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What is Sikhism

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I have just been wondering, that the words religion and philosophy are western methods of classifying things. Where does Sikhi fall into, if anywhere?

Would one consider it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology, or what?

I was just wondering about this question because with what I know, I can't find a satisfying answer.

Note I'm not particularly obsessed with classifying Sikhi, just curious about this.

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Guest Maha_Pavitar

..(to me)..not a religion, not a philosophy or an ideology..rather a dharam..a path of light

In most cases Sikhi is 'classified' as a religion/religious sect. I read this fantastic editorial a while back which said this (Sikhi) is not an 'ism..It's more about language & terminology but perhaps it will help, here it is veer:

Not An -ism

Prabhjot Singh (Sovereign Choices, Nov 16) has articulated a great concern for the Sikh community as we toil to redefine ourselves in the post-September 11 era. As pleased as I am with Prabhjot Singh's views, I believe his point may not have been properly understood by some.

That we have done an abominable job of projecting Sikhi is well known. However, as we engage in "letting the world know who we are", we must do so as an expression of the Sovereign Sikh Spirit. A necessary precondition for this is for us to be well versed with Sikhi in its own sovereign context. At present, we define Sikhi using the same-old misconceptions and misinterpretations.

Our present efforts to project Sikhi may be an expression of our own inadequacy, lack of understanding and ineffective communication.

A Temple is a Temple; a Church is a Church, and so on. Therefore, I strongly urge my brothers and sisters to desist from employing any term other than Gurudwara while attempting to describe a Gurudwara.

A Guraduara/Dharamsal is not just a place of worship. It is a place where all aspects and concerns of the Sikh life are addressed and this includes current events that may or may not directly relate to Sikhs. Akal Purakh is Immanent and All Pervasive; therefore, we need not worship in a particular location. Gurudwara is also a place of learning. It may also serve us well to realize that Sikhi does not separate life into religious, political, social, etc. All aspects of life are important and are an indispensable part of Sikhi, which is holistic and not a fragmented approach to life.

In reference to the so-called Golden Temple (Truth is high, higher still is truthful living, Nov 16), the original name of Harimandir Sahib is Darbar Sahib.

Our portrayal of Sikhi is a reflection of our understanding of it. My repetition of "Sikhi" is deliberate. I am doing so to demonstrate that we need not derogate Sikhi by referring to it as Sikhism. Our sensibility is offended when we hear Darbar Sahib referred to as Golden Temple, however, if we refer to Sikhi as Sikhism, we are doing the same. We refer to Sikhi as Sikhism out of our insensitivity to the Sikh expression for our own faith. When we use the term Sikhism, we are simply repeating the British classification of the Sikh faith in their less than genuine attempt to understand it. Sikh-ism denotes a formulaic conception of Sikhi, which it is not. Sikhi is opposed to formulaic views, of efforts born of "calculation" (otherwise observed in ritualistic faiths). Sikhi is a Game of Love, as Guru Nanak has so powerfully articulated.

Pardeep Singh and Prabhjot Singh have made astute observations, I would like to offer another reason for us to express Sikhi using its own terminology. Most Americans are monolingual and grossly uninformed about the world outside the USA. Let us not do our part in misinforming and disempowering our fellow Americans. When we use terms like Sikhism (Sikhi), Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib), Sikh Church/Temple (Guraduara/Dharamsal), baptism (Amrit), and sacred pudding (Prasaad), etc. we do not give our non-Sikh brothers and sisters the opportunity to learn the Sikh terminology. We may be satisfied ourselves having reiterated concepts that we feel are easier for non-Sikhs to understand. But by doing so, have we not denied them the opportunity to understand the immense Beauty and Power that endears Sikhi to us?

Why not use Sikh terminology and empower others to increase their capacity to understand and be familiar with words and concepts presently alien to them? After all, Synagogue, Allah, and other terms were once alien to the general consciousness, but no longer. How can we expect non-Sikhs to become familiar with Sikh terminology if we feel they are incompetent to grasp/understand it? We must give others more credit than that. We as Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus etc. know the terminology of the majority community in the USA because we have taken the time to learn it. It certainly is not too much to ask the same in return.

Let us be cognizant of our own limitations and beware of the trappings of language(s). Let us approach Sikhi with the same conviction and dedication it requires to walk down Guru Nanak's street with our head on the palm of our hands. Let us express Sikhi from the Sovereign Spirit that it infuses within us. Let it be an effulgence of our Guru-inspired wisdom.

Gaurav Singh

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