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Frequently Asked Questions about Sikhism
Q. What is the goal of human life?
Man's creation could not have been meaningless. It is difficult to affirm what God had in mind when He created man. But one thing is certain that human life offers a great opportunity for development. There are three parts to man - the body, the mind, and the soul. The individual should develop all these three aspects. For bodily development, he must earn his livelihood and follow the laws of health. For the development of the mind, he must study and educate himself and cultivate his intellect, for interpreting the mysteries of life and nature. For the development of the soul, he should follow a course of strict moral discipline. According to Sikhism, the individual soul has arrived to the human form after going through innumerable cycles of birth and death. Now at last it may try for the final spiritual evolution, so that it may be freed from further transmigration and return to its source. The body must be sustained and maintained because it is 'the house of the soul' and so temple of God. God and the individual soul are in essence one and the same. Man regards himself as a separate entity because of egoism. When the wall of egoism is broken man realizes his identity with God. God's destiny for man is for him to realize God's immortal aspirations through his mortal frame, by leading a pure life with and through his physical body, coupled with his own intellectual development. Unfortunately, man is totally obsessed with material things: clothes, food, ornaments, comforts and luxuries. He neglects the things of the spirit. He wastes his precious life in frivolity and makes no effort towards God-realization. Life is like a game of cards. The cards are given to the player; it is up to the player to play the game well or badly, wisely or foolishly. God is watching us. He is keenly interested in our efforts to do our best. Human life is neither a bondage nor prison but rather a vehicle to spiritual attainment. The goal of human life is, to try, to integrate the individual personality with God.
Q. Is a Guru necessary for spiritual evolution?
Many religions of the world agree on the need for a spiritual guide. On meeting a True Guru, the ignorance of superstition is removed and divine knowledge obtained. The Guru sheds light through his message. What is important is not the person but 'The Word'. According to the Sikh religion, liberation cannot be won without a Guru. The Guru gives instruction - through the use of a mantra - this is a means of invoking a union with God. Waheguru is the mantra for Sikhs. Just as a teacher is necessary for secular studies so for spiritual advancement one requires a Guru because he has realized God. Guru Nanak says: "The perfect Guru has dispelled the darkness of delusion from my heart." The Guru Granth Sahib was installed as the permanent Guru of the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, because the stage had arrived when the living Guru had fully discharged his office. The personal Guru now became the impersonal Guru of the Granth. The Granth presides over all Sikh congregation and represents the word of God in a permanent form. The Sikhs, therefore, do not recognize any living person as Guru. The song-message of the Guru Granth Sahib is the Sikhs' Guru for all time. The true Guru reveals the divinity of man to the individual. He shows him the way to cross the ocean of life and to reach the Kingdom of Bliss. Guru Nanak says: "The Guru is an ocean full of pearls, The saint swans pick up those ambrosial pearls." (A.G. p.685) Just as milk should not be kept in an unclean pot, so in the same way, the Guru will not pour his nectar (Nam) into an unclean mind. By practicing goodness and the remembrance of The Name, an individual prepares his own mind for the Guru's message. After due cleansing, the Guru administers the remedy of the Name with suitable directions. We are fortunate that we do not have to search for a Guru, because The Guru Granth Sahib is already in our midst. By following the directions of Gurbani, we can progress on the spiritual plane.
Q. What are the traits of a True Guru?
In view of the need of a Guru, one must be on guard against a pseudo of fake Guru. Sikhism lays down certain qualifications and qualities for a Guru. The Guru must be a perfect man who is able to inspire confidence in his disciples. He must come to their aid in every emergency. A Guru does not live in an ivory tower. He mixes freely with all sorts of people. The Guru is not an incarnation of God. He is a humble prophet or messenger, invested with the duty of showing the true spiritual way to ordinary people. Guru Nanak says: "He is whom the Light is fully manifest is the Guru." He must be prepared to suffer for his principles. He must not claim any status or excellence for himself. He is fearless and without hate. He may come in conflict with hostile social forces, vested interests and evil people out to oppose him, but must deal with them gently and bear ill-will to no one. Guru Nanak compares a Guru to a ladder, and sometimes to a ship. All the Sikh Gurus had the same light, Jot, the Divine Spirit in them. Perhaps one of the greatest traits of the Sikh Gurus was their humility. Guru Nanak regarded himself as the lowest of the lowly. Other Gurus also were meek in spirit. They accepted all suffering in a spirit of resignation. Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur became martyrs to the cause they cherished and in spite of possessing supernatural powers, refused to exercise them, because the working of miracles is not in accordance with the Will of God. The Guru occupies the highest status in the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak says: "The divine spark is in all, It pervades every heart. By the Grace of the Guru, It may be revealed, then the devotee feels blessed." Slowly and steadily, the Guru guides the development of the Sikh to perfection and if the Sikh be very lucky, the Guru transforms him into the Guru. The Guru remembers "The Name", day and night and makes others do so. He is just like a boat, ferrying people across the tempestuous ocean of life. Meeting a True Guru, is a sign of benediction. The disciple must prepare himself morally and spiritually for his guidance. He is a tower of strength, a beacon, lighting man's path in this dark world.
Q. Did the Sikh Gurus perform miracles? If so, why?
Prophets and saints have performed miracles. A miracle is an extraordinary event which reason or science cannot explain. Science has not yet advanced so far as to explain everything. According to the scientists, miracles have nothing to do with holiness or piety. Miracles are "not happening against the laws of God, but are the results of superior powers which God bestows on His servants." Men of God are able to do things which are beyond the understanding of the scientists' limited reason. Sikhism accepts the possibility of supernatural powers, but like any worldly possession, they should not be used for selfish ends. A Sikh should not run after occultism, because the greatest gift is Nam and not supernatural power. According to Sikhism, occult powers come naturally through concentration on "The Nam". Miracles should not be performed at the bidding of a king or a leader or to prove the greatness of one's religion or to confirm the faith of people in a spiritual guide. Guru Ramdas says: "The desire to perform miracles is a worldly attachment and is an obstacle in the way of 'The Nam' residing in our hearts." The Sikh Gurus did perform miracles off and on, but they did so out of compassion or to set an erring person right. Guru Nanak made the bitter soap-nuts sweet near Pilibhit, to save Mardana from death by starvation. The Guru condemned miracles performed for personal glory. Baba Atal who performed a miracle had to give up his life as atonement for it. Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur were requested to perform miracles so that their lives would be spared. They refused to do so and welcomed the penalty of death. The greatest miracle is not to perform a miracle, in spite of having the capacity to do so. As Emerson puts it: "Self-sacrifice is the real miracle out of which all the reported miracles flow." Guru Nanak was asked by the Sikhs about his supernatural powers. He answered: "I can do nothing against the law of God. It is only He who can perform a miracle. The 'True Name' is the miracle of miracles. I know of no other miracles." Saintly people do not like to interfere with God's Will by performing miracles. The Sikh Gurus never performed miracles to convince others about their faith or to save themselves from calamities or penalties.
Q. What is the relation between the Sikh and the Guru?
The word Sikh means a learner, a student. He is therefore to get his instruction from a teacher who is called a Guru. The personality of the Sikh Guru, is so influential that it completely transforms the disciple and shapes his life to diviner issues. This is achieved not by personal and physical instruction but by the belief that the Sikh incorporates the Guru. The Sikh "fills himself with 'The Guru' and then feels himself linked up to an inexhaustible source of power." e.g. by accepting the aid of Guru Gobind Singh, he feels terribly strong, equal to "one lakh and a quarter" in physical and mental powers. He will fight all odds and lay down his life for a cause. He is the Guru's standard-bearer and will not lower or desert it. It is this kinship with the Guru which sustains him in a crisis. Bhai Joga Singh, when about to fail, was saved from such a moral disaster by Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikhs filling themselves with Guru's own personality collectively becomes "The Guru" in the form of the Sikh Panth: "The Guru lives within his Sikhs and is pleased with whatever they like." The idea of religious fellowship, was given practical shape through Sewa, or service Langar or Pangat, where people dine together in the free kitchen, is another illustration of the composite character of the Guru in Sikhism. The idea of Sangat or holy fellowship, generally for the holding of congregational prayers in the form of Kirtan and Katha, led to the establishment of Gurdwaras and religious organizations. Collectively, the Sikhs are known as "The Panth", the embodiment of the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh merged his personality in the body of the community when he created the Khalsa Army. The Guru stands for "The Truth" and the practice of "The Truth". "The Truth" revealed in the Guru Granth Sahib is timeless and changeless. But the methods of implementing "The Truth" are left to the growing personality of the Panth. That is why the Guru Panth is never lagging and should be ever up-to-date to guide the Sikhs. All important questions today are decided by the community as a whole in the form of deliberated on resolutions, Gurmattas, which are given the Guru's approval. Guru Gobind Singh totally identified himself with The Khalsa. He affirmed: "Through their favor, I am exalted, otherwise there are millions of ordinary men like me."
Q. Can prayer change things or destiny?
Those who offer prayers sincerely, know the efficacy and value of prayer. Other people think that prayer may give consolation and peace to man but cannot affect physical events, because the universe is governed by law. If fire burns today, it will also burn tomorrow, in spite of the prayer. Life is regular and smooth because of these unchanging laws. Though saints and mystics may possess great powers. What we regard as a miracle may really only be the "power of prayer" or the "working of a spiritual law". Sincere prayer is a supplication made to God generally without any personal motive. God knows of all the desires and sincerity of the individual. It is up to Him, to accept or reject a request made to Him. Certain basic laws are interacted on by other laws. Airplanes fly, contrary to the laws of gravity, but in turn they are governed by the laws of aerodynamics. Prayer may help in a psychological way, e.g. people who are made ill by fear or tension while the effect is physical the cause may be mental. In such a case prayer may also heal in the same way as medicine, but by removing the mental cause. According to Sikhism, prayer can change man's mind. Just as dirt is washed away by soap, in the same way man's evil thoughts may be washed away by prayer and meditation. Sinners have turned into saints through the power of prayer. The example of Sajjan, the thug is well-known. Bhai Gurdas has cited the case of Queen Tara Lochan. Her lost sandals were restored to her by prayer. Guru Arjan emphasizes the role of prayer: "The praising of His Name is the highest of all practices. It has uplifted many a human soul. It slakes the desire of restless mind. It imparts, an all-seeing vision." (A.G., p.263) Prayer is not mere autosuggestion. At its best, it is concentrating on God and His qualities. God is goodness, truth, patience, peace, and love. When a man offers a prayer, God enters into his life and gives His qualities to the devotee. With such qualities and power, He can mould things. Others may regard such events as just coincidences, but people who understand recognize them as the effect of prayer: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world ever dreams of."
Q. Should we ask for worldly things in prayer?
Real prayer is deep and inward; it is a dialogue between man and God. It is being in companionship with the Almighty. Man's friendship with God should enable him to grow like Him. In the fleeting moments of "vision", man forgets his body and the world he lives in. He unites with his Lord and Benefactor. Real prayer is pure adoration and dedication. It has no ulterior aim, no worldly things to gain. Prayer based on material desire, defeats its own purpose. Man has been described as God's bride. Just as the wife makes all her needs and demands to her husband, so in the same way, man makes his request to God. As a good husband would meet the requirements of his spouse, and give her guidance and help, so God helps his servants. According to Sikh religion, worldly things can be demanded in prayer, but on principle, they should not be asked for. Things which render service to the soul and advance man on the spiritual plane can be requested. Guru Nanak requested God to give him contentment, humility and His Name. The remembrance and praise of God, is the only thing a devotee needs. Should we ask for worldly things and He in His grace gives them to us, we never feel contented. No man feels that he has enough. He does not know what is good for him. When God does not grant his prayer, he blames God and curses His creation. God does like to bless him but it is sin or sloth which prevents the blessing coming through. It is ego which prompts one to ask for this thing or that for oneself. This is contrary to the principle of submission to the Will of God. Instead of asking for worldly things, the Sikh must put his trust in God and entreat Him to do what He thinks best. The Almighty never fails those who surrender themselves completely to Him. In the Sikh supplication, the Ardas or general Prayer, a Sikh prays for the constant remembrance of the Name and the welfare of all mankind. The right prayer creates hope, confidence and courage in the individual.
Q. What is the Sikh prayer?
A part of the prayer called 'Ardas' was given to the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh. The first part invokes God and the blessings of first nine Gurus. The second part recounts the events in the life of the Tenth Guru, the subsequent Sikh history, the struggles faced and the sacrifices made, for the reform of temples and the maintenance of Sikh tradition. The third part pertains to the individual's own thoughts and any special purpose or the occasion for it. In the end, the Sikh prays for humble mind and sound intellect, the victory of the Khalsa Panth, "the Word" and betterment of the humanity. A Sikh believes in a personal God to whom he must go every now and then because he regards Him as friend and benefactor. He recites a prayer before he starts any work or business. Even if he has no time for a full Ardas, he shall make a short prayer. Sikh prayer can be led by any man or woman; it is congregational in the nature of its contents. It recounts the sacrifices of Sikhs but makes no mention of the enemies of the Sikhs. The basic idea is to inspire the Sikhs to similar heroic deed in any future times of need. Prayer is a means of ridding the mind of its ills and desires and filling it with pure thoughts and noble aspirations. True prayer requires an effort of heart-searching, an effort to become more pure and noble. The mind must be emptied of all worldly thoughts so that peace may enter it. The Sikh Ardas demands a complete surrender to Divine Will. Resignation to the Will of God will ultimately benefit the individual. Only then can God take up his problems and sort them out. The Lord will never fail him who throws himself on His Mercy. Moreover, this submission eliminates the ego, the wall which stands between man and his Creator. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is itself a kind of prayer. We seek the Guru's command. He gives us wise counsel, but it is for us to obey. Merely worshiping the scripture without carrying its teaching into daily life is the very negation of prayer. True prayer is the practical living up to of the word of the Guru and a continuing effort, for spiritual development.
Q. Is it possible to conquer death?
Death has been interpreted in different ways. According to the general concept, death is the extinction of the body and the sense-organs. According to Sikh Gurus, death is the forgetting of God. Guru Nanak says: "If I remember Him, I live; when I forget Him, I am dead." It is this forgetfulness of God which makes man enter the cycle of birth and death. Sikhism was reborn under the shadow of the sword. Guru Gobind Singh, at the time of the creation of the Khalsa Panth, called Sikhs who were prepared to lay down their lives. The acid test of the Khalsa is his readiness to give up his life. The Khalsa covets the best type of death, death in battle, while fighting for the poor, the needy or the oppressed or his Faith. According to Sikhism, physical death is neither painful nor terrible. All must die because the physical frame is subject to decay. But there is something like an art of dying. There is a joy at the prospect of a coming death. Even the worst tortures causes no fear to the devotee. Look at the Sikh martyrs. It is no joke to be cut joint by joint, to have the skin peeled off, to be sawn alive, to be blown away at the cannon's mouth, or to be crushed under the wheels of a railway engine. Martyrs are the real conquerors of death. Those who know the art of true living also know that of true dying. True living is dying to self, the ego, and living up to God. True dying is the privilege of the brave who die for an approved cause. Aimless dying, for no cause, helps nobody. To conquer death is to merit salvation. Death has a terror for ordinary mortals. They are afraid because they have not made any progress on the spiritual plane. They feel worried for their sins and fear of punishment for their misdeeds. A 'True' devotee, welcomes death as friend and as a benefactor because he looks forward to a union with the Supreme Being. He knows that it is through the gate of physical death that he will be able to embrace his Beloved Lord. Death is nothing but a gateway to Divinity and Eternity. This mortal coil may be shaken off an opportunity is there, to don the robe of God's bride.
Q. What is Karma?
The scientific concept of cause and effect, action and reaction is called the law of Karma(in religious parlance). A man reaps what he sows. Is it not typical that in spite of the law of Karma, man expects nectar after sowing poison? Just as our present life is the result of our past Karma, the present Karma will determine our future life. Karma operates in this life and successive ones. The law of Karma does not cease to operate after death, because death is just a matter of physical disintegration, and has no effect on the soul, which survives. God is the Creator of the first Karma, the origin of the universe, and the destroyer of Karma. Good or evil by frequent repetition leave their impression on character. A man doing wicked deeds continuously will turn into a bad character. This produces states of mind, like anxiety, fear and guilt, all of which will cause pain and suffering to the individual. Karma does not mean that everything is preordained and that man has no freewill. He carries his past Karma in the form of character. It is his own actions that make him what he is. Guru Nanak says, "The record of my deeds cannot be effaced because God has recorded them." Man has to sow seeds, the choice and the initiative to certain extent. He also has the ability to change the course of events even though circumscribed by heredity and environment. God as the Ruler of the Universe controls the over-all destiny of individual. Like the prodigal son, sinners turn to Him only as the last resort. Sikhism modified the theory of Karma in two directions. Firstly, efforts of the individual are necessary for improving his own condition. Man is responsible for his lot. He must not blame God for his destiny. He must think of the present and the future. Secondly, Karma can be changed by prayer and the Grace of God. When an individual learns to submit to His will, he ceases to make new Karma. He offers all his actions to Him; he acts as the instrument of His Will. According to Sikhism, all past Karma may then be erased through the association with saints, and meditation on "The Name".
Q. Is there Fate or Freewill, according to Sikhism?
Sikhism affirms the omnipotence of God and consequently modifies the concept of Karma. Man is not a helpless puppet. The course of fate may be compared to the flow of a river, while individual action may look like an eddy, or a whirlpool or a wave. Man has a dual role: firstly, as a person in a particular community and environment, working under certain limitations, and secondly, as an individual with a free will, wanting to do this thing or that to elevate himself. He is like a merchant trading with a certain capital. He may lose it or invest it wisely, to earn profit. He is free to sow the seed, but once he has done so, he has no option other than to reap the fruit. Predestination is responsible for the present; but the present gives us an opportunity to mould our future. It is just like the rotation and revolutions of the earth. The earth revolves around the sun and is influenced by it, but it also has its own motion. According to Sikhism, man is an action being, a Karma Yogi, who has to overcome his difficulties with understanding and wisdom. The effort of the individual should take the form of detached action and not, feeding his ego. He must work altruistically, for mankind, and not for the self. Spiritual effort has to be blessed by Divine favor in order to be successful. This effort requires self-surrender, to His Will. If man works selfishly, in Maya, he suffers; if he works selflessly according to the Will of God he is saved. This self-surrender is a conscious effort to win divine grace. The self-effort is to bring the Divine Will and individual free will into harmony. That is how the two wills become reconciled. Man's salvation lies in his own effort to drown his Ego in the Divine Will. Guru Nanak explains the point through a metaphor: "The mind is the paper on which are recorded in the sum of our deeds, good and bad, the impressions, of the habits of our cumulative past. Against this, and limitless are the virtues of our Lord, for He turneth dross into gold and the fires(passions) of the body extinguish."
Q. What is grace?
If the theory of Karma were carried to its logical extreme, no man would deserve redemption. In Sikhism, the doctrine of Karma is modified by the "Principle of Grace". Man's sincere efforts and noble deeds achieve precious little. What is required is a constant solicitation of His aid in effort of spiritual endeavor. Recitation of Gurbani, meditation, acts of love and charity are merely a means to win His Grace. An humble devotee, like the true bride, surrenders everything to the pleasure of her lord. Surrender to God does not mean slavery but freedom and the extension of one's horizons. Exemplary conduct, good actions and sweet words are necessary, but without Grace, they produce no result. According to Guru Nanak, Karma can be undone only by His Grace. Just as it is the privilege of the Head of the State to pardon a felon who has been duly convicted by a court of law, in the same way, it is God's prerogative alone to redeem evildoers and enable them to enter His Kingdom. It is His privilege to grant Grace to those whom He likes. According to J.C. Archer, the Sovereignty and Omnipotence of God is manifold in his dispensation of His Grace. The doctrine of Grace, does not mean that there are certain chosen prophets and chosen people, God does not have any favorites nor does He make any arbitrary choice. A devotee only prepares himself for being the recipient of His favor He must empty his mind of evil and fill it with "The Name". This alone creates an awareness of the presence of God within one's self. The Grace of God may come to the scholar or the unlettered, the high or the low, the rich or the poor. It does not depend on birth, knowledge wisdom or penance. Those who seek His Grace through service and humility understand the purpose of life. Fire lies dormant in wood; one has to kindle it by effort. To realize the Truth is to get in tune with the Infinite. The Almighty is so Grace abounding (Kirpanidh) that the receiver shouts to Him: "Enough, no more" His bounties know no limit or hindrance.
Q. What is Bhagti?
According to Sikhism, Bhagti(also spelt Bhakti) is a way of life, a dynamic manifestation of faith, a kindling of the mind and awakening of the heart. Bhagti is absolute devotion to God. Bhagti does not mean living in an ivory tower, isolated from one's fellowmen. It is neither asceticism nor renunciation. It is the leading of a dedicated life in the midst of the world. Rivalry among different Bhagti sects is the very negation of spirituality. Real Bhagti is service to God's creation, Benevolence and kindness to all types of men, without distinction. It is both humanism and humanitarianism. Bhagti may take either an outward or an inner form. The Sikh Gurus rejected outer forms like devotional dancing. They emphasized inner devotion, through love. Bhagti, rightly interpreted, is giving oneself away. Even if one is poor, one can share one's love and sympathy with others. This gift of affection, this pouring out of the heart, this outflow of sympathy and understanding, is the true worship of God. Bhagti enjoins self-analysis and self-control. Both the body and the mind have to be trained according to the Guru's word. Guru Nanak says: "The body is the field, the mind the ploughman, modesty the irrigating channel, contentment the leveler. Pulverize the crust of pride into true humility, sow the seed of love - the seed of Bhagti- and it will flourish." (A.G. p595) The Sikh Gurus developed the concept of Bhagti in two ways. While the Hindu saints and mystics discussed the academic aspects of Bhagti, the Gurus practically demonstrated it through creative literature, through hymns of adoration to the Almighty. That concept of Bhagti which was directed to idols and living persons was then modified to cover only an all embracing devotion to the Timeless and the Formless God. Dedication to Nirgun (God) is the highest form of Bhagti. A Bhagt is a practical example of a man God, a sort of superman, who by leading a life of ethical discipline, faces the problems of life and lives nobly and worthily.
