Photo Credit: Professional Cricketers’ Association
Surrey spinner and PCA PDM talk faith, God and Sikhism.
Every year on either 13 or 14 April, Sikhs around the world come together to celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi.
Celebrated on the latter date this year, Vaisakhi commemorates the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, formalising the religion in 1699 with the birth of the Khalsa (the name given to Sikhs who have been baptised).
Many religions are represented across the PCA membership, so it is important for the Association to recognise this diversity and support each member as an individual with respect and understanding.
To commemorate the festival, Surrey spinner Amar Virdi and PCA Personal Development Manager Jas Singh have spoken with the players’ union about Sikhism, their faith and the festival of Vaisakhi…
Can you share the history of Vaisakhi?
Virdi: It’s an important celebration in the Sikh faith. It all comes from 1699 when our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh called on people’s commitment and to test the cause. Because of the political regime at the time there was the need to have a spiritual and physical show of strength in the religion and they go hand in hand. He asked for the sacrifice of five people, the first five people to step forward became the Panj Payare (the five beloved ones), they were baptised and that was the start of Khalsa. They then lived by the rules that all Sikh’s should live by.
What does Sikhism mean to you?
Singh: Sikhism to me is very much about equality, one God, selfless service, giving to those that require support, it’s the fundamentals of being a good person from your behaviours and your actions. It came from my grandparents who emigrated from India in the 1950s, so it’s always been a massive part of my life growing up going to the Gurdwara with them and growing up in that environment is very much a part of who I am today.
Virdi: Regarding the typical image of a Sikh person, everyone is on their own journey with Sikhism, everyone has enlightenment at some point. The fundamentals don’t change, being a good human, you can’t be a bad person. We believe in one God so I think having your own relationship with God is very important and if you are true and hone
How do you and your family celebrate Vaisakhi?
Singh: I used to celebrate it more so when I was younger and I would go to the Gurdwara and you do something called Nagar Kirtan where you sing hymns outside from The Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book), it’s very much a community thing based around family and trying to align your behaviours around being a positive force.
Virdi: It’s like a street parade, it will be all over the country for the next month now. Lots of hymns, lots of free vegetarian food at the Gurdwaras. Everyone eats together and it’s very much about celebrating equality. It’s a way of getting all the family together and it’s a special occasion.
What do the 5 Ks of the Sikh faith stand for?
Virdi: A baptised Sikh should have all five on them at all times. The first is your Kes which is uncut hair, meaning no hair on your body should be cut. The second is your Kirpan which is a ceremonial dagger or knife, which is where standing up against oppression comes in, if you see something wrong you should always be armed and ready to help at any point, in the UK Sikhs are allowed to keep one on them. Then you have the Kangha which is the comb that sits in your hair to keep it clean and fresh at all times. Then Kacchera which are shorts or an undergarment which makes it easier to fight in battle. And then Karha is your bracelet which reminds you to stay on the right path, this is the way of truth.
What happens when you do Simran?
Virdi: Simran is basically a meditation on God’s name. We refer to God as Waheguru, one God. The way it’s meant to be done is to close your eyes and you must listen to your own voice and meditate repeating the phrase ‘Waheguru’ with the ‘Wahe’ on the in breath and the ‘guru’ on the out breath. We do this because as a Sikh your mind should always have one thought which is God. Eventually you get to a point when you reach enlightenment and all you hear is God in your mind all the time. Doing Simran is your tool to get rid of any bad thoughts and by meditating on God’s name you start to do that but it’s a long process.
How does your faith support you in playing/working in cricket?
Singh: It’s a life tool, it strips away the noise and it focusses your mind and you can zone in on what you’re doing. It reminds you that what’s happening in that moment isn’t necessarily the be all and end all, it can calm you and it gives you tunnel vision.
Virdi: It gives you a clarity of mind, if I can elevate my mind in a tough situation that will help me on the pitch. I might be getting whacked everywhere but it’s about understanding as a whole that you can take your mind away in that moment and realise there’s more to life, whilst also being present in the situation. It’s basically mentally arming yourself for tough situations. I find that a lot of the practises Sikhs do really help you in everyday life and in cricket too.
If there was one thing you could share with the world about Vaisakhi and Sikhism, what would it be?
Singh: For me, it’s a religion that focusses on being a part of the world but not getting distracted from God. Behave correctly and treat others well but also treat yourself well and stay away from substances that can lead to poor directions and keep your mind focussed. Being the best person you can be every single day is the fundamentals of Sikhism. This is how we make sure the world is a better place for everybody.
Virdi: Sikhism is a very small number of people in the world but the power the community carries as a whole is right up there with contribution to society. Looking back on our history is always a reminder that so many sacrifices have been made just to be here today. The main message I would give is that there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world and it’s about how you can alleviate yourself from that and if you can arm yourself with the right tools by meditating, it really can clear up your mind and you can send positive vibes out there and be a good human being.