What does Sikhi mean in our lives?

esterday, Jasvinder Singh from Minnesota shared with me the reason he has chosen to go to med school. He said, “I can’t do anything less than changing people’s lives.” He could not think of a greater seva than saving lives, changing lives, and healing the hurt.

Through my conversations and observance, many people view Sikhi as a value system, a set of guidelines to follow. In several interviews, I have had the privilege of hearing how individuals have struggled with that value system, with the logic that Sikhi gives us. This might mean challenges with hair, with drinking, with choosing the right career path, with finding a way to incorporate seva into their lives, and even with understanding what it really means when we’re told our Gurus were rebels and curious questioners.

Jasvinder, in some ways, solved some of his struggle. He is using the value system he gleaned from his Sikh upbringing by choosing a career path that he feels will help people and will do good in this world. This was an active decision. True, it was a product of his environment, his parents, his community, the needs he sees in the world, and his personal merit. But Sikhi can weave into all of this. Jasvinder demonstrates that. And it’s a beautiful thing. Maybe he has other struggles or questions or doubts; but Jasvinder found strength and purpose in pursuing the medical field because it made sense within his value system, a value system guided by the Gurus.

It’s awesome to see this, but I also must keep in mind that as I journey through the United States, that there are many ways that Sikhi may manifest itself in peoples lives. Some may find strength in the values; others may reject them, question them constantly, or not even recognize them at all. I am not here to judge anyone’s connection with Sikhi. Rather, my job is to record all the ways people may identify as Sikh or recognize a certain connection with the community or faith. Seeking the nuances and variants will hopefully enable me to understand what it really means to be Sikh in America.

*seva translates into ‘selfless service’ and is one of the tenets of Sikhi.

Peace to you,


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