One mistake that we have often done is to equate Sikhism with Hinduism. Or believe that Sikhism was derived from Hinduism itself.
In fact, Sikhism’s fundamentals stand completely opposite to Hinduism!
So the next time someone says Sikhs and Hindus are the same, give them these pointers and ask them to make that statement again if they believe it is true.
1. Sikhism believes in only one god.
This is central to Sikh philosophy – there is One Supreme Reality (depicted by the “Ik Onkar” symbol). And please no, the 10 gurus are not avatars of Gods. They are just prophets who propagated the message of God.
The Mool Mantar which is the most important composition in the Shri Guru Granth Sahib actually uses a lot of synonyms for God:
Ajooni – “free from birth and death”
Akaal moorat – “beyond time, and still existing – a form that does not exist in Time”
So not only there is no avatar but also God CANNOT take an avatar in any manner whatsoever.
Hinduism encourages the practice of different gods, depending on what people choose to be theirs, but in Sikhism, there is only satnaam.
2. Against idolatry and idol worship
Idol worship has been discouraged by all Sikh Gurus because the Supreme Reality is formless.
Sikhism believes that the Divine is within the Self, therefore people who opt for idol worship are blind, and the effort to bow down to a stone figure is actually spent in vain. The Guru Granth Sahib often refers to them as “ignorant fools”.
Sikhism looks at the idea of God very spiritually. Guru Gobind Singh Ji believed that the “very name of God would destroy a cluster of sins”.
What about the worship of the Guru Granth Sahib? You might ask.
Respecting the Granth is not bowing before a god. It is the last guru of the Sikhs which contains orders from the God. Bowing is showing respect to the guru.
The Karah Prasad on the plate is to be consecrated by the Granth and is meant for the priests, not for the Granth itself, as in the case of Hindus who have the concept of offering to the gods.
3. Sikhism discourages hierarchies
Sikhism believes in equality of all people within the community – whether they are from a different religion or a different social status. Guru Nanak Dev Ji spoke against the caste system in 1481.
Sikh philosophy believes in oneness and service to all. The basic ideas of Kar Seva (selfless service) and langar (interdining) are deeply rooted in the idea of equality.
Hinduism has followed the practice of untouchability and segregation of society into different castes. Therefore, interdining and selfless service will be far from possible.
Since one can discern the caste of a person within the Hindus by learning their last name, Guru Gobind Singh Ji homogenised surnames – Singh for men and Kaur for women so that no distinction can ever exist.
4. Against pilgrimage and fasting
You read that right.
Sikhism believes that all these ritualistic exercises cannot wash away the stain and pollution of sins. There should be ritual spiritual bathing, according to Sikhism, and this can be attained by reciting, listening and keeping the Gurbani (words of the gurus) in mind.
Sikhism does not support fasting either. The body is sacred and willful starvation is seen as a desecration of it. Guru Nanak says: “Penance, fasting, austerity and alms-giving are inferior to ‘The Truth’; right action is superior to all.”
Sikhism does not fall into the basic tenets of Hinduism. Guru Nanak Dev was born a Hindu, but it does not necessarily make him one because he had rejected the faith after witnessing the problems with it.
There are people who argue that Sikhs celebrate Hindu festivals because they have derived from Hinduism. But in reality, Sikhism is an advocate of diversity and togetherness. It does not bar anyone from celebrating any festival.
Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists are issued marriage certificates under the Hindu Marriage Act. However, many among the Sikh community have not supported the decision because this will then equate the religion with Hinduism, although the fundamentals of both are very different from each other.
Although Sikhs have their own marriage Act in effect from 1909 called the Anand Marriage Act, there was no provision to register marriages until 2012.
Sikhism is polar to Hinduism, and this is what people should understand.
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