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The Sikh Rehat Marayada - How Did It Come About, And Is It's Role Today Relevant?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Harry Haller, Apr 14, 2015.

  1. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    How did the SRM come about?
    What did it stand for?
    What is its role today?
    Is it tempting for Sikhs to familiarise themselves with the basics of Sikhism through it, rather than through reading and understanding the SGGSji for themselves?
    Can it be taken as an absolute guide on what makes a Sikh?
    Could the interpretation now be dated?
    Are there agendas in existence that mean the SRM could be compromised?
     
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  3. JourneyOflife

    JourneyOflife
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    Sorry for the long post, I wanted to be thorough. Hopefully somebody finds this useful.

    The Rehat Maryada is the product of a large-scale intellectual renaissance, led by the Singh Sabha movement which began in the late 19th century. There is a tendency to romanticize the period before the Rehat was drafted. A lot of people feel it came in and imposed a certain interpretation of Sikhi on the entire Panth, and that we'd be better off without it, that the period of our history pre-SRM was relatively much closer to the ideal set by our Gurus because people were free to do whatever they wished.

    This is false. There was nothing romantic about the period of Sikh history pre-SRM in the 19th and 20th centuries. If anything, Sikhi was on the decline. Sikh institutions were controlled by individuals and organizations with a vested interest. Many of these groups could most accurately be described as Hindus who wished to absorb Sikhi into Hinduism. Why? Because they viewed Sikhi as just another branch on the Sanatan tree. Actual Hindu idols were being taken into Harmandir Sahib, even at the expense of having to take SGGS out of the complex. Low-castes were barred from dipping in the Sarovar surrounding the Darbar Sahib complex because they were viewed as 'impure' and 'unclean'. Sikhi was rotting from the core, and even the British noted this phenomenon. Unlike the Hindus in control of Sikh institutions (who wished to absorb Sikhi into Hinduism), the British were relentless in their proselytizing of Christianity, and wanted to convert all Sikhs to their religion, to the point where in a few generations, the only place the descendants of these Sikhs would be able to go to see what the Khalsa looked like was museums, in old paintings and caricatures.

    The Singh Sabha was a renaissance movement with the goal of reforming the issues in the Panth. Hindus in control of Sikh institutions would need to be relieved of their power, and the Panth would need to be united under a common banner. The fact that people were running around doing whatever they wished without being held accountable to a code of conduct led to the rise of deras, sants and babas en masse. The problems with deras in Punjab today are NOTHING compared to what was going on at the time. The British pointed out how faith in the Sikh Gurus had vanished in Punjab, and it had been replaced by large-scale belief in fake babas and self-proclaimed sants.

    This is what the Singh Sabhas were up against. I'm not saying they were perfect or didn't make mistakes, but we should at least take it upon ourselves to understand what was going on in Punjab before the drafting of the SRM and WHY it was needed in the first place. The only way to stop British proselytizing of Christianity, rid Sikh institutes of Hindu control and push the deras to the fringes would be to have a complete make-over of power dynamics in Punjab at the time and flip the established control on its head. The goal of the Singh Sabhas was to eliminate Hindu control over Sikh institutions by re-instating the Khalsa Panth (Baptized Sikhs) at the helm of the most important Sikh institutions. I call this a 'renaissance' and not a 'revolution' because they were not the first to do this. The precedent for the Khalsa Panth alone to have control of Sikh institutions was actually established by Guru Gobind Singh ji after Vaisakhi 1699, when he eliminated the control the Masands had over Sikhi and replaced them with the Baptized Order of Sikhs.

    The only way to do this was to produce a document accepted by most of the Panth which would redefine what it meant to be a Sikh and who could lay claim to power within Sikhi. This is why the definition of a 'Sikh' in the SRM is actually the definition of 'Khalsa'. According to the SRM, if you haven't taken Amrit and joined the Khalsa Panth, you aren't a 'true Sikh'. Historically, this has not been the case, and there has always been a difference between 'regular Sikhs' (non-Baptized) and those who have taken Amrit and joined the Khalsa Panth. But the Singh Sabhas really had their hands tied behind their backs and were largely helpless. This redefinition of what it meant to be a 'Sikh' needed to happen to strip the Hindus and Hindu-sympathizers at the top of Sikh institutions of their power. The only way they could be eliminated was if the Panth could come to an agreement that they were NOT Sikhs, no matter what they themselves (the organizations and groups) may claim. And the ONLY real way to do this was to change the definition of 'Sikh' and redefine it to be the same as 'Khalsa'. Now, if you weren't a Khalsa, you were no longer a Sikh either, at least not a true one.

    But wait! Couldn't these individuals, groups and organizations simply take Amrit and continue doing what they were doing? If they took Amrit, technically they would now also be Khalsa Sikhs, and could lay claim to power just as much as the Singh Sabhas, right? Well yes, that is correct. That is also where the SRM comes into play. The only way to ensure that the aforementioned scenario (the Hindu groups taking Amrit and pretending to be Khalsa and retaining power) did not take place was to create a thorough 'Code of Conduct' on how the Khalsa should behave and act. Rules and regulations would need to be put in place to ensure that even if anti-Sikh entities were to take Amrit, they could not truthfully adhere by its standards without compromising the belief and actions of their old faith.

