Monday, 24 May 2010

Sikhism: A Leading Faith

Book Introduction

Sikh Ik Sresht Dharam Kivayn (Panjabi)
(How Sikhi is a Prime Faith ?)
Author: Bhai Sahib Subedar Dharam Singh Sujjon

It has been said that Guru Nanak’s teachings are true for all times and places. That means that the Guru’s Word (Gurbani) is the one constant in a changing world. Not only that time marches on and people and places change (geographically and in time), but that human knowledge of the physical world is increasing at an ever accelerating pace through advances in science, computer and information technologies. These are powerful aids to the human brain and can be used constructively to enhance the quality of life, or destructively to annihilate life on this earth, this “temple of God” (dharamsal).

Guru Nanak’s mission remains relevant to the ultimate life objective of human beings on this earth, which is the reunion of the human soul (atma) with its Source, the Param-Atma (Parmatma) called by many Names e.g. Waheguru, God or Allah. Continual interpretation and application of the Guru’s Word, Gurbani, to a changing world becomes necessary for the human soul to achieve its final objective.

Bhai Sahib Subedar Dharam Singh Sujjon’s treatise, Sikh Ik Sresht Dharam Kivayn (Panjabi) is a continuation of his earlier research. He subscribes to, and builds upon, Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Ji’s spiritual experiences described in publications such as “Unditthi Dunya” (The Unseen World, both Panjabi and English versions are available). These essays, reconcile scientific discoveries to date with the spiritual path shown by Guru Nanak Sahib five hundred years ago.

However, there are certain 21st Century aspects relevant to this treatise, which need to be mentioned at the outset. Bhai Sahib’s postulates and conclusions may not be readily acceptable to traditional interpretations of Gurbani which often attempt to distinguish between literal interpretations, and those which take account of Gurbani idiom, metaphor, allegory and the folk lore used in Guru Granth Sahib. To gain maximum benefit, a sincere effort should be made to understand the systematic presentation of thoughts based on a long life dedicated to Gurmatt living, study and experience. Depending upon own life experience, we all stand on different rungs of the ladder of knowledge (gyaan – see below). Depending on own “logic bubbles” (sum total of own experience and understanding), we may or may not agree with all that is tendered in discussion.

In recent times, interfaith harmony in the Global Village has been given the highest priority by world governments due to religious tensions, especially between Islam and Christianity in the western countries. Religious representatives in the interfaith area attempt to interpret religious ideologies to find shared human values; and to find solutions to the self-inflicted challenges faced by today’s materialist world. The stress is on community cohesion in multicultural societies created by increase in migrations of religio-ethnic communities in the last few centuries. Religious mediators in the interfaith area are trying to extract maximum compromises from own diverse religious ideologies, some in good faith (no pun intended) whilst others to please their political masters in the countries they live in. Incentives such as grants, and awards and honours are in plentiful supply in this area of “community work”. State version of “secularism” is being used to suppress religious freedoms. That would include interpretation of religious ideologies which the state would regard as not conducive to interfaith harmony.

Yet, without clear spiritual goals, human life is reduced to an aimless pursuit of materialist shadow chasing. Also, we face a serious problem when talking about one’s faith or chosen religious path. By its very nature, a “faith” (chosen religious path) demands total “faith” (trust and commitment). One’s faith in own religion has to be total or none at all, albeit, interpretation can vary; therefore, we find splinter groups in all the main world religions. Whether one belongs to a main stream religious path or a splinter group, there are no compromises to be made so far as the true believers are concerned. The “moderate” interfaith mediators close to the state establishment, have an uphill struggle when trying to find common ground between religious ideologies.

These are the thoughts at the back of my mind, as I read the title of this publication, which translated into English could be misread as,“How Sikh (Faith) is the best religion”. However "Ik" should be read as "a" and not "the". Yet, of course, every true followers believes own religion to be the right path to the ultimate objective of this life. In that sense own religion in the eyes of the practitioner is the best religion, without having to denigrate other religious paths.

This collation of essays by Bhai Sahib shows that Sikhi (preferred to the westernized description “Sikhism”) is the one and only path leading to the final return of the human soul to its Source, the Creator Being. An outsider could say, “Of course, a Sikh author would say that about the Sikh religion, wouldn’t he?”

That would be the wrong conclusion. More so as we realize that different religions have own diverse spiritual goals. Therefore, the title is true so far as the well defined Sikhi goal is concerned. Other religions have own goals such as zannat, swarag, nirvana, mukti etc and theirs may be the right paths for their own religious objectives set for human life. As the Sikh goal is described, so the Sikh path is the only path to that goal.

The Timeless Creator Being, as the Satguru, the Giver of Knowledge came to the earth as Satguru Jyote (Divine Light) in Guru Nanak Sahib, to show the way to humanity for all time to come. The Jyote passed through nine other human Guru forms, the Guru personalities, and now resides in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture. Thus, the Gurbani compiled as Guru Granth Sahib by the Satguru Jyote in the Fifth Guru personality, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, is the Creator’s Own Word. That includes the Bani ostensibly of the Bhagats from other religious backgrounds

Bhai Sahib has quoted Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s description of the Creator being as “Unlimited Self Aware Potential Energy” (Achal Moorat unbhao parkash amtoj kahejay – Jaap Sahib). The Creator Being exists in three states: as invisible Nirgun Nirankar (as potential and formless energy), as visible Light (Jyote), which is heard as Naam or the Word “Waheguru” (Wondrous Enlightener) from every particle and all that is created. The Jyote is also the Satguru, the True Giver of Knowledge. The Jyote was in Guru Nanak Sahib soon after he was born and passed through the other nine Guru personalities to finally reside in the Shabad or Word Guru, Guru Granth Sahib.

As the Sikhs were directed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Jyote manifests itself through the Five Beloved Ones, the Panj Piaray in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib during the Amrit Sanchaar (the Sikh initiation) ceremony when the gift of Naam is received i.e. the Word “Waheguru” is heard and initial direct link with the Jyote (Creator Being in visible form) is made. The Sikh continues with the practice of Naam Simran i.e. the repetition and continual experience of “Waheguru” with every breath. And so the atma begins to evolve steadily towards own Source, the Paramatma. This is the only path for all humanity and no other.

The human soul, the atma, must shed its three outer coverings (bodies or sareers) to be able to merge like “water with water” with the Source from whence it sprung and got separated. The three outer coverings are, the physical (this earthly body, the energy and the causal (ego-centric ideas) bodies. Within these three bodies is trapped the atma which is part of the Creator Being. It is like a droplet of water separated from, and seeking return to, the Ocean, from whence it arose. The atma got ensnared in the three outer coverings through the illusion of maya and ego-centric duality (haomai). The return path is through acquisition of true knowledge (gyaan) through active life of a Gursikh. Therefore, opt-out life, spent uselessly for acquisition of “knowledge” as preached by some Eastern ideologies, is not the Sikh way.

After the human form, the soul would pass through the experience of the other Khands or realms. Starting with this world, the Dharam Khand, the others are Gian Khand, Saram Khand, Karam Khand and the final destination Sach Khand the Realm of the Truth or Ultimate Reality wherein resides the “Nirankar”, the Formless, who assumes Form, as Light (Jyote) and as Sound (is heard as the Word or Shabad “Waheguru”) when He so Wills.

Bhai Sahib has quoted Albert Einstein as saying, “Experience is knowledge. Everything else is information.” Only that which one has experienced and accepted is true knowledge (gyaan in Gurbani language). The rest is collation of information from books which is then reproduced to impress others. Acquisition of knowledge is an interesting underlying Gurbani-based theme of Bhai Sahib’s writings. The following is my humble understanding:

The environment, this earth and all that is around us as the visible Light (Jyote) of the Creator Being, is the Teacher. Experience is true knowledge and is gained through Satguru’s Grace and not otherwise (Gur bin gyaan na hoi.) Therefore, the “book scholar” who sits aloof and keeps gathering information is not the one who gains true knowledge. Rather, true knowledge (gyaan) is gained by one who lives a full life, serves creation by seeing the Creator in all i.e. by shedding the illusion of duality (the ego-centric duvait) and experiences the Creator and His Hukam (Will) through creation. This is the participative whole life path shown by Guru Nanak, the Jyote Guru, the Satguru on this earth.

