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






1.1 Sikhism, a revealed religion, is the latest among the major world faiths. This system, as preached by Guru Nanak, has a universal appeal and an eternal relevance. Some of its essential features may be briefly reproduced below:

a. Monotheism: Guru Nanak believed in only One God as the ultimate Reality. In the Mul Mantra he described Him thus; ‘The Sole Supreme Being; of eternal manifestation; Creator; Immanent Reality; Without Fear; Without Rancour; Timeless Being; Unincarnated; Self- Existent:

b. Reality of the World: Guru Nanak rejected the earlier view of the world being mithya or unreal or a place of suffering, and human life a punishment. Since God is Real, he argued, so is His creation - ‘the continents, the universes, the worlds and the forms : ‘In the midst of air, water, fire and the nether regions, the world has been installed as Dharamsal or a place for righteous actions: ‘This world is the abode of the Lord who resides in it: ‘Human life is a rare opportunity for spiritual fulfilment:

c. Goal of Life: In Sikhism the goal is not moksha, Nirvan or personal salvation after death. It is the status of gurmukh or sachiara or a Godman to be attained in life itself. A gurmukh is attuned to the Will of God, and engages himself in carrying out the Divine Will., There is no selfishness in his goal. He wants to liberate not only himself but the whole world.

d. The Methodology: Guru Nanak did not accept the dichotomy between empirical and spiritual lives preached by earlier systems. Asceticism which was considered essential for spiritual attainments, was described by the Guru as escapism and parasitism. He advocated a householder’s life, with emphasis on hard work, honest means for a livelihood, and sharing of earnings with others in need. God loves His creation, and takes pleasure in looking after it. In fact He is immanent in it. So the Godman must also love his fellow beings and carry out the Divine Will through altruistic deeds. Only thus can one find the path to Him. Full social participation, and struggle against oppression, injustice and tyranny in the cause of the poor and the weak, are an essential part of the Guru’s system. While the need for worldly pursuits is recognised, there is a very clear warning against acquisitiveness, accumulation of wealth and indulgence or what is called consumerism. Ritualism is condemned. Instead the emphasis is on Naam, i.e., remembering God or keeping Him in mind or being conscious of Him always. This means a realization of His immanence in the entire creation, or living in His presence all the time. All this comes under sach achar or truthful living which, the Guru says, is even higher than truth. Sikhism is, therefore, a system of noble deeds and moral conduct. It is the deeds that determine whether one is close to or away from God.

e. Equality and Human Dignity: Sikhism recognises no distinction between man and man on the basis of birth or otherwise. The Guru rejected the 3,000 year old caste system in India, and accepted and associated with the lowliest among them. His concept’ of equality for women can never be surpassed. ‘How can she be considered inferior, when she gives birth to kings?’ he asked. He also preached a life of honour and dignity. ‘He who lives with dishonour, does not deserve the food he eats’, says the Guru.

f. Removal of Inhibitions: Apart from the caste system, which restricted one’s right to spiritual pursuits and selection of occupation, there were several other restraints in earlier religious systems in India. Ahimsa, celibacy, vegetarianism, and asceticism were considered essential in the practice of religion. He rejected all these and recommended a householder’s life with emphasis on noble deeds, dignity of labour, service of humanity and full social responsibility. Later the Tenth Master confirmed this through his famous Nash Doctrine by which he broke away from all earlier traditions.

g. Development of the Society: The Guru was not concerned with the individual alone. His concern covered the society as a whole also. Based on the gospel preached by him, he founded a settlement towards the end of his mission at Kartarpur, which was open to all, and in which everybody worked and ate together. People subdued under the rigours of caste system, the oppressive alien rule and religious bigotry, could not be expected to take over the social responsibilities and adjust to the liberation offered in the new society, overnight. This infant society had to be nurtured for some time, and it had to spread geographically. So the Guru introduced the system of succession under which nine Gurus carried the mission forward upto the time Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa. A practical demonstration of Guru Nanak’s system had been given. Personal successor after the Tenth. Lord was not considered necessary, and the guruship was conferred on the Adi Granth and Guru Granth Sahib, or the shabad or the ‘Word’of the Lord.

h. The Scripture: The Adi Granth, compiled by Guru Arjun Dev, with later addition of bani of Guru Tegh Bahadur is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. As pointed out above, the scripture was given the status of guru by the Tenth Master. This appointment of the Scripture or the Word as Guru is unique to Sikhism. It simply means that in spiritualism the real guru is the ‘Word’ or the command or shabad of the Lord, and not the human body. Also it is only in Sikhism that the Scripture was written and authenticated by the founder himself or his successors. In other religions the scriptures were written decades or even centuries after the founders had left.

