Chapter 6



1. Is it necessary to partake of Amrit? If we do not, who are we, Khalsa or what?

(i) Yes, for becoming a Sikh, a member of the Khalsa Panth, one has to partake of Amrit. The question is answered in detail in Chapter III. Briefly, it may be restated here that to enter any political party or a religion one has to enter any political party or religion one has to undergo a ceremony. For being a member of a party or school, one has to fill a form and sign it as a token of accepting its principles and discipline. Similarly, for being a member of a faith, there is a religious ceremony, Sunnat for a Muslim, Janju (sacred thread) for a Hindu, baptism for a Christian and Amrit for a Sikh. In this aspect Sikhs are no way different from other major faiths. Even Guru Gobind Rai himself took Amrit and became the first member of the Khalsa Panth admitted by the Panj Pyaras. If Amrit is a requirement for every Sikh to join the Panth. Anyone who wants to be a member of the Sikh Panth has to partake of Amrit and abide by the code of conduct (Reht) told at that time. (ii) The Khalsa Panth has, however, no franchise on Gurbani or Gurmat, the Sikh way of life. Anyone, a Hindu, a Muslim or a member of any other faith or none, can read, practice and take advantage of Gurbani. One can live his/her life accordingly without being a formal member of the Panth (without partaking of Amrit). To give an example, one can be a very good player without being a member of any team. One may not be a formal member of the Panth but may be living the model life of a devotee mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib. Goodness and holiness are not reserved for the Amritdhari people only. A Muslim, a Hindu or a Sehjdhari too, may be a good and a holy person. Being holy and good, however, does not mean that a person becomes a member of the Panth.

(iii) There is another aspect of this question as well. A person looking like a Sikh, knowing Gurbani and keeping long hair covered with turban, may not be a Sikh. The head of the Radha Swami and some of his followers may be mistaken for a Sikh which they are not. They declare themselves to be Rhada Swmai (not Sikhs). Similar is the case with false Nirankaris (who look like Sikhs but disclaim to be Sikh) and Communists (who do not believe in God and claim not to belong to any religion). Any person can claim to be a Sikh and follow the Reht to the extent one can, provided one believes in the ten Gurus, the Guru Granth and the Amrit ceremony started by Guru Gobind Singh. Anyone who becomes a Sikh cannot practice any other faith, may it be Hinduism, Christianity, Yoga, or the recent groups including Radha Swamis, false Nirankaris or Communists. For being identified as a formal member of the Panth taking Amrit is an essential requirement. Before taking Amrit, one may be of any faith (Hindu, Muslim, etc.) or of none. One may be a child of a Sikh or a Sehjdhari. Sehjdhari is one who believes only in the Sikh faith but has not become its formal member, that is, one who is on one’s way to take Amrit. For example, a medical student is a student-doctor but not a doctor until he gets through the graduation ceremony. A Sehjdhari is a student Sikh, who is living like a Sikh. A Sejhdhari is expected to partake of Amrit as and when an Amrit ceremony is available to him.

