GURU NANAK’S PARKASH DIVAS
LET US TEACH
GURU NANAK’S PHILOSOPHY TO THE MODERN WORLD
Dr. Devinder Singh Chahal
Laval, Quebec, Canada
Nov. 11, 2010
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) laid the foundation of Sikhi (Sikhism) during the 15th century, the Period of Renaissance (between 14th and 17th century) when the scientists were challenging some of the concepts of the Church in Europe. During this period Guru Nanak was busy in challenging the ancient mythology and rituals in which the peoples of South Asia were shackled for centuries. It is a matter of pride that it was Guru Nanak who promulgated a scientific and logical philosophy during the 15th century for the world to create a sense of morality to establish peace on this earth. The irony is that after five centuries if we examine the effect of teachings of Guru Nanak on humanity in general and on the Sikhs in particular, it will not be difficult to come to the conclusion that what the Sikhs are doing today is exactly contrary to the philosophy of Guru Nanak.
Why is it so?
It is because of misinterpretation of Gurbani incorporated in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS) , which may be intentionally under the influence of Vedantic philosophy or innocently due to lack of proper understanding of the Gurbani.
CAUSES OF MISINTERPRETATION OF GURBANI
In fact it happened so because of absence of preaching of Gurbani and Sikhism in their real perspective by the so-called custodians of Sikhism after the end of era of the Sikh Gurus in 1708. After the time of Banda Bahadur majority of the Sikhs were living in the forests and during this period preaching of Gurbani and Sikhism, and control of the Sikh institutions fell into the hands of preachers who were unable to understand Gurbani in its real perspective and the Biprans (Who work against the philosophy of Guru Nanak). This situation continued to be in the same state even during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and thereafter. During the Singh Sabha Movement some attempts were made to interpret Gurbani and represent Sikhism in their real perspective by some dedicated Sikh scholars. Soon this movement was taken over by the Sikh scholars who were heavily burdened with the ancient philosophy, mythology and Bipreet (Ritualism or practices which are contrary to the philosophy of Guru Nanak). During this period the use of discriminating intellect (Babaek Budhi) to find the truth was discouraged and was declared as a sin by the Biprans. It is still happening so in the Modern World (the world of today – the Science Age).
During the early 1900s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) came into existence with main objective to manage the Gurdwaras and preaching of Gurbani and Sikhism in their real perspective. The SGPC did very commendable work by establishing educational institutions, hospitals and improving managements of Gurdwaras. It was holding very prestigious position in the hearts of the Sikh masses and national political leaders of India, like, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and others during the struggle of independence of India. Prof Harbans Singh declared SGPC as a “Unique Ecclesiastical Institution” of the Sikhs and Dr Khushwant Singh entitled it as “Parliament of the Sikhs” and “A government within the government.” Soon after the independence of India in 1947 the SGPC started to show decline in its administration and management of Gurdwaras and educational institutions.
Taking the advantage of the internal feud between Sikh religious and political authorities the Biprans (includes Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs) have joined their hands and started to propagate Sikhism in their own way and some are trying to amalgamate it with Hinduism. Currently a lot of misinformation about Sikhism is being reported in all types of media by Biprans. Since the Sikh history and literature published during the 18th and 19th century is full of misinterpretations of Gurbani and misrepresentations of Sikhism, therefore, these sources are being exploited to their maximum extent to achieve their above objectives.
Lack of Deliberation and Contemplation
Lack of scientific and rational deliberation and contemplation of Gurbani in its real perspective by the earlier writers and scholars could be the main cause of misinterpretation of Gurbani. In this respect following remarks of Guru Nanak are worth considering:
bwxI1 ibrlau bIcwrsI jy ko gurmuiK2 hoie ]
ieh bwxI1 mhw purK kI inj Gir vwsw hoie ]
Aggs, m: 1, p-935.
Only rare Guru-oriented2 will deliberate and contemplate on the word1 (philosophy).
This is the word1 (philosophy) of the pre-eminent preceptor that is to be imbibed in one's own mind.AGGS, M 1, p 935.
Because of failure of understanding of Gurbani in its real perspective by the early writers and scholars, the Sikh literature on the interpretation of Gurbani remained fully saturated with ancient mythology and ritualism till today.
Why is it happening?
It is true that many people will readily accept any wrong concept without verifying the facts even during the Current Science Age. A similar observation has been recorded in the Gurbani about this human behaviour. In general people easily accept false statement to be true, do wrong things, and follow the path that is crooked:
JUTu1 bwq2 sw scu3 kir jwqI4 ]
siq5 hovnu min6 lgY n rwqI7 ]
bwvY8 mwrgu9 tyFw10 clnw ]
sIDw11 Coif ApUTw12 bunnw13 ]
duhw isirAw14 kw Ksmu15 pRBu16 soeI ]
ijsu myly17 nwnk so mukqw18 hoeI ] 4]
Aggs, m 5, p-185.
One takes4 it to be true3 what is false1,2,
What is truth4 is not 7 imbibed in one's mind6.
One (usually) takes the forbidden8 and crooked10 path9.
One abandons the right11 method but weaves13 the wrong12 pattern.
Although the both ways14 (right and wrong) are happening under the Laws of Nature15,16.
Only those who are introduced17 to the right path are liberated18. AGGS, M 5, p 185.
Due to this inherent weakness of human as explained above the Sikhs at large take information given in the early writings of Sikh theologians and historians as true. Moreover, discontented and depressed people in general are more inclined to believe in mythical works coated with various allurements. And there was no dearth of such people then and even now. The following quotes from non-Sikh philosophers are almost the same what Guru Arjan said about 300 years before them:
“The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth.”Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
What Sitwell said is exactly happening with the Sikhs of even 21st century since they will believe anything said by Sants, Babas (so-called sages), Sikh preachers, and Kathakaars (interpreters) in Gurdwaras without looking into their authenticity.
The false information given in old writings about Gurbani and Sikhism has been imprinted as true permanently in the minds of many Sikhs. If any tradition, belief, or code, given in old writings, is challenged by some researchers then many devout Sikhs, Sants, Babas, Raagis, traditional Sikh preachers, theologians, and the Sikh authorities - the so-called custodians of Sikhism, declare such action as a blasphemy of Gurbani and Sikhism.
My study of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS) clearly indicates that the Gurbani in the AGGS is scientific and logical and it should be represented scientifically and logically. Besides, it is also evident that though the philosophy was formulated during the 15th and 16th centuries, it has universal acceptability and applicability for the Modern World.
Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) is right when he said:
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
To discover the truth is really a gigantic task. Besides once we discover the truth about Gurbani even then it would be quite difficult to convince the Sikh whose psyche is heavily impregnated with false information. However, it is not impossible task. I am sure once the philosophy of Guru Nanak is understood then it will not be difficult to construct precise and integrated philosophy of Sikhism.
The Institute for Understanding Sikhism has been working on this issue since 1999. It has published hundreds of papers, held six conferences and participated in many conferences arranged by other organizations. A series of 13 lectures on “Discussion on Sikhism” were broadcasted three times on Sikh Virsa and Joy TV. Four books have been published, the latest one, Nanakian Philosophy: Basics for Humanity, which will be released on the 20th November, 2010 at the conference being held at the Sikh Lehr Gurdwara, Brampton during the celebration of Guru Nanak’s Parkash Divas.
CELEBRATION OF GURU NANAK’S PARKASH DIVAS
The Parkash Divas of Guru Nanak is usually celebrated by reciting Akhand Paath of the AGGS and holding a Divan thereafter. During the Divan most of the time is spent on recitation of some Pauris from Bhai Gurdas’ Vaaran, some Dadis would sings some Vaaran and certain mythical stories about Guru Nanak’s life are narrated by some preachers. But nothing is taught and explained scientifically and logically about the acceptability of Guru Nanak’s philosophy in the Modern World.
This year the Institute for Understanding Sikhism, Laval, QC is celebrating Guru Nanak’s Parkash Divas in collaboration with the Sikh Lehr Gurdwara, Brampton, ON by holding a conference on Guru Nanak’s Philosophy for Modern World in English on Saturday, the 20th November in the Auditorium of the Gurdwara and on Sunday, the 21st November, 2010 in Punjabi in Gurdwara main Divan Hall. All are requested to attend this unique conference to celebrate Guru Nanak’s Parkash Divas.
Prof Devinder Singh Chahal, PhD, Institute for Understanding Sikhism, 4418 Rue Martin-Plouffe, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7W 5L9, Email: email@example.com