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Sikh Message of Universality at Parliament of World’s Religions

This paper was read at the virtual session of the Parliament of world’s Religions on 17 Oct 2021......

Editor's Note: This paper was read at the virtual session of the Parliament of world’s Religions on 17 Oct 2021.

We are all created by One Almighty Creator of us all. He is our father and we are all His children. All humanity is one family. The Creator has provided everything we need, and it is our duty to obey His commands on role allotted in life as humans.

This is the core message of Guru Granth Sahib, the scripture of the Sikh faith.

The Creator has created the universe of cosmic bodies and creatures after thorough planning and assigned roles to them.

He created the air, water and heat energy needed for life to exist. He also created days/nights, seasons, lunar cycles and days of the week to guide activities of the creatures.

Crops, vegetables and fruits grow based on seasons for round the year supply. The system of rains irrigates the soil. The Creator created the means of subsistence before creating the creatures.

Examples of this are, the mother has milk ready when the baby arrives, creatures born under the rocks and in water get their sustenance there.

The male and female reproductive systems match perfectly for pleasure and procreation. The system of formation and growth of the fetus, birth of the baby, growth through childhood, youth to old age, culminating in death has been established. Nobody can change these.

God decides the moments of births and deaths. Medical help fails when the end comes.

As may be seen, this is one total integrated perfectly designed system.

The scientists challenge the concept of this Intelligent Design, which is also called Creationism. They quote Darwin's theory of Evolution and the Big Bang theory for this. However, such a large number of inter-dependent complex subsystems could not have come into being, and also integrated into the whole system by evolution or by an explosion as envisaged in the Big Bang theory. It is Creator’s creation as such.

This answers the question whether God exists. Now, is God personal or impersonal, and who created God?

No person could have pre-existed to design this system, because none could have existed without all that has been described above. So, the Creator is not personal, i.e. does not have attributes of a person who is subject to laws of nature. The Creator the Formless Spirit who is Self-created and Self-existent. The Spirit is the source of laws of nature, which keep the entire system in harmony.

The Creator gives three things to every human being.

  1. The body of complex systems and organs by which to observe, think and act.
  2. The soul to give life to the body and control its actions. The body dies when the Creator pulls it back and no one can stop or reverse that.
  3. Lastly, Spiritual Consciousness, which guides the soul on the role in life and basic duties connected with it, from within. This is present in everyone's conscience.

However, human ego and obsession with wealth, pleasures, relationships, and rivalries cause the human to become oblivious of the Spiritual Consciousness and indulge in wrongdoings.

This is where religion comes in. Preceptors of all religions taught how to conform to God’s commands, avoid wrongdoings to live in peace and amity.

Unfortunately, the preceptors left no record of their teachings. Their followers and the clergy, who wrote the scriptures later, presented their respective religions and the preceptor as the greatest and created rivalries. They also attached the religions to locations. They also found fault and tried to convert people to their faiths. This has had a devastating effect.

It led to not only inter-religion conflicts and bloodshed, but also intra-religion conflicts and divisions resulting in internecine hate and killings.

The clergy also introduced rituals and made themselves important. God did not direct to offer flowers, light lamps, burn incense or make offerings of animals and birds for His pleasure. These are human-made.

Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikh faith saw the situation, and cried.

O God, what has happened to the world. There is no one to guide and no real friend. Relationships between brethren have broken. Righteousness has lost to jealousy and greed. Ego has made people oblivious of God's message.

Guru Nanak took on the mission to do something about it. He set out to study the issues and travelled for nearly 24 years meeting leaders of all religions in India, in the Himalayas, China and the Middle East including Makkah, the seat of Islam.

After discussions and reflection, he came to this conclusion.

People have forgotten that life is short and death is inevitable. They do not obey the Creator and transgress from the path of truth. The places of worship from where people could get guidance have become corrupt and humanity is stuck - in the quagmire of ego, rivalries, attachment, greed and intolerance.

Nine Gurus followed Guru Nanak, the founder. They lived amongst the people and guided them for nearly 240 years. Guru Granth Sahib is the record of their discourses and covers most of real life issues, both spiritual and secular. The contents were written and authenticated by the gurus themselves and these have been preserved.

It has other unique features. It glorifies God, institution of the guru and the seekers, and no personality. It is not the life story of any personality.

It contains verses of Sikh gurus as also of saints and bards of Hindu and Muslim faiths. This shows respect for all religions. It also shows that there is no conflict between basic belief in One God, ethics and equality of humans.

A significant feature is that it asks everyone to follow the essence of his or her religion. There is no proselytization.

The gurus and saints display humility and ask to refrain from self-praise.

