Hinduism and Sikhism
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Hinduism and Sikhism are Indian religions. Hinduism has pre-historic origins, while Sikhism was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak. Both religions share many philosophical concepts such as Karma, Dharma, Mukti, Maya although even these concepts differ eg: Karma in Hinduism is what the body does but in Sikhism it is what the mind thinks. In the days of the Mughal Empire, the Sikh community came to the defence of the persecuted who were being forcibly converted to Islam.
History of similarities and differences
The roots of the Sikh tradition are, states Louis Fenech, perhaps in the Sant-tradition of India whose ideology grew to become the Sikh religion. Fenech states that, "Indic mythology permeates the Sikh sacred canon, the Guru Granth Sahib and the secondary canon, the Dasam Granth and adds delicate nuance and substance to the sacred symbolic universe of the Sikhs of today and of their past ancestors". However, most historians do not see evidence of Sikhism as simply an extension of the Bhakti movement.
Ik Onkar, iconically represented as ੴ in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (although sometimes spelt out in full as ਓਅੰਕਾਰ) is the iconographic statement in Sikhism that is 'there is one God'. The phrase is an expression of monotheistic unity of God.
Guru Tegh Bahadur
During the Mughal Empire period, the Sikh and Hindu traditions believe that Sikhs helped protect Hindus from Islamic persecution, and this caused martyrdom of their Guru. The Sikh historians, for example, record that the Sikh movement was rapidly growing in northwest India, and Guru Tegh Bahadur was openly encouraging Sikhs to, "be fearless in their pursuit of just society: he who holds none in fear, nor is afraid of anyone, is acknowledged as a man of true wisdom", a statement recorded in Adi Granth 1427. While Guru Tegh Bahadur influence was rising, Aurangzeb had imposed Islamic laws, demolished Hindu schools and temples, and enforced new taxes on non-Muslims.
According to records written by his son Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru had resisted persecution, adopted and promised to protect Kashmiri Hindus. The Guru was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb on a pretext, but when he arrived with his colleagues, he was offered, "to abandon his faith, and convert to Islam". Guru Tegh Bahadur and his colleagues refused, he and his associates were arrested, tortured for many weeks. The Guru himself was beheaded in public.
Concept of God
Hindus accept the worship facilitated with images or murtis (idols), particularly in Agamic traditions, such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Some scholars state it is incorrect to state that all Hindus worship idols but an overwhelming majority do, and more correct to state that for some the idol is a means to focus their thoughts, for some idol is a manifestation of spirituality that is everywhere, and for some even a linga, a sunrise or a river or a flower serves the same purpose.
Heaven and Hell
According to Hindu belief, soul travels to divisions of hells or heavens before it is sent back to a new reincarnation. The stay in heaven or hell is generally described as temporary. After the period of punishment is over, the souls are reborn as lower or higher beings as per their merits.
Sikhs believe that heaven and hell are both in this world where everyone reaps the fruit of karma. They refer to good and evil stages of life respectively and can be lived now and here during our earthly existence.
Hinduism emphasizes the role of undertaking pilgrimages as an aid for one's spiritual development. According to Karel Werner's Popular Dictionary of Hinduism, "most Hindu places of pilgrimage are associated with legendary events from the lives of various gods. Almost any place can become a focus for pilgrimage, but in most cases they are sacred cities, rivers, lakes, and mountains."
According to the practice of the Hindus, Shrādhs are offered every year in memory of their parents and grand-parents. On the corresponding day, the descendants invite the Brahmin and feed in memory of their ancestors, in the belief that this will give some benefit to the soul of their dead ancestors.
According to Sikhism, such food may be of some benefit to the Brahmins, but in no case can the benefit reach the ancestors. All that can give benefit to the deceased is his own good actions and service to the poor and the helpless. It is much better to respect one's parents while alive than offering food to Brahmins after their death.
In Hinduism according to the dictates of shastras some moments, days and lunar dates are regarded as auspicious. On all these days special rituals and functions are observed. It is a common practice in Hinduism to perform or avoid activities like important religious ceremonies on the basis of the quality of a particular Muhurta. One or more Muhūrtas are recommended by the Vedic scriptures when performing rituals and other ceremonies.
Fasting is commended in Hinduism and is indulged in on many occasions. Fasts are an important aspect of Hindu ritual life, and there are many different types. In some cases, fasting simply means abstaining from certain types of foods, such as grains. Devotees fast for a variety of reasons. Some fast to honor a particular deity, and others fast to obtain a specific end.
Sikhism does not regard fasting as meritorious. Fasting as an austerity, as a ritual, as a mortification of the body by means of wilful hunger is forbidden in Sikhism. Sikhism encourages temperance and moderation in food i.e. neither starve nor over-eat.
There are four varnas (castes), which form divisions within Hindu society. Within these varnas, there are also many jati (caste groups). The first and the highest caste is the Brahmin (teacher or priest), the second is the Kshatriya (ruler or warrior), the third is the Vaishya (merchant or farmer) and the fourth is the Shudra (servant or labourer). People who are born below any of these castes are thought of as untouchables, and are sometimes called Dalit.
