God Himself creates the world, and He himself takes care of it. Without the God's Fear, doubt
is not dispelled ...(sggs 1288).

Fears can be grouped in two categories — the Fear of God (spelled here with big "F") and all other worldly fears (spelled here with small "f"). The Central to scriptural teachings of various religions is to have the Fear of God. But the question is: "what does it mean to have the Fear of God?" The religious scam artists of almost all religions have awfully battered this term ("Fear of God") for ulterior purposes. As a result, it has almost lost it's real gist. Upon hearing "Fear of God" usually the first thing that comes to the mind is that God is a some kind of vengeful judge. He is not. Godhood is Pure Love. In True Love there is no room for any kind of reprisal. Pure Love sees all with even vision, without animosity (Nirvair) towards anybody. However, God has set forth His Law of Karma (Hukam or Eternal Law) governing human actions as a teaching mechanism to prevent incarnate Souls from being entrapped forever in the outward pull of the delusive Energy called Maya (duality, illusion or relativist consciousness). In the Light of the SGGS, this Gurbani Article will briefly try to reflect on the followings:

  • What is the Fear of God?
  • Why We should Have the Fear of God?
  • Who is Filled With the Fear of God?
  • Benefits That Flow From the Fear of God
  • How is the Fear of God Produced Within?

The fundamental belief of Sikhism is that God exists (One God). He is not as merely an idea or concept, but as a Real Entity. Although He is indicated to be indescribable and Formless, yet knowable to anyone who is prepare to make the honest attempt to mend his corrupt ways (removal of Bikaars) by collecting his Mayaic mind scattered around in Bikaars (lust, anger, greed, attachment etc.) and thus make it become perceptive to God's Persona, Divine Qualities and All-pervasiveness. So for the SGGS, God does not need any logical proof for is Reality and Truth.

  • ਤੂੰ ਵਰਨਾ ਚਿਹਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਦਿਸਹਿ ਹਾਜਰੁ ਜਾਹਰਾ ॥: Toon varnaa chihanaa baaharaa. Har deesahi haaajar jaahraa: (O God) You are without color and mark. (Yet) You are seen to be manifest and present (sggs 74).
  • ਪੂਰੈ ਗੁਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ॥: Poorai gur hadoor dikhaaiaa: (God's) Presence is revealed to her (Soul) by the Perfect Guru (sggs 127).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੋ ਤਤੁ ਪਾਏ ॥: Guramukh hovai so tatu paaye: One who becomes Gurmukh, obtains the essence of Reality (sggs1016).

What is the Fear of God

Simply put: God's Fear is the Fear of the consequences of one's Karma (Kaarmic actions, reactionary deeds, wicked Karanee, Adharma etc.). To put it otherwise, God's Fear does not mean to be afraid of God. It simply implies respect, Love, reverence, veneration or ਅਦਬ for the Divine Law, Hukam etc. In essence, it is the fear of immoral, false and unrighteous conduct. Thus, in deeper sense, the "Fear of God" is meant to discourage ambivalence. Such pure "Fear" (respect, reverence, Love or ਅਦਬ) keeps a seeker in the scale of morality and righteousness, which, in turn, encourages noble virtues, Spiritual Life, Spiritual discipline, meditation on the Absolute One, cultivation of spiritual-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) through inner inquiry (Vichaar) and one-pointed conscious Love for God. With the help of these Divine Attributes, one adorns Bhagti (devotion) with its important element of Bairaag - detachment from materiality and temptations, and attachment to the practice of Love and devotion of the Divine within. According to the SGGS, only those deeds are "excellent" (good Karanee) that are done in the Fear of God (respect, reverence, Love or ਅਦਬ), otherwise they are "false". Thus the third Guru Sahib says, "Forsake desire, and abide in the Fear of God; O Nanak, these are the most excellent actions".

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਭੈ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਣੇ ਝੂਠੇ ਠਾਉ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੪॥: Bin bhai karam kamaavane jhoothe thaaou na koi ||4||: Without fear (ਡਰ-ਅਦਬ of God), the performance of Kaarma (of religious rituals, and so on) is false, and one finds no place of Rest. ||4|| (sggs 427).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਭਉ ਊਪਜੈ ਭਾਈ ਭਉ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਚੁ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Guramatee bhaou oopajai bhaaee bhaou karanee sach saar: O Brother, under Guru's Instruction, the Fear of God is produced; true and excellent are the deeds (Karanee) done in the Fear of God (sggs 638).
  • ਕਾਮਣਿ ਗੁਣਵੰਤੀ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਏ ॥ ਭੈ ਭਾਇ ਸੀਗਾਰੁ ਬਣਾਏ ॥: Kaaman gunavantee har paaye. Bhai bhaai seegaar banaaye: The virtuous soul-bride finds the Lord;
    she decorates herself with the Love and the Fear of God. (sggs 122).
  • ਭੈ ਤੇ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਹਰਿ ਖੋਜਤ ਫਿਰਣਾ ॥: Bhai te bairaag oopjai Hari khojat phirnaa: Through the Fear of God, the attitude of detachment (Bairaag) wells up, and one sets out in search of God (sggs 1102).
  • ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਛੋਡੈ ਭੈ ਵਸੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Trisanaa shodai bhai vasai Nanak karanee saar: Forsake desire, and abide in the Fear of God; O Nanak, these are the most excellent actions (sggs 1089).

