In 1966. the Punjabi University instituted the Guru Nanak Commemoration Lectures. Four series of annual lectures have been delivered and in this year of' the quincentenary of Guru Nanak's birth, they are being presented in one volume. entitled Guru Nanak and Indian Religious Thought. The scholars who have given these lectures' are: Dr. Bhai Jodh Singh, Shri B.L• Kapur, Sardar Balwant Singh Anand and Dr. Niharranjan Ray. Whereas Bhai Jodh Singh gave his lecture in Punjabi, the other three scholars gave theirs in English.
Each of these series, essentially. formulates and presents a thesis. The idea central to Bhai Jodh Singh's lectures is that Guru Nanak brought a new inspiration to the Indian religious thought so as to make it more constructive and productive for life. He had contemplated upon the concepts and speculations of various systems, rejected some of them and reinterpreted and recharged some others. He resolved the conflict of the transcendent and the immanent by proclaiming the unicity of the Godhead in both the forms. Disregarding al I' speculations about creation, Guru- Nanak said that the world of phenomena was the outcome of God’s Will. God’s Will is supreme; therefore the law of karma is not inexorable but is subject to that Will of which grace is also an aspect. Gum Nanak, rejecting the distinction between spirit and matter, accepted the spirit to be the only reality and, hence, advocated equality of men by discarding caste and varna. He aimed it a classless but spiritual society and prescribed the way of meditation, action and service.
' Shri B. L. Kapur's thesis is that Guru Nanak Dev rediscovered and proclaimed the ancient Vedic or Sanatanist dharma and restored to it, its pristine purity, retrieving it from the superficial “rituals of orthodox form that Hinduism felt compelled by the instinct of self-preservation to assume after it was shaken to its very roots by the Semitic fanaticism.” The true concept of dharma is one only, but the true dharma has to be revived again and again for which purpose God sends Gurus like Nanak. But, he adds, “this should not be misinterpreted to mean that Guru Nanak said nothing new or made no original contribution.
Sardar Balwant Singh Anand has taken note of the pronounce ments of the Western lndologists that the Indian philosophical and religious thought did not pay heed to the ethical aspect of life. He puts forward the thesis that, in spite of his mystic fervour, Guru Nanak gave a very high place to ethics in the realization of spiritual life. “Bhakti for Guru Nanak was a form of mysticism. To this mysticism, he added the ideal of ethical life. Purity of life is the first pre-requisite of spiritual advancement. Indefatigably, he stressed the message of detachment and self-surrender ; inculcation of social virtues and the pure and untranished life. Life should be free from egoism and based on sat, truth. Truth and fear of God have been preached by Guru Nanak as the noblest of virtues. Bhakti expresses itself in life as love, compassion, freedom from fear, freedom from hate, and influences every action of human life. It is the source of man’s physical and spiritual strength.”
Dr. Niharranjan Ray stresses the point that Guru Nanak and his seccessor Gurus aimed at creating a casteless society as did Buddhism, the Siddhas and some of the earlier bhaktas. But since they could not give a new economic or productive system, the castes remained. However, the Sikh Gurus were able to carve out a well-knit and homogeneous community, especially by emphasizing that a Sikh must never renounce the world, but lead a life of the householder, and work to earn his livelihood, share his earnings with others and contribute liberally towards the common welfare of the community. So, Sikhism has a social commitment ; it contributes towards a full-blooded life and seeks the welfare of the human society as a whole. The Sikh community was thus able to make a noteworthy contribution to all fields of the national life of India. None of the other Bhakti cults has a comparable achievement.
In all the four series of lectures, the first quest has been to find whether Sikhism had any new philosophical system to propound. This question, in an implicit or explicit form, is present in all the four series of lectures. A common conclusion, however, is that in spite of certain aspects of Guru Nanak's philosophy being traceable to the Vedic and upanishadic tradition, Sikhism holds out a new vision of life and a new way to achieve that vision. The dramatic success of the Sikh Community in different fields is attributed to this new way of life propounded by Guru Nanak. The most potent levers were the sanctification of the life of the household and the creation of a casteless society -a society built upon the principles of equity and justice.
Bhai Jodh Singh attempts to bring out the distinctive character of the concepts adopted by Sikhism about God and creation. Shri B. L. Kapur suggests that the dharma is always the same, only it is re-enforced from time to time by such great souls as Guru Nanak. Sardar Balwant Singh says that Sikhism leans towards the Vedantic system of philosophy and establishes the cultural and theistic continuity between the Upanishads and the Sikh religion, which he defines as a mysticism of simran, coupled with a way of life based solidly on ethics. Dr. Niharranjan Ray believes that Sikhism shares with the Nathas and the Bhaktas many philosophical and religious terms, but puts them into practice in life in quite different contexts, conditions and ideals.
The four lectures supplement one another, and put together they present a fairly comprehensive view of Sikhism and of the Sikh society.
Sardar Wazir Singh translated into English Dr. Bhai Jodh Singh's lecture delivered in Punjabi. The English version has Bhai Sahib's approval. The proofs of that part were also read ant corrected by Sardar Wazir Singh. For this work and for making the translation, I express to him my gratitude. Dr. Kishan Sing Bedi, formerly Joint Director of Agriculture (Research and Education), Punjab, Chandigarh, rendered valuable help in revising the text and preparing the press copy and I offer him also my grateful thanks
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend