Sikhism in the Twenty First Century – Challenges and Response*
I applaud the initiative and efforts put in by Sikh National College, Qadian to organize a very high standard seminar at a remote place Qadian. I appreciate the collaboration of University Grants Commission in this endeavour. It is heartening that eminent scholars of national recognition have acceded to the request of the organizers to be present on this momentous occasion for the College and let the audience benefit from their learned discourses. I extend hearty welcome to the participants in this seminar and hope they will enjoy being a part of this high level intellectual inter- facing.
Gigantic scientific, technological, socio- political changes of the preceding times have set the twenty- first century for rapid transition. Nobody can predict how the game will end. But knowledge and experience gained by various segments of mankind does equip people to envisage challenges and build appropriate responses. The Sikhs (25 millions) are numerically a minuscule fraction of the teeming global population of about 7000 millions and just about 2% of their main country India and about 65% of Punjab which they term as their homeland. Though small in number, they are settled in all continents and by dint of their characteristics and deeds are prominently visible across almost every country. Resultantly, we have got to reach out to a much broader array of Sikhs. But we have still got to stay in tune to who we are and what we believe. Challenges the Sikhs face in the rapidly changing world demand specific efforts land-wise as well as a whole community.
The Sikhs as a whole people are to lead life in accord with their lofty creed enunciated by their Gurus. The seminal features of Sikh faith are
i) Belief in one Almighty
ii) Earn by your own effort (ਕਿਰਤ ਕਰਨੀ·)
iii) Share your earning with the needy (ਵੰਡ ਛਕਣਾ)
These exhort and prompt them to lead truthful, honourable life, fight injustice. In simple words, the individual should be ethically, morally, spiritually upright. To attain these qualities, one should reflect upon ones’ own self to be really wise.
ਆਪੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥ (ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 152)
Because he who knows his own self is infinite and unrivalled.
ਨਾਨਕ ਚੀਨੈ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਸੋ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 229)
The mind and intellect have intimate relation with the spirit. If one is spiritually buoyant (cVdI klw) and self confident, he should not succumb to immoral and corrupt way of life. Faith in the Almighty kindles the lamp that lights up the entire world.
ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ ਭਇਓ ਉਜਿਆਰੋ ਭਵਨ ਸਗਲਾਰੇ ॥
(ਭਗਤ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ, ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 694)
Your Name is the light applied to this lamp, which enlightens and illuminates the entire world.
To reinforce imperative of moral duty Bhagat Kabir’s utterance proclaims:
ਗਗਨ ਦਮਾਮਾ ਬਾਜਿਓ ਪਰਿਓ ਨੀਸਾਨੈ ਘਾਓ ॥
ਖੇਤੁ ਜੁ ਮਾਂਡਿਓ ਸੂਰਮਾ ਅਬ ਜੂਝਨ ਕੋ ਦਾਉ ॥ ੧ ॥
ਸੂਰਾ ਸੋ ਪਹਿਚਾਨੀਐ ਜੁ ਲਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਹੇਤ ॥
ਪੁਰਜਾ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਕਟਿ ਮਰੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਖੇਤੁ ॥
(ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 1105)
The battle- drum beats rock the sky, aim is taken, wound inflicted.
The crusader enters the arena, to engage in struggle
He who fights to defend his faith is real hero
He may get lacerated but won’t run away from the field of duty.
The teachings of Sikhism call upon its adherents to be willing and prepared to eliminate evil and contribute to ensure smooth and honourable living for the common populace. Guru Nanak Dev raised his voice against injustice and barbaric invaders.
ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥
(ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 145)
It is dark age, rulers are butchers, righteousness has vanished.
Guru Nanak Dev minced no words expostulating that one should be ever ready to sacrifice one’s life for the upkeep of principles
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥
(ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਅੰਗ 1412)
If you are keen to partake my love, tread on my path with your head (as sacrifice) in hand. Having chosen this path, do not hesitate to get yourself beheaded.
Guru Nanak Dev explicitly enjoined that one should not hesitate to make supreme sacrifice for righteous cause when other means are rendered futile. Guru Gobind Singh followed the path set out by Guru Nanak Dev and reinforced his spirit- lifting and confidence – building teachings in his Persian couplet in Zafarnama.
