Guru Ka Langar & Bibek
by Bh. Manmohan Singh LA (with minor editing and note by Toronto Sangat)
It is an established truth that the food one eats does not only affect the body's health but also influences one's mind and thinking. That is why Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji has forbidden eating food which makes the body writhe in pain and fill the mind with evil. That is why he refused to accept the most nourishing and dainty dishes prepared in the house of Malik Bhago but preferred the simple dry food prepared by the so called low-caste carpenter, Bhai Lalo. Similarly, Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji refused to drink water brought by a young man who had never done any service to anyone in his life. Thus, in the Gursikh way of life it is not only the nutrient value of the food that matters but, more importantly, who has prepared it and who serves it. Guru-Ka-Langar, whether prepared in the Gurdwara or in the household of a Sikh can be called Guru-Ka-Langar only if it is prepared by Guru-Ke-Sikhs. This may be the one reason why Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked the recipients of the holy Amrit to share food among themselves in the same plate, but forbade them to do so with non-Amritdharis. One of the edicts given at the Baptismal ceremony is:
Gursikh di roti beti di saanjh Gursikh naal. The Gursikhs have to share food and establish marital relationships with Gursikhs only
This edict is enjoined upon all the baptized Sikhs at the Baptismal ceremony at every Amrit Sanchar in the Panth irrespective of organizations or Jathas arranging it. It is further supported by the following quotation from Rahitnamaa:
Jay Kurahtieye Jag Darsaawat.
Pahul Peeay Kukaram Kamaavat.
Tin So Vartan Nahe Milaawey.
Rahey Nirlep Param Sukh Paavey.
(Rahitnamaa Bhai Desa Singh Ji)
Gursikhs are not to socialize or associate with those who have become apostates. Only then will they lead unaffected and happy lives. Incidentally, the above quotation brings out another important point; that even one who has taken Amrit once can become a non-Amritdhari if he commits any of the four Cardinal Sins or big Don'ts.
It is, therefore, clear from the above that if a Sikh is to strictly follow the commandments or Code of Conduct enunciated at the time of partaking of Amrit, he has to share food and keep relationships with Gursikhs (i.e., Amritdharis) only. There is no 'elitism' or 'communalism' in it. In fact, it is a practice ordained by Guru Sahib himself. It does not reek of Hinduism or Brahminism, as some people say. In the case of Brahminism, the low-caste people remain untouchable throughout their lives simply because of the accident of their birth, and there is no means by which they can be upgraded and made acceptable, with respect to sharing food with them. In Sikhism, all people, irrespective of their caste, religion, race, country, etc., are welcome to the Khalsa fold. Once they become Khalsa after taking Amrit, they are then an integral part of the Khalsa Panth, and it is always a privilege to share food and contract marital relationship with them, whatever may have been their original faith, race, etc. In fact, this is the holy way employed by the Satguru for the uplift of humanity.
Much fuss is made on this point because at the congregations of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, the Guru-Ka-Langar is generally prepared by Guru-Ke-Sikhs (Amritdharis) only. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh followed this rule strictly and, in addition, had his food prepared in All-carbon Steel vessels. This practice is referred to as Bibek in Sikhism. This tradition of being an All-carbon Steel Bibeki is not an innovation of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh or any other person. It has been in vogue right from the time of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh ii, who himself set this precept by using all-carbon steel vessels and Khanda for the preparation of the Holy Amrit given to the original Panj Pyaras at the time of the Birth of the Khalsa on Baisakhi of 1699 AD. Since then, certain sections of devout Singhs have been following this principle until even today, not simply for preparing Amrit, but also for preparing food.
- Proof for the tradition of Bibekee Singhs can be found in the historical records of M.A. Macauliffe who writes "..so amid the general corruption of the religion of Gobind there are to be found about one hundred Sikhs at Naderh in the Dakhan, who are said to have up to the present time preserved intact the faith and ceremonies of Guru Gobind. They have kept aloof from the contact of Brahmins. Brahmin ministrations are not permitted either at their births, their marriages, or their obsequies. Whether they be Brahmin or Sudras who receive the sacramental pahul, all are by this fact admitted within a pale of social and religious equality. Brahmin weds Sudra and Sudra weds Brahmin. No need, therefore, to put their infant daughters to death through fear of not obtaining for them husbands of their own social status, as is the custom among such a large section of the Sikhs of Punjab. And widow marriages, reprobated by Hindus and now consequently by the Sikhs of the Punjab are habitually solemnised with the clearest conscience among the Sikhs of Naderh...At Patna, as at Naderh, the Sikhs pay the strictest attention to the Injunctions of Guru Gobind. Sleeping or waking, they are never without the habiliments known as the "five Ks." So strong is the aversion of the more orthodox among them to Hindus, that they will not even partake of food cooked by their hands. This is carrying orthodoxy a long way, but still further is it carried when they will not partake of food cooked even by a Sikh who has not on his person all the ‘five Ks’" (Macauliffe in "The Sikh Religion under Banda and its Present Condition")
- Various Puraatan rehitnamas also make clear the importance of Bibek for a Sikh. Bhai Daya Singh rehitnaama contains the following bachans: "Bhojanaad Moundit naal chhakey, Tankhaiyaa" or One who eats food with a Mona/non-Sikh, is guilty of a breach of conduct (Piara Singh Padam’s Rehitnamay pg. 72); also "Patr sarb loh kay, bhougtay asan souaad....loh patr mai chhakai," meaning: using utensils of sarbloh, one eats tasty food...one should eat in sarb loh utensils" (Padam, 75)
- The Rehitnama Hazooree by Chaupa Singh says "Guru kaa Sikh...apaNy langar rasoee vich Sikh rakhey. Hukaie, Topeeaa, BhaadNee, chor, yaar, jooaybaaz, kurehiteeyaa na rakhai" meaining "A Guru ka Sikh...should keep only a Sikh in his langar and kitchen. Smokers, hat-wearers, shaven people, thieves, gamblers, kurehitees should not be kept" (Padam, 85).
