Category Archives: Sikhi

Says Nanak

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“Sikhs and Sikh studies professors share a common goal. Most agree that Sikhi is a major world religion and Sikhi should be part of the curriculum of comparative religion – elementary through graduate schools – in the West and worldwide.”

SAYS NANAK:
In Search of a New Understanding of Sikhs’ Responses to Academic Research

Kamalla Rose Kaur

You may read and read loads of books;
You may read and study vast multitudes of books.
You may read and read boat-loads of books;
You may read and read and fill pits with them.
You may read them year after year;
You may read them as many months are there are.
You may read them all your life;
You may read them with every breath.
O Nanak, only One thing is of any account:
Everything else is just useless babbling and idle talk in ego.
(Guru Nanak “Asa Di Vaar”, Guru Granth Sahib, 467)  1

Many Sikhs treat Sikh studies academics with open hostility, protesting with signs, writing copious articles, denouncing Sikh scholars across internet websites and forums, petitioning universities to fire Sikh studies professors, waging email attacks, calling them before high councils, and death threats have been reported. W. H. McLeod, emeritus professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, warns scholars, “it must not be thought that the religious wars of such periods as the Reformation are behind us” (McLeod, “Discord in the Sikh Panth” 389).

Writing for Sikh newspapers and magazines, while participating in discussions and debates on Sikh internet forums for close to a decade, I can attest to the fact that Sikhs are quick to fight when they feel called to defend their Guru/scripture. And they will also defend their Guruji’s absolute authority to define Sikhi and what it means to be a True Sikh. McLeod reports that the cry “the Granth is in danger” can ignite a “whole-heartedly” popular cause which “ordinary members of the Panth” (ordinary members of the community) can “easily approve and support” (387). Ready to manipulate simple Sikh’s devotion for their Guruji/scripture, certain Sikhs and Sikh sects are attacking specific scholars (McLeod, “Discord”). While this is true, what W. H. McLeod and other Sikh studies academics consistently overlook is that the Sikh Guru/scripture also commands Sikhs to fight Western dualistic reality.   2 Later in this discussion, the Guru Granth’s viewpoint on duality and non-duality will be further elaborated.

Non-Sikh scholars can and should simply present Sikh teachings and beliefs without believing or practicing them. But failing to mention that the Sikh Guru Granth insists that non-dualistic consciousness is the first step to solving every problem – personal, Sikh and global – misses the most basic and primal teaching of Sikhi. The first words of the Guru Granth remain Ek On Kaar – the Creator and the Creation are One.

Arguably no religion is more devoted to its scripture than Sikhi. All Sikhs revere the Guru Granth Sahib as their living and breathing guide and teacher. Many Sikhs bow and submit to no other authority. In a 1992 article, Verne Dusenbery, an anthropologist at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, notes that Sikhs take their scripture “to be their eternal Guru, the source of divine benefits and the central focus of Sikh worship” (386). Sikhs open the Guru Granth in the morning and put it to bed each night. It is kept wrapped in beautiful fabrics. Sikhs ask their Guruji questions and receive guidance from the Guru Granth Sahib each day. It is carried on the head, and placed on a throne/altar, and kept fanned. Sikhs keep feet bare and heads covered when around the Sikh Guru/scripture (N. Singh, 35).

“Sikhs seek its presence for all their rites and ceremonies” asserts Nikky Gurinder Kaur Singh (Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College in Maine, USA), yet she wonders that, “for whatever reasons then, be it their personal proclivities, religious ideologies, or academic methods, non-Sikh scholars have been unable to surrender themselves completely to ‘the special call’ of the Sikh text” (35). Non-Sikh scholars, particularly historians and anthropologists, often ignore scriptural studies simply because it is not their department. Yet considering the volume of attention given to the study of other scriptures, Dusenbery remarks, “it is surprising that so little attention has yet been paid to the main Sikh scripture…especially to its use in Sikh worship in India and in the diaspora” (386).

1. The Guru Granth Sahib can only fully be experienced and appreciated in Gurmukhi, the language of the Sikh Guru. All translations of the Sikh scripture are interpretations only. The Guru Granth interpretations offered here are my own, based on the Sant Singh Khalsa English translation.

2 Western dualism and the mind/body split can be traced to the Greeks, but it was René Descartes (1596-1650), French mathematician, philosopher, and physiologist, who best formulated the theory and announced, “I think therefore I am.”

Dr. Doris Jakobsh and Authority Within Sikhi

In her 2006 article, “Authority in the Virtual Sangat: Sikhism. Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century”, Doris Jakobsh (Harvard trained religious studies professor at University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada) wonders where students wishing to learn about Sikhi should turn. Jakobsh explores who is an ‘authority’ on Sikhi. She artfully, quickly and accurately, maps the rough terrain of modern global Sikhi, pointing out its many places of tremendous confusion. For instance, Jakobsh briefly mentions the problems with the traditional seats of Sikh authority in India: “Sikhs in the Diaspora seem to view both the SGPC and the offices of jathedars with suspicion, given the scandals that have rocked both institutions in recent years.” Jakobsh adds, “in terms of logistics, the authority of the SGPC does not legally extend beyond Punjab.”

Jakobsh describes the generation gap, particularly among Sikhs in the west. Elderly Sikh men run most Gurdwaras and lawsuits flourish (25). Jakobsh discusses the dated ineffectiveness of the current edition of the Sikh Reht Maryada (SRM, the Sikh code of conduct). Though formulated in 1951, Jakobsh insists that the SRM is “based on the concerns and worldview of the 18th and 19th centuries” and that it fails to address modern issues, “particularly those outside of the Punjab”. Jakobsh further reports that “the Maryada is intricately intertwined with the needs and concerns of the British-inspired reform movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” and thus “needs to be questioned with respect to its very presuppositions, at least in terms of today’s society.” (28).

Jakobsh particularly focuses in her article on the pros and cons of the vast global internet community known as the Sikh cyber-sangat. There are thousands of Sikh websites competing to teach True Sikhi to the English-speaking world. Obviously those with the best technicians and biggest budgets define Sikhi faster and slicker. Jakobsh observes that “it is on the WWW that questions of caste, gender, abortion, Sikh ritual identity, premarital sex, homosexuality, to name only a few, can be found almost on a daily basis. The anonymity of the Web is particularly conducive for stances taken on these often controversial issues.” (Jakobsh, 29).

As insightful and helpful as Jakobsh’s overview of these various authorities on Sikhi proves, when she considers the Guru Granth Sahib as the ultimate authority on Sikhs and Sikhi, she simply doesn’t see it: “Notwithstanding the spectacular beauty and timeless truths embodied within these hymns, it is nonetheless difficult to find specific answers to …very difficult questions.” (27).

Yet, mysteriously, many Sikhs insist that the Guru Granth is, in fact, the only authority they submit to, and no other. Sikhs seek and receive their marching orders (vak laina or hukam laina) every single day from the Guru Granth. Sikhs soldiers carry the Guru Granth into war so that they may ask questions and receive comfort and up-to-the-moment directions from their Guruji. Historically, crowds of Sikhs have presented a single question to the Sikh Guru Granth and they have, as one, agreed and acted on the Sikh Guru’s instructions regarding their query (P. Singh 271).

Jakobsh acknowledges that the writers of the Guru Granth were, “great poet-saints” who “criticized many of the evils in society” but she insists that “ they did it within the context of religious life…These poets were not attempting to reform the social order per se, but had as their focus devotional practices of the day.” (27).

Except that the Sikh Guru Granth teaches that the spiritual and the earthly are One and the same. There is no distinction between devotional practices and attempting to reform oppressive societies within Sikhi. Praying and singing and communion with the Sikh Guru/scripture, doing service, defending human rights, going to work, eating, grooming, paying your bills, fighting a battle, shopping, relaxing, are equal and harmonious daily Sikh devotional practices. Guidance from the Guru Granth is obtained by praying and opening the book at random (invoking synchronicity) to receive instructions. The Guru Granth Sahib advises some to slow down and some to speed up, some to go within and others to step out boldly this day.

Jakobsh also discusses “the great poet-saints” and the historic context of their lives and missions without acknowledging that Sikhs also experience their Guru’s Voice as timeless, and timely, profoundly relevant right now. Pashaura Singh (Chair of Sikh Studies, University of California at Riverside) notes that the Guru Granth is, “a living Guru who always speaks with truth and power on the subject at hand” (P. Singh, 275). The Sikh Guru’s concern with politics has not changed, nor have the core issues behind human politics changed. When asked about the bomb, the Guru Granth might easily speak of tyrants deploying drunk elephants as weapons of mass destruction. The political scenes the Guru Granth paints, easily and significantly remind today’s readers of modern world rulers and situations.