    Now, did the current SRM do that perfectly? I don't think so, because it is obvious to anybody who reads it that there does still appear to be a hint of Hindu (and even Islamic) bias within it. But try to understand what was going on at the time. This wasn't just a document for the Singh Sabhas. This was a document the entire Panth (or at least the majority of it) would need to be able to agree on. Unless it received wide-spread support, the Singh Sabhas would not have had the backing needed to oust the Hindu groups and their sympathizers from power. This means that the SRM that was eventually drafted is the product of much compromise. There were a lot of competing voices in the room, and a lot of people with conflicting opinions. They couldn't just be ignored, their support was necessary so their views needed to have been taken on board.

    But it worked. At the end of all the collaboration, we ended up with the SRM we have today, and it did its job. It may not be 'perfect' or ideal in everybody's eyes, but it was successful in destroying MOST of the Brahmanical practices that were going on in mainstream Sikhi. It laid out a code of conduct, a way of life, rules and regulations which are diametrically opposed to Sanatan/Brahmanical Hinduism. The Hindu groups and their sympathizers COULD take Amrit and technically become Khalsa Sikhs, but if they tried to enforce Hindu beliefs, ritualism and practices onto the Sikh Panth, they would be held accountable for breaking the Rehat and punished accordingly. Because of the SRM, the Hindu groups and their sympathizers were no longer considered to be 'Sikhs', and were ousted from power. They were replaced by the Khalsa, the way Guru Gobind Singh ji had intended all along. Because of the SRM's anti-Brahmanical/Sanatan stance, the idols and Hindu images which had been taken into Harmandir Sahib were destroyed and thrown out. SGGS was re-instated, and the ban on low-castes from dipping in the Sarovar surround the Darbar Sahib and participating in other practices was lifted.

    Because the SRM demands strict adherence to SGGS, the sants, the babas, and the deras operating in Punjab who had up until then been running around unchecked doing whatever they wished, were now finding themselves increasingly marginalized. They were pushed out to the fringes, which is still where they are. Even today, we find that the greatest enemies and challengers to these deras are the Takhsalis, and is it any surprise that the Takhsalis are arguably the strictest followers of the SRM? Today, the SRM provides powerful political ammunition against the destructive activities of these organizations, and the fact that they are going against the principles set forth in the SRM means they are fringe groups, when in the past they were actually as mainstream as it could possibly get.

    Even before the formal drafting of the SRM, the Singh Sabha's had been spreading the Khalsa identity among the Sikh masses and urging people to take Amrit. And while I agree the decision to take Amrit is not necessary to be a 'true Sikh', the Singh Sabha leaders had no choice but to spread it among the masses to safeguard Sikhi from British proselytizing. Large-scale adoptions of the Khalsa identity and adherence to a unified way of life, the feeling of being a part of a tight-knit community of Khalsa Sikh brothers and sisters made it more and more difficult for the British to make Christianity appear appealing to the Punjabi masses, and the Singh Sabhas were effective in barricading Sikhi from the destructive effects of massive Christian proselytizing.

    So the above is a very condensed version of what was going on pre-Singh Sabha and the events which led to the formation of the SRM. "What did it stand for"? Well as before, the goal was to flip power within the Panth on its head, rid Hindus and their sympathizers from Sikh institutions, stop British proselytizing of Christianity, push the deras/babas/sants to the fringes of the Panth and return the Khalsa to power.

    It is not a spiritual document. It can never replace SGGS ji, but at the same time, contrary to what a lot of people think, that is not its intended purpose. It is a political document intended to ensure that control of Sikh institutions remains in the right hands, and that the Khalsa remain a unified force. Even with all the problems in the Panth today, the situation is 100x better than what it was pre-SRM.

    The code of conduct, rules and regulations of the SRM are intended to nurture a sense of distinctiveness in the Khalsa Panth. The rules in the current SRM were specifically put in place to distinguish the Khalsa from the Hindus who had taken control of Sikh institutions largely since Ranjit Singh's Empire in Punjab.

    Guru Gobind Singh ji understood the need for a unique entity, distinct from all the other religions in the world, to be at the helm of Sikh institutions. Because when the Khalsa loses its distinctiveness, it becomes extremely easy for outside forces to come in and say 'Sikhs are just a branch on our religion' and to lay claim to power within the Panth. Buddhism was at one point the largest religion in India. Hinduism did not destroy Buddhism's power by waging massive physical wars against it. Hinduism absorbed Buddhism by turning the Buddha into another avatar of Vishnu, and then claiming that Buddhism was just another branch on the Sanatan tree. It also absorbed Jainism in a similar fashion.

    The one thing which has prevented Sikhi from being absorbed, against all odds, is the distinctiveness of the Khalsa Panth. Even the most ferocious "Sikhs are Hindus" individuals cannot account for Guru Gobind Singh ji's Khalsa Panth without making extremely outlandish (and easily disprovable, if you know the relevant history) claims. Even when Hinduism has gotten close to absorbing Sikhi (like pre-Singh Sabha), the Khalsa has always been there to bail it out and keep it alive.

    Guru Gobind Singh ji understood that the world is always changing and that circumstances are not always the same. This is why he gave the Khalsa complete political power within the Panth, which also entails the power to draft, revise, edit and destroy Rehats. As the world changes, Rehats must also evolve to ensure the Khalsa remains distinguished and unique, so as to prevent Sikhi from being absorbed/destroyed by other religions.

    Far from simply wanting to impose their version of Sikhi on everybody, the leaders of the Singh Sabha were using the power which had been rightfully given to them by Guru Gobind Singh ji to rid Sikhi of Hindu-control and reclaim power for the Khalsa, effectively destroying most of the Brahmanization which had seeped its way into mainstream Sikhi over the years and shielding Sikhi from the proselytizing of Christianity by the British.

