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Bhagats Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus in Sri Guru Granth Sahib

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    Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus in Sri Guru Granth Sahib

    Terence Samuel

    http://sikhinstitute.org/oct-2009/2-samual.htm

    One of the main reasons for Farid’s success lies in his use of local dialect, Multani Punjabi (Lehndi) to reach out to common masses, says Pashaura Singh. He composed his songs in Punjabi dialect. These songs were intended to be used at the time of worship. They influenced the population, particularly the women, who used to sing these simple verses while doing their daily work. Attar Singh says, “Sheikh Farid consciously and deliberately restricts his choice of poetic image to the topography and social and institutional life native to the people of Punjab. His verses are deeply imbued with the colours and flavours of the rural Punjab. Similarly he adopts poetic forms of sloka (Dohra) and shabad (Bishanpada) which are not derived from any alien tradition. In all these three aspects, language, imagery and form, germane to the character of a poetic style, Sheikh Farid aspires towards a quality of, what can be called for want of a better term, Punjabism.”


    Baba Farid in Guru Granth Sahib

    According to legends, scholars opine that Guru Nanak met Sheikh Brahm or Farid Sani, the twelfth successor of Baba Farid, in Pakpattan and secured the writings of Baba Farid which have been incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib. However, quoting Prof. Siddiq Kalim, Ahmad Salim states that Guru Nanak requested Sheikh Brahm the permission to include Farid’s slokas in the great book he had almost prepared by then and that Baba Farid’s slokas were later collected by the third Guru.

    In Guru Granth Sahib, four shabads and 112 slokas of Baba Farid have been included. Out of the four shabads, two are in Raga Asa, one in Raga Suhi and the other in Raga Suhi-Lalit. Out of the 130 slokas that are situated in the Raga Jaijawanti under the title ‘Slokas – Sheikh Farid’, scholars are divided in their opinion regarding the number of slokas ascribed to Baba Farid. Some scholars ascribe to the view that 112 slokas are by Sheikh Farid, and the other 18 slokas are by the Sikh Gurus on the ideas of Farid. But, Gurbachan Singh Talib, in his foot-note to sloka 127 of his English version of the Guru Granth Sahib, ascribes the same to Guru Nanak according to the Puratan Janam-Sakhi; thereby making the number of slokas of Baba Farid to 111 and that of the Sikh Gurus to 19.

    As said in the introductory passage, the compositions of Farid in Guru Granth Sahib seem to suggest him as the ardent follower of the practices, tradition and ideology of Islam and Sufism. He says,

    Farid, thou shameless truant from worthless is thy life’s tenor:
    Never hast thou come to the house of God (Mosque) to pray.
    Wake up betimes Farid! Perform thy ablutions, engage in prayer.
    (Slokas 70-71, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1381)


    Here, he adheres to the view that the duties enshrined in Islamic tradition, such as Namaz (ritual prayer), Wazu (ablutions before prayer) and visiting the mosque regularly, should be followed scrupulously. As a scholar educated in Islamic thought-traditions, he uses the religious symbols, such as Hell and Heaven (Slokas 1, 98 and 58), Satan (Sloka 15) and the accountability of life on the Judgement Day (Slokas 38, 100), to explain his ideas. These aspects suggest his leaning towards the traditional learning in Islamic tradition. However, an instance suggested by Sandeep Singh Bajwa will enlighten this aspect further. “A Student asked Baba Farid if singing was lawful and proper. He replied that, according to Islam, it was certainly unlawful, but its propriety was still a matter of discussion.” This alleged instance shows that he tried to mediate between the orthodox Islam and the Sufi way of life. But all along the course of his life, Farid seemed to have written many devotional songs with regard to the idea of God. This shows that he preferred Sufi form of worshipping the idea of God by way of composing and singing the devotional songs and couplets.

    Alongside, as a Sufi saint, he is also seemed to be concerned with Sufi attire. In sloka 103, he says, “Farid, tear thy clothes to strips; assume coarse woollen wear. Assume whatever wear will bring near the Beloved.” In sloka 126, he expresses his anxiety by asking the question, “What wear to adopt, the Lord’s love to win?” The woollen attire of Sufis stands to mean for their simplicity in material affairs and purity in mental and spiritual affairs. On the other hand, he also criticizes and condemns the hypocritical attitude of the Sufis who wear woollen clothes, thus:

    Saith Farid: Those who carry the prayer-mat on their shoulders
    And wear rough wool,
    But bear daggers in their hearts and with glib tongue utter falsehood –
    These are bright outside but have the dark night in their hearts.
    (Sloka 50, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380)


    It shows that though Farid adheres to early Sufis’ dress code, he does not seem to approve of all the Sufis who wear wool as saintly. Such inherently apparent contradictions mark the vibrant character of the compositions of Baba Farid. Though they seem to be contradictions at first sight, a close encounter with his ideas prove that it is not so; for he does not seem to ascribe to the linear way of thinking. That is, for him, every instance is to be understood contextually rather than traditionally or textually.

    Keeping the principles of the Chisti order, Farid affirms, “My body in penance is macerated” (Sloka 51) and further says, “Penance has left my body a skeleton” (Sloka 90). On the other hand, he invokes the idea of God, thus:

    Lord! Farid begs this of Thee:
    Give me not to hang on another’s door for favour:
    Should such be Thy will, take then this life out of my body.
    (Sloka 42, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380)


    That is to say that, though fasting and renunciation of material world are the way of the life of a Sufi of Chisti order, he does not extend these principles to the extent of negation of self; rather he tries to assert his self through the hardcore practice of the principles of the Chisti order. In other words, though he allows his body to emaciate and macerate through penance for the sake of realizing the principle of God, he asserts and preserves the dignity of the body and the self through the worldly affairs. In the following slokas, he opines,

    Farid, the lanes are muddy; the Beloved’s home far;
    Yet my love for Him is deep.
    If I stir out, my cloak shall get wet;
    If stay back, am I false to my love.
    Let the cloak be drenched through;
    Let it rain ever so much –
    Go I must to meet the Beloved,
    So my love proves not false.
    (Slokas 24 and 25, GGS, p.1379)


    The above slokas, along with sloka 42, precisely indicate his position towards the aspects of body and self. As said above, he keeps the material and spiritual aspects always in tension. Though he tries to abandon the earthly virtues for realizing the principle of God, he keeps the worldly aspects alive and conscious when they pertain to the secular affairs of this world.

