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Atheism Is Atheism The Ultimate Sikhi?

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Harry Haller, May 2, 2011.

  1. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Hello everyone,

    I would like to put forward the proposition that only in atheism lies the ultimate ability to do gods work in this world. This is not as stupid as it sounds, as I will explain.

    I come from a background of Khatri Sikhs (where appearance really is everything!), my parents are extremely devoted to the teachings of the gurus, and take religion very seriously. Having said that they are enlightened enough to accept me and my idiot brother, and have never tried to bring us back to the fold once we had taken the decision to cut our hair. In fact, I do recall my father having a discussion, in india, regarding young men who marry, look like gursikhs, but are indulging in extra marital afairs The general consensus was that as long as no one knew, it was ok. My father remarked that better he brought up an atheist son with a white wife rather than live a lie. (good old dad)

    If you take that line of thought all the way, what does that leave me with regarding my upbringing as a sikh and as an atheist? Well as an atheist, I dislike ceremony and rituals, but my sikh upbringing, and the many stories of how sikhs would help anyone in distress inspired me to try and be a rock for those around me. In time, I met a welsh lady, whose devotion to people and animals put me to shame, a nurse, she rarely gets home on time, she is also completely incapable of walking past any animal or human in any sort of distress. For me, I get little pleasure in the act of kindness, I see it as more of a responsibility as a member of the human race, however she genuinely gets pleasure out of kind acts.

    Now if we were both sikhs, we would have the blessing of god in our efforts, but we are not, and for now I speak for her, as I tend to curse inwardly when I come across a situation, as I feel I have to assist, and even then, I will offer my assistance in the hope it will not be needed. She however will go out of her way to help anyone, not in the name of god, but in the name of compassion. As a society we get more and more blinded to human misery around us, you only have to go to any third world country to see the indifference that most people have towards the poor, the hungry, the ill.

    I would take it one step further, if like us, you have no wish to be saved, nor any wish to spend eternity in heaven with god, then all self improvement in that area is a huge waste of time, why waste time praying when you could be making a difference. (sorry i do not mean to offend anyone with that last comment, I know from my mother how important praying is to her, she would wither and die if she should not recite her beloved gurbani)

    So what will happen to my wife, who has no interest in either god, or the saving of her soul, (but who will quite happily make me drive 10 miles because some pensioner cannot get a taxi home at the december sales). We have discussed what will happen when I have died, and she has made it clear her intention to spend the rest of her life in a pinglaghar in india, and maybe start a small animal sanctuary, but when she dies, she expects nothing more than to be dust.Although she shows none of the physical or spiritual aspects of being a sikh, to me, she is one of the most able sikh women I have ever met.

    So at what point does living a good sikh life become selfish, at what point are you thinking of your salvation, rather than the effect of your actions, surely the best sikh is an atheist sikh, whose only interest is how to lessen the sea of suffering on this earth, rather than have his own salvation at the forefront of his mind.

    Thank you to anyone who has read this, and please do not think that I do not understand the bliss that a spiritual connection with the almighty brings, that is not in question, although thinking of the gurus and balance, we are both clearly missing a sword somewhere
     
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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Interesting story

    Gyani Sant singh ji maskeen once mentioned about this type of case.Once some sikh sants came to Gyani ji with a teenage boy and told him to teach him some gurbani or Katha.The boy was earlier used to do sewa to them.Gyani ji agreed .After 10-15 days the told Gyani ji that he want to return home ,Gyani ji asked why he sai " You do all work yourself there is hardly any physical work for me here" Gyani ji then telephoned the people and told them to take that boy away as that boy has sewa mentality.He will attain salvation from this,no need to teach him gurbani or katha.

    Your wife has extreme sewa mentality Which is good ,but why are you saying that Atheist Sikhs are best? Just tell me if you end up marrying meanest atheist lady would your opinion be like Atheists are worst.

    Let me give you other example.If a sikh who drink and sleep with many women but have soldier mentality and takes on bad people many times to save innocents would you say that this type of sikh is best compared to so many other Gursikhs who may be living sikhi lifestyle but may end up running even from a dog

    My point is don't make your assumption just on the basis of your wife
     
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  4. spnadmin

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    Is there some way that the difference between ethics and religion can be made convincingly so that these persistent threads that say Sikhism = atheism will lose their attraction? They bespeak a serious misunderstanding of the nature of the divine in Sikhism. They also confuse tenets of atheism with tenets of religions that do not adhere to a personal god.


    On a personal note it always seems to me that atheists who really like Sikhism do not want to give up atheism. Thus, they find ways to transform Sikhi into something that works for them, rather than transforming themselves into something that is Sikhi. Likewise, there are Sikhs who want to loosen ties with traditional practices and beliefs (that are more cultural than anything else) and atheism is intellectually attractive. But they want to continue as Sikhs. So again the trick is to make Sikhism into a different suit of clothes, atheism, rather than consider their comprehension of Sikhism may be too narrow.

