Scientific Vision of Guru Nanak Dev in Guru Granth Sahib (GGS) Kind Courtesy: H.S. VIRK Ji
Director Research, DAVIET, Kabir Nagar, Jallandhar, India
Religion and Science are both engaged in the exploration of Ultimate Reality. The field of religion concerns consciousness and its flux in molding the destiny of man. Science explores the nature or its manifestation through the material world. It starts from gross matter and moves toward subtle consciousness pervading in the material world. Scientists use physical and chemical methods to discover the secrets of universe while the Prophets use divine intuition to reveal these secrets. All their conclusions may not coincide but their objective remains the same to explore the secret of Laws of Nature. Indeed a scientific perspective is conducive to and valuable in comprehending the scope of the vision of the Sikh Gurus.
Typically it is scholars in the fields of literature, philosophy, and history who undertake an analysis of Sikh scripture and with the inclusion of scientists – physicists, astronomers, chemists, geologists, biologists, the exegesis of the text is only enhanced. For instance, Guru Nanak’s vision : “patala patal lakh agasa agasa -- worlds below worlds, worlds above worlds” (Japuji, 22) leave us wide-eyed, but they acquire a real palpability and concreteness when we look at them through an astronomer’s telescope. As we apply the empirical data of our Milky Way galaxy with its hundred billion stars and the scientific observations regarding billions of other galaxies, we really begin to visualize what Guru Nanak meant, and thereby gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of his verse. The scientific adventure, its observations, and factual data, do not clash with Sikh sacred scripture; they reveal its intrinsic vigor, its far-reaching insights, and its contemporary relevance.
Glimpses of Scientific Vision of Guru Nanak Dev
Cosmology in GGS
There are a large number of theories about the creation of the universe but so far ‘Big Bang Theory’ is widely accepted by many scientists. However, with every new scientific discovery the theory may undergo a drastic change in the future. One must keep in mind that theories are based on some scientific information and use of logic and it will change as soon as more facts are discovered. Many theologians emphasize that theories propounded by scientists change with the time, therefore, the science is not a stable field. On the other hand, they say that the God has revealed the theology to the deities, prophets, Gurus; therefore, it cannot change. But one should also not forget that God has also revealed principles of science, Laws of Universe, to the scientists. Therefore, science and theology cannot contradict each other since both have been revealed by God .
It is my considered opinion that Sikh Cosmology as enunciated in GGS has been found to be most scientific and compatible with the modern cosmological theories of science. In Japuji, Guru Nanak sums up his ideas about creation of the Universe, which he elaborates further in the most precise and scientific manner in the Raga Maru Solhe in GGS. The creation hypothesis is summed up as follows by Guru Nanak :
‘God created the Universe by uttering a word.’
Thus the problem of ‘singularity’ faced by the Big-Bang model of the Universe is solved by the Guru by bringing in God as the creator of the Universe. Once this riddle is solved, the sequence of creation, its epoch and extent is described in GGS in a most rational manner. Guru Nanak poses the next question in Japuji :
kIqw pswau eyko kvwau ] iqs qy hoey lK drIAwau ]
‘What was the time and the moment
the day and the month,
When the world was created?
kvxu su vylw vKqu kvxu kvxu iQiq kvxu vwru ]
In the next stanza, Guru Nanak provides the answer :
kvix is ruqI mwhu kvxu ijqu hoAw Awkwru ]
‘Neither the Pundit can find this date
by looking through the Purana texts,
Nor can the Qazi tell from the Koran,
Neither the Yogi nor any one else knows
The day, weak, season and month of creation,
The creator who creates the World,
He alone knows the time’
vyl n pweIAw pMfqI ij hovY lyKu purwxu ]
vKqu n pwieE kwdIAw ij ilKin lyKu kurwx ]
iQiq vwru nw jogI jwxY ruiq mwhu nw koeI ]
Guru Nanak does not want to formulate any hypothesis based on false assumptions and leaves this question open. The creation process is started under the command of God, the creator of the universe. The Guru envisages the creation of the Universe out of ‘Sünya’ which is devoid of matter but not of energy. Hence a beautiful analogy with quantum concept of creation ‘out of nothing’ as a vacuum fluctuation is established in Raga Maru Solhe :
jw krqw isrTI kau swjy Awpy jwxY soeI ]
In the Primal Void (Sünya), the Infinite Lord assumed His Power
He created universe and the man in the fortress of body
He created the air, water, earth and sky out of Sünya;
suMn klw AprMpir DwrI ]…………………
This wonderful drama of creation is elucidated further by Guru Nanak in his mystic reverie. Surprisingly, there is a perfect correspondence between the epoch of ‘Big-Bang’ and the creation out of Sünya phase as enunciated in Maru Solhe, the most beautiful hymn on Sikh Cosmology :
pauxu pwxI suMnY qy swjy ] isRsit aupwie kwieAw gV rwjy ]
‘For billions of years, there was nothing but utter darkness. There was neither day nor night, nor moon, nor sun, but the Lord alone sat in profound trance. Neither there was creation, nor air, nor water. There were no continents, nor underworlds, nor seven oceans nor rivers, or the flowing water. There was neither death, nor time. There was no Brahma, nor Vishnu or Shiva.
