Understanding Sikhism, The Research Journal, is available in paper (printed) form. To subscribe, please contact Prof. Devinder Singh Chahal by emailing at sikhism@iuscanada.com. Articles of some of the issues and Table of Contents for the past issues are available in electronic form.

We would appreciate your comments to improve this site and suggestion for the topic of interest.


Prof. Devinder Singh Chahal, PhD


Guru Nanak founded the most modern, and logically and scientifically sound religion, Sikhism, for the welfare of the humankind, however, it has been wrapped in a cocoon with silken fibres of unauthenticated writings and ancient mythology and is being represented as a ritualistic religion like others. It is my observation that there is no apostasy of Sikhism. Rather, there is a great yearning among the young Sikhs to explore it in its real perspective. In fact, it is the Rehit Maryada that is being violated by many Sikhs and Gurdwaras. The solution lies in the representation of Sikhism in its real perspective and formulation of new Rehit Maryada, on the principles of authenticated Gurbani of the Sikh Gurus.


Mr. Mark Bestien (8) reported that in Canada thirty years ago only one percent of people said they were of no religion. Now about 10% of people say they have no religion. (The percentage of non-believers in religion now has increased to 13% according to the recent Canadian Census of 1991.) And forty years ago 70% people regularly attended weekly worship service, now only 20% do so. Mr. Bestien's comments on this information were: The main reason of decreasing population of believers in religion is that teaching of religion is too stodgy and stern for modern man swiftly changing knowledge of science. A similar situation is appearing in the case of Sikhism throughout the world that the younger generation of Science Age (Space Age/Computer Age) is not interested in visiting Gurdwaras as they do not get the real perspective of Sikhism, nevertheless, they are proud to be Sikhs.

The dictionary meaning of "apostasy" is: renunciation of a religious faith. If apostasy is renunciation of religious faith as reported by Mr. Bestien, then it would be a negligible number of Sikhs in the whole world who had renounced Sikhism. On the other hand, if one looks from the point of view of practising of the Rehit Maryada (code of conduct), then there may be many Sikhs who have violated one or more codes of the Rehit Maryada. According to my analysis, it is not an apostasy of Sikhism , it is rather a degree of acceptance and practising of the Rehit Maryada.

Now a question arises, if Sikhism is a modus vivendi for the Sikhs then the way of life of the Sikhs should be governed under the advice given in the authenticated Gurbani of the Sikh Gurus that has been incorporated in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS), instead, it is governed by the Rehit Maryada formulated mostly on the information not given in the AGGS. I would like to present my views on tackling this problem from two angles: Representation of Sikhism in its real perspective, and modification of Rehit Maryada.


Guru Nanak founded a religion, Sikhism, for the welfare of the humankind of this planet, the earth. Due to certain activities of unscrupulous Sikhs, Sikhism has been wrapped in a cocoon woven with the silken fibres of ancient writings based on mythology, illogical concepts, and irrelevant stories. Consequently, it is being represented as a ritualistic and mythic religion like others. Even today, in the Science Age, Sikhism is being interpreted along the lines of these ancient writings without looking into their authenticity and validity and Gurbani is usually eliminated from this process. Thus, representing Sikhism in its real perspective, as founded by Guru Nanak has been further strengthened by nine Sikh Gurus who succeeded to the House of Nanak.

It has been noticed that there is a great yearning to know about Sikhism in its real perspective by the young Sikhs. It is a general complaint by them, especially those born in the Western World, that whenever they go to Gurdwaras they do not understand anything about Sikhism, the way it is presented.

The Traditional Sikhism has been compared very briefly with that of the Sikhism, to be discovered in its real perspective, as follows:

Traditional Sikhism

Sikhism in its real perspective

1. Gurbani is usually misinterpreted to justify the old concepts, permanently imprinted in the minds of most Sikhs
1. Gurbani is interpreted "AS-IS".
2. Unwritten traditions coming down through generations are followed without reasoning.
2. No such traditions are followed without testing their validity with Gurbani and science, the touchstones of the truth.
3. Information from biased ancient historians, written under the influence of polity of the time, ancient Indian mythology, and their own whims, is used extensively.
3. There are no myths in Gurbani, therefore, Sikhism is taught without employing mythology.
4. Unauthenticated writings about Sikh Gurus and unauthenticated Bani of Sikh Gurus are mostly used to construct Sikhism.
4. Only authenticated Bani of Sikh Gurus (Gurbani), incorporated in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS), is used to construct Sikhism.

It is this Traditional Sikhism that is being taught and practised at present in the Gurdwaras through our Granthis, Ragis, Sants, preachers and Kathakars, and through books, journals, and TV programs, that is mostly based on the ancient literature and traditions without verifying their authenticity. There are very few teachings or presentations of Sikhism and Gurbani in its real perspective. Therefore, it is most important to reveal real Sikhism by cutting the silken fibres of the cocoon of myths and unauthentic literature with the chisel of science and logic and the hammer of Gurbani.

It is generally accepted that science and logic have nothing to do with Sikhism and Gurbani. They also feel that its application in religion will disrupt the fundamentals of Gurbani, consequently, will attack the principles of Sikhism (17, 25, 26, and personal communications with certain Sikh scholars). However, it is the Sikh Missionary College, Ludhian (21) that agrees at least that Sikhism does not oppose science and scientific living.

The feelings of repugnance toward science is the result of ancient mythology imprinted in the minds; writings of renowned Sikh scholars about "Science and Religion" (25); and the stories and metaphysical phenomena written by spiritualistic writers (26). Unfortunately they have absolutely wrong impression about the science. Science in general is a state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding. Science deals with all types of matters: inanimates and animates and all the stages through which an inanimate becomes animate; and all the invisible matters and all their stages through which they become visible and can be felt.

I think some Sikh scholars have failed to realize that science and logic work together to explain all the phenomena of life, cosmos, and also the so-called metphysical events. What is a metaphysical phenomenon today, it may become physical, physiological, psychological or psychosomatic tomorrow through the study of science? I mean whether you accept the role of science or not it is going to play a major role in all the aspects of your life including your religion. Escaping the implications of science and logic today is impossible and will be very different tomorrow. Albert Einstein, a Nobel laureate, was right when he declared that (13):

"Religion without science is blind.
Science without religion is lame."

The averseness to science among the Sikh scholars and the Sikhs at large is happening because they have not yet comprehended that Guru Nanak started Sikhism during the period of renaissance (between the 14th century and 17th century), when scientists started to challenge some fundamentals of the religion in Europe. For example, Galileo (1564-1642) was imprisoned for life because he challenged the fundamental belief of the church and proved the theory of Copernicus (1473-1543) that the earth is a planet of solar system and it revolves around the sun (20).

On the other hand almost at the same time of the period of renaissance, about a century before Galileo, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) initiated the most modern, logically and scientifically sound religion, Sikhism, based on the Gurbani revealed by him. He challenged the misconceptions in the religions of Indian subcontinent. For example: Guru Nanak removed the misconception that the earth is resting on the horn of a bull by logical explanation that the earth is staying in the universe under the control of the Laws of the Almighty (Scientists call them Laws of Nature) (1, 9). Guru Nanak explained about the creation of the universe by a process very similar to the "Big Bang" theory and expansion of the universe according to the Laws of Nature (2, 9). The theory of "Big Bang" was propounded by scientists in 1921, i.e., about 5 centuries after Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak also taught us to evaluate any thing/philosophy offered, by research and deliberation before accepting or practising it (3, 4, 5).