    Thread moved to interfaith dialogs/atheism.
     
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  5. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    just to clarify, no I am not saying atheist sikhs are best, nor am I saying atheism = sikhism, what I am saying is that the only tenant of sikhism that seemed to interest me was sewa rather than a personal relationship with god

    there is no such thing as an atheist sikh, you either believe or you do not.

    I am also not lauding my wife, the question I am merely posing is this

    take two sikhs, one worships god at every moment but does little sewa, the other does nothing but sewa and hardly thinks about god, which sikh has embraced the bigger ideal, thank you
     
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  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Thanks for clarifying for me harry haller ji winkingmunda
     
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  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Sewa can be of 2 type ,monetory and physical.If a Sikh who worship god having decent life ( money health etc ) then there is very good chance that he/she is going to be associated in any one type of sewa.If he doesn't then He hardly could be termed as spiritual .
    In sikhism we have sewapanthi sect.

    In a latter battle in Anandpur Bhai Khanaiya served water indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. For this act, some angry Sikh warriors, the Nihangs accusing him of treason brought him before Guru Gobind Singh Ji. When Guru Ji asked him why he was helping the wounded enemy. Bhai Ji replied that he caould not distinguish between friend or foe he only see guru the one true Guru Va-eh Guru in all”. The Guru was very pleased, and not only did he order Khanaiya to continue, but also gave him a medicine chest as a gift. He then blessed him saying after him shall be a Sikh order who will serve all mankind indiscriminately. Noor Shah was amongst those Afghan soldiers to whom Bhai Khanaiya had served water and attended. He went onto become a great disciple of Bhai Khanaiya setting up a Dharmsala of his own.
    http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Sewapanthi
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Now after reading this sakhi tell me Who was right Nihangs or Bhai kanahiya ? If you ask a person with warrior mentality he/she may say that Nihangs were right while which has sewa mentality will say Bhai ghanaiya was right so both were right in their own perspective.

    Similarly a sikh who is spiritual and worship god and and a sikh who hardly worship god but do sewa are ideal ideal for people in the way they think.
     
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  8. Seeker9

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    Sikhism doesn't have a monopoly on sewa and being kind to humans and animals

    As noted in the example of the welsh nurse, anyone can do this

    And there are different kinds of sewa

    Meditating on God's word is also sewa

    It's just down to the individual which sewa they appreciate performing the most

    But whatever one does, it should be selfless

    So I don't think there are any contradictions or overlaps. I still see Sikhism and Atheism as being very different

    But i enjoyed the post, thanks very much
     
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  9. BhagatSingh

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    It seems Bhai Ghanaiya was truly a spiritual man. Imagine if you were there as a soldier on either side (because it doesn't really matter).

    (pause)

    Really imagine it. You can see men pounce on each other, wildly, angrily.

    (pause)

    "Aim is taken and wound is inflicted" blood everywhere, arrows being exchanged, someone's guts coming out, someone'e head getting smashed...

    pause

    horrific and very arousing sight indeed.

    (pause)


    You take a deep breath and feel it enter your alive body, you can feel those sensations descend down your lungs.

    (pause)

    You turn your attention away from emotionally arousing stimuli, your past experiences, preconceived notions about things, future expectations, etc etc etc. and had just concentrate single mindedly on the present moment in which all you have is a bunch of conscious entities, some on the ground, others fighting. Things are just happening... in your mind, imagine that you had no thoughts, no judgements about that moment... accept the situation as it is, accept the HUKAM in the present moment (God's will because anything that is occurring in the present moment is God's will).

    (pause)

    You would immediately realize that even though hell has broken loose on the battlefield, you are calm. In this awareness, in the moment, you see conscious entities, fellow humans on the ground suffering. You realize if you give them water, they will feel better. and you happen to have a jug of water on you...

    It seems as if whether you do seva or not, whether you worship anything or not. If you accept the moment, the situation, without judgement, as it is. You realize the emptiness that is there (even though there is a lot going on, there is an emptiness around that action).

    One who realizes this in every moment, whether he worships or prays or does seva or donate will be without ego, without selfishness, anger, greed, lust, attachment. One who is free from those anything he does will be God's work.

    ...Ok I am going to go paint Bhai Ghanaiya now.
     
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  10. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    If I would have been a muslim soldier and because of Bhai ghanaiya ji's water i was saved then I would have been thankful to him.but on the other hand in my mind i would have considered my enemies as foolish because they had given me second chance to Fight Which is one of the biggest stupidity of battle.Prithviraj Chauhan gave muhammed ghauri second or third chance by giving him mercy and that not only changed his Destiny but the destiny of entire Hindu Religion in India.
     
