Khalsa: The Personification of Teachings of Sikhism
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, never advocated the path of Bhakti in isolation, by remaining unconcerned with the political conditions of the country on which the life of the common man depended.1 Sikhism urges man to divinize the whole of humanity on this earth by transforming mind, life and matter, through a conscious effort and will, and with the aid of the spiritual technique of the Nam Simran, which is capable of taking along the whole psyche of man to a level of existence, undreamt of before, where pure knowledge, limitless harmony and divine bliss would prevail. This indeed would be a society of godlike beings. The ultimate purpose of the divine impulse of creation is the establishment of this society of human deities in the terrestrial spheres of the universe. The Sikh Gurus believe that the supreme duty of man is to make an all out effort towards this divine goal.2 For the Sikh Gurus, the concept of God (True emperor) or spirituality is incomplete without an essential and inalienable combination of the spiritual life with the empirical life. Spirituality and its attributes have to be expressed and enrich the latter. Empirical life, without drawing moral substenance from the former, remains egoistic, chaotic and barren. In Guru Nanak’s system, God himself is engaged in the socio-spiritual development of man, He wants spiritual to be the agent of his Altruistic will.3
To the Sikhs, religion is not a form of worship but a way of life, a vehicle for the transformation of society to its new role. Religion is a passion in which each Sikh must imbibe the spirit of service and unity, it is not something separate from the other aspects of human life. A Sikh cannot be religious in worship and immoral in conduct. Religion covers the entire domain of human life, whether it is family life, business activity, relations with the government or communication with God. Religion therefore works as a light house for the improvement of life. To the Sikh Gurus, religion was synonymous with the philosophy, the struggle and movement for the betterment of humankind. Sikh religion is essentially different from others as it encircles the whole of life in its different phases and tries to improve it rather than condemn it.4
The Sikh Gurus went to the extent of sacrificing their lives to register their support for human rights and freedom of conscience. The whole programme of the Sikh Gurus was aimed at promoting righteousness and freedom, restoring social and political justice through spiritual regeneration and revolutionary ideals. Guru Arjun, as the first Sikh martyr, gave practical lesson in never surrendering to insolvent might, and Guru Tegh Bahadur defied unjust, violent and forcible conversions of those not even belonging to His own faith. The all-loving, non violent Guru Tegh Bahadur, Ninth Sikh Guru, transformed himself into Guru Gobind Singh in the same way as Guru Arjan, fifth Sikh Guru, the embodiment of love, humility and sacrifice, had transformed himself into Guru Hargobind Sahib, sixth Sikh Guru.5 It was only a change of role necessitated by circumstances and not a change in the basic philosophy.
Sikh Gurus did not believe in separation of politics from religion. They were of the view that if politics was a dirty game it was all the more necessary to purify it by the touch of religion. Running away from the battle of life was only a cowardly and a selfish escape and therefore unholy. If a man was drowning in a pond, someone must enter it to save his life. They had secularised religion itself i.e. the performance of secular duties became a part of the religion. For Guru Gobind Singh, his politics had become his religion in action. The two swords of secular and spiritual power had been worn.6 There was no contradiction between the twin ideals of soldering and saintliness. In fact, they were complementary to each other. Spiritual and moral values had to be protected with military strength, if they were to be saved for humanity. In the same way, military strength needed to be guided and directed by goals set by high moral and spiritual values, otherwise there was a likelihood of its being misused.7
Guru Gobind Singh was born with a Divine mission. He says in his autobiography, “The objective of my coming to this world is dharma (righteousness) and the Guru (Lord) has sent me for this purpose. Spread religion everywhere and throw down the knaves. For this very purpose, I have taken birth. O Saints, this much you should understand well. I am born to spread religion, emancipate the saints and to wipe out the whole lot of wicked ones.”8 He had inherited the Divine mission from his predecessor Sikh Gurus to strive for equitable, egalitarian and just socio-political and economic order.
The creation of the Khalsa is the culmination of Guru Nanak’s genius. The Amritam in initiation ceremony of the Tenth Master completely transmuted the men drawn from low to high castes of India, drawn from Hindus or the Muslims.
