« ForrigeFortsett »
Brahmins was a virtue far above devotion to mercy, truth, and justice. It was against this privileged hierarchy that Nanak directed his attack; and, although he did not preach the abolition of caste as was subsequently done by Govind Singh, his writings are filled with acknowledgments of the brotherhood and equality of man, and he admitted all classes as his disciples. Nor did his gentle and quietist nature attempt a direct assault on the Brahmin class, other than by the denunciation of the idol worship on the profits of which they lived. He even allowed and approved the use of Brahmins as private and domestic priests, to perform such ceremonial as was unobjectionable; though he rejected their teachings, together with the doctrine of Vedas and Puranas, the Hindu sacred books. Born in the Punjab, where the conflict between Hinduism and Islamism had long continued, he was doubtless influenced, as had been the bhagats, or pious teachers, who had preceded him, by the central idea of Mohammedanism, the unity of God; and monotheism was the cardinal truth of his doctrine.
It is necessary to study carefully his gospel, known as the Adi Granth, to realize adequately the purity and beauty of Nanak's doctrine. This enormous volume is somewhat repellent to Western scholars. The only form in which it is accessible -for the Gurmukhi in which it is written is exceedingly obscure-is the translation of Dr. Ernest Trumpp, a learned German professor, who was brought to Lahore at a time when I was chief secretary to the Punjab government, to undertake this difficult task, on which he spent seven years' labor. But his command of English was not equal to a rendering of the spirit of the original, and he further appears to have considered the Granth as an incoherent and shallow production, and its chief value to be linguistic, as a treasury of the mediæval Hindu dialects. This judgment appears to me to be mistaken. There are, it is true, many puerilities and vain repetitions, from which the books of no Eastern religion are free; but it is scarcely possible to turn a single page without being struck by the beauty and originality of the images and the enlightened devotion of its language. No Catholic ascetic has ever been more absorbed in the contemplation of the Deity than was the prophet Nanak when giving utterance to his rhapsodies.
The monotheism of Nanak is often not to be distinguished from pantheism; and, unless a creed be provided with a personal and anthropomorphic deity, it is always difficult to draw the line between the two. Sometimes Nanak represents God as a self-conscious spirit protecting the creatures He has made; an ever-present Providence, who can be approached through the Guru, the heavenappointed teacher, and ready to bless and emancipate the soul which worships sincerely and humbly. At other times, man and the universe and all that exists are but a part of and an emanation from God, who produces all things out of Himself and to whom all finally return. In the same way, it would seem that Nanak in no way denied the existence of the lower deities of the Hindu mythology; or the poetic pantheism on which his belief in the one supreme God was based could hardly exist without the symbolism which inspired all nature with life, and found a spiritual force behind and within every manifestation of natural energy. Yet all such deities he asserted to be indifferent and unworthy of regard, much as the early preachers of Christianity treated the gods of Greece and Rome, in whose existence they believed, but whose dominion was to be overthrown by Christ. Idolatry he condemned, asserting that the service pleasing to the Deity was that of the heart : neither vain ceremonies nor the austerities which the Hindu ascetics had been wont to consider as the key which unlocked the highest and most secret mysteries, but a pure, unselfish life, a faith in God revealed through the instrumentality of the appointed Guru, or spiritual guide. Charity and good works were commendable and the worthy fruits of an unselfish life; but they were not of themselves sufficient to release the soul from its bondage to sense and illusion, or to save it from transmigration, the ever-present dread of the Hindu, or to insure its reunion with God. These results could only be attained by meditation on God and through the saving grace of His name.
Although Nanak claimed to be a prophet, he did not assert that he was inspired or possessed of miraculous powers, though these were freely ascribed to him by his disciples, both during his lifetime and after his death. But he magnified his office of Guru into that of an intermediary between man and God, and blind obedience to the Guru was enjoined as an essential article of faith. The Guru's saving power was such that contact with him brought salvation to the most criminal. In short, the virtue of the Guru was supreme; and although Nanak himself claimed no special sanctity, but spoke of himself as an ignorant and sinful man, yet the Gurus who succeeded him, and who possessed more ambition and less piety, were virtually deified by their followers; and the worship of the Guru and the surrender to him of the wealth, the honor, and the life of his followers, became as grievous a burden to the Sikh community as the yoke of the Brahmins had been.
The doctrine of transmigration of souls was common to Sikhism, Hinduism, and Buddhism—the belief in the continued existence of the soul, through countless changes into various forms of animal and human existences, until, by the virtue of the Guru and the saving power of the name of God, final emancipation was attained and absorption into the Supreme, when individuality ended. This practical annihilation, which the loss of individuality signifies to the less subtle fancy of Europeans, was the chief object of the religious strivings of the Sikh or Hindu, and it was the reward of virtue and of faith in God. It was thus from a different
standpoint that life and death were regarded by Eastern and Western thinkers. To the former life is a burden from which the soul should seek release in forgetfulness and darkness; to the latter, the idea of a happy immortality, as the reward for a virtuous earthly life, is the one thought which permits life to be borne with cheerfulness and death faced with equanimity. But the troubles and enigmas which have confused and perplexed many Christian communities found their exact counterpart in Sikhism. There was the same conflict between predestination, election, and free will. The sacred name was only communicated by the Guru to him upon whose forehead had been imprinted, from the beginning, the sign which designated him as one of the elect. Destiny was absolute and supreme. Man was represented as a puppet, whom the Master made to dance as it pleased Him. In every breast, goodness, passion, or darkness was predominant, and human actions were necessarily the result of the influence that swayed them. Illusion had been spread around all earthly things; man was deceived by a power above and without him; and he was irresponsible, seeing that the impulse of his conduct was beyond his control. It was hopeless to attempt to reconcile the doctrines of predestination and free will, the choice of good or evil, and a system of rewards and punishments with the fixed decree of an unchanging destiny; and the attempt was probably made in order to account for the inequalities, the sorrow, and suf