Divide and Conquer
BY: SUMER SINGH CHAUHAN
Guru Nanak with the Vaisnavas
Aug 29, CANADA (SUN) On the common heritage of the Sikhs and Hindus and the presence of Krsna in Sikh siddhanta.
"The argument that Sikhs are not distinct from Hindus, or simply they are Hindus will be assessed on teachings contained in the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, certain characteristics of the Sikhs, the Sikh Gurus, the beliefs and practices of the Sikh nobility, and a brief comparison of ritual. The ritual aspects of the Sikh tradition can be discussed briefly to demonstrate the Hindu origins remaining in the scriptures.
The Shri Guru Granth Sahib is the holy book of the Sikh people. It is divided into ten granths, each reflecting the teachings, beliefs and views of each of the ten gurus of the Sikh faith. For a number of years many individuals in the Punjab have talked of the Dasma Granth, which simply means the tenth scripture of the Tenth Guru. Many villagers of rural Punjab believe that reading this scripture will incur blindness. This, however, is evidence of the faithful being led through religious influence by the Granthis (a type of priest) who wish the people to follow the separatist philosophy for political reasons. Many scholars have stated that the Granth contains specific references to Hindu gods such as Rama and Krishna.
The gurudwaras, or Sikh temples, have always been decorated with pictures of Hindu devas and devis. The first desecration of these pictures was in 1906 at Harmandir, and this was the first action taken by separatist Sikhs. Other gurudwaras also had them removed as recently as 1984, this occurred after the attack on the Golden Temple. This was not an attack on religion but was justified for reasons of national security.
The Hindu faith is based on a number of schools of Vedic philosophy but in the end all these schools focus on one school, the Vedanta of Rishi Vedvyas. It seems through lectures and research that perhaps the aim of the other schools was to finally develop this Vedanta philosophy. It was Vedvyas who wrote the Mahabharat, which is not only the ancient epic of India but the epic of the world. The Mahabharat is a poem consisting of approximately one hundred thousand stanzas. Hindus have placed so much faith in this work that it is claimed that if you cannot find the answer to your questions here, you will not find the answer anywhere else.
The Bhagavad Gita is the section of the Mahabharat that relates the conversation that takes place between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This conversation touches on all topics discussed in Hindu philosophy and can be referred to as a guide to the spiritual strength and warriorship required in a person's path in life. An understanding of these scriptures is required before trying to understand the Guru Granth Sahib or Guru Gobind Singh.
The history of the Sikh sect begins with its founder Guru Nanak. He was born in the Punjab in 1469. Guru Nanak challenged the authority of Brahmins (due to their abuse of the caste issue at the time), preached the equality of all men, and described a simple monotheism. In this, God is Sat, true, pure or essential reality; the divine being was both sakar and nirakar, both with form and formless; and He revealed Himself through His creation. It is man's duty to meditate on God's name to reach nirvana. Nanak also upheld the dignity of labour.
The guru was to be the guide through which a person can attain salvation. The Gurubani (Guru ki bani), or teachings of the guru, were to be given the same reverence as the presence of the guru. Meditation upon these teachings was considered the best form of worship.
Guru Angad succeeded the First Guru based on his devotion to the teachings of Nanak. The third guru, Amar Das, defined specific places for the pilgrimage of the Sikhs. The fourth guru, Ram Das, founded the holy city of Amritsar, where the fifth guru, Arjun, built a gurudwara and named it Hari-ka- mandir (the temple of Hari), later to be known as Harmandir. Guru Arjun also compiled the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, which contains hymns from the Sikh and, Hindu gurus, and from Suffi saints and Kabir.
By the beginning of the seventeenth century the guruship was in the hands of the sixth guru, Hargobind. The Sikhs began to show an element of militancy because of the threat of persecution from Islam, which had brought forth the martyrdom of Guru Arjun. Hargobind fortified Amritsar and built the Akal Takht, the throne of God, opposite Harmandir. This complex of both buildings is referred to as the Golden Temple. Some of the followers of the guru were beginning to be transformed from pacifist members of a religious sect into a highly organized militant body, organized to meet any challenge to the Hindu faith. After Guru Gobind Singh (the last and tenth guru) had formed the Khalsa brotherhood this transformation was complete.
"The best source on Sikh philosophy is the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, with special reference to the Dasma Granth since it was Guru Gobind Singh who distinguished the identity of the Sikhs." -Jimiyat Singh Gill.
Guru Gobind Singh encouraged faith in the hearts of his people at a time of great persecution and fading hope. The total amount of time to develop the accepted Sikh canon took 208 years. Since Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated by a muslim in 1708, anything written after that is of little or no importance to us.