Guru Nanak taught that caste system is wrong. When Guru Nanak founded Sikhism, he intended that the discrimination of caste system would be abolished. Unfortunately, some people still believe that it is important and it can sometimes influence aspect of Sikh life such as marriage, where members of one group may be unwilling to marry a member of another although those who follow this ritual are not allowed to be part of the brotherhood of the Khalsa.
Hinduism has exalted the life of the recluse and the ascetic because of the belief that such acts devote the pure life of spiritual attainment. Sannyasa is a form of asceticism, is marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, and has the purpose of spending one's life in peaceful, love-inspired, simple spiritual life.
While Sikhism treats lust as a vice, it has at the same time pointed out that man must share the moral responsibility by leading the life of a householder. What is important is to be God-centred. According to Sikhism, ascetics are not on the right path.
In the Hindu tradition, Menstruation laws are expressed in the Laws of Manu. Any touch of the menstruating women is deemed polluted. Food touched by a menstruating women is forbidden and to lie down in the same bed as a menstruating women is also forbidden.
Sikh scripture acknowledges menstrual bleeding as an essential, natural process. Guru Nanak reprimanded those who stigmatize a blood-stained garment as polluted. He strongly questioned the legitimacy and purpose of devaluing women on the basis of their reproductive energy.
Sutak and Patak
- Both Hindus and Sikh are cremated after death
- Both believe in karma although Karma in Hinduism is what the body does but in Sikhism it is what the mind thinks.
- Both Sikhs and Hindus revere the concept of a Guru. Although there are infinite number of gurus in Hinduism but only 10 living ones in Sikhism.
In the Hindu and Sikh traditions, there is a distinction between religion and culture, and ethical decisions are grounded in both religious beliefs and cultural values. Both Hindu and Sikh ethics are primarily duty based. Traditional teachings deal with the duties of individuals and families to maintain a lifestyle conducive to physical, mental and spiritual health. These traditions share a culture and world view that includes ideas of karma and rebirth, collective versus individual identity, and a strong emphasis on spiritual purity.
The notion of dharma, karma, moksha are very important for both Hindus and Sikhs. Unlike the linear view of life, death, heaven or hell taken in Abrahamic religions, for Hindus and Sikhs believe in the concept of Saṃsāra, that is life, birth and death are repeated, for each soul, in a cycle until one reaches mukti or moksha.
Culture and intermarriage
There is an organic relation of Sikhs to Hindus, states Zaehner, both in religious thought and their communities, and virtually all Sikhs' ancestors were Hindus. Some Hindu groups, like the BJP and related nationalist organizations, view Sikhism as a tradition within Hinduism along with other Dharmic faiths (such as some Hindus referring to Sikhs as Keshdhari Hindus), even though the Sikh faith is a distinct religion. Historically, Sikhs were seen as the protectors of Hindus, among others, and were even considered by some right-wing Hindu political organizations like the RSS as the "sword arm" of Hinduism. This status as protectors of Hindus was strong enough that Punjabi Hindus would often raise their eldest son as a Sikh.
Marriages between Sikhs and Hindus, particularly among Khatris, are frequent. Dogra states that there has always been inter-marriage between the Hindu and the Sikh communities. Charing and Cole state that "Sikhism originated and developed within Hinduism. Hindus and Sikhs, in initial years of Sikhism, used to have what is termed as Roti Beti di Sanjh; that is they eat together and intermarry". William Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi state that for some Sikhs, intermarriage between Hindus and Sikhs of same community was preferable than other communities.
Sikh scriptures are venerated by certain Hindu communities, often by syncretic sects.
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Sikhs claim that their tradition has always been separate from Hinduism. Nevertheless, many Western scholars argue that in its earliest stage Sikhism was a movement within the Hindu tradition; Nanak, they point out, was raised a Hindu and eventually belonged to the Sant tradition of northern India, a movement associated with the great poet and mystic Kabir (1440–1518). The Sants, most of whom were poor, dispossessed, and illiterate, composed hymns of great beauty expressing their experience of the divine, which they saw in all things. Their tradition drew heavily on the Vaishnava bhakti (the devotional movement within the Hindu tradition that worships the god Vishnu), though there were important differences between the two. Like the followers of bhakti, the Sants believed that devotion to God is essential to liberation from the cycle of rebirth in which all human beings are trapped; unlike the followers of bhakti, however, the Sants maintained that God is nirgun (“without form”) and not sagun (“with form”). For the Sants, God can be neither incarnated nor represented in concrete terms.
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Sikhism was born in the Punjab area of South Asia, which now falls into the present day states of India and Pakistan. The main religions of the area at the time were Hinduism and Islam. The Sikh faith began around 1500 CE, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that was quite distinct from Hinduism and Islam. Nine Gurus followed Nanak and developed the Sikh faith and community over the next centuries.
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