Monday, September 26, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Universal Faith

Dr Gurbakhsh Singh PhD

The Guru Granth Sahib

The first compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib included the Gurbani of the first five Gurus, humans composed by fifteen Bhagats and contributions by other holy writers. It was compiled by Guru Arjun Dev in 1604 and was transcribed by Bhai Gur Das. The Guru Granth Sahib was enthroned in the Harimandar Sahib (the Golden Temple) in Amritsar. Pictures or paintings of the Gurus or any gods are conspicuous by their absence from the holy place. The final form of the Guru Granth Sahib was edited by Guru Gobind Singh at Damdama Sahib in 1706 and transcribed by Bhai Mani Singh. The Gurbani composed by the ninth Nanak was also included in this final version. Copies of this sacred compilation were sent to all major Sikh centers in India.

The Guru Granth Sahib, in its first form was named Pothi Sahib, which means Sacred Scripture. When Guru Gobind Singh, before his death at Nanded, formally invested the Guruship in the Gurbani, the name Guru Granth Sahib became popular. Later, the word Adi was used as a prefix for this Granth Sahib. Adi means the first or previous and it refers to the fact that there is another Granth or Sacred Book, called the Dasam Granth Sahib. The latter contains the hymns of Guru Gobind Singh and other writings based on Puranic mythology, particularly relating to Hindu Avtars including Rama an Krishna. The title "Guru" is given only to the Guru Granth Sahib and not to the Dasam Granth. The Guru Granth Sahib contains some six thousands hymns. Major contributions are from the first and the fifth Nanaks.

Gurbani is grouped into thirty-one Ragas. Each Raga is classified into the Chowpadey, the Ashtpadi, and the Chhand. Within each of these sections, Gurbani is arranged in chronological order, so that the writings of the first Guru appear first, and so on.

In the Guru Granth Sahib, preceding the Gurbani classified according to the Ragas, the Guru has incorporated three compositions: Jap, Sodar, and Sohila. A Sikh should read Jap in the morning, Sodar in the evening, and Sohila before one goes to bed. The basic Sikh concepts of God are described in the "Mangla Charan", which is written in abbreviated form or in full form, at the beginning of each Raga, and is repeated within Raga where there is a change in the musical mode or where the writer changes. Var, wherever present, forms the last part of the Gurbani in a Raga.

After the Vars, appears the Bhagat Bani or the hymns of the Bhagats, the holy men. These Bhagats include Kabir, a "low caste" weaver, Farid, a Muslim fakir, Nam Dev, a "low-caste" calico printer, Ravi Das, a shoe-maker, an "untouchable", Dhanna, an ordinary cultivator. Jaidev, Trilochan, Rama Nand, Pipa, Sain, and Surdas are some other Bhagats whose hymns are included in the scripture. The hymns of these Bhagats were incorporated into the Granth Sahib because they all speak of one God and the brotherhood of man. It is noteworthy that among these Bhagats are Muslisms and Hindus of different classes including the so-called low castes, and even outcasts.

There are two other unique parts of the Gurbani. The Var in Ramkali Raga is an account of the services of the first five gurus. It was written by Satta and Balwand, the two musicians of the Guru period. The Bhatt Bani is written by a group of Bhatts, who were well educated and recognized as professional exponents of the Hindu scriptures. Bhatts visited Goindwal during the ministry of Guru Arjun Dev.

The found in the Guru and the Gurbani, the peace and solace they had sought all their lives. These impressions are mentioned by them in their hymns.

At the very end of the Guru Granth Sahib, there are two concluding Shabads by Guru Arjun Dev. The first explains that the compilation contains Amrit Nam, the praise of the Lord. In the second hymn, the Guru thanks the Almighty for having got the sacred job of compiling the Granth Sahib done by him. The Guru prays to God for Amrit Nam. The Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi script. The language, which is most often Sant Bhasha, is very close to Punjabi. It is well understood all over northern and north-west India and was popular among the wandering holy men. Persian and some local dialects have also been used. Many hymns contain words of different languages and dialects, depending upon the mother tongue of the writer or the language of the region where they were composed. Guru Nanak taught that no one particular language is more suitable than any other for praising God. A person can pray in any language and worship God by any name, as long as he is sincere.

