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Who is A Sikh? by I.J Singh

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by IJSingh, Nov 14, 2009.

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  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
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    Who is A Sikh?
    A Response to the 'Judgment'by I.J. SINGH



    The following are some thoughts triggered by reading the 'Judgment' - see article and document titled "THE JUDGMENT - Gurleen Kaur v. The State of Punjab":

    To me, it is heartening that sikhchic.com reported the Indian judiciary's judgment on the perennial question, "Who is a Sikh?" But it is not a judgment that heartens me.


    I expect a more vigorous, even a heart-rending, debate will follow, but perhaps the night is young.


    Suzy Kaur has raised some fundamental issues that must not escape us. They are too important to be left to the caretakers of our gurdwaras and institutions, just as war is too important to be left to the generals. They affect us all, and mine is a call to action - not arms.


    Like the generals in war, our caretakers have a personal stake in the outcome but we, the common folk, will pay the price and live with the consequences.


    In the rush to judgment, we are forgetting some fundamentals. There are two matters that I will present briefly.


    History tells us that perhaps as many as 80,000 came to Anandpur when Guru Gobind Singh staged the drama of Vaisakhi 1699 and instituted the Khalsa along with its specific code and requirements of the faith.
    History further tells us that perhaps 20,000 became Khalsa during those fateful days. The remaining 60,000 did not. Many may have become Amritdhari Khalsa over time, but certainly some never did, such as Bhai Nand Lal, who, nevertheless, remained a close associate of the Guru.
    There is absolutely not a scintilla of evidence or even a suggestion that the Guru rejected or discouraged those who did not become Khalsa from remaining within the Sikh fold. He did not say to them, "Get out of my face - you are no Sikhs of mine."


    From the time of Guru Nanak to the present, the fundamental message of Sikhi is clear and unchanged: It is a path and a way of life open to all. People with all their imperfections, flaws and virtues congregate to walk the path. As long as they consider themselves as Sikhs, they will stay on the path and "Sikh" is the label they shall wear. Though on the same path, not all will be at the same place on the path at any given time.


    A Sikh, then, is one who claims to be one. No man and no organization may come between a human and his definition of self.


    The one time it matters how a Sikh lives his or her life is when the personal lifestyle and persona have ramifications for the life of the community. This happens when, for example, a person represents the community in contentious matters that impact the community, somewhat in the position of a role model or a designated spokesperson.


    The Sikh Code of Conduct (Rehat Maryada) is a document that codifies Sikh belief and practice.


    It is not the minimum definition of a Sikh. It emphatically does not mean that any person who does not fulfill each and every clause of the code is not a Sikh.


    Keep in mind that gurdwaras and Sikhi are not merely for "perfect" or "ideal" Sikhs. Sikhi exists for imperfect people striving mightily to walk the path of Sikhi and looking to it for ways to become more productive and honest people.


    To me, the minimum definition is "anyone who calls himself or herself a Sikh."


    So, let's absolutely not be sitting in judgment of others - busy banishing people out of Sikhi.


    Thus, I read the Sikh Rehat Maryada to say that no one is excluded from the tent of Sikhi, which is larger than that made by any definition that we might make.


    Yet, such questions as have arisen are not unique to us. A look at Judaism, Christianity and Islam brings us face to face with intractable divisions within each faith - internal disputes that could not be resolved and have produced permanent fissures within each.


    The second issue is more intractable, but it needs our critical attention.
    We all know that our (Sikh) administrative structure and institutions took root in the struggles of the 1920's. India was then ruled by the British. Sikhs won the struggle to win control of their own gurdwaras from the corrupt administrators appointed by the British after a titanic struggle that shook the British Empire to its core.


    But India was not a free country then and Sikhs were not a free people. And when the control of their own gurdwaras passed to the Sikhs, it came in the shape of a law enacted by the British government. Thus was the SGPC (Shiromini Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) born.


