February 7, 2007

Hindu Scriptures

Posted in Articles at 10:33 pm by matapn


Type of Scriptures
Ancient scriptures are classified into two categories: Shruti and Smriti. The divine knowledge or enternal truths directly revealed by God himself is called Shruti (that which is heard). The other body of religious literature, called Smriti (that which is remembered) is created by man and passed on generation to generation as traditions. Smritis include commentaries and explantions of previously revealed divine knowledge, grammar, law, astrology, epcis and great deal more.[2]

Literally, the word Veda means knowledge. There are four Vedas, namely, Rg, Yajus, Sama and Atharvana. Each Veda is divided into three sections and these are called Mantra, Brahmana, and Upanishad (Aranyaka). In the Mantra portion one finds the ecstatic admiration of nature’s beauty expressed in lyrical poetry by contemplative seers. The Brahmana portion deals with rituals and sacrifices; they are meant for mental integration and self-purification. The last portion contains the philosophical wisdom known as Vedanta.[1]

There are 108 Upnishads distributed throughout the four Vedas. Literally, the Sanskrit word “Upanishad” means “to sit near”; it means a session, sitting at the feet of a master who gives knowledge to his pupils through dialogue, discussion and debate. Upanishads ae monotheistic, and talks about God, matter and soul.[2]

Smrities: Other Sacred Literature
Smrities are considered man-made literature unlike Vedas which are considered divine knowledge. The major Smrities include Sutras, Manu Smriti, Gautama Smriti, Parasana Smriti and Bhagavad Gita.[2]

Purana in Sanskrit means ancient. The Puranas, a collection of Sanskrit literature in poetic style, are aimed at explaining the Vedic knowledge to common man. Puranas also depict the glory of various aspects of God or divine incarnations but also contain historical accounts. There are eighteen major Puranas and eighteen minor Puranas. Some of the major Puranas are Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavata, and Kurma[2]

Literally, the term Sutra means thread but it’s believed that its secondary meaning is “that which is connected” because Sutras present Vedas in the form of “manual of instructions”. Sutras usually require commentaries in order to comprehend them because Sutras are written in short form i.e. only a word or a sentence is used to express a comprehensive meaning.[2]

The Ramayana
Ramayan, the story of Rama was written by Sage Valmiki in Sanskrit. Numerous versions of Ramayana have been written in almost every language of India.

The epic of Mahabharata, composed by Sage Vyasa, contains over 90,000 stanzas. It’s a story of conflict between two clans.

The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagawad Gita is a book of 700 verses in Sanskrit langugage. Gita depicts the dialogue between Krishna and the mightly warrior Arjuna. During the dialoge, Krishna summarizes the teachings of Vedas and Upnishadas.

[1] Kindle Life by Swami Chinmayananda 1990
[2] The Hindus of Canada by Ajit Adhopia 1993


Guru Granth Sahib

Posted in Articles at 10:32 pm by matapn

The Encylopedia of Sikhism, Harbans Singh

June 20th 2002

Guru Granth Sahib is the supreme spiritual authority and head of Sikh religion. Sikhs don’t worship the Guru Granth Sahib as an idol but rather emphasis is placed on respect of the book for the writing, which appears within. Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of devotional hymns and poetry which proclaims God, lays stress on meditation on the God, and lays down moral and ethical rules for development of the soul, spiritual salvation and unity with God.

This book contains no historical narratives, no biographical details and no obligatory rituals. It is quite simply a collection of spiritually exalted poetry, written by the ten living Sikh Gurus and by Hindu and Muslim saints.

The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple’. The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. Guru Nanak passed on his enlightened leadership of this new religion to nine successive Gurus. The final living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708.

During his lifetime Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa order. The Khalsa are men and women who have undergone the Sikh baptism ceremony and who strictly follow the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions and wear the prescribed physical articles of the faith.

Before his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs no longer needed a living Guru and appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh felt that all the wisdom needed by Sikhs for spiritual guidance in their daily lives could be found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

Guru Arjan Dev the Fifth Sikh Guru compiled the original version of the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Arjan Dev started collecting the original verses of all the Gurus. He collected original manuscripts from across the country including from families of the previous Gurus. This original edition of the Guru Granth Sahib known at that time as Pothi Sahib was installed on a high pedestal within the Harmandir Sahib (Amritsar, Punjab) in August 1604. Guru Arjan Dev seated himself at a lower level and instructed all Sikhs to bow before it. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, compiled a new edition of the Granth Sahib. He included all of the hymns appearing in the original edition as well as the hymns of his late father, the Ninth Master Guru Tegh Bahadur. He also included one of his hymns even though he was a great writer and poet. The great task was finally completed in 1705.

Guru Granth Sahib has 1430 pages containing 3,384 hymns; it also includes many couplets. There are 2,218 hymns and couplets written by Guru Arjan Dev, 974 by Guru Nanak, 907 by Guru Amar Das, 856 hymns and couplets by Guru Angad, Guru Ram Das, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and 1 couplet by Guru Gobind Singh the tenth Guru. Guru Granth Sahib is also the only scripture of it’s kind which not only contains the works of it’s own religious founders but also writings of people from other faiths. These writings are contained due to similarity of their message with Gurus message.

Following are some details on non-Sikh saints whose writings appear in Granth Sahib.

292 hymns by Kabir: Kabir was born to a Brahmin mother and raised by a muslim step mother.

4 hymns and 130 couplet of Sheikh Farid: Farid was a sufi saint from Punjab.

60 hymns by Namdev: Namdev was a celebrated saint from Maharashtra who traveled extensively across the country.

41 hymns by Ravidas: Ravidas was represented the bhakti movement same as Kabir. He came from a low caste family.

Other authors include: Trilochan a saint from Vaish caste, Dhanna from Jat family of Rajasthan, Beni, Sheikh Bhikan a muslim sufi scholar, Jaidev, a poet from royal court of king Lakshman Sen of Bengal. Surdas, born in Brahmin family. Parmanand, Pipa, Ramanand, pioneer of Bhakti movement in Northern India. Sadhna a butcher by profession from Sind. Sain a barber from royal court of Raja Ram, king of Rewa.

Guru Granth Sahib also contains few couplets by Baba Mardana, a muslim born and disciple of Guru Nanak who palyed rubab and accompanied Guru Nanak.

Guru Granth Sahib also contains Swayyas (praises offered to Gurus) of Bhattas. Bhattas were a group of musicians who lived in sixteenth century. All of them were scholars, poets and singers.

The entire Guru Granth whose printed version in its current format comes to 1430 pages is divided into 33 sections. While the first section comprises the soulful and inspiring song of the Japji composed by Guru Nanak and also a few selected couplets, the final section is collection of assorted verses including the couplets and the swayyas of the Bhattas. The remaining 31 sections are named after the well-known classical ragas such as sri, magh, gauri, gujri, devghandhari, dhanassari, bilawal, kedara, malhar, kalyan etc. The division, thus, is strictly based on Indian musicology. Furthermore, each song is preceded by a number (mohalla) which denotes the name of the composer-Guru from Guru Nanak onwards.

Guru Granth Sahib’s poetry style is part of devotional literature of the saint poets of medieval India. This religious poetry was composed in a variety of languages such as Brajabhasha, Avadhi, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, etc. Its creators were poets and devotees rather than professionals trained in literary niceties of Sanskrit composition. Their main concern was to sing the glory of God and to strengthen moral qualities. Occasionally, they attacked current social and religious abuses. Their verse was addressed to the learned as well as to the illiterate, to men as well as to women. Their language was easily understood by all sections of the population. The saints and the bhaktas threw off the shackles of formal versification. They broke out into folk moulds of poetry giving them a musical turn. They chanted and sang their hymns or verses, and the community chanted, sang and danced with them. In their spontaneous outbursts, they conformed to the needs of the musical tunes, both classical and folk origin. The poetry of the bhakti period was non-conformist, liberal and free. This was the poetry of sadhus and fakirs who had no scholarly training, but who had the spiritual and mystical experience. They had seen and realized the Supreme, were free and frank, truthful and blessed. .

The divine poets of Sri Guru Granth Sahib were conscious of their mission as well as of their capacity and dignity as poets. Kabir says that people might regard his outpourings as songs only, but they are in reality meditations on the Supreme Being. Guru Nanak calls himself a dhadi (a traveler musician) and shair (poet). Guru Arjan and the other Gurus, proclaim that they were called upon by the Creator Himself to proclaim their divine command and inspiration. Ravidas proclaimed himself to be a liberated soul and dweller of the city of joy. Namdev spoke from the pedestal where it was impossible to discriminate between Allah and Rama or between the Hindu temple and the mosque. These saint-poets spoke naturally and spontaneously. Their singing and chanting gave the finishing to their songs.

Lovers of God invariably choose to express and communicate their mystic experiences in this language of love, language of spirit.

Musicality adopted in the composition is also unique. It awakens deeper layers of human heart and consciousness. It encompasses what is otherwise indescribable and incommunicable. Divine wisdom is laced with sweet melodious fragrance. This divine melody tunes the soul with Eternal Rhythm. It is all composed in mystic poetry. It is a natural flow of the divine ecstasy of Lovers of God. Language used being the spoken language of the people is simple and easily understandable. Music is the medium of expression of deep spirituality. It is natural outcome and flow of religion of love.

The language principally employed is the language of the saints evolved during the medieval period-a language which, allowing for variations, still enjoyed wide currency in Northern India. Its appeal lay in its directness, energy and resilience. Based upon some of the local dialects, it was leavened with expressions from Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian and Arabic. (explain in your words)

Another outstanding feature of the Guru Granth Sahib is the precision of its metrical versification. While a great deal of it, cast in traditional verse forms (salokas and pauris), most of it could best be understood in the context of the well-known classical ragas. The authors have also used popular folk meters such as ghoris and chhands.

For authors of these hymns, literary aspects of their hymns was not the central focus. Their poetry was the spontaneous outflow of their inspiration. Their two main concern were setting of the hymn in a given raga and its setting in a stanza form. Another aspect seen in most of these stanzas are the “rahau” couplet. Rahau meaning pause contains the central message of the stanza and its also usually repeated during the performance of the Keertan.

Determination of the raga affected most of the poetic features such as the mood, atmosphere, diction, imagry and timing.

 Following are some of the poetic forms used in Guru Granth Sahib:

Astpadi – eigth-stanza hymns. Number of lines in each stanza varies.

Chaupadi – four-stanza hymns.

Chhepada – a six-stanza hymn.

Ghautuka – a hymn containing stanzas of four lines each.

Dakhna – A salok in Seraiki.

Dupada – a two-stanza hymn.

Panjpada – a five-stanza hymn.

Pauri Рa stanza of  6-8 lines.

es of these Vars generally consist of 6 to 8 lines each. Stanzas in Japuji are also called Pauries.

Salok – a two-liner classical form allowing a variety of metrical arrangement.

Solaha – A sixteen-stanza hymn.

Tipada – A hymn made up of 3 stanzas.

Var – An old form of Punjabi narrative poetry highlighting the exploits and acts of heroism, On the psychological plane the struggle is between the good and evil in man. .

Tuk – does not exist as a title or sub-title in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Any single line of the stanza. A tuk and is close to what is known as sutra Sanskrit. .