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Universal Nature Of Sikhism And Sikh Definition

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Dr Sukhraj S. Dhillon, Ph.D. USA

There is an excellent dialogue among sikhs all over the world to define a sikh. The recent focus is the 1925 definition of a sikh and its endorsement among various groups. The discussion is about the definition of a Sikh as a "person who believe in the Guru Granth Sahib, believe in the Ten Gurus, and have no other religion."

The 1925 definition of a sikh in the spirit of universal nature of Sikh religion is an excellent effort, and I admire the endorsees of 1925 definition. However, we cannot ignore the Amrit and Khalsa aspect of Sikhism without clarification.

The greatest contribution of the last living 10th Guru Nanak-- Guru Gobind Singh-- is the creation of Khalsa, the family of pure ones, to which a Sikh may belong through receiving baptism or initiation (Amrit/khande di pahul). Therefore, every khalsa is a Sikh but every Sikh is not a khalsa unless he/she receives baptism.

Although Guru Gobind Singh offered the highest honor to Khalsa, he did not expect every Sikh to become khalsa. One of his most favorite poets Bhai Nand Lal and more than half of his other poets, for example, did not become khalsa. Therefore, Dashmesh Pita 10th Guru Nanak should have no objection to the definition of a sikh we are endorsing. This is a good lesson to avoid making it a controversial issue. (Going back to rahitnamas etc doesn't help. As many of us know that rahitnamas written by Chaupa Singh, Bhai Nand Lal, Desa Singh..... are not in agreement with each other.)

In the Universal Spirit of Sikhism, let us endorse the definition of a Sikh as a "person who believe in the Guru Granth Sahib, believe in the Ten Gurus, and have no other religion." Let the Sikhs all over the world (in the West and East including SGPC) onsider it for universal adoption?

Moreover, I would like to share just 2 lines of gurbani and the universal nature of our religion which is awaiting to be accepted by the entire humanity as our founder Guru-- Guru Nanak Dev Ji intended. It was not a coincidence that he was accepted the guru and pir by hindu and muslims. At a seminar conducted at Simla, now in Himachal Pardesh, by the Panjab Historical Society Lahore, before World War I. The lieutenant governor of Panjab, who was presiding over the seminar said, " according to what had been told by the speaker, Guru Nanak was a great Christian."

When we look at Guru Nanak's philosophy--Sikhism belongs to every human being and it carries a universal message in the true sense (sarbat da bhala). However, most of the Sikh Gurdwara's are ignoring the spiritual nature of our founding Guru's message in Gurbani. In most of the places, we Sikhs are spending time fighting, for example, over physical appearance--either forcing our views on others and cursing them or defending ourselves from those who are forcing their views. I meet Amritdhari Sikhs and those who are Non-Amritdhari. Most of us will agree that there will always be Amritdhari and Non-Amritdhari Sikhs and both can either sit together in Gurdwaras or divide our community into separate Gurdwaras. It's only the understanding of Gurbani and message that can practically improve our everyday living, and can keep us together within our own community and with the rest of the world.

Just two lines of Gurbani can change our attitude:
"Dhaul dharam daya (compassion) ka putu;
Santokh (being content or satisfied) thap rakhiya jin suti."
(Stanza 16, Japuji)

This universal message contain two words: compassion (daya) and contentment (santokh). The righteousness is born out of compassion and contentment upholds the order of nature (Dhaul dharam daya ka poot; santokh thap rakhiya jin soot). The implication is: "Be compassionate to others; Be satisfied within yourself!"

The two words, compassion (daya) and contentment (santokh) combines the philosophy of whole world: Christianity in the west and all the eastern religions.

The message "Be compassionate to others!" is a basic tenet in Christianity. A Christmas Message says:

"The best part of a person's life is not fame, wealth or ability. The best part of a good person's life is the little acts of kindness and love given to others. You are remembered and respected for the good you do for others."

It is due to this philosophy that we see Christians doing great deeds of compassion-- whether it's adopting a child or feeding the hungry of the world. Mother Teresa was a good example of someone who is compassionate to others-- taking care of the poor of the poorest in Calcutta. Bhagat Puran Singh of Pingalwara in Amritsar was another example who took care of the poor and sick. That is compassion Guru Nanak is asking us to have in our lives.

The second part of the message "Be content within yourself" is the basic philosophy of eastern religions, suggesting that happiness comes from within. Buddhism believes in it, Jainism believes in it, and other eastern religions believe in it. The purpose of every person's life is to realize triple nature of the self, called sat-chit-ananda (existence or being conscious, and bliss). It means finding happiness within yourself. When we are content within, we are on our way to bliss or ultimate happiness. When we blame others for our happiness, we are actually misdiagnosing the cause of it. The cause lies within. When we feel upset or unhappy because someone got a raise, made more money or got a big house or an expensive car or a private jet, we overlook the real cause of unhappiness. The cause is: not attending to our inner self, not trying to know the spiritual self that we are, not communicating or communing with our soul.

"Be compassionate (daya) to others;
Be satisfied (santokh) within yourself!"

Just these two lines, as we mentioned above, combine the philosophy of whole world: Christianity in the west and all the eastern religions. That is why we can call Sikhism a UNIVERSAL RELIGION. It is unfortunate that we Sikhs have gone away from the teachings of Gurbani and can't even practice as a religion of one community. All our life is wasted on dividing our community by concentrating on differences such as outward appearance and ignoring the universal nature of Nanak's message which our founder Guru preached to every Hindu, Muslim and others.

If we could practice this universal message, imagine the satisfaction and happiness it would bring. But we should never do the opposite -- "be compassionate to yourself and expect other to be satisfied with what they have."