As the original post was a long post to me this is the best way I could address this to stay in context and not drift. I will try my best to inform you of what I know from my studies in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I am a Sikh convert for 8 years or so now I used to practice Roman Catholicism and have taken various philosophy classes and Christian religious classes. I hope I could offer you a better understanding of Christianity and the core of the Abrahamic religions that isn’t presented in a romanticized manner in which perhaps you have been presented.
I still highly respect the Gurus, the lives they led, the ideals they fought and sacrificed for, etc. But to what extent have these really survived?Let’s look at the caste system. Recently I learned some villages in India have separate Gurdwaras for those consider to be of the lower-caste. The Gurus themselves I learned were all from the Khatri caste and married within their own caste despite preaching against such barriers. Now I’m not saying that one should marry outside of their caste for the sake of it, but it’s some food for thought.
- The Gurus’ ideals have lived 100% intact, through the SGGS Sikhism is the only religion in which the actual creators of the religion wrote and was compiled by the creators. Jesus did not write, Mohammed did not write. And the Jewish tradition for 100s of years was passed down through oral history.
- The example you give above has nothing to do with the fault in Sikhism and you should not use it to attack or lessen your own faith. People will always claim to be some religion and do not act as the religion tells them to. This is like saying Islam is a horrible religion, because of Extremist Islamic Terrorist groups or Christianity is a horrible religion, because Christianity is to blame for genocides all across the globe especially in the western hemisphere. Religions and Scriptures stand on their own they are not subject to definition by those who claim to be a so called “Follower” yet fail to adhere to to the religious commands.
- It really shouldn’t matter to any of us that whether the Gurus married within their own caste despite preaching against such barriers. That can be a complete coincidence many people marry within their own race in fact most people do that doesn’t make most people racist. The Gurus also did not recognize caste so, to say they did not see through the lense you are looking at marriage.
· How about the succession of the Gurus? How do we go from the 4 first being chosen by merit and from different lineage, then suddenly it turns into a system of monarchy resulting in the succession of Guru Harkrishan Ji at such a young age who also passed away at a young age. The argument I once heard was due to the challenges to Guruship the first Gurus faced. Well, these didn’t exactly stop and was especially notable in the case of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.
- This came out of a promise made the following link can give you a much better account than I can. Sodhi family of Guru Harsahai - SikhiWiki, free Sikh encyclopedia.
· What is it about the Gurus that ensures us of their authenticity? How do we know they were divine or “perfect” as many say.
- Every religion is a faith, faith is not that in which you know something as a fact it is to believe in something knowing that you don’t know. If you are going to use this to deter you belief in Sikhi and to measure other religions with you will never find another religion. The argument I can present you is that Sikhi has the greatest truth of all the religious books, go out and read the bible and koran and you will find that the SGGS still has the greatest truths. The other I can present to you is that no other human being except for Guru Nanak has been fought over as much. Islam says he’s theirs and is a saint, Hinduism says he’s there and he’s a saint, even the Buddhist believe he is a reincarnation of Buddha Rinpoche they call him Nanak Lama.
If the message of Sikhi really is the simplest and most practical and the eternal Truth, if the message of Sikhi, the Gurbani, really did come from God as Guru Gobind Singh Ji says near the end of Chaupai Sahib, then why, why is it that it remained confined for the most part to the Punjabi population?
- This is not a new phenomenon Christianity was small it did not become a major religion until 300 AD and for the most part was only adopted because the it became the official religion of the Roman Empire by many. Christianity wasn’t what it was today always it was a Jewish Sect for well over 200 years and a non-major religion for probably another 1000 years. Sikhism is still a young religion.
- As for Islam Mohammed died around the year 630 AD and it wasn’t until the 8th century about 100 years later that it really grew larger and it then took until the 13th century that Islam actually began to become the religion that we think of today.
- Both of these religions also had help because they already had followers from Judaism since both of these religions are Abrahamic. Sikhism didn’t have this advantage because the Guru’s would not say that it was a continuation of either Hindu or Islam it was a new religion. The other big factor that Islam and Christianity have in conversion is that they took over other countries and forced religion upon people. They even committed genocide all in the name of their religion. Sikhism has never ever done this and that shouldn’t be a negative that should be an absolute positive.
- Sikhism remains confined partly because of the things you mentioned such as not going out and spreading the word and proselytizing. There is also less of a yearning to do so because we believe other faiths and paths can also lead others to God. Where as in Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam there is a need to go out and save souls or they will go to Hell and suffer for eternity.
