From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Guru Granth Sahib: Women upheld

 Guru Granth Sahib copy (Photo by J Singh)
What is so special about the Guru Granth Sahib is that it contains the actual writings of the Gurus.  Whereas the teachings of Holy Ones such as Jesus and Buddha often come to us via disciples such as Matthew and Ananda, teachings of most of the Sikh Gurus are known to us directly through their own hymns (shabads).

What is also so special about the Guru Granth Sahib is that these hymns tend to uphold the intrinsic worth of women.  This is wonderful enough within any context, but especially so within an overall society that had been traditionally oppressing females.

Guru Nanak, the very first Sikh Guru, emphatically praises women within this scriptural passage:  "We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman.  We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman…  Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings?..." (from Var Asa, page 473).  In Sri Rag (page 17), Nanak also welcomes the equal participation of women within Sikh congregations:  "Come my sisters and dear comrades…  Meeting together, let us tell the tales of our Omnipotent Spouse (God)…"

Guru Amar Dar, the third of the Ten Sikh Gurus, presents marriage as a spiritual blending of both spouses:  "They are not said to be husband and wife who merely sit together.  Rather, they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies" (Pauri, page 788).  Amar Das also strongly condemned the practice of sati, in which widows would throw themselves upon their husbands' funeral pyres and burn to death.  He wrote these words within Var Suhi, page 787:  "They cannot be called satis who burn themselves with their dead husbands.  They can only be called satis, if they bear the shock of separation.  They may also be known as satis, who live with character and contentment and always show veneration to their husbands by remembering them."

Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, addresses the heavy burdens that dowries had been placing upon the families of brides in this passage from Sri Rag, page 79:  "Any other dowry, which the perverse place for show, that is false pride and worthless gilding.  O' my Father! give me the name of Lord God as a gift and dowry."

Bhagat Nam Dev - not Himself a Sikh Guru, but nevertheless One whose writings Fifth Guru Arjan Dev included within the Holy Granth – urged husbands to remain faithful to their wives:  "The blind-man abandons the wife of his home, and has an affair with another's woman.  He is like the parrot, who is pleased to see the simbal tree, but at last dies clinging to it."


Copyright October 20, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


No comments:

Post a Comment