By Satnam Kaur Khalsa

There has been much outside influence in Sikhism since the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. There have been many subtle attitudes created by society that a Sikh may be affected by. The British were fond of the Sikhs, by and large; however they were responsible for building a stereotype of the Sikhs. To the British, the Sikh was a war machine, attributed with very little intelligence, aside from some horse sense. Even today, most Indian movies portray the Sikh as a brute, full of bravado, but few brains.

Examining anti Khalistan articles and speeches, one finds evidence of similar prejudices. One writer thought that a good Sikh should never criticize. Therefore, the demand for Khalistan would never come up. Another claim that the Guru died just to save the Hindu religion, so how can we, as good Sikhs, desire to disavow them? Those of us, who are demanding our rights, and common dignity, are “bad Sikhs” in the eyes of such persons. Even worse is when the Sikhs themselves are the source of these views. We have heard from some Sikhs that they feel there are no qualified Sikh leaders that all we Sikhs do is fight amongst ourselves, so therefore it is better to be ruled by the Indian Government. These are views fostered by prejudice.

There is a definite need for the education of the society at large and the Sikh community in particular. Although the Sikhs are a tolerant people, we have our firm

Convictions in the word of the Guru. The important issue is to actually know the true instructions of the Guru, and not to depend on hearsay, or presuppositions which may be formed by incorrect deductions. One example is the Martyrdom of Guru Tej Bahadur. Commonly,, people ¢ conclude that he died in order to save the Hindu religion. According to the Sikh philosophy, there is no evidence that his motive was anything of the sort. The Guru did not give up his life to save the Hindu religion, but for the principle of dignity for all humanity. He would have done the same for a Jew, Christian, or even an atheist who was suffering. Oppression. Some of the Janam Sakhi stories are embellished, creating the wrong impression on the. Minds of some. In some cases these stories were never approved by actual Sikh theology. One example is the account of Guru Nanak’s visit to the Mecca. He slept with his feet to the sacred shrine.

This caused some of the Muslims to take offence, explaining to the Guru that he was pointing his feet towards God. Guru Nanak asked them to tell him in what direction could he point his feet, as God is everywhere. This is a story with a fine philosophical message. However, it is adulterated to go on and claim that where ever the Guru pointed his feet, the Muslims could see the Mecca. This is against the basic tenets of the Sikh philosophy. Guru Nanak did not need to perform miracles, although he was capable of them. This is an attempt to Hinduism a Sikh account. It is reminiscent of the story told about Namdevji. Another story tells of the Guru’s encounter with a snake. He was resting under a tree when a large snake appeared. The villagers were sure he was doomed, but the snake instead spread its hood to protect the young Guru from the sun. This account is completely concocted, and has no philosophical foundation. This story was taken directly from the Chaitanya Lila, from a story meant to establish Chaitanya as a Vishnu avatar, hence the hooded snake, a symbol of Sesh Nag, the symbolic couch of Vishnu. In some children’s storybooks on the Gurus, we see the hosts of demigods paying obeisance’s to the pregnant mother of Guru Nanak. Later, she is shown discovering with great joy that her some has the auspicious symbols of Vishnu on the soles of his feet. Of course, the book does not refer to the marks as those of Vishnu, but that is not necessary, considering that not many people are known to have the lotus, chakra, mace etc.; on their feet, besides this well-known character. We must educate ourselves in actual Sikh philosophy. We often fall into the trap of complacency, thinking that we have understood the message of the Guru. We also meekly accept stereotyped notions on how a Sikh must behave, or think. The invineibility of the Sikh Nation lies in its knowledge of the philosophy of the Sat Guru, wherein we find unlimited strength.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 16, 1988