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Opinion Equality & Inequality

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by IJSingh, Aug 15, 2016.

  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
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    Equality & Inequality
    I.J. Singh & Ravinder Singh Taneja

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are immutable God-given rights to each and every one of us. After all, aren’t we the chosen species of God’s handiwork? The American vision treats Equality as a self evident attribute.

    And yet, the dominant and recurring theme throughout history has been the struggle between equality and inequality – real or perceived. Look around the world today and you will see that the sense of inequality, of feeling less than the other occupies center stage: in America, Donald Trump is cleverly exploiting this sense of inequality that a growing segment of White Americans feel after centuries of being dominant, while economists worry about the growing wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots.

    tumblr_nt9pdtOfs71tg7pyso1_500.jpg

    In India, the treatment of low caste untouchables (Dalits) is an inflammatory but undeniable reality that some Hindus pretend never existed. Then there is the question of what to do with so-called Middle Eastern migrants (refugees) that are inundating Europe. Mostly have-nots, they have everyone all riled up.

    Keep in mind that the politico-social reformers and revolutionaries who talk of this persistent inequality do so from a perspective where some are more equal than others. There is always the super-endowed one percent in every culture.

    There are two distinct aspects to inequality: that of talent and ability on one hand, and of opportunity on the other. While ability, one could argue, is inherent and God given, opportunity should be and is a societal onus and responsibility. While the former is housed in our individual DNA, the latter is a human construct that gives meaning to our whole struggle in societal existence.

    Yes, we can create opportunity that appears unbiased and guarantees the same legal rights for all, but the results depend on how the moment is seized, understood and applied. Not everyone will use the same opportunity equally, not only because the DNA is different but also because the finer points of how one seizes opportunity may be culturally or economically driven.

    Legally we may promise equality of opportunity but opportunity often emerges from human interaction and networking. One can’t always methodically and predictably prepare for opportunity; it comes in a myriad ways and also like a stroke of luck from nowhere – religious believers might term it nadar or grace. There is thus no way to forcefully mandate equality -- legislatively or otherwise.

    Both Experimental Biologists and Behavioral Scientists tell us that it is the intricately complex and life-long interaction of nature (DNA) and nurture (environment) that shapes us, our successes and failures. This makes us what we are.

    Some societies override such concerns by promising that each of us receives according to our needs and gives according to our abilities. But this axiom cannot be satisfactorily legislated. And who will decide what to take and how much to give becomes an explosive question.

    Many utopian societies that human history documents have failed; nevertheless, they all noted the inequality in human potential, such that we can never totally correct nor compensate for these inadequacies.

    Hence the truism that human societies have always been split into rulers and serfs, leaders and followers, kings and slaves. Inevitably then there is always a gulf or stratification in human societies; this becomes history’s enduring lesson.

    Indeed, hierarchies appear to be Nature’s organizing principle. They are visible not only in human societies but in the animal world as well. Hierarchies abound in the structure of the Universe itself – from societal systems and information sciences, to cellular and sub-cellular biology, and to the structure of the gene itself. Life appears to be inherently hierarchical.

    Why, one might ask, is such an arrangement so pervasive? Human survival and evolution apparently depend upon it. Increasingly complex structures appear to organize in hierarchies.

    This never ending tug of war, back and forth in the vertically stratified units of society, particularly in economic terms, have for centuries given birth to periodic human potential movements. Their goal is to provide equal opportunities and rights to the have-nots and narrow the gap between vertically stratified strata in the face of ever present gaps in talent.

    Many Utopian movements are religious at their core, some are not. Of the latter, Socialism, and Communism, along with smaller groups with experimental lifestyles might count. If you don’t think of deism as an essential prerequisite of religions, many of these such as Communism deserve to be counted as religions. (It all depends on our definition of “religion.”) Deist religions start with a just, forgiving Creator who treats the believers with a kindly generous eye; redemption from our transgressions is promised, if not in this world, than in another reality after death. The non-believers or those of other faiths are usually not included in such largesse.

