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Beyond Semantics: The Nature Of The Sikh One

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by avnit, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. avnit

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    Jun 13, 2004
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    Nietzsche declared at the turn of the last century that "God is dead"
    if you read on, one discovers that he was referring to the concept of the Christian God- vengeful, patriarchal, etc (very anthropomorphic).
    So when Nanak declares God is one (so for him that being transcending the Mughals god, Bhagavagita, etc), is he hinting fundamentally at the same concept Nietzche felt as well- just using different semantics?

    This question has intrigued me as of late- does God is One = God is dead?
    (in my opinion)

    There are different architectures that a wide variety of religions fall into. 1) Many indiginous groups worldwide are pantheist, believing in an ecological type MotherEarth and FatherSky. 2) Then there are other groups that are described as polytheists- such as Loki and Thor of Norse mythology, or Zeus and Hera of the Greeks, and of course the likes of Govinda, Ram and Sita of the Bhagavagita. 3) Next, there are monotheists- who worship one deity. 4) Finally, there are atheists- Buddhists historically are described as such, or maybe concepts like the StarWars Jedi force fall into this last cluster.

    While theologians and scholars may recognize the unity of thought underlying the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, mainstream groups within these factions are very much insulted by the notion that a Christian and a Muslim worships the same God. Rather each group rallies around its one deity. Quite bluntly, mainstream audiences of these groups envision their god as an old man with a long beard sitting in a cloud granting favors or taking them away. Now a scholarly theologian would counter with esoteric arguments of the Christian Trinity paradox, or present evidence of Islams many advances in geometry and science simply in an attempt to express their god in non image form- but this does not reflect the views of the man on the street, say in London or Cairo, respectively.

    My question is what is the nature of the one we as Sikhs worship. When we are asked what is your God`s name- I have always replied he has no name. Does the average man on the street- Sikh punjabi envision Ik Onkar as an old man with a beard (monotheist)?
    I have Nanak`s MoolMantar in front of me (very esoteric, enlightening). Sat Naam- should i answer to people that Truth is the name of the one we worship? Nirbhau... Akaal Moorat (timeless and without form- as a fan of theoretical physics this seems promising), etc etc...
    The point being developed is would you describe these theoretical underpinnings as pushing us into the atheist cluster? Perhaps we are similar to Jews in that they reject the concept of a deity (namely the Christian God JesusChrist) but are considered "gray monotheists"(questioning, awaiting the messiah); are we strict montheists worshiping one deity like Christ or Allah, or are we closer to the atheist (buddhist-like) grouping?

    But nonetheless, am curious to hear what others out there(mainstream sikhi) think and feel. Would you say that we are say like the Jews (gray area between monotheists and atheist), or are we strictly monotheists, or strictly atheists?
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  3. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Welcome Avnit,

    You have raised a very good question indeed... I am sure only you could put some more light on this topic...

    I found an interesting topic on the philosophy of Nietzsche... Hope its useful to you... please read it with a neutral mindset...:)

    Kind Regards

    Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzsche and Morality

    This essay is an exposition of my interpretation of Nietzsche’s division of morality into the strong/master/noble and the weak/slave/cowardly, and hopefully does away with popular misconceptions. The starting point is a relativistic position that doesn’t cater to absolute values of “good” and “evil” that rationalistic moralists would have others to believe. The dichotomy of “good” and “evil” are relative concepts that are contingent upon the greater end of the individual life form, and are merely aspects of power that the individual exercise in order to maintain their existence/position/place in the world. Machiavelli was right: for all intents and purposes, “good” and “evil” are expedients for acquiring supremacy.

    It is the killer whale’s good to devour a sea lion. It’s the narrow-headed frog’s good to tell a foe a deception. Its brown and yellow coloring as well as its rough texture allows itself to blend in the mud and tree trunks in its environment. When a frog is in danger, it clings immobile to either the mud or tree trunks and declares thus: “I am not a frog, I am a piece of bark or mud, so I am useless.” This deception is good for the frog, since it preserves its life. Every species of organic being in nature instinctively adopts and practices behavior that is most conductive to the supremacy/prevalence of its kind. Once an efficient and advantageous form of behavior is found, it becomes the ruling morality of the species that adopts it and elevates them to success. That said, no species value alike, for what is the killer whale’s good is the sea lion’s evil, and vice versa.

