1. Guru Gobind Singh gave one Amrit. Now, we have so many Amrits - Akal Takhat Amrit, Sant Amrit, Jatha Amrit, etc. Why is there such a conflict about what an Amritdhari should do or should not do?
. Some say it is okay to eat meat while others say it is totally wrong. Some say all meats are okay except beef. . If a lady takes Amrit she must tie a turban. Why?
(i) The Guru gave one Amrit and one Maryada, then why are there so many Amrits today? This is rightly a big question in the minds of all Sikhs. We know the reason for there being so many Maryadas, but we don't know how to convince these different groups to accept the approved Maryada as the one given by the Guru. The Guru authorized the Panj Pyaras to give Amrit to anyone desirous of joining the Khalsa Panth. Thousands joined this brotherhood on Baisakhi Day of 1699 after the founding of the Khalsa Panth. When these Singhs came to their villages they started giving Amrit to more people. They passed on the code of the Reht Maryada verbally to the new members of the Khalsa. This procedure is still going on today. During the Amrit ceremony, the candidates for Amrit do not take paper and pen to record all what is told to them. They listen to it, remember it and try to practice it in their lives. When Amritdhari Sikhs explained the Maryada to the new members, they did contribute, unintentionally of course, some variations in the instructions. It is now a known social phenomenon that when one hears a message and passes it on to another person, it is impossible to convey the message in the same spirit. He cannot help giving his own interpretation to the message, because of which the message may sometimes be totally changed. This happens even when one takes all precautions to communicate the message correctly without adding or deleting anything from it. It is easy to imagine the changes which could take place in the Maryada when there is a desire to make the Maryada better and holier than the one practiced by other Sikhs. (ii) We do not have a complete set of systematically written directions regarding Reht from the Guru. Of course, many Sikhs, some contemporaries of the Guru and others descendent of those who attended the Guru, have written their observations and instructions regarding the Reht to be practiced by the Khalsa. When all these writings are put together, not only do they not agree, but some observations contradict each other. In a few cases, the instructions go against the principles of Gurmat (Gurbani in Guru Granth Sahib). Sikh scholars, therefore, fear that some sections of the Reht Namas were not written by the persons whose names are associated with those writings. They must have been modified later on.
(iii) During the 18th century, the Khalsa were always harassed by the government. They had to leave their Gurdwaras and move to the woods for protection from the police and army. This situation prevailed for more than half a century. During this time, the Sehjdharis (without long hair) were in charge of the Gurdwaras. Later, the Gurdwara management slipped into the hands of Mahants, who became hereditary custodians of the Gurdwaras. Because of the Hindu environment and Brahmanical influence, they introduced many Hindu rituals in the Gurdwaras. During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh no effort was made to crystallize the Sikh Reht from the mixture of Hindu rituals.
(iv) It was during the British rule that Sikhs, having lost all political power, thought of their religious principles to get guidance for their future. The Gurdwara management under the Mahants had so much deteriorated during the previous 100 years that Mahants had become corrupt and started leading immoral lives. To increase their income they introduced worship of Hindu gods in the Gurdwaras, and act strictly prohibited for the Sikhs. There was no discipline, and women visiting the Gurdwaras were often harassed or even molested. This irreligious and immoral behavior of the Mahants gave birth to the Gurdwara Reform Movement. The intellectuals, the Sikh scholars, and the Sikh Sants supported the movement. They all got together to protest the anti Sikh and non Sikh rituals forced on them by the Mahants managing the Gurdwaras. For political reasons, the Government supported the Mahants in order to keep the Sikhs away from the control of the Gurdwaras. After enduring a long struggle and paying a heavy price in to form of blood and money, the Sikhs won control of their Gurdwaras in 1925. The first and one of the best actions they took was to appoint a committee to decide and put in writing the Sikh Reht Maryada to be followed by all Sikhs. The committee worked for many years, and sifted through all the available scriptures and writings of the times of Guru Gobind Singh. They finally presented the results of their research to the Sikh community. After receiving comments from all sections of the Sikh community, the final form of the Sikh Reht Marayada was approved and published by the Gurdwara Committee, Amritsar. It is this booklet which we should popularize and follow, even it we, individually, have different opinions. If a Sikh wants a change in it, the best course for him is to present his suggestions with logical arguments and authenticated evidence to the Khalsa Panth for consideration.
