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Sikhism Embraces All. Why Is Sikhism One of the Most Tolerant Faiths?

Sikhism Embraces All. Why Is Sikhism One of the Most Tolerant Faiths?

Sikhism Embraces All. Why Is Sikhism One of the Most Tolerant Faiths?

Sikhism, as a religion, took hold only in the later part of the fifteenth century. The world at the time already had many long-established religions, each thousands of years old. Sikh gurus were critical of many of their practices, and yet never prohibited religious freedom. They believed that it does not matter which religion one follows, but what matters is leading a truthful and honorable life, with reverence to the Almighty. Guru Tegh Bahadur gave his life for the right of Hindus to enjoy religious freedom.

Guru Nanak was brought up in a Hindu household. As a young man, he had friends from all faiths. But when he noticed peculiarities in social or religious customs, he did not shy away from pointing them out. He attained enlightenment when he disappeared in the river Bein, only to reappear three days later. Then, he shunned his inherited traditions and embraced Waheguru as the one true God. He laid ‘equality of all’ as one of the foundational principles of Sikhism.

Equality As A Pillar of Sikhism:

All human beings are created by God. This simple and straightforward tenet drives Sikhism’s quest for egalitarianism i.e. equality of all. The principle holds true irrespective of one’s class, caste, gender or faith.

In fact, in many ways, it was a reaction against the rigid caste system prevalent in the society at the time. Gurus believed that the worth of human beings cannot be divided on the basis of their family’s work. For instance, Guru Gobind, in an effort to utterly shun the caste system, gifted the surname ‘Singh’ to men and ‘Kaur’ to women. It was a measure intending to keep any caste-based prejudices at bay.

Guru Ramdas had said—

“There is only one breath; all are made of the same clay; the light within all is the same. The One Light pervades all the many and various beings.”

Guru Granth Sahib teaches us that all creatures, including human beings are created by God’s Hukum, and God never discriminates. Therefore, all creatures must be treated with the respect and dignity they so deserve. All of us have an element of God within us, and in that sense, one cannot be considered intrinsically more worthy than the other. There are many different paths that may lead to God, and every individual can decide for themselves the path they want to walk on.

Guru Granth Sahib Includes Verses From Both Hindu And Muslim Saints:

Guru Granth Sahib is composed of works of not only Sikh Gurus but men of many different faiths and backgrounds. Guru Nanak included verses by Hindu and Muslim holy men in his anthology. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Sant Kabir Das, whose hymns appear 541 times in the holy book. There are many others like Baba Farid, Bhagat Namdev, Bhagat Ravidas, Baba Sundar, Bhagat Dhanna, Bhagat Jayadeva, Bhagat  Ramananda, Bhagat Trilochan, Bhagat Parmananda, Bhagat Surdas, Bhatt Mathura, Bhatt Jalap, Bhatt Harbans, Balvand Rai and many others.

This, if anything, is a further proof of bonhomie between Sikhism and other faiths.

Gurdwaras and Langars Are Open To All:

No one is barred from entering a Gurdwara regardless of the faith they belong to. The four doors that open in all four directions are a welcoming beacon to people of all faiths. Further, everyone can contribute to langar. Like equals, everyone can sit in the pangat to eat with others.

Langar may be an astonishing concept to many in the West as it is a practice where kings and servants used to eat the same food sitting in the same line on the floor, but it is now deeply entrenched in Sikhism. Guru Nanak had introduced this custom in furtherance of his belief in the oneness of humanity, promoting interfaith dialogue and harmony. The ‘pratha’ was consolidated by Guru Amar Das and other Gurus thereon; and it continues unabated to this day. 

 

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