Monday, August 28, 2017

Sikh Rehat Maryada: Janam & Naam Sanskaar

Below is the birth and naming ceremony in accordance to the Sikh Rehat Maryada document with additional notes and commentary:

a.    In a Sikh’s household, as soon as after the birth of a child, as the mother becomes capable of moving about and taking a bath (irrespective of the number of days that takes), the family and relatives should go to a gurdwara with Karhah Prashaad or get Karhah Prashaad made in the gurdwara and in the holy presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji recite shabads expressive of joy and thankfulness, such as:
ਪਰਮੇਸਰਿ ਦਿਤਾ ਬੰਨਾ ||
“The Divine-Lord has given me His support.”
(Sorath M:5, 627-628)

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਾਚੈ ਦੀਆ ਭੇਜਿ ||
“The True Guru has truly given a child.”
(Aasa M:5, 396)
Thereafter, if a reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji had been taken up, that should be concluded. Then the holy Hukam should be taken. A name starting with the first letter of the Shabad (sacred hymn) of the Hukam should be suggested by the Granthi.(1) After a name has been decided and has been accepted by the Sangat, the name should be announced by the Granthi. The boy’s name must have the suffix ‘Singh’ and the girl’s, the suffix ‘Kaur’.(2) After that, Anand Sahib (short version comprising six Pauris) should be recited, followed by offering of an Ardaas to express the joy of the naming ceremony and then distribution of Karhah Prashaad.(3)

b.    The superstition of ritual pollution of food and water as a consequence of giving birth must not be followed(4) as Gurbani says:
ਜੰਮਣੁ ਮਰਣਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ||
ਖਾਣਾ ਪੀਣਾ ਪਵਿਤ੍ਰੁ ਹੈ ਦਿਤੋਨੁ ਰਿਜਕੁ ਸੰਬਾਹਿ ||
“The birth and death are by His ordinance; coming and going is by His will. All food and water are, in principle, clean, for these life-sustaining substances are provided by Him.”
(Aasa M:1, 472)

c.    Using Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s Rumaala to make and wear as dress or clothing for someone is Manmat.

  1. ਨਾਉ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ ਦੀ ਅਵਾਜ਼ ਲੈਕਰਿ ਰਖਾਏ |
    “Name a child through taking an ‘Avaaz’ (i.e. Hukamnama) from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.”
    (Rehatnama Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji, p. 84)  

  2. ਬੱਚੇ ਬੱਚੀ ਕਾ ਨਾਮ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਵਾਕ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਪਹਿਲੇ ਅੱਖਰ ਸੇ ਰਾਖੇਂ, ਅਗਰ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਜੀ ਨਾ ਹੋਵੇ ਤਾਂ ਪੋਥੀ ਸੇ ਰਾਖਾ ਜਾਏ | ਬੱਚੇ ਦੇ ਨਾਮ ਨਾਲ 'ਸਿੰਘ' ਤੇ ਬੱਚੀ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ 'ਕੌਰ' ਸ਼ਬਦ ਲਾਇਆ ਜਾਏ |
    “Both a boy’s and girl’s name should be chosen by taking a ‘Vaak’ from Sri (Guru) Granth (Sahib) Ji, using the first letter. If Sri (Guru) Granth (Sahib) Ji is not available, then it can be kept from a ‘Pothi’ (small volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). A boy’s name should have ‘Singh’ with it, and a girl’s name should have ‘Kaur’ with it.”
    (Guru Kian Sakhian, Bhai Sarup Singh Kaushish, p. 127)

  3. Enacting any other sort of ceremony to mark the birth is not allowed in Gurmat; for example, lucky charms or strings tied on the child’s wrist or neck. To break all superstitions a sarbloh Karha is to be placed on the child’s right-hand wrist. Drinking alcohol and eating meat whilst celebrating the birth of a child is a grave sin.

  4. There is a wide-spread belief among certain sections of Indian people that a birth in a household causes ritual pollution (sootak) which is removed by the thorough bathing of the mother, the baby and persons attending on her as also by a thorough cleaning of the house, the utensils and the clothes, after prescribed periods of ten, twenty-one and forty days.

  5. The original Sikh Rehat Maryada document published in 1936 had a section explaining the tradition of Gurhtee, which was later removed. Gurhtee should not be confused with Khande-Di-Pahul (the Amrit prepared by the Panj Piaare). There is no comparison to it. ‘Gurhtee’ refers to the first food served to a new-born baby. In other religious traditions and cultures, honey or brown sugar is served to a new-born child.