    Further, Farid highlights the transitory or temporal nature of life along with its melancholic subtleties. This seems to be the towering feature of his compositions. When he says,

    Behold, the entire world is by suffering gripped:
    From my house-top I saw, in each home is this fire raging.
    (Sloka 81, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1382)


    The views melancholy as the all-pervading aspect in all the human lives. However, quite interestingly, he perceives life with a sort of accountability to the ‘next’ world. Hence, this life is no waste for him but it is to be lived through ethically and devotionally. He raises a question in sloka 38, thus:

    When God asks thee to render thy account,
    What wilt thou say was thy life’s doing?
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1379)
    He answers the same through the following sloka.
    Farid: only the good deeds by us in this world stand by us in the next.
    (Sloka 100, GGS, p.1383)


    Here, the word ‘next’ does not mean the karmic rebirth as proposed by the Indian thought systems. Rather it denotes the Islamic idea of Judgement Day and the life aftermath either in the Heaven or in the Hell. As this life is accountable, though melancholic, Farid prescribes three ways and means to live it, namely, 1) regular observance of duties prescribed by Islam (Slokas 70-72), 2) normative ethics [Slokas 7(Humility and forgiveness), 18(Non-greedy), 22(Truthfulness), 28(Simplicity), 29(No envy), 16, 60 & 117(Forbearance)] and 3) the devotion to the idea of God (Slokas 21, 27 40). But, keeping with the Sufi tradition, he gives more emphasis to devotion and ethics than to the rest of these two aspects all through the compositions that are available in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is quite evident that whenever there is a rumbling within him in choosing between the orthodox Islamic position and the Sufi position, as noted earlier, he chooses the latter and not the former during the crucial circumstances.

    In the ethical aspect, though he seems to ascribe to the meek virtues, the theme of strength and might overrides them all. For example, when he talks about the virtue of forbearance, he prescribes thus:

    Make forbearance thy bow and bow-string;
    The arrow too of forbearance –
    (Sloka 115, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)

    That is, the forbearance is described here with its in-built tension to go off the mark when the tension exceeds the equilibrant force. The forbearance, which Farid speaks about here, is not eternal rather it may be lost and it may become violently mighty when the equilibrium achieved by a human to resist the temptation to react is lost at a certain point. He subscribes to this view in sloka 117, when he says,

    Make forbearance thy life’s ideal; learn hard this lesson;
    Thus wilt thou become a mighty river, not a petty channel.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)

    Farid calls forbearance as “secret strength none will know.” (Sloka 116, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384) Thus it becomes quite clear that the so-called meek virtues are coupled with the ‘noble’ (Nietzschean terminology) virtues. Though the meek virtues may seem to be the symptom of withdrawal at first sight, Farid couples the same with its in-built potential strength to be a creative critique. In one of the slokas, he says,

    Farid, if thou be possessed of noble wisdom;
    Blacken not thy life’s record.
    Look into thy life, what thy deeds are.
    (Sloka 6, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)

    Here, Farid speaks about the usefulness of the noble wisdom to be a critique. The word ‘noble’ possibly suggests the Faridian idea of ‘secret strength’ that one attains through virtuous living. Thus Farid’s insistence of ethical aspects need not be construed as the symptom of weakness but it presents itself with the combination of being the critique of society as well as of the individual self in order to evolve a creative humanity.

    Identity and Dialogue: Baba Farid in Guru Granth Sahib

    Medieval Punjabi poetry emerged and evolved as two distinct and parallel lines, one as the Islam-inspired and the other as the Sikh-inspired, says Attar Singh. Further he continues that religion was the central theme for both of them and that it acted as a progenitive element and as a factor for sustaining group boundaries. However, both the trends operated with the similar themes within their own systems, such as religious dissent and secularization of religion. Thus, Attar Singh comes to a conclusion that “In their articulation of religious dissent and protest, as also in the deep influence of the folk-poetic traditions upon them, these two (Sikh and Islamic streams of Punjabi poetic traditions) seem almost to converge upon a single point. But in their drift towards conventionalism of their respective traditions, the two started drifting away from each other too.” This is about the whole of medieval Punjabi poetic tradition, as envisaged by Attar Singh.

    Analyzing the compositions of Farid in Guru Granth Sahib, it becomes evident that Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus concur with the following aspects, namely, 1) Monotheism, 2) Dissent against the elitism and clericalism, 3) Opposition to gradation of human beings through different standards, 4) Devotion to the idea of God, 5) Ethical concerns and 6) Acculturation of language and tradition of the common mass in their poetic expressions. Apart from the above-said aspects, Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus concur in their view on the meditation of the idea of God too. Though this aspect is called as ‘Nam Simran’ in the Sikh tradition, Baba Farid also emphasizes this aspect in his compositions (Sheikh Farid, Asa 1, Guru Granth Sahib, p 488 and Sloka 53, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380).

