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INTERNATIONALISM AND THE SIKHS (author: Prof. Puran Singh)

February 14, 2018 | By

By: Prof. Puran Singh

The Sikhs are creations of the Guru’s universal love. They are by their very birth of His spirit citizens of the world.

This small world has been knitted together now as never before. Though wars still rage and will rage, for brothers must fight for patrimony, the spirit of fraternal reconciliation is in the air. Blood is thicker than water, and of the same wheaten bread and water and grapes and salt and wine we make the scarlet blood. The human body is one, the human soul is one. Human beauty is one. Our perception of the Beautiful is one; our self-intoxication is the same. Our pursuits of pleasure are alike. There is no difference between man and man. Our Guru says, the ears, the eyes, the speech of man are the same all the world over. The Guru also traces the angelic and the divine in us and emphasises this feature of our nature, showing how we may indistinguishably mingle with the angels in the Realm of angels. The heart-beat of man is alike from Japan to America, and man has already begun to recognize his heart-beat in all living things. Abraham Lincoln’s fight for the freedom of slaves in America gives him the dignity of a prophet amongst statesmen. That large sympathy of man for man is the recognition of the same heart-beat. Men, few men, have gone further, some for brief moments of inspiration, others for long, and they feel their blood in the veins of the animals. Buddha prohibited animal slaughter. Priyadasa issued edicts which made the beef-eating Aryan races of India vegetarian. This was the mass appreciation of Tathagatha’s great compassion for all sentient beings. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is typical of the curious contradiction of the nature of the man who eats chicken with his plate of rice and goes out of doors to prosecute a driver who is beating mercilessly with his lash his jaded horse in order to get a little more speed out of him. Wars rage and sisters of mercy nurse the wounded of both camps. All these contradictions of feeling only show that something nobler is stirring in the human mind and soon it will be born.

Author Prof. Puran Singh

The universal brotherhood of man has become a cant from the lips of the priest, as the universal oneness of life from the lips of the philosopher. All the higher tendencies of civilized and cultured men tend towards universal kinship. All desire peace upon the earth, this small sweet home of man. The days of patriotism are gone: patriotism was a foolish clannishness. In these days man with a patriotic feeling is a brute, because patriotism makes him blind to the larger interest of the family of man. All the barbaric selfishness that still dominates the narrow-minded politics of the governments of different countries is due to the wrong notion, “This, for me alone and for none else.” We need not recall here the stupid jealousy of the white settlers in different parts of the world who reserve the best pieces of land and the best rights of man for themselves and look with manifest contempt on the coloured races. For that jealousy is the rotten patriotism of the old world when brother was divided from brother and neighbour waged war against neighbour. We need not refer to the strength of arms that crushes the low-lying victim and eats it up, for there are men who have not yet been able to rise above man-eating tendencies. We need not refer to the fight that is going on apace all over the world between capital and labour, the aristocratic state and the proletariat, for this strife only thickens the gloom before us. The gloom of centuries seems to thicken still in the old ways of the brute and the beast. We, however, wish to look at the distant rays of the coming Dawn of Peace between brother and brother, members of the one human family.

In the modern world, there is no towering personality, the race of the old worthies has been run. England has not yet given us another Carlyle nor America produced another Abraham Lincoln. And because of this want of greatness, there is confusion not only in the direction of world-politics but in all human affairs. Little points that Napoleon would have solved as part of the day’s work, are put before committees and sub-committees and take years of discussion and still remain the fourteen points unsolved.

This is the misfortune of modern times. Great men are true representatives of the people. So, they have been in all ages, for true greatness is always representative. But the giants are gone, and now the tiny dwarfs flutter and shake their wings. They have not the soul in them to take any responsibility. They are not great enough. They have misunderstood democracy. By the introduction of the idea of democracy into politics, perhaps, that tall, Himalayan kind of human personality has been made impossible. All have become sand grains in one great level desert. The winds blow and heaps of sand arc gathered here and there and then are blown away. Such is the fate of human affairs in this age—a significant fate! All ideals are in the melting pot and from the great liquid will crystalize the New Ideals. Then the world being tired of these dwarfs will cry for its old Himalayan giants again. “Down with democracy!” will they cry, as they once cried “Down with Kingship.” There will be no revolutions, for revolutions have not made us a bit more comfortable than the old obedience. Better obedience.

At present, we can only see the tendencies. One great bent of human thought is towards internationalism. And I dare say this thought began in the modern world with Guru Nanak. “Down with caste distinctions!” Man is one. There is no such thing as Hindu or Sikh or Mohammadan or Christian, the eastern or the western. Man is man, and man is one. As long as man carries a label distinguishing him from his brother man, he has not risen to the dignity of man. True culture is that which does not make him a Sikh, or Mohammadan or Hindu or Christian, but a man. True education is that which does not make him Indian or English or Japanese or American but man. A truly educated and cultured man is he whose radiant sympathy, whose genuine feelings, whose brilliant mind, whose God-like manners bring him the spontaneous kinship of all the races of man wherever he may go, so that he becomes indistinguishably a man of all countries, colours, climes and castes. This is the spirit of the Gurus. Guru Nanak fascinated Mardana. Mardana never after seeing him called himself a Mohammadan. Bhai Nand Lai after seeing Guru Gobind Singh never called himself a Hindu. Who so ever met the Guru in his soul said “he was no other but a man”. There is one sky over a Mohammadan’s, a Hindu’s, a Christian’s head; the same winds blow for everyman, for everyman the same waters flow. When the river has no such labels, it is gross ignorance to call ourselves Hindus, Mohammadans, Sikhs, Christians—and there are many others—names which divide rather than knit us together. Of what use is our going to the prophets and saying we are their followers, if we are a disgrace to their genius, genius which was exhausted by making the human wolves flock together as lambs under the protection of one shepherd? When the Guru says man is one, it is blasphemy for us to recognize Hindus, Mohammadans and Christians any more. Bhai Bir Singh of the Sikh time is the type of the Guru’s man. He lived in a fort, he was of the Guru. Though a man of renunciation he lived like a king in a fort, such is the need of the soul that is given to the Guru. He had minstrels to sing to him, for they loved to see him grow translucent in flesh as they sang and loved to see the tears of ecstasy roll down from his closed eyes on his cheek, as a baby weeping in his cradle in dream. They said he had more of Him than they had, so they sang to him, they recognized him as their prince. And the Fort was a temple in the image of the Golden Temple of the Guru. The herd of Sikh soldiery mad with lust of revenge on the men and Princes who opposed their mob rule beseiged the Fort of Baba Bir Singh. “Either surrender such and such a Sikh prince who has taken refuge in the Fort or we blow it up.” The ultimatum was given. “My fort? No, it is the Temple of Guru Nanak. The prince has taken shelter with the Guru. I am nobody here. All right let them blow us up.”

The mad soldiery started the firing.

“Come, ye minstrels, and sing now our wedding song,” said the old saint whom the religious history of the world does not know, because the Guru’s man never proclaims himself. Loving the rapturous silence of His Love he lives and dies in it. “My system is for me to live by. And I am as a tree that gives shade wherever I am”. And the minstrels came and gathered round him. They began singing the psalms of the Guru. The shells fell. That rampart is gone, that parapet is broken. And then fell a shell in the choir and the Baba was gone. But before this happened, the inmates of the Fort asked his permission to reply fire. For they had all fire-arms and ammunition. “No”, said the Baba, “They are brothers, not enemies.” But they are firing.” “They know not we are their brothers. We know they are. This knowledge makes all the difference.” The difference was death. For those who value the Guru’s ideal of brotherhood prefer death. There is indeed no justification for the man of the Guru to hate any sentient thing, far less a man. It is therefore no fanatic thought of a fervent Sikh that this ideal of the brotherhood of man starts with the Guru. This one great tendency of the modern epoch of the world of internationalism has its root in the ideals of the Guru. These ideals put you to shame. You are not amongst yourselves full of pure love for each other, you have not yet dropped selfishness in love and given yourselves wholly to love. In face of this small performance, your calling yourselves His only is empty talk. But we must hang our heads in shame and stand condemned, if we have not yet acknowledged love as the only substance of human life. It is not for me to remind you of your performance. I am showing you how in the modern world the idea of the Guru is slowly appearing as softly and as brightly as the morning sun embroiders with a thin ribbon of gold the black velvet of the winter clouds. We have not yet risen to His Ideal. We are not His yet, in spite of wearing two swords and two turbans and drinking the sugared syrup to our heart’s content. Self-flattery cannot give us wings to fly. Those who have wings fly and never see the earth. The larks know naught but their own song.

