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
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
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies,
2009, All rights reserved.