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SIKH DOCTRINE

People who came with preconceived notions to study Sikhism often blunder in offering its interpretation. Those who are conversant with the eastern thought fix upon those passage which refer to the thought of immanence and conclude that Sikhism is noting but an echo of Hinduism, while those who are imbued with the Mohammedan or Christian thought take hold of transcendental passage and identify Sikhism with Islam or Christianity. Others who know both will see here no system, nothing particular nothing but confusion. If, however, we were to study Sikhism as a new organic growth, evolved from the existing systems of thought to meet the need of newly evolving humanity, we would find no difficulty in recognising Sikhism as a distinct system of thought.

First step to understand any religion is to understand it's doctrine, the SIKH DOCTRINE is defined by Sr. Teja Singh in his book "The Sikh Religion"(Published by SGPC, Amritsar)

Following are the synopsis of his book, click on chapter heads to read in detail.

   

 
THE SIKH RELIGION
The aim of life, according the Sikh Gurus, is not to get salvation or a heavenly abode called paradise, but to develop the best in man which is God.

"If a man loves to see God, what care he for salvation or paradise." (Guru Nanak's Asa)

"Everybody hankers after salvation, paradise or Elysium setting their hopes on them every day of their lives. But those who love to see God do not ask for salvation. The sight itself satisfies their minds completely." (Guru Ram Das in Kalyan)

How to see God and to love him? The question is taken up by Guru Nanak in his Japji.

"What shall we offer to him that we may behold His council chamber?

What shall we utter with our lips, which may move Him to give us His love?

In the ambrosial hours of morn meditate on the Grace of the True Name:

For your good actions may procure for you a better birth, but emancipation is from Grace alone."

"We should worship the Name believe in the Name, which is ever and ever the same and true." (Sri Rag of Guru Nanak)

The practice of the name is emphasized again and again in the Sikh Scriptures, and requires a little explanation.
THE NATURE OF GOD OR THE NAME
God is described both as Nirgun, or absolute, and Sargun or personal. Before there was any creation God lived absolutely in Himself, but when he thought of making Himself manifest in creation He become related in the former case, when God was himself self created, there was none else. He took counsil and advice with Himself; what he did came to pass. Then there was no heaven, or hell, or three regioned world. There was only the Formless. One Himself; creation was no then (Gujri Ki Var of Guru Amar Das) There was then no sin, no virtue no Veda or any other religious book, no caste, no sex (Guru Nanak's maru Solhe xv, and Guru Arjan's Sukhmani xxi). When God became Sargun or Manifest. He became what is called the name and in order to realize Himself He made Nature wherein He has His seat and is diffused every where and in all directions in the 'form of love'. (Guru Gobind Singh's Jaap 80)

In presenting gurus double phase of the Supreme Being the Gurus have avoided the pitfalls into which some people have fallen. With them God is not an abstract idea or a moral force, but a personal Being capable of being loved and honored, and yet He is conceived of as a being whose presence if diffused all over His creation, He is the common Father of all, fashioning worlds and supporting them from inside, but He does not take birth. He has no incarnation. He Himself stands for the creative agencies. Like the Maya, the word and Brahma, He Himself is Truth, Beauty and the eternal yearing of the heart after Goodness (Japji 21) in a word, the Gurus have combined the Aryan idea of immanence with the Semitic idea of transcendence; without taking away anything from the unity and the personal character of God.

People who came with preconceived notions to study Sikhism often blunder in offering its interpretation. Those who are conversant with the eastern thought fix upon those passage which refer to the thought of immanence and conclude that Sikhism is noting but an echo of Hinduism, while those who are imbued with the Mohammedan or Christian thought take hold of transcendental passage and identify Sikhism with Islam or Christianity. Others who know both will see here no system, nothing particular nothing but confusion. If, however, we were to study Sikhism as a new organic growth, evolved from the existing systems of thought to meet the need of newly evolving humanity, we would find no difficulty in recognising Sikhism as a distinct system of thought.
UPLIFT OF MAN BASED ON CHARACTER
This life of praise is not to be of idle mysticism but of active service done in the midst of worldly relations. "There can be no worship without good" (Japji) action. These actions, however are not to be formal deeds of so-called merit, but should be implied by an intense desire to please God and to serve fellow men.

