Criticism of Bhagat Bani

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Unfortunately, many scholars and academics over the last few hundred years have misunderstood and wrongly criticised parts of the holy Sikh Scriptures. The message of Gurbani has been recognised as "well ahead" of its time. For example, when Guru Nanak Dev advocated equality for women, this must have been difficult for many prominent male academics to accept as they had been accustomed to male domination for centuries. In fact even now many males wish not to follow the message of Gurbani in this respect and thus give this matter little prominence in their lives; and so gender discrimination continues.

Within the Sikh community, Bhagat Bani suffered a period of criticism some decades ago; it was also one of controversial issue, which was started by Teja Singh who was also against Dasam Granth. Bhagats were from different religions; most of Bhagat were Vaishnav. It was believed that like other Bhagats of their period, Jaidev and Ramanand, etc believed in Sanyas (living in isolation, away from normal family life), ritualism, downgrading of women and Ahimsa.

Bhagat bani was introduced to the Guru Granth Sahib by fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Dev. Since it is part of Guru Granth Sahib a Sikh always interpret according to Gurmat (Guru's way or message). Some of the issues that were raised regarding Bhagat Bani are as follows:

Bhagat Namdev Bani

Meaning of Garhur By Kahn Singh Nabha, which is anti Gurmat

Teja Singh Bhasauria targeted Bhagat Namdev’s work for according to his views "this was not Sikh, but a Hindu view". One particular ‘Shabad’ (ballad) he objected to occurs in 'Raag Bhairo' on page 1166 of the Guru Granth Sahib.

ਪਾਖੰਤਣ ਬਾਜ ਬਜਾਇਲਾ ॥ ਗਰ੝ੜ ਚੜ੝ਹ੝ਹੇ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਆਇਲਾ ॥੧੫॥
Pĝkẖanṯaṇ bĝj bajĝ▫ilĝ. Garuṛ cẖaṛĥe gobinḝ ĝ▫ilĝ. (15)
Playing on the instrument of the feathered wings, the Lord
of the Universe came, mounted on the eagle garura. (15)

Garur was bird of Vishnu, and Gobind here was Vishnu. They say Bhagat Namdev was a Devotee of Beethula that was Avtaar of Vishnu. Bhagat ji used the word "Beethula" in his bani many times.

Kahn Singh Nabha is a most learned man and his Mahankosh is a most respect work in this field. It is even today frequently used for every definitions of the holy text whether from Guru Granth Sahib or Dasam Granth.

Kahan Singh Nabha's arths (translations and interpretation) were improved by Gyani Baldev Singh Canada who has examined the word "Garur" closely and concluded that "Garur" in Gurbani is not a bird of Vishnu but "AATMIK GYAN" meaning "Spiritual knowledge". Following quotes prove it Gyani has written it in his book 'Pandit Mulla Jo Likh Deeaa Shaad Chlay Hum Kashoo Na Leeaa' (published by Lahore Book Shop Ludhiana)

ਗਰ੝ੜ :

  • ਹਰਿ ਪ੝ਰਭ ਆਨਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਹ੝ ਗ੝ਰ੝ ਸਾਧੂ ਘਸਿ ਗਰ੝ੜ੝ ਸਬਦ੝ ਮ੝ਖਿ ਲੀਠਾ ॥ ਗ੝ਰੂ ਗ੝ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ pg171
  • ਗਰ੝ੜ੝ ਸਬਦ੝ ਮ੝ਖਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਖ੝ ਹਰਿ ਮਾਰੀ ॥1॥ ਗ੝ਰੂ ਗ੝ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ pg1260

ਸੋ ਗ੝ਰਮਤਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਧਾਰਾ ਅਨ੝ਸਾਰ ਆਤਮਿਕ ਗਿਆਨ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ ਗਰ੝ੜ ਹੈ
Transliteration: so gurmat veechardhara anusar aatmik gian dah naam garur ha
Translation: So as per Gurmat principles "Aarmik Gian" Spiritual Knowledge/Wisdom is the meaning of Garur.

What is clear from this section is that even educated and learned individuals can become unstuck when they do not apply Gurmat principles to the understanding of Gurbani. The principles laid down by the Sikh Gurus are unique and revolutionary; One needs to give plenty of thought and seek cooperation from other like minded souls on the same path to get deeper understand of the text.

Saint Kabir

Various other passages in Bhagat Bani were found challenging by some scholars and this presented various difficulties for those individuals. One such unjustified criticism was direct against Bhagat Kabir ji. Kabir finds Niranjana to be the creator of the world; maya or woman. And this woman stands between man and God. She is there to entice him away from Him. Kabir composed no systematic treatise; rather his work consists of many short didactic poems, often expressed in terse vigorous language in the form of Padas, Dohas and Ramainis (forms of poetry in Indian languages).

Besides his work recorded in 1604 A.D. in Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Arjan Dev (Nanak V), and preserved inviolate since, two other collections exist - Kabir Granthavali, and Bijak. In his poems, he was quick to tell the illustrations of moral and spiritual truth in the incidents of everyday life and many of his similes and metaphors are very striking.

Woman is characterised as "a black cobra", the pit of hell and the refuse of the world in his granths bijak. Question is if Kabir is against woman, and Gurmat treats woman equal to man. Why compositions of such person are added who himself is not khara acc. to Gurmat?

Bhagat Ravidas

Spokesman Supporter of Anti Bhagat Bani Party

The author of the ‘tribute’ – Harbhajan Singh, entirely disbanded bani of Bhagat Ravidas Ji from the rest of Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s teachings and stated that when comparing the two, Bhagat Ravidas Ji seems unfamiliar from the teachings of Sikh Gurus.

The News of Rozana Spokesman was criticized by whole sikh community.

Saint Sain

ਵਾਰਨੇ ਜਾਉ ਕਮਲਾ ਪਤੀ ॥੧॥

Non Gurmat treats Kamla Pati as Vishnu. Kamla was Lakshmi and his husband was Vishnu. So The line is used by some anti forces to prove that Bhagat Sain was follower of Vishnu and he is sacrifice to lord of Lakshmi.

But according to Gurmat Kamla Pati means the Husband of Kamla i.e Lakshmi or Maya.