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Gur Panth Parkash

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




Educational Philosophy of the Gurus - The making of Mankind

Bhavna Malik

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Alvin Toffler.

Globalization has led to  mass mobility of people from one country to another to pursue their education as well as  professional dreams, hence a multi cultural society has been formed turning the world into a ‘Global Village’. This scenario has made education complex phenomena. Only that educational thought would seem relevant that encompasses the overall development of an individual- Mental, Moral, Physical, Social and Spiritual, thus polishing the trinity of mind, body and spirit. The educational thought of the Sikh Gurus seems perfect as it has philosophical, psychological and sociological foundations. The Sikh value system does not work in isolation as it develops an individual from a single entity to a useful member of the society. For this the Gurus gave us five individual Nitnem Banis- The Japuji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Swaaiyya, Chaupayi Sahib and Anand Sahib along with Asa di Var to be recited in congregation thus guiding every individual from single entity to community living.  Gurbani is a bridge between modern and traditional.  It guides from Rhetoric to Reality and from Physical to Metaphysical and is a perfect blend of ‘Cognative’ and ‘Conative’ development of human mind. Guru Granth Sahib contributes towards the making of a human resource. The Intrinsic values along with the extrinsic values help an individual to harness and enhance his or her Spiritual values as well.

The word ‘educate’ is derived from Latin which means ‘to draw out’. Etymologically education therefore is drawing out that is already present in an individual rather than thrusting knowledge into the minds of the students. As Swami Vivekananda rightly points out “Education is the manifestation of perfection already present in man”.  This thought resonates with the educational thought of the Sikh Gurus as ‘Jiva’ or ‘Soul’ is part of the Supreme soul hence it has the inherent qualities of God like Truth, Love, Beauty, Goodness, Bliss  and Consciousness. These represent the spiritual values of a human being that are realized walking the path of righteousness. The educational thought of the Gurus aimed at social change through thought renewal, transforming the ordinary intelligence to spiritual intelligence. Consciousness here means to live life with complete awareness- knowing oneself as Gurubani says “ mann tu jot saroop hai apna mool pachhaan”

The most important aspect of Sikh Gurus right from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh has been that human life is supreme creation of God and it is there to rule- “ Avar joon teri panihaari iss dharti pe teri sikhdaari”. Rule the world not by force but by virtues and values, love, compassion and humility.
As regards the Mental Development or Intellectual Development of an individual – It is not mere grasping of the information that the Gurus aimed at but the Gurus emphasized the importance of a clear and sharp  intellect through  knowledge.  Though the whole of Gurubani is a storehouse of knowledge as Bhagat Kabir rightly says ““ Dekho bhai gyan ki aayi aandhi,” but Guru Nanak Dev in Japuji Sahib itself lays the foundation for a sound educational philosophy where  great stress is laid on development of intellect  ‘ Ahran matt ved hathiyaar’. Ved here stands for knowledge- meaning that intellect has to be polished through knowledge.  The knowledge that Guru Nanak aims at is both physical and metaphysical.

The five khands of Japuji Sahib- Dharam Khand, Gyan Khand, , Saram Khand, Karam Khand and Sach Khand guide the human intellect from mundane tendencies towards the spiritual intellect or refinement of the intellect.  Mind in itself is full of thoughts, emotions and feelings that often confuse the human being whereas Intellect on the other hand provides with the power to discern, to distinguish between right and wrong. As Bhagat Kabir says “ Kaho Kabeer main so Gur paya ja ka nam bibeko”

But that intellect has to be developed by walking the path of righteousness and following Dharma in one’s actions.  The human being traverses the journey of Five Khands and ultimately lands in the safe haven of Sach Khand and that too while living or he becomes a ‘jiwan mukta’. The Gurus not only encouraged the sharpening of mental faculties through logic and reasoning but also guided us to use intellect- ‘Bibek Budh’. Gurubani explains “ Dithe mukat na hovai jichar shabad na kare vichaar”. Vichaar stands for wisdom gained through concentration and contemplation. The educational thought of the Gurus is not static or dull but it guides the humanity from Self Actualization to Self Realization. The entire journey is “ Hasandeyan, khelandeyan, pehnandeyan, khavendeyan viche hove mukat”.

The Moral, Social and Spiritual values or Development rests solely on the sound foundation of values and virtues like- Truth, Wisdom,  Love, Goodness, Righteousness, Courage, Justice, humility. Bhagat Kabir emphatically sums up the educational philosophy in the following verses-

Mann kar bael surat kar painda gyan gunn par daari,
Kehat Kabir suno re santon nibhii khep hamaari”
      Make your mind an Ox, consciousness or awareness as your way. Put the weight of knowledge and qualities or virtues on it… thus says Kabir O Saints my business is complete.

The Gurus strengthened the character formation of every individual- Guru Nanak talked of Gurmukh, Guru Arjan described Brahmgyani as an ideal man and Guru Gobind Singh visualised Khalsa as the ultimate man, the perfect blend of Bhakti and Shakti or a Saint Soldier. Though Man and Woman are considered at par with each other but the Gurus describe in detail the qualities of a women as well in ‘Sohagan, suchhajji naar, Gunvanti and batti sulakkhni’.

Truth (sach)- In Japuji Sahib itself Guru Nanak raises the question “ Kiv sachiara hoyiye

In Gurmat, honest living is the central thought as Gurubani says “Sache urre sab ko upar sach achaar” and how to live honestly. The Gurubani guides us ‘ Haq paraaya nanaka uss sooar uss gaaye”.

The Gurus guided humanity against the hoarding of wealth and other material goods as they laid a clear demarcation between need and greed.

“Baba hor khana khushi khavaar jit khaade tan peediye mann mein chale vikaar
       Baba hor pehnana khushi khavaar jit pehne tan peediye mann mein chale vikaar”

Mark Twain rightly sums up this thought “The perfection of wisdom and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people”

Righteousness or Dharma- This value is one of the most important values in gurmat as it is both individual and social in nature. Gurubani says “ eh sareer sab dharam hai”

Interestingly here it refers to an individual value but righteousness does not function alone. From it flow out other values like love, compassion, courage and justice too. “Dhaul dharam daya ka poot”

 In Japuji Sahib “Vich Dharti thaap rakhi dharamsaal” Here it refers to a social value that purpose of human birth is to practice righteousness and in Bhai Gurdas’s vaar “ghar ghar andar dharamsaal hove”. The word dharamsaal refers to a Gurudwara but it also refers to a family culture that our houses or family dealing must be on the guidelines given by the Gurus.

Love- Love is an intrinsic as well as spiritual value. The love mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib is not the mundane love or attachment that creates bondage but it is a pure love that flows towards God and his creation. Gurubani says “Jin prem kiyo tin hi prabh paayo”.

Humility and self surrender- these come from the negation of ego that is considered to be a malady in Gurmat. “Hau vich sacheaar kureaar”

Gurmat guides humanity as to “parrya murakh aakhiye jit labh lobh hankaar.

Humility is one virtue that the Gurus mention time and again  as the feeling of pride over wealth, knowledge or beauty leads to total dismay.  In Sukhmani Sahib Guru Arjan Dev says:

Jo jaane main jobanvant so hovei bista ka jant
Dhan bhoomi ka jo kare gumaan so murakh andha agyan”

By following the Guru’s path one is liberated “Gurmat hridei gareebi aavei”.

Vand Chhakna the third pillar of Sikhism propagates the philosophy of sharing and Altruism.  Education must make a person socially awake and accountable.

Vich duniya sev kamaayiye taan dargeh baisan paayiye” and “ Vidya vichaari taan parupkaari”.

The concept of Altruism or Sarbat Da Bhala encompasses whole of humanity, not just one family or a community. It is based on equality and service. The values handed over by the Gurus are Global in perspective as they are social as well as secular in nature.  Guru Nanak says “Altruism is the essence of all knowledge. It is the touchstone of moral development. It is not to be confused with pity nor must the helper take any pride in the act”.

In ‘Prem Sumarag’ Granth it is mentioned clearly that the “ Scope of Altruism is very wide and includes every kind of assistance- sharing of your wealth, personal belongings and your time as well”
The act of service or Sewa also includes helping others to attain salvation through ‘Nam Simran’  Gurubani says

“Jan Nanak dhoor mange tis gursikh ki jo aap jape avare naam japaave”

Dr Avtar Singh in his book,  ‘Ethics of the Sikhs’ mentions a remark by Pitiram .A Sorokin that “ Indeed, the very essence of a friendship and loving relationship seems to consist of kindness and understanding between individuals”

Anand or Bliss- Atman is a part of Brahman but due to ignorance has forgotten its true nature of ‘Sat, Chit, Anand’.  But by following the Gurus’ path and inculcating the values in life slowly and gradually the person attains to a mental state that the Gurus termed as ‘Sehaj’. A perfect balance “ Jo nar dukh mein dukh nahi maane” living a detached life “ jaise jal mein kamal niraalam”. Both these verses present an image an ideal man or a jiwan mukta .

Contentment or santokh- contentment in gurmat does not mean a laid back attitude or a sadistic life rather it refers to a disciplined life, balanced eating, sleeping and possessing of wealth. Contentment disciplines an agitated mind.

“Mann haali kirsaani karni saram paani tan khet
Naam beej santokh suhaaga rakh gareebi ves”

Or Gurubani says “ thaal vich tin vastu paio sat santokh vicharo

 “Alp ahaar sulabh si nidra”

Contentment basically is applying patience and temperance under all situations.
Courage - The person walking the path of righteousness requires a lot of moral strength and only that person will fight injustice who has courage and who has lost all fear of death.  That’s why Gurubani says-

“jo tau prem khelan ka chaav sir dhar tali gali meri aao”

Courage not only means defending oneself but saving the meek also. Bhagat Kabir says “ Soora so pehchaaniye jo lare deen k het”(Rag Maru)

The present scenario when violence is witnessed all around the concept of courage envisioned by the Gurus seems all the more relevant. The cases of ragging in colleges bring before us the kind of human personality that is being developed. A sadistic attitude is reigning as one enjoys the pain of others or enjoys creating fear in the other, whereas Guru Tegh Bahadar says “ Bhay kaahun ko det nei na  bhay maanat aan”

Bhai Gurdas beautifully says ‘ Loon sahib da khaekai ran andar lar mare

For this reason Guru Angad Dev stressed mental as well as physical development through education. He started the ‘Mall Akhaaras’ to inculcate physical fitness among the sikhs.

Salvation can only be gained by education and knowledge and not by futile acts or rituals like piercing ears etc”

Justice- Justice means impartiality or fairness. Many a time justice and righteousness are used simultaneously. In Gurmat various terms are used to describe justice like Niyaye, Niyaayo, Adal and Dharam. Justice is one of the attributes of God where he is referred as Satt and Nirvair.Tere ghar sada sada hai neyaayo”

God punishes the evil doers “karmi karmi hoe vichaar”

Apart from the justice as a trait of God, Gurmat refers to Justice of the ruler and justice to the self.

Justice as the duty of the King- The king is the representative of God on earth. It is his duty to do justice with his people.”

Guru Arjan Dev says-

Whosoever over the humble and the meek vows to tyrannize,

The supreme lord in flames burns him”

The Gurus concept of justice was of social justice based on equality. Baldwin says “All justice is social justice”

 Removal of caste system, economic disparity, removal of injustice towards women and injustice in the name of religion was their prime concern. The concept of Begumpura by Bhagat Ravidas sums up how an ideal state must be. Scholars feel that Begumpura is a mental state but Ravidas tackles the issue of justice, equality and freedom to move anywhere in Begumpura

He says “ Teo teo sail kare jeo bhaave
                            Mehram mahal na ko atkave”
                Kaayam daayam sada patshahi
                Dom na som eko ahi

Justice to the self- This is the reminder to all humans that self realization and not self actualization is the actual purpose of life.

Mann tu jot saroop hai apna mool pachhan”

Moving away from body consciousness and understanding God, theory of Karma and true nature of the Self.

It can be safely concluded that the educational philosophy of the Gurus is a perfect blend of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), EQ (Emotional Quotient) and SQ(Spiritual Quotient). These three in unison give a direction to life and prepare the psyche of a man in such a way that he  analyses and understands the true purpose of life that is different from the goal of life. Goal can be material but purpose of life is always serving others “ vidya vichaari ta parupkaari”.
J. Krishnamurti sums up the educational thought of the Gurus in this definition “The purpose of education is to see that when the child leaves the school he is well established in goodness both outwardly and inwardly.”


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