Friday, March 23, 2007

Sikhism and Dogma

The whole world watched in horror, as the scenes of the London bombings were displayed on television. Not many waited for the official placement of blame. The answer was already on their tongues. Al Qaeda. As the week progressed, we were told what we already knew. Islamic terrorists linked to Al Qaeda had planted the bombs. What we didn’t expect was how apparently “Normal” these so called terrorists were. What made them become so extreme? Where did all this radicalism come from?

We learn that there was even a young man, hardly an adult who was a suicide bomber. What could have possessed this young being to do such a thing?

It was the constant bombardment by local imams, that Britain is an evil country. Infidels are attacking holy land. All these kafirs are breaking the “laws” of Allah.

Is this Islam? No.

Is this what Islam has been made into? Unfortunately, yes.

But why? What has allowed this to happen? When answering this question we must realize that this extreme nature does not come from nowhere. There ARE laws in Islam. There is no doubt about that. The some Sharia Laws, Hadiths and even many verses in the Quran have been very controversial throughout history. Many claim that the laws themselves are not controversial but rather the perverted interpretation makes them so. But regardless of the different interpretations, it is these very dogmas that are used as the building blocks of extremists who are trying to recruit young men and women into the fold of terrorism.

While thinking of these laws, my mind naturally wonders what Sikhism’s take is on all this. What do Sikhism’s “laws” say? Are they also controversial? But first of all – What is Dogma?

A general definition of Dogma would be authoritative religious laws, deemed to be absolutely true, without any sort of proof. An example would be that all non believers are going to hell in the after life. Many would say that one “Dogma” that all religions believe in is that of a god(s), or some supernatural power. I disagree. I do not believe that a belief in God could be considered a religious law, as it is actually the foundation of these religions, and cannot be clumped together with religious laws.

Seeing as most of these laws come from sacred scriptures and texts it is only fitting to first search the Guru Granth Sahib for any “laws”. Yet when one does read the Guru Granth, which unfortunately is not too common an occurrence, we realize that that such a search would be in vain. While one is likely to find the praise and glorification of God, a call for Simran and Kirtan, and even some words of a moral boosting nature, we cannot find any sort of “laws”. Why is this?

The Guru’s goal was not to set out how many times to pray, what to eat, or even how to eat it, but rather to create humans of such high moral character and thinking that they would be considered model citizens for any country. If there are any laws in Sikhism, they are ones of such universal nature that most if not all of them would be found or represented in the International Declaration of Human Rights or any other such charter.

I specifically mention the idea of a good Samaritan because of what these Islamic terrorists, propagate. It is good to kill kafirs (non-believers), it is right to hate the country that you have grown up in, all in the west are deserving of death and devastation.
As if this wasn’t enough, the extremists use laws, which a readily available to back up their calls for violence!

What would an extremist use to back up violence by Sikhs?..What quote would they use to justly such an act as a suicide bomb?

And yet, as I grew up in Canada it was not uncommon for me to hear of so-called, “Sikh Terrorists”. This makes me wonder how one could be Sikh and commit the atrocities that a terrorist is known to do?

The phrase Sikh terrorist is not just descriptive, but rather a sign to show that the terrorism is being done in the name of Sikhism. What part of Sikhism would condone terrorist attack, or even permit them? None. The reason for this is that there are No “Laws” of any sort which could possibly even allow some one to say that the “west is evil”, or that “all non Sikhs should or can be killed”.

So where did these “Sikhs terrorists come from? It was later on that I found out that these Sikhs were not terrorists by nature, but rather by label. Government abuse, murder, and other such horrible acts have lead young Sikhs bursting with frustration to also commit some violent acts. Are these people terrorists? Was their goal to scare and terrorize the public? No. There was simply pain and anguish, and the understandable thirst for revenge. Revenge on one person. Not on a whole hemisphere. Though Sikhism may not condone blind revenge as a means of justice, these youths were driven by blind passion and emotion, and hardly ever had much logic and reason left in themselves. Even in this state of being, they choose to only to persecute the doers of the act; not a whole society.

How can Sikhism not have any laws? What do the followers follow? Moral values, of trust, honesty, hard work, and many more are told to be means of reaching the ultimate goal of oneness with God, but there are no commands or orders. And yet if there is really no Dogma in Sikhism, then what is with the different, rules and customs that Sikhs must follow?

As I read articles or meet different people, I see that belonging to a certain group or Jathaa has become quite the trend. A book by so and so Akhand Kirtani Jatha valle. Or being introduced to so and so, Tapoban valle. Belonging to a certain group means following theirs rules. So with all these different Jathas we have many different rules to follow. Which ones are right and which wrong?

