(A) THE FAITH
1. Sikhism, you said, is the faith of the modern age. How long would it take to be that from what it is now? If our religion is so great, then why do people ask me, What is your religion? and say, I have never heard of that religion before.
(i) The Sikh religion has already been recognized to be a faith for the modern age. If some persons ask you about your religion it is because of their simple ignorance. There is so much in this world to keep the minds of the people occupied that they do not even know where London is or who Budha was. We should do whatever we can to remove their ignorance of the people (we may be equally ignorant about others); rather, we should do whatever we can to remove their ignorance. The World Conference of Religions for Peace, in 1979, was actually endorsing the basic principles of the Sikh faith when they, in their meeting at New Jersey, concluded. Too often the names and practices of our religions have been associated with warfare and strife. Now we must reverse this by: (a) Breaking down barriers of prejudice and hostility between religious communities and institutions. (b) Confronting the powers of the world with the teachings of our religions rather than conforming to them when they act contrary to the well-being of humanity. (c) Building inter-religious understanding in our local communities particularly where prejudices run strong.
The above statements are the basic principles of the Sikh faith reworded in modern language. The Gurus preached these principles of religious tolerance and brotherhood of humanity five hundred years ago when they said: The whole humanity is one brotherhood and God is the only Father for us all. (Page 611 Guru Granth Sahib)
The Gurus remembered God by many names, e.g., Ram, Gobind, Hari, Allah, Rahim, Karim, etc., then used by the followers of different religions. The Guru Granth Sahib is the only Holy Scripture which mentions with respect all such names and which includes the writings of holy people born in different religions. Kabir is a so-called low caste weaver, Farid is a Muslim, Ravidas is a shoe-maker and considered an untouchable by Hindus, Nam Dev is a calico printer, a low caste, and Dhanna is a simple farmer. The hymns of more than 2 dozen such holy men are included in the Adi Guru Granth Sahib in addition to the hymns of the Gurus. Guru Nanak preached that there is one God, one humanity and one faith. His founding of the institution of Sangat (praying together as equals) and Pangat (eating together as equals without any discrimination or favor to anyone, whatever ones faith, caste, color, etc.) to educate people regarding the brotherhood of man, makes the Sikh faith the religion for the modern age. Five hundred years earlier the followers of different religions were quarreling (some are doing so even today) to prove their religion to be better than that of the others. Guru Nanak preached that not hollow rituals but sincere actions benefit a person here and after his death. He declared that it is futile to argue which religion or which name of god is better than the other. All names, whether God, Ram, or Allah, are equally good. What matters is ones love for Him and His children. In the same way, a child can address his father as dad, papa, or daddy, but it is the love and respect for the father which matters and not the name the child uses to address him. The opinion of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, quoted above, shows a U-turn from the old stand of the religious leaders. Earlier the leaders believed (some even believe now) that their religion is the only true religion and unless a person accepts that religion, he will not be saved. Now, they have come to realize that their old beliefs do not fit with the modern thinking and will not be accepted in the future. Human equality and non-insistence on a particular way of worshiping God were preached by Guru Nanak to release the masses from the clutches of pseudo-religious people. These Sikh principles have now been accepted by religious leaders and scholars as a faith for the modern age and a hope for peace.
(ii) Here are some of the comments of modern scholars regarding the Sikh philosophy. The opinions of Professor Toynbee, Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel Laureate, and H.L. Bradshaw have already been given. (see introduction) According to another scholar, John C. Archer, The religion of the Adi Granth is a universal and practical religion.......Due to ancient prejudices of the Sikhs it could not spread in the world. The world needs today its message of peace and love.
Dorothy Field in her book, The religion of the Sikhs, writes: Pure Sikhism is far above dependence on Hindu rituals and is capable of a distinct position as a world religion so long as the Sikhs maintain their distinctiveness. The relig- ion is also one which should appeal to the occidental mind. It is essentially a practical religion. If judged from the pra- gmatic stand point which is a favorite point of view in some quarters, it would rank almost first in the world.
It will not be out of place to mention the comments of a Hindu mystic. Swami Nitya Nand (expired at the age of 135 years) writes in his book, Gur Gian: I, in the company of my guru, Brahma Nand Ji went to Mathra while on a pilgrimage tour..., we reached Punjab and there we met Swami Stya Nand Udasi. He explained the philosophy and religious practices of Nanak in such a way that Swami Brahma Nand Hi enjoyed a mystic lore. During the visit to the Golden Temple, Amritsar his soul was affected so much that he became a devotee of the Guru. After spending some time in Punjab he went to Hardwar. Though he was hale and hearty, one day I saw sifted sand for the whole of my life. The truth was in the House of Nanak. I will have to take one more birth in that House, only then will I attain Kalyan. After saying that the soul left his body. I also constantly meditate on Waheguru revealed by Nanak. First, I practiced Yoga Asnas under the guid- ance of Yogis and did that for many years. The bliss and peace which I enjoy now, were never obtained earlier.