ਚੁ ਕਾਰ ਅਜ਼ ਹਮਹ ਹੀਲਤੇ ਦਰ ਗੁਜ਼ਸ਼ਤ ॥
ਹਲਾਲ ਅਸਤ ਬੁਰਦਨ ਬ ਸ਼ਮਸ਼ੀਰ ਦਸਤ ॥
When all other means have failed,
It is justified to take the sword in hand.
To make oneself capable of facing odds in the path of righteousness, Guru Gobind Singh infused a spirit of preparedness among his followers by inspiring them to attain poise and forbearance.
ਧਰੀਜ ਧਾਮ ਬਨਾਇ ਇਹੈ ਤਨ ਬੁੱਧਿ ਸੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਜਿਉ ਉਜੀਆਰੈ ॥
ਗਯਾਨਹਿ ਕੀ ਬਢਨੀ ਮਨਹੁ ਹਾਥ ਲੈ ਕਾਤਰਤਾ ਕੁਤਵਾਰ ਬੁਹਾਰੈ
Make the body abode of poise, enlighten it with lamp of intellect, take broom of knowledge in hand and cast away the rubbish of cowardice.
Emphasis on practical deeds was highlighted by Bhai Gurdas in his soul- lifting utterance.
ਖਾਂਡ ਖਾਂਡ ਕਹਿ ਜਿਹਬਾ ਮੀਠੋ ਨ ਸਵਾਦ ਆਵੈ, ਅਗਨਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਹਿ ਸੀਤ ਨ ਬਨਾਸ ਹੈ ॥
ਬੇਦ ਬੇਦ ਕਹਿ ਰੋਗ ਮਿਟਤ ਨਾ ਕਾਹੂੰ ਕੋ ਹੈ, ਦ੍ਰਬ ਦ੍ਰਬ ਕਹਿ ਕੋਊ ਦ੍ਰਬੈ ਨ ਬਿਲਾਸ ਹੈ ॥
ਚੰਦਨ ਚੰਦਨ ਕਹਿ ਹੋਤ ਨ ਸੁਬਾਸ ਬਾਸ, ਚੰਦ ਚੰਦ ਕਹਿ ਉਜਿਆਰੋ ਨ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ ਹੈ ॥
ਤੈਸੋ ਗਿਆਨ ਗੋਸਟ ਕਹਤ ਨਾ ਰਹਿਤ ਪਾਵੈ, ਕਰਨੀ ਪ੍ਰਧਾਨ ਭਾਨ ਉਦਤਿ ਅਕਾਸ ਹੈ ॥
Mere uttering of sugar, sugar won’t provide sweet flavours.
Repetitive uttering of fire, fire won’t dispel cold.
Sheer uttering doctor, doctor won’t end disease.
Uttering treasure, treasure won’t bring happiness of richness.
Repeated uttering of sandal won’t bring pleasant fragrance.
Shouting moon, moon does not spread light.
Likewise fruitless discussion won’t lead to disciplined living.
Advent of the Sun in sky is self proclaiming.
Inspired by the sublime deeds of Guru Nanak Dev, Sheikh Mohd. Iqbal exclaimed soulfully
ਫਿਰ ਉਠੀ ਆਖ਼ਰ ਸਦਾ ਤੌਹੀਦ ਕੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਸੇ, ਹਿੰਦ ਕੋ ਮਰਦਿ - ਕਾਮਲ ਨੇ ਜਗਾਇਆ ਖ਼ਾਬ ਸੇ।।
Voice of monotheism has reverberated from Punjab, a realized soul has awakened the sleeping Hind.
I have sketched what Sikhism is and how its pristine doctrines prompt its adherents to lead morally correct life, useful to society without discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, race or nativity. Its cosmic, pragmatic world view is universally relevant and acceptable at the advent of twenty – first century and is bound to flourish and sustain in the times to come. If some followers of Sikh faith are deficient in pursuing the Sikh principles, we should endeavour to convince them to leave their deviant pathways and be worthy followers of the teachings of the Gurus.
