SIKHISM AND THE WORLD SOCIETY
I may say that there are, broadly speaking five categories of religions from the point of view of societal outlook and institutional action, that is, their scope of prevailment.
(1) Religions that are ethnic, grounded in the conviction that entitlement to and direct benefits of the, or their religion are divinely and irrevocably reserved for a particular ethnic tribe constituting the God-ordained elites of Religion, “the Chosen People”, in special covenant with God. Judaism is the well-known instance of this category of religions.
(2) Those who claim that entitlement to and direct benefits of their religion are freely open to the Jew and the Gentile, that is, all the peoples of the world if and only if they accept the religion in question and its verbal formulations as the exclusive repository of Truth. The oecumenical religions of Christianity and Islam belong to this category.
(3) Religion that insists that since penultimate and highest religious experience is essentially obtainable as the end-result of a long series of births and rebirths of a soul within the context of a particular geographic and cultural milieu through the process of metampsychosis, the path and benefits of the true religion are accessible exclusively to a genetic, racial .group confined to a specified geographic habitat. By understanding thus alone can the Hindu claim that “it is an exclusive privilege and grace of God that enables man to be born a Hindu in the sacred land called, Bharat, that is, India; a birth in other lands, no matter of how excellent a condition and however frequently, in no better than a repetitious frustration and wearisome waste.” 1 The basic postulate of this doctrine is that the multitudinous personal experiences of the present as well as the characteristics of the body holding the experiencing self are the expression of the past acts in some residual and seminal form by a transmigrating entity or principle. A Hindu would explain that the fundamental convictions of the votaries of religions (1) and (2) arise out of prolonged and laborious studies of obscure phenomenon and mysterious human faculties, that can be understood properly only if the aforementioned basic postulate of Hinduism is conceded and accepted which provides the rationale of Hindu claim regarding birth in a genetic Hindu family in India.
(4) Religions that postulate that the fact of religious experience being non-intellectual and non cognitive implicates that operative level of the religion must be the upaya, the provisional means, and; not doctrines and concepts, beliefs and dogmas and these upaya have to be as variable as the beings whose spiritual foods they are meant to supply. Buddhism, as the export-form of Hinduism, is a religion of this category with its numerous expressions ranging from Hinayana, the original ethico-philosophical religion, to Mahayana, Vajrayana, Tantrayana, Mantrayana, Tibetan Buddhism and the Zen, to mention only the major manifestations of Buddhism.
(5) The Religion that aims at transcending all particularism in religion and points towards a religious experience realized as the All-Ground of all particular religious experiences and which, therefore, does not confront dogma with dogma and belief with belief and which does not aim at religious conversion so much as authentic religious life and is thus primarily a bridge-maker and not a universal conqueror or all-leveller, such as oecumenical religions, like Islam and Christianity tend to be. Sikhism, being a religion of this category does not out rightly reject or oppose other doctrines or dogmas but demands true dialogue rather than conversion as the goal transcending particularisms of other religions, as it preaches that beyond lies, not a universal concept, not synthesis or syncretic amalgam, but deeper penetration of one’s own religion in thought, devotion and action. It upholds that in the depth of every religion, a living religion, there is a point at which religion itself loses its importance, and that to which it points breaks through its particularity, elevating it to spiritual freedom and with it to a vision of the spiritual presence in other expressions of the ultimate meanings of existence. In the Sikh scripture, the epiphany of Sikhism is alluded to as “the bursting of the seamless egg shell of superstition, enlightening the human mind” and “cutting asunder the chains that find the feet and hinder movement” and “full freedom for spiritual evolution of man is thus assured,” 2
2. The religions of the category (1) are of elitic exclusivity, engrossed in and pre-Occupied with the maintenance and preservation of their own identity and their status, of a spiritual privilegentia through political and social viability.
3. The religions of category (2), in the case of Christianity, believing that, the nature of things is divine love for the created world, aim at a will to create through suffering and movement of such ·wills that is expected to lead to establishment of a new kingdom and state of affairs in human history in which God’s Will is “done on earth as it in Heaven.”
4. The other variety of category (2) of which Islam is an expression, par-excellence, aims at and, strives for, al-jihad, a universal or dominant monolithic, close Muslim world-society in which the laws of personal conduct and social organisation revealed unambiguously and finally by God through Prophet Mohammed are obeyed and enforced — this being the ultimate purpose of God in creating the world and man-and which Muslim society is to be enlarged and strengthened progressively through the policy of enforcement of Islamic laws through sword,” ahshara’ tahatus-saif.
5. The category (3) religions are insular, self-sufficient and self-engrossed, concerned only with ensuring external non-interference and the internal purity.
6. The religions of category (4) are a — social, catholic and concerned exclusively with awakening in the individual-in his personal capacity and not in his position as a limb of the society-transcendental consciousness, prajna, the wisdom that liberates from the limitations of all names and forms.7. The religions of the category (5), that is Sikhism, freely recognizes that search for a fundamental unity of religions or the attempts at the religious rapprochement have their limitations, for, there are fundamental differences in the conceptions of reality and attitudes towards the world, permanently impeding a real and lasting synthesis between basically incompatible elements, preaches frank and unreserved dialogue between various religions and the human groups that owe allegiance to these religions, so as to arrive at the experience that transcends religious particularism and realizes a base of identity underneath all modes of religious expression. “Through whatever the road a man takes or the mode of worship he adopts to achieve nearness to God, Verily God receives and accepts him,” says the Sikh Scripture. 3 As a corollary thereof, Sikhism favours a plural, free, open and progressive human society, God-oriented, non-aggressive but firm and ever-ready to confront and combat rise and growth of evil through organized resistance, and forward-looking yet non-ambitious. For facilitating emergence of this state of affairs it has conceived of and recommends organized and co-operative efforts of men of good will, indicating the true sources of dynamism available to man for this purpose, the details of which, however, are outside the scope of this short Note.