God in Sikhism
God is described in the Mool Mantar (lit. the Prime Utterance), the first passage in the Guru Granth Sahib:
“ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥”
“ikk ōankār sat(i)-nām(u) karatā purakh(u) nirabha’u niravair(u) akāla mūrat(i) ajūnī saibhan(g) gur(a) prasād(i).”
“There is but one all pervading spirit, and it is called the truth, It exists in all creation, and it has no fear, It does not hate and, it is timeless, universal and self-existent! You will come to know it through the grace of the Guru.”
(SGGS. Pg 1) Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Sikhism is strictly monotheistic and believes that there is only One God. Guru Nanak prefixed the numeral “IK” (one) to the syllable Ongkar stress the idea of God’s oneness; that the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer is One. Sikh thought begins with the One Almighty and then universalising him, coming down to the cosmic reality of all-pervading Ongkar. While God is described as without gender, God is also described through numerous metaphors, such as:
ਏਕੁ ਪਿਤਾ ਏਕਸ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਤੂ ਮੇਰਾ ਗੁਰ ਹਾਈ ॥
“Ek(u) pita ekas ke ham barik”
“The One God is the Father of all;
We are His children.”— SGGS. Pg 611
Sikhism complies with the concept of Priority Monism, a view point that all existing things go back to a Source that is distinct from them. It is the belief that all what our senses comprehend is illusion; God is the sole reality. Forms being subject to Time, shall pass away. God’s Reality alone is eternal and abiding. The thought is such that Atmaa(soul) is born from and a reflection of ParamAtma( Supreme Soul), and would again merge into it just as water merges back into the water.
ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਜਲੁ ਆਇ ਖਟਾਨਾ ॥
Jio Jal Mehi Jal Aae Khattaanaa ||
As water comes to blend with water,
ਤਿਉ ਜੋਤੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥
Thio Jothee Sang Joth Samaanaa ||
His light blends into the Light.— SGGS. Pg 278
God and Soul are identical in the same way as Fire and its sparks; fundamentally same as is stated in Guru Granth, “Atam meh Ram, Ram meh Atam”, which means “The Ultimate Eternal reality resides in the Soul and the Soul is contained in Him”. As from one stream, millions of waves arise and yet the waves, made of water, again become water; in the same way all souls have sprung from the Universal Being and would blend again into it.
Another philosophy of Sikhism is the concept of Pantheism which says that every being is identical to Divinity. It focuses on the subject of a non-anthropomorphic concept of God, to the extent that one can interpret God as the Universe itself. Sikh thought holds a pantheistic tone when it discusses the Immanence of God (Sagun), which says that the whole Universe is an abode of the All-pervasive Lord. However, Sikhism does not hold the concept of Pantheism fully as it understands God to be both, transcendent and immanent at the same time. Sikh philosophy fuses the concepts of Theism and Pantheism as to the belief that God exists in His Creation to a Theistic level, that is the One upon whom everything depends; the ultimate Preserver.
It can be deduced that Sikhism agrees with Pantheistic belief only to the extent that Universe can be considered as Divine, never understating the Transcendence of God which deems the Creator as above His Creation.
Sikh philosophy believes that the One God is the Great Architect of Universe. He alone is the Creator, Sustain-er, and Destroyer; Ek Ongkar. God is Karta Purakh, the Creator-Being. He created the spatial-temporal Universe from His own Self; Universe is His own emanation. Guru Arjan advocates: “True is He and true is His creation [because] all has emanated from God Himself” (SGGS Pg 294).
Before creation, God existed all alone as “Nirgun”; in a state of Sunn Samadhi, deep meditation, as says Guru Nanak.
There was darkness for countless years.
There was neither earth nor sky; there was only His Will.
There was neither day nor night, neither sun nor moon.
He (God) was in deep meditation.
There was nothing except Himself.— SGGS. Pg 1035
Then, God willed and created the Universe, and diffused himself into the nature as “Sargun”. Whenever God desires, He merges back into His Timeless and Formless Self.
Guru Gobind Singh calls this process of Creation and Dissolution as “Udkarkh” (from Sanskrit utkarsana) and “Akarakh” (from Sanskrit akarsana), respectively:
“Whenever you, O Creator, cause udkarkh (increase, expansion), the creation assumes the boundless body; whenever you effect akarkh (attraction, contraction), all corporeal existence merges in you” (Benati Chaupai).
This process of creation and dissolution has been repeated God alone knows for how many times. A passage in Sukhmani by Guru Arjan visualizes the infinite field of creation thus:
Millions are the mines of life; millions the spheres;
Millions are the regions above; millions the regions below;
Millions are the species taking birth. By diverse means does He spread Himself.
Again and again did He expand Himself thus, But He ever remains the One Ekankar.
Countless creatures of various kinds Come out of Him and are absorbed back.
None can know the limit of His Being;
He, the Lord, O Nanak! is all in all Himself.— (SGGS. 275-76)
It is believed in Sikh that the Universe was created by a single word of the God. The Transcendent God expresed Himself in “Naam” and “Sabad” that created the world. “Naam” and “Sabad” are the ‘Creative and Dynamic Immanence of God’.
ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥
Keethaa Pasaao Eaeko Kavaao ||
You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word!
ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥
This Thae Hoeae Lakh Dhareeaao ||
Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow.— SGGS. Pg 3
When was Universe Created?
Sikh philosophy enunciates the belief that the Limits of Time and Space are known only to God. Answers to the questions of “When did the Universe came into existence?” or “How big this Universe is?” are beyond Human understanding and the best course, as Guru Nanak proclaims, is to admit a sense of Wonderfulness or “Vismad”, since “the featureless Void was in ceaseless Existence”. As to the Time of Creation, Guru Nanak, in Jap(u) Sahib, recites that:
What was that time, and what was that moment? What was that day, and what was that date?
What was that season, and what was that month, when the Universe was created?
The Pandits, the religious scholars, cannot find that time, even if it is written in the Puraanas.
That time is not known to the Qazis, who study the Koran.
The day and the date are not known to the Yogis, nor is the month or the season.
The Creator who created this creation-only He Himself knows.— SGGS. Pg 4
As stated in Mool Mantar, God exists as Ajuni, beyond incarnations; formless. And saibhan (Sanskrit svayambhu), Self-existent. The Primal Creator Himself had no creator. He simply is, has ever been and shall ever be by Himself.
Purakh added to Karta in the Mool Mantar is the Punjabi form of Sanskrit purusa, which literally means, besides man, male or person, “the primeval man as the soul and original source of the universe; the personal and animating principle; the supreme Being or Soul of the universe.” Purakh in Mool Mantar is, therefore, none other than God the Creator.
God, as stated in Guru Granth Sahib, is Akal Murat, the Eternal Being; He is beyond time and ever the same. “Saibhan(g)”, another attribute to God means that no one else but God created Himself. He is, shall be, was not born, and shall not die; never created and hence, shall never be destroyed. The phrase “Ad(i) Sach”, True in the Primal Beginning, in the Mool mantar proves the notion of the eternalness of God in Sikhism.
Transcendence and Immanence
Sikhism advocates a Panentheistic tone when it enunciates the belief that God is both, transcendent and immanent, or “Nirgun” and “Sargun” (as stated in the Sikh terminology), at the same time. God created the Universe and permeates both within and without. Transcendence and Immanence are two aspects of the same single Supreme Reality. The Reality is immanent in His entire creation, but the creation as a whole fails to contain God fully.
ਸਰਗੁਨ ਨਿਰਗੁਨ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਧੀ ਆਪਿ ॥
Saragun Niragun Nirankaar Sunn Samaadhhee Aap ||
He possesses all qualities; He transcends all qualities;
He is the Formless Lord. He Himself is in Primal Samaadhi.— SGGS. Pg 290
The Almighty, Himself, is the one Ultimate, Transcendent Reality, Nirguna (Nir+Guna = without attributes), Ever-existent, Boundless, Formless, Immutable, All-by Himself, and Unknowable in His entirety.
When it pleases God, He becomes Sarguna (Sanskrit Saguna = with attributes) and manifests Himself in creation. He becomes immanent in His created universe, which is His own emanation, an aspect of Himself.
God remains distinct from his Creation, while being All-pervasive.
“God himself is the Creator and the Cause, the Doer and the Deed.” Sikh thought is strictly monotheistic and believes that this Universe is creation of God. Its origins are in God, it operates under the Command of God (hukum), and its end is in God; God is the Omnipotent being, the sole cause of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction. He consults none in creating and demolishing, giving and taking but does all things Himself. The Nirbhau (lit. Fearless) Almighty does not fear anyone and exercises His unquestionable will.
He is kind and merciful, the Omni-Benevolent Lord. The Bestow-er of all things; apart from Him, there is no other Giver. He is also a great Pardoner; pardoning all our sins, He bestows Virtue on the repenting souls and adds Blessedness on the striving virtuous. The Almighty sustains His Creation compassionately and benevolently. In Guru Granth, God is called as “Karim” (merciful); the complacent Lord who, in his compassion, blesses the miserable with his Nadar (graceful vision). The Nirvair (lit. without enmity) God does not hate anyone and glances his merciful vision on every being, indifferently.
“The Lord is kind and compassionate to all beings and creatures; His Protecting Hand is over all.” (SGGS. Pg 300)
According to Sikhism, God has “No” Gender. Mool Mantar describes God as being “Ajuni” (lit. not in any incarnations) which implies that God is not bound to any physical forms. This concludes: the All-pervading Lord is Gender-less.
ਸੁੰਨ ਮੰਡਲ ਇਕੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਬੈਸੇ ॥ ਨਾਰਿ ਨ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕੋਊ ਕੈਸੇ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹੇ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥ ਸੁਰਿ ਨਰ ਨਾਥ ਸਚੇ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥
Sunn mandal ik Yogi baise. Naar na purakh kahahu kou kaise. Tribhavan joti rahe liv laaee. Sur nar naath sache saranaaee
The Yogi, the Primal Lord, sits in the Realm of Absolute Stillness (state free of mind’s wanderings or Phurne). (Since God) is neither male nor female; how can anyone describe Him? The three worlds center their attention on His Light. The godly beings and the Yogic masters seek the Sanctuary of this True Lord.— SGGS. Pg 685
However, The Guru Granth consistently refers to God as “He” and “Father”, but this is because the Granth is written in north Indian Indo-Aryan languages (mixture of Punjabi and dialects of Hindi) which have no neutral gender. English translation of the teachings eliminate any gender specifications. From further insights into the Sikh philosophy, it can be deduced that God is, sometimes, referred to as the Husband to the Soul-brides. Also, God is considered to be our father, mother, and companion.
Names for God
Sikhism believes in Monotheism and hence, has no specific names for God. However, God has been called by many Attributive names [action-related names, Kirtan Naam (SGGS. Pg 1083), or Karam Naam (Dasam Granth, Jaap Sahib)] in Sikh literature, picked from Indian and Semitic traditions.
He is called in terms of human relations as our Father, Mother, Brother, Companion, Friend, Lover, Beloved, and Husband.
Other names, expressive of His supremacy are Thakur, Prabhu(lit. God), Swami, Shah(lit. King), Paatshah(lit. respected King), Sahib, Sain (Lord, Master). Another name used is, Allah, meaning “The God”: The term is also used by Sikhs in the Sikh scriptures in reference to God. The word Allah (ਅਲਹੁ) is used 12 times in the Guru Granth Sahib by Sheikh Farid. Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Arjan Dev and Bhagat Kabeer used the word 18 times
Allah, meaning “The God”: The term is also used by Sikhs in the Sikh scriptures in reference to God. The word Allah (ਅਲਹੁ) is used 12 times in the Guru Granth Sahib by Sheikh Farid. Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Arjan Dev and Bhagat Kabeer used the word 18 timesGod has also been referred to, in Sikh literature, as names given to him in other religions such as Ram, Narayan, Govind, Gopal, Allah, Khuda, Karim, Rahim, Qadir etc..
Other attributive names include Nirankar(Formless), Niranjan(without sin), Data or Datar (lit. The Giver), Karta or Kartar (lit. The Doer) , Dayal(Compassionate), Kripal(Benevolent) and many more.
Names peculiar to Sikhism, for God are Naam (lit. name), Shabad (word) and Vahiguru (Wondrous Master). While Naam and Shabad are mystical terms standing for the Divine Manifestation, Vahiguru is a phrase expressing awe, wonder, and ecstatic joy of the worshiper as he comprehends the greatness and grandeur of the Lord and His Creation.
The center belief of Sikh thought is the soul would reincarnate in this universe unless it attains the state of mukti (liberation), which is to be achieved through the grace of God. In its corporeal attire, the soul passes through cycles of transmigration. Through Divine Grace, it can merge back into the Cosmic Soul (Paramatma) and escape the throes of birth and death again and again. 
The Mool Mantar ends with Gurparsad(i) (lit. by God’s Grace), which expresses the belief of Sikh thought that God would be revealed to the Soul through Guru’s grace. In Sikh theology Guru appears in three different but allied connotations, viz. God, the ten Sikh Gurus, and the gur-shabad or Guru’s utterances as preserved in the Guru Granth Sahib. Of God’s grace, Gurus’ instruction and guidance and the scriptural Shabad (Sanskrit sabda, literally ‘Word’), the first is the most important, because, as nothing happens without God’s will or pleasure, His grace is essential to making a person inclined towards a desire and search for union with Him.
