Vichaar on the role of Sants in Sikh Dharm part 2

Section II

The meaning of Sadh or Sant: The English word ‘Saint’ does not mean the same as the ‘Sant’ in Gurbani. The former commonly means someone canonized by the church or the Vatican, while a Sikh Saint or Sant is someone who has achieved spiritual perfection and mastery over the personal self through Guru’s mercy. Being the most humble person on earth, a Sant lives without any regard to recognition by people or by a religious body.

A Sant is an extremely rare soul (1123:3). This should not discourage us, confuse us, or cloud our understanding that Sant is the model of a perfect Sikh, the person that Gurbani urges us to become. As Guru Ji says, “The season comes over and over, but a seed germinates only if it were whole” (468:17), in order to understand Gurmat properly, we must remember that Sikh Panth is an inner journey, a path of Bhakti or Divine love. Without this insight, we can gain only a fragmented understanding of Gurmat.

A Sant is someone who is devoted only to God and always lives in God’s presence. Gurbani emphasizes upon company of a Sant as an essential, so we can learn the correct way (e.g., 999:12, 622:1, 610:7-12). Obviously, these verses are of little value to those who are not mystically inclined, and most people are not. To them, Sant is, at best, an idyllic dream of perfection, a state unattainable in the real world. It is difficult to interpret Gurmat and make it palatable to the masses as well.

Panth thrives only on account of those few Gursikhs who quietly practice the edict ‘Guru Granth and Guru Panth’ in the real sense. Others attempt to reinterpret Gurbani to make it fit us just as we are, as if we, the ordinary and ignorant Sikhs constitute ‘Guru Panth’ and that we do not need to seek someone better and more advanced than us. As a result, instead of aspiring to realize these supreme goals, seeking and respecting our venerated Sikhs, and striving to follow Gurbani as it was meant to be followed, we have succeeded only in lowering its high standards down to the level of our own mediocrity and stolidity. For example, we delegate the recital of our Guru’s Bani to paid singers and CD players. Then we wonder what went wrong. This is sad.

Our greatest foes are not outside. They are living among us. At one extreme are those teachers who misrepresent Gurmat. In an apparent effort to save us from the charlatans, they shroud and suppress our need to adore perfect Gursikhs as our role models, by distorting the meaning in Gurbani. At the other extreme, people revere some individuals as a Guru, when Guru Ji makes it clear that only Shabad, not a person, is the Guru. We also see people creating division in the Sangat, on the basis of which Sant which Jatha or which Dera is genuine. Such acts should be declared off limits in the Panth, because all such acts create splinter groups, destroying our unity. Panth is meant to be a family of humans following one God under the umbrella of Gurbani and Sadh Sangat, not under some person or some religion.

So, what would a Sant look like today? With the institution of Sangat, the Panj Piyare, and with the rules laid down for the Khalsa Panth, if followed correctly, Guru Ji has eliminated all danger from impostors. We submit only to the Panj Piyare in the physical form of the Guru, Guru Granth Ji in the spiritual form, and we seek the company of a Sant in the Sangat, not in someone who claims to be a Sant. Those who claim to be a Guru or a Sant, leading the Sikhs away from mainstream Panth, are the ones we need to worry about. Additionally, we must avoid those teachers who disregard the Rehit prescribed by the tenth Master. Today’s Sikh Sant is a Gursikh who keeps the Rehit of Khalsa, and someone who would not lead people into joining a ‘Jatha’ or a ‘Dera’ and thus, would not engage in fragmentation of the mainstream Sangat.

It is imperative that every Sikh learns to be responsible and not promote someone living as, a Sant. As we know, a “Puran Gursikh” (perfect Sikh) would be an acceptable designation of a Gursikh living today whom we may respect and revere. Ignoring this simple but important rule is, in a way, defiance of the institution of the Panj Piyare. Such acts contradict Guru Ji’s goal to eliminate our differences and to unite us, nay, to unite the entire world some day.

Section I
Section III
Section IV
Section V
Section VI


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