2. Is it necessary for a Sikh to take Amrit? If we don't take Amrit can we still be considered close to the Guru Ji?

Yes, to be a Sikh one has to join the Sikh Panth, and for this, as stated above, one is required to go through the Amrit ceremony. It is a promise made voluntarily, willingly and sincerely in the presence of the Panj Pyaras, to live the life of a Sikh. The person is told about the Do’s and Don’ts to be observed by an Amritdhari Sikh. Taking Amrit means making a public promise to join the Khalsa Panth, to live a right kind of virtuous life of sewa-Simran and remain free from vices. If one wants to benefit from being close to the Guru, one must obey the command of the Guru and then why should one hesitate to take Amrit? Some persons are reluctant to take Amrit because it means commitment to recite Gurbani regularly, live according to its directions, and not to do wrong actions. It should be made clear that one cannot, on his own, declare himself to be a Sikh, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Christian. Every faith has an obligatory ceremony for a child (see answer to Question #1 above) to enter the faith of his/her parents. Having been born in a faith, one does not automatically become a member of the faith. In the Sikh faith, the ceremony is performed when one can practice the ceremony is performed when one can practice the faith and can read Gurbani to understand and follow it. As a matter of principle, one born in a Sikh family is expected to take Amrit anytime before marriage, which is to be performed according to Sikh rites. If a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu keeps long hair, does not smoke or drink, reads Gurbani and gives contributions to a Gurdwara, he cannot on his own declare himself to be a Sikh, a member of the Panth. To join the Panth, he or she has to take Amrit. A best player cannot himself claim to be a member of a team unless he joins the team and wears the uniform of the team. How to be close to the Guru? Guru is a spiritual light to guide all seekers to the holy panth. No one has a franchise on the Guru or God. Everyone, whatever his faith, may be close to the Guru to the extent one desires to be. It is not the physical closeness which matters; it actually means how much you listen to the Guru and how much you obey him. The two sons of Guru Nanak Dev were, of course, physically very close to the Guru but did not listen to him, hence they were spiritually away from him. Bhai Lehna Jee, a devotee of a Hindu goddess, became a disciple of the Guru. He listened to the Guru and obeyed him; as a result he became the Guru himself. Gurbani; the living spirit of the Gurus, is with us. To be close to the Gurus, we may recite it, listen to it and follow it. This is the way to be in touch with the Gurus and enjoy their sermons.
3. What is the next step after you partake of Amrit?

This is a very interesting question. Obviously, when one partakes of Amrit he/she becomes a member of the Khalsa and promises to live his/her life according to the Khalsa Reht. There are some misunderstandings about “What is Amrit? What does it mean to be an Amritdhari?” It needs to be explained here. Amrit is an ancient word used in different forms all over the world but means the same thing, some holy liquid the drinking of which keeps death away. Hindu gods are supposed to have taken it and that is why they are to “live” forever. Guru Nanak says this is simply a myth. There is no other Amrit except God’s Name. Actually those people (their souls) should be considered alive who drink God’s Name (love God and always keep Him in their mind). Those who ignore Father God, they (their souls) should be considered dead. ((Guru Granth Sahib) Page 9) In the concluding hymn of the Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev tells us that the whole of Gurbani is Amrit, God’s Name. ((Guru Granth Sahib) Page 1429)

What we call “partaking of Amrit” is actually “partaking of Khanda Bata Paul”. The ceremony includes making a devotee take the sanctified water and say Waheguru, God’s Name adopted by the Sikhs. A Sikh is told to read Gurbani regularly and love God (Naam Simran). There is a code of conduct an Amritdhari is required to follow. It helps him to live an honest, humble and virtuous life. It is a good moral life which a Sikh enjoys. He keeps away from unsocial acts and vices. Thus the “next step” after one partakes of Amrit is to enjoy living an upright and truthful life, and also keeps away from immoral and wrong paths. (For details of do’s and don’ts for a Sikh, please see Sikhism, A Universal Message published by the Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society, Vancouver, Canada, or Sikh Reht Maryada published by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee Amritsar).

4. I am very unsure of why growing hair is a must for a Sikh. Is there any special motive behind it or is it an order?

Is it a breach of faith to have short hair? What part do the five Kakaars play in our life?

