By SUKHBIA SINGH
Sikhs call their preparations of meat as Mahan Parshaad — greatest of gifts or super food. They delighted at the Muslim derogatory term of DalKhor — “Beaneating coward,” for the nonmeat eating Hindus. Some well-meaning Sikhs, however, are now promoting vegetarianism! Why must we reject it?
Some Newspapers and Magazines have carried correspondence which advocates vegetarian diet and condemns eating of meat. The advocates enumerate physiological and psychological problems, and moral decadence of the meat eating people. “It is sinful to destroy life”; ‘Meat causes sickness”; and ‘vegetarian diet is nutritious and more balanced,” we are told. Post June 84 era has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Sikhs renouncing meats. Some have castigated Sikhs in general and Sikh leaders in particular, for eating meat. There is a spread of “Washington slept here” syndrome: Many a real and self-proclaimed heroes, claiming to have rubbed shoulders with Bhindranwale are going around raising funds, and setting up training centers, and Ashrams for the Sikhs. Here the standard fare includes vegetarian diet and Brahmanism Sikhism: “how — to achieve peace of mind and harmony, obtain salvation, mast Gurmantar, become a keertania’ etc. etc.
HOLIER THAN THOU: “Vegetarians are better humans,” is claimed by those who have renounced meat-eating. Before it became fashionable to be called a “vegetarian” one associated such “philosophy” with the Vaishnos and Radhaswamis. Remember those Vaishno eateries which catered meatless foods prepared in a “proper” Hindu ritual. (Guru Nanak has commented ‘on the subject so well in the Asa Di War). References from Grubani are, irrespective of the context, quoted and given profound interpretations, and a few words are stretched into full-fledged pronouncements by the Gurus on the subject. Not only is Gurbant invoked, but Amrit Shaknaa — Sikh Baptism, ceremony is cited as well!
HELLBENT HEAVENMONGERS: The Sikh advocates of Indian brand of vegetarianism get quite carried away when they set aside every courtesy and gratitude towards their host societies and adopted countries. They make wild pronouncements: “Don’t you is society has gone bonkers is a gigantic psychiatric ward”; “‘they are sick and unhealthy people”; “Cancer is widespread.” Someone even listed numerous diseases as being caused by meat. He missed the important one, though: Gutne meh darde Jigar — Heartache in the knees, a specialty of the romantics! Surely, the Sikhs could afford to be little less generous in their hyperboles. If these “evangelists” are to be believed then only, if any, people qualifying for residence in Heaven, would be a handful of malnourished Hindus, Radhaswamis, and “vegetarian Sikhs”’! According to them God is having a hell of a problem: Lack of tenants in His Heaven, and no room left in Hell because of swelling numbers of meat eating sinners from rest of the world!
IRREFUTABLE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF VEGETARIANS! The vegetarians quote such “irrefutable” scientific evidence “Meat is not good for you” protein requirements of the body are adequately provided by legumes, lentils and beans”; “It requires larger areas of Earth to raise meat than to grow grains and legumes”; and “Human teeth and intestines are not designed to handle meat.” (Only comical relief, from these high-powered arguments is provided when someone says: “Beans are no good for you, they talk at your back”)! This scientific evidence is in the same league as: “If God wanted man to fly, He would have given us wings”; “Cow makes milk for her calf and not for humans”; and ad nauseum. It won’t be long before some entrepreneur starts a religion with, a slogan: “God gave your legs to walk, not to ride horses or motor cars.”
VEGETARIANISM, A CONSPIRACY TO WEAKEN THE SIKHS! One is tempted, in jest, to propose that there is some implicit or explicit conspiracy to weaken the Sikhs. The Hinduized Sikh Sants, Gianis, Gurus, Swamis, etc., etc. are out to emaciate the Sikhs. If not a conspiracy it certainly is trendy! The overhead of such ventures — Sant’s Dera, is minimal: Under the guise of simplicity, vegetarianism and holiness, everyone is fed rice, Roti, Dal and Sabzi or Saluna — Aaloo Mattar and Mattar Aaloo. Rather than an invigorating atmosphere of renewed Sikh spirit and mission, the graduates of such camps are getting heavy doses of rituals, art of Keertan, and perpetuation of personality cults. Come on Sikhs, Sikhism and rituals! Sikhs better check the intentions of this Pied Piper.
