Sunday, August 15, 2010



Hair has been considered to be a sign of spirituality.

Is it a myth or reality?

Its pros and cons will be discussed here with references from AGGS. It is commonly acknowledged that prophets like Moses, Jesus, and Sikh Gurus had long hair. Was it a coincidence or a significant fact will also be deliberated here?  There is no intention to step on any toes or to be disrespectful to any one’s feelings but to have an academic dialogue.  No bias for or against hair should be implied.  Naturally, if one keeps long hair it is to be expected that he would keep them under control for hygienic reasons for his own benefit and for that of the others. Bhagat Ravidas considers it to be a part of body to be left here in ashes just like body and all 5 k’s after death. Guru Nanak advised the Brahmin in Raag Asa about his sacred thread which will be burnt and left here. But the thread made up of Truth, Compassion, Contentment, Righteousness and Fortitude is strong enough to go along with you after death. We have already debated it under the post named KHAYP/ਖੇਪ. Ravidas in Raag Sorath ponders on the subject:
ਬੰਕੇ ਬਾਲ ਪਾਗ ਸਿਰਿ ਡੇਰੀ
ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਹੋਇਗੋ ਭਸਮ ਕੀ ਢੇਰੀ
Bankė bāl pāg sir dėrī. ih ṯan ho­igo bẖasam kī dẖėrī.
You make your hair beautiful, and wear a stylish turban on your head. But in the end, all this and body shall be reduced to a pile of ashes.-----Ravidas, Raag Sorath, AGGS, Page, 659-5, 6


Immortal God and Its Name are two important tenets of Guru Nanak’s Philosophy and both are formless (ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ):
ਨਾਉ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਇ ਲਇਐ ਨਰਕਿ ਨ ਜਾਈਐ
ਜੀਉ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਸਭੁ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਦੇ ਖਾਜੈ ਆਖਿ ਗਵਾਈਐ ॥
ਜੇ ਲੋੜਹਿ ਚੰਗਾ ਆਪਣਾ ਕਰਿ ਪੁੰਨਹੁ ਨੀਚੁ ਸਦਾਈਐ ॥
ਜੇ ਜਰਵਾਣਾ ਪਰਹਰੈ ਜਰੁ ਵੇਸ ਕਰੇਦੀ ਆਈਐ 
ਕੋ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਭਰੀਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੫॥
Nā­o ṯėrā nirankār hai nā­ė la­i­ai narak na jā­ī­ai. Jī▫o pind sabẖ ṯis ḏā ḏe kẖājai ākẖ gavā▫ī▫ai.Je loṛėh cẖanga āpṇā kar punnhu nīcẖ saḏā▫ī▫ai.Je jarvāṇā parharai jar ves kareḏī ā▫ī▫ai.Ko rahai na bẖarī▫ai pā▫ī▫ai. ||5||

Your Name is Formless; chanting Your Name, one does not to go to hell. Soul and body all belong to God; asking God to give us sustenance is a waste. If you yearn for goodness, then perform good deeds and feel humble. Even if you remove the signs of old age, old age shall still come in the guise of death. No one remains here when the count of the breaths is full. ||5||-----Guru Nanak, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 465-15

Sikhism demands internal piety for spiritual growth, if the inside is filthy active effort is needed to cleanse it out as per the teachings embodied in the Sabd Guru (AGGS).  God’s grace is bestowed on those who follow these teachings (ਦੀਖਿਆ) honestly.  Their actions must reflect the true spirit of Sabd. This promotes control of mind through God’s Grace.  Lower instincts are subjugated under such control.  As one meditates and engages in selfless service, higher virtues and instincts are developed. People often wonder if physical religious form or dress or outward symbols such as hair etc. play any role in spiritual growth or salvation. Guru Nanak describes in Raag Maru the omnipresence and with matted hairs and Immortal God:

ਆਪੇ ਸੁਰਗੁ ਮਛੁ ਪਇਆਲਾ
ਆਪੇ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੀ ਬਾਲਾ
ਜਟਾ ਬਿਕਟ ਬਿਕਰਾਲ ਸਰੂਪੀ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖਿਆ ਕਾਈ ਹੇ
Āpe surag macẖẖ pa▫i▫ālā. Āpe joṯ sarūpī bālā. Jataa Bikat Bikraal Saroopee Roop Na Raykh-i-aa Kaa-ee Hay.
You Your self are the heavenly realms, this world and the nether regions of the underworld. You Your self are the embodiment of light, forever young. With matted hair, and a horrible, dreadful form, still, You have no form or feature.-----Guru Nanak, Raag Maru, AGGS, Page, 1021-16

ਜੋਗੀ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਜਟਾ ਬਿਭੂਤ
ਆਗੈ ਪਾਛੈ ਰੋਵਹਿ ਪੂਤ
ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ
Jogi Girhee Jataa Bibhoot, Aagai Paachai Roveh Poot, Jog Na Paa-e-aa Jugat Gavaa-ee.
A Yogi, with matted hair and ashes on his body, may become a householder with his children crying and wailing all around, still he does not attain Yog.  He has just lost his way.-----Guru Nanak, Raag Ramkali, AGGS, Page, 951-16

Gurus Nanak, Arjan, and Kabir ponder on long matted hair:

ਇਕਿ ਭਸਮ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਵਹਿ ਅੰਗਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਧੋਵਹੀ ॥
ਇਕਿ ਜਟਾ ਬਿਕਟ ਬਿਕਰਾਲ ਕੁਲੁ ਘਰੁ ਖੋਵਹੀ ॥

Ik bẖasam cẖaṛĥāvahi ang mail na ḏẖovhī. Ik Jataa Bikat Bikraal Kul Ghar Khovhee.

Some rub ashes on their bodies, and never wash off their dirt. Some look hideous, with their uncut, matted and disheveled hair. They bring dishonor to their family and ancestry.-----Guru Nanak, Raag Malar, AGGS, Page, 1284-19
It would be reasonable to assume that both can grow in spirituality irrespective of hair. The crucial element in spirituality is to follow the teachings contained in AGGS. A humble person would judge only himself rather than another says Guru Angad in Raag Majh; 

ਨਾਨਕ ਪਰਖੇ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਤਾ ਪਾਰਖੁ ਜਾਣੁ
ਰੋਗੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਦੋਵੈ ਬੁਝੈ ਤਾ ਵੈਦੁ ਸੁਜਾਣੁ
Nanak Parkhay Aap Kau Ta Parkh Jaan, Rog Daaroo Dovai Bujhai Taa Vaid Sujaan.

O, Nanak, if someone judges himself, only then is he known as a real judge. If someone understands both the disease and the medicine, only then is he a wise physician.-----Guru Angad, Majh Ki Var, AGGS, Page 148-8                            

Maya separates a human being from God, the Creator! What makes us believe half-truth as the only Truth?  The limited intellectual knowledge gained through five senses prompts us in believing this World to be the only Truth. We have to penetrate the veil of Maya or ignorance inherent in every being.
ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਨ ਦਿਸੈ ਉਰਵਾਰੁ ਨ ਪਾਰੁ
ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਦੇ ਡੁਬੇ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿ
Maya Moh Gubaar Hai Tis Da Na Disai Ourvaar Na Paar, Manmukh Agianee Maha Dukh Paaeeday Dubay Har Naam Visaar.

The love of Maya has created darkness without any shores. The self-willed persons are lost in useless pursuits forgetting Immortal God’s Name and are unsuccessful in crossing the worldly ocean (ਭਬਜਲ).-----Guru Amar Das, Siri Raag Vaar, AGGS, Page, 89

ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਜਿਸੁ ਏਕ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਸਦਾ ਰਹੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਲੇ॥
ਤਿਨ ਕੀ ਗਹਣ ਗਤਿ ਕਹੀ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਸਚੈ ਆਪਿ ਸਵਾਰੇ॥

So Jan Mukat Jis Aek Liv Laagi Sada Rahai Har Naalay, Tin Ki Gahan Gat Kahee Na Jaaee Sachai Aap Savaray.

