Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Sikh without Kesh & Turban? - Reflection on a Past Experience

When I was about 12 years old or so (when I had my cut hair and not yet walking on the Guru’s Path), I remember my brother and I going to a Tae-Kwon-Do tournament in Hitchin. A person from our Tae Kwon Do class kindly gave us a lift to the tournament. There were five us. My brother and I, and three Gore.

On the way back from the Tournament we stopped off somewhere to get a quick snack. I remember sitting there enjoying a burger and sipping my milkshake, and one of the Gore asked, “So what religion are you?” We proudly replied, “We are Sikhs.” The man replied in a puzzled manner, O right! …I thought Sikhs don't cut their hair and they wear turbans?”

It’s one of those 'shock horror' moments when you don’t know what to say! There was an uncomfortable pause and then we ended up saying, “Ermm…. Yeah. Religious priests who keep their hair long and they wear turbans. Most Sikhs cut their hair though. Ermm… Buts it’s good if you keep it…. It’s up to the individual.” The man was surprised and taken aback by our response and said, “O really?” And then he commented that he had seen some Singhs before and thought they looked good.

Some experiences from life remain stuck in one's head! I remember that day I came back home and discussed with my brother, “What did we say to the Gora? It was not right.” We both agreed. However we came to the conclusion that “What else would we have said? It’s too hard to explain to a Gora that we cut our hair but we are Sikh.”

Its one of those situations where you can either be honest by realising one’s own shortcomings or one can choose to twist information in order to save one’s 'sharam' (shame) and feeling of guilt. From that day I thought to myself, “If someone asks me: “Are you a Sikh”, then what will I reply with, because I am proud to be a Sikh but at the same time I don’t practice, behave or live like a Sikh.” Waheguru.

Gurbaani says:
ਸੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਸਖਾ ਬੰਧਪੁ ਹੈ ਭਾਈ ਜਿ ਗੁਰ ਕੇ ਭਾਣੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਵੈ ॥
so sikh sakhaa banDhap hai bhaa-ee, je gur ke bhaaNe vich aavai.
That person alone is a Sikh, a friend, a relative and a sibling, who walks in the Way of the Guru's Will.

ਆਪਣੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਜੋ ਚਲੈ ਭਾਈ ਵਿਛੁੜਿ ਚੋਟਾ ਖਾਵੈ ॥
aapNai bhaaNai jo chalai, bhaa-ee vichhuR chotaa khaavai.
One who walks according to their own will, O Siblings of Destiny, suffers separation from Waheguru, and shall be punished.
(Ang 601)

When going to sleep that night I realised that how could I demean Sikhi to “priests” (which actually doesn’t exist in Sikhi because every Gursikh man and woman is a 'Priest') when Guru Jee blessed Sikhi to anyone who chooses to follow it. But Kesh (our hair) is not even a choice! We are blessed with it at birth. It something we are born with! How can I say that "Sikh priests have Kesh", when God actually gave Kesh to all humanity? But it’s our choice to maintain that gift given to use with respect, dignity and grace or whether we choose to dishonour them and mow them down with razors and blades.
ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਹੋਵੈ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਤਾ ਖਸਮੈ ਕਾ ਮਹਲੁ ਪਾਇਸੀ ॥
hukam manni-ai hovai parvaaN taa khasmai kaa mehal paae-see. Obeying the Order of Waheguru's Will, one becomes acceptable, and then, that person obtains the Mansion of the Lord Waheguru's Presence. (Ang 471)

From then on if someone asked me “What is your religion,” I would reply “I am a non-practicing Sikh, who hopes and wishes to live the Path one day.” The response from non-Sikhs at school and outside of school was much more positive and people were less confused when I used to say this. They would respect the answer and realise the beauty, value and preciousness of Sikhi which I was obviously proud of, but at same time realise that I am not claiming to be a practicing Sikh.

Rab Bhalla Kare (God help us). From my past mistake I realised why non-Sikhs sometimes have the wrong and misinformed impression of Sikhs that we drink alcohol till we are senseless, we are allowed to chop up and mow down our Kesh, that every Sikh wedding has gallons of beer flowing in glasses, and that we promote and discriminate on the basis of caste. We behave in a way so opposite to the way Guru Sahib wants us to act, but then we proudly label ourselves as “Sikhs” without clarifying to the world that our actions are not those of a Sikh.

Guru Gobind Singh Jee says:
ਰਹਿਣੀ ਰਹੈ ਸੋਈ ਸਿਖ ਮੇਰਾ ॥ ਉਹ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਮੈ ਉਸ ਕਾ ਚੇਰਾ ॥
rehiNee rehai soee sikh meraa. ouhu saahib mai us kaa cheeraa.
One who lives their life in accordance to (the Guru's given) Rehit, way of life, is my Sikh. They are my Master and I am their slave.

ਰਹਿਤ ਬਿਨਾਂ ਨਿਹ ਸਿਖ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥ ਰਹਿਤ ਬਿਨਾਂ ਦਰ ਚੋਟਾਂ ਖਾਵੈ ॥
rehit binaa(n) neh sikh kahaavai. rehit binaa(n) dar chotaa(n) khaavai.
Without Rehit, don’t call yourself a Sikh. Without Rehit one will suffer hardships in the hereafter.

ਰਹਿਤ ਬਿਨਾਂ ਸੁਖ ਕਬਹੁੰ ਨ ਲਹੇ ॥ ਤਾਂ ਤੇ ਰਹਿਤ ਸੁ ਦਿ੍ੜ ਕਰ ਰਹੈ ॥
rehit binaa(n) sukh kabh-hu(n) na lahe. taa(n) te rehit su driR kar rehai.
Without Rehit one shall not achieve peace and happiness. So, remain firm in practicing Rehit.
(Rehitnaamaa Bhai Desa Singh Jee)

A Rehitnaamaa is a Hukam, Order, of the Guru which has been scribed down by the Beloved Sikhs close to the Gurus at the time. Just as a Judge announces a judgement but the the Recorder or Secretary records the judgement on paper, similarly Rehitnaame are the judgements and instructions of Guru Sahib which have been scribed and recorded by the GurSikh companions of Guru Sahib at the time. In this Rehitnaama, Guru Gobind Singh Jee shows the pyaar, love, he has for a Sikh who walks the walk, talks the talk and lives Sikhi rather than calling himself Sikhi. May Guru Sahib do Kirpaa, Grace on all us, that we are blessed with such a Jeevan (life) that we can live in accordance to the Guru's Path.

Note: My intention in this post is not to look down at anyone; rather it’s a reflection of my personal experience and personal shortcomings.

Bhul chuk maaf.


anjaan said...

fateh ji

so an actual sikh wedding begins and finishes at the gurdwara

so like u do lava n have langar n go home??

sorry im researching sikhism, and sum1 directed me 2 ur blog :)

no party or stuff, however, most do.
i have never been to an amritdhari wedding in my lyf

how does it differ?

i apologise im baktracking from ur eva so interesting post

maaf karna paaji.

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anjaan Jee,

You are right, a Sikh Wedding finishes and ends at the Gurdwara Sahib.

A Sikh wedding is simple, graceful and centred around Satguru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee. Like all celebrations, a Gursikh celebrates marriage through the Guru-Ka-Langar (sharing Food) and Shabad da Langar (sharing spiritual food of Gurbaani).

You can read more about Sikh Wedding in accordance to Gur-Maryada in the Sikh Rehit Maryada:

You can feel free to email me on

Guru Rakha

Puneet Kaur said...

GuruFateh Ji

You are really lucky & blessed that Guru Maharaj showed you the right path!

I pray for all those singhs & kaurs who have lost their way... and hope that they return to this Chardikala jeewan...

Guru rakha

anjaan said...

sri g parbandak commitee
no one really likes them do they?

most if not all of my amritdhari friends are taksali :S

how does it differ?

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anjaan Jee,

The Panthic Sikh Rehit Maryada is issued by Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. It is the work of the Guru Khalsa Panth which involved numerous meetings and discussions with Panthic organisations, Panthic Scholars, and Maha-Purakhs during the 1930s to 40s. (You can read more about this in a book by Giani Amarjit Singh Gulshan called 'Rehit Maryada Darpan' - available at Sikh bookshops).

The SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) was the given the responsiblity by the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib to "publish" copies of the Maryada and also "implement" the Maryada under the Gurdwara Sahibs under its Management Committee. The SGPC is merely a "Gurdwara Management Committee" which looks after the Gurdwara Sahibs in Panjab - it has no right to make a Maryada; only the Guru Panth has this right.

We may hold differences in our "personal vichaar" on Rehit and how to do things, however on the "Panthic level" we should unite under Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and Satguru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee for "Ekta" (unity).

Bhul Chuk Maaf.

Guru Rakha.

anjaan said...

oh ucha
thank you paaji

then why do so many people hate the committee?
and say it feeds RSS thought into the panth?

what is this Rss?

sorry i am bothering you like this paaji :)

fateh ji

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anjaan Jee,

Its a free world. People have right to like or dislike something. There are good and bad people in all organisations and management committees.

Its probably best if you visit www.DiscoverSikhi.com and share your querries on that Forum. I am sure you will get answers there.

Guru Rakha.

Anonymous said...

From reading your blog i can see that you were not always an amritdhari sikh however with Guru's kirpa you became one...can i ask what caused this change?

The reason i ask is as follows; some of my cousins come from Gursikh families however as early teens they cannot read punjabi and from what i can tell have little interest in Sikhi, and Gurbani. Some have even began cutting their hair behind their parents back while others are contemplating cutting it. I'm not looking for anyone to blame as i dont think it will help. I am however asking you for help; do you recommend anything (from experience or otherwise) that may help put them back on Guru ji's path which they treaded on as children? It must also be noted that i myself dont live in their area so have little contact with them.

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anonymous Jee,

You are correct, I stopped cutting my Kesh at age 15 and received Guru's gift of Amrit at age 18.

If you wish children or anyone to FEEL part of Sikhi then INVOLVEMENT and PARTICIPATION is the key. Involve youngsters in keertan, talks, and Seva. Through this their hearts doors will open to Shabd Guru and Waheguru.

Sadly, some Amritdhari families ASSUME that their children will be Gursikhs. Never assume. Some parents feel SAFE and think the fact their child wears a Keski and Dastaar and doesn't dishonour their hair, that they feel SECURE and SAFE that their children are Sikhs.

However, those children are most vulnerable. Involvement, participation and role models are fundamental. And all of this has to be underlined with LOVE and SUPPORT by the parents.

Tell a child to do something and they will wish to rebel.
Ask a child to do something and they will do it without affection.
However, involve a child in something and they will be inspired and feel a sense of responsibility and pride.

These are my personal thoughts. I am not a parent or an expert, just sharing some wisdom which elders have told me.

Guru Rakha.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your personal thoughts. What you said makes sense. I will try my best to try and keep them involved in sikhi by letting them know about (youth) kirtan darbars, opportunities to partake in seva and chances to meet with other sikh youths without being to overbearing!

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh