The book under review is the second edition showing that the first edition must have gone down well with the general reader. It is a compilation of Guru Nanak Memorial Lectures delivered in 1977 at the Punjab University in Patiala.
The essence of the book is essentially that with disintegration of social life in India as a result of cruelty and terror spread by foreign invaders, the Sikh Gurus drew the attention of saints and siddhas, noblemen and laymen alike to the political obligations of man towards building an integrated society. The cleaning of the tank at the Golden Temple of Amritsar by the Sikhs of all ranks with a religious zeal and fervour is a symbolic activity, reminiscent of the medieval vow to cleanse the political situation in the country.
The book talks of an era when the social order as well as spiritual discipline in the country had lost track of the practical truth. The people of India had withdrawn from social realities and politics. A sort of apathy had seeped in. The foreign invaders had demolished their temples while ridiculing their faith. Indian life had taken to regression. Marauders and raiders from outside had trampled upon the Indians, rendering them as second-class citizens in their own homeland. They were denied every semblance of freedom; humiliations were piled upon them; ?irrational royal anger wrapped them on all sides with the learned taking to a life of renunciation.? The tantriks and kapaliks developed some fearsome rituals out of a regressed libido.
With no leader worth the name to guide the people, a struggle ensued between the power of the tantrik and the power of love. Surrender to tantra in all walks of life led to regression of the soul. It was then that the Sikh Gurus took upon themselves the task of freeing the people of these archetypes. Guru Nanak condemned their grand and awesome ritualism outright as hypocrisy and made unsparing and direct attacks on the siddhas who thought theirs was a noble path leading to God. Believing that all actions are outer manifestations of certain inner spiritual activities, he took to exploding certain myths that were encouraging the birth of negative characteristics and exhorted the people that ?they were captains of their souls and masters of their destiny. They had only to liquidate the veil thrown by slavery on their consciousness.?
The Sikh Gurus denounced such tendencies of the Hindus and began to spread the message of Sikhism as a discovery of the same perennial stream of wisdom that was shrouded in mystery and ignorance. They also taught a new way of dying to the people: ?If the tyrant is too powerful, we must still not submit; and if we have to die, let us die without hatred or fear. The real enemies are hatred, fear, indifference and regression. Let us fight and die cheerfully?the tyrannical foreign ruler will lose heart and man will prevail over the monster.? Guru Gobind Singh propagated the philosophy, ?It is vain to cry over your sorrow. Laugh with the world and bear your sorrow alone.?
They also propagated the theory of one God, the ?Waheguru? who transcends all deities. They also saw that the people of the same faith were divided into different sects and in their zealous idolatry, tended to forget the highest Truth, the God. The author offers a clarification here lest we think that the Sikhs were against Hindu beliefs – he says that the Japji of Sikhs carries references to show that the Gurus believed in the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. The Japji says, ?The Guru is Shiva; the Guru is Vishnu; the Guru is Brahma; the Guru is Parvati; the Guru is Lakshmi; the Guru is Saraswati.?
The author then talks of nama-yoga in which the intellectual ideas are turned into emotions and sensations. It is a tribute to the success of yoga that the philosophy of life of the lay person and the learned is the same in India. Guru Nanak talked of sahaj which was nothing but nama-yoga wherein the seeker was advised to concentrate on His name in his heart. Nama-yoga is an important feature of Sikhism and does not teach the killing or suppression of any instinct, desire or passion. It is thus a creed that teaches total non-violence with oneself. It is the simplest form of yoga developed by Nanak, Kabir and Namdev.
Guru Gobind Singh took to writing history when he saw that the Mughals were getting history written about their glories and virtues while denigrating the Hindus who were enslaved then. In ancient times history degenerated so much that the royal historians elevated the ruler but condemned the local populace. Here the author singles out Chandbardai'sPrithviraj Raso and Kalhan'sRajataringini as the best pieces of writings which however did not come up to the ancient standards of objectivity. He says, ?The irony of India was that though the Indians did not write their history, they still had history, much distorted by the envious and greed invaders. And the invaders? lies were demoralising the people.? He is convinced that ?most of our evil customs and practices have grown out of this self-binding ignorance of historical forces during the medieval times.?
The Gurus saw the invaders using their power to plunder, terrorise and inflict cruelty. They believed in fighting the invader and made sacrifices which were basically exercises of viniyoga, i.e. unconditional love. The author fully supports the concept of viniyoga, which he says is a simple cure for personality disorders: ?the seeker discovers the truth that the soul is the greatest power on earth. There is no way the fears can disobey the soul that has earned the right to enter them through self-sacrifice?On multiplying, the many fears get compelled by the power of viniyoga to neutralise each other?, and this is what Guru Gobind Singh epitomised.
(New Dawn Press, A-59 Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-II, New Delhi-110020.)