- In Sau Sakhee, sakhee #8’s rehitnama it says clearly "So Sikh gur ka janeeay, Monay ann na khai" meaning: such is a Sikh of The Guru who does not eat the food of Monay/Non-Sikhs.
Who is a Bibeki Singh? Bhai Sahib Kahan Singh of Nabha, in his Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature on page 863 defines Bibeki as "...a Sikh who is strict and steadfast in following the principles of Sikh Dharma." The terms Bibek and Vivek are synonymous and have the same meaning i.e. 'sense of discrimination.' In Gurmat, it implies the unquestionable adherence to the command of the Satguru.
Satgur Bachan Kamaaveney, Sachaa Eho Vichaar (ang 52)
Practice of the True Guru's commands is the only true philosophy.
Thus, in Sikhism, a Bibeki is a person who adheres strictly to and regulates his life in accordance with the Guru's commandments.
Generally, people do not grasp the true meaning of the terms Amritdhari and nonAmritdhari Sikhs. The phrase non-Amritdhari Sikhs is meaningless. One cannot make a comparison between them. There is only one class of Sikhs and that class is the SIKH (Khalsa). Thus, one is either a Sikh or not a Sikh. Who is a Sikh? The literal meaning of the word Sikh is a 'disciple.' A Sikh is one who is a disciple of the Satguru. To be a disciple of the Satguru, one must completely surrender one's will and wisdom to the Will and Wisdom of the Satguru. Only then, the Satguru admits one is in his fold as a 'Sikh' and blesses him with the holy Naam. This initiation ceremony was previously referred to as the deekhya or charan pahul and has been prevalent right from the time of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dcv Ji, as supported by Bhai Gurdas Ji:
Gur Deekhya Lai Sikh, Sikh Sadaayaa. (Var3,Pauri 11)
One is called a Sikh only after he has been blessed with 'deekhya.'
Charan Dhoe Rehraas Kar Charnamrit Gursikhaan Pilaaayaa (Var 1, Pauri 23)
(Guru Nanak) followed the system of washing the Guru's Feet and blessing the Gursikhs with the Charanamrit (Charan-Pahul).
Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji prescribed specific rules and regulations which must be unconditionally accepted by the candidates before they can be admitted as disciples (Sikhs). The ceremony by which the Panj Pyaras are authorized by the Satguru to admit such persons in the fold of Sikhism is partaking Khande-ki-Pahul or Amrit. Therefore, according to the Commandment of the Satguru, one can become a Sikh of the Guru only by taking Amrit. Such a person is also called an Amritdhari because he has been blessed with the holy Amrit and has, thus, become a Sikh. It is further explicit from the following couplet from Rahitnamaa of Bhai Desa Singh Ji:
Pratham Rahit Yeh Jaan, Khande-ki-Pahul Chhakey.
Soee Sikh Sujaan, Avar Naa Pahul Jo Lai.
The primary Rahit for a Sikh is to take Khande-ki-Pahul. Only he is sagacious Sikh.
Now consider this point from another angle. If someone belonging to other faiths like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc., wishes conversion into Sikhism, what is he required to do? Does he become a Sikh by merely refraining from cutting his hair and wearing a turban as Sikhs do? Obviously not. (There are a number of such people with long hair, and even wearing turbans, belonging to faiths other than Sikhism). He has necessarily to partake the holy Amrit to become a Sikh. How can, then, one become a Sikh simply because of accident of birth, without being baptized? This point has also been explicitly made clear by the Satguru himself as:
So Sikh Sakhaa Bandhap Hai Bhai, Jay Gur Ke Bhaaney Vich Avey
Aapney Bhaaney Jo Chaley Bhai, Vichharr Chotaan Khaavey. (pg 601)
Only that person is a Sikh and he is my near and dear one, who comes under the total allegiance of the Guru. As against this, one who owes allegiance only to is personal will, always remains in separation and will suffer.
