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Introduction to Sikhism

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Taranjeet singh, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. Taranjeet singh

    Taranjeet singh India
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    An Introduction to Sikh Belief
    by P.M. Wylam (Manjit Kaur)

    When Guru Nanak first began to preach his message, it was not with the intention of starting a new religion. He was such a gentle person, full of selflessness and humility that it was not in his nature to arrogate to himself the position of a leader. He never stopped to think or calculate about the impact on the world which his teaching would make. He was, as he often asserted himself, a humble servant of God and he was only concerned with doing God's will in the world; with suggesting practical ways of countering the evil, ignorance and superstition which had laid hold of the common people.


    Guru Nanak was, in fact, primarily concerned with the spiritual welfare of the common people. He understood well enough the complicated beliefs, religions and philosophies currently held by the Brahmins, various holy men and Muslim quazis, and he could converse and argue with these on equal terms. However, religion, he believed should be equally accessible to the ordinary man, the simple potter, the peasant, the shopkeeper or even the lowest outcasts. Therefore, Guru Nanak taught only one simple belief, and only one simple religious practice which, once imbibed into the heart of a sincere devotee, could save him from all evil and temptation. The belief was in the One-ness of God, the Creator, and the practice was in the constant remembrance of His Name, with the ultimate aim of achieving salvation.

    The Oneness of God

    Like the people of ancient times, the common people of Guru Nanak's day paid tribute to a large number of minor gods and goddesses which were then known to Hinduism. They were attached to these in superstitious bondage and fear evolved over the centuries, and which had no relation at all to religion as such. Instead of deriving comfort, therefore, such adherents suffered more from fear and worry. Superstitious ceremonies were encouraged by Brahmin priests and astrologers who made handsome profits out of the gullibility of the people. It was to exterminate these practices and to counteract these evil influences that Guru Nanak emphasized strict monotheism in his teachings. He, therefore, composed the Mool Mantra and taught it to all his followers:

    There is one God
    His Name is Truth
    The All-pervading Creator,
    Without fear, without hatred
    Immortal, unborn, self-existent,
    By grace, the Enlightener.
    True in the beginning, true throughout the ages,
    True even now, Nanak, and forever shall be true. (japji, Mool Mantra)

    His devoted follower, Lehna, who was destined to become the second Guru, took this verse seriously to heart. Lehna, on becoming Guru Angad, propagated this thesis, and said that it was intended to be learned and understood and repeated by all Sikhs in order to remind them of God's One-ness and of His other most important attributes.

    God is Everything to the Sikh: His attributes are endless and all goodness, mercy and love are contained in Him. He has created all things and remains enshrined within them as both mind and matter. He is immanent. He is also transcendent; for He can and does exist without creation, above and beyond everything. He is All-powerful; nothing exists or happens without His knowledge or without His permission; He sees into all things and directs even the smallest affairs of His creatures. God is the Divine Father who cares for His children, bestows upon them all the manifold blessings of this world and listens to their prayers. He knows the most secret desires of every heart and is the essence of love and forgiveness. God is directly accessible to everybody and man's soul itself is a part of the Immortal One.

    God's Name

    As belief in the All-pervading Unity is the basic belief of Sikhism, similarly, simran, or the remembrance of God's Name by constant repetition, is the basic practice. This is more important and fundamental than any of the ceremonies forms and symbols which are, in fact, only supplementary to the religious practice. This remembrance consists of the constant and regular application of the mind to the many different aspects of God by which He is known to mankind. God's attributes are, in fact, so numerous and great that it is beyond the power of man's mind to encompass them all. The voluminous Sikh scriptures (The GURU GRANTH and the DASM GRANTH) are largely devoted to the enumeration and praise of God's attributes, so that learning and repeating of passages from the scriptures is one way of remembering Him. In sukhmani, Guru Arjan says:

    The praising of His Name is the highest of all practices;
    It has upraised many a human soul.
    It slakes the desire of the restless mind,
    And imparts an all-seeing vision.
    To a man of praise Death loses all its terrors;
    He feels all his hopes fulfilled;
    His mind is cleaned of all impurities;
    And is filled with the ambrosial Name.
    God resides in the tongue of the good.
    O that I were the slave of their slaves. (sukhmani I.4)

    The Divine remembrance may also be effected by the repetition of one particular name, such as "Waheguru" meaning "Wonderful Lord," which is in common use among Sikhs. However, a mere mechanical repetition, i.e., without having 'heart and soul' in it, should be avoided. The very object of remembrance is to bring the devotee into closer contact with God and it should, therefore, be performed with love for the Master and longing of the soul to be nearer to Him, and yet nearer. It is this contact between the human soul and the Eternal Soul which is essential; however small and tenuous it may be at first, it is, nevertheless, the first step on man's road to salvation and perfect peace. In this way, the Sikh will in time, become conscious of the working of God in all aspects of his life; the consciousness of His presence will eventually become natural to him, so that even in the midst of all pleasures or pain, or all the various activities of life, he will be aware of the goodness of God and the manifold blessings with which He endows the creatures of His creation.

