Are Sikhs Stupid?
The learned author presents a deep insight into the ways of the Sikh leadership over the last five centuries and the hope that “like all living things, Sikhs want to live, they do not want to die”.
Sirdar Kapur Singh
Bhai Sahib Sirdar Kapur Singh, (M.A. (Canterbury), Ex-ICS and National Professor of Sikhism, in his characteristic style, in this speech delivered in Vancouver, Canada on 7 October 1974, under the auspices of All Canada Sikh Federation, spells out the fundamentals of Sikhism for a non-Sikh audience.
The first publication of this speech bore the title, Stupid Sikhs, as given by the author himself, for he wanted to drive the point home that the too-trusting Sikhs are viewed in such a manner by the chicanery and deceitful Brahmin leadership of independent India.
As a young concerned Sikh from Mumbai, I traveled to Chandigarh to obtain the learned philosopher’s permission to republish the same speech under the heading, Sikhs and Sikhism. The permission was granted and we printed and circulated thousands of copies of the same. This time around, I take the liberty to publish the same with a slightly changed heading.
Readers are invited to read the full version on the website, whereas, here we publish and edited and abridged version for reasons of space. Believe me, it is best savoured in the full. –Editor.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Sikhs are a religious community and a political nation, simultaneously, and thus they are a unique society of the world. The Sikhs are distinguishable from the Hindu society, which is essentially a territorial culture-group. In the ancient Sanskrit texts, Vishnu-purana, in particular, it is laid down that Hindus are those born in the geographical area called, Bharat and this geographical area is delineated as extending from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari, Cape Comrin of Europeans, and from the river Indus to seas that girdle the soil of India; that is, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Essentially, Hinduism is non-exportable and relocatable and its modern conversion and oecumenical activities are unsanctioned innovations.
Islamic society is grounded in totalitarianism of religious formulae and social laws, enforceable by political sovereignty and overlordship over non-Muslim societies. Christendom and Christianity formed a political society of medieval ages and are an oecumenical, universal religion of Gentiles, without being a political society in the modern world. The Jewish society is basically and fiercely ethnical while Buddhism is fundamentally non-social and non-political.
Sikhism is a social religion, non-ethnical, oecumenical, grounded in a political society, directed and committed to propagation and establishing of a plural world-society, tolerant, open, progressive and free in character.
Thus, Sikhism and the Sikhs form a unique religion and a unique society, which and who can be clearly distinguished from the other religious and political societies of the world.
Arnold Toynbee, the world-famous historian and philosopher of History, in his magnum opus, "History", refers to Sikhism as the forerunner of the true elan of the Communist Party of Lenin. Arnold Toynbee adds that Lenin was quite mistaken in claiming that his Communist Party was a unique party in the history of the world and had been formed for the first time. Arnold Toynbee asserts that because of its elan and structure, the Khalsa of the Sikh society is a true fore-runner and prototype of the Communist Party of Lenin.
Sikhism and its apotheosis, the Khalsa, have merely a structural affinity and kinship of elan with the Communist Party of Lenin insofar as it is essentially an organisation of committed elites for furthering the cause of social transformations, but in aims and content it is poles apart from communism as it is irrevocably committed to social pluralism and freedom of conscience, tolerance and recognition of the human individual as an end in himself, and not an expendable limb in the beehive society of communism. This aspect of the matter, Arnold Toynbee has failed to appreciate and point out in his great book.
Above all, Sikhism is irrevocably committed to the doctrine of the existence of God, the one almighty God, as the beginning and the end of all, that is and that shall be, alawawal walakhir, as the Koran puts it.
Sikhs are an international community. There is a quip, current in European as well as in Asiatic countries to the effect that wherever life exists and is sustainable on earth, the potato and the Sikh are bound to reach there sooner or later.
Arnold Toynbee, in his latest, one of the latest books--not the latest, "East to West", has observed to the effect that if the human race survives its follies at all--he is doubtful that it will survive--but he says that if it survives its follies at all, Sikhs shall surely be there as vigorous, hardy and go-getting homosapiens on this planet.
Sikhs are universally admitted as excelling most other races of mankind in the basic activities of man: production of food, manipulation of tools and fighting. As agriculturists, artisans and manual labourers they excel many other races and human groups and as soldiers they are inferior to no group in the history of the world, in bravery inspired by ethical considerations.
