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Sikhism- Indo-Vedic or Islamic?

Dr Boonda Singh

Dr Boonda SinghSep 14, 2021, 05:47 PM IST

Sikhism- Indo-Vedic or Islamic?

There has been a constant move by some splinter Sikh groups living outside India that Sikhism is closer to Islam than it is to Hinduism. Few eminent Sikhs have also mentioned that Sikhs are culturally closer to Muslims. 

Veteran muslims who have witnessed the era of partition of India in 1947 have claimed that Muhammad Ali Jinnah was in favour of a combined Punjab where Sikhs were invited to remain back in Pakistan, but Hindus were asked to leave, so that Pakistan would have complete Punjab, and the offer was to also to have an alternate Muslim and Sikh Prime Minister every year.

I am not sure how accurate that information is, and more importantly how genuine and sincere the proposition was to have a Sikh and Muslim bonhomie and annual sharing of political power by Mr Jinnah. Because the systematic mapping of non Muslims in Rawalpindi followed by their targeted massacre was planned several months before August 47, a process similar to the genocide of Jews.

Although it is an undeniable fact that Sikhism rose as a buffer between Hindu and Muslims as was envisaged by Guru Nanak, but it wasn’t a replacement of Hinduism either.

The Sikhism was created to keep core concepts of Hinduism intact but allow a reform in the ritualistic practices, and there was influence of the Bhakti movement as well as of Sufism. 

Sikhism in its current form has its core value as a written compilation of Gurbani which was giving Guru Granth Sahib eternal Gurudom, but the intent was to permanently embed the teachings and not allow dilution or adulteration of any kind. One of the major differences between Quran/Bible/Torah versus Guru Granth Sahib is that the former were revelation based religion where the author themselves were not Moses, Christ or Muhammad. Those were compiled by followers and captured to the best of their ability. Which is why there are various versions of Hadiths and Bible. However, Guru Granth Sahib was directly written by the Guru himself, and not by disciples.  And the reason behind this was that the Guru wanted the intended teachings to be delivered from the source itself without a risk of dilution or unintended bias. 

If we look at the core teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, it teaches about experiencing Naam, or Shabad, which is the eternal name and essence of Timeless Infinity. And the teachings advice that it will be easy to obtain that Naam, or Divine Enlightenment through a Guru. Guru Gobind Singh ji passed on the permanent Gurudom to the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The concept of an interceptor Guru is a core and fundamental concept of Hinduism as well, and has been passed on from ages. It is called ‘Diksha’. This is not the case with Islam. The last Prophet was Muhammad sahib, and Holy Quran is not a living Guru. Guru Granth Sahib is a living Guru. 

The entire history of ancient Hinduism is replete with the story of Gurukuls and the various Rishi/Muni were the Guru who taught students. The word Sikh means disciple- as a learner- for ‘Seekhna’. In fact, what the Sikh Gurus had done was similar to the Gurukul method of teaching, but brought this into the mainstream populace. And more importantly the Guruji brought a social reform to eliminate the injustices due to divisions in the name of casteism, and other prevailing social evils of that time. The famous argument made by some Sikhs that Guru Nanak rejected Hinduism when he rejected to wear a ‘Janeu’ is incorrectly interpreted. He refused the Janeu as a ritual but propagated that the actual Janeu should be like a permanent sacred thread for the soul which guides one permanently for having control over ones evil vices and guides towards liberation. With death, the thread will get destroyed by the body, but the eternal thread of Janeu will not wither away. 

Likewise, there is a mention of prohibition of idol worship in Sikhism, but this has also been misinterpreted. The concept was to bring out a realisation that the essence of divine was to be instilled into a point of worship as otherwise the prayer to the infinite Almighty got limited to worshipping a piece of stone unless one had done the conscious effort to remember the Divine during idol worship. The Guru realised that the idol worship at that time had become a mere lip service where the connection was simply from a human to a piece of earth, but with a big disconnect of the religious feelings towards the Infinite through that idol. Therefore the Guru was not against the idol, but against the superficial and ritual practice that it had become in the absence of the Divine connection whilst idol worship.

This is what has been stressed by Guru ji as well as Sant Kabir in Guru Granth Sahib.

However, some Sikh scholars have wrongly interpreted this and misconstrued the teachings and intentions of Sikh Gurus to create a Hindu Sikh divide.

Hinduism is very vast, and not about Brahmins or idol worship alone. Brahmins are less than 5% of Hindus. The voice of reform against the social vices prevalent in Hindu society was also raised by Hindu reformers as well such as Raja Ram Mohun Roy, who started the Brahmo Samaj which was also supported by Swami Vivekanand. Initially Swamy Vivekanand was not a big proponent of idol worship. The actual concept of idol worship to connect with divine was taught to Narendra Nath Dutta by his Guru Swamy Rama Krishna Paramhansa who being an enlightened Guru was able to give Narendra the experience of God. Rama Krishna Paramhansa himself used to have vision of divine Shakti- Maa Kaali, during worship of her idol. In the presence of his Guru, Narendra was able to have a similar experience, and thus, Narendra Nath Dutta understood the essence of linking divinity to idol, and became Swamy Vivekanand, and gloriously upheld the valued treasures of Vedanta before the world.

Later, Arya Samaj movement was started by a group of Hindus themselves under Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati. This group advocated monotheism, rejected idol worship- but still they remained Hindus. The initial Satyartha Prakash written by Dayanand Saraswati did not mention any great opinion about Sikhism either, but after he visited Punjab, he had a change of heart, and the criticism written against Sikhism were removed by him. Unfortunately, on a trip to Rajasthan, Dayanand Saraswati was poisoned to death by a Muslim cook as a retribution for him having written against Islam. Dayanand forgave the assassin before his death, but his modifications in Satyarth Prakash to remove criticisms against Sikhism were not incorporated by successors. This was more of a political and ignorant issue, and an unfortunate happening that created a wedge between the Sikhs and the Arya Samajis, and was one major factor that led to the debacle of 1984 and the Punjab turmoil. The Arya Samajis opposed the Punjabi Suba movement. Sikhism 
was also borne out of a religious reform, just as they were, but perhaps the Arya Samajis were not in favour of the Khalsa, which was created by Guru Gobind Singh. They did not realise that this concept of Saint- Warrior by Guru Gobind Singh was a resurrected ancient Hinduism itself as was done by Parshuram, by Ram or by Krishna. As mentioned in hukamnana by Guru Gobind Singh- when all peaceful means to destroy evil fail, then it if justified to raise the sword.

It is sad that this philosophy of the 10th Guru was not appreciated by the Arya Samajis in Punjab. But a coin always has 2 sides. Some Hindus and Arya Samajis had opinions that mainstream Sikhs tried to impose their staunch Sikh beliefs in Punjab and that threatened the belief system of Hindus in Punjab during the Punjabi suba movement, and as a result, all Hindus opposed the Punjabi Suba movement at that time out of fear for dilution of their ideology and domination by Sikhs. However a review of the Anandpur resolution never suggested any sinister intent by Sikhs and this can be verified as it was and is a document in public domain. Therefore an unnecessary fear and division was created between Arya Samajis and Sikhs in Punjab. The small RSS group in Punjab also sided with the Arya Samajis to oppose the Punjabi Suba movement, which was never a Khalistan movement. Over a period of time, the entire Arya Samajis became synonymous as RSS for the Sikhs world wide. And over a period of time, all Hindus became synoymous as Brahmins and RSS for the worldwide Sikh community. Not many are aware that the main body of RSS in Nagpur and outside Punjab and sent strong recommendations to the small RSS faction in Punjab to support the Punjabi suba movement. Sadly the Punjabi RSS chose to side with Arya Samajis, both of whom had unnecessary fears of the intentions of Sikhs who wanted the Punjabi Suba movement which was merely a drive to safeguard Punjabi language and culture, and not to impose Sikhism on Hindus.

What failed notice was that all are a continuation of the same Indo Vedic concept but became victims of misinformation and gossip.

There have been efforts to split Sikhism from Hinduism based on misconstrued and distorted aspects of the message of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh by some Sikhs who have been affected during the turmoil of the 1980s and the political disaster by the then ruling party. 

The entire Guru Granth Sahib teaches us to take the name of Hari, Gobind, Raghunath, Ram, Jagdish- as various names of God. Again, with no disrespect to any other religion, there is no mention in Granth Sahib to worship God using any name used in the terminology of any Abrahamic religion.

Mardana was a close friend and disciple of Nanak, but he was not a fanatic Islamist either, and was a low caste Muslim. When Guru Gobind Singh was supported by Pir Budhu Shah, or his 5000 followers- all of them were Shia Muslims who were disowned by Aurangzeb as being non Muslims. These 5000 Shia Muslims were a part of the Royal Mughal army, but were disbanded by Aurangzeb when he became the emperor. These 5000 Shias then came and joined Guru Gobind Singh. Therefore the clear message here is that the Guru were all encompassing and their main aim was to be all inclusive, eliminate caste based discrimination among humans and to treat the whole humanity as one- Vasudevan Kutumbhakan- a concept of ancient Indo Vedic followers. 

The golden temple’s foundation was laid by Muslim Fakir Mian Mir, but the name of the Gurudwara was still Har Mandir Sahib- and Hari is the commonest name of God, and mentioned most number of times in Guru Granth Sahib.

Ram was also the name prescribed by Guru- and the concept goes well beyond Lord Sri Ram Chandra to the times when Valmiki, a petty thief who at one time was asked by Sapta Rishi to recite - ‘Mara Mara’, and years later when they recovered him from inside the anthill in which he was covered, still reciting ‘Mara Mara’, to now recite it correctly as ‘Ram Ram’, and he became the revered sage Valmiki who wrote Ramayan. Lord Ram Chandra was an incarnation of Vishnu, but concept of Ram by Guru Gobind Singh goes back to pre Valmiki times when the name Ram was synonymous of Lord Almighty as suggested to Valmiki by the Sapta Rishis (7 sages- of whom Rishi Agastya was the seventh).

