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Logic and Sikhi – Part 1

Dr Karminder Singh

Sep 4, 2009
Is there is a place in Sikhi, in general, and within gurbani, in particular, for logic and reason?

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

Pyario, this commentary attempts to explain the position of logic within Sikh spirituality. The primary question is whether logic and reason have a place in Sikhi in general and within gurbani in particular.

Now, as we all know, Guru Nanak’s Sikhi was met with strong opposition from the spiritualities that existed at that time.

SEE ALSO: Logic and Sikhi – Part 2

The most powerful opposition was accorded by those from the Brahmanical tradition. They of course opposed the substance of Guru Nanak’s Sikhi but they were equally upset with the method that Guru Nanak ji had deployed.

On the issue of method, their opposition to Guru Nanak was based on 2 core points; first, that Guru Nanak had abandoned the Sanskrit and instead used the language of the masses to preach his messages. Second, that Guru Nanak had incorporated logic, reason and intellect within his spirituality.

Both of these points are actually related because they are anti-thesis to the notion of blind faith.

Why the Brahmin preferred Sanskrit was precisely because the ordinary human being could not understand it. The Brahmin interpreted the Sanskrit spiritual texts any way he wanted as the masses were required to have unquestionable faith in those interpretations no matter how skilled or twisted his translations.

Now, why Guru Nanak used the language of the masses was because of 2 reasons; number one, Guruji wanted the ordinary human being to be able to get Guru Nanak ji’s messages. Secondly, he wanted the ordinary man to be able to follow Guruji’s logic and reasoning as well.

So, to do these, Guruji had to use the language that the masses understood clearly.

Why the Brahmin was so upset with Guru Nanak ji’s use of logic, reason and persuasive argument was because his ritual based spirituality was crumbling.

The Brahmin ritual and pakhand could not stand a chance before Guru Nanak’s powerful logic, before Guru Nanak ji’s convincing reasoning and before Guru Nanak’s extremely persuasive arguments.

When for instance, Guru Nanak refused to wear the sacred thread – the Janeiyu, he used logic and reason to state his stand.

Guruji would not wear it because his sister, Nanki was not allowed to wear it. So, he argued very persuasively that he would not wear something that was denied to one half or 50% of humanity which was female.

He would also not wear it because it allowed people to announce one’s cast or ‘jaat’ from the way one wore it. Guru Nanak’s logic and reason was that he would not be part of a ritual that divided society or that was divisive on humanity as a whole.

So, taking his logic to the heights of reason and persuasion, Guru Nanak told the ‘pandit’ of the kind of ‘janeiyu’ that are to exist,

ਦਇਆ ਕਪਾਹ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਸੂਤੁ ਜਤੁ ਗੰਢੀ ਸਤੁ ਵਟੁ ॥ ਆਸਾ ਕੀ ਵਾਰ:

(ਮ: ੧) ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ : ਅੰਗ ੪੭੧ ਪੰ. ੨

Dhaeiaa Kapaah Santhokh Sooth Jath Gandtee Sath Vatt ||

Make compassion the cotton, contentment the thread, modesty the knot and truth the twist.

So Guruji says: “I prefer the janeiyu made of from the cotton of compassion, from the threads of contentment and one that is knotted in morality with truth.”

ਏਹੁ ਜਨੇਊ ਜੀਅ ਕਾ ਹਈ ਤ ਪਾਡੇ ਘਤੁ ॥

ਆਸਾ ਕੀ ਵਾਰ: (ਮ: ੧) ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ : ਅੰਗ ੪੭੧ ਪੰ. ੨

Eaehu Janaeoo Jeea Kaa Hee Th Paaddae Ghath ||

This is the sacred thread of the soul; if you have it, then go ahead and put it on me.

So, if you can, Paanday, then weave this sort of Janeiyu for the soul and for the mind.

Such a Janeiyu is for all humanity. It will raise the spirituality of all humans regardless of gender, creed, cast; to becoming one with humanity and becoming one with God.

Such powerful logic, such alleviated reasoning and so convincing an argument!

When Guru Nanak went to Hardwar, there was perhaps one million people throwing water towards the sun. They were engaged in the the ritual of offering water to their departed ancestors. Guru Nanak ji, as we all know, threw water in the opposite direction.

Now, the Brahmin saw his ritual crumble to one million pieces right in front of his eyes.

So what caused his ritual to disintegrate? It was Guru Nanak’s powerful logic! If water cannot reach my fields in Punjab, how can it reach the sun? It was a logic that shattered a 4,000 year old ritual.


When Guru Nanak went to Jagannath, the devotees were performing Artee.

Guru Nanak’s critic of this ritual was based on a very powerful logic and a very potent reasoning. All Guruji told them was: Artee of God cannot be performed and cannot be undertaken by mortals. Godly Artee was already taking place. It was already happening, as we say in Punjabi, ‘parmatma di arti kiti nahi jandi, akaal purakh di arti ho rahi hai’.

Look up at the heavens, ‘ਗਗਨ ਮੈ ਥਾਲੁ’– Gagan Mai Thhaal. Look into creation around you, ‘ਰਵਿ ਚੰਦੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਬਨੇ’- Rav Chandh Dheepak Banae. Look into the laws of the universe, ‘ਤਾਰਿਕਾ ਮੰਡਲ ਜਨਕ ਮੋਤੀ’– Thaarikaa Manddal Janak Mothee.

You will see the wondrous Artee that is happening, ‘ਕੈਸੀ ਆਰਤੀ ਹੋਇ’– Kaisee Aarathee Hoe ‘kaisi shandaar arti, kaisi bakmaal, kaisi lajawaab arti ho rahi hai’. Meaning: what Artee is taking place…what wonderful Artee is taking place!’ The word ‘kaisi’ in ‘ਕੈਸੀ ਆਰਤੀ ਹੋਇ’– Kaisee Aarathee Hoe, is an expression of wonder. It is an exclamation of the Artee that is taking place. Guruji tells us, “become part of it!”

Now, this was powerful logic and reasoning that was able to move the mountain of Artee ritual that had stood high and mighty for thousands of years.

So, everywhere Guru Nanak ji went, every ‘yogi’, every ‘mullah’, every ‘pandit’ he met, his way of winning them over from misguided paths into the true spiritual paths was through the use of logic, reason and persuasion.

He told the ‘yogi’, “Now, if you spend all your energies and prolonging life, how long will you think you can fight the forces of nature?”

How useful to humanity can you actually be, sitting and hibernating in some cave up in the mountain, trying to live for an additional hundred years or more? This was powerful logic.

He told the Mullah – if God was directional, then who is in charge of the directions where God is not in charge. Again, unassailable logic here.

So, we find similar logic and reason and persuasion in the writings of our Gurus, the Bhagats, within the Gurbani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

For instance, when Kabir ji was faced with prepositions that rituals will take one to go God, he dealt with them with perfectly sound logic.

When faced with the proposition, that staying naked or staying nude was the way to God he said:

ਨਗਨ ਫਿਰਤ ਜੌ ਪਾਈਐ ਜੋਗੁ ॥ Nagan Firet Jao Payeay Jog.

If union with God could be obtained by wandering around naked,

ਬਨ ਕਾ ਮਿਰਗੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਸਭੁ ਹੋਗੁ ॥੧॥ Bunn Ka Mirug Mukat Sabh Hog.

Then all the deer of the forest would be liberated. ||1||

If nudity was the way to God, then the animal kingdom ought to go there first. When faced with the Brahmin claim that shaving bald was the way to God, he said :-

ਮੂਡ ਮੁੰਡਾਏ ਜੌ ਸਿਧਿ ਪਾਈ ॥ Moond Mundaye Jao Sidh Payee.

If the spiritual perfection of the Siddhas could be obtained by shaving the head,

ਮੁਕਤੀ ਭੇਡ ਨ ਗਈਆ ਕਾਈ ॥੨॥ Muktee Bhed Na Gayeea Kayee.

Then why haven’t sheep found salvation? ||2||

The sheep was regularly shaved bald so it should reach God first.

When face with Bihangam or Brahmachari claim that celibacy was the way to God he says:

ਬਿੰਦੁ ਰਾਖਿ ਜੌ ਤਰੀਐ ਭਾਈ ॥ Binnd Raakh Jao Tereay Bhaee

If someone could save himself by celibacy, O Siblings of Destiny,

ਖੁਸਰੈ ਕਿਉ ਨ ਪਰਮ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੩॥ Khusrey Kion Na Param Gatt Payee.

Why then haven’t eunuchs obtained realization of the Supreme Being? ||3||

Then, the transvestite should get to go to God first.

Now after heaping logic upon logic and reason upon reason Kabir ji, finally gives his conclusion:-

ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਨਰ ਭਾਈ ॥ Kaho Kabeer Suno Nar Bhayee

Says Kabeer, listen, O men, O Siblings of Destiny:

ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨੁ ਕਿਨਿ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੪॥੪॥ Raam Naam Bin Kin Gat Payee.

