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Sikhism A Perspective - Book By Dr Man Singh Nirankari
Introduction To 'Sikhism A Perspective' By Dr Man Singh Nirankari
Dr. Man Singh Niranakari, being a prominent scholar, needs no introduction. He commands great respect among every section of Sikh society and the Khalsa Panth, not only for having a thorough knowledge of Gurmat philosophy but also for being a practitioner and devout follower of this philosophy. Being a highly qualified and professional ophthalmologist, he has earned a great reputation for himself for his service to the society in this sphere. He is also blessed with spiritual enlightenment as a result of his profound study of Gurbani and practice of Naam Simran .. His enlightened views on various aspects of Gurmat philosophy keep on appearing in print which provide valuable guidance to the devout Sikhs.
Baba Sahib Dyal ji, the great ancestor of Dr. Man Singh Nirankari, was a contemporary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Prior to the establishment of a sovereign Sikh state, the militant Singhs of the Khalsa Panth had to desert their homes and hearths for many decades. The Sikh shrines, in the absence of their real custodians, the Singhs, came under the control of a Hindu-minded priestly class which incorporated several Hindu ritualistic practices in the Sikh way of life. This sort of adulteration in Sikhism had further increased to a great extent during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Brahmanism and · its ritualism, of which Gurbani is extremely critical, had infiltrated into Sikhism to such an extent that it has assumed alarming proportions. The tradition of sati, the burning of the body of the wife. on the funeral pyre of her dead husband, is a glaring manifestation of this Brahmincal practice. Baba Sahib Dyal ji was the first religious leader· after the Si~ Gurus, who raised a voice of protest against this Brahminical intrusion into Sikhism and emphasized the need to follow those traditions and customs which were based on Gurmat. His was the first Sikh marriage based on the Sikh tradition of Anand Karaj. For this path-breaking decision, he had to face stringent opposition, social ostracisation and many other hardships, but he did not budge from his stand. On the contrary, his faith in Gurmat and Sikh philosophy became more profound and he kept on preaching Gurmat postulates till the last breath of his life. The reforms, which had been undertaken and executed by the Singh Sabha movement much later, were actually introduced by Baba Sahib Dyal ji much earlier.
The above-mentioned background seems to have exercised a profound influence on the life of Dr. Man Singh Nirankari. He looks at every religious practice and tradition through the vigilant eye of Gurmat. He never hesitates to reject any tradition on the basis of a logical argument which does not conform to the basic principles of Gurmat. The present volume is a collection of his views which he has been expressing and discussing with the Khalsa Panth on different occasions. He ·laid great stress on the organizing methodology of religious congregations and also recorded valuable suggestions .on the important issues of holding Akhand Paths (nonstop recitation of Gurbani); synthesis of bhagti and shakti (spiritualism and temporal power); Sikhs and drugs, Guru Nanak and miracles. He has also highlighted extensively the influence and contribution of the Nirankari Movement to the shaping of Sikh traditions and customs on Gurmat lines. He has made valuable observations on Sikhism in the chapters dealing with the introduction of revolutionary step of Anand Kara} wedding ceremony and the contribution of sahajdhari Sikhs to the Gurmat philosophy.
Dr. Nirankari has included two important issues in the present volume. The first issue is .related to the "Kavio watch Baintee chopayee" verse. He is of the opinion that this verse is a part of the composition known as Charitro-pakhyan which, as per the decision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, is not the composition of Guru Gobind Singh. The second objection raised by Dr. Nirankari is related to Vaar Sri Bhagauti ji ki which forms the preamble to the daily Sikh prayer.
Both these issues are extremely important issues which have become a part of the controversy which is going on in the Sikh Panth about the entire composition of "The Dasam Granth." A few years ago, S. Diwan Singh had expressed serious doubts about the authenticity of Bachittar Natak, and Chaubees Avtar and Chandi Di Vaar. Recently, Gurbakhsh Singh Kala Afghana, too, had not acknowledged Bachittar Natak as part of the Gurbani. Late Principal Harbhajan Singh in his book Selected Articles on Dasam Granth, had drawn the attention of the Khalsa Panth towards the problem of determining the authenticity of The Dasam Granth.
Contrary to this view is the prevalent opinion, that the entire Dasam Granth is the composition of Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh masses have been made to subscribe to this view. As a result, the devout Sikh masses are not ready to accept and even listen to anything contrary to this view as the scholars from the past have popularized these views. Majority of the present day scholars also support this viewpoint, but the arguments which Dr. Man Singh Nirankari and a few other critics have put forth cannot be dismissed. These need to be looked into critically and minutely.
With prominent scholars having been divided into opposing camps, this controversy has assumed the shape of a serious debate that needs to be taken cognizance of with sensitivity and intellectual maturity. Releasing press statements in favour for or against any school of thought will prove counterproductive for the Khalsa Panth, Efforts must be made to keep the community united instead of creating divisive issues for the community. The only sensible way to resolve· this controversy is that Sikh scholars instead of issuing categorical statements in the press, should sit together and deliberate and discuss the entire issue dispassionately. Since Guru Gobind Singh conferred the Guruship on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and every composition related to Sikhism should be assessed and evaluated on the touchstone of Gurbani premises.
It becomes the responsibility of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee to appoint a committee of selected Sikh scholars which should hold in-camera deliberations on this important issue and give a unanimous verdict on it, which should be acceptable as the decision of the entire Khalsa Panth. This is the only way to resolve this controversy. These deliberations cannot be rushed and needs time and discussion to sort out what can become a contentious issue.
I am a staunch admirer of Dr. Man Singh Nirankari's scholarly credentials and his upright living and enlightened views. The present volume containing his views on Sikhism is a valuable contribution to the Khalsa Panth for which the whole community is indebted to him. His efforts praiseworthy indeed.