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Ethical Vision of Guru Granth Sahib – A Global Perspective –

Dr Swaraj Singh*

The means of transportation and communication have converted the world into a global community. However, it has not acquired an ideology that is compatible with its physical growth. Therefore, the global community lacks a global perspective. The present globalization can be called “Economic only Globalization” and it lacks any ethical aspect. This globalization has increased the gap between the rich and the poor countries and between the rich and the poor in each country. This also has increased confrontation between the different cultures and civilizations because the other cultures feel threatened to be assimilated by the dominant western consumerist culture of the present globalization. This is leading to increased tensions between the different countries and the different groups of people in each country.

At an individual level also people are suffering because of the loss of ethical and cultural values. They have lost feelings of stability and contentment. Many people are living with growing feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity. Many people are also living with a feeling of alientation and emptiness in their lives. This phenomenon is the result of an unbalance created by the present ‘economic only globalization’ that has emphasized the material aspect of life, but has ignored the spiritual aspect of life.

There is also over utilization of the natural resources of the planet because the present globalization is constantly trying to maximize its profits without any regard to the ecological and environmental consequences. We are utilizing the resources of the planet at about 120% of the capacity of the planet to replenish them. The problems of environmental damage and global warming are getting worse. Very soon the world can face severe shortage of drinking water.

The Mankind needs an ideology that can impart an ethical aspect and a global perspective to the present ‘economic only globalization’. The ethical vision of Guru Granth Sahib can provide the global perspective and help to change the present “Economic Only Globalization” to an “Ethical Globalization” that can help to face and solve the problems and challenges faced by mankind. The message of Guru Granth Sahib is of love, tolerance, peaceful coexistence, universal concern, universal well-being and universal brotherhood. Guru Granth Sahib is the truly multicultural holy book that promotes pluralism and gives message of unity in diversity. Guru Granth Sahib promotes the concept of an all-inclusive global community.

Guru Granth Sahib is the essence and zenith of cultivation of spirituality and stresses the inner development of spirituality. The message of Guru Granth Sahib is a practical philosophy that deals with human and social evolution. Guru Granth Sahib deals with all four aspects of life, Dharma, Arth, Kam and Moksh. Dharmn deals with the ethnical aspect of life. Arth deals with economics and Kam means passions. Kamravas, meaning desires arise from Kam and Mokash, means salvation. These four aspects are not addressed in a fragmented manner, but are addressed in totality. The concept of Mokash is not by renouncing one’s family and social obligations, but is achieved while fulfilling these obligations. On the one hand, human development is associated with nutural law and harmony with nature, while on the other hand, it also deals with social issues of fairness, equality, human rights and respect for women. Guru Granth Sahib is the comprehensive philosophy of life.

The modern man is alienated from his true self. This leads to fear, anxiety and insecurity. Guru Granth Sahib unites him with his true self and helps him to overcome these feelings. There is a constant struggle in a man between his lower centers (basic instincts) and higher centers (universal consciousness or cosmic awareness. A manmukh follows his mind and his actions are influenced by the basic instincts, while a gurmukh is influenced by the higher centers because he is enlightened by the spiritual knowledge. Guru Granth Sahib transforms a manmukh to a gurmukh through realization of one’s true self. One’s feelings of isolation and separation are replaced by the realization that he is a part of the whole. Selfishness, greed, aggression, extravagance and arrogance of a manmukh are replaced by selflessness, dedication, compassion, generosity, restriant and humility of a gurmukh.

The five messengers of wickedness are associated with the lower centres. These are Kam, Karodh, Lobh, Moh and Ahankar meaning Passions, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Arrogance. These five messengers of wickedness are always within a person and constantly try to distract one from the righteous path. Those who can control these five will attain self-realization and the spiritual elevation can lead to a state of eternal bliss and emancipation from worldly suffering.

A gurmukh has controlled the five messengers of wickedness and, therefore, has also controlled his desires. A manmukh is controlled by the five messengers of wickedness. A gurmukh lives to fulfill his needs, but a manmukh lives to fulfill his desires. The needs can be defined and fulfilled but the desires can not be defined and, therefore, can never be satisfied. Running after desires only leads to more suffering.

