THE CONCEPT OF MAYA IN SIKHISM
The term maya which has continuously appeared in old religiousliterature has also been used frequently in the Gum Granth but with a meaning and import that are entirely different. Therefore, commentators well-versed in old literature and languages, while interpreting isolated verses in the Guru Granth, are quite likely to draw conclusions which are sometime completely opposed to Sikh doctrines. Fortunately, an over-all study of the Guru Granth, leaves one in no doubt about its message. Hence, for a correct understanding of the Sikh view it would be conducive first to trace the meaning of maya in traditional literature.
Maya in Traditional literature
The term maya comes from the root ma meaning 'to form', and indicates the power of a god or demon to deceive, to change form, to do trickery and magic and create illusions.1 Even the nature of Varuna, the lord of maya and rita is depicted as somewhat temperamental since at times he punishes even the innocent.2 The favourite Vedic god, Indra, also used this Mayic method to dupe his adversaries and create illusions3 as mentioned in the Rig Veda. The same idea of the divine nature concealing itself by illusion is contained in the Atharoa Veda.4 Though the word appears also in the Brahmanas,5 the doctrine of maya was developed only in Upanishads and their commentaries. In the thought of Yajnavalkya we have the beginning of maya or illusion theory6 about the empirical world. This idea was referred to as maya later in Svetasvatra Upanishad and accepted and amplified as the basis of Vedantic theory by Gaudapada and Shamkara.7 In the latter's philosophy, the universe is an illusion and an unreality, like a rope appearing a snake in the classical example. In order to maintain his monism, Brahman is regarded as the sole reality, knowledge of which alone is worth having. Brahm, by its power of maya, which neither 'is' nor 'is not', conceals itself, thereby down- grading the universe to an illusory and secondary level, knowledge of which is not real but is of a lower category.8 It is not our object to go into the details of this theory, but it is very relevant to our subject to indicate briefly its consequences concerning five important and allied problems of (i) life-affirmation, (ii) reality of the empirical world and optimistic interest in life and its development, (iii) ethics and its growth, (iv) free will and human responsibility, and (v) the idea of superman. We take them up seriatim.
With the obvious unreality of the universe of man, this philosophy, like many idealistic systems, established an Absolute or Brahman,9 that is almost as life-chilling and soulless as any materialism. Yajnavalkya and Svetasvatra Upanishad, the chief authors of the Upanishad doctrine of maya10, reduce Brahman to a mere conjurer,l1 unconcerned with the fate of his creatures. They are not given even the status of his handicrafts but are instead deemed as unreal and illusory and thus of no use and interest whatsoever to the Absolute; Brahman alone is real. The logic of this Mayic theory culminated ultimately in the negative anonymity of sat-chit-anand that can be described neither by existence nor by non-existence.12 Later, it was believed that even the description sat-chit-anand, is not quite appropriate and that it should be understood in the negative sense. Conceptually, it should not mean that He is nor that he is void, nor that He is not. Hence, instead of conceiving sat-chit-anand negatively, the only way out was to say that He is transcendent.13 In Keith's view Shamkara's philosophic attempt is merely a clever tour de force without final validity, its ingenuity being as great but no greater than its improbability.14 We are hardly concerned with the philosophic merit of the Brahman-cum-maya doctrine but it is evident that it leads to life-negation.
Secondly, the unreality and the negation of life having been proclaimed, it froze completely all interest in the physical world and release from it through knowledge of the Absolute, became the only worthwhile aim of human endeavour. The world being just a phantom play of puppets, it was natural for all thinking persons to turn their back on life and cease to have any zest and inspiration to improve human lot and to alleviate human misery. We find that Yajnavalkya, the initiator of the Mayic doctrine, himself left his wife and family, in search of unity with the Absolute.15 Evidently, as human activity was an entanglement in the snare laid by maya, all effort was directed to get out of the trap. 16 This secret doctrine, which was mainly developed by the forest hermits, ultimately prescribed a revealed social order and ideal of four ashramas.17 The first of studentship, the second of the house-holder, the third of vanprastha and departure to the forest, and the fourth of bhikshu or beggar, in search of identity with Brahman. This objective was to be achieved in the last two stages when thoughts for the present and all links with the delusive secular life were to be abjured as bondage.18 This Yogic struggle for total release and freedom from the empirical world, which in itself was neither free nor real was a torturous experience, militating against latent urges, instincts and psychic mechanisms of life, built during millions of years of its evolution. No wonder this doctrine of the consequent futility of all human endeavour destroyed the creativity of man's thought and spirit, thereby forcing him not only to still capacity for healthy reaction but also to accept and own the cancerous slavery of caste in the social field and the dehumanizing cult of elusive release from the bondage of maya in the spiritual field. We are not saying that the prescription was practised by the laity or significantly even by the upper classes. But we