ESSENTIALS OF SIKH BHAKTI
AND HINDU BHAKTI
It is not an easy task to summaries the essentials of two higher religious systems in the short space available to us, especially when Hindu Bhakti has a history extending over 2,500 years. Therefore, it will be possible for us to give only the barest outline of each system.
Sikhism and Sikh Bhakti are synonymous terms. The system is monotheistic, God is the Creator and the world is His creation. Guru Nanak defines God thus: "The Sole One Self- Existent and Immanent, the Creator Person, Un-conditioned, Un-contradicted, Un- incarnated, Timeless Person, Self-created and Gracious Enlightener."1 Sikhism started with God's revelation to Guru Nanak; Sikh Bhakti is, thus, the path in pursuit of His Gracious revelation. This idea of revelation means, first, that there is a level of Reality higher than the empirical Reality we experience with our senses, and, second, that this Higher Reality reveals itself to man and enlightens him. Guru Nanak says, "O, Lalo, I say what the Lord Commands me to convey."2 This means God is both Transcendent and Immanent and He operates in history. In order to understand Sikh Bhakti this fundamental has to be kept in
But the important point is what is the nature of God, or the revelation. For the Guru God is Love. "Friends ask me what is the mark of the Lord. He is all Love, rest He is ineffable."3 This fundamental religious experience of the Guru is the foundation of the entire structure of Sikhism. Bhakti, thus, means living a life of love. Guru Nanak says, "If you want to play the game of love, come to me with your head on your palm."4 Guru Gobind Singh declares, "Let all heed the truth I proclaim. Only those who love attain to God."5 It is the same thing as Jesus says, "Thous shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself."6 The entire system of Sikhism is based on the logic of love, the first corollary being that Sikh ism is lifeaffirming. Love has four essential dimensions. It is dynamic, cohesive, directive and the mother of all values. Guru Nanak calls God the ocean of virtues. It is in this context that we shall draw the logic and the structure of Sikh Bhakti and its doctrines.
The first inference of the fundamental of God is Love, is that the world is real. For, "When God was by Himself there was no love or devotion."7 Because for the expression of God's love a real and meaningful world is essential. It is not a place of misery, entanglement or suffering, nor is it Mithya or illusory. The Guru says, "True is He, true is His creation." "True are Thy worlds and Thy universes, True are the forms Thou created."8 "God created the world and permeated it with His Light."9 God being the Creator of a meaningful world, He is deeply interested in it. "God is eyes to the blind, milk to the child, and riches to the poor."10 "It is the innermost nature of God to help the erring."11 For the Guru, God is the Teacher, the Guide. The third inference is that the practice of virtues and the living of an altruistic life is the path prescribed by Sikh Bhakti. "God created the world of life and planted Naam therein, making it the place for righteous activity."l2 "Good, righteousness, virtues and the giving up of vice are the ways to realize the essence of God."13 "Love, contentment, truth, humility and virtues enable the seed of Naam (God) to sprout."14 Fourth, as altruism is the sole path to God, man's deeds alone are the index of his spiritual level. The Gurus say, "With God only the deeds one does in this world count."l5 "True living is living God in life."l6 "God showers His grace where the lowly are cared for."17 "It is by our deeds that we become near or away from God."l8 "Everything is lover than Truth, but higher still is truthful living." It is "by service in this world that one gets honour in His Court."l9 Thus, Sikh Bhakti does not recommend monasticism, or asceticism, since virtuous deeds can be performed only in social life and not by withdrawal from it, nor by a life given to monasticism or meditation alone. Having rejected monasticism and asceticism, the acceptance of social and a householder's life becomes the fifth corollary of God is Love. It is significant that Guru Nanak and the other Gurus have sanctified man-woman relationship by profusely using it as the metaphor for the expression of their devotion to God. The Gurus made a major and a conscious departure from the earlier religious systems because we find that all the Gurus, except Guru Harkrishan, who died at an early age, were married householders, accepting the responsibilities of such a life. "One gets not to God by despising the world."20 "The God- centred lives truthfully while a householder."21 "The spiritual path can be trodden not by mere words and talk but by actually treating all men alike and as one's equal. Yoga does not lie in living in cremation grounds, doing one-point meditation, or roaming all over places, or visiting places of pilgrimage, but in remaining balanced and God-centred while' conducting the affairs of the world."22 Not only that, in Sikhism while anyone could become a Sikh an ascetic or a recluse was unwelcome. The Sikh prays for "millions of hands to serve God."23 From the above follows the sixth principle of equality of man and woman. Guru Nanak says, "Why call woman impure when without woman there would be none."24 Not only he gave equality to women, but the later Guru appointed women to head some districts of religious administration. In fact, monasticism, asceticism and celibacy go together. In most of the old Indian religions, woman is considered an impediment in the religious path.
