Kirpan, which can be literally translated into sword, has a much deeper meaning in the Sikh religion. It consists of two words, Kirpa and Aan. The word Kirpa means benevolence and the word Aan means dignity. Therefore Kirpan is a symbol of benevolence and dignity.
It is Kirpan, which imparts uniqueness to the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh in the worship of Kirpan calls it a symbol of justice, equality and struggle against oppression and discrimination and exploitation. The Guru Hails Kirpan as the liberator and sustainer of mankind and the destroyer of the oppressors and the exploiters. He also sees Kirpan as a symbol of bravery and knowledge because it can dispel cowardice and ignorance. He sees celestial beauty in the shining Kirpan.
The Guru asks us to worship Kirpan as one of the aspects of God. As opposed to the Judeo Semitic concept of creation, which considers the creation as a separate act of God that created the universe in 6 days, from Monday to Saturday and then rested on Sunday, the Sikh religion sees the creation as an uninterrupted and constant act. The Sikh religion believes that the creation has 3 aspects symbolized by Barhama, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). Barhama symbolizes creation, Vishnu symbols sustenance and Shiva symbolizes destruction. Destruction is an integral part of construction because without destroying the worn out old, room cannot be created for the emerging new.
The outlook and attitude of the Sikh religion to Kirpan is fundamentally different than the others who generally view sword as a symbol of power and domination. The sword can generate and encourage arrogance. Arrogance always leads to ignorance. Kirpan constantly reminds the Sikhs of the power of the Almighty. Therefore Kirpan should promote humility. As arrogance and ignorance like each otherís company similarly humility and knowledge go together.
It is very important in the contemporary world that we use our power as Kirpan and not as a sword. Whereas Kirpan was used by Guru Gobind Singh to liberate the oppressed people, the sword of the colonialists was used to enslave the other people and nations.
The judicious use of force can help us to change the outdated old world order, which has outlived its usefulness and has become redundant and irrelevant.
The only way peace and harmony can be kept in the world and prosperity maintained is by upholding principals of equality, fairness, justice, benevolence and showing respect for other peoples beliefs and values.
We can only suppress others temporarily until they are strong enough to fight against the oppressor. On the other hand benevolence, compassion, universal concern and universal well-being are principles which can lead to a lasting peace and progress. This is the global perspective of Guru Nanak. What we should understand is that Guru Gobind Singh raised Kirpan not only to uphold the principles of Guru Nanak but also to give a practical shape to those principles.
Dr. Sawraj Singh is Chairman of Washington State Network for Human Rights, and Chairman of Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice.