Gurmat & Jainism

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Both Jainism and Sikhism have originated in South Asia and are Eastern philosophical faiths. Jainism, like Buddhism, rejected the authority (but not the values) of the Vedas and created independent textual traditions based on the words and examples of their early teachers, eventually evolving entirely new ways for interacting with the lay community.


Jainism is the oldest living Shramana tradition in India. In its current form, the Jain tradition is traced to Vardhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero; ca. 599-527 B.C.), the twenty-fourth and last of the Tirthankaras (Sanskrit for fordmakers). Mahavira was born to a ruling family in the town of Vaishali, located in the modern state of Bihar. The first Tirthankara was Lord Rishabha, who lived long before Mahavira. That makes Jainism one of the oldest religions.

Next to the Bahá'í Faith, Sikhism is the youngest of the world's five great monotheistic religions. Sikhism was established in 15th century in the state of Punjab in North India. Guru Nanak, although born into a Hindu household in 1469 in the Punjab region, he challenged the existing practices and is considered the founder of the new faith. The Guru loved to travel and observe concepts and ideas regarding spiritual practices of various faiths. At the heart of his message was a philosophy of universal love, devotion to God. By the time he died he had founded a new religion of "disciples" (shiksha or sikh) that followed his example.

Lineage of Teachers

The founder of the Jain community was Vardhamana, the last Jina in a series of 24 who lived in East India. Jains have 24 Tirthankaras, the Sikhs have 10 Gurus with the final Sovereign Authority of living Guru conferred upon Guru Granth Sahib by the tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh.

Diwali: Common Festival

Diwali is celebrated by both. Although Sikhs celebrate the day as Bandhi Chhor Diwas, the homecoming to Amritsar of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru HarGobind Sahib from Gwalior. The release of 52 Rajas from the fort of Gwalior is attributed to this Guru.

Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

The Jains are strictly vegetarian. Sikhism permits no debate on the issue. Guru Nanak is explit, frank, & straight by branding all those, who debate the issue, as fools. The food served in the Sikh temples (Gurudwaras) is invariably vegetarian to make the common kitchen cater for the the sentiments of those who treat meat eating as a sinfull act.

Ahimsa for the Jains is a code of practice to always be kind and compassionate and prevent hurt to oneself and others. Compassion and seeking the highest good for all, Sarbat Da Bhala, in the Will of God, is paramount for a Sikh.

There are ocasional references to Jainism in the Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh texts.

Concept of a Godhead

Jains do not believe in the concept of a Godhead responsible for the manifestation of the Creation. They believe the universe is eternal, without beginning or end, and that all happens in an autonomous fashion with no necessity of a co-ordinator/God.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, believing in the singular power of the Formless Creator God, Ik Onkaar, without a parallel. In the Guru Granth Sahib, God is called by all the Hindu names and as Allah as well. Sikhism is void of meaningless rituals and practices.

During the 18th century, there were a number of attempts to prepare an accurate portrayal of Sikh customs. Sikh scholars and theologians started in 1931 to prepare the Reht Maryada -- the Sikh code of conduct and conventions. This has successfully achieved a high level of uniformity in the religious and social practices of Sikhism throughout the world. It contains 27 articles. Article 1 defines who is a Sikh:

“ Any human being who faithfully believes in:

  • One Immortal Being, TRUTH (GOD),
  • ONE Guru & GOD Guru Granth Sahib carrying sprit of the teachings of Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh & that of other saints from different regions & cultures of India.

Fasting is an accepted practice for the Jains. Sikhism treats food as inescapable requirement of human beings & hunger as GOD's will to suvive. Fasting thus has nothing to do with Sikhs.

Where the Guru Granth Sahib is present, that place becomes a Gurudwara. The focal point of worship in a Gurudwara (the gateway to God) is the eternal teachings of Guru Granth Sahib -the Shabad (Word) Guru.

Jains exhibit the statues of their Tirathankars in their temples. Special shrines in residences or in public temples include images of the Tirthankaras, who are not worshiped but remembered and revered; other shrines house images of deities who are more properly invoked to intercede with worldly problems. Daily rituals may include meditation and bathing; bathing the images; offering food, flowers, and lighted lamps for the images; and reciting mantras in Ardhamagadhi, an ancient language of northeast India related to Sanskrit.

Jainism express non violence in thought, word and action. Sikhism seeks peace; when all other means have been exhausted then they find it justifiable to draw the sword against oppression and injustice. Jains belive a peaceful way can always be found, perhaps sometimes after tremendous effort. War or violence against hmans or animals is never justified.

Karma and Salvation

Both Jains and Sikhs believe in the Karma Theory and re-incarnation of the soul. Salvation for a Sikh is attained through the Divine Grace and Will of Waheguru (God). This is contrary to the Jain belief. Jains believe in personal effort and aims and do not depend on a heavenly being for assistance. Both believe in the conquest of the mind through control of the passions through the five senses as the path to ending the cycle of sufferance of birth and death.


The Khalsa Sikhism does not promote asceticism - The Gurus lived as householders. However the members of the Udasi order founded by Shrichand, the son of the first Guru Nanak practice asceticism. Jains have an organised ascetic order of monks and nuns. The lay people are householders.

Other Practices

A Sikh is bound to the Truth at all times and practices god Consciousness through Nam Simran and selfless service (Sewa).

Jains too place high regard in prayers and meditation. Sikhs reject the caste system and promote social and gender equality as the soul is the same for both men and women. All are equal in the eyes of God. God is accessible without priests or a middle person. Sikhs and Jains, like Hndus, are expected to be tolerant of all faiths and do not believe that any one path has a monopoly on the Truth. There are many paths to seek out the Love of god and incur Divine Grace. In fact to call another's path inferior is sign of ignorance and intolerance. Both, personal devotion and communal prayers are a part of Sikh's way of.

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