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Baljit Kaur

1. Sikh Guru
The institution of guruship has been vital in the continuous development of the Sikh community, and has ensured cohesion, solidarity and a sense of community among the Sikhs. Guru means an enlightener, a messenger of God, who enables man to tread the righteous path to salvation. Bhai Gurdas says, “Nanak nirmal panth chalaiya”, i.e., “Nanak started a pure society.”

The office of Guru, which embodies the Holy Spirit, was passed on from one Guru to the next. “All Gurus are identical to Nanak.” Thus, the Guru was the central unifying personality inspite of changes in succession. The greatest single organizational step was to select purely on merit, a worthy successor.

The Sikh Gurus who initiated the movement, determined its ideology and goals, and carefully organized and nursed it for over two hundred years, starting with the missionary tours of Guru Nanak to the demise of the Tenth Guru - thus preventing deviation from its stated ideology. Originally, it was the Guru that guided. Later, it was their ideology, which gave direction.

On the Gurus’ own testimony, this ideology was dictated by God Himself. Guru Nanak says, “Oh Lalo as God speaks to me, so do I convey.” The personality of the Guru is in operation in the Sikh. He links himself with the Guru, and thus is linked with the inexhaustible power of the Creator.

All institutions of the Khalsa Panth in their very being and working enshrine and reflect the spirit and original impulse of the Guru’s vision. The Guru visualized a Commonwealth. “Where everybody could experience a sense of partnership, and no body would feel an outsider.” (Guru Granth Sahib, p 97)

The Sikh Gurus established the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. They taught that spiritual transformation must precede social and political transformation. The Sikh Gurus insisted on selfless service. The Sikh movement struggled against anti-social and anti-human institutions like the caste system, inequality of the genders, and religious and political domination.

The Gurus aimed at complete emancipation of man. They believed and preached that life could not be compartmentalized, and had to be lived with intelligent discernment and total integrity at every level. Resistance against injustice was also a religious duty.
Guru Nanak started the institutions of dharamsalas and sangats, as Sikhism was a congregational faith. The succeeding Gurus further extended and consolidated these institutions. Guru Amar Das systematized the institution of manjis, and created 22 centres for extension of the mission, with Goindwal as headquaters. He fixed two occassions in the year when his followers could come from far and near. Hearts of men had to be strung together across the barriers of caste and religion, and to break these, institutions such as Guru ka langar and pangat were introduced. Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjun set up new centres at Amritsar and Tarn Taran.

Guru Angad invented the Gurmukhi script, and Guru Arjun compiled the Sikh Scripture. These steps went a long way in establishing the identity of the Sikhs. “With a distinct organization, separate religious centres, a separate script and a Scripture of their own, they became a separate church and a new society.”

Guru Nanak’s spiritual mission was carried forward by the successor Gurus, and was extended by Guru Hargobind after Guru Arjun’s martyrdom, who put on two swords – one depicting temporal and the other spiritual power (miri-piri). After Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom, Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa Panth, who took up cudgels against the tyranny of the contemporary ruler. Banda Singh Bahadur and the Sikh Misls fought, and Ranjit Singh established a kingdom on the same principles. Thus grew up a well organized, militant, socio-religious and economically self-reliant community, which was not only able to survive the ups and downs of history, but even able to maintain its separate identity.

The Guru’s thrust was on moral and spiritual uplift and service to humanity. This view was diametrically opposed to the traditional existing system. It did not believe in the dichotomy of life. The Guru established a religion of householders in direct contrast to the concept of celibacy and asceticism. The egalitarianism of Sikhs abolished not only the caste hierarchy, but also the gender discrimination.

The pinnacle came with the institution of amrit. In 1699, the Guru created the Khalsa. After baptising the first five amritdhari Sikhs (Panj Piaras), the Guru knelt before them, asking them to baptise him. Thus, there was no difference between the Guru and the disciple, they were one. Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh conferred the guruship on Guru Granth Sahib, declaring it the last and Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.
The Gurus did not accept the current concept of man’s ‘fall from grace.’ They believed that man could evolve out of his weakness. Hence, they offered an ideology of optimism. Guru Nanak’s teachings can be reduced to three simple commandments. One - Kirat Karo, two - Naam Japo, three - Vand Chhaco, i.e., work hard, remember God, and share your earnings. “The grace of God is where the downtrodden are looked after.” (Guru Granth Sahib, p 15)

Gokal Chand Narang says, “The sword which carved the Khalsa was undoubtedly forged by Gobind Singh, but the steel was provided by Nanak.” Prof. Teja Singh says, “The Gurus took in hand the training of a nation, each gave as much instruction as was needed, passing it on to the next Guru when the work of one generation was finished. This way the whole training extended to ten generations.”

