Sikhism - A New Approach
In the following discussion, we'll make an attempt to understand the true meaning and tenets of Sikhism. We'll try to analyse what Sikhism was intended to be, in accordance with the Gurus' teachings, and not the way it is understood by most people today. The ideas put here will be backed with sufficient support from SGGS, and we urge you to be patient and read through the entire article. Queries, if any, may be mailed to us.
During the times of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, there existed primarily two religions in India - Hinduism and Islam. Though he was born into a Hindu family by birth, when asked about his religion, his reply would be that he was neither Hindu nor Muslim. He justified his statement by saying he was the son of God, like all of us are, and thus he belonged not to religions, but to God. From all the literature, available on Guru Nanak Dev Ji's life, and also his verses in the SGGS, the following points are evident:
Though there existed 'religions' and 'castes' and other forms of distinguishing factors, which divided people into segments, he refused to be a part of any.
He belonged to all religions, and at the same time, to none. In the sense that, he considered himself to be a part of all sections, but at the same time he refused to participate in rituals pertaining to any one religion.
His religion was his faith. He followed no rituals and his ways were simple. In his verses in the SGGS, he condemns rituals and considers them as a hindrance to the path of spiritual life. He asked people to take the middle road on path of spiritualism, i.e. no extremes - family life and at the same time detachment.
Thus he had no religion, but only a way of life, and that is what he preached to people as the message of God. He preached no religion. In his terms a Hindu can be a Sikh and so can a Muslim - because he only preached complete and continuous devotion to Almighty and a ritual free life as the right path.
He didn't define any 'Paath' or any pre defined times for remembering God. According to him, we are supposed to remember God every moment of our life, and not just in the mornings and evenings.The only reason he recommended meditating in the morning ( Amrit Vela ) was, it is peaceful and our minds are free of tensions, arising from day to day chores.
From the life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji , it is clear that what he expected the Sikhs to follow was not just another religion or ritual but instead, a WAY OF LIFE - a way that teaches man to realize God.
What we intend to emphasize by this, is that Sikhism is not to be treated as religion. Religion can be inherited - son of a Hindu becomes a Hindu by default. Similarly, we treat a child born into a Sikh family to be a Sikh. Unfortunately what we fail to understand is that Sikhism is not something that can be inherited or passed on - it can only be earned. As son of a doctor, doesn't qualify to be a doctor unless he studies to be one, similarly the son of a Sikh has to walk on the path described by our Gurus to become a Sikh. To be a Sikh we have to follow the path shown by the Gurus.
Before we proceed any further, we would like to clarify the biggest misconception that prevails in our minds, including some of us who call ourselves 'Sikh'. It may come as a blow to some, because these ideas have been hammered into us, over the years, by our ancestors, family members, some Granthis, and people who consider themselves an authority on this subject.
It is to be clearly understood that the people described below are NOT Sikhs :
A person born into a Sikh family - because Sikhism cannot be inherited, it has to be earned.
A person who just wears unshorn hair, or wears a Kirpan, Kanga, Kachhera, Kara - these are just the steps of the spiritual ladder, and not the final destination.
A person who just 'recites' the Nitnem Banis or any other verses from the SGGS - we are supposed to understand them and most importantly FOLLOW them. By reading about cooking we don't get food. We have to cook to get it.
A merely baptized ( Amrit Chakhna ) person- Just being baptized doesn't make you a Sikh. Getting baptized is like taking admission into a school - it doesn't mean that you automatically become a graduate. To graduate, you have to study and PERFORM. Thus, baptizing just a step and not the destination.
If all these people
are not Sikhs, then who is a Sikh?
A Sikh is simply one who follows and practises the teachings embodied in the SGGS. A persons' robe, appearance or background has nothing to do with his spiritual life. Anyone can read the SGGS. The key word here is FOLLOW. Though many of us 'Sikhs' read verses from the SGGS daily, it is of little or no avail to us because we do not PRACTICE them. Thus a Sikh is one who puts into practice the teachings of our Gurus - someone who walks on the true path of love and devotion to God, as described in the SGGS. He can be of any color, caste, creed, race or religion.
At this stage, many may counter our discussion with " Then what is the significance of Guru Gobind Singh Ji 's giving us an individual appearance and initiating the ceremony of Amrit Chakna? ".
First of all, let us try to analyze the society prevailing at that time. There were castes and other distinguishing factors present in society. Thus to make everyone EQUAL, as we are in the eyes of God, he wanted people from all backgrounds to drink Amrit from the same container so that we should realize the fact that we are the children of one God.
Secondly, Amrit Chakna, as explained above is a form of 'initiation' that is required by anyone who wants to walk the path of spiritualism. Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself got baptized in the same ceremony by the Panj Pyaaras. Thus it is the first essential step without which subsequent advancement on this path cannot be achieved. He asked people to wear the Five K's for the following reasons:
One, to make everyone equal.
Two, they were the identification of men who had risen above the social evils of distinctions, and considered everybody to be the children of God. Unfortunately, now the Five K's have become mere symbols and the cause of distinguishing people into just another sect...'Sikhism'.
If you would like to read more about the significance of the Five K's in today's situation, please follow the link at the end of the page.
Thus, we see that Sikhism is not a religion, but a Way of Life, which is to be followed if one wishes to be close to the Almighty.
Now we'll try to see where we went wrong. What is it that is taking away from God ? Why is it that despite the fact we go to a Gurudwara regularly, do our Nitnem, observe all the required code of conduct, we are still caught in the circle of the five sins? Why are we not nearer to him than we should be ? Why haven't we been able to break free from maya?
The reason is quite simple. We wasted all our time and energy on routine tasks. Thus, we became followers of another religion which we call 'Sikhism'.
Let us realize the fact that we shouldn't be demeaning Sikhism by making it a religion. It's high time we FOLLOWED, and not just preached Sikhism.
Article written by Karandeep Singh. Please mail any queries or discrepancies to the author.
Click here to read Part II of the discussion - " Where did we go wrong and what's the right path." (Coming Soon)