Sikhs who read, sing, or listen regularly to Gurbani find such an occupation blissful. Gurbani explains God and His virtues as the Generator, Operator, and Destroyer of the universe. Gurbani contains no stories. It tells us how to realize God. Some popular characters and mythological stories of Puranas and other old literature and cited as examples to explain that God is great and merciful. 

Message of the Guru Granth Sahib  

Some of the important lessons one learns by reading Gurbani can be mentioned in brief as below.

God is the Lord of the whole universe. He alone is the Father-Mother for all of us. While the universe is moving and changing according to His will, He alone is unchanged, beyond time, He is neither born and nor is he to die, He is ever self-existing.

All people are His children. No one community or people of any particular religion have a franchise on Him or His blessings to claim that God is their's alone and other communities will be sent to hell.

All people will be judged by their deeds alone. Any one who loves God achieves the mission of his life.

We will be judged by our deeds and not by the name of the faith we adopt. There is only one religion and it is practiced not by performing rituals, but by having sincere love for the people irrespective of their caste, color, country, community, belief, etc. Anybody of any community, belief, etc. Anybody of any community/faith who loves God, can realize Him and achieve the purpose of his life. Of course, we can address Him by innumerable names, Allah, Ram, Gobind, God, Guru, etc., depending upon one's liking and the community in which one is raised.

No person is born sinner. Rather, this life has been gifted to us by God to enjoy singing His virtues. To love Him, one is to love His children, that is, all human beings. Every person is His manifestation and every person has His reflection within him/her.

God Himself has created everything, He himself nurses them and destroys them as He wills. It is wrong to believe that there exists (or existed) any being other than God who can help or harm people according to his wishes. Gurbani tells us not to bother about Satan. Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Inder; the poor fellows consider it to be lucky to have a chance to sing His praises standing at His door.

The man-assumed heaven and hell are not particular places beyond our earth. The place where we love God and sing His virtues is actually the heaven, the place where one receives the blessings of God. A person who ignores to love God lives actually in Hell on this very earth.

Gurbani says every day is a good day and very valuable in our life. A person is supposed to love God all the time. Every morning one should sit quietly to recite and concentrate on the virtues of God and do the same again when the day is over. Before going to bed, on e is expected to tune one's mind to the blessings of God for a peaceful 'sleep' for ever.

Generally, people believe a particular day to be sacred and more appropriate for prayers. They consider it a must to say their prayers on that day. Christians go to their church on Sunday while for Jews the sacred day is Saturday and for the Muslims it is Friday. Among the Hindus, in addition to certain days of the week being considered either auspicious or inauspicious, Sankrand (first day of the Indian solar month), Pooran Masi (full moon), and Amavas (no moon) days are also considered sacred.

Gurbani rejects all these beliefs. It says God made days, not good or bad days. Those who worship days or dates considering them to be auspicious or inauspicious are naive and ill informed. 

Universal Faith  

Guru Granth Sahib is the only scripture which gives equal respect to all the different names of God mentioned by different religions and sects. It is co-authored by persons of more than one faith proving the oneness of God. Many authors and philosophers have given their comments about the contents of the Guru Granth Sahib. All have noted the concept of Universality preached by the Gurus and others. The reader gets a logical and practical approach to the religion and "realization" of God

To give an idea of what modern writers think about Sikhism and Gurbani, opinions of a couple of famous authors are quoted below:

(a) Miss Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel laureate, while giving her comments on the English translation of the Granth Sahib wrote:

I have studied the scriptures of the great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes. they are compact in spite of their length and are a revelation of the concept of God to the recognition and indeed the insistence upon the practical needs of the human body. There is something strangely modern about these scriptures and this puzzles me until I learned that they are in fact comparatively modern, compiled as late as the 16th century. When explorers were beginning to discover the globe, upon which we all live, is a single entity divided only by arbitrary lives of our own making. Perhaps this sense of unity is the source of power I find in these volumes. They speak to a person of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mindold/p>