    However the eighteen slokas of the Sikh Gurus, (or 19 slokas as per the version of Gurbachan Singh Talib), which are interspersed between those of Farid’s, explicate the difference of opinion of the 4 Sikh Gurus on the compositions of Farid (Guru Nanak, Guru Amardas, Guru Ramdas and Guru Arjun) wherein they felt that his views were in direct conflict with theirs. Scholars are of the opinion that this marks the beginning of literary criticism in Punjabi literature. The element of literary criticism also portrays the issue of identity that was constructed by the Sikh Gurus for themselves and also their intention to engage themselves in dialogue with other belief systems. Also the preservation and inclusion of Farid’s songs in Guru Granth Sahib shows the remarkable qualities of the Sikh Gurus to initiate dialogue and peace among the warring sects, says Gurbachan Singh Talib. Also, the issue of identity which the Sikh Gurus wanted to construct and affirm through their genealogy becomes evident through the careful analysis of the interceptions of the Gurus to Farid’s songs. This can be evidenced through the inception and affirmation of Guru Nanak’s ideas in Guru Amardas’ compositions (Slokas 52 and 104) and in Guru Ramdas’ composition (Sloka 121) which are interspersed among the compositions of Farid. Further, Guru Arjun, apart from his own responses to Farid’s slokas, seems to have incorporated four of Guru Nanak’s compositions, which are also found elsewhere under Var Maru, Siri Raga and Slokas in Guru Granth Sahib, as responses to Farid’s slokas. These aspects clearly show that the third, fourth and fifth Gurus preserved, affirmed and continued the ideas of Guru Nanak in the midst of the slokas of Baba Farid and thereby constructed a distinct Sikh identity of their own in contrary to the then existing Vedic and Islamic identities. On the other hand, it should be made clear that the silence of the Sikh Gurus on most of the slokas of Baba Farid, apart from their 18 or 19 responses, and the inclusion of Farid’s compositions in the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib seem to suggest the possibility that the Gurus concur with the views expressed by Farid in his slokas which were not otherwise responded by the Gurus. In the following passages, where and how each of the four Sikh Gurus concurs with and differs from the views of Farid shall be studied. At the outset, it is to be clarified that this study takes into consideration only the slokas that are situated under the title ‘Slokas – Sheikh Farid’ and the shabads of Baba Farid and hence the article is limited in its scope as it does not try to enumerate all the ideas of the Sikh Gurus that pervade in the entire gamut of the Guru Granth Sahib.

    i) Baba Farid, Guru Nanak And Guru Ramdas
    The slokas 32, 113, 120, 124 and 127 are ascribed to that of Guru Nanak. Out of the five slokas, slokas 32, 113, 120 and 127 are situated next to that of Farid’s, as response to the preceding sloka of Farid. Quite interestingly, the sloka 124 is situated next to that of Guru Amardas’, as a response to his views expressed in slokas 122 and 123. As noted earlier, the first four slokas of Guru Nanak also find their place elsewhere in Guru Granth Sahib and the last one is traced in Puratan Janam-Sakhi by Gurbachan Singh Talib. Apart from the said five slokas, Guru Nanak’s ideas are quoted by Guru Amardas and Guru Ramdas in their slokas 52 and 104 and 121 respectively.

    In sloka 32, Guru Nanak counters the idea of Farid that portrays the insecure and vulnerable life of the woman. Farid used to compare the human life with the female or bride (Slokas 1, 33and 54), the death with the bridegroom (Sloka 1) and the wedlock or marriage as the claim of life by death (Slokas 1 and 63). The plight of life-female is portrayed, in these slokas, as frail and fatally subordinate to the bridegroom (Sloka 1), as insecure (Slokas 1 and 31) and as circumstantially limited to gloominess (Slokas 1, 31, 33, 54 and 63). Though such a description of the female seems to be so dismal, it also suggests the possible sorry state of women in feudal system of the medieval period. Particularly, the sloka 31, to which the response of Guru Nanak has been added as sloka 32, says thus:

    She who finds comfort neither in the husband’s home nor in the parents’,
    Neglected by her love – what kind of wedded wife would she be?
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1379)

    Here the alienation of the wedded woman from her own parents, from her own in-laws and from her own husband is indicated. Pashaura Singh compares the Faridian idea of wedded wife with that of the sahu-suhagan, a sect of Sufis who dress like the young bride to indicate their supposed marriage with the Beloved God. Ahmad Salim is of the opinion that the sentiment of love is subdued with the fear of rejection in Farid’s compositions. However, the unresolved question here is how and where from the alienation of the woman or her fear of rejection springs. The possible sociological answers could be that the alienation of the woman springs from her unrewarded or unrecognized labour in either of her homes and from the fact that the human elements in the woman are not even recognized in either of her homes. In other words, the primacy of the human elements (including the human labour), which go unrecognized or unrewarded or without rewarded suitably, is indicated in this sloka of Farid. Though Farid also emphasizes the primacy of the idea of God over all the beings of the world, he proclaims the primacy of the human elements in the process of realization of the God-principle. This aspect shall be further studied during the course of this article. For the above-said sloka of Farid, the interspersed sloka of Guru Nanak says thus:

    In the Husband’s home or the Parents’, is she her Lord’s –
    the Lord inaccessible, unfathomable.
    Saith Nanak, the happily wedded wife is one on whom falls
    favour of her Lord above desire.
    (Sloka 32, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1379)


    Here, in this sloka, Guru Nanak seems to bring in the idea of the primacy of the divine to alleviate the fear of alienation of the wedded woman. Also, the phrase, ‘happily wedded wife’, silences the unrecognized human elements and the unrewarded labour of the woman and expects the anxious wife to be happy and content with what she has in order to obtain the favour of the supreme power. Further, Guru Nanak suggests that the woman belongs to the God, and not the vice-versa, wherever she is. This idea of Guru Nanak suggests the primacy of the divine over the human elements and the human dependence upon the idea of God even in secular aspects.

    The same dialogue between Baba Farid and Guru Nanak, on the primacy of human elements versus the primacy of the divine, continues in the sloka 112 of Farid and Guru Nanak’s response to it in sloka 113. The sloka 112 of Baba Farid reads thus:

    Prayer done in the first part of the night is like the flower;
    Prayer continued in the night the fruit thereof.
    These blessings of the Lord descend upon those that keep vigils in prayer.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    Here, Baba Farid suggests that one reaps the fruit of the labour (blessings of the Lord) through laboured prayer. This proposition is distinct from the earlier feminist tenor, on the same theme, by Farid. That is to say that Farid is confident of achieving the blessings of the Lord through laboured prayer unlike the previous case where the wedded wife was futile in her efforts to be at home either in her parents’ home or in her in-laws’ home. Even if Pashaura Singh’s comparison of Farid’s idea of wedded wife with that of sahu-suhagan is taken for granted, the two cases (Slokas 31 and 112) bring out different results; for the woman is not cared for by her Beloved in the first instance and whereas in the second instance, the Lord’s blessings are assured upon the one who offers laboured prayer. In his response to the said Farid’s sloka, Guru Nanak proposes the third alternative to this issue and says thus:

    The Lord’s blessings out of His hand forced may not be:
    Some may not get these even though awake;
    On some He may confer these shaking them out of slumber.
    (Sloka 113, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    Here, Guru Nanak suggests that it is not the labour that brings the desired result but it is due to the will and the grace of God that one is blessed. Guru Nanak nullifies the efforts of the human, in the process of realization, by saying that even the one who does not labour hard to realize God may be conferred with the blessings of the God if God wills so; and that some may not get it even if laboured hard. In sloka 111, the probability of realizing the blessings of God is linked with ‘fortune’ by Guru Arjun. That means the issues other than the labour, such as the will and the grace of God, also play a pivotal role in the realization of the blessings of the principle of God.