Q. Who is a saint?
A saint need not follow any recognizable form. He will be known by his qualities. A saint unattached to the five deadly sins. He must be pure in thought, word and deed. He is unaffected by the three qualities, of darkness, activity and goodness- Tamas, Rajas and Satav respectively. A saint should regard himself only as an humble servant of God. He voluntarily surrenders himself wholly to His Will. He accepts God as his only prop and support. A saint is not chained by the fetters of rituals, social regulations or public opinion. He is dedicated to the mission of Bhagti, spreading "The Name" among the masses. A saint sees God in everything and therefore loves all. He lives in the world and yet remains unattached to its objects. Guru Arjan has summed up the characteristics of a saint in these words: "The saint realizes the presence of God at all hours, He regards the will of God as sweet, His only support is 'The Name'. He is humble to seek the dust of all... He finds comfort in melodious Kirtan. He regards friends and foes alike. He knows none as well as he knows God." (A.G. p392) A man of God should not keep himself aloof from his fellowmen. He mixes freely with them volunteering to serve them and satisfy their wants. For him, no one is high or low. His love radiates equally to all. A saint is in the image of God. Meeting him illumines the mind and confirms the devotee in "the remembrance of The Name." A man of God should follow both personal and social ethics. He is just, tolerant, patient, modest, generous and merciful. He leads an ideal life and is pure and clean. He sets an example for others to follow, not through pride but through humility. He loves to save a lost soul like a shepherd going in search of a strayed lamb. He proceeds slowly and steadily to redeem the wicked ones and bring them to righteous path.
Q. What are the five virtues, according to Sikhism?
The Virtue, of having the ability to do good, is a great aid to the achievement of peace and happiness. Self control itself is a great virtue, because the mind usually turns to brooding on evil. Control over the organs of action (Karm Indries) is really necessary. The mischief of the tongue and the eye must be assessed or controlled. Bhai Gurdas insisted on the cultivation of sweet speech, toleration and charity. Truth occupies the first place in the virtues recommended by the Sikh Gurus. According to Guru Nanak, "Truth is the remedy for all ills, it washes away all sins." Truth includes righteousness, honesty, justice, impartiality and fair play. A 'Truthful living' is actually a life lived according to the pattern set by the Sikh Gurus. Contentment is another virtue. A contented mind is free from ambition, envy, greed and jealousy. Without contentment, it is impossible to acquire peace of mind. Patience is another quality which a Sikh ought to cultivate. Patience gives courage to put up bravely with all the slings and arrows of outraged a fortune. Forbearance, particularly when one is in a position to punish one's opponent, is a great asset. Perfect faith in the Guru is the fourth virtue which the Sikh has to cultivate and develop. Faith implies considering the Guru's teaching as infallible and following it in daily life. The Guru often tests the devotee. A True Sikh will never lose faith or follow any one except his Guru. Those whose faith is diluted or deficient cannot serve the Guru truly or gain the goal of their heart's desire. Another virtue is compassion (Daya). This implies considering anothers difficulty or sorrow as one's own and helping to relieve it as far as possible. Compassion also includes the overlooking of imperfections and mistakes of others, for to err is human. The Gurus admired those Sikhs who observed others' faults, but did not expose them to their disadvantage. The Sikh regards the practice of virtue as a means to an end. His goal is the integration of the human personality with spiritual realization.
Q. What are the five main vices?
Each religion has its own set of vices which its followers are enjoined to avoid. In Christianity, there are seven deadly sins. Sikhism, regards as sin any willful disobedience of God's law or principle of natural morality. Sin is a defiance of the Moral Law. In order to avoid vice, we must be able to recognize vice itself than develop the will to overcome it. In Sikhism, there are five cardinal vices: Kam(Lust), Krodh(Anger), Lobh(Greed), Moh(Worldly attachment), Ahankar(Pride). These are the great enemies of man and cause much suffering. While they reside in the human body, how can the Name of God find a place in it. Lust is sinful and produces nothing but shame and misery. Sikhism allows the householder normal, marital sex but any other indulgence is forbidden. Both promiscuity and sex perversion are absolutely forbidden. Anger is an excitement of the mind which leads to quarrels and violence. Anger is overcome by patience and forgiveness. God dwells in every human heart, so one should not hurt the God in another man. Greed is the desire for wealth or the love of gain. Money rightly used and earned by honest labour, is permitted. What is objected to, is an excessive love of money - especially money obtained by fraud or other unfair means. Avarice can be overcome by contentment. All too often excessive wealth creates an ongoing desire for luxury and the admission to vice. Attachment is the excessive love of a wife, children or material goods. Regard your near and dear ones as objects of trust and service. They cannot remain yours for long. Any earthly love can only ever be transient. Pride is the worst of the five vices. It implies conceit, vanity, jealousy or arrogance. It is the Ego, thinking aloud. The remedy for pride is humility. Humility, forgiveness and compassion go together. The true Sikh regards himself as being the dust of the feet of other people. With the Guru's grace, these five vices may be turned into the humble servants of a devotee. Instead of their controlling the individual, they may do him service at his bidding.
Q. What is the place of evil, according to Sikhism?
Everything is created by God, even evil. But what we regard as evil has a special purpose to serve. Evil is neither Satan nor any demon. This Dark Age, Kalyuga, (the age of sin) is the period when evil is likely to thrive. The purpose of evil is to test the character of man. According to Guru Nanak: "Suffering is the remedy and comfort the disease." Man is inherently liable to succumb to temptation. The greater his faith, the greater the evil that challenges it. Great men have faced evil and tyranny- whether in the form of a persecutor, a traitor or one's own kith and kin- in order to prove the triumph of the spirit over matter. The company of the evil-minded is to be shunned at all costs. It is the gateway only to the continuing cycle of birth and death. It is compared to an evil which defiles whoever comes in contact with it. Guru Arjan in the Sukhmani warns us against associating with Godless people. The mind of man is more prone to evil than to good. Man is slow to take to virtue but swift to succumb to vice. Nonetheless, it is necessary to purge the mind of evil thoughts by constant effort, before good can enter it. Evil actions arise from evil thinking, motivated by lust, anger, greed, attachment, or pride. Other evil actions take the form of lying, drinking, gambling, begging and backbiting. Sikhism does not believe in the concept of original sin, that a man has to suffer for the sins of his forefathers. Perhaps the strongest shield against evil is to join the society of the good and pious people. The company of holy men has a positive role to play in spiritual attainment. In their company, one is influenced by their words and deeds and therefore becomes ennobled and pious. Guru Nanak suggests a remedy against evil: "Make Truth the knife. Let it be sharpened on the whetstone of 'The Name'. Keep it protected in a sheath of virtue." Egoism is the greatest evil, because it creates a wall between man and the Creator. This wall can be only removed by submission to His will and the seeking of Divine aid. In his daily prayer, the Sikh invokes God's grace to keep him away from evil thoughts, words and deeds.
Q. What is the value of fasting?
Fasting is good for health but has no religious merit. Some sects of the Hindus hold very strong views on fasting. For them, fasting has some real value and has to be strictly followed. Sikhism does not regard fasting as meritorious. God has given us the human body - the temple of the soul - which has to be nourished and cared for. Fasting as an austerity, as a ritual, as a mortification of the body by means of willful hunger is forbidden in Sikhism. Guru Nanak says: "Penance, fasting, austerity and alms-giving are inferior to 'The Truth'; right action is superior to all." There are sects which do not eat this or that. Some people will not eat cereals, but will take other types of food. Such people may be treated as hypocrites. They give up the use of certain type of food, not because they want to, but because they wish to impress others. It feeds their Ego and does not earn merit. According to Guru Nanak, true fasting is the renunciation of the fruit of one's actions. Fasting for reasons of health is understandable when done on medical advice. Some people fast regularly on a particular day in the week, so resting their digestive organs. It may also serve as a means to save food, or a method of balancing the domestic budget. Sikhism encourages temperance and moderation in matters of food. Neither starve nor over-eat: this is the golden mean. Men who want to engage in meditation should only eat simple and nourishing food. Healthy food but in small quantities(Alap Ahar), just to keep body and soul together and to prevent sleep and sloth, this is recommended for the devotee. On the other hand, gluttony is not only socially bad, but also morally reprehensible. The golden rule about fasting is: Fast only when you must, in the interest of your health.
Q. What is the value of pilgrimage?
Hindu tradition emphasizes the role of undertaking pilgrimages as an aid for one's spiritual development. Sikhism does not consider pilgrimage as an act of spiritual merit. Guru Nanak went to places of pilgrimage to reclaim the fallen people, who had turned ritualists. He told them of the need to visit that temple of God, deep in the inner being of themselves. According to him: "He performs a pilgrimage who controls the five vices." People go to centres of pilgrimage for a variety of reasons: some for religious formality, some for show, some for fun and some for holiday. Some people delight in visiting holy shrines, in the belief that their sins will be forgiven. But bathing or other rituals cannot wash away sin. Real dirt pertains to the mind; it is inward. The growth of desire of Maya, cannot be removed by physical action. Nevertheless, visits to historical places connected with activities of holy men have a marginal utility. They remind people of goodness and tradition. Who knows when one may find some truly holy person at a religious centre. The futility of wandering to the so-called sacred places is amply illustrated by the life of Guru Amardas. Before he became Guru, he went on pilgrimages twenty times, without benefit. He saw the light only when he finally met Guru Angad. The Gurus tried to remove the notion of the efficacy of pilgrimage. Guru Nanak says: "I would like to go to pilgrimage only if it pleases God." Elsewhere, he says: "My places of pilgrimage are to study 'The Word', and contemplating its divine knowledge within me." Guru Gobind Singh was very emphatic about the futility of pilgrimage. According to him, without God's Name, such visits have not the slightest significance. Kabir sought God in the temple of his mind. He therefore, migrated from Benaras, a well-known sacred city, to Magahar, a traditionally cursed town. Real pilgrimage is any visit to the Guru which gives enlightenment. Guru Nanak says: "No pilgrim-spot is equal to the Guru... The Guru is the river in whose water(Name), the filth of sin and evil thoughts, are washed off." (A.G. 1329)
Q. What is the true education, according to Sikhism?
The aim of education is to develop and integrate the human personality. The present system is lopsided and needs modification. Guru Nanak based the uplift of man on the cultivation of character. It is character which helps us to make the right choice or to take the right step in a moral crisis. Temptations come so suddenly that man has to make quick decisions. Unless one has virtue and guts both acquired by steady practice over a number of years, one may easily fall prey to evil. The function of education is to prepare man's intellectual, aesthetic and emotional background in such a way that the individual's development is harmonious. They should follow Dharma, in its broad aspect. This includes reverence for teachers and elders, a solicitude for the welfare of neighbors and fellow-citizens and a respect for all types of life: birds, animals, plants with the emphasis on duty rather than rights. Guru Nanak taught us of three Hs in place of three RS; The knowledge of the Hand, knowledge of the Head and Knowledge of the Heart. The education of the Hand implies the dignity of labour, self-reliance and of service to humanity. The education of the Head implies an appreciation of the wonders of nature, an understanding of the masteries of the universe and a search for "truth". The education of the Heart includes the awakening of the higher self and the seeking of true inspiration from within. Guru Nanak explained the spiritual significance of some letters of the alphabet to the Pandit and the Mullah. Alif stands for Allah, Sassa stands for an awareness of God - the Creator of the universe. He laid emphasis on character-building, citizenship and service: "The essence of wisdom lies in the service of humanity." Guru Nanak trained his disciple Angad through a creative and purposeful discipline. Just as a student needs a teacher, so a disciple needs a Guru. Men find it difficult to resist evil and do good, if left on their own, but if they are assisted by a great personality who possesses dynamic power, than their progress will be steady and significant.
Q. What is conscience?
Within each individual is a source of inner judgment, which tells them what is right and what is wrong. Our conscience, is popularly called the voice of God. Even people who follow no particular religion have moral sense. They know what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Even atheists who have done a wrong thing express remorse because they have later felt dejected and unclean, possibly due to the weight of public opinion or perhaps the moral sense that was ingrained in them during childhood. Sikhs believe in the moral order of the universe and know that God is both just and generous. He resides in the individual. The God within guides the human being through an inner voice. This is generally termed as conscience. Within the individual, there is a perpetual struggle between good and evil. The conscience denounces evil and supports the good. We feel happy when we follow its command and unhappy, if we disobey it. The effects of conscience - Bibek - differs with each individual, it depends on their stage of spiritual evolution. It is necessary to educate the moral sense. This is best done by associating with Holy men and meditation on "The Word". The conscience may waver at times in its firmness and power to control over human actions. Whenever we are in doubt, we must heed the voice of the conscience. We should respect its advice and follow it. In persons whose conscience is constantly overridden, this evil blunts and suppresses it. A basic doctrine of Sikhism is to obey the Will of God. Where can we find the Will of God? According to Guru Nanak, it is embedded in the core of the human conscience. To follow one's conscience is, therefore, to live up to the Will of God.
Q. What is Maya?
Sikhism does not accept the conventional meaning of Maya-as illusion. The world is not Maya; it is a creation of God and as such, an abode of the Truthful One, or rather a Temple of Divinity. According to Sikhism Maya epitomizes the principle duality. It is this duality which makes one forget the Lord and attracts the man to wealth, beauty, power, or scholarship. The root of Maya is egoism, the assertion of the self. It is this which separates a man from his divine self. By such fetters, man binds himself to his family and to worldly possessions. Maya is a trap for the soul. Maya may also take on a more subtle form as self-importance or self-complacency. It may form different patterns like intellectual pride, family attachment, pleasure-seeking and money-grabbing. It plays an important part in daily life. The Guru by his grace gives the antidote for Maya. It is "The Name" of God, which works the spell. With it Maya is brought under control and so no longer harasses the disciple. The residue of Maya accumulates through many births. It sticks to the individual like glue. It produces an inbuilt sense of isolation which causes man to forget his own divine essence. The individual's soul will realize, sooner or later, that a Supreme soul lives within. This becomes a spiritual awakening which will secure liberation from passion and desire. This liberation comes through self-control and the practice of virtuous living. It is the association with the Guru and the company of holy men that facilitates this realization of man's divine origin. The evil effects of 'Maya' take longer to eradicate. Along with self-effort, the Guru grace is necessary. Guru Nanak says: "The true Guru has revealed the One to me. I have destroyed duality and can now recognize Him, through the Guru's word". Between man and God is a wall of ignorance, once this is removed, man may realize his kinship with Divinity.
Q. What is egoism?
Man possesses a divine essence. He is not separate from God, but on account of his self-assertion, he thinks he is. He builds round himself, wall of egoism which makes him forget "God in himself" and in all things. This is called Agyan or ignorance. Guru Nanak says, "Ignorance has its roots in the image of the self." Some feel that Maya or the materialistic world, creates the sense of separateness of duality, but whether Maya or ego, the separation of the individual soul from the Universal Soul is the cause of much misery and subsequent transmigration. Man' concern to build up a separate identity is the root of his suffering. According to Sikhism, man is responsible for his own actions. Human self will - the ego - encourages man to bad deeds. The egoism takes the form of a pride and vanity. These result from learning, power or money. They lead to arrogance and a sense of superiority which makes one disregard and ignore other men. This not only alienates them from their fellow-men, but also from God who views with disfavor, any person who stands like a Colossus, in complete oblivion of the Source of All Power. Egoistic actions are like chains draped round a person's neck. The cure for egoism lies within. If a man, subjects his will to God's Will and regards himself only as an instrument of God, he rises above action and its chain of consequences. Self-assertion is the disease, self-surrender is the cure. Submission to His Will removes the barrier between man and God. Guru Ramdas says, "The bride and the bridegroom live together, with a partition of ego between them. Once this partition is removed, the bride enjoys her union with the Creator." (A.G. p.1263). Only when man understands that all things are subject to God's Will - including himself will he be able to live and move in tune with God. If, by the assertion of self, they cut themselves off from this Reality, they wander in the wilderness. But it is possible like the Prodigal Son, to come back to the bosom of the Father.
Q. What is the Name(Naam)?
The word 'Nam' is derived from the Sanskrit Naman which means the practice of remembrance. It is a word used to describe the spiritual manifestations of God i.e. His Holy spirit. So the remembrance of God - Nam Marg is the essence of Sikhism. The repetition of the Sikh mantra "Waheguru" is an invocation of this Holy Spirit. Life without "The Name" or "The Word", or Nam Simran(The remembrance of "The Name", invoking the Holy Spirit) is barren and meaningless. "The Name" alone brings true peace of mind. The obstacles to "The Name" are worldly thoughts, sleep and occult powers. "The Name" is inside every individual. The Guru reveals it to the devotee. The devotee does his normal duties with hands and feet, but he keeps his conscious mind in tune with His Lord. Some men practice"The Name" with the regulation of breath; they utter 'Wah' with inhalation and 'Guru' with exhalation. But this reflects individual convenience. "The Name" performs three functions - it is purgative for the removal of evil; it is illuminative, because it gives us knowledge of "The Truth", Beauty and Goodness; it is unitive since it may bring one in tune with God. The remembrance is three-fold: with words, with the mind and with action. The repetition of Gurbani helps the mind to concentrate on God. It is food for the soul. The technique of "The Name" follows certain phases - first the repetition of "The Nam": Wahguru by mouth; secondly, the percolation of "The Name" into the mind, (mental remembrance); thirdly, the longing for God like a lover waiting for his beloved; fourthly the awareness of God every-where; then finally, the ultimate union with Him. Sikhism recommends the following plan as the easiest way to practice "Nam marg". Get up early morning and meditate during the ambrosial hours of the dawn. Avoid idleness and the five great vices. Seek the company of holy men, this is a great help to meditation. Try to maintain strict moral conduct, this too, helps you to a spiritual plan. Even then Divine Grace is necessary for the practice in humility of Nam Simran. "The Name", apart from meditative aspect also means the "All pervading Spirit". The entire world depends on "The Name" - God's own Holy Spirit. Therefore, to meditate on 'Nam', is to practice the presence of God by keeping Him ever in one's mind as also by singing His praises or dwelling on His excellencies. From this may come the feelings of wonder and bliss.
Q. What is Sahaj Yoga?
"Yoga" means union, and therefore, means of merger with Divinity. Guru Nanak's way is called - Nam Yoga or Sahaj Yoga. The word Sahaj means the natural or gradual process. Just as vegetables cooked over a slow fire retain their favor, so in the same way, the Sahaj discipline of mind and body, will bring out the essential goodness of a human being. Sahaj Yoga differs radically from Hath Yoga. Sahaj Yoga is peculiar to Sikhism. It is the best form of three traditional Yogas - Karam Yoga, Gian Yoga, and Bhagti Yoga. Here the three types merge to form an ideal one. Actions which are noble and righteous, along with meditation on "The Name" and the elimination of the ego, pave the way to God realization. In the Guru Granth Sahib it is called the Fourth stage, Chautha Pad, which means that it is beyond the three Gunas of Rajas(activity), Tamas(darkness), and Satav(peace), and the three states - Awakening, Dream and Dreamless sleep. It is a state of equipoise, called Turiya. The maladies of the soul must be cured in this life, otherwise they are carried over to the next life. For this a dedicated life of self- discipline is essential; "I have placed the five senses under the control of my conscience, By making my five organs of perception and my five organs of action also obedient to it, I became a perfect yogi." (A.G. p 208) Just as the lotus remains in water and is not made wet by it, so the devotee may remain undefiled by Maya or worldly things. Sahaj also creates contentment and desirelessness. Man is, in essence Divine. No sooner does he realize this than he wishes to merge into the Universal Source. The wall of egoism may only be destroyed with the Guru's guidance and God's grace. The union of man with God is like the consummation of marriage or like the confluence of two streams - Sangam. Such a union is possible, while living in the midst of worldly things and performing daily duties.
==Q. What is contentment? Contentment lies in feeling satisfied with what one has. Some people question the value of contentment, because they consider ambition as the ladder to progress. The more one has, the more one seems to want. There is no end to ambition and greed. According to Guru Nanak, greed burns like an unquenchable fire; the more it is fed, the stronger its flames rise. A greedy man is never satisfied, even when he gets all that he wants. Avarice leads to many vices like fraud, lying and gluttony. An Avaricious man blunts his conscience and even bleeds his nearest and dearest ones. Contentment implies frugality. Our wants are many, and our real needs few. Things, we can do without, cannot be regarded as necessities. Peace of mind comes from elimination of wanting. Contentment implies that life is greater than its wealth or riches. Regard money as a trust, real joy comes from giving and not in receiving. Moreover, excessive wealth often leads to luxury and vice. Contentment is felt when one compares his lot with those who are less fortunate. Adversity is not a punishment but rather an opportunity for development. Moreover in poverty, there are few temptations and fewer flatterers. A contented man remains content in adverse circumstances, be it poverty, distress or sickness. These are accepted as normal events of life, while discontented man increases his own misery by comparing his lot with that of more fortunate people. Contentment results from submission to the Divine Will which a true Sikh accepts with gratitude and joy. Guru Arjan says: "Without contentment, it is impossible to acquire peace of mind." Peace and happiness come naturally to a stable mind.
Q. What is humility?
As God is the Father of all human being, any slight or insult to anyone is to injure God in every soul. Guru Arjan says: "Know that God dwells in all souls, And so become as the dust of the feet of all." The antidote for the poison of pride, is humility. The five organs of senses - eyes, mouth, ears, nose and hands - are located in the upper portion of the body and easily confused by sin. The feet, which are located in the lower part are seldom used in wickedness. In India the feet are respected and touched at the time of salutation. The vain and the arrogant challenge their peers and leaders. They seldom realize that there are other people who are better or more able than they are. They lack feeling of brotherliness. It is the awareness of human fellowship, which should make one treat all, with decency and consideration. The Sikh Gurus set many examples of meekness and humility. When the old Guru, Guru Amardas was kicked by Datu, he never showed resentment but humbly suggested that his hard bones must have caused hurt to Datu's feet. Similarly Sri Chand, Guru Nanak's son asked Guru Ramdas in a humorous way why he had kept such a long and flowing beard. The Guru replied: "To wipe the dust off your holy feet." Sri Chand was much impressed by the Guru's humility. Humility requires the elimination of the ego. It is the ego which is the barrier to self-knowledge and salvation. Pride is eliminated by understanding Guru's word. Guru Arjan says: "Consider yourself the humblest of the humble." It is the humble who are great and are exalted in God's court. True humility leads to a surrender to God's Will and the ultimate merger of the individual soul into Divinity.
Q. What is renunciation?
Renunciation of the world - Tyaga - is regarded by Hinduism as one of the ways to spiritual attainment. Many devotees leave their homes and go into the jungles to practice austerity. This approach is disregarded in Sikhism, because this way or renunciation is not practical in Kalyuga(This age of sin) age. The mind does not find peace in physical solitude; rather, it wanders away to the missing worldly possessions and interests. As Guru Nanak explained to the monks of the Himalayas, "How will the world be served, if the pious people retire to mountain fastness and lend no helping hand in any attempt to solve the problems of the day?" The Gurus recommended renunciation in the midst of life - Grist mahe udasi. The renunciation of evil desire and not the cessation of work or retirement, is the true way. Guru Arjan say: "Renunciation of lust, anger and attachment is praise worthy." The true Sikh is the real Sanyasi(an ascetic, a recluse). He lives desireless in the midst of worldly possessions and associations. He does his daily chores and yet keeps himself free from attachment to the world. He is neither depressed by worldly affliction nor elated by gain or attainment. Like the lotus flower, he is not affected by the level of worldly things. True renunciation results in finding mental "detachment". Kabir says, "Do your daily duties with hands and feet, But concentrate on the Lord." (A.G. p 1376) Just as a mother who is busy in her household work thinks of her child lying in a cradle, so a true devotee, apparently busy in his office may still be repeating the Name. Guru Gobind Singh explains the point in these words: "O, my soul practice renunciation in this way, Consider your house as a forest and yourself as an ascetic, Let continence be your matted hair, And communion with God your ablution." True renunciation results from the practical application of the Sikh way of life - a life of meditation and service to mankind.
