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Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by drkhalsa, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. drkhalsa

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    Sep 16, 2004
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    THE SIKHS : The Sikhs are one of the most prosperous and politically important religious minorities in India. The religion itself is of comparatively recent origin—it dates from the time of Babur—but the history of its community, called Panth , or "Path," by the faithful, is a deeply rooted aspect of Sikh life. Since its inception, the Sikh community has been one of the major factors in Indian history.

    The Mughals understood that Sikhism was a separatist movement, and by the eighteenth century, the Sikhs had established a separate kingdom with its capital in Lahore. The Sikhs were a major force in the British Allied army as the British gradually annexed the whole of India in the 1850's, and after Indian Independence, the Sikh community, half of which had to flee Muslim Pakistan after partition, became economically and politically the most significant and successful minority community in India. The Sikhs are unique as a religious movement. Founded in the deepest spirituality and mysticism, they are a radically egalitarian group rooted deeply in their sense of community, called "brotherhood" (khalsa ) , and history.

    The khalsa is unified by one aspect: all Sikhs are disciples of the founding Gurus of the religion—the word, "Sikh," means disciple. They are also, however, a highly militant religion and society; the community has to be protected with the highest martial vigilance and ability. Since the seventeenth century, Sikh fighters have been feared throughout India for their ability and sheer courage. The British, who employed them in their army in the nineteenth century, referred to them as the greatest of the "martial races."

    It's an odd mixture. On the one hand, Sikhism is one of the most deeply spiritual and profoundly mystical religions of the world, advocating a social harmony and egalitarianism unrivalled by any other major religion, with the possible exception of Buddhism. On the other hand, the Sikh community is a militant, warrior community, willing to fight, sacrifice, or assassinate to protect or further the community.

    Their history begins with Guru Nanak (1469-1539) who founded the religion. Much of his life Western historians have found difficult to put together, but in Sikh history, his life is recorded in the janam sakhis which record in small stories various events and sayings of Nanak's life. Western historians discount the janam sakhis as reliable historical evidence, but Sikh historians argue that the stories are both historically reliable and central to an understanding of Sikhism. Both Western and Sikh historians agree on a number events as central to Guru Nanak's life, vision, and mission.

    Born in 1469, Nanak became an accountant to the Muslim governor of Sultanpur. During this time, he had a vision of God and the presence of God in the human soul. His vision of God demanded that he teach people the true nature of God and the presence of God in humanity. Guru Nanak then began to journey about the country and teach people the nature of God; these journeys make up the whole of the janam-sakhis.

    Evenutally he established a village in the Punjab called Kartarpur for all his followers to live in. Throughout his life, he seems to have been deeply hostile to the Mughal administration. He referred to Babur the conqueror as "The Messenger of Death," and was profoundly troubled by the number of deaths the Mughal conquest was built on.

    Guru Nanak's teachings were written down in a series of verses. These verses make up the central teachings of the Sikh sacred scriptures, called the Adi Granth. The core teaching of Sikhism is one truth: that God is one God and is behind and present in all of creation, particularly in each human soul. God can be directly apprehended by an individual by examining his or her soul; this examination is carried out by meditating on the name of God. There is no need of any intermediary function, such as rituals, priests, fasting, churches, mosques, or anything else. All other gods are human particularizations of the one God, that is, they particularize one aspect of God. So all religions are both legitimate and illegitimate.

    Perhaps the most radical of Guru Nanak's teachings wat the rejection of caste or class. Since all human beings contain God within themselves, social distinction and inequality are externalizations of humanity's sinfulness. The ideal community is one in which no social distinctions are in place at all. The early history of Sikhism under Nanak and the first four Gurus is largely an attempt to build a class-free and caste-free society.

    The core of Guru Nanak's teachings involve three fundamental doctrines.
    • Nam: The Name. A direct, unmediated experience of God can be attained by meditating on God's name (Nam); this name, according to Guru Nanak, is ek , or "One." Each human being can overcome their sinfulness and achieve a mystical union with God by meditating on this name.
    • Sabad: The Word. God is revealed through the spoken word (sabad ) . The spoken word reveals the nature and name of God as well as the methods by which one can meditate on the Name and achieve union with god.
    • Guru: The Teacher. The Name and the Word are revealed through the Guru; knowledge of both only comes through the Guru. The Sikh concept of the Guru is different from the Hindu concept, for the Sikh Guru is synonymous with the Name and the Word. It is slightly inaccurate to say this, but it comes close to hitting the mark: in many ways, the Guru is the voice of God speaking to humanity.
    The Guru is one of the foundational concepts of Sikhism, and before his death, Guru Nanak appointed his successor. He was followed by nine more Gurus; the tenth and last declared the office to be discontinued and there has been no Guru since. While Guru Nanak established the central teachings of Sikhism, each Guru who followed added significantly to the religion (which was one aspect of the office of Guru). The figure of the Guru gave Sikhism a stable continuity from in its earliest and most volatile period; it also made it adaptable to changing situations. The figure of the Guru, who had the same authority as the founding Guru, allowed the religion to change and adapt to a growing community and growing hostility from the Mughal emperors.

