Main Principles

The word ‘Sikh’ means a disciple. So Sikhism is essentially the path of discipleship. The true sikh remains unattached to worldly things just as the lotus keeps its blossom over and above the surface of water. The Sikh must do his duty to his family and to the community. The main thing is leading a pure and moral life, full of noble deeds and kind words. A Sikh does not regard fasting, austerities, pilgrimages, alm s-giving and penance as important things.

The word ‘Sikh’ means a disciple. So Sikhism is essentially the path of discipleship. The true sikh remains unattached to worldly things just as the lotus keeps its blossom over and above the surface of water. The Sikh must do his duty to his family and to the community. The main thing is leading a pure and moral life, full of noble deeds and kind words. A Sikh does not regard fasting, austerities, pilgrimages, alms-giving and penance as important things.

Bhagti: Those who know the importance of Bhagti feel like Guru Nanak Sahib that forgetting God is just like death and brooding upon His Name is life and joy. Without the nectar of God’s name, the pilgrim dies his misery. But Bhagti is possible after certain conditions are fulfilled:

  1. Faith in God.
  2. Following Truth.
  3. Unattachment and desirelessness.
  4. Control over thought, word and deed.
  5. Association with holy men(Satsang)
  6. Humanity and submission to Hukam.

Salvation/Mukti: The Guru says, “The man of God rejects salvation. He wants only love of God and nothing else. The joys of heaven are nothing as compared to the merging in the Divine Spirit. The ultimate goal of man is union with God. Man does not become God, only the spark merges in the fire. This is called self- identification.” A man may have done many noble deeds but if he has not undertaken meditation on God, he cannot have any hope of Mukti. Guru Nanak Sahib says in Asa- di-Var: “That is true knowledge when the truth is in the heart, when the dirt of falsehood vanishes and life is pure and clean. That is true living when one fixes one’s love on truth and finds joy in the hearing of the Name.”

Need of Guru: Almost all the great religions of the world emphasis the need of a preceptor or Guru or holy man for the attainment of salvation. The Vedas enumerate the qualities of a religious guide. Even Guru Nanak Sahib emphasizes that bliss can be obtained only through the grace of the Guru. Sikhism does not recognize either chosen prophets or chosen people. Guru Nanak Sahib did not insist on a physical Guru (Dehdari}. His own Guru was God Himself. What is important is not the person but the word-“The word is the Guru. The Guru is the word. If the devotee follows what the word says, surely the Guru will save him.” That is why Guru Gobind Singh Sahib installed Sri Granth Sahib as Guru for all time. We do not need any man as Guru because the word is now with us. Guru Arjan Sahib says, “Without a Guru, liberation cannot be won. The Guru is my boat, which will ferry me across the rough ocean of existence.” The Guru destroys illusions and attachment to worldly objects.

Guru Ramdas Sahib says, “The Guru is the Sikh and the Sikh who practices the Guru’s word is equal to the Guru.” Guru Gobind Singh Sahib says, “I live and have my being in the Khalsa.” The Guru lives in the form of the Panth. He resides in the Sangat. All the Gurus are identical with Nanak. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib passed on the corporal succession to the Panth, which is regarded as the embodiment of the Guru. The Panth represents the Guru and it is progressing, With the passage of time, the Panth is evolving. It is a dynamic and corporate personality with authority to make decisions (Gurmatas) binding on the Sikhs. In this way, there is a two-fold concept of Guru-dom, one permanent, the other progressive. The Word is the embodiment of eternal and changless truth, while the Panth is the progressive, collective personality of the Guru in Sikhs.

Guru Granth Sahib is the living embodiment of the Ten Gurus. It is the living flame of the Name, which lights the lamp of the disciple. There is no place for a living Guru in the Sikh religion, because Gurbani is Guru and Guru is Gurbani. After all, what the Guru does is to guide the disciple by means of words, in the same way Guru Granth Sahib guides the Sikh through its song-message. When a Sikh is in doubt about any principle of Sikhism, he refers the matter to the Panth for decision.

Reading of Scriptures: Many good thoughts and noble sayings are found in sacred books but mere reading cannot help much. It is only the first step. Guru Nanak Sahib says :”If a man reads books throughout his whole life, till breath leaves his body, only the Holy Name is valuable, all else is vanity of the self.” Again, “the scholar is an idiot if he has greed, avarice and pride.” What is important is the practice of the Name and the cultivation of virtue. An ounce of practice is preferable to a ton of knowledge. Ethics and laws tell us what to believe and what to do ; they are like signposts. But one has to do the walking oneself. One can-not reach God by books or by rituals. Scriptures are our guides for action. They cannot fill the disciple with divine love. The knowledge of Vedas does not bring liberation: “God is beyond the Vedas, beyond the holy books.” He can be found within the self by digging inward.

The doctrine of Grace: Guru Nanak Sahib tells us that God has chosen him as a bride out of a large number. This is the reward for the qualities of the bride- humility, loyalty, sweet words-which have won for her the grace of the Lord. Surrender to God is the highest virtue of freedom. Just as a faithful wife gets the utmost pleasure in her complete surrender to her good husband, in the same way, the devotee gets supreme bliss by surrendering himself to God. Self-surrender to God means the absence of earthly cravings and desires.

Grace and Karma: The modification of Karma by grace is an essential principle of Sikhism. Guru Nanak Sahib says :

Karma is the cause of birth in this world,
But salvation can be obtained by His Grace.

Good actions win not only public approbation but also divine favor.God does not interfere with man’s choice, though as the Ruler of the universe, he controls the over-all destiny of individuals.

Caste and Sikhism: Sikhism does not inculcate belief in caste. No man is born great or low. Guru Amardas says, “All colours and forms are thine.” Guru Arjan Sahib gives the simile of the potter. The clay has been molded in different forms. All men are the vessels of God. People may follow different faiths or divide themselves under different labels, but essentially man is one and indivisible. Whoever meditates on God becomes as great as He. Look at Ravidas the cobbler, Sadhna the butcher, Saina the barber. They were raised to the pedestal of saintliness and honored by all. Just as the philosopher’s stone transmutes iron ore into gold, in the same way God’s name changes a low-born person into a Bhagat. God’s name cleanses and purifies. It burns away all impurity. A person of high caste is worse than one of the lowest caste if he does not meditate on the Name. Moreover, caste is of no consequence in the next world. In God’s Court, men shall be judged by their thoughts and deeds, and not by their family or pedigree. The Guru brought the four castes under one banner. And yet he taught us to be humble and poor in spirit, because with-out it, we cannot sublimate egoism(haumai).

Place of miracles: Saints and prophets should not perform miracles to confirm the faith of people in them. Miracles should not be worked to prove the greatness or truth of a religion. In fact, it is a hindrance in the spiritual path. Guru Amardas says, “The desire to perform miracles is a worldly attachment and is an obstacle in the way of the Name residing in our hearts.” Guru Nanak Sahib had no taste for miracle. The greatest miracle was not to perform a miracle, in spite of his capacity to do so. He said :

If I exercise supernatural powers
And can create wealth at pleasure,
Can appear and disappear at will,
And thus win popular respect,
These delude fools only,
Who have no God in their hearts.

When the Sidhs asked Guru Nanak Sahib to show them a miracle, he replied that he would not do so : “Except the True Name, I have no miracle.” Guru Arjan Sahib and Guru Teg Bahadur underwent tortures but refused to perform miracles. Men of God do not like to engage in such tricks. Guru Hargobind rebuked his son Baba Atal for exhibiting supernatural powers for which the latter had to pay with his own life.

Renunciation of the world: Leaving one’s home and family and living away from people is not favored in Sikhism. Guru Nanak Sahib remonstrated the Yogis and the. Sidhs who lived in lonely and deserted places. The mind does not get peace in physical solitude. He writes in Sidh-Gosht:

Even when one is far away from cities,
The mind wanders away in sleep ;
Live by all means in society,
But covet not another man’s wife,
Through His Name, one gets self-control.

The Gurus regarded married life {Grahst} as the best mode of life. Escapism from the realities of life is not saintliness. The household is a school where self- love is transformed into service of others and where the need to make an honest living leads to elevation of character.Guru Arjan Sahib says :

Renunciation of lust, anger, attachment is praiseworthy.

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib described renunciation thus : “0 my soul, practice renunciation in this way; consider your house as a forest and yourself as an ascetic in it. Let continence be your matted hair and communion with God your ablutions; instead of growing long nails pray daily; exert for acquiring divine knowledge ; instead of rubbing ashes on the body repeat His Name.”

Guru Nanak Sahib says, “He who fixes the mind on God’s feet, who remains desire- less amid desires and is in love with the True One, is a real Sanyasi” Such a man is neither depressed by sorrow and misfortune nor elated by joy. He accepts happiness and sorrow with the same spirit.”

Pilgrimage: According to Sikh religion, pilgrimage confers no spiritual benefit. Guru Nanak Sahib says, “Pilgrimage does not have the value of even a mustard seed. At places of pilgrimage people take bath in holy rivers or tanks. But outward washing does not cleanse the mind. Guru Nanak Sahib says :

Why wash the body from outside ?
Wash the mind,
Clean it of the dirt of desire, ‘
And tread the path of salvation

All Gurus have tried to remove the wrong notion of the efficacy of pilgrimage. Guru Nanak Sahib says, “I would like to go to pilgrimage only if it pleased Him.” Again he says, “My places of pilgrimage are the Word, contemplation and divine knowledge within me.”

Fasting: Sikhism does not regard tasting as an act of religious merit. Fasting, in order to overcome disease or abnormality, is perfectly Iconistic. But fasting for austerity and ritual is hateful. Guru Nanak Sahib says, “Penance, fasting, austerity, alms-giving are inferior to truth; right action is superior to them all ” To affirm that spirituality depends on the quality or quantity of food is absurd. One must take normal food. If a man cannot take it, there is something wrong with him. But to fast for the sake of fasting is futile.

Maya: Maya has been defined in various ways. According to some, this world is Maya an illusion. According to Sikhism, the universe being the creation of the Supreme Being, is the temple of Divinity. It is as embodiment of His Eternal Truth. The world is subject to the Divine Will ; it has no independent existence of its own. In that sense, it is unreal or illusory; it is subject to decay : ”The universe is insubstantial as a shadow, fleeting like a dream, short-lived as a bubble,” as compared with the Creator, the Eternal Truth, The Guru writes :

In a thousand waterpots
There is one sky reflected,
When the water-pots burst,
The sky remains as before.

Man is caught with the infatuation of desire. This lure of worldliness makes him regard worldly things as [he goat of human life.

The concept of education in Sikhism: Sikhism includes a comprehensive system of self-education. The function of education is to prepare the aesthetic and emotional back-ground in which the individual may pet an opportunity for self-growth. Besides this, Dharma must inspire all the instruction and atmosphere in educational institutions.

It is the knowledge of the Hand. the knowledge of the Head and the knowledge of the Heart. The education of the Hand means the realization of the dignity of labour and the readiness of the individual to earn his living with manual work. It also includes the service of humanity with the hand. Guru Nanak Sahib says :

Those who earn their living
By the sweat of their brows,
And give it to the needy
Are the people who know,
The path of Truth and Virtue.

Education does not imply the acquisition of powers to rule over others or to exploit their simplicity or backwardness for selfish ends.

Make knowledge your merchandise,
Truth the horses you take to sell,
Tie up virtues as your traveling expenses,
Think not in your heart of the morrow,
When you reach the land of your love,
You shall obtain endless joy.

Guru Nanak Sahib gave a practical demonstration of this system of education by training his successor Sri Guru Angad Sahib. It was the training of the disciple through discipline. Man is to merge with the higher self, with Beauty. Truth and Goodness. This makes education both creative and purposeful.

Union with God: The feeling of unity of the individual with the Universal on the psychic plane is called “liv”. The man of God does not renounce the world. He lives in it and performs all his duties as a householder. But he does not feel attached to worldly desire. The apparent attachment of the mind with the world is lost; the mind remains in constant communion with Divinity. Such a man meditates or does good naturally and automatically. In tune with the infinite, the individual soul feels no pain or sorrow.

Union of Soul With God: Guru Arjan Sahib has mentioned five aspects of the actual experience of the union of the individual soul with the Universal Soul. Firstly, the darkness of ignorance disappears and the individual realizes the wonder of God’s universe. Secondly, there is an inner illumination, a kind of revelation – an enlightenment, not of the intellect but of mystic exaltation. Thirdly, the individual gains equipoise, a state of indefinable peace and confidence, coming from the loss of the ego. This sense of tranquility/shanti is due to the identification of the self with Divinity. Fourthly, the individual begins to love the entire humanity and is filled with a great longing for the service of his fellow-men. Fifthly, the individual realizes everything as emanating from God. His soul which had emanated from God is united with the Ultimate Source.

The True Yogi: A true yogi is not one who leaves his family and home, and wanders all over the country. A true yogi finds renunciation in the house itself. He does not regard llie house as his own but of the Lord, He renounces egoism. The true yogi is a friend of all : he is a servant of servants. He fixes his mind on God and remains desire less in the world.'” He remains indifferent to sorrow and happiness. He is free from cares, because he loves the only one God.

Guru Nanak Sahib rebuked the yogis for going to the houses of laity for begging. He denounced parasitism and recommended renunciation of desire and attachment in the midst of temporal life through the discipline of the Name.

The Concept of Woman: The Gurus held woman in high esteem. So with the rise of Sikhism, woman gained in dignity and social position. Some ancient scriptures denounced woman as unworthy of teaching or religious exercises. Woman was regarded as evil and unclean. Guru Nanak Sahib challenged this view: Why should we treat woman with contempt and cruelty? A woman is not to be condemned on the ground of her sex. Guru Granth Sahib says:

Of a woman we are conceived,
Of a woman we are born,
To a woman we are betrothed and married,
It is a woman who is a friend and partner of life,
It is a woman who keeps the race going,
Why should we consider women cursed and condemned,
When from woman are born leaders and rulers.
(Rag Asa, I)

Religious gatherings and Kirtan were thrown open to women; they could participate on equal terms with men in temporal and secular observances. Bhai Gurdas ji, the veteran Sikh theologian affirmed: ” Woman is man’s other half, and as such, helps him in attaining to salvation.” Guru Hargobind Sahib called woman ” the conscience of man.” Khande di Pahul(Amrit) is obligatory both for man and woman. The rules of conduct and the sphere of religious duties are identical both for man and woman. In religious meetings, men and women sing and lecture like equals. Guru Amardas Sahib condemned the practice of widow-burning (Sati): He said, “They are not satis who burn themselves with the dead bodies of their husbands. Those are real Satis who die of the mere shock of separation from their husbands.” Thus the equality of sexes is emphasized in Sikhism.

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