(v) It must be mentioned here that interference in the Sikh faith by certain forces against Sikhs and Sikhism is always widespread. Concerted efforts are often made by these forces to confuse the issues more, rather than let them to be decided by Sikh scholars. The Nirankari Sect, practicing anti-Sikh Reht, but claiming themselves to be Sikhs, are supported and helped by the political enemies of the Sikhs. These false Nirankaris disrespect the Guru Granth Sahib publicly and criticize the Reht in their writings and speeches. Sikhs have protested against this strongly. The government in power, rather than stopping Nirankaris from hurting the Sikh feelings, sided with them, resulting in the 1978 episode and later genocide of the Sikhs in 1984. There are many other anti Sikh splinter groups sponsored and supported by the government to mislead the Sikhs. There are, however, many genuine Sikhs who want certain changes/additions in the Sikh Reht Maryada booklet. The suggestion to such Sikhs is that they observe the Maryada already prescribed by the Gurdwara Committee, Amritsar, and hold on to it for the present for the sake of Panthic unity. This is not the proper time for making changes and asserting individual thoughts on the Khalsa Panth. Let the Khalsa first resolve the current life and death struggle before this topic is put on the agenda.
According to the Maryada booklet Kutha, the meat prepared by the Muslim ritual is prohibited for a Sikh. Regarding eating other meat, it is still silent. From the prohibition of the Kutha meat, it is presumed that nonKutha meat is not prohibited for the Sikhs. Of course, beef is prohibited to the Hindus and pork to the Muslims. Jews and Christians have their own restrictions. They may not eat certain kinds of meat on certain days. Sikhs have no such instructions. If one thinks he needs to eat meat, it does not matter which meat it is, beef, pork, poultry, fish, etc., which day it is. Of course, one should be careful not to eat any meat or other foods harmful to ones health. Gurbanis instructions on this topic are very clear. Only a fool argues whether to eat meat or not. Who can define what is meat and what is not meat? Who knows where the sin lies, being a vegetarian or a non vegetarian? (Page 1289 Guru Granth Sahib)
The Brahmanical thought that a religious person should be a vegetarian is of recent origin. Earlier, Brahmans had been eating beef and horse meat after sacrificing the animal in the name of the goddess. In conclusion, it is not correct to say that any person who eats meat (of course Kutha, because of the Muslim rituals is prohibited) loses his membership of the Khalsa and becomes an apostate. Traditionally, however, eating meat by the Sikhs is not encouraged. (See also Chapter V B Langar).
It is required of every Sikh to keep his/her head always covered. Males do so by tying a turban while most of the females keel a big scarf (chuni) to cover their heads and upper part of the body. Women who tie a turban (keski) are not infringing on any Reht; rather this is quite convenient and looks more graceful. Furthermore, by tying a Keski, the hair remain properly covered all the time. Scarves often keep coming off and the women are observed, even while sitting in Gurdwara, trying to keep it on their heads again and again. (See also Chapter IX Question 6). 2. If a Sikh took Amrit and lied later, is he a Khalsa or not? It is like asking whether a person is an American or not if he/she did something which is against the constitution. We know he remains an American but as a criminal or a guilty person depending upon the actions he did. Lying is a kind of cheating through words, which is an un-Sikh like act. A Sikh is not expected to tell a lie. Lying is a sinful for every person, whether a Sikh is or not. Life involves many aspects of our activities. Think of a student who has to learn many subjects and practice sports. One student may be good in studies and poor in sports, while the other may be good in sports but poor in studies. We recognize students by their total achievements. Similarly, a Sikh may be good in one aspect of life, but not in the others. Gurmat says. Instead of finding faults with others and requiring them to live a pious life, let us look for virtues in the people and try to live a virtuous life ourselves.[Guru Granth Page 766 ]
3. How are Amritdharis different from those Sikhs who live by Guru Granth Sahib, but do not wear the 5 symbols? How are they different from those people who serve humanity as a Khalsa is supposed to do?
Who is a better Sikh: he who is an Amritdhari, keeps 5 symbols and reads all Paath regularly, but does not live honestly; OR he who is not Amritshak, not wearing the 5 symbols, but lives a truthful life as a Sikh is supposed to live?
Why do people become Amritshak even though they know they are not going on the right path? I see people doing wrong things while they are Amritdhari Sikhs.
