Harbans Lal, Ph.D. D.Litt. (Hons).
It was during a study circle at the Gurdwara of the Medical College Amritsar in 1951 or so that Dr. Harbhajan Singh asked this question, “Will the predicted expansion of knowledge in science hurt or help the spread of Sikhism worldwide?” Putting it another way, will scientists be attracted to Sikhi or they will begin ignoring it.
The late Dr. Harbhajan Singh was the Professor of Surgery, and the Study Circle was a regular weekly feature of the Gurdwara.
My answer was that, undoubtedly, the expansion of knowledge about the universe and the natural laws would help Sikhi to attract more adherents.
My answer was considered so startling that it was reported by the major Sikh newspaper of the day because most people in those days believed that modern science and education would drive people towards atheism and agnosticism. Moreover, the Sikh youth, in particular, will be impacted adversely; they will abandon Sikhism. So much so that many parents would not send their children to college for fear of their abandoning Sikhi.
Guru Nanak and the Expanse of Knowledge
Since the days of those Amritsar study circles, our knowledge of the creations has expanded substantially; billions of Galaxies, new worlds in Blackhole, intelligence in the brain and heart cells, on and on. I have been in the thick of it. I obtained my doctorate in Biomedical Sciences, and since then I pursued the scientific discoveries as my profession as well as my pastime.
Further, I was born in the house of Guru Nanak. That is a story in itself that I published elsewhere (Sikh Review). Here I must acknowledge that I am one of many who is and had been overwhelmingly grateful to be blessed with the association of Guru Nanak for the past 550 years. It makes me humble every day as I appreciate intriguing Guru Wisdom ever.
To date, we are among the oceans of knowledge that religion and science have amassed in front of us. It is because of that expansion in the knowledge that we also seem to be at the verge of really seeing God. It is in the vertex of that knowledge by which I comprehend Nanak’s telling me that the reality of creation is the home in which God lives, manifested, and revealed.
ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਜਾਤਾ ॥ ਜਲਿ ਥਲਿ ਮਹੀਅਲਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਬਿਧਾਤਾ ॥ SGGS p. 739
Meeting the Guru, Says Nanak, now comprehended my Icon of Worship. I see The Perfect Architect of Creations pervading and permeating the water, the land, and the sky.
Nanak invented an icon in which he embedded the implication of the above verse. We exhibit it prominently in all our religious places and at homes. It is ੴ- Ek Onkaar. It literally means, One Reality manifested in all creations.
Walls Between Me and My God
Five hundred fifty years ago, in 1469, Guru Nanak appeared on this earth. With him, he brought the Divine Wisdom to shine on this earth. He named it “Gurmat.” Whereas Gurmat showed us, God, it also pointed out two walls or prevailing deceptions that keep us separated from God. These walls of separation are harder than steel to break.
Wall of Narcissism
Narcissism or egotism closes the human mind so that we think that we know it all and we are the center of everything. As said Deepak Chopra, “the ego is not who you really are. The ego is your Self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power because it lives in fear”. Thus, our narcissism becomes a wall between us and our Creator.
To learn more on ego, I may direct you to read Dr. IJ Singh ( http://www.sikhnet.com/news/little-ego-may-be-good-thing ). Here I emphasize that narcissism is a wall that separates us from our Creator. Guru told us of this wall as the following verse.
ਧਨ ਪਿਰ ਕਾ ਇਕ ਹੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਭੀਤਿ ਕਰਾਰੀ ॥ SGGS, p.1263
The soul-bride and the Divine spouse live together as one, but there is a hard wall of egotism standing between them. The closed-mindedness barricades the path to reach the Creator even when He is manifested in the creation around us.
Walls of Religiosities Invented by Professional Clergy
Although not intended by the founders of various religions, definitely not by the Founders of Sikhi, the professional clergies have attained a status of God’s ambassadors or agents in every religion. In Sikhism, they are known as Baba, Bhai, Granthi, Saint, etc. Invariably, they are ill-educated. They bring into the religion, worst kind of religiosity.
These clergies scare the congregations into modes of worshiping the SABD Guru as the SABD was a human deity. For example, they invoke their deity with a variety of tasty foods, expensive clothing, and currency. Their anthropomorphic Guru needs heating and cooling of the room, expensive bedding, and restriction on access. Some ban the Guru from traveling overseas. Some are known to prescribe specific language to communicate, discuss, or do vichaar. Similarly, some promote specific dress culture that is ethnic and not universally adaptable.
The Guru condemned such inroads of religiosity in the harshest language. Let me cite a few examples of Guru’s disapproval; SGGS says:
ਵੇਸ ਕਰੇ ਕੁਰੂਪਿ ਕੁਲਖਣੀ ਮਨਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਕੂੜਿਆਰਿ ॥ ਪਿਰ ਕੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਨਾ ਚਲੈ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਕਰੇ ਗਾਵਾਰਿ ॥ SGGS p.89
She may wear good clothes, but the bride is still ugly and rude when her mind is false and impure. When the spouse does not walk in harmony with the Will of the God spouse, it is foolish to ask for favors.
ਕਰਿ ਪੰਜੀਰੁ ਖਵਾਇਓ ਚੋਰ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਜਨਮਿ ਨ ਮਰੈ ਰੇ ਸਾਕਤ ਢੋਰ ॥ SGGS, p. 1136
You prepare sweet treats and feed them to your stone god. God is not born, and He does not die, you foolish, faithless cynic!
ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥ SGGS, p.1159
Whatever the Pandit and the Mullan have written (the path of religiosity), I have abandoned all of that; I have not taken any of it.
Send all communications to:
Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt (Hons)
Professor Emeritus & Chairman, Dept of Pharmacology & Neurosciences, University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Professor Emeritus, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.
President, Academy of Guru Granth Studies.