Q. What is the role of service (Sewa) without thoughts of self in Sikhism?
The Gurus mentioned the performance of selfless service on the part of a disciple as the first step in Sikhism. By doing service of various kinds without payment or any expectation of reward, one acts as a Sewak, or Sewadar. From this may spring humility and the consequent elimination of one's ego in this way, God's "Name" can best enter an humbled mind. What are the requirements of a true Sewak? He should have an absolute faith in the Guru; he must surrender himself to follow the code of self-discipline as laid down by the Gurus. Voluntary service can be of different kinds - with body, mind and money. First comes the physical service - shoe-care at the temple, the cleaning of the premises, cooking and serving in the Free Kitchen. Apart from serving Sangat(Congregation) one is also expected to serve one's family members, relations and the community. One may help in cash or kind, to deserving persons and charitable organizations. Then comes service with the mind, such as is required for reflection on Gurbani and the remembrance of God's Name - All these forms of service are recommended by the Gurus. They also warn us that service must be done gladly and without any motive for compensation. It has not be done with a secret or hidden ideas to win approbation, honor or position. These defeat the main object of "service" which is to eliminate the ego. Unfortunately, most Sikhs do little Sewa, but expect a big return for what they do such considerations are unbecoming for True Disciples. The Gurus have enumerated various benefits from doing selfless service. One may obtain inner happiness and real honor. As one learns to be humble and associates with holy person, and progresses on the spiritual path, so one may come to worldly success. Sikhism, requires a Sadhana - an effort towards the spiritualising of the self. All the Gurus performed various kinds of voluntary service, both inside and outside Sikh institutions. The Sikhs then followed in their footsteps; we have examples of the services of Bhai Manjh, Bhai Hindal and Bhai Kanhaiya, to name but a few. Even today, we find various kinds of service organizations run by the Sikhs in India, like orphanages, widows' homes, institutes for the destitute and the handicapped, like the Blind school. The important question to ask oneself is: "What service can I do?" The answer depends on one's own abilities and inclination. One may serve in any field in which one is interested. Any service, is a step on the path of Sikhism, provided it is done in sincerity and without thoughts of the self.
Q. What are the stages of spiritual development, according to Sikhism?
Spiritual attainment is directly allied to personal development. Much depends on the amount of effort - Sadhana - the devotee puts in. Meditation on "The Name", joining the company of the saints, performing good or noble deeds all help one to progress on a spiritual plane. Guru Nanak has mentioned five stages of spiritual growth in the Japji. The first stage is in the region of duty - Dharam Khand - here, man does act and reaps the consequences. Those who carry out their duties sincerely and honestly, enter the second region - the region of knowledge - Gian Khand. Here a devotee may obtain a knowledge of God and the Universe. He learns of his own human limitations, the omnipotence of God and the vastness of His creation. He may then realize that there is some further purpose behind God's creation. He then enters the third stage - the region of effort - Saram Khand - here his mind and understanding are purified. He endeavors to act according to the instructions of the Guru. Such efforts may lead him to the next region - the region of grace - Karam Khand; here the selfless devotee may find divine grace and develop spiritual power. Finally, only with God's grace he may enter the next stage - the region of truth - Sach Khand - where he may unite with God. Such is the progress of man from the worldly to the spiritual plane. Undoubtedly, being moral is a great help to spiritual progress. In Sikhism, the grace of the Guru or of God is necessary to help a pilgrim on to the spiritual path. It may be possible for an ordinary person to walk steadily on his own, but if he is primed by another personality, possessing dynamic power, he can further gather momentum, to go forward. The care and the tutelage of the Guru protects him from many untoward calamities and encourages him through the many crises in life. Guru Nanak laid down a way of spiritual discipline in the penultimate verse of the Japji. The devotee should exercise control over their mind and body, strive sincerely to walk on the spiritual path, use their reason when confronted with problems, fear no one and ceaselessly repeat the Divine 'Name'. Such persons will radiate joy and peace to all people who come near them.
Q. What is the mission of the Khalsa?
The Khalsa was the creation of the last living Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh. The ten Gurus had given more than 200 years of training to the Sikhs and wanted to demonstrate the type of a true man of God who would be perfect in all respects. He would be a model of Sikh principles. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Khalsa "Amrit" - the baptism of the sword. He knelt before the Panj Piyaras and begged for Amrit(The baptismal water prepared by the Panj Piyaras). He said that the Khalsa was his physical form and the embodiment of all that is best in the Sikh religion. He game them the uniform of the five symbols and the five Banis. They were to be saint-soliders, devoted to the service of mankind. The baptism of the sword was meant to create fearlessness in the Sikhs. They were enjoined to carry the Kirpan, for purposes of the defense of others and for the uprooting of evil. This mission of the defense of the weak and the downtrodden gave an impetus to a spirit of service and sacrifice. The Khalsa Panth had to meet The need of The times - to protect The weak against The oppression of Moghul rulers. History shows how The Sikhs bore The brunt of Moghul tyranny and indignation. The two holocausts - Chotta Ghallughara of June 1746, when more than ten thousand Sikhs were butchered, and Vada Ghallughara of Feb. 1762, when more than thirty thousand Sikhs were killed - clearly demonstrated that The Khalsa was always ready to meet The challenge of bigoted Muslim rulers. In The freedom struggle (1931-1947), The Khalsa Panth, gave a good account of itself. During The Chinese invasion of 1962 and Indo-Pak wars of September 1965 and December 1971, The Sikhs won many official awards for their heroism. Some people suggest that The Khalsa was created only to meet The needs of The time. This is not correct. The Khalsa was intended to perpetuate The ideal of The godly warrior - The saint-soldier - which Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh had in mind. Here was a harmonious development of physical and spiritual personality within The Grihst Ashram(The state of a family man; The married life of a householder). Here The best characteristics of past and present were fused together to create a man for The future - A Khalsa - dedicated to The glory of God and The freedom and dignity of man. Undoubtedly, Khalsas will come to The forefront in meeting any future crisis in any part of The world.
Q. Are The five symbols really necessary?
It has been found that The maintenance of a similarity of appearance is essential, not only for The sake of uniformity but also for sustaining The enthusiasm of an organization. Such uniformity should be a living demonstration of The inspiration of The personality that created them. They symbolise The ideal and make it more real and meaningful to The followers. The Sikh symbols were not intended to create a spirit of exclusiveness or of "chosen people". They were meant to serve as aids to The corporate life of The community. It may be possible for a man to devote himself to God without adopting any forms or symbols, but if he wants to join an organization, he must keep up The disciplinary forms of The group. One may be a good soldier without military drill and uniform, but that does not minimize The need for such in a regular army, in The same way, The Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh stick to his uniform and The symbols ordained by him and find them a great aid in Panthic organization. It has been recorded in history that whenever Guru Gobind Singh was pleased with anyone, he welcomed him to The fold of The Khalsa. Lachhman Bairagi became Banda Singh. It is said that more than eighty thousand Sikhs received "Baptism by The sword", within a few months of The creation of The Khalsa. The symbols have kept The Sikhs united. They have also helped to maintain their ideals in great crises. Many Sikhs faced death but refused to shave off their hair(Kesh) which is The most important of The five symbols. The maintenance of unshorn hair is in keeping with The idea of living according to The Will of God. The Kesh symbolise The spiritual link with The Guru-power. Along with The maintenance of five symbols, The leading of an exemplary life - Rahit - is essential. Abstinence from tobacco, Halal(halal meat is a ritual meat prepared by members of certain faiths; The animal's blood is drained off to produce white meat) meat, wines, narcotics and adultery is part of The discipline of a Khalsa. The code of conduct is a difficult one. Guru Gobind Singh valued The form of The Khalsa, and state that so long as Khalsa maintains The symbols, he will march to glory; when he indifference to them, his lustre will tarnish and fade away.
Q. What is The significance of The five symbols?
When Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa Panth in 1699, he ordered them to maintain The five symbols - Panj Kakar. These symbols were not only necessary for The strength and uniformity of The organization, but also for The value they each had in their own right. Let us examine The significance of each symbol. Hair(kesh) was regarded as a symbol of saintliness and Dharma in ancient times. The Biblical story of Samson Agonizes shows that hair was his source of strength and vitality. Guru Nanak started The practice of keeping unshorn hair. His son Sri Chand, The founder of The Udasi sect, also ordered his followers to maintain long hair. The keeping of hair is regarded as an indication of living in harmony with The Will of God. The shaving of hair may be construed as interference in nature's way and considering oneself wiser than God. Keeping hair is The most important symbol. A Khalsa become apostate (Patit) if he shaves or trims his hair. The comb(Kanga) is necessary for keeping The hair clean and tidy. Underwear(Kachh) is regarded as a symbol of chastity. Moreover, it allows unembarrassed movement in times of action. It is also easy and comfortable to wear when at rest. It serves as a mark of readiness and agility. Sword (Kirpan) is an emblem of courage and adventure. In order to have self-respect, The Khalsa should maintain The means to vindicate his honor The sword is to be used for The defense of others and not for offense. From The possession of a sword comes The Khalsa Panth to be a brotherhood of arms. The steel bracelet(Kara) is a symbol of restraint and gentility, it also reminds The Sikh that he is bonded to The Guru. When a Sikh looks at it, he will think twice before doing an evil deed. These symbols are kept to preserve corporate unity and to foster The sentiment of brotherhood. They assist a Khalsa look exactly like Guru Gobind Singh(formwise) and thus hopefully prompt him to behave like a Guru.
Q. What is The code of discipline for The Khalsa?
At The first initiation of The Khalsa Brotherhood, Guru Gobind Singh gave The instructions to The Panj Pyaras during The ceremony of Amrit. These instructions may be summarized as under: Believe in only The One Absolute God, The Ten Sikh Gurus and Guru Granth Sahib. The Mulmantra contains The basic tenet of Sikh belief and The Sikh's Gur-mantra is Waheguru. Daily recite The five Banis namely, Japji, Jaap, Swayyas, Rahiras Chaupai and Kirtan-Sohila. Maintenance of The Five Ks: Kes, Kirpan, Kachh, Kara and Kanga. No stealing, plundering, gambling or exploitation of The poor. No coveting of anothers wealth or wife. No use of intoxicants like wine, hemp, opium, toddy etc. Do not commit any religious offense (Kurahit) like The removal of hair, The use of tobacco, eating Halal meat or adultery. If a Khalsa does any of these, he has to take Amrit again, after due penance. Do not perform any Hindu or other ritualistic ceremonies on occasions of birth, marriage or death in The family. Only Sikh ceremonies are to be performed. Follow no rituals such as Havans, Pitries (ancestor-feeding), worship of idols or of graves, tombs, monasteries or maths. Have no relationships with Minas, Dhir-malias, Ramrais and Massands. In addition to The above instructions, Guru Gobind Singh also gave oral instructions to well-known Khalsa leaders like Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Desa Singh, Bhai Chaupa Singh. These were later written down and were called Rahat-Names(codes of conduct). He also gave some instructions to Bhai Nand Lal, The poet-laureate of his court, which is called Tankhah-Nama. The main points of these instructions are given below:
i) A Khalsa should not follow any ascetic practices of Yogis, Sanyasis etc. and should not follow any Tantra, Mantra or Jantra.
ii) He should not give his daughter in marriage to a Patit Sikh or accept any money for The marriage of his daughter from The boy's family. iii) He should give one-tenth of his income to charitable or religious purposes. iv) He should not wear a cap, hat or helmet. v) He should not use any money from temple offerings or charity funds. If he happens to be a priest, a granthi or The caretaker of a Gurdwara, he should accept only what is necessary for his needs. vi) He should marry within The Sikh Panth. vii) He should not break his vows or any other promise he makes nor commit perjury or treachery. viii) He should not listen to vulgar, profane or sexy songs. ix) He should have his head covered whenever going out. x) He should teach his children how to read The Guru Granth Sahib and understand its contents. xi) He should use The Sikh greetings when greeting another Sikh, namely Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. The above instructions form The main part of The Code of Discipline. They may be categorized under two headings: religious and social. The religious directives are in keeping with The Sikh tradition. The social directives are intended to make The Khalsa a good citizen and a responsible member of The community. The prohibition of theft, plunder, perjury, treachery, cheating, gambling and exploitation of The poor and weak sections of The community contribute to The smoothening of The course of normal social life and benefit The community as a whole. The bans on The use of alcohol and tobacco are intended to safeguard The health of The Khalsa. The Directives against The four misdemeanors, association with patits, Dhirmalias etc., The misuse of religious offerings and charities are meant to wean The Khalsa from religious misdeeds. All in all, The code is intended to make a Khalsa an ideal person.
Q. Is holy congregation (Satsang) necessary?
In Sikhism, great emphasis is laid on Satsang. By joining congregational prayers and making contact with saints The devotee comes to divine knowledge. The inspiration given by good people leads to The development of The spiritual personality. Holy people preach purity through personal example and kindle The heart with universal love. They warn The individual of The five great vices. Psychologically, The association with holy men helps as a deterrent against evil thoughts and deeds. Just as a tree which grows near a sandalwood tree acquires The fragrance of sandal, just as a metal when touched with The philospher's stone is transmuted into gold so in The same way, an ordinary man becomes ennoble and heroic in The company of holy men. In The company of The Truthful, a devotee learns The value of "The Truth". Joining The company of saints, is also conductive to The discipline of The mind. One learns how to serve The community and work for The good of humanity. One acquires The technique of "The Name" and so comes to enjoy inner tranquility. According to Guru Nanak, " The company of saints is also The school of The Guru, where one learns Godly attributes." There evil is purged and destroyed, as if by a divine spark. Guru Arjan says, "The society of saints removes sin; The society of saints brings comforts in this world and The next." Again and again, in The Guru Granth Sahib, a Sikh is required to seek The company of noble souls. A man is known by The company he keeps. In good company, he becomes good and sheds his evil tendencies. He will learn to be ashamed of doing anything which may bring him reproach. Man's actions are so often motivated by The herd instinct. He does certain things as a matter of social convention, if his society becomes an instrument of his progress, he can rise to greater heights. For this reason, The Sikh in his general prayer - The Ardas - seeks The company of The holy and to contact virtuous men - Sadh Ka sang, Gurmukh da mel.
Q. How should we treat the apostates (Patits)?
The weak followers of any religion are likely to renounce their faith in fear or temptation, so it is, necessary to accept only those adherents who have a firm and sincere belief in the basic tenets of their religion. It has been observed that some Sikhs become apostate - Patits - on account of mixing with bad company, when they go to foreign countries. Some people have told me that they shaved because otherwise they could not get employment. This is not always true, because some Keshdhair Sikhs are able to get decent jobs. It all depends on the qualifications of the individual Sikh. Some Sikhs may have shaved because they mixed with foreign girls and wanted to appear more acceptable to them, like so many things, a reflection of their human weakness. Much depends on the strength and vitality of the individual's faith. Recently, a Sikh bus-conductor in England won the right to wear a turban on duty. Another Sikh who was not admitted to a recreation club received an apology from the management. If the Sikhs in the West maintain their form and symbols, the turban and the beard will become respected. Recently the Sikhs in Britain won the right of riding motorcycles with turbans instead of helmets. Similarly Sikhs with turbans have been allowed to join the U.S. Navy. The reclamation of apostates should be given the greatest encouragement in any program of spiritual uplift. The apostates have to be persuaded to realize their shortcomings and weaknesses and convinced of the value of repentance and the turning over of a new leaf. According to the Rahtnama, the Khalsa must maintain his tradition and individuality: "As long as the Khalsa remains distinct, His glory and lustre will grow, Once he adopts Brahmanical ways It will not be possible to trust him." Many apostates, in their heart of hearts, realize that they have wronged themselves and their community, but do not have the moral courage to admit to their weakness. The only approach to Patits is to re-educate them and offer assistance in their return to the Sikh fold. Give understanding and sympathy, they may well react favourably to an approach by responsible Sikhs.
Q. Are there castes among the Sikhs?
Five hundred years ago, Guru Nanak introduced the concept of a casteless society. The Hindus rigidly adhered to the caste system which divided the community into water-tight compartments. This not only prevents social intercourse but also encourages fatalism. According to Guru Nanak, no man is born high or low. Taking the image of the potter's wheel, Guru Arjan compared the different kinds of people to vessels of many types and patterns, but all made of clay. In spite of religious and social distinctions, all mankind is of one basic material common to all. Many Indian saints and Bhagats(saints or seers) belonged to low castes, but this did not stand in the way of their spiritual attainment. They are still revered and worshipped on account of their saintliness. God's Name burns away all impurities and ennobles the individual. According to Guru Nanak, caste is humbug. He writes: "From one Light the whole world came into being; so, who is good and who is bad?" Caste is man made division for selfish ends. According to Hinduism, one belonging to the lowest caste was not even regarded as worthy of religious instruction. Moreover, birth determines status and this could not be changed. This was against the Guru's basic belief in the right of every individual, to the opportunity for both social and spiritual uplift. A man becomes high or low according to his actions. Only they are really depressed who forget the Lord. When Guru Nanak was asked about his own caste, he replied, "I belong to the lowest among the low castes." Kabir challenged the Brahmins and inquired if they were not born in the same way as men of the so-called low castes. Moreover, caste is of no consequence in the next world, or in the court of God. Any consideration of caste in matters of matrimony should be discouraged. Caste distinctions were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. When a disciple becomes a Khalsa, he renounces his previous caste and becomes a memeber of a casteless society: "The caste of all mankind is one and the same."
Q. What is the basic creed of the Sikhs?
The basic creed of the Sikhs - the Mul Mantra - gives the idea of Reality in a few telling words. The creed is: Ekoankar Satnam, Karta Purkh, Nirbhao, Nirvair, Akal Murat, Ajuni, Saibhang, Gur Parsad. In these words, Guru Nanak praises God and mentions some of His great attributes: He is Truth, self-created, beyond the limits of time, He can be realized through the grace of the Guru. Let us study the meaning of each word of the Mul Mantra. (a) Ekoankar : The only One Absolute God who is forever unfolding. He is the Absolute - the Transcendental. As such, He is Unknowable, Unfathomable. He is beyond description and beyond human comprehension. (b) Satnam : His name is true. He really exists. He is not an idea or a hypothesis or an illusion. As one who exists, He is ever changing. He is never the same, evolving and growing. Everything exists in Him and is caused by Him. His name is Truth. He is formless - He is "The Holy spirit" - NAM. (c) Karta Purkh : He is the creator of the cosmos. He is responsible for the coming into existence of the whole universe. (d) Nirbhao : He is fearless. He is afraid of no one because He is the Lord of the universe. (e) Nirvair : He is without any enmity. His love and protection extend to all. This cuts at the root of the theory of the chosen prophets and the chosen people. Like God, a true Sikh must be fearless and impartial. This will help to establish equality and justice. (f) Akal Murat : He is Timeless. He is not subject to death. (g) Ajuni : He is unborn. God does not take birth in any manner. This is the very antithesis of the theory of incarnation. (h) Saibhang : He is self-existent. He is unique in His own right. (i) Gur Prasad : By the grace of the Guru, the Sikh can acquire knowledge of God The short form of the creed is Ekonkar Satgur Prasad as used in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Q. What is the temple of Bread (Langar)?
The institution of "free kitchen" or the "temple of bread", as Puran Singh called it, was started by Guru Nanak. He desired that every Sikh should share his food with others - Wand Chhakna - and that his kitchen should be open to all. Subsequently the Langar took on an institution form and became a part of the Sikh temple. This community kitchen is meant to provide food to all devotees and pilgrims. Every Sikh is expected to contribute to it either by donating food stuff or by participating in the cooking and distribution of the food. Guru Nanak set up a temple of bread at Kartar Pur where people brought corn and fuel, and worked together to prepare a common meal for the whole community. Guru Angad extended the Langar and personally served in it. Guru Amardas turned it into an institution and ordered that all who came to see him must first eat in Langar: food first, congregation next - pahley pangat, peechay sangat. Even the Emperor Akbar and the Raja of Haripur had to sit on the floor with the common people and take a meal with them. Apart from promoting social equality, the Langar eliminated taboos about chauka - the preparation of food in a special enclosures etc. The scope of "Langar" was widened by Guru Ramdas who ordered that water and meals be also served to travellers and squatters. Guru Arjan and his wife personally served water to the Sangat. They even massaged the weary travellers and fanned them to sleep. Many of the Sikhs started their own Langars at Anadpur. One day, Guru Gobind Singh went out incognito on an inspection of Langars. He found out that Bhai Nand Lal maintained the Langar well, while others were indifferent to the needs of poor Sikhs. He warned them and remarked, "The mouths of the poor are Guru's receptacles of gifts." According to Prof. Puran Singh, "What is a home but a hospitable feasting of children with bread, love and faith?" What is spiritual life in a temple of flesh without a full meal first? The very first temple made by Guru Nanak therefore, was the Temple of Bread or Guru's Langar.
Q. What is the scope of the comprehensive discipline in a Sikh's life?
In his personal life, a true Sikh has to follow a three-fold discipline: the discipline of the Word, the discipline of the Sacrament and the discipline of Service. The discipline of The Word implies that the Sikhs must rise early in the morning, say about 4 a.m., take a bath and then meditate on The Name. He has to read daily five Banis: Japji, Jap Sahib, ten Swayyas, Rahras and Kirtan Sohila. He should visit the Gurdwara daily. If possible, he must sing hymns and read from the Guru Granth Sahib. The discipline of the sacrament implies that the Sikh must follow the Sikh ceremonies at the time of birth, marriage and death. On all such occasions, he must conduct himself with dignity and equipoise and offer prayers suitable to the occasion. The discipline of "Service" requires that the Sikh must serve his fellow-men to demonstrate his love of God. In the sphere of service, barriers of caste or creed or race must be ignored. Gurdwaras are places for service to the Sangat. A Sikh may sweep the floor, cleanse the utensils, polish the shoes or serve water. Langer provides an extensive field of service. A Sikh may contribute food-stuff and provisions, pay for fuel or untensils, fetch water or lend a helping hand in the cooking and distribution of food. In corporate life, a Sikh is expected to do his duty to the community. He should take Amrit(Baptism) and encourage others to do the same. He should join the congregation - Sangat, and assist any Panthic meeting to arrive at decisions - Gurmata. He should also readily submit to disciplinary action in case of misdeeds or acts of indicipline. In short, he should take an active part in the corporate life of the Panth. Such a Sikh earns the Guru's grace.
Q. What is the routine of a Sikh?
Practical Sikhism is based on three pragmatic concepts Nam Japna, Kirt Karna and Wand Chhakna. This three-fold path signifies the remembrance of "The Name" performing honest labour for a living and sharing one's earnings with others. All is to be practised in daily life. Guru Amardas advised Bhai Budda regarding an ideal Sikh's life. Some of the points are mentioned below: A Sikh should serve the people and not touch money or property belonging to others. Let him share his joys and sorrows with his neighbours. He should eat only when he feels hungry and sleep only when he feels sleepy. Let him resign himself to the Will of God and never find fault with any doings of his Creator. He should keep away from lust, anger and greed, not boast of his goodness or kindness. He shall practise charity and personal cleanlines. He should not tolerate any irreverance towards the Gurus. In short, let him mould his life and conduct according to the Guru's teachings. Guru Ramdas laid down the following routine for a true Sikh. Let the Sikh get up at dawn and after bathing, meditate on the Divine Name and continue his meditation till sunrise. Then go out to earn his daily bread by honest means. Let his calling or work be such that it keeps him away from unfair and untruthful means. Let him repeat "The Name" or Gurbani while working or walking. After his day's work, let him again offer prayers before retiring for the night. The Guru seeks the dust of the feet of those who remember God's Name and who also encourage others to repeat "The Name". The recommended pattern of life is that of a householder: Grahastimai-udas. The devotee should learn to remain contented and desireless while leading his life as a citizen. Let him raise himself above worldly temptation and become a model for others. With the Guru's Grace, he will lead a pious and clean life. It is a great advantage to maintain a diary of one's daily actions. Such a practice will deter one from bad deeds. Moreover, whenever convenient one should join the Sadh Sangat for Kirtan and Katha. Man amasses the dust of sin through numerous lives, his cleaning process will also be a long and arduous one.
Q. How can a man turn towards God?
Though it is not possible for man to become God, he may try to become God-like. According to Guru Arjan, there is no difference between the God-conscious soul and God. A man of God may lead the life of a householder or an ascetic. He has to observe strict physical, moral and spiritual discipline. He is not affected by the five deadly sins of lust, anger, greed, attachment or pride. He speaks the truth and leads a pure life. He is indifferent to pain or pleasure, praise or blame. He is humble and weak in spirit. He loves to serve all human beings, birds, beasts. He sees God in all sentient and non-sentient objects. The true devotee, to progress God-ward, must have complete faith in God. He should minimize his attachment to worldly desire. He should associate with holy people. He should always be ready to sacrifice everything and submit himself to the Will of God. He is not afraid of pain or suffering, when it comes from God. Suffering purifies the soul and makes it worthy to merit union with the Almighty. The devotee must aspire to true knowledge. Acquiring a knowledge of the truth and practical true living are very important. He should engage whenever it is possible in meditation on "The Name": and think of God all the time. A man of God does not remain idle or indifferent to another's suffering. He engages himself in act of love and charity. He feels happy in doing good to others. This helps in the elimination of selfishness and egoism. An anchorite must keep clear of any temptations of pitfalls. For this, control over the mind is necessary. Man in his period of human life should practise holiness so that he may ultimately unite with God and be free from the cycle of birth and death, Guru Arjan says: "Fix your attention upon the Almighty and you may obtain honour at His court." Such persons enjoy the companionship of God at all times.
Q. Is drinking permitted in Sikhism?
The Sikh Gurus banned the use of intoxicants including alcohal on account of its harmful effects. It is physically harmful and mentally disturbing. Man, under the influence of drink, loses the power to reason and normal action. Guru Amardas wrote in the Guru Granth Sahib(p. 554) against the use of wine by the Sikhs: "One man offers wine and another pours it himself; It makes him crazy and senseless and devoid of all reason. Then one cannot distinguish between one's own and another's and is cursed by God. Drinking it, one forsakes one's Master and is punished at the Lord's Court. Yes, drink not this vicious wine, under any circumstances." At another place the Guru wrote that the wages of drinking are sin and vice(p.553): "The body is the pitcher, selfhood the wine; And society is of craving and outgoing of the mind. Yes, Desire is drinking bowl brimming over with falsehood; And Yama is the bar-man. Drinking such a wine, who can earn anything but vice and sin?" Guru Gobind Singh in his Rahitnama addressed to Bhai Chaupa Singh banned the use of any intoxicating drink. A Sikh of the Guru should never drink wine. (Guru Ka Sikh Sharab Kadi Na Peevay). Apart from religious injuction, scientists have proved that the frequent use of alcohol makes people addicts and they become aggressive and unruly. the custom of offering drinks to friends and guests is socially dangerous. And when taken in excess can have terrible effects on one's general health. Drinking damages the liver, the heart and the brain. In the United States of Americal "alcoholism" is regarded as a disease to be controlled by society and government. In Persian language, wine is called Sharaab which literally means 'the water of mischief.' Let all Sikhs clearly understand that drinking is under no circumstances permitted in Sikh religion. The clear command in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Rahet Maryada bans the use of any intoxicants by any Sikh. Kabir says in Adi Granth: "Whoever uses bhang, fish and wine; Whatever pilgrimages, fasting and daily rites they may perform, They all go to hell." (A.G. p. 1377)
Q. What is the attitude of Sikh Faith towards non-vegetarian food?
The general directive of Guru Nanak with regard to food is: "Do not take that food which effects health, causes pain or suffering to the body or produces evil thoughts in the mind." (p. 16). There is a close connection between body and the mind so that the food that we eat affects both of them. Guru Ramdas has mentioned the three qualities created by God. These are Rajas(Activity or motion), Tamas (Resistance or darkness), Satav(Harmony or goodness). He says: "God Himself created the three qualities and increased our love for worldly valuables" (p.1237). Food can also be categorized under these three qualities. For example, fresh and natural food is an example of Satav, fried and spicy food is of Rajas, while fermented, decomposed, preserve or frozen food is a kind of Tamas. If one eats heavy or spicy food, one's stomach easily gets upset. Overeating and heavy food should be avoided. Simple and natural food is best for healthy living. There are references to matter of food in the Adi Granth. If one believes that all creation is a manifestation of God, the destruction of any living being or microorganism is an infringement of the natural right to live, Kabir says: "If you say that God resides in all, why do you kill a hen?" (A.G., p.1375) He says: "It is foolish to kill animals by cruelty and call it sanctified food." (A.G. p. 1375) "You kill life and call it an act of religion. Then what is irreligion?" (A.G. p. 1103) Though unnecessary killing or causing suffering to animals and birds for the sake of providing human food is to be avoided, vegetarianism should not be turned into a phobia or dogma. Undoubtedly, animal food is largely used for satisfying the human palate. To eat meat only for the satisfaction of one's taste or appetite is not good. Kabir says, "You keep fasts in order to become acceptable to God, but kill a living animal for your relish." (A.G. p.483). This refers to the eating of meat by Muslims after breaking the religious fast. The Gurus did not like the taboo on meat when more important things like control over desires or passion were ignored. It is far more important to kill the evil that pollutes the mind rather than abstain from meat. Impurities of the mind should be removed first, before labeling some food as pure and the other impure. There is a passage in the Guru Granth Sahib which indicates the futility of the controversy regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. It is said that when the Brahmins of Kurukshetra advocated the need and benefit of vegetarian food, Guru Nanak replied to them as under: "Only the foolish quarrel over the desirability of eating flesh. They are oblivious of true knowledge and meditation. What is really flesh? What is really vegetable-food? Which one of is sin-infested? They do not differentiate between good food and that which leads to sin.... Men are born of a mother's and father's blood yet they do not eat fish or meat ... Meat is mentioned in the Puranas and the Katebas: It has been used in Yajnas on marriages and festive occasions". (p.1290) Equally fruitless is the debate on the question whether fish or eggs are included in non-vegetarian diet or not. The Gurus neither advocated meat nor banned its use. They left it to the choice of the individual. There are passages against meat, in the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh however prohibited for the Khalsa the use of Halal or Kutha meat prepared in the Muslim ritualistic way. It may be noted that by tradition, meat is never served in the Guru Ka Langar (Free Kitchen). Vegetarianism by itself cannot confer spiritual merit or lead to the door of salvation. Spiritual achievement depends on Sadhana or religious discipline. However, it has been observed by many saints that a vegetarian dies does help in Sadhana. Guru Amardas says: "Those who take dirty food increase their filth; such filth causes sorrow to the egocentric person." (p.121) The position with regard to the meat of the cow or beef, is that the Sikhs do not venerate the cow like the Hindus. The latter view the cow as a mother, because she supplies the milk to the child when the mother's milk fails. However, beef is not a taboo for the Sikhs as Halal is. A non-vegetarian Sikh can take beef or pork as readily as any other meat. For those who want to advance on the spiritual path, vegetarian food is generally recommended by holy men as it avoids the killing of animals and birds.
Q. Why isn't there a woman Granthi?
A Man or a Woman can perform services of a granthi in a gurdwara. there is no gender bar or any kind of discrimination against any person for becoming a granthi. Sometimes, we do see woman sitting in the service of Holy guru Granth Sahib during Diwan time.
Being a granthi is very hard and demanding job. it is very difficult for a woman, particularly if she has children, to serve as a full time granthi. This is a responsibility which requires working during odd hours. During a function, at house of a sikh, a granthi is required early in the morning to arrange for such functions. She may required to stay there late after a night function and travel alone back to the gurdwara. because of nature of duty, it is usually performed by male sikh. It may often be performed jointly by the husband and the wife. They share this responsibility depending upon the nature and time of the duty
Q. Can Sikhs have tattoos?
A. I don't believe there is anything directly written against or in favour of tattoos in the Sikh scriptures. Tattoos can be grouped with "extreme make-up" which the Guru calls "decorations" and I ask you to read the article Guru Granth Sahib on adornment.
The Guru tells us that "without the remembrance of the Lord, the 'sheegar' (decorations) will bring no happiness or comfort". On the other hand, the Guru says that if one remembers the Lord all the time (ie: "within whose home the Husband Lord abides"), then he or she will be "totally adorned and decorated" by the Lord. So if you live according to the Waheguru's hukam, then you may decorate yourself as you like.
As a summary, the Guru says, "Even though I totally decorated myself, still, my mind was not satisfied. I applied various scented oils to my body, and yet, I did not obtain even a tiny bit of pleasure from this. Within my mind, I hold such a desire, that I may live only to behold my Beloved, O my mother.(1)"
You need to think deeply about why you want a tattoo. Sikhi is more about the mind than just about the body. If you want the tattoo to enhance your ego then you are feeding the five evils within and you should reconsider.
The motivation behind tattoos needs to be considered carefully. There is "no blanket ban" on tattoo as such in Sikhi but one must not do it as it can be perceived as a sign to increase ones ego, which is a negative trait. On the other hand if you already remember God and you want to praise Him by decorating yourself with his reminders, then do it by all means.
Q. Why do Sikhs criticize practices in other religions?
Q. If Sikhism says that there are different paths to God, and everyone has the right to practice their own religion, why do Sikhs criticize practices that may be done in other religions?
A: Sikhi does accept that:
1. Holy books not false: Gurbani tells us: : "Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false." (SGGS p1350) It is accepted that the various religious Holy books are not false but that does not mean that the adherents are following the Holy text faithfully. It is clear that in most religions, most devotees are not keeping to their faiths properly.
2. Different paths: The Guru also tells us: "Where have the Hindus and Muslims come from? Who put them on their different paths? Think of this, and contemplate it within your mind....(1)" (SGGS p477)
So it is accepted that God intended for there to be different paths for human salvation, HOWEVER, the Guru has also criticised some of the practises followed by the devotees such as:
3. Fasting & other rituals: : "Fasting, daily rituals, and austere self-discipline - those who keep the practice of these, are rewarded with less than a shell." (SGGS p216)
4. Ceremonial Marks: : "Around your neck is a rosary, and on your forehead is a sacred mark; upon your head is a turban, and you wear two loin cloths. If you knew the nature of God, you would know that all of these beliefs and rituals are in vain." (SGGS p470)
It is clear that the Gurus do not accept that rituals like fasting, circumcision, shaving the head, ceremonial marks, etc will please God even a little bit and so these rituals have always been criticised. The discrimination against women; against lower castes, etc have always been objected to by the Gurus. So when the Sikhs criticise these practises, it because they are unfair EVEN in the original religion but the followers are ignoring the truth of their own religion.
So called Muslims blowing up innocent children; Jews or Muslims killing masses indiscriminately - Is this preached by their faith leaders - Surely not. So the Sikhs will speak against such things. The same applies to Sikhs who do honour killing, bomb air-planes for the creation of Khalistan; etc - The indiscriminate killing of innocent people and the suppression of their right to life and peaceful existence are evils and they that have to be strongly discouraged and stopped wherever possible.
No God-loving person should stand for such stupidity and evil deeds - The Sikh Gurus spoke loudly against these evils and their words are preserved for all to read. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some of the other religions - their holy text is old and sometimes not well preserved in its entirety.
I hope this gives you some idea why although Sikhism accepts and respects other religions, it does not always accept the practises of the devotees especially ones which have no spiritual or other merit in life.
Q. Why don't Sikhs cut their hair?
A: Sikhs believe that hair or kesh as they call their long hair is an integral part of the human body and hence should not be cut; people are created with long hair for a reason. If one believes in God, then one must accept the "Will of God" or Hukam and the persistent growth of hair on the heads of all humans (except people who go bald!) surely is due to God's Hukam. Long hair or Kesh causes no harm to the person and so the Sikhs see no reason in regularly cutting away hair that is continuously growing. They accept hair as a beautiful part of their bodies. Cutting it is a sign of resistance to God's Hukam. However, Sikhs do not mind if others cut their hair. Many Sikhs called Sehajdhari (slow-adopters) Sikhs cut their hair.
Q: Can someone who is not born a Sikh become a Sikh?
A: Yes, Of Course. Anyone who wants, can become a Sikh. It is a religion open to all. The choice has to be made voluntarily and no one is forced or can be forced to become a Sikh. Once a Sikh, one is free to leave Sikhism. There is no automatic curse on someone who leaves Sikhi nor is there any automatic heavenly reward for becoming a Sikh. It is only ones actions, deeds, contributions and thoughts that can determine any outcome in the hereafter!
Q. How do you become a Sikh?
A. Simply by following the path laid down by the Sikh Gurus; by following Gurbani - the words of the Gurus as written in the Sikh holy Granth called the Guru Granth Sahib. You can find the original text and translations in most popular languages on the web. See the article Gurbani online for links to websites.
Before wearing the Guru's bana or uniform and representing the Guru, you will need to understand the Guru's rules. You can only do this if you learn the Guru's basic rules:
Rule 1: Simran and Sewa: Simran is the reciting of Lord's name; read the Mool mantar; learn it; practise it in your life. Remember God; see Him/Her in everyone and everywhere. Study the Japji sahib step by step; learn one pauri or step each week; take your time learn the words; understand the words; understand the meaning; contemplate the words. Do sewa - volunteer free service in the community or for friends or relations; feel good about doing Simran and Sewa; accept it as part of God's way. Find holy Sikh sangat - Other wise Sikh people who follow the path of the Guru. Share Simran and Sewa with them and attend activities together as much as you can. Only keep their company if they take you towards the Guru - If they don't change the sangat until you find the right company.
Rule 2: Three pillars - Guru Nanak formalised three basic guidelines for Sikhs: Naam Japna (focus of God), Kirat Karni (honest living) and Vand Chakna (sharing with others). Read about these and follow them. Naam Japna and Simran are very similar; Listen to Kirtan; understand the words; do kirtan if you can; join in; say the words; understand the meaning; think about what the Guru is saying. See Kirtan websites to download kirtan or go to article - Listen to kirtan to listen, read and sing the Guru's words. Read about history of the Gurus to understand their ways and how their sacrifices are remembered even today.
Rule 3: Make life changes - Start subduing the five evils within. We all have these and we need to restrain them - kam (Lust); krodh (Rage or uncontrolled anger); lobh (Greed); moh (Attachment or emotional attachment) and ahankar (ego). Don't left them control you - You should control them. Also, embrace the Five virtues as ordained by the Gurus - Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love). Make concrete changes in your life and in your attitudes taking these guidelines into account.
Rule 4: Prepare to take Amrit: Start wearing some of the 5Ks, wear Bana, and start looking like a Sikh of the Guru. Only do this if you have the thought of the Guru in your heart. Otherwise the physical gear is just a waste.
Q. What are the origins of Sikhism?
A. Sikhism began with the birth of their founder Guru, Guru Nanak in 1469. However, it is generally accepts that Guru Nanak began his formal mission around 1499 A.D, in the northern part of ancient India in the place now called Panjab, which is now divided between Pakistan and India. It originated with the teachings of Guru Nanak who rejected the philosophies pursued by both the indigenous Hindus and Muslims.
Q. Why do Sikhs wear turbans?
A. Sikhs are required to have their hair uncut as ordained by their tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 as part of the Amrit Sanchar ceremony and the Creation of the Khalsa. It is for this reason, in order to keep the hair tidy and manageable, that the Sikh wear the Turban. The word Turban originating in Persian and used to describe the various scarfs and clothes used to cover the heads of the people indiginous of that area. The term is now used loosely in English functioning as an umbrella term to describe all cloth headdresses. The Dastar is what Sikh people adorn although similiar but an altogether different headdress. Also, it is a tradition of Sikhs and others from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan to cover their head as a matter of respect for elders and spiritually elevated people. It would be a sign of disrespect if one was to enter a Gurdwara's Darbar Sahib with the head uncovered.
Q. Do Sikhs believe in Prayer?
Yes. Prayer is central to Sikhi. The ideals of the Sikh faith advise the devotee to rise early in the morning and meditate on God. Meditation is usually done while sitting comfortably, cross-legged, on the floor. Nitnem is a set of morning, evening, and bedtime prayers which are read or recited daily, while sitting or standing.
Sikhs normally do not say prayers while kneeling as Christians or Catholics do. A formal prayer of supplication, called ardas is very important to Sikhs and is usually offered while standing. Prayer and meditation focuses on praising God, and may take the form of singing, called Kirtan. Sikhs believe Ardas, prayer, kirtan and meditation to be essential in attaining desirable qualities and overcoming ego. Sikh scripture counsels that each breath is an opportunity for prayer.
Guru Arjan wrote: "Twenty-four hours a day, O Nanak, meditate on the Guru, the path to enlightenment." (SGGS p387)
Q. Who is the present religious leader of the Sikhs?
A. During the time of the ten human Gurus, the respective Gurus were the leaders of the Sikhs. Guru Nanak's (1469 - 1539) was followed by nine successors Angad, Amardas, Ramdas, Arjan, Hargobind, Harrai, Harkrishan, Tegh Bahadar and Gobind Singh (1539-1708) who developed and applied the teaching of the founder Guru to the concrete socio-political situations that existed during their time. From 1708 onwards the leader of the Sikhs is their perpetual Guru, Guru Granth Sahib. All guidance and instructions (Hukam) have to be received from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Q.In the Sikh religion what are the 5 ks?
- kesh - uncut hair
- kanga - small wooden comb
- kara - steel band
- kachera - shorts worn as undergarments
- kirpan - sword
Q. What is Langar?
Langar or Guru ka Langar is a word that stands for the practise of serving free food to the community. Guru Ka Langar when translated means, a community kitchen run in the name of the Guru by the Sangat. In Sikhism, the institution of langar started with the founder, Guru Nanak himself. Community kitchens came into existence with the sangats (holy congregations) of disciples which sprang up at many places in his time to gather and sing God's praise - kirtan. At these gatherings, it became common to serve food and many travelled from distant places.
Q. What is the significance of Guru ka Langar?
Guru ka Langar signifies the equality of all human beings. Anyone partaking Langar will sit in a pangat or "row" without any distinction of caste or status to eat a common meal prepared in the community kitchen.
Langar is entirely a community effort right from the beginning. The food stuff required is contributed by the Sangat or members of the congregation and the food is prepared and served by Sewadarss - who are volunteers and members of the congregation as well. During the period of the ten Gurus, the Gurus themselves contributed to and participated in this effort.
Guru Amar Das, the third Nanak, firmly established his open free kitchen concept as we see it today and regularly served food to visitors round the clock. The Guru made it obligatory for every visitor to have food in this langar before coming to his presence. The Emperor and the prince, the rich and the poor, the high caste and the low caste, all complied with this requirement. All the Gurus propagated this institution.
Considering that caste discrimination was wide spread in India during those times, in the hands of the Gurus, langar became a powerful means of social reform; one that gave practical expression to the notion of equality.
Q. What do Sikhs believe about God?
A. Some religions, like Christianity, believe in a trinity. Others, such as Hinduism, believe in a multitude of demi-gods. Buddhism teaches the belief in God is unimportant. Sikhism teaches the existence of one God. Guru Nanak taught that the creator and creation are inseparable in the way that an ocean is made up of its individual drops.
The fundamental belief of Sikhism is that God exists, not merely as an idea or concept, but as a Real Entity, indescribable yet knowable and perceivable to anyone who is prepare to dedicate the time and energy to become perceptive to His persona. The Gurus never spoke about proofs of the existence of God: For them He is too real and obvious to need any logical proof.
Guru Arjan, Nanak V, says, "God is beyond colour and form, yet His presence is clearly visible" (SGGS 74), and again, "Nanak's Lord transcends the world as well as the scriptures of the east and the west, and yet he is clearly manifest" (SGGS 397).
In any case, knowledge of the ultimate Reality is not a matter for reason; it comes by revelation of Himself through "nadir" or grace and by "anubhava" or mystical experience. Says Guru Nanak, "budhi pathi na paiai bahu chaturaiai bhai milai mani bhane" which translates to "He is not accessible through intellect, or through mere scholarship or cleverness at argument; He is met, when He pleases, through devotion" (SGGS 436).
Q. What do Sikhs believe about Creation?
Christianity teaches that God created Earth in seven days about 6,000 year ago. Guru Nanak wrote that God’s creation consisted of a multitude of universes, and that no one knew for certain how, or when, creation took place.
Guru Granth Sahib states that, “There are planets, solar systems and galaxies. If one speaks of them, there is no limit, no end. There are worlds upon worlds of His Creation. As He commands, so they exist. He watches over all, and contemplating the creation, He rejoices. Nanak says, to describe this is as hard as steel!” (SGGS p8)
The scriptures say that the universe consists of many different bodies including planets, solar systems galaxies, stars, suns, skies, etc and that the scale and extent of these bodies is unknown and that there is no end to their number. It is clear from this that probable size of the universe is beyond an exact evaluation or calculation by the human mind.
The holy text continues to state: "The limits of the created universe cannot be perceived. Its limits here and beyond cannot be perceived. Many struggle to know His limits, but His limits cannot be found. No one can know these limits. The more you say about them, the more there still remains to be said." (SGGS p5).
Q. Why do women sit separately?
In a Gurdwara, why do women sit on one side and men on the other? Isn't this discrimination? or at least segregation?