Sikhism was a reform movement of Hinduism and need of the hour due to the existential threat to mainstream Hinduism from external invaders. The Hindu religious fervour was replaced by casteism and blind practices at that time, and the division in Hindu society was a perfect recipe that allowed a handful of Muslim invaders to loot and plunder India. In line with that, from the 1st through to the 10th Guru, the evolution of Sikhism to Nihang Sikhs was an appropriately poised series of reforms addressed to stop the spread of fanaticism and forced conversions to Islam.

Sadly with times, the contributions of Sikhs was unsung and efforts by Sikhs to protect their heritage was instead met with fear and skepticism by others, which need not have been the case. If Sikhs had strong feelings that they were not of Hindu origin and had severed off their emotional bonds with Hindus, clearly they would have either accepted Jinnah’s supposed offer or to have an independent Sikh state. They could not have an independent Sikh state with Muslims because clearly Muslims wanted Pakistan as an Islamic state. When Sikhs were driven to Indian side, all left of Punjab was a tiny strip from Amritsar to Jalandhar. The area beyond river Satluj was never a part of Punjab as it was a part of British dominion ruled by vassal kings such as Maharaja of Patiala, Jind, Nabha and Kapurthala. After partition of India, these were called as PEPSU states- Provinces of East Punjab States Union. The original Punjab was West Punjab, and is now Pakistan. If Islam were closer to Sikhism than Hinduism, then clearly 
Sikhs would have still been flourishing in West Punjab aka Pakistan. Clearly that acceptance wasn’t shown to Sikhs at that time from the fanatics in Islam who cannot accept any moderate and true version of Islam.

The Hindu and Sikh being a collective brotherhood was obvious during the partition of India in 1947 when both Sikhs and Hindus were asked to leave Pakistan and both were murdered with equal ruthlessness by Islamic fanatics who wanted to divide the nation. No Sikh was shown any leniency in Pakistan despite the claim by some Sikhs that Sikhism is a monotheistic religion just like Islam. Because Islamists never had any doubts of the exclusive distinctiveness of their religion from Sikhism. 

It was not evident to the Sikhs that the monotheism of Sikhism was not the same as that of Islam because Sikhism believed in immanence whereby Creator and Creation are intertwined and were one and inseparable from each other, akin to the IndoVedic concept of a Single Unifying Force of Aadishakti which also finds a mention in the teachings of Sikh Gurus. This is in sharp contrast to the monotheism of Abrahamic religions where the monotheism is transcendental, meaning that Creator and Creation are separate, and God is distinctly separate and remotely controls the creation from a distance.

The olive branch that is being shown to Sikhs aggrieved and affected in the turmoil of 80s by Pakistan is welcome, but one may wonder if it is not simply with a politically driven agenda and motive. 

What will help would be for the mainstream Hindu society to understand where things have gone wrong, remove their unnecessary misconceptions about Sikhs, incorporate historical details of Sikhism and its selfless valour and sacrifices in the school curriculum, put a legal ban on jokes targeting the Sikh community or showing them in poor light in the Film, TV and social media platforms and in day to day life. 

It was Hindus only who transformed to Sikhs. That has stopped now, and Sikhs are now derived from Sikhs themselves as a progression through progeny. The need of the hour is for more Hindus to adopt the Khalsa brotherhood- especially for the eldest son of the family to be encouraged to become a Sikh, as used to be the case during and after Banda Singh Bahadur. 

At the same time, it is imperative that Sikhs worldwide understand the true message of the Guru Gobind Singh which hoped to unite all humans as one- ‘Manas kee jaat sab ek pehchanbo’, and this cannot come by severing bonds from Hinduism. Sikhs should not become victims of political driven misinformation where some vested interests put the concept of Hinduism in bad light. They should educate their children about the true aspects of Hindu-Sikh history, their common heritage, roots and principles, and the true concepts of both Hinduism and Sikhism instead of having a myopic view. Hindus and Sikhs are an inseparable part of each other, and are communities in continuity. 

It will be very useful if government policies and legislation are put in place and adopted at national and international levels to spread this message and also to discourage and convict mischievous elements who try and disrupt the Hindu-Sikh unity and brotherhood. 

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on Sep 15 2021 11:27:37

no one with common sense and evolving being like sanatani would carry 2 kilo turban on head with dirty hair weighing another kilo. we hindus r evolved beings who don't get stuck in rituals. sikhs have made sardar asardar. brahmans have given away janeu and choti. sanatani has open architecture. we worship the stones and the stones we can and will throw to madarchod abrahmic suwars when needed. time to convert golden temple again to hari mandir as it was. dirty gora british separated sikh panth from hindus. time to cancel that deed. demominise bharatvarsh, the next step after demonetisation. turn all moskSHITs in2 shauchalay modi shauchalay abhiyan. namaz/shauch only shauchalay with kuran wipe.

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