The spiritual teachings of Sikhism are universal in nature. Emphasis is on putting these teachings into practice in everyday life. Humility and service are the watchwords in these teachings. The caste system was severely rejected; Sikh gurus taught their followers to share food with others as a mark of spiritual devotion. This precious teaching has stayed in the Sikh religion in the form of the community dinner, langar.
The Sikh gurus have also made it very clear that we simply cannot fully comprehend the infinite nature of God:
“Each one according to his understanding gives expression about Thee in his own different way. The vastness of Thy creation is beyond our comprehension. It is not known how in primal time the world was created by Thee.”
“Not by purifications is the Purity attained, if even I were to purify a hundred thousand times over;
Not by silence is the Silence attained, if even I were to sit in meditation deep and long;
Not by fasting doeth the hunger subsides, if even I were to obtain the treasure-load of the worlds;
A thousand, a hundred thousand acts of wisdom if I had, not one would avail;
How then may I become true? How then may the veil of falsehood be rent asunder?
Through Voluntary surrender unto His will, O Nanak, the Will that is pre-ordained.”
Sikh gurus preached the virtue of devotion and surrender most stoutly, much as we indulge in meditations, worships, and rituals; these are, however, of no avail. By the unconditional surrender may we reach God. Whatever is happening in our lives, we may accept that as His will and accept the same with utmost humility.
“Who can sing His Power? Who can sing His Bounties? Who can sing His Virtues, His great Deeds Par excellence?
Who can sing His Knowledge, the very conception whereof is so difficult?
Who can sing His molding bodies so fascinating out of dust?
Who can sing His taking out life, and restoring it?
Who can sing His Power to know and perceive from far away?
And yet who can sing His Power to see as nearest of the near?
To assessing Him, there will be no end even though millions over millions may speak on Him, over and over again;
The Giver giveth, the recipients get tired;
For ages and ages, have they lived on His bounties:
The Ordainer by His will hath set out the path for all to follow;
While He O Nanak, depending on none, remained Supremely Happy in his Ever-Blossoming Beauty.”
A breathtaking view of the infinite powers of the Supreme God has been presented here. Guru sings of God’s infinite powers and glories and reminds man to understand that God is not only omnipotent, but he also is much beyond our comprehension. In our everyday lives, many things happen that we may not be able to explain.
“While on their wings, the cranes fly thousands of miles away,
Leaving their young ones behind them;
Who feeds them there? Who puts food in their tiny beaks?
These birds remember the Lord in the heart of their heart, and He
Himself goes, and fondly looks after their young ones.”
Man often worries about his posterity. Little do we realize how mortal and vulnerable we are and how powerful and infinite is the Lord! Man often considers himself the doer; Guru reminds him gently about this fallacy and arrogance. The Lord provides even the smallest birds. We must never lose or shake our faith.
“The whole world is involved with the eighteen Puranas, the sixty eight pilgrimages and four sources of creation. Bhagat Ravidas says that Thy Name is only I am offering unto Thee, O God!”
We study one scripture after another and wander from one pilgrimage to another. The saint says all that is not necessary; we only need to remember the Lord in our heart! Guru repeatedly emphasizes repeating and remembering the holy name of the Lord.
“I shall beg of him Thine devotion, Bhakti; Thine worship of love.
My mind and body blossom forth, through the Guru’s word;
As I contemplate Thee, I find myself afloat on countless waves of bliss.
Nanak, in union with the saintly souls art Thou realized;
Through the company of the Holy”
—Asa ki, var 2
Guru’s role in man’s salvation has been clearly defined and stressed. The company of the holy, the Satsang, also has been glorified. By the grace and support of the guru, we may learn to surrender to the Divine; in the holy company, we may discover God’s bliss.
“Greed is the king, Sin the chief advisor and Falsehood the mind master;
Sex passion is the next in authority.
The fire of unrighteous grabbing rageth all round;
Gianees, the spiritual heads, dance, play music, and make up themselves in different characters.
Shouting and shrieking, they sing doubtful stories of the warriors;
Foolish pundits, the scholars, engage in tricks and devices for the love of amassing wealth.
The dharmee, the religious perform religious duties, but in self praise;
And they ask for salvation!
Some calling themselves jatees-the continent, know not the way;
They discard their homes and children.
Each one believes he is perfect;
None says he is less than perfect.
But when the man is weighed with weights of honor;
Then alone may he be deemed as properly weighed”
—Asa ki, var M: 1
Guru has charted the path of the Divine; the vices of greed and sex are often loaded in the minds of the false savants and pundits. They may discard their own homes and claim to be perfect, but none is good if he is impure and sinful in his heart. The real nature of these deceitful spiritual guides is fully exposed. Only through purity and virtuous behavior may we attain divine grace.
Sikh teachings strongly point out certain weak points in Hindu society as were prevalent in that period. Sikh Gurus taught that we simply cannot fathom the depth of the Divine. Even though this thought has been mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, there were many Hindu scholars who were freely professing their individual views about God, Cosmos, and Creation etc. These views were often conflicted and confused with each other. Sikh Gurus considered the ultimate knowledge of God beyond human understanding. They clearly and unambiguously put an end to such futile discussions.
They also communicated their views regarding the evil of the caste system in a very practical manner. Every Sikh gurdwara across the world serves food as community “langar”, where all the participants partake of food, sitting together, from the highest to the lowest, without any discrimination whatsoever. The same food is served to all, in similar utensils, and even the preceptors join without any peculiarity.
Sikh Gurus also rejected outright the outward rituals of austerities in different forms like fasting, maun-vrat (speech abstinence) etc. They emphasized instead on the inner cleaning, sincere devotion, and accepting the will of God candidly. They pointed out and exposed corrupt and avaricious persons, who often wore religious capes and mantles, but whose practices were immoral and cruel.
NOTE: Adapted from Chellaram Lachman, Navrattan, Dada
Chellaram Publications, New Delhi, 2002.