love across the lines

After many a post on the quandaries and challenges facing young (Sikh, Punjabi) folks today on the romance tip, I wanted to write something anecdotal about relationships today.

After Partition, and particularly after 1984, I think there’s been a polarization of Sikh identity within the diaspora, especially around conversations about relationships. I definitely grew up thinking that the default assumption was to find someone Sikh, most likely Punjabi, to grow up and get “settled” with [qualifier: I was really young when I thought this was the expectation]. I also grew up thinking that Sikh-Sikh couples were the norm.

Au contraire. Among my parents’ first cousins alone, at least 50% are in interfaith or interracial marriages (our motley family includes several Christians, Jews, and Hindus; Southies and Northies; ABDs and DBDs; and desis and non-desis). In fact, my mom is one of the only cousins to have married a Sikh Punjabi man, and certainly the only one to marry a kesdari Sikh. I always took this diversity for granted; it didn’t seem diverse because it was normal to me. What I find striking is that I still held the assumption that my parents’ expectation was much more limited (this of course changed when I was adult). I started to wonder where the heck I got the strange idea that Sikh-Sikh couples are the only “acceptable” outcome.

I thought more and more about where these ideas came from. I realize that some of it certainly came from the gossipy chatter of aunties and uncles. You know the subset — these are the same folks who comment disdainfully about everyone’s relationship choices (if the person is not the right religion or race, they’re not the right education or income or region). But I also wonder if the diverse “couplings” in my parents’ generation were more common/normal because there had NOT been the same level of polarization (most of these couples met pre-1984) that has ensued over the past 20+ years. Or, could it be that when Sikh-Sikh couples were common, there wasn’t the same level of “desperation” around finding a partner if you were open to a non-Sikh partnership?

This also made me reflect on how Sikhi is often interpreted or taught to children. I was taught that Sikhi requires both partners to be of the same faith (although this faith need not necessarily be Sikhi). This isn’t the reality on the ground, though. Is this really one of the most important facets of the religion? Does this vary based on how you want to raise your kids? Is it for the sake of consistency and to mitigate arguments within a relationship? Does it help provide a common ethical framework? Couldn’t many of these issues exist despite being of the same faith background?


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28 Responses to “love across the lines”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    Camille,

    You raise some interesting points, but the problem is also defining the 'norm.' Does the 'norm' represent the majority?

    Our parents (assuming the term 'baby-boomer' applies in India as well — born 1946-1964) were possibly one of the first generations where we see mass movement intra-Punjab. Although migration in the British services (especially military and policing) occurred amongst the Sikhs and of course the most tragic partition of 1947, for the majority of the community (apart from those that participated in the Gurdwara Morchas) prior to 1947 most that were born in a village would have only travelled a few mile radius outside that village in their lifetime. In urban areas it may have differed some, but the vast majority lived in rural and semi-rural dwellings.

    I wouldn't say that Sikh-Sikh is the only acceptable outcome as you define what works best for you. However, all things being equal, a Sikh-Sikh marriage would be a MORE desirable outcome.

    If a polarization has occurred post 1984, I believe that is within only one small subsection of the Sikh community, who did marry within the same caste of Hindus. Although this particular subsection is highly important due to their historical educational, military, bureaucratic, and economic history, it is important to remember that in terms of sheer numbers they probably only account for a miniscule number of Sikhs (it is only within this community that the 'eldest-son raised as a Sikh' tradition ever existed and even this for a very short period of time during the reign of Ranjit Singh and a short interlude during British rule). For the vast majority (exceptions in urban, military families, etc.) they would have married exclusively with other Sikhs.

    I think you are right that the main reason that it is with children that the issue really comes into play. In fact I think it is thinking ahead in terms of this that many of our parents try to push us to marry other Sikhs. I know at my Gurdwara that some children did not feel they were treated the same (children of mixed Punjabi-European and even Punjabi-African American heritage). I don't know if others discriminated, but regardless many felt that there was a difference in how they were treated.

    I don't really have a point I was trying to make, but that for the majority Sikh-Sikh was in fact some 'norm' (if we think of 'norm' as representing the overwhelming majority). Even in the Sikh Reht Maryada, when writing about Anand Sanskar (Marriages), it is written that:

    a. A Sikh man and woman should enter wedlock without giving thought to the prospective spouse's caste and descent.

    b. A Sikh's daughter must be married to a Sikh.

    Leaving aside (for now) the gender-biased tone of the early twentieth century writing, it seems that the Sikh-Sikh marriage was considered the ideal. It was especially the ideal as in a patriarchal Punjabi society women were assumed to take the religion of the husband. Does this still exist now? Are the expectations more that a Sikh male should marry a Sikh female or is it less so?

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    Camille,

    You raise some interesting points, but the problem is also defining the ‘norm.’ Does the ‘norm’ represent the majority?

    Our parents (assuming the term ‘baby-boomer’ applies in India as well — born 1946-1964) were possibly one of the first generations where we see mass movement intra-Punjab. Although migration in the British services (especially military and policing) occurred amongst the Sikhs and of course the most tragic partition of 1947, for the majority of the community (apart from those that participated in the Gurdwara Morchas) prior to 1947 most that were born in a village would have only travelled a few mile radius outside that village in their lifetime. In urban areas it may have differed some, but the vast majority lived in rural and semi-rural dwellings.

    I wouldn’t say that Sikh-Sikh is the only acceptable outcome as you define what works best for you. However, all things being equal, a Sikh-Sikh marriage would be a MORE desirable outcome.

    If a polarization has occurred post 1984, I believe that is within only one small subsection of the Sikh community, who did marry within the same caste of Hindus. Although this particular subsection is highly important due to their historical educational, military, bureaucratic, and economic history, it is important to remember that in terms of sheer numbers they probably only account for a miniscule number of Sikhs (it is only within this community that the ‘eldest-son raised as a Sikh’ tradition ever existed and even this for a very short period of time during the reign of Ranjit Singh and a short interlude during British rule). For the vast majority (exceptions in urban, military families, etc.) they would have married exclusively with other Sikhs.

    I think you are right that the main reason that it is with children that the issue really comes into play. In fact I think it is thinking ahead in terms of this that many of our parents try to push us to marry other Sikhs. I know at my Gurdwara that some children did not feel they were treated the same (children of mixed Punjabi-European and even Punjabi-African American heritage). I don’t know if others discriminated, but regardless many felt that there was a difference in how they were treated.

    I don’t really have a point I was trying to make, but that for the majority Sikh-Sikh was in fact some ‘norm’ (if we think of ‘norm’ as representing the overwhelming majority). Even in the Sikh Reht Maryada, when writing about Anand Sanskar (Marriages), it is written that:

    a. A Sikh man and woman should enter wedlock without giving thought to the prospective spouse’s caste and descent.
    b. A Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh.

    Leaving aside (for now) the gender-biased tone of the early twentieth century writing, it seems that the Sikh-Sikh marriage was considered the ideal. It was especially the ideal as in a patriarchal Punjabi society women were assumed to take the religion of the husband. Does this still exist now? Are the expectations more that a Sikh male should marry a Sikh female or is it less so?

  3. Singh says:

    Camille,

    Aside from the question of whether or not it is the "norm" – a Sikh-Sikh marriage is a "requirement" set upon Sikhs by the Sikh Gurus. Guru Gobind Singh Ji codified it in his hukamname by stating that a Sikh should only marry his daughter (assumadely Sikh) to another Sikh. Again – realizing that the tone IS sexist, the point is not lost – Sikhs are to marry Sikhs. It is not hard to speculate why this is the case, but ultimately like many issues in Sikhi (Kesh, Amrit, Nitnem) any answer we create to answer the "why" is not necessarily going to equate with the faith you put in the Guru's hukam.

  4. Singh says:

    Camille,

    Aside from the question of whether or not it is the “norm” – a Sikh-Sikh marriage is a “requirement” set upon Sikhs by the Sikh Gurus. Guru Gobind Singh Ji codified it in his hukamname by stating that a Sikh should only marry his daughter (assumadely Sikh) to another Sikh. Again – realizing that the tone IS sexist, the point is not lost – Sikhs are to marry Sikhs. It is not hard to speculate why this is the case, but ultimately like many issues in Sikhi (Kesh, Amrit, Nitnem) any answer we create to answer the “why” is not necessarily going to equate with the faith you put in the Guru’s hukam.

  5. Camille says:

    So is that where the conversation ends? Because the Rehit Maryada requires Sikhs (specifically Sikh women) to marry Sikhs, then all other relationships are invalid before the SGGS? I really do think there has been a "re-norming" that interfaith or intercultural (inter-regional, etc.)relationships are not allowed and thus should not be examined as a realistic alternative? Does that make every Sikh in an inter-faith relationship illegitimate?

  6. Camille says:

    So is that where the conversation ends? Because the Rehit Maryada requires Sikhs (specifically Sikh women) to marry Sikhs, then all other relationships are invalid before the SGGS? I really do think there has been a “re-norming” that interfaith or intercultural (inter-regional, etc.)relationships are not allowed and thus should not be examined as a realistic alternative? Does that make every Sikh in an inter-faith relationship illegitimate?

  7. P.Singh says:

    Camille,

    If the hukamnama indicated by Singh does exist, then yes – that is where the conversation ends for Sikhs. If the hukamnama orders all Sikhs to marry only Sikhs, then I'm not sure how much flexibility exists for those individuals wishing to live their lives in accordance with the path established by the Gurus.

    That said, the conversation is very much alive for those Sikhs who find themselves in interfaith relationships – whether they are/were unaware of the hukamnama or were unable/unwilling to relinquish their relationship because of the hukamnama.

    Is an interfaith relationship, invalid before the SGGS? I don't know the answer to that and would love to hear what other readers/writers have to say on this point.

    As a related point of interest, I have heard arguments from some (AKJ members mostly), that an anand karaj is only truly an anand karaj before SGGS, only if both bride and groom are amritdhari. This line of theological reasoning would invalidate the majority of Sikh relationships…

    Interesting topic.

  8. P.Singh says:

    Camille,

    If the hukamnama indicated by Singh does exist, then yes – that is where the conversation ends for Sikhs. If the hukamnama orders all Sikhs to marry only Sikhs, then I’m not sure how much flexibility exists for those individuals wishing to live their lives in accordance with the path established by the Gurus.

    That said, the conversation is very much alive for those Sikhs who find themselves in interfaith relationships – whether they are/were unaware of the hukamnama or were unable/unwilling to relinquish their relationship because of the hukamnama.

    Is an interfaith relationship, invalid before the SGGS? I don’t know the answer to that and would love to hear what other readers/writers have to say on this point.

    As a related point of interest, I have heard arguments from some (AKJ members mostly), that an anand karaj is only truly an anand karaj before SGGS, only if both bride and groom are amritdhari. This line of theological reasoning would invalidate the majority of Sikh relationships…

    Interesting topic.

  9. Singh says:

    Camille, I am going to post my answer as a blog post later this week…but generally I tend to agree with P.Singh.

  10. Singh says:

    Camille, I am going to post my answer as a blog post later this week…but generally I tend to agree with P.Singh.

  11. Reema says:

    My intuitive response is that there has been SOME Sikh-Hindu and Sikh-Muslim polarization since before 1984, because of prior political events such as 1947, and following the political persecution of the Gurus during the Mughal reign. But someone better versed in history could probably say more about this. I think it's quite possible that Sikh-Hindu polarization intensified after 84.

    And I wonder, rather than set aside the gender bias of the requirement that a Sikh daughter marry a Sikh man, I think we'd have a better explanation of what was intended if we took it into account. Was it simply to ensure the propagation of Sikhi? If 'being Sikh' required one to marry another Sikh, then why weren't men required to marry Sikh women as well? Was it was assumed that a Sikh man, if marrying a non-Sikh woman, would give his religion- Sikhi to the children, but that it might not be possible in a reverse situation (given the gender politics of the day)? And would this still be the case today?

    I think your questions about kids, mitigating arguments, and having a common ethical framework are certainly the reason that most Sikh parents want their children to marry other Sikhs (they think it's just easier), but I agree that these problems continue to some extent even if both partners are of the same faith-2 people can practice Sikhi very differently. But I do think that being in a Sikh-Sikh relationship would be like speaking the same spiritual language, and make communicating about spirituality a bit easier. Of the interfaith relationships you know, do both partners practice each of their faiths? Do you know what (if anything) they've found to be challenging about having 2 faiths in a family?

  12. Reema says:

    My intuitive response is that there has been SOME Sikh-Hindu and Sikh-Muslim polarization since before 1984, because of prior political events such as 1947, and following the political persecution of the Gurus during the Mughal reign. But someone better versed in history could probably say more about this. I think it’s quite possible that Sikh-Hindu polarization intensified after 84.

    And I wonder, rather than set aside the gender bias of the requirement that a Sikh daughter marry a Sikh man, I think we’d have a better explanation of what was intended if we took it into account. Was it simply to ensure the propagation of Sikhi? If ‘being Sikh’ required one to marry another Sikh, then why weren’t men required to marry Sikh women as well? Was it was assumed that a Sikh man, if marrying a non-Sikh woman, would give his religion- Sikhi to the children, but that it might not be possible in a reverse situation (given the gender politics of the day)? And would this still be the case today?

    I think your questions about kids, mitigating arguments, and having a common ethical framework are certainly the reason that most Sikh parents want their children to marry other Sikhs (they think it’s just easier), but I agree that these problems continue to some extent even if both partners are of the same faith-2 people can practice Sikhi very differently. But I do think that being in a Sikh-Sikh relationship would be like speaking the same spiritual language, and make communicating about spirituality a bit easier. Of the interfaith relationships you know, do both partners practice each of their faiths? Do you know what (if anything) they’ve found to be challenging about having 2 faiths in a family?

  13. Reema says:

    I think we're operating with different definitions of what it means to be a Sikh. I prefer an inclusive, broad definition that recognizes that many people are on different places in their path.

  14. Reema says:

    I think we’re operating with different definitions of what it means to be a Sikh. I prefer an inclusive, broad definition that recognizes that many people are on different places in their path.

  15. Mewa Singh says:

    Sorry I hit submit before I finished….

    Let me start over….

    I think Camille raises interesting questions, but they also point to a common conflation that too easily occurs during Sikh discussions.

    The Rehat Maryada provides practical guidelines for the longevity of the Khalsa Panth and Sikh Qaum. This is what the Gurus had in mind when they created the ‘theesra panth’ (to use the terms of Bhai Gurdas). Individuals may make choices that fit their needs, but may or may not add to the longevity of the community.

    It does not mean that other relationships are ‘invalid.’ Nor does it make a Sikh from an inter-faith marriage illegitimate. I am not seeing the link. Afterall it is the discipline (rehat) that makes one truly ‘Sikh’ (although I know that I often use the label as a religio-ethnic description).

    "Rehat Pyaari Mujh Ko, Sikh Pyaara Naahe"

    From the mouth of Guru Gobind Singh to the hand of Bhai Desa Singh

    Camille is probably right. During the early stages of the Panth's development as many 'converted' from other faiths, of course, inter-faith marriage would have occurred. A 're-norming' probably occurred the Singh Sabha Movement as Sikh scholars from throughout the world deliberated to create the Rehat Maryada. With the British using census figures and population demographics to determine represention and thus political power, the Sikh (just as Hindus and Muslims) were probably concerned to consolidate their numbers as well. This may be ONE of the reasons for the push for the inclusion of the Sikh-Sikh marriage clause, but is definitely NOT the only reason. The Singh Sabha, despite the erroneous opinion of Harjot Oberoi, were not creating some 'new' Sikh form sui generis, but were rather drawing from the previous tradition and probably from the same Hukamnama that SINGH suggested in his earlier comment.

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    Sorry I hit submit before I finished….
    Let me start over….

    I think Camille raises interesting questions, but they also point to a common conflation that too easily occurs during Sikh discussions.

    The Rehat Maryada provides practical guidelines for the longevity of the Khalsa Panth and Sikh Qaum. This is what the Gurus had in mind when they created the theesra panth (to use the terms of Bhai Gurdas). Individuals may make choices that fit their needs, but may or may not add to the longevity of the community.

    It does not mean that other relationships are invalid. Nor does it make a Sikh from an inter-faith marriage illegitimate. I am not seeing the link. Afterall it is the discipline (rehat) that makes one truly Sikh (although I know that I often use the label as a religio-ethnic description).

    “Rehat Pyaari Mujh Ko, Sikh Pyaara Naahe”
    From the mouth of Guru Gobind Singh to the hand of Bhai Desa Singh

    Camille is probably right. During the early stages of the Panth’s development as many ‘converted’ from other faiths, of course, inter-faith marriage would have occurred. A ‘re-norming’ probably occurred the Singh Sabha Movement as Sikh scholars from throughout the world deliberated to create the Rehat Maryada. With the British using census figures and population demographics to determine represention and thus political power, the Sikh (just as Hindus and Muslims) were probably concerned to consolidate their numbers as well. This may be ONE of the reasons for the push for the inclusion of the Sikh-Sikh marriage clause, but is definitely NOT the only reason. The Singh Sabha, despite the erroneous opinion of Harjot Oberoi, were not creating some ‘new’ Sikh form sui generis, but were rather drawing from the previous tradition and probably from the same Hukamnama that SINGH suggested in his earlier comment.

  17. Camille says:

    If the hukamnama indicated by Singh does exist, then yes – that is where the conversation ends for Sikhs. If the hukamnama orders all Sikhs to marry only Sikhs, then Im not sure how much flexibility exists for those individuals wishing to live their lives in accordance with the path established by the Gurus.

