Rehitnama for Sahajdhari (Unbaptized) Sikhs
By Dr. Trilochan Singh
Every highly organized religion has an inner circle of initiated or baptized disciples, who take vows of living strictly according to the moral and spiritual instructions of the apostles and prophets. Great and illumined prophets can perpetuate their experiences, ideals and philosophy of life by moulding and transforming sincere seekers of higher religious experience in the image of their own personality. They make laws and precepts for their followers, which symbolize their inner and outer life. At the time of initiation the disciples take a vow to accept the moral laws, which characterize the inner and external life of their prophets. Within the limits of their understanding they make an effort to be faithful in theory and practice the precepts, they voluntarily and eagerly accept.
But even in higher and universal religions there are quite a large number of unbaptized and lay-followers. Those lay-followers and devotees are never required to give exclusive allegiance to the faith, till they decide to take vows of faith. Even though they formally stick to the religion of their birth, they willingly and openly accept the moral and spiritual influences and basic universal teachings of great saints and Apostles from other faiths. They are first considered the lay-followers and novice in the faith, and then they may either become initiated disciples, or they may bring up their children in the new faith. The Sikh Gurus and the Sufi Saints, the Buddhist and Vaisnav Saints had quite a large number, of such lay-followers and devotees, who did not acquire the same respect which their disciples did, but they were equally respected, and at times, by their devoted service to the Sikh community, acquired a stature and respect, which only a handful of initiated disciples achieved. They became part of Sikh history and are still venerated as outstanding Sikhs of the Gurus.
From the Janam Sakhis (hagiographical accounts) of Guru Nanak, we learn that such devotees were known as Namdharik Sikhs of Guru Nanak. During the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh, and quite obviously a little earlier, they came to be known as Sahajdhari Sikhs. The word Namdharik means Nominal Sikhs, and the word Sahajdhari means those who slowly move and steadily adopt Sikhism, and are to be treated as novices in the faith. A Sahajdhari, therefore is one who has entered the House of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh, and would not only continue to be on probation, but he shall identify himself with the moral and spiritual culture and basic beliefs of this House. He shall have the greatest respect for even those ideals and moral laws which he feels he cannot practice. He would be respected as a Sikh, enjoying complete equality with baptized Sikhs in every field, but he cannot participate, perform or conduct those ceremonies or rites which can be performed only by the baptized Sikh. This is so because certain ceremonies can be performed only by those who have made total commitments to the Faith, and have not only become baptized Sikhs but live according to the moral and spiritual laws of Khalsa discipline. The Sahajdharls combined strong leanings towards Sikhism with either exclusive or limited partiality for the religion of their birth. In the biographical accounts of the Gurus we read of Hindus, Buddhists and Jain monks, who on meeting the Guru accepted the doctrines and mystical practices of Sikhism, yet they sought the Guru’s permission to be permitted to live in the robes of their religious orders. They did not have the courage to discard their externals and the social customs of the society in which they lived. This became sometime difficult because of other members of their family. If a person adopts a new religion out of faith and understanding, it is not possible for his wife, parents and even children to appreciate this inner change in him.
Sahajdhari Sikhs have served the cause of Sikhism throughout Sikh history. Some of them joined the Udasi and Sewa Pahthi Missions, and their names and contribution to Sikh history are still remembered with great respect. Most of the Hindu Sahajdharis came from either Sindhi community or the Sanatan Dharma community of Punjab. The Arya Samaj movement unfortunately has done the greatest damage to Hindu-Sikh relations, which were cemented into an unbreakable bond by Sanatan Dharma Hindus and the Sahajdharis, but during the last few years their opposition to the Sikhs in the religious and political field is becoming milder and less unreasonable. The negative attitude of the Arya Samajists has produced similar reactionary fanatics in Akali Dal at the political level. The two communities, which have had the healthiest relations throughout history, became each other’s opponents in States where Arya Samaj thinking dominated, notably in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. In other States like Bengal, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, where Sanatan Dharma Hinduism is in its pristine purity dominates, they have the most intimate and friendly relations with the Sikh community at religious and cultural levels.