Even outside of Punjab, a large chunk of the population is Punjabi and the culture and religion have become intertwined.
- Again, it doesn’t matter what “bad followers” of a religion do it doesn’t affect Sikhism or the teachings.
But let’s look back to history. Guru Nanak Dev Ji travelled pretty far and wide, mostly with his sole companion Bhai Mardana and it was to observe the rest of the world and preach the message of Sikhi. Centres were established in these locations, as far as Iran I’ve read. Why didn’t these survive if the message if so supreme? And if I recall correctly it was Guru Har Rai Ji who also travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent to preach. Banda Singh Bahadur himself went around preaching and bringing more to the Sikh fold (stated in The Sikhs by Patwant Singh as I recall.
- They didn’t survive because religions like Islam had to be followed religions such as Islam and Christianity as bad as it sounds were Theocratic Dictatorships that forced their religion on people. They would tear down anything that opposed their religion they were fanatics they murdered, raped, and mammed thousands of people in the name of their religion. Things such as a Gurdwara in Jerusalem would be heresy and punishable by death. Remember they believe their God is not the God of all they have a specific God at least during that era.
· If this message came from the Hukam of Akal Purakh then surely it would have resisted decline and only grown in the 500 years since the faith was born?
- You are trying to make assumptions on what the will of God is this has no value in the argument against Sikhism and like I stated before there is no need for everyone to be Sikh, because unlike other religions we do not believe in only 1 path to God.
I won’t blame the restriction of the faith to mostly Punjab on this being the age of Kalyug and neither on how maybe I’m looking at this from an Abrahamic lens and not the Dharmic framework – by that reason most of the planet outside the Indian subcontinent is in simple ignorance. If the message of Gurbani isn’t restricted to the Sikh faith and it appears to those of the Bhakti movement mostly then why hasn’t history seen Gurus with a similar message in the West or other corners of the world?
- As I stated earlier the religion is still young this could be said about just about any religion in its infancy.
Please don’t say other religions were spread by sword, Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population and known as one where Islam was spread by word and not sword.
- You can’t be dismissive of the fact that Islam and Christianity both spread their religion by sword and the imperialism that’s much too big of a factor to simply dismiss. A quick look at Wiki and I found this statement. “Nevertheless, a clear turning point occurred when the Hindu empire Majapahit in Java fell to the Islamised Demak Sultanate. In 1527, the Muslim ruler renamed newly conquered Sunda Kelapa as Jayakarta (meaning "precious victory") which was eventually contracted to Jakarta. Assimilation increased rapidly in the wake of this conquest.” So, it’s not as if they just went and preached Islam in Indonesia and everyone just converted because they ideals were superb. There were influences, most of Europe was Catholic, but when the Calvinist movement happened they quickly turned to Protestants and in England as soon as the king made the King James Bible, separated from the Catholic Church and made the Church of England everyone quickly converted as well. People changed their minds rather quickly in those days and were easily influenced by their rulers.
· Even during the time of the Sikh empire, which like many I used to consider the Golden Age of Sikhs, after reading its history I realised it was the time when Sikh philosophy was likely diluted the most. The moment Sikhs seemed to have gotten a taste for sovereignty, self control and strictness to the Sikh Rehat seem to have become secondary.
- The Sikh Rehat was not made until 1945 which was far past the Sikh Empire and Golden Age you speak of. I also do not understand where you get the idea that Sikh Philosophy was diluted the SGGS has stayed the same since its creation. It has not been edited or changed for it to be diluted and once again you are falling victim to the “look at these bad Sikhs, that means Sikhism is wrong.”
· Following on from this, how do we clearly separate the so called “false gurus” like Ram Rahim from the true ones? If those rape and violence allegations hadn’t been found about him he could be easily looked at as a hero and the saviour of the poor and low castes. I’m not trying to equate the Sikh gurus to this man, they were far different in character from this man. But if the 10 Gurus weren’t the last and only, then why is it when one claims to be one in this day and age they are met with ridicule?
- I am not sure what teachings you have gotten, but Sikhs believe the Guruships ends with the SGGS, people may make sects and believe whatever they want. SAT GURUS after the SGGS do not exist period. I don’t know if you are confused about Guru as in a teacher and SAT GURUS as in the “TRUE GURUS.” I have heard some people believe in a living Guru, but that is not Sikhi that is a cult of Sikhi that has taken their own interpretation of Sikhi. Similar to what Jehova Witnesses and Mormons are to Christianity. These so called Gurus should not be met with ridicule they should be met with indifference as they are not Sikhi at all and we they should never be recognized by Sikhi.
· Now moving onto Gurbani. It is beautiful, the meaning is deep and highly deserving of respect. But is it really divine? This query has been raised before and I will re-iterate it: The verses for the most part are repetitive. It is true this is not the case when they are read in their original form, but the meaning still tends to be repetitive. If I was to open up the SGGS at random pages, I’d almost all basically be reading the same verse but only written in a different way from a different author. I realise that the inclusion of several of authors signifies unity but reading the same over and over again doesn’t appear to me as source of ever increasing wisdom as I progress through the scripture. Comparing this to the Bible and the Quran, neither one of which I’ve yet accepted but it’s undeniable that they themselves have much more in terms of various examples and plenty of wisdom resides in them too. In addition to this, I have always wondered how Baba Fareed would feel about someone worshipping to their poetry/bani? If they were a Muslim, then someone praying to anything other than Allah/God would be the highest of sins.
- The SGGS although repetitive is much deeper than the Bible and most likely the Koran. I have studied Islam, but have never fully read the Koran so I will only speak about Christianity and Judaism since I am much more familiar with those 2. This idea that you speak of repetitiveness, in the New Testament the majority of the it is 4 gospels which are the same story written from different perspectives. It doesn’t get more redundant than that the other thing is that I can sum up the entire Bible 5 pages or even in 1 paragraph. Which you could probably do to most religions watch…….. There is 10 commandments you should obey these 10 there is one last commandment that Jesus left and that is to love your neighbor as he loved you. So, basically treat everyone with love and respect and spare judgement because that is not your role to play. Help the needy and pray. I just described the entire bibles message in a nutshell. Ya, there’s much more to it than that, but that is basically the sum of it. Allah simply means the 1GOD we believe in the 1Creator it is the same God I doubt Islam has a problem with that.
· Some more matters that shook my faith: Why did some Gurus practice polygamy? There is historical evidence to support they did and those who refute this usually seem to speak from person opinion and emotion.
- Where do these historical sources come from? I have looked into this and it has been refuted many many times. This is a link you can read that describes what happened in much more depth and precision that I can use these ideas to do more reasearch and you will find that historical evidence points at monogamy. Guru Gobind Singh's wife or wives - The encyclopedia of Sikhism - SikhiWiki, free Sikh encyclopedia.
I used to be of the thought if the Guru does something then I accept it since they know better. But come on, shouldn’t they have provided us with better guidelines?
- What guidelines are missing Guru Gobind Singh has the 52 Hukamnamas you have tons of poetry that tell you how to live your life and after all of that you have the very life of the Gurus to take as an example of how to live your life. No other religion can offer you such a historical account of their religious creators. History was being documented at an incredibly high level during the Guru’s time this wasn’t 2000 years ago like the times of Jesus and Mohammed.
Idol worship – this is something Christians (excluding Catholics) and Muslims have a done a much better job at keeping it away.
- Catholics don’t idol worship that is an extremely disrespectful notion to the Catholic Church. You are being misinformed heavily by extremely biased people.
Criticism of Sikhs converting to other faiths such as Christianity – You know what, good for them if this provides them with a more caring community. I disagree with deception being used for such conversions, but otherwise I feel good for them. The fault lies on a lot (not all) of the Punjabi Sikh community itself. Why have Sikhs failed to spread the faith even over the Indian subcontinent itself? Why so much debate over a simple matter of canon scriptures (the Dasam Granth which oddly enough contains 2 of the prayers forming the Nitnem) and a matter of vegetarianism and meat eating? It should have been pretty clear thing laid out by the Gurus. Also this idea of Sikhs being encouraged to be critical thinkers but also not to question the Guru doesn’t quite go too well together.
- Christians also criticize people for leaving their religion or even for converting to a different denomination. Wars were fought over which “denomination” was the best in Christianity. Again, you are doing the “Bad Sikhs do this, so Sikhi is bad.” To be vegetarian or not has for the most part been answered by Sikh scholars and knowledgeable Sikhs. It is a choice the Guru himself said “The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom.” Although this is the only Shalak in which is usually used to defend meat eating. I’m vegetarian although because I believe animals have souls so I have come to my own understanding. I won’t starve to death to avoid eating meat although the other thing is you mentioned critical thinking. Research the impact meat has on your body, what your teeth are made to eat, you don’t have K9s you have incisors, but they are not K9s like animals. Farming animals is also inefficient and much more food can be produced if you replaced animal farms for agriculture. I have also not read anywhere that says you can question the Guru that seems more like a thing your family or someone taught you. They do this in every religion you will ever come across they will tell you to just have faith and to trust in God. Which isn’t a bad thing, but everyone should and will question their faith again faith is not knowing it is believing.
