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The Fifth Largest Religion.  Guru Nanak, a spiritual teacher, made his appearance in northern India in the fifteenth century C.E.  His followers were.

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Presentation on theme: "The Fifth Largest Religion.  Guru Nanak, a spiritual teacher, made his appearance in northern India in the fifteenth century C.E.  His followers were."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Fifth Largest Religion

2  Guru Nanak, a spiritual teacher, made his appearance in northern India in the fifteenth century C.E.  His followers were called Sikhs, meaning “disciples, students, seekers of truth”  In time, he was succeeded by a further nine enlightened Gurus, ending with Guru Gobind Singh ( )  But Sikhism is little known outside India and its Diaspora (dispersed communities), even though Sikhism is the fifth largest of all global religions

3  Although people tend to equate the word “Sikh” with the military and political aspects of the Punjabis’ struggle for independence (the Punjab is a historical region in northwestern India and northern Pakistan), Sikhs understand their path not as another sectarian religion but as a statement of the universal truth within  Many of their beliefs have been interpreted as a synthesis of the Hindu and Muslim traditions of northern India, but Sikhism has its own unique beliefs and history

4  Before Guru Nanak, Hinduism and Islam had already begun to draw closer to one another in northern India  Sants or “holy people,” particularly Sufi mystics and Hindu practitioners of bhakti, shared a common cause in emphasizing devotion to the Beloved above all else  The most famous of the bridges between Hindu and Muslim is the fifteenth-century weaver Kabir ( )  He was the son of Muslim parents and a disciple of a Hindu guru  Rather than taking the ascetic path, he remained at work at his loom, composing songs about union with the Divine that are at once earthly and sublime

5  He could easily transcend theological differences between religions, for he was opposed to outward forms, preferring ecstatic personal intimacy with God  As he wrote, speaking for the One, “Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours. You will not find me in stupas (a dome-shaped shrine erected by Buddhists), not in Indian shrine rooms…When you really look for me, you will see me instantly – you will find me in the tiniest house of time. Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God? He is the breath inside the breath.”

6  When Guru Nanak was born in 1469, the area of northern India called the Punjab was half-Muslim, half-Hindu, and ruled by a weak Afghan dynasty  For centuries, the Punjab had been the lane through which outer powers had fought their way into India  In 1398, the Turco-Mongolian leader Tamerlane had slaughtered and sacked Punjabis on his way both to and from Delhi  Toward the end of Nanak’s life, it was the Mughal emperor Babur who invaded and claimed the Punjab  The casting of the Punjab as a perpetual battleground later became a crucial aspect of Sikhism

7  Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was reportedly little concerned with worldly things  But when Nanak was thirty, his life was transformed after immersion in a river, from which it is said he did not emerge for three days  Some people now think he was meditating on the opposite side, but at the time he could not be found until he suddenly appeared in town, radiant  According to one account, he had been taken into the presence of God, who gave him a bowl of milk to drink, saying that it was actually nectar (amrit) which would give him “power of prayer, love of worship, truth and contentment”  The Almighty charged him to go back into the tainted world to redeem it from Kali Yuga (the darkest of ages)

8  After his disappearance in the river in 1499, Nanak began traveling through India, the Himalayas, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Arabia, teaching in his own surprising way  When people asked him whether he would follow the Hindu or Muslim path, he replied, “There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim), so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman…”

9  Again and again, Guru Nanak emphasized three central teachings as the straight path to God: working hard in society to earn one’s own honest living (rather than withdrawing into asceticism and begging), sharing from one’s earnings with those who are needy, and remembering God at all times as the only Doer, the Giver

10  To a society which stressed distinctions of caste, class, gender, and religions, Guru Nanak introduced and practiced the idea of a new social order based on equality, justice, and service to all, in devotion to the One God whom Guru Nanak perceived as formless, pervading everywhere  Nanak’s commitment to practical faith, as opposed to external adherence to religious formalities, won him followers from both Hinduism and Islam

11  After Nanak’s death, he appointed a spiritual successor, his devoted disciple Angad Dev  This second Guru (spiritual teacher) strengthened the new Sikh tradition and developed a script for setting down its memorized teachings, which had been given orally in the common language  There were eventually a total of ten Sikh Gurus  The Fourth Guru founded the holy city of Amritsar, where the Fifth Guru built the religion’s most sacred shrine, the Golden Temple

12  The Fifth Guru also compiled the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth (“original holy book,” now known as the Guru Grant Sahib), from devotional hymns composed by Guru Nanak, the other Gurus, and Hindu and Muslim saints, including Kabob and many spiritual figures from low social castes  When a copy of the Adi Granth was sent to the emperor Akbar on his demand, he was so pleased with its universalism that he offered a gift of gold to the book  But apparently because of suspicions that the Fifth Guru supported a rival successor to Akbar’s throne, the Guru was tortured and executed by Akbar’s son and successor, Jehangir, in 1606

13  From that point on, Sikhism took measures to protect itself and to defend the weak of all religions against tyranny  The Sixth Guru built a Sikh army, carried two swords (one symbolizing temporal power, the other, spiritual power), and taught the people to defend their religion  The tender-hearted Seventh Guru, a pacifist who never used his troops against the Mughals, taught his Sikhs not only to feed anyone who came to their door, but moreover to “do service in such a way that the poor guest may not feel he is partaking of some charity but as if he had come to the Guru’s house which belonged to all in equal measure…Man is only an instrument of service: the giver of goods is God, the Guru of us all.”

14  The Eighth Guru became successor to Guru Nanak’s seat when he was only five years old and died at the age of eight  The Ninth Guru was martyred in 1675  According to Sikh tradition, he was approached by Hindu pandits (Brahmin scholars or learned men) who were facing forced conversion to Islam by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb  The emperor viewed Hinduism as a totally corrupt, idolatrous religion which did not lead people to God; he had ordered the destruction of Hindu temples and mass conversion of Hindus throughout the land, beginning in the north with Kashmir  Reportedly, one of the pandits dreamed that only the Ninth Guru could save the Hindus

15  With the firm approval of his young son, Guru Teg Bahadur told the Hindu pandits to inform their oppressors that they would convert to Islam if the Sikh Guru could be persuaded to do so  Imprisoned and forced to witness the torture and murder of his aides, the Ninth Guru staunchly maintained the right of all people to religious freedom  Aurangzeb beheaded him before a crowd of thousands  But as his son later wrote, “He has given his head, but not his determination.”  The martyred Ninth Guru was succeeded by his young son, who became the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh

16  It was he who turned the intimidated Sikhs into saint-warriors for truth  In 1699 he reportedly told a specially convened assembly of Sikhs that the times were so dangerous that he had developed a new plan to give the community strength and unity  Total surrender to the master would be necessary, he said, asking for volunteers who would offer their heads for the cause of protecting religious ideals  One at a time, five stepped forward  Each was escorted into the Guru’s tent, from which the Tenth Guru emerged alone with a bloody sword  After this scene was repeated five times, the Guru brought all the men out of the tent, alive

17  Some say the blood was that of a goat, in a test of the people’s loyalty; others say that Guru Gobind Singh had actually killed the men and then resurrected them  At any rate, their willingness to serve and bravely to sacrifice themselves was dramatically proven, and the Five Beloved Ones became models for the Sikhs  It is noteworthy that those who became the Five Beloved Ones all came from the lowest classes  Guru Gobind Singh instituted a special baptismal initiation using water stirred with a double-edged sword to turn his followers into heroes, mixed with sugar candies symbolizing that they would also be compassionate

18  After baptizing the Five Beloved Ones, he established a unique Guru-Sikh relationship by asking that they baptize him – thus underscoring the principle of equality among all Sikhs  The baptized men were given the surname Singh (“lion”); the women were all given the name Kaur (“princess”) and treated as equals  Together, they formed the Khalsa (“Pure Ones”), a fraternity pledged to a special code of personal discipline

19  They were sworn to wear five distinctive symbols of their dedication: long unshorn hair bound under a turban or a veil, a comb to keep it tidy, a steel bracelet as a personal reminder that one is a servant of God, short underbreeches for modesty, and a sword for dignity and the willingness to fight for justice and protection of the weak  These “5 K’s” (so called because all the words begin with “K” in Punjabi) clearly distinguished Sikhs from Muslims and Hindus, supporting the assertion that they constituted a third path with its own right to spiritual sovereignty  All of these innovations were designed to turn the meek into warriors capable of shaking off Mughal oppression and protecting freedom of religion

20  The distinctive dress made it impossible for the Khalsa to hide from their duty by blending with the general populace  In Sikh history, their bravery was proven again and again  For example, it is reported that the Tenth Guru’s own teenage sons were killed as they single- handedly engaged several thousand Mughal soldiers in battle

