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Prof. Devinder Singh Chahal, PhD
Guru Nanak founded a religion, Sikhism, for the welfare of the humanity on this planet, the Earth. Due to certain activities of unscrupulous Sikhs, Sikhism has been wrapped in a cocoon woven with the silken fibers of ancient writings. Consequently, it is being represented as a ritualistic and mythic religion like many others. Even today, in the Space Age and the Computer Age, Sikhism is being interpreted along the lines of these ancient writings without looking into their authenticity and validity and Gurbani is usually eliminated from this process. Thus, it is imperative to represent Sikhism in its real perspective as founded by Guru Nanak.
It has been noticed that there is a great yearning to know about Sikhism in its real perspective by the young Sikhs. It is a general complaint by the young Sikhs, especially those born in the Western World, that whenever they go to Gurdwaras they do not understand anything about Sikhism, the way it is presented.
The main cause of apostasy among the Sikh youth as well as the Sikhs at large in the Western World could be the same as explained by Mr. Mark Bestien (5). In Canada, he reported that thirty years ago only one percent of people said they were of no religion. Now about 10% of people say they have no religion. Now the percentage of non-believers in religion has increased to 13% according to the Canadian Census of 1991. And forty years ago 70% people regularly attended weekly worship service, now only 20% do so. Mr. Bestien's comments on this information were: The main reason of decreasing population of believers in religion is that teaching of religion is too stodgy and stern for modern man swiftly changing knowledge of science. Very similar situation is appearing in the case of Sikhism throughout the world including India that the younger generation of Science Age (Space Age/Computer Age) is not interested in visiting Gurdwaras as they do not get the real perspective of Sikhism.
The Traditional Sikhism will be compared with that of the Sikhism, to be discovered through the homepage, Understanding Sikhism.
It is this Traditional Sikhism that is being taught and practiced at present in the Gurdwaras through Granthis, Ragis, Sants, preachers and Kathakars, and also through books, journals, and TV programs, which is mostly based on the ancient literature and traditions without verifying their authenticity. There are very few teachings or presentations of Sikhism and Gurbani in its real perspective. I have observed during discussions with some Sikh scholars that they acknowledge grudgingly and hesitantly that there are many wrong concepts and practices in Sikhism, still they teach them and practice them lest they are branded as the trouble makers or the foes of Sikhism. Nevertheless, real Sikhism will be revealed by cutting the silken fibers of myths and unauthentic literature with the chisel of science and logic and the hammer of Gurbani through the homepage, Understanding Sikhism, under various headings.
It is generally accepted and it is also being strongly emphasized by many Sikh scholars, and the Sikh authorities that science and logic have nothing to do with Sikhism and Gurbani. They also feel that its application in religion will disrupt the fundamentals of Gurbani consequently will attack the principles of Sikhism. Unfortunately they have absolutely wrong impression about the science. Science in general is a state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding. Science deals with all types of matters: inanimates and animates and all the stages through which an inanimate becomes animate; and all the invisible matters and all their stages through which they become visible and can be felt; and all the stages from nothingness to matter to existence. Still it is my strong conviction that Gurbani is revealed one and there is no test in the world which could challenge its truth, if it is presented scientifically and logically in its real perspective.
Nevertheless, Gurbani teaches us to evaluate any thing/philosophy offered to you, by research and deliberation before accepting or practising it (3, 4). I think most Sikh scholars have failed to realize that science and logic work together to explain all the phenomena of life, cosmos, and also the so-called metphysical events. What is a metaphysical phenomenon today, it may become physical, physiological, psychological or psychosomatic tomorrow through the study of science. I mean whether you accept the role of science or not it is going to play a major role in all the aspects of your life including your religion. It is impossible to escape the implications of science and logic today and will be impossible tomorrow too. Albert Einstein, a Nobel laureate was right when he declared that (7):
It is happening so because most scholars have not yet comprehended that Guru Nanak started Sikhism during the period of renaissance (between the 14th century and 17th century), the period of begining of modern science. During this period scientists started to challenge some notions of the religion in Europe. For example, Galileo (1564-1642) was imprisoned for life because he challenged the fundamental belief of the church that sun revolves around the earth. He proved the theory of Copernicus (1473-1543) that the earth is a planet of solar system and it revolves around the sun (8).
On the other hand almost at the same time of the period of renaissance, about a century before Galileo, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) initiated the most modern, logically and scientifically sound, religion, Sikhism, based on the Gurbani revealed to him. He challenged some notions in the religions of Indian subcontinent. For example, the notion that the earth is resting on the horn of a bull was removed by Guru Nanak by explaining that the earth is staying in the universe under the control of the Laws of the Almighty (Scientists call them Laws of Nature) (1, 6). Guru Nanak explained about the creation of the universe by a process, that is now known as the "Big Bang" theory and expansion of the universe according to the Laws of the Almighty (Nature) (2, 6). The theory of "Big Bang" was propounded by scientists in 1921, i.e., about 5 centuries after Guru Nanak.
Thus, Guru Nanak through his nine successors evolved the most mordern, scietific and logically sound religion, Sikhism, by the end of the period of renaissance. Some fundamentals of some religions are being continuously attacked by science since the advent of the modern science. Sikhism created by Guru Nanak had stood the test of the time so far. I am very sure it will stand all the challenges from science, if it is presented in its real perspective.
I think it is most appropriate to quote here the remarks of Arnold Toynbe (9) about Sikhism recorded about 23 years ago:
"Mankind's religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen: the living higher religions are going to influence each other more ever before, in these days of increasing communication between all parts of the world and branches of the human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion, and the scriptures the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."
Let us get together to portray Sikhism as a logical and scientifically sound religion of the world through the homepage, Understanding Sikhism.
[Most of this article has been based on the article: Chahal, D.S. (1995 & 1996) Interpretation of Gurbani: A Scientist's Approach)]