    I think were operating with different definitions of what it means to be a Sikh. I prefer an inclusive, broad definition that recognizes that many people are on different places in their path.

    I think Reema has picked up on where my “pushback” comes from. I think the “well, that is what the SGGS says, so there is no conversation” explanation is overly simplistic. What if someone converts to Sikhi after marriage but their partner doesn’t? How do we accommodate for the varying levels of “discipline” in the practice of Sikhi?

    Part of why I raise these questions is that, in a very diverse diaspora, the issue of intercultural/faith relationships is pervasive. I think part of the growing commitment to the “Sikh-Sikh” model is also a sense of desperation or panic over increasing rates of “out-marriage” among many diasporic Sikhs (I’m not saying the out-marriage rate is high; I have no idea what it is, but it does seem to be increasing slowly within the diaspora). Are we effectively pushing people away from the faith by such a rigid interpretation? Along the same reasoning, how does this impact same sex couples?

    Of the interfaith relationships you know, do both partners practice each of their faiths? Do you know what (if anything) theyve found to be challenging about having 2 faiths in a family?

    All of the families I know are totally unique: these couples have one practicing partner, no practicing partners, or two practicing partners. Among those marriages where both partners practice their faith, they agreed to provide their children with two frameworks and let them decide, or they chose not to have children at all. I’ve definitely seen cases where one child chose religion X while another child chose religion Y. Among the Sikh-Hindu marriages, 1984 was the most taxing experience they had because it felt like horrific violence had been brought into the home by virtue of identity. Surprisingly, the disapproval of family members was NOT an issue, although the language barrier might be [e.g., I was at gurdwara once with my mamiji — a Tibetan Buddhist — and everyone was chatting around her in Punjabi. While they all were friends with her, it didn’t occur to anyone that speaking Punjabi in front of a non-speaker was intrinsically exclusive. I’ve seen something similar happen in cultural (i.e. non religious) contexts]

  18. Camille says:

    If the hukamnama indicated by Singh does exist, then yes – that is where the conversation ends for Sikhs. If the hukamnama orders all Sikhs to marry only Sikhs, then I’m not sure how much flexibility exists for those individuals wishing to live their lives in accordance with the path established by the Gurus.

    I think we’re operating with different definitions of what it means to be a Sikh. I prefer an inclusive, broad definition that recognizes that many people are on different places in their path.

    I think Reema has picked up on where my "pushback" comes from. I think the "well, that is what the SGGS says, so there is no conversation" explanation is overly simplistic. What if someone converts to Sikhi after marriage but their partner doesn't? How do we accommodate for the varying levels of "discipline" in the practice of Sikhi?

    Part of why I raise these questions is that, in a very diverse diaspora, the issue of intercultural/faith relationships is pervasive. I think part of the growing commitment to the "Sikh-Sikh" model is also a sense of desperation or panic over increasing rates of "out-marriage" among many diasporic Sikhs (I'm not saying the out-marriage rate is high; I have no idea what it is, but it does seem to be increasing slowly within the diaspora). Are we effectively pushing people away from the faith by such a rigid interpretation? Along the same reasoning, how does this impact same sex couples?

    Of the interfaith relationships you know, do both partners practice each of their faiths? Do you know what (if anything) they’ve found to be challenging about having 2 faiths in a family?

    All of the families I know are totally unique: these couples have one practicing partner, no practicing partners, or two practicing partners. Among those marriages where both partners practice their faith, they agreed to provide their children with two frameworks and let them decide, or they chose not to have children at all. I've definitely seen cases where one child chose religion X while another child chose religion Y. Among the Sikh-Hindu marriages, 1984 was the most taxing experience they had because it felt like horrific violence had been brought into the home by virtue of identity. Surprisingly, the disapproval of family members was NOT an issue, although the language barrier might be [e.g., I was at gurdwara once with my mamiji — a Tibetan Buddhist — and everyone was chatting around her in Punjabi. While they all were friends with her, it didn't occur to anyone that speaking Punjabi in front of a non-speaker was intrinsically exclusive. I've seen something similar happen in cultural (i.e. non religious) contexts]

  19. Singh says:

    In discussing some of questions posed, I agree with P.Singh in that the conversation about what is and is not "legitimate" tends to be a non-issue where the Guru has provided a guideline.