    The same as it has always been: to preserve the sanctity of Sikhi by ensuring power remains with the Khalsa and highlighting the distinctiveness of the Khalsa Panth from other religions. Despite what a lot of people think, this isn't even the first Rehat ever drafted. Rehats have existed all throughout Sikh history since the creation of the Khalsa, and there are plenty from the 18th century especially, if I remember correctly. The Rehats have only applied to Khalsa Sikhs, with non-Khalsa Sikhs free to interpret and live by Sikhi however they wished.

    The deras exist because they ignore the SRM, and they're some of the most destructive organizations within Punjab today.

    Problems arise when people start thinking the Rehat isn't necessary or don't understand its significance. Do you know what happens when the Panth, as a collective, starts to discard the Rehat because they feel it should no longer apply, is only holding Sikhi back and people should just do whatever they want? This is what happens:

    http://dailysikhupdates.com/hazur-sahib-singhs-welcome-tara-singh-with-open-arms-as-their-leader/

    http://www.sikh24.com/2015/04/02/bj...i-hazoor-sahib-management-board/#.VSze7vldUnO

    A member of the BJP has now taken control of Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib. And the worst part? The Sangat there doesn't even seem to care. Hindu right-wing RSS forces have now taken control of one of the most important Takhts in all of Sikhi. This guy is a stooge of Hindutva. For those of you who don't know what Hindutva is, please take the time to do some background research. For Hindutva, Sikhi is just another branch on the Hindu tree and must be absorbed at all costs, just like Buddhism and Jainism were absorbed in the past.

    This is disgusting beyond belief. This is what happens when people don't pay attention to the SRM. This is what happens when people start to ignore Guru Gobind Singh ji's Hukam for only the Khalsa to control institutions within Sikhi. The SRM exists for a reason, and until Sikhs begin to acknolwedge the indespensible role it plays within the Panth, these occurrences are only going to get worse over time. Now that Hindutva control one of the msot powerful instituitions within Sikhi, what's stopping them from pushing their "Sikhs are Hindus" agenda onto the entire Hazur Sahib Sangat?

    The man isn't even an Amritdhari. This appointment has set a very dangerous precedent within the Panth. Not only has it now become appropriate for the GOVERNMENT to decide who should and shouldn't be in control of SIKH power, but what's stopping the next Hindu from coming in and trying to take power somewhere else within the Panth?

    The SRM provided a security blanket against these sorts of infiltrations. It made it clear that only Amrithdaris were allowed to control powerful Sikh institutions within Sikhi. And if they tried to impose Hindu dogma onto the Panth, they would be breaking the rules and regulations it contains, and would be punished accordingly. But the fact that this man isn't an Amritdhari means there is no way the Panth can hold him to account. He can do whatever he wishes, he isn't Amritdhari so the SRM doesn't apply to him. Now that he's been appointed, it opens the door for more Hindus and Hindu-sympathizers to gain control within the Panth. And without the SRM to hold them accountable, there is no way to stop them from doing anything they want.

    If Sikhs want to ignore the SRM then that's fine, they just shouldn't complain when the whole work of the Singh Sabha movement is undone and Sikhi is once again under the control of Hindu/Brahmanical/Sanatan forces. The appointment of this man, by completely ignoring the Sikh Rehat Maryada, may be a horrible foreshadow of things to come...

    I replied to this in the other thread. In short, I think it depends on the individual, not whether they follow the SRM. Somebody who is really interested in learning more and more about Sikhi will do so whether they follow the SRM or not, and somebody who doesn't give a damn will refuse to learn whether they follow the SRM or not.

    Historically, Rehats have been used to differentiate between 'regular Sikhs' and 'Khalsa Sikhs'. Rehats were never really intended to define everything about what it meant to be a Sikh. This current Rehat has redefined 'Sikh' to mean 'Khalsa' (when historically, there has been a difference), and it did so for reasons mentioned earlier in this post.

    Perhaps, but that is something the Khalsa Panth needs to decide together. They have the power to change it if they wish. I personally feel that Rehats should be reevaluated every 20-30 years to keep up with the fast pace at which the world is changing. But I still believe in the core message behind our current Rehat, and really appreciate the huge positive impact it had on the Panth after its drafting.

    I really want to finish this post by pointing out that even I don't feel it is necessarily perfect. I know there's a lot of other people, including on this site, who feel it has its shortcomings. That's okay, there's nothing wrong with holding that view. As before, this Rehat is the product of much collaboration and compromise. But that's what made it so effective. I don't think there has ever been a Rehat in the history of Sikhi which has been as effective as this one at uniting the Panth and radically altering its future. This Rehat pretty much ensured the future survival of Sikhi.

    Even if as individuals we find practices/rituals in the Rehat which we may not fully agree with (like waking up and meditating on 'Waheguru'), that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater, because there's no way to overlook the tremendously positive net effect it has had on the Sikh Panth.

    Those individuals who do not wish to follow it are not being 'bad Sikhs', and there is nothing really wrong with not taking Amrit. But at this point in time, all of us need to put our differences aside and get behind the SRM. The Hukam of our Guru is being trampled on. The government of Maharashtra, one of the most aggressive proponents of Hindutva (i.e. 'Sikhs are Hindus' propaganda) in all of India feel they have the right to interfere in Sikh affairs and decide who can and can't lead our Panth. This sets a very dangerous precedent for other non-Amritdharis to come in and lay claim to the same power.

    And the worst part? The Sangat welcomed him with open arms, like is shown in the links I provided above. Instead of ignoring the SRM, we need to come together and recognize the importance it plays in protecting Sikhi. It wasn't just drafted by a bunch of old guys who got together to define for others what it meant to be a Sikh. The ruling for ONLY the Khalsa controlling Sikh institutions exists for a reason, because only the Khalsa are required to follow the SRM to the fullest, and the SRM is very strictly against the propagation of Hindu propaganda onto the Sikh Quam. Those who break the Rehat are punished, but without it, there is nothing to hold them accountable.

    Unless Sikhs get their act together and oppose moves like this, things are only going to get worse. Without the SRM to act as a shield against non-Sikh organizations taking control of our institutions, Sikhi could very well go down the same route as Buddhism and Jainism. The longer Sikhs ignore their history or act like it isn't important, the longer people are going to keep taking advantage of us like this. "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." (George Santyana). I guess it's up to Sikhs now to decide whether they want to actually learn the history and prevent themselves from going down the same road as their ancestors, or make the same mistakes their ancestors made and allow Hindu organizations and their sympathizers to take control of all of Sikhi.
     
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    #2 JourneyOflife, Apr 14, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  4. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Journey of life ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Interesting thoughts!

    Are these your own?

    Thanks

    Tejwant Singh
     
    #3 Tejwant Singh, Apr 14, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  5. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    not at all, I found it extremely useful

    I can see what you are saying, some sort of standard, its a pity it did not stop the deras and the pakhandis, but we would probably have a lot more without the SRM.

    well so far so good, nothing I do not agree with or believe

    lot of good information, I can see what you mean by history now, as opposed to the history that is rooted in Sakhis, fair point.

    I see why you hold the SRM in such high regard, again all fair points.

    this is all making very good reading!

    I appreciate the education, heartily, clearly the SRM has achieved a lot.

    All extremely well written, very good, very informative, I have scoured google and it appears that you have written this yourself, well done.

    that is something good to stand for!

    not so much a guide to Sikh living, more a clear cut guide as to who is a Sikh and who is not a Sikh!

    yes, I can see that

    We are singing from the same song sheet here.....

    When I spoke of people viewing the SRM as a shortcut, I should have made it clear that I am talking about certain types of people, you know the ones, the ones that start ordering cheap chinese made Kirpans, and enormous underpants, because to them, that is Sikhi. You have to understand that people like yourself are extremely rare, well educated, tactful, learned, very rare. Here in our little corner of the internet, I would like to think we do try and push the barriers forward, to encourage debate outside the box, to use discretion and wisdom when looking at Sikhism. I also have a particular sense of humour, which I guess takes time to understand, I will concede that the SRM is a shortcut to Sikhism but only for a certain type of person.

    well to be fair any document that takes on the role that the SRM has, is going to have shortcomings to some, you cannot please everyone, I don't have anything against the SRM myself, however, I am glad of my twee comments, because thanks to them, and you, we have all learned a lot, and for that, and your time, you have my thanks.

    absolutely

    absolutely excellent post! thank you once again for taking the time to write it, we need more people like you......
     
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  6. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Moving forward to the future, would you agree that our understanding of Gurmat is changing? Are we looking deeper and deeper into the SGGSji, are we more inclined to go diving for pearls of wisdom rather than just taking the surface meanings that have not only influenced Sikh scholars, but, in my opinion, act as a red herring to many. There are still many Sikhs that take the mention of Hindu deities as proof of existence, the other day I was told that Yamraj is part of Sikhism.

    Do you think it is time for the SRM to be completely updated? do you think it is time for another renaissance?
    The trouble is, with so many interested parties, whose opinion do you take on board? whose opinion is word? Do we have any choice but to develop a personal relationship with the SGGSji and make our own opinion?
     
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  7. JourneyOflife

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    Thank you ;) I’d like to add a few more things to this discussion which I feel are important:

    I think in cases like this, we only have ourselves to blame. There’s nothing the Rehat could’ve said which would have eliminated them altogether.

    There’s nothing particularly wonderful about the deras and fake babas/sants. It doesn’t take a lot of work to figure out that they are going against Sikhi- not just the SRM, but the SGGS ji too. I don’t think they have anything amazing to offer their followers either. And with the rise in news stories about pakhandi babas in Punjab, you’d think the majority of the population would steer clear of them at all costs. So why isn’t this the case?

    The answer is actually casteism. The reason these deras are able to attract followers isn’t because their philosophy/teachings are amazing. There’s nothing any of them can offer (for a fee, of course) that Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji doesn’t already give out to the entire world for free. But the reason business is booming for them is because Sikhs are still paralyzed by the poison of caste.

    At one point in our history, low-castes would literally FLOCK to Sikhi en masse to escape the discrimination they faced due to caste in their old religions, whether Hinduism or Islam. A lot of people don’t know this, but Jats were originally a low-caste in Punjab. They are a low-caste according to the Hindu Varna. Which always makes me laugh now that they run around shouting about ‘Jat Pride’ and ‘balle balle I’m a Jat Bruuuuah’ when for most of their history, they were looked down upon by the Hindu Brahmans, who considered them to be inferior.

    The reason Jats have power in Punjab today is because in the 18th century, they were the main people who converted into Sikhi. As a result, the Sikh Misls (independent units of the larger unified confederacy) of that time were dominated by Jats. Sikh military power soon became Jat military power. The Guru’s Sikhi empowered the low-caste Jats to go from being spat upon by the Brahmans to the rulers of all of Punjab and beyond. That’s why today, caste in Punjab is somewhat different to caste under the Hindu Varna. Whereas Jats were originally low-castes in the Hindu system, they are high-caste’ in the Punjabi system, due to past military success, empowered by Sikhi.

    There have been a few exceptions, though. The most prominent one is the example of the Nihangs, who unlike other groups, have not historically been dominated by Jats and Khatris, but by what are today called in Punjab “chooras”. People began to call them ‘Mazhabi’ out of respect after they converted to Sikhi, since “choora” is considered derogatory.

    I feel they’re a great example to bring up because it really highlights the differences between Sikhi then vs Sikhi now. Mazhabis were really as low as you could get as far as caste-distinctions went. But they became the fiercest warriors in the entire Sikh Khalsa. People started calling them ‘Nihangs’- Persian for ‘Crocodile’- due to their ferocious fighting style. The British were afraid of them and called them ‘fanatics’, and slowly tried to dissolve their traditions. They were so powerful that even Maharaja Ranjit Singh had to obey them. One of the greatest Sikh warriors in history- Akali Phula Singh – was the leader of the Nihangs during Ranjit Singh’s Empire. They were the ‘suicide squads’ of the Sikh army, because they always fought to the death and refused to run away. They were ruthless, and despite coming from the lowest-castes in the land (they were mostly chooras/Mazhabis and Dalits), commanded respect wherever they went.

    Such a shame that today, they are actually some of the most discriminated against groups in all of Punjab. Sikhi today is controlled mainly by Jats who look down on the low-castes who make up groups like the Nihangs.

    This is probably one of the main reasons that deras have been on the rise in Punjab recently. In previous times, even though mainstream Sikhi (like the misls) may have been controlled by the Jats, there were always safe havens for the low-castes, like the Nihang groups, to join. It’s almost like there’s a vacuum within Sikhi now. Now that the Nihangs are pretty much irrelevant in Punjab and Sikhi, there’s no place for lower castes to turn to in order to escape the discrimination they face by Jats and Khatris in other parts of Sikhi.

    And that, unfortunately, is why so many of them go running to deras and pakhandi babas- to escape caste discrimination. We only have ourselves to blame for the rise of deras and fake sants. Until Sikhs get their act together and realize that both the SGGS ji and the SRM are anti-caste, and until the discrimination of people from low-caste backgrounds continues in Punjab, these deras are only going to get bigger and more powerful.

    Without groups like the Nihangs, the lower castes just don’t have anywhere to go except the deras to escape the discrimination. And what a massive shame too, when throughout our history, Sikhi AS A WHOLE was where Hindus and Muslims would run to in order to escape the discrimination they faced in their old faiths.

    The Rehat cannot do anything about this. This problem will never go away until Sikhs begin to throw caste pride into the rubbish bin, which is where it belongs.

    Historically, this has not been the case. The Rehats were actually never intended to define, clear-cut, who is a ‘Sikh’ and who wasn’t a Sikh. The reason for this is because there was always a distinction between being a Sikh of the Guru, and being a member of the Guru’s Khalsa. The easiest way I can explain it is like this: not every Sikh is a Khalsa, but every Khalsa is a Sikh. The Rehats were used to distinguish between ‘regular Sikhs’ (Sahajdhari) and ‘Khalsa Sikhs’ (Amritdhari), not between Sikhs and non-Sikhs.

    The reason for this is because ‘Sikh’ has always been a very open and lax term. Throughout our history, we also have had people who identified both as ‘Sikh’ and ‘Muslim’ at the same time, and people who identified as both ‘Sikh’ and ‘Hindu’ at the same time. This is reflected in the history and even in some Shabads within SGGS ji itself. As long as you considered the Guru to be your spiritual teacher you were a Sikh, but to take the Guru as your eternal spiritual guide didn’t necessarily restrict you from partaking in the traditions and life-events of other religious communities.

    After 10 generations, Guru Gobind Singh ji’s Khalsa became the entity within Sikhi which was COMPLETELY, 100% dedicated to Sikhi, and nothing else. To be a Khalsa means you give up identification with your past faiths and follow the Sikh spiritual path to the fullest. Unlike ‘Sikh’ which is a relatively loose term,‘Khalsa’ is much more defined, and because to be a Khalsa is to break free of your ties to your old faith, the Rehats were used as a code of conduct for every Khalsa to follow in order to create that distinction. So for the Khalsa members the practices in the Rehat must be followed in order to uphold that distinction and sense of uniqueness

    I think this would be a really interesting point of discussion. There’s already a great post I know of which captures my thoughts on this perfectly and explains it in good detail. I could copy-and-paste it here if you guys like and we could continue a discussion on this (it isn't that long). I think it is near impossible to understand why the practices in the Rehat are so important without understanding the difference between ‘Sikh’ (Sahajdhari) and ‘Khalsa’ (Amritdhari).

    Yes, I understand completely what you mean. I’ll happily admit that up until a few months ago, I was about as anti-SRM as you could get. I actually hated it, and thought it had damaged Sikhi beyong repair.

    The reason? Because I always heard people saying stuff to me like “just follow the Rehat and its all good”, or when a new-comer to Sikhi had questions to ask, people would just tell him/her to read the SRM.

    I felt this was ridiculous, that people were trying to replace SGGS ji with the SRM. When a person comes to Sikhi, why tell them to look at the SRM, when they should be forming a relation with the Guru- Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji? Why were people telling each other to “just follow the Rehat” when Sikhi is about the priceless wisdom in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji?

