Gurmat Rehat Maryada

The Points of Contention
Bhai Manmohan Singh Jee


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Right from the birth of Sikhism in the fifteenth century, the Sikh community has been weathering a severe storm of turmoil and turbulence. The tyrant rulers of the time had been determined to exterminate this newly emerging and growing faith. Time came when the Sikhs were hunted like wild animals and rewards were offered for their heads. Consequently, they were forced to escape to the forests and lead an uncertain nomadic life, spending night here and day there, not certain where they would get their next meal. Living under such adverse circumstances it was neither possible nor feasible for them to take care of their sacred literature, developed during a period of over two centuries, nor could they look after their Gurdwaras.

The erstwhile Hindu priestly class, represented by the Mahants and the Brahmins, whose hold over the masses had been shattered by the liberal, rational and appealing socio-religious ideology of Sikhism, had been looking for such an opportunity to hit back. Furthermore, in the time of the Gurus themselves, they had tried to twist the noble and divine Sikh principles so as to bring them in line with the Brahminical way of life. Their main objective was to regain their hold on the Sikhs by strangling their faith. They took advantage of the helplessness of the Sikhs at that time and took control of the Gurdwaras and the original literature contained therein. The shrewd and highly educated Brahmins commingled the Sikh literature, including the old Rahitnamas and Janam Sakhis, etc., with material of their own making, the material which went against the very basis of Sikhism. Their goal was to regain their own supremacy in the interpretation of the fundamentals of Sikhism. Most of the original literature had already been lost during the turmoil. They adulterated whatever little was left of the Rahitnamas, Janam Sakhis, and other literature. Hence we find that certain Sikh literature includes expositions, rites, rituals and stories which are absolutely opposed to the basic tenets of Sikhism as propounded by Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the successor Gurus and as nursed devotedly by the exemplary lives and sacrifices of the Gursikh devotees.

Then came a time when the Sikhs became reorganized into political groups known as Misles, and Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to set up the short lived Sikh Empire. By then, the Mahants had already achieved their objective of misleading the majority of the Sikhs who were quite naive due to lack of true leadership and sense of direction. In addition, the majority of the well-to-do and upper-class Sildis, due to the changed environments in their favor, started leading a luxurious way of life and, consequently, became addicted to various vices concomitant with that lifestyle. Thus, even during that period of comparative stability and peace, they did not, nor did they care to, detect the mischief done to their valuable original literature, whatever little of it had been left. As a result, by the time of the British rule, Sikhs were found to be following the same old rituals and rites which had been discarded in Sikhism. Ceremonies such as birth, marriage and death were performed according to the Brahminic rites. The religion of the Sikhs had been corroded and Sikhism was on its way to complete absorption in Hinduism.

During the British rule, a number of Sikh renaissance movements came into being. They did a commendable job of awakening the Sikhs to their spiritual heritage. However, these movements were not enough to fully rectify the damage already done to the Sikh literature and philosophy.

During this period, a unique Gursikh personality, in the person of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh, appeared on the scene. He professed and practiced Sikhism in practical day-to-day life; moreover, he had the capacity, will power, courage and conviction of faith in the noble principles of true Sikhism, all of which enabled him to discern the true from the false in the Sikh literature. His life was modeled according to the true Code of Conduct as laid down by the Gurus in their teachings and writings (Gurbani) contained in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Whatever he did, wrote, or spoke was in absolute conformity with the true Gumat enshrined in the Holy Scripture. The touchstone used by him to sift the truth from the adulteration was the Gurbani contained in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and in works of the well known Gursikh savants - Bhai Sahib Bhai Gurdas Ji and Bhai Sahib Bhai Nandlal Ji - which had been approved by the Gurus themselves.

However, his interpretation of certain points in the Sikh Code of Conduct has not been accepted by certain sections of the community, perhaps because it is not consistent with their easygoing lifestyle, and they are not prepared to practice and adopt the identity as propounded by the Gurus. This shows the tremendous harm that has been done to the ideals of purity, morality, and spirituality of the Khalsa Panth. The majority of the present day Sikhs banks upon the authority of such adulterated and distorted literature to justify the use of alcohol and narcotics, which is expressly forbidden in Sikhism.

As already indicated, Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh was one of the first and foremost ones to discern the false from the truth. His interpretation of the Sikh Code of Conduct and allied matters, is based upon an unprejudiced and rational consideration of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and their close associates. To understand how he arrived at the true Sikh Code of Conduct, it is necessary to have a glimpse of his life and how it lead to the formation of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, a group of Gursikh devotees who joined him in recitation of Gurbani Kirtan and who adopted Gurbani Kirtan, not as a profession but as a sacred mission for the salvation of their souls and propagation of the true Sikh way of life.

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