What is the Sikh attitude to homosexuality?
Anyone is welcome to become a Sikh, including those with homosexual orientation. However, to act upon homosexual tendencies would not be in line with Sikh tradition and code of conduct. No one can force religion or religious code on anyone. However, no one has a license from the Guru to justify their own personal habits, behaviour or lifestyle that is not advocated by the Sikh religion with the label of Sikhi, whether straight or gay.
ਰਹਿਣੀ ਰਹੈ ਸੋਈ ਸਿਖ ਮੇਰਾ ||
“They alone are a Sikh who follow the distinct code of conduct.”
(Guru Gobind Singh Ji)
In the Sikh religion any form of intimate relationship outside wedlock, dating, or flirting, whether it man and woman relationship or same-sex, is not acceptable under any circumstance. Every other man and woman must be considered as a mother or father, brother or sister, and son or daughter. Guru Sahib prohibits the Sikh from even gazing at another with the intention of romance, lust, or sexual affection:
ਪਰ ਤ੍ਰਿਅ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਪੇਖੈ ਨੇਤ੍ਰ ॥
“With your eyes, do not even gaze (in a lustful manner) upon the beauty of another.”
(Sukhmani Sahib, Ang 274)
ਦੇਖਿ ਪਰਾਈਆਂ ਚੰਗੀਆਂ ਮਾਵਾਂ ਭੈਣਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਜਾਣੈ ॥
“Men should look at the opposite gender as mothers, sisters and daughters, (women should look at the opposite gender as fathers, brothers and sons).”
(Bhai Gurdaas Ji: Vaar 29/ Pauri 11)
The Sikh way of life is a system of living for achieving harmony of the mind, body and spirit and living in God consciousness. When speaking of sexual orientations, the implication is that the relationship is based on sex. If you are focusing heavily on the physical aspects of your relationships, then you are already out of balance.
Marriage is two souls merging into one. However even this union, which is not supposed to be based on lust, but love, respect and Gurmat, is temporary. The true union is between a person and the Timeless One – this is the permanent union. When one achieves that union, everything else is put into perspective and is incomparable. Irrespective of sexual orientation, the Guru instructs us to search for this ‘true union’, because without it there is no way to quench one’s thirst. To obtain this union, one has to forsake all, and live in accordance to the spiritual code of conduct laid out by the Guru, and have a longing for one’s soul to experience the Blessed Vision, Darshan, of Vahiguru.
SIKHS SCRIPTURE AND THE TEN GURUS
To seek answers on an issue, a Sikh can use Sikh scriptures and the lives of the Ten Gurus as a reference point. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and other Sikh scriptures like Bhai Gurdaas Ji’s Bani (holy writings) do not entertain the possibility of a homosexual marriage or relationships. In addition to this, there has been no promotion or even a reference to homosexual relationships and marriages in the history of Ten Gurus period or beyond till present day. For someone to justify or promote homosexuality based on the absence of homosexuality or the reference to it in Sikh scriptures and Sikh history from the times of the Sikh Gurus till modern times would be dishonest and manipulation of the truth.
On the other hand, the soleminization of heterosexual marriages, i.e. man and woman, have being promoted and referenced in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and other Sikh scriptures, as well as in the lives of the Ten Gurus. Nine of the Ten Gurus were married to women and had children. The eighth Guru being only 8 years old when he left His earthly, was not married. However, any relationship before or outside wedlock, irrespestive of whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, is clearly forbidden in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Sikh Code of Conduct recorded in historical texts and manuscripts, as well as the modern-day 'Sikh Rehat Maryada' document that is used an official reference point for Sikh religious code by Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, the Sikh Supreme Authority in Amritsar.
The fundamental nature of humans has remained the same over 500 years, despite changes in culture, traditions and technology. The question then is, if homosexual relationships are ‘natural’ and should be accepted as a fundamental part of the self, then why all of a sudden would people demand that Sikhs should support and allow same-sex marriages when this practice has not been spoken of, advocated nor practised over 500 years of Sikh history? Either homosexuality existed in Punjab, the land where the Sikh faith was revealed and flourished, 500 years ago but not promoted, and therefore, no reference to its promotion in Sikh sacred texts and religious code. Or the promotion and validation of homosexual relationships is a modern phenomenon which is now being attempted to be pushed on faith traditions.
Married life is encouraged time and time again in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Whenever marriage is mentioned, it is always in reference to a man and a woman.
ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਬਹਨਿ ਇਕਠੇ ਹੋਇ ||
ਏਕ ਜੋਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਇ ||੩||
“They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together.
They alone are called husband and wife, who have one light in two bodies. ||3||”
(Soohee M:3, 788)
Since marriage is only mentioned as a spiritual relationship between a man and a woman in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh Rehit Maryada does not recognise nor give authority for same-sex marriages. Further to this, any relationship which is beyond seeing another man or woman in the same respect as a brother or sister, i.e. a relationship of sexual or intimitate nature, is cardinal prohibition in the Sikh religious code that leads to apostasy and having to seek pardon and re-admit into the Sikh fold. This cardinal prohibition applies to any relationship, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual etc.
IF THE SOUL IS GENDERLESS CAN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BE JUSTIFIED?
Even though souls are genderless, bodies are not genderless! A man is man, and a woman is a woman. If tomorrow a brother and sister wished to have a religious marriage blessing would that be allowed because in reality they are only “two souls uniting” and relations are tied down to the physical being, not spiritual being? The answer is clear.
Family life is propagated in the Sikh tradition, and the role model we use as a reference point for the ideal is the lives of the Sikh Gurus. Same-sex marriages is not existent is the lives of the Ten Gurus. Ten Gurus practised the marriage of man and woman and had children (with the exception of the 8th Guru who was very young when he left his earthly body). The question is, who do people seeking justify homosexuality using Sikhi use as a reference point in their claims?
IS THERE A CONFLICT BETWEEN ACCEPTING ALL OF HUMANITY AND BEING AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGES?
The Sikh religion is known for humanitarian approach to life and society. Sikh traditions and values are underlined with the core values of recognising the oneness of God, and divinity within all. Pro-homosexuality activists seeking to justify their personal lifestyle preference with the seal of approval of Sikhi, stretch the Sikh Gurus’ teaching of considering all humanity as one and treating all with respect, with advocating homosexuality. However, this would be like advocating that Sikhs can cut their hair, smoke, drink alcohol, not wear the 5 Ks, and not pray and still qualify as Sikhs and qualify to participate in important religious roles because the Sikh Gurus preached equality.
ਮਾਟੀ ਏਕ ਅਨੇਕ ਭਾਂਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਾਜੀ ਸਾਜਨਹਾਰੈ ||
ਨਾ ਕਛੁ ਪੋਚ ਮਾਟੀ ਕੇ ਭਾਂਡੇ ਨਾ ਕਛੁ ਪੋਚ ਕੁੰਭਾਰੈ ||੨||
“The clay is the same, but the Fashioner has fashioned it in various ways. There is nothing wrong with the pot of clay – there is nothing wrong with the Potter. ||2||”
(Prabhaati Kabir Ji, 1350)
Now, could the above Shabad (scriptural verse) be used to justify the diversity of nature that some animals and humans choose to practice incest and have sexual feelings for their siblings or children? Could the above Shabad be used to justify the diversity of nature that some animals and a minority of humans practice cannibalism? Can the above Shabad be used to justify the diversity of nature that some human beings choose or perhaps have natural cravings for drugs and tobacco? No one is denying that God doesn’t reside in any of the people described. There is nothing wrong with the creation nor the Creator, the problem is human ego and the vices of lust, anger, greed, attachment, and self-centred pride.
Another commonly manipulated or misused line of Gurbani by zealot gay activists seeking to justify homosexuality with Sikhi is:
ਮਾਨਸ ਕੀ ਜਾਤ ਸਬੈ ਏਕੈ ਪਹਿਚਾਨਬੋ ||
“Recognise the human race as one.”