    The reason why Nietzsche rejects Christian moral values and calls it an abomination is because of this deconstruction of morality: that like all other morals, Christianity’s code of ethics is merely an expedient for protecting a certain kind of man. And in Nietzsche’s opinion, Christianity’s type is a low one.

    Nietzsche postulates that there has been a constant conflict between the powerful, the noble, the strong, and the healthy on one side and the impotent, the mean, the petty, and the weak on the other. The war rages over moral principles. For the morals of the powerful class, Nietzsche labels Noble or Master Morality, and for the weak, Slave or Herd Morality. An analogy may illustrate the deep chasm between these two fundamental pictures of human relationship: the killer whale (as a representative of the noble person) observes a plump sea lion and infers that “eating sea lions is good.” The sea lion (representing the slave) looks down from the ice floe and whinnies dissentingly: “eating sea lions is evil.”

    "That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: 'these birds of prey are veil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb - would he not be good?' there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal"
    Genealogy of Morals First Essay, #13, p. 29

    The difference between Master and Herd Morality is astounding:
    Master morality is active, creative (positive), self-directed (leader), this-worldly, proud (but not vain), self-aware, experimental, egoistic, aristocratic (as in value hierarchy), discreet, and preaches a morality of persons (similar to Aristotle’s “golden means”). In direct opposition, Slave Morality reverses everything: passive, reactionary (negative), other-directed (follower), other-worldly, humble (meek), self-deceptive, prudent, altruistic, democratic (self-indulgent), confessional, and preaches a morality of principles (Kant)

    Everything “good” in the Master morality (MM) proceeds from strength, power, health, constitution, happiness. The dichotomy “good” and “bad” in MM is identical to “noble” and “despicable,” respectively. The noble man experiences himself as the most virtuous and powerful precisely because he rules by his own moral beliefs- which is encapsulated in this form: “I will. . .” What they call ‘bad’ applies to the coward, or any action that is derived from weakness, i.e. the person who is willing to forfeit everything in order to live.

    In a community that is subjugated, suffering, and in bondage, and world-weary, their conception of “good” necessarily alleviates their state of suffering. Examples such as Pity, obligation, warm heart, patience, industry and humility are most useful qualities that renders life livable, they assist in the “struggle of existence,” which is the main motivation behind the people who practice this form of morality. Everything to this sect that is awful is bad, and is essentially the evil par excellence. What is strong, healthy, extraordinary is regarded with hate, suspicion, and fear by the subordinate class. Slave morality is pretty much the herd, the common individuals. They perform out of a sense of obedience- a sign of passivity. The problem is that because the cowardly despite their masters by desiring the power and influence, they develop “ressentiment.” This unconscious desire impels a “drive” to democratize, i.e. making everyone equal in the eyes of God/law/state. Consequently the slave defines ‘evil’ as individual power or strength, while the ‘good’ is merely ‘non-threatening’ (equality, humility, modesty, compassion and charity. This is the morality of herd animals. A desire that all people be equal, both socially and spiritually, is a corruption of reality. The very notion of sin in Christian morality, “Thou shalt … !” is in contradiction to self-assertion, to the creativity, action, and self-authenticity of the noble man.

    Nietzsche had this image before him, that the end of humanity was not the lowest common denominator, but its highest individuals. Any means that reduced the number of great men was found wanting, and to be vilified. Ergo, the noble morality was conductive to an ascent in the line of life because it was creative and active, and affirms life. On the other hand, slave morality leads to degeneration because it posits passivity, leads to guilt, and is merely a means to keep the practitioners alive.

