It is a fashion today to come out very strongly to deny the authority and Guruship of the Guru Khalsa Panth Ji. But this is nothing new as many people have also denied the Guruship of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and still consider themselves Sikhs. There were, and still are, many who even denied the Guruship of Guru Angad Dev Ji, Guru Amardas Ji, and Guru Arjan Dev Ji. We have had various individual based cults in Sikhi starting from the Udasis who followed Baba Sri Chand, the son of Guru Nanak rather than accept Guru Angad Dev Ji. There have been the Pirthias who followed Baba Pirthi Chand, Naamdharis who follow their own ‘satguru’ Ram Singh, Narankaris and Radhasoamies. Today, those who deny the Guruship of the Guru Khalsa Panth Ji include the sant deras and other individual based groups.
We all know that Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the Guru. We also know that the community of Sikhs who has surrendered completely to the Guru is called the Khalsa. But who is Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji?
The Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji was created by Waheguru and revealed to the world by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. When he bowed before the Khalsa on Vaisakhi day in 1699 at Anandpur Sahib and asked for amrit, he declared the Khalsa Panth as his Guru Sahib and he himself as the Guru’s first disciple. “Wah Wah Gobind Singh aape gur chelaa”. In his own words Guru Ji bestowed Guruship on the Guru Khalsa Panth by declaring “Khalsa mero Satgur pooraa”.
Guru Ji further said that “atma granth wich, sareer panth wich”. He was again telling the world that spiritual Guruship is henceforth bestowed in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the physical Guruship is bestowed in the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji
It is interesting to note that Guru Ji gave Guruship to the Guru Khalsa Panth Ji in 1699, and Guruship to Guru Granth Sahib Ji in 1708, i.e. about 9 years and 6 months later. He needed to make sure that the Guru Khalsa Panth had understood its role as Guru Sahib and was able to guide the world. He bowed before the decisions of the Guru Khalsa Panth Ji even when he himself felt that the decision was contrary to his own wishes. For instance, Guru Khalsa Panth Ji directed Guru Ji to leave the fort at Chamkaur Sahib when Guru Ji had stated his wish to die fighting in that battlefield along with his Sikhs. Testing Guru Khalsa Panth Guru Ji also accepted tankhah (discipline) given by the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji for going against a tenet of Sikhi when he saluted the tomb of the saint Dadu with the tip of his arrow. (Sikhs are not supposed to worship the dead. Muslims of the time commonly prayed at the tombs of saints. Since many Sikhs were converted Muslims he wanted to stop them from this habit).
But today many of us would want to deny that, because then our own individual cult is not possible or we cannot follow the interpretation of our chosen individual spiritual leader. If the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji is right, then our leader must be wrong. And if our leader says the same thing as the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji, then there is no need of him. So the best way to get around this is to say that Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji has no right to interpret Gurbani. Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji must be wrong compared with the interpretation of our leader.
Some people feel that sometimes the Guru is giving us two sets of teachings. One that says you can do this and another that says you cannot. The truth is that the Guru gives ONLY ONE set of teachings. The Guru is perfect. But the individual person is not. Her/his understanding of the MESSAGE of Guru Ji can be faulty or inaccurate. Consider the many varying interpretations of the message even amongst the very highly spiritual Sikhs. Guru Ji knew that the individual can be afflicted by ego no matter how spiritually high s/he may be. He thus delegated all authority and responsibility to the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji, which is operationalised through the system of panj pyaras. And these panj pyaras are not permanent appointments for if they were, then ego can afflict them too. The panj pyaras are selected from the congregation of the panth for a particular decision, and as soon as the decision is made, the panj pyaras become ordinary Sikhs again.
Can the Guru be wrong? Because of our limited understanding, we can be led to believe that the Guru is wrong. When Guru Ji told one of his sons to shake a tree and ‘mathiaee’ (sweets) would fall from it for the sangat, his son believed Guru Ji was wrong. When Guru Ji asked for a head, many believed he was wrong and went to complain to Mata Gujri Ji. Yes, there can be many doubters. Even today, many of us are making the same mistake that Baba Sri Chand did. He refused to accept Lehna as Guru Angad Dev Ji. They see the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji as a group of men and women and refuse to accept it as the Guru. They therefore refuse to accept decisions and edicts of the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji as binding upon them. The irony is that they claim to accept and live according to the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh Ji but still refuse to accept that Guru Ji has given full responsibility and authority to Guru Khalsa Panth sahib Ji to guide the world.
Another ploy to deny the panth is by those people who say or believe that the Khalsa can be an individual. The Khalsa is the whole panth and as the whole panth it is the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji and thus able to make decisions for us. An individual, even though s/he may be called ‘Khalsa’, cannot replace the panth. Denying the Guruship of Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji or claiming that the Khalsa can be an individual is betrayal of the Guru. My prayer is that we
should not fall into this trap.
Let us rededicate ourselves to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji and decide whether we want to follow our own individual ‘masters’ or the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji. All ‘masters’ will honestly tell us that they are linking us to Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The test of their sincerity is whether they are also linking us to Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji. The test of our submission to Guru Granth Sahib Ji is also whether we equally submit to Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib Ji.
Singh Sahib Autar Singh