The Gurus laid the foundation of man's uplift not on such short cuts as mantras, miracles or mysteries but on man's own humanity, his own character as it is character alone-the character already formed-which helps us in moral crises. Life is like a cavalry march. The officer of a cavalry on march has to decide very quickly when to turn his men to the right of left. He cannot wait until his men are actually on the brink of a gutter i.e. nulla or khud. He must decide long before that. In the same way, when face to face with an evil, we have to decide quickly. Temptations allow us no time to think. They always come suddenly. When offered a bride or an insult, we have to decide at once what course of action we are going to take. We cannot then consult a religious book or a master guide. We must decide on the impulse. And this can be done only if virtue has so entered into our disposition that we are habitually drawn towards it, and evil has got no attraction of us. Without securing virtue sufficiently in character, even some of the so-called great men have been known to fall an easy prey to temptation. It was for this reason that for the formation of character the Gurus did not think it sufficient to lay down rules of conduct in a book; they also thought it necessary to take in hand a whole people for a continuous course of schooling in wisdom and experience, spread over many generations, before they could be sure that the people thus trained had acquired a character of their own. This is the reason why in Sikhism there have been ten founders instead of only one.

Before the Sikh Gurus, the leaders of thought had fixed certain grades of salvation, according to the different capacities of men, whom they divided into high and low castes. The development of character resulting from this was one-sided. Certain people, belonging to the favored classes, got developed in them a few good qualities to a very high degree, while others left to themselves got degenerate, it was as if a gardener, neglecting to look after all the different kinds of plants entrusted to him were to bestow all his care on a few chosen ones, which were in bloom so that he might be able to supply a few flowers every day for his master's table, The Gurus did not want to have such a lop-sided growth. They wanted to give opportunities of highest development to all the classes of people.
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Women too received their due. "How can they be called Inferior" say Guru Nanak. "When they give birth to kings and prophets?" (Asa-di-var, xix) Women as well as men share in the grace of God and are equally responsible for their actions to him, (Guru Amar Das's, Var Suhi, vi) Guru Hargobind called women "the conscience of man." Sati was condemned by the Sikh Gurus long before any notice was taken of it by Akbar.

The spirit of man was raised with a belief that he was not a helpless creature in the hands of a Being of an arbitrary will, but was a responsible being endowed with a will of his own, which could do much to mould his destiny. Man does not start his life with a blank character. He has already existed before he is born. He inherits his own past as well as that of his family and race. All this goes to the making of his being and has a share in the moulding of his nature. But this is not all. He is given a will with which he can modify the inherited and acquired tendencies of his past and determine his coming conduct. If this were not so, he would not be responsible for his actions. This will again, is not left helpless or isolated; but if through the Guru's Word it be attuned to the Supreme will, it acquires a force with which he can transcend all his past and acquire a new character.
THE GURU IN SIKHISM
The way of religion, as shown by Sikhism is not a set of views or doctrines, but a way of life lived according to a definite Model. It is based, not on rules or laws, but upon discipleship.

In the career of the disciple the personality of the Guru is all along operative, commanding his whole being and shaping his life to its diviner issues. Without such a personality there would be no cohesion, of direction in the moral forces of society, and in spite of a thousand kinds of knowledge "there would still be utter darkness," (Asa-di-Var,i) There would be no force to connect men with men and them with God. Everybody would exist for himself in moral isolation 'like spurious sesames left desolate in the field' with a hundred masters to own them ("Nanak the true Guru must be such as to unite all men" - Sri rag, i) it is the Guru who removes the barriers of caste and position set up by men among themselves and gathering them all unto himself unites them with God. In this way foundations are laid of a society of the purified who as on organized force strive for the good of the whole mankind.

Such a creative personality must be perfect, because 'men take after whom they serve.' (Guru Amar Das in Var Bihagra) if the ideal person is imperfect, the society and its individuals following him will also get imperfect development. But those who serve the saved ones will be saved (Majh III).