Those who accepted the Charan Pahul Amrit from Guru Nanak and his successors, received the initiation (Guru-diksha) into the mystic knowledge of the faith. They came to be known as Gursikhs, or Sanmukh Sikhs or Gurmukhs.
Gur dikhia lai soi Sikh'u sadaia.
Gur Sikh iko hoi jo Gur haia.
Only on receiving Ordination (dikhsa) from the Guru,
Can a disciple call himself a Gursikh.
(Bhai Gurdas, Var. 3, Pauri 11)
Throughout the Adi Guru Granth and the writings of Bhai Gurdas, it has been made quite clear that those who have been initiated into the Sikh discipline and the Divine Name are accepted as the blessed disciples. It must be clearly understood that every Hindu or Muslim who pays a formal respect to the Sikh Gurus, or merely pays a political homage to Sikhism is not a Sahajdhari. He cannot claim the same position in the Sikh community which is given authentically by the Gurus to the Sahajdharls. Anyone who misinterprets and distorts Sikh ideals, or anyone who is politically, socially and culturally opposed to the general interests of the Sikh community, cannot be a Sahajdhari by merely paying lip service to Sikhs. There are some militant societies like R.S.S. who call the Sikhs, Hindus when it suits them politically, but they have not won the goodwill, the sympathy and support of even fifty Sikhs in the last fifty years. They have never shown any respect to the Sikh Scriptures, Sikh Shrines, nor even given any cooperation to the Sikhs on any such issues like the language, literature and other cultural problems. On the other hand, their subtle and vulgar attempts to present Sikhism as a colourless sect of Hinduism has provoked fanatical and dangerous reactions amongst the Sikhs throughout India and abroad.
Only those Hindus or Muslims who accepts the basic tenets of Sikhism and live like novice, treading the path of Sikhism and respecting their parent religions as a sister faith are true Sahajdhari Sikhs. Such Sahajdhari Sikhs are very proud of having entered the House of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh. The Sahajdhari Sikhs are proud of their devotion and zeal, and they have stood by the Sikhs during the most difficult periods of their history. They derive their major spiritual inspiration from the Adi Guru Granth, and perform most of their household ceremonies according to Sikh rites. In Sikh history there have not only been Sahajdhari Sikhs but also Sahajdhari Saints, whose devotion, dedication and spiritual achievements have been great and profound. They have always been greatly respected and they shall always be respected. There have been Hindu Sahajdharis and Muslim Sahajdharis. Up to 1947, out of fifteen Kirtan Jathas (hymns-singing groups) employed in the Harimandir (Golden Temple), seven were Muslim Sahajdharis, who were gifted musicians and singers and had better knowledge of Gurbani than the ordinary Khalsa Sikhs.
Guro Gobind Singh’s Code of Conduct For Sahajdhari Sikhs
The Sahajdhari Sikhs have followed a positive Code of Conduct. Recently, I chanced to see two Manuscripts of Bhai Mani Singh’s Sikhan di Bhagatmala which has an authentic Rehitnama of Guru Gobind Singh for Sahajdharis, named Wajabu‘l-Arz: Proper and Authentic Answers to Questions of Sahajdharis by Guru Gobind Singh; Bhai Mani Singh’s Sikhan di Bhagatmala (Central Library, Patiala, MS No. 2827 and Sikh Reference Library Amritsar, MS No. 7398). Bhai Vir Singh edited and printed a version of it, which is not only incomplete but also not very correct. Bhai Vir Singh excluded all the Sakhis of seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Gurus. Earlier than this printed edition, Gulab Singh and Sons printed a complete version in which only one or two Sakhis are missing. It appears that Bhai Mani Singh was an eye-witness to this incident, and he also had the original copy of the document or its first-hand copy. He repeatedly refers to the fact that Guru Gobind Singh signed every clause of the Rehitnama, and he was presenting to the reader a copy of the original.
