Welcome to SPN

Register and Join the most happening forum of Sikh community & intellectuals from around the world.

Sign Up Now!

Interfaith Mixed Marriage in Gurduaras

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by IJSingh, Aug 29, 2015.

  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2004
    Messages:
    105
    Likes Received:
    371
    MIXED MARRIAGES IN GURDUARAS
    I.J. Singh & Guruka Singh

    Oh! what a mess it is that we sometimes make with the best of intentions and all in the name of God and love for our Gurus. Recent incidents in Great Britain and elsewhere show us that all hell seems to be breaking out around a simple issue--and seemingly for the most sensible reasons. A hot debate is in progress on the Internet these days, and it’s getting hotter by the day.

    interfaith marriage.jpg

    What to do when a young couple, visibly infatuated with love, wants to marry when only one of them is a Sikh and the other is not? Should they be allowed to marry in a gurduara and enjoy the blessings of the Guru and the sangat in congregation?

    Believe us, this is not just a tempest in a teapot, even though some would like to dismiss it as such. There are just as many or more on the other side that believes a Sikh wedding ceremony is exclusively permitted only for a couple where the bride and groom are both Sikhs. They claim that when only one, either the bride or groom is a Sikh, it becomes a hodge-podge and an anathema – an insult to centuries of hallowed Sikh tradition.

    The issue is not new nor is it unique to Sikhs. It is also amenable to a little common sense, and that’s what we need. Let’s unravel the matter a bit.

    It is true that communities and religions have a code of conduct that emphasizes the common values and practices of a community. This promotes and assures unity and security. Such codes define boundaries between different but neighboring communities much as good fences make good neighbors. But fences remain porous; they should never become stone walls for that would kill communication among neighbors, destroy their path to progress and undermine human societies.

    All of us understand that practices like marriage and lifestyle are the fundamentals of a family. They become sacred because they guarantee continuity of a people. But the fences between neighbors do tend to morph into impenetrable stone walls.

    For instance, not so long ago, if a mixed-faith couple wanted to marry in the Roman Catholic tradition, the non-Catholic partner was required to sign a binding agreement that all children would be raised in the Catholic faith. The past 30 odd years have seen a fair degree of rethinking and turnaround in such practices, but that’s not under the lens here today. Such restrictive binding agreements diminish the fundamentals of humanity and love in the marriage by undermining the faith of one partner or the other.

    Many religions have similar laws that are binding on the believers. One must wonder about the origin of such laws. Perhaps they come from a fear of dilution of the faith, or possibly to create an insular barrier to “outsiders?” Or perhaps they are rooted in an attempt to ensure a successful marriage? If the latter, then we would say that the aim has been rather unsuccessful. We see many unhappy and broken marriages between people of the same faith, whether Sikh or not, and many successful and loving marriages between a Sikh and a “non-Sikh.”

    As an example we offer Siri Narayan Kaur Khalsa and her husband, who have been happily married for 53 years. Years ago, she received Guru's Amrit and always dresses in full bana while her husband, a physicist, remains an agnostic. She says that her Lavan ceremony was deeply and profoundly meaningful, a joining of two souls into one, and that her husband has always been supportive of her daily practice and her Sikhi. And then she mused upon the question, "Was Guru Nanak's wife (Mata Sulakhani) a Sikh?"

    The very foundation of our Sikh faith is openness to all. The Harimander Sahib (Golden Temple) was designed and built by our Gurus with four doors open to all four winds so that everyone is welcome.

    The determination of who is and who is not a Sikh is, in fact, not up to us to decide. Who lives as a Sikh is determined, not by birth, but by the Guru. The Guru chooses his Sikh, not the other way around.

    Who knows when or if Sikhi will blossom in the heart of a spouse by the Guru’s divine touch?

    This is emphatically not to say that we should enter marriage blindly.

    We can all understand that part of required premarital counseling for a mixed-faith couple should be a meeting with the priests (or equivalent) of both faiths for a serious conversation about the fundamentals of both faiths, so that a dose of reality gets added to the blinders of love.

    If the couple can decide on the one religion that would define their new entity as a family, then it should not matter which rites they choose.

