Alcohol, drugs and intoxicants for Sikhs – Bhai Desa Singh’s Rehitnama

Recently we have been sifting through some ancient documents of Sikh literature to try to shed some light and direction on the issue of intoxicants and alcohol use and wether it is permitted or not.

Our first subject matter is Bhai Desa Singhs Rehitnama. Bhai Desa Singh lived in the late 1700’s and lived in one of the Bungas (towers) of Amritsar where Jassa Singh Alhuwalia  used to live. You have probably heard quotes from this Prominent rehitnama such as

PRITHAM REHT YEH JAAN KHANDE KI PAHUL SHAKEY – Sikhs must consider khande ki pahul as the primary injunction (baptism via water sugar crystals mixed with double edged sword)

and

REHNI REHAI SOY SIKH MERAA, OH THAKUR MAI US KA CHERA
those who remain within the code of discipline Are the Guru’s Sikhs, The Guru considers them as masters and himself as their disciple
REHAT BINA NAH SIKH KAHAVAI, REHIT BINA DAR CHOTA KHAVAI
Without practicing the code of conduct, one cannot call himself a Sikh, without the rehat one will wander and suffer

If we look to this rehitnama which helped to form the basis of the main Akaal Takht Maryada of the Sikh Panth, what does it say about Intoxicants;

PAR NARI, JOOA, AST, CHORI, MADIRA JAAN
anothers woman,  gambling, lies, stealing and alcohol

PANCH AIB YAI JAGAT MEH TAJAI SO SINGH SUJAAN
know these 5 vices in the world, a Singh who forsakes these is wise

RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE, AVAR DIVAS KHU NAAM NA LEVAI
when in battle alcohol can be used as medicine, but any other time its name must never be mentioned

So here we can see that even in the late 1700’s ( before Singh Sabha movement) when this Rehitnama was written by Bhai Desa Singh, we can see that Sikhs were meant to stay away from  the 5 VICES which include sex outside marriage(Par Nari) and Alcohol(MADIRA).

In battle situations where the Sikhs were suffering with grave wounds and painful treatments such as amputations were necessary, it makes sense to use alcohol as an antisceptic and anesthetic, But at any other situation or time it must be avoided at all costs.

This is the same as morphine or nitrous oxide used in modern medicine.
“A wide variety of drugs are used in modern anesthetic practice. Many are rarely used outside of anesthesia”
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anesthetic

Nidar singh will only quote half a verse saying “RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE” which makes it sound like warriors must go to battle and drink alcohol as it will make them better warriors. But if we look to the sentence before and after the whole story becomes evident.

Alcohol must be refrained from as it is one of the 5 AIB(vices), in times of battle its use as medicine or anasthetic is ok but at any other time its name must not even be mentioned.

If theres still any doubt in anyones mind here is another part of the rehitnama

KUTHA, HUKA, CHARAS, TAMAKU
halal meat, smoking pipe, hashish, tobacco
GANJA, TOPI, TARI, KHAKU
cannabis resin, snuff, distilled alcohol or ashes
INKI AUR NA KABHOO DEKHEY
those who never look towards these
REHATVANT SO SINGH VESEKHEY
is a singh who stays in absolute discipline

We hope that our young brothers and sisters will take heed of this message and refrain from alcohol and intoxicants as it is not befitting a Khalsa Sikh. We already have a high level of alcohol related illness within the punjabi population, an effort should be made to help our punjabi families rid themselves of the disease of alcoholism and not to encourage it in any way.

Of course during the 1700’s and 1800’s there probably were some Sikhs that drank alcohol, just as there are today, but in 200 years will our descendants say that in the 1980’s Sikhs in the UK used to have alcohol at all their wedding parties so it must be OK. Just because some people did it doesn’t mean that it was right. We should take example from the Chardi Klaa gursikhs and not the amlis from our history.

An objective view from one of our readers

Her is an interesting quote from one of our readers posted as a comment on another article. We thought it warrants its own post as some important points are raised by Jaz Shoker.

Basing my view entirely objectively, with no bias, these statements do seem true. Those from Nidar’s camp should not be offended if these are the acts that they stand by, then they should stand by them. It is one thing to do the act and confess to doing it openly, it is another to doing an act and then completely argue the notion that you are not. In most civilised parts of the world, this is called ‘Dishonesty’, putting it politely. There is no “Shakespeareanism” involved here.

It is true that there have been several attacks on Sikhi now and in the past, yet these ‘khastriya warriors’ (again, using the term objectively, as that is evidently what the refer to themselves as) have done little to defend the Guru’s legacy in any way. Not even a whisper of protest against injustice, against the massacre of thousands of sikh men, women and children, not a word against the tyranny of thousands, not a raise of the sword (or any of the 60 he owns) to signify a stance against oppression happening in Punjab right now. Warriors – indeed. Go on – cry “bruuahhhhh” – how brave you are.

Continue reading An objective view from one of our readers

Nidar’s Classes at GNNSJ Leeds

The Shastervidiya team were very surprised to see that 3 weeks ago Nidar started advertising Shastervidiya classes on his website at GNNSJ Leeds a gurdwara of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha in Birmingham.

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We have very good and close links with GNNSJ and rang up the jathedar of the Leeds Gurdwara, Mr Harbans Sagoo. When informed that Nidar had setup classes at his Gurdwara he said that the boy teaching was nothing to do with Nidar Singh and he had been vetted by local individuals. On hearing that the class was being advertised on Nidars website he was shocked and promised us to look into the matter. He has requested them to remove the name of the gurdwara from Nidar’s website which still has not been done 3 weeks later.