A group of Sahajdharis placed ten questions before Guru Gobind Singh. He answers them, and the answers are recorded and signed by the Guru in the manner in which he signed his letters. In the Manuscript, the words: dastkhat khas hoe (the Guru specifically signed) are found after all main clauses of the Rehitnama. It is clear from this document entitled Wajabu‘l-Arz that after the creation of the Khalsa Holy Order the Sahajdhari Sikhs were given a new orientation. Earlier the Sahajdhari were guided by individual Masands, and more often than not the Masands misguided them, and they claimed full authority of the Guru, which they did not have. After receiving money, they compromised on all issues. It was easier for them to exploit Sahajdhari Sikhs than the orthodox Sikhs who took guidance directly from the Guru. After the creation of the Khalsa Holy Order, the responsibility of the Masands was given to chosen Five Ordained Khalsa (Pahj Piaras) and to the general Will of the Khalsa Sahgat (congregation of the elect). The Khalsa Sangat was not clear about the Sahajdhari Rehit, and different people gave different opinions. Now they put vital questions covering all the major points of their Code of Conduct and received authentic answers.
Translation of Sahajdhari Rehitnama (Wajabu‘l-Arz)
Once the Sahajdhari Sikhs presented ten questions to Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru answered all the questions, and had them authentically recorded. This document came to be known as Wajabu'l-Arz: Proper and Authentic Answers to Questions of Sahajdharis. This document was signed by Guru Gobind Singh, and this is a correct copy of the same document. These Commandments should be considered Rehit-Vivek (Moral Code) essential for Sahajdhari Sikhs. These Ten Commandments were enunciated by the tenth Guru (Mahalla Das), each Rule was recorded and then signed by the Master. These Ten Commandments removed the prevailing confusion about the Sahajdhari Rehit.
(1) First Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: Master, we Sahajdharis arrange marriages by inviting the Brahmins to perform Vedic rites. Now the Sikhs say that we should perform the marriage by Anand marriage rites, enunciated by the Sikh Gurus and we should not invite the Brahmins. What is your command, Master?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered and Signed the Statement: First, perform the marriage according to Anand marriage rites, and then you can perform your traditional Vedic rites, if you wish.
(2) Second Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: What are to be our relations with five repudiated religious groups: (i) Minas: Followers of Prithi Mal, (ii) Dhirmalias: Followers of Dhirmal, Elder brother of Guru Hari Rai, (iii) Ram Raiyas: Followers of Ram Rai, elder brother of Guru Hari Krishan, (iv) Followers of Masands, corrupt and rejected priests of the Old Order, (v) Sirgum: (wrongly translated clean-shaven). It means Jains who are mostly atheists and pull their hair one by one, till they become bald.
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: Do not have any inter-marriage or socio-cultural relations with the followers of these five religious groups.
Further Supplementary Question: Master who are the sirgum?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: The Sarevare Jains, who are atheists: Anisarvadi.
Further Supplementary Question: Master some of us are traders and businessmen. Some of us are government servants. Our professional duties bring us into contact with everyone. Sometimes we cannot avoid them because we cannot know a person’s belief from a person’s face or dress.
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: You can always question a person about his cult and creed. Formal trade relations or market place encounters apart, you should avoid inter-cultural mixture with these people. If professional duties compel you to have any such relations with them, make amends for transgression of this rule by offering Prayer (Ardasa) seeking forgiveness.
(3) Third Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: Then the Sahajdhari Sikhs asked the third question. O True King, we Sahajdharis are your Sikhs. When our father or mother dies, we perform the mourning ceremony of shaving our heads Bhadra-karan. Now the Khalsa Sikhs say the Khalsa has been created according to the Command and Will of God. We should not perform the Hindu mourning ceremony of Bhadra-karan (shaving the head). O True King, we shall do what you command us to do.
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: Sahajdhari Sikhs should not perform the Hindu mourning ceremony of shaving their heads. They should perform the Sikh rites of reading the Holy Book, offering prayers for the departed soul and food in the community kitchen, but if the custom of the land in which you live compel you to perform other rites, you can do so after the Sikh rites have been performed.
