IOSS Seminar 2013: A report
The Institute of Sikh Studies (IOSS), Chandigarh organized its annual seminar on “Sikhism in the making of the third millennium civilization” on November 23 & 24, 2013 in the Auditorium, Department of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh. The Seminar was inaugurated by Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala. A number of scholars from all over India participated in the deliberations.
The Seminar started with a Shabad recited by students of Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Chandigarh.
Principal Prabhjot Kaur, President of the IOSS, welcomed the participants and gave a brief introduction to the theme of the Seminar.
S. Gurdev Singh, Patron of the IOSS, gave a brief introduction to the Institute and its activities and explained how Dr Kharak Singh, Sardar Daljeet Singh, Sardar Jagjit Singh and other eminent personalities established the IOSS and made it a force to reckon with.
The sub-theme of on the first day was “World Government: Sikh concept of Miri-Piri”.
Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala, while speaking on the Miri-Piri concept in his inaugural address explained how the Gurus changed the society’s concept of State and Governance. Before Guru Nanak’s time, the model of governance in vogue was vertical in nature with power flowing from top to bottom. The Gurus turned this model into a horizontal model in which everyone was equal and there was love for each other. They stressed on an all inclusive model where even the lowliest of the low were involved and given equal status. In their Bani they explained beautifully the characteristics of a good ruler- one who should be capable and qualified, free of arrogance and greed and should involve all the subjects while taking decisions.
Dr P. S. Pasricha, Ex-chairman, Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib, Nanded deliberated that philosophy of Sikh Gurus is extremely relevant even today and can help in resolving many conflicts threatening mankind. The dream of a World Government and global society can be realized only if the idea of universal brotherhood as given by the Sikh Gurus is in put into practice.
The Morning Session, was chaired by Dr Jaspal Kaur Kaang, Chairperson, Department of Guru Nanak Sikh Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, started with the paper on “World Government” by Dr I.S.Kalsi, a retired Professor of Chemistry. He opined that day may not be far when all the countries of the world would join together in a federation under one Government, evolving a single global legal system, with individual citizens having direct access to International Courts with the power to overrule National Legislation. He explained that in the Sikh society a person has to share with others without damaging the receiver’s dignity. Partaking community food (Pangat) is meant to enforce the belief in the brotherhood of humankind. Contributing daswandh helps in running the system without any hassles as it facilitates helpingthe poor and downtrodden without demeaning them.
Dr Kirpal Singh, an eminent historian explained that during medieval times every religion clashed with the other destroying each other’s religious places. Consequently religion became a cause of discord. However, Guru Granth Sahib emphasizes a life of contentment and high thinking. In such a state of affairs there would not be any corruption in any form. It will be an ideal society where everybody lives by money earned by dint of hard work.
Dr Sarabjot Kaur of Ludhiana spoke on “World Government and Sikh Religion”. She discussed the role Sikhism will play when the world government is established. The main aim of the World Government should be to protect the weaker sections. This World Government should be based on the idea of universal brotherhood of mankind.
Dr J. Jayan of Madurai Unviersity stated that the doctrines of the religious scriptures have a unique role in the socio-political and religious development of a society. He further said the concept of Miri-Piri synthesized the spiritual and temporal aspects of existence. The truthful life contains a strong attachment towards internalized values and social norms.
Dr Sarabjit Singh, Associate Professor, PAU deliberated on how Miri-Piri concept can help form a healthy society.
Dr Ishmeet Kaur from Central University of Gujarat discussed the notion of “Sarbat da Bhalla” in Sikhism in light of globalization and universalism. She felt that the whole idea of travels undertaken by the Gurus was to explore and to bring together the world on common values. They worked towards a new formation of a composite nation-state where individuals would be granted more rights and freedom to exercise irrespective of any disintegrating factors.
The theme for the second day of the annual seminar was “World Citizenship: Sikhism and Environment” and was inaugurated by Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, a renowned environmentalist who has done commendable work for the protection of Environment in line with Guru Nanak’s teaching “Pavan Guru Pani pita, Mata Dharat Mahat”.