Scientists have been attacking some fundamentals of some religions since the advent of the science. Nevertheless, it is my prudent foresight that there is no test in the world which could challenge the truth revealed in the Gurbani (Bani of the Sikh Gurus incorporated in the AGGS), if it is represented scientifically and logically in its real perspective. The same statement stands for Sikhism, if represented as formulated by Guru Nanak. The Gurbani has stood the test of the time so far and I am sure it will stand all the challenges from science, if it is presented in its true perspective.

2. Sikh Rehit Maryada (Code of Conduct), Published by SGPC

Keeping in view that many Rehits (codes) in various Rehit Namae lack logic and are contrary to Gurbani (19, 27), a new Sikh Rehit Maryada, Code of Conduct, was drafted by the Religious Advisory Committee, appointed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) during 1932. The draft prepared by the committee was submitted to the SGPC on January 7, 1945. Now the question is: If it is a code then it should have been written like a code and should be interpreted as a code (Code = a systematic statement of a body of law; especially: one given statutory force). Thus, it ought to be free from redundancies and uncertainties, and must not be capable of being understood in two or more possible senses. Unfortunately it is not so with the present Code of Conduct, published by the SGPC. This might be the reason for its violation by the Sikhs at large. There is another question: Should it be a code of conduct or guidelines to follow Sikhism, the modus vivendi?

Let us examine a few codes from the Rehit Maryada, published by SGPC:

(a) Status: On its first page it says: "The SGPC in its meeting of February 3, 1945 vide resolution # 97 has approved to do additions and deletions according to the recommendations of Religious Advisory Committee." It means that there were some additions and deletions, recommended by the Religious Advisory Committee, to be done. Nevertheless, it is not clear from it and elsewhere in the text, whether the recommended additions and deletions were done or not. It is also not clear when and by whom it was declared as a statute. I have not come across any such edict (Hukm Nama), issued by the Akal Takht or SGPC, where the presently circulated Sikh Rehit Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) has been declared as a statute for the Sikhs.

(b) Definition of a Sikh: The definition of a Sikh given in the Rehit Maryada is not understood properly by many Sikhs. Let us discuss briefly the definition of a Sikh given in the Rehit Maryada, printed by the SGPC:


The literal translation is as follows:

"A woman or a man, who believes in one Almighty, ten Guru Sahibans (from Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib), Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Bani and advice of ten Guru Sahibans and the Amrit of Dasmesh Ji and does not accept any other religion, is a Sikh."

The word 'nischa' means 'faith' or 'belief''. But it is interpreted by many as: To be a Sikh it is obligatory and imperative to be blessed with the holy Amrit as finally ordained by Guru Gobind Singh. I am sorry to say that 'faith' or 'belief' cannot be interpreted as 'obligatory' or 'imperative' under any circumstances. It may be necessary to add here that 'belief' and 'faith' are often used interchangeably but 'belief' may or may not imply certitude in the believer whereas 'faith' always does even when there is no evidence or proof. Ultimately the 'faith' becomes 'blind faith'. But Guru Nanak rejects 'blind faith' in his bani (3, 4, 5). It does not mean that I am against the concept of Amrit. However, academically it is unfair to interpret a statement according to one's own whims. If it is obligatory then it should have been mentioned so, clearly and boldly in the definition of a Sikh to avoid any confusion in its interpretation and implications.

'Bani and advice of ten Guru Sahibans' is also not a true statement. Because only six Gurus revealed bani (Gurbani) which was incorporated by Guru Arjan and Guru Gobind Singh, in the AGGS. The other Gurus followed and preached the Gurbani that is enshrined in the AGGS. 'A woman or man' is also not a proper statement because it excludes children. In North America and other Western countries the school authorities could refuse the children to adhere to the current Rehit Maryada in the school on the plea that the definition of a Sikh is not applicable to children. 'A woman or man' is to be replaced with 'A person'. The problem of defining a 'Sikh' and 'Sikhism' was also raised in 1994 by me (10).

(c) Five Banis: There is no authenticity about the recommendation for recitation of five particular banis by Guru Gobind Singh. Even the Hukm Nama of Guru Gobind Singh, supposed to be written to the Sikhs of Kabul and which is very often quoted for prescription of Five Kakars (from Ref. # 27), does not contain any instruction to recite five banis. Instead the instructions are 'Waheguru Waheguru Japna'. Recently the Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana issued a tract, "Dasam Granth Barae" (12). It shows that according to the study of Giani Bhag Singh in 1976 (about 21 years ago), the Chaupi: Hamri karo hath de rachhia...., one of the five recommended banis, is not the composition of Guru Gobind Singh. If it is so, how come it has not been removed from Rehit Maryada?

(d) Ardas: The first part of Sikh Ardas, Pritham Bhagauti simar ke Guru Nanak ....., as described in the Rehit Maryada of SGPC is the first pauri of Var Sri Durga/Bhagauti Ji Ki. According to Giani Bhag Singh, and Dr Rattan Singh Jaggi (ref. # 12) Var Sri Durga/Bhagauti Ji Ki is not a composition of Guru Gobind Singh. If it is not, then how come the Ardas given in the Rehit Maryada has not been modified?

Similarly, there are many other codes (See articles such as: Sikh Rehit, Meanings and Functions of Gurdwara, Defining a Sikh) that are to be modified.

Because of imperfection in the definition of a Sikh in Rehit Maryada and its improper interpretation, it is creating lots of problems and fights between Amritdharis and non-Amritdharis especially in the North America and the United Kingdoms. It is not surprising because such types of tensions or fights between Amritdhari and non-Amritdhari Sikhs of Delhi and Kabul started within a month of the first initiation of Punj Pyrae ( Five Beloved Ones) in 1699 as reported by Principal Satbir Singh (27). In the Western World there have been many fights among different groups to control the managements of Gurdwaras and many cases have been registered in the courts for the decisions. Although it is a tension between Amritdhari and non-Amritdhari Sikhs in the Western World, the irony is that the tension among various groups of Amritdhari Sikhs is taking a serious shape in the Punjab.

In spite of the situation explained above the SGPC in their recent 'Declaration' (14) has urged the Sikhs to be loyal to unauthentic (fake) Hukm Namae (18, 23) and Rehit Maryada that is incomplete and imperfect from constitutional points of views. Recently S. Gurtej Singh (24) has indicated his concern to protect the Rehit Maryada: "Shall we not discourage those trying to raise controversies regarding the Rehit Maryada, and politely bring to their notice that their activity, being grounded in subjectivity is deterimental to basic panthic interest." It appears that the special clause in that "Declaration" (14) and concern of S. Gurtej Singh (24) are to protect this 52-year old Rehit Maryada without realizing its implications on the Sikh generations beyond 2000.

I have observed during the discussions with some of the very outstanding Sikh scholars that they acknowledge grudgingly and hesitantly that there are many wrong concepts and practices in Sikhism, still they teach them and practice them lest they are branded as the trouble makers or the foes of Sikhism. Now I ask the following question to the readers: Is it justified forcing the Sikh institutions and the Sikhs of the Science Age and the future Sikh generations beyond 2000 to follow incomplete and constitutionally imperfect Rehit Maryada and unauthentic (fake) Hukm Namae (18, 23)?

I have raised above points, not controversies, to be considered very seriously by the SGPC and the Sikh intelligentsia to modify immediately the current Rehit Maryada so that it is made workable and acceptable by the Sikhs of Science Age and the future Sikh generations beyond 2000, and that can stand the test of Gurbani, science, logic and court of law.

The SGPC should come forward with full force to compose an Advisory Committee of well-placed or retired, responsible, and dedicated Sikhs having sound knowledge of Gurbani and science to formulate Rehit Maryada before the above explained situation raises its ugly head. In addition to the above qualifications the members of this committee should be highly qualified and well-known at national and international levels in at least one of the following subjects: science, medicine, administration, law, history, languages, and religion. I emphasize that knowledge of science is a must because it is important to know the facts. For example: On visual observation it appears that the sun revolves around the earth, however, the scientific evidence shows that it is the earth which revolves around the sun.

