(Edit 2 20.03.12 am)
Note: "Sikh view" articles in this blogspot, take a holistic view of Sikh Scriptures.
These articles can only be regarded as one view of Sikh teachings. Gurbani gives guidance and is not prescriptive. Gurbani does not "micromanage".
Due to controversial edicts from incumbent Jathedars of Akal Takht Sahib in recent years, the direction by the Jathedar giving the Sikh position on the question of same sex marriages, is given in the last paragraph of this article.
“Only heterosexual marriage can provide a healthy environment for bringing up children and for catering for the needs of the human society.”
Equal civil marriage consultation by the UK government.
This consultation sets out the government's proposals to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage.
The key proposals of the consultation are:
• to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel)
• to make no changes to religious marriages. This will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman
• to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage
• civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
• individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage
Current legislation allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, but not civil marriage.
This article is not concerned with sexual orientation or inclination, or any other condition which may give rise even to sex crimes, and which may or may not arise from biological or gene-based factors. Those abnormalities may need psychological and/or medical treatment.
This article is concerned with the legitimisation of homosexual behaviour now seeking social, legal and even religious acceptance as a human right; and going further, to get it recognised through the institution of marriage – civil and even religious.
Powerful homosexual political lobbying is at work in western societies.
Gurbani based view
“...... much of Sikh teaching is couched in metaphors from family life. Even the adoration of God is explored in terms of the closest relationship that humans can comprehend - that between a man and a woman. The heterosexual relationship is defined as sacred in Sikhism; an honest family life is described as the first duty - the primary religion of humans.” Dr I J Singh “Same Sex Unions” http://www.sikhchic.com/article-detail.php?id=2219&cat=12 ) (also see footnote)
Gurbani, the Guru’s Word in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture, places stress on the control of five forces in human nature, which, when not controlled through self discipline, become five human vices. These are:-
kaam: lust or uncontrolled sexual desire;
krodh: uncontrolled anger (gussa as referred to by Bhagat Farid);
lobh: greed, the desire to hoard (mostly) un-earned wealth or to possess another’s wealth/property;
moh: excessive attachment , ultimately the cause of much grief at the loss of those near and dear; and,
ahankaar (hankar) or haomai: ego, conceit or self-centredness.
There is no evil entity (Devil) in Sikhi(sm); only the above five forces (panch soorbir or five "mighty warriors"), the human being is constantly at war with. For that reason, a Sikh is constantly seeking the Guru’s support to fight and defeat them.
Yet, it may be argued that all these five life forces serve the needs of the human society in their positive and disciplined forms:
sex (kaam) within the bounds and discipline of marriage for procreation;
just anger (replacing uncontrolled wrath) in dharam yudh (righteous and just war) in defence of human dignity and the weak;
the good practice of thrift and saving (replacing greed or lobh) from one’s honest earnings for the rainy day and economic wellbeing;
a detached but caring, loving and responsible attitude towards own family and relationships, as distinct from excessive attachment (moh); and,
self-respect (swai-maan) for a positive attitude to succeed in life and never to accept defeat.
Gurbani and Sikh tradition says much more about each of the five life forces, kaam, krodh, lobh, moh and ahankar, to show how they can be harnessed through Guru's Grace (Kirpa or Nadar ).
These forces can be channelled to serve the needs of the human society and for developing rounded personalities.
Yet all the five life forces are like fires which can consume and destroy the human being physically and spiritually.
Our concern here is with the first force, kaam or uncontrolled sexual desire; and the urge to satisfy it under the mistaken belief that the fire of sex can be extinguished without self discipline. Nay, the more this fire is fed the higher shoot its devouring flames! The antidotes for kaam, as for all human vices and ailments, are constant God awareness (Naam simran) and total dedication to service in humility (seva) of Lord’s creation and fellow human beings. Both, simran and seva (piri-miri or spiritual-temporal aspects) being the twin track approach to life as one follows the path of Sikhi.
Kaam can have many shapes and its identification with different leanings of hetero, homo and lesbian sexuality, polygamy, child abuse, sex between siblings, bestiality and abuse in other forms, are artificial. It is important to confront the naked truth and nature of kaam itself.
More so in the context of homosexuality and the so called same sex unions between “consenting adults”, now aspiring towards formal “marriages”. Where does it all end ?
It is not surprising that UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s adviser on family issues, Reg Bailey is reported to have said that “the proposed reforms would risk polygamy and marriage between siblings.” This is a wake-up call to the human society.
Regrettably, modern social freedoms and lack of any moral discipline, runaway consumerism driven by competing market forces and lobbying power, have weakened any religious or social control over these destructive forces in human nature.
There is nothing new about homosexuality as a form of sexual abuse of which no society or individual has been proud i.e. until recent times! Like most malpractices and abuse of the sacred human body - this "temple of God" according to Gurbani - or vulnerable groups like children, it has remained underground or confined to prisons or cults. That is no longer the case, and world religions have to face this challenge according to own codes of conduct, and advise and guide society accordingly.
The institution of marriage in Sikhi
The institution of married life is at the core of Sikh religious teaching.
Sikh religion rejects celibacy and asceticism and condemns promiscuity regardless of sexual leanings.
Sexual relationship is allowed within the bounds of a “marriage of bliss” (Anand Karaj) which unites a man and a woman as “one soul” (ek jyot), for the purpose of begetting and raising children in a caring and loving family environment.
“Mother” and “father” in a family, provide gender role models, sustenance and security for children to grow up as responsible world citizens. Heterosexual family environment would influence a growing child’s healthy concept of sexuality and its place in human society. It is the religious and traditional Sikh view that only the heterosexual family-unit can provide all the basic needs of growing up children.
There are numerous references to "dhan" (wife) and "pir" (husband) (e.g. SGGS Anks 435,436,483,770,788,1263....). Most Gurbani students would would agree with Dr I J Singh when he wrote,"......much of Sikh teaching is couched in metaphors from family life. Even the adoration of God is explored in terms of the closest relationship that humans can comprehend - that between a man and a woman. The heterosexual relationship is defined as sacred in Sikhism...(see quote and his article link at Sikhchic below. ) For example, it would take some stretch of imagination to suggest that "ek jyot doay moorti" (SGGS 788) - one spiritual light (spiritual union) in two bodies - refers to union of two male or two female bodies!
Sex of any variety (!) outside matrimony is strictly forbidden. Sikh teachings caution men and women against over indulgence in sex oriented thought and activity (kaam). Self discipline and control is taught through constant God awareness (Naam simran) and social activism (seva).
Sikhism is an inclusive religion and the Gurdwara is open to all, regardless of gender, religion, sexual leanings or any form of handicap. This means that it would be against the spirit of Sikh religion to discriminate against anyone for having homosexual bias, by barring him or her from the Gurdwara i.e. from taking part in holy congregation or partaking food in the community kitchen (langar).
However, a self confessed practising homosexual would not be regarded as the ideal person to teach, preach, lead congregational prayers or take part in any managerial role of a Gurdwara.
The above would apply equally to those who do not fully subscribe to and poractise the Sikhi way of life which rejects celibacy and opt-out life negating life-style.
Sikh religion promotes virtuous, chaste and monogamous heterosexual marriage and productive social life. Opt-out and monastic life style, which does not engage in social activism, is rejected. Only heterosexual marriage can provide a healthy environment for bringing up children and for catering for the needs of the human society.
For the above reasons, in January 2005, the Jathedar (custodian) of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab, India, the highest seat of Sikh temporal-religious (miri-piri) authority for interpreting Sikh teachings, issued an edict denouncing same-sex marriages, and urging the worldwide Sikh community not to allow such marriages to take place at any Gurdwara.
Sikh Education Welfare & Advancement (SEWA) network
Convener Advisory Panel
The Sikh Missionary Society UK
Copy right: Gurmukh Singh UK
This article may be published or quoted from with acknowledgement.
** My comment below Dr I J Singh’s article on “Sikhchic” is as follows:
".........Whilst religion should remain relevant to the needs of society, it should guide and not follow fads, trends and vote-seeking political considerations. Expression of love in human relationships takes many forms. However, sexual leanings have to be controlled and channeled as spiritual love, which is free from lust. Sikh institutions have evolved from the egalitarian principles enshrined in Gurbani. In matters such as seva in gurdwaras and Sikh social activism, gurmat is non-discriminatory. As a spiritually-biased temporal system, very much concerned with here and now, the Sikh way of life (Sikhi) also gives us guidance about the human family. Often, this guidance about a model family is couched in idiomatic language and the author is quite right when he implies that, like other religious systems, Sikhi too promotes responsible married life which creates 'the smallest functioning unit of society' as a household 'consisting of mother, father and children.' Otherwise, Gurbani is concerned with spiritual love for the Creator and the created, finding expression in many ways. According to Gurbani, we are all soul brides of One Lord, regardless of the male or female bodies we occupy. Love is expressed in Gurbani for sister brides who have acquired the status of 'suhagan'."