  11. Harry Haller

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    I would like to say what a brilliant forum this, and a wonderful way to ask questions that have been on my mind for years.

    My argument, initially, was that a person who did good deeds whilst being an atheist, could not possibly have any ego or self lauding issues to deal with regarding god. However after giving the matter some thought, and reading the very kind and informative replies here, I have come to the conclusion that to do sewa whilst believing in god, AND, doing it for the right reasons, is harder than doing sewa if your an atheist.

    My wife is actually agnostic, and we all hope to go to the S Harminder sahib later this year, I have not been properly for many many years, but as a child, I remember finding great peace just sitting by the water and listening to the gurbani, I have to confess to it being more peaceful than spiritual,but who knows how my wife will feel about it

    thank you all again for your contributions, this place makes me feel like I am in the company of brothers and sisters,I suppose that makes god a father and me possibly no more an atheist than a naughty impudent child, possibly winkingmunda
     
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  12. Ambarsaria

    Ambarsaria Canada
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    Harry Haller ji thanks for very well written posts and discourse. Just a couple of points that I want to add comments to,

    Enjoy your visit to Darbar Sahib Amritsar/Harmandir Sahib Amritsar. I enjoyed many a happy days way back as I am from Amritsar and had the opportunity with family to go there many a weekends just to relax with parathas, onions, pickles and get some Cholay from just outside at the entrance. Having eaten, just sitting around on cold Marble on a hot day and sitting on the second floor windows looking at the parkash and kirtan below was peaceful and wonderful.

    Sat Sri Akalwinkingmunda
     
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    #11 Ambarsaria, May 4, 2011
    Last edited: May 4, 2011
  13. Randip Singh

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    I have a few questions for you.

    Is ritualism an integral part of original Sikhism or is it something introduced later?

    Is the Sikh concept of “Onkar” the same as “God”? God here being the Abrahamic sense.

    Sewa or Service is an integral part of Sikhism. Do Sikhs do it to go to heaven, especially when Sikhism does not believe in heaven or hell?

    Is becoming a Gurmukh (living Onkars will) the same as Salvation? The opposite is Manmukh or self willed.

    Saving of Souls etc are Abrahamic concepts, are they relevant in Sikhism?

    Have you read the Guru Granth Sahib ?
     
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  14. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Randip Singh Ji

    Is ritualism an integral part of original Sikhism or is it something introduced later? -I would imagine it to be something introduced later


    Is the Sikh concept of “Onkar” the same as “God”? God here being the Abrahamic sense.-I confess to not knowing the answer to this, although I would appreciate your clarification on this


    Sewa or Service is an integral part of Sikhism. Do Sikhs do it to go to heaven, especially when Sikhism does not believe in heaven or hell?-It has been a long time since I have spent any time with real sikhs, I have to confess to basing this observation on christian attitudes, however my post was mean't to illustrate the temptation of pleasing god via sewa rather than concentrating on the sewa itself, if this is an unknown concept, i apologise

    Is becoming a Gurmukh (living Onkars will) the same as Salvation? The opposite is Manmukh or self willed.-I do not know of salvation as a concept, so i am unable to answer this


    Saving of Souls etc are Abrahamic concepts, are they relevant in Sikhism?-again, i have to confess i do not know


    Have you read the Guru Granth Sahib ?, no i have not other than the passages that my mother and father read out and translate when we visit them

    I would appreciate your input on my blanks :)
     
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  15. spnadmin

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    Randip Singh ji

    It would be wonderful if you were to post these exact same questions on this thread

    Sikhism is not the same as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity?

    The conversation could use a tweak in your direction imho. :happykudi:

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/spiri...ism-not-same-hinduism-islam-christianity.html
     
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  16. findingmyway

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    People are not easily put into boxes so how can we ever generalise and say religious people are better or atheists are better. These kind of debates merely fuel ego.

    Religion is a very personal thing. It is an internal compass, a guide which helps many people steer through life. In Sikhi it is not about salvation but about having the strength to deal with life.

    I would also like to make the observation that many charities have been set up through religious organisations or by religious people. How many of them have been motivated to do selfless seva due to their faith? Just because their inspiration is from their faith, does that make their seva any less valuable?

    Please read Randip ji's questions thoroughly as they are very pertinent in understanding Sikhi. There are many threads discussing them all. Unfortunately, many now confuse culture with religion event though they are often opposites.

    Please don't try and make broad boxes. It never works! :interestedkudi:
     
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  17. Randip Singh

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    Firstly I would recommend reading some books on Sikh philosophy and getting a good translated version of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji (eg Pritam Singh Chahil).

    In Sikhism, the relation to Onkar is a personal one, so rather than answer your question let me tell you something about myself. When we realise it in ourslef, we see it in others.