    It wasn’t until I actually began to study the history that my opinion completely changed. There’s nothing wrong with the SRM, the problem is actually those people who try to turn it into a spiritual document when its not. The SRM was never intended to be a spiritual document; it was always supposed to be political. It wasn’t the Rehat’s fault people had began to turn it into a replacement to the SGGS ji. Nowhere does the Rehat say that it is a supposed to be a substitute for SGGS ji, and studying the history, it becomes very clear that was never the intention of the Singh Sabha movement either.

    So no worries mate, you don’t have to explain anything. I completely understand what you mean about “cheap Chinese made Kirpans” and “enormous underpants” lol, one of the biggest shames in the Panth today is that even though Guru Gobind Singh ji had given his Khalsa the 5 K’s in order to distinguish them from the rest of the world, to act as a uniform to remind the wearer their commitment to Sikhi, today we have a lot of people (but definitely not all) who view the 5 K’s as these holy items which make you better than everybody else, and that just by wearing them you are being a ‘good Sikh’.

    I feel it is reasons like this we must be even more committed in promoting our history. The answers to questions like “why do we even need the SRM?”, “why did Guru Gobind Singh ji create the Khalsa?” and “why do the Khalsa wear the 5 K’s when the SGGS criticizes the Pundit’s sacred thread” all become clear when we examine the actual history surrounding the cementing of the Sikh identity from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh ji, the relationship between ‘regular Sikhs’ and ‘Khalsa Sikhs’, the use of Rehats in early Khalsa history and the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the modern SRM in the 20th century.

    But if we ignore our history, it becomes that much easier for people to come in and spread misinformation and propaganda (e.g. “Sikhs are Hindus”) among the Sikh masses. The BJP member was able to become leader of Takht Hazur Sahib beause the Sangat has forgotten Guru Gobind Singh ji’s Hukam for ONLY the Khalsa to control Sikh institutions. They have forgotten why the SRM says the same thing, and that all those rules and regulations it contains aren’t to spoil their fun or restrict them from practicing Sikhi in their own unique way, but to act as check-points and safety nets to make sure anti-Sikh entities can’t just take Amrit and lay claim to power within the Panth. Those rules exist so that if people try to spread Hindu ritualism, propaganda and dogma onto the Sangat, they will have effectively broken the Rehat, and will be liable for punishment. But without the Rehat to hold people to account, we have no way of regulating what goes on in our Gurdwaras or what is taught to our Sangats. There needs to be a standard our leaders must adhere to, and that standard is outlined in the Rehat. Without it, we are digging our own grave, opening the door for Hindutva forces to come in and take control of our organizations, just like we were controlled by Brahmanical/Sanatan powers in the past, pre-Singh Sabha.

    Lol don't thank me, you just asked all the right questions in the perfect order, once I started typing I couldn't stop :p

    Np, I'm glad you liked it. I look forward to having a further discussion with you guys on any points that you find interesting.
     
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    #6 JourneyOflife, Apr 15, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
  8. JourneyOflife

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    Sat Sri Akal,

    Yes, I typed the post up myself. I can't claim all the ideas for myself though lol, a lot of what I learned has come from discussing with other people who are interested in the history. But as for the post itself, I put it together myself so if you have any questions about it or comments, please do share!
     
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  9. JourneyOflife

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    Yes, definitely! I think especially with the rise of the internet and now that it is easier to share information than ever before, like-minded individuals from all over the world can come together, share, discuss and learn with one another when in the past, that never would've been the case. Those of us posting in this thread never would've been able to have a discussion like this in real life because we almost certainly never would've met, it is only possible because of the internet. The internet provides platforms for like SPN where people can discuss Sikhi without all the hagiographies, magic stories and shallow understandings which have plagued the Panth for such a long time now.

    I think this is especially true of the younger generation. A large number of the most committed and most intelligent Sikhs I've had the pleasure of meeting, whether online or in real life, are all very young, with a significant portion still completing their education. The younger people like to ask questions and challenge the status quo, and I've noticed a lot of them, after first challenging the dogmatic understandings of Sikhi taught to them by their elders, begin to realize that Sikhi is just so much different to anything they had previously taught. That the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is nothing like the scriptures you find in other religious traditions. That who the Gurus were and what they did is just so unlike anything you would normally expect from 'prophets' in other traditions.

    I think as long as young people keep asking questions, and platforms like SPN continue to exist where they can come to let it all out and explore Sikhi in a way their parents had never taught them, the better it is for the future of Sikhi.

    I really like a lot of things about the current Rehat, it is actually A LOT better than a large number of the Rehats we've had in the past, especially back in the 18th century. I'm not sure about throwing it all out, but I definitely think a lot of it needs to be updated. The thing is, when this Rehat was drafted back in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, 99% of Sikhs were doing one of two things: either working and living on a farm in rural Punjab, or working as soldiers in the army (where they were massively over represented). Most were doing the former, and in a lot of ways, this Rehat has developed to compliment an agrarian lifestyle. This is reflected in things like the timing of the Nitnem Banis. The reason it asks you to wake up before the sun comes up and read the first portion of your daily Nitnem and contemplate Waheguru at that time is because when the sun starts to rise, farmers are already leaving to go tend to their crops. If the sun comes up between 6-8 AM and that's the time a farmer has to leave to work in the field, then it makes sense to wake up earlier (3-6 AM like the Rehats says) and perform your Nitnem during those hours. That way, everybody would be able to do them.

    Likewise, the Rehraas at 6 PM would be when most farmers have returned from their field work and are done for the day. And then the Kirtan Sohila at 9 PM is when most would go to sleep, to be able to wake up on time the next day. See why it is timed like that? It is to correspond with the working schedule most people had back then, and because Nitnems are encouraged to be done in Sangat, they wanted to make sure most people would be free during the Nitnem times, which is why they picked these hours :)

    But now that Sikhs have spread out all over the world and a very significant portion do not work in agriculture, it should be revised to account for all the different professions the Sikh community is involved in these days.

    Renaissance? We absolutely need one in this century, hopefully before the middle of it. I think this time, the leaders of the renaissance are going to come from outside of Punjab rather than inside it. With such a huge drug problem and the fact that caste discrimination continue to plague the population, tomorrow's Sikh leaders aren't in Punjab, they're in places like the UK, Canada and the United States. Western-born Sikhs who are away from the drug problem and haven't been raised in a culture which worships caste, and who have studied the SGGS ji for themselves, these are the people who will revitalize Sikhi. Likewise, Sikhs need to begin doing Parchar and spreading Sikhi to people who aren't Punjabi. The Guru's Sikhi is for all of the world and shouldn't be limited to a single state in India. The more non-Punjabis who come into Sikhi, the better it is for Sikhi's future. When foreigners make up a large portion of the Sikh population, caste problems should begin to die by themselves, as no one really cares that much about caste outside the subcontinent.

    I like to be optimistic. I recognize there are problems in Sikhi, but I really think most Sikhs have the right intentions. You have some crazy voices in Sikhi, but from what I've seen, the average person is just that- they're normal people who just want to be able to practice their Sikhi,. nurture their relationship with the Guru and with Waheguru in peace. This is why Guru Gobind Singh ji structured his Khalsa as a democracy. Because even though you are always going to have some crazy voices coming from all different sides of the spectrum, most of the voices are normal and will be able to balance them out.

    Guru Gobind Singh ji recognized that a democratic Khalsa was needed to ensure that one extreme group doesn't impose their wishes on everybody else. That's why the Singh Sabhas had to collaborate with so many other people, because they couldn't just impose their will on the entire Panth without the support of the majority. That's why this Rehat is the product of much collaboration. That's why even though this Rehat may not be perfect, it is MUCH MUCH better than the Rehats we've had in the past where one person alone was telling everybody else what to do.

    As long as we stick to Guru ji's collaborative principles, I think we'll be fine. We have our problems, but most Sikhs do genuinely want what's best for the Panth :)
     
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  10. JourneyOflife

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    Okay so the following was not written by me, but I feel it encapsulates my views almost perfectly. I've made a few alterations to the original which I think make it better. Hopefully we can have some sort of a discussion on this:

    "I think my opinion will be rather controversial, but it's the result of what was a lot of soul searching and researching. It's rather long, so prepare yourself.

    We have always heard about how Sikhs were just a sect of Hindus-it is a nonsense assertion, but more about that later. However, a LOT of research suggests that the gap between Hindu and Sikh was rather fuzzy. What was Kaura Mal, a Hindu who cut his hair yet helped the Khalsa and believed in the Gurus? Why does the Guru Granth Sahib contain advice for Hindus, and some from Hindu poets? Why do Punjabi Hindus go to Gurdwara often? Well, it's not that Sikhi and Hinduism have a special relation-if you look at GGS, there's advice for Muslims as well. And if you look at the history, you'll see that unlike the intolerance of Pakistani Punjabis towards other faiths is a recent trend-Bulleh Shah, a revered Muslim Sufi saint, praised the Sikh Gurus. The foundation-layer of Harimandir Sahib was Muslim. Mardana was Muslim, as was Pir Budhu Shah. And looking at Guru Nanak's peculiar death story...we know that his burial rites were disputed between Hindus and Muslims, but why not by Sikhs? Because Sikhism, for a long time, was not a religion-it was a philosophy. It was the culmination of universal spirituality (which was already being partially expressed through Bhakti and Sufi movements), and added a nature of its own. That's why the nature of Sikhism was so open.

    Where does the Khalsa fit in? Well, let's first clarify some things about the Khalsa-throughout Sikh history until Singh Sabha, the Sikh historical figures we talk about, including the members of the Sikh Empire, the misls, etc, were all KHALSA, not Sikhs.

    So, with this in mind, let's go to Vaisakhi day. Guru Gobind Singh ji establishes a Panth, a dharam, an autonomous body known as the Khalsa. The Khalsa was only answerable to Guru and God; unlike Sikhism, you could not be a Khalsa and another faith. Khalsa was the religion established. If you look at GGS, it gives you reasons why idol worship and caste, etc are useless or a waste of time. It does not say "don't do them because they are against Sikh beliefs." It is not a rule book. It does not force you to do anything. Which is why many people did continue to do things like idol worship even though SGGS ji talks about how it is useless. The Khalsa however, outright bans idol worship and caste. It's more of a religion. Why did Guru create it? Well, by now the Sikhs were developing their own identity, starting with Guru Nanak (no Hindu no Musalman), Guru Arjun (I am neither Hindu nor Muslim), to Guru Tegh Bahadur. Guru Gobind Singh formalized the distinct Path which had begun with Guru Nanak and developed by the further Gurus. Which is why we have religious tokens, despite Sikhism being so against outward symbols-they were necessary as a uniform, a distinction of the Khalsa. Even authors like Khushwant Singh and Oberoi, who believe Sikhism is a manifestation of Hinduism, cannot reconcile the autonomy of the Khalsa, who never had a spiritual link with Hindus or Muslims and were autonomous. They cannot reconcile the fact that Guru Gobind Singh ji explicitly forbade his Khalsa from taking roders from Brahman elite. He completely destroyed every link with Hinduism and Islam and solidified the unique Path, the foundations of which were laid by Baba Nanak, 200 years prior to the creation of the Khalsa.

