Guru Granth - A Unique Scripture
The sacred books are an evergreen garden in which the spiritless despondent, dejected, depressed and hopeless souls take rest to recover their lost strength. These holy writings are ever-full and flowing springs of nector from which the diseased mankind has been sipping the elixir of life. “Scripture means any sacred or religious writings or books.”1 “Scriptures are meant to be quoted not to be questioned or doubted.”2
Almost all religions of the world have their own sacred books. Hinduism has its Vedas, Buddhism its Tripitaka, Jainism its Agams, Christianity its Bible, Islam its Quran, Zoroastrian its Zend-Avesta, etc. The scriptures of every religion have their own importance. Guru Granth Sahib which is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs is unique among the world religions in terms of originality, authenticity, and universality.
Guru Granth Sahib is the only sacred book of the world which has been directly handed over to their followers by the founders. Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, has thirty-six contributors including six Sikh Gurus. Its contributors belonged to different strata of society- so called high castes and low castes. They belonged to different religious traditions and different parts of India. Long before the dawn of modern civilization based on science and technology, the Sikh scriptures taught the lesson of co-existence and toleration which are so essential not only in the religious sphere but also the strife-torn national and international spheres.
The hymns of the holy Granth have been given in thirty-one ragas including Raag Kalyan (Raag Yaman) which was introduced in India by Amir Khusro. In every raga verses have been arranged uniformly beginning with the hymns of Guru Nanak and Sikh Gurus in the chronological order followed by the verses of Bhagat Kabir and other Bhagtas. The opening verse of Guru Granth is Japji of Guru Nanak and it ends with the thanks giving hymn of Guru Arjan, the compiler of the Holy Granth.
Emphasizing the unique status and authenticity of the Sikh scripture, Macauliffe writes, “The Sikh religion differs as regards the authenticity of its dogmas from most other great theological systems. Many of the great teachers of the world have not left a line of their own composition and we only know what they taught, through tradition or second hand information. If Phythagores wrote any of his tenets his writings have not descended to us. We know the teachings of Socrates only through the writings of Plato and Xenophen. Buddha has left no written record of his teaching. Kengfutze, known to Europeans as Confucious, left no documents in which he detailed the principles of his moral and social system. The founder of Christianity did not reduce his doctrines to writing and for these we are obliged to trust the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. The Arabian prophet did not himself reduce to writing the chapters of Quran. They were written or compiled by his adherents and followers. But the compositions of the Sikh Gurus are preserved and we know at first hand what they taught.”3
In addition to the sacred hymns of the Sikh Gurus, the holy scripture of the Sikhs also includes the holy compositions of many Bhaktas and Saints. Sher Singh Sher elaborates, “all the other scriptures of the world have been auto-centric or prophet-centric around the respective founders of their faiths and even the holy Bible of the Christians is Christo Centric and the Al-Quran is Mohammado centric, but Guru Granth Sahib is unique in enshrining the hymns of the saints and holy men of different creeds and social positions.”4
Guru Granth Sahib not only gives religious knowledge but also throws light on social, cultural, political and economic aspects of the medieval times. Hari Ram Gupta is of the view that, “The Adi Granth, though purely a religious work throws some light on political, social and cultural conditions of the time.”5
The Sikh Gurus seem to make an appeal to mankind irrespective of religion, caste, colour, sex or region. The Sikh scripture recognizes the essence of humankind and gives little significance to the external forms. G.S.Talib characterizes Guru Granth Sahib as a scripture of the common people where we come across the high spiritual ideals and moral teachings. He writes, “The Granth was intended to be a kind of people’s Bible for the Indian humanity, a treasure house of lofty spiritual and moral teachings.”6
In Hinduism and some other religions it was considered a sin to listen to the teachings of saints belonging to other religions. Sikh Gurus wanted to show to their disciples that there was no place for such a thing in Sikhism and that any saintly person belonging to any region was worthy of honour and respect. The lower castes among the Hindus were not allowed to be initiated in the study of the Vedas. Sri Ramananda Saraswati Swaminath has written, “As declared by the Veda itself, none but a Brahman can be an Adhyapaka, and none but a Dwija (twice-born Hindu) can be an Adhayaka.”7 It is a well known fact that under the incitement and instigation of the Brahmans, Sri Ram Chandra himself killed a Shudra of South India, named Shambook, for the offence of reciting the mantras of the Vedas8, but the fifth Guru has declared in Guru Granth Sahib that the holy hymns of Guru Granth are addressed to all people irrespective of their caste status :
ਖਤ੍ਰੀ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ ਸੂਦ ਵੈਸ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ॥ਚਹੁ ਵਰਨਾ ਕਉ ਸਾਝਾ॥
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪੈ ਉਧਰੈ ਸੋ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਾਝਾ॥
One common spiritual message for
Khatris, Brahmins, Shudras and Vaishyas is meant
Liberated shall be whoever by the Master’s guidance the holy Name Utters;
That, Saint Nanak, in Kali Yoga in each being he realizes as pervasive.9
Radhakrishnan, the renowned Indian philosopher, in his introduction to the Selections From the
Sacred Writings of the Sikhs published by UNESCO, elaborates that, “There can be no goodwill or fellowship when we only tolerate each other. Lessing, in his Nathan the Wise, rebuked the habit of condescending toleration. We must appreciate other faiths, recognize that they offer rich spiritual experiences and encourage sacrificial living and inspire their followers to a noble way of life. The Sikh Gurus who compiled the Adi Granth had this noble quality of appreciation of whatever was valuable in other religious traditions. The saints belong to the whole world. They are universal men, who free our minds from bigotry and superstition, dogma and ritual, and emphasize the central simplicities of religion. The great seers of the world are the guardians of the inner values who correct the fanaticism of their superstitious followers.”10
The Sikh Gurus had great respect for all the religious systems and their scriptures. Kabir says,
ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਕਹੁਹ ਮਤ ਝੂਠੇ ਝੂਠਾ ਜੋ ਨ ਬਿਚਾਰੈ ॥
Call not Vedas and the Koran false, one who contemplates not these is false.11
According to Guru Nanak Dev,
ਚਾਰੇ ਵੇਦ ਹੋਏ ਸਚਿਆਰ॥ਪੜਹਿ ਗੁਣਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਚਾਰ ਵੀਚਾਰ॥
Each of the four Vedas have expressed some truth.
Those studying and expounding them realize
What is appropriate action from what is inappropriate.12
The main theme of Guru Granth Sahib is the unicity of God, universality of Truth, equality and brotherhood of man. The love of humanity, socio-religious, political, economic, cultural and racial freedom, endless happiness, equality and fraternity are unexcelled as described by Ravidas in his hymn, sorrowless city, “Begampura” as given below:
ਬੇਗਮ ਪੁਰਾ ਸਹਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ॥ ਦੂਖੁ ਅੰਦੋਹੁ ਨਹੀ ਤਿਹਿ ਠਾਉ॥
ਨਾਂ ਤਸਵੀਸ ਖਿਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਮਾਲੁ॥ ਖਉਫੁ ਨ ਖਤਾ ਨ ਤਰਸੁ ਜਵਾਲੁ॥
ਅਬ ਮੋਹਿ ਖੂਬ ਵਤਨ ਗਹ ਪਾਈ॥ ਊਹਾਂ ਖੈਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ॥
The city joyful is the name of that city-
Suffering and sorrow abide not there
Neither is there worry of paying taxes, nor does any hold property;
Neither fear of punishment for error nor of decline.
This fine place of habitation have I found:
Brother !there weal perpetually reigns.13
The scripture of Sikhism is a unique gift of the Sikh Gurus to the whole world. It embraces the whole world in its fold, where children of the same Father live under the influence of different geographical conditions and climates, the human beings of various colours are the creations of the same universal Father. This fact has been expressed by Guru Arjan Dev in the following hymn:
ਤੂੰ ਸਾਝਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਬਾਪੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ॥
Thou art the universal Lord, Our Father.14
Kabir also said :
ਹਉ ਪੂਤੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਤੂੰ ਬਾਪੁ ਮੇਰਾ॥
ਏਕੈ ਠਾਹਰ ਦੁਹਾ ਬਸੇਰਾ॥
I am thy son and Though art my Father,
We abide in the same place.15
The instructions of Guru Granth Sahib are not meant for any specific nation, caste or brotherhood; they are common for whole humanity. It is a fine example of the co-existence of human beings of diverse faiths.The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib are more relevant to the present times as they bring home the strife-torn mankind to the path of peaceful co-existence. Its message is universal brotherhood, fraternity, eternal peace and tolerance, freedom from prejudice of colour and race. It is a code for peaceful co-existence.
“The uniqueness of the teachings enshrined in Guru Granth has also to be viewed with regard to the fusion of the Temporal and the Spiritual and presentation of God as transcendent as well as imminent in relation to the mundane world thereby providing an opportunity to all human beings to self-realization in order to attain union with God.”16
The message of Guru Granth Sahib can be best described in the words of Professor Puran Singh : Man is one. There is no such thing as Hindu, Musalman, Sikh or Christian, eastern or western. Man is man and man is one.17 Such is the heritage of Guru Granth Sahib, a scripture for the emerging new world.
1. Ed. Jean L.Mckechnic, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, pp.1630-31.
2. Kulandai Swamy, V.C.,The Immortal Kurl, 4, Sahitya Akademy, New Delhi, 1994.
3. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol.1,Introduction,p.Liii.
4. Sher Singh Sher, Glimpses of Sikhism and Sikhs, New Delhi : Metropolitan Book Co. Pvt. Ltd.1982, p.47.
5. Hari Ram Gupta, History of Sikh Gurus, New Delhi :U.C.Kapur and Sons,1973,p.97.
6. G.S.Talib, Selections from the Holy Granth, Delhi : Vikas Publishing House, 1975,p.4.
7. Sri Ramananda Saraswati Swaminath, The Hindu Ideal, 1959,p.188.
8. Balmika Ramayana, Uttar Kand Sarga, pp.73-76, as quoted by Sher Singh Sher, Glimpses of Sikhism and Sikhs,p.78
9. Guru Granth Sahib, Suhi, M :5, p.747.
10. Radhakrishnan, ‘Introdution’ Selections From the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs, p.18.
11. Guru Granth Sahib, Kabir, p.1350.
12. Guru Granth Sahib, Asa, M :1, p.470.
13. Guru Granth Sahib, Ravidas, p.345.
14. Guru Granth Sahib, Majh, M:5, p.97.
15. Guru Granth Sahib, Kabir, p.476.
16. Shashi Bala, The Concept of Monotheism, a Comparative Study of Major Religious Scriptures, 62,
ABS Publications, Jalandhar, 1993, p.189.
17. Puran Singh, The Spirit Born People, 117, Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala, 1970.
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