The conscience of the ten Gurus will pervade the whole human culture for all time to come. The religion of the Gurus is briefly the art of living fully, keeping the divine light aflame.

2. Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib is a unique scripture embodying all that is sacred. It is not only the scripture of the Sikhs but also their Eternal Guru – having been installed as such in 1708 AD by Guru Gobind Singh. For the Sikhs, the Guru is a holy teacher, a prophet under direct commission from God – the ten who have been and Guru Granth Sahib, which is the continuing visible manifestation (Shabadguru).
“Bani Guru, Guru Hai Bani Vich Bani Amrit Sarai.” Guru Granth Sahib, p 982

“It is, therefore, the perpetual authority for those who live their lives in response to it and through it.”

From Guru Granth Sahib, the communities, institutions and rituals derive their meaning, aspirations, resolutions and actions and their authority. Said Toynbee, a renowned historian of our times, “Of all known religious scriptures, this book is the most highly venerated. It means more to the Sikhs than the Quran to the Muslims, the Bible to the Christians, and the Torah to Jews. The Adi Granth is to the Sikhs their perpetual Guru (Spiritual Guide).” The Sikhs conclude their daily prayer by the last commandment of the Tenth Guru:

Agya bhayi Akal ki, Tabhi chalayio Panth.
Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai, Guru maniyo Granth.
Guru Granth ji maniyo, Pragat Guran ki deh.
Jo Prabh ko milbo chahein, Khoj Shabad mai Lahain.”
“Thus commanded the Timeless God:
And there was established the (Khalsa) Panth.
All disciples (Sikhs) are commanded hereby,
To recognize the holy Granth as the Guru.
Recognize the holy Guru Granth,
As the visible embodiment of the Masters.
All those who wish to see the Lord God,
Must seek Him in (the contemplation of) the holy word.”

Duncan Greenles, the author of ‘World Gospel Series,’ says, “The Granth is the Guru’s own Book, through which the Guru speaks to his disciples from age to age.”
The Granth is a marvellous heritage of the Indian subcontinent, for its 1430 pages contain not only the sacred writings of the Sikh Gurus, but also those of a number of medieval saints, both Hindu and Muslim. The Gurus taught the noble quality of appreciating and imbibing all that was good and valuable, which brought forth a new concept of universal man, and a new ideal of a democratic state.

“It has been ordained by the Merciful Lord, that no one should dominate over others, that none should cause pain to another. Only then can the world abide in peace. Such is the provision of the Lord’s Benevolence.”

huix hukmu hoAw imhrvwx dw ] pY koie n iksY r\wxdw ]
sB suKwlI vuTIAw iehu hoAw hlymI rwju jIau ]
-Guru Granth Sahib, p 74

Guru Granth Sahib addresses itself to the common man and not to an ascetic. It brought religion out of the cloister, and related it to the living realities of life. Toynbee calls it, “Mankind’s common Spiritual Treasure.” Dr Kirpal Singh says that Adi Granth is the only scripture in the world, written by Sikh prophets, and compiled and edited by the Guru personally.

Some writers speak of ‘the post-Guru period’ - Sikhs do not acknowledge this position, because the seat of gurudom was passed on to Shabadguru by the Tenth Master. Guru Granth Sahib is the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

“It must be mentioned that by the time of Guru Gobind Singh, two Sikh Gurus - Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur had become martyrs at the hands of the Delhi rulers, but, for that reason, Guru Gobind Singh, the final editor of Guru Granth Sahib, did not opt to edit away the hymns of Muslim saints like Sheikh Farid, Bhikan or Kabir from the Sikh Scripture. The Hindu Rajas of Himachal and Brahmin orthodoxy had also developed a sort of anipathy towards Sikhism. Again, for that reason, the Guru never thought of omitting Hindu saints from the Granth, in his magnanimity. He was true to the spirit of religious harmony,” says Dr Muthumohan.

3. Khalsa Panth
The word Khalsa is of Arabic origin which means absolutely pure. According to Prof. Puran Singh, this ideal group (Khalsa Panth) had been the dream of Guru Nanak, and was planted in the garden of Anandpur Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh.

