I begin this discussion with a line from Gurbani. JE SAU CHANDA UGWAI SOORAJ CHARAI HAZAR ETE CHANAN HUNDIA GUR BIN GOR ANDHAR (SGGS page 463) meaning thousands of suns and moons can light up the whole world but the darkness of ignorance and ego can only be dispelled through divine wisdom, divine knowledge and divine intellect. Guru Nanak (1469-1539) said that the universe cannot be imagined without God, the universal life energy, the eternal truth. Without the spiritual path, human life has no meaning. Nanak says AKHAN JIWAN VISRE MAR JAO (SGGS page9) meaning when I am separated from truth, the source of life, and I am ego centered, I face spiritual death, stress, anxiety and worries. But when I am connected to the Source through divine wisdom and knowledge, I enjoy inner peace, happiness and bliss in life. The implication of this in the 21st century is that although modern society has all the physical comforts that our forefathers could never dream of, we experience more stress, depression, anxieties and mental health problems. In order to enjoy inner peace and happiness in daily life we as humans need to rise above our identification with mind and body.
The concept of God I believe is the most critical and misunderstood theology for thousands of years by the human race. An incorrect, illogical and unviable concept of God has led humanity on the path of divisions, disharmony, violence and killing of millions in the name of God. Although in the past many enlightened visionaries have preached a concept of God based on reason, logic and relevance to human living, they were not able to change centuries old religious beliefs. It is in this context I now discuss concept of GOD IN GURBANI (NANAKIAN PHILOSOPHY).
In this article I discuss God and Religion in the same context because all religious beliefs flow from the concept of God. The most important question humanity needs answered in modern times is what is the meaning and relevance of God or religion in our daily life? God today is not a word of inspiration but a word of delusion. Nanak says SARAB DHARAM MAI SAREST DHARAM HARKO NAAM JAP NIRMAL KARAM (SGGS page 266) meaning true religion is the journey of truthful living. Religion is spiritual guiding principles that teach us how to be good human beings and realize the purpose and meaning of life. It is about realizing who am I, my authentic self. It is about transformation of my consciousness, my thoughts and behavior. It is about being compassionate, kind, tolerant, loving, caring and harmonious. It is about brotherhood of mankind and world peace. Worship of God is not about fixing the outer world, craving for material things, power, or status. It is all about fixing the inner world.
In the modern world our ignorance and lack of understanding of the concept of GOD, and our identification with ego has led us to become slaves to the material world, physical comforts, attachment to form. Nanak says JAO MANGEH TAU MANGE BIAA (SGGS page 258) meaning as society we are craving for more and more material comforts with little efforts to realizing the purpose of life and learning how to be good human beings. Nanak says JA TE KUSAL NA KAHOO THEEA (SGGS page 258) meaning material objects, power and status have never been a lasting source of inner peace and happiness. It is not that society does not need success in the physical world, but it should not be the priority of life. Nanak says MANGAN MANG TA EKE MANG (SGGS page 258) meaning priority of our life should be spiritual awakening, rising above the attachment to form.
Contrary to the true role of religion in guiding humanity on the path of truthful living and realizing the purpose of life, organized religion has failed to serve humanity on the spiritual path. Unfortunately, majority feel that religion has done more harm than good. Millions of men, women and children have been killed in the name of God. In the world today there are more divisions than ever before. Many questions the very existence of God.
The face of organized religion today is such that what is being preached at the places of worship are worthless rituals, meaningless religious practices and mythical stories. Congregations are taught to worship a SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL WHITE BEARDED HUMAN-LIKE GOD; a God that is omnipotent, answers every prayer, protects us from external dangers, cures my cancer, gives victory in elections, gift of son, performs miracles by infusing life back into dead. Now in the 21st century scientific age humans find that SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY has failed to answer our prayers, cure cancers or perform miracles in violation of the laws of nature. People even question the very existence of such a God.
Nanak says EH MANN JAISA SAWAIH TESA HOWAIH TEHE KARAM KAMAI SGGS page755) meaning our belief systems and religious actions flow from our concept of God. When the belief is that God is external, we will seek salvation after death, look for meaning and purpose of life in the external DEITY. When we believe that God is within each one of us (Philosophy of Nanak) we realize salvation here and now.
