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The Value System in the Adi Guru Granth

Dr Kirpal Singh

The Adi Guru Granth, the Sikh scripture has got a unique position. The Bible, one of the most important scriptures of the world was written much later after Christ. The holy Quran, the scripture of the Muslims, was compiled after the death of Prophet Mohammad. The Adi Guru Granth is, perhaps the only scripture in the world which was written by the Sikh Gurus, compiled and edited by the Sikh Gurus. The Adi Guru Granth includes the value system which is valid for all times – past, present and future. One of its important features is that it has no sectarian approach and has been addressed to the entire mankind. Moreover, its valuation covers all the spheres of life.

Religious Domain
Religion has been the cause of conflict since times immemorial. In the sixteenth century, in the history of England, Queen Mary of Scotland ordered to be burned alive four missionaries calling them heretic.1 The ruler of Iraq Shah Mohammad Ismail who was himself Shia burned the Sunni mosques.2 In Ceylon, according to Sir William Jones, founder of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, the misguided religious zeal of Portugese destroyed an ancient big Hindu temple at Trincomali.3 In India, the situation was no better. It is well known that Sikandar Lodhi (1488-1517 AD) and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1703 AD) destroyed a number of Hindu temples. In this atmosphere of religious antagonism, the Adi Guru Granth gave the message a new dimension by combining inner unity amid apparent diversity of different religions. According to the Holy Granth all the religions have different ways to attain spirituality. The Adi Guru Granth ushered in a new era of religious understanding by defining religion in the simplest possible terms, viz., religion consisted of only two things – love of name of God and purity of conduct. It has never been challenged by follower of any religion so far. He wrote in a hymn:

Of all religions, the best is the practice of
Name with purity of conduct.
Off all rites the best in to purge one’s heart of filth
and evil tendencies by associations
with those who have disciplined themselves.
Of all devotional practices,
the best is the constant application of heart of home.
Of all sacred text and most sacred is that
which one hears the praise of beloved utters it to others.
Of all holy places, the holiest is where one feels
the stir of the Name of one’s hear

This was a new orientation of religions, which revolutionized the old conception that one’s own doxy was orthodoxy and everybody else’s was heterodoxy. The Sikh scripture does not approve the mass of formalities and extraneous observances and emphasizes that the real spirit of religion is hidden beneath these conventions The true religion only consists of love of God and good conduct. It exhorted:

One God is father, we all human beings are his children.5

Toleration is the key of the teachings of the Adi Guru Granth. Usually no religion considers other religions equal to itself. It is only the Adi Guru Granth, which recognises that all religious dispensations are capable of elevating the human soul. It has been stated in a hymn:

The world is burning, save it O God out of Thy Mercy
Save it through whichever dispensation it can be saved.

Morality cannot be separated from religion. Remembering God or meditation of God requires an ethical life. An immoral person is neither worthy of nor attains the love of God. In this way the ethical life and belief in the reality of loving God go together. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism stated that realisation of God as truth ought to be an indication in the conduct (achaar) of a person. When we realise God that implies that we imbibe the virtues of God, viz., kindness, forgiveness, service, etc. The holy man realises God in this way:

gurmuiK hovY soeI bUJY gux kih guxI smwvixAw ] 7

Social Values
The Adi Guru Granth advocates shunning of class, caste and creed and vehemently stressed the equality of mankind. It gives highest respect to the divinity of man – ‘man tu jot saroop hai’8 Man is the embodiment of God. The caste system has been described as the ‘steel frame’ of Hindu society. Guru Granth Sahib exhorted to defy the rules of caste exclusiveness. “phakkar jati phakar nao” preposterous is caste and vain is the glory.9

Positive steps were taken in this direction. The Holy Granth exhorted his followers to meet in congregation and take meals in the common kitchen, viz., ‘Langar’ where they were to sit together, worship together and eat together irrespective of the fact whether they belonged to the higher or low castes. In this way Adi Guru Granth inculcates the spirit of equality and brotherhood.

