Thursday, February 11, 2010

God As Guru

Tonight, we're learning about Sikhism in my World Religions course. It's a relatively new religion, founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak in the Punjab region of present-day Pakistan.

One key to understanding Sikhism is the concept of "guru-ship." The word "guru" means "spiritual guide" or "teacher." For Sikhs, God is The Guru and uses earthly gurus to impart wisdom. The goal of Sikhism is union with God. The word Sikh means "disciple."

Guru Nanak began by distinguishing his path from both Hinduism and Islam. However, Sikhism is similar to Hinduism in that it believes in a supreme and formless God and in reincarnation. It is similar to Islam in rejecting the caste system and the notion of divine incarnations (avatars).

The tenth and last Guru of Sikhism (died in 1708) put together the chief scripture called the Guru Granath Singh. This serves as a guide for Sikh's daily life and worship. This last Guru also created a religious order called the Pure Order. Open to men and women, it requires abstention from tobacco, meat and alcohol. Members of this order also wear the "five K's," named after Punjab words beginning with the letter "k": comb, uncut hair (usually wrapped in a turban), a sword or dagger, a steel bracelet and undershorts. Each of these has symbolic meaning as well as practical use.

Sikhs seek salvation through union with God through loving the Person of God dwelling in the depths of their own being. Apart from God, life has no meaning and suffering is the result. Sikhs embrace tolerance and coexistence in relation to other religions. They believe that all monotheistic religions come from God. There are approximately 13 million Sikhs scattered throughout the world.

What I most appreciate about Sikhism is its emphasis on union with God and its tolerance of other religions. It's a religion worth learning more about.

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