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People who came with
preconceived notions to study Sikhism often blunder
in offering its interpretation. Those who are
conversant with the eastern thought fix upon those
passage which refer to the thought of immanence
and conclude that Sikhism is noting but an echo
of Hinduism, while those who are imbued with the
Mohammedan or Christian thought take hold of transcendental
passage and identify Sikhism with Islam or Christianity.
Others who know both will see here no system,
nothing particular nothing but confusion. If,
however, we were to study Sikhism as a new organic
growth, evolved from the existing systems of thought
to meet the need of newly evolving humanity, we
would find no difficulty in recognising Sikhism
as a distinct system of thought.
First step to understand any religion is to
understand it's doctrine, the SIKH
defined by Sr. Teja Singh in his book "The
Sikh Religion"(Published by SGPC, Amritsar)
Following are the synopsis of his book, click
heads to read in detail.
|The aim of life, according
the Sikh Gurus, is not to get salvation or a heavenly
abode called paradise, but to develop the best in
man which is God.
"If a man loves to see
God, what care he for salvation or paradise." (Guru
after salvation, paradise or Elysium setting their
hopes on them every day of their lives. But those
who love to see God do not ask for salvation. The
sight itself satisfies their minds completely."
(Guru Ram Das in Kalyan)
How to see God and to love him? The question is
taken up by Guru Nanak in his Japji.
shall we offer to him that we may behold His council
What shall we utter with our lips, which may move
Him to give us His love?
In the ambrosial hours of morn meditate on the Grace
of the True Name:
For your good actions may procure for you a better
birth, but emancipation is from Grace alone."
"We should worship the Name believe in the
Name, which is ever and ever the same and true."
(Sri Rag of Guru Nanak)
The practice of the name is emphasized again and
again in the Sikh Scriptures, and requires a little
OF GOD OR THE NAME
|God is described both
as Nirgun, or absolute, and Sargun or personal.
Before there was any creation God lived absolutely
in Himself, but when he thought of making Himself
manifest in creation He become related in the former
case, when God was himself self created, there was
none else. He took counsil and advice with Himself;
what he did came to pass. Then there was no heaven,
or hell, or three regioned world. There was only
the Formless. One Himself; creation was no then
(Gujri Ki Var of Guru Amar Das) There was then no
sin, no virtue no Veda or any other religious book,
no caste, no sex (Guru Nanak's maru Solhe xv, and
Guru Arjan's Sukhmani xxi). When God became Sargun
or Manifest. He became what is called the name and
in order to realize Himself He made Nature wherein
He has His seat and is diffused every where and
in all directions in the 'form of love'. (Guru
Gobind Singh's Jaap 80)
In presenting gurus double phase of
the Supreme Being the Gurus have avoided the pitfalls
into which some people have fallen. With them God
is not an abstract idea or a moral force, but a
personal Being capable of being loved and honored,
and yet He is conceived of as a being whose presence
if diffused all over His creation, He is the common
Father of all, fashioning worlds and supporting
them from inside, but He does not take birth. He
has no incarnation. He Himself stands for the creative
agencies. Like the Maya, the word and Brahma, He
Himself is Truth, Beauty and the eternal yearing
of the heart after Goodness (Japji
21) in a word, the Gurus have combined the
Aryan idea of immanence with the Semitic idea of
transcendence; without taking away anything from
the unity and the personal character of God.
People who came with preconceived notions
to study Sikhism often blunder in offering its interpretation.
Those who are conversant with the eastern thought
fix upon those passage which refer to the thought
of immanence and conclude that Sikhism is noting
but an echo of Hinduism, while those who are imbued
with the Mohammedan or Christian thought take hold
of transcendental passage and identify Sikhism with
Islam or Christianity. Others who know both will
see here no system, nothing particular nothing but
confusion. If, however, we were to study Sikhism
as a new organic growth, evolved from the existing
systems of thought to meet the need of newly evolving
humanity, we would find no difficulty in recognising
Sikhism as a distinct system of thought.
MAN BASED ON CHARACTER
|This life of praise is
not to be of idle mysticism but of active service
done in the midst of worldly relations. "There can
be no worship without good" (Japji) action. These
actions, however are not to be formal deeds of so-called
merit, but should be implied by an intense desire
to please God and to serve fellow men.
The Gurus laid the foundation of man's uplift not
on such short cuts as mantras, miracles or mysteries
but on man's own humanity, his own character as
it is character alone-the character already formed-which
helps us in moral crises. Life is like a cavalry
march. The officer of a cavalry on march has to
decide very quickly when to turn his men to the
right of left. He cannot wait until his men are
actually on the brink of a gutter i.e. nulla or
khud. He must decide long before that. In the same
way, when face to face with an evil, we have to
decide quickly. Temptations allow us no time to
think. They always come suddenly. When offered a
bride or an insult, we have to decide at once what
course of action we are going to take. We cannot
then consult a religious book or a master guide.