I apologise for the hefty post, there’s plenty more I’d like to say but at least these things I had to get off my chest. Before this faith crises recently, the past 2-3 months is the most serious I had ever been about Sikhi. I woke up early every morning (even for which there seems to be some uncertainty regarding when exactly counts as amrit vela) and you know what it did make me feel better. Until I later begin to realise that this good feeling is likely something almost anyone turning to a healthy sleep schedule and a habit of meditation could likely acquire. Buddhists who don’t believe in the importance of faith in an eternal creator likely also reap the benefits of meditation.
- Buddhists do reap the benefits of meditation what you are forgetting is that Sikhism is supposed to be the last teaching. The other religions failed to communicate the whole truth and that is why Guru Nanak was sent. Sikhism is the truth and we believe other religions also hold truths. The truth never changes so if we believe meditation is good and Buddhists do too it doesn’t really matter. Basically that truth was handed down to them from God.
Bottom point here: the good feeling one gets out of spirituality can be quite subjective. There are plenty of people out there who might follow a very different path and feel something from it and claim that it’s the true path since its working. That in itself is not a good enough reason for why a path is the true one. Truth in its nature is exclusive. The Bible claims authenticity through the fulfilments of prophecies it contains and The Quran through its prophecies and its literary perfection. I have not yet fully read either but intend to in order to see this for myself. I am far from the most intellectual or spiritually developed person, or the most well read in the SGGS or theology in general. But when I started to look at Sikhi a bit more objectively along with spiritually, all these were things I simply I couldn’t ignore. These are some of the issues I believe Sikhs need to deal with. For a faith which is meant to be built on inclusivity, I never even felt fully accepted as a proper Sikh since I am a Sehajdari.
- The arguments you are presenting here are the popular arguments of an Atheist towards all religions. These will never be answered that is why we have faith. Once again you presented the “bad sikhs equal bad Sikhi” you never felt fully accepted as a proper Sikh? To whom to other people or to Sikhism itself? Because judgemental people who are Sikh isn’t a reflection of Sikhi it is a reflection of their Ego.
If you took the time to read my post, I’d like to thank you. This challenge to the beliefs I held dear has left my restless and depressed, so if I hurt anyone’s sentiments then for that apologise and also for any incoherency in my writing. I really want to find truth is and have a genuine discussion based on reason and backing up of claims, rather than pure emotion and knowledge gained from word of mouth.
- To conclude I feel that a lot of the problems you have is actually not what Sikhi it is with the people you know who are Sikh and the way you feel around those people. You tend to place a lot of what Sikhi is on the people who are Sikh. You must understand that in all religions there is good followers, bad followers, and common followers this is not something that is unique to only Sikhism. A religion and its sets of beliefs stand on their own regardless of what the person “Claims” to be. I can claim to be a horse, but horses don’t look like humans right? So, anyone can claim to be a “Sikh,” but real Sikhs should have certain values, qualities, and prescribe to a certain way of life. What I urge you to do is concentrate on the text alone these are direct writings from the Guru’s and Selections made by the Gurus. Concentrate on what they believe and are tell you, not on the Sikhs you see around you. Is the text misleading you ? is it recommending you be a bad person?
- My subjective view on why Sikhism is greater than Christianity and Islam
- Christians and Islam believe if you don’t follow their path you go to hell. Sikhs believe that it is a person's actions not their religion that determines that.
- Sikhs have never tried to conquer the world.
- Everyone is equal period and gender does not matter. Christianity and Islam are barely coming around to that, but for most of their existence there has always been a barrier against women.
- Only 1 person is basically beloved by various religions and that is Guru Nanak, Islam= Baba Nanak, buddhism= Nanak Lama, Hinduism still Guru Nanak, think about that for a second Guru Nanak was so amazing that these religions all tried to claim him. Why would religions want to do that unless this man was speaking the undeniable truth one that transcended religions.
- We believe in the brotherhood of mankind as the highest order.
- Our scripture was written and selected by our Guru’s they were NOT composed by others we are the only religion who can offer that.