Therefore, this committee should formulate the Rehit Maryada keeping in view Gurbani, science and logic. Because during the Science Age, any code coined on unscientific, unauthentic evidences or on misinterpretation of Gurbani (11, 16, 22) and misinterpretation of science (15) will not reflect good religious standard. For example:

"The argument that one should adopt Sikh values and ignore the external form, is hollow, since the crux of the Sikh values is to obey God. In fact, living His Will (hukm, raza) is the goal of a Sikh. This is also the methodology for achieving that goal. With this rider, no follower of the Guru can temper with the natural form given to him or her. The external form is written into the genes and has to be respected as the Will of the Creator (15)."

In the above statement it appears that words, 'Will' and 'genes' have been misinterpreted to justify a concept. 'Will' means desire, wish, or Royal Command. 'Genes' are the portions of a DNA of an organism that carry certain traits of the individual. The genes that control the external form of the individual is the result of Laws of Nature (the Almighty, God) not a wish or desire of the God. The most conspicuous implication of the above statement, "The external form is written into the genes and has to be respected as the Will of the Creator" is the misinterpretation of scientific information because the nails of the same individual are also controlled by the genes and cutting of nails has never been considered as the violation of the Will of the Creator. It is necessary to add here that the portion of the nail that is cut is dead and chemically it is very similar to the dead portion of the hair. The only difference is that living portion of the nail is easily seen but the living portion of the hair is buried deep in the skin. The whole length of the hair that is out side of the skin is dead.

The above example clearly indicates that how important is the knowledge of science to coin the code of conduct for the Sikhs of the Science Age and future generation of the Sikhs beyond 2000. The Sikh scholars, should not give any such chance to any Galileo to disprove any code. Therefore, this committee should coin the Rehit Maryada using Gurbani as an anvil and knowledge of science, and logic as the tools (6, 7). The committee should also keep in mind that justification of any old concept by misinterpretation of Gurbani (11, 16, 22) and misinterpretation of science (15) would be highly sacrilegious act on their part. Comments should be invited from all the well-established Sikh Institutes and the Sikh scholars of repute from all over the world. Then a seminar should be held by inviting the Sikh intelligentsia from all over the world to finalize the Rehit Maryada. It should be done before the most important day, the Vaisakhi of 1999 or gefore the beginning of the 21st century.


I think it is most appropriate to quote here the remarks of Arnold Toynbe (28) about Sikhism recorded about 23 years ago:

"Mankind's religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen: the living higher religions are going to influence each other more ever before, in these days of increasing communication between all parts of the world and branches of the human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion, and the scriptures the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."

Let us get together to portray Sikhism as a logically and scientifically sound religion of the world, but not as a ritualistic religion like the others. I would highly appreciate receiving comments and suggestions to present Sikhism as the future religion of the world.