Amritdhari and Others
The principle involved in this case is similar to the one mentioned in the second question above. Amritdharis are different from non-Amritdharis, who live by the Guru Granth Sahib, in the same way as a soldier or a policeman of a country is different from a good law-abiding, high-class citizen. Both serve their country in their own way. A veteran enjoys greater respect from the people and the government of the state because of his duty to protect their freedom at the risk of his/her life. The Khalsa is a soldier, not of any worldly government of God, for serving people and protecting their human rights. They do so not because they are to be paid for their services, but because it is their duty to serve humanity. The physical distinction of wearing the 5-symbol uniform by a Khalsa is the same as a policeman wearing his uniform and looking different from other citizens of the state. Non-Amritdharis (without the 5 symbols) living the life of an Amritdhari Sikh, are like the civilians doing the duty of a policeman. They do so without joining the police department, without putting on their uniform, and without observing the code of discipline required of the policeman. Such people, even when doing better services than the policeman, are not recognized as policeman, but as good citizens. A person living a pious life as expected of a Sikh will be recognized as a holy man, but not a member of the Khalsa, unless he wears the 5-symbol uniform and observes other codes of the Reht.
This actually is the same question as above but asked in different words by another youth. The answer can be understood easily if we relate it to our daily life. Who is a better member of the team one who wears a uniform, but does not play the game, or the one who does not wear the uniform, but plays the game well? Each is deficient; one needs to learn how to play and the other needs to wear the uniform to become a member of the team. The two cannot be brought on the same level for comparison. Similarly, we can say one is a Sikh by appearance but not by actions, while the other is a Sikh by actions but not by appearance. To be accepted and honored as a member of the team (Khalsa Panth), one has to know how to play (do good deeds), wear his 5-symbol uniform and obey the rules of the game (observe the Khalsa Reht).
Baptism (Amrit), Why? This is not a question but an observation but an observation of a person who feels hurt to see Amritdhari Sikhs ignoring their vows. People may agree with it or not. The general image among the Sikhs today is that during the 18th century Sikhs had very high character. They offered their heads for their religious freedom and human rights. They would die, but not lie. The Sikh youth, after learning the Sikh way of life, wish and decide to sincerely follow that path. However, today they do not see many Sikhs living up to those standards. Rather, they see them fighting for taking over the control of Gurdwaras instead of serving the Sikhs and living the life of a Sikh. If we see with a wider perspective, we find many Sikhs who are making the highest sacrifices and suffering tortures even today to protect their religious freedom and human rights. Thousands have already become martyrs in the last decade. The history of the 18th century and the early 20th century is being repeated today. There are people who have even sold their houses to help the Sikhs struggling against the mighty Indian government. Many are silently leading a good Sikh life and helping needy people. It is ironic that a few hundred Sikhs fighting for positions in the Gurdwara management become more prominent than hundreds of thousands of Sikhs who go there for religious singing and learning the principles of Sikh life.
4. Why is a non Amritdhari considered inferior to an Amritdhari (not allowed to eat from the same plate) when you say that we are all equal?
Normal practice of the Langar is that it is served equally to all, without discrimination of whether one is Amridhari or a nonAmritdhari. Everybody eats in his own plate. All sit as equals and are given the same food. If you and your brother are eating from the same plate, it does not mean that you consider other persons not permitted to eat from the plate, as inferior persons. In the same way, when two Amritdharis (Khalsa is one brotherhood) eat from he same plate, it is no reflection on the status of life of a non Amritdhari.
5. It is acceptable for a girl to shave her legs and underarms if she does not cut the hair on her head?
No. A Sikh is required not to cut or shave hair from any part of the body. Trimming or shaving of eye brows by Sikh women is as much against the Khalsa Reht as trimming beard by Sikh men.
6. Why do we have to have long hair? My dad said, When the Sikhs were living in the forests, they could not get their hair cut, but now you can do it. Why can't we?
If one wants to accepted and recognized as a Sikh, keeping uncut hair is a requirement for that. When Guru Gobind Singh gave Amrit to the Sikhs, he also required them to wear the 5-symbol uniform. The Sikhs were living a very good life at that time in villages and cities. They were not living in forests. The Guru was living at Anandpur Sahib and was accepted as a true king. It is wrong to assume that Sikhs had to grow long hair because they could not cut it while living in jungles.
7. How do we answer this question, If you keep long hair, being God-given, why cut your nails which are also God-given?
You have been told the wrong reason by someone for keeping your hair uncut. Sikhs keep long hair, not because they are a gift of God, but because of the order of the Guru. The instructions of the Guru to retain natural hair (not to cut it at all) are misinterpreted by some persons to mean that we are to keep hair uncut, it being a gift of nature, Waheguru, to human beings. This misunderstanding prevails among many Sikhs.
