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Sikh Rehat Marayada And The Treatment Of Disabled Persons


Feb 19, 2005
At Least For Decency
Mohan Singh (Virick) Tue Aug 28, 2001

Roger is a Canadian veteran of the Vietnam War. His youthful life has been
bumpy and irresponsible. Having inherited the genes of diabetes and heart
disease, he has aged more than the years he has lived. Bouts of alcohol
abuse in his teenage years have cost him his limbs and he goes for dialysis
three times a week for his failing kidneys.

But Roger made a U-turn in life ten years ago. Now, he has a clean mind and
soul. He has helped many teens with problems that often plague western
youth, he has organized a food bank, he contributes to many charities from
his meager pension and is a pillar of hope to the community.

As his physician, it is with pride that I have seen Roger transform. His
visits to the office are lengthy for he has a lot to tell me.

Roger was born Catholic but now reads Buddhist and Islamic scriptures and
asked me about my own Sikh faith. He is troubled with the English
translations of the books I gave him. Though they are written in English,
Roger tells me that he cannot understand the flow or the grammar of the text.

In March of last year I gave him a CD of Khalsa Kaur Khalsa's rendition of
Anand Sahib in English. When I saw Roger in May, he knew all of the Anand
Sahib and the Kirtan Sohala and could recite them from memory.

According to Roger, Anand is the universal song of joy for the disabled.
Inspired, he organized an evening group of amputees who meet twice a week
to read and recite the Anand. He even put the Anand Sahib to a melody of a
western tune that he plays on a country guitar.

Roger and his friends feel liberated with the hope that Anand Sahib gives
them. The physical handicaps that had jailed me, Roger said, were all
illusions. His failing eyes can see, his chopped legs can run and his ears
can hear the message of love. He says his journey of the spirit needs limbs
no more. Anand has made them complete. The spirit of the mind needs no
wheel chairs, or special ramps, they are free... free&.free.

I told Roger that the Sikh Gurus always had a special affinity for the sick
and the disabled. When the Gurus mentioned disabilities they talked of the
disability of mind and spirit rather than physical handicaps of the body.

The blind are those who see no universality of the spirit; the lame are
those who have no fortitude to do good things for others. Chronic diseases
are described as hopelessness of the spirit and mind, rather than asthma,
hypertension, or diabetes.

This Sikh spirit of practical compassion was lived by Sikhs like Bhagat
Puran Singh, Bhai Sahib Vir Singh and others. Bhagat Puran Singh's life
work is a testimony of Sikh dedication to the care of the disabled. Puran
Singh has written many works on Sikh theology and thought, but his work
with the unfortunates makes him stand out.

Bhagat Puran Singh never labeled people as kaana (blind) or loola (legless
or footless). To him the disabilities were not apparent, the disabled were
just Ram Singhs, Kanhaiya Lals and Shanti Devis. They were different from
the rest of us due to the injustices of the society that isolated them from
opportunities and hope.

Bhagat Puran Singh found solace and hope in the Sikh faith that paralleled
his idea of compassion to the disabled. He said that good deeds to the
disabled were not to be offered as a charity but as a requirement, for,
without man helping man, spirituality is an empty word.

Some have obvious physical disabilities, others, perhaps, are much worse
off. We have spiritual disease that is eating away at us inside, yet we
look healthy. Our eyes are sick they see no good in others. Our legs carry
our body weight, but refuse to move us to charity. Our mouths articulate
empty words and our ears hear no messages of love. Some of us who maintain
façades of complete persons are, in fact, just cheap pretenders - the real
disabled and sick, very sick.

The Sikh Guru Ram Das championed working with the worst physical and social
disease of those times. To him a person with leprosy was a leprosy patient,
not a leper. He built a hospital of compassion for them at Taran Taran,
with a pool of water around the facility. The pool represented the
cleansing power of the word of God; the building was to house all, the well
to give help, and the sick to be healed.

Yet Guru Ram Das declared those 'wretched deformed lepers' who had no love
of God in their heart. (Page 528 Line 8, Guru Granth Sahib). The Guru
Granth, our only book of conduct, repeats itself again and again, in the
same vein, defining the disabled as only those that lack spiritual
perspective. (Page 24 Line 14, Page 280 Line 14, Page 328 Line 12 and Page
1245 Line 7.)

It is in this matter that my heart aches when I see, in spite of all these
examples in our history and spiritual text, our present callous attitude
towards the physically disabled.

The current Sikh Maryada (the Code of Sikh Conduct) is a document that
reflects no compassion for the disabled and sick. It denies the physically
disabled the rights to perform the duties of high importance. A faith that
prides its stand on the rights of others is now perpetrating injustice on
its own.

In my recent discussions with many Canadian and American patients and
friends, I am constantly reminded that though compassion for the
unfortunate may have religious precedence in Sikh history, the facts are
somewhat different. Before dying fifteen years ago, my father expressed a
wish to visit Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi. Although a note from the SGPC
states that wheel chairs are allowed in some parts of the Darbar Sahib in
Amritsar, my father could not visit the inside of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib as
wheel chairs are not allowed and he could not be carried inside since the
pain of malignancy had spread into his bones.

I thought then of my own country (Canada) and how blessed we are, we have
rules, the sick have rights and dignity. These acts came from common sense
rather than from loud proclamations of spirituality. Shopping malls and
buses were denied rights to operate if they ignored basic facilities to the
disabled. Churches made special entrances and pews for easy entrance and exit.

