POWER BORN OF AN IDEAL
A small pamphlet in Arabic was published by a minister of the Sultan of Muscat. A resume of this pamphlet is given below:
An Egyptian hiking in mountaneous regions came upon a deep cave. The cave looked dreadful and forbidding, but the Egyptian took courage and peeped inside. Scanning the semi-dark interior, the Egyptian saw a man sleeping on the rugged floor. He took fright and would have certainly run away but curiosity held him back. He went into the cave and found that the sleeper was an old soldier. The dress he wore was of an outmoded cut and a rusted sword of antique design lay beside him. The sight astonished the Egyptian. Just then the soldier turned in his sleep and opened his eyes. For a while he gazed in bewilderment at the vaulted domelike ceiling of the cave. Then as he caught sight of the Egyptian, he exclaimed:
"Cursed am I! awake from slumber and the first thing my eyes rest on is a damned infidel!"
Egyptian : I am not a damned infidel. I am a Muslim. As a matter of fact all Egyptians are Muslims.
Soldier : Is that so ! I am so glad. It seems I have slept for a very long time.
Egyptian : Who are you?
Soldier : I am soldier of king Qasim's army which invaded Egypt and fought the Egyptian infidels. Egypt was at that time a country of non-believers. I straggled from the main force and entered this cave to rest for a while.
Hearing this the Egyptian was totally flabbergasted.
Centuries had passed since Qasim lived and Egypt had been conquered by Arab invaders.
When at last the Egyptian and the old soldier emerged from the cave, the latter was amazed to see that what had once been a vast desert was covered with dome shaped buildings. He turned to his companion and enquired. "What are these monsters?"
"These are the tombs of important people," the Egyptian replied.
Just then great tumult was heard. Turning their heads, they saw a troupe of singers and dancers performing in the courtyard of a king's tomb.
Soldier : What a sacrilege! Song and dance at the mausoleum of a Muslim king! It is just impossible. You are a liar. Egypt has not yet turned to Islam.
Egyptian: I am speaking the truth. Egypt is now an Islamic country.
As the two advanced further they came upon a huge circular tomb where oil lamps were burning in a semi circle. This sight also startled the old soldier. Lighting lamps at tombs amounted to worship of graves and was un-Islamic. Such practices were indulged in by infidels. Still the man swore that Egypt was an Islamic country.
They went ahead and heard a great din. A festival was being held in commemoration of the death anniversary of the famous Sheikh Badoi. The tomb of the Sheikh was the scene of great rejoicing. Music was being played and people were drinking wine. Seeing this the old soldier flew into a temper.
"If this is Islam", shouted he, "it is worse than idolatry. I cannot bear to see this spectacle. I have seen Islam in its pristine glory. You say these people are Muslims. To me they seem damned infidels".
The old soldier's face was crimson with rage. His voice rose in a fevered pitch as he shouted:
"I am a Muslim. My religion ordains me to fight evil with might or lacking might with persuasion. If both these fail, my religion enjoins me to shun evil. I am a soldier and can use might. Though my sword is rusty. I……..I……"
Saying this, he unsheathed his sword and fell upon the band of revelers. People ran away in great confusion. The police arrived and the old soldier was put behind the bars. When he was brought before the judges, he told them that he was a soldier of king Qasim's army. The judges laughed at him and thinking him to be of insane mind, acquitted him.
His Egyptian friend took the old soldier to his home. When the hour for the afternoon Namaz arrived, the old soldier turned his face to the west and went down on his knees. The Egyptian kept observing him with great interest. He wanted to see in what manner Namaz was performed in king Qasim's time.
The Egyptian saw that while saying his prayers, the soldier was so absorbed that he seemed to be totally oblivious of his environments. When the Namaz came to an end, the soldier was startled by the sound of loud wailing. He saw a concourse of women beating their breasts and crying most piteously. The pathetic sight moved him to tears. He enquired from the Egyptian the cause of all this lamentation. The Egyptian informed him that this was the funeral of a Turkish official and the wailing women were hired mourners. This revelation came as a stunning blow to the old soldier. He again knelt down and started praying.
"O God! O Allah of the believers, for what sins have thou kept me alive in this land of infidels. I have been punished enough. O sustainer of the world have mercy on me and take me back under your protection".
Just then a thick mist arose into which the old soldier vanished.
The author of the pamphlet did not make it clear whether this story was based on fact or was a mere figment of the Egyptian's imagination. Most probably it was only a concoction of the author's brain to stress upon the degradation in contemporary Islam. Undoubtedly, the story voices the woeful lament that arose from the author's anguished heart like a whiff of smoke in the desert air.
But be that as it may, the story aptly symbolizes a great truth. This truth no longer remains confined to the context of Islam, but assumes a general character. It becomes universal. The conclusion drawn is pertinent to any religion, sect or institution.
Whither is flown the glory that Guru Gobind Singh gave to the Khalsa? Where is the power that gleamed in our souls like a flash of lighting? Where is that spirit of sacrifice that had suffused all faces with a heavenly radiance? Where is the rare gleam with which the sharp edges of the double-edged sword had been invested by the warrior Guru? Where is the steel that had entered the soul? Where are those gold-tipped arrows which killed not only the aggressor but also his sins and accompanied his soul like a luminous passport to heaven?
Whither has that glorious epoch fled? Where is the high noon of our prime. It is amazing that so soon it should have mingled with the dark shades of the evening. Is there any vestige of that splendor? Do we see any light among the ruins? Are there still any embers left in this heap of ashes? Is it possible to produce a spark and revive the crimson dawn?
Nothing lasts for long in this mortal world. The disconsolate heart draws some comfort from this thought. However human mind does not easily reconcile itself to the death of certain precious ideals. One such ideal is the ideal of love. Love is said to be immortal and immutable. We wish it were so. Experience shows that love is also changing and waxes and wanes like the moon. It breaks, is shattered to pieces and then tries to bring those pieces together. It seems that love is like the gleam of falling meteor. No gleam is produced until the meteor falls and once it falls, the gleam is soon extinguished.
Can love be made immortal? Can it be transmuted into a more permanent force? Can it be charged into a perennial torrent of light? Yes, provided it undergoes a transformation. Love that sheds its possessiveness, love that ceases to be a feverish burning passion, acquires a supreme quality. It is such-love that can perform miracles. It is such a love which gives to the human spirit eagle-like wings and the freedom of the skies.
Thus is love converted into force and energy. What is energy? It is difficult to define it. There had been no greater misuse of anything in this world than of energy and power. Power had many forms and is of many types. The crudest form of power is that produced by machines which is called mechanical power.
Superior to the mechanical power is the power produced by human body like the power of a warrior's arm. Even more potent than the physical power is the mental energy born of human mind. Both mechanical and physical powers are blind. Though mental energy has been endowed with eyes, it has yet to acquire vision. Thus it can, by lighting up the lamp within, gain enlightenment. Till then a chance flash of lightning in the sky may enable it to get a momentary glimpse of the universe. Superior even to the mental energy is the power of the human spirit. The spiritual power, in essence, is akin to the divine spark in human soul.
Different kinds of power held sway in different epochs. In Satyayuga (the epoch of Truth), spiritual power was predominant. In the Treta epoch, mental energy was the main controlling force. The Dwapar epoch was characterized by the pre-eminence of physical power. Kaliyuga is the age of mechanical power.
Humanity can attain perfection by a balance and harmonious development of all types of energy. Any lopsided progress can be suicidal. Development of mechanical power alone has armed the human race with lethal weapons of self-destruction. If the armament race is allowed to go unchecked, it can lead to another world war. Whenever blind mechanical power, or for that matter blind physical power, is let loose in the world it can only lead to a blood bath.
Mental energy, unless guided by an inner light usually degenerates into a force of darkness. Occult power acquired through concentration of mind can often lead the seeker away from his destination into the perilous quagmires which engulf his soul and in which his occult power also ultimately perishes.
Through scientific advancement, mechanical power has produced electricity to light up our homes and streets but it has led the human mind into dark bye-lanes. Similarly mental energy, lacking spiritual vision has achieved nothing. It has only groped in darkness and led to perdition.