SIKH SCRIPTURES AND EATING OF MEAT: “Meat-eating in Sikh scriptures, unlike in Hindu scriptures, is not prescribed; but like in Jainism and Buddhism, it is not forbidden either”; Bhai Kahan Singh; Mahan Kosh (Encyclopedia on Gurbani), page 959. Unlike the scriptures of the Hindus, which describe elaborate ceremonies requiring meat, our scriptures are noncommittal, if not silent on the subject. Out of a total of 400,000 or so words in the Guru Granth Sahib, on theological, devotional, social and ethical issues, only about 50 words are devoted to the subject of meat-eating; and all of them for it. Considering that most other topics are often repeated, the Gurus either took the eating of meat for granted or did not consider the subject important enough. References to meat, in Sikh scriptures and related works include: (1) Guru Nanak condemning those people who hate meat (Adi Granth, pages 1289 & 142); (2) The 5 popular Rehatnamas and the Tankhah Nama prohibit Halaal — the Muslim style of meat; and (3) The Sikh name for Mahan Parshaad for cooked meat; Bhai Kahan Singh; Mahan Kosh; page 377; Khalse De Bole.
SIKHS HAVE A TRADITION OF MEATEATING: Sikh folklore and schools taught us that Sikhs do not have any dietary restrictions other than the meat animal should be slaughtered killed in the prescribed manner: “Jhataka yes and Halaal no”. Our elders concurred; Rehatnamas _supported it; and the Gurus, 6th and 10th, were glorified as avidly fond of going on hunts (‘The Sikh Religion”; M.A, Macauliffe; Vol IV, page 1B & Vol V, page 11, 19 …). And, how about that delightful Janam Sakhi, when Guru Nanak provoked an argument with the Brahmins by openly cooking meat in a mela in Kurukshetra (‘Shabadarth Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, S.G.P.C. 1969, page 1289; ‘Suraj Parkash”, page 34). Then there are those stirring tales, related by the Europeans, of Sikh Sirdars felling Tigers and Boars with swords and pears:
SIKH DIET AND SUPERIOR PHYSIQUE: Our elders swear by their honor that the Sikhs, because of their superior blend of diets — meats, poultry, dairy products, grains, legumes and beans, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits, perform deeds of velour better than Muslims and Hindus: Khatri Singhs trace 9 lineage from the Kshatriyas with tradition of bloodspots. SikhJats have the same racial stock as the Muslim and Hindu Jats; yet they were preferred in military recruitment. They out perform in any endeavor involving physical endurance: Superior stamina and qualities of courage under fire are often cited as reasons. Some of this could be discounted as the result of superb Sikh indoctrination: Heroics of ancestors are instilled and glorified. Remember those common refrains Je Man da dudh peeta e, Jat Putr, Khatri Putr, and Sawa Lahk, etc. reflected a mentality confidence
VEGETARIANISM IS COUNTER TO REHATNAMAS: Some Sikhs have been traditionally vegetarians — probably a carryover of the Hindu past. Many adopted it out of their own volition — out of conviction or for health and economic reasons; and others as a part of some organizational — discipline — Amrit Shaknaa ceremony. This prohibition runs counter to Rehatnamas: If meat is not a part of Rehat then how can it be Kurehat? Why exclude a particular style of meat if the meat itself is forbidden? The birth of Khasla, in that famous Vasakhi Da Mela, was witnessed by a sword dripping in blood. Some members of the very Khalsa cannot even stand the sight of blood, and shudder at the mention of cooked meat! They want to exorcize others even for eating it. (Vegetarian fare in the Guru Da Langar is understandable and a part of our proud tradition).
SIKHS EASY TARGET OF SALVATIONFORSALE: Sikhs, these days, are the beneficiary of attention and. special deals from the. Sarkari Indian reformers: Hindus, HinduizedSikhs and now even some Madrasis. They are being swept off their feet by all this attention. What a fertile soil, and superb opportunity at earning some credits, the Sikhs provide: They don’t have any religious or political organization to oppose such encroachments. Their leaders are mighty busy in Gurdwara elections, and settling grudges and personal slights. Their religion is already simplified: They do not need any intermediary to conduct their ceremonies; and a Sikh would rather deal with any higher spiritual authority on a one is tone basis; they have a ready. Source of devotional scriptures, symbols, and they will go where ever the Granth Sahib is. A Punjabi Sikh is unimpressed by intellectual arguments or doctrinaire, and likes his religion to make minimum demands on his life style and freedom of action’ in spite of all this plenty of Yogis, Bhagwans, Maharshis and Swamis are succeeding in “selling” salvation to the Sikhs. Many Sikhs are flocking to join these “living Gurus” in direct opposition to Guru Gobind Singh’s inShean
The shock of desecration of Harmandar Sahib, by the Indian Army, affected the Sikhs in different ways and degrees. The Sikhs had to do something. They relieved their conscience in different ways: Made angry protests and statements, and quit eating meat! Some of our best Sikhi de Sipahi has resorted to a variation of accursed Sanyas — renunciation of the gifts of life, and Sab kujh chhad chhada ditta — “quit every interest in life’! Guru Nanak would have walked a thousand mites to speak against such follies.