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Lecture 3

RLGA01H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Guru Hargobind, The Five Ks, Guru Arjan

Course Code
Henry Shiu

of 3
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 13th-14th century where Muslims tried to conquer and convert Hindus
Most devastating to Buddhist: 12th 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-15th 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
o SIKH = disciples
Combination of the Hindu and Muslim as a band and a team also reflects the reconciliation between the religions
Style of clothing
Astonishing because you were seeing a deliberate attempt to blend Muslim and Hindu traditional elements
The hat came from the Islamic tradition
He was ready to let the world know that there was NO distinction between the two religions
Nanak was referred to as the first Guru all ten Gurus, they created the line and tenth guru said it stops here and
there will not
Insiders would say that Nanak rejected BOTH Hinduism and Islamic traditions: could be true in the way he said
there was no Hinduism and Islam
Outsiders can say that they do have elements in Hinduism: they believe in reincarnation and karma on the other
hand most religions in India still believe in karma and reincarnation
All the daily religious traditions, pujas and Samskara (life cycle rites) not accepted by Nanak
Nanak doesn’t approve of polytheistic religion; does not like having a conceptualized idol to worship
Nanak criticizing treatment of oppressed: due to the castes that exist even though it only came from Laws of
Manu and doesn’t exist anywhere in doctrine in Islam, they DID adopt the caste system too
o Nanak was very unhappy of this if we truly believe in one god, then we should believe that everyone
should be equal in front of god and we shouldn’t make any class distinctions in this way; no discrimination
in caste or of women
God has personal character: we are not apart from god but what we have is a very limited version of what god has
God can be seen as the most qualified teacher = the PRIMARY GURU
Within the teachings of Sikhism , Nanak was saying that was obstructing us from our attachment to god is our
egocentric living
The Development of Sikhism
First stage: wasn’t recognized fully as a distinct religion
Second stage: when it became a popular movement with many supporters, that is the time when the Muslim
government became wary of this growing force and tried to supress it; tried to brand it as a cult religion; forced
conversion; forced to death; then practitioners had to adopt protective stance as well as begin defining themselves
and beliefs
Muslim emperor Akbar: saw Sikhism as a moral community because they did believe in a monotheistic god and that
they were bringing both Hindu and Muslim ideals together; didn’t see it as a threat
Akbar and other rulers saw that the Sikhs were powerful
The 5th guru Arjan finally compiled writings of Guru Nanak’s – 100 years after he existed; probably skewed hymns?
Hargobind: self-defensive; advised that every practitioner should carry a sword
“Gobin the Lion”: he inaugurated the Khalsa – a military, teaching them marshall arts to protect women etc.
The males took the name Singh signifies coming from the Sikh religion
Five Ks
Short pants: allow you to be ready to fight; easier for you to move around; for defensive purpose
Bracelet of steel: to symbolically represent your braveness
Clearly identifiable from Khalsa community and Sikh
In that time, were Sikhs were persecuted, must have been hard to dress distinctly as a Sikh; not afraid to show who
they were
No alcohol: head is clear all the time and that they are there all the time to protect the community
Post-Colonial Rule
The Sikhs finally settled in NorthWest india
But also immigrated to other countries
Gurdwaras: not just temples or religious centres; but a charitable kitchen and social meeting place communicate,
gather, make friends, important to the Sikh community;
Plays a big part in why the religion can root in other countries
Do not actively seek converts but they DO attract members
Lots of local Canadians that have converted to Sikhism due to it being a very simplistic religion
Not really that huge a religious gap for local Canadians to convert, because they are mostly Christians and also
believe in a monotheistic religion