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Being A New Sikh And Trying To Fit In - Sikhism Isnt Just For Punjabies?


Sep 16, 2004
Post taken form written by Gurmastak Singh

Being a "New Sikh" and Trying to Fit In

I have 'discovered' Sikhi for about 6 months or so and have attended a Gurdwara a few times. I have forgotten to mention that I live in Cardiff, Wales, UK. There appears to be no other white people in the Gurdwara and so all conversation is in Punjabi. Similarly the worship and service are too. I don't wish to give up my new found desire to embrace Sikhism but I am finding it difficult to feel a part of the congregation. Can you help please?"[/quote
]Recently I received a few emails (one of them shown above) from people who were brought up with different religious backgrounds and are exploring the Sikhi lifestyle (ie: Wanting to be a Sikh). The emails were asking for help and advice in relation to fitting in with the Sikh community and being accepted.
Most of you are probably not used to seeing/meeting people who have converted to Sikhism and trying to find their place as a Sikh in a community. I was on a Sikh discussion forum the other night reading a really long discussion topic that was raging back and forth between the participants. Basically one individual was criticizing "3HO", "Western Sikhs", "Yogi Bhajan", etc, on just about everything. Without going into all that, the one subject of that discussion was a remark that "White Sikhs" don't go to other "Punjabi Gurdwaras" and just "start their own Gurdwaras". Of course this is not true...but it made me think. First...there is an assumption that there are HUGE number of Sikhs that have converted to Sikhi. I don't think there are nearly as many as people think. Maybe we are big in our projection and so people think there are hundreds of thousands and since they have not seen them in their Gurdwara that they must be avoiding it. Who knows though... we don't have a "Sikh Convert Census". So...with these few Sikhs spread out all over the world you may not see a "Sikh Convert" often at all.

In general I think people tend to live within communities of people that they have similarities with. So, many people who have adopted the Sikh lifestyle live in areas where there are other similar Sikhs. There are a few reasons for this.

First...most of them have come from a very different cultural background and do not understand or relate to Punjabi culture, so feel more at home with others from the same background (Just as someone from India might feel more comfortable with other Indians who have similar backgrounds). It's what you know and are familiar with. This is changing as our youth become more global, but is still a big issue for the older generations of people.

Second... Someone who becomes a Sikh has to learn everything from scratch and learn a whole new way of life. This is hard if you don't have someone helping or speaking the language that you understand. It is extremely difficult to learn and feel a part of things when the Gurdwaras are all Punjabi centric. I am not saying it is a bad thing, but I think it is important in western countries where most of the population speaks English that communities figure out ways to support the youth (many of who don't understand/speak Punjabi). This will also support the people that are interested/learning about Sikhi. So, in relation to the topic of this post, because most Gurdwaras don't have a good support system for people of non Punjabi background it is natural for these Sikhs to gather together to support each other and learn together. The issue for communities is to decide WHAT can be done to address this. If you ever come to our Gurdwara here in Espanola you will see how our community does things a little different because of the different background. The format and general ceremonies are the same, but some are done a little different. Someone might read the Ardas in English or Punjabi (depending on the person's preference). We have an Akandh Path that is always going every week and people from the Sangat sign up to read. Volumes of the SGGS with Gurmukhi and English Translation are used so depending on what language the person understands they can all participate. After the Hukamnama is read in Gurmukhi someone always reads the translation in English (sometimes spanish too) so people can understand what was said. Kirtan is normally traditional style, but someone might also sing a devotional song that they wrote about the Gurus (not Gurbani). People play kirtan with Guitars and many western instruments.....and many do so in tunes that are more western sounding. Most of the women are very active in the Gurdwara ceremonies and have strong leadership roles in our community.

They do many more of the Gurdwara activies than men (Ardas, Kirtan, Hukamnama, Prakash/Sukhasn, etc). In your typical Gurdwara, men are very dominant and it can be hard sometimes for women to do these things if they want. Our communties are small so don't have dedicated/paid ragis or granthis. Everything is done by the sangat. At least every month the parents and kids get together for Sikh stories or some activity where they can learn about Sikh history (In english of course). There are many other things...but this post is getting long so I'll stop there. I just wanted to give you an idea of things.

Third... A big reason why some of the people that I know have become Sikhs is that they have had someone that speaks their language, and I don't mean the English language. I mean that there is someone that shares information on Sikhi in a way that they can understand and relate to. Just imagine if you were Desi Punjabi, didn't know English, had grown up all your life in India, and then all of sudden you were in the midwest USA (The "Bible Belt" where there is a church on almost every block). Imagine you went into one of the churches trying to learn about Christianity. You would have a tough time I'm sure! I know this is an extreme scenario but I wanted to try to give you an idea of how different it is for someone who is not brought up as a Sikh from Punjabi backround.
There are a lot of bridges to build and things that we have to do to progress into this new age of globalization where Sikhs live in many different countries and come from different cultures. I don't think Guru Gobind Singh's prophecy of 960,000,000 was a vision of all Punjabi's (That's just my opinion).
So, what can be done? This is up to YOU to think about and try to encourage possible changes in your communities (at the very least to support our Sikh youth). So, I don't just assume someone else will do this; make this your contribution. Everyone can take time to help in some way.

