EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY OF SRI GURU ARJAN DEV JI
Guru Arjan Dev ji, the fourth successor to Guru Nanak ji, was installed as the fifth Guru of the Sikh community by his Grandfather on August 31, 1518 at Goindwal, when he showered his blessing saying, ‘ਦੋਹਿਤਾ ਬਾਣੀ ਕਾ ਬੋਹਿਥਾ’. Guruship was bestowed on to Guru Arjan Dev ji exclusively on the basis of merit.
As an educationist, Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s biggest contribution has been the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib. He took upon himself the colossal work of including the hymns of five gurus, 15 Bhaktas, 4 devotee Sikhs and 11Bhats. He himself contributed 2218 hymns to the Adi Granth. He set all these hymns to 30 musical measures:
ਉਗਵਣਹੁ ਤੈ ਆਥਵਣਹੁ ਚਹੁ ਚਕੀ ਕੀਅਨੁ ਲੋਆ ॥
From east to west, He illuminates the four directions.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 968
In the above lines taken from the Guru Granth Sahib, Rai Balvand says that through Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev ji spread the light of knowledge in all four directions.
In the view of Guru Arjan Dev ji, education is the best way through which one can cleanse one’s mind. Through education, man gets spiritual enlightenment and darkness of ignorance is removed. Education helps to reveal the Ultimate Reality to man. Such knowledge epitomizes intellectual and spiritual development. When one is in tune with God, there remains no fear, hatred, greed or lust. Man then exists in a state of lasting peace and bliss.
The Guru was of the view that education should be a tool for all round development of man, be it spiritual, intellectual, moral, social, cultural or physical. Guru Arjan Dev ji favored a life of action and discouraged the life of a recluse or an ascetic. Honest labor according to him, activated the brain, developed social qualities, made an individual independent and took him nearer God.
Guru Arjan encouraged his followers to live in peace, harmony and unity. Guru Granth Sahib, as compiled by him contains compositions of the various saints from diverse backgrounds.
The Guru came up with Bavan Akhari, through which children were to be taught the gurmukhi alphabets. These were idioms elaborating the teachings of Gurus, which would make it easier for the children to learn the gurmukhi alphabets.
ਗਗਾ ਗੋਬਿਦ ਗੁਣ ਰਵਹੁ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਜਪਿ ਨੀਤ ॥
Chant the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe with each and every breath; meditate on Him forever.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 254
Guru Arjan Dev ji encouraged the study of Guru Granth Sahib among his pupils. He favored the development of literary skill among his followers. In his view this was one of the ways in which one could immerse himself in remembrance of God. He was of the view that knowing the scriptures of other religions was also important for comprehensive educational development.
Guru Arjan Dev ji understood the importance of trade and commerce. Keeping that in mind he made mathematics a part of the curriculum. His followers traded in horses in Kabul and Kandahar and he supported the flourishing 52 trades in Amritsar which was later developed into a commercial center of great importance.
Printing Press was yet to be invented at the time of the fifth Guru. Copies of Guru Granth Sahib were written in hand and distributed among the public. Thus, Guru Arjan Dev ji encouraged the art of calligraphy so that the best quality copies of the Granth Sahib could be obtained.
The fifth Guru very well understood that the Mughals did not understand the language of peace. He encouraged his son (Guru) Hargobind to get military training so that the tyrants could be dealt with bravely when the situation so demanded.
Guru Sahib also promoted the celebration of festivals, observing important events and organization of fairs so that children could learn more about the Sikh culture and tradition.
Guru Arjan Sahib believed that it is only through the efforts of the Guru that ignorance among people can be removed and the true purpose of life realized. The Guru helps man to walk on the righteous path and achieve freedom from the cycle of re-incarnation. The Guru helps to remove ignorance from the mind of the people. By enlightening them with the truth, the Guru blesses the people with the most precious wealth in the world. Anxiety, fear and doubt existing in the mind of man are removed, when the Guru initiates man to the spiritual path without any discrimination of the basis of caste, colour or creed.
The Guru believed in the importance of the written word and accorded the written word in the Adi Granth, the status of the Guru. The importance of keeping company of pious people was no less in his mind. He knew that such company removes ignorance, ego is lost and one starts to lead an immaculate life-style.
A careful study of Guru Arjan Dev ji’s bani reveals that, a disciple ever remains in love and awe of his Guru. A true disciple is one who is fully attuned to Guru’s word. He is dedicated to the spiritual teachings of his Guru. He is a seeker of the truth. He involves himself in sewa i.e. in the service the society. A disciple has great reverence for the Guru. He unconditionally surrenders himself to the Guru. Soon comes a time when there exists no difference between the Guru and the disciple.
Guru Arjan Dev ji nurtured the idea of a disciplined life-style among his followers. He wanted them to discipline their physical, mental and spiritual faculties. He suggested that they start their day with kirtan and katha, then go for work and in the evening again come back to the Gurudwara for katha, kirtan and debates and discussions of issues related to the community. A spirit of quest and query so essential for the development of man as an awakened being was meticulously encouraged.
In Sukhmani Sahib Guru Arjan Dev ji talks of Brahm-Gaini. According to him, Brahm-Gaini is a person who has passed all the tests put forward by God. Such a person has attained the state of spiritual enlightenment. Brahm-Giani is not affected by mammon. He is free from sins and loves all those who are around him. He remains calm and unruffled in all situations. Brahm-Gaini possesses divine knowledge. He is humble and kind. No one can fathom his value or guage his greatness.
Guru Arjan Sahib taught his followers the organizational skill by practical example. He deputed his followers called Masands to collect voluntary revenue, called Daswandh which was to be used in the community welfare projects.
On account of the sacred compositions preserved here in the form of Guru Granth Sahib installed at Darbar Sahib and the presence of scholars, artists, blessed souls and sages in the town, sessions for discussion and dialogue , lectures and expositions were in plenty , and centres for learning and training of all types were set up . Teaching of the sacred lore and the skill of wielding the weapons, the art of architecture and classical music (kirtan), all kept evolving side by side. The Sikh community had picked up the rendering of voluntary labor of love i.e. sewa during the construction of Harmandir Sahib. Such projects accelerated the process of cohesion among the Sikhs, developed mutual cordiality among them, removed differences and augmented the feeling of equality at congregations and the dining place. The city of Tarn Taran was set up and the service to the lepers was started there, cities like those became places where Sikh community got together to celebrate festivals and attend fairs.
Like his predecessors, Guru Arjan Dev Ji greatly understood the importance of the role of women in the making of a society. He was of the view that women must also participate in activities outside the house. He regarded them as guide for her children as also for the community at large. He supported the idea of women reading Gurbani in the Gurudwaras and to make hand written copies of the Gurbani. He opened education centers for women and girls which were attached to the Gurdwaras.
Guru Arjan taught the greatest lesson to humanity through his martyrdom. On the one hand, the Sikh race was soon going to be evolved into a martial race , on the other hand his followers learnt that no power on earth can deter a man from his spiritual beliefs. He made the Sikhs realize that those truly devoted to God could never be harmed:
ਜਿਸੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਪੀਰ ॥
Pain does not even approach that person, within whose mind God abides.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1102
Guru Sahib inspired a strong faith in the Almighty among his followers. A firm belief in the fearless and all loving God made the Sikhs all loving and fearless. As a result the Sikhs were always ready when it came to standing up for the truth, humanity and fighting against atrocities of the tyrant.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All