Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Gurmat Perspective: LGBT relationships and same-sex marriages...


The Sikh Rehat Maryada document states:
ੳ) ਸਿੱਖ ਸਿੱਖਣੀ ਦਾ ਵਿਆਹ, ਬਿਨਾਂ ਜ਼ਾਤ-ਪਾਤ, ਗੋਤ ਵਿਚਾਰੇ ਦੇ ਹੋਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਏ ।
a. A Sikh man and woman should enter wedlock without giving thought to the future spouse’s caste and descent.

Same-sex marriages are not allowed in Sikhi. The Sikh Gurus are the role models for how to live as a Sikh. The Gurus were above human desires and did not require to go through human experiences. However, they lived through everyday human experiences in order to set an ideal example for humans. 

The facts are:
  • All the Sikh Gurus, with the exception of Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji who was aged 8 when he left his earthly body, had heterosexual marriages (i.e. marriage between man and woman).
     
  • The children of the Gurus had heterosexual marriages.
  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and other Sikh scriptures like Bhai Gurdaas Ji’s Bani do not entertain the possibility of a homosexual marriage.
  • The Maryada (tradition) of the Anand Kaaraj (Sikh marriage ceremony) refers to heterosexual couples.
  • No form of intimate partnership, union or sexual relationship (regardless of sexual orientation) is allowed without the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
  • All other men and women other than one’s spouse should be considered and treated as brother or sister if the same age, father or mother if elder, and son or daughter if younger.
  • Gurbani tells us to not to attach our identity to our ego or worldly labels. Therefore, to identify one’s identity using sexual orientation, caste, social status etc. would not be in line with the Guru’s teachings.
    ਹੋਹੁ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਅਗੈ ਮਤ ਕਿਛੁ ਆਪੁ ਲਖਾਵਹੇ ॥
    ਆਪਣੈ ਅਹੰਕਾਰਿ ਜਗਤੁ ਜਲਿਆ ਮਤ ਤੂੰ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਵਹੇ ॥
    “O mind! Becoming humble, surrender to the True Guru and do not attach your identity to your ego. The world is consumed by ego and self-identity; watch out that you do destroy yourself (by getting caught up in ego).”
    (Aasa M:3, Ang 441)
  • Gurbani promotes identifying oneself solely as a devotee, humble servant of God, Sikh of the Guru, and embodiment of the Divine-Light.
    ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥ 
    “O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light - recognize your own origin.”
    (Aasa M:3, Ang 441)

  • During the history of the Ten Gurus and the Khalsa, not a single recorded same-sex Anand Kaaraj or any other form of marriage has been conducted by the Gurus or his Sikhs.
  • Homosexuality or same-sex marriages have never arisen as an issue or debate in the history of the Sikhs.
  • In Sikh tradition the purpose of sex is the potential of reproducing. Any other sexual acts that do not fulfil this purpose would be considered as fulfilling lustful desires. To intentionally waste semen is forbidden in Gurbani:
    ਸੁਪਨੈ ਬਿੰਦੁ ਨ ਦੇਈ ਝਰਨਾ ॥
    “Do not (waste and) lose your semen, even in your dreams.”
    (Bhairo, Bhagat Kabeer Ji, Ang 1160)
    Intentional waste of semen would include the using of contraception in a heterosexual marriage, masturbation, and other sexual activities that do not lead to the potential of reproducing.
  • Same-sex friendships of Gurmukhs (Guru-orientated individuals) are encouraged as long as the intention is to have union with God and not fornication. A lot of spiritual love exists in these relationships, that do not require any form of romance, intimacy or sexual behaviour.
    ਸੋਈ ਸਾਜਨ ਮੀਤੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥
    ਸਾਧੂ ਸੰਗਿ ਤਰੀਜੈ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਕਟੀਐ ਜਮ ਕੀ ਫਾਸਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥
    “He is a companion, a friend, and a beloved of mine, who reflects upon the Lord's Name, in the Company of the Holy. (Staying) in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, cross over the world-ocean, and the noose of death shall be cut away. ||2||”
    (Maajh M:5, Ang 108)
Attempts to distort and dilute Gurmat traditions preserved throughout history cannot be accepted in any circumstances. Diluting or changing the Anand Kaaraj code or the accepted notion of marriage presented in Sikh scriptures to compensate homosexuals for historical persecution and hatred directed towards them in wider society is irresponsible and unacceptable. 

Same-sex marriages have recently been legalised in countries like Canada and the UK that have significant size Sikh populations. On the request of Gurdwaras seeking an official letter stating the already accepting Sikh position, Akal Takhat Sahib issued a Sandesh (memorandum). All Gurdwaras across the world are bound to disallow any form of same-sex marriage ceremony or blessing in accordance to the above Sandesh. 