(From the foreword to the English translation of the Guru Granth Sahib by Gopal Singh Dardi

(b) Rev. H.L. Bradshaw, of the U.S.A., after thoroughly studying the philosophy of Sikhism observed:

Sikhism is a Universal world Faith, a message for all men. This is amply illustrated in the writings of the Gurus. Sikhs must cease to think of their faith as just another good religion and must begin to think in terms of Sikhism being the religion for this New AgeThe religion preached by Guru Nanak is the faith of the New Age. It completely supplants and fulfills all the former dispensations of older religions. Books must be written proving this. The other religions contain the truth, but Sikhism contains the fullness of truth

Bradshaw also says:

The Guru Granth Sahib of all the world religious scriptures, alone states that there are innumerable worlds and universes other than our own. The previous scriptures were all concerned only with this world and its spiritual counterpart. To imply that they spoke of other worlds as does the Guru Granth Sahib, is to stretch their obvious meanings out of context. The Sikh religion is truly the answer to the problems of the modern man.

(Articles in the Sikh review, Calcutta)

(c) Archer in his book on Sikh faith very rightly commented:

The religion of the Guru Granth Sahib is a universal and practical religion.Due to ancient prejudices of the Sikhs it could not spread in the world. The world needs today its message of peace and love.

(d) Another scholar Dorothy Field in her book, the Sikh Religion, writes:

Pure Sikhism is far above dependence on Hindu rituals and is capable of a distinct position as a world religion so long as Sikhs maintain their distinctiveness. The religion is also one which should appeal to the occidental mind. It is essentially a practical religion. If judged from the pragmatical stand point which is a favorite point of view in some quarters, IT WOULD RANK ALMOST FIRST IN THE WORLD. (Emphasis by the author). Of no other religion can it be said that it has made a nation in so short a time.

Field further observed:

The religion of the Sikhs is one of the most interesting at present existing in India, possibly indeed in the whole world. A reading of the Granth strongly suggests that Sikhism should be regarded as a new and separate world religion rather than a reformed sect of Hinduism.

(e) Arnold Toynbee, a historian who has done much work in comparing cultures, writes:

Mankind's religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Guru Granth, will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world.

(Foreword to the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs by UNESCO)

In other words, it is not only Sikhs who see that Sikhism unlike most other religions, is a philosophy which has validity for all cultures but non-Sikh writers also strongly endorse this view.

(f) In his book, The Sikh Religion, Macauliffe writes:

Unlike the scriptures of other creeds, they do not contain love stories or accounts of wars waged for selfish considerations. They contain sublime truths, the study of which cannot but elevate the reader spiritually, morally, and socially. There is not the least tinge of sectarianism in them. They teach the and purest principle that serve to bind man to man and inspire the believer with an ambition to serve his fellow men, to sacrifice all and die for their sake.

Macauliffe deems it necessary to draw the reader's attention to one significant feature of Sikhism which distinguishes it and separates it from other philosophical and religious systems of thought:

The Sikh religion differs as regards the authenticity of its dogmas from most other great theological systems. Many of the great teachers the world has known, have not left a line of their own composition, and we only know what they taught through tradition or second-hand information. If Pythagoras wrote any of tenets, his writings have not descended to us. We know the teachings of Socrates only through the writings of Plato and Xenophon. Buddha has left no written memorials of his teaching. Kung fu-tze, known to Europeans as Confucius, left no documents in which he detailed the principles of his moral and social systems. The Founder of Christianity did not reduce his doctrines to writing, and for them we are obliged to trust to the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark. Luke, and John.

The Aragian Prophet did not himself reduce to writing the chapters of the Quran. They were written or compiled by his adherents and followers. But the compositions of the Sikhs Gurus are preserved and we know first hand what they taught. They employed the vehicle of verse, which is generally unalterable by copyist, and we even become in time familiar with their different styles. No spurious compositions or extraneous dogmas, can therefore be represented as theirs.