(4) Fourth Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: True Lord, on the occasion of marriages in the family we generally invited the Brahmins and offered them food. Now the Khalsa Sikhs say food should not be offered to the Brahmins but to the Sikhs. True King, we shall accept your command.
Guru Gobind Singh Answered and Signed the Statement: The Guru’s Community Kitchen (langar) is open to all. You should offer food to Sikhs and also to non-Sikhs, such as Brahmins, other castes and creed people, way-farers and pilgrims coming to holy places. To everyone offer food with respect and devotion.
(5) Fifth Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: Master, when a bridegroom leaves with a marriage party for the marriage ceremony, we shave him with razor to perform the ceremony. What should we do now?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: The clean-shaven Sahajdharis may use scissors for any such traditional ceremony, they wish to perform, but they should not use a razor. But the Kesadhari Sahajdharis should give Amrit Pahul (Khalsa baptism) to their sons before their marriage ceremony is performed.
(6) Sixth Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: True King! We Sahajdhari Sikhs generally take the bones and ashes of our dead to the Ganges. Now some Khalsa Sikhs say that we should not do so. What is your command on this issue Lord?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: If you can afford to reach the Ganges you can do so. We are not particular about it. Many of my brave and saintly Sikhs die in the battlefield. They are generally cremated there. For them the battlefield is as holy as the Kurukshetra. The suburb of a holy place like Amritsar, which is visited by saintly pilgrims, is equally good, where the remains of the dead are sanctified by the dust of holy men. The prayers of the pilgrims will bless the dead. The remains of the dead are placed at the feet of the Sadh Sangat: congregation of saintly persons.
(7) Seventh Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: We Sahajdhari Sikhs, True Lord, trim our beards according to Mughal style when some of us have to attend Mughal courts, or attend to clerical duties in Mughal service. What shall we do now?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: You, who are Sahajdhari Sikhs should now keep a full beard, just as the Khalsa Sikhs keep, but if there is official compulsion, you may comply with the orders of your rulers. But when you go to the Sadh Sangat (Congregation of the Sikh Temple) and wish to participate in their activities, offer Ardasa (Invocational Prayer) seeking forgiveness for this transgression.
(8) Eighth Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: True Lord, there are some Sahajdhari Sikhs who go on pilgrimage to Ganges, how should we deal with them when they come back?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: Deal with them with compassion, understanding and love. Do not cause any embarrassment to them.
(9) Ninth Question of Sahajdhari Sikhs: Master, you have commanded us not to have any social and cultural relations with five disowned and rejected religious groups viz: followers of Prithi Mal (Minas), Dhirmal, Ram Rai, Masands and Atheists (Jains who do not believe in God). Are we to avoid even casual meetings with them?
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: My blessed Sikhs, my command on this issue is that you should completely avoid the followers of these groups. If there is any disturbing supporter of these groups in your assembly, remove him from the assembly. The reason is that instead of joining the assembly in prayer and meditation they would talk and argue in such a way that they would destroy the faith and convictions of innocent people. They cause doubt, confusion and mischievously disturb the faith of innocent people. They talk and debate in such way, on the basis of false doctrines, false history in support of impostor gurus and saints, that many innocent people and sincere devotees are misled and hurt. The more they spread their false teachings, the more harm they do to those who happen to take them seriously. But if out of these followers of impostor Gurus and atheistic cults anyone repents and turns towards truth and the right path and expresses his willingness to follow Sikh ideals sincerely, he should be forgiven and accepted in the Brotherhood of Sikhs. The door should be kept open for the truly repentant. Enlighten such a one with the true doctrines of the Gurus. He must earn his own living by his own labours and never beg like mendicants, and lead a life of devotion. Your own heart should be pure and your faith should be strong. Casual meetings with them will not matter much.
