Khalsa : Its Role in the 21st century
A great Indian mystic and visionary of our times, Aurobindo Ghosh in his book, The Foundation of Indian Culture and the Renaissance in India, remarks about the order of the Khalsa as “an astonishingly original and novel creation....... with its face turned not to the past but to the future.” He concedes that the creation of Khalsa was an event which was singular in its theocratic head and democratic soul and structure, that it had a profound spiritual beginning completely different in approach from Islam and Vedanta. He perceived the medieval period of Indian history as one of decline and disintegration coupled with restrictions and decadence.
In such decaying times, when the religious values of the Vedas were on the decline, Guru Nanak – Guru Gobind Singh were able to bring about a resurgence of the desperate Indian mind which had been tied down to hollow ritualism and tradition. One of the most prominent features of the Bhagti movement was that it rejected the Brahminical interpretation of the scriptures, and laid stress on their true philosophy :
Declare the Scriptures :
Good and evil are seeds of heaven and hell.
Whatever the self sows that sprouts, and that it consumes.
Guru Granth Sahib. p. 1243 p/d[ tgkoh frnkB[ okf; eowh gb? j'fJ ..
BkBe ok;h pkjok bfd B ufbnk e'fJ ..
Scriptures are the merchants, enlightenment their capital,
This by grace is attained.
Saith Nanak : Without such capital none with profit has departed.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1243
The above passage of Guru Nanak is preceded by an explanatory comment by the second guru:
Discourses by the Scriptures are brought forth,
With contemplation of sin and merit
Human beings are retributed according to deeds and as destined act
Whereby into hell or heaven they descend.
The world caught in delusion strays along,
In delusions of castes and species, high and low.
The ambrosial World of the Master that expounds the Essence,
Through enlightement and meditation has descended.
This the God-directed have uttered, the God-directed realised,
And the enlightened on it by Divine grace have meditated.
The Lord who created the Ordinance, under it keeps creation,
And views it operating under the Ordinance.
Saith Nanak : Should man’s egoism be first shattered,
Would he be entered into the Divine reckoning.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1243
The Vedas introduced the concept of virtue and vice according to which man, after death, has to go to hell or heaven. They gave birth to caste-system also. The holy Bani of Guru Nanak which is the result of enlightenment and revelation, gives the message that man’s ego must go before one becomes a realised soul ready for merger into God.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the three major religions of the world, used the same concept of hell and heaven as punishment or reward for evil or good deeds. Religions before Guru Nanak could not clearly perceive why man, the most sublime creation of God, was created. These religions had more or less concerned themselves with the social problem of how to discipline people, that is, to ensure a peaceful life among uncivilised tribes. Theory of punishment in a hell was quite helpful and it succeeded in creating a sense of fear of God. But for the Gurus, this life was not to be lived in trying to escape going to hell, or pursuing the idea of heaven. According to them, the purpose of this life is :
This human body has come to you
It is your chance to meet the Lord of the World.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 12
One must aspire for immersion in Almighty, because it is only possible through this form and frame of human consciousness. Most other creatures seem not to have the facility of spiritual awakening. Thus a spiritual goal was set by Guru Nanak for all humanity to achieve. After all how long should man go on alternating between hell and heaven ? The Day of Judgement is too long a wait and uncertain too. Guru Nanak states that we are all children of God. Each individual has a soul which strives to see the Father and be worthy of His Love and merit His Grace. Thus Khalsa has a sublime message in the 21st century for all mankind that we are all one, descending from the same source — God, the Father. Universal Fatherhood of God has the natural concomitant of the universal brotherhood of man. Compare to this the Islamic type of love of mankind which teaches hatred of non-Muslims and is the pivot of Islamic thought and deeds. This is what has been happening in India since the advent of Islam. At last the two-nation theory not only partitioned India into two, but caused and let loose a countrywide holocaust in which hundreds of thousands were killed and millions were rendered homeless. Christianity teaches, on the other hand, love thy neighbour as thyself. We know well how this dictum has been used by political powers the world over, as a tool for extending their dominance in Africa and Asia. The Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh must realise that it will be a disservice to God if the lofty precepts of the Sikh Gurus are used as a cover for promoting selfish interests of a few ambitious politicians. Raj Karega Khalsa is a right slogan and an immediate need of the Khalsa but it must be based on equality, fraternity and social justice. The Khalsa Raj under Ranjit Singh from 1799 AD to 1839 AD was a model for all the world to follow. It ensured not only peace, liberty, equality and justice, but also stopped Muslim invasions for ever.