In accordance to guidance provided to Gurdwaras by the Sikh Council UK in an official letter dated 28th July 2013:
“The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 contains what has been described as a ‘quadruple lock’ to protect religious places of worship from being forced to carry out same sex marriages. Government Ministers have given written assurances that no Gurdwara will be forced to carry out same sex marriages against their wishes.” 
Source:
Sikh Council UK - Marriage Guidance Letter PDF

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

[Video] Baba Fareed Ji was a Sikh of Guru Nanak Dev Ji...

The below video made by the Gurmat Bibek team sheds light on who baba Fareed Ji in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is. Lots of misunderstandings are rife about Baba Fareed Ji. Some claim that he was from the 12th century while others argue that he was a Muslim, but the fact of the matter is that he was not only a contemporary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, but he was also a very devout Gurmukh. Please watch the video:





Saturday, January 19, 2019

ਕੁੰਭ ਅਤੇ ਗੁਰਮਤ | Kumbh (coconut and water ritual) and Gurmat...

I was having discussion about the Sikh Rehat Maryada document with someone. The other person said it was prohibited by the Sikh Rehat Maryada document to place water near to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji during the reading of an Akhand Paath Sahib.
It is common Sikh personal practice, of placing water nearby a place or individual reading Gurbani, in particular when doing Nitnem at home. The reason behind this is that the water will absorb the vibrations of Gurbani and become blessed. 

When someone condemns this practice and states that Gurbani has no effect on water, then they are indirectly questioning the process of Khande-Di-Pahul, known as Amrit, being prepared. Panj Pyaare sit around a Sarbloh Baattaa (iron bowl) filled with water and Pataase, and whilst looking into the water they each recite a Bani and stir the Sarbloh Khanda (double-edged sword). It is accepted that the reciting of Gurbani makes the water into Amrit. Now, if Gurbani can have such an impact on water in an Amrit Sanchaar, then it must have some, even if a little, impact when an individual lovingly reads Gurbani near water either at home or a Gurdwara Sahib.

Now, the Sikh Rehat Maryada document states:
ੲ) ਅਖੰਡ ਪਾਠ ਜਾਂ ਹੋਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਤਰ੍ਹਾ ਦੇ ਪਾਠ ਵੇਲੇ ਕੁੰਭ, ਜੋਤ, ਨਲੀਏਰ ਆਦਿ ਰਖਣ ਜਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਾਲ ਜਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਵਿਚ ਕਿਸੇ ਹੋਰ ਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਪਾਠ ਜਾਰੀ ਰਖਣਾ ਮਨਮਤ ਹੈ |
c. It is Manmat, contrary to the Guru’s Way, to place a Kumb (a ritualistic pot), Jyot (a venerated ritualistic flame), (a ritual) coconut etc. during an Akhand Paath, or to read another Paath (scriptural reading) side by side or during the Akhand Paath. 

It must be remembered that the Sikh Rehat Maryada document was written in response to the growing Brahmanical practices and influences of Hinduism in Gurdwaras. The Maryada, is a very basic outline, and does not elaborate in detail on points. This one reason, that sometimes the Maryada document can be misunderstood or read with different interpretations. 

Kumbh ritual in Hindu worship


The Sikh Rehat Maryada document does not state that keeping 'Jal', meaning water, near the reciting of Gurbani is Manmat. Instead the word Kumbh (ਕੁੰਭ), literally meaning a pot, is mentioned. In the context of Hindu rituals, a Kumbh is a pot of water, with its mouth covered usually with a red cloth that is tied around with a red ritual thread called a Maulee (ਮੌਲੀ). Then a coconut, wrapped in red material, is placed on top of it to complete the Kumbh ritual. Hindus believe that a coconut resembles the human head, and therefore a coconut is chosen as a substitute for human or animal sacrifice in religious rituals.

The Sikh Rehat Maryada document prohibits such ritualistic behaviour influenced by Hinduism. Sikhs do not believe in human, animal or any substitute sacrificial rituals. The Guru asks us sacrifice, i.e. fully submit, our mind and body:
ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਲਧਾ ਜੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਰਾਮ ॥
Meeting with the Guru, I have found my Beloved Lord God.

ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਦਿਤੜਾ ਵਾਰੋ ਵਾਰਾ ਰਾਮ ॥
I have made this body and mind a sacrifice, a sacrificial offering to my Lord.
(Vaddhans M:5, Ang 576)
However, coconuts can be donated as fruit offering to the Gurdwara and placed before Guru Sahib for distributing to the Sangat to eat.

In regards to water, there is no restriction in keeping water in a container nearby to where Gurbani is being recited in order for the water to get absorbed with the energy and sound of Gurbani in order to later drink it. Science has now proven that water has memory and words and thoughts can influence its life energy. Many Gursikhs use this spiritualised water for Amrit Sanchaars. However, reducing such practices to mere ritualism or holding the belief that not having water next to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji makes an Akhand Paath Sahib deficient is contrary to Gurmat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Story of Parmvir Singh (Canada)...


