Simran Jeet Singh, Clint Murphy
Clint Murphy 00:00
Simran, welcome to the podcast before we dive into your book, the light we give, would you be able to give the listeners a brief background and bio about yourself and then we’ll talk our way all through your life. And through some lessons that people can take away.
Simran Jeet Singh 00:17
Sure, yeah, my name is Simran Jeet Singh. I’m a Punjabi Sikh who was born and raised in Texas. And so not many people look like me where I grew up. And that informs a lot of my experience with I mean with racism, but also in terms of diving into my heritage and trying to understand, you know, why we’re different, what it is about our culture and tradition that that my parents found to be so valuable and worth preserving. And so that that really shaped my life. The other thing I have to say is I’m a big I’m a big sports fan. And so I don’t always lead with that. But it’s it’s March Madness over here in the States right now. NBA playoffs are coming up. And so it’s yeah, it’s a good time to be a sports fan right now.
Clint Murphy 01:06
So , I’ll digress with you for a minute because we were in San Antonio, two weeks ago, and we saw your beloved team. There we go. Let the Grizzlies have the 15th greatest comeback of all time. So Spurs were up by 29 that half and the Grizz came back and won in an overtime. It was a very, very interesting game to watch. That was our first trip to Texas. We saw the mavericks and we saw the Spurs so it was a lot of fun.
Simran Jeet Singh 01:38
That’s great in the old. Do you have a Vancouver Grizzlies affinity? Does your love for the grizzly grow back?
Clint Murphy 01:46
My love definitely grows back because I’ve grown up here in Vancouver and I was a big Grizz fan. And I always assumed that when I got a full time job. Even though I was probably a bigger hockey fan, I assumed I would get Grizzlies season tickets for life because from an entertainment perspective, I enjoyed basketball more than I did hockey. And then by the time I graduated college, they were gone. So so that took away that opportunity. But my son is in love with Ja Morant. So he had his Morant gear ready to go until we found out that he had an eight game suspension. So we never saw. Yeah, too bad. Still, it was still fun. So the first question I want to throw at you at the book, I’ll read a small section of your book, because I believe it aligns with why we’re having this type of conversation you are you and I are having and the value we receive from them. So that’ll help us kind of outline things a little, and then we’ll leave it to you to color in for the listeners. And that is you wrote, I have grown immensely by opening myself up to the world. Rather than being judgmental about different perspectives and ways of living. I am now intrigued and curious, why do you think so what experiences inform that outlook taking this approach feels that there is more to us than the attributes we’re born with, or our experiences at the surface, we all have it in us to journey together to our shared interior, to the inner struggles that make us human and that we hold in common. traveling together can help us take make meaning of ourselves and our world and can help us find answers to questions we never even thought to ask.
Simran Jeet Singh 03:33
Yeah, I appreciate that, you know, I’ve done a lot of these conversations around the book over the last six months or so nobody’s raised this particular passage. And so I It feels fresh to me as you’re saying it. Especially because you know, in our, in our tradition and Sikh wisdom, we refer to the power of Sandeep. And if you break that word down into its component parts, it it basically means your community who helps propel you forward. And it’s an integral part of, of what it means to be someone who’s looking for progress, that it’s not just an inner exercise. It’s not an isolated exercise, you know, everything happens in community. And, you know, I, I understand that from, from some of the great wisdom traditions that, that offer a similar perspective. You know, I was just in Thailand with my family and Buddhism is incredibly popular there. And one of the key precepts there is Sangha, as a similar route to this term Sangha, and it’s so core to Buddhist practice. And so, anyways, as you’re talking about this, I’m thinking a lot about our culture today. Where rather than looking from a communal perspective, we’re so focused on the individual self, and it’s so hyper individualized that sometimes any kind of interaction can be perceived as progressive, as a barrier to progress. And, and more than anything, I mean, sure, you could go one way or the other and say, you know, I’m going to do this by myself, or I’m going to go with people. But what I find is, the ways in which we are engaging with one another these days, is to shut ourselves off and to shut other people down. And, and that’s the part that to me just feels so, I wouldn’t say harmful, but it’s not, it’s not even just harmful. It’s like you’re, you’re not even giving yourself the chance. And you’re not even giving other people the chance to really engage, I mean, we’re saying, we’re connecting, but we’re not really we’re saying we’re engaging the other and we’re not and, and instead, we’re looking to just prove why we’re right, and they’re wrong, or why we’re better, and they’re worse, or whatever, whatever it is that, you know makes us feel good about the choices we’re making. And so, to me, it’s just a different way of living that I draw from Sikh philosophy. And I really learned it through the actions of my parents and my family and people around me who just showed me what it means to, to open up even when it would feel so much easier to shut down. And through that act of opening up, you can open up the people around you too, and create something far more powerful.
Clint Murphy 06:29
The other two important concepts from Sikh wisdom that you talked about early on, that the gurus would speak about, that will probably inform a lot of what we talk about is, first, the importance of lived experience, learning from those who’ve achieved what we want, and second, knowledge for knowledge sake, being simply intellectual curiosity, and the actual value being the actions we take from the knowledge that we get, can you dive a little into those two and why they’ve been so foundational in your life and why we want the listeners to really be focusing on those two things?
