Is "KHALSA" appropriate as a last name?

August 4, 1998
By a mainstream Sikh

The following was posted on the moderated newsgroup soc.religion.sikhism and relates directly to the improper use of the name "Khalsa" by the so-called "Sikh" followers of Yogi Bhajan.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa!
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

I was asked:

Q: Please explain the issue you find with the Khalsa last name.

I can understand the enthusiasm of people who want to proudly bear the name Khalsa, and I do not want to discourage them in any way. However, when I see a mistake being made, I have to continue mentioning it, until, either, I am proven wrong, or the people admit their mistake and start correcting themselves. Even though I myself would like to proudly add Khalsa to my own name, I believe that such an act would be egotistic and blasphemous. Let us see why.

The term Khalsa is reserved for those Gursikhs who have perfected the spiritual principles of The Tenth Master. Khalsa is meant to be a spiritual clone of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who is the father of Khalsa Panth. Let us not forget that Amrit is just a beginning on this Path. It is wrong to assume that a baptized Sikh is a Khalsa. The Sikhs respectfully call each other 'Khalsa'. However, calling ourselves Khalsa does not make us a 'Khalsa'.

We should strive to adhere to the traditions set by the ten Masters. It is quite obvious that Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not mean to use this word as a last name. Otherwise, he deserved to adopt it first, and he would have given it to his best Sikhs also. Instead, he named them 'Singh'.

To save myself some typing, I am going to use a few paragraphs from my article 'Guru and Sikh'. As I had written in that article, Khalsa is the highest, and the most glorified state, of a Sikh, who has attained spiritual perfection. The term 'Khalsa Panth' is used to indicate a fellowship of Sikhs who adhere to the principles taught by the Ten Sikh Masters, but this word should not be used for a single Sikh, simply on the basis of Baptism and the Five K's etc.

If we understand the real meaning of this word, then we will see that the act of calling ourselves Khalsa after taking Amrit is comparable to a scenario where every student enrolled in a (hypothetical) school called "Dean's University" calls himself a dean. If we understand correctly, we will see that the act of calling someone, who has taken Amrit a 'Khalsa', is, just a Sikh version of the worship of appearance and the ritual of Amrit. This results in spiritual degradation because taking Amrit is not an automatic conversion into Khalsa. Khalsa is a rare soul.

How rare is Khalsa? Most Sikhs of today have probably never met one. For a true Khalsa Gursikh, in his humility, this word represents an ideal that he will continue to revere all his life. But it does not represent himself in his own eyes. He sees Khalsa in the Sangat, or another Gursikh, and ignores his own greatness. This is why the Sangat is often called Khalsa Ji, or Guru Khalsa Ji. Though the term "Guru Panth Khalsa" is popular, it has been misunderstood. In reality, it stands only for such rare and obscure Gursikhs in the Sangat who deserve to be called a Khalsa. A Gursikh or a Khalsa Gursikh would not consider himself worthy of such an honor. He would not accept to be called a saint, a sadhu nor a guru, either.

Let us study (again) the words of The Tenth Master describing Khalsa. We can see that a Sikh does not become worthy of this title simply because he has taken Amrit and is starting to walk on this path:

"Day and night, he worships the Living Light. He does not entertain any thought of duality. Perfect Love and perfect conviction adorn his personality. How can he follow fasting (rituals) or, even by accident, pray to an idol or a grave? His pilgrimage will be Daan (giving), mercy, self-discipline of tolerance, and self-control. He sees only the One, One God everywhere. Only when The Perfect Light fully illuminates his heart, can you call him Khalsa. Otherwise, he is not Khalsa." (DG, p.712)


"One who knows the delight of abiding in the Overself alone, is Khalsa, worthy of adoration. There is not a minuscule difference between him, me, and my beloved God." (SLG, p.668)

The Tenth Master has attributed the highest virtues to Khalsa: "Khalsa is my Dharma and my aim. Khalsa is my innermost secret. Khalsa is my Perfect True Guru. Khalsa is my brave and true friend. Khalsa is my intellect and my knowledge. Khalsa's form is what I meditate on now. I cannot say enough in praise of Khalsa......If I had as many tongues as the hair on my body, still I may not be able to finish counting all the virtues of Khalsa. I belong to Khalsa, and Khalsa belongs to me, just like the sea and the drop of sea. Khalsa is the army of God. Khalsa has emerged now only because of His own wish." (SLG, p.667)

The Tenth Master has made it very clear that only a soul who has realized the perfect truth, who has become a Brahmgyani and a Saint, in the real sense, can be called a Khalsa also. We could say that the foreign Sikhs were not guided properly, but why do the Punjabi Sikhs find it so hard to understand the words of Guru Gobind Singh Ji?

Somewhere along the line, the meaning of Khalsa became reversed among the Sikh masses. First we call ourselves Khalsa on the basis of Amrit, Five K's, and daily recital of the Five Bani's, etc. Then we delude ourselves with a false pride that The Tenth Master said that we bear his personal appearance! Thus, we have diluted this word to our own level of existence, when, in reality, we should adore the greatness of Khalsa so that, some day, we will reach that greatness.

I see that people have even started to name their children as Khalsa. How incredible! How can small children understand a truly spiritual Sikh life? How can we guarantee that they will even stay true to the Sikh faith and Rehet as they grow up?

By the way, Guru Ji has already designated the last name 'Singh' to identify the person who is committed to follow Khalsa Panth after taking Amrit. How many people can you find who live up to this name (as a true Sikh) today? What will we do when, in the same way, after two or three generations, only the name remains in some households but the lifestyle has degenerated completely into something totally disgraceful towards 'Khalsa'? Are we going to demand that such people relinquish their family name, or, are we going to invent another name then?

I can see that, we will be in the same pit then, as those others who have erroneously fallen there, trying to protect the society from the false 'saints' today. We will have no one to blame but us when, to alleviate the disease created by people who merely bear this name or exploit it, we will see arguments that there is no such person as a Khalsa anymore. This is how the true statements in Gurbani are turned into 'false' statements for the masses. Hindsight is always 20/20. People will call us wise if we take care of our future, now.

So, my contention is this: 'Khalsa' is not an ordinary term. It represents a Master, not a student. We should not adorn others or ourselves with such sacred words and thus, make them ordinary. We need to understand their true meaning and leave them reserved for the kind of people they are meant for: people who have been truly successful in living completely according to Gurbani. We need to actively, seek to meet such people, early in our lifetime. This is the heart of Sikh faith and this is what Gurbani teaches us, almost on each page!

Please correct me if I am wrong. I believe I am open to reason.


soc.religion.sikhism is a moderated newsgroup. Post your articles
to this newsgroup, or email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Administrative contact address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.