Hinduism and Sikhism

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Sikhism did not evolve a distinct theology of its own like Jainism or Buddhism. It accepted a form of Vaishnavite Hinduism, giving it a new emphasis. Basically the gurus' teachings were Vedantic. Therefore there was not the same kind of breach from Hinduism as in the cases of Jainism and Buddhism. Sikhism accepted the Hindu code of conduct, its theory of the origin of the world, the purpose of life, the purpose of religion, samsara, the theory of birth-death-rebirth-these were taken in their entirety from Hinduism. ~ Khushwant Singh
He worshipped as much in Hindu temples as he did in gurudwaras. When he was sick and about to die, he gave away cows for charity. What did he do with the diamond Kohi-noor? He did not want to give it to the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar which he built in marble and gold, but to Jagannath Puri as his farewell gift. When he had the Afghans at his mercy and wrested Kashmir from them, he wanted the gates of the temple of Somnath back from them. Why should he be making all these Hindu demands? Whatever the breakaway that had been achieved from Hinduism, this greatest of our monarchs bridged in 40 years. ~ Khushwant Singh
Max Arthur Macauliffe... told the Sikhs that Hinduism was like a "boa constrictor of the Indian forests," which "winds its opponent and finally causes it to disappear in its capacious interior." The Sikhs "may go that way," he warned. He was pained to see that the Sikhs regarded themselves as Hindus which was, "in direct opposition to the teachings of the Gurus." He put words into the mouth of the Gurus and invented prophecies by them which anticipated the advent of the white race to whom the Sikhs would be loyal. ~ Ram Swarup

Hinduism and Sikhism share many philosophical concepts such as Karma, Dharma, Mukti, Maya and Saṃsāra. In the days of Mughal oppression, in which Hindus were being converted to Islam through oppression and force, Sikhism came to their defence against the Mughals in India. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was the first to raise voice against the rule of Islamic ruler Babur, the then ruler of India.

Quotes[edit]

  • Those ways of Indian cult which most resemble a popular form of Theism, are still something more; for they do not exclude, but admit the many aspects of God. (...) The later religious forms which most felt the impress of the Islamic idea, like Nanak's worship of the timeless One, Akâla, and the reforming creeds of today, born under the influence of the West, yet draw away from the limitations of western or Semitic monotheism. Irresistibly they turn from these infantile conceptions towards the fathomless truth of Vedanta.'
    • Sri Aurobindo: Foundations of Indian Culture, p.135. quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Sikhism did not evolve a distinct theology of its own like Jainism or Buddhism. It accepted a form of Vaishnavite Hinduism, giving it a new emphasis. Basically the gurus' teachings were Vedantic. Therefore there was not the same kind of breach from Hinduism as in the cases of Jainism and Buddhism. Sikhism accepted the Hindu code of conduct, its theory of the origin of the world, the purpose of life, the purpose of religion, samsara, the theory of birth-death-rebirth-these were taken in their entirety from Hinduism.'
    • Khushwant Singh: Many Faces, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Sikh scholars sat down to take Hinduism out of the Granth Sahib. They took it out page by page. In the end, however, they were left holding the binding cover in their hands.
    • Khushwant Singh, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • This new community, the Khalsa Panth, remained an integral part of the Hindu social and religious system. It is significant that when Tegh Bahadur was summoned to Delhi, he went as a representative of the Hindus. He was executed in the year 1675. His son who succeeded him as guru later described his father’s martyrdom as in the cause of the Hindu faith, ‘to preserve their caste marks and their sacred thread did he perform the supreme sacrifice’. The guru himself looked upon his community as an integral part of the Hindu social system.
    • Khushwant Singh: Many Faces, quoted from Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • At any rate, the insight with which he came back from his three days’ retreat, as quoted by Khushwant Singh, was entirely within the Hindu tradition. “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim” (for that is the literal translation, and it makes a difference) does not mean “I, Nanak, am neither Hindu nor Muslim”, it means a wholesale rejection of the Hindu and Muslim identities valid for all self-described Hindus and Muslims as well. It means that the Self (Atman, the timeless indweller, the object-subject of his “mystical experience”) is beyond worldly divisions like those between different religions and sects. The Self is neither black nor white, neither big nor small, neither Hindu nor Muslim, neither this nor that; neti neti, in the Upanishadic phrase. This insight is as typically Hindu as you can get.