Simran Jeet Singh 07:10
Yeah, you know, it’s something I think about a lot, because, you know, I’m trained as a scholar, and as a historian, and it’s a big part of my, my worldview, how I’ve been trained to understand the world. And so much of what the culture of of intellectualism is, is to collect, is to hoard, it’s to know right, and to gather as much information as you can. And one of the striking, you know, moments in my life, as I’m looking at Sikh teachings, as you know, I’m collecting this information with the intention of using it to help people. But as I’m looking at the writings from the Sikh gurus, over and over again, they’re so critical of scholars. And they’re critical of them because of their egos. And you just think you’re better than everyone like you, you have this immense base of information, you also have this great privilege, like culturally, historically, you know, access to information was was a unique privilege for people of certain castes and classes. And I’m looking at that I’m like, hey, what’s going on here, like, I am supposed to be the good guy here. I have all the right intentions, but there’s something I need to be careful about. And it was in reading some of the writings from the founder of Guru Nanak, where he’s where he’s talking about, you know, you could read boats full of books, you can read houses full of books, you can read libraries full of books, like, none of that matters at the end of the day, if you’re not, if you’re not using it to better your life and the lives of people around you. And there’s this one really compelling incident that happens in his life where he meets, not just intellectually accomplished, people are really spiritually accomplished people, and he’s out meeting them. They’re ascetics, they’ve renounced the world. And he goes and sits with them. And they’re interrogating him. And he looks at them and he’s like, Yeah, I’m impressed. I’m impressed by your accomplishment spiritually, like you’re, you’ve reached a really high level. And that’s, that’s great for you. But also, who cares? Like, what differences are you making in the world? And what difference does that make, any of your achievement make if you’re not making a difference in the world, and I love that point. And I find myself feeling it over and over again. And I understand. It’s not for everyone. But for me as someone who’s been raised not just in this religious tradition, but also as someone who’s been raised here in the US, you know, in the 90s ,in the 2000s in a context where it really feels like there’s some some urgency around and finding answers to some of our social ills. You know, I kind of hear this call as saying, hey, there’s no hiding. There’s, there’s no pretending like, if you’re not serving people, then you’re kind of missing the point. And so that that lesson is something that I always carry with it.
Clint Murphy 10:19
That was beautiful. In. So you mentioned growing up in Texas, in in the 90s, and 2000. So if we rewind the clock, something I want to zone in on with you, Simran is as a child, you and your brothers experienced a fair amount of racism. And then September 11 2001, happened and the level of that racism for you, your family and people of the Sikh faith in America went up exponentially. Can you talk our listeners through what it was like growing up with that and then that transition point and how much stronger it became after that?
Simran Jeet Singh 11:06
Yeah, yeah, well, okay, so so if you’re listening, I’m a practitioner of the Sikh faith. And as part of my practice, I maintain uncut hair and facial hair. I wear a turban on top of my head as part of my religious practice. My family comes from a region in north India called Punjab. And so I have brown skin, like a lot of South Asians. And so growing up in Texas, in a place where not many people knew who we were, or what we were about, it’s pretty common to get questions, to get looks, to be denied service, to hear people say nasty stuff. I mean, I mean, it sort of ran the gambit. And so you can probably imagine, the kinds of assumptions that people were making about us. And, you know, part of part of what I want to say, and this is something that I share in the book, too, like, it’s not to say that my childhood was terrible. And just like, the only the only thing I experienced in life was racism, like there was, there was a lot of goodness, far more goodness than difficulty, I would say. And at the same time, like the, the difficulty was real, and the racism was real, and it would come up often enough that, you know, we never really, were under the illusion that we fit into society, as much as you know, we felt like normal Americans, and we were born and raised here. And, you know, we’re friends with people who looked like the people on TV that you would assume to be American, right? Like that was our life, it felt very normal. And at the same time, we knew that most people didn’t think that we were normal, or typical as Americans. So it was it was very much a part of our experience, we were very aware of our visible difference or cultural difference. But things really shifted after 911. And immediately that day, and, you know, I would say, they didn’t really shift between my friends and I, even my classmates, or my teammates, and I liked we, they all knew who we were and what we were about, and our relationships stayed the same. And in fact, in some ways, they got a lot stronger, because our friends started to show up for us and really seeing the the hate that was coming our way they were going out of their way to help us out. So like, that created a lot more trust. But for the most part, the larger experience across America, and this was true for me, too, among strangers, like the day that the terrorist attacks happen, September 11 2001, we started getting death threats that very day. And part of what I didn’t understand at the time, or at least no, I understood but didn’t quite understand it in this way, was that my physical appearance happened to match up very closely with America is perceived enemy, right, particularly Bin Laden, but as Americans are watching on their screens, you know, the death and the destruction and associating that with the images they’ve seen out of Afghanistan, with Al Qaeda, with the Taliban, you know, brown skinned men like me with turbans like me, and with facial hair like me, like I came to understand that we were very much public enemy number one. And, you know, we received death threats. There weren’t actual attacks, at least in the immediate days after 911 that affected my direct family and our house while we were locked up there, but there were many sects around the country, many whom I know who were attacked, who were assaulted, were killed. Just because people couldn’t control the the anger in their hearts. And also because they weren’t, they weren’t culturally literate enough. I mean, I guess that’s a very nice way of saying they were ignorant, right? They didn’t know who we were. They assumed us to be their enemy. And they came after us. And so that was a turning point in my life. And, you know, I’ll say pretty directly my life hasn’t been the same since 911, what, 22 years ago now.
Clint Murphy 15:29
And you were at the time you were 17?
Simran Jeet Singh 15:33
That’s right. Yeah, I was a senior in high school, just starting my senior year.
Clint Murphy 15:37
And the next thing that happened for you is, when you were in college, you came to a realization that most of the Sikh practices that you had been following had not necessarily been from a place of, hey, I’m a deep believer in this. And you actually had a feeling that there wasn’t practical value, that it was outdated and inferior. And that prompted you to say, well, wait a second, why don’t I dig a little deeper in to my religion and into the past, of our people? Can you tell us a bit about that?
Simran Jeet Singh 16:22
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a, it was a very, I wouldn’t say was inevitable that I would come to this point. But given the context of American racism, and the intensity of the hatred that was coming my way, it felt really inevitable, right, it felt like, if I could make a different choice, and just took off my turban, life could be a lot easier. And I thought about my parents and I thought of my grandparents and, and for them, too, they could have made that same choice. And so I like I was thinking to myself as what a 20 year old, which is like, what, what, what’s the point of all this? And you know, it’s not like I didn’t understand the basics of Sikh teachings or practice. And it’s not like, I didn’t agree with them. Like, I thought they were fine. They made sense to me. But it didn’t seem like I, to put it in like really crass terms. Like I didn’t, I didn’t really get the ROI. Right, like, What am I, I’m giving up something really big here, right? Like, I’m not able to fit into society, and what am I getting in return? And I wasn’t really sure if it was worth it. And and so I really started to I mean, I wasn’t questioning it in a from a place of a lack of faith, I would say it was more like, is this a choice that I want to continue to make? And then in order to have an honest answer I wanted to dig in, honestly. And so I started studying Sikh teachings for the first time in earnest as a 2020 year old or so. And I was actually quite surprised. But what I found the teachings made a lot more sense to me than I thought they would. I mean, like you mentioned, and I shared this in the book, like I really expected. You know, I think the same bias that a lot of us have, you know, religion is outdated, outmoded, it’s for people in a faraway place, in a faraway time and like, what practical value can this ancient tradition have on my life where, you know, the the people who were talking about this stuff and develop these ideas, didn’t know me, they didn’t know the the unique aspects of our lives, like they didn’t have the internet, they didn’t have cars, like, what what could they possibly know about what our lives would look like? And so it just, it never really occurred to me, that it could be relevant and helpful in the way that it turned out to be. And so that was a really, I guess, a pleasant surprise, I could say, for myself, where, in the years since I feel like I’ve just been so enriched by this wisdom. I mean, I’ve, in many ways committed my life to it, not just as someone who follows it, but as someone who studies, who studies it in a personal way, but also academically, and tries to share it with others now, too. So yeah, it was an unexpected outcome of that experience. But I’m really glad that I approached it with this openness to saying, no, let me let me give it a chance and see if there’s something here from it.
Clint Murphy 19:33
And there’s a power to that questioning in that. You don’t just take blindly well, this is what I was taught while I was growing up. So it’s the only way which is something I often bring up with people I know to say, Well, wait a second, you believe in Christianity because you were born a Christian that person believes in, they’re a Muslim because they were born in the spot they were born in. None of us can for sure say if we were born in the other person’s shoes, that we would still practice the faith that we practice. So for you to say, well, let me actually take a step back and study this to see if this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing is a very noble gesture and way to approach it and for the listeners. Because we’re using the proper pronunciation. They may not be as familiar with what we’re saying, which is the Sikh faith or Sikhism as the Anglosized word. And I believe in the book, correct me if I pronounced this wrong, it’s Sikhi. Or “sicky”
Simran Jeet Singh 20:40
Clint Murphy 20:42
So that would be the right way for us to do it. And so what I saw in the book was founded in 1469, ce II, by Guru Nanak, who was searching for it this time, joy and purpose in the three areas he was looking for that through were spiritual growth, ethical, living and selfless giving. Can you share a bit of that history with the listener? And then we’ll dive into some of the details that you learned along the way on your journey from the faith?
Simran Jeet Singh 21:16
Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, I’d say, the Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak, about 550 years ago. And so in the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively young religion, it’s the youngest of the major religions. And it emerges in this context that I actually think is quite similar to what we’re dealing with right now, which is, you know, the region he was he was born in, and where he primarily focused his life is Punjab. And in that region, it was, at the time, immense cultural mixing, religious diversity, ethnic diversity, linguistic diversity, I mean, all sorts of people coming together, and trying to figure out how to live together and a lot of tension. And those tensions are very much governed by social hierarchies, and outlooks of supremacy, right, this judgment of I’m better than you, or I’m holier than thou, or however it’s articulated. And he sees this context, and he sees how much people are struggling, how much they’re frustrated, how angry they are, how unfair it is, I mean, again, very similar to what our lives look like today. And he sees that and he’s like, I think I have a better answer, I have a way of living alongside one another where we don’t have to be judgmental, or we don’t have to be hierarchical, or we don’t have to very be supremacist. And so he offers this principle, which becomes the foundation of everything in Sikh teachings. And that’s the principle of equal Unkar, which means the oneness of all creation. And, you know, in some ways, it’s super simple, right? Like, so many of us could share this idea and wax poetic about it. I mean, it’s, it’s not that complicated. I have young kids, they get it. I mean, as a young kid, I got it, right. Like, it’s a very intuitive way of understanding the world. And at the same time, both then in Punjab, and now here in North America, I mean, it’s, it can be incredibly profound, because it’s so countercultural to say, hey, we, our starting point, is one of connection. And then we start exploring our differences. Whereas I mean, even if you look at our conversations and spaces like Dei, and so on, like, we’re so focused on our individual identities, and we say, okay, let’s understand those, and then maybe we can connect with one another. And so it’s just a simple shift, it’s almost like he’s inverting the approach. And saying, instead of starting from your sense of self, instead of focusing on your individual identity, let’s start from this place of shared identity, where we are all connected. Now, this goes to your point, that the passage you shared earlier, from the book, where, you know, I’m really talking about, what does it look like to journey together? I mean, that’s, that’s part of the experience, and the possibility that Guru Nanak is offering here where he says, you know, like, yeah, you you are important, but you’re no, you’re no more important than anyone else. And also, by the way, no one is more important than you. And what does it look like for us to get to a point where we can see ourselves in one another, and that’s what this this principle that Guru Nanak offers and you know, it’s that’s the seed of this tradition that then flowers over over the past 550 years and blossoms on the way that we’re seeing it now.
