giovedì, marzo 30, 2006
Company of the HolyThe Guru's taught that living in the company of the Holy is a way to be closer to God. Sangat is an idea of communityand spiritual support. Sadh Sangat is the company of Holy people who completely dedicated to God.SANGAT Punjabi form of the Sanskrit term sangti, means company, fellowship, association. In Sikh vocabulary, theword has a special connotation. It stands for the body of men and women who meet religiously, especially in thepresence of the Guru Granth Sahib. Two other expressions carrying the same connotation and in equally common useare sadh sangat (fellowship of the seekers of truth). The word sangat has been in use since the time of Guru Nanak(1469-1539). In his days and those of his nine successors, sangat referred to the Sikh brotherhood established in orbelonging to a particular locality.The term is used in this sense in the Janam Sakhis, i.e. traditional life-stories of Guru Nanak, and in the hukamnamas,i.e. edicts issued by the Gurus to their followers in different parts of the country. In the hukamnamas there arereferences, for instance, to Sarbatt Sangat Banaras Ki, i.e. the entire Sikh community of Banaras (Varanasi), Patna kiSangat, i.e. the Sikhs of Patna, Dhaul ki Sangat, the Sikhs of Dhaul. In common current usage, the word signifies anassembly of the devotees. Such a gathering may be in a gurdwara, in a private residence or in any other place, but inthe presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. The purpose is religious prayer, instruction or ceremony. The sangat maycollectively chant the sacred hymns, or, as it more often happens, there may be a group of musicians to perform kirtan.At sangat there may be recitals of the holy writ with or without exposition, lectures on religious or theological topics,or narration of events from Sikh history. Social and political matters of interest for the community may as well bediscussed.In Sikh faith highest merit is assigned to meeting of the followers in sangat. This is considered essential for thespiritual edification and progress of an individual. It is a means of religious and ethical training. Worship and prayer insangat count for more than isolated religious practice. The holy fellowship is morally elevating. Here the seeker learnsto make himself useful to others by engaging in acts of seva, or self-giving service, so highly prized in Sikhism. Theseva can take the form of looking after the assembly’s shoes for all must enter the presence of the Guru Granth Sahibbarefoot; preparing and serving food in Guru ka Langar; and relieving the rigour of a hot summer day by swingingover the heads of the devotees large hand-fans. It is in the company of pious men that true religious discipline ripens.Those intent on spiritual advantage must seek it.
Though sangat has freedom to discuss secular matters affecting the community, it is its spiritual core which imparts toit the status and authority it commands in the Sikh system. As Guru Nanak says, "satsangat is where the Divine Namealone is cherished" (GG, 72). This is where virtues are learnt. "Satsangat is the Guru’s own school where one practisesgodlike qualities" (GG, 1316). Attendance at sangat wins one nearness to God and release from the circuit of birth anddeath. "Sitting among sangat one should recite God’s praise and thereby swim across the impassable ocean ofexistence" (GG, 95). As satsangat is obtained through the Guru’s grace, the Name blossoms forth in the heart (GG,67-68). "Amid sangat abides the Lord God" (GG, 94). "God resides in the sangat. He who comprehends the Guru’sword realizes this truth (GG, 1314). "Deprived of sangat, one’s self remains begrimed" (GG, 96). "Without sangat egowill not be dispelled" (GG, 1098). Says Guru Arjan in Sukhmani, "Highest among all works is joining the sangat andthereby conquering the evil propensities of the mind" (GG, 266). Again, "As one lost in a thick jungle rediscoversone’s path, so will one be enlightened in the company of the holy" (GG, 282).Sangat, fellowship of the holy, is thus applauded as a means of moral and spiritual uplift; it is as well a social unitwhich inculcates values of brotherhood, equality and seva. Sangats sprang up in the wake of Guru Nanak’s extensivetravels. Group of disciples formed in different places and met together in sangat to recite his hymns.
As an institution, sangat had, with its concomitants dharamsal, where the devotees gathered in the name of Akal, theTimeless Lord, to pray and sing Guru Nanak’s hymns, and Guru ka Langar, community refectory, where all sattogether to partake of a common repast without distinction of caste or status—symbolized the new way of lifeemerging from Guru Nanak’s teachings. At the end of his udasis or travels, Guru Nanak settled at Kartarpur, ahabitation he had himself founded on the right bank of the River Ravi. There a community of disciples grew aroundhim. It was not a monastic order, but a fellowship of ordinary men engaged in ordinary occupation of life. A keyelement in this process of restructuring of religious and social life was the spirit of seva. Corporal works of charity andmutual help were undertaken voluntarily and zealously and considered a peculiarly pious duty. To quote Bhai Gurdas:"dharamsal kartarpur sadhsangati sach khandu vasaia", Varan, XXIV. 11, i.e. in establishing dharamsal at Kartapur,with its sangat or society of the holy, Guru Nanak brought the heaven on earth.These sangats played an important role in the evolution of the Sikh community. The social implications of theinstitutions were far-reaching. It united the Sikhs in a particular locality or region into a brotherhood or fraternity. Amember of the sangat, i.e. every Sikh was known as bhai, lit. brother, signifying one of holy living. The sangat broughttogether men not only in spiritual pursuit but also in worldly affairs, forging community of purpose as well as of actionbased on mutual equality and brotherhood. Though sangats were spread over widely separated localities, they formed asingle entity owning loyalty to the word of Guru Nanak. Sangats were thus the Sikh community in formation.In these sangats the disciples mixed together without considerations of birth, profession or worldly position.BhaiGurdas, his Var XI, mentions the names of the leading Sikhs of the time of Guru Nanak and his five spiritualsuccessors. In the first 12 stanzas are described the characteristics of a gursikh, or follower of the Guru. In thesucceeding stanzas occur the names of some of the prominent Sikhs, in many cases with caste, class or profession ofthe individual. In some instances, even places they came from are mentioned. In these stanzas, Bhai Gurdas thusprovides interesting clues to the composition, socially, of early Sikhism and its spread, geographically. Out of the 19disciples of Guru Nanak mentioned by Bhai Gurdas, two were Muslims—Mardana, a mirasi, or bard, from his ownvillage, and Daulat Khan Lodi, an Afghan noble. Bura, celebrated as Bhai Buddha, who was contemporary with thefirst six Gurus, was a Jatt of Randhava subcaste. So was Ajitta, of Pakkhoke Randhava, in present-day Gurdaspurdistrict. Phirna was a Khaihra Jatt; Malo and Manga were musicians; and Bhagirath, formerly a worshipper of thegoddess Kali, was the chaudhari, i.e. revenue official of Malsihan, in Lahore district Of the several Khatri disciples,Mula was of Kir subcaste, Pritha and Kheda were Soinis, Prithi Mall was a Sahigal, Bhagta was Ohri, Japu a Vansi,and Sihan and Gajjan cousins were Uppals. The Sikh sangat was thus the melting-pot for the high and the low, thetwice-born and the outcaste. It was a new fraternity emerging as the participants’ response of discipleship to the Guru.Sangats were knit into an organized system by Guru Amar Das who established manjis or preaching districts, eachcomprising a number of sangats. Guru Arjan appointed masands, community leaders, to look after sangats in differentregions. Sangat was the precursor to the Khalsa manifested by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. That was the highest pointin the evolution of the casteless Sikh commonwealth originating in the institution of sangat.