1.2 Besides the above there are some other features that need to be mentioned. In contrast to earlier systems, Sikhism is a lifeaffirming faith with a positive attitude towards the world. It is a religion of activism, noble actions and altruistic deeds. It is a religion of hope and optimism with rich traditions of charhdi kala or ever-rising high spirits. Pacificism and pessimism have no place in Sikh thought. Sikh discipline is a conscious effort to live in harmony with nature and to carry out the altruistic Divine

1.3 Macauliffe in his classic study ‘The Sikh Religion’ (1910), summed up the moral and political merit of the Sikh Religion thus:

“It prohibits idolatry, hypocrisy, caste-exclusiveness, the concremation of widows, the immuremen of women, the use of wine and other intoxicants, tobacco smoking, infanticide, slander, pilgrimage to sacred rivers and tanks of Hindus; and it inculcates loyalty, gratitude for all favours received, philanthrophy, justice, impartiality, truth, honesty and all the moral and domestic virtues known to the holiest citizens of any country.”
On the originality of the Sikh religion Macauliffe’s conclusion was:

“The illustrious author of Vie de Jesus asks whether great originality will again arise, or the world would be content to follow the paths opened by the daring creators of the ancient ages. Now there is here presented a religion totally unaffected by Semitic or Christian influences. Based in unity of God, it rejected Hindu formalities, and adopted an independent ethical system, rituals and standards which were totally opposed to the theological beliefs of Guru Nanak’s age and country. And we shall see hereafter, it would be difficult to point to a religion of greator originality or to a more comprehensive ethical system.”

1.4 The religion and the society founded by Guru Nanak grew steadily and in the hands of his successors brought about a complete revolution in the minds of the people as well as in the social and political setup in the North-West of India. His followers challenged the oppressive Mughal rule, overthrew it, and supplanted it with an empire of their own based on egalitarian principles and freedom of religious practice, with real power in the hands of the common people who had had nothing but oppression and exploitation at the hands of earlier rulers. The values taught by Guru Nanak are as relevant today as in the 15th century when he started his mission. The world today needs this faith of hope and optimism that preaches ‘sarbat da bhala’ (welfare of all). The Sikhs owe it to the world to share their rich heritage with the rest of mankind. Even more, they need to do this in their own interest in order to project a correct image of themselves.

2.1 The followers of Guru Nanak are no more confined to the land of Five Rivers or within the borders of the Indian Union. They have migrated to practically all parts of the world with sizeable populations in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, and other countries of Europe, America, Asia and Africa. With their turbans, unshorn hair which dominate their external appearance, they are easily distinguished, and become the object of curiosity. Missionary efforts have not kept pace with the requirements of Sikh emigrants, and as a result, they have often become the victims of suspicion and misunderstanding abroad. Reactions of the local population in other countries to the presence of Sikhs have varied from a rare appreciation, through common curiosity, to not infrequent positive hostility.

2.2 While the Sikh community in general and their organizations in particular, have been completely indifferent to the need for projecting the Sikh philosophy and history to the outside world, it seems that some hostile agencies have been very active in misreperesenting Sikhism and tarnishing the image of Sikhs in the world community. The extent of damage that has been done, may be judged from the opinion poll conducted in 1988 in Montreal by the Tandmar Research Inc. for the Macauliffe Institute of Sikh Studies, Toronto. The findings confirmed the worst fears. Thirty percent of’ the population in the sample perceived a clear prejudice against Sikhs, the figure being higher than that for the minorities as a whole. In the prejudice scale, Sikhs were behind only Blacks and Haitians. 80% of the respondents knew little or nothing about the Sikhs, and only 18% knew any Sikh. Although in India Sikhs are known to be the most industrious people, only 19% of those surveyed, believed that the Sikhs are hard working members of the community. Over 60% thought they were untrustworthy. Most alarming, however, was the response to the question, “What comes to your mind, when you hear the word Sikh?” Forty three percent used terms such as the following: ‘Revolt, conflict, riots in India, trouble makers, bringing trouble here, bombing, terrorism, violence, fanatics, extremists, fighters, warriors, hostile, don’t like them, bad impression, shot Gandhi, fighting with Hindus.’ Only 14% of them saw Sikhs as suffering from oppression.