    I hear the concerns about the rigidity of this perspective, but it is hard for me to agree with what I sense some are proposing – that we should not interpret Sikhi to have rigid boundaries. All boundaries are to some extent rigid and limiting. If we can't live with the boundaries set forth in SGGS and in documents by our Guru's and Sikh bodies- what makes anyone certain that any interpretation would matter? Can we set any boundaries for fear of not being open enough? These are questions that I have difficulty answering myself.

    One anecdote regards the keeping your hesh/hair – it is established as a requirement in Sikhi, yet we have many (dare I say a majority) of those identifying as Sikh trimming, plucking, shaving, and waxing. Does what our fellow Sikhs choose to do affect what Sikhi is. Do the acts regarding the kesh make the kesh requirement outdated and make trimming legitimate? Where do we draw the line on the hukham of the Guru?

    Point being: I have issue with "re-norming" Sikhi. I read an interesting statement on a Muslim blog's purpose section that I think can be adapted easily here:

    We challenge ourselves and our readers to engage in discourses that touch our lives as citizens of the West, while maintaining our individual <del datetime="2008-01-10T05:44:31+00:00">Islamic</del> Sikh identities; Ultimately to cooperate, but not to compromise.

    By "re-norming" aspects of our faith are we not just compromising our faith to fit in? Instead of accepting our faith with faith and understanding it through Gurbani, we disregard and condemn aspects in favor of recasting and redefining Sikhi.

    I view my religion as a faith/Waheguru centered journey – this is true even of married life…the lavan are taken around the Guru, so that the Guru may be the center of the union…

    Finally, the discussion most certainly does not (and will not) end here and the best I can do is encourage those who have already married to share their love for Sikhi with their spouses (both Sikh and non-Sikh) and children.

  20. Singh says:

    In discussing some of questions posed, I agree with P.Singh in that the conversation about what is and is not “legitimate” tends to be a non-issue where the Guru has provided a guideline.

    I hear the concerns about the rigidity of this perspective, but it is hard for me to agree with what I sense some are proposing – that we should not interpret Sikhi to have rigid boundaries. All boundaries are to some extent rigid and limiting. If we can’t live with the boundaries set forth in SGGS and in documents by our Guru’s and Sikh bodies- what makes anyone certain that any interpretation would matter? Can we set any boundaries for fear of not being open enough? These are questions that I have difficulty answering myself.

    One anecdote regards the keeping your hesh/hair – it is established as a requirement in Sikhi, yet we have many (dare I say a majority) of those identifying as Sikh trimming, plucking, shaving, and waxing. Does what our fellow Sikhs choose to do affect what Sikhi is. Do the acts regarding the kesh make the kesh requirement outdated and make trimming legitimate? Where do we draw the line on the hukham of the Guru?

    Point being: I have issue with “re-norming” Sikhi. I read an interesting statement on a Muslim blog‘s purpose section that I think can be adapted easily here:

    We challenge ourselves and our readers to engage in discourses that touch our lives as citizens of the West, while maintaining our individual Islamic Sikh identities; Ultimately to cooperate, but not to compromise.

    By “re-norming” aspects of our faith are we not just compromising our faith to fit in? Instead of accepting our faith with faith and understanding it through Gurbani, we disregard and condemn aspects in favor of recasting and redefining Sikhi.

    I view my religion as a faith/Waheguru centered journey – this is true even of married life…the lavan are taken around the Guru, so that the Guru may be the center of the union…

    Finally, the discussion most certainly does not (and will not) end here and the best I can do is encourage those who have already married to share their love for Sikhi with their spouses (both Sikh and non-Sikh) and children.

  21. Reema says:

    I hear the concerns about the rigidity of this perspective, but it is hard for me to agree with what I sense some are proposing – that we should not interpret Sikhi to have rigid boundaries.

    My concern is not that there are rigid boundaries, but sometimes I'm wary of whether the boundaries are being misinterpreted. I have no problem with there being boundaries, but am cautious about WHO defines those boundaries, where the definitions of the boundaries come from, and what motivates those who are defining them…

  22. Reema says:

    I hear the concerns about the rigidity of this perspective, but it is hard for me to agree with what I sense some are proposing – that we should not interpret Sikhi to have rigid boundaries.

    My concern is not that there are rigid boundaries, but sometimes I’m wary of whether the boundaries are being misinterpreted. I have no problem with there being boundaries, but am cautious about WHO defines those boundaries, where the definitions of the boundaries come from, and what motivates those who are defining them…

  23. Reema says:

    The Rehat Maryada provides practical guidelines for the longevity of the Khalsa Panth and Sikh Qaum. This is what the Gurus had in mind when they created the ‘theesra panth’ (to use the terms of Bhai Gurdas). Individuals may make choices that fit their needs, but may or may not add to the longevity of the community.

    It does not mean that other relationships are ‘invalid.’ Nor does it make a Sikh from an inter-faith marriage illegitimate. I am not seeing the link. Afterall it is the discipline (rehat) that makes one truly ‘Sikh’ (although I know that I often use the label as a religio-ethnic description).

    Mewa ji, thanks for pointing out this distinction, it's helpful.

    One anecdote regards the keeping your hesh/hair – it is established as a requirement in Sikhi, yet we have many (dare I say a majority) of those identifying as Sikh trimming, plucking, shaving, and waxing. Does what our fellow Sikhs choose to do affect what Sikhi is. Do the acts regarding the kesh make the kesh requirement outdated and make trimming legitimate? Where do we draw the line on the hukham of the Guru?

    Singh ji, you're right, the kesh is something that many identifying with Sikhi are struggling with today. The struggle does not, in any way, make the requirement outdated, but I think if we don't acknowledge and engage with those who are struggling with the kesh (or other issue- this does not mean compromising the requirement, but only allowing them to be part of the conversation), and instead dismiss or discount them, then that splinters the community and feels insincere to the foundation of love that Sikhi is based on.

    By “re-norming” aspects of our faith are we not just compromising our faith to fit in? Instead of accepting our faith with faith and understanding it through Gurbani, we disregard and condemn aspects in favor of recasting and redefining Sikhi.

    If a 're-norming' occurs because of a major event, then that might be inevitable. But I don't think our above conversation has 'disregarded or condemned' and I don't think anyone who's spoken so far has an intention/desire to 'recast' or 'redefine,' only to understand. Your acceptance of faith with faith is respectable, and at some point, the the only way to have faith. But maybe not everyone is at that stage yet, and I only hope that everyone's questions are given room for discussion without being dismissed.

  24. Reema says:

    The Rehat Maryada provides practical guidelines for the longevity of the Khalsa Panth and Sikh Qaum. This is what the Gurus had in mind when they created the theesra panth (to use the terms of Bhai Gurdas). Individuals may make choices that fit their needs, but may or may not add to the longevity of the community.

    It does not mean that other relationships are invalid. Nor does it make a Sikh from an inter-faith marriage illegitimate. I am not seeing the link. Afterall it is the discipline (rehat) that makes one truly Sikh (although I know that I often use the label as a religio-ethnic description).

    Mewa ji, thanks for pointing out this distinction, it’s helpful.

    One anecdote regards the keeping your hesh/hair – it is established as a requirement in Sikhi, yet we have many (dare I say a majority) of those identifying as Sikh trimming, plucking, shaving, and waxing. Does what our fellow Sikhs choose to do affect what Sikhi is. Do the acts regarding the kesh make the kesh requirement outdated and make trimming legitimate? Where do we draw the line on the hukham of the Guru?

    Singh ji, you’re right, the kesh is something that many identifying with Sikhi are struggling with today. The struggle does not, in any way, make the requirement outdated, but I think if we don’t acknowledge and engage with those who are struggling with the kesh (or other issue- this does not mean compromising the requirement, but only allowing them to be part of the conversation), and instead dismiss or discount them, then that splinters the community and feels insincere to the foundation of love that Sikhi is based on.

    By re-norming aspects of our faith are we not just compromising our faith to fit in? Instead of accepting our faith with faith and understanding it through Gurbani, we disregard and condemn aspects in favor of recasting and redefining Sikhi.

    If a ‘re-norming’ occurs because of a major event, then that might be inevitable. But I don’t think our above conversation has ‘disregarded or condemned’ and I don’t think anyone who’s spoken so far has an intention/desire to ‘recast’ or ‘redefine,’ only to understand. Your acceptance of faith with faith is respectable, and at some point, the the only way to have faith. But maybe not everyone is at that stage yet, and I only hope that everyone’s questions are given room for discussion without being dismissed.

  25. P.Singh says:

    Camille,

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding your post, but I don't see acceptance of the Guru's perspective as conclusive, as being "overly simplistic".

    If the SGGS or the Gurus in other documents or traditions provide a definitive answer to a question, well, suffice it to say, for someone wishing to walk the Sikh path of life, that is the answer and, indeed, it is the bottom line.

