It is an on-going process: to maintain the razor’s edge of Truth between hypocrisy and fanaticism, preserving the Essence of the Guru's Teachings.
Rehit Namas are collections of Codes of Conduct for the Sikhs. There are many of these collections, some more detailed than others, and some quite obscure. Many of the admonitions and guidelines pre-date Guru Gobind Singh, but with the establishment of the Khalsa, He verified and formalized the Code of Conduct for Khalsa. In the years following Guru Gobind Singh, many of those Sikhs who had been blessed to hear his words, such as Bhai Nand Laal, Bhai Sukha Singh, Bhai Chaupa Singh, Bhai Daya Singh, and others, recorded them in the various versions of Rehit Namas. Later, the S.G.P.C. published the authoritative Sikh Rehit Maryada.
Pandit Tara Singh Narottam referred to eighteen Rehit Namas in his Guru Teerath Sangreh. Pandit Bhagwan Das compiled thirty-one Rehit Namas under the title of Bibayk Varidh. Bhai Kahan Singh, who compiled the Mahan Kosh, states that although there are many Rehit Namas, written by devoted Sikhs according to their own understanding, only those rules which do not go against Gurbani or the writings of Bhai Gur Das should be followed. Below is a list of the authors of better-known Rehit Namas.
- Bhai Gur Das (not the same Bhai Gur Das of Guru Arjun’s time)
- Bhai Nand Laal
- Sarab Loh Parkash
- Bhai Chaupa Singh
- Bhai Prehlaad Singh
- Bhai Daysa Singh
- Bhai Daya Singh’s
- Gur Sobha
- Rattan Mal
- Vajabul Araz
- Mehima Parkash
- Gur Bilas
- Bhai Sukha Singh
- Gur Partap Suraj
- Baba Sumer Singh
Some common threads are easily discerned in this collection, which show the extent of the self-discipline required to maintain one’s conduct as Khalsa. It becomes apparent that many of these Rehit Namas are of more value as historical documents, than as actual codes of conduct. They show what the Sikhs did to achieve a healthy body and strong spirit. They instruct in a practice to distinguish between the real and the ephemeral, an abiding optimism of faith, and the maintainance of the Dharma. Following is a compilation of these Rehit Namas are organized according to the writer.
There are many variations and different approaches to certain areas of conduct. Bhai Chaupa Singh, for example, writes, "Do not take a bath in warm water." Later, however, Bhai Santokh Singh writes that one should try to bathe in cold water, although it can be slightly warmed if necessary. The important thing is not to go without a bath. (Note: The word used in the original Indian languages does not distinguish between 'shower' and 'bath'.) Thus, there might seem to be a conflict in the prescribed rules, but the common essence can be discerned. We have tried to present only those quotations which are commonly accepted by all authorities.
Above all, we must remember that we can never, in any manner, modify the basic Command of the Five K's, or the specific actions prohibited by the Gurus. Other specific customs have been modified frequently over the years; the S.G.P.C's published Sikh Rehit Maryada is a step in this direction. To keep the Panth unique and distinct from the ways of the Hindu rituals, and protected from other unwanted influences, it is necessary to present the Codes of Conduct as clear-cut rules. It is an on-going process, to maintain the razor's edge of Truth between hypocrisy and fanatacism, preserving the Essence of the Guru's Teachings, not falling into the trap of empty ritualism.