Vaheguroo Jee Ka Khalsa Vaheguroo Jee Kee Fateh 

...While growing up I was fortunate enough to have a family that practised Sikhi. As a result of this, I was kesdhari (maintained unshorn hair) for most of my life. My parents did make an effort to educate me about Gurbani, the Gurus, and various other aspects of Sikhi. This continued for many years of my life. However as the years passed by, I began to care less and less about Sikhi. This was mainly because of the sangat (company) that surrounded me. My friends didn't really care much for Sikhi as they either identified themselves just as Punjabis or people who believed in completely different faiths. Naturally they had a heavy influence on me and eventually my views steered away from Sikhi I was basically absorbed in maya (the world-illusion). I just wanted to be cool and "fit in", whether that meant cutting my beard, eating meat and doing many other anti-Gurmat things. And that's exactly what happened when I was in first year of university. I did all of these things in secrecy just so that I wouldn't disappoint my family. It came to a point where I somewhat despised the Sikhi saroop (identity) of keeping kes (hair) and the wearing of a dastaar (turban). 

My life took a quick turn in second year of university when I randomly decided to join the university's Sikh Students' Association. At first I didn't really think much of the religious aspect of the group as I just was looking to put something down on my resume/CV. But as I started to attend more of the programs they held (such as discussions and simran (meditation) programs) I developed more of an interest in Sikhi. One day I attended a youth kirtan program that they held, and I can definitely say that it had an enormous impact on my Sikhi and my life. I had heard kirtan before, but this was the first time when I heard young Gursikhs singing kirtan live. Description in words do no to justice to what I felt. It was nothing short of absolute anand (bliss). This was the first time in my life where the Shabad (sacred hymn) made sense to me. It was as if Guru Maharaaj themselves where speaking to me through the words of Gurbani. Usually I would never make the effort to sing along, but this time I never wanted to stop singing the Lord's praises. Eventually I made many Gursikh friends through the Sikh Students' Association and they suggested that I attend both Singhs Camp and Khalsa Camp British Columbia. My experiences at these camps are ones that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was here where I made several important realizations: those being the importance of the Guru's bana (dress), Amrit, kirtan in saadh sangat (the holy company), Sikhi saroop (Sikh identity i.e. kes and dastaar). And as I was learning all of these amazing things, I was having the time of life. 

Finally my main transformation towards a Sikhi lifestyle was after hearing on of your kathas (talks), Bhai Sahib. After the camps I was inspired to listen to kirtan only and listening to any online katha. I came across your katha of the story of Bhai Manjh on YouTube. Here was Bhai Manjh, a man who gave up EVERYTHING he had: his mind, body, reputation, health and wealth. All of this so he could love and serve Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaaj. And when Bhai Manjh is then trapped in a well, and is in need of the help, what does Guru Maharaaj do? Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaaj, the King of Kings, comes RUNNING to his devotee, embraces him saying, "I am yours". When I heard this I was practically in tears. There is nothing more beautiful in this world than the idea of surrendering yourself to the Guru in return for Their love. At that point I knew what I wanted in life. I too wanted to be in the arms of Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaaj for the rest of my life. I too wanted Guru Ji to come running to me if I ever needed Them. I too wanted Their love and to be Their servant for eternity. I then thought to myself, if Bhai Manjh surrendered everything he had to gain this, then how is it that I can't give up cutting my hair, eating meat, or anything of these other things? How is it that so many human beings on this earth do not do the things Bhai Manjh did, and follow each and every hukam (order) of the Guru, in order to gain the love of Akaal Purakh Vaheguroo? 

All of this makes me think back to how blessed I was to born into a Gursikh family in the first place. The Guru was already trying to guide me to the right path, but my ignorance took me the opposite way. Even then the Guru still turned me towards Sikhi at the end of the day. I am extremely fortunate that Guru Sahib has blessed me with their Amrit recently, and I am forever grateful for this. I am also grateful for the sangat they have blessed me with, for had it not been for the Gursikhs I met, who knows where I could have been today. I cannot stress how important of a role sangat plays in my life to help my grow as a Sikh. I understand my journey to Sikhi was probably not as difficult as some other people, but I think it's also important to realize how easily one can by swayed away from Sikhi even if people around you practice it (like my family). That's why it's always good to try to grow as a Sikh in any way possible. Whether that entails meeting a new Gursikh sangat that you might be able to relate to (like in my case) or doing other things that help you get closer to the Guru (e.g. reading bani you haven't read before, doing simran, nitnem during amrit vela, etc.). You definitely will not regret it. 

ਮੇਰੇ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ ਕੀ ਕੋਈ ਬਾਤ ਸੁਨਾਵੈ ਸੋ ਭਾਈ ਸੋ ਮੇਰਾ ਬੀਰ ॥੨॥ 
mere har preetam kee koee baat sunaavai so bhaaee so meraa beer. ||2|| 
Whoever tells me the Stories of my Beloved Lord is my Sibling of Destiny, and my friend. ||2|| 

...Vaheguroo Jee Ka Khalsa Vaheguroo Jee Kee Fateh


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Note: Thank you to Veer Parmvir Singh for emailing me his personal story and asking it to be shared with the Sangat.

Dhan Hai , Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!