The Two Questions
by Sirdar Kapur Singh (National Professor of Sikhism)
A German intellectual, Dr. Victor Muckjet-Jun, of Dusseldorf, Germany, sent the following two questions to the SGPC, Amritsar, sometime in the first half of the year 1959. Answers to these questions were prepared by Sirdar Kapur Singh.
Q. No.1: Is Sikhism only good for India and the Hindus, or good for all peoples, for we Germans also?
Answer: The question may mean two different things and maybe split up in two parts accordingly:
The first , is Sikhism ex-hypothesis, that is, on the basis of its own initial claims, only intended for a particular people or country, or does it claim to be oecumenical, for the whole mankind?
The second, is Sikhism the religion that fulfils the highest aspirations and meets with the requirements of modern man, irrespective of his history, race and geography?
The first part of the question can be clearly answered, without recourse to dogma while the answer to the second part has to be based upon an opinion, which, in the case of every intelligent and unbiased man, should only be arrived at after proper study and thought.
The claim of the founders of the Sikh religion is that it is eminently suitable for the modern man, irrespective of his race or the clime in which he lives. Its basic propositions are of universal import, namely:
The order of Reality revealed by the properly cultivated religious experience is the only true Reality.
A vision and unitive experience of this Reality is the only true activity fit for serious and mature minds.
Man is capable os pursuing this activity consistently with making his own livelihood in the context of his socio-political activities and without denial and renunciation of the world around him.
The most efficacious way to this transformation is the psychological-cum-ethical discipline, which is the heart of the Sikh religion, the way of the Name, or Noumenon. The Sikh Prophets, The Gurus, declare again and again in the Sikh doctrine the following strain:
Hail, hail the Light of God, which has manifested through the Guru, for, these truths shall transform the whole of mankind.
[so sat(i)gur(u) pura dhann(u) dhann(u) hai jin(i) har(i) updes(u) de sabh sist(i) savaaree.]
(Vaar Vadhans M4, SGGS, 586)
Whosoever shall hear and follow the Nanaks, the Sikh Prophets, shall transcend the limits which at present circumscribe the human personality.
[jo jo saran(i) pario gur naanak, abhai daan(u) sukh paai.]
(Bilaaval M5, SGGS 820)
Sikhism further claims the brotherhood of all men and the fatherhood of a Personal God, and it does not countenance the assertion that any one people or person is chosen by God for a unique and final revelation of Truth, and it thus asserts the fundamental unity of all religions.
The second part of the question must be answered by every man for himself, after study and unbiased inquiry. Sikhism discourages imposition in any shape or form, in this respect.
Q. No. 2: Are there prophets in the Bible, or the Vedas, or the Quran, who tell us about the advent of Guru Nanak?
Answer: The question conceals a postulate which Sikhism does not accept as self-evident or demonstrably true. The postulate is that the Truth of Religion is beyond the reach of human perception unless a unique and final revelation of it is vouchsafed by God to mankind through a specially appointed individual. It is the basic postulate of the judaic religious tradition, of the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that the truths of reigions have been exclusively and finally revealed in a unique and final act and at a single point in Space-Time. From this it follows that any new religion or even a new interpretation of reigion must be authorised by the evidence already contained in this final and unique act; otherwise, it is a priori errant, a heresy. Sikhism, on the other hand, teaches that the Truth of Religion is ab initio embedded in the heart of man and that its ultimate validity is to be discerned in human experience itself, and not in anything extraneous, though Sikhism admits that there have been, and shall be, extraordinarily gifted persons in whom the Truth of Religion has assumed unusual vividness and thus their revelations and teachings are of immense help to mankind, such as the ten Sikh Prophets, the Gurus.
The Pentateuch, the Bible and the Quran are the documents of a single historical tradition and movement, the Judaic, and these books, therefore, lay claims for the validity of their revelations on the basis of the aforementioned postulate. The postulate had become the cornerstone of all classical thought, not only the religious, in the ancient world, the Semitic, the Greek and the Hindu, and it was assumed that whatever was truly ture had already been known, and that, therefore, the only legitimate inquiry for man was to search for a true exegesis, and not for a new discovery.
The modern age of mankind was made possible only when this postulate was dropped and discarded qua every field of human inquiry, and now to retain it in the matter of the Truth of Religion cannot be acceptable to any truly enlightened mind.
It is precisely for this reason, for refusing to come out of the prison of this unwarranted postulate, that the old world religions, the Semitic and the Aryan, have become outdated for the true needs of mankind today. Do not the exclusionary claims of the Pentateuch, the Bible and the Quran that the final and unique revelation of God's Truth is deposited in their respective texts alone, contradict and cancel one another, and thus reduce all such claims absurdum?
Vedic texts do not by themselves make any such claims of being the depository of the only true, final and exclusive revelation, though a claim of this nature has been made in respect of these texts by their exponents. It is asserted that the Veda is eternal and all-true, not on account of its unique revelation in a single point of Space-Time, but a corollary of certain logical postulates, too intricate and obscure to be expunded here, given in the Mimamsa School texts f the Hindus. The Veda text does not pretend to contain the prophecies of the kind contemplated in the question under answer, and besides, it is highly cryptic and obscure as necessitated by the logic of its own argument, which is that, while approaching the Truth, human comprehension fails at the final stages. Therefore, the gods have a partiality for the obscure and the doublethink; prokshakama hi devah, declares the Nirukta (7.1). If, therefore, attempts can be made to discover the secrets of atomic fission in the Veda-texts, it should not be an impossible task, given the necessary ingenuity, to find authority in the texts, for the advent of Guru Nanak.
But Sikhism does not stand in need of any such evidence to establish its validity.
A text of the post-Vedic Hindu canon, called, the Bhavishyapurana,to which the Hindu scholars assign the pre-Christian centuries as the date of its compilation, contains, in a summary form, the substance of the Book of Genesis from Adam to Abraham. (Pragiter, Dynasties of Kali Age, p. xviii). This text also contains the following prognostications concerning the advent of Guru Nanak in the modern age:
advai lokrakshaartham malechhaanu naash hetve
pashchameshu shubhe deshe vedeevamshe cha Naanakah.
This means that:
At this period of Time, for the upliftment of mankind, for the destruction of its sickness and inpurities, Nanak shall take birth in the blessed western region of India in the tribe of the high-caste Veda-knowers.
[Courtesy: Reproduced from the Sikh Review, June 1959, pp. 26-29]