seek to emphasize the damage done by the doctrine as an ideal to be pursued by all subtle and searching souls. Historical evidence of the ruin caused to the spirit of man is overwhelming. Whatever one may say of the ritualistic practices of the Aryans, one thing is unanimously accepted that they were a people full of optimism, confidence and vigour, and who during their influx into this country established their superiority over the local population. Whatever be their failings in their religious beliefs and practices, their love of the joys of life and this-worldliness are not in doubt,19 so much so that a very large majority of the Rig Vedic hymns were composed in order to praise and propitiate the gods and obtain from them material gifts of food, cattle, long life, progeny and victory over their enemies. Even the shackles of caste had not been formed till then and the institution was referred to only in the last mandala and a later hymn of the Rig Veda.20 And what a contrast that by the period of upanishads and Vedantism, the doctrine of maya had its full toll in sapping their vitality and turning their thoughts into arid and dismal pessimism.21 The supreme objective of unity with Brahman being attainable through cognition, all secular activity, good or bad, had to be given up, being illusory and an impediment in the achievement of the only useful goal. All this caused in the Indian mind an utter contempt of this world and life.22 This reckless disregard of social well-being led to an increasing rigidity in the caste system, causing a serious deterioration of the position of vaishas and sudras23 and also of women who in course of time came to be classed with them.24 Truly, the authors of Vedic Age complain of the spiritual barreness of people in the Upanishadic age.25
The full effect of the doctrine of maya and unreality of the cosmos is demonstrated by the glaring contrast between the following hymns of the Rig Veda asking for happiness, gifts and success in battle, and the morning mantram prescribed by Shamkara for mature students on way to union with Brahma :
1. From the Rig Veda
O Usha ! shine with shimmering radiance; O daughter of heaven bringing us ample happiness, as you show your light upon the daily sacrifice ! Yet accept our hymns to bestow on us gifts in token of your satisfaction. O Usha, with brilliant luster !
By the bow we'll win the cattle, by the bow the battle; by the bow shall we win the mighty struggles; the bow destroys the enemy. By the bow shall we conquer the regions.26
2. Extracts from Mantram
I am not a combination of the five elements. I am neither body, nor sense, nor what is in the body. I am not the ego-function. I am not born, how can there be birth or death for me? I am not the vital air; how can there be either hunger or thirst for me ? Etc. I am not the doer. How can there be bondage or release for me? etc.
Owing to ignorance, the rope appears to be a snake; owing to ignorance of the self, the transient state arises of the individualized, limited phenomenal aspect of the Self. The rope becomes a rope when the false impression disappears, etc.
Thirdly is the question about the influence of this doctrine on the development of ethics. In the Rig Vedic period, Varuna was supposed to be the only god of morality. Even Varuna, the god of maya, as we have already seen, is more the god of rita the law of the regularity of the physical world, than of morality, since he is capricious enough to punish even the innocent, and good conduct is no security against his wrath.27 Indra, the chief and most respected god of the Rig Veda, to whom the largest number" (one fourth out of about a thousand) of its hymns, are addressed,28 is more known for Indrajala, a synonym for Mayic tricks, than for ethical conduct. 29 It is argued, probably for these reasons, that neither in the thought of Vedas nor of Brahmanas is there any basis of or serious concern for sound ethics and orality.30 This appears especially true of the thought of Brahmanas which even the authors of Vedic India' find comparatively undignified. Keith who has made a careful and exhaustive study of the Upanishads concludes that their ethical content is negligible and valueless.31 It is correct that the aim of the authors of Brahmanas was anything but ethical but unfortunately the doctrine of Brahman in the Upanishads hardly improves the ethical situation.32
In fact, it was not accepted by the authors of Upanishads to prescribe a positive ethics for man, as it would amount to a recognition of the reality of the empirial world and denial of the unity of the Absolute, thereby controverting the very basis of their doctrine. Hence, by the sheer force of their own logic, the Upanishads made morality devoid of any value and meaning,33 Obviously, as morality was not even the concern of Vedantic philosophers, none of them cared to attack the monstrous evil of caste and other rituals,34 which in a way were rather recognised. Thus the social system remained static and stagnant as evidenced by the position of caste and women.35 It rather gave sanction to the status quo and success, howsoever achieved, was approved because of the fatalism generated by the doctrine.36 The same doctrine was made a ground for complete disregard of the fate of individuals who were a deluding product of the cosmic play of Maya.37 Even Yudhishtra's wife, while discussing with her husband his unaccountably bad fate in this world, came to the conclusion that God in His Maya and whims just plays with the fate of individuals in this life. 38
