Guru Granth – Guru Panth
The authenticity of Guru Granth as the perpetual and perennial Guru of the Sikhs has been questioned, debated and resolved in the four hundred years of its existence. Many fingers were raised about Guru Arjun Dev’s modus of selection, and sorting of hymns of Gurus and bhakts, about the originality of Mul Mantra itself and the concluding Raag Mala. Guru Arjun Dev’s original manuscript of the Adi Granth is preserved at Kartarpur, and many people, including scholars worldwide have seen it repeatedly and critically, counted the hymns and pages, many experts have checked the quality of paper used, and handwriting experts have compared the insertions, deletions, additions and style. It has been discussed thread bare, and today, it is a happy position that most of the possible queries have already been settled, although the researchers have, in their fashion of the so-called scientific study of the issue, overlooked the point that Guru Arjun Dev was vested with the authority to compile the Granth. He had inherited the mantle of Guru Nanak’s seat and mission and the sacred writings of the Gurus, and was within his absolute rights to not only compile, but to correct, examine, verify and edit the available material including its arrangement and assignment of ragas, ghars, and meters of the poetical standards and to catalogue its numbering, when and where necessary. He was, himself, a major contributor of its contents, finally incorporated into the Pothi Sahib, and he was quite aware of any possibility at interpolation by detractors. The authenticity of the Granth was, therefore, ensured by the authorship of the fifth Nanak and not due to the certification of the so-called scientific researchers.
Pothi Sahib or the Granth was further checked and edited by Guru Gobind Singh, who decided to add the sacred hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur and put the seal of finality on the completed volume. Since he was the reigning Guru to decide and rule the dogma, it is of no purpose to further raise questions on why he did not add his own verses in the completed volume. He so desired and his wishes are supreme. It does not mean, at the same time, that his holy utterances are of no consequence as some of the scientific researchers keep themselves busy to articulate. If the yard-stick of inclusion in the Holy Granth is the sole criterion, the veracity of masands in Sikh history and the institution of Akal Takht and the tradition of unshorn hair before the initiation by the Khanda will all become irrelevant ! However, to come to the point, the finality of the Adi Granth was reinforced with the abolition of succession of the Guru in person and anointing the Pothi Sahib as the eternal Guru Granth Sahib of all Sikhs in perpetuity.
The tenth Master brought in many innovations in the Sikh movement, but within the ambit of Guru Nanak’s creed. His appointment of Guru Granth as the sabad Guru for ever is not in any dispute, and every Sikh has readily accepted it. There is no doubt about his dismissal of the age-old masand system, which had served quite efficiently in the spread of the faith for generations, from the time of appointment of Sajjan, the erstwhile thug and which was nurtured so carefully by Guru Amar Das and the subsequent Gurus. The masand system had thus remained useful for over two hundred years till Guru Gobind Singh terminated it. The Panth accepted it, and thereafter directly came in contact with the Guru despite the manifold increase in the numbers of Sikhs and the pilgrim parties to the Guru’s darbar. It is also not disputed that Guru Gobind Singh founded the practice of initiation by khande ki pahul, which became the sole method of initiation in Sikhism.
It is interesting to observe that even for those reluctant and wavering Sikhs, who were not ready to adopt the khande ki pahul and adopted the nomenclature of sehajdhari, the charanamrit was fully and finally discarded. The very initiation into the Faith is thus not available except by the initiation of the sword, the khande ki pahul, which was also called amritpan. This is historically corroborated by court informers of the then central and provincial governments, poets and even those inimical to the whole Sikh movement. Many thousands accepted the new method of initiation, the amritpan, on the first day itself. The amritpan of such a large number of seekers on the first day must have been a gigantic affair by any standards. Its impact on the community and in history was bound to be tremendous. Thereafter it became fashionable and Sikhs everywhere came in droves for initiation which was authorised to be performed by an assembly of five Sikhs, who became bearers of the spread of Sikh Faith, previously undertaken by the masands, whose gap was filled by the common assemblage of the adherents of the Faith.
Guru Gobind Singh named the newly initiated Sikhs as Khalsa, which was likewise not a new term, but was in wide use by the earlier generations. There is no need to dissect the term to find its choice by the Master. The tenth Guru bestowed on Sikhs the honour and prestige of guruship when he bowed before the initiated Sikhs for his own initiation. This was reiterated when he, as his last act, appointed Khalsa as its co-harbinger along with Guru Granth, but under the advice and discipline of guru sabad, gurbani, confined to matters of mundane nature. It will be necessary to point out that Guru Gobind Singh, at the time of his amritpan, did not ask the entire assembled congregation of Sikhs, who watched the events spellbound, but the five Beloved, punj piyare, the initiated Sikhs, for the boon of initiation. Immediately thereafter, the congregation approached the panj pyare to give them the initiation of the sword, and such teams were evidently formed of the newly initiated Sikhs to initiate others awaiting their turn.