In the case of woman, Guru Granth grants equal status to woman. Before the advent of Sikhism, woman was considered impure. Sati was prevalent among the Hindu women. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism stated that ‘All creatures were equal before God and that to make distinction among them on the grounds of birth or sex, was sinful.10 In Asa di Vaar, Guru Nanak has stated:

From woman is man born, inside her is he conceived
To woman is man engaged, and woman he marries
With woman is man’s companionship
From woman originates new generation
Should woman die, another is sought
By woman’s help man is kept restrained
Why revile her of whom are born great ones of the earth
From woman is born woman, no human being without woman is born.
Only the True One is outside this circle of birth.

In another stanza in Asa Di Vaar, Guru Nanak rejects the prevalent superstition of impurity (sootak). According to it a woman giving birth to a child remains in pollution for a given number of days depending upon the caste to which she belonged. The Guru Granth redefined the concept of impurity and states that pollution is not in childbirth. Greed is pollution of mind, lying the pollution of the tongue, looking with covetousness upon another’s wealth and wife the pollution of eye, and listening to slander the pollution of ears.12

mn kw sUqku loBu hY ijhvw sUqku kUVu ]
AKI sUqku vyKxw pr iqRA pr Dn rUpu ]
kMnI sUqku kMin pY lwieqbwrI Kwih ]
nwnk hMsw AwdmI bDy jm puir jwih ] 

As against celibacy, which was considered essential for spiritual uplift in ancient times, the Guru Granth recommended householder’s life in which husband and wife were equal partners. Fidelity was enjoined upon both as it has been stated:

Not those be the true wedded couple that with each other sit together,
Truly wedded are those in two frames are as one light.

Political Field
The Sikh scriptures have condemned political tyranny. The atrocities committed by the soldiers of Babar, the Mughal emperor, have been described in detail in four hymns of Guru Nanak. The corruption in the administration has been mentioned in the Asa di Vaar. I am not evaluating the working of various political elites and various Afghan-Mughal political institutions which have been given in my book entitled Guru Granth as source of history. It is a lengthy subject therefore only mention has been made here. Corruption was rampant, as has been described in the following stanza:

Both avarice and sin are the king and minister
And falsehood is the Master of mints.
Lust, the assistant official is summoned and consulted
And they all sit together and chalk out evil plan.
The subjects are blind and without wisdom.
They satisfy the official fire with bribes.

Economic Sphere
Guru Granth exhorts that the economy should be need-based. Nobody should be extremely rich to dominate over others, nor there should be poor people who cannot make both ends meet and always hanker after money. Guru Arjun Dev says in the holy Granth:

Anxiety abides in the home wherein lies much pelf
Where it is lacking, man wander about in search after it.
Happy is one that from either is free.

In the economic system advocated by the Sikh scriptures there should be no poverty. The lowly and the poor should be properly looked after as Guru Nanak says:

Lord thy Grace falls on the land where the poor are cherished.16

Guru Granth emphasises the life of contentment and high thinking, viz., Sat, Santokh, Vichare. In such a state of affairs there could not be any corruption in any form, Guru Granth has described such society in one of the hymns:

Coarse food grains coming from the holy is equal to all treasures
Thirty six viands from the reprobate home are poison

The Sikh scripture lays stress on hard work and sharing of one's earnings with others. It has been clearly stated:

Those who eat the bread of their labour and give away something in charity,
Said Nanak truly recognise the way

Living by alms as a recluse is prohibited. It also forbids withdrawal from society and leading the life of recluse.

Education System And Technology
The Sikh Gurus are in favour of high learning and adopting science and technology for the benefit of society . ‘Gurparsadi vidya vichari parh parh pawe maan’19 Vidya vichari taan parupkari.20 It implies that our education system should be focused on wellfare of the society . This aim has become universal now. Guru Granth is against destructive weapons like atom bombs etc. which aim at destruction. In the Guru Granth, it has been clearly stated that advancement in science and technology which leads to destruction of mankind is not desirable:

Better than waking is the dream state
Where with Lord we may abide.21

In order to save mankind from moral and spiritual degradation resulting in the mad race of materialism, splitting of family ties, and destructive weapons, the Adi Guru Granth exhorts mankind to bring under control the five evil tendencies inherent in man, viz., lust, rage, greed, attachment and ego. According to the holy Granth, these evils can be tamed by repetition of the name of God in holy congregation and with the grace of the Guru:

May lust, wrath, avarices, attachment and egoism be eliminated
Nanak has sought shelter with the Lord
Master show Thy Grace.22

Some important quotes:
The following quotes of the Adi Guru Granth are significant for understanding the value system of Sikh scripture.