2.3 One can only hope that the Montreal sample was not representative of communities in the West. For Sikhs are a flourishing community and are doing very well in most new countries of their adoption, in spite of handicaps. Yet the indications furnished by the survey, should be enough to shake the community out of its indifference and complacence. Steps must be taken to set the record straight and to project a correct picture of the great faith of Sikhism and its valiant followers. This points to the need for an organisation or an institute for an asessment of the world reaction from time to time, for research into and exposition of various aspects of Sikhism, and for dealing effectively with misrepresentations of Sikh doctrines and history coming from various quarters.

3.1 Old Sikh Literature: This includes janam sakhis or biographical accounts of Guru Nanak, Cur Bilas or Gur Sobha tradition, Panth parkash, Rahitnamas, etc. The janam sakhis contain serious misrepresentations and damaging interpolations attributable to schisms. associated with Baba Sri Chand (Udasis), Hundal (Niranjanis), Prithvi Chand, Dhir Mal, Ram Rai, and others. Unfavourable critics have frequently drawn upon these sources, and will continue to do so, unless studies are undertaken to lift the right from the trash that has crept in. The other categories of Sikh literature mentioned above, are also not free from the personal whims of the authors or the motives of those who sponsored the works.

3.2 Encyclopaedias: A survey of entries on Sikhism in 50 major encyclopaedias published in the West, has revealed gross misrepresentations. These include errors of fact as well as misinterpretation of Guru Nanak’s system. The Guru has frequently been shown as a disciple of Kabir. Sikhism is invariably presented as a part of Hinduism, and its teachings are confused with the so-called Sant Mat. In several cases the authors have failed to see the unity of thought of the Ten Masters, mistakenly referring to Guru Nanak’s philosophy as pacificismand that of Guru Gobind Singh as militancy. Another common misinterpretation is the theory of syncretism, which means that Sikhism is only an amalgam of elements drawn from Hinduism and Islam, denying any originality to Guru Nanak. Recognition of Sikhism as a revealed religion is rare. No wonder that the space given to Sikhism is extremely limited as compared with other major faiths of the world. Some of these publications make only a passing reference to Sikhism, while a few do not even mention it.

3.3 Recent Misrepresentations: The last two decades have seen a mounting of a regular campaign to misrepresent Sikhism. This was started by a former missionary in India, who has so far produced eight books relating to Sikhism. His thesis revolves around the following main points:

a. It is misleading to call Guru Nanak the founder of Sikh religion, as he did not originate a new school of thought or set of teachings. What Guru Nanak offers us is the clearest and most highly articulate expression of the nirguna sampradaya, the so called Sant tradition of Northern India, a system which he inherited, reworked according to his own genius and passed on in a form unequalled by any other representative of the tradition. It was the influence of Nath doctrine and practice upon Vaishnava Bhakti which was responsible for the emergence of Sant synthesis.

b. The ten gurus never preached one set of religious doctrines or system and particularly the Third Guru created new institutions on the old Hindu lines, the very thing Guru Nanak had spurned. From the Sixth Guru onwards the teachings of Guru Nanak were completely given up in favour of a militant pose in response to socio-political situations.

c. The arming of Panth could not have been the result of any decision by Guru Hargobind, but because of Jat influx in the Sikh fold. . . “The growth of militancy within the Panth must be traced primarily to the impact of Jat cultural patterns and to economic problems which prompted a militant response.” The traditional account about the founding of the Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of the year 1699 (AD) cannot be accepted, as there are “compulsive reasons for scepticism”, and “the traditions relating to the period of Guru Gobind Singh must be, in some considerable measure, set aside. The slate must be wiped clean and must not be reinscribed until we have ascertained just what did take place during the eighteenth century.”

d. The Sikh code of discipline, Rahat Maryada, and Sikh symbols were evolved during the eighteenth century as a result of gradual growth, though the tradition declares they were definitely settled by a pronouncement of Guru Gobind Singh and were a part of the Baisakhi day proceedings in 1699 (AD). Though the’ Gurus denounced caste system and preached against it, yet they did not seem sincere or serious in removing caste differences.

e. The succession of the Granth Sahib as Guru of the Sikhs, ending the line of personal gurus on the death of Guru Gobind Singh, was not because of an injuction of Guru Gobind Singh himself but was a subsequent adoption by the Sikhs, who were fighting for their existence, to meet the needs of the Panth for cohesion.

f. The authenticity of the current version of Guru Granth Sahib which is widely accepted and used by the Sikhs, is open to question, since there are three manuscripts (Birs) available which are not entirely identical.

