What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
SIKHS, BAHAIS, AND THEOSOPHISTS

The religions considered in this chapter arose within recent centuries, and are syncretistic in that they take elements of other religions and then add their own special emphasis. The Bahais arose in Persia in the nineteenth century, the Sikhs in India in the fifteenth century. Theosophy began in America in 1875, but soon moved to India.

The Sikhs are well-known figures in the West, with their beards and turbans, and their communal struggles with India find frequent mention in the Press. Sikhism is the result of the merging of two very different streams of religious thought, Muslim and Hindu. The Islamic invasions of India came with great force from the tenth century, and the Mogul Empire was established in the fifteenth. Although the Muslims were monotheists and strongly opposed to the imagery and polytheism of Hinduism, yet there were strong mystical movements within Islam (see Chapter 16) which to some degree paralleled Hindu movements. In the fifteenth century there was a great flowering of Hindu devotion (bhakti), centred round the person of Krishna. The old stories of Krishna were remoulded into spiritual interpretations of the love of the soul for God, in a manner reminiscent of the way the Christian Church interpreted the Song of Solomon. The devotional poets declared that the "pious repetition of the name of God" was better than ritual or asceticism.

The attraction of the mystical movements took place from both sides, Muslim and Hindu. Kabir ( 1440-1518), a Muslim weaver of Benares, became the disciple of the Hindu teacher Ramananda. Kabir was a great singer and composed many poems on the love of God. He said, that mosques and temples were the same, God

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