Becoming Khalsa

“Guru Gobind Singh’s Mission is Universal. Once when Guru Gobind Singh was in a state of intense longing for God, a state of enlightenment, he said, ‘Jale Hari, Thale Hari, Oore Hari, Pare Hari.’—God is in water, God is in the earth, God is in mountains, God is in caves, God is far and near. The mission of Guru Gobind Singh was not just for some few people of one religion. Guru Gobind Singh was the follower of the One All-Prevading God.”


by Baba Virsa Singh Ji
On the 300th Anniversary of the Khalsa Panth


Session recording



Nothing has been uttered by our masters which did not exist in the past and which will not remain in the future.

The Guru has said, “Speak the truth; do not tell lies.” Truth is always required. There is no time limit, whether a hundred years or millions of years; it is always necessary to be steadfast in truth and to do justice.

Guru Nanak has said, “Jot rakhi ta tu jug meh aya—God put His Light into you, and thus you came into this world.” [GGS 921] This Light will remain forever, and this world will also remain forever. If this Light exists in us, why do people tell lies? Why does a person injure the feelings of others? Why does anger arise? Why does a person deprive others of their rights? The issue is that the Light must be awakened within us.

There is no question of past and future in Sikh religion. Whatever has been uttered in Gurbani has been spoken about the Power which is eternal. Humans will continue taking birth, and the Truth will always triumph.

Guru Gobind Singh has very lovingly explained, “What is the meaning of chanting God’s Name? The One whose Name is chanted, Who is eternal, Who is unchanging, Who is never destroyed, is to be remembered by any Name, with love. He is to be seen within oneself and within society. By chanting Nam, one sees Him in the trees, in the whole cosmos.” If a person approaches Guru Gobind Singh’s teachings with understanding, Maharaj has even said that God has no religion, that God has no place of pilgrimage, that God has no country.

The Light from the One who is pervading everywhere and bestowing Light everywhere will never end, nor will this cosmos ever end. Thus Sikh dharam is training which will remain alive forever; it is the teaching of God. However, we cannot say that Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and people of other religions are different. Why? We are all human beings. We are labeled according to our actions.

Is Khalsa a symbolic label? “Khalsa” is the name of character—of one who has no anger, no greed, no egoism, no doubts, who has full faith in God, and who sees Guru Gobind Singh and God as one. We must accept that God and Guru Gobind Singh are not separate. Guru Gobind Singh has spoken that which has come from God. He has imparted those ethical codes which God has explained.

If anyone believes in Sikh religion in a rigid sense, there will be clashes. Consider this: Is a Sikh rigid or tender-hearted? Sikhs have helped all weak people, helped people of every caste, helped all religions. A Sikh is ever-living. How does Guru Nanak describe a Sikh? “Sikhi sikhia Gur vichar—A Sikh is one who considers the orders of the master.” [GGS 465] Anyone who follows the orders will never think himself separate from Guru Gobind Singh. His hand will never be lifted for evil actions. His feet will never walk toward evil deeds. His thoughts will never turn toward evil thinking. Guru Gobind Singh has said, “Khalsa panjan ko mare—The person who is Khalsa vanquishes the five evils within himself” [Bhai Nand Lal, Tankha Nama]. When these five evils—desire, anger, greed, attachment, pride—are vanquished, the Khalsa will be ever-living.

The day when the Khalsa Panth was created, almost 300 years ago, is a very auspicious day because Guru Gobind Singh cast aside evil by his blessings, his merciful gaze, and his enlightened wisdom. That inner light of which Guru Nanak had spoken when he said “Jot rakhi ta tu jug meh aya” became evident in the Khalsa. Thence there was no fear, no effect of the times, no effect of death. When that Light was seen inside, when that enlightenment appeared within a person, then Guru Gobind Singh called that Khalsa.

The virtues of the Khalsa will be needed in the world forever. Even if this world ends and God remains alone, Khalsa will exist. What is Khalsa? Guru Gobind Singh said, “Bharam bhed terahe niara, so khalis Satguru hamara—The one who is above impulses and distinctions, that pure truthfulness (khalis) is my True Guru.” [Sarab Loh] The one whom Guru Gobind Singh is calling his Sat Guru, Truth, is God. Anyone who recognized the Power of God within himself—”Tuhi mohi, mohi Tuhi, antar kaisa—You are me, I am You. There is no difference.” [GGS 93]—was called Khalsa.
Therefore keep this in mind: Dharam is not a small bypass. Dharam is a very great road. To explain to us with his enlightened wisdom, Guru Gobind Singh said, “Jale Hari, thale Hari, gufe Hari, gire Hari, oore Hari, bane Hari—God is in water, God is on land, God is in caves, God is in mountains, God is here, God is in forests.” [Dasam Granth p. 16] God is in all places.

Then there is the issue of our training. In what form are we to take the Khalsa into the world? Consider hair: It is not a foreign thing. Hair has come to us in the same way as other limbs of our body. To keep the hair, to take care of it, to respect it, is not a matter of great courage. It has come with our body, and just as we keep our hands and body washed, we are to keep our hair clean. It is the gift of God, just as other parts of our body are the gifts of God.
Actually, when hair, body, language, speech, and actions were well-formed, when a person’s body and thoughts both remained clean, and when outer symbols were associated with dharam, such people became Mahan Singh, Mani Singh, Dayala Singh. Nothing remained hidden in them. It is written in Gurbani, “Kabira ek achanbha dekhea hire hat bikae; Banjan hare bahira kaudi badle jae—An amazing thing was seen in this man: That diamond was being sold in the market, but in the absence of a proper buyer, it was being sold for pennies.” [GGS 1372] When that diamond was cut, it began shining, and courage and love entered such people. Those powers entered them which Guru Gobind Singh describes thus: “Jimi jaman ke bikhe samasat ek jot hai. Na ghat hai na badh hai na ghat badh hot hai—In the skies and on the earth, there is one perfect light. It neither increases nor decreases.” [Dasam Granth p. 26]

What is the difference between us and those people? They were our granthis, our ragis, our jathedars. These positions still exist; these labels are still current. We have retained the name of Khalsa as well. But what is a Khalsa? What is a Sikh?

A Sikh moves by the Power of God. Khalsa also has become the recognizer of that Light. But now there is no necessity for saying that Khalsa is such and such. We must become Khalsa in our practical life. Then our actions will reach the people. People are tired of listening to those who only talk, and they are tired of reading books. People are very wise: They see who is writing and who is speaking. Now we will have to make our speech and our actions one.
The powers which are ever alive are within us. They are alive today; they were alive millions of years before. We speaking by means of that Power. When the Power departs, our body will die. The person who recognizes the inner Power becomes Khalsa, becomes Sikh.

Bhai Gurdas Singh has written, “Gur sangat kini khalsa—The Guru has made the congregation Khalsa” [War 41]. Historically, when teachings were being shared, the masands—the preachers appointed by the Gurus from the time of Guru Amar Das—used to sit on a bed and the other Sikhs used to sit on the floor around them. Then some defects crept into the masands. After these defects appeared, Guru Gobind Singh made the congregation Khalsa: “These masands are giving you wrong teachings which are opposite to mine. Abandon them and come straight to me. Take my training, become good human beings, and live in the world.” Thereafter they proved what Khalsa is. When Khalsa was created, tyranny became frightened; the cruel and corrupt people became troubled. Thus the second meaning of Khalsa is that the power of evil thought decreases, and the glory of Khalsa is greatly increased.

Khalsa does not mean that you become Khalsa merely by keeping your hair, tying a turban, and calling yourself Khalsa. No! A Khalsa must maintain his inner character. As it is stated, “Khalsa forsakes other’s wives; Khalsa casts no evil eye on the belongings or wives of others; Khalsa forsakes criticizing others; Khalsa defeats the five inner evils; Khalsa burns his karma.” [Bhak Nand Lal, Tankha Nama}

Therefore, we will have to put all these principles into practice. Khalsa will not excell by adopting symbols but by practical action. In their homes, their fields, their offices, everyone should attempt to make their mind steady and to be just and wise in making decisions. Those whose minds come under their control become very powerful. Historically, when the names and actions of such people were spoken of, the corrupt people became frightened, and evil folded its beddings and fled. Thence fear spread that the Khalsa had come.
However, now we have all become so-called “Khalsa.” Anyone who is stealing money from the treasuries is calling himself Khalsa. Anyone who is looking at the daughters and sisters of others with evil intentions is calling himself Khalsa. Anyone who is telling lies is calling himself Khalsa. Anyone who has tied a turban and kept his hair is calling himself Khalsa. But these are only our outer symbols. The symbol of dharam is to tell the truth, do justice, share with everyone—to share one’s income, good thoughts, and good deeds—, to consider Guru Gobind Singh as one’s father and as God, and to consider Him nearer than one’s hands and feet.

Therefore, if even a single bad thought has entered our mind, we cannot call ourself Khalsa. We read Gurbani for this purpose: to control our thoughts. We must also meditate in order to control our thoughts. To control our thoughts, as Guru Arjun Dev has said, “Sas giras na visrai—Do not forget Him for a single breath.” [GGS 53] When we think of Him, perhaps evil will not gain entry into us. If a person is driving a tractor, he should think of Him while driving the tractor. As a person is ploughing, he should turn his thoughts toward Him and say, “Oh God, please bless us.” In your office or within your family or social circle, you should remain united with Him. By “united,” I mean that you should not do what He has prohibited.

Maharaj Ji has stated very strictly, “Chhodo parani koor kabarha—Oh human, forsake telling lies. That is all waste.” [GGS 1025]. He has referred to lies as garbage. He says, “Ninda bholi kisai ki nahin; Manmukh mugadh karan.—It is not good to criticize anyone. Criticism comes from those who are only following their own minds, and they are fools.” [GGS 775]. When we criticize, we stray outside the commandments of the Guru. If we tell lies, we are straying outside the commandments of the Guru. When ego and self-interest appear within us, we are straying outside the commandments of the Guru.

The main thing is that “Man bas awe Nanaka je puran kirpa hoe—Our mind comes under control only when there is complete grace.” [GGS 928] We are to control our mind. Only one who has controlled his mind has become Khalsa. Only one who has controlled his mind has become a Sikh. Only one who has controlled his mind has become a Gursikh—a loving obeyer of the Guru.

At this point in time, we cannot say that what Guru Gobind Singh has said is necessary only today. It was needed lakhs of years before now, and it will be needed lakhs of years into the future.
Before we celebrate such days as the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa Panth, we should bring home only those things to which we have a right. If a person is a farmer, he should bring to his home only that which he has earned with his two hands. If a person is an officer, he should bring home only that money which is his salary. If a person is responsible for any management position, and people bow before him and offer him things, a person who has faith in the Guru will feel that he has no right to take that nor will he have any part of it. Our part is only one: We are to give our ten percent tithe. This is true whether we become a leader, a sevadar, a worker, or a minister. Why? The Guru is our Father and we are all members of his family.

We should therefore consider what will happen to Sikhs now and what will happen in the future. You all know that Sikhism is not something which will end now; it will remain forever. What is Sikhism? It is the commandments of Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Nanak. Their commandments will never end in this world.

Thus it is good to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. But in reality, as it is written in Gurbani, Hukam mania howai parwan, ta khashame ka mahal pae si—You can draw near to your Guru only when you obey the commandments.” [GGS 471]

We have within us the power of Khalsa, the power of a Sikh. Guru Gobind Singh has said, “Har japia Har hoea—By chanting the Name of God, one becomes God.” The power of God is within us twenty-four hours a day. When we will set ourselves aside, then the power of God will remain and our power will not. Thus Maharaj has said, “Duwai te ek roop hoe gaeo—From duality, I became one.” [Dasam Granth 55] Which duality? That of feeling, “I am separate from God.” The Guru is always pervading in us—in our breath, in our life force, in our actions.

Do not consider “Khalsa” an ordinary word. It does not refer to outer dress. It means that with the outer dress, you take dharam within. Although at present we have good houses, good food, vehicles, all worldly possessions, we should not think that we have become Khalsa by obtaining these things. To become Khalsa, we will have to overcome the five evils. To become Khalsa, we will have to forsake lying. To become Khalsa, we will have to forsake criticizing others. To become Khalsa, we will have to forsake what is evil and grasp what is good.

If we are to be Gurmatt [following the Guru’s instructions] rather than Manmatt [following one’s own mind], then the Guru says to us night and day, “Control your thoughts; control your thoughts.” Thus Guru Gobind Singh says that one who is Khalsa controls his anger. There have been so many proofs of this way, so many generous actions. Those who were Gurmatt offered their heads; they left their homes and sacrificed their family life. Even in poverty, even in physical weakness, while staying in the mountains or the forests, they were following the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh. Even when they became homeless, they considered the orders of the Guru most important. They truly became Khalsa. Even when their heads were cut off, the power of the Khalsa was not diminished. Even when their limbs were cut off, the Khalsa did not waver.

At present, things have entered our minds which Guru Gobind Singh does not want. In this regard, Guru Nanak has said, “Papan bajho howai nahi, moea sath na jaee—You cannot obtain wealth without sinning, but this wealth will not accompany you after death.” [GGS 417] It is also said, “Maya papi ke ghar bhi hoe—There is wealth even with sinners.” By contrast, the Guru has told us that we are to earn by honest labor. We are to bring money home from honest labor, and also maintain enlightenment very powerfully within. How does one attain enlightenment? By reciting scripture, by meditating, by concentrating on Guru Nanak, on Guru Gobind Singh.

There is now weakness in us all. As we assemble to celebrate the Khalsa Panth, we should decide not to tell lies, and to forsake drugs and intoxicants. Anyone who is not reciting scripture should do so daily. Until we recite scripture, until we tell the truth, until we follow the commandments of Guru Gobind Singh, we may celebrate as many holidays as we like, we may hold as many assemblies as we choose, but dharam will not come just by our celebrations and conferences. Dharam is an inner thing. When you are alone, become united with dharam. When you are with your family, remain united with dharam. While you are amongst your relatives, follow the commandments of Guru Gobind Singh. One has one’s own feelings, one’s own ideas, but in the follower of the Guru, neither of these remain.

I have full faith that if one recites scripture with one’s whole heart, one’s karmas are burned up. The same is true for chanting Nam or meditating with one’s whole heart, for as Guru Arjun Dev said, “Nanak kai ghar keval Nam—The only thing in Nanak’s house is Nam.” [GGS 1136] Maharaj says, “What is my dealing with you? Whatever Nam, whatever voice of God, whatever grace of God has been given to me, I have come to share it with you.” Further, Guru Nanak said, “Ab kalu aeo re. Ik nam bowho bowho—Kali Yuga has come. Sow the seed of whatever Name by which you know God. In Kali Yuga, people will be saved by chanting Nam.” [GGS 1185] “Kal tati, thada Har nao—This Kali Yuga is hot; Nam is cooling. Mal lage sach bina—Without truth, you will be covered with filth.” [GGS 288] He has emphasized Nam so that we may remain happy during Kali Yuga. What does it mean to love Maharaj? To love his commandments.

We will have to provide good examples, for at present our bad example is spreading in the minds of the people like poison. When we speak of righteousness, people will look at our practical life. When we preach about what Guru Gobind Singh says, people will surely look at our own lives. Not only will they look at that time; they will keep on looking at us. In those places which are the sources of dharam, we especially need to set a good example. We are not to lecture about Khalsa and keep committing the same offenses. The greater a person’s responsibilities, the more essential it is that he put his house in order, eat only from his own earnings, and bring home only his own earnings. It is illegal for us to bring others’ things to our house. Charity is poison itself. Guru Nanak says, “Hak paraea Nanaka us suar us gae—Oh Nanak, what does not belong to you is like the flesh of a pig for Muslims or of a cow for Hindus.” [GGS 141]

What should be increased is love for others, coming together in love. If you become angry in your gurdwaras, control your anger. Control your anger everywhere, for “Khalsa krod tiagay—Khalsa renounces anger.” Guru Gobind Singh has told us to renounce anger, but instead we are overcome by it. Our criticizing of others has also overpowered us. Sometimes we tell lies, sometimes we lose our good character, sometimes we grab the rights of others. We should forsake all these faults.

Once we have done so, then we need not ask what will happen to Sikhism in the future, or what happened in the past. What we have will remain for time immemorial. Over the ages, it will not be destroyed. It will never decrease, in any period, and in some period it will increase.

