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.
 
Historically both Sikh men and women wore at least the short turban (Keski). Although history notoriously excludes facts about women, there are historical references to not only to Mata Bhag Kaur, but also Mata Sahib Kaur (‘mother of the Khalsa’ and wife of Guru Gobind Singh ji), Rani Sahib Kaur (Queen of Patiala, 18th Century), Rani Raj Kaur (18th century) and many other Sikh women wearing turbans. 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 turban, 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 turban 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 97 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 turban, 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 turban, 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 turban. It was only afterwards that laxity was introduced in this respect and the wearing of turban 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 turban 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



Ardaas
 
 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.



Thursday, July 06, 2017

Food cleanliness and vibrations...

 A food vendor in India caught urinating in the jug used for serving food

Nowadays, awareness of physical cleanliness regarding food has increased. Countries in the West have even made laws and regulations in regards to standards for acceptable and unacceptable food hygiene. However, even still, a lot of people believe "ignorance is bliss" and "what you don't know, won't hurt." Most people would rather not think about the people cooking their food when eating outside of their home, knowing in the back of the mind that there is a chance that someone has probably picked their nose and served the burger, wiped their sweat before serving the gol gappe, or not washing their hands after going to the toilet 

In accordance to Gurbani, just by the fact of "not knowing" or "not thinking about it" does not mean that it doesn't have a physical effect on this. This is what science says as well. If someone doesn't cook in a hygienic environment, adhering to hygiene rules, whether it is a restaurant, your own house, or the Gurdwara Sahib, it is inevitable that there is a high risk of the eater falling sick or not feel well after eating. Gurbani says:
ਜੋ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਭਾਂਡੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਵਸਤੁ ਸਾ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਕਿਆ ਕੋਈ ਕਰੇ ਵੇਚਾਰਾ ॥
"Whatever You place in the body-vessel, that alone comes out again. What can the poor person (now) do?"
(Aasa M:4, 449)


So, being conscience of what you eat, who cooks it, where it is cooked, and how it is cooked, plays a role in your physical well-being. However, Guru Sahib goes one step further, and says, spiritual cleanliness is just as important in order to preventing one from falling spiritually sick or unwell. Gurbani says:
ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
"O Baba! The pleasures of all other foods are false, eating which the body is ruined, and negative thoughts and vices enter into the mind. ||1||Pause||"
(Siree Raag M:1, 16)

Gurbani tells us that food devoid of Naam, i.e. spiritual vibrations, is cursed. This means that our thoughts, our vibrations, go into the food when cooking it. Practitioners of health and spirituality state that cooked food becomes sensitive to vibration. Whoever handles it imbues it with their vibration. In a house where there's affection, that will go into the food and that will nourish the people's minds. But in a hotel or a restaurant, there's nothing like that. Eating fast food, will make the mind wander fast. For this reason, Gurbani says:
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਨੀ ਤਿਨ ਧਿਗੁ ਪੈਨਣੁ ਧਿਗੁ ਖਾਣੁ ॥੧॥
“O Nanak! Those who do not contemplate on Naam, the Name of the Lord – cursed are their clothes, and cursed is their food. ||1||”
(Sorath M:3, 646) 
ਚੋਰਾ ਜਾਰਾ ਰੰਡੀਆ ਕੁਟਣੀਆ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ॥
ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕਾ ਖਾਣੁ ॥
ਸਿਫਤੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਵਸੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥

“Thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and pimps (i.e. immoral people) make friendships with the unrighteous and eat the food prepared from the unrighteous. Those people do not know the value of the Lord’s Praises (i.e. their internal Naam Jaap stops), and Satan (desires, anger, greed, emotional attachment, and ego) takes residence in the mind.”
(Soohee M:1, 790)

Bhai Chaupa Singh's Rehatnama gives instruction to choose one's chef wisely, and choose a spiritually-disciplined individual.
ਗੁਰੂ ਕਾ ਸਿਖ, ਸਰਦਾਰ ਹੋਵੈ, ਸ਼ਾਹੂਕਾਰ ਹੋਵੈ, ਮੁਸਦੀ ਹੋਵੈ,
ਆਪਣੇ ਲੰਗਰ ਰਸੋਈ ਵਿਚ ਸਿਖ ਰਖੇ ॥
ਹੁਕਈ, ਟੋਪੀਆ, ਭਾਦਣੀ, ਚੋਰ, ਯਾਰ, ਜੂਏਬਾਜ਼, ਕੁਰਹਿਤੀਆ ਨਾ ਰਖੈ ॥
“A Sikh of the Guru, whether a leader, wealthy or educated, should keep only a Sikh in their langar and kitchen. Smokers, hat-wearers, those who shave their hair, thieves, gamblers, and those who commit any of the cardinal prohibitions should not be kept”
(Rehitnama Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji – Piara Singh Padam, pg. 85)
 
