«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»
As such Sikhs, throughout their five centuries of history, have sought moral and spiritual inspiration and power from the Gurus whose Words and historical experiences are with us and have been able to face the darkest hours of their life and history with unconquerable courage and ascending optimism (Chardi Kala). The savageries of tyrants and armed political repression of powerful rulers have never been able to crush the spirit of the Sikhs. They have faced such repression in the past and they will face such oppression in the future but they will never allow the flame of their faith in God and their Prophets and the Light of consciousness of His divine protection and support fade out of their hearts and souls. They have the abiding assurance of the Eternal Guru and God, that this Light shall survive in its pristine glory through the darkest hours of national and world catastrophes.
“Religion”, says Dr George Galloways, “like a stream has sometimes periods of swift advance and at other times it seems to be stagnant, and there are even points where it appears to bend backwards in its course. The growth of religious consciousness of humanity is a process of momentous significance, its progress in man’s knowledge of 114 himself, of the world and of God. Religious progress never affects all classes in a society equally and ignorant superstition will be found alongside enlightened faith.”3 Islam and Christianity also faced such high tides and retreats backwards in the first five hundred years of their existence. But unfortunately Sikhism has not enjoyed even ten years of continuous peace and rest throughout the last three hundred and fifty years of its existence. The Mughal campaigns of annihilating Sikhs, the Mghan invasions, the Maratha occupation and their reatreat from Punjab, the onslaught of British imperialism and now the combined attacks of Hindu fundamentalism in secular garb and communism in its crudest forms have turned Punjab into a concentration camp in which the Sikhs are treated as Jews were treated in Hitler’s Germany.
In the last four decades, the Sikh masses have always been fight-ing one or the other battle but in all their battles, they have been let down by their selfish, greedy, incompetent leaders.
Religious, cultural and literary progress has been thrown in the background in recent years, even by religious organizations.
Sikhism, thus, like all higher religions has faced its ups and downs. The followers of the Sikh Gurus are after all human beings struggling for perfection, and no Sikh has ever claimed to be half so perfect as the Gurus were. Fortunately, Sikhism never had a dogmatic theology of the type there always existed in Christianity, Islam and Hindu philosophic systems. Sikh theology has been fun-damentally a mystical theology, based primarily on mysti-cism of love and moral discipline of inner life inspired by the Word of the Gurus.
Purely doctrinaire approach towards religious ideals has been rejected by Sikh scriptures. Basically Sikh ism is an ethical and spiritual religion and a Path to the highest illumination and union with God. Superficial acts of piety and religious observations are not given much importance in achieving higher spiritual and mystical states. It is this concentration on inner dedication and spirituality which 115 has given to practising Sikhs, superhuman strength and moral courage to fight and ultimately defeat all the tyran-nical forces which have tried to destroy it.
“A man is spiritual” says George Santayana, “when he lives in the presence of the ideal, and whether he eats or drinks, does so for the sake of a true and ultimate good. He is spiritual when he envisages his goal so frankly that his whole material life becomes a transparent and transitive vehicle, an instrument which scarcely arrests attention but allows the spirit to use it economically and with perfect detachment and freedom.
Spirituality likes to say, “Behold the lilies of the field! For its secret has the same simplicity as their vegetative art, only spirituality has succeeded in adding consciousness without confusing instinct.”4 The writings of Guru Nanak and all his successors throw light on the inner life and vision of the Masters. On every page of Guru Granth Sahib and in every verse and line of the hudreds of hymns of Guru Gobind Singh one can see and aesthetically feel the greatness of their divine Wisdom, the sublime spiritual state in which the Gurus lived. Only a poetprophet like Guru Nanak could portray the sublime state in which his mind, heart and soul were steeped day and night
Sublime are meetings in human relations, Sublime are separations and partings, Sublime are manifold hungers of senses, Sublime are gratifications of the senses.
Sublime are prayers glorifying God, Sublime are worship and adoration of the Lord, Sublime are men lost in wilderness, Sublime are persons walking on righteous Path.