    For many years I had a problem with "God". I thought how can God be this bloke who sits there and allows good and bad things to happen (and sometimes actively do them). I became dissilusioned with Sikhism and other religions, till I realised, that every section of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib starts off with Ek Onkar Sat Naam. No I had assumed Onkar = God (bloke sat in heaven and creator), until I started looking into the meaning of the word Onkar, and to my amazement it actually means something more like a "Constant". The first lines of the Sikh book states "There is but one constant, and it is called truth". What a revalation.

    That constand being within me and around me. I observe it when I see a bird fly (bird flaps, changes air pressue, and flies. If it stops gravity brings it back). We live in a world/Universe of constants. So the Sikh concept wasn't some hairy bloke sat on a cloud, but something more elusive (within us, and around us). We cannot change these laws or this constant but what we do have is complete free will within those laws.

    So when an aeroplane crashes and people die, is it "Onkar" looking on? No.

    It is us as humans exercising free will, withing the "constant" that is Onkar, but in this instant our own free will has failed . Part of engine has failed or something. We chose in that instant to fly knowing the potential consequences. We know gravity will bring us down.

    So do we just accept something like that? Yes.

    Are we saddened by it? Yes

    Does Onkar feel saddened by it ? well yes, because we are manifestations of Onkar, so when we are sad, so is onkar.

    I have tried to explain my understanding as simply as possible, so best of luck in any future reading you may do. :)
     
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  18. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Many thanks for your post Randipji, I have been thinking about this subject a fair bit since my first posting, and your reply makes much sense.

    For a while now I have been pondering wether there are in fact universally correct and incorrect ways to handle daily life and situations, your post implies that this is in fact correct and that Onkar will show you a correct path for every situation to be measured against your own personal will, between the two, you end up making a decision.

    But this Onkar already speaks to me, it lives inside me, and is rarely wrong. I always heed its advice regards my actions to other people, but rarely towards myself.

    And now a relevation of my own, If I am brutally honest, I suppose I am not an atheist, my path with god parted in 1995 ,largely because of my defination of god, till then I had done quite well, taken huge gamnbles with life and prospered. But then I had a fall, a bad one, it made me question everything about myself, and I found myself unable to believe in god as a father figure with a enigmatic smile looking down on us. I then labelled myself an atheist, I felt it was important to do some good with the rest of my life, not to please the 'god' but because it was the right thing to do, in any case, the fall had managed to wipe out my ego and pride, so most of the things that interested me before, money, power, show, all seemed pointless, so for the last 15 years I have tried my best to follow that inner voice and try and make a difference, but not for him, I suppose I did it in the name of universal truth, and it now it seems quite ironic that you are now telling me that all along I was still a sikh.

    Of course as a youngster, my image of sikhism was quite tainted, although my parents lived quite modest lives (3 bed semi, ford sierra), I was quite convinced that a good sikh gentleman was nothing without a nice mercedes, and a big bushy beard and a smart turban, it was more of a social club than a religion I suppose.

    Bearded old men with flowing hair bore me, but if your telling me that sikhism is to follow and accept that the only constant is truth, I think may have to change my adherent to 'sikh'
     
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  19. Randip Singh

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    I made a post years ago comparing the JEDI'S and SIKH's where I read somewhere Lucas had used various Eastern philosphy's to formulate his Jdi ideas.

    The ideal Jedi and ideal Sikh (Saint-Soldier) are not controlled by Kaam, Krodh, Moh, Lobh and Hankaar, as that makes people selfwilled and go against the natural state of Onkaar. The people who are controlled by the 5 thieves (as they are known in Sikhi) are Munmooks (the Sith or Darkside in Jedi Lore). The ones who are able to conquer the 5 thieves are Gurmookh or the Light side in Jedi lore. Once you become Gurmook, you are in tune with Onkaar (or for Jedi's the Force :p). Sith Lord try and manipulate the Force. :p

    I love this analogy!! icecreammundaanimatedkhanda1
     
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  20. Harry Haller

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    Randip Ji

    I confess to being dissapointed, I was much impressed by your posting about Ek Onkar, and the lack of heaven and hell in sikhism, however although this is your view, others seem not to share it. I have spent some time reading the post regarding heaven and hell, and although I have the hugest respect for all who contributed, I could not help but shake off the feeling that , in sikhism, everything is geared towards conquering the five thieves, which will then enable eternity merged with the almighty, well that sounds a bit like heaven to me.
     
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  21. BhagatSingh

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    Sounds like you don't get it. When Sikhs say "you are in tune with Onkaar" they mean you will be happy, at peace, you will maximize your well-being. Sikhism is about well-being in this this lifetime, while you are still alive. After eliminating the five thieves not only does one's mind become peaceful but can bring other minds to peace as well, it's contagious.

    Anything wrong with trying to increase well-being?
     
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