Martyrdom and the Sikhs, Thoughts on Fenech's Thesis

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A Rebuttal to Dr. L. E. Fenech's, Playing the Game of Love: The Sikh Tradition of Martyrdom

Merger with Satguru Through “FANAH” Including Baba Dip Singh’s martyrdom

In this article, I intend to study a psychological phenomena entitled Merger with Satguru Through “FANAH”. Examples from Baba Dip Singh’s martyrdom will also be used. Also, an attempt will be made to provide a rebuttal to Dr. Louis E. Fenech, Ph.D Thesis, University of Toronto (1994) entitled “Playing the Game of Love”: The Sikh Tradition of Martyrdom. It must be pointed out that Dr. Fenech, who studied under Dr. J.T. O’Connell at the University of Toronto, Canada, belongs to Dr. McLeod’s Pashaura group of “Instant Historians”. He wants to prove that it was mainly a Taunt (Tanh) that motivated Sikh Martyrs. A Cosmic Desire To Merger with Satguru through “FANAH”. A Psychological Interpretation of Sikh Martyrs’ Behaviour.

“If you want to play the game of love, approach me with your head on the palm of your hand, place your feet on this path, and give your head without regard to the opinion of others.”

“O Lord of Might grant that I may never shirk from righteous acts, that I may fight with faith and without fear against my enemies and win the wisdom I require is the grace to sing your glory when my end is near may I meet death on the battlefield”
“Kabir why weep for the saint when he goes back to his HOME weep only for the wretched lovers of Maya who are sold from shop to shop”

Martyrdom: a practise foreign to India

The concept of Martyrdom for the sake of religion was unknown in pre-Muslim India. The first martyr of India was Guru Arjan Dev, a Saint, a lover of humanity and a God-intoxicated poet. The Sikh and Muslim religions had two sets of ideologies, one tolerant and ready to accept, accommodate and let live, and the other, as practised by the Ghaznies of Mughal India, bent in removing by any means what they considered heretical and repugnant to their narrow religious tenants.

Martyrs are persons who value their principles of faith and ideals of religion above their lives. Martyrs are “gunigahiras: (altruistic) who have reached the re-entry stage of their evolutionary development (FANA) and have become fearless and want to challenge the oppressor by "putting their heads on their palms”. A Martyr’s state of consciousness is a highly developed state that human beings are capable of reaching through evolutionary spiritual operations. NAM SIMRAN is one of them.

The Martyr establishes a conscious relationship to the Absolute Reality and longs to have an intimate union with Him. He wants to reach the Divine Ground by stripping his soul of selfishness, and Maya.

A Martyr is a social surrogate in whose solitary adventures the most profound forgotten concepts, values and the culture and its rights to assert get systematically isolated, evaluated, reconstructed and put into actions. Through these actions he attempts to raise the collective consciousness of the society and attempts to liberate them from their inertia and motivational paralysis. He helps the society to “reframe” its frozen psyche. The Martyr’s torturous process of social and cognitive disengagement, defiance, fearlessness, re-engagement is a psycho-spiritual laboratory in which the society renews its spiritual vigour to tackle a tyrant.

The sudden awakening of a Martyr is a reflection of “SHIVA” in his eyes. It also signifies that his soul has over-powered the “Panch Doots” and his psyche is illuminated by the “Glow of God”.

At the illuminative stage, the Martyr’s soul walks in the illumination created by the EFFULGENCE of unclouded light and the presence of God is an experienced reality to him.

In the final stage of Unitive life, the Martyr moves from BECOMING to BEING, and is ready to seek merger with his God Head through the process of FEARLESS - FANAH.

It is a known fact that all civil societies share a “norm of reciprocity” which forbids harming and trampling on the rights of others. Social responsibility towards the people made powerless is the motivating factor. Spiritually motivated empathy guides the Martyr to his self-defined goal of “big wisdom”. Unfortunately not all societies can be called civil.

