Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Enigma of Sikhism

Sikhism is, in my opinion, one of the aforementioned very notable exceptions. Like you I have sometimes wondered why is has not received more than a passing glance from traditionalists, especially given its unique characteristics. Indeed, the only thing that I have seen written by a traditionalist on the subject is the very brief comment by Schuon provided by Siraji. In this quote, although affirming its validity, Schuon does not identify it as a religion perpetuating a revelation but rather as an esoterism, or esoteric brotherhood. A closer examination would seem to corroborate this, the formal designation Sikh Religion rather than Brotherhood notwithstanding.

Sikhism is based a priori upon the teachings of Guru Nanak, a 15th century Indian sage. According to traditional records, he possessed an awakened faculty of intellectual intuition from an early age and at age twenty-eight undertook a spiritual ascent during which he received a dispensation from the Divine Presence. Immediately prior to this experience, Guru Nanak had entered into a river to bathe and meditate whereupon he disappeared for three days. According to a text called the Puratan Janam-Sakhi,

“At the Divine Command the devotee Nanak was ushered into the Presence. A cup full of Nectar was by Divine Pleasure offered to him. The Voice came: ‘Nanak, this is Amrita (Nectar), the cup of my Name. Drink this, it is offered to thee.’ At this Guru Nanak made obeisance and quaffed the cup of Amrita. The Lord’s grace fell upon him. ‘Nanak, I am ever by thy side. I have showered my blessing on thee. Whoever calls on thee, shall also receive my blessing. Go thou into the world and meditate on the Name, and make mankind also meditate on the Name. Be thou ever unpolluted by the lure of the world. Engage thyself in meditation on the Name, in charity, in self-purification, service, and in remembering thy Lord. I have conferred on thee the blessing of my name. Make the Name alone thy occupation.”

The Divine Presence then asked him to speak the greatness of His Name that had been bestowed upon him, whereupon Guru Nanak uttered the passages later recorded as the Japji Sahib, the first book within the Guru Granth Sahib, and others.

His first act when returning to the world was to give away all of his possessions to the poor. After a day and night of silence, his first teaching was the declaration: There is no Hindu, There is no Muslim. Guru Nanak had entered into the Divine Presence for whom there were no such distinctions, and he began to teach from a perspective situated within this realization. Throughout his life he made many travels always perpetuating a message of the oneness of God, universal equality, and the Naam Marga, a spiritual path based upon the remembrance of God through the repetition of His Name.

Morphologically, Sikhism is based upon the subjective revelation or intellectual intuition of Guru Nanak expressed as song, rather than an objective manifestation of the Logos as man or book. It sometimes expresses cosmological and psychological doctrines using Hindu terminology and clearly enshrines the fundamental Islamic doctrine of Tawhid but does not perpetuate itself within the religious framework of either of these traditions. Guru Nanak was seen as a Guru, rather than a prophet or avatar, and there are no formal rituals other than a rite of induction, their main forms of worship being invocation of the Name and kirtan or recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib. Aside from some formal practices (which are not absolute) concerning attire and dietary prohibitions, Sikhism is based upon the concept of intrinsic morality or the cultivation of the virtues. In principle, these elements differ in nature from those based upon objective revelation, but in practice they have assimilated their respective functions. For the Sikh devotee, Nanak as Guru is both prophet and avatar (of Vishnu), and his inspired utterances the manifestation of the Divine word. Sikhism possesses a lineage of 10 Gurus which bear similarity to the Shi’ite Imams and the Guru Granth Sahib is equally as revered by the Sikh as the Quran is to the Muslim.

In consideration of the absence of a discernable religious framework and in light of the teachings of the traditional school, Sikhism represents perhaps the closest approximation to what has sometimes been hypothesized as the independent practice of the religio perennis, a path based entirely upon the knowledge of the Absolute, intrinsic morality, and the invocation of the Divine Name. According to Schuon, this particular path is something of a final possibility following the advent of Islam as the concluding revelation of this cycle of humanity.

All justification and explanation aside, I also believe that it is impossible to stand within the Golden Temple of Amritsar amidst a gathering of the spiritual descendants of Guru Gobind Singh, listening to the beautiful and inspired recitations of the Guru Granth Sahib and for a single moment doubt that this is something valid and orthodox in the most important sense of the word.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone