DEFINING THE OBVIOUS
In the total span of about five hundred years of Sikhism, the basics have yet to be finally settled. Instead of coming closer together, the scholars want to flaunt their individual opinions with all the force of their arguments to register their presence, thereby creating more confusion instead of sincerely resolving matters to find common grounds with other intellectuals.
In the middle of the Twentieth Century, a group of dedicated scholars was able to decide, after long deliberations, the entire gamut of the rehat maryada, the code of conduct, which has been universally adopted by the community. Honesty of purpose and selfless commitment of those scholars was the main reason for that achievement. Generations of early Sikhs who took up the charge of Panthic affairs in those most difficult times of post-Guru period, in the 18th century, show the steadfast hold of Sikh philosophy on them and their sincere adoption of the conventions and codes which have stood the test of all times. It was possible because those intellectuals held the Panth supreme over their individual preferences and personal egos.
It is all the more desirable now to solve the pending matters, be it the definition of a Sikh, the status of the totality of Dasam Granth, the Rag Mala controversy or the mushrooming of dera culture with differing dogmas, to which small groups of dissenters adhere in total negation of the main body and spirit of the Panth. The reason for such a state of affairs is obvious. The limited vision of such votaries, the dissenters due to lack of study and exploration of the Sikh ethos as propounded by Guru Nanak and the succeeding Masters have more of a self-centered agenda to usurp the mantle of leadership and unmitigated appetite for pseudo-approbation and cheap admiration of the flock with easy flow of prosperity, keep the discord simmering on all vital issues. Ironically, we have not been able, so far, to settle the date of birth of our founder, Guru Nanak. It only shows that we prefer to stick to our own interpretations, our own customs and traditions in utter disregard of the facts, a point repeatedly demonstrated by Guru Nanak at various centers of Hinduism and Islam to uphold the truth at any cost over traditions based on fiction, which carry the germs of superstitions.
It will lead us nowhere. The Sikhs are universally proud of their assertion of truth as God. But being truthful means taking a courageous stand to correct the misconceived fiction by true facts. This realization should develop a Panthic coordination to settle the matters of any dispute. We must understand that as the community spreads far and wide, with more view-points of different groups of people, large or small, it will become more difficult to adopt common decisions as time passes.
It is not only in our case that we find a lack of homogeneity on definitions. It has happened in all communities. In the life time of Buddha, schism had appeared to the extent of repeated efforts to eliminate him, and the various conclaves which were called at intervals of three to five centuries after the Buddha to resolve differences in the Buddhist canon only led to splitting the sangha into irrevocable streams of antagonistic dogmatism. It has happened in the case of Jainism, which split into two opposites and also Hinduism with its crop of differing ideologies. There are more than 250 diverse Christian nomenclatures existing today, unable to share a single platform and so is the rivalry in the Islamic sects hard to reconcile, prone to periodic violence and bloody clashes. These differences in the doctrinal interpretations have reached the point of no compromise and gross intolerance so that there is frequent bloodshed and seething hatred among the people of the same faith, each group of adherents claiming to be the real votary of his religion.
If we do not find a common ground and come to terms at the earliest, we may end up in the future in similar turmoil and commotion. As time passes, views become rigid and unreasonably stiff. People with little learning assume finality on issues bigger than their capacity, and hold their ego and prestige of more value than scholarship. It happens that feeble and frail people at the helm of stewardship consider it smart to push the unresolved matters under the carpet. The need of the hour is to call for a conclave to sort out differing opinions with sincerity and equanimity. Difference of opinion is a healthy sign that people are rising above their narrow visions to reach decisions, beyond their emotions and are searching for accuracy and truthful resolution. What is required is a coordination committee of cool and visionary persons with deep study to find solutions as has happened on the rehat maryada which was a much more difficult issue to resolve. Small pockets of dissenters will, no doubt, continue to exist but it is the adoption by a majority decision that carries weight.
Who is a Sikh? Truly, it is still easily a manageable difference of opinion so that anybody who believes in the ten Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib and none else, knows the Mulmantra, may rightfully claim to be a Sikh. However, the management of the Sikh institutions and the Sikh Gurdwaras has to be, strictly, with the chosen elite, the Khalsa, on the basis of how Guru Gobind Singh defined the Sikh, by proclaiming the joint sovereignty of Guru Granth and Guru Khalsa, with the ultimate cherished goal of all denominations of the Sikhs to partake khande-ki-pahul. That alone would converge one and all into a consolidated whole. And yet, he ordained the advent of the Guru Granth for all denominations of Sikhs, ‘Sabh sikhan ko hukam hei...’ Let us remember that there were many sects and cults which had come into being, drifting into directionless wilderness like the present scenario: a situation, confronted by not only the Tenth Master but also when two score and more pseudo-claimants contested Guruship, till Guru Tegh Bahadur was discovered. And even earlier than that, the disruptive role of Prithi Chand and his progeny which created enough confusion. The Panth was hopelessly divided in its spiritual and societal outlook, into cults of Baba Sri Chand, of the various Sodhi clans, even of the various masands, each propagating their own ideology of the Sikh philosophy. It was the genius of Guru Gobind Singh, the right person at the right time who struck the all-abiding final solution, to eradicate all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, all hesitation, the dithering of the fair-weather fence-sitters and the two-mindedness of the not-fully-committed. He steered conclusively the course of the straight, courageous and decisive path of the Sikh values for all time to come. Today, we are floating in thin air, indecisive of any solutions. Others are nibbling at our roots while we dither and vacillate on the basic definitions and do not practice what we preach.
The Tenth Master gave a call to all denominations of Sikhs to come into the fold of the Khalsa baptism. Yet, he responded to all sections in the sangats, wherever he went or wrote to propagate the values of the khande-ki-pahul, and administered it freely to thousands and lakhs who flocked to him. His parting message to ‘Sabh Sikhan’ should be understood as a call to all, including the non-baptized sections among the Sikhs. These segments may be classified as Sikh sympathizers, from whom new generations crop up for baptism by the sword. These are our nurseries or could be activated as such by our earnest missionary activities. These are our forgotten brothers-in-arm whom we could not carry along because of our own deficient attitude. There are millions of Nanak-Prastan (whom we should look after with optimism), who are waiting to be reclaimed, who need encouragement from us, the directions and our zealous retrieving efforts.
Our people have from the very beginning faced aggressive opposition from both main religious orders, Hinduism and Islam. We have lost, due to their violent antagonism, our Gurus and their kin and thousands of Sikhs. The Sikhs of yore never lost heart or resolve in the face of all kinds of deception employed by forces inimical to the Panth. They maintained optimism with dignity and chardi kala, and never exhibited paranoia in grappling with the odds. What is needed is our unity and a vigorous drive to give a clear direction to the wayward sant-deras and our ill-informed preachers about the right spirit of Sikhism and also our values compared to the postulates of other religious creeds, to strengthen our defenses from within and have a clear understanding of our ethos. Instead of pleading and protesting about what others are doing or should not be doing, we have to qualify to be able to meet the challenge.
The situation is the same as heretofore, only the weapons have changed. Our arsenal now is Gur-Sabd. Guru Nanak says:
igAwn KVgu lY mn isau lUJY mnsw mnih smweI hy ] – Guru Granth Sahib, p 1022
And Bhagat Kabir gave the signal about things to come, some six hundred years ago:
dyKO BweI g´wn kI AweI AWDI ]
sBY aufwnI BRm kI twtI rhY n mwieAw bWDI ] – Guru Granth Sahib, p 331
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2009, All