Scholars have authenticized the Dasma Granth in case there is any question of its validity. Thakur Das, the author of Sikh Hindu Hain (Hosiarpur, 1899), Bhai Randhir Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala, Hari Ram Gupta author of History of the Sikhs (Lahore, 1944), Sardar Jimiyat Singh Gill, founder of the Shiromani Sikh Society of Toronto and founder of the first Toronto gurudwara, Joseph Davy Cunningham, author of A History of the Sikhs from the Origin of the Nation to the Battles of the Sutlej (Calcutta, 1849), to name a few have all stated that the Dasma Granth was an authentic part of the Granth.
If the Guru Granth Sahib were to be examined, there is no difference between Hinduism and Sikhism because the Granth is based on the Hindu scriptures and beliefs.
An authority on modern Sikhism, Dr. Gopal Singh, indicated in his translation of Shri Guru Granth Sahib that the worship of Rama and Krishna is found in the Granth. It should also be remembered that the Tenth Guru had designated the word of the Granth as the final word of authority binding on all Sikhs. In this the Granth functions as the Guru for all Sikhs. This makes the significance of the Tenth Guru, in two traditions, stand out. It was Bhai Mani Singh who compiled the Dasma Granth. On June 24th, 1734, under the orders of Zakaria Khan, Bhai Mani Singh was executed for not embracing Islam.
It is accepted that the Akal Ustat and Vachitra Natak are authentic works of Guru Gobind Singh. His composition Akal Ustat is mainly in the praise of God and is so clearly put forth that there is no need for personal interpretation. The Vachitra Natak is basically an autobiography, but it is also describes the Guru's philosophy of action and his philosophy of the origins of material existence.
The separatist Sikh can only draw wisdom from the Granth which cannot be gained by following the ideas of reformers like Bhai Kahn Singh who attempted to splinter the Sikh identity in order to reinvent Sikhism into a completely distinct religion. Individuals such as Bhai Kahn Singh are viewed as renegades within the Panth (Faith) and they have damaged the essential Sikh identity held by the Gurus and the martyrs. It is also important to remember here that the Guruship had passed to a canon of authority, the Granth, not to an individual. Guru Gobind Singh ordained the word of the Granth as final. This is the commandment- "the Granth must be obeyed" -because it was issued by the Tenth Guru. Whosoever goes against this is a traitor to the panth and is no longer a Sikh. Guru Gobind Singh states:
Sab Sikhon ko hukum hai
Guru manyo Granth
Guru Granthji Manao
Pragat guran ki deh
Jaka hirdai shudh hai
Oat shabad mein le
Raj karega Khalsa
Aaki rahe na koi.
Paar hoy sab milenge
Bachae sharan jo hoy
Khanda jaakae hath mein
Kalgee so he shish
So hamaree raksha kare
Shri kalgee dhar Jagdish.
Wahe Guru nam jahaj hai
Chare so utare paar
Jo shardha kar sevande
Guru par utaran har.
In the Mahabharat, according to Vedvyas God is known as Omkar or Parbrahma. God then converted Himself into Vishnu. Out of Vishnu's navel came Brahma and from His forehead came the Akal Pursh (otherwise known as Akal, Rudra, Shiva or Mahesh). Marich was the son of Brahma. In time, Marich had a son named Kashyap Rishi who then married the daughters of Daksh Prajapati; Ditti, Aditti, Vinta and Kadru. Aditti produced the gods and man. Ditti brought forth the demons and Kadru produced snakes. Vinta was the mother of Garuda (vehicle of Vishnu) and the sun-god Surya.
The Suryavanshi Rajputs claim their origin from Aditti. The most famous of Suryavanshis was Bhagwan Rama or simply the Lord Rama. Other famous Suryavanshis are Maharana Pratap, king of Mewar and sworn enemy of Akbar the Turk (also known as Akbar the Great); and Maharana Jung Bahadur, virtual ruler of Nepal, Emperor of the Gurkhas. Lord Rama was the son of Raja Dashrata of Ayodhya, born on the site of where the Babri Masjid once stood. He is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The relevance of this will be evident later in the paper. When Vishnu, Brahma and Akal combined their powers, or shaktis, to create the image of the Mother goddess it was Durga who came forth. Durga is also known as Shiva, Devi, Mata, Parvati, Chamunda, and Jwaladevi. This becomes important because Guru Gobind Singh was a great devotee of Durga.
"As far as the eighteenth-century Khalsa was concerned, the Dasma Granth was as much a part of the canon as the Adi Granth. The Dasma Granth breathes a militant spirit which matches that of the eighteenth-century Khalsa. Its influence on Khalsa ideals is well illustrated by portions of the Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama and by the strong fascination exercised within the eighteenth-century Panth by the Devi cult." - McLeod: "Who is a Sikh?"