There is a story from Guru Nanak’s odysseys. He once visited a village where people did not give him any respect or attention. He blessed them that they might flourish in their native hearth and homes. In another village, he was warmly received and honoured. They listened to his teachings and accepted him as their spiritual guide. For such a nice people, Guru Nanak prayed that they be uprooted from their hearth and homes. Mardana, the musician, who was always with the Guru, was puzzled at the unkind prayer for the good and God-fearing people. So he asked his master the reason for all this. Guru Nanak, it is said, explained to him that wherever these good people would go in the world, they would preach the message of virtue and divinity. This would enlarge the circle of good people. Those wretched people would do better if they stayed and were confined to their own hearths, so that they might not spread their negative way of life.
The political scenario in the world has undergone a sea-change since the times of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Monarchy and feudal system of governance have given place to democratic form of government everywhere. But Khalsa is destined to rule over the minds of the people wherever it may go, not by winning elections and capturing majority seats in legislatures, but by winning the hearts of people through excellent code of conduct and the principle of sarbat da bhala. Raison d’etre of the Khalsa, ever since Guru Nanak, has been to march on the path of spiritual progress. Guru’s specific instructions are :
Repeat God’s Name and inspire others to repeat it.
By hearing, uttering and abiding by it, thou shalt obtain emancipation.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 289
We have to remember that Guru Nanak had ushered in an altruistic type of Bhakti movement. The medieval Bhakti movement in India before Guru Nanak was the sort of movement which made a person an individual with no responsibility to propagate the Name of the Lord, and offer one’s life for the service of mankind and the propagation of the faith.
A true Khalsa is required first of all to train his mind and soul through the medium of sadh-sangat, where one gets an opportunity to practically do some kind of community service in the shape of katha-kirtan,which requires a certain level of proficiency in music and in the study of Sikh history and the holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. One must first immerse oneself in Nam-simran, before one sets out in the service of mankind. The Khalsa code requires everyone to be a self-supporting householder. For a selfless service of mankind, a precondition is that Khalsa shall never conduct itself like a parasite. If one has the will to do some service, one may find ample opportunities near at hand to start. Where there is a will there is a way. God’s Creation everywhere needs one’s selfless service in some form or the other. One must remember that one is under constant surveillance of the Master wherever one may go. Therefore, one must be true and loyal to the Khalsa code and ceaselessly work for the promotion of peace and spiritual values. We have already witnessed two world wars in the 20th century which brought about the death of millions and large scale destruction everywhere. Let us check this trend of violence by propagating the code of peaceful co-existence as preached by Guru Nanak – Guru Gobind Singh.
For such a gigantic task of helping people all over the world in realising the need for spiritual resurgence, we must prepare and train the Khalsa youth of the 21st century to undertake this responsibility. In India and elsewhere, we have misled our youth into believing that,
Good governance is possible only through religion, and
Without religion all is lost.
Guru Nanak‘s moral and universal code of conduct can bring about the required change.
If the Khalsa has a mind to undertake the responsibility of bringing about the Khalsa code of moral conduct surging all over the world, we should strive to acquaint people all over the world with the spiritual and moral code handed down to us from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh so that the governance in general is based on the concept of well-being of all — sarbat da bhala, thereby guaranteeing human-rights and safety of all sections. Khalsa need not establish any government anywhere in the world of its own because it has been specifically warned by Guru Nanak Dev :
In forgetfulness of the Lord lies perpetual ignominy.
What illusion can grip such as under Thy shelter lie ?
Life without contemplation of the Lord is like burning in fire;
Life thus spent is like the snake’s
One wielding authority even over the nine continents,
Ultimately shall depart a loser.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 712
Establishment of a government of the Khalsa is not the goal to achieve which it came into being. Let us strive towards achieving our own spiritual regeneration before we launch out on a mission to regenerate the whole mankind.
First, his mind should he instruct,
Thereafter to his teaching draw other.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 381
For this, we may have to take initiatives to bring about inter-religious dialogue everywhere to communicate the message of Guru Nanak – Guru Gobind Singh to the people the world over. This project requires dedicated men and women who might come forward to undertake research in Sikh studies from different angles. In a way, the 21st century not only poses a challenge to Khalsa for its survival in its original form, but also throws up opportunities to spread out to all the four corners of the world with a sense of dedication to the cause of spiritual regeneration of mankind. We have great models of selfless service in Sikh history — Bhai Mardana devoted his life to Guru Nanak; Bhai Manjh is another example; then there are 22 missionaries appointed by Guru Amar Das. Bhai Kanahya towers above them all serving friend and foe alike in a battlefield at the risk of his own life. He served water there and rendered First Aid to the injured. He had attained a spiritual height from where the dividing line between friend and foe, between the rich and the poor, between the high caste and the low disappears.
Bhai Kanahya was a real Brahm Giani — a person who has attained the highest spiritual stage. It is a blissful state of mind which perceives God in all its manifestations. It is here one rises above the mundane relationship of friend and foe, of rich and poor, of high and low. He had gone to the battlefield on his own to serve water to all. He had realised that state of mind which is described in Akal Ustat :
There is only but one spirit that encompasses the universe.
