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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh




Dr. P.S. Pasricha

Despite the fact that global society is shrinking and getting geographically closer, people, instead of coming closer, are drifting away from each other. In today’s highly competitive environment, our inflated ego, self-righteous attitude, jealousy and intolerance are the main causes of the deterioration of human relations.  These fan the fires of hatred and distrust that prevail all over.  In this climate of ignorance and suspicion, we are, perhaps, afraid of losing our identity.  Wherever we look, we see flames of religious, caste and ethnic conflict-fires. Sadly, we have to blame ourselves for this tragedy.

Most atrocities on humans have been perpetrated in the name of religion and caste, to which history is witness. Can genocide of Jews in Germany under Adolf Hitler ever be erased from anyone’s memory? In our own country India, millions had suffered during the partition in 1947. Similar incidents happened in Delhi in 1984, Mumbai in 1992-93, and Godhra in 2002. Who can ever forget the trauma and the shame of the gory carnage in the name of religion? The entire society today is torn apart by communal discord, which has damaged the social fabric and vitiated the entire atmosphere: Mutual suspicion is lurking all over.  It is only because of this that even the moderate, educated and decent people, at times, tend to lose their poise and become part of a fanatic mob indulging in brutal slaughtering, burning of human beings, gang-rapes of helpless women, mindless arson, thereby defying all logic !

Violence breeds violence.  It is an unending vicious cycle.  In fact, all over the globe terrorism of today is the direct outcome of this hatred and bitterness.  Many youngsters, who have witnessed such sinister and merciless killings and the consequent miseries and destruction of families, choose to tread the path of terrorism.  Thus, the vicious cycle of terrorism breeding terrorism continues unabated. This principle of retribution is threatening to engulf the entire planet.

Despite the universal truth that ‘God is one’ being understood and conceded by all religious leaders, the bigots still insist that their God is superior.   History is witness to the bitter truth of how proponents of one faith indulged in merciless carnage and genocide to subdue members of other sects and religions and forcibly converted them to their faith.  Talibanisation in Afghanistan, Jewish militancy in Israel, Hindu religious fascism in India and increasing Christian hostility towards non-Christians continue unabated.

Today, the world is in turmoil because of inhuman, illogical and unpardonable acts of fanatics in all religions.  We tend to treat each religion as if it were a monolith.  But the truth is each religion is vertically divided into several major sects and a large number of minor sects. Examples are: Brahmans, Thakurs, Dalits in Hinduism; Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Churches in Christanity; Sunni, Shia and Ismaili sects in Islam; Mahayana, Vajrayana and Theravada in Buddhism.

Very often these sects show greater animosity towards one another than towards other religions.  Intra-religious and inter-religious conflicts are widening the social divide.

Left to themselves, common people would live in peace with their neighbours whatever be their religion or faith. They create communal disturbances only when they are incited by vested interests.

Interestingly, while there is nothing that has brought more blessings to man than religion, yet at the same time, there is nothing, which has brought more horror than religion.  Nothing has made more for peace and love than religion; nothing has caused fiercer hatred than religion.  Nothing has made the brotherhood of man more tangible than religion; nothing has bred more bitter enmity between man and man than religion.  Nothing has built more charitable institutions, more hospitals for men and even for animals, than religion; nothing has deluged the world with more blood than religion.

Religious conflicts have intrinsic and external causes.  Intrinsic cause is the operation of certain doctrines or customs of one religion which are opposed to those of another religion.  External cause is the manipulation of religion by vested interests, institutions, political parties, etc. to ensure their hegemony over others.

Every individual, nation, religious or political group wants to become more powerful and force its philosophy and faith over others.  The two World Wars are glaring examples of an attempt by some to establish their superiority over others.  Ultimately, every one suffered. 

History has repeatedly proved this fact.  At the end of the Mahabharata War, there was nobody left to rule over!  What did Alexander achieve at the end of his various exploits ?

