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Sikhee as an Universal Religion - Contribution for the Quadricentennial of AGGS

Discussion in 'Essays on Sikhism' started by Claudia G. S. Martins, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. Claudia G. S. Martins

    Claudia G. S. Martins
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    Sikhee as an Universal Religion - Contribution for the Quadricentennial of AGGS


    Jaspreet Singh Oberai <jaspreetji@yahoo.com wrote:


    Sikhi is intended for all of mankind. If you people in Punjab would go out and spread the word of Gurbani among non punjabis instead of wailing about your
    victimhood, the situation would be much improved.The Biharis workers are there to make a better life for themselves, in the same way that Sikhs travelled to
    the UK, US & other places abroad.

    In anycase within our lifetime the overuse of water and other natural resources & pollution will make Punjab a parched unhabitated wasteland.



    Claudia G. S. Martins, BRAZIL (c.gaspar@terra.com.br) writes :

    The words in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are infinitely plastic because they are infinitely meaningful. God is infinite, so is God language. Via creative interpretation Sikh Gurus dismantle and reassemble individual words, phrases and verses to pour new meanings into old vessels, turning an apparently static text into one that is ever in formation.

    Gurbani verses give us luminous examples. A radical reading lifts a short verse out of its dense and dated context to imbue it with lasting religious significance.

    But it requires daily and lifelong attention to remain effective. Hence, there is supreme importance of study, individually and communally. Plumbing its depths and expanding its meaning is the right way to keep the Sri Guru Granth Sahib a living Guru and always invigorating.


    I'm a humble seeker, not a scholar and I don't think you need to be classified in order to study Sikh philosophy and religion. An hierarchy is useful for some purposes such as manage a Gurdwara, using not only the wisdom contained in the AGGS but contemporary managerial skills.

    God, Gurus and Gursikhs (and even manmuks) are the way we name aspects of of same reality that is just One but, for human beings, it seems divided into many
    categories.

    Ordinary people can reach Sach Khand if Waheguru give us strength and forbearance.

    The anhad nad, quoting Prof. Gurbaghat Singh,Ê is the sourceÊ that liberates all energies blocked by socio-cultural ties. Let us forget the language for a moment asÊ a vehicleÊ to guide us to the emancipation, throughÊ modification of our minds. The whole process, although individual, must be accomplished with the help of a sangat.

    All the members of this Forum are doing the same, without pre determined hierachies. We are discussing, in human terms, how the Ineffable reaches our lives.Ê

    I would like to add a provocative issue : why Sikhi scholars don't try to organize the main concepts defined on the last centuries and organize them, similarly to what Jews did with the Talmud ? Yes, Sikhs have a written and an oral tradition and it's fundamental to be compiled and serve as a source for generations to come. Why not set it as a priority by the occasion ofÊ the 400th anniversary of AGGS compilation ? Humbly from a Western seeker


    Dr. Jaspal Singh Mayell, USA ( mayell40@yahoo.com) writes :

    This discussion on Universality of the Sikh Religion is very interesting.

    If Sikhi still incorporates lots of sterile ritualism and nobody in charge is interested in changing the status quo it will be always just an ethnic religion and not an universal one.

    What you have said is correct.

    There are very few Sikhs who really believe that Sikh Religion is Universal. Some of them just say it but really do not believe in it. They perform all sorts of rituals.

    In this SD group there are few who claim to believe inÊthe Universality of the Sikh Religion. It is very good. I hope this number increases. This idea is in its embryonic stage. It may take many years for it to flourish.


    I perfectly understand that in western countries people are more organized and your ideas are coming from that point of view. I also believe in good organization but what you have suggested will not happen in my life time. That is the way I see it. I do not like it but have to accept it.

    In order to be Universal the Religion has to use all the modern techniques without changing the basics. Some of them are use ofÊ English Language, Chairs,Êuse of sociology, dealing with the day-to-day problems of the congregationÊin the adopted country and so on.Ê

    I will appreciate if more people discuss the Universality of the Sikh Religion in this forum.


    Dr. Sukhraj Singh Dhillon, USA (drdln@dpcpress.com) writes :


    Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the Holy Book of the Sikhs. This means a Gursikh can be either a Gurmukh, or a Manmukh. Therefore this distinction is only applicable to the Sikhs, not to the rest of the mankind.

    Sikhs are part of entire humanity. Why cannot AGGS's message be for entire humanity? That's how we can be true to our statement that Sikhism is a universal concept.