8. You told us that keeping uncut hair is an essential requirement for a Sikh. Then why do Sikhs advertise Wanted a clean-shaven Sikh in matrimonial columns?
This is a very common question asked at Sikh youth camps. To prevent this issue in proper perspective, the discussion is reproduced below in full detail.
(a) The Question:
A simple question, Is it O.K. if a Sikh cuts his hair? was asked by a trainee at a Sikh Youth Camp. My quick response was, Nahin (no), hair is the identity of a Sikh. His immediate second question put me in a spot, Then why do people advertise: Wanted match for a clean shaven Sikh? Um...u...m...h.. Before I could answer this question, the boy continued, Anyway what has long hair to do with the faith of a person? One can be honest, truthful, and religious without keeping long hair. To my relief, a bearded European with long hanging hair passed by us. Pointing towards him, I asked the youth, Is he a Sikh? The answer was a quick and firm No. I continued, You mean that just keeping long hair does not make a person a Sikh. Probably, this is your argument. The boy agreed with me. Now, the question before us was, If keeping long hair does not make one a Sikh, then who is a Sikh and why should a Sikh keep long hair? We had a frank dialogue; below is the outcome of that.
(b) Search for the Answer:
(i) The faith: The Sikh faith was founded when Guru Nanak, coming out of the river, told people, Na Koi Hindu, Na Musalman. He implied that God does not judge people as Hindus or Muslims or anyone else. Before Him, we all are simple human beings and equal. The people, Hindu or Muslim, high caste or low caste, who accepted his preaching and lived accordingly were called Nanaks sikhs (note the letter s is not capitalized). The word sikh is a common noun and it means a disciple, a follower. Nanak, having revealed a new philosophy, became popular as Guru. The perception of the word Sikh, a member of a new community, which exists today, had not developed then. A sikh (follower) of the Guru, continued to be considered a member of his community, Hindu or Muslim. Bhai Mardana and Rai Bular were Muslims. Baba Budha was a Hindu, and Bhai Lalo was a low caste, but they were all sikhs, disciples of the Guru. The folk saying: Nanak Shah Fakir, Hindu Ka Guru, Muslam Ka Pir became popular wherever Guru Nanak went. Both communities joined the congregation to listen to Guru Nanak. A Hindu raja of Kangra became a sikh, a disciple of Guru Amar Das, and supplied timber for building the town of Goindwal. Mian Mir, a Muslim holy man, was a sikh of Guru Arjan Dev. Painda Khan, a general of Guru Hargobind, was a Muslim. As Guru Nanak kept long hair, his disciples, sikhs, also started keeping long hair and wearing turbans as their identity. May it be mentioned here that some Hindus, particularly holy people, already kept their hair long and tied turbans, even before Guru Nanak was born. Muslims tied turbans in their own style. The custom of keeping long hair and wearing turbans was not founded by Guru Nanak; this was a part of the world culture. Europeans also tied turbans and this is mentioned in the Bible as a religious requirement for the Jews while praying.
(ii) The Sikhs, a new community: In 1699, Guru Gobind Rai founded a new community called the Khalsa Panth, which came to be known as the Sikh Panth or more often, simply it Sikhs. To be a Sikh, a member of the Panth, all sikhs, even the Guru himself, had to take Amrit, adopt the 5K uniform, have a new surname (Singh for male, Kaur for female) and agree to follow a prescribed code of conduct, the Khalsa Reht. The Guru introduced the Nash (to destroy, to get rid of) doctrine for the Sikhs. Anyone who wanted to be a Sikh had to give up his previous faith (Dharam Nash) and his caste (Kul Nash). Taking Amrit and adopting a new surname symbolized a new birth in the house of the Guru. The Sikhs could no more be members of their old communities. As both words, sikh and Sikh, in Punjabi are written the same way, the word Singh was used for the Sikhs to identify them from the sikhs, the disciples. Not all sikhs, believers in the Gurmat philosophy, became Sikhs, members of the Panth. According to the intelligence reporter of the Mughal court, who was debuted to cover the 1699 Baisakhi function, about 20,000 sikhs (the numbers differ with different historians) joined the Khalsa Panth and thus became Sikhs, the members of the new community. Now, there were three communities, the Hindus, the Muslims, and the Sikhs. These Amritdhari Sikhs were honored as the Guru Khalsa Panth and the Guruship was passed on to them as Panj Pyaras. Deciding not to join the Khalsa Panth did not mean the sikhs, the disciples, were no longer good persons, an impression which some Sikhs mistakenly express about them today. Such sikhs were called Sehjdharis, slow adopters; they were welcome to take time before they formally joined the Panth. Now, they are better known as Shardaloos, believers of the Sikh faith. Being disciples of the Guru and followers of Gurmat, they were well-wishers and supporters of the Guru Khalsa Panth. They always sided with the Panth and suffered with them.
