Q: Is the belief of Sikhs that Guru Nanak has had contact with God, who then gave him instructions, or guidelines of the Granth sahib? If so, and he did meet with or communicated with god, then shouldn''t Sikhism be stated as God’s true religion? And as such all other religions are false. But if Sikhism allows for practicing other religion, then it must be that the books or scriptures of the other religion are also from god. But this is clearly not true, since the books do not say the same thing or describe the relationship with god in the same way. Please clarify this for me.
A: Guru Nanak was born to a Hindu father. He was reared as a Sant Hindu —someone who was a unique brand of Hindu who disparaged the caste system and believed in looking beyond religious differences to greater spiritual realities. Nanak believed the true God was above all institutional or formal religions. It is said that at the age of 30 Nanak had a direct experience with God and a call to be a guru. His slogan was “There is no Muslim, the is no Hindu!” He mixed his dress and rituals from both Hinduism and Islam.
Nanak taught that God is beyond formal categories imposed by either Hindus or Muslims and referred to God as merely “Sat Nam” (the true name). He also called God Ekankar a combination of the syllables of Ek-the one, Aum-the mystical sound of Hinduism, and Kar-the lord.
The Adi Granth was collected by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Arjan. This collection were compositions by him and his predecessors as well as some hymns and poetry of other holy men such as Kabir.
The challenge in discussing any religion that claims to be a religion that melds others together or stands above other religions, is that it may escape attention that it has a claim just as strong as any other world view or religion. Because it is worded in such a way as to sound like it accepts all religions, one might think it accepts all statement and religions as true. For example, if one believes that “All roads lead to God,” then this implies a rejection of the statement “Only one road leads to God.” As I have talked with people who believe that “All roads lead to God,” they do NOT mean by this to include religions that believe reject their thesis the all roads lead to God. Therefore they do not believe that all religions and ideas about God are equally valid and lead to God. They mean by this that all roads and only all roads lead to God—not one road, not two roads, but all roads.
Let me give a specific example. I once was speaking with a Hindu woman who said she believed in all religions making their way to God. I asked her if she would feel this way if her daughter came home and announced the she was going to marry a Muslim man. Clearly flustered for a moment, she then answered that she would accept this if they would practice Hinduism as well as Islam. What she really was saying then was that she would welcome this marriage if it was a Hindu marriage—i.e. a marriage that practiced the “all roads lead to God” type religion. My question was about her daughter marrying a Muslim man, and no Muslim man would practice Hinduism! She was asking the Muslim man to act like a Hindu in order to accept this marriage.
Sikhism believes that true and full salvation can only be found through devotion to Sat Nam. They recognize some truth in other religions (yet so do many religions recognize some level of truth in other religions), but the true truth at the necessary level is found in Sikhism.
So you are right in showing the problem of Sikhism and any religion like it that claims truth across religious lines. What they more often mean is that their way of seeing truth across religious lines is the true truth. Just as you said, “the books do not say the same thing or describe the relationship with god in the same way” then how can they be the same thing? The key is to realize that Sikhs mean their way as the highest or superior way, while recognizing some level of truth in other teachings and religions. Sikhism believes it can teach men the right way to see the real God above all religions. This is just another way of saying that they believe they have the ultimate truth, that other religions don’t have, or that they have the fullness of truth of what other religions only have a portion of.