Sikh Perspective (40th WRC)

Combating Racism

Sikh Perspective
by Dr. Parminder Singh
Vice-chair of the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwara Council

 

Abstract of Theme Speech

 

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Manas ki jaat sabhai, ek hi pehchanbo. Recognize the whole Human race as One

  • Guru Gobind Singh Ji 10th Embodiment of Guru Nanak Ji

Once we recognize all as one, and equal. There leaves no room for Racism or hate. 

I would like to begin by thanking the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whom I have known for quite sometime and have a special bond with... on the organization of the 40th World Religions conference. As a student I have had the pleasure of attending this conference in person at the University of Waterloo. On behalf of the Sikh Community of Canada it is an honour to be speaking at this event today. 

The topic of the conference could not be more timely, given the lack of knowledge, compassion and the abundance of hate we have been witness to in the short little while. The change in times have led many to believe in false narratives. It was not too long ago where we felt the destructive impact of misinformation which led to crimes against visible minorities south of the border and such atrocities also trickled to our neighbourhoods. I will provide some insight on the humanistic perspective and way of life of Sikhism which the word in itself means to be a student. Sikh meaning to learn and we are on this earth learning every single day. We cherish and model our life to walk on the path shown by our Guru’s and as ordained in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib our living guru and Holy Scriptures. 

Manas ki jaat sabhai, ek hi pehchanbo. Recognize the whole Human race as One

  • Guru Gobind Singh Ji 10th Embodiment of Guru Nanak Ji

The above has been the fundamental foundation upon the construct of equality and oneness which comprises the divine teachings of Sikhism. I look forward to speaking on this matter today as a member of a faith group which is built upon the service to humanity, the concept known as Seva.

“Eliminate your conceit and then perform service to humanity”

  • Guru Angad Dev Ji

Seva - the act of selfless service deeply roots the quintessential ingredient to truly becoming one with the human race. Recognizing we are united in our struggles and accomplishments will lead us to live a full-filled life of service to humanity will help break down barriers which prevent us from recognize this unity.

Equality and brotherhood/unity of humankind: the Sikh Gurus have emphasised the concept of the equality of humankind in the sacred verses found in the Sikh holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak says in Japji Sahib: "Accept all humans as your equals, and let them be your only sect" (Japji 28), and Guru Gobind Singh tell the world: "manas ki jat sabhe eke paihcanbo - recognise all of mankind as a single caste of humanity"

So during the 239 years of the Guruship of the 10 Sikh Gurus, this message of the equality of humankind was vigorously promoted by them. It was their mission to root-out the injustices and prejudices of discrimination from common human behaviour and to bring to the masses this concept in clear focus.

Therefore, Sikhs believe that all human beings are equal. “We are sons and daughters of Waheguru, the Almighty”. Sikhs have to treat all peoples of the world on an equal footing. No gender, racial, social, or any other form of discrimination is allowed. This is the message of Guru Nanak as taught by the 10 Sikh Masters during the period 1469 to 1708.

Guru Angad stood for a caste-less and class-less society, in which no one was superior to the other and no one, through greed or selfishness, could be allowed to encroach upon the rights of others. In short, he visualized a society in which members lived like a family, helping and supporting one another. He not only preached equality but practised it. The son of a successful trader he came to meet Guru Nanak dressed in fine clothes of silk yet no task was beneath him. 

To promote the acceptance of human equality, Guru Angad established a community kitchen where all sat together in a row, regardless of caste or status, and ate the same food. So strong was his disregard of caste and status that even the Emperor Humayun (Guru refused to meet with the then deposed Emperor until he had first shared a meal in the Guru ka Langar) to task for thinking himself above sitting and eating 'common food' among 'common men'.

God's creation, equally created

Speaking of the Almighty Guru Angad said in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in bani, Sarang ki Var, “He Himself creates, O Nanak; He establishes the various creatures. How can anyone be called bad?. There is One Lord and Master of all; He watches over all, and assigns all to their tasks. Some have less, and some have more; no one is allowed to leave empty.” – Guru Angad Dev (SGGS p1238).

 

Furthermore, the guru stressed the importance of adopting a uniform way of praising God and the utility of a social organization based on equality. He established a holy congregation, or Sangat, where people of different beliefs and varying social status sat together to hear the Master’s singing of hymns and to be inspired to lead a noble life. 

 

The following lines from SGGS explain about the importance of treating every person as an equal:

They look upon all with equality, and recognize the Supreme Soul, 

the Lord, pervading among all. Those who sing the Praises of the Lord, Har, Har, obtain the supreme status; 

they are the most exalted and acclaimed people. (2)

(SGGS p446)

 

The God-conscious being is always unstained, like the sun, 

which gives its comfort and warmth to all.

The God-conscious being looks upon all alike, like the wind, 

which blows equally upon the king and the poor beggar.