We will now compare the Mahabharata to the Dasma Granth, to illustrate the common element of whether one is derived from the other, ie. the Dasma Granth derives its essence from the Mahabharata. It might be suggested that the Dasma Granth was purposely removed from the gurudwaras for political reasons because of separatist trends which begin to surface after the annexation of the Punjab by British India.
The argument now is based not only on the thoughts of the author of this paper but also on the indepth research of others and the interviews conducted for the research of this paper. Guru Gobind Singh describes in the Dasma Granth how Akal (God) had expanded Himself to first become Vishnu, then Brahma and Shiva. This is described in the Vichitra Natak.
The Guru then goes on to describe the characteristics of Vishnu. He also goes on to discuss the origins of gods, demons, Garuda and other beings in the same manner as Vedvyas did before. The Tenth Guru then goes so far to claim his own origin from Lord Rama and His descendants.
Most people of the Punjab know that the city of Lahore was built by the elder son of Rama, Luv, while the city of Kasur was built by Kush, the younger son. A powerful point can be made here in that Guru Gobind Singh states Guru Nanak as being a descendant of Kush, while himself (Guru Gobind) is a descendant of Luv. Guru Gobind describes the genealogy in great detail and tells how this came to be so. Except for Guru Angad and Guru Amardas, the eight remaining Gurus were recognized as descendants of Lord Rama, whether it is because of devotion or respect, this view is held by both Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs.
A further analysis of the Guru Granth, the Dasma Granth and Hindu scriptures will show that there is no difference between the philosophies they all convey. The philosophy and devotion of Hindus belonging to the Shakti cult (Mother Goddess) can also be seen by Guru Gobind's monumental work "Var Durga Ki" which is revered by both Sikhs and Hindus. The only conclusion that one can make is that there is no philosophical or cultural difference between the Hindus and Sikhs. It is only that Sikhism is a simplistic form of Hinduism and is separate from any other religion that could have influenced it during its evolution.
Guru Arjun, who compiled the Granth Sahib, writes in the fifth Granth "O God you are as great as you adopted the form of Vamana [fifth incarnation of Vishnu], you are also Ram Chandra [seventh incarnation of Vishnu] but you have no form or outline". This "no form or outline" concept can also be found in the Divine Manifestations, the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna states He has a form and is beyond form. Guru Arjun goes on to make references to Narsimha [fourth avatar], Warha [second avatar], Krishna [eight avatar] and Kach [third avatar].
Guru Nanak makes specific references to Lord Rama and wrote several hymns about Lord Krishna. All throughout the Granth praises are specifically addressed to the avatars of Vishnu, particularly to Rama and Krishna. A very interesting observation of the literature is the occurence and reference to the name "Bithal", which is found throughout the Granth. Bithal is the Punjabi version of the Marathi name "Vithal" which is another name for Lord Krishna. Hardyal Singh M.A., a famous Punjabi revolutionary during the time of the British Raj, said that "if you were to remove every page that contained the name of Bithal or Ram from the Granth, you will be left with nothing more than a few pages and the book case." The Guru Granth Sahib clearly states that Bithal is the Lord.
According to Vedvyas the earth is created from the dead remains of demons who were vanquished by the gods. This concept can be understood if one looks into the philosophy of maya, this however is not the purpose of this paper. This concept of the earth's creation is restated in the Dasma Granth, chaupai 14. The Tenth Guru made it easier for the common layman to comprehend this philosophy by putting it in a less abstract form.
The difference of the body and the soul, evolution of consciousness through transmigration of the soul through eight million four hundred thousand existences is discussed by Vedvyas. At the time of the Gurus, the Islamic faith was at its zenith in the Punjab and could have easily influenced the Sikhs to adopt the Islamic viewpoint on this subject, yet the Gurus, along with Guru Gobind Singh, stood firmly within the Hindu viewpoint. Therefore nothing different stands between the viewpoint of Vedantic philosophy and that of the Guru Granth Sahib.
The goal of Hindus and Sikhs alike is not to reach a heaven, because this achievement is only temporary, but to break the cycle of life and death in order to achieve moksha (salvation or nirvana). If one fails, they may have to repeat either one, some or all of their existences. This is not the view held by the other tradition that could have influenced Sikhism, namely Islam.
The modern Sikhs claim another difference in their belief, that of secularism, but this philosophy is also found in Jnana Yoga, the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna states that all other paths come back to Him, therefore one should not persecute another belief. It is only the Hindus in world history who can claim that their's is the only faith not to have persecuted the Jewish people, instead they built ancient and recent synagogues for the Jewish people to practice their faith.
