Dharma refers in Gurmukhi to righteousness, piety, religious observance,; spirituality; morality;
English Translation: Religion, righteousness, duty, virtue, merit, honesty, sect, justice, characteristics, faith.
in Sanskrit also means right; justice; religious merit; that which is established; statute; ordinance; law; practice; customary observance or prescribed conduct; duty.
My Guru gives Naam, the Name of the Lord, to those who have such karma written on their foreheads. He implants Naam, and inspires us to chant Naam; this is Dharma, true religion, in this world. ||1|| (SGGS page 680)
For Sikhs, the word "Dharma" means the "path of righteousness". What is the "righteous path"? That is the question that the Sikh scriptures attempt to answer. The main holy scriptures of the Sikhs is called the Guru Granth Sahib or SGGS for short. It is considered to be more than a holy book of the Sikhs. The Sikhs treat this Granth (holy book) as a living Guru. The holy text spans 1430 pages and contains the actual words spoken by the Sikh Gurus and various other Saints from other religions including Hinduism and Islam.
Sikh Dharma is a distinct religion revealed through the teachings of ten Gurus who are accept by the followers as if they were spiritually the same. The Gurus are considered "the divine light" and they conveyed Gurbani (the word of God) in the form of the Guru Granth Sahib to the world. In this faith, God is described as both Nirgun (transcendent) and Sargun (immanent). Further, God pervades in His creation and is omnipresent, but cannot be incarnate. The principal Sikh belief lays stress on one's actions and deeds rather than people's religious labels, rituals or outward appearance or signs.
The primary object of a Sikh's life is to seek union with God and hence, liberation from the cycle of births and deaths (cycle of re-incarnation) which is dictated by a person's thought, deeds and actions in this life. Liberation can be achieved through meditating on God, truthful living and sharing ones wealth in the context of a normal family life and through divine grace. Amrit Pahul – Sikh baptism for both men and women – was instituted in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru. All Sikhs, on taking Amrit, are enjoined to lead a disciplined life by following a code of ethics leading to a "Saint-Soldier" way of life. In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh vested spiritual authority in the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Scriptures) as the eternal Guru and hence Sikh Dharma acknowledges the end of human Guruship. At the same time, the temporal authority was vested in the Khalsa Panth (a community of Sikhs who have taken Amrit).
Other important aspects of a Sikh's life include Sewa (dedication to the service of God's creation) where the emphasis is often upon manual work, undertaking of goodwill towards other faiths and their followers, to defend for justice and assistance of the oppressed. In contrast to many other faiths, Sikhs believe that when all other means to achieve justice are exhausted, then it is just to wield the sword.
Congregational worship includes the following:
- 1. Paath - Reading of the Holy scriptures
- 2. Kirtan - Singing of Shabads (hymns).
- 3. Langar - A communal vegetarian meal also call free kitchen is an important feature of the Sikh way of life, and food is served to everyone at the end of a Sikh service.
- 4. Gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, also serves as a centre to promote Sikh culture and such other needs of the community.
- 5. Ardas - Sikhs conclude their prayers by doing the Ardas and invoking God's blessings on everyone – not just on Sikhs."
Scriptures and Dharma
The Guru Granth Sahib lays down the foundation of this "righteous path" and various salient points are found.
- 1. . Sikh is bound by Dharma: The followers of this faith are bound by Dharma as advocated in their holy scriptures. The committed Sikh is encouraged to follow this path at all times. The first recitation of the SGGS called the Japji Sahib says the following:
- "The path of the faithful shall never be blocked. The faithful shall depart with honor and fame. The faithful do not follow empty religious rituals. The faithful are firmly bound to the Dharma. Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord. Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind." (SGGS Japji page 3.)
- 2. Deeds are recorded: The persons thoughts and deeds are said to be recorded and the faithful is warned that these will be read out in the presence of the "Lord of Dharma". Two scribes called "Chitr and Gupt" 1 , the angels of the conscious and the subconscious mind are busy writing ones thought and deeds. On death the soul of the person he brought before "Lord of Dharma" are these account are read out as recoded in this quote:
- "Day and night are the two nurses, in whose lap all the world is at play. Good deeds and bad deeds - the record is read out in the Presence of the Lord of Dharma. According to their own actions, some are drawn closer, and some are driven farther away." (SGGS Japji page 8, Salok.)
- 3. Dharma administered by God: The scriptures further outline how the "Judge of Dharma" administers justice depending on the way that one has conducted life on Earth. The soul is either "cleared" or "subject to God's command" depending on the review of the person history. The holy text says:
- "The Righteous Judge of Dharma, by the Hukam of God's Command, sits and administers True Justice". (SGGS page 38) and those followers who "chant the name of the Lord" are cleared as outlined thus: "Her account is cleared by the Righteous Judge of Dharma, when she chants the Name of the Lord, Har, Har." (SGGS page 78)