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Sikhism in a Cultural Self-Study Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021


Cultural diversity is the main determinant of societies’ developments and peaceful co-existence; that is, not only does it determine the economic status of a society, but also it gives individuals a chance to live and adapt to patterns of life they cherish most. This to larger extent contributes to proper growth in morals, behavior, and spiritual beliefs, which shape lifestyles. Culture is therefore a collection of beliefs: spiritual, emotional, wealth, and behavioral that defines a particular society or group of individuals. Communities must respect both their culture and cultures of other communities living within them or neighboring them (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2008, Para. 1-3). Although this is the case, majority of western cultural beliefs have eroded traditional beliefs of societies, due to struggle for westernization.

The Sikh culture

To be a Sikh on has to adhere to beliefs of single immortal existence and the Sikhism traditional lifestyle. Life in the Sikh society follows a set of standards called Sikh Rehat Maryada, which primarily centers on teachings given by Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh community applies these set rules in religious celebrations, and in judging the conduct of members of the community. The Akal Takhat (Sikh spiritual elders) oversees the overall implementation and amendments of Sikhism laws. On the other hand, the Sikhs have very strong religious believes, whereby every dawn each member of the Sikh community has to wake up and join the rest of the family in prayers to Waheguru (the Sikh God). Their spiritual and cultural beliefs emphasize earning through hard work and fair means. They embrace values that discourage exploitation and labor misuse of any manner to and by society members. The community lays strong emphasis on fairness because it believes fair dealings will command more blessings from Waheguru, and will grant one a respectable position in the society. This has been the main success point of the community, in that it promotes hard work, dedication, and discipline among community members (Thai Sikh organization, 2005, Para. 1-5).

All individuals in the Sikh community are equal regardless of religion, ethnic background or skin color. In addition, the Sikh treats women as equal partners, and peaceful co-existence is the main drive of this community, unless the situation is so extreme and peace completely fails.

Factors Affecting the Sikh Culture

Having grown in America, life has not been the same, believes and practices by parents, have less impact on majority of youths living in America due to the westernization concept. Although parents have always taught youths on Hindu practices, the impact is less because influences from the American culture are many and are more pleasing to youths. Youths consider majority of Hindu practices as obsolete, and passed with time, because traditional values direct almost every aspect of the Sikh community. Societies are undergoing transformations, hence majority of youths want to change with changing trends by adopting urban lifestyle, which for long has been in conflict with traditional practices.

The Hindu education system is continually degrading, whereby practices such as Hindu epics, meditation, reading and writing Punjabi, and yoga are of less significance nowadays. Instead, youths spend extra school time in sports, which the youth consider urban, for example basketball and football. In addition, the previously culture of carrying swords and wearing of turbans to school by Sikh children, has faced many troubles, hence in most schools administrations have abolished it. English is the main communication language in most of schools, hence Hindu is of less significance and only used by students of lower and middle classes. School parties and breaks are other main centers for culture transformation, hence for one to fit into certain groups conformity in practices is necessary, which majority of student cannot avoid (Malhotra, (n.d.), Para. 1-2).

Majority of parents have rigidly embraced traditional Sikh practices which primarily dictate there diets, worship and associations. For youths, the world is one global community whereby intermingling is necessary, hence, the increased trend of youths conformity to western practices such as attending clubs and social events. For majority of youths going to church is boring, because the old church practices still find wide application in majority of Hindu praying centers. Hence, the youth always avoid going to the temple because of fear of being considered uncivilized by fellow youths.

Differences in theological concepts and value systems embraced by Sikhs have been another major reason for contention between the American and Sikh cultures. The American society is a free society where individual freedoms take precedence in all undertakings. On the Other hand, Karma and immortal beliefs bound Sikh’s practices and undertakings. Majority of Americans criticize and do not agree with some values under Sikhism. For example, advertisers of Schlitz beer encourage people to drink whenever they have a chance, for there is no any other life once one is dead. This is contrary to the resurrection belief of Sikhs; hence, its leaders have always criticized this, although the impact is minimal. Drinking sprees forms the main social arena for exchanging ideas among age groups, hence majority of youths have embraced the vice due to peer pressure and influences. In addition, the media has had a great impact on the way youths perceive life issues. Many western movies, soap operas, beer advertisements have influenced and eroded cultural values about life, which parents teach their children.

On the other hand, the unique Sikh dressing code has been another main conflicting issue among the Sikh youths. Culture dictates that all individuals must cover their heads with a turban, hence showing the unity among the Sikh. In addition, Sikhs have long beards, which in most cases Americans associate to terrorists and untidiness. This has made youths in the Sikh community to vary their dressing code and general lifestyle in order to fit in peer groups. In addition, majority of youths copy American celebrities dressing codes and lifestyle, because they assume celebrity culture is more valuable than what their communities emphasize. This has eroded greatly the Sikh culture among the youth because they always struggle to conform to what they observe in others (Engler, 1994, Para.21-24).

Historical Antecedents that have shaped the Sikh culture

Majority of Sikhs who moved to the U.S. had prospects of enhancing the social economic status of their families. To them U.S. had better economic and education opportunities as compared to their country. The Sikh’s prospect of getting good living conditions in U.S. was short-lived because bad living conditions forced them to do heavy manual work in order to sustain their families. In addition, to poor economic status previously ethnic discriminations were so wide, although Americans respected some Punjabis who were farmers. Due to poor living and working conditions, Sikhs embraced the spirit of handwork and self-dependence, which has contributed to their present economic dependence. Although they received such treatments, the Sikhs avoided any confrontations because to them goal achievement was more important than quarrels (Perlmann and Vermeulen, 2000, pp. 83-84). To avoid negative impacts of discriminations on Punjabis youths, Sikhs used separation strategies and always taught youth importance of self-esteem and appreciation.

Although Punjabi parents fought to minimize contacts in workplaces among their children and Americans, in school interactions were inevitable. American students criticized and despised the Indian culture for they considered it inferior to theirs. In addition to culture, other students looked down upon the Sikh’s diet, mode of dressing, morals, speech, and ways in which the Sikh dressed their hair. Other American natives also criticized their marriage practices, respect for authorities and the importance Sikhs had on their ethnic and family ties (Perlmann and Vermeulen, 2000, pp. 84-85).

In addition, due to colonization by Britain for a very long time, some practices currently embraced by Sikhs trace their origin from Britain. For example, the currently adopted building patterns, eating mannerisms and some Christianity values originate from Britons. The British rule was very harsh, hence for survival Indians had to endure and obey all their colonialists dictated, a practice embraced up to date by the Sikh community. Although some religious leaders opposed moves by Britain to transform, the Sikh culture a section of the society embraced western values, which with time have been passed on to growing generations (Nelson and Natarajan, 1996, pp. 249-251).


In conclusion, influences of minority groups on a society’s culture although few are important. Although fewer similarities exist between the American and Sikh cultures, integrations are important because they encourage peaceful co-existence. In addition, communities should aim to promote respect for both cultures because presently many cultural transfers are taking place between these two communities.


Engler, K. R. (1994). Sikhs in the United States: points of divergence. Web.

Malhotra, R. (n.d.). The position of Hinduism in America’s higher education. Infinity foundation. 2009. Web.

Nelson, S. and Natarajan, N. (1996). Handbook of twentieth- century literature of India. Westport: green wood press.

Perlmann, J. and Vermeulen, H. (2000). Immigrants, schooling, and social mobility. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Thai Sikh organization. (2005). The Sikh way of life. Web.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2008). Cultural diversity is our everyday reality. Web.

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