Khalsa : Its Role in the 21st Century
Gur Rattan Pal Singh
According to the Sikh scripture, the aim of religion is to elevate a man to the level of an angel. Balihari Gur apne diohari sadvar; jin manas te devte kiye karat na lagi var. (I hail the Guru a hundreds thousands times as he reveals the secret of transforming a man into an angel, and that too without delay.) [Var Asa]
The epiphany of the above laudable aim can be well visualised when the dangerous potentiality of a man to do mischief is taken into consideration. One sarcastic remark will bring the point home : “When a wolf is compared with a man, it is not the man but the wolf one is insulting.”
Bas ke dushwar hai har kaam ka asan hona/aadmi ko bhi mayassar nahin insaan hona, (How difficult can an easy task prove to be. Even man is not fated to be a human being.) According to Akbar Allahabadi, there are hundreds of different facets of man : he may be an animal, a human being, an angel or god. Janwar, Aadmi, Farishta, Khuda / Aadmi ki hain Sainkron Kismein.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) had drawn an analogy between a man and a chimera, a fire-breathing monster having a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail :
“What a chimera, then, is man ! What a novelty !
What a monster ! What a prodigy !
Judge of all things, feeble worm of the earth, depositary of truth,
a sink of uncertainty and error, the glory and the shame of the universe.”
There are marked behavioural differences between man and other animals. If the basic desires of animals, i.e., food, shelter, sleep and mating are satisfied, they are well contented. In other words, the activities of animals are inspired by the primary needs of survival and procreation, but in the case of man, unlike those of animals, the sky is the limit for his boundless desires. To quote Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), the renowned English philosopher and mathematician, “...imagination is the goad that forces human beings into restless exertion after their primary needs have been satisfied. To those who have but little of power and glory, it may seem that a little more would satisfy them, but in this they are mistaken : these desires are insatiable and infinite, and only in the infinitude of God would they find repose ... Out of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires for power and glory which, though not identical, are yet closely related to each other.”
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, referred to the purpose of his coming to the world as, “The Divine Guru had charged me with the duty of upholding religion (dharma) and on that account, I had come into this world for extending righteousness everywhere and for seizing and destroying the evil and sinful. O, saints ! Be clear that I assumed birth for getting the wheel of dharma moving, saving saints and destroying all tyrants.”
Actuated with the above mission, the institution of the Khalsa was given concrete form on 30 March, 1699 when Sikhs had gathered at Anandpur in large numbers for the annual festival of Vaisakhi praying for the following boon from God :
“O Lord, these boons of Thee I ask,
Let me never shun a righteous task,
Let me be fearless when I go to battle,
Given me faith that victory will be mine,
Give me power to sing Thy praise,
And when comes the time to end my life,
Let me fall in mighty strife.”
The Guru taught the ascent of man over himself and founded the order of Khalsa which was to consist of ideal persons, supermen, gurmukhs (God-centred people) and saint-soldiers who were to be free from all the moral depravities like sexual lust, anger, greed, attachment and false vanity. It was, indeed, a miracle.
Be Mojza duniya mein ubharti nahin qoumein,
Jo zarb-e-qlimi nahi rakhta woh hunr kiya hai !
About the role of Khalsa in future, the words of Arnold Toynbee took to be meaningful and even prophetic : “... Amritsar has a surer future, for it will remain the religious centre of the Sikhs so long as the Khalsa endures; and the Sikhs, in losing the Punjab, have gained the world. Today, they are established all over India (above the wheel of every second bus and taxi, you spy that unmistakable bearded and turbaned head), and they have not kept within India’s frontiers. They have made their way eastwards through Burma and Singapore and Hong Kong to the Pacific slope of Canada. They are the burliest men on the face of the planet — tough and capable and slightly grim. If human life survives the present chapter of man’s history, the Sikhs, for sure, will still be on the map.”
However, a line of demarcation needs to be drawn between India and the rest of the world so far as the role of the Khalsa in the 20th century is concerned. What happened to the faith of Buddhism in India is a relevant consideration. The words of Sir Charles Eliot in his book Hinduism and Buddhism deserve attention :
“However, on the basis of above accounts one cannot surmise that there prevailed in India complete religious tolerance and freedom. Available sources reveal that some rulers followed the policy of religious discrimination and persecuted people belonging to other faiths. Buddhism had challenged the superiority of the priestly class and criticised the performance of sacrifices and rituals as futile. The ascendency of Buddhism had undermined the status and income of the Hindu priestly class which as a result prompted them to cultivate hostility towards the Buddhists. In the times just preceding the Muslim invasions of India, Brahminism had staged a comeback with Sankara and Kumaril Bhatt in the van of the reformation, that was responsible for its renewed popularity, and which resulted in Buddhism losing vigour and ground. During this period Hindu orthodoxy pursued a policy of religious crusade against the Buddhists. It is believed that Sankara established his Sringeri Math on the ruins of what was earlier a Buddhist monastery.”
Similarly, the year 1947 was a bumper year for the vultures and a thin line divided man from the beast and order from chaos. From March 4, 1947, riots, arson, murders, rapes, and looting started, and in the nine months between August 1947 and the spring of the following year, fourteen to sixteen million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were forced to leave their homes and flee to safety from blood-crazed mobs. In that same period over 600,000 of them were killed. But no, not just killed. If they were children they were picked up by the feet and their heads smashed against the wall. If they were female children, they were raped. If they were girls they were raped and their breasts chopped off. And if they were pregnant they were disembowelled.
On June 2, 1984 the Golden Temple complex, the symbol of the Sikh faith, was attacked, mercilessly killing over two thousand men, women and children. The Indian Government’s action coincided with the anniversary of the martyrdom of the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, which is hallowed in their hearts and minds.
The genocide and massacre of Sikhs after the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi is too horrendous to bear any narration.
Without any rhyme or reason, the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished as a new arithmatic based on the majority Hindu vote as the safest possible vote bank, took over. The uncalled for demolition shook the Muslim mind and produced a feeling of alienation and disgust, which was summed up by a Muslim poet as follows :
Mera maula bula le madine mujhe,
Yahan hind mein denge na jine mujhe.
O, the messenger of God, call me to Madina,
Since I will not be allowed to live in India.
It cannot be lost sight of that there is a pathological human urge to crush those who are weak, particularly those who earlier were not. There is also a justifiable fear that the minorities in India might be made the ‘whipping-boys’ of history as was done by Hitler (1889-1945) in Germany to the Jews. Louis Goldin, the author of Mongolis Street elucidates the term : ‘the whipping-boys’ :
“We all know of the admirable old system by which a prince of the royal blood was never punished by his tutor, as his person was too sacred to be molested. Instead, a whipping-boy was appointed, upon whose unoffending posterior the prince suffered vicarious punishment. The function of the Jew is not unlike this. He is the whipping-boy of history.”
For starting a wave or a popular movement one section of the population is generally made the scapegoat as was the case with the Jews in Germany. The past history shows that the Congress made the Sikhs the sacrificial lamb in order to win elections. It manipulated the “Sound and Image Exercise” invented by the German leaders. Promotion of lies and deceit were used to spread hatred and venom against the Sikhs throughout the country by projecting them as unpatriotic, devilish, diabolic, etc. with the help of the government controlled Akashvani (radio braodcaster) and Doordarshan (television broadcaster). The burning hatred against Sikhs was created, of course, by suppressing the objective truth, parroting time and again half-truths and untruths. The magic power of the ‘spoken word’ was highlighted by William L. Shirer, the author of the monumental work, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, who warned the whole world with the observation :
“It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts, and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet, over the years, of falsification and distortions, made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dreaded consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. There are lessons to be learnt from history; the manipulation of sound and image can thus never be taken lightly.”
In an article published in The Indian Express dated 18.10.1998, Mr Rajesh Sinha refers to the cruelties being perpetrated on the Christian community :
“The rape of four Christian nuns in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh and the loud support for it from BJP-VHP megaphones like B L Sharma ‘Prem’, former MP from East Delhi, has already lent credence to the world media’s ‘right-wing Hindu fundamentalist’ label for the BJP. So has the Sangh Parviar’s Bible-burning campaign, followed by a witch-hunt against men and women marrying outside their community in Gujarat, which has accompanied the resurrection of the man who killed the state’s greatest son, Mahatama Gandhi... So, even as the BJP-led government in New Delhi dons the mask of moderation, its less controllable parent and sibling organisations are raising the spectre of Ram Janmabhoomi all over again in myriad forms.”
Sirdar Kapur Singh was also of the view that the current Sikh disquietude and unrest in India is as much due to the realities of the situation as to the basic Sikh doctrine of the worth and status of the individual which is not compatible with the implications of a centralised state and one man one vote steam-roller democracy and Sikhism, therefore, repudiates the democratic state of this conception as an imposition and a tyranny as bad and unacceptable a tyranny and imposition as the Mughal rule.
I am of the opinion that in the 21st century Khalsa will play a very prominent and meaningful role in establishing a World Society which aims at amelioration of the economic, social, cultural and religious conditions of mankind :
“Henceforth, such is the Will of God :
No man shall coerce another; no man shall exploit another.
Every one, each individual, has the inalienable birthright to seek
And pursue happiness and self-fulfilment.
Love and persuasion is the only Law of social coherence.”
Obviously, as compared to India, the Khalsa will be able to play a more effective and dominant role in the 21st century of establishing a World Society in consonance with Sikh values in the remaining parts of the world. Just as Buddhism could not grow in the country of its birth, but outside it. In that context the World Sikh Council is expected to bring all the Sikhs, spread throughout the world, on one platform. The Sikhs always invoke God’s blessings in their congregational payer :
“May God shower His blessings upon and grant protection to each and every member of the Order of the Khalsa, wherever he or they may happen to be. May the supplies of the Khalsa ever remain replenished. May the Sword of the Khalsa be ever victorious. May the Royal title of the Khalsa be universally recognised and honoured.”
Thy Name extends to all Thou createst,
No place but where Thou not pervadest.
What power have I to tell what Thy excellences be,
Sacrifice am I a myriad times unto Thee.
That what pleaseth Thee is the only thing done,
O Thou, the Eternal, the Formless One.