Importance of the Teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Present Era
Dr Jodh Singh
Sikh religion is on the way to prove the intrinsic force of its philosophy which is distinct, global and devoid of the jargon of words and phrases. It has created a history which all sensible Indians can feel proud of. Sikhism is as Indian religion as Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism and has first time shattered the hegemony of certain religio-social forces which had been operating in Indian sub-contintent for a long time. Sikhism, primarily being a religion of the five rivers ( Punjab) has its roots in and claim upon the whole India. It had rather crossed international boundaries in the very times of the Gurus. Guru Nanak went to Mecca, Madina, Baghdad in the west, Tibet, Bhutan and beyond in the north-east and up to Sri Lanka in the south. It was his simple life affirming philosophy which shattered many a man made-dogma and enthused people to live life full of self respect on the one hand and to unite the mankind to oppose anykind of oppression, perpetrated by the ruling class in the spheres of temporal as well as spiritual on the other. People were asked to be of the world but not to become worldly. Monasticism was considered by Guru Nanak as the easy method of escape from the world and its entailing responsibilities.
Guru Nanak created a new philosophy of sangat and pangat from where emerged a special set of self abnegating gurmukhs who were further transformed into Brahmgianis by the fifth Nanak-Guru Arjan Dev. For about two hundred years an intense experiment on Indian masses comprising diverse creeds and races continued and ultimately in the year 1699 altogehter a new shape was imparted to the destiny of India by Guru Gobind Singh, when he created Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib situated in the foothills of Shivalik mountain ranges. The Khalsa was a very harmonious blend of spiritual and the temporal and under its banner Hindus, Muslims, high, low, the people of all man-made categories gathered to work for the cause of the wondrous Lord and to attain victory for Him. No hatred for anybody, no uprooting of anyone whether he was a Muslim, Hindu or a Christian, he became the backbone of Sikh philosophy. Today, in twenty first century some communities in India are unable to tolerate other communities and the news papers are replete with such discriminations daily but right from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh and further even up to Maharaja Ranjit Singh not only Sikh alone but Hindus and Muslims also fought for the cause undertaken by the Gurus. The best example of whole hearted acceptance of the so-called others is the Guru Granth Sahib who is fountainhead of Sikh philosophy and religion. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs all are given due place in the Guru Granth. Releasing the philosophy from the clutches of the verbal jargon, the Gurus brought forth this discipline to the common people for the benefit of the masses.
Another unique features of Sikhism is the unique epistemology put forth in Guru Granth Sahib. Origin of the universe, the nature of reality the soul and its relation to the body are such perennial problems which were supposed to, have been answered by various saints, philosophers and seers after their own approaches and capabilities. In the process, the answers were not only many but contradictory too, having different teleological dimensions. The epistemology put forth by Guru Nanak having its roots in spiritual experiences includes in it not only knowledge but a will and feeling for proper implementation of that knowledge in order to meet the hard realities of life.
Traditional Indian thought accepts, perception, inference, comparison and verbal testimony as the four sources of valid knowledge. Shankaracharya repeatedly asserts that it is the knowledge alone which by destroying ignorance, the root cause of this world, can enable us to be one with the Absolute. About the combining of knowledge with actions Shankara in his commentaries on Isha, Kena, Katha, Mundaka, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, etc. says that ‘knowledge and action are opposed like light and darkness.’ They are contradictory and are poles apart. In his Shariraka-Bhashya, he further holds that ‘the opposition of knowledge and action stands firm like a mountain. Guru Nanak’s religion being non-monastical and life affirming religion has its own postulates and doctrines which though, have been generated in this sub-continent but have something altogether new in theory and practice. Sikh epistemology, does not hold the traditional view and does not care for the above mentioned four sources of valid knowledge. Guru Granth Sahib puts forth altogether three new sources of valid knowledge very much rooted in the actions and the sense of responsibility towards individual as well as social life.