(c) The Answer
The above historical review gives us the answer to the question, Who is a Sikh? A person who believes in Gurmat takes Amrit, wears the 5K uniform and follows the Reht becomes a Sikh. Otherwise, a believer in Gurmat is a Sehjdhari, a sikh, (but not a Sikh), a person on his way to taking Amrit, becoming a Sikh and thus being a full and visible member of the Sikh Panth.
Sehjdhari Sikh is a contradiction in terms. Having become a Sikh, one is no more a Sehjdhari. In the other case, Sehjdhari sikh the word sikh is redundant because Sehjdhari means a sikh moving on the path to be a Sikh (Singh).
Sehjdharis are well-wishers, supporters, and helpers of the Panth, and they have to be respected as such. It is no favor to them, they deserve it and it is an obligation for the Sikhs to treat them that way. Let us understand this by an example. During the British Raj, the Indian Congress party ordered its members to wear khadi, homespun cloth, and reject the British manufactured cloth as part of their noncooperation movement. Almost all Indians supported this order but many of them (some were getting favors from the British Government, some were not committed enough) did not want to express it publicly. These sympathizers did not wear khadi to formally join the Congress. They, therefore, could not be given any office of the party. However, their advice was listened to by the Congress party because of their moral, social, and economic support to the party and its goal. They were accepted as believers of the principles of the Congress philosophy even though they were not visible members (did not wear khadi). Sehjdharis have an analogous status in the Panth. Even though they are not visible (Keshadhari) members of the Panth, they play a very important and vital role in the Panthic affairs. They have their belief in Gurmat, their close relationship with the Sikhs, and their moral, social, and financial support to the Panth. In short, they are the well-wishers of the Panth. There is another common example to explain the status of the Sehjdharis in the Panth. Many persons from all over the world have moved into the USA and have become resident-aliens. They are considered Americans for all purposes but they cannot vote (take part in the political process) because of not having become citizens by taking the oath of loyalty to the nation. As a resident-alien needs to take an oath to claim membership of the country, a Sehjdhari (a resident of the Sikh community) needs to take Amrit (oath) to be a member (citizen) of the Panth before he can participate in the decision making process (voting and becoming a member of the Sikh institutions/Gurdwaras) of the Panth. It should again be mentioned here, as observed in the very beginning, that keeping long hair and tying a turban alone does not make one a member of the Panth. It is both the faith and the practice of the Reht which make one a Sikh. Those who do not believe in Guru Gobind Singh and the Amrit ceremony founded by him are not Sikhs, member of his Panth. Radha Swamis, false Nirankaris, communists, and others who do not believe in Amrit, even if they keep hair and tie turbans, are not Sikhs. They are not even Sehjdharis because they do not believe in Gurmat preached by Guru Nanak (though they may claim so). They believe in another faith and they practice what was rejected by the Guru. One cannot be a member of two faiths at the same time, for example, a Hindu and a Muslim, a Sikh and a Hindu, or a Sikh and a Radha Swami. According to the Sikh faith, as already stated, it does not matter in the court of the Lord, whether one is a Sikh, a Sehjdhari, a Muslim, a Hindu, or someone else. People are judge only by the deeds they do. Being Amritdhari is the honor of being a member of the Panth, but is not a certificate to be used as a passport to Heavens (anyway, Sikhs do not believe in places like Heaven or Hell.) Neither being a Sehjdhari, or for that matter, a member of any other faith is a disqualification for realizing Truth. Baba Farid, Bhagat Nam Dev, and many other holy persons whose hymns are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, are examples before us.
(d) Another question
At the close of the discussion, a new question cropped up. Were the Bhagats, whose Bani is given in the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhs or not? They did not take Amrit. To find the answer, one must understand that the words guru and sikh were in use much earlier than the time of Guru Nanak Dev. They meant a teacher (guide) and a disciple, respectively. The former word guru is now accepted in the English language and included in the dictionary with the above meaning. Kabir and Sen are mentioned as sikhs by the famous scholar, Bhai Gurdas. Var 10-16. Kabir was the first disciple, a sikh of guru Rama Nand (Note that Rama Nand was a guru not a Guru). Motivated by the honorable status obtained by Kabir, another holy person, Sen, a barber, also became his sikh, a disciple.