The author of the 'Vie de Jesus' was a great admirer of Jesus Christ. Greatly impressed as he was of the spiritual message delivered by Christ and those of the Semitic thinkers that preceded him, he posed the question: "Whether great originality will again arise of the world be content to follow the paths opened by the daring creators of the ancient ages?"

Having Sikhism in his mind, Macauliffe in his book 'The Sikh Religion', answers the above question in the following words:

Now there is here presented a religion totally unaffected by Semitic or Christian influences. Based on the concept of the unity of God, it rejected Hindu formalities and adopted independent ethical system, ritual, and standards which were totally opposed to the theological beliefs of Guru Nanak's age and country. As we shall see hereafter, it would be difficult to point to a religion of greater originality or to a more comprehensive ethical system.

Macauliffe tells us further:

Guru Nanak was not a priest either by birth or education, but a man who soared to the loftiest heights of divine emotionalism, and exalted his mental vision to an ethical ideal beyond the conception of Hinduism or Mohammandanism.

The most numerous and powerful of all is the great Sikh sect (religion) founded by Guru Nanak, which already forms a considerable section of the population of the Punjab, and which is scattered in greater of less numbers, not only throughout the whole of India but also in Kandhar, China and Southern Asia.

(g) It will also be interesting to know the comments of Cr.W.O. Cole, of U.K. who has written more than half a dozen books on Sikhism. In 1985, he visited India where communal disturbances had created a virtual turmoil and thousands of people were killed. In a key note lecture by him on the Mission and Message of Guru Nanak Dev, he gave a message to the Sangat there and through them to all of humanity:

Remember the tenets of Guru Nanak, his concepts of oneness of God and Universal Brotherhood of man. If any community holds the key to national interrogation of India, it is the Sikhs all the way. After the lecture, he was asked what drew him to the study of Sikhism, replied: Theologically, I can not answer the question what drew me to the study of Sikhism. Your may call it, the purpose of God. But to be more specific, the unique concept of universality and the system of Langar (free community meal) in Sikhism are the two features that attract me towards the study of Sikhism and found nowhere else in the world. Sikhism is the only religion which welcomes each and everyone to its langar without any discrimination of caste, creed, color, or sex.

(Spokesman, Toronto, Canada)

(h) The opinion of some Hindu mystics also needs to be quoted to know their experiences with the Sikh faith. Swami Nitya Nand (expired at the age of 135 years) writes in his book "Gur Gian":

I, in the company of my guru, Brahma Nand Ji, went to Mathra.While on pilgrimage tour, we reached Punjab and there we men Swami Satya Nand Udasi. He explained the philosophy and religious practices of Nanak in such a way that Swami Brahma Nand Ji enjoyed a mystic lore. During the visit to the Golden Temple, Amritsar, his soul was so much affected, that he became a devotee of the Guru. After spending some time in Punjab he went to Hardwar. Though he was hail and hearty, one day I saw tears in his eyes. I asked the reason for that. He replied, "I sifted sand the whole of my life. The Truth was in the House of Nanak. I will have to take one more birth in that house, only then I will attain Kalyan." After saying that the soul left his body.

Swami Nitya Nand also wrote his own experience:

I also constantly meditate on Waheguru revealed by Nanak. I practiced Yoga Asanas under the guidance of Yogis and did that for many years; the bliss and peace, which I enjoy now, was never obtained earlier.

(i) It would be of great benefit here to mention some glimpses from the proceedings of a seminar on the life of Guru Nank Dev. It was conducted at Simla, now in Himachal Pardesh, by the Punjab Historical Society Lahore, before World War I, when the communal virus had not yet poisoned the minds of Indians. The seminar was presided over by the lieutenant governor of Punjab.