Clint Murphy 25:06
And so when you say that it’s so interesting because yes, it sounds simple, it sounds intuitive. Starting from a place of we’re all one, we’re all a collective, we’re all the same. And there are times when you’re deep into meditation that you get there, and, and I’m there, and then it just collapses back. And you’re like, Oh, I gotta get back there. But then when you take away that meditation, or you take away the training, and you look at the way we’re all raised in the way the human brain works is, we’re wired to look for differences, rather than look for similarities. And as we get older, it seems like the not even just the ego, but then it’s the us and there’s always a them. And then the social media and the news and everything seems hard wired to create an us versus them narrative, whether it’s the left versus the right, red versus blue. I believe in global warming, I don’t. Right, there always has to be, it seems a camp in just forcing separation instead of a message that brings us closer together.
Simran Jeet Singh 26:32
Yeah, I appreciate that. I mean, it’s something I think about a lot. Because if you look at some of the ugliest forms of social tension today, it comes out of that mindset of there’s an us and there’s a them, right, like tribalism, nationalism, and then we’re seeing all kinds of ugly ethnic and religious nationalism right now, like I, I’m dealing with this week, I’m writing about some issues in India, where right wing nationalism has taken hold. And I’m also dealing with some stuff here in the states where right wing nationalism is second, and like, so much of that relies on a narrative of a threat, right? Like, we need to be worried about these people. And that’s what we use to coalesce around, right? It’s based on that fear. And, you know, part of part of what I’m looking at, as I’m reflecting on my life, and I read about this a little bit in the book, too, is, for the past few decades here in the States, we have been fed this narrative of fear. I mean, we’ve been in the War on Terror since I was a kid. And it’s like the constant rhetoric around terrorism and the use of these fears to then justify all kinds of violations of human rights. I mean, it’s, it’s, I’m done with it. I’m so tired of it. And so what does it look like for us to get to a place where we can actually learn to love our enemies? A next step that we need to figure out how to do right, like we know how to talk about it. We all know that that’s an aspiration. We don’t know how to get there. And so the actual practice of doing so is something that I’ve learned through my life as someone who’s been targeted in hate and has had to figure out well, how am I, how am I going to live so that I’m not just angry at people all the time? I’m not falling into this to this negativity. Let me let me say one other thing, which is part of what Sikh philosophy offers is a more robust vision, it actually asks a very different question, right? So in Abrahamic traditions, so often we develop this model, and in the West, we talk about loving our enemies as as the aspiration as the best place for us to go and I do think it’s a great aspiration. But what Sikh philosophy tells us is actually we can get to a place where we don’t have any enemies at all. Guru Arjun talks about this line: He says, I don’t have any battery. I don’t have any enemites as the aspiration, as the best place for us to go. No we’d begun. I don’t see any strangers. Everyone I see. I see as part of me, like, these are all my people. And I think that’s, to me, that’s the ultimate goal, right? Like how do we get to a place where even when people see us as their enemies, right, like, just think about me walking down the street and like, all the time, people are looking at me being like, Oh, that guy’s my enemy. And how can I get to a place where I’m, not affected by their perceptions of me and I can still see their humanity. And I think part of I mean, a big part of what I want to share in the book and a sincere belief that I have is that we can actually get there. Like, we can actually get to a place where, even when people hate us, even when people don’t see our humanity, we can love them, and we can see their humanity anyway. And like, it doesn’t have to be a reciprocal relationship. It can be something that we can own and control and maintain, at least with our own integrity. And so yeah, that’s that that feels like such an important message that I that I’m trying to share through Sikh teachings.
Clint Murphy 30:38
And a big part of that seems to be there’s two things I’ve always seen to drive more hate. One is fear. Two is ignorance and you right about the same with ignorance. And so the more we can expose humanity and people of different faiths to each other, into each other’s story, a guest I recorded with last week, he was talking about an example where they, they tested out Americans feelings towards Muslims. And they had one group watching a show, believe it was little mosque on the prairie. And compare that against the control group, and their feelings towards Muslims were a lot more improved, because they had exposure to the faith through watching a simple television show. So how are there ways that we can create, you know, a lot of people will say what we’re saying now is wokeism. But all we’re saying is, hey, let’s expose each other, to different people, different faiths, different backgrounds, so that when we experience it in the real world, we don’t experience it from a place of fear, ignorance, and then hate.
Simran Jeet Singh 31:52
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think this is part of an opportunity that a lot of us have that, that we take for granted. And, you know, I can speak from my own family history, like, up until my parents immigrated to this country, just before I was born, they lived in a ethnically homogenous place, and so did their parents, and so did their parents is that like, I am the first person in my family who was born into a society where I get to engage with people who are different from me. And I, I can tell you, yes, it’s a challenge in so many ways, right? Like, it would be, in some ways easier to live alongside people who taught me and I didn’t have to explain who I was, or why I wore a turban, you know, like, those kinds of things would be different in the way that my parents experienced growing up in Punjab. But first of all, that doesn’t seem very fun. To grow up alongside people who are, you know, just just going back to this, this point about what drives progress, what drives growth? And, and I know, this is what you’re you’re thinking about on your program, and what your listeners are interested in, too. And like, part of what drives my growth is being in constant relationship with people who challenge me, and doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be like someone being like, so purposeful about asking, Hey, do you really think it’s not about the actual, like, explicit challenge itself, it’s about the relationship through which you’re just observing, and hearing new ideas and seeing how people live and being like, oh, that could be cool. And like, I mean, here’s a really random example, that’s, that’s coming to my mind. We just went on a family vacation with another family, which first of all I’d never done before. So very, very risky. But part of what they have kids about the same age, which is part of why part of why we decided to go with them. And as my wife and I were watching how they parented, we got ideas on things that we could incorporate in our own family. And what was interesting was a few days into the trip, they said to us, oh, we’re watching how you’re parenting, we got some cool ideas on what we can try to do. And like, we weren’t explicit, like, we didn’t tell them, hey, you should do this. They didn’t tell us how we should parent either. But just by being together, we were able to learn new things. And so like that’s, that’s kind of what I mean about the value of just being in relationship with people who are different from you, who you can learn from and who can help you grow. And like, that’s exactly what I felt through this experience. So it does feel like a real, a real gift, a real blessing, to have this opportunity to be around people who are different from me, because it’s a constant opportunity to learn and grow and challenge myself to continue to towards progress.
