There appears to be some turmoil amongst the Sikhs on several aspects affecting them as such. An effort is made in the succeeding paragraphs to analyses, in a general way, its causes which emanate from internal pressures. The external pressures, though important are not discussed.
Sikh Religious Philosophy
According to Sikh religious philosophy, there is one God, the all-powerful, changeless and external. His power, Shakti emanates from him and perpetually manifests in the universe. Hinduism viewed this power as a phenomenon of flux without clear purpose. Buddha also diagnosed this perpetual flux through which things come to be and pass away with “pain”. He thought salvation cannot be achieved in this unstable and fluctuating world. It lay elsewhere.
The Sikh Gurus deviated from this idea in a revolutionary way. According to Sikhism, shakti, the power emanating from God, is purposeful, directive and progressive. It operates in and through the universe. It is imperative for a Sikh to find out how this power works so that he may cooperate with it to achieve ‘higher life and salvation.’ This power is also described as Hukam in the Guru Granth Sahib.
“Kaho Nanak, Jin Hukam pachhaja tin Sahib ka bhed jata”
The Guru make shakti the backbone of the Khalsa. Even the areas starts by invoking it:
“Pritham Bhagauti simar ke Guru Nanak lan dhiae.”
Survival of the fittest is one of the laws of ‘Shakti’ existing in the world. In nature, weak and unfavorable species are eliminated. The Guru, therefore, ordained that Sikhs must do away with all weaknesses, be they physical, moral, intellectual, spiritual, social, or material. Weakness and fear are the root causes of all evil. A Sikh must be fearless in thought and action. He should show bravery at all times “chardi kala.” He must possess strength, for it is only through strength that bondages are broken and accomplishments achieved.
“Bal hoa bandhan chhute, sab kuhh hot upae.””
The Guru laid down standards which were beyond the prevailing values. He set forth a higher set of values and looked forward to a race of supermen (Khalsa) in whom these values would eventually be realized. It became a moral duty for a Sikh to try to become perfect. This perfection and salvation has to be realized more or less in this world and cannot be achieved by renunciating it.
“Phai prapat manukh dehurja;
Gobind Milan ki eho Teri barja.”
The Guru also cautioned that this path (Sikhism) is not an easy one.
1) “Khannion tikhi, yalon niki.”
2) “kaho Nanak, eh khel kathan hai,”
He demanded high sacrifices and efforts from those who wanted to follow this path.
1) “it marag pair dharije, sir eije Kan Na kije”
2) “Hoe sarab ki renka, tau ao hanare pas”
Hinduism lies down that it is the duty of man to act always with the principles of his caste. Men are classified by birth. The shudras and untouchables will do most menial works with religion telling them that they have to endure miserable conditions and bear their unhappy destiny. The net result of this dogma was the exploitation of the lower castes by the higher castes for their own benefit. Society became separated in segments and was enfeebled as a result. The Guru revolted against this antihuman attitude. He said all persons are children of One God, and insisted that all castes and creeds live and eat together without any difference.
- “Ek pita ekas ke ham barak”
- “Manas ki jot sabhe ekhi perchanbo”
The Guru tried to eliminate the caste system and untouchability He exhorted the downtrodden to exalt themselves. A shudra with ability has every right to the highest position for man can change his destiny with diligence.
By worshipping one Almighty God, doing away with the caste system and forbidding idolatry and ritualism, the Guru gave a distinct identity to Sikhism. As Marxism cannot be a part of bourgeois philosophy, though Marxist Dialectical Materialism emanated through the Dialect of Hegel, similarly Sikhism, though emanated through Hinduism, cannot be called a part of Hinduism. Guru ordered the Sikhs to keep this special identity.
“Jab lag Khalsa rahe niara
Tab lag tej deun main Sara”
The Guru expected the Sikhs to achieve high spiritual, mental, moral, and physical standards and become a race of supermen. He showed the way how to achieve it. Objectives were indicated e.g.
1) “Sewa lakh se ek laroon”
2) “‘Raj karega Khalsa”
But what has happened in actual practice. The Sikhs have not been able to come near those ideals. Instead of progressing they have deteriorated in several aspects with a very wide chasm coming into being between the Lofty ideals set forth by the Gurus and actual achievements. This is the real dilemma of the Sikhs.
We now very briefly discuss the main drawbacks which have crept in the Sikh fold and which has been the cause of their decline. It is apparent that Sikh religious philosophy has not been well understood by a large majority of the Sikhs. Present day Sikhism is restricted mainly to: outwardly appearance, rituals and ceremonies. This is due to the fault of Sikh preachers of all sorts as well as the community’s leaders. They have been left far behind in knowledge. The religious, social moral and material world has gone beyond their power ‘to understand, interpret and control. They turn to medievalism fundamentalism and ignorance. They fear that an intelligent and enlightened approach will take away persons from religion. But it is always otherwise the case. A person thoroughly understanding his religion intelligently and properly will naturally be a better Sikh. Sikhism is not a blind faith. It is an awakening of a man’s soul and mind to higher understanding thought and action. The Guru was not so naive as to visualize that his Sikhs could become supermen without high cerebral development. He has ordained high education, thinking and intelligence.
1) Vidya vichari tan paropkari
2) Saband Na kito bichar o manas joon Na akhye passo dhor gawar
8) Har pario swami ke dware. Deje budh bibeka”
Gubani should be clearly read, intelligently understood and diligently followed. To remove misunderstandings and misconceptions, free and frank discussions by know ledge able persons may be encouraged. Gurbani’s cosmic vision is so lofty that a man’s intellect, which is humble and tiny in comparison, can do no harm to it as is feared in certain quarters. There is no need to take the teaching of Sikh Philosophy from medievalism to an enlightened and thinking plane. It should then be made a secure base for Sikh thinking and action.
Apart from religious misunderstandings, there has been a degradation of mental, moral as well as social and physical qualities. The Sikhs are lagging behind in politics, industry, and administration and even in sports. Several social evils crept in the society. Sikh educational institutions seldom produce an educated and enlightened leader with a clear vision. We hardly find a Sikh legislator who can put forward the Sikh case with sound reasoning and high thinking in Parliament or in any other forum to convince the non-Sikhs. An important section of Sikhs consider bravery synonymous with gravado, crudeness and foul language. They forget that the Guru has stressed gentleness and humility which are part of bravery:
“Mith bolra ji har sajan swami mora”
Another important section of Sikhs relates intelligence with manipulations for selfish ends. Selfishness has taken such root that even Sikh leaders perform volte face for personal advancement at the cost of society. These drawbacks have lowered the prestige of the Sikhs and do not earn a good name for them.
In spite of the Guru’s instructions not to observe the caste system, it has gripped the Sikhs in a rigid way. The two main sections agriculturists and businessmen are opposed to each other in several aspects. Both these sections look down upon Sikhs of lower castes. The antagonism has even reached into the religious places. If one caste controls a gurdwara committee, it will not allow members of other castes to come near it. With these vertical divisions, Sikhs cannot put up a solid united front and the Shakti of the Panth cannot be achieved. Hence, the efforts put up by the Panth are not so successful.
Such rot is prevailing like cancer and has led to another dangerous trend. Some children of educated and well-to-do families are veering away from formalistic Sikhism perhaps in disgust or due to lack of proper intelligent religious education.
Can this rot be stopped? Can the Sikhs understand their philosophy intelligently? Can they become fearless in thought and action? Can they imbibe the high values set by the Guru and achieve the high objectives of the Khalsa? Only Sikhs can answer these anguished questions. No other power will come to their help in this connection.