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Speeches

D.S. Chahal: Nanakian Philosophy and World Peace

Hinnells and King reported that in today's increasingly polarized world, religion has been represented by some as a primary cause of social division, conflict, and war, whilst others have argued that this is a distortion of the 'true' significance of religion, which when properly followed promotes peace, harmony, goodwill, and social cohesion. Is it not surprising that in spite of the fact that humans have been practicing religion seriously for more than two millennia they still failed to maintain peace on this tiny planet, the Earth. What is the solution?

The Council of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago has been providing a venue where people of all the religions and faiths of the world can sit together on one platform and seek to understand each other. This could be one of many approaches leading to the establishment of peace on earth. Unfortunately, in spite of many years of efforts, such interfaith conferences have failed to show any indication of establishing world peace.

Dr. Diane Moore of Harvard University in the USA emphasizes that religious illiteracy is widespread over the globe. The significant consequence is that it fuels antagonism and hinders respect for pluralism, peaceful coexistence, and cooperative endeavors. On the other hand, the application of science and logic to understanding religious scriptures has settled a few mistaken concepts, and many more can be settled if studied scientifically and logically. Einstein is right in this respect when he said:

After religious teachers accomplished the refining process indicated, they will surely recognize with joy that true religion has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge.

The modern world is looking for peace in order to ensure the survival of humanity. It will make a world of difference if people of all the major religions can sit together and present their philosophy scientifically and logically in an effort to understand each other. Such a solution was presented about 541years ago by Guru Nanak (1469 –1539), the first of the ten Sikh Gurus:

If you have a bag of wisdom/philosophy, open it, so that it can be shared by others. If your friends have good philosophy, adopt it. Only adopt good philosophy, leave the others, which are not acceptable. Aad Guru Granth Sahib (afterwards abbreviated AGGS), M 1, p 765.

Every religion has some basic teachings which could be acceptable universally. As advised by Guru Nanak, if we can put together all such basics from the major religions of the world, we may be able to build some principles which could become one of the major approaches to maintain peace on this Earth. Therefore, I would like to put forward some basics of the philosophy of Guru Nanak as embodied in his Bani (Word):

God: It is difficult to define God since It is accepted differently in different religions. Guru Nanak has defined God as follows: The One and Only, Oh, the Infinite; Exists; Creator; Without fear (Not governed by any other – Not under any Law of Universe); Without enmity; Timeless (Without effect of time and space); Neither takes birth nor dies; (Never comes into any anthropomorphic form) Created by Itself; Enlightener; and Bounteous.

 

If one examines this definition critically, it will not be difficult for it to be accepted by the whole of humanity including the atheists. For example, Guru Nanak says that God is Ajooni (God does not come into anthropomorphic form). This attribute was also recognized by the Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein, who said: God does not come into anthropomorphic form.

Another attribute of God assigned by Guru Nanak that God is Nirvair (without enmity). Einstein also expressed this attribute as: Subtle is the Lord but malicious He is not. Now the question to ponder upon is that how come the two attributes of God, assigned by Guru Nanak centuries ago have been realized by a scientist who was unaware of the philosophy of Guru Nanak. This is because of universal acceptability of philosophy of Guru Nanak.

The Earth: According to Guru Nanak, the Earth belongs to humanity. God has created the necessary environment on the Earth to sustain different types of lives: Nights, seasons, days, and weeks; Wind, water, and fire in the center of the Earth; Amidst all these natural phenomena and resources, the Earth is placed as a venue to practice righteousness. AGGS, Jap 34. p 7.

The importance of air, water and earth and of days and nights has been expressed as the Guru, the father, the mother, and the nurses, respectively, for sustaining life on this planet by Guru Nanak: Air is like a Guru, water like a father (represent environment and resource), and Earth is like the great mother (which provides all types of resources and food). Both day and night are like male-nurse and female nurse, respectively, and the whole humanity plays in their laps. AGGS, Sloka Jap, p 8.

Here Guru Nanak is explaining that the earth provides all types of resources and necessary environment to sustain life. And all these resources and the environment around the Earth belong to the whole humanity to be shared equally. Similarly, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in his essay Toward Perpetual Peace claimed that the expansion of hospitality with regard to "use of the right to the earth's surface which belongs to the human race in common" would "finally bring the human race ever closer to a cosmopolitan constitution."

 

While we keep ourselves busy in fighting with each other either on religious bases or some other reasons we are ignoring the fact that the humanity is not going to live on this Earth forever. According to Donald Brownlee and Peter Ward, the Earth’s “day in the sun” has reached 4:30 a.m., corresponding to its 4.5 billion-year age. By 5 a.m., the 1 billion-year reign (from 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.) of animals and plants will come to an end Therefore, we should not forget that life is going to disappear from this Earth after about 500,000,000 years. Now it is up to us to decide whether we want to disappear before that time by fighting with each other on religious grounds or some other reasons or whether we want to ensure that life continues up to the last available moment by maintaining peace.

