Experiencing My New Kirpan

Experiencing My New Kirpan

About a month ago, I received a new Kirpan from Jot Singh Khalsa (KhalsaKirpans.com) and this particular one has made me think about the purpose of the Kirpan as more than a symbol but also as a practical tool. Every morning as I sit down to meditate (with the Kirpan in front of me on my altar) I feel compelled to pick it up, hold it, unsheath it, and feel the power that it holds as a very real weapon. I have had many kirpans over the years, but most were very dull and not something most people would be able to effectively use as a weapon. But this kirpan is a very finely crafted weapon. Yes, it’s beautifully crafted and it is attractive to look at, but it is also clearly designed and made by a weapon master.

Khalsa Kirpan

On Sunday in Gurdwara I was listening to Kirtan and thinking about the Kirpan and realized that now I have a REAL weapon (my kirpan) that is very sharp, very strong and potentially deadly. It occurred to me that I don’t really know how to fight with a knife. I was never trained. Like many of you I have practiced Gatka (swords), but each weapon is unique and requires its own training and practice. Like having a Gun, it’s not safe to have one unless you really know how to use it, and practice handling it, cleaning it, shooting it and using it consciously and safely. If you are not properly trained then you are much more likely to get in trouble with a weapon.

So this got me thinking that I really should learn self defense techniques using a knife (short kirpan…not a sword). This made me wonder why this isn’t always part of the education that we get as Sikhs. So much of what we do as Sikhs has become symbolic in nature when they are real tools for practical purpose. I think given the change in times and lack of education/experience we end up with just the "memory" of what it was for & symbology.

If there was ever a time when I needed to use the Kirpan for self defense to assist someone, I’m not sure how much use it would be to me at my current experience level. It would be a useful tool if I was in survival mode, but as as a self defense tool or to help protect someone I’m not sure how I would fare.

During the very same Sunday Gurdwara that I was thinking about all this, I was sitting eating langar and started to talk to a young man who who was visiting the Gurdwara. We talked a bit and then he asked me about the kirpan and it’s purpose (which I explained) and he asked if I knew how to use it. I kind of fumbled making some excuses that I know a bit how to use a sword, but I realized that I don’t really know how to use a knife as a weapon.

Guru Gobind Singh jiThe Kirpan is a gift to me from my Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, and although it symbolizes a state of consciousness, it is also a very real shastr (weapon.) Physically it is an instrument of "Ahimsa" or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed. Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. It is the cutting edge of the enlightened mind.

The word "Kirpan" has two roots – the first root is: Kirpa  which means "Mercy, grace, compassion, kindness" and the second root is Aan which means "Honor, grace, dignity". So together the word stands for "the dignity and honor of compassion, kindness and mercy"

Guru Ji called it that so that the one who wears it uses it only to restore grace or defend grace in any situation that requires it. So unless it must be used to defend oneself or another, then it should not be touched. It is sacred and we never, ever abuse that which we worship.  It is not coincidence that the kirpan is part of the Khanda / Adi Shakti symbol of our faith, because it represents the primal power and protection of the Akal Purkh

I know for most Sikhs the kirpan is not considered a weapon and only symbolic. I just wanted to share my personal experience and thoughts which changed the way that I relate to the Kirpan and gave it much more meaning for me. I think it is important that we all experience these gifts that the Guru has given us in our own personal way. This way we fully understand and can experience for ourselves the value of this lifestyle from an experiential place (rather than intellectual). As Sikhs we are on this path of learning, hopefully always exploring and open to new experiences and growing.

I would love to hear your experiences related to the Kirpan and how you relate to it! (Particularly those of you who actually wear a Kirpan on a regular basis)

17 Responses to “Experiencing My New Kirpan”

  1. Prabhu Singh says:

    This is a cool article. I've had many of the same thoughts.
    I wanted to comment on the following:
    "It is said that a Sikh should never draw his or her kirpan unless it is with the absolute intent to draw blood, even if it is one’s own."
    I don't believe this to be a Sikh tradition. I think it comes from the Gurkhas, who will draw their own blood if they draw their blade without a battle.
    I personally don't believe that the kirpan is meant to harm the one who wears it, which is why I take it off when I play sports and keep it near me when I sleep. Otherwise I wear it at all times, except on planes.
    I have a personal belief and practice, which is "blasphemous" to some Sikhs, but I clearly don't care. And that belief and practice is that honoring the power and purpose of the kirpan is to also use it. And by that I mean for the purposes of self-defense, which most Sikhs agree with, but also for other uses. Personally if I'm out in the woods and I need a blade, including to prepare food for myself or others, and my kirpan is the only one available, I think it's respectful for me to use my kirpan. Every Gurdwara uses it to bless the prashad, that's what I think of when I use it in food preparation. As I write this, I think I should bless all my meals with my kirpan :-)

    • singh khaalsaa says:

      yeah kirpan can and should be used self defense comes at the last of the list though!

      we not using it is making us targets of court trials for simply even wearing it!
      REMEMBER though: it’s kirpan we are talking about here so we can’t just unsheath it and use whenever we feel the need, the objectives must be of high value and in sync and in accordance to the values of Sikhi! Gurbani

      these are my personal beliefs

  2. mrsikhnet says:

    Thanks for the comment Prabhu. I actually meant to edit that part out relating to "blood" but it slipped by me. I agree and have removed that line.

  3. RS Arora says:

    I have never, so far, commented on anything 'religious' as our comments originate from our 'own mind' which is not a mind of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj. I understand Guru Sahib (when I say Guru Sahib, just Guru Sahib, Dhan Guru Sahib Ji, the nameless Guru, my mind feels the thrill, the inspiration} never killed anybody during his life time. If 'something' of that sort happened, that 'somebody' was transported to his lap. I also 'understand' that, during his 'excursions' with Moghuls army, they knew with whom they were fighting, and they saw it as a
    'chance' to 'safe horizons' if they were killed with 'His' arrow.

    It should never be 'shown outside', 'used' or taken as a weapon of offence and defence. This is a love gift from him. It only symbolizes that our mind should be as sharp as a sword and anybody coming before us should get 'killed' without it being used.

    I am sorry for my 'strange comments'. But I cannot stop myself. It is my mistake if anybody has misunderstood it.

  4. I believe that each of our kakkars has both a spiritual (piri) and a material (miri) meaning and use. I believe that Guru Gobind Singh ji gave us the kirpan for the spiritual purpose as stated above and that he also expects all of his children to be armed and able to protect themselves and defend those who need to be defended physically.

    We live in a dangerous world. I have always carried a razor-sharp kirpan, which I have been trained since childhood in the use of. I would certainly not suggest anyone carry such a kirpan unless s/he is proficient in its miri use. Otherwise there is the danger that it could be taken and used against her/him. My Dad wisely believed that all his children should be able to fight in self-defense, if necessary. Many times he warned us, "Anything can happen to anyone at any time." He was right. I have many times online written about how mine was used in the Delhi Pogrom 1984 to fight the mob that attacked us and to kill the murderer of my son. Recently I was attacked by someone trying to steal my "drugs" as I came from the pharmacy. (Actually, there were no mind-altering substances among my prescriptions.) I could have been badly injured if I had been unable to defend myself against this career criminal.

    With two exceptions, my kirpan is on me, a part of my body, at all times, including in bed and while bathing and showering. After all, those are the times I am most physically vulnerable. I fly very rarely because I so much dislike being separated from my kirpan. The only other time I am parted from it is during necessary MRI medical procedures where the metal would destroy the machine. At those times, my kirpan and kara are in the care of another Sikh who understands their importance.

    RS Arora and I have opposite takes on the use and miri meaning of the kirpan. It is good that other Sikhs see both sides of this and each makes up her/his own mind.

  5. Your words are so wonderful and I hope we all get to take a class in use of the KIRPAN.

    I normally wear a very small kirpan inside my turban. And yes, it is mostly symbolic as well as personally energetic to have the steel blade in my aura.

    Not too long ago I had a new understanding about the kirpan and gatra which came to me.
    The gatra crosses over the heart center and I could feel how this is protective to me in this way. I go about my work of teaching and leading chanting in many venues around the world.
    Rather than feeling armed and ready to fight, I feel contained with the hand of the Guru over my heart in mercy and honor. So, now I feel this support rather than irritation to have something hanging over my shoulder. Thank you Beta, for this opportunity to share.

    Wahe Guru, Mataji

  6. Hari Simran Kaur says:

    Dear Gurumustak Singh, Sat Nam.

    I really appreciate your blog. I wanted to mention that in the 1980's we did some practice of the use of the kirpan in battle with Nanak Dev Singh during his gatka trainings. Perhaps he is still in Germany teaching Gatka, I don't know. But surely there are some teachers of knife use and fighting that we might find through Akal Security training or other sources like Nanak Dev Singh and a course could eventually be offered at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das. What do you think? Sat Nam, Hari Simran Kaur, Albuqerque

  7. Siri Sadhana Singh Khalsa says:

    Wow. I agree 100% with Guru Mustuk and Prabhu!

    I love my kirpans! They are constant reminders of my relationship to my Guru. I even relate them to my Guru having blessed me as a Singh (Lion of God) (women can consider themselves Singhs, or Singhniaa (Lioness) to, of course), and that with this form of a Khalsa, a Singh, my Kirpan is, I mean this most gracefully, my Claws! Kirpan is shastr, a tool. I love mine, and I love that they have symbollic value, especially when they are engraved with an Adi Shakti symbol, which is often quite beautiful. At the same time, I recognize that they were given to all Sikhs, myself included, for the purpose of being used as a practical tool. They are sacred, and I believe that they must be treated with revernce. On that note, self-defense is sacred, of course, as is preparing Langar, Prashad, Herbs, and any and all types of Gur Prashad (Guru’s Blessings of Provisions for Us). Preparing food is sacred, whether it is at the Gurdwara, or at Home. The same applies to any kind of technology which supports our lifestyles as Sikhs (our service to the Guru). I would call any of those technologies Gur prashad. I think that what the Guru means by the trm Gurprasad. That’s my experience, at least!

    I think about the shastr we put in front of the Guru at our Gurdwaras, the shastr we put on our altars, and the sacredness of the Adi Shakti / Khanda. These are all a dimension of Sikhism, that I believe and pray, is resurfacing into the consciousness of the Sikh Khalsa Panth. I really hope that we all learn more about the roots of our identity as Khalsa. I really hope that we can learn the practical tools and skills that is in our Banis, in our Light DNA which ties us to the Guru. And I think that our Kirpans are our link to that dimension of Sikhism. I know that I have had to do a lot of learning about how I display my kirpan, when to wear my full sized kirpan, when to wear my necklace (airport), when to make it projective and displayed to all, and when to be discrete. I feel that we as the Khalsa Panth, are learning still, on an experiental level, how to integrate our technolgies such as kirpans, and other skills, into the Earthly plane.

    I feel very drawn to using my kirpan to bless ALL of my meals too!

    By the length of this response, you can probably tell that I feel very strongly about this topic!

    To summarize, I hope that we all within the Khalsa Panth learn more about the reality of our kirpans, our shastr, and learn the skills needed to live within the Spiritual Sovereignty that Khalsa did in the time of Guru Gobind Singh’s physical presence (well, still here with a Panj, I know!), does today, and is destinied to always live within!

    Hope that I wrote clearly! There are so many dimensions to Sikhism that relate to this topic of Kirpan, and I feel that be more we discuss them as a global community of Sikhs, the clearer we will all become!

  8. Siri Sadhana Singh Khalsa says:

    When read about the debate, of the gaining of clarity we are experiencing regarding, for instance, when to wear a kirpan (ie all the time, all the time, but not in the shower, or all the time, but not in bed or in the shower), I am reminded that we are still learning HOW to experientally master this technology that the Guru has blessed us with. It is rway a marvel to me! The same goes for our really every aspect of our lifestyle! Which banis to read everyday, just which bana to wear, just what counts as Seva, how to properly do Simran, how to relate to our shastr, and shastra (which I believe refers to the cutting power of our Shabd Guru). I feel that the Panj Piaaray gave me all the information I needed when i took Amrit, but have Definitely found that I have had to have a very strong personal relationship with my Guru to actually Learn how to use all of these technologies. I am definitely still learning! Even how to say my prayers to God and Guru (my Ardas)! I mean, the first Section of the commonly printed Ardaas is Dasam Bani from the Dasam Granth, from the Chandi di Var. Why do we everyday cut that shabd (Chandi di Var) to only it’s first section? I have heard, or seen written too, that Chandi di Var, should be read during the daytime, and at night should only be read on the condition that there are two Singhs (or more, or perhaps Singhniaas, I would add), who could take turns reading It until dawn). Dies this mean that, at a time, Chandi di Var was read in it’s entirety Daily by the Khalsa Panth at Gurdwara?! Wow! I would imagine! Same thing goes for Anand Sahib at Gurdwara and in Rehiraas Sahib. In fact this topic goes onto even into langar! Why is it that the Khalsa Panth is still learning about organic foods, herbs, superfoods, and superherbs? Our food is a technology too (Langar). Wow! I am sure I could type more, but I would like to hear feedback!

    Sat Nam

  9. Singh says:

    The Kirpan is a wondrous gift.
    It is to be on your person at all times. Khalsa tiar par tiar. meaning Khalsa ready to go at all times( ready to die ready to defend ready to do whatever it takes). That DOES NOT mean ready to go Except when I'm in the shower or sleeping.
    I have a different one for the shower, a smaller one for work, a sizable one for Gurduara . I fully believe your Kirpan should be razor sharp because a dull one is no good to anybody. Training is also highly recommended.
    If you are an Amritari Sikh you are required to wear all 5 k's at all times. If for whatever reason you are parted from your precious gifts even for a moment (dropped Kanga while combing hair) you must do Ardaas and ask for forgiveness.
    Once every set period of time ( 1 year or 18 months you decide) you should take Amrit again and inform the PANJ PIARAY of your slight mishaps. The PANJ PIARAY will, based on the severity of your mistake hand down a suitable punishment. Last time I got 5 Sundays of washing the sangats dishes(awesome!)
    The Kirpan is a gift. It is a symbol and a weapon. Please respect it. It is not a regular article of clothing to be taken off and put on at a whim. It should be treated as a part of your body.
    IT IS NOT FOR SLICING APPLES. It is not for food prep or getting stuff out from under your nails!!! BUY A POCKET KNIFE PLEASE!!!
    As a Amritari Sikh you are not limited to just your Kirpan. It is encouraged to carry other weapons as well (Shastrtari). But this is limited to items legal to carry in your respective cities and countries . eg. Nihang Singh often carry axes and Bo staffs.

    Hookum , Hookam Hai. An Order is an Order. Thats final!
    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  10. mrsikhnet says:

    Singh, you have a right to your own interpretation and practice of living as a Sikh. We are all taught and practice in our own ways and all are correct. There are certain baseline practices and others that are up to the individual for interpretation for their own personal life. So if you feel that having your kirpan on at every moment is right, then that is great and right for you, but that doesn't mean that another amritdhari who doesn't shower with their kirpan is wrong. When we get into forcing our own opinions and perspectives on people I think we are not helping.

    I don't relate to the way you described committing sins, getting "punishment", asking for forgiveness, but that is your right to practice and relate as you like. Sikhi is a beautiful lifestyle to grow from, and each person will practice and relate to it in different ways.

    Ps. Why don't you use your real name when posting comments? If you make critical remarks you should taken ownership for them and not shield yourself behind an anonymous nickname.

  11. Siri Sadhana Singh Khalsa says:

    I would like to say that I’m grateful to hear how we all relate to our Sikhi. Also, i’ve noticed that on the main Sikhnet page, there is another posting of this article, but with it’s own comments. I accessed this article that I have commented on via the MrSokhnet email-list, I believe. Could the articles, and their comments, be merged?


  12. Siri Sadhana Singh Khalsa says:

    I would also like to say that I am inspired, and am curious how I might graceful go about sharpening my kirpans. Currently, I have kirpan blades of steel, and Damascus steel. I have heard that Home Depot sharpens knives (I was recommended to take my Siri Sahib there by the shopkeeper whom I purchased it from), but I am curious regarding any experiences regarding sharpening sacred kirpans. Perhaps it’s time I purchased a new (practical) kirpan, also!


  13. MANPREET SINGH says:

    waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh
    i completely agree with you gurmustak veer ji

  14. I agree with Gurumustak. The way you describe is remarkable. It gives the real reflection of humbleness, the quality every sikh must have.

    Chardi Kala!!!

  15. Fateh Jeo,
    Does anyone know why was sword chosen by Guru Gobind Singh Ji as the shastr to wear instead of guns which were used in significant numbers at his time? My limited knowledge is that Gun is an unfair weapon and discriminates too much whereas sword is more balanced. Other thing which I have read is that the Kirpaan (smaller one which is worn in daily use) is also Guru's Jihba and hence is used as Deg and Langar parwaangee before distrbuting to sangat.
    -Harjeet Singh.

  16. Dai Bendu says:

    Very well said. the practical side of the kirpan is overlooked by too many who seem to be too tied up in rules to grasp reasons. I enjoyed your article. Thanks you.