Just a few days ago, one evening my son suggested that we should go to the park just opposite my house to play basketball. My son and I were using one side of the court and on the other side, a lady was playing with her two children. As we got closer, she approached me rather inquisitively, about my faith and why I was wearing a saffron turban. I replied by saying that I am a practicing Sikh and my faith is Sikhism. She was curious and also remarked that she has not heard of this religion and she assumed that it is passive religion. She is from Macedonia and has emigrated to UK to be domiciled here and she has not seen in her entire life people with such unique appearance who stands out; she started asking me about the faith. The first thing that came into my mind was the 3 pillars of Sikhism- nam japna, vand keh chakna and kirat karni.
She listened with great interest and she asked for more information. I also encouraged her to visit a local Gurdwara for her to gain more insight into the principles and practices of Sikhism. Whilst talking, her daughter was clinging on to her and she butted in and asked her mother what their faith was. She retorted by saying that they are Orthodox Christian and she persevered further to ask more questions. As the night was drawing closer, I finally said that she should go on the Sikhnet to get the real feeling of what is like to be a True Sikh.
On my return home, it dawned upon me that I should produce a little leaflet for distribution and I decided to write on the Sikh faith, three pillars of Sikhism and its practices for others to grasp it. She is not the first one and it is not going to the last time so I thought it would be good to make others aware of the faith. My aspiration is to see that this wonderful faith is there to grow and grow fast for others to embrace, as many have so embarked on the path of Sikhi.
The three pillars or the triple principle underlying Sikh ethics and way of life is naam japna, kirat karni and vand chhakana (i.e. to repeat the God Name, to be ready to engage in the labour of one’s hands and to be willing to share with others their victuals.) This was formalized by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and he directly had the Sikhs to practice simran and naam japna- meditate on God and reciting God’s name or shabad: Ik Oankar, Satnam or Vahiguru are just a few examples.” He also asked the Sikhs to live as householders and practice kirat karni (to honestly earn by own sweat and maintaining high spiritual moral values and spirituality. Kirat is central to the Sikh concept of sewa or self-abnegating (self-sacrifice) deeds of service. It also involves setting apart of the obligatory one tenth of one’s earning for communal purposes (dasvandh). Vand chhakana is to share and consume together. The whole ethos is to share their acquisition within their community and such humble gestures are observed at the Gurdwaras or are demonstrated by their hospitality at home. I had to get this message across to her in a snapshot and for this to be noticeable, she should visit a Gurdwara or perhaps, a Sikh camp for her to learn from the well- motivated young Sikhs who will give her the inspiring aspects of Sikhism in a nutshell. I tried and when I do see her again, I will ask her whether she did go on the website to check out about Sikhism. She promised me that she will and the rest is in the hands of God.
Just to give the readers an analogy, that a bird needs both her wings to give her that fine balance, poise and glide through the air with great ease and composure and similarly, simran and sewa goes hand in hand for the individual to achieve that focus, equipoise and balance in life to achieve that inner bliss. Likewise, they are independent and without, one wing, the bird will flutter and go no further. Simran refers to the remembrance of God by repetition recital of the Name or mantra, which is taken from the Sri Granth Sahib Ji (SGGS). The word derives from Sanskrit meaning Remembrance and also translated as “meditation” SGGS 202 which says: Meditating, mediating, meditating remember, I have found peace (Simrau simir simir such paavau. Kal kales tan mah mitaavau. (I contemplate God, and by contemplation obtain true happiness: Thereby I efface the evil and sufferings of my body). Simran also means to die over such that you kill your ego to achieve union with the infinite reality. To achieve a higher spiritual state, one has to undergo the discipline of Naam simran i.e. constant awareness of thy True Name (Satnam)
The notion of naam simran involves focusing/ or concentrating one-pointedness on the Truth and must be practiced in a divine congregation (Satsang) to utter the name or sing to the hymns of praise of Lord Truth. It involves deep contemplation of Akal Purukh and this is believed to cleanse the mind where in True Ideas by the Grace of Lord Truth descends down upon them. Sewa or seva or kar seva refers to selfless service performed without any thought of reward or personal benefit. This is clearly exemplified by the sewadars and the devotion and commitment is beyond anyone’s imagination or belief. They are all out to do full sewa and will go out of their way to do so and it is done with willingness, love and a beautiful smile to serve. I have seen it and others have vouched upon it. With sewa comes humility and SGGS 286 highlights the importance of selfless sewa: “One who performs selfless service, without the thought of reward, shall attain his Lord/Master.” SGGS 110: “Centre your awareness on sewa and focus your consciousness on the Word of the Shabad.” In order to achieve salvation, SGGS 176: “Do sewa, follow the Guru’s Teaching, and vibrate the Lord’s name, Har Har”. Sewa is imperative for spiritual life. Bhai Gurdas Ji, Varan 27.1 “Cursed are the hands and feet that do not engage in sewa.” It is rendered through physical means (Taan), mental aspects (maan) and finally through material sources (dhan). According to Sikh Scriptures, true sewa must be without desire (nishkam), guileless (nishkapdt), in humility (nimrata), with purity of intention (hirda suddh), with sincerity (Chit lae) and in utter selflessness (Vichon ap gavaae). Such sewa for the Sikhs is the doorway to dignity as well as to mukti (liberation). “If one earns merit have through sewa, one will get a sect of honour in his Court hereafter.” SGGS 26.