The brotherhood of man is the seventh corollary of Guru's experience of God is Love. Thus, the hierarchical caste ideology was scripturally and practically rejected. After his revelation Guru Nanak's first words were, "There is no Hindu nor any Mussalman." It means he saw only man, without distinction of caste, or class. And his lifelong companion during his tours was a low-caste Muslim. This meant that anyone wanting to have dealings or discourse with him could not make distinctions of caste or class. For the Guru the spiritual path could be lived not by mere words but by treating without discrimination all men alike. Once the householder's responsibilities are accepted, work becomes a part of man's religious duty. The Guru says, "The person incapable of earning his living gets his ears split and becomes a mendicant. He calls himself a Guru or a saint. Do not look up to him, nor touch his feet. He knows the way who earns his living and shares his earnings with others."25 The Guru deprecates the Yogi who gives up the world and then is not ashamed of begging at the doors of householders. From the idea of the brotherhood of man follows essentially the eighth principle of sharing of man's income with one's fellow beings. "God's bounty belongs to all, but men grab it for themselves."26 "Riches cannot be gathered without sin but these do not keep company after death."27 And, it was Guru Nanak who introduced the practice of 'Langar' and 'Pangat' i.e eating the same food while sitting together. The inevitable inferences from the basic experience of God is Love are the ideas of the brotherhood of man, the acceptance of householder's and social responsibilities, the consequent necessity of work and production and of the fair distribution of wealth. These ideas are so logically connected that they cannot be dislinked or accepted partly. Once the love of man becomes the fundamental principle of religious life, the involvement of the spiritual person in all walks of life becomes inescapable. In fact, total responsibility towards all beings is only the other side of the coin of Love. In whatever field there is encroachment on human interests, reaction and response from the spiritual person becomes a religious duty. Otherwise the idea of the brotherhood of man becomes meaningless. That is why in the hymns of Guru Nanak, there is a bold and loud criticism of the evil practices and institutions of his day. He criticised the tyranny of the invaders and the oppression of the rulers, the corruption and cruelty of the administration and the officials, the degrading inhumanity of the caste ideology and the underlying idea of pollution, the greed and hypocrisy of Brahmans and the Muslim Mullahs, the rapacity of the rich in amassing wealth, the idleness of Yogis and mendicants, etc. All this meant only one thing, namely, that there was a right or religious way of doing things that were being misconducted, and that no walk of life was taboo for the religious man. In whatever field of life there is aggression or injustice, the religious man cannot remain neutral; he must react and do so in a righteous way. For, once the householder's life was considered to be the medium of the religious growth of man, it became natural for him to accept total moral participation and total responsibility in all fields of life. The traditional barriers created between the so-called socio-political life and religious life were deemed artificial, and were once for all broken for the religious man. For, wherever man suffers, the religious man must go to his succour. Such was the result of the religious experience or perception of Guru Nanak. And it was he who laid the firm foundation of such a religious system and structure. Here it is necessary to understand one important point. Social or political evils can be fought and remedied only by a cohesive society, accepting social responsibilities and right goals. These cannot be removed just by individuals or by mere preaching. Guru Nanak's aim was not individual salvation, but the socio-spiritual salvation of man and his society. In his system of Bhakti, meditation on God's Name, service of man and sharing of production or wealth were all integrated and made essential, because love of God meant love and service of man in all areas of life. It is necessary to emphasize that in Sikh Bhakti the acceptance of total responsibility in all fields of life for the service of man is the inseparable counterpart of the love of God. This fundamental is the key to the understanding of Sikh Bhakti and its history during the period of Sikh Gurus. The socio-spiritual task before Guru Nanak and his successors was gigantic. A whole society had to be organised that had internally to remove the disintegrating influence of the caste ideology, and externally to fight the political oppression. Evidently, such a task could not be completed in one generation. But it was