In the year 1979 we are at a stage of world history in which not only the distance has been annihilated but other walls such as that of language, history, tradition, that separate peoples and nations from each other have also been considerably lowered. Three modem scientific ideas have shaken the complacency of the 19th century secular thought just as the 19th century scientific thought had shaken the seemingly secure church-dogmatism of religion and bigoted certitudes of certain world-religions. These three modern scientific ideas are that (1) the matter is bottled up energical light waves; “That what is gross is the subtle” 1 (2) the universe is an act of thought, “the entire phenomenon has been created by God by an act of thought,” 2 and (3) Heisenberg’s ‘principle of indeterminacy’ in nature. Thus the ‘matter’ has been shown to be as rich, if not richer, in possibilities than the ‘spirit’; the energy it contains is incalculable, and it can undergo an infinite number of transformations.’ The ‘materialist’ in its 19th century connotation has become meaningless and so has the expression ‘rationalist’. The logic of ‘commonsense’ is no longer valid since in the new physics, a fact can be both true and false at the same time, unlike the Jaina syadvad, the May-be doctrine of Jaina logic, which demonstrated that A may be A, at one point of time, ‘t-1’ and it may be not - A, at another point of time, ‘t-2’ or, that A may be A from one perspective ‘p-1’ and A may be not-A from another perspective, ‘p-2’. Now, as we understand the point, AB no longer equals BA, since an entity can be at once continuous and discontinuous, a particle and a wave. Physics, the model for all the natural sciences, can no longer be relied upon to determine what is or, what is not possible. The concept of ‘strangeness’, the ‘quantum number’ has changed all these things and we now know that scientific hypotheses can offer us no new knowledge; 3 they are like the Spanish inn where you may only find what you bring yourself, and scientific speculation finally has led us to ‘symbols’, airy, unknown, insubstantial and like a wisp of the wind, incapable of affording a foothold to man’s unending restlessness for reaching substance and certitude. Man cannot content like the boa-constrictor to have good meal once a month and sleep the rest of the time. No promises of utopias on earth or visions of socialist sumptuousness, communist felicity or other political juggleries can give rest and sense of final self-fulfillment to man; only a technology or teaching capable of ensuring direct comprehension of and a direct contact with Reality may do so. Religion is a mode of actual living and the only serious way of handling Reality. This is precisely what the ‘Epilogue’, mundavani in the Sikh scripture says :
“In this revealed text, three topics are stated; the Reality, contact with it and how to do so.
The immortal Name of God the All-Ground, is herein the major premise.
Total self-fulfillment and the peace that knoweth no ending is the reward for those who understand, accept and act upon it.
Man cannot turn his back on it, permanently.” 4
The different living religions, therefore; are now in a position to look at each other with the eye of comparison and to find as to in what points they fundamentally differ from their contemporaries, in the matter of doctrine and religious experience. This task of comparison entails re-assessment of the ancestral heritage of each religion and this process of re-assessment is by far the most hopeful sign which promises the emergence of a world religion and a world society.
Joachim Wach (1898-1955) of the Chicago School of the latest theological speculations in Europe, emphasises three aspects of religion (1) Theoretical is, religious ideas and images, (2) the practical or behavioural and (3) the institutional, that is, how its values tend to shape the institutions that express them. In the alternative religions may be grouped (1) according to their conception of the Divine, (2) according to the type of piety they foster, that is the human .type they produce and insert into society and the stream of history.
To distinguish Sikhism from the other higher and world religions, therefore, it is necessary to point out the broad points of agreement between Sikhism and the other religions, as well as the points of difference.
It is a common postulate of all higher religions of mankind that there is a spiritual Presence which mysteriously sustains the universe of phenomena and that it is this spiritual Presence which is absolutely real. Indeed, it is the silent premise of all human knowledge and awareness that all that is visible is grounded in the invisible; all that is rational has its roots in the irrational all that is felt and sensed sprouts from the mysterious, the incomprehensible. A contemplation of this ‘unknown’ is the beginning of ‘the idea of the holy’ referred to as, bismadu, ‘a sense of awe and wonder’, in the Sikh scripture 5 and an abiding empathy with it as the goal and fruit of religion.6
In all history of human thought, people have always divided, tacitly, the world into the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ and they have always understood that the visible world accessible to their direct observation and examination represents but a small fraction perhaps even something unreal, in comparison with the really existent world. In all the human systems of thought, the scientific systems, the philosophical systems and the religious systems, is recognised this division between the ‘seen’ and the ‘unseen’, no matter under what names or definitions. In the two thousand years old, the first Samskrit text of versified narration, Valamiki’s Ramayan, two basic concepts occur, again and again, in narrating secular events divya, the ‘luminous subtle’, and adrista the ‘unseen invisible’.
In science the invisible world is the world of ‘small quantities’, and also the world of large quantities. The visibility of the world is determined by its scale. The invisible world, on the one hand is the world of micro-organisms, cells, the microcosmic and the ultra-microscopic world; still further, it is the world of molecules, atoms, electrons, vibrations, and, on the other hand, the world of invisible stars, other solar systems, unknown universes. The microscope expands the limits of our vision in one, telescope, in the other. But both enlarge visibility very little in comparison with what remains invisible. Physics and Chemistry show us the possibility of investigating the phenomenon in such small quantities or in as distant worlds, as will never be visible to us.
In philosophy there is the world of events and the world of causes, the world of phenomenon and the world of numenon, the world of things and the world of ideas.
In all religions, most developed and the most primitive, there is a division of the world into the visible and invisible: in Christianity, gods, angels, devils, demons, souls, of the living and the dead, heaven or hell; in paganism, gods personifying forces of nature, thunder, sun, fire, spirits of mountains, lakes, water-spirits, house-spirits, all this is the invisible world. The same is the case with Islam, Hinduism and Mahayana.
Mathematics goes even further. It conceives of and calculates such relations between magnitudes and such relations between these relations as have nothing similar in the visible world. Thus, we are forced to admit that the invisible world differs from the visible world not only in size but in some other properties which we can neither define nor understand, and further that, the laws discovered by us for the visible world cannot refer or apply to the invisible world.
In this manner, the invisible worlds, the scientific, the philosophical and the religious worlds, are, after all, more closely related to each other than they would, at first sight, appear to be and these invisible worlds of different categories possess identical, common properties, (1) incomprehensibility and (2) being the matrix of the ground and causes of the phenomenon of the visible world. “No phenomenon can ‘become independently of the invisible Being, and the entire visible world is strung on the single thread of this Being”.7
The idea of ‘Causes’ is always bound up, associated with, the invisible world. In the world of religious systems, invisible forces govern people and the visible phenomenon. “All that becomes and all that passes away, all that is visible and all that is invisible, the whole of creation and the entire cosmos, all that is and exists, (here and there) is supported and governed by a single absolute Power.” 8
“It is this invisible Power, that is causer of all causes”. 9
Man has always understood that the ‘causes’ of the visible and observable phenomenon lie beyond the sphere of his observation and they inhere in “the Power unseen that is the matrix of all the invisible regions.” 10
In this postulate Sikhism agrees with the higher living religions of the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
Another postulate of these higher religions is that man finds himself not only in need of arriving at an awareness of this absolute Reality, but also to be in communion with it, in touch with it. There is a basic urge in man which demands that unless this is done he cannot feel himself at home in the world in which he finds himself born and living. “Outside nearness to gracious God, where else there is rest and peace for man”? 11
This is an implicit postulate of all the aforementioned higher and living religions and Sikhism is in agreement with them in accepting this postulate.