There were (and also are today) many gurus and innumerable sikhs, disciples, of their respective gurus. However, the word Guru and Sikh have a specific meaning in the Sikh faith. The Guru means one of the ten Gurus and Sikh means a member of the Sikh Panth, not just any disciple. Kabir, Nam Dev, Sen, and others were sikhs, disciples but not Sikhs, members of the Khalsa Panth, which was founded by Guru Gobind Singh much later in 1699.
(e) The controversial Issue:
One of the trainees at the camp, feeling satisfied with the above dialogue, brought another controversial issue which he found causing lots of problems in the Sikh Community. He wanted to know the position of the Sehjdhari (without turban) and Keshadhari Sikhs (with turban) regarding Gurdwara management. The analysis led us to the following: As only a citizen (not a resident-alien) of a country can vote, and as only a person who has joined the party can be its office bearer, so only a Sikh (not a Sehjdhari) is entitled to be an office bearer of the Sikh institutions and Gurdwaras. Sehjdhars, of course, should be consulted, their views duly weighed, and they should be associated in the management of the Sikh institutions. Sikh Reht Maryada requires every devotee to be a Sikh to perform as a Granthi, Ragi, or Parcharak of the Sikh faith. Every Sehjdhari should be welcome to become an office bearer but only after joining the Sikh Panth by taking Amrit. If a Sehjdhari lays his claim to be a Sikh and thus feels entitled to become a preacher (Granthi, Rahi, Dhadi, Kathakar) or the president of a Gurdwara, then questions such as, Why should a Sikh keep long hair? and what does a clean-shaven Sikh mean? will continue to arise and will remain unanswered.
Further, when Sikhs hear in the prayer, Those who sacrificed their heads, got themselves cut joint by joint ... but lived their faith along with their uncut hair.
they would wonder, why did the Sikhs suffer so much and sacrifice their lives for living with uncut hair?
9. What are the five symbols for? (i) The 5 symbols of the Khalsa have the same value as the uniform of a policeman or a soldier and something more subtle than that. This means equality, uniformity, unity, and identity of the wearers. Every member of a team is required to put on a certain prescribed uniform for this very purpose. In the same way a Sikh has to wear the 5 symbols being a member of the Khalsa team, a SantSipahi. Every team member is proud of his uniform, particularly if the team has won most of the matches and has lost only a few. here is the Khalsa team whose coaches, captains and players played extremely well the sport of protecting the helpless people from the sword of the tyrannical rulers. Their victories have shaken the world and their successes have no parallel. Thats why the Khalsa can justifiably feel proud of their uniform. This is what Cliff R. Huthins, and Englishman who adopted the Sikh faith, meant when he said, It is not enough that people call me the son of Guru Gobind Singh just because I wear the five kakaars (5K symbols)? There is another way of explaining the significance of this Khalsa Reht. In a Sikh youth camp, pointing towards a nonSikh press reporter, the author asked the students, If he wears Sikh symbols, will he become a Sikh? The quick and unanimous response no showed their understanding of the basic importance of the Sikh symbols. It is not the physical utility of wearing the Sikh symbols. It is not the physical utility of wearing the Sikh symbols that makes the person a Sikh, it is the philosophy behind their wearing and his becoming a member of the Khalsa Panth, the son of Guru Gobind Singh, that gives the person the pride of being a Sikh. The five symbols connect us to that philosophy. The wearing of the Khalsa uniform has many physical advantages too, but that is not the primary reason we wear the uniform. These advantages may be considered bonus of the Khalsa uniform but not the reason for wearing the uniform. While answering the question Why do we Sikhs keep the 5 symbols? mentioning their advantages is an incorrect way of justifying the wearing of them. One can say I am keeping my kirpan (sword) for protecting myself. Other persons have been heard to challenge this reply by asking Why not keep a pistol instead of a sword? Why not have and automatic opening knife? Why not keep it concealed when it is meant to challenge your enemies? Why wear the Kirpan outside? The kirpan cannot be replaced by any arm because the kirpan is a part of the uniform of the SantSipahi. He can keep any arm for his protection in addition to wearing his kirpan. It is not just for the utility or the advantage of the 5 symbols that we wear them; we do so because of the Guru made their wearing a requirement for the Sikhs as a policeman or a player is required to wear his uniform.
10. why is the Kara (bracelet) not silver or gold?
Silver and gold are metals used for ornaments. Not just any Kara, but the steel Kara is a part of the 5-symbol uniform, and it cannot be replaced by gold or silver Kara.