Due to the destruction and misery caused in the world by the use of physical and mechanical power the common man acquired a distaste for power. Moral people began to condemn power and shy away it. This produced harmful results. In religion it bred the cult of non-violence. Men of piety became weaklings. For them Dharma only meant a total rejection of power and a complete aversion to the use of force. No wonder the philosophy of non-violence in India led to decadence and political subservience. Even when the hold of non-violence on the Indian mind loosened, it did not truly imbibe power. It merely created Kali the goddess of power and people began to worship her.
Sitting in a dark cave, a devotee may spend his whole life worshipping the sun. such worship is of on avail. He would have fared far better, if instead he had come out in the sunshine and allowed it to warm his body in winter. In quite a different form, imbibing power and letting it seep into one's spirit is better.
The dawn of spiritual power brings about a great transformation in human soul. It enables the person concerned to face a catastrophe with great equanimity. As a matter of fact for such persons the distinction between pleasure and pain, happiness and misery is erased. Not that such persons do not have to face hardships and adversities in life. They have their due share; but their brave spirit enables them to face and overcome a crisis with courage and fortitude. Hardships season their spirit even as timber is seasoned by exposure to inclemency of weather. Heroic spirits drawing sustenance from adversities grow in stature until they attain heights of glory and greatness.
A truly brave person stops making distinction between happiness and misery. When power vibrates in his being, his measures and yardsticks undergo a change. The only distinction that his soul recognizes is that between good and evil. While embarking upon a course of action, he uses only this touchstone and is least bothered whether this course will bring him happiness or pain.
All efforts to acquire mental energy are directed at concentration of mind. Concentration of mind is not an easy thing. Difficult Hath a Yogic exercises, quaint outlandish rituals and pranayam (breath control) are resorted to with a view to attain this objective. Concentration of human mind is like breaking a wild stallion. The yogi makes painful and torturous effort. Holding the reins tight, he wants to keep the unbroken steed in one position. The wild creature tugs at the bridle, kicks up its hind legs in the air and neighs defiantly. When it breaks away it runs wildly in all directions. To bring his mind under control the yogi uses all the methods and difficult expositions of 'Hath Yoga Pradipka' and 'Gorakh Saintha'.
Perhaps a better way to break the wild steed it to let it run whither it will. After it has had its fill of running, it will come back exhausted and perspiring. That is the time to give it a pat on the back or a tender caress on the forehead. That is the time to fasten the saddle and leap on its back. It will kick up no more. Thus can the human mind be harnessed for spiritual discipline. This method of controlling the mind is called 'Sehaj Yoga'.
The important thing for a seeker to bear in mind is that the efforts made to attain concentration should not violate natural human instincts, impulses and desires. Such efforts have little chance of success if they run counter to human nature. Only efforts that harmonise with human nature can produce lasting results, otherwise human mind is turned into a field where a fierce battle rages perpetually between human instincts and efforts to subdue them. No concentration and peace is possible amidst the din of a battle.
Peace reigns only in a quiet mind. A mind that attains perfect concentration has immense energy potential. This potential can be acquired not through yogic practices alone. It is more easily gained through the contemplation of an ideal. Lofty ideals irresistibly draw heroic souls and arouse their latent potential to a miraculous degree. When the sun rises, the lotus flower is spontaneously charged with life and blossoms in its full glory. When the full moon appears in the heavens, it draws towards itself the mighty waves of the ocean, thereby demonstrating the power born of an ideal. Sikhism enjoins on its votaries to aspire for such a power only.
Power cannot be generated in the human spirit through repetition of mantras, through empty and soulless ritual or through difficult yogic postures. This objective can be achieved only by filling man's soul with a great ideal. Through the alchemy of a great ideal, spineless cowards get transformed into indomitable heroes. Through the inspiration provided by a great idea, supine spirits attain sublime heights.
Has Sikhism fallen from the pinnacles of past glory? Is it heading towards an abyss? I do not think so. My optimism is justified inter-alia by the memories of the Akali movement for Gurdwara Reform. What heroism, what unflinching courage, what dedication was brought out by this movement which stirred the Sikh community to its innermost depths. Here was a great cause dear to the Sikh people. The entire community plunged into the foray in utter disregard of personal danger, laughing death to scorn, which proves my thesis that when a people, whose spirit lies dormant, are presented a great ideal, an ocean of strength starts surging in their soul; the blood courses singing in their veins and the wilting flower of past glory gets revived once again.
