Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FAQ about Sikhs and Sikhism- Part 2

This is a continuation of the Frequently Askes Questions from last week's post. More to follow, stay tuned.
4) If hair is considered a gift, then why cover it up? – Kiana
Great question, Kiana. Many religions require people to cover their heads when entering religious places. Covering the head is a sign of respect. When visiting a Sikh Gurdwara, everybody is required to cover their heads before entering the hall where the services are held. However, since Sikhs believe that God is everywhere, covering our heads is a way of showing deference to His omnipresence.
Also, if you are familiar with ancient history, you may have noticed that people in positions of prestige could often be distinguished by their different headwear: the pharaoh’s hat in Egypt, the King’s crown in European civilizations, and royal turbans in many Eastern traditions. Sikhs do not believe in the class or caste system, so the turban is also a means of bringing each individual to a royal status and empowering them.

In a more practical sense, since hair is a gift from God, we also try to make sure it stays neat and protected. When I used to wear my hair in a braid, it was constantly getting caught in things and getting pulled out. Since I started wearing a turban, my hair has become very healthy and it stays clean—I hardly have any split ends and need to shampoo only once or twice a week. People who have long hair understand how much time and attention is required to maintain it, covering is just easier. It takes me about 5-10 minutes to tie my turban in the morning and I can go through my whole day without needing to redo it.
I hope this answers your question thoroughly.
5) Can you ever cut your hair and still be accepted to god? – S.S.
I’m going to answer this question from the Sikh perspective, so I want to clarify that my thoughts would only apply to practicing Sikhs and should not be applied to persons of other faiths. Can a Sikh ever cut their hair? No. Do some Sikhs cut their hair? Yes. And the reason many may cut their hair is due to peer pressure of influence of the people around them. Cutting hair is one of the biggest mistakes a Sikh can make. From the orthodox perspective, it is almost synonymous with denouncing the faith altogether; that doesn’t mean that an individual who cuts their hair is ostracized in any way. Think of it like this, not cutting his or her hair is part of the Sikh uniform; a police officer, a fireman, or any other individual who is required to wear a uniform on a regular basis is required to have each article of their uniform—it’s a part of their identification. In the same way, hair is a part of the Sikh identity and a Sikh is incomplete without uncut and natural hair.
If someone has cut their hair and later decides to stop cutting it, they are encouraged and supported. Sikhism is not a religion someone can be born into; one has to adopt it after gaining sufficient understanding of the Sikh philosophy and way of life.
6) Why do you wear a turban? What are your beliefs/practices? – Jason
Jason, I’m going to skip to your question about beliefs and practices because I have already discussed the reasons Sikhs wear turbans in previous questions. Sikhs believe in one God who is not bound to any specific religion and oversees all beings throughout the universe. We believe in three golden rules: Naam japo- meditating on God’s name, Kirt karo- working honestly to earn one’s living, and Vand shako- sharing one’s honest earnings with the less fortunate. We also believe in Sewa and Simran, the concept of doing community service and meditation simultaneously because service without spirituality and spirituality without service will both lead to an incomplete existence.
A Sikh is required to shower daily and then complete 5 prayers in the morning, 1 in the evening, and another before bedtime. The total time it takes for all prayers is about 10% of 24 hours. This is in line with the Sikh belief in giving 10% of all earnings to a worthy cause. These are all daily practices that are there to help Sikhs pursue spirituality while also focusing on personal, familial, and social well-being.