REVELATION AND REASON IN
SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB
Revelation and reason constitute two important areas of human experience and knowledge. There is, however, great difference of opinion in respect of the nature and role of the revelation and reason. Some scholars have even classified world religions on the basis of belief in relevation. According to one such view, revelation is the basis of Christianity and Judaism. Such a division, however, is neither satisfactory nor, perhaps, true. We know that every religion considers itself to be based on one or the other type of revelation. For example, Hinduism accepts Sruti as unveiling or disclosing of that which was formally hidden. Prophet Mohammad got revelation through the angel. Generally three different sources of knowledge have been accepted in the Indian and Western thought. These are: sense experience, reason and intuition. As held by Dr. Radhakrishnan “while all varieties of
cognitive experience result in a knowledge of the real, it is produced in three ways, which are sense experience, discursive reasoning and intuitive apprehension.”1 Locke has observed, “Reason is natural revelation, whereby the eternal Father of Light, the Foundation of all knowledge, communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he has laid within the reach of their natural faculties. Revelation, is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries communicated by God, immediately, which reason vouches the truth of, by the testimony and proofs it gives that they come from God. We can rely on revealed truth if we are sure that it ‘has indeed been revealed, and it is the function of reason to provide this assurance.”2 Now we are to see in this paper what are revelation and reason in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and what is their relations with each other.
Religion deals essentially with three subjects-the nature of Reality, the nature of man and his relation to this Reality, and the way to understand this Reality. The first two are the subject matter of philosophy proper and it is the third subject which brings the other two also into the domain of religion. As observed by a Sikh scholar, “as long as religion merely defines the nature of Reality and seeks to lay down the true values of human activity, it is no more than
philosophy and ethics, but when, it seeks and promises to help human
soul to take the truths to heart and to put them into action with the
object of resolving the problem of suffering, which is inherent in the
innermost core of man, the self-consciousness, then it becomes religion
proper.”3 Religion is the response of the whole person, not merely his
rational faculties to what he finds of ultimate value in life. h is an
acceptance and commitment to whatever he takes to be of ultimate
value in existence. The movement from God to man through which
the whole of a man is involved is called revelation. It is the disclosure
of the Ultimate Truth, God making Himself known to man and in
response to this knowledge we make a commitment to do something.
How revelation takes place? There are different answers to this question.
According to Sikh thought, man can have the direct communion
with God through His nam. The idea of revelation in Sikhism is a
unique one. It is in the form of the bani (the word). The Guru does not
claim himself to be an incarnation of God (the theory of incarnation
has been rejected by the Sikh Gurus), but the knowledge contained in
the bani (the word) is stated to be given by God. The revelation of
Truth, (the insight of the Guru, is referred to by the Guru himself. The
Guru had the direct experience of Truth and then expressed this
experience in his own language. Whatever truth the Guru received
from communion with God has been recorded in Sri Guru Granth
Sahib. According to the Gurus, the bani is the way of His manifestation.
God Himself is the source of the bani, the Primal Word. The Gurus did
not attach much importance to their corporeal form. They value most
their statements about communion with God. So there is no difference
between the Guru and the bani. We shall discuss this feature of revelation in Sri Guru Granth Sahib in detail. I think revelation can be
the appropriate word to be used for bani.
The word bani is the Punjabi version of the word vani in Sanskrit
language. In Sanskrit language, the word vani has been
defined as “sound, voice, music, speech, language, words, diction” and “the goddess of speech.”4 The idea that bani comes directly from
God has clearly been conveyed by the Gurus.
According to Sri Guru Nanak Dev, God Himself is the source of
revelation (bani), the Primal Word. The bani is the way of His
manifestation.5 While describing the stages of spiritual attainment in
our long journey to God in Japuji, Sri Guru Nanak Dev holds that at
the level or region of the inward orientation (saram khand)6, He reveals
Himself in forms (rup). Here the Reality is revealed as the harmonious
whole. In the region of grace (karam khand)7 the revelation
power, force, that is Reality is revealed as such, that there is no ‘other’,
all is He Himself. He is revealed to the seeker in His completeness.
Sri Guru Nanak Dev further holds8 that whosoever drinks at
the fountain of revelation i.e. bani, becomes acceptable in the Court
of God. After having been blessed by the revealed word, he seeks
the vision of Reality and values it more than the desires for heaven
or deliverance. Sri Guru Nanak Dev affirms9 in Rag Tilang that he
does not say anything on his own. Whatever he says has been
revealed to him by God. He is conveying that knowledge which he
has received from the Lord. He conveys this truth to Bhai Lalo at
the time of Babur’s sinful plunder of India and his forceful
occupation of this land.
