Buddhism Guru Nanak And Tibetan Buddhism


http://www.sikhchic.com/article-detail.php?id=713&cat=19Guru Nanak and Tibetan Buddhism


I have wanted for a long time to say something about my impressions of the Religion of the Sikhs in India, and my connections with it.

After my escape from Tibet, I lived as a refugee in India for several years, alongside so many of my countrymen. There I had the great good fortune to be looked after by a Sikh family, by Baba Bedi, his English wife, and their three children. While I was with them, I was able to visit many of the Sikh holy places and I was given hospitality there.

My interest in Sikhism is not only a personal one, however.

In Tibet, Guru Nanak is revered as an emanation of Guru Padmasambhava.

Many of our pilgrims visited Amritsar and other holy places which they looked upon as equal in importance to Budh-Gaya. They always said that the Sikhs treated them with great respect and were very hospitable: "as our expression goes, they bowed down to their feet." It seems that the Sikhs really practice the doctrine of their religion; perhaps they are the only ones who give such wonderful dana (alms) to travellers.

Most Tibetans know that Guru Nanak visited Tibet, and the mystical ideas of our two religions are very similar.

I have noticed that the Sikhs never worship images in their shrines, but that there is in the centre the book, the Guru Granth Sahib. In our tradition, one of the last things that the Buddha said was that in the dark age after his death he would return in the form of books. "At that time," he said, "look up to me and respect me."

Just as we do not believe in mystifying rituals, so in the Sikh ceremonies, it seems that the people simply read and contemplate the words of their text, so that no misunderstandings arise.

I was interested in the Sikh symbolism of the three daggers: in Buddhism, a knife often appears as the cutting off of the roots of the three poisons: greed, hatred and illusion.

I was also very interested in the Sikh practice never to cut one's hair, as this is also the practice among Tibetan hermits and contemplatives. The most famous of these was Milarepa, who said that there were three things that should be left in their natural state; one should not cut one's hair, dye one's clothes, nor change one's mind.

It is true that most Tibetan monks wear yellow, and shave their heads; these are practices that come from India, and symbolize humility and detachment from worldly things.

Outside the more organized monastic tradition, however, the emphasis is that the natural goodness and power of growth within should be allowed to develop freely without interference from outside.

Both Guru Nanak and the Buddha said to their followers that the real nature of the universe should not be limited by the idea of personal god and gods. Those who made offerings at their shrines should remember that the whole universe was the power offering offered before and to itself.

It seems that there is very much in common between our philosophies.

For example, the belief in the role of maya (illusion) in bringing suffering and keeping us from salvation is a key part of the philosophy of both religions. Gurbani speaks of moh maya in many places:

houmai maar sadhaa sukh paaeiaa maaeiaa mohu chukaavaniaa
Subduing your ego, you shall find a lasting peace, and your emotional
attachment to Maya will be dispelled. [GGS 110:1, Guru Amar Das, Raag Maajh]

maaeiaa mohu eis manehi nachaaeae anthar kapatt dhukh paavaniaa
The love of Maya makes this mind dance, and the deceit within
makes people suffer in pain . [GGS 122:1, Guru Amar Das, Raag Maajh]

When I return to India, I hope to increase understanding of the Sikh religion among Tibetan people, and it is my wish one day to translate the Guru Granth Sahib into Tibetan. Now I am living in England, and I can see that much good might be accomplished by Sikhism in England, and Europe and America, and I wish success to everyone whose concern this is.

[First published in The Indian Express, March 6, 1966]

February 7, 2009


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(previously jeetijohal, account deactivated at her
The teachings of Buddhism are a globally respected discipline and philosophical belief system. The best testimony to this faith is the adherents one is fortunate to meet upon life’s journey. Its values and excellence is manifest in the disciples of its teachings and their worldly peaceable and wise outlook. In the coming Age of Aquarius or Satyug, or the age of information technology enabling truth seekers easy access to all scriptural teachings a focus upon fundamental underlying principles of all faith swill brings together the thinking world community as one mind, one understanding of a one collective humanity of the one Supreme Spirit. It will arise if we all work diligently and steadfastly in its quest.

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