Sri Guru Granth Sahib Linguistics and folklore as structural models
Joginder Singh Kairon
In Gurbani, along with spiritual, we find coverage of cultural matter also. The Guru, while moving in the spiritual spheres, himself understands and makes us understand the relationship between nature and God, exhorts man to beware of the net of Maya (illusion), and also conforms to many of the rules of cultural system. This is the reason that many traces of usage, and customary ethos are found in Gurbani here and there.
Though a poet has his distinct personality, his cultural ethos occupy a special place in his mental make up.Thus living in society, which has its own culture, the poet imbibes its qualities.
Although culture is the creation of man, man is also guided by culture. When we try to say that for the study of literature or Gurbani or a culture, we can take the help of linguistic models, it implies that literature and culture, created by the human mind, are such systems as have behind them some rules at work. Behind this thinking lies the concept that the man-created and evolved linguistic principles, human science, economics, mathematics and relationships, have some rules are at work. How can literatre and culture develop without such rules? The problem lies only in knowing the grammer of these rules.
To regard any matter as a system and to evolve a method to understand the elements which create the system, was done first of all in his writings by Levis Morgan in the field of psychology and the noted psychologist Levy Strauss also accepted this.
Levy Strauss, who is regarded the patriarch of creative psychology, while studying the myth, had said, ‘Myth is a language’. Then studying the cooking system and relationships, he made a special observation that they too function like a system because like the meanings of language of these constituent elements they come into being through their mutual, or in their totality, relations. Therefore the human science has to move in the direction of understanding these relationships through the method of linguistics. Levy Strauss, who had been impressed a lot by the achievements of linguists, had also been trained in this science. Therefore he was an expert in finding more than one meanings of words.
He is of the opinion that the human behviour can be classified like the plants and chemicals because nothing in nature functions in isolation.
Roland Barthes has said in support of this that culuture is also a language in all aspects, because culture is such a system of signs which, like the linguistic signs, is connected to one another. According to Levy Strauss man has a creative ability which he is inborn. With this ability he prepares a three-dimensional outline of creativity. The dimensions are conceived in the form of language, myth and relationships, which, afterwards, at the surface level, assume meaningful form of discourse, the moral behaviour of myth and matrimonial pattern.The combiniation of all this is culture wherein different institutions continue to develop and poetry or Gurbani also is the creative expression of people connected with some cultural community. This creative expression, in spite of being of a varied nature in a million ways, is bound by the rules of some system. If rules do not determine the nature of poetry, we cannot separate it from prose. Bani is Bani because its poetic system is different from story. While Bani is concerned with spiritualism on the one hand, it bears a relationship to culture too, on the other. Thus Bani is such a poetic system spreads over the culture and nature which, through its bevariourial norms, teaches us to go beyond culture. In this knowledge based methodology the cultural institutions and ceremonies and rituals have been used as a tool. It is for this reason that the Punjabi culture is clearly discernible in Gurbani which talks of taking one to the spiritual spheres by rejecting ritualistic conduct connected with birth, marriage and death and the folk literature forms.
The institution of marriage in Punjabi culture is such a system, the model of which can be seen widely spread in Gurbani. On the basis of this, Gurujis have picturised God as husband and a devotee or a practioner as faithful wife. Like the folk-tale verse or the Sufi poetry, the relationship is not like that of lover and beloved; it is the love of husband-wife relationship. Therefore, to understand the model of Gurbani, we are required to understand the importance of family life or husband-wife relationship in Punjabi culture and folklore. Knowing this and for delineation in the social sense, we can take the example of a folk song.The need for taking this folk song for this paper arose because it is well known to one and all and secondly, husband-wife relationship has been presented in very clear terms.The wife says,
The first time, a barber came for taking me with him.
(But she does not go with the barber)
The second time, father in-law came for taking me with him.
(She doesn’t go with him too)
The third time, came my husband’s elder brother
Asking me to go with him.
(She does not go with him).
The fourth time, came my husband’s younger brother
Asking me to go with him.
(She does not go with him either).
Lastly, my husband came himself to take me with him
(She goes to her inlaw’s place with her husband).
Many types of cultural delineations are found in this song. The first thing in this song is about not sending of a distant relative who discharges social and customary duties to the parents of a married girl, and that representative is a barber, who performs before marriage, some rites on behalf of the family. But after the marriage he has no role to play. Similarly, before marriage the father or the brothers of the boy perform so many duties but after marriage, husband and wife having come in direct contact, and those relations have nothing to do in their own affair just as a dovotee or practioner of the faith, when he is engaged in devotional worship of God, he has to pass through many rituals, he has to seek guidance from many learned ones or spiritual teachers, but after union with God those rituals have no meaning and no one is equal to God, the spouse. Therefore if we put this in a perspective, theequation thereof would be like this. If all the other relationships are taken as ‘a’ and the husband as ‘b’ and those means of taking her to the husband’s place as ‘c’ and ‘d’, the following equation is formed:
Barber = a 1
Father-in-law= a 2
Husband’s elder brother = a 3
Husband’s younger brother = a 4
Self = b
a4’s purpose of going c and b’s purpose ‘d’
Therefore according to Levi Strausse’s perspective, it will be
According to n(a):fy(b)
Fc(b) > f e (a) + a2+a3+ah.
It would mean that the task to be performed by ‘d’ is more powerful in our culture than the sum of all the factors of ‘a’. In other words, in our culture, for a wife the position of husband is higher than that of all other relationships.