Sri Guru Angad Devl0 has made distinction between the truth
conveyed in the Vedas and the Truth revealed through bani. According
to Sri Guru Angad Dev, the Vedas have related the myths which make
man to reflect upon values like good and evil only and they taught
men that one ‘takes’ what one ‘gives’ and according to this “give and
take” man goes into heaven or hell. The Vedas have created in man
the illusions of high and low and of caste and colour. But the bani is
concerned only with the attributes of God. It is uttered by the Gurmukhs,
i.e. God-oriented persons, who by the grace of God contemplate
it in their consciousness.
In Anand in Rag Ramkali,11 first of all he calls the seekers of the
Truth, which are the beloved ones of the Guru, to get together and
contemplate on the True Revelation, which is attained by the Guru
and is sublime. Only those who have the Grace of God can enshrine
His revelation in their minds. That revelation (bani) which has not
been revealed by the true preceptor (Satiguru) is false. Not only this;
those who utter false revelation (bani) are the false ones;
false are the listeners and false are the reciters of that revelation (bani).
The creators of false revelation (bani) utter God’s Name but not from
their inner self because their mind is lured by illusion (the maya).
They utter the Name in a routine manner without realizing its true
The fourth Guru, Sri Ramdas though he does not make use of
words true (sachi) and false (kachci) bani like Guru Amardas, but he
makes a distinction between the embodiment oftruth (sat-sarup bani)
which is uttered by the Satguru and false prattle (kach- pich) which is
uttered by others in imitation.12 Such people are not the ones who
have an enlightened self. The fourth Guru says that the revelation
(bani) of the true Preceptor (Satiguru) is perfectly true because God,
the Creator Himself makes the true Preceptor (Satiguru) to speak it
out13. Sri Guru Ramdas has bestowed the status of Guru on the bani.
According to him, there is no difference between the Guru and the
revelation (bani). They are one. The Guru’s revelation (bani) is the
embodiment of the Guru and the Guru resides in the revelation (bani);
and in it is contained the Nectar which is the giver of spiritual life.14
The Guru holds that the revelation (bani) and God’s Name are one. It
is the unique feature of Sikhism that the Guru is accepted as perfect
and permanent in the form of revelation (bani) not in his corporeal
form because corporeal form is ephemeral and his revelation
eternal. The tenth Guru, Sri Gobind Singh formally bestowed this status
on Sri Guru Granth Sahib which contains the revelation in the form of
The fifth Guru, Sri Arjan Dev, has also stressed the point that the
revelation (bani) has directly come from God. The Guru says that
whatever he conveys, has been ordained by God.15 Sri Guru Arjan
Dev concludes that God in the form of bani is all pervasive. The Guru
himself heard it from God and has conveyed it to others.16
Rejection of Incarnation (avtarvad)
The idea of God taking human form or any form has been clearly
denied in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru did not question the divinity
of the incarnations (avtaras) but they question their being worshipped
as God. They see nothing wrong in their coming on earth for the
restoration of Dharma, but they object to their worship as God.
Avatarana is a noun in Sanskrit language. Its root is in am and
the meaning implied by it is descending, alighting. Avatara ‘s root is in
as which means descent.17 This word has been used in general and
specific senses. In the general sense it is used for the appearance of
any deity upon earth but in the specific sense it is used for the
incarnations of Vishnu in ten principal forms. In the third sense any
distinguished person is out of respect, called an avatara or incarnation
of deity. It is believed by the Hindus that although God is all-pervading,
omnipresent, and is always there, He appears from time to time on
earth in special forms through His Yog Maya. God, who is also called
Vishnu, has ten major incarnations.18
In Sri Guru Granth Sahib the theory of incarnation (avtarvad)
has not been accepted. Only God has been accepted as the one ultimate
Reality. All others are His creation; incarnations (avtaras) also form
part of His creation. The names of Ishar, Gorakh, Brahma and Parvati
have been mentioned in the Japuji19 by Sri Guru Nanak Dev as the
creation of God. The three deities of Hindu Trinity Brahma, Vishnu
and Shiva are generally considered independent forces in Hinduism.
But Sri Guru Nanak Dev does not at all consider them independent
forces, because every thing is the creation of God and is under Him.
Only God has been conceived as the Supreme force by Sri Guru Nanak
According to Sri Guru Arjan Dev, to say that God was born on
the eighth day of moon (the birthday of Krishna) is utter nonsense. It
is illogical to say that God takes birth and dies. Body is fallible, and a
fallible thing cannot be perfect. To offer sweets to a stone-god is a mistake. He feels that cursed is the statement that God comes in the
cycle of birth and death.21
It is clear that the Hindu view of incarnation (avtarvada) has
been totally rejected. However, the Gurus were commissioned by God.
They considered themselves to be the servants of God. A question
arises what is the nature of divine manifestation according to Sri Guru
Granth Sahib and what is the status of the Gurus?
