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1 VIEW ALL MANKIND AS ONE Sexuality & Equality in Sikhism.

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1 1 VIEW ALL MANKIND AS ONE Sexuality & Equality in Sikhism

2 2 Overview of Presentation History of Sikhism Generic Sikh Philosophy Visit To A Gurdwara Anglo - Sikh Relationship UK Laws and Sikh Population Statistics Sikh Groupings and Sects Sikh Philosophy on Equality and Sexuality Insights into Punjabi & Indian Culture Common Objections to Homosexuality by Sikhs Concluding Remarks

3 3 History of Sikhism (1000AD – 1700AD)

4 4 Background to Sikhism History of Sufism in the subcontinent – ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical’ Islam traced back to Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law – Mu’innyudin Chishti (1141 – 1240) Introduced Sufism to India Baba Farid (13 th century) – ‘pir’/saint worship tombs of saints revered similarity to Hinduism

5 5 Background to Sikhism History of the Bhakti Movement in Hinduism – ‘devotion’ more important than knowledge rejection of the caste system opposed by Brahmins – worship of ‘bhagats’/saints similar to Sufi ‘pirs’ – Important North Indian bhagats in 15 th Century Ravidas Kabir

6 6 Sikh Gurus (1 st to 5 th ) 1.Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 – 1539) – Founder of Sikhism 2.Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504 – 1552) – Perfected the Punjabi script of Gurmukhi 3.Guru Amar Das Ji (1479 – 1574) – Strengthened the importance of Langar, abolished Sati 4.Guru Ram Das Ji (1534 – 1581) – Founded Amritsar, composed the Laavan (marriage hymns) 5.Guru Arjun Dev Ji(1563 – 1606) – Sikh martyr, founded Darbar Sahib, compiled Sikh Holy Book

7 7 Sikh Gurus (6 th to 10 th ) 6.Guru Hargobind Ji (1595 – 1644) – militarised Sikhism, Miri-Piri (temporal-spiritual ) ideals 7.Guru Har Rai Ji (1630 – 1661) – maintained the militaristic aspects of Sikhism 8.Guru Har Krishan (1656 – 1664) – child Guru 9.Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 – 1675) – executed whilst protecting Kashmiri pandits (Hinduism) 10. Guru Gobind Singh (1666 – 1708) – founded the Khalsa, last living Guru

8 8 Sikh Gurus (11 th /current) Guru Granth Sahib Sikh Holy Book First compiled in 1604 – became Guru in 1708 contains compilations of – first 5 Gurus and the 9 th Guru – 15 Hindu Bhagats and Muslim Pirs, including Farid, Kabir and Ravidas 1430 pages treated as a living being respected as Guru by all Sikhs

9 9 Generic Sikh Philosophy

10 10 What is Sikhism? Sikh means “Learner” An individual who strives to understand and seek knowledge of eternal wisdom is a Sikh Sikhism is a philosophy (known as Gurmat) which can be followed by anyone Sikh philosophy explores eternal truth and our relationship with truth

11 11 Transcendent Nature of God (Nirgun) as set out in the Mool Mantar There is one creative force This is the eternal truth Doer of everything Beyond fear Beyond revenge Beyond death Image of the Infinite, Unborn This awareness is the Guru’s gift

12 12 Immanent Nature of God (Sargun) God exists throughout and within all animate and inanimate objects The Creation and the Creator are the same thing. “From water, He created the three worlds; in each and every heart He has infused His Light.” SGGSJ p. 19

13 13 Golden Chain of Teachers Jesus, Buddha, Hari Krishna, Prophet Mohammad, Guru Nanak are all part of a golden chain of teachers. “There are six schools of philosophy, six teachers, and six sets of teachings. But the Teacher of teachers is the One, who appears in so many forms.” SGGSJ p. 12 “Y ou [God] are Mach, Kacch and Bavan Avatar, Narsingha, Buddha you are the essence of the world.” Dasam Granth SNM

14 14 Karma, Samsara & Reincarnation Karma is the idea that we reap the fruits of our efforts. So attention is given to ones thoughts, words, deeds Samsara is the continual cycle of birth and death of life forms until merger with God is achieved. Reincarnation is the belief system of all Indian religions, gnostic Christianity, mystical Islam & mystical Judasim Aim of life is to break the cycle of birth and death and achieve a state of eternal freedom (Mukhti) With an all-compassionate God there is no space for eternal damnation.