    If, as some do, they want wedding rites in both faiths, one after the other, then there is an inherent problem that may surface now or years later when identity of the family and children become the issue. Because this may indicate that at some level each partner is still equally attached to his or her own tradition and that irreconcilable differences might emerge weeks, months or years later.

    But there is no rhyme or reason that suggests that a faith tradition should ban mixed-faith marriages in its place of worship.

    When a person enters a gurduara for a service – a keertan, for instance – no one has the right to question what kind of a Sikh or how good a Sikh he/she is. No one has the right to prevent someone, even if clearly a non-Sikh, from any of the functions in a gurduara, as long as proper respect is shown.

    Even if you see mixed marriage as akin to a pothole in the road of Sikhi, it is not one that will close the road down or destroy the vehicle.

    Be not afraid of non-Sikh “strangers” coming into gurduaras and participating in most seminal of our rites and practices. Welcome them!

    Remember, when you first meet anyone, he or she is always a stranger. It is only time and engagement with each other that transforms a relationship into that of the best of friends and soul mates.

    August 28, 2015
     
    • Like Like x 6
  2. Loading...

    Similar Threads Forum Date
    Sikh Weddings Crashed by Protestors Objecting to Mixed Faith Marriages Sikh Sikhi Sikhism Mar 12, 2013
    Canada Mixed marriages are on the rise in the West Breaking News Nov 23, 2011
    Sikhi and Mixed Race Marriages Relationships Nov 23, 2010
    Sikh News Birmingham's Sikh priest targetted over mixed marriage (Hindustan Times) Breaking News Sep 17, 2007
    Sikh News Birmingham's Sikh priest targetted over mixed marriage (Hindustan Times) Breaking News Jun 19, 2007

  3. namritanevaeh

    namritanevaeh Canada
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2012
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    296
    I can't emphasize how much I enjoy how this was written and seeing someone finally say this...
     
    • Like Like x 4
  4. namritanevaeh

    namritanevaeh Canada
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2012
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    296
    Did you write this? If so, thank you so much for this. It's awesome. :)

    With people debating this right left and centre (especially on Facebook) I keep saying how there are SOOOOOO many things people can argue on in a relationship. Faith or religion is only one of them. If one of you wants kids and the other doesn't, one wants another kid and the other doesn't, one thinks organic veggies and cloth diapering for baby is important and the other doesn't...or over money matters or where to live or...there are so many potential barriers.

    If you can respect your spouse's beliefs, and honour those that are their "mountains worth dying on", and they can respect yours, and there is room for negotiation in issues where you may not see 100% eye to eye, then you're probably good...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. CanadianChap

    CanadianChap
    Expand Collapse
    SPNer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2015
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    7
    Its such a shame that other Sikhs ruin these weddings. Our Guru Nanak Ji said that, Never discriminate anyone cause of their race, religion, and caste. Yet people are. People say that Guru Ji said that Sikhs should marry Sikhs, yet these people don't listen to them at all. I believe that anyone can marry anyone out of their race and religion.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  6. ActsOfGod

    ActsOfGod
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2012
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    505
    Scenario A: A practicing Sikh and a non-Sikh (e.g. a practicing Christian/Mormon/Muslim/Buddhist, etc.) heterosexual couple want to get married and have the anand Karaj ceremony in the Gurudwara.

    Scenario B: A practicing Sikh homosexual couple (or a practicing Sikh lesbian couple) would like to get married and have the Anand Karaj ceremony in the Gurudwara.

    Is there any issue or problem with A or B? Or A only? Or B only? or both? or none?

    Why? or Why Not?

    [AoG]
     
    • Like Like x 5
  7. Nav83

    Nav83
    Expand Collapse
    SPNer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    5
    I totally agree with your beginning statement of what a mess this has created. Currently, we still have many mixed faith weddings being disrturbed by protestors at gurudwara. BUT why are sikhs BORN in a sikh family but not full practising sikhs (baptised) not stopped when getting married with the anand karaj ceremony. Whats the difference? if the anand karaj is for those that are practising sikhs that those that are not but just born in a sikh family should not be allowed to be married this way. This includes people like myself, although im born in a sikh family, both parents are sikh and are practising, i dont. Im not baptised, i cut my hair, i eat meat ETC. i dont follow all Sikh rehat marayda, and my husband who is also born in a sikh family but also trims his beard etc has similar beliefs as me we were married by the anand karaj, We should not have been married by this ceremonty then.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. Nav83

    Nav83
    Expand Collapse
    SPNer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    5
    is there anything in our code of conduct around sexuality? not that i know of...or may be there is?
     