Let us now consider the result of this doctrine on the idea of individual development and responsibility in life. Logically, a view which considers all empirical world as second rate, would not seek to bother about developments in life except as on way to merger with the Brahman. And this is exactly what happened. We have already seen that Yudhishtra's wife came to the belief that God treated the individual capriciously and without consideration. In this view39-40 the cosmic play virtually de-humanizes and downgrades the individual personality. It has really no contribution to make by way of self-expression and self- discovery, a path opposed to the pursuit of union with the Brahman, which, in turn, needs annihilation of the human personality. In short, man was at every step a pitiable target of mockery by maya.41 In theory and practice, this doctrine fully absolved man of any moral or other responsibility because he was without any significance and reality, a mere bubble in the Mayic play.42 In whatever faint form it was, the Karmic law had tended to introduce an element of personal initiative for the good. But, unfortunately, the logical fatalism of this doctrine negated the practical incentive coming from the Karmic philosophy.43 Under the Brahman-maya theory the self as individual was never recognised as real and consequently the self could have no say or responsibility in doing good or evil, the real actor being the Mayic Brahman.44
The above gives a picture of the negation of the idea of human personality and responsibility and of its' capacity for any meaningful growth and expression into fruitful institutions of all kinds. Such a thing could only lead to the general devastation of the human spirit.45
From the ideal of the pursuit of unity with Brahman, an argument could be adduced that this path enjoined the bracing up of human personality and its ethical growth and for that end moral living was not only recommended but also practised. It would, therefore, be extremely relevant to consider the idea of Jivan mukta, which was the ideal for subtle souls to attain in the last two recommended stages (Vanprastha and Sanyas) of man's life. The means and methods prescribed for it are revealing and significant, as the basis of all of them is this doctrine and the delusive character of the empirical world, the spell of which one has to transcend.46
In search of this ideal, the first step to be taken as indicated already, is to leave the world and its entanglements including one's kith and kin as was done by Yajnavalkya.47
And in reaching the final stage of Jivan mukta, these Mayic and deceptive ideas about God have to be completely discarded.48 In fact the bliss attained on way to the final stage of Jivan Mukta is the last and the subtlest trap laid by maya which has to be escaped. For, in the above feeling about God or in the act of beholding God, there is a duality and Brahman is without a second. In his final stage the Jivan mukta is beyond all veils of phenomenality which are created by sheer ignorance. True, the Jivan mukta has a body, but he is utterly unconcerned with all phenomentality of karma.49 He knows that his ego-senses and all the scene of misery, pain of the world around, including that of birth and death, have no substantiality or meaning in them and have thus to be disregarded.50 Finally a person who has obtained this knowledge and pierced the veil of maya can indulge in any kind of actions without affecting his salvation.51 He can do any evil or sin with impunity since knowledge protects him from its consequences. A moral conduct is not characteristic of Jivan mukta. He is a despot with unlimited power and sanction to do and eat anything he wants and assume any shape he likes.52 It is this kind of description of Jivan mukta that has led Zimmer to consider it an image of schezoid inflation of the ego. 53
Before we conclude the subject of the traditional view of Maya one point needs a little explanation. It might be contended that Ramanuja's view about Vedantism does not follow the school of Shamkara and rather controverts him on certain points. For a number of reasons this argument is hardly germane to our present discussion and conclusion about Jivan mukta. First, Shamkara's Vedantism, apart from being most widely accepted and typical, leans heavily on the Mayic view of things in order to maintain its monism, whereas for Ramanuja it is 'unbeliet', and not 'ignorance', which is the cause of wrong understanding of the underlying unity.54 Secondly, it is really doubtful whether Ramanuja's view is at all Vedantic in the sense of being monistic, since his critics, for his failure to reconcile his entities and assumptions, place him very near pluralistic dualists.55 Thirdly, and this is important, Maitra who discussed the problem of ideal life in all schools of orthodox philosophy, including that of Vaishesaka, Samkhya, Purva Mimamsa, Shamkara, Ramanuja, Vallabhacharya, Madhava, comes to the conclusion that a common feature of all these doctrines about ideal life or moksha is the conception of the ideal as a negation or, at least as transcendence of the empirical life proper, and that this state is thus a super-moral spiritual ideal rather than a strictly moral ideal. And after meeting this state of merger there is hardly anything to be done except, as in the case of Ramanuja's system, doing unconditional scriptural works like daily rituals, bathing in the Ganges on the day of lunar or solar eclipse, etc. Further, in the case of Ramanuja, and most of other systems, this ideal is not open to shudras and the caste system is strictly upheld.56
Before coming to the Sikh view, we have briefly traced above the old idea of Brahman-maya in which God is the magician who. Produces souls, bound by illusion.57 Brahman is allied to the power of Maya or deception, thereby limiting it. It is from this definition of Brahman and Maya that the various implications as described in the orthodox traditional literature follow, in regard to the five basic issues stated earlier.