Humanity is in the need of a new vision of religious truth. World society is seeking the truth, the spiritual path to inner peace and happiness. When I discuss concept of God in SIKHI all misconceptions are cleared to a new vision.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was a very intelligent, enlightened and visionary spiritual teacher. At a very young age he questioned worthless rituals and religious practices. He used logic and reason in his discussions. When he was nine years old, he refused to wear JANEOO (cotton thread Hindus wore around the neck), a hundred years old Brahmanical tradition. Wearing JANEOO meant a new spiritual birth in Hindu Society. He logically argued that how can wearing a thread made of cotton change my thoughts, my character and transform my consciousness. He argued why his sister, as a woman, is not allowed to wear JANEOO. Why such blatant discrimination in the name of religion? This was the time when unquestioned obedience was demanded by religious authorities. This was the time in India when a physical body was considered a Guru, not to be disobeyed. This was the time when those physical Gurus divided and exploited the masses. Under these circumstances Guru Nanak changed the face of religion when he proclaimed that my GOD, ALLAH, PARMESAR, BHAGWAN is not a SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL HUMAN LIKE DEITY but SHABAD, BANI. He preached GIAN DHIAN POORAN PARMESAR (SGGS page 108) meaning my God is divine wisdom, divine knowledge and divine intellect. SHABAD GURU SURAT DHUN CHELA (SGGS page 943) meaning my God is divine wisdom, divine knowledge and a teacher of my consciousness. My mind is focused on the SHABAD and comprehends it. In this context I am a disciple of SHABAD. The divine wisdom, divine knowledge has the transformational power over my consciousness. Understanding and internalising the divine wisdom is to realize God here and now. This was a complete shift from the concept of God that was external, outside humanity to God that was within each and every heart.
Nanak further preached GUNN NIDHAN GOBIND GUR KITA JA KA HOE (SGGS page 300) meaning my God, Allah, Parmesar is treasure of virtues. My Master is compassion, kindness, tolerance, contentment, love, equality and humility. GOBIND GUNNI NIDHAN HAI ANT NA PAEEA JAAI (SGGSpage32) meaning treasure of virtues is the real source of my inner peace, happiness and joy of life. Nanak further explained that I look for God in the midst of humanity. Nanak says MANN MERIA UNTAR TERE NIDHAN HAI ( SGGS page 569) meaning the treasure of divine wisdom, godly virtues is within every human heart. Religions of the past sought to find meaning and purpose in the external deity, which robbed people of experiencing the reality of God within. Nanak says I no longer look outward but begin to look inward. The path to God is internal not external. Nanak preached the true nature of every human being is basic goodness. This is who we are, our authentic self. Nanak says do not look outside for meaning and purpose of life, inner peace and happiness. This spiritual philosophy of Nanak gave humanity a new vision, a new meaning of religion. He taught humanity to not look upward, outside, to OOPERWALA for the meaning and purpose of life, inner peace, happiness, and bliss, but look within and realize God that dwells in your consciousness.
Nanak further proclaimed and preached, BALHARI KUDRAT WASIA (SGGS page 469) meaning my GOD, ALLAH, BHAGWAN is the embodiment of COSMIC LAWS, the unchangeable laws of nature. In in the spiritual philosophy of SGGS, Nanak discussed God and Nature in the same context. Nanak says God is pervading in the whole COSMOS in the form of COSMIC LAWS. SPINOZA (1632-1677) preached that if by God one means the set of unchangeable COSMIC LAWS that govern the universe then clearly there is God. Nanak says surrendering to the unchangeable COSMIC LAWS, living in the present, is to realize God here and now. I believe if understood properly this is the cardinal philosophy of truthful living that Nanak gave to the whole of humanity. Living in conflict of the COSMIC LAWS is the main cause of human pain and suffering. Unfortunately, majority of Sikh Scholars do not subscribe to this philosophy of Guru Nanak. They believe that God is the creator of COSMIC LAWS and that God is separate and above the COSMIC LAWS. They cannot get over the primitive belief system of God being a SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY that will solve all human problems. What has been told about God by organized religion in fact turned out to be a lie, a delusion. This belief is completely against the basic principles of SIKHI. In fact, this has been the biggest weakness of organized religion in its failure to give humanity a logical, reasoned and viable concept of God. For thousands of years humanity has been worshiping a SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY that failed to protect from external dangers, answer our prayers, cure our cancer, punish evil doers, or save young girl from being raped by human predators. Humans even today seek security and salvation in the EXTERNAL DEITY.
