Is Sikhism separate from Hinduism?

published on December 28, 2009
Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan

Addressing the World’s Parliament of Religions at Chicago on September 11, 1893, when Swami Vivekananda greeted the congregation with the words, I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, he meant what he said: Hinduism is the mother of all religions of the world.

 History is replete with evidences that the most ancient Vedic culture of Bharatavarsha nourished and nurtured civilizations all over the world and the world religions have all their roots in the Sanaatana dharma which came to be known as Hinduism. The Greco-Roman culture and the Semitic religions were influenced by the thoughts of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Swami Vivekananda pointed out that Greek philosophy began with Pythagoras who had his training in India. Impartial historians of the West, like Prof. Heeran, have traced the origin of western knowledge and religion to India. The religion of Christ originated from the philosophy of Essenes and Therapeuts. The Therapeuts of Alexandria based their philosophy on the Theraputta doctrine of Buddhism. According to Swami Abhedananda, the illustrious gurubhai of SwamiVvivekananda, the Essenes emerged from the Nath Yogis of India. ˜Essene or ˜Ishana is Shiva and ˜Ishani or ˜Isha Nath is the follower of Shiva. Ernest Renan says that Bondasp (Bodhisattva) is the founder of Subeism or Baptism, the origin of Mendites, the Christians of St. John, the Baptist. E.A. Payne traces the origin of the concept of Virgin Mother Mary in Kanya Kumari, the Virgin Mother Shakti of Shaktism. Many distinguished authors like Nicholas Notovich, Prof. Roerich, Paul Brunton, Spencer Lewi, G.L. Christe and Swami Abhedananda have thrown ample light on the evidences of Jesuss life in India.

When the entire western world is looking towards India to trace the origins of their religions and philosophical thoughts in India, it is surprising that sects and sub-sects and offshoots of Hinduism in India endeavour to establish that they are not part and parcel of Hinduism. At the very outset, one thing must be made very clear, that Hinduism is not the name of a religion, but it is an eternal and universal way of life “ Sanaatana dharma — evolved by the great sages and seers of ancient Bharatavarsha. Dharma is not religion though religion forms part of dharma. Hinduism, since times immemorial, has accepted all religions as various pathways to the realization of one Ultimate Reality and hence all those who adhered to the Hindu way of life had absolute freedom to follow any religion or to create their own religions. According to the needs of time and clime, many religious schools and sects were founded by great men like Buddha, Mahavira, Gurunanak and Swami Dayananda in Bharatavarsha, but never did they dissociate from the parent dharma. They all considered themselves as part and parcel of Hindu Dharma. The Hindu society also considered these great men as avatara purushas or incarnations of the Divine. Buddha is hailed as an avatara of Mahavishnu in Gita Govinda of Saint-Poet Jayadeva. Rishabahadeva, the first thirthankara of Jainism is one among the Vedic Rishis. Neither Buddha nor Mahavira ever renounced Hinduism to found a new religion.  

When the universal and unifying force of Sanatana Dharma started declining, Guru Nanak (1469-1538) appeared on the scene to re-establish the truths proclaimed in the Vedas and Upanishads. The Oneness of the formless, nameless Ultimate Reality, hailed in hundreds of names and adored by people in countless forms, was stressed by the great teacher. He founded Sikhism which was a historical development of the Vaishnava Bhakti Movement that began in the South and introduced into the North by the great saint, Sri Ramanuja. It adopted a catholic and universal approach and we find all the names of God, as were current in those times in Asia, mentioned in the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. The Hindu mythology and Upanishadic idioms have enriched the vocabulary of the scripture. Sri Kushwant Singh says, Almost nine-tenths of Granth Sahib composed largely by Guru Arjan, is in fact Vedanta, and essence of all that you read in the Upanishads and the Gita.

