SIKHISM AND THE THIRD MILLENNIUM MAN
We are just thirteen years into the third millennium and the issue of sustainable development and conservation of the ecology has reached serious proportions. We have made great progress and may have reached an advanced level of civilization but the moot question is what type of creature will man physically be to enjoy this civilized and progressive state of life? The human race has yet to reach its full potential. The human species has evolved socially, culturally and intellectually but has gone down physically. As a corollary it is now not only a question of man’s survival but the preservation of his physical prowess as well.
There are some anthropologists venturesome enough to predict the look of man ten thousand years, half a million years or even a million years hence. Alan Hoarse in his essay “The Physique of the Future” (page 41-42 in the book The Body, published by the Life Science Library) writes that scientists show a substantial amount of unanimity on the human physique of the future and offer sound reasons for their views. They present a rather pitiable picture of the man of the future – a high domed, top-heavy and spindly-legged creature. Hair will have vanished almost to the extinction point. Man will have a larger dome to allow room for a bigger brain. Jaws will become smaller due to the softer food to chew. One sign of this change is the increasing failure even today of our third molars - wisdom teeth - to show up. With smaller jaws – the nose may look larger. Unless we somehow return to strenuous life, warn the scientist, our bodies will be less muscular and the bones less massive. Legs may become more stick-like with less mass and strength, and the small toe may disappear entirely.
We are only accelerating this process by indulging in the regular destruction of our crop of beautiful hair. The thought of the unsightly man of the future, hairless, bald, a big forehead with a large nose, skinny and spindly is not only unpalatable but highly distressing as well. While we seem to have no apparent control of this slow march to the ruin of the human body, we can at least check the regular self-imposed destruction of our hair.
We always harp on our responsibility towards sustainable development and the need for conservation of the ecology of our planet. Parallel to the emerging crisis to our environment is the need to preserve the human body or to be more precise, the homo sapient heritage. It is in this context that Sikhism can play a major role. Keeping the human body intact in all its form; as God created Man, is the inherent creed of Sikhism. Man is already self-destructing his body and if we don’t protect our already frail human race, man’s physical decline will be even more imminent.
Sikhs are the only people who preserve their body in the perfect natural form by keeping a precious gift of nature, their hair, intact. If we study the anthropological history of the human race, we will learn that for the greater part our (Homo sapiens) approximately 400,000 years of existence, we have been keeping our hair unshorn. Though man’s presence on earth is attested to be as long as 2,000,000 years, the man, the homo sapiens – the primate species to which modern man belongs, made his appearance only about 4,00,000 to 4,50,000 years ago. The creature we call man first appeared in Africa during the early part of the geological epoch called the Pleistocene of the Great Ice Age.
Most mammals possess hair. It is one of the main characteristics that distinguishes them from other animals and enabled them to develop so far beyond their ancestors, the reptiles, and hence the relevance of hair cannot be belittled. Obviously it has very important physiological functions to perform. The first men were very hairy and this unshorn state was maintained till about 500 B.C. when the ancient Egyptians started shaving. Some people maintain that man is practically a hairless creature and the thin hairy coat of the major portion of his body is the result of phylo-genetic decline in the course of evolution, that hair today have become vestigial, it is just a rudimentary attachment that has lost its importance. This theory does not hold much truth. The need of a regular daily shave to eliminate our stubborn facial hair and the startling sight of heaps of shorn hair, in and around shaving saloons, is sufficient evidence of the hollowness of the ‘evolution theory’. The last two millenniums have seen a steady decline in the physique and virility of human beings due to the incessant zoological deforestation of the human body.
Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History makes the observation that the Sikh religion has the potential of ushering in a new and higher civilization in the third millennium which would be qualitatively different in its fundamental postulates from earlier civilizations including modern Western civilizations. One of these would be the culture of unshorn hair as a form of self-preservation of the human race.
Thus, Sikhism, which holds unshorn hair as sacred, is a reminder to mankind that the health of human body owes its robustness at least partly to the hair on the human body. This symbolic reminder, apart from Sikh value system, is a conribution, of Sikhism both to the human existence and its civilizational paradigm in the coming millennia.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All