When the world religions are named today, Sikhism is named among the top six; they are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Sikhs do not form even 2% of the population of the country of their origin - India. The basic principles of the Sikh philosophy and contributions of the Sikhs to society have raised the status of their faith to that of a unique universal world religion. Unparalleled sacrifices were made by them to fight against state terrorism for protecting human rights and religious freedom of common people. Having mentioned the opinions of some world scholars and mystics, the reader is left to decide himself/herself regarding the ranking of Sikhism among the world faiths. He/she also has to decide what his/her part is in educating society about these basic principles of the faith and the history of the Sikhs.
(iii) If a person asks you What is your religion? it reveals his ignorance about the Sikh faith while it shows indifference on the part of the Sikhs themselves towards their faith. Many Sikhs themselves are not clear about the basic principles of their faith, its philosophy and its contributions to human rights. If the Sikhs themselves know this and explain it to their friends by living according to the Sikh principles, (not just knowing and talking about them) the world will know within a short period of time about Sikhism and its greatness. All humans are born illiterate and ignorant. We have schools to teach people languages, art, science, etc. Parents also spend a lot of time at home to educate their children. Even then, (there should be no surprise) many American youth don't know where the headquarters of the United Nations are. People do not know about Sikhs because there is too much to be known and they are too busy in other pursuits of life. It is we who have to tell them about Sikhism, they are going to learn about it themselves, but very slowly. A few have already found it as mentioned above. Their writings are going to influence many more to know about the Sikh faith and guide their lives accordingly. Think of the Christians who are all around us. Not just millions or billions, but trillions of dollars are being spend to preach Christianity. Christians are the rulers holding political power in their hands. They were once virtual rulers of the whole world. National holidays and social events are chosen according to Christian holy days. BUT STILL many youth are not accepting and are not attracted towards it. In his recently published book, For Christs Sake, Tom Harper of the Toronto Star has the following to say. Christianity may well be thriving in parts of Africa and Asia today, but in the West Christian faith is eroding at an alarming rate. Secular humanism is fast becoming the prevailing religion of the Western world. For instance, it is no longer true to describe either Canada or England as a Christian country, since the vast majority of their respective populations have no traditional ties with any religious body (the Church of England has closed nine hundred churches since 1974). Added to this the fact that only a small fraction of children and young people now receive any religious inst- ruction whatever, and the prognosis for the year 2000 looks very bleak indeed. The so-called mainline churches have much to learn about the use of mass media in communicating their message, but no amount of technical sophistication will avail unless the message itself is one that makes sense.
The last sentence is very significant. The above reference has been given here to tell the readers that the correct message is very important for the new generation. Along with this, the method of education is also very important. Sikhs have the correct message but they have not developed the correct educational system. This is the responsibility which falls on the shoulders of the Sikh youth. It is they who have to learn the basic principles of Sikhism, practice them in their life, and be a model for the rest of the youth. They have to adopt the modern methods to explain Sikhism to the youth of the modern age.
2. In Rehras-Chaupai, it said,(God), protect me by your hand and destroy all my enemies. In Ardas, we pray for the welfare of whole humanity, Sarbat Ka Bhala. Does the word Sarbat exclude our enemies?
We mistakenly assume our enemies to be human beings. In spiritual life our enemies are those who mislead us from the path of truth and put us in trouble. The major ones among them are lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego. They are called diseases or devils which kill our soul. They attack our mind and fill it with vices destroying its virtues.
i) What hope could be there for a person suffering from Five incurcable Diseases. (Page 486 Guru Granth Sahib) ii) The poor fellow is possessed by the Five Devils. My Savior, God, please save me from them. (Page 205 Guru Granth Sahib) iii) With the blessings of the Guru, I overpowered the strong Five Youths (devils). (Page 74 Guru Granth Sahib)
Out of these enemies, ego is the strongest one of all. However, there is a method to control it. If blessed by the Lord, the person meditates of His virtues and destroys his ego. This is mentioned in the Gurbani .(Page 466 Guru Granth Sahib)
Gurbani teaches us to give up all Five and follow the path of Gurmat; obey the Will of the Lord rather than obeying these evil thoughts. (Page 9 Guru Granth Sahib) May also be mentioned that the above hymn, in the beginning of the Rehras, refers to spiritual life and not to physical life. It means I can live only if I remember Gods Name. I die if I forget His Name. This life of death of a person is not related to the body; it refers to the soul. It tells that the soul is dead if one does not love God.
We conclude that the Sikhs wish well for all humanity; they have no enemies. Evil thoughts or vices are to be avoided by a Sikh. In physical terms, the Sikh philosophy says that if any violence is committed against an innocent person, he has a right to take up arms, to defend himself and the virtues he practices. While doing so he does not nurse any enmity against any individual, but he is protecting himself against that wrong thought which led the person to commit the violence.
3. In Chopai , it says anyone who remembers God for a moment will be saved from the noose of death. Then why have Sikh soldiers, who remembered God, died?
The answer to this question has already been given above. This has said in relation to the attainment of ever-lasting Peace. It is not concerned with the physical death of the body.
4. When we went to Gurdwaras in the cities, A and B (actual names withheld) they had Christmas decorations hung up. Why? Is this because Sikhs also have faith in Jesus? Why do Sikhs in some Gurdwaras celebrate New Years Eve? It is related to the Christian calender and not to the Sikh calendar, (Baisakhi).
Dear youth, your (all who asked this question) keen observations and deep analytical approach deserves appreciation from all Sikhs. Your sensitivity to the non-Sikh practices in Gurdwaras will go a long way to awaken the Gurdwara management committees. Here are the answers to your questions.
(a) Holiday Decorations:
Gurdwaras are generally decorated all the time for aesthetic reasons, not just during the Christmas season only. Maybe, you went there during Christmas and hence you took them to be Christmas decorations. Or maybe, they were hung because of the Christmas season; in that case, it shows total ignorance of Sikh principles. Sikhs do not have faith in Jesus and they neither celebrate Christmas as a religious day. However, any day can be celebrated as a community or a social day. Religious functions are celebrated through social activities. In due course of time, the religious aspect is forgotten and social activities take over the whole event. Some days are seasonal events and some religious aspect is connected with them to give sanctity to the function and attract more people to it. For example, Thanksgiving, Easter and Halloween in the West and Lohri, Diwali and Holi in the East are celebrated as religious, social and seasonal days. The whole community participates in the celebrations, irrespective of ones religious denomination. Diwali, in Northern India, is everybodys event. During this week, some people worship Ram, others worship Durga, Lakshmi, or Sarswati. Fireworks are shown at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, too, on this day. Everybody is in a cheerful mood; houses are cleaned, decorated and lighted. In the same way, business people have made Christmas more a seasonal and social function than a celebration of the birth of Christ. (December 25 is not the birthday of Christ. He is believed to have been born sometime during August of September.) After watching the Christmas celebrations for many years, a large number of Christians have strongly disagreed with the way the event is celebrated. They say it has been changed into a social and commercial event, rather than a religious one. Religious aspects of many events have faded away and they are celebrated as community events by all people irrespective of their faith.
(b) New Years Eve:
The first or any other date of a month including the first month of the New Year, has no meaning for the Sikhs. Every day is a new day in the life of a Sikh. Celebrating Sankrant, Pooranmasi (full moon), Amavas (no moon), New Years Eve or New Years Day as a sacred days is contrary to the Sikh belief. (See chapter 1 - D Founding of the Faiths) How can one decide that a particular day is a New Years Day? A year means one complete revolution of the earth around the sun. There is no beginning and no end of the orbit. Therefore, any day, when it is presumed that the year begins, is an arbitrary day. Every day can be taken to be the beginning of the New Year. The Christian calendar starts from the first of January; the Chinese New Year starts in February; the Indian year starts in March ( some people count it from April) etc. For the Muslims the new year starts with the rise of the new moon and consists of 354 days and not 365 days. Therefore, in relation to the seasons are not the same in the same Muslim month. A month which comes in winter would come in summer after some years. Where is the sanctity of the New Year Day, when nobody can tell when the New Year truly begins? Sikhism has been found to be right and justified not to attach any religious significance to any such lunar or solar day. Unfortunately, because of the influence of the old thoughts of the majority community, the Sikhs also have started celebrating these days. The earlier they give them up, the better it would be to bring the greatness of the Sikh thought into the limelight and attract more people to Sikhism. May it be mentioned here that Sunday is a sacred day for Christians, hence they go to their church. For Sikhs, it is a holiday (not a sacred day) which they utilize spending more time in the Gurdwara. In Saudi Arabia, Sikh gatherings are held on Fridays, that day going a holiday there. Muslims go to their mosque that day because Friday is a sacred day for them. Similarly, a full moon, no moon, Sankrant, etc., are sacred days for Hindus, but they have no significance for the Sikhs. Gurbani says those who worship days of the week or dates of a month are idiots. (Page 843 Guru Granth Sahib)
5. It is against our religion to have a drink of alcohol or is it bad only if you over drink and get drunk.
Yes. Drinking alcohol even in small quantities to enjoy its effect is against the Sikh Reht. Alcoholic drinks are forbidden because of their ill effect on the mind and body. But there is no restriction against taking medicine or foods which may have minute quantities of alcohol in them. Most of the liquid medicines usually do have some kind of alcohol as a solvent. They are not prohibited for a Sikh. However, taking medicine with the intention of drinking alcohol is contrary to the Sikh belief. It would be interesting to give here some quotations from Gurbani: One should strictly avoid alcohol by drinking of which one loses ones love for God and is punished in His Court. (Page 554 Guru Granth Sahib).
