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Sanatan Sikhi Nirmalas: Blend of Sikhism and Vedanta

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by spnadmin, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Blend of Sikhism and Vedanta
    Tarlochan Singh

    [​IMG]
    Mahant Ram Singh and Sant Jodh Singh from the Nirmala Ashram at Rishikesh
    NIRMALA ASHRAMS all over India are carrying on their mission to serve the people irrespective of caste and creed and remain away from any political activity. Nirmala, derived from Sanskrit meaning spotless, unsullied, pure, bright, etc, is the name of a sect of Sikhs primarily engaged in religious study and preaching.


    The members of the sect are called Nirmala Sikhs or simply Nirmalas. The sect arose during the time of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Guru wanted his followers not only to train in soldierly arts but also to have interests in letters. He had engaged a number of scholars to translate Sanskrit classics into Punjabi, in order to bring them within the easy reach of people.


    Guru Gobind Singh sent five of his Sikhs, namely Karam Singh, Vir Singh, Ganda Singh, Saina Singh, and Ram Singh, dressed as upper-class students, to Varanasi, the centre of Hindu learning. These Sikhs worked diligently for several years and returned to Anandpur as accomplished scholars of classical Indian theology and philosophy. In view of their piety and their sophisticated manner, they and their students came to be known as Nirmalas, and were later recognised as a separate sect.


    After the evacuation of Anandpur in 1705, the Nirmala preachers went to different places outside Punjab, particularly to Haridvar, Allahabad and Varanasi, where they established centres of learning that exist even today — Kankhal, near Haridwar; Pakki Sangat at Allahabad; and Chetan Math and Chhoti Sangat at Varanasi. When, during the second half of the eighteenth century, the Sikhs established their sway over the Punjab, some of the Nirmala saints came back here and founded centres at different places.


    It was customary for Nirmala scholars to attend, along with their disciples, religious fairs at prominent Hindu pilgrimage centres such as Haridwar, Allahabad and Gaya, where they, like other sadhus, took out shahis or processions and had philosophical debates with scholars of other religious denominations as a part of their preaching activity. During the Haridwar Kumbh in 1855, at a general meeting of the Nirmalas held in their principal dera at Kankhal, the first step was taken towards setting up a central body by electing Mahitab Singh of Rishikesh, reputed scholar of the sect, as their Sri Mahant or principal priest. This tradition is continuing and the present head in Sri Mahant Nam Dev Singh.


    The Nirmalas believe in the 10 Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib. They wear either white or saffron attire. They generally practise celibacy and are devoted to scriptural and philosophical study but by tradition they are inclined towards classical Hindu philosophy, especially the Vedanta. Their contribution towards the preaching of Sikh doctrine and production of philosophical literature in Sanskrit, Braj, Hindi and Punjabi is considerable. Some of the important works that contributed to Sikh learning and regeneration of Sikh principles in particular are by them.


    The Nirmala Ashram at Rishikesh was established in 1903 by Mahant Buddha Singh. Its main branches are at Haridvar, Karnal and Mumbai. This place has served the purpose of spreading the message of Guru Nanak. Giani Sant Singh Maskin was one of the illustrious students of this centre. Lachman Dass Chela Ram, world known Sikh scholar stayed here, to translate the Guru Granth Sahib in Hindi.


    During my recent visit to Rishikesh, I came to know about their humanitarian deeds. The Gyan Daan Academy has been set up to provide free education to poor children of all castes. Its beautiful sprawling campus on the Dehra Dun road has become a boon for the entire area. Four classes are already in session with facilities like free uniforms, textbooks and stationary, mid-day meal and free transport from village to the school.


    The Ashram is already running a public school with boarding facilities on the Haridwar Road. Mahant Ram Singh, head of the Ashram, and Sant Baba Jodh Singh believe that altruism is the essence of Guru Nanak’s teachings. They have set up a big hospital with modern facilities in Rishikesh. A 100-bedded state-of-the-art eye hospital is coming up as well.


    Renowned educationist S. Waryam Singh, the chairman of the schools run by the Ashram, said the main source of the income was donations by Sindhis, who are devotees of Guru Nanak.


    — The writer is a Member of Parliament
     
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  3. harbansj24

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    Narayanjot ji,

    It is said that, Sikhs and Hindus are like nail of a finger and the flesh & skin surrounding it. Both are different and unique. But try separating them forcibly, then there will be injury and lot of agony but the nail will regrow! The events of late seventies, eighties and early nineties have brought in a lot of mistrust and it did appear (and still does) that a point of no return has been reached. But a clean break is neither possible nor sustainable. However much interested persons from both sides may try.
     
  4. spnadmin

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    Well I was just minutes ago posting in the Sikh Sects, Cults and Groups subforum. There is a fascinating clip I ran across on the Census of India 1901 in which your idea is described in a different way. A very dry way. But I will post it here. You can view it in the attachment.

    It seems the British had a similar impression.
     

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  5. spnadmin

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  6. harbansj24

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    Narayanjot ji,

    A complete Khalsa is no sect of Hinduism. Maybe Sindhis and Sehajdharis are. But at the same time it is not possible to disown each other.
     
  7. spnadmin

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    harbhansj24 ji

    Some like me have no background in Hinduism, cultural nor even academic, making it very hard to feel the Hindu connection. In my case even impossible to feel it. On this point I will sometimes, not always, simply note that there are differences of opinion. Other times I will argue very strenuously against staying in that spot. I am in hot water either way depending on the person I am arguing with.
     
  8. harbansj24

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    Narayanjot ji,

    I appreciate your point. You are right; my discussions are based only on practical experience and intuitive feel of the concepts.

    And since we are the only ones discussing the issue, we can close the discussion until someone with more academic inputs can contribute to it.
     
  9. spnadmin

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    harbhansj24 ji

    Not to close the discussion. In fact I found your comments so interesting that I am going to use our exchange to start a new thread. You got me thinking very deeply about a number of questions related to identity. Thank you
     

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