Even in the booklet entitled Sikh Rahit Maryada published by the S.G.P.C., a Sikh has been defined as under:
"...Dashmesh ji dey Amrit utay nischa rakhadu hai atey
kisey hor dharam nu nahin manadaa, oh Sikh hai."
"...and has full faith in the Amrit of the Tenth Guru and does not believe in any other faith, is a Sikh."
Clearly, therefore, being a non-Amritdhari means that one, has not yet declared his total allegiance and obedience to Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji I Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji I Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as his Guru. Nor has he been blessed with the Gurmantra or Naam which is given ONLY at the time of baptism by Guru Sahib himself through the Panj Pyaras. Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself put a seal on this point by bowing before the Panj Pyaras for his own baptism. Are these so-called non-Amritdhari "Sikhs" greater than even Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, that they call themselves full-fledged Sikhs without being baptized?
It is thus, abundantly clear that the non-Amritdharls, even though they may claim to be Sikhs, and are also considered Sikhs politically and socially, are not Sikhs in the true sense and in the eyes of the Satguru. In Gurbani, they are referred to as (a) Nigurey; (b) Gumantar heenus; © Sakat; (d) Manmukhs or Vemukh, and (e) Vedeen (Faithless), etc. howsoever prominent or outstanding they may be in the social and public life of the community.
Gurbani defines such terms as under:
a. Nigurey: one who has not become disciple of the Guru.
Nigurey Ko Gat Kaaee Naahee.
Avgann Muthhey, Chotaan Khahee. (pg 361)
For him who is without the Guru, there is no liberation.
Deluded by evil propensities, he suffers.
Satgur Bajhon Gur Nahi Koee Nigurey Kaa Hal Naao Bura. (ang 435)
Without the True Guru (i.e. Guru Nanak), there is not another Guru.
And one without the Guru has a cursed name.
b. Gurmantar-heenus: One who has not been blessed with the Gurmantra (Naani).
Gumantar-Heenus Jo Praani Dhrigant Janam Bharashtneh.
Kookreh Sookreh Gardbeh Kaakeh Sarpaneh Tul Khaleh (ang 1356-1357)
One who is without the Gurmantra, is the most accursed, and contaminated is his life. He is like a dog, a swine, an ass, a crow a snake, and a fool.
c. Saakat: Infidel
Saakat Suaan Kaheeyey Baho lobhee, Baho Durmat Mael Bhareejey. (ang1326)
The dog like infidel is said to be very avaricious and is full to the brim of evil thoughts.
Saakat Besuva Poot Ninaam (ang1239)
The infidel is nameless like a prostitute's son.
Santan kaa daanaa rookha so sarab nidhaan. Saakat nar chhatee parkaar, tay bikhoo smaaan (ang, 811)
The food of the saints/gursikhs is dry but it is equal to all treasures. The 36 types of tasty food of the infidel/saakat are equal to poision.
d. Manmukh: One who follows his own will; the egocentric.
Manmukh Oodha Kowl Hai, Na Tis Bhagat Na Naao. (ang 511)
The egocentric person (i.e. Manmukh) is like a reversed lotus and possesses neither devotion nor God's name.
Manmukh Seti Sang Karey, Muh Kalakh Daag Lagaaey (ang 1417)
Whosoever associates with a manmukh, blackens and stains his own face.
Manmukh Naam Na Jannani, Vinn Naavey Pat Jaaey...
Vishta Kay Keerray Pavey Wich Vishta
Se Vishta Mahe Samaaye. (ang 28)
The manmukhs know not the Naam, and without Naam lose their honor...
They are worms of excrement, fall in excrement, and get absorbed in excrement
e. Vedeen: The faithless; the irreligious.
Choraan, Jaaran, Randiaan, Kuttaneeya Di Baan.
Vedinaa Ki Dosti Vedinaa Ka Khaann
Sifti Saar Naa Jannani, Sada Vasey Shaitaan. (ang 790)
It is the habit of thieves, adulterers, prostitutes, and pimps that they contract friendship with the irreligious or faithless and eat their food; they know not the worth of God's praise and Satan ever abides within them.
The above are only a few of the numerous quotations from Gurbani and are self-explanatory and need no further comment. Evidently then, the Sikhs of the Satguru have to avoid the food prepared and served by them whether in the Gurdwaras or in their social gatherings, in the interest of the upliftment of their souls and the enjoyment of the Bliss of Naam Simran. This practice is not confined to the Akhand Kirtani Jatha alone. Even in the Langar premises of Sri Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar, a notice painted in bold letters in Punjabi, hangs prominently near the kitchen stating that the "SEWA OF THE PREPARATION OF LANGAR BE DONE BY THE AMRITDHARI SIKHS - MEN AND WOMEN. NON-AMRITDHARIS MAY DO THE SEWA OF CLEANING OF UTENSILS, KITCHEN, HALL, ETC."
Source: Gurmat Articles at Tapoban.org