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Oral Traditions

Discussion in 'Spiritual' started by vsgrewal48895, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. vsgrewal48895

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    Writer SPNer

    Mar 12, 2009
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    Oral tradition or oral culture is a way of transmitting history or literature from one generation to the next in a civilization without a writing system. In a general sense, "Oral Tradition" refers to the transmission of cultural or religious material through vocal utterance, and was long held to be a key descriptor. It refers both to a method and the objects studied by the method.

    The study of oral tradition is distinct from the academic discipline of oral history, which is the recording of personal memories and histories of those who experienced historical eras or events. Each time we re-store a memory, after telling the facts from memory, it can be substantially altered by all sorts of factors. What goes back in to our brains is like the new version of the facts over writing the old ones? Secondly memory and emotions are intimately linked biochemically, with hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol actively involved in forming neurological patterns called memories and stored in the memory center of hippocampus.

    Any kind of emotional experience will create a stronger memory than would be created otherwise. As the stress hormones are released in the blood stream leading to an exaggerated or undue display of strong feelings, they create deeper pathways. Emotions can make the individual irrational. They can thus hide the true facts in the veil of cloudy mental states. Oral history is considered by some historians to be an unreliable source for the study of history.

    Jesus movement shaped the story of Jesus’ life mostly based on memories. It has ended up with the background of political, religious, social, and cultural nuances and accepting apocryphal writings. In the first generation the esoteric teachings were passed by the oral traditions to his followers. It is rather clear from the way that the stories developed in the gospels that the Christians who were writing the gospels a generation after the death of Jesus were doing so from a stock of oral memory, that is, stories that had been passed down perhaps by followers.

    During the second generation the Jesus movement was still a part of Judaism. It slowly was differentiated by the label Gentile. These people believed in the impending apocalypse and return of Jesus. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and Jesus had not returned. By the third generation the break with Judaism was complete. In the fourth generation church became more institutionalized. It is possible that Jesus did not call himself God or son of God. It may have been the people or the Church, who gave him this title to institutionalize Christianity so it could control the followers.
    Many of the works attributed to the apostles were written after the death of the initial generation. The term Christian was coined some two hundred years after the death of Jesus, in his memory. Thus the Gospel and other biblical literature are not direct biographies of Jesus.

    After being labeled Christian, the movement became separated from Judaism. Jesus died around 30. For 40 years, until after the revolt, there was no written gospel of his life. During that period there was very little in the way of written records within Christianity. The first writer in the New Testament is Paul, and his first letter is dated around 50 to 52, still a good 20 years after Jesus, himself. But it appears that in between the death of Jesus and the writing of the first gospel, Mark, people were telling each other stories of Jesus’ life. They were passing on the tradition of what happened to Jesus, what he stood for and what he did, orally. They must have told and retold these stories.

    In the early days of Christian era there were schools, which sought to preserve the ancient Gnosis and the teachings of sacred Mysteries throughout the rising tide of materialism and corruption. The Gnostics and Essences were two of these schools. They admittedly had esoteric teachings for the initiated and exoteric teachings for the multitudes. Origen (the Greek Catholic Church, AD 185 to 254), and Justin Martyr (Protestant AD 1500-1562) were early authorities in the Church, They believed in the pre-existence of souls. These esoteric teachings of Christ given to his disciples did not come down to laity, if recorded they were suppressed and afterwards lost. The fact that we're dealing in oral medium of story telling is fallacious in totality. Bible was written much later through the oral tradition.

    It is also true of Islam.

    The earliest literary traditions in India were mostly oral and were later transcribed. Most of these spring from Hindu tradition and are represented by sacred works like Vedas and epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Many Hindus believe that the Vedas were transmitted via an oral tradition, perhaps for 8000 years (Fisher) ago. Many think that it is an exaggeration dating earliest part of the Rig Veda around 1800-1500 BCE. However, it is acknowledged by most that the Vedas did indeed have a long oral tradition and were passed on from teacher to disciple for at least many centuries before first being written down. Thus it is estimated that the earliest parts of the Vedas may date back to 2500-2000 BCE. According to tradition, the hymns of the Rig-Veda were collected and arranged by Paila under the supervision of Vyasa. Vaishampayan compiled hymns, which were particularly chanted during religious and social functions of the community, under the title Yujar Veda. Jaimini is said to have collected hymns that were set to music and melody known as Sama Veda. The fourth collection of hymns and chants known as Atharva Veda is ascribed to Sumantu.

    In contrast to the Bible and the Quran, it is interesting to note that the AGGS was written during the lifetime of the Sikh Gurus. Some of the recent happenings were duly written down by the various Sikh scholars. The Akal Takhat has excommunicated some of them. The future of those who tried to make amends with the leaders of Akal Takhat has been ruined in the west. The various copies of AGGS (Kartarpur Bir, Bhai Bannu’s Bir or Khari Bir, and other documents appearing in the media) have a history comparable to the history of writings about the Christian religion. Even the oral tradition has been used in writing many available books. It may be correct that some scholars, who have examined the Kartarpur Bir, regard it as a draft with blank pages and writings in the margins.

