Guru Granth Sahib: 'The Angel of Peace'
By Dave & Nita Anand
Bertrand Russell, British philosopher and Nobel Peace Prize winner, once observed -- "If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the third world war of atomic
and hydrogen bombs, then the Sikh religion and Granth Sahib will be the only
third world war issue — isn't this religion capable of guiding mankind towards
peace before the third world war? In reply, Russell said, "Yes, it has the
capability, but the Sikhs have not brought out in the broad daylight, the
splendid doctrines of this religion which has come into existence for the
benefit of the entire mankind."
Relatively speaking -- the religions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism,
Jainism and Buddhism are quite ancient when you examine the religion of
Sikhism, which is the youngest, and perhaps the most pluralistic and tolerant
of the other faiths. This is not a view by any biased Sikh scholar, but comes
from several Christian and Muslim leaders, including Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the
founder of Ahmadiyya sect of Islam.
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was born in 1469 to Hindu parents in a
place known as Nankana Sahib near Lahore, Punjab. Early in his life, Nanak
developed a penchant for the search of truth since he was deeply distressed by
the divide between religious precepts and what the people practiced and could
not see ritualism shorn of deeper commitment as being the path for salvation.
His first pronouncement after what is believed to be his enlightenment, were
the words: "There is no Hindu and no Muslim — albeit, we are all children
of one God." He spread this message of oneness and the need for love of
each other throughout his travels that took him to most of India, Tibet, Sri
Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the countries of Central Asia.
Nanak's Sikhism evolved with nine more Gurus who followed him. Collectively,
they preached and practiced the issues concerning right and wrong, good and
evil, virtue and vice to create a vision of a civil society that is rooted in
equality, justice, freedom and governed by the principles of humility and
strength (Meree and Peree). All these principles and more of such ideas are
captured in the Sikh Holy Book known as the "Guru Granth Sahib."
The Granth Sahib is quite unique and differs drastically from other holy books since it acts as Eternal-Guru or Living- Guru after the flesh-based guruship was abolished by the 10th Guru Gobind Singh when he installed the holy book's final version in 1708. Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru, who was a prolific poet and wrote major portions of the sacred book, gathered most of the text and finished the initial editing by 1604. Structurally, the pattern of hymns in the Granth Sahib allows integration of various ragas and varnas of India to create a very soothing musical recital (as in Kirtan), as well as plain reading for spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Guru Nanak came up with this idea of the scripture design that his successors adopted and thus created a powerful rendition of God's Word or Naam for future generations to benefit from.
In addition to the hymns of the first five Gurus, including his own, Guru Arjan
in his democratic/egalitarian approach incorporated into the Adi Granth
compositions from as many as 30 saints and wise men belonging to various
castes, religions and vocations. The chosen sages of his time and from the past
whose hymns appear in the Sikh holy book, include: Kabir, Ravidas, Pipa, Sain,
Beni, Ramanand and Bhikhan from the state of Uttar Pradesh; Jaidev of Bengal;
Surdas, the blind poet of Awadh; Mira Bai and Dhannu of Rajasthan; Namdev,
Trilochan and Parmanand of Maharashtra; Sadhna of Sindh; and Fareed from
Punjab. It is interesting to note that Kabir was a Sufi-weaver, Ravidas a
cobbler, Namdev a seamster, Sain a barber, Dhannu a farmer, Fareed a Sufi
Muslim, Sadhna was a butcher — and so on.
With such a collection of varied divine thoughts, it is no wonder that the
Granth Sahib teaches believers to love all creation since it is God's own
manifestation. The basic focus of all 10 Gurus and that of Guru Granth Sahib is
to do with four types of unity — unity of God, unity of mankind, unity of
religion and unity of classes. From these emanate other sentiments such as:
universality/Catholicity/equality, love for each other, respect/acceptance of
other religions, honest earnings and living, meditation, community service and
All 10 Gurus strongly opposed criticism of the holy books from other religions.
Guru Arjan said thus: "I am neither Hindu nor Muslim, this body and spirit
is of Allah-Rama-Lord; so how can I say the Quran, the Vedas and the Bible are
false. Those who do not contemplate them are false." It is worth
mentioning that the Granth Sahib has 101 references to "Allah," 55 to
"Khudah," 1705 to "Ram" and 7216 to "Hari."
As a matter of principle — Sikhs offer the same reverence to The Granth Sahib
as they do to the 10 Gurus of flesh and blood. The 30 Hindu and Muslim saints
whose compositions appear in the holy book also get the same respect and
devotion as when Sikhs bow to the Granth Sahib or when the hymns are sung out
of the holy book at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and all the local Gurdwaras
throughout the world. Many Theologians are of the view that this kind of
egalitarianism is not found or even possible in other religions of the world.
The 1,430 sacred pages of the Granth Sahib contain nearly 6,000 hymns divided
into 31 ragas or musical modes in which they are rendered. All compositions
appear in "Gurmukhi" alphabet, which is part of the language of Punjab. Hymn contributions add up as follows: First Guru Nanak penned 974 hymns, Second Guru Angad (62), Third Guru Amar Das (907), Fourth Guru Ram Das (679), Fifth Guru Arjan (2218), Ninth Guru Teg Bahadur (115), and the remaining 937 hymns come from thirty Hindu-Muslim saints and sages.
The Adi Granth begins with the following hymn composed by Guru Nanak and known as “Mool Mantar” or the Morning Prayer in Sikhism:
There is One God (ੴl EkOnakar); Truth is its name (ਸਤਿਨਾਮ l Satnam).
He is the Creator (ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ l Karta Purakh); Is without Fear (ਨਿਰਭਉ l Nirbhao).
Is without Hate (ਨਿਰਵੈਰ l Nirvair); An Eternal, Indestructible Entity (ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ l Akaal Moorat).
He is beyond birth & death (ਅਜੂਨੀ l Ajoonee); He is self-existent (ਸੈਭੰ l Saibhan).
He is realized by His grace (ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ l Gur Prasaad).
Worship by reciting (ਜਪੁ l Jap)
In the beginning there was Truth (ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ I Aad such).
As time & ages went by, He was the Truth (ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ l Jugaad such).
Even now, He is the Truth (ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ l Haibee such).
Says Nanak: Truth shall prevail forever (ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ l Nanak Hosee bhee such).
It is not surprising that a few world leaders have hailed The Granth Sahib as a
model for interfaith understanding, an answer to the problems of the modern
man, and have expressed similar sentiments1. Former President George
Bush had this to say: "Our Nation has always benefited from a strong
tradition of faith, and religious diversity has been an important part of this
heritage. The Guru Granth Sahib has provided strength, wisdom, and guidance to
hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in America, and millions more around the
Nita and Dave Anand (firstname.lastname@example.org) are progressive Sikhs. Dave has written and published two books: “People Super Highway, the Mystique & Quest of Soul” and “The Verses.”
1. Partial list of testimonials for Guru Granth Sahib:
Guru Granth Sahib: A Model For Interfaith Understanding by Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam, Professor and Chairman of the Department of World Religions and Culture at the Dhaka University in Bangladesh - December 15, 2010.
Rev. H.L. Bradshaw of the U.S.A: “The Guru Granth Sahib of all the world religious scriptures, alone states that there are innumerable worlds and universes other than our own. The previous scriptures were all concerned only with this world and its spiritual counterpart. To imply that they spoke of other worlds as does the Guru Granth Sahib, is to stretch their obvious meanings out of
context. The Sikh religion is truly the answer to the problems of the modern man.”
Arnold Toynbee, British historian: “Mankind’s religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Guru Granth,
will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world.”