IS GOD MALE OR FEMALE?

(Since God) is neither male nor female;
how can anyone describe Him? (sggs 685).
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Does the Gurbani assign a particular gender to God? In other words, according to the Gurbani, is God male or female or something else? What's His skin color, caste etc.? The Sikh philosophy does not attribute particular gender to God. Also He is said to be beyond castes, and so on. Therefore, it's only for the ease of writing and reading that a pronoun "he" for God (or human beings) is used herein, but surely God (and Soul, which is His "Ansh" or part-and-parcel) transcends all gender and limitations!

  • ਸੁੰਨ ਮੰਡਲ ਇਕੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਬੈਸੇ ॥ ਨਾਰਿ ਨ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕੋਊ ਕੈਸੇ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹੇ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥ ਸੁਰਿ ਨਰ ਨਾਥ ਸਚੇ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥: Sunn mandal ik Yogi baise. Naar na purakh kahahu kou kaise. Tribhavan joti rahe liv laaee. Sur nar naath sache saranaaee: The Yogi, the Primal Lord, sits in the Realm of Absolute Stillness (state free of mind's wanderings or Phurne). (Since God) is neither male nor female; how can anyone describe Him? The three worlds center their attention on His Light. The godly beings and the Yogic masters seek the Sanctuary of this True Lord (sggs 685).
  • ਨ ਜੱਛ ਹੈ ਨ ਗੰਧ੍ਰਬ ਹੈ ਨ ਨਰੁ ਹੈ ਨ ਨਾਰਿ ਹੈ ॥: N jachh hai n gandharb hai n naru hai n naari hai: (Akaal) is neither a Yaksha, nor a Gandharva, nor a man nor a woman. (Dasam Granth, Akaal Ustat, 67).
  • ਰੂਪ ਰੰਗ ਅਰੁ ਰੇਖ ਭੇਖ ਕੋਊ ਕਹਿ ਨ ਸਕਤਿ ਕਿਹ ॥: Roop rang aru rekh bhekh kooo kahi n sakati kih: (God) is without colour or form, and without any distinctive norm (Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Jaap Sahib).
  • ਮਾਰੂ ਮਹਲਾ ੧ ॥ ਜਹ ਦੇਖਾ ਤਹ ਦੀਨ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥ ਆਇ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਕਿਰਪਾਲਾ ॥ ਜੀਆ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਮਾਈ ਰਹਿਓ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਰਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਜਗੁ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਛਾਇਆ ਜਿਸੁ ਬਾਪੁ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭੈਣ ਨ ਭਰਾਉ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਓਪਤਿ ਖਪਤਿ ਕੁਲ ਜਾਤੀ ਓਹੁ ਅਜਰਾਵਰੁ ਮਨਿ ਭਾਇਆ ॥੨॥ ਤੂ ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਸਿਰਿ ਕਾਲਾ ॥ ਤੂ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਅਲੇਖ ਅਗੰਮ ਨਿਰਾਲਾ ॥: Maaroo Mahalaa 1 || Jah dekhaa tah deen diaalaa. Aai na jaaee prabh kirapaalaa. Jeeaa andar jugat samaaee rahio niraalam raaiaa ||1|| Jag tis kee shhaaiaa jis baap na maaiaa. Naa tis bhain na bharaaou kamaaiaa. Naa tis oupat khapat kul jaatee ohu ajaraavar mani bhaaiaa ||2|| Too akaal purakh naahee sir kaalaa. Too purakh alekh agam niraalaa: Maaroo Mahalaa 1. Wherever I look, I see the Lord, merciful to the meek. God is compassionate; He does not come or go (in reincarnation). He pervades all beings in His mysterious way; He is the Sovereign and remains detached. ||1|| The world is a reflection of Him; He has no father or mother. He has no sister or brother. There is no creation or destruction for Him; He has no ancestry or caste. The Ageless Lord is pleasing to my mind. ||2|| O "Akaal Purakh", death does not hover over Your head. You are the unseen inaccessible and detached Primal Lord (sggs 1038).

Being in the framework of time and space, the human body is limited. However, in the Gurbani, God is said to be Unlimited, Timeless, Infinite and Formless. And that which is Infinite and Formless has to be beyond the framework of time and space (Akaal Moorati). Thus, the Absolute Principle such as God cannot be confined to human characteristics or limitations.

  • ਆਦਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨੁ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰਾ॥: Aad niranjan prabh nirankaaraa: The Primal, Immaculate God is formless (sggs 1075).
  • ਪਰਮੇਸਰੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੇਅੰਤੁ ॥: Paramesar paarabraham beant: The Transcendent and the Supreme Lord is infinite (sggs 894).
  • ਆਇ ਨ ਜਾਵੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ॥: My God does not take birth and does not die (sggs 562).