The Sikh Gurus were perfect and are described as such in the Sikh Scriptures, Guru Nanak himself says in Sri Rag ; "Everybody else in subject to error." Only the Guru and God are without error." And Guru Arjun says in Rag Bhairon: Whoever is seen is defective; without any defect is my true Guru, the Yogi," The state of perfection attained by the Gurus is lucidly described in the eighth and the eighteenth octaves of Guru Arjun's Sukhmani the same Guru says in Rag Asa:
God does not die, not do I fear death,
He does not perish, not do I grieve.
He is not poor, not do I have hunger.
He has no pain, not have I any trouble.
There is no destroyer but God.
Who is my life and who gives me life.
He has no bond nor have I got any.
He has no entanglement, not have I any care.
As He is stainless, so, am I free from stain,
As He is happy, so am I always rejoicing.
He has no anxiety, nor have I any concern.
As He is not defiled, so am I not polluted.
As He has no craving, so do I covet nothing.
He is Pure and too suit Him in this.
I am nothing; He alone is everything.
All around is the same He.
Nanak, the Guru has destroyed all my superstitions and defects.
And I have become uniformly one with Him.
The Guru is sinless. In order, however to be really effective in saving man be must not be above man's capacity to imitate, as he would be if he were a supernatural being. His humanity must be real and not feigned. He should have nature, subject to the same laws as operate in the ordinary human nature and should have attained his perfection through the same Grace as is available to all men and through perfect obedience to God's will. The Sikh Gurus had fought with sin and had overcome it. Some of them had lived for a long time in error, until Grace touched them and they were perfected through a constant discipline of knowledge, love and experience in the Association of their Gurus. When they had been completely attuned to the Will divine and were sanctified as Gurus, there remained no defect in them. They became perfect and holy. There after sins did come tempt them but they never grave way and were always able to over-come them. It is only thus that they became perfect examples of men and transformed those who came under their influence to veritable angelic beings.
THE GURU IN THE SIKH
This transformation comes not only through close association with the Guru, which is found in many other religions, but through the belief that the Sikh incorporates the Guru. He fills himself with the Guru, and then feels himself linked up with an inexhaustible source of power.

A Sikh, a pure-hearted Sikh, who follows the teaching of his Guru, is a great power in himself; but when such a Sikh gets into himself the dynamic personality of such a perfect exemplar as Guru Gobind Singh his powers acquire an infinite reach and he becomes a superman. He is called "Khalsa" the personification of the Guru himself.

"The Khalsa says the Guru," is my other self; in him I live and have my being" "A single Sikh, a mere believer, is only one; but the equation changes when he takes Guru Gobind Singh in to his embrace. He becomes equal to 'one lakh and a quarter' in the Sikh parlance. This change occurs not only in his physical fitness, but also in is mental and spiritual outlook. His nature is so reinforced in every way that although hundreds may fall round him, he will resist to the last and never give way. Wherever he stands he will stand as a garrison of the Lord of Hosts, a host in himself, a host of one lakh and a quarter. He will keep the Guru's flag always flying. Whenever tempted, he will ask himself, "Can I lower the flag of Guru Gobind Singh ? Can I desert it ? I, as Budh Singh or Kahan Singh, can fall, but can ordinary powers and in times of emergency comes to his rescue long before he can remember anything relevant to the occasion recorded in history or scripture. Bhai Joga Singh's case is just in point. He was a devoted Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, and had received baptism from the hands of the Guru himself. He was so loyal that when he received an urgent call from the Guru to proceed to Anandpur, he hastened from Peshawar without a moment's delay, not waiting even to see his own marriage through. And yet in movement of weakness, this paragon of Sikh purity was going to fall at the door of a public woman of Hoshiarpur. Who saved him in the emergency?

It was the vision of Guru Gobind Singh, reestablishing the personal contact by pointing out the signs of personation worm on his body, and reminding him that he was carven in the Guru's own image.
 
THE GURU IN THE PANTH
So far we have considered what the Guru does for the Sikhs as individuals. We have seen how he intensifies their character and increases their power thousand fold by filling their personalities with his own. In order to increase this power immensely more, the Guru made another arrangement. He organized them in to Sangats or Holy Assemblies, and put personality again into them. This led to a very remarkable development in the Institution of Guruship and no description of Guruship will be complete without an account of this development.

minds, by singing His praises of dwelling on his excellence. This is to be done not only when alone or in solitude, but also in public, where worship of the Name is made more impressive by being organized in the form of congregational recitations of singing. The other element is Sewa or Service. The idea of service is that it should be not only liberal, but also efficient and economical; that is, it should do the greatest good with the least possible means. It should not be wasteful. We do not set up a sledge-hammer to crack a nut, or send a whole army to collect revenue. We have to be economical in our efforts, however charitable they may be. For this purpose we have to organize our means. In every work of practical nature, in which more than one person is engaged, it is necessary to resort to organization. As religion too-especially a religion like Sikhism whose aim is to serve mankind-belongs to the same category, it requires organization of its followers as an essential condition of its success.

