Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Caste Discrimination in the UK - A Sikh View

Background:  From Caste Watch UK* press release:

Finding of Evidence confirmed by Independent research Commissioned by Government

Caste discrimination and harassment has not been explicitly covered by British discrimination legislation. However, the Equality Act 2010 includes the provision that, by order of a Minister, caste may be treated as an aspect of race. This research was commissioned to help inform the Government whether to exercise this power. The research sought to identify whether caste discrimination and harassment in relation to aspects covered by discrimination legislation (i.e. work, education and the supply of goods and services) exists in Britain. Evidence suggesting such discrimination and harassment was found. (Source: Government and Equalities Office, RESEARCH FINDINGS, No. 2011 / X).

In an e-mail Mr Davinder Prasad,General Secretary,CasteWatchUK wrote: “We welcome the eagerly awaited report Caste Discrimination and Harassment in Great Britain by Hilary Metcalf and Heather Rolfe published on 16 December 2010 by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). The findings of the report puts beyond reproach the work of our organization that has been actively campaigning since 2003 in creating awareness of Caste Based Discrimination occurring in Britain and seeking legal remedies.

It is refreshing to see responsible government committed to values of fairness, justice and equality in mandating the research to find ways to curtail the actions of Caste Oppressors through Law. The Equality Act 2010 was hailed as a land mark harmonising anti-discrimination legislation that embraced new discrimination strands and strengthened existing ones.

It is noteworthy that NIESR approached victims of caste discrimination as key stake holders and commissioned independent researchers to hear evidence at first hand. Caste has contributed to social paralysis and continues to exert a powerful influence in Britain upon the Asian Diaspora.”

Following article is based on the author’s response to Mr Davinder Prasad.

This is an historic achievement by Caste Watch UK.

Caste discrimination should not only be challenged by the law in every country, but, like slavery, made illegal by international law and eradicated altogether.

Guru Nanak Sahib started his revolutionary reform mission by refusing to wear the high caste “jeneu” (sacred thread) and rejected Varan Ashram Dharma, the main pillar of Snatan Hinduism, at the age of nine years.

Regrettably, but not surprisingly,  the study by Hilary Metcalf and Heather Rolfe at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) is basically flawed.  It glosses over the root cause of caste discrimination, which is firmly embedded in the Varan Ashram Dharma i.e. “sanatan”  or ancient Vedic system, one of the main pillars of Hinduism.

It is not true to say that (to quote from the report):  "The term ‘caste’ is used to identify a number of different concepts, notably, varna (a Hindu religious caste system), jati (an occupational caste system) and biradri (often referred to as a clan system). The examples of caste discrimination identified related to jati."

Comment: These are not different concepts but a hierarchical description of the same degrading Manuvadic caste system.

To quote from the report: "Caste awareness in Britain is concentrated amongst people with roots in the Indian sub-continent (who comprise five per cent of the [UK] population). It is not religion specific and is subscribed to by (and affects) members of any or no religion."

Comment: The first part is true but not the second part. 

The followers of all non-Hindu India based religions, being mainly converts from Hinduism took the caste practice with them, even when their new religions did not believe in caste, or even condemned caste unequivocally, like Sikhism.  Examples of such condemnation in Guru Granth Sahib are too numerous to be quoted here.

To repeat, the four “varans” are broad divisions of brahman, kshatrya (khatri), vais & shudra (or "ashoot" i.e. untouchables).  Each varan  has further divisions of work/social “jaat” and “paat” or “kul” (e.g. jaat Khatri & paat Kapoor).  There are further sub-divisions of gotras and bradris.  These are hierarchical and firmly rooted in the Varan Ashram Dharma (Hindu) religious system.

According to Rig Veda (X-10, 11 & 12), when the devtas divided the "Pursha" (universal being), then its mouth became brahman, arms khatri, thighs became vais and feet became the shudras (untouchables).  Accordingly the work was divided between these four varanas as: brahman to teach Vedas and do yags and religious rituals etc and to receive charity; kshatrya or khatri for armed defence, to rule and to give charity etc; vais, the main work-horses doing agriculture, trade and looking after animals; and shudra - our main topic - to serve the three above by doing the most menial and degrading jobs

Varans were also according to skin complexion i.e. colour segregation.  According to Vedic scholars brahman - fair, khatri - reddish , vais - yellowish, and shudra -darkish.    

Most regrettably, Mahatma Gandhi, instead of totally condemning and eradicating caste, was content by giving the so-called low caste a different label of "Hari jan", thus recognising and perpetuating low caste as part of Indian way of life. 

In recent years, the so called “low castes” have self inflicted some permanent damage to their own cause by creating new religions and sects identified with so called "low castes". Thus, they have become even more isolated.

To quote from the report: "Some religious groups are almost wholly from the lowest castes: Ravidassia, Valmiki, Ramdasis and Ambedkarite Buddhists. Christians with roots in the Indian sub-continent are also often assumed to be low caste."

I am not sure who "Ramdasis" are but the Ravidassia sect may be a reaction to the carry-over of the Hindu varan system amongst Sikhs.  Otherwise, Bhagat Ravidas sits amongst the galaxy of Sikh Gurus and Bhagats in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy Scripture.  

Let us eradicate caste based discrimination in all socio-religious and work spheres.  However,  we cannot ignore from whence it came.  To quote Prof. Gurtej Singh of Chandigarh: -  "Hinduism is a caste based faith built painstakingly around the firm belief in human inequality and the notions of purity and pollution that attach to individuals by birth. Its rituals are grounded in the proposition to afford unlimited privilege to the ‘higher’ castes to exploit the labour and persons of castes deemed inferior. It has a hierarchical system of exploitation built into religious practises and ends up in Brahmins exploiting all other castes. "

Sikhs respect the underlying truth of all religions, but no orthodox religious system can be spared if it does not meet the norms of a civilised egalitarian society.

*  Caste UK WatchPO Box 3685, Coventry, CV6 4WA Tel 0789 1058712 / 07751 668926 E-mail: info@castewatchuk.org www.castewatchuk.org

Gurmukh Singh
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 3 December 2010


Initiatives to bring diverse Sikh organisations and gurdwaras around one table are always welcome. They should be supported.

At working level, uniting Sikh diversity becomes practicable only when individual or “jathebandi” aspirations to “lead” are set aside, and real differences recognised and ring-fenced. Not understanding differences under the very large Panthic umbrella will almost certainly delay or even doom initiatives to unite. Whilst it is for jathebandis and ambitious individuals to exercise self-restraint in their desire to “lead” and to impose own interpretation of Sikh tradition, real differences need recognition.

One area is the question of interpreting Guru Granth and Guru Khalsa Panth twin track approach (symbolising piri-miri respectively) in the context of the status of (i.e. “maan-maryada”) of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. The “authority” of Sri Akal Takht Sahib flows from, and is not independent of, mainstream Guru Panth tradition.

Events in recent years have shown that one goal before Khalsa Panth is to ensure that the status of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as the voice of the collective body of Sarbatt Khalsa Panth is not eroded. The global Sikh community has seen divisions arising from the manner in which directives have been issued from this highest of Sikh institutions entrusted with the interpretation of Gurbani and Gurmat. The 18th Century mechanism of Sarbatt Khalsa has been eroded or even lost due partly to practical reasons as the Panth has expanded; and, also due to outside political ambition to control the Sikh decision making process. Whatever the real reasons, a large section of the global Sikh community is keen to see restoration of the maan-maryda of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as the voice of the Khalsa Panth when interpreting Gurbani guidance from which flows Sikh miri-piri (temporal- spiritual)whole-life tradition.

In the meantime, initiatives to unite Sikh organisations of different persuasions need to recognise the real differences and divisions which exist due to confusion about tracing the real “authority” behind the institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, to the collective will of Khalsa Panth. Open recognition of this problem will lead to a practicable approach to unity on other real issues which face us in the UK, in Europe and globally.

Longer term Sikh solution to the decision making process at Sri Akal Takht Sahib may be provided by internet and information technology e.g. through cyber forums supported by panels of Gursikh scholars.

However, in any healthy and diverse community such as the Sikhs, complete agreement on all ideological issues may not be possible and that should be accepted from the outset.

Gurmukh Singh

Monday, 7 June 2010

Sikh Turban (Dastaar)

“Originally, I wore the turban for my religion. Then for my family. Now I wear it for myself” Ravi Singh, USA

“There must be no doubt that the long coiled hair and the turban go together as one of the five K’s; as they are called, of the articles of the religion dating back over 500 years. Definitions have been clearly made by the gurus from time to time.” (Sydney Bidwell MP (Ealing-Southall speaking in the House of Commons on 28 January, 1975 ref. His book “The Turban Victory”.

For a Sikh, the dastaar (Sikh turban) is a religious requirement by the Guru’s own injunction. Dastaar is an essential article of faith for male Sikhs, about that there should be no misunderstanding: men must wear it, while it is optional for women. Of the numerous quotations, which are available, two are given below from writers who were with Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The third quotation is from the “Sikh Reht Maryada – The Code of Sikh Conduct & Conventions” approved by the Khalsa Panth. So far as the Sikhs are concerned, all other arguments based on culture and tradition are of secondary importance.

Kangha dono wakt kar, paag chuneh kar baandh
(Translation) Comb your (unshorn) hair twice a day and tie your turban neatly.
(Tanhkahnama of Bhai Nand Lal – a leading poet in Guru Gobind Singh’s court.)

Joora sis kay madh baandhe(n), aor paag barhi baandhe(n)
(Translation) Tie your hair-knot in the middle of your head and tie the full length turban (to distinguish it from the small turban called “keski” which some Sikhs wear underneath the full length turban).
(Reht Naama Bhai Daya Singh – the first of the Panj Piarays – the Five Beloved Ones.)

Huto Guru Sri Jaani Jaan, sabhi bidhee Guru leyee pehchaan…
Sehli topi sir dhare(n), daaseh naam kahai……
Ab Sikhan roop paltaiyay, tej dhari jim lakh tao pai…
Shatri roop sundar att laagay, kes sis sir bandhio paagay
(Translation) And so the All Knowing Guru recognised the need…these people wear a cap and have names like “Daas” (slave or servant)….now the appearance (and personality) of the Sikhs will be changed and they shall be recognised in their distinctive glamour amongst thousands. The (saint)warrior appearance is attractive with unshorn hair and turban tied on the head.
(“Sr Guru Panth Prakash” by Bhai Ratan Singh Bhangu)

“For a Sikh, there is no restriction or requirement as to dress except that he [or she] must wear Kachhehra [a drawer type of garment] and turban. A Sikh woman may or may not tie a turban.” Panth approved “Sikh Reht Maryada – The Code of Sikh Conduct & Conventions”.

I was very much impressed when Dya Singh of Australia (who needs no introduction) first showed me the photograph of young dastaar-dhari, sabat-surat Ravi Singh with President George Bush, who had his friendly arm over Ravi’s shoulder. “Originally, I wore the turban for my religion. Then for my family. Now I wear it for myself” wrote Ravi Singh of USA. Born and raised as a Sikh American in Illinois, he graduated from Marmion Military Acadamey. He made history by becoming the first US cadet ever to graduate from a military academy with a turban. And read on! “He’s been an aide to the lieutenant governor & state treasurer of Illinois, a student body president, an NCAA Division I golf captain, a candidate for public office, a community activist, involved in two presidential campaigns, an international lecturer, and business entrepreneur.” And he has now written “Leadership by Turban – An American Story” which should be “must read” for all Sikh youth.

“Discovering your roots is the key to half your identity. The rest is up to you.” is Ravi’s experience.

It becomes rather tedious reading Sikh scholars quoting the Old Testament, “Once they enter the gates of the inner Court, they are to wear vestments. They shalt wear linen turban, and linen drawers on their loins.” So what, I ask myself. Is it not enough that my Guru instructed me to wear a turban over my unshorn hair? In the same vein, references by Sikh scholars to Samson and myths about the power of hair do sound quite ridiculous!

However, we can accept that for thousands of years the turban had, and for millions around the world continues to have, very special cultural and spiritual significance. In the Semitic traditions - the Jewish, the Christians and the Islamic – the turban has been a symbol of “prophethood, holiness and divine power.” (“The Turban and the Sword of The Sikh” by Dr Trilochan Singh). It matters not whether it was “One of the Commands of God to Moses was to wear turban…”

Also, in India, the turban was and continues to be, a symbol of royalty, being used in place of a crown. The Sikh dastaar makes the Sikh a sardaar (chief or lord). Without dastaar, a Sikh is not a sardaar, and no one addresses him so. The Sikh dastaar, worn neatly and with dignity, does combine and represent the miri-piri (temporal and spiritual) aspects of Sikhi (preferred instead of “Sikhism”). “In gareeb Sikhan ko dioon paatshahi” – I shall bestow royalty on these poor Sikhs was the Guru’s promise. And so, by replacing their servile topis (caps) with the kingly turban, and by placing the sword of honour – the defender of human dignity - in their hands, that is precisely what the Guru did.

Within sixty years of the Guru’s demise, the Sikhs ruled all the area north of Delhi and put a stop to the annual invasions from the north-west via Afghanistan.

Sikh Turban ban in France

An article on dastaar would not be complete without a reference to the turban issue in France. As Dr M S Rahi says in his well researched article in “The Sikh Review” ("Turban and the French Law" SR Jan 2005), “The turban of the Sikhs, a hoary article of their faith, is once again caught in the controversy of definition of secularism as understood within the framework of French republicanism and political liberalism of the other countries of the world.”

According to Universal Declaration of Huamn Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes…..either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion…” (Article 18). The French passed a law, which contravenes a human right agreed at international level. In fact the French are going against the spirit of their own constitution. It was the French Revolution which gave the world the famous slogan – liberty, equality and fraternity. As is accepted, if the Sikh dastaar “is a symbol of dignity, freedom and moral courage to fight against injustice facing all the odds and difficulties”, then the French ban is a challenge for the Sikhs worldwide, to resist such injustice. The Sikhs should continue to seek the support of the international community.

Writes Dr M S Rahi, “The international community should take note that the Sikhs are feeling hurt and humiliated by the French Law passed in 21st Century for the removal of their turban in the schools of France.”

Sikh youth today are looking for extrovert role models like Dya Singh of Australia and Ravi Singh of USA, who are proud of their Guru-given dastaar and Sikh identity. Over the years, hundreds of turban-wearing Sikhs around the world have succeeded and excelled in their chosen professions. The dastaar, as part of the sabat-surat sardaar Sikh personality gave them the strength of character and the courage to face all odds and to succeed. That is also my personal experience of living and working in the UK for 50 years.

Dastaar, as part of the Sikh identity is a gift of the Guru and should be accepted gratefully as such.

The 21st Century message for Sikh youth is:
“Leadership by Turban” is not a theory but a proven fact.

I started with a quotation from the a speech in the House of Commons, let me finish with one from the House of Lords:
There is absolutely no doubt that the wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh religion. The ten gurus, the founders of the religion and the architects of it, all wore turban themselves.” Lord Avebury 5th October 1976 – Second Reading of the “Motor-cycle Crash-Helmets (Religious exemption) Bill”.

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Sikh Intelligentsia

The sleeping Kumbhkaran of the Sikhs

In Hindu mythology (the mainstay of Hinduism), the giant Kumbhkaran was the brother of the demon king Ravana. Like most giants, Kumbhkaran slept most of the time and it took the clamour of hundreds of drums, trumpeting of wild elephants etc. to rouse him from his slumber.

In the twentieth century, the Sikh intelligentsia collectively, has turned out to be the Kumbhkaran of the Sikhs, so far as Sikh religio-social adavancement as a disinct global community is concerned. In the field of academic and professional achievements, the Sikh community is one of the most progressive in the world. Indeed, in some countries like Australia, the general public assumption is that a reasonably well dressed Sikh (i.e. one who carries the Sikh identity) is either a doctor, engineer or some other well qualified professional.

Except for the very remote villages of Punjab - and there are not many of these left - it is unusual to come across a totally illiterate Sikh man or woman below the age of fifty. Sikhism does not appeal to blind faith but encourages research of Gurbani (Guru’s Word) for spiritual harmony and full participation in worldly activities. Such full participation is only possible through proper education and knowledge of world affairs. Freed from superstition and encouraged by the Sikh doctrine that creation is real (Aap saach, kia sabh saach i.e. He is True and so is His creation.), it is in the Sikh psyche to be participative and materially progressive. Dependence on others (e.g. you will rarely see a Sikh beggar) and illiteracy therefore do not sit comfortably with Sikh teachings. An opt out life style is rejected.

Unfortunately, the materialist aspect takes over if the spiritual aspect of the Guru’s teaching is ignored: that indulgence in worldly materialism alone forgetting the true purpose of this life is false and so is the pride that goes with material attainment. It is in that sense, when the transitional nature of this life is ignored and one forgets death, that this existence is compared to a "mountain of smoke" ("Eh jagg dhooay(n) ka pahaar"). It is in that sense that creation is false if life is wasted in falsehood and the life objective of oneness with The One is not achieved when the opportunity is here in this life, here and now.

Sikhism is more concerned with here and now than with hereafter. However, hereafter is frightening if here and now is ignored!
A high proportion of the Sikhs world-wide are well educated and doing well. Yet, the Sikh community remains disorganised and has not been able to secure the political and social representation it deserves. Educated and professional Sikhs bear a large part of the blame for this state of affairs. It is true that material success leads one away from participation in community matters which require devotion and sacrifice. Material success also leads one away from religion and matters spiritual, unless some personal misfortune, tragedy or revelation inspires one to question the purpose of life. However, while prosperity is an important contributory factor, it is not the main reason for Sikh intelligentsia’s apathy when it comes to participation in community matters.

Sardar Kapur Singh, in his Saachi Saakhi, which is a chronicle of political events leading to the partition of India and the misfortunes of the Sikhs in post-independence India, has shown clearly how educated Sikhs have allowed themselves to be marginalised.

Guru Gobind Singh alerted the Sikhs to the dangers of Brahmanical influence in no uncertain terms. However, Brahmanical proximity and continuous assault on Sikh doctrines through self-styled saants (saints) has ensured that Sikh leadership remained in the hands of those jathedars who support Vedic rituals in Sikh institutions and who support Brahmanical political take-over of India. Soon after the start of the reformist Singh Sabha Movement (formally established in 1873), Sikh intelligentsia were defeated by the Amritsar based retrogressive religious leadership more comfortable with Vedic ideology for selfish reasons. It is that leadership and ideology which, like a giant octopus, has our Takhts and Gurdwaras in its tentacles today. Indeed, Sikh universities, under the same influence, are adopting Vedic language and idiom for explaining Sikh teachings and history. This is one of the underlying reasons for the current ideological divide which has appeared between the Sikhs of Punjab and those living abroad in recent years.

