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THE INTEGRATED LOGIC AND UNITY OF SIKH DOCTRINES
1. Sikhism a Revelation
It is fundamental to Sikhism that it is a revelatory religion. It means two things. First, that there is a level of Reality higher than the empirical Reality we experience with our normal senses. Second, that this Higher Reality reveals itself to man and enlightens him. These are not just rational assumptions. This is what Guru Nanak and other Gurus have categorically stressed and repeated. "O, Lalo, I say what the Lord Commands me to convey. "1 In other words, God is both Transcendent and Immanent and man can be in tune with His Immanence. Therefore, in order to understand Sikhism these fundamentals have to be kept in mind.
2. Nature of God
The second point is what is the nature of God, or the revelation to the Guru. For the Guru God is Love. "Friends ask me what is the mark of the Lord. He is all Love, rest He is ineffable."2 The entire structure of Sikhism and its theology are based on this fundamental experience of the Guru. In Sikhism, thus, religion means living a life of love. For Guru Nanak says, "If you want to play the game of love, come to me with your head on your palm."3 Guru Gobind Singh also declares, "Let all heed the truth I proclaim: Only those who love attain to God."4 In no other Higher Religion, except Christianity, God has been characterised as love. Stace has collected a mass of data about the nature of the mystic experience of the saints and supermen of all the different religions of the world. According to them the fundamental features of the Reality or God experienced by them are blessedness, peace, holiness, para-doxicality, and ineffability."5 William James too describes the religious experience of saints to be ineflable, paradoxical, passive and noetic.6 Love is nowhere mentioned to be a part of the basic religious experience. In most of the Indian religions, Reality has been called Truth, Consciousness and Bliss (Sat, Chit', Anad). In none of them the Reality has been described as basically love. Failure to grasp this fundamental difference has led to many a misrepresentations and misunderstanding about Sikhism.
Broadly speaking, the difference between the basic experience of love in the case of Sikhism, and of bliss and tranquility in the case of most other religions, especially Indian religions, leads to the entire contrast in the methodologies and goals of the two categories of systems. Hence, whereas Sikhism is life-affirming, other systems suggest total or partial withdrawal from life.
Now, love has four essential facets. It is dynamic, cohesive, directive, and the mother of all virtues and values. Guru Nanak therefore calls God the Ocean of virtues. It is in this background that we shall draw the logic of the fundamental Sikh doctrines and the integrated unity of their structure.
3. The world is real
The first logical inference of the fundamental of God is Love, is that the world is real. For, "when God was by Himself there was no love or devotion."7 Because for the expression of God's love a real and meaningful world is essential. It cannot be called a place of misery, entanglement, or suffering, nor can it be Mithya or an illusion as in many other religious systems that recommed withdrawal from the world. The Gurus say, "True is He, true is His creation."8 "True are Thy worlds and Thy universes, True are the forms Thou createst."9 "God created the world and permeated it with His light."10
4. God interested in the World
Following from the first inference is God's deep interest in the world. For, "God is eyes to the blind, milk to the child, and riches to the poor."11 "It is the innermost nature of God to help the erring."12 "God rewards the smallest effort to be divine." The Gurus call God "The Enlightener", "Teacher or Guru."
5. The practice of virtues is the way to God
Love being the fundamental attribute of God, the practice of virtues and the ideal of living an altruistic life becomes the third inference of the religious experience of the Gurus. "God created the world of life and planted Naam therein, making it the place for righteous activity."13 "Good, righteousness, virtues and the giving up of vice are the way to realize the essence of God."14 "Love, contentment, truth, humility and virtues enable the seed of Naam (God) to sprout."15 "With self control and discipline we forsake vice, and see the miracle of man becoming God."16 Thus, for the Gurus the practice of virtues is the spiritual path to God.
6. Man's spiritual assessment depends on his deeds in this World
Since altruism is the sole path to God, man's deeds alone become the index of his spiritual growth. Evidently, this is the fourth corollary of the fundamental of God is love. "With God only the deeds one does in this world count."17 "True living is living God in life."18 "God showers His grace where the lowly are cared for."19 "It is by our deeds that we become near or away from God."20 "Truth and continence are true deeds, not fasting and rituals." How basic is this principle of Sikhism is evident from the Guru's dictum "Every thing is lower than Truth, but higher still is truthful living or conduct."21 Accordingly, in Sikhism every other religious practice is preparatory, the only spiritual index of man's progress being his deeds in this world: For it is "by service in this world that one gets bon our in His Court,"22
It is in the above context that Sikhism does not recommend a monastic or an ascetic life. Because altruistic deeds can be performed only in the social life and never by withdrawal from it, or by a life given to monastism, ascetism, or meditation alone. The contract with systems like Vaisnavism, Nathism, Sufism and Budhism which recommend Sanyasa or monastism, thus, becomes evident. In Budhism good deeds can lead to a better birth, but never to Nirvana.23 In Sikhism deeds are the sole measure of one's spiritual development.
