It is a pleasure to write an introduction for a collection of essays on Sikhism by a scholar of Dr Muthu Mohan’s eminence. The author needs no introduction, for, with the large number of his articles on Sikh philosophy published in leading journals, he is a familiar figure in Sikh academic circles. He has a rich background of Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and is very conversant with Communist thinking, of which he acquired first hand knowledge during his long stay in the U.S.S.R. For the last few years he has been working as Head, Guru Nanak Devji Chair at the Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, where his achievements in teaching and research could be the envy of any scholar. As a result of his efforts, Sikhism is one of the major disciplines taught at the graduate and postgraduate level in this university. Besides classroom teaching, he has organised a number of seminars on Sikhism with participation of top scholars from the North as well as South.
Dr Muthu Mohan sees a lot in the teachings of the Gurus, that has a universal relevance. In order that Tamilians could benefit from this source, Dr Muthu Mohan has launched a project to translate selected Sikh literature into Tamil. This will certainly lead to better understanding of Sikh religion in Tamilnadu, and development of a spiritual kinship with Punjab. As a result of his efforts, I can see Madurai coming up as a major centre of Sikh Studies in the South in the decades to come.
The present volume is a collection of carefully selected essays dealing with different aspects of Sikh philosophy. In the first essay on Integrative Monotheism of the Sikh Gurus he concludes “that with the concept of reality of world, practice and social action, one really identifies the religion of the Sikh Gurus as a monotheism, not discriminating the world and earthly life, but integrating them with the idea of divinity.”
The second essay is a very interesting discussion of the Problem of One and Many. After giving the different views of earlier schools of Indian philosophical thought, the author explains how the Gurus steered clear of the absolutism of both the extremes. “The one becomes the law of many (hukm), the substratum of various modes, the one immanently and all pervadingly living in many, causing them to unite into a system. It presents us a concrete picture of reality with all its complexities, richness, variety and diversity, and also with underlying ruptures and unity ......... Positively expressing, the relationship of love is the uniting principle of the system. Nonaggressive and nondestructive interrelationship among the particular moments is presupposed for the successful functioning of the system. One creating the many and the many becoming one also guarantee dynamism to the whole system.” “Is not the Khalsa designed by the Tenth Guru, the embodiment of these principles of love, justice, dynamism and unity ?” the author asks.
The third chapter is a brilliant exposition of the Sikh Conception of God, as described in the Mul Mantra. God is immanent in His creation, and as Creator, is also transcendent ‘like the lotus which resides in water, yet keeps itself untouched by it’.
The fourth chapter deals with the Concept of Man in Sikhism, who recognises the Will of God and carries it out, living in perfect harmony with nature, expressing his love through altruistic deeds. “It needs to be mentioned that the earlier traditions, even when they subscribed to universal liberation, did not include social participation and struggle for social justice, as their essential aspects. But Sikhism includes them, and it is the distinguishing mark of Sikhism. A Sikh is pious in his religiosity, active in social life, aware of justice, and he is responsive to any injustice done to any one. It is this supreme and difficult ideal, which the Sikh Gurus in all their humanist zeal have given to their Sikhs.”
The fifth chapter deals with the Patterns of Search for Justice in Sikhism. With belief in ‘One Father, and we are His children’, Sikhism denounces caste system and all forms of injustice. “At one level, the Sikh Gurus land on family as a metaphor of their social ideal. However, the ideals of the Sikh Gurus find their completion and fulfillment in the Khalsa.”
The sixth essay elaborates the Sikh Social Ideal. Caste system on the one hand, and renunciation suggested by Jainism, Buddhism and later a few unorthodox Hindus sects (Gorakh Nath Yogis, Siddhas, etc.), on the other, are categorically rejected. The former is unjust and the latter life-negating. Individualism is also decried as haumain. It has been identified as the greatest malady of man, a wall which divides man from man and every individual from the whole. Haumain (egoism or I-am-ness) has to yield place to Naam (Consciousness of the Immanent) with constant endeavour. Sikhism, thus “......... builds a non-dichotomic system of man’s being-in-a-world-with-others. It resists any form of suppression of the other. The Reality is perceived as dynamic to establish justice and to resist the evil of dichotomy. Sikhism really poses an alternative social ideal to the modes living history has witnessed.”
In the seventh chapter Sikhism and Modernity, the author explains that Sikhism with its definition of religion which includes not only metaphysics but also active earthly life, its concept of reality of world and meaningfulness of living, its democratic basis, social equality, and its critical spirit, has no conflict with modernity or even post-modern thinking. Its emphasis on love, universal brotherhood of man, justice, equality and other eternal values makes it a faith that will endure for all times, immune to the onslaught of modernity and materialism under which orthodox postulates of some medieval faiths are crumbling.
In the last chapter, the author points out that Sikhism is most favourably disposed to interreligious dialogue. Sikhism preaches no dogmatism or exclusive claims to truth. Guru Amar Das says :
jgqu jlµdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwir [[
ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir [[
“ The world is on fire :
O God, Save it in Thy mercy :
Through which ever door it comes unto Thee,
Save it that wise, pray”.
M. 3, G.G.S., p. 853
In his brief collection of essays, Dr Muthu Mohan has provided a very lucid exposition of the basic tenets of Sikh philosophy. Very few other non-Sikh scholars have used the analytical tools with such dexterity to bring out the beauty of the teachings of the Gurus. With this anthology, the author has made a most significant contribution to understanding of this great faith.
Institute Of Sikh Studies
February 6, 1997
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