Good persons do not consume alcohol even if it is prepared by using Gangajal (sacred water of the Ganges). (Page 1293 Guru Granth Sahib).
One should drink the nectar of His Name and not the useless alcohol. Drinking alcohol means losing the valuable life in gambling. (Page 360 Guru Granth Sahib).
6. Do you think the Sikh religion has helped the world the way that Guru Nanak Dev Ji supposed it would?
This is a very important key question to which Sikh leaders, rather the whole nation, must address. Keeping in mind the mission of the Guru, they should develop a project to educate the world about his thoughts and his revelations. The mission of Guru Nanak Dev has been outlined in popular words by Bhai Gur Das, the scribe of the Adi Guru Granth Sahib. In his very first Var, he mentions the causes of human problems and conflicts. He then explains how Guru Nanak devoted his life to eradicate those conflicts and bring peace on this earth (Pauri 19-38). The essence of the complete Var (though all is not related to the topic under discussion but the contents are interesting and helpful in general) is given at the end of this answer.
The message of Guru Nanak is that there is one God, one humanity, and one faith which mandates us to love God and His children. There is no physical place called Heaven or Hell. When one is drenched with love of God and sings His virtues, the person enjoys heavenly bliss. Suffering from lust, ego, anger, greed and other vices is being in Hell while living on this very earth. The mission of human life is not to get salvation or qualify for paradise but to realize God vibrating everywhere in the universe. Hatred is the cause of violence and all other problems of man. We must give it up and treat everybody equally. Sangat and Pangat were formed to achieve this goal (see also introduction of this book). The responsibility now falls on the shoulders of the Sikhs, who know the message, to carry it to as many people as they can. This may be done by, i) believing as a Sikh, ii) appearing like a Sikh, and iii) living like a Sikh. People hungry for peace are sure to find out the principles of the Sikh Faith as has already been done by many scholars (see chapter 1-D). Only God knows how and according to which time-table these truths will unfold themselves to the people. We have to perform our duty by living as Sikhs. [ Var 1 by Bhai Gurdas:]
Solution: PAURI 1. I salute Guru Nanak Dev Ji who told me the truth, Gods name, the magic word. My sincere love and devotion to Him Who removed all my illusions and problems in the world.
Creation: 2-4. To begin with there was nothingness (dark). God created matter, energy, and millions of kinds of lives; humans were given the top position. They were told to earn their living through hard, honest work and share their earnings with others. To achieve the goal of their lives they were to love God and live in peace with the whole of humanity. They were to guide others as well as to love God.
Creation is unlimited. Millions multiplied by millions and millions of times cannot take us even near the limits of creation. Vyas authored Vedas and Mohammed authored Koran. Innumerable people like them have been created by God. 5-14. According to Hindu scriptures, to begin with, people were honest and lived a simple life. With the passage of time virtues decreased and vices increased in them. The six Shastras and yoga became the guidelines for the people in their own individual way. However, without the true guide people could not realize the Truth. 15-16. During the four yugas, the people suffered from ego and selfishness. Peace could not be obtained without Gods name during any time.
Root cause of the problem: 17-18. Without the sun (knowledge) people remained in the dark (ignorant of the truth). Hence they suffered from the sin of hatred for others. The hatred caused friction, which produced fire that burnt them in the same way as strong winds burn bamboo plants by rubbing them against each other. (Fire is ignited because of the heat of friction). Rather than loving the living people and the Creator, people worshiped the creation. Some worshiped stones (idols) and other worshiped tombs (graves). Some believed in magic and others believed in the sun, moon, earth, fire, etc. They were following useless pursuits. 19-21. Hatred, the root cause of all troubles, took birth when society was divided into four castes, considering some persons as high and others as low. Yogis and Sanyasis also split themselves into upper and lower divisions. Thus, they too, lost the truth. Mohammed further split people by adding another set of rituals to be practiced by his followers. They intensified the ill will among the two communities by demolishing Hindu temples and raising mosques in their place. In other words, sin prevailed everywhere. Muslims and Hindus put themselves into opposing camps. They stuck to the rituals of their faith but forsook the Truth.
Guru Nanak Deputed: 22-23. Without the guide for Truth, there was darkness all around. The people, therefore, prayed to God to send a holy man to show them the light. Listening to the prayers of the people, God deputed Nanak to preach Truth. 24-26. With the blessings of God and devotion on his own part, Guru Nanak received the light of Truth. He saw the whole world burning in the fire of ego and hatred. He decided to go around and tell people the Truth. Ignorant guides were misleading themselves and their followers by worshiping innumerable gods and devils instead of God. 27-31. When Guru Nanak, the Sun of Truth, rose, the pretenders vanished and the light of Truth spread everywhere. Guru Nanak convinced Yogis, Sidhs, and selfish religious leaders to seed Truth rather than miracles. 32-38. Guru Nanak went to the Middle East and had discussions with the Muslim leaders at Mecca, medina, and Bagdad. To answer their question who is superior, a Hindu or a Muslim, the Guru replied, Only good, sincere deeds help a man to achieve peace. Without good deeds, whatever their faith, all will repent. 37-38. After visiting all the major religious places and giving his message of one Father and one humanity, Guru Nanak settled at Kartarpur (on the banks of the river Ravi). 39-44. He had discussions with the Sidhs at Batala and the Muslim holy men at Multan to give his message.
Guruship continues: 45-48. The Guruship passed on through Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev to Guru Hargobind. (Bhai Gurdas died during the period of Guru Hargobind). 49. Meditation on Waheguru helps one to realize the Master, God.
7. What is the purpose of repeating Paath over and over again if you dont understand it? Is Nam Simran (saying Waheguru repeatedly) more important than reading Gurbani? Which one is more useful in our life and why?
(a) Reciting Paath:
It is agreed by all that we should recite Paath regularly because that is a direction from the Gurus. In this, three steps are involved. i) reading (listening to) the message ii) understanding the message iii) benefiting from the message. The first two steps are essential for the third. Hence, the beginning has to be made with reading. Obviously, reading alone without understanding and benefiting from the message is not of full use. There are many other examples in life where we end at the first or the second step and we fail to take the third, i.e., to obtain the full benefit. We know exercise is good for our health, but many of us don't do it regularly. Smoking is very harmful for our health but some people still continue to smoke. Stealing is both immoral and illegal. Knowing all this, some people still get themselves involved in stealing. Our failure to benefit from the message is mentioned in Gurbani like this: Our mind knows what is right and what is wrong but still it leads us to do wrong things. How can one be saved if the person himself chooses the path? (Page 1376 Guru Granth Sahib)
We should not feel discouraged that we cannot understand everything when we read Paath or because we cannot practice all what we do understand. We must make a start by reading and then try to move ahead steadily, maybe even slowly. Once we know the benefit of practicing the lessons of Gurbani, our mind will start to enjoy the recitation and benefit from it. People who have been reading Jap Ji for 50 years or more still find something new and fresh in it when their mind turns to it. The inner meanings of Gurbani are known only under that situation. Reading Gurbani is a good habit and must be practiced regularly by making all efforts to understand it and adopt the message. It is beneficial in many other ways ever if we do not understand it well and do not take full advantage of it.
Here are some reasons why Gurbani should be read daily: i) Gurbani is written in poetic form. Its rhythm and sound waves have many positive effects. They cool our nerves and calm our mind in the same way as does music, which many of us also do not understand. ii) Regular reading of Gurbani (Nitnem) forces a timely pause in the never-ending and never-slowing rat we are running. All doctors now agree that we must sit calmly and quietly to meditate on something to take away our mind from the worldly tensions. This is essential to give a daily rest to our over-worked and over-heated nervous system. Reciting hymns regularly provides us this benefit. It keeps our minds safe from the tensions and pressures of living the high-tech modern life. iii) This practice is a repeated reminder to us that our life has a purpose; being reminded of this every day is very important to deep our lives on the right track. We are like children playing outside away from our Mother, God. When it is time to work, the mother gives a call to the child, Dear, now stop playing, come home, and finish your school work in time. The call is first ignored by the children because they love to play (as we love worldly life). Repeated calls of the mother put pressure on the mind of the chid to come home and do his school work. Regular sittings for doing Nitnem are repeated call from the Mother, God, reminding us, Dear, you have a responsibility towards yourself. Now is the time, the call will touch the heart of the reader and motivate him to recite Gurbani hymns devotedly and obtain peace. iv) In the evenings, we usually chat over a cup of tea with our friends. Many times we carry on our meaningless talks endlessly. If someone says, Let us recite Rehras; it is time to do it, those who were wasting your time and theirs too, melt away. For those who stay, the meaningless social gathering becomes a sacred Sangat, i.e., solace giving, calm restoring and God-loving congregation. v) The test of the pudding is in tasting. If a person recited Gurbani sincerely (even when he doesn't understand it fully, and most of us actually don't) he will notice a change in him to the better side. The feeling, I do Paath, therefore, I should not do this bad thing. Will become stronger and stronger, keeping him safe from all wrong acts. We know what is right and what is wrong, but we don't have the moral strength to keep a check on us. The regular reading of Paath provides us the necessary reasoning and the required strength to keep our mind under control. vii) The very question, What use is reading Paath if I don't understand it? becomes very meaningful to a person who reads Gurbani regularly. One day it will awaken his soul and make him decide, I must also know what I read. When he knows what he reads, he will start practicing it, making his own life happy and spreading happiness around him.
