Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Observations about Sikhism

  • The code of conduct for Sikhs, the Sikh Rehat Maryada, has an obscure history and is not the work of any Sikh Guru or any saint whose works are included in the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib.  Since the code of conduct is what contains do's and don'ts for Sikhs and describes the various taboos, rituals and ceremonies, it is arguably the most important document that a Sikh should read.  However, it is the work of various committees and relatively unknown individuals.

  • The code of conduct contains many interesting tidbits: Sikhs are not supposed to drink alcohol, trim or dye hair on any part of their bodies, may not date before marriage, marry anyone other than a Sikh, a Sikh may not divorce, and so on.  It is open to research what percentage of Sikhs follow all these precepts.

  • The Sikh way of life is usually summarized as: Naam japo (Recite the name of God), Kirt karo (Earn your livelihood), and Wand Chhako (Be charitable).  The most important spiritual practice for the Sikhs is to recite the name of God.  To remain distinct from Hinduism and Islam, Sikhs do not like to recite Ram, Krishna, Siva or Allah, but instead generally recite "Waheguru".  The word "Waheguru", however, does not figure in the compositions of the ten Sikh Gurus.  In the Guru Granth Sahib, the term does occur, both as Vahiguru and Vahguru, in the hymns of Bhatt Gayand, the bard contemporary with Guru Arjan (1553-1606), and also in the Varan of Bhai Gurdas.

  • The Sikh way of life supposedly prohibits rituals and pilgrimages.  However, in practice, the Sikh code of conduct prohibits rituals and pilgrimages that are practiced in other religions while having plenty of their own.  There is a plethora of Sikh rituals, symbols and pilgrimages which are not frowned upon by the Sikh clergy or the Sikhs themselves.  The most famous Sikh temple, the Golden Temple at Amritsar, attracts millions of Sikhs, not just because it is picturesque, but also because it is regarded as especially holy.  Sikhs are supposed to regard ritual bathing in a river as meaningless, but they regard the ritual dip in a Gurudwara Sarovar to be a holy act.

  • The Sikh Gurudwara at Sri Hemkunt Sahib in Uttarakhand has no historical significance at all.  No Sikh guru or saint has ever been recorded to have visited there.  Yet it attracts thousands of visitors each summer who travel hundreds of kilometers and trek many more to be able to pray there.  Dasam Granth, a mythological text written by the tenth Sikh Guru, mentions that one Pandu Raja practiced Yoga at Hem Kund.  It is not even clear that the Dasam Granth was referring to the the geographical region where the current Sri Hemkunt Sahib is.

  • The Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth, is accorded the status of a living person.  However, no Sikh guru has ever written any statement to regard the book as a living person.  The famous sentence, "Sab Sikhan ko hukum hae Guru maneyo Granth" (All Sikhs are commanded to regard the Holy Book as the Guru) is  found in a document by one Narbud Singh and, later, in various Rehatnamas.  (reference Wikipedia).  This belief is frequently the cause of major violence in Punjab between Sikhs, who do not want to follow any living person, and other religious groups who like to follow a living person but also like to read the Sikh holy book.

  • The Sikh holy book, available in full electronically via the World Wide Web, nevertheless has to be licensed to be bought for its paper version.  As far as I know, two organizations, SGPC and DGMC are in charge of issuing these licenses and of publication of the Sikh holy book.  Due to reasons of sanctity, one cannot buy an English translation of the holy book in one volume but one has to purchase four or five volumes each containing a part of the text.

  • As per the famous Sikh historian W H McLeod, in one version of Adi Granth (called the Banno version of the Kartarpur Bir), there is a hymn that presumably refers to the "mundan" ceremony of Guru Hargobind.  Sikhs deny that this hymn was written by Guru Arjun Dev, but the hymn nevertheless is part of that version of the Adi Granth.  Throughout his life, W H McLeod, had to face the opposition of Sikh fundamentalists for his research.  Mr McLeod died in 2009 but, despite having numerous books to his credit and an obituary in The Guardian, as yet does not have a Wikipedia page.

3 comments:

Harmanjit Singh said...

Created a wikipedia page for W H McLeod:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_H_Mcleod

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy your posts but your observations about Sikhism reveal your total ignorance about Sikhi. In a way, it is not unexpected. Most of the apostates suffer from self hate syndrome and you are obviously one of them.

You say that it is open to research what percentage of Sikhs follow Sikhi’s precepts. I ask you whether you have done any research that proves the contrary. Secondly, even if it does, is it really a fault of Sikhi or its followers?

Secondly you say that the Sikh way of life is usually summarized as: Naam japo (Recite the name of God), Kirt karo (Earn your livelihood), and Wand Chhako (Be charitable). May I ask what is wrong with any of them?

It is true that Sikhi prohibits rituals and pilgrimages. Again, what is wrong with that? Rituals that have crept into Sikhi are due to the corruption of original doctrines by way of influence from Hinduism. Most of the questionable practices of Sikhi have developed because of proximity of Hinduism. There is an urgent need to take Hinduism out of Sikhi. However, there are misguided fellows like you who keep declaring Sikhi to be a part of Hinduism (even though this fraud has been totally debunked by several Sikh scholars)

- Manjitaygthem

Harmanjit Singh said...

@anonymous:

"You say that it is open to research what percentage of Sikhs follow Sikhi’s precepts. I ask you whether you have done any research that proves the contrary. Secondly, even if it does, is it really a fault of Sikhi or its followers?"

I was pointing out that the rehat maryada is not really part of gurbani but is a separate work. It contains lots of dos and don'ts which most Sikhs don't even know about. For example, I have been to hundreds of Sikh weddings and not one of them follows the rules set out in Rehat Marydada. Damdami taksal has its own version of Rehat Maryada. As to whether it is the fault of Sikhi or the Sikhs, I would rather not say.

"Secondly you say that the Sikh way of life is usually summarized as: Naam japo (Recite the name of God), Kirt karo (Earn your livelihood), and Wand Chhako (Be charitable). May I ask what is wrong with any of them?"

There is nothing wrong with any of them. Incantation as spiritual practice is prevalent in many religions and it can be a way to calm the mind. I am not too sure it leads to any kind of enlightenment though. At many places in Gurbani it is said that enlghtenment is only by the grace of the Guru. Moreover, I was pointing out that "Naam Japo" has generally been considered to mean the recitation of "Waheguru" or "Satnam Waheguru" while the Holy Book contains very little reference to this incantation.

"However, there are misguided fellows like you who keep declaring Sikhi to be a part of Hinduism (even though this fraud has been totally debunked by several Sikh scholars)"

You are entitled to your opinion. I have read "Hum Hindu Nahin" and it didn't make a good impression. I am not saying Sikhism is part of Hinduism, but it has a lot of things common with the devotional aspects of Hinduism (Bhakti movement). It has much less in common with Islam: the Gurudwara architecture (minarets, domes) is one which is most evident.