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living in-between

i recently watched a video in which Shanti Kaur Khalsa explores the relationship between bana and Sikh identity. at one point, she is asked what she thinks about the notion of Guru Nanak Sikhs vs Guru Gobind Singh Sikhs, especially in terms of questions relating to outer appearance.

she replys:

These are really, really potent questions and I don’t know that they should be answered – you know what I mean? Because if you say those people are Sikhs (who do not keep the 5 ks) then you are, I feel, that I am not doing justice to those of us who are making the sacrifice of really walking the path, right? If you say, they are not Sikhs…then you’re just bogus like everybody else. So, how do you answer that?…If you think for one minute that that core (i.e. the Khalsa) is more valuable, or more “Sikh” then the followers of Nanak then you’ve lost your purity right then, because then your ego has come into play, your humility’s out the door, and you’ve lost the game the minute you even say that.

i think that her response is a very brave one. i think it can be easy to both seek and give clear cut answers to questions that address complex issues, especially those relating to religion and identity.

i am inspired to imagine what it would be like to live in a place of in-between, to remain in the place around (and before) answers. not in a place without them, but to remain open enough to not shut one’s mind to another’s answers. this is a tricky thing to propose (even as i type my mind wants to clarify that i do believe in Truth! i do believe in goodness! i do believe in right and wrong…).

at the same time, i think it has been normal for me to be in a place of ‘the relativity of all things,’ and encountering Sikhi is like this process of clarification and of landing in a particular place (as opposed to being no where in particular at all). i guess the vulnerability lies in landing, because when you’re no where in particular you don’t have to stand your ground.

another thought about Truth – perhaps the closer in proximity you are to the thing, the more you can be absolute about what is ‘right.’ for example, i can be very clear/absolute about what is right for me. i would have a bit less to say about what is right for my family, for my partner, for my children, but still it would be legitimate for me to have a large say.

for people who are similar to me in terms of circumstance, race, class, again, i could provide some certainty of analysis about what is True. the further away someone is from me in terms of identity, circumstance, life history, location in the world, etc. the less certainty i can bring to what is supposedly right for them. especially in such differences, it is that person’s understanding and explanation of their Truth which is paramount.

however, whatever you might imagine you know or don’t know about someone else, i think it is still essential to meet each person – every moment – openly, without pre-judgment. also, underlying these differences are the core human needs that we all share, and which reflect our common humanity.

(i hope that my use and interpretation of Shanti Kaur Khalsa’s words and intention appropriately represents her thoughts, and position. please see the whole video for further context and food for thought.)

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