Guru Nanak who while he laid the foundations both of the system and the society, also initiated the method of appointing a successor so that in due time the society could become fully organised and mature enough to complete the sociospiritual tasks set before it. The Gurus had first to organise a new society motivated with new values, with a keen sense of brotherhood, inspired to struggle and sacrifice, and committed to achieving new goals. It is in this light that the role of different Gurus has to be viewed. The Gurus were clearly of the "idea that specifically designated organised bands of men" should "play a creative part in the political world, destroying the established order and reconstructing society according to the Word of God."28
Another logical corollary of the fundamental of love and of participation in all walks of life, including the socio-political field, is a clear rejection of the doctrine of Ahimsa by Guru Nanak. Bhagat Kabir says that the goat eats grass and is skinned, what will happen to those who eat its meat? Meat-eating and use of force are barred in all Indian systems that recommend Ahimsa. But, it was Guru Nanak who emphatically discarded Ahimsa, thereby sanctioning the use of force in aid of righteous causes. Only that food is to be avoided as disturbs the mental and bodily tranquility. He says, "Men discriminate not and quarrel over meateating, they do not know what is flesh or non-flesh or what is sin or what is not sin."29 In a whole hymn he exposes the cant of non-meateating, and the allied doctrine of Ahimsa. Evidently, a religious system that accepts socio-political responsibility must spurn the doctrine of Ahimsa, otherwise it cannot rectify or resist any wrong or injustice. In Babar Vani, Guru Nanak deplores the brutality of the invaders and the unpreparedness of the local rulers. He even goes to the extent of complaining to God, as the guardian of man, in allowing the weak to be oppressed by the strong. The Guru was, in fact, clearly laying one of the basic principles of his religion whereunder he not only sanctioned the use of force for righteous causes, but also prescribed that it was the duty and the responsibility of the religious man and the society he was creating to resist aggression. It was this society which was later developed by the other Gurus. And it was the Sikh society of the time of Guru Arjan that Dr. Gupta calls a state within a state. And, it was the sixth Guru who despite the contrary advice of even the most respected Sikhs like Bhai Buddha, created an armed force and the institution of Akal Takhat, the socio-political centre of the Sikhs with a distinct flag for the purpose. And again, it was Guru Hargobind who in reply to a question by Sant Ram Dass of Maharashtra explained that Guru Nanak had given up mammon and not the world, and that his sword was for the protection of the weak and the destruction of the tyrant.30 The point to stress is that a religious system that proceeds with the basic experience of God as Love,' must as a consequence, also accept the total responsibilities of relieving all kinds of sufferings of man, and for that end, even enter the political field, and have resort to the use of force to the extent necessary. It is important to understand that Guru Nanak who complained to God for allowing the weak to be oppressed, could obviously not, as a man of God with his deep love both for man and God, shirk the logical responsibility of creating and organising a system and a society that aimed at relieving or undoing the oppression. It is in this context that we have to understand the logic of the succession of ten masters, the institutions of saint-soldier, Miri and Piri, combination of the empirical life and the spiritual life of man, and Harmandar Sahib and Akal Takhat with separate flags. These were epitomised in the life of the tenth Master, and culminated in the creation of the Khalsa. To any student of the Guru Granth it is obvious that so far as the thesis of Sikh Bhakti is concerned it is complete in the hymns (Bani) of Guru Nanak. But, that thesis, in the Indian background, would have been completely misunderstood if it had not been institutionalised and implemented in the manner of its logic. Guru Nanak's spiritual thesis of love is so original and radical that to persons conditioned under quietist traditions, whether Indian, Buddhist or Christian, the Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh combination looks incongruous. That is why doubts about its integrity and logic were first expressed by Nath Yogis to Guru Nanak who replied that the Naths did not know even the elementaries of the spiritual path. Similar doubts were conveyed by the Maharashtra saint, Ram Das, to the Sixth Guru whose reply we have quoted earlier. To a similar question, the Tenth Master replied thus:
"He (Nanak) established religion in the kali age... Nanak assumed the body of Angad...
Afterwards Nanak was called Amar Das, As one lamp is lit from another... And Amar Das became Ram Das, The pious saw this, but not the fools, Who thought them all distinct.
But some rare persons recognized that they were all one."31 As explained earlier, seen by the logic of his thesis, if Guru Gobind Singh had not appeared and not accomplished his work, Guru Nanak's thesis would appear to be inadequate, incomplete or incongruous.
In this context, it is important to state what is the goal of man in Sikh Bhakti. In the very first hymn of the Japuji Guru Nanak clarifies the issue or the ideal. He asks a question as to what is the way to be a true human being (Sacbiara) and to dispel the false wall obstructing our vision, and, then, himself replies to it by saying that the method is to live and work in accordance with the Will of God.32 The Will of God being altruistic and constructive, for the religious man the path to follow is one of virtuous deeds. Because "singing and dancing in ecstasy are no worship; love and the giving up of ego are the way to real worship."33 The Sikh Gurus clearly envisage a path of spiritual progress and evolution for man. The Guru says, "God created first himself, then Haumain or individuation, third multifarious entities or Maya and at the fourth stage the gurmukh or the true man who always lives and works truthfully."34 It is this fourth stage the Guru exhorts man to achieve, that being his spiritual destiny, the Gurus say, "For several births (you) were a worm, for several births an insect, for several births a fish and animal"35 "after ages you have the glory of being a man,"36 "after passing through myriads of species, one is blest with the human form, "37 "O man you are supreme in God's creation, now is your opportunity, you may fulfil or not fulfil your destiny,"38 "You have obtained the privilege of human birth, now is your opportunity to meet God."39 As stated above, for the God-conscious man the ideal is not merger in God or Brahman, but a life of love and perpetual truthful activity.
This religious system may, therefore, be called Activity Bhakti, since the goal is to carry out the Attributive Will of God.
Bhakti in Hinduism has a chequered history covering a period of over 2,500 years. Since the Vedic system, especially in the early days of Brahamanas, was primarily ritualistic, the first system of Bhakti, Bhagavatism, arose as a non-Vedic cult.40 At this stage, Bhakti meant only a form of adoration.41 This side-stream, combined with the ideas of reverence for Narayana, Hari and Visnu, Vedic gods, was incorporated in the system of the Bhagavad Gita which is an eclectic compilation.42 For the first time sanction was given to this system of Bhakti as an alternative means of Moksha. It has also been asserted that the system of the incarnation of Visnu and the acceptance of Shudras and women for Bhakti were included in Hinduism as the result of Buddhist influence.43
In Bhagavatism the system of worship is generally ritualistic. Following are the modes of worship: (1) Going to the temple with mind fixed on the deity, (2) Collecting materials for worship, (3) Actual worship, (4) the muttering of Mantras and (5) Yoga or meditation. By worship in this manner for years on end, all sins are destroyed. As to the method of worship of Hari, there are six steps: (1) remembering Him, (2) the uttering of His Name, (3) salutation, (4) resorting to His feet, (5) constant worship with devotion, and (6) the surrender of the Soul.44
It is necessary to understand that except for the purpose of Bhakti, the Gita gave full sanction to the caste ideology of Hinduism and accepted all its different modes of Moksha.45 It is also significant that Ramanuja, the chief religious exponent of the Bhakti system, prescribed only Prapatti for the low castes. The metaphysical position in the Bhagavad Gita is a little puzzling as both pantheistic and dualistic views, suggesting co-eternal Prakriti, are indicated. During this second phase of Hindu Bhakti, whether in the Gita or with Ramanuja, Bhakti meant only Upasana or a system of meditation. The goal is a contemplative or meditational union with God. The idea of devotional love or personal relationship with God is simply not there. Because of its combination with other Yogic, meditational or ritualistic modes of Moksha, the stress is on self-surrender, self-control, contentment and non- attachment. The Gita involved a compromise "between the worldly life of allotted duties and the hermit's life of absolute renouncement." "On the one hand we purify our minds by non- attachment, and yet, on the other hand, we continue to perform all the ritualistic and other duties belonging to our particular caste or stage of life, i.e. the prescribed stages of four ashramas."46 Gita approves the system of four castes or varnas and virtually prohibits mobility in the performance of caste duties by saying that it is more meritorious to do the duties of one's own caste, even though inefficiently, than to do even efficiently the duties of another caste.47
It is during the second phase of Bhakti that arose the theory of the incarnation or Avatarahood which is a significant feature of Hindu Bhakti. While this theory enabled the system to own and absorb other cults and creeds by declaring their gods to be the manifestation of the Supreme God, it obviously did not make for any unified system of religious worship or doctrines.48 In due course, the number of Avataras rose to twenty-three in the time of Bhagwat Purana. Apart from Lord Rama, man-lion, dwarf, tortoise, swan and others, gods of extremely divergent systems like Sankhya-Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism which do not believe in a Supreme God, were also declared Avtaras. Even dualistic systems like Sankhya and ]ainism were owned. Obviously, in this attempt at synthesis, the integrity of a unified theistic thought was lost, though the scriptural authority of the Vedas and the caste ideology of Hinduism were maintained as in the Bhagavad Gita . The position continued to be the same even in the Vashista Advaita of Ramanuja. Lord Rama was included as an Avtara in the early centuries of the Christian era.
Next we come to the phase of Alvar saints, Bhagavat Purana and Sandilya. In this system, Bhakti becomes the sole method of Moksha. It involves deep emotional affection and a sense of spiritual intoxication and joy. Like Chaitanaya, the devotee sings, dances and goes into ecstasy, he is no longer a person of the world. The Bhagavad Purana mentions nine modes of worship each of which could lead to Moksha. These are all formal without any obligation for activity.49 The modes are like listening to the praise of God, reading of sacred books, the repeating of God's name, etc. Image worship was accepted. The role of Jivan Mukta remains other-worldly. Sandilya's definition of Bhakti runs as follows. "Bhakti is not an action (a work). It does not depend, as knowledge does, upon an effort of the will. Hence, as it is not an action, its fruit (beatitude) is endless. Every action on the other hand, ultimately perishes." "The means are knowledge, concentration, etc. The end is Bhakti." "Bhakti (or faith) is not 'sraddha' (or belief). Belief may be merely subsidiary to ceremonial works, not so faith. Belief is a preliminary or subsidiary to faith, but is not faith."50
A chain of Alvar saints appeared in the South. Quite a number of them belonged to the lower castes. Dr. Tara Chand believes this happened as a response and reaction to Islam in India.
