Truth — The Root of Sikh Ideology
Sher Singh Sher
An idea is the direct outcome of thinking. The process of thinking is ideation. When an idea, or ideas, are accepted as ideal, they comprise ideology and the one who is a student of, or expert in, the study of ideas or ideals is an ideologist. Hence, here in this seminar we have assembled as ideologists to study the nature, formation and science of Sikh ideology. When an idea is accepted, then established, and followed and acted upon by a group in society, it becomes its ideology which evolves along with the demands of the time, but its strength and structure depend on its foundation.
The Sikh ideology is fundamentally religio-spiritual. It should be remembered that while religion is like a traffic sign to tell us in which direction to go, spiritualism is the actual journey, or the practice of the idea or belief. The Sikh ideology began with Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith. The essence of the Sikh faith is enshrined in the Mool Mantar with which the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, begins. The digit 1 (Ik; One) in 1U (Ik Onkar) signifies the Oneness of God and declares that Sikhism is purely and absolutely a monotheistic religion, which has nothing to do with polytheism, involving idolatry, physiolatry, homolatry, zoolatry, plantolatry, geolatry, heliolatry, lunolatry, androlatry and even ophiolatry. In Sikhism, God appears in both forms — Immanent as One and Transcendent as Onkaar,when He comes with Akaar or Form and pervades the whole creation. It is a salient point that neither One (1) nor Onkaar (U) is written as fJe Unzeko (Ik Ounkar) in Guru Granth Sahib but is used for God in the form of 1U. The first word of the Sikh faith, written in its full spelling is ‘Satnaam’ (The True Name), which means that God, and God alone, is true in absolute sense. Therefore, Guru Nanak’s God is the totality of the Embodiment of Truth which is especially affirmed in the words, “He was true in the beginning, has been true through all the ages, is true now, and Nanak, He will ever be True.”1
I may mention here that amongst all the scriptures of the well-founded religions of the world, ‘Sat’ or ‘Sach’ (Truth) has been used a maximum number of times in the Sikh scripture. So, Truth is the central point from which the other ideas ramify and complete the Sikh ideology. That is why I have based this paper on the very basic trait of the Sikh faith which is the womb of Sikh ideology. Factually speaking the very crux of Sikh faith or Sikh ideology is truth opposed to falsehood as the purpose of human life epitomised, “How to become true and how to break the wall of falsehood ?”2 This philosophy of Guru Nanak clearly teaches that all activities of man must be surcharged and guided by truth.
What is the mission of religion ? It is to purge the human mind of evil and there is no greater evil than falsehood, lie or canard. Japji is the most known, read, recited, and quoted composition of the Sikh faith and it is notable that its author, Guru Nanak, uses the word Sat and Sach five times before beginning the first pauri or canto of Japji in order to emphasise the urgency of truth in his followers, so that they may enoble themselves. Truth is that which is not contaminated with falsehood or evil of any sort. So the Sikh (disciple) of the Guru has got to lead his life in the light of this basic teaching which is the very life and essence of Sikh ideology. According to Guru Nanak, the Sikh ideology is not only to be talked, prattled, and preached but is to be practised, “One does not earn the writ of going to paradise by mere empty talks, but gets salvation by practising truth.”3 Mere verbiage is only hypocrisy and simulation to suffer in hell, “The man who captivates and attracts the people on account of ostentation of his false garb is out by the knife of death, and is consigned to hell.”4 Another very important thing to bear in mind is that if Guru Nanak begins his faith with Truth, he concludes also on the ascent of the clime or land of Truth, Sach Khand.5
The word Sat or Sach is used as affix added to many words to elevate them to Truth; beginning from God (Satnaam, Satpurakh, Sat Sri Akal), to the spiritual enlightener (Satguru), to true company (satsang), to true congregation (satsangat), and even to speaking the true word (Satbachan). At many places in Guru Granth Sahib, the word Sat is especially used to glorify the truth of the Lord Almighty6. We also read in Gurbani that God is eternally true, true, true7. Then, I have realised God is true, true through and through8.
