Pragmatic Faith

Charnjit Singh Bal 

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Sikhism as the name suggests is the religion of a Sikh that literally means a student, learner, talib-ilm, disciple, seeker, etc. The definition of a Sikh, as derived from Gurbani [Sikh Scriptures], is concise but comprehensive or universal. ĎAny man who follows the teachings of the true Sikh Guru [Granth Sahib] is a Sikh.í

Sikhism inspires a man to pursue the primary objective of his incarnation in the human form (in the multitude of life forms). This objective according to Gurbani (Sikh Scriptures) is the assimilation of one's immortal soul with the source of its origin i.e. the Primal Soul or eternal God through the Illuminating Word (guidance) of the Guru, Spiritual Guide. That Guru or Guide as per fundamental Sikh doctrine, -ĎWord is Guru, Guru is Wordí- is synonymous with the Guruís Word.

And since the providence endowed the man with superior intelligence, conscience and spiritual consciousness, he is better equipped to harmonize relationship with the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Creator and his creation to accomplish this assimilation in the human incarnation.

isKI isiKaf gur vIcfir] ndrI krim lGfey pfir] afsf dI vfr, pMnf 465

Translation: (If one) learns and contemplates Guruís edification;

(God) by His grace redeems him (from reincarnation cycle). P. 465

BeI prfpiq mfnuK dyhurIaf] goibMd imlx kI ieh qyrI brIaf]

avir kfj qyrY ikqY n kfm] imlu sfD sMgiq Bju kyvl nfm] rfgu afsf, m:5 p:378

Translation: Blessed with [precious] human form.

This is your opportunity to assimilate into the God.

Other rituals are of no avail to you.

In the Congregation of the pious extol the [Godís] Name. P. 378

gur siqgur kf jo isKu aKfey, su Blky AuiT hirnfmu iDafvY] gAuVI kI vfr pM: 305-6

Translation: A man who, calls himself a true-Guruís Sikh,

Rises early and extols Godís Name. Page 305-6

Nucleus of Gurbani

Guru Nanak Dev Sahibís concept of 'One God, his Name exists, (who is) the Creator, omnipresent, without Fear, without enmity, (of) Immortal Image, un-incarnated, Self-manifest, and (realized through) Guru's (Illuminating) grace' is the primal doctrine and nucleus of Guru Granth Sahibís Gurbani, i.e. the Sikh scriptures.

Sikh Philosophy

The Gurbani caters primarily to the human psyche (mind and soul) and professes that extolling His Naam through the Guru's Word supersedes penance, dogmatic rites, rituals, pagan sacrifices, pilgrimages, Idolatry, etc. that ironically delude a man into a false sense of piety and engender ego. Sikhism emphatically inspires a man to relinquish carnal lust, anger, greed, ultra-materialism and ego (the cardinal sins), and lead a virtuous human life. There is no place in Sikhism for the blind faith devotion, dogmatic rituals, pilgrimages, etc. that the dogmatic ecclesiastics, cunning cultists, sanctimonious sectarians and the holy quacks foster upon the gullible people.

"I have studied the scriptures of the great religions, I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes (of Guru Granth Sahib). They speak for the human heart and the searching mind." Pearl S. Buck.

mn hT buDI kyqIaf, kyqy byd ibcfr] kyqy bMDn jIaf ky, gurmuiK moK duafru]

schu AurY sBu ko Aupir scu afcfru] isrI rfgu m:. pMnf 62

Translation: Austere mentality inspires many people to practice rigid ascetcism, chant (monotonously) and expound Vedas. Many such rigid rituals transform into mental taboos. (But) Guruís edification is the way to Salvation. All rituals are inferior to praising the Lordís Name; Singing Lordís Name is superior rite (to all rituals). Sri Raag, M. 1, Page 62

qIrQ brq aru dfn kir mn mih DrY gumfnu|

nfnk inhPl jfq iqh ijAu kuMcr iesnfnu] slok 46 m:9, pMnf 1428

Translation: Pilgrimage, ritual fast, philanthropy that spawn ego are similar to bathing of an elephant (that covers himself with dirt soon after). Page 1428

qIrQ qpu dieAw dqu dwnu] jy ko pwvY iql kw mwnu]

suixAw mMieAw, min kIqw Bwau] AMqrgiq qIriQ mil nwau]

Translation: For pilgrimage, rigid asceticism, (ostentatious) compassion, donations, if one gets reward, it is puny as a sesame seed, a token.

One, who listens, believes and cultivates His love, cleanses his inner self.

"It (Sikhism) prohibits idolatry, hypocrisy, caste exclusiveness, sati (co-cremation of widow with deceased husband), the immurement (confinement) of women, the use of wine and other intoxicants, tobacco smoking, infanticide, slander, pilgrimages to the sacred rivers and tanks of the Hindus." Macauliff

Phases of Spiritual Consciousness

Guru Nanak Sahib envisioned and described five phases of spiritual consciousness in man's pursuit of the ultimate Goal of assimilation of his immortal soul with the source of the origin i.e. Eternal God.

Phase One, Realization of Purpose

The pursuit of exalted spiritual consciousness begins with the man realizing that he has been bestowed with the rare opportunity of being re-incarnated as a human being to practice religion on this earth; with its nights, seasons, lunar dates, week days, life supporting elements i.e. air, water, fire, earth. The earth is part of the infinite nature that has innumerable planets and types, colors and names of life forms. Deeds of all beings are evaluated in the divine court of the eternal God. Pious are venerated and veneration is apparent on their countenances. The real worth of a being is determined in that just court. The transitory mundane beauty, figure, wealth, status and relationships are inconsequential in comparison.

Phase Two, Spiritual Awareness

The realization of man's purpose spurs him to seek knowledge (a Sikh from Gurbani) which broadens his perspective and reveals to him that there are innumerable sources of air, water, fire; infinite number of planets, mountains, solar systems, worlds, moons, suns, demigods, cannibals, holy monks, with their messages, disciples; forms, colors, sources of life, languages, kings and rulers. In that state the knowledge prevails and celestial melodies, amazements and wonders pervade.

Phase Three, Endeavor

The make-up of the state (of mind) during the endeavor phase is transformed into excellence beyond description and man's awareness, intellect and consciousness is exalted to that of the pious sages and the saints.

Phase Four, Divine Beneficence

In the state of mind that is worthy of divine beneficence the man comprehends that the Omnipresent God pervades everywhere. The absolutely dedicated, devoted, fortitudinous and saints dwell in this state of mind. They are preoccupied with extolling Naam (God's euphoric name) only. Their exalted countenance is beyond description. Since they experience omnipotent Godís presence in the inner self, they donít die the spiritual death and are not beguiled by mundane temptations. They dwell in the ever-exalted state of mind.

Phase Five, Assimilation

In the state (of mind) of assimilation of the spirit with the eternal God the man experiences oneness with the God who benevolently looks after his own creation. Having created the infinite nature with innumerable continents, solar systems, universes, worlds and forms of life, He benevolently looks after and rejoices in providing for His Creation which functions according to His will. This state of mind is indescribable, it can only be conceived.

"Guru Granth Sahib of all religious scriptures, alone states that there are innumerable Worlds and universes other than our own. The previous scriptures were all concerned, only with this world and its spiritual counterpart. To imply that they spoke of other worlds as does Guru Granth Sahib is to stretch their obvious meanings out of context." H. L. Bradshaw

All-Inclusive Faith

Inclusiveness has always been at the very core of Sikhism's philosophy, founding and practice. Guru Granth Sahibís Gurbani (Sikh scriptures), compiled by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjun Dev Sahib, contains poetic scriptural compositions authored by the Sikh Gurus and the venerated Hindu and Muslim Sages, all sharing a common philosophy that transcends religious boundaries. Mian Mir a prominent Muslim Saint is said to have laid the foundation of Harmandir, (Golden Temple), which was built by Guru Arjun Dev with four main portals symbolizing welcome to the whole mankind from four directions irrespective of caste, creed, color and gender.

A prominent Sikh scholar Bhai Kahn Singh writes, "Sikhism is for the whole mankind. Anyone who follows the true-Guru Nanak Sahibís message is accepted as a [Sikh] brother without any distinction as to his caste or ancestry. The fact that Bhai Merdana, a Muslim was Guru Nanak Sahibís constant companion attests to the universality of Sikh-way of life." Gurmut Martund Part 1, Page 152

"Sikhism is a universal world faith, a message for all men. This is amply illustrated in the writing of the Gurus." H. L. Bradshaw

"The religion of Adi Granth is a universal and practical religion." Archer

Liberal Faith

Unlike some other religions, Sikhism never resorted to jihad/crusades, coercion, socio-religious genocide or aggressive evangelism to proselytize (convert) people to Sikhism. The Sikhism promotes religious freedom, social equality, cultural harmony, etc. The Sikh Gurus strived to dispel ignorance and blind faith through open discussions and discourses. Guru Nanak Dev traveled all over the Indian subcontinent and middle east, in the early sixteenth century, accompanied by a Muslim companion Mardana on his mission to spread his universal religious message that includes monotheism, humanism, social justice, religious liberalism and cultural pluralism.

"It (Sikhism) inculcates loyalty, justice, impartiality, truth, honesty and all the moral and domestic virtues known to the holiest citizens of any country." Macauliff

Egalitarian Faith

The principles of equality, and charity are amply evidenced by Sikhism's unique tradition of langar (communion meals) to which everyone irrespective of caste, creed, color, gender, material wealth or status is welcome. Langar is a charitable institution established by the benevolent Sikh Gurus to instill the Sikhism's fundamental principles of social equality, community Service and charity in the Sikhs and to cater to the needy and the Sikhs traveling afar for Guru's audiences at a time when there were no inns, restaurants, hotels or motels in India. Since no one, except perhaps the aristocracy, could afford tables and chairs in India at the time, the prevalent social custom at the time in India, -sitting on the floor to dine- was adopted in the langar.