The Sikh Gurus were the messengers of God. They never claimed
themselves to be God. They were commissioned by God to preach
and practise the Truth. They told whatsoever was revealed to them by
God. We have many references to this effect in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
itself, as also in Janam Sakhis, in Dasam Granth and the writings of
Bhai Gurdas. It is recorded that Sri Guru Nanak Dev had been
meditating on the highest Truth from the very beginning of his life.
But he got the actual vision at the Vein stream. It is stated that the Guru
sat in meditation (Smadhi) on the bank of the river at
Sultanpur. We are told in the Janam Sakhis how the Guru was lost in
meditation. It is recorded poetically that the Guru “had ascended to
the plane of Truth and appeared before the True One. On the third day,
he appeared with a luminous halo around his face. Crowds gathered
around him.”22 The Guru uttered his first article of faith. He declared
that “there is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.”23 Bhai Gurdas has given
a mystical account of this in his Vars. He has stated that Sri Guru Nanak
Dev received the grace of God. On reaching the region of Truth, he
was conferred the nine-fold treasure of “Nam” and was graced with
humility. In his contemplation, the Guru had the vision of the world
being consumed by passion, ignorance, fear, and hatred. It was
confusion all around because there was none to give proper guidance
to humanity that was wallowing in misery. For this very reason, the
Guru put on a mendicant’s garb and started for his mission to lead the
people out of this suffering.24
Guru Nanak says that he, the worthless bard (Dhadi) was, blessed
with His service. He was ordered to serve Him day and night. He
received the robe of honour (sachi siphat sloh), to sing His praises. He
gave him the everlasting food of Nectar, Name. Whosoever has taken
his food (of Name) through Guru’s wisdom is satiated forever and is
in peace. The bard dwells on God’s Name and sings His word (Shabad).
Nanak says that by dwelling on the true God, one attains Him.25
In Sri Guru Granth Sahib divine manifestation is expressed in
the concept of light (Joti)26, and not in the form of birth as a human
being. It is the realization of divine light, the word (shabad), which is
to provide the status of the perfect Preceptor (Puran Gur). The way
through which this divine light is to be realized is the Gumzati way.
Owing to this concepts of light (Joti) and the word (Shabad) all the
Gurus treated themselves as one Nanak. So according to Sri Guru
Granth Sahib, the divine manifestation is in the form of Bani, it is the
Guru, the guide. Sri Guru Nanak Dev says that he is a sacrifice to his
Guru who makes angels out of men.27 As far as the use of the word
avtar (incarnation) is concerned, it has mainly been used to connote
the birth of a person. Use of this word may merely indicate the
reverential attitude of a person towards the saints. It is just expressive
of the devotion of the follower, or the narrator, towards the saint. It
does not indicate any acceptance of the doctrine of God’s birth in
In Sikhism, one is not cut off from society, one lives in the society
and moves towards the higher order. Revelation is something natural,
not super-natural. Sri Guru Granth Sahib rejected miracles. Revelation
is a gradual evolution from the lower to the higher, from the matter to
the spiritual. The revelation in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not an
intermittent or a time process but it is a continuous expression
direct experience. It is ascendence towards God. It is the knowledge
of the universe, the divine knowledge which is the result of God’s
So far as the position of the Sikh Gurus is concerned, we should
keep in view their relationship with God and the Sikh. The Gurus
describe that their position vis-a-vis a Sikh is that of a boat (which
ferries them across the ocean of life), brother friend, philosopher, guide,
the giver of Nam, and the Sacha Patishah (true Emperor),27 etc. A
unique feature of Sikh thought in this context is of the followers
becoming the Guru and, the Guru becoming the follower (ape gurchela).
Phenomenal Creation / Manifestation (Qudrat)
According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, God creates through His
power the Qudrat and manifests Himself through His Divine Reason
(hukam). The concept of Qudrat implies the whole existence from the
material level to the level of the most rational and conscious being.
Hukam means the causal relationship, the orderliness which makes
the universe a cosmos.
Qudrat (an Arabic word) means “to be able, power, ability,
potency, vigour, force, authority, universe, nature, etc.”28 Steingass
has given some additional meanings of the word Qudrat and has defined
Qudrat as “being, potency, omnipotence, providence, preserve, the
creation, destiny.”29 Qudrat has been used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
in the sense of the power of God and a means through which he
manifests Himself. God (Karta Purakh) is the originator of this world,
the qudrat,. This expression of qudrat, moves from the lower level to
the higher level, from the gross matter to organisms, from the rational
being to the highest spiritual level. It leads from the phenomenal to the
Siri Guru Nanak Dev holds the view that the manifest world sprang
forth from the act of His willing. From His one word ‘be’ the world came
into existence. From that one word, the whole inorganic universe came
forth (lakh dariao). His creation cannot be comprehended.
It is so
wonderful and amazing.30 He observes that the
world, the universe and the regions created by Him through His qudrat
are true.31 He denounces the idea of nature being an illusion.
