660. Are there any saints in Sikhism ?
The Sikhs recognise saints as the preachers of the same philosophy as preached by the Gurus. Kabir, Ravidas, Dhanna, Sadhna, Pipa and Nam Dev were some of the saints for whom the Sikhs have a great regard. Some imposters are nowadays raising their heads and proclaiming themselves saints. Like counter-feit coins they have got some currency among the less informed gullible Sikhs. Unlike the above saints none of these has ever written any hymns. They only interpret the Holy word.
661. What is the attitude of Sikhism towards other religions ?
Sikhism discredits no religion. According to Sikhism all religions orginated with good intentions and are like different roads leading to the same destination. The Gurus clearly stated the futility of entering into argument regarding the veracity and practicability of the ideas expressed by other religious leaders. They encouraged their followers instead to cultivate a rational attitude and find out for themselves what is right and what is wrong. Guru Granth Sahib is full of such instruction as : "Call not the Vedas and the Semitic books false. Rather he is false who lacks the ability to rationalise." However the Gurus have very clearly stated their own point of view on matters where they differed and disagreed with other religions. As a testimony to their all-embracing, egalitarian approach to religion. Guru Nanak kept a Muslim with him all his life and visited the holy places of other religions. Guru Arjan had great affection for a Muslim saint, Mian Mir, who laid the foundation stone of the holiest temple of the Sikhs at Amritsar. To crown it all, Guru Arjan included the Hymns of many Hindu and Muslim saints in the Holy Granth, caring little for their caste, social standing and religion. Saint Budhu Shah was a staunch Muslim Faqir and yet he was an intimate friend of Guru Gobind Singh. He had his sons and other relatives butchered in trying to help the Guru in the teeth of Muslim tyranny and bigotry. Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan risked their lives and carried the Guru in a palanquin from one place to another at a time when the penalty of expressing the faith in the Guru was death for all the family and relatives. The Gurus laid stress on the purity of thought word and deed and rejected ritualism and unrealistic blind faith.
662. How does Sikhism differ from other religions ?
Basically all religions are means for the spiritual betterment of human beings and hence are good in their own way. Sikhism as a religion differs from almost all the other world religions in one way or the other. It differs from Hinduism in the way that it rejects the authority of the Vedes and that of the priestly class. It is opposed to the caste system which has been (and still is) the pivot of Hinduism. The Sikhs bow only before the Holy Granth because it embodies the philosophy of their Gurus and are against idol-worship. In Sikhism very little importance is attached to pilgrimages and austerities. God, according to Sikhism, can be realised easily while leading a family life and there is absolutely no need to go to the jungle, resort to asceticism and penances. Animal sacrifice is discredited as useless and unnecessary. Widow re-marriage is encouraged and is common. Sikhism has much in common with Islam but it rejects the theory of the finality of Mohammad as a prophet and that of the Quran as a revelation. Fasting, according to Sikhism, brings no merit to the human soul. Although for personal physical benefit its efficacy is completely ruled out. Women in Sikhism are allowed full freedom in religious worship, social functions and political programmes, and are considered as "Conscience of men." The Sikhs do not remove any hair from their bodies and special shaving (as Bhaddan) of the Hindus and circumcision (of Muslims) are the things quite alien to the Sikhs. The Sikhs attach no importance to the worship of relics or graves and the only worship they have is the singing of the Guru's hymns in praise of the Lord. Although the Sikhs have their morning and evening prayers yet they are enjoined to remember God throughout the day whenever they have the time to do so. This is not an impossibility for the Sikhs because they need not adhere to any time schedule, make any postures, have any materials for worship or face in a particular direction. The hymns of the Gurus can be repeated aloud or in the mind, at work, on the road, in the bus or anywhere wherever the Sikh happens to be. Unlike many other religions the Sikhs believe in ten spiritual masters called Gurus. A Guru literally means "one who dispels darkness and floods the soul with light." No Guru ever called himself "God" and as such though the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high esteem, they do not call them God or "the only sons of God." Baptism in Sikhism is not ceremonious and hence no infants are baptised. Unlike many other faiths it is the initiate who has to beg for baptism with folded hands and the five Piaras conducting the baptism have the authority to refuse if the initiate has not progressed up to a certain standard. For Baptism no age and no auspicious day is fixed. One may bet baptised at any time and any age. The baptised Sikhs are unique in having five physical symbols, i.e., Kesh, Kara, Kirpan, Kangha, and Kachha. Except for the birth days and the martyrdom days of their Gurus the Sikhs do not have any special days of worship. One other special day is Baisakhi, the day when Khalsa was created. One can go to the Sikh Temple (Gurdawara) on any day and at any time. No special day (like Sunday in the West) is fixed. Although usually the first day of every Indian month is observed in many Sikh Temples. Although special trained Granthis (readers) are nowadays employed in the Sikh Temples, there is no priestly class and anybody having a reasonable proficiency in reading Punjabi can conduct service. Sikhism does not believe in resurrection but in evolution of the soul. The Sikhs believe that transmigration can be halted by acting upon the advice of the Guru, repeating the true name, and doing good deeds. Thus the Sikh belief is not fatalistic predestination but admits a free will and the grace of God. Community kitchen (Langar) is another speciality of Sikhism. Where there is a Sikh Temple, there is a refectory where all can go irrespective of caste, creed or colour and eat whatever is available at that particular time. The Langar is run on public donations from the devoted Sikhs in cash and kind and is a practical example of service, equality and fellowship. Although aspiring for peace, the Sikhs are prepared to go to war if this becomes inevitable. Their solution is "Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh" (The Khalsa belongs to the Lord. Victory be to Him.) Believing in reform, progress, improvement and the betterment of Society, a Sikh works hard and attributes his successes to God, thus annihilating his ego. Optimism is the keynote of a Sikh and he asks for Charhdi Kala (Optimism) everyday in his prayers. But doing all he can do for the Society, he is to remain humble and also ask for the gift of "a humble mind." Guru Gobind Singh is the ideal example for a Sikh to follow. He sacrificed his sons, his father, his mother and his all, even himself for the people and yet was so humble as to kneel before his Khalsa and ask for a sip of the baptismal water which he himself had prepared.