This religion of Sikhism was founded, as we know, by Guru Nanak, who was born in the year 1451 AD. Guru, in Sikh terminology, means, a prophet and a world-teacher and Sikhism is a prophetic religion based on a definitive revelation, like semitic religions of the West, and it, therefore, can be clearly contra-distinguished from the eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, which have anonymous mysticism as their source of validity.
During his missionary journey to the inner Himalayas on the mountain of legendary Kailash near the celestial lake of Mansarowar, he explained the first priority principle on which the Sikh society was to be based. Bhai Gurdas, a very learned man of Sikhism--sometimes he is described as the St. Paul of Sikhism--tells us that when the Yogins residing in these inaccessible regions asked Guru Nanak as to "how did the news go in the world of the mortals"--mat lok main kia vartara--the reply of the Guru was sharp and to the point: "The society has become rotten to its core." And here he raised an accusing finger at these Yogins, adding: "And Sires, you are the guilty ones, for, society cannot be guided and sustained without men of high sensitivity and cultures, but you, who possess it, have become escapees."--Sach chandarma kud andhiara, siddh chhap baithe parbatin kaun jagat kau parutara.
In this doctrine, he answers the question of questions, the question which has been, for thousands of years, worrying the sensitive and thinking man and which question still remains finally unanswered. This question of questions is as to whether the carriers of the grace, the liberated men, the men who have achieved the highest apex of spiritual evolution, whether they should rise like lions or die like lambs; whether the spiritually elite should withdraw into wilderness to bear witness, or act as leaven to the lump. Guru Nanak's answer is clear: it is that every fully liberated person must be socially and politically committed, and must return back to the society to serve and guide it, to elevate it, and to preserve its basic ethical and spiritual values.
The next doctrine of Sikh society was demonstrated by Guru Nanak during his fourth sojourn when he traveled by sea to Mecca by sea, the holy sanctuary of Islam, along with the Muslim pilgrims of India. Inside this holy sanctuary, when doubts arose on account of his behaviour as to whether he was Muslim or a Hindu, he was accosted with the question: "Who are you, and what is the book that you carry under your arm for it is not the holy Koran? Tell us, please, according to this book that you carry, whether the Muslim religion is true or the Hindu religion?"--Puchan khohl kitab nu hindu vada ki mussalmanoi.
The reply of the Guru is not only clear but fearless, particularly when you keep in view the situation in which this reply was made. The Guru said: "Oh, pilgrims, neither those who profess Islam nor those who profess Hinduism are superior, one to the other. It is the practice and its moral quality that makes one individual superior to the other in the eyes of God, and not mere lip profession.--"Baba akhe hajio subh amlan bahjon dovain roi."
Likewise, the third doctrine was demonstrated by his exclamations against the tyranny involved in the invasion ofIndia by Babar, the Mughal, in the year 1521. The heart-rendering cry and audacious question of Guru Nanak put to God is the Babar-Bani, on witnessing the misery caused by Babar's brutalities to undefended and unarmed civilians of India, "just as a herd of meek cows is attacked by a bloodthirsty tiger", as Guru Nanak puts it: Sinh pave ja vagge. This is the harsh cry and the question of Guru Nanak in relation to a situation of this kind, implicating that under such circumstances it becomes the duty of an enlightened and spiritually committed person to come forward and to organise with those who are similarly cultured, to resist evil--resist evil at all stages, resist in the hope and in the faith that God will grant success, but never to sit in the corner, or on the fence, feeling that it is none of my concern or saying that it is the concern of God alone, whose duty it is to send somebody to stop this evil.
These doctrines which Guru Nanak had thus enunciated were, by the successor-Gurus, demonstrated in relation to individual and contingent situations. They were applied to the practical task of setting up a new society, the Sikh society. The last of the Sikh prophets, the tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, ordained an Order of the Sikh elites, the Khalsa, who now represent and spearhead the tasks of Sikh religion, and are recognisable throughout the world as bearded and turbaned Sikhs.