Guru Nanak teaches us that nothing in this universe ever happened and will happen in violation of COSMIC LAWS. No miracle has every happened or will ever happen in violation of the laws of nature. Nanak says HUKMAI UNDER SABH KO BAHAR HUKM NA KOE (SGGS page 1) meaning everything in this universe happens according to COSMIC LAWS. Nanak says therefore the secret to living in peace and happiness lies in surrendering to WILL OF GOD; modern spiritualists call this living in the present. This means accepting the situations as they arise in life and accepting that these situations occur based on the laws of nature. Resistance to the laws of nature leads to conflict and tension in one’s life. As a simple example, gravity is a law of nature. Everyone knows that if they were to jump off a tall structure, gravity would pull them to the ground and they’d likely be injured. Based on the understanding of the law of gravity and accepting what would happen in accordance with it, we refrain from jumping off tall structures as a way of protecting ourselves. As a more complex example, it is a law of nature that stress creates certain physical changes in the body that, if experienced consistently and over a prolonged period of time, may result in health problems such as heart disease, gastrointestinal problems or depression. If we accept this law of nature, we can understand why such a health problem may’ve arisen, rather than feeling that an external God is not favoring us. With the proper understanding of this law of nature that is operating within us, and a willingness to accept it, we empower ourselves to deal with the health problem once it arises, rather than feeling victimized, or we take the responsibility of addressing stress and managing it before it manifests into a health problem.
Humanity today is at a point where we need to walk through the organized religion to a new vision and reformed reality. Humanity is desperately searching for a spiritual path that leads to inner peace, happiness and bliss.
When as humanity we understand the spiritual philosophy of SGGS and concept of God in SIKHI we can begin with the following religious reformation.
CONCEPT OF ONENESS.
Guru Nanak was asked a pointed question by ascetics (Yogis), who is your GURU (God). Nanak gave an unambiguous answer. SHABAD GURU SURAT DHUN CHELA meaning God Is SHABAD, DIVINE WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, TRUTH and my mind is focused on SHABAD and comprehends it. In that sense I am a disciple of SHABAD (God). SHABAD is the enlightening idea, the spiritual philosophy. This answer I believe changed the face and meaning of religion. Nanak further explained that when there was nothing in the universe, no sun, moon, earth, planets, day or night, God, THE UNIVERSAL LIFE ENERGY existed itself. SUN SMADH LAGAENDA (SGGS page 1035) meaning one and only formless, infinite SHABAD, GOD existed. This explains the concept of EK OANKAR, the one and only universal life energy, essence of life, which is INFINITE, FORMLESS, ETERNAL, and through which humans find salvation, meaning and purpose of life. Yogis further asked Nanak where then does the SHABAD reside. Yogis asked this question in the context that Hindus believed DAKHAN DES HARI KA WASSA (SGGS page1349)meaning God resides in holy place JAGAN NATH PUREE that is in South India. Muslims believed PACHHAM ALLAH MUKAMA (SGGSpage1349) meaning God resides in KABA in the West. Guru Nanak replied SO SHABAD KO NIRANTAR WASS ALKHANG JEH DEKHA TEH SOEE (SGGS page944) meaning SHABAD, universal life energy, the TRANSCENDENT SOURCE OF LIFE is manifested in and is pervading in the entire Cosmos. SHABAD, GOD, EK OANKAR manifested in the universe in the form of unchangeable COSMIC LAWS and in the form of divine wisdom and the treasure of virtues within every human heart. Nanak says JO BREHMANDE SOEE PINDE (SGGS page 695) meaning TRANSCENDENCE AND IMMANENCE are two aspects of ULTIMATE REALITY. What Guru Nanak is saying here is this: we are all one people originating from the same source, the SHABAD, LIFE ENERGY. This begins with the concept SABHAI SANJIWAL SADAEEN TU KISAI NA DEESAI BAHRA JIO (SGGS page97) meaning God you are father, we are all your children, there is no stranger, no other, no enemy; harming any one is harming oneself. This ONE AND ONLY concept is further explained in the verse, NA KO VARY NAHI BEGANA SAGAL SANG HUM KO BAN AEE (SGGS page1299) meaning let us remove the concept of enemy, foe, other. Nanak believed we may have different views but do not have to be enemies. He always believed in constructive dialogue. What it means is that whole humanity has its origin in one UNIVERSAL LIFE ENERGY, THE SOURCE. God is all pervasive. Guru says SABH GOBIND HAI, SABH GOBIND HAI GOBIND BIN NAHI KOEE (SGGS page485) meaning universal life energy manifested in everything we see: nature, humans, mountains, rivers, birds and animals. Guru teaches that everything is connected. Only humans have labeled Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Bodhi, black, brown, white. This is the message that the 21st century self destroying humanity needs to here.
