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Sikh Gurus

This post is part of our ongoing series featuring the works of Professor LeBoeuf 's students in her Introduction to Religions of Asia course at Whittier College!

When I had first learned of the Sikh religion I was about 13 years old. My father was talking about his time in the military and told me he had the opportunity to work with a group of Sikhs. Being 13 years old, I didn’t know anything about the Sikh religion, so my father told me the basics of what they believe. Unfortunately, all I remember from that discussion was that the Sikhs are often confused with Muslims because of their turbans and beards, and that they are some of the most kind and caring people he had ever met. Now that I am in college, I have been given the opportunity to take a Religions of Asia course which covers the Sikh religion. Before we began learning about Sikhism, we were taught about BUddhism and a few of its various subsets, one of these subsets being Tibetan Buddhism. One striking detail about Tibetan Buddhism is the history of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist religious leader and all of his reincarnations. When we first began learning about the Sikh Gurus I immediately thought back to the Dalai Lama and wanted to learn the similarities and differences between the two positions. I learned that though there are a few similarities the differences were numerous. One difference, for example, being that the Dalai Lama is reincarnated, while the Gurus are appointed. This curiosity sparked my research into the Gurus of Sikhism.

I first discovered, much to my surprise, that there were only ten human Gurus. I say “human” because the 10th Guru directed the Sikh people to follow a book of scriptures and hymns known as the Guru Granth Sahib rather than appoint a human Guru after him. The Guru Granth Sahib is regarded and respected as a Guru and is considered to be living.

The sacred text is a compilation of Hymns written by the past Gurus. Within the texts are Hymns which provide guidelines for living and worshiping God. One example is ““He who lowers his mind to the dust of all men’s feet, Sees the Name of God enshrined in every heart.” (Guru Granth Sahib)

Which means that one must regard everyone as equals, and though doing so, they will become closer to God. For the purposes of my project, I researched the final four human Gurus, (seven - ten).

The 7th Human Guru Har Rai was born in 1630 and lived until 1661. During his tenure he continued the military traditions set forth by his grandfather, Guru Hargobind. He also fought to maintain the integrity of the Guru Granth Sahib and refused to modify it’s texts. As he was close to death due to illness, he appointed his son to be the next Guru. His son, Guru Har Krishan.

The Eighth Guru, Guru Har Krishan was only five years old at the time he was named Guru and served for only three years before his tragic death due to smallpox. Before his passing, however, he appointed his granduncle to become his successor as Guru.

The Ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was born in 1621 and lived until 1675. During his time as Guru he built the city Anandpur Sahib. He was a large proponent of the right to religious freedom. As such, he fought to save the Kashmiri Hindu pandits from prosecution by the mughals. In doing so he sacrificed his own life and was martyred by emperor Aurangzeb after being given the opportunity to convert to the Muslim faith and refusing.

The Tenth, and final human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh was born in 1666 and passed away in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh

had a huge impact on the Sikh faith as he was responsible for both the implementation of the Five K’s and the Compilation of the Dasam Granth Sahib, the text that he would later instruct the Sikh people to regard as the next amd forever Guru after his death known as Guru Granth Sahib.The Decision by Guru Gobind Singh to assign the Guru title to a text was influenced by the martyr of his four sons and a schism that was forming in the Middle East at the time. The reasoning for the Text being made a Guru was because a written text can not die, as the past Gurus had, and can persist until the end of time. Guru Gobind Singh also Implemented the Five K’s which are (in English) uncut har, a silver or steel circle bracelet, a comb,, special undergarments, and a ceremonial knife. These five things are worn and practiced in order to remind the person of their faith, show their devotion and to identify them as a member of the Sikh community.

About Sabrina

Sabrina is a Kinesiology Major at Whittier College. This year (2017-18) she is a First year/ Freshman. One interesting fact about her is that she plans on becoming a Firefighter/Paramedic after she graduates.


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