The Sikh View
In Sikhism, only lacto-vegetarian food is served in the Gurdwara, but Sikhs are not totally bound to be meat-free. The general consensus is that Sikhs are free to choose whether to adopt the vegetarian or meat diet, although once baptized by taking Amrit, some large sects of Sikhs (Damdami Taksal, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Namdharis, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and the 3HO), believe that a Sikh should be meat free, however this is not a Universally held belief amongst Sikhs.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest book talks about vegetarianism and spirituality in the following couplet:
- Page 1289 Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Sikhism is a liberal, tolerant faith that acknowledges personal liberty and the crucial proponent of human nature, free will . As such, Sikh philosophy and Scriptures are not didactic in nature, for Sikhism offers spiritual, ethical and moral guidance to a fulfilling way of life rather than a tightly-construed and strict religious discipline. As a result, it is the subject of much debate as to whether Sikhs are prohibited by the Sikh Code of Conduct, the Rehat Maryada, from eating meat. The consensus is however, Sikhs are bound to avoid meat that is killed in a ritualistic manner e.g. Halal, Kosher etc.
Langar - Communual Kitchen
Within the Gurdwara, the Guru ka Langar (Guru's community kitchen) serves purely vegetarian food, freshly prepared from all natural ingredients for all people, at all times. The reason for serving vegetarian food is that the Langar is open to all. Since many faiths and people have varying taboos on what to eat and how meat should be prepared etc, and since Sikhs accept these restrictions and accommodate people no matter their faith or culture, the safest option thought by the Sikh Gurus was to adopt vegetarian food for Langar. The exception to vegetarian langar is when Nihangs, ( a minor but oldest Sikh sect in India) serve meat on the occasion of Holla Mohalla, and call it MahaPrashad .
Sikhism argues that the soul can possibly undergo millions of transformations as various forms of life before ultimately becoming human.
Sikh Guru View
The first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev said it was a pointless argument to debate the merits of either not eating or eating meat in the context of religion, as maintaining a strict diet does not make one blessed or elevate one to a superior status, spiritually or otherwise, over another. Being a member of a religion incorporates not merely one's dietary customs but the entire way in which they govern their lifestyle. He advocated a lifestyle consisting of honest, hard work and humility Kirat Karni, focus and remembrance of God Naam Japna and compassion for all of humanity and God's creation all around Vaṇḍ chakkō, with these 3 key principles taking far greater precedence over one's mere dietary habits.
Sikh Intellectual View
Many articles have been written by Sikh intellectuals on this issue. A summary of their views is cited below .
Dr 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 Guru's. . The Sikh thinking being that vegetarianism and meat eating was unimportant in the realm of spirituality. Surinder Singh Kohli links vegetarianism to Vashnavite behaviour . Dr Gopal Singh commenting on meat being served in the langar during the time of Guru Angad Dr Gyani Sher Singh who was the head Priest at the Golden temple comments that Ahimsa does not fit in with Sikh doctrine . W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi comment that if the Sikh Guru's had made an issue on vegetarianism, it would have distracted from the main emphasis of Sikh spirituality. Dr H S Singha and Satwant Kaur comment on how ritually slaughtered meat is considered a sin for initiated Sikhs. Dr Surinder Singh Kohli comments on the "Fools Wrangle Over Flesh" quotation from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji by how Guru Nanak mocked hypocritical vegetarian priests. Dr Gobind Mansukhi states how vegetarianism and meat eating has been left to the Sikh individual G S Sidhu comments again on how ritually slaughtered meat is taboo for a Sikh Dr Gurbakh Singh comments on how non-Kutha meat is acceptable for the Sikhs. Dr Devinder Singh Chahal comments on the difficulties of distinguishing between plant and animalin Sikh philosophy.Dr H S Singha comments in his book how the Sikh Guru's ate meat.
The Final Ruling
Leading Sikh intellectuals ruled on this issue in the 1920s (as some Sikh Sects confused the issue by trying to get all Sikhs to be vegetarian) and came up with the following rule or Code of Conduct for baptised Sikhs with regards to meat and Vegetarianism:There are groups such as the Akhand Kirtani Jatha that dispute the meaning of the word Kuttha, and say it means all meat, however, in mainstream Sikhism this word has been accepted to mean, as that which is sacrificed for example Halal or Kosher.
Historical Accounts and Diet
There are a number of eyewitness accounts from European travellers as to the eating habits of Sikhs. Although there is no prohibition on Sikhs for eating beef, it is clear that Sikhs as a mark of respect for their Hindu neighbours did not partake in eating beef., To initiate Mohammedans into their mysteries, one traveller said the Sikhs would prepare a Dish of Hogs legs.
According to Dabistan e Mazhib (a contemporary Persian chronology of the Sikh Guru's) Guru Nanak (this differs from Dr I J Singh's research that states that Guru Nanak ate meat on the way to Kurukshetra ) did not eat meat, and Guru Arjan, one of successors, thought that meat eating was not in accordance with Nanak’s wishes. However, his son, Hargobind, ate meat and hunted, and his practice was adopted by most Sikhs.
Bhai Gurdas who was a contemporary of the Sixth Sikh Guru, wrote Vaars (Poems/Couplets), to describe the behaviour of Sikhs at that time. In one of his Vaars actually praises the merits of goat meat.
- Professor Gurbax Singh Dhillon - Meat Eating and Rehat Maryada
- Video Showing Jhatka at Hazoor Sahib
- The Myth of Goat Sacrifice and Hazur Sahib
- Tenets of Guru Gobind Singh by Baldev Singh