    AGGS = Aad Guru Granth Sahib. 1983 (reprint) 1430 p. Publishers: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. (M = Mahla, i.e., succession number of the Sikh Gurus to the House of Guru Nanak, P = Page of the AGGS).
  1. AGGS, Jap 16, p 3 : Dhaul dharam daya ka poot...
  2. AGGS, Jap16, p 3 : Keeta passao aeko kawaoo
  3. AGGS, M 1, p 1410 : Pehla vast sewaenn ke tan keechay vapar
  4. AGGS, M 1, p 1255 : Khoji upjay baddi binsay
  5. AGGS, M 4, p 1325 : Bebake budh sabh jag meh nirmal bichar ...
  6. AGGS, M 1, p 465 : Sikhi sikheya gur vichar
  7. AGGS, Jap 38, p 8 : Jat pahara dheeraj suniara...
  8. Bestien, Mark. 1991. Most Canadians shun religion as relic of the past. The Gazette, Montreal, November 19.
  9. Chahal, D. S. 1992. Philosophy: Scientific interpretation of the Sikh scriptures. The Sikh Review, Vol. 40 (July): 5-20.
  10. Chahal, D. S. 1994. Religion: Who is a Sikh? Search for a definition. The Sikh Review, Calcutta. 42 (May): 21-33.
  11. D. S. Chahal. 1996. Gurmat Chetna Lehar. Sikh Review, Calcutta. 44 (August): 73-74.
  12. Dasam Granth Barae. 1995. Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana.
  13. Davies, P. 1983. God and the New Physics. J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., Toronto. (Quote on the inside title page of this book).
  14. Declaration of the Vishwa Sikh Sammelan Amritsar,: Sept. 21-25, 1995. Sikh Review Calcutta, 43: (Nov.): 66-67. Abstracts of Sikh Studies. October, 1995, pp 112- 113, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
  15. Editorial: War on Apostasy. Absts. Sikh Studies, April-June, 1996. Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
  16. Gurmat Chetna Lehar. pp 122-124. Absts. Sikh Studies. April-June, 1996, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
  17. Kaur, Sumit. 1996. Sikhism and Science. pp 127-128. Absts. Sikh Studies, July-September, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
  18. Mehboob, Harinder Singh. 1988. Sahje Rachio Khalsa (Punjabi). Published by the Author, Khalsa College, Gardiwala, Hoshiarpur.
  19. Padam, Pyara Singh. 1984. Rehit Namae (Punjabi). Kalam Mandir, Lower Mall, Patiala.
  20. Reader's Digest History of Man: The Last Two Million Years. The Reader's Digest Assoc., Montreal, 1973.
  21. Sikh Dharam Philosophy (Punjabi). Part 4. pp 69-76. Sikh Missionary College (Rgd.), 1051, Kuch 14, Field Ganj, Ludhiana.
  22. Singh, Baldev. 1996. Sabat surat distar sira. World Sikh News, Stockton. July 31-August 6, pp 4-5.
  23. Singh, Ganda. 1985. Hukmnamae (Punjabi). Punjabi University, Patiala
  24. Singh, Gurtej. 1995. News and Views: Key Note Address. Abstracts of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, October 1995: pp 91-107.
  25. Singh, Kapur (Sirdar). 1993. Science and religion. In: Sikhism: An Oecumenial Religion. Ed. Gurtej Singh. Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
  26. Singh, Randhir (Bhai Sahib). 1949. (7th Ed. 1994). Undhidhi Duniya. Publishers: Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Trust, 23-G, Sarabha Nagar, Ludhiana.
  27. Singh, Satbir, (Principal). 1980. Sikh Rehit Maryada Etae Usdi Mahanta (Punjabi). Publishers: Jaswant Singh 'Ajit', Pumi Parkashan, 3658, Mori Gate, Delhi - 110 006.
  28. Toynbee, Arnold 1973. Forward. In: The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs. Translated by Trilochan Singh, Jodh Singh, Kapur Singh, Bawa Harkrishan Singh, and Khushwant Singh. Samuel Weiser, Inc. New York.

This paper was submitted to Dr Kharak Singh Mann, the Organizer of a seminar: Apostasy Among Sikh Youth - Its Causes and Cures, held on October 26 & 27, 1996 at Chandigarh. While the copies of all the papers were distributed to the participants at the time of the seminar, but no copy of this paper was given to any paricipant. This paper has also not been included for publication in the proceedings of the seminar by the Organisers. It clearly indicates that the organisers of the seminar are not ready to listen to the views that are contrary to their concept of Sikhism.

However, this paper has been published in The Sikh Courier International, London. Volume 37 (Spring-Summer), 1997: pp 22-26 and Meeri Tae Peeri, Ambala, Volume 11, Issue # 9 (September), 1997, pp 40-48.