He alone is liberated, who lovingly focuses his attention on the One God. The inner state and depth of one who dwells on the It, is indescribable. This is because the True God It self embellishes him.-----Guru Amar Das, Raag Bilawal, AGGS, Page, 796-19
Only the spiritually ignorant may associate any spiritual merit in hairs or dress etc.
Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, or a willful lack of desire to improve the efficiency, merit, effectiveness or usefulness of one's actions. Ignorance is also a "state of being ignorant" or unaware or uninformed.

Spiritual ignorance is a very serious matter. It is said that "What you don't know won't hurt you". We all know that is incorrect and yet it seems that many people have adopted that philosophy toward spiritual matters. "Many people are destroyed for lack of spiritual knowledge".  Lack of knowledge is often accompanied by self-destructive turning away from truth in all areas of life.   To be ignorant of one's ignorance turns out to be a major malady of the ignorant.

ਅਸੰਖ ਮੂਰਖ ਅੰਧ ਘੋਰ ॥
ਅਸੰਖ ਚੋਰ ਹਰਾਮਖੋਰ
Asankh Moorkh Andh Ghor. Asaʼnkẖ cẖor harāmkẖor.

Countless fools are blinded by ignorance, and countless are thieves and embezzlers.-----Guru Nanak, Japji, AGGS, Page, 4

Remembering God’s Name and doing good deeds can lead to "spiritual awakening,” and change in personality to bring a new understanding.  Such a change could hardly have been brought about by the individual alone. Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience and call it "God-consciousness."

Misapprehensions are enchanting only to the ignorant mind. Divine Knowledge alone can remove ignorance. Once the ignorance is dispelled so are all the misapprehensions.  Then the mind is purified of egoism and is illumined with the spiritual wisdom.  Upon attaining this state of direct Vision or apprehension of the Self, non-apprehension of Reality will not arise again. When the True Wisdom arises, the unreality vanishes. Only the One Pure, All-pervading Consciousness remains.

ਤੂ ਅਲਖ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਅਗਮੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਦਿਖਾਈ

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਗਵਾਈ

Ŧū alakẖ agocẖar agam hai gurmaṯ ḏikẖā▫ī. Antar Agiaan Dukh Bharam Hai Gur Gian Gavaeya.

You are invisible, imperceptible and inaccessible. You are revealed through the Guru's Teachings. Deep within, there is ignorance, suffering and doubt; but through the spiritual wisdom of the Guru, they are eradicated.-----Guru Nanak, AGGS, Page, 1291-17

The spiritual ignorance referred here is not just the lack of information but a deep seated misperception of reality. It is altogether a mistake to let ignorance dictate the policy of the truth at any time.  It is more so in an age when the truth has to contend with almost insurmountable difficulties. Still, ignorance is preferable to error.  One who is less remote from the truth and believes nothing is better off than the one who believes what is wrong.

ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਾਨੁਖੁ ਭਇਆ ਜੋ ਨਾਹੀ ਸੋ ਲੋਰੈ
ਰੈਣਿ ਅੰਧਾਰੀ ਕਾਰੀਆ ਕਵਨ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਭੋਰੈ
ਭ੍ਰਮਤੋ ਭ੍ਰਮਤੋ ਹਾਰਿਆ ਅਨਿਕ ਬਿਧੀ ਕਰਿ ਟੋਰੈ
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਭਈ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਨਿਧਿ ਮੋਰੈ
Agiani Manukh Bhaiaa Jo Nahin So Lorai, Rain AnDhaaree Kaaree-aa Kavan Jugat Jit Bhorai, Bharmato Bharmato Haari-aa Anik BiDhee Kar Torai, Kaho Nanak Kirpaa Bha-ee SaaDhsangat NiDh Morai.

Humanity is in spiritual ignorance.  People see things that do not exist. If the night is dark and gloomy; how will the morning dawn be?  Wandering, wandering all around, I have grown weary; trying all sorts of things in my search. Says Nanak, God has shown mercy to me; I have found my treasure in the Company of the Holy.-----Guru Arjan, AGGS, Page 212-11

ਬਸਇ ਕਰੋਧੁ ਸਰੀਰਿ ਚੰਡਾਰਾ

ਅਗਿਆਨਿ ਸੂਝੈ ਮਹਾ ਗੁਬਾਰਾ

Bas-i KaroDh Sareer Chandaaraa, Agiaan Na Soojhai Maha Gubara.