7. Acceptance of Householder's responsibilities
Having rejected monastism and ascetism, the acceptance of social and householder's responsibilities becomes a natural corollary of the fundamental of God is Love. It is significant to note that Guru Nanak and other Gurus have sanctified man-woman relationship by profusely using it as the metaphor for the expression of their devotion to God. That the Gurus were consciously making a major departure from the then existing religious tradition is evident from the fact that all the Gurus, excepting Guru Harkrishan, who died at an early age, accepted the responsibilities of a married life. "The spiritual path can be trodden not by mere words and talk but by actually treating all men alike and as one's equals. Yoga does not lie in living in cremation grounds, doing one-pointed meditation, or roaming all over places, or visiting places of pilgrimage, but in remaining balanced and God-centred while conducting the affairs of the world."24 "One gets not to God by despising the world."25 "One becomes liberated even while laughing and playing."26 "The God-centred lives truthfully while a householder ."27
In the Bhakati systems of Nathism, Vaisnavism and Hinduism the householder's life is clearly spurned. The Nath is under a vow not to marry.28 Yajna-Valkya, and Chandogya and Mundaka Upanisads all recomamend Sanyasa and Brahmacharya for Brahm realisation.29 As against it, in Sikhism while any one could become a SIKh, an ascetic or a recluse was not welcome. The Siki prays for "millions of hands to serve God."30
8. Equality of Women
As a corollary to the fifth inference about the sanctity of the householder's life, follows the principle of equality of man and woman. Guru Nanak says, "Why call women impure when wilhout women there would be none."31 Not only he gave equality to women, but later the Guru appointed women to head some diocese.32 Keeping into view the position of women in all the religions of the world in that period of time, nothing could be more revolutionary than this feature of Guru Nanak's religion. Ignorant persons have tried to link Nathism and Vaisnavism and the Sant tradition with Sikhism. In practically all the old religions women is considered an impediment in the religious path. The Nath is not only under a vow to remain celibate, but he does not sit and eat even with Nath women.33 Ramanuj, the Chief exponent of Vaisnavism, considered women and Sudras to be sin-born and refused to admit a woman as a Vaisnava.34 The same was the position of Sankaradeva, a liberal Vaisnava saint of the fourteenth century. He wrote, "Of all the terrible aspirations of the world women's is the ugliest. A slight side glance of her's captivates even the hearts of celebrated sages. Her sight destroys prayer, penance and meditation. Knowing this, the wise keep away from the company of women,"35 And Bhagat Kabir too is so critical of the role of women that Dr. Schomer finds a misogynist bias in his hymns.36 This total departure by Guru Nanak from the religious tradition of his times could only be as the result of his spiritual experience that God is love. Because in the religious environment of the times woman was looked down upon as a potential temptress.
9. The brotherhood of man
The brotherhood of man is a natural corollary of the Guru's experience of God is Love. Since in all the Hindu systems the hierarchical caste ideology was a scripturally accepted doctrine, the question of the equality of men could not arise. But Guru Nanak, after his revelation started his mission with the words, "There is no Hindu nor Musalman", meaning thereby that he saw only man without distinction of caste, class or creed. And his life long companion during his tours was a low-caste Muslim. As against it, in Vaisnavism of Ramanuja the principle of pollution was so basic and important that a Vaisnava not only cooked his own food, but threw it away altogether if while cooking or eating it another person cast a glance on it.37 The Guru said the spiritual path could be trodden not by mere words and talk, but by actually treating all men alike and as one's equal.
10. Work is a religions duty
Once the principle of assessment on the basis of deeds and the responsibilities of a householder are accepted, work becomes a part of man's religious duty. The Guru says, "The person incapable of earning his living gets his ears split (i.e. turns a Nath Yogi) and becomes a mendicant. He calls himself a Guru or a saint. Do not look up to him, nor touch his feet. He knows the way who earns his living and shares his earnings with others."38 The Guru deprecates the Yogi who gives up the world and then is not ashamed of begging at the doors of householders.39
11. Sharing of wealth
From the principle of brotherhood of man follows naturally and essentially the idea of sharing one's income with one's fellow beings. The Guru says, "God's bounty belongs to all. but men grab it for themselves."40 "Man gathers riches by making others miserable."41 “Riches cannot be gathered without sin but these do not keep company after death."42 And it was Guru Nanak who introduced the practice of 'Langar' and 'Pangat' i.e. eating the same food while sitting together. Fair distribution of wealth among men is the inevitable inference from the basic experience of God is Love. The ideas of the brotherhood of man, the acceptance of householder's and social responsibilities, the consequent necessity of work and of the fair distribution of wealth and human production are so logically connected that these cannot be dislinked or accepted partly.