Jakobsh is not a Sikh nor is she required to be. Yet I suggest to all Sikh studies professors that it would prove polite, positive and politically effective to explain to each other and to  students that Sikhs claim that the dualisms between past and present, between the poet-sants who wrote the Guru Granth Sahib, and the active Voice of the living and opinionated Sikh Guruji, blur and merge for students of the Guru Granth. Dualisms between being warriors and being saints, between spiritual activities and practical ones, between mind and body, between Creator and the Creation, tend to evaporate upon engagement with the Sikh Guru – or so the Guru Granth preaches and Sikhs profess.

The Guru Granth Sahib’s Teachings on the Intellect and Intellectuals

While academics overlook the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Guru does not ignore them back. What follows is a brief summary of the Guru Granth Sahib’s teachings on the intellect and intellectuals. The Sikh Guruji speaks a great deal about the human mind and also about scholars and teachers. Using the online search engine of the Sant Singh Khalsa translation of the Guru Granth Sahib1, I discovered the word scholar is used 115 times in the text. Intellect appears 185 times. Cynics and cynicism are discussed 155 times, and words derived from the word ego appear 1078 times.

More copious yet are the Guru Granth’s references to gurmukhs and manmukhs, the two categories into which the Sikh Guru, with characteristic humor and droll irony, bifurcates humanity. Manmukhs are people who divide people, and everything else, into categories. Gurmukhs are people who don’t.

Gurmukhs maintain constant awareness that the Creator/Creation is One Being (EkOnKaar). Gurmukhs believe that the Beloved One is awake and living among us, and through us. Gurmukhs leave the planet a better place than they found it. Gurmukhs speak and act like the Sikh Guru/scripture:

Duality dwells in the consciousness of the people of the world.
Humans destroy by sexual obsessions, rage, violence and egotism.
Whom should I call the second, when there is only the One?
The One Immaculate Reality is pervading all.

(Pause and reflect on this)

Our dual-minded evil intellect speaks of a second.
Those who harbor duality come and go and die.
In the earth and in the sky, I do not see any second.
Among all the women and the men, the Light is shining.
In the lamps of the sun and the moon, I see Light.
Dwelling among all is my ever-youthful Beloved One.
Mercifully, Creator/Creation has tuned my consciousness to One.
Guruji has led me to understand the Infinity of One.
A Gurmukh experiences only the One.
Subduing duality, we come to realize the Word of the Shabad
(we experience the true teachings).
The Divine Command prevails throughout all worlds.
From the One, all have arisen.
(Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, 223)

Manmukhs, in comparison, are at best intelligent people who act out of egotism and promote dualism. Manmukhs navigate from selfish goals and self-centeredness; they leave the planet a worse place than they found it:

The manmukhs stand there and dry up;
They do not bear any fruit,
And they do not provide any shade.
Don’t even bother to sit near them-they have no home or village.
They are cut down and burnt each day;
They have neither the Shabad (the teachings)
Nor the Naam (non-dualistic consciousness)
(Guru Amar Das, Guru Granth Sahib, 66)

The Sikh Guru Granth teaches that manmukhs become gurmukhs by union, which involves experiencing the One Reality or life-itself, as the waheguru or Wondrous Teacher. While Sikhs believe that the Wondrous Teacher is a universal force within all and accessible to all, for them, the writings of the Guru Granth Sahib are considered the very voice of that Wondrous Teacher.

The Sikh Teacher also divides intellectual pursuits into these same two categories. We can use our intellect to experience and teach non-dualistic awareness, love, integrity, tolerance, and union, or we use our intellect for ego gratification, to impress, for status and career advancement, for money, glamour, for the sake of arguing and debating, or out of the very love of dualism:

The intellect is a bird;
Depending on its actions,
It is sometimes high,
And sometimes low.
Sometimes it is perched on the sandalwood tree,
And sometimes it is on the branch of the poisonous swallow-wort.
Sometimes, it soars through the heavens.
O Nanak, our Only Master leads us on,
According to the Hukam (command) of the Creator/Creation’s Way.
(Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, 147)

The Sikh Guru Granth instructs Sikhs to shun egotism and egotists, and to denounce cynics. Sikh egotists and cynics abound, of course, but it may be easier for Sikhs to protest against the perceived greater source of cynicism, that heartless battlefield of brains, Western academia:

Turn away, O my mind, turn away.
Turn away from the cynic.
False is the love of the false.
Break the ties, O my mind, so your bondage shall be broken.
Break your ties with cynics.

(Pause and reflect)

One who enters a house filled with soot is blackened.
Run far away from such people!
When they meet the Guru
They escape the bondage of the three dispositions. 3
(Guru Arjan, Guru Granth Sahib, 535)

 3. Bondage of the three dispositions or “gunas” - tamas, rajas, sattwa.
Refers to the tendency to. 1. be lazy, 2. be constantly busy, and/or
3. the need to be high.



Making Peace

Sikhs and Sikh studies professors share a common goal. Most agree that Sikhi is a major world religion and Sikhi should be part of the curriculum of comparative religion – elementary through graduate schools – in the West and worldwide. Humans prosper and flourish through education and world citizens should understand the basic principles and teachings of Buddhism, Judaism, Humanism, Christianity, Hinduism, Secular Materialism, Shamanism, Islam, and Sikhi too.

Yet Sikhs do not want Sikh studies professors defining Sikhi and/or directly impacting Sikh politics, history and autonomy. And Sikhs studies professors do not wish to experience hate campaigns directed at them. And no one likes the Western media coverage of these unholy wars except, presumably, the Sikhs and Sikh sects who send out the press releases.

Joseph T. O’Connell (a professor of Religious studies at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto) assures Sikhs that modern university study of Sikh religion is not a Christian missionary scheme “to undermine the faith of Sikhs” nor are Western universities “in collusion” with the Government of India to suppress Sikhs.

The thrust of such a campaign of misinformation is to encourage a climate of paranoia which tends to alienate Sikhs from the academic community.”(O’Connell, 274-75)

Mistrust of Western colonial mentality and strong resistance to having Oxford Press, or other powerful outsiders, take the role of authority on Sikhi are other concerns that Sikhs express. Thus Sikhs protest Sikh studies, and Sikhs also endow Sikh studies. Sikh studies programs need to attract students and Sikh funding. How to proceed?

Again I advise Sikh studies professors to start afresh by simply reporting and exploring how Sikhs take all questions to the Guru Granth Sahib. For instance, I asked the Sikh Guruji about how peace can be established between Western academics and Sikhs, and received this gem of a message about letting the jewel of the Sikh Guru’s teachings shine:

That which was upside-down has been set upright;
The deadly enemies and adversaries have become friends.
In the darkness, the jewel shines forth,
The impure understanding has become pure.
(Guru Arjan, Guru Granth, 402)

Dusenbery also suggests that, in the pursuit of Sikh studies, “it seems clear that one must recognize some strongly nondualistic aspects of Sikh social thought and ritual practice, especially in relation to the perceived power of the Word.” (390). Dusenbery argues that dualism of language is so entrenched in the West, that it is “commonsensical for Westerners as to make a nondualistic alternative seem like hocus-pocus.” (402). He implies that Western scholars have failed to acknowledge and discuss the importance of non-dualism within Sikhi because they can’t compute it, and/or they can’t believe it, but not because they hate Sikhs and Sikhism, like many Sikhs too quickly assume. Dusenbery advises that Sikh studies academics need to expand their analytic vocabulary “to overcome our conceptual dualisms…challenge analytic approaches growing out of the dominant Western ideology of language.” (389).

Of course, many academics may not agree with the Sikh Guru’s teachings. Sikhs can and do accept, understand, and tolerate diverse viewpoints. Also, quite reasonably, Sikh studies scholars may feel it is enough to simply observe and report that Sikhs find the ultimate authority for their religious beliefs “by turning to the Guru Granth Sahib and accepting it alone as supreme and absolute authority.” (McLeod, Sikhism, 266). McLeod also notes that non-Sikhs “may question its sufficiency” but he pushes that it must be “acknowledged that Sikhs have a better record of harmony and accord than other religious systems claim.” This is correct, and also honest, sincere and high praise.

Yet by refusing to accept the Guru Granth Sahib’s authority, or consider the Sikh Guru’s perceived “aliveness” enough to discuss Sikh teachings about dualism, the mind, human intellect, pundits and scholars, Sikh studies professors – no matter how well-educated they may be by Western standards – can expect to continue to appear ignorant, cowardly, lacking in honor, or just plain wrong, to many Sikhs.

McLeod writes that “by maintaining their trust in their Guru, which is the
Granth, the Sikh people uphold a belief that stands them in abundantly good stead.” (266). Sikhs agree, of course. The Sikh Guru Granth recommends that before we study anything, and certainly before we study Sikhi, that we all,
Sikhs and non-Sikhs, fanatic Sikhs and Sikh studies professors, pause and reflect and invoke Unity. Let us take a moment to question our motivations and agendas, lest we cause a war, or other unholy result.

Give up your pride and stubborn self-conceit;
death, yes, your death,
is always near at hand.
Resonate with the One.
Says Nanak, listen you fool:
without experiencing, and meditating, and dwelling on the One,
your life is uselessly wasting away.
(Guru Arjan, Guru Granth Sahib, 1308 )

Works Cited:

Dusenbery, Verne A. “The Word as Guru: Sikh Scripture and the Translation
Controversy”, History of Religions, 31.4, (May, 1992): 385-402

Jakobsh, Doris, “Authority in the Virtual Sangat: Sikhism. Ritual and
Identity in the Twenty-First Century” Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the
Internet 2.1 (2006) 24-40

McLeod, W. H. “Discord in the Sikh Panth “ Journal of the American Oriental
Society, 119. 3 (Jul. – Sep., 1999) 81-389

McLeod, W.H. Sikhism, Penguin Press, London (1997)

O’Connell, Joseph T. “The Fate of Sikh studies in North America,” The
Transmission of Sikh Heritage in the Diaspora, ed. Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald
Barrier (New Delhi: Manohar, 1996), 274-75.

Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur. “Translating Sikh scripture into English.” Sikh
Formations: 3.1: (June 2007) 33-49

Singh, Pashaura. The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority Oxford
University Press, 2000.

Sri Guru, Search Engine
_http://www.srigranth.org/servlet/gurbani.gurbani?S=y_
(http://www.srigranth.org/servlet/gurbani.gurbani?S=y)

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Filed under Kamalla Rose Kaur's Writings, Sikhi, THE VOICE OF THE SIKH GURU/SCRIPTURE

Authority in the Virtual Sangat by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

doris-2

Authority in the Virtual Sangat

Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century

by Dr. Doris Jakobsh

In her paper Authority in the Virtual Sangat. Sikhism, Ritual and Identity in the Twenty-First Century, Doris Jakobsh analyses the change of authority based on her research on Sikhs on the Internet. She stresses the Web as a ‘third place’ of communication among the Sikhs as well as the phenomenon of new authorities online. However, this does not imply the replacement of the traditional seats of authority, the Akal Takht, SGPC, or gurdwara managements, but one can recognize a significant shift away from these traditional sites of authority toward the ‘new authorities’, the intermediaries of cyberspace. Her analysis shows that this aspect of the Sikh experience brings with it the most profound challenges and, most importantly, a need to bridge the post-modern individual, i.e. ‘Sikh tradition’ intertwined and legitimated by the metanarrative, and the proliferation of new authorities who have become intermediaries of Sikhism online by virtue of their expertise within the digital domain.

CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE

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Filed under Sikh Women's Movement, Sikhi

Sikh Women Gain Voting Rights at Bristol Gurdwara

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Fateh
This is a great story that I really enjoyed writing up, now published in The Sikh Times.
Sikh Women Gain Voting Rights at Bristol Gurdwara

By KAMALLA ROSE KAUR

The Sikh Times, Aug. 31, 2008


Photo: Bristol Gurdwara

Come join with me, my sisters,
And sing songs of joy and delight.
My true friends have arrived in my home!
–Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture), p. 764

The Sikh religion preaches and promotes equal rights for women. Female subordination, the practice of taking a father’s or a husband’s last name, practicing rituals that imply dependence are all alien to Sikh principles. Yet in the last 400 years, most Sikh institutions have been run by Sikh men. In the West, it is often elderly men whose concerns and politics are back in India.
–Walayti Singh Chauhan, current President of the Bristol Gurdwara

Background

On October 14 2007, the management committee of the Sikh gurdwara (temple) at Fishponds Road, Bristol, U.K. voted seven to one for women’s suffrage. The lone opposing vote was cast by the then General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti.

In the following weeks and months no confirmation of the historic reform was announced to the Sikh sangat (congregation). In response to this silence, several Sikh women met with the Gurdwara President Walayti Singh Chauhan. He agreed that the decision would be announced and confirmed in a letter to the Sikh community.

‘Walayti Singh took the brave step and put the committee’s agreement of October 2007 onto paper, knowing that he may face resentment.’ Gurdip Kaur, a member and women’s rights activist in her 60s, said, ‘He is responsible for ensuring that the basic tenets of Sikhi (Sikhism) were enforced; to treat all humankind as equals. He stood up for what is right.’

Sikh women from Bristol have been demanding their right to vote in gurdwara elections for decades. According to Gurdip Kaur, ‘Over seventy-five letters were sent to gurdwara committees over the last twenty-five years regarding total equality for Sikh women. These letters have all been disregarded.’

Conflict

President Walayti Singh also supported the women’s plans to celebrate their success at an upcoming event. Six female Sikh speakers were contacted and several notable non-Sikhs were asked to speak including Dave Chapple, the national chair of the U.K. National Shop Stewards Network.

However, General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti refused to allow more than two women speakers and would not approve any non-Sikh speakers.

The president and the women activists complied with the general secretary’s wishes and only two Sikh women spoke on Sunday, May 4. The outside speakers were cancelled. The activists felt that the most important part was that Sikh women had gotten the vote.

After the women spoke, General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti took to the podium and strongly urged against women’s suffrage. He did not acknowledge that the management committee had already approved the reform.

From the perspective of the congregation, the general secretary stood on the right side of the podium and the president stood on the left. While General Secretary Mohinderjit Singh was attempting to persuade the congregation to reverse the women’s victory, Gurudip Kaur approached President Walayti Singh and asked if she might speak. He agreed and she was handed the microphone when he concluded his own speech. Seeing this, the general secretary crossed the podium and took the microphone from Gurudip Kaur despite her resistance. The following uproar resulted in a ten-minute shouting match.

Javinder Singh, who would soon be elected the new general secretary of the committee, noted, ‘Seeing an insult against an elderly woman of this sort was unbelievable; this act was totally deplorable and extremely sad.’

In response to this incident, President Walayti Singh Chauhan suspended Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti from the role of general secretary, asking him to return gurdwara documents in his possession until the incident could be investigated. The gurdwara election, scheduled for May 11, 2008, was postponed so that women members had time to register to vote and to let things cool down.

But in the days after the incident Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti failed to return the gurdwara documents. After three formal requests, legal counsel was sought by President Walayti Singh and legal proceedings were launched to retrieve the documents. The documents contained minutes of committee meetings and records of decisions made.

Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti ceased attending gurdwara services and so did the vice president and vice treasurer of the committee. His backers now included three out of the eight members of the gurdwara’s management committee, although they had originally voted for women’s suffrage in October 2007.

Mediation

Seeking a quick election before the women could register, Mohinderjit Singh’s group went to the Bristol police. They explained that Walayti Singh’s term as gurdwara president was already up and they felt he had no right to postpone the election. The police agreed to mediate the dispute using five representatives from each side. Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side was composed of older men, all born in the Punjab. The women’s suffrage group included a wide range of ages, with both sexes represented, four born in the U.K. and one in India. They met with the police once.

Over two weeks, plus a few extra days’ extension, Sikh women registered. By the end of this period, 170 Sikh women were ready to vote. With suffrage established, three women, Narindar Kaur, Anita Kaur and Sheila Kaur, pursued management committee positions. They became part of the pro-suffrage team, with Walayti Singh Chauhan running for another term as gurdwara president.

On election day, Sikh voters would cast only one vote, choosing one management committee team or the other. Although Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti was not on the ballot, his brother ran for the position of general secretary. On the other side, Walayti Singh’s team offered the Sikh community a revolutionary new committee with men and women, and adults of all ages.

The pro-women’s-suffrage slate was comprised of Walayti Singh Chauhan (president), Shamsher Singh Patel (vice president), Javinder Singh (general secretary), Satchet Singh (vice general secretary), Kuldip Singh (treasurer), Narindar Kaur (vice treasurer), Anita Kaur (langar jathedar), and Sheila Kaur (vice langar jathedar).

The anti-women’s-suffrage slate was comprised of Raghir Singh Nirman (president), Baldev Singh (vice president), Mohanjit Singh Bhatti (general secretary), Jaswant Singh (vice general secretary), Mohan Singh (treasurer), Satnam Singh Amritsaria (vice treasurer), Harpal Singh (langar jathedar), and Raju Singh (vice langar jathedar).

Mohinderjit Singh hired an attorney and requested that the attorney be allowed to be present during the negotiations. When the police firmly declined this request, Mohinderjit Singh’s group decided to stop attending the meetings. Instead, they informed the police that the election would be held on July 6, 2008. They added that they were hiring a private security firm to keep the peace on election day.

However, Bhatti’s team did not inform the Sikh congregation adequately about the election. Many Sikhs worshiping that Sunday did not know that it was an election day.

Fearing an outbreak in violence the Bristol police interceded and dismissed the hired security guards. They insisted that proper voting procedures be in place prior to the election. They asked for two members from each side to meet with them immediately. Over the next few weeks the two sides successfully negotiated the details of the upcoming election and signed a contract.

Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side was asked by the police to stop sending out letters to the sangat, as this was confusing the members. It was agreed that an independent voting company should be brought in. The Association of Electoral Administrators agreed to conduct the election. Voting registration was again extended to allow the traditionally-minded Sikh women, who do not believe in their right to vote, to register to vote. The voting company insisted that the registration be complete a week before the election and that the final voting list be just that, the final voting list.

For the next two weeks Sikh women were encouraged to register to vote and on the last day they extended the registration by a few hours so that the latecomers standing in line could finish registering.

Yet on July 27, 2008, two days after registration had closed and the voting list had been finalized, Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s team insisted that they had seventy-nine more women they needed to register. The voting company refused, citing the contracts in place.

‘The anti-women’s-suffrage side were in fear that their power would be cut off forever. So they were doing everything possible to win,’ Javinder Singh, the new general secretary, commented. ‘They knew if they lost it would be the end for their sort.’

Election Day

On Sunday morning, August 3, 2008, many Sikhs from both sides arrived at the gurdwara at 8 A.M. Voting would begin at 10 A.M. Tensions were running high. The seventy-nine Sikh women who had not made the registration deadline – women who were angry that they were denied their right to vote against their right to vote – were vocal. The police blockaded the street and the media arrived. One Sikh man was arrested but later released. Some of the seventy-nine women and their supporters surrounded the voting company manager’s car in protest.

‘The Association of Electoral Administrators was very patient during the negotiation leading up to the elections,’ reported Javinder Singh. ‘They were understanding, firm and fair throughout the election process. They ensured the elections were conducted independently and professionally.’

Fifteen minutes before the election was due to start the police called a meeting of both sides, which delayed the election for two hours. The pro-women’s-suffrage side offered to let 80% of the unregistered women register and the voting company agreed. This offer was angrily dismissed and Mohinderjit Singh and his supporters boycotted the election.

The election, although delayed, went forward. 93% of the votes went to the pro-women’s-suffrage team with Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side receiving only 4% of the vote. Seemingly, even if the anti-women’s-suffrage side had voted – including all seventy-nine late registering Sikh women – Mohinderjit Singh Bhatti’s side would have lost.

‘We commend the Avon & Somerset police for their understanding of the situation that we found ourselves in,’ said newly-re-elected President Walayti Singh Chauhan. ‘It was a great job done. They were sensitive and respectful of the Sikh principles at all times.’

Javinder Singh, the new general secretary added, ‘When the women bowed to our holy Sikh scripture (Guru Granth Sahib), our Guruji, to accept their official duties, they glowed with a happiness and joy that seemed almost transcendent to me. I realized I had never seen that look on the faces of those Sikh women before and that made me determined to keep fighting for the rights of Sikh sisters and women everywhere.’

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The Start Humble Gurdwaras Movement

Sikhs in the West tend to build very large hard to heat and cool Gurdwaras. Here are some examples of typical big Gurdwaras in the USA.
I think Sikhs need to start more Gurdwaras. They should be humble halls.
Many/most Gurdwaras are presently run by men whose hearts, minds and politics are back in India. Many Gurdwaras are corrupt and it is against Khalsa Knighthood vows to hang out in corrupt organizations.

Sikhs are already split and it is not going to help anyone to have Holy Wars. Sikhs who wish to see women on the boards of directors and up front during services need to create that. We will come.

The Protestants have done very well endlessly schisming and starting new Faiths. They are extreme. But all the world’s top religions have their two or three threads, or vehicles as the Buddhists say.

Orthodox, Moderate and Reform for Jews. Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant for Christians. Sunni, Shi’ite and so forth.

Far as I can see a great many Sikhs follow Jathedars, Deras, Sants. Babas and Yogis and that is their right. It is a free universe. They claim the SGGS as their scripture but it is my opinion that Guruji is not awake and alive for them. They do not appear to be reading the SGGS. If Guruji wishes to awaken them, that will be great but in the meantime, why not just call them a distinct group. A big group of all sorts of little groups.

Then there are the Dasam Granth over the SGGS folks. War is not practical. So I feel they can go do whatever they want to.

In the West it is EASY to schism and start over again. Fresh and clean. Small humble Gurdwaras. Let the bad guys keep those huge gaudy Indian Raj architecture monsters heated and cooled.

Do not participate in sexist, racist, institutions. Why would Khalsa Knights participate in corrupt Gurdwaras? Tranformation is fast when we simply vote with our feet and wallets.

FROM GURMIT SINGH:

I have observed very good solution – to start a small Gurduara
Sahib, which could be managed in the light of Guru’s Teachings, like the concept
of “Begumpura” where all participate as equals – None high, none low, none stranger.
It should be free from paid Bhais/Raagis/socalled Jathedaars or any cult like baba /
organization. Perhaps some Young Sikhs – females and males would set up such
a Congregation Hall. I will try in this direction provided there are ten more mates.

Gurmit Singh – Australia

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Aborting Sikhi by Kamalla Rose Kaur

(After eight years of studying and writing about Sikhi via the internet, I have returned to university, age 53. I am finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and will soon enter the Masters program, also in Creative Writing. This article was written for a university class I just completed on Global Women.)

ABORTING SIKHI

Kamalla Rose Kaur

I am very upset this morning and need to cry.

Statistics today reveal the genocide/abortion of female feotus continues.

1500 amongst British Indian born women over last 15 years or so.

7 Million on the subcontinant. Most highest number ??

Punjab and Gujrati communities

Amongst the most prosperous!! Sikhs and Jain communities

Jaswinder Kaur, Sikh woman posting on Sikh internet forum.

Why are so many Sikhs of Northern India participating in female foeticide and why can’t Sikhs seem to stop it? Down through humanity female infanticide is usually linked with hopeless poverty. But Sikhs in India- and not low income, uneducated Sikhs either – are aborting their futures, depriving their o so precious and valued sons of wives. This is especially sad and horrifying because the Sikh religion promotes womens equal rights. Sikh dogma and doctrine specifically forbids female infanticide; also the Hindu practice of sati and the Islamic practice of veiling women. Sikhs have been trying to keep their culture against amazing odds since the very conception of their religion, 500+ years ago. Now in one generation, due to one bad sad sin, there are no longer enough Sikh women being born.

Infanticide, Abortion Responsible for 60 Million Girls Missing in Asia
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
By Sherry Karabin

…In India, where the child sex ratio is calculated as the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years age group, the problem is severe. The 2001 Census shows there are only 927 girls per 1,000 boys, representing a sharp decline from 1961 when that number was 976. In certain parts of the country there are now fewer than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys.

“The problem is more prevalent in the northern and western states, where prosperity, rapid fertility decline and patriarchal (male heads the family) mindsets combine to put girls at risk,” said Ena Singh, the assistant representative at UNFPA.

My intention is to communicate, to the best of my abilities, why Sikhs have this horrible problem, how Sikhs are responding to it and why it is hard for Sikhs to get anything done at this point in their history.

SIKHS VS. SIKHI

Hear my prayer, my Only Master; all beings and creatures were created by You. You preserve the honor of Your Name, O Beloved One, Cause of causes.

Dear Creator/Creation, Beloved, please, make me Your own. Whether good or bad, I am Yours.

(Pause and reflect)

The Almighty heard my prayer; cutting away my bonds, my Beloved has adorned me. The Beloved One has dressed me in robes of honor, and blended this humble servant with the One True Master.

Now Nanak is revealed in glory throughout the world.

The Siri Guru Granth Sahib

Scripture and Only Guide and Guru of the Sikhs

Page 653 Guru Arjan

“Kamalla!” A Western academic confronts me, “North India is one of the most macho places on earth! Sikhi is male dominated from one end to the other.”

“Not Sikhi.” I argue. “Sikhs! Particularly those still living in India. There is hope for Sikhs in the West. The younger generation practices gender equality much better than the older folks.”

“Kamalla, they are losing their younger generation in the West and in India too.” my friend insists. “Hard as it is for you to believe, the fact that Sikhi is so progressive theologically didn’t matter. When we study Sikhs we have to study what they do, not just what they say they ought to be doing.”

“No. Wrong. What you say is true in some obvious Western sense, but I am a Sikh. Academics need to get it through your heads that what a Sikh is and what a Sikh is not is defined by our scripture and Only Guide, by the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. According to the Sikh Guru/scripture, those who practice gender inequality are not True Sikhs. They are phoney.”

“So the majority of Sikhs down through history and in present times are not really Sikhs? Is that what you are saying?”