Anger is the outcaste which hides within the body; in ignorance the person does not understand and is in utter darkness.----Guru Arjan, AGGS, Page 759-14

All the humans are looking for liberation, which can only be obtained by internal cleanliness.

ਜਪੁ ਤਪੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਨ ਕਮਾਇਆ
ਸੇਵਾ ਸਾਧ ਨ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਇਆ
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਮ ਨੀਚ ਕਰੰਮਾ
ਸਰਣਿ ਪਰੇ ਕੀ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਸਰਮਾ
Jap Tap Sanjam Dharam Na Kamaeya, Sayva Sadh Na Jania Har Raa-eya, Kaoh Nanak Ham Neech Karanma, Saran Paray Ki Rakhoh Sarma.

I have not practiced meditation, self-discipline, self-restraint or righteous living. I have not served the Holy; I have not acknowledged the God, my King. Says Nanak, my actions are contemptible! O God, I seek Your Sanctuary; please, preserve my honor!-----Guru Arjan, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page,12          
ਬਰਨੁ ਚਿਹਨੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਮੁਖੁ ਨ ਮਾਸਾਰਾ
ਕਹਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਖੇਲੁ ਤਹਾਰਾ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਰੇਣ ਸੰਤ ਚਰਨਾਰਾ ॥੨॥੨॥੪੫॥
Baran cẖihan nāhī mukẖ na māsārā. Kahan na jā▫ī kẖel ṯuhārā. Nānak reṇ sanṯ cẖarnārā. ||2||2||45||

Immortal God has no color, no sign, no mouth and no beard. I cannot describe Your play. Nanak is the dust of the feet of the Saints. ||2||2||45||-----Guru Arjan, Raag Suhi, AGGS, Page, 746-10

ਕੋਟਿ ਬਿਸਨ ਅਵਤਾਰ ਸੰਕਰ ਜਟਾਧਾਰ ॥
ਚਾਹਹਿ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਦਇਆਰ ਮਨਿ ਤਨਿ ਰੁਚ ਅਪਾਰ ॥

Kot Bisan Avtaar Sankar Jataa Dhaar, Chaaheh Tujeh Diaar Man Tan Rouch Aapaar.
Millions of incarnations of Vishnu and Shiva, with matted hair yearn for You, O Merciful God. Their minds and bodies are filled with infinite longing.-----Guru Arjan, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 455-16 & 17
ਬਨ ਮਹਿ ਪੇਖਿਓ ਤ੍ਰਿਣ ਮਹਿ ਪੇਖਿਓ ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਪੇਖਿਓ ਉਦਾਸਾਏ
ਦੰਡਧਾਰ ਜਟਧਾਰੈ ਪੇਖਿਓ ਵਰਤ ਨੇਮ ਤੀਰਥਾਏ
Ban Meh Paykhio Trin Meh Paykhio Greh Paykhio Oudaasaa-ay, Dand Dhaar Jat Dhaarai Paykhi-o Varat Naym Teerthaa-ay.

Immortal God has been perceived pervading in the jungles, in green pastures, among the house holders, and the mendicants equally. I have seen God as a Yogi carrying Its staff, with matted hair, fasting, making vows, and visiting sacred shrines of pilgrimage.-----Guru Arjan, Raag Bhairo, AGGS, Page, 1139-3
ਕਬੀਰ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਇਕ ਸਿਉ ਕੀਏ ਆਨ ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਜਾਇ ॥
ਭਾਵੈ ਲਾਂਬੇ ਕੇਸ ਕਰੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਘਰਰਿ ਮੁਡਾਇ ॥

Kabir Preet Ik Seo Kee-ay Aan Dubhdha Jaa-ey, Bhavai Laanbay Kays Kar Bhavai Gharar Mudhaa-ey.
Kabir, when you are in love with the God, duality and alienation depart. It is immaterial whether you have long hair, or a bald head.-----Kabir Sloke 25, AGGS, Page, 1365-15
Individuals, Hindu gods, Yogis, Jains etc. have tried to find God with matted hairs and other physical apparel of all kinds but they all  died without attaining success. 

