Equality in Sikh weddings


by Emma
31st October, 2006 at 2:27 pm    

A couple of months or so ago, there was a minor uproar surrounding a Sikh wedding ceremony in India where the bride was asked to walk ahead of the groom for two of the four laavan. (Each laavan involves walking around the holy scriptures as shown).

The Akal Takht in India, the primary seat of Sikh religious authority, was quite angered by this breach of tradition and the people involved in the ceremony did a bit of (confusing) backtracking. One of the organizers, Baldev Singh, even wrote a letter explaining his version of the events.

He wrote that he was approached by a group of women who asked him to change the ceremony so that it would better reflect the concepts of equality that Sikhs are to abide by in their daily lives. He claimed he became “emotional” and accepted this without apparently thinking clearly.

I’m not as interested in the politics behind all of this as I am in the suddenness of the SGPC’s reaction and what ours should be. From what I’ve read the condemnation of the ceremony was based on the view that the changes were making the ceremony too much like Hindu weddings.

That reason is childish and insulting and I don’t understand why it was given. Was it to ensure that the SGPC can still say whatever the hell they want and expect people to listen? Or is this just another manifestation of the disconnect between the vast majority of Sikhs and religious conservatives? We don’t have the time or inclination to get into nitpicky religious discussions so they dominate these discussions.

I too have often wondered why the bride follows the groom through the ceremony. The laavan are very gender neutral and there is no reason why tradition should not be open to change or at least to discussion. It also means a lot of people getting married are not allowed to have a say in what their ceremony means or should mean. It’s at this point that the political blends with the personal, and also where I think the SGPC has again overstepped their bounds.

In the brief discussion that followed, good points were made about the meaning of the wedding ceremony and these points were again ignored in the rush to claim authenticity and ensure that only a certain group of people have a say in these public expressions of Sikhi, and that’s a shame.

Sunny adds: I expect that in a decade or so, Sikh weddings where the women walk ahead of the man for two of the four laavan will become much more prominent; even normal. That’s how I’d like it in my wedding. If I ever get married *cough*

———————–
This is a guest post. ‘Emma’ blogs here.


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  1. Vikrant — on 31st October, 2006 at 3:09 pm  

    That reason is childish and insulting and I don’t understand why it was given.

    Well given SGPC’s extreme distrust/phobia of Hindus, i’m not surprised.

  2. Jaswant Singh — on 31st October, 2006 at 4:01 pm  

    Emma & Suuny,

    Once you have taken Amrit and have become true Guru Ka Sikh’s and researched into the Laavan meaning & history can you attack this ceremony and the SGPC.

    Do not make comments that you are not qualified to make.

  3. Jai — on 31st October, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    I remember reading a while ago that the custom of walking around the SGGS during Sikh weddings was actually a much later addition (apparently). Originally, both the bride & groom just got up and did the “Matha Tek” each time, and sat back down again.

    Perhaps it’s time to go back to the original version of the ceremony, it seems.

  4. Leon — on 31st October, 2006 at 4:24 pm  

    Do not make comments that you are not qualified to make.

    You have to pass exams to comment on religious practice now? Sheesh! What is the world coming to? :D

  5. miraxx — on 31st October, 2006 at 4:43 pm  

    But that was just one singh, Leon. Take no notice.

  6. Kulvinder — on 31st October, 2006 at 5:05 pm  

    The SGPC is made up of a bunch of backward troglodytes who probably think an outing to Jalandhar is a major event.

    Theres probably going to be a bigger split between those sikhs raised in the ‘west’ and those in india. Which is fine; although it’ll make visiting amritsar interesting

    ‘oh look we’re so open, all humanity can come in peace’

    ‘yeah so there was a gay marriage in a gurdwara in the uk and we haven’t got a problem with who goes first during the laavan’

    ‘GET OUT YOU’RE EXCOMMUNICATED’

  7. Kulvinder — on 31st October, 2006 at 5:07 pm  

    Once you have taken Amrit and have become true Guru Ka Sikh’s and researched into the Laavan meaning & history can you attack this ceremony and the SGPC.

    No true punjabi would put water in his whisky

  8. Sunny — on 31st October, 2006 at 5:09 pm  

    Do not make comments that you are not qualified to make.

    Yeah thanks for that. but we’ll continue to make whatever comments we want to make. If you don’t like it then you can engage constructively or not bother. But telling us to shut up is a joke.

  9. Emma — on 31st October, 2006 at 6:18 pm  

    Jai,
    “I remember reading a while ago that the custom of walking around the SGGS during Sikh weddings was actually a much later addition (apparently)”

    I’ve read that as well and that’s why I made the point about traditions being open to change, and also why I think the SGPC has more of an interest in political maneuvering rather than in Sikhi itself?

    Kulvinder,
    “Which is fine; although it’ll make visiting amritsar interesting”
    I hope it does…things need to start getting interesting before anything changes.

  10. Sukhjit Singh — on 31st October, 2006 at 7:38 pm  

    Once you have taken Amrit and have become true Guru Ka Sikh’s and researched into the Laavan meaning & history can you attack this ceremony and the SGPC.

    What absolute total and utter bakwaas and nonsense.

    Remember Guru Nanak chastising the brahmins for hording the knowledge and denying religious freedom to the masses? Looks like some Singhs want to act like brahmins and deny the same to the masses who question them. How pathetic.

  11. Sukhjit Singh — on 31st October, 2006 at 7:42 pm  

    “Which is fine; although it’ll make visiting amritsar interesting”

    Why? How will it alter when you go to Amritsar? The SGPC are political, visiting Harimandir Sahib is separate.

  12. Sukhjit Singh — on 31st October, 2006 at 7:47 pm  

    Theres probably going to be a bigger split between those sikhs raised in the ‘west’ and those in india.

    The SGPC is becoming like the Vatican. A single institution that ‘decides’ issues for Sikhs around the world. More political than spiritual. In the same way that Catholics have issues with the Vatican, so will Sikhs have issues with the SGPC —- but that type of centralisation can’t enforce the law everywhere.

    What we’re witnessing is the historic transformation of Sikhism into a loose collective, with many different panths, into a more Vatican style religion with a central institution trying to make its writ run around the world and defining who is and who is not a Sikh. The truly pathetic and nonsensical attitude of the likes of Jaswant Singh exemplify this form of ‘neo-brahminical’ thinking. is: only a select of initiated can even discuss or criticise matters of ritual and practise!

    What a joke!

  13. Sukhjit Singh — on 31st October, 2006 at 7:49 pm  

    I made a mistake in this sentence:

    What we’re witnessing is the historic transformation of Sikhism from a loose collective, with many different panths, into a more Vatican style religion….

  14. Kulvinder — on 31st October, 2006 at 9:22 pm  

    Why? How will it alter when you go to Amritsar? The SGPC are political, visiting Harimandir Sahib is separate.

    I’m a cynic, the politics that involve revolve around the SGPC will inevitably spill over into who ‘controls what’ (imo)

    I agree with you on what the SGPC is becoming.

  15. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:30 am  

    “the bride was asked to walk ahead of the groom for two of the four laavan.”

    “Sunny adds: I expect that in a decade or so, Sikh weddings where the women walk ahead of the man for two of the four laavan will become much more prominent; even normal. That’s how I’d like it in my wedding.”

    What’s this baqwaas about one sex walking head of the other, and the other following? You can’t replace one power inequality with another; ie a woman walking behind the man or the man walking behind the woman. The whole point is to elimate the inequality of power.

    Personally, if I ever have a shaadi Hindu or Sikh style, I would want my husband and I to stand side by side for either circling the fire or doing the laavan. And if people have a problem with it, they can choke on it (hopefully, none of the guests at my wedding would be of the type to gasp at such a move).

  16. Harmeet Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:35 am  

    I think you are missing the point that both men and women are walking in circle and are at equal distance from the guru granth sahib. The explanation as provided by Emma and others is based upon cultural bias and presumption that because someone is in front he is considered superior. One can have any interpreation to any situation based upon what one assumes due to ones experiences. When Guru Granth Sahib ji is taken there is always a person in front of the guru granth sahib, now that doesnt imply any superiority to the Guru. In sikh marriage or Anand Karaj the intillegent one ie the woman is given the yoke in her hand almost like the rider of a horse. A wife can control the husband more than a husband can. That is the message and meaning behind this. Please read the shabd by Guru Nanak “from women we are born….Guru nanak marriead mata sulakhani by revolving around the ik onkaar written on a piece of wood.

  17. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:41 am  

    Harmeet Singh:

    “A wife can control the husband more than a husband can. That is the message and meaning behind this.”

    Exactly. And I have a problem with this. Neither sex should be able to control the other more, whether male or female. Symbolically, it doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t want to control my husband any more than he should control me.

    And why must control be a variable in the equation of marriage?

  18. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:44 am  

    emma whats your email address? i want to discuss this topic with you personally.

  19. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:45 am  

    desi italiana, that was an incredibly stupid post!

  20. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:54 am  

    “desi italiana, that was an incredibly stupid post!’

    Why is that?

    What I’m saying is that I would want my marriage to start off on the right foot. And that to me is equal footing. Sorry if you think this is stupid.

  21. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:56 am  

    Obviously, I am talking about the symbolic aspect. The marriage itself in practice is more important.

  22. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:02 am  

    i was referring to this: “I would want my husband and I to stand side by side for either circling the fire or doing the laavan. And if people have a problem with it, they can choke on it.” Is this now a competition to see who can have the most ‘equal’ wedding? What a joke.

    The point is there is a traditional way to do things and thats the way its been done for a long time. If you want to change things around, then all the power to you, but dont now pretend what you’ve done is how it should be – because how it should be isnt the point, it is already a certain way, and thats how it is. If you dont care about tradition then why bother with having a traditional wedding in the first place? No one is telling you to do that, are they?

    The funny thing is now one believes that a man leading a woman in the lavaan means anything about ‘control’ or ‘inequality’ or something like that. The only people who think this way are the ones who want to change tradition, and for them, they can always find something wrong with how things have been done in the past; and they can always suggest how they can be changed to make them better.

    But nothing is to be gained in every one person doing his own thing when it comes to important ceremonies. There is a very good reason for having a uniform ceremony that is traditional, and if i need to explain what this reason is – then you obviously will never accept it, so forget about it, because it is self evident to nearly everyone.

    By the way, you can call me a ‘religious fundamentalist’ or whatever you like, but I would defend tradition even if it meant the woman was leading the lavaan, because to me it doesnt mean anything sinister at all.

  23. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:04 am  

    A wife can control the husband more than a husband can.

    In theory, yes, Harmeet Singh. In practice domestic violence and dowry deaths are all too common across Punjab.

    Since the person in front is not meant to be superior, then there should be no outrage to a change in the system surely? But the SGPC’s reaction betrays the fact that they are very protective about how things should be done, when frankly no one gave them that authority.

  24. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:07 am  

    sunny you are mistaken. I cant tell you why the SGPC reacted the way they did, but I will tell you that most sikhs would want their traditional ceremonies kept unchanged simply because it is a good idea to have common ceremonies where similar things are done, each time their held. All human cultures have similar things, and if you take issue with this, thats fine, but it is a human thing to have culturally traditional ceremonies. SGPC have every right to defend tradition.

  25. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:13 am  

    (and if it wasnt clear from my post, you can defend the traditional practice of lavaan without a single opinion on or against inequality. You can believe in equality in marriage and still have the man lead the woman in the lavaan, simply because that is tradition. And you can believe that the man is ‘superior’ as you write, and choose desi-italiana’s new-and-improved lavaan ceremony, while not placing any extra belief in equality.)

  26. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:14 am  

    emma whats your email address? i want to discuss this topic with you personally.

    I’m sure you do. You can discuss these issues here openly without needing to resort to personal emailing.

    anti-knee-jerk:
    There is a very good reason for having a uniform ceremony that is traditional,

    what’s the reason exactly? And you’re welcome to defend tradition and do your own wedding how you want. But others may not want to. Like me for instance.

  27. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:16 am  

    Anti Knee Jerk:

    “i was referring to this: “I would want my husband and I to stand side by side for either circling the fire or doing the laavan. And if people have a problem with it, they can choke on it.” Is this now a competition to see who can have the most ‘equal’ wedding? What a joke.”

    Whoa, whoa. Who said anything about having a competition about a more “equal” wedding? This is something I have always thought, long before this post. I just posted this opinion because it is relevant to the post.

    And now, for the quotes below:

    “The point is there is a traditional way to do things and thats the way its been done for a long time. If you want to change things around, then all the power to you, but dont now pretend what you’ve done is how it should be”

    “If you dont care about tradition then why bother with having a traditional wedding in the first place? No one is telling you to do that, are they?”

    No one is saying that modifying “what has been done for a long time” is what it should be.

    But excuse me, why on earth can’t people personalize their OWN weddings? Is a person showing a disregard for “tradition” if they choose to do what they want?

    “But nothing is to be gained in every one person doing his own thing when it comes to important ceremonies.”

    Says who? If it’s an important ceremony in a person’s life, then they should be able do to what he/she wants.

    Most of your comment takes issue with “tradition.” I won’t go there since I think this is a matter of personal taste and interest. But don’t call people “stupid” just because they disagree with you or would like to personalize something that is obviously very personal, such as marriage.

    “By the way, you can call me a ‘religious fundamentalist’ or whatever you like, but I would defend tradition even if it meant the woman was leading the lavaan, because to me it doesnt mean anything sinister at all. ”

    I wouldn’t code your comments as being of a “religous fundamentalist” type, but rather reactionary. You are more for tradition, overlooking even the negative aspects of whatever tradition you are talking about. This is fine. But for me personally, there are some things that I don’t agree with, whether “traditional” or “modern”. I don’t see why that would get a, er, “knee jerk” reaction from you :)

  28. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:19 am  

    That is to say then, that if equality is what is important to you, then believe in equality, but what kind of equality is the 20 minutes or so that the ‘new-and-improved-lavaan’ ceremony would give you? Surely what is important is the decades of marriage to come? Thats where the equality should be practiced. Supposing you are getting married, and you’ve decided to have a Sikh wedding, then why not go through the Sikh Marriage the way its been done for centuries?

    Supposing you allow every one to custom tailor their Sikh wedding so there is no set way of doing it, then that would betray the main reason people choose to go through these traditional ceremonies in the first place: and that is to have a single uniform way of forming marital union. People *WANT* a tradition, because they choose to go through it each time they commit themselves to marriage. It is exactly for that tradition that marriages take place the way they do!

    Have the traditional wedding. Respect the Lavaan the way its always been done, and live happily ever after, equality and all.

  29. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:19 am  

    Sunny, let me ask you a question: Why do you want to have a Sikh wedding?

  30. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:24 am  

    Why do you want to have a Sikh wedding?

    In all honesty I’m not fussed what kind of wedding I have but I’ll probably have a Sikh wedding because my parents would want one. Also because they’re quick. If any of my unclejis try to give a speech I’ll have them publicly flogged. Quick phere around the SGGS and job done. It’s a ceremony and nothing more. The committment I’ll make to my wife will be there regardless of whether I do it in front of the Guru. Waheguru is everywhere.

  31. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:25 am  

    “No one is saying that modifying “what has been done for a long time” is what it should be.”

    That is exactly what you are doing in your ‘new-and-improved-lavaan’ where husband wife walk side by side.

    “But excuse me, why on earth can’t people personalize their OWN weddings? Is a person showing a disregard for “tradition” if they choose to do what they want?”

    As i said from the start, you have a choice. You can have a traditional wedding or you can have another wedding. But most people choose the traditional wedding for a reason. Nothing is to be gained in making the traditional wedding open to change. Its merit lies in its lack of change – of what it represents and has always represented to society.

    But you are proposing is that the traditional wedding should not exist as such, but should be be changeable and still be recognised as traditional, but then it will invariably change and keep changing until it longer remains traditional.

  32. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:27 am  

    Anti Knee Jerk:

    I think you are getting very worked up and overheated over my comments.

    “That is to say then, that if equality is what is important to you, then believe in equality, but what kind of equality is the 20 minutes or so that the ‘new-and-improved-lavaan’ ceremony would give you? Surely what is important is the decades of marriage to come? Thats where the equality should be practiced.”

    Did you not read my post #21?

    “Obviously, I am talking about the symbolic aspect. The marriage itself in practice is more important.”

    Duh.

    What’s more is that you are dwelling on what I said about the Sikh wedding:

    “Supposing you are getting married, and you’ve decided to have a Sikh wedding, then why not go through the Sikh Marriage the way its been done for centuries?”

    I also stated in my post # 15:

    “Personally, if I ever have a shaadi Hindu or Sikh style, I would want my husband and I to stand side by side for either circling the fire or doing the laavan.”

    I am of Hindu background. And I would do what I said I would like to do. If you or anybody else has a problem with this, Hindu or Sikh, than that is fine. You will not be the groom or a guest- I won’t invite you to my wedding :)

  33. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:29 am  

    Anti-Knee Jerk:

    “That is exactly what you are doing in your ‘new-and-improved-lavaan’ where husband wife walk side by side.”

    Oh god, quit already with the “new-and-improved-lavaan.” You have too many issues that I don’t want to bother with anymore. Have an nice day, and keep on jerking that knee.

  34. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:30 am  

    Sunny with all due respect, stand up for your belief or lack of belief. If you dont believe in the ‘value’ or ‘meaning’ of that ceremony then refuse to go through it. Its just a ceremony yes, but most people will tell you that it means a lot more than that, and the reason its this way is because it has always been this way. Traditional and culturally marriage *MEANS* something, and this is reflected in keeping uniformity in the ceremonies, if not from respect, but from the recognition of common tradition.

    Btw i have a similar outlook to you about marriage and respect, and commitment and i agree 100% with waht you have said. But i think tradition is important too. I dont think you should have to do it only that way though. You can choose to do whatever you like, and if you, as a friend, were to hold a wedding on a beach with out a traditional ceremony then i’d come to that and be happy for you.

  35. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:32 am  

    “But you are proposing is that the traditional wedding should not exist as such, but should be be changeable and still be recognised as traditional, but then it will invariably change and keep changing until it longer remains traditional.”

    So you’re afraid that if one aspect gets modified or personalized, somehow every single other component will be changed, and we will no longer have any recognizable practice left? SAYS WHO?????????? And how do you know that?

    Paranoid reactionary.

  36. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:34 am  

    Desi Italiana, thats cool, Hindu or Sikh, we got similar ceremonies. I respect our common traditions the way they are. The risk is, as i say, if your alternative to the tradition is sufficiently close enough to the traditional one but departs in some real and appreciable way to tradition, and if this done enmass by many people will lead to a dilution of the traditional ceremony when no one knows what the tradition was, and they can always change it slightly – and you know that after a hundred years or so it might resemble nothing to what the traditional ceremony has been.

  37. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:46 am  

    If you dont believe in the ‘value’ or ‘meaning’ of that ceremony then refuse to go through it.

    I’m sorry anti-knee-jerk but I don’t believe in that. Guru Nanak did not do things just because that is what tradition demanded. He asked his followers to think and question their actions and that is exactly what we’re doing.

    90% of the time tradition is simply a bunch of rituals and frankly to me Sikhi is much more than a series of rituals. If other people don’t agree with me that is fine.

  38. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:53 am  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk:

    “Desi Italiana, thats cool, Hindu or Sikh, we got similar ceremonies. I respect our common traditions the way they are.”

    Ok :) [Virtual handshake]

    “The risk is, as i say, if your alternative to the tradition is sufficiently close enough to the traditional one but departs in some real and appreciable way to tradition, and if this done enmass by many people will lead to a dilution of the traditional ceremony when no one knows what the tradition was, and they can always change it slightly – and you know that after a hundred years or so it might resemble nothing to what the traditional ceremony has been.”

    I simply disagree. I think this is a cataclysmic, dramatic way of looking at it. But I respect if you would want to do this at your wedding; I would only find it problematic if you were to start imposing your views on others. I dislike the idea and fact that there is someone who is defining and enforcing what is “tradition,” such as the SGPC.

    I think everyone should be able to do what they want–whether reproducing the “tradition,” modifying it, or chucking it all together.

    And, if only to highlight what I said in my initial post #15:

    “Personally, if I ever have a shaadi Hindu or Sikh style, I would want my husband and I to stand side by side for either circling the fire or doing the laavan.”

    I said personally. PERSONALLY. This is the way I would do it.

    Sunny:

    “The committment I’ll make to my wife will be there regardless of whether I do it in front of the Guru. Waheguru is everywhere.”

    That is very nice and sweet :)

  39. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:59 am  

    Yes Sunny, if they become empty rituals then something has been lost. Actually I find this the decline has already happened to our people. In Punjab for example, hardly no one turns up to the actual Lavaan in the Gurdwara. They simply go to the wedding Palace and start sessioning away. Thats fine, people are choosing not to go through empty ritual and sitting there without wanting to be there, and instead doing what they’d rather be doing. Or perhaps its not an active moral decision as such, just preference to get pissed instead. And fair enough.

    But in my wedding I wouldnt want people turning up just to get pissed and not giving a damn about the wedding ceremony itself. I am sure there will be many who do just that, but I am not happy about it. Still, thats how things are. I think people ought to be more respectful of tradition, and I do not see this meaning the same thing as empty ritual. And I do not believe something is devoid of value simply because it *is* a ritual.

    Remember even our Gurus had important rituals, for example Each successor Guru would undergo the Tilaak ceremony first before being recognised as Guru. The Sikh Gurus believed in the value of such ceremonies – and they are important for what they mean.

    I do not understand the view that says because ceremonies have become empty rituals that we shouldnt care about rituals at all. But what can you do about that? Is the solution to let people innovate their ceremonies to make them meaningful? That would work for the individual – but what about the tradition? And i am not saying individual should not have meaningful things about the marriage ceremony – they should – but if they’ve decided to have a traditional marriage, and one is very strongly compelled to have a traditional one, then have it the proper way.

  40. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:05 am  

    I do not believe the SGPC are defining tradition. The tradition exists already with or without the approval of SGPC. If SGPC are defending tradition then i agree with them as would most people. That is to say they would agree with defending tradition – not defending SGPC because lots of people have problems with the SGPC these days.

    “Paranoid reactionary.”
    name calling is rude. shame.

    “I said personally. PERSONALLY. This is the way I would do it.”
    So long as it doesnt begin to replace the traditional ceremony thats fine. There is a risk it will though because it resembles tradition too closely. I also dont believe we are very enlightened these days that we can do do away with the past and innovate ourselves into a perfect world. Seems silly.

  41. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:16 am  

    Anti-Knee Jerk:

    ““Paranoid reactionary.”
    name calling is rude. shame.”

    Sigh…I wasn’t calling YOU personally this, since I obviously do not know you. I was referring to the thought you expressed:

    “So you’re afraid that if one aspect gets modified or personalized, somehow every single other component will be changed, and we will no longer have any recognizable practice left? SAYS WHO?????????? And how do you know that?”

    I found this as very paranoid-reactionary.

    Good night!

  42. Emma — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:21 am  

    Harmeet Singh,
    “A wife can control the husband more than a husband can”
    I’ll echo Desi Italiana’s response, it’s not a power play, in my mind it’s about equality. Why else would there be such defensiveness if it didn’t mean something? Ceremonies are symbolic, and in this case, no, I don’t think that I’m making a big deal by questioning what this symbolism means.

    anti-knee-jerk,
    “Its just a ceremony yes, but most people will tell you that it means a lot more than that”

    And maybe that’s why I wrote this post? The ceremony means something, and you seem to be negating that by saying that we can’t let our personal and social experiences help us shape what that ceremony should mean.

    Maybe I’m being overly optimistic but if those twenty minutes were used to emphasize equality, maybe mindsets would also slowly start to change? Quick reactions defending tradition are easy to do, but progressive change is much slower and I believe in using every opportunity to further it.

    “and you know that after a hundred years or so it might resemble nothing to what the traditional ceremony has been.”
    You’ll have to explain why you think this is such a bad thing.

    Sunny said: “He asked his followers to think and question their actions and that is exactly what we’re doing.”
    That’s how I see Sikhi and I have trouble seeing how someone could place “tradition” over these ideals.

    “with all due respect, stand up for your belief or lack of belief”
    Why choose this issue to define belief or lack of belief? There is a whole lot of stuff in the SGGS that ought to get the same amount of attention but never does because so much time is spent figuring out who’s a good Sikh and who follows tradition better.

    I’m short on time tonight so sorry if it sounds a bit disjointed, I’ll be happy to clarify. My e-mail is watchingthesun at gmail dot com, but I agree with Sunny, sometimes it’s better to discuss these things in a group.

  43. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:29 am  

    what do you want to accomplish emma?

  44. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:34 am  

    Is the solution to let people innovate their ceremonies to make them meaningful?

    Yes, exactly!

    That would work for the individual – but what about the tradition?

    You forget, culture and tradition change over time as values and ideas do. This has happened through the dawn of time. By questioning the ritual we can re-define its meaning or get rid of it entirely. That is up to the person. If enough people do it then it becomes a new “tradition”. Voila!

    Desi Italiana – thanks :)

  45. Emma — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:35 am  

    “I also dont believe we are very enlightened these days that we can do do away with the past and innovate ourselves into a perfect world.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by saying “enlightened.” I believe the Gurus were enlightened and they left us a lot of wisdom on how to interact with others and lead a decent life. Their followers at the time took these ideals and created social change. Sometimes I think Sikhs tend to rest on these laurels without thinking about how to continue with that process and apply those ideals to our times and our situations. You don’t have to be “enlightened” for that, you have have to be a thinking, open person. Following tradition without thinking about why you’re doing it, in my opinion, that’s a little pointless.

  46. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:38 am  

    I believe if the Sikh Gurus believed the Sikh Wedding ceremony was good enough for their Sikhs then that should be good enough for us.

  47. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 3:07 am  

    “You forget, culture and tradition change over time as values and ideas do. This has happened through the dawn of time.”

    Sunny raises a good point. “Traditions” are not static, contained, and unadulterated. I am sure some will bust out with verses and scriptures that “prove” this is otherwise the case.

    “By questioning the ritual we can re-define its meaning or get rid of it entirely. That is up to the person. If enough people do it then it becomes a new “tradition”. Voila!”

    And, I might add, there is nothing wrong with this. This has happened always.

  48. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 3:29 am  

    Emma i shall email you when I have time! Thanks.

    Desi Italiana so start a new one, if it catches on then great! But while doing so, dont take away our right to have a traditional one without someone looking down on it because it isnt perfectly suited to whatever fashion (eg. violent desire for equality symbolism) is in vogue at the time.

    The problem for you, italiana, is that you want your cake and you want to eat it too. You *want* the deep meaning behind the traditional wedding, but at the same time you dont want the traditional wedding proper. You could make a new wedding ceremony but it wont have the same meaning to it, to others. But you wont bite the bullet and fight for your alternative ceremony on the virtue of its great merits – of which there are many, presumably – for you have custom designed it to be perfect. Instead you take the existing traditional ceremony, change it so it is still recognisable as being the traditional ceremony but now with the differences you’d like to make.

    Except ofcourse if this were done by many people, it would no longer leave the traditional ceremony strongly defined, for there would be many additions and removals, some things changed here and there, and its easy to imagine that there would no longer be one single traditional ceremony left. Just whatever was in fashion, and you have to realise that this fashion is acceptable to you, but others might not be. It could evolve in any way in particular, and you could have the strange situation where wedding of say Sikhs are wildly different in different parts of the world. Each one claiming ofcourse to have the correct version in line with Sikhi, and each one convinced the other one is lacking because it doesnt have this *feature*, and it has that *feature* which seems superflous.

    There is nothing paranoid about this description. It is common sense. Once you make the traditional ceremony open to change it will be changed, by different people in their different ways. It would destroy the traditional ceremony simply because it wont be around in a recognisable uniform way, the way it is now, and has been in the past.

    The better suggestion is, if you are a Sikh, to take the Anand Karaj as it is, but interpret the symbolism as you desire, choose not to emphasise particular aspects of the rituals which you think do not conform to your beliefs (eg in equality and lavaan), and get on with your life.

  49. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:33 am  

    Anti Knee Jerk:

    “But while doing so, dont take away our right to have a traditional one without someone looking down on it because it isnt perfectly suited to whatever fashion (eg. violent desire for equality symbolism) is in vogue at the time.”

    Who the hell is taking away “your” (pl) right to have a “traditional” one? I’ve stated repeatedly in my posts that I think everyone should have the right to do what they wish. And why do you think that what I have said is based on some “fashion?” Are insuniating that my preference for symbolic equality at MY (NOTE: NOT yours) hypothetical wedding is fashioned out of some feminist whim as defined by you?

    “The problem for you, italiana, is that you want your cake and you want to eat it too. You *want* the deep meaning behind the traditional wedding, but at the same time you dont want the traditional wedding proper.”

    Wait: so in order to keep things “traditional,” one must accept the uncomfortable and disagreeable aspects of an event/ceremony. Hey, in that case, let’s bring back sati burning. Why not? It is tradition. And I am Hindu. If I define myself a Hindu, I can’t have my cake and eat it too, right? So I should follow through. So when my husband dies, I will fling myself on the pyre. “Tradition” demands that of me.

    Also, for the sake of consistency, you have repeatedly stated that if the Gurus hundreds of years ago thought this was good for the Sikh people, then it is good. If you are a strong believer of this version of your Truth, why would you feel like “you can’t have your cake and eat it too?” Should you not be so comfortable and have faith in what you are engaging in, and why?

    “Instead you take the existing traditional ceremony, change it so it is still recognisable as being the traditional ceremony but now with the differences you’d like to make. ”

    So?

    “Except ofcourse if this were done by many people, it would no longer leave the traditional ceremony strongly defined, for there would be many additions and removals, some things changed here and there, and its easy to imagine that there would no longer be one single traditional ceremony left.”

    Again: so?

    “Just whatever was in fashion, and you have to realise that this fashion is acceptable to you, but others might not be”

    You seem to be fixated with the word “fashion.” Did it ever occur to you that unquestioningly following “traditions” has become a fashion unto itself these days? It’s in fashion these days for many reactionaries to hark back to some “pure” form of whatever they are talking about (like some Hindus that I am familiar with).

    “There is nothing paranoid about this description. It is common sense. Once you make the traditional ceremony open to change it will be changed, by different people in their different ways. It would destroy the traditional ceremony simply because it wont be around in a recognisable uniform way, the way it is now, and has been in the past. ”

    And the problem is…..???????

    It seems as if you are disproportionately concerned about what others are doing. Why does it matter to you so much? Are you the Sikh Wedding Ceremony Police? Minister of the Sikh Traditional Wedding? If this is important to you, then make sure YOU do it and the person that you are marrying shares this view with you. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

    “The better suggestion is, if you are a Sikh, to take the Anand Karaj as it is, but interpret the symbolism as you desire, choose not to emphasise particular aspects of the rituals which you think do not conform to your beliefs (eg in equality and lavaan), and get on with your life”

    Thanks for the “better suggestion,” but I didn’t ask you.

  50. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:46 am  

    Ah, the joys of being a Pickler way across the pond, for whom it is only 8:45 PM and is able to post back to back comments, while all the other Picklers are sleeping and dreaming sweet dreams….

  51. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 5:33 am  

    Italiana once there is no one Proper way, there is no improper way, just different ways of getting married. If this is the state of affairs, then the traditional way will no longer exist, simply because individual variation in the traditional ceremony will, with time and opportunity, lead to divergence. There wont be a recognisable proper marriage because you cant practically refer to it. Thats because there will be any number of different ceremonies to choose from, that are fashionably good. Making the Anand Karaj fashionable is not desirable.

    There is great merit in having uniformity – and i can offer you some reasons, though no sane person would need to be informed of these, but quickly: familiarity – people are aware on how things are done, and can participate easily. A socially accepted and recognised ceremony gives the couple what nothing else will, and that is social recognition of marriage. You can get married in the courts, you can get married in a pub, but most people want to have a proper marriage in a proper way. This by the way is a fact about people, and it is no way a debatable matter. Even sunny, free as he is, wants to go have a Sikh wedding to satisfy his parents. Most people have such social pressures upon them – and this need is best satisfied by having a unique and recognised wedding ceremony.

    By the way there is no other way to label your desire for a ‘symbolically equal wedding ceremony’ than to call it fashion. It is only the last milisecond or so of human history that people have worried about such trivial details as ‘symbolism of equality.’ I should call it token symbolism, and perhaps be even more harsher than that, but nevermind.

    “MY (NOTE: NOT yours) hypothetical wedding is fashioned out of some feminist whim” Yes, and those are your words, and that exactly what this is, its a change that isnt called for, without any substance. Its merely symbolic and it comes at a far too expensive cost of abandoning tradition. I am not convinced that this change will have any real affect on post-marriage relationship, and you havent shown that it will, but have acknowledge that it is merely symbolic. Muster if you will, an argument for change that speaks to its merit, without tacitly recognising the value of marriage itself as an institution, one which draws from its recognisable and traditional nature. If you can do this without contradicting yourself, then I will abandon my stance.

    Your issues with the now abandoned practice of Sati as a Hindu are not at all relavant in this discussion. Sati was an abominable evil. This is not. The Sikh Gurus were against Sati, they were not against Anand Karaj. Thats from a Sikh perspective. The two cannot be reasonably compared; though I must conceed one point and that is this: Not all traditions have been perfect, not all traditions are perfect, nor do i think the sikh wedding is perfect as such, as would satisfy the most questioning critic. But then I do not believe that is enough to tell against Anand Karaj. It is still a beautiful ceremony and I think a great one. One can imagine a more perfect ceremony, but it would not have the rich history and tradition that has Anand Karaj, simply because the couple go through the same rituals and ceremony as did Sikhs centuries ago. There is a certain beauty in this, but it needs to be recognised from a certain perspective, and it seems that you simply do not possess it.

  52. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 5:42 am  

    “It seems as if you are disproportionately concerned about what others are doing. Why does it matter to you so much? Are you the Sikh Wedding Ceremony Police? Minister of the Sikh Traditional Wedding? If this is important to you, then make sure YOU do it and the person that you are marrying shares this view with you. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.”

    I have defended tradition and only once or twice admitted my personal wishes. When i was younger I wanted to do the whole ‘equal-phere’ thing too. I have long abandoned that because I now recognise the value of tradition. As far as the individual is concerned, any particular individual, is to me, free to do what he wants to do with his marriage. As an individual, I have no problem with you, yourself, doing whatever, in your wedding italiana.

    But for a society, and that is what the Sikh people have: the sangat, it isnt desirable to have multiple ceremonies for weddings. On that level I have argued against multiplicity, and for uniformity and tradition. I am not asking any one particular person to do what I want, but think as a society, we ought not change things that way.

    I do not think people will choose to abandon tradition, unless things change drastically. I believe most will choose to have a traditional wedding, because that best suits the whole point of getting married in the first place, along with personal reasons, which I believe are satisfied too by the existing ceremony.

    To the sikhs who are so driven by fashionable and symbolic equality as to propose such changes, I would ask if they thought the early Sikhs did not believe in equality? For invariably those sikhs did not require a symbolic addition to their wedding ceremony to show this. So why do you? Does the Anand Karaj, the way it is stop you from having an equal marriage? Did it stop them? I have my own personal opinions about this, but I will not enter them here.

  53. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 5:59 am  

    Anti Knee Jerk:

    “Muster if you will, an argument for change that speaks to its merit, without tacitly recognising the value of marriage itself as an institution, one which draws from its recognisable and traditional nature. If you can do this without contradicting yourself, then I will abandon my stance.”

    Are you freaking reading my posts? How many times do I have to repeat that the part of the ceremony I am talking about is symbolic and ultimately, the substance of the marriage is more important? Moreover, I didn’t even dwelve into what I think of “marriage” which you call a traditional instution. They maybe true, but the substance can be interpreted in many ways. But I never went into this, so how the hell am I “contradicting” myself?

    “Its merely symbolic and it comes at a far too expensive cost of abandoning tradition.”

    What? Hello, you can argue that tradition itself is merely symbolic.

    It’s useless writing comments to you. You keep doing this passive aggressive, conceding but resisting dance. Maybe when the others wake up they will take your bait.

    Have a nice day.

  54. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 6:06 am  

    I said you cant defend the change, and argue for the ‘value’ or ‘power’ or whatever, of marriage without contradicting yourself. It draws those latter things from being exactly what the change would take away from it.

    “What? Hello, you can argue that tradition itself is merely symbolic.”
    Except that it is traditional, whereas the new symbolism is not. There is a big difference.

  55. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 6:38 am  

    Emma: “it’s not a power play, in my mind it’s about equality. Why else would there be such defensiveness if it didn’t mean something? Ceremonies”
    The defensiveness need not have anything to do with equality. If you care about tradition then you’d be opposed to these new changes, even if you believe in equality. Dont confuse the two, because you will end up being bitter about the wrong thing.

    “Ceremonies are symbolic, and in this case, no, I don’t think that I’m making a big deal by questioning what this symbolism means.”
    Questioning things for no reason is stupid. I used to do the same thing. I would read for example the Ramayan, and say, “see how they treat women? Women are behind all evil, etc. Notice whenever someone suffers, its because a woman made a mistake, If it wasnt for Sita, that wouldnt have happened. If it wasnt for the Queen that wouldnt have happened. etc etc.” Dont do this. Its a waste of time, and you’ll only get angry at the world.

    “we can’t let our personal and social experiences help us shape what that ceremony should mean.”
    Your experiences make you who you are. But the Sikh experience makes our society what it is. Both experiences are important, and a Sikh should respect his tradition and culture and not change them willy nilly. This is nit-picking Emma. Nothing more. Your experience is precious and thats why I wanted to email you instead of talking on here, because I imagined you had a good reason for wanting to change things.

    “Maybe I’m being overly optimistic but if those twenty minutes were used to emphasize equality, maybe mindsets would also slowly start to change?”
    There have to be better ways than to mutiliate such an integral part of our tradition. There is no evil about the ceremony, there is nothing wrong with it. It could be different, the woman could be leading the man, i would still argue for keeping it the way it is, because its not our place to change tradition. When men of great genius like Guru Nanak make changes to society – thats different. When someone like me does it? Well, that causes me a great deal of concern.

    “You’ll have to explain why you think this is such a bad thing.”
    I have already done that above in posts to italiano, have a read please and tell me what you think.

    “That’s how I see Sikhi and I have trouble seeing how someone could place “tradition” over these ideals.”
    Tradition lives above ideals. With our rich tradition, we have no use for any ideals. The Sikh tradition is a great one. We need not empty ideals and questionable symbolisms. Only three hundred years have past since Guru Gobind made the Khalsa. We have everything we need to know for good society, and we have our ideals in the society they created. We need not look elsewhere, least from the empty liberal idealists of today who have not fought, defended and cherished their precious ideals for any appreciable amount of time.

    “so much time is spent figuring out who’s a good Sikh and who follows tradition better.”
    Whether this is true or not, it is unrelated to the value of tradition, which speaks for itself. Read history! :) I will email you too.

  56. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 6:43 am  

    “I said you cant defend the change, and argue for the ‘value’ or ‘power’ or whatever, of marriage without contradicting yourself. It draws those latter things from being exactly what the change would take away from it.”

    What are you trying to argue?

    That if someone wants to get married, the wedding ceremony must be “traditional” because marriage itself is a “traditional” institution? What kind of A=>B=>C reasoning is this?

    All of your comments seem incredibly either/or, almost as if they lack the imagination to visualize complexities. There are several ways to interpret partnerships, and marriage may be one of them. And there are many types of marriages. If one were to follow your logic, which is very simpleminded, then yes, to you my comments seem contradictory.

    “What? Hello, you can argue that tradition itself is merely symbolic.”
    “Except that it is traditional, whereas the new symbolism is not. There is a big difference. ”

    So you’re defining “traditional” as the old, and the new as “fashion,” then? No, I’m sorry, there is no big difference. The “traditional” is constantly being renewed and reinterpreted, and the new symbolism may gradually become a widespread practice making it now a “custom” or tradition.” This might be scary for you, since you see change as the coming of Armaggedon.

    And following the mindset of your comments, hell, if we are to hold onto “traditions” (ie the old) for the sake of “tradition,” what is the point of even thinking and questioning things. Just sit back and accept everything because it’s “tradition”; it’s easier that way.

  57. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 6:58 am  

    I am no longer interested in talking with you Desi Italiana, and see no point in entertaining strange notions of marriage, out of dedication to some pluralistic principle, that I dont believe in, just so I can appear ‘open-minded’ enough about ‘marriage’ and ‘relationships’. Sorry! I know what marriage is, I know what most people think it is, and that is enough to talk about it. No amount of double quoting tradition can make up for the defficiency in your reasoning.

  58. Taj — on 1st November, 2006 at 10:02 am  

    “Questioning things for no reason is stupid” – anti-knee-jerk.
    Almost feels as though that “for no reason” is ready to sneak out of the sentence when we’re not looking.

  59. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 10:37 am  

    Sunny wroteanti-knee-jerk:
    There is a very good reason for having a uniform ceremony that is traditional,

    what’s the reason exactly? And you’re welcome to defend tradition and do your own wedding how you want. But others may not want to. Like me for instance.

    I could give a you number of reasons, but the main one is to avoid fragmentation of the community. If each sikh community around the world freely evolves Sikh ceremonies like Anand Karaj in their own way, it will lead to a great number of ad-hoc, incompatible versions of the ceremonies. Unity will suffer from this. Suppose you think that this is actually a good thing, because you dont really care about that ‘united panth’ stuff anyway, then i would say to you that a real consequence of the fragmentation will be greater disharmony between the sub-communities, and this will be against the positive goal of increasing society world happiness, which i assume you would like to see.

  60. Jai (Singh) — on 1st November, 2006 at 10:43 am  

    Well, I see that this conversation has taken an interesting course while I’ve been away.

    I also find it very curious indeed that Anti-knee-jerk has ignored what both myself and Emma mentioned near the beginning, namely that the Anand Karaj ceremony in its current form is not necessarily the version practiced during the time of the Gurus. Both the bride & groom just got up, did the “Matha Tek” (ie. bowing in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib) at each “lavaan”, and that was it. They didn’t walk around the SGGS, which obviously negates the whole issue of who walks in front of whom.

    All kinds of non-Sikh practices crept into the Sikh community during the centuries after Guru Gobind Singh, especially during the post-Misl period and even more so when control of the gurdwaras had fallen into Brahmin hands. A massive “clean-up” operation had to be undertaken later on, which I believe led to the formation of the SGPC, along with the Reht Maryada and so on.

    Now, I don’t believe in the “Vaticanisation” of Sikhism — the ultimate authority lies with the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the global Sikh community as a whole — so I’m not a huge fan of the SGPC in its current incarnation either; however, they are right about some things and wrong about others.

    They are correct in having concerns about the creeping “Hinduisation” of the way some Sikhs, particularly back in India (not so much out here in the West) practice the faith, especially many Sikh women over there. Many of us will also be aware of the distorted way Sikhism is depicted in many Indian films and television soaps, where the men are basically “Hindus in beards & turbans”, the women are indistinguishable from their Hindu counterparts (to the extent of wearing “sindoor” in their hair etc) apart from the fact that they keep saying “Waheguru” (often directed at paintings of Guru Nanak), and they are shown to take part in Hindu rituals such as the “havan” fire ceremony. All of which have absolutely nothing to do with Sikhism, and are as relevant as Sikhs praying towards Mecca 5 times per day.

    Nevertheless, Sikhs are frequently regarded back in India as belonging to a “branch of Hinduism”, and this is reflected in the way some Sikhs there behave themselves in religious matters. I have also got into heated arguments with Hindu Punjabis on Sepia Mutiny a number of times over this same issue. Many Hindus also refer to the apparent similarities between the wedding ceremonies and the fact that male Sikhs are “Singhs” (and have Hindu-sounding names, which historically certainly wasn’t always the case) as evidence that Sikhs are “a Punjabi variety of Hindus”. The similarity in the bride & groom’s attire to the Hindu version probably doesn’t help matters either; I remember suggesting on Sikhnet a couple of years ago, during a similar discussion there, that perhaps both parties should wear blue clothes instead (even if they’re non-Amritdhari), in the same way as many Amritdhari Sikhs do (both male & female) during their weddings.

    So in that sense, I guess the SGPC’s concerns about “too much Hinduism” being incorporated into Sikh religious rituals are understandable, even if it’s not applicable in this particular case and their reasoning is faulty.

    It’s also worth re-emphasising that Sikhism is dead-against anyone following any religious ritual or injunction blindly; indeed, it’s against excessive ritualism and the unthinking following of “traditions” full-stop. However, since the present version of the Anand Karaj isn’t necessarily the original form anyway, many of the previous posts on this thread are moot.

  61. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 10:51 am  

    world should read wide..

    Vikrant: That reason is childish and insulting and I don’t understand why it was given.

    Well given SGPC’s extreme distrust/phobia of Hindus, i’m not surprised.
    I usually pay attention to your opinions, so I am guessing that you are well informed to say this, but how is this true? Are you referring to a particular time period, if so when? Because I do not share your assessment from what I have read of the SGPC.

    Similarly, Sukhjit Singh launches into a diatribe about SGPC, and after I finished applauding my fellow Singh for fighting the Good Fight against the Evil SGPC, as all Good Singhs do these days, I couldnt make sense of this assertion of his: “.. with a central institution trying to make its writ run around the world and defining who is and who is not a Sikh.” Except ofcourse , historically Sikhs have always followed the writ of the Akal Takht. That *part* isnt the problem for a Sikh, but I see that it is for you :) So confirm that your problem is not with having an authority in Sikhi and if so, point out how you propose things ought to be. Because as far as i know, the SGPC are guilty only of being ordinary, and while this is a bit disapointing, it isnt a crime.

  62. anti-knee-jerk — on 1st November, 2006 at 10:57 am  

    Jai, my view is that we shouldnt change tradition stuff like history, ceremonies, etc, even if people before us might have done it. What we have inherited we should maintain and keep in good condition. Can you point me to where you read about this change of tradition? During the Mahant period you say? This is the first I’ve heard about it. I do not think we should make violent changes to our society, and even if it was once done, I still think we should keep things the way they are now, unless it can be demonstrated quite clearly that they were changed, and there is wide consensus on reverting back.

  63. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 11:12 am  

    ha ha what a funny statement. ‘we’ shouldn’t change tradition. well that’s what people think – but tradition is itself a relative concept. traditions change all the time. what – do we all seriously think that if we turned the clock back 5678 years and stepped into the indian subcontinent – we’d be seeing the same ‘tingz’ happening all around?

  64. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 11:14 am  

    56 – Desi v. good points :-)

  65. Jai — on 1st November, 2006 at 11:35 am  

    Anti-knee-jerk,

    The issue of the later change to the original version of the Anand Karaj — which was certainly much more in line with Sikh tenets and ideals — was discussed extensively on the Sikhnet Discussion Forum and involved large numbers of Sikhs worldwide. I suggest you go to that website and do a “search” to locate the relevant debates.

    A couple of points I need to make:

    Your tone towards other commenters on this thread is way out of line. You cannot claim to defend various aspects of Sikhism if the methods you use to further your argument contradict the very principles the faith teaches. Swearing (ie. using words like “pissed”) is one example; others include your extended haranguing of Desi Italiana and the strawman arguments you are using against both her and Sukhjit Singh.

    Desi Italiana is not a Sikh; whether she ultimately has the Anand Karaj ceremony will depend on whether she marries a Sikh man, and even then the nature of the ceremony is her business, her husband’s, their respective families, and whoever will perform the relevant duties at the gurdwara where the ceremony will be held. Her motivations are well-meaning, and the basis of her objections to the current form of the “lavaans” is in line with what Sikhism actually teaches about male-female equality. Nobody is supposed to lead anyone around anything, and even the “tradition” of the bride being led around by male family members and “given” to the groom’s family contradicts Sikh principles of women’s inherent strength and total equality with men in all aspects, along with female sovereignty. Again, none of which has anything to do with the original ceremony and the faith’s teachings.

    You are welcome to argue your points if you are absolutely sure that your own knowledge is watertight and your motivations are sincere, but it is not right for you to harass well-meaning, polite commenters here and it is certainly right not for you to resort to sarcasm and ad hominem insinuations, whether it is against Desi Italiana, Sukhjit Singh or anyone else here.

    With regards to your comment about the Akal Takht, they do not have ultimate temporal authority over the worldwide Sikh community. That power resides within the community itself, and ultimate spiritual authority obviously lies with the SGGS. The Jathedar of the Akal Takht is not the successor to the Gurus — he’s just meant to be the “caretaker” of the Akal Takht complex, and that’s it. Similarly, the SGPC are supposed to restrict their activities to running gurdwaras. None of them have any authority over the rest of the Sikh community, and despite what they think, they certainly don’t have the religious authority to issue “writs” in the form of hukumnaamas — that honour lay solely with the Gurus.

  66. Kulvinder — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

    then i would say to you that a real consequence of the fragmentation will be greater disharmony between the sub-communities, and this will be against the positive goal of increasing society world happiness, which i assume you would like to see.

    Why? the point at the moment is conservative members of the ‘community’ dictating what is and isn’t correct. If everyone were to follow their own way and leave others to do the same how would it lead to greater unhappiness?!?! It’s like saying a country has to be ruled under a tyrany to keep homogeny else there would be chaos; in actual fact letting people go in their own direction decreases social tension.

  67. Sunny — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:15 pm  

    I could give a you number of reasons, but the main one is to avoid fragmentation of the community.

    Yeah I know you believe this anti-knee-jerk, but the clear fact is – many of us don’t. This is the problem with religious conservatives: they think the strength of a religion depends on following silly rituals no one really believes in and that doing it slightly your way to make it more real and meaningful will mean the destruction of the religion as we know it.

    See I don’t think you know your own religion properly. On the one hand you say you agree with me on questioning tradition because that is what the gurus did, but then you do exactly what they warned against. Your points are getting boring now. I just don’t believe that doing away with silly tradition will destroy “unity” – whatever that means. And the more the SGPC try and be a dictatorship the more people will get turned off Sikhi.

    If you have something new to say I’ll respond. I think Jai also makes some excellent points I agree with. Read him.

  68. Taj — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:27 pm  

    “my view is that we shouldnt change tradition stuff like history, ceremonies, etc, even if people before us might have done it” – anti-knee-jerk.
    Could you explain why?

  69. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 12:29 pm  

    Aunty Knee Jerk

    Yes, I stand by my view that the centralising, inquisatorial, standardising, Vatican-isation, Roman Catholoicising of the SGPC is something to be criticised – if for no other reason that when institutions are not criticised they become rotten, corrupt, arrogant and full of hubris. I can reel you off a list of obscenities and anti-democratic practice regarding the SGPC, but I am sure you do not need to be reminded of them.

    However, if you are of the opinion that human beings, and the institution they represent, should be free of criticism for the sake of ‘unity’ or ‘respect’, then you should not be worried when that institution becomes corrupt, authoritarian, inquisatorial, and arrogant. And there is a hell of a lot of CORRUPTION in there my friend. Without scrutiny and criticism, things fall apart — just look at the history of the Catholic church.

  70. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:43 pm  

    anti-knee-jerk

    Tradition lives above ideals. With our rich tradition, we have no use for any ideals.

    Huh? Tradition is above ideals? What kind of nonsense is that? Traditions are rituals and empty husks without ideals.

    The Sikh tradition is a great one. We need not empty ideals and questionable symbolisms.

    This is a meaningless piece of rhetoric – you are already confused on the issue of ideals and tradition.

    Ideals of Sikhi:

    (a) One Creator and Sustainer God

    (b) Equality of all humanity regardless of race, caste, religion

    (c) Equality of men and women

    (d) Obligation of Seva (service) to humanity

    These are ideals.

    Traditions are things like….how we do wedding ceremonies, perform ardas, do nagar kirtan etc etc.

    It seems like you need to fundamentally re-assess and try to get to grips with the difference between ideals and tradition…..because by relegating the eternal ideals of Sikhi to the traditions that have come up around the rituals around that, you completely miss the point, and the whole point of Guru Nanak was to look for the ideals that are lost amidst ritual and dead tradition.

    We need not look elsewhere, least from the empty liberal idealists of today who have not fought, defended and cherished their precious ideals for any appreciable amount of time.

    This is meaningless rhetoric too, using phrases like ‘liberal idealists’ as a kind of slur, an ad hoc contrast between those who disagree with you as being some kind of wishy-washy people, a total amateur argument by someone who asserts that tradition takes precedence over ideals. It is hot air, blow hard chat, and the discussion would progress more if you desisted from such nonsense.

    Now, I think that we can do without this neo-brahminism, of declaring who can and cannot talk about such issues.

    On the point on the need for standard ceremonies, I tend to agree, that there is nothing wrong with that, we do need certain ceremonies to define ritual boundaries — but what I cannot abide is people who make statements like ‘traditions are more important than ideals’ and then attack the credibility of others to discuss the issues in hand.

  71. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 1:50 pm  

    anti-knee-jerk

    I may have been a little sarcastic — don’t be offended, in truth I see your point, but I think this issue is a question of degree and relativity that if we were not defending respective positions and defining each other in terms of ‘strict conservative’ or ‘wishy-washy liberals’ we would find a degree of common ground. However, I seriously think you have to think deeply about what I have written above about the distinction between ideals and tradition, and also about the need to hold the SGPC and all centralising institutions to account and scrutiny and criticism, or else corruption, arrogance and hubris sets in — and when it sets in there in the quasi-political institution, it is the religion itself which gets poisoned.

  72. Leon — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:02 pm  

    (b) Equality of all humanity regardless of race, caste, religion

    Except when it comes to who your daughter or son can go out with…

  73. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:08 pm  

    Well that’s the difference between ideal and tradition Leon!

  74. Leon — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

    Well that’s the difference between ideal and tradition Leon!

    Well I guess that makes it alright then! I’ve seen this type of thing in the Catholic church, people claiming to be believers etc but their actions directly contradicting the teachings…

  75. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

    good points sukhjit singh in no. 69

    71 – Leon – ain’t that the truth! that’s always the BUT..

  76. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:16 pm  

    Leon, religion cannot be disassociated from hypocrisy. You can only try to lessen it as much as you can. Plus, you are never going to get away from the ideal of community life and self sustaining desires — plus you are too cynical. I have lots of non Sikhs married into my extended family, white, Hindu, Muslim, Chinese even.

  77. Leon — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:20 pm  

    plus you are too cynical.

    With good reason.

  78. Sukhjit Singh — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:35 pm  

    Well I am cynical about some things too Leon! Doesnt mean my cynicism contains the entire truth, everyones experiences are different.

  79. Kismet Hardy — on 1st November, 2006 at 2:41 pm  

    Good crack by eddie izzard on the otherwise godawful secret policeman’s ball last night.

    You look at the theory of evolution, you see there are holes, so instead you decide to believe in magic. On the first day, god invented jam…

  80. Emma — on 1st November, 2006 at 3:51 pm  

    anti-knee-jerk,
    “Tradition lives above ideals. With our rich tradition, we have no use for any ideals.”

    And I disagree completely, what’s the point of believing in something if all you have is “tradition” in place of something vibrant and applicable?

    I also agree with Jai, you’re coming across as very patronizing. Desi Italiana made great, well thought out points and you’ve not been engaging them but instead reiterating the same few points.

  81. miraxx — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:19 pm  

    the funny thing is that the sikh religion would not have come into being if the Gurus had all been into tradition! In fact nothing much positive would have come into being….

  82. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:29 pm  

    80. yeah miraxx that’s a funny one. same applies for when muslims go on and on about tradition. ‘if the Prophet had followed his family’s traditions…’ etc. etc.

  83. Kismet Hardy — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:41 pm  

    Bored so…

    ODDBALLS OF FATAL IDOLISATION is an anagram of Tradition is a load of old balls

    Just as SPILL POETIC DICK is an anagram of Pickled Politics

    I got 24 out of 24 right in my britishness test by the way :-)

  84. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:42 pm  

    congrats kismet! and you could be the next fixture on the countdown conundrum..

  85. x Pixie Dust x — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:44 pm  

    Congratulations. I’m not really impressed though. If anyone deserves to be British, it’s you.

  86. sonia — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:46 pm  

    does that mean you’ve been seen breaking bus shelters kismet?

  87. x Pixie Dust x — on 1st November, 2006 at 4:51 pm  

    He likes tea and scones and bunting.

  88. Leon — on 1st November, 2006 at 5:06 pm  

    “It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” Bill Hicks

  89. HeyZooz — on 1st November, 2006 at 5:44 pm  

    I dont understand that quote but I’m sure it means something profound.

  90. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 8:51 pm  

    Anti Knee Jerk:

    “Tradition lives above ideals. With our rich tradition, we have no use for any ideals. The Sikh tradition is a great one. We need not empty ideals and questionable symbolisms. Only three hundred years have past since Guru Gobind made the Khalsa. We have everything we need to know for good society, and we have our ideals in the society they created. We need not look elsewhere, least from the empty liberal idealists of today who have not fought, defended and cherished their precious ideals for any appreciable amount of time.”

    See, this type of comments leads me to believe that you have little idea of the very religion you preach. I’m not Sikh; I’ve only lived around Sikhs for the past 10 years and lived with a Sikh family for 3. But what I DO know that is that the very leaders you hold up from hundreds of years ago were GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF “TRADITION.” And since you seem to cite the Gurus quite a lot, why don’t you regal us with a description of the type of things that the Gurus preached?

    If they had been like you in believing the absurd notion that “tradition lives above ideals” and there is no need for “empty ideals,” then they wouldn’t have preached what they preached. That you have no problem denouncing people who question tradition and then immediately bring in the Gurus testifies to your own ignorance. Those Gurus were a hell of a lot more progressive than you are. They went against the face of many things that had been christened as “tradition” and criticized those “traditions” precisely because they were above the ideals that the Gurus envisioned. In doing so, they found people who agreed with them.

    So when you say:

    “No amount of double quoting tradition can make up for the defficiency in your reasoning.”

    Who’s reasoning is deficient, mine or yours?

    You also keep labeling my opinions about equality as something based on passing “fashion.” Again, you only highlight your own ignorance about the faith that you are superficially defending. If my views are some “fashionable” “feminist” principles in an effort to appear open- minded, boy, I’d like to see the look on your face when you start really reading what the Gurus said and put that in its historical and social context. Maybe back then, when they had started preaching these things, you might have resisted their critiques and teachings and harangued them: “Why change ‘tradition’? ‘Tradition’ exists for a reason. They caste system, for example, has existed for millenia. What reason is there to critique that? No need for ‘empty ideal’ when ‘tradition is above ideals’”.

  91. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 8:56 pm  

    Also, the fact that you are not engaging any of the things I brought up leads me to believe that you would rather than directly answer what I am saying. You keep bringing up rather empty points over and over again, which has a lot of words, but very little substance.

    Furthermore, the fact that you dub what I am saying as “feminist” is only a way for you to easily dismiss what I am saying and not address any of my points. For the record, I don’t identify myself as a “feminist;” I have a lot of critiques about mainstream feminism, especially the dominant thread of thought that runs in maninstream feminism– that women should replace men in the power equation. As I’ve stated, I have a problem with this: replacing one inequality and disparity with another doesn’t cut it for me.

  92. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 8:57 pm  

    Jai:

    Thanks, my love :)

  93. Desi Italiana — on 1st November, 2006 at 9:03 pm  

    “I know what marriage is”

    No, you know what marriage is TO YOU. Not what is it in its absolute. This is a very limited and prosaic understanding of marriage.

    “I know what most people think it is, and that is enough to talk about it”

    No, this is what YOU think marriage is, not what everyone else thins. So it is NOT enought to talk about it, when you are only talking about your perception of marriage, and that is it. You might as well have a one way conversation.

  94. Harmeet Singh — on 2nd November, 2006 at 12:18 am  

    Dear Desi Italia,

    What I mean to say was according to Guru sahib, woman is the foundation of family and thats why she has the yoke in her own hand. Please read the Shabad I mentioned before. Sorry for any misunderstanding or misinterpretation on my part.

  95. Jai — on 2nd November, 2006 at 6:25 pm  

    Desi Italiana,

    re: post #91

    No problem ;)

  96. Jassie — on 3rd November, 2006 at 1:58 am  

    Hey guys,
    Excellent article – some great perspective – time are changing folks!

  97. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 4:15 am  

    jai writes You are welcome to argue your points if you are absolutely sure that your own knowledge is watertight and your motivations are sincere, but it is not right for you to harass well-meaning, polite commenters here and it is certainly right not for you to resort to sarcasm and ad hominem insinuations, whether it is against Desi Italiana, Sukhjit Singh or anyone else here.

    You are defending your friends – nothing more, and I am attacking poor reasoning, nothing more. I have read through the posts and do not think i have been more harsh than was required. Italiana deserved exactly what she got, and as to Sukhjit, well you are a better man than I, if you can read his latter posts and not cringe at what amounts to the most tiresome ranting and raving one can imagine.

  98. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 4:41 am  

    Her motivations are well-meaning, and the basis of her objections to the current form of the “lavaans” is in line with what Sikhism actually teaches about male-female equality.
    Do i need to tell my intelligent brother Jai whose opinion I respect much, that one can be well-meaning and be simultaneously wrong? Or Stupid? Surely being well-meaning doesnt prevent you from saying stupid things! Obsessing over some silly symbolism that exists only in your dirty mind, and wanting to change ceremonies to make them politically perfect strikes me as a discreditable vice.

    Nobody is supposed to lead anyone around anything, and even the “tradition” of the bride being led around by male family members and “given” to the groom’s family contradicts Sikh principles of women’s inherent strength and total equality with men in all aspects, along with female sovereignty. Again, none of which has anything to do with the original ceremony and the faith’s teachings.
    Yes, and just because you believe this, doesnt make it any less false. Those early Sikhs never considered anything as bizarre as ‘male-female equality.’ The Sikh Gurus never made an issue of such equality, and only the last 50 years or so have seen Sikhs claim such things about their faith. I could offer you good arguments demonstrating this, and whats more, could refute each counter-example you offer, but this will never change your mind because I have seen that this belief is so pervasive and unshakable in those who believe it.

    I expect you will try to argue for the case of male-female equality in Sikhi anyway, so let me say a few thing in anticipation of them. The examples you will give do not show any positive intend of our Gurus to establish or even desire equality of sex. What they will demonstrate instead, in best line of the facts, is that they did not want to see ill-treatment of women. When Guru Nanak argued for the dignity and respect of women, he was arguing for a society which treated women much better, and instead of regarding women as despicable lowly things, to think them to be great, useful, and essential members of good society.

    The further presumptions of equality exist only in the minds of recent Sikhs. The Sikh gurus did not have the positive goal of establishing equality – they had only the negative goal of ending mistreatment of women, and to raise their status amongst men. If they had sought equality – they would have taken real and positive steps to achieve it. No sikh will beleive their Guru failed to act, towards a goal of theirs, so you cannot say that ‘what they started we must finish’, simply because it says that while the Guru was in a position to establish male-female equality, wanted equality, he did not do so because: a) they werent capable of achieving it, or b)because they failed in doing so, or c) because times were different then.

  99. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 5:02 am  

    The Sikh faith stresses community. The liberal faith stresses the individual. The mistake of misrepresentation of the Sikh faith is made from two unlucky coincidences. The early Sikhs were unique in their ways and their thoughts, as they rejected many of the ways of the existing society. Because the early Sikhs opposed some evil and questionable practices of the times, sadly allows us today to confuse their intentions as being broadly the same as those who hold the liberal faith; that of the freedom of the individual. They see that those early Sikhs were revolutionaries, so Sikhs today must be revolutionaries, and this means ofcourse adopting the liberal faith which today best suggest modes of being anti-establishmentarian.

    Though ofcourse a cursory glance through Sikh history shows countless Sikhs who fought for the good of others, and not ofcourse out of a believe in the ‘freedom of the individual’ which would mean most accurately themself. In fact to think this way is to get it completely wrong, for the early Sikhs were able to sacrifice so much, and so often, simply because they saw a greater cause, one that went beyond their personal lives. They saw such a greater good, and it was this which allowed them to achieve the things which they did achieve.

    As i say, the individual is ofcourse free to do whatever he wishes, within the constraints of law and society. I have not argued for telling you, for example, that you must have your wedding only *this* way, and not another. The individual can do what he wants. I have argued for the Sikh society to maintain its traditional ceremony the way it has been done for a long time. I do not know know whether or not it was once changed, but no matter, I do not believe that means we should easily be able to change it now. Traditions must be respected.

    The reason I have said that the Sikh community has no use for ideals is because the achievements of our ancestors are sufficient for us. Respecting the society we have inherited from them, and living the way they lived is more than enough. Ideals are cheap and plenty. Great achievements are few and priceless. The liberal idealist can start rattling off a thousand ideals, starting from the basic premise of ‘freedom of the individual’, and from it can derive a thousand ideals, including equality of man and beast, of man and woman. He can imagine a perfect utopia that is spotless and magnificient, and ofcourse, when one judges any one people, like say the Sikhs, then their ceremonies are not good enough, their ways are not up to scratch (no equality!), and so on.

    I do not say our community is perfect. Far from it. We have many problems, as do other communities. The sikh community has problems, i am not suggesting ignoring them, or trivialising them. I think some things ought to be opposed, and I believe the way to do them is to adhere more closely to the traditional Sikh society.

    This latter remark will be troubling to non-Sikhs, and also to Sikhs who have to deal with problems in other communities. For they will think no doubt, ‘but if everyone did that .. ‘, and then imagine for example if Muslims believed they must live to the lettter as did Muhammad a thousand years ago. But then the Sikh faith is not that old – its only a few hundred years old. It hasnt got the same problems as do faiths that are thousands of years old. We do not need to worry about becoming out-dated just yet. Maybe in 500 years that will be a valid concern, it is not now.

  100. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 5:26 am  

    Taj asked “my view is that we shouldnt change tradition stuff like history, ceremonies, etc, even if people before us might have done it” – anti-knee-jerk.
    Could you explain why?

    My best reason is that I do not trust any one Singh or Kaur to get this right without unwittingly invoking the principle of unexpected consequence. We start changing the basic ceremonies, someone changes it just slightly here, just slightly there; eventually you end up with a number of different ceremonies that are mutually incompatible. Suppose this fragmentation proceeds along caste lines, so cast A has procedure Y, and caste B has procecedure Z, and a couple of both castes cannot get married because members of the other caste refuse to accept the other’s ceremony. So while this change was supposed to make us more tolerant and open, and things like that, it might even achieve the opposite, and make things much worse.

    I think we ought to have one ceremony, that is fixed and universal, and accepted by all Sikhs, and I think liberal Sikhs ought to see the merits of the fixed traditional ceremony gives us rather than the apparent (trivially symbolic) flaws it has. Two members of different castes can get married and the ceremony blesses the couple with a proper Sikh wedding, no matter what. This is powerful and it does more for (class/caste/etc) equality than the symbolic thing could ever do for sex inequality.

  101. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 5:33 am  

    Kulwinder> writes about the concern of fragmentation: Why? the point at the moment is conservative members of the ‘community’ dictating what is and isn’t correct. If everyone were to follow their own way and leave others to do the same how would it lead to greater unhappiness?!?! It’s like saying a country has to be ruled under a tyrany to keep homogeny else there would be chaos; in actual fact letting people go in their own direction decreases social tension.

    That you are talking about hapiness shows to me that you are incapable of having a rational input to the discussion, for it tells me you are concerned about emotions and things like that – which means you are concerned about yourself. As i say, the individual can do whatever, no one is telling him what to do, so rest assured that by pushing for maintaining tradition, wanting to keep our community in the spirit and substance of our ancestors, is not to call for the end of your precious and selfish freedom. Perhaps if you stop the ‘me me me’ individualism nonsense you will have a useful opinion to give about the Sikh community, until then I say to you, do whatever you want, and forget about the people who want to force you to live a particular way, for no one likes them anyway. Why bother with getting worked about such things? Satisfy you goals by concentrating on yourself, and that makes everyone ‘happy’ :)

  102. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 6:25 am  

    sunny writes: Yeah I know you believe this anti-knee-jerk, but the clear fact is – many of us don’t. This is the problem with religious conservatives: they think the strength of a religion depends on following silly rituals no one really believes in and that doing it slightly your way to make it more real and meaningful will mean the destruction of the religion as we know it.
    We believe different things, true enough. The rituals arent silly, dont be so harsh sunny. Mindlessly doing things in a ritual is silly. Guru Nanak wasnt mocking the beliefs of those who performed rituals, he was questioning doing religious things without really being religious about them. Do you think the destruction of religion will be a good thing? Be honest. Guru Nanak didnt think so. Sikhs cannot think so. I can pick up a copy of Albert Einstein’ on Relativity and say it is meaningless to me, and it might be, but that does not mean there isnt something there for someone else, who *is* capable of thinking and acting on it.

    See I don’t think you know your own religion properly. On the one hand you say you agree with me on questioning tradition because that is what the gurus did, but then you do exactly what they warned against.
    I know that some of the myths about Sikhism that are widely circulated today are not founded in fact. This one about questioning anything and everything always is a particularly bad one. Guru Nanak was not a cynic. He didnt get off showing people to be silly and superstitious with their elaborate rituals and beliefs. He stressed substance over form and the Sikh religion does this often, but does that mean ritual is meaningless? Does form not matter at all? The Sikh faith is not just the ‘feel-good humanity stuff’, its also a prescription on how a Sikh ought to live, and this is captured in the ways the original sikhs lived, and it still exists somewhat in the society we have inherited from them. Yes stressing form and forgetting substance is stupid and every Sikh knows this, but does that mean form is spurious? No, it simply does not.

    There is a difference Sunny, when a man of great genius like Guru Nanak, a true saint of humanity walks the earth and questions things – and that of a cynical phuddu like myself mocking others for being superstitious, ‘conservative’, and things like that. One pays attention to Guru Nanak because he had a great conscience, he was able to understand people and could relate to them. Me? I am just pissed off about being told what to do, and imagine things could be much better if we didnt bother with all this religious stuff so much.

    Guru Nanak as well as questioning things with good reason, travelled the world and shared his experience with the rest of humanity. Does that mean every Sikh should question everything, and travel the world sharing his cynicism with anyone he comes across? Who would do the work, raise the children, plant the crops, milk the cows, write the books, teach the classes, if we set out to live exactly the way Guru Nanak did. Just because he questioned, it doesnt follow that we should too. I happen to believe the Sikh faith is good enough that it doesnt need constant questioning, simply because it has given birth to a community which does things mostly right, though ofcourse sometimes it gets them wrong too. At least i think that the early Sikhs got it much more right than wrong, and if we follow their example in the rich tradition we have inherited, then we will fare well.

  103. Desi Italiana — on 3rd November, 2006 at 6:48 am  

    Oh, the record’s broken.

  104. Desi Italiana — on 3rd November, 2006 at 6:57 am  

    Gems of Wisdom:

    -”that one can be well-meaning and be simultaneously wrong? Or Stupid?”

    -”Those early Sikhs never considered anything as bizarre as ‘male-female equality.’ The Sikh Gurus never made an issue of such equality”

    -”The Sikh gurus did not have the positive goal of establishing equality – they had only the negative goal of ending mistreatment of women, and to raise their status amongst men.”

    -”I have not argued for telling you, for example, that you must have your wedding only *this* way, and not another. The individual can do what he wants. I have argued for the Sikh society to maintain its traditional ceremony the way it has been done for a long time.”

    -”The reason I have said that the Sikh community has no use for ideals is because the achievements of our ancestors are sufficient for us.”

    -”simply because they saw a greater cause, one that went beyond their personal lives. They saw such a greater good, and it was this which allowed them to achieve the things which they did achieve. ”

    -”Guru Nanak wasnt mocking the beliefs of those who performed rituals, he was questioning doing religious things without really being religious about them. ”

    -”He stressed substance over form and the Sikh religion does this often”

    -”Just because he questioned, it doesnt follow that we should too. I happen to believe the Sikh faith is good enough that it doesnt need constant questioning, simply because it has given birth to a community which does things mostly right”

    Priceless.

  105. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 6:57 am  

    It is a matter of constructive criticism. If you have a genuine interest in these matters, and you can sympathise with the community, and you have a real and vested interest in its well-being, then by all means give constructive criticism. If your intention is simply to assert an alternative which you think is better, then why not just live that way? Why pretend to care about someone else just so you can ‘fix’ theirs. It makes no sense. Simlarly with the liberal sikhs, if you are that much awed by the religion of liberalism, why not just live it? Whats to go be gained in the the endless criticism of SGPC, of ‘consertatives with their holy writ’, about our ‘useless leaders’, and things like that, when the real problem is that you depart from their beliefs. If your beliefs are different, why expect them to change theirs, to accomodate yours? It is worse than arrogant to act this way.

    Yes our leaders are not great. Yes SGPC is not great. Yes things could be better. Yes things can always be better. Yes, the Lavaan could be ‘better’. But thats what we have. The question is not can things be better, but what can be done about it. If there arent any good men available willing and aspiring to be good leaders, then we have to do with what we have. What is the point of ad nauseum pointing this out as thought its such a profound reveleation that our leaders are not great. As i said, the SGPC is guilty only of being ordinary. Are you a better man? Put your hand up. Be the leader but dont just sit there complaining ad nauseum.

    Guru Nanak didnt just criticise Brahmins and Musaalmans so that they’d come over to his side and become Sikhs. He critised without expecting conversion. The liberal sikh is not just satisfied with criticising, he expects more than this – conversion to the liberal faith. But this is simply a matter of belief, and then no one belief is apriori better than another, but demonstrably the Sikh belief has ‘proof-in-the-pudding’ available for inspection. The liberal faith does not, and cannot, for it is an evergoing struggle for perfection, which is unsatisfiable.

    The Sikh faith is satisfied though when community is good enough. It didnt require every Hindu or Musaalman to become a Sikh and thus live the perfect way. Good society is a universal goal and is perfectly compatible with different religions, as it is for this reason that Sikhs could live comfortably with others, and still share something special. This is to say then, that if the Sikhs were satisfied with other faiths though they were not perfect, then we should be satisfied with our tradition without seeking perfection, simply because Sikh society is good enough when and where it occurs with only reasonable likeliness to early sikh society.

  106. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 8:02 am  

    Aw Italiana, feeling left out, are you? :) Look love, there are seven or so people responding to my posts and saying things to me. That means to address each post I have to write a lot of posts. I am also unlikely to have a fresh and unique perspective for each reply because I am the same person replying each time, and I havent changed my mind since then. I hope you dont mind too much, ok? :) But let me quickly reply to some of the clever things you think you’ve said that I havent touched.

    “All of your comments seem incredibly either/or, almost as if they lack the imagination to visualize complexities.”
    I am a scientist. I am trained to concentrate on the main effect in question and disregard the details unless there is a good reason not to. This is a good way of dealing with complex problems and am happy to introduce it to you :) Do not worry about my imagination, for I have a good one; I simply do not bother talking about things that I do not believe are relevant. If this means taking a common-sense approach to what ‘marriage’ is, then that is what I do without worrying about some one complaining about there being ‘many different types of marriages’, when the discussion is about a specific kind.

    “simply disagree. I think this is a cataclysmic, dramatic way of looking at it.But I respect if you would want to do this at your wedding; I would only find it problematic if you were to start imposing your views on others. I dislike the idea and fact that there is someone who is defining and enforcing what is “tradition,” such as the SGPC.” That is you saying ‘dont worry about it – dismantle culture, it will be fine’ and me saying ‘uh, no, lets not that risk’.

    I cant find the clever points that i’ve missed. please put them in a nice short list for me.

  107. Desi Italiana — on 3rd November, 2006 at 8:13 am  

    “Aw Italiana, feeling left out, are you? Look love, there are seven or so people responding to my posts and saying things to me.”

    Look- don’t patronize me with your smiley faces plastered everywhere and calling me “love”. Why should I feel left out? People are responding to your posts because your comments are idiotic. That’s why.

    “I hope you dont mind too much, ok?”

    Hey, I don’t mind at all…. be my guest. Your comments are only making you look more foolish. Carry on.

  108. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 8:16 am  

    The conversation between leon and Sukhjit appears to be some sort of perfect liberal dialogue, and I cant resist analysing it apart:

    Sukh says:
    b) Equality of all humanity regardless of race, caste, religion

    Leon counters:
    Except when it comes to who your daughter or son can go out with…

    Sukh responds: Well that’s the difference between ideal and tradition Leon!

    Leon preaches: Well I guess that makes it alright then! I’ve seen this type of thing in the Catholic church, people claiming to be believers etc but their actions directly contradicting the teachings…

    Beautiful isnt it? How easily and effortlessly they make their argument. I am in awe.

    Now i respond.

    Sukh in marriage, would you give your sister to a madman? A paedophile? A drunkard? Would you give your daughter to a sexual harrasser? Would you give your daughter to a murdered? A bum? A lazy useless man?

    Ofcourse not. But then ‘all are equal’, what to do? In an extended dialogue they say, ‘those examples are unfair – thats not what we meant’, and ofcourse they would say that they were talking about a good man, but from a different caste or race or whatever. But just as we select qualities in this case, so do we select them in the other. As it happens, the race quality is not simply just about colour, or caste about surnames; it corrolates with other qualities too, and then if one were to say, these qualities are important to me, it might be that they are only satisfied when one looks in a particular race or caste.

    This illustrates how silly liberals are with their ideals, and how effortlessly they are lead against reality and into absurdity. A Sikh who wants his children to marry Sikhs, and in particular a certain kind of Sikh, is not being ‘hypocritical’, ‘against equality’, or some other thing. He is simply choosing what he thinks is best given his experience. There is nothing sinister about this, but to Leon, it is utter hypocrisy. And what about Sukh? Well he must brace himself and think instead that ‘tradition is the problem’, that culture is the evil here, and ideals, crisp and perfect, are missing. How easily liberals lose their credibility..

  109. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 8:45 am  

    Emma wrote: And I disagree completely, what’s the point of believing in something if all you have is “tradition” in place of something vibrant and applicable? I wouldnt say the sikh tradition is not vibrant and applicable. In fact its completely applicable simply because it has been tried and tested, and it represents experience, which is always more applicable than theory.

    I also agree with Jai, you’re coming across as very patronizing. Desi Italiana made great, well thought out points and you’ve not been engaging them but instead reiterating the same few points.
    What are these points emm? Point them out please.

  110. anti-knee-jerk — on 3rd November, 2006 at 9:32 am  

    I think i’ve found it. Italiana writes: But what I DO know that is that the very leaders you hold up from hundreds of years ago were GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF “TRADITION.”

    This is not a problem to any Sikh. He can believe in the efficacy of the Sikh tradition and still hold that the Sikh Gurus made some important and correct changes to existing tradition. There is no contradiction here at all. The tradition I am talking about is the Sikh tradition. It is what I have been referring to and not any other ones. I am sorry, but since I am not a liberal, i am prone to think thoughts like ‘all traditions are equal – if one is flawed – then all are flawed’. Some are better than others. I am not saying which is which, but i am saying the Sikh one is a good one.

    If they had been like you in believing the absurd notion that “tradition lives above ideals” and there is no need for “empty ideals,”

    Yes, perhaps you’d be right if I had proposed all traditions to be good, and if I were defending all of them simultaneously. I havent done that though, so your point is moot. To be fair, I do not believe there was any good in the society before Guru Nanak – it was mostly fine, but there were problems which the Sikh Gurus did later address. Male-Female equality is an empty ideal. I do not believe in it, nor has any Sikh before the 20th century.

    Again, it is not productive or desirable for every single member of society to question every little thing, often and always. This isnt a Sikh ideal. This is a liberal ideal. The Sikh tradition is to question practices that are wrong, within good reason. That is not to say everyone ought to do it. There is nothing to be gained, for example, in a brewer questioning why he does what he does. Or a grown man wondering such silly things as ‘why am i here? What is the point of life’, and so on. Yes some people should do this every now and then, and we can read about what they have discovered, and this is fine. But as a society this questioning thing is extremely questionable.

    Jai, reading through the posts again, I think it is Italiana who has been rude and impolite to me, and her indignation and sarcasm towards me cannot have escaped your attention. Why no mention of it?

  111. Jai — on 3rd November, 2006 at 12:09 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    =>”You are defending your friends – nothing more,”

    Wrong. I am defending people here whom you are being a jerk towards. I would do so regardless of whether they were my “friends” — and for the record, I have not previously had any online interaction with Sukhjit Singh, although I think he has been making some superb points too, throughout his recent involvement on this blog.

    =>”and I am attacking poor reasoning, nothing more.”

    So am I. Nevertheless, there is a right way and a wrong way to contradict other people. Patronising them and using verbal sophistry is not one of them — and totally contradicts the very principles Sikhism is based upon with regards to conduct towards our fellow human beings, especially those we disagree with.

    =>”I have read through the posts and do not think i have been more harsh than was required.”

    I truly wonder how you can reconcile this with your claims of possessing an accurate understanding of Sikhism, especially when the Gurus themselves never behaved like this towards anyone, not even Guru Gobind Singh in his admonishments towards Aurangzeb in the Zafarnama.

    ->”if you can read his latter posts and not cringe at what amounts to the most tiresome ranting and raving one can imagine.”

    Look in the mirror, brother.

    =>”Yes, and just because you believe this, doesnt make it any less false.”

    Exactly the same applies to your own stance on this issue.

    =>”The Sikh Gurus never made an issue of such equality, and only the last 50 years or so have seen Sikhs claim such things about their faith.”

    That is complete nonsense. Perhaps you are following the wrong faith ? There are other organised religions which have an orthodox interpretation more in line with your own beliefs…..

    =>”I could offer you good arguments demonstrating this, and whats more, could refute each counter-example you offer, but this will never change your mind because I have seen that this belief is so pervasive and unshakable in those who believe it.”

    It’s pervasive and unshakable because it’s correct. I don’t have a clue where you are getting your interpretation of Sikhism from, but it’s very far indeed from the ideals set down by all 10 of the Gurus, from Guru Nanak through to Guru Gobind Singh.

    =>”The examples you will give do not show any positive intend of our Gurus to establish or even desire equality of sex. What they will demonstrate instead, in best line of the facts, is that they did not want to see ill-treatment of women. When Guru Nanak argued for the dignity and respect of women, he was arguing for a society which treated women much better, and instead of regarding women as despicable lowly things, to think them to be great, useful, and essential members of good society.”

    The Gurus were doing both simultaneously. They’re not mutually-exclusive activities.

    =>”The Sikh gurus did not have the positive goal of establishing equality – they had only the negative goal of ending mistreatment of women, and to raise their status amongst men.”

    That’s a lie regardless of how many times you repeat it. The Gurus didn’t think men and women should be identical — BUT they should have completely equal human rights, and the inherent worth of a woman as a human being is equal to that of a man.

    =>”If they had sought equality – they would have taken real and positive steps to achieve it.”

    They did. The SGGS is full of verses praising women and in some aspects even exalting them above men. Guru Gobind Singh selected a disproportionate number of women to lead his missionary projects. Sikh women were known to lead military forces too. I can give numerous other examples. There is absolutely nothing in Sikhism which promotes the notion of men having any kind of authority or superiority over women — both are supposed to work together in the spirit of partnership, equality and mutual respect.

    Insulting other commenters and attempts at obfuscation and “chalaaki” does not make your stance any more correct — it’s a gross violation of Sikh ideals in terms of your argument and the way you are promoting it (and do you know what the literal English translation of the word “phuddu” actually is ? Do you think this using such language whilse allegedly “defending Sikhism” is something Guru Gobind Singh would approve of ?).

    =>”I am a scientist.”

    Many of us here, myself included, have a rigorously scientific academic background too. This blog also includes several commenters who are doctors. May I remind you that, beyond a certain point, Sikhism isn’t supposed to be regarded or practiced as some kind of pseudoscientific ideology, where you pore over the texts and attempt to extract quotes for subversion in order to fit your own distorted interpretation of the faith and your own agenda. We do not have “pandits”, and we do not have an “ulema”. And you are certainly not supposed to use “clever” attempts at mental gymnastics to promote your own insincere arguments, either in terms of distorting facts or attempting to play mind-games with the other party.

    Perhaps you will reconsider your position, perhaps not; perhaps within this lifetime, perhaps not. We all know the example of Bhai Kanhaiya, who had a better intuitive comprehension of Guru Gobind Singh’s message than many of the Khalsa soldiers did, even though the latter were constantly in the Guru’s presence during his earthly lifetime.

    I would recommend that you think very clearly and objectively about your own opinions, your own attitude towards others, and your own internal motivations for taking this stance and behaving this way, lest you fall into the trap of being a religious hypocrite. “Paakhandi” behaviour was condemned unequivocally by the Gurus, as you should be well aware.

    And as for the notion that “tradition overrides ideals”, and “we should not think about matters ourselves but should blindly follow precedents — even if the latter are themselves an erroneous distortion of the original concepts and rituals” — well, bear in mind that Guru Gobind Singh wanted to create Lions. Not sheep.

  112. Sukhjit Singh — on 3rd November, 2006 at 12:12 pm  

    anti-knee-jerk

    You don’t even understand the difference between ‘Ideal’ and ‘Tradition’. Come back to me when you do understand this fundamental thing — until you do, your mind is going to be full of paedophiles and mad men and drunkard as a way to make your points, making your arguments hysterical and ridiculous.

    I repeat: Clarify your understanding on the difference between IDEALS and TRADITIONS.

    ANd forget the rapists and paedophiles as your examples, forget the response to Leon — understand the difference between IDEAL and TRADITION. Then we can have a discussion. At the moment, you stll stand on the position of a person who believes ideals mean nothing, but tradition does.

    Now, don’t throw make fallacious arguments about liberals, make hysterical and preposterous arguments from the dark depths of your imaginings. Deal with the matters in hand – and the fact that you privelige traditions over ideals.

    Then we can continue the debate.

    (Although I would have to reply after the weekend)

  113. Sukhjit Singh — on 3rd November, 2006 at 12:16 pm  

    Male-Female equality is an empty ideal

    What a load of nonsense.

  114. Jai — on 3rd November, 2006 at 12:17 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    =>”Jai, reading through the posts again, I think it is Italiana who has been rude and impolite to me,”

    Do you acknowledge that you have behaved like this towards her yourself ?

    And if so, do you acknowledge that such behaviour is hypocritical for someone claiming to be a committed Sikh and, indeed, for someone claiming to defend the “correct” interpretation of Sikh teachings ?

    =>”and her indignation and sarcasm towards me cannot have escaped your attention. Why no mention of it?”

    She has been indignant, but still within the bounds of decorum. She has not been sarcastic — indeed, your own tone towards her in particular has been consistently patronising and sarcastic throughout this discussion. Do you have a problem with maintaining politeness towards those who may strongly disagree with you (and with whom you may strongly disagree yourself), or do you only have this issue if the other party is a woman ?

  115. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 3:45 am  

    Alright Jai forget that stuff about about being nice and polite. This is simply a matter of perspective. From my perspective I do not believe I have been too rude, nor careless with my language. I think I have been honest and my intentions have been considerate and well meaning. It might not seem that way to you, maybe I should mince my words more, but lets not worry about such things and get to the point.

    The second thing is to point out that I’ve never claimed to be a good Sikh. As i say, the individual can do as pleases, but that isnt what we are discussing here, we are discussing the Sikh community, and whats best for the community, is logically independent from yourself. It seems many of the posters here have trouble seperating these two matters. They are so in love with themselves that they cannot fathom someone having an opinion on the Sikh community which apparently constrains their precious ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’, to do whatever they want. And to these people I am constantly pointing out that you can do whatever you want, stop getting upset. If they insist that they too have the good of the community at heart, well I would ask them why then they are so trigger happy in dismantling our ways, just because you think things can be better, they should be made better. Silly idealists with their naive ideas. You wont hear a liberal sikh do-gooder suggest a solution to a problem that is specific and local – it always has to be some huge overhaul of society – no the entire fabric of society must be changed to fix a problem. Forgive me when I take liberties in mocking such stupid ideas.

  116. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 4:06 am  

    The Gurus were doing both simultaneously. They’re not mutually-exclusive activities.
    I did not say they were mutually exclusive activities. I am saying you cannot conflate them together without good reason. Do i really need to point this out with an example? It is so difficult when ideology blinds men from common sense truths. Suppose I see a white man beating a black man in apartheid South Africa, I go up to the white man and make him stop beating the black man. Does this mean I am for equality? What if I have told him, “Do not beat my slave, who will do my work if he is injured?” And ofcourse I have the wellbeing of my slave at heart. His good health and hapiness is also in my interest, even though the situation doesnt imply something as absurd as the equality of slave and owner. Now dont get too carried away with the example, it is merely an analogy, and dont even bother trying to say I am suggesting women should be slaves. I am not doing any such thing.

    ”The Sikh Gurus never made an issue of such equality, and only the last 50 years or so have seen Sikhs claim such things about their faith.”

    That is complete nonsense. Perhaps you are following the wrong faith ?

    Perhaps you are? Because if you really believe in empty ideals as equality, and the Sikh Gurus did not, then maybe it is you should revise his opinions in light of the facts. The facts do not, without further invention, demonstrate that the Sikh Gurus cared for, wanted, or even though about equality. There is zero evidence for this. None whatsoever.

    t’s pervasive and unshakable because it’s correct. I don’t have a clue where you are getting your interpretation of Sikhism from, but it’s very far indeed from the ideals set down by all 10 of the Gurus, from Guru Nanak through to Guru Gobind Singh.

    It is revisionism of history that ascribes such ‘ideals’ to the Gurus. But this is an easy game to play, one can always take some piece of history, and interpret it to be in line with some ideal of ours, even if that ideal never existed then. Even if that ideal would be completely foreign to the agent, and if it is only a fashionable modern ideal which we’ve decided is a good one, and therefore so must have our Gurus. But is this a reasonable assumption? Is it a fair assumption? Is it a well founded assumption? Is it well informed by fact and experience? And if not, does it not make the person claiming such things dishonest and arrogant?

  117. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 4:40 am  

    The Gurus didn’t think men and women should be identical — BUT they should have completely equal human rights, and the inherent worth of a woman as a human being is equal to that of a man.

    Ofcourse the Gurus did not think men and women should be identical. But the problem with claiming they wanted ‘completely equal human rights’, is that this is not specific enough to be useful. It doesnt say much at all, because it too general a statement, and I am convinced it is far too useless a statement for our Gurus to have made. For one it is contradicted by the existence of bad men, who should not, and do not have, the same rights as good women. The second statement is also too vague to be useful, and ultimately false anyway: “The inherent worth of a woman is equal to that of a man” – because no doubt both woman and men have different worths, that is because they are different in their roles and abilities, and they cannot possibly be equal simply because their worths while both high, are distinct. But moreover this is something you have said, not something the Gurus have said. This is something that sounds nice, but it utterly useless as a moral principle in practice.

    “The SGGS is full of verses praising women and in some aspects even exalting them above men.”

    Yes and this best suggests the Sikh faith is against treating women badly, and in regarding them as great and integral members of our community. Equality is an extranous assumption not justified by this evidence.

    “Guru Gobind Singh selected a disproportionate number of women to lead his missionary projects.”
    Muddles the case for you. Do you believe Guru ji was for meritocracy? For equal opportunity? For affirmative action? These are different goals towards equality and are mutually exclusive. Suppose you believe the latter, in this example, then you would have to conceed Guru ji did not believe in the other ones. But now you have worked youself into a corner. What this says is that even though Guru Ji believed in forcing a fixed ratio of roles, as per affirmative action, that Guru ji did not do this in the other higher positions of Sikh society. And the highest positions were filled completely by men for every single Guru was a man. Now you might relent and say, no, I actually believe in equal opportunity; that, is what the Gurus believed too. A woman could have been Guru, there was equal opportunity, and it was merit which determined the ultimate result.

    The new problem for you then is that one of the Gurus was a child. How much more merit could a mere child have over the most worthy female candidate, of whom there is no consideration at all in history. There is not one single woman who was considered for Guruship. Not one. But then we know that great honorable men like Baba Budda were considered, but came up short. That is fine, coming up short for Gurship is not anything to be ashamed about. But who were the women, if there were any, who came up short? No record exists of them. So suppose you’ve switched between meritocracy, equal opportunity, and affirmative action, and each position you take is countered by the facts of experience, and as you jump from one to the other, you must be aware that each position disagrees with the other, and whatever ground you had made, you have now lost by changing positions.

    Sikh women were known to lead military forces too. I can give numerous other examples.
    Yes, and I will similarly show that each such example is best explained by a desire to end unjust treatment of women in the case of mistreatment. And in the case where a woman did something a man usually did, well that was always rare enough to be outlier, and otherwise, it is best explained by the Sikh Gurus not wishing to unjustly discriminate against women who had the ability and capability to fill those roles. This though does not mean equality, for it will no doubt leave the status quo in place, as it did. Though if that is what you wish to believe, then realise such meritocracy doesnt say anything about equality explicitly, it is utterly silent on how roles should be allocated in terms of equality of man and woman, except in lieu of merit. And if man has more merit than woman, then the man will get the role – and this flies in the face of ideas about equality, because it acknowledges that people are unequal, and we are simply choosing the best ones.

    All of your good advice to me about being a good Sikh is wasted. I am not here to be a good Sikh. I am here to defend the Sikh tradition because I think it deserves more respect and honesty than what is (falsely) thought. Keep in mind that just because someone does not believe in equality, does not mean they believe in inequality. You can choose where and when you believe equality should exist, and have no opinion in other situations. This is my position. This is believe to be the Sikh position too, though my views are not relevant as such, because what i have argued is that the Sikh faith is inconsistent with liberal notions of Sikh Faith, which claim things about the Sikh Gurus which are not substanciated by fact.

  118. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 4:50 am  

    Sukhjit writes ..

    “Male-Female equality is an empty ideal”

    What a load of nonsense.

    That is the sound of your blind faith in liberalism closing its shutters of ‘open-mindedness,’ which as a liberal, you cherish so highly, and favor so much that you make it a central feature of your personality. Two questions for you Sukhjit, give straight answers. If your Guru cared so much for male-female equality, how come there is not a single composition in the Sikh Granth penned by a woman. Not a single one. Now i know we Sikhs love to say thing like “the sikh Granth is a wholly universal one – it has the writings of men of different faiths of different backgrounds and caste”, and yes this is true, but why the shocking emission of that woman ‘minority’ who’se equality the Sikh Gurus were soooo concerned about, according to you and other liberal Sikhs? Why no female Gurus? Not only is male-female equality an empty ideal, so is equality in general, and The Sikh gurus didnt know about that equality either. But lets not discuss too many things all at once :)

  119. Sunny — on 4th November, 2006 at 5:26 am  

    A few points to make anti-knee-jerk:

    1) I am here to defend the Sikh tradition because I think it deserves more respect and honesty than what is (falsely) thought.

    By all means defend tradition. But that is not our way. This blog overwhelmingly carries the opinion of people in favour of positive progressive change. Meaning, discarding traditions when they don’t make sense. You can argue against that if you wish, as you have been doing. But your arguments are simply not convincing enough. Your arguments simply come down to believing that discarding tradition ad hoc would mean the breakdown of the community. To me that’s not a good enough reason.

    2) because what i have argued is that the Sikh faith is inconsistent with liberal notions of Sikh Faith, which claim things about the Sikh Gurus which are not substanciated by fact.

    Well Sikhi isn’t about specific “facts” as such because they can be interpreted in different ways. Just because there wasn’t a woman Guru does not imply automatically that the Gurus did not want equality. That is your interpretation not mine.

    However, when looking at religion in general I try and look at what it is trying to say in spirit. For example the issue of eating meat is quite muddled if you go by scriptures and what the Gurus did. However, my interpretation is that in spirit, the Gurus would not have wanted their followers to kill animals and eat meat for pleasure when vegetarian food is widely available.

    That is what I mean by following the spirit of the religion. By following that way of thinking I also come to the conclusion that the Gurus were vehemently against following tradition for it’s own sake. This is a point you have conveniently ignored while in other areas (such as equality) you keep asking us to look at how the Gurus did things. So your own stance is inconsistent.

    Either way, it is simply your opinion against mine (and that of others). You would have to give a convincing reason why:
    a) tradition should be followed regardless.. and
    b) women should not demand equality.

    In both you haven’t given a good enough reason.

  120. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 5:34 am  

    Jai also writes…
    I would recommend that you think very clearly and objectively about your own opinions, your own attitude towards others, and your own internal motivations for taking this stance and behaving this way, lest you fall into the trap of being a religious hypocrite. “Paakhandi” behaviour was condemned unequivocally by the Gurus, as you should be well aware.

    Objectivity has lead me to my position. In fact I started from a position that was strongly sympathetic to a liberal Sikh understanding of Sikhi. Finding the disparity between fact and claim too overwhelming, I abandoned those claims about Sikhi, which simply could not be backed up. The usual examples that are cited are best explained not by a positive goal for equality, but for the negative goal of ending injust discrimination. An objective account of Sikhi is what I have. Have you scrutinized yours? Have you ‘questioned’ your beliefs as you liberals love to do? Can you handle the truth? I have done that and emerged with what I believe is the truth. I cannot be accused of bias, so please stop making personal attacks and provide convincing arguments.

    Please note, my position is informed by healthy skepticism which refuses to accept the version that claims equality in an ideal of the Sikh Faith. This ad-hoc, inconsistent version of Sikhi is littered with contradictions and has not been subjected to the criticism it deserves. The evidence simply doesnt exist that the Gurus knew or cared about male-female equality. The Gurus who were so careful and meticulous to express their beliefs in writing and practice failed to do so about equality. How do you contend with this disparity? You simply must, otherwise your position is flawed beyond belief.

    And as for the notion that “tradition overrides ideals”, and “we should not think about matters ourselves but should blindly follow precedents — even if the latter are themselves an erroneous distortion of the original concepts and rituals” — well, bear in mind that Guru Gobind Singh wanted to create Lions. Not sheep.
    I beleive this, and will continue to believe this because any one can come up with a new ideal, and then find some example in Sikh history that doesnt disagree with the ideal. Lions respect their culture too. The problem with becoming sheep is a real one, but I do not believe the solution to it is to say ‘anything goes’, ‘forget tradition – just innovate.’ I suspect we could probably meet somewhere on balanced ground, but I will never conceed your view the way it has been expressed, and though I might too oppose fundamentalism, extremism and so on, I will do so only if there is a good reason for it, and not just out of some silly notion of idealism.

    And as for the notion that “tradition overrides ideals”, and “we should not think about matters ourselves but should blindly follow precedents — even if the latter are themselves an erroneous distortion of the original concepts and rituals” — well, bear in mind that Guru Gobind Singh wanted to create Lions. Not sheep.

  121. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 5:37 am  

    Sunny wrote “Well Sikhi isn’t about specific “facts” as such because they can be interpreted in different ways.”

    The thing that avoids us from interpreting whatever we like is that we can compare it to experience. Is it consistent with history? Is it consistent with tradition? With culture? If not, then what reason have we to believe in the truth of our interpretation?

  122. Emma — on 4th November, 2006 at 5:49 am  

    “Have you ‘questioned’ your beliefs as you liberals love to do? Can you handle the truth? I have done that and emerged with what I believe is the truth”

    Why do you assume that people who disagree with you haven’t questioned our beliefs and thought about our conclusions? Look at the thought that people who disagree with you have put into their comments and maybe you’ll hesitate before being that condescending.

    “The problem with becoming sheep is a real one, but I do not believe the solution to it is to say ‘anything goes’, ‘forget tradition – just innovate.’”

    No one has said “just innovate,” people have emphasized the importance of questioning things, there’s a huge and very important difference.

    “The evidence simply doesnt exist that the Gurus knew or cared about male-female equality”

    I think your claim is baseless because I do see a clear basis for equality in scripture. But I guess there is no point in arguing, we disagree on fundamentals and I’m not convincing you and you’re evidence and reasoning is not going to convince me.

  123. anti-knee-jerk — on 4th November, 2006 at 5:51 am  

    sunny writes .. Either way, it is simply your opinion against mine (and that of others). You would have to give a convincing reason why:
    a) tradition should be followed regardless.. and
    b) women should not demand equality.

    In both you haven’t given a good enough reason.

    I dont have a fixed opinion on equality sunny. In general though, I reject it. I do not need to give a convincing reason for why the Sikh Gurus did not believe in equality, for you cannot prove a negative. Jai and Crew have to demonstrate why their version is correct because they *do* claim something should exist if they are right.

    a) I have not said tradition should be followed regardless. I have said the sikh tradition should be followed because it is a good one.

    b) i have not said whether women should demand equality or not. I know that equality doesnt exist, and that is a fact not an opinion. We simply arent equal, and dont imagine we will ever be. That doesnt mean i believe in racism, sexism, and so on. It just says i dont care for the ideal of equality.

  124. Sunny — on 4th November, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

    I have said the sikh tradition should be followed because it is a good one.

    You haven’t made a clear distinction between Sikh and non-Sikh tradition. And just because Sikhs follow a tradition does not make it a ‘Sikh tradition’.

    That doesnt mean i believe in racism, sexism, and so on. It just says i dont care for the ideal of equality.

    I know, but for others on this thread it is an important ideal. And you haven’t convinced us otherwise.

    Anyway, let’s not go round and round. You’ve explain your points anti-knee-jerk and others have responded. Let’s leave it that. I don’t want to close the thread because I’d like to get some different perspective here rather than regurgitate the same discussion over and over.

  125. Jai — on 4th November, 2006 at 7:07 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    Sunny’s posts #119 & #124 pretty much state what my own thoughts are, and I think the best course of action now is indeed to agree to disagree. Apart from the fact that to some extent I’m lost for words in response to your last few posts, and have a dull feeling of disgust at what is being espoused by you, my overriding emotion is actually pity. You’ve tied yourself up into self-justifying, over-intellectualised psychological knots and therefore can’t perceive the true spirit of the message of Sikhism.

    It’s a real tragedy — you have a Kohinoor-sized flawless diamond in your hands called Sikhi, and yet all you can see is a dull plastic facsimile.

    I hope that one day you gain enough mental and spiritual clarity to understand why you are wrong and thereby see the truth, either in this lifetime or (God-willing) in some future birth.

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

  126. Kulvinder — on 5th November, 2006 at 2:47 am  

    The quotes in this thread from akj are comedy gold.

  127. anti-knee-jerk — on 5th November, 2006 at 3:01 am  

    Sunny writes .. “By all means defend tradition. But that is not our way. This blog overwhelmingly carries the opinion of people in favour of positive progressive change. Meaning, discarding traditions when they don’t make sense.”

    Can I say sometimes its better to address the problem directly and specifically rather than looking for ‘root causes’, and thus risking the chance of blowing up the problem from a managable one to a huge insurmountable one. For example, if you want to solve the problem of domestic abuse, why not address domestic abuse directly? Go into a community, find the victims, consult experts on abuse, and heed their advice on what you should do. The knee-jerk response to drastically alter culture is a bad one. You cannot be trusted to get such a change right, even if you’re the most educated, most ambitious man in the world, which most of us are not.

    Every time i watch a match or a game on TV I cringe at the commentators. If i were a liberal, the ‘solution’ to this problem would be obvious. What we need, ofcourse, is change. We need new commentators. But this betrays the obvious truth that the existing commentors have experience in commentating. They’be been doing that stuff for years, and in their profession they’ve seen things come and go. But no matter, to the naive liberal, ofcourse progressive change is the way to go. We need change – that is the only thing to do. So we fire all our old commentators and hire new ones. Well now they new dudes have to deal with problems and situations that the old-school guys had been dealing with for years. They imagined they’d have novel and creative solutions to the problem of commentating, but they discover that some things simply are as well as they can be, and there is not much one can do to improve on them. They re-discover the old cliches, the old hyping and ‘analysis’ which the older dudes used too. The only difference now is that the newer guys lack the experience and professionalism of their predecessors. No problem you say, they’ll get better with time, and they do, but then we find they’re no better than the ones we fired in the first place. What a waste of time our change was. We realise this after wasting valuable resources that could have been better spend at suggesting to individual commentators what they’re most pressing flaws were, and if they’d fixed those, well, then that would have been the best way to go about things.

    “You haven’t made a clear distinction between Sikh and non-Sikh tradition. And just because Sikhs follow a tradition does not make it a ‘Sikh tradition’.”

    I never said the Sikhs have a monopoly over tradition. What I mean by tradition is experience. Our experience as a people is unique. That is our tradition. We might share similarities with others, but that is no problem at all. Good sikh society is compatible with good society in general.

  128. anti-knee-jerk — on 5th November, 2006 at 4:04 am  

    Jai writes .. “I hope that one day you gain enough mental and spiritual clarity to understand why you are wrong and thereby see the truth, either in this lifetime or (God-willing) in some future birth.”

    Thanks Jai, i appreciate you saying that. Emma too thinks I’ve gotten things very wrong in terms of Sikhi. I will make this my last post too, because I’ve overstayed my welcome by Sunny, though I originally only wanted to discuss this through email with Emma.

    I have had just as much affection for Sikhi as any of you. So why are our views on Sikhi so radically different? Well let me see if i can address that in this post. In substance I believe our views are identical because we look back into the same past. As a community, our experience is the same one. We have read the same history, we have inherited the same heritage, we have the same culture, the same traditions, the same language, and so on. The difference is that I look at what the Gurus did and accept it for what it was. It was good work. They did good things. They were good.

    But you liberal sikhs are an active lot. You have to question, you have to ‘understand’, you have to analyse and distill from experience. You have to determine the ideals and principles which are suggested by the Sikh experience. These are all admirable goals, and you must be commended for taking on the task, which is not easy, for there is a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of debating involved in doing so. Eventually you succeed in completing this process, and then you wish to share this amazing knowledge with the rest of the world. So you write books and articles and proudly proclaim, ‘The sikh faith believes in equality’, it is a progressive faith, one with humanity at heart. These are nice sounding things. Sikhi-in-a-sentence, and whats more, sikh-in-a-word when ones says egalitarian. How impressive.

    But lets stop and think for a second. Can one compress the Sikh faith into a few ideals? Is this a reasonable undertaking? It has the immediate virtue of abstractness – and it does this because it says nothing of the concrete Sikh experience. One imagines though that the ideals are compatible with the experience, for they were suggested, at least, from that very experience.

    And in this manner we see that the ideals do not disagree with experience. The Sikh faith was novel and revolutionary: It did break down barriers of caste and sex. It did see women and men of lower classes uplifted. These things were done and seen by history. But the ideal is an idealization. Even the Sikh experience is not good enough when it is compared to the ideal.

    Specifically, the current Sikh experience is not good enough when compared to the ideal. But to the liberal Sikh, who’se primary goal is to better humanity, he has eyes only for the ideal, and scarcely sees any connection between current society and that ideal. Then the solution to him is obvious, for since the society is so far from the ideal, society must be changed towards that ideal.

    The problem of the liberal is this. The ideal is his own creation. It was suggested from experience, but has since taken a fully individual existence. The liberal sees in the ideal, the ‘essence’, the real stuff about Sikhi. The rest is just dirty reality. Tradition? Culture? All of that is just a force against the noble ideal, and he bears them no particular love. And whats more, what is even more likely is that the ideal was suggested by his ideology and belief in liberalism. Broadly speaking the liberal ideals of ‘freedom of the individual’, and all of the ideals that can be derived from this basic axiomatic belief.

    So the problem is that the liberal has his ideals, cares little for tradition and existing culture, treats such things with disdain, and is motivated to fix society, armed with those very ideals. But can such a liberal really achieve his goal? He is not only naive, he is utterly inexperienced. He says ‘things ought to be better’ and proceeds to make them better. But how does he proceed? Not the way a responsible intelligent person would do, by marking out a specific problem, and by addressing it locally and directly. No, it has to be a ‘root cause’ solution. It is always wider and all encompassing. Since tradition is not something he cares about, it always suffers as the first casualty. If tradition is not thought to be the main perpetrator, it is a useless spectator, only getting in the way of our making the change.

    But this is to side-track. Liberals are terrible problem solvers, but this is not the place to discuss that. The problem is that so unshaking is the belief of the liberal Sikhs in their ideals, that they begin to imagine that the Sikh Gurus too believed so strongly in the liberal’s ideals. How can they make such a basic mistake? Especially when those ideals were never expressed explicitly by our Gurus? Well that is a mystery to me.

    The Sikh heritage we inherit does not know about equality. It is entirely foreign to our people. How then do liberals sustain their belief that the Sikh Faith has the ideal of male-female equality? How can they manage to keep this belief, even on the face of contrary evidence, even though they have no real reason to believe it in the first place? They do so by holding the belief that tradition and culture has fallen from following those ideals. So they manage to convince themselves that everyone else is mistaken, that they’ve missed the point of Sikhi, that they’ve forgotten the essense of our faith, and that they’ve lost their way. How remarkable. The liberal’s answer to the lack of evidence for male-female equality is to say the evidence is flawed. That Sikh society is the anomaly.

    So the liberal Sikh gets things very wrong, simply because he takes his ideals far too seriously, and gives them far too much worth. If only he could remember that the ideal was simply a generalisation, a simplification, an idealisation, he would’nt err so badly. But convinced about the sacredness of ideal, he loses sight of reality, and becomes a tiresome nuisance, ever complaining about real Sikh society not being good enough – good enough for his ideals, which are far too unrealistic to be useful. And this ad nauseum complaining of his goes on and on, while the liberal sikh falls further and further away from fact, a pity, because it is what would best inform him back to reality.

  129. Sunny — on 5th November, 2006 at 5:08 am  

    But convinced about the sacredness of ideal, he loses sight of reality, and becomes a tiresome nuisance, ever complaining about real Sikh society not being good enough – good enough for his ideals, which are far too unrealistic to be useful.

    Hehe. Nice piece of bakwaas at the end AKJ. Actually, I wonder if those AKJ idiots who go around terrorising Sikhs derive their acronym from your name. But anyway. Your description of liberalism was hilarious. And you spent so much time writing something that will probably be seen as a good piece of comedy.

    Yes liberals have ideals. But so do conservatives. That is why the latter want to preserve tradition, I think you forget that. Secondly, society is constantly changing anyway and never remains static, so going by your own pitiful essay, the liberals keep winning (because change keeps happening) while the non-liberals lose.

    Lastly, there is a whole seperate discussion on whether ideals are achievable. But given that liberals are generally individualistic, while conservatives are about preserving a utopian or existent ideal of society, the liberal ideal is much easily achievable.

    Or to put it another way… I’ll have my wedding my own way and I’ll be happy. You can’t control my wedding or that of others so your ideal is a lot more harder to sustain. So we liberals win, you lose. Ha ha!

    Anyway, I need to sleep. Your essays have been most amusing.

  130. Emma — on 5th November, 2006 at 5:49 am  

    “But how does he proceed? Not the way a responsible intelligent person would do, by marking out a specific problem, and by addressing it locally and directly. No, it has to be a ‘root cause’ solution”

    The two things aren’t mutually excusive though. People who are focused on creating change don’t sit around and think about how best to disturb tradition, they think about how to bring about change. For example, I can work at a domestic violence shelter and try to help individual women’s lives and that change will be concrete. But what about the patterns that emerge from this work that do signal that there are some root causes, would I not want to see changes in traditions that may help perpetuate these problems?

    “You have to question, you have to ‘understand’, you have to analyse and distill from experience.”
    There is nothing wrong with dissent and questioning, it’s essential. The Sikh religion wouldn’t exist without dissent. A whole lot of things wouldn’t exist without it.
    I guess my problem is that you’re creating a very arbitrary distinction between Sikhs “then” and Sikhs “now.” Why were they better able to handle upheavals of tradition and why is it unsustainable now?

  131. Emma — on 5th November, 2006 at 5:57 am  

    But yes, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree because there’s no point going around in circles.

  132. Emma — on 5th November, 2006 at 6:08 am  

    And a last clarification because I’m commenting too much :)

    I said “People who are focused on creating change don’t sit around and think about how best to disturb tradition, they think about how to bring about change”

    I mean that most people who want change, have reasons other than to rile conservatives and shake up tradition for the sake of “fashion” or whatever you call it. That would be stupid and lead to nothing. There is an honest desire to see things made better and that can happen in small ways and in larger ones that inevitably end up disturbing tradition.

    O.k. I’m out, for real.

  133. Jai — on 5th November, 2006 at 5:30 pm  

    Sunny & Emma,

    I can imagine how disturbing AKJ’s posts (and yes I noticed the similarity to his namesake too) must have been to any women reading this thread (including you, Emma). I also hope to God that any non-Sikhs who’ve been observing this discussion do not think that such a wild distortion of Sikh tenets is a reflection of the reality of the faith.

    The casual, and repeated use of the phrase “you liberals” is also quite revealing, especially as I am liberal in some matters and quite conservative in others (plenty of evidence for that here and also on Sepia Mutiny); it depends on the particular situation and the overall context.

    I can remember having arguments with similar modern-day Mahants back when I used to participate on the Sikhnet Discussion Forum; many of the female commenters were more than able to hold their own against such patriarchal bullying — and more power to them — but it was still pretty nasty to see them on the receiving end of such behaviour being perpetrated in the name of “culture” and “tradition”, which in reality was all about being Indian (along with the notorious male ego) and very little indeed to do with Sikhism, despite protests to the contrary on the part of the offenders. The latter had to resort to increasingly convoluted & self-rationalising circular arguments and mind-games in order to confuse the issue (and the other party) in an attempt to further their agenda.

    It was precisely due to the increasing infiltration of Sikhnet by such people that I eventually decided to stop participating there. People reap what they sow, and of course ultimately they will have also to face the reality of their actions in the court of Dharamraj upon their deaths. I know that Guru Gobind Singh in particular did not look favourably upon people twisting or falsifying the most basic, cherished Sikh ideals for their own hypocritical self-centred purposes.

    =>”We have read the same history, we have inherited the same heritage, we have the same culture, the same traditions, the same language, and so on.”

    Not necessarily, and certainly not in my case. Assumption is the mother of all mistakes, and is a fundamental reason behind the flaws in AKJ’s thinking and conclusions.

    =>”Have you scrutinized yours? Have you ‘questioned’ your beliefs as you liberals love to do?”

    Much, more more than other here people may realise. I didn’t accept the veracity of Sikhism overnight, and I never follow anything blindly.

    As for this:

    =>”Liberals are terrible problem solvers”

    Oh, the irony of this statement, considering my professional background and what I actually do for a living…..

    Anyway, I really am out of this conversation now.

    ***********************

    Sunny,

    Quick off-topic question — Did you have any further thoughts on when to go ahead with my article ? Apologies for chasing you up about it (and possibly accidentally pre-empting you), but it would just enable me to know in advance when to set aside some time to keep an eye on the subsequent discussion. No problem if other, more urgent, articles by you are further ahead in the pipeline ;)

  134. Desi Italiana — on 5th November, 2006 at 7:57 pm  

    Wow– what could have been a fruitful discussion has been shot in the foot. Looks like I haven’t missed anything!

    “She has been indignant, but still within the bounds of decorum. She has not been sarcastic — indeed, your own tone towards her in particular has been consistently patronising and sarcastic throughout this discussion”

    I was indignant AND sarcastic, especially in light of the fact that the very first post addressed to me (#19) was about how “incredibly stupid” my own belief is. Successive posts addressed to me were in this manner.

    Anyway. Thread is effectively dead now because of AKJ’s posts that were like a dog chasing its own wagging tail: basically, he was having an argument with himself, with phantasmic “liberals” and whatnot.

    “I also hope to God that any non-Sikhs who’ve been observing this discussion do not think that such a wild distortion of Sikh tenets is a reflection of the reality of the faith.”

    No way. I don’t claim expertise in Sikh scriptures or anything like that, but like I said, I lived with a Sikh family for 3 years. I’ve lived around a large number for 10 years and have constant contact with Sikh straight out of Punjab. Some of the people closest to me are Sikh. I have been treated with nothing but the utmost love, equality and respect. The Punjabi family held a Granth Paad (sp?) for me when I was applying to colleges; I used to go to Gurdwaara and make rotis; I’ve been beckoned by Sikh religious men to talk about anything and everything, even though everyone has always known that I am a Gujarati Hindu. Of course I have had a couple of distasteful experiences, but you can find mean people in any religion, society, ethnicity, etc.

  135. Jagdeep — on 5th November, 2006 at 8:28 pm  

    Good discussion, some good comedy and cluelessness here too.

    The Punjabi family held a Granth Paad (sp?)

    I think it’s spelt ‘Akhaand Paath’ :-)

    I think Punjabis and Gujaratis have a special empathy and liking for each other actually.

  136. Jagdeep — on 5th November, 2006 at 8:55 pm  

    Thread is effectively dead now because of AKJ’s posts that were like a dog chasing its own wagging tail: basically, he was having an argument with himself, with phantasmic “liberals” and whatnot.

    LoL! Brilliant image!

  137. Jagdeep — on 5th November, 2006 at 8:56 pm  

    So true too….how many blog discussions end like that. Lots.

  138. anti-knee-jerk — on 6th November, 2006 at 4:59 am  

    Sunny writes: “Hehe. Nice piece of bakwaas at the end AKJ. Actually, I wonder if those AKJ idiots who go around terrorising Sikhs derive their acronym from your name.”

    Pure coincidence. Had I been aware of this unfortunate acronym, I would have selected a different name. I am a harsh critic of our AKJ brothers, but think they’re more likely to respond to constructive criticism from a conservative Sikh like me, because I care about our tradition enough not to easily do away with it. As I’ve gathered from here, this is true enough for most groups. Those who gather on this blog pay no attention whatsover to my criticisms of liberalism, even though I believe i’ve offered good suggestions. Insisting on a problem solving approach that is concrete, specific and local is a better way to go than taking the liberal approach of being abstract, general and global. Liberals want to change society completely just to fix a particular problem is to try to do too much. And since their approach is so drastic, it will never gain the support of good and thoughtful conservatives. Further, by alienating themselves from members of our community who have influence and ability to solve problems, they’ve already limited their success. Liberals are fated to fail because they bite off more than they can chew. If they simply paid as much attention to directly solving the problems which they pretend to care so much about, they’d receive much greater respect and recognition, not to mention support from others. But this is whey they falter, for their egos take over and they must make huge all encompassing changes. Having a real problem in mind, vs having a general abstract one like inequality, makes all the difference in practice. In practice, experience and knowledge count for everything when it comes to solving problems. The more you know about a problem, the more experience you have with the problem, the smaller the problem, the more managable it is, and the more likely you are in solving it. But liberals are not content on merely solving such problems, no they must reform society, they must make things not just better, but unimaginably better. This is where their ideals lead them astray.

    “Yes liberals have ideals. But so do conservatives. That is why the latter want to preserve tradition”

    We are’nt so obsessed with ideals. We are more interested in experience, reality, and skeptical of radical change. Why is it that a man who walks into a university and proclaims, “you scientists have gotten things wrong, this is what you should do instead,” would get no attention, and yet this is what every liberal does when he is convinced he is so completely in possession of a ‘solution’, and that all that stands between great hapiness and achieving it, is tradition and existing society? Scientific problems are complex, but society is even more complex. We should have a greater barrier in place than in science, and yet there is no barrier, for every well meaning idiot from the age of seventeen is convinced he knows how to make things much better.

    “Secondly, society is constantly changing anyway and never remains static, so going by your own pitiful essay, the liberals keep winning (because change keeps happening) while the non-liberals lose.”

    Our challenge as Sikhs has been to keep our society together despite the most perilous circumstances. We survived the Mughals, the Afghani invaders, the British and recently, the Indian government. If we can maintain our society in the way of Guru Nanak through those difficult times, then we have succeeded. The new challenge today is keeping our ways while facing assaults from liberalism and Enlightment. The liberals do not respect our traditions, they are happy to see them gone, so long as it suits their agendas. Liberal Sikhs have taken vipers to their bossoms by siding with liberalism; they must know this as they listen to their fellow liberals constantly and ad nauseum deriding religion as being backwards, and these liberal Sikhs, out of shame, distance themselves from tradition and culture. They start thinking tradition and culture is in ever perpetual decline, and it was always the role of enlightened men like themselves to improve things. Instead they settle upon heady ideals, which are pristine, perfect and untainted by experience. So they see themselves as saviours of humanity. And see themselves continuing the mission of Guru Nanak.

    But they are mistaken. The Sikh community once it was born, became an entity of its own. It developed and maintained a high standard of living which achieved the goals of good society. We do not need to do more than this, if we already have it. A sikh need not worry about ‘male-female equality,’ he simply does not unjustly discriminate against little baby girls, against women. A good sikh can love his sister, his wife, his mother and treat her fairly, and this is the Sikh way; without further proposing that man and woman are equal, or should be equal, though such a thing is false and will always be false. Not equal, for man and woman are different, and these differences will always leave man and woman different, no matter what equality one imagines in his mind.

    “But given that liberals are generally individualistic, while conservatives are about preserving a utopian or existent ideal of society, the liberal ideal is much easily achievable.”

    There is no utopia sunny. There has never been one, nor will there be one. What we have is what we have. If you can make it a little better by doing some honest amount of good, then great. That is noble and no one can possibly criticise you for doing so. The utopia though, is what the liberal wants when he seeks to reform the whole of society in a drastic manner.

    And as to the liberal ideal being easily achievable, well, thats what i’ve tried to point out to the liberal who is so concerned with the individual. I tell him, why worry about society, about conservatives, about social problems, about equality and inequality, about any of that. If individualism is what he cares about, then concentrate on maximising your own individualism. I suggest hedonism for him to best achieve his goals.

  139. anti-knee-jerk — on 6th November, 2006 at 5:11 am  

    Emma writes, “People who are focused on creating change don’t sit around and think about how best to disturb tradition, they think about how to bring about change.”

    Why focus on creating change? Why not focus on solving real problems? The root-cause answer you will give me is not any good. It says, while solving this problem would be nice, what I would rather do instead is solve a much bigger problem. Except you cant. Except you wont be able to achieve that goal. If you try, you have just as much chance to make things worser, perhaps in a different way, and at a different place. Then you dont have any reason to make changes because you have just as much reason not to make them. This is why i insist on solving problems directly, because that brings to bear all our of experience, all of our resources, will and capability.

    “ut what about the patterns that emerge from this work that do signal that there are some root causes, would I not want to see changes in traditions that may help perpetuate these problems?”

    Yes, thats fine. But make sure the pattern comes after the research, not before.

    “I guess my problem is that you’re creating a very arbitrary distinction between Sikhs “then” and Sikhs “now.” Why were they better able to handle upheavals of tradition and why is it unsustainable now?”

    They lived before us. There is a natural distinction, isnt there? But no matter, this is not what I have emphasised. I believe we have inherited a tradition, and its a good one, and even though it was once created, not from a vacuum, whatever it was, once created is what we have. Guru Nanak questioning things does not mean we should wish to be Guru Nanak, and question things for no good reason. This is pointless and a waste of time.

    Jai, thats some defeatist thinking there bro. I dont hate women, far from it. My mother raised me almost single-handledly, if anything I have a soft spot for the fairer sex :) But mate, Not up to defending your beliefs? Email me if you like, msinghing@gmail.com.

    anyone else can email me too, i’d long to talk about this stuff with others even though this discussion seems to be ‘over’.

  140. Sunny — on 6th November, 2006 at 5:18 am  

    Guru Nanak questioning things does not mean we should wish to be Guru Nanak, and question things for no good reason. This is pointless and a waste of time.

    This is what your thinking boils down to… past all that large swathe of text that is basically a limp dig at liberalism.

    Anyway, like I said before, if that is what you believe then you are entitled to it. Many of us here don’t believe that. Many of us here believe the whole point of Guru Nanak telling followers not to follow rituals and traditionals blindly was….. to listen to what he said!
    Now please, you’ve mullered this discussion enough as it is. Just stop right there. We have our differences of opinion; just live with it.

  141. Emma — on 6th November, 2006 at 6:34 am  

    “if anything I have a soft spot for the fairer sex”

    Oh joy.

  142. Taj — on 6th November, 2006 at 9:47 am  

    Anti-knee-jerk, you seem to have conjured up this mythical year dot in Sikh history: everything before it is deemed acceptable and worthy, but all cultural changes after it are ‘liberal’ or ‘un-traditional’. However, you’ve not actually given a date for this line of demarcation; perhaps because it’s easier to instead have the image of an ethereal and immaculate golden age of Sikhi (where people didn’t ask too many questions).
    I can also presume that you still live in the Punjab, still farm the land by traditional methods, still travel everywhere by horse or cart, still are not immunised against various diseases, still communicate by carrier pigeon, and still haven’t discovered plastic. I could add to this list and build up a picture of how it must have been to live the “traditional” unsullied Sikh life that you so desire; however, I think you get the picture – we are not living in the past.
    I kept using that word “still” deliberately, because it emphasises the main danger of blindly sticking to what has been done before: cultural stasis. Sikhs could end up like the Amish – a curio community isolated from modern life; a historical cul-de-sac.
    However, I’m not advocating change for change’s sake. Elements of culture should be preserved; however, these traditions have to be worthy, have to have meaning, have to have “ideals” behind them. Sikhi has plenty of these, but it also has a lot of less seemly cultural baggage. We should not follow traditions just for the sake of cohesion; this “heads-down, keep-together” philosophy goes beyond mere realpolitik and reeks of moral bankruptcy – you’re doing something not because you believe it, but because it keeps power centralised within the community.
    Ultimately, anti-knee-jerk, your position suggests a lack of faith in both the present and the future. We, the Sikhs of today, and the Sikhs of tomorrow are simply not up to scratch. No matter how well-meaning we are, we have the impudence to try to change traditions. And we are not allowed to create a tradition ourselves, because we are unworthy of leaving a legacy. Our history ended back at your year dot.
    I do not believe that. The perfect Sikh society has not been created; human nature being what it is, it may never be created. The Gurus acknowledged that this world is inherently imperfect, but what we do in it is significant. Therefore, Sikhs should carry on striving to be the best people they can be. They should not rest on unworthy laurels. You carry the best of the past forwards.

  143. Jai — on 6th November, 2006 at 12:29 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    =>”I dont hate women, far from it. My mother raised me almost single-handledly,”

    I’m sure your mother must be absolutely thrilled to know that you do not believe her to be the equal of men purely by virtue of her gender.

    =>”if anything I have a soft spot for the fairer sex”

    Then have some damn respect for them instead of having this patronising, pat-them-on-the-head “indulge them” attitude. Or perhaps the problem is the kind of women you have met; given my own family background, I could refer to large numbers of extremely highly-qualified female doctors (especially those from an Indian background) from both the younger & older generations whom I defy you to assert are inferior to men, intellectually or in any other way. I also suspect some of the female Nihangs who frequent the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar would have a few things to say to you about their alleged “inequality with men”.

    However, it is unlikely you will truly understand this point, or the true message of Sikhism and Gurbani kirtan, until you have sufficient control of your “5 Thieves”. Your ego in particular is blocking your ability to understand the truth, and until you overcome this and your own inner spirituality evolves accordingly, it will be difficult for you to comprehend the fact that women really are inherently equal to men, and the fact that Sikhism itself teaches this. The same divine light is in all.

    =>”Jai, thats some defeatist thinking there bro…..But mate, Not up to defending your beliefs?”

    Not “defeatist” by any means, and I am more than capable of “defending my beliefs”. However, it is pointless for me to do so if it’s not going to be constructive and the other party is unlikely to listen. Furthermore, it’s not my job to convince you of anything. You have your beliefs and I have mine, and we live & die with the consequences of our actions, in this life and the next.

    I also don’t believe in arguing purely for argument’s sake; no doubt you are also familiar with Guru Nanak’s advice “Do not argue with fools”.

    My own interpretation of Sikhism is ultimately a matter between me and God on the first level, and me and Guru Gobind Singh on a secondary level. I am more than happy to face them both unashamedly in the afterlife about this matter if the circumstances require it. I hope for your sake that you are too, and that you are willing & able to face the repercussions. There will be no place for, or use for, long convoluted essays or the inappropriate use of “smiley faces” then. All the verbal sophistry and attempts at self-rationalsing intellectual arguments will fall to dust. Our hearts, minds and souls are stripped bare, with the truth visible for the Almighty to see, for better or for worse.

    Can you “handle the truth” ?

  144. sonia — on 6th November, 2006 at 12:32 pm  

    nice one Jai :-)

  145. Desi Italiana — on 6th November, 2006 at 8:16 pm  

    Jagdeep:

    “The Punjabi family held a Granth Paad (sp?)”

    “I think it’s spelt ‘Akhaand Paath’”

    No…I don’t think that is it. I am talking about the 3 day non stop reading of the Granth.

    I must also add that while it was very nice that this event was held for me, most of the time I was feeling very disoriented. In between making countless parathas, infinite pots of chai and subji, I was so sleepy that I really couldn’t enjoy my time.

    But I guess that’s how it goes. The philosophy of seva :)

    *******************

    What’s interesting that the entire conversation veered into “liberal” political philosophies. If I remember correctly, Sukhjit did not even once bring in political liberalism into his initial argument. Neither did I. We were all remaining within the discursive bounds of Sikhism and its ancillary themes. I’m not saying political liberal philosophies and religion/traditions/etc are mutally exclusive, but as far as I know, people (myself included)were talking about something else.

    Why AKJ read political liberalism into the arguments on this thread is yet another mystery.

  146. Desi Italiana — on 6th November, 2006 at 8:19 pm  

    “I was so sleepy that I really couldn’t enjoy my time.”

    Inaccurate: I was so sleepy that I really couldn’t enjoy the religious event (ie peace of mind, listening to the Granth being read even though I understood very little of it, etc.)

  147. anti-knee-jerk — on 7th November, 2006 at 2:43 am  

    Taj, I dont know how you reached those conclusions about me, but they’re very wrong.

    Taj writes “everything before it is deemed acceptable and worthy, but all cultural changes after it are ‘liberal’ or ‘un-traditional’.”

    No. This is not a fair comment Taj. For example when Banda Bahadur lead the Agrarian revolution. One could argue it turned out well for some of us, though a lot of blood was spilled in achieving it. I do not agree with the revolution in principle, but i cannot deny its effects, which I am enjoying today; and as a son of a Jatt family, I could not have enjoyed the many opportunities and comfort that I have had available to me, if Banda Singh had not uplifted the lower castes, like mine, and allowed us Jatts in particular, to become masters of our destiny by owning the land we had had tilled for centuries. But this is the way history is, it is not some picture perfect fairy tale.

    “because it’s easier to instead have the image of an ethereal and immaculate golden age of Sikhi (where people didn’t ask too many questions).”

    By most accounts the golden age of Sikhi would have been around the time of the Gurus. If the Sikhs of that Guru had taken to questioning him ad nauseum, why would they have bothered with having a Guru in the first place? You do realise what it means for a Sikh to take a Guru dont you? It is a relationship that isnt characterised by the student probing and questioning his Master endlessly, to put it mildly. In fact if you did that, you would be accused of having too big an ego, and if you are so wise, why do you need a Guru anyway? Think about this. There is a difference between a man of genius who well understands both human nature and society, questioning things, and every second Rahul who doesnt have a good enough understanding, but does it anyway, out of ignorance, or ego, or whatever. As it stands, most Sikhs are aware of the examples set by Guru Nanak, so they can recgonise them when they occur in practice. If liberal Sikhs think they are in sole possession of such perceptions, then they’re mistaken. All Sikhs know about the examples, and can act on them if there is a need. Sone choose not to pay attention to them, but that doesnt mean they do not comprehend their meaning.

    ” can also presume that you still live in the Punjab, still farm the land by traditional methods, still travel everywhere by horse or cart, still are not immunised against various diseases, still communicate by carrier pigeon, and still haven’t discovered plastic.”

    Sikhs live around the globe, farm by modern means, and travel by modern modes of transport. They have enjoyed modern medicine and have long discovered the magical plastic. Technology has always been embraced by mankind when it appears. The Sikhs are no exception, nor is there any reason why they should not embrace technology.

    ” however, I think you get the picture – we are not living in the past.”

    Who could deny it?

    “Sikhs could end up like the Amish – a curio community isolated from modern life;”

    No way. We’ve always adopted technology quickly and enthusiatically. This was true right from the start, as Sikh armies equipped themselves with the expertise and means to fight in battle, with heavy guns. In more recent times, for example, the Jatt Sikhs were one of the earliest adopters of mechanised farming. My own family bought our first tractors back in the 50s, they were soviet made, and though primitive by today’s standards, were reliable machines which served well. We were into the whole ‘alternative energy’ thing maybe 40 years ago, harnessing small-scale bio-gas for decades, even before the liberals decided global warming was a bad thing. For about ten years now, Jatt Sikhs in panjab have been experimenting with Bio-diesel, as a replacement for ordinary diesel. Sikhs have never hesitated in adopting technology, nor in seeking it.

    “Ultimately, anti-knee-jerk, your position suggests a lack of faith in both the present and the future. We, the Sikhs of today, and the Sikhs of tomorrow are simply not up to scratch. No matter how well-meaning we are, we have the impudence to try to change traditions. And we are not allowed to create a tradition ourselves, because we are unworthy of leaving a legacy. Our history ended back at your year dot.”

    My position does not suggest this at all. I have faith in Sikhs today. I have faith in Sikhs in the past. I have faith in Sikhs of tomorrow too, so long as they keep our ways intact enough to warrant being called Sikhs. No one can reasonably point to one tradition of the Sikhs which needs to be done away with. Not a single one. There is this fear that in commiting ourselves into tradition we risk becoming out-of-date, extinct, or something like that. But where is the evidence for thinking this? There simply isnt any. Sikhs are around here and everywhere; show me what tradition of theirs needs to be abandoned. We make our own history Taj, we always have. But this does not prevent us from doing great things. As I say, the Sikh Gurus were only around a few centuries ago. They saw enough of the world and of humanity to leave a philosophy that is both relevant, applicable and superb. Let others experiment with their society, let them try these new fangled ideals of ‘equality’ and liberalism. But as Sikhs we should not get caught up in the currents of fashion and abandon our ways. If we have decided that we believe in Sikhi, then we ought to follow it, the way it has been followed by our ancestors. There is no need to take up extra beliefs of society, which they had no use for.

    “The perfect Sikh society has not been created; human nature being what it is, it may never be created. The Gurus acknowledged that this world is inherently imperfect, but what we do in it is significant. Therefore, Sikhs should carry on striving to be the best people they can be. They should not rest on unworthy laurels. You carry the best of the past forwards. ”

    I have maintained the same position, that there is no utopia, there hasnt been one, nor will there be one. I do not care for idealizations, nor unrealistic ideals. We are not resting on our laurels if we remain Sikhs in the spirit of our predecessors. Why do people believe this? Sikhs are good people. They are known for being good people. It is irresponsible to do away with what has made us so, all because it is thought ‘progressive’ to follow the fashion of the day? Keeping to our roots will not suddenly make us any less ‘good’, it wont make the achievements of our ancestors who achieved with those beliefs disapear. That stuff is still true, and it is still remarkable.

  148. anti-knee-jerk — on 7th November, 2006 at 2:59 am  

    Jai writes, “I’m sure your mother must be absolutely thrilled to know that you do not believe her to be the equal of men purely by virtue of her gender.”

    I do not believe any two individuals are equal, let alone any two groups of people. As we are born with different gifts, with different abilities, and into different families, so will we live different lives. To deny all of this and think any two people are equal, or could be equal, or *should* be equal, is to get things very wrong. It simply isnt true, nor will it ever be true. That is why I do not think in terms of equality when it comes to people. I do not need to believe I am equal to the next person I meet, just so that I can stop myself from treating him badly. It could happen that immediately I know that life has been much kinder to myself than him, and if I deny this, then I cannot honestly think myself sane. It could be he is in a much better situation than me, in which case I would be a fool not to recognise that too. But the challenge, as i say, is not to force one to think himself equal to every single person he comes in contact with, for this is an impossible undertaking; he becomes only too aware through observation. The challenge is to acknowledge that though we are different (if we are different then we cannot possibly be equal, whatever that would mean), I will still treat the next person I meet well. This could mean not discriminating against a woman if she wants to study – or if she wants a job that is usually done by a man, and so on. My view is that though equality is a silly thing; by rejecting it, I do not substancially differ in substance from the good results that are thought to come from ‘equality’. Since the Sikh Gurus were totally silent on equality, the reasonable assumption is that they did not have an opinion on equality, and certainly not the kind that they’re thought to have, as claimed by some Sikhs. But this didnt prevent them from forming a society which traditionally treats women very well indeed, and it does this well enough, that it needs not to be drastically changed, in line with liberal ideals, to achieve the goals which it has long achieved without them.

    “My own interpretation of Sikhism is ultimately a matter between me and God on the first level, and me and Guru Gobind Singh on a secondary level.”

    Excellent. If you honestly believe that Guru Nanak was a liberal, then all the power to you.

  149. anti-knee-jerk — on 7th November, 2006 at 3:09 am  

    italiana writes, “Why AKJ read political liberalism into the arguments on this thread is yet another mystery.”

    Most Sikhs italiana do not know anything about equality. We’ve never heard of the idea, and if you suggest it to us, we’ll either laugh at it because it sounds like a joke, or we’ll dismiss it as being silly and unrealistic. The Sikhs who consistently believe such things are our Sikh liberal brothers and sisters. To believe that Sikhi requires male-female-equality, the liberal Sikhs convince themselves that Sikhs today have lost their way, that they’ve let culture win the battle over ideals, and because of this, Sikhs no longer treat their women well. Well, this is plausible, but it is false. In fact Sikhs have fallen from our traditional ways where women are treated very well, and are respected greatly, but this says nothing about equality, for the concept is foreign to us.

  150. anti-knee-jerk — on 7th November, 2006 at 3:32 am  

    jai, for some strange reason you think I am biased against women? Is it because of how I have handled italiana? If she had made her points fairly without being so disagreable I would have been much nicer to her. And you have to know I have been only polite towards Emma.

  151. Sunny — on 7th November, 2006 at 3:33 am  

    but this says nothing about equality, for the concept is foreign to us.

    To you maybe, but you have no right to generalise for everyone. ‘Liberal Sikhs’ are still Sikhs.

  152. raz — on 7th November, 2006 at 5:28 pm  

    10,000 Sikh pilgrims have arrived in Pakistan :)

  153. Jagdeep — on 7th November, 2006 at 5:55 pm  

    Taj — superb post my friend.

    anti knee jerk — thanks for making me laugh with your posts.

  154. Jai — on 7th November, 2006 at 5:57 pm  

    Desi Italiana,

    =>”“I think it’s spelt ‘Akhaand Paath’”

    No…I don’t think that is it. I am talking about the 3 day non stop reading of the Granth.”

    That’s what the Akhand Paath is. It’s the proper name for the event.

  155. Jagdeep — on 7th November, 2006 at 6:03 pm  

    There are different kinds of Akhaand Paath with different names though — I will ask my parents about them.

  156. raz — on 7th November, 2006 at 6:20 pm  
  157. Taj — on 8th November, 2006 at 12:39 am  

    Dear anti-knee-jerk,

    I stand by what I wrote. I notice that you have a tendency to seemingly address the many perceptive points made by my peers on this board; however, your replies invariably fail to address their questions and you simply regurgitate your fixed position. Therefore, I have one specific query that I would like you to give a concrete answer to: what was that date before which all traditions associated with Sikhs became sacrosanct? I will rephrase it; after what date in Sikh history could traditions no longer be tampered with? It seems a crucial point for you to explain in your argument.
    I have also noticed that you seem to wilfully misappropriate words. For example, you seem to believe that the word “equality” can only mean “uniformity”. Therefore, by your logic, women and men cannot be “equal” because of the inherent differences between the two. However, your argument fails to take into account a realistic notion of what equality means within the framework of human rights. I’ll refer you here to a section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

    Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

    This is a notion of equality that you do not seem to consider; an equality that does not advocate that everybody be the same, but actually legislates for individual differences. And, in denying that such beliefs exist within Sikhi, you are libelling that faith and its practitioners.
    This brings me on to your other misappropriated word: “ideal”. You have frequently railed against “ideals” as opposed to “traditions”. However, you don’t seem to realise what the word actually means. Here are some dictionary definitions:

    1. a conception of something in its perfection.
    2. a standard of perfection or excellence.
    3. a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation: Thomas Jefferson was his ideal.
    4. an ultimate object or aim of endeavor, esp. one of high or noble character: He refuses to compromise any of his ideals.
    5. something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.
    6. Mathematics. a subring of a ring, any element of which when multiplied by any element of the ring results in an element of the subring.
    –adjective 7. conceived as constituting a standard of perfection or excellence: ideal beauty.
    8. regarded as perfect of its kind: an ideal spot for a home.
    9. existing only in the imagination; not real or actual: Nature is real; beauty is ideal.
    10. advantageous; excellent; best: It would be ideal if she could accompany us as she knows the way.
    11. based upon an ideal or ideals: the ideal theory of numbers.
    12. Philosophy. a. pertaining to a possible state of affairs considered as highly desirable.
    b. pertaining to or of the nature of idealism.

    I have mentioned before that the best of traditions have to have valuable ideals behind them; Sikhi (and all religions) are founded on ideals. They exist in other areas of life; they are the aims that inspire us.
    In denying Sikh “equality” and “idealism” you are once more settling for complacency; a state of “why bother?” – why bother with equality? Why bother changing? And, as I’ve said before, that can only lead to a morass of cultural decay within the Sikh community.

  158. Taj — on 8th November, 2006 at 12:44 am  

    anti-knee-jerk: “No one can reasonably point to one tradition of the Sikhs which needs to be done away with. Not a single one.”

    How about the fact that, despite the words of the Gurus, many Sikhs still persist with the caste system (and have done for hundreds of years)?

  159. Desi Italiana — on 8th November, 2006 at 1:03 am  

    Jai:

    “That’s what the Akhand Paath is. It’s the proper name for the event.”

    Yes, I see that that is the formal name. But I swear that this is what has been told to me countlessly– Granth Paad. I’m going to e-mail Uncle just to make sure (though my friend Hardeep once corrected me the way you have and told me it was Akhand Paath).

    Taj:

    Brilliant post #157. Spot on.

    (BTW, Governor Arnold has been calling me day and night to encourage me to get out and vote (for him). What fun being a California resident.)

  160. Jai — on 8th November, 2006 at 12:06 pm  

    Taj,

    I second Desi Italiana. Very well said in post #157. You summarised exactly what I wanted to say too.

    I’m sure we can add quite a list of things to #158, although the caste system is the most notable example (eg. misogyny, patriarchy, dowries, excessively-expensive weddings, excessive consumption of alcohol, tendency towards inappropriate/excessive machismo and sometimes even violence in some quarters, harrassment of daughters-in-law by in-laws, excessive meddling in adult children’s marriages and who the son/daughter actually marries, etc etc etc).

    All of the above are nothing to do with the Sikh religion and everything to do with being Indian, or (more generally-speaking) some of the more negative aspects of being human per se. It’s terrible for someone to attempt to attempt to excuse some of their own negative attitudes — even in the name of “tradition” — by claiming that such a mentality is condoned by Sikhism.

  161. anti-knee-jerk — on 9th November, 2006 at 6:32 am  

    Taj writes …

    “Therefore, I have one specific query that I would like you to give a concrete answer to: what was that date before which all traditions associated with Sikhs became sacrosanct?”

    Since you insist so much in a date, how about the year 1750? I hope that satisfies your obsession with wanting a date.

    “However, your argument fails to take into account a realistic notion of what equality means within the framework of human rights.”

    Equality in general is too vague and useless a concept. You have to define exactly what you mean, and where, and how. For example in the very precise world of computer programming you have two different types of equality, eq which tells you if two variables point to the same object, and then there is also equal which tells you if the objects pointed at by two variables are in some sense equivalent, though they need not be pointing at the same object. The former is straight forward while the latter is subtle. The reason the former is straight forward is because there is no room for ambiguity in checking whether two variables are eq, we simply check for identity, but when checking for equal we need to know in advance how two different objects can be said to be equivalent. The way this works is we have conventions where we agree that, if for example the variables are integers, then though the variables might be pointing to different objects in memory, the objects themselves are equivalent if they are the same number. It is easier for numbers, and much more complicated for more complex objects. For example, how can two bank account objects be said to be equal? If they have the same balance? But this is no useful equivalence, because two very different bank accounts can at some point have the same balance. But what we have done is defined an equivalence of bank account objects on the particular property of balance. This is how it would work in general too, for we would say two objects are equivalent, with respect to a particular property, if they have the same property. Ofcourse if you allow the property itself to be an object, this makes things much more complex, but you get the point, for we would need to repeat the process again, just to compare our properties.

    This is the story in the very deterministic world of computer programming, where things are precise and well defined. But what can equality possibly mean in society where they are not? Well, I would say you can talk about two ‘objects’ of society being equivalent with respect to a particular property. For example that property might be age. So you can say two people are equal, with respect to age, if they have share the same birthday.

    But it is rare for any two people to be equal, so understood. They will simply differ in the majority of properties. Then to say we wish to make an equal society, we would have to say in what property we want to make our ‘objects’ equal. But here is the trouble. In human societies, different objects have different properties, and these properties relate with other properties. They are intimately correlated with each other. A man who is said to have a high level of strength, will probably also be healthy. So the properties of strength and health are related. And this can be done with other properties, of intelligence, wealth, success, education, etc. What we see is that some properties manifest themselves in other properties. And because the original properties of birth are different, we find that successive properties are also strongly influenced by the original dispersion. But what can be done about this? We wanted equality, though what we find is without homegeniety we simply cannot force an equality of any one particular property.

    Equality is therefore in direct opposition to reality, where not only are people different, but their differences are accounted for by properties which are beyond any one person’s control, simply because of variation. These variations manifest themselves in the variation of succesive properties. Difference multiplies, as it propagates through. When one also adds in the complex interaction of objects and how these affect the properties, it leaves us so unsure of equality that we must abandon the concept, or keep it only as an idealization.

    Equality of human rights is a troubled concept. Are human rights really equal? Is this not countered by our experience where a person gifted with great wealth and ability is able to exercise greater rights than someone who is on the opposite end of the average? This is reality. Whether or not we should be equal when it comes to human rights is a matter of idealogy. I do not believe every human has the same rights, or will have the same rights, or should have the same rights, simply because I do not wish to conjecture about things that are unlikely to happen. I can tell you though, at once, that a society which treats individuals well, and in particular, the individuals who lack in talent, or wealth, or something else, is a good society, and in this way, I find the Sikh tradition has done this in the past, and believe this to be a good tradition to continue. If we remove the property of caste, it will not mean we shall have equality, for in real societies there are a multitude of properties where inequality is the rule. We cannot ever change this, so the challenge is not in the the pursuit of equality – to remove as many inequalities as possible; because this is a futile task, fated to fail, but to hope that lowly individuals are treated well in some real sense.

  162. Jai — on 9th November, 2006 at 11:05 am  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    Instead of continuously beating around the bush, why don’t you just come out with it and tell us all exactly why you personally believe women to be intrinsically inferior to men ?

    Be as detailed as you can. Include verifiable references to biology, neuroscience, psychology, physiology, history, sociology etc if applicable.

    And if possible, also summarise the exact chain of events which resulted in you arriving at this conclusion.

  163. Kismet Hardy — on 9th November, 2006 at 11:09 am  

    Maybe no one is equal. But how you equate that to men being better than women is just plain bollocks

  164. Jai — on 9th November, 2006 at 11:13 am  

    Kismet,

    That’s why I’m interested in hearing AKJ’s breakdown of exactly a man is inherently superior to ANY woman, purely by virtue of his gender.

    Not that I agree with this, of course.

  165. Jai — on 9th November, 2006 at 11:19 am  

    =>”exactly a man ”

    typo: “exactly why a man”

  166. Jagdeep — on 9th November, 2006 at 11:50 am  

    if we remove the property of caste, it will not mean we shall have equality, for in real societies there are a multitude of properties where inequality is the rule

    anti knee jerk, you talk pure rubbish.

    I noticed your references to the greatness of Jatts who used technology to do their farms (hilarious by the way) — you are more concerned about the culture of Jatts than the culture of Sikhi. Shut up about Sikhi — you use it as a smoke screen to hide your Jatt caste mentality with. You have been consistently whipped and refuted and negated on every single issue. You dont even address the points that people make, the punches that they land on you, and you go off and come out with spectacularly bogus rants and tirades against phantoms (oooh liberals liberals…) and come out with sophistry and 100% BAKWAAS like this:

    We cannot ever change this, so the challenge is not in the the pursuit of equality – to remove as many inequalities as possible; because this is a futile task, fated to fail, but to hope that lowly individuals are treated well in some real sense.

    What a pile of garbage. This is the most pathetic thing I have ever read in my life — it turns your stance up to date, which so far has been the rantings of an obfuscating clueless conservative, into something outrageous and sinister. Yeah, the oppressed shouldnt try to change their place, but pray for the largesse of people like you to be treated nicely. What a pile of total nonsense. Guru Gobind Singhji came to Earth to rout your pathetic kind of mentality. What a disgrace that you have the audacity to bring the preservation and name of Sikhi into your backward casteist inspired atavism. Every time you open your mouth you make a fool of yourself.

  167. Sunny — on 9th November, 2006 at 4:36 pm  

    Every time you open your mouth you make a fool of yourself.

    Fo’ sho!

  168. Emma — on 9th November, 2006 at 7:33 pm  

    “We cannot ever change this, so the challenge is not in the the pursuit of equality – to remove as many inequalities as possible; because this is a futile task, fated to fail, but to hope that lowly individuals are treated well in some real sense”

    “Lowly” individuals the world over say thank you but no thank you. Equality isn’t hard to define, and it isn’t futile, unless you’re invested in inequality.

  169. Desi Italiana — on 9th November, 2006 at 7:39 pm  

    Guys, let AKJ be so that he can shadow box with sinister “liberals” who are out to reform Sikhism to the point that we will no longer recognize it.

  170. Taj — on 9th November, 2006 at 9:22 pm  

    Dear anti-knee-jerk,
    I will address what you’ve written as systematically as possible.
    Firstly, I presume that you must be joking when you mention 1750 as the date before which all traditions associated with Sikhs became sacrosanct. It seems so glib the manner in which you conjured this year from the air without explaining your thinking or providing some historical justifications; it’s almost insulting to the intelligence of anyone reading. I am not in the grip of an “obsession” with this date (as you suggest); rather I am simply following your argument to its logical conclusion (a simple reductio ad absurdum). Because what this means is that, according to your thinking, a Sikh would have been perfectly able to change and create traditions in 1749; however, just two years later, that same Sikh would have had to blindly stick with what went before. This is a literal representation of everything you have written in your posts e.g. “my view is that we shouldnt change tradition stuff like history, ceremonies, etc, even if people before us might have done it”(anti-knee-jerk). By asking for a specific date, I’m merely wished to highlight the absurdity of what you have stated in a more tangible sense.
    Also, I feel I should reiterate what I said about the notion of equality (because, again, you seem to have ignored my point). In the field of ethics, equality is not a belief in forced conformity for all people; it is, rather, the provision of safeguards that actively allow people their individuality. Your use of mathematics and computer programming is irrelevant; it neither sheds light on the subject of human freedoms, nor functions as an analogy. However, I suspect you will not pay attention to what I have said in this matter; you seem to have a Humpty Dumpty approach to language (“when I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean” – Lewis Carroll).
    This brings me on to the actual world-view you describe. Amidst the attempted backtracking at the end of #161, you paint a picture of a place where all attempts at equality fail because of the inherent differences between people. I will allow you (just for the moment) your unique definition of the term “equality”. Nonetheless, I consider your view of humanity as spectacularly defeatist; it also goes strongly against the Sikhi ethos (e.g. “Chardi Kala”). It is also interesting that, as someone so eager to defend Sikhi traditions, there seems no genuinely useful place for the concept of charity (vand chhako – one of the three pillars of Sikh life).
    But I digress from the main point I wish to make. You have presented a view of humanity where no true equality is possible because of the differences between people. I will reiterate it: you believe that individualism triumphs over all attempts at collective equality. This leads on, then, to the staggering paradox at the heart of your argument. How can someone who believes so much in individual wilfullness be so fervently behind the idea of community cohesion and collective traditions? These two viewpoints cannot exist within one person without a whole lot of self-deception going on. I would like you to answer this question as truthfully as possible.

  171. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:14 am  

    Jai,

    “Instead of continuously beating around the bush, why don’t you just come out with it and tell us all exactly why you personally believe women to be intrinsically inferior to men ?”

    This is rich stuff, Jai. You go on and on about sophistry and then proceed to ask such a question. What could your intention be, other than indulge in a bit of sophistry and plausible reasoning yourself. Because no matter what arguments are exchanged, or what names you call me, it cannot change what is no doubt plainly clear in your mind and in others, that this question has a common sense answer which everyone knows from experience.

    “Be as detailed as you can. Include verifiable references to biology, neuroscience, psychology, physiology, history, sociology etc if applicable.”

    Why – so you can use your favorite reply of ‘sophistry?’ I wont bother wasting my time with someone stuck in a continuous battle with common sense. What a joke. You wish to ‘justify’ your silly beliefs with pseudo-science and sophistry, exactly what you have accused me of. Because it only pseudo-science and sophistry which will convince you that man and woman are equal. If they are not equal, does not not follow that they’re unequal? This cannot have escaped your sharp intellect, though you probably find it too discomforting to force you to revise your beliefs.

    “And if possible, also summarise the exact chain of events which resulted in you arriving at this conclusion.”

    Oh yes, because you’ve shown yourself sooo empathetic to myself, that I should give you more and more of my personal opinions which you never intend to take seriously simply because they disagree with your ‘ideals’, regardless of reality.

    But this is what you are proposing; just another argument about the inferiority of woman, where you will never reason rationally, because of your personal feelings on a ridiculous belief in idealized equality. Nevermind that I have not once suggested that women are inferior to man, because as I have explained, you cannot compare the two, without first proposing on what property we are to perform the comparison. If you can give me a list of properties where you think man and woman are equal, we can talk about who is superior and who inferior, or equal.

  172. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:15 am  

    kismet, “Maybe no one is equal. But how you equate that to men being better than women is just plain bollocks ”

    i have not ‘equated’ such a thing. You have.

  173. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:18 am  

    Jagdeep, you know my email address. If you want to meet up and discuss things personally, lets do it, but dont just sit there acting bad.

    “Yeah, the oppressed shouldnt try to change their place, but pray for the largesse of people like you to be treated nicely. What a pile of total nonsense.”

    Right, and you believe in a Utopia where everyone is happy and equal. Keep dreaming son.

  174. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:35 am  

    Taj, thats a horrible argument. I wont even bother with touching it. You seem to think that my position implies there was a strict line after which the traditions were not to be changed. Though I never suggested such a thing, nor do i need to suggest it or answer to it, so that my position is consistent. My view is that the experience of our society is what gives us our traditions. I emphasize the Sikh experience so strongly because that is what I turn to, for a guide on what Sikhi is about. It alone tells us the truth – and it does not wish to mislead me into shoe-horning fashionable ideals into Sikhi, even if those ideals are nice things, but foreign to the Sikh experience.

    I have argued that even if you believe in those nice things like equality, that this does not mean our Gurus did. I have kept my personal views on equality silent because I do not believe my personal views are relevant on the subject. If the Gurus believed in them, if they did not, this is logically independent from myself. What i am interested in is showing that liberal beliefs cannot be smuggled into Sikhi, because the experience of our society tells quite clearly against them ever existing. As i have also explained, this does not mean that the Sikh experience has not seen good members of society being treated well. I do not believe my position implies anything as absurd as ‘inferiority of women’, because that is not a Sikh view, and has never been.

    The mistake with that logic is to think that the denial of ‘equality’, is ‘wanting inequality’ – or what is equivalent – saying someone is superior and someone else is inferior, where these words are loaded very heavily indeed. That is not fair.

    A man who treats all people that he comes into contact with well; man or woman, child or aged is a good man – even if he doesnt’nt beleive everyone is equal, should be equal or anything like that.

    Learn some logic please and inform yourselves. The denial of equality is not just ‘inequality’, it can also be ‘i am silent on both.’ Or what is even more reasonable, I am silent on equality and inequality, but I do believe girls and boys should be able to study, that women should be able to vote, that a seperated man should be able to raise a child, etc.

    What you have done is taken some nice things we’ve seen in recent history, and decided because there was some evil being done, and the evil involved someone lacking some rights, and then after the rights were given to that someone, then good has been done, but whats more, we are to generalise from this that equality in general is good and desirable, and that is what we should always wish to achieve.

  175. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:41 am  

    Taj writes “Nonetheless, I consider your view of humanity as spectacularly defeatist; it also goes strongly against the Sikhi ethos (e.g. “Chardi Kala”). It is also interesting that, as someone so eager to defend Sikhi traditions, there seems no genuinely useful place for the concept of charity (vand chhako – one of the three pillars of Sikh life).”

    I do not believe Sikhi is defeatist. Far from it. I do not believe there is no room for charity. I strongly deny these claims. As I say, I accept the Sikh experience and tradition – as it is – without interpretation. I do not need to cast all that history through some idealizing filter of equality, or something stupid like that. I accept the sum total of the Sikh experience – good or bad or imperfect – as it is. I do not need to believe in equality because without it Sikhi is imperfect since all progressive men and women today believe in equality.

    What if tomorrow they beleive something else, will we also say, since Sikhi is progressive it too MUST believe in that new something.

  176. anti-knee-jerk — on 11th November, 2006 at 5:55 am  

    I had a pretty Hijabaan hand me a pamphet the other day, which demonstrated quite effortlessly that in Islam – man and woman are equal. I took great comfort in this, and realised ofcourse good liberal muslims must believe something like this too, otherwise they’d find the conflict of beliefs too violent. Though, to find out what Islam really says about equality I would have to turn to reality and scrutinise the islamic experience. She had done a good job with the pamplet though; it was well decorated with quotes from the Quaran and Haddith, as well as stories of the Prophet Muhammad acting in a way that doesnt disagree with the ideal of equality. I am sure she believes that man and woman are equal under Islam too.

    (I use the word experience here in its proper manner; not the common one which means how many years you’ve been working with such and such, but what have you seen , observed, etc. What knowledge you have.)

  177. Jai — on 11th November, 2006 at 12:28 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    re: post #171

    Please do not resort to the use of “Tu Quoque” tactics in order to avoid the question. You have repeatedly asserted throughout this discussion that “men and women are not equal, and Sikhism does not promote this either”, and have remarked that there are specific reasons as to why you believe this yourself, but not once have you explained exactly what these reasons are.

    I am calling you on this point and requesting you to tell us all a) the exact reasons why you do not believe men and women to be equal {from both a religious and a personal point of view}, and b) exactly what sequence of events led you to this conclusion. And please note the distinction between “equal” and “identical”. Nobody here is saying men & women are identical. “Equal” in terms of their intrinsic basic value, their human rights, their right to live in dignity and to be treated with a fundamental level of human respect, their value in the eyes of God, the presence of the divine light inside them — Yes, absolutely. “Identical” — No.

    You cannot repeatedly make assertions about a certain topic and then refuse to explain the basis of those claims. Otherwise, what is the point of making loaded statements and then refusing to explain your reasoning when challenged about it ?

    If you think that the other parties aren’t interested in hearing your explanations, then why raise the topic in the first place ? It’s pointless to say “I believe in X, but I will refuse to specify exactly why I believe this because I think you will refuse to believe my arguments”.

    It is not correct for you to complain about a lack of empathy towards you if you refuse to enable the other parties to understand exactly what has resulted in your mindset.

    You said earlier there were certain reasons which have led you to take this stance on male vs. female equality. I am asking you directly what these reasons are and what led you to this conclusion.

  178. Jagdeep — on 11th November, 2006 at 12:41 pm  

    Right, and you believe in a Utopia where everyone is happy and equal. Keep dreaming son.

    anti knee jerk as I said, every time you open your mouth you make a fool of yourself.

    The idea that the oppressed should sit back and rely on the largesse of backward people like yourself who shamelessly invoke the name of Sikhi and the preservation of Sikhi as a smokescreen for your backwards casteist disposition is disgusting.

    As I said before, Guru Gobind Singhji came to earth to rout the mentality of people like you.

    Your display of sophistry is amusing though in a way to see how someone squirms. You are being humiliated by everyone on this thread, you even spit on the basic principles of Sikhi as enunciated by Guruji in the creation of the Khalsa which enjoins Sikhs to struggle for equality and against backward casteist inspired arrogance, and you have the audacity to place yourself above those principles? You don’t answer a single point made by me, sunny, Taj or Jai, you just squirm and squirm your nonsense, are you a sucker for punishment? Pathetic are the ways of the casteist backward people, the ones who claim to speak for the preservation of Sikhi, but care only for the preservation of their own backward mentalities. PATHETIC.

    Now, I’m off to watch Borat :-)

  179. Jai — on 11th November, 2006 at 1:24 pm  

    For anyone who’s interested, Wikipedia has an absolutely superb page on the issue of male-female equality within Sikhism. I very strongly recommend that everyone checks it out — Please see here.

    Definitely worth reading.

  180. Jagdeep (v2.0) — on 11th November, 2006 at 2:41 pm  

    Apologies for this thinly-veiled plug, but hey, it’s a related(ish) topic!

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  181. anti-knee-jerk — on 12th November, 2006 at 3:31 am  

    Jai

    “you have repeatedly asserted throughout this discussion that “men and women are not equal, and Sikhism does not promote this either”,”

    They are not equal. Sikhism does not say man and woman are equal, or should be equal, or anything at all about equality of man and woman. That is only your own personal belief.

    “but not once have you explained exactly what these reasons are.”

    I have not seen any proof for the claim that Sikhi has anything to say about equality. I cannot give proof for why Sikh is silent about equality. I can give good plausible arguments but these will never be acceptable to an extremist whose mind is already made up. I can say for example, that equality is a liberal ideal, that it was founded in Europe and it was related to Enlightenment and revolution in France. I can say quite assuredly that the early Sikhs were not involved in this movement for they were far too pre-occupied with other matters. Indeed this movement happened after the Sikh Gurus. It was taken up by heavy weight liberals like Stuart Mill in the 19th century. Still, Sikhs were not exposed to the concept. This came much later in the later half of the 20th century, following independence, when local writers on Sikhism started participating globally in intellectual matters. They became in contact with liberal ideas on religion, and were able to effortlessly push the idea that the Sikh religion’s achievements could be interpreted as being broadly in line with enlightenment ideals. That early Sikhs were ‘progressive’ because they believed in ‘equality’ and so on. I know some Sikhs believe so strongly that Sikhi does have a strong opinion on equality, and they believe this very strongly indeed, but this is not any kind of proof to me.

    ““Equal” in terms of their intrinsic basic value, their human rights, their right to live in dignity and to be treated with a fundamental level of human respect, their value in the eyes of God, the presence of the divine light inside them”

    Man and woman have different intrinsic values. A mother is a of different value to her baby than a father. In a family – man and woman have distinct roles. The same goes for community in general. Both are valuable but they cannot be said to be equal because they involve doing different things and contributing in different ways. They are not exchangeable. If they are not exchangeable that means they are not equivalent.

    Man and woman do not have the same rights. Historically this has not been true, and it is not true today. One can easily choose two random individuals and see that they have different rights. This is true enough if the first individual is chosen from a group of men, and the other from a group of women. Only homogenity of society can achieve this, and surely no one here is proposing communism as a solution to the problem of unequal rights? As i have held, inequality of rights is the rule in society, and I cannot see this changing unless we alter things very drastically indeed, perhaps towards communism.

    “their right to live in dignity”

    What meaning could this have unless it is recognised that historically and always there has been a choice on whether or not women should have the ‘right to live in dignity’? As i have stressed, there is that choice, and in Sikhism the choice is to accept this very strongly. But there is a choice all the same because Sikh society is not an equal one, and men take the important roles of leadership in the community. If you are going to wax on some post-modern flex, you would say ‘the power balance lies with man.’ Though I wont say that myself because I do not think its a good way to put it.

    “to be treated with a fundamental level of human respect”

    Absolutely. This has been my opinion all along. Sikh society should treat others well. Does this bear mentioning?

    “Otherwise, what is the point of making loaded statements and then refusing to explain your reasoning when challenged about it ?”

    As I have said I cannot prove to you that the Sikh Gurus did not have something to say about equality. If they didnt say something – I cannot prove that they didnt say that something. Is this too hard to comprehend? I cannot prove that the Sikh gurus did not have an opinion on whether ‘Monty Panesar will succeed in the Ashes’ because perhaps they did have an opinion on this, but I just havent come across it yet. But rationally it is not just unlikely, it is impossible, because monty came after the Gurus, just as did liberalism and equality.

    As i have tried to explain many times, if you dont know anything about equality, then it doesnt necessarily mean you disagree with ‘equality’, it could be that you simply dont have an opinion on it. Dont you understand this? Acknowledge my comment because I cannot believe such things are going unnoticed.

    Further if you disagree with equality does not mean you believe ‘women are inferior. You could simply choose not to believe in equality, but still hold women should be treated with respect, able to take roles that they are capable of performing well in, and so on. Acknowledge this too. This is my view. I reject equality but do not believe this forces me to say women are inferior.

  182. anti-knee-jerk — on 12th November, 2006 at 3:46 am  

    Jagdeep,

    “The idea that the oppressed should sit back and rely on the largesse of backward people like yourself who shamelessly invoke the name of Sikhi and the preservation of Sikhi as a smokescreen for your backwards casteist disposition is disgusting.”

    That is not true. I have not told the ‘opressed’ to sit back and take it. This is not the Sikh way, and it is not mine. Do i really need to say this? The Sikh tradition encouraged one-man-ship, where one is urged to lift himself up. The usual comment about there being no Sikh beggars should be mentioned. Take it easy on the name calling sweet-heart, you are getting a bit emotional there. Liberal vice, I know, but still.

    “You are being humiliated by everyone on this thread, you even spit on the basic principles of Sikhi as enunciated by Guruji in the creation of the Khalsa which enjoins Sikhs to struggle for equality and against backward casteist inspired arrogance, and you have the audacity to place yourself above those principles?”

    Who has humiliated me? I do not share your assessment. I do not believe this happened at all. I have not spat on any basic principles (read liberal ideals for this to make sense). The Khalsa was created to struggle for equality? No, liberals dont make things up do they! Jai are you watching this? The Khalsa was created to struggle for equality! And then you wonder why I take a low opinion of liberals. They are free to invent aspirations for our ancestors at a whim.

    “backwards casteist disposition is disgusting”

    I am sorry for bringing up my background. I didnt realise this would offend you so much. Perhaps I should have given a different example for members of our community, but this is the one I am most familiar with, you know, because I have been exposed to it the most. Is it is arrogance to be mindful of the achievements of your family? Because that is what I had in mind. The things I mentioned, they are examples from my own family.

    “You don’t answer a single point made by me, sunny, Taj or Jai, you just squirm and squirm your nonsense, are you a sucker for punishment?”

    I asked for a list of these points so I can address them. I have not bothered replying to bad points, especially the ones which mischaracterise myself and then proceed to beat down a strawman.

  183. anti-knee-jerk — on 12th November, 2006 at 3:49 am  

    Jai that wiki link was horrible. It started well enough, but soon the propaganda got too overwhelming. By the way, perhaps you want to look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau for someone who should receive your admiration. He at least expressed himself on equality explicitly enough. All the best.

  184. anti-knee-jerk — on 12th November, 2006 at 4:13 am  

    Some clarifications are in order for those who think they’ve seen something that is not there:

    a) I think equality is not possible because people are different. That does not mean I do not understand equality the way you understand it. It doesnt mean that I think equality is only possible if people are identical. I have studied equality so I understand what it means, especially to liberals. I just happen to think that it is not possible to attain equality because people are different, and this brings about unequality, and will always do so, regardless.

    b) Acknowledging that we live in an unequal society, and that we’ve always lived in an unequal society, does not mean one is against equality. This is a factual assessment of reality and is not an opinion.

    c) Believing in equality does not change reality. It doesnt change the world because you believe something. The world functions much the same way regardless of what you believe. Specifically, if you believe in equality, it does not change the past history of the Sikhs. If you are holding that early Sikhs too believed in equality, then it your burden to demonstrate this, otherwise you are making things up and passing them off as fact.

    d) Believing all the things about the Sikh faith as most sikhs know it does not prevent you from not believing in equality. Indeed most sikhs, even good ones, today are unfamilar with the ideal of equality. That doesnt prevent them from being good Sikhs. This has always been true, too. So in what sense do liberal sikhs emphasise this equality so strongly? This disparity is too great to go unmentioned. Further, is it a reasonable explanation to give that – “culture is the problem. there would be equality if not for it” – or is it simply denying the evidence because it disagrees with our beliefs?

    i’ll leave it there because if its too long, no one will bother reading.

  185. Emma — on 12th November, 2006 at 5:37 am  

    anti-knee-jerk,
    “You could simply choose not to believe in equality, but still hold women should be treated with respect, able to take roles that they are capable of performing well in, and so on.”

    And who decides what roles women are capable of performing well in?
    You held up Rousseau as someone to be admired for his writings on equality but if I remember correctly, Rousseau cleverly decided to exclude women from those people who should be equal, relegating them to the home and blaming them for the problems that men faced in achieving equality.
    That’s the problem, unless equality is explicitly stated and fought for, inequality intentionally or unintentionally always finds a way to sneak in.

    “Believing in equality does not change reality.”
    The people who fought in the civil rights movement (among others) might like to disagree…just a thought.

    As to your argument that there is no place in Sikhi for equality between men and women, I don’t agree. And that’s that. Others here have put forward great arguments for why you might be wrong and I can’t say it any better. We’ll just have to disagree.

  186. anti-knee-jerk — on 12th November, 2006 at 5:58 am  

    Nah emma, I dont admire Rousseau, but if equality is your thing, at least he talked about it explicitly, even if he wasnt up to scratch as an equalitarian.

    “hat’s the problem, unless equality is explicitly stated and fought for, inequality intentionally or unintentionally always finds a way to sneak in”

    Inequality is natural. Equality is an idealization. it is no small coincidence that it sneaks in.

    “Believing in equality does not change reality.”
    The people who fought in the civil rights movement (among others) might like to disagree…just a thought.

    Which civil rights movement em?

    “As to your argument that there is no place in Sikhi for equality between men and women, I don’t agree. And that’s that.”

    Equality in what sense? That men and women might have occasionally exchangeable roles? Thats cool, thats not against Sikhi. Nor is women being treated well and being regarded as very important members of a good society. Equality in the sense of liberalism? Nah thats just liberalism, not Sikhi.

  187. Emma — on 12th November, 2006 at 7:22 am  

    “Which civil rights movement em?”
    I was talking about the American Civil Rights movement of the 50′s and 60′s but how does it matter? Civil Rights movements are based on equality and they did come up with results.

    I didn’t say you admired Rousseau but I think it’s wrong to hold him up as any example of equality because his logic was flawed to say the least.

    And you never answered my question about who should decide which roles women are capable of performing well in? Asking me which civil rights movement isn’t that important is it?

  188. Taj — on 12th November, 2006 at 9:42 am  

    First of all, good link Jai; something nice and tangible for certain people to chew on.
    Anti-knee-jerk, I still find it baffling that you perist with your unique definition of equality; in stressing so much the over-riding differences between people you are, in effect, casting doubt on the notion of humanity itself. I asked you a question then (which you didn’t answer): how can someone who believes so much in individual wilfullness at the same time advocate ideas of Sikh community cohesion and tradition so much? Surely the logical end to your position is a situation where society ceases to exist, where each man (and woman) becomes an island. There’s an irony here as some might say that your approach is simply a logical and extreme extension of certain liberal philosophies on individualism. (By the way, please don’t use my digression as a means not to answer the question).
    The other irony is that, for someone who sets himself up as a defender of tradition, you have been the greatest revisionist in this discussion. You have frequently changed Sikhi to suit your own needs; indeed, your whole approach is based on your own prejudices. Consequently, you have tied yourself in knots when trying to place those beliefs into a coherent philosophy. I recall that this discussion began by examining the Sikh marriage ceremony. If you had simply explained your position on the matter with adequate backing-up, I’m sure people would have accepted your personal opinion (accepted though not necessarily agreed). However, you instead chose to expand beyond that and make several sweeping generalisations about Sikhi, equality and traditions; you also, duplicitously, tried to give these opinions the sheen of historical and intellectual fact. However, many people have pointed out the flaws in your approaches, but you either chose to ignore them or indulge in some tiresome and obvious sophistry; subsequently, your argument has died a death by a thousand cuts. Increasingly, you have made paranoid remarks about “liberals” trying to change (your own personal) Sikhi without having the bravery to address us – your accusers. All this has made your moniker highly ironic; in your Tourettes-like responses to criticims of your argument, you’re like a man trying to put out a fire on an oil-well. With a sponge.
    I hope you take the time to reasses your opinions, but I suspect you are too firmly entrenched. At least have the honesty to recognise that they are opinions, and don’t try to place them within a pseudo-philosophical framework.

  189. Taj — on 12th November, 2006 at 10:05 am  

    Continuation
    - If you don’t like the idea of having equal rights with a woman, just say it, anti-knee-jerk; don’t try to filter it through a fake argument. It makes you sound like an alcholic who says he drinks only for medicinal purposes.

  190. Jai — on 12th November, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

    Taj,

    Thanks for your continuing thoughtful arguments. You’re saying it all very well. Keep going.

    =>”The Khalsa was created to struggle for equality? No, liberals dont make things up do they! Jai are you watching this? The Khalsa was created to struggle for equality!”

    I think this says it all. It betrays a marked lack of understanding of the events of Vaisakhi 1699 and the principles of the Khanda-de-Pahul Amrit ceremony (or even “Ape Guru Ape Chela”, ie. why Guru Gobind Singh did not become “Singh” until he was baptised by some of his followers). If I were a more cynical person I would begin to suspect that AKJ is not actually a Sikh at all but is masquerading as one in order to further his own agenda. However, some other facts indicate that he is indeed from some kind of Punjabi background, although his interpretation of Sikhism is wildly distorted.

    =>” If you don’t like the idea of having equal rights with a woman, just say it, anti-knee-jerk; don’t try to filter it through a fake argument.”

    I completely agree, Taj. I think that AKJ has a deeply-rooted misogynistic mindset and is retroactively trying to distort Sikhism so that it fits his own attitude towards women.

    It also raises some disturbing questions about whether he even believes in the basic, intrinsic equality of the human race as a whole, or if he thinks that some “races/ethnic groups” are superior to others.

    However, since he regards a person’s fundamental worth as being based on their role in life — and not their value for its own sake — I can see why he would have difficulties processing the concept which you and I (and some others here) have been talking about.

    AKJ — At a fundamental human level, do you think that poor people are not intrinsically equal to rich people ? Or powerless people compared to the powerful & influential ? Or the extremely-educated compared to the poorly-educated ? Or the old compared to the young ? Or members of some occupations compared to others ? Or members of some religions compared to others ?

    I am not talking about their station & status in life. I am referring to their inherent humanity, the divine spark which is present within all.

    I think the basic problem is the fact that you cannot see the latter.

  191. Jai — on 12th November, 2006 at 12:04 pm  

    Typo: “Ape Guru Ape Chela”

    That should course be spelt “Appe Guru Appe Chela”.

  192. Sukhjit Singh — on 12th November, 2006 at 12:42 pm  

    I completely agree, Taj. I think that AKJ has a deeply-rooted misogynistic mindset and is retroactively trying to distort Sikhism so that it fits his own attitude towards women.

    As Jagdeep has said, it is a disgrace that this pakhaandi is daring to use Sikhi as an excuse to advance his own backwardness and backward mentality. Disgusting. Taj and Jai you have made excellent points. I am astonished at one mans capacity for such delusion and sophistry, there is something greasy and spine-tingling about it.

  193. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 12:16 am  

    Emma

    “I was talking about the American Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s but how does it matter? Civil Rights movements are based on equality and they did come up with results.”

    Okay, then I would say men like Malcolm X did not care two hoots about equality as such, but wanted to see the black man given more rights and to see his race uplifted. I have a feeling most influential people who have involved themselves in such movements are driven much the same way. They want to see their own people treated much better. I say this from studying the examples of Jomo, Horta and Malcolm specifically, but I see it to be true enough with men like Bhagat Singh and Mandela, to mention a few. Bhagat, for example would never accept anything as ridiculous as equality with the white man, even though he was a Marxist. That is to say, it is not true to argue they were equalitarians as such; the evidence only points to them wanting better treatment of their own kind. This does not prevent them, ofcourse, of talking about equality later, or even believing in equality, but that is not the central focus of their original mission.

    “I didn’t say you admired Rousseau but I think it’s wrong to hold him up as any example of equality because his logic was flawed to say the least.”

    So who is to be admired for being a flawless proponent of equality?

    “And you never answered my question about who should decide which roles women are capable of performing well in? Asking me which civil rights movement isn’t that important is it?”

    Humanity decides. Just look at its experience. Tradition, culture, and so on. That is where I find my answer, as would any other rational being. Asking you which movement is important, for we can then talk meaningfully about that particular movement. As I have said, Malcolm X could not be considered an equalitarian. He was called a black nationalist, and with good reason. Martin Luther King Jr was always keen to emphasize the plight of his people. That is what you expect from someone at the front of the civil rights movement, because you assume they got there because they’ve had a very strong passionate interest in seeing an improvement in their condition.

  194. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 12:18 am  

    Taj

    “Anti-knee-jerk, I still find it baffling that you perist with your unique definition of equality; in stressing so much the over-riding differences between people you are, in effect, casting doubt on the notion of humanity itself.”

    I stopped reading after suffering through this convoluted sentence. If you are going to try your best and misunderstand my points and then proceed to ‘argue’ against them, then good luck to you, but I wish to have no part of it. I have been specific enough about equality that I deserve to have better responses than this.

  195. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 12:32 am  

    “I think this says it all. It betrays a marked lack of understanding of the events of Vaisakhi 1699 and the principles of the Khanda-de-Pahul Amrit ceremony.”

    Veer, why dont you tell me what understanding I should have of the first Vaisakhi so that we can talk about it? That is better than saying I lack an understanding without saying what it ought to be.

    “If I were a more cynical person I would begin to suspect that AKJ is not actually a Sikh at all but is masquerading as one in order to further his own agenda.”

    heh heh. What is my agenda? Thats funny. I have no agenda. I learnt about Sikhi from liberal sources, so my skills at ‘questioning’ have been honed very sharply indeed. I have since turned my eye at ‘sikhism’ (liberal idea of sikhi) instead, and found it a rich source of myth, down right lies, and half truths.

    “I think that AKJ has a deeply-rooted misogynistic mindset and is retroactively trying to distort Sikhism so that it fits his own attitude towards women.”

    No I do not. I actually believed in equality for most of my adult life. I took it very seriously indeed because I believed in that stuff so much. My opinion on equality, as always, is informed by experience, more than anything else. But still – I would accept Sikhi believes in equality if there was good reason to believe that. I just havent found it yet. Sikhi believes in good society. Liberalism believes in individual freedom. Equality is a liberal ideal. Sikhi cares not for equality, only for good society, and if that can be achieved without talking about equality, then that is perfectly acceptable.

  196. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 12:42 am  

    Those above quotes were from Jai, as are these ones:

    “However, since he regards a person’s fundamental worth as being based on their role in life — and not their value for its own sake — I can see why he would have difficulties processing the concept which you and I (and some others here) have been talking about.”

    I understand the source of our miscommunication now. I have always been talking about practical matters – on how people are in real societies, while you have been talking about how an individual should think of people he comes into contact with. I have emphasized that inequality is always a practical truth, because I see it as unavoidable that people will have different endowments, gifts, talents, not to mention rights and backgrounds. I have emphasized that people will be born into different homes, where some are richer and some are poor. This has always been true in the past, and will always be true in the future.

    Jai, it is a rare man indeed who treats the worth of a stranger as much as he does himself, or that of his family. It is an idealization to think one could, and should, and I am not sure how reasonable that idealization is. I regard my sister more valuably than you, for example, though, I would think you have more worth than say, George Bush. But George Bush has more rights than you do and he has more rights than a lot of people. That is a fact about reality, without saying that it is good or bad (I have to add this disclaimer because people seem to assume I am sanctioning everything I do not explictly condemn.)

    I understand your position about the value of each and everyone, but do not believe in substancially, partially because I have more value for those who are close to me, than strangers I do not know. That is my personal view, but I do not suppose it is unreasonable to say that most people would feel the same way.

  197. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 12:59 am  

    “AKJ — At a fundamental human level, do you think that poor people are not intrinsically equal to rich people ? Or powerless people compared to the powerful & influential ? Or the extremely-educated compared to the poorly-educated ? Or the old compared to the young ? Or members of some occupations compared to others ? Or members of some religions compared to others ?”

    I do not have a fixed opinion on this Jai. In general I reject it. I think Sikhi rejects it too, in general, for it says some people are really bad, so they cannot be considered equal to, for example, saints. Remember the example of Bhai Gurdas saying of the Minas who followed Prithi Chand, they “are false coins from a false mint.” They were given that (derogatory) name by Bhai Gurdas too. I would again answer each of your questions by saying, practically, there is a difference between those people. I would not say that that means one should not treat them well. One should. But even if a fully Sikh society, those differences would still exist because they are unavoidable.

    “I am not talking about their station & status in life. I am referring to their inherent humanity, the divine spark which is present within all.”

    This is too vague, Jai. But in general I reject it, because practically we are different, and especially because bad people are not equal to good people.

  198. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 4:22 am  

    Taj

    “how can someone who believes so much in individual wilfullness at the same time advocate ideas of Sikh community cohesion and tradition so much? Surely the logical end to your position is a situation where society ceases to exist, where each man (and woman) becomes an island.”

    Good asking! Yes, if i had only my views available and nothing else, I might suggest the island thing. As it happens, experience tells us that it does not happen that way. See, my thinking something doesnt mean “each man (and woman) becomes an island”, for I am only too aware that my thinking something, is logically independent from reality. Further there is individual variation and inequality in reality, and this is true about reality too. I turn to experience each time I make a claim, or when I consider someone elses’ claim.

  199. Taj — on 13th November, 2006 at 9:17 am  

    Anti-knee-jerk, you haven’t answered the question. You’ve merely piled incoherent excuses on top of incoherent excuses. The general gist of it is: “my thinking something is logically independent from reality”. I had to laugh when I saw this; many people would agree that your assertaion (apart from the “logical” part) – your thought patterns clearly are divorced from reality.

  200. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 9:26 am  

    which question would you like me to answer Taj?

  201. Taj — on 13th November, 2006 at 9:52 am  

    How can someone who believes so much in individual wilfullness at the same time advocate ideas of Sikh community cohesion and tradition so much?

  202. anti-knee-jerk — on 13th November, 2006 at 9:58 am  

    Ah okay Taj. I would say because they are not necessarily conflicting things? I have argued that individual differences exist and this leads to inequality, but this does not mean community cohesion is impossible, for it has been possible in the past, and is therefore possible in the future.

    How is that?

  203. Jai — on 13th November, 2006 at 11:43 am  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    You asked earlier why there were no female Sikh Gurus. The reason, in short, is because people like you would not have listened to them. There’s your answer.

    =>”Veer, why dont you tell me what understanding I should have of the first Vaisakhi so that we can talk about it? That is better than saying I lack an understanding without saying what it ought to be.”

    You stated earlier that you don’t think that one of the reasons the Khalsa was formed was to represent equality and to fight for this ideal too. It is clear that you don’t understand some of the most basic principles behind the creation of the Khalsa — the answer is right there in your own words.

    Do you even understand exactly why no religious, racial or (beyond the obvious) gender difference is supposed to be recognised among members of the Sangat when they are inside the gurdwara, sitting in front of the Guru Granth Sahib ? Or what the concept of “langar” actually represents — why people from all backgrounds, rich & poor, powerful & weak, young & old, male & female, Sikh & non-Sikh are supposed to sit together side-by-side, on an equal level, and eat together ?

    =>”I took it very seriously indeed because I believed in that stuff so much. My opinion on equality, as always, is informed by experience, more than anything else. But still – I would accept Sikhi believes in equality if there was good reason to believe that. I just havent found it yet.”

    I think your perspective has just been distorted by bad experiences. Understandable, although not justifiable for people serious about practising Sikhi. It’s something plenty of people go through in their lives now and then, but we’re supposed to recognise how the negative situation is affecting our perceptions & reactions and rise above it all. However, it is not right for you to deal with your own cynicism and miscomprehension by asserting that Sikhi itself condones your views, especially as it has resulted in you looking for loopholes in Sikhi and claiming divine justification for your stance. The problem lies in your own baggage and lack of sufficient spiritual evolution, not in the female gender en masse.

    To quote a famous proverb, “The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves”. Think it over.

    I said some of the following much earlier in this thread, and I will re-state it now: Discipline your “5 Thieves”, practice compassion and courtesy towards all, behave with as much integrity as possible, listen to Gurbani kirtan quietly and sincerely (and let the music exert its emotional effect on you), recognise the fundamental unity of mankind with an awareness that distinctions such as race, religion, nationality and gender are temporary superficial surface differences — with our common humanity with all underneath it — and the truth of the situation will gradually become clear to you.

    Including the intrinsic equality of men with women. There are obviously some psychological differences — the degree and specificity of this depends on the particular person — but underneath that, we have much, much more in common with women than areas which differentiate us. Women are not a separate species to men — try to put yourself in women’s shoes and understand the other party’s experience & point of view (it’s not necessarily as difficult as you may think). Again, I suspect it’s just a matter of you not having met the “right” people, either personally or professionally.

    I also don’t know if you’ve ever experienced romantic love for a woman in the real “one light in two bodies” sense, but if and when you encounter this, at that point you really will gain a crystal-clear understanding of this concept. Remember Guru Gobind Singh’s comment about how “only one who truly loves can understand God”. Remember also the Sikh teachings regarding the pitfalls of becoming trapped in duality — right now, you are caught in the trap of Manmat, resulting in your incomprehension of some aspects of Gurmat.

    A purely academic understanding of Sikh principles is pointless. So is blindly following customs because they are “tradition”. Neither will assist your spiritual evolution, neither will make you more aware of the divine presence of God all around you and in every human being, and neither will enable your soul to break out of the cycle of birth & death and merge with God.

    Beyond a certain point, Sikhi is an art, not a science. It is because you are reducing it to the latter that you are having difficulties understanding what many of us here are referring to. By getting bogged down in semantics, excessive literalism and over-analyses, it is very obvious indeed that you are experiencing mental blocks in some areas and, to use a cliche, you cannot see the woods for the trees. It’s preventing you from gaining a real, tangible spiritual awareness of the presense of the divine inside women (indeed, inside all people); one can feel this literally inside one’s heart, but this will not happen until your own mental “knots” are untangled.

    =>”Sikhi believes in good society. Liberalism believes in individual freedom. Equality is a liberal ideal. Sikhi cares not for equality, only for good society, and if that can be achieved without talking about equality, then that is perfectly acceptable.”

    This is a purely subjective assertion — and your definition of “liberalism” is also questionable. You are stating personal opinions and claiming them to be objective facts condoned by Sikhi, which is not necessarily the case.

    I should also state for the record at this point that I don’t give a damn about liberalism vs. conservatism/orthodoxy, I only care about fundamental human rights and ideals of fairness and justice enshrined in Sikhi. Constantly throwing allegations of “liberalism” is completely pointless because the notion is irrelevant to me. I only care about what is right, not whether it is “liberal”.

    =>”Jai, it is a rare man indeed who treats the worth of a stranger as much as he does himself, or that of his family.”

    And yet, that is exactly what a believer in the ideals of the Khalsa is supposed to aspire to. Guru Gobind Singh — indeed all the Gurus — certainly behaved like this. It is an ideal which all committed Sikhs are meant to aspire to. It’s not just a matter of “following Guru Gobind Singh’s dictates”; you are supposed to push your own spiritual development so that you ultimately become as enlightened as he was, with the same awareness of God, the same bravery, the same intellectual clarity, the same degree of compassion and fairness.

    =>” understand your position about the value of each and everyone, but do not believe in substancially, partially because I have more value for those who are close to me, than strangers I do not know.”

    You may take this stance. God does not. If you are serious about Sikhi, then you should be aspiring towards God’s stance, rather than allowing yourself to be dragged down into how much of the rest of humanity behaves.

    =>” think Sikhi rejects it too, in general, for it says some people are really bad, so they cannot be considered equal to, for example, saints.”

    It does indeed say the latter, but it also says that the same divine spark is present in both and that a Sikh is supposed to try to increase his/her own spirituality so that he/she becomes tangibly aware of this. It is exactly for this reason that one is not supposed to behave in a cruel or unjust way even if one can allegedly find some kind of self-righteous reason to justify one’s actions. It is the reason behind Guru Gobind Singh’s battlefield strategies. It is the reason why he did not assassinate Aurangzeb, and why the words of the Zafarnama were so well-chosen. It is the reason why medicine and water were given to “enemy” troops even though there was a risk that they might recover and attack the Khalsa again, along with why the Guru attached gold ingots to his arrows. It is the reason why violence is only permissible as a last resort, and even then only under extenuating circumstances. It is the reason why Sikhi rejects the concept of “might is right”. It is the reason why actions committed in the name of rage or revenge are condemned. It is the reason why I have not been hurling verbal abuse and expletives at you in this thread.

    Doing something because “tradition” dictates it is futile; you will only truly be on the path of Sikhi and following the ideals of the Khalsa if your actions are considerably driven by your own inner spirituality and a literal awareness inside your heart of your common humanity with all (including women). These things become natural, automatic and intuitive. Not just because the Gurus said we should do this or because it is “tradition”.

    =>”This is too vague, Jai.”

    Again, Sikhi in many aspects is an art, not a science. Practice the basics properly and follow the faith’s ideals, and the reality of my previous statement will become very clear to you indeed. You will experience the reality first-hand.

  204. Jagdeep — on 13th November, 2006 at 11:50 am  

    Crikey. The level of delusion is incredible. I admire your patience Jai and Taj.

  205. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 3:16 am  

    Jai

    “You asked earlier why there were no female Sikh Gurus. The reason, in short, is because people like you would not have listened to them. There’s your answer.”

    Mmm. But then if Sikhi was based just on what people like me would stomach, then that caste stuff is no good; ditto with the supposed male-female equality stuff, and then people like me also like to have a bit to drink, so the alcohol restriction would need to be relaxed. I could go on and on. This seems like a poor argument Jai. It says while the Gurus wanted to see a female Guru, they didnt dare have one because people would not care to hang around anymore. It also tells against the Sikhism (liberal sikhi) version of events which makes our Gurus so very idealised and never pragmatic. Why did people like me accept Guru Har-Krishan?

    “You stated earlier that you don’t think that one of the reasons the Khalsa was formed was to represent equality and to fight for this ideal too. It is clear that you don’t understand some of the most basic principles behind the creation of the Khalsa — the answer is right there in your own words.”

    It could have been *one* of the reasons Jai. I was laughing at Jagdeep saying it was *the* reason. I am aware what a Sikh should understand from the composition of the Khalsa. I see the Khalsa as the custodians of our faith. They are responsible for leading the panth. We expect and require a high standard of conduct from the Khalsa. The Panj Pyare structure – i read as being essentially democratic. I do not think each Sikh is to view the Khalsa as the Sikh ideal – and therefore try to emulate the Khalsa in all ways imaginable. The Khalsa though can think the Khalsa is their ideal, and this is fine and desirable. That is to say, then, that the point of the Khalsa was not equality, but to setup a perpetual authority for Sikhs.

    “Do you even understand exactly why no religious, racial or (beyond the obvious) gender difference is supposed to be recognised among members of the Sangat when they are inside the gurdwara, sitting in front of the Guru Granth Sahib ? Or what the concept of “langar” actually represents — why people from all backgrounds, rich & poor, powerful & weak, young & old, male & female, Sikh & non-Sikh are supposed to sit together side-by-side, on an equal level, and eat together ?”

    Because the Guru did not wish to unfairly descriminate those latter groups from having access to religious material, teaching and community. The Sikh community has room for every (good) person. It should not treat any one badly because they are poor, weak, old female, and so on, and similarly it does not treat the rich, powerful, etc, much better or worse, because they are those things. Outside the Gurdwara, things are different Jai. Some one will go home to a palace, and another will go home to a cow-pat hut. A good Sikh, as i have maintained throughout this thread, will try to keep the same thing in mind, as that in the Gurdwara, though the differences are unavoidable outside it.

    “I think your perspective has just been distorted by bad experiences. ”

    There is no bad experience Jai, just experience. I would be a fool if I didnt learn from mine, good or bad. I have found that a man who consciously and outwardly treats a woman as an equal, will seldom have her respect. I am not going to propose to explain why this is, though I have seen it to be true enough in experience. Similarly, I have found that in a typically punjabi family, the man takes on rather strong masculine qualities, and especially so, amongst the Jatts. I do not any longer see this as being wrong – because of equality. I think as long as one does not treat women badly, then it is fine to continue the unequal tradition. I have found that being assertive and taking on a leadership role is not only expected of a man, it is his most natural one. Again, this is from my experience with no attempt to generalise to yours. Further I have this is not just true of punjabi, but other ethnic groups too. Out of my african friends, the Zimbabweans are the most Punjabi-like. When they speak, it is a harsh aggressive language, and they are strongly patrioarchial. My friend told me that if his father walked in, and saw my friend cooking, that his father would disown him. I pointed out to him, that in this world, wife and husband both work, so home duties must be shared, and he said, my mother worked, but she was always expected to cook. And this is true enough of Punjabis too. The remarkable thing is that women seem to respond very positively to this attitude. All of my zimbabwean mates have white girlfriends, who are intelligent, attractive and independent women. Why they chose these men is a mystery, unless I understand things the way I have according to my own experience. The other africans I know are much less patriarchial and they are forever single.

    The reason I do not think equality is important in Sikh society, is because I do not see it ever being important, or even being important now. So then I accept whatever tradition I have inherited, because it does not disagree with my own experience.

    I will address your other points in a little while. Thanks Jai!

  206. Desi Italiana — on 14th November, 2006 at 3:42 am  

    –”The remarkable thing is that women seem to respond very positively to this attitude.”

    –”All of my zimbabwean mates have white girlfriends, who are intelligent, attractive and independent women. Why they chose these men is a mystery, unless I understand things the way I have according to my own experience.”

    –I think as long as one does not treat women badly, then it is fine to continue the unequal tradition. ”

    These three phrases are so full of loaded bullshit, that I ask myself: “why even bother?”

    AKJ, do you realize that you have littered this thread with such bullshit that you are just digging your hole deeper?

    After reading all of your comments, I have come to the conclusion that you are basically using Sikhism and Punjabi-ness–defined by you, of course– to justify and validate your own beliefs about inequality and misogny. Your assertions are not a reflection of Sikhism but a reflection of your own chauvenism.

    But keep posting comments that go nowhere and everywhere. Clearly, you don’t realize how far off the mark you are. But this just serves as good entertainment for some of us.

  207. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 4:51 am  

    “I said some of the following much earlier in this thread, and I will re-state it now: Discipline your “5 Thieves”, practice compassion and courtesy towards all, behave with as much integrity as possible, listen to Gurbani kirtan quietly and sincerely (and let the music exert its emotional effect on you), recognise the fundamental unity of mankind with an awareness that distinctions such as race, religion, nationality and gender are temporary superficial surface differences — with our common humanity with all underneath it — and the truth of the situation will gradually become clear to you.”

    They are not just superficial. They are real, pervasive and significant! One cannot think otherwise without deluding oneself and living in some imaginary world where those things do not exist. They do, and they matter. They have a real effect! You cannot deny this surely. It makes a real practical difference whether a person you meet is a man or a woman.

    Here is my alternative approach, Jai. Recognise those things matter, and they exist, and be aware of them, and still try to ‘see the good’ in a person. See how these two approaches differ? One forces you to ignore things that matter, and pretend they arent there – and the other one fully accepts those things exist and matter.

    “Women are not a separate species to men — try to put yourself in women’s shoes and understand the other party’s experience & point of view (it’s not necessarily as difficult as you may think).”

    Yes they are a different species to men. And the less I try to understand them, the better! I am sick of trying to see it from their POV, or putting my shoes in their heels. My feet are far too big for one :P This is what I refuse to do any more. Emphathise, grovel, ‘understand’ with women – what a waste of time it has been. I know for example, that as much as I love my sister, if i show her affection often, the less she respects me, and my cousin, who never does, she respects him much more. My cousin is your typical man – I am ‘sensitive’ and ‘caring’ (he is too, but he doesnt show it.) I have done exactly what you have said Jai – you can even talk to women about being a ‘good man’, and all you will end up with a feminine model of a man – or what is the same thing, a girl. They will never respect that – never.

    If you reply instead that it is perfectly possible to be a man and be caring and sensitive and so on, then I would say yes, it is, but it is very difficult to juggle them. And one will succeed only when he manages to keep a close handle on how much of that sentitivity he shares with others.

    “This is a purely subjective assertion — and your definition of “liberalism” is also questionable. You are stating personal opinions and claiming them to be objective facts condoned by Sikhi, which is not necessarily the case.”

    Nahi Veer, it is not subjective. Sikhi is concerned with good society. I have studied liberalism and the main axiom of liberalism from which all the other things are derived is that of ‘the Autonomy of the Individual.’ Maximising the autonomy of the individual is the goal of liberalism. It has side-effects of liberal ideals of equality, tolerance, plurality, free expression, gay rights, animal rights, etc.

    Sikhi is not concerned with these things. Far from it. It is concerned with good society. I keep saying this that it has become tiresome, but that is what Sikhi is about. Sikhi loves good people, even those from different faiths, from different races, and castes, etc. It is a faith that embraces humanity – and specifically the good in humanity. Those things are not liberal things like the freedom of the individual to have gay sex, or to say anything no matter how offensive through free speech, or the freedom of the individual to do whatever he likes, so long as it does not hurt anyone. Sikhi disagrees with this because it about responsibility and about being a useful, productive and responsible member of society. I can expand this further, but surely you agree with me on this?

    “I only care about what is right, not whether it is “liberal”. ”

    Excellent! So put down your ideals, which though you love dearly are not justified, and take an objective look through Sikhi. Ask yourself how closely Sikhi matches the goals of liberalism – and if it does not, why should you accept (some) liberal goals as being the same as that of Sikhi. When I say this, dont start by understanding that Sikhs in the past were not enlightened enough to act on True Sikhi – and that is why we have never truly had male-female equality. This is unacceptable to me, because the weight of experience is what I recognise, not what you can freshly interpret from Sikhi.

    ” purely academic understanding of Sikh principles is pointless. So is blindly following customs because they are “tradition”. ”

    Mate that is what i have been stressing. Turn to experience. Turn to reality. See how Sikhi has been practised in the past. See whether or not it encloses the goals of liberalism – as is today thought of Sikhism.

    “And yet, that is exactly what a believer in the ideals of the Khalsa is supposed to aspire to. Guru Gobind Singh — indeed all the Gurus — certainly behaved like this. It is an ideal which all committed Sikhs are meant to aspire to.”

    Impressive words Jai. I think you’ve got a very romantic conception of our Gurus. I do too, but yours is dripping with pregnant sentimentalism. This sort of thing is a misleading vice, for it allows us to imagine all sorts of things that might not have really existed. We should only deal with the facts, not our interpretations and sentimentalisms. Jai, do you honestly believe at some point in our history, sikhs actually believed man and woman were equal? If so, when did things change – and how come there is not a single salt of evidence of such an attitude to be seen in our society. Why is this?

    “It’s not just a matter of “following Guru Gobind Singh’s dictates”; you are supposed to push your own spiritual development so that you ultimately become as enlightened as he was, with the same awareness of God, the same bravery, the same intellectual clarity, the same degree of compassion and fairness.”

    I do not emphasise this because it gives you a free reign to conjecture and invent ideals and reasons for why Guru Gobind did the things he did. It encourages you to depart from obvious and unavoidable facts, into a world where you are free to imagine whatever you like, despite contradicting reality.

    “You may take this stance. God does not. If you are serious about Sikhi, then you should be aspiring towards God’s stance, rather than allowing yourself to be dragged down into how much of the rest of humanity behaves.”

    I disagree with this because I would be wasting my time if i started worrying about every single problem people have outside my own community. It is best to worry about your own backyard instead of trying to sort out someone elses problem, miles away. I am saying – the whole of humanity is not my issue, only the people i am in contact with. The Gurus did not try to solve all the problems of the world, did they? It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect or believe this. One makes practical choices. So did our Gurus.

    “It does indeed say the latter, but it also says that the same divine spark is present in both and that a Sikh is supposed to try to increase his/her own spirituality so that he/she becomes tangibly aware of this. It is exactly for this reason that one is not supposed to behave in a cruel or unjust way even if one can allegedly find some kind of self-righteous reason to justify one’s actions. It is the reason behind Guru Gobind Singh’s battlefield strategies. It is the reason why he did not assassinate Aurangzeb, and why the words of the Zafarnama were so well-chosen. It is the reason why medicine and water were given to “enemy” troops even though there was a risk that they might recover and attack the Khalsa again, along with why the Guru attached gold ingots to his arrows. It is the reason why violence is only permissible as a last resort, and even then only under extenuating circumstances. It is the reason why Sikhi rejects the concept of “might is right”. It is the reason why actions committed in the name of rage or revenge are condemned. It is the reason why I have not been hurling verbal abuse and expletives at you in this thread.”

    I agree fully with what you written here. You have recognised that one is not forced to act good, but a Sikh should try anyway, because that is a Sikh-thing to do.

    “Doing something because “tradition” dictates it is futile; you will only truly be on the path of Sikhi and following the ideals of the Khalsa if your actions are considerably driven by your own inner spirituality and a literal awareness inside your heart of your common humanity with all (including women). These things become natural, automatic and intuitive. Not just because the Gurus said we should do this or because it is “tradition”.”

    False. Good actions are good, regardless of your ‘awareness’ of them. So too, good actions taken because they have been traditionally taken. I think morality is traditional too. One does good or bad, and tells it apart because of tradition. Tradition is not dirty, it is beautiful, and it is beautiful because it is true.

    I am familiar with the idealised romanticised version of Sikhi – Sikhism that you have shared with me. I do not believe in such a thing because I know a) Sikhs are not super-heros, b) when Sikhs fought, they bled, c)when sikhs fought sometimes they lost, d)sikhs made mistakes, e) the sikh history is not a picture perfect portrait as Sikhism presents it. f)Sikhs did not always act like the idealised Sikh (Banda Singh’s revolution comes to mind sharply). In fact Sikhi is all the more remarkable because of those things, because it doesnt require a belief that those were super-heros, they were ordinary men and women who did great things, and this made them great people. It recognises the capacity of human kind to survive some of the most difficult circumstances, and to surmount them. I do not start by ignoring these things – I start by accepting them, and turning to them for guidance. Because that is Sikhi to me – the Sikhs who lived accordingly. Not some fashionable ideals that were dreamt up by some pervert with a fetish for individual freedom.

  208. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 4:58 am  

    Italiana, whats the point of those quotes? They dont work out of context. Stop doing that please. I have emphasised that my experience is logically independent from the Sikh experience. The Sikh experience is not affected by what I believe. My understanding of it might be affected a little though, I admit. But then I believe the individual can disagree with a philosophy, and I would not be afraid to disagree with Sikhi if Sikhi thought otherwise on male-female equality. The Sikh tradition, by the way, does not emphasise male-female equality, and this is why I am able to argue that Sikhi does not emphasise that equality. See how they are unrelated strands, but there is no conflict?

  209. Desi Italiana — on 14th November, 2006 at 6:43 am  

    “They dont work out of context.”

    I hate to break it to you, but those quotes I extracted don’t work in their context, either. Precisely why I pulled them up.

    But I’m continuing to read your comments, and a thought occured to me: you have, in a series of posts, talked about women in general, in ways that I find are irrelevant to the initial discussion, ie not showing “too much affection” to them or they don’t “respect you back,” women liking men to be patriarchal, etc.

    You’re not transposing your difficulties with women onto religion, are you? Because it might not be that women are like this and men are like that inherently, and Sikhism accurately captures that (in your view). You might be irking women because you have problems with women in general, which skews your perception of them. This might result in women disliking you. And this might feed into your “women are lowly”, blah blah blah.

    A self fullfilling prophecy– but not a divine prophecy.

  210. Desi Italiana — on 14th November, 2006 at 7:30 am  

    Also, you legitimize your views by stating that you know friends who are patriarchal and it works, etc. But perhaps you know these people precisely because they think like you do (based on your monologues written here). You know the saying “Birds of the same feather flock together”….

    Anyway.

    Jai and Jagdeep:

    Uncle e-mailed me today and he confirmed that it is indeed called Akhand Paath. So I stand corrected.

    Wonder who told me that it was called “Granth Paath,” then.

  211. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 8:20 am  

    italiana, Jai referred to my personal experiences; thats why i brought them up. They are not related to the topic though, its just something between me and Jai. I realise what i have talked about it something unique to myself. Thats my individual experience, ya know?

  212. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 8:32 am  

    “You’re not transposing your difficulties with women onto religion, are you?”

    No.

    “Because it might not be that women are like this and men are like that inherently, and Sikhism accurately captures that (in your view).”

    I do not need such an assumption on women in general, throughout history, to say that the Sikh tradition has never emphasised male-female equality.

    “You might be irking women because you have problems with women in general, which skews your perception of them. This might result in women disliking you. And this might feed into your “women are lowly”, blah blah blah.”

    I might be, but I assure you that this is not the case. I do not have any problems with women any more, ever since I stopped bothering with the ‘equality’ and ‘understanding’ stuff, and just concentrating on being a good man. Women do not dislike me! They like me, they have always liked me! They just never respected me enough as a man. But since I have become more assertive and less inclined to worry about whether or not I am ‘creating and continuing an inequality’ things have improved greatly for me. For example, I used to be conflicted when friends and relatives came to me for advice, because I had to balance my common sense opinion against the liberal notions of ‘equality’ and ‘equal rights’ which I had been told were Sikh priorities too. Now i freely speak my mind, without worrying too much about that stuff. Women are not lowly either. I have never said so. Traditionally though, men take leadership roles and that sorta stuff, and I dont disagree with this myself. This doesnt mean they’re inferior, does it?

  213. Taj — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:02 am  

    “Yes they are a different species to men. And the less I try to understand them, the better! I am sick of trying to see it from their POV, or putting my shoes in their heels. My feet are far too big for one This is what I refuse to do any more. Emphathise, grovel, ‘understand’ with women – what a waste of time it has been. I know for example, that as much as I love my sister, if i show her affection often, the less she respects me, and my cousin, who never does, she respects him much more. My cousin is your typical man – I am ’sensitive’ and ‘caring’ (he is too, but he doesnt show it.) I have done exactly what you have said Jai – you can even talk to women about being a ‘good man’, and all you will end up with a feminine model of a man – or what is the same thing, a girl. They will never respect that – never.”

    I think you can drop all the pretend arguments concerning equality; here’s the real crux – plain and simple misogyny. It’s kind of unnerving how you think this will make people agree with you; it’s also bloody hilarious at the same time.

  214. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:05 am  

    Yes Taj, because it is always easier to attack someone’s character than reply to their argument

  215. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:17 am  

    Taj, this is what jai wrote earlier in the thread:


    =>”If they had sought equality – they would have taken real and positive steps to achieve it.”

    They did. The SGGS is full of verses praising women and in some aspects even exalting them above men. Guru Gobind Singh selected a disproportionate number of women to lead his missionary projects. Sikh women were known to lead military forces too. I can give numerous other examples. There is absolutely nothing in Sikhism which promotes the notion of men having any kind of authority or superiority over women — both are supposed to work together in the spirit of partnership, equality and mutual respect.

    I agree with him 100%. but notice there is nothing in Sikhi which says man and woman are equal either. So the natural understanding one takes is that Sikhi accepts the status quo, or at least whatever of it, as it existed during the Gurus times, with the changes implemented by the early Sikhs.

  216. Taj — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:51 am  

    Are you supposing then, anti-knee-jerk, that I completely ignore the fact that you’ve called women a different species to men?

  217. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:52 am  

    i didnt mean anything nasty by it, taj. Just that I find them very different

  218. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 9:57 am  

    My experience with the equality stuff has been bad. But you cant accuse me for not giving it a honest shot. When i do something I dont do it half-heartedly, thats just my way. Can we leave that alone now, without every post accusing me of being a misogynistic, phallocentric whatever?

    thanks.

  219. Taj — on 14th November, 2006 at 10:07 am  

    Ok. I’m going to finally end my participation in this discussion. But I sincerely hope that you rethink your views, anti-knee-jerk; it can’t be pleasant to see the world that way.

  220. anti-knee-jerk — on 14th November, 2006 at 10:08 am  

    which way? :(

  221. Taj — on 14th November, 2006 at 10:22 am  

    Your way. Goodbye.

  222. Jai — on 14th November, 2006 at 12:34 pm  

    Desi Italiana,

    I agree completely with your remarks in post #206, 209 & 210. It’s a pretty accurate analysis of the situation, and you’ve summarised exactly what I think.

    **********************************8

    Taj,

    Well-fought, and you have my support, but I see that you too have noticed when it is time to remove yourself from this particular debate. It is possible that a professional psychotherapist is required here.

  223. Jai — on 14th November, 2006 at 12:44 pm  

    Anti-Knee-Jerk,

    I have little more to say other than what I wrote in my previous post. You cannot see the truth because your perception is extremely distorted by your own negative experiences and is simultaneously condoned by your social circles, and you are indeed twisting Sikhi to fit your own corrupted worldview. And when others — such as those of us on this thread, along with that link I supplied earlier — give you evidence about why your views are wrong, you dismiss it as “propaganda”. It’s circular logic coupled with self-rationalising arguments, where you manipulate Sikhi to fit your own mindset in order to give it the veneer of religious sanction and divine justification, and you are deliberately creating a Catch-22, no-win situation for yourself by your own actions.

    In short, you are trapped in a prison of your own making.

    And I’ve said repeatedly that, at this point in time, you are psychologically unable to see the truth because your spiritual awareness has not developed enough, and you are intellectually trapped in self-rationalising-but-tunnel-visioned linear arguments. It’s a classic case of cognitive dissonance.

    Have some humility and take some damn responsibility for the fact that your own actions and ideas are significantly behind the problems you encounter. For the record, I rarely have problems in being treated decently by women (especially those who are intelligent and good-natured). Neither do most of my good friends, including Punjabi Jatt Sikh guys who have a similarly balanced strong-but-sensitive mindset. As I said before, the problem is partly your own attitude & ways of thinking, and partly the social circles you choose to mix with (both male & female).

    Practise the basics of Sikhi sufficiently, reduce the extent of your contact with your patriarchal Jatt/Punjabi social circle, expand the range of people you interact with, be ruthlessly honest about your own behaviour and inner motivations, and everything will subsequently begin to become clearer to you.

    Until then, it is pointless for you and the rest of us to keep going around in circles.

    I think we’ve all given you enough honest feedback and advice. If you’re serious about wanting to find a way out of this trap which you are now in (and you are psychologically trapped, whether you realise it or not) — rather than choosing to continue to distort Sikhi to match your own subjective and self-centred ideas — then you know what you need to do now.

    Best of luck.

  224. Kismet Hardy — on 14th November, 2006 at 12:57 pm  

    Antiji jerk sums up: “My experience with the equality stuff has been bad.”

    Which can only mean: “I got beaten by a woman once. Never again”

  225. Desi Italiana — on 14th November, 2006 at 5:31 pm  

    “Women do not dislike me! They like me, they have always liked me! They just never respected me enough as a man.”

    Oh, AKJ, when I read that sentence, it seemed like a cry for help. Now I feel a surge of tenderness for you.

    You haven’t had it good with the ladies, have you?

    There are resources that can help you. Councelors, therapists, and support groups exist for men who feel the way you do. They can also teach you inter-personal and inter-sexual skills.

    You are not alone.

    The first step is admission and recognition of the problem.

    Just say it:

    “I have a problem with women. I lack the social skills to have healthy relationships with women.”

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