11. If you do Amritshak, can ladies wear earrings, makeup, and other jewelry?
According to the Sikh Reht Maryada, there is no objection to wearing any kind of jewelry by an Amritdhari person provided one does not have to pierce his/her ear or nose to wear it. During the olden days, the wearing of earrings and nose rings indicated slavery. The owners used them to identify their slaves. This does not fit in the Khalsa culture. We, the Khalsa, enjoy full freedom and are not slaves of any person or even of any god; hence we feel it degrading to wear earrings. The reader may be surprised to know that wearing earrings is a recent fad. In early sixties, when the author visited the USA for higher studies, he did not see any woman or a girl with earrings. Rather he found, coeds chuckling at the silly act on Indian women students piercing their ears and putting rings in them. They believed that it was practice of backward and uncultured people. (In 1961 two American friends of the author showed their concern about this hurtful and meaningless Indian custom). What a U-turn fashion has taken now! All females young or old, almost without exception, are now seen wearing earrings. The size and design of the rings have no limits. The earrings have grown long enough to touch the shoulders and they swing around when the head is suddenly moved to left or right. Such fads come and go to be replaced by new ones. Wearing lipstick, earrings, skirts, and keeping long hair by boys is another example. However it is healthier for the mind and convenient for the body to live and dress simply and gracefully. Those who avoid such fads enjoy greater and everlasting peace of mind and keep themselves free from self-inflicted punishment. It also strengthens their mid to think independently and live as leaders among their peers. See also chapter VI, Question 6.
12. Can a person who is not an Amritdhari Sikh be as brave and true as an Amritdhari Sikh?
Bravery is not limited to any caste, country, or religion. Brave people have born all over the world and in all communities. It may, however, be mentioned that bravery does not necessarily indicate the great physical strength of a person. It relates more to the internal moral and spiritual strength. Bhai Duni Chand, a big heavy man and physically very strong, was one of the devotees of Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru asked him to fight with a drunken elephant who was to be lead to break open the gates of the fort at Anand Pur. Bhai Duni Chand got scared and slipped out of the fort. Bhai Bachitar Singh, a thin lean young man, faced that elephant with a strong spear and turned him back on its own men. Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh, the brave young sons of the Guru, while still in their teens, fought with the army at Chamkaur Sahib. They could not be scared by the hefty strong soldiers of the Nawab of Sirhind. Mai Bhago was a very brave Sikh woman. She had the courage to go from village to village, gather Sikhs, and challenge the Mughal army in 1705 at a pool now known as Muktsar. The Mughals suffered defeat at her hands and returned to their headquarters leaving the Guru free to move about in the area. Similarly, any person can follow truth. There are examples all over the world, people sacrificing their lives but not giving up their faith. It is only our ego, lust, greed, etc., that mislead us from the path of the truth. Only those who can overcome these tendencies, can become brave and follow truth even at the cost of their lives. 13. Should you put your kirpan over or under your shirt?
All the five Ks of the Khalsa uniform have their place and should be worn accordingly. The normal practice is to wear the kirpan outside the shirt. Some people wear it under the shirt, probably to avoid the question, Why are you wearing it? from the persons they meet.
14. Do Sikhs celebrate Diwali?
Is tying a Rakhri or Rakhi a Sikh ritual? Why or why not?
(i) Yes. On Diwali day fireworks are displayed at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Sikhs gather there in maximum numbers on that day. Diwali day has a different significance for people of different faiths. For many people, it is more a social celebration of happiness than a religious day. We are not sure if some religious connections attributed to that day are historically true or not. It is, however, known that Bhai Mani Singh Shaheed, during the early 18th century, started the gathering of the Khalsa at Amritsar twice a year, once on Baisakhi (spring), and the second time on Diwali (autumn). (ii) The Rakhri ritual is not a Sikh ritual. Its practice doesnt fit in the Sikh philosophy. Rakhi or Rakhri means protection. This is a custom among some Hindus. Accepting a Rakhri from a girl, sister or a cousin, means that the boy takes responsibility of protecting her if she happens to the into any trouble. As a token of his promise, he gives some money to the girl after she ties the Rakhri on his wrist. The ritual Rakhri assumes that a girl cannot protect herself. This gives second-rate status to the women. Hence, it is not an approved custom among the Sikhs. According to historic tradition, the Rakhi or Rakhri was a magic thread tied by a Tantric Yogi, a holy person, or a fakir, to protect the wearer from evil happenings. Later, the Rakhri took the form of the present colorful bangle like thread with flowers and other decorations tied to it.
15. My mom says you should not wash your hair on Fridays. Why not?
Some people consider certain days to be good or bad for certain actions. In the West, many people believe there is a particular day when one should not work but pray; Sunday, Saturday, and Friday are such days for the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims respectively. They do not eat meat or particular kind of meat on certain days of the week, or during certain weeks of the year. Similarly, Hindus also consider days to be auspicious or inauspicious for certain actions. As mentioned in the question, some people don't wash their hair on Friday or Thursday; some don't travel on particular days in a particular direction. In the Sikh faith, no such thinking is entertained. The Sikhs believe the names of the days and the numbering of the dates are given by man and not by God. God made days, not good or bad days. They become good or bad to us according to our actions. When you love and remember God, Gurmat says it is a good day for you; when you ignore Him it is, a bad day. (Page 318, 640 Guru Granth Sahib)
16. Why do boys wear pugree? Why cant they deep their hair hanging down like English people? Also, male Sikhs tie turbans; why not female Sikhs?
(i) Covering their heads by people is an age-old world custom. It was generally considered good culture and respectable behavior for all social, formal, and religious functions. Some people keep this tradition even today. Orthodox Jews keep a small cap on their head. A Christian bride during her wedding covers her head and face by a veil. In some churches, Christians attend the congregation with their heads covered. During a Hindu marriage, the groom always ties a turban and the bride keeps her head (usually her face as well) covered with a veil. All Rajputs, with or without long hair, who were the ruling class and fighters, kept a turban on their heads. Pugree, the turban, was tied during the preSikh period in almost all of India. It was considered royal attire. High Muslim officials wore turbans. Respect and turbans went together. A man without a turban was considered a lowly, poor person. Tying a turban meant the wearer was a responsible and honorable person. In the recent past, and uncovered head of a person, particularly a priest or any other responsible person, meant something bad had happened, usually a death in the family. A very interesting folk tale will help to explain it. A Brahman went out for a morning bath in the river as usual. After a quick dip, he came running home forgetting his turban there. His wife, seeing him coming without a turban on his head started crying, assuming someone had died. When the Brahman came into the house, finding his wife weeping, he also started weeping aloud. This set everybody who came there weeping. When they stopped, one member asked Who is dead? The lady said the Brahman knows it because he came home without a turban. The Brahman immediately uttered, Oh! Where is my turban? Yes. I forgot it at the river in the morning. The water was very cold and it was windy. A turban was expected never to be forgotten by a respectable or a religious person. For the Sikhs, it is a religious symbol rather than merely a social symbol of honor. We cannot copy other cultures in leaving the hair unattended or hanging down. We also cannot cut our hair; that is to tie it on your head and cover it with a pugree. Females are allowed to wear turbans. Even when they wear turbans, the Punjab tradition requires they keep their scarf (chunni) on their shoulders to cover the upper part of the body as a matter of graceful dressing. Traditionally, some women wear a slightly different kind of small turban on the head. The males also wear a small turban on their heads when staying inside the house. In public, however, they are always expected to wear a normal size turban. (See also Chapter VI Question 9.)
17. You ask us (girls) to keep our heads fully covered with scarf, but why don't men cover their beards in the Gurdwaras?
We cover our heads in Gurdwaras, I know it is out of respect. is God not everywhere outside? (i) For ladies and gentlemen, it is good culture to keep their faces visible and their heads covered. With some minor differences this is practiced all over the world. Only guilty men who commit a crime, particularly a social crime such as stealing, raping, cheating, etc. cover their faces. People, with or without a beard, who have done good jobs are proud to show their face, because it is clean of sins. It must be mentioned here that there are also cultural reasons to cover the face. Out of modesty a Hindu married a woman covers her face with a veil in the presence of any male member of the family older than her husband. Muslim women cover their face as a religious requirement. (ii) The head is to be kept covered by a Sikh, not only while in the Gurdwara but also everywhere else, i.e., in social gatherings and moving out among the people. While in their homes, the Sikhs keep their heads covered with a small scarf or Keski. In a Gurdwara, everyone, a Sikh or a nonSikh, out of respect for the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and for good manners, is required to keep his/her head covered. As most of the nonSikhs usually keep their heads uncovered, they have to put some covering on their heads before going into the Gurdwara. From this, a wrong notion has been formed only in the Gurdwara. The turban is an essential part of the dress of a Sikh. In the house, however, he uses a short informal turban called Keski to keep his head covered.