Guru Gobind Singh Made Great And Unique Contributions To The Cause Of Human Rights

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Guru Gobind, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, made great and unique contributions to the cause of human rights. His concept of human rights was based upon three principles: Human equality; Pluralism and Diversity; and the Restoration and Preservation of Dharma. These concepts are very relevant today, when Globalization has increased inequalities between the rich and poor; and its consumer culture is promoting uniformity by annihilating other cultures, and it has practically eliminated Dharma from our lives, imposing a purely economic globalization which is completely devoid of an ethical aspect.

All human beings are created equal. This is the most fundamental concept of the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs, laid the foundation of Sikh philosophy by advocating that all human beings are created from the same source. Therefore, they are all equal, and nobody was created superior or inferior. In the Indian context, inequality based upon caste was a major problem of the Indian society at that time (unfortunately, it still is). Guru Nanak strongly condemned and denounced casteism and advocated breaking all caste barriers by advancing the concepts of Sangat (congregation and universal brotherhood) and Pangat (being seated together and on the same level, following the principle of complete equality).

Guru Gobind Singh reinforced, expounded and gave practical shape to Guru Nanak’s principles. He said that all people should be considered equal regardless of their caste, creed, religious, ethnical and national back grounds as well as their social practices and lifestyles or personal appearances. Like Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh also linked human equality to acceptance of pluralism and diversity. Guru Nanak’s principle of acceptance of pluralism and diversity was based upon concepts of Nirgun (Transcendent, without any qualities) and Sargun (Immanent or manifest, with perceptible qualities).

Sargun (Immanent) reality (creation) is created by Nirgun (transcendent) reality (Creator), and is sustained by and merges into it. However, these are not two separate realities, but are manifestations of the same reality: the ultimate reality or the eternal truth. This concept lays the foundation of the principle of oneness and unity of mankind. This also is the basis of the concept of unity in diversity. Globalization does not promote unity because it advocates uniformity, which tries to negate diversity by making everybody alike. Instead of uniting people, it incites conflicts among people. People resist forcible change and do not want to lose their identity, which is naturally or historically evolved, or which they have voluntarily embraced.

Dharma has many aspects, the most important being ethics and spirituality. Dharma brings stability and harmony to society. Dharma is universal, whereas religions and panths are different ways to reach the ultimate reality or the eternal truth. Accepting different ways to realize the ultimate reality or the eternal truth is called pluralism. Guru Gobind Singh said that the purpose of his coming to this world was to restore and preserve Dharma. For this purpose, he created Khalsa. Khalsa is a sovereign army of pure and fully enlightened people which will fight against injustice, oppression and exploitation anywhere. This is an army of the Saint-Soldiers.

Guru Gobind Singh was a Saint-Soldier who sacrificed his family, including his father and all four sons for the cause of Dharma and human rights. At that time, people’s right to chose and follow their own religion and their own way of life was being violated.

When a group of Brahmins from Kashmir came to ask for help against forcible conversion to Islam, at the age of nine, Guru Gobind Singh asked his father, Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, to sacrifice his life to save the Hindus from being forcibly converted to Islam.

During the Battle of Chamkaur, two of Guru Gobind Singh’s teen-aged sons, Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujhar Singh, sacrificed their lives bravely fighting against the oppression, cruelty and tyranny of the Mughals, the rulers of India at that time, in the most uneven battle in world history, where only about 40 Sikhs fought a Mughal army of hundreds of thousands.

Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons, Baba Zoravar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh, about nine and seven years old, sacrificed their lives by being buried alive in a wall by the cruel, oppressive and tyrannical Mughal rulers, in the city of Sirhind, which was a very important administrative center of the Mughal empire. The Guru’s young sons sacrificed their lives rather than accept forcible conversion to Islam. They upheld the principle that people should be free to choose and follow their religion. Every year in the month of December, their supreme sacrifice and martyrdom is remembered.

The principles for which Guru Gobind Singh made great and unparalleled sacrifices are very relevant and important even in today’s world. There are forces who want to impose their way of lives and their views on others. The others are resisting these onslaughts and this is the main cause of turmoil in the world today. Guru Gobind Singh’s message of tolerance, love, peaceful coexistence and unity in diversity can maintain peace and harmony in the world.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.


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