12. Participation in all walks of life
Once the love of man becomes the fundamental principle of religious life, the involvement of the spiritual person in all walks of life becomes inescapable. In fact, total responsibility towards all beings is only the other side of the Coin of Love. In whatever field there is encroachment on human interests, reaction and response from the spiritual person becomes a religious duty. Otherwise the idea of the brotherhood of man becomes meaningless. It is in this context that we should understand the bold and loud criticism of Guru Nanak of the evil practices and institutions of his day. No inhuman practice remained unexposed. He criticised the tyranny and barbarity of the invaders and the oppression and brutality of the rulers, the corruption and cruelty of the administration and the officials, the degrading inhumanity of the caste ideology and the underlying idea of pollution, the naked greed and rank hypocrisy of the Brahmins and Muslim Mullahs, the rapacity of the rich in amassing wealth the idleness of Yogis and mendicants, and other wrong practices. There was hardly any evil aspect of life that escaped his criticism. All this criticism meant only one thing, namely, that there was a right or religious way of doing things that were being misconducted and that no walk of life was taboo for the religious man. In whatever field of life there is aggression or injustice, the religious man cannot remain neutral; he must react and do so in a righteous way. For, once the' householder's life was considered to be the medium of the religious growth of man, it became natural for him to accept total moral participation and total responsibility in all fields of life. The traditional barriers created between the so called socio-political segments and religious segments of life were deemed artificial, and were once for all broken for the religious man. For, wherever man suffers, the religious man must go to his succour. Such was the religious experience or perception of Guru Nanak. And it was he who laid down the firm foundation of such a religious thesis and system. Here it is necessary to understand one important point. Social or political evils can be fought and remedied only by a cohesive society, accepting social responsibilities and right goals. Those cannot be removed just by individuals or by mere preaching. In short, Guru Nanak's aim was not individual salvation, but the socio-spiritual salvation of man and society, and such a gigantic task could not be completed in one life. A whole society had to be organised that had internally to remove the disintegrating disease of the caste ideology, and externally to fight the political oppression. The task was colossal. It could not be accomplished in one generation. But, it was Guru Nanak who while he laid the foundations both of the system and the society, also initiated the method of appointing a successor so that in due time the society could become fully organised and mature enough to complete the socio-political tasks set before it. The Gurus had first to organise a new society intensely motivated with new values, with a keen sense of brotherhood, inspired to struggle and sacrifice, and deeply committed to achieving new goals. It is in this light that the role of different Gurus has to be viewed. It is important to understand that after Islam "the idea that specifically designated organised bands of men might play a creative part in the political world, destroying the established order and reconstructing society according to the Word of God."43 was first initiated by Guru Nanak in the history of the world. In the West it appeared in the 16th century with the rise of Calvinism and later Puritanism that brought about the English Revolution.
13. Use of force sanctioned
Another logical corollary of the fundamental of love and participation in all walks of life. including the socio-political field, is a clear rejection of the doctrine of Ahimsa by Guru Nanak. The Vaisnavas, the Naths and Bhagat Kabir are all strongly pro-Ahimsic. Bhagat Kabir says that the goat eats grass and is skinned. what will happen to those who eat its meat.44 Meat eating and use of force are barred in all Indian systems that recommend Ahimsa. But it was again Guru Nanak who emphatically discarded Ahimsa, thereby sanctioning the use of force in aid of righteous causes. In fact, the Gurus consider meat eating purely as a dietary matter irrelevent to spiritual growth. Only that food is to be avoided as disturbs the mental and bodily balance. He says, "Men discriminate not and quarrel over meat eating, they do not know what is flesh and what is non-flesh, or in what lies sin and what is not sin."45 In a whole hymn he exposes the cant of non-meat-eating and the allied doctrine of Ahimsa. Evidently, a religious system that accepts socio- political responsibility must spurn the doctrine of Ahimsa, otherwise it cannot rectify or resist any wrong or injustice. In Babar Vani Guru Nanak deplores the brutality of the invaders and the un-preparedness of the local rulers. He even goes to the extent of complaining to God, as the guardian of man, in allowing the weak to be oppressed by the strong. In doing so, he was not just blowing hot, nor was he suggesting anyone to perform a miracle. He was infact clearly laying one of the basic principles of his religion whereunder he not only sanctioned the use of force for righteous causes, but also prescribed that it was both the duty and the responsibility of the religious man and the society he was creating to resist aggression and brutality.46 It was this society which was later developed by the other Gurus. And it was the Sikh society of the time of Guru Arjan that Dr. Gupta calls a state within a state. And it was the sixth Guru who despite the contrary advice of even the most respectable Sikhs like Bhai Buddha, created an armed force and the institution of Akal Takhat the socio-political centre of the Sikhs with a distinct flag for purpose. And again, it was Guru Hargobind who in reply to a question by Sant Ram Dass of Maharashtra explained that Guru Nanak had given up mammon and not the world, and that his sword was for the protection of the weak and destruction of the tyrant.47 The important point we need to stress is that a religious system that proceeds with the basic experience of God as Love must, as a compulsive consequence, also accept the total responsibilities of relieving all kinds of sufferings of man and, for that end, even enter the political field, and have resort to the use of force. We shall further amplify this issue about the necessity of the use of force while drawing our conclusion.
From the above discussion a number of conclusions follow. The first is that there is a basic Reality different from the empirical reality of cause and effect we are aware of, and that it operates in history. The socond is that it is perceived by a person of higher consciousness and, thus, supplies him with authentic knowledge and direction. The third is that the Sikh Gurus perceive that Reality to be basically Love. This perception about God is Love is entirely different from the religious experience of other Indian religions in which the logic of that experience prescribes the goal of either merger in the Reality or a passive and blissful link with it as an end in itself. But, in the case of the Sikh Gurus, the logic of God is Love leads them towards an entirely different or the opposite direction of life-affirmation and acceptance of total social resnsibility. The fifth conclusion is that the eleven corollaries of this basic experience of love follow as one step from the other and are interlinked and integrated as a complete whole. For, if God is love, the world is real, the way to God is through virtuous deeds. And the goal is to establish the brotherhood of man, through the acceptance of all kinds of social responsibilities in all spheres of life, including that of work and production, and through the sharing of one's earnings and God's wealth.
Here it might be objected that in drawing a demarcation between the religious experience of God as communicated by the Sikh Gurus and that of the saints and mystics of other religions we have unnecessarily made a distinction without a difference. For further clarification we shall record the views of two outstanding persons, one in the field of intellect and the other in the field of religion.
Aldous Huxley in his letter to Humphry Osmond writes, "The Indians say, the thought and the thinker and the thing thought about are one and then of the way in which this unowned experience becomes something belonging to me; then no me any more and a kind of sat chit ananda, at one moment without karuna or charity (how odd that the Yedantists say nothing about Love,)... I had an inkling of both kinds of nirvana-the loveless being, consciousness, bliss, and the one with love and, above all, sense that one can never love enough."48
Again, during his visionary experience of the 'Pure light' he speaks to his wife Laura.
"LAURA: If you can immobilize it ? What do you mean? ALDOUS: You can immobilize it, but it isn't the real thing, you can remain for eternity in this thing at the exclusion of love and work.
LAURA: But that thing should be love and work.
ALDOUS (with emphasis) : Exactly! I mean this is why it is wrong.
As I was saying, this illustrates that you mustn't make ice cubes out of a Flowing River. You may succeed in making ice cubes… this is the greatest ice cube in the world. But you can probably go on for — oh, you can't go on forever-but for enormous eons-for what appears (this word is greatly emphasized) to be eternity, being in light.
In his later years Aldous put more and more emphasis on the danger of being addicted to meditation only, to knowledge only, to wisdom only-without love. Just now he had experienced the temptation to an addiction of an even higher order: the addiction of being in the light and staying there. "How, I can if I want to," he had said. Staying in this ecstatic consciousness and cutting oneself off from participation and commitment to the rest of the world -this is perfectly expressed today, in powerful slang, in the phrase "dropping out."
ALDOUS (continuing): It completely denies the facts: it is morally wrong; and finally, of course, absolutely catastrophic. "Absolutely catastrophic." Those two words are said with the most earnest and profound conviction. The voice is not raised, but each letter is as. sculptured on a shining block of Carrara marble-and remains sculptured on the soul of anyone who hears it. It is a definitive statement: one cannot isolate oneself from one's fellows and environment, for there is no private salvation; one might "get stuck" even in the Pure Light instead of infusing it in "Love and Work", which is the direct solution for everyone's life, right here and now. Love and Work-if I should put in a nutshell the essence of Aldous's life. I could not find a more precise way of saying it."49
In the above passages Huxley makes the distinction between the two kinds of contrasted religious experiences very clear. One he calls 'private salvation' and compares it to freezing into an 'ice-cube' the 'Flowing River' of love, Such a path he believes to be catastrophic. In contrast, he commends the life of 'love and work' as the true life. Bergson too has called the first kind of religious experience to be 'half-way' mysticism; and the experience of love to be true religious experience.50
Decades earlier Baba Wasakha Singh, a noted Sikh mystic, who joined the Ghaddar Rebellion of India against the British and was sentenced to transportation for life, emphasized the same thing about the Sikh mysticism which he believes involves the love and service of man to the exclu- sion of meditation alone or staying in the pure light of Bliss.
He stated, "It is a great achievement to have the mystic experience of God, cannot describe the intensity of bliss one finds in that state. But the Gurus' mysticism goes ahead and higher than that. While being in tune with God, one has to do good in the world and undertake the Eervice of the man. It is a higher stage than the one of mystic bliss. This is the stage of Gurus' Sikhism. You know how difficult it is for an ordinacry person to give up the worldly pleasures and possessions and follow the path of God. It is even more difficult for the mystic to come out of the state of his intense and tranquill bliss in order to serve man. But that is the Will of God. It is the highest mystic stage to serve the poor and the downtrodden and yet remain in union with Him." "The mystic bliss is so intense that a moment's disconnection with it would be like death to me but the higher stage than that is not to remain enthrilled in it, but, side by side, to work consistently for the well-being of suffering humanity." "A Sikh's first duty is to work for the welfare of man and to react to injustice and wrong wherever it is and whatever be the cost." "What kind of devotion (Bhakti) is that in which one remains engrossed in one's meditations and the poor suffer all around us? This is not Bhakti. A Guru's Sikh must work and serve the Poor."51
Centuries earlier a Muslim saint said the same thing of Prophet Mohammad, "Mohammad of Arabia ascended the highest heaven and returned, I swear by God that if I had reached that point I should never have returned," Dr. Iqbal also feels that there is a danger of absorption in the mystic bliss that is there prior to the final mystic experience which is really creative and involves the mystic's return.52
This close coincidence among the views of the Sikh Gurus, a Sikh mystic, a Muslim saint, and intellectuals like Huxley, Bergson and Mohammad Iqbal is not just incidental. These perceptions, ideas, and religious doctrines represent an entirely different class of religious system. Hence our emphasis that any interpretation of the Sikh religion or the Sikh history that ignores the fundamental and radical contribution of the Sikh thesis is just spurious and naive. It is also important to stress that in the case of religious systems like Hinduism, Budhism, and even Christianity where the basic doctrines were recorded, interpretted, and reinterpretted, and even transformed, centuries after their original authors left the scene of history, growth, development or evolution of such religious systems as the result of environmental factors or challenges is understandable, But in the case of Sikhism its thesis and doctrines stand completely and unalterably defined and authenticated by the Guru himself. Therefore, the methodology devised to interpret evolutionary religious systems is inapplicable to Sikhism. It would, therefore, be wise for scholars drawn from such old traditions to avoid the pitfalls of their training or methodology, This word of caution appears essential because many a scholar has failed to rise above the. Conditioning done by their own training or tradition.
In the above context there are three other points which need some further amplification. The first point is that the chief principles of Guru Nanak's religious system were entirely opposed to those of the then prevailing religious systems in the country and abroad. As against the world being a place of suffering and Mithya (illusory), for the Gurus it was a real and meaningful place, a place for spiritual growth. For, by despising the world one got not to God. At one stroke, the Guru discarded ascetism and monastism that were also a feature of Sufism and Catholic Christianity. Instead of ritualism, meditational, and Yogic practices, the way to God was purely through performing righteous deeds and the service of man. Instead of remaining a part of the hierarchical caste society both Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh organised a new society completely dissociating itself from the old system and the caste ideology. And, as Jagjit Singh has explained in his book, The Sikh Revolution, it was the only way to escape, to a large extent, the degrading stranglehold of the caste system. Further, apart from sanctifying the householder's life, the equality of man and woman was recognised. This was something entirely opposed practically to all the religious systems of the world in which celibacy was recommended, or woman was considered an impediment in the religious path, or given a secondary place in the conduct of religious life and institutions. Lastly, in contrast with every other religious system, excepting Islam, the Gurus positively sanctioned entry into the political field and the judicious use of force in order to help the weak and the oppressed and resist and defeat the tyrant. It is also significant to note that whereas Indian Sufism was the principal representative and a living growth of the religious life of Islam, it never considered it its religious duty to condemn, much less to oppose, the oppression practised by the Islamic rulers. In those times it was left to the Sikh Gurus to do so as a religious duty. As explained already, all these radical and revolutionary changes in the religious life of man were due entirely to the basic difference between the religious perceptions of the two categories of religious systems, For the Sikh Gurus God was Love. For the other group God or Reality was Sut Chit Anand or Blissful and Tranquil. One kind of perception leads to dynamic activity in the world, the other kind leads to peace and passivity and virtual withdrawal from the world.
The second point that needs stress is that God not only reveals itself to men but also operates in history'. It would just be naive for anyone to say that all these revolutionary changes brought about by the Gurus were just incidental or a reflection of the environmental forces. Most of the radical changes the Gurus brought about in the religious life of man were so new and entirely opposed to the earlier traditions that those could neither occur accidently all at once, nor be a projection of the various historical forces operating in those times. In fact, those forces and allied religious traditions had existed for centuries on end without any perceptible change, or synthesis. Hence the inevitable conclusion, as enunciated by the Gurus, is that God not only reveals Himself, but he also enlightens, guides and operates in history, in a purposeful way. The conclusion is plain that it is only on the above premises and the stated experience of the Gurus that we can explain and understand the Sikh thesis and Sikh history. Another important point that supports and endorses the authenticity of the above statement is that it was Guru Nanak who not only laid down in his Bani the new basic principles but also initiated and actually laid the foundations of the system and society that was subsequently continued and developed by the later Gurus in order to meet the historical challenges. According to Guru Nanak, God supplies authentic knowledge and every interpretation of history that does not take this into account is 'Psuedo-history'. Collingwood in his book 'Idea of History', says, "The discovery of a relation is at once the discovery of my thought as reaching God and of God's thought as reaching me, and indistinguishable from this, the performance of an act of mine by which I establish a relation with God and an act of God's by which he establishes a relation with me. To fancy that religion lives either below or above the limits of reflective thought is fatally to misconceive either the nature of religion or the nature of reflective thought. It would be nearer the truth to say that in religion the life of reflection is concentrated in its intensest form, and that the special problems of theoretical and practical life all take their special forms by segregation out of the body of the religious consciousness, and retain their vitality only so far as they preserve their connexion with it and with each other in it."53 The historian's point of view is not incompatible with the belief that God has revealed Himself to man for the purpose of helping man to gain spiritual salvation. That would be unattainable by man's unaided efforts; but the historian will be suspicious a priori, of any presentation of this thesis that goes on to assert that a Unique and Final revelation has been given by God. To my people in my time in my satellite of my sun in my galaxy. In this self-centred application of the Thesis that God reveals Himself to His creatures, the historian will copy the Devil's chosen hoof.54
The third important issue that needs clarification is the use of force for a religious cause especially because pacifism of Ahimsa has been prescribed by all religious systems excepting Islam. On that account there is some understandable confusion among writers on religion. It was Guru Nanak who started how the ways sustenance and processes of life involve the transformation and use of flesh. He explains that life is present in every grain of food and even in the firewood and the cow-dung which the Brahmin uses as a measure of purification and of avoiding pollution of food.55
The Guru exposes the fallacy that life, much less a moral deed, is possible without the use of force. For the Guru immorality lies not in the use of force, which is inevitable for all living, but in the purpose for which force is used. As is evident from his criticism, Guru Nanak from the very start wanted a change in socio-moral practices and institutions. The doctrine of Ahimsa was a serious hurdle in demolishing them, or the status quo. Therefore, as the prophet of a new religion with his basic perception of God as Love he categorically made it plain that in the execution of the religious ideal of the service and love of man all arbitrary prejudices against meat-eating or the use of force were wrong and meaningless. And it is, all religious systems that advocate pacifism are either ascetic, monastic, or suggest withdrawal from the world. Bhagat Kabir also advocates Ahimsa, for him the world is a trap laid by Kaal or Niranjana. His attitude towards woman is the same as that of ascetic or monastic religions. While refering to all the Bhakti systems of India before Guru Nanak, Niharranjan Ray says that those had completely surrendered themselve to the socio-political establishment of the day.56 The point for emphasis is that no religious system with the love of man as his goal can accept or suggest the limitation of Ahimsa for bringing about changes in the socio-religious field. Pacifism is inevitably linked with religious systems that have a world-view of life negation and remain unconcerned with socio-political wrongs that involve the sufferings of man. Ahimsa is an ascetic tool, being an integral part of the ascetic methodology.
It may be argued that great pacifists like Mahatma Gandhi successfuly employed non-violence as the means of bringing about socio-political changes. But, it is now well known that when the Mahatma had to face a major challenge of his life, he found himself helpless. The Mahatma being the greatest exponent of non-violence in modern times, when the Second World War broke out, the pacifists of the world looked upto him for a lead. But the Mahatma could furnish or suggest no non-violent or effective remedy. Ahimsa could be of little help to him in stopping the holocaust. The situation became so frustrating for the Mahatma that he even thought of committing suicide so that if he could do nothing to stop the destruction, he would at least not live to see the misery caused by it.57 The two occasions when he had to discard Ahimsa as a tool are quite well known, namely, when he agreed to the Congress accepting the responsibility of the war effort, and, again, when in 1947, he had no objection to the entry of Indian forces in Kashmir for its defence. Another great pacifist too had to take a contrasted stand when faced with a crucial issue. During the First World War Bertrand Russel opposed the idea of war and violence to the point of being arrested in pursuance of his pacifist beliefs. But later, after the Second World War, Russel himself suggested an attack against Soviet Russia before it became a major Atomic power and a threat or menace to the entire world.58
For the Guru reason and force are two tools available to man for moral work and progress in the socio-political field. For, without the use of both these means it is impossible to bring about any social change. In fact, a high sense of reason or discrimination is the chief faculty that distinguishes man from other animals. We have seen that the Gurus clearly indicate reason to be a good instrument of religious progress. "By the use of discrimination of intellect one serves God. By discrimination one is honoured. By intellect and study one understands things,"59 "It is the sense of discrimination that makes one charitable. This is the right way, rest is all wrong."60 "Man, is blessed with the light of reason and discrimination,"61 "One in fear of God and discriminating between good and bad, appear sweet to God."62 Yet, in man's history, or civilisation human reason or intellect has also been used as the greatest instrument of oppression and destruction. Atomic arsenals are the production of the acutest intellects among men. Human rationality has been called a convenient and clever cloak to cover man's bestiality. Does it imply that we should altogether discard reason as a useful tool for religious progress. We have already noted what is the answer given by the Gurus on this point. The fact is that both reason and force are neutral tools that can be used' both for good and evil, for construction and destruction.
The Gurus unambiguously accept the use of both of them as the means of religious functioning and progress. In doing so, they made major departure from the earlier Bhakti and religious traditions. But, this clear break with the past was the direct result of the religious percetion and thesis that God is Love, and their new religious methodology and goals, and consequent social involvement and objectives. As the instruments and the servants of God in pursuance of their love of man, they had to carry out the Attributive Will of God in helping the weak and destroying the oppressor. Their spiritual system, therefore, involved the use of all the available tools, including reason and force, for the purposeful progress of man and his organising consciousness. In Sikhism there is no dichotomy or conflict between revelation and reason. The latter is considered an essential tool of the former. According to the Guru, the malady is not the use of reason and force, which can both be used and abused, but the egoistic consciousness of man, which is narrow and inadequate in its perception, and partial in its outlook and functioning, because it stands alienated from the Basic Reality. Therefore, the right way is the development of a higher consciousness in order to become a whole man or superman with a sense of kinship and total responsibility towards all beings. The higher the consciousness, the truer its perception and the greater its capacity for organisation and functioning in order to execute God's mission. Man's greatest poblems today are poverty, disease and wars.' Undoubtedly, these need the greatest organisational effort in the socio-political field. The diagnosis of the Gurus is that the egoistic man has neither the perception, nor the vision, nor even the organisational, moral and spiritual capacity to solve the problems of man. It is the religious man with a higher consciousness, who alone can fulfil God's mission of creating the Kingdom of God on earth. The Guru indicates the path of progress or evolution: "God created first Himself, then Haumen, third Maya and fourth state of poise and bliss."63 At the second and third stages, man's development is only partial. The aim is the achievement of the fourth stage. In Sikhism, the development of union with God is not an end in itself. The goal is the development of a higher consciousness so as to discharge the total responsibilities devolving on man in order to create a world of harmony and happiness. The Gurus say that human problems cannot be solved at the third stage of man's development. These can be dealt with adequately at the fourth stage of man when he is not alienated from Reality and its objectives. And, this development of a higher consciousness is for a religious purpose. That purpose or mission is epitomised in the lives of the Gurus. The enrichment of the life in the world, in accordance with God's love of man has been the mission of the Gurus, as it has to be of every God-conscious or religious man. In such a righteous world alone can the problems of poverty, misery, disease, war and conflict be solved. In whatever field God's Will works the superman is there to assist it in an altruistic manner. Therefore, no segment of life is taboo for the God-conscious or religious man, since nothing is beyond the sphere of God's Will. In fact the tragedy has been "The secularisation of the Western Civilisation in the seventeenth century, so far from producing a stable way of life, raised the quetion; what is going to fill the temporary spiritual vacuum that this deconsecration of western life has created in western souls? Alternative attempts to fill this vacuum have constituted the unstable spiritual history of the western World during the last 250 years."64 "This transfer of allegiance from the western christian Church to parochial Western secular state was given a positive form borrowed from the Greeco-Roman civilisation by the Rennaissance."
"On this political plane the Rennaissance revised the Greeco-Roman worship of parochial states as goddesses." "This unavowed worship of parochial states was by far the most prevalent religion in the Western World in A.D. 1956."65
Here it may be argued that in Christianity too God is Love, but pacifism is an important Christian virtue. With an apology extended in advance, we should like to make a few comments. These may be ignored if considered irrelevant or misplaced.
The Bible was compiled over 300 years after the crucifixion of Christ. No one asserts that the views expressed therein are the principles authenticated by Christ himself. Though faithfully expressed these are the product of the rational understanding of the early Christians, howsoever devoted or honest they may be. The existential situation was that except for the very short period of Christ's ministry, the Christian society remained for hundreds of years a solitary group of devotees struggling for its self preservation against the hostile environment of the state on the one hand, and of the parent society of the Jews on the other hand. It was only after Christianity became a state religion that Christians freely accepted military service under the state. The history of all religions in India and abroad is that solitary religious groups not pursuing socio-religious objectives in the political field almost invariably aim at the ideal of personal piety and salvation, tending to own ascetism and monastism as the means of achieving that goal. Even Sufism while accepting Prophet Mohammad and Islam, turned to the method of Khankahs and the aim of personal union with God as an end in itself without any socio-political concerns. True, Protestantism was a very great reform that rid Christianity of many ills, and the system of indulgences. But, at best it was a man-made reform which suffered from two evident drawbacks. The Church started playing second fiddle to the national states, the Luther's attitude against the peasants gave religious sanction and a lease of life to feudalism in the West. Similarly, while the Christian Churches did commendable work in the field of education and health in the colonies of the Western nations, they never raised a voice against oppression and exploitation by the colonal rulers. As against all this, it is very significant to find that one of the greatest social reform in human history, namely, the abolition of slavery in America was done under the influence of Puritans who not only believed in aiming at socio-political objectives, but also sanctiond the use of force for achieving those ends and who had earlier supported the English Revolution.