Clint Murphy 35:01
It’s one of the biggest reasons when our boys are old enough that they leave school. Our goal, my wife, and I will be to live somewhere else in the world, six to seven months of the year and just go deep into that culture, learn the language, learn what they do in that area traveled to a new area. And so each year, come back to Vancouver, May to September, it’s probably the best place in the world to live. Outside of that five month timeframe, I don’t want to spend any time here. And so that seven months, let’s travel the world, let’s learn and grow and expand just to your point. It’s just immersing yourself in what you don’t already know. And then you learn what you don’t know, which is beautiful. And that’s so much fun on that battle. The next area I want to I want to dive in with you is coming out of tragedy. So it was the massacre at Oak Creek when you were doing some searching for the pain and anger that you were dealing with the Sikh wisdom that you leaned on was three things. One was how we feel, which I may pronounce it wrong as Chardi Kala And then you had how we see or the Divinity that’s inside of us all. And then how we connect, which you talked a little bit earlier about, we are all one. And can you educate the listeners, how we feel how we see how we connect? And we can dive through each of those ones and see what you were able to take away dealing with?
Simran Jeet Singh 36:44
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s interesting because these, what I shared and the order I share them in, in the book is not how they’re presented insightful. Like it’s not like this is a chronology or a progression of, you know, you do this step and they do the next step. There were almost like observations that I was making in, in trying to deal with my, my own anger and frustration after the massacre. And the first one that really got me and surprised me was this was the one of how we feel of. And it’s a term that I had heard all throughout my life, we say it every day in our, in our collective prayer, we asked for the upliftment of all humanity. That’s what part of the gala means uplifted eternal optimism. And so it’s a concept I was familiar with, and had talked a lot about. But in this moment of, of tragedy, I was really shocked to see the people who were most directly affected, you know, the community in Oak Creek, coming out with the spirit of Dr. Nicola and talking about it openly, that this is who we are, and this is how we’re choosing to respond. And, and so I came to realize that it is it is a choice that we can make, even even in our most dark moments, even even in grief, we can make the choice to to see the goodness, and watching these people finding that. And you know, again, they were they were there on the ground that lost family members, they had lost loved ones, to see them be able to do that. I was like, oh, okay, like, if they can do it, then I can do it too. Right. And so there was something really inspiring about watching them. But watching them model, this, this what up until this point, for me at least had been more theoretical, right? Like, it’s the idea was great. It was beautiful. But could I actually apply it in my life when the when the tough moments came? And, and watching the community do it made me feel like yeah, actually, I could because I, I started to feel confidence that I could, because I was seeing that they that they figured out how to do it in this moment. And so that was a really powerful, a powerful one. And then going on to how we see and how we connect it, it’s really going back to it’s almost like the working backwards, right? Like, if the possibility and the promise is to find light in the midst of darkness, then it’s almost a question of how, like, how do we do that. And really, it’s at least what I’ve learned through Sikh teachings is we have to learn how to shift our thinking, and the way that we look at the world so that when we’re experiencing it, we can start having a different feeling, having a different interpretation of what’s happening that then impacts our experience. And so all of this, I think, can sound almost artificial, right? It can sound really cool. instructed, as in here, you’re you’re trying to manipulate the system and just say whatever happens, I’m going to be happy in a way. I’m like, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s the trick. And also, I would say, you know, especially in a context where we’re talking about things like toxic positivity and, you know, brushing difficulty under the rug, like, I think that’s what’s so compelling about this approach of charge of the cola, which is basically saying, acknowledge the difficulty, like, the pain is real, and don’t dismiss that. But also recognize that within that pain, there’s also the possibility of, of light, and sweetness. And that I think, to me is where I find this approach to be really compelling. It’s honest, it’s sincere, and it’s also hopeful at the same time, which is, which is very different than how a lot of us are thinking about these issues right now.
Clint Murphy 40:55
It’s beautiful to me, and that it ties into other major historical philosophies, religions, if you will, whether it’s Buddhism, whether it’s stoicism, there’s that concept of why get hit by the arrow twice. The arrow was fired. Yes, we got hit. But now we get to mentally choose how we deal with getting hit by the arrow, we can let it hit us a second time in our mind. Or we can choose to feel a different way. And so it’s, it’s that power of recognizing that we get to choose how we feel how we see and how we respond to the pain, it really struck me as a beautiful way to approach it.
Simran Jeet Singh 41:42
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I’ll say again, like, I understand that it can sound super cheesy, and that it can sound forced, I mean, I get that I actually hear it as I’m saying it. But I’ll also say that if it’s coming from a place of sincerity, it’s not actually forced, right? Like you can sort of develop a habit and build the muscle, to, to learn to view the world in this way. And it completely transforms your experience, especially, especially in those moments of difficulty that can feel so hard otherwise.
Clint Murphy 42:20
We’ll fast forward a bit in the book. Because when you talk about building the muscle, one of the things that does help with that, because in order to be able to choose how we feel, we need to be able to separate a gap between, hey, we had a stimulus, how are we going to respond to that, and one way we build the ability to have a gap there is through meditation, which is core to the Sikh religion, but you had largely put it aside for a number of years. And then when you were older, decided, hey, wait a second, I’m going to start practicing this again. So what did that look like for you to bring meditation back into your life? And what of what are some of the benefits that you personally have seen? And then why is it so central to the Sikh religion?