(10) Tenth Question of the Sahajdhari Sikhs: When any member of our family died, we invited the Brahmin priests to read Garar Purana and the Gayatri mantra and perform other Hindu rites. Now the Brahmin priests refuse to come to our funeral services and perform these ceremonies. They insist that we should live like orthodox Hindus, wear sacred thread and observe all rites, which the Hindu Scriptures demand from their devotees. What is your command on this issue O King of kings? We shall obey it and in future carry out your instructions.
Guru Gobind Singh Answered: Be strong in your faith and conviction of Sikhs ideals. Give up all Brahmanical rites and perform the Sikh rites of reading the whole of Granth Sahib. After the reading ceremony is over, listen to the Interpretation (Katha) of Guru Arjan Dev’s Sahaskriti Slokas (67 verses in Prakritized Sanskrit) by a learned Sikh, who understands and can explain them.
Read also the first Soloka of Maru Raga. Prepare Karah Prasad and distribute it in the name of the dead after Invocational Prayer. The departed soul will be born as a Khalsa Sikh in his next birth and lead a saintly life for his ultimate redemption. You, the kith and kin, will also be blessed with peace, knowledge and enlightenment. There is nothing more precious in life than the Name of God, and sincere Faith and devotion of God. Contemplate the Name of God and share your surplus food and earnings with the needy. These are the Ten Commandments for the Sahajdharis.
“Guru Gobind Singh, King of Kings Signed and Authenticated the Document. This is a Copy of the Original Document.”
This Sahajdhari Rehitnama is remarkable for many significant features. For want of proper research work in this field, the documents remained unnoticed, unpublished. Some cheap market booksellers of Bazar Mai Sewan Amritsar published some incomplete Rehitnamas. None of these was either complete or properly edited. The first such version was published by Partap Singh Surider Singh, Bazar Mai Sewan, Amritsar. The second better version with a fairly good Introduction was published by Sant Sampuran Singh, Nirmala Saint and brother of Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha published some extracts from Rehitnamas in his Gurmat Sudhakar and subsequently in Gurmat Martand published in 1962, twenty-four years after his death. The Rehitnamas prepared by religious cults and groups in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries introduced some of their own erratic practices, which have cult ideas, not sanctioned by the Sikh Gurus. A typical example is the Namdhari Rehitnama found printed in Namadhari Nitnem (Prayer Book) alleged to be written by Baba Rant Singh. The Amrit-Pahul ceremony is described much more correctly than we find it in S.G.P.C. Rehit Maryada. It is also remarkable, for it is the only Prayer Book having such important prayer as Akal Ustati of Guru Gobind Singh. But there are two Namdhari practices, highlighted in this Prayer Book, one of which is an innovation for which they are not responsible, while the other is a grave error for which the Minas, Dhirmal and Ram Rai were excommunicated. Marriages are performed not around the Adi Guru Granth, but around havan (sacrificial fires). Baba Ram Singh was misguided by Prem Sumarag, a late eighteenth century work, published by S.G.P.C., Amritsar. Baba Ram Singh repeatedly suggests in his letters to accept Prem Sumarag as the best guide on Khalsa Rehit. The use of havan as altar instead of Adi Guru Granth was possibly a make shift arrangement in the eighteenth century, when only copies of the Adi Guru Granth were those written by hand only, and these did not exceed a few hundred, which were found only in some well-established Sikh Shrines. So the havan was not Baba Ram Singh’s innovation.
The other sacrilegious innovation introduced by the followers of Baba Ram Singh, long after his death, is that he was declared the twelfth Guru of the Sikhs. Historical fiction which no sensible man can believe, except of course their pious uncritical followers, has been created by some of our own contemporaries to construct this false pontificate. They have made the same mistake, which Prithimal Mina, Dhirmal and Ram Rai made during the lifetime of the Gurus, and the followers of Banda or rather the impostor Banda, who pretended to have survived the torture inflicted on Banda of history, and ten other people who pretended to be avatars of Guru Gobind Singh, did after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. Most of these cults were excommunicated or disowned by the Sikhs, and have either disappeared or survived as dead wood of a spiritless cult. Unless the Namdharis do some serious thinking about these innovations, they are likely to meet the same fate in the next two decades.
