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|Response to facial hair
|Tuesday, 6/15/1999 11:47 AM MDT
The Rehit of Guru Gobind Singh, by which we are enjoined to preserve our Kesh (hair), is a hukam relationship between oneself and the Guru. Most important is that we personally live by Guru's will, it is a deeply and intensely personal relationship, not a public order. Unlike other historic traditions, unlike systems of Islamic Law, for example, within Sikh Dharma we don't have a system of Laws, tribunals, punishments and retributions for punishing those who don't live up to Guru's Hukam. We don't have truth squads going around enforcing the Rehit. Guru's hand is the doer, Guru empowers us to understand His will, and Guru empowers us to live according to his will. It works from the inside out. It is based on understanding, trust and devotion. It is not based on blind obedience. There is great intelligence within the Guru's order, it behooves and benefits us to become very intimately aligned with Him. It is not a situation of public demonstrations of compliance in order to please and appease social ac
ceptance or judgment. If one lives faithfully, to the best of one's ability in alignment with Guru's will and teaching, then the outside is going to turn out all right. And then, as far as public opinion goes, we don't worry about it. Instead, Guru is our true support, come what may.
In regard questions on this forum related to the issue of hair (Kesh), the most common are from young people who have been thinking about hair from a common sense, practical point of view, and want to know <Why?>, in what way is hair different from finger nails, for example. Of course, we could simply respond from a perspective of <Blind Obedience> (ie., Just do it because Guru said so>. However, the essential nature of Guru means wisdom and intelligence. So, it becomes appropriate to share traditional, yogic and scientific insights that enable one to understand the nature and subtle function of hair. The Guru espoused the notion of preserving the hair because the reality of hair is ultimately beneficial for the human. Hair, in itself is a subtle and powerful blessing, which humans in a typical, ego-based blindness and desires unwittingly cut off and throw away, at the expense of spiritual benefit (and also to their spiritual and psychic detriment).
A less common question about hair comes from those who are GurSikhs, who are committed to Guru's Rehit, who are dealing with some real or perceived difficulty in applying or living the Truth, as Guru taught. In this situation, it is no less reasonable to point out the traditional, yogic and scientific insights mentioned above. For an example, see the following article by Dr. Birendra Kaur, on the scientific and biological qualities of the phenomenon of hair on the human body.
Ultimately, the largest of all bodily Organs is the skin. Hair follicles are specialized skin cells that have evolved to fulfill significant functions in relation to the heating & cooling (and eliminative) functions of sweat (and in relation to the lymphatic system), the breathing functions of skin pores, the oil secreting functions of the sebaceous glands, certain significant mineral and vitamin processes related to the brain, and also, hair plays a very important role in perception and cognitive functions of the psyche. The hair is related, electro-magnetically, like an antenna for subtle perceptual and intuitive experiences. A rather obvious experience of this is when the hairs on the back of one's neck are sensitized in a situation of being endangered, or <spied upon>. Dogs reveal this phenomenon when threatened. One can easily observe the subtle, apparently self-protecting perceptual processes in the hairs on a squirrel's tail while it is eating, and thus more vulnerable to attack by predators. Obv
hair has a profound function, and is far more than just <fuzzy fringe> which humans can remove or style with impunity, simply to become more sexually and socially attractive. The Guru's order is wise, intelligent and beneficial. We should not tamper with the intrinsic completeness of the system of hair on our bodies. Whenever we do so, we diminish our wholeness as humans, and thereby we interfere with the Guru's design for us to become perfected, liberated humans.
Having said all this, in response to your dilemma for women about facial hair, ultimately this question belongs with each person in his or her interior dialogue with the Guru Himself. It cannot be resolved by socially coercive opinion, either from non-dharmic influences to simply remove it or from other members of the Dharma, themselves. Open dialogue directly with Guruji, use this dilemma as a key to find the living Guru, rather than simply live in unenlightened compliance with the external opinions about the Guru. If one takes serious, meditative steps, out of devotion, respect and humility, to enter into living dialogue with the Guru, guaranteed He will come through and begin to respond to you and many obvious and subtle ways. In the process, not only will your questions be answered directly, but your relationship with Him will become much deeper and more real. That is what the authentic, lived life of a GurSikh is all about.
To give you an historical example as to how one's authentic relationship with Guruji can produce insights that are at variance with common opinion as to what is Dharmically correct, consider the example of Bhai Khaniya, a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh's retinue who was not a warrior, and who did not conform to the ordinary model of how most of Guru Gobind Singh's Sikhs lived (and fought). Bhai Khaniya was an extremely sensitive and compassionate man. After battles were fought between Guru Gobind Singh's army and the mughal forces, Bhai Khaniya used to walk through the battle field, offering water to those who were wounded or dying. He would offer the water to Sikhs and mughals alike. A number of GurSikhs were extremely upset, they considered that Bhai Kaniya was giving <aid and comfort> to the enemy. So they complained to Guru Gobind Singh, and Guruji called Bhai Khaniya to the gathering, in order to face these charges and explain his actions. And, in the most humble and devoted manner, Bhai Kaniya explaine
that <Guru had taught him to see God and Guru in everyone, and that whenever he saw anyone wounded or dying on the battlefield, what he really saw was Guru Gobind Singh himself lying there, and he felt compelled to serve and comfort that person, regardless of whether they were Sikh or mughal>. In truth, Bhai Khaniya brought a depth of devotion to his life that can serve as a model for all. And his story also reveals that Truth, in its realization in our lives, does not have dogmatic, one-way-only answers and solutions. Truth is discovered and resolved in living the truth, it does not live in dogmatic, inflexible commandments, because ordinary human language itself is not capable of expressing the vastness of Truth and possibility.
I'll conclude with a brief story of my own experience. In my own case, I have a significant amount of hair that grows out of my ears. More than anything I prize the experience of meditation. In that, my ideal is Guru Tegh Bahadur, who represents within the lineage of the Ten Gurus, the most subtle of meditative phenomena. Guru Tegh Bahadur meditated in isolation for 18 years (or more, depending on the source) before he was discovered to be the successor of Guru Har Krishan. In his Subtle Body, he saved Makhan Shah from drowning in a shipwreck, which is how he came to be discovered as Guru.
Ten years ago, in my wishes to develop my meditative and intuitive capacities through Guru's Simran, I focused much of my practice toward Guru Tegh Bahadur. At the same time, I was involved in commercial sales of computer systems, and was dealing in a particular system with a major corporate purchaser. I observed that the hairiness of my ears seemed a little <weird> in the context of the corporate-style codes of dress and appearance. At the same time, I wondered if there wasn't perhaps some relationship between these hairs, and the subtle, psychic, intuitive processes related to perception, intuition, and the inner ear. So this was my own context of question before the Guru. On one particular day I decided to trim these <ear hairs> a little bit, in order to explore the consequences. And, I report faithfully, that on that day <all hell broke loose> in a way that I never could have oredicted, and which my intuition tells me, if I had not cut the hairs (in their relationship to subtle perception and hearin
I might very well have avoided the whole uproar.
I had moved to another city recently, and there had been some miscommunication between a lending institution and me regarding the final, $400 due on new car I had purchased 5 years earlier. In this miscommunication, the bank sent someone to repossess the car, when I had told a bank representative that I would be paying the final amount that very day. I received a deceptive phone call from the driver for repossession, speaking as if he was involved in the business meeting I was scheduled to attend (the office switchboard told him I was not in, in preparation for a meeting), to confirm where that meeting would be held. His intention was to repossess the car while I was in the meeting. And, without his being deceptive, I could have explained that the final payment was to be made that day.
While in the meeting at the corporate headquarters, a secretary asked to see me at her desk outside, where she told me discreetly that plant security said a tow-truck was hooking up my car outside. I went outside, the driver told me what he was doing, and I sat on the car and refused to let him take it. He had no court order or notice of repossesion. In effect, in attempting to take my car from my physical possession, he was attempting to steal it, over my objections. The security guard came to ask if he could help, and I asked him to call the police. The police came, I explained the situation and requested that the officer prevent my car from being taken so that I could call the banker in another state. If I had simply gone to the phone, the car would have been gone. Then, my associate came out, feeling very embarrassed to be in a top level sales meeting while one of us was having a <police incident>. He asked me to let the driver take the car and work it out later. Bad idea. So, I went to the phon
called the banker, negotiated and confirmed that the payment was going to be made, explained that the police had stopped the re-possession effort underway, and the banker agreed. They contacted the driver by his radio, and the uproar got resolved. And, I was able to return to the meeting, and we did complete a $50,000 sale that day. And the bank was paid.
There were so many levels of control and counter-control, point and counter-point in that situation. It was like a huge dance of energy, that required grace, sensitivity and confidence that Guru would support me to take one risky step after another, in order to have a positive outcome. My car was packed with many valuables, as it was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I was ready to drive to my former home to see friends and family that weekend. If the car had been repossessed, all those things would have been locked in some tow yard, potentially confiscated as a part of a (misplaced) debt complaint on the part of the bank. Instead, going through the fire of this challenge, feeling Guruji at my side and supporting me for the best outcome, everything resolved. It was His Fateh. And as I looked back, I realized that it (possibly) all could have been avoided if I had only Heard more subtly when the driver called with his suspicious inquiry about where I'd be for the meeting. But I had trimmed those
my ear only minutes before, and I didn't pick up on the subtle signals that perhaps I should have. And for me, this was all Guru's dance to reveal His capacity to protect, and also to reveal how subtle and beautiful those <socially outrageous> hairs coming out of my ears could be. I have never considered again that I should cut them. And, I believe that Guru showed me the way. In ten years, I've never shared this story before, but in the context of deliberating about Guru's teachings on hair, all the events seem to take on a more authentic meaning.
Your conclusions may be different than mine, but I urge you to enter into dialogue directly with Guruji about how to respond to the hormonal imbalances that have lead to having hair growth on your facial area, as a woman.
Looking at the subtle intelligence of the design of facial hair for men, men need and benefit from facial hair because men do not require the same quality of emotional makeup as a woman does. Men don't have the same brain development (corpus colosum) and endocrine glandular system to handle the emotional, intuitive requirements that a woman, as mother, nurse, nurturer and protector of children requires. The hair of the mustache over the lips and the hair of the beard over the chin, filter and shield the processes of the emotional body in a way that is appropriate for a man. Women, characteristically and by design, don't have this hair; men generally do. When such hairs occur on a woman's face perhaps there is some more subtle wisdom for it to be there. I don't know of any teacher or scientist who can tell you what that is. So, ultimately, it is an issue to be worked out between you and Guruji, in your intimate and meditative relationship with him. Or, as some suggest, one can simply be blindly obedient
in rote compliance with the opinion
that hair should never be tampered with, end of story. Does that also mean that a hair, which becomes ingrown and forms a cyst should not be removed also. I have a personal opinion about such situations, but for your own situation, you will find an answer out of your experience toward meditative truth. And the results of that truth will stand higher than the consensus of general opinion. May you be blessed in your discovery of Guru's will for you. But, above all, have faith that he will guide you in a real way. Perhaps this dilemma about facial hair will become the occasion and doorway for a deeper experience of Guru's grace and guidance. And the experience of that guidance is more blissful than anything.
Krishna Singh Khalsa