Sikhism - A Revealed Religion by Harchand Singh ---------------------------------------------- All theistic religions fall under two broad categories, viz. the natural and the revealed. Here the classification is based on the fact as to whether a religion is arrived at as a result of observation and study of the phenomena of nature, or whether it came into being as a consequence of "Disclosure By God" to some special person known as a prophet or a messenger. A Natural Religion A thinker starts with the facts of nature. He carefully examines the attributes of earth, water, fire and air. He diligently studies the functions and behaviours of planets, trees, insects, animals and humans. He comes to the conclusion that at the back of all these natural phenomena there does exist an invisible being called God. At this stage we have what is known as a natural religion. Anaxagoras, the Greek philosopher and scientist of 5th century B.C. was impressed by the design and purpose of that he observed in worldly objects and events. He says one notices beauty, harmony, order and purpose in the universe. The design, order and purpose in the universe are due to some higher mind or intelligence operating on the material elements. The world-process which is a fine example of harmony and order, cannot be a product of blind mechanical forces as Atomists conceive it, but is a result of Universal Intelligence which is controlling it. The mechanical forces can produce motion no doubt, but they cannot account for the facts of purpose and design which are so evident in nature. Our world is apparently a rationally governed world. It moves towards definite ends. Nature shows plentiful examples of the adaptations of means to ends. There appears to be a plan in the universe which leads one to suppose that there is a Universal Mind or Intelligence, behind the whole process which fashions and shapes it. Anaxagoras argues that we must believe in the reality of the world-controlling and world-fashioning Mind, otherwise design and purpose which are so clearly evident in nature remain unexplained and unaccounted for. Anaxagoras laid the foundations of natural religion. The other Greek thinkers like Socrates (470-401 B.C.), Plato (427-348 B.C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) that followed him gave the world much more developed and advanced forms of natural religion. Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) of France, Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677 AD) of Holland, Gotfried Leibniz (1646-1716 AD) of Germany and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804 AD) also of Germany are some of the modern thinkers who offered their version of natural religion to the world. It should be noted that natural religion is strictly based upon study and examination of the facts of nature. It's doctrines are arrived at through the process of thinking and reasoning. There is no place in it for the prophets and messengers of God. In our treatment of natural religions in the above paragraphs we have drawn exclusively on the views of Western thinkers. This does not imply, however, that natural religion is peculiar only to the West. We have examples of natural religion in the East as well. In India the human inquiry to understand the world started as early as the times of Vedic poets. These poets were wonderstruck to behold the phenomena of nature and endeavoured to unlock their mysteries. In their quest to understand the natural world around them, like their Western counterparts, they used reason as their only tool. S Radhakrishnan observes: In the Rg-Veda we have the impassioned utterances of primitive but poetic souls which seek some refuge from the obstinate questings of sense and outward things. The hymns are philosophical to the extent that they attempt to explain the mysteries of the world not by means of any superhuman insight or extraordinary revelation, but by the light of unaided reason. (Ref. Indian Philosophy, Vol. I) However, in one important way, the Vedic religion differs from the one we find in the West. In addition to being a natural religion, it also happens to be a religion of 'Nature Worship'. Referring to the poets of Vedic hymns, S Radhakrishnan writes: To them nature was a living prescence with which they could hold communion. Some glorious aspects of nature became the windows of heaven, through which the divine looked upon the godless earth. The moon and the stars, the sea and the sky, the dawn and the nightfall were regarded as divine. The worship of nature as such is the earliest form of Vedic religions. (Ref. Indian Philosophy, Vol. I) A Revealed Religion In contrast to nattural religion, we have a revealed religion. Judaism, Christanity and Islam are good instances of revealed religions. The contents of a revealed religion are made known by God to people, usually through His special messengers and servants. There are two different ways in which God conveys the contents of religious doctrine to his people. Prophet is Summoned To God's Prescence - In order to communicate the religious doctrine, God calls a prophet to His presence. It was in this manner that God imparted to Moses at Mount Sinai His Laws and Commandments. The Jewish prophet later conveyed the same to the people of Israel. Mere Communication Of The Word - In this situation, God does not call His messenger to His presence, and yet, He conveys His Word to a chosen human being in some mystical manner. It was in this way that Prophet Mohammed continued to receive messages from God for an intermittent period of twenty-two years between 610-632 AD. All these messages were recorded, at a later date, in a holy book called Qu'ran. The two forms of religion discussed above, the natural and the revealed, have two points in common. These are: (i) A firm belief in the existence of God (or multiplicity of gods as in the case of Vedic religion). (ii) A belief that human beings get rewarded and punished for their good and evil deeds. There are however some significant points which distinguish and separate these two kinds of religions from each other. The distinguishing features are as below: (i) The content of religion is regarded as a case of 'disclosure' on the part of God in a revealed religion. In contrast, in a natural religion, the content of religion is thought to be a 'discovery' made