The Udasis, an ascetic order of the Hindu Naga Sannyasins, was founded by Baba Sri Chand, the elder of the two sons of Guru Nanak. Nanak himself had predicted that the religious sect to be founded by his son will be popular all over the world and he himself had initiated Baba Sri Chand, at the age of seven, with the mystic symbol ˜Satnam and advised him to do Jap. Sri Chand initiated Baba Mohan, son of Guru Amardas, in the jap of ˜Ek Omkar Satnam. Sri Chand bestowed his gadi or succession to Baba Gurudita, a householder and son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. The Udasis are usually celibate and wear ochre clothes while some of them wear only  kaupin (loin cloth) and besmear their bodies with sacred ash. Baba Guruditas four disciples established  four dhunis that constitute Bara Akhara or the Senior Assembly. A Bhakshis Sanghai founded by Bhai Pheru with the permission of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, established the Chota Akhara, They all pay reverence to Sri Guru Grant Sahib. During the Moghul tyranny, when the Sikhs were hunted down and they withdrew into deep forests, the ascetic order of the Udasis kept the torch burning as custodians of Gurudwaras and kept the spirit of Sikhism alive. The Order of Nirmala Sadhus created by Guru Gobind Singh helped Sikhs in missionary activities. Writing the biography of Sri Chand, Sri K.M. Munshi points out  that, at the time of Sri Chands birth, astrologers predicted his great future and the wise believed that Bhagavan Shankar Himself had appeared. Udasis, also known as Nanakputras, were recruited from all castes of the Hindus and they ate food from any Hindu. They revered Adi Granth as well as Granth Sahib of Sri Guru Govind Singh and repeated the clarion call, Wahe Guru “ Well done, Master!; Wahe Guru ka Fateh”Well done, Masters victory!

The valiant history of the Sikh Gurus and the martyrs who shed their blood and laid down their precious lives as a great sacrifice at the altar of sanaatan dharma and the Hindu Nation, is written in golden letters in the annals of Bharatavarsha. When the Mughal emperors raised their swords to slash down the mighty banyan tree of Hindu Dharma, it was the brave Sikhs, the sword-arm of the Hindu Nation, who stood up to protect the Hindu race and Hindu culture. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, was tortured to death in 1606, because he stood against the Islamic fundamentalism, fanaticism and imperialism of Jehangir. Guru Arjun Devs grandson and the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was cut down by the sword of the fanatic Muslim ruler, Aurangazeb, who was grandson of Jehangir, in 1675. Every patriotic Hindu hails, with a heart swaying with pride and heroism, the name of Guru Gobind Singh, the son of Teg Bahadur and the tenth Guru. Right from the age of nine his life was a saga of heroism and sacrifice. He unsheathed his sword when the devil dance of unrighteousness under the hellish rule of Aurangazeb spread a veil of darkness over this land. He lost his mother, wives, kith and kin. His two elderly sons fell in the battle field and his two younger sons “ Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh “ captured by Aurangazeb, refused to give up their dharma and therefore were made to stand in an open ground where walls were erected  around them burying them alive. Even today, the nation sings their praise, Sir diyaa, par siraar na diyaa! “ They gave their heads but not their faith! Guru Govind was not shaken by the tides of sorrow and suffering that lashed against him. He gave a call to his men to give their heads in sacrifice to Chandi “ the mighty war-goddess of the Hindus. The first five men who stepped forward were made his commandents and he thus founded the Sikh Khalsa. Every Hindu family offered one son  to the Khalsa and Guru Gobind initiated them and gave them theAdi Granth as their Guru. With this band of dedicated followers, he defended his fatih and the honour of the Hindu women and protected the sacred cows and holy temples of the Hindu Nation. Even when he was in his death bed after he was treacherously wounded by his own Pathan soldiers, he gave a clarion call to his followers  to carry on the battle for the protection of dharma and thedharmabhoomi.

The banner of Freedom that fell from the hands of Guru Gobind was soon lifted up by the brave Kukas, the Namdhari Sikh Community founded by Sadguru Ramsingh Kuka. The Kuka Uprising was perhaps another major valiant effort during the British period, immediately after the First War of Indian Independence, to emancipate the Motherland from the thralldom of slavery. On 13th January 1872, when the Namdaris went to Bhaini, the birth place of Ramsingh Kuka, for the celebration of Magh Mela, they got the news that in Malarkota, the Mussalmans killed a cow sacred to the Namdharis and sprinkled its blood on a Sikh soldier. The Namdaris, in made rage, captured a British fort and drove away the British officers. However, the strong hand of British Imperialism crushed them and the captured Namdaharis were tied in tens and fifteens, fastened to the cannons and blown off from the cannon mouth. A ten year old lad who was attempted to be bribed with the bait of life by a British officer, Caven, sprang on the officer for insulting his Guru, and was cut to pieces. Sadguru Ramsingh Kuka was captured and transported to Brahmadesh.

The reformist movement in Hinduism started by Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple, Swami Vivekananda, drew inspiration from the ideals of Guru Nanak and his followers. Sri Ramakrishna, during the period of his interaction with Sikhism, met many Nanakshahis and Nanak Panthis. The Sikh ascetic, Udasi Totapuri, imparted to Sri Ramakrishna the Sikh esoteric instruction efficacious for removing impediments on the spiritual path. Swami Vivekananda often uttered and introduced into his writings the Sikh mystic formula, Wahe Guru! In Eastern India, the Bengal reformist movements drew inspiration from Sikhism propagated by the Udasis and Nanak Panthis.  Even in Maharashtra, the impact of Sikhism was felt as the Hindu Emperor Shivajis Guru, Samarth Ramdas, met the Sikh Guru Har Gobind in Kashmir in 1634.

The Hindu reformist movements started by great men like Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Dayananda and Swami Vivekananda had all one common goal “ to reestablish the eternal and universal values of life propounded by the great sages and seers of this holy land of Bharatavarsha. However, unfortunately, many of the followers of these movements and their narrow minded, ignorant, parochial and selfish leaders with vested interests  have tried to declare themselves non-Hindus and claim an independent and separate identity for themselves. May be because of historic reasons and the divide and rule game played by the foreign masters during Indias subjugation, the various religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism were considered separate from Hinduism and in Independent India they claimed and got a ˜minority status along with religions like Christianity and Islam which came from outside. The Arya Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission have also attempted in the recent past to claim ˜minority status by declaring  themselves to be non-Hindu organizations and going to the highest court of law in the country, but they have failed. However, the lure of the ˜minority status and the privileges associated with it prompts even sects and sub-sects of the Hindus like the ˜Lingayats and some of the Tamil Shaivites “ the worshippers of Shiva “ to declare themselves non-Hindus.

If only the various limbs of the Hindu society comprising of sampradayas or sections like Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Shaktas, Bauddhas, Jainas and Sikhs stand united proclaiming the glory of sanatana dharma and of the Hindu Nation and give up their narrow selfish interests, the other religious groups like Muslims and Christians in India in whose veins too the blood of the ancient rishis flow, will be compelled to give up their fanatic and fundamentalist ideas and the urge to convert people belonging to other religions through force and lure and live in harmony and peace as Children of Motehr Bharat. Sikh Gurus, Naga Sannyasins, Buddhist Monks, Jain Acharyas and religious heads of various other sampradaayas should come forward with a clear vision to raise Bharat and make Her sit on the throne of Loka Guru in this new millennium. The Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is right when he says that Sikhs, like Buddhists, Jains, Mussalmans and Christians, have an individuality and separate identity and the Sangh endeavours to bring in unity and not uniformity, but as the spokesman of the RSS, Sri M.G.Vaidya has rightly pointed out, all these religious groups have their origin invariably in the Mother Culture, Hindu Dharma, whether their leaders accept it or not. One can cut off association with ones parents, but he can never change them. That is Eternal Law! Wahe Guru! Vande Mataram!

[Author is Founder Trustee, Bharatamata Gurukula Ashram & Yogi Ramsuratkumar Indological Research Centre,Sister Nivedita Academy,Sri Bharati Mandir, Srinivasanagar, Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore 560036
Phone & Fax:080-5610935; E-Mail: [email protected]

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