What It Means To Be Sikh – Harinder Singh

Honored to present Harinder Singh. He serves as the Senior Fellow, Research & Policy at the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI). He is a widely respected educator, activist, author, and thinker. His current focus is on developing critical thinking for Sikh institutions via the State of the Panth report series and developing open-source decoding of Guru Granth Sahib in contemporary Panjabi and English for a global audience.

He has also authored Emperor-Prophet: Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, Guru Granth Sahib: Its Language & Grammar, and Sikhi: Faith & Followers. Harinder Singh holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering, MS in Engineering Management, MPhil in Guru Granth Sahib, and a Diploma in the Persian Language. He currently resides in the United States with his family.


“In popular culture, it is called Skihism, but the term is Sikhi. From a Sanskrit angle, it means disciple, and from a Pali angle, it means who is already on the path. So a Sikhi is a learner on the path of learning and pursuing things.”

“The story of Sikhi begins with Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 1469. It was the time when the Mughals were coming to India. The village in which he was born is now called Nankana Sahib. He brought in revolutionary ideas. The ways he asked questions were not creating a ruckus but creating a dialogue. He was asking why questions. He was looking for higher logic.”


“Meditation was always a part of Sikhism. Guru Nanak went to a lot of places. He left home to meet wisdom-oriented individuals. Once, he was in a mosque and joined them in their prayer. I feel meditation is a type of remembrance. In Indian philosophy, there are many schools of thought on Dhyan. Dhyan is not all about concentration. It is more about developing a life of samadhi. Meditation in English is a Latin word with a French root. It means to ponder. Meditation is more of reflection, whereas, in Indic tradition, it is more about concentration. For Guru Nanak, meditation means remembrance of the Almighty.”

Ek Onkar

“In Ek Onkar, the word Ek means one, few, or many. When you write it out as one, it depends on the context. It means there is only oneness.”

Guru Nanak

“I grew up as a Sikh. But I didn’t know many things. It was after I shifted abroad that people started asking me about it, and I started learning. Gurudwara has now become a place of prayer, but at the start, it was a place of learning.”

“Nowadays, we run away from politics and overhype the spiritual. Guru Nanak met spiritual gurus at that time. He learned a lot of things from the conversations with them. In the vocabulary written about him, he is called Raj and Jogi. He founds a city in Kartarpur that is now in Pakistan. Punjab culture has been open. Stories are getting lost because not much is written because of which we only know the parts that people who study it say and not by people who live it.”

“Guru Nanak founded a city where everyone came to see him. A few of them stayed with him to learn. He was practicing that every human being on the earth is a product of a divine gift. There is zero tolerance for racism or sexism. Every guru, later on, founded a new city.”


“Our whole idea of border, travel, and migration is skewed. Because of this, we have closed our hearts and created a larger narrative. We don’t see any difference in both the Punjab. Punjab means land of five rivers. So something isn’t right when some rivers are there, and some rivers are here. I feel we might get to see a time when this would unite. When people’s will takes over political will, it will happen.”

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