Here is another interesting link:
Jul 30, 2004
Re: Being a "New Sikh" and Trying to Fit In - Sikhism isnt just for Punjabies?


4 of 5 intital Singhs or Panjpiaras were not Punjabis.
Sep 11, 2005
Re: Being a "New Sikh" and Trying to Fit In - Sikhism isnt just for Punjabies?

SIKHISM is the global Congregation of Human beings , Not Just Punjabi Sikhs .


Nov 25, 2005
Re: Being a "New Sikh" and Trying to Fit In - Sikhism isnt just for Punjabies?

Sat Sri Akal,

I'm a European female and I find the fundamental message of Sikhism modern and progressive. However, in practice I sometimes find Sikhs very inward looking and insular, which contradicts the whole Sikh philosophy. Even those living in Western countries tend to stick with their own and create 'ghettos'. Which brings me to the point of education. There needs to be a more widespread flow of information between Sikhs and non-Sikhs, in order to promote better understanding of different traditions. Religion is more than just belief in God - it's also about tradition and communities, the language, the food etc.


Jan 31, 2006
Well I would just like to say that the fault of our current gurdwara conditions around the world lay in the fact that there is a huge gap between the old traditional ways that sikhism was practiced in India and the way it is practiced here. Right now I would have to say that its all beeing done in the same way. What most people don't realize is that maybe more than 50% of sikhs living abroad do not understand gurbani, simply because its written in older styles of punjabi, and many sikhs who have grown up abroad do not understand it either, how can they when some of there parents who grew up India don't even understand it. When I visted Michigan there was a very small gurdwara there that only opens on weekends because of the small sikh popuation living there, and what they do is they put up a screen that has the shubad written in Punjabi, and in english, along with the english meaning and what I found was that because of that everyone was actually listening to gurbani because they for once could actually understand it along with all the older sikhs. I think that by doing this we can also get more people to understand about sikhsim and have more converts. I don't think that there is anything wrong with sikh converts as guruji traveled into the middleeast more and more people began to believe in him however unfortunatley they were converted back over time. However I understand it must be hard being a cocasian sikh, but I still don't think that opening up your own gurdwaras is the answer, it will just create discrimination, and distictions among sikhs and guruji would not have wanted that, since all of the gurus chilldren are equal.


May 4, 2006
The message of Sikhism is global. More should be done to spread the message, its a pity that older punjabi community isn't interested at all in spreading the message or make an effort to take it across different communities.


Jun 13, 2006
Forget how Panjabi Sikhs treat outside converts. They way they treat each other is pretty disgusting alot of the time.

I think we really do need the new blood in the quam, the only positive I can think of is that by being less than welcoming it makes sure that those who join are truly doing it for the belief. But that doesn't excuse rude behaviour by Panjabi Sikhs.
Jul 10, 2006
I agree. Maybe internet might help. I find I learn more from the net and books then by talking to another practising Sikh.
Mar 5, 2006
Oklahoma, USA
Sat Nam!
I read the post about being a new Sikh and trying to fit in. I have been discovering Sikhism as well. I am a Hindu, and before that, Catholic. I did not feel peace in Christianity. I am of mixed background, not a "full" this or that. I have European heritage, and also Punjabi or perhaps Kashmiri heritage though my "Gypsy" blood on my mother's side. As far as my looks go, I tend to favor the Gypsy side of the family, so fitting into the Mandir was easy. Everyone there just assumes that I am a Punjabi, in fact that is my nickname there. "Punjabi Girl". (I love it) (Most of the people in the Mandir are Tamil).
I feel peace that I have never known before in Hinduism, but when I visited the 3HO Gurdwara in New Mexico, I felt like I was laying back in my mother's arms. There were not only the "white" Sikhs there, but also many Punjabi Sikhs. True, much of it was in English, but the Bhajans and Banis were not. The music was magical, and the whole place just vibrated with peace. I know that there is controversy about that place, but I found it to be a wonderful experience, and the people to be very very sincere and inspiring to me. I left there with a desire to learn Punjabi and explore that part of my background more.
Recentley, because of my experience in New Mexico, I visited the Sikh Gurdwara in Oklahoma City (AKA, the "buckle" of the Bible careful or someone will belt you with a Bible!!!!) That is a 2 hour drive from my town...I also make that drive with my kids to go to the Mandir...anyway, my son and I went. Yes, it is a small Gurdwara, and yes, it was ALL in Punjabi, but I felt that same peace flowing through me. My 13 year old son did as well. I read Hindi, and had a hard time with Gurmukhi, but there was a whole group of people there wanting to help out and inviting us back. (My Punjabi language course, by the way, is on it's way to me in the mail!) I am going back to the Gurdwara, and so is my son. We are going back for Guru Nanak-ji's birthday. I am reading the SGGS on line, where there is English, Hindi and Gurmukhi. I really feel that I have found my family. I had that same feeling in New Mexico even though most of the people there were white Americans. I think it is the soul, not the color of the covering, that makes a Sikh.
So I guess what I am also trying to say is, keep going to the Gurdwara and make an effort to learn about the Punjabi culture and even the language. In the mean time, read the SGGS on line in English, and learn Banis and Bhajans in the original!!!!
Good luck!!!
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa!
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
Jul 30, 2004

Das has native tongue as Hindi and by mercy of Akal,Hindi speaker can understand Gurbani better then say Punjabi speaker more in the case of Tenth Master.
May 16, 2005
Vernon, BC Canada
One of the biggest steps that needs to be taken before the door to the world is truly opened, is that we need a universal streamlined translation of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and also the other books as well, we will also need to learn about other cultures, traditions, and languages in order to make sikhi a place where people can truly feel like community.

This means doing allot of radical new things like Installing a SGGS in a another language in a temple, Re think the way we view a temple and as well as learning to accept other cultural and traditions of others.
Jul 30, 2004

It may include Translation of Ardas also.

first think of source of all/First think of the sword.Then same was rembered by Guru Nanak.Then Angad and Guru Amardas.Ram Das Ji were helped.To Guru Arjan Hargobind Rember Sri HarRai..Think of Guru Harkishan ,seeing that all sorrow go.Rember Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib,To house new/nine trasures come runningto home. Helpful at all places.Tenth Master Guru Gobiind Singh ji The Lord.Be helpful all places.


May 28, 2006
For a long time now, I've felt that the true message of Sikkhism will be discovered by those not born into Sikkh families. I think that existing Sikkh communities dating back to the time of the faith's origin are so very steeped in conventions and traditions that the essence of the message is becoming increasingly lost.

I suspect that many of those who choose to take up what they see as a 'Sikkh way of life' will also copy and mimic many of those traditions, but as time rolls on, I suspect that those conventional routines will be replaced by a more honest and intimate understanding of the fundamental core philosophy driving what as become known as the Sikkh 'religion'.


Nov 15, 2006
I am a Canadian born sikh with a family originating from Punjab. Unfortunately I too have found it difficult to understand many things in Punjabi because I haven't learnt much as of yet. But not too long ago, me and my sisters went to a Sikhi camp called West coast sikh youth association which was a beautiful camp. It is located in Kelowna and we did much sikhi related activities such as kirtan, simran, and gatka. The best part was whenever the hukamnama was read, they would display the english translation on a screen for the people who didn't fully understand punjabi and the Gutka had english translations beside the punjabi. After finally understanding the meaning of bani'an such as Jap ji Sahib and Rehras Sahib, i finally felt the longing for the first time in my life to actually become a gursikh, become amridhari and learn more. The language barrier is truly a large one!


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Jul 14, 2007
Sikhism and yoga have found a new home in Mexico, reports Ajit Jain
IF you visit the Shunia Yoga Life centre in the s{censored} Polanco district of Mexico City, don’t let the owner’s name, Jai Hari Singh, mislead you. He is Francois Valuet, a French national who has lived in Mexico City for over 30 years, converted to Sikhism and changed his name.
Why? "It (Sikhism) is a way of life. More than anything else, it teaches discipline in life. It is based on the simple belief of one god. And god is inside you," Jai Hari answers. "When there’s one god Khalsa, when you live on simple beliefs, you begin to see a lot of things that make life enjoyable."

Jai Hari Singh teaching yoga in his yoga centre in Mexico City and (below) his daughter Ananda Kaur with her German-Sikh husband Amrit Singh, who converted to Sikhism eight years ago
The change in his religious and social thinking came slowly after he started learning yoga from Harbhajan Singh Khalsa — better known as Yogi Bhajan — a renowned Sikh yoga teacher who came to America in the late 1960s and who died in October 2004. Like his teachers, Jai Hari teaches Kundalini yoga. "After I started practicing Kundalini yoga, my life changed a lot. I became healthier, I was able to control my emotions and my family life became better," he says. "I became a vegetarian. I stopped drinking and smoking."
There is only one gurdwara in Mexico City. And Arjan Singh, an Indian and a granthi from India, who came to Mexico City in 1976, looks after it. He is also a Yogi Bhajan disciple, and runs a yoga centre. "There’s reference to Kundalini yoga in Gurbani," says Arjan. The students at his centre start sadhana (prayer) at four in the morning. "We teach devotion, meditation. Kundalini yoga gives you strength of mind and body. We can control strength through devotion."
He says there are about 50 yoga centres in Mexico and a number of people have converted to Sikhism. Jai Hari and Arjan are married to Mexican women, who are also Sikhs. The women wear white turbans. Arjan Singh’s 20-year-old son also practices Sikhism and after spending four years India is now back in Mexico.
Jai Hari, who is married to Jai Hari Kaur (birth name: Blanca Rosa Hernandez) says his three daughters — Ananda, 26, Prabhu Atma, 24, and Kirtan, 17 — have adopted Sikhism too. Ananda is married to a German who became Sikh too. They live in Amritsar, India.


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Jul 14, 2007

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