    Here, one has to distinguish between the aspect of human labour that is spent on the realization of the God-principle and the creative aspect of labour that is spent on changing the reality. Guru Nanak, here, seems to be averse to the former aspect of labour which comes close to the ascetic ideals. But, by keeping open the possibility of the blessings of God even for the one who does not labour to realize the God-principle, Guru Nanak seems to accommodate the physical labourers and the working class people into the fold of the sacred realm who were kept outside of it earlier. Though Farid also attempted to include the common masses into the realm of the sacred during his life-time, his approach to the idea of God seems to be rather conventional to the ideals of Sufism.

    Further, the same dialogue between Baba Farid and the Gurus continues through the slokas 119 to 121. In sloka 119, Farid says,

    In separation from God my body burns like the oven;
    My bones flame like firewood;
    To find union with the Beloved
    Could I walk till my feet be tired,
    Would walk on my head.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    In the above sloka, Farid suggests the process of continuous perseverance as the path for realization. In this sloka, he is of the opinion that the principle of God is a transcendental one and so he aspires to persevere hard to realize the ultimate principle. This shows Farid in the light of his ‘vairagya’ to achieve God-realization. Quite contrastingly, Farid also holds the diametrically opposite view to the above-said view too. For, he says,

    Farid, why wanderst thou over wild places,
    Trampling thorns under thy feet?
    God in the heart abides: seek Him not in lonely wastes.
    (Sloka 19, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)


    Here, Farid holds a very different view to the one that he expresses in sloka 119. That is, the principle of God is held to be immanent within oneself and so Farid questions the wandering mendicants who seek the Being outside their beings. Here, he seems to suggest ‘sahaja’ as the way for realization. So it is evident that Farid holds the idea of God as both transcendent and immanent, though he gives contextual stress on each of these aspects. The same sort of opinion is offered by Guru Nanak in response to Farid’s sloka 119, thus:

    Thou needst not burn thyself like the oven nor put in flames thy bones:
    Why torture thy poor limbs? Behold the Beloved in thy own heart.
    (Sloka 120, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    Thus, both Baba Farid and Guru Nanak are in unison when they acknowledge the principle of God as immanent and so they hold the notion of ‘sahaja’ as the way for realization. However it is also to be noted here that Guru Nanak also undertook Udasis though he is also of the opinion that the God is within oneself. On the other hand, though Farid expresses his aversion to wandering in search of the principle of God, he also keeps the options of penance and perseverance open for realizing the Being in tune with the Sufi ideology in spite of his acknowledgement that the idea of God is immanent in oneself. These aspects witness the possibility that though Farid insists upon the primacy of personal labour in the realization of the Being and though Guru Nanak emphasizes the primacy of the divine in realization, they keep the option open to the respective alternative also. This is further evidenced by the sloka of Guru Ramdas which is situated next to that of Guru Nanak. In sloka 121, quoting Guru Nanak, Guru Ramdas says,

    I seek the Lord elsewhere – Behold! He is here with me:
    Saith Nanak, the inaccessible may not be approached,
    But the Divine guide may grant a sight of Him.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    When Guru Ramdas says “the inaccessible may not be approached, But the Divine guide may grant a sight of Him” as the idea of Guru Nanak, the God is supposed to be transcendent of the human self while the God is also considered as immanent by Guru Ramdas as per the first line of the above sloka. Though the above sloka seems to suggest the contradiction between Guru Nanak and Guru Ramdas on the idea of God, actually, the apparent contradiction postulates the position of the Sikh Gurus to accept the idea of God as both immanent and transcendent. The above discussion exhibits the openness of Baba Farid, Guru Nanak and Guru Amardas to accept the possibility of the alternate within their systems of thought.

    Further, in sloka 126, Farid seems to ask some questions in search of concrete answers with textual precision. He asks,

    What the word, what the qualities, what rich jewels of speech?
    What wear to adopt, the Lord’s love to win?
    (Sloka 126, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    Though Farid knows that the answers to the first three questions lie in the ethical means, as already discussed, still he seems to be in search for precise answers with his in-built and child-like innocence of the genius (Sloka 128). Though, as a Sufi, he considers the woollen wear as the cherished one before the idea of God (Sloka 103), he tries to evolve out of his own traditional learning, as the sloka 126 suggests. The idea of ‘becoming’ out of his own being seems to be the attitude of Farid in this sloka. In response to this, Guru Nanak offers his non-textual but commonsensically ethical suggestions, where he also quantifies the aspect of forgiveness instead of qualifying it (though Farid asks the question in qualificatory terms), as follows:

    The word is humility, the quantity forgiveness,
    Sweet speech the jewels:
    Sister, wear these ever – then alone will thy Lord be thine.
    (Sloka 127, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    The above-said sloka of Farid suggests that though he being a highly learned and educated theologian, Farid seems to have not satisfied with his education and learning; instead he tries to evolve new interpretative answers, away from his systemic thinking, to the disturbing questions, whereas, in the case of Guru Nanak, he hinges upon the ethico-spiritual tradition to offer new insights to the oft-repeated questions. It shows that while Baba Farid, Guru Nanak and Guru Ramdas converge in their opinion at times, they also tend to differ too at certain points. This sort of convergence and drifting away/of sticking to a position and keeping the alternate option open for further consideration holds that the issue of identity and dialogue is neatly maintained by both Baba Farid, Guru Nanak and Guru Ramdas in Guru Granth Sahib.

    ii) Baba Farid and Guru Amardas

    5 slokas of Guru Amardas are interspersed among the slokas of Farid in Guru Granth Sahib as responses to the ideas of Farid. Among those 5 slokas, as noted earlier, two slokas of Amardas, namely, slokas 52 and 104, respond to Farid’s ideas quoting the ideas of Guru Nanak. This particular aspect clearly affirms that Guru Amardas continues the ideological standpoint of Guru Nanak in his compositions. It also portrays the intention of Guru Amardas to continue the distinct ideological movement started by the first Guru. Such a gesture of the third Guru helps to keep the Sikh movement started by the first Guru as a linear one along with its own contextual variations. The adoption of Guru Nanak’s idea by the third Guru in his compositions and their inclusion in Guru Granth Sahib also suggest the intention of the later Gurus to affirm, preserve and continue the distinctness of the Sikh identity that was founded by the first Guru.

