by Dr Harnaak Singh
Gur Vichar was alerted to a video showing Harinder from Sikhri claiming that Guru Nanak did not start a religion. In the video, quoting references from Guru Granth Sahib, Harinder Sikhri claimed that “the advent of Guru Nanak” was to start a RAJ not a religion.
In this article we will examine the validity of Harinder’s claim in three parts.
But first let us look at the transcript of Harinder’s talk, list his claims that we want to analyse and then understand what RELIGION and RAJ means. Following this we will analyse Harinder’s Claim 1.
TRANSCRIPT OF HARINDER’s TALK
Question: Sahiba Kaur: What is the purpose of Guru Nanak. Did he come to start a religion … or something else?
Answer: Harinder Singh: Well I mean, 95% of the books and the Google will tell you that he started a new religion called Sikhism. And there’s a big problem there. …
I mean, I understand what is being said. But there’s a big problem .. because the term Sikhism is not ours. And the religion is not ours, He actually vehemently denounces the word Dharam. But I don’t want to get into that either, because Dharam has multiple connotations.
So What did he say? or What does Guru Granth Sahib say is the question for us? Right, if you want to understand from a primary source.
Guru Nanak told us … Guru Granth Sahib actually says he started a new Raj .. NANAK RAJ CHALAIA SACH KOTH SATANI NEEVDAY ਨਾਨਕਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੈ ..
And Raj means you are here to change the policies. … That’s what the RAJs are, about rules.
So he says I’m here to change the rules, the new game, there is a new game, there’s a new rule. And we’re going to live by this Raj, and Guru Nanak started that.
So when we say we are the fifth largest religion, really what we need to be saying is there are self-identified Sikhs who are the adherents; people who follows Sikhi.
So I understand we are using this, but we don’t understand Guru Nanak then, or we don’t try to understand Guru Nanak, at least from Guru Granth Sahib perspective, which is the single most authentic source which all Sikhs agree on. And there it says Guru Nanak started a new Raj. …
For what, what’s the purpose, because the KOTH is a fort, because earlier the forts were established, not on truth, which means the governing policies, the authorities were not truth based or eternal idea based. He said he did it to do this … SACH KOTH SATANI NEEVDAY ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੈ… The foundation was laid for the eternal fort, which means authority in the world needs to be derived not based on political ideologies, for your own kind of people, or to give rise to particular kind of people but for Ek Oangkar’s paradigm, So that’s what he did.
He travelled the world talking about it, had dialogue with people, some agreed some didn’t.
He says, Well, you know, the world wouldn’t do, we will create our own place and that was Kartarpur. Kartarpur was where he practiced this. Khadur Sahib was where Gurus practiced it.
This is what the Raj means that if the world won’t do it, let’s do it ourselves. They did it in their homes earlier too, but now there is a city doing it. So there’s organisation behind it. People who believed in it they came there and stayed there. That’s how each city was developed.
So, Guru Nanak’s purpose was to present a new set of policies a new Raj, which will have a eternal ideas, not time based or space based or era based.
Harinder’s claims that we will address are
- Claim 1: 95% of the books and Google that claim that Guru Nanak started a RELIGION and they are ALL wrong
- Claim 2: The term ‘SIKHISM’ and ‘RELIGION’ are not ours and Guru Nanak vehemently denounced the word Dharam (Religion).
- Claim 3: Through the verse “ਨਾਨਕਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੈ” Guru Nanak told us that he started a RAJ which is about RULES that we have to live by.
Let us first understand key words related to his talk … Religion and Raj.
What is the meaning of RELIGION?
In the context of what Harinder is talking about, religion is defined in Merriam-Webster as:
(1) the belief in a God or a group of Gods
(2) an organised system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a God or a group of Gods.
What is meaning of RAJ ?
Raj in context Harinder speaks about is as defined in Punjabi-English dictionary by Punjab University is rule, reign, regime, government.
In Merriam-Webster the following definitions appropriate to his context are as follows:
Rule – a prescribed guide for conduct of action; the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members.
Reign – the period of time during which a king, queen, emperor, etc., a ruler of a country.
Regime – a method of ruling or management, a manner of administration; a form of government or administration.
Government – the continuous exercise of authority over and the performance of functions for a political unit.
It is clear the RELIGION and RAJ used in Harinder’s context are different and have different goals.
In RELIGION the central entity is God and the concepts and/or rules are directed towards realisation of God and the direct beneficiary is the follower.
In the case of RAJ the central entity is the main authority of the RAJ where the rules are made so as to exercise authority over the followers and the beneficiary is the authority of the RAJ.
With these meanings at the back of our mind let us continue with the analysis.
Analysis of Harinder’s Claim 1
We will analyse Harinder’s Claim 1 in this Part.
Claim 1: 95% of the books and Google that claim that Guru Nanak started a RELIGION and they are ALL wrong.
Harinder thinks that everybody is wrong, and he is correct.
Well let me put to him, as we will show in Parts 2 and 3, that Guru Nanak made it clear that he started a religion, and this was also stated by Bhai Gurdas.
Does Harinder Sikhri have more knowledge on Sikhi than Guru Nanak and Bhai Gurdas?
I am surprised at the SHALLOW Sikhi knowledge Harinder has; even though he claims to be a thinker and has an MPhil in Guru Granth Sahib. Apparently he also has a doctorate PhD since he calls himself a DR (see Figure 1 arrowed) though this is not claimed in his biodata at Sikhri of which he is a Senior Fellow as well as co-founder. Is he really a DR? We must remember that making untrue claims is denounced in Sikhi.
Figure 1: Dr (?) Harinder’s program at Melbourne
It is amazing how people get sucked into inviting him for talks.
Australians … Be warned! There is a good chance he will state in his Guest Lecture that SIKHISM IS NOT A RELIGION (see Note). AND …
Remember that most countries have funding for religious purposes. If Sikhism is not a religion, then Sikhs are not entitled to this funding.
If the authorities decide that Sikhism is not a religion, this funding will dry out instantly. Those who invite him to speak are treading on dangerous ground and risk losing their funding.
By this stand that Sikhism is not a RELIGION this fellow is doing a great DISSERVICE to the Sikh Religion.
Note: I say there is a good chance he will state that Sikhism is not a religion assuming he is a principled person i.e. he is committed to what he believes in. On the other hand, if he is not principled and wants to line his pockets then he can be swayed to suit what the organisers want him to state … so … “to hell with principles”.
Conclusion to Part 1
Three claims by Harinder have been identified for analysis.
We have understood what Religion and Raj means. In RELIGION the central entity is God and the concepts and/or rules are directed towards realisation of God and the direct beneficiary is the follower. In the case of RAJ the central entity is the main authority of the RAJ where the rules are made so as to exercise authority over the followers and the beneficiary is the authority of the RAJ.
Harinder’s Claim 1, that most people who claim that Guru Nanak started a religion are wrong, is ill-informed and FALSE.
CALL FOR OPEN DISCUSSION WITH HARINDER OF SIKHRI
This is a serious matter and could involve financial aid for Sikh religion. We would like to call Mr / Dr? Harinder for an open discussion on his claim that Sikhsim is not a religion. The most economical is through online means e.g. Skype. We urge those interested to contact Gur Vichar. The appropriate time for this discussion is after completion of Part 3