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Is Sikh Philosophy Empiricism or Rationalism?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by eileen, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. eileen

    eileen
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    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh,

    I am really intrigued by an idea that is forming from reading Gurbani, that Guru Nanak describes an epistemology that is actually somewhere in between rationalism and empiricism but more like a unique kind of empiricism.

    I realize this may not be as exciting to most people as it is to me, and if it's old news, please point me toward that old news!:winkingkudi:!

    But if there are some philosophy buffs here they may enjoy this idea.

    A rationalist would look to reason and analysis, using one's mind to determine whether or not God exists.

    An empiricist would make observations about the world and show evidence that God exists.

    But Guru Nanak seems to me to put forth the idea that we know the Creator through an intrinsic awareness. And that our connection to the Creator can be cultivated through an inner process, through Simran and contemplation of the Guru's Shabad.

    This doesn't seem to me like rationalism, because it doesn't require logical analysis and reason, in fact I believe Guru Nanak is explicitly not advocating that path.

    It seems more like empiricism, and putting our senses to work - but not in the ordinary way. For example, listening is not simply listening, but deep listening and attunement.

    So I am wondering if it could be undertstood to be like an empiricism that supposes an additional internal "sense" beyond our external senses, and it is through this internal "sense" that we observe that the Creator is manifest.

    Of course the concepts are much much more complex, but if this is a sound interpretation it could be a framework to help integrate some of the ideas that might otherwise seem disconnected, and could also help to inform people who get hung up on teleological arguments about creation and the big bang, etc.
     
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  3. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    eileen ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Thanks for the very thought provoking post.

    Would you be kind enough to explain/describe from Sikhi/Gurmat viewpoint of the above terms in Bold?

    How do you understand them for yourself?

    You may quote Gurbani shabads in full with your own understanding to express yourself.

    Only by understanding the above from the individual point of view, we will be able to dig this great post deeper.

    Thanks & regards

    Tejwant Singh

    Thanks & regards
     
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  4. eileen

    eileen
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    thanks Tejwant Singh Ji, i can certainly do that and clarify.

    at first when i am referring to "God" i am just generically talking about testing into how a person knows something, i.e., epistemology, in the normal world. so as i go about my day, i use my senses to empirically observe things like color and sound and external objects and confirm that i "know" something. i also use my rational mind and draw conclusions from ideas, with an analytical process and that is another way that i "know" something.

    without going into detail outside of Gurbani, i think these are tools that people often use , rightly or wrongly, to support their beliefs. tangible things like observing a miracle, or reasoned ideas like the world is very improbable and therefore a divine hand must have been the source of creation.

    but my interpretation as i read Gurbani is that i am guided toward an internal process and a different kind of "knowing" when it comes to knowing the creator, Akal Purukh, which does not rely on external senses and also does not rely on reasoning.

    japji Sahib concepts of Sunniai and Manniai give me this idea of deeper listening and deeper understanding, not my external senses or logical brain.

    and i think these 2 Banis from Guru Raamdaas Saahib illustrates this idea, i have copied it here from page 171-172 from Srigranth.org with Bhai Manmohan Singh's translation:


    ਗਉੜੀ ਪੂਰਬੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੪ ॥ Ga▫oṛī pūrbī mėhlā 4. Gauri Purbi, 4th Guru.

    ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਅਰਥਿ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਹਮ ਬੇਚਿਆ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਆਗੇ ॥ Har har arath sarīr ham becẖi▫ā pūre gur kai āge. For the sake of the Lord Master, I have sold off my body to the Perfect Guru.

    ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਦਾਤੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਦਿੜਾਇਆ ਮੁਖਿ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਭਾਗ ਸਭਾਗੇ ॥੧॥ Saṯgur ḏāṯai nām ḏiṛā▫i▫ā mukẖ masṯak bẖāg sabẖāge. ||1|| The beneficent True Guru has implanted God 's Name within me. On my face and forehead, very auspicious destiny is recorded.

    ਰਾਮ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Rām gurmaṯ har liv lāge. ||1|| rahā▫o. By Guru 's gospel, man comes to embrace affection for the Lord God. Pause.

    ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਰਮਈਆ ਰਮਤ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਇ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੇ ॥ Gẖat gẖat rama▫ī▫ā ramaṯ rām rā▫e gur sabaḏ gurū liv lāge. In every heart the sovereign Pervading Lord is contained. Through the Guru 's word and the Guru love for Him in contracted.

    ਹਉ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਦੇਵਉ ਕਾਟਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਉ ਮੇਰਾ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਭਉ ਗੁਰ ਬਚਨੀ ਭਾਗੇ ॥੨॥ Ha▫o man ṯan ḏeva▫o kāt gurū ka▫o merā bẖaram bẖa▫o gur bacẖnī bẖāge. ||2|| Cutting my mind and body into pieces, I offer them to my Guru. By Guru 's word, my doubt and dread depart.

    ਅੰਧਿਆਰੈ ਦੀਪਕ ਆਨਿ ਜਲਾਏ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੇ ॥ Anḏẖi▫ārai ḏīpak ān jalā▫e gur gi▫ān gurū liv lāge. When the Guru comes and kindles the lamp of the great Divine-Knowledge in darkness mortal 's attention is fixed on God.

    ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਅੰਧੇਰਾ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਬਿਨਾਸਿਓ ਘਰਿ ਵਸਤੁ ਲਹੀ ਮਨ ਜਾਗੇ ॥੩॥ Agi▫ān anḏẖerā binas bināsi▫o gẖar vasaṯ lahī man jāge. ||3|| The darkness of ignorance altogether eliminated, the mind is awakened, and finds the commodity within its home.

    ਸਾਕਤ ਬਧਿਕ ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ਤਿਨ ਜਮ ਜੋਹਨਿ ਲਾਗੇ ॥ Sākaṯ baḏẖik mā▫i▫āḏẖārī ṯin jam johan lāge. Those who are materialists perverse hunters to them the Death 's courier begins to stalk.

    ਉਨ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਆਗੈ ਸੀਸੁ ਨ ਬੇਚਿਆ ਓਇ ਆਵਹਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਅਭਾਗੇ ॥੪॥ Un saṯgur āgai sīs na becẖi▫ā o▫e āvahi jāhi abẖāge. ||4|| They have not sold their head to the True Guru. Those unfortunate ones continue coming and going.

    ਹਮਰਾ ਬਿਨਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਹਮ ਸਰਣਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਹਰਿ ਮਾਗੇ ॥ Hamrā bin▫o sunhu parabẖ ṯẖākur ham saraṇ parabẖū har māge. Listen Thou to my supplication O Lord Master. I ask for the sanctuary of the Lord God.

    ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੀ ਲਜ ਪਾਤਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਸਿਰੁ ਬੇਚਿਓ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਆਗੇ ॥੫॥੧੦॥੨੪॥੬੨॥ Jan Nānak kī laj pāṯ gurū hai sir becẖi▫o saṯgur āge. ||5||10||24||62|| Slave Nanak 's respect and honour is the Guru. He has sold off his head to the True Guru.

    ਗਉੜੀ ਪੂਰਬੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੪ ॥ Ga▫oṛī pūrbī mėhlā 4. Gauri Purbi, 4th Guru.

    ਹਮ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੀ ਅਹੰਕਾਰ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਮਤਿ ਗੁਰਿ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥ Ham ahaʼnkārī ahaʼnkār agi▫ān maṯ gur mili▫ai āp gavā▫i▫ā. I am proud, and haughty is my darkened intellect. By meeting the Guru, I have affected my self-conceit.

    ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਗਇਆ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ Ha▫umai rog ga▫i▫ā sukẖ pā▫i▫ā ḏẖan ḏẖan gurū har rā▫i▫ā. ||1|| The ailment of ego is gone, and I have procured peace. Blessed blessed is Guru-God, the King.

    ਰਾਮ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਬਚਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Rām gur kai bacẖan har pā▫i▫ā. ||1|| rahā▫o. Through Guru 's hymns, I have obtained the Pervading Lord God. Pause.

    ਮੇਰੈ ਹੀਅਰੈ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਇ ਕੀ ਗੁਰਿ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਪੰਥੁ ਬਤਾਇਆ ॥ Merai hī▫arai parīṯ rām rā▫e kī gur mārag panth baṯā▫i▫ā. Within my mind is the love of the Sovereign Lord. The Guru has shown me the path and way to Him.