The Akali leaders have abandoned all religious and spiritual values for the sake of dirty politics. Their religious activities are confined to misappropriation of Gurdwara funds by capturing management control over Sikh temples. Their politics is confined to sentimental populism in the name of Sikh Panth, and passing innocuous and platitudinous resolutions threatening the government. In their deep involvement with the Communist politics, most of them have not only denigrated Sikh values and ideals, but have completely alienated the Sahajdharis, the Udasis, the Nirmalas, the Nihangs and even religious groups and living saints who are respected by the Sikh community. No living Sikh Saint, no enlightened religious group, no theologian and Sikh scholar worth the name, except those who have been acting as their mercenary scribes in the hope of getting party ticket or some position in party executive, has never shown any willingness to work with them. They have disparaged and belittled the contribution of the Sahajdharis, and that is perhaps the only way they can show themselves to be superior to all prominent religious institutions and groups. I will now give a few examples of the tremendous and lasting contributions of the Sahajdhari Sikhs.
(1) Bhai Des Raj was one of the richest man in Amritsar. When Ahmad Shah Abdali desecrated the Holy Shrine of Amritsar on the eve of Baisakhi festival, April 10, 1762, and completely destroyed the Holy Temple of Amritsar, now known as the Golden Temple, the Khalsa Misal armies avenged the insult by giving a crushing defeat to the Afghan invader the same year in October. Bhai Des Raj sold all his property and donated all his wealth and jewelry for rebuilding the Holy Shrine. A very large amount was donated by the twelve Misal Sardars. He kept for himself and his wife, a small house and a little amount just sufficient for their bare survival in religious poverty. He worked as a humble labourer throughout the construction work. His devotion and dedication was so great that he is respected as a great saint of Sikh history. Like Bhai Des Raj, the Sahajdhari Sikhs have made significant contribution for Sikh causes and ideals throughout history.
(2) Many Sahajdhari devotees joined the Udasi missionary movement and made enormous contribution by carrying the message of Sikhs to the remotest regions of India, and there were others who joined the Sewapanthi movement and are respected as outstanding saints of their times. The well-known names of the last two centuries are: Bhai Sewa Ram and Bhai Sahaj Ram who organized the Sewapanthi movement, Bhai Addan Shah, whose associates came to be known as Addan Shahi Sikhs. Other religious luminaries were: Bhai Aya Ram, Bhai Richi Ram, Bhai Dharm Das, Bhai Durban, Bhai Shah Jiwan, Bhai Daya Ram, Bhai Ram Dayal, Bhai Paras Ram, Bhai Bhaila Ram, Bhai Vasti Ram, Bhai Tehal Das, Bhai Ram Krishan. Bhai Vir Singh has written short biographies of some of these saints in his Sant Gatha. There are now available some unpublished documents of the inspiring lives of these saints.
(3) During the early period of Gurdwara Movement the Sahajdhari Sikhs and even the Sanatan Dharma Hindus stood by the Sikhs in their fight against corrupt Mahants. Only the Arya Sarnaj leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai supported the corrupt Mahants of Nankana Sahib and other places, even after the gruesome Nankana tragedy.
