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https://jodhsingh.medium.com/the-manipulation-of-gurbani-and-the-sikh-gurus-for-gender-politics-77225b1c9cb7 As Bhai Prahlad puts it, the 11th and eternal Sikh Guru is of a non-human form; the dual-form of the Guru Granth Sahib as well as the Khalsa. However, to relegate this legacy to a 1:1 comparisons of a specific human attribute (in this case, gender) to then claim that the human Gurus were “subservient to that attribute” is a misnomer. As mentioned above, Sikh literature doesn’t ambiguate as regards to the gender of the physical form the Gurus took upon this Earth; in fact, Juptej implicitly acknowledges this with the translation “the Baba (respected male figure, referring here to Guru Nanak)”. Although it is true that the “idea of gender” has changed wildly throughout different times and different cultures, we don’t see any specific examples of that type of deconstruction within the span of Sikh history. In fact, as mentioned earlier via the Manji-Pir system and Singh-Kaur, the social existence of male and female genders is socially built into Sikh institutions. Norms of masculinity and femininity have indeed evolved, but this does not mean that such norms did not exist — in fact, traditional Sikh canon conveys the exact opposite. In the vaaran of Bhai Gurdas Singh (dated to the early 18th century), one of the poetic terms used in reverence for Guru Gobind Singh is “Mard-Agambra”; which quite literally means “the man without parallel”. This term finds usage even today in Punjabi folk songs to convey a masculine admiration of the Guru, in particular highlighting his warrior qualities. Similarly, although it is true that the collective body of the Khalsa Panth is not of one gender, various historical texts including the Gurbilas, Panth Parkash, and Suraj Prakash, attribute various physical features of Singhs who have joined to the Khalsa to masculine glory (example here), some of these attributed to sayings by the Gurus themselves. Although one can argue that the norms that dictate these trends have evolved (for example, Singhs wearing earrings used to be considered masculine, something that conflicts with modern day Khalsa male norms), it at the very least shows that given how even contemporary gender norms were used to convey certain concepts, and that “gender labels” are in no way taboo or alien to Sikh praxis. Erasure of this for the sake of placating modern trends which question the very idea of gender is indeed an innovation on the part of the author, and not grounded in genuine understanding of how such norms have evolved in the Sikh historical context. The Female Voice in Poetry The main theological argument that Juptej uses in the article to claim that the Gurus exhibited “gender fluidity” stems from analysis of Gurbani wherein the 1st and 5th Gurus takes the voice of a female lover. Juptej’s analysis proceeds as such: In fact, we see the Gurus take on different gendered identities in various shabads. ….. The thirst of separation can only be quenched by the presence of both roles that Maharaj inhabits here. Both the feminine and the masculine divine. And later: All this being said, I do still believe the initial tweet was highly reductive. It is not enough to understand that gender fluidity may exist within Bani, therefore within the Guru. We must look at the conditions in which this took place to come across with a more complete understanding. Guru Sahib was not just gender-bending, they were gender-transcendent. Gender, at the time, was harsher than even caste distinctions. Women were treated as property in the most literal sense of the word. Despite this, Guru Sahib openly assumes the role of the female and bestows that role onto the sangat around them and every person who sings their shabads to this day. This line of argument is reminiscent of a similar article from KaurLife published by Japjyot Singh who argues that these shabads are evidence that the Gurus exhibited gender fluidity and “became” female via their composition: we assume that ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ (Guru Sahib) exclusively identified as male, especially within our modern conception of masculinity, then how could They have possibly written from the identity of the “ਸੁਹਾਗਣਿ” (Suhaagan)? In other words, how could they have adopted the identity of a “female” lover awaiting their “beloved husband?” … They became the ਸੁਹਾਗਣਿ (Suhaagan = bride). Their longing for their Beloved was as raw, emotional, passionate and romantic as any partner awaiting their lover. Thus, given Their context, They used the example of a loving wife awaiting her beloved husband — but They Themselves adopted the identity of the female lover. This example of ਸੁਹਾਗਣਿ (Suhaagan) is one that moves beyond just the feminine understanding — it becomes one that is now associated with all souls, regardless of their physical being. ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ (Guru Sahib’s) identity is steeped in Oneness, so much so that adopting gender became a fluid, living process. Both of these arguments are severely limited in the understanding they show of Gurbani, literary context, and the Gurus’ meaning behind the Shabads, and in my opinion come out to be grave distortions of said Gurbani for the purpose of affirming the concept of gender fluidity vis-a-vis the Gurus themselves. At best a mistake made by a very rough-shod reading of the text; and at worst intentional manipulation of the text to form a certain narrative. But perhaps we can deconstruct this by looking more closely at the specific instances that are used to as a justification for this interpretation, where the Sikh Gurus write from the perspective of a soul-bride pining for a divine-groom. The fixation on the metaphor of “soul-bride” to argue for an entirely genderless conception of Sikh social concepts is one oft-used by Sikh Research Institute, as seen in their report on Sikhi & Sexuality: In this way, there is a common understanding of a genderless reading of Bani, such that all individuals place themselves into the role of the bride before IkOankar. The understanding of this metaphor is commonly accepted, except in the “one light in two bodies” imagery. Bani can be interpreted in a multidimensional fashion, in both literal and metaphorical ways, and this excerpt must be dealt with similarly. From one angle, this could be a worldly literal description of the union between a husband and wife, but metaphorically it is a genderless understanding of the human condition, which would transcend across all sexual orientations and/or genders. Certainly, the analogy is intended to convey a universal spiritual truth, of the nature and passion of love for the divine. But it’s extremely flawed to derive social truths, especially about the Gurus’ personal gender identities, from it. I can pinpoint three primary reasons for thus: 1. One major flaw to this argument we can ascertain from the broader context of Gurbani. Although he used the analogy beautifully and expanded upon it, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was in fact not the first [chronological] writer to employ the female voice in his poetry; Sheikh Farid was. We also find many shabads by Bhagat Kabir where he adopts the voice of a bride pining for her beloved. This illustrates two key points. This shows how this specific poetic device was already being employed in Sufi and Bhakti traditions much prior to the Sikh Gurus. That the Gurus chose to write their own bani with it (and include the bani from these bhagats in the Guru Granth Sahib) certainly suggests that it found favorability as a poetic metaphor, but was not a uniquely Sikh device, let alone a means to signal some type of revolutionary Sikh upending of gender. If one believes that the Sikh Gurus “transcended gender” because of their usage of this poetic device, so too did Kabir and Farid, and given its ubiquity, perhaps other Bhakti and Sufi writers. Yet this interpretation of Kabir and Farid being “gender-fluid” is entirely absent among the diverse groups of Kabirpanthis and Chishtis who would have been their ardent followers (for that matter, the Gurus’ supposed gender fluidity also finds no mention in the broad canon of traditional Sikh interpretation). 2. We can go beyond the scope of sacred poetry to drive home this precise point further. The Guru taking the voice of a “suhagan” may be a revolutionary revelation to Sikh think-tanks and activists in the 21st century West who screen English translations to find an “aha!” moment to vindicate their own personal politics, but lacks that politicized meaning to even lay readers of Punjabi poetry. Traditionally, it is very common in Punjabi poetry, songs, and folklore, for men to assume a woman’s voice, either as a writer or singer. If you were to ask many of these male artists if they “became female” in these moments or identified as gender-fluid because of it, they would treat it as an absurdity. What this illustrates is a uniquely beautiful feat of Punjabi culture (and in addition, Sikh culture), where poetry can transcend the physical gender of the reciter. To use this as a means to interpret the artists as “gender-fluid”, is in fact enforcing a Western norm and expectation of gender onto the art (and in the broader context, Gurbani). To illustrate the point, at length: Alam Lohar Gurdas Maan Surjit Bindrakhia Kuldeep Manak And many more. This rich trope is still used by many modern Punjabi artists! Babbu Maan Diljit Dosanjh Sidhu Moosewala 3. Let us now move past gender alone. The suhagan is one of many in a broad toolkit of poetic devices that the Gurus employed to help illustrate spiritual concepts. Social relationships, mythologies, everyday life occurrences, and nature all are but small parts of the tapestry the Gurus use to weave beautiful images of something so otherwise abstract and hard to wrap our heads around. Two natural relationships that the Gurus seem to have honed on in are those of the “chaatrik” (pied cuckoo bird, “rainbird”) and “bhavra” (bumblebee). The chaatrik is viewed as the symbolic celebrator of the monsoon season, as its chirps and songs fill the air as the skies pour down rains aplenty. The analogy of the ecstasy the rainbird feels upon witnessing the monsoon is used by the Gurus several times as a metaphor for the spiritual contentment singing Waheguru’s praises brings. Similarly, the single-minded focus of the bhavra on the flowers it pollinates inspires the Guru to write about how one’s attachment should be towards Waheguru. It feels vulgar to even do this for the sake of argument, but these shabads can be distorted and manipulated in the same way the articles in Baaz and KaurLife do. When the Guru writes from the perspective of a bumblebee or bird, do we point to it as proof that the 10 Sikh Gurus “transcended species”, that the Guru actually “became a bumblebee/bird” while composing these shabads, that these shabads are evidence of species-fluidity in Sikhi? Would we offer this as a concrete piece of evidence that the Sikh Gurus were otherkin? No, we don’t — because it would be extremely reductive, overly reliant on the English translation, and almost explicitly manipulating the meaning of the shabad to wishfully project a social implication that does not exist. Yet this is exactly what Juptej (and others) accomplished in the Baaz article that purports to expand the span of supposedly constructive and intellectually stimulating Sikh thought. Closing Thoughts I believe the arguments given have comprehensively rebuked the claims made by Juptej Singh and others, which (in my opinion) attempted to create an arbitrary fuzziness over the gender of the human Gurus that was never there in historical and traditional Sikh understandings, and is informed less by an honest exegetical reading of Gurbani, and more by the imaginations of modern Sikhs in the West who feel the need to validate contemporary surrounding sociopolitical movements by applying them to the Gurus’ lives and identities. I do agree that such conversations cannot and should not be muzzled solely because of their perception as “blasphemy”; that metric has been used to silence many other salient discussions regarding nuances in Sikh tradition. I would also agree that there is a need to transcend the shoddy mechanisms of engagement found on social media, whereby trolls hurling vituperative abuses as well as people with nothing to offer but one-liners muddle engagement to its worst possible low. However, both of these caveats don’t change how I feel about the fundamental frivolity of such discourse, particularly in the way it tries to superficially mine Gurbani translations for slanted sociopolitical commentary. As a one-off thought or forum post, fair game— yet this line of thought was presented as profound enough to warrant publication in a paper that purports to do “original reporting for the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora”, and has antecedents in organizations regarded as genuine Sikh think-tanks by many. We all rail about how certain aspects of historical Punjabi culture obscured the beauty of Sikh praxis, which is fair. But it seems like many Sikhs in the present day need to hold a similar mirror up to recognize that we do not live in a cultural vacuum just because “it’s literally [current_year]!”. We owe it to our sacred traditions and scripture to give it a more rigorous intellectual treatment beyond just folding it into a sheath to cover whatever politics we personally deem favorable at the moment. When we get that kind of intellectual honesty and due diligence, perhaps we can then talk more about having constructive intellectual conversations in Sikh spaces. Enjoy this completely *unrelated* picture. Or is it?
Should accept societies labeling me as a "ma'am"?
Alta posted a topic in WHAT'S HAPPENING?Strangers have always called me female. When I was a child that would get to mad to tell them "I'm a boy" Before I heard of Sikh I grow a full Sikh beard(after taking testosterone shots) trying to get people to recognizing me as a male. I was diagnosed with low testosterone and in the examination it was discovered my testes were underdeveloped. Some say that your gender is determined by your biology, well if your ask biologist if you can't impregnate others then your gender is females. Which is why organisms that reproduce asexualy are called "Mothers" and their offspring "Daughters". I don't really give a damn what people call me. I know I'm as WaheGuru intended me to be and fully accept his hukam and only question it, not to second judge him but because I need more clarification to follow it. If I ever become ready to take Amrit(and meet khalsa which feels like it's never going to happen). If I had my way I would be a male amur tiger but if I had to still human I would be a tomboy Futanari(a Japanese word that refers to person that has a <banned word filter activated> but is otherwise female).
