Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine when I was taking a “Religions of the World” class in college, that years later, I would be living religions of the world in India! Hinduism seems quite layered and complicated, but I will try to have some thoughts on it at a later date. I want to apologize in advance for my very simple explanation and for any mistakes I may make in my writing on the ancient Sikh religion. Feel free to add to my understanding or correct me by replying to my post. Yesterday I was writing about the Amritsar Massacre Garden. The Golden Sikh Temple is only a few windy streets away. Tomorrow I will write about the Golden Temple and its presence in the community, but I thought some explanation about the beliefs that were the impetus for the temple, would make it more understandable. Today’s topic will be the Sikh religion.
The history of the Sikhs parallels the history of the Punjab. The faith system began in the 15th century lead by Guru Gobind Singh who was not only a religious leader but also a social reformer. It was relatively compatible with other religions. During the following centuries there were some conflicts with the moguls and the Sikhs militarized. During the tense time before the 1947 partition, there was heavy conflict with the Muslims. In 1984, a group of militant separatist Sikhs, were fighting for their own homeland, which they called Khalistan. They sought refuse in the Golden Temple when the Indian army stormed with tanks, soldiers and helicopters. The next year, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister who called for the attack, paid with her life when she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Relations between the major religion of Hinduism and the Sikhs have come a long way and the current Prime Minister is Mr. Singh, of the family of the founder of the Sikh religion.
The Sikhs believe that god, the creator of the universe, has no form and should not be represented by demi-gods or idols. Their hair is never cut because they would have to bow their head to the barber for cutting. They bow only to god. Human life is precious and should always be protected. Physical force is used only as a last resort. Many Sikhs are in the army and easily recognized because of the turban worn by the men. They are obliged to work tirelessly for the poor and disadvantaged. The Sikh’s believe in equality of all people and reject the traditional Hindu caste system. There is a story of a very high official wanting to visit the Golden Temple and partake of the free meal. He was told he was welcome to come and stand in line and eat with all the other pilgrims. He argued that his life would be in danger without his guards and chose not to visit.
The” virtues” to which they are continually striving are truth, contentment, compassion, humility and love. The opposite” thieves” which were to be shunned in life are lust, wrath, greed, attachment and pride. Their three principals are to be absorbed in meditation and prayer, to make an honest income by honorable means, and to share their earnings through selflessly serving others. Many of these can be found in other religions including Christianity and Judaism, well as Islam.
The young man in the turban was our guide for the time we were in Amritsar. As we took time to walk, sit, and sketch, the guide asked if he could go to the shoe booth and serve his time of volunteering for the day. The man to the far right with his hand on his forehead is looking out to the Golden Temple. He was our lovely bus driver. We always invited him to join in the tours and he seemed particularly happy to see the Golden Temple as he had never seen it before.
This ends today’s lesson…