    • Khushwant Singh cited in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • Though Govind Singh is considered as the founder of the Khalsa order (1699) who 'gave his Sikhs an outward form distinct from the Hindus', he too did things which Sikh separatists would dismiss as 'brahminical'. As Khushwant Singh notes, 'Gobind selected five of the most scholarly of his disciples and sent them to Benares to learn Sanskrit and the Hindu religious texts, to be better able to interpret the writings of the gurus, which were full of allusions to Hindu mythology and philosophy.' Arun Shourie quotes Govind Singh as declaring: 'Let the path of the pure [khâlsâ panth] prevail all over the world, let the Hindu dharma dawn and all delusion disappear. (...) May I spread dharma and prestige of the Veda in the world and erase from it the sin of cow-slaughter.'
    • Khushwant Singh, Arun Shourie, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Khushwant Singh notes with a certain disappointment that even when the Sikhs carved out a state for themselves, they did not separate from Hinduism: 'The Sikhs triumphed and we had Ranjit Singh. You may feel that here at long last we had a Sikh monarch, and the Khalsa would come into their own. Nothing of the sort happened. (...) Instead of taking Sikhism in its pristine form, he accepted Hinduism in its brahminical form. He paid homage to Brahmins. He made cow-killing a capital offence'... Further, he donated three times more gold to the newly built makeshift Vishvanath temple in Varanasi than to the Hari Mandir in Amritsar. He also threatened the Amirs of Sindh with an invasion if they didn't stop persecuting the Hindus. ... By any standard, Ranjit Singh was a Hindu ruler: 'He worshipped as much in Hindu temples as he did in gurudwaras. When he was sick and about to die, he gave away cows for charity. What did he do with the diamond Kohi-noor? He did not want to give it to the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar which he built in marble and gold, but to Jagannath Puri as his farewell gift. When he had the Afghans at his mercy and wrested Kashmir from them, he wanted the gates of the temple of Somnath back from them. Why should he be making all these Hindu demands? Whatever the breakaway that had been achieved from Hinduism, this greatest of our monarchs bridged in 40 years.' .... 'Guru Govind Singh (...) sought inspiration from the deeds of martial Hindu deities like goddesses Chandi, Sri and Bhagwati.(...) the dividing line between Hindus and Sikhs remained extremely thin. (...) Many Hindu families brought up one of their sons as a kesadhari Sikh and Hindus and, Sikhs in urban areas continued to give their children in marriage to each other.'
    • Khushwant Singh and Kuldip Nayar: Tragedy of Punjab, p.20-21, V.P. Bhatia: 'Secularisation of a Martyrdom', quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • In theory, the case for the basic Hindu identity of Sikhism is overwhelming. ... In practice, however, Sikh separatism has scored important victories. ... In this separatist endeavour, they are encouraged by the non-Hindus and the secularists, whose attitude to religious issues is always one of crass superficialism. Looking at the matter superficially, the mere existence of the labels 'Hindu' and 'Sikh' is enough to prove the existence of two distinct entities going by these names. Any subtler understanding which sees the profound rootedness of Sikhism in Hinduism is routinely blackened as a Hindu conspiracy of the 'boa constrictor' type. And yet, such deeper understanding is the only way forwards. It is ignoble and below the dignity of human intelligence to remain stuck in the prevailing situation where a religion is defined as separate on no better grounds than externalities like turbans and beards. The case for Sikh separateness is based on nothing more than, firstly, a handful of ambiguous sentences in the Sikh canon, as against thousands which unambiguously put Sikhism inside the Hindu fold; and secondly, puerile loud-mouthing and violence. Of all the borderline cases considered in this book, Sikhism is next to Ramakrishnaism by far the clearest: apart from separatism, its contents are entirely part of Hinduism even if the latter is narrowly defined.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • It is again the secularists who, with their anti-Hindu propensities have laid the blame for Sikh separatism at the door of those Hindus who restate the demonstrable historical truth that Sikhs are nothing but a Hindu sect. Assimilative communalism, they call it. When Hindu historians point out the radical and irreducible difference between Hinduism and the closed monotheistic creeds like Islam, they are dubbed communalists; but when the same people point out the radical sameness of Sikhism and other varieties of Hinduism, then for that they are again dubbed communalists.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • There has been a gradual increase of Semitic influence on the Sikh community during this century, or rather, on the Akalis who have set themselves up as the leaders. They have exchanged the Hindu concept of God’s oneness, through many forms, for the Semitic concept of God’s unicity, inimical to all personified depictions or goods. They have reshaped their gurus into prophets, intercessory mouthpieces of God, with guru Govind Singh as the "last and final prophet". These prophets have revealed the words that make up Sikh Scripture, and made the Sikhs into a "people of the Book". The chief influence is of course that of Islam, but the general depreciation for polytheism and idolatry which the British brought, has also played a role. It is no wonder that with this artificial Semitic identity, some Sikhs have developed a Semitic concept of nationalism, not admitting of any gradations. They began applying the crass simplistic reasoning of absolutizing their small measure of distinctness into a separate nationhood, and denying their internal differences and sub-identities for the sake of uniformity. They have a separate dress, therefore they have a separate identity, therefore they are entitled to an independent state. On the other hand, within their own community, they accept no differences and impose the Khalsa Sikh identity on the otherwise pluriform Nanakpanthi community : any Sikh who is not a Khalsa Sikh is not a real Sikh. Absolute cleavage with other communities and uniformity within the community, these are the essential ingredients of modern nationalism, generated in the Semitic cultural context of late- Christian Europe. For the sake of national integration in India, it is imperative to set the record straight, to reverse this process of absolutizing any minor difference in identity into a separatist claim to a nation-state. In the specific case of the Sikhs, the obvious fact should be made clear, that Sikh identity is integrated in a hierarchy of differentiation within Hinduism : it is a Bhakti sect within the broad Vaishnava tradition within Sanatana Dharma.
    • Elst, Koenraad, Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society, 1991. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • The Guru Granth equally contains writings of some non-Sikh bhakti poets including Kabir, and thousands of references to such Hindu concepts and characters as Rama, Krishna, Veda, Omkara, Amrit.... Sikh names are full of Hindu elements: Hari (= Vishnu), Rama, Krishna and his epithets (Har-kishan, Har-govina), Arjun, the Vedic god Indra (Yog-indr, Sur-indr).... The Hari Mandir, dedicated to Hari/Vishnu, is as sacred to Vaishnavas as any of their non-Sikh temples; its tank was already an old Hindu place of pilgrimage, where Maharana Ikshvaku is said to have performed yajnas....
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • When we get to this conceptual level, we can see that communal identity in Hindu-Sikh tradition is a superficial reality, relatively acceptable and inevitable in the temporal world, but unreal from the angle of the timeless and colourless Self. By contrast, it has an absolute value in Islam, which decides on eternal heaven and eternal hell on the basis of communal identity: as per the Quran, all “unbelievers” (Sikhs as much as Hindus) carry a one-way ticket to hell. At the fundamental level, for all its adoption of external elements following Islamic models, Sikhism is not a middling position between Hinduism and Islam. Sikhism has never repudiated the doctrine of the Self, which is entirely non-Islamic and entirely Hindu.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom in 1675 was of course in the service of Hinduism, in that it was an act of opposing Aurangzeb's policy of forcible conversion. An arrest warrant against him had been issued on non-religious and nonpolitical charges, and he was found out after having gone into hiding; Aurangzeb gave him a chance to escape his punishment by converting to Islam. Being a devout Muslim, Aurangzeb calculated that the conversion of this Hindu sect leader would encourage his followers to convert along with him. The Guru was tortured and beheaded when he refused the offer to accept Islam, and one of his companions was sawed in two for having said that Islam should be destroyed.... At any rate, he stood firm as a Hindu, telling Aurangzeb that he loved his Hindu Dharma and that Hindu Dharma would never die,-a statement conveniently overlooked in most neo-Sikh accounts.51 He was not a Sikh defending Hinduism, but a Hindu of the Nanakpanth defending his own Hindu religion.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Imperialism thrives on divisions and it sows them even where they do not exist. The British Government invited one Dr. E. Trumpp, a German Indologist and missionary, to look at Sikh scriptures and prove that their theology and cosmology were different from those of the Vedas and the Upanishads. But he found nothing in them to support this view. He found Nanak a "thorough Hindu," his religion "a Pantheism, derived directly from Hindu sources."... However, to please his clients, he said that the external marks of the Sikhs separated them from the Hindus and once these were lost, they relapsed into Hinduism.... One Max Arthur Macauliffe, a highly placed British administrator, became the loudest spokesman of this thesis. He told the Sikhs that Hinduism was like a "boa constrictor of the Indian forests," which "winds its opponent and finally causes it to disappear in its capacious interior." The Sikhs "may go that way," he warned. He was pained to see that the Sikhs regarded themselves as Hindus which was, "in direct opposition to the teachings of the Gurus." He put words into the mouth of the Gurus and invented prophecies by them which anticipated the advent of the white race to whom the Sikhs would be loyal.... These youths, he said, "are ignorant of the Sikh religion and of its prophecies in favour of the English and contract exclusive customs and prejudices to the extent of calling us Mllechhas or persons of impure desires, and inspire disgust for the customs and habits of Christians." ... The influence of scholarship is silent, subtle and long- range. Macauliffe and others provided categories which became the thought-equipment of subsequent Sikh intellectuals.
    • Max Arthur Macauliffe, Ram Swarup, quoted in Swarup, Ram, & Goel, S. R. (1985). Hindu-Sikh relationship.