(SGGS p272)

 

Sri Guru Granth Sahib promotes the concept of equality by highlighting the fact that we are made of the same flesh, blood and bone and we have the same light of God with us – Soul . Our building bricks are the same:

There is only one breath; all are made of the same clay; 

the light within all is the same.

The One Light pervades all the many and various beings. 

This Light intermingles with them, but it is not diluted or obscured.

By Guru’s Grace, I have come to see the One. I am a sacrifice to the True Guru. (3)

(SGGS p96)

 

“He is within - see Him outside as well; 

there is no one, other than Him. 

As Gurmukh, look upon all with the single eye of equality; 

in each and every heart, the Divine Light is contained. ((2))”

(SGGS p599)

 

Unity of the Human race

It is only now that we can see how the Guru and the Sikhs had to fight with dedication to change the ingrained and unfair systems of discrimination and prejudice within each religious group and within the different religious communities. The Guru succeeded in creating a caste-less society where both men and women were seen as equals; one where all human beings' rights were considered equal. The following famous shabad by the tenth Guru highlights one of the central tenets of the Sikh faith

ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਫਜੀ ਇਮਾਮ ਸਾਫੀ 'ਮਾਨਸ ਕੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਸਬੈ ਏਕੈ ਪਹਿਚਾਨਬੋ

hindhoo thurak kooo raafajee eimaam saafee maanas kee jaath sabai eaekai pehichaanabo.

Someone is Hindu and someone a Muslim, then someone is Shia, and someone a Sunni, Recognize the whole of human race as one.

(Sridasam p51)

(someone is raafjee (follower of Ali) or Shia ; others are Imam-Shafi (adherents of the Prophet) or Sunni)

The Guru went further to state that not only was there no difference between one Muslim and another Muslim but that in God's eyes, there was no difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. The following Shabadhighlights the equality of the two main religious groups of the region: 

ਦੇਹਰਾ ਮਸੀਤ ਸੋਈ ਪੂਜਾ ਔ ਨਿਵਾਜ ਓਈ ਮਾਨਸ ਸਬੈ ਏਕ ਪੈ ਅਨੇਕ ਕੋ ਭ੍ਰਮਾਉ ਹੈ ॥

dhaeharaa maseeth soee poojaa a nivaaj ouee maanas sabai eaek pai anaek ko bharamaao hai.

The temple and the mosque are the same, there is no difference between a Hindu worship and Muslim prayer; 

all the human beings are the same, although they may appear to be different.

(Sridasam p51)

The holy words continue and can be translated as: 

The gods, demons, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Turks and Hindus… all these are due to the differences of the various garbs of different countries.

The eyes are the same, the ears the same, the bodies are the same and the habits are the same, all the creation is the amalgam of earth, air, fire and water.

Allah of Muslims and Abhekh (Guiseless) of Hindus are the same, the Puranas of Hindus and the holy Quran of the Muslims depict the same reality; all have been created in the image of the same Lord and have the same formation. 16.86.

Just as millions of sparks are created from the fire; although they are different entities, they merge in the same fire.

Just as from of waves are created on the surface of the big rivers and all the waves are called water.

Similarly the animate and inanimate objects come out of the Supreme Lord; having been created from the same Lord, they merge in the same Lord. 17.87.

 

1699: Creation of Khalsa

For centuries, the various peoples of the sub-continent were divided and there was not united. Caste discrimination was rife; the high caste conspired against the low caste people; women had no status in human society of the time and were almost treated as animals. The Guru was determined to abolish this divisional philosophy of the common people. The previous Gurus had made much progress with spelling out the concept of equality but change was slow and difficult. Guru Gobind Singh had a special plan to create a new type of human being which he called the "Khalsa".

In 1699, the Khalsa was formed to give a sense of unity and a strong backbone to the society of the region so that they could protect their rights and their freedom and without the in-fighting of previous centuries. The city’s atmosphere became elevated with the recitation of sacred hymns and divine music, meditation upon the one Creator and powerful sense of protection for the weak and the sense of unity. 

The city began to prosper and the perceived redundant norms of the past began to disappear. The hill Rajas of the surrounding kingdoms were threatened by the breaking of the caste system and the end of old ritualistic practises. However, the Guru did not shy away from the huge task of changing the perception and the practises of the people of the region. The creation of the Khalsa resulted in a caste-less and class-less caring community where all were treated as equals. The Guru had managed to break the mould of the caste based society which had been dominated within this community for thousands of years.

In Conclusion:


All People are Equal

The purpose of interfaith organizations is to develop goodwill for all persons and understand their beliefs. The Sikh faith is built on the foundation of loving all people irrespective of their faith, appearance, language, or culture. 

Sikhs believe in ONE God and in the brotherhood of humanity must be pointed out emphatically. Just because there are limitless names for God (Allah, Ram, Gobind, Guru, God, etc.) does not mean there are many faiths or religions. 




 


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