His creation is not fortulteus or accidental, It is rational In nature,
everything is happening under His hukam. He Himself is residing
everywhere.32 He is ingrained in every body as the Word (Shabad). So
He is to be known through His Word (Shabad).33 Guru Nanak has
used the words pasaou, Kare, pasa dhali, Saji, Sajio, Vasia in relation
to qudrat. They indicate that His creation is well planned (pasa dhali),
beautiful and orderly (Saji, Sajio) and is permeated by Him (Vasia).
From the above discussion, we can say that the concept of Qudrat
in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is different from the concept of Prakriti in
Indian philosophy. Here in Sikhism God (the qadar) is the Creator of
nature (qudrat). Nature (Qudrat) is not absolute or self-
existent as in
Samkhya. It is not only the created one, but God resides in His creation
(Qudrat). The Absolute is immanent in nature and in every part of
creation there is the light of the Absolute. In the whole of the
manifestation, man is the highest kind because he has the capacity to
To analyse the nature of relationship between the Creator and
His creation we are to see whether creation is dependent upon Him
and is determined by Him or He is also dependent upon His creation.
Other questions are: whether He is transcendent or immanent,
He is wholly immanent or He is transcendent as well as immanent?
In Mul Mantra, it is held that He is the One universal Being, the
Real, the Spirit. He is the Creator, the Controller, beyond restraint, the
Spontaneous, beyond any internal antagonism, the Harmonious. He is
Timeless, yet He does not come into birth and death. He is Self-existent.
We can attune to Him through Guru’s Grace.34 God is the only one
Reality who is our Creator, Our Lord, according to Sri Guru Granth
Sahib. All other things are the creation; and being created, they are
subject to the laws of nature, and hence perishable. All these attributes
indicate His transcendence, His distinctness from His creation.
Guru Nanak while talking about the Creator compares himself,
the creature, to a fish and God, the Creator, to a river. God is just like
a river which is full of wisdom and the creature is a fish in that river.
As the fish cannot measure the expanse of the river, similarly man
cannot apprehend his Creator. Whatsoever man sees is the
creation of God and while man cannot live without Him, still he cannot
know Him fully.35
Guru Nanak further holds that He is immanent as well as
transcendent. He states that all the eyes are that of God but He has
none; the myriad forms are His, yet He has no form. He has thousands
of fragrances yet He has none.36 This brings out very lucidly both the
transcendence and the immanence of God.
In Islam also we find the concept of God as transcendent as well
as immanent. But in Sikhism, the relation of the creator and the created
is quite different from that in Islam. While Creator and creation are
separate a relation between man and God is possible because He
permeates His creation. According to Sri Guru Ramdas, as the light of
the Sun pervades the rays of the Sun, similarly, God permeates His
beings.37 It is important to understand that because of the inadequacy
of human language, it is not easy to describe God who is unknowable.
And similies and metaphors used can only be half true, and could
even be misunderstood. But two things are stressed, namely,
and Creature relation between God and man and His immanence. The
Guru says that He that permeates all hearts is Unmanifest too.38
The seeker after attaining to the Reality becomes like the ray
that has emerged from the Sun. The light in man joins the source of
light, God, and he fulfills himself. After that, whatever he sees, he sees
God in it, whatever he listens, he listens to God. He feels so because
God Himself is in His creation.
The Sikh Gurus hold the view that creation embodies spirit and
has meaning only in reference to the ultimate Reality as their destination.
(a) Bibek (discriminative knowledge) : Vivek is a Sanskrit word and its Punjabi form is Bibek.
knowledge (bibek) is the consciousness of the union
of the human with the Absolute, that person has discriminative
knowledge (bibek) who apprehends the Reality which permeates him.
Discriminative knowledge (Bibek) is not ordinary knowledge. It is a
distinctive kind of knowledge. According to the Gurus only such
persons attain the knowledge of Reality who are Guru-oriented
(Gurmukhs). He is the purest of pure and the man of highest
39 Such a person is emancipated and helps others in that direction.
He emancipates others also. The seeker to whom the Reality has been
revealed sees One God everywhere. He sees none else.40 According
to Shri Guru Amardas, man transcends his desires and attains the bibek
budhi and through Guru (Purakhat), knows the Absolute (Purakhu).41
This knowledge dawns only when man gets rid of ego (haumai) and
has the grace of God. Discriminative knowledge (Bibek) is the purest
of pure knowledge according to the Sikh Gurus. Such a person has
been called Brahmgiani in Sukhmani Sahib and he works for the wellbeing
of the other human beings with zeal.42
(b) Nature of Reason in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The Sikh Gurus have recognized the important role of reason in
the worldly and the spiritual life of man. A person bereft of reason will
be a victim of superstition, and therefore, not fit to undertake the journey
of spiritual realization. The role of mannan (manne in the Japuji of
Guru Nanak)43 is central to the task of spiritual transformation. An
irrational person will fail to perceive the coherence of the universe
and also fail to comprehend the communicated revelation. The Gurus
have thus emphasized the need to cultivate reason or the affairs of the
world as well as for the spiritual progress.
