Some Thoughts & Comments

"I want to educate non-Sikhs about this great world religion and its progressive philosophies. For Sikhs I want you to be proud of who you are, that can only happen if you know what you are."

Welcome to The Sikhism Home Page. I hope that it has been or will be an enriching experience for you.

"The Name of the Lord this alone is my wealth. I do not tie it up to hide it, nor do I sell it to make my living." Bhagat Kabir, Bhairo, pg. 1157

I think that quote really describes the way I view this web site. It's all about celebrating and sharing with others. It's not about being selfish and keeping what you know or have learned to yourself or trying to use the pretext of religion to make money. That's why you won't find this web site on a commercial CD being sold to make money. It's here on the Internet for anyone in the world to access free of charge, not requiring any membership or money from anyone. Read, learn, think, contemplate, discuss and enjoy.

Website Mandate

The mandate of this web site is very specific and that is to be a learning resource about Sikhism. It's not meant to be an entertainment site, nor is it meant as a social site. It's purely focused on being a learning resource and nothing else. Why? Because that is my specific area of interest. I will leave the presentation of such topics as post-Guru Sikh history and the political/human rights struggle in Punjab to others who have expertise in those areas. My passion is Sikhism and that is where I enjoy devoting my spare time.

The Internet is a very powerful medium, in the wrong hands in can easily be used to spread misinformation with damaging consequences. In this regard I have made a concerted effort to present information about Sikhism while respectfully remaining within the parameters of The Rehat Maryada which is The Official Sikh Code of Conduct. There are a number of theological issues where Sikh scholars differ and there is debate or variance. As a Sikh, I have presented my views on some of them, but at all times I have been very respect to not contradict either the Rehat Maryada or the Akal Takht, which is the governing temporal Sikh authority.

Copyright Information

The Sikhism Home Page is meant as a non-commercial learning resource. If you are working on a non-commercial project such as an essay, article, newsletter, want to print out and distribute some material to a class or Gurdwara and want to use information from The Sikhism Home Page, please go right ahead and do so, just quote The Sikhism Home Page and the URL www.sikhs.org as the source, just like you would quote any book in a similar situation. It would be nice if you send me a copy of what you produced. If you have a web site and would like to link to The Sikhism Home Page, please go ahead you don't have to ask my permission. Just drop me a line about your URL so that I can check it out. If you are involved in any sort of commercial project or venture and would like to use some material from The Sikhism Home Page than you will have to contact me first for permission. As far as the graphics, photographs and multimedia content of The Sikhism Home Page is concerned this material is not in the public domain for use on other web sites or other media. As a graphic artist and photographer it is my copyright material and I would like to keep it specific to The Sikhism Home Page because that is what provides this web site with its unique visual look and identity.

History of The Sikhism Home Page

It all started back in October of 1994, the World Wide Web was a lot smaller place back in those days and I noticed that there were no web sites about Sikhism. A group was working on The Punjab Home Page and I volunteered to write something about Sikhism for that web site. What started out as an idea to write a simple essay soon grew to encompass a lot more and over the Christmas holidays in 1994 I finished and launched the first version of The Sikhism Home Page. Since then things have never been the same for me. It has taken over most of my free time. I have plenty of ideas and have worked away to implement them one by one over the years given my limited resources, time and finances. The web site has a life of its own and is a dynamic ever changing and growing entity so this is really a project without an end. The current web site is the sixth major revision of the web site. As an artist I like to change it's look at least once a year. Other than being the worlds first web site on Sikhism, some other pioneering firsts include the first complete version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib on the Internet, the first Sikh audio files on the Internet, the first Sikh video on the Internet and the first photographic documentation of the historical Gurdwaras of Punjab in any form. From my one solitary web site I have seen a rapid explosion of Sikhism related web sites over the years. I think this is a very positive development as others are starting to realize the power of the Internet. It really is the dawning of a new age in human communications as there has never been any media like this in history for the transmission of thoughts and ideas.

Sikhism and Religion

This web site is an expression and extension of my love affair with my religion. I am not an authority or expert on Sikhism and neither is religion my profession or educational background. I am just a simple Sikh on the path of discovery and learning. What a wonderful path it has been. This Sikhism Home Page is all about sharing whatever I have come across with others. The philosophy and religion are so progressive and applicable to everyone that it's quite amazing and fills me with a sense of enthusiasm in sharing it with others.

The shame is that few people either Sikh or non-Sikh have made any sort of concerted effort to study the religion in any depth. Many people are ready to make quick judgements on the religion based on very little. Non-Sikhs are ready to dismiss it as an obscure faith while marginal Sikhs are ready to give it up for a more glamorous "mainstream" religion without ever having made any effort to understand Sikhism and the beauty of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which comes across in Gurmukhi or even an English translation. Others fail to make the clear distinction between culture and religion, deciding to judge the religion by the culture. A religion is a set of unchanging fundamental principals laid out by its founders. It needs to be judged on those principals, their merits and applicability, not on the actions of any individual who chooses not live up to those principles. For example any law in the legal system is judged on its social and ethical merits and not by the attributes of the criminal who chooses to break that law. Judged accordingly its quite amazing how progressive and modern a religion Sikhism is, free of the entanglements of mythologies, blind rituals and prejudices. After all religion is what you make it.

Although a major religion in the east, Sikhism remains relatively unknown in the west. Why is a major world religion which has more followers than even Judaism for example (20 million vs. 13 million) largely ignored by the mainstream education system and media in the west? I see a couple of possible reasons. First there is a lack of easily available material on Sikhism in English. Even if it exists, in many cases it is either out of print, very hard to get, poorly written or incorrect and misleading. Secondly Sikhism is not a missionary religion, there are no concerted missionary efforts to convert followers of other religions to Sikhism. You won't find the equivalent of Christian missionaries full of religious zeal to convert people to 'the only right path' to reaching God and salvation. Instead Sikhism believes that there are many paths to reaching God and Salvation, following the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and their way of life is one of them, but not necessarily the only exclusive path. The progressive teachings of the Gurus on the equality of mankind and not needing to renounce ones worldly social obligations in order to achieve salvation are quite progressive ideas. Sikhism follows a low key approach, rather than a heavy handed in your face approach that some religions choose to take when dealing with people of another faiths. Here it is, this is what it's all about, if you like it embrace it your most welcome, that's Sikhism.

Hopefully The Sikhism Home Page can do something about addressing these shortcomings and I feel that it is successfully doing that based on the tremendous positive response in emails that I have received from around the world over the years.

Many people today look down on religion as a waste of time, they are busy bowing down before the mighty dollar god and see economic salvation as the only thing that counts in life. Their ethics, dealings with others and entire worldview are completely defined around the economics of materialism. Theirs a lot more to life than that, rich people have just as many problems as poor people. Rather than viewing religion or Sikhism as a hindrance or a distraction in life, I view it as a guiding compass and a strength to draw upon in leading my daily life. Sikhism is not some heavy anchor around my neck, neither do I look at it as a set of restrictions getting in my way every day. Instead it's something that provides a sense of purpose, guidance, strength, motivation and inspiration.

The Physical Symbols

The physical symbols of Sikhism are a natural extension of that expression of love for the religion. Looking different from everyone else is a source of strength and motivation to be a better person. Not only are you now automatically accountable to a set standard of ethics and behaviors as part of a collective recognizable group, but you are also an ambassador for Sikhism through your actions. Either people feel hatred or a sense of security when they see a policeman, it's up to the policeman to create that positive image and to live up to his responsibilities if he chooses to join the police force. Looking in the mirror, wearing the turban and physical symbols of Sikhism inspires me to live up to the high standards set by the Gurus. I honestly fail a lot more often than I succeed and am far from an ideal Sikh, but at least I have a goal and high standard as my guide and inspiration. The physical symbols provide no scientific or physical superiority, nor do they need such justifications for their existence or relevance. They are all about love for Sikhism and the Gurus and self-motivation. If one questions their practical validity than you are not in love with your religion. Until a person is in love, they can never understand why you do what you do, you have to experience that love yourself and be willing to fall in love in the first place. Love cannot be intellectualized, forced or blindly acted out, it has to come from within. If one loses track of that love, than the physical symbols are reduced to nothing more than a blind ritual, which is something the Sikh Gurus went out of their way to condemn. Looking like a Sikh but not acting like a Sikh is a useless waste of time as you become nothing more than a walking contradiction to the very founding principles of Sikhism.