(b) Nam Simran:
Nam Simran means to remember, love, and meditate on God. There are many ways to do it. The formal method is to sit in a calm, quiet place, close your eyes, concentrate your mind on the virtues of God and utter Waheguru in your mind. The sound may be tuned with your breath to keep your mind fixed on the track. There are also many informal methods such as reading Gurbani, doing Sewa, listening to Kirtan, etc. The idea is to keep in mind God and His virtues. The relative importance of these methods cannot be compared. All these activities are expected to be a regular part of the life of a Sikh to enjoy the full benefit of Simran. Nam Simran is explained in a Gurbani hymn in question-answer from between two devotees. Bhagat Tarlochan finding Bhagat Namdev busy in calico printing asked him, You seem to be more interested in money than in Gods Name. You remain busy printing sheets instead of meditating on God. Bhagat Namdev responded, While the body is busy doing work one can keep his mind turned in to the love of God. (Page 1375 Guru Granth Sahib)
In another hymn Bhagat Namdev refers to some daily experiences in life explaining how we keep our mind fixed in things with which we are deeply concerned and we love.
When the boys fly kites, they also enjoy their mutual conversation. While busy in their conversation, their minds always remain tuned to their kites. A mother, who has her child sleeping in the crib while busy in her daily house chores, keeps her mind all the time tuned to the baby. The same way a devotee should always keep himself tuned to the love of God while he is busy performing his routine worldly chores. (Page 972 Guru Granth Sahib)
In a professional course, both theory and practice are necessary to learn the subject. Each has its own importance. In the same way, a Sikh must practice all the methods mentioned above depending upon his mood, time, situation, environment, and need. The utility and benefit of regular Nam Simran can be understood from the following simple example. To live a happy and peaceful life, we need both body and mind in a healthy condition. Proper food is needed to keep the body healthy and strong. Sewa and Simran are needed to keep the mind free from vices. This is the way to keep your mind strong and direct your activities on the right path.
8. In some Gutkas, why are the Banis and Ardas longer than normal?
All Gutkas have the same length of Banis in them. It is only in the case of Rehras that a few Gutkas have a couple of additional Shabads. Ardas of course is different in different Gutkas because it was written by different persons. We should all follow the standard Ardas and Rehras written in the Gutkas printed by the Gurdwara committee, Amritsar and the Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana. Differences in Rehras have history behind them. This Bani was originally known as So-Dar. The title Rehras however became popular later on, perhaps because of the live - Har Keerat Hamri Rehras -- in the fourth shabad. The Rehras approved by the Khalsa Panth and mentioned in the Sikh Reht Maryada Tract and regularly read at Akal Takhat consists of: a) i) So-Dar ii) So-Purkh. Nine Shabads in all as mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib before the start of Ragas. b) Chaupai including Swaya and Dohra from Dasam Granth. c) The Rehras is concluded by reading the first five and last Pauri of Anand Sahib, followed by the last Slokas in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Additions to the above prescribed Paath and reasons for them:
In every Gurdwara people get together for evening Diwan callled So-Dar Diwan. Before starting the So-Dar Bani recitation, it was common (it is practiced at Akal Takhat and many other Gurdwaras even now) to sing some Shabads. When the Kirtan starts, Sangat knows that it is time for So-Dar recitation. They gather there and listen to the Kirtan of the Shabads before the start of the Rehras Paath. This helps tuning their minds to Gurbani. At the fixed time the Kirtan is stopped and a Sikh recites the Paath. Wherever Kirtan could not be sung in a Gurdwara, because of the non-availability of the Ragis there, the Sangat would jointly recite Shabads in rhythm. This would give Sikhs time to sit, settle and concentrate their minds before the start of reciting Rehras. Later, when printing of Gutkas started, the Shabads commonly read by the Sangat were also printed along with the Rehras. This was to facilitate the correct singing of Shabads before starting the Rehras. However, having sung these Shabads over a long period of time, Sikhs mistakenly assumed the Shabads to be a part of Rehras. As different Sangats recited different Shabads to their liking, the contents and hence the length of the Rehras became different accordingly. To remove this misunderstanding, the Sikh Reht Maryada expressly states that Rehras Paath starts from the Shabad So-Dar and ends at Salok Mahala 5: Tera Keeta ... Anything printed before So-Dar or after Mahala 5 is not a part of Rehras. Some Sikhs, however, made many more additions on their own after the Chaupai. The Khalsa Panth have decided not to include any of them as a part of Rehras. They are not allowed to be read as a part of Rehras. Even a little attention paid to the meaning of additional couplets chosen from Avtar Kathas easily proves that their reading as a part of Rehras is wrong. For example, one couplet tells that Vishnu devotees face no problems while the other couplet contradicts it saying that one should not pray to Vishnu, Krishan or other gods. Basically, the message of many of the added couplets is against the directions of Gurbani. They were picked up from the stories of Hindu Avtars included in a compilation now called Dasam Granth. The Gutkas published by the Gurdwara Committee, Amritsar and other such organizations have the correct Rehras Paath. Only the Gutkas published by the private printers include extra Shabads after Chaupai. This is against the ruling of the Reht Maryada. Instead of agreeing with the scholars and the orders of the Guru Khalsa Panth, some Sikhs argue that reading extra Bani is more beneficial. Hence, they think that they are better Sikhs than those who read the standard Rehras. One is welcome to read as many hymns as he wishes to but no individual has a right to make any additions to the approved Rehras Paath. It should be read as directed. Other Banis can be read whenever one wants, but not as a part of the Rehras.
