Sikhism


Introduction to Sikhism

Over twenty million Sikhs follow a revealed, distinct, and unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region of northern India. Between 1469 and 1708, ten Gurus preached a simple message of truth, devotion to God, and universal equality. Often mistaken as a combination of Hinduism and Islam, the Sikh religion can be characterized as a completely independent faith:

Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.

Introduction to Sikhism:The Sikh Gurus

SIKHISM & THE SIKH GURUS

A few details regarding the Sikh Gurus are given below:

NameAge Age at
Guruship
 No. of
Children
Name of
town founded
Contribution
to Sikh religion
Guru Nanak70 38 2KartarpurThe founder
Guru Angad48 35 3KhadurPanjabi Grammar, health
Guru Amardas95 73 4GoindwalSeva
Guru Ramdas47 40 3AmritsarKirtan & katha
Guru Arjan43 18 1Taran TaranAdi Granth, Harimandir Sahib
Guru Hargobind49 11 6KiratpurMiri & Piri
Guru Harrai31 14 2xxxxxZoos & Hospitals
Guru Harkrishen8 5 xxxxxxSchools, education
Guru Tegh Bahadur54 43 1AnandpurJiwanmukt, living for others
Guru Gobind Singh42 9 4Paonta SahibAmrit, Sacrifice

 

The Founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji(1469-1539)

The Sikhs had ten prophets called the Gurus. The time-period of the history of the Gurus ranged from 1469 A.D , when Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhism was born, to 1708 A.D, when the last prophet, Guru Gobind Singh left this mortal world for his heavenly abode (239 years).

Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion was born in a Hindu family of Kshatriya caste. He revolted against that order when he was only 13 years old. God spoke to him when he was 38. He was taken to God’s abode where God gave him Two Commandments known as `Moolmantar’ and `Sloak’. They read:

MOOLMANTAR:

There is only one God 
He is the Truth (permanent being) 
He is the Creator, 
He is devoid of fear 
He is devoid of enmity 
He is beyond death 
He is not born 
He is self-illuminated 
He is the master of all the gifts. 
SHLOK:

God existed before the start of the time 
God existed when the time started. 
God exists now and, 
God will always exist.


Guru Nanak was appointed as God’s latest prophet and was asked to spread the name of God and the rules of both divinity and morality.

Guru Nanak travelled as far as Tibet in the north, Sri Lanka in the south, Mecca in the west and Dhaka in the east to deliver God’s message. He was welcomed wherever he went. He met both kings and robbers, gave them the message of God and reformed them. He is the only prophet in the world who did not meet any violent opposition and was not harmed by the enemies. In fact he had no enemies. (compare him with: Moses and the Pharaos; Jesus and the Jewish clergy and the Romans; Ram and Ravan; Krishen and Kans; Mohammed and the Meccan pagans).

Guru Nanak was revered by both the Hindus and the Muslims. He was received with respect and folded hands by Babar, the Muslim Emperor of India and Shivnabh, the Hindu King of Sri Lanka; he was honoured by the clergy of both the Hindus and the Muslims.

Guru Nanak was a family man, was married and had two sons. While living with his father he looked after the family fields and the cattle; staying with his sister, Babe Nanki, he worked as a store keeper with the local ruler; and for the last 17 years of his life, he tilled his own fields at Kartarpur, a town founded by him. There are 41 Sikh shrines founded in his memory.

For 14 years, from 1507-1510 he travelled around the then known world and spread the message of God. In history, he is the most travelled of all the known prophets. (Jesus travelled in the central plains of Palestine; Mohammed travlled from Mecca to Medina and back to Mecca; Moses travelled from Egypt to outskirts of Palestine; Ram travelled from Ayodhaya to Sri Lanka; Krishna travelled from Mathura to Dwarka).

Guru Nanak died at the age of 70. His 974 hymns are recorded in the Sikh holy book.

 

THE PROPHETS 2nd Guru - 10th Guru

Guru Angad (1504-1552) was the second Guru of the Sikhs. He was a disciple of Guru Nanak and was chosen as his successor after being put to a great many tests. He became Guru at the age of 35 and his pontificate lasted for 13 years. He rationalised the Panjabi language and gave to it a new grammar. He also encouraged his followers to look after their health. He gave them instructions to have a balanced diet and regular exercises. He built many wrestling arenas and encouraged his followers to participate in wrestling competitions Like Guru Nanak, he founded a new town and named it Khadur. There are 2 Gudwaras built in his memory, and there are in Guru Granth Sahib, 65 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 48.

Guru Amardas (1479 - 1574) became the third Guru at the age of 73. For twelve years he personally served Guru Angad. He walked daily for 5 miles to fetch water for the Guru’s bath. He was chosen from amongst many by Guru Angad as his successor. His pontificate lasted for 17 years. He inculcated amongst his followers, the spirit of Service to humankind and to God Like both Guru Nanak and Guru Angad he was a very simple man. There are 4 Gurdwaras related to his memory and there are, in Guru Granth Sahib, 907 hymns composed by him. He died at the age of 90.

Guru Ramdas (1534-1581) became Guru when he was 40. His pontificate lasted for only 7 years. He was a son-in-law of Guru Amardas. He re-organised the Sikh Church and founded the city of Amritsar.

He died at the age of 47. There are 3 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 679 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Arjan (1563-1606) became Guru at the young age of 18. He was the youngest son of Guru Ramdas, He built the Golden Temple and compiled the Sikh holy book. He also founded the city of Taran Taran. He is the first martyr of the Sikh history. He died at the age of 43, There are 12 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 2,218 of his hymns recorded in Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) became Guru at the age of 11. He was the only son of Guru Arjan. His pontificate was longest amongst all the Gurus, it lasted for 38 years. He was the first Guru to fight with the Mughals against their injustice and tyranny. . He wore two swords, symbolising Miri and Piri, royalty and saintliness. He organised early morning Sikh choirs. He founded the city of Kiratpur3. There are 16 Gudwaras built in his memory. He travelled upto Kashmir in the north to spread the message of the house of Nanak. He died at the age of 49. He did not write any hymns.

Guru Harrai (1630-1661) was a grandson of Guru Hargobind. He became Guru at the age of 14 and remained Guru for 17 years. He built many clinics for both sick human beings and animals/birds. He was expert in Aryuvedic medicine. Most of the time he lived in Nahan and preached the divine message over there. There are 3 Gurdwaras dedicated to his memory. He died at the age of 31. He did not write any hymns.

Guru Harkrishen (1656 - 1664) was the youngest son of Guru Harrai. He became Guru at the tender age of 5 and died at the age of 8. Thus his pontificate lasted for only 3 years. He took over the sufferings of the people of Delhi over himself and saved them from effects of smallpox epidemic (compare this sacrifice with the Christian saying, "Jesus died for our sins"). He instructed his followers to build schools for religious education. There are 4 Gurdwaras related to him. He did not write any hymns. Most of the modern Sikh Schools are named after him.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675) was a grand uncle of Guru Harkrishan. He became Guru at the age of 43 and remained Guru until the age of 54. He travelled towards east of India up to Dhaka to spread the message of the house of Nanak. He offered himself for martyrdom for saving the Hindu religion. He gave his life but saved the annihilation of Hindu religion by the then Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. He was beheaded in Delhi at a place known as `Chandni Chowk’ He founded the city of Anandpur. There are 16 Gurdwaras built in his memory and there are 115 hymns recorded under his name in Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Gobind Singh (1666 - 1708) became Guru at the age of 9. He was the only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Like his grand-father Guru Hargobind, he also had to resort to sword to protect the young Sikh nation from an onslaught of the Mughals. He initiated a new baptism and called it `Amrit’ . He created the order of Khalsa (Saint-soldiers) and prescribed the compulsion of wearing the 5 Ks. He wrote hymns which were later collected by one of his followers, Bhai Mani Singh, at the orders of his widow Mata Sundri. He declared the mission of Guru Nanak completed. He passed on the spiritual authority of the Sikhs to the Sikh holy book, and called it Guru Granth Sahib. He passed on the temporal authority of the Sikh to the Khalsa. He died at the age of 42. His hymns are preserved in the Granth called Dasam Granth. He was the last prophet (Guru) of the Sikhs.

THE THEORY OF ONE SPIRIT

The Sikhs believe that all the ten Gurus had the same spirit. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh had recorded in one of his hymns that though after Nanak came Angad and then Amardas and then Ramdas, Arjan, Hargobind, Harrai, Harkrishen and Tegh Bahadur, but they all had the same spirit. They looked different for they had different bodies but their spirit, the inner self, was the same. (Compare it with Christian belief of Holy Spirit).

1 Guru Granth Sahib - Guru Arjan Dev: "Tu mera pita tu hai mera mata, tu mera bandhu tu mera bharata". 
2 Dasam Granth - Bachitar Natak: "Tu nae apna sut mujae niwaja". 
3 It is at this place that the Sikhs immerse the ashes of their dead. The Gurdwara is called `Patal Puri’.

Introduction to Sikhism:Khalsa Saint & Soldier

 

"The Khalsa belongs to God, and Victory belongs to Him."
(translation of the traditional Sikh greeting)

Duties of the Khalsa

In one of his poems, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib defines the Khalsa : 

"He who repeats night and day the name of Him, 
Who has full love and confidence in God, 
Who bestows not a thought on anv but one God, 
Whose enduring light is inextinguishable, 
Who puts no faith in fasting and worshipping cemeteries and monasteries, 
Who only recognises the one God and makes no fetish, Of pilgrimages, 
alms, charities and austerities: 
He is recognised as a true member of theKhalsa, 
In whose heart the light of the Perfect One shines."
 

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib laid down the following duties for the Khalsa : 

I. The Khalsa is to worship one God and read Nitname (Five Banis) and daily meditate on the Name. 

II. He is to keep the symbols (Panj Kakar) and to lead his life according to the Guru's teaching. Gurmantra is Waheguru and the Basic creed is Mool-manlra. 

III. He has no caste after joining the brother-hood ; he has to repudiate non-Sikh rites and ceremonies, and follow only Sikh practices. 

IV. He is not to commit 'any of the four misdeeds (Kurahat) namely, the shaving or cutting of hair, eating Halal meat, adultery and the use of tobacco or any other intoxi-cant. 

V. He is not to commit any of the social offences (Tankhah), such as giving dowry, using liquors and intoxicants, raising monuments over graves and associating with apostates. 

VI He must contribulc one-tenth {daswand) of his income for religious purposes. 

VII He is to serve the sangat in all ways

VIII He must practice arms and be ready defend the weak. 

The Khalsa was a saint-soldier wedded to the two-fold ideal of Bhagti and Shakti. He was to combine self-respect with humility.Guru Gobind Singh Sahib though a creator of the Khalsa regarded himself as their servent . He says, " To serve them pleases me the most; no other service is so dear to my soul." Like a loving father, he was prepared to forgive the sudden lapses of the Khalsa as in the case of the "Forty Immortals", whom he claimed as his own in the nick of time. The Khalsa was given a position equal to that of the Guru. The Guru consists of two parts : the body and the Name. The Guru nominated the Khalsa, as his body and Guru Granth Sahib as the embodiment the Name. That is why we use the title of Guru-Khalsa. The Guru acknowledged his debt to the Khalsa in one of his verses. 

"It is through them that I have gained experience ; with their help I have subdued my enemies. Through their favour, I am exalted, otherwise there are millions of ordinary humble men like me." 

Meaning of Symbols: Symbols or outward signs are a mode of discipline. A person who enters the Panth (Khalsa Community) will gladly embrace all its tenets and symbols. Symbols test the disciple's firmness and strengh of faith. They indicate the type of character the wearer should have. He must be proud of being a Sikh, even though it may cost him his life. Secondly this common appearance and uniform ensures easy recognition One can easily spot a Khalsa in a crowd. Each symbol has its own use and psychological significance.

BAPTISM BY SWORD
The Sikh initiation ceremony, begun by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, is an elaborate one. Five Amritdhari Sikhs, those who have already undergone initiation into the Khalsa fold, recite prayers and stir a double-edged sword in a bowl of sugar water called Amrit (nectar). After the recitation of prayers ends, those Sikhs who seek to undergo initiation drink out of the same bowl. Expected to have an understanding of the responsibilities of being a Khalsa Sikh, the initiated ones promise to live a life of purity, in accordance with the teachings of the Gurus. The Khalsa are widely regarded as saint-soldiers; not only have they vowed to live by the principles of Sikhism, the Khalsa historically stands ready to defend the defenseless, and themselves, with the use of force if necessary.

Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh prophet who sacrificed his life in defense of the Hindus' right to practice their religion in the face of persecution by the Mughal rulers of India, wrote concisely:

emNever fear, and never inflict fear.

This is, essentially, the abiding principle of the Khalsa.

EMBLEMS OF THE FAITH


Khalsa Sikhs keep five emblems of their faith intact on their bodies at all times. These collectively form a uniform for members of the community of "Pure Ones."
1.Kesh - Uncut hair. Historically, unshorn hair was a sign of spirituality and sainthood; this is consistent with the concept of saint-soldier in Sikhism. Also, keeping one's hair intact indicates resignation to the Will of God.
2.Kangha - A small wooden comb used to keep the hair tidy at all times. Typically worn underneath a turban, this represents cleanliness; and as such, is a practical way to look neat and pure at all times.
3.Kach - Long undershorts typically worn by soldiers to ensure freedom of movement.
4.Kara - A steel bracelet worn around the wrist as a reminder of one's faith.
5.Kirpan - A saber to be used as a last measure of protection in case the need to defend oneself, or another, arises.

Sikhs who have taken Amrit vow never to take intoxicants, cut their hair, commit adultery, or eat meat prepared in the Muslim fashion. Sikh men take as one of their names, Singh (lion); women take the name, Kaur (princess). Sikh men are also required to wear a turban over their uncut hair. Once considered a sign of royalty, the turban is an article of distinction which should be worn with pride, as it was given to Sikhs by their Guru.

The uniformity among initiated Sikhs serves as a source of strength and solidarity. It also consolidated the Sikh identity into a viable religious, social, and political entity. The tenth Guru; however, warned the Khalsa about losing its distinct identity. Such an occurence, cautioned the Guru, would strip the Khalsa of all its power.

Bhai Nand Lal, a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh, wrote the following description of the Khalsa:

Khalsa is one who fights in the front ranks.
Khalsa is one who conquers the five evils [lust, anger, pride, greed, ego];
Khalsa is one who destroys doubt.
Khalsa is one who gives up ego;
Khalsa is one who does not stray from his spouse;
Khalsa is one who looks upon all as his own;
Khalsa is one who attunes himself with God.

The spirit of Guru Gobind Singh, creator of the Khalsa, which resides in the collective spirit of the Pure Ones, and the devotion to God which binds these faithful saint-soldiers, are the common denominators of the Khalsa tradition.

 

Fundamentals of Sikhism

The seed for the reformation of humanity which was sown by Guru Nanak and watered by his successors, ripened in the time of Guru Gobind Singh and culminated in the creation of the Khalsa. The sword that carved the Khalsa's way to sublime glory was undoubtedly forged by Guru Gobind Singh but its steel was provided by Guru Nanak. 

The whole program of Guru Nanak's initiation reached its exalted state of finality when the tenth Nanak (Guru Gobind Singh) passed on 'Gur Nanak Jot' to the Adi Granth, Holy Scripture- par excellence, and proclaimed it as Guru Granth Sahib, the last Guru for ever.

From the moment of its initiation by Guru Nanak to its consecration by the tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, a period of 239 years, Sikhism acquired its holy scripture, signs and symbols, and unmistakable form or stance. Transformation from one Guru to the other happened in the same way as one lamp were to lit from another. The holy transformation of ten Gurus is recognized as ONE, since all of them came from the same Divine Flame in continuity of the same Divine Mission. The establishment of Guruship, the story of succession, the founding of Amritsar and other seats of Sikhism, the compilation of the Adi Granth, the institution of Sangat (holy congregation) and Pangat (Guru's free kitchen), the martyrdom of the Gurus, the panoply and plumage of power, the investiture of the Khalsa, all these and many other events which make the Sikh chronicle, give Sikh religion a color of the highest distinction.

In Sikhism, Guruship does not stand for mere order of mystics, since the Guru attached no values to renunciation of worldly life. Those who practiced renunciation such as Yogis and Sidhas were condemned as shirkers of responsibilities- they were considered as escapists and runaways from social responsibilities and obligations. In Sikhism a man is called upon to accept the Will of God and thus sublimate his suffering and loss. Sikhism believing in the conquest of sorrow and suffering, stipulates ceaseless endeavor.

PURPOSE OF LIFE:

According to the Guru, moral life is not a matter of a few commandments or a code or a ritual, but the fruit of a life directed towards spiritual quest involving incredibly hard discipline. Most people generally believe in enjoying materialistic life to the brim. Thus, the life goes on till a person ultimately finds oneself physically spent up and spiritually bankrupt. Lured by the charm of success in this materialistic world, one gives little or no thought to the Eternal values of life.

