The Sikh Way of Life – Universal welfare, Service, and Sacrifice.

Article of the Month - Oct 2021

This article by Manisha Sarade

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Nanak is often referred to as Guru or Baba, one meaning great teacher, the other old man. He was born in 1469 and died in 1539.He is the founder of a religion known as Sikhism. A Sikh is one who professes the faith that has its foundation in Nanak’s teachings, and which was subsequently built upon by nine successive Gurus. The last human Guru, Gobind Singh, transferred the Guruship to the Adi Granth a collection of hymns from Nanak, the 2nd-5th, and 9th Gurus, two Sufis, and 28 Hindu Bhakti poets. Before he died Gobind Singh installed the Book as Guru, through sanctification it took on the name Guru Granth Sahib. The foundation of the faith is the 974 poetic hymns written by Nanak. These poems were passed to the second Guru, Angad, in the form of a poti (book).

The only writing Nanak left us are his 974 hymns. No expositions, no prose, nor even anything that could be considered a note about his life; there is nothing from Nanak but the poems. Nanak’s poetic hymns are the basis of the Sikh faith. Some like Japji, the central hymn of the tradition, are recited daily in solitude before sunrise. Others are sung aloud in gurdwaras (Sikh temples), with many in the congregation singing along. These poetic hymns are meditated on by individual practitioners. Granthis, ceremonial readers of the Guru Granth Sahib, provide congregations with exegesis and sermons. We should be aware that Granthis do not act as intermediaries between the One and lay people, they are not priest. In Sikhism everyone has equal accesses to the One for It lays within each of our beings.

Guru Manyo Granth: Dedicated To 300 years of Guru Gaddi Diwas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Vol. 1) (Audio CD)

Nanak’s thought is important to engage with because he offers us a valuable lesson, one that remains underappreciated. It is an emphasis on God’s immanence; this focus is central to and informs the rest of Nanak’s thought. Even though he’s aware of God’s transcendence Nanak recognizes that we will remain forever woefully ignorant of that state. God in transcendence remains a complete mystery that will never be grasped, except perhaps in death.

The Sikh Way of Life – Core Values

Sikhism has numerous precepts in the Sikh Holy Granth, Guru Granth Sahib which is a rich source of ethical and moral guidance to individuals. Thus, Sikh teachings stress that spiritually inspired morals and ethics must triumph over social, economic and political matters. It is therefore that Sikhism can be described as a ‘Way of Life’ that provides us a clear vision of the Ultimate Reality of our goal. Keeping in view the Sikh value system Guru’s ideal society would consist of honest and hardworking human beings, spiritual and secular, without any discrimination. It emphasises on inculcating the spirit of universal welfare. In the then prevailing socio-religious setup there was an urgency of creating a new ideal society.

दस गुरु (जीवन चरित्र और उपदेश): Ten Sikh Guru (His Life and Discourses)
‘Naam Japo, Kirat Karo and Wand Chhako’ are the core values of Sikhism.

Sikh thought provides a simple but most dignified synthesis of spiritual and temporal life through Naam Japna, Kirat Karna, Wand Chhakna and other values and virtues.

Jaap Sahib: 24 hours (Set of 2 Mp3 CDs) - In Punjabi

Guru Nanak envisioned the three Pillars in the form of values of Sikhism as:

1. Meditation on God – Naam Japna and practise Simran that is reciting and chanting of God‘s Name. The Sikh is to recite the regular prayers daily in remembrance of the grace and blessing of the Almighty.

2. Sikhs to live as householders and practise Kirat Karna: to honestly earn by one's physical and mental effort, while accepting God's gifts and blessing.

3. Share their wealth within the community by practising Wand Chhakna―Share and Consume together. Every Sikh has to give in whatever way possible to the community. This spirit of Giving is an important message from Guru Nanak.

Naam (Divine Name) and Naam Japna:

The word Naam has a distinct and significant meaning and is quite different from merely a Name. Its definition can be traced through the Sikh scriptures.

a. Naam (Divine Name) and God are synonymous. Naam is just another aspect of the Almighty, still Formless. Naam is the total expression of all that God is. Naam sustains everything:

b. Naam is not expressed as mere noun and it does not mean that there is a special name of God and by enchanting of which, one will meet Him. He is Infinite and can be called with infinite names

c. God may be called by countless names by the devotees, but the first and the foremost is clearly defined in the prime revelation of Japaji as 'Sat' Naam i.e. Eternal Truth which shows the ever-existence of God:

d. The word Naam is a mystic Word used in practical religious life and in discipline of meditation. God is remembered by His attributive names.


Nanak Naam Charhdi Kala (Audio CD)

There is another aspect of it called true Name which emanates from a prophet's personal experience. It emerges from a vision that the Prophet has of the Divine Being. Such a mystic Word in Sikh religion is called 'Waheguru' or Wonderful God or 'Thou art Wonderful'. True Name is not the word by which we describe an object, but the total power, quality and character of Reality. Through the word 'Waheguru' the prophet has tried to sum up mystic power and experience of His presence all around. Prophets have given us Divine Names of the nameless God, which reflect His presence in our consciousness. Contemplation or meditation on true Name (Waheguru) is called practicing the presence of God in one's conscious. The Naam, therefore, is a qualitative connotation and covers all the essential attributes of truth.

e. Gurbani (Divine Word) itself is Naam: "Gurmukh bani nam hai, nam ridai vasaie." (Sarang ki Var-pauri)

The term 'Naam Japo' means to remember God and to invoke His presence in one's conscious. All modes of meditation take the devotee into the presence of God, but according to Gurbani, Hari Kirtan, the musical recitation of Gurbani, is the super form of meditation.

