Great blog Nav. I am in a conflicted state; am I allowed to call myself a Sikh? At first glace, one would not think I am a "true Sikh" because of my appearance or even by the lifestyle I lead (consuming alcohol/meat in moderation). I drop by the temple when I feel I need it spiritually or for special occasions. What are the criteria one must follow to be a true Sikh? If I am on a spiritual journey internally does my appearance really matter? Can I consider myself to be a "religious person"?
Thank you very kindly.
This may seem very odd coming from someone who has three labels (Vegan Sikh Geek) as his pseudonym/alias/tagline, but I do believe it. Please ask yourself for whom it is you wish to be called a “true Sikh”. Other than your name for legal/practical purposes, why do you need to be called anything by anyone else? A person’s journey is for him/herself. If you feel a desire to go to the Gurdwara on occasion as you mentioned, that’s fantastic. :) If you benefit from it, that’s brilliant. If you hear a song or read a poem or watch a speech that rings true for you spiritually, that’s beautiful. Take what you can from all experiences in your life. If you find a path that makes sense to you and you wish to internalize all aspects of it, power to you. If you don’t wish to give up some aspects of your life which may or may not conflict with that path, that’s your choice.
Can you consider yourself to be a “religious person”? If it matters to you, you can. If you want to be and don’t think you are, you can ask yourself what you can do differently. Forgive me for being indirect here, but, really, it’s up to you and it should only affect you. Whether you need it or not is a personal choice.
“The criteria one must follow to be a true Sikh”. Gosh, that’s difficult for me. At the root, the noun Sikh means “learner”. As a label for a student of the Sikh religion, it is someone who believes in the principles of Sikhi and is on the journey to adopt them. Where they are on the journey is irrelevant to anyone else. There is no “in front of” or “behind”. It’s personal.
There are many resources, should anyone need them, to learn more about the principles of Sikhi.
I hope this hasn’t exacerbated your conflicted state. :)