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Hinduism Nihang Sikhs in Sikhism

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Interested, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. Interested

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    Sath Sri Akal all, it has been a while but I am back with questions, if you will accept them. Yesterday, we had the book signing event (In the Master's Presence: The Sikhs of Hazoor Sahib by Nidar Singh Nihang and Parmjit Singh) in London. I eagerly went along, with the full knowledge that my understanding of the life of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was weak. I am aware of the stories, tragedies and inspirations of the Guru's life time. I am also aware that the role of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was very different from Guru Nanak and needed to be for that time! Please do not think me ignorant (although I am), romantic (although I am in love with my Guru's words) or deluded (although I want to live my life as Guru Nanak dev ji would direct). I have to say that it has deeply hurt me to read some of the history that these great authors have uncovered and interpreted. Within the book, they recount conversations of weapon worship, page 36, (something that Nidar Singh Nihang claimed to my friend is still done), of cannabis taking, page 10 (Sukha, I dont have a real issue with this as I am aware that this natural herb is used for many purposes and only has its "reputation" in the West for its abuse), over-romanticed death of Guru Gobind Singh ji, which I feel left our Guru as being worshipped as Waheguru and mystical.

    My concern with these few examples (and I have not even got past page 40) is that what happened to the word of Guru Nanak? We speak of "religion" but we are NOT a religion. Guru Nanak spoke of acceptance, of understanding, of learning and acknowledgement , of the faults of idol worship (through the beauty and benefits of uttering the ambrosial name) but most of all he spoke of 1 God to worship and recite - WAHEGURU.

    I am not born of Sikh origin and I do not know as much as I wish to but I do know that the worship of weapons or any material matter is not what Sikhism is about. I also know that I most likely have this wrong and therefore require your help in understanding what I have misunderstood from Guru Gobind Singh ji. I acknowledge that my questioning my Guru's words is inapprporiate as I could NEVER be as enlightened and pure as he but can I accept this as what is right?

    On a following note, this has all led me to question if we have reverted to what Guru Nanak set to correct? Let me explain myself further (if you are not already upset with me or bored by my ignorance). As stated above, I understand that times were different during the life of Guru Gobind Singh ji and that he required his Khalsa to protect what is sacred word. But in doing this, have we formed a 'religion' against others? My understanding from the respected author is that there is 4 main 'types' of Khalsa 'bodies'. The Nihang being 'traditionalist'. They are also believed to acknowledge Sri Dassam Sahib and another book compiled by Guru Gobind Singh ji (I have never heard of it and cannot recall what he called it) as being equal to and bowed before as part of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. But Guru Gobind Singh ji clearly opposed this, right? What I am getting at, not so clearly, is that has this gone so far and so over interpreted that Sikhism (as a whole - do not divide us as they are this and we are that) has now done a complete 360 turn and become what Guru Nanak warned against?

    I am so confused. When Sikhism came into my life, for the first time I had a word for what I believed in. After 28 years of a Presbyterian priest tutting at me, asking me not to question but to believe, that I allowed the 'devil' to enter my voicebox, I finally knew that someone far more educated, far more attached, far more worthy had walked the ground of India speaking of the purest, non-judgemental love that one God could give. Not a God of physical form (although he could be), not a God of emotion (although he is), not a God of religion (although he is all). A power that could not be described in a million life times. Yet, here I am wondering what my respected Guru was thinking when he claimed (direct reference: In the Master's Presence: The Sikhs of Hazoor Sahib. Vol 1: History, ISBN: 978-0-9560168-0-5, pge 36) "I am the Guru of the world, the entire world knows this. To worship these weapons is proper and acceptable. Consider them clearly as my Guru. O Chaudry, listen to this truth. With you, what have we seen? Fearing your enemies, you lost your home. you turned your back on your Guru and have not understood the divine mystery...With lights and incense, worship these weapons by bowing low..."

    Please help me to understand what this is all about. Requiring you respected thoughts and understandings,

    A still learning and nowhere near good Sikh!
     
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  3. spnadmin

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    Interested ji

    Your words are said in such a deeply felt way that I myself have the need to respond with a sense of urgency to you. Why? I am in the position of having converted to Sikhism and stand at the same threshold having to make sense of diverse ways in which Sikhism is practiced. Please first of all distinguish between the "practices" of Sikhism and Sikhism as a faith. That may help to resolve some of your ambivalence.