If we adopt this method in studying the spiritual relationships in Gurbani, it would be crystal clear that the position of God, the spouse, is higher than that of any other one and the Gurus and Bhagats determine the relationship of devotee with God on this analogy. Some examples of this methodology are given below-
Avahu bhainai gal milahu, ank saheladiyah.
Mil kai karah kahaniyaan samrath kant kiyah
Sachai Sahib sabh gun, augun sabh asah.1.
Karta sabh ko terai jore.
Eik sabad bichariai ja too ta kya hore.1.rahau.
Jaiye puchhahu sohagini tusin ravia kini guni.
Sehaj santokh sigariya mitha bolani.
Pir risalu ta milai, ja gur ka sabad suni.2.
Ketiya tairi qudarti, kewad tairi daat
Ketai tairai jia jant, sifti kareh din raat.
Ketai tairai roop rang,ketai jati ajaat.3.
Sach mailai sach oopjai sach mahi saach samaye.
Surati hovai pat oogwai gur bachni bhau khaye
Nanak Sascha Patshah aapai laye milaye.4 (SSGS, p.17)
(Come here my sisters, lets embrace one another, my bosom friends. Let’s then talk of the Omnipotent Lord, our Spouse. The True Master has all the virtues, all the vices are ours. O Lord, everything is within Thy power. Think of One Word, Thou art the One, and none else. Ask the happily wedded ones, how did they win His love? Patience, contentment, and sweet tongue (are the real virtues) The Lord Spouse is attained on listening to Guru’s Word.. Countless are Thy aspects of nature, countless thy bounties. Countless are Thy creatures who praise Thee day and night. Countless are Thy forms, features, complexions And coutless are those in different castes, and casteless. Truth breeds Truth, and in Truth mingles the Truth Dwelling in Him gives honour, Gurus Word kills fear. True Emperor is He who helps in attaining Him, Nanak.)
In this hymn, Guruji has mentioned the case of a married woman in Punjabi culture, whose spouse is not with her. She meets her friends and they praise the spiritual Spouse who is Omnipotent and epitome of virtues while they are without any virtue.Then the Virtuous Lord tells the virtuless dame the way to union with Him.
The first part of this hymn has two sutras (maxims). For union with God, three virtues, patience, contentment and sweet words, have been enumerated. If we find three virtues in a woman called ‘b’, we can say,
Patience+contentment+sweet words = b3
The process of Union = c
On the other hand a woman devoid of any virtue can be expxressed as –
Vice1+vicwe 2+ vice 3 + vice 4 = a4
Or + a
Process of union = d
Its maxim would be
Process d (b)3 >. process d(a)
Or the process c of b is more effective than a which has a majority.
Not only this, Guruji says further –
Patience+contentment+sweet words are virtues but Listening to Guru’s word is a greater vitue than the other three. Even if one imbibes all the three virtues, taking recourse to Guru’s word is the most essential virtue.
In the next part of this hymn has been explained the way the universe is at its play. Which maxim is present in these lines, let us see-
Ketiya tairiyan qudarti – a1
Kewad tairi daat – a2
Kaitai tairai jia jant – a3
Sifat karai din raat a4
Kaitai taraai roop rang a 5
Kaitai jat ajaat a6
(d0 is the process)
Sach milai sach oopjai b,
Sach mahi sach samaye © process
Surat hovai pat oogvai
Gurbachni bhau khaye
Nanak sacha patshah b2
Aapai laye milaye. (e). process.
In this maxim from a-1 to a -6 is the play of nature, but compared to the creation of the Creator, Truth and mingling with Truth is higher than this play of nature.
It shows that the process ‘e’, that is His Blessing is the most powerful.
The view that emerges from this hymn is that a woman may imbibe three virtues or a devotee may have these three virtues –patience (equipoise), contentment and sweet words, which are the means to attain God but along with these three virtues, it is essential to listen to His Word. Through the Word one is able to have an idea of the extent of the play of nature. One is able to grasp the meaning of His greatness. Even after knowing all this, the union takes place or one is able to ‘swim across if God shows His Grace’. Like the way shown in that folk song, where the spouse goes to the bride and she agrees to accompany him, here too Lord, the spouse, Himself shows His Grace. As has been said –
Chandan mole anaiya, kungoo mang sandhoor.
Choya chandan bahu ghana, pana naal kapoor.
Je dhan Kant na bhavahi,
taan sabh adambar koor. SGGS p.19
(The make up, like perfumes, vermilion in the parting of hair, etc. the betel leaf and camphor, may be had by a woman but if she is not liked by her spouse, all this goes waste.)
Guru’s word, knowing of the Truth and His Glance of Grace are reiterated in Gurbani again and again, as in Gauri Chhant:
Mil sakhi saheladio, ham pir raveha.
Gur puchh likhaugi jio Sabad suneha.
Sabad sacha Gur dikhaya,
Nikas jatau rahe asthir
jami sach pachhania.
Sach ki mat sada nautan
sabad nehu navelyo.
Nanak nadri sabad sacha,
mlhau sakhi saheliho. (SGGS, p. 242)
(Along with friends, I worship Him. I’ll ask my Guru and write down the true import of the message in the Word. My Guru has made me understand the import of the Word, and those going their own way (and not Guru’s way) do repent. My mind which always goes here and there, became become still as soon as I understood the Truth. The wisdom of Truth is ever new and makes one adore the Word. The True Word is had through His Grace, let’s get together to have it.)
To sum up, it can be said that we can, with the help of linguistics or the studies of the folk models, can delve deep to collect the precious pearls and by knowing the true import of the message given in the Word, we can have the spiritual gain.