Philosophy Of Guru Granth Sahib And Its Educational Implications

Research on Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Lakhbir Kaur Bahra has been awarded Ph.D. (Education) by University of Lucknow.

Philosophy Of Guru Granth Sahib And Its Educational Implications

Research on Sri Guru Granth Sahib titled "Philosophy of Guru Granth Sahib and its Educational Implications" by Lakhbir Kaur Bahra has been awarded Ph.D. (Education) by University of Lucknow. This work has been carried out under the guidance of Professor Moraddhwaj Varma of Department of Education of University of Lucknow. This work has pioneered in exploring many new and hidden aspects of the philosophical and educational implications of the eleventh Guru of the Sikh faith i.e. Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Scholars and educationists have opined that this work will prove a landmark and go a long way in infusing humanistic element in modern education.

The objective of this research was, first to study the whole content of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and to bring out its philosophy and then, secondly to draw educational implications of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Findings of the study are in the form of a philosophy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is a synthesis of Concept of God, World view of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Aims of human life and religion, Cherished Human values, Concept of the society and Status and role of women. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a mine of thoughts and ideas of several generations of great thinkers and saints that have accumulated over the centuries.

As it is obvious in religious scriptures the central theme is God and how one should identify one with God to make one's life meaningful for one and the fellow beings. The very first line of Sri Guru Granth Sahib defines God and His various attributes pivoting around oneness of God.

Teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib reveal that the world is not an illusion, rather meaningful and real and thus a place for righteous activities. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is full of teachings, which a man can adopt for a meaningful journey called life. Discrimination on the basis of high and low, nations and races etc. has not been encouraged as all are considered as creation of one God. Rather it shows the way to universal acceptance of multiculturalism and respect for diverse cultures.

Human life is considered as noble with a special aim to perform righteous deeds in remembrance of God. Rising above the self and implied restrictions of prejudices, service of mankind and living through honest means are the cardinal principles, which should direct the aims of human life. Aim of religion similarly should be living a life in laudation of God, living under His Will with utmost faith in the grace of God. Meaningful religion should aim at doing away with formalism and empty rituals.

Tremendous importance has been given to a number of cherished human values in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The values found have been classified as terminal values and instrumental values. Terminal values that find reference in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are: service, martyrdom, contentment, righteousness, social equality and abolition of untouchability. Service or sewa brings completion and spiritual fulfillment to man. Concept of martyrdom is committed at protecting honour, dignity and freedom of others.  Contentment helps man to abstain from greed, lust and overindulgence in various worldly desires. Righteousness means to act in the right spirit. By doing pure and right deeds man becomes fearless and happy. Society based on equality, freedom and fraternity is the ideal society as viewed by Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Untouchability has been severely condemned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib which creates divide between men on basis of birth or caste. Sri Guru Granth Sahib contains the slokas of many so- called untouchable saints and bhaktas, like Kabir, Namdev, Sadhna, etc.

In reference to instrumental values in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, truth and truthful living have been accorded the highest status. Another instrumental value is love that inspires man to love God and his creations and broadens his view to treat everybody as equal. Similarly forgiveness has been termed as an ennobling percept but very rewarding which gets spontaneous co-operation and broad based acceptance. Other instrumental values like justice, humility, compassion, non-discrimination have been given their due importance. Besides values, disvalues have also been discussed to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong for better understanding of the human beings.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib mentions various aspects of a society which provides ideal background for man to lead a meaningful life. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the society should have a human face which is free from prejudices based on caste, creed, sex and other discriminatory social evils. The just society should provide equal opportunities of growth to all without discrimination. Society should be based on spiritual harmony, scientific temper and should be free from religious dogmas and obscurantisms. Importance is attached to spiritual uplift, knowledge, magnanimity as opposed to materialism and pride of wealth.

In Sri Guru Granth Sahib a reference is found to another important social aspect of the status and role of women. The pivotal point is that a woman who gives birth to even kings cannot be termed as inferior. Woman is not a hurdle in the spiritual journey of man. Various virtues of ideal women have been also portrayed through examples. Focus is on prevention of sex based discrimination and to put women on equal footing to man where a woman has right to religion, education and other aspects of life.

Thorough and systematic study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has revealed various ideas having their educational implications relevant to present society. Findings of this research in terms of the educational implications of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are in the form of Aims of education, Concept, personality, responsibilities and duties of the teacher, Personality and duties of the Pupil, and Pedagogy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Aims of education are of two types- individual and social. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib the principal aim of education is to lead an individual to self-realization so that his full potentials are realized. Strong moral character, physical well-being and strength, emotional and aesthetic abundance are the aspects which should be the result of a meaningful education. Only individual development is of no meaning if it is not put to the good use of the society. Hence comes the social aim of education. Sri Guru Granth Sahib considers that education a true education which leads to equality in society in all aspects. A natural consequence of a true education is service of the society through honest means where resources are shared, inequalities are bridged and discrimination is abolished.      

One of the important finding from the study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which has direct educational implication, is the concept of Guru and its various dimensions. Guru has different meaning in different situations. While God is considered as the primal Guru, the word or Bani in Sri Guru Granth Sahib itself has the status of Guru. The very fact that Guruship has been conferred on Sri Guru Granth Sahib itself suggests the great esteem and importance that has been attached to the concept of Guru. Holy congregation or the sangat also can be considered as Guru because of the positive effects. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib the Guru is the spiritual guide who provides guidance to the disciple through the journey of life. Guru is considered as the divine spirit which transforms an ordinary individual to a new lease of life. While the multidimensional qualities of a true Guru make him adorable and respectable, a false teacher may pretend to be a man of great virtue and knowledge but lack of depth exposes him sooner or later. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib there are repeated warnings against such false teacher. The duties of teacher are manifold. Starting from spiritual and religious responsibilities, he has moral and social responsibility in leading the disciple through the right path and prepares him to play the greater social role.

In Sri Guru Granth Sahib the references to disciple are complementary to that of the Guru keeping in line with the great educational tradition of teacher-taught relationship. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a disciple is not one who has read a lot books or has only bookish knowledge but as one who has full grown personality under the guidance of the Guru and one who is integrated to the society to play his active role. Physical, mental and spiritual discipline should be the hallmark of a disciple as these qualities enable an individual to face the challenges of life in the righteous way. Great emphasis is placed on a disciple who is of high moral character marked with perseverance, chastity and independent thinking.  Duty of the disciple is not merely the development of the self through moral and spiritual discipline. As he is an integral part of the society his duty includes selfless service, which he should consider as his true worship. Rather than seeking personal salvation, the pupil should consider service to society as his mission. The ideal life for a pupil recommended in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is one that is engaged in beneficent activity, keeping the mind absorbed in contemplation and devotion.

The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib exert a forceful impact on the mind of the reader because of a suitable medium used by the Gurus in preaching and teaching. The poetic message coupled with Ragas appeals very much as it touches the core of the human mind. The use of popular language medium ensures that all sections of the society could identify themselves with the message. References of popular puranic stories and examples from day to day life help the common man to understand the messages more clearly. The language of the music which is used through kirtan ensured that the message of the bani was universal. The Gurus used various effective methods to spread their message of oneness of God and universal brotherhood. Often the examples from their own lives inspired the common people to achieve extraordinary heights in life.


This study may be conclusively summarized at the end in terms of philosophy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and its educational implications. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a unique religious scripture. It is unique not only for its lively, practical, and humanistic philosophy but it is also the only scripture which consists the Word (bani) of the Sikh Gurus and other saints and it is authentic as it has been handed over to the followers by the last Guru himself. The hymns of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are mostly prayers asking for the divine grace of God. The message conveyed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is that of truth, love, humility, contentment, service to mankind, self-realization, equality of man and many other such values which make it universal in appeal. Sri Guru Granth Sahib also depicts the social, religious and political background at the time of its compilation. It teaches fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. It recommends a life of a householder and rejects asceticism and other empty rituals which are in no way beneficial to the society. For spiritual achievement it is not required to renounce worldly life. These teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib make its philosophy a realistic one. Caste barriers and other discriminatory social prejudices have been rejected. Equal status of man and woman in society has been forcefully emphasized by Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The concept of Guru, disciple and the relation between teacher and his disciple has been greatly emphasized in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The role of a teacher is compared to the role of a mother. As the mother takes care of her child so also the teacher takes care of his disciple and prepares him to face the challenges of life. The responsibilities of Guru towards the disciple have also found important place in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru helps the disciple to understand God and His creation and prepares him for a meaningful role not only in his own personal life but for the society as well. Sri Guru Granth Sahib believes in the excellence and utility of life as the world is considered as the place for righteous deeds. The necessity of true meaningful education to lead a truthful life based on sound moral character where everybody is considered as equal is stressed. Sri Guru Granth Sahib emphasizes the importance of education to bring poise and balance in life. A combination of knowledge, action and devotion can bring physical and spiritual well-being of individuals as well as the society so that the best results may be achieved. Pedagogy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is very simple and impactful. Various references of puranic stories and examples from day to day life have been used to teach and preach the masses. Music and other effective methods were used by the Sikh Gurus to spread their message of oneness of God and universal brotherhood.         

Educational Implications Of The Philosophy Of Sri Guru Granth Sahib

The study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib led to some important implications for education:

The concept of God as described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib has its own educational implication. When a disciple recites the 'Mool Mantra', he not only tries to visualize the multidimensional characteristics of God, but also tries to inculcate the characteristics like truth, fearlessness, no enmity to anyone etc. in himself. Believe in the grace of God makes a man humble which leads to self-realization and emotional and aesthetic richness. Life acquires a new meaning thereby inspiring a person to higher aims of selflessness and service to society. The belief in oneness of God eliminates all distinctions. To realize the God in himself one has to have faith in the value system and control his inherent qualities, which is also the ultimate individual aim of education. God is also considered as the Divine teacher, thus setting the benchmark of the teacher or guru in the educational system.

One often hears about the aimlessness of modern youth which has lead to many social/ cultural problems. The world view of Sri Guru Granth Sahib inspires man to firmly believe that the world is a place of righteous deeds. Once this concept becomes clear in the mind of the disciple, all his energy is concentrated towards leading a meaningful life. The meaning of life is more reinforced by respecting others and doing selfless service for the society. Human life is considered a precious privilege. Hence one should not only value his own life but also consider the life of others also as equally important. Thus barriers of caste, colour, creed and gender become meaningless. The world view of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is thus the foundation for various social aims of education.

The aims of human life as envisaged in Sri Guru Granth Sahib can be treated as milestones of the aims of education. The aims of religion set the ethical and moral standards in the mind of the disciple to achieve the aims of human life vis- a- vis the aims of education. Giving the explanation and purpose of human life is at the core of religious philosophy. The same can be said about the aims of education, which guides a human being about leading a life of meaningful existence. The mention of 'Gyan Khand' in the ethico-spiritual progress of man is the ample proof of the importance of education in the life of a human being. The integrated message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, combining devotion with performance of worldly duties with earnest endeavour for the welfare of all has its parallel in the aim of modern education, which aims at training individuals to become worthy citizens. The importance attached to livelihood through honest means finds its echo in the aims of education which wants to root out corruption from society.

The educational implication of human values like social equality and abolition of untouchability assumes special significance in the Indian context which is plagued by traditional perpetuating discrimination. The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib aim at inculcating values that bring out the broad universal outlook of man, which has assumed more importance in the present context of education, where the world has become a global village. As more and more importance is attached to the social implications of education, the various social values taught in Sri Guru Granth Sahib may be considered as the factors that can help integrating education to society.

The instrumental values like, truth, love, forgiveness, justice, humility, compassion are universal appeal and various subsequent schools of education thought have also given importance to these values.

The aim of education is to inculcate in man the scientific temper based on reasoning and understanding. The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib similarly show the path where the mind is freed from social dogmas, superstitions and other psychological barriers. All human beings are integral part of society and they must live, act in a manner which is befitting to the society as a whole. There is strong message against the suppression and oppression of the down trodden, low castes and untouchables and they are provided the equal status in the society. The constitution of India and modern education are reinforcing these concepts of equal opportunity for quality education for all without discrimination. The concept of society in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, in its various dimensions encouraged the masses to exercise its responsibility to the society. Endeavour to secure equal educational opportunity for all was one of the natural outcomes of the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib advocate equality of sexes and showers respects upon the woman- folk. This equality was advocated in a difficult time when there was large-scale discrimination and evil practice like suttee and female infanticide. Inspite of the advancements made, discrimination still remains a fact. The declining female to male ratio and evil of female infanticide under the guise of modern medical advances has set the alarm bells ringing to all those concerned about the problem. The educational relevance of reinforcing the concept of Sri Guru Granth Sahib of imparting honour and respect to women is evidently dear. The Gurus have advocated literacy as one of the ways to uplift the women and bring them at status equal to men. Still today female literacy levels are lower than man. Hence female education is equally important today as a tool of empowering women. Thus Sri Guru Granth Sahib has deep implications as far as status of women and their education is concerned.

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