How does a Sikh reconcile himself to the secular ideal?

Sikhism recommends an active life, the life of a house-holder (Grahst), life in society(not in isolation), where every individual makes his contribution to the development of society. There is no place for asceticism in Sikhism. Every Sikh must work for his living, and not be a burden on society. Sikhism lays emphasis on the right type of living-Dharam di kirt (the labour of Dharam = Righteousness. This refers to honest living and Dignity of labour.). Worldly duties may be performed side by side with the search of “The Truth”. A Sikh must set an example to others; he should become a better farmer, a better businessman and a better public servant. He is not to shun material gain or the comforts of life.

ਮ: ੫ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥
ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੨॥
“Fifth Mehl:
O Nanak! Meeting the True Guru, one comes to know the Perfect Way.
While laughing, playing, dressing and eating (i.e. whilst living and working in the world) he is liberated from Maya and evil desires. ||2||”
(Ang 522)

Sikhism lays emphasis on man’s social obligations. Man is a part of society and has to work for its uplift. That is why social reform is a strong point in the Guru’s teaching. The Gurus rejected the caste system, untouchability, taboos against women, good and bad omens and the worshiping of graves, idols and mausoleums. Sikhism believes in the equality of man which is practically demostrated through the institution of Langar (the Temple of Bread) where all dine together in single line. Inter-caste marriages and mixing on equal terms with person of diverse faiths and nationalities is the norm. As stated by Dr. Gokul Chand Narang: “The appearing of Guru Nanak was a great step towards arousing consciousness of a common nationality.”

Sikhism lays stress on one’s duties as a citizen rendering service to the community as a whole. The sword is meant for protecting not merely the citizen but also all victims of tyranny. Guru Teg Bahadur’s sacrifice for preserving Hinduism from Aurangzeb’s fanatical crusade is yet another aspect of the right of freedom of religion, which is so necessary in a secular state. Secularism requires an equality of all religions, without special favour to the religion of the majority or any designated as State faith Religion.

Thus, a belief in Sikhism is not incompatible with the ideals of a secular democracy.

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