According to the eastern religions, there are eighty-four lakhs (8.4 million) of lives in the world, half of which are in the water and the other half are on the land and air. All life is transient. It moves on and on through the wheel of transmigration in accordance with its 'karmas' or actions good or bad. The human soul is achieved after transmigrating through various lower species as Gurbani (the Divine Word) confirms it:

    "In how many births wert thou a worm or a moth! 
    In how many births an elephant, a fish, or a deer! 
    In how many births a bird or a serpent!
    In how many births wert thou yoked as a horse or an ox! 
    Meet the Lord of the world, this is the time to meet Him
    After long period of time hast thou attained human body." 
    (Gauri Guareri Mohalla 5, p-176)

The Gurmat (Guru's teaching) defines the purpose of life as:

    "This time having born as human being 
    This is thy turn to meet the Supreme Lord. 
    Thy other activities will be of no avail at the end, 
    Seek the company of the holy men
    And only contemplate on God. 
    Set thy mind on crossing the sea of life, 
    For life is being wasted away 
    In pursuits of pleasures of the world." 
    (Asa Mohalla 5, p-12)

Human soul is the door for liberation, but enchanted by the materialistic world, one loses highly precious chance of life:

    "O man, thou comest to earn merit (spiritual)
    But how vainly art thou engaged 
    While the night of life passeth away."
    (Sri Rag Mohalla 5, p-43)

    "Sleeping through, man wasteth the night,
    Eating, he wasteth the day away 
    And lo, the Jewel of life is bartered away for a trite."
    (Gauri Bairagan Mohalla 1, p-156)

    "Having wandered through eighty-four lakhs of species 
    Thou hast obtained the very precious human life,
    Nanak, remember thou then the Nam
    For thy days are numbered."
    (Sri Rag Mohalla 5, p-50)

    "Without the Name of God, birth into this world is fruitless,
    Without Nam one eats poison, speaks evil, dies without
    merit and transmigrates." 
    (Bhairo Mohalla 1, p-1127)

    "O God, the mothers of those who keep not God's Name in their hearts ought to have been barren, 
    For they who wander without the Name, pine away and die in agony."
    (Jaitsari Mohalla 4, p-697)

The purpose of human life in Sikhism is not to attain paradise or Swarga of the popular Hindu conception, but to seek God, and be united with Him. The ultimate goal of Sikh religion is to merge with the Supreme Soul and then enjoy the Uninterrupted Bliss for ever. A Sikh aspires for spiritual union with the Lord- a state of Bliss. Human life is an opportunity to attain that goal, if it is missed, a person falls back in the cycle of birth and rebirth.

CONCEPT OF GOD IN SIKHISM:

The definition of God is given in the very opening sentence of Guru Granth Sahib, which is called Mool-Mantar (Preamble of Japji):

    There is but One God 
    He is the Eternal Truth 
    The Creator, All-Pervading Divine Spirit 
    Unfearful, Without hate and enmity 
    Immortal Entity, Unborn, Self-Existent, and
    He is realized by His Own Grace.

    Meditate upon 
    Who was True before the Creation
    Who was True in the beginning of the Creation 
    Who is True now, and 
    O Nanak, Who shall be True for Ever.

As a matter of fact the whole of Guru Granth Sahib is the explanation of the above definition. The Guru elaborates the concept of God in Rag Sorath:

    The Unseen, Infinite, Inaccessible, Inapprehensible God is not subject to death or destiny. 
    He is of no caste, unborn, self-existent, without fear or doubt.
    I am a sacrifice to the Truest of the true.
    He hath no form, or color, or outline; 
    He becometh manifest by the true Word. 
    He hath no mother, father, son, or kinsman; 
    He feeleth not lust, and hath no wife 
    Or family; He is pure, endless, and infinite; all light is Thine, O Lord. 
    God is concealed in every heart; His light is in every heart.
    He whose understanding's adamantine doors are opened by
    the Guru's instruction, fixeth his gaze on the Fearless One.
    God having created animals made them subject to death, and retained all contrivances in His Own power. 
    He who serveth the True Guru obtaineth the real boon, and is delivered by repeating the Word.
    Truth is contained in pure vessels; few there are whose acts are pure.
    By seeking Thy protection, saith Nanak, the soul blendeth with the Supreme Soul. 
    (Sorath Mohalla 1, p-597)

God is both Impersonal (Nirgun) and Personal (Sargun). Impersonal God is Formless and beyond the human reach. When He reveals Himself through His Creation, He becomes related and personal. It is just like the rays coming out of the sun. The source is Formless, and the whole universe is His Personal form. No form howsoever unique it may be, is independent of Him. Infinite can manifest into unlimited number of finites, but any number of finites, alone or together, cannot be equal to the Infinite. So any finite form cannot be worshipped as God, Who is Infinite and Formless:

    "God is Formless, colorless, markless, 
    He is casteless, classless, creedless; 
    His form, hue, shape and garb 
    Cannot be described by any one, 
    He is the Spirit of Eternity,
    Self-Radiant, He shineth in His Splendor."
    (Guru Gobind Singh)

God neither takes birth nor does He die:

    "Burnt be the tongue that says
    The Lord takes birth and undergoes death." 
    (Bhairon Mohalla 5, p-1136)

The Guru warned that he was not God, and those who called him God, should fall into hell:

    "Whosoever calleth me God 
    May fall into hell." 
    (Guru Gobind Singh)

i) God protects His saints and devotees from dangers, unless He wills that their sufferings and martyrdom should serve a higher purpose. To protect the righteous is His Sovereign Characteristic (Birdh). In the face of some acute dangers, saints have prayed for aid and intervention of God to help them in distress. God came to their help and protected them in a miraculous way. The stories of Prahlad, Dhru and others, and the autobiographic statements of Namdev and Kabir in Guru Granth Sahib, show His Sovereign Power to protect the righteous. Such miracles are part of the doctrine of divine Providence and Preservation. These supernatural miracles of God should be distinguished from the miracles of human beings performed by their occult powers, which in Sikhism are considered dangerous and unbecoming.

ii) 'As you sow, so shall you reap', leads to the theory of 'Karma', actions, good or bad, where a person is rewarded for his good actions and punished for his bad deeds. Therefore, according to the theory of Karma, a worst sinner will always suffer for his deeds and can never attain salvation. Guru Nanak has rejected this stating that pardoning even the worst sinner is the Sovereign Characteristic (Birdh) of God:

    "Patat pavan prabh birdh tumaro." 
    (Bilawal Mohalla 5, p-829)

    'Redeeming the repentant sinner, is Thy Characteristic.'
    (Translation of the above)

The Guru emphasizes that the sinner whom no body affords protection in the whole world, if he surrenders before the Almighty, becomes pure, that is he is blessed by His Grace:

    "Jis papi kau milai na dhoee Saran aawai ta nirmal hoee."
    (Bhairon Mohalla 5, p-1141)

    'The sinner who is patronless in the world When surrenders before God, gets deliverance.' 
    (Translation of the above)

The Guru reiterates that to save the saints, to protect the righteous, and even to redeem the repentant sinners is Paramount Characteristic of God.

CONCEPT OF NAM (DIVINE NAME):

According to Gurmat (Guru's teaching), before the creation, God lived Absolutely by Himself, Formless. When He made Himself manifest, He first formed Himself into NAM (Divine Name) and then created Nature. After creating Nature, He did not go away from it, rather He sustained His creation with His Own presence into it, and felt delighted.

    "Aapinai aap sajio aapinai rachio Nao
    Dui kudrat sajiai kar asan ditho chao."
    (Asa Mohalla 1- pauri 1, p-463)

    "God created Himself and assumed Name
    Second besides Himself He created Nature 
    Seated in Nature He watches with delight what He creates." 
    (Translation of the above)

1) NAM (Divine Name) and God are not two different entities. Nam is just another aspect of the Almighty, still Formless. Nam is the total expression of all that God is. Nam sustains everything:

    "Nam sustains and controls all beings 
    Nam supports the universe and its regions."
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 16-5, p-284)

2) Nam is not expressed as mere noun and it does not mean that there is a special name of God and by enchanting of which, one will meet Him. He is Infinite and can be called with infinite names, but who can count His infinite names? The enlightened and the blessed ones remember Him through His Attributes:

    "Tav sarb nam kathai kavan 
    Karm nam barnat sumat." 
    (Guru Gobind Singh- Jap Sahib)

3) God may be called by countless names by the devotees, who create these names according to the attributes of their Godhead, but the first and the foremost name of God is clearly depicted as 'SAT' (Eternal Truth) which shows the ever-existence of God:

    "Kirtam nam kathai terei jihba 
    Satnam tera pra purbla." 
    (Maru Mohalla 5, p-1083)

4) The word NAM is a mystic Word used in practical religious life and in discipline of meditation. God is remembered by His attributive names. There is another aspect of it called true Name which emanates from a prophet's personal experience. It emerges from a vision that the Prophet has of the Divine Being. Such a mystic Word in Sikh religion is called 'Waheguru' or Wonderful God or 'Thou art Wonderful'. True Name is not the word by which we describe an object, but the total power, quality and character of Reality. Through the word 'Waheguru' the prophet has tried to sum up mystic power and experience of His presence all around. Prophets have given us Divine Names of the nameless God, which reflect His presence in our consciousness. Contemplation or meditation on true Name (Waheguru) is called practicing the presence of God in one's conscious.

    5) Gurbani (Divine Word) itself is NAM.

    a) Gurbani itself is Nam:

    "Gurmukh bani nam hai, nam ridai vasaie."
    (Sarang ki Var-pauri, p-1239)

    b) The term 'Nam Japo' means to remember God and to invoke His presence in one's conscious. All modes of meditation take the devotee into the presence of God, but according to Gurbani, Hari Kirtan, the musical recitation of Gurbani, is the super form of meditation. It invokes one's consciousness to the maximum level, into the presence of God:

    "Har kirat utam Nam hai vich kaljug karni sar." 
    (Kanre ki Var Mohalla 4, p-1314)

    c) The Gurmat explains that the recitation of the word 'Har Har..' is Nam Japna:

    "Har har har har nam hai gurmukh pavai koei."
    (Kanre ki Var Mohalla 4, p-1313)

    d) Salvation cannot be attained without Nam. In other words anything that delivers salvation is Nam. Since Gurbani delivers salvation, therefore, Gurbani is Nam:

    "Sachi bani mithi amritdhar 
    Jinh piti tis mokhdwar."
    (Malar Mohalla 1, p-1275)

    'The True Bani is sweet-nectar 
    Whosoever is devoted to it, attaineth salvation." 
    (Translation of the above)

    "Sachi bani sion dhare piyar 
    Tako pavai mokhdwar." 
    (Dhanasari Mohalla 1, p-661)

    'Whosoever devoted to Eternal Bani 
    Will get deliverance."
    (Translation of the above)

It is therefore, very clear and evident that any form of recitation of Gurbani, may be simple reading with attention and devotion or meditation on any Sabad of Gurbani or Kirtan of Gurbani, is fully deemed as Nam Japna (meditation on Nam), that is to invoke the presence of God in one's conscious.

It may be mentioned here that there are small sects who mislead the innocent Sikhs on the subject of Gurbani and Nam. These sect leaders very emphatically say to the innocent Sikhs," Gurbani says that one must meditate on Nam, but Gurbani is not Nam. Come on, we will give you Nam." Then they whisper in their ears some broken sentence of Gurbani which they call Nam, and warn them not to tell any one; if ever they disclose this Nam to any one, some curse will fall on them. In this way they run their cults (shops). Thus, innocent Sikhs and others are lured and misled into their fold. The Sikhs should, therefore, be very careful from such sects. Those who try to say that Gurbani is not Nam, they are either misguided or are deceitful. According to Gurmat (Guru's teaching), Gurbani is everything:

    Gurbani is Nam: "Gurmukh bani Nam hai.."
    (Sarang ki Var-pauri, p-1239)

    Gurbani is Guru: "Bani Guru, Guru hai Bani..."
    (Nat Mohalla 4, p-982)

    Gurbani is Nirankar:"Wauh wauh bani nirankar hai Tis jiwad avar na koi." 
    (Slok Mohalla 3, p-515)

    'Wauh wauh Bani is the Formless One 
    There is none as great as He." 
    (Translation of the above)

    Gurbani is every Nad and Ved:

    "Sabh nad beid gurbani Man rata sarang pani." 
    (Ramkli Mohalla 1, p-879)

It is, therefore, Nam that ultimately leads a person to Eternal Bliss. For God consciousness, one must come in contact with Nam, but without Guru one cannot attain Nam and would wander away in the darkness.

    "Were a hundred moons to appear 
    Were a thousand suns to arise
    There would still be utter darkness 
    If there were no Guru." 
    (Asa di Var, Mohalla 2, p-463)

    "Let no one in the world remain in doubt
    That it could ever be possible to be saved without the Guru." 
    (Gaund Mohalla 5, p-864)

    "In this age of falsehood, Nam lieth hidden
    Though the Lord filleth all hearts, 
    The Jewel of Nam becomes manifest in the hearts of only those Who resort to the Guru's refuge." 
    (Parbhati Mohalla 3, p-1334)

    "All repeat God's Name, yet He is not attained
    But when through the Grace of the Guru
    God comes to reside in the mind 
    It is only then one's life becomes fruitful." 
    (Gujri Mohalla 3, p-491)

CONCEPT OF GURU:

The concept of Guru has been explained in the previous chapters. A yogi asked Guru Nanak who his Guru was? He replied,"The Word is Guru." God anointed Guru Nanak with His Word, His Wisdom (Logos), and the Guru's whole personality was Word-personified. The Guru made it very clear that his human body was not the Guru, and the mere outward glimpse of the Guru, or the outward profession of faith in him, could not bring the disciple close to the Guru. The light of the Word within his heart was the real Guru and the disciple should approach him with a receptive mind to receive His Light.

BAPTISM IN SIKHISM:

Nam is the whole source which takes a person back into the Unmanifest One. Guru is the sole Channel to Nam. The Gurmat tells us that the Jewel of Nam becomes manifest in the hearts of only those who resort to Guru's refuge.

    How do we resort to Guru's refuge?

When we go to the Guru, he gives us Nam and then we meditate upon the Guru given Nam which in turn takes us back to our destination, the Almighty.

How do we go to the Guru?

In Sikhism the one and the only one way to go to the Guru is through Baptism. A Sikh has to take Pauhal or Amrit, from the Five Beloved Ones (Panj Pyare), then he becomes of the Guru or Guruwala. Without baptism a Sikh remains without Guru or Nigura.

    "Nigure ka hai nau bura." 
    (Rag Asa Mohalla 3 Pati, p-435)

Everybody repeats God's Name, but simply repeating it He is not attained. When through the Grace of the Guru, Nam enshrines the mind, only then one's efforts of meditation become fruitful. Without the Grace of the Guru, a Sikh cannot attain his objective of salvation. In order to seek the Guru's Grace, we have to go to the Guru and that is only done through baptism.

    "Ram Ram sabh ko kahai kahiai ram na hoi 
    Gurparsadi Ram man vasai ta fal pavai koi."
    (Gujri Mohalla 3, p-491)

    'All repeat God's Name, yet He is not attained
    But when through the Grace of the Guru
    God comes to reside in the mind 
    It is only then one's life becomes fruitful.' 
    (Translation of the above)

The question arises, is there any other way for a Sikh to attain his objective of salvation?

No, says Gurmat, there is no other way. This world is a vast and formidable ocean of Maya (materialism). A Sikh has to cross this ocean to meet his Beloved God. The ocean seems endless and there are countless obstructions in the way. In order to get through this dangerous and formidable sea, one needs a strong ship and that ship is only the Guru, the Divine Light. In order to get into the Guru's ship, a Sikh needs a passport, and that passport is baptism.

    "Bhavjal bikham dravno na kandhi na par
    Na beri na tulha na tis vanj malar 
    Satgur bhai ka boihtha nadri par utar." 
    (Sri Rag Mohalla 1, p-59)

    'The fearful ocean of the world is dangerous and formidable; it hath no shore or limit, 
    No boat, no raft, no pole, and no boatman; 
    But the true Guru hath a vessel for the terrible ocean, and ferrieth over him on whom he looketh with favor.'
    (Translation of the above)

The ceremony of baptism was started by the very first Guru. Those persons who became Guru's Sikhs, were baptized by the Guru. By mere attending the assembly of the Guru, one did not automatically become a Sikh of the Guru. From the first to the tenth Guru, baptism ceremony consisted of taking Charanpauhal i.e. Guru's toe (or feet) was dipped in the water which was then given to the devotee to drink and also Gurmantar (Word) was given by the Guru. After the creation of the Khalsa, the tenth Guru changed this tradition and entrusted this ceremony to the Five Beloved Ones. After that those who accepted the Guru's religion (Sikh religion), were baptized and they were called the Khalsa (the word Sikh and Khalsa became synonymous). The Guru issued instructions to all to get baptized and join the order of the Khalsa.