3.4 This missionary managed to enlist a few associates from India as well as abroad, with whose assistance he has been holding conferences and delivering lectures to propagate the above line of thinking. For want of an organised resistance his claim to being an authority on Sikhtsm has been taken quite seriously in some quarters in the West. In fact both the Chairs established in Canadian Universities for Sikh Studies with collections from Sikhs are manned by this group.

3.5 There were some very unfortunate developments relating to Sikhs in their home state of Punjab and the rest of India during the eighties. These include the army attack on the Golden Temple, Amritsar, and other sacred Sikh shrines in Punjab, the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in Delhi and. other towns of India, and large scale violation of human rights and issue of draconian laws, which withdrew even the right to live. This attracted widespread criticism from the international community. I would normally not have referred to it, but for propagation of disinforrnation even from academic seats and platforms in the West. A spate of unfounded propaganda has been made against the community. Impression was sought to be created that all Sikhs were terrorists, traitors and undependable, and that they have no separate religious identity. It seems that the efforts did not go in vain, if the results of the Montreal inquiry, mentioned earlier, are any indication.

3.6 Here notice must be taken of the contribution made by a few other movements towards misinterpretation of Sikhism and Sikhs. Arya Samaj was very active towards the end of the nineteenth century. Its leader initiated a relentless tirade of hostile criticism of the Gurus and their teachings. Trumpp’s work appeared almost at the same time, and may not be a mere coincidence. Other movements that sometimes draw on the bani in the Guru Granth Sahib to support their doctrines diametrically opposed to Sikhism, are the Radha Swamis, and the Nirankaris (Delhi based). They are frequently confused with Sikhism by unsuspecting persons. While the former continues to take advantage of the sayings of Gurus in a subtle way, the latter has entered a phase of open hostility towards Sikhism.

4.1 Upto the end of the 18th century the community was engaged in a bitter struggle for survival, any scholastic activities were more or less out of question. The common man was not even aware of the misrepresentations that had crept in. Even during the first half of the nineteenth century, when Sikhs ruled the Land of Five rivers, the attention paid to the study of Sikh literature with a view to setting the record straight, was minimal. While the Sikhs during the earlier period, had to abandon their hearths and homes and stay in the jungles to escape the wrath of the hostile Moghal rulers, their shrines passed into the hands of Udasis and other sects who were more Hindus than Sikhs. The British conferred proprietory rights on these Mahants. As a result several Hindu rites had been introduced and even Hindu images had been installed in the Sikh sacred places induding the Golden Temple. Patronisation of Mahants who controlled the Sikh shrines, was also aimed at achieving the same purpose. The Arya Samaj movement, mentioned earlier, became very active, and its founder, Swami Daya Nand started his campaign of Shudhi to bring back the Sikhs into the fold of Hinduism. His enthuiasm, however, evoked an unexpected and very severe reaction from Sikh theologians of the time. This appeared as the well organised Singh Sabha Movement in the seventies of the last century. The famous publication of Bhai Kahn Singh,’ Ham Hindu Nahin Hain’ shows the gravity of the threat of absorption in Hinduism faced by the Sikh Community, as well as the intensity of the reaction of the Sikh leadership of the time. The other stalwarts engaged in this struggle were Giani Dit Singh and Bhai Vir Singh. This Trio will always rank among the greatest scholars and theologians of Sikhism. They managed to bring about a revival of the real Sikh traditions, and successfully repulsed the attack from outsiders. The Movement also effectively checked the inroads the Christian missionaris had started making with the advent of British rule in the Punjab, besides preparing the community for the struggles that lay ahead. The Singh Sabha survives in name even today, but its influence is too feeble to be felt. But the glorious role it played in the end of the last century, will always be remembered with pride and gratitude.

4.2 The Akali Movement: The next response came from the Akali Movement in the twenties of the present century, which after a prolonged struggle, sufferings and sacrifices, succeeded in wresting control of the Sikh shrines from the corrupt Mahants who had introduced several practices against the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. The outcome was the setting up of the statutory body, known as the Shromini Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1925 for the control and management of the major shrines of the Sikhs. This is an elected body which has introduced reforms in gurdwara management and has restored the Sikh maryada. It carries some missionary responsibilities also, which have received only limited attention. The body is dominated by politicians, and scholars have never had an effective say in its affairs. As a result, research and scholarly pursuits have never been its strong points, and the basic questions of misrepresentation of Sikhs and Sikhism have not been addressed.

