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Sikhism - A Guide For The Perplexed - Book By Arvind Pal Singh Mandair

Table of Contents For 'Sikhism A Guide For The Perplexed' By Arvind Pal Singh Mandair 

List of Figures viii

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

PART ONE Evolution of the Sikh Tradition 15

1 Guru Nanak and His Early Successors 17

2 Martyrdom and Militancy: Rise of the Khalsa 47

3 Modernity and Colonialism 75

PART TWO Teachings and Practices 105

4 Way of Life 107

5 Sikh Philosophy 131

PART THREE Pluralism and Its Challenges 157

6 Sikh Ethics 159

7 Sikhs and the Public Sphere 189

Glossary of Indic Terms 217

Notes 223

Index 237 


Summary of 'Sikhism A Guide For The Perplexed' By Arvind Pal Singh Mandair 

'Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed is an insightful and well-crafted introduction to the study of Sikhism as a dynamic and internally fluid tradition. Focusing on key issues that reflect what animates Sikh activity and the lived experiences of Sikhs today, Mandair is able to achieve what might seem incommensurable objectives: introducing novices to a field of study, while challenging those already engaged in Sikh Studies with new insights and perspectives.'

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.


Introduction To 'Sikhism A Guide For The Perplexed' By Arvind Pal Singh Mandair

What is Sikhism? Who are the Sikhs? If these questions had been posed 50 years ago to the average person in the United Kingdom or North America, most would probably have shaken their heads and guessed that it was an obscure religious sect, perhaps from India or the Middle East. In the 1960s when Sikhs began to emigrate to the West in large numbers, there were few if any, resources for obtaining knowledge about Sikhs and Sikhism even in well-stocked libraries. Twenty-five years later, by which time there was a visible presence of Sikhs in many large cities, a small but growing number of scholarly monographs on Sikhism and a checkered media pres­ence, the same questions might have garnered a different response: a fundamentalist sect demanding a separate state? A cross between Hinduism and Islam? People who carry swords and wear turbans and beards and fight a lot in their places of worship? During the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common to hear Sikhs complaining (and rightly so) not only about their discomfort with such represen­tations of their community and their tradition in the media and in scholarly publications, but also about the lack of access to the tools for generating a body of knowledge that Sikhs themselves could identify with and feel comfortable about.

Now imagine posing these same questions to non-Sikhs today. Chances are that most people, certainly in the United Kingdom and Canada, will have met a Sikh or read about Sikhism. And even if one hasn't it is not difficult to imagine that he or she could simply google the terms and almost instantaneously immerse one­self in a wealth of information about Sikhs and Sikhism. Unlike 25 or 50 years ago, today, there is a respectable body of scholarly publications in the form of books and journals on this subject, an ever-increasing number of textbooks on world religions that routinely include Sikhism, excellent film documentaries and a vast store of movie clips on YouTube. Indeed, in this information age, there seems to be no reason why a non-Sikh would continue to be perplexed about Sikhism or why Sikhs themselves would have any reason for further complaint. Surely the available body of infor­mation helps non-Sikhs to easily identify who Sikhs are and what Sikhism is? Or for Sikhs to easily identify themselves in the mirror of these representations? Indeed many Sikhs would not see a prob­lem with the available representations as it gives them an easily identifiable location within the kaleidoscope of world cultures and a level of comfort derived from the understanding that they have a meaningful place in the order of things.

Before coming back to some of these questions let us take a quick look at what answers we might expect to the questions 'What is Sikhism? Who are the Sikhs?' in currently available sources such as school and university textbooks, encyclopaedias and film documentaries.

Most accounts of Sikhism begin by acknowledging the popular media image of Sikhs as turban-wearing males. But while many do wear turbans to cover their long uncut hair and sport full beards, there are many Sikhs who do not conform to this image. It is also common to present Sikhism as the fifth largest and youngest of the so-called world religions. Current census figures suggest that there are 23 million Sikhs in the world. Of these 21 million reside in India (17 million in the state of Punjab and 4 million settled in other parts of India). The remaining 2 million live in what is known as the Sikh diaspora, with main places of settlement being the United Kingdom (0.6 million), North America (0.6 million) and smaller numbers in Europe, Malaysia, Singapore, East Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Sikhs are regarded as energetic, hardworking and hospitable to outsiders almost to a fault. Although they make up only 1.5 per cent of India's population, Sikhs constitute the most successful minority and have made significant contributions to sectors such as the armed forces, business and agriculture. Sikhs have routinely held posts as cabinet ministers in various govern­ments and as the President of India. A Sikh currently serves as the Prime Minister of India. Wherever they have settled abroad Sikhs have established a vast network of more than 700 gurdwaras (places of worship and community centres). Diaspora Sikhs also have a strong record of personal achievement becoming mayors, MPs, government ministers, successful scientists and businessmen. Sikhs have a strong sense of community with a history of struggle and a continuously evolving sense of identity, particularly in relation to Muslims and Hindus.


About The Author of 'Sikhism A Guide For The Perplexed '

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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