Nanak further beautifully explains the connectedness of whole mankind. Nanak says SAGAR MAHE BOOND, BOOND MAHE SAGAR KAWAN BOOJAI BIDH JANAI. (SGGS page878) Guru Nanak is using the analogy of an ocean to explain connectedness among all human beings. Nanak says as ocean is in the wave and wave is in the ocean, all humans are part of one and only universal life source. God is humanity and humanity is God. We all come from the same life Source. Nanak says AWAL ALLAH NOOR OPAIA KUDRAT KE SABH BANDE. EK NOOR TE SABH JAG OPJIA KAUN BHALE KO MANDE (SGGS page 1349) meaning before the existence of anything there was God, THE LIFE SOURCE. We all came from that ONE SOURCE. How can we then label some high caste and others low caste, some believers and others non believers. How can we label humans as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Bodhi and Jews. How can we create divisions among human race.
LOOK FOR GOD AND PEACE WITHIN NOT OUTSIDE.
FARIDA JUNGAL, JUNGAL, KIA BHAWAI WANN KANDA MORAI WASI RAB HIALIAI JUNGAL KIA DHUNDAI (SGGS page1378) meaning we are trying to search for and find God somewhere outside in the forests when that universal life energy, essence of our life is within all of us. For thousands of years humans looked up, outside for SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY for salvation, security and inner peace. Guru Nanak changed the face of religion when he preached that God, the UNIVERSAL LIFE ENERGY is within all of us. Guru says do not look upward for peace and security, look within. Nanak says KAYA UNDAR SABH KICHH WASAI KHAND MANDAL PATALA. KAYA UNDAR JAGJIWAN DATA WASAI SABHNA KARAI PRITPALA, (SGGS page 754) meaning what ever happens with us happens within us. Peace, happiness and joy are all in your thoughts, your consciousness. Those who meditate on truth, divine wisdom, godly virtues realize the meaning and purpose of life, enjoy inner peace, happiness and bliss. It is all about fixing our inner world; some call it inner engineering. It is about finding our true self. Nanak says when we are positive, humble and loving we try to be aware of our habitual reactions to people and events. This process makes us more conscious of the personal biases and expectations we have unconsciously developed through exposure to people, circumstances and information etc. Our biases and expectations cloud our perspective and do not allow us to see the situation for what it truly is. For example, if I hold the expectation that people should treat me well, then I am hurt when I am mistreated. In reality, people behave according to their acquired habits (SANKARS). We need not take their behavior as a personal affront. Accessing the divine wisdom within ourselves gives us clarity. We can understand why things happen as they are. We gain access to wisdom to change what we can change and accept what we cannot change. Accessing divine wisdom breaks the false barrier between ourselves and the DIVINE. We see that we are not separate from the DIVINE and all of existence. We can now see our place in all of existence, in the larger story of life. This wisdom and understanding brings a peace and willingness to accept situations as they arise and responds with calm, rather than a knee jerk reaction based on the biases and expectations that our mind holds. It is a matter of overcoming identification with our mind and its conditioned responses and being connected instead with the divine wisdom that resides in all of us. The definition of ego is the identification of our consciousness with our mind, body and life-story; this is what keeps us from liberating our consciousness to identify instead with our true self, which is divine wisdom, God. Our mind constantly pulls our consciousness into the past and future; liberation from mind’s mental chatter about the past and future requires living in the present.
