find that strings move the soul in such a unique way that it helps you feel Gurbani more deeply.
The Gurus gave us tools for wellness. Kirtan, naan simran, being in nature, daily Nitnem, seva…the list goes on! It’s wonderful knowing that the Gurus highlighted the importance of self-care and its role in connecting with the Divine and in community building. In sharp contrast to the often self-sacrificial expectation of Punjabi women, it was revealed to Guru Nanak Sahib, “ਨਾ ਸਤਿ ਦੁਖੀਆ ਨਾ ਸਤਿ ਸੁਖੀਆ ਨਾ ਸਤਿ ਪਾਣੀ ਜੰਤ ਫਿਰਹਿ ॥naa sat dhukheeaa naa sat sukheeaa naa sat paanee ja(n)t fireh || There is no Truth in suffering, there is no Truth in comfort. There is no Truth in wandering like animals through the water,” Ang 952, illustrating how we do not need to sacrificed our entire being for the benefit of our family, sangat, and panth, and it won’t get us closer to Waheuguru. Through self-care we can cultivate a deep love of our bodies, minds, and spirits acting in direct opposition to those who wish to destroy our very being through racism, patriarchy, and genocide.
Together our history and Gurbani serve as muses for our artist. They give us so many subjects and topics to express through art along with beautiful metaphors and imagery. Recently, there has been a renaissance in Sikh art, giving life, vision, and embodiment to our Sikh essence. With more art, comes more beauty, love, and inspiration.
The term “sangat” pops up in Gurbani numerous times. A quick, cursory search on SikhiToTheMax resulted in 720 mentions of it! “Sangat” has its origin in the Sanskrit word sangh, which means company, fellowship, and association. The Gurus emphasized the importance of being mindful of who and what we keep Sangat with; a journey to the Divine is easier (and more fun!) with companions. Being surrounded with people who encourage you and also challenge your is important in our growth as Sikhs. Plus, one unexpected fun thing about having a great Sikh sangat are Sikh-specific, inside jokes!
The Name Kaur
The name Kaur may be one of my favorite things about Sikhi. It’s my identity. It’s a name all my own not passed down through patriarchy and not connected to caste. It gives me sovereignty and reminds me of my Sikh legacy. It connects me with all of the other Kaurs in our history and of our future, in far off lands and in my own town. Meaning “next in line for the throne”, I try to live up to the power and grace it shows me I can have.
The Community’s Answers
What are your favorite things about being Sikh? We posed this question to the Kaur Life community and y’all came up with some great “favorites”!