We as responsible people should not hesitate to follow the practice of prompting, rewarding for good actions and punishment for wrong doing. Firstly, the parents should prescribe this practice at home and if they feel they are not able to achieve the desideratum, they should leave this job to the teachers at educational facilities. Lastly, the law enforcing agencies should not be precluded from doing their job. It needs no emphasis to say that all the discipline- enforcement agents should perform their roles in a befitting manner.
Educational, sports, medical, industrial, technological, recreational needs of varied kinds are to be accordant with the times, locale, and special circumstances of various global regions. These ought to be chalked out so as to be in tune with the local conditions. But the most important factor should be the ethical- development ingredient of all the facilities. Sheer grafting of mechanical skills on human beings without their moral and spiritual development will produce job handling soul- less robots devoid of all human- ness.
India is to be managed, served and developed by us – the Indians. We are capable of performing these duties. Why should we not rise to the occasion, gear up our endeavours and provide much needed leadership at different levels and in various fields to ensure smooth and honest governance? We should refrain from useless fault finding and devote our time and energy to carry out egalitarian activities. The believers in Sikh value system should lead life like the lord of the sky, that is the hawk
ਨਹੀਂ ਤੇਰਾ ਟਿਕਾਣਾ ਕਸਰਿ ਸੁਲਤਾਨੀ ਕੇ ਗੁਬੰਦ ਪਰ,
ਤੂੰ ਸ਼ਾਹੀਂ ਹੈ ਬਸੇਰਾ ਕਰ ਪਹਾੜ'ਂ ਕੀ ਚਟਾਨ' ਪਰ।। (ਇਕਬਾਲ)
Dome of a king’s castle is not your abode,
Oh hawk! make your abode at mountain tops.
We should feel inspired by the learned philosophy set out in the verse of Surjit Pattar:
ਜਗਾ ਦੇ ਮੋਮਬੱਤੀਆਂ,
ਇਹ ਤਾਂ ਇੱਥੇ ਵਗਦੀਆਂ ਹੀ ਰਹਿਣੀਆਂ ਪੌਣਾਂ ਕੁਪੱਤੀਆਂ...............
ਵਾ- ਵਰੋਲੇ ਉਠਦੇ ਹੀ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਨੇ ਤੱਤੇ, ਪੱਤਝੜਾਂ ਨੇ ਝਾੜ ਦੇਣੇ ਆ ਕੇ ਪੱਤੇ,
ਪਰ ਇਸ ਦਾ ਮਤਲਬ ਇਹ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਿ ਪੁੰਗਰਣ ਨਾ ਪੱਤੀਆਂ।
Light up candles, harsh winds are to blow, hot whirl wind will occur and autumn will shed off tree leaves. All this does not mean that samplings should stop sprouting.
Every challenge of any time and kind must be met with appropriate response envisaged and developed through proper foresight and adequate preparedness. Infusion of moral and ethical strength in our response is of paramount importance.
Spiritual sublimity and intellectual acuity are the spokes sustaining social rim of ethical and moral behaviour and their focal point (hub) is biological need of satisfaction of hunger. This hub must function smoothly to ensure flourish of moral and ethical virtues.
ਖੁਧਿਆਵੰਤੁ ਨਾ ਜਾਣਈ ਲਾਜ ਕੁਲਾਜ ਕੁਬੋਲੁ।। (ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਅੰਗ 317)
A hungry person is impervious to consideration of honour, dishonor and incivil tongue.
It is too difficult to think nobly when one only thinks to get a living. (J.J. Rousseau)
Cardinal postulates of Sikh faith (monotheism, earn to live, mutual help) are vital anchors to set sail a ship equipped with adequate responses to cope up with foreseeable and unforeseeable challenges.
Presently the biggest and most daunting challenges are unemployment and deficient educational system. Global competition demands smarter work force. Community leaders must forge sound vision, suave temperament and tough muscles to get behind a commonsense deal. It is worth remembering that credit goes to the egalitarian men and women who are willing to put themselves on the line.
Twentieth century is past but our doctrines endure.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All