    The first response of Guru Amardas to Farid’s ideas comes against the following sloka of Farid:

    Farid, those who thought not on God when the hairs on head were black,
    Rarely may they turn to Him while gone grey:
    Show love to the Lord while the hue of youth is still on thee.
    (Sloka 12, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)

    It portrays the idea of Farid that one, who does not bend to the idea of God in the tender age, can not do so in the old age. Farid proposes that one should be initiated towards the idea of God in the youthful age. He emphasizes this idea many a time in his works:

    Farid! Time when thou couldst garner merit, wast thou engrossed in the world.
    (Sloka 8, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)

    I fear not the loss of youth were not the Beloved’s love lost;
    (Sloka 34, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1379)

    Saith Farid: In youth this life-female loved not the Lord:
    Grown in years, she died.
    (Sloka 54, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380)


    In all the above slokas, Farid’s emphasis on youthfulness becomes clear. Such an emphatic idea of Farid also indicates his intention to know the idea of God through formal learning process which is associated with the tender age. As he was initiated towards the idea of God by his mother and as he was tuned to metaphysics and theology by his Sufi masters at his young age, Farid is also of the opinion that the ‘age factor’ plays a crucial role in the realization of God. As envisaged in the precedent section, the dialogue between the primacy of the individual labour and the primacy of the divine towards the realization of God-principle is continued by Guru Amardas, against the opinion of Farid, here, following the leads of Guru Nanak. Farid’s opinion about the ‘age factor’ is repudiated by Guru Amardas in the following sloka which succeeds that of Farid in Guru Granth Sahib.

    Farid! The Lord with hair black or grey may be served,
    as to Him one may turn.
    This devotion comes not of man’s own effort or desire.
    This cup of the Lord’s love comes to any
    He choose to offer.
    (Sloka 13, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)


    Guru Amardas, in the above sloka, denies Faridian idea of the primacy of the human labour and interest in the realization of the principle of God, as was the same with Guru Nanak. Alongside, he also repudiates the ‘age factor’ in the realization of God; for him, all the human life-time is okay to realize God. He suggests that the will and the grace of God, and not the human effort or interest or the youthfulness, are the operating factors in the process of God-realization, by continuing the Sikh legacy as suggested by Guru Nanak. The rebuttal of the ‘age factor’ by the third Guru also encapsulates the rejection of formal learning, which is associated with the age, in the process of God-realization; thereby it keeps open the possibility of informal, experiential and non-methodical aspects, such as bhakti, the will and the grace of God, in the process of God-realization. And through these alternative aspects, Sikh Gurus thrived in the religious phenomenon by bringing forth the idea of God to the ‘un-initiated’ masses. Thus, it seems that the third Guru continues the idea of the first Guru with regard to the process of the realization of God. While Guru Nanak touches upon the issue of ‘labour’ in the realization of God-principle, Guru Amardas extends the issue further to the ‘age factor’, in the dialogue that is held between Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus. By proposing the ‘age factor’ as a non-issue in the process of God-realization, Guru Amardas seems to reject the formalism and conventionalism which are associated with it and thereby he tries to accommodate the ‘un-initiated’ people (who are not attuned to formal learning) and the subaltern masses into the realm of the sacred.

    In the second instance, Guru Amardas counters the following sloka of Farid:

    Farid, my body in penance is macerated –
    Not a drop of blood will ooze from it if cut;
    Those dyed in God have no blood left in them.
    (Sloka 51, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380)


    This sloka also proposes the Faridian view of the primacy of human efforts (that is, through penance) in the realization of God. To this sloka, Guru Amardas retorts as follows:

    This frame is all blood;
    Without blood a body may not be.
    Fear of God emaciates the body,
    Banishes from it the blood of greed.
    As fire purifies metals, so does fear of God cast out impurities of foul thinking.
    Saith Nanak: Those alone look comely who in God’s dye are soaked.
    (Sloka 52, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1380)


    Farid holds the view that the penance, through which the realization of God is undertaken, emaciates and macerates the body to the extent of making it bloodless. The idea of ‘bloodless body’ is used here by Farid to portray the severity of penance that a Sufi undergoes to realize God. However, Guru Amardas counters the imaginary exposition of Farid through the commonsense that a body can not live without blood. Further he inverts the Faridian view of maceration of body by saying that the emaciation of the body is due to the fear of God and not otherwise. The Faridian cause for the realization of God-principle, that is, maceration of body, is turned into an effect by Guru Amardas through enabling the ethico-spiritual principle to operate. Guru Amardas cites, here, the fear of God as the principal operating force of ethics, as the fire is used to extract purified metal from its ore; that is, the metaphor of fire is handled by Guru Amardas as the agent of purification.

    Contrary to the usage of the metaphor of ‘fire’ by Guru Amardas, Farid compares fire with worldliness that clouds thought and vision, in sloka 3. In another instance, Farid says,

    In separation from God my body burns like the oven;
    My bones flame like firewood;
    (Sloka 119, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)

    Here, Farid identifies the sensation of burning and flaming with the separation from the God. Farid associates fire and its aspects with worldliness and non-Godliness, respectively, whereas the third Guru associates it with purification and Godliness.