"Har kirat utam Nam hai vich kaljug karni sar." (Kanre ki Var Mohalla 4)

The Guru explains that the recitation of the word 'Har Har..' is Naam Japna:

"Har har har har nam hai gurmukh pavai koei."

Salvation cannot be attained without Naam. In other words, anything that delivers

salvation is Naam. Since Gurbani delivers salvation, therefore, Gurbani is Naam:

"Sachi bani mithi amritdhar Jinh piti tis mokhdwar."

It is therefore, very clear and evident that any form of recitation of Gurbani, may be simple reading with attention and devotion or meditation on any Sabad of Gurbani or Kirtan of Gurbani, is fully deemed as Naam Japna (meditation on Naam).

Keertan - Gurbani (Audio CD)

It is, therefore, Naam that ultimately leads a person to Eternal Bliss. For realization of God, one must come in contact with Naam, but without Guru one cannot attain Nam and remain in darkness. This value of Naam Japo is embodied in the Sikh scriptures in such a way that human beings are able to win over mainly five evils of one’s mind i.e ego, greed, attachment, anger and lust that ultimately brings peace and tranquillity.

Realisation of the One Being

Nanak has an important message. We are in fact one being, we lose sight of this fact because our senses are limited. It is the job of our ego to keep our individual self-alive. People forget that everyone’s life comes to an end this leads us, human beings, into the task of preserving the self at the cost of any being that is not the self. The cost that is accrued to everything that is not the self is the denial that those beings are selfs. This causes us to view subjective beings as objective things, this is process of objectification. Nanak makes us realize why objectification, reducing a thing to an object is wrong. It is because each thing we observe is actually a subject and this is so because of G-d’s presence within it. Nanak is often praised for his humanism but this is limited, Nanak is not just interested in human beings. Nanak’s “humanism” in fact extends to every being within Creation. Although there is an anthropocentrism in Nanak’s thought when we consider his views on reincarnation and the human body being the most precious form, his message is one of compassion and love for all beings.

Ek Onkar (Audio CD)

The connection between Sufism and Sikhism

The relationship between Sufism and Sikhism dates back to the time of Guru Nanak, who led a modest life of profound, spiritual devotion, focussed on building bridges of love, tolerance, co-existence, and harmony among peoples of diverse faiths and socio-economic status. He was so immersed in piety and teaching his disciples to live spiritually, honestly, and harmoniously that many of his Muslim contemporaries, especially Sufis, called him a true Muslim. Guru Nanak travelled extensively — including to Mecca for the Haj, different provinces of Afghanistan, and Baghdad — in search of divine knowledge and mystic scholarship. This exposed him much more to Islam and its mystic schools of thought than to any other religion. And, of course, for 64 long years, one of Guru Nanak’s closest companions was Mardanda, who remained a Muslim until he died. According to the custodian of the shrine of Miyan Mir in Lahore, Mardana’s descendants still live there, and refer to themselves as Sikh-Muslims.

Guru Nanak Dev’s Japji Sahib: Discourses by Swami Swaroopananda (Set of 4 MP3 CDs)

Guru Nanak left behind many Hindu and Muslim disciples, and each claimed him as theirs for he had lived with them so harmoniously and treated them so equally, so respectfully and so sincerely that neither side was willing to give up his body to the other. Today, the shrine of Guru Nanak is visited not only by Sikhs but also by Hindus and Muslims, each seeking his blessings in their own ways. It was in such a mutually reinforcing spiritual relationship, which had been evolving between Sufism and Sikhism, that Guru Arjan Dev invited Miyan Mir, a leading Sufi of his time and Pir of the Sufism’s Qaderi Order, to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Indeed, the commonality of the values and principles, which the Gurus and Sufis had been teaching their followers, was so deep with a focus on humanism that the Guru Granth (the central religious text of Sikhism) includes 112 couplets and four hymns by Khwaja Fariduddin Ganjshakar, a prominent Sufi of the Chishti Order, who lived in Punjab during 1266 A.D. This signifies the deep relationship between Sufism and Sikhism, and the influence they had on each other.

Sufism (Beyond Religion)


Sikh thought signifies a simple but most dignified synthesis of spiritual and temporal life through the value system. It attains universal salvation and leads the whole human society towards a higher moral life. Exercising the values and virtues in a normal domestic life is to be considered as the fountain head of moral values. Such a life recommends a practical path and a way to overcome physical and mental stress. Guru Granth Sahib is the living embodiment of the ten gurus that guides an individual towards simple living heading towards humanity. In the present world life is influenced by the materialistic attractions and in the race of acquiring them the path adopted by the people ends at stress and frustration without any ethics attached to it. Values can help an individual to put an end to egoism, pain and frustration. Thus, the value system embodied in the religion helps an individual in understanding of laws of righteousness leading to realization and development of a good character. Such a human character becomes a contributory factor in salvation for others. Keeping in view the Sikh Value System, Guru’s ideal society would be a society of honest and hardworking humans, spiritual and secular, excluding all superstitions and distinction of caste, colour, class, race, religion and nationality. It would include ceaseless and unconditional value to guide their activities both individually and collectively, with transparent and peacekeeping spirit of universal welfare, service and sacrifice.

50 Glorious Years of Recorded Shabads: Shabad Gurbani by Famous Ragis & Artistes (set of Five Audio CDs)
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