  • That, then, is precisely the point argued by Hindu Revivalists: 'Not only does the Adi Granth reproduce hundreds of passages from the older scriptures, but like the rest of the Sant literature it also follows the lead of the Upanishads and the Gita and the Yoga Vasishtha in all doctrinal points. Its theology and cosmology, its God-view and world-view, its conception of deity and man and his salvation, its ethics, philosophy and praxis and Yoga-all derive from that source. It believes in Brahma-vada, in Advaita, in So-ham, in Maya, in Karma, in rebirth, in Mukti and Nirvana, in the Middle Path (in its yogic sense)'.
    • Ram Swarup: 'Hindu Roots of Sikhism', quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • There is not a single line in the Adi Granth which sounds discordant with the spirituality of Hinduism.... The ragas to which the hymns and songs of the Adi Granth were set by the Gurus are based on classical Hindu music. The parikrama (perambulation) performed by Sikhs round every Gurudwara, the dhoop (incense), deep (lamp), naivaidya (offerings) presented by the devotees inside every Sikh shrine, and the prasadam (sanctified food) distributed by Sikh priests resemble similar rites in every other Hindu place of worship. A dip in the tank attached to the Harimandir is regarded as holy by Hindus in general and Sikhs in particular as a dip in the Ganga or the Godavari. It is this sharing of a common spirituality which has led many Hindus to worship at Sikh Gurudwaras as if they were their own temples. Hindus in the Punjab regard the Adi Granth as the sixth Veda, in direct succession to the Rik, the Sama, the Yajus, the Atharva and the Mahabharata... Guru Nanakís message came like a breath of fresh breeze to Hindus in the Punjab who had been lying prostrate under Muslim oppression for well-nigh five centuries. They flocked to the feet of the Sikh Gurus and many of them became initiated in the Sikh sect.
    • Swarup, Ram, & Goel, S. R. (1985). Hindu-Sikh relationship. (Introduction by S.R. Goel)
  • Guru Nanak 'called himself a Hindu. According to Janamsâkhî, he wore a sacred thread (yajñopavît) and had a lock of hair (chotî) on his head. After him till the fifth Guru, each had his sacred thread ceremony performed, were married according to Vedic rites, used to apply tilak and used to hear tales from Vedas and Puranas.'
    • Kshitish Vedalankar: Storm in Punjab, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Naipaul says that he was “struck then by the attempt to equate Sikhism with Christianity; to separate it from its speculative Hindu aspects, even from its guiding idea of salvation as union with God and freedom from transmigration.” But at that time, he thought that it was merely “an attempt, by a man intellectually far away, to make his cause more acceptable to his foreign interviewer.” He did not realize that the attempt to give a Semitic rendering to their religions is an old one and is not limited to Sikhism alone, nor to men “intellectually far away.” It has very much to do with the circumstances in which the world came to be dominated by people of Semitic religions. During this period, monolatry, prophetism, revelation - concepts of little spiritual validity or worth - acquired a great political clout and social prestige and these began to be adopted by many subject people. They wanted their religions to look like the Semitic ones with a single God, a Revelation, a Prophet or Saviour, and a single Church or Ummah.... we find that he discovered this phenomenon all along among most militants he interviewed. One militant, also an intellectual of a sort, gave him a pamphlet which he had written. Naipaul tells us that the theme of it was “the separateness of the Sikh faith and ideology from the Hindu; its further theme was that the Punjab was geographically and culturally more a part of Middle East than of India. ... the neo-Akalis have embraced a good deal of League politics and as a result they have also adopted grievances suited to that politics.
    • V.S. Naipaul, India: A Million Mutinies Now, cited in the preface by Ram Swarup in Gurbachan, S. T. S., & Swarup, R. (1991). Muslim League attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947.
  • [Guru Govind Singh] was a versatile scholar who knew several languages, kept the company of learned Brahmins and composed excellent poetry on varied themes. He had been fascinated by the Puranic story of Goddess Durga particularly in her incarnation as Mahisamardini. He performed an elaborate Yajna presided over by pundits of the ancient lore and invoked the Devi for the protection of dharma. The Devi came to him in the shape of the sword which he now asked some of his followers to pick up and ply against bigotry and oppression.... Soon it became a hallowed tradition in many Hindu families, Sikh as well as non-Sikh, to dedicate their eldest sons to the Khalsa which rightly came to be regarded as the sword-arm of Hindu society.
    • Swarup, Ram, & Goel, S. R. (1985). Hindu-Sikh relationship. (Introduction by S.R. Goel)
  • "No understanding and appreciation of Sikhism is possible unless one has a clear and proper picture of the religious doctrines and thought that had been accepted, and the traditions and trends that had been established in the country, before Guru Nanak appeared on the scene."
    • Daljeet Singh, Sikhism: A Comparative Study of Its Theology and Mysticism, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 1994, P. 320

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