Nanak says reality of humans is, MANN MURAKH MUGADH BHOOJAI NAHI BAHAR BHALAN JAEE (SGGS page 102) meaning we as humans are so ignorant of the truth, for thousands of years searching for inner peace, happiness and joy of life in material wealth, power, status and EXTERNAL SUPERNATURAL DEITY. That inner peace has never arrived. Nanak says SABH KICHH GHAR MAHE BAHAR NAHI. BAHAR TOLAI SO BHARAM BHULAEE (SGGS page 102).
SABH KICHH—inner peace, happiness, joy
GHAR MAHE—In our consciousness, thoughts.
BHARAM—Ignorance that inner peace can be realized in material wealth.
BHULAEE—Living life without meaning and purpose.
When we understand that God, the divine wisdom, treasure of virtues is within us, then we come to realize that inner peace, happiness and joy are all in our consciousness, our thoughts. Guru says that it is because of our ignorance of truth that even in twenty first century we continue searching for inner peace in material wealth, power and status. This is the reason as humans we continue suffering in stress, depression and mental sickness. Guru says it is an impossible quest to control all of our external conditions and when things do not meet our expectations we suffer. Our outward focus keeps us distracted from the real work of going inward.
Understanding the concept that God is within all of us, in the humanity, is a turning point in the pursuit of inner peace, happiness, bliss and meaning of life. We no longer look upward to OOPERWALA for meaning of God but look inward, within. The path to peace and happiness, meaning of life is internal not external. This is a new vision, new way of life beyond SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY.
MEANING OF PRAYER UNDERSTOOD.
When we understand the concept of God in the spiritual philosophy of Guru Nanak then we understand the meaning of prayer. Organized religion has misled humanity that prayers before a SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL DEITY will provide protection from TSUNAMI, external dangers, or solve your worldly problems. Humans looked for security and salvation in the EXTERNAL SUPERNATURAL BIG BEARDED HUMAN LIKE DEITY. Truth is that humans have been praying to such an external deity that did not even exist. There was no SUPERNATURAL DEITY that could magically answer all prayers. When that did not happen humans not only felt helpless but also lost faith in God. This is one main reason that almost one billion people do not believe in God. Nanak teaches us that SHABAD GURU, BANI GURU does not stop TSUNAMI, does not change the situation that happens according to COSMIC LAWS. When we understand spiritual philosophy of Nanak, we do not pray to stop the danger. SHABAD GURU, GOD empowers humans, gives us inner strength to face the situation in calm and stable mental attitude. We pray to God to give us inner strength.