    The other reason is that a leader was needed for the Sikh Panth. The mahants and manji system (ironically Sikhi's failed attempt at a clergy) was dismantled by the tenth Guru. Yet, Guru Sahib realized that something was needed as a leader of the Panth, particularly since he wanted to stop the Guruship succession. Who did he put in charge? Not a clergy, but a sort of demeritocracy. The Panj Pyara were representatives for the Khalsa Panth, which was made up of people who loved Sikhi enough to take the Amrit (not to say Guru Nanak's path did not need full dedication of course) and don the Khalsa identity. Guru's last words were actually more along the line of "my body lies within the Khalsa, my mind within the Granth Sahib". The Khalsa was a kind of overarching leader for all Sikhs, which is why Sehajdhari Sikhs like Kaura Mal respected them.

    Ultimately, the Khalsa was so busy fending off Mughals and Afghans, they gave management of Gurdwaras to the Sahejdhari Sikhs, who would then lead to the whole crisis where Hindu rituals overtook Khalsa authority. And then Singh Sabha, a Khalsa group, came and redefined a "Sikh" to mean a diluted Khalsa, in order to unify all Sikhs. I think it was a good move because the Khalsa was losing it's values and becoming corrupt, and the Sikhs were moving from authority of Khalsa to authority of Sahejdhari Sikhs, or Hindus who followed the Sikh philosophy (let's make it clear-although Guru Gobind Singh did not eliminate others who followed the Sikh philosophy, he clearly placed it's precedence as a sort of ruling body for all Sikhs, becuse the Khalsa represents the ultimate culmination of the Sikh teachings where you leave your Hindu/Muslim roots behind). But it's clear that they redefined what a Sikh means. Today, we use that definition. Whether that definition includes long or cut hair is a debating point, and may change in the future.

    If you choose the Guru's definition of Sikh...the Hindu+Muslim teachings are irrelevant, so it's kind of murky. The Gurus made their own identity, by keeping long hair and not identifying with Muslims or Hindus. Thats what became the Khalsa." http://www.reddit.com/r/Sikh/comments/1rzf58/being_a_sikh/cdsodlr?context=3
     
  11. Harkiran Kaur

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    Really?? Most Taksalis I know vehemently DENY the Sikh Rehet Maryada!

    Damdami Taksal has their OWN Rehet Maryada, and they outright speak against SRM.

    DDT's RM has some major differences like: number of nitnem banis recited in a.m., issue of raagmala, and huge discord on issue of women. Namely: Women are barred from nearly ALL prominent seva in the DDT RM. Granthi, Raagis, reciting Akhand Paaths, Panj Pyaras etc are all listed as 'Singh' hence barring these things from women. Also, Singhnis are told at time of marriage that they are to see their husband as 'God' while the Singh is told to see his wife as his 'faithful Singhni' (follower). It's pretty apparent that DDT see females as a lower status to males, such that females are to see their husband as a God over them (and serve them as such). This goes against Gurbani which very clearly states all humans are equal including male / female. They also bar women from sitting on Guru Ji's tabiya at all during menses for reasons of women being 'apivitar'. Unclean... impure.

    These thinking ARE Hindu influence!!!! This is exactly some of the things that crept into Sikhi which was Hindu laws of Manu influence!!! And the deras today MANY align with DDT and follow DDTs RM. Also DDT says their RM is THE RM direct lineage from Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself... so they truly believe that Guru Ji had it out for women I guess!

    Now AKJs DO follow SRM but they add one thing... women must also tie a turban or keski.
     
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  12. Kully

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    JOL, Sir, it is a fact that idols appeared in the parikarma of Sri HariMandir Sahib, but to say that it was at the expense of having to take Guru Granth Sahib out of the complex seems overly exxagerated. Please share what source you obtained this information from.
     
  13. Kully

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    The AKJ do not follow the SRM on the issue of meat. For them vegetarianism is compulsory, whilst in the SRM it says that only halal is forbidden.
     
  14. Harkiran Kaur

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    That's not exactly not following SRM. It doesn't say that you MUST eat meat. I am not AKJ and I do not eat meat either. I also tie a dastar and SRM says it's optional for women. But I actually feel that Guru Ji meant for all Sikhs to tie one. His 52 hukams state all Sikhs are to tie a turban every day. I do not see how the most visible item of khalsa uniform was only meant for males. Especially since the reason for it was to stand out as Sikh in a crowd. Did Guru Ji mean only for men to stand out while women hide in background looking indistinguishable from Hindu women?

    Anyway AKJ are not breaking SRM by not eating meat. It doesn't say that you have to eat meat it just says if you do, it must not be killed he Muslim way halal (meaning ritualistically which by extension would also include kosher). Being vegetarian is not against SRM.
     
  15. Kully

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    By not allowing it's members to have the option whether to, or not, they are NOT following the SRM. The SRM doesn't force anyone to eat meat but gives the option to. AKJ forbid this option so therefore they do not follow SRM totally.
     

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