Sikhs have a symbolic dress of Panj Kakaars (5 articles) that are mandatory for every person who partakes of the Khandey Da Pahul (Sikh Baptism Ceremony). The five articles are kanga (comb), kara (bangle), kes (unshorn hair), kachhera (long underwear) and kirpan (sword). These 5 Ks are part of the Sikh rehat (disciplinary code).

What do these ‘5 Ks’ represent?

The significance of the kakaars is present in

  • together as a whole in the five articles
  • each individual article of faith

And these implications have external and internal elements to them, too.

The 5 Ks represent the external face of Sikhi as a whole. When the shabad /messages of Gurbani are understood, believed and applied in daily life, they represent the face of Sikhi within.  Hence a practical shabad-based daily life of Sikhi is more valuable than the mere adornment of the 5 Ks without the shabad within. 

Individually, each kakaar has an external and internal element as well.  

Adorning a kirpan is the external face of a Sikh character.  But the kirpan has an internal element (within) as well that comes from the Shabad. The inner value of Sikhi within us as epitomized by the kirpan is fearlessness, a desire for justice, a need to protect the downtrodden and the cutting down of the 5 vices. 

Merely adorning a kirpan externally (the longer the better?) but with none of the inner values that are represented by the kirpan becomes both futile and pretentious.  The outcome of mere external rehat (kirpan in this case) results for instance in Sikhs – instead of using the kirpan to protect the weak – using it on each other! 

Going by the messages of our gurus in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji – it cannot be true that any of our Gurus would have said that  Sikhi within is unimportant.

(SGGS 1099 Rag Maroo M: 5)

ਭੇਖੀ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਨ ਲਭਈ ਵਿਣੁ ਸਚੀ ਸਿਖੰ ॥

Bhaekhee Prabhoo N Labhee Vin Sachee Sikhan ||

They wear religious robes, but without the True Teachings, God is not found.

Rehat should not be taken for only its extrinsic values alone. Rehat comprises both extrinsic and intrinsic values.

(SGGS 267 Rag Gauree Sukhmani M : 5 )

ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮਲੁ ਮਾਇਆ ॥

Baahar Bhaekh Anthar Mal Maaeiaa ||

Outwardly, they wear religious robes, but within is the filth of Maya.

Guru Nanak Sahib ji condemns the external symbols of the yogis of his time. In the bani titled Sidh Ghosht where Guru Nanak Sahib ji has a dialogue with the yogis, there is mention of their 5 symbols – earrings, begging bag or bowl, seamless unsewn garb or cloak, staff or walking stick and holy ash. Guru Nanak Sahib ji fearlessly censures these symbols.

(SGGS 730 Rag Suhee M: 1)

ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਖਿੰਥਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਡੰਡੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਸਮ ਚੜਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੁੰਦੀ ਮੂੰਡਿ ਮੁਡਾਇਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਸਿੰਙੀ ਵਾਈਐ ॥

Jog N Khinthhaa Jog N Ddanddai Jog N Bhasam Charraaeeai ||

Jog N Mundhee Moondd Muddaaeiai Jog N Sinn(g)ee Vaaeeai ||

Yoga is not the patched cloak, Yoga is not the walking stick. Yoga is not smearing the body with ashes.

Yoga is not the earrings, and not the shaven head. Yoga is not the blowing of the horn.

Guru Nanak’s critique is primarily on these grounds.

  • The futility of yoga as a way to God
  • The lesser worth of physical as opposed to spiritual outcomes in any chosen way of spirituality
  • Going against the order of family and society by being a renunciate
  • Going against the Hukam /Will of the Creator

How is Guru Nanak’s yogi, then?

(SGGS 730 Rag Suhee M :1)

ਗਲੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Galee Jog N Hoee || Eaek Dhrisatt Kar Samasar Jaanai Jogee Keheeai Soee ||1|| Rehaao ||

By mere words, Yoga is not attained. One who looks upon all with a single eye, and knows them to be one and the same – he alone is known as a Yogi. ||1||Pause||

Jogee Keheeai Soee means this is ‘my concept of yogi’. His perception of a true yogi is by his deeds, not his outer appearance. One of the hallmarks of Guru Nanak Sahib ji’s spiritual wisdom lies in redefining existing concepts and beliefs.  He redefined yogi. And he redefined yoga.

We have to search the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji for the redefined concepts and apply the redefined concepts whenever the term yog/yogi appears. (This rule also applies to numerous other concepts such as heaven and hell etc).

(SGGS 939 Ramkali M : 1 Sidh Gosht 10)

ਖਿੰਥਾ ਝੋਲੀ ਭਰਿਪੁਰਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਾਰੈ ਏਕੁ ਹਰੀ ॥

Khinthhaa Jholee Bharipur Rehiaa Naanak Thaarai Eaek Haree ||

For your patched coat and begging bowl, see the Lord God pervading and permeating everywhere ; O Nanak, the One Lord will carry you across.

So is Guru Nanak Sahib ji a yogi? Yes, he is. But he is a real yogi. Not the kind he met in the mountains and jungles. We are all to become his type of yogis. Guru ji is telling us what to make our earrings, what to make our begging bowl, what to make our cloak and our staff. Guru Nanak’s method is to redefine all external symbols into inner values. 

(SGGS 941 Ramkali M:1 Sidh Gosht 34)

ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਚਿ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਇ ॥

Jog Jugath Sach Rehai Samaae ||

The Way of Yoga is to remain absorbed in Truth. (34)

Guru ji is leading us to be a true yogi ; one who has merged with sach (truth), the Lord’s Holy Name. One cannot hope to realize God within oneself with an empty outward display of religious paraphernalia.

(SGGS 732 Rag Asa M: 5)

ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਕਰਹਿ ਘਨੇਰੇ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਉਤਰੀ ਘੇਰੇ ॥

Baahar Bhaekh Karehi Ghanaerae || Anthar Bikhiaa Outharee Ghaerae ||

Outwardly, they wear various religious robes, But within, they are enveloped by poison.

All doctors know that real healthy glow is based on what is inside the body. One can apply foundations and whatnot to the exterior but only the correct intake of food in the diet keeps one healthy. Similarly, one can meticulously go on wearing religious garbs but this dedication will not bring him a bit closer to God. Just as the hunger of a beggar will never depart just by the wearing of tattered robes.

The bottom line is that if the mann (mind) is healthy, the tann (body) is healthy, then the rehat (discipline) of outer symbols will fall into place naturally.

(SGGS 106 Rag Maajh M : 5)

ਤਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਧਨੁ ਭੀ ਤੇਰਾ ॥ ਤੂੰ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਮੇਰਾ ॥

Man Than Thaeraa Dhhan Bhee Thaeraa || Thoon Thaakur Suaamee Prabh Maeraa ||

Mind and body are Yours; all wealth is Yours.You are my God, my Lord and Master.