Each person's thoughts, words, and deeds play an important role in the differences in vibrations. When we go to some places we get a good feeling and there is a good atmosphere, whereas other places make us want to leave as soon as possible. This depends on the thought vibrations of people who live there. This is why we feel a divine presence in the Saadh Sangat that brings calm, whereas the atmosphere where there is meat and alcohol is confused and tense. For this reason, Gurbani tells us to avoid the company of the faithless. This includes eating food cooked and served by the faithless:
ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਦੂਰਹਿ ਜਾਈਐ ਭਾਗਿ || 
ਬਾਸਨੁ ਕਾਰੋ ਪਰਸੀਐ ਤਉ ਕਛੁ ਲਾਗੈ ਦਾਗੁ ||੧੩੧||
“Kabeer, do not associate with the faithless; run far away from them. If you touch a vessel stained with soot, some of the soot will stick to you.”
(Salok Bhagat Kabeer Ji, p. 1371)
ਜਾਕੀ ਰਹਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਗੁਰਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਨਹੀ ਚੀਤ ||
ਉਨਕਾ ਭੋਜਨ ਖਾਇਕੈ ਬਿਸਰਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਪ੍ਰੀਤ ||

“One has no Rehat (spiritual discipline) and doesn’t contemplate on the GurMantar (given by the Panj-Piaare). Eating from such a person you will forget the love of God.”
(Rehatnama: Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji)

According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, in Mahan Kosh, he describes this commitment to conscience spiritual living in accordance to the guidelines instructed by the Guru as being called 'Bibek'. He writes, a 'Bibeki' is one who reflects Gurmat on all aspects of their daily living, and firmly strives to live to Sikh principals. 'Bibek-Daan' is something we pray for everyday in our daily Ardaas. We pray for the gift of able to discriminate what is good and bad for our spirituality in all aspects of our life.
ਤੈਸੇ ਖਲ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਮੈਂ ਅਸਾਧ ਸਾਧ ਸਮ ਦੇਹ
ਬੂਝਤ ਬਿਬੇਕੀ ਜਲ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਮਾਈ ਕੈ ॥੫੯੭॥
"Similarly, in the eyes of a foolish person, spiritually good and spiritually bad people are seen the same; but a Bibeki knows how to separate milk from water like a swan. They have the ability to distinguish between the two. (597)"
(Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Vaar 42)

As spiritual-beings we have to live and contribute to society. It is inevitable to come across people with both negative and positive thoughts, and those spiritually intuned and those spiritually disconnected. Gurbani lays down the principal that a Sikh, whilst intermingling with others, remains distinct. Gurbani says:
ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਰਲਾਇਆ ਨਾ ਰਲੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥
"Those humble beings who are filled with 'Bibek-Beechaar' (divine wisdom and contemplation to analyse)-even though they intermingle with others (that are false or unrighteous), they remain distinct and do not conform. ||2||"
(Siree Raag M:3, 28)

This distinctiveness that safeguards our spirituality and mind, encompasses distinctiveness in physical dress, they way we speak, the way we eat, the way we conduct ourselves, and the principles we adhere to. This is called Rehat, or code of conduct, which is given to us when one commits to the Guru by taking Amrit.
ਸੰਤਨ ਕਾ ਦਾਨਾ ਰੂਖਾ ਸੋ ਸਰਬ ਨਿਧਾਨ ||
ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਸਾਕਤ ਛਤੀਹ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਤੇ ਬਿਖੂ ਸਮਾਨ ||੨||

“The dry bread from the (homes of the) Gurmukhs is equal to all treasures. The thirty-six tasty dishes from (the home of) the faithless one, are (known to be) just like poison.”

(Bilaaval M:5, 815)

ਊਤਮ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਊਤਮੁ ਹੋਵੈ|| ਗੁਣ ਕਉ ਧਾਵੈ ਅਵਗਣ ਧੋਵੈ ||

“In the uplifting society, one is uplifted. He chases after virtue and washes off his sins.”

(Aasa M:1, 414)

ਨਾਨਕ ਕਚੜਿਆ ਸਿਉ ਤੋੜਿ ਢੂਢਿ ਸਜਣ ਸੰਤ ਪਕਿਆ ||

“O Nanak! Break away from the false, and seek out the Saints, your true friends.”
(Maaroo M:5, 1102)