    Reincarnation

    Although Guru Nanak had great sympathy with Islam, he accepted the Hindu idea of rebirth rather than the idea of one earthly life followed by either heaven or hell. In the Japji, he says:

    By His writ some have pleasure, others pain,
    By His Grace some are saved,
    Others doomed to die relive and die again;
    His will encompasseth all, there be none beside,
    O Nanak, he who knows, hath no ego and no pride. (Japji 2)

    Man's soul, being a minute part of the Eternal Soul, has existed from the time of Creation, and until the time it is re-absorbed into Him, it remains separate and has to change the form which is inevitably subject to death and rebirth. The ideas on reincarnation that emerge from the Sikh scriptures, are derived mainly from Hinduism, but they contain certain modifications in their Sikh adaptation. Guru Nanak believed very firmly that God is accessible to all people whatever the circumstances of their birth; poor or rich, beggars or rulers, male or female. In the sight of God, all human beings are equal and are the children of one family with God as their Father. The inequalities which occur between one person and another, are partly because of man's own behavior--he pays for his bad actions and reaps the rewards of his good acts. However, if a person is born in poor circumstances, he still has the right, and indeed, the obligation, to try to improve himself, both spiritually and socially.

    Man's soul evolves through all stages of existence, beginning with the most primitive forms of life, until finally, it receives the supreme gift of human form. In this latter form, he is blessed with the attributes of communication and reasoning, and is consequently enabled to appreciate the works of his Creator and to make conscious efforts to seek a reunion with God. Guru Arjan says:

    Since you have now acquired this human frame,
    this is your opportunity to become one with God:
    All other labors are of no use;
    Seek the company of the holy and glorify God's name. (Rehiras 9)

    The ancient Hindu philosophy envisaged that every man must remain in the station of life to which he had been born, and he was therefore forbidden by social sanctions, to change from it; in other words, the caste system formed a rigid part of religion. Guru Nanak taught that every human being--even though he were a poor man with a menial occupation, had dignity and value in the sight of God, consequently, every person had the inherent right to change his religion, his occupation or his station in life, if he so wished. Not only that, the Guru himself, on occasions, performed manual labor, and by his example he demonstrated that every honest occupation was honorable.

    The Gurus believed that there are many worlds besides the world we know, and that there are many planes of existence. This can be interpreted in both the spiritual and the physical sense; also, heaven and hell are not necessarily abodes for the good and the evil respectively, nor are they future states to be experienced after death, but they can be experienced here and now in our earthly life. Birth and death are merely changes in the course of life; as a snake casts off its old skin, so the soul leaves the old body and enters a new one. It is a matter of good fortune that the burdens of past memories, regrets and guilt are cast off too, and the being is elevated into a fresh atmosphere.

    The Goal of Life

    The Lord of man and beast is working in all;
    His presence is scattered everywhere; there is none else to be seen.
    One talks, another listens; God is in both.
    He is the Unity and Himself the Diversity. (sukhmani XXII.1)

    According to Sikh theology, therefore, it is clear that man's soul is, itself, a part of God. It is obvious, however, that human beings are, generally, unaware of the divine spark in themselves; they are far less conscious of the purpose of their existence. According to Guru Nanak, the purpose of human life is to enable the being to appreciate the face of his relationship with the Eternal Spirit and to facilitate his becoming reunited with Him. When man begins to remember God with love in his heart, his evaluation of worldly pleasures and attachments is inevitably altered. By modeling his life on the perfection of God, and believing in the will of God, he hereby wins God's grace; on attaining this, he is released from the cycle of births and deaths and is reunited with God in perfect bliss:

    Whomsoever He chooses He unites with Himself;
    And the chosen one applies himself to His love and sings His praises;
    He comes to believe in Him with hearty faith.
    And knows that all action proceeds from the One alone. (sukhmani XXII.3)
    :advocate:
    Sikhism Guide - Introduction to Sikh Belief
     
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