Is a Dollar just a Dollar?

It’s a traditional part of going to gurdwara — giving a dollar (or some other amount of money) as an offering before bowing down in front the Guru Granth Sahib. dollar-150x150.jpgSome may not think about this much, aside from how much they would like to offer and what they would like to think about before the Granth. For me, this practice is a bit more complicated. For years now, when I go to gurdwara, I consider not only the amount to offer, but the condition and source of the paper bill itself. Allow me explain:

When I go to, say a fast food “restaurant” or other business where cash is exchanged, I will look into my wallet and will feel a bit “bad” if the dollar bill I am handing over to vendor is crumpled, torn, held together by tape, or has excessive writing on it. For example, there is a $10 bill in my wallet now that has been there for weeks — I have been hesitant to subject a business to its possession. Some may view such reluctance as unnecessary.

But the situation changes dramatically, in my opinion, when we are talking about providing money to a gurdwara, as part of bowing down and expressing love and respect to our living Guru.

I imagine that providing a crumpled dollar may not be very troublesome to some, but if the choice when one looks down to one’s wallet is a clean, crisp dollar and one that’s been folded countless times over, one would select the former 100 times out of 100. If that’s so, there’s something to be said about the value that can be placed on the *condition* of a dollar in the gurdwara context.

I would also venture to guess that there may be less agreement regarding the importance one should pay to the *source* of a dollar given to a gurdwara. Consider the following hypothetical situations:

Is it “proper” for a person to give $10 just received from a bank ATM; a person to give $10 just received from a neighbor who is a known drug-dealer; college student to give a $1 that he received from a bar the night before; a man to give a $1 that he received at a strip club; a woman to give $1 from her job as an exotic dancer (a job which she needs to pay her bills and go through school); a kid to give a $100 bill that was came in contact with marijuana or other drug; a couple to give a $1,000 check from the direct proceeds of their liquor store business; a man to give $10,000 that should have given to the government in taxes, but since he does not faithfully comply with the IRS Code, he has and wants to give to gurdwara; a person to give $20 that was found on the street where the owner of the $20 is known and accessible.

If your answer is “no” to any of these situations, it is the case that some dollars are appropriate for gurdwara, and others aren’t. If your answer is “yes,” well maybe I just think about odd things!


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19 Responses to “Is a Dollar just a Dollar?”

  1. baingandabhartha says:

    my answer is huh?

  2. baingandabhartha says:

    my answer is huh?

  3. kanyesingh says:

    Well this accurately falls under "musings" – there's nothing in the Rehat regulating how a Sikh offers (to my knowledge), but it would seem to prohibit most of the underlying conduct in the hypos like going to strip clubs or evading taxes.

    I guess it's a matter of respect, how much respect you think should be owed. I dnt think anyone thinks twice about this though – giving a buck is a thoughtless ritual.

  4. kanyesingh says:

    Well this accurately falls under “musings” – there’s nothing in the Rehat regulating how a Sikh offers (to my knowledge), but it would seem to prohibit most of the underlying conduct in the hypos like going to strip clubs or evading taxes.

    I guess it’s a matter of respect, how much respect you think should be owed. I dnt think anyone thinks twice about this though – giving a buck is a thoughtless ritual.

  5. Publius says:

    Sorry BDB, the question is rather simple: does it matter where your money comes from when you give it to gurdwara?

  6. balmeet says:

    Let's ask Malik Bhago….

  7. Publius says:

    Sorry BDB, the question is rather simple: does it matter where your money comes from when you give it to gurdwara?

  8. balmeet says:

    Let’s ask Malik Bhago….

  9. rkaur says:

    does it matter? back in the day, the money bank would be donated to the gurdwara would be placed not directly in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, rather to the side of where one was to bow his or her head. i feel as though there is too much emphasis being put on the mere condition of a dollar. the monetary value is still the same.

  10. baingandabhartha says:

    I got the question just fine thank you. What i meant was that it is physically impossible to figure out where one's dollar has been so why worry about it.

    On the other hand, like Rkaur and KanyeSingh above have said, the entire thing is a thought ritual that I think should be stopped. I still cant get the philosophy behind it.

  11. rkaur says:

    does it matter? back in the day, the money bank would be donated to the gurdwara would be placed not directly in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, rather to the side of where one was to bow his or her head. i feel as though there is too much emphasis being put on the mere condition of a dollar. the monetary value is still the same.

  12. baingandabhartha says:

    I got the question just fine thank you. What i meant was that it is physically impossible to figure out where one’s dollar has been so why worry about it.
    On the other hand, like Rkaur and KanyeSingh above have said, the entire thing is a thought ritual that I think should be stopped. I still cant get the philosophy behind it.

  13. Camille says:

    Sorry BDB, the question is rather simple: does it matter where your money comes from when you give it to gurdwara?

    I would say yes in the context of earnings, no in the context of pathway (i.e., it matters less how it was exchanged before you received it, but it does matter how you earned it).

  14. Camille says:

    Sorry BDB, the question is rather simple: does it matter where your money comes from when you give it to gurdwara?

    I would say yes in the context of earnings, no in the context of pathway (i.e., it matters less how it was exchanged before you received it, but it does matter how you earned it).

  15. Publius says:

    Clearly, a person cannot know many places where his dollar has been, but he may know 1) where the dollar previously came from, and 2) whether his work has been honest. It seems as though under the second circumstance, a Sikh should provide money to gurdwara only if that money is "clean", that is from honest work. The question, then, is what constitutes honest work – is running a liquor store (as some Sikhs do) honest work, even if the Sikh owners do not themselves drink?

    Under the first circumstance, while it may not be possible to know all the possible hands which touched a single dollar bill, one may know where it previously came from. The question there is whether it is proper to provide money to gurdwara that came from a seemly source. For example, if you knowingly receive $1 from a stripper.

    It's reasonable to argue that the practice of providing money when paying respects to the Guru Granth Sahib is a ritual. The fact of the matter remains, however, that almost everyone does it. And if that's the case, should there be any rules on the money that someone gives to gurdwara. Bringing up Malik Bhago reflects the belief that there is something to be said about the source of one's money. I'm trying to discern hard rules for such practices.

  16. Publius says:

    Clearly, a person cannot know many places where his dollar has been, but he may know 1) where the dollar previously came from, and 2) whether his work has been honest. It seems as though under the second circumstance, a Sikh should provide money to gurdwara only if that money is “clean”, that is from honest work. The question, then, is what constitutes honest work – is running a liquor store (as some Sikhs do) honest work, even if the Sikh owners do not themselves drink?

    Under the first circumstance, while it may not be possible to know all the possible hands which touched a single dollar bill, one may know where it previously came from. The question there is whether it is proper to provide money to gurdwara that came from a seemly source. For example, if you knowingly receive $1 from a stripper.

    It’s reasonable to argue that the practice of providing money when paying respects to the Guru Granth Sahib is a ritual. The fact of the matter remains, however, that almost everyone does it. And if that’s the case, should there be any rules on the money that someone gives to gurdwara. Bringing up Malik Bhago reflects the belief that there is something to be said about the source of one’s money. I’m trying to discern hard rules for such practices.

  17. justasikh says:

    It's not our physical state, but the heart in which we complete our actions as per Guru Nanak.

    We can clean our bodies, and our dollar bills as much as we want, will it make our hearts cleaner?

  18. justasikh says:

    It’s not our physical state, but the heart in which we complete our actions as per Guru Nanak.

    We can clean our bodies, and our dollar bills as much as we want, will it make our hearts cleaner?

  19. atheist says:

    HAHAHA you bow down in front of money FYI not the 'guru granth sahib, the so-called living guru, a book in fact, god religion is stupid…. keep wasting ur life.
    -a former sikh