If God is not a male or a female (i.e., Viaktee) and does not possess human characteristics or limitations, then what is He? According to the Gurbani, God is Light (Joti-Svaroopa, Chaanan, Pragaas, Noor etc.). The theory of the physics indicates light to be composed of particles called photons, and has energy and momentum. In other words, God is not a person (Viaktee) but Energy (Shakti, Spirit, Absolute Power etc.), which pervades within and without.

  • ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੀ ਤਤ ਅਨੂਪ ॥: Joti saroopee tat anoop: He is the Embodiment of Light, the incomparable essence (sggs 344).
  • ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਚਾਨਣਿ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਸਾਖੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Sabh mahi joti joti hai soi. Tis kai chaanan sabh mahi chaanan hoi. Gur saakhee joti pargat hoi: You are that One Divine Light which pervades within everyone. Yours is that Light which shines within everyone (as consciousness). (But) by the Guru's Teachings, this Divine Light is revealed. (sggs 663).
  • ਸਿਵ ਸਕਤੀ ਦੇਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਏ ॥: Siva saktee dehee mahi paaye: Both Spirit (Transcendent aspect) and matter (immanent aspect), are placed into the body (sggs 1056).
  • ਕਰਤਾ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਤੇਰੈ ਜੋਰਿ ॥: Karataa sabh ko terai jor: O Creator Lord, all are in Your Power (sggs 17).
  • ਦੂਜੀ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਆਖੈ ਦੋਇ ॥ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ਮਰਿ ਦੂਜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥ ਧਰਣਿ ਗਗਨ ਨਹ ਦੇਖਉ ਦੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਰੀ ਪੁਰਖ ਸਬਾਈ ਲੋਇ ॥੩॥: Doojee durmat aakhai doi. Aavai jaayi mar doojaa hoi ||2||. Dharan gagan nah dekhaou doi. Naaree purakh sabaaee loi ||3||: The duality, the evil intellect, speaks of a second. One who harbors duality comes and goes and dies. ||2|| (But) in the earth and in the sky (i.e., in all of the creation), I do not see (without the One Lord) any second. Among all the women and the men, (I see only) His Light shining. ||3|| (sggs 223).

The Gurbani indicates there is One God. The Gurbani also refers to This One God as our "Mother, Father, etc.". This implies God is as much female as He is male and as much male as He is female. How can this be reconciled? Perhaps this can be explained as follows. First, if we think we are the children of the same One God, then logically that makes God our both Mother and Father. Also, if God is the Substratum (Adhaar) of all, then naturally He becomes our best Friend, Brother, Beloved, Relative, etc. Second, this assignment of human characteristics to describe God (called "anthropomorphism") is simply a means for God (a Spiritual Being) to communicate Truth about His Nature to mankind, a physical being. Therefore, the Gurbani (God's Word) perhaps uses this figurative language in which God is mentioned as "Mother, Father, etc." to make it possible for man (a physical being) to understand God (a Spiritual Being). Since man is a physical being, man is limited in his understanding of those things beyond the physical realm, and anthropomorphism helps man to understand who God is. Third, the Gurbani tells us that God has made us in His True Image ("Joti-Svaroopa"). This means He must have endowed us with both the motherly (female) and fatherly (male) qualities as well. Perhaps here the Gurbani reminds both the man and the woman to awaken these complementary powers within themselves. Generally, men are mostly intellectually centered and women are emotionally centered. The gap between these two centers can be closed and both centers can be harmonized by balancing motherly and fatherly qualities. In one's True Nature, one is perfectly in balance. But not in our false nature (Haume- or ego-consciousness).

  • ਆਪੇ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਨਾਰੀ ॥: Aape purakh aape hee naaree: You Yourself are the male, and You Yourself are the female (sggs 1020).
  • ਆਪੇ ਨਰੁ ਆਪੇ ਫੁਨਿ ਨਾਰੀ ਆਪੇ ਸਾਰਿ ਆਪ ਹੀ ਪਾਸਾ ॥: Aapae nar aape fun naaree aape saar aap hee paasaa: He Himself is male, and He Himself is female; He Himself is the chessman, and He Himself is the board (sggs 1403).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਹੈ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਹਮ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਤਿਪਾਰੇ ॥: Nanak pitaa maataa hai har prabh ham baarik har pratipaarae: O Nanak, God is our father and mother. we are His children; the Lord cherishes us (sggs 882).
  • ਤੂੰ ਮੇਰਾ ਪਿਤਾ ਤੂੰਹੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਮਾਤਾ ॥ ਤੂੰ ਮੇਰਾ ਬੰਧਪੁ ਤੂੰ ਮੇਰਾ ਭ੍ਰਾਤਾ ॥ ਤੂੰ ਮੇਰਾ ਰਾਖਾ ਸਭਨੀ ਥਾਈ ਤਾ ਭਉ ਕੇਹਾ ਕਾੜਾ ਜੀਉ ॥: Toon meraa pitaa toon hai meraa maataa. Toon meraa bandhap toon meraa bhraataa. Toon meraa raakhaa sabhanee thaaee taa bhaou kehaa kaarraa jeeou: (O Lord) You are my Father, and You are my Mother.
    You are my Relative, and You are my Brother. (Since) You are my Protector everywhere; no fear or anxiety can (overwhelm) me (sggs 103).
  • ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਏਕੁ ਸਬਾਈ ਨਾਰਿ ॥: Thakur ek sabaaee Naar: There is one Lord ("Akaal Purakh"), and all are His brides (sggs 933).

