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Summary of Question:Sikhism And Sexuality
Category:General Q's from Non-Sikhs
Date Posted:Sunday, 7/28/2002 5:59 PM MDT


I am doing an assignment on sikhism and I have to investigate sexuality within the religion. So far I have been unsuccessful in finding a lot of info. Particularly, i need info on extra-marital sex, birth control, abortion, celibacy, homosexuality and general beliefs and philosophical teachings of sexuality. I also understand that sexuality is more of a cultural issue rather than a religious one, and any info on any of these issues would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,


Sat Siri Akal.

Well - here is one humble approach and I'm sure that this will not cover everything, but perhaps it can give you a good start.

Extra-marrital sex: Big no-no. Why? The Guru teaches that lust is one of the five poisons which cloud a person's mind. Sex, in and of itself, is not bad. It is the creative power of God and should be enjoyed. However, it is something that needs to be enjoyed in a way that honors the sacred relationship between the two individuals and so the only sexual relationships blessed in the Sikh tradition are those between a man and a woman who have committed to living as husband and wife before God, Guru and the sangat. The Gurus did something very beautiful. They took marriage and elevated it to the level of a spiritual practice. It is the practice of becoming one soul in two bodies, of taking two individuals and, through the pressure of time and space, forging them into one mind, one spirit, one thought. Sex within marriage is AWESOME. But outside of marriage, it creates a block to the spiritual practice of unity. Being unfaithful to your partner breaks trust and, without trust, becoming one soul just isn't possible.

Birth control: Nothing against it. Sikhism is a practical religion for a practical people. In this day and age, especially, having a lot of children is not good for the family, society or the planet. So - birth control is a way to keep enjoying the sexual partnership in marriage without risking having too many children.

Abortion: There's no clear position on abortion, and the Guru doesn't really speak to this. My own sense, though, is it does create a karma no matter what. If you speak to women who have had abortions, even if it was the right thing to do in their minds and they have no regrets, still - there was emotional work they needed to do afterwards. So - let us say at a minimum - if a woman gets pregnant and then decides to have an abortion, there's some kind of karma as a result. But how "heavy" a karma probably depends upon the woman, man and the situation.

Celibacy: There are many Sikhs who choose to remain celibate, or lose their spouse and stay celibate the rest of their lives. For those who are unmarried, celibacy is by default the expected lifestyle choice.

Homosexuality: Well, the jury is really out on this one, partly because the Indian culture is homophobic and there hasn't been a chance to honestly assess the question in relation to what the Guru teaches. Culturally, a lot of people have problems with homosexuality. From what the Guru teaches, you have to be what God created you to be and if God made you gay - then what's the problem? But that's a hot topic and one we won't go into too much right now. When gay Sikhs start coming out, I have no doubt there will be a lot of intense dialogue about the subject.

General beliefs and philosophy about sexuality: Sikhism embraces God as active and present within the creation. Unlike most other spiritual traditions of our day, Sikhs find the experience of the spiritual in the ordinary play of life. Sex is a beautiful creative act that allows a soul to take physical form. It is something to be celebrated. And, in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the language of how the soul relates to God can be at times very sensual and sexual. That union between soul and God is likened to the union between a wife with her husband - ecstatic, joyous and infinitely pleasurable. And the Guru even tells us to long for God the way a lust-ridden person longs for sex. It's very real. So what Sikhism does is embrace that primal instinct that we all have as humans and elevate it to the level of the Divine.

In that way, marriage becomes a spiritual practice where two people serve each other's souls to find the experience of God within themselves together. And, at some point, in that spiritual practice before the Guru, the two people loose their individual identities and, through love, become the expression of One Spirit in two different bodies. This gives us a practical way to understand how the entire Universe is just the expression of God's love in Infinite Forms. If we can find it in ourselves and with our spouse, then - all of the sudden - we can see that same play happening everywhere.

Not that this is easy, mind you. It isn't. A spiritual marriage is probably one of the most difficult spiritual practices of all. Which is why the Gurus taught us that the life of a householder was the highest spiritual path.

The down side of sexual energy comes in the form of lust. The Guru tells us of five poisons that we have to watch out for: anger, pride, greed, lust and attachment. All of these poisons are "natural" tendencies taken to extremes. We like to have nice things to keep our lives cozy. But taken to extremes - that becomes greed. We like to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments, but taken to extremes - that becomes pride. We like to feel the sensuality of our own bodies - but taken to extremes - that becomes lust. And when greed or pride or lust cause us to do things that hurt another human being - simply for our own self-gratification, then we create karma for ourselves and block our path to liberation. So - lust is something to guard against. But singing and chanting Gurbani is a powerful and wonderful way to elevate that energy into a sexual/spiritual experience with the Divine.

Hope this is helpful.



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