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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 - Sikhism

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Henry Shiu

Sikhism  Conflicts between outsider and insider seen most clearly in this religion  Two very different theories about how Sikhism arose – insider vs. outsider understanding  Punjab: North Western India  Significant about this region = lot of conflict between Muslims and Hindus in the area o 13 -14 century where Muslims tried to conquer and convert Hindus th  Most devastating to Buddhist: 12 c onwards, Buddhism became extinct in India! And went to neighbouring China, Tibet and further Japan and ??? due to the conquest of the Muslims  500 year period (starting 1526) starting of the Mughal empire o Under this empire, much smoother and more tolerance; more peaceful about the coexistence of the other religions – Indo-Islamic culture that was developed o Lots of architecture from elements of the two religions mixing o The Taj Mahal was built around that time – only happened due to the peaceful time Religious Background  North Western part of India, religions are in conflict  Both religions share common themes: o Compare bhakti yoga is the same as praying to a god which is like the element in the monotheistic religion of Islam  Also mystical tradition: Hinduism where atman getting together with Brahma o Outside of our daily experience = MYSTICAL o Cannot use your words to describe it o It is temporary = TRANSCENDENTAL o Through this experience itself, one feels like one becomes one with the universe  Spiritual master: in their transmission to a future generation o Cannot learn it in a book  It is in these 3 that makes the religions able to mesh/merge  Sant tradition = very popular in the North (much like Sikh) o Devotional practice = bhakti of Hinduism popular at the time o Tantric yoga: making use of chanting as way of aiding their meditation practice o Sufism: which came from Islam  Already seeing a tradition that blends elements from Hinduism and Islam  Sant poets: are like the earlier/primitive forms of Sikhism from the perspective of scholars  Sikhism like a continuation of what the Sant tradition was teaching at the time – this is what the Western scholars say = that this was an attempt to reconcile the conflicts between the two religions in the Punjab area From the perspective of the Insiders:  Guru Nanak in mid-15 century who “founded” the religion  Only 700 years old = rather NEW religion  900 hymns = poems  Meant to be sung not read like a book  Meant to be memorized and sung by the followers  These teachings were transmitted only orally for 5 generations until later they were compiled in the Adi Granth (holy scripture of Sikhism)  Said that Guru Nanak was born as a Hindu and one day he experienced God directly (when he was lost in the forest for 3 days) – a mystical experience o It was revealed that there was ONE god: God is beyond our intellectual capability to understand the greatness of god and therefore could only be experienced o From an outsider’s perspective, this is Nanak’s way to reconcile two ideas in Hinduism and Islam – don’t create these walls in the religions and don’t see your religion’s difference from mine; don’t try to understand what god really is and what he is like – because we are incapable of conceiving it and if we try it leads to all the differences (Allah, Vishnu, etc.) – experience rather than discussion  Nanak hesitant to give the divine/ultimate God a name – only called “God” etc.  He said there shouldn’t be a “Muslim” or “Hindu” – didn’t considered Jainism and Buddhism because they don’t believe in a creator God (believe in causality), and that’s why Nanak didn’t take into account these religions  Nanak would sing his teachings - in a song o Mardana would play an instrument o A two men band touring throughout India and thereby seek their followers/disciples
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