Sikh Rehat Maryada
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The Sikh Rehit Maryada (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ ਰਹਿਤ ਮਰਯਾਦਾ, Sikkh Rahit Maryādā; also transcribed as Sikh Reht Maryada or Khalsa Rehat Maryada) is a code of conduct and conventions for Sikhism, and its final version was approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar in 1945 after centuries of use before the British made committee. It is one of many Rehitnama ('codes of conduct') written for Sikhs. The Rehat Maryada was created to live practical and functional aspects of the operations of Sikh Gurdwaras, and religious practices to foster cohesion throughout the community.
Before the passing of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, in 1708, he transferred his authority to the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, and the body of initiated Sikhs, called the Khalsa Panth. However between 1708 and 1925, the Sikh community experienced sectarianism and no centralized authority apart from that arranged under British rule from 1849. A range of other codes and collections of tradition existed, but none represented the entire community (panth).
There was no standard rehat but there were many with the same points and concepts. Like the Muktinamah, Rehatnamah, Tankhnamah, 54 Hukams etc.
In 1925, the Sikh Gurdwara Act was made in Punjab, legislating the establishment of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), an elected body of Sikhs, for the purpose of administering Gurdwaras.
A general meeting of the SGPC was held on 15 March 1927 to establish a subcommittee with the task of producing a draft Code of Conduct. The subcommittee at the time consisted of 29 high-profile Sikhs, listed by name in the Introduction to the Sikh Rehat Maryada.
A preliminary draft was circulated to Sikhs in April 1931, for comment. The subcommittee met on the 4th and 5th of October 1931, then on the 3rd and 31st of January 1932, at the Akal Takht in Amritsar. During this time the number of subcommittee members present at meetings reduced, and other people were listed as present.
On March 1st, four members were exited from the subcommittee, and eight more were appointed. Of the four who were exited, one had died and another was excommunicated. The subcommittee met again to deliberate and consider the draft on 8 May and 26 September 1932. On 1 October, the sub-committee submitted its report to the SGPC Secretary recommending a special session of the Committee be convened to consider the final draft and approve it for acceptance.
The SGPC arranged a conclave of Sikhs on 30 December, where 170 individuals attended and debated the draft. Only nine attendees where members of the original sub-committee, and the conclave ultimately failed to reach an agreement. The SGPC then received comments on the draft from a subcommittee of 50 individuals and 21 Panthic Associations (including international organisations), all of whom are listed in the Introduction to the Sikh Rehat Maryada.
At their meeting on 7 January 1945 the SPGC's Advisory Committee on Religious Matters recommended some changes to be made to the Code. The Advisory Committee consisted of eight individuals as listed in the Preface to the Sikh Rehat Maryada. The SGPC accepted the recommendations at their meeting on 3 February 1945. Since then, several minor updates have been made to clarify content, but no significant review has been undertaken.
The Sikh Rehat Maryada addresses key issues such as the definition of a Sikh, personal and communal obligations such as meditation and volunteer service, rules for gurdwara services to include appropriate music and festivals, and the conduct of assorted Sikh ceremonies.
Definition of Sikh
A Sikh is defined as any person, male or female, who faithfully:
- believes in the existence of One Eternal God
- follows the teachings of, and accepts as their only Spiritual guides, the Guru Granth Sahib and the ten human Gurus
- believes in the baptism (Amrit Sanchar), as promoted by the tenth Guru
There are two aspects to a Sikh living: first is the adherence to a personal discipline and the development of a strong family life; the other is the involvement in communal life and to ensure community well-being and infra-structure for support of the weak within the community local and globally. This is the practical aspect of the three pillars of Sikhism promoted by Guru Nanak called Vand Chhako ('share what you eat [or have]').
A Sikh is always to live and promote the tenets stipulated by the Gurus.
- Belief in One God
- Equality of All the Human race
- Respect for All, irrespective of gender, age, status, color, caste, sexual orientation, etc.
- Self-Control – Kill the Five Evils; no rituals or superstitions; no gambling, tobacco, alcohol, intoxicating drugs, etc.
- Self-Improvement – Promote the Five Virtues
In the communal life, the Sikh has a duty to actively contribute to the community outside the family unit. A sikh should undertake free voluntary service (seva) within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc. At every opportunity, a Sikh ought to dedicate their free time to voluntary community work, and devote at least 10% of their wealth in time or money to support community projects. This also includes positively supporting weaker members within the community.
Time needs to be given to the greater Sikh community and the even wider world community. It is the duty of the Sikh to hold a continuous dialogue with all members of the larger community, to treat them as equals, and respect their religions and their customs. Sikhism offers strong support for a healthy community life and a Sikh must undertake to support all worthy projects which would benefit the community and promote Gurmat principles. Importance is given to inter-faith dialogue, support for the poor and weak, better community understanding and co-operation.
Seva (voluntary service) is an important prominent part of the Sikh religion and all Sikhs must get involved in this communal service whenever an opportunity arises. This in its simple forms can be: sweeping and washing the floors of the Gurdwara, serving water and food (Langar) to or fanning the congregation, offering provisions or preparing food and doing other 'house keeping' duties.
Guru ka Langar ('Guru's free food') is a very important part of Sikhism. When Langar is being served or when sangat is being sat down “Sat-Naam Waheguru" must be chanted. The main philosophy behind the langar is two-fold: to provide training to engage in seva and an opportunity to serve people from all walks of life; and to help banish all distinctions between high and low castes.
In their personal life, a Sikh should live humbly and with love in an extended family group encouraging Gurmat principles and offering moral support within this extended structure. A sikh should undertake free voluntary service (seva) within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc. At every opportunity, a Sikh ought to dedicate their free time to voluntary community work, and devote at least 10% of their wealth in time or money to support community projects. This also includes positively supporting weaker members within the community.
Following the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh is commanded by the Gurus to lead a disciplined life and to not blindly follow rituals and superstitions that bring no spiritual or material benefit to the person or community. A Sikh must not eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritualistic way (Kutha meat) and refrain from using all forms of intoxicants; hence, alcohol and tobacco are strictly prohibited. Sikhs must also refrain from rituals, superstitions and other anti-Sikh behavior such as gambling, etc. The Sikh is to practice and promote complete equality between the genders, castes, races, religions, etc. Apart from their spouse, a Sikh must treat all people as their kin; treat all females as daughters, sisters, or mothers, and males as sons, brothers, or fathers, depending on their age.
The Sikh is to meditate on God's Name (Naam Japna or Naam Simran) and recite the holy scriptures. This includes remembering God at all times and reciting his name whenever possible. The Sikh is to arise in the early hours and recite Nitnem, a collection of Gurbani to be read in the morning (Three Banis), evening (Rehras), and night (Kirtan Sohila), followed each time with the Ardas prayer. The Ardas signifies that the Sikh need only seek the support of the Almighty Lord before beginning any new task or venture.
A Sikh must also follow the principle of Kirat Karni, thereby leading their life in accordance with the Guru's teachings. This includes engaging in an honest profession, work, or course of study, as well as promoting the family way of life giving time to children in an active way so as to ensure their proper awareness of the Sikh way of life.
Meditation and scripture
Sikhs engage in personal and communal meditation, Kirtan and the study of the holy Scriptures. Meditating and understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib is important to the development of a Sikh. One should not only study Gurmukhi and be able to read Gurbani but also understand the meaning of the text. Translations and other material may be used to assist the Sikh. The Sikh should revert to the Guru Granth Sahib for the all spiritual guidance in one's life.
Congregation and Gurdwara service
It is believed that a Sikh is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani when engaged in congregational gatherings. For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh to visit Gurdwaras, the places where the Sikhs congregate for worship and prayer. On joining the holy congregation, Sikhs should take part and obtain benefit from the joint study of the holy scriptures.
No one is to be barred from entering a Gurdwara, no matter in which country, religion, or caste he/she belongs to. The Gurdwara is open to all for the Guru's darshan (seeing the holy Guru) and Langar. However the person must not have on his/her person anything, such as tobacco or other intoxicants, which are tabooed by the Sikh religion. Shoes must be removed, one's head must be covered, and respectful clothing is a must.
