| home | archives | comments | subscribe

OP-ED
The Great Deception
Randhir Singh

June 22, 2003: CT

"To acknowledge the amrit of the iron bowl and the double-edged sword, as means to become the Guru's Sikh, is a grave mistake"
Gurbax Singh (aka Kala Afghana), Bipran Ki Reet (Volume 6 - page 35)

"The requirement of Amrit Sanchar (a baptism-like ceremony involving an iron-bowl and with a double-edged sword) to become a true Sikh has discouraged the youth from becoming and staying Sikhs, and thus has encouraged them to become apostate and renegade [1]," writes Gurbax Singh.

It is also his contention that "from the beginning of the fifteenth century to 1850, unshorn hair was the only outward identity of the followers of Nanak. The word 'sehjdhari' is responsible for bringing laxity among the faithfull and it was coined in those days when, along with Sri Guru Granth Sahib, idols of gods and goddesses were also kept in the Gurudwaras by Udassis and Nirmala mahants, by no means friends of Sikhs. Those were the days when 'Gurpratap Suraj' was written and its authors distorted the outlines of Amrit Sanchar." Gurbax Singh views it as "a great folly to recognize Amrit Sanchar as the criterion to be known as Guru's Sikh." [2]

He continues to write that the "adoption of the five kakkars, as proof of Nanak's Sikhi, is the prerogative of the entire panth. It is not acceptable that the Gurus limited this right to five Singhs. This was stipulated by the unworthy leaders who violated the uniqueness of the Panth and controlled its religious teachings and places of worship for 200 years." [3]

On the Rehat Maryada he writes, "The present day Rehat Maryada is not entirely based on Gurbani… Those engaged in drafting it were overwhelmed by clever and far-sighted brahmins who conspired to perpetually influence the Sikh Panth by their brahminical thinking. After all, the Rehat Maryada was written by those Sikhs in 1849, who after losing the empire, did not care to know why they had lost their uniqueness which had once taken them to great heights. What is the use of having the Rehat Maryada when on the death of a well-known person - a powerful jathedar, or a so-called intellectual or a prominent political leader - we rush to Kiratpur Sahib to immerse their remains and observe the fourth, thirteenth, seventeenth day according true to brahminical traditions." [4]

Gurbax Singh also writes in no uncertain words that "the Rehat Maryada, as it exists, offends Gurbani" and thinks it should be discarded and a stop put to formal Amrit Sanchar. [2]

Gurbax Singh is widely known for his knowledge and lucid exposition of Sikh scriptures through words of mouth and print. He refers extensively to the Guru Granth Sahib and, on a subject of his choosing, profusely quotes selective hymns of the Gurus. It has to be said to his credit that he is not miserly in praising and eulogizing the Sikh faith and Gurbani. Surely he pays glowing tributes which gladden every Sikh heart. His portrayal of an ideal Sikh is a perfect picture of virtue and every Sikh is bound to feel proud of it. It is no surprise that he has been successful in attracting a sizeable number of admirers and followers.

He is right on the dot in striking a sympathetic chord among his readers when, for the pitiable position Sikhs find themselves in, squarely blames the leadership. No wrong is committed in criticizing the self-seeking leaders who, bereft of religion and oblivious of selfless service to the community, have betrayed it repeatedly for their immediate material gains, be it money, power or position. It is also true that because of selfish and opportunistic leaders certain distortions have come into Sikh institutions that need immediate and serious attention.

Where does the friction arise?

Gurbax Singh offends by his outright and wholesale condemnation of the established, recognized institutions. He castigates them as a product of the brahmanical mind, having no sanction and authority of Gurbani. He vehemently pleads to abolish them. By doing so, he does not sound sincere and betrays his sinister motives, however elaborate the camouflage may be, however hard he may try to hide behind the screen of Gurbani.

The examples from his writings cited earlier hardly leave any room for doubt that he is bent on maligning and discrediting Sikh institutions and traditions, and to eroding respect and faith in them. Already gross materialism is weaning the youth away from religion and such insidious and subtle propaganda is nothing short of adding insult to injury.