4.3 Recent Interest in Sikh Studies: This started after the Independence of India, and received impetus, as the Quincentenary of ‘Guru Nanak’s birth approached. Guru Nanak Dev University was set up at Amritsar in 1969, with expectations of research into and propagation of the mission of Guru Nanak. Departments dealing with religious studies had earlier been set up at the Punjabi University Patiala. Several Sikh and non-Sikh scholars turned their attention to Sikh studies, and the literature that has appeared during the last two decades (Seventies and eighties) is indeed considerable, when compared with the very lean earlier period. However, the misrepresentations of Sikh ideology and Sikh history appear not to have received the attention due to them.

4.4 University Chairs: Well-meaning Sikhs collected funds from the Sikh community and succeeded in setting up Chairs .at some leading universities abroad with a view to promoting Sikh Studies and projecting a correct image of Sikhism and the Sikhs abroad. Unfortunately their efforts have so far misfired, since the incumbents selected were sometimes non-Sikhs holding derogatory views that make a misrepresentation of the Sikh faith. The views of one encumbent have been briefly stated earlier. For the other Chair (Vancouver) the incumbent selected is a scholar of cultural history. Some of his views may be reproduced here for the benefit of readers:

 “If there is any such thing as a key to historical problems, in case of Sikh tradition it is to be found in its social constituency, Sikh religion is first and foremost a peasant faith. Sociologists have spoken of how Islam is an urban religion, Sikhism may be spoken of as a rural religion. When dealing with the beliefs, rituals and practices of the Sikhs — be they religious or political — it is always worthwhile to constantly remind ourselves that we are fundamentally dealing with the peasantry and the world view of this social class has historically always been bery different from other social classes. A lot of knotty issues to do with Sikh studies would become easier to solve, if we stop applying paradigms that have developed out of the study of urban social groups -merchants, middle-class or city workers — and deploy concepts that relate to this day-to-day life of the peasantry.”

The finding in the paper read at Berkley about Sikhs being Sakhi Sarvarias is partly based on the fact that in the 1911 Census less than 3% Sikhs had been mentioned as followers of Sakhi Sarvar as well. He does not say that this was an aberration despite the teachings of the Gurus and of the writings of Sikhs enjoining the worship of God alone. In another paper read at Anaheim in 1989 he characterizes the present Sikh struggle as ‘fundamentalism’ with little political or economic justification.

4.5 It should be obvious from the above illustrations that these Chairs have added a new dimension to the problem of misrepresentation of Sikhism. They have not solved any problem, but they have created new ones. They are turning out material which is dearly damaging to the cause of Sikhism. Instead of improving they are spoiling the image of Sikhs. It may be mentioned here that The Institute of Sikh Studies Chandigarh and a few other Sikh organisations in India offered to discuss some fundamental questions like the originality of Guru Nanak’s religion and the Authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir with the University. The offer was, however, not accepted. The only conclusion from the sad experience with the University Chairs so far is that these can do more harm than good in institutions over which the community has no control, and where the incumbents have no sympathy for or allegiance to the cause of Sikhism. The new enthusiasm of well wishers of Sikhism to promote Sikh Studies through new University Chairs, therefore, needs to be directed to more productive channels, i.e. for the setting up of independent, institutions strictly under the control of the Sikh Community.

4.6 Meaningful Response: Since the agencies mentioned above, did not take any notice of the attacks on Sikhism coming from hostile quarters, misrepresentations continued and the critics flourished. It was only in the late seventies that a group of free lancers, notably Justice Gurdev Singh, S. Daljeet Singh and S. Jagjit Singh took up the challenge and set out to controvert the misleading theses of the Group led by Dr McLeod. They worked first in their individual capacity, but later they organised themselves into ‘The Institute of Sikh Studies’ at Chandigarh. As a result of their efforts a number of publications have already appeared and all the points raised by McLeod and his group have been adequately dealt with. The following books need special mention in this connection:

a. ‘Sikhlsm - A Comparative Study of its theology and Mysticism’by Daljeet Singh (1979)

i.‘Sikh Ideology’ by Daljeet Singh (1984)
ii. ‘The Authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir’ by Daljeet Singh (1987)
iii. ‘The Sikh Revolution’ by Jagjit Singh (1981)
iv. ‘Perspectives on Sikh Studies’ by Jagjit Singh (1984)
v. ‘In the Caravan of Revolutions’ by Jagjit Singh (1988)
vi. ‘The Sikh Tradition’ by Justice Gurdev Singh (Ed.) (1986)
vii. ‘Advanced Studies in Sikhism’ by Jasbir Singh Mann &
viii. Harbans Singh Saraon (Eds.) (1989)

