Some Light on Sikh Tenets
From the study of the old histories and religious scriptures it appears that the preaching of Avatars, Prophets and Gurus against vices and evils prevalent in the world during their life, and their valuable advices to mankind, become afterwards the principles of new religions.
The Sikh religion did not appear suddenly, but was preceded by various movements of reform and dissatisfaction. Jaidev, the author of the Gita Govind, Namdev, the Maratha saint, Ramanand and the great poet Kabir, prepared the way for the first Sikh Guru, Baba Nanak. Nanak’s early life was, according to the traditions one of unworldly mediation until he believed himself to have received a divine call to expound a new mission.
The Ten Gurus
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh Religion, was born in 1469 A.D. at Talwandi (now called Nankana), in the present Shekhpura district of the Punjab.
Guru Nanak was sent by the Creator to fulfil the special mission of regenerating the human race. He commenced the work of reform at an early age. He travelled far in the whole of India and pointed out to men the straight way — that there is only one God, the primal and omnipresent. The followers of Guru Nanak were called Sikhs.
There were nine successors to Guru Nanak Dev:
1. Guru Angad, 2. Guru Amardas, 3. Guru Ram Dass, 4. Guru Arjan Dev, 5.Guru Hargovind, 6. Guru Har Rai, 7. Guru Harkrishan, 8. Guru Tegh Bahadur, 9. Guru Govind.
The tenth and the last Guru Govind Singh Jee breathed his last in 1708 A.D. He preached both about the worship of God and valour, and thus made the Sikhs brave people.
The Sikh nation is divided into two sects, one Sahajdhari and the other Khalsa Singh. The Sahajdhari do not think it compulsory to keep long hair, and do not take the baptism of the tenth Guru. The Khalsa keep long hair and wear Kirpan (sword), and have Singh after their name.
The Sacred Book of the Sikhs is called the Guru Granth Sahib, composed by the Gurus according to the order of the Creator. It contains 5,867 Shabads (Hymns)in all.
The principles of the Sikh religion as found in Guru Granth Sahib are briefly enumerated, and supported by scriptural authority, in the passages I shall now quote.
When Holy Baba Nanak began his mission there were many caste divisions in India. Even men of one and same caste had different inclinations, and despised each other so much that they had prejudices against eating and drinking mutually. Guru Nanak made it a principle that there was no caste. All human beings were to be regarded with equality, as brothers. So we read in the Granth Sahib, the Sacred Book of theSikhs:
Caste hath no power in the next world; there is new order of beings. Those whose accounts are honoured are the good. (Guru Granth Sahib War Asa). What power hath caste? It is the reality that shall be tested.— (Guru Granth Sahib War Majh) Let none be proud of his caste, He who knoweth God is a Brahman,
O Foolish one ! be not proud of thy caste; From such pride many sins result.—(Guru Granth Sahib Bhairo)
The religions of India had nearly all adapted the practice of pilgrimage, which led to people leaving and breaking up their homes. People considered it a religious principle to become devotees by leaving their houses. Consequently there were many sects of devotees which became a burden on the country.
The pious Baba Nanak held that the worship of Almighty in homes was best of all to obtain eternal happiness. It was no use to forsake ordinary worldly duties. Men who earned their livelihood by labour and distributed something by way of charity out of it, understood the real way. Begging was a great sin.
This is shown in the Scriptures with great force. We read:
The perverse, having through avarice abandoned their own homes, ruin themselves by casting covetous eyes on the houses of others.
They have ruined their state of householder, they have not met the True God, and through their folly are involved in a whirlpool.
Blessings on that man who, whether householder, Sannyasi or Yogi, fixeth his attention on God’s feet.
He who in the midst of desires is without desires, and who loveth the one God, is a Sannyasi.
He who drinketh God’s essence and preserveth a religious attitude in his own home shall obtain peace.
The mind of the pious man who knoweth God wavereth not, but restraineth its wanderings.
Sanctified Daily Life
The following saying illustrate the teachings of sanctity in ordinary life:
Nanak, I have met the true Guru, and my union with God is accomplished. Even while men laugh and play and dress, and eat, salvation can be obtained.— (Guru Granth Sahib War Gufri).
0 man, by striving and earning enjoy happiness. Nanak, by
meditating on God, meet Him, and thine anxieties shall vanish.— (Guru Granth Sahib War Gujari).
Touch not at all the feet of those.