The first valid sources of knowledge put forth by Guru Nanak is vismad, the wonder or awe which according to Otto is the core of religious experience that creates a fascinating phenomenon. To be knowledgeable in Sikhism, one is required to fill his heart with the innocence of a child who is full of wonder and awe, when he happens to be face to face with the expansive world and its variegated traditions, social as well as religious. We find Guru Nanak in such a state in Japuji, the opening hymns of Guru Granth Sahib, when in stanza twenty-seven he goes on asking about the great door of the great mansion of Lord, the endless instruments, the notes, the innumerable musical measures, the Indras, the Yogis, the men of continence, charity, poise and the indomitable heroes. Like wonder struck person he does not stop for the answer and goes on to further ask about the men of learning, mighty seers and almost every thing in the cosmos around. He is full of awe again in the thirty-fifth stanza, when he goes in trance by trying to count the innumerable forms of air, water, fire, Krishnas, Shivas, Brahmas, fashioning universes of various forms, hues and aspects. Guru Nanak’s inquires about the suns and the moons, the continents and lands, the accomplished yogis, the enlightened ones, incarnations of the goddesses, demons, ascetics, the forms of speech and the lineage of kings are endless. In the state of vismad alluded to above, the cultivated and inflated ego is erased. The knowledge of the limitations and incapacities of one’s ownself dawns upon the individual and haumai, the ego and its subsequent manifestations diminish. The sensible man turns to be humble and full of cohesiveness to happily accept the existential position and importance of others. Knowledge emerged through vismad puts aside the inclination of putting somebody else to harm. According to Sikhism, he is truly knowledgeable (gyani) learned being who neither is afraid of anybody nor he makes others scared of him - bhai kahu kau del nahi nahi. bhai manat ani. kahu Nanak suni re mana giani tahi bakhani.
Love is the second valid source of the valid knowledge in Sikhism. The importance given to love in the Sikh scripture and other source material is immense and love has been considered as the elan vital of the society. Such a consideration in Indian milieu is possible only in Sikhism because in it man has been accepted as man in the full sense of the term. Infact where man has been classified in categories for the convenience of the higher strata of the society how could love operate there ? First rate and second rate citizens were always heard of but the possibility of the third and fourth rate people was accomplished perhaps by the Indian society alone. To talk of love in such a society was not only impossible but ludicrous too. That is why the growth of Indian society, before the advent of Guru Nanak was lopsided. Love being the best incentive to virtue the virtuous life based on love was difficult if not impossible in India. However most of the Greek philosophers accept love as the early combining force working through different elements which are the cause of this creation of the cosmos. Antagonism distracts them away from each other, as, barring few exceptions, had been the case of Indian society in the medieval period. Distraction of elements is commonly known as the dissolution and their being together is known as creation. In the hymns of Guru Nanak this process of separation and unification is termed as vijog and sanjog to which Guru Gobind Singh names udkarkhan and akarkhan whose basic root cause is hatred and love respectively. Man being creation of these five elemental creative forces, love is his basic ingredient. That is why much emphasis has been laid upon love and love based halemi raj (benign state) in Guru Granth Sahib. Indeed, there may be scores of laws to make life happy but the implementation of all the laws in the one short spanned life is impossible. Love is the summum bonum of all the laws which subsumes in it all the temporal and spiritual imperatives. Stealing, hatred, anger, lust become alien to the loving person. Greed and love, as explained in the Guru Granth Sahib, cannot exist together because their basic natures are poles apart. Greed amasses whereas love distributes everything gratis. Says Farid in the Guru Granth Sahib - Farida ja labu ta nehu kia labu ta kura nehu. kicharu jhatu laghaiai chhapari tutai mehu, O Farid love and greed do not go together. With greed love is rendered impure. Such a love is frail as leaking straw roof against rain. Jaap, the opening hymn of the Dasam Granth by Guru Gobind Singh, identifies God with love diffused in all the directions. The Sikh epistemology leads man to God through classless society and hence love for one and all is a must in Sikhism. Unfortunately, the man having wrong apprehensions about his being at the apex of creation has started considering himself the master of every thing on this planet. And his sense of mastery has converted into such a thick ego that day in and day out he is busy in snapping his relation of mutual love, respect and regard. The catastrophic results are obvious. Institutions such as family and marriage are crumbling down; environment is imbalanced and man, though having all the means of physical pleasures, has started feeling alone and aloof. Bereft of love he is becoming alien to himself.
