By Gurnam Singh | UK | OPINION |
It has become very noticeable to me that a new trend has emerged to position Sikhi as a ‘new age’ religion. At the centre of this is the assertion that peace and enlightenment are to be gained by emptying of the mind. Further, that somehow (social) learning or learning is the cause of suffering and falsehood.
Whilst generally I find the new age movement quite harmless, even likeable, there is a dangerous fallacy in such assertions. Simply put, it is the suggestion that somehow socialisation is necessarily a bad thing, that cultural experience has disrupted/soiled a pure routine soul, and that therefore our ‘worldly’ memories represent falsehood.
As far as I can see, a human being stripped of their memory is not an enlightened soul but a Zombie!! Yes, moments of reflection and meditation can help one to relax and process thoughts, but, do we really think sitting in solitary confinement and contemplating ‘God’ is the Sikh way?
My reading of Sikh teachings is that the way to the truth is reason, critical thinking and love for all of creation. If emptying the mind and withdrawing from the world was a way to enlightenment then why did Nanak criticise the Yogis in the mountains?
The image below depicts a dialogue that Guru Nanak had with the Sidh Yogis, who were claiming they had gained enlightenment and spiritual powers by renouncing worldly living, by moving to hills and jungles living in caves and wandering to different places and pilgrimages.
The dialogue is recorded by Nanak in the Guru Granth Sahib ji under the heading of ‘Sidh Gosht’. The Yogis impressed upon Nanak for him to join them if he were indeed seeking the divine. But Guru Nanak emphasized the need for practical social spirituality, living guided ethics, compassion and reflection.
For Nanak, the way of the householder is the highest way of all, and this was the path followed by him and all the 10 Gurus. This is the theme that runs all through Siddh Gosht and if you have never read it, I urge you to do so.
[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is a Visiting Fellow in Race and Education at University of Arts London and a Visiting Professor of Social Work at University of Chester as well as a presenter at UK-based Akaal channel. This views were shared on his Facebook page]
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