To speak the truth, (especially when to speak truth and to accept it, is most difficult and sometimes even dangerous) is really meritorious to the truthful ones as the true test of truth is jeopardising ourselves for the sake of truth, while to betray it is to fall from the criterion of Truth. Its greatest example in Sikh history is that of Ram Rai the son of Guru Har Rai, the eldest son of the seventh Guru. Aurangzeb was incited by the anti-Sikh and orthodox people that Guru Granth Sahib preaches against Islam. So, he wanted to discuss the matter with the then Guru, but the Guru sent his elder and scholarly son Ram Rai to answer any questions of Aurangzeb. The verse which was objected to by the emperor was, “The clay from the graveyard of the muslims was kneaded by the potter to make pots.”9 Ram Rai was afraid of Aurangzeb and wanted to save his skin as well as please him, and replaced the word Musalman by beiman (a dishonest man). Thus, Ram Rai deviated from the Sikh ideology of fearlessly and favourlessly speaking truth. So Guru Har Rai disowned and disclaimed him and never saw him again, the heights attained in courage and morality by the Sikh Gurus, to maintain the dignity of speaking truth which is nothing short of the worship of Satnam or Satpurakh — God.
A true Sikh ideologist is the one who never gives a cold shoulder to truth, come what may ! It is aptly said, “The test of an ideal, or rather an idealist, is the power to hold on to it and to get one’s inspiration from it under difficulties. When one is comfortable and well-off, it is easy to talk high.”10 The Guru taught us, “O Nanak, eventually falsehood ignominously exhausts but the truth lives and lasts eternally.”11 He lived in the period of the bhagti movement, when there were saints in all parts of India but no other than he courageously spoke out against Babar and his invasion in India, “He has issued from Kabul leading the marriage of sin and forcibly demands dowry.”12 He was arrested and incarcerated. It was very dangerous to speak out like that at the time but he declaced, “Nanak speaks the truth as this is the right time to speak it.”13 No judge and no court can claim to be legitimate without truthful judgement, “Only he is entitled to be called a Qazi who gives justice on the basis of Truth.”14
It must never be forgotten that truth never compromises, neither under any temptation, nor under any trepidation or for merely displaying worldly gain by fair or foul means, “Those in whose minds the reality of the ideal is not clear, and love for the ideal is not strong, try to find compensation in the success of the work, and they are therefore ready for all kinds of compromise.”15 One must understand that the trials of truth are always extraordinary and the ideals always outstep the ordinary endurance, and so one must prepare oneself to rectify and resow one’s infirmities, “It would be a sad thing indeed if one’s ideal was never to go beyond ones own infirmities.”16
We have assembled here as Sikh ideologists. Let us for a moment banish extroversion and introspect and question ourselves. How many times, and how many of us, have remained tongue-tied and afraid to speak the truth, fearing that such and such a person in power may be offended by us due to our speaking the truth about him or her ? For the sake of truth, how many have bearded the lion in its den ? To boot the dead lions is the game of toddlers. It is deplorable that the distortion of truth is called “diplomacy” and a diplomat is admired to the skies, though most of the devilry in human society is caused by diplomacy. The reason is, “You seek truth as if it were opposite of yourself.”17 The pity is, “We taste and feel and see the truth. We do not reason ourselves into it.”18 One should never care for inside and outside attacks on truth as eventually it is immortal and immutable, “The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but true it is.”19 Because of speaking the truth in the teeth of opposition and in face of the most terrible and cutthroat enemy wielding a ruthless despotic and dictatorial power. Socrates (470-399 BC), the Athenian Greek philosopher was administered a cup of the poisonous juice of the deadly hemlock plant by the state. The executioners taunted him by saying that they had caught him. He at once roared like a lion and retaliated calling them stupid to claim his arrest in that sense as they had only caught his body and not to speak of catching his “me”, they could not even see it.20 Socrates’ truth-speaking power is evergreen. Mansur did the same with an unforgettable courage of conviction when he was being stoned to death, with every hit and hurt of the stones he defiantly shouted Annal-Huqque.
