Sikhism and Christianity: A View on Life and Death

Introduction

Religious beliefs have accompanied humanity since its origin. People at any stage of their development continue to believe in the existence of God, only the forms through which the divine service takes place to change. As a relatively young religion, Sikhism absorbed the concepts of Islam and Hinduism but later became a separate area. The life of Sikhs is built on attempts to expand their consciousness with the ultimate goal of merging with the absolute God.

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Christianity, on the other hand, has a more extended history, and Christians see the redemption of the original sin with its meaning. Both religions have common points as well as aspects that define the critical difference between Christianity and Sikhism. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the relationship between the two religious movements to the purpose of human life and the phenomenon of the afterlife.

Sikhism

As a relatively young religion, Sikhism originated on the Indian subcontinent in the fifteenth century. Sikhism, like most religious movements in India, is primarily a national confession. It is professed mainly by the inhabitants of Punjab and Haryana, and they form a rather compact ethnoreligious community (Alexander, 2019). In modern India, followers of Sikhism make up 2% of the total population (Mann, 2016). It is one of the few faiths that is tolerated by people of other faiths (Alexander, 2019). It is important to note that the religion of Sikhism originated at the junction of Hinduism and Islam in the 15th century and has coexisted with them in parallel since then, without losing its uniqueness.

A Brief History of Sikhism

Sikhism originated in India in the 15th century, when the country became a meeting place for two religious traditions, namely Hinduism and Islam. The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak, who abandoned his early career as a merchant and went on voyages (Mann, 2016). Unlike Hindu ascetics and Muslim saints, he did not seek silence and solitude. On the contrary, he went to the people – to towns and villages – initiating a tradition which was later followed by all Sikh gurus. None of them called for asceticism and departure from life, proclaiming work, active life, and mutual assistance worthy of life.

Guru Nanak spent the end of his life in Kartapur, where a Sikh community began to take shape. Morning and evening meetings were obligatory for its members, where sermons were sung, hymns sang, and religious verses were recited (Mann, 2016). There was also a typical meal at which everyone gathered, regardless of caste, age, gender, or religious affiliation. Later, this ritual became one of the most important for the Sikhs.

Basic Concept of Belief

Sikhism is an independent religion that emerged among Hinduism and Islam, but is not similar to other religions and does not recognize continuity. Sikhs believe in the One God, the almighty Creator, whose real Name is unknown to anyone. The Sikh God is seen in two aspects: as an absolute standard beginning and as a personal God within each person. By creating men, God was able to express himself through each person (Kaur, 2017). When God wanted to express himself, He first found His expression through the Name, and through the Name came Nature, in which God is dissolved and present everywhere and spreads in all directions, like Love.

In the Sikhism religion, there are no fasting, animal sacrifices, hermits, or self-defeating. The only way to pray and be with God is to love God, and the form of worship in Sikhism is meditation (Mandair, 2017). In addition, Sikhs preach love and brotherhood to all people on earth, regardless of origin (Alexander, 2019). No other deities, demons, or spirits, according to the Sikh religion, are worthy of worship.

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Existence Through the Prism of Sikhism

According to the guru, the moral way of life of a person is not to follow several rules or follow the instructions and rituals. In fact, human life is oriented to a spiritual search, involving the observance of discipline (Kaur, 2017). It is important to note that Sikhism requires the believer to strictly follow all precepts in the spirit of the highest devotion, offering him immortality and eternal bliss in return.

Sikhism does not define the purpose of human life as a search for opportunities to reach paradise, but as merging with God. Every Sikh longs for a final merger with the absolute God, and the time allotted for life are regarded as the time to achieve this goal (Mandair, 2017). In the event a person is unable to reach the state of highest enlightenment during his or her lifetime, he or she returns to the cycle of births and incarnates again.

The Afterlife of the Sikhs

To the question of what will happen to a human after his or her death, Sikhs approach through the prism of reincarnation. Adepts of faith are convinced that when they die, they go back to their Creator and then can be reborn many times in another human body (Mandair, 2017). Sikhism lacks such elements as heaven or hell, sin or the afterlife, vengeance, or karma. It is essential, however, that fasting and good deeds do not affect the subsequent lives of the human soul in any way (Mandair, 2017).

The only obstacle to merging with God in Sikhism can only be human nature itself, which has five central vices: lust, anger, greed, desire for vanity, and pride. The task of the guru is to support the initially weak disciple and help him avoid temptation. However, it is crucial to understand that in doing so, religious teachers did not demand unnecessary asceticism from their followers, nor did they prevent the growth of wealth and marriage among the Sikhs.

