Guru Gobind Singh in an Age of Crisis
Three centuries have passed away since Guru Gobind Singh played his part on this Earth. These centuries are a period of a great and profound Transition, and a deepening Crisis, which transition the intelligent men of the world commenced sensing about a hundred years ago, and which crisis was felt by the discerning minds only a few decades ago. The human side of this Transition is called Democracy, the idea of Government by the people and the idea of possible progress. The non- human side of it was called Industrialism, meaning the technological and economic changes which destroyed the agrarian economics and the rural mode of life, and gave to Man an infinitely greater control over Nature. There have been two views about this whole process — one optimist and the other, pessimist. The optimists thought, they perceived an imminent Utopia in universal sufferage, loktantra rajya, universal literacy, and the progress of applied science planning, and took heart at the building of every new Science laboratory and factory chimmney. The pessimist saw in the political change the handing over of power to the ill-bred, the immoral and the unintelligent; in the scientific progress and planning they saw the mechanisation of life, the destruction of beauty and other human values, and the vulgarisation and extinction of the soul of man.
Leaving aside the fanatics of both the Schools, almost all intellectuals of modern times are disillusioned. Those who were fanatics at the time of French Revolution were disillusioned in 1870 when Bismark proclaimed the first German Empire. Those who were fanatics in 1870 were disillusioned in 1919. Those who remained fanatics in 1919 were completely disillusioned in 1945, at the close of Second World War. And those who still remain fanatics are not honest intellectuals but incorrigible fanatics and no more.
This transition in the affairs of men and this crisis in the souls of men was sensed by Guru Gobind Singh almost two centuries earlier than when the extra-sensitive minds of the world had a glimmering of them. Indeed, this intuition of Guru Gobind Singh was no salutory affair: more than a century earlier than Guru Gobind Singh, another equally extraordinary mind, that of Guru Nanak, had the same profound and clear premonition, and had spoken of the remedy and the way out of the crisis which was then silently brooding over the mankind, and was secretly assuming menancing spectre, threatening to destroy human soul and civilisation both, if indeed not the mankind also.
Such a one was Guru Gobind Singh as well.
He did not ask the question in so many well chosen phrases, neatly formulated. But he gave the answer, clear and explicit, without ambiguity and with certainty of conviction and vision. In numerous ways, both by precept and practice, he asserted and exhorted that the key to these and fall of peoples and civilisations was the ethical activity, freely and volunatrily pursued and independent of any supraterrestrial blind necessity or destiny, such as has been presupposed by almost all the ancient and modern thinkers of Social Philosophies, to which a reference has been made above. Thus, the Man is his own Destiny and Necessity, and thus he may avert the Crisis that has now overtaken him. In one of his superb Swayyas, the Guru says in the opening line:
“The power of Good and Felicity, this is my sole prayer before Thee: Give me the strength to pursue ethical conduct, come what may”.
Again and again, this is the keynote of his teachings and exhortations. In this small space, it is not possible to elaborate and expand this point, but a careful study and a critical appreciation of the teachings and life of Guru Gobind Singh leave no doubt in the mind that this is the Guru’s teachings and message for the troubled Mankind. Civilization, he thinks, is two-fold in nature. It realises itself in twin supremacy; supremacy and control of budhi, the reason, over the forces of Nature, and the ethical reason of men, control over the dispositions of men. He commends the activity which leads to the first, but emphasizes the supreme and over-riding importance of the second. “May the dispositions of Men remain under the control of ethical reason, and the ethical reason of men, under the guidance of God, for ever and forever, Amen” (ਸਿੱਖਾਂ ਦਾ ਮਨ ਨੀਵਾ, ਮਤ ਉਚੀ, ਮਤ ਦਾ ਰਾਖਾ ਆਪ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ) is an excerpt from the daily Congregational Prayer of the Sikhs, a prayer formulated and sanctioned by Guru Gobind Singh, himself.
We cannot conclude this small article better than by adding at the end, the English translation of the conversational piece of Guru Gobind Singh with an educated and highly cultured disciple of his, Nand Lal Goya, originally a resident of Ghazni, a famous town in Central Asia. The conversational piece with Nand Lal Goya, was made in the presence of many Sikhs, and one of them, who has preferred to remain unnamed, has recorded it as: Prashan Uttar Bhai Nand Lal Ka that is,
A Conversational Piece with Bhai Nand Lal
“Friend, Hear ye, the way of life for a disciple of the Guru. Rise early in the morning, bathe the body, recite the Japu and the Jap. and meditate on the Name of the God in the evening. Join the congregation, and hear the recitation of the Rahi-Ras, the praises of God, and the edifying sermons. Those who follow such a routine with steadfastness, they endure.
Nand Lal, Listen carefully to what I say. In these categories I subsist, the category of the Attributes, the category of the word. This I want you to understand clearly. Men should listen to the Word of the Guru, attentively and with devotion. That is what the Guru, teaches, men should hear and preach. Men should hear the word of the Guru with love in their hearts and faith in their minds. This, the Form of the Guru, the men should behold, day in and day out. Men should serve each other, without pride and selfishness. Those who serve humanity, their service do I acknowledge is the service to My person.
Pay attention O, Nand, thus Humanity shall be freed, and attain to everlasting bliss.”
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All