    The Gurus
    The first four Gurus of Sikhism established many of the customs and rituals of Sikhism. The fourth Guru, Ram Das (1574-1581) founded the city of Amritsar as a place of Sikh pilgrimage. It is to this day the most important city in Sikh geography; the central temple of Sikhism, the Golden Temple, is located there.

    The most important of the early Gurus, however, was Arjan, who led the Sikh community as Guru from 1581 to 1606. Arjan was the Guru who assembled the verses of Guru Nanak and the first four Gurus into the anthology, Adi Granth , which became the scriptures of the Sikh community. Arjan was the first Sikh Guru to fall afoul of the Mughal authorities, thus setting the tone for the remaining history of the Mughal Empire. When Prince Khusrau rebelled against his father, Jahangir, Arjan helped him. Jahangir, growing suspicious of the steady growth of the Sikh community and Arjan's increasing influence over the region, arrested him in 1606 and tortured him to death.

    This event more than any other converted the Sikh community into a militant community. Arjan was succeeded by his son, Hargobind (1606-1644), who built the Sikh community into a military power. He elevated martyrdom to an ideal of the religion; this was not merely dying for the faith, but being killed while fighting for the Sikh community. At this point in history, the Sikh community begins to actively resist the Mughal Empire and several battles are fought between the two sides.

    Gobind Singh
    The most militant of the Gurus was the tenth and last, Gobind Singh. Under Aurangzeb, who fanatically tried to suppress non-Muslim practices, the Sikhs were persecuted viciously by the Mughal government. In response, Gobind Singh transformed the Sikh community into a military community. For the Mughals and for Muslim historians, Gobind Singh was no better than a warlord with no religious credentials. To an extent, this is accurate. He was a powerful military general with a profound vision of transforming Sikh society into a militaristic society—an absolute necessity for a community surrounded by a hostile and powerful empire. Gobind Singh established the fourth and last most important doctrine of Sikhism (the first three being the Name, the Word, and the Guru): this was the doctrine of Khalsa, or the "Brotherhood" of Sikhs. The khalsa gives the community a deep sense of unity founded on symbolic acts. The most important of these is an initiation rite very similar to Christian baptism. In this rite, the believer drinks sweetened water that has been stirred with a dagger (the dagger represents the initiate's willingness to fight for the faith and the community). After this ceremony, the initiate is given a name added on to his own name: Singh, or "lion." This common name identifies each person as part of the community, as part of the same family, and as willing to fight for the faith. Each Sikh male is required to wear symbolic clothing and accoutrements to make manifest his membership in the community: these include uncut hair and a steel dagger.

    There is no question that the formation of the khalsa is the single most important event in the Sikh experience of history. It fully unified the community and made it a force to reckon with militarily. After the formation of the khalsa , the political and military power of the Sikhs grew tremendously. By the early 1800's, the Sikhs managed to carve out an independent kingdom in the Mughal Empire, which they retained until the British annexations in the 1850's. Still, the Sikh military brotherhood was the most powerful fighting force that the British used against the Mughal Empire in its closing days.

    Gobind Singh declared the Guru to be officially ended at his death. From his death onwards, religious authority has rested in the scriptures, which were renamed Guru Granth Sahib , and in the Sikh community.

    To this day, the Sikh community is economically and politically very powerful and is one of the most restive of India's minorities. It has demanded greater autonomy and has militantly defied the government. India's Prime Minister was assassinated by her Sikh guards, and Sikh militancy has led to military intervention, including the the invasion of the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar. To Akbar, the Sikhs were a religious community deserving imperial support. To Jahangir, they were a growing political force that potentially threatened the Empire. To Aurangzeb, the Sikhs were dangerous heretics to be stamped out at any cost. To the successors of Aurangzeb, the Sikhs were a major military and social force pulling the Empire apart. As a separate and militant community, the Sikhs still find themselves partly foreigners in their own country, suspicious of and suspected by the dominant government.

    Taken from: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/MUGHAL/SIKH.HTM
    #1 drkhalsa, Oct 10, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2005
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