After hearing the lecture by Joginder Singh, Pundit Ramsaran Das, a prominent Hindu intellectual observed that Guru Nanak was a great reformer of Hindu faith. Nawab Zulfkar Ali Khan of Malerdotla disagreed with Mr. Das and commented that Guru Nanak was a great Muslim fakir, his best friend was Bhai Mardana, a lowly Muslim, and his best devotee was Rai Bular, a Muslim, the village chief. The governor, in his presidential remarks disagreed with both and said that according to what had been told by the speaker, Guru Nanak was a great Christian. The Guru, however, stated, "I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim, I am a human being."

These are a few of the Great number of comments given by literary and religious persons. Sikhs should take advantage of these observations of the non-Sikh writers. The opinions of world scholars and holy people should help Sikhs to develop greater devotion to their faith. Further, they should make Sikhs realize the need and importance of educating the youth about it. 

Pseudo Gurus  

As already explained, Guru Gobind Singh ordained that after his death the Guruship was not to be invested in any individual but in the Guru Khalsa Panth and in the Guru Granth. These writings contain all the guidance Sikhs require in ordering their lives. Unfortunately, from time to time, certain people, often self-seekers with ulterior motives, set up some holy men as successors to the Gurus. This has mislead many naive people and has created schisms in the Sikh community.

(a) The Namdharis, also known as Kukas, claim themselves to be Sikhs but do not believe in the Guru Khalsa Panth. They have their own lineage of Gurus. Namdhari movement was started by Bhai Ram Singh after the Punjab was annexed in 1849 by the British. He organized protests against the butchering of cows. When their protests were ignored, they reacted by killing the butchers. British deputed troops to punish Namdharis. About four dozen of them were blasted by the army guns.

Bhai (later on Baba) ram Singh continued non-cooperation with the British and refused to purchase or use any British made articles. He was imprisoned and deported to Burma. All his life, he maintained himself as a Sikh and never accepted the Guruship. However, it is only after his death in 1885 that he was raised to the status of a Guru. His followers started telling people in Sikh congregations and also wrote books to convince people that Guru Gobind Singh did not die at Nanded in 1708. He actually went underground and passed on the Guruship to Baba Balak Singh, the eleventh Guru. Later Baba Ram Singh was proclaimed to be the twelfth Guru. Sikhs know it to be wrong. It is a historical fact that Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa in 1699 and passed on the Guruship to the Khalsa. He himself was the first person to take Amrit from the Panj Pyaras and to become a Singh.

In fact, Baba Ram Singh never referred to himself as a Guru, but simply as a Sikh. Only a small group of people called Kukas, believe in the personal Guruship. They are patronized by the Indian government to be used against the Sikhs to serve their political motives. Such groups are made to oppose the genuine Sikh demands.

(b) More recently, some other saintly persons have also been raised to the status of a Guru. One such man, who was called Swami meaning 'Master', has followers known as "Gakha Swami" a reference to the Swami's wife, Radha. A Sikh follower of the Radha Swami sect established a gurdwara on the banks of the river Beas, near Beas City. Eventually he transferred the property of the gurdwara complex to his personal ownership and called it Satsang Bhawan. Thus preventing the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Amritsar from taking over its administration. He removed the Guru Granth Sahib which had been kept there since the building of the gurdwara. This was done to lay his claim that his teachings are independent of the Sikh faith, even though quotations from the Guru Granth Sahib are frequently used by this group.

(c) The fake Nirankaris are another group that claims to be Sikhs, but they advocate ideas which are contrary to Sikhism. During the period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a saintly man named Baba Dayal Das used to repeat, "Dhan Nirankar" which means "Glory be to the formless." His followers were, therefore, known as Nirankaris. One of these, Boota Singh, came drunk to the gurdwara to join the Kirtan group. Because of his condition, he was asked to leave the gurdwara. He felt insulted. In protest, he founded a new sect of the Nirankaris which would permit their members the use of alcohol, and act prohibited for the Sikhs. They are called Nakali (fake) Nirankaris by the Sikhs.