Guru Gobind Singh was the first one to get baptized by the Five Beloved Ones. Let it, therefore, be very clear to every Sikh that in order to get into Guru's fold and seek Guru's grace, one will have to get baptized by the Five Beloved Ones. Only then one's efforts towards spiritualism become fruitful. From Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, those who called themselves Guru's Sikhs, were always baptized by the Gurus. It is the Guru's order for every Sikh to get baptized and therefore after obeying his order one can get accepted by the Guru:

    "Hukam maniai howai parvan ta khasmai ka mahal paisi."
    (Asa di Var pauri 15, p-471)

    'By obeying His order, one is acceptable 
    And shall then reach his Master's court." 
    (Translation of the above)

Baptism is only the starting point towards the attainment of spiritual goal. Virtuous and religious living according to the Guru Rahit Maryada (Code of Conduct) is to be cultivated in daily practical life. The codes of conduct include spiritual awakening, conscientious performance of one's duty, humility, temperance and charity. Mere outward faith without practical adherence to the codes of conduct, will not lead the disciple towards the spiritual goal. After baptism, through constant devotion and heartfelt love to the order of the Guru in every walk of life, the disciple seeks the Guru's grace. Through submission and unconditional surrender before the Guru, the devotee is reborn in the spirit of the Guru; and only at that stage a disciple is truly called a Sikh:

    'Guru sikh, sikh guru hai eko gur updes chalai 
    Ram nam mant hirdai devai Nanak milan subhai.' 
    (Asa Mohalla 4, p-444)

    "The Guru is a Sikh, the Sikh is a Guru; they are both one, but it is the Guru who giveth instruction
    He putteth the spell of God's Name in the heart, O Nanak, and then God is easily obtained." (Translation of the above)

HAUMAI (EGOISM - I-AM-NESS):

God is everywhere and within us too, but a veil of ego separates us from Him, it hides the Truth from us:

    "God, the Incomprehensible, is within us but not perceived
    For the screen the 'ego' hangs in between." 
    (Rag Sorath Mohalla 5, p-624)

All the five vices- lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego; are the obstructions in the way of spiritual path, but egoism is the paramount of all. In the Guru's words one of the most recurring key terms is Haumai (I-am-ness) which is regraded as synonymous with the most insidious evil. Egoism is the moral evil which is the root cause of all ill doings. This egoism is the consequence of illusion, of looking upon the individual-self as of paramount importance. All his activities are exclusively directed towards himself. "In ego he takes birth and in ego he dies," (Asa Mohalla 1, p-466). It spoils the fruit of great penances. The veil of ego when descends on a great Yogi makes him loose in a moment, whatever he had gained through self-mortification practised for years. This egoism is a disease and an obstacle in the way of spiritual uplift of an individual.

Purpose of life centers on the spiritual salvation of a man through the glorification of the Divine and imbibing Divine qualities in the process. Blinded by the ego man cannot perceive the glory of the Divine. Therefore, Nam will not reside in the mind as long as ego is there. Nam and ego are two opposing elements:

    "Haumai nawai nal virodh hai doai na vasai ek thai."
    (Wadhans Mohalla 3, p-560)

Egoistic mind cannot realize the 'morals' as laid down by the Guru, thus leaving the depressed soul groping in the dark, never realizing its goal. Egoism stands in the way of the desired spiritual attainment. Guru calls egoistic man as 'Manmukh'. By the grace of the Guru, ego is only burnt through the Sabad:

    "Gur kai Sabad parjaliai ta eh vicho jai." 
    (Bilawal ki var, Mohalla 3, p-853)

SALVATION - THE WAY TO GOD:

A body is dead without life and life itself is dead without Nam. Nam is the Elixir of life without which life would be meaningless and an accumulative waste. Forgetting Nam torments the soul. There is no spiritual awakening, no peace of mind, no joy and no bliss without Nam. Realization of Nam is the essential condition for a true and fruitful life.

    "The tongue that repeateth not His Name
    Better it be cut out bit by bit." 
    (Funhe Mohalla 5, p-1363)

Gurmat rejects all fasts, rites and rituals as a means to attain salvation. Gurmat rejects claims of yoga, mortification of body, self-torture and penances or renunciation. Gurmat does not believe in the worship of gods and goddesses, stones, statues, tombs, crematoriums, Samadhies, idols and pictures. Gurmat forbids the worship of anything of the Creation as a means to attain salvation. Only one God, the Formless, the Creator of the world is to be Glorified.

The road that leads to God is the most difficult and complex. Guru Nanak has made this road simple and as clear as crystal by showing us a technical approach. The Guru explains that since the human life is attained after passing through numerous lives, so it has gathered along the way impurities of every life it has passed through. Human mind has become black smeared with these impurities:

    "The impurity of many births hath attached to man's mind, and it hath become quite black." 
    (Slok Mohalla 3, p-651)

As long as the human mind remains impure, it will not merge with the One Who is Absolute Pure. As the mind becomes pure, the soul will merge with the Supreme Soul. How does the mind become pure?

    "Maen te dhokha ta lahai ja sifat kari ardas."
    (Rag Wadhans Mohalla 1, p-557)

    'Praise and prayer (to God) maketh the mind pure."
    (Translation of the above)

Those who have done it, have crossed the ocean of Maya and merged with Him:

    "Tu sacha sahib sifat sualio jin kiti so par piya."
    (Slok Mohalla 1, p-469)

    'Thou art the True Lord, Beautiful is Thy Praise; He who utters it, is saved.'
    (Translation of the above)

    Explanation: If a glass is full of dirty water, pour constantly pure water into it. The constant pouring of pure water into the glass, will throw the dirty water out of the glass and ultimately the glass itself will be full of pure water.

In the same way the constant prayer and praise of God, will clean the impure mind. Human mind is in chaotic state. It is full of five vices- lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride or ego. These are the obstacles in the realization of Nam. Purity of mind is needed for spiritual uplift. No man or monk can achieve salvation without disciplining the world of inner chaos. This discipline of inner chaos by banishing these five vices from the mind, is a pre-requisite for spiritual excellence which is commanded by the Guru. Singing the Glory of the Lord, the Mighty King, will help purge the mind of its impurities. By glorifying the Divine, the human mind imbibes divine qualities in the process. As a result when all the impurities are gone, Nam will enshrine the pure mind. This will lead to exalted mental state from chaotic state. Spiritual evolution will occur resulting in Heavenly Bliss:

    "Prayer and praise of God, shall give rise to Nam inside." 
    (Ramkali Mohalla 3-Anand, p-917)

Gurmat further states that when hands are smeared with ordinary dirt, simple water will wash it away. If urine makes the cloth dirty, ordinary water cannot wash it, only soap will clean it. Similarly when our mind is full of impurities (sins), it needs some strong detergent and that detergent is Nam:

    "As hands or feet besmirched with slime, Water washes white; As garments dark with grime, Rinsed with soap are made light; So when sin foils the soul, Prayer alone shall make it whole." 
    (Japji- pauri 20, p-4)

The effect of Prayer and Praise is, firstly all the impurities of the mind are washed away and it becomes pure; secondly as a result when the mind becomes pure, then the nectar of Nam enshrines the mind:

    "Prayer and praise of Almighty removeth the impurity of mind
    And the Ambrosial Nam then filleth the mind." 
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 1-4, p-263)

That is the stage a true devotee yearns for. By prayer and praise, one's mind comes in touch with Nam and becomes illuminated. An enlightened mind emerges and a person is reborn in the spirit of the Guru and he begins to make spiritual progress slowly. Nam is registered by the consciousness and penetrates into the human soul and mind. This glorious transformation or metamorphosis helps transcend human soul to a state of Absolute Bliss. It is a change in a person which occurs within the self from one form to another. The aspect of realization of God changes within and lifts the devotee from the Personal to the Impersonal. All boundaries, limitations and barriers are broken and the individual soul starts merging with the Supreme Soul, as water blends with water, the light blends with the Divine Light:

    "His soul and body dyed with the Name of One God Shall ever abide with the Supreme Soul. As water blendeth with water, So light is blended with Light. Transmigration is ended and rest obtained- Nanak is ever a sacrifice to the Lord." (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 11-8, p-278)

WHAT TO MEDITATE UPON OR HOW TO DO PRAISE AND PRAYER:

A Sikh is to worship only One God and None else. But God is Formless, then what to meditate upon? During the dialogue with the Sidhas, one Yogi called Charpat asked the Guru," O Guru, you say that one should not renounce the world rather live in it but the element of Maya (materialism) is so powerful, how can one overcome it and become one with God while living in Maya itself? Please explain your logic behind it."

    "The great sea of life is hard to cross, pray tell us how to get safely across it."
    (Sidh Gosht- Charpat, p-938)

Guru Nanak gave two examples:

A lotus flower always floats above the surface of the water. It cannot exist without water, yet it remains unaffected by the waves, always rising above the water level. A duck swims in the water but never lets its wings get wet. If its wings get wet, it will drown and the duck knows it. Although the duck cannot live without water, yet it disregards the waves.

In the same way a person cannot live without Maya (materialism) in the world, yet while living in it, we are to live above Maya. Material needs are desired and are necessary to sustain the very vital functions of life. Therefore, as a lotus flower and duck do not drown in the water while living in it, a person should remain detached and disinterested with Maya, not forgetting God. That is possible through praise and prayer. Communion with Sabad (Divine Word) will suppress the element of Maya and would enshrine Nam within oneself which in turn would lead a person back into the Unmanifest One:

    "As a lotus flower remains unaffected in water
    As also a duck swims in it and is not drenched by water 
    So with fixed intent on Sabad realizing Nam
    O Nanak, the dreadful world ocean is crossed safely." 
    (Ramkali Mohalla 1, Sidh Gosht.5, p-938)

To achieve an objective in life, a complete attention and dedication is required. The purity of mind and the sincerity of purpose are the requisites to obtain such an object. This task becomes more and more difficult when the object is Formless God. When we recite Gurbani, and if we do not know the meaning of the Sabad which is being recited, our meditation becomes mechanical, formalistic and hence futile. The result cannot be positive. Secondly, even if we know the meaning of the Sabad, but our mind is not in the Sabad and it keeps wandering away while we are reciting the Sabad, the outcome will not be significant. One must, therefore, remember that Prayer with absent mindedness will not be fruitful and thereby not acceptable to the Lord ('Ardas hazuri di manzoor hundi hai'). Attentive, alert and completely untainted mind is required for meditation. 

Thus whenever we read, hear or sing Gurbani (Sabad), we must put our whole ATTENTION IN THE MEANING OF THE SABAD, which is being read, heard or sung. As our attention of mind and Sabad become one, our mind starts taking the impact of the spirit of the Sabad and the result of this COMMUNION IS BLISS, PEACE AND EVERLASTING JOY. In this communion one experiences a taste which cannot be described and is called Heavenly Elixir (Hari Ras):

    "O man, all other 'Rasas' (things of relish) thou tasteth Satiate not thy thirst even for a moment. 
    But if thou ever tasteth the Heavenly Elixir (Hari Ras) Thou shalt be simply wonder-stuck."
    (Gauri Guareri Mohalla 5, p-180)

When the communion of mind with Sabad is established, the disciple is reborn in the Spirit of the Guru. He then blends with the Word (Sabad), and never faces death after this spiritual rebirth:

    "He who dies in the Word, never dies again And his devotion becometh fruitful."
    (Rag Sorath, Slok Mohalla 3, p-649)

Those who establish communion with Sabad (Gurbani - Divine Word), shall certainly experience uninterrupted Bliss:

    "He will become holy, holy, holy, shalt undoubtedly be holy O Nanak, who uttereth Nam with heartfelt love." 
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 12-8, p-279)

A FEW SABADS OF PRAISE AND PRAYER:

    "Thou art the Lord, I make this supplication unto Thee; 
    Soul and body are all Thy gifts. 
    Thou art mother and father, we are Thy children; 
    By Thy favor we obtain many comforts.
    Nobody knows Thy limit;
    O God, Thou art the most Exalted of the exalted.
    The whole creation is strung on Thy Will;
    And must obey the orders Thou issuest.
    Only Thou knowest Thine Own condition and limit; 
    Nanak, Thy servant, is ever a sacrifice unto Thee." 
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, IV-8, p-268)

     

    "O Eternal, O Infinite, Imperishable, Destroyer of sins;
    O Competent, O All-Pervading, Destroyer of sufferings, Ocean of Virtues. 
    O Companion, O Formless, O Bodiless, Prop of all; 
    O World-Creator, O Treasure of attributes, in Thy court there is always justice.
    O Incomprehensible, Destroyer of sins, most remote Thou
    art, wast, and shalt be;
    O Constant Companion of saints, Support of supportless. 
    O Lord! I am Thy servant, I am virtueless, I have no merit; 
    Saith Nanak, grant me the gift of Thy Nam that I may engrave it in my heart." 
    (Gauri Bavan Akhri Mohalla 5, 55, p-261)

     

    "Thou art my father, Thou art my mother, 
    Thou art my relation, Thou art my brother,
    Thou art my protector everywhere; then why should I fear O my mind.

    By Thy favor I recognize Thee; 
    Thou art my shelter, Thou art my honor. 
    Besides Thee there is none other, the whole world is the arena of Thy play. 
    Men and lower animals all hast Thou created;
    Thou didst appoint them to whatever duties pleaseth Thee.
    Everything happens according to Thy Will, there is nothing ours. 
    I have obtained great comfort by meditating on Thy Name; 
    And my mind is refreshed by singing Thy praises. 
    The perfect Guru hath congratulated me; Nanak hath overcome his difficulties." 
    (Majh Mohalla 5, p-103)

     

    "Ocean of mercy, dwell for ever in my heart;
    So enlighten my understanding that I may love Thee, O God. 
    May I obtain the dust of Thy saints' feet and apply to my forehead; 
    From being a great sinner may I be purified by singing Thy praises. 
    May Thine order be sweet to me, and what Thou doest please me;
    May what Thou givest, satiate me, and I may run after no one else. 
    O Lord, may I ever know Thee near me, and may I remain the dust of all men's feet; 
    May I meet the company of saints so that I may obtain my God. 
    We are ever ever Thy children; Thou, O God, art our Master; 
    Nanak is Thy child, Thou art mother father: put Thy Nam in my mouth."
    (Todi Mohalla 5, p-712)

     


    "O Lord, the Pardoner, O compassionate to the poor,
    O Kinder to the saints and ever Merciful.
    O Patron of the patronless, world Protector, world Sustainer,
    Thou cherisheth all creatures. 
    O Primal Being, the Creator of the world, 
    Thou art the support of the souls of the devotees. 
    He shall become pure, whosoever repeateth Thy Name,
    With devotion, affection and heartfelt love. 
    We are devoid of virtue, low and ignorant, 
    Nanak seeketh Thy protection O Supreme Power." 
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 20-7, p-290)

PILGRIMAGES- Bathing at Holy Places:

A great deal of emphasis on rituals had been the way of Indian religious life for the millions before Guru Nanak appeared on the scene. Wherever Guru Nanak went, he tried to emancipate the masses from the shackles of superstition and ignorance, and instil faith in One All-Pervading and Formless God. At that time people believed that bathing in the river Ganges and other holy places would absolve them of their sins. The Guru asserted that mere bathing at these sacred places, would not cleanse the mind riddled with the impurity of egoism.

    "Tirath bharmas biadh na jawai 
    Nam bina kaise sukh pawai." 
    (Ramkali Mohalla 1, p-906)

    'Wandering through the pilgrim places, 
    One is not rid of one's maladies. 
    There can be no peace without Nam.'
    (Translation of the above)

The Guru stressed that no abiding peace could be achieved without meditating on Divine Name. Meditation on Nam is the only true pilgrimage:

    "Tirath nahvan jao tirath nam hai 
    Tirath sabad vichar unter gian hai." 
    (Dhanasri Mohalla 1, p-687)

    'Shall we go to bathe at the pilgrim places? 
    No. Nam is the only true pilgrimage. 
    Pilgrimage is the contemplation on the Word 
    That gives inner spiritual light.'
    (Translation of the above)

The Guru emphasizes the futility of rushing to the sacred bathing places for the expiation of sins. Guru Nanak states in Japji that he would bathe at the spots considered sacred, if it could please the Lord. The implication is that such ceremonies by themselves would not win God's approbation, without cultivating the moral life:

    "If it pleaseth the Lord
    I would bathe at the sacred places. 
    If it pleaseth Him not Worthless is that pilgrimage.
    I see in the whole world around 
    That nothing can be gained without right action." 
    (Japji, pauri-6)

In another place, the Guru has compared those who bathe at the sacred places to attain merit, with jars full of poison, which are washed only from outside. It means that the evil inside a man, cannot be removed despite outward ritual performances.

CASTE SYSTEM AND SOCIAL EQUALITY:

In an age when class distinction was very rigid and when the bonds of caste system in India had strictly divided the people, Guru Nanak taught equality and brotherhood. The Guru rose above rites and rituals, above creeds and conventions, above all national-cults and all race-cults, to a vision of the deeds of love. He preached a religion of love, sacrifice and service. Complete equality among men was declared by the Sikh Gurus to be the fundamental moral principle required to regulate the social relations and communication.

The Guru points out that there is no fundamental difference among men of different castes in terms of physical constitution. In a polemical discussion with the Brahmans, Kabir inquires:

    "How are you a Brahman and I am a low caste?
    Is it that I have blood in my veins and you have milk?" 
    (Gauri Kabir p-324)

This exposes the absurdity of any contention or a claim by the higher caste men that there are physical differences among men of the different castes.