The Indian traditional thought offered three paths to salvation. These are Karma, Gian and Bhagti (meaning actions, knowledge and devotion). The priestly class tried to interpret these concepts in a self-serving manner. Karma, which means actions or efforts was converted from an active concept to passive and fatalistic concepts of Karmakand or ritualism. Guru Nanak reiterated active interpretation of Karma as Kirat, which means honest and productive work. Gian was monopolized by the priestly class. Sanskrit was used as a the language for spiritual knowledge. This was not understood by the ordinary people. Guru Nanak advocated nam japo (spiritual awakening) for everybody. All people gained access to spiritual knowledge. This was made available in their language. Bhakti which means devotion, was also misinterpreted by the priestly class. The essence of devotion is love. But the priestly class emphasized the ritual aspect rather than love. Guru Nanak preached the third principle of Sikhism, Wand Chhako, which means sharing your good fortune.

Guru Granth Sahib explains the three basic principles of the Sikh philosophy. Kirat Karo (engage in honest and productive work), Nam Japo (enlighten yourself spiritually) and Wand Chhako (share your good fortune). These are principles of human development as well as for developing an ideal society, because without spiritual awakening an ideal society can not be built.

Guru Granth Sahib is an open dialogue. It does not advocate only one path to reach ultimate reality or eternal truth. Guru Granth Sahib is a true representation of diversity and pluralism. It emphasizes realization of our true self by means of love and knowledge. So long our ultimate goal is the same it allows you freedom of choosing your path. Guru Granth Sahib does not try to convert people to the Sikh religion, but preaches to make all people better human beings. The Hindus should become better Hindus and the Muslims should become better Muslims. Similarly, the Christian, Jews, Buddhists and Jains should become better Christians, better Jews, better Buddhists and better Jains.

Relations between people are strained; all interpersonal relations, including family relations, are becoming weak. This phenomenon is leading to a weakening of the family structure. When family structure weakens, then all the institutions of society are destabilized. Today’s family is going through tremendous stress and has been considerably weakened. Family provides the most important structure, physical and emotional, for an individual. Family is where one learns the social and moral values. There, one develops work ethics and get inspiration to achieve goals in one’s life. The family structure depends upon the relations between the husband and wife. The relationship between a man and a woman can be considered the most fundamental human relation. This relation has been commercialized, under the present capitalist globalization. Guru Granth Sahib emphasizes that there is a spiritual dimension in this relationship. The relationship is complementary. Therefore, a man is incomplete without a woman and a woman is incomplete without a man. This outlook can help us to save human relations from the attack of globalization and help us to preserve family as the most basic unit of the society.

Some western scholars have advanced the theory of “Clash of Civilizations”. However, Guru Granth Sahib emphasize commonality between the different civilizations. The clash is not between different civilizations but is between the nation motivated by our lower centers, such as, selfishness and actions motivated by one higher center. The present western consumerist culture can not be considered the western civilization.

The consumerist culture actually represents domination of the lower centers over the higher centers. All civilizations promote domination of the higher centers over the lower centers. Therefore, there is unity in Diversity. This is the principle promoted by Guru Granth Sahib. This principle will lay the foundation for the foundation of the emerging world order of a multipolar world. Instead of the present western-dominated unipolar world order, we will have a multipolar world, where the different civilizations will co-exist peacefully on the basis of mutual respect.

We need to balance the western materialism with the eastern spirituality. Guru Granth Sahib represents chronologically the highest evolved form of the eastern spirituality. Therefore, Guru Granth Sahib can help us to restore a balanced relationship between the east and the west. The philosophy of natural evolution (Sahij Vikas) of Guru Granth Sahib can act as an alternate model of development to imposed development of the present globalization. The world today needs a philosophy that can be acceptable to the whole mankind. The message of Guru Granth Sahib is truly universal and is addressed to the whole mankind, it is intended to make a person a better person. The philosophy should be acceptable to the whole mankind.


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