He died a few years before the partition of the country into India and Pakistan. His successor, Avtar Singh, moved from Pakistan to Delhi. He gained the political and financial support of the government who wished to discredit Sikhism. Because of this patronage, he declared himself the living God-incarnate. They stopped showing respect to the holy scripture or the Sikh principles resulting in distrust and tension between the Sikhs and these fake Nirankaris.

Avtar Singh was succeeded by his son, Gurbahan Singh. Under Gurbachan, Nirankari relations with Sikhs deteriorated further. In 1978, thirteen Sikhs were killed and approximately 100 Sikhs were injured in a violent Nirankari attack supported by the police.

The fake Nirankaris and other pseudo-Sikh organizations were befriended by the Indian government as part of a deliberate policy to divide the Sikh community into fractions and to destroy the political strength of the Khalsa. 

Sikhism and Interfaith

In his introduction to the translation of "The Sacred Scriptures of the Sikhs" published by UNESCO, Toynbee made a very important prophetic observation. He stated:

Mankind's religious future may be obscure, yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Adi Granth, will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world.

People in search of peace and truth have started shopping around. George W. Cornell in his article, Gazing into Religions' Future, quoted Leazer, who wrote:

If one denomination does not offer a particular item, people will go to another faith to find it. The megatrend of pluralism will further swell the shifting of members among denominations. Already, Gallup poll statistics shoe a whopping increase in the phenomenon. For example, in 1955, only one in 24 Americans left the faith of childhood to join another denomination, but in 1985, that migration had grown to one in tree - a third of all members.

- Saturday, May 5, 1990, The Free Lance Star, Virginia.

While Searching for peace, Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel laureate, described her experience in the introduction to the translation of the Guru Granth Sahib:

I have studied the scriptures of the great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes. They speak to a person of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mind.

Interfaith discussions are already at the prime of their popularity. There are innumerable interfaith groups at all levels, local, national, and international. The World Conference of Religions for Peace, recognized by UNO, holds its world level conference after every four years. About a decade ago at New Jersey, they observed:

Too often names and practices of our religions have been associated with warfare and strife. Now we must reverse this by:

(i) Breaking down barriers of prejudice and hostility between religious communities and institutions.

(ii) Confronting the powers of the world with the teachings of our religions father than conforming to them when they act contrary to the well-being of humanity.

(iii) Building inter religious understanding in our local communities.

Is this not Sikhism defined in modern terminology? Does it not mean that the principles laid down for humanity by Guru Nanak five centuries ago, have been accepted by leaders of all the world religions? Surprisingly, in addition to the philosophy of Sangat and Pangat, the W.C.R.P. have also endorsed the unique Miri-Piri concept of the Sikh faith under item (ii) above.

Have not the words of the Rev. H.L. Bradshaw, published a long time back in the Sikh Review, Calcutta, come true? His observations are very clear and emphatic.

He stated:

Sikhism is a Universal World Faith. a message for all men. This is amply illustrated in the writings of the Gurus. Sikhs must cease to think of their faith as just another good religion and must begin to think of Sikhism being the religion for this New Age. 

Father of Humanity  

So far, the preachers emphasized on conversion to "save" people of other faiths. They believed that their's was the only true faith and others were pagan faiths. However, Gurbani proclaimed that God is the Father of all humanity and not just for any one particular community alone. God is nobody's private inheritance. No one can claim a monopoly on Him. He belongs to everyone.

The Almighty Lord can be worshiped through innumerable languages and by innumerable names - Creator, Allah, Ram, Gobind, Guru, and God. All names are equal; no one name is superior or inferior. We may praise Him by any name and still gain acceptance by Him. Those who love him achieve the goal of their human life.

Guru Nanak revealed that only good deeds could save a soul on Judgment day. No prophet, Avtar, or savior would be able to intercede. Without good deeds, all persons, whatever their faith, will have to repent.

The Guru cleared another big ignorance of the traditional thinkers. He stated that there was no place called heaven nor any call hell where, after death, people will go for eternity. Gurbani explains that living according to the Will of the Lord, keeping Him always in mind and singing His Virtues, is being in heaven. Hell is suffering from ego, lust, greed, anger, jealousy or slander, etc.

