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Akal Takht Speaks

IJSingh

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Sep 24, 2004
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AkL Takht Speaks

I.J. Singh

Just days ago the current Jathedar of the Akal Takht released a new edict that he demands all Sikhs worldwide obey. As of now any home that has a (liquor) bar or alcohol served must not also have the Guru Granth. Why? Because it would be disrespectful to the Guru, he claimed.

This takes me back to the days when possession of the Bible and translations thereof were strictly prohibited for Christians.

Emil Durkheim (1858-1917) a preeminent social scientist of the time opined that religions existed primarily as the glue that unites people in families, clans, communities, townships and even nations. Religious bureaucracies emerge to help the variety of followers follow a somewhat common (standardized) protocol, and lessen controversy on how and what to do or what not to do, much as we have rules in secular society. But sometimes the keepers of the protocol become talibanesque and rigid; the glue that binds us, and that is religion, becomes more like crazy glue and destroys a people’s resilience and their freedom.

At one time for almost half a millennium the Roman Catholic Church approved only three languages for the Bible – Old or the New Testament – Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Translations into vernacular like English or French were not allowed and keeping of a Bible at home strictly prohibited for almost 200 years.

When Pope Innocent III banned access to the Bible by the common Christians his reasoning seemed entirely innocent. But then the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the devil is in the details. He started the process in 1199. The ban came into effect in 1229 following the Council of Toulouse, which met in November of that year and led to the Inquisition. The Council of Tarragona of 1234, in its second canon, ruled that:

"No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned lest, be he a cleric or a layman, he be suspected until he is cleared of all suspicion."

What was Pope Innocent III thinking when he started to build protective walls around the Biblical teachings? He opined that the mysteries of the faith can’t be easily explained to anyone and everyone. In fact, they can be understood only by those who are qualified to understand them. The depth of the divine Scriptures is such that even the educated and the gifted have difficulty understanding them is how he explained his actions. In other words, only the priestly hierarchy has the insight and the wisdom to understand and explain the teachings of the faith.

True that we Sikhs have not reached quite the level of obfuscation that the Roman Catholic Church climbed and mastered centuries ago but our direction seems not so different.

Should I say “Long live the Brahmins;” every religion has them, even the Roman Catholics and now it seems the Sikhs too, even though the Gurus spent over 200 years getting rid of such a dysfunctional hierarchy.

Can you imagine that?

Keep in mind that religions are for imperfect people; perfect masters don’t need institutions. The label “Sikh” recognizes those imperfections and speaks exactly of the journey. A Sikh remains a lifelong student of the Sikh way of life for whom the journey is the destination. We know the path to be endless. And any Sikh who claims to have reached the endpoint has surely slipped a notch or two.

Now to the edict from the Akal Takht! What can one say of such rigidity in the name of religion?

True that we would like NOT to see a Sikh reading the Guru Granth sahib with a glass of wine in his hand but that still leaves a distinct issue here that deserves to be addressed. These are individual infractions that should be managed at the local level by the local sangat at the local neighborhood gurduara. Such matters do not rise to the level of impeachable offences that need the Akal Takht for a judgment call. Only those issues should get to the Akaal Takht that impact our community life and sustainability as a collective.

There is a distinction between private personal behavior and public protocol. Undoubtedly, the community’s behavior is totally to be addressed by the institutions such as the Akaal Takht but micromanaging personal individual behavior may not be. Why? Because individuals remain imperfect beings and they are best goaded towards the common good by their friends and family – sangat of the local community.

The institutions should continue to preach, teach, recommend and persuade but NOT intrude so casually into private space. I am, therefore, more tolerant of individual errors of judgment – acts of omission and commission -- in the hope that progress will come in time as long as the person stays connected. How banning access to the scripture helps escapes me.

The only reason to intrude into such private behavior seems to be the one that the Akal Takht provided – that it is an insult to the Guru. My take would be that the Guru is so much larger and beneficent and that it is neither insulted and diminished nor flattered or enhanced by our puny efforts. Perhaps like a wise parent God and Guru overlook such behavior as childish.

Yes, discipline is necessary but not when it is harshly coercive and not necessarily corrective. Respect for Guru Granth comes as the engagement for the Word therein grows, and that will come from increasing access and not from banning access to it.

