Youth and Sikhism in the New Era
What is the purpose of religion? Is it important for one to follow?
Some say it can be a medium to connect with God. Others say it is a practice that allows them to further discover through meditation and gain enlightenment to connect them to God. The youth of today are developing in a generation, where asking these kinds of questions is vital for their education and growth. Sikhism continues to endure its exposure to these questions and is the fifth largest organized religion in the world.
Sikhism was born during the fifteenth century in Punjab from the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Master of Sikhism. In the following centuries, this monotheistic religion continued to expand and flourish with the teachings of nine more gurus. In the end, the eleventh eternal Guru remained in the form of sacred text – the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
As it is believed and adhered, the religion of parents is the religion of their children, especially in Sikhism. As teenagers are on their journey to become educated adults, their impressions on religion and beliefs can dramatically change. It is through these changes they might gain a new perspective of the world and society.
Jagraj Singh Padda, a student pursuing Bachelor of Science Degree at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) is a faithful spiritual follower of Sikhism and shares his insights: “In this world, we are constantly being exposed to different environments and being introduced to many different things. As a result, we as humans can make many mistakes throughout our life. The word Sikh means learner and everyone in the world is a learner. As learners, we learn about our mistakes and make sure our mistakes don’t repeat again. Sikhi itself is not a religion, but is a way of life. Our Gurus set three main principles for every human being: to earn an honest living, to recite God’s name and to share what you have. Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave a new dimension and meaning to Sikhism in 1699 when he baptized Panj Pyaare and gave them Amrit. The Khalsa was born, representing the symbol for reaching God in the most pure form.”
In the modern society we continue to see a decline in religious values and a greater shift towards science and technology. Recent studies indicate that the total number of religion followers in the world is dramatically declining every decade resulting in more atheism. I am not saying that it is a bad decision that more people are not following religion, but it is just a fact and a trend. The same issue exists with respect to Sikh youth in countries like Canada. Although people may think of themselves as a Sikh, they might not be correctly adhering to the religion. Some Sikh youth are commonly violating the main principles and messages of Sikhism when they decide to participate in gangs, drug dealing, and other forms of unethical activities. However, majority of the youth just might not have the proper education of the ideologies that constitute Sikhism.
Should we consider this as a crisis? Should we call it: “We are losing Sikhi with every new generation”? I don’t believe so. It is more effective to look at the problem from an optimistic standpoint. The main thing that parents should be concerned about is to ensure that their children are following the key concepts of Sikhism, or in other words they are developing into moral, good, and ethical human beings.
Some of you might notice that it definitely doesn’t take a religion to follow these basic concepts in life. However, following a religion might put one at an advantage to achieve this way of life because of frequent exposure to these ideas through reading holy scriptures, prayers, and attending enlightening religious events. As a matter of fact, all of the teachings in Sikhism are intended to evolve a person into a virtuous being. In addition, a lot of studies and evidence has been gathered to conclude that meditation (in many forms) is beneficial to the human mind. Some people may describe this experience as a connection with God.
The month of April is one of the most celebrated times of the year for Sikhs. It embodies the spirit of Vaisakhi representing the most significant event in the history of Sikhism – the birth of Khalsa. As many of us may recall, the Nagar Kirtan event is a mosaic of cultural and religious activities and a demonstration of ethical values. The presence of youth therein adds another dimension of joy to this event. If observed upon closely, there is a tight bond between the Punjabi Culture, Language, and Sikhism. If a young person wants to pursue and faithfully follow Sikhism, it may be essential for them to first explore the Punjabi Language and Culture. Of course, many faithful Sikhs all over the world are not familiar with Punjabi Language or Culture.
Manraj Singh Thind, a student in Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, gives his opinion: “To educate the youth with more lessons on Sikhism, there should be more religious based schools and academies. But most importantly, I primarily believe that the teaching and mentoring from parents is the most important factor that contributes to a child’s moral behavior development. Sikhism is a religion that packs all these lessons ready to be absorbed by the young.”
According to my belief, the most important thing is not the requirement to obey the exact customs and traditions of a religion without understanding its essence. The most significant part of a religion is to accept, understand, and digest the core values it conveys. Of all the religions in the world, each one of them teaches the same principles but in different methods and applications. What we have to realize is the importance of being humane, ethical, moral, giving back, and love for humanity are the key ideas that contribute to the existence and positive growth of human civilization and this was the ultimate intention and message when all the religions were born.