Several historians concur in recording that Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, when questioned about what they would do if set free out of mercy, had roared with one voice, “Ba-yakk a awar”, that they would raise and mobilise the Khalsa army and fight to finish the tyrants, till their last breath, without calling for victory or defeat. No other example like it is available in the whole human history. Their father Guru Gobind Singh had inculcated a fearless spirit to speak the truth even at the cost of their lives.
Our Hindu brethren revere, rather worship like their deities, Shivaji and Maharana Partap as heroes. Partap’s valour staggered on hearing the cries of her starving daughter and prepared himself to surrender to the Mughal king, Akbar, and would have done it if Khama Shah,21 a Marwari Seth, would not have advised, encouraged and helped him. I may tell here that the author, whose reference I have given regarding Seth Khama Shah, was not an ordinary Hindu, but a great zealot for the promotion and glorification of Hindutva and wrote a special book about it.22 Similarly, the courage of Shivaji cracked, his bravery was breached, and his perseverance was punctured under sustained pressure from Aurangzeb’s forces and he wrote to the emperor, surrendering to him in April, 1667, to join service under him along with his 400 soldiers. This fact has also been recorded by a very respected and renowned Hindu historian.23 I may tell the learned readers that I am writing all this after meticulous study, and bear full responsibility for it. One very important thing to be pointed out here is that some Muslim and Hindu writers have written that Guru Gobind Singh also remained in the service of the Mughals or offered to do this. This is a very nefarious move of these writers, in order to pull down Guru Gobind Singh to the level of Maharana Partap and Shivaji, who used all sorts of vice and cunning in their warfare, which Guru Gobind Singh never did, as his God, Akal Purkh or simply Akal, was All Truth or Huqque. Huqque is an Arabic word which means God, as Mansur also used it when was uttered by him Annal-Huqque.
Partap and Shivaji both wrote to the Mughal kings offering to surrender, but Guru Gobind Singh sent an epistle to Aurangzeb, titled Zafarnama, the Letter of Victory, in Persian verse. It was a challenging communication for Aurangzeb. And when did he write it ? At the time of the worst type of sufferings, difficulties, and dangers, when he had left Anandpur Sahib, had lost all material possessions, his family had been separated, his mother and four sons had embraced martyrdom, and when many of his brave Singhs had embraced death on the battlefield. He stuck to the Truth for which he had waged his struggle, and challenged Aurangzeb to come to encounter him and decide the issue of victory and defeat, instead of causing the deaths of so many soldiers and other innocent people :
“Come and face me on the battlefield,
With your sword and dagger,
And do not disturb and destroy the creatures of the Creator.”24
He addressed Aurangzeb in the most pithy and unsparing language :
“If you are a cunning wolf, I have many lions with me,
The Singhs, the Khalsa.”25
He warned Aurangzeb :
“The brave lion is still alive, and he is always prodded to take revenge from you, to dare your tyranny.”26
He challenges Aurangzeb that if he dared to come to Punjab, he would not let him drink even the water of this land of five rivers :
“I will put such a fire under your feet that you will not be let to take water from Punjab, if you ever come this side.”27
The Guru chastises him by writing :
“You dishonoured the mortal clay of your father and have nurtured your nature by killing your brothers.”28
The height of Guru Gobind Singh’s love and respect for living truth and not only preaching it is manifested in the following verse :
“Plunder, cunning and treachery constitute your profession,
But my struggle is for trust in God and Truth.”29
Even while fighting in the battlefield against enemies, the character of Guru Gobind Singh is the mirror of truth, which he inherited from his apotheostic preceding Sikh Gurus and as his great-grandfather Guru Arjun Dev exhorted, “O, my mind, conduct truthfully all your dealings in life.”30 How deep and broad-based is the root of Truth of the Sikh ideology ! Truth in all activities of life.
