History, Science and Sikhism

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In the 15th century Sir Nicholas Bacon , a member of Corpus Christi College Cambridge gave modern science its first born son, in the days when Elizabethan England flourished at its peak. When that son Francis Bacon , a member of Trinity College Cambridge became Lord Chancellor, the highest law officer in England , he was already recognised as a philosopher. He was endowed with the wisdom of universal thought. He then laid the foundation of modern science.

The great Renaissance of learning began with Roger Bacon in the 14th century. The torch of genius was then taken up by Leonardo da Vinci. It was thrown into the sky by Galileo and Copernicus. Christopher Columbus had entered the far horizons of of the world mighty oceans.

Galileo had believed Copernicus theory that planets orbit the sun. For his views Galileo was placed under house arrest by the Inquisition – Holy Office of Rome. This conflict with the Church is a major early example of the conflict of authority and freedom of thought, particularly with science, in Western society. Galileo defied directives delivered to him by the Church not to hold or defend the idea that the earth moves and the sun stands still at the centre. His book “ Two new sciences ‘was to be the genesis of modern physics.

Prince Machiavelli (1469 ) an Italian statesman, and political writer showed an acute understanding of human nature , with such genius which was regarded as the work of the devil. The research of William Gilbert and Vesalius called out the slumbering genius before reformation days, and then came Francis Bacon to call the training school of Europe. It was a time of general awakening from the dark night of medieval ignorance. Savonarola and Martin Luther. John Knox and John Wesley, came into the general stir not so much to inculcate science but to awaken the stupefied spirit.

Guru Nanak's impact on history

At about the same time Guru Nanak (1469 AD) who founded the Sikh religion, was doing the same and more in the sub continent. On the science front Nanak told us the distance to the moon which is exactly what the scientists tell us today. He also disclosed that there are universes upon universes, and spheres upon spheres and many planets had existence like ours. Our Astronomers have yet to discover these spheres and they should do so once the instruments of telescope are further refined to see infinite distances.

Whist Columbus was voyaging the seas, Guru Nanak walked the land like Jesus; only difference is Nanak walked much further distances; in fact he walked enough to circle the earth 3 times over.

On the social front Nanak challenged the Indian caste system that was akin to apartheid –This was the corner stone of Hindu civilisation at the time. He endorsed women’s rights and became a pioneer in championing the cause of women’s lib; he promoted education for all men, women and children by introducing Gurmukhi script that became accessible to all and sundry- it is the script of the Holy Adi Granth- the Sikh scriptures and the vehicle of written communication for the most glorious Punjabi language in the Indian Union.

Guru Nanak introduced an agenda of reconciliation and community cohesion to make an inclusive society and a just world possible. He believed that integrity, respect and trust between different communities would lead to dignity for all people.

The science of Naad (sound)

But his biggest contribution to mankind was the teaching of "science of the Word" (Naam) which unlike other science disciplines is a perfect science which forms the subject matter of 1430 pages of the Adi Granth compiled and composed by the Sikh prophets – "The ten Nanaks". For the first time [[Wikipedia:Asia produced a monotheistic civilisation that was indigenous to its people. The people of sub continent were polytheistic in their outlook and beliefs- the worship of gods, animals, idols was an integral part of that society. Muslims called them [[Wikipedia:infidels or [[Wikipedia:kafirs and the bible described these non believers as [[Wikipedia:Heathens.

The impact of Islam in North Western India in the 11th century had been through military conquest and sword . The Hindu and Buddhist temples and places of learning were destroyed en mass Monotheism was introduced by force. This naturally slated reactions in the polytheistic and sensitive Indian mind mainly Hindus, that resulted in impassable barriers of hatred and prejudice, between world culture currents. and their mutual contacts have therefore left irritating and unfortunate monuments of bigotry, and misunderstanding, spiritual and physical, that still mark the Indian scene.

The culture of sharing

Sikhism shared common spiritual bond with Muslims in their monotheistic outlook and also shared the Indian culture in common with the Hindus and Buddhists. The new born Sikhism was to be the common meeting ground between these two world culture streams, and that is why a prominent Muslim divine was asked to lay the foundation of the Golden Temple by the Nanak VI, which in the embrace of the waters of Immortality , thus was intended to be the a profound symbol of future confluence of world culture into a universal culture for the mankind.

The Golden temple and its complex is the home of Sikh civilisation and a glaring example of its social, spiritual, political cultural and architectural facets that makes a complete and distinct civilisation unique in all respects. It demonstrates Sikhism’s resolve to embrace inclusiveness. This Illustrated Guide should serve to unfold the history of the Sikhs; the main principles of Sikhism; the beautiful pictures of the Golden Temple and its complex, with brief captions and supportive text.

  • The above article is from the forthcoming book by Sardar Anup Singh Choudry, London, 10th January 2007

See also