Keep in mind that such rash judgment is not the first that the Akal Takht has rendered. Not so long ago it banned all discussion on the so called Dasam Granth. If people do not discuss how do they learn and progress? There have been other quick-fix decisions as well such as summary excommunication of some individuals; these only speak of a hair-trigger finger and not a mature process of conflict resolution in place.

This long period in the history of the Roman Catholic experiment with suppression of scriptural access to common Christians ended with the fresh air of the Reformation -- a movement that perhaps owes its beginning to John Wycliffe’s 1382 translation of the entire Bible from Latin into English.

I know I spent more space here on the early troubles of the Roman Catholics. The Church learned expensive and traumatic lessons and it took over two centuries to do so. We Sikhs don’t need to relive such history.

When such community issues surface the decision makers at the Akal Takht need to act not in a hurry and not in secrecy but after canvassing “we the people” at open hearings – and due deliberation in an atmosphere of transparency and thoughtfulness.

On rereading what I have written here tells me that it is not likely to win me friends but my goal is not that. It is to foster a conversation.

Some people just never learn from history, do they?
 

Kanwaljit.Singh

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Jan 29, 2011
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It is true that it can be restrictive in some cases. What if someone wants to do Paath but the spouse has a bar downstairs?

Still it is a directive. Since it is from Akal Takht, it does seem to be too idealistic, which is good thing in a way. It should enable more dialogue where there were none. I hope it doesn't lead to extremism.
 
Nov 23, 2010
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Keep in mind that such rash judgment is not the first that the Akal Takht has rendered. Not so long ago it banned all discussion on the so called Dasam Granth. If people do not discuss how do they learn and progress? There have been other quick-fix decisions as well such as summary excommunication of some individuals; these only speak of a hair-trigger finger and not a mature process of conflict resolution in place.

This is insanity, banning discussion of a problem as a way to solve the the problem. How did these people get in power? Are they members of the Tea Party as well?
 

Luckysingh

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Dec 4, 2011
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Keep in mind that such rash judgment is not the first that the Akal Takht has rendered. Not so long ago it banned all discussion on the so called Dasam Granth. If people do not discuss how do they learn and progress? There have been other quick-fix decisions as well such as summary excommunication of some individuals; these only speak of a hair-trigger finger and not a mature process of conflict resolution in place.

This is insanity, banning discussion of a problem as a way to solve the the problem. How did these people get in power? Are they members of the Tea Party as well?
Seems like it's normal to try and brush a few issues or even huge questions marks(???) under the carpet.
Question marks like what does kuttha really refer to in the rehat because some jathas are adamant that it means killed or any meat and others are certain it means ritually sacrificed as in halal.
Rather than define or answer these huge question marks in the panth,
they instead come out trying to enforce authority and police control in individual homes regarding liquor and bars,-an issue that can easily be dealt with by community and Sikhs among us, instead of having the large authority micromanaging us.
 
Jan 26, 2012
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Sometimes I think a bunch of very selfish, casteist and myopic clowns (and their sycophants) are essentially hiding behind the historical notion of the Akal Takhat to try and lord it over Sikhs.

If they are trying to perform some sort of centralised authority role for Sikhs - they are doing a really crap job.

They should focus on trying to get Panjab out of its backward rut with urgency. But somehow, I doubt they really care a hoot.
 

Luckysingh

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Dec 4, 2011
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Any actions taken by absolutely ANY authority in the whole of India, are always about votes. It's about who votes who and who votes for what. The votes come after they do something and also for what they will do once they get the votes !

I even remember reading about some Santji, who was caught on video in front of the sangat and he was also on the phone speaking to someone saying ''koy nah, votan asi pwadamah genh'' (Don't worry, I(we) shall get you the votes you need) :winkingmunda:
 

Ishna

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May 9, 2006
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Question: Does the Akal Takhat direct all Sikhs, or just Amritdhari ones?

It's sad that the panth has no faith in their leaders. How can we follow some of their directives but not others? There seems to be a fair bit of pick-and-choose going on.
 

aristotle

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May 11, 2010
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Question: Does the Akal Takhat direct all Sikhs, or just Amritdhari ones?