Mesmerized by his familiarity of Gurbani, the casual reader may not readily grasp the intent and subtlety in his writings. A serious and critical reader, however, will notice what lies between the lines. Falsehood left uncontested, if repeated over and over again, over time, begins to look like the truth.

Before Guru Gobind Singh crystallized the social idea of God, Bhai Gurdas, the first theologian of the Sikhs in the days of the fiifth Guru, wrote: "one Sikh is an individual, two make up a community and five constitute God." Guru Gobind Singh crystallized the same concept with the Panj Payaras (five faithful ones) by ceremoniously administering amrit to the Panj Payars and then taking amrit from them himself. The Tenth Guru, therefore, put his own seal on the revolutionary concept of socialized God. Sangat (the Sikh congregation) is held in special esteem and reverence by all Sikhs. Where there is Sangat there is God. This is the belief. How does Sangat act as a group? It does so through the Panj Payaras as its representatives.

Gurbax Singh disputes the historical evidence of the Panj Payaras. He believes that the concept was first adopted in the mid nineteenth century as a result of infiltration of brahmanism. Why should he create such confusion? What are his motives? A little reflection reveals the web.

As a first move the aim, is to get all those who believe in Gurbani and keep outward symbols, but do not undergo Amrit Sanchar, recognized as Sikhs. Once this is achieved the next logical step would be to press for recognition as Sikhs all those who believe in Gurbani but may not keep outward physical symbols. In his writings, Gurbax Singh has often stated: "What use are physical symbols if the mind does not accept these?" With this the transformation would be complete. All Hindus paying even lip service to Gurbani would then, as a matter of right, be classified as Sikhs and become eligible to stake claim in Sikh affairs. From another angle, all Sikhs would be Hindus. The game plan is subtle. The word 'sejahdhari' which, according to Gurbax Singh, was given currency by those opposed to Sikhs, and which irritates him most, would become irrelevant. What a master stroke.

It would be appropriate to touch upon another matter closely connected to maryada which is Anand Karaj. According to Gurbax Singh, the Gurus intended the marriage ceremony to be brief, simple and solemn. He rightly laments that in actual practice this solemn occasion of bonding two families has degenerated into vulgar display of wealth and position. Unfortunate and painful as it is, Sikhs by and large do not enter into matrimonial alliance with a Sikh outside their caste, regardless of his or her merit. The search is limited to the respective castes. Equally deplorable is the fact that the Sikh community continues to follow the same elaborate and expensive customs and rites before and after the marriage as practiced by Hindus.

What then is the point of contention?

Gurbax Singh wastes no words to discredit the maryada of the whole ceremony of Anand Karaj, including the four lavans, and dubs it as misuse of Gurbani amounting to disrespect. [5] His stock thesis and argument is that "codification of the Rehat Maryada, the outcome of brahmanic mind, is the root cause of the whole problem." The sooner the Sikhs defy, reject and disassociate from the Rehat Maryada and Anand Karaj, the better it would be.

Why have such utterances gone unnoticed and unquestioned for so long? Quite simple - he won complete confidence and respect of the community by impressing it with the depth of his knowledge of Gurbani and Sikh scriptures. Having established his credentials, he began firing salvos by selectively criticizing Sikh institutions and eminent personalities.

The community, after the events of the eighties and nineties, was feeling very hurt and humiliated. Gurbux Singh shrewdly made full use of the prevailing mood of discontent and disillusionment and projected himself as a messiah of the community. Encouraged by his success with his readers he started systematically striking blow after blow on the structure of the faith to pull it down brick by brick. Once he swayed the minds of his unsuspecting readers (ironically including some respectable persons) it was easy for him to incite them to defy, to revolt and to overthrow. Soon the band of dedicated followers took over, raised ominous voices, amplified by media, insisting instant restructuring.

It is in the interest of the he Sikh nation that Gurbax Singh discloses who his influences are. He has to answer vital and pertinent questions raised by his destructive preaching against the Rehat Maryada, Amrit Sanchar and Anand Karaj.

He incites Sikhs to disown their institutions and maryada which have become infected - according to him beyond redemption - by brahmanism. What will happen if tomorrow he himself says that Guru Granth Sahib contains many references to brahmin gods and goddesses and their mythologies and were later interpolated by individuals with brahmanic mind and thinking. What solution would he suggest? Discard Guru Granth Sahib or change it? How perverted and dangerous his whole approach is!

Gurbax Singh has all along been complaining that the Akal Takht has not been responding to his letters. He has been given an opportunity to talk face to face. Why is he not appearing before the Akal Takht? What is he afraid of?

In his writings, Gurbax Singh has been denouncing Jarnail Singh, yet he now claims to be a close associate of his. And on this account, he is afraid of arrest by the Indian government and pleads inability to enter India. What a complete shift and blatant falsehood.

He extols Sikhs to be courageous and ever ready to die for their ideals. What about his Sikhi? Sheer possibility of arrest - which may or may not even happen - has frightened him to climb down from the ideal.

This may not be the real reason. He may be afraid that his falsehood will be exposed or he may not be able to stand the scrutiny by Sikh theologians who are equally well versed in Gurbani.

Gurbani is intended to be the spiritual essence of divine and eternal Truths which have universal appeal and application without the fetters of time, space or race. It is meant to guide mankind through the evolution of its relationship with God, the Ultimate Truth.

On the other hand, there is an equally important need to have a sanctified code of conduct that guides us in living our everyday lives. This document should strengthen and illustrate the practicality of the eternal Truths revealed in Gurbani rather than blur those. It is this composition that is called the Rehat Maryada.

It was left to the genius of Tenth Guru to wield the followers of the Sikh faith into a strong, distinct and vibrant people. Amrit was designed to achieve this. To doubt this historical fact would amount to doubting Guru Gobind Singh himself. Although he may not say so in so many words, the accusing finger of Gurbax Singh is pointing indirectly toward the Tenth Guru, for it was he who conceptualized the Khalsa and the importance of Rehat Maryada. The Guru was emphatic in saying: "Rehat payari mujh ko, Sikh payara nahin."

It is Gurbax Singh's style to first shower superlatives and then in one blow shatter the splendid edifice he just built - reducing in a moment a positive account into a negative one.

Because of ineptness and mismanagement certain distortions have arisen in Sikh institutions and traditions. Lest other hostile and inimical forces take advantage of lack luster Sikh affairs, these controversial issues need to be addressed pragmatically, boldly and urgently. The youth are disenchanted, the tendency toward apostasy is increasing and Sikh youth are cutting their hair and taking to drugs. The tide has to be turned.

In the Gurus' times spiritualism was the first priority and temporal concerns occupied the secondary position. What has happened now is that religion has been given a back seat and politics has become dominant. Serving the community is no longer the driving force. The greed for money, power and position has corrupted and blinded us. No wonder fights for controlling Gurdwaras and institutions is a common occurrence.

This is the opportune time for Sikh intellectuals and theologians of proven integrity and moral strength to get together and deliberate on all the controversial issues agitating the Sikh mind. This has to be done objectively, totally free of passions and party considerations, by consensus. Power seekers, politicians and their supporters should be kept at a distance.

In the ultimate analysis, it is the character of the individual members of the community that will determine the real and lasting strength of the faith. The need of the times is hard introspection by each and all to reform oneself and become a true Sikh dedicated to serve the community, not to control and influence it. Sikhism is a practical religion; let all Sikhs practice and live it in their daily lives.

[1] Page 35, Vol. 6, Bipran Ki Reet
[2] Page 33-35, ibid
[3] Page 33, ibid
[4] Page 31, ibid
[5] Page 38-39, ibid

The writer is a lawyer by training and has served as a consultant to World Health Organization. He is now retired and spending most of his time conducting research and study of Sikh affairs.

 

comment | go to top
home