Sikhism is not a sexist religion nor does it discriminate against women. This is a matter of personal choice. It is just that when in a place of worship in a community environment, people prefer to sit with members of their own gender. It is not wrong for men to sit with the women in the Gurdwara, or vice versa - it is just uncommon in western nations, although in India in some places, there is no custom of sitting separately especially in villages, etc. When families visit Gurdwaras, they do generally sit together.
Q. Are women allowed to be 'priests'
In most religions, women are not allowed to be 'priests'; What is the position in Sikhism?
Q. Is the use of alcohol permitted in Sikhism?
No. Sikhism does not allow the use of alcohol or any other intoxicants for leisure use. "Those who are deluded by sensual pleasures, are tempted by sexual delights and enjoy wine are corrupt." (SGGS p335) and also, "Drinking wine, his intelligence departs, and madness enters his mind; he cannot distinguish between his own and others, and he is struck down by his Lord and Master." (SGGS p)
Q. What's in a Sikh name?
Every Sikh child is given a name after birth in a ceremony called Naam karan. Normally, the names are picked up in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The sacred scripture is opened at random and a name is picked starting with the first letter of the first word from the top left or the first letter of the Hukamnama. Sikh males bear the appellation of 'Singh' and females 'Kaur', after their first names. The word 'Singh' means lion, and 'Kaur' means princess/lioness.
All the Singhs and Kaurs may not in fact be Sikhs. The Rajputs and Gurkhas also use these names. This appellation helped the Sikhs to become a caste-less fraternity. It infused a martial spirit in the community.
In some parts of the world, Sikh males are called 'Sardar Ji' (Chief) and females are called 'Sardarni Ji'. This designation is attached to the front of the name. Some Sikhs may also put the village name from whence they came as a suffix.
Youngsters do not call parents or persons older than themselves by first name.
Q. Do Sikhs believe in fasting?
Fasts are not given any importance in Sikhism. Compulsory fasts for religious reasons or on certain days do not carry any weight with Sikhism. Fasts for the purpose of maintaining good health (dieting, etc.) can be observed. "I do not keep fasts, nor do I observe the month of Ramadaan. I serve only the One, who will protect me in the end. (1)" Guru Arjan Dev (SGGS p)
Q. Is Guru Nanak a False Prophet?
The sacred text started by Guru Nanak called Gurbani, which forms the Guru Granth Sahib is believed to be the most widely respected "holy scripture" in the world. Just refer to the article Worldwide praise for the Guru Granth Sahib and you can see for yourself. It is scripture which promotes true unity and understand for all the peoples of the world; Guru Nanak was acclaimed a Pir by the Muslims and a Guru by the Hindus. I know of no one else who has had such broad and passionate acceptance from the different faiths of the world.
Guru Nanak Dev was born in Punjab, India, on 20 October 1469, to a Hindu family. By the time of his death on 22 September 1539, according to Sikh Scriptures (more of which later) , he had “millions” of followers.
Now, Guru Nanak never claimed to be a prophet in his lifetime. However, if the scriptures of the Sikh religion are to be believed, he believed himself to be inspired from God, and to bring teachings of God. For example :-
“There is no Muslim, there is no Hindu”
"One who recognizes the One Lord among all beings does not talk of ego.”
These are clear atonements, meant to inspire and motivate Sikhs and non-Sikhs to alter their lives and live according to Sikhism. Sikhs often claim that the Guru’s were merely teachers, or guides, and were not Prophets.
However, if we consult the linguistic definition of Prophet, we discover the following meanings of the term :-
“A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed.”
“someone who speaks by divine inspiration; someone who is an interpreter of the will of God”
“a person regarded as, or claiming to be, an inspired teacher or leader”
Therefore, whenever anyone claims to speak on behalf of God, rationally and linguistically that person is considered to be claiming Prophethood.
When a person claims Prophethood, this claim must then be verified. Prophets throughout history have brought miracles to demonstrate to their people ( Moses, Abraham, David, and Others ) . For example Moses split the Red Sea, David was able to melt metal in his hands, and Abraham was able to withstand fire. These miracles have been verified both through scriptures and through science.
There are also many false Prophets. These have included David Icke, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and many others.
Q. Are Sikhs sidesteping this issue?
By Sikhs refusing to acknowledge that Guru Nanak was claiming to be a Prophet, they sidestep this issue. This is in order to avoid any means of principles of falsification, in order to confirm or disprove the Guru’s “Prophethood”.
ANSWER There is no proof that biblical accounts occurred, the great flood, nor the parting. Although the Quran, the Bible and the Torah all mention Moses, they each have different views and accounts of his life over 2000 years ago. Nor is there a rule that all prophets must be verified as you claim.
Guru Nanak was neither a teacher nor a prophet. He carried within him a divine light. Seeing the world for what it is, he endured to allow others to be blessed with Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love). So everyone could be blessed with Dharam, and Gian. He was alike all saints that had experienced enlightenment and salvation except that we aimed to share this gift with others. Guru Granth Sahib contains verses composed by saints of other faiths, proving that salvation is not a right of those adhering to a certain religion. But for those who radiate love due to a way of life, and a philosophy of truth. Unbound by religious domination and incoherent guidelines, and unrestricted from the invisible borderlines we've cast on the Earth.
Guru Nanak made 5 Udasis (journeys) and everywhere he went and every person he met had their life changed. This proof is found when you research Sikh Gurdwaras, most people expect beautiful structures like Harimandir Sahib or Anandpur Sahib, what you will find however is that Guru Nanak in just a moment, in one discussion, changed the lives of shopkeepers and people in simple homes to independently choose to serve their creator. Converting their home or shop into a Gurdwara, serving langar (free food for all) and a place to sing the praises of Waheguru. As for miracles, there were many, such as the boulder in Panja Sahib, or during Guru Nanak's imprisonment. There are countless stories, but the Guru nor the students of Sikhi rely on rating and judging the extent of the miracles at that time or in the present. The Guru's message was clear and it was potent and it was powerful. Enough to transform lives and bring elements of the divine light to anyone who wishes to experience it.
The two largest religions of Earth, Islam and Christianity. Are the oldest religions, stemming from Moses' interactions with God. Both teach that they are the only way to be "saved". Both inherently instruct their followers to create their 'brotherhood' apart of the brotherhood that binds us all, of humanity. It teaches segregation and to reserve pity for the fellow humans who have not been "saved". This single element is the primal cause of war and responsible for the deaths of untold millions of people, and further will forever cause humanity to subjugate itself.
Q. Are the Sikh Scriptures authentic?
In order for anyone to follow Gods teachings, one must be sure, with absolute certainty and without doubt, that the teachings they are following are authentic. Sikhism has a number of scriptures which they claim are written by Gurus ( and therefore divinely inspired ). However, these scriptures can be proven to have no historical or authentic basis.
A. the Janamsakhi
Sikhs claim that the Bhai Bala Janamsakhi was written by Bala Sandhu, a disciple of Guru Nanak. However, Guru Angad, the next Guru in succession, had never heard of Bala Sandhu. In addition to this, Bala Sandhu is not mentioned by Bhai Gurdas. How can Guru Nanaks closest confidants and disciples not know Bala Sandhu?
Q. There are a number of other errors
There are a number of other errors. For example, the rhythmic prose used in the verse was written by the third and fifth Guru’s, so how can this be present chronologically earlier? Also, the language used was not even present in society for over 100 years after the death of Guru Nanak.
How can it be that a divinely inspired work, detailing the life of the Guru, can be so inaccurate?
ANSWER Your statements are baseless, and there is no distinct facts that prove what you say. Most Sikh history comes from the archives of the Mughal Empire which ruled for near a thousand years. The most relevant duration also known as the Classic period started with Babar and ended with Aurangzeb, about 1400-1700. From these accounts we know the exact dates of the interactions and developments of Sikhism. Which at the time was not an organized religion, it unified later culminating at Vaisakhi in 1699. The Guru's after Guru Nanak were chosen by divine intervention, to complete a new way of life, an understanding for the people. As proven that from 1469 to 1708, a new philosophy was created and within that came a new language, culture, music, martial art, a moral code, and a legal jurisdiction among other things.
Not all the 10 Guru's composed spiritual hymns, each one had their individual missions to complete Sikhi. Considering that Guru's never allowed their physical forms to be sketched in any way, nor even their hymns to be named (as noted by some compostion's titled Mahala). The closest identifying trait is the composition stating it was the divine light in its various incarnation.)
Therefore all the questions you pose are completely baseless and have no historical fact attributed to it. These "errors" that you speak of are just your attempt to create a discrepancy where there is none. Sikh history is only 500 years only and very easy to research. A better question to ask would be why the gospel of Luke contradicts the old testament. Or why the Bible, book of Mormon and the King James Bible disaffirm one another.
==Q How can the Guru Granth Sahib be a "living Guru"?
Sikhs claim that this book is the “Eleventh” and final Guru, and should be regarded and revered as a Guru. There is even a tale of this book, upon compilation, to be given its own bed whilst a Guru, Guru Arjan slept on the floor!
For this book to be the 11th Guru, the final way to God and scripture in its own right, surely it would have to be a perfect book, free from errors and contradictions? However, we find that this is not the case. Some errors include :-
* Teaching God to be “Sargun” (Possessing Attributes) and “Nargun” ( Possessing no Attributes). * Claims there is only one way to God, then says many ways * Reincarnation is taught in one section, yet is rejected elsewhere
Q. Why so many contradictions?
How can it be that a Divinely inspired book, a Guru, a way to God, be so full of contradictions?
In addition to this, the Book provides no details of the origins of the Earth or of Man, and provides no answers to “where did we come from” as a result. Surely any divinely inspired text would present Gods answer to these questions?
Answer 1: It would appear that you are not conversant with the Guru's Shabad, hence your statement. Please seek advice from a Gaini who is fully conversant and understands the Guru's Shabad and he will clarify any doubts in your mind if you are a Sikh. If follow another religion, please read more about Sikhism or speak to someone who is knowledgeable about Sikhi. This is a weakness in mankind, always trying to find faults because a lack of understanding. This is what is known as ‘Mann Matth’ (‘I know better than anyone else’). But the Guru can never be wrong.
It would appear that you have been misguided by your own interpretation, but are you fully familiarised with the Guru’s dialog? Sometimes the Shabad is written in different context to what you may interpret. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji ke Fateh.
ANSWER 2: Your statement points out your unfamiliarity with not just Sikhi but most importantly your lack of a relationship with God, our Creator.
Waheguru IS sargun and nirgun. God IS everywhere but nowhere, Our Creator HAS a million forms but has none.
Guru Nanak said, trying to approximate Waheguru is a foolish attempt. One who truly sees, one who truly meets God, will be in awe, and in that bliss will be unable to explain the experience. They can relate certain things, events. But to describe the Creator, their task can never be completed.
The Guru's who composed hymns, did so to espouse the glory of God, the true beauty experienced beyond our 5 sensory inputs. And listening to these Gurbani compositions puts the human listening in the same harmony as those whom elations at meeting the true lord causes their souls to sing. That when experienced, the pure love emanating will cause other souls to vibrate in the same manner.
In truth there are many ways to God. But regardless at the pinnacle of each, all those who attain enlightenment and salvation will have commonalities. As proven by the Sufi Saint Kabir, Guru Nanak and Bhagat Ravi Das. All who grew up being taught various rituals and opposing sides of worship. However, at their ascension their lives were changed, they shed human attachments and many aspects of their radiance while unique are similiar to each other.(Read their histories to understand more about their lives) Because when one truly feels their love for God and God's love for the person, that union is in and of itself a new distinction, a new form of being. a being free of maya, understanding this world play, this atomic drama and in constant vibration with the heavens.
Reincarnation is not rejected in "other sections". The cycle is also known as a "hell" in virtue of the separation of the atma from the Parmatma.
Why most God answer all your questions? Especially in written form. Must Waheguru complete an essay, a thesis on why God created this creation and also then tell you why you must feel love for God before you indulge or bestow your love graciously? I can tell you that the true journey we all share is an attempt to negate duality. For whatever reason our soul is trapped in this shell. With our body reacting to our 5 sensory inputs with kam (Lust), krodh (Rage or uncontrolled anger), lobh (Greed), moh (Attachment or emotional attachment) and ahankar (ego) and the soul responding with Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love). Choosing the right path and eclipsing duality will us to grow and develop, while educating us and enhancing our conscience. Which is exactly what Sikh means. A student, on a quest to expand our conscience. With Waheguru's blessing will we truly understand right and wrong while moving closer to a union with the one that made us.
Q. How can Re-Incarnation be Accurate?
In Sikhism, it is the belief that through righteous deeds one achieves salvation, and a “oneness” with God. The main method of this is through “karma”, or the reward of your efforts in this life being rewarded in the next, and so on and so on until spiritual union with God is achieved.
Though this sounds like a nirvana of sorts, it is completely nonsensical. Reincarnation cannot possibly be true as :-
1. How can the world be in decline, when spiritual karma is meant to increase and improve the world? What is the source for evil originally? Who was the original evildoer according to Sikhism, and which sent a perpetual evil through the earth, increasing its trials? 2. There is no justice in re-incarnation, as you become a new entity, with no recollection of a past life. Therefore, it is the entity that is being unfairly punished, and not you. 3. Why are there more bodies on earth now, than there was before? Where do these new Souls emerge from?
Re-incarnation is therefore absurd, and cannot be correct because it does not agree with rationality.
There is no global scale of evil and morality to measure this "decline".
You speak as if this creation is the ONLY creation and that this place is our permanent home. Yet every second of every day beings come and go from this place. "Spiritual Karma" is not meant to do anything. It is simply the set of rules, the code that a soul is bound by. Like a child who makes mistakes, steals and once older regrets the crimes so does the soul. Our justice is doled out on a scale unimaginable by mere human minds. Most people believe that a perpetual self exists within themselves, the soul. A body can be judged and tried for crimes in a human court for a crime. However to coalesce all deeds which originally result from the improper choice of action heeded by duality, would put the soul on trial for all it's actions. The penance would be carried out based on the scale of exact right and wrong. Since most are doubtless of their belief in their undying true self, there must be guidelines for it to adhere too. In this cycle of life, within this creation, this is the system that all must face, for all their crimes whether or not tried or rehabilitated by our judicial system. Aurengzeb himself wrote that he feared what he would say in the court of the Lord as he was ashamed of the actions of his life.
There is no primal Evil one. One who can challenge God does not exist. Thinking othewise, regardless of the back story is disrespectful and belittling of the Creator.
The sentence of rebirth is in fact the truest form of justice. If you understand Sikhi you would know that Guru Nanak said, even a King is lower than an ant whom in it's mind never forgets it's creator. When we are free of the vessel in this creation, the soul is aware of all it's transgressions and actions, from it's inception to it's history of lives. And each vessel has it's own ways of interaction with the creation and it is limited to that. Such as a human without sight or another sense or even someone with an impairment. Humanity is the only form whereby our difference in instinct and free will can be expressed. Reincarnated into an ant, we are aware of all that we have experienced and as such have nothing but awe for God, but we serve out our purpose, reacting on pure instinct, aware of but unable to emote and fulfilling the principle of the creature's role in the creation. While we serve out our penance until we can achieve a human birth, and try once more to balance out our karmic scale, in an effort to be better.
True, there are more humans than before. Although this is an absurd statement as no one can know the will of our Creator, you would do better to ask God the question of why there are more humans now. But to provide you with something to sustain your curiosity; why are there less animals? and less trees? With global deforestation and more and more animals on the endangered list perhaps those souls now embody a different species of life and have found home in humankind. Regardless these are the questions answerable only by the one who presents the conundrum. But what this question you pose uncovers is something more unveiling. The primal Why. Why must "GOD" provide you with all the answers you seek. It only makes sense that each individual person would receive gian, understanding as they each are fit to understand it.
If this is the pinnacle of creation and you are the penultimate being, why do you not already know? Why do you subsequently die, while this world is filled with good and bad and the evanescense of life sustaining you, the departing transient? Until you find tranquillity in the question "why?", and the contentment of your being, you will never transcend, you will never be able to accept truth. Instead be haunted by fear of the unknown hoping someone will come to give you the answers, at which point you will believe anything written before you that claims it as such. Those that take the easy path, the quick journey to seek answers will not find truth, will instead be beguiled by false claims.
Q. How can God be Omnipotent and within Evil?
For Sikhs to state that God is “all pervading and is in all directions. God is omniscient, omnipotent and loves all”, what does that mean?
Firstly how can God be in everything? Would God be in Impure things such as Excreta?
Secondly, how can God be within everyone? What is the point, according to Sikhism, of trying to attain Union with God, when God is already within us according to their scriptures? How can God be within people and objects which are intrinsically evil?
Answer Again your relationship with God is revealed with the questions you ask, especially this one.
In this creation, the 'world ocean' which we are all drowning in, God is everywhere. God exists in every nucleus of every atom. You look at this creation simply as a planet on which you live. Yet Waheguru has made not only with planet, this solar system, this universe, and even this entire dimension, but there is so much more. You are entrapped by the confines of your senses, and now believe that a true existence can only be one that includes your 5 ways to manipulate and experience your life on this planet. Know that our creator has made a drama of atoms, one that we are entranced by. So eluded are we with the experience of only the 5 senses available to us we do not even begin to think of much greater God can be. I can only give you these simple examples, because again, gian is blessed upon those who are ready for it, we each each a song in the same physical manner, yet each of us have favourite songs. Scientists have yet to figure out why certain people recite a song over and over again. Unable to develop an algorithm to explain of the phenomena of favourites. The same applies to how people see. Although the physical process is the same for everyone, some people see the true beauty of an object.
God is within us, and everything. Everything in this creation. But that doesn't mean you are in God's grace. Just the same that you may be physically close to someone, but are not emotionally close.
Also no one is evil. People who are consumed by the five instincts forget their purpose and are led astray, willing to do anything to fulfil the needs of these instincts. We battle these evils, and not the people who have succumbed to them as Guru Gobind Singh has said.
You say these things because you cannot see past the creation, you are enamoured by the atom, the building blocks of this life and you live subject to them. To truly see how inconsequential this moment, this place is, is a blessing only a few will know. You are consumed by the why's of this place, but if you only for a second knew God, you wouldn't bother with such a trivial thing, as Guru Nanak tells us.
Q. How can Sikhs claim to have a complete way of Life?
Sikhism is claimed to be a complete way of life, but Sikhism does not have the answers from their scriptures for the following questions :-
1. How much tax should I pay in a Sikh State, as a Non-Sikh? 2. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding testimony in a court? 3. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding the sentence for stealing? 4. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding the age of maturity? 5. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding my relations with my neighbour? 6. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding how I should treat an animal? 7. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding lawful earnings? 8. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding killing a non-Sikh and the punishment for that? 9. What is the ruling in Sikhism regarding riding a horse? 10. What is the ruling in Sikhism if I use a nuclear weapon?
Sikhism only covers prayer and religious obligations. It has no understanding of how to interact with the real world. It has no detailed economic system, social system, or ruling system.
Christianity, Islam nor any religion for that matter has an answer for these questions. In fact these questions are redundant, almost as if a child is asking them. For instance you've asked about killing a 'non-sikh'. Sikhs look at all humans as brothers and sisters, so shouldn't you have asked about murder in general? Our moral authority is God, and God's vassal is our conscience, which we through prayer and simran seek to strengthen it. Therefore a developed conscience will answer any and all other questions, in the vanguard of Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love).
Secularism is the only way to truly govern a populace, considering our earthen society consists of many different faiths. So your last point only shows the subjective and divisive, and disruptive nature of your mind and your faith. The only faith that will not only propel our human brotherhood and society into a future where are all understanding, accepting and compassionate of each other is a faith that would risk and sacrifice everything for another's right to believe and practice a faith. Just as Guru Tegh Bahadur did when he and 5 volunteers were tortured and murdered so that hinduism may exist.
Q. What is a "Just War" in Sikhism?
Sikhism is often presented as a peaceful, non-violent religion. However, it has a concept of Dharam Yudh, which is loosely translated as “Just War”. In this, Sikhs believe that war can be initiated as a last option, and the motivation cannot be revenge.
When we see this in practice however, we can see that very rarely has a Sikh War been any different to any other war fought on behalf of misguided religions : For Land, Nation and Resources.
Examples of this include :-
* The forceful passing of a resolution to cede Water and Electricity Boards to Punjab Control in the region * The murder of Indian Police officers in 1982 – 1983, in revenge * Bhindrandales Murder of two nirinkari Gurus in 1981 * Bombing of Cinemas in Delhi in 2005 * Bombing of Air India Flight 182
Most people will realise that these examples cited appear far from “Just”. Often, they appear to target civilians. If such action is justified according to these principles, then on what basis?
If the Gurus are false Prophets, the Scriptures inaccurate, and the concepts and precepts erroneous, then how can Sikhism be used to take life unjustly?
When all other methods fail, it is proper to hold the sword in hand. (22) . So the point regarding the use of violence has been addressed here and elsewhere in great detail. You need to acquaint yourself with the text in the Sikh holy scriptures so you understand these issues more deeply. Violence is an absolute last resort; it cannot be used on the defence-less or on the weak. One can only challenge an opponent if the opponent is actually attacking you or someone weak. Violence cannot be used otherwise.
Further, Guru Gobind Singh told Aurengzeb that in the end he had no choice in the matter of taking the sword; he and his men were being attacked. The Guru did not have any anger against him and only his actions were carried out with God in your heart; it was a move in self-defence; a totally righteous act.
Sikhs carry a kirpan for the same reason. Not for self defense and not for religious decoration but because if Sikhi is followed properly, your conscience developed and you're emanating Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love) then you have become a moral and temporal protector. The kirpan is a symbol which reminds a Sikh of this important principle relating to the use of violance which has been laid down by the Gurus.
And a true Sikh at any time will lay down his or her life to protect the helpless and the innocent, wheresoever they can help them. A kirpan is their tool to remind them of their duty as defenders of the downtrodden, and protectors of the oppressed. An intimation of their constant struggle against kam (Lust), krodh (Rage or uncontrolled anger), lobh (Greed), moh (Attachment or emotional attachment) and ahankar (ego).
There has never been a Sikh war, other than when we defended ourselves against the Mughal empire (Mughal-Sikh Wars) and when we later defended ourselves against the invading british in the Anglo-Sikh Wars.
Any criminal, unjustified, or radical acts actually proven to be committed by true sikhs against innocent people is strictly and vehemently opposed.
Q. How can God Create himself?
According to Guru Nanak Dev, he claims that “God himself told me that he is self-created”.
How can God be subject to laws and constraints of his own creation? Concepts such as time, form, shape, etc, are constructs of God. As an unlimited entity, how can God be subject to limited constraints, such as “creating”.
Surely, as God, he is outwith all such concepts. To ask how God is “made” is to misunderstand what God is.
ANSWER Again your weak connection with our creator pervades through your questions. Guru Nanak and all the Guru's who composed hymn's have said that Waheguru is the beginning of all. The created and self created. Meaning there is nothing before the Almighty. There is none who have any control, suggestion, or relation to the Lord.