    The same sort of contrariness is explicit in the dialogue that goes among Baba Farid, Guru Nanak, Guru Amardas and Guru Arjun, in the usage of the word ‘dye’. Farid opines, in sloka 51, that “Those dyed in God have no blood left in them.” At the first instance, Guru Amardas also affirms this idea in sloka 52, as follows: “Fear of God emaciates the body.” However, while quoting Guru Nanak in the same sloka, he has come out with a different idea which reads as follows: “Saith Nanak: Those alone look comely who in God’s dye are soaked.” Guru Arjun follows the line of thinking of Guru Nanak and says, in sloka 108, thus:

    The purest of wears comes to those dyed in God’s dye.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    While Baba Farid and Guru Amardas proclaim the view that the Godliness emaciates the body, Guru Nanak and Guru Arjun subscribe to the view that those dyed in God look comely and perfectly. While the former view (of Baba Farid and Guru Amardas) expresses the severity of Godliness, the latter view (of Guru Nanak and Guru Arjun) expresses the pleasant aspects of Godliness. This aspect shall be further elaborated in the next section where the dialogue between Baba Farid and Guru Arjun is taken up for study.

    Once again, the dialogue on the issue of traditional and formal learning in the process of God-realization is continued by Guru Amardas, in sloka 104, in response to the following sloka of Farid:

    Farid, tear thy clothes to strips; assume coarse woollen wear.
    Assume whatever wear will bring near the Beloved.
    (Sloka 103, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    In the said sloka, Farid assumes the mantle of the Sufi and holds the view that the idea of God will be realized if one adheres to the Sufi attire. Here, Farid, unhesitantly, exhibits his distinct identity as the ardent follower of Sufi tradition. However, in order to explicate the distinctness of the Sikh identity from that of the Sufi identity, Guru Amardas, quoting the first Guru, questions the Sufi standpoint on the woollen wear and then explains the philosophical standpoint of the Sikh religiosity through the sloka 104, as follows:

    Why tear off thy silken robes; why wear wool?
    Saith Nanak, within the course of daily life in the home
    Mayst thou attain to the Beloved, if thy heart be pure.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    Here, the Sikh way of life and the Sikh way of the realization of God have been further explicated. Earlier it was seen that Guru Nanak and Guru Amardas try to accommodate the working class and the ‘un-initiated’ subaltern masses into the realm of the sacred. In continuance of the same standpoint, Guru Amardas describes religiosity as the moderate living of the householder, here. It is to be noted here that none of the Sikh Gurus denote religiosity as the separated or secluded or renounced way of life as it was the case of the ascetic versions of the Semitic religions or the Vedic thought-pattern. However, the moderate living, prescribed by the Gurus, is laced with ethical concerns. The Sikh religiosity, as explicated here in the above sloka, intends to realize the idea of God through the course of moderate living of the householder, combined with ethico-spirituality. In opposition to this Sikh ideal, Farid’s devotional religiosity is coupled with the fear of rejection whereas in Sikh ethos it is marked by an enthusiastic fervour and faith in the grace of the idea of the God. Here, in this sloka, the dialogue on the issue between the traditional learning and the ethically moderate living has been nicely handled by the Sikh Gurus and the possibility of the realization of the principle of God through the ethico-spiritually moderate but truthful living along with the grace of God has been proved by the Sikh Gurus beyond doubt. Thus, the Sikh religiosity and identity has been clearly expressed by the Sikh Gurus while continuing the inter-religious dialogue with Baba Farid.

    Apart from the above-said three slokas of Guru Amardas, his other two slokas have also been interspersed under the title ‘Slokas – Sheikh Farid’; but they are not of the type of responses to the Farid’s sloka(s). Rather, quite interestingly, the sloka of Guru Nanak has been situated as a response next to the two slokas of Guru Amardas. The said two slokas of Guru Amardas read thus:

    The sight of the swans swimming excited in storks the desire for emulation.
    The poor storks got only drowned, head downwards.
    (Sloka 122, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    I sought companionship with one whom I took to be a great swan:
    I would shun him had I known him for a wretched stork.
    (Sloka 123, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    The above two slokas also find their place as the compositions of Guru Amardas in Wadhans-ki-Var 4 at page 585 of the Guru Granth Sahib. Here, Guru Amardas seems to classify the birds in contention into a hierarchy; and he seems to accept the swan and reject the stork metaphorically. However the sloka of Guru Nanak is interspersed next to the slokas to clear the apparently negative contention of Guru Amardas that the differential nature among the beings of the world is in-built with hierarchy and gradations. The sloka 124 of Guru Nanak reads as follows:

    Talk not of swans and storks – His grace alone suffices:
    Saith Nanak, should He so wish, crow He may turn to swan.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    In sloka 123, Guru Amardas suggests his intention to antagonize the existing relationship. Quite interestingly, here, the antogonizer is at fault for perceiving the stork to be a swan by mistake; but he throws the blame on the stork. However, Guru Nanak, in the sloka 124, suggests to keep the antagonism at bay as he ascribes ‘change’ as the inevitable aspect of reality through the working of the will and the grace of God. Further Guru Nanak also holds the view here that the differential nature between the beings of the world does not presuppose their hierarchy or gradation before God. Baba Farid also holds such a view against the antagonistic tendency of the humans in the following slokas.

    Speak never a rude word to any – the Lord Eternal in all abides:
    Break no heart – know, each being is a priceless jewel.
    Each heart is a jewel; evil it is to break any;
    Shouldst thou seek to find the Beloved, break no one’s heart.
    (Slokas 129 and 130, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1384)


    However, the difference between Guru Nanak’s idea and that of Baba Farid, here, is that while the former advocates the shunning of antagonism due to the working of the will and the grace of God, the latter resolves to shun antagonism through the affirmation of the immanent aspect of the idea of God. Though Guru Nanak also affirms the Faridian idea of equality of all beings of the reality before God elsewhere in Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak and Baba Farid, here, stress the different aspects of the cause for equality. Though the idea of God plays the central role for the advocacy of shunning antagonism by both the saintly thinkers, they handle the problem differently in their means to achieve the same, here, in this particular context. Though the above-said slokas of the Sikh Gurus affirm the non-equality among the creations (among swan, stork and crow) of God, the humanly perceived inequality is portrayed as temporal and apparent by them and, in turn, they suggest that the apparent inequality can be moderated and trans-formed by the will and the grace of the God-principle. The standpoint of Baba Farid and that of the Sikh Gurus need further clarification here. That is, Baba Farid seems to nip in the bud itself the antagonistic ideas of the humans from the standpoint of absolute idealism. Guru Arjun also holds to the same standpoint when he asks, “Whom to cavil, when in all He is manifest?” in sloka 75 (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1381). But Guru Nanak treats the issue differently from the standpoint of transcendental idealism by holding the divine as an active principle.

