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The Guru Granth Sahib holds a unique position among all religious scriptures, serving as the eternal spiritual guide for Sikhs.

The Guru Granth Sahib holds a unique position among all religious scriptures, serving as the eternal spiritual guide for Sikhs. It embodies the collective wisdom of the ten Sikh Gurus, representing the divine essence in the form of the Shabad Guru Granth Sahib. Renowned philosopher and historian Arnold Toynbee aptly noted its unparalleled significance, stating that the Granth holds greater importance for Sikhs than the Quran for Muslims or the Bible for Christians.

Unlike other religious texts, the Guru Granth Sahib is not revered as a deity or image but as the embodiment of Gurbani, the divine Word, revealed directly from the Supreme to the Guru. Gurbani is not a product of human speculation but a sacred revelation bestowed upon chosen individuals at the pinnacle of consciousness, transcending ordinary human experience. This divine transmission underscores the profound spiritual essence embedded within Gurbani, guiding Sikhs on a transformative journey towards spiritual enlightenment and moral integrity. Through understanding and embodying its teachings, Sikhs strive to attain a deeper connection with the Divine and cultivate a life of compassion, righteousness, and universal love.

 “ 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 Gurus meticulously preserved the contents of the holy Granth in its original and authentic form, setting it apart from other scriptures. Unlike the Vedas, Ramayan, Gita, Bible, or Quran, which were not directly scripted by their respective revered figures, the compositions of the Sikh Gurus remain intact as originally composed. This distinction is highlighted by the renowned English writer Maculiffe, who emphasizes that while many great teachers left no written legacy, the compositions of the Sikh Gurus are preserved for posterity.

Moreover, the inclusion of compositions by revered Hindu Saints (Bhagats), Muslim Sufi Faqirs, and devotee bards (Bhatts) in the holy Granth further underscores its universality. However, this selection process was not arbitrary but meticulously guided by Guru Arjan Dev Ji's criteria. The compositions included were those that reflected a spiritual unity with the Divine and were believed to be directly inspired by God. This underscores the firm belief in uncompromised monotheism within Gurbani, recognizing one infinite reality - Akal, Anadi, and Anant. Through this inclusive approach, Gurbani transcends religious boundaries, emphasizing the universal spiritual truths essential for guiding individuals towards enlightenment and unity with the Divine.

“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.)

During the compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1604 A.D., the compositions of five Sikh Gurus - Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amardas, Guru Ramdas, and Guru Arjan Dev ji - were incorporated, with Guru Arjan Dev ji's own compositions forming the largest corpus. Later, the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh ji, added the works of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur ji, thus totaling the compositions of six Gurus.

The divine Word, known as Shabad or Gurbani, was revered as Guru in spirit by Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and was reiterated by all subsequent Gurus during their lifetimes. Though the formal Guruship was bestowed upon the Guru Granth Sahib by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh ji, before departing for his heavenly abode. This act elevated the Guru Granth Sahib to the status of eternal spiritual guide for the Sikh community, encapsulating the collective wisdom and divine teachings of the Gurus.

The Guru Granth Sahib, revered by Sikhs worldwide, stands as a testament to inclusivity and pluralism. In an era marked by religious discord, it embraced the diverse names for the Divine, recognizing Hindu and Muslim appellations alike such as Prameshwar, Parbrham, Allah, and Khuda. This universality extends to its treatment of religious practices, offering equal reverence to both Pooja and Namaz, Temple and Mosque. While Sikhism is sometimes misconstrued as a fusion of other faiths, it is distinctively autonomous, neither a sect of Hinduism nor Islam, nor influenced by any Avatar or Prophet. It is a standalone, universal scripture fostering unity amidst diversity.

Unlike historical chronicles or philosophical treaties, the Guru Granth Sahib transcends categorization, eschewing denunciation of other religions. Instead, it critiques empty rituals and exploitative priestly classes that sow division among the faithful, emphasizing the pursuit of spiritual truth over the promise of heavenly rewards or punishments. As the renowned Urdu poet Ghalib mused, understanding the truth behind heaven's allure is secondary to finding inner peace. Through its teachings, the Guru Granth Sahib advocates for a holistic understanding of spirituality that transcends sectarian boundaries, emphasizing compassion, equality, and self-realization.

“ਹਮੇ ਮਾਲੂਮ ਹੈ ਜਨਤ ਕੀ ਹਕੀਕਤ ਲੇਕਿਨ ਦਿਲ ਕੋ ਬਹਿਲਾਨੇ ਕਾ ਗਾਲਿਬ ਖਿਆਲ ਅੱਛਾ ਹੈ”

Gurbani emphasizes the concept of liberation (Mukti) from the cycle of birth and death, portraying it as achievable within one's lifetime rather than solely after death. This profound idea, articulated by Bhagat Kabir ji in Granth Sahib, challenges the notion of posthumous liberation by highlighting the uncertainty of existence beyond death. According to Kabir ji's teachings, attaining liberation after death holds little significance as individuals remain unaware of what occurs thereafter. This perspective underscores the importance of spiritual awakening and inner transformation during one's earthly existence, urging individuals to seek liberation through righteous living, self-realization, and devotion to the Divine. Gurbani thus offers a compelling framework for understanding life's purpose and pursuing spiritual liberation in the here and now, rather than deferring it to an uncertain future.

 “ਮੂਏ ਹੂਏ ਜੋ ਮੁਕਤ ਦਿਉਗੇ ਮੁਕਤ ਨ ਜਾਨੇ ਕੋਇਲਾ”

The essence of Sikh ideology lies not in seeking mere reunion with the divine, but in cultivating a consciousness of God within humanity. Contrary to the notion of renouncing worldly life for spiritual elevation, Sikh teachings advocate an integrated approach, melding the spiritual with the temporal. Gurbani vehemently rejects the idea of abandoning societal responsibilities in favor of escapism, urging followers to embrace life fully while maintaining spiritual integrity. 

Central to this philosophy is the concept of meditating on the divine name for personal purity and moral fortitude, coupled with honest labor for sustenance and sharing one's earnings for the betterment of society. Additionally, Sikh tradition cautions against venerating ascetics who forsake their familial duties, don religious attire, and seek alms, emphasizing the importance of remaining engaged in worldly affairs while nurturing a deep spiritual connection.

“ਗੁਰ ਪੀਰ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਨ ਜਾਇ ਤਾਕਿ ਮੂਲ ਨ ਲਗੀਆ ਪਾਇ । ਘਾਲ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਹਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਨਿਹ ਸੇਇ ।”

The Sikh community's commitment to understanding and embodying the teachings of Gurbani, the sacred scripture of Sikhism, is rooted in a profound sense of spiritual duty and ethical responsibility. This dedication is exemplified by the strict injunction against begging, upheld by Sikhs worldwide. Instead, Sikhs actively contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of the countries they inhabit, embodying the principles of self-reliance and industriousness espoused by Gurbani.

Despite originating in an era marked by religious strife and intolerance, the teachings within the Guru Granth Sahib, spanning five centuries from the eleventh to seventeenth, transcend the narrow confines of sectarianism and dogma. Unlike some historical religious texts, the Guru Granth Sahib does not reflect the biases or beliefs of any ruling class; rather, it elucidates universal truths fearlessly and impartially. This inclusivity and universality resonate deeply with modern sensibilities, fostering harmony and understanding across diverse cultures and beliefs.

Moreover, the compatibility between scientific knowledge and the wisdom enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib is striking. While Western societies experienced periods of conflict between religious orthodoxy and scientific inquiry, Sikhism offers a refreshing perspective of harmony between spirituality and science. Even predating the advent of modern scientific discoveries, the holistic truths revealed in Gurbani resonate with and complement scientific understanding, highlighting the timeless relevance and wisdom of Sikh teachings.

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 the universe came into existence so many billions of years 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॥”

“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)

Understanding the universe 

The universe, with its countless suns, moons, and planets, is a marvel beyond comprehension. The supreme essence, however, transcends mere intellect or reasoning; only those elevated souls who reach profound spiritual heights can grasp its true nature. Though humanity exists under the divine gaze, the ineffable remains unseen—a testament to the wonder of existence.

Throughout history, Sikhism has faced scrutiny, with thinkers like Karl Marx questioning its role as a societal opiate, purportedly used to subjugate the marginalized and uphold the interests of the powerful. While it's true that certain segments of the clergy have aligned themselves with oppressors, Sikh scripture stands as a resolute beacon against injustice and inequality. The Holy Granth vehemently condemns all forms of prejudice, exposing the exploitation perpetuated by despots and tyrants.

Central to Sikh teachings is the notion that excessive wealth, acquired through unjust means, leads only to moral degradation and societal imbalance. Gurbani advocates for a balanced life, eschewing extremes of poverty or opulence. In a society where material wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure becomes a shallow substitute for true contentment. Instead, Sikhism champions a middle path—one that fosters moral integrity, communal harmony, and individual fulfillment.

Granth uniting humankind

The Holy Granth, revered by the Sikh community, stands as a beacon of unity, rejecting all divisions based on caste, creed, colour, and gender. Embedded within its verses is a resolute denouncement of the caste system entrenched in ancient Indian society, particularly the discriminatory varn ashram propagated by Manu. In medieval times, society was starkly divided between the privileged upper castes and the marginalized lower classes, with the Brahmins assuming religious authority while relegating the so-called "shudras" to the margins of society. However, the advent of Gurbani marked a revolutionary departure from such divisive norms. 

Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh Guru, led the effort to compile and canonize Gurbani, which was then enshrined in the Granth Sahib. The first ceremony took place at the Harmander Sahib, now called the Golden Temple, in 1604 A.D. This marked a significant change: the temple was open to everyone, regardless of caste, creed, colour, or social status. This event emphasized the universal message of Gurbani, highlighting the equality of all people under one Divine entity. Gurbani promotes a world where respect, equality, and inclusivity are paramount, breaking down the barriers that once divided society.

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 the mother's womb. The Holy Granth did not approve any incarnation of god (avtarvaad) or worship deities or images.)

In Sikh belief, the Guru isn't seen as a divine incarnation or prophet. Instead, they are viewed as spiritually united with the Divine Essence. Gurbani, the Sikh scripture, sees human life as a unified whole, not split into spiritual or worldly realms. It strongly opposes tyranny, injustice, religious intolerance, and the oppression of people. This viewpoint was especially significant during a period when Europe embraced the 'divine right theory' of governance, proclaiming kings as infallible representatives of God. 

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.)

Throughout Sikh history, from the resistance against foreign invasions during Guru Nanak's time to the sacrifices made by the Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Gurus and their followers, the importance of understanding Gurbani has been paramount. Guru Nanak's defiance against Babur's invasion led to his imprisonment, highlighting the courage and resilience inherent in Sikh teachings. 

The martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and the Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh, who faced persecution for their beliefs, exemplifies the unwavering commitment to principles of justice and freedom. These sacrifices underscore the profound message of Guru Granth Sahib, advocating for open-mindedness, tolerance, and pluralism, rejecting political hegemony and violence in the name of religion. The divine wisdom encapsulated in Gurbani transcends boundaries of faith, emphasizing the universality of spiritual truth. By embracing Gurbani, Sikhs uphold the values of human dignity, equality, and freedom, ensuring a legacy of resilience and compassion for generations to come.

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.)

Final Word 

The Guru Granth Sahib stands as a modern, scientific, and universal scripture, fostering an environment conducive to the unity of God, the equality of humanity, interfaith dialogue, human dignity, and freedom for all. Its teachings extend beyond religious boundaries, advocating for the preservation of the purity and natural beauty of the earth. Serving as a highway to love, faith, and truthful living, the Guru Granth Sahib inspires individuals to embrace these principles in their daily lives, promoting harmony, compassion, and respect for all beings.

 

*Based on an article by Manjit Singh, published in Bharat Sandesh on 31st August 2013

 

 

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