21  In addition to transforming the Sikh faithful into a courageous, unified community, Guru Gobind Singh ended the line of bodily succession to Guruship  As he was dying in 1708, he transferred his authority to the Adi Granth rather than to a human successor  Thenceforth, the Granth Sahib (another name for the Adi Granth, with Sahib an expression of veneration) was to be the Guru Granth Sahib – the living presence of the Guru embodied in the sacred scriptures, to be consulted by the congregation for spiritual guidance and decision-making  As the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate and Afghans invaded India, the Sikhs fought for their own identity and sovereignty

22  Resistance to oppression became a hallmark of Sikhism, for the times were grim for India’s people  As the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate and Afghans invaded India, the Sikhs fought for their own identity and sovereignty  However, a Sikh Empire lasted only a half century, until the British takeover in 1849  Despite heavy losses, Guru Gobind Singh’s outnumbered Sikhs began the protection of the country from foreign rule, a process which continued into the twentieth century

23  Neither age, nor caste, nor gender is thought to have any relevance in Sikh spirituality  In contrast to the restricted position of women in Indian society, the Sikh Gurus accorded full respect and freedom of participation to women  Although the Sikh Gurus gave their followers no mandate to convert others, their message was spread in a nonsectarian way by the Udasis, renunciates who do not withdraw from the world but rather practice strict disciple and meditation while at the same time trying to serve humanity

24  Sikhism’s major focus is loving devotion to one God, whom Sikhs recognize as the same One who is worshipped by many different names around the world  According to Sikhs, God is formless, beyond time and space, the only truth, the only reality  Sikhs often refer to God as Sat (“truth”) or as Ik Onkar, the One Supreme Being  According to Sikhs, God is pure being, without form  Sikhs also believe that the light of God shines fully through the Guru, the perfect master

25  Sikhism does not claim to have the only path to God, nor does it try to convert others to its way  It has beliefs in common with Hinduism (such as karma and reincarnation) and also with Islam (such as monotheism)

26  The respected Muslim mystic, Mian Mir, was invited to lay the cornerstone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar  It was constructed with four doors, inviting people from all traditions to come in to worship  Sikh-soldiers are pledged to protect the freedom of all religions  Sikhism is, however, opposed to empty ritualism

27  According to the Sikh ideal, the purpose of life is to realize God within the world, through the everyday practices of work, worship, and charity, of sacrificing love  All people are to be treated equal, for God’s light dwells in all and ego is a major hindrance to God- realization  From Guru Nanak’s time on, Sikhism has refused to acknowledge the traditional Indian caste system  Like Hinduism, Sikhism conceives a series of lives, with karma (the effects of past actions on one’s present life) governing transmigration of the soul into new bodies, be they human or animal  The ultimate goal of life is mystical union with the divine, reflected in one’s way of living

28  To be a true Sikh is to live a very disciplined life of surrender and devotion to God, with hours of daily prayer, continual inner repetition of the Name of God (Nam), and detachment from negative, worldly mind-states  At the same time that one’s mind and heart are joined with God, one is to be working hard in the world, earning an honest living, and helping those in need

29  The Sikh Gurus formed several institutions to help create a new social order with no caste distinctions  One is langar, the communal kitchen which is freely offered to all who come, regardless of caste  This typically takes place at a gurdwara, the building where the Guru Granth Sahib is enshrined and public worship takes place  The congregation is called the sangat, in which all are equal; there is no priestly class nor servant class

30  Despite its politically precarious position within India, Sikhism is still a vibrant religion and is becoming a global faith, largely by emigration from India  Yet the center of Sikhism remains the Punjab  The area of this territory, which is under Indian rule, was dramatically shrunk by the partition of India in 1947, for two-thirds of the Punjab was in the area thenceforth called Pakistan

31  In India, Sikhs and Hindus have lived side-by-side in mutual tolerance until recent years, when violent clashes have begun between Hindus and Sikhs  Sikh separatists want to establish an independent Sikh state, called Khalistan, with a commitment to strong religious observances  Another purpose of Khalistan would be to protect Sikhs from oppression and exploitation by the much larger Hindu community  In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi chose to attack the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, for Sikh separatists were thought to be using it as a shelter for their weapons

32  The attack seemed an outrageous desecration of the holy place, and counter-violence increased  The Prime Minister was killed later in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards  In retribution, terrible killings of Sikhs followed  At least eight thousand Sikhs were murdered by mobs in Delhi alone  Guru Gobind Singh himself emphasized that one should resort to the sword only after all other means of effecting change have failed  Sikhs in India are generally going on with their lives now that violence has abated


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