(i) The answer is given in Chapter III (questions 9-13). Briefly it may be stated that maintaining uncut hair is a part of the 5K uniform of a Sikh who is required to keep these articles of faith as a symbol of his/her identity, and his/her mission in life. If a religion involved only individual concerns, one would need no form or ceremonies. Sikhism is a mission which requires one to be a noble person and work together as an organization to serve people. For maintaining discipline and spirit of service, called esprit de corps, use of such devices as flags, drills, and uniforms among the members of an organization like the army, police and scouts, has been in common use for a long time. Guru Gobind Singh, in founding the Khalsa, the Sikh Panth, required the 5K uniform to be worn by every member of the Khalsa, Akal Purkh ki Fauj, the Legions of the Lord. Sometimes it is said Kesh (hair) are natural and they preserve energy. Kirpan helps to protect us from bad people. These answers are intellectual explanations to justify the utility of the 5K’s. Such answers are not the basic reasons to wear the 5K uniform. They may be called advantages or benefits of keeping them. We wear clothes as a matter of our good culture. They have the additional advantage of protecting us form weather. Even when we have the best weather and we don't need to wear clothes, still we wear some clothes as a social requirement. Similarly, wearing the 5K uniform is a religious requirement for a Sikh, a member of the Khalsa Panth. Of course, like clothes, they have other benefits too. (ii) By not keeping uncut hair, one discards the discipline of the Khalsa code and loses one’s right to claim one’s membership in the Panth. In the same way, someone who takes off the team uniform can no longer play as a member of the team, even though he continues to be a good player.

(iii) The 5K uniform is a requirement for a member of the Khalsa Panth, just as every member of a team has to wear the uniform prescribed for the team. The uniform provides identity, unity, and motivation for the members in achieving the mission of the team. The 5K’s have the same significance for the members of the Khalsa Panth.

5. During social parties and celebrations, is drinking alcohol in small amounts allowed? The answer in NO. For details see chapter II question 5.

6. Can an Amritdhari, (i)wear earrings, (ii)eat meat?

Why don't we do the full Rehras at the Samelan (Johor Bahru, Malaysia, 1994 meet)?

(a) (i) The answer is NO. According to the Reht Maryada, a Sikh is not permitted to pierce his/her ears. Therefore, a Sikh is welcome to wear jewelry which does not require piercing of the ear, nose, lip or any other part of the body. According to an old custom, a guru, to accept and identify his chela or disciple would put an earring in his ear. An Amritdhari is not a chela of any individual guru, sant, or a member of any group; therefore, he/she does not need to pierce the ear and wear earrings to identify with that individual or group. Today, it has become a fashion or rather a fad. Once in a while we may see a person with as many as seven holes in the ear, and even with pierced lips and navels. See also chapter III question 11.

(iii) Eating meat should not be an issue for a Sikh. Discussing the question of eating or not eating meat is futile. One does not know where the sin lies. Here is a quotation from Gurbani. ((Guru Granth Sahib) Page 1289) For details see chapter III question 2.

(b) We do full Rehras at the Samelan. We do not add anything on our own to it to make it longer than that constituted by the Guru and thereby make people believe it to be better. Any addition on our own does not make Rehras more correct, rather it breaks the uniformity of our prayers. For details regarding when and why additions to the Rehras were made out of ignorance, see Chapter II question 8.

7. “Reht pyari mujh ko, sikh pyara nah”. What does this mean?

The statement stresses the need of living like a Sikh and following the Sikh code of conduct sincerely, and not just appearing as a Sikh outwardly. In English, they say: “Handsome is what handsome does”. One is valued for what one does and how one behaves. If one appears good but does not do good, that person is not to be considered good. The Guru says that one is loved by him not because one looks like a Sikh but because one lives a good moral life as desired by the Sikh Reht. We use this statement to motivate Sikhs to practice Reht to love God, to recite Gurbani, to live honestly, to share one’s earnings and to wish well for all humanity. Doing all this, one also feels self-esteem in maintaining the 5K uniform of a Sikh. If any Sikh is found ignoring this kind of life, he is reminded of duties and requirements of a Sikh by repeating the above statement. A Sikh is made to feel that it is the character and virtues of a Sikh which makes him acceptable to the Guru and also acceptable to God.

8. Guru Nanak said to the Brahman, “Will this thread make me a better person?” I ask now about the 5K’s “Will they make me a better person?”

The answer is very simple. Can one become a policeman by wearing the uniform of a policeman? Is a policeman permitted to perform his duty without wearing the uniform? We all know one does not become a policeman by wearing the uniform, yet a policeman has to wear his uniform to reveal his identity and explain his mission. Just wearing the 5K’s will make no difference if the person has no commitment for the faith. However, a faithful person has to wear the 5K’s to reveal his identity and his mission (as mentioned in Reht Maryada). Guru Nanak said that it is the spirit and honesty with which you perform an action that matters. A Sikh has to commit himself to a certain prescribed way of life and honesty to follow it. Guru says such a person will be saved. If a person puts on Janju or keeps long hair or anything else just to show that he is a faithful person but actually he does not have any commitment for the faith, it will not make him a better person. The Brahmans performed the ceremony to get money from the people for their services, and were not concerned about advising them of the path of truth. Further, the Brahman was getting donations from the people in the name of their dead parents. They were told that their ancestors would be benefited by every thing given to the Brahmans. Unfortunately some Sikhs under that old custom now treat Sikh preachers as Brahmans and give donations to them (or to the Gurdwara) with a wrong hope that it will benefit their ancestors. This in not endorsed by Gurbani. Wearing a thread and giving money to the Brahman has such no virtue. Similarly just putting on the 5K’s and giving money to the Sikh priest has no virtue. However a Sikh, being a Policeman for Peace (Akal Purkh Ki Fauj), is to follow a virtuous life and to put on the uniform for the reasons a policeman or a player wears his uniform. Even the best players have to put on the uniform prescribed for the team to play as a member of the team. To be a member of the Panth, a Sikh, while living the right kind of life, has also to put on the 5K uniform. Also see the answers to Questions 1,4,7,9 of this chapter.

9. In which line in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is it written that we must wear six to seven yards of turban?

(i) The answer to the question can best be understood by bringing another question to our mind, “On which page in the book “Rules of the Hockey Game”, is the uniform of a hockey team described?” All of us know the answer is “nowhere”. It describes only the rules and regulations of the hockey game and is not expected to prescribe the uniforms of the teams who want to play the game. That choice, we know, lies with the organizers of the team. Sri Guru Granth describes the mission of human life and teaches us how to achieve that. Anyone and everyone, of whatever faith one may be, is welcome to take advantage of the directions and guidance for leading one’s life on the path described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In 1699 Guru Gobind Rai founded, Khalsa Panth, a “team” of the Sikhs under the “captainship” of the Panj Pyaras and ordered them to wear the 5K uniform, which includes the wearing of the turban to cover one’s head. One has a choice to be a member of the Sikh Panth or not. If one chooses to be a member, uncut hair and turban come with the choice. Wearing a turban is not the invention of the Guru; this kind of practice is as old as the written history of Old Testament mentions the requirement of tying turbans by the priests. “Once they enter the gates of the inner Court, they are to wear linen vestments, they shall wear linen turban and linen drawers on their loins.” Old Test. Ezekiel 44:18-19. Even in the West, in the so-called advanced culture which does not always respect traditional values, a bride at the time of her marriage still feels honored to cover her head and face by a veil. The requirement of covering one’s head is not peculiar to Sikh faith; it is an old worldwide culture of the civilized people.