Christianity

Christianity is one of the most numerous monotheistic religions practiced by many followers around the world. The foundation for Christianity is the doctrine of Jesus Christ, who laid the foundation for religion. As sinners, Christians must follow the ten important commandments described in sacred texts. Each commandment demonstrates a humanistic orientation, which makes this religion non-military but aimed at goodness and love for God and neighbors.

A Brief History of Christianity

Christianity emerged in the first century AD, standing out among mystical movements in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. It quickly isolated itself from Judaism, becoming an independent religion with its specific creed, its liturgical practice, and a church organization (Robertson, 2018). Christianity, above all, proclaimed the equality of all people as sinners. It rejected the existing slave-holding social orders and thus gave rise to the hope of getting rid of the oppression and enslavement of desperate people. It called for a reformation of the world, expressing the real interests of the disenfranchised and enslaved (Robertson, 2018). Finally, Jesus gave the servant comfort and hope for freedom only and understandably through the knowledge of divine truth.

The Problem of Existence Among Christians

Christianity defines the only universal meaning of life for all followers – the salvation of the soul. An ontologically independent being is only God, while all others exist and are understood only in continuous communication with the Creator. It is essential to know that a person cannot create the meaning of life by himself, but he or she can realize the ideas laid down by God through his or her life path (Robertson, 2018). Spending life in service to God, a person approaches the final result, namely merging with the Kingdom of Heaven. From this point of view, it is interesting to point out that human life is not a self-sufficient value, but instead represents only a necessary condition for achieving unity with God.

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Christian Afterlife

Life after death is of particular importance for Christians because all the life that has passed led a human to the end. However, the philosophical meaning of death for this religion is not defined. On the one hand, death is an eternal punishment, which every person is forced to bear for the transgression committed once. Still, on the other hand, death is the deliverance of human from the chains of the mortal body, releasing their indestructible soul. After a person dies, his or her spirit leaves the body (Farris, 2017).

Becoming free, the soul acquires a new level of feelings, it becomes capable of communicating with the world of good spirits and the world of demons. The soul after the physical death of the body is not in complete peace but continues to progress, and the subsequent formation of the soul will depend on the direction in which it will go at the moment of death: to the Light or the Dark. It is important to note that in Christianity, the phenomenon of reincarnation of the soul is absent. Instead, after the death of a human, the soul is given eternal life, passing into another world (Farris, 2017). Subsequently, any soul, regardless of the path of life, will wait for the Last Judgment, which will determine the future fate.

Sikhism and Christianity: Common and Different

Being different directions of philosophical, religious thought, Christianity and Sikhism, however, find common aspects linking different faiths in the context of the afterlife and questions of existence. It can be noted with a certain degree of an assumption that both religious movements are monotheistic, placing one God at the center of human life (Cole & Sambhi, 2016). Both faiths have humanist goals at their core, teaching people love and respect for others. Serving God is the foundation of the lives of Christians and Sikhs, but the methods through which services are carried out vary.

The essential differences between Christianity and Sikhism begin when one studies the primary mission of faith. Christians believe that the meaning of their lives lies in the salvation and spread of the faith so that other people, too, may be saved after death. At the same time, Sikhism is dominated by merging with the Godhead: it is a matter of receiving the benefits of God’s love (Cole & Sambhi, 2016). The study of human nature and purpose also finds discrepancies. While Christianity is originally a sinful person who aims to do good to atone for the original sin, Sikhism is originally good. God helps Sikhs to ignite the inner spark of good.

Life after death determines the critical difference between the two religious movements. Christians living in sin aim for the salvation that the Last Judgment will give them (Farris, 2017). The soul of a dead person does not reincarnate but continues to wander in the world until its future fate is determined. On the other hand, the Sikhs are convinced that after the death of a human, the soul is to be relocated (Mandair, 2017). The final result of such reincarnations lies in merging with the absolute God.

Annotated Bibliography

Alexander, L. E. (2019). (The image of) God in all of us: Sikh and Christian hospitality in light of the global refugee crisis. Journal of Religious Ethics, 47(4), 653-678.

Annotation: Unlike other used works, this article aims at comparing Sikhism and Christianity in the context of friendliness and hospitality. The author introduces the reader to the two religions, one by one, and gives them some description so that the reader could get an idea about it. As a result of the study, the author concludes that despite the widespread Christianity in the world, Sikhs provide a closer and more hospitable welcome to people in distress.

Cole, W. O., & Sambhi, P. S. (2016). Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

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Annotation: The authors in their two hundred-page book focused on the comparative study of the two religions. Unlike other works, the authors focus not only on the differences between Sikhism and Christianity but also on similar elements. Thus, both authors compare step by step the phenomenon of God, the prophet, sacred books, rituals, and rites among the religions studied. The fifth chapter, devoted to the issue of spiritual liberation and salvation of souls after death, plays a vital role in this essay.

Farris, J. (2017). Christianity. In Y. Nagasawa & B. Matheson (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Afterlife (pp. 129-152). London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Annotation: The book within which this chapter is written is entirely devoted to the issues of life after death in understanding different beliefs. The essay chapter explores how Christians perceive the afterlife. The author addresses such concepts as Hell, Paradise, and Purgatory. The critical value of this work, which immediately attracts the attention of any reader, is a small story told in the first paragraph of the chapter. Through the story of a dying woman, the author brings the reader to the question of the afterlife. His work is descriptive because it covers and structures existing phenomena in the Christian afterlife.

Kaur, A. (2017). The Nature of God and man in the writings of Guru Nanak. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Culture, 3(1), 31-38.

Annotation: This work was chosen for citation because it has a unique feature: the author refers directly to Guru Nanak and his relationship to the nature of God. On all pages, the author gives the reader an idea of the terminology used in the doctrine. In addition, the author elaborates in detail on the problem of describing God in the words of Guru: the work presents seven properties through which Nanak has been able to convey his image of the one God in as much detail as possible. The author introduces the reader to several categories of people, each of which is described in the Sikh term.

Mandair, A. (2017). Sikh afterlife beliefs and funerary practices. In C. Moreman (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying (pp. 98-109). London, England: Routledge.

Annotation: This chapter focuses on the concept of the afterlife from a Sikh perspective. By analyzing the various rites and traditions characteristic of Sikhism, the author demonstrates the philosophical value of death for believers. The author provides evidence for the existence of certain rituals associated with the phenomenon of the unity of the soul of the dead and the one God. The uniqueness of this article lies in the connection that the author makes between God, the guru, and the death of a human.

Mandair, A. (2017). Sikhism. In S. Sorajjakool, M. Carr, & J. Nam (Eds.), World Religions for Healthcare Professionals (pp. 130-148). London, England: Routledge.

Annotation: A unique feature of this text is to investigate the relationship that may exist between Sikhism and health care. The author concludes that modern Sikhism has no objection to medical intervention, but that medicine must satisfy the basic positions of Sikhism. The author stresses the Muslim origins of Sikhism and provides an example of how medicine can accommodate the needs of Sikh patients.

Mann, G. S. (2016). Sikhism. In L. Woodhead, C. Partridge, & H. Kawanami (Eds.), Religions in the Modern World (pp. 129-158). London, England: Routledge.

Annotation: In this thirty-page work, the author addresses the formation of the Sikh religion and the phenomenon of the spread of religion around the world. The author provides a retrospective analysis and influence of historical events that led to the spread of religion. The peculiarity of this work is that the author provides current statistics on the number of adherents of the faith.

Robertson, J. M. (2018). A Short History of Christianity. Norderstedt, Germany: BoD–Books on Demand.

Annotation: The peculiarity inherent in the book is the scientific and artistic stylistics of writing the history of Christianity. The analysis conducted by the authors can not be called superficial, because the book thoroughly covers the critical points in the Christian chronicle: from Jesus Christ and Martin Luther to the modern realities of the Christian world. However, it is essential to note that most of the book is dedicated to the issue of the origin of Christianity and its formation as a world religion. The author, putting forward innovative theories, states in the preface that he initially understands that the world scientific community may disagree with him.

References

Alexander, L. E. (2019). (The image of) God in all of us: Sikh and Christian hospitality in light of the global refugee crisis. Journal of Religious Ethics, 47(4), 653-678.

Cole, W. O., & Sambhi, P. S. (2016). Sikhism and Christianity: a comparative study. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Farris, J. (2017). Christianity. In Y. Nagasawa & B. Matheson (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Afterlife (pp. 129-152). London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kaur, A. (2017). The Nature of God and man in the writings of Guru Nanak. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Culture, 3(1), 31-38.

Mandair, A. (2017). Sikh afterlife beliefs and funerary practices. In C. Moreman (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying (pp. 98-109). London, England: Routledge.

Mandair, A. (2017). Sikhism. In S. Sorajjakool, M. Carr, & J. Nam (Eds.), World Religions for Healthcare Professionals (pp. 130-148). London, England: Routledge.

Mann, G. S. (2016). Sikhism. In L. Woodhead, C. Partridge, & H. Kawanami (Eds.), Religions in the Modern World (pp. 129-158). London, England: Routledge.

Robertson, J. M. (2018). A Short History of Christianity. Norderstedt, Germany: BoD–Books on Demand.

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StudyCorgi. "Sikhism and Christianity: A View on Life and Death." June 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/sikhism-and-christianity-a-view-on-life-and-death/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Sikhism and Christianity: A View on Life and Death." June 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/sikhism-and-christianity-a-view-on-life-and-death/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Sikhism and Christianity: A View on Life and Death'. 20 June.

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