Indian Thought and Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Dr. Jodh Singh
The Indian culture had begun to be built with the coming into being of the Indian Sub-Continent and throughout the ages but the Vedic culture began with the coming of Aryans and settling in the Sub-continent about five to seven thousand years ago. In the vast ocean of the Indian culture the Vedic culture is, like countless islands, a small island because ‘viewing impartially, we begin to perceive that the spirituality of the Indian culture, sense of renunciation and disinclination to amass anything, faith in the other world and non-violence, etc. were the original sources available in pre-Vedic era. For still, for various reasons, in the present age, when the Indian philosophy is talked about, under this philosophy generally the conditions after the advent of Aryans and the development of the thought process during that time is considered Indian culture and the most ancient literature of India, the Vedas written in Sanskrit. Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa excavations have shaken the roots of this reckoning because the seals found in the excavations and the scripts of the inscriptions thereon have still not been deciphered because their language is not Sanskrit. In Rigveda (10,136) (inits Keshi Sukat), Mantradrishta Rishi, is shown as excpressing his surprise on looking at a nude recluse with long hair. The excavation and such finds are enough to highlight this fact that before the coming of the Aryans in waves and settling in India, there lived in India an ancient civilization, of progressive and peace loving people which had built large towns and they practiced meditation and penance, etc. As a matter of fact, it was the same civilization which had been destroyed or as one may say suppressed with the Aryan conquest of the Sub-continent and later on the same stream re-appeared in the form of Buddhist and Jain faiths during the days of Upanishads and confronted with the Aryan literature and thought with predominance of ritualistic practices. On the one side were the Charavakas and on the other were Buddha and Jains and the effect thereof on the Indian psyche was that many of the kings adopted Budhism and it spread far and wide, not only in India but in many other far off countries also.
Simultaneously, the efforts to understand the Vedic thought continued unabated and Nyaye-Vaisheshak, Shankyoga, Poorbmimansa and Brahmsutras were also written. To take the import subtle sutras of khat-darshan (Six schools of Hindu philosophy) to the common people, countless dissertations, prosody and commentaries were written. The writers of such literature brought to the fore the deep insight into their import and replenished the stock of Indian philosophy on the one hand, and many new faiths and sects also came into being, on the other.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth and the ballads of Bhai Gurdas are called the basic writings of the Sikh faith. In the context of all the branches and sub-branches of the Indian philosophy, the critical analysis of the fundamentals of the Sikh faith is not possible here but an attempt will be made to discuss the main pillars of the Indian Philosophy, Vedant and Shankh Yoga, and a few principles thereof. Shankh philosophy does not believe in God. and the main propounder of this thought is considered to be Kapil Muni. Shruti, Smriti, Ramayan, Mahabharta, etc., the ancient writings, contain many of the views enshrined in the Shank Yoga. In Gita (10.26) Kapil is considered supreme among the Sidhas “Ashwatth: Sarva varkshan devarishina ch Narad: / ghndarvana chitrathe: sidhana Kapilo muni.” (26). Kapil Virchit is considered to be the oldest writing of Tatawsamas Shankh. But after Kapil, the writer of the ‘Sankh Karika’, Ishwar Krishna’s name became the most famous. The foundation stone of the present day knowledge is ‘Shank Kartika’ only which contains in all 72 karikavas (padas or verses). Countless commentaries (varityas, bhash, etc.) have been written on these verses. Shankh has been interpreted in two ways – Number and knowledge).
Elements have been counted in Sankh and the entire universe has been created out of 25 elements, including prakriti and purush. In other words this knowledge is considered as understanding the difference beteen prakriti and purush (creation and creator) or the body and soul being separate entities. According to Bhai Gurdas, Sankh Shastra is the churning of Atharva Veda. Infact, because of predominance of magic, spells, tantra-mantra, sorcery, etc. it is considered the Veda of the natives of this place and distinct from Riga, Yajur and Sham Vedas. Scholars like Narendra Nath Bhattacharya believe that Sankh is not the philosophy of Vedic thought. The Vedic scholars, later on, after making some corrections in it, tried to forcibly make it conform to the Vedic thought. Scholars like Kumarul Bhatt, Shankracharya and Vigyan Bhikshu accomplished this onerous task. Shankarachrya says in his Sharirak Bhash (2, l, l) that the philosophy of Kapil (Shankh Shastra) is not only anti Vedas but it is also opposed to Mannu and those people who are votaries of the Vedic thought. Therefore, to establish the Vedic thought and to propagate it, Sankh and similar other systems would have to be improved. Vigyan Bhikshu has openly said in the introduction to Shank Sutra that his aim is to cleanse the Shankh Shastra. Bhai Gurdas has given the essence of Shankh philosophy in this way –
Kapil Rishi churned the Athrva Veda
And duly highlighted its aphormism
He tasted the nectar of great knowledge
He kept it in his mind for ever
One cant’ find without knowledge
Millions of efforts one may make.
The karmayoga is done by the body
But mortals and can’t be constant
The knowledge gives comfort and
The mystery of life and death vanishes.
Those who choose Guru’s side
Get enlightened in an easy way. (Var Bhai Gurdas).
Shankh is a philosophy of dualism which believes in the process of creation by the union of inanimate nature with animate male. According to this, male is inactive devoid of action. Nature is ignorance and male is epitome of knowledge which, caught in the web of attachment to nature, gets himself into bondage.According to Shankh philosophy, the union of nature and male begins to start with in intellect, and ego, then mind and then five physical states (form, taste, smell, sound and touch) and the five senses, then five working states and then five subtle great elements (sky, air, light, waterdsf, and earth) to form the entire universe. According to Vedant, Sankh and Gita, ego is born of nature. But in the Sidha Goshta, in regard to the origin of universe, in reply to a question, Guru Nanank says – The universe is born of ego, O man, And one suffers ignoring His Name.
It is the original thinking of the Gurus and we see here that in Gurbani, Vedant, Sankh and Gita’s process of creation of the universe has been stated in the reverse order. According to Sankh, Purush and Prakriti have no beginning and the object of both of them is different. Here nature is inanimate and without senses. The male is animate, no doubt, but being without action, he cannot have union with nature on his own and if somehow the union takes place, he cannot separate from it. That as a possible consequence thereof the development of creation can go on, and there shall be no deluge, no destruction, is not true. According to Sankh, nature is the causal connection for creation of the universe. On the one hand nature has been termed as blind, immobile and inanimate, but on the other, we see that there is a system in the universe, a methodology, a fixed routine, and a balance. Therefore it seems difficult to understand and to make others understand this dualism of nature and male. Gurbani goes above these inanimate and animate and stances and brings to the fore a concept which is that of Super-soul and it is stated in Assa di Var –
He created Himself and then
Himself created the Name.
Then he created the nature
And manifests in it joyfully.
He is Benefactor and Cause and
Effect of everything and bestows
His Grace in His Pleasure to expand.
‘Thou knoweth every one and
Giveth them life, body and soul,
And taketh it away. Thou watcheth
Thy Creation in a detached manner
And enjoy doing it – 4
He enacts the drama and watches it too.
And when he ends the drama,
Sayeth Nanak He remains One alone. 5
Guru Gobind Singh calls this process ‘Udkarkhan’ and ‘Akarkhan’. It is recognized in Gurbani that this process has taken place countless times and shall continue to be so in the future also –
The process of creation has
Taken place so many times.
The Sole Creator cased this. 6
The aim of Sankh Shastra is the attainment of Kevalya, meaning thereby that the male caught in the grip of nature, has to be detached from it, both of them have to be separated. For effecting this separation, Sankh talks of gaining knowledge.When it is the question of separating from the entire nature, it is necessary to see first of all, that one should get detached from his family, his relatives and be devoid of the sense of belonging to them. The believer in Sankh philosophy does not consider it possible to get detached while living in it. The Yoga Shaster comes forth to help him which tells him how to concentrate his mind by practices of many kinds. For achieving all this, and keeping in mind the dualism of Sankha Shastra, a yogi considers it essential to leave everything and go to live as a recluse in the forest or the caves in the hills. When one has nothing to do with the world, the question of worldly responsibilities does not arise for him. To touch the hearts of such run-away yogis in a taunting manner, Guru Nank says in the words of Bhai Gurdas –
‘The Sidhas ran away to the hills.
Who would salvage the world ?’
Guru Nanak held a very long discussion with the Siddhas in his composition ‘Siddha-Gosht’ and counseled them to come back to the world giving up their non-worldly attitude. He talked of shouldering the entire responsibility in the social sense and to use their powers attained after hard penances for the good of humanity.
Shankracharya is considered to be the best interpreter of the philosophy of Vedant. The basis of Shankar’s principles is – Upanishad, Brahamsutra and Gita. Shankracharya believes in the theory of cause and effect and says that the cause of every effect is inherent in it and in reality effect is nothing by itself; it is only cause which reveals itself in various forms. Thus cause is true and effect is a myth. Therefore, not believing one form of theory of cause and effect, Shankracharya accepts the theory of Vivartwad. The Sankh philosophy believes in prakriti-parinamwad and Ramanujam believes in Braham-parinamwad . According to this consequentialism, cause is really flawed by effect just as milk by curd, mud by pitcher, gold by ornament. But according to Sankracharya’s Vivartawad, this flaw is not a flaw in reality but an illusion only, just a feeling: change in form cannot be termed as transformation. Shankra says that viewed spiritually, the creation is untrue and this untrue and material creation cannot be termed as a good consequence; the entire universe is the creation of Brahma and Brahma is the true basis, and the rest of the world is seen in untrue forms. The world is untrue, being Vivart, and we consider it as true out of ignorance. According to Shankra, the cause is untrue and effect is true. Gurbani accepts God in His True Form and also that whatever has been created by the the Supreme Truth is also true. Truth will give birth to truth and not untruth. This universe and its regions and continents are not illusions, they are a reality. Guru Arjun Dev exhorts us not to run away from them but to abide in them for which they show the way and says that to live in peace, they should not be made the means of satisfying ego, and one should learn to live in His Will and Almighty God should always be kept in mind –
By Whose Grace thou liveth in comfort
Keep him in thy mind all the time. 7
One should live one’s life being a man of the world, but not being worldly. It is all subject to change, which can no doubt be called momentary but all the moments of life given to one are valuable, and they should be made use of for the good –
Even the gods yearn to have this life
Therefore, spend this life in His service. 8
This human life has been given to thee
This is the time to attain Union with Him. 9
This opportunity of getting the human life should be made full use of and considering the world as an illusion, it should not be forsaken. This spiritual way to run away from moral responsibilities is not acceptable in Sikh faith.
