Construction of Religious Boundaries
Harjot Oberoi is doing his best to throw the Khalsa Panth into black hole under the guise of education. His newbook “Construction of Religious Boundaries” should actually be titled An Attempt at the Destruction of Sikh Religious Boundaries. The author presents a false picture of Sikhism. This, however, should not be surprising. The finer details of Sikhism are lost on a man who does not believe in searching for the truth. Obaroi should realize, no matter how hard he tries to mislead individualis from the true essence of Sikhism, Gurmat will prevail, and the truth will always surface. The Khalsa Panth may suffer a temporary setback at the hands of pseudo-scholars like Oberoi, but in the end the Panth will rebound and expose their evil intentions. Oberoi is determined to psychologically harm the Sikhs. His written words cut deep into every Sikh. He will be remembered in history as a man who tried desperately to hide the truth.
The book, ‘The Construction of Religious Boundaries’, is part of Oberoi’s Ph.D. thesis, a thesis applauded by Dr. McLeod, a man who led an active campaign to destroy the very foundations of the Sikh value system. In the preface of his book, Oberoi goes out of his way to praise Dr. McLeod: “The field of modern Sikh Studies has for long been nurtured by the writings of professor W. H. McLeod. I have been fortunate in having his association with this book almost from its inception. My debt to him is enromous and my gratitude is in equal measure.”
Oberoi has referred to some sources of original material. However analysis of the material is extremely weak and un-academic. A lack of understanding of the fundamental Sikh principles makes the work illogical and vague. Perhaps it would be to Oberoi’s advantage to reacquaint himself with Sikh doctrine.
To begin, the author is not aware of the true goals of the Singh Sabha movement. The purpose of the Singh Sabha movement was not to create new boundaries for the followers of the Sikh faith, but to remind the Sikh of the boundaries within which they should exist. Oberoi should understand, practising Sikhs do not set the rules for themselves. They follow the directions and instructions of their Guru. Obviously, for various reasons, some deviate from the established practices. This can be attributed to human nature. Many of these Sikhs found it easier to adopt some of the Hindu Lifestyle to maintain social harmony. Some Sikhs chose the path of least resistance and assimilate into the predominant Hindu society. Deviation by a few weak minded Sikhs does not prove that the boundaries of Sikhism have shifted. Moreover, there is hardly any religion, whose followers follow the tenets by the book. Another reason for the deviation can be blamed on the constant hospitality towards the Sikhs by the most elite section of the Hindus-the Brahmins. Mr. D. Petri, the Assistant Director of Criminal Intelligence for the government of India, has very rightly made the following important observation in his confidential report on the Development of’ Sikh Politics (1900- 1911), dated Simla, August 11,1911:
“Hinduism has always been hostile to Sikhism, whose Gurus powerfully and successfully attacked the principle of the caste system, which is the foundation on which the whole fabric of Brahminism has been reared. The activities of Hindus have therefore been constantly directed to the undermining of Sikhism both by preventing the children of Sikh fathers from taking Pahul and by reducing professed Sikhs from their allegiance to their faith. Hinduism has strangled Buddhism, once a formidable rival to it and it has already made serious inroads into the domain of Sikhism.”
Oberoi continues on his misguided path with a completely perverted definition of Sanatan Sikhs. When the Arya Samaj was created by Swami Daya Nand, the Hindus who did not believe in his ideology, started calling themselves Sanatan Dharmi Hindus or the“Original Hindus.”
Oberoi mistakenly makes the same claim in relation to the Sikhs, who deviated from the Guru’s path. His claim that Sikhs who follow the caste system, worship idols and believe in Pirs (Like Gugga Pir or Sakhi Sarvar), are Sanatan Sikhs, is offensive to any Gursikh. Only a person who searches for the truth and believes in the inspired words of the Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib, are true followers. How can Oberoi assert that Sikhs who do not believe in Khanday de Pahul, are Sanatan Sikhs? In fact, it might be more appropriate to call these so called Sanatan Sikhs of Oberoi’s conception as Hindu Infiltrators. These Hindu infiltrators came into the Sikh fold to dilute and pollute Sikh doctrine. There is every possibility that these infiltrators may have created a new set of religious boundaries in order to confuse and dilute the SikhValue System. But these newly created boundaries no relationship, whatsoever, with Sikhism. Therefore, Oberoi’s have Sikh definition of a Sanatan Sikh is misdirected false and out of place.
However, the author does not stop here. He again pathetically attempts to explain the Tat Khalsa. The term Tat Khalsa came into use then a few Sikhs started referring to Banda Bahadur as their Guru. They came to be known as the Bandai Khalsa. In so doing, these Sikhs could no longer be considered part of the Sikh fold. Because of this turn of events, the main body of the Sikh community started calling itself the Tat Khalsa or the real Khalsa. This insured a clear distinction between the ideologies of the Tat Khalsa and the Bandai Khalsa. Obviously during the times of Banda Bahadur the boundaries of the Sikh religion were crystal clear to the majority of Sikhs. Even though Banda Bahadur made extraordinary sacrifices for the Sikh cause, the Sikhs did not spare him when he deviated from the Sikh path. How can Oberoi say that the boundaries were not clear. lt defined during hose days. Boundaries were clear even to the enemy rulers of eighteenth century India. Here is their way of addressing the Sikhs in their official orders:
(“Nanak prastan ra harkuja ki biya-band bakatal rasanad”)
which mean, “To kill at sight all the followers of Guru Nanak wherevr they are found.”
