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Notes on Islam
Guru Nanak 434
Another great teacher made his appearance in northern India in the fifteenth century ce: Guru Nanak. His followers were called Sikhs, meaning “disciples, students, seekers of truth.” In time, he was succeeded by a further nine enlightened Gurus, ending with Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708). Despite the power of these Gurus, the spiritual essence of Sikhism is little known outside India and its diaspora (dispersed communities), even though Sikhism is the fifth largest of all world religions. Many Sikhs understand their path not as another sectarian religion but as a statement of the universal truth within, and transcending, all religions. Their beliefs and practices have been interpreted as an offshoot of Hinduism or a synthesis of the Hindu and Muslim traditions of northern India, but Sikhism has its own unique quality, independent revelation, and history. As awareness of Sikh spirituality spreads, Sikhism is becoming a global religion, although it does not actively seek converts. Instead, it emphasizes the universality of spirituality and the relevance of spirituality in everyday life.
What Sikhs believe about the life of Guru Nanak is based not so much on historic records as on janam-sakhis—traditional stories about his life. The earliest collection of these was probably written down late in the sixteenth century; others were written during the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. Historians view these stories as reflecting the biases and concerns of their times, such as early seventeenth-century opposition to the ritualism of Brahmanic Hinduism; they recount many miraculous happenings that cannot be historically verified. The picture of Guru Nanak that has been handed down is thus a record of how he has been remembered by the faithful.
According to the janam-sakhis, Nanak was little concerned with worldly things. As a child he was of a contemplative nature, resisting the formalities of his Hindu religion. Even after he was married, it is said that he roamed about in nature and gave away any money he had to the poor. At length he took a job as an accountant, but his heart was not in material gain.
When Nanak was thirty, his life was reportedly transformed after immersion in a river, from which it is said he did not emerge for three days. He could not be found until he suddenly appeared in town, radiant. According to one account, he had been taken into the presence of God, who gave him a bowl of milk to drink, saying that it was actually nectar (amrit) which would give him “power of prayer, love of worship, truth and contentment.”1 The Almighty sent him back into the world to redeem it from Kali Yuga (the darkest of ages). J. S. Neki, Sikh psychiatrist and professor of religious studies, explains that the sakhi of Guru Nanak’s disappearance in the river is rich in symbolic meaning.
The Beginnings of Sikhism, 3:35
The succession of Gurus 436
There were eventually a total of ten Sikh Gurus, all of whom were thought to be transmitting the spiritual light of Nanak. Before he passed away, Guru Nanak passed his spiritual authority to Lehna, previously a devotee of the goddess Durga. Lehna had become so dedicated to Guru Nanak’s mission that the Guru gave him the name Angad—a limb of his body (ang). Although the spiritual transmission from Guru Nanak reportedly made him so powerful that he became famous for healing incurable diseases such as leprosy, Guru Angad (1504–1552) was a model of humility and service to the poor and needy. He continued the tradition of langar and served the people with his own hands. One of the many stories told of his humility concerns an ascetic who was jealous of the Guru’s popularity. The monsoon rains which were essential for the crops had not come, so the ascetic used the opportunity to turn the poor farmers against Guru Angad. He taunted them that if the Guru was so powerful, he should call for rain. The desperate villagers begged Guru Angad to do so, but he peacefully replied that one should not interfere with God’s ways; rain would come only when God so willed. The ascetic persisted in turning the people against Guru Angad, telling them that he himself would magically bring the rains if they would get rid of the Guru. Thus the simple people drove Guru Angad away. Agreeably, he left the village. Refused shelter anywhere nearby, he settled in a forest. Thereafter the ascetic fasted and tried all his mantras, but the rains did not come. At last, Amar Das (1479–1574), who later became the third of the Sikh Gurus, learned of the situation and reproached the villagers for forsaking the sun for the light of a small lamp. Recognizing their mistake, the villagers begged Guru Angad to forgive them and return to the village. He did so, amid great rejoicing, and the rains came.
The Third and Fourth Gurus, Amar Das and Ram Das (1534–1581), developed organizational structures for the growing Sikh Panth (community) while also setting personal examples of humility. Ram Das founded the holy city of Amritsar, within which the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev (1563–1606), built the religion’s most sacred shrine, the Golden Temple. The Fifth Guru also compiled the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth (original holy book, now known as the Guru Granth Sahib), from devotional hymns composed by Guru Nanak, the other Gurus, and Hindu and Muslim saints, including many spiritual figures from social castes considered lowly. Among the latter are holy people such as Bhagat Ravi Das, a low-caste Hindu shoemaker who achieved the heights of spiritual realization.
Central beliefs 443
These “Five K’s” (so called because all the words begin with a “k” in Punjabi) have been interpreted as proud hallmarks of Sikh identity dating from the birth of the Khalsa in 1699. They clearly distinguished Sikhs from Muslims and Hindus, supporting the assertion that Sikhism constituted a third path with its own right to spiritual sovereignty. All of these innovations are thought to have turned the meek into warriors capable of shaking off Mogul oppression and protecting freedom of religion; the distinctive dress made it impossible for the Khalsa to hide from their duty by blending with the general populace. In Sikh history, their bravery was indeed proven again and again.
However, to interpret the Five K’s only as symbols of power and separate identity is to overlook the spiritual and egalitarian aspects of Sikhism. By mandating the same symbolic dress for people of all castes, both women and men, Sikhs gave both genders and all castes equal importance, contrary to Indian cultural traditions. There may also be significant spiritual symbols embedded in the Five K’s. The sword, for instance, is often used in the Guru Granth Sahib as a metaphor for divine wisdom that cuts through ignorance and egocentrism. The devotee who wields it—and even the sword itself—is commonly referred to in female terms. For example, “By taking up the sword of knowledge, she fights against her mind and merges with her self.”
The Five Ks of Sikhism, 3:54
Two young presenters explain the meaning and importance of each of the five Ks and how they help them to guide their everyday lives. IThe footage includes a cartoon depiction of Guru Gobind Singh and how his actions exemplified the meaning of the five Ks.
As the Mogul Empire began to disintegrate and the Islamist Afghans invaded India, the Sikhs fought for their own identity and sovereignty, as well as to protect Hindu and Muslim women from the attackers, and to protect freedom of religion in the country. At the end of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, they formed the Sikh Empire, a non-sectarian government noted for its generous tolerance toward Muslims, despite the earlier history of oppression by the Muslim rulers. Maharaja Ranjit Singh is said to have been unusually kind to his subjects and to have humbly accepted chastisement by the Sikh religious authorities for moral lapses on his part. The Sikh Empire attempted to create a pluralistic society, with social equality and full freedom of religion. It also blocked the Khyber Pass against invaders. The empire lasted only half a century, for the British subdued it in 1849.
Sikhism’s major focus is loving devotion to one God, whom Sikhs recognize as the same One who is worshiped by many different names around the world. God is formless, beyond time and space, the only truth, the only reality. This boundless concept was initially set forth in Guru Nanak’s Mul Mantra (basic sacred chant), which prefaces the Guru Granth Sahib, and JapJi, the first morning prayer of Sikhs: There is One God Whose Name is Truth, The Creator, Without fear, without hate, Eternal Being, Beyond birth and death, Self-existent, Realized by the Guru’s grace.
Following Guru Nanak’s lead, Sikhs often refer to God as Sat (truth) or as Ik Onkar, the One Supreme Being. God is pure being, without form.
Sikhism does not claim to have the only path to God, nor does it try to convert others to its way. It has beliefs in common with Hinduism (such as karma and reincarnation) and also with Islam (such as monotheism). The Golden Temple in Amritsar was constructed with four doors, inviting people from all traditions to come in to worship. When Guru Gobind Singh created an army to resist tyranny, he advised Sikhs not to feel enmity toward Islam or Hinduism. The enemy, he emphasized, was oppression and corruption.
Sikh sant-siphahis (saint-soldiers) are pledged to protect the freedom of all religions. Sikhism is, however, opposed to empty ritualism, and Guru Nanak and his successors sharply challenged hypocritical religious practices. “It is very difficult to be called a Muslim,” said Guru Nanak. “A Muslim’s heart is as soft as wax, very compassionate, and he washes away the inner dirt of egotism.”15 By contrast, said Guru Nanak, “The Qazis [Muslim legal authorities] who sit in the courts to minister justice, rosary in hand and the name of Khuda (God) on their lips, commit injustice if their palm is not greased. And if someone challenges them, lo, they quote the scriptures!”
In developing the military capabilities of his followers in order to protect religious freedom, Guru Gobind Singh set forth very strict standards for battle. He established five stringent conditions for “righteous war”: (1) Military means are a last resort to be used only if all other methods have failed; (2) Battle should be undertaken without any enmity or feeling of revenge; (3) No territory should be taken or captured property retained; (4) Troops should be committed to the cause, not mercenaries fighting for pay, and soldiers should be strictly disciplined, forswearing smoking, drinking, and abuse of opponents’ women; and (5) Minimal force should be used and hostilities should end when the objective is attained.