Well if we are to continue with the above scenario, we see that the AKJ believes, among other things, that all food must be prepared by amritdharis in order to be fit to eat. Tapoban on the other hand believes that not only must it be prepared by amridharis, but it must also ALL be prepared using ONLY Sarbh Loh utensils.

Now if one were to question, they could ask if the AKJ or Tapoban Group has heard of the story of the martyrdom of the Guru Gobind Singh’s two younger Sahibzadas. Mata Gujiri and the young children were taken to shelter when they were lost by a Hindu man named Gangu. This Gangu was considered trustworthy because he was a cook in the Gurus kitchen.

Given that this is just a saakhi, it is still a prominent one in which not many would question. Is this not proof enough that the Guru didn’t care who prepared his food? As long as the food did not cause discomfort to the body, and provided nourishment, than there was not harm in it.

The same idea continues when it comes to Sarbh Loh utensils, or Sarbloh Bibek. There is no doubt that iron is a powerful mineral which is extremely good for the body, however to suggest that all food must be prepared in this manner seems almost superstitious. It seems as if iron is given a special status amongst metals, which I’m sure was not the Guru’s aim.

There are many practical reasons that the Guru used Sarbh Loh on many occasions. One example is our Karaa. It is meant to be made of Sarbh Loh. Why? One of the most prevalent reasons that is used is because it is a substance that ALL can afford. It is humble by nature. Similarly there is no reason for Sikhs to eat using or even own outrageously expensive plates or spoons. Hence in order to continue with the spirit of equality and practicality, iron plates, spoons, bowls, etc were used. Similarly the original reason why amritdharis were commonly preferred to make the food was because one could be assured of their cleanliness, and therefore did not worry about any sickness resulting after eating the food. Today there is so much cleanliness in everything we do, that this is not a problem whatsoever.

Forgive me for just picking on these two groups who in no way whatsoever are doing wrong but are just trying to promote a Sikhi way of life. There are many other Jathaas with their own personal marayadas. To their credit, they have pulled many youth who was straying away from the Gurus path, back on the right track. And yet we hope that these youth don’t get caught up in supposed laws, or dogmas. The problem is that these “rules”, have been carried on as a rituals and has become an almost Brahminical influence on our Sikhi. When a Brahmin was touched by or even fell in the shadow of a lower caste person, it was considered that ‘Janam bhrisht ho gayaa’, or their life had gone to waste unless; some necessary rituals were performed. Similarly it seems like we as Sikhs are getting too caught up in minor details and small laws or rules, which we consider the one and only path to becoming good Sikhs.

The other day I was reading an article by Salman Rushdie titled “Its time for a Muslim Reformation”. In it, Rushdie says that the laws of the Qu’ran were made in the 7th century, and that they have become outdated by today’s standards. “Laws made in the 7th century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st”. It almost seems as if we see these complications of other religions, of reformation, and modernizations, and we decide that we should not be any less. So we start adding laws and rules to our religion, as was exemplified above. What we fail to realize is that our Guru has shown us that there is no need for unnecessary complications, and rituals, and laws. All we need is to follow universal and timeless philosophies of the Guru.

In other words Sikhism was made as a way of life. A philosophy of hard work, praise of the one and only Lord, and service to humanity. This is the beauty of Sikhism. It the Gurus’ infinite knowledge, they gave us neither laws nor orders, but rather extremely beautiful and universal poetry. Poetry which tells us how to be good human beings. Dogma, in every sense of the word, is contrary to the Sikh belief.



Anonymous said...

"there is no need for unnecessary complications, and rituals, and laws"

Then what is the idea behind the five K system by which I mean the requirement of wearing a kara, kirpan, etc at all times. Why are there such binding rules as not cutting one's hair and wearing a turban. Nowadays, some religious Sikh women have also started wearing turbans in pursuit of feeling equal to men in their faith. Perhaps, these binding rules were not part of the Sikh religion originally but the same can be said about a lot of other religions.

Jagtaran said...

To anonymous:

Keeping hair and turban are mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib, and should be accepted on that basis, quite simply. As far as 5 K's and the whole Amrit ceremony, those have been a part of Sikhism since they were created by our Guru. I would certainly not call it an unnecessary complication, ritual or law. There are reasons behind each and every one of those Ks and there is an understanding behind the ceremony.

Unnecessary complications would be things like, only eating from an iron bowl, after having taken Amrit, or ensuring that ones turban is a certain length or shape.

I have a feeling that this isn't really what the Guru was going for when he created the Khalsa, yet this is what we divide ourselves over.