Sikh Gurudwaras on the other hand, are physically inaccessible to those
that come there in pain. The steps of the Gurudwaras are designed for the
young and spry that can skate the slippery, mostly wet, marble.

Unfortunately, indifference to the disabled is institutionalized by a
prescribed code of conduct. From what seems to be evident, the Sikh Maryada
not only promotes, but also requires this attitude.

I quote from an email from the SGPC:

Mohan Virick ji,

Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru ji Ki Fateh

Thank you for your email.

According to the code of Sikh Conduct and conventions (Section six) Page
34. The five beloved ones administer ambrosial baptism should not include a
disabled person such as a person who blind, lame, one with broken or
disabled limb or one suffering from some chronic diseases. We should obey
the Sikh code of Conduct.

In charge,
Internet Office,
SGPC, Amritsar.
(Reproduced unedited)

This note has many disturbing flaws besides its language skills. If this
practice is indeed enshrined in law, our progressive faith contravenes the
very universal United Nations Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Is Roger really wrong? Is the Anand Sahib only a work of poetry and not a
living document of hope?

What about the many Hazur Sahib Granthis whom I saw as patients in Canada?
They had hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Have they then,
violated Section 6 of Sikh law by administering amrit illegally? Or are
hypertension, hyperlipedimia, obesity and diabetes exempt and not chronic
diseases? What then is the list of chronic diseases that debar a Sikh from
the ambrosial duties? Is there such a list, and where is it kept? Am I a
co-conspirator as a physician, for staying silent about their chronic
diseases while they administered amrit? Do those baptized by the disabled
Jathedars need baptism again?

The Guru has said that we all are small lamps of a greater light. It is
unkind to enshrine in law practices that divide men on physical
disabilities, forgetting that all life comes from a common source and it is
only actions that make us better. Those that have health and limbs today
may not have them tomorrow.

I am, therefore, asking you, all women and men of sense and goodwill to
stand up and voice your disapproval against Section 6 of the Sikh Rehat
Maryada. You may have accepted the spirit of this law in your own lifetime
but your children, born in the age of global communication and knowledge,
will never do so. After all, to think of it, this is really not a matter of
theology or religious doctrine. This is a basic premise in all civilized
societies that no one is denied any rights based on physical disabilities.
Do not have yours brought up in disgust for those that are less fortunate.

The note states 'We should obey the Sikh code of Conduct'.
I beg you, for decency sake, not to obey this one.

Sep 4, 2005
Punjab, India
Re: At Least For Decency

Respected AmeriKaur Jee

Waheguru Ji Ke Fateh

I highly appreciate your thoughts and concern regarding our callous attitude towards human beings with less than normal physical abilities. And I am with you to say that we should not obey such 'code of conduct'.

No maryada can be a final word. It cannot be a static affair.
The only final Maryada is that we Sikhs have to follow the directions of our Guru - Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee.
All other Maryadas may be time specific. Human mind and sensivities keep evolving with passage of time. We make our social rules of conduct and keep changing them with change of time.
Sep 4, 2005
Punjab, India
Re: At Least For Decency

The current Sikh Maryada, was a collective decision of Sikhs of a particular period of time. It wasn't given to us by our Gurus. It even failed to decide many issues that are still lingering on.

No decision of Sikhs, whatever and whenever, can over ride the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee

We make our maryadas according to our level of understanding of the teachings of our Guru which may be deficient.

Even the highest body of Sikhs the SGPC is not following its own Approved Maryada.
Even this maryada is not being followed by the Gurudwaras under its own control.

Every Sikh dera has its own maryada !!
Sep 11, 2005
Rather than endorsing and promoting "REHAT MARYADA" in the MATERIALISTIC form ,

why not go for .........

Spiritual , Intellectual and Rational "REHAT MARYADA"
Jul 30, 2004

if sprituality does not comes effective on matterialistic ground it is useless.

das thinks that disabled persons may not be able to persom the duties which include reading,speaking and actions etc. during baptism.

But it is posible to give them duty which they can do during baptism ie disabilty does not effect.
Sep 4, 2005
Punjab, India
devinesanative said:
Rather than endorsing and promoting "REHAT MARYADA" in the MATERIALISTIC form ,

why not go for .........

Spiritual , Intellectual and Rational "REHAT MARYADA"

Yes, rightly said.

First .... Rationality
then .....Intellectualism
then .....Spirituality

.... these form the basics of Sikhism. No Maryada can bypass these aspects. Our present maryada concerns more with materialistic aspects.


(previously amarsanghera, account deactivated at t
Jun 7, 2006
<<das thinks that disabled persons may not be able to persom the duties which include reading,speaking and actions etc. during baptism.>>

can you elaborate on this?

what exact actions etc cannot be done by a challenged person ?

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 5, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
<das thinks that disabled persons may not be able to persom the duties which include reading,speaking and actions etc. during baptism.>>

can you elaborate on this?

what exact actions etc cannot be done by a challenged person ?
There really are some things, unfortunately, depending on the challenges. For example, I recently had a stroke and, for a time, couldn't speak very clearly. And to this day, the left side of my body is partially paralysed and doesn't work very well. The list goes on.

I realise that, since I am a woman, this is probably moot.

But the idea that one wounded in defense of Sikhi, for example, fighting murderers in 1984, thus becomes ineligible to be one of the five beloved is preposterous, unjust and clearly wrong.



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