It is here that we have to pause and realign our bearings and consider the subject matter of the body and constitution of the devotees who form the mainstream of Sikhism. Three things are clearly established :
Firstly, Guru Gobind Singh bowed at Anandpur Sahib on Baisakhi day of 1699 to the five initiated Khalsa, the panj piyare, the nucleus of the new wave Sikhs.
Secondly, at Nanded, Hazoor Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh, at the time of his imminent demise, resolved the hesitant objection about the conduct of day-to-day affairs of the community, by asking the Sikhs accompanying him to continue to take collective decisions for the welfare of the community. It is obvious that he had in his entourage, a devoted body of the initiated Sikhs, ready to defend the Guru and the values of their faith, promulgated by the tenth Master, for which purpose he asked the Sikhs in far away locations by the hukamnamas, and orally too, to adopt the uniform code of conduct of the Khalsa.
Thirdly, some so-called scientific researchers of the modern mode consider it a fine point of some significance that there does not exist any handwritten rahitnama, code of conduct, by the tenth Master, to quell their thirst for final proof! Even the compilation of Adi Granth was not in the handwriting of either Guru Arjun Dev or Guru Gobind Singh, which does not in any way cast aspersions on the authenticity of Guru Granth Sahib. Moreover, it was normal practice of Guru Arjun Dev as well as of Guru Gobind Singh to dictate their verses and correspondence to scribes. The Guru seldom, if at all, wrote in his own handwriting. That was the practice of the era, at the court of the Mughal and his satraps and dignitaries of the Empire. The art of dictation has been prevalent to the present times in modern society. Moreover, an event as recent and fresh as merely three hundred years ago cannot be gauged with the tools used for ancient occurrences where historical and customary records are indistinct and dim. Three hundred years is a very small period in world history, vividly fresh and commented upon by friend and foe and by the government reporters and poets, who witnessed it.
To define Guru Panth is, therefore, not so hazardous. However, it is the regard for the non-initiated sangat, who have love and devotion of Guru at heart, and his creed that Guru Khalsa has always given them due consideration, and invited their opinions in the community’s deliberations, provided they remain within the terms of Sikh values, and the wider spectrum of the Sikhs of various hues and sampradayas in resolving any matters confronting the community at a common platform.
Till the Baisakhi of 1699, the composite body of the sangat was addressed by the Gurus as Guru ka Khalsa in hukamnamas recorded and available to us. From the Baisakhi of 1699 onwards, the nomenclature of Khalsa was used by Guru Gobind Singh for those who were initiated with the khande ki pahul. These duly initiated Sikhs inherited the privileges and the position of Guru Khalsa when Guru Gobind Singh appointed Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal sabd Guru of all Sikhs.
It will be a simplification to suggest, as some modern self-styled authorities on Sikhism would have us believe, that Sikhism was only an offshoot of Hinduism, and that it prospered simply because, in the times of the Sikh rule in the Punjab, it became a fashion with West Punjab Hindu families to adopt the faith in the case of their first born sons only. What happened before Sikh ascendancy when Sikhs were hunted like wild animals without succour? Then the Hindus preferred to shave their beards to avoid being mistaken even by chance as Sikhs. Most of the Hindus kept at a safe distance from hard core Sikhs.
The hard core Sikhs who got scalped or burnt alive or were cut to pieces, were not these fashion-seeking, peace loving citizens.
Sikhs who opted for sacrifices did not belong to any community or caste or region or tradition. They came forward due to their strong convictions. These persons came forward to offer themselves for brutal killing by the State, and embraced death for cherishing their sacred values. These values were by no yardstick a rehash of ancient mantras, tantras and worship rituals and ceremonies or even inherent meanings thereof. And what happened after the Sikh rule? The fashion of having the eldest son reared as a Sikh faded away, because it was no more considered necessary. The families of those who claimed to be part and parcel of the Sikh Panth, now acclaimed the newly arrived Arya Samaj as their creed, and took up the stance of Swami Daya Nand Saraswati in calling the great Guru Nanak as an uneducated, rustic impostor ! A dambhi ! He cast unforgivable comments on Guru Granth Sahib without any detailed study. When he agreed to expunge the references offensive to Sikhs from his Satyarath Parkash in the revised edition, but could not do so in his lifetime, these newly emancipated ex Sikh-cum-Hindus declined to carry out the Swami’s wishes and the derogatory remarks remain in their sacred book. It is futile to find political reasons for the behaviour of the Hindu majority in times of stress compared to present time of their proven edge over minorities.
Some people in their wisdom propounded a theory that Sikhs deviated from a peace-loving trail to that of violence due to the incursion of Jats in their ranks. It is regretably absurd. Firstly, it takes away the hold of the Guru in direction and guidance to an unruly mob. Secondly, Sikhism being a whole philosophy always stresses on the inner moral strength rather than the martial spirit. The martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev was the supreme sacrifice out of his sense of fortitude and firm convictions, born of total surrender of self and fearlessness, for which martial spirit of a section of the followers was not required. Great feats of valour were performed by Sikhs, who came from high and low backgrounds, because of their firm faith in the values of Guru Nanak’s creed and not just because they were naturally strong built. It was the victory of moral state of mind over matter.
Finding scapegoats to offer reasons of political realignments is absurd. In Muslim era, Hindus adopted the dress, customs and idiom as well as the language of the rulers, which was strongly criticised by Guru Nanak. With the passing of Moslem influence came the British and Western culture. It has got a stranglehold over the psyche of the people of this country firmly in its grip even after more than fifty years of ridding the country of British rule. Sikhs are now eagerly veering round to adopt the culture of the majority in order to conform to the fashion of today. It is no wonder that Hindus now claim Sikhs as part of their varied fraternity.
The concept of Guru Khalsa needs to be revived in relevance to the younger generation, who are increasingly losing their sense of belonging and the importance of roots, and have neglected active participation in the functioning and progress of the Panth.
Firstly, it is not sufficient to build elegant structures of our gurdwaras, appoint priests and thereafter neglect the spiritual involvement of the new generation in it.
Maybe, the priests are necessary for rendering timely services of gurdwara routine, but the active participation of the sangat in its management is essential. The Westernised democratic pattern of our Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee renders sangat irrelevant, as the elected members assume all rights and powers on behalf of the sangat which looks on helplessly on one and all acts of omission and comission on the part of these so-called representatives, who take charge only due to their manipulative cleverness and muscle power.
Secondly, the control of gurdwaras has pased into the hands of corrupt leadership who are unaccountable to the Guru Panth. This can only be remedied by dismantling the present election system of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and barring professional politicians meddling with the sacredness of the gurdwaras. Instead of this unrepresentative system, borrowed from the corrupt political system adopted in India, let us decentralise the gurdwara management and leave it to the local sangat to nominate persons of integrity. Of course, elections at any level will bring forth the virus of selfish and corrupt practices.
Thirdly, the overall control must be restored to Sri Akal Takht as the monitoring institution worldwide for correct interpretations and regulating the Sikh maryada. In this context, the positions of other takhts should be spelled once for all. The claim of these other takhts to be at par or almost at the level of Akal Takht is historically erroneous. They may be authorised to act as regional centres of advice and to resolve any differences and disputes of the local Sikh sangats, but the overall authority must vest with Akal Takht.
Dignity of Guru Granth suffers when Guru Panth does not remain cohesive but acts like a political legislature, where the consciousness of the decorum of the system is extremely low.
Fourthly, the central control over all gurdwaras must be exercised through a central audit system with regional and local audit of all expenses and dealings. It should have regulatory powers to oversee the proper functioning of the local gurdwaras, their missionary work in progress and utilisation of the funds for educational and health purposes. Financial aid to the needy children for further studies, and in entering competitive examinations (administrative, technical and management cadres) should be provided.
People get the quality of management by the standards they set up for themselves. Guru Gobind Singh trusted the Khalsa to be mature enough to manage its affairs with sincerity, honesty and efficiency. In the last two hundred years, we have systematically eroded the sublime principles by recklessly neglecting the value-based and time-tested methods and procedures in preference to personal gains and dishonesty. Let us involve the youth in every village, town and region, by activating gurdwara movement to give Guru’s message instead of following a lifeless routine by ill-trained granthis. They know not the correct meanings of Sikh ethos, raagis know not ragas and music. Let our youth manage the community's affairs. Politicians like to perpetuate the chaos to keep themselves in saddle and full power, which is destroying the fabric of our community. These few are clinging at the top while the base is fast eroding.
Another anomaly is the success of the sant deras. These are prospering because of inadequate, purposeless activity and lack of control at the gurdwaras, where correct directions are not available to the sangat. No wonder, therefore, that masses easily fall prey to the wayward messages they receive from these unreliable quarters and to their exploitation.
It is to avoid this very malady that the Panth was instructed by the Master to look for spiritual guidance from Guru Granth only, and to collectively act as Guru Panth where each participant should rise to the high standard of knowledge of Guru’s message. What is the crying need of the hour is honesty, sincerity and selfless study and service of the community to restore it to the glory of the Guru Panth in deed and not by lip service only.
©Copyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All
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