15 15 3 Golden Lifestyle Principles Naam Japna – Meditation of God’s name Kirat Karna – To earn an honest living and lead an honest life – Living the life of a householder and raising a family (Gristi Jeevan) Wand Ke Chhakna – Share one’s wealth and time with others

16 16 Visit To A Gurdwara

17 17 Rooms In A Gurdwara Sikh place of is called a “Gurudwara” which means “Doorway to the Guru” Outside Gurdwara – bright orange flag Darbar / Prayer Hall is where singing & talks happen. – scripture placed on a throne – Individual with Chaur Sahib Langar hall – communal kitchen usually serving a vegetarian indian meals to all visitors from the morning up until the late evening.

18 18 Rules In A Gurdwara Open to people of all backgrounds Remove shoes Wear modest clothing Cover head with a scarf or bandana Men and women sit on different sides of the prayer hall but usually mixed in the langar hall

19 19 Anglo - Sikh Relationship

20 20 Sikhism’s relationship with Britain Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839) – Ruler of the Sikh Empire – stretched from Afghanistan to China, and included Kashmir, most of modern-day Pakistan, and northern parts of India – Patron of Sikh Arts – covered the Darbar Sahib in gold, hence ‘Golden Temple’ – many items now in the V&A Museum, South Kensington – owned the Koh-i-Noor diamond – Secular rule – Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Europeans in government and army – endowments to gurdwaras, mandirs and mosques

21 21 Sikhism’s relationship with Britain First and Second Sikh Wars (1845-6, ) Annexation of Punjab by British Empire (1849) – Sikh regiments formed within the British Army Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838 – 1893) – exiled to Britain in 1854 – first Sikh settler in Britain – converted to Christianity – court favourite of Queen Victoria – lived near Thetford (Norfolk/Suffolk borders) – reconverted to Sikhism in later years, but buried in Elveden Church due to fears that return of body to India for cremation could lead to unrest

22 22 Sikhism during the British Raj Development of distinct identity – Sikh presence in British Army – SGPC/Singh Sabha Movement – Anand Marriage Act 1909 (in India) – Amritsar Massacre of 1919 Loss of fluidity of religion/beliefs – Youngest son in Punjabi Hindu families often brought up as Sikh – normal to worship at gurdwara, mandirs and pirs’ tombs – codification of religious identity during British Raj

23 23 UK Laws & Sikh Population Statistics

24 24 UK Laws Relating to SIkhs Definition of a Sikh in UK Law (Mandla v Dowell-Lee, 1983 case) Wearing Turbans on Motorcycles (Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976) Wearing Kirpan (Sword) at the Workplace and in Society (Criminal Justice Act 1988 and 1996)

25 25 Global Sikh Population

26 26 Sikh Groupings & Sects

27 27 Mainstream Sikhs 80% of Sikhs do not have long hair or wear turbans Some may be recognised by a metal bracelet on the left or right arm (if they wear one) Do not have any specific dietary requirements, but may avoid Beef. Generally educated people who like to drink!