Your insistence to appeal to your definition of the creation shows that now in this moment, this is all you will know of God's creation. You are trapped and only able to comprehend what your 5 senses display for you. We, our physical shells are subject to the dimensional laws which govern our home. However Paratma and atma itself are not. Therefore God, as stated by all religions, has no limits.
Q. Why can Sikh women not Divorce?
There is no gender discrimination in Sikhi. So the question should really read: Why can Sikh women and men not Divorce?
Sikhism still does not give the right of divorce to all its adherents (both men and women) except in extreme circumstances, and even then since it is not legislated within Sikhism this is decided by Western or Hindu Courts.
This is mentioned in many sources, and some quotes from Sikhs are as follows :-
“In the case of broken marriage, divorce is not possible according to the Sikh religious tradition. The couple can, however, obtain a divorce under the Civil law of the land.”
Of more concern is how Sikhs refuse to even consider divorce, leaving the spouse trapped in a loveless marriage. Take this example from the Sikh Spectrum Magazine :-
When two souls become one, there is no duality between the way a husband and a wife think. Whatever they do, they do it together. A divorce, in such a case, is inconceivable.
It is incredulous that anything calling itself “the modern religion” still does not emancipate women and give them independence.
ANSWER No current religion has a separation rite. It is noteworthy to know that all religions perform the marriage ceremony with the emphasis on our and in front of our creator. Thus the Lord deals with our meta-physical selves primarily, therefore the Sikh marriage ceremony, the Anand Karaj signifies the union of two souls on this plane of existence and another. With this act complete, the couple are free to continue to propagate our species, but also to further their connection with our creator, together. It is humankind engrossed in the 5 instincts, that cause a marriage to fail. At which point of both parties conceding failure, then legally they may obtain a divorce, whether it is the female that initiates it or the male, there is no difference. Culture, and religion are two separate entities and should be treated as such. Especially considering, the state of indian culture when Guru Nanak was born, understanding how the Guru's evolved a people from the depths at which they were to form such a spiritually pure philosophy followed by millions is a miracle in and of itself.
You speak benightedly of Sikh women not being emancipated. Even when Guru Nanak was born and it was customary to belittle women, and not let them enter religious facilities, among other demeaning things. Yet Guru Nanak, said She who bore Kings and our sons. She who has the gift of life, how could she be less than equal or evil, when without her there would be no life. Guru Nanak emancipated women at least 500 years before it became a recognized cause.
Q. Sikhi says “many paths lead to God” but punishes non-followers?
How can Sikhs claim that there are “many paths to God”, then it punishes those whom do not adhere to Sikhism?
It is claimed Sikhism is non-discriminatory, and that everyone should love each other as human beings, with no-one having a variable status, no-one being “high or low”. His statement is as follows :-
“In Sikhism everyone is equal. All people of different colour, religion, caste, creed, race and sex are equal in the eyes of God. No one is high or low. All are children of God created by God and God loves them all.”
However, the Guru’s own teachings portray a different version of events. :-
Favouring of those in Khalsa
Khalsa is the baptizing of Sikhs, who take an Oath to promote and preserve the five Ks of Sikhism. These Sikhs are to be considered to hold a higher status over that of ordinary persons, and thereby this exposes a hierarchical system. Quotations regarding this brotherhood include :-
“he who recognises the One God and no pilgrimages, alms-giving, non-destruction of life, penances, or austerities; and in whose heart the light of the Perfect One shines, - he is to be recognised as a pure member of the Khalsa”
Thereby, if we are to believe this Guru, and by proxy the beliefs of Sikhism itself, then God, through the Gurus, considered those persons inferior whom :-
* Engage in Pilgrimages * Fasts * Worships Idols
Are thereby considered inferior in Gods eyes (according to the Gurus).
In addition to this, those who eat meat, those that cut their hair, and many other tenets of Sikh faith that are violated, God will punish them through re-incarnation, even though these people are also following a path (as they perceive it ) to God.
Q. Why become Khalsa?
In Sikhs claims that there are “no chosen people”, why must people adhere to Sikhism to be saved? Why must they take the Khalsa vows?
ANSWER God does not punish those that do not believe in Sikhism. They who are punished are those who must reenter the mortal coil for the injustices they have exacted upon other innocent beings.
If Sikhs considered others inferior then Guru Tegh Bahadur would not have given up his own life to save another faith. One Which we do not remotely follow. In Sikhi, we constantly battle the 5 instincts, and Guru stresses that the hardest one to overcome is ahankar or ego. That is the case because even after being able to control these instincts and we receive all the benefits of doing so, even after becoming enlightened and unattached to all that can hurt us. We still can fall victim to ego, as that pride of being different and ascended can cause us to look at others differently. However a true sikh will not allow that last instinct to influence one's actions or circumvent the responsibilities they must adhere too. That is why our earthly brotherhood survives and allows for peace between all people no matter the religion or spiritual awakening.
In western society we strive for equality. Yet we have police officers which when necessary we must obey. They have a code they are sworn to uphold, the code of law. This code adheres only to physical action. Therefore there must be a way to guide us in more ways than just physical. That is the meaning of the creation of the Khalsa. They are sworn to protect the rights of all those who are unable to do so themselves.
Q. Why is Sikhism Not Evangelical?
If Sikhism is God's religion, which is the destiny of all if they are to be saved, and the only way to enlightenment ( as Sikhs perceive it ) is to follow the “Way of the Gurus”, then why do Sikhs not debate and discuss their faith in the World and try to convert others to it?
Is this fair, if it is the truth ( which it is not ), then why do Sikhs not ask others to join it?
ANSWER: Sikhs do not think so little or other people and their beliefs. We do not show up at their door to tell them they are sinners. We do not assume they are going to hell because of their faith regardless of how peaceful a person is. We believe when a person has had enough of being force fed answers and beliefs which contradict and confuse, a strong minded person who is able to live up to the tasks of a Sikh, will come searching for the truth. Moreover, understanding the word Sikh, and how the Guru's associated and their demeanour with people of other faiths proves that, whatever one believes or does that makes them closer to our creator, regardless of the label of what that person believes. Makes them a good Sikh. Whatsoever allows for a greater connection to our Lord, and furthermore a more loving and united earthly society makes for a good Sikh. Even if you're a Christian, or a Muslim or a Hindu. Surely as Guru Nanak said, there is no Muslim, there is Hindu. Then there is no Christian. Since Sikh means to learn, and we're all learning then whatever allows to form a union with our creator is the path of a Sikh.
And again you speak as if this moment that you are alive is it. That this is your only chance and that if you fail, then you are relegated to purgatory. Sikhs do not have such a dire view. This creation although awesome, is not the penultimate creation. God is far greater than you can imagine.
True Sikhs are forever engaged in the love of our creator. So strongly so that nothing else matters. All is provided and will be as it may be. As long as we are able to recite the name of our beloved, all is well.
Q. How many times is the word "Ram" found?
How many times is the word "Ram" found in the Guru Granth Sahib?
Answer: The word Ram ( ਰਾਮ ) is found 1697 times in the holy Guru Granth Sahib by the search engine at Srigranth - see this link here
Q. How did this universe come into existence?
There was nothing but God; He willed, and out of the Word which expresses that will the universe is being ceaselessly made.
Q. What is God?
The One Eternal and Infinite Unmanifest spirit; who has manifested himself to us through His works. He is King, Father, Lover of all, Master abiding in all and also the Ocean of pure Being wherein all abide.
Q. Where is God?
He is in everyone and everything that He has made/created. He can only be found by contemplation and dedication. He is beyond death and birth; He is without fear or enmity; see article God
Q. Is there then no special temple for Him?
The whole universe, the heart of each living being, the place where the Word is loved and sung - these are God’s temples.
Q. Why does God create the universe?
So that He, being good and by nature the giver of all, may give out himself through its countless forms, and that they may all share his life of infinite blissfulness. You Yourself created the world, and You Yourself arranged the play of it. and see also He created the entire world for His play; He is pervading amongst all. ||13||. Further, see He created this coming and going of reincarnation; creating the wondrous play, He gazes upon it.
Q. Does he desire to gain anything through this work?
Being perfect, He can gain nothing for Himself, but He desires recipients of His love.
Q. Is matter eternal?
No. Through the action of God’s creative power (maya) it comes into being, and at His will it ceases to exist. But its duration is of inconceivably vast extent.
Q. Are Hell and the Heavens eternal?
No. Nothing is eternal save God and soul which merges into Him. All states and planes exist only until He brings the ‘play’ to an end.
Q. Has this universe any real existence?
Being created by the one supreme Reality, it is a real expession of His eternal truth (sat); but as it arises and vanishes at His will it has no real or independent existence of its own. Compared with the Creator it is like ‘the shadow of a cloud’, a ‘flying dream of the night’.
Q. Is the universe good or bad?
In itself it is good because it is the visible expression of the will of the one absolute Good; it may become relatively bad for the soul which chooses it in preference to Him.
Q. What is sin, or evil?
The deliberate turning from the service of God to the service of the pretty ‘self’, and the seeking of worldly pleasures for their own sake. That is, it is the wilful disobedience of what is known to be God’s will.
Q. How did evil come into existence?
God gave man free will so that he might choose Him above all, but a free choice involves the possibility of wrong choice; man chose ‘ego’ instead of his real Self, the Life of his life, that is, God.
Q. Why does God let evil exist?
So that many may learn through effort how to reject all things save the love of Himself, and thus acquire those virtues which bring about union with Him.
Q. What does God do if evil seems about to conquer the world?
He sends a messenger with His own power to teach and inspire the people to righteous life, drawing them to Him through his own saintly example.
Q. Is there a devil in the Sikh religion?
Sinners by rebelling against God’s will are like ‘devils’, but there is no great opponent of God who can challenge his omnipotence.
Q. What is man?
The creature or child of God, mortal while he identifies himself with the perishable world and body, but with power of becoming truly immortal through union with Him; until then, doomed to wander in the outer darkness of the world, unable to see and really love Him.
Q. Why did God create man?
So that a living creature might choose to love him above all things and so at last unite with him and share his glorious eternal work.
Q. What is the origin of the individual soul?
Like that of a spark from the One Fire, a wave arising in the One Sea. The soul comes forth from God, is always really in him as a partial expression of his Will, and at the last manifests it perfectly in union with his perfect Self.
Q. How was man imprisoned in flesh?
He found himself in a body of whose sensations he was conscious; thus, in confusion, he thought himself to be that body whereas in reality he is as free as the air around.
Q. What is man’s duty on earth: to God, to other men, to himself?
To love and worship God, holding his Presence always in mind, and doing all action in his Name and to his glory, to serve and help mankind in all humility, gentleness and courage, fulfilling the duties of his state with perfect honesty; to aspire continually to become a perfect devotee of God, and to do His work on earth faithfully so that he may gain those qualities which enable His grace to unite him with God.
Q. How can man become free?
In contact with saintly persons, a continuous dwelling on the thought of God, and faithful discharge of duty, egoism perishes and man realizes that his real Self is the One ever-free formless God.
Q. Can he do this unaided?
No. In order to break his bonds God’s grace is absolutely necessary.
Q. How does God help him?
When he is ready to be helped, God sends him the intimacy of a saint, whose contact, teachings and example awaken true spiritual vision in his heart and so set him free from bondage to the ‘ego’.
Q. Why does not God give this help to all?
His will it is that all should long for such aid, and prepare themselves by effort for it; the moment any soul is thus made ready, His grace at once descends, and the saint, the Guru, gives enlightenment.
Q. What is the result of righteous conduct?
In this life virtues attract grace, and so they swiftly bring the soul to surrender and to union with the One supreme Good; in the other, God draws the righteous soul near to himself so that it never fails again into the shadows of earthly life.
Q. What happens to wicked men?
In this life, they suffer by deprivation of grace and the enlightening bliss of saintly contacts; in the next, they suffer miserably in Hell, the results of their own bad deeds, until they fall back into incarnation and resume thei wanderings until the lesson is well learned.
Q. Is the soul born again in a physical body?
It must be, until it deliberately turns away from purely worldly delights in order to seek God with a full heart and sincere longing.
Q. What should a sinner do to escape this evil lot?
Repent of his sins and wash them away by ceaselessly dwelling upon the thought of God; he can do this when by serving true guru with faithful devotion he has won his grace.
Q. How can man find God?
With the Guru-saint’s grace, he does all his actions and meets all the events of his life in the mood of conscious adoration of God; then his heart is so purified that God himself comes to dwell in it and takes him to himself in loving embrace.
Q. Can the true knowledge of God be given by another?
Not fully; the Guru’s touch of grace opens the soul’s eyes to God’s light, which is always there, and enables him to see the Lord. In reality it is God who gives the knowledge of himself, but to that end he takes the form of the Guru.
Q. Who really is the Guru?
God, who dewlls in the heart of every living being, who teaches all through the gentle voice of conscience, and appears ‘outside’ in human form to those who crave such visible aid. Really the ‘Enlightener’ is the inner Self who recognizes truth and embraces it when found in a human form or voice, a book, or the universe itself.
Q. Was Guru Nanak a man or divine incarnation?
All the ‘incarnations’ (avataras) were men sent by God to do His work of saving the world age after age. Guru Nanak, too, was such a messenger of God. But as Guru, his was and is to each Sikh the voice of God arousing the soul to true spiritual effort.
Q. What is the relationship between the Ten Gurus?
One divinely taught Soul, in full spiritual union with God, was teacher of men for several generations through these chosen bodies, so that the Sikh community might be formed and trained. Personally distinct, the ten were spiritually one, Nanak being the inspiring soul in all.
Q. How does the Guru manifest to Sikhs today?
By the will of the last of the Ten, through the hymns of the Guru-Granth Sahib, and the Khalsa or community of faithful Sikhs, expressed by ‘Guru’s decrees’; also he is still to be found by search in the heart of each individual Sikh, and in the universe which is pervaded by his grace.
Q. How does one become a Sikh?
By declaring one’s total faith in the Guru, surrendering to the Lord, and accepting the ‘baptism’ of nectar and the sword, adopting and faithfully adhering to the Panch Kakas: the five K’s, and the Rahatnamas (codes of conduct).
Q. Why did Guru Gobind change the form of Sikhism?
In reality he made no essential change, but in days of persecution more stress had to be laid on manly courage, so he introduced external signs and insignia, which led to the martyrdom of many, and thus preserved the precious treasure of the religion from reabsorption into Hinduism or Islam.
Q. What do you mean by God’s ‘Name’?
The name is the expression of a person; God’s Name is the expression of God, the Eternal Omnipresent Person. His ‘Name’ is all that he has made - this whole universe, and the conscious soul itself.
Q. How does a man repeat God’s Name?
By holding himself always conscious of God’s presence in his own heart and in all around; this may be greatly aided by the chanting of his glories or the Guru’s hymns, by the company of a saint, by the repetition of one of his names - such as Hari, Rama, Vahiguru.
Q. What is the final goal of life?
The total loving union of the soul with God, in his active work of creation and uplift, and in the blissful contemplation of his perfection.
Q. Can you sum this religion in a few words?
It is a life of active effort towards the upliftment of the world under the Guru’s guidance, so that all souls may attain the final goal. It insists on human equality, and rejects caste, race prejudice, the use of images for God, and all external show of piety; it insists on absolute sincerity and persevering action for the love of God.
Q. Can we prove the existence of God?
The existence of God cannot be proved in a scientific way by means of observation, experiment or other verification. This type of proof is possible only in the field of physical phenomena. There are two types of evidence, direct and indirect. Indirect proof is based on probabilities and circumstances. Criminals may be convicted on the basis of circumstatial evidence. Only the existence of God can be accepted on this basis or circumstantial evidence coupled with the testimony of saints and prophets. God cannot be known through the five senses. Just as there is the electro-magnetic wave which cannot be seen, heard, tasted or touched yet it carries sound through the ether, in the same way, God's existence is inferred, though it cannot be demonstrated. You may as well ask the scientist to show you electric energy or magnetism. Moreover, the personal testimony of saints who have realized God is acceptable as is the large percentage of our knowledge which comes to us second-hand. There is little that we know through the direct experience. The existence of the universe and the design or pattern behind it make people feel that it could not "just have happened", that there is a Great Designer. Just as a big mansion cannot be built without a master-builder or architect, in the same way, the universe must have been created by a Master-Designer who we designate as God. Our awareness of a moral sense within the individual is also a reflection of some moral order in the universe. We know that truth is better than a lie, love better than hate. Where did these beliefs come from? They are an indication of the Creator who requires respect for these values in life. The Sikh Gurus never felt the need to prove the existence of God. They regarded Him as everpresent, not in theory but in fact. Guru Nanak thought Him visible and manifest. Modern scientists and thinkers have come to realize the existence of "A Power" or "the moving hand", which designs and controls the phenomena of nature. The pattern of the universe and the regularity of the laws behind its working confirm the belief that there is a "Lord of the universe".
Q. What do we know of God?
Guru Nanak describes the attributes of God in the prayer, Japji: "There is but one God. His name is True and Everlasting. He is the Creator, Fearless and without Enmity, the Timeless Form, Unborn and Self-existing." Sikhism rejects the theory of incarnation. God does not take birth. He is self-existent and not subject to time; He is eternal; He can be realized through (His own grace or) the teachings of a spiritual guide or Guru, but such a guide must be perfect. Sikhism believes in a personal God. The devotee is compared to a bride yearning for union with her husband and waiting on his pleasure to do his bidding. The Gurus have called God by different names-Ram, Rahim, Allah, Pritam, Yar, Mahakal. There is no such thing as a God of the Hindus or a God of the Muslims. There is the "Only One God" who is a presence, and is called Waheguru by the Sikhs (wonderful enlightener and wonderful Lord). Is God transcendal or immanent? He is both. He is present in all things and yet they do not cover His limitless expanse. When God is seen through the universe, we think of him as Sargun(Quality-ful); when we realize His transcendence, we think of Him as Nirgun(Abstract). Truely speaking, God is both in and above the universe. God is the Whole and the world a part of that Whole. A complete knowledge of God is impossible. Guru Nanak says, "Only one who is as great as He, can know Him fully." We can only have some glimpses of Him from His works. The universe is His sport in which He takes delight. The world is a play of the Infinite in the field of the finite. By His order, all forms and creatures came into existence. It is the duty of man to study the laws of the universe and to realize the greatness and glory of the Supreme Being. He has created an infinite number of worlds and constellations. The world in which we live is a small atom as compared to other worlds. Scientists like James Jeans, Hoyle and Narlikar have confirmed this theory.
Q. Can we exist without a belief in God?
There are atheists who deny the existence of God. They are in a way free from moral rules and the stings of conscience. However, the atheist finds no meaning and purpose of life. He misses the inspiration and consolation of religion. He misses the companionship of God and Guru, and has, no future to hope for. Again, there are agnostics who are not certain about God, because they do not wish to get 'involved'. They fear that religion may entail austerity and sacrifice. Such people regard religion as a gamble and are not prepared to take the plunge. In Sikhism, the belief in the existence of God is a must. The disciple knows that God is knowable, but is not known to him. It is for him to study the scriptures and follow the instructiosn of the Guru to learn about God. A thorough knowledge, serious effort and steadfast devotion are necessary. Moreover having a belief in God turns men's minds to His qualities: love, justice, charity, mercy, peace, wisdom, truth, goodness and beauty. When we meditate on His qualities, we imbibe often unknowingly some of these traits. Throughout the ages, prophets have given their concepts of the Creator. To the Christians, God is revealed as a Trinity: God, His son Jesus and the Holy Ghost. The Hindus accept the theory of incarnation and affirm that God appears in human form to save the world at the times of crisis. Islam believes in the one God who gave his message to Mohammed the Prophet. Ths Sikh Gurus emphasise the unity of God. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. He manifests himself as NAM, "The TRUTH" and "the WORD". Undoubtedly, you can live without a belief in God. You can inflate your ego. But the spirit will remain stunted and starved. You can develop the spirit only through spiritualiy, which means pracitising a devotion to God.
Q. Can we reconcile a God with pain?
Q. Can we reconcile the existence of a merciful God with the problem of pain in the world?
Undoubtedly, the world is full of evil and misery. Look at the many wars, slave-raids, tortures, concentration camps, atomic attacks. Do they not show that man, without a sound moral basis is worse than a wild beast? The problems of pain and suffering seems to be rooted in creation itself. We find one species of animal or fish feeding on another. Think of the epidemics and plagues. Everything is subject to disease and decay. Earthquake are due to a 'fault' in the earth's crust. These, in addition to the eruption of valcanoes, cause a great loss of human life and property. Some calamities like famine and floods can be prevented by human ingenuity. We do not blame God for them. On the other hand, the world contains many lovely things: sunshine, flowers and fruits. The picnic spots in the hills, the splendour of the sunrise and sunset show that this world is full of beauty. Farid said, "The world is a beautiful garden." God's purpose in creating the universe is to watch His play, to see how men and women behave in different circumstances. He has given man reason and freedom. Man may do good or evil. All his acts are recorded and he gets rewarded or punished accordingly. Sikhism believes in a just, and merciful God. God does not, on His own cause suffering: "The Creator takes no blame to Himself." All things work under His las, He does not undermine His own law by making exceptions. Man sows the seed of action and gets the fruit accordingly. God is like a supreme judge who deals with people according to their deserts. It is also His privilege to pardom an erring but repentful soul. A deep study of the problem of pain makes us feel that pain has a good and useful purpose to serve. It draws out great kindness and compassion in this hard world. Pain is also a test, an ordeal, to assess man's convition and courage. According to Guru Nanak, "Pain is a remedy, and pleasure the disease." Physically, pain is an index of ill-health, a kind of alarm-bell. When you feel physical pain you consult the doctor. Why not also do so for spiritual pain? God gives us timely warning through our conscience. Our Guru is the Doctor for these pains.
Q. What was God's purpose in creating man?
It may never be possible to understand fully God's purpose in creating man, but prophets have told us something about man's goal. It is generally accepted that God's purpose is for man to realize his divine inheritance while living in this mortal frame. God made man in His own image. He put His divine spark in man which is called "The Soul". The soul enters bodily forms according to individual's actions. The wall of ego separates the soul from God. This leads to the cycle of birth and death. Metempsychosis can only be ended through meditation or the acquisition of divine grace. God is not a cruel monster out for sport with mortals. On the contrary, He is like a benevolent father. He gave man a good start in this life by providing him with all the needs for his upkeep at the time of birth. Just as the body is sustained by food and drink, in the same way the soul is nourished by virtue and devotion. When the soul progresses with the performance of good deeds and the remembrance of The Name, it becomes more worthy of a merger to Divinity. Man is a focal point in the universe. He is the apex of creation, the final stage. Human life is the starting point for God-realization. You cannot own salvation as an animal or stone. Only human life, offers this grand opportunity for spiritual attainment. Man is made of spirit and matter: shiv and shakti. The spirit is subtle, while the body is gross. The body has to be cared for, because it houses the soul. A house-holder's life is the best life because it offers scopre for acts of charity and social service. Escapism or ascetisism is not advocated by Sikh religion. Life may be compared to a game of chess or cards. Where the individual does not frame the rules or control the game. The cards are given to him; it is upto him to play the cards well or badly, wisely or foolishly. God watches over him and will reward him according to his efforts. In the ultimate analysis, human life is a rich gift, not something to be flittered away in frivolity. If one fails here, one has to go through the cycle of birth and death. It is man's option(what he can) to save himself from this chain of transmigration.