With regard to the nature of this spiritual Presence which lies behind and sustains the world of phenomena, it is agreed by all these higher living religions that it is not contained in and is greater than either some of the phenomena or the sum total of the phenomena, including the man himself. The Rigveda says that only “one fourth of Him ·is the entire Creation, while the remaining three fourths of Him is in the luminous invisible regions of immortality.” 12 Sikhism agrees with this. “Greater than the sum-total of the entire cosmic phenomenon, the created world is He.” 13
All these great religions agree with each other in asserting that the nature of this absolute Reality, which lies behind and sustains the phenomena, has an aspect which is neutral and which is impersonal. The nirvana of Buddhism and parbrahma of Hinduism, and the experience of the mystics of Islam and Christianity affirm this aspect and characteristics of absolute Reality. But they agree also that this absolute Reality has a personal aspect too. The Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are all agreed that the absolute Reality has a face which is personal, in the sense in which a human being is a person, and that human beings encounter this personal face of the absolute Reality in the same sense in which one individual human being encounters another. What is a ‘person’? A ‘person’ must be distinguished from a ‘thing’ and ‘existence’ must be distinguished from ‘being’. ‘Existence’ is that which manifests as ‘being’ in the consciousness of a ‘person’, while ‘things’ and ‘persons’ both partake of the ‘being’. ‘Person’ as a substance is characterised by four attributes: (1) its ability to think, feel, will etc., (2) its unity as a present state of mind, (3) its historical unity, and (4) its being aware of these two types of unity. The personal God of higher religions is believed as having all these four attributes.
What precisely this personal aspect is, whether it periodically manifests itself only once-for-all and in a unique incarnation, is not universally agreed. But all these great living religions agree that the spiritual presence which permeates and sustains the world of phenomena has a personal aspect. Mahayana declares that this personal aspect of absolute Reality manifests itself in the bodhisattavas and is plural. For Hinduism and for Christianity this personal aspect is triune, i.e. it assumes the form of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, or the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In Islam this personal aspect is deemed as Singular in the form of one God, without a rival or co-partner, wahid-hu-, la-sharik. While in Hinduism and Christianity this personal aspect communicates to man by assuming a human form, in Judaism it directly speaks to man from behind an impenetrable veil of a ‘burning bush’ and in Islam it does so indirectly through a supra human messenger, Gabriel. In Sikhism, this communication is direct14, as Sikhism repudiates the idea of divine incarnation. 15
Further, Sikhism, while accepting that the personal aspect of the absolute Reality is singular; declares this Person to be the Universal mind of which all other finite minds are but emanations. “He is the light that incandesces all that shines”. 16 These finite minds are at each moment one with the universal Mind, for, “He resides in every finite mind and every finite mind is contained within Him”, 17 and the essence of their finitude being eliminative and not productive. “Only such awareness a finite mind has, as God enlightens him” 18 That what makes a mind finite and distinguished from the universal Mind is what has been eliminated out of it and not what has been produced by it. It is this universal Mind which Sikhism holds as the absolute Reality and it is from this doctrine that the basic teaching of Sikhism declaring ego-centricity, the self-centredness of infinite, individuated human mind, as the basic malaise and alienation of the existential man 19, an annulment of which is the main objective of religion. (1) To accept consciousness into altogether a centric consciousness, characterised by utter dispassionate objectivity and (3) to achieve abiding communion with absolute Reality, the God, through the discipline of Nam-yoga”. This is all Sikhism. 20
Thus, although Sikhism is largely in agreement with the basic postulates of the great living religions of the world, it has its points of distinction which are not less important and which when translated into action i.e. into the counsel which it gives to mankind to attain its highest destiny, lead to practical consequences which not only mark Sikhism from the other great religions but also make it for peculiar interest to the modern man.
The ‘modern man’, we, in this book, have equated with ‘the layman’ to distinguish a properly educated well-read man of to-day from a ‘specialist’, who, is trapped in his own self-imposed limitations such as make him judge all human problems within the frame-work of his own special domain.
