Sikhism
•Homeland of Sikhism is the Punjab area of India
•Sihism is a young faith (only from the 15th century)
–An example of successful eclecticism
–Both Hindu and Muslim elements in its doctrines
–The word “Sikh” means disciple
•India was invaded by the Muslims in the early 8th century (Mohammad: 510-632 AD)
•Islam was a threat to Hindu rule
•By the 15th century, Hindu reaction and resentment had grown to the point where
several reform movements emerged
–These were Hindu in spirit, but paralleled the Islamic criticisms of Indian religion
•Two reformers:
–Kabir (1440-1518)
–Nanak (1469-1539)
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Kabir:
Son of Muslim parents
Taught that Hindus and Muslims were brothers
He followed neither the Vedas nor the Koran
He opposed caste, idolatry and externalism
He disliked the external forms of religion…….
– Ritual
– Scripture
– Pilgrimage
– Asceticism
– Bathing in the Ganges
…if these are not accompanied by inward sincerity, or morality of life
His credo: “simple love of God”
Anecdote: fresh milk for ancestors
One of his disciples was Nanak…
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Guru Nanak (1469-1539)
A disciple of Kabir
The “founder” of Sikhism
Nanak lived at about the same time as Luther and Calvin
His personal history is a mixture of fact and legend
Born in a Kshatriya family
Was sickly, meditative, and dreamy
Married at age 19; 2 sons
He was raised on Hindu sacred texts
He never intended to “found” a new religion, just to reform Hinduism
– Hinduism had too many empty rituals and forgot the passion of faith
– Like Muhammed; like Jesus in the temple (vs $ changers), vs idol worship
(Johar 81)
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Familiar with the Vedas and Upanishads, but did not subscribe to them
He also studied the Koran
His father wished him to become an accountant, but he chose the
contemplative life instead; he rejected the “sacred thread ceremony” of
Hinduism; he was not satisfied with formal Hinduism or with Muslim intellectuals
Faithful to the morning devotions; he would rise before dawn to meditate
He loved to sing
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In 1497. at the age of 30, he had a mystical experience while doing devotions at
the Bein Stream
– Cole, p 9f; Johar p 5f
– An experience equal to that of Is 6:1, B. Gita, ch 11, or Matt 3:16
– His experience when worshipping in a Muslim mosque
• The concern of the Imam
– Anecdote concerning his death
• On his deathbed, Hindus and Muslims quarrelled over the disposition of his body
• Blooming flowers in the morning
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Nanak was the first of a line of 10 human Gurus
“Guru” means “guide” or teacher
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Nanak,
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Angad (1504-1552) he was appointed to carry on; he stressed physical fitness
and the langar (community kitchen) where all people can sit together and
share a common meal in brotherhood and genuine fellowship,
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Amar Das, Ram Das,
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Arjun (1563-1606) was the first Guru to have born a Sikh; developed the Sacred
Scripture and the Sacred City; was a martyr,
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Har Govind (1595-1644) developed the “two swords”,
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Har Rai,
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Gobing Singh (1666-1708) developed the Khalsa (community of the pure);
developed the 5 “K”s; held to the authority of the Adi Granth (scripture)
Har K’ishan,
Tegh Bahadur (was a martyr for Hinduism),
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Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed that the line of Gurus was at an end and that
thereafter, the Sikhs were to regard the Adi Granth as the Living symbol of the
10 Gurus.
The origin of the Adi Granth lies in the hymns of Guru Nanak
– “Adi Granth” was an earlier title for the scripture
– “Adi” means first or original (in terms of importance)
– “Granth” means collection or anthology, a book
– Later, after 1708, the title came to be (Shri) Guru Granth Sahib as a more
respectful title. This means the “venerable book.”
It is the “earthly Guru,” considered to be a visible representation of the invisible
God.
The Adi Granth is more revered by the Sikhs than the Torah by the Jews, the
Bible by the Christians, or the Koran by the Muslims
It is the Deity of the shrine or Gurdwara and is treated as if it was real.
Every copy is said to be identical with every other (1,430 pages)
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This, the Sikh Scripture is considered to be very sacred and is highly revered
– You never sit higher than the scripture; you dust it off periodically; you “put
it to bed every night”
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Guru Arjun’s compilation was intended to be definitive, and it was definitive
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The Adi Granth consists of 1,430 pages
– Textual form is poetry (Johar 131)
– Kirtan
Johar 131
– Its medium is music
– Songs and music are central in Sikhism
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Almost 6,000 hymns (uses – Dictionary of Living Rels 4)
Includes many hymns of Guru Nanak
First section is the Japji or “recitation”
– 38 hymns or stanzas
– The Japji begins with the Mool Mantra or “root belief” WS 31
– An opening prayer or preamble
Cole 69
– Nanak is said to have recited this upon his call to mission
– In the Japji is the quintessence of Guru Nanak’s teaching (like the
Gita or NT)
Sikhs are expected to rise before dawn, bathe, and recite the Japji
The sense of the central importance of the right inner spiritual attitudes
to the One God pervades the Adi Granth
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The major theme in the Adi Granth
– Man’s search for God
– His longings and yearning for God (cf St Augustine)
– Man’s intense love for God (the Creator and Destroyer)
– To feel God’s presence and to live a healthy and clean life mentally,
physically, and spiritually
Its major concern is soteriology (enabling the hearer or reader to realized
essential unity with God).
There are no mythological narratives, though God is described in
anthropomorphic terms and the Gurus are not afraid to use the imagery of
family relationships to describe the union of God and man
Close textual study of the Adi Granth is something which Sikh scholars have yet
to undertake
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A Sikh is one who believes in the Ten Gurus and the Adi Granth
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Guru (God); Bani (sacred words); Sangat (congregation)
“Wherever five Sikhs are gathered—there am I”
3 institutions in Sikhism
– Amrit (nectar) – initiation into the community
– Sangat (congregation) worshipping community
– Langar (community kitchen) eating together
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The Golden Temple of God
Guru Arjun also built for the Sikhs the Temple of God or Golden Temple
Located at the Pool of Amritsar (the pool of immortality)
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The Golden Temple was built in 1577
First called Harmander (Temple of God); later called Golden Temple
The most sacred shrine in Sikhism
It is open on all four sides, thus to each caste
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Guru Arjun appointed his son as the 6th Guru and gave him 2 swords
– One for spiritual power
– One for temporal power
– “Let him sit armed upon the throne and maintain an army to the best of his
ability
Guru Arjun was a martyr
His martyrdom created a gulf between the Sikhs and the Muslims and ended the
pacifist phase of Sikhism
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The Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh
In 1699 created the Khalsa (military fraternity), the Community of the Pure
Its creation, through “baptism of the sword”
– 3 men were “offered”
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Men took the title “Singh” (lion)
Women took the title “Kaur” (Princess)
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The Punjab Sikhs were not reluctant to fight to preserve their existence
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The “5 Ks” became a distinguishing characteristic of all Sikhs (sense of
brotherhood)
– Kesh: Hair and beard uncut (positive)
– Kangha: Comb (negative)
– Kachcha: short trousers
– Kara: steel bracelet (negative)
– Kirpan: sword (positive)
– More…..
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Hair is a symbol of manliness, virility, honor, energy, dynamism, power
(Samson); also a symbol of spirituality; aggressiveness, assertiveness
Comb is necessary for keeping the hair clean and tidy. It grooms the hair, keeps
the hairknot in place, and symbolizes the discipline of the mind. A Sikh is
reminded to keep his mind under control
Hair and comb form a complementary pair. Each evokes the meaning of the
other. A combination of two different forces
Steel bracelet is an unbreakable link to the faith, the Khalsa and brother Sikhs. It
represents the unbroken continuity of existence. Symbolic of strength and of
kharma. Strong, but resilient
Sword: the bracelet controls the sword as the comb controls the hair. It
represents the cutting of ignorance, and separates the transient individual self
from the universal, immortal self. A declaration of sovereignty over oneself. It is
also a symbol of freedom from oppression and servility; affirmation of selfrespect. The sword in the mind cuts the root of ignorance, & worldly attachment
Kachcha: Symbolizes the spiritual and mental breakaway from traditional dress
and thought
The primary meaning of the 5 symbols lies in the ritual combination of 2
different forces: like a subject and an object
– Long hair and sword: assertive of forceful human potential
– The comb, bracelet, and short trousers: represent moral constraint and
discrimination
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View of God (Saguna Brahman)
Especially from the personal experiences of the Gurus themselves, Sikhism
derives its view of the uniqueness and personality of God
Central: the sovereignty of the one God, the Creator, sustainer, and destroyer of
the world
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are there, but as aspects of the One God. They have
no independent existence
Nanak called his God Sat Nam (True Name) because he wanted to avoid
delimiting terms for God, like Allah, Shiva, Rama, etc.