Gurmukh, the ideal man of Guru Nanak bases his living on the kirat-karna, nam japana and vand chhakna which based on love for the self as well as others stop the individual to be exploitative and perpetrator of tyranny. In turn, these dictums engage him in seva the selfless service to the humanity. So, being basic to Sikhism love is the valid and independent source of knowledge of the self as well as everything around. Shabda known as sabad in Sikhism, being another valid source of knowledge has been virtually established by Guru Nanak as the Guru, the fount of all knowledge in Guru Granth Sahib. All the Gurus, right from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh established sabda as the Guru vis-a-vis the institution of physical personal Gurus prevalent from the time immemorial in India. Sabad, the word, is the essence of all the creatures and through this inner essence surrounded by the physical body-frame, Lord, the supreme essence diffused in the cosmos is realized. Says Guru Amar Das, the third Nanak that without understanding and realization of the powers and myriad faculties of sabad, the world is but darkness. Only sabad reveals and provides knowledge of the intricacies of the creation and the creator - Jia andari jiu sabadu hai jitu sah melava hoe. Bin sabadai jagi aneru hai sabade pargatu hoe. More details about the exact location of the concentrated sabad, its permutations and combinations in the body are given in the Sidh Gosti, a longer hymn by Guru Nanak. Here it suffices to say that the sabad is the most valid source of knowledge and it is not merely apta vachana of the_seers, it is, according to Sikhism operative in and around all the creatures who according to their stations have different levels of revelation of the mystery of the world and the Lord.
As said above, in fact the end of the 20th century, the Sikhs and the Sikhism have clearly emerged as the distinct religious phenomenon having their own set of values, their own ideology regarding religion, sociology and politics. Passing through very difficult times and facing many internal as well as external attacks, the Sikhs now have become fully conscious of their distinct identity. And indeed it is the clash of thoughts, the differentiation of thought that awakens thought. Since there are no whirlpools in stagnant dead waters, these phenomena occur only in a rushing living stream. Sikhism, the most modem religion is undoubtedly, a force to reckon with, but it will not be out of place if we have a cursory glance over the Sikh situation and particularly the psyche and problems of the Sikh youth today who in fact are to take charge of all kind of Sikh affairs.
The problems of the Sikhs today are indeed the problems of the Sikh youth, the leadership issues of elders notwithstanding. The Sikh youth, being the inheritor of Sikhism is expected to enhance the prestige of Sikhism by adopting its code of conduct more rigorously. But the precedents laid down by the older generation during the last 20-30 years have compelled the young ones to consider religion as a fraud perpetrated upon them and consequently the attitude of discarding the outer symbols of Sikhism has been growing by leaps and bounds. Diffusion of knowledge through various media should have created a sense of love, belongingness and friendship with the non ritualistic nature of religion but the inventions of new methods for the misuse of religion have converted the religion into a disgusting game of meeting the political ends. Now when, being the young energetic and much capable, the young men have adopted the ways shown by the elderly generation, the older ones see it as a degradation and erosion of religious values. Barring few exceptions, the defiance and neglectfulness by the elderly generation of the religion and particularly the Guru Granth Sahib have been adopted much more enthusiastically by the young ones and I don’t find them much at fault.
In fact the so-called committees and institutions constituted in the name of the Sikh Gurus and the Sikh sangat have disappointed the Sikh youth particularly because most of these institutions everywhere are individual centred and not the religion or Sikh community centred. Consequently their means are being used for highlighting the individual - person or a group of few persons, and the money collected in the name of Sikh religion is being squandered. Let alone the glorious doctrines and history of Sikhism required to be disseminated in different parts of the globe through different languages, they could not reach even the Sikh youth. Being deeply in touch with the Sikh young men for the last three decades, because I have been learning as well as teaching Sikh religion and philosophy, I feel ashamed and surprised that most of the Sikh boys and girls seeking admission in graduate classes do not know even the names of the all Gurus in a chronological order, let alone their life and contributions. Those who know a bit know only through their own efforts or through small voluntary study circles created by the self abnegating Sikhs and not because of the committees having budgets in lakhs and crores.