Akali Jathedars, with few and outstanding exceptions, have been selfish and short-sighted individuals. They have certainly lacked the attributes, the courage and sacrifice of the Sikh Jathedars of the eighteenth century who established the Khalsa kingdom of Punjab in northern India in which Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were equal partners. Leadership in the Sikh community has become a vocation and on the death of a leader, his position is openly offered to his heirs! It is not surprising that educated and professional Sikhs have been sidelined over the years.

But the first generation Sikh professionals and academics, concerned for their children, are hitting back. While the Gurdwaras remain mostly in the hands of businessmen or others attracted by Gurdwara funds, a large number of Sikh educational, cultural, service (sewa) and socio-political organisations have been formed world-wide. However, this trend is more in the nature of a highly segmented reaction to what is going on in the traditional Sikh institutions like Gurdwaras, than any co-ordinated effort to give a clear direction to the Sikh movement as a whole. Regrettably, some who have the education, the skills and lead positions have not encouraged professional level teamworking by bringing complementary talents together. Rather, they too, like the jathedars of Saachi Saakhi (S. Kapur Singh), have felt threatened by newcomers. They seem to have no exit strategy to hand over to the next generation.

So the question is if the Sikh Kumbhkaran, the Sikh intelligentsia, is finally beginning to wake up after one hundred years.

Educated Sikhs have been opting out of community affairs for far too long. By default, they have lost control of Sikh institutions and are themselves no longer in touch with their own heritage. Many are beginning to realise that their material achievements come to naught when, due to lack of any code of conduct or common family or community values, their children desert them completely. Indeed, many next generation young men and women, who are no longer under the same economic pressures as their elders, are beginning to reach back for their roots for spiritual continuity and security. A survey by the UK Policy Studies Institute showed that most young Sikhs, while not very clear about their own history and identity, nevertheless, would like to pass on Sikh values to their children.

The revived interest of the Sikh intelligentsia, manifesting itself in diverse and extrovert community activities, is an encouraging sign of a healthy and vibrant community. We need a common direction for our progressive and successful community on the basis of the underlying manstream Guru Granth - Guru Panth Sikh doctrine, and a sense of historical perspective and foresight.

Is another Sikh renaissance nigh? I would like to believe so.


© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sikhism & Word Concepts

The psychology of language
(A theo-national viewpoint)

Was the foundation of Hindutva, resulting in the partition of the Indian sub-continent, laid down by the surreptitious introduction of Vedic terminology into the language of the Indian National Congress? In his Saachi Sakhi, late Sardar Kapur Singh thought so.

Let us first look into the question of language psychology.

“Wordpower is to the mind what horse-power is to a car.........In the mind we have words which take ideas and group them together to make them tangible and usable. Words are convenient packages. With the right word you may express a complicated idea that would be difficult to express without that word.” Says the well-known Edward De Bono in his introduction to “Word Power”.

I recall reading about an experiment reported in a science journal some years ago. A human child and a baby chimpanzee born at about the same time, were brought up together in the same environment. In the first six months the baby chimpanzee was well ahead in learning and doing things while the human child appeared to be content with making inarticulate sounds. However, things started changing quite dramatically once the human child started uttering and understanding words. Poor chimp ! If only it could speak.

It has long been established that we think in word patterns i.e. words act as triggers for certain thought patterns which have meaning for us and we act and behave accordingly. Words arouse feelings and add quality to emotions and passions which make up the common characteristics, the ethos of a community sharing the same language. Language and cultural values have a direct relationship as the second and third generation children of immigrant communities in the west are finding out. They are unable to associate themselves with their “root” cultures due to weakened language links.

The fact is that words cannot be translated accurately from one language to another as a truly bi-lingual person would confirm. It would be difficult to convey in another language the exact connotative meaning of many Punjabi words some of which would rouse immediate feeling or emotion in a Punjabi: words like darshan, nihal, sewa and barkat, or expressions like Karak kalejay mahen, Sarbat da bhala or Kurbaan jaon. Translations do not create the same thought patterns or rouse the same feelings and emotions. How could one possibly experience the original message of the Guru or experience the Punjabi romance of Hir-Ranjha or Mirza- Sahiba(n) in English? That is the reason for the great sensitivity which attaches to the question of language.

Western children of ethnic minority origins are finding it increasingly difficult to associate themselves with their “root” cultures, not necessarily because these children are living in the West, not because they speak English, not because they are bombarded with Western ideas through Western media, but because they no longer speak their cultural languages. They no longer experience the thought patterns of their immigrant parents which can convey to them the fullness of their own literature, classical music, poetry, humour, relationships and other cultural aspects.

As an example, the romance of Romeo and Juliet can only be understood and felt in English and the romance of Hir-Ranjha can only be fully appreciated in colloquial Punjabi. Punjabi children in the West who do not speak Punjabi have therefore lost an important cultural sense-ability. Children who still speak their ethnic languages are also more likely to appreciate their own cultural values. In fact, the bilingual types are better able to appreciate their own and the majority community’s cultures. It is these latter types who add to their own personal values most constructively. They bring about a healthy and evolutionary interaction of cultures without detracting from the ethos of any community.

We can now briefly return to Bharat Maata (Mother India), and how apparently such warm sentimental expressions sowed the seeds of division. At pages 70to 73 of his great work, Saachi Saakhi, Sardar Kapur Singh gives a researched account of how the Hindu majority leaders of the Indian National Congress started introducing Vedic terminology into the language of the national freedom movement. Leaders like Bal Gagadhar Tilak (who was succeeded by Mahatma Ghandi) were also very religious people. By design or by accident they carried their religious convictions and terminology into what was supposed to be a national level secular political arena.

The Hindu Goddess Kali (Kalika-Mata) was identified with Bharat-Mata (Mother India) at a time when the horrendous rituals and practices associated with Kali cults were receiving universal condemnation. “We have to save the rising generation from walking in false paths and to guide them into right ones.” (Lord Curzon speaking at Culcutta University in 1901.)

As was to be expected, the Muslims reacted almost immediately to such backdoor Hinduisation of the professed secularism of India and the National Congress. So did some Sikh intellectuals like the great scholar Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha who published his famous book “Ham Hindu Nahin” (We are not Hindus). The rest is now part of the history of India.

What about Punjab? The Punjabi language has evolved as the language of the Muslims and the Sikhs of Punjab. To my knowledge, no great work of Hindu literature has been written in Punjabi by a Punjabi Hindu. Unlike the Muslims and the Sikhs, even though Punjabi has always been spoken by Punjabi Hindus who probably number more than the Punjabi Sikhs, for communal reasons alone, they have not regarded Punjabi as their cultural language. As a result over ten million of them disowned Punjabi language in the census held in 1951. “It was a misrepresentation of colossal magnitude in Indian History.” (Hindu Sikh Conflict in Punjab- a report by non-Sikh Indians produced in December 1983). The creation of a mini-Punjab in 1965 after much agitation and the what followed was a direct consequence of betrayal by Punjabi Hindus of their mother tongue. The cultural impact of such estrangement from own language becomes apparent today: unlike Punjabi Hindus, Gujarati, Tamil and Bengali Hindus enjoy rich language based cultures.

However, languages, religions, communities, rich cultural varieties and skin shades do not divide. Political games do! The relationship between language and the cohesion and progress of a community is clear. It also explains why people are, quite rightly, so sensitive about their language rights in a multi-cultural society.

Let young Sikhs, parents and institutions ponder these issues. Punjabi language is our way of life and the common bond which keeps the community together. It is the way we think, behave and enjoy our cultural lives; it complements the study of the host national language by providing our children with the tools for cultural discernment. It makes the process of cross cultural interaction smoother without giving up what is our own.

Punjabi is the link between our present environment and our rich past - our roots. Only Punjabi language will convey to us Guru Nanak’s pain when he tried to explain to the vaid (doctor) "Karak kalejay mahe(n)".
Translation will not do.

End note: When writing the above, I am also conscious of the special effort which American and other converts to Sikhism (through inner conviction) make, to study original key Gurbani Word-concepts and experience Gurbani Kirtan (Sikh music) to Gurbani raag bases. Children born in Sikh families in the West are in the same position as these Sikhs who accept and adopt a Sikh way of life after deep study. They are the true Sikhs according to the Gurbani definition of Sikhism as "Sikhi sikhia Gur vichaar" (Sikhim is the study of the Guru's Teaching.)

The above discussion about the psychology of language, which is closely associated with culture, ethos and other characteristics of a "people" (qaum), would also have a bearing on the distinctive Sikh non-racial "ethnicity" as defined by the UK's House of Lords in the famous Mandla Case (1983).

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Gurdwara Shahid Ganj Singh Singhania, Lahore

Gurdwara Shahid Ganj Singh Singhania, Lahore, a monument to a people’s struggle for:

(Article first published as a souvenir booklet)


“All differences which arise between man and man in time of peace were effaced beneath the terrible levelling of the oppressor; all men had become brothers and all women sisters.” (Hari Ram Gupta, “History of the Sikhs Vol II p.62)

Their bodies were crushed but not their spirit. Those 18th Century martyrs gave their lives for the freedom of fellow human beings and are remembered in our daily Ardaas (supplication):
“Those Sikh men and women who courted martyrdom….underwent unspeakable suffering but never wavered in their faith…remember them O’Khalsa Ji….” (“Jinha Singh Singhna ne dharam het sis ditte………”) Sikh Ardaas (supplication)

This was a people’s struggle for freedom from tyrannical rule. It was led by Guru Nanak’s egalitarian Khalsa ideology, which treats all men and women, all religions and castes, as equal before One Creator Being. With their fighting power so enhanced, both, in numbers and in spirit, such an invincible people’s army was bound to be victorious over the forces of oppression in the end.

Gurdwara Shahid Ganj, Lahore – a historical perspective

Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Singh Singhania at Lahore marks the site where, according to historians, over 250,000 men and women lost their lives in the 18th Century. This was the period from 1716, when Banda Singh Bahadur was executed at Delhi in June that year, to 1753, the year when Muin-ul-Mulk, known as Mir Mannu, died.

A historian writes that “Large numbers of them (i.e. Sikhs) were shot down, while many others were brought in chains to Lahore where they were executed at a place near the Nakhas outside the Delhi gate, which afterwards came to be called Shahid Ganj” (Ganesh Das, 198; Tahqiqat-e-Chisthi, 101). When in 1737 Zakariya Khan martyred the revered Bhai Mani Singh, the Sikh scholar and Granthi (priest) at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, people of all religions were horrified. Detachments of the “gashti fauj” brought hundreds of men and women (with children) daily in chains to Lahore for public executions at the Nakhas (now Shahid Ganj), or, in case of women for imprisonment and hard labour leading to death. This site witnessed the martyrdoms of popular figures like Bhai Taru Singh who served all without discrimination.

Historical background

This was a decisive phase in the people’s war against tyrannical rule in Panjab, most of the area north of Delhi with Lahore as the capital. The cruelty inflicted on the ordinary people had no bounds. The power of the rulers was absolute; more so due to the power struggle between Delhi and the invasions from north-west led by Nadir Shah (January to May 1739) and later by Ahmad Shah Durani (also known as Abdali). Delhi emperors Farrukh Siyar, Muhammad Shah (1719 – 1748) and later Alamgir II were weak while the same Turani family, loyal neither to Delhi nor to the invaders, ruled Panjab: Abdus Samad Khan (1713 – 26) who led the capture of Banda Singh Bahadur, his son Zakariya Khan (1726- 45), and grandson Yahia Khan (1745-47), and Mir Mannu (1748-53) son of Delhi Wazir Qamr-ud-din Khan (who was brother-in-law of Zakariya Khan).

In March 1752 when Mir Mannu was left on his own, he surrendered Lahore to Ahmad Shah Abdali. Later recovery of Panjab by the Moghuls was only symbolic. Complete chaos with no civil government continued with no respite for the people. It was during this period that the “rakhi system” or protectorates under which people paid money to mercenary bands became common. In this power vacuum, with people’s support, Khalsa “jathas” (groups), which formed into larger misls, gained in strength. Later, with the total defeat of the invaders by 1767, the foundation of a popular regime, the Khalsa Raj in which all were equal partners, was laid.

Those like Mir Mannu, used their absolute power to wreak havoc on the ordinary people. Despite hundreds brought in chains, tortured and slaughtered at Lahore daily, the spirit and resolve of the people seeking freedom from tyrannical rule grew stronger each day. These tortures and killings took place in public. Such was the cruelty inflicted by Mannu that his name passed into folklore, “Mannu is our sickle and we are his grass blades; as he cuts us, we grow many times more”.

Historians are unanimous in confirming that in terms of human endurance, this was one of the most remarkable periods in the history of humankind when men, women, young and old refused to give up their struggle for freedom despite extreme forms of torture in captivity. One heroic example of resistence quoted by historians is that of a fifteen years old school boy, Haqiqat Rai’s in 1743, whose martyrdom became part of Panjab’s folklore.

There are hardly any finer examples of the courage and determination shown, especially by women: the housewives, mothers and sisters of the freedom fighters.

Role played by women freedom fighters

Even a casual study of the history of Panjab during this critical period shows that the real sufferers behind the scenes were women. Backing the Khalsa warriors were the Sikh women who walked in the footsteps of Mai Bhag Kaur (“Mai Bhago”), the warrior companion of Guru Gobind Singh. History recalls that each woman in prison was given a maund and a quarter (about 50 kilos) of grain to grind in a day and they were beaten mercilessly when they slowed down through exhaustion. “Exhausted from thirst and hunger they plied their stonemills and sang their Guru’s hymns. Their children, hungry and thirsty, wailed writhed on the ground. The helpless prisoners could do nothing but to solace them with their affection. Wearied from crying the children would at last go to sleep…Children were sometimes hacked to pieces in front of their mothers. Bits of flesh hung on strings were thrown around their necks like garlands…Wherever the Sikhs pray, the fortutude and heroism of those brave women is recalled with reverence.”

It is in this historical context that the word “Singhania” became inseparably attached to “Singh” as part of the Ardaas: “Those Sikh men and women who courted martyrdom….underwent unspeakable suffering but never wavered in their faith…remember them O’Khalsa Ji….” Gurdwara Shahid Ganj Singhania (opposite Shahid Ganj Bhai Taru Singh) is in remembrance of the Khalsa women and children martyrs.

Sikhs survived the most trying period in history because they had the added human-power of their determined mothers, sisters and wives, who, in addition to their domestic roles, became equally good at the plough and the sword (for defence) in the absence of their men freedom fighters in the battlefield. Sikh, Hindu and even Muslim women were also in danger for another reason. Heads of women – even Muslim women - with long hair were cut without discrimination by bounty hunters and presented as heads of “young Sikhs” to seek rewards! Another example showing that all suffer regardless of religion under evil and tyrannical regimes.

Guru Nanak’s ideology

Guru Nanak, “the Guru of the Hindus and the Pir of the Muslims” declared the beginning of popular resistance against despotic cruelty when he wrote that “the rulers are like tigers and the collectors of taxes are like dogs oppressing the public day and night.” Guru Nanak Sahib preached and wrote in the popular language of the people, touring the country extensively. He became the most popular reformer of his time.

Between the huge millstones of tyrannical rulers, bribe taking judges and greedy tax collectors on the one hand, and the corrupt clergy on the other, ordinary men and women of all religions, creeds and castes were being crushed. Kings had forgotten their duty to protect the people; and those in the garb of religion, instead of showing the true path to the people and the rulers, were themselves aiding the oppressive regimes. In fact, as Bhai Gurdas wrote, the hedge meant to protect the field was itself destroying the field.

It is not surprising that popular Muslim and Hindu leaders and saints sided with the “Guru Ghar”, the House of Guru Nanak. Teachings of Muslim and Hindu saints received the seal of the Guru’s approval as the “Revealed Word” and were included in the Sikh Scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Nanak Sahib’s universal movement of true religion and his call to the people to “fear none, frighten none” culminated in the Khalsa Panth by 1699, as a complete spiritual and temporal system. The Khalsa interpreted and defended the universal truths and human values taught in Guru Granth Sahib by sages of many religions – in a sense the parliament of faiths. The common values which the Khalsa promoted and defended were, respect for diversity and for all paths leading to the One Creator Being, and equality of all before the One Creator (e.g. Aadm ki jaat sabhe ekay pehchaanbo – Recognize all human race as one - Guru Gobind Singh).

Flowing from these ideals was the concept of community service (seva) and sharing. “Guru ka Langar” or community kitchen where all are served without discrimination became a popular Khalsa institution - as powerful as the sword to resist and overcome the social and political injustice (therefore, “Degh Teg Fateh”). History records that the local poor Muslims mourned the arrest, torture and death of Bhai Taru Singh, a hard working saintly farmer, who ran a daily “Langar” for all.

Henceforth, the Khalsa, backed by popular support, spearheaded the struggle to establish a rule of the people, by the people, in which all were equal partners. Guru Nanak’s mission was clarified as the establishment of, “a regime in which no one inflicted pain on another as the Will of the Benevolent Lord.” (Guru Arjan Dev Ji).

Khalsa mission was supported by the people of Panjab

Shahid Ganj is a monument to the struggle of all ordinary people against a tyrannical regime and foreign invaders whose only aim was to loot and plunder. The word “Turak” for “Turk” appears to have been used in the sense of the “foreign invaders” from the north in Sikh writings rather than in relation to any religion. Some biased historians misleadingly interpret the popular uprising as some sort of religious conflict between the Hindus (led by the Khalsa) and the Muslims. Yet, the historical evidence, when taken together with the unique Khalsa ideology of Guru Nanak/Gobind Singh mission, is very different indeed.

All were suffering from administrative, religious, social and economic injustices. The rulers, the large landowners (jagirdars) and the clergy, were in collusion with each other. They were all exploiting religion and abusing own power and position for selfish ends. The cruelty inflicted by caste divisions and the superstitious practices used as tools for exploitation by the priestly class, was no less than that inflicted by the sword of the tyrannical rulers and merciless invaders. Guru Nanak’s first rebellion was against the cruelty of the caste system when he refused to wear the sacred thread, which would have signified his high caste. He sided with the “lowliest of the low”.