Scientists lay claim to the entire field of knowledge about the universe, including the human problems and yet they themselves limit their claim by defining the universe in terms of the observable phenomenon, observable by the human organs of sense and with their tool-extensions, and including such things as sub-atomic particles whose presence can be inferred only from their observable effects. This field of observation, that is of sensory perception, is an abstract from the totality of human experience and both are not the same. This stupidity of the scientist has confused and befuddled the human intellect for the past two hundreds years giving birth to anti-religion ideological monsters and demons luring man into the Bermuda Triangle of socialism, communism and secularism, that social transformations aimed at setting up utopias on this earth through political upheavals and revolutions is the only and final solution of the basic human problems.
The human problems are a state of the psyche while the problems of material well-being and affluence are only relatable to the problems of nerves, and that by tackling and solving the latter, one does not necessarily solve the former, is being slowly and dimly realised by the lay-man today, thus focusing his attention on religion as a matter of top-priority for the serious minded person. He who does not understand the situation thus, about him Dr. A.N. Whitehead remarks:
“There is no hope for a person who cannot distinguish between a state of nerves and the state of the psyche”.
The layman of today, the modern man, is under the assaultive impact of two urgencies. One, he must re-arrange his entire sum-total of ‘scientific thought’ so as to provide his judgemental capacities with a new and all-comprehensive frame work, and two, he must discover and adopt a religious way of life to come to terms with the absolute Reality.
The older world religions tend to persuade and tempt man to the ideal of ‘static perfection’, an idea associated with the ancient Greek thinker, Parmenides, and subsequently embodied in Plato’s theory of Ideas. These religions, therefore, great and profound as they are, appear to be somewhat inapplicable to the human affairs as viewed by our ‘lay man’. Man needs for his fulfillment not only the achievement of this or that ‘highest good’, the summum bonum, but hope and enterprise and change, an ever-alluring yet constantly receding numenous Vision. As Hobbes says : ‘felicity consisteth in prospering, not in having prospered’. Among modern philosophers, therefore, the idea of an unending, static, unchanging bliss is replaced by an orderly and evolutionary progress towards a goal which is never quite attained. This altered outlook comes from substitution of dynamics for statics that began with Galileo and has increasingly affected all modern thinking, scientific or political, secular or religious.
Such an ever-beckoning, constantly receding numenous Ideal is promised, par excellence, by Sikhism, its teachings and technology, its dogmatics and its basic Vision : “My Lord is ever new, new every specious moment, and for ever and for ever more, the All-Bestower”. 21
1. Nanak so sukham soi asthul. — Sukhmani
2. hari simrani kio sagal akara. — Sukhmani
3. baba horu mati horu hore,
je sau ver kamaie,
kude kuda joru — Guru Granth Sahib
4. thal vic tin vastu paio sat santokh vicaro, amrit nam thakur ka paio jiska sabhs adharo,
je ko khavaie je koo bhuncai tiska hoe udharo; iha vastu taji na jai nit nil rakh urdharo — Guru Granth Sahib.
5. adi ka bicaru bismad kathiale.
6. dekh adrist rahau bismadi dukhu binsai sukhu ai jio.
7. tum te bhinn nahi.kicchu hoe, apan suti sabhu jagatu proe. — Sukhmani
8. avanu javan dristi andristi, agiakari dhari sabh sristi.— Sukhmani
9. ki koran kunind hain. — Japu, Dasamgranth.
10. ki ghaibul ghaib hain. — ibid.
11. hari nahna miliai sajanai kol pale bisram. — Baramaha
12. Padah asya vishva bhutani triyapada asya amrtam divi. (X 90. 3)
13. vaduh vada vada medni. —Asa, paudi.
14. bhagat-sang prabhu gost karat — Guru Granth
15. so mukhu jalau jitu kahai thakur joni — ibid
16. Tisdai canani sabh mahi cananu hoe. — Dhanasri
17. man mahi api man apune mahi. — Sukhmani
18. jaisi mati dei taisa pargasu. — ibid.
19. haumai diragh rog hai. — Sikh Scripture
20. bhana manna, hanta tiagan, satanamu simiran liv lagan.— As explained to Bhai mani Singh, the martyr by the last Sikh Prophet, Guru Gobind Singh.21. sahib mera nit navan sada sada datar. — Dhansari