When He so willed, He created the world and supported the firmament without support. He created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and extended the love of mammon. He founded the continents, solar systems and underworlds, and from the Absolute self,He became manifest.”
nw idnu rYin n cMdu n sUrju suMn smwiD lgwiedw ]……
Arbd nrbd DuMDUkwrw [[Drix n ggnw hukmu Apwrw [[
Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru and compiler of GGS, describes in Sukhmani the myriad forms of creation. The cyclic theory of creation is accepted in GGS :
There are millions and millions of galaxies and solar systems in the universe. The phenomenon of creation has occurred so many times. But the one Lord remains for ever and ever.”
keI koit KwxI Aru KMf ] keI koit Akws bRhmMf ]
keI koit hoey Avqwr ] keI jugiq kIno ibsQwr]
The universe is still expanding since the Big Bang occurred. And no limit has been established according to the present day knowledge of science. Guru Nanak explains infiniteness of universe in his own inimitable style after rejecting the hypotheses put forward by religions of both the oriental and occidental traditions, as follows : [/FONT]
keI bwr psirE pwswr] sdw sdw ieku eykMkwr]
There are hundreds of thousands of nether worlds,
and hundreds of thousands of skies.
After great research the Vedas have failed to say it definitely.
The Semitic books say that there are eighteen thousand worlds,
and they claim it is the factual truth.
pwqwlw pwqwl lK Awgwsw Awgws ]
shs ATwrh khin kqybw AsulU ieku Dwqu ]
EVk EVk Bwil Qky vyd khin iek vwq ]
However, Guru Nanak does not enter into any mathematical rigmarole to make an assessment or count of the celestial bodies comprising our Universe. After quoting the prevalent tradition or information available at that time, Guru Nanak records his own observations in GGS in the form of his mystic reverie. He says that the cosmos (universe) contains countless number of celestial bodies. The real number would be known only to the God, the creator of the Universe :
It cannot be possible to count (number of the celestial bodies in the universe),
Because the accounting person may reach the end of his life during counting,
It will still be incomplete.
Guru Nanak says that the God is the Great,
Who knows the account (of the celestial bodies in the universe).
lyKw hoie q ilKIAY lyKY hoie ivxwsu ]
According to the present scientific information available there are billions of galaxies and each galaxy is composed of billions of stars and their planets and moons. Our sun, having nine planets revolving around it, is one of the billions of stars of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
nwnk vfw AwKIAY Awpy jwxY Awpu ]
The riddle of creation of the Universe will remain an enigma for cosmologists and there is no final word yet in cosmology. About the present theories and models, we may conclude with a quotation from the Benti Chaupai in Dasam Granth :
“Everyone explains the creation process according to his intellect,
But no one can tell, O Lord,
How you first created the universe”
Awp AwpnI buiD hY jyqI [ brnq iBMn-iBMn quih qyqI [
(b) Origin and Evolution of Life in GGS: Various theories of origin and evolution of life have been put forward in the holy books of all religions. But one thing is common to all of them: God is the creator of life in this universe. Guru Nanak also accepts this postulate of God as the Creator of the universe and life in all its manifestations. However, Guru Nanak also accepts the theory of evolution in his own characteristic manner without taking recourse to the concept of natural selection in the Darwinian way.
In Japuji , Guru Nanak refers to the creation of various forms and living beings under the divine law (hukam). But this divine law is incomprehensible.
hukmI hovin Awkwr hukmu n kihAw jweI]
hukmI hovin jIA hukim imlY vifAweI ]
In SGGS , Guru Arjun poses the question about the origin of life and he answers it as follows:
Where do we go in the end?
All creatures belong to God, Who can place a value on Him?
ikQhu aupjY kh rhY kh mwih smwvY]
jIA jMq siB Ksm ky kauxu kImiq pwvY]
In Siddh-Goshit [13-14], Guru Nanak answers the queries of Siddhas regarding creation of life, mind and the universe as follows:
Q.1 When this heart and the body did not exist, where did the mind reside?
jw iehu ihrdw dyh n hoqI qau mnu kYTY rhqw]
A.1 When the heart and the body did not exist, O hermit, then the mind resided with Absolute Lord in the void.
ihrdw dyh n hoqI AauDU qau mnu suMn rhY bYrwgI ]
Q.2 What is the root, the source of life?
What teachings hold for these times?
kvx mUlu kvx miq vylw]
A.2 Pray Sir, it is air that supports life.
And, the true Guru’s message is the creed of the day.
pvn ArMBu siqgur miq vylw]
According to Guru Nanak, all the living things such as plants, birds and animals etc. are made of three elements, namely, material body, soul and prana. These elements owe their origin to the Absolute Lord. The hypothesis of Guru Nanak  is simple and straight forward:
The True Lord created the air,
From air, water arose.
From water, creation arose.
His Light permeates all creation.
swcy qy pvnw BieAw pvnY qy jlu hoie]
jl qy iqRBvxu swijAw Git Git joiq smoie]
We find reference to evolution of species in the universe in Gurbani without taking recourse to any scientific theory of evolution. Sikh Gurus generally followed the traditional Hindu view of eight million and four hundred thousand species  of living organisms in the universe. Man is the summum bonnum of this creation.
lK caurwsIh jMq aupwey]
“God has created eighty four lakh (8.4 million) species of beings”
There is a classification of all living organisms into four categories [17-18] on the basis of their origin. They are grouped as under:
(i)Those born from egg (andaj);
(ii)Those born from womb (jevaj);
(iii)Those born from earth (utbhuj), and
(iv)Those born from sweat (setaj).
“Egg born, womb born, earth born and heat born; are all Thine creatures.
Oceans, mountains, and all beings - O Nanak, He alone knows their condition.
O Nanak, having created the living beings, He cherishes them all”.
AMfj jyrj auqBujW KwxI syqjWh]
so imiq jwxY nwnkw srW myrW jMqwh]
nwnk jMq aupwie kY sMmwly sBnwh]
“Egg born, womb born, earth born and heat born; are all created by You.
I have seen one glory of Yours, that You are pervading and permeating in all”.
AMfj jyrj auqBuj syqj qyry kIqy jMqw]
eyk purb mY qyrw dyiKAw qU sBnw mwih rvMqw ]
In SGGS, it is also mentioned by Bhagat Namdev  that forty two lakh species exist in water and the same number may exist on land. Science has failed to confirm this hypothesis.
bieAwlIs lK jI jl mih hoqy bITlu BYlw kwie krau]
The message of Sikh Gurus is enshrined in GGS. In the final analysis, we can quote a relevant stanza in support of biological evolution of species :
In so many incarnations, you were a worm and an insect;
In so many incarnations, you were an elephant, a fish and a deer;
In so many incarnations, you were a bird and a snake;
In so many incarnations, you were yoked as an ox and a horse.
Meet the Lord of the Universe – now is the time to meet Him.
After such a long epoch, you are born as a human being.
keI jnm Bey kIt pqMgw]keI jnm gj mIn kurMgw ]
keI jnm pMKI srp hoieE]keI jnm hYvr ibRK joieE]
imlu jgdIs imln kI brIAw]icrMkwl ieh dyh sMjrIAw]
1. Nikky- Guninder Kaur Singh, Foreword to Author’s book published by Singh Brothers,
Nov. 2007, p. 15.
2. DS Chahal, Understanding Sikhism: The Research Journal, Vol. 9(1), p.46, 2006.
3. GGS, M1, p.3.
4. GGS, M1, p.4.
5. GGS, M1, p.4.
6. GGS, M1, p.1037.
7. GGS, M1, p.1035.
8. GGS, M5, p.276.
9. GGS, M1, Jap 22, p. 5.
10. Guru Gobind Singh, Benati Chaupai, Dasam Granth, Published by Bhai
Chattar Singh - Jeewan Singh, Amritsar, 1902, p.1387.
11. GGS, M.1, p.1.
12. GGS, M.5, p.1193.
13. GGS, M.1, p.945.
14. GGS, M.1, p.942-943.
15. GGS, M.1, p.19.
16. GGS, M.1, p.1190.
17. GGS, M.1, p.467.
18. GGS, M.1, p. 596.
19. GGS, Bhagat Namdev, p.485.
20. GGS, M.5, p.176.
End Note: The text of this essay is based on my recently published book, “Scientific Vision in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Interfaith Dialogue” by Singh Brothers, Amritsar. The full implication of the theme can be realized by reading this book. It must be pointed out that SGGS is not a text book of Science but the Vision of Sikh Gurus recorded in it is far more scientific as compared to the Holy Books of other faiths. Guru Nanak gave a clarion call to reject rituals and myths and promoted a scientific vision of life in this Universe.
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