In summary, it can be stated that the Martyr’s cosmic desire to challenge the oppressor and merge through FANAH while playing the GAME OF LOVE appears to emerge from their:

a. Heightened sense of faith
b. Their “GUNIGAHIRA” stage of development - which takes them to the re-entry stage
c. Highly developed state of consciousness and connection with Ultimate Reality
d. Their soul is stripped of “PANCH DOOTS”
e. Compulsions to assert for the rights of the powerless
f. Attempt to raise the collective consciousness of the frozen psyche of the “spineless people”
g. Anger produced by cognitive dissonance and disbelief is used creatively by showing moral courage and defiance thereby reducing the oppressor operating at the “psychotic” fanatic level, powerless
h. Experiencing a glow of fearlessness and painlessness (subjective/objective) through the EFFULGENCE of unclouded light and obeying His HUKAM at the final stage of Unitive LIFE and surrender to his WILL & BHANA.

Baba Deep Singh Shahid

Baba Deep Singh Shahid (1682-1755) was born in 1682 in Pahuvind, near Amritsar, India. His parents, Bhai Bhgata and Mai Jiuni were very dedicated Sikhs. Baba Dip Singh went to the following stages of “cognitive dissonance” and “positive disintegration” before he broke his “ego chains of separation anxiety” and sought re-entry to “The FANAH stage”. This happened at the time of invasion of India by Ahmad Shah Durrani in the winter of 1756-57.

  • 1. Baba Dip Singh was born and brought up near Amritsar and visited Hariman dir Sahib Amritsar with his parents before he moved on to Anandpur Sahib to be with Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was 16 years of age when he met Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
  • 2. He received the vows of the Khalsa at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh. In other words, he was present when Khalsa was created in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh Ji became his role model or mentor. He stayed in Anandpur Sahib to study under Bhai Mani Singh. At the time of the siege of Anandpur Sahib he lent physical and military help to Guru’s forces. He came face to face with the Moghul oppression on the Sikhs. He re-joined Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Talvandi Sabo in 1706, and established Damdama Sahib as “Guru ki Kashi” an academic centre for Sikh studies.

From 1708 to 1714, Baba Dip Singh helped Banda Bahadur in places such as Chapper Chiri, Samana, Sirhind to fight and destroy the Mughal forces. In 1716, he returned to Damdama Sahib to prepare copies of Guru Granth Sahib for distribution to the Sikh Sangat at large. In 1732, he helped Sardar Ala Singh to establish Patiala Sikh state. In 1748, he became head of Shahid Misl which controlled the area south of the River Sutlej. In 1757, Jahan Khan controlled Amritsar and the Sikh fortress of Ram Rauni. Rama Khan filled the Hariminder Sarover with dirt. This was too much for the Baba and took him to the “FANAH” stage.

Baba Dip Singh with 5,000 men went against a huge army to liberate Hariminder Sahib. He knew the odds were against him but he was determined to merge with his Satguru through “FANAH”. After suffering a grave injury, he fought his way to Harimander Sahib wielding his Khanda (double-edged sword) and redeemed his pledge to liberate the sacred temple. It is clear from the above-mentioned facts of Baba Dip Singh’s life that he was a devoted and baptized Khalsa, who wanted to play the game of love "with his head on his palm". He valued principles of Sikh religion and lived by those ideals.

He was a Gunigahira (altruistic) who was touched by the spirit of Khalsa as developed in Anandpur Sahib in 1699. By internalizing Guru’s Bani he had become fearless and was ready to challenge the oppressor. He fought the battle of Anandpur in 1704, fought with Banda from 1710-1714 and then again fought to liberate Harminder Sahib in 1757. By using Nam Simran, his soul reached a stage of defiance, fearlessness, re-engagement and acquired “Fearless – Fanah” compulsions. By using a “norm of reciprocity” he felt that the rights of the powerless should be protected. He had moved on to the “big wisdom” which linear and myopic concepts such as ‘Bachan ke Bali, Mehna, Taunt’ developed by Eurocentric researcher such as Dr. Fenech can’t explain.