The founders of the Sikh religion have drawn our attention to
the fruitful and the perverse applications of reason. The former is a
character of the true seeker (khoji), but the latter signifies a mere
polemicist (vadi), such exercise is fruitless. The Gurus have extolled
the former and advised the seeker to refrain from the latter.
We also come across the use of other words, such as thinking
(soch), reflection (vichar), reason (aql) and wisdom (sianap) for reason
or reasoning in the Guru Granth Sahib. Although these words, in a
general sense, refer to reason, yet these are occasionally also used to
emphasize some particular form of it. We shall refer to these words in
their proper context.
A rational person has to proceed in his search of truth in the
spirit of a seeker (khoji). We are reminded by the Gurus that the seeker
(khoji) may reach the correct conclusion or true knowledge. The
polemicist (vadi) would merely waste his time. We shall, therefore,
begin our study of reason in Sri Guru Granth Sahib by determining
and analysing the nature of the seeker (Khoji) in contradistinction to
one indulging in polemics (vadi). Later we shall examine and analyze
briefly the other aspects of reason in Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
One of the important functions of reason is to lead to the
knowledge of the truth and to search for it. The Gurus have called it
the seeking (khoj) and the person who follows this path is called the
seeker (khoji). As opposed to a khoji, is the person, who seeks to
establish his own view, and strays from truth by all possible arguments.
He is referred to by the Gurus as the polemicist (badi). The vad (futile
discussion) is, therefore, a free use of syllogistic reasoning but its
validity may sometimes be vitiated on account of the falsehood of one
of the premises. The wrong statement of improper interpretation
be due to a desire to infer a particular conclusion.
The futile discussion (bad) has the negative as well as the positive
applications. The futile discussion (bad) as a method of (futile)
reasoning, is criticised and rejected by the Gurus. In Indian philosophy
vad is also discussion that “proceeds by means of the free use of
syllogism and aims at the ascertainment of truth. But it often degenerates
into mere wrangling (jalpa) which aims at effect, or victory and cavil
(vitanda), which delights in criticism for its own sake. Such a futile
discussion can be put an end to by convincing the opponent of his
error and forcing him to accept defeat.”44
The word Vad (often also written as Bad) and similarly, vadi, (written
as badi in Punjabi language) is traceable to the word vad of the Sansmt
language the word means ‘to discuss.’45 Logical reason, is generally,
classified as deductive and inductive. The deductive reasoning when
mediate, may assume the form of a syllogistic argument.
Here the person
proceeds from the premises to the conclusion.
The premises are the major premise and the minor premise. The
major premise is a general proposition. The minor premise refers to
the particular instance falling under the general proposition. The two
premises, taken together, lead to the conclusion. According to Sri Guru
Nanak Dev, this process of reasoning may assume the form of futile
discussion (vad or bad).46 It is wastage and may not lead to any
According to the third Guru, Sri Amardas, this type of reasoning
is unable to lead a man to any knowledge, though one may claim
himself to be a great scholar and interpreter of the scripture.48 This
may lead a person to confusion and not to knowledge.49
The polemicist (badi), according to Sri Guru Nanak Dev, merely
misconstrues an issue without leading to any fruitful culmination
thought.50 The destructive engagement of the polemicist (badi) is
highlighted by Guru Nanak. He has described the polemicist (badi) as
a possessor of false knowledge (mat jhuthe) which is destructive
(binse). The root of binse is the Sanskrit word vinash. This word means
destructive, hidden and destroyed.51 Futile discussion (Bad) is egobased,
narrow and subjective.52
The seeker (khoji): The word khoji (seeker) has formed from
the Sansmt root shodh (shudha + ghan). The word means purification,
cleaning, correction, setting right. And the word shodhkara means
purificatory, purifier, corrective. Furthermore, the word shodhana,
which in Punjabi language is khojana, means also refining, investigation,
examination.53 As is clear from its implication, the word khoj is the
positive aspect of this seeking. It is an investigation into the truth. So
the seeker (khoji) is the seeker of true knowledge. Sri Guru Nanak
Dev has described the seeker (khoji) as a seeker of self-realization
(atamchin).54 While discussing these two aspects of seeking Guru
Nanak regards the seeker (khoji) as a creative being (khoji upjai).
Upjai means addition and to grow. In Mahan Kosh Upjai means to
win, to be successful, to generate, to recreate, to grow.55 Upjai used in
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is closer to the meaning ‘to be produced’ or ‘to
be added’. It may be said that the context of the seeker (khoji) is not
an individual one. Rather it is a cosmic urge for fulfilment.
has also been described as the Guru oriented (gurmukh) by the Gurus.
The ideal for the gurmukh, is held to be the seeking of knowledge and
reflection (gian vichar). The seeker (khoji) also shares his knowledge
with others and thus performs acts of social service. The service in this
case is not an externally imposed duty but is rather an outcome of the
inward realization in the spiritual field. The seeker (khoji) is actively
engaged in the fashioning of his insight, concentration (sural) through
the word (shabad). This type of seeking is fruitful. This is rational and
Now we will refer briefly to the other concepts used for reason,
to encourage the fruitful culmination of thought. After the fruitful
culmination of thought which is the result of the seeking (khoj) man
enters into the second stage of reason i.e. thinking (soch). Bhai Kahan
Singh Nabha56 has given two different meanings of thinking (soch).
Thinking (soch) has two levels. At the lower level, it (the soch) leads
to the discovery of new ideas. Its second level, which is a higher one,
is to understand the truth described by the Gurus. It is to apprehend
the Word (shabad) through thinking. The destination for man is to
reach the Lord’s Name by the combination of concentration (surat)
and the thinking (soch). This is the real way to reach that destination.57
Reflection (Vichar) : The revealed knowledge becomes part of
the seeker’s personality through pondering on the word (shabad) and
what he knows from the Bani. Any knowledge, even if it be revealed
one, does not become the part of human personality unless one reflects
upon it. In Shri Guru Granth Sahib it is held that to achieve the goal of
his life, i.e. to realize the essence of his self, the seeker needs reflection
(Vichar) on the word (Shabad) or Gur-shabad.58
Reason (aql) : The aql has been used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
in two senses. We are concerned here with the use of the word which
has its origin in Arabic language, wherein the word aql is used for
Reason.59 The man who is devoid of reason (aql) is called blind and
self-willed. Such a person cannot attain the higher knowledge of the
word (shabad) and cannot thus understand, the essence of human
Wisdom (sianap) : Wisdom (sianap) is the higher stage of reason
acquired along with reflection (vichar), thinking (soch) and intellect
(aql). The wise (siana) is a person who is knowledgeable, and intelligent.
The wise (siana) uses his reason on two levels. On one level he tries to
understand the world around him through reason. Another aspect of a
wise man (siana)61 is that he understands the truth as expressed by the
Guru, through reflection (vichar). Though this form of reason is an
applied, one, but in spirit it is related with revelation. This is the higher
level of wisdom (sianap).
Superstitious-Rational: The function of reason on the theoretical
level is the discovery of truth, as we have seen it. It is to make us
understand nam, which is the manifestation of ultimate Truth. On the
practical level, its ideal is to direct our conduct, to guide us how to live
in the world. Practice is the manifestation of theory. So, in Sri Guru
Granth Sahib the use of reason is to take away man from the irrational,
the superstitious and to make him rational.
We group together as superstitions a number of beliefs, habits
and fancies, tribal and individual, which we regard as not being founded
on reasonable conceptions of the world and of human life, necessities
and obligations.62 Owing to superstition, normal phenomena are
ascribed to the agency of supernatural forces. These forces are
personified into gods, devtas, semi gods and goddesses, devis. These
complete or fragmentary personalities are considered accessible by
prayer and sacrifice. Some sort of magic is also performed
to win their favour. Such superstitious beliefs are not accepted in Sri Guru
Granth Sahib. Superstition is considered doubt (bharam).
In Sri Guru Granth Sahib, it is said that first God created His
light and then from it was created the whole universe. Man should not
be misled by any doubt. All the universe is filled by Him.63 Doubt
(bharam) and fear (bhai) are the causes of superstition. When man,
makes himself free from both, he becomes rational.
The above explanation is deeply related with reason. Without
using it as a medium it is difficult to make man free from all false
bonds. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib efforts have been made to free
man from superstitions and make him rational in his behaviour and
Unity of Reason and revelation in Sikhism
We have seen that reason and revelation are not contradictory
to each other. It is through reason that man becomes able to understand
the revelation. It is through reason that man differentiates between the
true revelation and the false one, and between good and bad. Man is
to shed his contradictions and superstitions through reason. Only then
he is able to attain the highest truth and understand revelation. Reason
comes first, and through reason man becomes able to move higher to
understand the essence of revelation. In Sikhism, reason and revelation
go together and their synthesis has been accepted.
Sri Guru Granth
Sahib is the religious scripture of the Sikhs which, contains the
revelation conveyed by the Gurus. The fifth Guru, Arjan Dev has very
beautifully expressed the importance of the Holy Granth in the epilogue
given at its end. This epilogue describes the importance of rational
reflection to understand the revelation contained
in Sri Guru Granth
Sahib. The Guru says that three things are placed on the platter. They
are truth contentment and rational reflection.
That person attains these
things who imbibes the nam of God. Nam being the support of all, the
seeker who tastes it; and he who relishes it is fulfilled. The Guru
proclaims that the one who understands
and assimilates the essence
of this revelation shall be saved. The Guru has ordained that this bani
or revelation is to be kept in mind with devotion. Through this, man
swims across the dark sea of existence and understands that all that
seems is the creation of God.
