Too young to be an amritdhari?

How young is too young to partake amrit? Asia Samachar columnist JAGDESH SINGH takes a dip into the question when his nine year old daughter declares she is all set for amrit.

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| Jagdesh Singh Opinion | Malaysia | 07 Jan 2015 | Asia Samachar |
About three dozen partook amrit at SNSM's Annual Gurmat Parchaar Samelan 2015 in Kuala Kubu Bharu. A grab from an Asia Samachar video footage. - PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR
About three dozen partook amrit at SNSM’s Annual Gurmat Parchaar Samelan 2015 in Kuala Kubu Bharu. A grab from an Asia Samachar video footage. – PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR

It has always been a humbling experience for me seeing young Sikh children (as young as tweens and old as teenagers) walking down the Darbar Sahib pathway to the Guru Granth Sahib and literally bowing respectfully for the very first time as an amritdhari. The gesture that they show to their One True Guru at that point in time is drenched with emotions that cannot be hidden entirely. After all, the path they’ve so chosen can potentially have life changing consequences. Some can be seen weeping with tears of joy that cannot be explained. Some are smiling broadly with pride that they’ve been brave enough to take that first step in their new journey. Some are solemn still trying to understand if they’re finally ready for the commitment required in this path. Some give comforting looks towards their parents or older siblings indicating that they’ve done them proud to be the best that they can be as taught and groomed by their elders. Observing these young newly initiated Khalsa initiates bring much admiration from adults like me every single time.

SEE ALSO: Samelan organising committee’s bold step

My tween daughters were similar witnesses to the Amrit Sanchaar celebration that took place at the recently concluded Annual Gurmat Parchaar Samelan 2015 organised by the Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) during Christmas week last year. Being a camp full of children and teenagers where my two daughters were fully a part of, it was bound to happen that one of the Ablakhees that took part in the Amrit Sanchaar ceremony would be a friend of theirs. Their friend shared with the both of them what it meant to be an amritdhari, planting seeds in their young impressionable minds, conjuring wistful desires in them to also be part of this celebration that they had witnessed their friend partaking in.

The more impulsive of the 2 girls, the younger one, declared to me that she was ready to commit herself, her life, to following the path her dear friend had just embarked on. Her target was to be ready for the following year’s annual Samelan, with a full year of practice ensuring her ease into the life of an amritdhari. My wife and I weren’t really taken aback with this declaration of hers, not because of her upbringing (of which we’ve never really even pursued an active encouragement for her to be an amritdhari) but more because of her brash ‘shoot before you think’ mentality that can be influenced easily with peer pressure. We were, however, cautious about her bold intentions. Why? Because it is indeed a very heavy commitment for a 9 year old to hold on to. Many will say that encouraging her would be the only blessed option, as if she will be answering an unheard call from her Spiritual Master. Perhaps she is, but patience has always been a virtue, even more so for those that reason out why one takes that first step towards being one of the Pure. Both I and my wife had to make sure her reasons would be of longer term in nature rather than of whims and fancies.

Initially, while we were pretty sure of her motivations due to her impulsive nature, we did ask her of any perceived challenges she had to overcome to achieving her goals. And as expected, she was a little concerned about being able to memorize the prescribed 5 prayers an amritdhari is to do every single day. She was also slightly apprehensive of being a vegetarian, forgoing her beloved McDonald’s meals which she enjoys every now and then. But she remained steadfast and confident that these could be overcome anyway, just as her friend had to. She was still too young to worry about the trimming of her hair to remain fashionable or adorning the larger underwear while wearing skirts.

We tried to highlight these challenges, not so much as deterrents for her plans, but rather to create awareness for her to be more informed in her decision making process. The challenges seemed trivial to her as visions of her carrying her kirpan, adorning a turban, walking down that pathway in front of her friends, under the spotlight, became more vivid. We let her be. We understood clearly that her dreams aren’t meant to be crushed simply just because we didn’t think it was the right time for her.

It slowly dawned up me that the challenges that we were trying to project onto her were indeed trivial. Her embracing of this new lifestyle would require sacrifices from her, which is certain. She is to strictly refrain from the 4 cardinal sins (Cutting or trimming of any hair, Fornication or adultery, eating of meat or flesh of an animal slaughtered in a slow and painful manner; halal meat of the Muslim tradition, any use of any tobacco product) but even more challenging for her is overcoming the 5 major weaknesses of the human personality, the Panj Vikar (Lust, greed, attachment, rage, ego).

Overcoming these weaknesses, even to any extent, is the ultimate ideal for a Sikh let alone any amritdhari. It is an internal yet eternal battle. My wife and I both realized that we had to impart onto our daughters the end objective in mind for them to pursue the path towards the very same objectives. And the end objective was simply to overcome these 5 demons, something that even we as her parents ourselves were struggling with miserably.

Indeed, the practice of refraining the 4 cardinal sins would influence the mettle and discipline required to move towards achieving that Sikh ideal but the practice itself shouldn’t be the end goal. Our girl shouldn’t focus entirely on being able to maintain the lifestyle but rather focus on why she was doing it. Our girl shouldn’t be afraid and worried of not maintaining her lifestyle as an amritdhari, rather she should be more worried about being arrogant, greedy, materialistic, egoistic and angry towards anyone she comes into contact with, as an amritdhari. She would project confidence, humility, honesty, zeal for life and an ideal human for all around her to look up to.

Ultimately, we, at any age of our lives, want to be in bliss and carefree, not burdened with weaknesses that weigh us down from achieving the best that we can strive to achieve. Having the calmness and presence of mind to live life as such can only come to be if we are in a state of Chardee Kala. That can only be a subsequent result of overcoming our 5 demons. This, I would want for my daughters to dream of.

SEE ALSO: To be in a state of chardi kala

My wife and I had our work cut out. We need to impart these ideals onto 3 young girls growing up in an age where choices are abound, information at the tip of their fingers, and their surroundings hostile enough to heighten the 5 demons. We have to start somewhere anyway. Wish us luck.

Jagdesh Singh, a volunteer editor at Asia Samachar, has been a volunteer facilitator at the SNSM camps for about a decade. 

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

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