The second great tendency of the modern world is towards dropping the so-called religions. Enough of them. The world is tired of them. And I call your attention to this, this very disgust of the Guru, the disgust of a well-informed, fully emancipated mind of the modern age apparent in every page of the Guru’s writings. If you read closely Asa-di-Var, you will find it. If you read Akal Ustati of Guru Gobind Singh you will find it, indelibly written. All gods are relegated to the past. All religions are thrown away. If you look at the type of lives the Guru created in the Punjab you will for the first time see the Ideals of civic life coming into being. You will see men with families serving the poor and the weak with their very lives. A man apparently not of their persuasion comes complaining to the Sikhs assembled in the Golden Temple at Amritsar that a tyrant has snatched away his wife. The assembled men all rise and go. Some of them die in the affray, others restore the wife to her husband. These were men wholly unpractical in the ordinary worldly prudent sense. They reeked not of power and of the kingdoms of this world. For all belong to the Guru, we are his dedicated servants. This feeling made the men of the Guru as universal as wind and river and light. If our daily life is not ideal as was that of the old disciples of the Guru’s, if we have no spiritual expression of the Guru’s ideal in our society, and in our homes, if there is no musical peace of the soul as expressed, say in the homes of artistic Kyoto or Tokio, nay more, if there is not more cleanliness, more divine human feeling, more spiritual charm that fascinates us in the aesthetic Japanese, in the temples and offices of the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee, then of what use is our falling flat with both our arms spread on the floor of our temple and of what use is our cry to possess them? Then I will frankly call this possession of temples by my Akali brothers a bearish embrace of brick and mortar. If the spirit of the Guru which alone makes all temples sacred has departed from our hearts, of what interest to us or to the world are our shrines? If our shrines do not establish an atmosphere of that inner music which rained down from the thorny branches of the Punjab acacia when Brother Lehna shook it under the bidding of Guru Nanak and the hungry were fed, the significance of shrines to a people so lost to love and passionate love of the Guru’s perfection shrinks to nothingness. And the superstitions and formal sanctimonious regard for them is the sign of the death of that feeling which brought them into existence. I am for the absolute maintenance of the spiritual atmosphere, but not for that exclusive possession as of our peculiar inherited property. I see no reason why in the Golden Temple should not gather the Hindu and the Moslem and the Christian to recite their kathas and songs, provided they serve to maintain the peaceful, radiant spiritual atmosphere characteristic of the Guru’s teaching. That great calm harmony of the complexity of faiths and the inner oneness of all religions is the special theme of the Gurus. The very first thinker on comparative religion was Guru Nanak. Akbar followed in a weak dreamy way, obsessed with the sense of his being an Emperor and capable of starting a new religion. Abul Faizi perhaps was responsible for his doings. The modern world East and West followed. The great spirit of toleration for all religions that modern religious movements such as Theosophy have started, the unifying cultural movements of the world, are all under the driving sankalpa of the Guru whose mind governs the activities of the coining world that is to take shape according to His will. In fact, there were many Hindus who had staunch devotion for the Sikh ideals. True they did not join us, but they had sympathy with our persuasion and we have thrown them out. Our Guru says, “I embrace the sweeper who has His Nam in him.” And we shut the doors of our heart. The shutting of temple doors is immaterial, but the shutting of the doors of the heart is not in harmony with the Guru’s ideal of the universal kinship of man. People point out that we do not treat the low castes that have joined (perhaps only outwardly for social reasons) our persuasion on a basis of human equality. The sad fact is not our treatment of these people, but the smallness of our moral stature in comparison with the ideals of the Guru. Closely connected with this comes the question of what they are pleased to call “our symbols”. We as men of the Guru have no symbols. We, I say, as men of the Guru have no so-called religion or religious creed as others have. “Then what are these impediments of long hair and beard?” asks the impatient young Sikh who sees that the see no reason whole world is clean-shaven with a cigarette in its lips. And it is so neat looking. “I wish to be like that. After all what does the hair matter when my heart is pure?” The question is quite simple to answer when the answer is based on an intellectual analysis of things. And who is there to compel any one to be of the Guru, unless one feels the need of His love and His protection and His Ideal and unless one seeks ardently for Him?

But those who have been to Him and have loved Him and have received His gifts cannot throw the gifts of the Guru to the winds and still say they love Him. It is a question of the intensity of personal love for the Guru. Those braids of Jesus Christ and these sacred knots of the Five Beloved of Guru Gobind Singh who tied them on their heads with his own hands are His Gifts thenceforward. For one who has any feeling in his breast, death is more welcome than parting with His gifts. But at the same time, we should not be so foolish as to impose the possession of these gifts as a condition on the modern man for his capacity to sympathize with the Guru’s ideals and to accept them for his soul. As I told you, I feel it is the Guru’s ideals that are working in the world today and the shape and colour and race and religion of the different nations of the earth do not hinder the growing acceptance of those ideals. Men are driven to go Guru-ward. All the modern tendencies, political and religious, are turning men towards Him. It is simply stupid in this age of the progressive tendencies of man to tie him down to any superstitious symbols. Symbols will be discarded if they are merely symbols. But we Sikhs of the Punjab saw Him, met Him. He gave us His personal love and we gave Him ours, though we went astray and still go astray. The sacred knot of hair is our veritable crown, because it is His gift. Better death than parting with this gift. After a short while, except for this shape of the Guru, all other things they call symbols shall be as one chooses. To say that because a Punjabi Sikh binds a turban, the American Sikh sympathiser shall therefore be precluded from wearing his hat is the idle jugglery of an ignorant fanaticism for a local personal gratefulness to Him who freed us from caste and superstition and saved us from the hands of political tyrants. But different indeed shall be the covering of one who meets Guru Gobind Singh and gets a particular headwear as a gift. You all remember how Guru Amar Das during his discipleship received from Guru Angad Dev a piece of khaddur as a gift and token of His love for Him. The disciple knew not where to keep it. So he put it on his head and there it remained. A year later he was given another piece and he put that on his head over the old piece. It is madness to bring such things under intellectual analysis. Feeling alone understands and worships such sublimity of feeling. Personal love given to the Guru is our discipleship. But we have no right to call others to discipleship unless the Guru is revealed in us and the soul of man is instinctively attracted to that Great Love. To other men the call will come direct. We have got a bad habit from the modern Christian missionary of going with the Bible in hand in the dust and noise of the streets, saying “Believe in Jesus or you are forever damned”. None has the right to preach such things which are on the face of it concerned with personality. Is it not shameful that we go and auction our Beloved for the fun of preaching a sermon that has but one effect of causing hatred between man and man? Because of my personal love of my Beloved, I should be so radiant that my radiance should conceal me and my Beloved from all. And yet my radiance should be a revelation of Him, as is the fragrance of the rose. It is certainly a tiresome futility for us to go impressing on the busy world of to-day that unless they keep long, hair and wear turbans they cannot understand the Guru. The Guru is already diffusing his mind in the world-mind and if, like other theologians and priests, we strive to force upon the world our particular theology and rites and symbols we shall certainly fail. As the shape of nose and ear and eye cannot be limitations for the ecstasy of the soul, so no symbol, no rite, no particular form, no particular virtue or vice can impede the inner realization of the great ideals of the Guru. But as the mystic expressional types of the Guru’s mind, we have to roam in this world and spread the fragrance of the Guru with the braid-knot he gave us, and the flowing beards. Our shapes indeed can, in no sense, be considered symbols. But more important is the expression of the Sikh soul through their medium, and if that expression is lacking, our very life and body, whether our head be dressed or clean shaven, are meaningless superstitions. To a person given to religion, as one given to intense human love, trifles relating to the soul are more essential than realms of silver and gold. Surely for such people the very superstitions contain more reflections of truth than the gathered facts of the learned people of the world. If one who is at peace and fully intoxicated on those delectable heights closes his eyes in ecstasy, this closing of his eyes in no symbol of religion and yet, in a sense, it is. So should be with us Sikhs the wearing of His knot, His beard, His shape and His obedience. Our form and shape of the Guru will radiate with His inspired and extraordinary humanity. Lacking that one thing, all shall be lacking. Without that spirit within us both life and death are devoid of meaning and truth.


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