The Khalsa does not mean a particular community in a particular form in a particular region, it rather means a commonwealth of enlightened human beings at a higher level of spiritual growth of Divine brotherhood of those who in the language of Guru Nanak are Sachiar (embodiment of truth and truthful living) and in the language of Guru Gobind Singh are Jujhar (the socially committed and active for righteous cause). Here was a new revolutionary concept in the history of the world. Divinity in humanity and humanity in divinity.9 The laying of the firm foundation of the Khalsa is a wonderful example of his superb circumspection. So firm was the foundation of the edifice of the Khalsa, that the Imperial swords and the guns, the Imperial power and glory could not check its growth. Every man who became a Sikh of the Guru, was infused with such mettle that he thought nothing of battling with death, of sacrificing his life for his faith and good of others; Guru Gobind Singh turned cowards into courageous men, traders into tough fighters and the down trodden into doughty warriors. His men were not only great warriors in the battle field, but were also men of integrity, humane, gentle, full of love for all, God-loving, open and truthful.10
Khalsa establishes harmony between earthly and saintly spheres. Khalsa is the sum total of Godly qualities. He is the vanguard of spiritual and temporal concerns of mankind. Khalsa is not only authorised but also has responsibility and adequate competence to commence the armed struggle i.e. Dharamyudh against all kinds of tyranny and injustice. Guru Gobind gave him Kirpan i.e., sword to protect the weak, demoralized and disadvantaged people. Kirpan is a gift from the Guru. It is not an instrument of offence or defence; it is mind made intense by the love of the Guru. The Sikh is to have a sword like mind. It is the visible sign of an intensely sensitive soul.11
Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa gave a new dimension to Brotherhood of Mankind. He decided to institute a new order of universal brotherhood, imbued with devotion to Akal, filled with the ideal of self sacrifice for the welfare of others. Such an order would demolish the existing barriers of caste and creed, high and low, man and woman, and pave the way for the advent of nationalism and bring unity. It would also help in bringing about the down fall of the tyrannical foreign rule.12
The order of the Khalsa is a party of voluntary members selected based on ideology and strict psychological and character qualifications relating to disposition and behaviour patterns, overriding geographical, racial and sex limitations and pledged to establish a global society of human brotherhood, the basis of which is spiritual and the ground of which is material abundance. For this purpose, the order of the Khalsa aspires to achieve control of political power.13 The order of the Khalsa is the first human society in the world-history, organised with the deliberate object of and pledged to bring about ecumenical human society, grounded in world culture, which represents a free and organicfusion of the various starands of the spiritual heritage of Man.14
The creation of Khalsa was in fact an epoch-making event in the religious and political history of the country. It marked the beginning of the rise of the new people, destined to play the role of a hero against all oppression and tyranny. The severities of the high caste people over their brethren, the shudras, were set at naught as soon as one joined the ranks of the Khalsa, where all were equal and ready to render one another every help and useful service. Their only difficulty lay in destroying the organised oppression of tyrannical despotism of the Mughal Government. It was a gigantic task for the small community of the Khalsa. Under the direction of Guru Gobind Singh, Khalsa took up arms and the results were most surprising. The people, lowliest of the low, who had lived for centuries under complete servility now turned into doughty warriors, the praises of whose physique and valour were sung by the whole world including their bitterest foes.15
Guru Gobind Singh knew very well that raising arms in hands for amelioration of humankind is a Dharamyudh (Righteous War). He had inherited the idea of Dharamyudh from Guru Nanak Dev. Guru Nanak said, “If thou earnest to play the game of love, step on to my path, with thy head placed on the palm of thy hand. And, once thou set thy feet on this path, then lay down thou thy head and mind not public opinion”.16 He also said, “Fruitful is the dying of the brave persons, whose death is approved by the Lord. (Die for a good cause)”.17 Guru Arjan Dev had also said, “Accept thou death first, abandon the hope of life, and be the dust of the feet of all, then alone come thou to me.”18 The Khalsa were a people ready to sacrifice their all for the welfare of others and for their country and Dharma. They held life cheap before the ideals of love and universal brotherhood.
