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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh

 

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Civilizations and Religions with their Theories and Practices

Raghbir Singh

Civilizations and religions aim at separating the human beings, in thoughts and actions, from animals. Human being of today is estimated to be 175000 years old but his civilised life comprising of different stages is only 6000 years old when the Indus Valley/Harappa, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt Civilizations along with some well known religions like Judaism, Hinduism with Jainism and Buddhism as its subsidiaries, Christianity and Islam started showing their effects.  Religion determines the parameters of a civilization. For that matter they are inseparable. These two have jointly played a very useful role in making the human beings what they are today.

Hinduism is predominantly the religion of East Asia comprising of Indian subcontinent while Judaism, Christianity and Islam known as Semitic religions originated in the Middle East. Out of Hinduism and Semitic religions it is difficult to say which one is the older. Egypt and Indus areas which are geographically adjacent to each other are undoubtedly the cradles of all these religions as are the above mentioned four Civilizations.  Parts of the today’s world other than Africa, Middle East, Europe,  Russia, East Asia comprising Indian subcontinent and China  were not known at that time and there could be no question of any religion or civilization flourishing in them . Out of them Africa, for lack of any civilization, was known as a dark continent although first human being is supposed to have emerged there. These countries were later on developed as civilized Christian colonies by mostly the English and Spanish people. 

Hinduism which dates back to the later Stone Age (5500-2600) is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. It consists of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Srauta among numerous other traditions. Among practices it includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on karma, dharma, and societal norms. It is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs. It is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. It is often called the "oldest living major religion" in the world with about one billion followers. It is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.

Indus Valley / Harappa Civilization:  Bronze Age civilizations (3300–1300 BCE) were located in the North Western region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly present day Pakistan and North West India. Flourishing around the Indus River basin, the civilization extended East into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley and the upper reaches of Ganges-Yamuna Doab; it extended West to the Makran coast of Balochistan, North to North Eastern Afghanistan and South to Daimabad in Maharashtra. The civilization was spread over some 12,60,000 km, with a population of well over five million at its peak, making it the largest known ancient civilization. It is one of the world's earliest urban civilizations, along with its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.  Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multi-storied houses.

Judaism begins with an ethical monotheism:  belief that God is one, and concerned with the actions of humankind. Major source of difference between its groups is their approach to Jewish law. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more "traditional" interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and rabbis and scholars who interpret them.

Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and the purpose of existence of human beings is to love and serve God. For them Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed in earlier times at many places by Prophets including Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They maintain that the previous messages and revelations have been partially misinterpreted or altered over time, but consider the Arabic Qur'an to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of God.  Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam- Testimony, Prayer, Alms giving, Fasting in Ramdan and Pilgrimage to Mecca which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and of following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, providing guidance on multifarious topics from banking and welfare, to warfare and the environment. With about 1.57 billion followers or 23% of earth's population, Islam is the second-largest religion and perhaps, one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.

The relationship between Islam and Judaism is special and close. Both religions claim to arise from the patriarch Abraham. As fellow monotheists, Muslims view Jews as "people of the book", a term that Jews have subsequently adopted as a way of describing their own connection to the Torah and other holy texts. In turn, many Jews maintain that Muslims adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah-Prohibition of Idolatry,  Murder, Theft, Sexual immorality, Blasphemy, Eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive and Establishment of courts of law. Judaism also views Muslims as righteous people of God. They have interacted with Muslims since the 7th century when Islam originated and spread in the Arabian Peninsula, and many aspects of Islam's core values, structure, jurisprudence and practice are based on Judaism.  Muslim culture and philosophy have heavily influenced practitioners of Judaism in the Islamic world.

Classical Greek Athenian philosopher like Socrates, and his students Plato and Xenophon and his contemporary Aristophanes are Credited as the founders of Western philosophy in the sixth century BC. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric, and aesthetics.