It has been described what type of soldier Guru Gobind Singh was, always fighting for truth, and fighting truthfully. His true Singh or initiated Sikh called Khalsa, stands for purity which is another name for Truth, because that which is pure is free from adulterational ingredients, it is only one thing, exactly concomitant with truth. The Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh is also called Sant-Sipahi. Sipahi means soldier, which has already been described. Sant is a Sanskrit term and means the one who has made truth (satya), an inseparable part of his life. Lies or falsehood are the source of all evils, whether religious, social, legal, or any else, whereas truth is universal and cleans them all. Truth is the remedy of every malady or ailment, and it is the cleanser of all sins.31
According to Sikh ideology, Khalsa never fights for plunder, pride, or any sort of egotistic assertion over any body. They fight only after a great deal of conciliatory remonstration. When all peace making efforts fail, then it is legitimate to put one’s hand on the hilt of the sword.32
The Sikh ideology rightly realises that in this age of sin, cruelty, injustice and high-handedness, the use of the sword is unavoidable :
In this black age of sin and strife,
It is only the strong arms which can have strong self-confidence.33
The Sikh ideology teaches that humility is one of the greatest virtues of man, but humility has to be distinguished from humiliation. Humility is a virtue which is practised voluntarily from within, and humiliation is the insult or degradation forcibly imposed by somebody on someone else. So humiliation has to be resisted. Sikhism teaches, “If one is insulted or humiliated while alive, all is illegitimate which one consumes.”34 This tenet is for self-defence which is the birth-right of every creature, otherwise the Sikhs pray for the welfare of all (;opZs dk Gbk) and for universal peace and against war.35
Falsehood, lies, and deception, cause many troubles but the realisation of truth brings tranquillity and equanimity which saves man from turbulence.36 And who does pray so ? The one who is blessed with truth and is freed from the lure of temptations and illusions. His or her path is simple, straight and truthful, called “Sacha Marg” which is described by Islam as Siratur-mustqueem37 (Straight Path).
The ideology of a true Sikh respects, recognises, patronises, and practises truth. Axiologically speaking, truth is its highest value not involved in any kind of casuistry, prevarication, cunning, criss-cross of avidity, zig-zag paths of pride and peevishness, conflagration of canard, the snare of selfishness, mire of malevolence, jingoism and jealousy. A true Sikh, the practitioner of true Sikh ideology, loves all, serves all, saves all, fights for the oppressed and vehemently opposes the oppressor, always embracing and upholding truth. “While both Plato and truth are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.”38
It is sad to say that at present whenever some Sikh organisation is formed dharra (faction) dominates dharam (religion or faith). Dharam nalo dharra pyara ho chukka ae (factionalism has become dearer than faith), which is deadly opposed and inimical to truth, making falsehood and factionalism, fratricidal. Let us wake up to preserve, to preach, to pen and to practise the true Sikh ideology grown from the root of truth.
What the time, season, day, month of creation ?
Not the Pundits, even if it be in the text of a Puran,
Nor the Qazi does who interprets the Quran.
Nor Yogi knows the date, season, month, but the One,
Who created the Universe, Knoweth alone.
How to describe Him, Praise Him, speak of Him, know Him best ?
Yea, say they all, they know, one wiser than the rest.
Great is the Master, Great His Name.
All that is proceeds from Him.
He, who thinks of himself much, is vain,
And will look small in God’s domain. 
Countless the worlds beneath, countless the worlds above,
No limit is found, nor Vedas have.
Eighteen thousand, say the Semitic Texts.
(’Tis not the last word.)
Yea, the Essence alone is real.
He who counts doth fail in the deal.
Nanak : let us say, He is Great (He, the One),
And He alone Knows, yea, He alone.