Poetry in the Sikh Tradition

Our universe is an intensely vast entity and it may be hard to find anywhere else, our kind of life.We may be the carriers of a unique kind of consciousness but which we are reluctant to explore fully. The field of our consciousness can be as vast as the universe.

Beside our personal and collective consciousness there may be other kinds of consciousnesses which we are reluctant to admit We always act from a very narrow egotistical point of view. Poetry is a way of looking from a broader viewpoint thus gaining access to wider realities of world and existence. It seems a sheer waste of life as to always live within narrow confines of purely rational life.

A worthy poet should be able to break the barriers of programmed living and of the trivial indulgences of our daily lives.

Poetry is not a dead entity of rhymed lines or blank versifications, of an exhausted mind bleeding under blows of cruel fate but is a defiant and energetic activity of human soul.

The greatness of human mind consist not simply in amassing wealth or fame but in discovering new worlds, in keeping with artistic dignity of human spirit and this greatness is not of space and time but of creative spirit and this vision gives significance to our fleeting mortal lives.

One category of metaphysics defines the absolute reality as ’emptiness’ or ‘nothingness’ but we should not take it as being a vacuum for nihility but something beyond ‘thingness’. We put a frame around everything and call it thingness. It just defines the boundaries of our understanding.

This shunyata is like the virgin sands on a sea shore after the tide have washed away all the scattered litter and sand castles. These sand castles may be defined as maya or illusion in popular sense but in deeper sense this very maya is the creative reality. The creation of world around us, which is to a large extent, is our own creation, a collective consciousness.

It becomes an illusion only when we hold on to past forms, the traditions, the hero worship of our idols or our efforts to keep the status quo, as inherited in our traditional attitudes. But this individual creative aspect of our conscience can become a poetical anomaly resulting in new awakening and liberation from mundane realities of our own making.

Sahib mera nit navan
Sada sada daata

My God is new everyday
He is the giver (of newness)
(Sikh Scriptures)

So God or reality is new everyday and we must keep pace with this newness. It is no use running away from daily flux and seek refuge in old forms or past experiences. One should be a creative warrior and fights the battles of life by producing works that resonate with our inner spirit. In our life there are certain premises where neither contemplation nor physical action can give full satisfaction but our heart cries for such creative vision.

Thus poetry becomes a way of action to keep up with the changing realities of time. Everything seems to be in a flux, we are born and die each moment. Poetry is that fixed position which is trying to keep its position on a moving platform. If we do not exert ourselves, we will be swept away.

Man lives by images. He cannot survive in a vacuum and fresher the images, the vital the life. Poetry gives an authenticity to our being. We must dig deeper within ourselves and search for those words which, when assembled in a verse, will illumine the dark recesses of mind.

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikhs was such a person. He has been called a Sant Sipahi or Saint soldier, in other term he was a warrior poet of high distinction. He fought against tyranny and for human dignity for which he suffered greatly loosing all his possessions and even his family.

He was a great linguist and wrote poetry of high calibre. He made poetry into a way of action, which inspired his numerous followers so as to fight against injustices. According to him the chief virtues of a human being are courage and tenderness. The heart of tenderness which poetry can usher in and the courage to go forward inspite of all the defeats suffered on battlefields of life.

With daggers drawn and swords clashed of steel
With dauntless courage and linked suffering for feel
The merciful warrior forwarded amid fight and pity
For both his friends and foes
Now drenched in bloods of futility.

Frets and fears of egoism now laid aside
His only concern now became
To fight for the liberty of his mind
Not for diversions or for abandoned castled dearth
Not for the prized glory in the eyes of the world.
Driven to edge for his hatred of tyranny
He showered his message of dignity for all sundry
His hand extended for support without caste or creeds
Amid sanctity of sufferings and all hallowed deeds.

Scribing Bachittar Natak his dramatic verse
Wondrous play of nature amid works of divine
Worlds of action or of contemplation
Beyond the little thine or mine
In jungles of Trai & Machiwara his tortures confined.

Here where men hate and taste blood in consummation
Indifference in ignorance of vultured eliminations
Great loss of innocents of his sons he endured
Among bitter smites but his poise he secured
The Sant Sipahi then reluctantly took to his sword
To defend dignity of Hind against marauding hordes.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!