The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to adjust their lifestyles to keep themselves and others healthy. But physician Sanjeet Singh-Saluja and his brother Rajeet, a neurosurgeon, were forced to make a decision that affected them on a very deep, spiritual level.
The Singh-Saluja brothers are both members of the Sikh religion. One of the major pillars of their belief system is sewa. Sewa means "selfless service." It involves acting selflessly and helping others in a variety of ways, without any reward or personal gain.
This commitment to sewa is the big reason why the brothers work as doctors.
Another major pillar in Sikhism is kesh. According to Sanjeet, kesh is the practice of allowing one's hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God's creation.
The COVID-19 pandemic put the brothers in a position that they had to choose between both pillars.
Sikh doctor shaves beard to help in COVID-19 fight www.youtube.com
Because of the virus, the brothers both had to wear N95 masks, but they were unable to because of their beards. So they faced a dilemma, to either shave their beards or not be part of the fight against the disease. Both decisions would violate a pillar of their faith.
"We could choose not to work, but in a time when healthcare workers are falling sick, we would be adding stress to an already taxed system," Sanjeet said in a video posted by the McGill University Health Centre.
"We could decide to simply refuse to see COVID-19 patients until viable protection is available to us, but that goes against our oath as physicians and against the principles of sewa," he continued.
To come to a decision, the brothers consulted leaders of their faith, friends and family. In the end, they decided their commitment to selflessly serving others was more important than having their beards.
So they both shaved them off for the first time in their lives.
"It's a decision that has left me with much sadness," Sanjeet told the Montreal Gazette. "This was something that had been so much part of my identity. I look at myself in the mirror very differently now. Every morning when I see myself, it's a bit of a shock."
"But because COVID-19 has become so rampant in our community, it just wasn't feasible anymore (not to wear an N95 mask). There are so many people coming in. I felt I just couldn't sit on the sidelines. This was an exception to the rule, so we had to do what we had to do to help out," he said.
It was clearly a difficult decision for the men to choose between honoring their commitment to give selflessly and to respect what they see as the perfection of God's natural creation. However, in the Sikh religion, God created man, so by going out of their way to heal God's children, they are providing the ultimate service to God's creation.
Merci, Dr Saluja www.youtube.com
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