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





Since the holding of the Conference of Sikh Studies at the California University, Long Beach, in 1988, by the Sikh Community of North America, and the publication of papers contributed for it, there has, in the West, been a keen academic interest in Sikhism and its hisroty. This led to a demand for similar conferences from different organisations 'of the community in UK, USA and Canada. Another event was the publication of literature in 1989-90, by some scholars at Vancouver and Toronto Universities, which contained consider- able disinformation about the religion and history of the Sikhs.

Accordingly, the Sikh Community of North America in con- junction with the Institute of Sikh Studies, Punjab, organised at the instance of local Sikh societies, seven International Conferences. The first was arranged by the Sikh Education Council, UK, on the 17th and 18th November 1990 in London. The other six Conferences were hosted by the Canadian Institute of Sikh Studies at the Toronto University, by The Canadian Sikh Study and Teaching Society at the UBC, Vancouver, by the Sikh Foundation USA at Berkley, by the Sikh Religious Society at Chicago, by the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and the Guru Nanak Foundation at Washington DC, and by the Sikh Cultural Society New York and the Sikh Community of the Tristate Area at New York, in November and December 1990.

A careful selection of topics was made, the object being to clarify important issues and to dispel disinformation that had been published. In that light expert scholars were requested to write papers on major issues raised in recent literature. For example, it had been stated that the Miri Piri doctrine was an 'innovation' made by the Sixth Guru, as a response to external factors. Daljeet Singh's article deals with this issue. He states that the above perception is held by persons mostly from the pacificist or dichotomous religions and is due to the conditioning of their own background, and their failure to understand that Sikhism, based on the whole-life revelation of Guru Nanak, is fundamentally a Miri-Piri system, combining inalienably the spiritual life and the empirical life of man. It was for that reason that Guru Nanak at one stroke rejected monasticism, withdrawal from life, celibacy and Ahimsa, and called life real and a game of love, commending a householder's life, accepting full social participation and total responsibility in all fields of life. Consequently it was he who organised a society and introduced the system of succession, so as to create and develop a Panth, motivated with the spiritual and social ideals and ethics of his system. In the background of three thousand years of ascetic and monastic ideals, the Gurus found it necessary to create their Panth through nine successions. The last five of the Gurus kept armies, and continued confrontation with the Empire, initiated by the Fifth Master by his martyrdom. The author concludes that this faulty perception of persons drawn from pacificist religions is due to their own religious tradition, and that scholars from whole-life religions like Islam have never felt any disunity in the thesis of the Sikh Gurus. This view has also been stressed by Dr. James Lewis saying, "in fact, the theme of supposed contradiction between early and later Sikhism, often carrying with it the same undertones 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 back- grounds fail to come to terms with the contradictions in their own culture."

Another observation was that the Sikh view point on the Dasam Granth is not available. As a matter of fact, on this point two researched publications exist., The first one by Dr.D.P. Ashta who views the entire Dasam Granthas the work of the Tenth Master. Later appeared the work of Dr R.S. Jaggi, supported by Dr Hazari Prasad Dwivedi who took into account the work of Ashta and controverted it, in a detailed analysis, concluding that many of the writings at- tributed to the Tenth Master, could not be his compositions. In this background Gurtej Singh was requested to give a critical appreciation of the two studies. He considers Jaggi's work to be sound.

Third, there have been observations regarding the Punjab crisis which were far from being accurate or well informed. It was asserted that in July 1985 the Prime Minister could be magnanimous and reached an agreement conceding 'most of what the Akalis had all along been demanding'. The papers of Kharak Singh and Daljeet Singh, respectively, deal with the major issues leading to the Punjab crisis, and the River Water and Hydel Power Dispute indicating the genesis of the problems which unfortunately still remain unsettled.

The papers contributed at these seven conferences are being published in the form of two volumes. In order to keep a balance, some of the papers contributed for the London Conference that could not be read there for paucity of time have been included in the present volume. A brief resume of the various papers is given below.

1. In 'Guru Nanak: The Prophet of a Unique Ideology', Daljeet Singh deals with some important aspects of the Sikh Ideology. Apart from giving a brief account of Guru Nanak's system, he states that his spiritual experience is entirely different from that of the other Indian mystics. Therefore, he makes a complete departure from the Indian religions by combining the spiritual and the empirical lives of man, laying down the Miri Piri system, and prescribing a new spiritual goal and methodology, involving social participation and total responsibility as the instrument of God's Will. Guru Nanak himself proclaims both his prophethood and his mission. Daljeet Singh emphasizes that this uncommon step of Guru Nanak is fundamentally linked with his goal of continuing a mission and creating a separate Panth. It is only in this context, that we can understand the role of the subsequent Gurus in organising and developing a new Panth. Hence, even though the ideology had been laid down by Guru Nanak and the scripture compiled by Guru Arjan, yet the succession was continued for another hundred years through five Gurus. all of whom continued militant confrontation with the Empire. It is only after the Five Piaras and the Khalsa had been created that the Tenth Master closed the succession, even though all his sons were alive then, and introduced the Nash doctrine of a complete break with the earlier traditions and culture. Lastly, the author explains why persons drawn from pacificist or dichotomous systems, being conditioned by their own religious traditions, fail to find the continuity in the Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh succession, while scholars from whole-life religions like Islam, have never felt any incongruity in the role of different Sikh Gurus.

2. Avtar Singh's synopsis of his proposed paper on the 'Role of Moral Philosophy in Sikhism', states that freedom as a moral value has played an important role in shaping the Sikh sentiment for the virtue of courage. Accordingly, the moral philosophy of 'Nirbhau' and 'Soorah' inspires the seekers to continue the righteous struggle. It is extremely unfortunate that the learned author could not send us his revised paper owing to the sad and unfortunate fatal accident he met early in the year. His departure is a very major loss to Sikh Studies.

3. Harnam Singh Shan's well documented paper, 'Sikhism – an Original, Distinct, Revealed and Complete Religion', marshal Is a large volume of contemporary evidence to explain how, viewed in the context of its thesis, scripture, institutions, ethics, methodology and other factors, Sikhism is in every respect an indepondent system. He has indicated about a score of points, which show that Sikhism has its own singular identity.

4. Gurnam Kaur brings out with clarity the unity of revelation and reason in Sikhism. She states that although primarily a revelatory religion, Sikhism not only finds no contradiction between revelation and reason, but also makes proper use of reason for the purpose of a . religious life. She concludes that the Sikh thought, which is the result of direct experience of Truth, has created history, but is not the product of history. In Sikhism, the role of reason is complementary to the revelation received by the Gurus.

5. Baljit Singh Bagga in his paper 'Mysticism in Sikhism' gives a concise statement about the mystical experience of the Gurus, its distinct features, expression and style, the new direction it took and the historical role it fulfilled in Indian history. He supports his views by the Bani of the Gurus and how they tried to implement their mystic thesis.

6. In his second paper on the 'Concept of Charhhdi Kala in Sikhism' Baljit Singh tries to stress how in the context of pessimism that materialism and scientific philosophies have generated in the life of man, optimism and even inspired struggle for a righteous cause are an important aspect of the spiritual thesis of the Gurus, and the consequent approach of the Sikh society.

7. Kanwaljit Kaur in her paper 'Sikh Women' emphasizes the radical contrast between the approach of Guru Nanak towards the position, status and role of women in society and similar thoughts about women in the contemporary and traditional religious societies. She stresses that such a contrast could only be spiritually conceived and ordained, and could not be the result of contemporary or earlier religious or social environment.

8. In emphasizing the identity of Sikhism and Sikh Society in his paper, 'The Sikh Identity', Daljeet Singh explains how in the matter of spiritual experience, the concept of God, ideology, class, scripture and its institutions, Sikhism is entirely different from ";

9. In his paper 'The Saint Soldier', Kharak Singh stresses that Guru Nanak in his pioneer role gave a clear blow to the dichotomy between the spiritual life and the empirical life that existed in all the earlier Indian religions or the pacificist systems. He delineates that in pursuance of his new whole-life or Miri Piri thesis, the Sikh Gurus developed the concept of Sant-Sipahi or a spiritually integrated man alive to his duties both to God and man. He explains the clear logic of the Gurus' thesis, the development of the Sikh society and the epitomic spiritual personality of the Sant Sipahi or the Sikh Gurus.

10. In the paper 'The Origin and Development of Sikh studies' G.S. Mansukhani gives a graphic picture of the development of Sikh literature in the English language in the preceding about two hundred years. From the earlier fragmentary works of James Brown, John Malcolm and the superficial work of the German missionary, E. Trumpp, he states how the study took a more comprehensive approach in the works of Macauliffe, Dorothy Field, Teja Singh, Sher Singh and others. In the forties and fifties and later there was a spurt in Sikh writings, especially following the establishment of Sikh Foundations, Sikh Chairs in the Universities and the celebration of the Quincentenary year of Guru Nanak. In the third phase, he states, have appeared interpretative works of Mansukhani, Daljeet Singh, Jagjit Singh, Harbans Singh, J.S. Mann and others. Finally he indicates some areas in which further studies need to be undertaken. He commends the method of holding academic conferences, and concludes that the seed sown by the Gurus is of God and shall grow.

11. Kharak Singh's paper, 'Sikh Ideology, Fundamentalism and Punjab Problem' is a response to some sketchy observations made by Oberoi and McLeod who have tended, to misrepresent the issues of the Punjab Problem. In the background of Sikh ideology, the author relates the sequence if events that have led to the various issues involved in the current crisis in the Punjab. The statement of facts given makes it evident that fundamentalism or parochialism has hardly anything to do with the problems of the Punjab, which are primarily cultural, social, economic and political, and can be solved only on the basis of accepted principles of democracy and justice.

12. In 'Guru Tegh Bahadur-The Ninth Nanak', S.S. Kohli gives a clear picture of the Bani and life of the Guru. He makes cogent use of contemporary sources, and concludes that the Ninth Master sacrificed his life for the cause of Dharma, which included the right of the people, the Hindus in this case, to practise their faith in the manner they liked.