(ii) Gurbani is concerned only with describing the mission of human life and guiding the followers to achieve that goal. It enlightens the holy path for all of humanity and tells us how to follow it. It teaches us how to take advantage of the gift of human life and enjoy it. In simple words, Gurbani, the sacred scripture, guides all human beings to identify with their Lord (Father and Mother of all people) and thus help them to fulfill themselves by loving Her/him. Gurbani guides all of us, not just Sikhs alone, for this union. We, Sikhs, have been designated as the Akal Purkh ki Fauj and were given our 5K uniform including the turban. We wear it not just because we believe in Gurbani (non-Sikhs, also believe in the teachings of the Guru Granth. See Sikhism: A Universal Faith, pages 37-39) but because we are all members of the Khalsa Panth whose membership requires both males and females to keep their heads covered. Sikhs wear shirts, pants and other clothes, not because it is written in the Sri Guru Granth, but because it is part of the culture of civilized human beings. They wear turbans and maintain the 5K’s, not because it is mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib but because it is a requirement for members of the Panth. Police, army, and sportsmen all have their uniform to identify and remind them of their mission. They enjoy wearing their uniform. Similarly Sikh enjoy wearing the 5K’s, which includes the turban as their identity and honor. It reminds them of their mission.
10. “A man with a bottle in hand might be better than another with a Bible in his hand” I express that inner sincerity is much more important than external hypocrisy. Holding a Bible in hand does not make one a priest or a holy person and neither does holding a bottle mean one is an alcoholic. The statement more often used as a phrase meaning hypocrisy is bad, and it is worse if practiced by the people claiming to be religious persons. This meaning is understandable and acceptable. The message that one should be sincerely what one appears to be, is very emphatically mentioned in this statement. However, this phrase cannot be and should not be used to justify drinking by those who claim to be sincere and otherwise good in their hart. It is not okay for nice people to love bottles. Sikhs are specifically prohibited from drinking alcohol (See Chapter II Question 5). Unfortunately, more often the wrong conclusion is drawn from this statement: that drinking is not a bad thing provided one is sincere on the inside. Many people who believe this actually cheat themselves. They usually acquire the habit of drinking regularly agree that they got into that habit for the fun of it and now find it difficult to stop. If we analyze the statement as such, the conclusion we arrive at is that “inner sincerity is more important than external hypocrisy”. Everyone would agree to its correctness. If one wants to understand from this statement that “a man with a bottle is not wrong”, he is heading for trouble. It includes a basically incorrect assumption that men with bottles are good people because they are the same inside and outside while those with the Bible are cheats because they are bad in their hearts while appearing to be holy. Faking is bad wherever it is. Any person including a holy man who is fake is wrong. This is accepted by everyone. The other part of the assumption that alcoholics are good people is also wrong. Alcoholics cannot help drinking and losing control of their senses. Drinking is a vice, hence, good people avoid it. At the same time we cannot say that all those who drink are bad people. This is not the only habit by which one should be judged. Alcoholism is now mentioned as a disease which takes over some people. The best policy is to keep away from the bottle and to remain free from risk of disease.

11. How can you make someone who smokes and drinks to stop and take Amrit? Let us presume there are two persons, Me and U, and the latter smokes. Here is how Gurbani guides us:

The English phrase says, “Physician, heal thy self.” We people are not saints; every one of us has some shortcomings. When we see some weakness in others, we think they are “bad” people. Every one of us has some shortcomings. However, usually each one of us claims to be a “good” person and others to be “bad” persons. Gurbani tells us not to be caught in this net of ego. We know that My. U smokes and Mr. Me does not smoke. Maybe Mr. U is very humble and helpful to the people, while Mr. Me is haughty and has little regard for others. Each will go on calling the other person “bad” or “wrong”. The correct approach is that one tries to live a right kind of life and radiate peace, humbleness, and sweetness through his living to motivate others to practice a similar kind of life. An actual situation will explain this. A clerk who was a heavy smoker, was shifted to another office. He was welcomed to his new office by his boss. “I am proud of you. You are very efficient and your writing is very clean and neat. I am happy to have you with us. I know your wife is not well. Whenever you have to do something at home, just go; you do not need formal permission, just leave a note, and let me know if I can do anything for you”. In response, the clerk, who usually argued with his previous boss, became very respectful towards his new boss. He always said “yes” to him. Further, he gave up smoking because he knew his boss, being a Sikh, did not appreciate anybody smoking in the office. Every situation needs a separate approach towards a smoker. The principle to be kept in mind is that you should respect the personal identity of an individual. If you are a friend of the smoker, you may start like this, “I like you for your good nature, affectionate behavior and cooperative nature. However, I am not able to bear your smoking. I do not want my friend to lose his health and waste his money in smoke...” Social psychology says if you are in the company of smokers, you are very likely to start smoking. In the company of nonsmokers, a smoker will give up smoking to conform with his peers. The best thing one can do for a smoking friend is to provide him with good company and keep him away from the smokers. This will motivate the person to give up smoking. The decision has to be made by him on his own and is not to be forced on him by his friends.