The Claims of Dr. Fenech

Dr. L.E. Fenech is another “drain” inspector of Sikh History produced by the McLeod group. He is now an assistant professor of South Asian History, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, U.S.A. Dr. Pashaura Singh has included one chapter of Dr. Fenech’s “Sikh” research in his recent book entitled, “Transmission of Sikh/Punjabi Heritage to the Diaspora” (1994), which grew out of a conference he hosted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S.A. in February 3-5, 1994. Many objectionable anti-Sikh papers were presented by the “like-minded” researchers. For the sake of this paper, I would concentrate on Dr. Fenech’s hypotheses and objectionable statements. Dr. Fenech claims:

1. The purpose behind Sikh martyrologies is to demonstrate the profound victory in what at first appears to be a defeat.
2. Some Sikh martyrologies point to the fact that “stimulus to deal with the oppressor, following enthusiastic Gurus as models, is not always the case. The motivation comes from Taunt, Mehan or Bachan ke Bali. An insult is ended to point to the disgrace a Sikh has suffered and has not let Guru’s internalized image be his guiding force.” It was the notion of shame or humiliation caused by guilt “that got Sikh martyrs out of their motivational paralysis”, Dr. Fenech appears to claim.
3. By examining Taunts in martyrologies one can get a world view of Panjabi perception of gender roles.
4. Rattan Singh Bhangu’s Gurpanth Prakash completed in 1841 for David Ochterlony is filled with taunts of Kashmiri Brahmins for Guru Tegh Bahadur. The implication is that martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was instigated by Brahmnic taunts.
5. The famous incident of the Chali Mukte provides another example of taunt with Panjabi perception of gender roles (Mai Bago asking the deserters to wear bangles).
6. Guru Gobind Singh’s Zafar-nama is an excellent example of Taunt. The implication is that Guru Gobind Singh, after losing Anandpur battle, resorted to Verbal taunts to the Mughal empire.
7. Bota Singh and Gaya Singh’s martyrdom was generated by the taunting Jats of that area.

The Author's Opinions

In the opinion of the present author, Dr. L.E. Fenech’s research is very linear and myopic. He is mystified by the writing of Trumpp and McLeod. He claims that the concept of taunt in Sikh’s desire to martyrdom came to his attention while reading Rattan Singh Bhangu’s “Gurpanth Prakash (1841)”.

He forgets that Rattan Singh Bhangu was writing the “so-called” history of the Sikhs at the bidding of Sir David Ochterlony, British liaison officer at Lahore when British plans were being made to take over the Sikh empire. He must know that following in the footprints of Rattan Singh Bhangu, E. Trumpp wrote a very insulting book on Sikhs in 1877. It is also a known fact that Rattan Singh Bhangu and Trumpp were motivated by the gratifications they got from their British masters.

Problems with Dr. Fenech's research

A number of issues can be raised with Dr. Fenech's research. For example, he did not explain the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, The King of Sikh Martyrs. He did not go into the essence of Sikh psyche to get a Gestalt view of oppression which the Indian population was subjected to by the oppressive Mughal kings Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Furrukhsiyar. Dr. Fenech has no wholist view of what was happening in Panjab since 1526.

Dr. Fenech had a prestored “McLeodian” paradigm from which to process the “historical” information he gleaned from various Sikh “martyrologies”. I do not know whether he had even heard of the concept of GUNIGHIRA which motivated many Sikh martyrs.

The “Chadder of India's” shadow downsized by Dr. French

Here is the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, the “Chadder of India” willing to fight for the human rights and freedom of religion. And here he is being “downsized” by the University of Toronto “instant” Eurocentric scholar, Dr. Fenech, who is using his hypothetical, statistical and interventionist model to prove “scientifically” that Guru Teg Bahadur motivation was due to the Brahamic taunts. Dr. Fenech’s “Sikh” reality is a detached reality. He is imposing his Eurocentric propositions to produce a very hurtful distorted “knowledge” about the spiritual motivation of the Sikh Martyrs.