The aim of Khalsa was not to conquer a territory and establish a kingdom but to liberate society from the tyranny of the enemies of peace and to defend ‘Dharma’ and the rights of the people.19 Guru Gobind Singh decided that the time had arrived when ‘silent worshipers’ must convert themselves into ‘heroes who face the steel of their enemies’. They would not, of course, cease to be worshipers; they would be ‘Thy (i.e., God’s) heroes’. They would not ‘face the steel of their enemies’ for selfish or aggressive purposes; they would fight to protect righteousness whenever it was threatened by tyrants, oppressors or evil-doers.20 He realized that he had to turn the emasculated people in Punjab into a new nation of soldier-cum-saints, strong in body, mind and soul, who could fight the tyranny of the rulers with faith and confidence. He aimed at turning these ignorant people into fearless soldiers and take them away from the shackles of orthodox religion.21 His aim was not to build an empire or to win transient glory for himself or his people, but to make the latter live a life of self-respect and honour. His mission was to enable man to know himself, recognize the divinity, and, instead of plying a mean, grovelling existence, to walk on the path of life with his head held high, in dignity and freedom.22
The Sikh Gurus envisaged new social, political and economic order. Khalsa is a saviour of humankind and a pioneer of a spiritual democracy and multicultural society. The Khalsa has crucial role to play in contemporary social, religious, political and economic crisis. The institution of Khalsa is a blueprint of new civilization in which there will be harmony, peaceful coexistence and elimination of all types of subjugations. The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the institution of Khalsa provides a ray of hope for better and promising future.
1. Gurdev Singh Hansrao. Ideology of Sikh Gurus, Hansrao Publishers, Ropar, 1990. p. 66.
2. Kapur Singh. “The Sikh Thought” Daljeet Singh and Kharak Singh (ed.) Sikhism Its Phiosophy and History, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, 1997. pp. 87-88.
3. Daljeet Singh. “Sikh Theory of Evolution: Haumain and Problem of Hermeneutics” in Daljeet Singh and Kharak Singh (ed.) Op. cit., p. 77.
4. J. R Das. Economic Thought of The Sikh Gurus, National Book Organisation, New Delhi, 1988. p.57.
5. Narain Singh. Guru Gobind Singh Re-Told, Narain Singh, Amritsar, 1966. p. 377.
6. Ibid., p. 256.
7. Fauja Singh. “Development of Sikhism Under Sikh Gurus” in Fauja Singh et. all. (ed.) Sikhism, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1969.p. 33.
8. Jodh Singh and Dharam Singh. Sri Dasam Granth Sahib.Vol. 1, Sikh Hertiage Publications, Patiala, 2006. pp. 160-161.
9. Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia. The Doctrine and Dynamics of Sikhism, Publications Bureau, Punjabi University, Patiala, 2001. pp. 21-22.
10. Daulat Rai. Sahibe Kamal Guru Gobind Singh, Suriderjit Singh (tr.) Gurmat Sahit Chartitable Trust, Amritsar, 2008. 157-158.
11. Puran Singh. The Spirit of Born People, Director, Language Department, Chandigarh, 1970, p. 111.
12. Daulat Rai. Op. cit., p. 94.
13. Kapur Singh.”Sikhs and Communism” in Madanjit Kaur and Piar Singh (ed.) Some Insights into Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 2000. p. 56.
14. Kapur Singh. Sikhism for Modern Man, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 2006. p. 65.
15. Hari Ram Gupta. History of Sikhs. Vol. I, Munshiram Manohar Lal Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2008. p. 281.
16. Shri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1412.
17. Ibid., p. 579.
18. Ibid., p. 1102.
19. Gurdeep Kaur. Op. cit., pp. 50-51.
20. A. C. Banerjee. The Sikh Gurus And The Sikh Religion, Munshiram Manohar Lal Pvt. Ltd., delhi, 1983. pp. 298-299.
21. Srinder Singh Johar. Op. cit., p. 69.
22. Shamsher Singh. Guru Gobind Singh, Modern Sahit Academy, Amritsar, 1966. p. 61.
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