IMPORTANCE OF THE TEACHINGS OF
SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB IN PRESENT ERA
Sardar Surjan Singh
“jgqu jlMdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwr]
ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir]”
The world is on fire, by showering
Thy benediction, please save it.
By whichever way it can be saved,
save it in that way. Guru Granth Sahib – p 853
This is an important quotation of Guru Amar Das in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and it shows that Sikhism is indeed a universal religion. Guru Amar Das (1479-1574), the third Sikh Guru, saw at his time, the sufferings of the people and he pleaded to God to save humanity by whatever means available to Him. The situation today is as precarious, if not more so because of religious intolerance, prejudice, terrorism and an increase in the love for material wealth with a corresponding decline in spiritualism. With the spread of science and technology, opposing nations have built-up their military capabilities, and the world stands on the brink of nuclear and biochemical war. A Sikh, who reads the hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib and says his daily prayers, asks for the welfare and high spirits of all living things. The prayer of the Sikhs ends thus:
nwnk nwm cVHdI klw, qyry BwxY srbq dw Blw ]
Blessed by Nanak may we remain in
high spirits, and may all human beings prosper by His Grace.
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and the succeeding nine Gurus developed it. It was Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth in line, who installed the Sikh Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib in 1708 as the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. The ten Gurus who were in direct and constant touch with the Creator showed Sikhism as a way of life to the Sikhs. Sikhism is the understanding and practice of the teachings of the Gurus contained in the Guru Granth Sahib and a Sikh is one who has firm beliefs in the teachings and puts them into practice in his daily life.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a voluminous anthology of sacred verses by six of the ten Gurus and some of the contemporary saints and men of devotion, who came from a variety of class and background. Some of them were Hindus and some Muslims, both from low castes and high castes. The fundamental truth of the oneness of God and of mankind is stressed throughout the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The inclusion of hymns of the Hindu and Muslim saints in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, are in themselves a proof that Guru Arjan Dev regarded all men as equal before God. He made no distinction between different races. When Guru Nanak came out of the river Vaein in Sultanpur after disappearing for three days, he said, “There is no Hindu and no Musalman (Mohammedan)”. What he meant was that it is not important who you are, but what you are. Guru Nanak made this clearer when he was explaining to Makhdum Rukan Din in Mecca that “a person is great who does good things. A Hindu or Musalman who stoops to evil deeds and commits crimes will cry in the end”. An important tenet of Sikhism is that people of different race, religion, or sex are all equal in the eyes of God, and one will harvest what one has sown.
“Awpy bIij Awpy hI Kwhu ]”
Man himself sows, and himself eats
SGGS – p 4
Sikhs believe that there is one God and he is the same God for everybody. The goal of life is to merge with God and this can be done by leading an exemplary life of virtue and truthfulness while at the same time maintaining a balance between spiritual obligations and the necessities of day-to-day life as a householder.
Character-Building – First Step in Solving Problems
The teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib incorporate character-building in men and women in order to awaken in them a spirit of independence, self-respect and freedom. To be able to defend oneself, one’s community and one’s nation, are important attributes of the well-being and progress of a nation. Guru Nanak made a clarion call thus:
“jau qau pRym Kylx kw cwau [
isr Dir qlI glI myrI Awau [
iequ mwrg pYr DrIjY [
isr dIJY kwix n kIjY ]”
If you are zealous of playing the game of Love.
Then enter upon my path with your head on your palm.
And once you have set your foot on this path,
Then do not find a way out but lay down your head. - SGGS – p 1412
This call had an electrifying effect on the Sikhs and it contributed greatly to the martial spirit of the Sikhs. Sikh history is witness to the fact that Sikhs were almost wiped out during the period of Mir Mannu and the Wadda Ghalughara (1762). But the high spirits of Charhdi Kala displayed by Sikh men and women saved the nation from extinction. This spirit of Charhdi Kala is important to an individual and to the community. A person with such high and positive thinking will not accept a defeat. He will rise again to make amends. If the citizens of a country are similarly motivated, the nation is assured of progress and prosperity.
With an examination of the present era one is baffled by the multiple problems faced by individuals and nations. Rich nations are in fear of an external attack. Third world countries are bogged down with poverty and related social problems. A Manmukh (self-orientated person) runs around amassing wealth by unethical means and in the end leaves the world as an unhappy loner. Only the Gurmukhs (god-oriented persons) live a peaceful and contended life.
The need for co-operation and understanding between people of diverse religious backgrounds is required. Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the principles of Sikhism have always strived to bring out this co-operation and understanding. Guru Nanak’s closest companion and co-traveller for more than thirty years was Bhai Mardana, a Muslim. Guru Nanak gave him the title “Bhai”, meaning “brother”. When Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, was compiling the Adi Granth, he had no hesitation in including the religious hymns of Muslim and Hindu saints, irrespective of whether they were from the “high” castes or “low” castes. In fact, when the foundation stone of Harmandir Sahib was to be laid, the honour was given to Mian Mir by Guru Arjan Dev. Mian Mir, a Muslim, was highly respected by the Sikhs. Guru Arjan Dev declared:
“nw ko bYrI nhIN ibgwnw
sgl sMig hm kau bin AweI ]”
No one is my enemy and neither
is he a stranger, because I am a friend of all. -
Guru Granth Sahib – p 1299
And Bhagat Kabir says:
“Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw kudriq ky sB bMdy ]
eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw kaun Bly ko mMdy ]”
In the beginning God created light and then by His Omnipotence, he made all the mortals. Thus, from one light the whole universe has welled up, then who could be good or who bad? -
Guru Granth Sahib – p 1349
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The above two quotations from Sri Guru Granth Sahib indicate important lessons for humanity. Countries with different ideologies and opposed to one another are rapidly building up their nuclear and biological weapons. India and Pakistan, for example, are ready with their nuclear weapons targeted at each other. Can we imagine what will happen to us, to our environment and to our water resources, if there is a biological warfare ? The threat of an international use or even an accidental release of chemical and gaseous substances is a frightening phenomenon. Although, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972 did ban the development, production and stockpiling of such substances, we all know that countries are doing just the opposite.
US officials are concerned with the proliferation of the so-called land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). An LACM is an unmanned, armed aircraft designed to attack a fixed or mobile ground-based target. For example, the Tomahawk cruise missile is known for its pinpoint accuracy and its devastating effect on targets. LACMs are capable of flying circuitous routes to get to the target, thereby avoiding radar and air defence installations.
Recently, a scare of biological terrorism through anthrax surfaced in the United States and in some other countries. Anthrax, a harmless looking white powder is actually a deadly organism and can be spread from the air or sent to potential enemies through letters and parcels. When inhaled, the organism, which is a spore, is lodged in the lungs where it grows and the infected person dies within 24 hours.
Scientists fear the spread of infectious diseases caused by deadly pathogens that take place without any immediate recognition by medical officers, until after the incubation period is over. By that time thousands of people are already infected.
Is there a solution to the problems of a nuclear or a chemical warfare? Diplomats say that a possibility of a war where nuclear and chemical weapons are used in the near future is remote because the parties involved know the harmful effects on their citizens and environment. But what of the Third World countries who are not able to keep pace or lag behind the Advanced Countries in the armament race? Will these countries become subordinates to the big powers?
Many Gursikhs believe that Gurbani has a solution for all these problems afflicting the present era. We must have a firm belief in the power of Gurbani and there should be no two ways about it. When we are selfish and narrow-minded or think of another person as a different human-being because of his race, colour or religion, solutions to world problems are not in sight. Peace in the world lies in the fact that people of all nations must give up the five cardinal vices as stated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. These are Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment) and Ahankar (Pride or Ego). In its place people must inculcate virtues such as truth, contentment, patience, faith in God and compassion. It is not an easy task to change people’s way of thinking. There will always be crooks and criminals around. Sri Guru Granth Sahib can show the way – it is a beacon. Now it depends on the people to see the light.
“eyku ipqw eyks ky hm bwirk qU myrw gur hweI ]”
The one Lord is the Father and we are
all His children. O Lord, You are my Guru. -
SGGS – p 611
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru said:
“mwns kI jwiq sBY eyk hI pihcwnbo”
Realise this - humanity belongs to one race.
There is an important hymn of Guru Arjan Dev in Raag Ramkali on page 885 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It tells of the same God, mentioned and worshipped differently by different groups of people according to their culture and style of living. The hymn reads :
“koeI bolY rwm rwm koeI Kudwie ]
koeI syvY guseIAw koeI Alwih ]1]
kwrx krx krIm ]
ikrpw Dwir rhIm ]1]rhwau ]
Some call Him, “Ram Ram,” and some “Khuda”.
Some serve Him as “Gosain” and some as “Allah”. (1)
He is the Cause of causes and is bountiful.
He is also the extender of mercy. (Pause)
Prejudice & Hate Crimes
The root cause of many problems in the world is prejudice. Prejudice is an opinion, which is pre-judged and aimed at an individual, a group, or a particular race.
If we treat all as our associates as partners and friends there would be tolerance and co-operation amongst the people. We would then understand the differences in our culture and way of life. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev ji says :
“sBy swJIvwl sdwiein qUM iksY n idsih bwhrw jIau ]”
All are called partners and Thou art seen alien to none. -
SGGS - p 97
Effect of pollution on Environment
The importance of rain is given in Gurbani:
“mIhu pieAw prmySir pwieAw ]
jIA jMq siB suKI vswieAw ]”
Rain has fallen, the Lord has made it
fall. He has caused all the men and
other creatures to live in peace. - SGGS – p 105
Water pollution is categorized as either from direct sources or indirect sources. Direct sources include outflows from factories, refineries, waste treatment plants, etc. Indirect sources include contamination from soils and ground water or from atmosphere via acid rain.
Guru Nanak said in Japji Sahib:
“pvxu gurU pwxI ipqw mwqw Driq mhqu ]
idvsu rwiq duie dweI dwieAw KylY sgl jgqu ]”
Air is the Guru, water the Father, earth
the great Mother and day and night the
two female and male nurses, in whose
lap the entire world play. -
SGGS – p 8
Abuse of Narcotic Drugs, Liquor and Tobacco
The problem of drug abuse is world-wide. The chief narcotic drugs are opium, codeine, morphine and its derivative heroin. People try drugs for all kinds of reasons. For examples, they want to fit in a particular group in order to cover-up their own insecurities.
Excess alcohol consumption in a society becomes a public health issue. It leads to high level of sickness and social disruption. Besides, it leads to social problems such as family breakdowns, unemployment, violence and other alcohol related problems. Parents and guardians can play a role in guiding their family members by setting a good example themselves. From reports available the problem of alcohol consumption has reached epidemic levels in the Punjab and something must be done about this. Guru Arjan Dev in strong words has criticized the alcoholics and has advised them to quaff the elixir of Naam instead:
“durmiq mdu jo pIvqy ibKlIpiq kmlI ]
rwm rswieix jo rqy nwnk sc AmlI ]”
The fools who drink alcohol are husbands of concubines.
But those who are imbued with the Lords elixir
are the true drinkers. -
SGGS – p 399
Tobacco is called by the Sikhs Jagat Jooth – garbage of the world. It is the cause of cancer of the lungs, throat and parts of the body. Passive smoking is equally bad. A pregnant woman who smokes or is a victim of passive smoking runs the risk of bearing a deformed baby. The ill effects of smoking are too many to enumerate.
At the Amrit Ceremony of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh warned his Sikhs of the four misdeeds – called Kuraihtans. These are cutting of hair, eating halal meat, committing adultery and consuming tobacco. Sikhs are forbidden to use tobacco in any of its form – smoking, snuffing and chewing. Tolstoy called tobacco the worst of all intoxicants.
Gender Discrimination in the Punjab
In recent years, a very disturbing trend is seen in the social structure of the population, especially in India but more so in Punjab. It concerns pre-natal sex discrimination leading to female foeticide ( BrUx-h‘iqAw). The problem is not so serious in other parts of the world, though there might be some cases of gender discrimination. There is a saying:
LVkw mry kmb^q kw, lVkI mry Bgvwn kI
He is a fool who loses a male child;
he is a lucky one if he loses a female child.
In the Punjab and Haryana reports indicate that the sex ratio for children up to 6 years has declined from 945 (females per 1000 males) in Punjab in 1991 to 783 in 2001. Behind this steep fall, is a story of neglect, discrimination and downright murder (kuVI-mwr).
It brings tears to our eyes that these murderous acts should take place in the land where our Gurus stood firm and raised their voice to give the women their rightful place with equal opportunity in society. Since Guru Nanak’s time, Sikh women have played an important role in Sikh history. We remember in our daily Ardas (prayers), the supreme sacrifices of our women when they were held prisoners by Mir Mannu and were garlanded with the mangled limbs of their minced children.
The Sikh Code of Conduct states that Kuri-Maars should be treated as outcasts, having lost their place at the feet of God, will be pushed into the cycle of births and deaths.
“mwxsw ikAhu dIbwxho koeI nis Bij inklY
hir dIbwxhu koeI ikQY jwieAw ]”
One can run away and flee from man’s
court, but where is he going to run from
the Lord’s court ? - SGGS – p 591
Coming to the question of “dowry”, Guru Ram Das has clearly stated in Raag Sri Raag, that no Sikh of the Guru should take or give a dowry. The Guru says:
“hoir mnmuK dwju ij riK idKwlih
su kUVu AhMkwru kcu pwjo ]”
Any other dowry, which the perverse
places for show that is false pride and worthless. -
SGGS – p 79
Bhagat Ravdas says:
“ijin jIau dIAw su irjku AMbrwey ]”
He who has blessed thee with life
shall reach thee sustenance. -
SGGS – p 794
People who have full faith in the power of God, believe that He will help them in the end. Shaikh Farid, who was a Sufi mystic and whose bani is incorporated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib says:
“jw iPir dyKw qw myrw Alhu bylI ]”
When I look again, then I find
Allah as my helper.
SGGS – p 794
Fortunately, the Akal Takht has come out strongly against the practice of female foeticide. After consulting the five head priests, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti declared that female foeticide is a violation of the Sikh tenets and offenders should be ex-communicated. Equally important is to punish those who run the pre-natal sex determination clinics.
We have seen that Sri Guru Granth Sahib has the solutions for world problems. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is our Eternal Guide and we can convey its message to all communities of the world through correct and informative publications, media and personal examples. The message of Meere–te-Peeri and that of the Saint-Soldier, is an important one in character-building but its significance has not reached the world at large.
We are fortunate that some well-known writers have made tremendous efforts on their part to get English translations of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, for the benefit of those who are unable to read Gurmukhi. We admire their individual efforts. I had this feeling that an authority like the SGPC or the Akal Thakt, should come up with an English version of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in simple flowing language, respected and admired by all, produced on the lines of the King James Bible of 1611. King James 1, gathered the top-scholars in the country, who sat together and deliberated on each line of the Bible and finally produced the Holy Bible of King James Version, which became very popular.
Such an English version published under the banner of SGPC will help everyone. In fact, it will convince those in doubt of the relevance of the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and act as panacea to the problems of the present and future era.