Now it is necessary for us to act. There are so many large gatherings, so many largescale recitations of scripture, long lines of Akhand Paths, but why don’t people change their lives? As Guru Nanak has said, “Likh likh parhaia, teta karhia, parhe sune kiya hoi, jo sahaj no milio soi—What will come of reading and listening if you have not met Him naturally? The more you read, the more you are engulfed.” [GGS 467, 655] Therefore, let us all start working to become Khalsa. The power of Khalsa is within us. This power does exist.
Mahan Singh acted upon the teachings and thus became who he was. Daya Singh acted upon the teachings and thus became who he was. Maharaj Guru Gobind Singh spoke of Five Beloved Ones. He did not say, “All have become beloved ones.” Only a person who obeys the commandments, who always keeps the orders in mind, is a beloved one.

Now people are grabbing property illegally, telling lies and losing their morals, and at the same time they are taking amrit. They are taking amrit, and at the same time they are quarreling. Where are they quarreling? At our holy places, the house of our Guru. You must therefore control these things now.
The second issue is what will become of Sikhs in the future? Sikhs will always excell if they continue following the Guru. The commandment of the Guru is very powerful. In the Guru’s hukam there is Light, Light, Light.
I will say firmly that Sikh religion is not a confining circle, not a boundary. It is the enlightened wisdom of the cosmos. So long as the cosmos remains, this enlightened wisdom will remain. But some Sikhs have taken the position that they think no one is special except themselves. Thereafter, there have been conflicts. Instead, win the minds of the people. Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh won the minds of the people with their enlightened wisdom. They never said anything which they did not practice. Therefore we should all follow their commandments. The blessing of Guru Gobind Singh is within us. People will believe whatever we say about Guru Gobind Singh. At present we do not believe ourselves; how can others believe?

Whatever Guru Gobind Singh has said is of great necessity today. He has said that the Khalsa vanquishes the five evils, forsakes criticism, anger, others’ wives, and others’ wealth. We should live by this commandment, and then the Khalsa will be everywhere. It is just possible that the whole world will become Khalsa.

The Guru is always alive. Guru Ramdas says, “Sat Guru mera sada sada, na avay na ja-ay. Oh abnasi Purakh hai, sab me reha samaye—My Guru always remains. He neither comes nor goes. He is immortal and is pervading in everything.” [GGS 759] Guru Gobind Singh always exists. He exists today, he will exist in the future, and he existed in the past as well. His voice and his dharam will always remain lofty; they will never end. Dharam is so very powerful that it may increase but it cannot decrease.

We should become good examples. To the extent that we become good examples, the demand will increase. Demand always follows display of good samples.

Keep your language; keep your culture. We should not let these things be forgotten. Adopt other good things also, but not not let go of your own dharam, your culture, your language. Keep them strong within your families so that they will not be lost. Do not become so advanced that you forget your language, your culture, your dharam. If these things slip away, it does not take external force to kill a person; he is automatically finished.

At present, what has happened? “Sharm dharam doe chhap khaloe, kurh phare pardhan be lalo.—Modesty and righteousness are both hidden. Oh Lalo, lies have become most powerful.” “Kazian bhaminan ki gal thaki agad parhe shaitan be lalo—Oh Lalo, the power of Muslim kazis and Hindu holy men has decreased and Satan is conducting the marriage ceremonies.” [GGS 722] Satan is now in control everywhere.

Therefore we must follow Guru Gobind Singh. We must not take anything home except our own honest earnings. If we take anything else, we are not even human beings, not to mention Khalsa.

All of us who are sitting here should stop and think: Are we following the commandments or are we just saying so? There is great power in the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh, and great need for these commandments at present, so that cooling may flow into our societies and our homes. The Khalsa’s family is thus: If anyone has fallen, has become weak, or has lost his voice in society, the Khalsa enters that family to give them courage, to give them love.

There is no one who is not ready to agree to the commandments of Guru Nanak, of Guru Gobind Singh. Everyone has become ready to accept them. But we must become an example of the commandments. Then after seeing us, people will believe in our Father.

Guru Gobind Singh said, “Jab lag khalsa rahe niara, Tab lag tej diya main sara—So long as the Khalsa remains distinct, I give them full glory.” [Sarab Loh] Distinction means telling the truth, having compassion, loving, considering the commandments of Guru Gobind Singh as applicable even today. One should stand upon those commandments twenty-four hours a day. This is what it means to be distinct. To remain steadfast in truth is very difficult.