    • Like Like x 3
  9. Original

    Original
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    812
    Likes Received:
    487
    Dear All,

    Tell me about it, been to n from various Gurdwaras enquiring the same and trying to rationalise the whole palaver with a view to bring about general consensus in light of 21st Century thought, but sadly, I've had little joy and am optimistic that we'll turn it around, eventually.

    Fortunately, in both legal capacity n social responsibility roles, I've accountable contribution to sway n influence decision making executives towards a utilitarian stance rather than a retributive one. But, in the instant case, I find the loggerhead position irresoluble between those for n against mix marriages. Why ? Because arguments from both sides are profound n validating. And, I think if truth be told this one should be put out to Joe Public as a referendum.

    In answer to your questions above AOG, these are academic arguments and such must likewise follow that course to both legitimise n be conclusive thereafter as a policy formulated to effect institutional procedures and not substantive Sikhism. The discussions to be had is intrinsically one of philosophical mix within the confines of evolutionary proprities in a social rather than religious settings. This is because, where other species are shaped by evolution, humans invariably, have taken control of their own destiny. By n large these cultural crossroads are what will shape the future Sikh.

    From an atheistic view point, how much of the beautiful past should be preserved and how much of it modified to accommodate compelling set of circumstances in an ever changing world ? There is in nature, eliteness, hierarchy, to understand purity one must recoginise impurity by reason or existence. Guru Gobind's thought process was democratic [Khalsa] but it had within it seeds of perfection. Human exodus from the depths of the African Savannah to Singh King, what next - over 2 U.

    Take care - Ciao !
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. ActsOfGod

    ActsOfGod
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2012
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    505
    I disagree. These are not academic questions at all, but very practical and very relevant to "substantive Sikhism", as you put it. It seems that these issues could be very divisive in the Panth and therefore it's important to talk about them proactively.

    One thing I do agree with you on, though. The resulting answers will change the direction of Sikhi in the future. So in that sense, they are very important.

    Still awaiting answers and to read the opinions of the cyber-sangat.

    Respectfully,
    [AoG]
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Original

    Original
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    812
    Likes Received:
    487
    irresoluble
    Sir,

    I didn't say your questions were academic, it's the answers. Answering them would require both theological and secular interpretations in light of one's natural rights [falling in love, willy - nilly] against the rights of the institution to protect and preserve its ideals in a democratic society.

    Much obliged !

    Goodnight
     
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
    Expand Collapse
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    4,559
    Likes Received:
    6,988
    AoG ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    Scenario A: I talked about this several times here. First and foremost, we, the practitioners of Sikhi should teach ourselves the meaning of Lavan before the Anand Karaj takes place. Once we practice the beautiful meaning of this in our own lives, then only can we welcome others to join us, otherwise it becomes nothing but a mere mechanical ritual that Sikhi is against.

    I used to perform Anand Karajs when I lived in Los Angeles and also here in the Las Vegas area. Many were Sindhis and some were of mixed religions/races. In fact it was not uncommon to take SGGS to a hotel for the purpose. The only reason I was asked to do this was because I explained the meanings of Lavan which was a futile practice because of the limitation of time and people were more interested in the ritual than in its meaningfulness.

    Some years ago, some dogmatically fervent Sikhs started objecting taking the SGGS to the hotels because of the liquor bars which I objected to and asked them what should be the respectful distance between the SGGS and Johnnie Walker. No one had the answer but the objections stayed. These dogmatic Sikhs do not understand that in India,it is very common to close the streets for marriages. Are those streets fine for SGGS? It is sad to see that we are becoming the idol worshipers of the SGGS rather than the practitioners of the teachings enshrined in our only Guru.

    The answer to Scenario A = Yes.

    Scenario B: We have to understand first that homosexuality is not a lifestyle but rather part of the nature.It could be a gay Sikh couple and/or an interracial couple. It is the same thing. As per Gurmat values, I do not see any problems with it. Having said that, the patriarchal society of the world we live in, it is tough for many to welcome this reality due to the ingrained biases in the cultures and religions.

    For me personally, I would welcome that because my Guru taught me equality by building four doors at the Harmander Sahib, our sanctum sanctorum. But here lies the irony. In the same Sanctum Sanctorum itself, the women are forbidden to do Seva in the daily washing of Darbar Sahib. In fact, I wrote about it here.
    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/threads/bogey-men.359/

    Sikhi is based on open-mindedness and forward thinking. Let's open this clam called Sikhi and make the necklace out of the pearl/s for ourselves before we can offer the same to others.

    The answer to Scenario B = Yes

    Tejwant Singh
     
    • Like Like x 3
    #11 Tejwant Singh, Sep 5, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
  13. namritanevaeh

    namritanevaeh Canada
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2012
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    296
    I really enjoyed your post Tejwant Singh ji!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. JourneyOflife

    JourneyOflife
    Expand Collapse
    Writer SPNer

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2015
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    71
    I'm going to give my honest opinion on this. I know there are likely people who will disagree, but I assure you my goal is not to offend anyone with my remarks so apologies in advance if that does happen.



    No, they should not.



    The two are not mutually inclusive. I.E. you can come in and "enjoy the blessings of the Guru and the sangat in congregation" without being married in the Gurdwara. I think anyone should be able to come in and bow their head before the Guru regardless of whether they are married to a non-Sikh or not. But marriage in a Gurdwara? No, that is for two Sikhs.


    Note that I am not trying to argue against Sikhs marrying non-Sikhs in this post, only against Sikhs marrying non-Sikhs inside of Gurdwaras. What anyone chooses to do outside of the Gurdwara is none of mine or anyone else's business.



    There are other reasons as well. I can elaborate if need be.



    This is not creating "stone walls", this is just a matter of common sense. A stone wall would be if we didn't let anyone who wanted to enter Sikhi be able to join the Panth. Our fence is "porous" because anyone who wishes to step on the path of the Guru is able to do so at any point of their lives. It is logically inconsistent to say we should bend over backwards and allow non-Sikhs to get married in Gurdwaras so as not to "create stone walls" but then not allow people to enter the Gurdwara without taking off their shoes, covering their head or not being under the influence of mind-altering substances. Because under this logic, isn't that "creating stone walls" as well?



    As before, it would only be an "impenetrable stone wall" if we didn't allow others to join the Guru's Panth. But that is certainly not the case.



    This does not aid the argument at all. Christianity has become so diluted and cherry-picked in the west that it's ridiculous. If we want Sikhi to go down the same path then by all means let's follow the example of the Catholics but if we actually care about maintaining the core and foundation of Sikhi intact then let's not engage in the {censored word, do not repeat.}ization of our Panth just because "other communities are doing it."



    Then they are more than welcome to get married in court or elsewhere. There's only two ways I can see this going:


    a) Either we let people do whatever they want in Gurdwaras in the name of "humanity and love" even when it goes against Sikhi or


    b) Recognize that there are certain house rules which must be respected and then decide who has the authority to implement them.


    We already don't do the first. As just one example, Guru Amar Das ji banned the veil for women and this has carried over into the modern Sikh Rehat Maryada which forbids women who are covering their faces to enter into a Gurdwara. Where is the "humanity and love" when we tell Niqab-wearing Muslim women they cannot enter the Gurdwara if they do not show their face? It is therefore inconsistent to use this as an excuse to let non-Sikhs marry in Gurdwaras.


    So we’re left with option B. We already have house rules in place, all that’s left now is to decide whether the ban on non-Sikhs marrying in Gurdwaras comes from the appropriate authorities.



    What do you think is the “origin of this law” in Sikhi?



    Fear of dilution: attempts at dilution are almost unavoidable in Hindu-dominated India. Read Rehatnama literature and British accounts of the damage Hinduism had done to Sikhi back in the 19th-20th centuries and it soon becomes apparent that this ‘fear’ is firmly rooted in reality, not irrationality. On the contrary, it would be irrational to close our eyes and pretend this threat doesn’t exist because we don’t want it to be real.


    Insular barrier to “outsiders”: I wouldn’t call it that when anyone is allowed to become a Sikh. But in some sense yes, the whole point of a unit like the Khalsa Panth was to distinguish and in a way separate Sikhs from other religious groups. But the Khalsa is open to anyone wishing to join so the comparison is not wholly accurate.



    This is not the primary purpose of the ban. But I would love to see an actual study which showed the rate of success of marriage when the couple was of the same faith vs. different faith.



    Guru Nanak ascended to the Gurgaddi in 1499. He married Mata Sulakhani in 1487. It is unlikely Sikhi even existed at the time of their marriage so the question itself makes no sense. Furthermore throughout most of human civilization history it has been the norm for wives to adopt the religious customs of their husbands. So even if she wasn’t a ‘Sikh’ at the time of their marriage- which is fine because who’s Sikh would she be if Guru Nanak was not yet ‘officially’ the Guru?- it is probable that she adopted the Path when Sikhi came into the world in 1499.



    The Harmandir Sahib may have four doors, one on each side, to indicate that it is open to people regardless of wherever they may come from, but there is still only one queue that leads into the complex itself. People from all corners of the world are welcome, but we must all still adhere to the same basic guidelines as we are going in otherwise if we are coming from the opposite side we will drown in the sarovar that surrounds Harmandir Sahib.



    Exactly, so why are we screaming at each other instead of looking to our Gurus for the answer?



    I think I’ve highlighted just how illogical and inconsistent it is for us to allow mixed-faith marriages to take place in Gurdwaras and if someone disagrees, I’d love to have a discussion on it.



    This is a false dichotomy. Sitting down to listen to Kirtan and getting married in Gurdwaras are not even remotely the same thing. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation; we can allow people to do one but not the other, and vice-versa.

    EDIT: Okay so regarding the point about how there are "many unhappy and broken marriages between people of the same faith, whether Sikh or not, and many successful and loving marriages between a Sikh and a non-Sikh", I went out and actually dug up some numbers to see what I could find. I can't say the results are shocking.

    "But the effects on the marriages themselves can be tragic -- it is an open secret among academics that tsk-tsking grandmothers may be right. According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/04/AR2010060402011.html

    "Couples in interfaith marriages are, on average, less happy than same-faith ones. In certain faith-combinations they are more likely to divorce. While roughly a third of all evangelicals’ marriages end up in divorce, that climbs to nearly half for marriages between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. It is especially high for evangelicals married to someone with no religion--61%"

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/04/19/seven-things-dont-know-about-interfaith-marriage.html

    "Emmanual Clapsis writes:

    "Controversy abounds on the topic of survival rates, but the best studies show a higher survival rate for single faith marriages than [for] interfaith marriages."

    Another old study published in 1993 by Evelyn Lehrer of the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that at the five-year point in marriage:

    • About 20% of marriages between two mainline Christian denominations are divorced.
    • About 33% of marriages between a Catholic and an evangelical are divorced
    • Over 40% of marriages between a Jew and a Christian are divorced.

    Egon Mayer, a professor at Brooklyn College, published another study confirming that inter-faith couples experience higher divorce rates. Referring to the case where one spouse abandons their religion and adopts their spouse's faith, he wrote in USA Today:

    "When you bury something that is really important to you, all you're doing is building up a kind of pressure within the family relationship, which becomes a source of tension, which ultimately becomes a time bomb. If there's any reason why intermarriages break up, it's because of that time bomb.""


    http://www.religioustolerance.org/ifm_divo.htm


    So while the main reason for this ban may not necessarily be to promote more successful marriages, it does seem like there is a greater chance for successful marriage anyways when you marry within your faith than when you marry outside it. Of course there will always be outliers and "exceptions to the rule", but national studies do seem to indicate that in general if you want your marriage to have a higher chance of lasting, marry someone who shares your religious convictions.
     
    • Like Like x 3
    #13 JourneyOflife, Sep 12, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015

Share This Page