The Guru points out that the laws of nature do no react differently in respect to the higher caste men. Since the nature makes no discrimination in favor of the higher caste men by recognizing their superiority in any manner, the myth of caste superiority is clearly seen as man-made. The Guru states:

    "What merit is in caste? 
    The real truth is that he who tastes the poison will die." 
    (Var Majh, Mohalla 1, p-142)

The Guru vehemently regards caste as an abnormality and social perversity when he says:

    "Every one says there are four castes, but it is from God that every one comes; 
    The same is the clay which fashions the whole world; 
    The five elements make up the body's form, and who can say who has less of these or who has more?"
    (Rag Bhairon Mohalla 3, p-1128)

The Guru denies that caste was prevalent from the beginning. In the primordial state:

    "No man of caste or birth could be seen ................
    There was no distinction of color or coat or of the Brahman or Kashatriya......." 
    (Maru Mohalla 1, p-1035-36)

The claim that the different caste men had emanated from the different parts of the Primeval Man is also repudiated by the Guru:

    "His caste is castelessness. He is incarnated not, He is Self- Existent....... 
    All hearts are illuminated by the Light of the Lord...." 
    (Sorath Mohalla 1, 1-2 of 6, p-597)

The Guru, thus, refuses to accredit the caste institution in social ethics and further denies God having favored a few by bringing them out from the higher parts of His body. (These were some of the arguments of the Brahmans to have superiority from birth over low castes).

Finally it is held by the Guru that the caste is of no consideration in the spiritual realization, that men of lower caste need not wait to be born again in the next higher class for the attainment of deliverance:

    "Tumra jan jat avijata har japio patat pavichhe."
    (Basant Mohalla 4, p-1178)

    'Whosoever contemplates on God, caste or no caste,
    he becomes a blessed devotee of God." 
    (Translation of the above)

The tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, declared caste a taboo in the order of the Khalsa. In Akal Ustat, he states," There is no consideration of caste or membership of varnas." He further writes,"I shall not adopt the habits of any creed, but shall sow the seeds of the pure love of God." (Vachitar Natak, chap. 6, verse 34). The first of the Sikhs baptized into the order of the Khalsa belonged to different castes. The theory of separate duties for different castes was replaced by the same ethical and religious duties for all men. Therefore, the fundamental equality of all men was ensured by free and voluntary admission into the order of the Khalsa.

Social Equality:

Wealth also provides a determinant of social classes as against birth in the case of caste system. In Sikhism the relation among classes based on economic resources is envisaged in terms of equality. It rejects the notion of superiority of the economically better placed class over others. The Guru says:

    "The man who knoweth God looketh on all men as equal,
    As the wind bloweth on the commoner and the king alike."
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 8-1, p-272)

Thus in Sikhism the higher classes are not governed by any separate code of ethics, but all men, rich or poor, are entitled to equal judgement, value and social equality. Since the death is the leveller, the Guru highlights this notion:

    "One lives not for ever in the world; 
    Neither king nor beggar would remain, they all come and go."
    (Ramkali Mohalla 1, 11, p-931)

Therefore improper consideration of the superiority of rank are based on a wrong conception of the nature of the world. The need for the recognition of human dignity, irrespective of economic classes, is also stressed in an anecdote from the biography of Guru Nanak called the story of Bhai Lalo and Malik Bhago. In that incident Guru Nanak refused a rather sumptuous dinner of Malik Bhago for the ordinary bread of the coarse grain of Bhai Lalo. The moral is drawn that the poor ought not to be treated as low, all must be treated as equal irrespective of their material resources.

STATUS OF WOMEN:

The position of a woman in the society in India, has not been always the same. While at times she had been accorded a very high status, there are also historical and scriptural instances when under some influences, she has been relegated to an inferior position. At the start of Sikhism the status of women was very low in Indian society.

In Sikhism it is considered preposterous to regard woman a 'temptress' or 'seductress' or 'unclean'. The Guru does not regard 'woman' as an obstruction on the way to ultimate goal of Eternal Bliss. This being so, the Guru rejects asceticism or renunciation as the requisite pathway, and regards the house-holder's life if it is led in a righteous manner, superior to that of an ascetic. By emphasizing this type of vision to the people, the Guru stresses that women should be given honorable status in every social segment of the society. Guru Nanak asserted that women were not at all inferior to men:

    "From the woman is our birth, in the woman's womb are we shaped; 
    To the woman we are engaged, to the woman we are wedded; 
    The woman is our friend and from the woman is the family; 
    If one woman dies, we seek another, through the woman are the bonds of the world; 
    Why call woman evil who gives birth to kings? 
    From the woman comes the woman, without woman there is none; 
    O Nanak, God alone is the one Who is independent of the woman (because He is unborn)."
    (Var Asa Mohalla 1, 2-19, p-473)

This declaration shows unequivocally the high esteem in which a woman's status is held in Sikhism. Woman 'the mother of mighty heroes' is elevated to the highest position in the hierarchy of beings.

In the moral codes of the Sikhs a large number of injunctions deal with the rejection of unethical practices like- (i) female infanticide; (ii) immolation of the widow (Sati) with the deceased husband, and (iii) wearing of veils by women. In the ancient period in India, it was stated according to spiritual authority that self-immolation on the funeral pyre of her husband was the only meritorious course that a virtuous woman could follow; not only would such a woman enjoy eternal bliss in heaven along with her husband, but her action would expiate the sins of three generations of her husband's family both on his father's and mother's side.

Guru Amar Das, the third Master, carried out a vigorous campaign against this practice of Sati, and thereby he emancipated the women from this social oppression and religious cruelty. The Guru declared that "the Sati is one who lives contented and embellishes herself with good conduct, and cherishes the Lord ever and calls on Him." (Rag Suhi, Slok Mohalla 3, 2-6, p-787)

One of the most notable social improvement was the emancipation of women. Many women found salvation through the Guru's teachings. In Sikhism widow remarriage is also permitted whereby the widow can be rehabilitated if she so desires.

INSTITUTIONS OF SANGAT AND PANGAT:

SANGAT- Society of the Holy:
Sangat means assembly or congregation, but in Sikhism Sangat is usually called Sat Sangat (holy congregation) which may be defined as the Home of Truth where people love God and learn to live in Him:

    "Sat Sangat kaisi janiai jithai eko nam vakhaniai." 
    (Sri Rag Mohalla 1, p-72)

    'How should we know of Sat Sangat? 
    Where the lovers of Truth hold communion with One Lord alone.'
    (Translation of the above)

Again the fourth Guru gives definition of Sangat:

    "Sat Sangat is the school of the True Guru, 
    There we learn to love God and appreciate His greatness."
    (Var Kanra Mohalla 4, p-1313)

Guru Nanak attached great importance to the setting up of Sangats, the holy assemblies, and wherever he went, he tried to establish them. The Divine Word (Gurbani) and the Sat Sangat were the only two means that the Guru employed to rid the people of their selfishness and evil passions; and finally for their salvation and for uniting them with God:

    "Sat Sangat is the treasury of Divine Name; 
    There we meet God; 
    Through the Grace of Guru,
    One receives there Light and all darkness is dispelled."
    (Sarang ki Var, Mohalla 1, p-1244)

It is well recognized fact that spiritual progress cannot be achieved without the company of the Holy. The society of the holy is the means of destroying egoism and helps one in freeing oneself from evil passions:

    "The dirt of egoism of ages which has soiled the soul, Will be removed only in the Society of the Holy. Just as iron floats when tied to timber So will one cross the ocean of life by following The Guru's Word in the company of the saints."
    (Kanra Mohalla 4, p-1309)

    "O friend, tell me how I might cross Through the difficult ocean of Maya; If God in His mercy gives the fellowship of the Truthful Nanak, Maya cannot come even near."
    (Bavan Akhri Mohalla 5,(7), p-251)

Wherever Guru Nanak went, the Sikhs built Gurdwara (house of the Guru) and met there every day and formed into a regular Sangat. From the time of the third Master, Guru Amar Das, it was felt that the Sikhs should have their own seats of religion. He founded the town of Chak Ram Das which subsequently got its present name, Amritsar; and he got a Bawli (a well with staircase reaching down to the water surface) constructed at Goindwal. The fourth and fifth Masters also evinced great interest in building up new religious centers for their followers such as Amritsar, Kartarpur etc. These religious centers formed a great cementing force for the rising Sikh community. The Sikh Sangats from far and near used to visit these centers and had the opportunity not only meeting the Holy Guru and having his blessings, but also coming into close contact with one another. During their visit they were provided with free accommodation and free food. Simron (participation in daily religious service) and seva (participation in the community projects and Guru ka Langar, kitchen) were the two major constituents of the daily routine of the visiting Sikhs. These close contacts formed the bases of a well-integrated Sikh organization.

The process of integration of Sikhism went hand in hand with the enlargement of its ranks. During the time of the third Guru, there were twenty-two manjis and fifty-two piris, which were all big and small centers for the spread of Sikh religion in the country. Guru Ram Das, the fourth Master, established a new order of missionaries called Masands. This new order was reorganized and elaborated by the fifth Guru. As the number of new Sikh Sangats grew larger in the country, the mode of initiation of prospective Sikhs through the ceremony of Charanpauhal (Charanamrit) was allowed to all authorized missionaries. Although the ideal Charanamrit was the one administered by the Guru himself, since it was not possible for the Guru to be present physically everywhere, the authority of initiation was delegated to local missionaries. The bulk of the people who came to the fold of Sikhism as a result of the above efforts, were drawn from the commercial classes mostly dwelling in the towns. During the period of the fifth Guru, the movement became popular in the country side also, with the result that a large number of Majha Jats embraced Sikhism.

Finances are most necessary for the success of any movement. In the beginning, the voluntary offerings of the devotees were sufficient. When big projects were undertaken, the existing practice was found inadequate. In order to meet the situation, the masands were required not merely to concentrate on the dissemination of Sikh teachings, but also to collect voluntary offerings from the faithful and to bring them to the headquarters of the Guru.

In the very beginning Sikh sangat was merely a religious gathering of devotees, functioning more or less in isolation. Gradually there was an increase in its functions. Preparation of copies of holy scripture, the building up of certain religious centers, institutions of Manjis and Masands as the agencies of the central leadership and the assertion of the principle of the supremacy of the Guru, all these factors were common links in uniting one to another. Therefore, the isolation of one from another was lessened. The movement continued till it culminated in the creation of the Khalsa aimed at a well-balanced combination of the ideals of Bhakti and Shakti, of moral and spiritual excellence and militant valour or heroism of the highest order. A day before he left this world, Guru Gobind Singh made the historic announcement abolishing the line of personal Guruship and conferring the powers of deliberation upon the Khalsa. With the foundation of the Khalsa, the network of semi-integrated Sangats was fully integrated. The investing of Khalsa with supreme power, marked the completion of this long process of about two and a half centuries.

Any one irrespective of caste, creed and cline can become a member of the Sangat. All services can be performed by the Sikh and non-Sikh devotees except the functions of baptism which can only be performed by the ordained Khalsa who has lived up to the ideals. Sangat is not merely a gathering of worshippers nor is it just a forum for seeking personal salvation and blessedness, but it has stood for the total re-orientation of life of the individuals and society towards a creative purposeful existence. Sangat was considered to be so important that even the Gurus used to submit to the decisions of it. Guru Arjan did not marry his son to Chandu's daughter because Sangat had decided against it. Sangat can be a small unit but in its Totality, it is called Panth- The Holy Way of Life.

PANGAT- Guru's Free Kitchen known as Langar:

Another institution, that of Pangat or Langar (free common messing), organized almost simultaneously with that of Sangat. It was initiated by Guru Nanak and its consolidation and extension was affected by the third Guru. The rules of the Langar require that all should sit in the same row and partake of the same food without any distinction of high or low, rich or poor, and prince or the peasant. It was the injunction of Guru Amar Das that none could have his audience unless he had eaten in the Langar. When the Raja of Haripur or even Emperor Akbar, came to see the Guru, they had to sit with other common people and dine together with them before the Master gave consent to see them. In this way the people were made to renounce their social prejudices. Common kitchen also served as a medium of social integration.

The institution of Pangat imparted a secular dimension to the Sangat. Most importantly it translated the principle of equality into practice, and it also served as a cementing force among the followers of Sikhism.

This institution provides safeguard against the immoral social practice of untouchability which is a by-product of the caste system. This institution is run with the help and contributions of all and not by any one particular person or class of persons. The free kitchen where prince and peasant could mess together, fostered a spirit of charity on a large scale and also became a powerful binding force.

UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD:

The ideal of social equality is not the ultimate aim of the ethics of Sikhism. This equality may be maintained without feeling any affection or regard for each other, but such bare equality would not be enough because it does not conform to the ideal of humanistic morality. Hence in order to make it whole, it should be saturated with the idea of spiritual unity of mankind. The Guru stated:

    "As out of a single fire, millions of sparks arise; arise in separation but come together again when they fall back in the fire. As from a heap of dust, grains of dust sweep up and fill the air, and filling it fall in a heap of dust. As out of single stream, countless waves rise up and being water, fall back in water again. So from God's form emerge alive and inanimate things and since they arise from Him, they shall fall in Him again." 
    (Guru Gobind Singh- Akal Ustat)

This means that every human being deserves to be treated as a member of the same human brotherhood. The fellow human being is not an 'other'. The Guru says:

    "Meeting with the Guru, I have abandoned the sense of the otherness." 
    (Bhiro Mohalla 5, 1-29-42, p-1148)

The other is in fact not an 'other' but a co-sharer of the same source of emanation and a part of the same spiritual order. This sense of brotherhood of humanity is, thus, linked together by bonds deeper than family, social or national affinities. This brotherhood of mankind in terms of God being the common father is stressed by the Guru:

    "Thou art the father of us all.......all are the partners, Thou art alien to none." 
    (Majh Mohalla 5, p-97)

The Guru is pointing to the common bonds of existence in the world:

    "Air is the Guru, water is father, great earth the mother;
    In the lap of two nurses, night and day, the whole world is brought up."
    (Japji, Slok, p-8)

According to the Guru, the brotherhood is the reality but it is hidden from us by the veil of houmai (I-am-ness or individuation). Houmai is the dirt over our mind which it has gathered during the process of transmigration. Once this dirt over our mind is removed and the veil of houmai (I-am-ness) is felled, the relationship across the human lines becomes a clear reality. As long as our minds remain under veil of I-am-ness, our understanding will continue to be hollow and away from reality. How do we clean our mind?

As mentioned before the Guru gives direction how to clean the mind:

    "Only through praise and prayer to God 
    Mind will become pure."
    (Wadhans Mohalla 1, p-557)

Once mind becomes pure, it attains a spiritual height in which reality opens up and all delusion is gone and then sense of universal brotherhood prevails: "There is One father of us all And we are children of the same father." (Sorath Mohalla 5, p-611)

    "I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim; 
    The soul and body belong to God whether He be called Allhah or Ram." 
    (Bhairo Mohalla 5, p-1136)

    "O eyes of mine, God infused light unto you, look at none but God; Look at none but God; look on Him intently. 
    All this world which you behold is God's image; God's image appeareth in it.
    When by the Guru's grace I received understanding, 
    I saw that God was One, and that there was none besides.
    Saith Nanak, these eyes were blind, but on meeting the true
    Guru they obtained divine light."
    (Ramkali Mohalla 3, Anand-36, p-922)

Once by the grace of the Guru, our heart is filled with divine light, then there is no 'other', there is no enmity, no hatred, but it is all altruism and service for the brotherhood of mankind. In the practical experience we find an example of Bhai Ghanaya. In the battlefield Bhai Ghanaya was on duty to serve water to the thirsty. He was found serving water to the Sikhs as well as to the Hindus and Muslims alike. The Sikhs complained to the Guru that Bhai Ghanaya was serving water to the enemy soldiers who after getting water, became afresh and fought against them. The Guru sent for him and asked him what the Sikhs had complained. Bhai Ghanaya replied," O true king, I do not see who is a friend and who is a foe. I see your image in every one of them alike. I saw that they were all your Sikhs and none else and so I served water to every one of them."

This is the desired mental stage commanded by the Guru when a person's mind is lifted above the lines of religion, color, race or national entity; and the sense of real universal brotherhood is born:

    "There is no enemy, none is 'other', 
    A sense of universal brotherhood has come to me."
    (Kanra Mohalla 5, p-1299)

Sikhism believes in it, stands for it and takes practical measures to realize it. There are numerous examples in the Sikh history to emphasize this fact.

Guru Nanak travelled for fourteen years on foot and he covered the area from Assam Hills in the east of India to as far as Iran and Iraq in the west; from Tibet in the north to Ceylon in the south. During this long journey he went to various famous Hindu temples and their learning centers, Maths of Sidhas, and the various centers of Mohammadans including Mecca, and delivered the Divine Message (brotherhood of mankind and Fatherhood of God) for which he came to this world. Never he asked any one to become his disciple in order to go to heaven. He rather held guarantee to the entire humanity that if a person, irrespective of race, color, caste, creed, sex, religion or nationality, meditated on God, the Formless One, would get deliverance:

    "Jo jo japai so hoai punit
    Bhagat bhai lavai manhit." 
    (Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 20-7, p-290)

    'He shall become pure, whosoever repeateth His Name
    With devotion, affection and heartfelt love." 
    (Translation of the above)

Sikhism fully stands for universal brotherhood in word and in spirit. Every Sikh living in every corner of the world when he prays in the morning and in the evening, ends his prayer by saying:

"By Thy Grace, may every one be blessed in the world."

PICTURES OF THE GURUS:

Some artists have painted imaginary pictures of all the ten Gurus. Have these artists ever seen the Gurus? One can find these pictures hanging in almost all the Gurdwaras and in the majority of the Sikh homes. The irony of fate is that many of the Sikhs place garlands of flowers upon these pictures and also burn incense in front of them. Is it not idol (picture) worship? How can we call this Gurmat? In Zafarnama which Guru Gobind Singh wrote to Emperor Aurangzeb, he mentioned about hill Rajas, "They worshipped idols, and I was an idol-breaker.." While the Guru was an idol-breaker, his so called Sikhs have now become idol (picture) worshippers!

From Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, emphasis was laid to worship only one God, the Formless, and they strongly forbade the worship of idols, crematoriums, Samadhies, tombs etc. etc. These picture worshippers quote the following verses of Gurbani in support of their action:

    'Gur ki murat man meh dhyan.' 
    (Gaund Mohalla 5, p-864)

    'Worship Guru's picture in mind.' 
    (Translation of the above)

    'Satgur ki murat hirdai vasai.'
    (Dhanasri Mohalla 1, p-661)

What is GURU and what is Guru's MURAT (picture)?

As explained earlier in this book, according to Gurbani Guru is not body (deh), Guru is Jot (Divine Light) and Guru's murat (picture) is the Divine Word (Gurbani):

    'Jot roop har aap gur nanak kahaio.'
    (Swayas Bhattan p-1408)

The Gurmat (Guru's teaching) explains that true Guru is not a physical body and therefore the body is not considered to be worthy of any kind of worship:

    'Satgur niranjan soi 
    Manukh ka kar roop na jan.' 
    (Ramkali Mohalla 5, p-895)

Therefore, the meaning of "Gur ki murat man meh dhayan" is clearly not the worship of Guru's picture but to put attention in the meaning of the Sabad (Word). Gurbani confirms that by seeing Guru's physical body, salvation cannot be attained:

    'Satgur no sabh ko vekhda jeta jagat sansar 
    Didhai mukat na hovai jichar sabad na kare vichar.' 
    (Slok Mohalla 3, p-594)

If by seeing Guru's body one can get salvation, then Mehta Kaluji would not have slapped his son, Guru Nanak. Since the father had seen the Guru, he should have attained salvation. Instead history has recorded that Mehta Kaluji could not see the Divine Light in his son and continued slapping him. If by seeing Guru's body one can get salvation, both sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das, would not have disobeyed the Guru, their father. The executioner who was pouring hot sand over the naked body of Guru Arjan, would not have done that, because he had seen the Guru and should have gotten salvation. The executioner would not have severed the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur, because he had seen the Guru. Therefore, when the Guru Jot was in human body even then the mere sight of the Guru's physical body did not give salvation to any one, how can these Fake Pictures salvage us? They can only derail us from the true prescribed path of Gurmat.

In Tavparsad Swayas the Guru describes that those who worship the idols are 'Pas' (animal like):

    "Kou butan ko pujat hai 'pas' kou butan ko pujan dhayo."

Translation:

    'Some worshipping stones put them on their heads,
    some hang lingams from their necks; 
    Some see God in the south, 
    some bow their heads to the west;
    Some fools worship idols, others busy themselves with
    worshipping the dead; 
    The whole world entangled in false ceremonies hath 
    not found God's secret.'
    (Guru Gobind Singh- Tavparsad Swayas)

Some Sikhs are also wearing necklaces with Guru's picture around their necks. Is it Gurmat? This is totally manmat,this is perverseness. Guru is not an idol. Guru is not a picture. Guru is not a human body. After he breathed his last, none could find Guru Nanak's body. Therefore Guru is JOT. Guru is Divine Light. Guru is All-pervading Divine Spirit. Guru is Divine Word (Gurbani). To garland the imaginary pictures of the Gurus is totally anti-Gurmat. How can we have Guru's blessings when we act against the very dictum of the Guru?

The Impersonal Absolute cannot be installed as an image. He has no form and, thus, cannot be described through symbols. Such actions in themselves would not win Guru's approbation. Without total allegiance to the Guru's order, Sikh faith would be burried deep under a heap of senseless dogmas, meaningless rituals and ceremonial acts.

Sikhism is not a dogma but a way of life lived according to Guru Rahit Maryada (code of conduct). A Sikh has to hold his Guru's word as paramount in his daily existence. Without glorifying His presence in one's existence, life will be contaminated and polluted and will be in deplorable state which will lead to spiritual degeneration. Deep and continuous contemplation on Nam is needed and is indispensable for the exalted state of Sikh character. Nam is neither a philosophy nor knowledge to be gained from books. It dwells within and is realized from within through the grace of the true Guru (Gurbani - Divine Word). Let the following be our daily supplication:

    "O my friend, the Divine Guru!
    Illuminate my mind with the Name Divine! 
    Let the Name revealed to me by the Guru be my life-companion; 
    And singing Thy Glory be my daily routine."
    (Rag Gujri Mohalla 4, p-10)

Introduction to Sikhism:The Sikh Philosophy

(Besides the absolute value of the Divine itself the Sikh Value System comprises the following.

(I) Physico-economic values : A Sikh treats body as the sacred abode of the Spirit. There is no place for austerities and torturing of the body as a way of salvation.

(2) Intellectual Values : Knowledge and wisdom are the key ­concepts; reason plays the pivotal role and truth is the highest value to be cherished.

(3) Aesthetic Values : Loving devotion to the Lord, generating ecstatic state of bliss leading to the enjoyment of the grandeur and beauty of His creation.

(4) Ethical Values : Virtue as reflected in valor, purity of conduct, realization of the Divine presence in all the human beings and service of the mankind.

(5) Spiritual Values : Mukti and Nirvana in Sikhism is emancipation in life through Divine Grace.

The three pillars of the Such way of life are -

a) Naam-Japna: Meditation of God

Sikhs are directed to concentrate their minds on God, to reflect on God's virtues such as love, benevolence, and kindness. Sikhs practice this to inculcate such virtues into their own character. This can be done by reciting Gurbani, by listening to the singing of hymns from Gurbani, or by sitting in a quiet place and attentively thinking of God, forgetting all else.

Through this constant meditation, and not simply the repeating of a mantra, Sikhs develop a feeling of affection and love for humanity. Such a person does not merely talk about the brotherhood of humanity but actually tries to feel it continuously throughout their life. The thought of being a member of this human family becomes stronger and stronger and soon this fact is reflected in the daily behavior of the devotee. Such a Sikh derives immense pleasure and satisfaction by observing the presence of God in every human being.

This achievement or realization changes the thinking and behavior of such persons and instead of hurting others, they enjoy utilizing their life serving society. They cannot think of doing any act to harm others, because they "see" the living God inside every human being. This is why Nam is given the highest priority in the Sikh faith.

b) Kirt Karni: .Earningwith hard labor.

Sikhs are advised to earn their livelihood by honest means. They are not supposed to be a parasites on society. Non-earners become dependent on others and because of this, are influenced to think and act as their benefactors expect. Such a person is unable to think or act independently.

Furthermore, a Sikh's earnings, however large or small, should come from honest means. If a person is dishonest, and takes what is not justly his, the Gurus declare these earnings as the 'blood of the poor'. They are prohibited to Sikhs, just as beef is prohibited to Hindus and pork to Muslims.

There is temptation to live a comfortable life by earning money through unfair means. The Gurus want us to resist this desire by keeping in mind that such earnings pollute the mind in the same way that blood stains our clothes. Only honest earnings are like "milk" and hence "nourishing".

Kirat Karni is one of three primary pillars of Sikhism. The term means to earn a honest, pure and dedicated living by exercising ones God given skills, abilities, talents and hard labour for the benefit and improvement of the individual, their family and society at large. This means to work with determination and focus by the sweat of your brows and not to be lazy and to waste your life to time. To do these things without 'personal gain' becoming your main motivation - Make Simran and dedication of the work to God your main motivation. To perform Kirat is like saying a prayer or performing meditation. It is equal to your Sunday Service attendance at your place of worship. 

On page 8 of SGGS, Guru Ji says: Those who have meditated on the Naam, the Name of the Lord, and departed after having worked by the sweat of their brows 

-O Nanak, their faces are radiant in the Court of the Lord, and many are saved along with them! ||1||
 And again on page 317 

Deep within the hearts of His GurSikhs, the True Guru is pervading. The Guru is pleased with those who long for His Sikhs. 

As the True Guru directs them, they do their work and chant their prayers. The True Lord accepts the service of His GurSikhs

c) Wand Chhakna: Sharing one's earning with the needy.

The recitation of Nam helps disciples realize that they are members of the human brotherhood. This thought creates in them feelings of kindness and love for those who need their help. As a consequence, they enjoy sharing their earnings with those less fortunate. The Guru advises them that it is their duty to share their earnings with the needy just as it is the duty of parents to supply their children with clothing and other necessities.

This sharing must be done out of a sense of responsibility, and not of pride. A person can judge their closeness to God by sharing their bread with the needy. If this can be done without feeling as if they are doing someone a favor, then they are on the right path and are close to God.

Some broadcast their contributions and feel proud of their "benefactor"image. It is this ego (ahankar) that denies them the spiritual benefits obtained by remaining humble.

d) Worshipping the Eternal God (Puja Akal Ki)

The Guru advises us to worship only the one almighty God and not to worship forces of the universe or mythical beings. It is the Creator, and not the creation, that is important. Hinduism encourages its followers to venerate many different mediators. It differs from Sikhism in this fundamental issue and because of this, Sikhism cannot be considered a sect of Hinduism.

How do Sikhs worship God? By thinking of Him and by believing in the brotherhood of mankind. For Sikhs, God does not reside in the seventh or fourteenth sky, or any other place far from the earth. God lives in the hearts of humans. There is no place without Him. He expresses Himself through His creation. In other words, worship of God is accomplished by meditating on Him, His virtues and His grace.

 e) Understanding Gurbani (Paricha Shabad Ka)

Sikhs are required to regularly read and understand the Gurbani written within the Guru Granth Sahib. Gurbani teaches God's virtues and how they can be revealed to us.

The daily recitation of hymns reminds us repeatedly of the pitfalls of egotism, anger, lust, attachment, and greed. The hymns encourage readers to develop good character by constantly reminding that these virtues bring peace.

Sikhs accept the word of the Guru as their guide. They regard the Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru because from Gurbani, they obtain the spiritual guidance they need.

f) Appreciating the Sikh Reht (Didar Khalsa Ka)

Sikhs do not worship pictures or idols of God or the Gurus. Nor do they honor any living individual as their Guru. They respect the decision of the corporate body of the Singhs, the Khalsa, since the tenth Guru bestowed the authority of Guruship on this body.

g) Working and wishing well for all of humanity (Sarbat ka bhala)

The importance that Sikhs attach to working and wishing well for others can be seen in the fact that Sikhs pray aloud at least twice a day:

"O God, in Your Name, shower Your blessings on everyone."

In other words, Sikhs pray not only for themselves alone but also for all of humanity.

This belief in the oneness of humanity, and the insistence on working for the welfare of all people, whether Sikhs or not, at the cost of sacrificing one's life, is what sets Sikhism apart from religions. In a world, which is torn by strife because of differing beliefs, Sikhism is unique. Sikhs treat all people with equal respect, irrespective of their faith. All people are offered free meals and other facilities in Gurudwaras. Sikhs do not harbour ill will against any person, including adversaries.

There are numerous examples of Sikhs helping foes in need. After battle, Bhai Kanahya, a water-carrier of Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib, used to give water and first aid to ALL wounded persons, Sikhs and non-Sikh alike. Three centuries ago, Guru Gobind Singh made arrangements to take care of and help all the wounded after battle, whether they were his own men or his opponents.

It has been explained in the discussion of Nam Japna that Sikhs respect all persons. People may appear different because of their language, color, social habits but these variations are superficial and the result of different cultures and climates. Internally, we all have the same spirit. Just as gold can be made into ornaments of different designs but it remains gold, so people's outward appearances can be different but still they remain human beings created by the same God.

h) Maintaining ethical behavior (Sacha Achar)

For Sikhs, as for the followers of many other faiths, lying, cheating, stealing etc. are forbidden. Sexual relations are restricted to married couples only. Recognizing that during the medieval ages, after battle women of the defeated side were often raped as an expression of power over the enemy, Guru Gobind Singh ordered that any person guilty of rape would be expelled from the Khalsa Panth.

The moral character of Sikhs, in war and in peace, was praised highly by Muslim historians of those times. Nur Mohammed, though he expresses extreme hatred for Sikhs, still cannot help admitting their high character. In his book, "Jang Nama" he writes:

In no case would they slay a coward, nor would they put an obstacle in the way of a fugitive. They do not plunder the wealth or ornaments of a woman, be she a well-to-do lady or a maidservant. There is no adultery among these 'dogs' nor are these mischievous people given to thieving. Whether a woman is young or old, they call her a 'buriya' and ask her to get out of the way. (The word "buriya" in the Indian language means "an old lady.") There is no thief at all among these 'dogs' nor is there any house-breaker born among these miscreants. They do not make friends with adulterers.

i) Accepting the Will of God (Bhana Mannana)

We sometimes suffer from the misconception that we alone are responsible for the benefits we gain from our labors. Sikhs believe that these benefits are gifts from God and we are mere actors on stage. God rewards us and whether our efforts are successful is determined by His will. If we accept this philosophy, we will always be in peace with ourselves and with our environment and we will stop worrying about the 'failure' of our efforts

God has given us life, an expression of His Will. He has created the sun, the moon, vegetation, animals and everything else without which we cannot survive. When we plant a fruit tree, it grows naturally, with the help of sun and rain, and it bears fruit all without our help. Laws of nature govern the smallest seed and the largest plant.

The philosophy, that everything happens according to God's will, can be explained by another example. A person driving on a road finds an old woman walking. She stops the car, picks up the woman, and drops her at her home. Although it appears that the driver's body has carried out these actions, in fact, these actions originated in the mind due to a desire to help. Hence, actually it is the mind, controlled by the nature of the soul that helped the old woman. The body of the driver was merely an agent, which executed the decision for the 'mind.' Similarly it is the bigger soul, God, who motivates us to act. We are the executors of His Will.

If we choose an action, which we think is right, only to discover that it does not eliminate the situation we set out to abolish, we should not consider that our right action was useless. We should trust that in God's larger plan, which we cannot understand, our right action has meaning and effort. We must believe that every righteous action will eventually lead to a favorable result.

The faith that our right actions are part of God's great design, even if we do not see the results, dispels worries about our failures and brings us peace. We will realize God's presence in ourselves; there is no higher goal in life than that.

Thus Sikhism was not the 'transvaluation' of the existing faiths and cults; it ushered in a new spiritual as well as social and political matrix of conduct for mankind.

Violence and peace as concepts for the social behavior are conspicuous to the Sikh way of life.

Sikhism does not support militarism or glorification of war and yet wielding the sword is warranted in extenuating circumstances. Sikhism upholds war against oppression and aggression. The sword is a symbol of power both temporal and spiritual in Sikhism. A Sikh doesn't frighten anyone nor is he afraid of anyone.

Technically, the first date of Sikhism is 1469, the year of Guru, Nanak's birth, but ideologically its origins may well he traced in the twelfth century, when the celebrated poet Jaidev and Sufi saint Sheikh Farid flourished on the soil of India. Their hymns find a place of honour in the Guru Granth, compiled in 1604.

The fact that Oamkar in the Mantra is preceded by I (one) shows that in spite of the many-ness of the revealed world, its oneness is not to be lost sight of. It is rnonistic in character, though pluralistic in content. It is many, yet one.

In this I-Thou relationship of love between man and God, the pole of human love is expressed in terms of loving devotion, and the other pole, of God's love for man, in terms of his Grace.

On one side is bhakti or loving devotion, on the other side is. moral act. Both are complementary to each other; both taken together constitute the make-up of ideal person of the Guru's conception. Gurbani commends the blending ofsimran and voluntary service called sewa; both are essential for a balanced life.

The Sikh ideal of salvation is jivan-mukti which is composed of two components-'jivan' (life) and 'mukti' (emancipation). It refers to the highest spiritual state of the individual, in tune with the Ultimate and at peace with human society. One. who attains to such a state of liberation in his or her lifetime, is called jivan-mukta.,

The foremost was the institution of Guruship itself. The second was langar or the community kitchen serviced by the Guru's disciples for the benefit of visitors and inmates alike. Another was sangat: or congregation of the Guru's followers sitting in audience and singing hymns to the accompaniment of music (kirtan).

Gurbani also refers to kings (patshahs), but indication of panchayati raj and spirit of democracy is available in plenty. It clearly says-Takht bahai takhta ki layik-that is, a ruler should occupy the throne only if he is qualified and deserves todo so. Guru Arjan Dev refers to the ideal state which guarantees comfort and welfare of the people, calling it 'Halemi Raj'. Sense of humility and justice are its hall-mark.

Faith in God to the exclusion of concern for man has never been the forte of the Sikh.

Spiritualism has value, not for God, but for man.

if ethico-spiritual is one major theme of the thought-content of Gurbani, socio-cultural is the other. Both share a common objective, namely, welfare of man.

 

Introduction to Sikhism: Message of Sikhism

 Introduction to Sikhism: Message of Sikhism

"Truth is higher than everything,
But higher still is truthful living"

(Guru Nanak, the 1st Sikh prophet)

Unlike many other Eastern philosophies which preach asceticism and escapism, the Sikh religion exists as a faith of life-affirmation. A Sikh regards the world not as a place of suffering, but as a meaningful creation of God wherein noble, truthful, and selfless actions can bring a person closer to realizing Him. Sikhism preaches universal equality, and therefore, regards all religions and people as equal before the eyes of God. A Sikh is enjoined to rise above ego, live a truthful family life, share earnings with the less fortunate, and, as a human being, work toward progress on the individual and social level.

THE BASIC BELIEFS OF SIKHS

The Mool Mantar (literally, the root verse; the first hymn composed by Guru Nanak) sums up the basic belief of the Sikhs. Guru Granth Sahib begins with the Mool Mantar. Every Sikh is expected to recite it daily. The English translation is given below:

Ik OnkaarThere is only one God
Sat NaamHis Name is Truth
Karta PurkhHe is the Creator
Nir BhauHe is without fear
Nir VairHe is without hate
Akaal MooratHe is beyond time (Immortal)
AjooniHe is beyond birth and death
SaibhangHe is self-existent

Gur Parsaad He is realised by the Guru's grace.

The Sikh religion is strictly monotheistic, believing in One Supreme God. Absolute yet All-pervading, the Eternal, the Creator, the Cause of Causes, without enmity, without hate, both Immanent in His creation and beyond it. It is no o longer the God of one nation, but the GOD OF GRACE. That being so, He creates man not to punish him for his sins, but for the realization of his true purpose in the cosmos and to merge in from where he issued forth.

'O my mind, thou art the embodiment of Light; know* thy Essence'
'O my mind, the Lord is ever with thee; through the Guru's Word enjoy His Love.'
'Knowing thy essence thou knowest thy Lord; and knowest thou the mystery of birth and death'.

(Guru Granth, P. 441)

The basic postulate of Sikhism is that life is not sinful in its origin, but having emanated from a Pure Source, the True One abides in it. Thus sayeth Nanak:

'O my mind, thou art the spark of the Supreme Light; know thy essence.'

Not only the whole of Sikh Philosophy, but the whole of Sikh history and character, flows from 'this principle'.

The Sikhs do not recognize the caste system nor do they believe in Idol-worship, rituals, or superstitions. The gods and goddesses are considered as nonentities.

This religion consists of practical living, in rendering service to humanity and engendering tolerance and brotherly love towards all. The Sikh Gurus did not advocate retirement from the world in order to attain salvation. It can be achieved by anyone who earns an honest living and leads a normal life.

'He alone, 0 Nanak, knoweth the Way, who earneth with the sweat of his brow, and then shareth it with the others'.
(Guru Granth, P. 1245)

Nanak gave new hope to the down-trodden mankind to join his fraternity as equals. He is a creator of the NEW MAN in the New World supported by a New morality.

Riches and personal possessions are not hinderence in living by spiritual ideals. Sikhism does not believe in the maxim, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God". On the other hand the Sikh dictum is as under:

'They, who are attuned to the Lord, by the Guru's Grace, Attain to the Lord in the midst of Maya, (i.e. Wealth).'
(Guru Granth. P. 921)

Sikhismdoes not accept the ideology of pessimism. It advocates optimism and hope. The maxim, "Resist not evil but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also", does not find any place in Sikh way of life. On the other hand it enjoins its followers:

"When an affair is past every other remedy It is righteous, indeed, to unsheathe the sword."
(Guru Gobind Singh)

THE SIKH SCRIPTURE

The message of Sikhism is contained within the sacred writings of the Gurus, forever enshrined in the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib (the writings of Guru Gobind Singh form another compilation). The Guru Granth Sahib consists of the writings of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and ninth Gurus, as well as the writings of several prominent saints who were either contemporaries of, or lived before, the Sikh Gurus. The writings of these non-Sikh mystics correspond to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus; and more importantly, the inclusion of their writings into the Sikh holy scripture indicates the universality of Sikh philosophy. Written in musical measures of Indian classical music calledragas, the Guru Granth Sahib literally serves as the ultimate guide of spirituality (the living embodiment of the spirit of the Gurus) and is revered, not worshipped, as such by the Sikhs.

CONCEPT OF GOD

According to Sikh religious thought, God is both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the empirical universe (what can be sensed or measured), but resides in it as well. Since God exists within and beyond existence itself, human beings can aspire toward living and acting in accordance with His will

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE


Sikhism accepts the idea of reincarnation. Life as a human being is considered the last step before realizing God. Whether or not one attains union with God depends on that one person's actions in this life. Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh prophet writes:

He who sings His praises and does good actions
Will merge into Him.

Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh prophet, explains the purpose of life when he writes:

Having gained a body this time, A rare opportunity you have got;
This is your chance to meet God.
Your other pursuits will be of no avail at the end.
Seek the company of holy men, And learn to meditate on God.
Set your mind on crossing the sea of life;
Life is being wasted away in pursuits of sensual pleasures.

Essentially, according to Sikh philosophy, human beings should free themselves from the cycle of reincarnation (births and deaths) by abandoning self-centeredness and embracing God-centeredness. In Sikhism, God is metaphorically known as Truth. With this in mind, a human being who embraces God-centeredness is living a life devoted to the fulfillment of Truth. Furthermore, Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh prophet states that:

God is just, And honors the truthful.

In Sikhism, surrendering to the Will of God implicitly requires that man abandon ego. Guru Nanak makes this point clear when he addresses God, saying:

Where ego is, Thou are not;
When thou art within me,
Then I am not.

THE MEANING OF SIKHISM


Sikh philosophy is composed of progressive ideals, a positive worldview, and a crystal-clear message: a Sikh constantly learns to be a better human being. Not coincidentally, the word itself, Sikh (disciple), is indicative of the perpetual learning process that is life.

In Sikhism, a human being, in order to attain God, must rise above five basic vices: lust, anger, greed, pride, ego. Anyone who successfully avoids these five transgressions, and who lives a truthful living, is considered to be a God-conscious person.

Sikhism recognizes other faiths as equally conducive for the development of spirituality; however, as a revealed and distinct religion in of itself, Sikhism offers its followers a viable path toward the selfsame goal, God.

History and Practices

The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. He preached a message of love and understanding and criticized the blind rituals of the Hindus and Muslims. Guru Nanak passed on his enlightened leadership of this new religion to nine successive Gurus. The final living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh passed away in 1708.

During his lifetime Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa order (meaning 'The Pure'), soldier-saints. The Khalsa uphold the highest Sikh virtues of commitment, dedication and a social conscious. The Khalsa are men and women who have undergone the Sikh baptism ceremony and who strictly follow the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions and wear the prescribed physical articles of the faith. One of the more noticeable being the uncut hair (required to be covered with a turban for men) and the Kirpan (ceremonial sword).

Before his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs no longer needed a living and appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib, his physical successor as the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh felt that all the wisdom needed by Sikhs for spiritual guidance in their daily lives could be found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures because not only is it accorded the status of being the spiritual head of the Sikh religion, but besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of saints of other faiths whose thoughts were consistent with those of the Sikh Gurus.

Sikhism does not have priests, which were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru felt that they had become corrupt and full of ego. Sikhs only have custodians of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any Sikh is free to read the Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurudwara (a Sikh temple) or in their home. All people of all religions are welcome to the Gurudwara. A free community kitchen can be found at every Gurudwara which serves meals to all people of all faiths. Guru Nanak first started this institution which outline the basic Sikh principles of service, humility and equality.

The most significant historical religious center for the Sikhs is Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) at Amritsar in the state of Punjab in northern India. It is the inspirational and historical center of Sikhism but is not a mandatory place of pilgrimage or worship. All places where Sri Guru Granth Sahib are installed are considered equally holy for Sikhs.

 

THE SCRIPTURES I

Guru Granth Sahib

The holiest of the Sikh scriptures is Guru Granth Sahib. It was called Adi Granth (first scripture) until Guru Gobind Singh conferred on it the title of the Guru in 1708, after which it was called Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Granth Sahib is the only world scripture which was compiled during the life time of its compiler. All other world scriptures were compiled many years after the death of the prophet. (compare it with Vedas, written at least thousand years after their pronouncement; Bible, written about 60 years after the death of Christ; Koran, written about 80 years after the death of Mohammed, Three Baskets and Angas written about 40 years after the death of Buddha and Mahavir).

Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. The work of compilation was started in 1601 and finished in 1604. The Granth, called by Guru Arjan as Pothi Sahib, was installed at Golden Temple (then called `Harimandir’ - the house of God) with great celebrations.

Guru Arjan included the hymns of the following in the Granth:

Guru NanakGuru AngadGuru AmardasGuru Ramdas and himself (Guru Arjan), 15 renowned saints of both Guru period and pre - Guru period. Farid and Bhikhen were Muslims and others were Hindus. Hindu saints were from both higher and lower castes, e.g., RavidasSainSadhna and Namdev were from lower castes, whereas ParmanandSurdasJaidev and Ramanand were Brahmins. The Bhagats also represented different parts of India, e.g., Farid was a Punjabi, Dhanna was a Rajasthani, Jaidev was a Bengali, NamdevParmanandTrilochan and Pipa were Maharashtrians, Sadhna was a Sindhi, Sain was from Madhya Pradesh, and Kabir, BhikhenBeniRamanand , Ravidas and Surdas were from Uttar Pradesh. 
17 bhatts (court poets) most of whom were Brahmins. 
3 other disciples Bhai Mardana, a Muslim, Sunder, and Satta & Balwand, Muslims.


Guru Gobind Singh, later (1706), added the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur in it and declared it to be the Guru of the Sikhs.

The scribe of the first version (Guru Arjan’s compilation) was Bhai Gurdas and of the second version (Guru Gobind Singh’s compilation) was Bhai Mani Singh.

Like most of the world scriptures, the text of the Granth is:

Praises of God 
Search of God 
Means of communication with God 
Methods to realise God. 
Religious commandments 
Rules of morality 
The Sikh theology


All copies of the Granth have 1430 pages. It is divided into 39 chapters.

The languages used in the Granth are:

Panjabi - Sikh Gurus , Bhagat (saint) Sheikh Farid and others 
Sindhi - Guru Arjan 
Sanskrit - Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan and others 
Influence of Arabic and Persian - Bhagat Namdev 
Western Panjabi/Lehndi - Guru Arjan 
Gujrati and Marathi - Bhagat Namdev and Trilochan 
Western Hindi - Bhagat Kabir 
Eastern Hindi - Court poets 
Eastern Apabhramas - Bhagat Jaidev


The text of Guru Granth Sahib is composed in poetry and is arranged in Musical measures. Thirty one out of the 39 Chapters have a musical measure as a heading. Musical measures refer to the timing, rhythm, and mood of singing a particular hymn. There are 31 musical measures (ragas) used in the Granth.

The structure of the compositions differ from hymn to hymn.
The popular formations are as follows:

Couplets (sloaks), varying from 2 line to 6 lines 
Hymns (shabads) of 2-16 verses 
Ballads (vars) (made of pauris (hymns) of different sizes and sloaks) 
Stanza (Swayas) of different length and measures. 
Verses of praise (Chhants) of different lengths.


Each composition composed by the Sikh Gurus ends with the name Nanak as the composer. The heading of the hymns, however, indicates the name (number ) of the Guru who had actually composed it. For example a hymn composed by Guru Arjan , the fifth Guru, will be headed `Mehla 5’, where the word `Mehla’ means `Refer to’ and number 5 means the fifth Guru.

Guru Arjan has used a numeral system to number the hymns included in Guru Granth Sahib to avoid later interpolations by others. For example a number 4/1/34 at the end of a hymn would mean:

First number 4 - means the number of verses in the hymn

Second number 1 - means the number of composition of the present writer,

Third number 34 - means the cumulative total of all the compositions in the chapter.

The Sikhs regard Guru Granth Sahib as the living Guru and give it utmost respect. The Granth is always wrapped in clean sheets. It is ceremoniously opened every morning and closed at night time. It is placed on the small cot with cushions under and on its sides. Sheets are used to cover the Granth when it is open. The open copy of the Granth must be placed under a canopy. Every devotee must bow to it when he/she comes in its presence. (The only other religion which shows similar type of respect to its holy book is Judaism)

 

THE SCRIPTURES II
Other scriptures/holy books/sources

Dasam Granth:

1. The second holy book of the Sikhs is called Dasam Granth, the book of the tenth Guru.

2. This Granth was compiled three years after the Guru’s death.

3. Mata Sundri, the widow of the Guru, asked Bhai Mani Singh, a contemporary of the Guru, to collect all the hymns composed by the Guru and prepare a Granth of the Guru. It was completed in 1711.

4. In its present form it contains 1428 pages.

5. The languages used in the Granth are:

Braj 
Hindi 
Panjabi 
Persian

6. The Granth contains sixteen compositions versified in different forms of poetry in the following order:

Jap (meditation) 
Bachitar Natak ( autobiography of the Guru) 
Akal Ustat (praises of God) 
Chandi Charitar I & II (the character of goddess Chandi) 
Chandi di Var (a ballad to describe goddess Durga) 
Gian Prabodh (the awakening of knowledge) 
Chaubis Avtar (24 incarnations of Vishnu) 
Brahm Avtar (incarnation of Brahma) 
Rudar Avtar (incarnation of Shiv) 
Shabad Hazare (ten shabads) 
Swayyae (33 stanzas) 
Khalsa Mehma (the praises of the Khalsa) 
Shaster Nam Mala ( a list of weapons) 
Triya Charitar (the character of women) 
Zafarnama (epistle of victory, a letter written to Emperor Aurangzeb) 
Hikayats. (stories)

7. In addition to the praises of God, the Granth gives a description of the contemporary life as it existed at that period of time. For example, Bachitar Natak gives some life details of earlier Gurus and Guru Gobind Singh’s own mission. The Zafarnama describes the political corruption of the time and also explains the exploitation of the masses by the bureaucracy.

Sarab Loh Granth:

The authorship of this Granth is not known. Many writers, however, suggest that some parts of the Granth were written by Guru Gobind Singh. The Granth was found in Punjab in the late eighteenth century.

 

 

OTHER SOURCES OF SIKH RELIGION:

The Hukam Namas:

The Gurus wrote a number of letters, during their lifetime, to their disciples containing instructions, orders and notices. These letters are known as Hukamnamas. A Sikh research team was appointed by Shrimoni Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee in the sixties to find and collect such letters. So far the following letters have been discovered from the descendants of the famous Sikh families:

Guru Hargobind - 3 letters 
Guru Harkrishen - 1 letter 
Guru Tegh Bahadur - 30 letters 
Guru Gobind Singh - 31 letters 
These letters are a very rich and authoritative source of the Sikh history

Varan Bhai Gurdas I & II:

Bhai Gurdas I was a first cousin of Mata Bhani, mother of Guru Arjan Dev. He was the scribe of Guru Granth Sahib. He was a scholar of great repute. His book `Varan’ was designated as the `Key to Guru Granth Sahib’ by Guru Arjan Dev. The varan, inter alia, describes the life stories of the Gurus and is composed in poetry.

Bhai Gurdas II was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh. His compositions also known as `Varan’ describe the time period of Guru Gobind Singh.

Janam Sakhis:

The Janam Sakhis are the life stories of the Sikh Gurus. They are not biographies but hagiographies. They describe the life of the Gurus in stories and in anecdotes. Numerous dialogues and parables are included to convey the teachings of the Gurus.

The important Janam Sakhis are:

Bhai Bala’s Janam Sakhis dated 1540 
Mehrban’s Janam Sakhis dated 1650 (Mehrban was a nephew of Guru Arjan) 
Puratan or Hafizabad or Wilayatwali Janam Sakhi dated 1635 (This book was found by an Englishman named Cole Brooke. He brought it to England. Most of the Sikh historians have drawn references from this book) 
Sri Gur Sobha by Sainapat, (a court poet of Guru Gobind Singh) dated 1711 
Gyan Ratnavli, by Bhai Mani Singh dated 1712 
Gurbilas Padshahi dus, by Koer Singh dated 1751 
Bansiwala Nama dus Padshahian, by Kesar Singh Chibber dated 1769 
Mehma Prakash Vartik, by Bawa Kirpal Singh dated 1776 
Mehma Prakash Kavita, by Sarup Das Bhalla dated 1776 
Gurbilas Dasvi Padshahi, by Bhai Sukha Singh dated 1797

Other sources include:

Works of Bhai Nand Lal, a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh 
Dabistan-e-Mezahib by Mohsin Fani: work of a Persian writer who was a contemporary of Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Hargobind and Guru Harrai. 
Akbar Nama by Abul Fazal, an account of Punjab during the time period of Guru Amardas to Guru Arjan. 
Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri: the memoirs of Emperor Jahangir 
Khulasat-ut-Twarikh: A history book written by Sujan Rai Bhandari dated 1695. It contains details about the growth of Sikhism and also gives very valuable topographical details. 
Suraj Prakash by Bhai Santokh Singh dated 1843. 
Prachin Panth Prakash by Gyan Singh dated 1880 
Western Sources:

A number of Europeans wrote papers and books on the Sikhs which are classified as secondary source material. These books/papers include the following:

History of the origin and progress of the Sicks by Major James Brown dated 1788. 
The Siques by Antonine Louis Henri Potier dated 1787 
Observation of the Sikhs and their College at Patna by Charles Wlkins dated 1781. 
Observation of the Sikhs by George Foster dated 1798 
Memorandum on Punjab and Khandhar by John Griffith dated 1798 
The history of the reign of Shah Alam by William Franklin dated 1798 
Sketch of the Sikhs by Colonel Malcolm dated 1812 
The History of Sikhs by McGregor dated 1846 
History of the Sikhs by Captain Cunningham dated 1849 
The Adi Granth by E Trump dated 1877 
The Sikhs and the Sikh wars by Charles Gough and Arthur Innes dated 1880 
A short history of the Sikhs by C.H. Payne dated 1900 
The religion of the Sikhs by Dorothy Field dated 1901 
The Sikh religion by McArthur MacCauliffe dated 1909


THE SIKH WORSHIP

1. The Sikhs worship only one Almighty God in his abstract form. They are not allowed to worship any images or photographs or graves or objects. (Compare this with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism)

2. Like other World religion, they respect their prophets and show extreme type of affection and honour for them, but they are not allowed to elevate them to the status of God. It is a blasphemy to give the status of God to the prophets.

Guru Gobind Singh in one of his hymns has categorically said, "Whosoever will dare to equate me with God, he/she will be thrown in the cauldron of hell".

3. The Sikhs bow to Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh scriptures. This is an act of reverence and not worship.

4. Like most of the world religions, the Sikhs recite/listen to the holy hymns from their scriptures and also say their prayers.

5. A Sikh prayer can be either an individual prayer or a community prayer. An individual prayer can be said at any place. It can be said when a person is walking or commuting to his/her work or doing gardening or swimming or doing early morning exercises. There are no set formalities or rituals to say individual prayers. The set individual prayers are as follows:

Morning prayers: (These must be said before starting the daily work)

Japji Sahib - a long hymn of 38 pauris (stanzas) and two sloaks (couplets) composed by Guru Nanak (as recorded by Guru Ramdas). First sloak also appears in Guru Arjan’s Sukhmani, and the second sloak as the bani of Guru Angad (Rag Maj pages 146/147 of Guru Granth Sahib). It takes about 20 minutes to recite or read it. It is recorded on pages 1-8 of Guru Granth Sahib. 
Jap Sahib - a long hymn of 199 verses composed by Guru Gobind Singh (It takes about 25 minutes to recite or read it). It is recorded on pages 1-10 of the Dasam Granth. 
Sudha Swayas - a short hymn of 10 stanzas composed by Guru Gobind Singh (It takes about 7 minutes to recite or read it). These are recorded on the pages 13-15 of the Dasam Granth. 
Evening prayer: (This prayer is said at the time of sunset)

Rehras Sahib - a long composition comprising hymns of different Gurus (It takes about 20 minutes to recite or read it. The Rehras as recorded in Guru Granth Sahib (pages 8-12) has nine shabads in it. Five shabads (3 of Guru Nanak, 1 of Guru Ramdas and 1 of Guru Arjan) are recorded under the heading of `Sodar’; and four shabads (1 of Guru Nanak, 2 of Guru Ramdas, and 1 of Guru Arjan) are recorded under the heading of `Sopurkh’. Later, tradition has added 15 more compositions with the original Rehras; 3 compositions of Guru Gobind Singh, 6 pauris of Anand Sahib by Guru Amardas, 1 shabad by Guru Nanak and 5 compositions of Guru Arjan). The additional compositions appear only in the Gudkas. 
Night time prayer: (This prayer is said before going to sleep)

Kirtan Sohila - a short composition comprising of hymns of different Gurus. (It takes about 5 minutes to recite or read it. It is recorded on pages 12-13 of Guru Granth Sahib and has 5 shabads (3 shabads of Guru Nanak Dev, 1 shabad of Guru Ramdas and 1 shabad of Guru Arjan Dev). 
In addition to the above prayers which are read or recited from the Gudkas, a short form of scriptures, a thanksgiving prayer is also said once in the morning and second time in the evening. This prayer is called Ardas.

THE COMMUNITY PRAYER:

The community prayer is said or performed in a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) or in a house where the community gathers to say a collective prayer. Though community prayers were prevalent in the life times of all the Sikh Gurus, they were formalised and declared as an essential part of a Sikh life by Guru Hargobind during 1606-1645. In this era the tradition of morning choirs (prabhat pheris) was also introduced. The most popular community prayer is `Sukhmani Sahib`, a long composition composed by Guru Arjan Dev. It takes about 1.5 hours to read or recite it. All prayers should be said in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.

THE PRAYERS IN A SIKH TEMPLE (GURDWARA):

In a Gurdwara, the prayers are said every day of the week. Guru Granth is ceremoniously opened at about 4 a.m. and ceremoniously closed at about 10 p.m.

The sequence of a Gurdwara service is as follows:

Morning prayer:

Asa di var - a long composition of pauris (24) and sloaks (59, 44 of Guru Nanak and 15 of Guru Anand) composed by Guru Nanak (It takes between 1.5 hours to 2.30 hours to recite it. It is recited with musical instruments). It starts on page 462, in Guru Granth Sahib. In total there are 22 Vars recorded in Guru Granth Sahib. . 
Other Shabads (the musicians, called raagis, sing other hymns from the scriptures) 
Anand Sahib - this is the end hymn and must be recited at the end of every service. It is composed by Guru Amardas. The complete bani has 40 pauris, but according to the tradition we recite 6 pauris (first 5 and the 40th) only. It starts on page 917, in Guru Granth Sahib. 
Ardas - This prayer is in three parts and is said when the congregation is standing with folded hand facing Guru Granth Sahib: 
Part 1 - it is a set prayer composed by Guru Gobind Singh (Var Bhagauti, page 119 of the Dasam Garnth).

Part 2 - a set prayer composed by the Sikh scholars

Part 3 - words of thanksgiving

Vak (also called as Hukamnama): A random reading from Guru Granth Sahib. This is known as the order (of Waheguru) of the day. 
Distribution of Kara Prasad (a sweet pudding) 
Langar, the community meal 
During weekdays the services ends at about 8 a.m., whereas on weekends it ends at about 1 p.m.

Evening prayer:

The evening prayer starts at about 6 p.m. and ends between 9-10 p.m., after which the holy book is ceremoniously put to rest.

Rehras Sahib (please refer to individual prayer) 
Shabads 
Anand Sahib 
Ardas 
Vak 
Kara Prasad 
Langar 
For ii-vii please refer to the morning prayer.

The Reading of Guru Granth Sahib:

In addition to the regular prayers, the Sikhs also do path (reading) from Guru Granth Sahib. These readings can be:

Akhand Path: the continuous reading These are arranged for important days, like birthdays, anniversaries, house warming, bereavements etc. The readings are done by a groups of pathis i.e., readers, each reading for about 2-4 hours. It takes about 48 hours to complete the reading. The reading is done both at daytime and night. After the bhog (the end of the reading) an Ardas is offered followed by distribution of parshad and langar. 
Saptahak Path: the reading to finish in a week These are also arranged for important occasions and done by a group of people. The main difference between the Akhand path and the Saptahak path is that in Saptahak path most of the reading is done during the day and the Granth is closed for the night. After the bhog an Ardas is said followed by the distribution of parshad and langar. 
Sadharan or Khula Path: slow reading and no fixed time to finish the Granth. These are arranged to coincide with some important family diary dates. These are normally done by the immediate family member or members. Like Akhand path and Saptahak path, after the bhog an Ardas is said and parsahad and langar are distributed.

THE SIKH PLACE OF WORSHIP:GURDWARA:

The Sikh Shrine: Gurudwara:

  1. A Sikh shrine is called a Gurdwara, meaning the doorway to the house of God.
  2. The first Gurdwara was built by Guru Nanak Dev at Kartarpur.
  3. The Sikh Gurdwaras must have a religious flag, called Nishan Sahib in the front of the Gurdwara.
  4. Guru Granth is placed on the far side centre of the hall.
  5. There should be no photographs of the Gurus or others in the hall where Guru Granth Sahib is installed.
  6. Gurdwaras normally have two halls/rooms. The main hall where Guru Granth Sahib is placed and the second hall where the community kitchen is served.
  7. All entrants must take off their shoes, wash their feet and cover their heads before entering the main hall.
  8. All Sikh services end with the distribution of parshad (sweet pudding) and langar (dinner/lunch). Five historical Sikh gurdwaras have been declared as the Sikh Takhats (thrones). These gurdwaras are vested with the power and authority to regulate the religious life of the Sikh nation. The head priests of these shrines constitute a Sikh parliament and they are empowered with executive, legislative and judicial powers regarding the Sikh religious issues. All Sikhs are under the authority of the five takhats. The takhats are as follows:
    The name of the ShrineThe names of the Guru its relates to:
    Takhat Akal TakhatFounded by Guru Hargobind
    Takhat Patna SahibThe birth place of Guru Gobind Singh
    Takhat Hazoor SahibThe place where Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last.
    Takhat Kesgarh SahibThe birth place of the Khalsa
    Takhat Damdama SahibThe place where Guru Gobind Singh composed the second version of Guru Granth Sahib.
    ll the five takhats relate to the two Gurus who were Saint-soldiers.

1. The Sikh place of worship is called Gurdwara. The word is made up of two syllables, `Gur’ and `Dwara` meaning the doorway to the house of God.

2. The first Gurdwara was built by Guru Nanak in 1523 at Kartarpur. He called it `Dharamsala` meaning an inn. Later Gurdwaras were built by the Sikh Gurus in the area of their residence.

3. The most important historical landmark of the Sikh history was the building of Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) by Guru Arjan Dev in Amritsar. This Gurdwara later became the holiest of the Sikh shrines and focus of all the Sikh activity. Everyday the Sikhs, in their prayer, pray to Waheguru to give them both means and efforts to visit and bathe at this shrine.

4. Four times in the Sikh history, this shrine was desecrated by the rulers to put a stop on the growth of Sikh religion, but each time the Sikhs had come out victorious with more converts to their faith. The dates are as follows:

1740 - When Masa Rangar, the police chief of Amritsar, occupied the shrine by force and converted it into a dance house. He was killed by two devout Sikhs at the cost of their own lives. 
1757- When Ahmed Shah Abdali, the ruler of Afghanistan led his fourth invasion on India, he ordered Harimandir Sahib to be blown up and the holy pool to be filled up with slaughtered cows, to avenge the resistance put up by the Sikhs. Baba Deep Singh, a veteran Sikh avenged the first attack by defeating the Mughals and re-occupying the shrine. After Baba Deep Singh’s death the Mughals took back the occupation of the shrine and desecrated it again. 
1764 - Ahmed Shah Abdali, during his sixth invasion on India, again blew up Harimandir and filled the pool with the cow dung and dead cows. The Sikh reoccupied the complex in 1765 and rebuilt the shrine and cleaned the pool. 
1984 -When at the orders of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, the army invaded the holiest of the Sikh shrines and indiscriminately killed thousands of innocent pilgrims. Two young Sikhs, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, later avenged this desecration of the temple by gunning down Indira Gandhi in the lawns of her own house. 
5. There are about 158 historical Gurdwaras in the world. In addition there are many thousand local Gurdwaras built by the natives and residents of various areas. In United Kingdom, there are about 160 local Gudwaras. In other European countries there are about 15 Sikh Gudwaras scattered all over the European Union. In Middle East there is one historical Sikh Gurdwara located in Baghdad. There are historical Gudwaras in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tibet and Sri Lanka. Most of the Gurdwaras outside India were built to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak there.

6. A Sikh is required to attend a Gudwara as a part of his daily mode of worship. A congregational prayer is as important to a Sikh as an individual prayer. A Sikh believes that God is manifest in `congregation` (Sangat), and God’s blessings can be invoked by serving and loving the Sangat.

7. A Gurdwara is open to all the visitors irrespective of their faith and religion. All entrants to a Gurdwara, however, must take off their shoes and cover their heads before entering the shrine. No intoxicants and tobaccos in any form are allowed inside the Gurdwara.

8. Outside a Gurdwara a Sikh religious flag, called `Nishan Sahib` is sited at a distinctive place. The colour of the flag is Kesri, a mixture of yellow and orange colours.

9. In the Gudwara complex there are also rooms to deposit the shoes and other prohibited items. There are also wash-hand basins and small water pools to wash both hands and the feet.

10. Like other religious shrines, the Gurdwaras also have domes and minarets as a part of their outer structures.

11. Inside a Gurdwara, the main focal point is `Guru Granth Sahib`. The holy book is placed on a specially designed couch resting on pillows and covered with sheets. The couch is usually placed at the far-end centre of the main hall. During the day the Granth is kept open, though covered with roomalas, specially made sheet-coverings. At night time, after the evening prayer, the Granth is ceremoniously closed and removed to a specially built room for the night rest, from where every morning it is taken to the main hall in a stately procession.

12. Other objects which are found inside a Gurdwara are:

A canopy - to cover the whole area where Guru Granth Sahib is placed. 
A fly flicker - to be waved over the holy book. 
A steel bowl - to distribute the Kara Prashad. 
A money box - to deposit the offerings 
13. No photographs or images are allowed inside the Gurdwara.

14. Adjoining the main hall of the Gurdwara are the kitchen and dining room. All present at the service must join in here to participate in the community meals. There are examples in the Sikh history that Emperor Hamayun and Emperor Akbar were asked to eat in the community kitchen before they could have the audience of the Guru. 

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

1. The Golden Temple is the holiest of the Sikh shrines. The blue prints of its architecture were the master mind of Guru Arjan Dev. Its foundation stone was laid by a Muslim saint Mian Mir on 3rd January 1588. The work of its pool was, however, started by Guru Ramdas in 1577. Guru Arjan had envisioned an eternal shrine that would make the focal point of the Sikh faith, an image of its firmness, resolve, strength, courage and toughness. It would become an emblem of its immortality and indestructibility.

2. The construction of the shrine and the bridge which connects it with the main complex was completed in 1604, when on 30th August, Guru Granth Sahib was courtly installed in there. Harimandir is a place of rejuvenating one’s soul, it is God’s house where one goes in search of peace, happiness and comfort.

3. The dimensions of the pool are: length 500 feet, breadth 490 feet and depth 17 feet. The bridge which connects the main shrine with the entrance hall is 240 feet long and 21 feet wide. The shrine is floating like a lotus in the centre of the pool.

4. The shrine has four gates, representing the equality of man. People of any country, caste, creed, sect and faith are welcome in the shrine.

5. To reach the shrine the faithful have to go down the steps, which is symbolic of humility and modesty. All around the pool is a parikarma, walk-way, which every visitor has to follow to reach the shrine. This is reminiscent of oath of loyalty and faithfulness for Almighty God. Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, visited the shrine, in October 1997, to pay her obeisance. She along with her entourage walked barefoot in the parikarma to reach the shrine, where she bowed to the holy book and asked for the divine blessings. It is a historical fact that in recent times, most of the Indian Prime Ministers visited the shrine to invoke the blessing of Waheguru though they were not Sikhs. The examples of V.P. Singh, Chander Shekhar, Atal Bihari Vajpaye, Dev Gowra and I.K. Gujral can be cited.

6. From the main gates which open at the bridge, to the threshold of Harimandir, there are 84 steps which remind one of liberation from the 84,00,000 lives and their sufferings.

7. Guru Hargobind, the son of Guru Arjan Dev, left Amritsar and retired in the Shivalik hills to avoid repeated conflict with the Mughals. Guru Harrai, Guru Harkrishen and Guru Gobind Singh could not go to Amritsar for political reasons. The control of the temple thus remained in the hands of the people hostile to the Sikh faith. Guru Tegh Bahadur, after his anointment as the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, did go to the temple to pay his respects, but the occupiers of the temple closed its doors and refused him an entry into the shrine.

8. In the post Guru period, many times the Mughals and other Afghan invaders blew up and desecrated the temple to demoralise the Sikhs, but each time it gave the Sikhs more moral courage, strength and firm resolution to fight the tyranny and rebuild their temple.

9. When Sikhs ruled Punjab (1749-1849), the Maharaja, Ranjit Singh, arranged for gold leaf to be set on to its upper two storeys and all the domes and minarets giving it a new name, the Golden Temple.

10. In 1608, Guru Hargobind built another shrine opposite Harmandir and called it Akal Bunga, later on known as Akal Takhat. It represented both spiritual and temporal authority of the Guru.

11. During the times of Mughals, when there was a prize on the head of every Sikh, and later after the fall of Sikh Empire in Punjab, both the Harimandir and Akal Takhat remained under the control of sects organised by Sri Chand, a son of Guru Nanak and Prithi Chand, the eldest son of Guru Ramdas. The members of these sects did not keep long hair so that they could denounce their faith in times of adversity. With the lapse of time the control became hereditary and corrupt and the Sikh masses revolted against it.

12. Against the Sikh traditions, images were installed in the Harimandir and the people of low caste were refused entry into it.

13. Even during the first fifty years of the British rule in Punjab, both shrines remained in the occupation of Mahants, the descendants of Sri Chand and Prithi Chand. The British gave them protection against the upsurge of the Sikh masses. For some time the keys of the treasury of Golden Temple were also confiscated by the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar. At the end, on 17th January 1922, the British government yielded and handed over the keys to the President of SGPC, a newly constituted body for the management of all the historical Gurdwaras in Punjab.

14. The Golden Temple precincts were then cleaned and all the images removed and entry opened to all the devotees. 

THE SIKH TAKHATS (THRONES)

1. The word Takhat means a throne. The dictionary meaning of the word throne is a ceremonial chair for a king or for the sovereign power. In Sikhism the word Takhat has been used in both of these senses. The Takhats are designated historical Gurdwaras, which have the power to legislate on the Sikh religion. The head priests of these shrines make a mini parliament and their decisions are law for the Sikhs. They have the authority to reprimand and punish the religious wrongdoers. They are also the final authority on all religious pronouncements.

2. Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, built the first Sikh Takhat at Amritsar in 1608 known as Akal Takhat, the seat of Almighty God. During his stay at Amritsar, the Guru held his courts at the Akal Takhat. He said that this Takhat has been built, by the command of all powerful God, to guide the Sikhs for the planning and guidance of their political and religious future. All through the Sikh history the assemblies of the Sikh parliament (Sarbat Khalsa) had been held in the forecourt of this Takhat.

3. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, built the second Takhat at Keshgarh in Anandpur. This is the place where the Khalsa was baptised in 1699

4. Later on in the Sikh history, the Gurdwaras of Patna Sahib, the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh and Hazur Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last were also declared to be the third and fourth Takhats of the Sikh. The Gurdwaras at these places were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

5. For many hundred years the Sikhs had only four Takhats. However, in the sixties, Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, the place where Guru Gobind Singh had prepared the final version of Guru Granth Sahib and where he rested after a long spell of his battles with the Mughals and the hill Rajas, was declared by the SGPC as the fifth Takhat of the Sikhs.

6. The important judgments from the Takhats are:

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the King of Punjab, was summoned before the Akal Takhat for his religious wrong, by the then high priest Akali Phoola Singh 
Master Tara, an undisputed leader of the Sikhs during 1940-1960 was reprimanded by the Takhats for his religious pitfalls. 
Sant Fateh Singh, another veteran of the Sikhs during 1950-1960 was punished by the Takhats for his religious betrayal. 
Surjit Singh Barnal, the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Buta Singh , the former Home Minister of India were also punished by the Takhats for their religious wrongs.

 

The Sikh Identity :5Ks

The 5 K's

The Sikh Insignia - Khanda

Nishan Sahib

The Five K's

The five sacred Sikh symbols prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh are commonly known as Panj Kakars or the 'Five Ks' because they start with letter K representing Kakka in the Punjabi language. They are:

1. Kesh or unshorn hair, regarded as a symbol of saintliness. Guru Nanak started the practice of keeping the hair unshorn. The keeping of hair in its natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the will of God, and is a symbol of the Khalsa brotherhood and the Sikh faith. Hair is an integral part of the human body created by God and Sikhism call for its preservation. The shaving or cutting of hair is one of the four taboos or Kurehats.
Long unshorn hair. A symbol of spirituality. The Kesh reminds a Khalsa to behave like the Guru's. It is a mark of dedication and group consciousness, showing a Khalsa's acceptance of God's will. Long hair have long been a common element of many spiritual prophets of various religions such as Jesus, Moses and Buddha

"represents the inviolability of the human body". The keeping of unshorn hair represents the Sikh belief in the accepting of God's will. The unshorn hair is to be covered at all times by the dastar (turban) as a sign of respect for God, and also as a sign of acceptance of the belief in the equality of men and women. Sikhism preaches that the only reason one should cover one's head is out of respect for God. Since men and women are equal, both men and women must cover their heads, and since God is everywhere, they must do so at all times. The turban also serves as an outward form of recognition of Sikh men and women.

From your head down to your toes all hair is to be kept intact.

…ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ॥ 
"…complete form is with turban donned." (SGGSJ Ang 1084)

For the respect of your hair, two turbans are to be tied, tying each layer one at a time. There should be a small turban tied underneath and a larger one tied above this. Women must not plait their hair and should keep their hair tied in a bun. If possible, in order to respect your Kesh then a small turban should be tied.

ਇਹੈ ਮੋਰ ਆਗਿਆ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਹੇ ਪਿਆਰੇ ॥
ਬਿਨਾ ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਕੇਸੰ ਦਿਵੋਂ ਨ ਦਿਦਾਰੇ ॥

"Listen to this command oh beloved, this is the essential pre-requisite to attain my darshan. Without arms and kesh I will not give you darshan."

God also revealed himself as Kesdhari (when God gave Darshan/revealed himself to Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji he did so in the form of a human with his hair intact), as does the following line narrate:

ਸੋਹਣੇ ਨਕ ਜਿਨ ਲੰਮੜੇ ਵਾਲਾ ॥ 
"Your nose is so graceful, and Your hair is so long." (SGGSJ Ang 567)
ਨਿਰਹਾਰੀ ਕੇਸਵ ਨਿਰਵੈਰਾ ॥ 
"He does not need to eat; His Hair is Wondrous and Beautiful; He is free of hate." (SGGSJ Ang 98)

2. Kangha or the comb is necessary to keep the hair clean and tidy. A Sikh must comb his hair twice a day and tie his turban neatly. The Gurus wore turbans and commanded the Sikhs to wear turbans for the protection of the hair, and promotion of social identity and cohesion. It has thus become an essential part of the Sikh dress. A symbol of hygiene and discipline as opposed to the matted unkept hair of ascetics. A Khalsa is expected to regularly wash and comb their hair as a matter of self discipline.



This is to be worn in the hair at all times, and is used for combing of one's hair: "it represents hygiene [.] ridding oneself of impurities and what is morally undesirable". Thus, the kanga reinforces the belief that one would maintain cleanliness of spirit, mind and body.

In order to keep the kesh clean a wooden kangha( Sikh Comb ) is to be kept in the hair. According to scientific research keeping a wooden kangha in your hair reduces the level of static energy building up. A metal or ivory comb is not to be used as a substitute.

ਕੰਘਾ ਦੋਨਉਂ ਵਕਤ ਕਰ, ਪਾਗ ਚੁਨਹਿ ਕਰ ਬਾਂਧਈ ॥
ਦਾਤਨ ਨੀਤ ਕਰੇਇ ਨਾ ਦੁਖ ਪਾਵੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ ॥ 
"Comb the hair twice a day, covering it with turban that is to be tied from fresh (ie. no folds already put in it). Teeth cleansed with a daatan daily (brushed if this is not possible) - thus ill health will be avoided Lal ji." (Tankhanama Bhai Nand Lal ji, p.57)

To keep the hair clean it must be combed twice daily. In the morning and evening after combing your hair a turban is to be tied. It is to be tied a layer at a time, and it is to be removed in the same manner, taking it off a layer at a time.

ਹੋਇ ਸਿੱਖ ਸਿਰ ਟੋਪੀ ਧਰੈ ॥
ਸਾਤ ਜਨਮ ਕੁਸ਼ਟੀ ਹੋਇ ਮਰੈ ॥
"Being a Sikh he/she who wears a hat they will enter into seven diseased lifeforms."(Rehatnama Bhai Prehlad Singh ji, p.65)

If your kangha becomes damaged in anyway it should be replaced immediately. The kangha is placed on the head the highest point of the body and thus becomes supreme. In the same way the Khalsa is to become supreme by removing ego and being humble. Just as the kangha removes broken hairs and cleans the hair physically, it is also spiritually questioning the individual as to how many good and bad deeds have been committed during the day. Just as clean hair is attached to your head so are your good deeds. Similarly, as broken hairs are removed by your kangha, your vices should be removed in the same way. The hairs removed by the kangha are not to be thrown in a dirty place or on the floor. They are to be kept in a clean and dry place/container and when enough hair has gathered they are to be burnt. Women and children are to tie a string to their kangha so that it can easily be tied to their hair, and to stop it from falling. At home two to four spare kanghas are to be kept.

 

3. Kara or the steel bracelet symbolises restrain from evil deeds. It is worn on the right wrist and reminds the Sikh of the vows taken by him, that is, he is a servant of the Guru and should not do anything which may bring shame or disgrace. When he looks at the Kara, he is made to think twice before doing anything evil with his hands.

The circular design of the kara signifies the oneness and eternity of God and "the symbol of perfection [.] a reminder of the wearer to be mindful ofhis role of spiritual aspirant and useful citizen [.] the kara is also on the right side, which is the hand [with which] most people perform their deeds [ and] is a constant reminder to perform good deeds". By wearing it on the wrist, it binds the wearer to the will of God, and reminds the wearer to never extend one's hand for the performance of evil.

The Kara must be of Sarab Loh (pure iron). The Khalsa is not to wear a kara that is made of gold, silver, brass, copper or one that has grooves in it. Only the Sarab Loh Kara is acceptable to Guru Ji. The Kara is a handcuff placed by the Guru upon the individual to remind us of our duty to God, stopping us from committing sins. The Kara acts as protection if someone goes to strike you with a sword on your wrist. According to scientific research, the Kara adds to the iron levels in the body by rubbing on the skin. The Kara teaches us that these arms belong to Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji - with which we are not to steal, con, commit forgery, oppress, bully, persecute, sin or murder. Gambling and playing cards and gambling are not permitted. With these hands we should earn an honest living and share its benefits. In addition, your hands should serve your community and the Khalsa nation. The Kara is a precious gift bestowed upon us for life by Guru Sahib, which cannot be separated from the body. The Kara is circular, having no beginning and no end. Similarly, Vaheguru has no beginning or end and the Kara reminds us of this.

More on "Kara"

4. Kachh or the soldiers shorts must be worn at all times. It reminds the Sikh of the need for self-restrain over passions and desires. Apart from its moral significance, it ensures briskness during action and freedom of movement at all times. It is a smart dress as compared to the loose dhoti which most Indian wore at that time A symbol signifying self control and chastity

 

Resembling boxer shorts they are designed for comfort and freedom of movement: ".a symbol of restraint of passion, of chastity , and a constant reminder of the prohibition of adultery , both in lusting and in deed".

ਸੀਲ ਜਤ ਕੀ ਕਛ ਪਹਿਰਿ ਪਕੜਿਓ ਹਥਿਆਰਾ ॥ 
"The sign of true chastity is the Kashera, you must wear this and hold weapons in hand." (Bhai Gurdas ji, Var. 41, pauri 15)

The Kashera is the sign of sexual restraint. The Kashera and Kirpan are never to be separated from the body.

ਕੱਛ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਨ ਨ ਕਬਹੂ ਤਿਆਗੈ ॥
"The Kashera and Kirpan are never to leave the body."(Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh ji p.147)

You are only to wear Rev Kashera (a traditional style Kashera). The Kashera gives us the teaching,

ਦੇਖਿ ਪਰਾਈਆਂ ਚੰਗੀਆਂ, ਮਾਵਾਂ ਭੈਣਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਜਾਣੈ ॥
"Men should look at the opposite sex as mothers, sisters and daughters, (women should look at the opposite sex as fathers, brothers and sons)." (Var. 29, Pauri 11, Bhai Gurdas ji)

 

5. Kirpan or the sword is the emblem of courage and self-defence. It symbolises dignity and self-reliance, the capacity and readiness to always defend the weak and the oppressed. It helps sustain one's martial spirit and the determination to sacrifice oneself in order to defend truth, oppression and Sikh moral values. A symbol of dignity and the Sikh struggle against injustice. It is worn purely as a religious symbol and not as a weapon. When all other means of self protection fail, the Kirpan can be used to protect yourself or others against the enemy.

This article of faith most closely resembles a sword in a metal sheath and wrapped in a fabric holster . The word Kirpan itself means "mercy, grace, or magnanimity". The Kirpan is most often worn close to the skin of the body, underneath clothing, and is kept in place by a strap around the shoulder and torso, attached in place by the fabric holster . "While the Kirpan arose of a particular culture and had, at one time, the function of a sword, it long ago lost this aspect, and has become completely spiritualized. It now speaks of law and morality, justice and order, and has become an instrument of the Divine itself'. It represents spiritual power and is never to be used as a weapon. By wearing it on one's person, it is to remind the wearer to always stand up against injustice. Keeping it close to one's body also reminds the wearer that he/she is mortal and should make the most of his/her life by helping others and defending justice.

ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਣ ਪਾਣ ਧਾਰੀਯੰ ॥ ਕਰੋਰ ਪਾਪ ਟਾਰੀਯੰ ॥
"The mark of a Khalsa is one who holds a Kirpan in hand, by doing this tens of million of sins are abolished." (Sri Dasam Granth Ang 42)

The Kirpan is there to protect the poor and for self-defence. With patience and mercy, the Kirpan is to be used as a sword in order to destroy oppression. The Kirpan is to always be in a gatra and never to be removed from the body. The Kirpan protects us from hidden and seen enemies. The Kirpan is a weapon to protect the whole body, as a minimum it should be nine inches in length. Keeping the Kirpan in a Kangha, in the Kesh and putting it on a string around the neck like a Janeoo, are against the Rehat and forbidden.

ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਹੀਨ ਕਬਹੂ ਨਹਿ ਹੋਈ, ਰਹਿਤਵੰਤ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਈ ॥
"Those who never depart his/her arms, they are the Khalsa with excellent rehats." (Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh ji, p.148)

You are never to walk over your Kirpan or other weapons. When washing your Kesh, the Kangha is to be tied to your Kirpan and the Kirpan tied around your waist. When bathing, your Kirpan is to be tied around your head and not tucked into the Kashara as this dishonours your Kirpan and is therefore forbidden. When women bathe they are to tie their dupata on their head and then their Kirpan. When going to sleep your Kirpan is not to be removed from your body.

The Kirpan is only to be used for two things. Firstly, to give Guru Ji's blessing to freshly prepared Karah Prasad or for langar. Secondly, in order to destroy tyrants and oppressors. It must never be used for anythingelse.

Sword in Sikhism

Very many people question the need of Kirpan or the sword in the atomic age. Others require an explanation for the wearing of the sword. How can sword he reconciled with spirituality ? Even before Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, his grand father Guru Hardgobind had donned the sword as a twin-symbol of temporal and spiritual power(Miri & Piri). He had maintained an army and taken part in military operations against the Mughal forces.

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib justified the use of the sword as a duty and as a means of protecting the weak and the oppressed. With human brutes, non-violence is meaningless. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib says:

When the affairs are past other remedies, 
It is justifiable to unsheath the sword.

Tyrants are like mad dogs and wolves. They should be opposed in the interests of the good of humanity as a whole. The sword is neither to be used for conquest nor for wreaking vengeance. The sword is meant only for self-defence or for the good of the people. In cases of injustice and intolerance, the refusal to use the sword may do more harm than good. The Sikh's sword is not an instrument of offence but a symbol of independence, self-respect and power. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib called it Durga or Bhagwati and praises it thus :

Sword that smites in a flash, 
That scatters the armies of the wicked
In the great battle-field, 
0 symbol of the brave. 
Your arm is irresistible, your brightness shines forth 
The splendour of the black dazzles like the sun. 
Sword, you are the scourge of saints, 
You are the scourge of the wicked ; 
Scatterer of sinners, I take refuge with you. 
Hail to the Creator. Saviour and sustainer, 
Hail to you : Sword supreme !

The Five K's, along with the turban, constitute the Khalsa uniform, which distinguishes a Sikh from any other person in the world, and is essential for preserving the life of the community and fostering the Khalsa brotherhood.

The Five K's are not supposed to foster exclusiveness or superiority. They are meant to keep the Sikhs united in the pursuit of the aims and ideals of the Gurus. They enable them to keep their vows made at the time of baptism. The Sikhs have been known to face torture and death rather than cut their hair or remove any of the sacred symbols.

The Khalsa cannot be anonymous. His religion is known to all. He stands out among people, and any unseemly behaviour or action on his part would be noted as unbecoming of a follower of the Gurus. People would easily blame him if he deviated from the disciplinary code of Guru Gobind Singh.

Source:https://www.allaboutsikhs.com/