    ਮੇਰਾ ਜੀਉ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਆਗੈ ਜਿਨਿ ਵਿਛੁੜਿਆ ਹਰਿ ਗਲਿ ਲਾਇਆ ॥੨॥ Merā jī▫o pind sabẖ saṯgur āgai jin vicẖẖuṛi▫ā har gal lā▫i▫ā. ||2|| My soul and body are all at the disposal of the True Guru, who has caused me, the separated one, to embrace God.

    ਮੇਰੈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਲਗੀ ਦੇਖਨ ਕਉ ਗੁਰਿ ਹਿਰਦੇ ਨਾਲਿ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ॥ Merai anṯar parīṯ lagī ḏekẖan ka▫o gur hirḏe nāl ḏikẖā▫i▫ā. Within me is the love to see the Lord. The Guru caused me to see Him close to (in) my mind.

    ਸਹਜ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਭਇਆ ਮਨਿ ਮੋਰੈ ਗੁਰ ਆਗੈ ਆਪੁ ਵੇਚਾਇਆ ॥੩॥ Sahj anand bẖa▫i▫ā man morai gur āgai āp vecẖā▫i▫ā. ||3|| Within my mind is peace and pleasure, I, myself am a sell off to the Guru,

    ਹਮ ਅਪਰਾਧ ਪਾਪ ਬਹੁ ਕੀਨੇ ਕਰਿ ਦੁਸਟੀ ਚੋਰ ਚੁਰਾਇਆ ॥ Ham aprāḏẖ pāp baho kīne kar ḏustī cẖor cẖurā▫i▫ā. I have perpetrated many wicked deeds and sins. Becoming a villainous thief I have thieved.

    ਅਬ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਰਣਾਗਤਿ ਆਏ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਲਾਜ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੧੧॥੨੫॥੬੩॥ Ab Nānak sarṇāgaṯ ā▫e har rākẖo lāj har bẖā▫i▫ā. ||4||11||25||63|| Nanak, now has sought God 's shelter. By Thine pleasure, O God, preserve my honour.

    i think these verses illustrate the uselessness of the body to and that to understand the creator and illuminate the darkness, one turns the focus inward to where the Creator exists - but not inward to the mind, but toward the heart, i think perhaps as metaphor for this internal sense. in particular, the line ਮੇਰੈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਲਗੀ ਦੇਖਨ ਕਉ ਗੁਰਿ ਹਿਰਦੇ ਨਾਲਿ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ॥ is interesting because it seems to describe a "seeing" within, and i think you could translate hirade naali as near the heart.
     
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  5. Ambarsaria

    Ambarsaria Canada
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    Eileen ji thanks for your post. I have some comments about you posts for discourse.
    My understanding is that SGGS is not a treatise about proving God's existence. SGGS is an enabler for one to train one self to hear the unheard, see the unseen and think the generally unthinkable. Break down shackles so prevalent at the times and no less now.

    The core essence I get out of SGGS is that any concept of God or such entity to be fully described or understood is futile. The simplicity lies in seeing, hearing and experiencing all as one in for ever transformation. Being of one into one whether living, non-living or any other states that may exist.

    So SGGS does not determine, nor do Guru ji determine the existance of God. They simply recognize eternal truths that govern and encourage us to experience as much and understand as much of that.

    SGGS is full of observations but those are not to prove God. They are to unshackle those who though God was this or that. Also those who thought they have a way to God and others don't or that God somehow was privy to some Brahmins, mullahs or any other kind of sage, bhagat, yogi, etc. SGGS emphasizeswe all having the same form to realize and without defined intermediaries. It encourages kinship in pursuit or learning, and that is Sikhi and sangat or the congregation.

    Guru ji do not put too many pre-requisites. There is no start to learning or end to it. Simran is a much misunderstood notion. It is contemplative learning and not simply rhythmic sound making. Simran rhythms are and can be very enjoyable and perhaps put a joy into learning but that is neither the beginning nor the end and nor a pre-requisite to anything.

    SGGS is full of symbolism and logic to show and encourage one's learning. However all that is not geared towards proving or disproving a specific version or complete description of what God is. Hence what you state here is essentially of no consequence or significance.
    I would agree in part with this as you discover new eyes and ears and so on when you start to see transformational all one that we are from and all one that we transform back into. This is bliss to experience if you cansee, hear, feel, taste and so on experience at such a level.
    Again I would partially agree as when your heightened inner awareness coincides with external experience, a unison is created. This is a wonderful experience and becomes more achievable through understanding and repetition while remembering and progressing as we experience more.

    Thank you for your post again.

    Sat Sri Akal.
     
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  6. eileen

    eileen
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    thanks Ambarsaria, i agree with much of what you said but there are some key areas that seem still unresolved, i will clarify here if you or anyone else would like to examine further.

     
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  7. harmanpreet singh

    harmanpreet singh India
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    Sat sri akaal :happykudi:
    Eileen ji ,

    I too share your view that Gurbani is more about our "Internal experience" rather than logic or Rationalism.

    you are on a blissful journey, I just want to say never tries to argue with a shallow logician , otherwise you too will feel that emptiness ,just follow Guru s Shabad, gave your head ,never conceal anything from Guru .


    ਉਨ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਆਗੈ ਸੀਸੁ ਨ ਬੇਚਿਆ ਓਇ ਆਵਹਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਅਭਾਗੇ ॥੪॥ Un saṯgur āgai sīs na becẖi▫ā o▫e āvahi jāhi abẖāge. ||4|| They have not sold their head to the True Guru. Those unfortunate ones continue coming and going.

    ਹਮਰਾ ਬਿਨਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਹਮ ਸਰਣਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਹਰਿ ਮਾਗੇ ॥ Hamrā bin▫o sunhu parabẖ ṯẖākur ham saraṇ parabẖū har māge. Listen Thou to my supplication O Lord Master. I ask for the sanctuary of the Lord God.

    ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੀ ਲਜ ਪਾਤਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਸਿਰੁ ਬੇਚਿਓ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਆਗੇ ॥੫॥੧੦॥੨੪॥੬੨॥ Jan Nānak kī laj pāṯ gurū hai sir becẖi▫o saṯgur āge. ||5||10||24||62|| Slave Nanak 's respect and honour is the Guru. He has sold off his head to the True Guru.
     
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  8. eileen

    eileen
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    Harmanpreet Ji, thank you so much for pointing out the idea of "giving my head".

    what a powerful and profound way to think about in relationship to "knowing".

    i can see how the process of turning to face the Guru is similar to giving up logic and reason and the strategies we use to deal with the external world, like the processes of the head that create interference with my internal connection.

    the process of accepting the Guru which is unknowable from logic in my head, and unobservable with my normal senses, and changing to accept a path that is driven by my internal connection to the Guru is a lot like offering my head. i give it up. my head doesn't contain the answers and can't serve as my guide to the truth. in giving my head to the Guru i am acknowledging and accepting that.

    thanks again, that confirms my feeling but also really gives me a lot more to think about and explore, a lot of layers of meaning here that i can contemplate further.

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
     
  9. Sherdil

    Sherdil
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    I thought giving your head to the guru simply meant that you completely devote yourself to the Guru's teachings, instead of thinking that you know better.

    From Ardas: "Sikhan da mann neevah, matt uchiee". This means Sikhs are humble, but with high intellect.

    I believe this is called the Dasam Duaar. It is like an internal 6th sense that goes beyond the other 5. It requires cultivation in order to utilize. Its utilization allows you to experience Truth, the true nature of things, and your oneness with everything. How we cultivate it is through contemplation (Simran) of the Shabadh and gurbani.

    There is also an element of love involved. Repeating The One's name with love is the only method of devotion Guru ji prescribes. This takes idol worship out of the equation. At the same time, we should understand that the names we use for God are not the real names of God. The Naam is something that goes beyond human language. It is something that gave rise to the Universe itself.

    Therefore, I wish communicate that blind love is not the way. Rather, love coupled with heightened awareness of Truth is the key.
     
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  10. Original

    Original
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    Dear Eileen,

    I've just done a write-up within which you may find some interesting avenues. As a generic template for wider use I've posted under SSS.

    Much obliged
     

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