Sikhism

A progressive religion well ahead of its time when it was founded over 500 years ago, The Sikh religion today has a following of over 20 million people worldwide and is ranked as the worlds 5th largest religion. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs.
It was built in 1764. (Punjab, India)
Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation.Two thousand years after Buddha's time, another philosopher-saint came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the passing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs. The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Ram Dass, 1574-1581), and during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Arjan, 1581-1606), the Hari Mandir, or Temple of God was built. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Moslem armies. On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Moslems, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs. From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders. Peace returned to the Hari Mandir.

The temple's architecture draws on both Hindu and Moslem artistic styles yet represents a unique coevolution of the two. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Hari Mandir was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones. Within the sanctuary, on a jewel-studded platform, lies the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Moslem and Hindu saints. Beginning early in the morning and lasting until long past sunset, these hymns are chanted to the exquisite accompaniment of flutes, drums, and stringed instruments. Echoing across the serene lake, this enchantingly beautiful music induces a delicate yet powerful state of trance in the pilgrims strolling leisurely around the marble concourse encircling the pool and temple. An underground spring feeds the sacred lake, and throughout the day and night pilgrims immerse themselves in the water, a symbolic cleansing of the soul rather than an actual bathing of the body. Next to the temple complex are enormous pilgrims' dormitories and dining halls where all persons, irrespective of race, religion, or gender, are lodged and fed for free.
Amritsar, the original name of first the ancient lake, then the temple complex, and still later the surrounding city, means "pool of ambrosial nectar." Looking deeply into the origins of this word amrit, we find that it indicates a drink of the gods, a rare and magical substance that catalyzes euphoric states of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment. With this word we have a very clear example of the spirit, power, or energetic character of a particular place becoming encoded as an ancient geographical place name. The myth is not just a fairy tale. It reveals itself as a coded metaphor if we have the knowledge to read the code: The waters of Amritsar flowing into the lake of the Hari Mandir were long ago - and remain today - a bringer of peacefulness.

 

Books about Sikhism

 

The Sikh Religion by Max Arthur MacAuliffe [1909], Volume 1.

This book has detailed information on the historical and philosophical background of Sikhism.

Shri Guru Granth Sahib

The Granth is the central text of Sikhism, a religion that emerged in the Punjab region of India in the 15th Century. Sikhism is a unique faith which has aspects of Islam: monotheism and iconoclasm, and Hinduism: reincarnation, karma and nirvana. However Sikhism is distinct from Hinduism and Islam. The Sikh Gurus (teachers), contemporaries of Luther and Calvin, were reformers who rejected the caste system and much of the apparatus of Hindu ritual and legalism. They promoted religious tolerance and the equality of women. The founding Guru, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, (1469-1538), is noted for the saying "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim."
The Granth, compiled by Guru Gobind Singh, contains compositions of six Gurus, namely Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, and Guru Teg Bahadur. The hymns are arranged by the thirty one ragas (musical forms) in which they were composed. The hymns that comprise the Granth were originally written in several different languages: Persian, mediaeval Prakrit, Hindi, Marathi, old Panjabi, Multani, and several local dialects. In addition, there are Sanskrit and Arabic portions. This makes it extrordinarily difficult to translate. The translation presented here is the Khalsa Consensus Translation, which is highly regarded by scholars.
The Granth is considered the living embodiment of the Gurus, the "eleventh guru". Printed copies of the Granth are treated with the greatest respect. This is the reason for the honorific titles that make up the full name of the book. There are protocols to be observed in while reading of the Granth. A Sikh reader suggests the following: "Out of respect, it is advised that before you do read the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, that you cover your hair." This is normally with a turban or a piece of cloth provided by the gurdwara.

 

 

 

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