When we understand the concept of God in the spiritual philosophy of Nanak, we realize that whatever happens with us happens according to the COSMIC LAWS. No miracle ever happened and will ever happen in violation of the LAWS OF NATURE, we learn to live the WILL OF GOD, HUKM, RAZA, BHANNA. NANAK HUKMAI JE BHUJEH TA HAUMAI KAHE NA KOE (SGGS page 1) meaning when we learn to live in THE WILL OF GOD, living in the present, we get rid of our ego, ignorance of truth. This I believe, if understood properly is the master peace philosophy of life. Nanak here says the secret of realizing inner peace, happiness and joy of life is in surrendering to unchangeable COSMIC LAWS, accepting the situations as these arise in our daily life and then finding the solution. Nanak here says CHINTA TA KEE KIJIAI JO ANNHONNI HOAI (SGGS page1429). ANNHONNI means when an event happens in violation of the laws of nature, which is called a miracle; that never happens. Why worry about situations that happen with us according to COSMIC LAWS. Living the way of conflict with the COSMIC LAWS (WILL OF GOD) is the main cause of our pain and suffering in daily life. Unfortunately, majority of Sikh Scholars even today do not accept the concept that God is the embodiment of the COSMIC LAWS, UNCHAGEABLE LAWS OF UNIVERSE. They believe that God has created the COSMIC LAWS and is separate from COSMIC LAWS. It seems these Sikh Scholars are not able to get over the belief that God is the SUPERNAUTURAL EXTERNAL DEITY, up in the seventh heaven. This belief is completely against basic principles of SIKHI. This I believe, for thousands of years, has been the biggest weakness of organized religion. For thousands of years humans are worshiping SUPERNATURAL EXTERNAL OMNIPOTENT HUMAN LIKE DEITYY that was simply a belief not reality. Organized religion has never been able to give humanity a logical, reasoned and viable concept of God. This weakness has been the cause of conflicts and killings in the name of God. Your God, our God, personal God, white God, black God, brown God, millions of gods and goddesses. Almost one billion have turned their backs to religion and millions call themselves ATHEISTS.
WHY THERE IS EVIL IN THE WORLD, MISCONCEPTION CLEARED.
Because of misunderstanding of the concept of God every person asks this question. This question assumes that SUPERNATURAL OMNIPOTENT EXTERNAL DEITY has the power to do anything and everything we pray for. This in fact was superstitious expression and product of human ignorance, weakness and fear. We need to understand that moral evil is a human creation. Nanak says KARTTOT PASHU KEE MANAS JAT(SGGS page267) meaning in our actions and behaviour we are animals in human skin.
When we understand that God of Guru Nanak is SHABAD GURU, TREASURE OF VIRTUES, and GOD IS EMBODIMENT OF THE UNCHANGEABLE LAWS OF UNIVERSE, a major misconception about why there is evil in the world is cleared. For thousands of years humans believed God is OMNIPOTENT, God has the power of doing any thing and is above the COSMIC LAWS. We assigned this job to ALMIGHTY GOD to solve the problems of the society. Nanak says God is SHABAD GURU, DIVINE WISDOM, DIVINE KNOWLEDGE that guides humans on the journey to be compassionate, tolerant, kind, contented, loving, caring, equal, humble, and spiritually awakened. SHABAD GURU teaches us that we all come from one universal life energy, the essence of life, and that we are one big family of ONE DIVINE MASTER. Any human being with awakened consciousness will not commit evil. We as humans have complete freedom to choose path of evil or empathy, hatred or love, kindness or intolerance. With advancement of knowledge we have both possibilities: the possibility of being God conscious humans or egoistic violent monsters. God does not hold the hand of a rapist; God transforms the rapist to be a protector of women’s honour. It is up to us what kind of next generation we want to raise.
SGGS IS NOT IDOL.
Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the philosophy of SHABAD GURU, BANI GURU has led Sikhs to worship SGGS as idol. Sikhs today believe in God but do not understand God. That is the reason Sikhs pray in front of the SGGS for gift of son, success in business, victory in elections, court case and thousands of worldly comforts. Because of this ignorance Sikhs fail to understand that birth of boy or girl is determined by genetic combination of X and Y chromosomes. This is the law of nature, WILL OF GOD, HUKM. What Sikhs get out of these prayers is helplessness, anxiety, worries and stress. Further many lose faith in God. Nanak says AISA JUG DEKHIA JUAREE, SABH KICHH MANGAI NAAM BISARI (SGGA page222) meaning humans are playing games with their precious lives every day. They all desire peace, happiness and joy in life but are not prepared to work for it. They can work long hours to earn material wealth but are not ready to meditate on the truthful living, the real source of peace and happiness.
When Sikhs come to understand that God in Gurbani is SHABAD, DIVINE WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, TREASURE OF VIRTUES, LIVING THE WILL OF GOD, Sikhs will only pray for spiritual guidance, how to be good humans, and realize meaning and purpose of life. Guru says rich is the one who knows the truth.
Author: S. Harbans Singh Kandola