A list of do’s and don’ts?

Initially I was going to post about self-loathing and its role in gurbani….so I went to trusty old sikhitothemax.com. I accidentally hit “search” without typing anything in the search box. Up came this list of “Sikhi favorites” on the left pane. At first I started clicking on what peaked my interest. Here’s just a few of them:

  • See truth with your eyes
  • Serve and respect your parents
  • Forever remember death
  • Believe in one God
  • Gurbani is the Guru
  • Eat, Sleep and Talk little
  • Accept Nam as true religion

Then it got into the “Do Not’s”

  • Do not be greedy
  • Do not be proud
  • Do not be jealous
  • Do not get attached to the world
  • Do not associate with manmukhs
  • Do not steal or gamble
  • Do not see bad in others
  • Do not slander anyone

I’m not even going to pretend that I know gurbani, or that I can translate it, or that I can remember shabads or anything of that nature. But I am fairly confident that SGGS is not a list of “Do Not’s”. Now, being someone that considers myself a sikh (whatever that means…) I tend to discuss the openness and the LOVE and I repeat LOVE that Sikhi focuses on. In my limited research into gurbani and the meaning of it, I have rarely seen such blatant instruction as to what we should or should not do. I understand that this may be a result of the translation over to English. But it still doesn’t sit right with me. Descriptions/translations I have seen of “vices” or “bad things” have always discussed the action and then the consequence, or the individuals that have these characteristics.

I know Sikhi is often presented as a list of Do’s and Dont’s; that’s how it was presented to me anyways. How can that possibly be encouraging? Someone that is questioning their Sikhi – how would they see this list? Would it perhaps just further deter them from experience the immense resource that the SGGS is? Is this a correct reflection of Gurbani?


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14 Responses to “A list of do’s and don’ts?”

  1. Phulkari says:

    Exactly JeSuisDot …

    How can that possibly be encouraging? Someone that is questioning their Sikhi – how would they see this list? Would it perhaps just further deter them from experience the immense resource that the SGGS is? Is this a correct reflection of Gurbani

    Gurbani is not a specific do and don'ts resource, even though the practice of Sikhi is presented as one. This disconnect I think is discouraging, particularly for someone questioning their own relationship with Sikhi. I would say these lists are deterrents from experiencing the resourcefulness of the SGGS, in addition, to the numerous languages used in the SGGS and its poetic nature that already make the SGGS difficult to understand for the vast majority of Sikhs. If the Sikh community is not open to embracing those who don’t meet “Sikh Standards” and helping them work through their questions by viewing Gurbani as a primary resource rather than these lists and people’s opinions, we as a community are responsible for pushing them away not they themselves.

    The content of Gurbani is the heart of Sikhi, but so many times I feel as though we focus on everything else. I know I have done that and struggle to understand Gurbani, let alone have shabads memorized and translate them. So I try to remind myself if you don't have a spiritual understanding of Gurbani how is your Rehat going to be meaningful?

    I view Gurbani as more of a source of guidance that helps guide your mind and soul into a state that it can make its own decisions of what to do or not to do. Life is complicated and we get lost in its complexity when making decisions and forget the basics. Gurbani helps to bring us back to those basic principles through explanation.

  2. Phulkari says:

    Exactly JeSuisDot …

    How can that possibly be encouraging? Someone that is questioning their Sikhi – how would they see this list? Would it perhaps just further deter them from experience the immense resource that the SGGS is? Is this a correct reflection of Gurbani

    Gurbani is not a specific do and don’ts resource, even though the practice of Sikhi is presented as one. This disconnect I think is discouraging, particularly for someone questioning their own relationship with Sikhi. I would say these lists are deterrents from experiencing the resourcefulness of the SGGS, in addition, to the numerous languages used in the SGGS and its poetic nature that already make the SGGS difficult to understand for the vast majority of Sikhs. If the Sikh community is not open to embracing those who dont meet Sikh Standards and helping them work through their questions by viewing Gurbani as a primary resource rather than these lists and peoples opinions, we as a community are responsible for pushing them away not they themselves.

    The content of Gurbani is the heart of Sikhi, but so many times I feel as though we focus on everything else. I know I have done that and struggle to understand Gurbani, let alone have shabads memorized and translate them. So I try to remind myself if you don’t have a spiritual understanding of Gurbani how is your Rehat going to be meaningful?

    I view Gurbani as more of a source of guidance that helps guide your mind and soul into a state that it can make its own decisions of what to do or not to do. Life is complicated and we get lost in its complexity when making decisions and forget the basics. Gurbani helps to bring us back to those basic principles through explanation.

  3. Suzy says:

    Do Not Associate With Manmukhs

    Who decides who a manmukh is?

    Serve and respect your parents

    Even if they abuse you, or try to force you to get married against your wishes? You're supposed to serve their wishes even if you don't want to marry someone they pressure you to get married to? That's the ammunition they use, that you're going against Sikhi and religion by disobeying us, and have another stick to destroy your soul with.

  4. Suzy says:

    Do Not Associate With Manmukhs

    Who decides who a manmukh is?

    Serve and respect your parents

    Even if they abuse you, or try to force you to get married against your wishes? You’re supposed to serve their wishes even if you don’t want to marry someone they pressure you to get married to? That’s the ammunition they use, that you’re going against Sikhi and religion by disobeying us, and have another stick to destroy your soul with.

  5. Mewa Singh says:

    What worries me even more is the number of people that encourage and even want do/don't lists. Look on any number of Sikh forums/discussion boards and so many threads begin with "Is it ok if I do….."

  6. Mewa Singh says:

    What worries me even more is the number of people that encourage and even want do/don’t lists. Look on any number of Sikh forums/discussion boards and so many threads begin with “Is it ok if I do…..”