Khalsa was designed to be an army of saint-soldiers, pure and fearless, in the service of the Creator and His creation. In this fraternity of God’s army, there were to be none more equal than the others. Each man was part of an organic whole. The Code of Conduct applied to all, including the Guru himself – who remained subject to, and answerable to the Khalsa Panth.

“It was a brotherhood of knights of honour.” The inspired personality of the brotherhood was love-strung, song-strung, fearless, death-despising and even death-courting. They sought no rewards, and were always in readiness for service to the Guru, wishing well to the whole creation – desiring nothing but God’s name. The Khalsa went to war, whenever it was the need of the hour, with no anger, hatred or rancour – like a law enforcing agency, supposed to take corrective action. A spiritual and psychological regeneration was brought about by a strict Code of Conduct known as Rahit Maryada, lived by the entire body of the Khalsa.

Guru Gobind Singh cut the gordian knot in one stroke by cleansing the mind of the Khalsa of all dehumanising restrictions of past value systems. He cut all fetters of an enslaved society, the day he administered Pahul (amrit). The initiation of the double-edged sword to the Panj Piaras was subsequently given to the entire body of the Khalsa. That day, he gave them the Five Freedoms. Freedom from Varan Ashram (Dharam Nash), Freedom from Karam Kand (Karam Nash), Freedom from all superstitions (Bharam Nash), Freedom from lineage barriers (Kul Nash), and Freedom from occupational restrictions (Kirt Nash). This dispelled from the Khalsa, for all time, all distinctions of high and low, rich and poor, and teacher and taught. Every man became Singh and every woman Kaur, thus, all castes were shed.

The Khalsa was trained to react against wrong, injustice and oppression. A society was created with the ideal of sant-sipahi (saint soldier). “Born into tribulation and nurtured in persecution, the Khalsa triumphs - Raj Karega Khalsa.” The Khalsa Panth has been a great cohesive force of the Sikh community.

The metamorphosis has been accomplished in defiance of the rigid prejudices and conservatism of the old Hindu religious systems. Prior to the time of the Sikh Gurus, no general ever conceived the idea of raising an army from men who were believed to be unclean and polluted from their birth, but the watchword and war-cry of the Sikhs “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh, and the stimulating precept of the Tenth Guru, altered what hitherto had been deemed the dregs of humanity, into warriors whose prowess and loyalty never failed their leaders.” (M A Macauliffe, ‘The Sikh Religion’, Vol V, pp 99-100.)

4. Gurmatta
Of all the Sikh institutions built for the progress of the community, the institution of gurmatta reached the highest water-mark. It not only bridged the status of the Guru and the Sikh, but also gave a position of eminence to the Khalsa, to guide the community in all matters by consensus.

“Gurmatta is the symbol of the collective will of the Sarbat Khalsa duly formulated. It has the whole community’s backing, since it is taken in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. Its rejection was considered a sacrilege.” This institution gave continuity of the Guru’s will along with the capacity to adjust to the changing needs of the Sikhs. During the Misl period of Sikh history as reported, “The Sikh Chiefs would sit closely together and say to each other, ‘the sacred Granth Sahib is between us, let us swear by our Scripture to forget all internal disputes and be united.’ Thus many critical situations were avoided. When the Sikhs were struggling, wherever they went, Guru Granth Sahib was their moving church and country, and also the pivot of their patriotism.”

“Gurmatta is a political institution with an ethical base.” It has been described by historians and other observers as “the Grand convention,” “the General Assembly.” It was all these things put together, and more. In order to fully understand the gurmatta, we must look into the spirit that inspired it.

The genesis of the gurmatta is found in the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru had laid down that all Sikhs were equal, and that every Sikh was an integral part of the Khalsa Panth. He had further stated that when the Khalsa assembled, the Guru be deemed present among them. He also ordained that the Khalsa, of which the Guru was a part, was higher than the Guru himself. This combined will of the Khalsa was thus supreme in religious and temporal matters. Gurmatta is the combined will of the Khalsa Panth.

The Panthic gurmatta was not a thing of everyday occurrence. It was resorted to only when supreme danger was threatening the purity of religion from within, or from a joint enemy from without. It was another safeguard inherent in the constitution of the Khalsa.

The gurmatta was helpful in avoiding deadlocks – no resolution could be put before a meeting of the Khalsa, unless as a preliminary condition, a solemn assurance was given that the leaders were one with the Guru. Then the jathedar (of Akal Takht) could declare that the Khalsa was one with the Guru, and, therefore, he would put the gurmatta before them for discussion. The majority view was carried by unanimous consensus always. It gave a position of eminence to the Khalsa. It developed into an important political institution to determine by consensus the general will of the community – thus it preserved unity and cohesion. The potency of the gurmatta lay in the belief that the ultimate authority within the Panth had been retained by the eternal Guru, whose presence at the meeting was symbolized by the sacred Scripture. Sanction attached to it was stronger than any Misl or combination of Misls.

The first gurmatta was taken by the Five Beloved (Panj Piaras) at Chamkaur Sahib, in 1704. They ordered Guru Gobind Singh to leave the fort in the interest of the Khalsa. It was this unified action which led to the establishment of the Sikh empire. Relations with foreign powers and treaties in the 18th century were signed after taking a gurmatta. The last political gurmatta was held in 1809.

While Rousseau’s ‘General Will’ remained in the realm of an unrealized dream, the gurmatta of the Guru Khalsa is a working institution. It is the religious fervour of the Sikhs which makes this possible, all decisions are taken in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib – giving it a moral and spiritual thrust, thus a head start. All deliberations are in the general interest of the community. This is the two-fold leadership of the Sikh community - Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Panth.

In the back-drop of decadent India – Guru Nanak had a divine revelation (jYsI mY AwvY Ksm kI bwxI qYsVw krI igAwnu vy lwlo ])

In a time frame of three centuries and 10 lifetime, the Guru led from the front and gave his followers a live-in experience of uplifting and life-sustaining value systems. They chiseled and fine-tuned their followers and value system, which today are embodied in the Guru Granth Sahib. Only then was the Khalsa initiated with amrit (nectar) by Guru Gobind Singh and, he then knelt down to the Khalsa to be initiated – and was then able to say: ykb;k w/ok o{g j? yk;.

Right from its inception, great importance was attached to the authority of the Panj Piaras. Guru Gobind Singh readily submitted before the collective decisions of the Panj Piaras directing him to leave the fort of Chamkaur in the larger interests of Sikh Panth. He wanted to set an example by which the status of the Panj Piaras could be raised to a very high position so that no Sikh could dare to defy their orders. This was further reinforced when Guru Gobind Singh willingly paid a fine imposed by the Panj Piaras on him for saluting with his arrow the Mazar of Muslim Fakir Dadushah. Before his demise, Guru Gobind Singh bestowed the succession on Guru Granth Sahib and leadership of the Sikh Panth to the Khalsa represented by the Panj Piaras.

nkfrnk GJh nekb eh sp? ubk:' gzE.. ;G f;ZyB e' j[ew j? r[o{ wkB:' rqzE
r[o{ rqzE ih wkfBU gqrN r[oK eh d/fj .. ik e' fjodk ;[X j? y'i ;pd w? b/j[ ..

Gurmatta is an institution, which we should think of reviving. It was a symbol of the collective will of the Sarbat Khalsa, and it was taken in presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. Its rejection was considered sacrilegious. Gurmatta was a political institution with an ethical base. It showed its mettle in the eighteenth century.

A number of practices discarded by the Gurus are raising their heads in the Sikh community. Caste-divisions, superstitions and money culture, all these do not belong to Sikhism. The leaders at all levels, spiritual, political and intellectual, must function within the ambits of our institutions. Any digression from such dynamic value systems will be retrograde.

Khalsa has been given decision-making authority by their Guru — Let us use it. Amend when necessary, revaluate systems which are not working, discard if need be. Let us start another Singh Sabha Lehar if necessary and most importantly let us deliberate and take stock of emerging situations. The International Sikh Confederation can be used as a sounding board for the Panth. It can co-ordinate activities of various Sikh organisations. It can also articulate and express the views of the Sikhs the world over and give their findings to the Akal Takht for action.

j'fJ fJesq fwbj[ w/o/ GkJh d[fpXk d{fo eoj[ fbt bkfJ ..
jfo Bkw? e/ j'tj[ i'Vh r[ow[fy p?;j[ ;ck ftSkfJ .. (gzBk
Join and meet together my brethren,
dispel duality and imbibe love for your Lord.
Associate yourselves with the God’s Name,
O holy men, and spreading your mat, sit thereon.
(Guru Granth Sahib, p 1185)



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