During service (seva) in a Gurdwara and while congregational sessions are in session, only one activity should be done at a time in one hall in the presence of the Guru—performing of kirtan, delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures, or the reading of the scriptures. Before taking a hukam from the Guru, an ardas must be done: all the congregation would stand for the ardas and then sit down and carefully listen to the Hukam of the Guru.
Sikhs, though anyone with correct pronunciation and understanding of Gurbani who desires to take part in the congregation, perform kirtan (spiritual hymn singing) in a congregation and only hymns (shabad) from the holy scriptural compositions in traditional musical measures should be sung. Only shabads from Guru Granth Sahib Ji Gurbani and the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed. It is improper to sing kirtan to rhythmic folk tunes or popular film tunes.
Akhand Paath and Sadharan Paath
An Akhand Paath is the non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib carried on during difficult times or during occasions of joy and celebration. The reading takes approximately forty eight hours of continuous and uninterrupted reading by a relay of skilled Gurbani readers. The reading must be done in a clear voice and with correct and full pronunciation. Reading the Gurbani too fast, so that the person listening in cannot follow the contents, is discouraged and is considered as disrespect for the Scriptures and the congregation (sangat).
Festivals and ceremonies
The important Sikh festivals that are celebrated include Gurpurbs, in celebration of the birthday and other important anniversaries (martyrdom, etc.) from the lives of the Gurus; and Vaisakhi, celebration of the first Amrit Sanchar and Harvest festival.
Along with other rites and conventions, Sikh ceremonies include:
- Naam Karan: baby naming ceremony
- Amrit Sanchar: baptism ceremony
- Anand Karaj: marriage ceremony
- Antam Sanskar: funeral ceremony
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Sikh Rehat Maryada is based on earlier codes (Rehat nama), including:
- Tanakhah-nama (Nasîhatnâme) Samvat 1776 (1718–1719 CE), ten years after Guru Gobind Singh gave up his mortal body.
- The Prahilad Rai Rehat-namab
- Sakhi Rehat ki: about 1735 CE
- Chaupa Singh Rehat-nama: 1740–1765 CE (1700 CE according to Piara Singh Padam). Chaupa Singh was a member of the Guru's retinue. He was entrusted with the care of infant Gobind Rai by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Some members of Chaupa Singh's family became martyrs with Guru Tegh Bahadur in Delhi and others served under the 10th Guru.
- Desa Singh Rehat-nama: late 18th century
- Daya Singh Rehat-nama.
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- Kapoor, Sukhbir Singh; Mohinder Kaur Kapoor (2008). "Introduction". The Making of the Sikh Rehatnamas. New Delhi, India: Hemkunt Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 978-81-7010-370-7. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
- "Preface to the English Version of Reht Maryada". Secretary, Dharam Parchar Committee (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar). Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Singh, I. J. (Jul 22, 2005). "A History of the Sikh Code of Conduct: A review of Darpan Sikh Rehat Maryada (Punjabi) by Gurbaksh Singh Gulshan". The Sikh Times. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Singh, Teja.  1994. "Introduction: Report of S.G.P.C.'s Code of Conduct and Conventions Sub-Committee." In Sikh Reht Maryada. Amritsar. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
- Singh, Kulraj. 31 August 1994. "Preface to the English Version of Reht Maryada." In Sikh Reht Maryada. Amritsar. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
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- Singh. "A History of the Sikh Code of Conduct: A review of Darpan Sikh Rehat Maryada (Punjabi) by Gurbaksh Singh Gulshan". Cite journal requires
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- Piara Singh Padam. Rehatname. Patiala, 1974.
- W.H. Mcleod. Sikhs of the Khalsa : History of Khalsa Rehat. Oxford Press 2003.
- Sikh Rehat Maryada: A Guide to the Sikh Way of Life. Published by the SGPC and re-printed by many Sikh missionary groups.