Khalsa Traditions

Why The Khalsa SHOULD Eat Meat

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Fools Argue Against Eating Meat

First, lets begin with Gurbani. To my knowledge, there is only one Shabad in Guru Granth Sahib that deals with the topic of meat directly. The rest usually use meat as a symbol for a group of specific people and the underlying message of those shabads have nothing to do with diet. Therefore it is the following Shabad that clearly gives us the answer to this "issue":
ਮਾਸੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਰਿ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਝਗੜੇ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਣੈ ॥
The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom.
Raag Malaar - Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 1289

Now most people read this and think, well Guru Ji is just saying not to debate this and people are foolish for arguing over it. And this interpretation is okayish, since it highlights that your diet has no bearing on your ability to get Mukti. However most miss out the actual historical context...

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Once, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was travelling through Kurukshetra Jungle where one of his Sikhs noticed him. The Sikh was a Kshatriya Prince who was out doing Shikaar (hunting) and offered the deer he had hunted as an offering.

Guru Nanak, accepting the offering, then turned to Bhai Mardana and told him to start a fire and cook the meat of the dear. Mahraj jaanke then chose the spot to do this to be near a village so that smell of cooking meat could be noticed easily. Since the day they chose to do this was the night of the solar eclipse, the Brahmins and Pandits were enraged. They demanded the Guru to explain how they could be cooking and eating meat on such a holy day (for them). Then that’s when Guru Ji revealed the shabad “Maas Maas Kar Moorakh Jhagre...”.

So if you keep reading the rest of the Shabad given the above Itihaas behind it, it actually makes more sense to say that the Guru is not just saying fools argue about meat, they are actually saying fools argue against eating meat. Foolish are those who cause disputes because others eat meat.

ਕਉਣੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਉਣੁ ਸਾਗੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਕਿਸੁ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਪ ਸਮਾਣੇ ॥ What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?
ਗੈਂਡਾ ਮਾਰਿ ਹੋਮ ਜਗ ਕੀਏ ਦੇਵਤਿਆ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੇ ॥ It was the habit of the gods to kill the rhinoceros, and make a feast of the burnt offering.
ਮਾਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਬੈਸਿ ਨਕੁ ਪਕੜਹਿ ਰਾਤੀ ਮਾਣਸ ਖਾਣੇ ॥ Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, devour men at night.
ਫੜੁ ਕਰਿ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨੋ ਦਿਖਲਾਵਹਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਸੂਝੈ ॥ They practice hypocrisy, and make a show before other people, but they do not understand anything about meditation or spiritual wisdom.
ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਧੇ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ O Nanak, what can be said to the blind people? They cannot answer, or even understand what is said.
ਅੰਧਾ ਸੋਇ ਜਿ ਅੰਧੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਸਿ ਲੋਚਨ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ They alone are blind, who act blindly. They have no eyes in their hearts.
ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਕੀ ਰਕਤੁ ਨਿਪੰਨੇ ਮਛੀ ਮਾਸੁ ਨ ਖਾਂਹੀ ॥ They are produced from the blood of their mothers and fathers, but they do not eat fish or meat.
(It goes on for a while, so please do check out the full Shabad for yourselves!)
Raag Malaar - Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji - Ang 1289

Which makes sense, since arbitrary things like what you eat should have no bearing on your ability to realise the self is an illusion and the only reality is Ik Onkaar ().

Often this Shabad is used to stifle the debate on meat eating within the Panth, as it is quoted by “Anti-Jhatka” types who realise the evidence against them is substantial. It acts as a scapegoat for them since they simply claim that this debate shouldn’t be happening.

Sons of a Kshatriya

But that being said, why then should the Khalsa eat meat? If it is has no bearing on your spirituality, why do it? Because it is not for your spirituality. It is for your Dharam as a Kshatriya.
Hunting and eating meat of animals is a standard practice of military forces throughout the world and history. Since the Khalsa is indeed too a martial tradition by design, it is no surprise why partaking in this has been encouraged and practiced by the Gurus themselves. Not necessarily as a spiritual (Piri) act, but a martial (Miri) act.
ਛਤ੍ਰੀ ਕੋ ਪੂਤ ਹੌ ਬਾਮਨ ਕੋ ਨਹਿ ਕੈ ਤਪੁ ਆਵਤ ਹੈ ਜੁ ਕਰੋ ॥
I am the son of a Kshatriya and not of a Brahmin who may instruct for performing severe austerities
Guru Gobind Singh, Sri Dassam Bani

Amongst one of the very first Hukams given by Guru Gobind Singh to the Guru Khalsa Panth on Vaisakhi was to go hunting and eat your kill:

ਦੋਇ ਵੇਲੇ ਉਠ ਬੰਧਯੋ ਦਸਤਾਰੇ । ਪਹਰ ਆਠ ਰਖੱਯੋ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਸੰਭਾਰੇ । ਪੀਓ ਸੁਧਾ ਔ ਖੇਲੋ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਰ । ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਵਿਦਯਾ ਜਿਮ ਹੋਇ ਸੰਭਾਰ ।੧੭।
They must wear a turban twice a day on their heads, As well as wear the ordained arms round the clock. They should go on hunting expeditions after partaking Amrit, So that they might become well-versed in handling of arms. (17)
Rattan Singh Bhangoo, Prachin Panth Prakash

The Gurus have eaten meat since Guru Nanak, but many of them also hunted regularly. Alongside the more well know of examples of Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Hargobind Sahib, this tradition even stemmed as far back as Guru Arjan Dev:

ਭਈ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤਿ ਸਿੱਖ ਇਕ ਗਯੋ । ਗੁਰ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਸਨਾਵਤਿ ਭਯੋ । ਹੇਤ ਅਖੇਰ ਖੇਲਿਬੇ ਚਹਯੋ । ਚਲਹਿਂ ਸੰਗ ਗੁਰ ਐਸੇ ਕਹਯੋ ।੨੮।
In the early morning a Sikh went to the King of Mandi and announced a command of Guru Arjan, "The Guru wishes to go hunting and requests you join along".
ਸੁਨਿ ਕੈ ਕਰਿ ਸ਼ਨਾਨ ਨ੍ਰਿਪ ਤਬੈ । ਤੁਰਂਗ ਅਰੂਢਯੋ ਲੇ ਦਲ ਸਬੈ । ਚਢਿਕੈ ਪੁਰਿ ਅੰਤਰ ਕੋ ਆਏ । ਤਹਿਂ ਤੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੰਗ ਮਿਲਾਏ ।੨੯।
Listening to this the King bathed then mounted his horse, he took his soldiers with him and then entered the city where he met and joined the hunting party of Guru Arjan.

Gurpratap Suraj Prakash (1843), author: the Great Poet Santokh Singh
Raas 2 Chapter 32

But why mention this for the Azadism project? Because this project’s aim is to reinvigorate a smart, strategic and rational look at the Miri side of Sikhi and Khalsa philosophy. As part that, this includes unlearning some of the illogical ideas we have been fed that have watered down the Khalsa traditions. Singh’s are not Chaar Sahibzaade Movie characters.

The Guru made us Lions, not sheep. The Khalsa are descendants of warriors. Stemming all the way back to Surya, Guru Gobind Singh himself reveals their own lineage. A lineage that included the great Kshatriya, Sri Raam Chandar, who fulfilled his Dharam by fighting back against the forces of Raavan and put an end to his tyranny. The Guru inheriting that same blood, infused this Bir Ras into the Khande Di Pahul given to his sons (the Khalsa). This may seem too “Hindufied” to some, but if you are interested, Mahraj details his Suryavanshi (Sodhibans) lineage in Bachittar Natak clearly. The Khalsa, being the direct descendents of the Guru, are also then Suryavanshi Kshatriya.

And so, as a part of these warrior traditions, and the lineage we come from, the onus is indeed on the Khalsa to eat meat, go hunting and perform Jhatka. Hunting especially builds the mindset required to engage with Azadism. Through Shikaar you learn skills like: commitment, patience, perseverance, planning, sacrifice, respect and compassion (yes, Daya too).

Not all Sikhs have to, it is just something directly relevant to what the Khalsa is fundamentally.

“Azadism does not recognise Sikhi as a religion per se, but the Khalsa order can fit into this category⁵⁷. Khalsa is one particular “way” of expressing Sikhi. Other traditional ways include the Udasis, Nirmale and Sevapanthis, and more recently perhaps the Namdhari Panth or Taksali denominations. However, Sikhi on its own can be followed by anyone, even as Muslims, Hindus or any other religion (or none at all!). Guidance can be taken from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Guru Khalsa Panth to whatever degree, regardless of any other label.”

Jhatka & Shikaar are traditions directly relevant to the Khalsa expression of Sikhi, but less so for Nirmale for example. But both are still Sikh and their ability to achieve Mukti is not effected either way.
Lastly, it must be stressed that this is my own personal interpretation (and also the standard Azadist position).

I do NOT believe it is compulsory for any Sikh to eat meat or engage in these practices & traditions. I equally do not believe that it should be restricted either. It is up to each Sikh to make their own choice about it, and that answer may be different depending on everyone’s own unique circumstances and personal relationship to the Guru.

For Sikhs without a commitment to any particular expression of Sikhi, the Sri Guru Granth Sahibs wisdom applies primarily. Hence why specific diets and rituals are not specified in Adi Durbar. It is in Dassam & Sarbloh Bani, combined with Rehit Maryade and Itihaas that become directly relevant if one chooses to join the Khalsa. Therefore, these warrior practices are directly relevant and encouraged for the Khalsa specifically. This is why I believe the Khalsa should eat meat and go hunting.

The evidence is abundant and crystal clear in these sources. So much had to be left out in order to fit into a post. You are encouraged to delve deeper through the following sources to find out more:


From there you can see the primary sources for yourself.
This topic is crucial for an Azadist audience because if you want a “Khalsa Raaj”, then you must first understand what the Khalsa is, and even become the Khalsa yourself.

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Bunga Azaadi — Institute for Azadist Studies

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