One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how to deal with friends who I grew up with who are "moving away from the Sikh lifestyle" (to put it lightly). I saw some friends recently who I haven’t seen in a long time and noticed that one had started to cut their hair. Whenever see I someone going through this type of change I struggle keeping negative/judgmental thoughts from surfacing. It is as if I am watching myself, and consciously see a thought come up…and then I ask myself, "Why am I feeling that way? What is triggering that thought?". At least I am conscious of it, and am really just trying to grapple over the best way to deal with these feelings in a neutral way.
On one hand these are my friends who I love and will support no matter what, but I think initially the change is a bit of a shock which causes a reaction. My mind then tries to justify it. I am normally stuck between how to deal with it. Does one just act like nothing has changed and just go about as usual? I guess this partially depends on how close you are to the person and if it is appropriate to talk to them about it. I can only speak from experience though because I went through these things myself. Sometimes maybe we need these situations to learn and deepen our understanding of being a Sikh. I have found that the times I have made major changes in my life were when I was most "miserable". Sometimes things have to get really bad for one to make changes and see what things are all about. When everything is fine and dandy…the normal tendency is just to cruise through things. It’s when we have hardships that we pray…and look at our life more critically.
When you are raised a Sikh there is always the pull from society to "fit in" and do the things that other non-sikhs do. Trying to understand why we do all these things as Sikhs can be hard as a youth, which is needed to combat the social pressure. For me, having gone this route I experienced those things and felt very empty as I moved away from Sikhi. I was on this path for a while in my late teens/early 20’s. It is easy to get caught up in this "Maya" and loose touch with the essence of Sikhi and the teachings of the Gurus. Once you get so far away and deep into it, it becomes harder to re-connect with Sikhi. I am thankful that I had a very loving family and sangat who pressurized me, and helped me see what I was doing. They made me conscious of the course I was taking, which wasn’t the best direction for me.
If I were not a Sikh what would my life be like?? I can’t imagine that, because now Sikhi and being a spiritual person is so much a part of me that not having that seems so empty. However, I think everyone has a right to choose their path in life. Ultimately we can learn from the hands of time (which can be a long and painful path) or we can avoid the pain and learn from enlightened Spiritual teachers (The Sikh Gurus, Buddha, etc) that can give is a clear and short path.
Looking back now I also see how my parents tried to help me avoid different hurdles that they went through. They have gone through certain things and didn’t want me to go through them. However, as children we tend to not always want to listen to our parents and choose to just do what we want anyways. Now being older and a little bit wiser I can see the value of what my parents were trying to teach me. It all make sense and is clear; but when you are in the situation many times we don’t think our parents understand or know what is best for us.
Ok…getting a bit off my original thought. My main topic was on judgmental thoughts of others. I think these normally come when you are doing something that you feel is better. So if you are doing all your banis, are Amritdhari, etc you might have a thought about someone that is not doing that. These thoughts were probably not there before you started doing/being XYZ. I guess there is a certain standard that you have when you do something different, and you try to compare yourself with your standard to what you think other people should be doing.
I guess it is just something that one needs to be conscious of when you are thinking critically about other people so that you can keep it in check. I am grateful that most of the time I am very conscious of my thoughts and I catch myself thinking things. It is like me watching a movie…but of myself. I believe the first step to making a change in your life is being conscious of the thing you wish to change. Many people do negative things all the time without really knowing or understanding why.
These thoughts and experiences I think are probably common for people on a spiritual path. Maybe this is just part of the test of being more spiritual? We get confronted with pride, ego, lust, anger, greed. I think it is ok to come in contact with these things…but to not let them take hold is the challenge for us all. The test of the true Gursikh I think is to stay neutral and not be affected by these. Ultimately we are all one and part of God, so need to see everyone around as part of you…and you part of them.
I don’t have any major conclusion or solution. I’m just writing out my thoughts as they come. The only thing I can suggest is to watch your thoughts when you think critical/judgmental things about others and try to go deeper and understand why you feel that way. I have found that love and acceptance works much better than being critical/judgmental. One unites and the other divides.
I don’t know if these ramblings mean anything to you, but just wanted to get them out. I would love to hear other people’s experiences relating to this topic.