What defines YOU?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Do you ever get those days where you just have really deep, eye-opening conversations with people that you never thought you would? Well, today was one of those days. All the kids on our high school newspaper staff went to J-Day at Ball State University today and it was a great experience! We went to different sessions to learn more about journalism and how students transition from student-journalists to journalists.

After two sessions we went to eat lunch at Greek's Pizzeria and started talking about a subject that could actually be quite touchy for some people, religion. While enjoying the great food, one of the girls at our table hesitantly began asking me some questions about my faith and what kind of church I went to. Her hesitance is what really caught my attention and made me realize how religion can be such a hard topic to discuss. She started off by saying things like, "I don't meant offend you" or "I'm not trying to sound racist." And that was when the whole discussion about religion began.

Ek Onkar, or God is one.
A Khanda.
Honestly, religion is such a confusing topic for me. I label myself as a Sikh while others label themselves as Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, etc. But why label ourselves? Why does religion have to define who we are? What makes me a Sikh exactly? Sure I have long hair and I wear a steel bracelet but according to most people that wouldn't make me a Sikh, and I totally agree. However, where I would differ is when they would say that a Sikh would be Amritari, or have all 5 of the defining features of a Sikh (5 K's.) I don't believe that a person has to take Amrit to be a Sikh; it's not what you look like, it's what you believe.

I was reading this blog post about Sikhs and the author brought up a really good point; he's a male Sikh, he cuts his hair, doesn't have any distinguishable "Sikh" related features but he has a very strong connection with God, however, if another male Sikh that was Amritari was placed next to him, some people would automatically think that the Singh with the turban was the "better" Sikh, even if he did terrible things. In my opinion, this is outrageous. Why should we have to dress a certain way or look a certain way to be able to believe in God? Right now I'm keeping my hair because it's important to my mom, but in the near future I want to donate some of my hair to Locks of Love. If I have shorter hair, will that make me any less of a Sikh than I am now? If I start eating meat again does that mean I can't pray? For some people, the answer would be yes.

I understand that some people are very religious, like my mom, and I respect that. But I want the same respect for the people who choose to have different beliefs. If you look at the core of Sikh belief, there is nothing about looks or eating meat. These are just strict guidelines the Punjabi culture has made for itself. Unfortunately,  if I try to talk about religion with my mom or other older Sikhs they'll automatically look down on me and think lesser of me. Why? Because they are very close-minded. I was actually quite close-minded when it came to religion a few years back, but I've grown and since then I've tried to keep an open mind.

The whole point of this was to emphasize how you should be able to talk about your religious views openly. At our table of four, I'm pretty sure all four of us had different beliefs and views of life and God. But we all came together and felt comfortable talking about our different views. We also realized how hell-bent the human population is on labeling everyone. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure it has become a part of human nature to just automatically pass judgement but it's how you act on those judgments that matters.

Another blogger wrote the following lines:
"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."

Well, I'll end my stream-of-consciousness thought process there for now, but I really do think people should feel more comfortable expressing their views, asking questions, and just being themselves. Try being a bit open-minded, you'll be surprised by how much you learn! Hope everyone had a great week so far and keep doing what you do!

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P.S.: This is the blogger I quoted from. His words beautifully describe exactly what I'm feeling. Check him out!

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