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Mysticism In The Sikh Faith


Jun 1, 2004
Mysticism and the mystic are understood in different ways depending on the religion, but in general mysticism can be said to mean "the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality." Throughout religious history mystics have been alternately worshiped and reviled, hailed and hidden.


Mysticism in the Sikh faith began with its founder, Guru Nanak, who even as a child had profound mystical experiences. There are many stories of the young Nanak slipping into deep meditative trances, once even getting into trouble for neglecting his father's cattle, which then wandered into a neighbor's field and ate their crops!

What was the great Guru contemplating? Guru Nanak "stressed that God must be seen with 'the inward eye', or the 'heart', of a human being. Beyond this there is no dogma, only the search for truth. Sikhs meditate as a means to progress towards enlightenment; it is devoted meditation practice that enables a sort of communication between the Infinite and finite human consciousness."

But, meditation in the Sikh's understanding is different from meditation as it is understood in other Eastern practices. For the Sikh there is no concentration on the breath, for example, but chiefly the recitation of the name of God. "We are instructed to recite the name of God (Waheguru) 24 hours a day, no matter what we are doing," says Dr. Dass, a local leader from the Gudwara. "That is the first and foremost duty of a Sikh. You start by reciting aloud, then from your mind. You inner being is reciting the name of God while you are doing your own work."

Though mystic practice--"to be one with God," as Dr. Dass explains, is essential to Sikhism, these practices are not limited to an elite few who remove themselves from the world. Rather, participation in ordinary life, being householders, business people and so forth, is considered spiritually essential to the Sikh. "We do not renounce the world. You can attain being one with God while living a family life," says Dr. Dass. This way of thought was exemplified and encouraged by Guru Ram Das who pointed out that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, did not renounce the world, but only renounced "the greed for money."

There are no priests, monastics or yogis in the Sikh faith. Dr. Dass explains that, "We are all supposed to lead that spiritual life. We don't all achieve it, but this is our goal. Our ultimate goal is to be one with God."

Our thanks to Dr. Dass for his help with this article.


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Aug 13, 2008
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
Aman ji
I think that concentrating on ones breathing, like using a Mantra (Waheguru or otherwise) is just a means to an end; but not the purpose of Meditation - though many Buddhists I know don't seem to have a clue what it is that they're supposed to be trying to do vis-a-vis establishing a Sound Meditational Practice.
In my mind, the objective is to learn to 'tune out' the Grosser Part (the part that, I believe, is 'generated' by our hard wired brain) of ones Conciousness, and to, thus, become more attuned with - more aware of, the Subtler Part of ones Conciousness (the part which I believe is 'generated' by the Clear Light, Soul, etc.); as it is only when you've become as fully aware of this truly subtle part of your 'Total Conciousness Experience' that you'll be able, as Guru Nanak so wisely pointed out, to truly appreciate Waheguru, Yaweh, the Great White Spirit, etc..
As I like to paraphrase Shakesphere: "A Clear Light Diety Entity by any other name......."
Waheguru exists - manifests? - in a sort of Formless Realm; just as Tibetan Buddhism teachs, and Sikhism (at least) doesn't reject; and so, I believe, does the Subtler Part of your own being.
It's the part of you that will take on the 'new' body - or not - when you die, your Book Of Life is Read, you're 'Karma Score' - or 'Karma Grade' - is assessed, and you're Dharma is thus determined.
Enough ABCs! I just thought I'd add that; as the breathing thing is just a tool to induce the trance state.....etc..

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