    Nietzsche is not endorsing an aristocratic ideal, precisely because he does recognize the fact that slave morality does make sense and is beneficial to certain types. That said, by no means is Nietzsche a victim of his earlier denials of absolute claims, that he is making one. After all, God is dead. (or at least our belief in an immortal being has finally succumbed to hypocrisy) Since truth/morality is merely relative and appropriate to every perspective, Nietzsche is no nihilist. The fault with such Christians, Kantians, rationalistic moralists, democrats, and socialists (or insert any form of slave morality here) is that they claim universality for their morality when it actually is appropriate only for some kind of humans.

    All else is folly, because naïve faith or belief that a single perspective transcends others betrays duplicity and dishonesty, and is totally inappropriate to other perspectives. This is not a denial of one’s perspective, rather that a perspective is appropriate to the very owner of that perspective, but remains inapplicable to everyone else’s. A killer whale’s perspective is fitting only for the killer whale, and not others, and so on. IOW, a killer whale’s perspective is no less valid to the killer whale’s than the cow’s perspective is to the cow. The problem occurs when either claims that its perspective is the only true and objective one. Since God is dead, (killed off by the very same absolutists) those who wish to maintain dogmatic or absolute beliefs in universal doctrines are essentially absurd. Man's experience of nature isn't immaculate, but a matter of perspective, conditioned by his senses and his mind. Knowledge from no standpoint is incoherent as saying "seeing from no particular vantage point." The idea of an all-encompassing or omniscient perspective is as meaningful as the idea of seeing an object from every possible point of view simultaneously.
  4. Youth_Voice

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    Jun 14, 2004
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    Hi Avnit,

    Its really appreciable that you have gone in so much depth of this topic.

    I also feel that no where Gurbani is trying to give definitions of some so called God residing in some skies far above.
    But the whole idea is just to break the mis believes of teh masses which already are there . It simply wants to discard all the rituals and superstitions that were being carried out in the name of God.

    You took a great example of the very first verse of Guru Granth Sahib which is normally quoted as 'Mool mantra'

    When I go through it, I do have a feeling that Gurbani is trying to preach on the fundalmental of "Jeha sevean teha hovean"... so Guru sahib says that Lord is one he firstly wants to convey that start beleiving on all idols and other forms of lord because they are many and not one. Secondly he wants to say that if Lord is one so we shall also live our life in a similar manner and not in dualtiy that is we should change the pattern of living from "Jin mann hor mukh hor" towards "Jiyo taan nirmal , bahron nirmal"

    When he says Satnaam , He wants to convey that 'truth is his name ' so we should start living a truthful life full of love and compassion for others.

    When he says 'Kartapurakh' which means 'He is the creator of the Universe' infact he wants to convey that we should become 'Creative' in our life and start doing creative things for the society.

    .... In such a manner we can read whole of the Gurbani and would feel that some way or the other Gurbani is simply trying to teach us a 'Way of Living' ful of love and respect for all .

    What do u feel ...???
  5. sskohli

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    Mar 8, 2005
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    Hi Avnit,
    That was really great analogy ( or analogies with other religions).
    umm thinking of the various options given, i think in my opinion we fall more towards the atheists buddha like grouping. We are not definitely awaiting for the Messiah as in Jews, cos I think our Gurus have mentioned that "He/She" is in all one of us.
    And definitely, we are not "supposed" to be idol worshippers like the hindus. Though, most of us have idolised Guru Granth Sahib. I don't know, during the time the Gurus were present, did we follow the same practices as worshipping Guru Granth Sahib.(cud anyone shed some more lite on this)
    When Guru Nanak Dev ji, was asked what his "road" to reach god was or like what was his religion, by Bhartari. Then he replied that there are so many religions and his religion was to take them all together. So we can say that in a way, our religion is more bohemic, idisyncratic in which there is a lot of room given i guess.
    The ultimate goal is to be one or to become "none", choose whatever path you want. The Gurus just give us an indication, the interpretation i guess is left on each one of us.
    So if Nietzsche meant God is dead, then maybe he was meaning that he has dissipated in each one of us. So guess your equation
    God is no more = God is everywhere (Akalmurat)
    holds water
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