Who call themselves Gurus and Pirs, and go begging They who eat the fruit of their labour and bestow something.
o Nanak, recognise the right way.— (Guru Granth Sahib War Sarang). Bodily Mortification
For centuries India was a country where asceticism was carried to great lengths. The performance of austerities was highly regarded. Many people kept fastings, suffered heat to their bodies with fire, sat in water in the cold season, etc. Holy Baba Nanak preached that it was a great sin to torture oneself, the gift of God. The name of Almighty should be repeated but with a healthy body. So we read:—
Man may be vowed to silence; he may live on leaves; he may roam about naked in the forest:
He may visit all the places of pilgrimage of earth; but even then he could never escape from worldly love.
With a desire in his heart for emacipation he may take his seat at a place of pilgrimage, and apply his head to the saw:
But even though he made hundreds of thousands of such efforts, his mental impurity would not depart.
He may bestow gifts of many sorts—gold, women, horses and elephants:
He may offer corn clothes and lands in abundance; but even then he could not reach God’s door.
He may continue attached to worship, adoration, obeisance, prostrations, and the six acts:
But he could not in that way find God; he would merely fall into the meshes of pride.
He may enjoy the sport of kings and the delights of empire and issue orders not be disobeyed.
He may possess beautiful couches, and use sandal and distilled aloe-wood, but such things form the gate of terrible hell.
Singing God’s praises in association with His saints is the highest act of all.— (Guru Granth Sahib Sorath)
The Tank of Immortality
The doctrine against pilgrimages is very strongly enforced in the verses of Nanak, who instituted, instead of the visits to the four points of the compass, an allegorical visit to the saints of Gorakhnath. Thus the religion turned away from objective observance to interior worship which was alone sincere. We hear of “the tank of immortality” as contrasted with some famous bathing place rendered sacred by tradition. Visiting the sixty- eight places of pilgrimage will not take away any man’s sins.
Formerly it was considered a very pious act to go to pilgrimage. Even death at some holy place was looked upon as emancipation of the soul. But Sat-guru Nanak Dev expounded to the people what wer the true holy places, and rescued them from superstitions. He says:
I would bathe at a place of pilgrimage if it pleased God; but since it doth not, why should I bathe there?— (G. S. Jap).
Shall I go to a place of pilgrimage to bathe? God’s name is my place of pilgrimage.
My places of pilgrimage are God’s word, contemplation and the divine knowledge within me.—
(Guru Granth Sahib Dhanasri).
The divine knowledge within me is my place of pilgrimage; the true Guru hath expounded it to me.
My uncleanness bath departed, my mind hath become pure, and I have bathed in the tank of immortality.—(Guru Granth Sahib War Wadhans).
He who wandereth to the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage is ruined thereby; how can he wash away the filth of his sin?— (Guru Granth Sahib Maru) Monotheism
Sikhism is remarkable for its teaching of Monotheism. Many deities were worshipped in place of one God, and there were different modes for the worship. Holy Baba Nanak preached the worship of one God and taught the best way of devotion, holding that Almighty God was like a husband and man his wife. He who worships God as his master shall be saved. The Scriptures say:
To whom else shall I pray; whom else shall I worship? It is God who created all.—(Guru Granth Sahib Sorath)
Repeat the name of the one God, magnify the one God,
Remember the one God, made Him thy heart’s desire,
Sing the excellences of the one God who is endless;
With soul and body repeat the name of the one God— God Himself is the only, only, only one;
The perfect God filleth every place;
There have been many expansions of the one God,
Worship the one God, and all thy sins shall depart.
Nanak, by the favour of the Guru the one God is known by him.
Whose soul and body are throughly imbued with His loves.
(Guru Granth Sahib Sukhmani)
Some, worshipping stones, put them on their heads; some suspend lingams from their necks;
Some see the God in the South; some bow their heads to the West.
Some fools worship idols, others busy themselves with worshipping the dead.
The whole world entangled in false ceremonies hath not found God’s secret.
This passage is from the writings of Guru Govind Singh, who became the teacher in 1606. Religious Dress
Religious costumes and marks had become the cause of mutual strife among different religions. Sat-guru
that costumes and special marks were not a part of the religion. He stood out for simplicity of life.
Religion consisteth not in a patched coat, or in a beggar’s staff, or in ashes simeared on the body;
Religion consisteth not in earrings worn, or a shaven head, or the blowing of horns;
Religion consisteth not in mere words.
He who looketh on all men as equal, deserveth to be called religious.