28 28 Khalsa Sikhs Baptised Sikhs, as initiated by the 10 th Guru Wear 5Ks/articles of faith: – Kara (bracelet); Kesh (uncut hair); Kachera (shorts/underwear); Kanga (comb); Kirpan (short dagger) Dietary lifestyle includes: tee totalling, vegetarianism or avoid halal/kosher meat/Beef Perform 5-7 meditations per day Constitute small % of Sikh community Control 99% of all Gurdwaras in the world

29 29 Namdhari Sikhs Recognised by their all white clothing (usually) and distinctive white turban style with folds at the front Follow a living master His Holiness Sri Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji Focus is on living a simple and pure lifestyle Strict vegetarians, teetotalers and keep long hair

30 30 3HO Yogi Sikhs Healthy-Happy-Holy org started by a living master called “Yogi Bhajan” Practise Kundalini Yoga Many work as yoga teachers, alternative health therapists Tend to be from non-Indian backgrounds Strict vegetarians, teetotalers and most follow 5K discipline of Khalsa Sikhs

31 31 Asian Sikh Organisations Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) – Best known Sikh organisation – Mini ‘Sikh Parliament’ in India – Controls gurdwaras in 3 states of India including Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee – Controls gurdwaras in Delhi Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee – Controls gurdwaras in Pakistan

32 32 Western Sikh Organisations Network of Sikh Organisations – Indarjit Singh OBE CBE Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha (UK) – Organised food at the 4 th Parliament of World Religions in Barcelona Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF) & United Sikhs British Organisation of Sikh Students (BOSS)

33 33 Sikh Philosophy On Equality & Sexuality

34 34 Humanity is One Family Manas ki jat sabhe ikhe pehchanbo – Quote of 10 th Guru – ‘Recognise all of mankind as one’ Na koi Hindu, na koi musalman – Quote of 1 st Guru – ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim’ – All are the same, all religions are merely different ways to God Janu jot na pucho jati agai jaat na hi – ‘Acknowledge the light of God in all and do not think of class or caste as there is no class or caste in the next world’ SGGSJ p.349

35 All Religions Are Valid 1 st Guru - universalist approach to God 9 th Guru - gave his life to protect Hinduism Interfaith Scripture - Mystical works of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs incorporated Bhai Ghaniya - disciple of 10 th Guru who administered water and aid to all injured soldiers following battles between Sikhs and Moghuls, regardless of religion

36 36 Equal Opportunities Langar – Free kitchen open to all Disregard of Caste System – Golden Temple has four entrances, showing it is open to all Gender Equality – Opportunity for women to be involved with all aspects of service – Sikhism had 4 women “bishops” in the 15 th century under the ‘Manji’ system of dioceses

37 37 5 Thieves ‘Five thieves’ – Similar to the 7 Deadly Sins of Christianity 1.Kaam – Lust 2.Krodh – Anger 3.Lobh – Greed 4.Moh – Attachment 5.Hunkar – Egotism Expectation is to manage these ‘thieves’ rather than remove them completely

38 38 Kaam / Lust ‘Excessive sexual interest’ Vices to be kept in check, to prevent it becoming an all-consuming passion References to ‘kaam’ found in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism – Hindu belief of sanyasi, or renouncement of the world, includes celibacy – Buddhist monks practice celibacy – Jains aspire to celibacy as part of spiritual progress No such prohibitions within Sikhism

39 39 Marriage in Sikhism

40 40 Punjabi and Indian Cultural Beliefs

41 41 Distinguishing Religion and Culture Sikhism – liberal religion/belief system Punjabi society/culture – highly conservative – agrarian/feudal society – misogynistic and patriarchal – almost all Sikhs are ethnically Punjabi, leading to confusion as to the distinction between religion and culture

42 42 Punjabi Attitudes to Equality Caste System – Rife in Punjabi society, with most marriages taking place along caste lines – Gurdwaras sometimes based on caste lines, with low caste Sikhs having formed a distinct religion due to discrimination (the Ravidasia religion) Gender Equality – High level of female infoeticide by way of selective abortion – 876 female births to 1000 male births (Punjab census of 2001) – Dowry system still practiced, despite being illegal – Honour killings (extremely rare)

