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Current time:0:00Total duration:12:07

Continuity-Sikhism connections to Hinduism and Islam

Video transcript

in previous videos we've gone into reasonable depth on the narrative of how the sikh religion was started initially by guru nanak and then how it developed under the next gurus all the way until the 10th guru and finally as it was compiled in the guru granth sahib which is considered by sikhs to be the last and final guru sikhism is oftentimes compared to both hinduism and islam sometimes with reference to the idea that it has elements of both while others would argue that no it is a completely independent religion and any similarity is just coincidental so let's tackle that central question what elements of continuity does sikhism represent and in this video we're going to think about continuity in terms of religious continuity and in particular does it have elements from islam or hinduism in it so we could first focus on some of the cultural trappings or some of the historical trappings of sikhism and think about the connections to both hinduism and islam the first obvious connection is that guru nanak the first guru and many of the early gurus grew up in hindu families but there are also cultural connections to islam the sikh religion emerges in punjab which is where or near the various muslim rulers of the time held their capitals well they're talking about the dali sultanate which was in power for over 250 years when sikhism started to emerge with guru nanak but also the mogul empire which really developed in its early stages at the same time that sikhism develops so many of the followers of sikhism were both hindu and muslim a lot of the terminology of sikhism borrows words and borrows ideas from both islam and hinduism the word allah is used to refer to god in parts of the guru granth sahib but so is the word rama one of the first and closest followers of guru nanak who was with him most of his life was bhai mardana and even today many pictures of guru nanak would have bhai mardana in them guru nanak famously as someone who is spiritually precocious and spiritually curious traveled through india and persia and the middle east so he visited many temples but there's also many historic accounts of him going to mecca and performing hajj the guru granth sahib which is considered the spiritual book the 11th and final groove for the six of the contributors to them you have kabir who grew up in a muslim family he lived either around the time of guru nanak or in the century before guru nanak and would write about both allah and ram although he was often critical of both hinduism and islam and you also have sheikh farid who was a muslim sufi writer and spiritual figure and he has also contributed to the guru granth sahib there's also important rituals that come from hinduism so for example when sikhs pass away like hindus they are cremated so just looking at this list you immediately see that there's definitely cultural elements whether we're talking about words whether we're talking about rituals whether we're talking about even just the historical narrative of how and where sikhism started that are closely tied to ideas of hinduism and closely tied to ideas of islam but now let's look at the scripture itself and see if we can glean any more similarities or differences this is the mool mantra which means main mantra or the basic teaching of sikhism and it comes from guru nanak and this is an english translation you'll see variations of this but it essentially says one universal creator god the name is truth creative being personified no fear no hatred image of the undying beyond birth self-existent by guru's grace throughout the guru granth sahib and much of the writings of especially guru nanak focus on devotion to god the one universal god and so many of you might think well that seems to have connections to islam but you could say well even in hinduism although there are many aspects of god the various deities but there's this notion of a fundamental reality of brahman so maybe it has elements of that or maybe this is just independently developed but there definitely are parts of the guru granth sahib which seem to have elements that are close to islam this is a quote from guru nanak he is allah the unknowable the inaccessible all-powerful and merciful creator so one argument is he's using the arabic word for god he's using allah now another argument counter argument would be well he's just using the language that his followers knew and many of his followers were muslim and so would have used the word allah for god but he is not saying that it necessarily has to be the exact concept of god as in islam now this is from kabir someone sets up a stone idol and all the world worships it as the lord those who hold to this belief will be drowned in the river of darkness and this is in the guru granth sahib this notion of being against idol worship comes out very clear in this quotation and that is another idea that is often associated with islam but as i mentioned there's also many parallels with hinduism in the first video on sikhism i give you this quote from guru nanak the world is a drama staged in a dream which alludes to the hindu notion of maya the physical reality is is all an illusion we want to pierce through that veil what should the yogi have to fear trees plants and all that is inside and outside is he himself so this is an idea that we get very clearly from the upanishads any notion of duality of me being different from you or even one versus god it's all an illusion all is one by the karma of past actions the robe of this physical body is obtained by his grace the gate of liberation is found so clear references to the hindu notions of karma that action drives consequences that you enter one physical body after another but that's not your true self the robe of this physical body there's a true self and eventually through the grace of the ultimate reality you might be able to have liberation have moksha so clear hindu parallels as well one angle is that guru nanak and sikhism was attempting a reformation of both taking elements that were compelling in either and then purifying them making them more internal focused less focused on ritual less focused on the external and more focused on meditation and the true self there's a lot of quotations in reference to both religions that make it clear that it was something different and is critical of at least how both religions seemed to be practiced in india at that time guru nanak famously said there is no hindu there is no mussuman most people feel that he's saying this distinction that we make between human beings based on these belief systems that these are superficial that these are to some degree transient that we are all part of the universal part of the ultimate reality part of god this is from guru arjan the muslim god allah and the hindu god parbram are one and the same so here trying to unify these ideas this is in a context where many of the followers are muslim and many are hindu and putting it in words that they understand my body and breadth of life belong to allah to rama the god of both so once again it's this bhakti this devotional aspect surrendering to god and using the terminology that would be familiar to people in that time and in that space so i encourage you go out there research think about it for yourself sikhism for sure has its own unique identity and pretty much every religion is a product of the context in which it emerged and has elements from other religions whether or not that was done intentionally whether or not it's chance there does seem to be parallels we can make a whole tree of religions if we like if we put sikhism right here the question mark of this video is you have this narrative of islam to what degree does it influence sikhism and many would say that especially the sufi orders of islam have much to do with sikhism sufism is the school of islam that is more inward looking that is about devotional love to god and that's what a lot of sikhism is focused on but as mentioned one could also think about hinduism which is much older than pretty much any other living religion today and in other videos we talk about the bhakthi movement which is about devotional love to god there's also a school of thought in hinduism known as vedanta which is more focused on the core spiritual ideas of the upanishads the notion of the ultimate self the ultimate reality escaping from the cycle of births and deaths from samsara achieving liberation moksha all of these ideas are in sikhism and to make the point clear that all of our major religions are connected to each other we can keep drawing this tree we talk about how buddhism brings out of hinduism that buddha was a hindu and it might have been reaction to some of the ritual and the caste that buddha saw in hinduism or at least in hindu culture in fact some of those same motivations might have motivated guru nanak islam we talk about in other videos famously emerges from a judeo-christian tradition the most important prophets in islam after muhammad are jesus moses and abraham and christianity of course comes out of a jewish tradition jesus was jewish and one could say that there is even some direct connections between judaism and islam notions of not eating pork notions of halal and kosher ideas of circumcision and one could even argue that judaism and islam also have close ties to zoroastrianism a very ancient monotheistic religion and cyrus the great of persia was the one who really spread zoroastrianism and he's considered a messiah amongst the jewish people because he liberated them from the babylonian captivity helped them resettle in jerusalem and helped rebuild the temple at jerusalem zoroastrianism also has ties to islam zoroastrians pray five times a day just like muslims they have the ritual bathing before the prayer just like muslims at the same time of day so once again amongst all of these religions they definitely came in contact with each other and you definitely have ideas that are shared amongst the religions so with that i'll leave you with one last quote from guru nanak and this one would arguably be addressed to his muslim followers but it gives you a sense of his trying to bring people back to the internal trying to make people less focused on external ritual external physical reality and more on internal goodness and your actions being more important than your words or your rituals make kindness your mosque sincerity your prayer carpet what is just and lawful your quran modesty your circumcision civility or fasting so shalt thou be a muslim or muslim make right conduct your kaaba making reference to the pilgrimage site muslims go to and pray towards truth your spiritual guide good works your creed and your prayer the will of god your rosary and god will preserve your honor guru nanak