Religions and people have all sorts of concepts regarding the form of God (Akaar-ਅਕਾਰ, shape, structure, appearance, figure …). Many of these concepts are not only weird, but also laughable (ਹਾਸੇਹੀਣ).
The words of the Gurbani are abrupt, concise, direct, immensely profound but simple, terse yet potent — cutting to the core and wasting no effort on nonessential (e.g., rituals, external robes…).
The Gurbani seems to have the most realistic and commonsense definition of the form of God, which, in nutshell, is Formless — without form-shape-color (without “Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ”, “Raekh – ਰੇਖ”, and “Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ”). Out of many verses, a few verses are cited below:
- ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਿੰਨ ॥ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ॥੧॥: (“Prabh”) has no form, no shape, no color; “Prabh” is beyond these three worldly qualities. O Nanak! They alone understand this reality who are spiritually blessed. ||1|| (sggs 283).
- ਪਰਮ ਤੰਤ ਮਹਿ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੂਪੁ ॥: The Supreme Essence of the Reality has no shape or form (sggs 952).
- ਤਿਸੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਅਦਿਸਟੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅਲਖੁ ਲਖਾਇਆ ॥: He has no form or shape; He is unseen and imperceptible (to the senses). The Gurmukh inscribes (delineate, realizes…) the Invisible (sggs 448).
- ਵਰਨਾ ਚਿਹਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਲੇਖੇ ਬਾਝੁ ਅਲਖੁ ॥: The Invisible (Principle) is without color, mark, and beyond calculation (sggs 1289).
- ਆਦਿ ਮਧਿ ਅੰਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੰ ॥: “Nirankaar” was in the beginning, (who) is in the middle, and (who) will be in the end (sggs 250).
A few terms in the foregoing verses are pretty significant:
“Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ” ~ Form, Akaar-ਅਕਾਰ, shape, structure, appearance, figure, look, etc.
“Raekh – ਰੇਖ” ~ Shape, line, mark, feature, etc.
“Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ” ~ Color, mode, complexion, etc.
“Adistu – ਅਦਿਸਟੁ” ~ Invisible, unseen, etc.
“Agocharu -ਅਗੋਚਰੁ” ~ Imperceptible to the senses, perceivable, etc.
“Alakhu – ਅਲਖੁ” ~ Invisible, not perceived by the senses, etc.
“Chihanaa – ਚਿਹਨਾ” ~ Mark, symbol, etc.
“Nirankaaram – ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੰ” ~ Formless or Attributeless Spiritual Principle, ਅਕਾਰ ਰਹਿਤ…
The Gurbani thus time and again elaborates on the term “Akaal Moorti-ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ” (the Timeless or Undying Form), which appears in the very first line of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) encapsulating the Essence of the Divine Message.
Clearly, as defined by the Gurbani, the Eternal Principle is subtler than the subtle, smaller than the smallest, near than the nearest, and also the most vast, beyond the reach of our bodily or Mayaic senses (including our doubt-ridden mind).
Simply put: Since God is beyond form-shape-color (i.e., “Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ”, “Raekh – ਰੇਖ”, and “Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ”), He is beyond religions. Thus, there is no such thing as a separate God of each religion!
In other words, there is no separate God of Sikhs, or a separate God of Muslims, or a separate God of Hindus, or a separate God of Christians…
To say it otherwise, there is no such thing as a separate Sikh Soul, a separate Christian Soul, a separate Muslim Soul, a separate Hindu Soul, a young Soul, an old Soul, a rich Soul, a poor Soul, a higher Soul or a lower Soul, religious Soul or an atheist Soul, and so on. The Gurbani believes in “Sameness” or “Oneness” — Gobind In Me Is Gobind In All.
Now, the question is: Where is this Timeless and Formless Subject located?
We humans can see a shape with our physical eyes ONLY if that shape has these three qualities: form-shape-color. Anything under the influence of these three qualities is time bound (ਕਾਲ ਰੂਪ), thus perishable.
- ਬਿਨਸੈਗੋ ਰੂਪੁ ਦੇਖੈ ਸਭ ਦੁਨੀਆ ॥: (Your) beauty will vanish, as the whole world watches (sggs 325).
However the Spiritual Factor mentioned in the Gurbani is not perishable because He is without form-shape-color or Maya, thus unbounded by time — Timeless. This is also the reason we humans cannot see Him outside with our physical eyes, which are inflicted with the cataract of Maya.
Understandably, the Gurbani time and again reminds us not to look for Him outside, because our eyes cannot perceive something that has no form-shape-color. Instead, the Gurbani teaches us to search within — not just look within but search within!
Thus, the Gurbani frees us from the outer domination. Furthermore, since the Truth is without form-shape-color, the Gurbani reminds us that it’s difficult (“Akath-ਅਕਥ“) to explain the Truth (Sach-ਸਚ)!
- ਆਖਣਿ ਅਉਖਾ ਸੁਨਣਿ ਅਉਖਾ ਆਖਿ ਨ ਜਾਪੀ ਆਖਿ ॥: It is difficult to explain (Truth, Naam…); it is difficult to listen to it. It cannot be explained with the mouth (sggs 1239).
The outgoing senses will affect us so long we identify with the form-shape-color-name (i.e., Maya, I-am-the-body-idea, body-consciousness, I-am-ness). As a result, it will be difficult to break out of the shell of doubt (Bharam – “ਆਂਡਾ ਭਰਮ ਕਾ “).
Hence the Gurbani teaches that there is nowhere to go but inside. Understandably, the Gurbani’s edict is that the Gurmukhs search Him within, while Manmukhs just wander around perplexed by delusion, doubt..
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਖੋਜੈ ਹੋਰ ਸਭ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਈ ॥: One who becomes the Gurmukh searches within his body; all others just wander around in confusion (sggs 754).
- ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅੰਦਰੁ ਨ ਭਾਲਨੀ ਮੁਠੇ ਅਹੰਮਤੇ ॥ ਚਾਰੇ ਕੁੰਡਾਂ ਭਵਿ ਥਕੇ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਤਿਖ ਤਤੇ ॥: Deluded (cheated, etc.) by self-conceit, the Manmukhs do not search within their own selves. (Due to) burnt by desire (of Maya…) within, they grow weary wandering in the four directions (sggs 1093).
- ਰਤਨੁ ਰਾਮੁ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਕੇ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਤਾ ਕੋ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ॥: The Jewel (of Raam) is deep within the Heart, (but the mind entangled in Maya) does not have any Knowledge of Him (sggs 703).
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਵਸੈ ਨ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: (God) abides within; do not go outside looking for Him (sggs 728).
Now, how can such Dynamic Spiritual Energy which is without form-shape-color be realized? The Gurbani tells us that this task — the purpose of human life — can be accomplished through the Gur-Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar):
- ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਸੂਖਮੁ ਅਗਮੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਕਟੀਐ ਅਚਿੰਤੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥੧॥: “Hari” is subtle and inaccessible (unfathomable, etc.); by what process (we) can met (Him)? When the doubt is dispelled (from within the mind) through the Gur-Shabad, “Achint” (Hari, Parmaatam) always remains (remembered) in the mind. ||1|| (sggs 756).