It needs to be mentioned that some of the greatest injustices were inflicted by the administrators at the time. For example, Chandu Diwan (Minister in Lahore court) may have played a role in the shahidi of Guru Arjan Dev Ji; the Cchota Ghalughara, the lesser in terms of loss of life but more damaging, of the two 18th Century pogroms against the Sikhs, was led by Lakhpat Rai, Diwan of Lahore. The list of treacherous “informers” like Gangu (leading to the death of the young Sahibzadas (Princes) of Guru Gobind Singh, and Mahant Aakldaas of Jandialla, who was behind Bhai Taru Singh’s shahidi, is a long one.

On the other hand the list of Islamic supporters of Guru Nanak’s universal teachings and mission, from Guru Sahib’s childhood to the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, runs parallel with Sikh history. Muslim warriors served with the Khalsa in many battles from Guru Gobind Singh to Maharaja Ranjit Singh – the latter’s artillery was almost entirely in the hands of Muslim generals. Hazrat Mia Mir spoke out against the torture inflicted on the Fifth Guru, Arjan Dev Ji which caused his shahidi (30 May, 1606); Pir Budhu Shah came to Guru Gobind Singh’s aid with his 700 disciples at a most critical time when he was under attack from the Hindu hill rajas at Bhangani (near Paonta Sahib) and his two sons were killed in the battle. Gani Khan and Nabi Khan brothers of Macchiwara gave shelter to Guru Gobind Singh when was being pursued by the Emperor’s army. Nawab Maler Kotla spoke out against the killing of the two Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh by the Nawab of Sahind. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur had 5,000 Muslim soldiers in his army.

Except for some historians with own biases, in no sense can the struggle for freedom of the people in north-western part of the Indian subcontinent be interpreted in terms of some sort of religious conflict. Both, the Muslims and the Hindis had accepted Guru Nanak as a reformer and a revolutionary, and their Pir and Guru respectively. Regardless of religion, all suffered from the excesses of a cruel regime. The sword arm which inflicted cruelty may have been Moghul, Durani, Afghani or Hindu (e.g. hill rajas and divans like Lakhpat Rai, supported by Brahmanical opposition to the liberating ideology of Guru Nanak). People were being crushed between inept Delhi rule and the invaders who descended periodically from the north-west. Guru Nanak Sahib predicted in 1505 AD , “They (the Mughals) shall come in (Vikrami) seventy-eight and depart in ninety seven, when another disciple of the brave Man (Khalsa) shall arise” (“Aavn aatthatre jaan staanvay, hor bhi utthsi mard ka chella” . Babar destroyed the Pathaans in 1578 Vikrami (1521 AD) and Nadir destroyed the Mughals in 1797 Vikrami (1739 AD).

To the people, Banda Singh Bahadur had shown that self government by the people was possible. According to one historian “Banda was a great reformer, He broke down the barriers of caste, creed and religion. He appointed sweepers and cobblers as big officers before whom high caste Hindus, Brahmins and Kshatriyas stood with folded hands awaiting their orders. He believed in socialism. He distributed all his riches among his followers. He abolished the zamindari system and established peasant-proprietorship making actual tillers of the soil its masters.”

Wrote Hari Ram Gupta “Thus, the sturdy, plodding race of hereditary cultivators, whose diligence had built up the agricultural system of the Panjab, became as skilful in the use of the sword as they were in the use of the plough…..Misery, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, poverty, privation, distress, are the battlefields which have their heroes, obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the renowned heroes.”

And so, “the hammering of the oppressive regime did not reduce them to pulp. It hardened them to tempered steel”. They resisted local oppression and they relieved the marauders from the north of their loot each time the latter returned with their spoils from Indian towns and countryside. They freed women and children from these raiders who intended to sell them as slaves.

Gurdwara Shahid Ganj Singh Singhania, Lahore, is a monument to the unique feats of courage and the great sacrifices made by ordinary people for human dignity and freedom.

(It is recommended that the 18th Century Sikh history is read by every young Sikh to experience the Khalsa ideology as it unfolded during that decisive period in Sikh history. This article is based mainly on well publicised Panjabi and English sources.

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Sikhism & Hindutva

Why never the twain shall meet under one centralist system

“It is clear to my mind, if Hinduism accepts Social Democracy it must necessarily cease to be Hinduism.” (Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah quoted by S. Kapur Singh in Saachi Saakhi p.45)

Reclaiming Vande Mataram, India’s national anthem:
“In the end it took just two words of a well-known.....mantra to instil feeling into the 50th anniversary celebrations......Vande Mataram....It is a matter of minor detail that the Vande Mataram of 1997 is more identified with composer A R Rahman than with Bankam Chandra Chatterjee’s Ananda Math.....Nehru’s aesthetic abhorrence of Bankim’s depiction.....of the country as a mother goddess on par with Durga and Lakshmi led to Vande Mataram losing its natural claim to be independent India’s national anthem. Nehru was tacitly echoing a 1937 Muslim League resolution that denounced the song as “ not merely positively anti-Islamic and idolatrous in its inspiration and ideas, but definitely subversive of the growth of genuine nationalism in India”.” (India Today of 1 September 1997, page 55 Reclaiming Vande Mataram.)

In Indian politics, the underlying Hindu nationalism oozes out sometimes from the most unexpected places ! I have nothing against nationalism or religious sentiment but what I do find galling is the hypocrisy behind Indian secularism. India Today, a noted secular national publication of India of some considerable repute, would normally be the last place where one would expect to find prominent coverage given to an admittedly Hindu mantra, disguised as the national anthem of India. This is the mantra and the associated deeply religious sentiment promoted by a succession of prominent Congress leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gandhi. As is clear from the Muslim League resolution quoted above, probably such mantras and Vedic terminology brought about the division of a sub-continent and much bloodshed thereafter. It was such divisive communal terminology which laid the foundation of so called modern, secular and democratic India for which the Sikhs as a community, made and continue to make after independence, (witness the Chinese and Indo-Pak wars), more sacrifices than any other community of India, including the Hindu majority.

We are not concerned here with the ludicrous but persistent suggestion from certain quarters, some naive though well intentioned, others devious and politically motivated, that Sikhism is an off-shoot of Hinduism. From the first clarification of the theological position of the two religions by scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s Ham Hindu Nahi (“We are not Hindus”) much has been written on this topic. No one argues these days that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism because Christ was a Jew! Indeed the theological differences between Hinduism and Sikhism are even greater than those found between Judaism and Christianity.

We are concerned here with the implications for the Indian democracy since the independence of India on 15 August, 1947, of the co-existence of two diametrically opposed social systems: one of oppressive Manuwaadic Brahmanism and the other based on Guru Nanak’s far reaching vision of a plural society. The Ninth Guru Tegh Bahadhur gave his life not for Hinduism but to uphold the fundamental human right of freedom of religion. He gave his life for the principle of a tolerant plural society.

S Kapur Singh in his “Saachi Saakhi” traces the division of India through much blood-shed into India and Pakistan to the back door introduction of Vedic language and thinking in the Congress movement. The Sikh leaders were slow to realise this. Thus:

“Hinduism has always been hostile to Sikhism whose Gurus powerfully and successfully attacked the principle of caste which is the foundation on which the whole fabric of Brahmanism has been reared. The activities of Hindus have, therefore, been constantly directed to the undermining of Sikhism both by preventing the children of Sikh fathers from taking pahul (initiation ceremony) and by reducing professed Sikhs from their allegiance to their faith. Hinduism has strangled Budhism, once a formidable rival to it and it has already made serious inroads into the domain of Sikhism.” A Report on Developments in Sikh Politics (1900-1911) by D Petrie, Assistant Director, Criminal Intelligence, Govt of India, dated 11th August 1911 quoted in Kapur Singh’s Saachi Saakhi at page 121.)

Hinduism cannot accept Sikh thinking regarding social justice, human rights, the brotherhood of mankind regardless of ethnicity, colour or creed and the “unity in variety” concept of a multi-cultural society. These differences cannot be resolved in an allegedly secular India in which the realities of Brahmanic control over the four estates of a modern government are glossed over. (These four estates of a government are the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Press.)

As Dr Iqbal noted in one of his letters to Jinnah “....Socialism is likely to cause much blood-shed among the Hindus themselves.” It is impossible to ignore the social divisions in India. Yet Sikhism is all about human dignity and equality. It is impossible for Hinduism to accept democracy and it is impossible for Sikhism to accept any regime which has scant regard for human rights. It needs to be borne in mind that Sikhism is strongly opposed to the oppressive Manuwaadic caste system and the Vedic rituals, superstitions and cult practices. Indeed Sikhism would oppose, by force if necessary, horrendous sacrifices child sacrifices to Kali and the cruel tradition of “sutee” (in which a widow is expected to (or forced to) burn herself to death in the funeral pyre of her deceased husband.). Gurbani has condemned such evil practices and the unequal treatment of women in very strong language (see Asa ki Waar of Guru Nanak.)

Sikhism advocates a moderate and liberal approach to life but its “live and let live” doctrine can, from time to time, bring it into conflict with oppressive religious, social or administrative regimes. Such practices will remain abhorrent not only to Sikhism but to all civilised societies. I conclude by quoting further from the India Today’s illuminating article on Vande Mataram, the Indian national anthem or mantra as the author puts it, viz.:
“To endure, the symbols of Indianness have to be rooted in real life and culture.....Reclaiming Vande Mataram could be a first step in the larger discovery of India.”

Indeed! And for Indianness read Manuwaadic Brahmanism. This indeed would be a first step towards the larger discovery of what secular India really stands for ! And what sort of India have we been discovering in the last fifty years? Let the reader decide.

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Sikhism & Budhism

Difference Between Budhist & Khalsa “Singhs”

A Dr Ambedkar Mission activist, Biba Kamlesh Ahir was speaking to a small, rather inattentive audience in Italy on 20 April 2008. In her loud crass Panjabi, she treated them like a bunch of school children, punctuating her “bhashan” with, “Your brain is not working. You know nothing…These people go around wearing Kirpans. Their brain is not working…(Inha daa dimaag khraab ho gaya!) ….”

Budhism, she claimed, is the source of Sikh ideology. There is nothing new in Sikhism. Concepts like “sikh” and “singh” are of Budhist origin as is the concept of “Panj Pyaras” (the Five Beloved Ones). Even the martial art tradition of the Khalsa is of Budhist origin! Her drivel would have gone unnoticed, if not for a video released on the networks some months later.

The function, celebrating the birthday of Dr B R Ambedar was organised by Baba Sahib B R Ambedkar Welfare Association, Italy. She said that Baba Ambedkar was the saviour of the Dalits and, especially, women. The lady forgot to mention that by placing transcaste Budhism and Sikhism under the umbrella of Brahmanic Manuvadic caste-based “Hindu” under Clause 25 of the Indian Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar did not do justice to these two independent systems. In this respect, he also let down millions of Dalits in India.

In her later press statements, the lady retracted and stressed that only Budhism and Sikhism can fight the Manuwaadic “boa”.

By the time Guru Nanak Sahib arrived, Budhism had almost disappeared from India, courtesy Shankracharya’s crusade against Budhism with the help of Hindu rulers in the 9th century CE. Whilst the opt-out Budhism allowed itself to be banished from India, the life-affirming Khalsa of the miri-piri (temporal-spiritual) tradition of Guru Nanak-Gobind Singh, stopped the invasions of the plundering hordes from the North-West. The Sikhs also led the independence movement by making about 80% of all sacrifices in the early 20th Century. Following the take over of Tibet by the Chinese, the Budhist Dalai Lama sought refuge in India with thousands of his followers.

It was Guru Gobind Singh who said, “In gareeb Sikhan ko deo(n) paatshahi” (I shall empower the poor Sikhs (casteless Khalsa), to become the rulers of the land” and so it was delivered, as promised in “Raj karega Khalsa”, a couplet which had become popular during Guru Sahib’s time (Bhai Nand Lal). Any suggestion that Budhism is the source of Khalsa ideology shows total ignorance of the underlying life-approach of the two systems, even if there are some important similarities.

For the student of diverse life “paths” (panths) in this life, the main differences and similarities between Budhism and Sikhism are noted below. I hesitate to use the rather misleading label “religion” for these two great systems. Both adopted a revolutionary approach so far as Manuwadic Brahmanic tradition (Bipran ki reet) is concerned.

That, therefore, is the main similarity: both systems are revolutionary and based on acquisition of knowledge and practice of egalitarian principles. They set new human goals and, mostly, reject earlier traditions. In its own time, over two thousand five hundred years ago, Budhism was a major departure from the Vedic, Manuvaadic caste based tradition, an intricate and elaborate labyrinth of superstitious primitive beliefs in a vast number of gods, goddesses, devtas (good beings) and rakhshas (evil beings) etc. In that respect, the Hinduism of today has not changed much. Gautama Sidhartha Budha swept all that overboard, as did Guru Nanak Sahib about two thousand years later.

After Budhism, Sikhism was the next revolution brought about in India by Guru Nanak Sahib’s miri-piri (life-affirming i.e. worldly and spiritual) twin-track ideology.

The main difference is that Budhism is life-negating and Sikhism is life-affirming. More about this important difference later.

The fact that Budhism has no place for “God” (Creator Being) concept, whilst Sikhism is totally God-centred, could be regarded as the next main difference with consequential different approaches in practice. Sikhism believes in soul (atma) being the light of the Creator Being (the Supreme Soul) in all. The atma seeks (longs for) return and merger with its own Source. Despite belief in the cycles of karam (karma) i.e. transmigrations, Budhism denies the existence of a “soul” (atma). This is an area of self-contradiction in Budhist thought.

Budhism believes that all is matter, which keeps changing shape. That nothing is left after death. Therefore, on the one hand it does not believe in a soul, on the other, it believes that matter has a memory which is affected by good or bad deeds and connects one life with the next and so starts the cycle of deeds (karma), from which it is necessary to seek freedom (nirvana). The state of nirvana is that of ultimate bliss (param anand). Achievement of that state is only possible by following the “middle path” – the “ashtaang marag” (literally path which requires 8 qualities): right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right meditation. The middle path rejects austerities, penances and self mortification.

The “Three ratan” (three jewels) of Budhism are the Enlightener (budh) i.e. Mahatma Budha himself , the path (matt), and congregation (sangh).

Budhist Panch Sheel (Five ethical or moral rules) are: I shall not hurt any living thing; I shall only take that which is given to me; I shall refrain from sexual misconduct; I shall speak the truth; and, I shall not take intoxicants.

Four social principles (Brahm vihaar) of Budhism: Friendship towards all. Charity towards all. Pleasant thoughts for all. Fair and equal dealings with all.

Six qualities for achieving completeness in life are: Charity towards all. Harmony between word and action. Even temperament to face all difficulties. Enthusiasm for doing good. Mind control. Understanding the reality of things.

With one or two exceptions, similarity of the above approach with Sikh thought is only too obvious. A friendly disposition towards all and virtuous conduct are the central themes.

Now the Four truths in Budhist thought: This world (life) is pain. Pain is integral to all that we see. There are many reasons for this pain. It is possible to destroy this pain. It is possible to attain nirvana (freedom from pain = state of bliss or param anand).

Here, Budhism thought and Sikh thought begin to part company. Sikhism accepts pain willingly in the spirit of “Your Will is bliss for me” (Tera kia meettha laagay.) That is, if pain is in Your Will then I accept it gratefully. Sikhs do not believe that this life is all pain.

We seek help from S. Daljeet Singh’s “The Sikh Worldview”. Guru Nanak’s spiritual experience and his view of the Attributes of God are given in the founding creed of Sikhism, the Mool Mantar. Guru Nanak’s path follows “the line of expression of God’s attributes in the world of man…Hence, Guru Nanak’s system and its growth is entirely different from his contemporary religious systems and their growth.”

The Creator Being “expresses His Love and Attributes in the empirical world, and casts a Benevolent Eye on His Creation. But in Vedanta and other Indian systems, the world is either mithya, illusion, a misery, or a suffering.” Budhism falls in that category also.

The above gives Sikhi its life-affirming approach and distinguishes it from earlier systems including the revolutionary approach, at the time, of Budhism. A Sikh cannot be an opt-out from this world but is a very full participant in God’s service. Thus, constant God awareness (simran) also becomes a constant reminder to serve God by serving His creation, for the two are inseparable. “Sewa” is made a precondition to achieving nearness to Creator Being (Karta Purakh). Simran and sewa concepts go together and that is the basis of Guru Nanak’s miri-piri (active temporal involvement for achieving spiritual progress), twin-track approach to life.

As a consequence of the above approach, to quote S. Dalgit Singh, “monasticism, sanyasa, asceticism, pacifism and withdrawal from life, are rejected, and a householder’s life is accepted as the forum of spiritual activities and growth. Logically, monasticism and celibacy go together, and Guru Nanak categorically rejected both of them.” Obviously, God’s qualities of being “Shelter to the shelterless, Milk to the child, Riches to the poor, and “Eyes to the blind”, can be expressed by the Godman only by being a householder and participating in all walks of life, and not withdrawing from them” and “a corollary to this and to the rejection of celibacy” is “equality between man and woman.”

Continues S. Dalgit Singh, “…we find that in life-negating systems…life is far from real or an arena of spiritual endeavours. The spiritual path and the worldly path are considered separate and distinct. Whether it is Vedanta, Jainism, Budhism, Vaisnavism, asceticism, monasticism, ahimsa, sanyasa or withdrawal from life into Bhikshuhood is the normal course. In consequence, celibacy is the rule, and woman is deemed to be a temptress. ….In Budhism, women Bhikshus are deemed second grade compared to male Bhikshus who are considered senior to them. A male Bhikshu is not supposed to touch and rescue a drowning woman, even if she were his mother…Against this, Guru Nanak not only sanctioned a housholder’s life but stated as to, “How can a woman be called impure, when without woman there would be none.”

“Sikh” word is used for seekers of truth in both systems. In Budhism, one who attains the Truth, blows the horn or conch of truthfulness, preaches it fearlessly to the world and becomes a “singh”. From “sikh” he has become a “singh”, a lion who “roars” his enlightenment, and treads the path of truthful conduct, fearlessly.

When the Sikh establishes a direct link with the Ultimate Reality (Waheguru in Sikhism), then he or she becomes Waheguru’s Khalsa and is prepared to lay down his or her life in following the path of truthful conduct peacefully through martyrdom (shaheedi, Guru Arjan Sahib’s way), or, as the need arises, in the battlefield. Khalsa never surrenders to evil under any circumstances.

