The Concept of ‘Hukam’ in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Dr. Tarlok Singh Kanwar
Guru Nanak is a name in the cultural tradition of Punjab that has become symbolic of the subconscious of this tradition. This has not only been accepted by the people at large but also by the intelligentsia. Such widespread acceptance assumes the form of a creative principle which, based on its own virtuous content, helps people get out of the whirlpool of challenging problems and shows them the right path of enlightenment. Its distinct nature is that not only does it delineate the Punjabi way of life, it has also helped in building its psyche. Such building up becomes generally acceptable because besides safeguarding the useful aspects of life, it puts man on the path to knowledge. And such a person awakens to higher states and meets with success in this world and the next. A reading of Guru Nanakbani automatically reveals its own significance.
Before we cite some instances in support of our views expressed above on the basis of Guru Nanak’s teachings, it seems necessary here to say something about the relationship between biology and psychology. Though we could begin this in a matter-of-fact manner also, we are making biology the first point of our concern. Biology is concerned with life sustained by breathing. All living species of the universe come within the purview of biology which grows out of the life force flowing in nature. When mutually opposed elements meet at some point, different species of creatures come into being. Then begins the life story of these species. Here a beginning is made for the mutual relationship between the living ones and their environment. The learned ones are of the view that every living one is connected with its environment for its subsistence. Certain forces present in contemporary environment attract the creatures towards themselves. The creatures, while getting attracted in this way, offer their reaction also. Thus begins a continuous process of attraction and reaction which helps the life force in moving ahead. Based on this process of attraction and reaction, the journey of life is completed. It should be remembered here that the relationship of attraction and reaction with the environment is of a transformative nature, that is to say, these relationships are spontaneous. The creature, bound in the haziness of this phenomenon, completes its span of life. But when the question of knowledge comes up, the entire process gets transformed. In fact the realm of knowledge is the human realm. The creatures are transformed into humans through knowledge. It means that the mutual relationship between biology and environment is devoid of knowledge. These relationships have force and velocity as well but no knowledge. When knowledge enters the realm of force and velocity, force and velocity get direction. Because of this direction, force and velocity break their relationship with infinity and advance towards their determined goals. Putting force and velocity on the path to the determined goal is the transformation from creatures to humans. Here knowledge and humanism converge on a common point. It begins to appear as if the meaning of humanity is knowledge and that of knowledge is humanity. It is correct also to a great extent but the clarity of logic demands to know the extent of mutual differences. It therefore becomes necessary for us to determine the difference among biology, knowledge and humanity.
We have said before that knowledge takes the relationship between attraction and reaction to a higher plane. The higher level of knowledge transforms the manifestation of relationship between the creature and the environment into abstraction. Therefore knowledge is called an abstract concept. The work of this abstract concept is to bind the manifest biology into some discipline. Thus, in spite of the existence of relationship between biology and knowledge, a gap takes place. We can say on the basis of this gap that biology is action-oriented and knowledge does not act. Thus having regard to this gap it can be said that the human world lies between the action centred biology and actionless knowledge. Humanity is connected with biology and knowledge at the same time. When the relationship between humanity and knowledge breaks, humanity turns towards biology. Sometimes a complex situation emerges when humanity breaks its relationship with biology also and establishes it with pure knowledge, and in the process, it becomes lifeless. Lifeless humanity is more likely to make wrong use of knowledge. Therefore the main thrust of this discussion is that to build a civilized culture, the need of morality increases to a great extent. Morality, maintaining a balance between knowledge and life, attempts to build a superior type of humanity. It obtains force and velocity from biology and vision from knowledge. On the basis of vision, it becomes its creed to control the blind momentum of force and velocity. Thus on the basis of mutual balance between force and knowledge, morality moves to build humanity. But the most important thing to be remembered in this building process is that the entire process depends on language (expression). It therefore means that the entire process at the practical and moral level becomes possible through language. Its conceptualization is also possible through language. It is for this reason that in the second half of the twentieth century when the linguists, cultural scientists and anthropologists study the problem of building up of culture, they reach a proposition that without language it is impossible to talk of human culture. They also say that when we become unconscious of language but talk of human civilization, we are making use of language as a means to do so. It is therefore clear that all the achievements and processes of man have language in the background. Learned people call this the subconscious of human culture, that is, language is the subconscious ground of culture. As a biological being, born out of the womb of one’s mother, when one enters the cultural and communal domain, one unconsciously goes on assimilating the ongoing language system along with the meaningfulness of its thought process. One’s biological and physical development depends on the existing linguistic presence in society. In such a situation, it becomes imperative for man to conform to the language system. In fact biology comes under a balanced state of cultural discipline obtaining in the linguistic usage. Therefore, when the post-structural psychologist, Jacques Lacan, talks of the building and development of human psychology in the cultural sense, he particularly views the Freudian concept of the subconscious in the context of language and says that the subconscious is built like language. On the basis of this conception, Lacan presents a balanced system of human civilization. This system consists of reality, imagination and symbolism. He is of the view that transgressing the points of reality and imagination, when human psychology enters the world of symbolism, it becomes capable of reaching the goal of cultural meaningfulness. This means that the entire cultural set-up is lingual/ symbolic in nature. Within the framework of this, everything that is available in the universe becomes meaningful at the cultural level. In this way the point at which our discussion reaches can be determined with certainty that the cultural set is artificial in a way, which, by establishing all the natural systems into the symbolic order, determines the various levels thereof. Consequently, what comes to the fore is that the entire universe is based on some systems at various levels and the forces at work at various levels keep fighting unconsciously against the inimical forces and goes on fighting up to a point when it gets merged with destructive currents and assumes a new form. In the universal sense, all this happens like a wave and out of this wave emerge the images of determined forms.
We find that in Guru Nanakbani, the entire gamut of this linguistic systematization is vividly explained. Guru Nanak states this in his conceptual language in this way –
Hukmi hovan akaar, human a kahya jayee.
Human hovan jia, human milai vadyayee.
Hukmi uttam neechs, hukam likh dukh sukh paiai.
Ikna hukmi bakhsis, ik hukmi sada bhavaiai.
Hukmai andar sabh ko, bahar hukam na koye.
Nanak hukmai je bujhai, ta haumai kahai na koye. (SGGS, 1)
It is His Will which makes all the forms
His Will is verily beyond description
All creatures are born under His Will
All honour is conferred under His Will
High and low are all under His Will
All the joys and sorrows are ordained
Some are blessed, others have suffering
Everyone is governed by His Will
None is outside the purview of His Will
Knowing His Will, none shall have ego.
In this pauri (stanza), Guru Nanak, explaining that the entire universe works under His Will, says that whatever is attained is in accordance with the divine design (His Will). Therefore the need is to understand this ‘Will’ or the universal working under the divine design and to test oneself on the touchstone of that design. Taking this a step further one can say that action-reaction in accordance with the above divine design begins with the existence of forms, and is applicable in the human world as regards the underlying actions-reactions. It has inherent continuity and control also. What is important is to understand the working of the divine system. When this becomes very urgent at the conscious level, everything appears to be working under a ‘control system’. Accordingly this pauri covers the ground right from the natural phenomena of creation to the civilized world, wherein the system, which has been at work, has been described as being controlled at every phase. This means that Guru Nanak goes into the working of the entire universal system from an unconscious to a conscious stage and he explains explicitly the entire span from the beginning to the end. For example, when in his Bani, Japu, he explains the journey from falsehood to truth, performed under His Will or by giving up the ego he not only begins the process of understanding it, but also explaining it. He says:
Rati ruti-thiti vaar
Pavan pani agni pataal.
Tis vich dharti tahp rakhi dharamsaal.
Tis vich jia jugat kai rang.
Tin kai naam anek anant.
Karmi karmi hoye vichaar.
Sacha aap sacha darbar.
Tithai sohan panch parvaan.
Nadri karam pavai nisaan.
Kach pakayee othai paye
Nanak gayaan japai jaye. (SGGS, 7)
God created nights, seasons, lunar days
Air, water, fire and space
Wherein He placed the earth
(the field for righteous deeds).
Then He created the creatures
Of all kinds, many complexions Of countless names and endless.
Then He judges them strictly
In accordance with their actions
The Truth holds His true court.
The chosen few are blessed there
With the Divine Grace and awarded
The robes of honour, says Nanak –
Truth and falsehood are judged
They are accepted or rejected fairly.
In this pauri ‘hukam’ is explained in detail within the meaning of the principles of dharma or the dutiful conduct of righteousness. The march of ‘time’ is explained at the primary level as continuously being divided into nights, seasons, dates, and in this process of transformation, can be glimpsed elements like air, water, fire, space, etc. The combination and cohesion of these elements working under the control of the divine design creates the earth and, further, this earth too depends on the divine system. In the Gurbani parlance, Guruji calls it Dharamsaal (the place of righteousness), that is, this earth is a place based on dharma. Dharma here connotes a system which is beyond the self and beyond experience. The life of different species is governed by their own systems. The life span of the different species working within this framework is further based on a design which further gives information about the system i.e. the life span of every creature too is determined by the system. In this way under such a system-design, countless creatures in countless species exist on earth. The existence of such species of different creatures can be said to be serving the purpose of creation in the performance of their assigned roles. That is to say that these species perform their roles in accordance with their ‘natural duty’ and anything that is said about them is only with regard to their assigned role. In this way Guruji, giving an idea of the divine-design-system in a realistic manner, comes to the fields of activities of difference species. And ultimately takes all of them to the ‘True Court’ (as explained above in the pauri). According to him the entire design-system obtains in nature at an unconscious level and at that level its role is creation, development and destruction. Countless forms assume a definite existence and then continue to move ahead in a flow. Guruji transforms this unchecked flow into a control process. It is for this reason that in comparison with the unconscious system design, he presents the ‘True Court’. Present in this true court are the Supreme One Himself, the Eternal Truth and the chosen few (panchas) to be honoured by Him. These chosen ones are regarded as the occupants of high positions because they have been blessed with ‘Attainment’. This is symptomatic indeed. It imbibes such an intellect as can distinguish between ‘raw and cooked’. The most famous and learned psychologist of today, Claude Levi-Strauss, while explaining the march from nature to civilization, names his book ‘The Raw and the Cooked’ whereby he means to say that the process of cooking raw provisions into edible food is the march from nature to civilization. Though Guru Nanak does not talk of cooking food, he talks about the journey from the nature of creation of the vast universe up to the stage of ‘attainment’ and presence in the True Court which he terms as the journey from raw to cooked. The raw state is without the symbolic attainment and the cooked state is carrying the unconscious to the conscious level, that is, the world.
This discussion leads us to conclude that Guru Nanak Dev, in his Bani, regards the entire process of nature as being governed by a system design and on this basis, we assume that his entire journey begins with the wahau (flow) and reaches the rahau (pause) and then making this pause the basis, he views the transformation of the entire spectrum. In Guru Nanak’s own words, this journey is the march from ignorance to knowledge. He places dharma (duty) and naitikta (morality) as the governing factors behind the march from ignorance towards knowledge. These factors play the role of linking knowledge and duty with human behaviour, which means that though the primary place is assigned in Nanakbani to the system, adequate emphasis has been laid on the fact that the system has to work for giving form to human conduct. It therefore becomes imperative if natural environment has to be transformed into civilized set up, it should be specially borne in mind as to how a human being can be protected against adverse factors. As we have stated above, system consciousness, in its form which is above self and above experience, symbolizes a very strong but unchecked knowledge, which poses a danger of its being misused for exploitation of mankind. It should be remembered that the system design is in itself moulded and controlled by the forces of nature. In the entire process underlies the tendency to transform natural consciousness into enlightened vision. In other words, it takes under its control the blind power of natural instincts. In this process, the system design working in the background of power come to the fore fully controlled by ‘discipline’. By this exercise of control, everything in the universe comes under its sway. In such a situation, it is not impossible to put the system so established to disuse. Guru Nanak is very much conscious of such a situation and in his Bani he repeatedly condemns the forces engaged in exploitation of less privileged people and lays great emphasis on proper use of power for the development and prosperity of human beings. It can be concluded from this discussion that Guru Nanak views the system and its working from the angle of its natural behaviour, which means that he proceeds further making the system the base of his theory when he strongly condemns the established system at work as it does not work for the good of society. It is thus seen that in Gurbani the working of the value system has been examined in depth at various levels and the exploitation of man by man has been viewed very seriously. Guru Nanak Bani is also fully conscious of the political aspect of the social and cultural ethos and comments on the unfair management of human resources. In this way it builds the political subconscious of the Punjab in medieval times. This building process also reveals that Nanakbani favours the planned development of ideal society. It is for this reason that a lot of criticism of the existing system was made in Nanakbani which says that under the prevailing feudal system, all powers are being used to exploit the masses. Treading the path shown by Nanak, one becomes conscious of personal freedom. Nanakbani views human life right from birth to death as it is lived in the contemporary system and concludes that a human being is a slave at all levels. Making man aware of his slavery and exhorting him to strive for his freedom is the clear message of Nanakbani, which is its basic purpose. First of all Nanakbani explains about the phenomena of nature and the creation of the universe. Then it studies the working of the system on artificial lines and it finds that the entire story of man is that of his slavery. The artificial system which transforms all natural and universal energies into a cultural system, tries to control it around a special pivot which is the point when all powers come under its control. Whenever some class assumes control of such power it begins to turn it towards its own selfish ends instead of towards human development. In this process the entire society is divided into two, those who are powerful and others who are powerless. This class division leads to the exploitation of one section by the other. When such power is put to serve narrow ends, a tale of slavery begins. It is generally seen that the development of human society begins with tribal culture. Its basic unit is a household or family. The father, as the head of the family, is considered the master of all power. The father uses this power for the protection of all the members of the family but a sort of planning is also at work in the exercise of this power. This power not only helps the father to maintain his mastery over the family it also empowers the others. In the entire process the father’s hegemony over the others remains intact. Our social life is based entirely on the patriarchal pattern. Right from medieval times till today, we have been attaching great importance to this pattern which has become an integral part of our social ethos. Wherever the father is not given due respect, the family or society is considered uncivil. Newborn children are taught from the very beginning to respect their father and elders. The entire society works in a balanced manner to maintain this tradition. Whosoever desires to lead a balanced life in society, is required to respect the patriarchal pattern in the family and in society. And if in some family, the father is unable to discharge his patriarchal responsibilities, the members of that family go their own way; and in this disintegration an individual might feel free from the point of view of discipline or tradition but the father stands disrespected. Therefore, it is considered necessary that in order to maintain the tradition and due respect, the patriarchal system should be followed sincerely. The entire Gurbani supports this fully. If we view this broadly, Gurbani regards the family and different relationships therein as the basic unit in this tradition. It works as a code of Gurbani. The code is a collection or codification of different messages connected with this. Giving approval to this code means that the father is the focal point in family or society. Guru Nanak uses this important factor in Gurbani again and again and highlights the importance of relationships. For example:
Maye baap ko beta neeka, sasurai chatur juayee.
Bal kanya ko baap pyara, bhaye ko ati bhayee.
The parents hold their son as very dear to them, and for the in-laws the wise son-in-law is so dear.
For a girl-child the father is so dear to her and a brother is dear to his brother.
It is evident that Guru Nanak fully realizes the importance of relationships in the family during the feudal times and approves of the patriarchal tradition.