Sublime is the thought of God as near, Sublime is believing God far away, Sublime is visualizing Him here and now.
On seeing this wondrous spectacle, Lord.
I am entranced in the ecstasy of the sublime.
And this is Guru Gobind Singh’s vision of God Whom he has given a new Attributive Name of “Almighty Sword, Protector of the humble and saintly and Chastiser of the
He has no name, no dwelling place, no caste;
He has no shape or colour of lines of fate;
He is Primal Being, Embodiment of Gracious Bounty, Unborn and Infinite from the beginning.
He has no country and no holy garb;
He has no shape or form or desire;
To the East and West, To the North and South,
Look wherever you may:
There, in all eight directions God pervades in all places, As Pure and Perfect Love.
vitality and majestic splendour. The spirit of Sikhism reaches its highest fulfilment ill the heart and soul of the Sikh Panth.
This perennial philosophy of the Gurus is called “ Gurmat”, by Guru Nanak and all his successors.
The word mat in Sanskrit, Prakrit and many regional languages means: thoughts, beliefs, views, tenets, doc-trines or meditations. Buddha mat means doctrines of Buddha. Isai mat means Christian religion and doctrines. Hindu mat means Hinduism and it includes all Hindu sects. The word Gurmat means: religion and doctrines of the Sikh Gurus, and is used hundreds of times in the writings of Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Arjan. As Sikhism is a Path to be traversed by each individual ac-cording to his own efforts and aspirations, Sikhism is called Gurmat Marga or Gurmat Rah. Lord Buddha also called Buddhism Buddha Marga (Pali magga).
A Universal Broth-erhood of the Sikhs of the ten Gurus is called “Panth”. To distinguish it from other religious Brotherhoods, this Panth is known as ‘Gurmukh Panth’, Gursikh
Panth, Nirmal Panth, Khalsa Panth.” Bhai Gurdas says:
mariya sikka jagat vich Nanak nirmal-panth chalaya
used hundreds of times in the works of Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan Dev. We give below a few quotations from the works of Guru Nanak and Guru
Guru Nanak’s Verses
1. Through the spiritual influence of Gurmat One renounces his ego-consciousness, And achieves realization of Truth
4. After imbibing the wisdom of Gurmat One can attain the Supreme State (Param-pada) Of spiritual enlightenment.
Thus, says Nanak, The Guru dispels all doubts and delusions.
5. Through the spiritual discipline of Gurmat The mystical state of sahaj is achieved.
The heart and soul then remains absorbed in Sahaj
Guru Amar Das’ Verses
1. Gurmat inspires reverence, O brother, Reverence is the divine essence Of religious discipline and Truth.
Throughout the writings of all the Gurus, Sikhism, the philosophy and mystical faith of the Gurus, is dis-tinctly mentioned as Gurmat, Gurmukh mat or Gur-dikhya. And this is how Gurmat is mentioned and its divine wis-dom elaborated in hundreds of hymns. There is not a single line in the voluminous Sikh Scriptures calling Sikhism “Sant Mat” or “Nirgun Mat”.
IDENTITY OF GURMAT: SIKH PHILOSOPHY AND MYSTICISM WITH
HIGHER ETHICAL AND MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES OF MEDIEVAL
BHAKTAS AND SUFLSGod is One and Eternal. Truth is One and Eternal. God has given glimpses of His Light and Presence to many prophets and saints. The names of even Child saints like Dhruva, who was hardly five years old, and Prahlada, who was eight years old, are mentioned in the Guru Granth as the earliest saints, who received the grace and protection of God, in bye-gone ages. In the writings of Sheikh Farid, a saint of Islamic tradition and the later writings of Medieval Bhaktas, Guru Nanak and his successors saw a com-plete identity of their faith with the ethical and mystical experiences of these saints. The earlier writings of these saints and mystics were not included in the Guru Granth. Only the later writings, which were written in the highest state of illumination were accepted by the Gurus.
In these writings, these saints and mystics have virtually repudiated their earlier thoughts and turned away from them.