ਜੋਗੀ ਜਤੀ ਤਪੀ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਬਹੁ ਤੀਰਥ ਭ੍ਰਮਨਾ
ਲੁੰਜਿਤ ਮੁੰਜਿਤ ਮੋਨਿ ਜਟਾਧਰ ਅੰਤਿ ਤਊ ਮਰਨਾ
Jogi Jati Tapi Saniaa-see Boh Tirath Bharmanaa, Lunjit Munjit Mon Jataa Dhaar Unt
Taou Marnaa.

The Yogis, celibates, penitents and Sanyasis (Ascetic) may make pilgrimages to all the sacred places. The Jains with shaven heads, the silent ones, and the beggars with matted hair may do the same.  In the end, they all shall die without success.-----Kabir, Raag Asa, AGGS, Page, 476-18
ਕਬਿਤ ਪੜੇ ਪੜਿ ਕਬਿਤਾ ਮੂਏ ਕਪੜ ਕੇਦਾਰੈ ਜਾਈ ॥
ਜਟਾ ਧਾਰਿ ਧਾਰਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਮੂਏ ਤੇਰੀ ਗਤਿ ਇਨਹਿ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥

Kabit Parhay Parh Kabitaa Moo-ay Kaparh Kaydaarai Jaa-ee, Jataa Dhaar Dhaar Jogi Moo-ay Tayree Gat Ineh Na Paa-ee.
Reciting their poems, the poets die; the mystical ascetics die while journeying to Kaidar Nat'h.  The Yogis die, with their matted hair without attaining your Grace.-----Kabir, Raag Sorath, AGGS, Page, 654-6, 7
ਕਬਿ ਜਨ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਟਾਧਾਰਿ
ਸਭ ਆਪਨ ਅਉਸਰ ਚਲੇ ਸਾਰਿ
Kab Jan Jogi Jataa Dhaar, Sabh Aapan Aousar Chalay Saar.

The poets and the Yogis with matted hair have all gone away having spent their life spans in the world.-----Kabir, Raag Basant, AGGS, Page, 1194-16
There is absolutely no spirituality in hairs, rituals, and other material things as is evident from the following hymns of Kabir.  
ਮੈਲੇ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੰਗਮ ਜਟਾ ਸਹੇਤਿ
ਮੈਲੀ ਕਾਇਆ ਹੰਸ ਸਮੇਤਿ
Mailay Jogi Jangam Jataa Sahayt, Mailee Kaaiyaa Hans Samayt.

The Yogis and wandering hermits with their matted hair are polluted.  Their bodies and their souls are also polluted.-----Kabir, Raag Bhairo, AGGS, Page, 1158-7 

It should be up to an individual to keep hair or not, as he/she prefers.  Others are in no position to approve or disapprove of someone else’s preference.  We should not sit in judgment of the others on this.  If hairs bring inner peace or progress in spirituality, so be it. It does raise few interesting questions:

  1. Can the clean shaven person grow in spirituality? 
  2. Is spirituality the only domain of persons with long unshorn hair? 
Kabir has pointed out in Raag Maru that what matters is the conquest of one’s mind, not his long hair:
ਜਟਾ ਭਸਮ ਲੇਪਨ ਕੀਆ ਕਹਾ ਗੁਫਾ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਸੁ
ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤੇ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਜਾਂ ਤੇ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਉਦਾਸੁ
Jataa Bhasam Laypan Kee-aa Khaa Gufaa Meh Baas, Man Jeetay Jag Jeetiaa Jan Tay Bikhiaa Tay Hoey Oudaas.

What is the use of wearing matted hair, smearing the body with ashes, and living in a cave? Conquering the mind, one conquers the world, and then remains detached from corruption.-----Kabir, Raag Maru, AGGS, Page, 1103-7

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.-----Martin Luther King Jr.

It is just an academic discussion not treading on the toes who believe in hairs as a sign of spirituality. The hairs for  Sikhs does have a political and identity issue which a spiritual person has nothing to do with it. I apologize if I hurt the feelings of any one.

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