As to the philosophy of this Bhakti, the chief exponent is Ramanuja, though quite a number of others like Madhava and Nimbaraka, have also expounded their systems. Ramanuja says that individual souls and the insensate world are the body or attributes of Brahaman. They are different but are basically one, being manifest and unmanifest forms of Brahaman. The creation of Ahankara and activity are explained virtually as in Sankhya except that God guides that activity.51 Ishwara has a wonderful celestial body. Ishwara appears in 5 forms: (1) as Narayana or Para-Vasudeva, he lives, adorned with ornaments and gems, in Vaikuntha on a throne surrounded by Sesa (serpent), Garuda and other delivered souls, (2) as his four forms in the world, including that of Vasudeva to enable men to worship Him, (3) as the ten Avtaras, fish, tortoise and others, (4) as present in each being even when one goes to heaven or hell; and (5) as in the idols kept in houses. Souls are of three kinds: (1) the bound ones, (2) the delivered ones and (3) the eternal souls like Garuda.52 This system of Bhakti is open to only three higher castes.53 Shudras can resort to Prapatti or surrender to God, after enouncing the world. For the efficacy of Bhakti, Karma Yoga and 'Jnana Yoga' are essential. The first involves the performance of all prescribed acts, rituals, sacrifices, ceremonies, pilgrimages, and the worship of idols. Jnana Yoga means the gaining of cognitive knowledge of one's separateness from prakriti and being an Attribute of God. Women were not accepted as Vaisnavas.
In the Padma-Purana seven other modes of worship are also suggested. They are all ritualistic and formal, e.g. (1) the imprinting of marks on the body and the forehead, (2) the repeating of Mantras, (3) the drinking of water used for washing the feet of the idol of Hari, (4) the eating of the cooked food offered to the idol, (5) the service of devotees, (6) the observing of fasts on the fixed days of the lunar month, (7) the laying of Tulsi leaves on the idol, etc.54
Maitra who has discussed the ethics of all Hindu systems, including those of Ramanuja, Madhva and Vallabha Charaya, comes to the conclusion that a common feature of all these doctrines of the ideal life or Moksha is "the conception of the ideal as a negation, or at least as a transcendence, of the empirical life proper, and that this state is thus a super-moral spiritual ideal rather than a strictly moral ideal."55 "It is a transcendental state of deliverance from all the struggle of life. It is generally and essentially a state of quiescence."56
For Vallabha and Chaitanya Bhakti is the sole method of salvation. In Vallabha's systems, the modes of worship are all formal or ceremonial like singing and praising God, Arti, image worship, etc. The householder's life is accepted and the devotee visits the temple of the Guru at fixed intervals. Chaitanya's method of Bhakti consisted of fervent singing and ecstatic dancing. Chaitanya while singing would even swoon under the intensity of his emotion. Chaitanya, like Nimbarka, believes in identity with a difference between the soul and God (Bheda Abheda). The goal is the bliss of union of soul with God. Chaitanya's followers included all castes and even Muslims. But, except for Bairagis or recluses, followers of Chaitanya generally observed caste distinctions especially in the matter of cooking of meals and in mundane matters.57 Chaitanya recommends the Madhure kind of loving devotion, as between wife and husband, to God, this being the deepest and sweetest. Shankaradeva, a saint from Assam, however recommends the Dasya type of Bhakti, as between servant and master.
Vaisnava Bhakti has five fundamentals. Its scriptures are Vedas and Upanisads. The second fundamental is the doctrine of Avtarhood, the third fundamental is the ideology of caste and Varan Ashram Dharma. As to the modes of worship and Bhakti, these are all formal, ceremonial, or intensely emotional, without reference to the affairs of life. The fifth fundamental is the doctrine of Ahimsa which is accepted by all the devotees. Except in the case of Vallabha celibacy is preferred for the Bhaktas. The goal of life is a blissful union with or merger in God as an end in itself. One thing is evident that all these modes of Bhakti were so absorbing that they isolate the devotee from the world as much as was done by asceticism or monasticism and did not allow him to enter the field of social responsibility. About Shankaradeva Murthy says: "He saw his vocation only in establishing religious freedom and fellowship rather than social overhaul. To trouble about the improvement of social conditions perhaps, deemed to him as little profitable."58