In order to lay a fertile ground for naam simran and naam japno, the fire evils or five thieves (pancadokh or panj vicar) need to be overcomed to pave the way through. It is not easy and one needs his blessing to enable us to have some control over lust, rage/ anger, greed, emotional attachment and arrogance. These are the five major weaknesses of the human personality, a variance with its spiritual essence. These evils are a cause of distraction in individual’s pursuit of the moral and spiritual path. Kam (lust), krodh (rage), lobh (greed), moh (emotional attachment) and ahankar (ego). The word evil represents in Gurmukhi as pap (sin). Dokh (Defect) or kilbikh (defilement). “Within this body dwells therefore thieves: sexual desire, anger, greed, emotional attachment and egotism.” They literally plunder the Nectar, but the self- willed manmukh does not realize it; not one hears his complaint. The world is blind and its dealings are blind as well; without the Guru there is only pitch darkness.” SGGS 600. There will be no headway to God realization without discarding the cardinal evils.
Kabir Ji says, “He alone cherishes the Lord’s feet who is rid of desire, wrath, greed and attachment (Kamu krodhu lobhu mohu bibarjit haripadu chinai soi) SGGS 1123. Constant awareness of God (Simran on your lips or in mind) is the panacea for all ills or maladies and the devotees or followers should make the effort to take refuge in the congregation or sangat. Devotion to eradicate the evils in an instant and purifies the body-SGGS 245.
On the positive aspects, to eradicate the five evils, one need to inculcate the five virtues, that are sat (truth), santokh (contentment), daya (compassion), nimrata (humility) and pyaar (love). The final goal for anyone in life is to re-unite or merge with God (mukti) as I previously mentioned. This is achieved by developing positive human qualities, which brings the soul closer to God. It is all about bhakti (attachment or fervent devotion to God) and the first knowledge of the true nature of God as both nirguna (ineffable, abstract principles) and sarguna (Manifest, with attributes, knowable) and this only comes through an understanding and staunch faith of the Guru’s word. The love of God is achieved by developing compassion for all God’s creation. (Jin Prem kiyo tin hi prabh paayeo-Benti Chaupeyee-Patshaahi 10)
The Truth (Sat) – is one of the most important virtues during their life is that of Truth. God is Truth and by trying to practice Truth in a truthful life and this is in accordance with God’s Will. (Hukam rajaaee chalna Nanak likhia naal). It is about acting jointly towards others, treating everyone as equal and avoiding criticizing others are all facets of truthful living for the not only Sikhs but others. Such virtues have been around early as civilization started and it is all conscience that will prick on the individual, when such virtues are not part of the society. Sikhs must work toward God-like qualities, they have in order to Truly Love God.” Daya (compassion) is the divine quality and is a virtue of mind and are classified into those of the body. Firstly, dana (charity), paritrana (aid to those in distress) and paricharana (social services); secondly, those of speech-satya (veracity), hitorachana (beneficial speech), priyarachana (sweet speech) and svadhyaya (reciting of the Scriptures) and thirdly those of the mind which besides daya, also include a parigraha (unworldiness), and worldliness sraddha (reverence and piety). In Sikhism, daya is a basic moral requirement, a moral vow. “Keep your heart content and cherish compassion for all beings; this way alone your holy vow be fulfilled.” SGGS 299.
Contentment (santokh) leads to freedom from care, fear and worry. Living truthfully, trying to remain content and acting selflessly are very difficult attitude to develop, but it is worth effort to train one’s mind to think and act virtuously (Sat Santokh veechar—Truth, contentment and spiritual wisdom-Mundhavani Mahalla 5). “The life of the spirit is not adhered in one step. The Path to Reality cannot be traveled in a short time. For the journey is quite a long one. But sooner or later, everyone has to travel through and face death with no fear. Humility (nimrata) is a virtue strongly promoted by SGGS, and very important human quality that needs to be an integral of one’s mind-set; it involves a rather difficult, wiping out one’s ego or egotism exercise. Love or pyaar is a positive and powerful tool, when one’s mind is full of love, the person will overlook deficiencies in others and accept them wholeheartedly as a product of God. SGGS also informs us that Akal Purukh is a Loving God, full of compassion and kindness. It is the duty of the Sikh to take on such qualities of this nature, to easily forgive, to never hate anyone, to love in his Hukam (God’s Will as ordained by the Almighty) and to practice compassion and humility. “My mind is imbued with the Lord’s Love; it is dyed in deep crimson. Truth and charity are my white clothes.” SGGS 16. “One’s mind has to be immersed in Love of the Lord at times to comply. Join the satsangat, the True congregation and seek the Lord. The Gurmukh (someone who has become God-oriented instead of the self-centred-manmukh) embraces love for the Lord.” SGGS 22. “Attuned to the Love of the One, there is no sorrow or suffering.” SGGS 45. “When one loves the Lord, all their sorrows and sufferings are removed.”
Sikhism is about Love and was found 500 years ago by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The principles of evil and virtues were ever present well before its inception. There are over 26 million Sikhs worldwide and is the fifth largest growing religion as others are embracing it as they seek bliss through meditative means and focus. This came a surprise to the Macedonian lady has she has not heard of and I tend to agree that some books on religion miss out the most important chapter on Sikhism. It preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind. It is all open to all through the teachings of the 10 Masters or Guru, an embodiment of One Jot enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and the Living Guru, SGGS. As with most religion, there are sects or groups of Sikhs and as Guru Gobind Singh Ji propagated that one has to recognize mankind as one and I see no difference as, the final aim is to connect the soul to Akal Purukh. Many Sikhs can be easily recognized by their turbans, beard or steel bracelets on the right wrists and with the creation of the Khalsa Panth, the initiated ones wear the Five K’s which are kara, kesh, kangha, kacchera and kirpan. The lady has promised to knock on my door and I have nothing more to say but to tell her the good qualities and the virtues the religion advocates. The hospitality and sewa will be there for the family.