Christianity was founded 2013 years back in the Levant region of the Middle East by Jesus of Nazareth who is prophesied in the Old Testament to be the Christ or chosen one of God. . In the 4th century it was successively adopted as the state religion by Armenia , Georgia ,the Aksumite Empire  and the Roman Empire. It became common in Europe in the Middle Ages and expanded throughout the world during Europe's Age of Exploration from the Renaissance onwards to become the world's largest religion. Throughout its history, Christianity has weathered persecutions, schisms and theological disputes that have resulted in many distinct churches.

The above narration of Judaism, Islam and Christianity brings out that God is one, incomparable, kind to its chosen people exhorting them to service Him. Seven Laws of Noah and five pillars of Islam are meant to improve the behaviour of the humans and establish civilized societies. Theoretically their approach is good but in practice all the three are internally divided into factions. Each one thinking superior to others tries to bring others under its Sceptre by all means including state power, conversions and persecution etc. Jews and Christians are liberal in outlook. Muslims are, however, feudal, backward and poor and consider their women folk as a commodity of pleasure especially in areas dominated by terror forces.  Population wise their being No. 1 and 2 in the world does not mean that their postulates attracted others. It is rather mostly because of state power, forceful conversions and persecution etc.

Hinduism no doubt believes obliquely in a central Power but its followers worship various deities, indulge in karam kands and believe in caste system and fate which are responsible for their backwardness and sectarian outlook. Even in modern time duo of Gandhi and Nehru supported the caste system. Gandhi went even to say that the caste system is God-made and Dalits are destined to serve the higher castes. Giving them equal status is against the will of God. Nehru says that it is due to the caste system that India has survived otherwise it would have been a small inland as an appendage of the British Empire. Hindus attitude towards their women folk is like that of Muslims. Hindu religion is heterogeneous too. Hindus too have many sects but they do not quarrel with each other as their beliefs are intermingled. Because of its caste system and sectarian outlook it could not spread beyond Indian subcontinent boundaries. India has never been politically a united single entity and its non-violence cult fed to the masses led to its subjugation by small groups of foreign plunderers who forced heavy conversions as Hindus preferred to retain their wealth than religion. 

In such situation when religious practices were being misused by the priests/ clerics in league with the ruling/moneyed classes, 15th century saw the emerging of another form of society in Punjab called Sikhs. Contributing to the concept of monotheism already widely accepted in the world but misused by Muslims and Hindus in Punjab the architect of this society Guru Nanak declared God as (pervading everywhere and in everything),  ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ  (Truth as its evergreen base), ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖ (Creator of the universe), ਨਿਰਭau (not afraid of any other  power being complete Sovereign), ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ  (malice towards none), ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ (not bounded by time and any cycle of birth and death), ਸੈਭੰ (independently self-made). ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ (He graces those who live truthful lives honourably with self confidence, no fear and malice). Sine qua non of this society are Liberalism, world brotherhood, Service with humility, living by honest labour, sharing fruits of labour with other needy persons, welfare of all with complete submission to the Will of God. Gurbani in Guru Granth Sahib lays the code of conduct for this Society which reveres it as Guru. According to Sikh faith God is accessible by all means.‘ ਜਗਤੁ ਜਲੰਦਾ ਰਖਿ ਲੈ ਆਪਣੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ॥ਜਿਤੁ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਉਬਰੈ ਤਿਤੈ ਲੈਹੁ ਉਬਾਰਿ॥ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਵੇਖਾਲਿਆ ਸਚਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ॥ਨਾਨਕ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਸੁਝਈ ਹਰਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਬਖਸਣਹਾਰੁ॥ (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 853) Sikhism does not believe in factionalism and if there are any factions like Deras etc. these are the creation of the State and its stooges whose pseudo faith in democracy is not for welfare of masses but to maintain their political hegemony over their own poor and other minorities. Sikhism does not believe in conversions, persecutions and other nefarious methods to increase their followers. A Sikh is of course concerned with the defence of his faith and for that matter wants to always remain armed,  help the victims of high handedness and go by the Code of Conduct based on the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.  It aims at creating a Sikh Society all over the world with love and service. Theory and Practices are the same

 

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