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Do Sikhs really follow the teachings of their Gurus?

The origins of Sikhism lie in the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in these words: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living". Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender. Sikh principles do not attach any importance to asceticism as a means to attain salvation, but stresses on the need of leading life as a householder.

In Sikhism, God—termed Vāhigurū—is shapeless, timeless, and sightless: niraṅkār, akāl, and alakh. The beginning of the first composition of Sikh scripture is the figure "1"—signifying the universality of God. It states that God is omnipresent and infinite, and is signified by the term ēk ōaṅkār. Sikhs believe that before creation, all that existed was God and Its hukam (will or order). When God willed, the entire cosmos was created. From these beginnings, God nurtured "enticement and attachment" to māyā, or the human perception of reality.

While a full understanding of God is beyond human beings, Nanak described God as not wholly unknowable. God is omnipresent in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Nanak stressed that God must be seen from "the inward eye", or the "heart", of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment. Guru Nanak Dev emphasized the revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application permits the existence of communication between God and human beings. God has no gender in Sikhism, (though translations may incorrectly present a male God); indeed Sikhism teaches that God is "Nirankar" [Niran meaning "without" and kar meaning "form", hence "without form"]. In addition, Nanak wrote that there are many worlds on which God has created life.

The Guru Gobind Singh, on March 30, 1699, while addressing his Khalsa had said: “ From now on, you have become casteless. No ritual, either Hindu or Muslim, will you perform nor will you believe in superstition of any kind, but only in one God who is the master and protector of all, the only creator and destroyer. In your new order, the lowest will rank with the highest and each will be to the other a bhai (brother). No pilgrimages for you any more, nor austerities but the pure life of the household, which you should be ready to sacrifice at the call of Dharma (duty). Women shall be equal of men in every way. No purdah (veil) for them anymore, nor the burning alive of a widow on the pyre (burning dead body) of her spouse (sati). He who kills his daughter, the Khalsa shall not deal with him.

Yet, if we were to study the lifestyle of people living in the state of Punjab (where we believe the majority of the Punjabis in India reside, although census may have a much larger population of Punjabis spread across India) we will be surprised that probably none of the above is strongly believed by Sikhs. However, our goal is to understand, how much of the teachings & philosophy of the Sikh Gurus are being accepted and practiced by Sikhs or Punjabis in India and maybe across the globe. 

The killing of the unborn girl child is probably the highest in the Northern part of India, to be more specific, in the state of Punjab. Not only the un-educated or the less educated demand having a boy but instead, some of the most highly educated couples, seem to be influenced by society and believe in a boy child than being blessed with a child. No debate, argument or any kind of an explanation can change such a perception. I tried debating with one such couple, who were blessed with a healthy daughter, after around 5 years of their marriage. I spoke to both of them individually and gathered that, the woman would say her husband wants a boy child, while the man would say, his wife would like to have a son! When I spoke to both of them together, their say was that, their only daughter feels lonely and desires a boy as her brother in order to feel more secured! Or, everyone in their friend circle has a boy child and women often insist having a son, who will take care of the older parents in their old age etc. and, their neighbors often say 'when will you plan another child, make sure its a boy this time' ... in spite of the woman's health, which doctors have said isn't healthy for pregnancy, the couples still try for another child and the result, more than 4 mis-cariage in the last 6 years!!!

Leave alone prayers for a son, the couple even visited a sadhu for some kind of a herb, having which could give them a son, scientifically, I find this absolutely stupid, however, this seems to be a very common practice in that region. Further, according to Sikhism, a man must make a family, be a householder, provider, therefore, all those men, who chose to live a bachelor life, and spend their lifetime in meditation and wandering around in the name of God are not Sikhs. Well, these sadhus are not believers of Sikhism though, they are more believers of Hinduism (and we are not here for a study on Hinduism), my point was, the Sikhs, who are supposed to be believing in their present Guru, The Guru Granth Sahib, believe these sadhus with a blind eye!

If you believe your Guru from your hearth, you will accept his blessings and pride on it. So how come, you go beyond and seek for meanings, which were never part of the teachings of the Sikh gurus? 

Further, superstition is practiced and believed highly in Punjab. Once again, something which was never preached by any of the Sikh Gurus. Right from 'a black cat crossing your way brings bad luck' to ' urinating under the tree in the evenings brings evil home' and even 'holding a cup or glass of milk or tea in your left hand while drinking is bad for health', is still heavenly believed by almost all the people, including the couple I met and several others too! The list of such superstitious believes can be endless!

Sikhs also believe and as well as practice forms of rituals by the Hindus, which was not preached by any of the Sikh Gurus. And their women even have to cover her face in her veil (although the younger generation does not do it anymore). Thank our Gurus, that at least the burning of women over her dead husband is not practiced anymore. However, the life of a divorced woman or a widow is indeed another topic worth a debate. 

My point is, how can a Sikh person convince his/her own self, by simply praying the prayers for a Sikh from The Guru Granth and, yet continue believing in superstition, demand a son over a daughter and even chose to kill the un-born girl child and believe in cast and rituals from the other religions? Sikhism is not only wearing of turban and growing of the beard and praying from The Guru Granth, rather, it is living the ideologies designed by the Gurus. An individual choses himself what he/she wants to be, a Sikh as per The Guru or, a Sikh as per our present society.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh 
City: Warsaw
Country: Poland
Date: June 3, 2010