1001 names of God

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The 1001 Ways We Know God by T. Sher Singh

I love the relationship we Sikhs have with God. He - or She, if you will - is "tu(n)", not "tusi" or "aap". We address him with a tu and not a vous.

I like that.

I like the informality. I like the absence of rules and boundaries. I particularly like that there are no rituals.

It is all left to the individual - purely personal, one-on-one - to determine the terms of endearment.

I love the freedom we have been given to refer to or address God as whatever we want, in whatever language we choose.

It makes sense, because if He is infinite, then surely, if we add all that each one of us in the world comes up with in describing Him, the sum would still fall short of the whole.

So what does it matter if we call Him God, or Waheguru, Allah or Yahweh, Om or ... whatever. Equally, I think it is even okay to call Him "nothing", or that "God Does Not Exist". They're all merely parts of the whole, the pieces of an infinite puzzle.

I remember the nursery rhyme we taught our daughter - and that millions of others recite to this day - to capture the magic of love:

I love you in the morning,

And in the afternoon;

I love you in the evening

Underneath the Moon!

We're taught early in life that "love" is all-encompassing, all-inclusive, all-embracing ... that is, it is greater than the sum of all parts.

It boggles my mind when I hear - and I wince everytime I do - some Americans and many other westerners insult "Allah" in venting their anger against Muslims.

It gives me great pride to know that those who practice Sikhi develop a built-in aversion in their DNA to the idea of insulting another faith, or to referring to another prophet in any derogatory manner.

I grew up in India surrounded by insults by Hindus - mercifully, there are always exceptions - against Allah or the Gurus or Christ. For example, the Arya Samaj "bible" - the Satyaarth Prakash - single-handedly insults everyone in sight!

Most Christians still think that "Allah" is an entity limited to the Middle East.

Many Jews believe, as a basic pillar of their dogma, that Yahweh has singled them out, to the exclusion of all other human beings.

And so on and so forth.

Sikhs too practice their fair share of goofinesses, but I like that, at least on this issue, the universality of God - no matter what name or gender you ascribe to "Him" - is considered inviolable.

Islam celebrates a list of names - the Asma al-Husna, or "The 99 Most Beautiful Names of God" - consisting of a range of adjectives and word-constructs, proclaiming the attributes of God. After all, that is all that we can do ... describe him!

So, how could one limit ownership of these names to any one language or religious group?

Our Gurus - Nanak to Gobind Singh - have freely used many of those names in their own compositions to sing of God.

And then, they have added umpteen names from Indian, Hindu and Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythologies.

Thus, ... Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Krishan, et al. rub shoulders with Allah, Rahim, Karim, Azizul Niwaaz, Ghanimul Khiraaz ... all are exalted.

But, a word of caution ... not in a subjugated or subordinate role as gods and goddesses, but as the very names of God, the Supreme One!

Thus, the "Shiva" in "Deh Shiva bar mohe ihai ..." is not the god from the Hindu pantheon, but a name - one of thousands that occur in the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth - for God Himself.

In this shabad and context, if you read it as the Hindu Shiva, you have simply got on the wrong bus! If you interpret the word as "God" or "Allah", then you've hit the nail on the head!

The very opening words of the Guru Granth set the tone:

God is:

Ik Oankar - All is One

Sat Naam - Truth is the Name

Karta Purakh - Primal Creator

Nirbhau - Without Fear

Nirvair - Without Enmity

Akaal Moorat - Timeless

Ajauni - Unborn

Saibhang - Self-existent

GurParsad - Grace

Aad Sach - Truth before Time

Jugaad Sach - Truth throughout Time

Haibhi Sach - Truth Here and Now

Hosi-bhi Sach - Truth Evermore

And in the 1429 pages that follow, thousands of different names are used for God: Sanskrit, Persian, Gujerati, Marathi, Arabic, Bihari, Brijbhasha, etc. etc. - and, of course, Punjabi!

No one name is proclaimed supreme or better than all others.

Add to the list, if you will. Add all the hundreds used by Guru Gobind Singh in Jaap Sahib.

Buddha is already on the list. But, add Jesus if you want ... as long as you use it as a word for God, and not for a mortal!

Once you use a word, any word, for God ... then automatically, it applies to the same God and therefore is elevated to the level of God-names.

The idea is simple. Unconvoluted, uncomplicated, and true to the original teachings of all saints and scriptures. It is the only approach that makes sense and fully glorifies the God we all imagine in our limited ways.

A couple of years ago, I decided to start listing the different names for God that I came across in my readings of the Guru Granth Sahib. I have collected hundreds by now, and I know I've missed countless ones as I've gone along.

And I haven't even scratched the surface ...

Agumm

Agochar

Prabh

Jagdeesar

Sarnaagat

Prit-paalak

Swaami

Har

Paarbrahm

Satgur

Dyaal

Narayan

Wudd-purakh ...

This is but a sampling.

And, we at sikhchic.com have recently embarked on a project: a mural listing 1001 names of God, according to Sikhi.

I must forewarn you ...it includes Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Om ... as well as all the beautiful names listed by the Gurus and the Bhagats.

But we need your help!

It would make our task easier - and more meaningful, as well as more pleasurable - if you will send in your own names, as you find them in YOUR readings of the Guru Granth and other Sikh literature. Please add a citation, if possible - e.g., GGS, p ?, line ? ... DG, verse ? ...

Just post them at the link under "Comments", please.

Before long - Inshallah! - we hope to present to you on this site the 1001 Names of God!