He felt God could be called by many names (but was above all names)
God is one, supreme, uncreated creator of all things, beyond birth, death, and
rebirth, omnipresent and supreme truth
WS 68, 76
God is both immanent and transcendent
WS 72, 73
God has no incarnations and cannot be represented by idols
The Hindu doctrine of avatars is rejected Cole, 97
The Guru, though perfect and sinless, is not divine
God is omnipresent (Cole, 12 feet & Kaaba in Mecca) a true Muslim WS 615
Unity and fraternity (unity of God and the brotherhood of man)
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Reality/Cosmos
Because God is real, the world as created by God, is also real
The world is “real” because made real to the senses, but ultimately unreal
because only God is ultimately real. Two levels of truth
From Hinduism, Sikhism derives its belief in the periodic creation and
dissolution of the world
Creation is a continuing process (vs deism); God continually works in the world
Creation has a purpose, but it is not revealed to man. It can be seen in creation
by one who cuts attachments to the world and its values.
When man destroys his selfishness and attains his true nature, it will be revealed
to him
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Human being and the human problem
Man is the highest being in creation; the most privileged creature of God
Highest concentration of reason and consciousness
Women are highly revered Johar 138
The human’s inner essence is the atman, the divine element within him
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Our present state is a degenerate condition
Evil comes from being immersed in the illusions of the world, instead of being
filled with God’s goodness WS 136
The Hindu doctrine of maya is accepted, but it does not have the connotation
of pure illusion; maya is changeableness
Cole 82-83
Maya: images of handcuffs, a net, a snare
Material objects may build a “wall of falsehood” around those who live in the
mundane world of the senses
WS 290
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Five sins: lust (WS 336); anger; greed (WS 296); attachment (WS 676); and
pride (WS 289)
These are the usual forms ascribed to maya
The pure atman becomes impure by the attachment of these passions
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Four misdeeds: shaving/trimming the hair; eating meat of animals killed in the
Muslim style; smoking tobacco or drinking intoxicants; committing adultery or
immoral living
Haumai (pride): selfishness or self-centeredness; full of evil passions WS 322
We should not try to escape from the world, but try to live to our fullest potential
of righteousness in the world
The world is like God’s garden WS 90
The world exists for man to use and enjoy; it is not to be regarded as evil
The Hindu notions of karma and rebirth are accepted WS 122-23
Following Hindu belief, man is reborn because of the influence of past karma
Although his essential nature contains a part of God, evil thoughts and evil
deeds keep him separated from God
We prolong the round of rebirth by living apart from God, by choosing through
egoism and sensuous desire life in the world (maya) in preference to egoabandoning absorption in God. This accumulates karma
“He who conquers himself, conquers the world.”
Suffering is all due to ignorance (and haumai)
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Salvation (WS 104)
We must cleanse the atman of evil passions and become God-centered
Destroy haumai (WS 292)
Attachment to maya is to be replaced by attachment to God
This is done through Nam Simran (Submission to the will and purpose of God)
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A transitional process from being “self-centered” (haumai) to being “Godcentered” (liberated from the wheel of birth)
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The enlightened person grasps intuitively that he/she is one with God
The perceived unity can only become daily experience in mortal existence
through discipline
This Sikh spiritual discipline is called Nam Simran
A “meditation on God’s name”
Meditate on God’s name; let it percolate into the heart to produce a “nectar”
Nam Simran is not a mere saying of words, but is a transforming of personality
through practice
Very similar to the Unification concept of “resurrection”
Nam Simran results in a life of service to others
One becomes “God filled” (gurmukh)
WS 280
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Salvation is not going to Paradise after a last judgement, but is absorption in
God, the True Name, the Infinite Soul
Nevertheless, this is not a complete loss of personality
This process requires a guru
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Five stages of human development
1. Stage of piety
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2. Stage of knowledge
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This is only possible with the help of spiritual strength which comes from God.
“If man goes one step towards him, the Lord comes a thousand steps towards man.”
5. Stage of Sah Khand
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Here the mind and intellect become perfected or attuned to God. A person has now
gone as far as they can in developing their natural gifts. With God’s help….
4. Stage of grace
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A person becomes aware of the vastness of the universe and the mystery of existence.
A seeker may pass to…
3. Stage of effort
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All human beings are born into this realm; if they practice devotion, they may reach the
realm of…
The is the region of truth where God exists in his formless state. It cannot be described,
but only experienced by the liberated soul
All of these require a Guru, as a guide
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Conduct/ethics (work, worship, charity)
The principal vice is self-centeredness (haumai)
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Manifested as: lust, anger, greed, materialism, pride
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Since God is truth, sincerity and authenticity are at the heart of Sikh ethics
One should seek the truth from a Guru and repeat the name of God
Do everything with a loving and pure heart
“The Sikh is to lead a healthy, normal life, serving his fellow human beings
Husband and wife WS 174
Cole 116, 142
[Singh, “The Sikhs” p 12]
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A Sikh is to be a Brahman in piety
a Kshatriya in defense of the weak
a Vaishya in industriousness
a Sudra in serving his/her fellow human beings
All the Hindu “castes” (or their qualities) are to be embodied in one person
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Sikhism