Between Two Worlds: American Sikh Students in Sikhism’s Holy Land

Here is an interesting article written about Sadasat Simran Singh (of Chardikala Jatha) and Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar.

By: Jesse Ellison

AMRITSAR, INDIA — Here, in the spiritual center of the Sikh faith, one man stands out. He appears to be a walking contradiction: he is both taller and fairer, but also much more visibly "Sikh" than almost everyone around him, even the Punjabis who have practiced the faith for generations. He is Sada Sat Simran Singh Khalsa and he is over six feet tall, with pale skin, a towering turban, ruddy beard, and floor-sweeping blue robes. As he walks the perimeter of the Golden Temple, he attracts stares from Punjabis and Westerners alike—all trying to classify him, all coming up short. India is rife with Westerners who adopt an Eastern philosophy and begin dressing and practicing like their Indian counterparts, but few are like Khalsa.

He was born and raised outside of Washington D.C, in a decidedly American community, but also in the Sikh tradition, albeit the particularly American variety of the Indian faith. At age eight, he was sent to Miri Piri Academy to study and now, on a warm spring evening some 18 years later, Khalsa can be found in the school’s music room, giving lessons to a group of young devotees.

At the Miri Piri Academy in Chhertha Sahib, outside Amritsar, India, the students faces look American, they speak in American English, and many of them have all the trappings of American youth: iPods, cell phones and reggaeton ringtones, but nobody could mistake these kids for the average American student. Neither could they be mistaken for the Indians among whom they live, pray and serve. Their white turbans are tied more elaborately, their robes are longer and their symbolic swords, kirpans, are bigger and less, well, symbolic.

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Ps. Miri Piri Academy does have some openings for this next school year (Fall 2006), so you could contact them if you are interesting in having your child enroll in the school.

15 Responses to “Between Two Worlds: American Sikh Students in Sikhism’s Holy Land”

  1. Miri Piri Academy needs a school in America also.
    SatNam

    Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki fateh!

  2. xSHANTIx says:

    I think most teenagers have a personality crisis anyway. The difference is that many teens in the west turn to alcohol, drugs and sex at a young age and they use this throughout their entire life as coping mechanisms. I think that would be the difference with MPA kids, because from a young age, they are given different coping mechanisms, and as a parent of a western teen, you couldnt want for better.

    As for having an identity. Hopefully they will stand tall as Khalsa no matter which part of God’s earth they stand upon. They don’t need to be branded or fit in as anything other than a Sikh. If other people choose to brand them, then let them.

    I think MPA does a great job. I have spoken to some people currently attending and some past students and they have nothing but praise to say. It is definitely a unique and inspiring opporunity for kids, and should I ever get married and have kids, I would definitely sign them up!

  3. SikhsRus says:

    Thanks Gurumustuk for posting this story here. Actually I had thought about this and was planning to do a post on it on my blog. I am sorry but I would have to disagree with the author on the title. I believe all true Sikhs live only in one World no matter what race, gender, color or creed. It is no different than any other Sikh who has lived in India and is living somewhere else now. Personally, I have lived in India, Canada and U.S. Does this mean I live in three Worlds? Its a thought and the intent is not to defend or criticize.
    I agree with Pritam on MPA in America, especially in California. I think there can be enough staff (especially graduates of MPA with teaching credentialing here) that has all of the necessary skills to teach Sikhi, Gatka, Kirtan and Punjabi in addition to rest such as U.S. History, Science, Arts etc.

  4. Prabhu Singh says:

    This article is nice, but it has a few inaccuracies. One is that it refers to people as ‘followers’ of Yogi Bhajan. As Sikhs we’re clearly followers of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. I learned a lot from the Siri Singh Sahib and hold him in very high regards, but I never considered myself a ‘follower’ of his and I don’t think anybody else really does either. More like students.
    As a Sikh I’m happy to be a student of all inspiration that comes to my life.

  5. Pritam Singh ji – the whole point is to have the students be able to avoid as much as possible of the worst of American cultural excesses (trust me, they get plenty during their summer breaks, haha!) – and to be able to be immersed in the land of the Gurus.

    There is NOTHING America could provide that is like their opportunities to go to Harimandir Sahib regularly, to do seva there, to visit other places important in Sikh history.

    It can be hard for the kids to be away from family and friends and familiar places and routines, but that’s a big part of the point – the difficult situations build their character, and teach them to lean on Guru and on each other for their support. They build great relationships together there.

    Our family has, collectively, 10 years of experience at MPA, and I (and my kids) wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

  6. SikhsRus says:

    I think Sikhs also need “good quality” Institutes of Higher Learning and Universities as well, which cater to just Sikh students to create our own role models, sports teams, science teams, artists etc. Kind of like the MPA kabaddi team that is all Sikh. These univerisities, schools and colleges would be a big moral booster for the Sikh kids and non-Sikh peer pressures would be a lot less. These must be run by Sikhs and not by a non-Sikh government appointed chancellors or deans like in Punjab.

  7. I must re-iterate that the entire point of Miri Piri Academy is having our children growing up in the “lap of Guru Ram Das”….in other words in AMritsar India with regular attendance at Golden Temple.
    They have a strict and clear dress code of GurSikh ‘Bana’as well as classes to give them the experience of identity and leadership….all would not be possible in close range of parents and Western Maya.