These were the times way past the period of Guru- Nanak and just after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. All these followers were Amritdhari Sikhs. Yet they were addressed as followers of Guru Nanak. This Shows that the rulers of the time were convinced about the identity of the message of the Sikh Gurus. They saw no distinction between Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. The term Tat Khalsa is no longer in Use and is obsolete for all practical purposes. There is only one type of Khalsa - The Khalsa. Sanatan Sikhs and the Tat Khalsa are the most ridiculous divisions of the Sikh brotherhood that anyone has ever attempted to create.
Perhaps, Oberoi should sit and take copious notes in a class On Sikh terminology to understand the etymology of words he presumptuously uses. He needs this orientation to be considered a scholar of Sikhism. Another term that he has either failed to understand or intentionally misinterpreted is “Sahajdhari Sikh”. He has no conception of what Sahajdhari Sikh means. Sahajdhari Sikh is a term used for those, who have accepted, in principle, the value system of Sikhism. This includes: the belief in the ten Sikh Guru’s the present Guru-Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Khanday da Pahul ceremony for initiation into the Khalsa Panth. These individuals have decided to slowly march towards a more comprehensive religious experienceand strive to fully adopt all the principles of Sikh doctrine. The term sahaj as applied here, definitely means the slow adoption, and should not be confused with Sahaj Avastha, which means a stage of bliss.
Oberoi makes the following ridiculous and distorted statements about Sahajdhari Sikhs without providing substantial evidence to the reader:
“Sahajdhari Sikh totally inverted Khalsa categories of thought and religious boundaries”
“Shajdhari Sikhs smoked,” based on the sole evidence of Sukhbasi Ram Bedi’s book, Guru Nanak Bans Prakas,
“Sahajdhari Sikhs often had a radically different version of the line of succession”
“Sahajdhari Sikhs favored a living human guru”
These irresponsible and out of context statements and misleading assertions without any supporting evidence may fall into the category of a hypothesis of someone’s imagination and cannot be considered an academic work. Such a behavior is deplorable particularly when if comes from a scholar who occupies the Sikh Chair at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
History, on the other hand, witnesses a very important role played by the Sahajdhari Sikhs. During war times, it was these Sikhs, who gave shelter and protection to the Khalsa families, besides vital intelligence to the Khalsa. The highly commendable role, played by Diwan Kaura Mal (Kaura means Bitter) during the most difficult times of the Sikhs, is remembered with gratitude and earned him the title of Mitha Mal (mitha means sweet). The sacrifice of the young Haqiqat Rai for the principles of Sikhism is still fresh in our memory. The leadership role played by Master Tara Singh, who was once a Sahajdhari Sikh is still emembered by the Sikhs. The Sikhs will also never forget Professor Sahib Singh. He dedicated his life for the panth in providing us with the most authentic translation and interpretation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. If Oberoi intends to maiantain his credibility, he should stay away from quoting McLeod, whose easoning is without any substance. In particular, the quotation in which McLeod himself presents the definition of a Sahajdhari as one, “who accepts the Naam Simran teaching of Guru Nanak.” Oberoi, if hecalls accept himself a Sikh, should know a state of bliss is not something which can be adopted, but must be earned, achieved or attained.
The religious boundaries for Sikhism have been clear. In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib there are indisputable guidelines. Here is just one quick example. Any knowledgeable person, well-versed in Sikh doctrine, would not have any problems locating this example or others like it:
Guru Ram Das has pointed out some of the basic requirements for being a Sikh in the following hymn:
gur siqgur kw jo isKu AKwey su Blky auiT hir nwmu iDAwvY ]
audmu kry Blky prBwqI iesnwnu kry AMimRq sir nwvY ]
aupdyis gurU hir hir jpu jwpY siB iklivK pwp doK lih jwvY ]
iPir cVY idvsu gurbwxI gwvY bhidAw auTidAw hir nwmu iDAwvY]
jo swis igrwis iDAwey myrw hir hir so gurisKu gurU min BwvY ]
ijs no dieAwlu hovY myrw suAwmI iqsu gurisK gurU aupdysu suxwvY
jnu nwnku DUiV mMgY iqsu gurisK kI jo Awip jpY Avrh nwmu
jpwvY ] Gauri Var M.4, GGS, p. 305
English translation of the Shabad is as follows:
“One known as disciple of the holy Preceptor
Must, rising at dawn, on the Name Divine meditate.
At dawn must he no way fail to rise,
Should cleanse himself and in God’s Name,
the Pool of Amrita take bath.
Then, as by the Master instructed, must he the
Name Divine repeatedly utter-
Thereby shall all his sins, evil and foul doings be shed.
Then with rise of day must he chant the Master’s Word-
In rest and movement on the Name Divine must he meditate.
The disciple that with each breath and morsel on the Lord meditates,
Shall the Master’s pleasure win.
The Master to such of the disciples his teaching imparts,
As the Lord’s grace have received. Nanak, servant of God, seeks dust of feet of such a disciple As contemplating the holy Name, to it inspires others
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