Let us be clear. A “Singh” (lion) is the Khalsa, who is directly linked with Akal Purakh (the Ultimate Reality) and serves His creation fearlessly and is prepared to make any sacrifice. The Khalsa is God’s army (Akal Purakh ki Fauj). The Khalsa remains in positive spirit (chardhi kalla) under all circumstances, and is invincible even when facing impossible odds. The Khalsa unsheathes the sword in defence of the weak and human dignity. The Khalsa aspires towards Godly qualities of remaining fearless (nirbhao) and without animosity (nirvair) even in the battlefield. The Khalsa is always prepared to give own life as sacrifice for the beloved Lord of all creation. That is the spirit of Sikh martyrdom (shaheedi) – human life is sacrificed in love for the Beloved i.e. in the service of His creation and in acceptance His Will (bhana). The Khalsa is committed to “halemi raj” in which no one inflicts pain on another. The Khalsa is of Waheguru and to Waheguru belongs the ultimate victory.

Whilst the similarities between Budhism and Sikhism are quite remarkable, the founding precepts and approaches are entirely different.

Further reading for the busy reader:
In English: “The Sikh World View” by S. Daljeet Singh, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
In Panjabi: “Jain Matt, Budh Matt te Gurmatt”, Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana.


© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, 31 May 2010

Sikhism & Secular State

The question: Is this “War on Terrorism” or an assault on religious freedom and Civil Liberties ?


• European Court of Human Rights decision banning the headscarves
• Ban on Sikh articles of faith
• Introduction of Identity Cards
• 300% Increase in “Stop and search” of Asians
• Terrorist profiling which targets practising Sikhs
• Counter-terrorism powers: Is this “Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society” ?
• Is this secularism ?

“Baabar Ke V. Baabay Ke” struggle began in the earnest when the Guru laid down the true concept of Khalsa regime: “The Merciful Master has now decreed that no one shall inflict pain on another (or oppress another). All abide in peace and this shall be the benign regime.” (Guru Granth Sahib p.74) Today “Baabar Ke” seems to be the “secular” state, which is rapidly curbing religious freedoms in the West.

Secularism is state indifference to religion; that religion should be excluded from civil affairs and public education. At its worst, as is happening in France, it can be state interference in religious practice. Such interference, if not challenged robustly in law courts, becomes religious persecution when minority rights are involved.

The so called “War on Terrorism” is beginning to remove certain basic safeguards to keep the state powers in check. This has been happening systematically since September 11 events at the expense of civil liberties, individual freedoms, and human and religious rights. From the legislation already being introduced in the US it is clear that “War on terrorism” is going to lead to further restriction of civil liberties. Minority communities like the Sikhs are likely to suffer most. This trend in North America and Europe is most regrettable but not unexpected. The events in Iraq and the Middle East have provoked Islamic reaction, while the terrorist threat to western countries remains undiminished.

The “War on terrorism” is rapidly turning into open suppression of human rights and freedoms by the state. In a modern civilised society, the right to own religious identity (and cultural diversity) should be taken for granted. However, first the “security versus religious freedom” arguments (resulting in Kirpan ban at airports and elsewhere), and in recent years the European ban on headscarves and Sikh turbans, are rapidly eroding the hard won human rights over the decades through the United Nations charters and instruments.

In a provocative decision by the European Court, which is supposed to safeguard human rights and diversity, the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by a Turkish student, Leyla Sahin, seeking admission to the Istanbul University medical school to wear a headscarf. Turkey has a Muslim majority, but the state argued that headscarves were against the state’s secularism! The Court ruled that such a ban does not violate religious freedom and that it was the right way to counter Islamic fundamentalism.

It seems the European Court of Human Rights has now joined the state in suppressing the basic right to own religio-cultural identity. Such collusion between the judiciary and the state would surely reverse the human rights progress in recent years. The court decision takes precedence over national court rulings. The Union of French Islamic Organisations denounced the European Courts ruling at Strasbourg as “politicised justice” and a form of persecution which would further encourage the "secular" states to place yet more restriction on religious freedom.

Sikhs suffer most due to their visible identity and articles of faith. In fact, the Sikhs are in a worse position so far as the turban is concerned because the Sikh “dastar” is an inseparable part of Sikh faith. A country should not suppress people’s basic rights in the name of secularism in this way.

Other restrictive measures: In November 2003, the Home Secretary announced that the Government had decided to introduce a national identity cards (ID cards) scheme. This involves comprehensive identification of individuals using the latest technology. The aim is to set up a National Identity Register. Richard Thomas, UK Information Commissioner, expressed doubts about the advisability of creating the National Identity Register. Indeed, it is surprising that civil liberties organisations have not made headlines objecting to the scheme.

In the US, broadening the power of the Patriot Act further restricted civil liberties of immigrants and US residents. National Security Letters (NSL) can be issued by FBI field officers to obtain credit reports, electronic communications transactional records and records of financial institutions etc. The recipient of an NSL will not be allowed to disclosure having received such letters from FBI officials. There is no doubt that immigrants and “profiled” members (and businesses) of minorities would suffer most due to such extended FBI powers.

Sikhs have been the frontline victims of terrorist profiling recently. After September 11, it was the picture of a youngish Gursikh, being arrested in the US, which was splashed all over the British press! “Asians” (an ambiguous label) are at the receiving end of “Stop and search” powers of the police. There has been a 300% increase in Asians being stopped and searched by the police in the UK recently. (Another reason why Sikhs should be separately monitored so that we have factual evidence about the Sikhs regarding such matters and racial assaults etc.)

Sikhs have suffered from mistaken identity since the late Nineteen- fifties when they started arriving in England in significant numbers. They were called “Pakis” by the “skin-heads” and the “Teddy boys”. “Paki-bashing” was fashionable. The British media was at least partly responsible for spreading this ignorance by showing turban-wearing “aliens” arriving in England. Over the years, the British media – television, radio and the press – have remained ignorant about the Sikhs despite over 200 years of Anglo-Sikh history; nor have the Sikhs done much to educate the public and the media. Regrettably, those Sikhs who have succeeded in gaining influential positions have mostly distanced themselves from the concerns of the Sikh community at grassroots level.

Unless religious heads join together in opposing such persecution in the name of secularism, these ill-considered bans on religious identity and freedom, using the most trivial of excuses, can increase tensions between the state and faith communities.

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sikhism & Bioethical Issues


(Partly based on articles by Dr I J Singh (New York) and Dr. G S Mansukhani)

(Note: Following retirement in June 1996, I worked with The Sikh Missionary Society UK for a few years. Due to rapid advances in science in areas such as genetic engineering and cloning etc Sikh views were sought on such issues by those in interfaith, educational, research and media fields. On 12 June 2001, I wrote to Dr I J Singh, New York, about the need to develop a Sikh view about bioethical issues. The following thoughts were sent to him, and later produced as an article.)

Gurmatt based framework for reaching decisions on bioethical and other 21st Century issues

In discussing religio-social issues, and dilemmas and problems facing today’s society led by the rapid advances in science and technology, two basic rules of Gurbani teachings would seem to be relevant:

(1) Human life is at the apex of life on earth. It is an important phase in the evolution of a human being towards complete God-centred harmony.

(2) Family life and the institution of marriage are central to Sikh teachings which stress man/woman complementary roles in a spirit of equality. Sikhism does not accept monasticism or any type of “opt-out” way of life.

The emphasis of Gurmatt (Guru’s guidance) is not on the laying down of highly precise and rigid rules of how man might utilise his God-given knowledge; the essence of Sikh teachings is to provide man with a healthy, progressive and responsible philosophy for addressing modern issues. It provides a framework and not definitive answers for the future.

General principles:
(Derived mainly from Dr I J Singh’s essays)

1) Not all actions can be universally condemned in all situations at all times.
2) Instead of providing fixed unchanging answers to changing problems, Sikhism provides an unchanging process based on moral framework in which one can devise moral and ethical criteria by which an ethical dilemma can be negotiated.
3) Inherent in Sikh teachings is the principle that all rights come with responsibilities and no actions are free of accountability.
4) Before committing to an action, a human being must delve into his or her essential being. “Recognise the divine spark within you”, says Sikhism. (“Mann toon Jote Saroop hain apna mool pacchaan.”)
5) The divine spark is discovered and nurtured by love, by service to the community and by recognition of the same spark in all of us.
6) In the process of self-realisation, the sangat, a congregation of similarly dedicated people becomes critically important. God and Guru pervade such a congregation.
7) The discerning intellect that Sikhism asks of its followers is far from perfect, but grows only by use, prayer and grace. In this role the Sikh community, the sangat becomes paramount. Individual lives exist as biosocial contracts within the historical framework of a community.
8) The decision making process does not occur in isolation and the individual choices are ratified by the sangat (congregation).

From what has been said so far, one may conclude that Gurmatt based decisions regarding bioethical and other issues should be made intelligently (i.e. in the light of all the research and information that is available), ethically and collectively in any given situation. The mental/spiritual mode required is that of complete humility, complete harmonisation with the Will of the Creator, sense of service to all creation and a highly responsible attitude towards human values and the progress of human institutions (e.g. the institution of family life).

The ethical objectivity of knowledge must never be lost. The objective of human progress is to improve the quality of life so that it becomes God-centred and not self-centred. Research in the spiritual and temporal fields, is encouraged by Sikhi. The pre-condition is that it must be guided by Gurmatt as continually interpreted by Gursikh scholars, and applied accordingly. We must not start tinkering with the building blocks of life without taking full responsibility and seeking the Guru’s guidance.

With such a decision making framework in which science and enlightened religious thought work together (convergence of science and religion), one can turn to the specific questions.

Let us take genetic engineering as an example. According to Gurmatt, the main purpose of life is to achieve a harmonious relationship with the Supreme Soul (Param-atma) during this life. Pursuit of worldly power, comfort and pleasure, and attachment can lead one astray from the path of Gurmatt. In fact, pain is prescribed as a “medicine” (“dukh daaroo”) when the human mind loses direction due to single-minded pursuit of worldly achievements. However, in Sikhi physical pain or suffering is not a pre-condition to becoming a God-centred being. Science should be used to provide relief from such pain, although, Sikhi would not recommend the ending of life (euthanasia) as a means to ending physical or mental pain. This is a topic which needs to be developed further in the context of euthanasia.

Use of genetic engineering in non-human life forms may produce “better” vegetation and animals (from the human view point). It may be argued that the main purpose of these life forms is to sustain life itself (“Jian ka ahaar jee khana”) and is not the same as human life. Presumably, the Sikh religious criteria for genetic engineering of non-human and human life forms would be based on different considerations.

One is reminded of the word “mann” in Gurbani which is self awareness in time/space but which is also the light of God in man (“Mann toon jote Saroop hain”). This would seem to be a uniquely human faculty, which distinguishes man from all other life forms. In relation to genetic engineering this theme needs further Gurmatt research. Sikhs are not forbidden from eating meat but would Gurmatt allow the use of animals in scientific experimentation? A very cautious and conditional “yes” may be the response. The same would apply to human volunteers.

A balanced human family life is essential for achieving the human life’s goal. To achieve this objective, the same person needs to play many roles and needs many different skills to develop a full and balanced personality: marriage partner (including the sexual aspect), parent, roles in different relationships, thinker, writer, craftsman, saint, soldier etc. Responsible genetic engineering will need to take account of all these considerations. For example, to produce super unbalanced beings in test tubes would be totally unethical. Generally, Sikhism’s response to human cloning for the purpose of producing “carbon copy” human beings would be in the negative. On the other hand providing cure from disease and enhancing the quality of life would accord with Sikhi.


To conclude with a quotation from Dr I J Singh:
“The discerning intellect that Sikhism asks of its followers is far from perfect, but grows only by use, prayer and grace. In this role the Sikh community, the sangat becomes paramount, the process does not occur in isolation......individual lives exist as biosocial contracts within the historical framework of a community.” (“The Sikh Way: A Pilgrim’s Progress” p. 25)

Man needs to be aware of own imperfections and proceed with great caution, and continuous and continual vigilance when applying science and technology to the alteration of own hereditary characteristics evolved over millions of years by nature. He must proceed in humility and prayer and be prepared to take full personal and collective social responsibility for the consequences of genetic engineering and similar advances in science.

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

© Gurmukh Singh

Sikhism & Status of Women

Synopsis of an article by Prof. Prabhjot Kaur

(Note: The original article by Prof. Prabhjot Kaur was published in the Abstract of Sikh Studies (ASS) some years ago. It was a fresh approach to understanding the status of women in Sikhism. Have uncovered this item in the system but do not have any reference to the ASS issue. Perhaps someone can let me know in due course. These notes were first used for a short talk at a UK event organised by the Sikh Women's Alliance. Gurmukh Singh)

“It has been said that the status accorded to women is the touchstone of the civilization of society.” (Prof Prabhjot Kaur)

Women’s Liberation Movement, started by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the year 1848 in Seneca Falls near New York, received a further boost with the setting up of a UN Commission on the status of women. Much has been done to secure equal rights and opportunities for women worldwide. Much has been achieved. The question, which Prof Prabhjot Kaur asks is, if better status for women has made today’s society more civilized than before? Her answer is a “definite no”.

She argues that the divorce rate has increased manifold, there are increasingly more broken families, and, despite much progress in all other spheres, the institution of the family is threatened as never before. Why is this so when the lot of women, who have always been the pivot of the family unit, has improved so much?

For the answers to these modern problems, Sikh scholars turn to Gurbani, the Word or the knowledge revealed to the Gurus and other devotees of God, the Bhagats. Prabhjot Kaur does not repeat the much quoted passages from Gurbani which questions “Why condemn women who conceive and give birth (to men); to whom men are betrothed and married and who give birth to kings?” (GGS p.473) The Gurus treated women equal to men and the Third Guru, Guru Amardas, even appointed women preachers. Prabhjot Kaur’s approach is from an entirely different angle. Her view based on Gurbani research is that women naturally possess the qualities necessary for getting closer to the Lord Creator Being.

With reference to the relationship between the human soul and the Lord, all human beings (men and women) have been called “naar” (woman or wife) in Gurbani. Through communion with the Lord, human soul is constantly seeking the status of a “sohagan” – one who is beloved of the Lord, decribed as “kanth” (Husband) in Gurbani. This is a constant theme of Gurbani. As in a worldly husband/wife relationship, certain qualities need to be cultivated to reach this harmonious relationship. It is in this respect that women are likely to have an advantage over men; for they are more likely to possess the qualities necessary to become “sohagan”, the beloved of the Lord.

In Gurbani, a woman who becomes the “sohagan” has been referred to as
“batees sulakhani” i.e. she has thirty-two qualities, which according to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s “Mahan Kosh” are: beauty, cleanliness, modesty, humility, concord, observance of religion, intelligence, knowledge, service, compassion, truth, dedicated love of spouse, purity of mind, patience, frugality, beneficence, sobriety, chivalry, active habits, house decoration, respect of elders, proficiency in music, poetry, painting, domestic science and embroidery, respectful attention to guests, and bringing up children.

All men and women can be “sohagan” if they have the qualities necessary to please the Lord. Therefore, the man/woman division is a mere technicality in this respect – it matters not whether one has the body of a man or a woman. The path to reach the Lord for both is the same. Men and women (physical beings) enjoy equal status in Gurbani. Indeed, if we go by the “batees sulakhni” description of a “suhagan” – qualities in a woman which please the husband, or qualities necessary in a human soul to please the Lord – then women are more naturally bequeathed with those qualities than men. Or, men would require a greater effort to acquire those qualities found more naturally in women. Reading Prabhjot Kaur’s article, one gets the impression that women have an edge over men in this respect. More so as the new age of science and technology makes the masculine attributes less relevant to the question of men/women parity.

It seems that today’s woman is demanding equality with men under the mistaken belief that men are superior to women; while Gurbani says that it is the woman who is “the best of the best” (“Sabh parvare mahe sresht”). So, “it is the man who is expected to follow the footsteps of the woman”! For the man must be guided by the “sohagan” – in the worldly sense, the woman who has won the heart of her husband. Those same qualities found in a “sohagan” need to be cultivated by all (regardless of the men/women bodies they occupy) to win the Lord’s attention (Nadar).

Socially, and in the family, a woman who is “batees sulakhnee” is able to create a peaceful and heavenly environment. With her qualities (see above) she is able to guide others, and through her roles as mother and wife (and other family relationships) she is able to change the destiny of a family. A woman must have own personality and must be bold and chivalrous when required. Otherwise, the situation described in Gurbani would arise when “Women have become submissive, while men have become tyrants.” (GGS p. 142) Sikh women like Mata Sundariji (wife of the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh) who took a keen interest in Sikh polity after the Guru’s death, and Mata Bhago leading Sikh warriors in battle, have shown that women should be bold and take action when the situation arises.

Prof. Prabhjot Kaur feels that Gurbani teachings about the true role of women can show the way ahead for the global community. Women need not compete with men but use their feminine, natural God-given attributes to improve family and social life. She quotes Dr. H B Dinesh in support, “….the new age will be less masculine and more permeated with feminine ideals – or to speak more exactly, will be the age in which masculine and feminine elements of civilisation will be more properly balanced.”.

The family life advocated in Guru Granth Sahib will become increasingly more relevant to the resolution of modern family and social problems. In the age of science and technology the “shifting of the scales” is creating a more level playing field for men and women; maybe even shifting in favour of women in the long run. Seeking equality with men is not the answer for women; rather, they should cultivate and use the natural qualities with which they are naturally gifted to pave the way for a better future for men and women – all “suhagans” of the One Lord.

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

From Gurbani: The Almighty is neither a man nor a woman:

ਸੁੰਨ ਮੰਡਲ ਇਕੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਬੈਸੇ  ਨਾਰਿ ਨ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕੋਊ ਕੈਸੇ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹੇ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥ ਸੁਰਿ ਨਰ ਨਾਥ ਸਚੇ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥॥ 
Sunn mandal ik jogī baise.  Nār na purak kahhu ko▫ūkaise.  Ŧaribava jo rahe liv lā▫ī.  Sur nar nāth sace sarā▫ī. ||4||  
(Ik-u) One (jogi) Yogi (baisey) sits in (manddal) a state (sumn = numb, unmoving) of still-ness unaffected by environment; this is the Almighty who is neither (naar-i) woman nor (purakh-u) man; how can (ko-oo) anyone (kahahu) say (kaisey) what IT is like, i.e. no one can.
IT is (jot-i = light) the Spirit present in all creatures (tribhavan = three regions) of the world, and they (rahey) remain (liv laai) absorbed in, i.e. live by, IT’s commands.
(Sur-i nar = god-like persons) virtuous persons and (naath = a group of yogis) Yogis place themselves (sarnaa-i = sanctuary) in care and obedience of (sachey) the Eternal Master. 4.