- What is meant by Sikhi Ik Sresht Dharam?
This topic is discussed on the forums from to time. The expression, Sikhi Ik Sresht Dharam, is used by Sikh scholars to bring out the egalitarian features of the Sikh way of life. Some can take the meaning literally that Sikhi is a superior religion but that cannot be the intended meaning. For a follower of any faith, own chosen path is the best.
Due entirely different approaches, Sikhi was not intended to bridge the almost impossible gulf between Abrahamic and the Vedic traditions, but to offer a third option, the Niara Teesra Panth. As Dr I J Grewal noted, there was hardly anything in politics, society or the religious practices of his time that was acceptable to Guru Nanak Sahib (The Sikhs of the Punjab).
Many bhagats (saints), too, had revolted against the discriminatory and divisive ideologies practised by their background religions. Those practices are condemned by Guru Nanak Sahib in, for example, Asa ki Vaar. The Bani (compositions) of the Bhagats was selectively included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), sometimes with qualifications by the Guru. Thus, the study of Sikhi requires a paradigm shift away from orthodox ideologies.
It was for that reason that scholars like Macauliffe found it difficult to point to a religion of greater originality. Despite the colonial connotation regarding loyalty, Dorothy Field found it little short of a miracle that this faith transformed the outcaste Indian into a fine loyal warrior. (The Religion of the Sikhs).
At interfaith forums, I have often bullet-pointed the main Sikhi characteristics also well set out by Dr I J Singh in his introduction to “Sikhs and Sikhism – A View With a Bias: Uncompromising monotheism; no priesthood or any form of brokerage between God and creation; direct (Khalsa) relationship with the Creator; direct access to the scriptures written in the vernacular; rejection of monasticism and stress on family life and community obligations’; rejection of multi-tiered caste system; demolition of every traditional excuse used to perpetuate gender bias or any form of discrimination; and concept of saint soldier.
Sikhi way of life – the theo-social system – rests on three pillars: constant awareness of the Creator Being, honest work and sharing/charity. Dr I J Singh concludes that all these elements constitute Sikhi as a religion of the people, by the people, for the people.
Provided Sikhs are clear about their way of life, it is not for them to make comparison with earlier systems but for them to continually re-evaluate their own actual performance against the founding principles of Sikhi as above. They do have an authentic original source reference in SGGS to be able to cross check if they are indeed following in the footsteps of the Guru.
It is for other religions to re-confirm that their religious texts are interpreted to meet the headings most relevant to modern human rights and values. It is only when provoked by religious zealots, misrepresenting Sikh ideology and re-writing Sikh history while seeking converts to own religions, that Sikh scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha have responded by restating the basics of Sikhi.
Unlike the constructive questioning approach of Guru Nanak Sahib, some Sikh scholars, especially those in the interfaith area, have difficulty thinking outside the box. It is more soothing for them to present Sikhi as a faith cobbled together from the good parts of Hinduism and Islam! That sort of conciliatory line is also more acceptable to the establishment wherever the Sikhs live. It is almost a subconscious tactic to promote Sikhi and, sometimes, self! However, such an approach confuses the audience and is not the right approach to show the independence of Sikhi.
Yet, the Guru was less sparing towards the Brahmin and the Mullah when he condemned their practices based on their interpretation of own scriptures. The Guru gave His own interpretation of true Hinduism and Islam. The situation regarding interpretation of scriptures has not changed today when we look at extremist and violent movements in the name of religion.
Sikhi Ik Sresht Dharam does not mean that Sikhi is a superior religion or that any comparison with other faiths is intended, but that Sikhi is a new approach and a new whole-life system. Sikhs themselves need to fully understand that through the Sikh-ing (learning) path shown by the Guru.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for more details on the author.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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