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Kesh - Kanga - Kara - Kaccha - Kirpan

One of the nice things about religions is that they are fundamentally intended to defend, support and reveal the truth of this extraordinary experience called living.  That's one of the nice things about them.  So as an independent person many of the rituals and practices of religions are supportive and help to keep one's focus on the more important aspects of life while the apparently random cascade of events of life occur and threaten to disrupt, confuse and disorientate a person.  Most stuff in religions can be interpreted from the perspective that God is good and you, as the individual, are one of God's favoured creations.  So taking this assumed position all sorts of things can be seen as good and wholesome.  Here is a random example from one of the world's main religions of a set of obligations that people who ascribe to that religion must adhere to.  It is the five K's of the Sikh religion which is the fifth largest of the world's religions.

The Five K's

Kesh means hair.  A Sikh should treat their hair as a gift from God.  As such it should be kept as it was provided by God and not cut.  The hair is a symbol of faith, and keeping long hair confirms a Sikh's belief in the acceptance of God's Will and teaches them humility and acceptance.

Kanga means comb.  Sikhs use a small wooden comb because it can be worn easily in the hair all the time.  Apart from its practical utility, a comb is also a symbol of cleanliness.  Just as a comb helps to remove the tangles and clean the hair it is also a symbol to reminded the Sikh to get rid of any impurities of thought by repeating 'NAAM' (God's name) in their mind.

Kara literally means a link or bondage.  It is a special bracelet usually made of iron but not of gold or silver which is worn on the right hand wrist and signifies a bond between the Sikh and God.  The Kara is the Guru's own symbolic ring to all his Sikhs signifying their unbreakable link or bond with the Guru as well as among themselves.  The circle symbolises eternity and that God has no end.  It is also a symbol of restraint and in practice a constant reminder to the Sikh of ideal behaviour.

Or Kachara is a pair of shorts like boxer shorts.  Originally the idea was that they were suitable for horse riding and battles and were worn in readiness for being attacked in the night.  They are symbolic of chastity, sexual continence and a high moral character.  Like swimming shorts, Kaccha can be worn on their own without causing embarrassment and so they are useful in hot weather, swimming and sports activities.

The Kirpan is a sword.  The idea is to defend the weak and to defend the truth.  Kirpan comes from the word "KIRPA" and "AAN".  Kirpa means an act of kindness or a favour and Aan means honour and self-respect.  It is an instrument which adds to self-respect and self-defence.  For Sikhs the Kirpan is the symbol of power and freedom of spirit.  All baptised Sikhs should wear a short form of Kirpan (about six to nine inches long) on their body.  To call it a dagger or knife is regarded as insulting to this article of faith which functions quite differently from the other two.

Reading this stuff from the point of view that God is good and that any "method" for mere mortals to remember what is important to them and to have constant reminders that you are good and safe and belong to a group and that they care about the things that you care about and that you can be supportive to other people too and you can get the good stuff from these 5 k's.

It is anybody's prerogative to wear their hair long if they wish.  They can make it a "religious" requirement for themselves too.  It is a comforting reminder of the constant growth and passage through life and it is, after all, how we were made.  Or is the idea that we were "made" a little bit industrial.  Like a Ford motor car.  Would the term "evolved" be more accurate.  Or is that to close to the modern Darwinian Theory of Evolution? (You can get Darwin Fish here).  But the point being that it is an acceptance of how we are, quite above and beyond any particular level of understanding of how we arrived in this state.

The comb is a nice touch of symbolism whilst being pertinently useful given the first K.

Many people have small items of jewellery or artefacts or photos or keepsakes that they treasure and keep with them as support and comfort.  Arm bands, rings, amulets and other decorations have been a long tradition with humanity.  Symbolising monogamous love, eternity, brotherhood, and all sorts of mystical interpretation and meaning.  A bracelet? - fine. 

Shorts?  This begins to get a little weirder.  Sure they are all about recognising the more personal issues related to being a sexual being and getting it out into the open (so to speak) so that the otherwise "taboo" can be referred to and talked about, recognised and dealt with.  But being ready for attack in the night seems a little extreme.  Or is it?

And the sword is probably the most questionable of the lot but again, if we are reading this from the "supportive" and "belonging" point of view it seems entirely reasonable that someone should be not only be allowed to carry a sword at all times but that they are regarded as good for doing so is very encouraging.  Assuming that God is benign (see God won't save stupid people) and that humans are benign and responsible and supportive and just all round "good" then it makes complete sense.