Simran Jeet Singh 43:13
Yeah, yeah, you know, there’s something that maybe a little bit unexpected from someone who’s talking about religion, but like, rare, I think, which is an important part of many religious practices, including my own. For so many of us, we see prayer as a way of influencing what the world does, and what happens to us in the world. And what I believe, and what I see to be the power of prayer is actually not the change that occurs in what happens, but actually the change that occurs within ourselves. And I think that to me, so let me say in in Scripture, one of the lines we repeat every day, essentially, as you can talk about how great God is, it’s not going to change God. And you could do you can insult God, that doesn’t change God either. Like, what difference does it make if you’re if you’re praising God or not to God, right? Like, are you really going to influence God? And like, the answer to me is an obvious No, right? Like, who are we to think that we’re going to change. No, if you want to take it out of explicitly religious terms, like who are we to think that we’re going to change the natural order of things, right, like the cosmic law, the rules of the universe, like we’re not going to defy gravity, right praying about it. And so, the, to me the the transformation is not about changing what happens in the world but like what what is how happening inside of you through the practice of prayer. And again, like you don’t believe in, you know, these like magical things happening where you say the right thing, and all of a sudden, the rules break and the right things happen for you. Like, I don’t think that’s how the world works. And I don’t think that’s how religion works. What I see happening, though, is something. I mean, you could you could describe it as alchemy, but the way that I would describe it is actually in this way, one is a focusing in on aspiration, right? What are the values that we’re repeating? What are we identifying as our priority. And as we’re identifying that as a priority, that surfaces, what our behaviors are going to look like. And so when we are beginning to align our behaviors with our intentions, that’s how we become the kind of people we want to be. And that’s the transformation right? That’s the magic. But it’s not, it’s, it matches up far more closely with the behavioral science that we have available to us, which is, you know, you are a collection of your habits. You are what you do every day, right? Like, Aristotle said the same thing. And James clear is saying the same thing now, you know, 2000 years later, right? Like, oh, yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So that, that’s been my experience of this. And the last thing I want to say about this is, um, one of my more transformative experiences actually came through running and not not because it was like, a spiritual high or some mystical experience, like I, I specifically, just mean, discipline. And I share this in the book as well. That the disciplinary practice of running, I found, changed me internally, to the point where it was easier for me to make the right decisions because I was mentally stronger. And I think that is another aspect of, of prayer and ritual and disciplinary practice that that’s something really powerful that we could all tap into.
Clint Murphy 47:20
I’ve always said for a lot of people who find that they can’t achieve goals in their life. That might be academic, or might be mental or financial. Start with physical, running, triathlon, marathons, ultra marathons, when you teach yourself to do those hard physical things, you aren’t only teaching yourself to do hard physical things, you’re teaching yourself, I am the type of person who can achieve things that I put my mind to. And so for you running, I’ve had the exact same experience in my life through a number of generally, the longer the event, the more punishing it is, just the idea that, well, if I can complete that I, there’s not much I can’t do. And something for you that taught you that idea of who I am versus who I want to be during COVID, you came to a realization when your wife said something to you and made you realize, what does it say about me that I have all always talked about living this way, but never actually lived it? So what did that look like for you as it related to what was going on in life? And how did that change how you prioritize your life?
Simran Jeet Singh 48:41
Yeah, yeah, well, let me know, I’ll say very openly, like a lot of other people, I realized that I had been pointing my finger at everyone who said one thing and behaved in a different way, right? Like they, they say, This is what I care about, or what’s most important to me or what my values are, but then you don’t actually see it. And you’re like, Oh, you’re you’re a hypocrite. And, and this moment for me that I turned the book, and that you’re mentioning is one where, you know, I had young kids I days and basically over and over again, I was I’d become so good at articulating that my biggest priority was my family, that the most important thing in the world to me, was taking care of them and being with them and spending time with them. And so one of the experiences that I had was starting to recognize that actually, even when I was with them, I wasn’t fully present. And all my decision making, I was picking work over, over spending time with family. And it was I mean, I guess this is the funny thing about life like, so obvious when it’s other people but when it’s yourself who maybe are too close to it I don’t know what it is, but like, I had no idea that it was just, you normalize whatever your behaviors are. So it was totally normal to me, it didn’t occur to me. And finally, I had to, you know, basically do some introspective exercise to understand what was going on and where my source of my unhappiness was. And this is how I was able to put my finger on, on this misalignment of priorities between what I what I said mattered and how what I was putting my time towards.
Clint Murphy 50:34
It brings up that adage, show me what someone does, and I’ll tell you tell you what they care about.
Simran Jeet Singh 50:40
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Clint Murphy 50:43
If you also look, you were talking about Sikh scripture, and I found fascinating that one night, you were reading, and there was a line that you’d heard as a child read throughout your adulthood and set allowed for every night of your life when you add it all up. But it hit you differently this night. And the line was in remembering, I live, in forgetting, I die. What was it that just struck you so differently for the first time? And do you still feel that way? And can you share that with our listeners?
Simran Jeet Singh 51:24
Yeah. Yeah, you know, I guess what what was different was, up until that point, I’d always I’d only done like a simple translation of it, like, something more direct, which is, maybe it’s not direct, but like, this is the sort of standard translation is like, when I meditate, that I’m living and when I’m not meditating, I die. And like, for someone like me, who is not, who hasn’t been someone who would sit around and just meditate, like, doesn’t really resonate so much for me, right? Like, if you’re, if you’re saying, when you meditate, you’re happy. And when you don’t meditate, you’re sad. I’m like, okay, cool, like, go meditate, that makes you happy. I went into a more into a more direct translation, I guess, is what it had different instead of relying on the way that other people interpreted it, I was just looking at the original language and reflecting on it. And I was like, Oh, actually, this isn’t just about meditation, like I can’t, I cannot is literally to think about or call out to reflect. And I was like, there’s so many things that I think about all the time. And the ones that I love are the ones that make me happy. Like I feel alive. Jeeva is to live. So I can’t even when I think about this, I’m living. And you know, here that it’s specifically about the divine. But like, in my personal life, I was like, Oh, when I think about sports, I feel alive. When I think about my partner, I feel alive, right? Like these things that I love. That’s what gets me going. And when I don’t think about them, like when I lose sight of them, or I lose perspective, and I’m like, then I don’t feel like myself. And so it was this, I don’t know, almost like a rereading of it, where I let go of what people told me it meant and just interpreted it for myself and started to make this connection that like, actually, this is just about a relationship. Like it’s just a relationship of love. And like, That’s what love looks like when you love someone, you’re excited when you’re around them and you feel alive. And when you’re not, then you feel sad, and like you want to recreate that experience. And so yeah, it was it was a total, it totally messed with my head to think about in a different way and to realize that this had so much more depth to it, and resonance for me in a way that I’ve never realized before.
Clint Murphy 53:49
And if we stay on that line of love and selflessness, there are two quotes that you shared in the book that were both beautiful. So I’ll throw those out to our listeners. And then you can share what those mean to you and how they impact your life. The first one you had was from CS Lewis who said, humility is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking about yourself less. And the second one was James Baldwin, who said, If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. So how did each of those resonate for you enough that they’re in the book?
Simran Jeet Singh 54:31
Yeah, I mean, they’re in the book and they’re like, mantras in my life that I returned to often. You know, the CS Lewis quote, I shared this in the book, like I struggled with humility for a long time. And I wasn’t quite sure how to understand humility without being self deprecatory. Meaning like, I would just think of myself as, like I thought being humble would be to be beneath other people. And to think of yourself as being inferior to them. And so I would develop that mindset and like, then I’d walk away feeling really proud because I was like, Oh, I’m so humble, but I didn’t really realize that that’s not healthy. And it wasn’t until I came across this quote from, from CS Lewis, that I that I found a better way, which is something that’s more balanced. Maybe it’s more intuitive for a lot of people. But this quote, you know, humility is not thinking less about yourself, but thinking about yourself less. It’s such a nice plan words and got right to the, like, pinpointed the this specific challenge that I was struggling with, personally. The quote from Baldwin is one that that also I mean, changed changed my life and a lot of ways. But in some ways it I think it it also pinpointed something for me that felt important. And that’s around education. He says, If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. That’s how I think about education. Now, like that’s, that’s my point, as a professor and a writer, and the starting point, if you’ll notice, and Baldwin’s quote, and this is what felt so special about it for me, too. The starting point is love. And then that is what’s driving your actual philosophy. That is, that’s the best way to engage. It’s not about activism itself. It’s also what’s in your heart when you do it. That’s what we refer to as eva. And so I just loved that Baldwin was able to, to share for us what, what love can do in an educational perspective, and in all sorts of forms and all sorts of audiences, but really like, what is the relationship between love and education and justice, and that really nailed it on the head for me.
Clint Murphy 56:54
It’s beautiful, too because if you have friendships or relationships, where you, you have that level of love and care for each other, that you point out blind spots, and you don’t let your friend, you don’t let your partner or your sibling or your family member, continue to make the same mistakes without at least saying, Hey, I don’t know if you noticed, but somebody I see. Alright, so let’s go back to young samurai, who’s in the grocery store with his mom, and makes a little bit of a mistake involving a Snickers bar. And that night, your mom said something to you that I thought was beautiful. She said, There is nothing sacred about looking like a Sikh. I remember her saying your turban is a public statement that you wear on your head, it’s a crown that announces to the world that you will always do the right thing. If you’re not willing to honor that, then maybe you should think about not wearing it. How did that tie in to your life with the respect of we talked about the importance of not only having the knowledge, but of doing the right thing to respect the knowledge. So how did that shape you in your life?
Simran Jeet Singh 58:18
Yeah, I mean, it was it was a profound moment. For me, I mean, a very embarrassing story for me to tell, I had never told it to anyone, until I wrote this book. But yeah, it is a profound moment for me, because it really helped me to understand that, that wearing a turban meant something. And also there were there were ethical implications tied to it. And, you know, it’s it wasn’t the first time that I’d heard something like this. But it was the first time that I heard it in this way. And in a way that gave me a sense of the urgency of, of ethical practice. And essentially, like, the takeaway for me as a kid was, hey, people are going to see you, they’re going to judge you. And they’re going to judge your entire community based on your actions. And so if you’re announcing to the world by wearing a turban, that you follow Sikh values, then you better try, like you better and you don’t have to be perfect. But like you can’t be out there making dumb decisions that are going to reflect poorly on you and on your entire community. And so, that was something that I took away then. Yeah, in some ways, I recognized as unfair, right, like no one should have to represent an entire community, or even feel like they should. And at the same time, I found something really powerful in this understanding that through simple actions, I could change the way that people felt about people who look like me. I could challenge their assumptions. I could show them a different version of what it means to be me. And that felt like I had immense power in my hands that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Clint Murphy 1:00:10
And how old were you when you went through that experience, because you’re right there, there’s a level of beauty to it. And at the same time, it feels like there’s a level of immense pressure to put on a young boys, young man shoulders at that point in your life, to uphold your entire people through your actions.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:00:35
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is, it is complex. And I’ll say, you know, different people experience it differently. And for me, even now, I see it as an opportunity. I find agency in it, I love it. And I have friends who don’t. And so yeah, people, people experience it very differently. I was in middle school then, and in the years since, I mean, I’ve kind of made this my life’s work, right. Like it’s kind of, it’s kind of what I do. And so I, I feel privileged that I get to do this, but it also feels like it’s not an accident that I had something that I have found joy in and found meaning and then it’s something that I’ve continued to do over the years.