by a human being himself. (ii) Reason or mind is thought to be a human faculty capable of knowing God and all the secrets of the phenomenal world in a natural religion. On the contrary, a revealed religion, conceives 'reason' as too inadequate a tool, either to know God or to unravel the deep mysteries of the world. (iii) The concept of 'prophets' and 'messengers' are valid only in a revealed religion. In a natural religion, the place of special envoys of God is taken by poets, philosophers, and men of learning. (iv) A revealed religion does in no way admit to any kind of encroachment on or alteration in its original subject-matter. On the other hand, the contents of a natural religion is always in a state of flux. It is at the mercy of constant processes of alterations and modifications. (v) A revealed religion takes for granted the existence of God. Moses, Jesus and Mohammed never used any logical argument to prove that God is. On the contrary, a natural religion employs all sorts of reasoning to establish that God exists. The argument from cause (Causal), the argument from purpose (Teleological), the argument from perfection (Ontological) and from knowledge (Epistemological). Original and Selective Religion There is yet another way that religion can be categorized: An original religion is defined as 'One Which is Primary In Its Content.' A revealed religion is primary in its origin if it can be established that it was given to mankind by a prophet (or a group of prophets) who 'Directly' received it from God. A religion is considered as 'Pure' if it can be shown that its contents are passed on to mankind by a prophet(s) in 'Exactly The Same Form' as it was received by him (them) from God, without adding any matter into it. A selective religion, more commonly known as an elective religion, is the opposite of the original religion. It is secondary in its source and adulterated in its content. Before we label a religion as selective, we must establish: (i) that it is not directly received from God by an individual who propogates it. (ii) that its content is an admixture of doctrines that are picked up by an individual from here and there. If a person selects a few doctrines from the New Testament and some others from the Quran and gives these two sets a new arrangement and a new name, this will be a perfect case of a selective religion. It is called selective because: (i) The person who offers this brand of religion did not receive its contents from God directly. He got it from a second source. (ii) The totality of the content of such a religion was not given by God in the fashion it was being presented to mankind. In other words, the content is lacking in the attribute of 'purity'. It has been gathered from two or more original religions. It should be noted here that a person who offers this sort of religion to mankind is not a genuine Prophet or Messenger of God. Sikhism: A Revealed Religion Are the tenets of Sikhism borrowed from Brahamanism or from Islam or still from some other source? Is there nothing new or original in the message of the Sikh preceptors who kept on dispensing it to the world continuously for over two hundred years? We will seek the answers to these questions from the Sikh preceptors themselves: Guru Nanak's Statement - Guru Nanak was staying at Syedpur with his poor carpenter friend Lalo. The latter lamented over the extremely unfair and inhuman treatment metted out to the native people by the Afghan rulers and wondered as to how long that unfortunate state of affairs would last? Guru Nanak's answer came in the form of a short verse wherein he forestalled the impending invasion of Emperor Babar leading to still greater sorrow and suffering of the people. Guru Nanak begins by saying: O Lalo, as do I receive the Word of God, so do I pass it on to you. (SGGS: p.722) At another occassion, while addressing to God the Guru states: I say only what You, my Lord, inspire me to say. (SGGS: p.556) Guru Amar Das' Affirmation - Referring to the direct message that he received from Almighty, Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, affirms: He, the Lord alone is, there is no one other than He. I speak, as and when, He makes me to do so. (Ibid. p.39) Guru Ram Das' Attestation - O you Sikhs, know this for certain that the Word you receive through your Guru is absolutely true, for it is the Lord who speaks Himself (through the Guru). (Ibid. p.308) On the same page of the Sikh Scripture, the Sikh preceptor renews his words: The Truth was revealed by the Lord, to Nanak, so he speaks of the mysteries of His House. (Ibid. p.308) Guru Arjan Dev's Evidence - In Song of Peace (sukhmani), Guru Arjan provides evidence of his direct contact and communion with the Lord, in these words: My Lord is without count, measureless and fathomless. And, I speak as He wants me to speak. (Ibid. p.743) The Fifth Guru repeats himself when he says: Unfathomable, Unpreceivable are You my true Master. I utter what You bid me to utter. (Ibid. p.743) And also: I know not what to say. I say only that what is commanded by my Lord. (Ibid. p.743) Demonstrating utter sense of humility, the fifth Guru declares that he is completely ignorant in spiritual matters. He confesses that he himself is not the real author of what he writes and not the real master of what he preaches. Every word is put into his mouth by God, who is the real force behind him. He affirms: I can say nothing, my Lord, for I know nothing. I tell others what You ask me to tell them. (Ibid. p.1203) The idea that the Gospel he preaches comes directly from God is found repeated again and again in the writings of Guru Arjan Dev. He reiterates what he has said before: The propitious Word of the Lord dawned on me, and that event, led to the end of all my woes and sorrows. (Ibid. p.628) Guru Gobind Singh's Endorsement - A couplet that appears at the end of his work, Chaupai reads thus: O God, all that I have said is due to Thy Grace. In fact I have not said anything. It is You who have uttered all this (through me). Conclusion The above references clearly indicate that Sikhism is not only original in nature but is also a revealed religion. It is a religion revealed by God through a line of ten Sikh preceptors. We may also add here that Sikhism is the first and the last religion revealed by God in the Indian sub-continent.