It recognizes the deviation of the clergy from teachings of the preceptors and exploiting gullible devotees for their own benefit. The Sikh religion has no priestly class.

The Granth rejects dogmas, rituals, superstitions. The focus is only on conformance to diktats of the Divine message conveyed by the spiritual consciousness within.

The Granth opens with the statement.

There is One singular Creator, whose writ runs universally, has no fear, neither shows favor nor bears animus to anyone. Is timeless and does not have physical form. Is self-created and self-existent.

Contents of the Granth are called Gurbani, the Guru’s word.

Prayer is part of religious practice. We hear people asking, "has your prayer been answered?"  This shows two things. Firstly, as if prayer is meant to get benefits from God. Secondly, there are doubts about God’s benevolence. Gurbani says.

O Almighty, asking for anything but You is inviting misery. I ask for things for which I crave, but a craving mind is never satisfied. Please grant me the sense to do things the right way diligently and be satisfied with that.

How everything happens has been determined. For example, one must conform to health rules for good health, study hard for examination, do one’s job well for promotion and so on. Prayer cannot replace these efforts.

For this purpose, the Granth has selected compositions in the beginning for daily study and reflection in early morning, evening and before going to bed. This is called Nitnem or daily practice. It is for guidance during the day and reminder that every passing day reduces the available lifespan to carry out the task allotted by the Creator. This is how this practice helps.

  1. It keeps the mind alert against temptations and wrongdoings, and aware of Divine commands.
  2. The maxim early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise accords with this.
  3. It breaks with material activities to find time for reflection.
  4. It inculcates the habit of leading an organized life.
  5. There is something to look forward to throughout the day even after retirement. This helps to prevent problems like depression, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Guidance for a holistic life.

Here are extracts from Guru Granth Sahib for a holistic life.

The most sublime religious practice is to remember God’s commands and lead a clean life.

There is none high, medium or low in humanity; we are all created by the One Creator and live in Divine sanctuary.

Let us remember and perform our duties as human beings, which alone can make life productive and keep us in peace. We should give up the vice of ego, which causes grief by causing separation from one another, and from God.

Personal conduct

  1. Work to earn honestly to make a living to support the family.
  2. Work hard to earn and enjoy pleasures offered by human birth and share with the needy.
  3. Enjoy, but do not become a slave to accumulation of, wealth, status, pleasures and relationships. Remember, life is short and all these will be left behind on death. Be conscious of Divine commands in thought, word and deed.
  4. Practice what you preach.

      5. Shed evil from your own mind, and you will see the whole world friendly.

  1. You reap what you sow. Do not blame others for your woes.

     7.Do  not indulge in slander and backbiting.

  1. Do not appropriate what belongs to others.
  2. Adversity can strike at anytime. Ever be prepared for the unthinkable.
  3. Neither intimidate anyone nor let anyone intimidate you. Be prepared to act in self-defense.

Family Life

  1. Marriage between man and woman is a step on the path of spiritually. It promotes a disciplined life and inhibits transgressions.
  2. Husband and wife should become two bodies with one spirit. This makes for a lasting happy married life.
  3. Mating outside marriage is like sleeping with a snake. It is poisonous.
  4. How can the spouses bind each other in love? By sincerity, meekness, forgiveness and sweet words.

Interpersonal Relations

A person who considers some as friends and others enemies, cannot be at peace

When a garment is stained with blood, it is considered dirty; so the mind of those who drink human blood cannot be pure. Do not exploit the vulnerable.

One becomes pious not by garbs or other symbols but by deeds. Give up pretensions and hypocrisy.

Those who love from the heart are truthful. Those have one thing in mind and say another are false.

Do not be calculating in love.

Social issues

  1. Do not ask for caste or class of anyone. Identify Divine Light in everyone.
  2. We are born of a woman, a man seek a woman for marriage. Generations continue because of man and woman together. Man and woman have equal status.
  3. All humanity is creation of One God. There is none high or low.
  4. Never show vanity. Those who are proud without merit are real asses.
  5. Humility with firmness is a strong weapon against evil.
  6. Exploitation of the vulnerable is like drinking human blood.

Perspective on war and peace

A warrior is one who fights for a cause and for the weak.

Do not identify with power blocks or groups.

Plan for safety but do not be afraid of death. The time of death is in God’s hands.

Conclusion

This is practical spirituality. There are no dogmas, worships, rituals or superstitions. This kills the dichotomy of two separate lives - one religious and the other secular - of the same person. Remember God and be a better person. This way one attains the state of;

A cool chest, i.e. freedom from craving and jealousy. And also a calm mind.

Mind and body blossom

God planned this paradise for the creatures. Let us not waste the opportunity by engaging in purposeless pursuits.

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