4.7 Other Organisations: Recently a few other organisations have also carried on the academic work on sound footing. The Academy of Sikh Religion and Culture, Patiala, under the leadership of Justice Gurdev Singh is making valuable contributions. The book ‘The Sikh Tradition’ mentioned above is the outcome of its efforts. The Council of Sikh Affairs Chandigarh has been taking keen interest in the academic field. Outside India, The Sikh Community of North America organised a seminar at Los Angeles in December 1988, and the papers read have already appeared as’ Advanced Studies in Sikhism’ mentioned above. The Sikh Council of Education UK, and the newly organised ‘The Canadian Institute of Sikh Studies’, Toronto, have actively joined in this effort. As a result of collaboration between these societies and The Institute of Sikh Studies Chandigarh, a number of Conferences were organised in UK, Canada and USA in November-December, 1990

5.1 Since misrepresentations of Sikhism have flourished in the West, the thinking of the communities in Europe and America, is relevant to our problem. The West is by and large Christian in its religious and emotional affiliation. The following opinions expressed by the representatives of the Christian Churches at their world meets and conferences, may be good indicators:

i. ‘The American view was that there are three realities:
Christianity, other religions, and secularism, and that these three realities can either be allies or enemies. It was argued that the Christians had to choose whether they were to ally themselves with other religions against secularism. The Americans, especially the Boston Personalists who were leading the debate at that time, took the view that secularism is a common danger for all religions to fight secularism. European theologians, particularly, Barth, Brunner, and Kramer took a totally different view. They maintained that secularisation, not. secularism, is the primary process: It is a process in which some of the values of Christian faith have been put into a secular framework, bringing about a powerful force which is destroying all old ideas. Hence secularisation is an ally, because it will destroy Hinduism, Islam and other forms of what they considered to be superstition So we should ally ourselves with secularization and see it as the work of God.”

ii. ‘That is why at the World Council of Churches it was almost impossible to begin any kind of dialogue. That is one of the things on which I fought many battles, before we finally established a department for dialogue in the World Council. We brought Stanley Samartha from India to head the Department. That was quite a step forward. But then it was ruthlessly defeated in 1975. We had begun very cautiously, with a few meetings in the Middle East with Muslims and Jews. Then we had a multi-religious dialogue. The one in Colombo was the most important one of these, where we had all kinds of religions talking to one another. But there were problems.”

iii. “One of the books published during that era by Emily Brunner, the Swiss theologian, was called ‘Either/Or. In it Brunner argued that Christian gospel has overcome all its enemies except one, and that is mysticism. Mysticism is an enemy, because it claims that you can have unmediated access to God, and as long as you can have unmediated access, there is no use for Jesus Christ. Therefore, mysticism is the only remaining enemy, and one has to make a clear choice: either the gospel or mysticism.”

5.2 In the West religion is generally studied at three places. One is the forum of Theological Unions and Christian Seminaries. At these places the main study is of the Christian religion. Many of the colleges at the Universities are funded by the .Christian community. Thus, normally the obligation of the scholar at these institutions is to uphold the Christian dogma, e.g., at the Oxford University in England the scholar appointed for the study of religion has to give an undertaking for the purpose. The second place is the Department of Comparative Religion in the Universities. Here different religions are studied as traditions. But, todate, whether one likes it or not, the basis of this study is generally what is called the reductionist or mechanical method, i.e., the studies are by and large governed by the methodology and assumptions of evolution, behaviourism or what may be called naturalism or empiricism. The net result is that religions are studied merely as socio-cultural developments, class developments or developing traditions. So much so that many a scholar in this field does not accept the very idea of God or the existence of a spiritual dimension of Reality. Hence arises the use of somewhat derogatory terms like Neo-Sikhism, syncretism, eclectism, evolving Sikh Tradition, more specially in relation to non-Christian religions. The methodology of social sciences colours and governs very greatly the study of religions and their concepts. One finds that many scholars, particularly senior scholars of religion, are perturbed over this development. For this group, as also for the Sikhs, no study of religion is possible, unless the idea of God or the spiritual dimension is accepted as fundamental to it. The third field for the study of religion is the one of social sciences. Here the study gives us what may be called the Anthropoligist’s view of religion or the Sikh religion, the Sociologist’s view of religion, the Historian’s view of religion, or the Psychologist’s or the Psychoanalyst’s view of Religion. Each of these subjects has its own discipline and fundamental assumptions from which it cannot depart, and which form the basis of the study of any religion, like Sikhism or any other religion. It is necessary to impress that such studies can never be studies of religion, as the scholar is primarily governed by the discipline of his own subject. For example, for the Anthropologist, the Behaviourist or Psycho-analyst, values are just ‘defence mechanisms’ or ‘reaction formations’. And for reasons that are obvious he is justified in doing so. For, he cannot violate the very discipline of his subject in which he is trained. The result is that whereas from the point of view of the religion concerned such studies look vitiated and lop- sided, these are valid from the point of view of the discipline of the social science doing the study.

5.3 As it is, Eastern religions are studied generally under the Departments of South Asia or Eastern Studies. In these Departments religion is not studied as a separate department or discipline. Studies of religion in these organisations are, by and large, anthropological, sociological or historical, none of which are bound by the discipline of religion or accept its premise. Now, according to the Gurus, Sikhism is a revealed religion, and the Bani comprises the Commands of God, and the lives of Gurus have been lived in furtherance of that spiritual direction, involving the creation of a Panth that was anti-caste and anti-class. Secondly, Sikhism is not a tradition, nor can it be studied as such. Sikhism has a recorded scripture authenticated by the Guru himself. To view or study its principles as a socio-political development or as a growth of cultural or class interests or as a tradition is a clear distortion, For, a tradition according to Webster, relates to a system or doctrines that are understood and conveyed orally.

6.1 Sikhism is a revealed religion, and is uncompromisingly monotheistic. Based upon his mystic experience, Guru Nanak described God as the Ultimate Reality. He is the ‘Creator’, ‘Without Fear or Rancour’, ‘Beyond Time’, ‘Unincarnate’ and Self-existent’. He is’ All Love’, and ‘Ocean of Virtues’. God is transcendent as well as immanent in His creation. The world is real and a place for practicing righteousness. It is not mithya or a place of suffering, as described in some earlier faiths. Life is an opportunity for meeting the Lord. The goal of life is to be a gunnukh attuned to the Will of God. The methodology comprises householder’s life, earning an honest livelihood and sharing the fruits with others in need, truthful living, altruistic deeds, high morality, full social responsibility, service and sacrifice in the cause of justice, etc. Escapism and parasitism in the garb of asceticism and monasticism are condemned. Sikhism preaches a world view which is positive, life-affirming and progressive.
6.2 Misrepresentation of faiths is common. However, Sikhism seems to have had more than its share, and more often it has been motivated. Misrepresentations abound even in the old Sikh literature, e.g., Janamsakhis, Gurbilas Tradition, Rahitnamas, etc., and later in the encyclopaedias published in the West. Sikhism is invariably presented as a part of Hinduism and is confused with the so called Sant Mat or is deemed an amalgam of Nathism and Vaishnavism. Theory of syncretism is popular in some quarters, which assumes that Sikhism is only a combination of elements borrowed from Hinduism and Islam. The Sikh doctrine of Miri- Piri is the most widely misunderstood of all and militancy is ascribed to expediency or social factors.

6.3 Response of the Sikh Community to this onslaught or campaign of misrepresentations and adverse criticism has been rather slow and inadequate. This has encouraged the unsympathetic quarters, and their activities have assumed serious proportions and more ubtle forms. Literature has appeared during the last two decades, which seeks to demolish the very foundations of the Sikh faith, distorting the history, misinterpreting the teachings of the Gurus, twisting the doctrines, denying any originality to the founder or claim to religious identity to the Sikhs.

6.4 The Sikh Community has, by and large, been unaware of the damage being done. Mention may be made of some steps taken by Government and the Sikh Community, which could have rectified the situation with any good luck. A couple of Universities were established in India, and some chairs created in India and abroad to carry out studies on Sikh religion and to promote sound research. But the Universities have their own limitations.
6.5 Fortunately there is a silver lining to the dark clouds mentioned above. A few devoted individuals in India and abroad, have taken up the challenge, and have already made a promising start by organizing societies committed to this cause. They have brought out a number of books, giving sound scholarly information about Sikhism and its history. In the present climate and age it is essential that reliable academic studies on Sikhism are organised, to provide to readers in India and abroad, fully and properly researched literature.