Then the perfected yogins in the Kailash mountains asked Guru Nanak specifically as to how does he propose to eradicate evil and to oppose the tyrant, as no individual has the power to eradicate evil, it being universal and inherent. The Guru is recorded as having said, " I want to use two levers: human organisation of those seriously committed to the task of defending goodness and to the task of opposing evil and I want to use a second lever, of the authentic and true "idea" of religion which is revealed in the conscience of highly sensitive and cultured men. The "organisation" and the "idea" which are both human, with these two levers I hope to be able not only to resist the evil, not only to halt the progress of evil in society, but to elevate and exalt society to heights yet undreamt of, jin manas te devate kie. Through this society I hope to evolve, deified men on this earth, who will be God-like, God-united, and yet-human."
Such are the basic social and spiritual principles of Sikhism as enunciated by its founder, as perfected by his nine successors, as apotheosized by the last Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, into the Order of the Khalsa, who now have the responsibility and the assignment of setting-out these directives of Guru Nanak into practice; and who now bear the heavy burden of this responsibility of establishing a world-society in which the growth and unchecked march of evil is stopped and evil is ultimately, if not eradicated, controlled and contained. Such a high task it is that lies on the shoulders of those whom you sometimes see in various parts of the world wearing turbans and unshorn hair. These turbans and unshorn hair are not symptomatic of some kind of lack of modern cultural view-point. They are the exteriorisation of a psyche and of a sense of such high mission the like of which the history of the world does not know, that which has not ever been conceived or practised before.
In 1711, they set-up a republic in the heartland of the Moghul Empire in India, wherein they gave land to the tillers in a feudal society, proclaimed equality of all men as citizens of a state, and declared that power emanated from and justly belonged to the people and not to a hereditary privilegentsia. These remarkable and most modern principles, which were not only avowed but which were put into practice, although for a very short while, are historical phenomena with which not many people in the West or even the East are acquainted; but which, if properly understood and appreciated, would make men marvel as to how it was that in a conservative, tranquil, progressive-and-struggle-avoiding East, such revolutionary and remarkably dynamic ideas not only could spring-up but could be put into practice and could be applied to the actual polity of a state which was founded, but which, unfortunately, did not last. This state of the Sikhs lasted only for six or seven years.
There was yet another principle which the Sikhs, inspired as they were by the teachings of the Gurus, proclaimed and actually applied in this short-lived republic. It was on the 10th of December, 1710 that an Imperial Ordinance was issued from Delhi by the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah, which runs to the effect that: nanak-prastan ra harkuja kih biyaband ba qatal rasanand---"Every Sikh, wherever he is found,wherever he is seen, should be put to death without any hesitation and without any further thought". On 7th April, 1711, hardly three months and a few days afterwards, an Ordinance in reply was issued by the Sikh Republic under the seal of the state and sign manual of their chief executive, Banda Singh Bahadur, which proclaimed: "We do not oppose Muslims or Islam, but only tyranny and usurpation of power." The substance of this Ordinance of The Sikh Republic is recorded in contemporary documents, such as the Persian Ruquati--Aminul-davallah, Dastural--Insaha and the Imperial Daily Diaries, the day-to-day records made by authority of what passed in the royal court. They are now available for everybody to see.
After that, there comes a period of about half a century of relentless persecution and genocide pogroms against the Sikh people by two contending empires, the mightiest empires of Asia of those days: the Mughal and the Pathan Empire.
But the Sikhs withstood this terrible onslaught. They neither submitted nor abandoned their harsh cry of "death or liberty", a sentiment foreign to and unknown in the Eastern societies, ancient or modern. And then it slid into the form of the Sikh Empire, which was called the Sarkar Khalsa that is “the people’s Commonwealth” from the middle of the eighteenth-century to the middle of the nineteenth-century.
It was in the middle of the nineteenth century that the British perfidiously attacked the Sikh Commonwealth, after corrupting and buying the Hindu Generals of the Sikh army and the Hindu-dominated civil government at Lahore; and during the fierce Anglo-Sikh wars and battles, as a historian says, "the Sikhs beat the British and their Hindu mercenaries to their knees every time!" I am quoting. But the Sikh country was, nevertheless, annexed to the British Empire through treachery at the diplomatic table.
Before the First World War, when the ideas of freeing India from the foreign yoke started stirring the minds of the Indian people, Sikhs were the spearhead of this movement. Such hardships and such terrible conditions of existence they bore, and not a case of a single Sikh is known who either wavered or apologized, though many opportunities were offered them to just say one word: "We are sorry for what we have done"; and they could come back to their villages and to their lands and live a life of comfort and ease as their other compatriots were doing.
Such was the society which the principles of Sikhism gave birth to, and such is the history and tribulations of this society which, though on the material plane may seem to have failed to make a conspicuous mark, but, which on the plane of principles and on the plane of essences has made such a remarkable imprint, as superior to which would be difficult to find in the histories of the societies of the world, from ancient times to the modern times.
When in 1947, the British--in 1946 or even earlier, the British gave it out that they no longer wanted to hold India and it was known that they cannot hold India and it was also known that the British would now quit, and they wanted to hand over the sovereignty and the political power of India to the Indians themselves. Then the question arose, how and to whom should this political power be transferred? The broad outlines are that the British Parliament, who was penultimate authority in this matter of the transfer of power, declared unequivocally that after the British quit India, there are three peoples, distinct peoples, who are the legitimate heirs to the sovereignty of India.
Definite concrete and pressing offers were made half a dozen times by the Muslim League, as well as by the British, to the Sikhs to carve out and to have an area for themselves in which they could also be a free people and not altogether unlike the Hindus and Muslims were going to be. There is no doubt about it, because I am a personal witness to some of these occasions, and there is such heavy and credible documentary evidence on the point, that it cannot be doubted or denied. Whenever the British made these offers, the Sikhs said, "No, we tie our destiny irrevocably to the destiny of India.
The promises and commitments which the Hindu leaders made to the Sikhs were as follows: after the British quit India and the Sikhs have refused to accept the offers of separate, sovereign or semi-sovereign areas for themselves made by others--after that happens, the Hindu majority--the Indian Congress, the mouthpiece of the Hindus as they rightly regarded themselves--the Hindu majority community solemnly promises, first, that they will not promulgate any Constitution for the future government of India which does not have the free concurrence and assent of the Sikhs; two, that an area in the north of India, with an autonomous status shall be carved-out in which, in the flowery words of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, "the Sikhs also might feel the glow of freedom,"--which means, "therein the Sikhs shall be able to act effectively at the decision-making levels of their state." These promises were given-from the year 1930 onwards upto the year 1947.
After August 1947 nothing was done to put these promises into effect, and they seemed to have been forgotten and slowly-but-slowly attempts were made to win-over and corrupt the individual integrity of Sikh leaders. In 1950 the Constitution of India was framed. Nothing was included therein which may have even the remotest semblance to fulfillment of these two solemn commitments which were made to the Sikhs. Thus, the Sikhs had been tricked to give up their right of sovereignty, their right of being legitimate heirs to the power and sovereignty of India.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, the constitutionality of these political tricks and manoeuvres might be debatable, but their gross unethicality and cynicality, their low perfidious character, is all too obvious.
And ever-since 1947, persistent, calculated, well-planned and regular attempts have been made on the cultural, on the political and on the economic levels, not only to disintegrate the Khalsa--the collectivity of the Sikh people-- once and for all, but to weaken the Sikh citizens in all ways.
I conclude and sum-up in a few propositions what I have been trying to convey here:
1. Sikhism is not a Hindu sect but a prophetic religion and a unique political society, guided and led by an Order of the elite Sikhs, the Khalsa, whose unshorn hair and turbans are merely an exteriorisation of their religious psyche, natural, spontaneous, evolutionary and authentic. This is the first proposition which I have tried to elucidate before you.
2. The second proposition which I have tried to make out before you is that Sikhism enjoins a religion grounded in truth alone, a growing truth in the enlightened conscience of man and sternly translated into day-to-day living of individuals.
3. The third proposition which I have tried to put before you, to demonstrate before you, is that the Sikhs are committed to help the establishment of a world-society which is plural, non-coercive, expansive and forward-looking, motivated God-wards, in which there is maximum toleration, ever-growing affluence and minimum of mutually destructive ambition. And on the basis of this, I want to observe in the form of the fourth proposition that:
4. The mosaic pattern of Canadian society comes nearest to the Sikh ideal of a world-society, though the Canadian society is not, in every respect and in essence, its replica or prototype.
5. And the last proposition which I now formulate in precise words is that, while, as Canadian citizens, the Sikhs may look forward to a hopeful and bright future, in India, their historical homeland, they now face the basic problem of their identity and existence, since the control of their own history has been snatched out of their hands and their historical potential has been submerged and throttled.
6. And I add that the Sikhs want to live, as all living things do; they do not want to die.
Thank you (Applause).
4 March 2009