"Whosoever assumes a religious garb pleases not God even a bit. O ye men, understand this clearly in your minds, that God is attained not through showmanship. They who practice deceit, attain not Deliverance in the Hereafter. They do so only to accomplish the affairs of the world and even the kings worship them for their appearance! But through showmanship, God is attained not, howsoever one searches. He who subdues his mind alone recognizes the Transcendent God." (Guru Gobind Singh, Chaupai 53-55, Chapter 6, Vachitra Natak)

On the other hand deciding to act like a Sikh but not look like a Sikh is also a halfhearted approach. Why aim for failure, why not aim for success - to look and act like a Sikh. If that is your goal, I don't care if you are there yet or not, if your hair is cut, or if you fail to live up to the spiritual standards fully yet, you are still a Sikh. As long as you have love and respect for the path laid out by the Gurus, you are a Sikh. But if you decide to outrightly reject either the physical or spiritual principles of Sikhism for whatever reason as not being and never being applicable to you then you have made a conscious decision not to be a Sikh. In that case that is your right and choice but with that choice you loose the privilege of calling yourself a Sikh. Sikhism is a package deal not a buffet dinner where you pick and choose what you want and what you don't want. Either one embraces the religion with love and enthusiasm or you reject it, the ultimate choice is really your own. The definition of a Sikh in the Rehat Maryada is broad enough to encompass anyone who wants to follow the Sikh path, irrespective of where they may currently be as they start out on that path. It's a very personal journey, all of us may not complete that journey in this life or may be at different levels but at least we are all on the same path, the Sikh path.

About Me

In the big picture its important to keep in mind that the message is more important than the messenger. One very important thing that I cannot overemphasize is that I am just an ordinary Sikh. Not wiser or better than anyone else. Just a Sikh on the spiritual path of learning and discovery. English is my main language of preference although I can speak Punjabi and read Gurmukhi. One very frustrating thing I found growing up was the lack of material on Sikhism in English. Hopefully I can lessen that frustration for others through this web site. I enjoy graphic arts, photography, computers and Sikhism, so this web site provides a perfect natural outlet for my interests. One thing that Sikhism teaches is that you don't have to renounce the world in order to be a religious person, you can enjoy life, fulfill your obligations to family and society while pursuing the spiritual path to self improvement and enlightenment. I am a husband and father, work for a computer company and find that Sikhism is truly a way of life and living for me rather than a specific activity unto itself.

Financial Support

I am not affiliated with any organization or group and have never received any major funding from anyone. The entire project has been supported by me, and I am not a wealthy person although I wish I was. My dream is to be able to work on this web site and the promotion of Sikhism full time, maybe one day that dream will come true. Irrespective of what has been done so far on my own part-time, I could take it to a much higher lever and scope if I had some funding and resources behind me. I continue to receive plenty of praise from individuals and organizations but disappointedly have never received any funding from them. I have received offers to send donations from students, but have refused them because I don't feel that its morally right to ask someone with limited funds going through school for money. If you are a organization or individual who is financially stable and you see the value and merit of my work, than please help support it financially. When I receive an email from someone telling me that they have learned more about their religion from my web site than from going to Gurdwara for 20 years, than I know that it's worth it. When someone writes to me that they have printed out Japji Sahib from the web site and read it every day or listen to the audio file than I know it's worth it. When someone writes to me that they are rediscovering their religion for the first time than I know it's worth it. When a child or a schoolteacher writes to thank me for help in their class project than I know it's worth it. I receive such emails all the time and that is the greatest motivation to keep going with what I do, to know that I have helped make a positive difference in the life of someone in the world. That is the true meaning of the Sikh idea of Seva - selfless service for the sake of humanity, not for material or personal gain. This project is too important to ever be hindered by a lack of funds or resources. No matter what it takes I have made a unwavering commitment to this project. I will never compromise its integrity or quality for financial or personal gain, that is a promise. If you need an excuse not to fund this project, I am sure that you will find one, for example I am not a charitable organization because that process is expensive so I cannot provide a receipt for tax write-off purposes. But if you share my dream and vision and can see the value of what is being accomplished here and the lives that are being touched than you will help.

Contact Information and Feedback

I appreciate and read all of the emails that I receive. You can contact me at sandeep@sikhs.org which is my main email address. Due to the large volume of email that I receive I am unable to reply to every single message but I do read them all. Send me your comments, thoughts, suggestions and ideas. If it's urgent or requires my response I will try to get back to you. If it's a question about Sikhism, please search the web site first before asking me. If you have a well written essay or would like to write something inspiring send me your work for review, if it's good I'll add it to the Essays category. If you have some sort of expertise or know someone that does that you think should be added to The Sikhism Home Page, please let me know, I would like to put up your work on the Internet in it's own category with full credit if it merits it. I would love for people to contribute to the expansion of The Sikhism Home Page. I don't need raw manpower, I need expertise in some aspect of Sikhism and the ability to produce something top notch


 


Note: No graphics or photographs from The Sikhism Home Page
may be reproduced or used on another web site or for any other
means without express written permission from Sandeep Singh Brar.