The addiction in the youth and particularly among the Sikh youth is increasing day in and day out. In the Sikh code of conduct use of tobacco or addiction to any intoxicant is held as the deadliest breach of code (bajjar kurahit). The governments and health organizations allover the globe, through the mass media are trying their best to make people understand the deeper implications of the drugs upon the health of man; laws are being enacted to stop drinking and smoking. I wonder if their is any religion which declares smoking and drinking a religious taboo with such a severity as has been done in Sikhism. And most of the Sikhs have saved themselves from this imprecation. In this holy war against this curse of addiction, the Sikh institutions while becoming leaders should become savior of humanity on the one hand, they should not miss the chance of spreading the glory of Sikhism on the other. One fails to understand why the resources of Sikhism are not being tapped for such a cause which may put forth Sikhism as a universal religion. I hope something would be done in this direction by the community leadership.
Barring a very few as far as I know about Sikh educational institutions in India and abroad, the meaning of religion is understood as the Sikh religion and nothing else. The mind of the youth is filled to the brims that only and only your religion is the best one and all others are nothing but trash. All other religions are suffering from innumerable defects. Only your religion talks of equality, brotherhood, love and mutual respect; only your religion prohibits caste classification of high and low and many such things. All right, it sounds very well to the ears but the young boy feels wonder struck when he sees with his own eyes the exploitation of the labourers being done by the elders who proudly talk of equality and non-exploitation in the gatherings. He further feels compelled to understand religion as fraud when in social affairs such as marriage and other alliances, he perceives that the caste, the property and agricultural land etc are rigorously asked about and ensured by the elders. Individual simplicity, spiritual elevation and regards are not only ignored but also made as the laughing stocks as well. One father and we all are His children- ek pita ekas ke ham barik all have been created from that eternal light, no one is high or low ek noor te sab jag upjia kaun bhale ko mande are conveniently forgotten and are considered to be read and recited only within the four walls of a Gurdwara. For the last three four hundred years this community has been reciting the lines- O fool, do not feel proud of your caste - jati ka garab na kijai murakh gavara and to my mind the irony of situation is that the whole Sikh community is touching the lowest ebb (rasatal) because of this egotist pride of caste feeling and side by side it gears up for celebration of centenaries of the Gurus and Khalsa who was created after obliterating this high and low feeling; the community has entered the 21 st century, a century of full computerization and may be something more than that. Now the problem with the youth is that thanks to their own cultural ethos they cannot say anything to their elders; but they pour their anger on religion by calling it mafia, the opiate and what not.
Then we have revived a whole class of people who have pushed us again into the Brahmanic ritualism by continuously making us realize the importance of amavas the poornmashies and the panchamis. To get riddance from the hollow Brahminism the Gurus had recorded their longer hymns on thitis, vars, pahres, baramahas and declared that the no particular day is auspicious and other inauspicious. Only that day and month is good in which you attain this grace by doing good actions - mah divas murati bhale jis kao nadari kare Guru Arjan Dev obliterated almost everything mythological. For example the myth is that satyug is the best one and the kalyoug is the worst one. The Guru says, no; the kalyug is the best one because for realising the rewards of your deeds you have to wait for a long time in the satyug, trita and dwapar. But in kalyug your one hand commits a deed and immediately your second hand get the reward or the punishment - Satjug freta dvapari bhaniai kaljug utamo juga mahi. Ahi kar kare so ahi kar pae koe na pakriai kise thai. The Guru talks of the whole Juga but I do not know how we are going to justify the Sangrand or Sankrati when according to Brahmanic calendar the sun enters into the next Zodiac sign. In fact, the simple, ideologically clear and committed Sikh community has been thrown into the whirlpool of Brahminism from which the Sikhs ought to come out at the earliest possible. I hope the elites and managers of the religious places would like to ponder over this menace. Perhaps no young man allover the world is so much in confusion as the Sikh youth is today.
