By Dr. B. S. Bains | Opinion |
I believe that it is important to distinguish between the terms “Sikh” and “SikhI”.
Being a Sikh goes beyond simply adopting external symbols or practices, such as the Five Ks. Sikhi is about living and embodying the teachings and principles of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhism. While the Five Ks hold symbolic significance and are considered gifts from the sixth Guru, Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji, and were later codified by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, as part of the initiation process, they alone do not define Sikh practice.
The question arises whether those who have undergone initiation truly practice and internalize the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. This raises a valid concern. Are the doctrines and messages of the Guru Granth Sahib truly understood, adopted, assimilated, and tested in our personal lives? These questions can be challenging to answer with honesty and introspection. The pristine, unadulterated, unbiased, and non-contradictory messages of the Guru Granth Sahib are indeed difficult to fully embrace and live up to.
According to the lines of Bhagat Kabir Ji (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1365):
Kabir Preet Ek Siu Kie, aan Dubta Ja. Bhave Lambe Kesh Kar, Bhave garrar Mundae
ਕਬੀਰ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਇਕ ਸਿਉ ਕੀਏ ਆਨ ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਭਾਵੈ ਲਾਂਬੇ ਕੇਸ ਕਰੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਘਰਰਿ ਮੁਡਾਇ ॥੨੫॥
Kabir says, “Have the One always connected to your linkage of love, it does not matter if you keep long hair or have it shaved.”
This suggests that everyone in the world can be considered Sikhs, regardless of whether they wear a turban or not. When we define Sikhi in narrow terms, we institutionalize the doctrine of the Guru Sahibaan, whereas the Gurus aimed for the doctrine to be assimilated across humanity. Institutionalizing the doctrine can create closed-door effects and create barriers for those who are open to learning and adapting the teachings.
In our quest to unify our outlook, we may lose sight of spreading the doctrine of Sikhi across the globe. This can make those who do not fit the stereotypical image of a Sikh, such as those without a turban, those with shaven or cut hair, both women and men, feel out of place in Gurdwaras. It is often observed that those with turbans dominate in various services within Gurdwaras, as if they are the chosen ones. This can create unbreakable walls that hinder the Renaissance of Sikhi.
It is important to understand that the doctrine of the Guru Granth Sahib does not solely define a Sikh based on outward appearance. Being a Sikh is about inner growth, realization, becoming a better human being, and connecting with divinity. It is imperative to provide space for those without turbans to share their experiences and the impact of the doctrine of the Guru Granth Sahib on their lives without being judged through biased lenses.
In conclusion, breaking down the barriers and embracing diversity will help foster a truly inclusive and unified Sikh community. It is important to allow individuals, regardless of whether they wear a turban or not, to share their personal experiences and the profound impact of the doctrine of the Guru Granth Sahib on their lives, without being judged through biased lenses.
Dr Balwant Singh Bains is a Malaysia-based kirtan enthusiast and a practicing physiotherapist with a chain of physiotherapy clinics.
Guru Nanak’s 10 teachings we can practice daily (Asia Samachar, 29 Nov 2020)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. When you leave a comment at the bottom of this article, it takes time to appear as it is moderated by human being. Unless it is offensive or libelous, it should appear. You can also comment at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can reach us via WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For obituary announcements, click here.