Clint Murphy 1:01:18
And Simran , I want to throw one more question at you from the from the book, before we wrap up with a final four questions in it’s how you end it in the way you ask us, the reader to think about our lives when you say, how are you using your gifts, time, talent and treasure to help serve those around you? To put it more bluntly, what might you do to become less of a burden on this earth and help bring more light into the world? And why is that so important as you finish the book for our listeners to think about in their own life journey?
Simran Jeet Singh 1:01:57
Yeah, I appreciate it. You know, there’s there’s this line that’s coming to my mind in Sikh scripture I don’t I don’t share it in the book and saying, hey, hey, self, hey, body. What have you accomplished having come into this world? Like, what have you come to do? Gatluq Ghatam Khamaya and what have you accomplished? And part of it and I think this is something that a lot of us can resonate with. Part of it is understanding our purpose, what is your purpose in life? And what steps are you taking towards that purpose? And know, we could all defined our purpose differently, our journeys can look different, our steps can look different. But I think that the openness of the question to say, Hey, why are you here? And what are you doing? What are you doing to accomplish that? And I think it’s so, so easy to lose sight of that. And the constant question, and I’ve benefited from this so much through our philosophy, like the constant question of what’s the point? Like, what are you trying to do? What are you contributing? And, and I also in this line that I wrote that you shared, I try and mimic some things that I see to be really effective rhetorically in Sikh scripture, which is, you say, you say it in a gentle way, and you also say it in a very sharp way. And it’s, you know, what, what have you accomplished? Like, what are you trying to do? And also, how are you not going to be a burden on this earth? Which is, which is another way to say like, how are you going to be more than you receive? And yeah, I understand that it comes out a little pointedly, but I think that’s part of the need here is to recognize that like, we’re not we’re not going to do this without a little pushing. And I’m hoping to be a friend and a compatriot in this journey and encouraging folks to, to move forward. And the way that I hope to dealt push me to move forward too.
Clint Murphy 1:03:59
And the beauty about it is you’re not necessarily saying, here’s what you should be doing. It’s what is your purpose? What are you doing about it? And so now the balls in their court, oh, like, If I say I have a purpose, I guess I should be living it. So thank you, brother for pushing me to live my purpose is is a beautiful way to look at it. And so a final you have time for a rapid fire four questions.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:04:26
Clint Murphy 1:04:27
All right. What’s one book that’s had an immense impact on your life?
Simran Jeet Singh 1:04:33
Man, there are tons I read way too much. The one that I read when I was in, I think, first year of college, that really started to help me understand what was happening with regard to race and justice issues was the autobiography of Malcolm X. That was the first time I read it. I was like, Yeah, this, this guy gets it. And so yeah, that that one really, really changed me.
Clint Murphy 1:04:59
Okay, I gotta check that out. What’s on the bookshelf right now that you’re really enjoy.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:05:05
I’ll tell you what’s literally right in front of me. This is the Persuader by Netgear there thus, he’s looking at strategies for what’s called at the frontlines of their fight for hearts minds in democracy. But he’s he’s offering strategies on how we get people on board, the importance of engaging people who are different from us, and ensuring that we’re not shortchanging people just because of, you know, we disagree with their politics, or we disagree with their religious background, or whatever, which, you know, as we’ve been talking about today, it’s, it’s easier said than done. And so he’s, he’s trying to give direct strategies on how to do that. So it’s pretty cool. I’m enjoying it. .
Clint Murphy 1:05:47
I love that What’s one thing that Simran has spent less than $1,000 on in the last 12-18 months, that his left you thinking, wow, I really wish I had bought that earlier?
Simran Jeet Singh 1:05:58
So well, this is a like, I’m gonna shoot myself in the foot here, but air pods.
Clint Murphy 1:06:05
Well you’re not alone, there’s a lot of us. There’s a lot of us that give that answer.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:06:09
I’m a huge fan. But then I lost them. I lost my, my case. And now I’m like, Hmm, I was happy that I made the investment once, but do I trust myself with another round? So I feel like I don’t deserve them yet. One day, but not yet.
Clint Murphy 1:06:24
And the better part is, there’s always better ones coming out. So when you feel like you deserve them again, you’ll have a better pair. And did you test out the Find my device and you weren’t able to get them.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:06:35
Yeah, I did try to find my it didn’t work, unfortunately. In New York, so it happens.
Clint Murphy 1:06:43
Oh, oh. That hurts it because this show is about growth for you. What’s one mindset shift, behavior shift or habit you’ve adopted that’s had an oversized impact on your life, Simran
Simran Jeet Singh 1:06:58
You know, what I share in the book that I’ve been thinking a lot, the last couple of weeks with my daughters actually is about gratitude. So taking taking time every day to just stop and reflect on the things we’re grateful for. So we’re not just taking, taking everything for granted and focusing on the negative. So yeah, the gratitude practice has been a really, really nice one for me.
Clint Murphy 1:07:21
Wow, it’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. At this stage. We’ve gone pretty wide and deep on sections of the book. Is there anything you want to make sure that we get across to the listeners before we tie things up?
Simran Jeet Singh 1:07:35
No, no, that sounds great. Yeah, it was pretty comprehensive. Appreciate it. And appreciate you reading the book, too. It’s fun conversation.
Clint Murphy 1:07:41
Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. And where can our listeners find you?
Simran Jeet Singh 1:07:46
My website is SimranJeetsingh.org. I used to be on Twitter a lot. My name is Simran and on there. I’m there are occasionally now. Other social media I’m sikh prof SIKH PROF.
Clint Murphy 1:08:00
You had to have got on Twitter very, very early for you to just be able to use your first name that is legendary there. You know, everyone else is like the best that I am. But yeah, just your first name. You were you were early adopter. I love it. All right, perfect. We’ll have that all in our show notes. Thank you.
Simran Jeet Singh 1:08:23
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you.