  8. The Gurus lap is the entire universe might-as-well this little Earth we live in.
    I treat all Gurdwaras as I would treat Sri Harimandir. Yes Sri Harimandir was built in India by Guru Arjan Dev Ji Shaheed but the same Guru resides in any Country and at every Gurdwara. I tell people everywhere that I visit, to treat any Gurudwara as they are at Amritsar. They understand what I mean.The same Guru is everywhere. God is everywhere and doesnt reside in certain places or certain Gurdwaras or then the Gurdwara they go to is just 1 out of a million and is less important. I tell them Amritsar has deep history with the Gurus and is a center of Sikhi but the Gurdwara you attend could eventually have a rich history for time still goes on and history is everyday. Live your life as if the World has equalably shown light from Waheguru. I wish I had enough money to visit Sri Harimandir. Not everyone does. If children attended GuruJis presence at school they would change for the better.

    If not a Miri Piri in America then call it something else but it would be the same just with a different Holy building. There is only one Sri Harimandir Sahib but we in America need something like this that is affordable for the common Sikh.

    People in America blame society that they dont follow Gurmat but in all reality they do what they what or dont want. There own choice not to discipline there own self. I dont need someone to tell me what not to do. I know in my heart what should be done. So why to Sikhs blame society for their faults? Ive been blessed to break that chain. Does any one else want to even attempt to break that chain? It is simple, just find that chain{whatever holds you back from being a real Sikh of the Guru} and break it.With SatGurPrasad anything for the positive is possible. Dont blame what they rest of Americans do on your faith in Sikhi. You either love the Gurus word or you dont. If you do follow them. If you dont then just go to the Gurdwara as a church. You must live Sikhi not just be a Sikh. Everything you do is your fault good or bad. Strive to reach the goal in life and not blame that you cant because of where you live. You should be able to live in the scummyist place on Earth and still have love for Waheguru and GuruJi.

    If there was a school for children to be a Sikh then alot more children would not feel that fitting in with society is the only way to be happy. You really arent happy if you blend in and arent Sikh.I dont beleive Miri Piri should be the only School for Sikhs. I dont beleive that India is the only place for it. I also have nothing against Miri Piri in anyway, shape or form.I put myself in the line-of-fire so shoot away.
    Ad Gur-eh-namahe, Jugad Gur-eh-namahe, Sat Gur-eh-namahe, Sri GurDev-eh-namahe.

    SatNam
    Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki fateh!

  9. Harpal Singh says:

    Mataji ,
    I accept what U have said. At the same time I agree with Veer Pritam Singh Ji. There students who are poor and could not afford to go to India for studies. At same time Miri Piri Academy in America should be good as in India. If I am not wrong, our Heros “Chardikala Jatha” were there at first, which includes other successful Veers and Bhens. I am firm that WAHEGURUJI is everywhere, HE will have HIS presence in that Academy. I personally feel that the Wonderful Organisation in Esponala is taking a good care and doing a great job. Even the Veers and Bhens in SikhNet.com are doing a great job with HIS BLESSINGS, This I will give my 100% GUARANTEE for HIS care in in Esponala and other Centres. Hope for the best. WAHEGURU knows what HE is doing, such as when we say it is impossible, HE will shows us the other way around. For my Veer and Bhen students and teachers and others involved in the Academy, please never feel dejected. HE is and will be forever with you.Thank You

  10. Paramjot Singh says:

    The article says that the students’ faces “look American”….what does an American face look like?

    I really appreciate that Gurumustuk’s blog is showing the faces of AMERICAN Sikhs of color, so that “American Sikh” and “White Sikh” don’t become synonyms. That’s an image (and an external perception of Western Sikhs) that we have to fight.

    Sat Nam,

    Paramjot Singh

  11. harpreet says:

    I do not think that American sikhs and Indian sikhs will mingle.They will remain two distinct identities in the times to come.The American sikh is likely to come out as more spiritual and religious out of the two. But in the long run say after 5-6 decades the american sikh will also be as disillusioned as the Indian sikh.

  12. Prabhu Singh says:

    Harpreet Ji, I’m not sure what your comment is about, but the reality is Sikhs are Sikhs and they are mingling. Those who understand that all people come from one God (Ek Ong Kar) will surely see God in all. I’m an American Sikh who has many Punjabi Sikh friends. When we get together there is no distinction, we are Sikhs.
    No real Sikh will ever be disillusioned. If the failure of people can deter someone from the path of their Guru, that person had no love for the Guru in the first place. If every person in the world failed and tried to take me from the Guru’s path, I would never leave. I’m only disillusioned with the failure of so-called “Sikhs,” but I am forever inspired by the Guru’s example and the real Khalsa, found in all races, who live in chardi kala and harmony with all.
    It is the duty of the Khalsa to live in chardi kala, and therefore I only see the brightest of futures for the Khalsa, from East and West, North and South and every walk of life. Raj Karega Khalsa!

  13. karan says:

    wahaguru je ka khalsa
    wahaguru je ke fatha………..

  14. Harpreet singh says:

    Sat sri akaal Khalsa ji, Guru ji created khalsa means khaliss(pure),unique and khalsa can never be disillusioned because khalsa has love for the and represents the guru.
    Bhul chukk maaf kareyo.

    Satnam
    waheguru ji ka khalsa
    waheguru ji ki fateh

  15. palwinder says:

    solve my problem i m confused my a American friend show me a movie which direct indian director Loins of Punjab <a href="http:/ /http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1012757/” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1012757/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1012757/) i feel shame when i saw in this film they make a Sikh Punjabi man a gay character in this movie i want it if we make sikh character international copy right because again not make any bad character about sikhs because its too effect of other foreigners i hope you replay soon i wait about it sat shri akal