The Importance of the Teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Present Era
Maj Gen (Dr) Jaswant Singh AVSM
Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by Guru Arjun Dev with hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur added by Guru Gobind Singh and given the status of Guru by him in 1708 A.D. By compiling this holy book in 1604, the fifth Guru made us Ahle Kitab - all of us who follow this book.
This, then is the only scripture of the world which was compiled by one of the founders of a religion himself and whose authenticity has never been questioned.
The Granth contains, besides the writings of the Sikh Gurus, compositions of almost all the medieval Hindu Bhaktas, like Kabir, Ramanand, Ravidas, Surdas, Sain, Bhikhan from the UP; Jaidev from Bengal; Namdev, Trilochan and Parmanand from Maharashtra; Pipa and Dhanna from Rajasthan; and Beni, then popular all over North India. The writings of four Muslims — Baba Farid, Bhikhan, Satta, Balwand are also incorporated in the Granth.
It may be remarked here in passing that the Bhaktas, whose works were included in the Guru-Granth, belonged, more often than not, to the lower classes of society. Kabir, for instance, was a weaver; Namdev, a calico-printer; Dhanna, a cultivator; Sadna a butcher; Ravidas, a shoemaker; Sain , a barber; though Pipa was a king and Trilochan, a Brahmin. But the emphasis in the Granth is on the lowest becoming the highest and caste being of no consequence in the realisation of the Supreme Truth.
The Granth contains 5894 hymns in all, out of which the largest number of compositions are by Guru Arjun (2216), Guru Nanak has 976 hymns to his credit, Guru Angad 61, Amar Das 907, Ram Das 679, Tegh Bahadur 118, and Bhaktas and bards, 937. There is not a metre known to Indian prosody that was not employed by the Gurus. But by far the largest portion of the Granth is composed in a mixed language, a mixture of western Hindi, Parakrit, Braj, Punjabi and the then current vocabulary of Persian and Arabic. So, not only in subject-matter, or religious affiliations of its authors, but also in language the Granth upholds the creed of synthesis as against exclusiveness of form, symbols and ideas….. Akbar was a great admirer of the Guru and came personally to pay his homage at Guru’s Court.
Teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib
It is impossible to enumerate all the teachings but I will like to highlight only the ‘Ten Commandments’, a few I consider very essential.
1. Oneness of God
It is a cardinal principle of Sikhism. Guru Nanak started with Mool Mantra - 1> - Ik Onkar - God is one.
swihbu myrw eyko hY ] eyko hY BweI eyko hY ]
Alh nUru aupwieAw kudriq ky sB bMdy ]
eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw kaun Bly ko mMdy (1349 - 50 SGGS)
Oneness of God rid the society of many Gods like Shiv and Vishnu and Goddesses. The society was in the clutches of priestly class, steeped in rituals and superstitions. Our Gurus steered us clear of those. Today Sikhs have fallen into the same trap. Mushrooming deras, Sant Babas, Ashootoshes, Noormahlias, Bhaniaras are flourishing as we have started worshipping them all for imaginary material gains. This cancer has spread deep into the elite and the educated as well. Let us revert to Gurus Teachings.
2. Abolition of High and Low Concept
The contribution to Guru Granth Sahib came mainly from low strata of society, Kabir (Weaver) Nam Dev (Calico printer) Dhanna (cultivator) Sadhna (Butcher), Sain (Barber) though Pipa was king, Tirlochan a Brahmin.
The Guru always preferred the company of lowly people and avoided the high brow. He stayed with poor Bhai Lalo in preference to the rich Malik Bhago.
3. Abolition of Untouchability
Again Bhagats came from lower class. Brahmins would not allow them into the temples.
ey pMfIAw mo kau FyF khq qyrI pYj ipCMaufI hoielw
mwtI eyk Anyk BWiq kir swjI swjnhwrY ]
nw kCu poc mwtI ky BWfy nw kCu poc kuMBwrY ]
Gurus not only rubbed off the line between high and low by entering their bani in Guru Granth Sahib elevated its level to Shabad Guru. In our society untouchability is a crime but its practice is still rampant in our countryside, lowcastes are having their drinking water from separate wells.
Ambedkar was keen to bring all his followers into Sikh fold for its liberal outlook but for the last moment advice of Mahatma Gandhi to remain Hindus.
4. Equal Status for Women
BMif jMmIAY BMif inMmIAY BMif mMgxu vIAwhu ] BMfhu hovY dosqI BMfhu clY rwhu ]
BMfu muAw BMfu BwlIAY BMif hovY bMDwnu ] so ikau mMdw AwKIAY ijqu jMmih rwjwn ]
‘BMif means a women here’
The Guru elevated their status in a society which treated them as door-mats and raised them to the male’s level. He says in Asa di Var: so ikau mMdw AwKIAY ijqu jMmih rwjwn “why call them inferior, they give birth to kings.” Sikhism preaches and practises equal status for women, any deviation is a irreligious, sacrilegious.
Now according to UN Charter also, their status has been brought at par with men. Our Gurus had the foresight five centuries back. Almost half of the world’s adult population is made up of women. Their equal status and inclusion in the mainstream of life is not only economically, ethically, religiously desirable but essential for societal peace. In this millennium, women all over the globe are advancing in every sphere - doctors, engineers, Nobel laureates, Scientists, in India as IAS, IPS, IFS, Armed Forces, officers, in fact all conceivable fields. Gurus were a flood light in this field.
5. Standing up against Tyranny
During Guru’s times the first Mughal king in India, Babar, attacked India five times. In his fifth attack, his troops committed lot of atrocities. Guru Nanak protested and told Babar, “Babar you are jabar - Babar you are a tyrant”, for which the Guru was imprisoned. It required a great moral courage for a ‘darvesh - religious preacher’ to dare an emperor. This courage still persists and is exhibited by his followers - the Sikhs :jy skqw skqy kau mwry qw min rosu n hoeI ] - Creator, You are the same for all, If a powerful kills a powerful, I do not lament.”
Guru Tegh Bahadur the 9th Guru, at the request of the Kashmiri Pandits who were being persecuted and forcibly converted to Islam, became a martyr at Chandni Chowk, Delhi in 1675 A.D. standing up against Mughal tyranny.
BY kwhU kau dyq nih nih BY mwnq Awn ]
I frighten no body, Nor am I frightened of anybody (Guru Tegh Bahadur)
6. Integration of India / Globe
The present chaotic state of the world on the basis of rich and poor, high or low caste, religions, geography, political polarisation, requires healing, soothing, integrating teachings of the Holy Granth.
jgqu jlµdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwir ]
ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir ] (S.G.G.S)
Here is this integrating message from the Guru Granth :
sBy swJIvwl sdwiein qUM iksY n idsih bwhrw jIau ] (S G G S - 97)
All are partners in Thy grace. Thou art seen alien to none.
All the Bhagats came from all over the country. The language of the Granth is also Hindi, Prakrit, Braj, Punjabi, Persian and Arabic. Here is a practical demonstration of national integration. Our political disintegration on the basis of language, boundaries, castes, river waters and such other issues is the antithesis of the teachings of Guru Granth, which are very relevant today.
7.Truth - Truthful Living
In Japji Sahib Guru Nanak says : Awid scu jugwid scu ] hY BI scu nwnk hosI BI scu ]
He was true in the beginning, True universally, is True now, Oh Nanak, He will be True in future also.
This sterling quality of Truth and Truthful Living is a panacea for ihtB iku[ - art of living, individual, societal, national and international living. Diplomacy may be an artful lying but then it is a game of outsmarting at the cost of truth.
8. Concept of Seva
Concept of selfless service qnu mnu Aqy Dn i.e. physical, mental and material service is well brought out in Guru Granth Sahibs’ teachings.
The earthquake in Gujrat highlighted all this type of service from the world around — Sikhs were in the fore-front. World Trade Centre holocaust in New York on 11 September, 2001 has brought out how Sikh texi drivers ferried the victims to places of safety though later they themselves became the victims of American wrath under mistaken identity as Muslims.
syvw krq hoie inhkwmI ] iqs kau hoq prwpiq suAwmI ]
9. Charhdi Kala
Concept of highest spirits in all odds is Gurus wish as conveyed in the daily Sikh prayer “Ardas”.
nwnk nwm cVdI klw qyry Bwxy srbq kw Blw ]
This is a philosophy of keeping your morale and spirits high when going is not good. It saves the humanity from all kinds of depression and neurotic disorders - disorders which are affecting a large humanity and threaten to engulf the remaining. For the poor nations, it is the cheapest means of happiness, individual and national.
10. Sarbat Da Bhalla – ‘Good for All’
The present world powers and super power are constantly at the brink of war. The concept of good for all is an antidote to the worlds’ ills. If nations, neighbours with different political / religious philosophies learn to live for their and others good, there will be, no Vietnam / Iraq wars, no Kargils, no World Trade Centre disasters, no Gujrats, no Chechanya hostage problems.
Guru Arjun Dev the Compiler of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ends this holy book with :
Qwl ivic iqMin vsqU peIE squ sMqoKu vIcwro ]
AMimRq nwmu Twkur kw pieE ijs kw sBsu ADwro ]
In this holy Granth there are three gems - Truth, contentment and deliberations on His Name. These three are cardinal ingredients of happy, healthy, purposeful ecstatic living. It is the pious duty of all the Sikhs to take the teachings of this holy book outside the Gurdwaras also, amid masses.
The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib are eternally true for all humanity.