Sacred practices 445
To be a true Sikh is to live a very disciplined life of surrender and devotion to God, with hours of daily prayer, continual inner repetition of the Name of God (Nam), and detachment from negative, worldly mind-states. In Sikh belief, Nam carries intense spiritual power, capable of making a person fearless, steady, inwardly calm and strong in the face of any adversity, willing to serve without any reward, and extending love in all directions without any effort. Why is it so powerful? It comes from the Guru as a transmission of spiritual blessing that automatically transforms people and links them with God. Some feel that Nam is the essence of creation, the sound and vibration of which the cosmos is a material manifestation. The mystics and Gurus whose writings are included in the Guru Granth Sahib refer to many Names of God, such as Murari (a reference to Krishna), Narain (the One present in water), Allah, and Râm. Some Sikhs recite “Wahe Guru” (God wondrous beyond words), some say “Ik Onkar Sat nam Siri Wahe Guru” (God is One, the Truth Itself, Most Respectful, Wondrous beyond words), some recite the whole Mul Mantra, a key verse by Guru Nanak summarizing his philosophy, used at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib and in many other places in it.
How is Sikhism Different From Other Religions? 3:41
Sikhism focuses on unity with God. Sikhism instructs to be one with God though meditation and simple, ethical and moral lifestyle. While some religions practice animal sacrifice, fasts, pilgrimage, omens and other rituals, Sikhism instructs that there is no need of such ritual because we can meet God with pure love towards Him.
Sikhism also instructs that one is responsible for his own actions. He cannot wash away his sins by just going to pilgrimages or taking a holy bath. Only God can forgive humans of their sins and meditation on God is the only way to receive God’s grace.
In Sikhism, ethics and religion go together. The inculcation of moral qualities and the practice of virtue in everyday life is a vital step towards spiritual development. Qualities like honesty, compassion, generosity, patience, humility etc. can be built up only by diligence and perseverance. Sikh Gurus showed how to live a family and social and still be close to God. Their lifestyle serves as an example to all Sikhs.
Sikhism is a modern, logical, and practical religion. It believes that normal family life is no barrier to salvation. That it is possible to live detached in the midst of worldly ills and temptations. A devotee must live in the world and yet keep his head above the usual tensions and turmoils.
Every belief in Sikhism has rational explanation. Sikhism is both modern and rational. It does not foster blind faith. Guru Nanak Dev Ji exposed the futility of meaningless ritual and formalism. He questioned the superstitious practices of his time and he brought about a revolution in the thinking of all people around him.
Sikhism rejects all distinctions of caste and class. It stands for the 'Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man'. Sikhism believes in a casteless and equal society which guarantees equal rights to every man and woman. At a time when woman was regarded inferior to man, Guru Nanak Dev Ji placed woman on a high pedestal and said, "Why call her inferior, who gives birth to kings?"
In addition, Sikhism does not contradict with scientific facts. Sikh Gurus delivered vast knowledge about our Universe which was proved by science centuries later.
An important aspect of Sikhism is the belief in democracy. The welfare of man is best secured by his elected representatives. Under the Khalsa government, 5 individuals are elected as the head of the state and only unanimous decision by those 5 individuals shall materialize. Sikhism instructs never to do any injustice or apply force on anyone. However, if someone does injustice to you or someone, a Sikh should stand up and fight against the injustice and protect the oppressed.
Sikhism offers a lifestyle, social structure and path to meet God.
Sikhism today 449
An enterprising and adventurous community, the Sikhs have done well at home and abroad. Though they constitute less than two percent of India’s population, they have played a leading role in government of the nation. Dr. Manmohan Singh became the country’s first Sikh prime minister in 2004, and his economic expertise has been sought after in world forums since the global financial meltdown.
The center of Sikhism remains the Punjab. The area of this territory, which is under Indian rule, was dramatically shrunk by the partition of India in 1947, for two-thirds of the Punjab was in the western area thenceforth called Pakistan. The two million Sikhs living in that part were forced to migrate to the eastern side of the border under conditions of extreme hardship. Through emigration, there are also large Sikh communities in Britain, Canada, the United States, Malaysia, and Singapore.
In India, Sikhs and Hindus lived side by side in mutual tolerance until 1978 to 1992, when violent clashes occurred over some of the policies of the Indian government. Sikh separatists wanted to establish an independent Sikh state, called Khalistan, with a commitment to strong religious observances and protection for Sikhs from oppression and exploitation by the much larger Hindu community.
In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi chose to attack the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, for Sikh separatists under the leadership of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were thought to be using it as a shelter for their weapons. The attack seemed an outrageous desecration of the holy place, and counterviolence increased. The prime minister herself was killed later in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards. In retribution, terrible mob killings of thousands of Sikhs followed.
The Holiest Place in Sikhism, 2:34
How Sikhs saved their women from Muslim Mobs during Partition of 1947, 3:17https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2WQtUYv1_-s
Sikh vs. Muslim Debate, 6:25
Sikhism is the fifth-largest amongst the major world religions, and one of the youngest. Worldwide, there are 25.8 million Sikhs, which makes up 0.39% of the world's population. Approximately 75% of Sikhs live in the Punjab, where they constitute about 60% of the state's population. Large communities of Sikhs live in the neighboring states such as Indian State of Haryana which is home to the second largest Sikh population in India with 1.1 million Sikhs as per 2001 census, and large communities of Sikhs can be found across India. However, Sikhs only comprise about 2% of the Indian population.
Sikh migration to Canada began in the 19th century and led to the creation of significant Sikh communities, predominantly in South Vancouver, British Columbia, Surrey, British Columbia, and Brampton, Ontario. Today temples, newspapers, radio stations, and markets cater to these large, multi-generational Indo-Canadian groups. Sikh festivals such as Diwali and Vaisakhi are celebrated in those Canadian cities by the largest groups of followers in the world outside of the Punjab.
Sikhs also migrated to East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom as well as United States and Australia. These communities developed as Sikhs migrated out of Punjab to fill in gaps in imperial labour markets. In the early twentieth century a significant community began to take shape on the west coast of the United States. Smaller populations of Sikhs are found within many countries in Western Europe, Mauritius, Malaysia, Fiji, Nepal, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Singapore, Mexico, the United States and many other countries.
Read: Chapter 11: Sikhism
View the Other Preparation Materials
View the lectures contained in the course shell
Participate in the Discussion titled "5 Ks of Sikhism"
Complete and submit the World View Chart Assignment
Brief History, Contemporary Situation, Geographical History, Basic Tenets & Practices, and Sacred Texts
Sikhism, feminism 1:55
This video presents "World Sikhism Today: Amritsar."
Video presents in pictures and words a very brief synopsis of the history and key beliefs of Sikhism, :54.
This video presents "World Sikhism Today: Gurdwara," :20
This video presents "World Sikhism Today: Meals for All."
Video displays and briefly explains the langar--the free meal offered by Sikhs to all members of the community without regard to religion or caste, :11.
Assignments and Activities
Nature of God
The concept of "god" is different in Sikhism than that of other religions. It is known as "Ik Onkar" or "one constant" or the all pervading spirit (which is taken to mean god). It is found in the Gurmukhi script. This "spirit" has no gender in Sikhism (though translations may present it as masculine); it is also "Akaal Purkh" (beyond time and space) and "Nirankar" (without form). In addition, Nanak wrote that there are many worlds on which it has created life. Nanak further states that the understanding of "Akaal" is beyond human beings, but at the same time not wholly unknowable. "Akaal" is omnipresent (sarav viāpak) in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Nanak stressed that god must be seen from "the inward eye", or the "heart", of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment of heavenly life. Guru Nanak emphasized the revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application permits the existence of communication between god and human beings.
The Mool Mantar, the opening line of the Guru Granth Sahib and each subsequent Raga:
- Gurmukhi: ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥
- Transliteration: ikk ōankār sat(i)-nām(u) karatā purakh(u) nirabha'u niravair(u) akāl(a) mūrat(i) ajūnī saibhan gur(a) prasād(i).
- English: "There is but one all pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, You will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!"
Sikhism God, 4:25
Asian and Abrahamic: Sikh View of God, 3:40
This clip from the documentary, "The Asian & Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encounter in America", gives an overview of how Sikhs see God. It also shows the meaning of the Sikh turban. For more information on the documentary, please visit www.interfaithfilms.com.
View of Human Nature
Māyā—defined as a temporary illusion or "unreality"—is one of the core deviations from the pursuit of God and salvation: where worldly attractions which give only illusory temporary satisfaction and pain which distract the process of the devotion of God. However, Nanak emphasised māyā as not a reference to the unreality of the world, but of its values. In Sikhism, the influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust—known as the Five Thieves—are believed to be particularly distracting and hurtful. Sikhs believe the world is currently in a state of Kali Yuga (Age of Darkness) because the world is led astray by the love of and attachment to Maya. The fate of people vulnerable to the Five Thieves ('Pānj Chor'), is separation from God, and the situation may be remedied only after intensive and relentless devotion.