Maya in Sikh View
The Sikh view of maya in the Adi Granth follows mainly from the ideas about God and the individual human ego. It is, therefore, pertinent first to consider the concept of God in Sikhism as it will give us the basic clue and answers to the problems before us. In confirmation, we shall find that those views have also been given very specifically in the scripture. The Guru Granth states as follows about God and his creation:
From the Absolute Formless Being, He became manifest.58 God created the world and permeated it.59 God is present in all ways and forms and works through winds, waters and all worlds.60 He is the life of all life.61 The world and God are one and He is in all hearts.62 God is just, beneficent to all life and compassionate treasure and ocean of all virtues and merciful.63 God's children err and stumble and yet they are pleasing to the Father. 64 We are all His beings, none are high or low.65
Three qualities of God have been particularly emphasized in the Adi Granth : His grace,66 His innermost nature to help the erring and the sinner,67 and His presence in all hearts and life. From these follow the chief features of Sikh theism, namely, God's personal character and things happening with His grace, His being the final moving Will (Hukam) in the world; His basic desire and nature to redeem the erring beings and promote human evolution, which is a sign of His creativity; and the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. Further, there are three important facets of God's creativity in (a) establishing the world and leaving it free to develop, 68 (b) assessing each being according to his deeds,69 and in the light of His Purpose; and yet (c) His innermost nature of helping the erring in their growth and treating them justly and as equals.70 In this background, some aspects of which will be dealt with presently, we now come to the basic question of maya in the Guru Granth.
It is very clear that in this definition of God there is no scope for maya being the limiting quality of God and giving an illusory character to the empirical world. In the Sikh doctrines, the world is as true as God Himself.71 Similarly, oneness and brotherly affinities of humanity follow directly from the same definition. And yet the normal consciousness of man, being egoistic, he does not grasp this unity, and assumes separateness of individuals as the basis of man's life, motives and actions. Thus individualism is directly opposed to the idea of unity of life in the Adi Granth. This wrong way of looking at things from only an individual's point of view, in violation of the basic unity and harmony of life, inherent in this idea of God is termed maya. This very egoistic view or assumption, conflicting with the basic oneness of humanity is maya, misleading and fallacious.
In the Guru Granth the word maya has been used in two senses: one in the literal sense of wealth or money and the other in the sense of a wrong or egoistic way of looking at things. Let us see what is written in the Adi Granth about maya, ego and individualism. It says:
In ego we sin and in ego is maya.72 Between Him and me is the artition of I-am-ness (ego). The ego-centric are in illusion and waste their lives as without deeds no one is emancipated.73 Whoever is afflicted by a sense of duality is the slave of maya.74 Intoxicated with maya one is vain and creates an illusion, thereby getting away from God.75 Egoistic passions and duality all follow from maya76. Carvings of self for indulgence, possessiveness and wealth are the poisons of maya.77 The world came into being through individuation, but, by forgetting Naam, we come to grief.78 Love, contentment, truth, humility and other virtues enable the seed of Naam (vision of basic unity and reality) to sprout.79 In the grip of maya we grab what belongs to others.80 With fear of God in mind one loses I-am-ness.81 Service of God makes one free.82 It is man's nature to err and God's nature to redeem.83 Naam dispels delusion and enlightens the mind.84 O man, overcome your passions and do good deeds; this is the way to get rid of maya, for you reap what you sow. 85 Man gathers riches by making others iserable.86 Human passions, ego and duality lead us away from God.87 With dispassion we destroy maya.88 With self-control and discipline we forsake vice and see the miracle of man becoming God.89
It is clear from the foregoing as to what is meant by maya. The Adi Granth does not convey anything like the un-reality of the physical world, the truth of which is emphasized and proclaimed. Maya is not a cognitive error caused by the universe. There is nothing deceptive in the objective world that misleads us. Maya is a subjective error of accepting a wrong point of view, the failure of man not to look at things in the proper perspective of the unity of life. This error of man is not conceptual or perceptual but it is ethical inadequacy and moral infinity that is to blame. Misled by passions and ego, the individual ignores the basic reality of the brotherhood of man and instead assumes separateness of individuals, involving himself in destructive conflict. Hence the stress that the way to rectify this human weakness is not so much to have a new mental picture of things and men, as to accept a new ethical angle and make a moral effort by disciplining one's passions and controlling one's selfish propensities. And the final test of the correctness of ethical vision is right action. The world is not unreal; the wonder of man becoming God can be performed only by correct ethical standards and virtuous conduct in the domain of the truthful reality of the world. It is vicious action based on self-regarding passions that have to be corrected and replaced with the practice of universal humanism. Therefore, conduct and deeds alone will help to break the wall between man and God. Thus, repeated stress on right action and virtue, as the only means leading to God, follows from the Sikh view of maya, which means a wrong and perverted ethical assumption or viewpoint, producing immoral, separatist, possessive and conflicting activities. It is in this sense that maya is virtually synonymous with ego or I-am- ness.
Let us now consider the consequences of this view in relation to the five issues mentioned earlier. On the problem of life-affirmation, the Sikh view is categoric and in consonance with the idea of maya discussed above. The Guru Granth says:
The guru contemplates God by word, thought and deed.90 Human body is the temple of God.91 By despising the world one gets not to God.92 Beauteous, O Farid, are the garden of the earth and the human body.93 All austerities, rituals and Yoga are of no avail, real yoga is to look alike upon all beings.94 God does not come near a person, hard of heart and with a sense of duality.95 Human birth is a precious privilege.96 God creates the world and yokes everybody to His task.97 Earth is the true abode of righteousness.98 The body is the house of Lord but we allow it to be robbed by our vicious passions.99 God works through his creation.100 Serve God with a clean heart.101 Do not think God is afar, nor be an egoist and lose the opportunity of human birth.102 By evil deeds we lose link with God. We do good deeds and pad ones; but do not forget' God, as our virtues might wither away and bad deeds form a firm habit.103 Practise virtue and not vice, nor gamble away human life.104 Some people shun meat but devour men.105 Our deeds alone bear witness unto our life.106 Human infirmities consist in a sense of duality, falsehood, slander and covetousness.107 Body is the horse by which one rides to God.108 Deride not the world as it is the creation of God.109
The above affirms unambiguously the reality and significance of human life. Not only that; the reality of life is deemed as great as that of God. In fact, practices involving direct or indirect rejection or despising of life are denounced, and the human body is regarded as a privilege and an opportunity to make life fruitful by doing good deeds and avoiding vice and duality that lead to strife. Practice of good and virtuous deeds alone is said to be essential and acceptable to God.
The answer to the next question about the optimistic and constructive interest in life automatically follows from the idea of life-affirmation indicated above. Following is what the Guru Granth says on the point:
Truth is higher than everything, but higher still is truthful living or conduct.110 My God is riches to the poor, staff to the blind, milk to the child and a boat in the sea of life always helpful and beneficent.111 Why blame others, it is our own doings that lead us astray. The seeker discriminates between good and bad.113 I do good deeds, reflect on the Word and am blessed with Naam.114 The seeker speaks the truth, acts truthfully and treats all alike.115 Truth and continence are true deeds, not fasting and rituals.116 Drive out lust and anger, be the servant of all, and see the Lord in allhearts.117 'Through virtue alone is wisdom attained.118 God's soldiers try to be like Him and fight evil.119 Worship God with virtue and crave not what belongs to others.120 With God, only the deeds that one does in the world are of any avail.121 Control your evil propensities and you become a perfect man.122 Good, righteousness, virtue and giving up of vice are the way to realize the essence of God.123 Vice is our enemy and virtue the only friend.124
Apart from sanction in scriptures of virtuous and social living, the lives of the Gurus are the best evidence and interpretation of the views approved in Sikhism. It is a significant fact of their interest in the physical world that all the ten Gurus, excepting Guru Harkrishan, who passed away before his majority, married and had children. Here it would be relevant to indicate the social milieu in which Sikhism was born. Caste, the practice of untouchability, and pollution, poverty, the degrading position of women, invading hordes, and tyrannical political rule were the order of the day. Not only is there the strongest denunciation of each one of these anti-social evils in the Guru Granth, but also, in order to eradicate them, parallel, social and political institutions were established. The institution of common and free kitchen to feed the poor and all who came to the Guru or lived with him was an important instrument not only to help the needy but also to break the most malignant evil of caste- distinction and establish the equality of man. In a country where caste had received an unquestioned religious sanction of the Rig Veda and other orthodox systems for over 2500 years, the insistence on community kitchen and eating at common platform of all castes, including untouchables and shudras, was an unprecedented social reform of great magnitude with implication for the future economic and social development of the people. Similarly, whereas women had earlier been classed with shudras, they were brought to level with men. It is no accident of history that two of the Sikh Gurus, the fifth and the ninth, had to suffer torture and martyrdom at the hands of Mughal emperors for socio-political activities and organisation, which the, latter did not countenance with equanimity. From the time of the sixth Guru, regular military training of the Sikhs was started with the result that the sixth and the tenth Guru had many military skirmishes with the Mughal armies. The objective, from 'the very start, was to pose a military' challenge to the oppressive political system. In furtherance of this plan, the tenth Guru created and built, without distinction of caste or birth, the institution of the Khalsa, in order to forge ahead is, the socio-political life and to confront, resist and demolish political tyranny. In this military struggle, the Guru lost all the four sons of his, two in battle and two in execution. These socio-political developments constitute an important chapter in the history of north-western India. But suffice it to say for our purpose that the lives and teachings of the Sikh Gurus laid a firm religious basis and sanction for remoulding and re-organising the affairs of men, in all their social and political aspects, with a view to creating a righteous, social order, capable of reacting fruitfully against challenges of the physical world. In any case, the position regarding the second issue is clear.
In view of the above the answer to the third problem of ethics is equally emphatic and naturally follows the Sikh Guru's deep interest in life and man. Let us first consider what, if any, is the standard in Sikh ethics. Fortunately, for our discussion, this standard is not only linked with the doctrine of maya but, in a way, follows from it, and from Guru's idea of God and brotherhood of man. The root of all evil is the sense of separateness and one's looking upon others as outsiders and adversaries. But the truth is that they are all equal members of the human family. Therefore, all our actions have to be judged from one standard, namely, that of the unity of life and brotherhood of man. The test is laid and all human activity has to be screened and directed in that light. Not that all men will measure up to it but the invariable standard and the ideal are there and have the sanction of the Guru Granth. Human failure, in not coming up to the mark, is due to the egoistic consciousness of man for whom it is not easily possible to break the wall of duality. This obstruction or ethical myopia is what is maya, a misconception about the reality of the world. With the idea of unity of life as the standard, all moral injunctions and prescriptions follow, as aids and correctives to restore the right ethical vision. Before we proceed further we may see what more the Guru Granth states on this issue:
The Lord is a stern Judge.l25 One, in fear of God and discriminating between good and bad, appears sweet to God.l26 Practice truth.l27 God rewards even an iota of virtue.l28 God evaluates all.129 The five evils (passion, greed, wrath, pride and infatuation) destroy the rich and righteous heritage of man.l30 Enshrine God in heart' and share with others.l31 Guru is the slave of one who knows no duality.132 Truth and continence are true virtues, not fasting, rituals and daily worship.l33 Control cravings and the light of wisdom will come; then fashion this wisdom into deeds.134 With God in mind human faculties are aroused and inspired.135 O Yogi, don't you feel ashamed of begging from door to door for your food.136 Religious practices are of no use; give in charity through your body.137 Our deeds are the book on which the mind writes good or bad; vice takes us away from God.l38 No progress without good deeds.139 Do not covet riches and women of others.l40 God's riches belong to all and it is the world that makes distinctions.141 God makes all, why call one good and the other bad.142 It is wrong to make distinctions of caste, colour, high and low.l43 It is man's nature to swim out, so why drown yourself ?144 Good deeds always flower and flourish.145 Humility, forgiveness and sweetness of tongue win God.146 Destroy evil and you become a perfect man.147 Give up evil, do good and right and you realize the essence of God.148 If one sees God in all men, one becomes godly.149 Salvation is attained while laughing, playing and living a full life.l50 Defiled are they who call others polluted as their mind is impure.151 Why call women impure when without women there would be none? Women are the links of the world.l52 We are all children of God, none are high or low.153
It is not necessary to deal with all aspects of Sikh ethics, but a few points need to be clarified.
It might be argued that the Guru Granth emphasizes just a sense of piety and virtuous living which is common to all salvation religions and there is nothing to suggest a comprehensive growth of social ethics. We feel this objection is already met by the indication of the socio- political role of the Sikh Gurus, while considering the earlier issue of interest in life. To see God in all hearts and to treat all men as equals, is the ideal and also the basis of Sikh ethics. As this ideal could only be achieved in life, right living and practice, there was a distinct orientation and education in creating new attitudes towards social life and the physical world. The Sikh Gurus felt that fear, hypocrisy and religiosity were evils that were corroding the social life. In regard to all of them an attempt was made to remould individual attitudes so as to enable men, in pursuit of their ideal to face and shape life boldly and develop the capacity to react against wrongs. It would be relevant to mention a fact of history. Ram Rai, the eldest son of Guru Har Rai, when called upon to assure the Mughal emperor at Delhi that there was nothing derogatory to Muslims in the Gum Granth, is understood On deference to his royal host) slightly to have misquoted a verse in the Guru Granth. When the Guru was told of this, he ordered that Ram Rai, who was supposed to have displayed a sense of fear, should not return to the father and that he no longer represented him.154
Secondly, it has been said that Sikhism, like most other idealistic systems, suffers from a deterministic fatalism and consequent lack of growth of a healthy ethics. We have already said that the Sikh idea is of a creative God, with a Will and Purpose, who is deeply interested in the improvement and evolution of his creation and the erring beings. Nor is the deterministic Karmic doctrine accepted in the Guru Granth, which clearly controverts it by saying that if Karma is invariable, how did the first being inherit Karma or who created Karmas initially? And then there is the basic idea of grace over-riding and controverting the doctrine of Karma. The ideas of creativity and growth are an integral part of the Sikh view of God and ethics.
