The Hindus claim that Sikhs are a warrior sect of theirs while the Western world mistakes them for an offshoot of Islam given their looks. The Sikhs, however, insist upon their separate ethnic identity. The evolved concept of life enunciated by the Gurus, transcending the bigotry of an organised religion, remains largely obscured behind superficial symbolism.
Born out of an interface of Hinduism with Islam, Sikhism is a confluence of these two mighty faiths, harvesting the essence of both. A disciple who is ever ready to learn and for whom the quest for knowledge never ceases is what defines a Sikh. A Guru for this seeker is someone next only to God in reverence. His gurdwara is not just a temple or final destination, it is the door to his spiritual journey.
He believes in one Divine Creator, the only omnipresent truth and the only omniscient reality. For him, this supreme power is so indefinable and all pervasive that no symbol or idol can possibly represent it. He bows only before the Hukam (Divine Order) and what ever this order ordains for him is auspicious and what does not come to pass is surely not for his good. He believes in the humility of being just a pawn of cosmic chess.
He discharges all duties and obligations towards his family and society avoiding the path of renunciation or ascetic austerities. He is supposed to be a sannyasin and a householder wrapped in one body. He values the concept of miri-piri, which defines the co-existence of worldly and spiritual authority. For him kirt karo naam japo wand schako (honest earnings, meditation upon the creator and sharing of earnings) are prerequisites for his journey.
He denounces the hierarchy of caste system and recites the hymns of Bhagat Kabir: Awwal Allah noor uppaya, kudrat ke sab bandey, ek noor tey sabh jag upjayaa, kaun bhaley ko mandhey (God created light of which all beings were born and from this light the universe; so who is good and who is bad). His diligent community service and sense of camaraderie insulate him from all manmade fissures of society.
Recognisable in a multitude, the Khalsa (pure one) in him seeks the divine blessings to never shirk from doing good (deh Shiva bar mohey eha, shubh karman te kabhoon na taroon). To uphold his dharma he is ever ready to sacrifice his life and does not hesitate to pick up the sword when all other means of justice have failed.
“At places I see Islam everywhere but Muslims nowhere while at some places I see Muslims everywhere but Islam nowhere.” These words of a Muslim scholar apply to all others faiths as well.
Unfortunately, Guru Nanak’s message too has been viewed through the narrow prism of organised religion with set boundaries. To be born into a Sikh household and call yourself a Sikh is no great happening but to choose Guru Nanak and enjoy the spiritual fruits of his message is certainly a great revolutionary act. If this is grasped, one has understood the quest of the East.
The writer is a Mohali-based freelance contributor. Views expressed are personal.