    Here is the most important thing in your post -- to my eyes only:

    I am so confused. When Sikhism came into my life, for the first time I had a word for what I believed in. After 28 years of a Presbyterian priest tutting at me, asking me not to question but to believe, that I allowed the 'devil' to enter my voicebox, I finally knew that someone far more educated, far more attached, far more worthy had walked the ground of India speaking of the purest, non-judgemental love that one God could give. Not a God of physical form (although he could be), not a God of emotion (although he is), not a God of religion (although he is all). A power that could not be described in a million life times.

    First of all stick with your first instincts because they are correct. Nothing changes in this because of cannabis or prayers to weapons. Try to stick with that part first.

    Then the next step is for you to undertake a systematic study of the history of the practice of Sikhism from the time of Guru Hargobind through Guru Gobind Singh, and thereafter until the British raj. In particular try to understand the beginning of the Nihang movement -- which really commences with the death of Guru Gobind Singh and the division of Sikh armies into a variety of groups with their own way of practicing Sikhism. I won't go into detail here. But the backdrop for this was a chaotic period of persecution of Sikhism, and a tragic loss of a center, until the consolidation of Sikh influence under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. When he took the reigns of power, many sects, Nihangs included, retained their practices but also withdrew into specialized spheres of influence, later to become sects within the broadly diversified religion, now Sikhism.

    This study will help you achieve perspective and understand that the basic principles never disappeared.

    As for the worship of weapons. Here I am responding to your concerns below:

    Yet, here I am wondering what my respected Guru was thinking when he claimed (direct reference: In the Master's Presence: The Sikhs of Hazoor Sahib. Vol 1: History, ISBN: 978-0-9560168-0-5, pge 36) "I am the Guru of the world, the entire world knows this. To worship these weapons is proper and acceptable. Consider them clearly as my Guru. O Chaudry, listen to this truth. With you, what have we seen? Fearing your enemies, you lost your home. you turned your back on your Guru and have not understood the divine mystery...With lights and incense, worship these weapons by bowing low..."


    It is not really about the worship of weapons. What seems like worship of weapons is rather an intensely spiritual dimension of Nihang practice. It is not worship in the sense you might be thinking. In the Dasam Granth, and in the chapter discussing weapons, there are many dhoras in the part of the Dasam Granth called Shastar Naam Mala where Guru Gobind Singh talks of the properties of each weapon in a very symbolic way. Right now I am doing a slow but I hope careful study of these dhoras. My conclusion to date is that Guru Gobind Singh teaches that each weapon is extending the protection and the power of Akaa to warriors on a <******> field of battle. He describes this with reference to related Bani in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The weapons are not so much magical objects, but they are objects that can concentrate awareness of the power of God within reach of His warriors. The weapon extends the reach of a warrior by focusing his/her spiritual connection to God . There is more to it than I am saying here. If you are interested we can talk.

    Do not give up or become disillusioned. You are actually at a point where you are ready for more focused study. This forum is a good place for it.
     
  4. spnadmin

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    The literal will always be misleading when reading any Bani of any Guru, if the literal meaning is taken exclusively. The power of Akaal invoked in Shastar Naam Mala was not by Guru Gobind Singh intended to so much be embodied in a sword or a bow and arrow. The Shastar Naam Mala was a process of meditation. The power of Akaal through this meditation would be consolidated in the hearts and minds of the warriors who were fighting for a just cause. And the Shastar Naam Mala guided the warriors in their meditations on the power of Akaal within them.

    Sorry for adding.
     
  5. Interested

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    aad0002 ji, I understand that the times were very different, corrupt and in shambles and after speaking to the author of this book (a Nihang Sikh), he made it very clear that this was worship - seen as instruments to be worshiped. As I read on, he continued to talk about (Quoting from the same book: page 41) "The worship of weapons conducted by Guru Gobind Singh included the reading of the ballads of Chandi and the decapitation a goat as a sacrifice the the divine mother. The first weapon anointed with the goats blood was Chandi's standard." This came into his presence as agift from Chandi (who is 'the guardian of dharam in the Hindu world.' (page 40). Was it not Islam and Hinduism that Guru Nanak with full respect questioned the practises of?