Status of human beings among living organisms: The next most important point in Nanakian philosophy is to understand the status of humankind among the living organisms on this Earth. The human being has been declared the highest order that has been developed through long evolutionary processes. Without reviewing the long history of Darwin’s theory of evolution, I want to explain the origin of humankind according to Nanakian philosophy. Although there is no direct information about the origin of humankind in Nanakian philosophy, the following phrase of Guru Amardas indicates where human beings come from: My soul, thou art the embodiment (image) of Divine light, so know thy source. AGGS, M 3, p 441

The following information expands on that simple description. Since human beings share many genes with yeasts, worms, fruit flies, lettuce, etc., about 90% with mice, and about 99% with chimpanzees, therefore, people can trace back theirs roots (mool) to primates (chimpanzees), mice, plants (lettuce), microorganisms, and ultimately DNA, composed of five elements (hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus).

The first element (atom) that originated from Energy was the hydrogen atom, which gave rise to other elements (atoms) found on this earth. Therefore, the primordial source of life is Energy, which is called ‘Jyot’ in Gurbani. This Energy (Jyot) gave rise to matter (the whole Universe) according to the equation of Energy (E = Mc2). This information leads us to understand the evolution of man through successive stages of evolution from five elements (atoms), to the DNA molecule, to the single-celled and multi-cellular forms, to the higher life forms of plants and animals, culminating in highest form of evolution – the human being.

Now keeping in view the above information, the first verse can be interpreted scientifically and logically as follows: Hay Man (mind)! Recognize your roots. Your roots are from the primordial Energy (Jyot), God.

Altruism: Altruism is an important feature of Nanakian philosophy. That education is worthy which is appliedto the welfare of humanity. AGGS, M 1, p 356. This is the motto of Punjabi University in Patiala.

Egalitarianism: Guru Nanak preached that every human is equal to each other: Call everyone exalted; none appears to be low; Everyone has been moulded from the same matter; And the same source of light shines in all. AGGS, M 1, p 62.

Sharing of earnings for the upliftment of the humanity: The one who earns with his sweat of brow and shares some of his earning for the welfare of the humanity has recognized the real path of life. AGGS, M 1, p 1284.

 

Truthful living: Everybody understands that moral truth is of the highest order, but Guru Nanak emphasizes that it is actually the truthful living that is highest of all: Although truth is higher than everything, higher still is truthful living. AGGS, M 1, p 62.

Good deeds: Practicing righteousness on this earth is the highest religion of all: Amongst all the religions, the highest religion of the human is to do good deeds, which is equivalent to the repetition of God's name. AGGS, M 5, p 266.

Jealousy: Jealousy is another factor of hatred between two groups, between two communities, between two religions, between two races, between two nations, between two countries etc. Thus Guru Arjan says: I have totally forgotten to be jealous of others' prosperity since I have found the company of noble people. Now no one is my enemy or stranger to me; therefore, I can get along with everyone. AGGS, M 5, p 1299. Therefore, elimination of jealousy will build universal fellowship.

Egoism/egotism: According to Nanakian philosophy egoism/egotism is the biggest factor in human nature that leads him toward his destruction: By destroying egoism one can achieve everything. This can be achieved by contemplating on the teachings of Guru (Nanak). AGGS, M 3, p 115.

Non-violence: Politeness and humility are the major factors that lead to the development of the principle of non-violence. Thus, cultivation of politeness and humility is the first and foremost characteristic of Sikhism: Do not call anyone bad and don’t argue with a fool, I have discovered after studying the word. AGGS, M 1, p 473.

Then Guru Arjan says: Humility is my mace. My dagger is to be the dust of all men's feet (means service to the humanity). No evil doer can withstand against these weapons. The Perfect Guru (Nanak) has given me this understanding. AGGS, M 5, p 628.

Fearing of none and threatening to none: Oh mind (man)! Listen! A person who does not threaten anybody and does not accept the threat of anybody that person is described as the wise/intellectual. AGGS, M 9, p 1427.

Freedom of expression: There is complete freedom of expression in Nanakian Philosophy: As long as one lives in this world one must listen to others and express oneself to the others (to find the truth). AGGS, M 1, p 661.

Final message: Think about the future, look not on the past over the shoulders. Make the present life a great success, because there is no birth again. AGGS, M 5, p 1096.

In conclusion, I have tried to demonstrate some of the basics of Nanakian philosophy that have universally-acceptable characteristics. Similarly, if the representatives of other religions put forward their principles for the evaluation of their universal acceptability by a Joint Committee of representatives of all the religions, then the representatives of all the religions should sit together to recommend universally acceptable ethics to be followed by the whole of humanity. This would be the first great step forward to the establishment of a fellowship of the humanity by resolving our differences and hatred. Then peace can easily be established on this Earth. Then humanity can be spared extinction by atomic warfare and live peacefully up to the last available moment of the life of the Earth.

Paper presented at the Breakfast Meeting of Universal Peace Federation on February 24, 2010 at Ruby Foo’s Hotel, Saint Laurent, Quebec, Canada. Prof. Devinder Singh Chabal, Ph.D., is editor of the research journal Understanding Sikhism, published by the Institute for Understanding Sikhism, 4418 Martin-Plouffe, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7W 5L9. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.