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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh




Freedom Versus Discipline

Gajindar Singh

In the long history of evolution of human society, there has been one constant conflict, namely, Freedom versus Discipline, which has been pursued by various prophets, teachers and philosophers to find the best solution, according to their time and circumstances, in order to arrive at an ideal blend, in larger interest of an ideal society as well as giving enough space to the individual.

People have been exercising choice to adopt any system which seemed to be the ideal mix of liberty and discipline, as willing conversions from one faith to the other would denote. It also explains the resistance to change, its intense struggle against coercion employed by various regimes and the individual preference for one's faith. In the long run, it is, perhaps, not liberty so much as the sociological and cultural grip of an ideal which is preferred by people in exercise of their option. It is necessary for the individual to compromise by foregoing total freedom in order to preserve the societal framework.

Another aspect which must be kept in view is the original theory propounded by the teacher-philosopher, to determine whether there is any provision or scope for innovations, revisions and amendments to the original dogma. In Hinduism, for instance, people marvel at the flexibility and amendments absorbed into the system from the earliest times to the present without any ripples. That happens to be its core strength as well as its weakness and lack of resistance against other faiths which have been feeding on it as well as it has been spreading its tentacles. Other faiths like Buddhism, Jainism and the Semitic religions had their parameters fashioned by the respective founders so that the basics were firmed up and any movement had to bear the fundamentals in seeking any relaxation. It is a different matter that many defying splinter groups came up in due course but without a chance of toleration or absorption into the mother church. Such movements in all religions express efforts to modify the purity of the doctrine to suit moderates and its legitimacy remains a contentious issue. The present scenario in Sikhism is undergoing such throes, to go beyond the preformatted creed to accommodate the reluctant and easy going crowd who appreciate the theory but not capable to practice it. The question looming large is if these elements are, in the long run, an asset or liability. Would these prototypes lay their lives on hold in a situation like Chamkor and Khidrana or quietly melt away like the witnesses of the beheading of Guru Tegh Bahadur, to secure safety in anonymity?

The definition of the Sikh has to be viewed with these parameters kept in view. The religion started by Guru Nanak was well defined by his moral codes, his identification of Truth, truthful living, virtues and abhorrence and total rejection of evil-mindedness. He envisaged a society where moral and ethical weaknesses had zero tolerance. He was no pacifist as his banis amply demonstrate, condemning whole-heartedly all attempts at endurance of evils and the ancient religions, Hindu, Muslim, Jain and other faiths allowing measures to compromise and compensate for incompetence. In old religions, faults and errors of the adherents were compoundable by certain mantras and tantras, havans, pujas, archas, vandnas, numbers of chant of sacred scriptures, additional vazifas, pilgrimages, prayers and rosary intones. Guru Nanak’s way was the very first attempt to cleanse imperfections and evils in the individual character and the society formed thereby, without escape through idle prayers; rather, he dwelt on a person's conviction and strength of moral fiber to adhere to Truthfulness. Evils could not be erased by worship of the deity but by rejecting the sinful ways. His successors maneuvered to develop Sikhism within the constraints of truthfulness and the end-result, the Khalsa, was finalised with its defined personality and ethical code. If revisions and modifications are admitted, the structural framework of Guru Nanak's society of the Pure and Truth will crumble down into a loose order of non-identity, like Hinduism. One thing surely absent in Sikhism is toleration to weakness of character. Societal order takes precedence over individual's attempts at obtaining tolerance, miscalled as 'broadmindedness'. Change for the sake of improvement and higher goals are understandable but any attempt in order to cover weakness of character remains a negative notion. Those who succumb to lenience of toleration desperately want to cling to the bandwagon of Sikhism due to its superior base on Truth and exactitude. Guru Nanak, in his concept of an ideal society, envisaged of a person "devoid of fear, without enmity." The final version of such a strong character was the ‘Azad Khalsa,’ who did not owe obedience or allegiance to any worldly power or order and belonged wholly to God. What is not understood by the common people is the tremendous effort going into building of that strapping and sturdy constitution which would thwart any amount of physical and metaphysical pressures to break the determination of such a character. In order to resurrect such a character out of evil-prone, materialistic material, the Gurus and the Sikhs had to undergo tremendous sacrifices. Historically, the situation has not changed much. There are occasional occurrences, within India as well as abroad when the other communities resist and resent the dynamic philosophy of Sikhism and refuse to compare its freshness and truth with their own mythical rites and rituals which serve as religion.

Loosening the knots to accommodate the feeble, frail, weakling and rebellious elements nullifies the total concept of Sikhism, what Guru Nanak defined as super beings wedded to a state of unquestioned and total submission, the principle of hukm and raza. Devoid of whole compliance, there is no scope to allow the unripe elements to be ushered in. Imagine the weaklings representing to Guru Nanak ad Guru Gobind Singh to go easy in their case as they could not meet the defined constraints though they wished very much to be part of their entourage!

It is a fallacy to divide the panth into categories, defining various castes of Sikhs, into amritdharies, Keshadaries, Sehjdharies, because these are simply various stages to arrive at the prime juncture of the Khalsa. It may not be easy for others to reconcile to the division, but those who are at one stage or the other can well appreciate the unreasonableness of their hurry to be counted among the Guru's chosen supermen.

One may ask, what is important, only the numbers, relying on fake ritualism and sham adherence rather than honest faith? It reminds of the hadith when Hazrat Mohammed explained about his odium towards the Jews by blaming their relaxed attitude in freely associating and socialising with those who flouted the code of conduct prescribed by the prophets instead of chastising them. The Guru says: Awip jphu Avrw nwmu jpwvhu ] (SGGS, p. 289) Reflect Yourself and persuade others to meditate and ponder on God’s name. Nonchalance and casual attitude in this regard is not favoured in any faith.

A recent trend has developed of pseudo-intellectualism in the so-called scientific study of Gurbani, reminiscent of the clever Brahamanic claims of special expertise and knowledge to understand scriptures, namely, bibek buddhi, which runs contrary to our Gurus' unambiguous stand:

ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਕਿਤੈ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਈਐ॥
ਤੁਠਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਜੋ ਦੇਵੈ ਸੋਈ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
Shrewdness, intelligence are of no avail,
Take comfort in what the Lord bestows in grace.
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 396

Guru Granth Sahib begins with the cautionary note:
ਸਹਸ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਤ ਇਕ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
A hundred thousand intellects reveal not.
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1

This is repeated in the Gurbani ad finitum. The emphasis must remain on practice (karni) instead of verbalism (kathni). That, in short, is the essence of Sikhism.


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