During the Akali movement the Sikh Jathas carried the Adi Guru Granth in a costly Palki (palanquin carried by four persons). All the Palkis required for the Jathas of Jaito Morcha were provided by a Sahajdhari Sikh of Amritsar. Quite a large number of Sahajdhari Sikhs not only provided moral support, but helped in Langar and other organizational requirements of such a revolutionary movement. They completely identified themselves with the religious and political cause of the Sikh Panth. It is a matter of shame and regret that the Akali party in its second half of leadership and organization has never taken the Sahajdhari Sikhs into confidence. By Sahajdhari Sikhs, the author does not mean Hindus, who merely pay lip service to Sikh Gurus, and are guided by intensely communal R.S.S. ideology of Hindu Rastra and Hindu Imperialism, but genuine Sahajdhari Sikhs who are sincerely dedicated to Sikhism. Ninety percent of the Sindhi Community are very devout and dedicated Sahajdhari Sikhs. The Sanatan Dharma families of Amritsar have many devoted Sahajdhari Sikhs. My friend Dr Hira Lai Chopra, former Professor of Islamic History and Culture, Calcutta University, who has individually done much more for Sikhism in Calcutta than any other Sikh religious, political and cultural organization, has once or twice organized Sahajdhari Conferences, but the Sikh leaders have never even formally invited the Sahajdhari leaders to their conferences. The response of the Sikh leaders to the problems of Sahajdhari Sikhs has been very poor. They have simply been ignored.
Salient Features of Wajabu‘I-Arz
The following are the salient features of Sahajdhari Rehitnama (Wajabu’l-Arz), which ought to be a guide line for Sahajdharis of all times to come.
(1) These ten Commandments of Guru Gobind Singh for Sahajdhari Sikhs show how liberal and understanding was Guru Gobind Singh of the problems of novices, ready to accept the full faith of the Khalsa, he had created. Lord Buddha and his successors also had this problem, and they solved it by having simpler and less orthodox rules for the lay Buddhist than they had for the Bhikhus (Monks). Guru Gobind Singh made it clear that the Sahajdhari Sikhs (lay unbaptized Sikhs) who seek inspiration and enlightenment from the Sikh Scriptures, Sikh history and Sikh saints, are inseparable part of the Sikh community. When I went to Dacca in 1959 (then East Pakistan), I was surprised to find innumerable Muslim devotees of Guru Nanak. There still are countless Muslim devotees of Guru Nanak. Before the partition of India, Muslim Bards who inherited musical talent, regularly performed Kirtan (Hymn singing) in the Harimandir (Golden Temple) and other Sikh Shrines. As most of them were expert in playing music on the Rabab (a musical instrument dear to Guru Nanak) they were generally known as Rababis. They were considered and respected as Sahajdhari Sikhs.
(2) It is quite possible that many Sahajdharis may drift towards the religion in which they were born, just as the Muslim Rababis have become after being completely cut off from the Sikh community, when they migrated to Pakistan. This is no reason for giving them the opportunities and the respect, which Guru Gobind Singh demanded that the Khalsa Sikhs should always give them.
Many baptized Sikhs born in Sikh families have become atheists and apostates after joining Communist party and their commitment to dialectic materialism. The Communist party of Punjab is full of such Sikhs. Many of these Communists put on hair and beard, and even put on kirpan and regularly visit Sikh temples to catch Sikh votes. Ever since a section of Akali Jathedars have become corrupt and irreligious, they identify themselves more with the Communists than with any religious man in private and public life. So in a liberal religion like Sikhism where a person becomes and remains a Sikh by choice, both the Sahajdharis and the baptized may drift away from their faith. Both the Sahajdharis and the Kesadhaiis are to be judged by their character, deeds and faith in moral and spiritual ideals and not by their pious externals and names.
(3) Whether a person is born in a Sikh family or he comes from other faiths and adopts Sikhism, he has to undergo the discipline of a novice to become acceptable for baptism of the Khalsa Holy Order. Many people hastily accept baptism and consider it just a formal rite to become Khalsa in externals. As they are not properly disciplined for inner life, they are not fully conscious of their religious and spiritual responsibilities, and their moral and spiritual perception are so weak that they relapse into sinful and evil life even though outwardly they may be appearing like Sikhs. Like a number of such baptized Sikhs some Sahajdhari Sikhs also may be insincere, irresolute and vacillating. They may, in the long run, relapse into atheism, agnosticism or heterodox Hindu practices. They do not harm Sikhs; they harm themselves if they drift away from moral and spiritual life. The doors of Sikhism are always kept open to those, who for one reason or the other turn away from Sikhism. After all Sahajdharis are only novices, and at the earliest stages are probationer Sikhs of Guru Nanak.