Q. Is the worship of God necessary?
God does not insist that we worship him. In His generosity, He gives to all, the high and the low, the educated and the illiterate, even to those whoa are anti-God; Athiest. Some people are under the impression that God, just like an army commander, demands respect and worship. God does not need man's flattery or praise. Guru Nanak says: "If all people start praising Him, it will not make the least difference to His greatness." Just as the sun does not need light of the lamps so in the same way, God does not need the praises of men. God is not a Dictator. People worship Him from a sense of duty, Dharma. They are convinced that God who made this universe can be known and loved. Those who know His nature and qualities are wonder-struck by His greatness. In their ecstasy, they exclaim "Wahguru", Wonderful Lord. They want to love Him as devotedly as a wife loves her husband. Moreover, many people feel that human life is the supreme opportunity for spiritual attainment. A worldly man who makes no effort towards spirituality stands in great danger of joining the cycles of birth and death. A sense of spiritualiy is a sheet-anchor for the individual. It gives purpose and meaning to life. Guru Arjan writes in The Sukhmani Sahib, "The seed of the Lord's Divine knowledge is in every heart." Thus, a sense of emptiness may be replaced by a sense of richness. Only those who are egoistic and wallow in their material possessions, refuse to accept the comfort of divinity. Man is not potentialy evil, but is weak and ignorant. When temptation faces him, he is likely to succumb to it. At that moment, he needs a support, an inspiration. If he remembers his divine essence and calls on his moral courage, he will get the necessary strength to overcome the temptation. A positive approach to God will yield results. Union with God is our goal. Hiw great qualities, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Love, Purity, Peace, Wisdom, Justice, Mercy etc. are the ladder to Him. By concentrating on these qualities, we through auto suggestion, imbibe such qualities. Man rises to God, while God stoops to lift man.
Q. How was the world created, according to Sikhism?
God existed all alone in His abstract form - Nirgun - before He created the Universe. This may be called the state of precreation. God was in the state of sunn samadhi=state of pre-creation, state of contemplation of the void. According to Guru Nanek, there was darkness and chaos for millions of years. There were mists and clouds. None existed except God. Guru Nanek says: "There was darkness for countless years. There was neither earth nor sky; there was only His Will. There was neither day nor night, neither sun nor moon. He (God) was in deep meditation. There was nothing except Himself." (A.G., pg 1035) Then God willed the creation of the universe. He became manifest: Sargun. He diffused Himself in nature. Guru Nanek says: "Thou created all Thy Universe to please Thyself, to enjoy the spectacle, the reality, which is the light of Thy own Reality-self." When was the world created? This is a mystery. Was this process of creation a sudden and impulsive one or was it one of evolution and growth? Only God who created it knows. Like a spider, God spun Himself into a web. A day will come when He will destroy that web once again become His sole self. The Parkriti of three attributes (Rajas, Tamas, Satav) was created by God. Maya, attachment and illusion are also His creation: Guru Gobind Singh(10th Guru) writes: "He created the Shakti of three Gunas(attributes) The great Maya is His shadow." The Universe is not an illusion. It is reality, not final and permanent but a reality on account of the presence of God in it. This world is the abode of the Almighty and yet He transcends it.
Q. What is the microcosmic theory in Sikhism?
Sikhism accepts the theory that God dwells in the body. As such the body is called 'The Temple of God'. In one of his hymns, Peepa in Guru Granth Sahib writes: "Whatever is found in the Universe is found in the body, whoever searches it shall find it." The microcosmic theory is here in a nutshell. The Universe is the macrocosm, while the body is the microcosm, that is, the body is a miniature of the Universe. The Universe consists of atoms, the body consists of atoms. Superficially the parallelism is true: the Universe is composed of five elements, ether, air, fire, water, earth; and the three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, Satav, so also the human body has these elements. In the Pran Sangli, the comparison is further amplified. The sun and the moon are represented by human eyes; light and darkness are reflected in sleep and wakefulness; heavean and hell are represented by joy and sorrow. According to Indian tradition, the Tantrikas dilate on the fact that the truth is to be realized through the body. The body is an epitome, a small index of the Universe. What we are, the world is. The physical processes of the Universe are paralleled by the biological process in the human body. Perhaps the understanding of the cosmos may best be done through the ramifications of human body. Guru Amardas puts it thus: "Everything is in the body, the regions, the spheres and the nether worlds. There are jewels in the body, there are stores of Bhagti. There is the Universe of nine regions within the body. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva reside in the body." In the body, which is an epitome of the Universe, resides the Lord of the Universe. The devotee explores the body and finds hidden treasures therein. Ultimately he finds God within his own self. Physical sciences have not yet been able to unearth the mysteries of the Universe and the miracle of the human body. There are millions of solar systems, and our earth is a very small part of the universe. Perhaps, the working of the laws of the Universe in the human system may be found in detail in the years to come.
Q. What is the concept of Truth in Sikhism?
The concept of Truth - Sach, Sat is basic and fundamental in Sikhism. In the Japji Guru Nanak deals with the subject of Truth. The word "Truth" has different meanings in different contexts. The most important connotation of Truth is God. The Almighty is Truth(Sat Kartar, Sat Nam, Ad Sach Jugad Sach, Hai Bhi Sach, Nanak Hosi Bhi Sach, Ap Sach Keenay Sabh Sach). Another meaning of Truth is Virtue (Apay Gun, Apay Gunkari) which includes qualities like honesty, righteousness, justice, compassion, detachment, humility etc. The third meaning of Truth is pure, holy, sacred (Sacha Chauka Surat Ki Kar). The fourth meaning of Truth is that which is correct and proper (Jo Kuchh Karay Sat Kar Man). The fifth meaning of Truth is eternal happiness of bliss (Tatah Tut Milay Sach Paya). But who can give the Truth? God being the source of Truth gives truth (revelation) direct to the holy and the enlightened (Jis Tu Deh Tis Milay Sach, Ta Tini Sach Kamaiya). Secondly the Satguru (or Guru) can give Truth to the devotee through his teachings and example (Satguru Milay Sach Paya, Jini Wicheu Ap Gavaiya). Thirdly the Sadh Sangat or Holy Congregation can impart an understanding of Truth to the disciple (Sach Sangat Pavah Sach Dhana). So God, Guru, or Holy Gongregation can grant the gift of Truth to a devotee. The gift of Truth comes to the deserving. The Sikh must satisfy some requirements to be a candidate for the gift of Truth. He must follow the Guru's teaching: he must do charitable and altruistic deeds; he must submit to the will of God; he must do spiritual cleansing through remembrance of the Holy Name (Mun Davah Shabad Lagau har siu Rahau Chit Laai); finally, he must pray for God's grace (Jah Prasad tu Pavah Sach, Ray Mun Meray Tu Ta Siu Raach). In Sikhism greater than Truth is Truthful living. One must lead a life of Truth. He must speak the Truth, act the Truth and think the Truth (Sach karni Sach Taki Rahat). A noble character implies the practice of humility, compassion, meditation and a desire to serve and guide others on the spiritual path. Such a devotee earns the gift of Truth and ulitmately merges with the Eternal (God) like the rain drop losing itself in the ocean.
Q. What happens to the individual after death?
Human life is just a stage in the upward march of the soul. The individual has got birth as a human being, after going through lower forms of life. Human life is the final stage in the soul's progress to divinity. It is for us to make the most of this opportunity and thereby end our cycle of transmigration. Death means the destruction of the physical self. The ashes and bonedust mix with the elements. But the soul which leaves the body, awaits a new dwelling. Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on other that are new, so the subtle soul casts off the worn-out body and dwells in a new form. If there were no continuance of the soul after death, how could it become perfect to merit union with the Almighty? Sikhism believes in the immortality of the soul. The devotee has no fear of the pangs of death. In fact he welcomes death, because it gives him a chance for the merger into Divinity. The evil person, however, dreads death. For him, it will lead to the unending cycle of birth and death. After death, man comes to the next birth according to what he deserves. If he has been wicked and evil, he takes birth in the lower species. If he has done good deeds, he takes birth in a good family. The cycle of birth and death keeps the soul away from Divinity. It can merge with God, only if the individual, by spiritual effort, has amassed the capital of the Name(the Holy spirit as understood by Christians) and thus lives with the Holy Spirit. Guru Arjan in the Sukhmani dwells on the sad plight of the soul which is not endowed with the Name. The soul in its lonely march through darkness can only find sustenance in the word of God. Otherwise it feels the weariness and pain of isolation. The soul, Jiva, is a part of God. It is deathless like Him. Before creation, it lived with God. After Creation it takes bodily forms according to His Will. The soul is, however, nourished by virtue and meditation on "The name". The transmigration of the soul can come to an end by meditation and divine grace.
Q. Is there a judgement?
Sikhism accepts the theory of Karma: That man is punished or rewarded according to his actions. Man's actions in this world will bear witness at the time of judgement. The messengers of the god of death, Yama, takes the individual to the god of justice, Dharam Raj, who is very strict like a moneylender. The scribes of Chitra and Gupta who have written out the account are called forth to present the balance-sheet of his actions. What does the balance-sheet show? It contains a record of good and evil deeds. The god of justice cannot be bribed or influenced. He is strict and impartial and exacts a clear account. Certain faiths affirm that their prophets wil plead for their followers in the court of justice. Sikhism does not accept this idea. Man is responsible for his own actions and cannot escape punishment through the intervention of a spiritual leader. Perhaps the Gurus borrowed the old Puranic machinery of Dharam Raj and Chitra Gupta to impress on the minds of people the need for righteous and noble actions. Guru Nanak says: "According to one's action, one gets near to or distant from God". Elsewhere, the Guru affirms that the judgement on man's actions determines the next birth or form for the individual's soul. The best action in the world is to meditate on 'The Name'. This alone can earn salvation or freedom from metempsychosis. The law of Karma is inexorable. Man's life is a series of actions. According to Sikhism, "Conduct is the paper, mind the inkpot; the good and the bad (virtue and vice) are both recorded thereon." Man sows the wind and yet expects that no whirlwind will follow. Man's choice of action will determine his future and next life. However by repentence, prayer and love, man earns God's grace which neutralises his previous Karma. There is no accounting of Karma, for one who surrenders himself to God. The true Sikh in a spirit of dedication and resignation invokes His grace and mercy, thereby inducing God to exercise his prerogative of admitting an erstwhile erring but now repentent soul, to His kingdom.
Q. Is there a hell or heaven?
Man is judged according to his actions. If he has done evil deeds, he goes into lower forms of life; if he has done noble deeds, he gets a human life again. The idea of hell and heaven is a mere hypothesis. The picture of hell as a place of varied and terrible tortures is symbolic: "There is a stream of fire from which comes poisnous flames. There is none else there except the self. The waves of the ocean of fire are aflame. And the sinners are burning in them." (A.G. p 1026) Shaikh Farid tells us that hell is a burning lake resounding with terrible cries. It may be added that the result of a sinful life is its adverse effect on character from which ultimately comes suffering and torment. In short, to be in hell is to be out of the presence of God. Similarly there is no actual place called heaven. Sikhism does not regard the winning of a place in heaven as a worthy object. The old Indian concept of heaven is of a beautiful place providing all sorts of comforts and luxuries. The devotee is neither afraid of hell nor anxious to go to heaven. In a way, hell and heaven are conditions of mind. The virtuous man is happy and contented, as if he is living in heaven. The concept of hell and heaven is just a rough illustration for clarifying the doctrine of Karma. Hell and heaven refer to evil or good stages of life repectively and they can be lived here and now in our earthly existence. According to Guru Arjan, "Whereever the praises of God are sung, there verily is heaven." Likewise, the society of the wicked is a hell. The condition of an average man is described thus: "Like birds that flock in the evening on a tree, flutter with pleasure and pain, scan the skies morning and evening, wandering everywhere, driven by hunger. So the soul of man wanders and suffers on earth." The worldly man eats, enjoys and sleeps, unmindful of the higher things of life. He is free, and perhaps, may choose wrongly.
Q. What is Hukam?
Hukam means order: that is God's order. By God's order all forms came into existence. The Divine Will is responsible for the creation, sustenance and dissolution of man and the Universe. Whatever happens is by His Will. Hukam takes the form of Natural Laws or Universal axioms. All the parts of the Universe are under His control. According to Sikhism, true happiness is attained by accepting and submitting to the Divine Will. Guru Nanak says: "How can I be truthful and break the wall of falsehood? By submission to His Will, as it is ingrained in me." (A.G., p.1) Living in harmony with the Divine Will brings everlasting peace. Like a child, the disciple is to be guided by the elders. Everything emanates from Him and is, therefore significant. Saints and martyrs, in spite of occult powers, have submitted to torture and death in order to honour His Will. "Thy Will be done" is one of the basic principles of Sikhism. This does not imply the negation of individual volition. A Sikh must bring his will in line with the Will of God. What is God's Hukam? The Gurus tell us that God's command is that one must merge one's will in His Will. The service of God's creation is the best way of working in harmony with the Divine Will. Secondly, God desires that man who has the Divine essence in him should once again merge in Him and thereby end the cycle of Karma and transmigration. Submission to God's Will produces a sense of humility and self-abnegation. When man surrenders himself completely to him, he regards himself as an instrument of His Will. He realizes that whatever comes from Him is for his own good. Every misery that he faces is a sort of mercy. He is full of gratitude and prayer for all he has done. Guru Arjan says: "What pleases Thee, O Lord, that is acceptable. To Thy Will, I am a sacrifice." (A.G., p.676) The only antidote for egoism and vanity is complete surrender to His Will. Only by conquering the self, can one enter the realm of God's Grace.
Q. What is religion?
From times immemorial, man has felt the need of some power of deity to liberate him from his toils and to protect him from dangers. Further, he seeks to obtain peace and hope through contact with a superior power which is called Divinity. Society and religion go together. Religion has occupied an important place in the history of civilization and philosophy. It gives a meaning and purpose to human life and satisfies man's longing for peace and salvation. Some form of religion existed in primitive societies. They believed in spirits, magic and images of gods and offered sacrifices to them. The basic forms of religious expression are sacrifice, prayer and ritual. Religion has been defined as "the relationship between man and the super- human power he believes in and depends upon". According to Jakob Burchardt, "Religions are the expression of the eternal and indestructible metaphysical cravings of human nature." It includes a rule of conduct or principle of individual life on which one's peace of mind depends. Religions offer different paths to salvation. The goal of religion is getting in tune with the infinite. Moreover, the philosophy of religion is neither ceremony nor ritual nor going to the temple, but an inner experience which finds God everywhere. Religion consists of a number of beliefs relating to a reality which cannot be demonstrated by proof, but which is an inexorable certainty to the believer. This reality induces him to adopt certain modes of action and behavior. When Guru Arjan(fifth Sikh Guru) was asked as to which is the best religion in the world, he answered: "The best religion in the world is the one which stresses the power of prayer and the performance of noble deeds." Holy living or altruistic action is the practical side of religion.
Q. What is the science of religion?
Some people think that religion is contrary to science because religion insists on faith, while science stresses reasoning and proof. But there is something like the science of religion. It includes two things: a general history of religions and the developments of a particular faith. While the science of comparative religion seeks to assess the varieties of religious experiences and a systematic analysis of their development, the history of a particular religion reveals the special features and deeper issues of an individual faith. It studies in depth the change in the forms and expression of a particular religion, the psychological development of particular communities in the matter of dogma and ritual. Connected with the science of religion are the sociological studies of the influence of social forms on the development of religion and psychology of religion which determine the place of religion in human life. Theology must be distinguished from the science of religion. While the first is the pursuit of knowledge in the interests of a creed, the latter is a factual study of religious experience. Theology is based on the church, on the dogma. The religious scientist is objective and dispassionate. Religious science in its broadest sense is a history of ideas and therefore, has to find general answers to the common problems of life. One of the important ideas is holiness: what is holy as opposed to profane? Holiness creates reverential awe: The fear of God. An understanding of the basic concepts of religion has to be linked up with the practical demands of active and purposeful living. Metaphysics and the supernatural are beyond the realm of evidence. Their appreciation will largely depend on the widening of the frontiers of human knowledge and experience. The inter-relationship between science and religion has been summed up by Prof. A. Toynbee as under:
"Science must be based on religion and religion must include scientific rationality. I think that the words of Albert Einstein. 'Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind', are of even greater importance now than when he uttered them".
Q. What is the place of religion in the modern age?
Throughout the ages man has believed in some sort of religion. It is thought that without religion he cannot comprehend the real purpose of his existence. In fact, religion has had a definite place in society and will continue to play a vital part in this age of science. While science and technology might assist man in improving his physical conditions, surroundings and economic standards, religion and ethics help to develop his personality and inner self. Man may live in comfort and prosperity and yet have no peace of mind. Even in a highly affluent society like that of the United States of America, it is realized that wealth and power are not everything. Spiritual progress is intrinsic and shows itself in inner satisfaction and sense of fulfillment. Moreover, modern society dominated by technology cannot be regarded as an ideal society. It suffers from great strains and a sense of frustration and futility. Science has now given the man the power to destroy his own civilization and the human race. It is religion alone that can save society from such a catastrophe and check the erosion of human values. It reinforces basic ethical values and discourages racial prejudice, economic exploitation and social injustice. Religion like science is devoted to the service of man. Religion corrects the lopsidedness of science, because without moral and spiritual foundations, science can bring ruination to mankind. Religion and ethics humanise the scientist and make him realize his social responsibility. It shifts the emphasis in science and industry from exploitation and power to social uplift, peace and co-operation. Man must be the master and not the slave of machines. Great scientists themselves realize the limitations of science. They look to religion to remedy the social evils. According to Dr. Julian Huxley: "Religion of some sort is probably a necessity." One need not accept the dogmas of religion, but one must appreciate its search for Truth and its endeavor for the uplift of the masses. Prof. A.N. Whitehead says in this connection. "The future of civilization depends on the degree to which we can balance the forces of Science and Religion."
Q. Can I be happy without religion?
Much depends on one's idea of happiness. True happiness is a state of mind in which man finds tranquility and contentment. The external happiness conferred by material possessions and worldly activities is ephemeral and superficial. In Communist countries people may appear to be satisfied and contented as their material conditions improve, but can they really be said to have achieved true happiness and real peace of mind? Perhaps one of the reasons for the present day decline in morals is the neglect of religion. Without high ethical standards, which are the foundations of all religions no organized and disciplined life is possible. Promiscuity and sexual aberrations are no doubt due to ignorance and a neglect of the fundamental principles of ethics. In a secular state, it is the duty of parents and voluntary organizations to impart to children a knowledge of moral and spiritual values and ennoble them. If a man who is under a strong temptation thinks that moral rules are man-made, he may easily violate them. He will hesitate more to disobey them, if he believes that they are God made and have been revealed to him through a Divine Teacher or the Guru. Even men of piety and great devotion are apt to fall a prey to temptation. There are such notable examples as Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Joga Singh. If religion is not sincerely practiced, it has little effect on our private lives or that of the community. An interest in religion makes people seek the company of holy men, which can give them the solace and happiness they really need. Some people make a show of being religious. This does not serve any useful purpose. What is needed is a positive attitude, to seek the company and assistance of those persons who are truly devoted to religion. Some people think that religion is an irrelevance, a matter of no consequence, and that they lose nothing if they exclude religion from their lives. They believe in the motto: 'Eat, drink, and be merry'. But does this give an edge or meaning to life? Life has a purpose. Religion makes a man conscious of his spiritual heritage and goal.
Q. Is fear the basis of all religions?
In ancient times, it is true that the fear of the unknown, the anger of gods and goddesses and the concept of divine punishment compelled people to believe in some sort of religion. They began to worship the forces of nature. In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church set up the Inquisition to punish the wrongs against the church. As man's knowledge increased, this fear was replaced by a conviction that behind the universe was a Creator, who was just and merciful and not revengeful or mischievous. Fear is not always a bad thing. Fear of police and of imprisonment makes many people abide by the law. The fear of venereal diseases keeps many persons away from sexual over-indulgence. The fear of sickness has turned men's minds to research and the discovery of remedies for many chronic diseases and violent epidemics. According to the new science of psychiatry, fear of any kind, particularly in the case of children, undermines their personalities. Instead of telling people about penalties for moral wrong doing they should appeal to their higher sense and considerations of the social good. It is in the interest of religion itself to discourage such fear and to strengthen the individual's moral values and social conscience. The moral code ought to be a part of daily life and any breach should be regarded as an injury to society, and against the best interests of the community. Sikhism does not encourage fear. It does not believe in a system of punishment or the inducement of rewards. In place of fear, it advocates personal courage. It believes optimistically in the ultimate victory of the moral order. Sikhism preaches that we should neither cause fright to anyone or be afraid of anyone. This healthy spirit has been responsible for the Sikh's willingness to offer his life for his faith. True heroism, requires a lack of fear and a lack of hatred. The Sikh believes in the cause he serves, without any idea of reward or punishment. In Sikhism, the awe of God turns into love. Just as a faithful wife is careful and cautious not to cause any annoyance to her husband but rather minister to his comforts. In the same way, the true devotee is prepared to offer his all to please God and to serve His Creation.
Q. What are the characteristics of the Sikh religion?
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith. It recognizes God as the only One. He who is not subject to time or space. He who is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of the Universe. Moreover in Sikhism, ethics and religion go together. The inculcation of moral qualities and the practice of virtue in everyday life is a vital step towards spiritual development. Qualities like honesty, compassion, generosity, patience, humility etc. can be built up only by effort and perseverance. The lives of the Gurus show how they lived their lives according to their code of ethics. Sikhism does not believe in Avtarvada, that God takes a human form. It does not attach any value to gods and goddesses and other deities. The Sikh religion rejects all rituals and routine practices like fasting and pilgrimage, omens and austerities. The goal of human life to merge with God is accomplished by following the teachings of the Guru, by meditation on the holy Name and performance of acts of service and charity. Sikhism emphasizes Bhakti Marg or the path of devotion. It does, however, recognizes the limited value of Gyan Marg(Path of Knowledge) and Karam Marg(Path of Action). It also lays stress on the need for earning God's Grace in order to reach the spiritual goal. Sikhism is a modern, logical, and practical religion. It believes that normal family-life(Grist) is no barrier to salvation. That it is possible to live detached in the midst of worldly ills and temptations. A devotee must live in the world and yet keep his head above the usual tensions and turmoils. He must be a soldier, scholar and saint for God. The Gurus believed that this life has a purpose and a goal. It offers an opportunity for self and God realization. Moreover man is responsible for his own actions. He cannot claim immunity from the results of his actions. He must therefore be very vigilant in what he does. Finally, the Sikh Scripture (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) is the perpetual Guru. This is the only religion which has given the Holy Book the status of a religious preceptor. There is no place for a living human Guru(Dehdhari) in Sikh religion.
