Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh Society
As a part of the joyous celebration of the Tri-centenary
Gurta Divas, a two-day Seminar on the theme indicated above
and with a focus on the four sub-themes of Theological,
Sociological, Value System and Modern Challenges dimensions
was organized by the Institute of Sikh Studies (IOSS). The
objective was to have presentations by eminent scholars
from the Universities and the IOSS on the guidance available
from Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) on the contemporary concerns
and problems of the Sikh society pertaining to four sub-themes
mentioned above. The IOSS got heart warming response from
the university level professors and other scholars.
S Gurdev Singh, IAS (retd), Patron of the IOSS, extended
a hearty welcome to the participants. Appreciating the choice
of the theme and sub-themes of the Seminar, he emphasized
the importance of the need to have in-depth study of the
problems and concerns faced by the Sikh Community globally
and the guidance which is available from SGGS.
Bhai Ashok Singh Ji, the President of the IOSS dealt with
some of the important issues requiring deliberations by
the Scholars. He gave the details of his personal observations
while attending the celebrations at Hazoor Sahib, highlighting
some of the institutional dilemmas being faced by the community.
S Saran Singh, IAS (retd), Chief Editor, Sikh Review was
to inaugurate the Seminar but could not come for health
reasons. His Inaugural Address “Theology for the Common
Man” was presented by Bhai Ashok Singh Ji. The Paper,
very comprehensive and thought provoking in nature, dealt
with very crucial dimensions of the Sikh theology –
its nature, its role and functions, its empowerment of the
believers for coping with worldly responsibilities, its
implications with regards to fundamentalism and ultra-liberalism
prevailing simultaneously in the Sikh society and the guidance
provided by it for proper attitudes for inter-faith interaction
and for living in a pluralistic society. Quoting the hymns
from SGGS, Sardar Saran Singh Ji asserted that SGGS represents
the most comprehensive, coherent and compelling enunciation
of the creation’s moral and spiritual purpose. It
constitutes the intelligent man’s guide to inner peace
while affirming that he/she is capable of experiencing and
realizing God despite God’s incomprehensibility. He
stressed the urgent need for a re-integration of the human,
moral and spiritual values inherent in SGGS and Sikh tradition
along with the synthesis of Sikh theology with scientific
orientation. His main concern was how to re-discover the
dynamic and everlasting truths of SGGS towards a resurgent
Sikhism at home and globally in the 21st century
S Pritam Singh (Kohli), IAS (retd), Convener of the Seminar,
presented the Keynote Address. In the context of the prevailing
problems and concerns of the Sikh society in India and abroad,
his focus was on the tasks for the contributors to the Seminar.
Quoting Prof Emeritus Pritam Singh Ji (God bless his soul),
it was pointed out that there is a dearth of standard literature
on the philosophy, theology and sociology of the Sikh religion.
He quoted a well known western scholar saying that “Sikh
theology for modern times is yet to be written” and
that the Sikh scholars have written mainly as commentary
on hymns or on the historical dimensions. It was in this
context that as a Convener of the Seminar, he wanted presentations
on at least four sub-themes selected on basis of guidance
available in Prof Ninian Smarts’ “Dimensions
of the Sacred” and which are so crucial for the main
theme of SGGS and Sikh Society.
The tasks assigned to the contributors were:
i. To delineate the ideas, beliefs, and practices as enshrined
in Shri Guru Granth Sahib, that is, ‘what we teach’...
[and] to examine the lived experiences in present times
globally, the gap between the two and how to bridge that
ii. To present the Sikh traditions in such a way that some
form of a divinely ordered cosmos is always a central concern
and that there are many ways to understand right order,
from the level of the individual to the family, the society,
and the religious institution with a view to engage with
the wider society and with other traditions for inter-faith
iii. To highlight the strong internal resources which the
Sikh tradition has utilized in the past and how the tradition
evolves and responds to the social challenges.
Prof Shashi Bala of GNDU presented her Paper: Universal
Religion vis-à-vis Ethnic Identity – Guru Granth
She opined that the message of Guru Granth Sahib is universal,
dynamic and deeply humanistic and is not confined to the
boundaries of space and time. It provides solace and bliss
to the whole humanity due to its cosmopolitan spirit, interfaith
dialogue and emphasis on world-affirmation with deep concern
for spiritual transformation of man. Though the Holy Scripture
gives reflection of the contemporary conditions of the medieval
Indian society yet the eternal spiritual philosophy and
moral values provide perennial solution to the emerging
problems of human life.
