August 12, 2013

Counterfeit Religions XXVI: Sikhism

For reasons only God will understand I have many Sikh acquaintances  I probably know as many adherents of Sikhism as I do adherents of Judaism. I tread near the edge on this post but feel compelled to type this post as I have for all other false religions because there is only one way to eternal life and Sikhism isn't that route. If I remain silent, they remain condemned if we are to believe the Bible (which I do). As I have tried to do with all the other counterfeit religions in this series I am not trying to write a dissertation on each and every religion out there in the world. Nor am I trying to write on every little nuance within said religion(s). What I am trying to do is create a brief summary of the religion for Christians and show its characteristics in relation to Christianity. I am not writing these posts to win converts so much as I am trying to arm my brethren with knowledge when they evangelize Sikhs in the world. There is nothing worse than trying to evangelize people you know nothing about. In all belief systems there are occasional points of contact and commonality. These points of commonality are points for Christians to engage in evangelism and preach the Gospel with other faiths. Like other religions, people in Sikhism are not our enemy…they are our evangelistic targets. As such we need to become familiar with them as some may very well become our brothers and sisters in the faith. I will now show Christians why Sikhism is a counterfeit path to salvation.

The word Sikh ਸਿੱਖ is Punjabi and actually means "disciple" or “student”. The sacred symbol of Sikhism is called the khanda or the Sikh Coat of Arms. Within its imagery we see a single double-edged sword in the middle which appears to represent the duality or dualist belief of the believer being a soldier and a saint and also the oneness of God. So far so good…as this aligns to Christian belief (Ephesians 6:10-17). The two single-edged swords to the sides are called kirpans and characterize spiritual and physical strength. One sword is symbolic of spiritual power is called the Piri. The second sword is symbolic of physical power called the Miri. The amalgam of dual characteristics of Miri-Piri, is intended to show the integration of both spiritual and temporal sovereignty together and not treating them as two separate and distinct entities. In the center between these swords is a chakkar (circle) symbolizing the unity of all people and the belief in one god. Again, this is not much different from Christianity.

Here the similarities end.

Sikh religion has a single religious initiator named Guru Nanak, but there were a bunch of gurus (spiritual teachers) that strengthened and entrenched the faith in the minds of people after Nanak's death in the Punjabi people. The religion was initiated on or about 1469 by Nanak. Nanak was born in Punjab, India. He was born into a high caste of Hinduism. Nanak's birth was viewed as special. According to tradition, he was born of humble beginnings in a hut. The hut filled with light. There was a prediction that he would be a prophet that united many faiths. It is here we see a prophet not named in the Christian Scriptures and we also see the pluralism and inclusive nature of Sikhism. If Nanak had been a true prophet of God we would’ve seen him mentioned in Scripture. Considering the canon of Scripture ended late in the 1st century, Nanak would constitute a false prophet in the 13th century.

We also see right within one of the main tenants of the Sikh faith a broad embracing of religions regardless of dogma (therefore absolute truths). Because it is embracing and pluralistic, its grasp of absolute truth of a god must be loose also. Logic begins to dictate that Sikh philosophy is in and of itself is…contradictory or at least incongruous to sound reasoning. To embrace multiple truths as paths to an absolute omnipotent, omniscient God defies the 1st law of logic called the Law of Non-contradiction that says two absolute truths (in this case, about God) cannot be true. As Scriptures of multiple faiths are not even remotely the same, they could not possibly speak of or reveal the same omniscient non-contradictory God of the Bible. I know this for a fact because I have read many of them. The bottom line is that Sikhism teaches religious freedom therefore religious pluralism. All people have the right to follow their own path to God without condemnation or coercion from others. The Bible clearly refutes this philosophy.

John 14:6 ~ “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

We see Nanak’s childhood is filled with him spreading the proverbial “peace and love” to all he encountered.  It is told that he went to a river at some point to bathe and it is there in the river he I goes incognito and inexplicably disappears. Instead of finding him when they looked they found only his clothes. His family believed he had drowned but three days later, Nanak reappeared  (this is strangely akin to Jesus and the tomb—minus the death and resurrection).

Upon his reappearance he made known that the one divine essence of the universe spoke to him. God blessed him and sent him out into the world as a prophet. Here we see one with secretive salvational knowledge akin to Gnosticism. In his revealing from the divine essence we see that there is no Hinduism, there is no Islam, etc. We see the emergence of a monotheistic religion of works.

At the end of his life Nanak called up one of his disciples and renamed him Angad, which means "a part of my own self." This process repeated itself multiple times through subsequently renamed disciples called Amar Das and Ram Das. It is under Ram Das that the Gold Temple is built in Amritsar that Amar das had “foreseen.” Arjan, the fifth in this line is known for collecting the writings of the gurus into the sacred book called the Adi Granth. He split the book into raga or melodies.  The first raga is Sri (meaning supreme) is so named because all the writings in that section praise the supremacy of the one God.