    The original document published in 1936 stated the following:
    “a) When with Vahiguru’s Grace a child is born in the home of Sikh, then in the place of giving Gurhtee (making a new born taste something sweet after birth), place Pataase (sugar wafers) into water and recite Mool Mantar. With the tip of a Kirpaan pour one or two drops into the child’s mouth. The rest of the water should be given to the mother to drink. Then an Ardaas should be performed for thanking Vahiguru and praying for the mother’s good health.”

    Photo of ‘Gurhtee’ ceremony practiced by some Sikhs
    Many Amritdhari couples would attend an Amrit Sanchaar as soon as the mother and child are well enough to travel. They would present the baby before the Panj Piaare to receive a blessing. 

    One explanation for the Gurhtee tradition is that in the past, it was more common for children to die young, and not get an opportunity to go an Amrit Sanchaar to receive blessings of the Panj Piaare. In response to this, Sikhs would give babies Gurbani blessed water as soon as the child was born.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shabad - Sorath Raag, M:4, Ang 648

ਪਉੜੀ ॥

ਤਿਨ ਕਾ ਖਾਧਾ ਪੈਧਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਸਭੁ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਹੈ
ਜੋ ਨਾਮਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਤੇ ॥      

 ਮਨੁੱਖ ਹਰੀ ਦੇ ਨਾਮ ਵਿਚ ਰੰਗੇ ਹੋਏ ਹਨ, ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਨੂੰ ਵਰਤਣਾ, ਖਾਣਾ ਪਹਿਨਣਾ ਸਭ ਕੁਝ ਪਵਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਹੈ;        
The food and clothes, and all the worldly possessions of those who are attuned to the Lord's Name are sacred. 

ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਘਰ ਮੰਦਰ ਮਹਲ ਸਰਾਈ ਸਭਿ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਹਹਿ
ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਸਿਖ ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਜਾਇ ਵਰਸਾਤੇ ॥      

 ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਘਰ, ਮੰਦਰ, ਮਹਿਲ ਤੇ ਸਰਾਵਾਂ ਸਭ ਪਵਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਹਨ, ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਸਿੱਖ ਤੇ ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਸੁਖ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਹਨ ।     
All the homes, temples, palaces and way-stations are sacred, where the Gurmukhs, the selfless servants, the Sikhs and the renouncers of the world, go and take their rest.  

ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਤੁਰੇ ਜੀਨ ਖੁਰਗੀਰ ਸਭਿ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਹਹਿ
ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਿਖ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਤ ਚੜਿ ਜਾਤੇ ॥      
ਦੇ ਘੋੜੇ, ਜ਼ੀਨਾਂ, ਤਾਹਰੂ ਸਭ ਪਵਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਹਨ, ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਉਤੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਿੱਖ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਤ ਚੜ੍ਹਦੇ ਹਨ;       
All the horses, saddles and horse blankets are sacred, upon which the Gurmukhs, the Sikhs, the Holy and the Saints, mount and ride.  

ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਕਾਰਜ ਸਭਿ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਹਹਿ
ਜੋ ਬੋਲਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਸਾਤੇ ॥      

 ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਕੰਮ-ਕਾਜ ਸਭ ਪਵਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਹਨ, ਜੋ ਹਰ ਵੇਲੇ ਹਰੀ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ ਉਚਾਰਦੇ ਹਨ ।     
All their actions, religious practices and work are sacred, for those who forever utter the Name of the Lord

ਜਿਨ ਕੈ ਪੋਤੈ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਹੈ
ਸੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਿਖ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਹਿ ਜਾਤੇ ॥੧੬॥      

 ਪਹਿਲੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਕੰਮਾਂ ਦੇ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ) ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਪੱਲੇ (ਭਲੇ ਸੰਸਕਾਰ-ਰੂਪ) ਪੁੰਨ ਹੈ, ਉਹ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਿੱਖ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਰਨ ਆਉਂਦੇ ਹਨ      
Those Gurmukhs, those Sikhs, who have purity as their treasure, go to their Guru. ||16||

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Sikh Rehat Maryada on women wearing a Dastaar...