We know now that  the class was being run by one of Nidars main students who calls himself “Machi”, real name Gurbinder Singh, an optician from Birmingham.

We think this is a new tactic being employed by Nidar where they approach far-flung temples and setup classes without mentioning Nidars name.

The GNNSJ sangat in Birmingham are well aware of Nidar and they are discussing how to deal with the matter in Leeds. I think that Nidar should just stick to his community centres and steer clear of places of worship, as it is clear from his groups behaviour that they are not interested in mixing their martial training with worship.

Also their views are clearly against the mainstream Sikh Sangat in a Big way, he actually makes this statement himself many times on his websites.

Quote

“This website by its nature has caused an uproar amongst the narrow minded mainstream Sikhs who are angered due to the vast amount of scriptural and historical facts presented here”
http://www.sarbloh.i…ation_menu.html

Quote

“Many modern mainstream Sikhs, such as those pictured, today practice ‘Kirtan’
that may be termed ‘Pakhand’ (false/fake)”
http://www.sarbloh.i…conclusion.html

Quote

“Much to the dismay of many, the website will also make evident that today’s mainstream Sikh institutions are but products of late 19th Century, British-Raj nurtured puritanical thought, and, not true to the original teachings of the Gurus as they wrongly claim.”

Quote

“One may also state for certain that if Jarnail Singh had not caught the imagination of the historically ignorant and gullible Sikh populace with this falsified history of Samparda Chowk Mehta, then the movement he inspired would not have taken off.”

Quote

“Sadly, the vast majority of so-called ‘Sikhs’, never mind non-Sikhs, are completely unaware of these questions despite the fact that ‘translations’ of Akal Ustat are widely available in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, and in English. Even from those Sikhs who claim to have read Akal Ustat, all seemed to have over looked these questions. This sounds astonishing, but not entirely surprising considering the great level of ignorance prevalent in so many so-called Sikhs of today.
http://www.sarbloh.i…_akalustat.html

So if he thinks mainstream Sikhs are ignorant and our institutions are puritanical christian, then why is he going out of his way to set up classes in the very same institutions and teaching the very people he clearly hates ?

Alcohol use in Nidar’s Cult

It is a well known fact that Niddar drinks alcohol, he admits it openly, and also encourages his students to drink. He has even gone as far as to say that to be a warrior one must drink alcohol and eat flesh. Many of Nidar’s students drink and a cousin of a close friend of mine, who is student of Nidar, openly encourages his family members that it is ok for Singhs to drink.

I have seen many families destroyed by alcohol addiction and abuse, and i know it pains many Gursikhs when they see Singhs drinking alcohol.

On the 30th October 2011 Nidar in an interview with the BBC made the following statements

Nihangs still maintain some tenets of the Hindu faith, they have three scriptures rather than one and these extra books contain influences from Hinduism.

Many Nihangs also eat meat and drink alcohol which orthodox Sikhs disagree with. Traditionally they also drank bhang, an infusion of cannabis, to get closer to God.

Nidar Singh, Interview bbc – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15480741

We also find that Nidars Snatan Students display their love for alcohol on their facebook pages
snaatansFacebook

I am not sure how he justifies this, maybe its practices past on from Nihangs in India or maybe it goes back to Nidar’s belief that they are a special kshatri commando task force that live deep in the jungles and are beyond the normal rules that apply to everyone else. (? The deep jungles of Wolverhampton ?)

Let us look to Gurbani and to the 52 hukums of Guru Gobind Singh ji  to see what message we get about alcohol and its use.

Guru Gobind Singh Jis 52 Hukums

At Paonta Sahib Gurdwara there is a letter containing 52 hukums written by Guru Gobind Singh ji  which was sent to Sikhs in Kabul in 1708 instructing them on appropriate behaviour. You can view the 52 hukums on this website. these hukums have served as the basis of Sikh Rehitmaryada.

The ones that should be brought to the attention of Nidar and his cheley are the following

27. Sutantar vicharna. Raaj Kaaj dian kamaan tae doosrae mutaa dia purshaan noo huk nahee daenaa. Maintain independent rule. In the affairs of governing, do not give the power of religious authority to those of other faiths.

30. Shaster vidyaa atae ghorhae di savaari da abhiaas karnaa|
Train in the skills of weaponry and horsemanship.

31. Doosrae mataa dae pustak, vidyaa parhnee. Pur bhrosaa drirh Gurbanee, Akaal Purakh tae karnaa|
Study the books and beliefs of other faiths. But maintain trust in Gurbani and Akal Purakh.

37. Sharaab nai saevanee|
Do not indulge in drinking alcoholic beverages.
Guru Gobind Singh ji – 1708,  52 Hukams, Paonta Sahib

They key edict here is number 37, do not partake in Alcohol. I have added a few extras as they need to be thought about aswell. Especially the one about not giving religious authority to other faiths. Again this is supported by edict number 31 which states that we must study books of other cultures and religions but to hold faith only in Gurbani.

Edict 30 is interesting as Guru Gobind Singh ji refers to the science of weaponry and this means learning to use weapons Shastar Vidya and not a specific “STYLE” as has now been copyrighted and claimed by Nidar as his own brandname. We also know that Guru Gobind Singh ji was an avid archer and also the singhs were skilled in horseriding which are both missing from Nidars style of Kung Fu. Continue reading Alcohol use in Nidar’s Cult