In the present decades poverty and war are the greatest problems of man. And again it is the existential situation that has forced the Christian Church in Latin America and Africa not only to aim at socio-political objectives, but also to give sanction to the use of force for a righteous cause. Deep class differences, extreme richness of the ruling few on the one hand, and poverty of the large majority on the other hand, is a fact of life in most Latin American states. Ninety percent of the people being Catholic Christians, the poor find that the very rich who oppress them during the six days of the week, occupy front benches in the Church on Sunday. The contradiction became so nacked in its ugliness that no sensitive Christian could assert that Christ and Christianity had any relevance for the very large majority of the suffering poor Christians whom the Church could bring no succour nor give a meaningful lead. It is in the above context that has arisen the Liberation Theology, and priests have openly joined on the side of the struggling poor.
The situation is similar in Africa except that there the contradiction has been sharpened largely by the racial factor. So long as the ruling class was Christian and the suffering majority in colonies were non-Christian, the Church flourished without any qualms of conscience. But, when the oppressors aild the oppressed are both Christians the Church could no longer maintain its complacent neutrality, the contradiction being too glaring to be ignored. Hence the rise of Liberation Theology in those countries. What this section of the Church has rationally realised in the 20th century, the Sikh Gurus preached and practised 500 years earlier. All we wish to emphasise is that a religious system where God is Love must enter every field of life where men are oppressed and relieve their sufferings by all available tools given to man, including the judicious use of force. Otherwise the experience of God is Love, and religion become meaningless and look hypocritical to the downtrodden and the suffering. Who can assert today that the divorce of religion from politics or the secularisation' of life has been a blessing? "After having been undeservedly idolized for a quarter of a millennium as the good genius of mankind be has now suddenly found himself undeservedly excreated as an evil genius who has released from his bottle a jinn that may perhaps destroy human life on earth. This arbitrary change in the technician's onward fortunes is a several ordeal, but his loss of popularity has not hit him so hard as his loss of confidence in himself. Till 1945 he believed without a doubt that the results of his work were wholly benificial. Since 1945 he has begun to wonder whether his professional success may not have been a social and a moral disaster."66 According to the Sikh world view the separation of religion from politics has been an unmixed evil involving a schism in the soul of man and his alienation from Reality. For it means the loss of the only condition in which man can feel at peace with himself and the world around him. We cannot indeed, be in harmony with the world without being in harmony with God, nor is withdrawal from the world an answer. The path of love is the answer both to be in harmony with the world and in tune with Him, who is all love.
It is in the above context that we understand the integrated logic and unity of the Sikh thesis and the lives of the Sikh Gurus whose basic religious experience was that God is Love. We close this essay with the words of Guru Gobind Singh about the unity of the Sikh doctrine:
"The holy Nanak was revered as Angad,
Angad was recognized as Amardas, And Amardas became Ramdas,
The pious saw this, but not the fools, Who thought them all distinct;
But some rare person recognized that they were all one. They who understood this obtained perfection
Without understanding perfection cannot be obtained. "67
1 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 722
5 Stace, W.T. : Mysticism and Philosophy, pp. 131; 133
6 James, W. : The Varieties of Religious Experience. pp. 370-372
7 Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 290, 1035-6
23 Coomara Swami: Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, pp. 117-120; Zimmer, pp. 477-478
28 Briggs, G.W., Gorakhnath and Kanphata Yogis, p. 28
29 Ghurya, G.S., Caste and Race in India, pp. 24-32
30 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 781
31 Macau1iffe, Vol. I., p.244
32 The Punjab Past and Present, Oct. 1976, p. 468
33 Ghurya, op. cit, p. 139
34 Jaiswal, S.: Origin and Development of Vaisnavism, pp. 115-118, 212
35 Murthy, H. V.S. : Vaisnavism of Sankra Deva and Ramanuja, p. 212
36 Sikh Studies, ed., M. Juergefl1eyer and G. Barrier, pp. 83-88
38 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1245
43 Michael Walzer: The Revolution of the Saints, p. 1
44 Macauliffe, M.A. : The Sikh Religion, Vol. VI, p. 212
45 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1289
47 Gupta, Hari Ram: History of the Sikh Gurus, p. 114
48 Aldous Huxley: Moksha, p. 115
50 Smullyan and others: Introduction to Philosophy, p. 365
51 Daljit Singh: Sikhism, pp.297-298
52 Iqbal, M. : The Reconstruction of Religious ThouKht in Islam, pp. 124, 197-198
52 Collingwood, R.G. : The Idea of History, p. 178
53 Toynbee, A.: An Historian's Approach to Religion, p. 132
54 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1289
55 Ray, Niharranjan : The Sikh Gurus and the Sikh Society, pp. 25-26
56 Daljit Singh: The Sikh Ideology, p. 39, Maulana Azad : India Win Freedom, pp. 33-4
57 . ibid, p. 40; Bertrand Russel: Unpopular Essays, p. 30
58 Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1245
63 Toynbee, A. : An Historian's Approach to Religion, p. 208
66 Macauliffe, Vol. V, p. 295
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