Adopting a unique perspective, she presented a brilliant
analysis of the modern challenge of universalism, on the
one hand, and issue of ethnic identity, on the other hand.
Then she highlighted, first the Sikh concept of universal
religion; second the idea of ethnic identity; and finally
what type of guidance is provided in the Holy Scripture
to resolve the concept of universal religion vis-à-vis
the issue of ethnic identity.
Prof S S Jodhka of JNU presented his Paper “Why to
talk about Caste and how to talk about it.” In addition,
he dealt with the various social and economic problems and
concerns from the perspectives of the Dalits. His advice
was that the conditions of anomie generated in some areas
of rural Punjab were mainly responsible for the drifting
of Dalits Sikhs to the Deras and Babas and hence need to
be curbed. He encouraged and welcomed the questions and
internal discussions on the malady of caste-system, which
is being practiced in Sikh Society though at much lower
intensity than elsewhere in India. With more of interaction,
urbanization and globalization such social differentiations
may get further weakened.
Prof Rajesh Gill of Punjab University presented her
Paper, Guru Granth Sahib as a Theory or Practice? Need For
Introspection. Her focus was upon the immensely rich interpretation
contained in Guru Granth Sahib, of the predicaments of modern
life, which for her was the most critical, liberal, democratic
and modern outlook on human life of course If Put Into Practice.
While our Gurus did what they preached, we have been largely
preoccupied with the mechanical reciting of Gurbani, hardly
ever showing either the guts or desire to implement even
a fraction of this wonderful philosophy in our mundane life.
Unfortunately, the leadership too has hardly ever made a
sincere effort to translate this theory into practice, perhaps
due to the other priorities chosen by them. It is high time
that we make a bold effort towards introspection into our
own selves, with the objective of sensitizing our younger
generations about the huge potential held by this religious
philosophy for easing out most of the strains and predicaments
faced by us, in contemporary scenario. She highlighted the
increased relevance of this philosophy in the stressful
life of the present day.
Prof Sukh Dyal Singh of Pbi Univ, in his very original research
and interpretation, brought in sharp focus some dimensions
of Babur Bani which he thought have been neglected so far.
He stressed the point that Babur Bani reflects the pangs
of Guru Nanak Dev Ji for the devastation, plunder, torture
and humiliations suffered by Indians throughout India and
not merely at one point of time or a particular location
but through out India during Babur’s various attacks.
Further, apart from Guru Nanak, no other Indian of any stature
in those times wrote anything about Babur’s invasions.
His interpretation of the mention of “Khurasan”
in Babur Bani seems quite original in view of the facts
furnished by him with regards to the relationship between
Babur and the emperor of Khurasan.
His interpretation of the line Aawan Athatrey Jaan Satanwey
leads him to suggest that the date for the “Joti-Jot
Samaanaa” of Guru Nanak should be September 1540 and
not Sep 1539.
Dr Gurmeet Singh Sidhu of Pbi Univ: The Everlasting Spirit
(Sociological Perspective of Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
He described the functions of SGGS from a sociological perspective
and how it contributes to maintain and regulate the social
order. His focus was on the Sikh beliefs and practices as
enshrined in SGGS and their role and significance towards
the Sikh Society and humankind.
The sociological study of religion takes more attention
on this question as to how religion contributes to maintain
and regulate the social order. We are attempting to understand
the function of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in sociological perspective.
The present paper focuses on Sikh beliefs and rituals as
they are in SGGS and secondly to examine its role and significance
towards the Sikh society as well as humankind.
Dr Kirpal Singh, Veteran Historian, and Member IOSS: Paper
on “Sikh Value system”:
A very scholarly presentation was made by Dr Singh highlighting
the philosophical and theological foundations of the Sikh
Value System as enshrined in SGGS and made operative in
the Sikh way of life through Rahit Maryada and Sikh social
institutions. Emphasizing the impact of this value system
on the Sikh society, he described in detail the type of
miraculous metamorphosis which transformed a fissiparous
and degenerated society into spiritually awakened and ethically
regenerated society. His focus was on the various types
of values to which the Sikh way of life and Sikh social
institutions give expression. These included equality, brotherhood;
liberty, freedom and democratic way of life; social justice;
courage, fearlessness; humility, contentment, love, truth;
dignity of labor, honest and lawful means of earning. The
ultimate value for a Sikh is the realization of Naam from
which the other values emanate.
S Bhagwant Singh Dalawari, Tapovan Ashram: Value Systems:
He opined that the following verse of Guru Granth Sahib
neatly describes the present state of Sikh society vis-à-vis
the teachings of our Masters.
krm Drm pwKMf jo
dIsih iqn jmu jwgwqI lUtY ]
Those who are involved only in the karam-khand bhakti (i.e.,
external manifestation of so-called devotion) are in fact
hypocrites whom yamas will plunder like highway robbers.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p 747
The greatest tragedy of our times is that the purest, the
sweetest, the most loving message of our Shabad Guru has
been rendered into external platitudes to the eternal shame
of the followers of Guru Granth Sahib. Even more unfortunate
is the fact that the perpetrators of this blasphemy are
not even aware of their own degeneration or the degeneration
that they are imposing on our coming generations. Giving
details of his personal experience of deep depression and
complete recovery as a result of imbibing the spirit of
Guru-Shabad, he stressed the importance of living the Gurbani.
He highlighted with great clarity the universality of SGGS,
the moral content of its teachings, its essence in spiritual
terms and the portrait of a Sikh on the basis of Guru’s
teachings. He gave a clarion call: “Show yourself
in every field as the example of what you want others to
Dr Harnam Singh Shan, Prof Emritus: paper, Shri Guru Granth
Sahib ik vidit te updeshit sabhyachar (Punjabi)
Prof Shan emphasized that the main teachings SGGS are enshrined
in the twin principle of “nam simren” as means
of god realization and the ethical conduct as a means for
the proper societal relationships. Illustrating his each
assertion with the most appropriate hymns on the subject,
he concluded that the synthesis of bhakti and ethical conduct
was the sure means for a perfect and successful life devoted
to the welfare of humankind. What is needed for salvation
in the Sikhi context is the spirit of humility to be developed
by “bho bhakti” while living actively in the
society as a householder but with the orientation of detachment.
Instead of getting into controversy related to “parvirti”
and “nirvirti”, SGGS embodies the principle
of the compatibility of this-worldly orientation with spirituality
leading to “sahj marg”.
Describing the main components of “sahj marg”
and the various stages in it, including the need for acquiring
positive values and giving up negative values, he emphasized
the need to faithfully adopt the two tri-component formulae
advocated in sggs: i. Nam japna, kirat karna; and wand chhakna;
ii. Nam, daan, isnaan.
Dr. Jagir Singh: Musicologist and Guru’s Kirtania:
paper: “guru granth sahib vich kirtan ate kirtaniey
da sankalp” (Punjabi).
(Sikhism is considered to be the synthesis of epistemology
and aesthetics. Hence the need to have this presentation
by Dr Jagir Singh as a sample of aesthetical value system
– the audience found this paper as the most satisfying
one. – Convener)
Highlighting the qualities prescribed in SGGS for an ideal
person, Dr Singh drew attention to the hymns laying emphasis
on the acquisition of aesthetic values related to music
and poetry. Describing the potentiality of music in its
impact on humans, animals and plants, Dr Singh illustrated
the synergetic effect produced by interaction between poetry
and music. This is the logic that the Gurus’ entire
revelation through their mystical experience has been expressed
in Gurbani composed under ragas most appropriate to the
sentiment – rasa of the particular bani so that the
compositions can be sung for the optimal impact on the singer
as well as the listener. The importance given to kirtan
in SGGS for purpose of worship finds mention in number of
hymns and its value has been metaphorically compared with
those of jewels. Further, the Gurus liberated the ragas
from their earlier depiction through shinghar ras and highlighted
their essence, the required characteristics and role in
singing the glories of the Lord. Dr Singh illustrated very
effectively how such a transformation was brought about
by the Gurus in respect of ragas used in Gurbani. Simultaneously,
the Gurus also laid down the qualities which a kirtania
must develop and possess. Thus clear-cut concepts about
kirtan and kirtanias have been enshrined in SGGS. Amongst
the world’s scriptures, this is a unique feature of
(This was followed by recitation of the choicest shabads
on the theme of “Anand’ and “Vismad”
by S Gurcharan Singh – a member of IOSS)
Dr H S Virk, Director Research, DAVIET, Member - IOSS presented
his Paper, “Scientific Vision in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
He emphasized that a scientific perspective is conducive
to and valuable in comprehending the scope of the vision
of the Sikh Gurus. He pointed out that SGGS is not a text
book of Science but the Vision of Sikh Gurus recorded in
it is far more scientific as compared to the Holy Books
of other faiths. Guru Nanak gave a clarion call to reject
rituals and myths and promoted a scientific vision of life
in this Universe. The Sikhs have failed to realize the full
potential of Sabad Guru (SGGS) by adopting it as a tool
of idolatry worship.
Giving quotes from Shri Guru Granth Sahib, he very lucidly
provided glimpses of scientific vision in SGGS on number
of themes like Cosmology, Concept of Time in Science and
Sikh Tradition and Concept of Origin of Life and Biological
S Gajindar Singh - Author, Member, IOSS, Evolving Traditions
and the Guru Granth Sahib. He highlighted the unique features
of the Sikh traditions as originated by Guru Nanak in contradistinction
to the prevailing traditions.
Guru Nanak ushered in a new definition of tradition. Instead
of the ancient rituals, which flourished partly because
of rich imagination based on magical and miraculous make-beliefs,
he offered a new set of values to his followers, perfection
of their moral aptitude to begin with, and essentially adopting
good and virtuous habits and profession of truth at all
times. Truth itself underwent a change, as he defined God
anew and set up the task of imbibing spiritual qualities
of God in life. God became a role model, described vividly
in the Guru Granth Sahib. Instead of the old awe of the
majesty of God, man was encouraged to become god-like. In
the formidable corpus of Gurus’ bani, enshrined in
the Guru Granth Sahib, the qualities and requirements of
an ideal ‘gursikh’ are enumerated from page
1 to the last. Emphasizing the enormity of the task of liberating
the masses from the old tradition to the new one, Gajindar
Singh very clearly delineates the components and the significance
of the Sikh tradition evolved from the scriptures as well
as from historical generation through the successor Gurus
and the Panth.
Bibi Harsimranjit Kaur – Research Scholar –
Pbi Univ, highlighted the social and cultural significance
of the development of Punjabi language and the use of Gurmukhi
script by the Sikh Gurus in their Bani, thus gaining freedom
from the shackles of Brahminical culture and Sanskrit language
which was beyond the comprehension of the masses and access
to which was denied to the so-called lower castes.
Bibi Baljit Kaur – Member EC, IOSS As a prominent,
active and alert defender of human rights, her focus was
on the emphasis and principles as enshrined in SGGS for
recognizing, respecting and enforcing the human rights,
particularly of the down-trodden and exploited masses with
whom the Sikh Gurus identified themselves.
Sardar Santokh Singh of IOSS in his essay A Scientific Spiritual
Scripture has dwelt on the essential base of Gurbani of
one Eternal God, humane behaviour, righteousness and the
building of character so far the Sikhs adhered to the value
of Sikhism. They lost all power once they got misled by
manmat and anmat.
Giani Jarnail Singh “Arshi” of Malaysia: The
One and only Universal Guru. Highlighting the unique features
of SGGS, Gyaniji brought out that Guru Granth Sahib is the
perfect manual of life. It gives humanity the universal
law of brotherhood – One Creator – One humankind.
It has the panacea – the cure-all formula for all
the threats to world peace and sanity.
But he lamented that we are not using the gurmat tools to
change our lives. We simply worship the Guru as an idol,
with blind shardha. We even perform various rituals that
the Guru rejects outright. In spite of having the perfect
Guru, we go seeking the help of religious charlatans, fakes,
soothsayers. He exorted that evey Sikh must read, understand
and implement Gurbani so as to become the “Complete
Man – the Khalsa” as envisaged by Guru Gobind
Bibi Jasbir Kaur Khalsa of Malaysia spoke against foeticide,
which in spite of Guru’s teachings and command is
rampant in Sikh society in Punjab.
Following is the list of Papers which could not be presented
due to the inability of the authors to physically participate
in the Seminar. These, along with others, will be printed
in the book form later.
i. Nirmal Singh: Doctrine & Experience: Looking Back,
Looking Forward This Centenary
ii. Nanak Singh Nishter: Place of Shri Guru Granth Sahib
iii. J S Sethi: Women In Sikhism
iv. Dr Bhai Harbans Lal, Prof Emeritus: Theology of Moolmantar
v. S Balwant Singh, IAS (retd): SGGS and Sikh Society
There was a general appreciation of the quality and the
management of the Seminar by all the participants. The discussions
with regards to question-answers were held in very dignified
and pleasant manners, thanks to the effective enforcement
of the guide-lines prescribed for the Seminar.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies,
2007, All rights reserved.