Sri Guru Granth Sahib And Sikh Society
The Institute of Sikh Studies deserves congratulations for organizing a seminar on Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh Society. It is a very relevant topic in the present circumstances.
We read and hear the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib of humility, love, equality, universal brotherhood and others which bind man to man and man to God. We all emanate from one ultimate being i.e. Waheguru. We are sons and daughters of one God by whatever name called. The Gurus preached equality of all human beings irrespective of sex, creed or persuasion. Guru Nanak Dev ji called himself lowest of the low. To emphasize equality, Guru Amar Das Jj insisted on everybody regardless of caste creed or social status to sit in a pangat before the visitor had darshan of the Guru. Guru Nanak Dev Ji declared: How could women be decried who gave birth to great men. Again to emphasize seva, it was stated that feeding the poor is making offerings to the Guru. The doctrines propounded in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) lay stress on universal brotherhood and fraternity. The teachings Guru Granth Sahib of are for all the human beings, net for a particular group of people.
Now Jet us see how the Sikh society answers to these teachings. Guru Granth Sahib decries, but Sikhs practise the caste system. Instances are not lacking when dalit Sikhs are discriminated, insulted and made to feel inferior by haughty Sikhs belonging to so-called high castes. The discrimination pervades religious and social spheres. In some cases, the Birs of Guru Granth Sahib have b een refused for marriage, death or other ceremonies to dalit Sikhs. In a Gurdwara, during ‘amrit sanchar’ organised by SGPC, the amritdhari dalit Sikh men and women were insulted and asked to stand outside the gate of the gurdwara. The instances of discrimination, mental torture and physical harm to dalit Sikhs failed to move the conscience of our Jathedars and those who consider themselves to be the custodians of Sikhism. It is said that in 80% villages of Punjab, called the cradle of Sikhism, there are separate Gurdwaras and cremation grounds for unfortunate dalits. No Jathedar of revered Takhts in Punjab, no SGPC office holder or any so-called Panthic leader talks about it, much less to consider it a shame for the Sikh Society. The caste system is practised by the Sikhs deliberately and consciously. It is a sheer hypocrisy of the Sikhs, especially preachers, to lay the blame on Brahmanism or Manuvad. No wonder poor Sikhs are drifting away to Christianity or sant babas in large numbers.
Let us move further. The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib accord equal status between men and women. The husband and wife are not to merely sit together but are enjoined to be one in spirit. Long time back, I read somewhere that a Sikh would bestow more love and affection on his girl child compared to his son. But see the pathetic condition now prevailing. Far from girl child given love and affection in the Sikh homes, there is a phenomena of disappearing daughters. Female foeticide is rampant. Punjab has earned the first rank in India in this despicable act. As per a recent study (Times of India dated 6.10.2008), in the rural areas of hallowed Fatehgarh Sahib, the child sex ratio has gone down to 590 girls per 1000 boys. What can the Sikhs preach to others? Following the teachings of SGGS, the Sikhs should have shown the right path to the whole of India, rather the world. But alas! there is a discord between the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh society.
Then again, on the one hand it is claimed that SGGS is an inter-faith scripture, is beyond religious barriers and it belongs to the whole humanity. In fact, the edict enjoins upon the Sikhs alone, not all the people, to regard it as their Guru. Thus the people belonging to other religions or whatever persuasion can keep it as a great religious scripture. Anybody can read it and get solace. Some Muslims were great kirtankars whom we, in our misplaced fervour, disregard today. What is happening now-a-days is totally disgusting. The persons who go to a dera are not allowed to perform ceremonies connected with marriage, death etc., by invoking Guru Granth Sahib. A sahejdhari Sarpanch of Shakarpura village in Haryana used to organize Akhand Path of Guru Granth Sahib every year. But last year (December, 2007), the ‘satkar sabha’ members threatened to forcibly take away the Guru Granth Sahib by disrupting the Akhand Path unless the Sarpanch accepted siropa. Instances are there when certain Gurdwaras did not give ‘Bir’ to dalit Sikhs to perform marriage or death ceremonies. The ‘Birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib are being removed from various public places, even from the houses of Sikhs under the pretext of non-observance of maryada. Large number of ‘Birs’ has been removed from various places in Madhya Pradesh. These ‘Sirs’ are being consigned to the almirahs in gurdwaras. Instead of preaching universal brotherhood, love and harmony thereby attracting everybody to the all-embracing Sikhism, our preachers in the gurdwaras often glibly say what is demeaning, offending and insulting to those who are not ‘sabat surat’ creating disgust and abhorrence in the minds of these people impelling them to shun the gurdwaras and gurbani and rush to the sant babas. Religion can be preached with love, affection and sympathy; not with doling out orders or by insulting others. These acts are only distancing the general public from the gurbani and resulting in the containment of Sikh religion. The elite class amongst the Sikhs is maintaining discrete silence. Thus on the one hand, it is loudly proclaimed that Guru Granth Sahib belongs to all, on the other we are not allowing Guru Granth Sahib to certain persons, even to certain Sikhs. It shows incongruous attitude of Sikhs. There is disharmony between what the Sikhs say and what they do.
Seva and help to the needy should be uppermost in the Sikhs’ mind. To render help to the poor is making offerings to the Guru. This principle seems to have been ignored now. Sometime back, a small child of a very poor Sikh was in hospital for operation involving huge expenditure. There were repeated appeals for help on one channel of TV Help came from Assam Govt, a party from Assam, certain other institutions but non from the ‘premier’ sanstha of the Sikhs, the Punjab Govt. or Sikh institutions. Sikhs should ponder as to why they have drifted away from sharing the pains of others.
There are prohibitions in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib against the use of intoxicants. But the Sikhs have earned the sobriquet of being the prolific drinkers in India, perhaps in the world. Now the Sikh youth have grown addicted to all sorts of drugs ruining their health. There is disinclination to hard work, laziness pervades. The Sikh youth have lost touch with religion. 80-90% of them have become clean-shaven.
The Sikh preaching class has grown impatient of tolerance of the view points of other groups forgetting that religion should emit humility, love and affection. Guru Nanak enjoined upon the people to be patient in listening to others and putting across one’s own point of view. To say that the Sikhs should not read a particular news paper and repeat this at the time of ‘amrit sanchar' is demeaning the most modern religion. This sort of thinking puts the whole community in unpleasant light in the era of powerful print and other media.
The doctrine of Miri-Piri has been twisted to sub-serve particular interests. Politics should operate within the parameters of religious bounds which are for the good of the people at large. Those who cry hoarse about interference in the Sikh religion by others should realize that this applies to them as well. Religion or religious institutions should not be made to subserve non-religious or political purposes. It is for the Sikhs to cleanse the institutions and rid them of the baneful influences so that these advance the ennobling teachings of Guru Granth Sahib to the people as a whole.
There is a disconnection between the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and the present Sikh society. There is discord between what the Sikh say and what they do. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is for all the ages. Sikhism, in real terms, has disappeared. The Sikhs, however, remain. The last census (2001) gives ample indication of the declining number of Sikhs. Leaders of our religion have simply failed to transmit the universal message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. They have reduced themselves to be political adjuncts and have lost their value and relevance to religion. It is now for the intellectuals to accept the challenge to re-energize the Sikh society in the mould of the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.