When asked about the Third World War, Albert Einstein had quipped, “ I know not with what weapons World War-III will be fought, but World War-IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Wars leave behind no winners.

The end of six years long second World War with nuclear catastrophe brought about the realization that we have to make concerted efforts to live and let live peacefully, and settle the various issues of conflict through consensus and peaceful means.  That is how the United Nations Organization came to be.  The resolution was passed on 10th December 1948 stating “ All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Despite the adoption of this resolution, it has not, as yet, been implemented in letter and spirit. Various nations, minorities and ethnic groups in every country continue to suffer because of political dominance and denial of human rights. 

Unfortunately, like nations, major religions are also at war with each other and, at times, it is difficult to differentiate between a religious battle and a political conflict.  Efforts were made to set up a common religious platform under the nomenclature of World Parliament of Religions as early as in the year 1893. Although interfaith dialogue and meetings are now a common occurrence worldwide, but, a common strain of affinity, mutual understanding, peace and harmony is still a long way to go.

It is in this background that the philosophy of Sikh Gurus becomes extremely relevant and can resolve many conflicts threatening mankind.  Their teachings are enshrined in the Holy scripture (Guru Granth Sahib ji).  This scripture not only contains their own preachings but also includes sublime utterances of many Hindu Bhaktas and Muslim Sufis (saints). Its very first word “Ek Omkar” (God is One) sums up this entire philosophy.  The teachings enshrined in this scriptures harmonize the quintessential wisdom of all religions.  The more you delve deep to understand its true meaning, the more amazed you are at finding an unbounded ocean of truth and worldly wisdom.

With its multi-religious and multi-cultural content, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji effectively shatters the harmful dualisms of body versus spirit, and encourages us to forge a free and direct relationship with The Divine. In our divided and polarized world, the universal melodies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji are a reservoir that one and all can draw from.

Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji  teaches this very beautifully.  The Bani says unambiguously that no one is different merely on the basis of religion, caste or region. The colour of blood in Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs is the same.  When human blood does not know any difference, how can we talk of division of ethnicity?  When it rains in an area, God does not discriminate how much should fall on which house? While emitting light,  Sun does not differentiate on the basis of religion, caste or social status.  A child is born the same way, whether it is in Africa, America, India or any part of the world.  We inhale the breath exhaled by someone else and the breath exhaled by us is inhaled by another, notwithstanding his religion, caste or any other affiliation.  When we are sharing our breath, how can anybody be high or low, rich or poor, or a part of any other man-made differentiation?

Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji discards all social hierarchies and hegemonies.  With its aesthetic form, the ambrosial poetry (Bani) motivates us to fight against various “isms” such as classism, ethnocentrism, racism and sexism that continue to fester in our modern society.  It motivates us to transform our segregated globe into a home, where we live together in harmony as a family, but with the freedom to have our own views, interpretations and priorities. Sikhism is the only religion that allows all people, irrespective of caste, religion, colour or creed to visit their temple (Gurudwara) and offer prayers and partake in Langar (food from the common kitchen).  This only proves that the philosophy is not only professed, but is also practised. This tradition of serving humanity selflessly has not faded with time.

It is, therefore, imperative that we familiarise ourselves not only with our own Holy scriptures but also with the scriptures of other religions, for it will remove pre-conceived notions and age-old prejudices. We must all jointly strive to usher in an era of interfaith dialogue the world over.  Only then can we achieve the goal of removing the cobwebs of distrust and develop mutual understanding, the most essential pre-requisites for achieving peace and harmony.

In order to secure our planet  for ourselves and our future generations, we must make sincere endeavours to actively build bridges of goodwill and understanding, which will only be possible through constant exchange and engagement with one another.  It will help widen our vision and give us a better sense of ourselves, our neighbours and of the globe we inhabit.

The irony is that all religions preach peace.  Each religion looks upon the Divine as being compassionate and merciful.  During my 38 years of experience in the Police Department, I have learnt one thing that for all the conflicts and violence that religion is blamed with, religion is rarely at fault. Why do then people, even the saner elements, indulge in inhuman and dastardly acts? The answer is vested interests. Not religion.