6.6 The present situation demands concerted and coordinated efforts. Utmost vigilance is necessary to take quick notice of any uninformed or biased attacks on the philosophy, theology, ideology and history of Sikhism. Fundamental research needs to be conducted into the doctrines of Sikhism. An authentic interpretation of the gurbani is required. Basic literature of Sikhism needs to be studied in depth. There are some real or substantial controversies which need to be resolved. This cannot be done by small societies and their efforts here and there in an unorganised manner. There is an immediate need for Centre(s) of Sikh Studies to take up this responsibility. In fact there is need for a full fledged World Institute of Sikhism, at a central place with sub-campuses at selected places. Alternatively, there may be several Institutes with a Central Coordinating Body. It is difficult to give a detailed blueprint of the Project in this paper or in a preliminary discussion. This task will have to be entrusted to a special committee. Some hints are, however, given on the steps involved, in the last Section of this paper.

6.7 Conceptual Plan: A tentative plan of the contemplated campus (assuming a rectangular area of ten acres) is enclosed. The Complex includes:

Gurdwara and Langar
Pool and Pavilion
Class Rooms
Seminar Rooms
Classical Languages and Music Rooms
Open Air Theatre
Staff Quarters
Students Hostels
Gymnasium and Changing Rooms
Suites for Visiting Scholars
Administrative Block
Outdoor Sports
Garden of Retreat

It is for the Sikh Community to turn this ‘Castle in the Air’ into a reality and to install it on a firm ground.

7.1 As indicated earlier, details of the Project will have to be worked out by special committees. However, some of the steps required to be taken, may be mentioned below:
a) Set up Committee(s) for
i. Drawing up a Constitution: Name, Aims and Objects, Activities, Membership, Management Administration, Finances, Status, Coordination, Registration, etc.

ii. Selection of Location: Major considerations would be accessibility, availability of facilities, local support, etc.

iii. Collection of funds.

iv. Publicity.

b) Monitoring: This should be done by a high power Committee with Members drawn from the above committees and other agencies cooperating in the Project. This should also include liaison with similar bodies and institutions in other countries.

7.2 The details should be carefully worked out and given in a comprehensive document. It should, however, be borne in mind that the goal is eventually to create a University level Institute with modem facilities for graduate and post-graduate teaching and advanced research on Sikhism leading to highest academic degrees, besides a nucleus for a World Sikh Missionary Organisation, as a Separate wing. This may have to be achieved in a phased manner, depending upon the physical, financial and technical man-power resources. The purpose of this paper is to stress the need for a Centre or an Institute to perform the functions mentioned above. Once the idea is accepted by the Community, its fulfilment is only a matter of time. And with the traditional enthusiasm of the Sikh Community, there is no doubt, that the proposed Institute will be a reality SOON.

It is for the Sikh Community to turn this ‘Castle in the Air’ into a reality and to install it on a firm ground.

7.1 As indicated earlier, details of the Project will have to be worked out by special committees. However, some of the steps required to be taken, may be mentioned below:

a) Set up Committee(s) for

i. Drawing up a Constitution: Name, Aims and Objects, Activities, Membership, Management Administration, Finances, Status, Coordination, Registration, etc.
 ii. Selection of Location: Major considerations would be accessibility, availability of facilities, local support, etc.

iii. Collection of funds.

iv. Publicity.

b) Monitoring: This should be done by a high power Committee with Members drawn from the above committees and other agencies cooperating in the Project. This should also include liaison with similar bodies and institutions in other countries.

7.2 The details should be carefully worked out and given in a comprehensive document. It should, however, be borne in mind that the goal is eventually to create a University level Institute with modem facilities for graduate and post-graduate teaching and advanced research on Sikhism leading to highest academic degrees, besides a nucleus for a World Sikh Missionary Organisation, as a Separate wing. This may have to be achieved in a phased manner, depending upon the physical, financial and technical man-power resources. The purpose of this paper is to stress the need for a Centre or an Institute to perform the functions mentioned above. Once the idea is accepted by the Community, its fulfilment is only a matter of time. And with the traditional enthusiasm of the Sikh Community, there is no doubt, that the proposed Institute will be a reality SOON.



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