"The unique concept of universality and the system of langar in Sikhism are two features that attract me towards the study of Sikhism. Langar is the exclusive feature of Sikhism and found nowhere else in the world. Sikhism is the only religion which welcomes each and everyone to its langar without any discrimination of caste, creed, color or sex." Dr. W. O. Cole

Religious Freedom

This principle is enshrined in the Sikh history with the martyrdoms of three Gurus, four sons of Guru Gobind Singh and tens of thousand of dedicated Sikhs. For the cause of universal religious freedom, the Sikh Gurus valiantly defied the quasi-theocratic Mogul autocracy and fanatical Muslim clergy who waged a relentless jihad against the non-Islamic religions, especially Hinduism that, ironically, is inimical towards Sikhism. Conversely Sikhism would have done the same for the Muslims if the rulers were radical Hindus because the Sikh Gurus urged the Sikhs to combat tyranny and injustice and protect the oppressed, persecuted, feeble and the helpless.

A prominent Arya Smaji Hindu scholar writes, "The seedling which Guru Nanak planted; the sapling which Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Hargobind nurtured with their blood and bones; Guru Teg Bahadur irrigated with his blood; Guru Gobind Singh nourished it with the overflowing canals of blood of his four juvenile sons, [a seven year and a nine year old were immured alive (a wall, built around them) and beheaded), five of his cherished lieutenants and thousands of dedicated Sikh martyrs, into a robust tree which produced fruit. This fruit symbolized socio-religion harmony, piety, monotheism and spirit of patriotism." Daulat Rai, Sahib-ť-Kmaal Guru Gobind Singh

The tenth and the last incarnate Sikh Guru Gobind Singh discerned sagaciously that to save non-Islamic religions being annihilated by the theocratic state-perpetrated jihad, Sikhs had to fight the enemy that was a thousand times superior in numbers, resources and equipment. The Guru evoked in the Sikhs martial spirit and blended it with moral discipline to fight socio-religious and political tyranny. The Sikhs were given highly visible identity and Sikhism was redefined as Khalsa Panth (Noble Nation). A Muslim Sufi poet BuIIay Shah writes,

"If there were no Guru Gobind Singh, Every one (in India) would have had circumcision."

Unique Religion

The fact that some of the concepts, tenets and doctrines of Sikhism are common with other monotheistic religions of the world and that Hinduism and Islam were predominant religions in India at the time of the founding of Sikhism, some theologians, scholars, writers, journalists and historians who are not fully conversant with unique concepts and universal message of Sikhism, erroneously proclaim the Sikh religion as synthesis of Hinduism and Islam. Sikhism founded with synthesis of Hinduism and Islam would have had Sikhs practicing blind faith ritualism, polytheism, worshipping numerous Idols and deities including Shiv-ling (phallus, symbol of fertility for Hindus), polygamy, male and female circumcision (sexual organ mutilation); excluding women folk from prayer service congregations and fasting during dogmatically designated lunar calendar holy days.

The presence of Christianity in Punjab, the birthplace of Sikhism, was virtually negligible at time of its founding and growth, yet Sikhismís primal concept of One, Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent GOD is common to Christianity. The Sikhismís fundamental doctrines of submission to Godís Will and indifference to pain, pleasure, fortune, misfortune, joy, grief, etc. are common to Stoicism. Does these commonalities make Sikhism synthesis of Christianity and Stoicism as well? The originality and distinctiveness of Sikhism are incontrovertible according to the theologians, scholars, writers and historians with in-depth study of Guru Granth Sahibís Gurbani (Sikh scriptures).

"Pure Sikhism is far above dependence on Hindu Rituals and is capable of a distinct position as a world religion so long as Sikhs maintain their distinctiveness. A reading of the Granth strongly suggests that Sikhism should be regarded as a new and separate religion rather than a reformed sect of Hinduism." Dorothy Field

Practical Faith

The Sikhism condemns sexual promiscuity, but since it recognizes sexual activity as essential for procreation, human body's practical needs and natural functions, does not advocate celibacy. In fact Sikhism preaches to practice religion while living a productive and contributory familial and societal life.

"They (volumes of Adi Granth Sahib) are compact in spite of their length and are revelation of the vast reach of the human heart, varying from the most noble concept of God to the recognition and indeed the insistence upon the practical needs of the human body." Pearl S. Buck

The comments and analytical reviews of the worldís prominent scholars, theologians and historians authenticate Sikhismís uniqueness. It combines the noble concepts of monotheism, exalted spiritual consciousness, socio-religious harmony, multi-cultural accord, religious freedom, etc. and shuns futile blind faith rituals, pagan superstitions, prejudicial taboos, abstruse dogmatism, occultism, religious coercion, etc. is still a minority religion.