Though not markedly different in its ideas and goals, it would be necessary to mention also the system of Saiva Bhakti which has a longer history than Vaisnavism because Lord Siva is considered a pre- Vedic god. Svetasvatra Upanisad is probably the first Upanisad mentioning the adoration of a god who is Rudra and not Visnu. Pasupata system is the oldest Saiva system. It seeks deliverance from the misery of the world. The methods of salvation are other-worldly, yogic and even seemingly queer. Pasupata and Saiva systems both assume the separate entities of souls, though the souls are dependent on the Lord. The doctrine is a qualified spiritual monism like that of Ramanuja, in as much as Siva, in a way, manifests himself as the constituent cause of the world. In Kashmir Saivism the soul is identical with Siva, it being Siva in self-limitation. The world is not something worthwhile and is a bondage. It is monism or pantheism, nearer to Sankara in one respect, and to Ramanuja in another respect. The worldly life is an impurity. The aim is identity with or merger in Siva, and the method of release is intense meditation or contemplation.59
So far as the element of Bhakti is concerned Southern Saivism is, like other later Hindu Bhakti systems, more concerned with a loving devotion. The system is less priest-ridden and caste-ridden. Theoretically, the system is nearer to Kashmir Saivism or Ramanuja's Vashista Advaita. Like other Saiva systems, its scriptures are the Vedas the Agamas, these being the creation of Lord Siva. There are three elements, Siva, souls and the world, but the souls and the world are dependent on God. Activity in the world creates further bondage and the aim is deliverance from it. Deliverance is through prayer and yogic meditations and by the grace of God. The method of Bhakti is fourfold. All the four stages of worship are formal and ceremonial, except that these also involve yogic concentration of mind and loving devotion to Siva. The approach is other-worldly. A Saiva saint says that there is no remedy from the disease of embodiment except by His grace.60 The goal is blissful union with or merger of soul in the Supreme God. Selfrealisation is the means of release.
All these methods of Vaisnava and Saiva Bhakti may, thus, be called Quietist Bhakti Systems.
We have delineated two contrasted systems of Bhakti. In Hindu Bhakti Reality, God-head or Brahman is Sat-Chit-Anand (Truth- Consciousness-Bliss). The goal of life is, thus, merger in or union with this Reality; it is the achievement of a state of Blissful tranquility. Logically, the methodology used is either meditational or intensely devotional. It is a quietist ideal with a quietist methodology. Hence, it is Quietist Bhakti. In the case of Sikh Bhakti, God is Love, the ideal is to be the instrument of God's Love and the methodology is remembrance of His Name (Naam Simran), coupled inalienably with virtuous deeds and social responsibility. It is Activity Bhakti epitomized in the empirical world in the Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh combination.
The two systems of Bhakti, Activity Bhakti and Quietist Bhakti, are independent and different. There is a tendency among scholars trained in quietist traditions to criticise Activist religions and even to consider the activist tendencies to be degenerate or a fall. On the other hand, scholars from the Activist systems are equally critical of the quietist systems which they even call escapist and deficient. Scholars viewing an opposite system through the blinkers of their own culture or tradition are apt to suffer from this failing. It is on this Score that James Lewis criticises the approach of some Western scholars in their study of Sikhism : "Nonetheless, because of the resonances which the Nanak- Gobind Singh contrast elicited from the inner tensions of European Christians, trace of the degenerationist paradigm was retained in discussions, particularly academic discussions, of the development of the Sikh religion. In fact, the theme of the supposed contradiction between early and later Sikhism, often carrying with it the same undertone of moral censure that it originally carried, is repeated in Western discourse about Sikhism to this very day, and will, undoubtedly continue to be present in such discourse as long as scholars from Christian background fail to come to terms with the contradiction in their own culture."61 One major cause for these conflicting interpretations of different religions is what may be called the modem, mechanical or sociological methodology under which we seek to view different religious growths not as having separate ontological roots but as parts of a single cultural, social or evolutionary development. Such simplistic studies, apart from being academically faulty, cause confusion and conflict, because these are merely phenomenological studies of religions without understanding their ontological fundamentals, base, or contributions. Hence, our stress that different religious systems have to be understood and appreciated as independent and separate growths, these being separately revealed. That alone will make for academic health and integrity and religious understanding.
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