(4) Except in one or two solitary cases in U.S.A. and Canada, I have not seen Sahajdhari Sikhs aspiring to be overall leaders of the Sikh Community in any State in India or any other country. As I have said earlier, they are entitled to play helpful role in the Executive, but they cannot be Executive Heads of Religious Institutions of the Sikhs. In U.S.A., Canada and U.K. even clean-shaven apostates from Sikhism think that leadership of Sikh religious organizations is a secular managerial post and they can claim it by virtue of being rich, socially well placed Sikhs by birth. They work on the theory that the last thing required for a acquiring control over Sikh temples and Institutions is “Sikh Religious Character”, and their only argument in favour of their posture is that this commodity—“Sikh Religious Character”—is rare even in Kesadhari Sikhs, whom they now choose to call turbaned Sikhs, not knowing that the clean-shaven Sikhs cannot become religious men or authentic Sikhs by merely wearing turbans. A turban is one of the externals, which all the Sahajdharis wore before 1947, and even today all Hindus in Punjab at the ceremonies of marriage and death.
The manner in which clean-shaven Sikhs assert their leadership in U.S.A., U.K. and Canada is simple and pernicious. Three or four ambitious and greedy people get together, form a religious or charitable trust, buy a house or a Christian church building for sale and register in a pious and holy name, which is supposed to operate in the legal framework of the laws of the country. Some of these societies have been registered purely in the name of clean-shaven Sikhs, and there are such societies run as Sikh temples which are legally the exclusive property of one family, because the trustees in whose name they are registered are husband, wife and a few reliable kith and kin. Thus quite a few ambitious and selfish people run Sikh temples like medieval Masands and Mahants. The temple becomes a place of worship and prayer for the devout and religious people, but the funds are more often misused by impious people, who are Sikhs in name and sometime in form, but do not live even for a day the life, they preach in the Sikh temples. They consider themselves beyond good and evil. Unless such people repent and retrace their steps from acts of apostasy and unless these new Mahants and Masands in the western world of Sikhism operating as clean-shaven Sikhs or Kesadhari Yogis or socially important figures retrace their steps, they should be given no place in the religious organizational set up of the Sikh Sangats and Sikh Churches. The Sikh temples are intended for prayer, worship, meditations, religious education and training, and they should be controlled by persons who know what prayer and worship is, and what their responsibility as religious and cultural leaders is to the generations to come.
(5) The Sahajdhari Sikhs at times have their own organizations, and they build Sikh temples open to all and run strictly on the rules laid down by Guru Gobind Singh. The Sindhi Sahgat Gurdwaras, or Ravidas Devotees Gurdwaras are a typical example. The atmosphere is orderly, peaceful and purely religious. But ever since Sikh Gurdwaras have become arenas of faction fights and irresponsible political activities, Sindhis and Sahajdharis have justifiably delinked themselves from those Sikh Institutions which have become arenas of faction fights and Machiavellian politics.
(6) In the past two centuries the Sahajdhari Sikhs have been given financial, organizational and missionary responsibilities. But they have never been elected to such executive posts as Presidents or Secretaries in Sikh Organizations, whose purpose is to preach authentic Sikhism. They have been given a place in the executive committees, but have not been given the highly responsible positions. The reason obviously is that the Executive Heads of such institutions must be Sikhs, whose commitments to Sikhism are complete and who represent those ideals in their words and deeds. Even when Kesadharl Sikhs, no matter how piously they are dressed, flout the basic Commandments of Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh Sangat (Congregation) has the right to throw these people out of the organization and even punish them for transgressions, committed by them while occupying responsible positions.
Sikhism is a religion which throughout its history has condemned forcible conversion from one religion to another. Seekers of truth may leave one religion and adopt another religion out of free choice, but forcible conversion is considered a crime. So Sikhism allows the novices (Sahajdharis) to be essential part of Sikh Church and society.
Source - The Turban and the Sword of the Sikhs by Dr. Trilochan Singh