Therefore, if we want to unify the mankind and think on the higher plane of universal brotherhood and World Government, we have to make everyone understand the concept of universal religion and encourage interfaith understanding.  Once that is achieved, the politicians and other vested interests will no longer be able to easily exploit the people in the name of religion.

With the dawn on the 21st century, all these philosophies have started bearing fruits.  With the tremendous influence of science and technology on human life and globalization of economy, there is a gradual awakening of the spiritual consciousness of humanity.  Sincere efforts are afoot to provide succour to the deprived people and bring them into the main stream through education, sanitary and health care, slums resettlement and general improvement in their living conditions. Voice is raised against all forms of exploitation, injustice, tyranny, cruelty and suppression. 

As they say : “Bread first, religion next.”

This is the most important pre-requisite to the concept of unifying the entire world (or humanity) and realizing the dream of World Government.  Religions have to be seen together in one plane.  Mistrusts and misgivings must not be allowed to be entertained by any religion.  Unless all religions feel fully secure without any fear of hegemony, directly or indirectly, of others, we cannot hope to achieve our mission of unified humanity. Because, no politician will ever want his personal power to diminish in any way.  It must be remembered that the religious emotions can always be exploited by the vested interests, more than the fundamentalists, to ensure that different religious groups do not get united.  That is why the most essential pre-requisites viz., bread, shelter and upliftment, both social and economic, of the deprived from all parts of the world must be accorded topmost priority.  A religion of humanity and harmony !  A religion of love and peace !  A religion of One God and Universal Brotherhood !

The formation of World Government will then not be far off.  It will eventually become ‘One Unified Planet of Mankind’ !

If the wall between East and West Germany could be demolished; if European countries could form a Union based on mutual respect and peaceful existence, why cannot the dream of Aldous Huxley of World Government be realized one day.  Certainly, it can be !  What is required is a sincere effort made with an open and unprejudiced mind to appreciate that each of us  has a life of his own, each of us has a right to our own belief and religion.  Once we accept this basic truth based on Guru Nanak’s concept of One God and Universal Brotherhood, we can build a global society wherein everyone, notwithstanding his religion, caste, creed, colour or nationality, is welcomed as an equal in dignity and rights, as is envisaged in the U.N.O. Charter.

A garden looks beautiful only if it has flowers of various colours and shapes.  It fills up the entire atmosphere with an aroma of love, happiness and peace.

The 4 Cs. viz. co-operation, conciliation, compassion and co-existence are the main pivots on which Mankind should rest to ensure the equilibrium of our planet, which is 4.54 billion years old.  It has taken us as long as 2.3 million years for human beings of today to evolve!  Should we allow the special gift of Nature to die?

Bertrand Russell, the great philosopher and Nobel Laureate, had once observed:

“If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the Third World War of atomic and hydrogen bombs, then the Sikh religion will be the only means of guiding them.”  When asked, isn’t this religion capable of guiding mankind before the Third World War? Russell quipped, ‘Yes it has the capability, but the Sikhs haven’t brought out in the broad daylight the splendid doctrines of this religion, which has come into existence for the benefit of the entire mankind. This is their greatest sin and the Sikhs cannot be freed of it.”

It is time that all followers of Sikhism, notwithstanding their  regional affiliations take serious cognizance of the observations of the great thinker Bertrand Russell.

The relevance of the teachings of our Gurus, enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib ji, is much greater today than ever before.  Today, we are at cross-roads.  Unless we, together, resolve to build a global village in an environment of inter-faith trust and mutual goodwill, mankind will be doomed forever. The Sikhs ____ if they are true Sikhs ____ can play a pivotal role in propagating the message of our Gurus across the world to make our super diverse world a healthy and wholesome family and spread the fragrance of universal love.

Let us embark on this journey of oneness, faith and peace…


ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All rights reserved.