So along with the reverential place of revelation, reason has a
very important place in Sikhism; reason co-exists with revelation
because it is the medium for the rational being to understand what has
been conveyed to him by the highest Reality through revelation.
Knowledge and right orientation fashion the conduct of a man. It is
said in the last stanza of Japuji that chastity is the smithy and patience
is the goldsmith. Rationality of the mind is the anvil and knowledge is
the hammer (knowledge means highest knowledge) which beats the
gold of life into shape. The bellow pipes are the discipline and the fire
is the training. In this true mint is coined the Shabad, but only those on
whom is His grace conduct themselves in this way. Only those attain
Bliss upon whom the gracious God bestows His favour. So
discernment and rational understanding are necessary along with
divine knowledge. Thus, reason and revelation are synthesized in
Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Conclusion From our study three points are very clear. First, that the Sikh
thought is independent and unique in its nature. It is not the
of the previous Vedicor Hindu Revelation. The revelation
contained in the Vedas has not been accepted in Sikhism. Second, that
Sikh thought is not an amalgam of Hinduism and Islam. While studying
Revelation and reason we have seen that its concepts are totally different
from those of Islam or of Hinduism. As far as the language is concerned,
the Gurus conveyed the message of revelation in the common language
of the- people. So it was natural to pick up the popular usage of the
language prevalent at that time. Third, that the thought contained in
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not the product of the environment, nor were
the Gurus compelled by the circumstances,
the conditions of that
period to say whatever they have said. There was nothing new in the
environment to bring about the revolutionary changes in thought made
by Guru Nanak. Revelation can never be the product of the
circumstances or environment. It is the direct experience of Truth. The
Sikh thought produced history, it is not the product of history. The
thought which has got the capacity to transform
man, to change the
circumstances, cannot be the product of environment.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. S. Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life (Bombay: George Allen and Unwin, 1976),
second Indian reprint, p. 105.
2. Gerald R. Cragg, Reason and Authority in the Eighteenth century (Cambridge University
Press, London, 1964), p. 7.
3. Gopal Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, English version, vol. 2 (Delhi: Gurdas Kapur and
Sons, First impression, 1960), p. 1.
4. M.M. Williams, A Sanskrit English Dictionary (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, reprinted
1981), Vani, p. 1939.
5. Shabadanh Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committe, Amritsar,
6. Ibid., M. 1, p. 7 Saram khand ki bani rupu;
7. Ibid., p. 8.
Karam khand ki bani joru, thithai horu na koi horu
8. Ibid., M. 1, p. 21
anhad bani paiai haumai hoi binasu
9. Ibid., M. 1, pp. 722-23.
jaisi mai avai khasam ki bani taisra karin giyan ve Lalo.
10. Ibid., M. 2, p. 1243.
Katha kahani bedin ani papu punnu bicharu;
Tehi thei laina lai lai thena naraki suragi avtar;
Uttam madhim jatin jinsi bharami bhavai sansaru;
Amrit bani tatu vakhani giyan dhiyan vichi yai;
Gurmukhi akhi gurmukhi jati surati karam dhiyaei
11. Ibid., M. 3, p. 920.
avahu sikh satiguru ke piyarhio gavoh sachi bani;
bani ta gavahu guru keri baniyan siri bani...;
satguru bina hor kachi hai bani
12. Ibid., M. 4, p. 304,
satiguru’ki bani sati sarup hai gurbani baniyai
13. Ibid., M. 4, p. 308. Satguru ki bani sati sati kari janahu gursikhahu; har karta api muhon kadhae
14. Ibid., M. 4, p. 982,
bani guru guru hai bani vich bani amritu sare
15. Ibid., M. 5, p. 763.
haun apahu boli na janda main kahiya sabhu hukamaou jio
16. Ibid., M. 5, p. 1075.
gur ki bani sabh mahi samani api suni tai api vakhani
17. M. M. William, op. cit.,Avtarana.
18. Rajbali Pandey, Hindu Dharam Kosh (Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sangthan, Hindi Samiti Paryag), 1978, p. 54.
19. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. 1, p. 2.
guru isar guru gorakh barahman guru parvati maei
20. Ibid., M.l, p.l036.
ja tisu bhana ta jagat upaiya
Brahman bisanu mahesh upae maya mohu vadhayanda
21. Ibid., M. 5, p. 1136.,
sagal pradh dehi loroni.
so mukhu jalou jitu kahah thakuru joni.
22.Raja Sir Daljit Singh, Guru Nanak (Lahore: The Lion Press), June 1943, p. 20.
23.Ibid., p. 22.