Without the Lord’s Name, who has ever realized him? ||4||4||

So, similarly, when Bhagat Ravidas was faced with criticism relating to his cobbler caste, that he could never realize God, the pure God because his caste was defiled, his answer was fantastic. He said:-

Ang 1293 Line 4 Raag Malar: Bhagat Ravidas

ਸੁਰਾ ਅਪਵਿਤ੍ਰ ਨਤ ਅਵਰ ਜਲ ਰੇ ਸੁਰਸਰੀ ਮਿਲਤ ਨਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਆਨੰ ॥੧॥

Suraa Apavithr Nath Avar Jal Rae Surasaree Milath Nehi Hoe Aanan ||1||

This wine, and any other polluted water which mixes with the pure Ganges, does not remain separate from it. ||1||

Suraa is liquor (defiled drink) and Surasaree is Ganges, the pure Ganges. So he is saying if you empty the bottle of defiled liquor into the pure Ganges, the pure Ganges does not get defiled. In fact, the liquor loses its defiled nature and gets purified within the Ganges. Meaning I may be defiled in your eyes but God is pure and whosoever merges with the pure God becomes pure.

Pyareo, it may be hard to match the quality and depth of such logic.


Now the question that remains is this. Where does faith or where does sharda stand in Sikhi or in Gurmat or in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji.

Now the sharda of Sikhi and the sharda of Gurbani is what we say in Punjabi gian adharat sharda (enlightened faith or faith based on knowing, faith based on enlightenment).

It is the antonym or the opposite of blind faith.

We can say that knowing and faith or gian and sharda are the two pillars of Sikhi. One could say that Sikhi is fifty percent gian and fifty percent sharda. Fifty percent knowing and fifty percent believing.

But the defining characteristic of enlightened faith is that the order is set in the Guru Granth Sahib. Knowing comes first. Sikhi believing is after knowing. Believing without knowing is defined as blind faith. Now the verse in particular is: –

ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਅਬ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ Keh Kabeer Abb Janeya

Says Kabeer, now I know Him;

ਜਬ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਤਉ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥ Jub Janeya Tao Munn Maneya.

Since I know Him, my mind is pleased and appeased.

Kabir, I now know. I’m now and enlightened. Now that I know, I believe I accept. Then it goes on to state the value of such enlightened Faith as opposed do Blind Faith. He say:-

ਮਨ ਮਾਨੇ ਲੋਗੁ ਨ ਪਤੀਜੈ ॥ Munn Maney Log Na Pateejey.

My mind is pleased and appeased, and yet, people do not believe it.

ਨ ਪਤੀਜੈ ਤਉ ਕਿਆ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੩॥੭॥ Na Pateejey Tao Kya Keejey.

They do not believe it, so what can I do? ||3||7||

With such faith – meaning an enlightened faith – I do not have to be concerned about pleasing or convincing people around me. Enlightened faith is grounded in knowing. It is not grounded in acceptance of people around us.

Blind faith, on the other hand, is always people dependent. Blind faith people believe what others tell them to believe. They stop believing something when other people stop believing, and they start to believe it again when other people start to believe it again.

Now, Pyareo, I would like to conclude by making four pertinent brief points pertaining to Gurbani in particular.

Firstly, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaaj presents spiritual knowledge in the form of reasoning, which is based on sound logic and very persuasive argument. Gurbani is, in essence, a convincing argument relating to spiritual elevation.

In fact, the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji — from Ek Oangkar right down to Mundavni — is a long persuasive and a logical discourse to answer the question Kiv Sachiara Hoiye, Kiv Kudhey Tutte Paal that is raised on Page One of Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaaj.

Second, the Guru Granth Sahib is a reasoned and logical argument against two prevalent methods of spiritual practice that are rejected namely ritual and blind faith.

Thirdly, a Shabad-based journey of spiritual discovery is entirely practical for spiritual seekers of modern times in which we live.

Now this is because the ingredients of the Shabad; primarily Gian Adharat Sharda or enlightenment inspired faith or Sharda Tey Tikkiya Gian or faith generated by enlightenment which is the Shabad; all of this are congruent and in line with the primary values adopted by modern society and more than mankind.

And these values are logic based and argument derived reason.

Fourth, the Shabad is by definition logical reasoning. This is so because the Guru Granth Sahib is not a book of historical or mythological narration. It is not a ritual manual either.

The Shabad reasons for man to undertake a journey of spirituality with his creator. The Shabad persuades man to walk the path of spirituality. This reasoning and the persuasion is very much dependent on sound and clear logic.

Bhul Chuk Di Khima Baksni. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.


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