There are higher “schools” established by the Creator beyond this earth experience for those who progress along the right path. These are the Khands, other realms of higher experiences and knowledge revealed for the first time by Satguru Jyote in Guru Nanak Sahib. Spiritual knowledge and advancement is gained from constant awareness and feeling (anbhav) of the Creator Being in all that is around us, through swas swas simran of the Word “Waheguru”, which is the Naam (Name) also heard emanating from all creation. All the cyclic migrations of the soul through life forms leading up to the human form, and onward passage of the soul with its outer coverings (bodies or sareers) through four Khands (realms), Dharma, Gyaan, Saram and Karam, before finally reaching the fifth, which is the Sach Khand, are stages in this evolutionary process of gaining the ultimate gyaan, whereby the soul returns to its source and the illusion of body and mind is removed. The process of experience based “anbhav Parkaash” is thus completed; the ray of light returns to the Source of Light, the separated droplet - the atma - returns to and becomes one with the Ocean, the Parmatma, the Source of all creation.

Bhai Sahib’s research and conclusions are based on a long life spent in gathering experience-based knowledge (gyaan). Indeed, his understanding of complex scientific theories and discoveries is most remarkable as illustrated by their description and application to the topics under discussion. Scientific and spiritual tracks run parallel to each other up to the furthest point, until the track of physical science comes to its end (i.e. to the point reached by science to-date) while the spiritual journey continues on the vehicle of Dhur ki Bani (Gurbani) to its natural conclusion, leading the lost human soul to its final destination, the Source from whence it sprung (Jeh teh upjio Nanaka leen Tahay meh maan – GGS p. 1326). That is the final goal of the path of Sikhi.

All religious paths do not start with the same goal. Yet, according to Gurbani, there is no other option for the human soul but to ultimately return to the Source from whence it was separated. The conclusion of these essays is that only the path of Sikhi shows the clear milestones, the Panj Khands, the five realms or spheres of progressive passage of the human soul, leading right up to the final destination, the Fifth Khand, the Sach Khand, the Realm of Truth (absolute knowledge).

The ultimate knowledge is given by the Satguru Jyote in Guru Nanak Sahib in Japji Sahib. Quite uniquely amongst the world religions, the qualities of the Creator Being are described in the Mool Mantar, the Primal Formula, as the opening passage of Japji Sahib and the Panj Khands are described quite vividly towards the concluding part. Japji Sahib is a unique gift for the guidance of humanity.

Those steeped in standard interpretation of Gurbani may not agree with some of Bhai Sahib’s postulates and conclusions. Criticism, constructive and in good faith, or otherwise, would follow and is understandable. There are always reservations and doubts about areas such as the unseen world, the sakhis associated with Guru Sahibans, the miracles, interpretation of the Panj Khands, how Bhagat Bani was included in Guru Granth Sahib, and the remarkable assertion that no one, not even the Bhagats, found salvation before the arrival of Guru Nanak Sahib. Some in the interfaith area would even argue about the “Best religion” angle. For long has it been held that Guru Nanak Sahib preached that all religious paths lead to the same ultimate goal.

In the second part, Bhai Sahib has touched on Gurmatt methodology for approaching modern topics such as unchecked advances in science, use of animals in scientific experiments, genetic engineering, organ donations and transplants, human cloning, and euthanasia. Other topics for ongoing Gurmatt based research would be: human responsibility towards the environment, population control, use of limited resources on earth. There are also modern social topics such as divorce and remarriage, sex outside marriage, sexual biases such as homosexuality, and impact of the equality of women on married and social life, and their equal role in conducting religious ceremonies (maryada).

It is important that this book is read in its Gurbani context to gain maximum benefit. The intention is to gain Gurbani based knowledge (gyaan); to accept what relates to own experience and intuition and to keep in reserve the rest as “information”. For, what does not appeal to reason or the intellect today may become part of own knowledge (gyaan) tomorrow with life experience.

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be included in publications subject to prior approval

Gurmukh Singh

1 comment:

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