Copyright © Dr. N Muthu Mohan



The Contemporary World:

The present paper intents to bring out the points of relevance of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture to the contemporary world society. The points that are focused by us as relevant, as it could be expected, are intimately related with our understanding of contemporary society. A few decades back, it was felt that the modern age with its historical promises of freedom, progress and enlightenment had come to meet its internal crisis. The European man started sensing a feeling of disappointment. Philosophers of Existentialism identified the problem as science, technology and industrialization acting at the hands of dominance and power, and consequently eroding the fundamental human values in the society and threatening the very human existence on earth. After a long period of adequate probing of the problem, the same philosophers proposed moral regeneration as the necessary condition to meet the situation. Along with the proposed moral revival, many philosophers campaigned for a spiritual renaissance and a return of religions to mend the damaged state of affairs in the present society. To quote Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslavakian scholar “the alternative is a future rehabilitation of the human subject, an existential revolution, and a renaissance or revival of human responsibilities, of a relation between man and something mysterious which is more than man, some metaphysical assurance.”(Richard Kearney ed. 1995:70). The anticipation of moral regeneration in the global level has not yet come true although towards the end of the last millennium indeed there is a return of religions.

The Return of Religions and Search for Utopias:

The return of religions in recent times has assumed a violent form, and to be more exact, a political form. Although the religions have come back to increase their involvement in the civil affairs, they have not yet adequately articulated their spiritual or ethical potentialities. It seems that religions are operating as agents of the same old modernist politics, only to mobilize the majoritarian identity and to dominate the total space of the public sphere. The inter-religious and inter-communal relations at the global level have suddenly become complicated, tense and insecure. The revival of interest in religions is, at times, articulated in the worst form of discourse that goes with the coinage of phrases such as clash of civilizations (Huntington).

It is also significant to indicate that the new predictions on future are related with the loss of faith in the enlightenment values of the west and collapse of socialism in the former Soviet Union. This means that the present phase of history intensifies the search for new alternatives. May be, it is also a call for utopias, a call for our creativity to work out new modes of human existence. Once the modern ideals with their linear-progressive models have got de-legitimized, the post-modern condition suggests to look for non-modernist and pre-modernist options. Those models that were marginalized towards the periphery, particularly that hail from the not-so-modern anthropological world are gaining prominence in the present context. The pre-modern and the non-modern are to be understood as powerful persuasions for working out the post-modern alternatives. With this understanding of contemporary life, we enter to speak of Guru Granth Sahib, the scripture of the Sikhs.

Guru Granth Sahib and the Sense of Crisis:

The appearance of Guru Granth Sahib or the Sikh religiosity as such could be understood as a fresh call for the revival of spirituality in the context of 15-17 century India. The said historical period did have its moments of crisis in very significant aspects similar to the present day conditions. Indian subcontinent indeed underwent radical changes in terms of urbanization, commercialization and socially upward mobilization during the Muslim rule in the medieval centuries. The traditional Hindu society with its values of either asceticism or Varna Dhama (Caste System Of The Hindus ) yielded before the Islamic political and economic advance. The emerging structures of society contributed to the creativity of the masses on the one hand, as well as to the development of destructive individualism on the other hand. The traditional religion of Hinduism became incapable to meet the situation and it conveniently withdrew into its own orthodox shell. The entry of Sikh religiosity at such an historical juncture is a real encounter with the newly emerging situation with all its complexities. The historical setting of Guru Granth Sahib demanded an intensive reworking of the themes of sacred and secular, and their interrelations. In Guru Granth Sahib one finds the documentation of the crisis both in the religious and temporal realms.

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