12. What do you mean by ‘Raj Karega Khalsa Aki Reheh Na Koi”? Who is going to do Raj?

This optimistic slogan, now sung in Gurdwaras at the end of every function, was given to the Sikhs during the early 18th century. Indian rulers were the blood of the Sikhs. The Sikhs wanted to assure human rights for all people and to protect these rights, if need be, with the use of their sword. The government wanted to finish Sikhs totally and they made a law which provided rewards for those who helped arrest or kill a Sikh. Anyone could kill a Sikh, chop off his head and exchange it for about one year’s wages at the local police station. The Sikhs were, therefore, obliged to leave their homes and live in deserts, forests or hills where it was difficult for the army to locate them. They lived in groups, jathas, so that they could jointly protect themselves if they had to face the soldiers. During this period the Sikhs coined the above rhyme to boost their morale and keep them in good spirits. Later on during World War II, Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, adopted this philosophy. When Germany was crushing European defenses and bombing London, Churchill coined a slogan: “Victory to the Allies.” To remind each other of this slogan, people posted V signs everywhere. Also, whenever they met each other, they raised their forefinger and middle finger to make a V sign to assure each other of their victory. Finally, the Allies did win. Sikhs sung the slogan “The Khalsa shall Rule”, to protect the human rights of the weak with the support of God. They did achieve their mission before the end of the century when in 1799 Ranjit Singh took over Lahore, the capital of Panjab, and became the maharaja of the state. This slogan is our heritage, and a part of our golden history. We, therefore, sing this rhyme after the prayers at the end of a Gurdwara function or other religious functions. The Sikhs should continue to do so in the future to remind them of their glorious part and prosperous future. Only the three couplets were approved by the Panth to be sung after the prayers as is the Maryada at the Akal Takhat, Amritsar. They speak of Granth, Panth and their rule. Additional rhymes dilute this philosophy and are therefore not to be sung along with these three couplets after the prayer.

13. Why do weapons play an important role in our religion? Is it not and act against peace?

What does the Khanda mean?

(i) Wearing a weapon is an act of peace provided it is worn by people who are entitled to do that. Every country has policemen wearing weapons. They are for peace and not against peace. To stop violence by armed thugs there is no other way but the use of weapons. Hence, there is an old saying: ”If you want peace, be prepared for war.” Sikhs are a nation who want peace for all, including the weak; they need weapons to protect the rights of the helpless. Sikh history is filled with Sikh sacrifices for protecting people from terrorism committed by state authority and looting invaders. Hence, weapons play an important role in their faith. Kirpan is a symbol of traditional weapons and is included as one of the 5K’s to be worn by a Sikh. (ii) The logo called Khanda is a unique way of depicting two Kirpans, a chakar and a khanda as one composition. As Khanda is the main central arm, with Kirpans placed around it, the logo is also called Khanda. This is just placing the three popular Sikh arms in an organized way. Any significance attached to any of the three constituents of the logo is an intellectual invention to search for an unneeded justification. Some persons say Chakar represents God because like God, Chakar has no beginning and no end. This is an incorrect interpretation of the logo. By usage, it has become a logo of the Sikh nation, the way the Cross is accepted as a symbol of Christianity. Sikhs want peace, if need be by the use of weapons, hence this logo of traditional weapons put together in an artistic design.