The standard is fixed, but there is no inhibitory limit in the means or the value-system and no moral taboos excepting those that do not conform to the ideal. We shall revert to these points while considering the two remaining problems. But before we close this part, we might quote Guru Gobind Singh : "O God give me power, so that I never fear or shirk from doing righteous deeds in this world." And the righteous deeds he did were the creation of Khalsa, the organisation and development of the people from the lowest strata of society. He educated and trained them in the arts of war and peace, and, what is fundamental to revolutionary or ethical change, sought radically to form new attitudes and a new optimistic and ethical spirit of confidence and zeal in facing human and physical challenges from the environment. And this correcting of wrong emotions and attitudes was brought about by the only right method, namely, of personal example and deeds, not by precept but by practice. This follows directly from the Sikh view of Maya. Hence the emphasis that religion is not a ritualistic performance to be completed in the temple and then forgotten, or an other- worldly activity to be pursued with one's back to life. But because of the need for conditioning of the emotional pattern and moral attitudes, religious practices start when the day's job begins, since deeds in life are the sole test of the change of outlook and behaviour towards others. Let us see what the Guru Granth says in this regard:
Build the boat of self-control and contemplation to go across life unobstructed.155 God has yoked us to his purpose.156 When there was no creation what deeds were done by man which led to his first birth.157 When there was no father or mother how did Karma originate ?158 After numerous lives, one becomes a human being and this is one's lone opportunity.159 Service of God is the boat by which to cross the sea of existence.160 O man, do not be led astray.161 Walk on the straight path or you would receive a push.162 Man is blessed with the light of reason and discrimination.163 O man, you are supreme in God's creation, now is the time to fulfil your destiny.l64 Lord created the world and left it free to do as it wills.165 Human birth is a privilege but we waste it for a trifle.l66 One has to account for every movement and suffer for evils.167 Do not be misled, try to discriminate; God assesses everyone according to his deeds.l68 Man should shun evil and practice good, as life is short.169 Life is priceless, why waste it ?170 We know right from wrong and yet fall into the well with torch in hand.171
Maya being an ethical infirmity and a warped view of things, the idea of personal responsibility and effort automatically follows from it. The same is the lesson of the various sayings of the Guru Granth indicated earlier. No doubt God is the creator but he leaves the world to act according to its own will, indicating thereby its capacity and consequent responsibility to grow and evolve. Secondly, God permeates the world and He has a will and purpose in undertaking this creative activity. In fact, will by itself presupposes a direction and a purpose. True, in the normal individual psyche, God's will is unawakened, but still man is endowed with reflective ability. Reference to this discriminatory sense in man is made again and again in the Guru Granth; this sense being higher than anything like it in the lower animals. And further, he has the undoubted ability to link himself with the latent will in him so as to draw on its creative power and resources and to gain spiritual vision. Both these factors indicate a free will in the individual and a continuing process of evolution and creativity ensured by God permeating his creation. Two ideas have been repeatedly stressed in the Guru Granth : the first, of God being interested (it being His innermost nature) in helping the erring persons to improve and evolve; second, of each person being judged according to the actions and even an iota of good action being duly rewarded. It is stated that after innumerable transformations man has appeared and this lone opportunity of further transformation should not be missed. Just as man is evolved from lower forms of life, man's evolution into the superman is unambiguously indicated. And this superman, as we shall consider subsequently, is not a dead end, but an enlightened instrument of God's creativity so as to continue that process. Hence the triple idea of (a) creative and free beings, with capacity and responsibility for further growth; (b) assessment and growth according to actions; and (c) God, in view of his creativity, always trying to aid and help this evolution and improvement. That is why, in most of the sayings of the Guru Granth cited above, there is a sense of urgency and an exhortation to all human beings to hasten the process of improvement and evolution by linking oneself with the underlying reality of God and discovering in it further source of power and purposeful creativity.
It is true that the idea of "as you sow, so shall you reap" is there; but this only fortifies the principle of free will and moral responsibility of man rather than endorsing deterministic Karmic doctrine of traditional Brahamanism. The latter idea, as we have seen already, has been specifically refuted in the Guru Granth.
Hence the idea of "as you sow, so shall you reap," in the absence of a fixed Karmic law and, coupled with the doctrines of grace and creativity, has only a limited application, being just an appeal and exhortation to the rationality and limited sovereignty of man, so as to invoke his sense of initiative, responsibility and growth. The Sikh view does not at all envisage an ideal block universe, with morality to be imported as a categorical imperative. No doubt the thing-in-itself cannot be known through reason alone, but with moral effort and God's grace, a link with Naam, the Creative Reality, can be established. The certitude, universal love and unflinching moral and creative power of the superman or mystic are an incontrovertible evidence of this link. Thus with Naam as the basic reality underlying the empirical world, its inherent creativity is asserted, and all ideas of rigid determinism, fatalism, etc. repudiated. Hence, the conclusion, regarding the significance of man's personality, his moral responsibility and creative expression. This again is in consonance with the Sikh doctrine of Maya.