It's sad that the panth has no faith in their leaders. How can we follow some of their directives but not others? There seems to be a fair bit of pick-and-choose going on.
Ishna Ji,
Peoples' faith in their leaders ia as good as the capabilities of these leaders. There was a time in the not so distant past when a majority of Sikh community used to take Akal Takht directives as the Gospel truth. But, recently the Panth has seen these directives tinted with political convicions, and how a particular political faction is dominant among Sikh lawmakers is anybody's secret. I guess these are some of the many reasons that have forced the Sikhs to indulge in this 'cherry picking', anyways the Sikh is answerable only to the Guru in any case.
 

aristotle

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May 11, 2010
1,156
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Ancient Greece
Really?

But thank you for trying to explain.
As far as I know, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib did not make any human authority binding upon the Amritdhari Sikhs. Here it must be understood that a Hukamnama is quite different from the Gurmata, which carries a larger meaning,

Method of Adopting Gurmatta

Article XXVI
a. The Gurmatta (Holy Resolution) can only be on a subject that affects the fundamental principles of Sikh religion and for their upholding, such as the questions affecting the maintenance of the status of the Gurus or the Guru Granth Sahib or the inviolability of Guru Granth Sahib, ambrosial baptism, Sikh discipline and way of life, the identity and structural framework of the Panth. Ordinary issues of religious, educational, social or political nature can be dealt with only in a
Matta. (Resolution)

b. A Gurmatta can be adopted only by a select primary Panthic group or a representative gathering of the Panth.
Rather than calling Gurmata on issues confronting the Panth and giving some definitive answers, the authorities have incessantly been releasing Hukamnamas, which are nothing more than directional directives.

In any case, no human authority can be likened to as the Vatican authority of the Sikhs. Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh Rehat Maryada are guides good enough for helping a Sikh conduct her/his life.
 

Ishna

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May 9, 2006
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Oh good! Here I was starting to think I had to start following all these hukamnamas left, right and centre.

What a curious arrangement. :/

Thank you for elabourating, Aristotle jio. :)
 

spnadmin

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Jun 17, 2004
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How did these people get in power?
Jathedar Akaal Takht is appointed by, and is on the payroll of, SGPC an elected body per the Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925, now considered part of the Constitution of India.

The SGPC is dominated by officials fielded in past elections by a coalition of the following political groups: SAD (Badal faction); BJP (Narendra Modi faction), with BJP receiving significant political support from the Sant Samaj, currently led by Baba Harnam Singh, Jathedar Damdami Taksaal (8 August and 11 August 2011 Times of India). :winkingkaur: See unity photos at Damdami Taksaal http://www.demotix.com/news/2027921/various-nihang-sects-and-leaders-sant-samaj-present-memorandum#media-2027787

Sant Samaj is a union of various religious organizations with sanatan and/or puratan Sikh leanings.
The Sant Samaj, also known as “Gurmit Sidhant Pracharak Sant Samaj” is literally a union of sants, babas, and deras modeled after a Hindu organization with a similar name. Although some of the representatives of the Samaj are practicing Amritdharis, a great portion of them ascribe to the Sanatanist beliefs of the Udasees and Nirmalas.
The 2012 membership list can be found at this site :noticekudi:
:icecreammunda:http://internationalsantsamaj.com/members.html

Significant political support means funds and votes.

Why is there a significant amount of "picking and choosing," asks Ishna ji?

Their empathy of Sanatinist practices has brought them head-to-head with the mainstream Sikh community when they created their own Sikh Rahit Maryada in the late 1990s, then recently opposed both the NanakShahi Calendar and allowing of Sikh women to perform sewa within the precincts of Sri Darbar Sahib.
The 2 controversies (among many others) mentioned in the quote continues today.

Jathedar Akal Takht then is patently beholden to political forces that keep him on the 'manji.' :noticemunda: From the time of Teja Sing Bhucchar (1920), jathedars have had a very short shelf life. None of this btw is a logical consequence of the origins and purpose of Jathedar Akal Takht, about which we have many threads here at SPN.

Connect the dots. :icecreamkudi:
 
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