Gendered Translations of Gurbani
partapsingh23 posted a topic in WHAT'S HAPPENING?Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh I am a young college student from California. I can read Gurmukhi fairly well, but I have a hard time understanding what the Gurbani means. Because of this, I use English translations when reading Gurbani. My question is regarding the use of gendered pronouns such as “He”, Him”, “His” etc. From what little wisdom Waheguru has gifted me with, I understand that in Gurmukhi, the One is always referred to as “You” rather than the masculine “He”. Is this correct? If so, why do most translations use masculine pronouns? I always get annoyed by this, as I see it everywhere, in Gurdwaras on projectors, in Gurbani apps. I consider myself a feminist, so this has really had an impact when I read Gurbani. Is the heavy use of masculine pronouns a result of Abrahamic influences on translators of Gurbani? For example, in Abrahamic faiths, the One is almost always regarded as the Father in Heaven. Thus, they use “He”. In Sikhi, however, the One is referred to in many ways, including Mother and Father. In fact, feminism is bred into Sikhi. Do translators of Gurbani use “He” because of the Husband-Lord analogy, which is just one of the many analogies used in Gurbani? It is also very important to note that the analogies and metaphors used by Guru Ji reflect the prevailing attitudes of the times, where women were considered much lower to men. Guru Ji used analogies in a way that not only resonated with the masses, but also exposed the darkest issues of the times. In no way was Guru Ji supporting male domination over women. In fact, Guru Ji placed women as second to the One. Guru Ji considered women as the essence of Divine Love. So then, when analyzing English translations of Gurbani, why is it always “He”? Can we not use “She”, “Her”, and “Hers” to refer to the Universal One? Can we not refer to the One as “Queen”, in addition to “King” (Maharaj)? This has always bothered me, as I cannot understand Gurbani from Gurmukhi alone, and because I feel very deeply for our fellow sisters in the Panth, who have yet to be fully recognized as true equals in our world. I feel very awkward whenever I say something like “Always remember and love Waheguru! She’s in your heart. She’s always with you. You are her and she is you!”. I always get confused looks from others, as if I’ve done something wrong. It breaks my heart to see our society like this. What should translators do, so that we can have the true meaning of Gurbani in other languages? What can we do as Sikhs to further uplift women? I apologize for any mistakes I may have made. I am just trying to share my thoughts and seek a better understanding. Much Love. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Gender of baby - Modern times
Big_Tera posted a topic in WHAT'S HAPPENING?This is in no way favoring one over the other as any child is a blessing regardless of gender. However pureley out of curiosity are more daughters being born then sons in recent times? I remember going back with the first generation that arrived in the UK. Those families seem to have had alot more sons then daughters. But when I look these days. It seems the opposite has occured many more daughters are being born then sons. Could this be some kind of environmental factors or just plain natures choice? Could it be related to peoples diet, nutrition exercise??
Is it mainly Singh's who complain over Jathebandian?
Guest posted a topic in WHAT'S HAPPENING?WJKK WJKF I have a question. Is it mainly Singh's who complain over Maryada and Jathebandian? Do Singhni's also engage in these type of conversations? (Not being sexist or stereotypical or anything, just out of curiosity. I mainly see Singh's get involved in this type of stuff)
Why were all of our Guru's male?
Guest posted a topic in GUPT FORUMI'm finding it difficult to wrap my head around this. So I understand that Vaheguru Jee is genderless, but why is it that all of our Guru's were of a male body? Why not female? I always thought Sikhi was completely for gender equality but I find it difficult to answer my curious questions as to why I hardly see females doing seva in Gurdwaras unless their making langar, why the panj pyare are all male, and why our Gurus were all male? Also, day after day I am seeing that Sikhi is in fact no more better than Islam when it comes to gender equality. And another question. I don't want to know anything about women, but my question is simply, why do MEN wear a turban? I'm trying to understand because any male I ask just nods and says, because the men do, or, because our Gurus did. But the question is always left unanswered.
Hi it would be a great help if I could get some response in regards to these questions. I'm writing my Dissertation paper on the turban. 1. what does the turban represent for you personally? 2. How does the pagh determine your personality? (if it doesn't why?) 3. How does it construct your physical appearance? (by wearing a pagh how do you perceive yourself and how do others look at you) 4. whats the style of your pagh? (the way its tied, the style, the colour significance) and why? 5. Is it a cultural and or religious purpose and why? 6. Is there any gender distinctions(differences) in wearing and tieing a pagh? (For example through my observations I noted most men wear a pagh [not necessarily religious] whereas women only wear it for religious reasons, and they mostly cover the pagh with a chunni where as men do not.) What is your take on this difference? All responses and opinions are non judgemental. I would like genuine opinions rather than a definition or generalisations. So feel free to be expressive! :D