We must decide on the impulse. And this can be done
only if virtue has so entered into our disposition
that we are habitually drawn towards it, and evil
has got no attraction of us. Without securing virtue
sufficiently in character, even some of the so-called
great men have been known to fall an easy prey to
temptation. It was for this reason that for the
formation of character the Gurus did not think it
sufficient to lay down rules of conduct in a book;
they also thought it necessary to take in hand a
whole people for a continuous course of schooling
in wisdom and experience, spread over many generations,
before they could be sure that the people thus trained
had acquired a character of their own. This is the
reason why in Sikhism there have been ten founders
instead of only one.
Before the Sikh Gurus, the leaders of thought had
fixed certain grades of salvation, according to
the different capacities of men, whom they divided
into high and low castes. The development of character
resulting from this was one-sided. Certain people,
belonging to the favored classes, got developed
in them a few good qualities to a very high degree,
while others left to themselves got degenerate,
it was as if a gardener, neglecting to look after
all the different kinds of plants entrusted to him
were to bestow all his care on a few chosen ones,
which were in bloom so that he might be able to
supply a few flowers every day for his master's
table, The Gurus did not want to have such a lop-sided
growth. They wanted to give opportunities of highest
development to all the classes of people.
Women too received their due. "How can they be called
Inferior" say Guru Nanak. "When they give birth
to kings and prophets?" (Asa-di-var,
xix) Women as well as men share in the grace
of God and are equally responsible for their actions
to him, (Guru Amar Das's, Var Suhi,
vi) Guru Hargobind called women "the conscience
of man." Sati was condemned by the Sikh Gurus long
before any notice was taken of it by Akbar.
The spirit of man was raised with a belief that
he was not a helpless creature in the hands of a
Being of an arbitrary will, but was a responsible
being endowed with a will of his own, which could
do much to mould his destiny. Man does not start
his life with a blank character. He has already
existed before he is born. He inherits his own past
as well as that of his family and race. All this
goes to the making of his being and has a share
in the moulding of his nature. But this is not all.
He is given a will with which he can modify the
inherited and acquired tendencies of his past and
determine his coming conduct. If this were not so,
he would not be responsible for his actions. This
will again, is not left helpless or isolated; but
if through the Guru's Word it be attuned to the
Supreme will, it acquires a force with which he
can transcend all his past and acquire a new character.
|The way of religion,
as shown by Sikhism is not a set of views or doctrines,
but a way of life lived according to a definite
Model. It is based, not on rules or laws, but upon
In the career of the disciple the personality of
the Guru is all along operative, commanding his
whole being and shaping his life to its diviner
issues. Without such a personality there would be
no cohesion, of direction in the moral forces of
society, and in spite of a thousand kinds of knowledge
"there would still be utter darkness," (Asa-di-Var,i)
There would be no force to connect men with men
and them with God. Everybody would exist for himself
in moral isolation 'like spurious sesames left desolate
in the field' with a hundred masters to own them
("Nanak the true Guru must be such as to unite all
men" - Sri rag, i) it is the Guru who removes the
barriers of caste and position set up by men among
themselves and gathering them all unto himself unites
them with God. In this way foundations are laid
of a society of the purified who as on organized
force strive for the good of the whole mankind.
Such a creative personality must be perfect,
because 'men take after whom they serve.' (Guru
Amar Das in Var Bihagra) if the ideal person
is imperfect, the society and its individuals following
him will also get imperfect development. But those
who serve the saved ones will be saved (Majh
The Sikh Gurus were perfect and are described as
such in the Sikh Scriptures, Guru Nanak himself
says in Sri Rag ; "Everybody else in subject to
error." Only the Guru and God are without error."
And Guru Arjun says in Rag Bhairon: Whoever is seen
is defective; without any defect is my true Guru,
the Yogi," The state of perfection attained by the
Gurus is lucidly described in the eighth and the
eighteenth octaves of Guru Arjun's Sukhmani the
same Guru says in Rag Asa:
|God does not die, not do I fear
He does not perish, not do I grieve.
He is not poor, not do I have hunger.
He has no pain, not have I any trouble.
There is no destroyer but God.
Who is my life and who gives me life.
He has no bond nor have I got any.
He has no entanglement, not have I any care.
As He is stainless, so, am I free from stain,
As He is happy, so am I always rejoicing.
He has no anxiety, nor have I any concern.
As He is not defiled, so am I not polluted.
As He has no craving, so do I covet nothing.
He is Pure and too suit Him in this.
I am nothing; He alone is everything.
All around is the same He.
Nanak, the Guru has destroyed all my superstitions
And I have become uniformly one with Him.
|The Guru is sinless.
In order, however to be really effective in saving
man be must not be above man's capacity to imitate,
as he would be if he were a supernatural being.
His humanity must be real and not feigned. He should
have nature, subject to the same laws as operate
in the ordinary human nature and should have attained
his perfection through the same Grace as is available
to all men and through perfect obedience to God's
will. The Sikh Gurus had fought with sin and had
overcome it. Some of them had lived for a long time
in error, until Grace touched them and they were
perfected through a constant discipline of knowledge,
love and experience in the Association of their
Gurus. When they had been completely attuned to
the Will divine and were sanctified as Gurus, there
remained no defect in them. They became perfect
and holy. There after sins did come tempt them but
they never grave way and were always able to over-come
them. It is only thus that they became perfect examples
of men and transformed those who came under their
influence to veritable angelic beings.
IN THE SIKH
|This transformation comes
not only through close association with the Guru,
which is found in many other religions, but through
the belief that the Sikh incorporates the Guru.
He fills himself with the Guru, and then feels himself
linked up with an inexhaustible source of power.
A Sikh, a pure-hearted Sikh, who follows the teaching
of his Guru, is a great power in himself; but when
such a Sikh gets into himself the dynamic personality
of such a perfect exemplar as Guru Gobind Singh
his powers acquire an infinite reach and he becomes
a superman. He is called "Khalsa" the personification
of the Guru himself.
"The Khalsa says the
Guru," is my other self; in him I live and have
my being" "A single Sikh, a mere believer, is only
one; but the equation changes when he takes Guru
Gobind Singh in to his embrace. He becomes equal
to 'one lakh and a quarter' in the Sikh parlance.
This change occurs not only in his physical fitness,
but also in is mental and spiritual outlook. His
nature is so reinforced in every way that although
hundreds may fall round him, he will resist to the
last and never give way. Wherever he stands he will
stand as a garrison of the Lord of Hosts, a host
in himself, a host of one lakh and a quarter. He
will keep the Guru's flag always flying. Whenever
tempted, he will ask himself, "Can I lower the flag
of Guru Gobind Singh ? Can I desert it ? I, as Budh
Singh or Kahan Singh, can fall, but can ordinary
powers and in times of emergency comes to his rescue
long before he can remember anything relevant to
the occasion recorded in history or scripture. Bhai
Joga Singh's case is just in point. He was a devoted
Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, and had received baptism
from the hands of the Guru himself. He was so loyal
that when he received an urgent call from the Guru
to proceed to Anandpur, he hastened from Peshawar
without a moment's delay, not waiting even to see
his own marriage through. And yet in movement of
weakness, this paragon of Sikh purity was going
to fall at the door of a public woman of Hoshiarpur.
Who saved him in the emergency?
It was the vision of Guru Gobind Singh, reestablishing
the personal contact by pointing out the signs of
personation worm on his body, and reminding him
that he was carven in the Guru's own image.
GURU IN THE PANTH
|So far we have considered
what the Guru does for the Sikhs as individuals.
We have seen how he intensifies their character
and increases their power thousand fold by filling
their personalities with his own. In order to increase
this power immensely more, the Guru made another
arrangement. He organized them in to Sangats or
Holy Assemblies, and put personality again into
them. This led to a very remarkable development
in the Institution of Guruship and no description
of Guruship will be complete without an account
of this development.
minds, by singing His praises of dwelling on his
excellence. This is to be done not only when alone
or in solitude, but also in public, where worship
of the Name is made more impressive by being organized
in the form of congregational recitations of singing.
The other element is Sewa or Service. The idea of
service is that it should be not only liberal, but
also efficient and economical; that is, it should
do the greatest good with the least possible means.
It should not be wasteful. We do not set up a sledge-hammer
to crack a nut, or send a whole army to collect
revenue. We have to be economical in our efforts,
however charitable they may be. For this purpose
we have to organize our means. In every work of
practical nature, in which more than one person
is engaged, it is necessary to resort to organization.
As religion too-especially a religion like Sikhism
whose aim is to serve mankind-belongs to the same
category, it requires organization of its followers
as an essential condition of its success.
Guru Nanak had therefore begun with two things in
his religious work : the holy word and the organized
Fellowship (Bhai Gurdas, Var 1, 42-43).
This organized fellowship is called Sangat. The
idea of Sangat or holy Fellowship led to the establishment
of local assemblies led by authorized leaders Masands.
Every Sikh was supposed to be a member of one or
other of such organization. The Guru was the central
unifying personality and inspite of changes in succession,
was held to be one and same as his predecessors.
The love exiting between the Guru and the Sikhs
was more intense than has ever existed between the
most romantic lovers of the world. But homage paid
to the Guru was made impersonal by creating a mystic
unity between the Sikh and the Guru on the one hand
and the Guru and the Word on the other (Asa
di Var, vi, i). Greatest respect began to
be paid to the incorporated. Word even the Guru
choosing for himself a seat lower than that of the
Scripture. The only form of worship was the meditation
on and the singing of the Word. The Sikh assemblies
also acquired great sanctity, owing to the belief
that the spirit of the Guru lived and moved among
them. They began to assume higher and higher authority
Until collectively the whole body, called the Panth
came to be regarded as an embodiment of the Guru.
Guru Gobind Singh himself received baptism from
the Sikhs initiate by himself. After him the Sikh
ceased to have any personal Guru. If we read the
Sikh history aright the Sikh community would appear
as an organized unit to have undergone a course
of discipline in the hands of ten Gurus, until its
character was fully developed and the Guru merged
his personality in the body of the nation thus reared.
The Guru, as mentioned above, worked with two things;
the personal Association and the Word. Now after
the death of Guru Gobind Singh the personality and
the Word were separated. The Panth as invested with
Amrit or baptism was made the basis of this organization.
There was no room left for wavering on the border-line,
All who wanted to serve humanity through Sikhism
must join it seriously, as regular members; and
receive its baptism as the initial step. All must
have the same creed, which should be well defined
and should not be confused with the beliefs and
practices of the neighboring religions.
|The institution of the
Khalsa entails a certain additional disciplinary
outfit in the shape of baptismal forms and vows,
which are often misunderstood. It is true that if
religion were only a matter of individual concern
there would be no need of forms and ceremonies.
But religion as taught by the Gurus, is a force
that not only ennobles individuals but also binds
them together to work for nobility in the world
Organization is a means of enlarging the possibility,
scope and effectiveness of this work. In order that
an organization itself may work effectively, it
is necessary that the individuals concerned in it
should be able to keep up their attachment to the
cause and a sufficient amount of enthusiasm for
it, it is, however, a patent fact that men by their
nature are so constituted that they cannot keep
their feelings equally high strung for a long time
at a stretch. Reaction is inevitable unless some
means are devised to ensure the continuity of exertion.
This is where discipline comes in, which keeps up
the spirit of individual against relaxation in times
of trail and maintains their loyalty to the cause
even in moment of ebb. This discipline, or what
is called esprit de corps is secured by such devices
as flags and drills and uniforms in armies and certain
form and ceremonies in religion. Uniformity is an
essential part of them. They create the necessary
enthusiasm by appealing to imagination and sentiment,
and work for it in moments of depression. They are
a real aid to religion, which is essentially a thing
of sentiment. Man would not nee them if he were
only a bundle of intellectual and moral senses;
but as he has also got sentiment and imagination,
without which the former qualities would be inoperative,
he cannot do without articulating his ideas and
beliefs in some forms appropriate to sentiment.
These forms must not be dead but a living index
of his ideal, waking up in his vivid intimation
of the personality that governs his religion. They
should be related to his inner belief as words are
to their meaning, tears to grief, smiles to happiness
and a tune to a song. It is true that sometimes
words become meaningless, when we no longer heed
their sense, or the language to which they belong
becomes dead. It is true that sometimes tears and
smiles are only cloaks for hypocrisy; and a tune
mere meaningless jingle. But there is no denying
the fact that when their inner meaning is real and
we are sincere about it, they do serve as very helpful
interprets. Forms are the art of religion like art
on Nature, these forms impose certain limitations
on the ideal, but at the same time they make the
ideal more real and workable for general use.
From the history of Sikhs in the past as well as
in the present, it is quite evident how effectively
these baptism forms, with the accompanying vows
of purity, love and service, have aided them in
keeping themselves united and their ideals unsullied
even in times of greatest trial. While keeping the
Sikhs associated with their Guru and maintaining
his spirit amongest them they have not produced
any narrowing effect on their beriefs or modes of
worship. All worship and ceremoney whether in temple
or home whether on birth, marriage or death consists
or nothing else but praying and chanting hymns.
Could anything be simple?
|"The Sikh Religion"
is written by Sr. Teja Singh and Published by SGPC,
Above chapters are just synopsis of his book, to
get this book in paper form you may write to the
publisher or ask us for a free copy.