“Blessing us with His Grace, the Kind and Compassionate All-powerful Lord comes to dwell within the mind and body. (SGGS. Pg 49)”
Knowledge of the ultimate Reality is not a matter for reason; it comes by revelation of the ultimate reality through nadar (grace) and by anubhava (mystical experience). Says Guru Nanak, budhi pathi na paiai bahu chaturaiai bhai milai mani bhane which translates to “He is not accessible through intellect, or through mere scholarship or cleverness at argument; He is met, when He pleases, through devotion” (SGGS, 436).
Gnosticism is the belief that the Divine Spark is trapped within the spirit and can be liberated by the Gnosis or Knowledge of this Divinity. Sikh spirituality is centered to the theme of understanding and experiencing God, and eventually becoming one with Him. Human incarnation, as advocated by Guru Granth Sahib, is a special privilege and an opportunity for the realization of the Ultimate destiny of Spirit: union with God.
As Guru Arjan says, “Of all the eight million and four hundred thousand species, God conferred superiority on man”. Another verse form the scripture praises the human body as a Temple:
ਕਾਯਉ ਦੇਵਾ ਕਾਇਅਉ ਦੇਵਲ ਕਾਇਅਉ ਜੰਗਮ ਜਾਤੀ ॥
Kaayo Dhaevaa Kaaeiao Dhaeval Kaaeiao Jangam Jaathee ||
Within the body, the Divine Lord is embodied. The body is the temple, the place of pilgrimage, and the pilgrim.
ਕਾਇਅਉ ਧੂਪ ਦੀਪ ਨਈਬੇਦਾ ਕਾਇਅਉ ਪੂਜਉ ਪਾਤੀ ॥੧॥
Kaaeiao Dhhoop Dheep Neebaedhaa Kaaeiao Poojo Paathee ||1||
Within the body are incense, lamps and offerings. Within the body are the flower offerings. ||1||— SGGS. Pg 695
Sikhism thus sees life as an opportunity to understand God as well as to discover the divinity which lies in each individual. God is perceived to reside in the human body and can be found by being a Gurmukh (lit. Facing Guru) and merging self into The Hukum or Divine Command. Though, as mentioned in Guru Granth, full understanding of God is beyond human beings, Guru Nanak described God as not wholly unknowable and stressed that by becoming Gurmukh, one should find the Divinity residing in his own self.
Mysticism is the experience of becoming one with The Almighty, which Guru Nanak states as Sach-Khand (Realm of Truth), where the soul is immersed completely in the Divine Will. The primal belief of Sikhism is of the Spirit to get merged into the Divinity. As Guru Granth proclaims human incarnation as a chance to meet God and enter into the Mystic Reality.
ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥
भई परापति मानुख देहुरीआ ॥
Bẖa▫ī parāpaṯ mānukẖ ḏehurī▫ā.
This human body has been given to you.
ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥
गोबिंद मिलण की इह तेरी बरीआ ॥
Gobinḏ milaṇ kī ih ṯerī barī▫ā.
This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe.— SGGS. Pg 12
It is a devoted meditation (simran) that enables a sort of communication between the Infinite and finite human consciousness. There is, chiefly, the remembrance of God through the recitation of His name and surrendering of the Self to God’s presence often metaphorized as surrendering self to the Lord’s feet. The ultimate destination of a Sikh is to lose his egoism completely in the love of the Lord and finally merge into the Almighty creator.
Those, who follow the instincts of their mind, under the influence of five vices – lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride – and ego would wander miserably in the cycle of birth and rebirth.
- Kaam (Lust)
- Krodh (Anger)
- Ahenkar (Ego)
- Lobh (Greed)
- Moh (Attachment)
Guru Gobind Singh iniated the practice of “Amrit Chakna”, the Baptizing ceremony of Sikhs as Khalsa, in April 1699. This distinctive identity is represented by Five “K(akars)” every Amritdhari (baptised) Sikh has to don:
- Kesh (hair)
- Kangha (comb)
- Karha (steel bracelet)
- Kirpan (miniature sword)
- Kachera (shorts)
- Naam japna (Chanting the Name)
- Kirat karna (Doing good deeds)
- Vand Chakna (Donating self earnings)
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