Vedas and Guru Granth Sahib: A Philosophical Interface

A controversial dialogue keeps coming again and again asserting superiority of one religion or the other more specifically Vedantic Philosophy (Sanatan Dharma) over Gurmat (Gurbani) or vice versa.

All religious/spiritual paths help make human life meaningful and happy and one can give different names to attainable spiritual states.

Vedantic Philosophy served the humanity well till some rituals overpowered the core messages by the practices of the Philosophy over the time. A number of barriers (like original language and traditions) over a long span of period have helped to dilute or corrode the significance of the Vedantic Philosophy. Practioners of Sanatan Dharma do acknowledge this. There are very few good Hindus who believe in Vedantic Philosophy rest simply think that the Hinduism is just a way of life.

However, the knowledge of Vedas is like “an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) in automobiles”. All the cars are run on the principle of this ICE. However, when you go to buy a car you look for various other features such as: fuel consumption per KM, maximum speed, increasing degree of automation, safety standards, internal upholstery, body strength and auxiliary fittings of convenience and entertainment etc etc. in a car of your choice.

According to Guru Amar Das Ji, Trisna (false desire) is a disease which makes us to forget Naam, which is highlighted in Vedas.

ਜੀਅਹੁ ਮੈਲੇ ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਨਿਰਮਲ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜੀਅਹੁ ਤ ਮੈਲੇ ਤਿਨੀ ਜਨਮੁ ਜੂਐ ਹਾਰਿਆ ॥ (Raag Raamkali M. 3, 91-13).
Inwardly polluted, and outwardly pure. Those who are outwardly pure and yet polluted within, lose their lives in the gamble.

ਏਹ ਤਿਸਨਾ ਵਡਾ ਰੋਗੁ ਲਗਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ॥ ਵੇਦਾ ਮਹਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਉਤਮੁ ਸੋ ਸੁਣਹਿ ਨਾਹੀ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਜਿਉ ਬੇਤਾਲਿਆ ॥
They contract this terrible disease of desire, and in their minds, they forget about dying.

In the Vedas, the ultimate objective is the Naam, the Name of the Lord; but they do not hear this, and they wander around like demons.

Sikhi on the other hand which thrives on Gurmat (drawn from teachings of Gurbani) has relevant elements of all religious philosophies and practices before Guru Nanak Sahib. Gurbani also endorses the importance of Naam – “Nanak ke ghar kewal Naam” (M. 5).

Gurbani openly acknowledges good points of Vedas and Shastras and also condemns the useless practices (empty rituals) that became manifested among the masses. Gurbani does not spare in condemning any empty rituals that were prevalent during Sikh Guru’s time. While the Sikhs do pay attention to condemned rituals of Hindus and Muslims but at the same time do not relax in attracting rituals in Sikhism as well, thus defeating the core message of Gurbani: “Naam tul kach aver na hoe”:-

ਨਾਮ ਤੁਲਿ ਕਛੁ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਾਵੈ ਜਨੁ ਕੋਇ ॥੮॥੨॥ (Raag Gauri M. 5, GGS. 265-8).
There is nothing equal to the Naam. O Nanak, rare are those, who, as Gurmukh, obtain the Naam. ||8||2||

In Sikhi, unless one gets Naam all other activities amounts to waste of time and are empty rituals as in other religions. We need to examine as how many of us or on the right path? While the goal is clear and can be achieved with grace of Waheguru as ‘Gurparsad’, the path itself is also very lucrative with blessings of different kinds even when we are short of destination.

Gurbani does show a definite spiritual path leading to ‘Gobind Milan’ (blissful enlightenment) but at the same time does not put a seal that it is the only path. Therefore, people are free to explore any other paths suggested by a Spiritual Gurus provided the Gurus attained the necessary enlightenment through that paths.

On listening to informed devotees of other religions/faiths, I invariably end up in finding myself in a position of stronger resolve about truths in Gurbani (Gurmat).

I have a firm conviction that anyone who knows his/her religion well does easily attract goodness from other religions/faiths while easily filtering the insignificant differences.

With Punjabi as my mother tongue, I feel at ease to grasp the essence of Gurbani. And more so I love Gurbani for the following reasons while respecting scriptures of ALL other faiths and religions:-

1. Gurbani is fairly recent, written in a language well understood by me.
2. The authors of various compositions are well known to have lived like human-beings and then evolved spiritually through an enlightened Guru/Gursabd..
3. All the authors admit that a Divine Grace helped them to say what they said. I trust them as ‘gentlemen’. They all believed and practiced Truth-fullness:

ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥੫॥(Sri Raag M. 1, GGS. 62-11).|
Truth is higher than everything; but higher still is truthful living. ||5||

4. The truths, promises and instructions in Gurbani of Guru Granth Sahib were tested by by ten Sikh Gurus; and the 1st to 5th and 9th Sikh Gurus, Bhagats and Mahapurakhs, whose compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib have collaborated on the unity of theme of Gurmat.
5. There is historical account that all the Sikh Gurus practiced and demonstrated the divinity in Gurbani in their day to day real life though the 6th, 7th, 8th Gurus (they did not as such say any Gurbani of their own) and the 10th Guru (left a separate Dasam Granth).
6. The Gurbani was tested for a period of about 240 years before it was handed down as Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1708.
7. Gurbani was revealed in Kal-Yug by Kal-Yugi Gurus to save Kal-Yugi human beings. It is indeed bad luck of those those who turn away from Gurbani that it belongs only to the Sikhs and not to them.
8. All the Gursikhs who are/were imbued with Gurbani guide us the spirit of Seva, Sacrifices and Humility that illuminates/illuminated their personalities.
9. I am able to comprehend other faiths and religions better because of some understanding of Gurbani.
10. Gurbani does not say that it is the last word about God (Waheguru) rather says that ‘Sahib mera neet nawan’ (God is fresh and new every day).
11. Gurbani encourages me to look out for ‘Satsangat’ – congregation of spiritually elevated persons of all the faiths and religions and not restricting to only Sikh Gurmukhs.
12. Personally, Gurbani helps me to communicate with you otherwise I would be talking only chemistry (my professional subject).
13. With Gurbani background, I shall be tempted to accept any other religion or faith that offers me more than the above mentioned posts to hold on to – That is why I love Gurbani!

When I go to a Mandir, Mosque, Church or Gurduara, I find the message is pretty the same i. e. God is all-in-all, He is Love and is present in all of (toon ghat ghat antar sarab nirantar jee, har eko purakh samana). All religions teach Universal Brotherhood of mankind and attract us towards Divine Sojhee/Bud-bebik (Naam). – “naam sang jis ka man maneiaa, nanak tine niranjan janeiaa” (Sukhmani Sahib).

Regarding social practices, the environment plays an important role e. g. when we were in India surrounded by Hindus were naturally part of Hindu festivity; we spent 12 years in Nigeria in a predominantly Muslim state where we took part in Eids and Salahs and now when we live in New Zealand we do enthusiastically live in Christmas festivity – we have put up a Christmas tree in our house as mark of the festive season. All this does not stop us to celebrate Guru Nanak Birthday (we had a prayer and feast at home and also joined the Sangat at Wellington Gurduara Sahib later on a Sunday), Vaisakhi and other important days in Sikh-calendar.

We usually put up lights on our house around Diwali and the same stays on and is lighted again on Guru Nanak’s Birthday followed by on Christmas – without causing any conflict in our firm faith in Gurbani.

Kirpal Singh
Wellington, New Zealand

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