Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Jun 6, 2013 - Religion - 224 pages
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Sikhism's short but relatively eventful history provides a fascinating insight into the working of misunderstood and seemingly contradictory themes such as politics and religion, violence and mysticism, culture and spirituality, orality and textuality, public sphere versus private sphere, tradition and modernity. This book presents students with a careful analysis of these complex themes as they have manifested themselves in the historical evolution of the Sikh traditions and the encounter of Sikhs with modernity and the West, in the philosophical teachings of its founders and their interpretation by Sikh exegetes, and in Sikh ethical and intellectual responses to contemporary issues in an increasingly secular and pluralistic world. Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed serves as an ideal guide to Sikhism, and also for students of Asian studies, Sociology of Religion and World Religions.
 

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Western scholarship has been quixotic to label Sikhi as firstly an ism and secondly a religion which has an eschatology, soteriology and other world. To much dismay Sikhism is nearer to a philosophy and still not completely a religion atleast in the eschatological or soteriological sense, but most profoundly a way of interpreting nature and finding within its framework a meaningful life. Close parallels can be drawn to Stoicism with its eudamonia (not exactly the same). While the Sikh texts, especially the Adi Granth, is not a revelation as this concept has been rejected by the gurus (nevertheless finds mention in hagiographies and apocrypha written later on) and uses a strong religious vocabulary from the guru’s time for a want of language, it doesn’t necessarily establish a western style theology or ‘myth’ but uses divinity or panentheistic tinges. Similar mentions are made to samsara as that was the prevailing vocabulary of the time, what is undoubtedly clear is the realisation of joyousness and ridding the shackles of the ego while alive and in the ‘now’. The central scripture is set in a poetic manner of hymns to the tunes of ragas to be sung. Thus not fitting in the classical sense as a theology or Infact as discourse on philosophy, the try word for Sikhi is the punjabi word ‘Matt’ or way of thinking/knowledge. It’s a sad moment that to much dismay, it’s rich traditions have been dissolved into the one fit category that western scholarship has pinnacled. This work was long needed and most welcomed. In a time where the west is coming to grips with existential nihilism, it is the need to understand sikhi in its original light.  

Contents

Introduction
1
PART ONE Evolution of the Sikh Tradition
15
PART TWO Teachings and Practices
105
PART THREE Pluralism and Its Challenges
157
Glossary of Indic Terms
217
Notes
223
Index
237
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About the author (2013)

Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair is an Associate Professor and holder of the S.B.S.C. Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan, USA. His earlier books include: Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality and the Politics of Translation (2009), Teachings of the Sikh Gurus (with Christopher Shackle, 2005), Secularism and Religion-Making (2009). He is a founding editor of the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory.

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