    This was a historical necessity, but it made the government - of British India then and of free India after 1947 - the arbiters of how this government-mandated body was to come into existence and function.
    Whether it was to be a definition of who is a Sikh, who could or could not be counted in the inevitable electoral process to form this body, or how the SGPC would respond to challenges to its structure or authority, the task finally came to rest with governmental institutions (Legislative Assembly or Parliament) and the country's judiciary.


    This meant that the fundamentals of the faith were to be determined, in the final analysis, by organs of the Indian government, not by representatives of Sikhs themselves.

    The results have been quite predictable and chaotic.


    We Sikhs have entered the 21st century now, but have failed to explore and devise an ecclesiastical judiciary and a system of justice of our own.
    Circumstances are now different.


    The Gurus willed us a system of justice for internal conflict resolution, but to develop and refine it further according to the needs of the time is our responsibility, and that has fallen by the wayside.


    Dear readers, can you name one other religion where its fundamentals are debated and decided by parliaments and by legislators who are not believers of that faith or have no particular training, skill or specialty in that religion?


    We definitely DO NOT need an All India Gurdwaras Act. We don't need more from the government of any country. We need to develop our own mode.
    Some courts, particularly in the U.S., have recognized the dilemma we are in.


    You all know of the many gurdwaras in North America that have ended in civil courts over election disputes. Many of the judges have been most reluctant to step in what they see as an internal dispute on matters of religious practices. But they have been forced by our hard-headedness and the absence of a workable system of internal justice into matters that are technically not their bailiwick - and many judges have said so from the bench.


    And this, to me, is the second fundamental question.


    The two matters are inherent and intertwined in Suzy Kaur's very pertinent note. Engaging only one front promises endless heartache.


    The judgment by the Indian court is not at all a matter of joy. It does not impact what we believe, but it can open a Pandora's Box.

    ijsingh99@gmail.com
     
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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I am sorry but this defination is not going to work .There are many followers of baba's who call themselves sikhs so can they be accepted as part of sikh community even if they
    don't beleive in any of sikh Guru's.

    Also Jagdish tytler too call himself sikh and even was calling Guru ko maanane waala in tv programme .Should we also accept him as sikh?
     
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  4. harbansj24

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    In that case anyone who declares himself/herself a Sikh can:

    1. Vote in a Gurudwara election.
    2. Can claim seats reserved in educational institutions for Sikhs.
    3. Can claim other benefits accruing to Sikhs or minorities.
    I think in the circumstances High Court of Punjab and Haryana has given a very sane and practical verdict.

    This verdict of coarse does not exclude anyone from following the basic philosophy of Sikhi or being a part of sangat in any Sikh gathering or Gurudwara.

    There are hundreds of thousands of those who quietly follow Sikh philosophy and visit only Gurudwaras but do not put a claim for the above above "privileges". They have not been and will not be impacted by this decision.

    Only such of those have been affected who are ambivalent in respect of keeping kesh and who do not have any convincing grounds for not keeping kesh in unshorn or uncut form.
     
  5. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Recently Darul uloom issued Fatwa that no Muslim will sing vande matram. In Tv programme they invited One leader of Darul and told him that their are many muslims who are saying that they will sing vande matram.He replied that any muslim who call himself practicing muslim should abide to fatwa ,others are free to do whatever they want.
     
  6. Lee

    Lee
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    There are of course many ways to view this, perhaps as many ways as there are people to think.

    I would ask what's in a name? What does the word Sikh translate to in English?

    Well just a quick trawl through the internet renders: Disciple, He who wants to learn, and Seeker.

    Being pedantic then we can argue that any human who seeks God can be called Sikh. Heh although I'm guessing that wont wash huh.

    The rehat maryarda tells us that any person who belives in the one God, the ten Sikh guru's, Guru Granth Sahib, and professes no alligiance to any other religon is a Sikh.

    This seems very sensible, and is the one that I generaly go with.

    So the bigger question that I see is what do we call those people who's slant of Sikhi is not quite authentic, not quite orthadox?

    Well I'm going to say we call them Sikh. If any woman belives in one God, ten Sikh Guru's, and Guru Granth Sahib, how can she not be Sikh?

    Now this may not prove to be popular dear cyber Sangat, but I fear that too much emphasis is put upon the 'establishment' of Sikhi, that is the body of the religion, rather than the practice of the individual 'seeker'.

    Does it really matter who wants to call them selves Sikh, does it really matter it some fake baba sets himself up and preaches a twisted Sikhi?

    I say no, what matters more is YOUR own reaching for God.

    Ahhh but that is only my opinion.
     
  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    There is a lot in name.Because people in US and Europe don't know about sikhs so they think they are muslims and That is the reason Sikhs all over the world are facing lots of problems.

    And well you are right a sikh mean disciple who want's to learn but again in this sense
    we can also interpret other religions too .For example Muslim = Musalmaan = Musallam ( perfect/ complete) and Iman ( faith)

    Musallam + Iman = Musalman

    so shouldn't we all have this perfect faith?

    Even Talibans are seeking god in their own way

    The sikh rehat also say that and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh

    Yes it really matters because tommorow if they do something wrong then people will blame all sikhs ,and not the followers of only baba.If their number grows more than sikhs then they can even ask Governments to recgnise them as Genuine sikhs and not the sikhs who beleive in Guru granth sahib.After all we are living in democracies and democracy indirectly means power of number
     
  8. Lee

    Lee
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    Kanwardeep ji,

    These are really the only two points that I wish to address at the moment as the others, well you sort of seem to be agreeing with me on them?

    I can't speak about the US, nor the rest of Europe, but rest assured my freind, there is a large Sikh population over here in the UK, and the people I know, know that such a thing as a Sikh exists and are differant from Muslims. In truth in this country most men who wear turbans are Sikh, there are some turban wearing Hindu's, but I have never seen a turban wearing Muslim.

    Ahhhh I think you may have misunderstood my intent when I asked does it really matter?


    Let me remind you I also said this:

    'Now this may not prove to be popular dear cyber Sangat, but I fear that too much emphasis is put upon the 'establishment' of Sikhi, that is the body of the religion, rather than the practice of the individual 'seeker'.'

    It is referance to this comment that my last question was asked. It should be clear by this that I am unconcerned with the 'establishment' of Sikhi, and instead choose to focus on the Dharma, the path, the way to God that Sikhi provides.

    We can not dilute this, nor change it, we can certianly call it by other names, or call other paths by the same name, ultimatly doing this matters not a shred.
    All that matters to me is that God is ALL, to my mind if some fake Baba wants to call himself Sikh, then let him he is after all as much of God as you are my dear Kanwardeep.

    So when I ask does it matter? This is what I mean.
     
  9. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Lee ji

    If someone starts using your or your family member's name officially then would you object it or not.Similarly sikhism is recognised religion and sikhs are its followers so only those who falls under the defination of sikh should be allowed to use word sikh
     
  10. Lee

    Lee
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    Kanwardeep Ji,

    That is a very good question, and I would be a liar if I said it would not bother me. The point I'm making though is ultimatly, what does it matter.

    If I am robbed at knife point in the street would it have an effect one me? Yes it surely would. However if I remind myself that this place, this Earth we live on, this life that I lead is largely illusionary, then I find it easyer to forgive my attaker. After all he has only stolen things from me, material property or money, in the grand scheme, it does not matter.

    I would ask you to consider this question.

    Is it a form of attachment to be more concerned with the path you tread then your own progress along it?
     
  11. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    My question is not if someone attacks us and whether we should forgive them or not.My question is about name.

    O.K. let me give you an example .Another user come's up on SPN with name Lee and He starts abusing members and insulting Guru's.Then when you log in on SPN what will you do?
    You will immdiately contact the Admin and tell him that the other lee is not me then you will try to convince other members that other person was not you ,some may beleive you
    some may not but one thing is sure that your good image would be damaged.

    Similarly someone otehr using word sikh could damage the image of sikhs in entire world badly.
     
  12. Lee

    Lee
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    My dear Kanwardeep Ji,

    The most saleint part of your post is this bit at the end. 'Damage the image of Sikhs...'

    This is exactly what I mean when I sask you to consider my question abut attachment.
     

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