Religion consisteth not in going abroad and visiting tombs or places of cremation, or sitting in attitudes of contemplation:
Religion consisteth not in roaming in foreign countries, or in bathing at places of pilgrimage.
Nanak, in the midst of life be in death; thus shalt thou gain the advantage of religion.
Abide pure amid the impurities of the world; thus shalt thou find the way of religion. — (G.S, Suhi)
Some shave their heads, some twist long hair round them or wear a head-dress; others through pride remain
But without the love of divine knowledge their minds waver and hasten in every direction.
Maddened by worldly love, they reject nectar and drink deadly poison.— (Guru Granth Sahib Maru)
The superstition regarding eating and untouchability had made the condition of India worse. Holy Baba Nanak preached that these were not true faiths. The following passage is very powerful:
All impurity consisteth in superstition and attachment to worldly things.
The eating and drinking which God sent as sustenance are pure.
Nanak, the pious persons who know God have no impurity. Impurity of the heart is greed, impurity of the tongue is falsehood.
Impurity of the eyes is gazing on another’s wealth, his wife, and her beauty.
Impurity of the ears is listening to slander.
Nanak, even the pretended saint who practiseth such things shall go bound to hell.—(Guru Granth Sahib War Asa)
The Granth Sahib
Holy Granth Sahib and Sikh religious Scriptures contain numerous passages on the preaching of Guru Nanak. It is not possible to repeat them here, but some of them are written below in a brief form which will throw some light on Sikhs tenets.
There is but one god whose name is true, the Creator, devoid of fear and enmity, immortal, unborn, self-existent.— (Guru Granth Sahib Jap).
O eternal, supreme God, indestructible. Destroyer of Sin, 0 All-pervading, contained in verything. Destroyer of grief, Loid of excellences. Formless one, 0 man’s companion, 0 Thou without the three human attributes, prop of all. Supporter of the earth, 0 Ocean of excellences, who has ever discrimination, O God, most remote Thou art, wast and shalt be. O Thou, constant Companion of the saints, support of the supportless. I am thy slave, I am without merits, no merit is mine.
Saith Nanak, grant me the gift of Thy name that I may string it and keep it in my heart.—(Guru Granth Sahib Bawanakhri) On Truth
Man is known as true when truth is in his heart!
When the filth of falsehood departeth, man washeth his body clean.
Truth is the medicine for all; it removeth and washeth away
Nanak maketh supplication to those who are in possession of truth. — (Guru Granth Sahib War Asa) On Humility
Among all men foremost is he
Who by association with the pious effaceth pride
He who deemeth himself lowly,
Shall be deemed the most exalted of all.
They whose minds are the dust of all men’s feet
Shall see God’s name in their inmost hearts;
They who expel evil from their hearts
Shall regard the whole world as their friends.
— (Guru Granth Sahib Sukhmani).
On the subject of philanthropy Guru Angad, the second Guru, said. “The best devotion is the remembrance of the True Name; the best act is philanthropy. Without both of these accursed is man’s human birth. He merely vegetateth and heedeth not what is best for him. He is a beast without a tail or horn, and vain is his advent into the world. At the last moment the myrmidons of Death shall firmly seize him, and he shall depart grieving with empty hands. Alms-gifts, penance, and sacrifices are not equal to philanthropy. Of the various sins that man commits none is equal to selfishness.”
Philanthropic men have come who are beyond birth and death;
They give their lives, turn men to devotion, and cause them to meet God.— (Guru Granth Sahib Suhi).
Perishable the body which benefiteth not others.— (Guru Granth Sahib Sukhmani).
To do good to others is a mark of a saint. Jam a sacrifice to him who taketh pleasure in practising philanthropy.
The world returneth good for good, but the Guru is pleased with those who return good for evil.
It is such philanthrophie persons who render their human lives profitable.—(Bhai Gurdas). On Superstition
He who breaketh the chain of superstition shall be free, and feel divine pleasure in his heart. — (Guru Granth Sahib Maru).
Paying attention to omens, the nine grahas (planets), the twelve signs of the Zodiac; incantations, magic,
divination by lines, and by the voice is all vanity. It is vain to draw conclusions from the cries of donkeys,
dogs, cats, kites, malalis and jackals. Omens drawn from meeting a widow, a man with a bare head, from water, fire, sneezing, breaking wind, hiccups, lunar and week-days, unlucky moments and conjunctions of planets are all superstition. The holy who reject such superstitions obtain happiness and salvation.
People worship departed heroes, ancestors, satis, deceased co-wives, tanks and pits, but all this is of no avail. They who enjoy not the company of the saints and the Guru’s instruction die and are born again and are rejected of God. It is the follower of the Guru who weareth God’s name as his diamond necklace.— (Bhai Gurdas).
The tenth Guru taught on the subject of marriage that Sikhs should marry Sikh wives. Early marriages are forbidden. Divorce can be effected if man or woman is unchaste. A girl should be married in a family where the one Almighty is worshipped.
A man who hath one wife is continent, and calleth another’s wife, his daughter or his sister. To cover another man’s property is forbidden to a Sikh, as the swine is to the Mussulman and the cow to the Hindu.—
Put away from you lust, wrath and slander;
Abandon avarice and covetousness, and you shall be ‘free’ from care.—(Guru Granth Sahib Maru)
Put away covetousness and regard for what people say of thee.
Renounce lust, wrath and pride.— (G. S. Gauri)
One man filleth and bringeth the goblet, another cometh and filleth the cup.
The intellect of him who drinketh departeth, and intoxication entereth his brain;
He distinguiseth not between mine and thine and is buffeted by his master.
If possible drink not at all the false wine.
By which man forgeteth God and receiveth punishment, at His court.
He who by God’s favour meeteth the true Guru obtaineth the true wine from him.
Thus shall man ever abide in the joy of the Lord, and obtain a position in His court.— (Guru Granth Sahib War Bihagra).
Transmigration and Salvation
Transmigration of souls according to one’s acts is admitted by the Sikh religion. Man gets emanipation when he attains true knowledge by good associations.
As man soweth, so shall he reap;
His body is the field of acts.— (Guru Granth Sahib Jaitsari)
This soul hath dwelt in many wombs;
Immersed in sweet illusion, it was entangled in them; This illusion hath reducted the world to subjection,
And infused a love for itself into every heart.
o my friend, tell us of some device
By which we may escape this dangerous illusion.
Maya approacheth not him
o Nanak, whom God mercifully associateth with the saints.
— (G. S. Bawanakhri) On Salvation
Sometimes man obtaineth the saint’s society,
From which he retumeth not again,
The light of divine knowledge shall then shine in his heart.
His soul and body, dyed with the name of the one God.
Shall ever abide with the Supreme Being
As water blendeth with water
So light is blended with light
Transmigration is ended and rest obtained.
— (G. S. Sukhmani)
He who knoweth in his heart. Him whose form is true
Shall recognise the Root of all things, the Cause of causes
Divine Knowledge shall be revealed to him
Into whose heart faith in God hath entered;
He shall abide free from fear.
And be absorbed in Him front whom he sprang
A man of understanding can understand that.
When God is found. 0 Nanak, man becometh one with Him.
(G. S. Sukhmani) On Gratitude
The Sikhs consider it a great crime to be ungrateful;
Bear that God in thy mind
By whose favour thou dwellest comfortably at home.
By whose favour thou enjoyest mental and bodily pleasure.
By whose favour every one honoureth thee.
o man, ever think upon the Supreme Being alone
By whose favour thy faith is preserved.
Fix thine attention on that lovable God
By whose favour thy beautiful body remaineth healthy.
— (G. S. Sukhmani)
The ungrateful shall wander in transmigration.
— (G. S. Jaitsari)
To the earth the mountains which touch the sky appear not heavy, nor do a million forts and houses, nor do oceans, rivers and streams, nor do trees laden with their fruit not do the countless men and lower animals who wander on it. What appeareth heavy is the load of the ungrateful, who are the worst of all men. (Bhai Gurdas) On Loyalty
Be loyal to your sovereign;
Leave death and life in the hands of God.
He who forsaketh his master in battle
Shall be dishonoured here and condemned hereafter.
The vultures, knowing him to be disloyal,
Will not touch but spurn his flesh.
He shall not go to heaven hereafter, nor obtain glory here,
Abundant disgrace shall light upon his head.
Be assured of this, that human birth shall be profitable to him.
Who loseth his life with his face to the foe.
For all the drops of blood that fall from his body.
So many years shall he enjoy the company of his God.
— (Tenth Guru ‘s Guruvilas)
One should ever live on honest earning. Of all means of earning trade is the best. Agriculture comes to it next. In service soldiership is the most preferable. It behoves a soldier to go for war anywhere his master sends him. He should become a gallant warrior and should avoid the temptation of plunder. He should never think of gaining another’s property unlawfully. Honest earning and obedience to one’s master should be strictly observed. (Tenth Guru ‘s Premsumarg).
Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha