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Dynamic Morality

Discussion in 'Essays on Sikhism' started by Neutral Singh, Jul 21, 2004.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    Dynamic Morality Kamal Kaur Bagga (USA)

    "Raj karega Khalsa, aki rahai na koi
    khvar hoi sabch milainge, bachahi saran jo hoi
    ."

    The Khalsa shall rule, the rebellious shall perish
    All who endure suffering and privation shall be brought to
    the safety of the Guru’s protection.[1]

    This verse ends Bhai Nand Lal’s Tanakhah-nama, a manual of penances. For Sikhs, it offers inspiration and brings back memories of listening, as a children, to sakhis (historically-based stories) about Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Amongst the sakhis, that of Vaisakhi Day in 1699 holds a special and key place in the hearts of Sikhs. The traditional view of the events on Vaisakhi Day claims that Guru Gobind Singh Ji addressed a significant number of Sikhs in Anandpur in 1699. He began with a dramatic call for the heads of five Sikhs. One by one, five men offered themselves to the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh Ji then took each of them individually into a tent, and each time he came out of the tent with a blood-stained kirpan (sword). He later brought out the five men, still alive, administered khande ki pahul (sword initiation) to them, and asked the five men, known as the Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones) to grant him khande ki pahul. With this act, Guru Gobind Singh Ji created the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood) and issued a code of conduct to the Sikhs, including the bearing of Panj Kakkars (Five K’s) - Kesh (uncut hair), kanga (comb), kara (iron bangle), kirpan (sword) and kach (long breeches). He also proclaimed that Sikh men would henceforth take the name Singh (lion), and Sikh women would use the name Kaur (princess).

    Much modern debate focuses on the traditional perspective of the events of Vaisakhi Day, as contrasted with some historical evidence. Did Guru Gobind Singh Ji really demand five heads? Did he, in fact, administer khande ki pahul to the Panj Pyare? What, if any, did Guru Gobind Singh Ji declare as Sikh Rahit? For the Sikhs, Rahit or code is a Khalsa way of leading an honest and moral life, and although Rahit continues to evolve, its basic message of humanitarianism remains clear and untainted. McLeod defines the basis of Rahit:

    The fundamental assumption which lies behind the existence of the Rahit is belief in the reality of karam (karma) and avagavan, of transmigration in accordance with the discharge of one’s dharam (dharma). He who faithfully discharges the obligations of his dharam will earn for himself the means of release from the round of death and rebirth.[2]

    McLeod stresses, however, that technically, in order for Rahit to be a binding force for an individual, he or she must be a member of the initiated Khalsa.

    Because of alleged interpolations, agreeing on the history of the Rahit challenges scholars of Sikh studies even today. McLeod, for example, states that before 1699, the Sikhs formed a loose, rudimentary Khalsa. "The early period, best expressed in the Adi Granth collection, is largely concerned with the interior discipline of meditation on the divine Name. This particular emphasis has eversince remained a conspicous feature of Sikh belief, and as such it finds a place in the Rahit."[3] McLeod also mentions Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s hukam-namas (letters of command) as a pre-1699 source of Rahit, although he differentiates between hukam-namas and the later rahit-namas.

    On the other hand, Nripinder Singh stresses much more emphatically that Rahit begins with Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He cites three principles of Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Nam japna (repitition of the divine Name), kirt karni (straining to achieve basic needs), and vand chakna (equal distribution).[4] He also points to two sakhis have originating in the pre-1699 period. The first, Sakhi Guru Amar Das Ki Mahalla 3, claims that Guru Amar Das Ji prescribed all Sikhs to speak only when spoken to, to eat only when hungry, to sleep only when tired, and never to commit adultery. In the second, Sakhi Mahalla 5, Guru Arjan Dev Ji asks Sikhs to shun stealing, adultery, malicious talk, gambling, consuming liquor, and eating flesh. He also outlines five actions needed for liberation-partaking in the sangat (congregation); respecting the needy, humble, and distressed; arranging a marriage for one whom no one will give a spouse; instructing others on how to convert from a manmukh (one who follows his own will) into a gurmukh (one who follows Waheguru (God), and praying for all.[5] Singh’s only admission to evolution of Rahit pertains to the time of the living Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak Dev Ji and ending with Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

    The next important time period immediately surrounds Vaisakhi Day in 1699. Kavi Sainapati’s Gur Sobha provides the one reliable source of Rahit in this time frame, however, even Sainapati comes from the time of the last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, so it is difficult to ascertain anything about the Rahit previous to 1699. Gur Sobha’s main tenets admonish against the use of a hookah (tobacco pipe), the cutting of hair, and the power of the masands (priestly leaders who had become corrupt). Furthermore, Gur Sobha omits any reference to the Panj Pyare; Nripinder Singh suggests that a later scribe could have deleted this portion. Jagtar Singh Grewal also offers a cautious interpretation of Vaisakhi Day in 1699. He states that it is certain from earlier evidence that many Sikhs came to Anandpur on Vaisakhi Day in 1699, that Guru Gobind Singh Ji administered khande ki pahul and required the Khalsa to wear keshas and arms, to shun smoking, and to adopt the name of Singh. He questions however the more fantastic parts of the traditional Vaisakhi story.

    ... the dramatic call for the laying down of life for the Guru, his request to the five ‘beloved’ that they should initiate him into the Khalsa by administering pahul, the vesting of the Guruship in either the Khalsa Panth or the Adi Granth - all these very important and inter-related items are not to be found in the available contemporary evidence.[5]

    Gobind Singh Mansukhani gives the most definitive and adventurous claim as to when Rahit crytallized. He cites the hukam-nama Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave to the sangat of Kabul, Afghanistan on May 23, 1699 (after Vaisakhi Day). This hukam-nama, however, is not included in Dr. Ganda Singh’s book hukam-Name, an authentic collection of hukam-namas. Today this hukan-nama resides in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Library in Amritsar.

    You should take baptism by the sword, from Five Beloveds
    Keep your hair uncut for this is a seal of the Guru
    Accept the use of shorts and a sword
    Always wear iron Kara on your wrist,
    Keep you hair clean and comb it twice a day.
    Do not ear Halal meat,
    Do not use tobacco in any form, ...[6]

    Next, scholars of Sikh studies hotly debate the formation and role of Rahit in the early eighteenth century. As stated earlier, the traditional view claims that Rahit has remained mostly unchanged from 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh consolidated the Panth, until today. McLeod, however, insists on an alternative view : "It is... clear from the rahat-namas of the eighteenth century...that the conventions of the Khalsa were in the process of evolution during this period. The evidence is not subtantial in volume...it suggests that the quesion of the ‘Five K’s’, for example, was not finally settled until well into the eighteenth century."[8] In order to examine McLeod’s claim, this paper will examine parts of the Chaupa Singh rahit-nama, Bhai Nand Lal’s works, Bhai Prahalad Singh’s rahit-nama, Giani Gian Singh’s, and Prem Sumarag.

    Chaupa Singh Chibbar first tutored Guru Gobind Singh Ji and then acted as his aide. Although Chaupa Singh wrote a code of conduct sometime between 1740 and 1765, the rahit he outlines may date back to the years of Guru Gobind Singh’s life. Much ambiguity surrounds his inclusion of the Panj Kakkars. For example Gurmat Prakash, monthly journal claims that Chaupa Singh wrote, "Kachh, Kara, Kirpan, Kanga, Kes ki, ih panj kakaree rahat dhare Sikh so," but this statement is not to be found in the early manuscript. In contrast, the more common, vocal view states that the Chaupa Singh rahit-nama lists only three K’s - kachh, kirpan, and kes.[3] And according to Gurmat Prakash, Bhai Nand Lal, poet-laureate of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s court also declares that the Panj Kakkars distinguish the Khalsa:

    Sikhi nishani panj haraf ast kaf
    Kara, Kardo, Kachh, Kange bidan,
    Bina kes, hech ast jumle nishan
    .”

    Similarly, Bhai Prahlad Singh states "Kachh, Kes, Kanga, Kirpan, Kara, aur jo karay bakhan
    Ih kakay panj tum mano,
    Guru Granth ko sach tum mano
    ."

    Last, Giani Gian Singh proclaims,

    Rakhah kachh, kes, kara, kirpan, singh nam ko iho nishan,
    kanga, kes ke sung rahe, iho panj kakar dareh" in Panth Prakash.


    Whether the theme of Panj Kakkars dates back to Guru Gobind Singh’s hukam-nama on May 23, 1699, or it comes from these men’s rahit-namas does not shed any particularly interesting light on the issue. For Sikhs around the world, the Panj Kakkars hold importance for Kesh-dhari Sikhs (those who keep their kesh) and "mona" (or shaven) Sikhs alike. To them, the Panj Kakkars promote virtue and cohesion. Kesh and kanga show respect for God’s gifts and announce the Sikh identity. Kara helps the manmukh remember not to strike in anger or to steal. Kirpan shows concern for the helpless and the poor and the fight against oppression and injustice. Last, kachh signifies the readiness for battle and also purity of thought. Although McLeod may claim the Panj Kakkars reflect Jat cultural patterns,[3] his arguments may be easily dismissed. For example, McLeod states that Jats had a tradition of uncut hair, but he misses the point that may religious leaders of India at the time had uncut hair. Furthermore, he fails to realize that Guru Gobind Singh Ji quite deliberately sought to give his followers a distinct identity. In other words, if a person in India at the time had uncut hair, he or she was not necessarily a Sikh, but if he/she was an ininitated Sikh, she necessarily had uncut hair. Secondly, it is equally true that the Jats carried daggers, but again Guru Gobind Singh Ji had every intention of arming his Khalsa against their oppressors, the Mughals. The main concept to grasp here is that the theme of five extenal symbols remains prevalent even today and the common Sikh recognizes their validity.

    More importantly, the many rahit-namas share other similarities also accepted by the average Sikh. Common themes include charity; recitation of Nam, Japji and Sodar Rahiras; retention of kesh; respect for parents; a ban on adultery; the ideas of sangat and pangat (caste-free lines in a dharamsala (Sikh temple); a ban on dowries; the justification for the use of arms in case of injustice or oppression; prohibition from smoking, drinking, eating halal meat, and sleeping with Muslim women (in order to show respect for the adversary’s women).

    One vital code of conduct is Bhai Nana Lal’s Tanakhah-nama. Tanakha literally means reward or salary; in this case, receiving a penalty is a reward, for it puts the offender back on right spiritual track. Tanakha-nama’s major tenets include nam (recitation on the divine Name), dan (charity), and isnan (purity of mind).[3] Although, these principles do not greatly differ from the other rahit-namas, the inclusion of "rewards" in Bhai Nand Lal’s work clearly distinguishes it from the others. Accepting a dowry, using intoxicants, associating with anti-Sikh cults (like the Minas), and violating the Rahit comprise the main type of offenses. Here, the tanakhah system builds on the idea of the "Guru Panth", for the entire sangat decides an offernder’s "reward". Rewards include doing community service, distributing langar (community kitchen), reading the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and reciting Ardas. Apostasy, or renunciation of faith is the next form of violation, but technically, it applies only to Amritdhari Sikhs, or initiated Sikhs. If an amritdhari Sikh defies any of the Four Kurahits-injunctions against cutting hair, using tobacco, eating halaal meat, or committing adultery - he must appear before the ‘representative’ Panj Pyare, receive a tanakhah, reappear before the Panj Pyare, and take amrit again. Kazi Noor Mohammed, a Muslim chronicler in the mid-18th century, commented on the high Sikh moral character during the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and particularly on the last Kurahit, forbidding adultery. He wrote that when Sikh troops defeated Jahan Khan’s army, Jahan Khan ran away and left his female retainers at the battle site: the Sikh soldiers escorted the Muslim women to their homes after the battle. Guru Gobind Singh also clearly forbids adultery in his life story, Bachittar Natak. "Par Nari ki sej, bhool supne hoon na jaeeo."[3]The last type of offense in the tanakhah system is the most serious because it affects the entire sangat. A person can restore his/her Sikh status only if he/she apprears before five Takhats and receives a tanakhah.

    Another rahit-nama also stands out from the others. Indeed the author of Prem Sumarag must have had knowledge of the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab during the early nineteenth century, [3] for in Prem Sumarag, the author speaks of the ideal Sikh State, with political power in the hands of a single maharaja or padshah. "The author, interpreting the mission of the Sikh Gurus to their followers, works out the social and political implications of Sikh religious ideals. There is a persistent attempt at mutual conciliation between the ideal and the actual, suggesting that the social and religious attitudes of the Sikhs had not become rigid." For example, even today Sikhs do not completely follow a casteless social system, and although some argue that the social convention is horizontal and not vertical,hierarchy, a truly casteless Panth should not even recognize different castes because of the apellation of the titles Singh and Kaur.

    Different reform movements make up the next phase in the history of the Rahit.In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Singh Sabha movement surely prevails. The Singh Sabha utilized the Punjabi language and literary forms such as poetry, drama and the novel, to present Sikh ethics to the sangat, ethics they felt the Sikh state of Punjab had undermined with five decades of political rule. Nripinder Singh speculates that a revitalization of Sikh Scripture, rather than Rahit would have had more efficacy for the Singh Sabha: "Those who had turned their attention to a reworking of rahit materials had, of necessity to address themselves to the more important task of reinterpreting Sikh Scripture if they were to cast a more permanent imprint." In 1915 the Gurmat Prakas, led by Bhai Kahn Singh, published Bhag Sanskar, composed of commentaries on Rahit. "He [Bhai Kahn Singh] raised a Sikh metaphysical structure, as distinguished from the Hindu which had come to dominate Sikh perception in the nineteenth century," says N. Singh.

    But in 1931, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee formally acknowledged Gurmat Prakas Bhag Sanskar’s failure, and acting as the representative corporate sangat, it published a Sikh Rahit Maryada in 1950. Maryada means the practice of faith. Its definition of a Sikh is quite loose:

    A Sikh is any person who believes in God (Akal Purakh) : in the ten Gurus (Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh); in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, other writings of the ten Gurus, and their teachings, in the Khalsa initiation ceremony instituted by the tenth Guru; and who does not believe in any other system of religious doctrine.

    Although the Rahit Maryada may leave some unanswered questions, it commands the utmost respect from Sikhs today, and they generally treat it as the official word on ethics. The Rahit Maryada outlines the major Sikh ceremonies and special activities such as akhand path (unbroken readings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the time of distress or joy), the naming of child from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Anand Karaj (Ceremony of Bliss) marriage, and creation. It also speaks of nam japna (reciting the divine Name) through nit-nem Japji Sahib, Jap Sahib, Ten Savayyas, Sodar Rahiras, Kirtan Sohila, and Ardas. Most importantly, the Rahit Maryada makes a definitive mention of the Panj Kakkars.

    With even a basic knowledge of the history of the Rahit, no matter how conflicting, it is clear that some evolution of Rahit did take place after the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The more rigid idea lies in the continuity of the Rahit and its humanitarian message. Most religions condemn adultery or stealing, and some may even prohibit drinking and smoking, but the dynamic nature of Sikh Rahit gives it uniqueness and asserts its discreteness. Although having a list of "Ten Commandments" would surely end the debate on Sikh Rahit and would offer Sikhs more claritym, its inflexibility to the times would surely turn off many Sikhs. For example, a gurdwara (Sikh temple) will never turn away a mona Sikh, nor will a Sikh Youth Camp insist on the initiation into the Khalsa of its participants. "The True Guru will aid all those who would take inspiration from the sabad-bani of the Gurus and follow the rahat of the Khalsa." Sikh Rahit offers tankha for an offender, and forever allows a Sikh to better herself, to become a gurmukh in this lifetime, and to achieve liberation - the essential purpose of Sikhism.

     
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  3. Jagatguru Singh

    Jagatguru Singh
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    We do not understand the inner teaching

    Having grown up in the U.S. I have a few questions and observations. Most of the U.S. is Christian, and profess to be saved by giving their lives to Jesus. Having met people that claim to be saved, they display a lack of spirituality. Namely they profess one thing but their actions do not follow what they profess. An example is the War on Terror where the U.S. claims to be advancing the ideals of democracy, but does not give prisoners equal rights due American citizens. Clearly not a Christian ethic.

    Similarly I have found a lack of equality among those that are baptized as Khalsa. Caste is still a criteria for marriage, and women are not even allowed to do Seva at historical Gurdwaras. Clearly not Khalsa ethics.

    We could go on to name all the religions and how the most devout of the practitioners do not live up to the spiritual ideals that are described by the founder of that religion. The problem is not that we are unclear about which practices to perform, or what is the best prayer to recite, but that we do not understand the inner teaching, and we try to cover this up with a show of religion.

    It's not the life that matters, but the courage we bring to it.
    Jagatguru Singh
     
  4. Arvind

    Arvind
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    That means we know all religions have laid down principles, but it is the practitionars who follow that religion are not exhibiting their integrity.

    It is totally upto us, an individual to live upto those principles with clarity and avoid the superficial face. Instead of looking around, what others do, lets pledge to make it a point that we are not going to do those things, which are taken as a flaw in present practitionars, and be an example on our own. Just talking doesnt help!
     
  5. Amarpal

    Amarpal
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    Dear ThinkingOne Jee,

    It for this reason, which you have stated, I spend more time in learning our own religion than comparing Sikhism with others.

    With Love and Respect for all.

    Amarpal
     
  6. Arvind

    Arvind
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    Dear Amarpal ji,

    With all respect, I tend to agree with what you are saying to an extent, but my questioning/inquisitive nature takes me different routes sometimes. I understand your point, when there is so much in sikhism to learn, then why keep on wasting time outside.

    An example: This might appear an awkward or time-wasting exercise to most of the people, but you know what, when I land in a new city, I just want to get lost (carrying map sometimes but not necessary) in the city. After a few wanderings, I get more confidant, that I learn more intricate details (roads, streets) of the city on my own. Next time, whenever I get lost, I remember reaching that point sometime before, and get back on the right path. This is just the way I learn.

    Sometimes, my writings dont make much sense to me. But guess what, I am a dreamer, and want to learn the best way without any prejudice.

    Amarpal ji, your posts are so wonderful. I like reading those. Keep guiding us.

    Best Regards.
     
  7. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    This following reply I received via email by Jagatguru Singh...

     

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