Sikhs and Dialogue: The Place of Dialogue in Sikhism: ‘As Long as We are in this World, O Nanak, We Should Listen and Talk to Others’

In the ‘one world’ of today the various religious traditions are consciously interacting with each other in mutual observations and dialogue. Religious pluralism reflects the situation of the simultaneous existence in a single social arena of several different worldviews that are often considered incompatible with one another. It has always been a fact of life, but its awareness has become more evident in recent times than before because of the process of globalisation. As part of this process the world is now witnessing the breaking of cultural, racial, linguistic, and geographical boundaries. In the early decades of sixteenth century, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh tradition, encountered the leaders of different religious persuasions and tested the veracity of his own ideas through dialogue with them. He proclaimed: ‘As long as we are in this world, O Nanak, we should listen, and talk to others’ (GGS, 661). For instance, his dialogues with Nath adepts are recorded in his celebrated Siddh Goṣṭ in the Sikh scripture (GGS, 938-946). His travels exposed him to diverse cultures and societies that helped him evolve his unique lifeworld. A distinctive feature of the Ādi Granth (Original Scripture) is that it contains the compositions of fifteen non-Sikh poet-saints (<ṇī>Bhagat Bāṇī) from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, along with the compositions of the Sikh Gurus. The Sikh scripture upholds genuine respect for the plurality of identities, ideologies, and practices. Exploring a four-point theory of religious pluralism and the issues of inter-religious dialogues, the essay will focus on the lived realities and broadly contemporary realities of adherents of Sikhism.

Pashaura Singh

Professor and Dr. J.S. Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies at the University of California, Riverside

Pashaura Singh is a Distinguished Professor and Dr. J.S. Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He teaches courses on Sikhism, Religions of India, Historiography of Sikh Hermeneutics, and Comparative Study of Scriptures at both undergraduate and graduate levels.