    Moreso, it talks of Guru Gobind Singh ji seeking revenge for the death of his sons. This in itself is another important aspect of Sikhism lost in its theories. As I understand it, Guru Gobind Singh ji was spiritually above any of this. Revenge was not his motive and that is one of the many reasons that we can only aspire to such greatness. Greed, hatred and revenge are what Sikhism fights (metaphorically) against. Am I wrong?

    I thank you very much and I will take your advice and follow this line to learn more. But I think that it should be noted that the practises of Nihang-Singhs (if this is what it is) is NOT the sikh way and this book should be read with caution. Am I wrong for saying that? I wish not to offend but question, is this right? Will this book enlighten or hinder? What is the purpose of this book? All questions, I am sure could have been answered had I read the book before going to the signing.
     
  6. spnadmin

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    Interested ji -- By asking questions you are doing what Sikhism permits as a religion more than any other religion. Guru Nanak was from childhood the one who set the pace by asking the hard questions that authority figures could not answer logically. And he continued. Moreover it was Guru Gobind Singh himself who thought long and hard about justice and war in the most dialectic way.

    One reminder -- and this is not to discourage you -- but among us the Sikhs there are strong passions and sometimes questions trigger intense reactions. Do not ever let this set you off your intended path.

    I understand that the times were very different, corrupt and in shambles and after speaking to the author of this book (a Nihang Sikh), he made it very clear that this was worship - seen as instruments to be worshiped. As I read on, he continued to talk about (Quoting from the same book: page 41) "The worship of weapons conducted by Guru Gobind Singh included the reading of the ballads of Chandi ...

    The author's understanding of "worship" may not carry the same intention as the idea of "worship" in the western sense, or even in the sense of worshiping an idol of Ganesha. By worship he may mean "dhyann" which is focused devotion on the underlying meaning. The worship comes through meditation and as I explained Shastar Naam Mala was provided to guide the meditation. The best thing you could do to advance your studies would be to start a dialog with the authors yourself and become a scholar in your own right. Do not shy away from this. It helps dispell crazy notions that are out there in the drinking water.

    As I read on, he continued to talk about (Quoting from the same book: page 41) "The worship of weapons conducted by Guru Gobind Singh included the reading of the ballads of Chandiand the decapitation a goat as a sacrifice the the divine mother. The first weapon anointed with the goats blood was Chandi's standard." This came into his presence as agift from Chandi (who is 'the guardian of dharam in the Hindu world.' (page 40). Was it not Islam and Hinduism that Guru Nanak with full respect questioned the practises of?

    A more complete discussion of the ballads of Chandi is needed in order for this to become more understandable within in the path described by Guru Nanak. We should continue this discussion about Chandi -- because it is very interesting, but it deserves more than a superficial summary. Let that unfold.

    As for the decapitation of a goat. The Nihangs to this day make "goat" their signature meat and decapitate the goat using the practice of jatkha which is in one fell swoop so that the animal is killed instantly. If this had Mulsim connections, they would have the animal die by bleeding to death slowly, and the slaughter would be accompanied by a chant to God (Allah Akbar!). This does not happen in the Nihang practice.

    Moreso, it talks of Guru Gobind Singh ji seeking revenge for the death of his sons. This in itself is another important aspect of Sikhism lost in its theories. As I understand it, Guru Gobind Singh ji was spiritually above any of this. Revenge was not his motive and that is one of the many reasons that we can only aspire to such greatness. Greed, hatred and revenge are what Sikhism fights (metaphorically) against. Am I wrong?

    If Niddar and Pritam said "seeking revenge" that may be their view of the situation. There are other sakhis of Gobind Singh in which he is reported to say that all of his Sikhs were his children. He was at a cross-road and he had to choose. He faced a dilemma. He had to choose either pacifism which would surely doom all of Sikhi and guarantee that Sikhism would perish completely. Or he had to choose to make war -- despite the cost and despite the violence - to guarantee the future of Sikhism. This is always the dilemma of war and it shows that the Hindu traditions were not what guided him. And this even when the conflicts began as a defense of Hindus and their way of life and beliefs.

    I thank you very much and I will take your advice and follow this line to learn more. But I think that it should be noted that the practises of Nihang-Singhs (if this is what it is) is NOT the sikh way and this book should be read with caution. Am I wrong for saying that? I wish not to offend but question, is this right? Will this book enlighten or hinder? What is the purpose of this book? All questions, I am sure could have been answered had I read the book before going to the signing.


    The book is controversial. Ironically not for the questions you raise. At the same time it is a starting point for you. It is making you think dispassionately and logically. Your questions strike to the core. One book is not going to explain everything. So continue your study. And you have company because there are Sikhs who question Nihang practices and beliefs openly. If you want to talk more about Chandi, let some of us know.

    Continue as a Sikh, a learner. Guru Fateh!
     
  7. Randip Singh

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    I have a few questions before I say anything so I know how to pitch some the answers.

    1) What do you think are the main differences between the Sikhism of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh ji?

    2) Weapon worship - are you aware of martial arts and weaponry reverence in martial in general?

    3) Are you aware of the metaphors of the "all steel" and that used by Guru Gobind Singh ji?

    4) About Cannabis - you are aware of the medicinal value and what it was used for in ancient warfare?

    5) I take it you read quite a few History books?
     
  8. Interested

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    Randip Singh ji, please understand that I am not meaning to offend here. I came with the genuine intention to seek advice on where to go and what to make of this. I do not have anyone to speak to about my faith and so I rely on you and others here to allow me to ask questions and guide me as to where to further research this. Yes, I read the book at a literal level and it shocked me. What I had learned thus far was shaken and I turned to this forum and Sikhnet to find answers, rather then judge. I apologise if that was not clear in my first post.

    Never once did I question my Guru's words but rather questioned what it was that the Nihang-Singhs (and not diresepctfully at all) were about. I recognise and respect that it was the Guru's Khalsa that they were there during times of hardship but I do not understand what it is like to be within that environment. So naturally, I can not identify with it - again, something that I needed guidance or suggestion on doing so.

    Please do not be offended - I mean not to. Now, to answer your questions:

    1) I believe that there is NO difference - I believe that the same light shines through all my 10 living Guru's, which now resides in Sri Guru Granth Sahib forever.

    2) I know nothing of martial arts at all.

    3) I have never read Sri Dasam Granth before. I have found writings of it on the internet but that is all.

    4) Please refer to what I did write in my post.

    5) Honestly, no! I have only ever completed one set of history books in my life - The Sikh Religion by Macauliffe. I have tried on a number of occassions though.

    I hope that this helps you understand my ignorance a little better in helping my understand my Guru's words.
     
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  9. Randip Singh

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    Hi Interested, I am assuming good faith, so no need to explain.

    From your questions I have a good idea how to pitch some answers.

    The problem we have in Sikhism is that it has gone through some "fads" of late.

    Although I acknowledge that the Singh Sabha movement had pluses for the Sikh movement, it also stopped some of the diversity.

    For the last 20 years or so we seem to have sects/jatha's/cults within Sikhism that have a strong Vashnavite bias. This tends to have a stifling effect on any diversity amongst Sikhs.

    Let me take the warrior question first.

    Amongst Samurai's and warriors in general, the weaponary they posses almost become like a member of the family, a part of the body, and is in that sense revered, almost to the extent of worship. The Sikhs were no different. If you look at some the Guru's weapons in India they are pieces of Art. Kept with great loving and care. Some see this as worship but if you think about it, if your life and your families life depended on these weapons you would revere them. You would see them almost as the hand of God. Guru Gobind Singh ji refered to God God as the All Steel a refrence to his weapons. Can you see where this comes from? "Look after your weapons oh Sikhs and the all steel will protect you." A metaphor yet something practical.

    Get a copy of the Dasam Granth translated and read the metaphos in there.

    What I suggest is get good history books. Astarting point id A History of the Sikh People - Dr Gopal Singh, Warrior Saints - Amandeep Madra and Parmjit Singh. Siques Tigers and Thieves - Amandeep Madra and Parmjit Singh are a good start.

    Read them and we will continue with this.
     
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  10. spnadmin

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    Interested ji

    Here is a link to a complete book online. It provides the history of the Sikh militias - The Misls -- from the death of Guru Gobind Singh. It paints a good picture of the cultural/historical backdrop of the formation of the militias, some to become the start of specific branches of Sikhism.

    Brief History of Sikh Misls
     
  11. Randip Singh

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    That's a great link Antonia ji.
     
  12. spnadmin

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    Glad you found it helpful randip ji
     

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