View of Good and Evil
Sikhism regards "Justice" and "Restorative Justice" and "divine justice" as trumping any subjective codes of moral order. The word in Punjabi used to depict this is "Niau" which means justice. The word "dharam" (righteousness) is also used to convey justice "in the sense of the moral order". "An attack on dharam is an attack on justice, on righteousness, and on the moral order generally". According to the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh "when all efforts to restore peace prove useless and no words avail, lawful is the flash of steel, it is right to draw the sword".
Men and women are equal in Sikhism and share the same rights. In contrast, while other faiths have been arguing in recent times on female priest ordination, women have been leading prayers at Sikh temples since the founding of Sikhism.
View of "Salvation"
View of After Life
Guru Nanak's teachings are founded not on a final destination of heaven or hell but on a spiritual union with the Akal which results in salvation or Jivanmukta (liberation whilst alive), Guru Gobind Singh makes it clear that human birth is obtained with great fortune, therefore one needs to be able to make the most of this life. There has been some confusion among scholars, interpreting the pertinent religious texts as evidence that Sikhs believe in reincarnation and karma as the same as Hinduism and Buddhism when such is not the case. In Sikhism karma "is modified by the concept of God's grace" (nadar, mehar, kirpa, karam etc.). Guru Nanak states "The body takes birth because of karma, but salvation is attained through grace". To get closer to God: Sikhs avoid the evils of Maya, keep the everlasting truth in mind, practice Shabad Kirtan, meditate on Naam, and serve humanity. Sikhs believe that being in the company of the Satsang or Sadh Sangat is one of the key ways to achieve liberation from the cycles of reincarnation.
Practices and Rituals
Introduction into a Sikh Sect, 2:23
The Role of Women in Sikhism, 3:53
http://www.sikhnet.com/dvd Guruka Singh explains why women are considered equal to men and there should be no difference in their participation in Sikhism.
The Value of Hair, 3:42
What is the benefit of hair? Guruka Singh shares his thoughts about Hair and being aware of why you want to keep or not keep your hair (particularly in relation to being a Sikh). Either looking at it from scientific point of view...and experiential perspective or just because the Guru asked us to keep our hair uncut.
Celebrations and Festivals
The festivals in Sikhism are mostly centred around the lives of the Gurus and Sikh martyrs, the most sacred events being Vaisakhi and the births of Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Gobind Singh. The SGPC, the Sikh organisation in charge of upkeep of the historical gurdwaras of Punjab, organises celebrations based on the new Nanakshahi calendar. This calendar is highly controversial among Sikhs and is not universally accepted. Sikh festivals include the following:
- Gurpurbs are celebrations or commemorations based on the lives of the Sikh gurus. They tend to be either birthdays or celebrations of Sikh martyrdom. All ten Gurus have Gurpurbs on the Nanakshahi calendar, but it is Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh who have a gurpurb that is widely celebrated in Gurdwaras and Sikh homes. The martyrdoms are also known as a shaheedi Gurpurbs, which mark the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur. Since 2011 the Gurpurb of Guru Har Rai (March 14) has been celebrated as Sikh Vatavaran Diswas (Sikh Environment Day). Guru Har Rai was the seventh guru, known as a gentle man who cared for animals and the environment. The day is marked by worldwide events, including tree plantings, rubbish clearances and celebrations of the natural world.
- Nagar Kirtan involves the processional singing of holy hymns throughout a community. While practiced at any time, it is customary in the month of Visakhi (or Vaisakhi). Traditionally, the procession is led by the saffron-robed Panj Piare (the five beloved of the Guru), who are followed by the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy Sikh scripture, which is placed on a float.
Nagar Kirtan crowd listening to Kirtan at Yuba City.
- Vaisakhi which includes Parades and Nagar Kirtan occurs on 13 April. Sikhs celebrate it because on this day which fell on 30 March 1699, the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, inaugurated the Khalsa, the 11th body of Guru Granth Sahib and leader of Sikhs till eternity.
- Bandi Chhor celebrates Guru Hargobind's release from the Gwalior Fort, with several innocent Hindu kings who were also imprisoned by Jahangir, on 26 October 1619. This day usually commemorated on the same day of Hindu festival of Diwali.
- Hola Mohalla occurs the day after Holi and is when the Khalsa gather at Anandpur and display their individual and team warrior skills, including fighting and riding.
Guru Naam Japo - Jukebox | Sikh Devotional Song | Punjabi Shabad Kirtan | Waheguru Simran, 1:25:45
Muslim Woman Beaten in Public Experiment
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