A Sikh Woman
Yogi Bhajan delivered this lecture at the very first Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in 1976. This lecture originally appeared in a 1976 issue of Beads of Truth.
“It is the spirituality and dignity of the woman on which the destiny of the man flourishes.”
Today I am going to talk to you about the concept of the Sikh Woman. The opening sentence I am going to tell you is going to shock you. A Sikh woman is an individual creature who can create God in a human body without any collaboration. This is the minimum expectation of this creature. Now you must consider, how can you create a God if you do not become something more than God? That is why she knows Gurbani. Her normal language is Gurbani. it is a divine language, and that is the requirement.
I have met in my life only one Sikh woman, and that was my grandmother. It is not because she was my grandmother; it is because she was a Sikh woman. In her life, no one in the family ever saw her yelling, screaming, or talking loud. Still, I have never seen a single person in the entire family, in the entire village, in the entire estate who could afford to disobey her. Her statements were nothing but a law more than God’s. I have seen her getting up early in the morning at 3:00 am, taking her bath, doing her sadhana and finishing by 4:30 a.m. Then she would take yogurt and chum it, chanting “Sat Nam, Wahe Guru” the whole while. At about 6:00 a.m. you would find her ready with fresh butter, buttermilk and chapatis. All the children would come around. She would make us sit down, give us this breakfast which was the healthiest thing in the world and ask us to correctly give one pauri of Jap Ji Sahib. That is how she used to teach us.
One day I said to her, “Dadi Ma, all the time you work you are chanting Gurbani.” She replied,
“We women are meant to purify and sanctify everything on this earth. Everything we women touch becomes divine. The only way to make something divine is to sanctify it with the word of the Guru, so that it will become pure, it will become healthy and it will become ever-living.”
She was the wife of a man who was head of the village, and everybody respected her. Every little item in the village, any injustice or justice was brought to her. She was supposed to listen to every appeal and every complaint. I never saw her getting upset and I never heard her talk about anyone in his absence. Once I asked her, “Grandma, how do you decide everything and is it always right?” She said,
“I decide things in the light of the Truth. I never decide things for gain or loss.”
That is human sentiment; that is human living and you are supposed to live to that expectation.
I saw the ladies doing Rehiras yesterday, I saw them playing Gatka, I saw that they were doing a great deal. I appreciate from where they have started to where they have yet to go. I just wanted to remind them that they have made only the first mile. It is expected of a Sikh woman that her son should be a saint. Out of her life style, the product should be a saint.
Sikh history can tell you that Sikh women were so pure that when they were captured by the enemy, the enemy never dared to molest them. They killed them, they killed their dear ones, and they killed their children tearing them limb from limb, but they never physically dared to molest the women. That was the divine fear in the conquerors which the Sikh men had established. Whenever Sikh soldiers captured a town in their empire, they never bothered the enemy women or their children and never looted a house. They became a legend. It became so morally heavy on the enemy that sometimes even if a town was lost, the enemy would capture a Sikh woman, but would never humiliate her.
I am talking about all these things and laying this trip for one reason. I understand your background. You are a product of a very poor soil. I want this soil to change and become tempered, so it can bear fruit and can hold on to these values. I know your emotional backgrounds. Many of them are very weird and you have gone through many perversions. I know you can’t help that. I am asking you to change sickness with “Sikhness.” I understand your temperaments. I know your past. I have gone through it with you and I have understood you thoroughly well. I know the dirt, the lowness of the human character from which you have come and the background in which you have been raised. I know these games you play.
But that does not mean a thing. I am not living to the past. The past is gone and it will be forgotten. I am aware what will be tomorrow and I want you also to understand. The only way to forget the past is to build a new future. There is no other way.
There are four fundamental characters which the Guru gave us: Bani, Bana, Simran, Seva. How you recite Bani can be judged from the Bana of the person, how he looks, how he behaves, how he deals and how he talks. If you lay a trip or you trap a person, and then you come out and say, “Well I’m sorry about it,” this is shameless living, not a human living.
The recitation of Bani (the Word) gives you a will of steel and Bana makes you stand out and makes you practice fearlessness. These things are very character building in this way of life. As much as you recite the Name, will tell you how much Seva, how much help, you can do.
Some of you are mentally crippled. You want a job to be done by other ladies. I’m sick and tired of this attitude. This camp provides an opportunity, where I wanted everybody to behave as equal. Those who think themselves to know more should go and serve those whom they think know less.