But then one can read it from the point of view that this is an exclusive club and that the reader is not included in the group.  Then it all begins to sound a little extreme, bizarre and a little threatening.  One thing that is confusing when it comes to religious rituals and obligations is how ridiculous they can become (see the Ichthys Fish page).  There is a story in the bible.  It is about a donkey in a ditch.  The idea is that some bloke's donkey had fallen in a ditch on the Sabbath (silly donkey) and Christ reckoned it was okay to get it out but the religious leaders did not.  There was a case where a Rabbi had dictated that a young boy could not turn his hearing aid on on the Sabbath because switching a mechanical device on constituted "work" and that was forbidden.  Apparently it is okay for Sikhs to cut their fingernails because that is practical but somehow this doesn't apply to hair.

These religious practices are okay as ideas and they are okay when it works and when you choose freely to belong to a group.  But what is not right or fair is when a religion is exclusive and controlling.  It doesn't take long to realise that to choose to cut your hair should not exclude you from your culture and your support.  You should not be judged as "outside" on the grounds that you choose not to subscribe to a particular symbolic practise.  It is ridiculously oppressive and controlling.  It actually bears witness contrary to everything that the religions insist they believe in.  They believe in freedom and stand against injustice and oppression.  Hence the sword.  But they become the very thing they stand against.  They become the oppressors.  Then they have the belief structure that enables them to defend their right to wear swords and possibly to use them against anyone who refutes their right.  It gets complicated.

Insurance companies:  I once had it explained to me like this:  It is quite right that an insurance company can specify the conditions by which they will make an agreement with you to insure something.  That is looking at it as if the insurance company is an individual.  It is reasonable taking two individuals from a crowded society and accepting that premise.  It rather assumes that if you want to insure your horse against theft that you can look around and find someone who is willing to insure your horse even though it has three legs.

But when insurance companies who offer life insurance are afraid of Aids and decide to separate their policies out such that if you have Aids, or are in a high risk Aids category, that they will not insure you then you have a serious and unacceptable problem.  On the one hand you can put yourself in their shoes and imagine you are an individual who is independently offering a service.  In this case it should be quite reasonable that no one should dictate what you can offer to insure.  But when the whole society is so complex that to own a house you need to borrow money in the form of a mortgage and to get a mortgage you need a life insurance and you can't get a life insurance because you had a blood test (because that puts you in the high risk group), you suddenly realise that something is wrong.  How can you be excluded from having a home because you had a blood test.  You may think this is an extreme example but it still has to be dealt with.

I knew a doctor who had been asked to be part of a medical test program.  This involved a blood test.  The blood test was not for Aids.  Some years later he applied for a mortgage from a well known company and was surprised that he had been turned down.  When he enquired further it transpired that the medical tests had been commissioned by this company and they simply had it on record that he had had a blood test.  This meant, according to their criteria, that they could not give him a mortgage.  He did confront them on this issue and to no avail.  He had helped them out and as a result he was unable to get a mortgage from them.

The salient point is that to use an imagined example of an individual's rights to establish a dynamic and a principle and then to simply extend it to the behaviour of groups, companies, religions and generally to society, is not only simple minded and wrong but it is a profound and dangerous error.  It should be surprising that even in the 21st century most of the world's large collectives still use this simplistic way of thinking about the world.  The moral justification for killing and oppressing billions of human beings is overtly insane.  But humanity is still doing it.

For people who want to defend religion it is worth remembering that if a religion is to be defended that all of it's consequent actions must be included and not a selection of the bits that are right.  I don't know how to say what I am thinking in a short and succinct way but I'll try.  Using threats against your children that they must or must not act in certain ways because it is your house implies that you will deprive them of their home if they do not conscribe to your dictates.  If you follow the logic of this then the result might be to throw them out and to render them homeless.  You might think that that is a bit extreme given that they simply drew a picture on their bedroom wall.  So when it comes to it you might back down.  This doesn't change the fact that you didn't like them drawing on the wall.  The question still remains as to how the pair of you can live harmoniously together given your different views of life.

Emotions and intellect are conjoined.  There are many views about the relationship of intellect and emotions but what happens is that the intellect is like the hard pencil lines on a drawing.  The intellect is the conscious analysis of the emotions (the vaguer coloured in bits).  It is the result of the emotions.  We cannot think something out of the blue so to speak.  What we think is a result of other stuff.  But when we make the mistake of thinking the intellect is somehow a representation or description of a world out there and apply it with an iron grip in-spite of the differences in given situations then we are letting the "rational", "logical", "rules" run the show and we are precisely becoming detached from the human reality.  It leads to atom bombs on Hiroshima, it leads to drowning witches, it leads to the Jewish Holocaust.

Religions should never be adhered to religiously.  But that seems to be their problem.

Spirituality is a far better concept than religion.  Religion ossifies and petrifies.  Religions are the antithesis of the idea of a creative God.  Religions are based on good intentions and result in the worst evils this planet has ever known.

Oops - Did I really write all that?

See also: • Dave Godin • Good & Evil • Legal & Financial Stuff • Educating Children • Charities
5 Nov 2009

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