Many commentaries and Bhashas have been written on Gita but in ‘PrasthanTreyi’ Gita is one. Of the many commentaries on Gita, those of Shankaracharya, Rmanujacharya and Bal Gangadhar Tilak are more famous and the three scholars have explained the import of Gita in accordance with their time and context, in different ways. According to Shankarachya the attainment of knowledge is the essence of Gita. Accortding to Ramanuja, the basic teaching is Gita is to follow the path of devotion while Bal Gangadhar Tilak considers predominance of Karamyoga (action oriented life) in the teachings of Gita. Be as it may, Gita has attracted the attention of all the scholars of the world.
Shankracharya’s ‘Bhashya’ on Gita is perhaps the oldest commentary on Gita which is available in this age also. According to S. N. Dasgupta, the commentary of Shankracharya on Gita, lays maximum emphasis on the theory that the attainment of true enlightenment and the Vedic rituals and practices and the system evolved by Smrities cannot go together. If out of ignorance or because of attachment, the mind of a person through Vedic rituals and sacrifices and penance, gets purified, there is no reason for him to go on doing action, but he still does it and inspires the world also to do action, then his action do not conform to his knowledge. If a person does anything without the desire of its result, that act of his would not be termed as action. But like a person endowed with logical mind, he would appear to be engaged in action but still we cannot take him as involved in action in the true meaning of ‘Karma’. Therefore, according to Shankaracharya, the main purpose of Gita is to say that the attainment of salvation can be only through knowledge, not by mixing knowledge with action. Shnkracharya agrees that all actions seem good to us in ignorance, not in the state of enlightenment. When one attains the knowledge of being one with God, the ignorance and lack of knowledge disappear, and doing action or having action done, the dualism comes to an end. It has been stated in the first saloka of third chapter of Gita-
Jayasi chetkrmanastai ma budhijjanardan
Tatki karmani ghorai ma niyojas Keshava. 10
Which means, O Janardan, if you believe that intellect is superior to action, O Keshava, then why do you involve me in the evil of fighting? Explaning the import of this saloka, Sankaracharya criticizes those who believe that after attaining knowledge, the responsibilities should not be given up, and says, quoting from Smrities, that bad results cannot be had only by action or inaction, because state of inaction is forbidden and how could one have positive result from negative approach? The ill effects of inaction towards responsibility comes to those who do not renounce action completely. But those who have attained knowledge and then renounced all action, they rise above the commands of the Vedas and Smrities which have no effect on them. In short, according to what has been stated by Shankracharya, for an intellectual, there is no responsibility or action. Keeping all this discussion in view, Prof. Surendera Nath Das Gupta says in the second part of ‘A history of Indian Philosophy’, ‘Shankar’s commentary on Gita believes in advance that Shankar’s views were the same as the principles enumerated in Gita.’ 11 Defining Gita’s exhortation not to do action has caused how much social and political damage, needs no further interpretation. The history of India, after the tenth century is the true picture which speaks aloud too.
The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, not only held the life without dignity as bad, have freed the minds of Indians of hollow rituals, bondages of caste-system, and given the courage to distinguish between truth and untruth and say it accordingly, but also to use the power of Brahm-gyan for the common good. These were the principles outlined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, on which was based the concept of Miri-Piri, Bhagati and Shakti in one person and it gave a new lead to the people of India in the form of ‘Saint-soldier’. It was the principle of Shabad-Guru (Word is the Guru), which kept in mind the tradition of a physical Guru and the problems arising therefrom and by exhorting the people to treat the Word as ‘Guide”, began the tradition of keeping the exhortation above personality cult.
Dr. Kishore Das Swami, Bharati Darshan aur mukti mimansa, 1980, p. 4
Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 1.12
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.e946
Ibid, p. 1159
Das Gupta, A Hisory Of Indian Philosophy, Part II, p.138.