Born in a Hindu Punjabi family, Ashok Singh, a retired professional based in Delhi, found his calling in Sikhism. He converted and is now an amrit-dhari Sikh. On behalf of Lokmaanya, I spoke to him, what led him to embrace Sikhism, and his life and experiences post the change. Excerpts:
When and why did you change your religion from Hinduism to Sikhism? What were the tenets or rituals that really impressed you?
I never really thought of becoming a Sikh until the age of 35. I started going to the Gurudwara on the suggestion of my wife to cope with work stress and cutthroat competition in both, the private sector and government sector. Also, one requires special skills to deal and cultural differences in a big city like Delhi. Earlier, I was quite religious; I would visit temples with my mother and also fast on religious occasions, but I never really understood why. The Vedas, Puranas, Shastras, Smritis etc are in Sanskrit and hence difficult to understand. Moreover, the temple priest was more interested in the rituals and never really taught us about Hinduism as such. I then tried to understand Hinduism from a friend of mine who was Sanskrit professor from Haridwar, but whatever he explained sounded like rocket science, it was so difficult to understand. I was a devout Hindu, but I hardly knew much about
Hinduism, and I also did not have any proper education of it.
Anyway, I started going to the Gurudwara almost daily with my wife who happened to be from a Sikh family. Initially, the religion and culture of Sikhism was difficult to grasp as well, especially at the age of 35, when I was already following Hindu rituals. I was in doldrums as learning and adopting something new was not an easy task, but my inner consciousness kept telling me to apply my mind and gain clarity before following the religion – any religion, for that matter – in letter and spirit.
I started learning about Sikhism through the preaching, Sangat and Kirtan at the Gurudwara on a daily basis.
I was also impressed by the management of the Gurudwara, the neatness and cleanliness of the premises, free langar for all, security for belongings, and their arrangements of free or nominally charged yatras for devotees. I also began appreciating the open culture of Sikhism which promoted equality in gender, caste, creed, culture and religions.
I noticed that my wife used to listen to the sermons of Gyani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen, a well-known name in Sikhism. I joined her in listening to him; my interest developed and gradually increased. My heart and soul opened with the application of my mind. I now understood Sikhism and without any doubt in my mind, I became a Sikh. I follow all principles of Sikhism; I have stopped getting a haircut and started tying a turban.
Now that I have experienced Sikhism, I can say that being a true Sikh means learning till the end of one’s life, seeking education and knowledge from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the present and eternal guru in Sikhism.
How has converting to Sikhism helped you in life?
Sikhism, through the messages mentioned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, has helped me learn practical skills of life. It has taught me to live life courageously, not cowardly. Before knowing the path of Sikhism, I was struggling as I had no direction and lacked confidence. Now I have clarity in my life and thoughts. This also helps me concentrate better on my work.
Have you ever faced any challenges on converting to Sikhism?
Initially, my family was a bit perplexed and quite reluctant to accept my conversion to Sikhism. They were mostly of the opinion that I have done so due to my wife, who comes from a Sikh family. However, my family, being well aware of my strengths and weaknesses, eventually understood why I converted to Sikhism.
As we are Punjabis, we still have the same culture. My family is still Hindu, but it holds Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji in high regard and visits the Gurudwara often.
Therefore, I know that they have truly accepted me and my decision. Of course, their acceptance has more to do with their love and affection for me; they know that as a person, internally, I haven’t changed at all, and while we do have our religious differences, we love each other.
Would you like to visit the Kartarpur Corridor?
Yes of course, I would love to visit the Kartarpur Corridor. As a custom, Sikhs have built Gurudwaras in all those places which our gurus have visited, as each of those places becomes holy. Kartarpur is of high religious importance as the first and founding guru of Sikhism, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji, spent his last days there.
Visiting Kartarpur this year, on the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji, is very special for Sikhs across the world and special arrangements are being made by India and Pakistan to mark respect in a very big way for the sangat or community. I would love to visit Kartarpur and pay my homage to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji.
(This post first appeared here in The Tilak Chronicle.)
Mark Kinra is a corporate lawyer by profession and geopolitical analyst at heart. He primarily works on South Asia, specializing in Pakistan.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.