Reference is made to the avatars of Vishnu in the Granth Sahib. There are ten major avatars referred to as the Dasha Avatars, there are fourteen minor avatars as well. All these avatars are recognized in the Guru Granth Sahib even if Hindus of different sects may not recognize them all. The Dasma Granth deals with all the avatars beginning on page 169. Volume two of the Dasma Granth is exclusively based on Krishna. It is accepted that Guru Gobind Singh was a staunch believer in Durga Mata (Mother Goddess) as many of his hymns such as 'Deh Vo Shiva' are directed towards Shiva (not the male god but his female consort also known as Shakti or Devi who at times is referred to by His name).
In the entire Guru Granth Sahib, the Vedas are respected and referred to as sacred. Guru Gobind Singh states that the Vedas originated from Brahma and the path of the Vedas is the only path for the people to follow:
Chaupai 197 Brahma char he ved banaie Sarab lowg tih karam chale Brahma created the Vedas For all people to follow (translation mine)
Guru Gobind Singh even goes further to state that the Vedas came from the mouth of God: Chaupai 24 Disa vidi sayan jimi asman Chatur ved kathyn karan purana All directions (or religions), actions, and the sky, so says the Wise One (God) All came from the four Vedas so says the Puranas. (translation mine)
Sikhism heavily bases itself on Karma yoga (the science of actions) and states that if an individual acts only on good deeds, selfless acts with a pure devotion to God, they can achieve the ultimate state of existence.
Further similarities between Sikhs and Hindus are evident in practices and rituals of the Sikh Gurus. It is a documented fact that Guru Nanak worshipped Krishna. Guru Nanak also recited the famous aarti (song of worship) of Ek Omkar which he composed in praise of Lord Jaganath of Puri. He also went on pilgrimage to Badri Nath which is sacred to Hindus. Guru Tegh Bahadur, tn pilgrimage to Jwalamukhi in Kangra. Guru Gobind Singh worshipped Durga and fought the mughals to free Ayodhya Masjid (the controversial mosque of Ayodhya). Guru Ramdas wore a Vaishnav tilak on his forehead.
The name of 'Singh' is adopted fom the Rajputs (a martial race of the Hindus, identified with Aryan ancestry).The Kirpan (dagger) is also adopted from the martial tradition of the Rajputs carrying the Katar. The turban is a common headdress of the Hindu people of India and is not exclusively Sikh. The concept of uncut hair was introduced by the Tenth Guru and not before.
Maharajah Ranjit Singh was a worshipper of Baba Balak Nath (patron saint of Kangra) and Durga. Hari Singh Nalwa, the General of Maharajah Ranjit Singh was also a worshipper of Baba Balak Nath and Durga.
The royal families of Faridkot, Nabha, and Patiala are all of Sikh nobility. They all engaged Brahmin priests and Hindu temples were built for family use. Maharajah Pupinder Singh offered bali (sacrifice) of a waterbuffalo to the temple of Kali in Patiala which he built. Every year the Maharajah of Patiala donates a nose ring and gold bracelet to the River Sarsa which is directed by the Brahmin priests and in accordance to Hindu traditions.
Sikhs and Hindus have intermarried since Guru Nanak's time. Sikhs have never accepted intermarriage with the muslims. The Hindus accepted the marriages because Sikhism was considered a part of Hinduism, and marriages for Sikhs were performed by the Pundits ( Hindu priests) until the beginning of the twentieth century, this was a result of the reform movement of Bhai Kahn Singh. The Sikhs saw nothing wrong with intermarrying with the Hindus because this did not present a loss of identity.
The reader must be reminded that this is not a new argument but one that has been debated for generations since the annexation of the Punjab by the Raj. The traditions of Sikh nobility, the rituals of the Gurus on pilgrimage, and the recitation of Hindu prayers all show the essence of Sikhism as Hindu. The statements of the Gurus clearly show that they did not create another faith but instead merely simplify their own. When the muslims attempted to wipe out the Sikhs during the reign of Aurangzeb (the Mughal emperor), it was from the Hindus that the Sikhs found new recruits to carry on the survial of the Panth. The ritual sacrificing of halva (sweet wheat) with the kirpan is clear evidence of the influence of the Devi cult. The Ardas ritual found amongst the Sikh tradition is another example of the presence of the Devi cult found within the Sikh rituals. It should also be noted that this paper clearly reflects the views of individuals who influenced and led the Sikh people. Although the author of this paper does acknowledge the fact that not everyone may agree with the views presented here, the truth is the truth and the sacrifices of the Gurus must not be in vain, lest we forget. The Sikhs are Hindus.
Source: Originally published in Swordoftruth.com (now defunct).