In fact from the religious point of view the Sikh youngsters are not recalcitrant; their rebellion is about the self-appointed and self-styled religious leaders who have double code of conduct, one for themselves and the second one for others. The truth and truthful ideals are much more loved by the youngsters in comparison to their elders but they are not ready to accept the truth being preached in a traditional style having nothing to do with the modem needs of the time. They do not want to negate the sakhis of the Gurus or the stories used by the Gurus in their hymns but I think the youth living in this age of technological advancement desire and deserve their treatment and explanation in the scientific perspective. Guru Nanak had explained the myth of bull having earth on its horns in the Japuji by telling that the bull indeed is the sense of dharma, sense of responsibility in man for others deeply rooted in contentment and compassion for all. Such a dharma binds one and all with each other and develops the personality of a human being vertically as well horizontally. But when the youth do not find such programme on the agenda of the religious bodies as well as congregations, they feel disgusted and hence their avoidance of the Gurdwara, the central place for all Sikh activities.
Today the biggest problem before the Sikh youth is of giving up of the Sikh like appearance i.e. abandoning of the kesas or getting clean shaved, not here only but almost everywhere. This issue has been discussed at length in the sammelans and celebrations organised in the last decade of the 20th century. Though the problem pertains much to the youth and young men feel apologetic about it, yet the whole community feels a sense of guilt and shame. This aspect of Sikhism needs serious and immediate thinking. It is generally said that television and cinema have played havoc in this perspective and they are the root cause for this state of affair. This thinking is not ill founded and is correct to a great extent. Let us delve deep into the problem. None can deny the fact that this age is the age of glamour and this glamour is reflected through the mass media, particularly the visual media. Film heroes, heroines, models play a great role in changing our life pattern, our sense of beauty aesthetics and what not. A small house-hold item or a tablet of medicine is advertised with the help of models who are generally shown in a flamboyant form and who easily become the model of life for young boys and girls. For the sake of seeing a hero or heroine it is an open secret that many people don’t hesitate to see the same film again and again. In fact these celluloid personalities become their favorites and they don’t mind living their way of life, in which first and foremost casualty is the natural shape of face having hair and beards. Well, this is the bitter truth before a Sikh family, many other reasons or excuses not withstanding. The problem has gone so deep that let alone the non-Sikh employers, even the Sikh employers have been found hesitant in giving employment to the boys and girls intact with the symbols of Sikhism. They prefer to have those youngsters who have given up these symbols under the pretext that they look smart fine and fit for the job. Indeed, the actual problem is not for keeping these symbols but is of the glamorous personality, which somehow touches the inner core of heart of everyone whether he is a young or an elder one.
Now how to tackle this problem may become a serious agenda item of all the Sikh organizations. To my mind the ailment itself should be used as remedy. The electronic media itself should be used to glamorize the Sikh appearance. In India many satellite Channels have been hired by the individuals and they are propagating the individual thoughts very successfully. Why Sikhs are waiting for others that they would appreciate the role in the history and philosophical growth of India and they would glamorize the Sikhs. That is never and never going to be done. Why can not the Sikhs while following the dictum of Guru Nanak that do your own work with your own hands - apan hathi apana ape hi kaj savarie, set up their own electronic media centers where the films on Sikh history, Sikh sociology, Sikh religion and philosophy could be produced and beamed allover the world. Sikh history is full of action and the misl period is such a glorious period of Sikh simplicity, Sikh warfare and high moral values that Sikh young men shown in the possession of five symbols and doing heroic deeds are definitely going to attract the people to the fold of Sikhism. This ambitious project is not going to have its impact immediately as advertisement done once or twice has a negligible impact upon the viewer. If a consistent beaming of Sikh youth on the media starts today, it is going to have its full impact after 10-12 years and at that stage we will not have to go on requesting the youth to keep the symbols of Sikhs intact; the boys and girls rather will feel proud of joining Sikhism.
I hope that these points will be thoroughly discussed in this seminar.