24. Bhai Gurdas, Varan (Var I, Stanza 24).,
pahilan babe payia bakhashdar pichhon thei phir ghali kamaei
25. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. l,p. 150.,
haun dhadhi vekaru karai layia, rati dihai kai vardhurahu phurmaya, dhadhi sachai mahali
khasami bulaya. Sachi Sifti salahi kaprha paya. Sacha amrit namu
bhojanu aya, gurmati khadha raji tini sukhu paya, dhadhi kare pasaou sabadi vajaya. Nanak sachu salahi pura paya.
26. Ibid., p. 966.
lahane di pherayiai nanaka dohi kbatiai;
joti oha jagati saei sahi kayan pheri palatiyai;
jhulai so chhatu niranjni malli takhatu baitha gur hatiyai
27. Ibid., M. I” pp. 462-63;
balihari guru apne diohari sad bari,
jini roanas te devte kiei karat na lagi var
28. John T. Platts, A Dictionmy of Urdu Classical Hindi and English (New Delhi, Oriental Books, reprint corporation, first edition, 1977), p. 778, Qudrat
29. Steingass, F., A Comprehensive Persian English Dictionmy (New Delhi: Oriental Books,
reprint corporation, first edition, 1973), qudrat, p.957.
30. Sri Guru Gramh Sahib, M. 1, p. 3.,
kita pasaou eko kavaou, tis te hoe lakh dariau
31. Ibid., M. 1, p. 463.;
sache tere khand sache brahmand... sachi teri kudrat sache patishah
32. Ibid.,M.l, p. 464.;
Nanak hukamai andar vekhai vartai tako tak
33. Ibid., M. I, p. 580.;
kita vekhai sahib apana quadrati kare bicharo
34. Ibid., M. I, Mulmantra ;
eko onkari satinamu karta purakhu nirbaou nirvairu;
akal murati ajuni saibhan gurparsadi.
35. Ibid., M. 1, p. 25. ;
tun deriaou dana bina main machhuli kaise antu lahan
36. Ibid., M. I, p. 663.;
sa has tav nain nan nain hai tohe ko; sahas murati nana ek tohi
37. Ibid.,M. 4, p. 1177.
jiou pasari suraj kiran joti
38. Ibid., p. 939, 294.
39. Ibid., M. 3, p. 317,
Gurmukh gianu bibek budhi hoei.
40. Ibid., M. 3, p. 947.
sukhai ehu bibeku hai antaru ninnala hoi
41. Ibid., M. 3, p. 1276.
gur parsadi shiv ghari jamai vichahu shakti gavaei;
achru charai bibek budhi paei purakhai purakhu milaei
42. Ibid., M. 5, p. 273.
brahamangiani kai gribi smaha
brahamgiani parupakar ouamaha
43. Ibid., M. I, p. 3.
44. Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy (Vol. 2), (Bombay: Blackie and Son Pvt. Ltd., second edition), 1929, p. 115.
45. Vaman, Shiv Ram Apte, Sanslait Hindi Kosh, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, third edition,
46. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. I, p. 1032.
simirit Sasatar parhl purana,
vadi vakhanhe tatu na jana
47. Ibid., M. I, p. 1245.,
sachai saramai bahre agai laheh na dadi
aqli eih na akhiai aqli gavaiai badi
48. Ibid., M. 3, p. 27.
parhi parhi pandit jotki vad karahei bicharu,
mati budhi bhavi na bujhhi antri lobh vikaru
49. Ibid., M. 3, p. 1066.,
vedi. parhai andin vad smale
50. Ibid., M. I, p. 1255.
Khoji upjai badi binsai houn bal bal gur kmtara
51. Vaman Shiv Ram Apte, op. I, cit., Vinash.
52. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. I, p. 1343.,
jhuthi man ki mati hai karani badi bibadi
53. (a) Monier Monier Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass,
(b) ‘Vaman Shiv Ram Apte, op. cit, ‘shodh’ (Shudh ghan) : Shudh Sanskar,
54. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. I, p. 1255.
seva surati rahas gun gavan gurmukh gian bichara
khoji upjai badi binsai haun bat bat gur kartara.
55. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha (Patiala: Languages Department, Punjab), 1974, p. 652. 56.
Ibid., p. 174.
57. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. 1, p. 595.
hanu hatu kari arja sach nami kari vathu,
surati soch kari bhandsaltisu vich tis no rakhu
58. Ibid., M. I, p. 139.
na hau na mai na haun hovan nanak sabadu vichari
59. F. Steingass, op. cit, ‘Aql’ reason.
60. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, M. 1, p. 229,
andhe aqli bahre kiya tin siou kahiyai
61. Ibid., M. 4,p. 168,
dhannu dhannu guru guru satiguru.pandha jinni, hari upthesu thei kie siane
62. James Hastings (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (Edinburgh :T.T. Clark,
63. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Kabir, p. 1349-50.
avali alah nur upayia qudrati ke sabh bande
ek nur te sabhu jagu upjia kaun bhale ko mande
loga bharam na bhulahu bhai
khalik khalak khalak mahi khalik puri rahio srab thaein
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