Here is "P's" reply to my mail. I thought it a very good example of many of our parent's feelings. It made me sad on one level because it makes me think of all the expectations that people's parents have placed on them - believing that every one of us is going to be the soldier saint that they have envisioned as the ideal representation of god on earth. While I can agree that shaving one's beard probably does not represent a step towards becoming more spiritual, I think that it represents a step on the path that every person must walk in their own way. Finding one's relationship with God is never an easy journey, and will contain many different experiences. I think that is really what we all have to realize - it's all just part of the journey.
Dear "K", Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply, and I do hope that you've emailed it to Gurpreet as well as posting it on the IndiaKids newsgroup. As I stated in my original message to Gurumustuk Singh, my wife and I have spoken at length with Gurpreet in person, by phone, and my eMail. He knows that we love, respect, and support him. He knows that we believe that whatever
path he chooses (as indeed it is his choice), he will not only succeed, but will no doubt live an exemplary life. He does, after all, have a strong ethical background. But, his decision, his choice as it were, is not being made in vacuum. He, like most everyone else I know, is influenced by the culture, values, and environment in which he lives. Now the reality is, that in America's dominantly judeo-christian culture, living as a Sikh receives little to no support. Indeed, living any overtly religious lifestyle is often ridiculed in the popular media. The influence of our American culture and popularized secular society is profound. My intent is simply to solicit those who value living as a Sikh to encourage Gurpreet to keep up. He is continually receiving the opposite message from the rest of society, as well as from some (hopefully only a few) of his IndiaKids peers. I believe there exists a window of opportunity, which will be open for only a relatively short time, to influence/support Gurpreet to maintain his identity as a Sikh. After that time, I believe it will be much harder, if not impossible, to make the same impression upon him. As his father, who has indeed experienced both sides of the coin of Dharma & Karma,
I would like to spare him unnecessary suffering that I believe will result by his becoming secular. And, make no mistake about it, he is not shaving his beard to become more spiritual. As a Sikh, I believe the hukam of the Guru that all actions come from God, and that it is God herself/himself that draws the devotee towards or away from God. Hence, Gurpreet is simply following that which God ordains. However, it is also true that God is within all of us, and hence our actions are also God's. Therefore, our encouraging Gurpreet to keep up is God herself/himself inspiring him to do so. We are not judging him. We simply wish to inspire him to live to his highest ideal and potential. If Gurpreet departs Sikh Dharma, it will be the Dharma's loss and we will be poorer and sadder for his departure.