    However, as I mentioned earlier, that is not to dismiss the very real situations many Sikhs find themselves in – situations which may not be in strict accordance with Sikhi. For these Sikhs, and I am often one of them, the conversation is definitely open and we can have a great discussion colored, and textured with the particularities of our own lives as measured against bona fide Sikh principles.

    With regards to rigidity of perspective, I would have to agree with much of what Singh has posted above. I do not think having some rigidity to Sikh principles is a detriment to the faith, and do not think it dismisses those who aren't able to live up to those principles.

    As an admittedly simple example, please consider the following: Drinking is forbidden in Sikhi, yet, in Punjab and in the diaspora, Sikhs drink; I am confident we outdrink the Irish. Should this anti-alcohol principle be somehow relaxed to pander to those Sikhs who drink? I don't think so. The anti-alcohol principle is definitive and rigid, and makes clear a lifestyle choice required by Sikhi. Relax that principle, and you are left with something less than Sikhi.

    I would go so far as to say, rigidity in the principles outlined by the Gurus, act not so much as boundaries to exclude the masses, but rather, as clear and bright beacons in the path we walk as Sikhs. We are all at different places on this path, travelling at our own pace, and it is these beacons that help provide all of us fellow travellers with an idea of the direction we should be headed.

  26. P.Singh says:

    Camille,

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding your post, but I don’t see acceptance of the Guru’s perspective as conclusive, as being “overly simplistic”.

    If the SGGS or the Gurus in other documents or traditions provide a definitive answer to a question, well, suffice it to say, for someone wishing to walk the Sikh path of life, that is the answer and, indeed, it is the bottom line.

    However, as I mentioned earlier, that is not to dismiss the very real situations many Sikhs find themselves in – situations which may not be in strict accordance with Sikhi. For these Sikhs, and I am often one of them, the conversation is definitely open and we can have a great discussion colored, and textured with the particularities of our own lives as measured against bona fide Sikh principles.

    With regards to rigidity of perspective, I would have to agree with much of what Singh has posted above. I do not think having some rigidity to Sikh principles is a detriment to the faith, and do not think it dismisses those who aren’t able to live up to those principles.

    As an admittedly simple example, please consider the following: Drinking is forbidden in Sikhi, yet, in Punjab and in the diaspora, Sikhs drink; I am confident we outdrink the Irish. Should this anti-alcohol principle be somehow relaxed to pander to those Sikhs who drink? I don’t think so. The anti-alcohol principle is definitive and rigid, and makes clear a lifestyle choice required by Sikhi. Relax that principle, and you are left with something less than Sikhi.

    I would go so far as to say, rigidity in the principles outlined by the Gurus, act not so much as boundaries to exclude the masses, but rather, as clear and bright beacons in the path we walk as Sikhs. We are all at different places on this path, travelling at our own pace, and it is these beacons that help provide all of us fellow travellers with an idea of the direction we should be headed.

  27. Camille says:

    My concern is not that there are rigid boundaries, but sometimes I’m wary of whether the boundaries are being misinterpreted. I have no problem with there being boundaries, but am cautious about WHO defines those boundaries, where the definitions of the boundaries come from, and what motivates those who are defining them…

    Reema, you took the words out of my fingers!

    I understand the concept of "bright line" standards in Sikhi. I also understand the "rigidity" (which, in my opinion, is not so much rigid but rather tries to empower a Sikh to live a path of fulfillment and love for God). I'm not even arguing for a relaxation of "standards." I am curious about the real phenomena of mixed marriages and how this effects people's lives. With respect to "re-norming," I'm not arguing for a redefinition of the Sikh-Sikh marriage archetype, but rather, commenting on the historical/social phenomena that have increased and decreased the number of mixed marriages at different points in time.

  28. Camille says:

    My concern is not that there are rigid boundaries, but sometimes Im wary of whether the boundaries are being misinterpreted. I have no problem with there being boundaries, but am cautious about WHO defines those boundaries, where the definitions of the boundaries come from, and what motivates those who are defining them

    Reema, you took the words out of my fingers!

    I understand the concept of “bright line” standards in Sikhi. I also understand the “rigidity” (which, in my opinion, is not so much rigid but rather tries to empower a Sikh to live a path of fulfillment and love for God). I’m not even arguing for a relaxation of “standards.” I am curious about the real phenomena of mixed marriages and how this effects people’s lives. With respect to “re-norming,” I’m not arguing for a redefinition of the Sikh-Sikh marriage archetype, but rather, commenting on the historical/social phenomena that have increased and decreased the number of mixed marriages at different points in time.