Guru Granth Sahib stands distinguished from all other scriptures as the holy Granth is Guru eternal for the Sikhs. The ten manifestation of Guru Nanak e.g the ten Sikh Guru in spirit are incarnate is the Shabad Guru Granth Sahib. Arnold Toynbee, the famous philosopher, historian of the 20th century observes, “ the Granth mean more to Sikhs than even the Koran to Muslims and the Bible to the Christians, Guru Granth Sahib is not a deity or image but the Sikh reverence for the divine Word that is Gurbani as it comes to the Guru from the Supreme.”
Gurbani or the Holy Word is neither mystic nor speculative but is revealed signifying that it is not a man made creation but is imparted trough a chosen blessed individual through direct command from God. The revelation comes to Guru at the highest level of consciousness, a divine experience, which cannot be explained in words.
“ਜੈਸੀ ਮੈ ਆਵੈ ਖਸਮ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ, ਤੈਸੜਾ ਕਰੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ॥” (ਅੰਗ 422)
(As the word of the master comes to me, so I make it known, O Lalo)
“ਹਉ ਆਪਹੁ ਬੋਲਿ ਨ ਜਾਣਦਾ ਮੈ ਕਹਿਆ ਸਭ ਹੁਕਮਾਉ ਜੀਉ॥” ((ਅੰਗ 765)
(I do not speak of my own and it is as commanded by God)
The Sikh Guru preserved the contents of the holy Granth in its original and authentic form which makes it stand distinct from other scriptures. The Vedas, Ramayan & Gita were scripted not by Vedic Rishies, Lord Ram or Krishan. The Bible and Quran was not jotted by Christ or Prophet Mohammad .To emphasize this distinction, the famous, English writer Maculiffe states, “Many of the great teachers, the world has known, have not a line of their composition & we only know what they taught through tradition or second hand information. But the compositions of the Sikh Gurus are preserved.”
Another remarkable fact is the selection and inclusion of composition of known Hindu Saints (Bhagats) & Muslim Sufi Faquirs along with the devotee bards (Bhatts) totaling thirty in the holy Granth. But the selection was neither random nor first came basis but in accordance with the criterion set by the compiler Guru Arjan Dev ji. The compositions of Bhagats which were included were of those who were one with a spirit in unison with Almighty & which directly came from God. As Gurbani had firm belief in uncompromised monotheism as one infinite reality i.e Akal, Anadi and Anant.
“ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ॥ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ॥1॥”
(The Supreme existed before the beginning of universe, is present & would remain their without an end and is omnipresent everywhere.)
At the time of compilation of Granth Sahib in 1604 A.D., the composition of five Gurus- Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amardas & Guru Ramdas & the fifth Guru Arjan Dev ji whose own compositions formed the largest corpus were incorporated, it was later that the tenth Guru Gobind Singh ji added the works of ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur ji thus totaling the composition of Six Gurus. The divine Word (Shabad / Gurbani) was accorded the status of Guru in spirit by the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak & it was repeated again & again by all the Gurus in their life time. Though the formal Guruship was invested on
Guru Granth Sahib by tenth Guru Gobind Singh ji before finally leaving for his heavenly abode.
Guru Granth Sahib is a universal scripture and pluralist in nature. At a time when the priests & qazis were disputing endlessly on the name of God, the Granth Sahib recognized all Hindu & Muslim names of Almighty viz Prameshwar, Parbrham, Thakur & Ram etc & Alah, Khuda, Rahim & they find mention in the holy Granth. The Gurbani gives equal treatment to Pooja and Namaz, Temple (Mandir) and Mosque (Maszid). It is because of this equality & respect that Sikhism is mistakenly considered a syncretism or amalgam of the beliefs of other religious creeds. But it is neither a sect of Hindus nor Muslim nor inspired by any Avtar or Prophet. It is a unique, independent, autonomous Universal Scripture.
Guru Granth Sahib is neither history nor mythology, neither a philosophical treatise nor narration of rituals or rites. There is no denunciation of any religion or their scripture but the holy Granth severely criticizes the empty rituals & the priestly class who exploit the ignorant people & divide them into castes, creeds & classes by misleading them for achieving the so called utopia of Swarag or Narak i.e. heaven or hell after death. The famous Urdu poet Ghalib says in a couplet that he knows the truth about the so called heaven but it is a good idea to please one self.
“ਹਮੇ ਮਾਲੂਮ ਹੈ ਜਨਤ ਕੀ ਹਕੀਕਤ ਲੇਕਿਨ ਦਿਲ ਕੋ ਬਹਿਲਾਨੇ ਕਾ ਗਾਲਿਬ ਖਿਆਲ ਅੱਛਾ ਹੈ”
Gurbani sets the ideal of liberation (Mukti) from the cycle of birth and death within the span of a human’s life & not after death. Bhagat Kabir ji states in Granth Sahib that the liberation after death has no meaning as one is not aware of what happens after death.
“ਮੂਏ ਹੂਏ ਜੋ ਮੁਕਤ ਦਿਉਗੇ ਮੁਕਤ ਨ ਜਾਨੇ ਕੋਇਲਾ”
The true ideal is not merely re absorption of a soul with the primal soul but to make the human being God conscious. It emphasizes that for spiritual attainment one has not to leave his hearth & home & wander in Jungles, deserts, mountains to become recluse or ascetic. Gurbani repudiates the notion of world negation, abdicating the responsibility towards human society & live a life of pure escapism. Gurbani emphasizes on intergration of spiritual & temporal, not negation but life affirmation. The Sikh formulae suggest meditation on Thy Name to achieve self purity & moral strength, honest work for livelihood, sharing earnings for social upliftment and help to the hapless. The Gurus prohibit Sikhs not to fall at the feet of such mendicants / hermits who have left their household duties, wear religious robes & come for alms to the households.
“ਗੁਰ ਪੀਰ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਨ ਜਾਇ ਤਾਕਿ ਮੂਲ ਨ ਲਗੀਆ ਪਾਇ । ਘਾਲ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਹਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਨਿਹ ਸੇਇ ।”
It is because of this strict injunction that no Sikh can be found begging & every country, they have gone to, have contributed to that country’s economic growth & wealth.
There is complete harmony in modern science and the holy Granth. Though the composers whose hymns are in Granth Sahib belong to a time period of five centuries from eleventh to seventeenth, a period of religious fanaticism , persecutions, intolerance, but the Sikh Holy Granth record not the partisan or the belief of ruling class but the Universal truth without any fear, favour or hatred. Modern and advance Europe saw the worst bloody conflict between their religion (Christianity) and science and saw the persecution of those scientists who differed from the biblical view of creation & cosmology. Even before the dawn of modern science, the revealed holistic truth of Guru Granth were found not in contradiction but in consonance and harmony with the scientific discoveries of a later time.
The fifteenth century which believed that the world is static, the first Guru Nanak revealed that there exist not only one earth but numberless universes, the suns and moons which all are on the move;
“ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੂਰਜੁ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਚੰਦੁ॥ ਕੋਹ ਕਰੋੜੀ ਚਲਤ ਨਾ ਅੰਤੁ॥”(ਅੰਗ 464)
(They are walking miles and miles in orbit ceaselessly in accordance with the Divine Will. The supreme’s creation is limitless.)
“ਅਰਬਦ ਨਰਬਦ ਧੁੰਧੂਕਾਰਾ॥ ਧਰਣਿ ਨ ਗਗਨਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਅਪਾਰਾ॥”ੲ (ਅੰਗ 1035)
(There was pitch darkness for countless ages before the creation came into existence.)
“ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ॥ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥” (ਅੰਗ 3)
(It was a loud thunderous voice of the Supreme (the Big Bang) that the universe came into existence and lacs of rivers started flowing and its expansion started thereafter.)
“ਥਿਤਿ ਵਾਰੁ ਨਾ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਾਣੈ ਰੁਤਿ ਮਾਹੁ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ॥ਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਿਰਠੀ ਕਉ ਸਾਜੇ ਆਪੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਸੋਈ ॥”(ਅੰਗ 3)
(But the exact time of the creation cannot be counted or measured because there existed no sun or moon, and there is no count of time. It is a grave error that universe came into existence so many billions of year ago and similarly its end cannot be predicted by any finite being as the universe lived and is living at the Supreme’s will and end when He so willed.)
It was believed at that time that there is one earth and one sky, and some believed in the existence of fourteen galaxies but Gurbani stated that it is countless.
“ਧੌਲ ਧਰਮੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੂਤ॥ਸੰਤੋਖ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਿਨਿ ਸੂਤਿ॥”
(It was also believed that there is a bull under the earth which sustains it. But Gurbani stated of countless galaxies and that these are being sustained by the Dharma (son of Grace) and is enjoined by a thread of contentment)
The Sun’s, Moon’s and Planets are countless. The supreme cannot be understood by intellect or reasoning, only the one who is as high can understand Him. We are under his gaze but we cannot see Him. It is the wonder of wonders.
The religion faced many serious allegations by Karl Marx & many other thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth century terming it as an opium given to the poor and have-nots, that it serves the vested interest of the mighty to suppress the working class and is subservient to the rulers and kings. It might be true that the priestly class have been in hand in glove with the exploiters, looters and rulers, but the Sikh holy scripture has not merely raised its voice but unsparingly attacked against all prejudices and divisions which divides rich and poor and exposes the despots and tyrants for their exploitation and injustice. The Holy Granth terms the acquisition of excessive wealth can only be through unfair and immoral means. Control of material resources and concentration of wealth in few hands is neither good for society nor for self who then would be prompted to live not a moral but a hedonistic lifestyle which can only cause mental worries and cannot provide contentment. The ideal way of life suggested by Gurbani is the middle path neither very poor nor excessively rich.
The Holy Granth reject all divisions of human being on the pretext of caste, creed, colour and gender. Gurbani reject and uproots the caste system of Manu’s varn ashram, root and branch. The Gurbani championed the cause of respectful human equality as we all owe our existence to one God. In the medieval ages, the Indian society was torn apart in castes-the upper and privileged and the lowly. The Brahmans were regarded as gurus and the so called shudra’s or the lowly were not allowed to hear or read any religious sermons and were prohibited from entering into temples. The fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji who canonized, compiled and edited Gurbani into Granth sahib and its first prakash was held at the then newly built sanctum-sanctorum i.e The Harmander Sahib (now famously known as Golden Temple) in 1604 A.D. which was opened for entry for all human being irrespective of their caste, creed, color and status and the message of Gurbani was for one and all.
ਖਤ੍ਰੀ, ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ, ਸੂਦ, ਵੈਸ,
ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਚਹੁ ਵਰਨਾ ਕਰੁ ਸਾਂਝਾ ॥
(The spiritual messageof Holy Granth is common to all the four castes.)
ਸੋ ਮੁਖ ਜਲਉ ਜਿਤੁ ਕਹਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਜੋਨੀ (ਅੰਗ 1136)
(Burn be the mouth that terms that god has taken birth out of mother’s womb. The Holy Granth did not approve any incarnation of god (avtarvaad) or worship deities or images.)
The Guru in Sikh parlance is not considered an incarnation of God or a prophet. The Gurus in their spirit are one with Divine Essence. The Gurbani does not divide human life into compartments spiritual or temporal, spirit or matter and considers it as a whole. It condemns the tyranny and injustice, religious bigotry and subjugation of people. At a time when even Europe was ruled by the ‘divine right theory’ of political science with the dictum, ‘the king can do no wrong’; ‘the king is the viceroy of the Lord’; ‘the king is dead, long live the king’; and then in India the king was termed as a god (ਦਿਲੀਸੇਵਰੋ, ਪ੍ਰਮੇਸ਼ਵਰੋ).
The composer of Ramayana, Bhagat Tulsidas also observed
ਕੋਊ ਨ੍ਰਿਪ ਹੋਇ ਭਗਤਨ ਕਤੁ ਹਾਨੀ
(The bhagatas do not loose any thing who so ever be the king.)
But Gurbani voiced vehement protest and declared that the kings have turned into butchers and the kings are not fulfilling their dharma and have abdicated the moral right to rule.
“ਰਾਜੇ ਸੀਹ ਮੁਕਦਮ ਕੁਤੇ ॥ ਜਾਇ ਜਗਾਇਨਿ੍ ਬੈਠੇ ਸੁਤੇ॥”
“ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥”
“ਤਖਤਿ ਰਾਜਾ ਸੋ ਬਹੈ ਜਿ ਤਖਤੈ ਲਾਇਕ ਹੋਈ॥”
“ਰਾਜੇ ਚੁਲੀ ਨਿਆਵ ਕੀ ਪੜਿਆ ਸਚੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ॥”
(Only he has the right to rule who is able to be the King and whose conduct is just and right.)
The first Guru Nanak resisted the foreign invasion of Babur and was put to jail. The Fifth and Ninth Guru accepted martyrdom at the hands of intolerant, fanatic tyrants and similarly four minor sons (Sahibzadas) of the Tenth Guru – two of them attained martyrdom by fighting lacks of armed forces and the younger two were bricked alive followed by thousands and thousands of Sikhs who sacrificed themselves at the altar of freedom thus ensuring human dignity and freedom of every individual and nation.
The divine message of Guru Granth Sahib provides an open, tolerant, moral and pluralist religion and is against political hegemony of the majority or the rulers in their design to either amalgate or to finish the other religions by unleashing terror and state violence . The Divine revelation is not reserved for any one specific religion. The religion in essence is one.
ਜਗਤੁ ਜਲੰਦਾ ਰਖਿ ਲੈ, ਆਪਣੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ॥
ਜਿਤ ਦੁਆਰੇ ਉਬਰੈ॥ ਤਿਤੈ ਲੈਹੁ ਉਬਾਰਿ॥
(Various religions are different pathways for salvation and welfare of the people. As such it prays to the Almighty that the world is in flames! Save it, O God, save them from whichever pathway they come by your grace.)
Guru Granth Sahib is modern, scientific and universal scripture which creates congenial environment for unity of God, equality of human being, interfaith dialogue , human dignity and freedom for one and all. It also emphasises to upkeep the purity and natural greenery of the mother earth. It is a highway to love, faith and truthful living.
According to Prof. J C Archer the religion of the Guru Granth is a universal and practical religion…..the world needs today its message of peace and love.
The world famous Philospher, historian of the twentieth century, Arnold Toynbee observes in his book “An Historian’s Approach To Religion” -
“The religion which the world would accept would not be of any god in person, religious dogmas, rites, empty rituals or that of mythology but whose basis would be the Holy Word and service to humanity. He further writes that the concept of service (sewa) of humanity has already been adopted by Christians but the Holy Word is being experienced by the Sikhs with their full devotion to Guru Granth.”
Notes and References.
1. “Shabad Surat Vichar” by Dr. Balbir Singh published by Punjabi University, Patiala.
2. “Sikhs and Sikhism” by Sirdar Kapur Singh (Ex-I.C.S).
3. “Sikh religion and Guru Granth Sahib” by Dr. J S Neki
4. “Guru Granth Sahib –Guru Eternal for the Sikhs” by Prof. Dharam Singh
5. “Guru Granth Sahib- the Scripture of Sikhism” by Dr. Harnam Singh Shan
6. “Harmony in Science and Sikh religion” edited by Dr. Hardev Singh Virk and especially its article “Guru Nanak Leads the Modern Science” by
S. Dalvinder Singh Grewal.