Q. What is the need and justification of the Sikh religion?
The advent of Guru Nanak in 1469 came at a time of socio-political necessity. India had fallen on evil days. There was no security of life and property. Guru Nanak rang the alarm-bell and saved masses from fake religions. Religion then was either by form of ritual or hypocrisy. He released people from the rut of formalism and the parrot-like repetition of scriptures. Guru Nanak challenged the division of men into classes, castes and communities. For him, all men were equally worthy of respect. Guru Nanak stressed the uniqueness of each individual and wanted him to progress through a process of self-discipline. The discipline was three-fold: physical, moral and spiritual. The physical discipline included acts of service and charity, while leading a householder's life; the moral discipline included righteous living and rising above selfish desires; the spiritual discipline included the belief in only the One Supreme Being, (the Timeless Almighty) and the exclusion of the Pantheon of gods and goddesses, in whom they had formerly believed. The Gurus brought a course of discipline to their Sikhs that lasted for a period of nearly 230 years till the creation of the Khalsa SIKH, the ideal man' of the Tenth Guru (Guru Gobind Singh Ji). Guru Nanak opposed political tyranny and subjugation. He raised his voice against Babar's invasion and the tyrannical deeds perpetrated by his army in India. However, the imprisonment of Guru Nanak and the wonderful way in which he conducted himself and performed the tasks assigned to him in the camp awakened the soul of the Mughal invader. The Guru emphasized the dignity of the individual and his right to oppose injustice and oppression. His main task, however, was to turn men's minds to God. Guru Nanak opposed mere ceremony and ritualism as dead wood. True religion is purposeful and exalts conscientious living, and not the tread-mill of ritual. Other than for Guru Nanak, the lamp of spirituality would have been extinghuished in Asia.
Q. What are the distinctive features of Sikhism?
Each prophet gives some light and message to the world. Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikhism, and his nine successors made a distinct contribution to religion and religious thought. Sikhism may be distinguished from other religions from three stand-points: philosophy, community or institution and physical appearance. From the philosophical stand-point, the contribution of Sikhism may be called Naam Marg. Guru Nanak emphasized the need for man's devotion to the Timeless Almighty. He illustrates the attributes of God in his Mul-Mantra. He asks man to dedicate himself, day and night to the remembrance of God and His Name. The Guru also gave to his followers the form of a community with certain institutions such as Deg, Teg, and Fateh. By Deg is meant the system of community kitchen (Langar) maintained by contributions of the Sikhs. Everyone is to donate one-tenth (Daswandh) of his income. Teg, is the sword or Bhagwati represents power, which was necessary to preserve freedom of religious worship and to end tyranny. For this reason, Guru Gobind Singh gave to God among other names, the name of Sarbloh(All steel). The Sikh believes in God's victory(Fateh). His salutation is Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh: the victory is God's and the Khalsa is God's. The Sikh always believes in Chardi Kala, (progress and optimism) in the reform and improvement of society, as a continuous process. Sikhism also believes in discipline. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Sikh a new appearance and administered him the Baptism of the Sword. He infused in him a spirit of fearlessness and a belief in his own invincibility and told him to maintain the five symbols*, each beginning with the letter K. (*symbols are: Hair (Kes), Sword (Kirpan), knee-long Underwear (Kachhera), Comb (Kanga), Iron Bracelet (Kara).) Another tenet of Sikhism is humility (Garibi). The Gurus asked their followers to regard themselves servants of the Congregation (Sangat). The tenth Guru, after administering his new baptism to the five chosen ones, asked them on bent knees and with folded hands, to administer baptism (Amrit) to him. In the entire human history, there is no other case of a Guru kneeling before his followers.
Q. Is Sikhism suited to the conditions of modern society?
The principle of "the survival of the fittest", is applicable as mush to religions as to communities or people. Those faiths which cannot meet the challenge of their time or the new conditions in society are likely to suffer eclipse. Sikhism however is suited to the needs of modern life. It believes in the individual and his right to develop his personality to the maximum extent possible. According to Guru Nanak, every man has power or merit; he is a part of the divine. He is not a useless weakling, a mere product of the chain-reaction of Karma. The Sikh is essentially a man of action, with an overwhelming sense of self-reliance. He should invoke the Guru's Blessing at every step in his life and ask for His Divine Favor or Grace. Sikhism is both modern and rational. It does not foster blind faith. Guru Nanak exposed the futility of meaningless ritual and formalism. He questioned the superstitious practices of his time and he brought about a revolution in the thinking of his people. Sikhism rejects all distinctions of caste and creed. It stands for the 'Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man'. It believes in a casteless, egalitarian society which guarantees equal rights to women. At a time when woman was regarded inferior to man, Guru Nanak placed woman on a high pedestal: "Why call her inferior, who gives birth to kings?" An important aspect of modern society is the belief in democracy. The welfare of man is best secured by his elected representatives. This principle is the guiding rule of the Khalsa, which entrusts all decisions to elected Five Sikhs. Sikhism also believes in the concept of a socialistic pattern society. Man's responsibility to society lies in taking his contribution to social welfare as a sacred duty. The gulf between the more fortunate and the less fortunate has to be bridge. The Guru instituted the Temple of Bread (Langar) to break the caste system. This is a good example of true democracy in daily life. Sikhism is thus distinct from other religions and has something new to offer to man.
Q. Is Sikhism a faith of hope and optimism?
Yes, the Gurus prescribed the sovereign remedy of "The Name" as the panacea for all mortal ills. While some religions condemn men as miserable sinners destined to damnation and the unending fire of hell, Sikhism believes that there is hope even for the worst man. Kauda the cannibal, and Sajjan the thug, were reclaimed to good life by Guru Nanak with the gift of Naam. All is never lost. If man realizes his mistakes and shifts the center of his life from the lower self to the higher self, he can attain to the highest goal. But this change comes through an understanding of the Guru's word(Bani) and God's Grace. In moments of crises, even the most pious and virtuous of men may succumb to temptation. Undoubtedly, evil and sorrow test the mettle of man, but his true support through all his trial is his faith in God and prayers for His Grace. Sikhism is a practical religion. It shows mankind how to live a worthy and useful life in the world. It teaches him how to face and overcome evil through selfless service, devotion to duty. man can work his way to self-realization. If he trusts in God, feels that he is with Him, and that He will guide him to his goal. When a Sikh has to face trial and torture when everything seems lost, he prays for Divine guidance from his scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, and bears all difficulties with faith and fortitude. Gurbani(The Guru's word or Holy Spirit) affords him true solace and enables him to accept the Divine will(Hukam) patiently. He prays in a spirit of dedication and not with the expectation of reward. A true Sikh never despairs even in the most adverse circumstances. He feels that he is in the company of the Guru, this gives him strength and he can then face every crisis with courage and an unshakable faith in God and the Guru. Sikhism is suited to the challenges of the modern age. Mr. Bunker, ex-ambassador of USA to India, and a Christian, once said: "The Cardinal principles of Sikhism are very much akin to my own religion. It is a religion for our time." As pointed out by Dr. Arnold Toynbee, "In the coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scripture the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."
Q. How does a Sikh reconcile himself to the secular ideal?
Sikhism recommends an active life, the life of a house-holder(Grist), life in society(not in isolation), where every individual makes his contribution to the development of society. There is no place for asceticism in Sikhism. Every Sikh must work for his living, and not be a burden on society. Sikhism lays emphasis on the right type of living-Dharam di Kirt (the labour of Dharam = Righteousness. This refers to honest living and Dignity of labour.). Worldly duties may be performed side by side with the search of "The Truth". A Sikh must set an example to others; he should become a better farmer, a better businessman and a better public servant. He is not to shun material gain or the comforts of life. "Salvation is not incompatible with laughing, eating, playing and dressing well". (A.G. p 522) Sikhism lays emphasis on man's social obligations. Man is a part of society and has to work for its uplift. That is why social reform is a strong point in the Guru's teaching. The Gurus rejected the caste system, untouchability, taboos against women, good and bad omens and the worshiping of graves, idols and mausoleums. Sikhism believes in the equality of man which is practically demonstrated through the institution of Langar(the Temple of Bread) where all dine together in single line. Inter-caste marriages and mixing on equal terms with person of diverse faiths and nationalities is the norm. As stated by Dr. Gokul Chand Narang: "The appearing of Guru Nanak was a great step towards arousing consciousness of a common nationality." Sikhism lays stress on one's duties as a citizen rendering service to the community as a whole. The sword is meant for protecting not merely the citizen but also all victims of tyranny. Guru Teg Bahadur's sacrifice for preserving Hinduism from Aurangzeb's fanatical crusade is yet another aspect of the right of freedom of religion, which is so necessary in a secular state. Secularism requires an equality of all religions, without special favor to the religion of the majority or any designated as State faith Religion. Thus, a belief in Sikhism is not incompatible with the ideals of a secular democracy.
Q. What is the contribution of Sikhism to the uplift of women?
When Guru Nanak appeared on the Indian scene, the place assigned to woman was low and unenviable. The tyranny of caste had left its marks on Hindu women. They had resigned themselves to their miserable lot. A widow had to burn herself on her husband's funeral pyre to become a Sati(the ancient Hindu custom rejected by the Gurus). The position of Muslim women was also far from satisfactory. A Muslim could lawfully marry four women. Who were regarded chiefly as objects of sexual gratification. Women were kept within Purdah(veil) and their education and movements were restricted. The Sikh Gurus gave women equal status. They gained social equality and religious freedom. The false notion that they were inherently evil and unclean was removed. Sikhism conferred religious rights on women. Some Hindu scriptures had allowed an inferior position to women, and affirmed that they were unworthy of performing religious worship. A woman was regarded as temptation-incarnate. The lot of a widow was deplorable. The Gurus exposed the folly of such notions. They rehabilitated women in Indian society. Religious gatherings and Kirtan were thrown open to women; they could participate fully in religious ceremonies and received the baptism(Amrit) on equal terms with men. Guru Amar Das deputed some women for missionary work. Guru Hargobind called woman 'the conscience of man'. In religious gatherings, men and women sang and preached without any distinction. Guru Amar Daas condemned the practice of female infanticide and Sati. He advocated widow remarriage. Guru Teg Bahadur blessed the women of Amritsar and said that by their devotion they had made themselves "acceptable to God". Sikh history furnishes names of many women who inspired men to heroic deeds. The "forty immortals" were put to shame by their women folk on their betrayal of the Tenth Guru, and thus goaded to action they welcomed martyrdom and earned pardon of the Guru. They were returned to the Guru faith by a woman. In the Indo-Pak conflict(1971), Sikh women on the border formed the second line of defence and gave valuable assistance to our fighting forces.
Q. How has martyrdom helped Sikhism?
No nation, sect or community can survive and prosper unless it has a band of persons who are prepared to die, to uphold its faith, integrity, unity, its tradition and way of life. That is what the history of the world demonstrates clearly. The essential condition for entry into the Sikh fold is self- surrender and devotion to the Guru and God. Readiness for the supreme sacrifice, or of offering one's head on the palm of one's hand to the Guru is an essential condition laid down by the Gurus for becoming a Khalsa Sikh. Seeking death, not for personal glory, winning reward or going to heaven, but for the purpose of protecting the weak and the oppressed is what made the Khalsa brave and invincible. This has become a traditional reputation of the Khalsa. Right from the times of the Gurus till the last India-Pakistan conflict (1971), the Sikhs have demonstrated that death in the service of truth, justice and country, is part of their character and their glorious tradition. They do not seek martyrdom, they attain it. Dying is the privilege of heroes. It should, however, be for an approved or noble cause. Sikh history furnishes outstanding examples of Guru Arjan, Guru Teg Bahadur, sons of Guru Gobind Singh and countless other Sikh men and women, who laid down their lives to uphold the cause of the religious freedom and the uproot of tyranny. Undoubtedly, in a world of evil and sin, men of God must be prepared to suffer for the cause of righteousness and truth. According to Guru Gobind Singh, the true hero is one who fights to uphold "The Truth". He then does not run away from the battlefield. Martyrs face the gallows with a smile. The greatest tortures hold no terror for them. They look at the executioner with equanimity because they believe in the justness of their cause. A true martyr regards himself as God's instrument. Sri Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom was unique. He sacrificed himself not to save any of his own followers but to save the Hindu Religion. Sikh History is replete with the glorious deeds and the heroic sacrifices of the Sikhs who suffered for upholding decency, truth, justice and moral values.
Q. Does Sikhism insist on faith?
When we repose our trust in someone it means that, we have faith in him. For instance, when we send a child to school, it is on account of our faith in the value of education. In the matter of love, one has to put faith in the beloved. So faith is not peculiar to religion; it is found in almost every activity of life. Sikhism insists on this kind of basic faith. Just as you cannot learn to swim unless you get into water, in the same way you can never know spirituality unless you believe in God. Sikhism enjoins faith in the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. Sikhism emphasizes the need of the Guru for spiritual training. Fortunately, the Guru Granth Sahib is with us for such guidance. Many seek the solution of their spiritual and temporal problems in the Granth and seek light from Gurbani. We thus repose our faith in the Guru, discover the great truths enshrined in his message as our wisdom, acting in the light of Gurbani, tells us. Sikhism enjoins us to love God. We cannot love God if we love ourselves. Ego is at the root of all evil and our sufferings. If we concentrate our minds on God and sing His praises, we subordinate and even drive ego out of our minds we can then acquire those great qualities and virtues, which we associate with God. Sikhism believes in universal goodness. The Sikh seeks the God's Grace, not only for himself but also for the whole world for he believes in the good of all mankind (Sarbat da bhala). This sense of fellowship makes him feel at home everywhere and to look on all as friends: "No one is my enemy or a stranger", Guru Nanak wrote. He thus acquires an optimistic outlook on life. The need for a Faith is recognized even by the greatest scientists. Indeed, reason alone cannot fathom the mysteries of existence and the Universe. Guru Nanak says: "The intellect cannot grasp what is beyond the bounds of the intellect. Rise above the limited human awareness and you will know of God and His works." Atomic energy and nuclear power have further strengthened the scientists' belief in the unlimited powers of Nature and Providence. Albert Einstein writes in this connection: "Man does not understand the vast of veiled Universe into which he has been for the reason that he does not understand himself. He comprehends but little of his organic processes and even less of his unique capacity to perceive the world around him, to reason and to dream."
Q. What is the role of Reason in Sikhism?
Reason and Faith are complementary. They operate in different spheres, though each is sovereign in its own field. Reason has certain limits. Faith is necessary in certain basic things, as for example, the existance of God, or the need of the Guru's assistance. Reason operates in specified fields, as for example, when a man shall pray and what actions he may take. Religion does not exclude the operation of the intellect, though it certainly acts as a limiting factor. Guru Nanak challenged the superstitious practices and rituals of his age. He questioned the value of offering food and water to one's dead ancestors or the idea that child-birth causes impurity, or that eatable things should be cooked within an encircled space, made sacred by plastering it with cow-dung. He employed the touchstone of reason to test their truth and proved them false. He appealed to men to accept reason as their guide in all such matters. However, spiritual realization is beyond the ken of reason. On the other hand, great scientists of the world have accepted the higher truths revealed by religion. Man is an imperfect creature and his faculties and powers are limited. Albert Einstein observes: "Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose". Man is unable to comprehend the ultimate reality unaided. He needs the assistance of a religious leader or Guru whose divine knowledge and wisdom can guide him to his spiritual goal. Science continues to make new discoveries and inventions which, sometimes reject the theories of previous scientist. Could man 30 years ago consider it feasible to orbit through space or land on the moon? What may be regarded as a miracle at one time may become a fact later. The theory of karam is based on reason, the logic of cause and effect. This means that in order to ensure a good and bright future, man should perform good actions. How can man expect good out of evil actions? Perhaps it would be best to have a recourse to reason when insensibility or blind faith proves of no avail. But where reason is obviously not applicable, we must rely on faith. This is particularly true of spiritual matters.
Q. What is the place of morality in Sikh religion?
It is argued that one can be moral without a belief in religion. There are many people in various parts of the world, generally in Communist countries, who may not believe in God and yet are good citizens, kind and useful members of the society. All the same it is generally recognized that religion is a great aid to morality. Man is subject to temptation. Though he is is born with certain good potentialities, the temptation to evil is so strong that without some moral background and religious convictions, he may easily sccumb to it. In such moments of difficulty, when he is likely to be overcome by evil, the Guru, or true spiritual leader will give him the guidance and courage to resist it. Ethics and morality are the basis of Sikhism. Evolution of the spirit is not possible without righteous conduct and adherance to social morality. Guru Nanak emphasizes this point: "Greater than Truth is Truthful living." (A.G. p62) The Sikh follows personal ethics like telling the truth, gentle speech, fair play, service, humility and tolerance. Morality cannot be an end in itself. It is an aid to the evolution of spiritual life. Sin is a definite obstacle on the path of Divinity. Immorality is something of which one is ashamed or which one practises in secret. The morality of Sikhism is based on the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. Service for God is the service of His Creation. Acts of love and charity, even self-sacrifice, are not spiritual deeds in the strict sense of the term, but they do help to prepare the ground for the elimination of egoism. They show a love for humanity and a love of God. Sikhism believes that this is a just and moral world. Though some bad people may seem to thrive, sooner or later, they will have their punishment. God is a strict judge and He treats people according to their deserts. Guru Nanak says: "According to their actions, some get near to God and some distant." (A.G. p8) But like any good judge, God is charitable too and tempers mercy with justice.
Q. What is the place of sword in Sikhism?
No faith can survive unless it can defend itself. Sikhism was born in a hostile atmosphere and had to face a lot of persecution. In addition to giving Sikhs lessons in the art of daily living, the Gurus gave Sikhs power to uphold their beliefs. For this reason Guru Hargobind donned two swords: one of spiritual leadership and the other of temporal power. He was the first Guru to throw a challenge to the Mughal power and to wage a war against the cruel and corrupt administration. His disciplined soldiers were successful against the Mughal armies in three battles. Guru Hargobind popularized the cult of the sword for purposes of defence and justice. In a similiar situation, after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh took up arms against Emperor Aurangzeb. He justified the use of force as the only means of survival. He wrote in Zafarnama: "When affairs are past other remedies, It is justifiable to unsheath the sword." Where goodness and sacrifice cannot avail, violance has to be met by violance. Undoubtedly, in certain circumstances there are exceptions to the practive of non-violance. The carrying of the sword or kirpan may perhaps be questioned in the atomic age. In the present world it continues to be a symbol of power, as it has been in the past. On ceremonial occasions, practically all armies in the world wear it. Its carrying reminds one of belief in one's own self and therefore it creates self-confidence. Even Gandhiji justified the use of violance for a high purpose. The Sikh sword is a symbol of self-respect, prestige and independence. Guru Gobind Singh hailed it as the Saviour and Protector of saints and the oppressed. Infact he even referred to God as 'sarbloh'(All steel). The sword is one of the compulsory symbols of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is ever ready in his uniform to protect the weak and suffer for a just cause. Guru Gobind Singh demonstrated in a practical way that the sword can be reconciled with spirituality. Goodness without the means to sustain and activate it will fail to survive. Therefore, it is right to say that the sword holds a very important place in the history and philosphy of the Sikhs.
Q. Should we teach our religion to our children?
Some people, purely for psychological reasons, would not like to acquint their children with any religion. They think that the child must grow up and then form his own ideas and select his own religion. They would give no religious instruction or moral training. This is not the right attitude, for then children in their formative years are denied the vital direction they need or like wild plants, their growth will be arbitrary and undisciplined. As children, they must ask questions and if they are not satisfied or receive vague replies they feel that something is wanting. They thus grow up in a spiritual limbo. The idea that when they grow up they will select a suitable moral code or spiritual guide does not work. Neither they will have the time, desire or opportunity, to do any thinking or searching for themselves. Undoubtedly, children have a right to the best their parents possess in all phases of life, including religion. If the parents are Sikhs, they must make the effort to bring the truths of Sikhism and the noble ideals of the Gurus to the notice of their children. In the Rahat Nama of Bhai Desa Singh, Guru Gobind Singh called upon the Sikhs to bring up their children in the Sikh Faith and give them Sikh baptism. To deprive children of religious instruction is to deny them the assistance that the teachings of the Gurus can give them. This will also mean that the vacuum in the child's mind will remain unfilled and he will continue to live in a state of uncertainty and moral ignorance. It is better to provide him with some moral ideas rather than none. Let us make a more positive approach to the problem. It is not enough to encourage the social instincts of children. This may help in a limited way to make them realize that social instincts should have preference over selfish ones but the temptations in life are so sudden and strong that mere sense of social responsibility will not avail. A strong moral foundation is necessary to withstand the onslaught of evil ideas or bad company. It is meaningful and rewarding to tell children of the benefits of the moral support of the Gurus and the assistance they will receive if they follow the Sikh ethical code.
Q. What is the role of Sikhism?
Q. What is the role of religion in human life with special reference to Sikhism?
The goal of human life according to some is the attainment of perfection, and according to others, it is the acquisition of happiness. Pleasure-seeking and fleeting joys should not be mistaken for happiness. Religion is the key to real happiness because it produces harmony by an integrated development of human personality and control of impulses, desires and thoughts. There can be no rigid approach for a human being as the problems of each individual are peculiar. Religion has to be flexible to suit the need of individual development. Religion is the realization of a "Divine presence" within oneself while leading a normal life. If divinity, progress and truth are not realized in human existence then the very purpose of man's life is defeated. True religion implies a search for the Truth and flexibility, in the individual approach to spiritual matters. Myths, forms and systems have fossilised religion and destroyed 'The Truth' and vitality in it. Guru Nanak felt that spiritual development should not be crushed by outward symbols and forms. To bind the soul to the wheels of a socio-religious machinery is a type of spiritual slavery. Freedom of the soul is vital for its adjustments to the needs of life and the complexity of social organization. Constant adaptation is necessary for the achievement of harmony, between the individual and the Supreme Being. Man's nature is extremely complex and it is suicidal to chain it to a rigid groove or pattern. Guru Nanak discarded all the prevalent superstations of traditional forms of worship and symbols. He pointed out the absurdity of idolatry, hypocrisy, caste exclusiveness and pilgrimage. He challenged the use of intoxicants and narcotics, and the practice of Sati and infacticide. At the same time, he advocated the maintenance of ethical values in daily life: justice, truth, honesty, humility, fearlessness and gratitude. These qualities make a man a true citizen of the world. The universality of Guru Nanak's teachings makes an individual approach possible. Guru Amar Das says: "God! Save by Your Grace this world which is in flames. Save it by whatever way it can be saved." (A.G. p853)
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