The honesty, the capacity, the greatness, the utility, and the radiance of a Sikh woman is found in how much she can deliver to the needy without taking anything in return and thus establishing a relationship that she can serve in the name of God and not for profit. I saw my grandmother at 2:30 a.m. taking a basket of vegetables and chapatis and sneaking out of the house just to find out if in any comer of the village there was someone who was hungry. Any person who came to her with a need, she fulfilled it. That is called richness, divine richness. Richness is not measured by what you possess. Richness lies in what you can share with others. The quality of a Sikh is to give so that the other man can feel it has been done in the Name of God. That is the best way to inject God into another soul.
That is the life of a theist against an atheist. This camp is very important; it will be the basis for you to run future ashrams You do not have many years left to practice. In a few years you will find tremendous insanity in the streets of this land and you will be in a position to be called upon. You won’t be able to do anything through your emotions. There your sanity, your devotion, your divinity, and your dignity will play the part.
A normal Sikh woman is a living dignity. If I ever get a chance to go to India again, I will take you myself to the villages. I’ll take you to their homes and I’ll ask you to sit and talk with the women, so that you can understand how a Sikh woman talks, how she lives, and how hardy and dignified she is. An example of a Sikh woman is that she could return to battle those 40 Sikhs who told Guru Gobind Singh, “You are not our Guru, we are not going to fight with you, hell with you.” It was one woman’s dignity that said “Why not? How can you do that?” That fearlessness and that power are the genuine gifts of these women.
Some of you wonder why to do Path (reading bani) every day. Path is Mudhavani. Mudhavani means churning. It is a process of churning your meridian points and tuning your instrument, the body and mind, into that dignity and divinity. Bani is very scientific in its design and is most common to Indian Sikhs in the form of kirtan. Kirtan is meant to be people sitting together with a few people leading and the entire sangat singing Gurbani. It is not that three people sit on the stage and perform. Until you participate as a total sangat, your attendance to Siri Guru Granth Sahib is not recognized.
In Singapore, in Guru Nanak Satsung Sabha Gurdwara, everyone is expected to join in doing kirtan. If someone doesn’t do it, next time they tell him to go somewhere else. When you recite Gurbani, you mentally feel the presence of the Guru. The purpose of going to Gurdwara is to recite the Bani.
A Sikh woman is just an instrument through which Gurbani comes all the time. That is why their morals, their ethics, their whole life is very high, because they have the scripture to back it up. You must understand that courage which has the backing of scriptures is so definite that nothing can bar it. One of your Western sayings is, “The devil quotes the scriptures.” When a devil quotes the scriptures, it is very difficult to get out of it. But scriptures are meant to bind the Devil and send it to Infinite death. So we master those vibrations and out of those vibrations is born the reality.
We are finding little bickerings among you; we are finding certain characteristics we have known for a long time, which we wanted to change this year and are adamant to change. Our telescopic watch has not ended itself. We are trying to establish this camp on one basis. Here everybody is a student, a student to learn goodness. You must go back home as a learned, good person; not with how much laundry you could get done by somebody who cleaned your tent, how many people you just brought under your influence and what a queenship you could demonstrate. These are dirty death traps. These are human ego, and polluted id which have no value, no sentiments, no reality and not even a touch of truth in them. It is bizarre behavior. Here you have come to serve on yourself. Here you have come to learn the dignity of selfless service. Here you have come to discipline yourself. Here you have come to correct your weaknesses.
Here you have come to rise above the clouds, not to create the clouds. We are aware of your weaknesses, individual as well as collective. But this is a time to control your fanatic flirtations. This is a time to distill yourself. This is a time to eliminate your character weaknesses and rebuild your character. This is a time to guard yourself of your normal human misbehavior. You are not being separated from your husbands because we want to make a pickle out of you. We separated you to give you a chance to earn your respect, to work on yourself, to earn your confidence, to give you a chance to be a woman.
The purpose of the House of Guru Ram Das is if some cripple who has a curse of destinies comes and takes a sip or a dip, he becomes pure. He not only becomes pure, but becomes the purifier. We want to make you understand that we are tolerating the weaknesses, because we are in the process of eliminating them. A woman has no value who has no dignity. I know those who have fallen off the path of dignity. I understand your emotional outbursts. I live in the whole scene. But I’m telling you that our ultimate aim is to build a purifying woman. A woman should not only be pure, but her presence should cause purification and this process is not going to end, come what may. Every sacrifice will be laid on the way.
It doesn’t matter how many times and how many years and for how long you have been in 3HO and how powerful a leader you are, you can be eliminated with one stroke of the pen. I’m making it a very open, public declaration: 1976 is a year in which we must bring out our garbage, seal it up and throw it away. I’m giving you a very cautious warning. Please understand me. I am merciless because I believe if I am merciful, time will be very merciless to you. It is much better that I train you to face that time. We are on the edge of everything and we’ll continue to have this situation. I’m trying to give everybody a chance in that whatever little area of weakness there is, it will be eliminated. You must eliminate your weaknesses. That is the training of this camp. We must qualify ourselves, because the time which we are going to face is going to challenge us and our values.
In society you see every day what is happening. One man gets up while working, goes to a corner, picks up a rifle and shoots sixteen people. A person goes home and asks for food. When his wife and children come after 20 minutes, he takes the rifle and sprays them with bullets.
Read the newspapers every day to see what is happening. We have to get rid of that society. We have to get rid of those values one way only: you must substitute value A for value B. Character is always built on one thing; that weakness must be substituted by strength. There is no other way of character building. If you just eliminate the weakness and not substitute with strength you will get a flaw. You will have created a vacuum and you will fall in it yourself. In your personality there should be no gap. An elimination of a personality weakness must be substituted immediately by equal strength. It is the spirituality and dignity of the woman on which the destiny of the man flourishes. You must build yourself like steel.
We want to learn Gurbani because it is one thing in the world which churns out the purity in a person. There is one purpose of Gurbani: to churn out of the person the spirit, the soul, the divinity. Minus divinity there is no such thing as dignity. They are all interrelated.
We are meant to live pure and to achieve what we stand for. If you cannot tolerate a discipline which is hard, you can leave. We know our values, our aims and our objects. We want to give humanity a group of people who are people of love, dignity and divinity into Infinity. That is the purpose of the whole game. It is not a game being played for any ego or personality cult. We want to build a fundamental righteousness and we know that woman is the guardian of righteousness. That is why we have this course for women only, and why we want to bug you.
We have read through many years of human experience, that man is useless when it comes to divinity. Until there is a strong, divine woman behind him, he is useless. We are fully aware of that secret. That is why we wanted to talk to you truthfully and frankly. We want you to sacrifice your insecurities and your immature mental flirtations. We want you to substitute them with a solid divinity. We want you to back yourself with that divine radiance.
We want you to honestly work yourself for these eight weeks to achieve these things. Our purpose is to awaken that dormant, dull spirit which is crippled, which is living in you like a beggar. We know that beggars are not choosers. Therefore, you cannot stand on your Godliness if you do not understand yourself. That is the purpose, my dears. You just must make it clear to your mind and to your conscience. And you must understand that you have to face the earth. Life is not just smooth sailing, it has ups and downs. We want you to end that old thing, pack it up and dump it beyond your orbit. It is a simple area of character building.
Don’t give me this nonsense that I am a Leo. I am a double Leo, I am a double Taurus. I know who you are. We live above stars; we create the stars and we create the zodiac. I am not interested in the excuses for delay; I am interested in the job done. I am not interested in your weaknesses or in your past. I am interested in a solid living future. I believe in the dignity of a woman and I will stop at nothing less than that.
Sacrifice to me is the joyous play of my life. So you had better get your scene together here, because on that will depend our entire planning of the future. I am satisfied 95.5%. It is the 4.5% which is bothering me, and that has got to go. Do you understand how much we have worked for this time? It has taken us five years to create this atmosphere so that you can get a chance to be yourself. It has got to be fulfilled. This is a very precious time and you must be aware. If you have any block in communication, any reservation, any weakness, any manipulation or any fault of character, you must take it out. You must clean yourself. This is the best therapy which you can do. You can forget your past and you can come out clean for the future. I always say, God may take away everything from someone and fill him with miseries, but that should not make him lose his hope.
I was just in my living room talking to a man. I said, “Look, you are the product of bad parents. I cannot bring the time back, but I can give you a good adulthood. And I can give you a good old age, provided you change your style. We cannot carry the cripples to Infinity. Our law is very simple; we want the best out of you.” One mistake of yours is more painful than twenty mistakes of somebody else. If twenty mistakes with someone is my failure, the one mistake with you is your failure and I don’t tolerate anyone’s failures except mine. That’s the way it is. When my student is failing, I am a failure. But when you are failing, I don’t tolerate it for a minute, because I am the most selfish of the supreme selfish. Do you understand that? Good people have to be absolutely good. That is how it is. Every one of you here is supposed to be very good and I am not going to rest because you are only good.
I don’t care whether your husband desires to be a Sikh minister or not, but we do care whether you are the spirit of that deserving thing or not. If we have faltered in making him a minister, we don’t mind about it. But we do care whether you can pick up the tab and keep it going.
View this article as it originally appeared in Beads of Truth in Fall 1976
View an article on the very first Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in 1976 that appeared in this issue of Beads of Truth
View content from the same issue of Beads of Truth that highlights poems and reflections from participants in the first Khalsa Women’s Training Camp in 1976
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