Friday, June 02, 2006
The history and beliefs of Sikhism according to the Singh Sabha tradition date back to the time of Guru Nanak or more than five hundred years ago. Lest the Sikh identity dissolve in the midst of the dominant Hindu society, the nineteenth century revivalist group practiced a conventional system of how Sikhs should go about with the religion, how they should dress and how they should act according to the norms of Guru Nanak’s time. Sikhs’ observance of their rituals is nonnegotiable—meaning, Sikhism should be viewed as a non-evolutionary religion. Modern Sikhs still interpret that the Singh Sabha tradition should be upheld no matter what.
Meanwhile, the academic work of W.H. McLeod offers an alternative perspective regarding Sikhism’s history and beliefs as evolutionary. The scholarly research of Mcleod argues that the religion in question was spawned by the mother Indian tradition that is the Sant convention. The mystery, philosophy and social customs supposedly inherent to Sikhism are in fact diverted from Sant movement. Nanak himself was a philosopher known for his link to the said parent religion, whose golden age saw light during Nanak’s time.
The Singh Sabha organization claims a simplistic view of Sikh history to show that there is hardly a major change between Nanak’s time’s disciples and the modern believers. For one, Nanak’s soteriological message is deemed original, unencumbered by the dynamic socio-historical milieus time after time. This attempt to be preservative is understandable since orthodoxy in religion is necessary to keep the faithful within the thrall of traditionalism. Whatever is the interpretation of the philosophy and concerns of Sikhism, the guru’s transmission is as universal and as original as it should be.
Meanwhile, the more historically plausible study proposes that Nanak’s soteriological message, for one, is comparable to Gobind Singh’s social message, citing that their philosophical tangency may have been drawn in some ancient teachings. From a pacified, guru-bhakti organization tied up with Sant tradition, Sikhism bloomed into a religious system that evolved by sourcing out teachings over the half millennium from the mother institution, in response to the needs of the socio-historical context. To cite an example, the harmonization of Islam and Hinduism is not an original idea bent on advancing a unifying Sikh doctrine. It was more like the two religions were inadequate to redeem a believer’s spirit unlike the Sant customs, which saturated Nanak by virtue of customs such as meditation, ethereal discourse and rejection of the caste, face-value rituals and of worldliness.
It is not beyond anyone (save for conservative Sikhs) to confirm that Sikhism evolved with history to prove the dynamism of religion at-large.