In nutshell, if we take the gist of the entire SGGS, including the Mool Mantra, the SGGS indicates God to be an Absolute Principle (i.e., Infinite, Timeless, Formless, etc.). In other words, since God is a Spiritual Being, the Gurbani indicates God does not possess physical human characteristics. He is indicated to be Light or Energy. Furthermore, Bhagat Nam Dev Jee in the SGGS hints us against performing worship with the notion of male or female. If we did, then we created ourselves a roadblock in the path of spiritual evolution. Because a worshipper becomes that which he worships — by visualizing God a form (male, female etc.), the devotee limits the Absolute who is Formless and Infinite to a form.

  • ਮਹਾ ਮਾਈ ਕੀ ਪੂਜਾ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਨਰ ਸੈ ਨਾਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥: Mahaa maaee kee poojaa karai. Nar sai naar hoi aoutarai: The man who worships Mahaa Maaee (i.e., Great Goddess), will be reincarnated as a woman (sggs 874).
  • ਸਾਚੁ ਕਤੇਬ ਬਖਾਨੈ ਅਲਹੁ ਨਾਰਿ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਪਢੇ ਗੁਨੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਛੁ ਬਉਰੇ ਜਉ ਦਿਲ ਮਹਿ ਖਬਰਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੨॥: Saach kateb bkhaanai Allah naar na purakh nahee koee. Parhe gune naahee kashoo baoure jaou dil mahi khabari n hoee ||2||: (O Qazi) your holy scriptures say that Allah is True (Truth, eternal, ਸਦਾ ਕਾਇਮ ਰਹਿਣ ਵਾਲਾ, etc.), and that he is neither male nor female (ਜਿਸ ਵਿਚ ਕੋਈ ਜਨਾਨੀ ਮਰਦ ਦਾ ਭਾਵ ਨਹੀ ਹੈ). You gain nothing by reading and studying, O mad (Qazi), if you don't gain (this) Understanding (ਸੂਝ) in your heart ||2|| (sggs 483).

The Gurbani indicates that as one ascends towards Higher Consciousness, one transcends all labels such as "male", "female", and so on. Because — from the standpoint of Higher Consciousness — there is no male or female (or duality)! It's just One mass of homogeneous Consciousness there. Distinctions, differences, divisions, and duality exist only so long the mind's conditioning persists (Haume or false ego-sense, attachments, self-limitation etc.). Baabaa Nanak points to this state of Higher Consciousness that we must realize inside by becoming the Gurmukh or Brahm-Giaanee. For before the rise of the phantom of the mind (Haume or false ego-sense), that's what we all were!

  • ਪੁਰਖ ਮਹਿ ਨਾਰਿ ਨਾਰਿ ਮਹਿ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਬੂਝਹੁ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਧੁਨਿ ਮਹਿ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨ ਮਹਿ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅਕਥ ਕਹਾਨੀ ॥੩॥: Purakh mahi naar naar mahi purkhaa boojhau barahm giaanee ...: Understand this, O God-realized being - the female is in the male, and the male is in the female (from the male semen, the woman is born and from the woman, the male is born). Meditation is in the Dhuni (of Naam, Shabad-Surti, Unstruck Transcendental Vibratory Sound-current, etc.), and His knowing (God-realization, etc.) is in such meditation. Become the Gurmukh, and speak the Unspoken Speech (i.e., the Lord's Unspoken Speech - ਅਕਥ ਕਹਾਨੀ - can be realized or be known only by becoming the Gurmukh)||3|| (sggs 879).
  • ਨਾਰਿ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਜਨਮਾ ਨਾ ਕੋ ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਦਾ ॥੪॥: Naari purukh nahee jaat n janamaa naa ko dukh sukh paaidaa ||4|| (sggs 1035).
  • ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੫॥: Iou kahai Nanaku man toon joti saroopu hai apanaa moolu pashaanu ||5|| (sggs 441).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org