God is our Father; we all are His children, hence equal. No one of us by birth is superior or inferior to others.

This makes the Sikh faith unique and fundamentally different from other faiths, wherein it is believed that only followers of their own faith will be saved through their prophet, while rest will be sent to hell. These radical principles established by Guru Nanak founded for whole humanity a new faith which has been accepted to be the faith of the new age.

To preach and practice his mission, Guru Nanak founded the institutions of Sangat and Pangat. All people participate as equals, without any kind of discrimination on the basis on one's faith, caste, color, or country. They sit together, pray together, and eat together as children of the same Father. They conclude their prayer with a request "May God bless whole humanity." 

Unity or Religions?  

Scholastic jugglery to find quotations from Gurbani and set them against those of other faiths to prove the "Unity of Religions" is a misplaced enthusiasm. By relying on common points, such as remember God, love thy neighbor, help the needy, refrain from violence, do not tell a lie, do not cheat, one cannot prove the unity of religions. All such statements or principles are accepted even by the agnostics as essential for becoming good human beings. If one wants to prove the "unity of religions" by proving that the real method of worship is the same in all religions, no research work is needed for that. It can be right away stated that as all religions believe in God, therefore there is unity of religions. Such statements mislead the people because they conceal a lot.

Constitutions of the two countries may not be the same, just because both punish robbers and reward good workers. One may be a democracy and the other a dictatorship. Similarly, two religions cannot be equated just because both say, "Love thy neighbor. Do not steal." To understand a religion, we must know its definition for God and its mission of human life. Quoting humans from different religious scriptures to compare their principles is meaningless. While doing so, the writer ignores the basic philosophies of the two faiths compared. Such "research" achievements of interfaith scholars can be compared to those of a child, who after studying a book on animals, concludes:

Cow and cat are not different kinds of animals. They both begin with the letter C and each consists of three letters with a vowel in the middle. Research revealed that in the description regarding each animal, there were the same number of related vowels, i.e., 100A's and 66 O's. Finally, both are classified as mammals, having four legs and a tail. Therefore, basically the cow and the cat are the same.

The research conclusions drawn by some Inter-faith scholars are as "logical" and as misleading as the results of the above research.

Let us consider another example to understand how comparing quotations and words from two scriptures can mislead the reader. God is worshiped by the followers of all religions. many Christians believe that God accepts only Christians and throws all other people into hell even if they love Him sincerely. According to the Sikh faith, God loves everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Therefore the statement "God loves us" has a different meaning when stated by a Christian and when said by a Sikh. As long as basic differences exist among the faiths, comparative statements become meaningless.

Many Christians believe all people are born sinners. To be saved one must have faith in the only begotten Son of God, the Christ, who took upon him all the sins of the people. On the other hand, Gurbani says that all people are born blessed. God grants us this valuable life in order to know and love His virtues.

With these facts before us, believing in the "unity of religions" is showing ignorance of the Sikh faith and lowering its image.

We may go on saying all religions are the same and there is unity of religions, however science has shaken the foundations of the major old faiths. The Pope appeared personally o television on October 5, 1989 to regret the imprisonment given to Galileo about three centuries ago. He agreed that the scientist was right and the Pope, who ordered his punishment, was wrong. The 'crime' of Galileo was his discovery that the earth revolved around the sun which was against what was mentioned in the Bible.

During the 19th century, Darwin suffered all kinds of abuses from the Christians, just because he suggested the theory of the evolution of man. This challenged the concept of creation in the Bible. This theory, now having been accepted to be largely true, is causing serious concerns for people who believe the Bible to be the word of God.

In general, if confronted with two opposing beliefs one given by science and the other mentioned in religious scriptures, people tend to accept the finding of science.

Christianity may well be thriving in parts of Africa and Asia today, but in the West, Christian faith is eroding at an alarming rate. Secular humanism is fast becoming the prevailing "religion" of the Western world. For instance, it is no longer true to describe either Canada or England as Christian country, since the vast majority of their respective populations have no traditional ties with any religious body. (The Church of England alone has closed nine hundred churches since 1974.) Add to this the fact that only a small fraction of children and young people now receive any religious instruction whatever, and the prognosis for the year 2000 looks very bleak indeed.

Page 4 For Christ's Sake (1984) by Tom Harper of the Toronto Star.

Tom Harper holds science and technology mainly responsible for this erosion. Not just millions but trillions of dollars spent on preaching will have no effect on the people unless the message has a value for the scientific man of today. New churches are appearing which do not adhere to the 'old' concepts. The Unitarian and Universalist churches do not accept Christ as the Savior or as the only Son of God.

In India too, people worshiped (some do it even today) the sun, the moon, and other heavenly bodies as gods. Science has given them a new message.

On the other hand, when we go through Gurbani, we find that it limits itself to the purpose of human life, which is to love God. The best method of doing so, according to Gurbani is to love people, serve and "see" God living in them. Gurbani is a message, not just for Sikhs, but for all people and for all ages.

While laying down its own path for human beings, Gurbani unambiguously and emphatically disagrees with old beliefs of sectarian faiths.

(i) Because of their ignorance some people worship idols while others worship graves. They waste their life in hollow rituals and fail to realize the truth.

(ii) The Kazis (judges) are corrupt, the Brahmans such the blood of the innocent, and the Yogis mislead people. They themselves don't know the path for peace and are responsible for the problems of the people.

(iii) this human life has been gifted to us to love people and realize His presence everywhere.

(iv) I do not believe in Hinduism or Islam. I love the Almighty, the Lord of our bodies and souls, Who is addressed as Ram by Hindus and Allah by Muslims.

(v) There is no other worship than to love Him.

(vi) One Almighty has created this universe and it works under His Will. He prevails everywhere, we should sing His virtues to realize Him.

Unfortunately, a few Sikh interfaith activists are trying to prove a unity of religions and that the "real method of worship" is the same in all religions. The indirectly say the Gurus did not understand the "real worship" of other faiths when they criticized their beliefs and method of worship. These people, thus, give disinformation about the Sikh faith and lower its image while trying to build up their own thesis of the unity of religions. The Sikh faith when presented without distorting its spirit, meets the needs of all, people, whatever their faith. In this sense Sikhism as such is an Interfaith religion. 

All People are Equal  

The purpose of interfaith organizations is to develop good will for all persons and understand their beliefs. The Sikh faith is built on the foundation of loving all people irrespective of their faith, appearance, language, or culture. Sikhs therefore don't need another "Interfaith" for developing understanding among people of different religions.

These principles and the position of the Sikh faith must be explained to the members of all other faiths. The fact that Sikhs believe in ONE God and in the brotherhood of humanity must be pointed out emphatically. Just because there are limitless names for God (Allah, Ram, Gobind, Guru, God, etc.) does not mean there are many faiths religions.

Another equally incorrect statement is made by scholars who know the Sikh faith from a distance only. They say that Sikhism is a combination of good points from Hinduism and Islam. Such misleading statements conceal the fact that Sikhism is a sovereign faith revealed by Guru Nanak. It has nothing to do with the beliefs of old Yoga.

The truth revealed by Guru Nanak should not be distorted to fir ones' thoughts to make him a multi-faith activist. The Sikh faith, as mentioned earlier, respects people irrespective of their faith but disagrees with the philosophy and methods of worship of other faiths. In the interfaith meetings, one should not hesitate to speak this truth even though it may be contrary to the faith of the listeners. The W.C.R.P. and other philosophers as quoted above, have frankly agreed to the universalities of the basic Sikh principles. The Sikh participants in the interfaith functions may refer to their opinions as well.

In the end, it must be emphasized that the principles of the Sikh faith must not be muddled to gain mileage in the social and religious life of today. Let people follow the authentic Sikh faith rather than twisting it to fir it into the present day thoughts of the pseudo leaders of the faith.

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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