On or about 1604-1605 the Golden Temple and the compiling of the Sikh holy book were completed. It is at this point that the religion, having become more prominent in the eyes of the surrounding people comes under severe persecution. This appears to have remained a dominant theme in the history of this religion. Arjan is unceremoniously imprisoned, tortured and killed. As such he becomes the first martyr for Sikhism. The religion takes on a martyrs complex similar to Christianity. It is Arjan’s act of peace in the face of overt aggression that turns the faith of Sikhism from non-violent to an aggressive stance. Sikhism went lex talionis on the surrounding persecutors.

Arjan's son, Har Gobind the sixth guru leads the charge. Har began to dress like a warrior and carries two swords (like the ones on the Sikh Coat of Arms. By the ninth guru Tegh Bahadur we see a pattern of violence and reprisal. Tegh was imprisoned and decapitated by a Muslim emperor who believed the Sikhs were a threat to Islamic culture and authority.

Core Tenants of Sikhism

To all outward appearances, based in the universalistic appeal of Sikhism, some people believe that Sikhism is a blend of Islamic and Hindu beliefs, this is not exactly right. Although Sikhs appear monotheistic like Muslims and they believe in reincarnation like Hindus. Sikh as a religion is actually quite unique and distinct from both the aforementioned belief systems.

Sikh gurus are supposedly one with God and speak for God.

As outlined before, Sikhs believe in Ik Onkar  or One God: named Vāhigurū who is shapeless, timeless, and not able to be seen with the physical eye. In essence their god is spirit. Sikhism believes that all human beings are equal. Due to the universalist nature of Sikhism, people of all religions and races are welcome in Sikh places of worship.

The human life is supreme and it is through this life that we can achieve oneness with God's will.
Finding God in this life and living by his commands helps us to attain God's mercy. Strangely this is a lot like Christianity but minus Christ which makes it a counterfeit.

The Sikh place of worship is the Gurdwara. Every sanctuary has a special altar for the Adi Granth (Sikh Scripture). True to its pluralistic/universalistic belief pattern, Sikhism has no hierarchal leadership; therefore, anyone can read sacred texts or lead worship. In the core of the Gurdwara lies the langar, which is the kitchen where the sacred community meal is served to not only believers but also all those who need food in a form of charity similar to Christian soup kitchens. There is also charity in the form of Sikh believers who doe selfless service or a deed of love for the congregation by serving in the langar, preparing and serving food mentioned. Within this principle it is easy to see that the community (Sangat) is the hub of Sikh faith.

My first aversion to this religion is their emphatic pluralistic views as mentioned above. As can be expected from a persecuted people like the Sikh, they reject the caste system (financial tier system) and ardently embrace equality. This is one of the universalist and modern cultural  appeals of the religion as it embraces the principles of inclusiveness at the cost of compromising truth to attain it. This is very much like our current postmodern society in the West. What makes the Sikh faith even more compatible with pluralistic beliefs which allow for multi-religious blending of syncretism is that the Adi Granth (Sikh holy book) appears devoid of exact laws (codes of behavior) moral or otherwise. It is filled with statements of faith, as opposed to being historically factual. It seems in Sikh belief that their scriptures in and of themselves are not enough. These become ends as opposed to means whereby truth can be found as opposed the Bible which is actual revelation of truth from God because the Word is God.

This fact about Sikhism makes this a really dubious religion in terms of what it really believes and stands with conviction on. If it rejects nothing outright than it must accept everything and it’s as if the whole idea of right and wrong (sin and holiness) goes out the window. Furthermore there are no true requirements outlined in the Adi Granth for righteousness of holiness. It hasn’t even been until the last 200 years that some standardized international code of conduct and practice has been outlined in Sikhism. The most recent is found in the form of the Sikh Rehat Maryada standardized in 1925.

Compared to a religion like Christianity we begin to see the reverse polarity between the two. Christians clearly see and can explain the failures and evil around them in life. In this way Christianity has better explanations for why things seem so messed up in our lives. It is attributed to either spiritual beings or to human based immorality and sin. To even be able to make these distinctions like sin, right and wrong, there needs to be boundaries, limits or laws. There needs to be a moral measure of the morality and ethics against a given known…or anything and everything goes. This is why pluralism and all-inclusiveness is self-defeating in the end. At some point…someone starts treading on someone else’s feet. Even Sikhism’s martyr past and recent violence against their faith speaks to this fact.

It should also be noted that most Sikh wear five articles of clothing they are obliged to wear after their baptism (unbaptized Sikh are not required to wear these things). These Sikh vestments, uniforms or traditional garb are strangely akin to other religions of work such as Islam, the Amish and other works related religions. They are outlined in the Sikh 5K’s

Kesh which is uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in the Sikh Turban or Dastar
Kanga which is a wooden comb, usually worn under the Dastar
Katchera which is a cotton undergarments: historically appropriate during battle due to increased mobility (like girding up one lions) on the ancient battle field when compared to the traditional dhoti dress of the time. They are worn by both sexes as underwear. The Katchera is also a symbol of chastity.
Kara which is an iron bracelet: functions as a defensive and offensive weapon.
Kirpan which is an iron dagger, which comes in different sizes;

The second stumbling block for Sikhism is reincarnation. The Christian Scripture is clear…

Hebrews 9:27 ~ “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”

There has to be a moral absolute and permanent judgment or unrepentant murders and people like Guru Arjan’s torturers, Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin make it to Heaven. Where is the justice in that? This is why the God of Christian Scripture and the idea of ultimate justice and judgment ring so true in light of the evil we see around us in this world. Doing “good” does not a righteous deed make. It takes an imputation of holiness from God to gain righteousness. It is nothing we do.

The final and main stumbling block for me is the complete and absolute absence of atonement for sin. I know for a fact Sikhs believe in wrong doing, justice and injustice. I have spoken with them and they have admitted as much to me. Their past is riddled with acts of injustice against their faith. Yet, they just don’t seem to want to acknowledge the need that they themselves could be as fallen as their persecutors. They along with their persecutors need to seek repentance and turn to a God that offers them a cover for their own sin as well as that of their enemies. That is an atonement for a spiritual debt that is never mentioned anywhere in the Adi Granth. We are all under a debt of sin that we have no ability to get forgiveness for. Only Jesus Christ can give the atonement and cover us for that debt. Herein lies the lie of Sikhism. Regardless of how inclusive and friendly Sikhs are, this is not the path to salvation.

Even though there is a heavy emphasis is on ethics, morality, and values this does nothing to save a human being. It is another religion based in works based on the morality of man. Additionally, as far as I can tell the Sikh view of eternal punishment is symbolic. The concept of hell and heaven in Sikhism is metaphorical and is said to be experienced by those who chose to live (or not live) in the Five Thieves or Five Evils (lust, rage, greed, attachment and ego). This is to say that Sikhism does believe in the existence of heaven and hell, however, heaven and hell are created to reward and punish, one will then take birth again until one merges in God. According to the Sikh scriptures, the human form is the closet form to God and the best opportunity for a human being attain salvation and merge back with God. After death our soul does not die or stays either in heaven or hell. Sikh Gurus said that nothing dies, nothing is born, everything is ever present, and it just changes forms.

In a nutshell…there are not multiple paths to God. There is only one. Where Sikhism is pluralistic and wishes to embrace all, Christianity is exclusivist and makes certain demands on believers that Sikhism does not. Christianity forces one to take accountability for one’s sins and transgressions. Christianity shows completely and thoroughly that it is by faith not by works that we gain this salvation. Christianity says there is one way to Heaven and salvation, Sikhism says there are multiple possible paths. Furthermore, Sikhism tells us that we can gain salvation through our own efforts. The Sikh idea of salvation isn’t really my ideal idea of salvation anyway. Christianity says that we will be saved to be with God for eternity but we will maintain our own distinct personalities. Sikhism tells us that we will eventually merge with the one god over multiple suffering or miserable lifetimes, thereby loose our individual identities. It is called merging with the God consciousness. This is literally too close to annihilationism or annihilation of the self for me to be comfortable with. This for me is scary not reassuring. It sounds more like a hell not paradise or Heaven. Christianity there is no annihilation, one is either saved with their personality to a New Heaven or New Earth or they are condemned with personality intact in eternal punishment.

Interestingly Sikhs believe in Jesus...they just don't believe He is God. To Sikhism, Jesus is looked at as a "saint". Sikhs do not believe that Jesus is God because Sikhism teaches that God is neither born, nor dead. Jesus was born and lived a human life, therefore, he cannot possibly be God. However, Sikhs still show respect to all beliefs as part of the tenant of their faith is inclusiveness.

Finally, the thing that totally kills it for me in Sikhism is that it is counter-intuitive nature of its logic when it identifies the path to God. If there were multiple paths to God through all the religions, God would have to be stupid and contradictory since the dogma and doctrine of most religions are totally incompatible as I have shown convincingly throughout this series. This is especially true between that of antagonistic religions like Islam and more peaceful ones.

For God to be a God and truly divine, He needs to be omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and all the other omni’s. If he is omniscient and all-knowing He would not set up contradictory paths to salvation. Although the Sikh religion claims omniscience and omnipotence of its God … when they say that multiple paths are allowed and some would be contradictory, they shoot themselves in the theological foot.  This becomes brutally obvious when we arrive at a convoluted explanation of salvation through obvious flawed logic like that in Sikhism. Sorry folks, my omniscient God isn’t that dumb.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

You have a very wrong perception of the religion. First of all I am a Sikh and we don't believe in another God we believe in the same God that sent His son. Our founder of the religion did not believe in reincarnation and certainly that is not what I believe. And if you believe in God then you have no right to pass judgement and I would suggest that you take this page off.

sikh -sufi said...

I rocked with laughter..after reading such a myopic labelling and description of Sikh Spirituality..you hv confused the culture of the Punjabis with that of Sikh Spirituality..nevertheless as a Sikh..i love Jesus Christ and dsily contemplate upon the Lords Prayer...becoz..Jesus is "the Christ"..but not s Christian.My Sikh brliefs hv taught me to see the good in peoples hearts..not the labels they are carrying.Thnx and May Jesus bless ud all.

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