    M.I.T. economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson, in their book Why Nations Fail (2012) offer an interesting argument in favor of inclusiveness, claiming that throughout history nations that were not economically and politically inclusive failed. Exploring throughout history, the authors concluded that countries that become internally too unequal go into decline.

    When wealth becomes unequal, so the argument goes, the wealthy consolidate their power, democracy is undermined, and the nation —including its economy— starts to disintegrate. The rich undermine their own good fortune by being too greedy!

    Watch the political oratory of wannabe leaders in this political season and the trouble brewing for the top one percent of financial tigers of contemporary American society. Does that sound like Bernie Sanders on his pulpit?

    The moral: Human societies operate largely as vertically constructed, somewhat of a pyramidal structure with authority concentrated at the top. But liberal, inclusive societies recognize these limitations and focus on enlarging the opportunities for achievement.

    In this mix of rulers and serfs who is wise or strong enough, while also being caring enough to be anointed the ruler? What does life teach us? How history informs us? How does religious philosophy, specifically Sikhi, instruct us? Finally, what are the lessons for the day? That’s really the question today.

    Keep in mind that the underlying issue is equality of opportunity, not achievement. Transforming a possible opportunity into an action item is a whole new and different ball game. Seize the day (carpe diem) may be the only feasible advice.

    Utopian visions – the notion of a perfect political and social system - have been with us since the beginning of Time. Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden may have set in motion this downward spiral. Since then, Plato’s Republic, Cicero, Dante and St Augustine, not to mention Thomas Moore have all envisioned a Utopia, a sort of pilgrimage back to Paradise—until utopia became dystopia.

    Sikhism, too, remains a powerful idea of a human potential movement.

    The Sikh position on Equality is unambiguously stated in its creedal statement, the so-called Mool Mantar: Oneness underlies all the diversity in the Universe. Sikh tradition tells us that Guru Nanak’s enlightenment was accompanied by the assertion, “Na ko Hindu, Na Mussalman” meaning that there is no Hindu or Muslim, thus signifying the equality of all.

    It is on this foundational principle of Oneness that Guru Nanak offered a new vision, a new Way of political governance. The bards, Satta and Balvand describe Guru Nanak’s vision as the citadel of Truth and a reversal of the flow of the Ganges (a river sacred to Hindus), no doubt an allusion to the fact that the Guru’s new paradigm dismantled and turned upside down the existing stratified socio-political structure of India.

    And this was over 500 years ago.

    After his long and extensive travels, Guru Nanak founded Kartarpur in 1521, a commune in present day Pakistan, not far from the Indian border. This experimental township was the practical application of the Guru’s vision of a Utopia and it is here that the foundation of Sikh society was established.

    Bhai Gurdas offers us a glimpse of Kartarpur. Here the Guru put his philosophy into practice by combining kirat and keerat – literally meaning honest labor and singing of praises of the One. What that meant was to be productive as we cultivate our God-given talent.

    A powerful practice that served as a great equalizer was the Pangat or communal kitchen. By requiring everyone to partake from a common communal kitchen, the Guru took straight aim at the heart of a stratified caste system where the kitchen (with its segregation by caste) was the centerpiece.

    The institution of Pangat (also called Langar) is one practice that distinguishes Sikhs today.

    Guru Nanak’s strong reaction to the political and economic corruption of his times is an instructive insight into his vision of an equitable society. He did not shrink from calling out the rulers of the day, likening them to wolves and butchers, “Rajje Seeh Mukkadam Kuttey” (Guru Granth p. 1228) – reminding to us to find our voice and give it expression.

    How did Sikhi’s message resonate with people? A clear example is when Guru Gobind Singh initiated the order of the Khalsa. After initiating the first five Sikhs he knelt before them and asked them to initiate him. The inherent idea here was of equality and self-governance; the differences between the Guru and the have-nots vanished. This was the institutionalization of Guru Nanak’s message.

    We submit that this message of Sikhi is as alive today as it was five centuries ago. Sikhi offers it today as it did then.

    Think a moment: Most opportunities arise from differences of opinion. But diversity also fuels growth. We need to cultivate the art of conversation and dialogue and how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Guru Nanak emphasized openness of dialogue and communication as sure ways to break down walls of inequality and hate. He set the example himself in the discourse with the Yogis. Jab lag duniya rahiye/Nanak kich suniye kich kahiye,” the Guru Granth (p.660) reminds us.

    We need to remember that competition is not bad; greed and avarice are evils that need to be discarded from our arsenal.

    Equality and fraternity of opportunity, not necessarily of results is the goal. Notwithstanding Bernie Sander’s now finished political crusade we likely cannot banish inequality absolutely. When we speak of life liberty and pursuit of happiness, we need to note that the operative word here is “pursuit” not attainment. Remember that different children of the same parents differ in talent, temperament and results

    Some believe that have-nots are at the bottom of the unwanted pile because of how they sinned in their past lives but that’s a road best not taken. It makes one so smug and satisfied that we tend to hop off the road of enterprise and to walk instead the path of indifference and complacence.

    2016
     
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  3. Original

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    Sir

    There is strong evidence to suggest that humans lived as egalitarians for tens of thousands of years. As unequal society arose, its demographic instability caused it to migrate and motivate innovation for the greater good. The gap between the rich and the poor is inherent and since organic inequties are by nature evolutionary, they necessitate religious tolerance. The setting up of Khalsa had the hallmarks of socio-political ingenuity to both create an impregnable fighting regime from amongst the fragmented social ruins of the then Hindu society and to remove caste based discrimination. The ploy was socio-religious to preserve as it were, a more fairer system. The conferring of the guru-ship upon the panj pyara was, in my opinion, to zeal it democratic and not, social-engineer equality, as you seem to suggest. It makes sense, since power in one-man control corrupts and Guru Gobind Singh was a visionary to effect such innovation and change for the greater good. That by definition is democracy.

    Much obliged
     
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  4. Sikhilove

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    Good article. I believe that Guru Gobind Singh Ji being baptised by the Panj Pyare was an act of humility and acceptance that no one is higher than another, and also to teach that anyone who becomes a good Sikh is alike to the Panj Pyare and Satguru Ji himself- hence there is no control over another.

    Maharaj was the King of Miri and Piri, and was hence the perfect leader of the Panth- he was uncorruptable and fair to the end- but his rise to becoming the perfect leader came about by the surrender of his ego to God.

    He wanted people to become like him and the other Gurus and Sants- he gave up his sons for this, to create a better, more civilised and moral society of people- morality backed by spirituality.

    A society led by people who don't have innate morals or principles is normally set up to either fail or become corrupt in some way. The kings of today are butchers and it's true that Sikhi is no less relevant now than it was back then.

    Satguru Ji left Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the Guru- but even Gurdwarra committees with their lack of respect for its teachings have become corrupt- hence there's not much hope for any other govt.

    Guru Ji served as a beacon of light, an example of what one should strive to become like, and if more people became like this, became Good, then there would be hope for a better world.
     
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  5. Harkiran Kaur

    Harkiran Kaur Canada
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    Except that very same institution, that of initiating by Panj Pyaras is being used by MANY MANY Singhs to create another hierarchy, that of males over females. So a symbol that was supposed to symbolize ONEness and equality (and it did for every other difference like caste, colour creed etc) but somehow, that very same institution is being used as a means to keep Sikh women in a lower position because 'The first five were male' and 'no woman gave her head that day'.

    The deeper meaning in this is not just that it's some physical privilege given to those with XY DNA and a male appendage, but since the very act of initiation is a spiritual event, it's crossing the border of the physical and manifest into the nonphysical and unmanifest realm, attacking the equality of the soul of females in relation to males.

    Every Sikh is supposed to strike to take Amrit, but to tell females that they MUST entirely depend on the male gender for their spiritual advancement, while males do not require females for the same, is essentially saying that women (or those souls occupying a female body) are of a decidedly lower avastha spiritually speaking, since they are seen as being incapable to initiate others. It suggests women lack something at the spiritual level that men have.

    Of course not ALL Singhs think this way and Sikh Rehet Maryada explicitly says women can do seva as Panj Pyaras, but.... honestly, how many times have you witnessed a woman being selected? how many Gurdwaras put this into practice? How many nagar kirtans do you see women as one of the five? AKJ and 3HO and a few non jatha related amrit sanchars I know about where a woman was one of the five. But it's not common. Its far more common for males to have this privilege over females.

    And I don't believe this has anything to do with survival of the human race or organizing into hierarchies. In the wild, there are many groups where females are dominant over the males. Some even kill the males after mating so that the predominant society in that species are adult females. There is no inherent natural subordination of the female beneath the male. And as mentioned, for thousands of years (when humans were hunter gatherer society, male and female were equal). The cause of women being seen as lower? Ego. Again it's not all males or all male Sikhs, but you would be surprised to know a GOOD portion do think of females as having a lesser role in Sikhi. A more behind the scenes, and subordinate position than males.
     
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  6. Sikhilove

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    I've expressed in previous posts that Sikhi has been overtaken with ritual and corruption. Guru Gobind Singh Ji said that Khalsa is of the pure, that the only way to find Him is with Love, with the Heart.

    Mai Bhago's love shone for Gurbani and it showed in her actions. She got up, led men to war and became Satguru Jis bodyguard. People don't understand that God sets tests, this life is a test. Baba ji said we are the wave in the ocean- the ocean has no image or form as you rightly said, we are just souls, Hearts.

    If some men cannot see that all souls are equal, (and this doesn't just go for humans, Gurbani says there are ghosts, Demi gods, and many other beings in the khel) then that's their own problem. Don't get upset over it, all we can do is try and change their perception by teaching them.
     
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  7. RD1

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    Patriarchy and misogyny have become so deeply ingrained basically on a global level. These concepts leaking into Sikhi is just a gross misunderstanding and ignorance of what Sikhi teaches. On the other hand, I do feel like, at least here in Canada, strict gender roles are being broken down in Sikh households, and women are being more valued. There are movements to change the perceptions. However, this does not exist everywhere, and it is a slow process.

    If Sikhs want to represent themselves as champions of equality, then it is imperative that when Sikhs show themselves to their entire community and country through the Nagar Kirtan, women must be able to represent Panj Payaras! When we are proudly putting ourselves out there for the world to see, we must represent our essential values accurately. Especially considering that Sikhs are minorities wherever they are, and tend to be misunderstood. What steps can be taken though to being about such change? And it has to go both ways -for men to realize that women are equal to them, and also for women to empower themselves and realize that they are never subordinate to any man, ever!

    The messages of Sikhism just do not seem to be well understood by most. Sikhs have faced so much adversity since the very beginning, and Sikhism came about at a time where there was so much change happening in the world.....perhaps the messages have gotten lost in space and time....
     
  8. Harkiran Kaur

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    Exactly, but then.... only recently we had females kicked out of the Toronto Nagar Kirtan while the parade marshals told the police (who were called to remove the Singhnis) that 'women aren't allowed to do that'. The Singhnis were not even representing Panj Pyaras in this case, but were only flag bearers. Even they were thrown out of being flag bearers. Do you honestly think any of these ancient artifact uncles will allow women to be one of the panj pyaras in the nagar kirtan if they won't even allow them to be flag bearers?

    Someone should bring the issue to World Sikh Organization Canada, to enforce the Sikh Rehet Maryada. Gurdwaras should be following SRM if they are flying the nishan sahib. And Having an all male panj pyaras is not wrong, but PURPOSELY avoiding females because of some idea that women can not do that seva is wrong and if it can be proven that a less suitable male was chosen over a more suitable female just because of gender, then it needs to be dealt with. Problem is nobody will speak out. MOst males won't speak out because they are not affected, and the Singhnis who do speak out are called 'feminatzis' and / or ignored.
     
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  9. Tejwant Singh

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    Feminazis is the word often used by the right wing well known radio talk show host called Rush Limbaugh, who was married 3 or 4 times and was caught with Viagra and pain killers which were not on his name when he landed at Palm Beach International airport on his private jet coming from Dominican Republic.

    "Feminazi": The History Of Limbaugh's Trademark Slur Against Women
     
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    #8 Tejwant Singh, Dec 19, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
  10. sukhsingh

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    Not sure about this..
     
  11. Harkiran Kaur

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    Sikh Rehet Maryada is the only accepted maryada by Akal Takht and is the panthic rehet maryada. If a Gurdwara flies nishan sahib they are aligning with Sikh panth, and under authority of Akal Takht are they not? In Sikh Rehet Maryada is code of conduct how to conduct services in Gurdwaras. If a Gurdwara is going against this, they are not following Akal Takht.
     
  12. sukhsingh

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    I appreciate your post, but am not sure i agree with the logic. I personally have issues with the legal authority, compilation of rahit maryada since for me at least it is a politicised document. The SAD narrowed the borders of the panjab to create panjabi suba, in many ways it's sister organisation the SGPC I feel they have revised and changed 'rahit' /guidelines into a pseudo-legal document which seeks to mirror this narrowing of 'sikh'. It allows them to own 'what it is to be a sikh'.

    I need nothing more than sggs. Surely Guru sahib would have said guru maneo Granth and rahit revision 1 etc. Otherwise?
     
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    #11 sukhsingh, Dec 19, 2016
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  13. Harkiran Kaur

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    You don't have to follow it if you are not Amritdhari. If you are Amritdhari it would be bad to think you can go around without the kakkars claiming to be Khalsa. SGGSJ doesn't say anything about the need to keep Kes for example. Or having to wear kashera or a kanga etc. I'm not sure if you plan to ever take Amrit or not, but if so you have to abide by the code of conduct given to you by Panj Pyaras and that code of conduct is the Sikh Rehet Maryada. If you choose to never take Amrit (you did say everyone and any religion are still sikhs) then you don't have to follow it. Gurdwaras however need to be run in a uniform way. For example would you think it was ok to have langar operating that served halal meats? Since SGGSJ actually does not explicitly say that we must be vegetarian then it's ok?
     
  14. sukhsingh

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    I fundamentally disagree you. If a gurdwara chose to serve halal meat I would choose not to visit. Just in the same way I choose to visit leamington spa gurdwara and support their right and the Sangat right to reject bigotry based around marriages. I would hope people would follow rahit however to compel them or to use it as a tool for conformity I oppose. The rahit provides us with guidelines it has only in recent years been turned into a type of legal document used to force conformity and uniformity.
     
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  15. Harkiran Kaur

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    Ok you would not personally choose to go to a gurdwara serving Muslim halal meats, but you agree that a gurdwara should be able to serve it if they want to? And still allow them to represent Sikhi? Is halal meats in consonance with what is Sikhi and how we want Sikhi presented to the world?

    First you want to erase what a Sikh is (comparatively to rest of followers of other belief systems faiths) and say that everyone is a Sikh even Christians, Muslims etc and now you want Gurdwaras to be able to be run like mosques etc. And not have to follow any set conduct, Should we just get rid of Gurdwaras and Sikhs altogether and just embrace everyone and whatever ideology anyone wants to follow? Just sell SGGSJ in bookstores why the need for a gurdwara at all? There is no need for palki Sahib right? We can just put SGGSJ in a drawer when not reading....
    All these things are laid out in SRM for a reason.
     
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  16. sukhsingh

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    I do not at all wish to erase what a sikh is.

    I fully respect for the traditions associated and practiced. However to use a metaphor what is the point of building a gurdwara with four doors when you will only allow people to enter through one.

    The rahit should help us and guide us, not control us.

    I ask the question, in all the great wisdom guru jis have shared with us why did they not proscibe as a set of laws in sggsj, why no explicit definition of 'sikh'. In many ways the elevation of SRM as a 'lawgiver' is disrespectful of guru ji as it suggests the omission of laws from sggsj was by mistake as opposed to by design. Ironically I often think my view is quite 'fundamentalist' since it seeks to shore us of all barriers. Now clearly I believe there should be a balance, but I personally have a problem when SRM is rolled out like my mum's rolling pin to bash someone into submission.
     
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  17. Harkiran Kaur

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    You still have not answered the questions. Is it ok if a Gurdwara decides to not put SGGSJ in palki Sahib? They can decide to serve halal meats at langar?

    And going back to the title of the post, they can decide to restrict women or others like homosexuals etc from positions such as granthi or disallow them to do kirtan? Code of conduct assures us that every Gurdwara will be run the same as in no woman should be afraid to walk into any Gurdwara wondering if it will be discriminating against her gender. (And sadly it does happen precisely because some refuse to follow SRM and have drafted their own, which sadly does place women in a lower and secondary role, including seeing women as impure because of biological functions.) That's what happens if it's not enforced.
     
  18. sukhsingh

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    Some of how you have extended my own thoughts is just silly. SRM provides practical guidelines on how to do parkash in a respectful way I wholeheartedly agree with it the majority of it and find it useful as a resource and reference to help guide me. However I do not think it is infallible, simply because it is a political document edited and updated to suit those in power and control of sikh institutions.
     
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  19. sukhsingh

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    If they decide to do it, I would find it hugely disrespectful, I would encourage people not to attend the gurdwara. I however would have no power to stop them, moreover guru ji is all powerful and I'm sure since akaal is all powerful and will exist through infinity my time would be better spent demonstrating through my behaviour naam jaapo, kirat karoo, vandh shako , through my behaviour demonstrate a alternative way. Instead of wasting my time raging against someone else's practice I could maybe spend that time enacting and living in what I consider to be harmonious with guru ji teachings
     
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  20. Harkiran Kaur

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    Unfortunately this is difficult if you are the one being discriminated against in Gurdwaras. Many limit what seva women are allowed to do. Many tell girls they are impure if they are menstruating so they can't sit on tabiya during that time (effectively limiting them from positions such as granthi because they would not be able to do their duties all month) some just bar women from sitting on tabiya at all (just so they can be sure no woman accidentally starts her period while sitting there). Some say women can't do kirtan or hold management committee positions.

    If there is no code of conduct then there is no enforcement that would allow women to be guaranteed equal treatment in Gurdwaras. As it is already some don't follow SRM and look what happens the above examples. Seva as Panj Pyaras is another. And how is a woman supposed to know if a new Gurdwara she happens to to go will be one that discriminates against her or not?

    If Akal Takht enforced code of conduct we would have Gurdwaras operating in same way across the board so no surprises. Discrimination would be gone as SRM guarantees equality. (Equality issue was the OP)
     
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  21. sukhsingh

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    I totally agree with you that it is a disgrace in some gurdwara females are not allowed to do sewa, however I'm not sure whether enforcement as you suggest is plausible. There are no legal sanctions that could be applied within sikh institutions, no way to make them binding.

    Could you please provide examples of your own experiences these issues are ones which we as a panth should address in a more concerted and focused manner. Maybe we could look at how to collectively agitate for change.

    I apologise if I come across overly provocative and somewhat of a anarchist but I assure you I am far from it.
     
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