To grab what is another’s is evil,
it’s as pork to Muslims and beef to the Hindus.23

Let such be seated on the throne as are fit.
Those alone are true kings.24

The true khatri is one who in heroic action engages
And in charitable action passes his life.25

Learned scholar, warrior hero, and king with umbrella, none equals the devotees of God.26

Jog consists not in patched coat or in a Jogi’s staff nor ashes smeared over the body. Jog consists not in earrings worn or shaven head or blowing of horns. Abide pure amid the impurities of the world, thus you find the way of Jogis.27



1. Ramsay Muir, British Commonwealth da sankhep Itihas (Punjabi translation) Punjabi University , Patiala, 1950, Vol. I, p. 332.
2. Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. II, p. 568.
3. Ceylon Literary Registrar, 1884, p. 63.
4. The Adi Guru Granth, p. 266.
5. Ibid., p. 611, eyku ipqw eyks ky hm bwirk
6. Ibid., p. 853,jgqu jlµdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwir ] ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir ]
7. Ibid., p. 110.
8. Ibid., p. 441.
9. Ibid., p. 83.
10. Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Vol. 4. p. 442.
11. The Adi Guru Granth, p. 473, BMif jMmIAY BMif inMmIAY BMif mMgxu vIAwhu ] BMfhu hovY dosqI BMfhu clY rwhu ] BMfu muAw BMfu BwlIAY BMif hovY bMDwnu ] so ikau mMdw AwKIAY ijqu jMmih rwjwn ] BMfhu hI BMfu aUpjY BMfY bwJu n koie ] nwnk BMfY bwhrw eyko scw soie ]
12. Ibid., p. 472.
13. Ibid., p. 288, XB fgo[ J/j B nkyhnfB pjfB fJem/ j'fJ .. J/e i'fs d[fJ w{osh XB fgo[ ejhn? ;'fJ ..
14. Ibid., p. 469, b[p[ gkg[ d[fJ okik wjsk e{V[ j'nk f;edko .. ekw[ B/p[ ;fd g[Shn? pfj pfj eo/ ftuko[ .. nzXh o:fs frnkB ftj{Dh Gkfj Go/ w[odko[ ..
15. Ibid., p. 1019, fi;[ frqfj pj[s fs;? frqfj fuzsk .. fi;[ frqfj E'oh ;[ fco? Gqwzsk .. d[j{ fpt;Ek s/ i' w[esk ;'Jh ;[j/bk Gkbhn? ..1..
16. Ibid., p. 15, fiE/ Bhu ;wkbh nfs fsE/ Bdo s/oh pyFhF ..
17. Ibid., p. 811, ;zsB ek dkBk o{yk ;' ;op fBXkB.. frqfj ;kes Sshj gqeko s/ fpy{ ;wkB ..
18. Ibid., p. 1245. Gwil Kwie ikCu hQhu dyie ] nwnk rwhu pCwxih syie ]
19. Ibid., p. 1324.
20. Ibid., p. 356.
21. Ibid., p. 816, ikrB s/ ;[cBk Gbk p;hn? gqG ;zfr ..
22. Ibid., p. 269. ekw e'qX no[ b'G w'j fpBf; ikfJ njzw/t.. BkBe gqG ;oBkrsh efo gq;kfd r[od/t ..
23. Ibid., p. 141.je[ gokfJnk BkBek T[;{ ;{no T[;[ rkfJ ..
24. Ibid., p. 1088, syfs okik ;' pj? fi sys? bkfJe j'Jh ..
25. Ibid., p.1411, ysqh ;' i[ eowk ek ;{o[ .. gz[zB dkB ek eo? ;oho[ ..
26. Ibid., p. 858, gzvs ;{o Ssqgs okik Grs pokpo nto B e'fJ ..
27. Ibid., p. 730, i'r[ B fyzEk i'r[ B vzv? i'r[ B G;w uVkJhn?/ .. i'r[ B wz[dh w{zfv w[vkfJn? i'r[ B f;zCh tkJhn? .. nziB wkfj fBoziB ojhn? i'r i[rfs fJt gkJhn? ..




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