In this chapter, we will take up only Jayadeva, one of the earliest medieval saints of Bengal.
Gita Govinda is the well-known work of Jayadeva. Not a single verse is taken from this classic in Guru Granth. After writing Gita Govinda there was such a mystical advance in Jayadeva’s life that his mind and soul transcended the worship of a lower Deity like Krishna and found unicity and illumination in the Light and Presence of God, the Supreme Being. The Vaishnava devotees have ignored the later part of his life and idealized him as a great Vaishnava, Krishna-worshipper. Guru Nanak’ and his successors admired his final achievement in his Love-mysticism and he is called the supreme amongst Bhaktas of Kaliyuga. The two Jayadevas are historically one,but spiritually different and poles apart.
Nabha Das ji in his Bhaktamal writes: ‘The poet Jayadeva is Emperor among poets; while other poets are like petty kinds of small states. His Gita Govinda has become 121 known for its brilliance in the three worlds. It is the repository of erotics, of poetry, of the nine rasasa and of the pleasant art of love.” It is shocking to note that Jayadeva has been com-pletely ignored in the Hinduism of the Hindi belt. But in Sikh tradition he acquires the highest place amongst the Bhaktas. Bhai Gurdas describes how Gita Govinda continued to be a respectable religious classic and how a sudden mystical experience coming as Grace of God transported his mind into the realm of highest
illumination. Bhai Gurdas writes:
“In the ecstasy of Prema Bhakti (love-mysticism) Jayadeva sang Gitii-govinda in the musical melody of Sahaj (aesthetic love). He narrated in it the lila (love sport) and charitra (life) of Krishna, which even appealed to Lord God, who knows the innermost secrets of hearts. Jayadeva, once, could not think of the right words while writing. He folded his manuscript and went out for his bath and sandhya prayers.
The treasure of divine Wisdom, Lord God Himself came in the form of Bhakta Jayadeva and com-pleted the verse which the
poet had left unwritten:
When Jayadeva came back and read the verse he felt spiritually exalted and transported into mystical experi-ence which was so sublime and enrapturing that it illumined his whole heart and soul. Profoundly moved by this spiritual state of ecstasy, Jayadeva went out into the forest. There he saw a wondrous tree blazing with divine Light and on every leaf of the tree were written in shining letters the verses of complete Gita-govinda. Infinite was the mystery of this mystical experience. The Lord, thus revealed the whole Gita-govinda and exalted him beyond it to sublime experience. There, in the forest, the Lord, then revealed His divine Presence and embraced him in His Love and grace. The true saints never reveal the pro-found and deep mystery of their mystical union with the Infinite.” (Var 10, Verse 10)5 Bhai Gurdas highlights three important facts about 122
-Jayadeva’s mystical life and its stages: (1) Gita-govinda is an inspired creative work and the highest achievement of the poet in Krishna-bhakti conventional garb. (2) It is his meditations and concentrations on this divine love which opened his consciousness to higher mystical experiences through a strange phenomenal experience in spiritual ecstasy. ‘(3) Jayadeva’s experience of transcendental life is described very vividly only by Bhai Gurdas. Bengali and Orissa scholars who have written very scholarly commen-taries on Jayadeva’s life and Gita-govinda have missed the point.
Dr Hew McLeod studies Sikh ism and the medieval Bhaktas and Sufi Saints as an archeologist studies the ruins of forgottern figures of a dead civilization and culture. He not only gives speculative theories about their historic background and mutual relations, but indulges in false constructions and distortions and carries them to the realm of highly objectionable and unacademic absurdities. We have discussed the relation of Jayadeva’s thought to those of Guru Granth in this chapter.
We will take up Kabir and other Bhaktas in the next two chapters and reveal how Dr Hew McLeod spins fantasy theories having no historical or doctrinal acceptability not only about the Sikh Gurus but also about these Bhaktas like Kabir, Ravidas, Namdev. He never quotes any authoritative work or scholar in support of his irrelevant and untenable arguments.