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Diet in Sikhism
Followers of Sikhism do not have a preference for meat or vegetarian consumption. There are two views on initiated or "Amritdhari Sikhs" and meat consumption. "Amritdhari" Sikhs (i.e. those that follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada - the Official Sikh Code of Conduct) can eat meat (provided it is not Kutha meat)."Amritdharis" that belong to some Sikh sects (e.g. Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Damdami Taksal, Namdhari, Rarionwalay, etc.) are vehemently against the consumption of meat and eggs.
The Sikh Gurus have indicated their preference for a simple diet, which could include meat or be vegetarian. In the case of meat, passages from the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs, also known as the Adi Granth) say that fools argue over this issue. Guru Nanak said that overconsumption of food (Lobh, Greed) involves a drain on the Earth's resources and thus on life. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, prohibited the Sikhs from the consumption of Kutha (any ritually slaughtered meat) meat because of the Sikh belief that sacrificing an animal in the name of God is mere ritualism (something to be avoided).
On the views that eating vegetation would be eating flesh, first Sikh Guru Nanak states:
O Pandit, you do not know where did flesh originate! It is water where life originated and it is water that sustains all life. It is water that produces grains, sugarcane, cotton and all forms of life.
On Vegetation, the Guru described it as living and experiencing pain:
Look, and see how the sugar-cane is cut down. After cutting away its branches, its feet are bound together into bundles,
and then, it is placed between the wooden rollers and crushed.
What punishment is inflicted upon it! Its juice is extracted and placed in the cauldron; as it is heated, it groans and cries out.
And then, the crushed cane is collected and burnt in the fire below.
Nanak: come, people, and see how the sweet sugar-cane is treated!
The Akal Takht (Central Body for Sikh Temporal Affairs) represents the final authority on controversial issues concerning the Sikh Panth (community or collective). The Hukamnama (edict or clarification), issued by Akal Takht Jathedar (head priest or head caretaker) Sadhu Singh Bhaura dated February 15, 1980, states that eating meat does not go against the code of conduct (Kurehit) of the Sikhs; Amritdhari Sikhs can eat meat as long as it is Jhatka meat.
The Akhand Kirtani Jatha dispute the meaning of the word "kutha", claiming it means all meat. However, in mainstream Sikhism this word has been accepted to mean that which has been prepared according to Muslim rituals.
Guru Granth Sahib
According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, the Guru Granth Sahib on page 472 and Guru Nanak in early 16th century said that "avoidance of flesh as food was impractical and impossible so long as they used water, since water was the source of all life and the first life principle".
Within the gurdwara, the Guru ka Langar (Guru's community kitchen) serves purely lacto-vegetarian food because the Langar is open to all. Since people of many faiths with varying dietary taboos, and since Sikhs accept these restrictions and accommodate people regardless of their faith or culture, the Sikh Gurus adopt vegetarian food for Langar. Meat was included in langar at the time of Guru Angad, but was discontinued to accommodate Vashnavites. The exception to vegetarian langar today is when Nihangs serve meat on the occasion of Holla Mohalla, and call it Maha Prashad.
Sikhism argues that the soul can possibly undergo millions of transformations as various forms of life before ultimately becoming human. These life forms could be a mineral, vegetation, or an animal. Sikhism does not see a difference between these types of existence, however the human has a privileged position compared to other life forms. In terms of the Sikh view of karma, human life is seen as being most precious, and animal, vegetable, and mineral all viewed as being equally below human life. Therefore, Sikhs view eating an animal is the same as eating a plant or mineral.
I. J. Singh states that throughout Sikh history, there have been many subsects of Sikhism that have espoused vegetarianism. However, this was rejected by the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs consider that vegetarianism and meat-eating are unimportant in the realm of Sikh spirituality. Surinder Singh Kohli links vegetarianism to Vashnavite behaviour. Gopal Singh, commenting on meat being served in the langar during the time of Guru Angad Gyani Sher Singh—who was the head priest at the Darbar Sahib—notes that ahimsa does not fit in with Sikh doctrine. W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi comment that if the Sikh Gurus had made an issue on vegetarianism, it would have distracted from the main emphasis of Sikh spirituality. H. S. Singha and Satwant Kaur comment on how ritually-slaughtered meat is considered a sin for initiated Sikhs. G. S. Sidhu also notes that ritually-slaughtered meat is taboo for a Sikh. Gurbakhsh Singh comments on how non-Kutha meat is acceptable for the Sikhs. Surinder Singh Kohli comments on the "fools wrangle over flesh" quotation from the Guru Granth Sahib by noting how Guru Nanak mocked hypocritical vegetarian priests. Gobind Singh Mansukhani states how vegetarianism and meat-eating has been left to the individual Sikh. Devinder Singh Chahal comments on the difficulties of distinguishing between plant and animal in Sikh philosophy. H. S. Singha comments in his book how the Sikh Gurus ate meat.Khushwant Singh also notes that most Sikhs are meat-eaters and decry vegetarians as daal khorey (lentil-eaters).
Historical dietary behaviour of Sikhs
There are a number of eyewitness accounts from European travelers as to the eating habits of Sikhs. According to William Francklin in his writing about Mr George Thomas 1805: "They are not prohibited the use of Animal food of any kind, excepting Beef, which they are rigidly scrupulous in abstaining from."
According to Dabistan e Mazhib (a contemporary Persian chronology of the Sikh Gurus), Guru Nanak did not eat meat, and Guru Arjan thought that meat eating was not in accordance with Nanak's wishes. This differs from I. J. Singh's research that states that Guru Nanak ate meat on the way to Kurukshetra. According to Persian records, Guru Hargobind (the 6th Guru) ate meat and hunted, and his practice was adopted by most Sikhs.
Many Sikhs keep Sarbloh Bibek. Sikhs who follow this practice eat from iron bowls and iron plates only. According to Sarbloh Bibek, food must be cooked in iron cauldrons or other iron utensils while reciting Gurbani or Simran (meditating).[dubious – discuss]
Another key aspect to maintaining Sarbloh Bibek is that Sikhs must only eat food prepared by other Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs. Amritdhari Sikhs are also not to eat Jootha food (previously eaten food) from non-Amritdharis.
Sarbloh was used by Guru Gobind Singh to prepare Amrit during the Khalsa initiation ceremony in 1699. The Khanda (a double edged knife or sword) was also made of Sarbloh. To this day Amrit Sanchar ceremonies are conducted using a bata (bowl) and Khanda (sword) made of sarbloh.
^Sikhs and Sikhism, by I.J. Singh, Manohar, Delhi ISBN978-81-7304-058-0: Throughout Sikh history, there have been movements or subsects of Sikhism which have espoused vegetarianism. I think there is no basis for such dogma or practice in Sikhism. Certainly Sikhs do not think that a vegetarian's achievements in spirituality are easier or higher. It is surprising to see that vegetarianism is such an important facet of Hindu practice in light of the fact that animal sacrifice was a significant and much valued Hindu Vedic ritual for ages. Guru Nanak in his writings clearly rejected both sides of the arguments—on the virtues of vegetarianism or meat eating—as banal and so much nonsense, nor did he accept the idea that a cow was somehow more sacred than a horse or a chicken. He also refused to be drawn into a contention on the differences between flesh and greens, for instance. History tells us that to impart this message, Nanak cooked meat at an important Hindu festival in Kurukshetra. Having cooked it he certainly did not waste it, but probably served it to his followers and ate himself. History is quite clear that Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh were accomplished and avid hunters. The game was cooked and put to good use, to throw it away would have been an awful waste.
^Guru Granth Sahib, An Analytical Study by Surindar Singh Kohli, Singh Bros. Amritsar ISBN81-7205-060-7: The ideas of devotion and service in Vaishnavism have been accepted by Adi Granth, but the insistence of Vaishnavas on vegetarian diet has been rejected.
^A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN978-81-7023-139-4: However, it is strange that now-a-days in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.
^Philosophy of Sikhism by Gyani Sher Singh (Ph. D), Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Amritsar: As a true Vaisnavite Kabir remained a strict vegetarian. Kabir far from defying Brahmanical tradition as to the eating of meat, would not permit so much, as the plucking of a flower (G.G.S. p. 479), whereas Nanak deemed all such scruples to be superstitions, Kabir held the doctrine of Ahinsa or the non-destruction of life, which extended even to that of flowers. The Sikh Gurus, on the contrary, allowed and even encouraged, the use of animal flesh as food. Nanak has exposed this Ahinsa superstition in Asa Ki War (G.G.S. p. 472) and Malar Ke War (G.G.S. p. 1288)
^Kaur, Upinder Jit (1990). Sikh Religion And Economic Development. National Book Organisation. p. 212. ISBN9788185135489.
^Singh, Dharam (2001). Perspectives on Sikhism: Papers Presented at the International Seminar on Sikhism: a Religion for the Third Millennium Held at Punjabi University, Patiala on 27-29 March 2000. Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 89. ISBN9788173807367.
^John Griffiths writes on 17 February 1794: Now become a Singh, he is a heterodox, and distinct from the Hindoos by whom he is considered an apostate. He is not restricted in his diet, but is allowed, by the tenets of his new religion, to devour whatever food his appetite may prompt, excepting beef."
^Jacobsen, Knut (2011). Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representations. Ashgate Publishing. p. 262. ISBN9781409424345.
^Gupta, Shiv (1999). Creation of the Khalsa: Fulfilment of Guru Nanak's Mission : Khalsa Tercentenary Commemorative Volume. Punjabi University. Publication Bureau. p. 95. ISBN9788173805738.
^Trilochan, Singh (2001). The Turban and the Sword of the Sikhs: Essence of Sikhism : History and Exposition of Sikh Baptism, Sikh Symbols, and Moral Code of the Sikhs, Rehitnāmās. B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh. p. 124. ISBN9788176014915.