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Old 11-02-2017, 03:46 AM
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Default First impression of Guru Granth Sahib


Quick caveat, don't know anything about Sikhism, so naturally after a few days skimming over the holy text I've appointed myself as an authority on the subject. Once you get your head around the general proposition of religion you can usually spot some of the same concepts cropping up so here's a few:

Manichean dichotomy

So you'll usually get this dichotomy espoused between the believer and the non-believer who appear to be named respectively Gurmukhs and 'self-willed' Manmukhs (translation?). Gurmukhs good, Manmukhs bad:

Those who practice falsehood are dogs; those who slander the Guru shall burn in their own fire. They wander lost and confused, deceived by doubt, suffering in terrible pain. The Messenger of Death shall beat them to a pulp. The self-willed manmukhs find no peace, while the Gurmukhs are wondrously joyful.

Contemptuous towards 'duality'

So in the tradition of all monotheisms it rails against polytheists -- which we all were back in the day. Go back to any ancient civilisation, Mayan, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, all societies were polytheists and animists. Hinduism is the last bastion of polytheism (though I hear tell that the many gods are simply all separate manifestations of Brahma). And it seems Sikhism sets itself up as Huduism's successor:

In the Realm of Indra, death is sure and certain. The Realm of Brahma shall not remain permanent. The Realm of Shiva shall also perish. The three dispositions, Maya and the demons shall vanish.

Repetitive and cyclical

One thing I noticed is that it's very repetitive and cyclical in a sort of trance inducing way and differs from preceding monotheistic text in that there is more or less no storyline, no characters or historical narratives etc. Instead it's more a collection of proverbs, proclamations and chants. It reminded me more of Confucian Analects in this way. I then looked it up on youtube and it does look like you get people just chanting the whole thing in religious ceremonies which makes sense in the way it's structured.

No sex or rock'n'roll (unless with the Husband Lord which we'll get to)

There is the usual decrying of vice: the sweet wine of Maya (what's Maya? -- I imagine it's everything which makes you feel good and is therefore forbidden), and especially sexual desire. Sexual desire is mentioned over and over in the perfunctory manner of strict disapproval.

Karma

So I've always thought that Karma, at least in its popular conception, is one of the most widely held and deeply immoral ideas around. I know, weird right? But hear me out. Karma derives from the same thing as the theory of heaven and hell, which is essentially that humans can't really accept that life is cruel and unfair, that bad guys win more often than not. Because we're unable to process that (unfair, unequal) reality, we create a supernatural method of balancing out the books, ie: bad guys go to hell or get some kind of karmic justice meted out to them in a next life, and good guys get the opposite.

But where Karma can be really insidious is in the implication that everything is deserved. It's OK if we're simply talking about a disinterested interplay between action and reaction, but we're not really, we're talking a supreme moral basis for all reactions which is mystically in harmony with all actions. As soon as you inject a moral basis into Karma the whole thing falls down (because lots of bad things happen to people which are undeserved).

Kali

Few mentions of the dark age of Kali Yuga. Just want to proclaim my undying love for Kali, best looking deity by quite some margin. Read a good novel once called the 'Song of Kali' recommend it. But one thing I will say, create a male god wearing a necklace of female heads, whilst holding another female head and standing on the body of a slain woman, and watch the feminists have a field day She's cool I like her.

Reincarnation

Happy with this, the main punishment for distancing oneself from the Truth as the authors see it is continuous reincarnation, which is way better than eternal hellfire.

The Soul Bride

Now I'm sure I should make a bunch of allowances for historical contexts and such but I'll just call it how I see it. It appears to me the female relationship with God is distinct from the male in that she should view God as her husband.

And from there the relationship between the Soul Bride and the Husband Lord really appears to described gender relations as men would like to see them. In that I mean in the mind of the authors, for a woman, to be 'discarded' by, or fall out of favour with her husband should be the most unconscionable thing. Regardless of her virtues (which are all aesthetic), youth, beauty, decoration, without her husband she is basically useless.

The life of the discarded bride is cursed. She is deceived by the love of duality. Like a wall of sand, day and night, she crumbles, and eventually, she breaks down altogether. Without the Word of the Shabad, peace does not come. Without her Husband Lord, her suffering does not end. || 1 || O soul-bride, without your Husband Lord, what good are your decorations?

The bride may buy sandalwood oil and perfumes, and apply them in great quantities to her hair; she may sweeten her breath with betel leaf and camphor, but if this bride is not pleasing to her Husband Lord, then all these trappings are false.
Asleep in the darkness of the night, how shall she pass her life-night without her Husband? Her limbs shall burn, her body shall burn, and her mind and wealth shall burn as well. When the Husband does not enjoy His bride, then her youth passes away in vain.

Without her Husband, the soul-bride’s youth and ornaments are useless and wretched. She does not enjoy the pleasure of His Bed; without her Husband, her ornaments are absurd. The discarded bride suffers terrible pain; her Husband does not come to the bed of her home.
And it goes on and on. I'll finish with my favourite quote which appears to describe (at least in my twisted mind), in thinly veiled metaphor, a supernatural gangbang followed by an execution of the soul bride:

God has erected the temple of the body; He has placed the nine doors, and the soul-bride sits within. She enjoys the sweet play again and again, while the five demons are plundering her. || 2 || In this way, the temple is being demolished; the body is being plundered, and the soul-bride, left all alone, is captured. Death strikes her down with his rod, the shackles are placed around her neck, and now the five have left. || 3 || The wife yearns for gold and silver, and her friends, the senses, yearn for good food. O Nanak, she commits sins for their sake; she shall go, bound and gagged, to the City of Death.

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