(Dasam Granth, p. 47)
However, this line is incomplete and is taken out of context. The complete line for the above quote and the following line that the Guru writes are:
ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਫਜੀ ਇਮਾਮ ਸਾਫੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਕੀ ਜਾਤ ਸਬੈ ਏਕੈ ਪਹਿਚਾਨਬੋ ||
ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰੀਮ ਸੋਈ ਰਾਜਕ ਰਹੀਮ ਓਈ ਦੂਸਰੋ ਨ ਭੇਦ ਕੋਦੀ ਭੂਲ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਮਾਨਬੋ ||
“Some are Hindus and others are Muslims; some are lliifazi (Shia Muslims) and others Imam-Shafi (Sunni Muslims); (but) recognise the human race as one. The Creator and Merciful Lord (of both the Hindus and Muslims) is the same Lord; He is the Provider of the Livelihood and the Bestower of the Boons. Let none make the error of making distinction between His different names.”
(Dasam Granth, p. 47)
If someone was to use the Sikh concept of universal brotherhood or familyhood to justify gay relationships and gay marriages from a Sikh perspective, it would be like using universal brotherhood to justify the crimes of criminals, or social wrongs of people in society? The two things are totally separate and unrelated.
DOESN’T GURBANI TEACH SELF-ACCEPTANCE?
Zealot gay activists state that Sikh religion has an “emphasis on self-acceptance” in order to justify homosexuality from a Sikh perspective. Such people should read or re-read Sikh scripture. The Sikh Gurus emphasised on acceptance of Hukam– the Law of the Divine. Accepting the self, meaning accepting one’s ego and way of thinking is called ‘Manmat’ (following the mind), whereas the other name for the Sikh religion is ‘Gurmat’ (following the way of the Guru). Surrendering one self and killing one’s self identity and embracing the divine identity is the foundation of the Sikh religion.
ਪ੍ਰਥਮੇ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ||
ਦੁਤੀਆ ਤਿਆਗੀ ਲੋਗਾ ਰੀਤਿ ||
ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਦੁਰਜਨ ਮੀਤ ਸਮਾਨੇ ||
ਤੁਰੀਆ ਗੁਣੁ ਮਿਲਿ ਸਾਧ ਪਛਾਨੇ ||੨||
“First, I renounced my egotistical love of myself. Second, I renounced the ways of the world. Renouncing the three qualities, I look alike upon friend and enemy. And then, the fourth state of bliss was revealed to me by the Holy One. ||2||”
(Aasa M:5, 370)
Furthermore, Gurbani says:
ਮਨੁ ਅਰਪਉ ਧਨੁ ਰਾਖਉ ਆਗੈ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਗਲ ਤਿਆਗੀ ||
ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਹਰਿ ਕਥਾ ਸੁਨਾਵੈ ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਫਿਰਉ ਤਿਸੁ ਪਿਛੈ ਵਿਰਾਗੀ ||੧||
“I surrender my mind to Him; I place my wealth before Him. I totally renounce my selfish ways. One who teaches me the Sermon of the Lord God – night and day, I shall follow Him. ||1||”
(Gauree M:5, 204)
Whether homosexual inclinations, tendencies and behaviour are natural or not does not hold any weight when discussing Gurmat (the Guru’s teachings). It is possible that urges, inclinations and desires may be natural to some, but in Gurmat a Sikh is not supposed to act upon or follow on all urges, including those of sexual desire.
ਮਨ ਕਾ ਸੁਭਾਉ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਕਰਤਾ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਅਨਭੈ ਰਹੈ ॥੨॥
“(In the world) everyone acts according to the inclinations of the mind. (But the one who remembers and meditates on the Lord’s name doesn’t follow the inclinations of the mind, instead with the blessings of Naam becomes) the image of the Creator Lord and remains in a state free of fear. ||2||”
Taking the help of Naam and Gurbani one is supposed to fight the the mind’s urges and tendencies.
ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਾਟੈ ਕੋਟਿ ਕਰਮ ॥੩॥੧॥
“The Word of the Guru’s Shabad eradicates the karma of millions of past actions. ||3||1||”
There are babies who born with addictions and cravings to drugs, because of their mothers or changing DNA. Would accepting the baby to take drugs be in spirit of the Sikh religion? There are people born with sexual tendencies towards a parent or sibling, would you embrace this “natural instinct” or work to develop the individual out of this tendency? There are people born with tendencies to be violent, would you embrace this “natural instinct” or help the child to go beyond this tendency? Picking and choosing to suit one’s own agenda does not serve justice to anyone. The nature of humans consists of three states – animal state (living to survive), human state (thinking) and divine state (going beyond the self). The animalistic nature of man can make humans kill one another, be cannibalistic, torture animals or humans, and do evil. However, it has to be accepted that humans have animal side to them, but no one with the right mind would seek to justify humans to act like savages or animalistic even though it is part of nature. Humans are destined to be divine and elevate their consciousness above their survival instincts which animals have.
THE GURUS STOOD AGAINST OPPRESSION FOR THE RIGHTS OF MINORITIES
Does the Gurus standing against oppression and for the rights of minorities, justify same-sex marriages and relationships within Sikhi? The answer is no. Sikhs don’t incite violence or hatred towards anyone who is different to them. In the same spirit, no Sikh religious leader, institution or religious body has ever inciting violence or hatred towards sexual minorities. On the contrary, the Ninth Guru’s martyrdom teaches us that we may be different but the Guru recognises that all humans have the right to live without tyranny and oppression. How can the zealot gay activists force acceptance of homosexuality on the Sikh faith under the ransom of otherwise claiming Sikhs are tyrants in better words for not?
A true Sikh treats all humanity with dignity and respect. A Sikh may not agree with homosexual’s lifestyle or behaviour but we could also on a personal level not agree with the lifestyles of 95% of humanity who love to drink, and others smoke, etc. So we should not be hypocrites and judge some and not others. One should strive to appreciate every human as they are on a humanitarian basis and build upon their own spirituality and discipline. A Sikh should share common positive virtues. If someone sees God inside you then one should direct the other person towards Gurbani. The fact is the Amritdhari lifestyle does not allow of homosexuality, and this is not debatable.
IS THE SIKH AUTHORITY OF SRI AKAL TAKHT ‘HOMOPHOBIC’?
In January 2005, the Akal Takht, the supreme seat of authority, issued an edict against same-sex marriages being allowed in Gurdwaras and that it defies Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct). Zealot gay activists labelled this edict as homophobic and backward. The Gurus condemned people’s acts, not necessarily the people. For a person who drinks alcohol, the alcohol is the problem that causes suffering and is condemned. Similarly, for a person who claims to be homosexual, the act of homosexuality is the problem and condemned, not the human being. The question is, when the Akal Takht or any Sikh leader denounces the consumption of alcohol, would the same activists claim that Akal Takht as spreading “alcohol-phobia”? When the Akal Takht states cutting hair is against Sikh teachings and makes one a Patit (apostate), would the author label this as “cut hair-phobia”? It seems that “homophobia” is branded around for the convenience of the likes of such activists who wish to justify their personal lifestyle and beliefs under the label of the Sikh faith, rather than as their own individual freedom of choice, which no Sikh would interfere with.
RESPECT AND DIGNITY FOR ALL
Although Sikhi does not find homosexual behaviour acceptable, Sikhi does not “hate” or believe that homosexuals are damned to hell as propagated by some religions. As Sikhs we are taught to have principles. A Sikh does not accept any lifestyle other than the Guru’s Way but also prays everyday for “Sarbat da bhalla” (the prosperity of all humanity). Gurbani tells us that God is without hatred and animosity. We are all the children of God. The Gurdwara is open for all no matter who they are or what they’ve done. God loves us all regardless of our thoughts or actions. Homosexuals are free to attend a Gurdwara and participate in Sangat and Pangat. Sikhs are not to have hate or animosity to any person, regardless of race, caste, colour, creed, gender, or sexuality.
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਦਾਤਾ ਦਇਆਲੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਦਇਆ ਸਦਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਅੰਦਰਹੁ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਦੇਖੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਇਕੁ ਸੋਇ ॥
“The True Guru is the Merciful Giver; He is always compassionate.
The True Guru has no hatred within Him; He beholds the One God everywhere.”