    AGGS (Aad Guru Granth Sahib) recognizes a common Creator as the only God: who sustains all people of all faiths and is addressed by many names by devotees in various faiths. Sikh Gurus embraced the revelation of Hindu and Muslim saints making it a scripture for people of all religions.

    In today's modern world, irrespective of one's faith, religion is expected to provide freedom at both spiritual and secular level.

    AGGS points towards self-realization to attain spiritual state of mind. In AGGS, the commencing verse, which is called Mool- Mantra, describes attributes of God, who is addressed as the one and only one infinite, ultimate truth, the creator/creation (Ik 'Oh' kaar/beant, Satnam, Karta Purkh). If we accept God as a spirit that exists in each and every person, then it describes attributes of spiritual state. "That state is without fear (Nirbhau), without enmity (Nirvair), immortal without the fear of death or birth (Ajooni), complete within itself (Saebhang)-- timeless, ageless, and formless (Akaal Moorat)". A few blessed ones realize that divine state (Nirbhau, Nirvair, Akaal Moorat, Ajooni Saebhang, Gur Parsad. Mool-Mantra or Basic Principle, Japuji). We know that only physical body ages, spirit is not affected by time or age or birth or death.

    Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahavir, Nanak and other great prophets attained such a divine state. They were able to awaken the spirit that existed in their minds. They realized the presence of spirit (God). In other words, they found God. Sikh scriptures hold that all humans are capable of achieving union with God while still alive by realizing the Divine within. That's how man can become one with God.

    How does a man become one with God? By accepting the will (hukam) of God ("hukam rajai chalna, Nanak likhia naal (AGGS, Jap 1, p 1; that is walk in the way of His Will"). Other faiths have a concept similar to what Nanak says here in AGGS. Taoism called "non- interference", Zen called "let-go", Christianity called "surrendering to the will of God", and a Scientist may call it Laws of Nature/Universe.

    Once we accept the will (hukam) then we demolish the wall of falsehood that separates us from the Divine. We lose our individual ego ("Nanak hukme je bujhe ta haumai kahi na koe.. AGGS, Jap 2, p 1; meaning: O Nanak, one who understands `Divine Will,' is freed from ego.) and see us not only in the world but the world in us. Our individual mind or soul (atma) becomes [is] divine image of supreme (or Parmatma) (like individual waves are part of the same ocean), but we have to recognize it (mun tu jot saroop hai, apna mool pashaan...AGGS, p 441; meaning: O'my soul you're the image of Divine light; so know your source). The recognition of our divine image or spirituality is the real aim of any religion of the world, whether prayer-oriented (Christianity, Mohammedans, Hindus,
    Sikhs and other popular religions) or meditation-oriented (Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism). In other words realization of spirit that exists in each and every person. Right interpretation of gurbani provided in our eternal guru "Aad Guru Granth Sahib" (AGGS) can provide us new realities which are more spiritual and more logical in modern age of science and technology.

    In the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Gurus embraced the revelation of non-Sikhs from Semitic and Eastern traditions making the Sikh scripture truly universal.

    The secular nature of AGGS, is obvious from the bhagat bani of all the spiritual masters irrespective of their religious back ground. AGGS contains bani from Hindu, Muslim, low caste sufis.. The true guru in sikh faith is one who unites all the people of various faiths together (Nanak satgur aessaa jaaniay jo subsae laey milaaye jio.. AGGS, p 72; meaning: O Nanak, know him as the true guru, who unites all with the Lord). AGGS has a universal appeal for the benefit of emerging global society of the twenty-first century.

    It was not a coincidence when founding guru was called: "Nanak shah fakir! Hindu ka guru, Musalmaan ka pir!" Literally means Nanak was not only the guru to Sikhs but also the guru to Hindu and Muslims.

    Therefore, Guru Granth is a universal scripture for all faiths at both spiritual and secular level. But it's only us who can let rest of the world know!



    Dr. Karamjit Singh, UK (karam_jit@lineone.net) writes :


    Sikh religion, in my view would have universal appeal if it is interpreted correctly and explained in the terms that an average man on the street would understand. Guru Granth Sahib is composed in myriad of languages and knowledge of these languages is necessary to understand and provide correct interpretation of the verses. Sikh temporal authorities need to play a major role in setting up specialist courses for the training of priests. Presently, the priests are recruited especially in the Diaspora from immigrants who wish to leave Punjab and stay abroad. These priests have acquired reading and writing the Gurmukhi script and many of them have also trained as armature musicians. The interpretation of religion by these Psudo priests leaves much to be desired. They have no training to impart lessons using teaching skills or learning aids. But instead rely on folklore and are main source of new rituals being introduced into Sikhism. Such priests have no counselling skills neither are able to undertake an effective PR exercise. The emphasis remains on visual appearance rather then inner knowledge.

    Having read various books by academics, I am afraid some of the academics also have set themselves as priestly class and use language nuances that only other academics can understand. Some books written by Sikh authors are not very user-friendly. They literally translate Gurmukhi into English or try to embellish the arguments with a logic that can only be understood by themselves. This I am afraid does not provide a learning opportunity for the younger generation.

    Others have taken upon a militant aggressive role and advocate separatism rather then interpretation of Guru Granth Sahib. Lets look at how some of the religions spread a message to present their religion as a universal religion.

    Flicking through the TV channels, I came across the Muslim Amadhyia Mission channel. I have watched it for several weeks to learn about this religions missionary zeal in Africa and Asian countries. Amadhyias remain persecuted in the Muslim world. Acquiring the T.V. channel has enabled this group to spread the message for and wide in Europe, Africa. They have build mission hospitals and Schools in these countries - The programmes include how to use MS word, children's programmes and educational programmes on the channels.Ê SPGC has vast resources to set up a specific channel that broadcasts programmes not only in Punjabi but the worlds languages. Sikh religion has never been a missionary religion. Unlike Islam there has never been any edict to convert the non-believer into a believer at the point of sword. Sikh in my opinion preaches tolerance and leaves the choice to an individual to follow the concepts and principles. This is a respect of an individual, rather then see him/her as wanting or to be saved - Sikh religion offers no panacea but a free choice to live as a Sikh.

    During my university days, we were often invited to Christan meetings. Having been brought up as a Sikh with a belief that all life is sacred - I found it repugnant that someone tells me that man is born as a sinner. Needless to say that these meetings turned into heated exchanges as I refused to accept that a new born child - new life on earth could be called a sinner and needs to be absolved of all sins. Our religion could have a universal appeal.

    Universality of the Sikh religion will only be possible when our temporal authorities specifically separate Politics from Religion. The representatives of SPGC should be five Sevadhars chosen by the Sangath not a political manifesto presented by some party leader. As soon as the separation of Politics/Religion occurs, the next emphasis is to revise the Sikh Rehet Maryada, a document that is about 40 years old.

    Let the public make a choice between learning about Sikhism rather then forcing it upon them. Remove rituals that have crept and threaten Sikhism. Remove the cast divisions within Sikhism. Sikhs can only present the religion universally if they practice what they preach. Sikhi as an universal religion has to commence from within.


    Dr. Virinder Singh Grewal, USA ( vsgrewal@cablespeed.com ) writes:

    No attempt has been made to weed out the rituals of Brahamanical efects on today's Sikhism. This is the reason for the religions to shift and isolate them selves from spirituality to ritualism, which later becomes incorporated in the basic tenets . It is unfortunate that this simple, starightforward religion is being isolated for some selfish reasons of the people in political power.



    Prof. Devinder Singh Chahal, PhD writes :

    INSTITUTE FOR UNDERSTANDING SIKHISM
    4418 Martin Plouffe, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7W 5L9
    Phone: (450) 681-1254; Fax (760) 281-8061
    URL:Ê http://chahal.info
    E-mail: sikhism@chahal.info


    There seems to be great interest about discussion on "Sikhi as an Universal Religion" raised by Ms Claudia Martins, Dr Mayell, Mr Karam Bharij, Dr Sukhraj Dhillon, and many more. I understand that many Sikhs believe that Sikhi (Sikhism) is a universal religion but very little effort is being made to portray it as universal.

    Universal means accepted universally (by most of people). If Sikhism is universal religion then the question is why are even some Sikhs getting away from it and if you ask any question most of them are unable to answer.

    When any Sikh or non-Sikh raises any objection against the un-Sikh-like concepts or rituals then the so-called authorities on Sikhism criticize that person to that extent that either he/she will keep quiet forever if not and insists on his/her findings is excommunicated. As long as this authoritative role continues I doubt if the Sikhism can ever be portrayed in its real perspective.

    In a very brief statement I would say that there is no book on Sikhism in which integrated and comprehensive philosophy of Sikhi (Sikhism) is explained.

    I am of the opinion that it is very important to understand Nanakian philosophy embodied in the Bani of Guru Nanak which has been interpreted and strengthened by the Sikh Gurus, which has been authenticated and incorporated into the Aad Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Arjan in 1604 and then by Guru Gobind Singh in 1705.

    However, I understand that we have not been able to explain even an iota of Nanakian philosophy to the humanity. On the other hand my short study on this subject indicates that there are many people who are already accepting it without knowing that it is Nanakian philosophy propounded about 500 years ago. For example, Nationwide survey conducted by HARRIS INTERACTIVE on a subject, If God takes on human form (anthropomorphic form). The result is as follows:

    48% of the population of USA think of God as a spirit or power that can take on human form (anthropomorphic form)

    27% think God as a spirit or power that does not take on human form (anthropomorphic form)

    10% do not believe in God

    (Shannon Reilly and Bob Laird, USA Today, October 24, 2003).

    Now look into Nanakian philosophy which says that 'God is a power which does not take on human form (anthropomorphic form.' This principle was accepted by Noble Laureate, Einstein about many years ago and now it is acceptable by 27 % of Americans today.

    If you ask the same question today to Indians in India I doubt if more than 0.2% will accept this principle, although this principle was taught in India first. It is so because the Sikhs who took over to disseminate Sikhi failed badly to preach it in its real perspective. Had the Sikhs done it earlier then all the credit of propounding such a universal philosophy would have gone to Guru Nanak.

    I mean to say that it is a big challenge for the Sikh scholar to explain Nanakian philosophy in its real perspective before we can claim that Sikhi (Sikhism) is a universal religion.

    There is no effort on this aspect of Sikhi, however, the IUS is working on this issue for the last 6 years since the establishment of the IUS in 1999.

    I have been presenting some Principles of Nanakian philosophy, which have universal acceptability, on various conferences and lectures for the last two years and now the final version will be presented on the Fourth International IUS Seminar being held on September 18, 2004 at Laval, Quebec and thereafter it would be made public in our Journal and on our new Web site, www.iuscanada.com, which is under construction now.

    There is another important topic, 'Sabd' and 'Guru' and then 'Sabd Guru' to 'Granth Guru' in Nanakian philosophy. This will be released in the form of IUS Research Monograph # 2 also on September 18, 2004 at the time of IUS Seminar.



    Dr. Jodh Singh, USA (xjsa@aol.com) writes :


    Most of us mundaneÊ folks, who migrated to Western world, came for improving our personal lot andÊ luck and not to indulge in missionary work. People from third world countries doÊ not have resources and hunger for spiritually.
    Quality of education over thereÊ may make you technicians and technologists but not scholars. The system ofÊ education has been 3-Rs and trade-oriented. Worse still has been the lack ofÊ seminaries for theological education. Unlike Semitic religions, clergy has noÊ command, nor do they have adequate education,
    knowledge or scholarship. ManyÊ people who cannot find any other vocation or get a job, they go for it. TheÊ so-called missionary colleges or taksaals provide limited education to mediocreÊ students. In brief, clergy is poorly schooled.
    And they are not paid wellÊ either, and some of the Gurdwara administration forces them to go for well fareÊ and medicade. And they do have hunger for money.

    The Guru prophetÊ rejected rituality, but it has become the order of the day and has been promotedÊ as a means of political dominance and salvation. Older concepts of seniority, obedience and tradition have superceded competence, qualifications andÊ accountability and that is the obstacle on the path of success. There isÊ stagnation. Some people brag of twenty-three million peoples strength but theÊ temporal occupants do not accept 60 % of these people and deter them fromÊ Gurdwara. In one of the sophisticated Gurdwara, a few people are on the prowl toÊ encourage, persuade, intimidate a few for rituality and discourage, abuse andÊ eliminate majority of silent non-adherents of rituality. Thanks to informationÊ superhighways that we can have at least two hour of keertan each morning fromÊ Durbar sahib.ÊÊ

    Coming to theÊ humanitarian activities. What you want us to imagine the impact of SikhsÊ visiting hospitals; I have been trying to persuade clergy to visit theÊ critically ill patients in ICUs for more than three decades, as I work in thoseÊ places, and see other religion's clergy visiting patients but ours. The responseÊ has not been tepid but of blunt refusal unless paid.ÊÊÊÊ

