Role of Shri Guru Granth Sahib in Education
Dr Rajni Bala
The Guru Granth Sahib is a sacred scripture of the world and is the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Because it is a scripture worthy of a universal religion, many world class philosophers and holy men consider it a unique treasure and a noble heritage for all mankind. The sacred verses of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are called Gurbani, which means the Guru's word or the song messages enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In Sikhism, the Guru is the 'Wisdom of the Word' and not a human or a book. God revealed the Word through the holy men and women from time to time, and the most recent revelations were entered in the text of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. To the Sikhs, any scripture not included in the Guru Granth is unacceptable as the Guru’s word or authority behind their theology, and it is not allowed to be recited, sung, or discussed in Sikh congregations with only exception for the compositions of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal. These were considered to elucidate the Guru Granth verses. Those who explain the scripture or teach the doctrines contained in the scripture are respected as teachers, granthis, missionaries, saints or enlightened souls in the Sikh religion. The Sikhs regard Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a complete, inviolable and final embodiment of the message for them. There is to be no word beyond the Word. And that’s how their last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, spoke to the congregation on October 20, 1708 shortly before his ascension.
“Those who desire to behold the Guru should obey the Granth Sahib. Its contents are the visible body of the Guru.” Sri Guru Granth Sahib contains hymns of 36 composers written in twenty-two languages employing a phonetically perfected Gurmukhi script on 1430 pages in 511,874 words, 1,720,345 characters, and 28,534 lines. It has been preserved in its original format since its last completion by Guru Gobind Singh in 1705. It is well known that religious institutions protect themselves from erosion by enshrining their tenets and doctrines in some tangible form. Guru Granth was composed in poetry perhaps to both prevent alterations or adulterations, and to reach out to human heart. According to some writers, “its power is the power of the puissant and winged word, and no exegesis or commentary or translation can ever convey the full beauty of its thought and poetry.” Further, poetry can be left to the culture and the times that follow to best interpret the message. Thus the Guru Granth incorporates all of the features to place it alongside the world's greatest scriptures. Besides, this is the only scripture which in spite of its interfaith nature was dictated, edited, proof-read, and signed for authenticity by the founders of the faith in their life time. These unique features helped preserve the Sikh religion throughout the numerous onslaughts it endured over the period of five centuries. The Granth proved to be a sufficiently foolproof means for continuously providing safeguard against adulteration and extinction of the Sikh religion for centuries to come.
The fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev first compiled the Guru Granth in I604 in the city of Amritsar. Guru Gobind Singh prepared the second edition, which he completed at Damdama, a town in the State of Punjab in India in 1705. The Granth compiled by Guru Arjan contained the hymns of the first five Gurus along with most of the saints and holy men of medieval India and the far East. He installed this scripture in the Sikhs'central shrine, Hari Mandar, at the City of Amritsar in 1604. Later, this copy was taken into possession by Guru’s rivals who would not wish to share it freely with the mainstream Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh took upon himself to recreate the entire Granth. He dictated to a Sikh scholar, Bhai Mani Singh, all verses he considered revealed including the hymns written after Guru Arjan. It took him nearly five years at Anadpur Sahib and Damdama Sahib to complete this project in 1705. He founded Dandama town to immortalize this occasion.
On October 20, 1708 Guru Gobind Singh gave his final sermon that conferred permanent Gurudom on the Damdama version of the Granth. He selected town of Naded several hundred miles away from Damdama for this event. Since that day, the Granth has come to be known as Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib contains 5894 hymns. Guru Arjan contributed the largest number of 2216 hymns. Besides the hymns of other Gurus, he also included 937 hymns of fifteen other saints and eleven poet laureates of the Guru's court whose compositions tallied with the gospel of the Sikh faith. Here, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Brahmin, and the untouchable, all meet in the same congregation of holy souls to create a truly universal scripture for the whole world.
From the linguistic point of view, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a treasury of the languages of its times that communicated well with every segment of the society. The language principally employed is the language of the saints, evolved during the medieval period. Based upon the local dialects, it was leavened with expressions from Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian, Arabic, Bengali and Marathi etc. This language allowed for variations and still enjoyed wide currency in Southeast Asia. Its appeal is found in its directness, energy and resilience. In addition, the Guru designed a phonetically complete gurmukhi font to meet the need of inscribing the multi-linguistic scripture that is also musical. The poetry of the Granth is in itself a subject worthy of the highest consideration. Music forms the basis of the rhythms and classification of the hymns. They follow a definite metrical system called raags. A raag in Indian classical music means a pattern of melodic notes. This form is not only used to preserve the originality of the composition, as the poetry written in this form is difficult to imitate, but more so to provide the divine experience through the medium of music and the sounds of God's creation. The total number of ragas is 31. The gurus themselves invented some of those. Under each Raag, the hymns are arranged in different meters as Chaupadas and Ashtapadas; long poems include Chhands, Vars, and Bhagat verses.
Another outstanding feature of the Guru Granth is the rendition and beauty of its prosody. Whilst a great deal of it is cast in traditional verse forms (e.g. shlokas and paudis), and could best be understood in the context of the well-known classical raags, several hymns and songs make use of popular folklore and meters (e.g. alahanis, ghoris, chands, etc.). The inner and integral relationship between music and verse has been maintained with scholarly rectitude and concern. The complete musicalization of thought was accomplished in a scientific and scholarly manner so that it makes for the unusually vigorous yet supple discipline of the Granth's own metrics and notations.
The Guru Granth verses are often sung in a process known as kirtan. In this process true meaning is revealed directly to the Surat (consciousness and awareness) through cosmic vibrations. The body's energetic vibrations from our voices bind us to the spiritual light of universal intelligence. As we chant the Granth’s verses the universe speaks to us in metaphoric images. The physical body of the singer experiences the essence of each word through the lightening energy in the brain and the calming vibrations in the body, all caused by the sound currents. They keep the mind to stay focused on the Word. They heal the physical body and cleanse inner thoughts. The sound waves of the Gurmat Raags connect the mind, body, and spirit by alignment of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual entities. They implant in the psyche the basis for both spiritual and mental growth. To see a Sikh congregation chant the sacred hymns in unison is to see massed spiritual energy bubble before your eyes. This is how the ordinary words change into the logos and become auspicious.
One of the greatest glories of the Guru Granth is its all-embracing character. It is a scripture completely free from bias, animus and controversy. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Granth in this respect is all the more astonishing when we think of the obscurantism, factionalism and religious fanaticism of the periods in which it was composed. They were all counterbalanced by inclusion of the songs and verses of a wide diversity of holy men, saints, savants and bards. Of course, their hymns and couplets rendered in their own language and idiom were so dovetailed as to find a complete correspondence with themes or motifs in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus.
The Guru Granth, then, is unique in that it formed the first interfaith and still universal scripture. It is indeed a magnificent compendium of the religious, mystic and metaphysical poetry written or recited between the I2th and 17th centuries in different parts of the Mid-Eastern and Far-Eastern continents. It is also at the same time a reflection of the sociological, economic and political conditions of the day. The satire on the reactionary rulers, the obscurantist clergy, the fake fakirs and the like is uncompromising and telling. In showing the path to spiritual salvation, the Guru Granth does not ignore the secular and creative life of living beings. In addition to its mysticism and spiritual depth, the poetry of the Gurus throws light on their contemporary situations. It lays bare the corruption and degradation of the society of those times and underscores the need of social reform and economic uplift. Guru Granth’s verses advocate a spiritual soul for their otherwise inhumane administration of the then rulers.
Obviously, the idea of Guru Arjan Dev was to celebrate the diversity in all religions and mystic experiences, and, at the same time, establish the fundamental unity of spirituality and faith through the scripture of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In this scripture he founded an integral congress of all minds and souls operating on the same spiritual vibration. He elevated the songs of the saints, the Sufis and the bards to the elevation of the logos to salute the power of the Word whatever form it might take to reveal the glory of the One Reality. The Sikhs in particular and the religious world in general must be congratulated to be the recipients of the unique scripture of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikhs must be humble and grateful to be chosen by Guru Gobind Singh who assigned them the task of the keepers of the light of Sri Guru Granth Sahib on this Day of October 20, 1708.
Some of the major messages can be summarized as follows: -
1. All people of the world are equal
2. Women are equal to men
3. One God for all
4. Speak and live truthfully
5. Control the five vices
6. Live in God's hukam (will/order)
7. Practise Humility, Kindness, Compassion, Love, etc.
1. All People of the World are Equal:
The Guru Granth Sahib promotes the message of equality of all beings and at the same time states that Sikh believers “obtain the supreme status” (SSGS, p 446). Discrimination of all types is strictly forbidden based on the Sikh tenet Fatherhood of God which states that no one should be reckoned low or high, stating that instead believers should – “reckon the entire mankind as one”.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib promotes the concept of equality by highlighting the fact that we are made of the same flesh, blood and bones and we have the same light of God with us.. Our building bricks are the same:
Breham Giaanee Sadhaa Niradhokh,
Jaisae Soor Sarab Ko Sokh,
Breham Giaanee Kai Dhrisatt Samaan,
Jaisae Raaj Rank Ko Laagai Thul Pavaan.
The God-conscious being is always unstained, like the sun, which gives its comfort and warmth to all. The God-conscious being looks upon all alike, like the wind, which blows equally upon the king and the beggar
The Gurus also encourage believers to promote social equality by sharing earnings with those in need.
Sabh Eaek Dhrisatt Samath Kar Dhaekhai Sabh Aatham Raam Pashhaan Jeeo.
They look upon all with equality, and recognize the Supreme Soul, the Lord, pervading among all.
2. Women's Status:
Guru Ji said “Sikhi does not teach you to raise your hand on a woman. It teaches you to respect them.” Sikhism also preaches that equal respect should be given to women. Sikh Guru’s provide the equal respect to the women as to the men.
Dhharan Gagan Neh Dekho Doe
Naaree Purakh Sabaaee Loe.
In the earth and in the sky, I do not see any second.
Among all the women and the men, His Light is shining.
3. One God for all:
God is one; there are many different ways to reach them. There are many religions i.e. different paths in the world and the people living in the world adopt their own religion or path to attain the reality. Sikhism is strictly monotheistic in its belief. This means that God is believed to be the one and sole reality in the cosmos, meaning that no other being have extra-human power. Sikh Gurus state that God alone is worthy of worship, and the highest end of existence, that is mukti or liberation can come through devotion to God alone. Besides its monotheism, Sikhism also emphasizes another philosophical idea, which is known as monism. Monism is the belief the world is only a "vision" or illusion (Maya) and that God is the sole "Continuing Reality" so that selfishness, egoism and hate are meaningless.
Eaeko Hukam Varathai Sabh Loee.
Eaekas Thae Sabh Oupath Hoee.(SGGS, p. 223)
The Command of the One Lord prevails throughout all the worlds.
From the One, all have arisen.
Prabh Dhaeiaal Baeanth Pooran Eik Eaehu
Sabh Kishh Aapae Aap Dhoojaa Kehaa Kaehu
Aap Karahu Prabh Dhaan Aapae Aap Laehu
Aavan Jaanaa Hukam Sabh Nihachal Thudhh Thhaehu. (SGGS, p. 710)
God is merciful and infinite. The One and only is all-pervading.
He Himself is all-in-all. Who else can we speak of?
God Himself grants His gifts, and He Himself receives them.
Coming and going are all by the Hukam of Your Will;
Your place is steady and unchanging.
4. Speak and Live Truthfully:
Sikh believes in the importance of truthful living, which can only be created by purity of mind and not through religious purification rites. They believe that impurity of mind leads to many other vices such as anger, lust, attachment, ego, and greed.
Kiv Sachiaaraa Hoeeai Kiv Koorrai Thuttai Paal
Hukam Rajaaee Chalanaa Naanak Likhiaa Naal.(SGGS, p. 1)
So how can you become truthful? And how can the veil of illusion are torn away?
O Nanak, it is written that you shall obey the Hukam/His Command, and walk in the Way of His Will.
5. Control the five vices:
The control over the five vices should be must otherwise the human can never attain the reality. The control over the all the vices is very necessary because these are very powerful and prone to disturb the whole life of human. The Guru gave advice to the people to hold control over the vices for happy life. The devotees of Guru Sahib believe that they must control the animal instincts of Pride/Ego, Anger/Temper, Greed/Urges, Attachment/ Dependency and Lust/Addiction. According to Guru:
Gun Samooh Fal Sagal Manorathh Pooran Hoee Aas Hamaaree
Aoukhadhh Manthr Thanthr Par Dhukh Har Sarab Rog Khanddan Gunakaaree
Kaam Krodhh Madh Mathasar Thrisanaa Binas Jaahi Har Naam Ouchaaree (SGGS Page 1388)
All virtues are obtained, all fruits and rewards, and the desires of the mind; my hopes have been totally fulfilled.
The Medicine, the Mantra, the Magic Charm, will cure all illnesses and totally take away all pain.
Lust, anger, egotism, jealousy and desire are eliminated by chanting the Name of the Lord.
Ein Panchan Maero Man J Bigaariou
Pal Pal Har Jee Thae Anthar Paariou. (SGGS, p. 710)
The five vices have corrupted my mind.
Moment by moment, they lead me further away from the Lord.
6. Live in God's Hukam:
A Sikh believes they should live and accept the command of God easily and without too much emotional distress. They attempt to live in contentment and in Chardikala (positive attitude). They live their life according to the command or will of Guru and accept them all time, in joy or sorrow.
Kuntt Chaar Dheh Dhis Bhramae Karam Kirath Kee Raekh
Sookh Dhookh Mukath Jon Naanak Likhiou Laekh (SGGS Page253)
He wanders around in the four quarters and in the ten directions, according to the dictates of his karma. Pleasure and pain, liberation and reincarnation, O Nanak, come according to one's pre-ordained destiny.
Khaedh N Dhookh N Ddaan Thih Jaa Ko Nadhar Karee
Naanak Jo Prabh Bhaaniaa Pooree Thinaa Paree. (SGGS, p 253)
Those who are blessed with the Lord's Glance of Grace suffer neither torture, nor pain, nor punishment.
O Nanak, those who are pleasing to God become perfectly successful.
The Sikh religion emphasizes several other virtues: Truth (Sat), contentment (santokh), Love (ishq), Compassion/Mercy (daya), Service (seva), Charity (dana), forgiveness (ksama), humility (nimarta), patience (dheerjh), non-attachment (vairagya) and renunciation (taiga). These believers attempt to avoid anger (krodh), egoism (ahankara), avarice (lobh), lust (kama), infatuation (moha), sinful acts (papa), pride (man), doubt (duvidha), ownership (mamata), hatred (vair), and hostility (virodh). In the Sikh religion, freedom from these vices, or Sahaj, is attained through tension-free, ethical living, grounded in spirituality avoiding self-mortification and other religious rites of cleansing.
Aval Sifath Dhoojee Saabooree, Theejai Halaemee Chouthhai Khairee
Panjavai Panjae Eikath Mukaamai Eaehi Panj Vakhath Thaerae Aparaparaa (SGGS Page 1084)
First, is the Lord's Praise; second, contentment; third, humility, and fourth, giving to charities. Fifth is to hold one's desires in restraint. These are the five most sublime daily prayers.
Nivan S Akhar Khavan Gun Jihabaa Maneeaa Manth
Eae Thrai Bhainae Vaes Kar Thaan Vas Aavee Kanth (Page 1384)
Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra. Wear these three robes, O sister, and you will captivate your Husband Lord.
The study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib leads some important implications for education:
The concept of God as described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib has its own educational implication. When a disciple recites the ‘Mool Mantra’, he not only tries to visualize the multidimensional characteristics of God, but also tries to inculcate the characteristics like truth, fearlessness, no enmity to anyone etc. in himself. Belief in the grace of God makes a man humble which leads to self-realization and emotional and aesthetic richness. Life acquires a new meaning thereby inspiring a person to higher aims of selflessness and service to society. The belief in oneness of God eliminates all distinctions. To realize the God in himself one has to have faith in the value system and control his inherent qualities, which is also the ultimate individual aim of education. God is also considered as the Divine teacher, thus setting the benchmark of the teacher or guru in the educational system. One often hears about the aimlessness of modern youth which has led to many social/cultural problems. The world view of Sri Guru Granth Sahib inspires man to firmly believe that the world is a place of righteous deeds. Once this concept becomes clear in the mind of the disciple, all his energy is concentrated towards leading a meaningful life. The meaning of life is more reinforced by respecting others and doing selfless service for the society. Human life is considered a precious privilege. Hence one should not only value his own life but also consider the life of others as equally important. Thus barriers of caste, colour, creed and gender become meaningless. The world view of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is thus the foundation for various social aims of education.
The aims of human life as envisaged in Sri Guru Granth Sahib can be treated as milestones of the aims of education. The aims of religion set the ethical and moral standards in the mind of the disciple to achieve the aims of human life via the aims of education. Giving the explanation and purpose of human life is at the core of religious philosophy. The same can be said about the aims of education, which guides a human being about leading a life of meaningful existence. The mention of 'Gyan Khand' in the ethical-spiritual progress of man is the ample proof of the importance of education in the life of a human being. The integrated message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, combining devotion with performance of worldly duties with earnest endeavor for the welfare of all has its parallel in the aim of modern education, which aims at training individuals to become worthy citizens. The importance attached to livelihood through honest means finds its echo in the aims of education which wants to root out corruption from society.
The educational implication of human values like social equality and abolition of untouchability assumes special significance in the Indian context which is plagued by traditional perpetuation of discrimination. The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib aim at inculcating values that bring out the broad universal outlook of man, which has assumed more importance in the present context of education, where the world has become a global village. As more and more importance is attached to the social implications of education, the various social values taught in Sri Guru Granth Sahib may be considered as the factors that can help integrating education to society. The instrumental values like, truth, love, forgiveness, justice, humility, compassion have universal appeal and various subsequent schools of education thought have also given importance to these values.
The aim of education is to inculcate in man the scientific temper based on reasoning and understanding. The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib similarly show the path where the mind is freed from social dogmas, superstitions and other psychological barriers. All human beings are integral part of society and they must live, act in a manner which is befitting to the society as a whole. There is strong message against the suppression and oppression of the down trodden, low castes and untouchables and they are provided the equal status in the society. The constitution of India and modern education are reinforcing these concepts of equal opportunity for quality education for all without discrimination. The concept of society in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, in its various dimensions encouraged the masses to exercise their responsibility to the society. Endeavour to secure equal educational opportunity for all was one of the natural outcome of the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib advocate equality of sexes and showers respects upon the women- folk. This equality was advocated in a difficult time when there was large-scale discrimination and evil practice like suttee and female infanticide. In spite of the advancements made, discrimination still remains a fact. The declining female to male ratio and evil of female infanticide facilitated by the modern medical advances has set the alarm bells ringing to all concerned with the problem. The educational relevance of reinforcing the concept of Sri Guru Granth Sahib of imparting honour and respect to women is evidently dear. The Gurus have advocated literacy as one of the ways to uplift the women and bring them at status equal to men. Still today female literacy levels are lower than that of man. Hence female education is equally important today as a tool of empowering women. Thus Sri Guru Granth Sahib has deep implications as far as status of women and their education is concerned.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All