The Akali Gurdwara Reform Movement added a glorious chapter to the history of India. As a matter of fact, this movement was a precursor of the Indian Freedom Movement. It also bore testimony, if any was needed, to the fact that the spirit with which Guru Gobind Singh fired the hearts of his disciples, is dauntless and undying. It proved that the Ideals of Sikhism are charged with great potential which can pull the community out of the morass of apathy and decadence.
The Guru's spark still smoulders in the hearts of the Sikhs. They should never forget that for the first time, power of an ideal has been demonstrated in all its glory in the world history by the Sikh martyrs and heroes. The power born of an ideal is unparalleled in its range and intensity. This power is different from that defined as Umma in Kane Upanishad and idolized and worshipped as Chandi in the Puranas. This power is created only at the high tide in the ocean of dedication and sacrifice. The power born of an ideal is not that which the Shaivites worship in the form of Parvati (Lord Shiva's consort). This power is also not goddess Jagdamba, the giver of all boons. It is also quite distinct from that embodied by the goddess Lakshmi of the Madhva sect which forms a trinity with goddess Bhawani and Durga. The power born of an ideal is created by upheavals in a nation's life, upheavals that throw up new ideals. A new brotherhood comes into being fired by high idealism and knitted together by a common purpose, ready to face utmost persecution for the preservation of their glorious identity.
The Sikh ideals, the Sikh way of life have been dearly cherished by the community. Every devout Sikh regards himself as a sentinel for safeguarding the Sikh traditions and ideas. It is these traditions which two and a half centuries ago provided a panacea for the ills of the Indian society. It is these ideals that militated against the rigid caste system that for centuries had bedeviled the nation's life. These ideals also inspired a downtrodden people to stand up and throw off the oppressor's yoke.
The glorious ideals of Sikhism are eternal and immutable. There may be a temporary eclipse but every crisis in the life of the community is bound to be followed by a renaissance and revival. Politically motivated, Sikh leaders may indulge in squabbles but these should not lead us to despair about the future of the community. At times the Sikh spirit may appear to be dormant but this should not prompt us to pay heed to the prophets of doom.
Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher had propagated power as an ideal in itself. Such power is entirely different from its primary importance. When power flows from an ideal, it ushers an era of great deeds. When ideal becomes the mainspring of power, man's ego is destroyed, the rusty shackles of self interest and self preservation are snapped, steel enters the soul and the human spirit gleams forth as a double edged sword. At that state, men consider it a great privilege to be able to sacrifice their all for the sake of an ideal.
What does the double edged sword, the Khanda of Guru Gobind Singh symbolize. Khanda is the confluence of two sharp edges at a common hilt. One edge is the luminous symbol of spiritual enlightenment, the other of power born of an ideal. Khanda is the emblem of that high Sikh ideal in which power is tempered by spiritual enlightenment while the latter is perpetuated by power. The coalition of power and spiritual enlightenment is the Khalsa ideal.
In Guru Hargobind's time Sikhism adopted two swords, the sword of spirituality and the sword of temporal authority. The former was emblematic of spiritual enlightenment, the latter of power. Only a great prophet and hero can successfully wield these two swords together. The fusion of spiritual enlightenment and temporal authority was a lofty ideal. It was, however, difficult for the common people to understand sword as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment. The adoption of two swords by the sixth Sikh Guru, therefore, confused many of his followers who thought that temporal authority was not in keeping with the spirit of Guru Nanak's teachings. The Guru and his enlightened disciples had to make efforts ot dispel these delusions and to restore faith among common people.
ਜੇ ਗੁਰ ਸਾਂਗ ਵਰਤਦਾ ਸਿਖ ਸਿਦਕ ਨ ਹਾਰੇ || – ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ ਜੀ
(Even if the Guru appears in a different garb: it is incumbent on the disciple not to waver in his faith).
Those who found it difficult to reconcile themselves to the idea of two swords did not know that this duality was only a temporary phenomenon. This was only the beginning, the foundation of a new and lofty concept. Before long the two swords were to be amalgamated into the double-edged sword (Khanda) of Guru Gobind Singh. Before long the two emblems were to merge together into a unique symbol of the Khalsa ideal in the hands of the Sikh Guru.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All