Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 189 – Simran Jeet Singh

For episode 189, Sharon welcomes Dr. Simran Jeet Singh to the Metta Hour to speak about the Sikh philosophy of love and service.

For episode 189, Sharon welcomes Dr. Simran Jeet Singh to the Metta Hour to speak about the Sikh philosophy of love and service.

Simran is the Executive Director of the Inclusive  America Project at the Aspen Institute. Recognized among TIME Magazine’s “sixteen people fighting for a more equal America, ” he is an Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations. Simran is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, CNN, and TIME Magazine and writes a monthly column for Religion News Service. In July of 2022, Simran released his first book, The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life, from Riverhead books.
In this conversation, Simran and Sharon speak about:

• Growing up as an outsider

• Identity as a refuge

• The foremost teaching of Sikh philosophy of interconnection

• The natural expression of love is action

• Inspiration for his book“The Light We Give

• De-centralizing the Ego

• Understanding our deeper values

• The impact of Lovingkindness on our enemies

• What does it mean to be a warrior of the heart?

• What is lost in hyper-masculinity 

• Building a healthy sense of self when living in the margins

• Honor the dignity of all the feelings that arise in us

• The motivation of anger vs. love

The episode ends with Simran leading a Sikh meditation to close the conversation. To learn more about Simran’s work visit or get a copy of his book, The Light We Give.

Growing Up On The Outside

Dr. Simran describes how he struggled with his identity growing up in a Sikh family in Texas. So much of Dr. Simran’s upbringing was trying to find happiness when most of the people around him were trying to deny his happiness. He is a self-proclaimed ‘brown-skinned turban wearing sports loving dude’. However, we know that in America it is not that simple. When Dr. Simran was a senior in high school, 9/11 happened and all middle-eastern resembling people were judged as terrorists. He had to ask himself, is it worth keeping my beard and turban for all of this persecution? Sikh Philosophy helped him understand what he needed to do. The first term of Sikh Philosophy is that there is one force that inexplicably connects us all together. Dr. Simran explains that within Sikh teachings we learn to expand our love and connectedness beyond personal relationships and into every moment. 

“This is where the tradition of service and justice becomes so central to Sikh practice. It is an expression of love. It is the feeling of oneness that moves one to act for others because they are seen as connected and other people’s suffering is our own suffering. To reduce their suffering is a gift that we can give to them and to ourselves” – Dr. Simran Jeet Singh

If you are enjoying this podcast, tune into Ep. 21 of Sufi Heart where Dr. Simran joins Omid Safi to talk about Anti-Racism as a spiritual practice.  

Identity and Polarization (19:14)

In America, identity seems to be an overly important issue. We are constantly defining ourselves in ways that separate us such as race, sexual orientation, etc. Rather than trying to categorize ourselves as one of many different identities, it may be more beneficial to focus on our oneness. Dr. Simran posits that we have not made much progress in racism, sexism, etc. because we are too focused on ourselves and where we fit instead of on how we all fit together. He likes to avoid polarities and put his energy into those Sikh practices of love, oneness, and service.

“The very act of self-definition only increases our boundaries with the rest of the world. Those boundaries are what we might refer to in our traditions as ego. We are just creating a bigger and bigger wall that prevents us from really connecting. – Dr. Simran Jeet Singh 

Check out this BHNN post to hear more about the danger of polarization: Un-lightened Shadows: A Powderkeg of Polarization
Spiritual Maturation (42:42)

Dr. Simran and Sharon discuss having a regular meditation practice. Admittedly, Dr. Simran does not keep up with meditation as frequently as he would like. He connects his feeling of shortcoming to spiritual maturation. Dr. Simran has learned to accept himself in a society that always wants to be perfect. He has become much more comfortable with himself and realizes he can not always be a perfect practitioner of spirituality. Meditating can help us with anger and feeling oneness. It is ideal to do it a few days per week, but we need to have space for slip-ups. Sharon and Dr. Simran discuss how meeting anger with negativity or judgment creates more anger. Recognizing our humanity can help us accept ourselves and others.

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