  7. Camille says:

    I think the disconnect is between "Sikhi for 5 year olds" vs. "Sikhi for grownups." When you're little it's probably helpful to have someone frame some of these lessons as do/don't lists, but when you're older this is overly simplistic. I think some of these elements are a true challenge — to see the good in others, even those you dislike, for example, or to not let your anger rule you, or to learn to understand that attachment is not just a reference to materialism or the accumulation of "stuff"

    I'm with Mewa Singh on this one, I am much more concerned about the growing number of people who want a Cliff's Notes guide to Sikhi. Part of what is fascinating about the faith is that there are so many levels of understanding and interpretation, and these change in meaning as you grow up and develop life experience. But I think people often cling to simplified explanations because it is easier to do than thinking it out.

  8. Camille says:

    I think the disconnect is between “Sikhi for 5 year olds” vs. “Sikhi for grownups.” When you’re little it’s probably helpful to have someone frame some of these lessons as do/don’t lists, but when you’re older this is overly simplistic. I think some of these elements are a true challenge — to see the good in others, even those you dislike, for example, or to not let your anger rule you, or to learn to understand that attachment is not just a reference to materialism or the accumulation of “stuff”

    I’m with Mewa Singh on this one, I am much more concerned about the growing number of people who want a Cliff’s Notes guide to Sikhi. Part of what is fascinating about the faith is that there are so many levels of understanding and interpretation, and these change in meaning as you grow up and develop life experience. But I think people often cling to simplified explanations because it is easier to do than thinking it out.

  9. JeSuisDot says:

    I can see what you are saying Camille – and I may be overly-optimistic by saying this – but I think Children can be taught right and wrong without using the words "do not". Children love to do what they aren't allowed to do. In my experience, if you give kids a "why" behind whatever statement you make it tends to stick.

    As you said though, for adults, I definitely agree its an easy way out. Not only is thinking it out seen as being difficult, but challenging one's own belief system.

    I feel that with sikhitothemax being so widely used (I just need to add that I think the website is amazing and the person/people that took the time to compile it…my hats off to them) we need to perhaps examine the language being used.

  10. JeSuisDot says:

    I can see what you are saying Camille – and I may be overly-optimistic by saying this – but I think Children can be taught right and wrong without using the words “do not”. Children love to do what they aren’t allowed to do. In my experience, if you give kids a “why” behind whatever statement you make it tends to stick.

    As you said though, for adults, I definitely agree its an easy way out. Not only is thinking it out seen as being difficult, but challenging one’s own belief system.

    I feel that with sikhitothemax being so widely used (I just need to add that I think the website is amazing and the person/people that took the time to compile it…my hats off to them) we need to perhaps examine the language being used.

  11. Tanmit Sing says:

    Yeah, I kinda agree with you on this one.

    If we were to take those Do's and Dont's in the manner they are presented than we are definitely going to run into contradictions.

    How can it say "Do not associate with Manmukhs" when the Guru says to see the Guru in everyone.

    "Man tu jot saroop hai, apna mool pachaan"

    Your mind is divine, realize your potential"

    so essentially everyone has the potential to be at a high spiritual level, we shouldn't isolate a group or category of people.

    But i think we have to consider that the website probably put that up for young adults and kids so that they have a basic idea of what's prohibited. By no means should any of that taken to the extreme.

    But good post! :)

  12. Tanmit Sing says:

    Yeah, I kinda agree with you on this one.

    If we were to take those Do’s and Dont’s in the manner they are presented than we are definitely going to run into contradictions.

    How can it say “Do not associate with Manmukhs” when the Guru says to see the Guru in everyone.

    “Man tu jot saroop hai, apna mool pachaan”
    Your mind is divine, realize your potential”

    so essentially everyone has the potential to be at a high spiritual level, we shouldn’t isolate a group or category of people.

    But i think we have to consider that the website probably put that up for young adults and kids so that they have a basic idea of what’s prohibited. By no means should any of that taken to the extreme.

    But good post! :)

  13. Phulkari says:

    Camille and Mewa Singh,

    I agree it is important address:

    Look on any number of Sikh forums/discussion boards and so many threads begin with “Is it ok if I do…..”

    I’m with Mewa Singh on this one, I am much more concerned about the growing number of people who want a Cliff’s Notes guide to Sikhi.

    I am thinking a large part it has to do with the way Sikhi is practiced in Gurdwaras (I understand the role of individual responsibility for engaging in Sikhi, but as a Sikh institution and home of the Guru, the Gurdwara has its own responsibilities as well). For many in our generation, kathaa both linguistically and socially is related more towards our parents understanding. Furthermore, many of our Granthis can not even answer our questions or anyone else’s because of a lack of their own education in Sikhi. Hence, many of us, unfortunately, turn to “do and do not” lists to give us a straight answer.

  14. Phulkari says:

    Camille and Mewa Singh,

    I agree it is important address:

    Look on any number of Sikh forums/discussion boards and so many threads begin with Is it ok if I do..

    Im with Mewa Singh on this one, I am much more concerned about the growing number of people who want a Cliffs Notes guide to Sikhi.

    I am thinking a large part it has to do with the way Sikhi is practiced in Gurdwaras (I understand the role of individual responsibility for engaging in Sikhi, but as a Sikh institution and home of the Guru, the Gurdwara has its own responsibilities as well). For many in our generation, kathaa both linguistically and socially is related more towards our parents understanding. Furthermore, many of our Granthis can not even answer our questions or anyone elses because of a lack of their own education in Sikhi. Hence, many of us, unfortunately, turn to do and do not lists to give us a straight answer.