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Jains and Sikhs Walking Together – Guest Authors Harvinder Singh Sahota, MD and Sulekh Jain, Ph.D.

On November 12, 2019, the whole world celebrated the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji; an apostle of Peace, harmony, coexistence and respect between all religions and human beings. Same day India and Pakistan Governments inaugurated the opening of the Kartapur Sahib Corridor connecting the two holiest Sikh Shrines in India and Pakistan. This has already enabled thousands of devotees to go freely to the Holy places easily.

Jainism is one of the oldest and Sikhism the youngest religions of the World.  In terms of population Sikhism is the 5thlargest and Jainism the 6thlargest in the world. Both religions are minority in India. 

There is so much in common between Jainism and Sikhism. Since the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Sikhism, Jains and Sikhs have been working and walking together. This is a  living and true example  of Interfaith dialog,  Inter-dependence, Co- existence, Respect, Cooperation,  Sharing,  Caring  and  Helping each other. 

In this brief article, we provide a quick glimpse of this Rich and impressive history (past and present). 

Lot of history of Jains and Sikhs are inter-twined. 2,600 years ago, Bhagwan Mahavir was born in Bihar and Jainism flourished in Bihar. Patna (Bihar) is where lot of Sikh history was made. Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Govind Singh Ji lived in Patna. Guru Govind Singh Ji was born in Patna (Bihar). 

350 years ago Mr. Salis Rai Johri, a prominent Jain inPatna; hosted Guru Teg Bahadur Ji (Sikh’s 9thGuru) and his family on his way to Assam. Wife of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, Mata Gujri stayed with this Jain family for several years.  In this Jain household Guru Govind Singh Ji (the 10th Guru of Sikh’s) was born and grew up to the age of 6.  

Later this Jain family donated a piece of land for the dharamshala and eventually the Sri Patna Sahib Takht (a Sikh Holy place and place of worship) was built there. This same Jain Johri also built a Jain Temple next door. The Jain temple and Sikh Gurudwara on the same land next to each other in the same campus just separated by a simple wall are a unique example of respect for each other. 

Sikhs and Jains have never harmed, quarreled or destroyed each other’s places of worship.In Punjab, Jains attend Sikh colleges and Sikhs attend Jain Colleges.Jains and Sikhs working together made Ludhiana a hosiery capital of the world.  Some Jain Sadhus/monks have come from Sikh families and in Punjab, Jain sadhus often stay at Sikh homes and also get their gochari (food) from them.Punjabi University Patiala has a Dept. of Jainology. 

Jain Mandir and Sikh Gurudwara, Patna Sahib, next to each other

Jains served Sikh Maharajas in important Positions. All Sikh Maharajas in their ruled states in Punjab (Patiala, Nabha, Fridkot, Jind etc.) employed Jains in very important and trust worthy positions such as Treasurers etc. because of the Jains trust and honesty.

Jain Sadhus (monks) at the procession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji

Jains and Sikhs have not only co-existed but have provided safety and shelters to each other. Examples; Migration of Jains and Sikhs from Pakistan in 1947 and the protection provided by a Jain Acharya.

Celebration of Diwali; Jains for nirvan of Bhagwan Mahavir and Sikhs for release of Guru Hargovind Ji from Gwalior Fort is celebrated same day all over India .

Unconditional Ahimsa (nonviolence) is the core Principle of Jains.  A Jain is known by the practice of Ahimsa in all his/her

Professions and walks of life. Sikhs Practice Ahimsa by Seva (Service to others) to the needy and afflicted in distress and in natural and manmade calamities and their practice of free langars (since last 550 years) throughout the world is the hallmark of Sikh tradition.

Both Jains and Sikhs have no caste system and stand for equal rights and respect for all humans including women.

Both Jainism and Sikhism are least known and most misunderstood in the West. 

As a result, Sikhs often become victim of hate and terrorism and their Gurudwaras and followers are attacked and killed often. 

Academic study of Jainism and Sikhism has significantly lagged behind of other Indic religions in North America. Jain and Sikh Community leaders are closing this gap by establishing Centers for Jain and Sikh Studies. These initiatives are Unique and historical in Nature. They  are emulating Takht Sri Patna Sahib at Loyola Marymount University, LA, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA,Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA , Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, Europe, International School for Jain Studies, India (working with Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar),Jain and Sikh Studies Chairs at University of California at  Irvine, Riverside and  Santa Barbara.A comprehensive book on interdependence of Jain and Sikhs is being planned. This is just a beginning; many more to come.

Here is one very inspiring example of working together.  Five years ago, Jain and Sikh community in Los Angeles established the first joint Center for study and teaching of Jainism and Sikhism at Loyola Marymount University. After a thorough search, Dr. Niranjan Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh scholar with PhD in Sikhism from University of Michigan was hired as the professor for this Center. Right away Jains and Sikhs liked and welcomed her appointment. Professor Khalsa taught  standalone classes in Jainism and Sikkim with separate syllabi. She taught both the religions with equal love, sincerity, passion, dedication and high scholastic contents. Her classes were not only full but there many were students on waiting list. She took her students each semester to the Jain and Sikh temple in Los Angeles. Students liked her very much too. Her performance was beyond our expectation. 

By working together and learning from each other; these Centers are working to tear down even the symbolic walls that separate them. 

We are sure; there are hundreds of such opportunities all around us waiting to be explored and started. 

“Water is the same in all.  Only utensils are of different colors.”Sant Kabir

Let us work together even more to learn from the beauties of each tradition and dismantle all the walls of hatred and mistrust. 

This is the real and true message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji 

Harvinder Singh Sahota, MD is from Punjab and lives in Laguna Beach , California. He is a Practicing Cardiologist for over 40 years and is the  Inventor of FDA approved Perfusion Angioplasty Balloon.  Dr. Sahota holds 30 US Patents.  Last year he established a Sikh Chair at  the University of California, Irvine by contributing 1.5 Million dollars. He is devoted to the dialog and programs between Jains and Sikhs.

Dr. Sulekh C. Jainis the Past Secretary and President of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA). Dr. Jain also authored a book An Ahimsa Crisis: You Decide, which can be accessed as an eBook free of chargeat  

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