“That is correct. They are all phoney Sikhs at the level that they do not follow Sikh teachings as set out in the Sikh scripture. But of course, only God and Guru can judge who is a good Sikh – Sikh just means ’student’ as you well know.” I retort and then add, “Sikhs don’t even believe that you have to be Sikh to be one of the Almighty’s best beloveds either. The Sikh Guru/scripture reminds readers all the time that good honest, loving and humble people everywhere, irregardless of beliefs or culture are better ‘Sikhs’ than people claiming to be Sikhs who fail to follow Sikh teachings.”

Sikhs will argue about all sorts of things but we almost unanimously, across all schisms and sects, agree that it is our scripture, our Holy Book – our Guruji – who defines what it is the be a True Sikh.

For our purposes here I will make a distinction between Sikhs and True Sikhs. True Sikhs follow the teachings of the Sikh Guru/scripture. Sikhs, on the other hand, are simply born into Sikh families.

WHO ARE THE SIKHS?

Here is a very brief history of Sikhi from the UNITED SIKHS website. UNITED SIKHS is a global Sikh charity organization.

Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji founded the Sikh way of life in the fifteenth century as an ideology to reconcile the Human Race. Guru Nanak was a revolutionary teacher- his teachings that women and men were equal, that caste was unimportant, and that there are many paths to the One God- were ahead of their time. The title “Guru,” or enlightener, was passed onwards to 9 more individuals throughout Sikh history, who shared the light of Truth of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji. These 9 Gurus also shaped the legendary Sikh traditions. In 1708 CE, the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, bestowed the title of Guru upon the holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is recognized as the eternal enlightener.

Some Sikh men and women join the Khalsa, the defense only Knighthood established by Guru Gobind Singh (the last embodied Sikh Guru/Teacher) in 1699. They are required to keep the five symbols of the five Khalsa vows on their bodies. The symbols are uncut hair (Kesh), a comb (Kanga) a dagger (Kirpan), a steel bracelet (Kara) and underwear (Kacheras). These symbols remind members of the Khalsa Khighthood of their vows, which include being clean, free of intoxicants, and vowing to fight oppression and abuse, racism, sexism, caste and classism, on behalf of the weak against corruption and tyranny. They must never attack. Again the Khalsa is a defense-only Knighthood. Khalsa men wear turbans and many Khalsa women wear turbans as well.

But only a fraction of all Sikhs join the Khalsa Knighthood.

Confusingly, quite a number of Sikhs, especially Sikh men, who do not belong to the Khalsa, also do not cut their hair and they wear turbans. This is often an indication that a Sikh is “practicing” being Khalsa and plans to take his/her vows in the future. Or often as not, Sikhs feel it is a good thing for Sikhs who have not joined the Khalsa to wear turbans and beards because it supports Sikh cultural identity, which many Sikhs feel is at risk.

The downside, of course, is that there are thousands and thousands of Sikhs who wear the “uniform” of the Khalsa Knighthood who are not keeping the Khalsa vows. For instance, it is common to witness Sikh men in turbans drinking alcohol in public or smoking cigarettes. This of course greatly errodes the effectiveness and harms the image and reputation of the Khalsa Knighthood worldwide.

There are 20 million people on earth who call themselves Sikhs. Yet like other religions, many or most Sikhs are secular. They come from Sikh families and visit Gurdwaras for weddings and funerals and as social centers, but they are not devout nor do they claim to be.

Since aborting female foetuses is strictly and heavily banned by the Sikh religion, the middle and professional class Sikhs in India who are choosing sons over daughters are secular Sikhs by definition.

SIKH SCHISMS AND SECTS

Sikhs have always considered themselves to be a separate and distinct religion from Hinduism. Yet from the point of view of most Hindus, Sikhi is just another sect of Hinduism. Hinduism is inclusive like that. Any and all beliefs and practices that have arisen in India are part of the whole brew and called Hinduism.

However, the founder of Sikhi, Guru Nanak, taught a Way that is quite distinct from both Islam and Hinduism, though he was affected deeply by both religions of course. In the West there is no dispute over whether Sikhs are distinct from Hindus. Sikhs are allowed to define themselves just like all the Western religions and sects do.

Approximately half of all Sikhs follow various “leaders” past or present – Sants, Babas, Yogis, Jathedars, Deras.

Another large percentage of Sikhs holds the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, as their one and only Guide and Guru. They do not believe in avatars and they wire direct, as individuals, with “Guruji”, their source of Sikh teachings. This second group, to which I belong, has at times been called “fundamentalists” by Western scholars because we take the SGGS as literal truth. But the SGGS is a very very different scripture from the Bible. There is no history or stories in the SGGS, rather it is the hymns/poetry/teachings of Nanak. Nanak’s approach to religion is distinctly not woo-woo and no faith in miracles is required in Sikhi.

The first and foremost belief of all Sikhs is that “The Creator and the Creation are One”. Sikhs seek to experience nondualistic perception, to experience and rejoice in the One Reality all around them. So called “fundamentalist” Sikhs are more like Humanists or scientically oriented agnostics than they are like Christians, Hindus, or Muslims.

A third large subset of all those who call themselves Sikhs promote the Dasam Granth – the writings of Guru Gobind Singh- as equal canon with the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

From a Westerner’s perspective these three types of Sikhs are distinct enough in practice and theology to be considered different religions or sects.

For a detailed geneology of Sikh sects: http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/sikhism/index.html

SIKH CENTRAL

For a very short time Sikhs had their own country in Northern India, and then the Brits invaded. The British fought a war against the Sikhs and won, but they fell in love with the Sikhs. Thus the British helped the Sikhs and they also hindered the Sikhs.

Sikh Central is presently in India but Sikhs in diaspora have no representation in the present (British established) Sikh religion administration. Some/many accuse Sikh Central of being infiltrated by nonSikhs or taking bribes, or corporate lobby money. Some/many disagree!

Gyani Jarnail Singh, a Sikh scholar from Malaysia explains:

Yes the SGPC – elected by the million or so eligible “SIKHS” (according to SRM – Sikh Code of Conduct) every five years according to the British Govt sponsored Gurdwara Act 1925..is a sort of Sikh Central.

Its authority is confined to old Punjab – now divided into Punjab/Himachal/Haryana. Efforts are underway to take away Haryana out of its spehre by forming a Haryana SGPC. Delhi already has a DGPC for Delhi gurdawras and the Patna Takhat as well as Hazoor Sahib Deccan are independently controlled by their states.

So not only are the few MILLION Disapora Sikhs not reprsented in the SGPC….so are a few million Sikhs in the rest of INDIA ( those outside Punajb/Haryana/himachal).

So in a way the Sikh Central is a very MINORITY sort of “Sikh central”…similar to if the few citizens of Vatican were to be Christian Central on behalf of the 1 billion or so christians…

The point to note is that the Govt of India holds the “Elections”… so it decides when and when… For example during the tenure of Jathedar GS Tohra…he was defacto President ( together with his assembly) for a total of FIVE TERMS..25 years ++ as the Govt decided to have NO ELECTIONS. Thus it is a Sikh Central over which the SIKHS have absolutley NO CONTROL. GS Tohra was kept in power for a quarter century….for reasons known/unknown ?? and the SIKHS coundnt do a damn thing about it.

Due to the SGPC being a “Financial Powerhouse” Goluck money from all historicl shrines runs into hundreds of millions yearly…anyone in control of it is in POWER. Inspite of the Indian govt using all sorts of “proxies”….newly set up Gurdwar Boards and such…the SGPC has traditionally been won by the Akali DAL…now the personal fiefdom of the BADAL Family/Dynasty…since the 1970’s !!

Thus when “POLITICS” rules the roost..invariably shady chraacters stand and win…through money laundering/vote buying/alcohol flows freely, hoodlums roam freely and drugs etc..every weapon in the arsenal is used to retain the status quo…95% of the SGPC members are TAINTED heavily. The one or two “religious” ones get voted out subsequently or turn over a “old” leaf and join the rascals.


SIKHS IN DIASPORA

Sikhs in diaspora also have no central unified means of governance or headquarters. Every Gurdwara is independent and control of Gurdwaras by one sect or another is common. Sikhs who follow various Sants and Babas or embrace the teachings of other leaders, and “fundamentalist” Sikhs, who hold the SGGS as our only Guru, often end up worshipping in the same Gurdwaras, as do the more militant Guru Gobind Singh followers. Add to this the generation gap caused by Sikh youth embracing Western culture, and it is not so surprising that Sikh Gurdwaras can at times become political, hot and heavy.

Harmander Singh from the Sikhs in England organization explains some of the problems Sikhs in diaspora have. He believes that the main issue is:

The elders’ die-hard attitude and desire in seeking answers from their peers in the Punjab to problems they face in the West,

Also:

1. Factionalism based on ‘Jathebandis’ , the anti-Sikh practices such as ‘caste’ based groupings, gender discrimination and taking advantage of the deference to age by those who are younger than them.

2. The abject failure in accepting that age alone does not qualify one to be a ‘leader’ but it only helps if some wisdom was gained along the way in getting to their age. It is assumed that competency is automatic and only comes with age. The fact that many who hold positions of ‘power’ within the Sikh community somehow are unable to divorce their personal ego nurturing actions from the responsibility that comes with the positions they hold. As a result, when something good has happened, people who were once thought to be dead suddenly come out of nowhere for the photo opportunity but are nowhere to be seen when things are not so good or very bad – in such instances, it is always someone else’s fault and communication skills are suddenly ‘missing’ – an opportunity lost in promoting links with the media.

A PREFERENCE FOR SONS

As shocking and also self defeating as it is, the reasons Sikhs abort female foetusses is that they want to have sons. It is greed in some sense.

Despite Sikh teachings, Sikhi worldwide is tremendously male dominated. In India sons are thought to be breadwinners while daughters are expensive. Births of sons are celebrated and births of daughters are often greeted with regrets, condolences and silence. In the traditional India family, when a daughter marries she moves into her husband’s family home, under the direction of her mother-in-law. One day, if you have a son, he will marry and his new wife will be under you. This is the height of woman’s power. Being a mother and ultimately the family matriarch is what life offers to women in traditional India families.

The United Nations website on Women and Violence reports::


Son preference affects women in many countries, particularly in Asia. Its consequences can be anything from foetal or female infanticide to neglect of the girl child over her brother in terms of such essential needs as nutrition, basic health care and education.

In China and India, some women choose to terminate their pregnancies when expecting daughters but carry their pregnancies to term when expecting sons.

According to reports from India, genetic testing for sex selection has become a booming business, especially in the country’s northern regions. Indian gender-detection clinics drew protests from women’s groups after the appearance of advertisements suggesting that it was better to spend $38 now to terminate a female foetus than $3,800 later on her dowry.

A study of amniocentesis procedures conducted in a large Bombay hospital found that 95.5 per cent of foetuses identified as female were aborted, compared with a far smaller percentage of male foetuses.

The problem of son preference is present in many other countries as well. Asked how many children he had fathered, the former United States boxing champion Muhammad Ali told an interviewer: “One boy and seven mistakes.”

Though it is only Sikhs in India who are engaged in widespread abortion of female foetuses, studies in the UK also indicate that UK Sikhs prefer sons and that is that.

From: Demography of immigrants and minority groups in the United Kingdom. London, England, Academic Press, 1982. :169-92.

The data were obtained in a questionaire survey of about 3000 married Asian Sikh women, living in West London. The main reason for the study was to find out whether Asian immigrants had any difficulties in adopting modern methods of birth control. Another reason was an interest in the nature of cultural influences on fertility and birth control practice. Sikhs were chosen because they were the largest of the Indian religious groups in Britain according to a national survey in 1974. The ideal family size for most Sikhs was 2 or 3, and they resembled the general population in the practice of birth control. Most survey respondents maintained their family size by modern methods of birth control, which were adopted early in marriage. Whatever methods used, they seemed to be effective, since fertility among Sikhs and other Asians is declining. Where Sikhs do differ from the general population is in their very strong preference for sons (84%). Some of the evidence on achieved fertility, contraceptive practice, and reasons for having or not having a 3rd child suggests a stronger bias towards a family of 2 children than is revealed by the preference scores. The Sikhs emphatic preference for sons may prompt some parents to produce at least 1 more child than they would have otherwise had.

I asked Harmander Singh from Sikhs in England for his thoughts on male domination within Sikhi:

An instrumental element of succession of goods/assets in the laws of many countries, where the West has had or continues to have an influence, is along male heirs. Sikhs, as opposed to Sikhi, have fallen prey to these prevalent legal precedences.

The ‘little prince’ syndrome is also linked to the difference of treatment between the genders.

Paradoxically, younger generations are driven away from all religions by the continued outdated and inconsistent application of sexist values – sadly this also has had an influence on the Sikh community which is run by ‘politically’ motivated and backed (mis)leaders. The ultimate effect will be the devaluing of the faith by those who are meant to be preserving it.

The balance of Miri-Piri has swung too far towards Miri under the invisible hand of the anti-Panthic elements. (Sikhi teaches that the mundane or temporal plane – Miri – and the spiritual plane – Piri – are One and need to work together)

Although there is the Christian ethos of ‘blame the sin, not the sinner’ , I feel that time has come to stop the rot, and to blame the sinners too for they should know better and pay for their sins – driving these hypocrites away from positions of power should be the start of the clean up process.

SIKH WOMEN’S RESPONSE

Lacking any direct political way for Sikhs to stop the abortion of Sikh baby girls in India Sikh women activists use the internet. They attempt to use the dogma of the Sikh religion to convert fellow Sikhs away from its male dominated worldview.

“Our Gurus did their utmost to make Sikh women equal partners. Guru Amar Das Ji sent out Sikh women to spread Sikhi. Alas, we have lost trace of those women. The worst situation now is that some of the Sikh women have lost their right to accept Will of the Creator when they are forced to abort female fetuses. The Sikh women need to come forward and express themselves as they did in our Guru’s days and become mentors to the Global women.”

Satnam Kaur, politician, London UK

From Sikh Women.com website:

Sikhism is unique in recognizing unequivocal equality for all human beings and specifically for both men and women. Among equality of all human beings, fundamental aspects of Sikh theology include implicit gender equality and independence for women. The spiritual beliefs of Sikhism (revealed to Guru Nanak in 1469) propose social reform of women’s roles in society. Sikhism advocates active and equal participation in congregation, academics, healthcare, military among other aspects of society. Female subordination, the practice of taking father’s or husband’s last name, practicing rituals that imply dependence or subordination are all alien to the Sikh principles. The universal principles of Sikhism and the spiritual beliefs are to be practiced daily and incorporated in day to day living.

Ideally, if each of us truly incorporated the Guru’s teachings in our daily lives, this would be a perfect world to live in. There would be no bickering over dowry, there would be less excuses to perpetuate violence. Equality of Women in Sikh Ideology and Practice would render moot the issues such as, “What Rights do Sikh Women Have? or What is a Women’s Identity?

The Guru’s defended our freedom and taught us to live free of bondage and tyranny. If Guru Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh were living amongst us, they would be terribly disappointed. Although some outdated traditions are still practiced, they are certainly not a reflection of Sikhi in our lives.

Sikhism equal rights extend to all beings. Acceptance and incorporation of those with special Needs, the disadvantaged, the poor or those without a gender designation are no exception to the rule.

From the Sikhs.org website:

At the time of the Gurus women were considered very low in society. Both Hindus and Muslims regarded women as inferior and a man’s property. Women were treated as mere property whose only value was as a servant or for entertainment. They were considered seducers and distractions from man’s spiritual path. Men were allowed polygamy but widows were not allowed to remarry but encouraged to burn themselves on their husbands funeral pyre (sati). Child marriage and female infanticide were prevalent and purdah (veils) were popular for women. Women were also not allowed to inherit any property. Many Hindu women were captured and sold as slaves in foreign Islamic countries.

In such a climate Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism shocked the entire society by preaching that women were worthy of praise and equal to men. Five hundred years later, the rest of mankind is only now waking up to this fundamental truth. The Gurus actively encouraged the participation of women as equals in worship, in society, and on the battlefield. They encouraged freedom of speech and women were allowed to participate in any and all religious activities including reading of the Guru Granth Sahib.

WILL SIKHS CONVERT TO SIKHI?

It is both sad and fascinating to watch and hope that Sikhs will be able to convert fellow Sikhs to Sikhi. Still, Sikh men appear much more concerned about the schisms within Sikhi and the politics in India than about fighting for women’s rights. Sikh men, even the “fundamentalist” ones, have not risen up or bankrolled Sikh women’s efforts to establish Sikh gender equality in Sikh families, communities and Gurdwaras. Sikh women activists have few male allies.

On the other hand Sikh women are welcomed into the Khalsa Knighthood and more and more young Sikh women are becoming Khalsa. Khalsa women are theologically encouraged to be leaders who can initiate others into the Khalsa as well, yet no woman in truth has ever done so (except in a couple Sant/Baba groups).

Meanwhile, the Indian government has outlawed the use of technology to discern the gender of unborn children. Here is a PBS video about the gendercide problem in India.

Karabin Sherry. “Infanticide, Abortion Responsible for 60 Million Girls Missing in Asia.” Fox News.June 2007 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,281722,00.html

“About Sikhs.” UNITED SIKHS. http://www.unitedsikhs.org/aboutsikhs.php

Singh, Jarnail “Quick Guide To Sikh Politics” Soulbride’s Kitchen https://kamallarosekaur.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/sikh-politics/

Singh, Harmander, “State of Sikh Relations” Soulbride’s Kitchen https://kamallarosekaur.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/harmander-singhs-state-of-union-address/

“Women and Violence” United Nations Department of Public Information February 1996
http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1772e.htm

Coleman, D, ed. Demography of immigrants and minority groups in the United Kingdom. London, England, Academic Press, 1982. :169-92.

Singh, Vishavjit. Sikhtoons.com http://www.sikhtoons.com

“Equality”. Sikh Women.Com
http://www.sikhwomen.com/equality/index.htm

“Women in Sikhi” The Sikhism Homepage
http://www.sikhs.org/women.htm

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Clinging to the Naam

The Sikh scripture (which is every Sikh’s only Guide and Guru), the Siri Guru Granth, has one main tip to convey to humanity.

“Practice the Naam!” the Sri Guru Granth instructs.

That is all there is too it! Simply drop everything else and focus all your attention on the Naam!

Yet what does that mean?

Literally the “Naam” means “God’s Name” or “God’s Identity”.

“God’s Reality” might be another way of understanding the meaning of the Naam.

Practicing the Naam is being constantly aware that Beloved One is really real. God exists and cares, and God is watching, and God is participating in your life. The Beloved is your audience. The Beloved knows your every thought and feeling and intention. You cannot hide anything from God. God knows the truth. In fact God IS the truth- Sat Naam! Everything else is just fibs and lies and false claims and con jobs.

You are also Creator/Creation’s audience, when God blesses you with the ability to see God everywhere, in everything. Attempting to see the Infinite One everywhere in everything is practicing the Naam. The Naam is experiencing each and every situation, day to day, moment to moment, as coming directly from God; in the form of blessings and lessons and challenges.

The Siri Guru Granth instructs us to gear our lives towards pleasing the Supreme so that in our last moments here in these bodies this life (when our life stories flash before our eyes) God and our souls will be happy with the movie we witness.

Now the Naam is also, in a more mundane sense, the act of repeating and invoking God’s Name like a mantra. Sikhs use “waheguru, waheguru….” , Christians call on the Name of Jesus.

Repeating the Naam, invoking God’s Name, calling on the Divine, moment to moment, is a technique and a meditation that we can use that helps us practice constant awareness of the Beloved.

The Sikh scripture and teacher also instructs the faithful to get together with other humble God-consecrated people and sing hymns, and share God’s Praises! The Sikh Guru does not care what religion these sisters and brothers practice, as long as they are eager to taste the Naam with us!

The Sikh Guru explains:

Devotees everywhere worship God in loving adoration. They thirst for the True One, with infinite affection. They beg and implore God; in love and affection. True devotee’s consciousness is at peace.

Chant the Naam and take to God’s Sanctuary. The Naam is the boat to cross over the world-ocean. Practice such a way of life.

(Pause and contemplate these teachings)

O my mind, even death wishes you well when you remember God through the Word of the True Teachings. My intellect receives the treasure, the knowledge of reality and supreme bliss, by repeating the Naam with my mind.

Our fickle consciousness wanders around chasing after wealth; it is intoxicated with worldly love and emotional attachment. Yet devotion to the Naam is permanently implanted within the mind, when it is attuned to the True Universal Teachings, the Shabad (the Word).
By wandering around, doubt is not dispelled. Afflicted by reincarnation, this world is being ruined. But God’s eternal throne is free of this affliction. You are truly wise when you take the Naam as your meditation.

This world is engrossed in attachment and transitory love; it suffers the terrible pains of birth and death. Run to the Sanctuary of the True Teacher; chant the Naam in your heart, and you shall swim across.

Following the True Universal Teachings, the mind becomes stable – the mind accepts, and reflects, in peaceful poise.

That mind is pure which enshrines Truth within – the jewel of spiritual wisdom.
By the Fear of God, and the Love of God; by devotion, we cross over the terrifying world-ocean, focusing our consciousness on the God’s Lotus Feet.

The Naam, the most pure and sacred, is within my heart. My body is Your Sanctuary, God.
The waves of greed and avarice are calmed within me when I treasure the Naam. Please subdue my restless mind, O Pure Immaculate One. Says Nanak, I have entered Your Sanctuary.

SGGS page 505

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Meditating the Sikh Way: Naam Jaap by Kulwant Singh Khokhar

I enjoy reading Kulwant Singh Khokhar’s books about Sikhi. This man knows his stuff!

Naam Jaap, the practice of invoking the Name of the Beloved One, is practiced by Sikhs to cure dualistic perception and to invite the Cosmic One into each moment. It is similar to the Christian idea/practice of praying without ceasing.

Recitation of the Name of God

Jaap

Jaap means ‘recitation.’ It is repeating the name of God. It may be verbal or mental. We start with verbal Jaap and develop it into the mental Jaap. Verbal Jaap is the starting or gross stage of Jaap. In it, there is so called a perceptible Naam (perceptible name of God – you know you are reciting it).

Ajappaa-Jaap

Ajapaa-Jaap is a Jaap (recitation) without doing Jaap. In this, recitation of the name of God (Jaap) becomes a habit. It is a Jaap without effort – an effortless Jaap. The Jaap of the Name (Naam – name of God) keeps going on verbally, or silently in the mind. Whatever might one be doing, the act of Jaap is there. The constant Jaap leads to Ajapaa-Jaap. This is the middle i.e. subtle stage of Jaap – imperceptible Naam: the recitation becomes automatic like a habit.

Simran

Simran is remembrance. The mind gets filled with the constant remembrance of the One, and there is no more recitation of the Naam (Waheguru). Only the remembrance of the Dvine One is left – an unbroken awareness of the Infinite One. God is always in the mind regardless of what one might be busy with. It is an advanced stage of the seeker – practitioner (one reciting the Naam). It is the third i.e. transcendental stage of the Jaap. This is the Naam beyond perception (recitation without knowing it – Just the thought).

Dheaan

Dheaan is meditation – contemplation on the Beloved One. It is thinking about God and is different from Jaap – recitation of the Naam. Dhean is the process of thinking about God and may include changing thoughts.

In the Naam-Jaap, there is recitation of the name of the Divien One, and it stays the same without any change. The mind keeps set on God. The mind is set on the Name as it is, without its modification – no changing thoughts, no thinking about various aspects of the Name.

From time to time and depending on the level of advancement, all these stages (starting, middle, advanced) keep overlapping each other, to lesser or greater extent, when doing the practice of Naam – Naam-Jaap. In whatever form – gross, subtle, or transcendental, all is the play and flow of Naam (vibrating or active Naam), may be it is in its perceptible, imperceptible, or so-called ‘beyond even imperception’ form. We may or may not be able to comprehend it, but there always is manifestation of Naam.

Naam- Waheguru

Naam is the Gurmantar – formula given by the Guru (Prophet) and for the Sikhs, it is the word ‘Waheguru.’ It means, ‘the wonderful one who removes ignorance” i.e. the giver of the light of God – Divine knowledge. It is also called ‘Shabad’ or “Word.” The word ‘Waheguru’ is not combined with any other word, and Sikhs use it exclusively to do Jaap. For Sikhs only the word ‘Waheguru’ is the Naam. The pure Naam-Jaap is recitation only of the word ‘Waheguru.’ In the Sikh world, ‘Naam-Jaap’ pertains to recitation of the word ‘Waheguru.’

PRACTICE OF JAAP

It is right (correct) in any way you recite the name of God, because there is no set or a single method of doing it. Although, basics are the same almost every instructor has a personal technique of practicing the Naam-Jaap, or will modify it according to hisor her own experience or some motive, may be selfish – to put his or her own stamp on it. The only thing is to take a start, and the help comes from the Almighty in one or the other way. If there is a problem, consult any practitioner of the Naam.
In pursuing a good cause, there can never be any wrong (error), and so no one ever needs to worry about committing a blunder or a sin when doing Jaap without instructions from any adept. The Gurbani is the instructor of the Sikhs. When doing its Jaap, Naam takes away sins, and does not add to them, one may do it in any way. Guru ji (the Sikh scripture) bestows on everyone the right to do the Naam-Jaap. By practicing it, the Guru’s orders get followed. The Jaap should be done with concentration, and all other things should be ignored. Anybody fixing conditions for doing it commits a blunder and a gross wrong.

Important is concentration, not the methods, and this is the fundamental must for resorting to the Jaap of the Beloved One’s name. We should go slow but steady, and need to be regular in our practice of the Naam Jaap. The time allotted for each session should be increased gradually so that the mind and body are without strain. We have to go on in sehj – a relaxed way (equipoise, tension-free), and need not be stubborn (obstinate) for our any goal or practice. In doing Jaap, we should move to the next step when we are well versed at the level we are.

According to the occasion and need, instructions are modified. The sequence of different steps and their contents may as well get affected to simplify the subject in an effort to make it easily understandable and applicable.

Preliminaries

Every technique of the Naam Jaap is nothing but an effort to achieve concentration on recitation of the Naam – ‘Waheguru.’

There are a few preliminaries for practicing the Naam:

The foundation of Jaap is an ethical life. Jaap itself elevates the man. The desire for an ethical life and Naam Jaap is stimulated and more easily attained in association with a good Sangat – company of the God-oriented people. One has to be humble, compassionate, truthful, sincere, and honest. He or she should have an honest avocation, do selfless service (sharing), and be selfless with universal love and other good traits. One should be tolerant, adjustable, accommodating and understanding. One should forgive and forget. These qualities are essential to achieve calmness and to stay in peace.
In the morning, use rest room – bathroom, brush the teeth, bathe or wash up with cold or warm water depending on your habit or health, put on loose clothes as per season and weather. You may take bed tea if you have the habit. Most of the practitioners stay empty stomach.

Sit down straight back, cross-legged on a thick soft padding, at any calm place, facing any direction. The hands should be resting in the lap with the fingers slightly and lightly crossed.
If, due to some infirmity or handicap, it is not possible to sit cross-legged, or on the hard surface e.g. a floor, use any other seat. A suitable chair may be helpful – it is not a luxury but a dire need.
When sitting cross-legged, never allow your feet and legs to start tingling or to become numbed. This is caused by pressure on the blood vessels and nerves, and can prove harmful – cause weakness of the limbs (paresis). Get up if tingling comes up, move about, and sit down again when it clears up.
Environment. The place should be tidy and clean, and you may keep flowers there, or use a fragrance if you like it. If you have this facility at home, the best place to sit is the room reserved for Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh Holy Book. Many of the Sikhs have pictures of the Gurus in their prayer rooms. It is a personal choice and understanding. For the Sikhs, the pictures of the Gurus are not for worship, but provide the ideal role models. These sanctify the environment, boost morale and create a base for imagination. Such things give the place an aura of Naam – spirituality. Right on entering such a room, one becomes eager to sit down for the Jaap.

The pure Gurbani Kirtan: devotional singing. Prerecorded Kirtan without any katha i.e. sermons (preaching), may enhance the effect of environment. The instrumental music may be more helpful. Be still, calm and quiet. The volume should be low enough not to interfere with the Jaap (and imagination).
Before starting the Naam-Jaap, vocal recitation – may be singing of ‘Waheguru,’ or ‘Satte-Naamu – Waheguru,’ or some Shabad – Hymn, or Gurbani Parmaans – quotations from the Scriptures, for a while, sets up mood for the Naam Jaap session.

If distracted during the Jaap, may be by sleep, for some time do the loud recitation of the Naam ‘Waheguru,” may be after washing your face, and if needed by standing up.

When doing the Naam-Jaap, for concentration bring into the mind (visualize) as many things related to the Jaap as possible. Develop the habit of feeling the presence of Waheguru – God. Try to perceive the sound or imaginary sound of the word ‘Waheguru.’ The word Waheguru vwihgurU vwihgurU itself, or the symbol ‘Ik-Onkar’ both written as in Gurmukhi <> – may be imagined fixed at a point slightly above and between the inner ends of the two eyebrows – Mid-Brow Point.

Practice of the Naam

Anyone professing another faith may replace the prophet, place of worship, mantra for Jaap, and the symbol to focus on, with the one of his or her own choice. The basic essence of the method of recitation will remain the same for everyone. One may make selections and modifications as per one’s own personal discipline, need and demand of the faith.

There are so many ways to do the Jaap of the Naam, and here is the one commonly practiced.
Fold your both hands, bow to the Guru or Guru Granth Sahib, and pray, “Bless me with the Naam and concentration on it” etc. Constantly feel that you are in the presence of the Guru. When imagining the Guru, feel that Guruji is there before you. You may bow to the Guru Granth Sahib in a Gurdwara you visit, but this is your choice. Perceive the presence of the One at all the times.

Stage I

You may start with vocally reciting “Waheguru, Waheguru,” without any restraint or inhibition. It may be with or without a Mala – rosary, or a musical instrument. Gradually, recitation will become without any Mala, or instrument, and ultimately it will become mental, without making any sound. The musical instruments will enhance the atmosphere of the Naam. The Naam-Jaap in a company (with the Sangat) gives incentive for reciting the name of God. All such things help to bring together the scattered thoughts. The recorded music, especially instrumental, may be played. Music helps to relax and concentrate the mind. The soft and subtle music is elevating.

Stage II

Sit down properly, as per your convenience. Do the Jaap of “Waheguru,” speaking out the Word (loudly), hearing the voice, and concentrating on it. In the background, God is always there in the mind. When well practiced, go to the next step.

Sit down properly. Do Jaap of “Waheguru” in a whisper, lightly focusing both eyes at the tip of the nose. When practiced, close your eyes when focusing. Try to hear your whisper, concentrate on the whispered word “Waheguru,” and keep God in the mind. When well practiced, move to the next step.
Whenever focusing eyes at any point, do so free from stress and strain on them, and turn them in very lightly. Turning eyes in too much, and with strain, will lead to headache.

Sit down properly. Do the silent Jaap of the Naam “Waheguru” at the level of your throat (in the throat).

If you can, concentrate on the imaginary sound of the word “Waheguru.”
Focus your closed eyes at the bridge of your nose (where the bridge of glasses stays normally). When well practiced, move to the next step.

Stage III

Silent Jaap of “Waheguru.” Recite “Waheguru” in your heart (mentally), without making any sound.
Concentrate on the Shabad (Word) “Waheguru,” and its imaginary sound.
Focus your closed eyes on the space between your two eyebrows, and slightly higher up – Mid-Brow Point.

Link the Jaap to breathing –

When inhaling – breathing in, mentally say “Wahe.”
When exhaling – breathing out, mentally say “Guru.”

When well practiced, move to the next step.

Place Ik-Onkar, as written in Gurmukhi <> at the mid-brow point – a little higher to the inner ends of the both eyebrows.

Focus both the eyes on it.

Do silent Jaap of ‘Waheguru’ linked to breathing –
Inhale ‘Wahe,’
Exhale ‘Guru.’
Concentrate on < Ik-Oankar, on ‘Wahe’ plus ‘Guru’… and on their imaginary sound (if you can imagine).

Completion of the Jaap

Continue the Jaap for your fixed (allotted) time-period. Increase the time of your sittings very gradually. Do not let your legs to tingle or sleep.

Bow at the feet of the Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, and thank, “ Thanks for blessing me with the Naam, and for concentration on it.”

Do five malas: rosaries, of the ‘Waheguru’ recitation, saying it mentally or verbally once at each bead.
Do one mala of Mool-Mantar.
Bow to the Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, once again, and thank for the boon of Naam, and ability to do its Jaap.
This session of your Jaap is over.

Jaap with Sangat – Congregation

Company of the other practitioners of the Naam, boosts morale and creates eagerness to do the Jaap. It is usually done in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. It may be –

Verbal Jaap – Doing the Jaap loudly, mostly by singing together. Gradually, gusto and tempo of singing fast and with force is reached, and after that they slow down equally gradually. Such ebbs and tides of singing continue in the form of Naam-Jaap with Kirtan (devotional singing) of the selected Hymns. Mostly, the word ‘Waheguru,’ is mixed with ‘Satte-Naamu – Waheguru,’ the suitable Shabads, Gurbani quotes, and stanzas from the Gurbani. It is accompanied by the forceful musical instruments, especially drums, chhaenae (bronze discs) – cymbals, chimtaae (long iron calipers – tongs), khartaals – wooden strikers, etc. Harmonium is a common instrument for Kirtan – devotional singing. The lead may be given in turn by different individuals or groups, and session may continue for one to several hours, or even overnight called Raaen-Sabaaee Keertan – Keertan for whole of the night (night vigil).

Loud singing of Gurbani – the Scriptures, immediately lifts the mind to the level of leentaa – attachment to the Naam. For reaching precise concentration, mental (silent) Jaap has its own significance and value.

Mental Jaap – In the Sangat, the Jaap after it becomes soft, becomes a silent Jaap. After ending the silent Jaap, it goes into gusto once again, and is tapered down to stop.

To clarify any point regarding the Naam Jaap, it is best to consult some local Naam practicing Gurmukh – God-oriented person. The study of any advanced material, if available, is also suggested.

(Note from KRK: I actually practice a slightly stricter version of Sikhi where we use Singh and Kaur as our last names, not family/kin/casre names. And many Sikhs like me do not use a Malas (prayer beads) to help us practice Naam Jaap. )

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