Baba ji explained that the Sikh doctrine of “Sarbat da Bhalla” encompasses not only the welfare of human beings but also the well being of the ecology. Quoting from the Guru Granth Sahib, he explained the importance attached to environment by the Sikh Gurus. In his opinion the current situation of environmental degradation in Punjab clearly shows that the Sikhs are not following the Gurus’ teachings on the subject. This is leading to a worrisome situation for the health and quality of life of current and future generations. He shared the various steps being undertaken under his guidance towards preservation of the environment in line with the Gurus message.
Giani Kewal Singh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, stressed the importance of taking steps today in the direction of environmental preservation for a better tomorrow. He said that all political parties should state in their election manifestoes various steps which they will take towards environmental preservation if they are elected to power.
Dr Surjit Kaur, Chairperson- Dept. of Philosophy, Pune University, delivering the keynote address explained that God had created nature and handed it over to man to improve upon it. However, under the influence of western thought, which lays stress on controlling nature and exploiting it to the advantage of mankind, man has over-exploited nature for his wants and this has led to various problems. In contradistinction, the Sikh Gurus preached a holistic philosophy about oneness with nature. Instead of teaching exploitation of nature for satiating human wants, they stressed on inculcating contentment and control over desires. She concluded by saying that since prevention is better than cure, it is better to not pollute in the first place rather than worrying about steps to restore the environment after polluting the same.
Dr. Gurbachan Singh Bachan, Ex-Chairperson, Guru Gobind Singh Chair, Bombay University, explained that as per Gurbani, the Almighty is the force behind the creation of the entire universe and everything is beautifully functioning in a system as per its Will. Quoting various verses from Gurbani, he explained the relationship between the various components of the universe.
Dr. Madanjit Kaur, Retd. Head, Dept of Guru Nanak Sikh Studies, GNDU Amritsar said that it is ironical that these days man-made tragedies are brushed aside under the label of ‘Acts of God’. She explained how ecological imbalances can lead to crime as consumption of harmful chemicals and metals have been proven to have negative effects on the mind of man. She enumerated the steps being undertaken by various Sikh organizations in preserving the environment. She felt that the success of these efforts will help in attracting the attention of the world towards the teachings of the Gurus.
Ms. Arshinder Kaur, an environmental activist who works with farmers in Punjab shared her practical experience with the audience. She discussed the problems of flooding and air pollution in Punjab. According to her, water, soil and air are the most important ingredients for the survival of civilization. She shared her studies of the model of community-shared agriculture in several villages of Punjab and how it can lead to improvement in condition of farmers. She also briefly discussed the modern practices of Organic farming and Perma culture and how they can help in preserving the environment.
Dr. Arshdeep Singh from Ludhiana started his presentation by explaining the concept of ‘ladder to heaven’ which suggests that to reach heaven we need to be in sync with nature. He then summarized the importance of environment in Sikh history and Gurbani. He also dwelt in detail on the importance of water, trees and green cover. Finally he discussed the steps which should be undertaken to protect the environment. He stressed on preserving the environment today as tomorrow might be too late.
Dr. Supinder Kaur from Law Department, Panjab University discussed about the co-relation between environment and Sikhism with special reference to law, i.e. Hukam - divine law which protects everyone. The main emphasis in Sikhism is on truthful living which in turn results in the individual spontaneously living in tune with laws of nature and working in the direction of restoring the used up or consumed energies/residual elements back to the atmosphere for future sustaining the life on earth. If it can be attained there would be zero level of pollution. She then discussed various Indian Laws formulated for protecting environment.
Prof Balwinderpal Singh of Ludhiana discussed socio-economic issues concerning environment. He also gave some practical sugestions to contain the environment pollution.
Dr. Amrit Kaur Raina, talked of mental pollution which was the leading cause of environment pollution because of greed of man. Dr Rajinderjit Kaur gave an exposition of the philosophy contained in the lines Pavan Guru Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat.
Dr. Anurag Singh from Ludhiana also shared his views about the effects of environmental pollution on water and how it can be prevented.
Prof. A.S.Ahluwalia, Chairman of the Session, himself an environmental scientist summed up all the papers and also gave practical suggestions to save the environment.
The Seminar ended with a vote of thanks and the hope that Sikh concept of Miri-Piri will guide the formation of the world government in the times to come, as also environmental degradation will come to end, if we start living our lives as per the teachings of the Gurus.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All