    All will agreeÊ with you that human beings are complex and AGGS can be a guide to smooth humanÊ suffering and bring joy and equipoise to every human being. Why there areÊ not Sikh chaplains? Ê I hopeÊ I have answered your question. Why it's not make an effort to translate AGGSÊ in many languages and adapt
    shabad keertan and schedule keertanees to visitÊ countries in Latin America ? Charity begins at home, if the SGPC could educateÊ clergy and people in India, it would be greatest achievement but the presentÊ leadership of the SGPC wants personal benefits and pelf and positions inÊ political arenas.Ê

    What Sikhs areÊ doing to understand the religious phenomena and contribute to theÊ enculturation process? So far so very little.Ê Why Sociology of Religions isn't aÊ mandatory subject to understand why people need to connect with the sacredness?Ê The subject of humanities was meager in our college curriculum,
    how could weÊ have had Sociology of Religions? Some of us now are learning humanities andÊ would pick up Sociology of Religion.

    Perhaps you have a good pointÊ thatÊ Sikhism is a perfect path toÊ God and must be conveyed to all mankind. Again I agree with you wholeheartedly. Sterile discussions about what is aÊ manmukh and gurmukh don't add any thing to the grandeur of what Gurus preached.Ê We need to be practical, down To earth.

    We do need scholars to make aÊ board of scholars who could compile teachings about Gurubani, the same way JewsÊ did with the Talmud in two thousand years. Ours is a young faith, only 535 yearsÊ old. What is the rush?

    My apologies to those whom I may have hurtÊ inadvertently.



    Dr. Karamjit Singh, UK ( karam_jit@lineone.net ) writes:

    In today's modern world, irrespective of one's faith, religion is expected to provide freedom at both spiritual and secular level.

    Religion should also be inclusive and respect diversity. Sikhism advocates both these principles and these are enshried in SGGS. However the practitioneers of Sikh religion have continously tried to make Sikh religion exclusive, and practice cast divisions. This give out a loud and clear message that universally this practice cannot be acceptable. Sikh religion will only have universal appeal if the practioneers abandon misrepresentation of Sikh religion at highest temporal level.

    A clergy that is illiterate cannot possibly spread the universal message of Sikhism. A clergy that is elected as political appointees are not doing any favours to spread the word of SGGS.



    Dr. Jaspal Singh Mayell,ÊUSAÊ ( mayell40@yahoo.com) writes :

    We blame our religious leaders both in India and outside India. I agree in general.

    However I have the following views. This is especially for the Sikhs outside India. I am as responsible as any one else.

    People like you and me appoint the Granthis. So the problem lies with us and not the Granthis. It is the management problem and not the Granthis. Most of the management people are extremely well educated, of course not in religion.

    From my experience almost all of the children of the Management team do not attend Gurdwaras. We all know the problems.

    I give here a similar analogy of Bill Crosby, a very well respected Black person. He said if blacks are behind it is the problem of the blacks and is not right just to blame the white people only.

    Similarly it is the problem of we all Sikhs including me who do nothing to solve them. I am now 75 so cannot take active part but can only give suggestion.

    We know orthodox Sikhs are at present controlling the Gurdwaras but it is just a matter of time that it will not be so.Ê Of course in case of Religion it is not measured in one or two years.

    Mine may be a radical suggestion but it is as follows.

    Let ten Sikh families in one locality join together. Set up an organization on the same basis that we did in 1963 in New York. Sikh Cultural Society of New York was started at first Kirtan ever performed in whole of the Eastern part of USA. There was no difference between Sikhs with and without long hair. In fact the first President was a Sikh with no long hair. All of us were sitting on the chairs and Guru Granth Sahib was kept at a higher level.

    Membership fees should not be less than $ 500.

    Let these families meet at any place. Most of the preaching should be done in English directed mostly to the younger people. Let the younger people take over.Ê Kirtan can be done in Punjabi but later translation of Shabads can be done in English and sung with the Indian Ragas as prescribed in Guru Granth Sahib using English words. Let these families take over the proceedings.

    Langar be very simple. My suggestion is that we should go to the Soup Kitchens and give Langar to them. It is no use to feed the people who have plenty.

    Use as many chairs as possible by keeping Guru Granth Sahib at a higher level.

    In the beginning there should be no professional Granthi. Later when it is organized the Granthi should be well paid. Must have degree from a recognized American University in theology with sociology as minor. Must be dedicated. He/She may or may not have long hair.

    The constitution of the organization is the law of the land and not what people in India say.

    Finally I am of the view that problems outside India are easier to solve than inside India.
     
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