IKA BANI IK GURU
Sikhism grows from strength to strength and has taken deep roots in many lands away from its place of birth. It is not surprising that some fissures and cracks have distinctly appeared in the firmament of Sikhism. It has happened in the case of all faiths, sooner or later. As the community grows in numbers and more questions are posed to find solutions of deeper and finer knots, it is an expected development: each one to one’s own capacity. It was foreseen by the Gurus. As a caution, the Gurus ordained the basic strength of the Sikh doctrine:
Ika bani ik (u) gur (u) ika sabd (u) vichar (i) (SGGS, p. 646)
One Word, One master, and One analysis. This central theme was reiterated by the tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh in the Bachitra Natac, ‘Apni katha’, about the unity of purpose of the ten Masters:
Bhinn bhinn sabh-hun kar jana, Ek rup kinhun paihchana. jin jana tin hi sidh pai, Bin samjhe sidh hath (i) na ai.
The people considered them as separate (persons), only few (enlightened ones) knew them as one (identity). Those who understood it so, arrived at the truth. Without this awareness others achieved nothing.
There should never be allowed any challenge to the basic Sikh postulates. Despite bitter differences of opinions, the scriptures of other major religions are treated as sacrosanct; be it the Torah, the Koran, or the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and other sacred literature. It is, therefore, sad that some smart-aleck people in our community should try to raise doubts and questions on each step to demonstrate their wit to build separate domains, claiming their particular version as the real Sikhi over mainstream Sikhism. In fact, it is a display of their limited vision, projecting an odd facet of the philosophy of Sikhism, known to them over the rest. Guru Nanak spelt the condition in Jap:
Evad ucha hovai koe. Tis (u) uche kau janai soe.
Only one who has himself attained to those heights can know of it.
Sikhism was tenderly nourished by the Gurus, step by step, not in a sudden spurt of any prophetic mysticism. It needs no reinterpretation. Guru Arjun Dev said:
Mai badhi sach (u) dharm-sal hai. Gursikha lahda bhal (i) kai.
I have assembled the righteous institute of Absolute Truth; I pick and choose the God-oriented (gursikhs) after due deliberation.
The Sikh character shaped by the Gurus was firm, sure and positive. Negative thinking, scattering seeds of doubt and indecision is nothing short of insidious activity.
The different interpretations being aired in India and abroad pose a serious threat to the purity of the Sikh doctrine which has been a unique innovation over the ancient dead-set assumptions, which reflected the level of experience, imagination and wisdom of those earlier time . The Sikh sangat in Diaspora as well as the educated classes in India rue the version of sant-deras and most of our priests, who are totally influenced by the Brahmin lobby. Hindu domination of Sikh values started with the state persecutions of the Sikhs after the time of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, when the gurdwaras came under the control of Hindu priests. It is true that the sant-deras and the Sikh missionaries generally continue to toe that line; it is easy to repeat the usual Brahminic jargon. The common man in the village and towns remains uninformed and spiritually dissatisfied. There is no scholarly research about the Sikh tenets in the so-called sant-deras except in a few exceptional cases. There are some, earnestly devoted to the Sikh faith, but they are awfully few and the demand for the learned discourses is overwhelming. The dera people have easy money and luxuries of life, modern gadgetry, expensive cars, lofty gurdwaras, flourishing kitchens, quite different from the spirit and phenomenon of the simple Guru-ka-langer, and an expectant, eager audience in search of boons (blessings to fulfill their desires), not the truth.
Such audiences hardly have vision to learn the truth directly from the Guru Granth Sahib, the repository of all answers, nor can they find guidance from the well nourished Sant Babas. The crowd is in a hurry to get the wishes granted by any means, fair or foul and the Sant Babas amply assure it. Had these deras truly spread the message of the Gurus, located as they are all over the Sikh sangats, there would have been tremendous allover growth. Our Gurus moulded common people, with all their shortcomings, into gurmukhs, self-confident and self-reliant Sikhs. The deras churn bonded, captive souls in lasting servitude.
On the other hand, especially the Diaspora scholars have endeavored to recast the gurbani message into a ‘scientific’ shroud and to construe a new line of thought to dress up the Guru’s word to ‘suit’ the twenty first century. It impresses at first sight to have thrown away the yoke of the traditional sant-deras. It also gives the educated classes a chance to pierce many traditional theories by new analysis. However, the first false step by these neo-look protagonists is their assumption that in its original form, the gurbani has ceased to be effective and it needs to be differently interpreted. A cursory study would convince the hard critic that the message of the Guru Granth Sahib is not confined to a date, period or place. It is universal, based on human experience and psychical phenomena. Gurbani provides answers to all situations according to the mental and spiritual state of a person. They seem more eager to clinch centre stage by projecting sikhi negatively, spewing doubts, then positively analyzing the Gurus’ message. It creates more chaos. Moreover, these scholars want to cut Sikhism to their relaxed life-style and to draw rules and regulations to suit requirements of the affluent consumer-oriented western society and thereby act more as critics and advisors of the Gurus, to reduce the Sikh doctrine to a sort of tea-house gossip, to accept what suits them and to drop what is inconvenient.
Our Gurus’ core message was direct and simple; to earnestly discard evil thoughts, bad habits and wicked acts, and to adhere to spiritual and moral values even at the cost of sacrificing personal life, comforts, one’s hearth, home and family. That was the condition set by Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh, to attract likely candidates into the Sikh orbit. Anyone seeking exemptions or conditionally joining the party was not encouraged. The Gurus themselves walked on that thorny path and the true Sikhs happily followed them. However, taking solemn vows was never meant to be end of the line, but a sense of belonging, a beginning to study and adopt high moral values, to break chains of wickedness and rise aloft.
That seems so long ago. There used to be a clear objective, a sense of faith in the truth of the Guru’s way and confidence and pride in toeing the line. The pointless doubts and weird qualms planted by neo-critics, ignoring the straight thesis and advice of the Gurus, have eroded that assurance, reliance and buoyancy which the discipline (Hukm) of Guru Nanak filled the Sikhs with and Guru Gobind Singh’s amrit planted on the novice. The self-serving scholars, who are in abundance, like to call that self-assurance as blind faith; they surely need to recognize the true meaning of the term, ‘blind faith’. The term stands for stubborn defiance of a known truth; so that, their own posture would qualify for that epitaph!
Modern Sikhi is either of the dera format of grab and greed, ignorance and misrepresentation, or, of the Western easygoing variety, both equally unaware aspirants, what we once characterized as ‘the Arm-chair Sikh’. Instead of rising to the vital and essential regimen, they want to tinker with the central Sikh tenets to bring them down to the level of prevalent incompetence and inefficiency. Their bid to scale down the Sikh Reht Maryada (The approved code of conduct) is that not more than twenty percent Sikh population observes it. But, by any standards, that should be an encouraging situation. SRM is the top notch scale of a complete and ideal gursikh. One strives to attain that as the objective. It reminds of an open session of an Islamic congregation, where someone asked the cleric if every person calling himself Muslim would qualify for entry into Paradise!
The favourite plank of these scholars is that they are unearthing the essentials of Sikhism. Clearly, the Masters rejected the stance of endless debate and ineffective comprehension, without practicing it, as the society gained nothing from it. And, from that maxim none was exempt, including the Gurus themselves. There is no other faith in the world where the disciple goes to the extent of quizzing the Master and the very tenets of that religion. We have given enough license to these Sikh scholars to our detriment. For the Sikh, the true disciple, the Guru and Gurbani must remain sacrosanct. It should be beyond the scope of critical reference. Personal views of scholars should never be allowed to encroach upon the Guru’s word.