(a) An institution
Marriage is an institution, which allows a man and a woman to live as husband and wife. The functioning of this institution is based not only on religious principles, but also on social and moral values prevailing among the people. As these values differ with different societies and different religions, the answers to many of the questions relating to dating and marriage will also differ. The proper answers will depend upon the community to which they are addressed. In some cases, not only dressing properly but also keeping a veil is obligatory for a woman. In others covering of just the vital parts of the body, as by bathing suit, is considered enough dress for a lady to move in public. In some communities, adults with mutual consent can have sex without any eyebrows being raised while in others talking to a girl in a lonely place is considered an immoral act. In one society, shaking hands with a girl is considered undesirable whereas in another society necking and kissing in public is accepted to be normal behavior. Marriage has many aspects such as legal, social, moral and religious. In different cases these aspects are involved to different degrees. In some cases religion can be ignored totally. The concerned persons can go to the court, fill out the forms, and get married without performing any religious ceremony. Marriage is sometimes defined as legally agreed, socially permitted, and religiously allowed sexual partnership. According to the Sikh faith, marriage is a sacred union between husband and wife to achieve the goal of human life jointly with each others help and dependence. The two, the husband and the wife, seek to have one mind and one goal to be successful in their lives. The goal of human life is to realize Truth (God). When seen from the angle of the Sikh Faith, the spouse is a companion, a supporter, and a life partner to travel on that path. The mutual dependence, understanding, and interrelationship between the two is so strong that the husband and wife live as one soul, i.e., they think and act as a unit. A Sikh, therefore, is to marry only a Sikh. The spouse may be of any color, caste, country, community, or race. A couple can achieve the goal of their lives with greater ease if both persons have the same faith. A spouse from the same community is preferred for easy and better mutual understanding. This has no reflection on other communities being inferior or superior. A Sikh can marry a person born in a non-Sikh family. However, it is to be assumed before marriage, that the spouse has voluntarily decided to believe in Sikh faith and live like a Sikh.
(b) Interfaith Marriage
Marriage between followers of two different faiths cannot move smoothly. It can be celebrated but not practiced. A person cannot walk on two different paths simultaneously. The same way, one cannot have two faiths at the same time. Faith is not just a philosophy to be learnt but a path to be followed. Respecting a person of another faith is totally different than living with that person as a spouse. To explain the above, we can have an example from our social life. A person cannot be a member of two different political parties at the same time. If one joins another party, one automatically loses the membership of his/her previous party. How can a marriage between members of two different faiths take even a start in their life when loyalty and sincerity are essential conditions of every faith. As a visitor, one can go to a temple, a Gurdwara, a church or a mosque, but one must decide where one belongs to . One can marry a person born in any faith, but before marriage they ought to decide which faith they want to follow. Marriage, in addition to the living of the partners together as one soul, also involves raising children. If the partners in marriage do not have the same faith, the children will find it difficult to choose the path of their life. It can be argued that the children can be taught about both faiths. When they become adults, they themselves may choose the faith they want to follow. Well, we can indulge in wishful thinking, but in practice it involves real problems. Faith is not like a profession that one can choose later. One has to learn and understand it by living as a faithful. The Sikh view as given above is also echoed by other religious communities. The following news cited up from the Free Lance Star, Virginia, USA, December 9, 1989, tells us what others think of mixed marriages. ONE FAITH BEST FOR CHILD, PANELISTS PAY Children of Christian-Jewish marriages are psychologically healthier if raised in the religion of one of the parents than in both faiths or none, a panel of experts indicated here. Lydia Kukoff of Los Angeles, a Reform Jewish specialist, said reluctance of interfaith couples to choose one faith for their child, or their decision to let the child decide later masks a dangerous ambivalence.