Guru Nanak had therefore begun with two things in his religious work : the holy word and the organized Fellowship (Bhai Gurdas, Var 1, 42-43). This organized fellowship is called Sangat. The idea of Sangat or holy Fellowship led to the establishment of local assemblies led by authorized leaders Masands. Every Sikh was supposed to be a member of one or other of such organization. The Guru was the central unifying personality and inspite of changes in succession, was held to be one and same as his predecessors.

The love exiting between the Guru and the Sikhs was more intense than has ever existed between the most romantic lovers of the world. But homage paid to the Guru was made impersonal by creating a mystic unity between the Sikh and the Guru on the one hand and the Guru and the Word on the other (Asa di Var, vi, i). Greatest respect began to be paid to the incorporated. Word even the Guru choosing for himself a seat lower than that of the Scripture. The only form of worship was the meditation on and the singing of the Word. The Sikh assemblies also acquired great sanctity, owing to the belief that the spirit of the Guru lived and moved among them. They began to assume higher and higher authority Until collectively the whole body, called the Panth came to be regarded as an embodiment of the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh himself received baptism from the Sikhs initiate by himself. After him the Sikh ceased to have any personal Guru. If we read the Sikh history aright the Sikh community would appear as an organized unit to have undergone a course of discipline in the hands of ten Gurus, until its character was fully developed and the Guru merged his personality in the body of the nation thus reared. The Guru, as mentioned above, worked with two things; the personal Association and the Word. Now after the death of Guru Gobind Singh the personality and the Word were separated. The Panth as invested with the.

Amrit or baptism was made the basis of this organization. There was no room left for wavering on the border-line, All who wanted to serve humanity through Sikhism must join it seriously, as regular members; and receive its baptism as the initial step. All must have the same creed, which should be well defined and should not be confused with the beliefs and practices of the neighboring religions.
FROM AND CEREMONIES
The institution of the Khalsa entails a certain additional disciplinary outfit in the shape of baptismal forms and vows, which are often misunderstood. It is true that if religion were only a matter of individual concern there would be no need of forms and ceremonies.

But religion as taught by the Gurus, is a force that not only ennobles individuals but also binds them together to work for nobility in the world Organization is a means of enlarging the possibility, scope and effectiveness of this work. In order that an organization itself may work effectively, it is necessary that the individuals concerned in it should be able to keep up their attachment to the cause and a sufficient amount of enthusiasm for it, it is, however, a patent fact that men by their nature are so constituted that they cannot keep their feelings equally high strung for a long time at a stretch. Reaction is inevitable unless some means are devised to ensure the continuity of exertion. This is where discipline comes in, which keeps up the spirit of individual against relaxation in times of trail and maintains their loyalty to the cause even in moment of ebb. This discipline, or what is called esprit de corps is secured by such devices as flags and drills and uniforms in armies and certain form and ceremonies in religion. Uniformity is an essential part of them. They create the necessary enthusiasm by appealing to imagination and sentiment, and work for it in moments of depression. They are a real aid to religion, which is essentially a thing of sentiment. Man would not nee them if he were only a bundle of intellectual and moral senses; but as he has also got sentiment and imagination, without which the former qualities would be inoperative, he cannot do without articulating his ideas and beliefs in some forms appropriate to sentiment.

These forms must not be dead but a living index of his ideal, waking up in his vivid intimation of the personality that governs his religion. They should be related to his inner belief as words are to their meaning, tears to grief, smiles to happiness and a tune to a song. It is true that sometimes words become meaningless, when we no longer heed their sense, or the language to which they belong becomes dead. It is true that sometimes tears and smiles are only cloaks for hypocrisy; and a tune mere meaningless jingle. But there is no denying the fact that when their inner meaning is real and we are sincere about it, they do serve as very helpful interprets. Forms are the art of religion like art on Nature, these forms impose certain limitations on the ideal, but at the same time they make the ideal more real and workable for general use.

From the history of Sikhs in the past as well as in the present, it is quite evident how effectively these baptism forms, with the accompanying vows of purity, love and service, have aided them in keeping themselves united and their ideals unsullied even in times of greatest trial. While keeping the Sikhs associated with their Guru and maintaining his spirit amongest them they have not produced any narrowing effect on their beriefs or modes of worship. All worship and ceremoney whether in temple or home whether on birth, marriage or death consists or nothing else but praying and chanting hymns. Could anything be simple?
"The Sikh Religion" is written by Sr. Teja Singh and Published by SGPC, Amritsar, India.

Above chapters are just synopsis of his book, to get this book in paper form you may write to the publisher or ask us for a free copy.
 

 
 
 
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