A well intentioned exposition of the Sikh religion Comes from some Sikh intellectual’s in day to day discussions on the following lines:

(a) Guru Nanak’s concept of God is the same as that of Darwin, namely, that God is nothing but evolutionary force.

(b) Guru Nanak had given to Marx a lead in thinking on the Communist lines because he came 300 years before Marx.

None of the two interpretations given above are anywhere near the truth, Both are attempts to bring out the Rationale of Sikh movement, which though great is not the only feature of Sikhism. It is essentially based on the spiritual side of man while not ignoring the life that we live on earth. Guru Nanak’s God is not mere force. He is a living reality. There is no shape or form of God that can be comprehended by human vision and senses. Nevertheless it is a Reality that has a consciousness. There is truth in the Sikh movement led by Marx. But though the Sikh movement has throughout been plebeian egalitarian, the foundation of the movement is built on life with God as the father. Thereby roots for fraternity of man Kind were laid. After their Gurus, the Sikhs were stepped in love for the Creator and for the fellow beings. “Service of mankind was made their creed and fearless their armory. Hemen were thus raised fearless but without malice and subscribing to a strict code of ethos Guru had an unsurpassed philosophy to thrill the frail weak beings into men and women of noble character and glorious deeds.

There are many unique components of this movement, the most conspicuous being the freedom from the shackles of caste, color, creed region and sex. Had the Gunus not been intensely practical in the detailed execution of their philosophy, the banner of revolt against all these shackles in those times could tum out to be a euphoria dream. Buddha’s and Mahavir’s attempts at so doing, even in the matter of caste alone, were circumvented soon after their physical departure from the scene. ‘The progressive religious giants in the different regions of India along with the Sikh Gurus, as a galaxy of bhakqi cult in their totality, all spoke equally loud against the caste system, but the followers of all except the Sikhs of the Gurus were soon back in the midstream of caste society. So great is the hold of caste and so wily the enforcement of the structure of Brahmanical society that Indian Muslims and Christians could not get out of it, after having embraced the new liberal religions.

Some other aspects of the Sikh revolution revolve round the following basic concepts:

  1. This world is real and meaningful as against the accepted myth that world is maya and therefore, of no significance. Life is to be lived happily, according to Sikhism it is a great opportunity for raising the level of society; and also for equipping oneself with the character that will eventually permit absorption into the cosmic whole. Sikhism does concede the existence of spirit or soul. Sikhism also believes that only with an existence as men and women (in human form) when facilities of intellect, meditation and understanding have been granted can one be able to rise to a level of freedom from avarice, greed, unbridled lust, attachment and of anger and hatred, Thus alone can they become worthy of getting back into the Creator as a wave goes into the sea or as a ray gets back into the sun. The “salvation” is to be aimed and obtained from a lowly life of low culture and values of greed and want, of vile and of deceit, of stagnation and of inaction. It is only life in society with not only the attendants pains and suffering but also with the remedy thereof via, radiant living of truthfulness that can grant the bliss of life and of death. It is indeed true that if men were taught only to become fighters against other evils without giving them the basic elements of love and understanding for the fellow beings, then the fighters even for a good cause would tum out to be ruthless utchers. It is not without reason that revolutions for obtaining personal aggrandizement. Without love and understanding instilled first, men can no longer remain good in character in the process of fighting battles, even if for the right cause. Revolutions are not successful in immediate designs or ultimate results if truthful character is eschewed from the revolutionary’s mission. French revolution though so consequential in history did not succeed in establishing the rights and the equality for the lowest classes. What it achieved was the freedom from the tyranny of the king and establishment of the tyranny of the aristocracy. It is, therefore, surprising that the Sikh revolutionary movement though opposed by the rocklike strong anti-caste Hindu rajas and the anti-Hindu bigoted Muslim rulers still managed to bring about a near perfect equality for the lowest of the lowly castes. The Ramgadia (artisan) misal and the Ahluwalia kala! misal both belonged to the confederacy of the Sikh rule before Ranjit Singh and both belonged to what were Considered in the caste hierarchy as low ones if not the lowest. Countless characters in Sikh history who attained the highest position belonged to the low, very low and the lowest castes.

Thus the present life and the world in which life is lived are real and meaningful for the Sikhs “Despising the world one gets not to God.” Hindu concept of world as an illusion from which moksha or mukti must be obtained, does not go with this interpretation, For Sikhs Moksha has a different meaning. Moksha is salvation in this very life from temptations and the evils. It is their belief and practice in daily life that the so called five main evils inherent in human life which may destroy the placid waves of joy in life are sources of strength under the ceaseless spray of Nam. A Sikh has no time for fearing about the life beyond. He prepares himself for that during currency of life itself. He does not fly away from society and it is not for nothing that the second and third Gurus explicitly excluded from the Sikh fold the sect named Udasis who lived a celibate and ascetic life and thus flow from life and society. It is also significant that when a devoted Sikh by the name of Nand Lal wrote out a great composition and named it Bandagi Nama (way to mediate) Guru Gobind Singh whilst happily with the composition changed the name into Zindagi Nama (way of life).

Religion means the Kingdom of God on earth by all practical, but justified means. Just order has to be established inequality has to be combated and eliminated. Power has to be captured for the poor and down trodden.

The Sikh Gurus also believed in efforts though there is limitation to result oriented efforts. God’s grace is still sought whilst making efforts at improvement in the standards of life and environments and to develop character in its wider sense. There is a lot of discipline prescribed in the Sikh way of life. But this discipline is a source of utmost joy joy in carrying out day to day work, without prejudice without malice. Joy the Sublime joy of reciting God’s name and serving the fellow beings by tending to the sores of an afflicted society. At the same time whilst higher living is being practiced a life of devotion to the Nirakar’is not outside the ambit of a Sikh to whom citation of His Narn lends scarlet red color.

The Sikhs do not recognize any exclusion of the individual from society. Religion to them, on the other hand is to help to take the integrated view of life. The religious and spiritual problem of an individual cannot be isolated as moral and spiritual dogmas, It is not merely converting man into God; It is also life of a good transformed into the life of man. It is not for nothing that gods of Hindu mythology seek the life on earth.

‘There is criticism; why should in any religion, revolution be imported. The religion according to these critics has no place for bleeding anybody. But says Guru Gobind Singh:

“When all efforts to restore peace prove useless and no words avail, Lawful is the flash of steel then, and right it is the sword to wield.” Some critics of these lines are great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindra Nath Tagore and an historian of eminence Jadu Nath Sarkar. It is forgotten that amongst the Guru’s followers and friends were divines of no mean achievement, Guru’s heart was an ocean of love for man irrespective of his religion. The fight was on principles against the bigoted application of shriat law by the Qazis on one hand and against the so called law enforced by the upper class amongst Hindus.

It is very significant in this connection to recall the historic decision when Pakistani tribal attacked India soon after independence and Jawahar Lal Nehru sought approval of Gandhi for fighting the Pakistani intruders in a regular style of war. Gandhi could not suggest anything more appropriate than standing up and opposing using all the modern weapons of defense and offense against the invaders.

The issues before the Gurus were far too grave and the resources, very limited. So the men and women who were tortured and troubled for generations had to be rallied round and motivated from amongst themselves. The Ninth Guru said in no uncertain terms; “My religion is never to coerce anybody nor to get coerced by the bully.”

The first coin struck by the Sikhs within a year of Guru Gobind Singhs’ death and the ones issued later during the time of Ranjit Singh bear the inscription: “Received from Guru Nanak and Gobind Singh deg (cauldron) to feed the poor, and teg (sword) for the defense of poor, and their fateh (victory).” This was the expression of challenge that with practically no resources in an environment of inhuman caste and religious bigotry) laying so great a stress on food and protection for the masses and that at the time when the great motivator was no longer amongst them?.

A story is told of a mock battle arranged by Farukh Siyaar: “A group of army men posing as Sikh warriors were given blunt weapons and poor type of horses against the Mughal group armed with the sophisticated arms, riding high bred steeds. The two sides came face to face. The side posing as Sikh warriors was jeeted at, while the Mughal side was buckled up. This was done to raise the morale of the Mughal soldiers as a whole to show what ill-equipped Sikh warriors are vis-à-vis the Mughal forces. But when the mock battle started, men posing the Sikh side raised war cry in such a gusto, as the Sikhs do in the battle field, that the Mughal side took to their heels, as if of real $$L Whatever the historical accuracy of this story, the fact remains that Mir Kasim, a historian, but anti Sikh on all accounts, who accompanied Farukh Siyyar’s campaigns could not help waiting. In this book Jbratnamah his eye witness account is as follows;

“Brave and daring deeds were amazing. Twice or thrice a day, some forty or fifty of them (Sikhs) would come out of their enclosure to gather grass for their animals, and when the combined forces of the emperor went to oppose them, they made short work of the Moghuls with arrows, muskets and small swords, and then disappeared. Such was the terror of these people and the fear of sorcery of their Chief Banda that the commanders of the royal army prayed that God might so ordain things that Banda should seek safety in flight.”

The story of Sikhs is unique. It is a chain of strong links of bold lives happy within and without; of religious beliefs at once chaste and cogent of glorious and living institution bespeaking humanism and universalist at its best; a virulent drama on the stage of universe all held together by determination, management, motivation and peak performance according to the eternal words enshrined in the Holy Granth.

For the Sikh Gurus dharam or religion too had an entirely different meaning, It meant the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth by all practical, but justified means, A just order in society had to be established. Social and political inequality had to be combated and eliminated. Power had to be recaptured for the poor and the down trodden. Motivation was the one great resource that Gurus had. There was no money to feed the warriors the way the army of the emperor was fed.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 31, 1989