As mentioned earlier, marriage involves not only the religious aspect but also the social and legal aspects. As most of the questions asked involve non-religious aspects of the marriage, they need to be answered in a separate booklet. It must be mentioned here that according to the Sikh faith a sexual relationship with unwed partners is considered a sin. Anyone who commits this act is considered fallen out of the Sikh faith. Experience has shown that to begin with, a partner may be more attractive than the faith; however, soon the faith becomes more important than the partner. In that case, the spouses may find themselves in real trouble. It is always desired that a non-Sink spouse lives the life of a Sikh before marrying a Sikh. This helps to assure that he or she is well versed in the basic principles and the practices of the Sikh faith to enjoy ones life with a Sikh spouse. The celebration of the Sikh marriage is described in the Sikh Reht Maryada bulletin published by the Shiromani Committee Amritsar. The reader may refer to the bulletin for details.
9. Is the dead body of a Sikh to be cremated or buried? What happens to it?
Sikhism does not restrict the way in which a dead body may be disposed of. People may bury the body, throw it in water, cremate it, or treat it in any convenient but respectful way. None of these methods helps or harms the soul in any matter. The soul remains unaffected by any treatment to the body. Sikhs generally cremate the dead body just because it is a convenient way to dispose of the corpse. They do not do so because it will help the soul go to Heaven. In contrast, other religions believe that the disposal of a dead body is a religious act and that the dead body has to be treated in the way prescribed by their religion. Muslims and many Christians bury the dead body, burning it is against their faith. Hindus generally cremate their dead or deliver their bodies to some sacred river or sea.
10. If we believe in re-incarnation, were the Gurus re-born? How do we know people have a previous life?
It does not matter, whether it was the first stage of the cycle, or the Gurus and Bhagats has earlier undergone some cycles of re-incarnation. We are concerned with what lessons of life they gave to us through their teaching, preaching, and living. Existence of the soul and the cycle of birth and death has been reported by the scientists. If somebody wants to see the details he is welcome to read Unto the Unkown by the Readers Digest publications, Life after Life by Raymond A. Moody, JR M.D. and other books on the subject. They have mentioned many documented cases of the soul going out of the body and getting back into the same body by taking a new birth. A couple of such documented incidents are reported in the newspapers almost every year.
11. What is the Sikhs version of Heaven and Hell?
According to the Sikh faith, there is no place which has been reserved as Heaven of Hell. In the following hymn, Gurmat says living in love with God is living in Heaven and living by ignoring God is living in Hell on this very earth. (Page 1369 and 749 Guru Granth Sahib)
12. If a person does something good or bad in this life, why does God wait to punish or reward him in his next life?
Sometimes, it appears to us that people doing illegal and antisocial acts enjoy their life and they are not punished or controlled by God. Actually such persons receive their punishment without other people knowing it. Our knowledge is limited to the legal methods of punishment, being put in jail, or being fined by a judge. The methods of God for rewards and punishment are different. They are all automatic and built in nature. Having done something wrong, a person is always worried lest the people find him to be a liar, a cheat, a robber, etc. Therefore, he remains under mental torture all the time. Even with a good house, good food, and all the comforts of life, he cannot have peace or solace. Fear of being exposed haunts him and bothers him for his entire life. this is a much bigger punishment than the one given by legal courts such as paying a fine or going to jail. One may not get exposed publicly, but at least within his close group of friends, people know the truth about him and he lives the life like that, even though he is not physically in jail. Because of his anti-social or immoral behavior, he remains under mental imprisonment. To explain the self-inflicted punishment one gives to himself or herself, the mention of an actual happening will be helpful. Friends of a very high Indian government officer thought he was enjoying his life as best as anyone could. He got huge bribes from people and spent the money drinking, dancing, and sleeping with women. He ignored his wife and children. The wife, having to fail to restrain him from women and wine, reported the matter to the government regarding his taking of bribes from the people. When the government charged him, his illegal and immoral crimes became public. He was so scared to face his friends, that he jumped from his office window to his death. People doing evil acts punish themselves more severely than a government can. Some, as stated above, even commit suicide and lose the gift of life given by God. Furthermore, unless one gives up evil acts from his mind, these bad thoughts go with him to his next life and they punish him there too. The punishment that people receive here or after their death is not given by God. We get rewarded of punished ourselves as a matter of the consequences of our doings. If you don't watch your feet and stumble on a rock, it is not the fault of the rock nor of God. When a driver takes his mind away from the wheel and meets with an accident, it is not the government which is punishing him; he has invited punishment himself. Our immoral and antisocial acts committed under lust, anger, greed, etc., lead us on the wrong path. As a result, we suffer from physical and mental torture.