Neither does it diminish nor increase. It always remains constant.
Akal Ustat, p. 10
The world-view of Guru Gobind Singh may be seen from the following lines which is quite in line with that of Guru Nanak. And this world-view has been prescribed for the guidance of the Khalsa :
There is no difference between the temple and the mosque, between the prayer of the Hindu and the Muslim; all human beings are one, though one is misled into believing they are different. Muslims and Hindus, gods and goddesses, may look different on account of difference in their placement. All of them made up of the four basic elements — the earth, water, fire and air, and have the same kind of tongue to talk, ears to hear, and eyes to see. In the same way all religions and their sacred books emanated from the same God who Himself is areligious — that is, He has no particular religion. He loves those who love Him and makes them His own no matter what religion they profess.
Akal Ustat, p. 10
For such a great personality, M K Gandhi, the so-called father of the Indian Nation, had a mistaken notion. Though Gandhi was called a saint, yet he could not understand the great world-view of Guru Gobind Singh. He was more a politician than a saint. He changed his doctrine of non-violence whenever it suited him. He could never understand the concept which Guru Gobind Singh used to bring about the order of Khalsa. Even Gandhi had to give up his doctrine of non-violence when Kashmir was attacked by Pakistan in 1947, a few months after partition of the country. Thank God, the government of India had a free hand in dealing with the invasion. Guru Gobind Singh in his own times had to face unjust and unwarranted war by the hill kings and the imperial forces in large numbers, in 1705 AD.
In his famous Zafarnama — an Epistle of victory, written to the despotic emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 AD, he cited how his (Aurangzeb’s) commanders broke their vow on the holy Quran and attacked his forces. Non-violence in such a situation could not work. Therefore he had to teach his Khalsa that if the enemy doesn't understand the language of reason and good sense, it is a religious duty to protect one’s life and the human rights of other people.
The Khalsa of the 21st century shall take care of the above and act accordingly. In the present social and political set-up there are many avenues to sit round the table and settle things, because the times of despotic emperors are gone. The Khalsa shall not be required to take that extreme step. The Khalsa should give a lead to the cult of “live and let live”, in the service of God as well as in the service of mankind in general.
Wars cannot solve contentious issues. Victory by one side does not mean that the victorious was on the right path. The Khalsa with its doctrine and world-view may try to convince both the sides that wars entail not only death and destruction of culture, art and civilization, it also disturbs the natural equilibrium in the environment. Rich nations have stockpiled deadly weapons of mass destruction. We all know what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two atom bombs brought about untold misery to millions there. Modern bombs are much more powerful than the ones used half a century ago.
With the present consumption of petrol and diesel oil or other poisonous gases, the ozone layer has been under constant strain. Man is feeling the danger of global warming which will ultimately disturb seasons. The Khalsa might usefully undertake the responsibility of awakening the people regarding imminent dangers from global or local wars, and from the pollution of the environment.
In the Khalsa year 1999, it would be a befitting tribute to Guru Gobind Singh to publish Sikh literature in English and other languages of the world, in order to educate mankind with the world-view of the Gurus. Prof Toynbee, a famous English historian, predicted about the role of Khalsa. He once said that if at any moment the world wanted to evolve a common religious code of conduct for mankind, the teachings of the Sikh Gurus would be of great help. Let the Khalsa of the 21st century bring out such literature of the great Gurus who wrote for the whole mankind. Let us share our best with the rest of the world which is but one big house where children of God live like children who do not know much about their real father. The Khalsa may undertake this holy project wherever he / she is. Let us teach each other to be worthy children of God. Islam has been unduly harsh to all in propagating the cult of God who is supreme, but soon they denied His Fatherhood to all non-Muslims. The Khalsa should strive to tell the world that common Fatherhood of the Almighty also means brotherhood of all mankind. God shall not love those who hate non-Muslims. We might as well tell the world that Christ was not the only son of God. The entire mankind is one large family of God. That there are no racial or national ‘chosen ones’ whom God shall love more as the Jews believe. We are His creation and He knows best our failings, our yearnings and our love for Him. The Khalsa may point out that every human being is under constant surveillance of God. One does not have to wait for the Judgement Day. Reward and punishment for one’s deeds are doled out in this life itself at the proper time.
Modern science has confirmed what Guru Nanak had said five hundred years ago about millions of skies, suns, moons and solar systems. He was a great visionary, who could tell through his vision the magnitude of His creation, which he said, was beyond any description.
The Creator who creates the world, He Himself knows (the time).
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 4
There are nether worlds below the nether worlds,
And million of skies over skies.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 5