43 43 Punjabi Attitudes to Sexuality Homosexuality illegal in India – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” Male dominated society – Machismo/ Patriarchal society – Homosexuality considered an affront to Punjabi machismo Homosexuality as a ‘Western condition’ – Viewed as such, despite history of homosexuality in the Subcontinent

44 44 Common Objections To Homosexuality by Sikhs and Rebuttals

45 45 Objection 1 “A Sikh can’t be gay because the ‘panth’ has specifically outlawed it”

46 46 Homosexuality Edict by Akal Thakat Akal Takht – Established by 6 th Guru as the temporal equivalent to the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar – ‘the throne of the eternal one’ – Issued edicts during the time of the living Gurus Edict of 2005 – Head Priest issued edict forbidding same-sex marriages – Edict issued in response to the Canadian Same-Sex Marriage Act which was going through Canadian Parliament and which stated that same-sex marriages would be allowed in places of worship where the religion does not object to same-sex marriages

47 47 Other Edicts of Akal Takht Partaking of Langar by sitting in lines on the floor only – Not followed by all gurdwaras, especially those outside of India – issue has led to violence in gurdwaras in USA Nanakshahi calendar – Implemented by SGPC in 2003 – solar calendar, similar to the Gregorian calendar – Previous calendar was the Northern Indian ‘Bikrami’ calendar, a solar calendar with lunar-based dates for festivals – Bikranti still used by some sections of Sikh community, leading to different festival dates, most notably the recent 300 th anniversary of the Sikh Holy Book becoming the present Guru

48 Rebuttal to Objection 1 The Guru Granth Sahib says NOTHING about homosexuality – it only mentions excessive lust The edicts of the Akal Takht are disputed by many Sikhs, and not all Sikhs follow those edicts, leading to a split in the religion The 2005 edict was made in the absence of consultation of learned Sikhs and without reference to scripture – it was a knee-jerk reaction to the issue of homosexuality 48

49 49 Objection 2 “A Sikh can’t be gay because its unnatural and Sikhism teaches to lead a ‘natural’ life”

50 50 Rebuttal to Objection 2 The premise that homosexuality is unnatural is wrong Homosexuality is common in the animal kingdom, especially among herding animals and observed in 1,500 animal species The types of species include everything from mammals like lions and killer whales to crabs and worms Four to five percent of the ducks and geese couples are homosexual and are often better at raising the young than heterosexual couples.

51 51 Objection 3 “A Sikh is only allowed sex for pro- creation. Homosexuals have sex for ‘pleasure’ and that is wrong”

52 52 Rebuttal 3 Indian philosophy recognises that a human has 4 major needs (char padarath) including – Dharma - Faith – Aartha - Weath – Kaama - Fulfilment of sexual desires – Moksha – Salvation If it was only permissible to have sex for pro-creation then what of couples who cannot conceive? Does that invalidate the marriage or partnership? If a husband and wife cannot have a child for any reason, but continue trying to conceive, does that mean that they are not Sikh?

53 53 Rebuttal 3 (cont.) Excessive lust is not permitted within Sikhism, but there are no problems with sexual activity in moderation. If sexual activity without the purpose of pro-creation were forbidden in Sikhism, then Guru Nanak would not have stressed the importance of Gristi Jeevan The concept of ‘Gristi Jeevan’ (life of a householder) is compatible with same-sex marriages as the parents can adopt children or have children by way of artificial insemination Non-fertile couples are not precluded from Sikh marriage.

54 54 Concluding Remarks

55 55 Sikh Attitudes to Homosexuality outside of India – Depends on personal attitudes of Sikhs, and whether consider Jathedar of Akal Takht as supreme authority on Sikh issues – Progressive attitudes held by the following Sikh groups: Sarbat.Net Project Naad 3HO Sher Vancouver – Canadian Sikh leader’s apology for homophobic comments (2008) – evidence of progress being made


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