Finally, we come to the ideal of superman (Bhagat or Brahmagyani) in the Guru Granth. This ideal is distinctly laid before all men to strive for and achieve, if so desired. In this regard one thing is clear and significant. No one can reach this ideal by the process of mere mechanical growth. Invariably, the final stage is reached by an act of God's grace, the Fountain of all creativity. Had it been a merely deterministic or mechanistic world, the idea of grace would be completely incongruous; but this personality aspect of grace is an essential counterpart of the idea of God's creativity in Sikhism. It is also clear that becoming a superman is not the end in itself. Here the objective is entirely different from the ideal of salvation in orthodox systems, where it implies extinction, release from bondage or final merger with the Absolute. Here a link with the basic creative force is to be established in order to assist and partake more fully in God's creative activity. The superman or Brahmagyani becomes an instrument, not a mere onlooker of God's creative work, which he is obliged to further in all humility. Guru Nanak, in response to the question of the Sidhas, remarked: It is through God-conscious beings that I will ferry my fellow-beings across.l72 The superman is God's agent in the mission of carrying out God's creative will and purpose.173 He cannot be unconcerned, but is anxious to help and promote the cause of creativity and evolution of supermen from the erring human beings. This superman does not look down upon the world; he is a soldier and a combatant in the legion of God. This is the emphatic message of the Guru Granth and the lives of the Sikh Gurus. That is why the terms Guru and God have been used almost synonymously.
All the attributes of the superman or Brahmagyani are godly. He is interested in the empirical world as much as God, but only as an awakened instrument of the divine will and purpose. The ideal laid before man is to know God's will and carry it out after demolishing the wall obstructing our vision. The superman has been described in glowing terms in the Guru Granth. His company enables man to improve his ethical and spiritual growth, which, in fact, is the superman's mission. A few indications about the ideal man in the Guru Granth are given below:
The man of merit gathers virtue and instructs others to do likewise. In the society of saints one goes not astray, one has no enemy, one goes the Lord's way.174 There is nothing to tell God from a saint.175 He is imbued with love.176 He looks alike upon all men, gives warmth to all, has pleasure in doing good and is mercifu1.177 He is a perfect man and gives support to all, full of unlimited and spontaneous beneficence. He helps the shelterless.178
In sum, the superman in Sikhism is not a person merged in the anonymity of Brahman, unconcerned with the empirical world, looking down on it as something illusory and evil, but he is a live and active missionary of God partaking in the operation of creativity according to the Divine Will: He has virtually the attributes of God, namely, mercy, beneficence, creativity, unlimited help to the weak and erring humanity without distinctions. And one thing is important: this help is not offered through miracles, but it comes through process of growth, change in attitudes, education, training, lead, example and organization in all human fields.
From our consideration of the foregoing problems, we find that one idea is fundamental in the theology of the Guru Granth and has been repeatedly stressed therein, namely, the creativity of God. This explains God's presence in the universe, His immanence (which may be called universe-in-God, in order to distinguish it from bare pantheism), His innermost nature in improving and evolving individual beings, His assessment of them, His will and purpose and His yoking all men, including the supermen, to the fulfilment of His ever- emerging design. This message of the Guru Granth and the Gurus is clearly evidenced by the latter's lives which glaringly bear out their inspiring optimism in purposeful growth and an active interest in life with a view to creating and shaping moral and social institutions based on humanitarianism. And all this they did as the understanding and humble instruments of God's will and creativity. In short, they aimed not at a selfannihilating merger, but at being enlightened vehicles of God's creative expression.
On the basis of the foregoing, we come to understand what Maya means in Sikhism and how in its logical and natural implications in regard to the five problems of (1) life-affirmation, (2) an optimistic interest in all aspects of life and its development, (3) growth of ethical standards and moral education, (4) human initiative, responsibility and significance, and (5) the ideal of the superman, it has led us to inferences and deductions directly opposed to those, flowing from the meaning and implications of Maya in the traditional Vedantic doctrine:
(1) We are led to the clear conclusion that Sikhism accepts the creative reality of the world as one of its fundamental doctrines. Not only is the authenticity of the individual and that of all social and political life and organisation asserted but also a defined goal of creative activity in accordance with the will of God is set before man and society, who have a definite role and responsibility in furthering the process of purposeful growth. Life is neither illusory nor an accident, nor is man an insignificant victim of rigid fate or chaotic and capricious circumstances. To be man is a very great privilege, since he has the glorious opportunity of not merely knowing the truth, but also the more glorious responsibility of living it; not only of understanding the creative will but also of carrying it out, because God works, not through miracles but through man whose resources and capacity are enormous. Accordingly, in Sikhism, the highest ideal is not to know the truth but to live that truth. The realization of truth is not an end in itself but only a means to the highest end of creative living. In fact, there is no realisation of truth, unless it inevitably culminates in true living, the latter alone being the correct test and index of the former. Hence the validity and authenticity of all aspects and fields of human endeavour.
(2) Right activity is multi-faceted and no facet of it is inferior to the others, so long its direction and development, are in harmony with the prescribed ethical and spiritual standards and the overall creative plan. In fact, such an effort is not optional but obligatory, it being the sole measure of spirituality. Not that man will not stumble and falter, frail as he is, but he can be confident that his errors will be overlooked as a part of the process of growth and his efforts, howsoever small; are an essential step towards the ideal.
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