13. In her paper 'Devi Worship Story - A Critique', Madanjit Kaur makes a detailed Analysis of the tale of Devi Worship in the various writings of Koer Singh and others. Apart from the fact that she finds the story completely inconsistent with the entire lives of the Gurus and their Bani, including that of the Tenth Master, it finds no mention at all in the first and most authentic narration of a contemporary, Sainapat, in his Gursobha that appeared near 1701 AD. Further, she cites support for the version of Gursobha from the evidence of Parchi Patshahi Daswin ki and some other contemporary or near contemporary works. She argues that Koer Singh's version is obviously very incongruous and is clearly influenced by his personal prejudices of being a person with evident Brahminical leanings. Similar are the reasons for Chhibber Brahmins to distort the Amrit Story.

14. Gurtej Singh has analysed the works of Dr. Ashta and of Dr. Jaggi on the Dasam Granth. He finds that the former has failed to examine properly some of the available sources and material. Another serious fault, he believes, is that Ashta has entirely ignored the obvious contradiction between the ideology of the Guru Granth, which emphatically rejects gods and goddesses and the theory of Avtarhood, and a large section of the Dasam Granth which is profuse- ly devoted to the praise of Devis and Devtas. Similarly, Ashta, he suggests, while drawing his conclusions has also omitted to explain the contradiction between the known compositions of the Tenth Master, condemning the worship of Avtars and devtas and a major part of the Granth written to eulogise Shiva and other gods and godd~sses. He concludes that Ashta's work and views do not, for that matter, attain a high academic level. He finds that his view that the whole of the Granth is the production of the Tenth Master, is un- tenable. On the other hand, he finds Jaggi's view, which has been supported by Dr. Jfazari Prasad Dwivedi, quite scientific and well-researched. For, on clear ideological, linguistic and other grounds, he is reluctant to accept that compositions like Chaubis Avtaar, Chandi Charitra, etc., devoted and worshipful to Devis and Devtas, could be the production of the Guru.

15. 'Raj Karega Khalsa' by Kharak Singh and G.S. Dhillon is a historical study of the slogan which, according to the question- answer series written by Bhai Nand Lal, arises from the objectives explained to him by the Tenth Master. In this context the statement of Mata Sundri that the Tenth Master had assigned the role of Sewa or service to Banda and the role of righteous and just rule to the Panth, is very significant. The paper explains what a great socio-political revolution was brought about by the Sikhs in the state. By any standard or assessment it was a revolution, the authors aver, greater in its implications than the French Revolution or any other revolution, because the lowest social strata of society were elevated to the highest level, and unlike elsewhere, they not only gained equality and prestige, but once for all brushed aside the social stigma attached to their status, profession or caste.

16. The spate of books on Punjab crisis mostly miss the historical perspective of the Punjab river waters dispute, which Daljeet Singh draws concisely. He explains how over time the major part of Punjab waters has been diverted to non-riparian states in apparent contravention of the riparian principle embodied in the Indian Constitution. He stresses that while from the national point of view it would clearly be unproductive to use those waters in the distant deserts of Rajasthan, their use in the parent riparian state is critically vital and essential for the future economic and socio-political well-being of Punjab and its people. He suggests that a problem which could easily be solved judicially, has been allowed to grow into a major block to the solution of the crisis in the State. For, he concludes that without the full acceptance of the riparian principle, it would be impossible to solve the continuing crisis.

17. R. S. Wahiwala, in his paper 'The Sikh Code of Conduct' deals with a subject of contemporary relevance, and seeks to clarify the many issues about the Sikh Rahit regarding which quite a confusion is sought to be created both by some scholars and some non-Sikh organisations. He concludes that seen in the light of history, tradition and literature, the Rahit prescribed by the SGPC is authentic.

18. In the last paper Kharak Singh emphasizes the need and justification for a World Institute of Sikhism and gives an outline for it. He argues that Sikhism being a whole-life religion with an optimistic attitude towards life and a goal of carrying out the Altruistic Will of a Loving Creator, the Sikhs owe it to themselves and their faith to present its world-view at the forum of other Higher Religions. The author points out that the damage from the earlier indifference, both by the scholars and the intelligentia, has been considerable. Efforts made so far, he indicates, have been, although commendable, inadequate. It has been evident that in the field of religious studies work by proxy is not possible. That is why existing efforts have been neither quite fruitful nor in any sense authentic. Further neglect, or allowing the existing state of affairs to continue, he believes, could be suicidal. Hence his emphasis for the establishment of an Institute/Centre of Sikh Studies and Education with modern facilities for research and publication.

As a brief account of the various papers show, the organisers of the Conference, purposely took up issues both of permanent and contemporary relevance. It is these matters that the authors have tried to deal with at the academic level, so that a balanced and accurate understanding and assessment of the issues is possible, both by scholars and the reading public. Of course, in academic matters, while no finality can be achieved, many of the cobwebs have been removed, and the points have been analysed, clarified and supported with cogent factual, historical and scriptural evidence. It is for these reasons that we have given a brief resume of the various papers so that the busy reader may select the subject of her or his interest.




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