Sikhi Optimism: A Time to Celebrate

Published Piece in The Mash-Up Americans

Unlike many other religions, the Sikh tradition (Sikhi) gives no clear explanation on what happens to people when their lives end. Sikhi does not place emphasis on afterlife, and instead, encourages people to focus on what can be achieved within our present lives.

The Sikh tradition teaches that life is to be lived with everlasting optimism (chardi kala). Therefore there is no ritual for mourning or grieving, even in a situation of a loved one’s passing. Sikhi views death as a part of life and the Divine Order (hukam). According to Sikh traditions, death is not a time for mourning, but instead a time for gathering, remembering, and celebrating. Because there is no clergy in the Sikh tradition, Sikhs comfort the dying and mourn their passing according to their wishes. Many Sikhs prefer to listen to religious music (kirtan) and recitation (path) during their final moments, and many also choose to spend final time with their loved ones. A scriptural composition traditionally sung at the time of one’s passing is Sohila. The community has sung Sohila collectively since the formative moments of the Sikh tradition, and it continues to provide guidance and solace to those who reflect on its messages.

I find the Sikh tradition of framing death as an occasion for celebration to be incredibly comforting and powerful. This approach focuses on the positive contributions of one’s life and allows us to better preserve the memories and feelings of our loved ones. Celebrating rather than mourning also pushes us to count our blessings in a time of emotional vulnerability and helps us bring stability and solace into our lives, families, and communities.

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