    The 100 Sakhies, Suraj Parkash, Bhai Bala Sakhies, and others include stories of various miracles performed by the Gurus. Some of them do not seem to be true in the light of present day thinking. Sikh philosophy does not admit of miracles. Sikh Sakhies and books written on the principle of oral tradition are also flawed e.g.;

    Suraj Parkash, Vol 1

    Anecdote; One

    Sakhi # 154. Guru Ji Di Seva, Page, 543

    Abstract from Page 546;

    ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਹੋਰ ਔਖੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸੀ੍ ਗੁਰੂ ਔਗਦ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਔਨਗੂਠੇ ਨੂੰ ਮੂੰਹ ਵਿਚ ਰਖਕੇ ਬੈਠਣਾ ॥ ਸੀ੍ ਗੁਰੂ ਔਗਦ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਚਰਨ ਦੇ ਔਗੂਠੇ ਉਤੇ ਜ਼ਖਮ ਸੀ ॥ ਜਿੰਨਾ ਚਿਰ ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰਦਾਸ ਜੀ ਮੂੰਹ ਵਿਚ ਪਾਕੇ ਨਾ ਬੈਠਦੇ ਉਹਨਾ ਚਿਰ ਗੁਰੂ ਔਗਦ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ ਨੂੰ ਨੀਂਦ ਨਾ ਆਉਂਦੀ ॥ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਹੋਇਆਂ ਸੇਵਾ ਚਾਰ ਸਾਲ ਬੀਤ ਗਏ ॥

    Sabh Toan Hoar Aoukhee Seva Siri Guru Angad Dev Ji They Angoothay Noon Moonh Vich Rakh Kay Baithnaa ] Siri Guru Angad Dev Ji De Charan De Angoothay Outay Zakham See] Jina Chir Guru Amardas Ji Moonh Vich Pa-kay Na Baithday Ohna Chir Guru Angad Dev Ji Noon Neend Na Aoundi] Iss Tarnha Seva Kardian Hoeyaa Seva Chaar Saal Beet Gaey.

    Guru Angad had an ulcer on the big toe of his foot (Probably Gout/Diabetic ulcer).
    Which was very painful? The only way he could sleep was if Amardas (later Guru Amardas) kept the toe in his mouth. It carried on for 4 years. This is in reference to the selfless service of Guru Amardas towards Guru Angad Dev.------Ref, Suraj Parkash, translated as Nanak Parkash (Nirankari Darshan) by Giani Gian Singh, Page, 546

    Bhai Bala Sakhies;

    Anecdote Two;

    Kaodhay Rakhis Di Sakhi- Bhai Balay Vaali Janam Sakhi, Page, 90

    The Devil Kaoday caught hold of Mardana and hung him upside down on a boiling cauldron of oil. Guru Nanak Ji came and spoke the Sabd composed by Guru Arjan years later;

    ਫੂਟੋ ਆਂਡਾ ਭਰਮ ਕਾ ਮਨਹਿ ਭਇਓ ਪਰਗਾਸੁ ॥ਕਾਟੀ ਬੇਰੀ ਪਗਹ ਤੇ ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨੀ ਬੰਦਿ ਖਲਾਸੁ ॥ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣੁ ਰਹਿਓ ॥ਤਪਤ ਕੜਾਹਾ ਬੁਝਿ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਸੀਤਲ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਓ ॥

    Fūto āʼndā bẖaram kā maneh bẖa¬i¬o pargās. Kātī bėrī pagah ṯė gur kīnī banḏ kẖalās. Āvaṇ jāṇ rahi¬o. Ŧapaṯ kaṛāhā bujẖ ga¬i¬ā gur sīṯal nām ḏī¬o.

    The egg of doubt has burst; my mind has been enlightened. The Guru has shattered the shackles on my feet, and has set me free. My coming and going in reincarnation is ended. The boiling cauldron has cooled down; the Guru has blessed me with the cooling, soothing Naam, the Name of the God. -----Guru Arjan, Raag Maru, AGGS, Page, 1002

    The stories of miracles and unthinkable stories about Sikh Gurus, which are against the principles of Sikhism, fall in the same category. Research indicates that if you pass a statement through 15-20 people sitting in a row, the end result is a completely different version of the original statement as described by the last person in the row. In the above instances statement was passed through individuals within a few minutes of time. Sikh stories and other documented statements were passed through different people at different times after a lapse of varying lengths of time, had a similar fate.

    Those who have educated themselves on Sikh Philosophy by reading available books wonder if these books were tainted by oral traditions and had miracles and rituals included in them. Miracles and rituals are against the Sikh Philosophy. So the present Sikh Traditions being followed may be flawed and suspect. There are also affirmations made by the writers about the Rehtnamas of Sikh Gurus, which actually have been written years after the death of Gurus, whiuch have been manipulated for selfish reasons or by the English. These books do cause doubt and duality in the mind of many readers. One can provide many references from the available books about contradictions in the stories and Sikh religious tenets. The reader must wonder how he can break the egg of doubt and get released from duality in such a situation leading to differences of opinion and arguments.

    ਬੁਰਾ ਭਲਾ ਤਿਚਰੁ ਆਖਦਾ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਹੁ ਮਾਹਿ ॥

    Burā bẖalā ṯicẖar ākẖ¬ḏā jicẖar hai ḏuhu māhi.

    He calls others bad and good, as long as he is in duality.-----Guru Amardas, Raag Suhi, AGGS, Page 757-6


    Regardless, oral history is a valid means for preserving and transmitting history during the periods when no writing system was available. Experience within literate cultures indicates that each time anyone reconstructs a memory, there are changes in the memory, but the core of the story is usually retained. Over time, however, minor changes can accumulate until the story becomes unrecognizable. A person within a literate culture thus has presuppositions that may falsely affect his/her judgment of the validity of oral history within preliterate cultures.

    Virinder S. Grewal
    Williamston, MI
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