(ਣ) ਸਿੱਖ ਲਈ ਕਛਹਿਰੇ ਤੇ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਤੋਂ ਛੁਟ ਪੁਸ਼ਾਕ ਸੰਬੰਧੀ ਬਾਕੀ ਕੋਈ ਪਾਬੰਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ | ਸਿੱਖ ਇਸਤਰੀ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਜਾਏ ਜਾਂ ਨਾ ਸਜਾਏ, ਦੋਵੇਂ ਠੀਕ ਹਨ |
"t. For a Sikh, apart from wearing a Dastaar (turban) and Kachhera (special shorts) there are no restrictions to dress.18 A Sikh woman may or may not tie a Dastaar." 
(Sikh Rehat Maryada document, Gurmat Rehni section)

Within the Panth there are those that for whatever reason believe it is optional for Sikh women to wear a Dastaar (turban), and those who believe it is equally mandatory for both men and women to wear a Dastaar. The Panth at the time acknowledged both are within the Panth. Therefore, if an individual, group, or organization holds that wearing a Dastaar is a necessity for both genders and insists it is compulsory for women recieving Amrit to wear a Dastaar, it is not an infringement of the Sikh Rehat Maryada document.

Picture of Rani Raj Kaur (18th century) taken from Bhai Vir Singh's book 'Rana Surat Singh'.
Earliest European depiction of Sri Darbaar Sahib complex by August Schoefft in December 1836. Sikh women are shown with top-knots and Dastaars.

Historically both Sikh men and women wore at least the short Dastaar (Keski). Although history notoriously excludes facts about women, there are historical references to not only to Mata Bhag Kaur, but also many other Sikh women wearing Dastaars. Mata Sahib Kaur (‘mother of the Khalsa’ and wife of Guru Gobind Singh ji) wore a Dastaar. Many Gurmukhs who have had darshan of Mata Sahib Kaur, including Baba Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, confirm this. Being the mother of the Khalsa, Mata Ji would certainly have followed the Khalsa Rehat and therefore would have followed Rehatnamas instructing the wearing of a Dastaar. Rani Raj Kaur (18th century) is also pictured with wearing a Dastaar. Up until 1930, when Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir was appointed Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib (12th March 1930 – 5th March 1931), it was compulsory for all women to wear at least a Keski (short-turban) for qualifying to receiving Amrit.
"Up to the early 1930s Sikh women wore the turban for the Amrit (baptism) ceremony. It was Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, the Jathedar (chief priest) of the Akal Takhat in Amritsar (one of the five seats of religious authority for the Sikhs), who began to baptize women without the turban. People protested strongly, but gradually fashion took over, and it has become customary."
(Tara Singh Bains, Hugh J. M. Johnston (1995): The Four Quarters of the Night: The Life-journey of an Emigrant Sikh, p. 230-31)

When the S.G.P.C. formulated and codified the Sikh Rehat Maryada in 1936 and wrote that it was optional for Sikh women to tie a Dastaar, it had become notably less common. However, this does not invalidate the original requirement or the prevalence of the practice dating back 300 years. Additionally, even the S.G.P.C. refers to the Dastaar as a requirement for all Sikhs without exception when it is politically expedient to do so. "Every practising Sikh is enjoined upon to have unshorn hair and have it covered by the turban. It is mandatory for every Sikh and no one has an exemption or option to this basic Sikh tenet and tradition." — Gurcharan Singh Torah writing as President of the S.G.P.C. to the President of France.

Right up to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sikh women had been steadfast in following the edicts of the Guru which included wearing the Dastaar. This was also witnessed by English observers in the Punjab during this time. Well known 19th Century English Historian, J. D. Cunningham (1812-1851) who was an eye witness to the First Anglo-Sikh War, in his History of the Sikhs – 1848 refers to Sikh women of that time as follows: "The Sikh women are distinguished from Hindus of their sex by some variety of dress, chiefly by a higher topknot of hair."

Higher topknot of hair on Sikh women’s heads automatically implies their coverage by some sort of Dastaar, as Cunningham has connected it with "some variety of dress."
Even after the Punjab came under the British rule, Sikh women were evidently seen wearing the Dastaar, along with Sikh men, up to the Gurdwara Reform Movement and the establishment of the S.G.P.C. in 1920. Until then, no man or woman was allowed to take Amrit (i.e. become initiated into Sikhi) at Sri Akal Takhat Sahib without a Dastaar. It was only afterwards that laxity was introduced in this respect and the wearing of Dastaar was made optional for women. With the introduction of this laxity, the other anti-Sikh practice of wearing piercing ornaments in the nose and ears also became prevalent in Sikh women.

The Rehat prescribed for Amrit candidates by Bhai Dya Singh Ji, the first of the Panj Piaare, clearly states that all candidates for Amrit should tie their hair up on top and wear a Dastaar:
ਪਹਿਲੇ ਕਛ ਪਹਰੲਨਚਿ, ਕੇਸ ਇਕ੍ਨਠੇ ਕਰ ਜੂੜਾ,
ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਜਵਾਨੀ, ਗਾਤ੍ਰੇ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਸਾਹਬਿ ਹਾਥ ਜੋੜਿ ਖੜਾ ਰਹੈ ||
"Each candidate for Amrit is to be made to wear Kachhera, tie their hair in a topknot and don a Dastaar; wear Sri Sahib (Kirpan) in Gatra (shoulder belt). Then he/she should stand with folded hands."
(Rehatnama: Bhai Dya Singh Ji - p. 68)

It is important for Amritdhari women to wear a Dastaar as:
  1. The Guru’s Hukam (order) is equally given to both men and women, for example both men and women are equally told to recite Nitnem, wear the Panj Kakkaar, or do Simran, so they should equally wear a Dastaar.
  2. Brings about physical equality: Singhs have a cohesive physical identity, so Kaurs should too.
  3. Psychologically it connects a Khalsa woman to the Panth.
  4. Keeps a Khalsa woman committed to her Sikh values.
  5. Allows both Sikhs and non-Sikhs to recognise a woman as a Khalsa.
  6. Illustrates a Khalsa woman’s commitment to Sikhi and others can ideally look to her as a beacon of truthful living.
  7. Creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie with her Panth and her Guru.
  8. Encourages a sense of pride in Sikh life and values.
  9. Facilitates leadership: The lack of a female physical identity excuses our females from taking leadership roles.
  10. It is the most practical way of keeping the head covered for doing Simran (meditation of Vahiguru) throughout the day, with each breath. 
There is a multitude of evidence to support the requirement of the Dastaar for all Sikhs, both men and women. The authority on Sikhi is in Gurbani and what has come direct from the mouth of the Guru, not human interpretation and commentary. Invalidating the long and rich history of Dastaar wearing women with the belief that only in recent history women have donned the Dastaar is misguided.

The Sikh loss of Sikh identity amongst Sikh women without the Dastaar has emerged as a consequence of societal pressure to conform to look like the  majority and lack of understanding of Sikh traditions and history. There is something deeply at work on the psychology and status of women and it plays out as an ongoing battle over the image of women in society.

ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥੧੨॥
"Purify what is impure (within), and let the Lord's Presence be your religious tradition. Remain in complete form (with uncut hair) and a turban on your head. ||12||
(Maaroo M:5, 1084)

Sikhi’s principle tenets asks all Sikhs to realise one’s divinity by wearing a Dastaar and keeping our Kes (hair) and at the same time recognise that it is our choice to avail ourselves of that opportunity. With more access to Gurbani and knowledge of Sikh history, more and more young Sikh women are choosing to wear the Dastaar and recognising that it is an essential part of their Sikh identity and faith.

ਮੈ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਉਚ ਦੁਮਾਲੜਾ ॥
"Meeting the Guru, I wear a tall double-turban."
(Siree Raag M:5. 74)

Monday, August 07, 2017

Toronto Singhs Camp 2017...

With the blessings of Guru Sahib, Toronto Singhs Camp 2017 was a great success. It was held from Wednesday July 12th to Sunday June 16th. This is the seventh year the camp has been running. Toronto Singhs Camp provides inspiration and motivation to young and old who want to discover the essence of Sikhi. The camp is aimed to reach out to people of different backgrounds and levels of understanding of Sikhi. Bhai Jaspual Singh and the organising team of sevadaars are doing a great job with Guru Ji's Kirpaa. The group continue with seva beyond the camp with regular Amrit-vela sessions, weekly Simran programme, community seva and fun activities.

Toronto Akhand Keertan Smaagam took place the weekend before the camp. It was great to have darshan of Gursikhs from across the world. On the Sunday after Smaagam, there was a house Keertan at Bhai Jaswant Singh Ji's house.

This year's Toronto Singhs Camp camp was attended by around 100+ campers. The camp is aimed at people aged 17 years and above, however it had some younger children who also benefited from the Sangat, Seva, and Simran. It is a great opportunity to experience Sikhi in a relaxed, friendly and spiritually charged environment. This year, Toronto Singhs Camp took place at Pearson Williams Christian Center in London, Ontorio. The beautiful natural surroundings helped to connect with and appreciate the Creator and creation.

This year's workshop facilitators and speakers included Bhai Satpal Singh (UK), Bhai Harman Singh (Calgary), Bhai Anantveer Singh (USA), Bhai Jaswant Singh Ji (Toronto), and Bhai Mandheer Singh (USA). The theme of the camp was Panj Chor (five vices).  Each year the camp organisers pick thoughtful topics that are relevant to the daily lives of campers.

Some photos from the camp:

Amrit-vela divaan

 The campsite was invaded masked men... which we later realized was campers doing activities!

Looks like friendly fire!

 Jathedar Jaspaul Singh

2nd Lieutenant Sarabjot Singh Anand and Mani Singh from the Canadian Armed forces speak at the Toronto Singhs Camp after a grueling paintball session.

Evening Keertan and Rehraas Sahib on the grass
 Bhai Jagjit Singh - Head Laangari

 What Singh's Camp is best known for - Langar

 Dedicated Langar Team sevadaars who tireless worked day and night to feed an army of Singhs!

"Bro! Are you for real"... This is what happens when Langar Sevadaars notice someone making mini size Bhatooray for campers at Singhs Camp.

 Nature + Keertan = Anand. Keertan by Bhai Bibek Singh

 Camp 'Havan'... I mean camp fire. Bhai Harman Singh (Calgary) did a great talk on the life and Shaheedi of Bhai Mani Singh Ji.

 Bhai Satpal Singh's talk on Houmai.

Sri Sukhmani Sahib doing activities break

Sri Sukhmani last Astpaddee in Keertan roop

Bhai Satpal Singh's talk on Kaam.

Bhai Jaswant Singh Ji giving advice on how to deal with Kaam.

Bhai Mandheer Singh (USA) talk on the need of having a Guru in your life

Bhai Bir Singh 'Degh-wale'. The Degh he makes has become famous worlwide (plus his Degh sandwich!)

Bhai Harman Singh doing a talk on Krodh (anger)

Bhai Anantvir Singh leading Keertan workshop

 Bhai Harman Singh doing Keertan


 Sukhaasan Seva

 When a small group photo grows three times in size by the time the photographer presses click.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Loving Tribute to Bhai Jagraj Singh (Basics of Sikhi)...

Today our brother, Bhai Jagraj Singh from Basics of Sikhi, left his earthly body and was sent summons by Akaal Purakh. It is a great loss for the Panth. Veer Ji showed great dedication to sharing Sikhi with the world. Where most of us drown our lives absorbed in WhatsApp, Facebook and selfish pursuits, Veer Ji showed us to get out of our comfort zones and recognise our duty and responsibility bestowed upon us by the Guru to share the bliss, happiness and peace that Sikhi offers the world.

Veer Ji was the founder and CEO of Basics of Sikhi. With Guru Ji's Kirpaa (Grace), Basics of Sikhi has revolutionised Sikhi Parchaar, and Veer Ji's contribution to this Seva will be remembered when the history of Sikhi in the 21st century is written. Guru Ji had blessed Veer Ji with inspiring many with his style and approach to Parchaar. He showed courage and boldness in beginning street Parchaar and reaching out to the wider public in sharing Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Sikhi, engaging in debates with other religions' speakers, making Sikhi accessible on YouTube, and systematically teaching Sikhi via Sikh courses throughout the country and world. Most importantly, with Guru Ji's Grace, he has inspired others to step up to the mark to share Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Sikhi with the world. A Parchaarik course has been started, and more and more young Sikhs from the West are pursuing a life vocation of Parchaar of Sikhi.

Bhai Jagraj Singh doing street Parchaar on the streets of UK
Bhai Jagraj Singh delivering the "Why Guru?" course, introducing Sikhi for beginners.

Veer Ji will be greatly missed. I hope his inspiration continues after his death, and countless generations will be inspired to get up and do something for the Panth. May we all live and die as the Khalsa as Veer Ji mentions in his speech in the above video.

Friday, July 14, 2017

(Video) Wake up call: The role of Sikh women...

Below is a motivating and moving speech by Dr. Harshinder Kaur. Dr. Harshinder Kaur reveals the unbeliveble crimes being commiting against women and how today a woman is not safe in her own home. Dr Kaur goes on to explain what the Khalsa Panth is and using Sikh history explains the true role of Sikh women. A must listen speech.