    Also, the sloka of Guru Nanak suggests that though the creations are seemingly graded in the world of objects, they are not so but equal before the idea of God as the grace of God is supposed to be with all the beings of the world, whether they are apparently low or high in the hierarchy of the world of objects. In other words, the sloka of Guru Nanak opines that non-equality exists in the world of beings and not before God; since the world of beings is the manifestation of the idea of God, there can be no inequality among the creations before God; rather the inequality and gradations are human suppositions and these suppositions are subject to change with the interference of the will and the grace of God. Guru Arjun also subscribes to this view in sloka 75. Thus, it becomes evident that the dialogue was not only conducted by the Gurus across the boundaries but also within their system also in order to evolve the space for dialogue with critical consciousness; that the views of the Gurus are also subjected to critique by the other Gurus also suggests the democratic space for dialogue within the Sikh system. That means the Guru Granth Sahib provides a vibrant space for inter-group and intra-group dialogue so as to maintain the identity as well as to keep it open for differences in order to evolve a dynamic reality.

    iii) Baba Farid and Guru Arjun

    As in the case of Guru Amardas, Guru Arjun does not respond to Farid’s notions anywhere quoting Guru Nanak. Rather he responds to Farid elaborately on his own while continuing the earlier Gurus’ ideological standpoint.

    In the first instance, he responds to the following sloka of Farid:

    Farid, make thy mind straight from ups and downs of passions
    Then mayst thou escape the furnace-blast of hell.
    (Sloka 74, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1381)


    Farid is more concerned, here, with the flattening of emotive aspects. Further, the sublimation of passions is linked by Farid to the well-being in the next-world. In response to the above sloka, Guru Arjun does not address both the issues raised by Farid directly as it is the case of his earlier Gurus. Rather, Guru Arjun responds to Farid by explaining the cosmological and ontological standpoint of his earlier Gurus, thus, in the sloka 75:

    Farid, the Creator in the creation abides, the creation in Him.
    At whom to cavil, when in all He is manifest?
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1381)


    Here, as discussed above, he concurs with Guru Nanak in stating that the world of beings is the manifestation of God and that there can be no inequality among the beings of the world before God. He adds further that the creation also abides in God. That means, while the idea of God is manifested in all the beings of the world, the beings also abide in Him. In other words, the Whole (the God) exists in the parts (creations) and the parts exist in the Whole. Thus, Guru Arjun refutes the notion of Farid that there exists a world beyond. When Guru Arjun asserts that the creations abide in God, he seems to repudiate the idea of hell as existing apart from Reality; also, he repudiates the notion of evil as the God-principle is manifested in all the creations.

    He elaborates this idea further when Farid says:

    Behold, the entire world is by suffering gripped
    From my house-top I saw, in each home is this fire raging.
    (Sloka 81, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1382)


    In response to the above sloka, Guru Arjun adds the following two slokas:

    Farid, this world is so inviting
    In its midst is a garden-spot of poison-bearing plants.
    This poison injures not those blessed with the Master’s grace.
    (Sloka 82, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1382)


    Farid, this life is full of delights with this body beautiful
    Rare are those bearing love to the Beloved.
    (Sloka 83, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1382)


    Farid, in sloka 81, opines that the world is filled with suffering. That is, he invigorates the aspect of suffering with the notion of its all-pervasiveness. Guru Arjun accepts this opinion of Farid partially in sloka 82. However, he also concurs fully with the view of Farid in sloka 110, when he says,

    Farid! the world to all kinds of stresses is subjected; so art thou
    He alone escapes this who is under Allah’s protection.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    Though Guru Arjun accepts that suffering is also the aspect of worldliness, he does not accept it as ever-permanent in human life. Rather, hinging on the ontological and cosmological standpoint of the genealogy of Guru Nanak, he affirms that the world, the life in the world and the body are beautiful (as they are the manifestations of the idea of God) where there is also the poison-bearing aspects. Further, he is quick to add that the poison does no harm to the one who / which is blessed by the grace of the God. Thus, the suffering is neutralized by Guru Arjun with the notion of grace of God. Also, concurring with the earlier Gurus’ standpoint of the primacy of the divine over human efforts, he opines that it is not the devotion to the God that saves one from the poison but the grace of the God-principle.

    This aspect of the primacy of the divine is further stressed by Guru Arjun when he responds to Farid’s assumption of wearing woollen clothes to please God. That is, in response to Farid’s sloka 103, Guru Arjun, in sloka 105, says,

    Farid! Those proud of worldly greatness, wealth and looks,
    Will of the Beloved remain deprived, as sandhills of rain.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    As seen earlier, to the same sloka of Farid, Guru Amardas, quoting Guru Nanak, prescribed the moderate living of the life of the householder as religiosity. However, Guru Arjun responds to Farid through teleological arguments. It should be noted here that while the first four Gurus concentrated on the evolution of a distinct religious identity based on devotion, Guru Arjun, as the compiler of Adi Granth, seems to philosophize and summarize the major currents of the thoughts of his earlier Gurus into a system of thought; it seems that he concentrates more on the metaphysical exposition of reality, in his responses to Farid, than trying to explicate reality merely through the devotional aspects.

