Love for Humanity and the Concept of Fraternity in Gurbani
Dr. Darshan Singh
Gurmat Sahit (Sikh literature) explains the three layers of life. Wild life forms the first layer, human life is the second layer, and at the third is divine life. Thus, according to Gurmat literature, these three layers of human form are always found in social life. Wild life has been presented by Guru Nanak Dev in Japuji Sahib in a detailed manner. This aspect of the view has been repeated time and again. Guru Nanak says:
Asankh moorakh andh ghor. Asankh chor haramkhor.
Asankh amar kar jahi jor. Asankh gal wadh hatya kamahi.
Asankh papi pap kar jahi. Asankh kuriar koorai phirahi.
Asankh malechh mal bhakh khahi. Asank nindak sir karhi bhaar.
Nanak Neech kahai vichaar. Warya na jawaan eik var.
Jo tudh bhavahi sayee bhali kaar. Too sada salamat Nirankaar.
Countless are the fools, utterly blind. Countless are the corrupt.
Countless live by high handedness. Countless are cut throats and killers.
Countless are the sinners who commit sin all the time. Countless are the liars who go on telling lies.
Countless are the barbarians who eat filth. Countless are the slanderers (who carry the burden of sinful words uttered by them).
Thus sayeth Nanak the lowest of the low. I can’t even once thank Thee for Thy blessings even if I sacrifice my life.
Whatever is Thy will is the best. Thou art the Formless Eternal One.
The second layer of life is human life. This is a higher level than wild life. Human love and fraternity are born at this level. The Guru’s concern for life is this form of human life. But he does not negate wild life like most preachers. According to him, this too is part of God’s nature and is essential to the evolution of human society and community. But here his problem assumes the form of a concern that a human being should not be attracted towards wild life which is mean and low; he should be drawn towards a higher level, that is, a divine level. In this way, his real concern is for human life. There is no doubt that on the whole, the Gurus aim at spiritual attainment. Their views in totality and their field of action pertain only to spiritualism. But the conventional meaning of spiritualism and traditional concerns are not the concerns of Gurmat literature. Their concerns are different from traditional ones. Therefore they have given preference to their concerns, used spiritualism as a means or a tool and have tried to lend credibility to their concerns. Actually this has happened for the first time in history. In order to prove pure human concerns, to make use of spiritualism to further their ideal and give it an impetus is a new stance.
Thus, the main concern of the Gurus is, on the one hand, an attempt to stop the march of human life towards wild life, and on the other, to lead it towards divine life. The position of divine life has been clarified by the Gurus in their own way. Guruji has set forth the best ideal of man in Japuji Sahib – to be ‘sachiar’. Evidently, divinity here is not the same as it is defined traditionally but is linked to the position which is down to earth or linked to the present day human being. According to Guruji, to be sachiar is the highest ideal. This highest idea has been clarified at the beginning of Japuji and later on as well. At another place, Guruji writes that everything in the visible world is lower than truth; (meaning thereby that everything is under the control of truth), but higher than truth is ‘living in truth’; to imbibe the qualities of truth. It therefore follows that human conduct is higher than discourse about God. In this way Guru ji has defined divinity in a human sense. Human concerns have been placed at the highest level. When the process of a human being turning into god is begun, instead of transforming man into god or establishing a new existence or to give it different meaning, they have brought divinity within the human frame. Man has been accepted as the real concern, and thus, human conduct has been conceived of as a godly way of life. Guru Nanak gives an idea of this concept in Japuji as under:
Dhol dharma daya ka poot.
Santokh thap rakhya jin soot. (SGGS, 3)
Faith is the base of creation and contentment the element which controls the entire social set up.
Thus the human level is attained by a wild man through contentment, and when one moves ahead from a lower level of wildness through good conduct, one attains a human level. The next round is to become sachiar, which is also called the realm of divinity. At another place Guruji calls this earth a ‘dharamsaal’. In other words, this land has been called a laboratory. It is a laboratory where every human being is continuously taking a test to prove himself as a human being. The object of this test is to see as to who is going down from the human level and who is rising above. The real concern of Guruji, as stated above, is to save man falling down from the human level and to lead him to go above, that is, to enable him to pass the laboratory test. A person disciplined through faith and contentment does move ahead.
Fear is the worst enemy of man. Most fears arise within him. They are the creation of his own imagination and signs of his own weaknesses. It is true that some fears are present in the external world also. For example, the fear of the ruler blindly drunk on political power, the fear of those who misuse power and their physical force, that is, fear of those who are devoid of a sense of justice. At the peak of internal and external fears is the fear of death. Life is dearest to man and its loss is the greatest fear. When social and political justice takes wing from society, darkness of highhandedness and coercion engulfs it, human life becomes hell. A fear psychosis overcomes man, so much so that he does not feel free even in sleep. One can well imagine how a man would live a life enslaved by a constant fear at a mental and intellectual level; in a state of uncertainty as an incomplete being. It is for this reason that Guruji lays greater emphasis on freedom from internal and external fear. Guruji accepts a virtuous life as one that best imbibes the finest traits of godly living and all that is noblest in man. Guruji has ordained that accepting fear and giving fear, that is, living in an environment of fear is murderous for human existence. One can emerge in one’s true form and strive for one’s ideal by escaping the domain of fear. This is the best way of becoming sachiar; it is such a concept on which an ideal society can be raised.
The second trait of this ideology is the concept of ‘rights’. According to Guruji an ideal person should be endowed with this virtue. Most ills inflict us due to our turning our backs on this truth. One tries to take away the rights of others under the influence of greed or ego. In this atmosphere of loot and plunder for selfish gains, Guruji has talked of rights. He has emphasized that it is not so important to strive to win one’s own rights as it is to ensure that the rights of others are not denied; it is important to be just in this regard. When the question of rights assumes this form it is but natural that greed, ego and misconduct highjack the truth. Therefore, according to Guruji, the best virtue is to give to others their just rights. Taking away the right of anyone is the worst form of human misconduct. Guruji regards this as the second foundation for a healthy society in times to come.
To build such a society, the third pillar given by Guruji is that of truth. Truth is a very great force in itself. To be able to speak the truth is the best trait of human conduct. It costs nothing to think truthfully and speak the truth and nor does it cause any loss, but by not speaking the truth and not thinking truthfully, everything tumbles down. Opposed to truth is falsehood which is as powerful as truth. According to the Guru’s doctrine, the victory of truth is not dependent on ending or suppressing falsehood but in standing firmly by truth. That is why Guruji exhorts that to stick to truth and to remain on the side of truth when it is necessary is very essential –
Sach ki bani Nanak aakhai
sach sunaisi sach ki bela
I have related the true Word
of the True Lord as per His Will.
If falsehood is allowed to stand, it would gain power automatically and truth would have to struggle manifold to confront it. Therefore Guruji has given an effective meaning to truth. Political justice has been termed as truth. Social relations and personal conduct has been conceptualized as being sachiar. Truth is both a godly trait and a human virtue. It is the foundation stone of creation as also the ideal thereof. The ideal fraternity or community is that which is free of fear and honest in safeguarding human rights. In such a community, barbaric vices like ill-will, jealousy and selfishness have no place. The natural consequence of this is the development of love for humanity.
It is to attain such an ideal that Guruji has devised some means, the best of which is remembering His Name.
Name is nothing by itself; it is just an indication, a nod; but what is very important and meaningful is towards whom this is directed. Remembering the Name means to meditate on God’s Name. Constant contemplation, meditation on God’s Name, getting attuned with it and immersing oneself in it is the best human effort. But the most wonderful part of it is that Gurbani has not bound God whose Name has to be remembered in any limits. The best example of this is the Japuji Sahib which concerns itself totally with God. In my view, no such Name has figured in Japuji Sahib as may go to prove that God belongs to a particular sect or class only. In the entire work, nouns and pronouns have been used to define God. This is such an open-ended work that a person belonging to any faith can fit any of God’s Names given therein in the framework of his own faith and can, thus, accept the attributes of God given in Japuji Sahib in their application to his Allah, God, and Parmatma. This is a wonderful and exquisite experiment in the world of religion. The founder of a faith is not giving his adherents any name to the God of his faith and has left the entire gamut open so that any Name can be filled in the blanks. All the virtues enlisted in this work become the virtues or traits of God. If this is discussed at a macro level, it can be said that the God of Japuji is the God of all religions and He would still be Guru Nanak’s God. It was for this reason that Guru Nanak was acceptable to the adherents of both the major religions, Hinduism and Islam, and was known, even in his own lifetime as ‘Nanak Shah Faqir; Hindus’ Guru and Muslims’ Pir’. Thus Gurbani has talked of ‘Nam Simran’ (remembering God) but has imposed no restriction that only a specific Name of God should be recited as indicated in a particular faith. Keeping one’s belief intact, one may remember God. Because of linking oneself with this truth, a Muslim remaining a Muslim throughout his life, and a Hindu remaining a Hindu likewise, can also become a Sikh. When Guru Nanak defined a Sikh he made it clear that one who learns the teaching and thinks and acts upon it all the time is a Sikh in the true sense –
‘Sikhi sikhya gur vichaar….’ (SGGS, 465)
Devoted Sikhs follow the Guru’s teachings….
Sikh faith has not been linked to a particular God, or a way of worship, or a religious ideal. It has been conceived as a personality which constantly ponders over and lives up to the teachings imbued with the above virtues, moving in the direction of becoming a sachiar or it has been conceived in the form of a sachiar. In this way the concept of a community that has been brought to the fore is that of an independent community in itself with love for humanity as its basic concern.
While Guruji has talked of a personality drawn towards this ideal, he has also highlighted the need of personal traits woven into common traits. The directive principle of such a community would be that by its very nature this community would be free of hypocrisy, limitless and free of the bonds of time and space. The meaning of limitless is that in such a community the differences of caste, clan, colour, time, space, etc. would not be acceptable. This community would be wedded to virtues. Therefore only virtue shall be talked about. A person belonging to a so-called low caste or to any time and place can, by associating himself with these virtues, become a pillar of the community or a sachiar as per the concept of Gurbani and such a personality shall be worthy of worship. Therefore Gurbani has condemned personal hypocrisy or communal hypocrisy. What divides mankind and discriminates on the basis of caste and creed has been looked down upon. That is why the concepts set forth in Gurbani have transformed the Sikh community into certain institutions. For example, ‘sangat’, (congregation), ‘pangat’ (sitting in rows and partaking food from a community kitchen), ‘Darbar Sahib’ (Guru’s Court), ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib’ (The Holy Book of the Sikhs; The Eternal Word). ‘Gurmata’ (resolution passed in accordance with the principles of the faith), etc. are the institutions wherein man is identified only as a human being, and his religion, colour, caste, gender are all set aside. In such institutions, today’s human being is an equal partner. He/she has been made to stand firm on the knowledge and belief that no division can make him/her lower or higher than others. This identity of a true human being has been created by Gurbani in the form of a community. This community is certainly the all-embracing community.