Same-Sex & Other Relationships: A Sikh View

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Same-Sex & Other Relationships: A Sikh View

Gurmukh Singh OBE

[This article should be read with earlier related articles for which the links are given as footnotes.]

Gurmukh Singh OBE
- Australia is the 26th country to legalise same-sex marriage
- Sikhi permits marriage between man and woman and sexual relationship between husband and wife only.

On 6 December 2017, Australian Federal Parliament legalised same-sex marriage and Australia became the 26th country to do so. Organisers of a one week 2018 Summer Camp by Sikh Youth Australia expected questions about same-sex marriage. Such a topic leads on to Sikhi (preferred to Sikhism) view about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and other sex-based deviations. Such labels are more biased towards sexual rather than diverse human relationships. The latter do enrich human life experience.

With changing social attitudes, discussing such unsavoury topics openly these days is not regarded as a taboo subject. Regrettably, yesterday’s vulgar expressions have become fashionable in today’s common dialogue. We need to face this reality and take up the challenge through progressive Sikhi education. As Dr I J Singh of New York wrote in an article about same-sex unionsi, “this topic is a Pandoras box” i.e. a source of unforeseen complications and problems. For example, how do we discuss such sensitive topics with children of different age groups? I believe the Guru has shown us the way with a simple approach by starting with the unique opportunity this human body (manukh deh) provides for getting closer to God.

It is for pedagogy experts to use the educational language and techniques appropriate to different age groups.

Guru ji shows us the way: human body is the God’s mansion. Gurbani teaches us:

With the Guru’s grace you can see God’s mansion within you……This body [and mind] is the Lord’s mansion wherein is revealed the jewel of Divine comprehension.
(Nanak III, Guru Amardas ji, SGGS Ang 1346)

The body and mind, this temple of God, should be kept clean and healthy through Guru-given discipline, the Sikhi rehat. The mind should be focussed on simran (God awareness through focus on the qualities and the Will (Hukam) of God). Only then does the body become God’s mansion and the mind, the doorway to God’s presence.

The human body is sacred and can be compared figuratively to a gurdwara, the “God’s mansion”, although in Sikhi, God is everywhere. The gurdwara is kept clean; it is a place for seeking God awareness, simran and sewa; and it is the Guru’s school where we learn from the Guru’s Word in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In this mansion of God, the human body, is the mind, which is kept clean with focus on Wahgeuru’s divine qualities and by abiding with His Will (Hukam) which operates all around us. The body should be devoted to the activity of honest work and sewa - serving others with humility, without expectation of any reward. That is how the body and mind are washed and kept clean. That is the way to aspire towards God-awareness and attunement with the Creator Being. That is the main purpose of this human life.

So, the state of the human body i.e. how we treat and keep our body, affects the state of the mind. We can debase the body with lustful acts and pollute the mind with lustful thoughts. We can keep the body clean and healthy and focus the mind on Waheguru remembrance by serving His creation. The choice is ours.

According to the Guru’s teaching, Human beings are at the top of the ladder of evolution and have a leading role to play regarding their responsibility towards the great mother earth (mata dharat mahat) and the environment.

Other creatures are your water carriers [servants].
On this earth, yours is the sovereignty.
You have gold silver and money.
But your lust has destroyed your good conduct.
SGGS Ang 374

In the human body is the mind capable of achieving God awareness:

My mind, you are the embodiment (image) of Divine Light, so know your Source.
(SGGS Ang 441)
The fire in every home is your army and the righteousness (dharam) exercises chieftainship [control].
The earth is your big cooking pot and the being receives it but once.
Destiny (bhaag) is your store keeper.
Becoming non-content, man begs again and again and the mercurial mind humiliates him.
(SGGS Ang 1190)

However, deeds (body aspect) and thoughts (mind aspect) need control as do the vices of lust, anger, greed, excessive attachment and ego-centricity (the five warriors, the panch sur-bir, as per Gurbani, against whom the human being is pitched in battle.).

What exactly is the function of this Harmandar, the human body evolved over millions of years? Firstly, to sustain the mind which leads to God awareness and also to sustain itself for service (sewa) and for procreation through the narr-madeen (male-female) process since evolution started. In view of the above, what would be a sacrilege, a desecration of this sareer, the Harmandar? Work that out for yourself after reading the rest of this article and the links provided as references below the article.

Human relationships

All relationships involve some sort of attachment, affection and different types of love e.g. that between a mother and the child, or that between a brother and a sister, or that between Gursikh bothers and sisters, or that between the Guru and the Sikh. The list can be very long. There is also a sense of responsibility attached to each and every relationship which sometimes require great sacrifice. Many human relationships are based on the concept of dharam nebhauna i.e. responsibility due to respective relationship e.g. husband towards his wife and wife towards her husband. Respective relationships and responsibilities (dharam nibhaona) between male and female siblings. A friend has a responsibility towards another friend regardless of gender.

There are all kinds of biological differences and abnormalities which require mature understanding and diversion to lust free relationships. Abnormal obsessions and attractions can be cured, corrected, controlled and, sometimes, diverted to good causes. As such, homo-sexuality is being politically pushed as if the physical sexual relationship resulting from this condition is normal and natural and should be socially and religiously accepted.

Yet, in Gurmatt and according to Sikh rahit (conduct), except for the sacred relationship between husband and wife, none other involves sexual relationship. No amount of interpretations of Gurbani idiom e.g. regarding human soul-bride relationship with the Lord (Husband) of all souls-brides proffered by the gay lobby in the context of the Lavan Shabads and Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage) ceremony, can change that truth about Sikhi teaching. It is possible that urges, inclinations and desires may be natural to some, but in Gurmat a Sikh is not supposed to act upon all urges and physical desires, including those of a sexual nature.

“Only heterosexual marriage can provide a healthy environment for bringing up children and for catering for the needs of the human society.ii

and to quote Dr IJ Singh,

“... much of Sikh teaching is couched in metaphors from family life. Even the adoration of God is explored in terms of the closest relationship that humans can comprehend - that between a man and a woman. The heterosexual relationship is defined as sacred in Sikhism; an honest family life is described as the first duty - the primary religion of humans.”iii
Next steps

Whether we like it or not, our children of all age groups are being continually exposed to all sorts of sex topics through audio-visual media and in schools. Gay political lobby is hyperactive and this is all done in the name of equality - equal rights for all in a liberal modern society. The gay lobbyists are even insisting on changing the language to make it gender neutral!

Like the organisers of Sikhi camps, I too feel that the time has come to educate children about such issues . We need to arrive at a Sikh view on the whole question of sex-based human relations, permutations, activity and lust gratifications.

I came across a Sikh educational website which is a questions and answers forum, Gurbani based response is given to questions like, “What is the Sikh attitude to homosexuality?

To quote the opening paragraph from this site:

“Anyone is welcome to become a Sikh, including those with homosexual orientation. However, to act upon homosexual tendencies would not be in line with Sikh tradition and code of conduct. No one can force religion or religious code on anyone. However, no one has a license from the Guru to justify their own personal habits, behaviour or lifestyle that is not advocated by the Sikh religion with the label of Sikhi, whether straight or gay…….When speaking of sexual orientations, the implication is that the relationship is based on sex.

To some extent the topic has been addressed before e.g. I recall reading a comprehensive article in Punjabi by Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana in the Sikh Bulletin [Sikh Bulletin published by Khalsa Tricentennial Foundation of North America Inc.] on the issue of homosexuality (not gay marriage as I recall), also referred to by Dr I J Singh.

Therefore, when I was invited to write a UK Sikh briefing Sikh View About Homosexuality & Same Sex Marriagesiv I had the benefit of these articles when collating the Sikh view in response to Equal civil marriage consultation by the UK government. Despite some excellent pointers, Dr I J Singh had concluded, “I know that I am leaving the issue unsettled. That is deliberate, but it is not a delaying tactic. The issue is such that we will not and cannot remain immune from it.”

I too feel that the issue should be tackled much more openly, now that there is less inhibition talking about it.

Understanding sex biases

First step is to understand the variations of sex biases under many headings - no matter how unsavoury - biological aspects and the history. For example, when trying to understand homosexual inclinations and behaviour, the Wikipedia gives much information. If one starts with one link about homosexuality e.g. it then leads on to other related unpleasant topics connoting lust drivensexual acts and affections between members of the same sex, including lesbianism. The first known appearance of homosexual in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously, arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law.

So, sodomy is introduced under homosexual relations. Then the reader has the option to go on to terms like bestiality etc. Questions like incest, paedophilia come to mind. Where does this end? Opening the Pandora’s box referred to Dr I J Singh begins to sound like an understatement!


Hey kaamun narak bisraamun bahu jonee bharmavneh.
“O sexual desire, you lead the mortals to hell; you make them wander in reincarnation through countless species [reference to sub-human stages which torment the human mind and result in all sorts of abnormal behaviour and acts].”
(Ang 1358)

A Sikh is reminded:

He who made you pure from being impure and placed you over the head of all species.
Now you can either chasten yourself or chasten not [that is up to you].
(SGGS Ang 913)
Then alone is the human being deemed to be true, if he knows the true way of life.
Preparing the earthly body (dharat kaaya) like a field, he [the Gursikh] sows the seed of the Creator.
(SGGS 468)

Once again a reminder that the body is the Har-Mandar, the abode of the Creator

“Sexual desire and anger steal the wealth of the self within.”
(Ang 351)
“(As a consequence of my fickle mind, now) within the body and mind are thieves like sexual desire, which has stolen my jewel of spiritual wisdom. I am a poor orphan, O God; unto whom should I complain? Who has not been ruined by sexual desire? What am I? ||1||”
(SGGS Ang 1194)

Bringing up children - natural or adopted - in the healthy mother/father relationships is a derived Sikhi concept of family life. Mata/Pita are mentioned separately in Gurbani for stress on complementary relationships, a sort of extension of the conception - mother/father union and the womb life of 9 months of a child.

The rest would be repeating what has already been written at the links provided below this article.

i Same Sex Unions
ii Sikh View About Homosexuality & Same Sex Marriages
iii What is the Sikh attitude to homosexuality?
iv Homosexuality and Sikhism: A Personal Perspective - The Roundtable Open Forum # 90
v Sex and Sikhism

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh (U.K.)
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