    In the sloka 105, though Guru Arjun accepts the transitoriness of human aspects, he also holds the view that the God is deprived for those who are proud of their worldly merits. In other words, as the human actions are endowed with God’s will and as the will of God partakes in the meritorious actions of the humans, Guru Arjun holds the view that the humans are not supposed to be proud of their worldly greatness; that is, human pride in merits denies the working of God’s will in the meritorious actions, and it eulogizes such merits as the outcome of the human work without the involvement of the will of God. So, Guru Arjun is averse to human pride in worldly greatness as it does not recognize the working of God’s will in the achievement of the greatness and wealth. On the other hand, this sort of human pride may also pave the way for the consideration of worldly greatness in an individualistic/ individualized manner rather than perceiving it with the holistic attitude with regard to the society/reality at large. Further, in sloka 109, he explains this notion further, as he says,

    He alone shall enter the court Divine whose will to Allah’s will is bent.
    (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    The above sloka suggests that the humans do not converge automatically with the will of God but by their endeavour to do so, though God is potential to make it to converge with his will. Dr. Gopal Singh translates the above sloka as follows, which illumines our thought further on this aspect.

    And if thou (also) Lovest thy God’s Will,
    thou art ushered into the Presence of God.


    Though the Sikh idea of Hukam suggests the prevalence of the will of God over that of all the creations, Guru Arjun also propounds, here, that the God’s will has to be loved by the humans. Baba Farid also holds the similar view as that of the idea of Hukam, when he opines, in sloka 84,

    What power in the river to flow this way or that?
    God’s Will guides its course. (GG S, p. 1382)


    As opposed to the transitory nature of the human pride, bending of the human will to the God’s will/Loving the God’s Will is preferred by Guru Arjun in sloka 109; that is, when the human loves and bends/overarches to the will of God, it is considered as non-transitory as the overarching human is supposed to enter the court of divinity/feel the presence of God. Teleologically, it means that the will of God operates through the human when (s)he loves/bends to the will of God; that the individual has to tune himself/herself with the reality. Rather if the individual prefers not to love/tune himself/herself with the will of God, it means that the presence of God will be absent from such human deeds; such human deeds are individualistic in nature and they are not communistic. So it may even prove to be havoc for the social reality. In other words, the will of God does not operate merely through human endeavours and merits but it does so when they overarch with the will of God. This view of Guru Arjun echoes in the following sloka of Farid also:

    Look to the grass under thy feet
    Be like it cut and trampled.
    Then wouldst thou enter the portal Divine.
    (Sloka 16, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1378)


    Though Guru Arjun does not explain the agonizing process of bending or overarching to the will of God, Farid expresses it clearly. Though Guru Arjun and Baba Farid explain the process of entering the court of divine/presence of God through teleological and metaphorical means respectively, they seem to mean the same when they concur in their opinion that “hard is the way of life of devotees” (Slokas 2 and 111).

    Further, Guru Arjun adds four slokas, as responses, to the following sloka of Baba Farid:

    Farid, though alive, art thou no better than dead –
    Thou hast not arisen from sleep at dawn to pray;
    Thou hast forgotten God, but know God has not forgotten thee.
    (Sloka 107, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)

    Here, Farid subscribes to the view that even when one forgets to do ambrosial prayer to God-principle at the early hours of the day, the God will not forget the said human. To this particular sloka, Guru Arjun responds with the following four slokas, thus:

    Listen Farid! the Lord ever abides lovely, eternally fulfilled.
    The purest of wears comes to those dyed in God’s dye.
    (Sloka 108, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    Farid! bear joy and sorrow alike; cleanse thy self of evil thoughts.
    He alone shall enter the court Divine whose will to Allah’s will is bent.
    (Sloka 109, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)

    Farid! the world to all kinds of stresses is subjected; so art thou:
    He alone escapes this who is under Allah’s protection.
    (Sloka 110, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    Farid! our hearts in the world are dyed that is worthless;
    Hard is the way of life of God’s devotees,
    That by supreme good fortune may be attained.
    (Sloka 111, Guru Granth Sahib, p 1383)


    In the above four slokas, Guru Arjun, apart from the already discussed details, holds the view that as the God is self-sufficient, it is not necessary to please Him. As seen earlier, though Guru Arjun, in sloka 75, responded differently to Baba Farid for his intention to keep the mind in equipoise, here in sloka 109, he seems to affirm Farid’s view.

    The idea of ‘dyeing in God’ needs further elaboration here, as indicated earlier in the section ‘Baba Farid and Guru Amardas’. The aspect of ‘dyeing in God’ needs to be studied as a continuation of the teleological argument of Guru Arjun. As seen earlier, the ‘dyeing in God’ is coupled with the devotee’s experience to love/bend to the will of God. While this experience is equated by Farid and Guru Amardas with the emaciation of the body, Guru Nanak and Guru Arjun equate it with comeliness and purification. On the one hand, the emaciation of the body indicates the agonizing experiences one undergoes when the individual tries to overarch with the Whole; on the other hand, the comeliness and purification comes as the consequent effect of the ethical sublimation of the individual to the Ideal will. Also the idea of will of God is an active principle, according to the Sikh Gurus, which is laced with the dynamics of change. Thus, it is now evident that Baba Farid and the Sikh Gurus come closer in their opinions on various issues related to the theistic explanation of reality and also they drift away from each other according to their conformation to their respective identity.

    Conclusion
    The inclusion of the compositions of Baba Farid in Guru Granth Sahib and the interspersion of the slokas of the Sikh Gurus among the slokas of Farid primarily suggest that the Sikh Gurus were not averse to the idea of dialogue beyond their identity; it further suggests that though the Sikh Gurus were open to the inter-religious dialogue, they were critical wherever necessary. Though Baba Farid is considered as the pioneer of Punjabiat literature and Punjabism, the interceptions of the Sikh Gurus to Farid’s slokas suggest that the Sikh Gurus try to construct a distinct Sikh religiosity apart from the one that exists through the compositions of Baba Farid.

    Further, as seen earlier, there exist some differences among the authors and also within the author. They seem to be contradictions at first sight. Rather they need to be construed as differential treatment of a subject according to the context. By this way, one will be able to appreciate the richness of the text. The contextual treatment of a subject and the consequent variations within the text portrays the vibrancy of the text. By enabling the multiple voices to be heard within the text, the Guru Granth Sahib has shown the way as to how to keep the text open for differences/contradictions and dialogue while preserving the identity too.
     

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  3. aristotle

    aristotle
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