Religious Practice

Charnjit Singh Bal

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The Sikhism's novel concept of religiosity is to extol/sing one absolute Godís Naam [glorious Name] through the Guruís (Granthís) illuminating Word, work for living and share with the needy. In essence the Sikh-way of socio-religious life entails pietyí productive socio-familial life and altruism.

srb Drm mih syRsLt Drmu] hir ko nfmu jip inrml krmu] suKmnI, pMnf 266

Translation: -Of all the religious rites the superior rite is, Godís Name i.e. praise; it is the pious deed. Sukhmani, Page.266

The ideal Sikh religious practice should exalt a manís spiritual consciousness to an ethereal state [of mind], where his mind opens to the magnificent vistas of the infinite Universe and all he sees is lordís amazing Grace all around him. He transcends all prejudicial social, cultural, religious, racial and geographical boundaries and dwells in the celestial realm of divinity. His human weaknesses, vices and temptations are purged and the noble virtues of love, humility, altruism, magnanimity and fortitude come to dwell in him. These phenomenal changes in him are measure of his success in the pursuit of the spiritual excellence. Without these transformations the religious practice is of no avail.

The Gurbani [Sikh Scripture] of Guru Granth Sahib emphatically reiterates the futility of blind faith rituals, ostentatious ceremonies and worship of anything or anyone other than the God. The Sikhism is a lay religion, i.e. there is no clerical hierarchy and the Guruí Word is the only intermediary between the man and the God. Since Sikhism subscribes to the belief that no one can negate or alter Godís Will i.e. 'God giveth and the God taketh away' his bounties, it instills fortitude in a man to accept the Will of God at times of joy and sorrow.

However there seems to be a discrepancy between the pragmatic concepts of Sikh religiosity and the prejudicial perception of many contemporary Sikhs who indulge in dogmatic rites and ritualistic practices. In their naivetť (ignorance) they are seen touching reverently the feet of the imposter Sikh Gurus, Gurdwara steps, Sikh-banner Masts, the Guru Granth Sahibís Palanquin etc.

scY srmY bfhry agY lYhih n dfid] akil eyh n afKIaY akil gvfeIaY bfid]

aklI sfihbu syvIaY aklI pfeIaY mfnu] aklI pVH ky buJIaY aklI kIcY dfnu]

nfnku afKY rfhu eyhu hoir glF sYqfnu] sfrMg kI vfr m: 4 pMnf 1245

Translation: -Without intelligent religious practice we get no honor (in Godís court).

Ritualism is not called wisdom; it is waste of wisdom.

Wisdom is to praise the Lord and receive veneration.

Wisdom is to read, understand (Guruís Word) and teach others.

Nanak says, this is the path; any other evangelism is Satanís talk. Page 1245

It is said that the Guru Granth, a paragon of spiritual knowledge, is most read, but least understood of all the holy books of major World religions. Evidently many Sikhs including preachers, leaders, self-ordained Jathedars and self-beatified Saints do not seem to grasp the novel concepts of Sikhism. The Sadharn [interruptible] and Akhand [nonstop] Paatds [recitation of Gurbani of 1430 page Guru Granth Sahib from beginning to end are performed as mere Mantras (incantations]. Most of the times the Granthis [Sikh Preachers] recite Paatds with nobody listening. Large majority of naÔve Sikhs believe they can invoke blessings of the God just by having Paatd ceremonies performed at a cost [higher the better] at home or in a Gurdwara [Sikh Temple]. Kabir, a Hindu holy sage, whose scripture is enshrined in guru Granth says mere ritual reading, studying and listening scriptures are of no avail.

ikaf pVIaY ikaf gunIaY] ikaf byd purfnF sunIaY]

pVY suny ikaf hoeI] jAu shj n imilE soeI] slok, kbIr jI, pMnf 655

What good is (ritual) reading or studying [Scriptures]?

What good is listening to the Vedas & Puranas (Hindu Scriptures)?

What good reading or listening does, if harmony with Him isnít realized?

Kabir Ji, Page. 655

Considerable number of Sikhs would rather believe myths concocted by the quasi-Sikh/non-Sikh writers, holy quacks and semi-literate preachers than the novel Sikh philosophy i.e. the omnipresent, ethereal God can only be conceived not perceived. Perhaps this erroneous belief is due to the manís tendency to visualize God manifesting himself in some physical form and performing ostentatious supernatural acts or because of the penchant for mythology. It may very well be because there are so many holy quakes, around, who are reducing Sikhism, a pragmatic faith of knowledge, to the level of cultism or sectarianism. [Late] Dr. Ganda Singh, a prominent Sikh Scholar and Historian, in his article titled ĎUn-Sikh Practices in Sikh Societyí writes,

"The unity and uniqueness of God, obeisance to the Masterís Word and to nothing else, which are the fundamental planks of Sikhism, are openly flouted in many a Sikh Temple. In the presence of the holy Guru Granth Sahib, people are seen prostrating, and making offerings to self-styled saints and Sadhs. This has encouraged a number of fraudulent imposters to assume the form and character of Gurus and gather around them gullible men and women of weak minds."

"The Akhand Path itself is becoming a hallow ritual. This type of rapid and continuous day-and night reading, at times nobody to hear it, has no sanction of the Gurus or the Guru-period. It is later innovation, over half a century after the death of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It, of course, then had a special significance and shows the intensity and depth of the faith of the mid-eighteenth century Sikhs, when they were engaged in life-and-death struggle against the foreign invaders and were ever ready to lay down their lives in the cause of the Panth. But that was an extraordinary emergency."

"Under normal circumstances, it is the Sadharn path, as coming from the days of the Gurus, which should be in vogue, It can be performed easily by an individual, by the members of the family or even by professional Granthis. When read slowly, the hymns can be followed by the hearers and easily understood, leaving an indelible impression upon their minds. The Sadharn Paths, as a regular part of oneís life, keeps one in tune with the Master (God) and makes life sublime and serviceable (humble), freeing it of oneís egotism."

[Late] Professor Mohan Singh, a prominent Sikh Punjabi poet laureate echoes the Sikhismís essential doctrine that promotes intelligent, pragmatic religiosity and discourages dogmatic blind faith.

rwb iewk guMJldfr buJfrq| rwb iewk gorK DMdf]

KolHx lwigaF pyc ies dy| kfPLr ho jfey bMdf]

kfPr hoxoN zr ky jIvyN| KojoN mUl nf KuMJIN]

lfeIlwg momn dy koloN| KojI kfPLr cMgf]

God is a complex puzzle; God is a mystifying preoccupation.

Trying to unfold its mystery, man can turn an atheist.

Lest, you be afraid to live as an atheist, do not deviate from seeking

For, than the gullible theist, the agnostic seeker is better.