An Unpardonable Excess
Dr Jodh Singh
When famous satirist Pope in his ‘Rape of the Lock’ said that little knowledge is a dangerous thing, he was anticipating scholars like H. Oberoi and others of his ilk. While going through the book by Harjot Oberoi one is easily convinced that by just picking up from a particular period (19th century in this case) a few particular cases Dr Oberoi has unjustifiably drawn his conclusions about the whole Sikh Community to the effect that the Sikhs are a mixed traditional community having nothing specific and distinct of their own. He refers to two examples, one of a woman Dani and the other of two palanquin (doli) bearers appearing to be Sikhs and yet smoking tobacco. Well, these isolated cases only hint that a few people, as is common to all communities, are lax in observing Sikh practice. How does it mean that the Sikh doctrines are ambiguous or unworthy of adherence? Could Oberoi quote from the Guru Granth Sahib or the Rahit Marayada that smoking is not a taboo in Sikhism? Can one say that since Muslims drink, they are not forbidden by the holy injunctions to do so? Many social ceremonies are solemnised under the religious umbrella among different communities of the world, and still the vows are frequently broken, commandments disobeyed and divorces obtained. But could the whole community on the basis of few stray cases be given another brand name? For such Sikhs the term ‘Sanatani Sikh’ has been used by Oberoi which is not only ludicrous but misnomer too. In fact, in his anxiety to invent a new term, perhaps, Dr Oberoi forgot that ‘Sanatani’ means eternal, primaeval which has nothing to do with time and space. Thus the use of this term for his new Sikh category only betrays the confusion of the author of the book.
No doubt, a reformatory current in the Sikh community started in the 19th century which tried to affirm the faith of the Sikhs in the Guru Granth Sahib and its doctrines. The criticism was directed against the un-Sikh practices and corruption of the self-styled demi-Gurus, and not the doctrine laid down by the, Gurus. This criticism of corruption in holy places is still going on and will continue so long a neat and clean administration is not provided by the people at the helm of affairs. But this does not mean that religious belief of the whole Sikh Community should be tarnished, and the Sikhs presented as a community practising magic, sorcery and superstitions. On the part of a Sikh it is not only an unpardonable excess perpetrated upon the community, it is height of ungratefulness as well.
From the word ‘boundaries’, one expected that the learned another would define the core principles of Sikhism such as belief in the unity of God, the doctrines of spirituality and temporality in one’s personality, Sabad as the Guru etc., as in the case of Buddhism in which Anitya, (niomentariness), Anatma (no self), Dukhha (suffering), and Nirvana (final liberation) are the four boundaries which have to be included in the doctrines of Buddhism. Without these forms, no sect of Buddhism will be considered genuinely Buddhistic. And there are scores of sects of Buddhism. From a scholar occupying a Sikh Chair the community expected only this much, and perhaps it was not too much. Instead Dr Oberoi has struggled in vain to suggest that without study of its scripture the doctrines of a religion could be constructed from a few case histories carefully picked up to suit the convenienc’: of the author.
Dr Oberoi, on the basis of a superficial study of the Dasam Granth suggests that Sikhism accepts the theory of incarnations of God, and hence Sikhs believe in avtarvad of Hinduism. He has obviously missed the real message of the Gurus, made abundantly clear in the whole body of Sikh literature that Akal Purakh, Nirankar is supreme of Japuji (stanza). In Chaubis Avtar also it is unambiguously stated that Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh are subservient to Him and that in the cosmic body of the Akalpurakh, dwell crores of Vishnus, Maheshas, Indras, Brahmas, Suns, Moons and the water deities. I am afraid that let alone the constructing of the boundaries of religion, he has not even understood the meaning of the ‘boundaries’.
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