Although both the unfaithful (Bemukh, Saakat, the Manmukh or nonbeliever) and the faithful (believer, the opposite of Bemukh) entertain the Fear, but the Fear of both is something different. In separation from God, the Bemukh or Saakat is full of all other fears (e.g., fear of death, repeated suffering etc.). It's common to see such people subscribe to religion out of fear. They practice the various religious injunctions because of apprehension that nonperformance of the same will lead to retribution from God. Ignorance is the root of such fear. The basis of any religion is Love of God and hence anything done out of fear is due to immaturity. In True Love, how there can be any room for any kind of reprisal? The faithful, on the other hand, Fears the Allmighty in deep reverence, respect, Love, ਅਦਬ etc. So he has no other fears (such as the fear of death etc.) because he does not consider himself to be separate from God at any given moment.

  • ਡਰਿ ਡਰਿ ਪਚੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਵੇਚਾਰੇ ॥: Dar dar pache manamukh vechaare: The wretched self-willed Manmukhs are ruined through fear and dread (sggs 677).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਭੈ ਕੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਲਤੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਪੁਕਾਰ ॥: Manmukh bhai kee saar na jaananee trisanaa jalate karahi pukaar: The self-willed Manmukhs do not appreciate the value of the Fear of God. Burning in desire, they weep and wail (sggs 1288).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਜਮ ਕੀ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਚੂਕੈ ॥: Saakath jam kee kaan na chookai: The Saakat is not rid of his fear of death (sggs 1030).
  • ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮਿ ॥: Ihu manu nirabhaou gurmukh naam: The mind of the Gurmukh becomes fearless through the Divine Naam (sggs 415).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਨਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੀਆ ਤੇ ਬੇਮੁਖ ਹਰਿ ਭਰਮਾਵੈਗੋ ॥ ਲੋਭ ਲਹਰਿ ਸੁਆਨ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਬਿਖੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਰੰਗਿ ਲਗਾਵੈਗੋ ॥: Saakat nar...: The Sakkat does not submit to the Satguru; the Lord makes such nonbeliever wander. (Within him are) the waves of greed, (these waves are of the nature of ) the dog. (As the dog is attracted by) carcasses (and loves to eat them), (similarly the greedy person) sticks to the poison (that brings death to one's spiritual life) of Maya (sggs 1311).

Spiritual value is associated not merely with Love and devotion of God but also linked to having the Fear of God (respect, reverence, Love, ਅਦਬ etc.) and the practice of Dharma - the social responsibility of caring for the entire Creation. According to the SGGS, the true Love of God is the result of the Fear of God. In other words, in the absence of such Fear of God (respect, reverence, Love, ਅਦਬ etc.), there can be no True Love of God. "This Fear of God adorns the Love of the Lord", states Baabaa Nanak in the SGGS. The SGGS further observes that without the Fear of God neither will one get inspiration for devotion (Bhagti) nor will one remember and Love Him and nor will one's sinful mind (stained with Bikaars or negative propensities) become Pure, an essential ingredient for God Realization. You see it's like a dominal effect. In nutshell, the Fear of God is an essential element in developing Prema-Bhagti (Loving Devotion). Furthermore, as indicated in the SGGS, Pure Awareness or Consciousness (God, Divine Creator etc.) alone is Fearless, but everything else functions in the Fear of God.

  • ਭੈ ਭਉ ਰਾਖਿਆ ਭਾਇ ਸਵਾਰਿ ॥: Bhai bhaou raakhiaa bhaai savaar: This Fear of God adorns the Love of the Lord (sggs 151).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਲਾਗਿ ਨ ਲਗਈ ਨਾ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Bhai bin laag na lagee naa man niramal hoi: Without Fear (of God), the cloth (of the mind) is not dyed, and the mind is not rendered Pure (sggs 426).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: Bhai bin bhagati na hovayee naam na lagai piaar: Without the Lord's Fear, Bhagti cannot be performed; and Love for the Naam (Giaan...) cannot be developed (sggs 788).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ਕਬ ਹੀ ਭੈ ਭਾਇ ਭਗਤਿ ਸਵਾਰੀ ॥: Bhai bin bhagati na hoee kab hee bhai bhaai bhagati savaaree: Without the Fear of God, devotion is never performed; (it is) through the Love and the Fear of God, devotion is embellished (sggs 911).
Why We should Have the Fear of God

This body is like a field (Khet), in which our Karma is the seed (Beej). We harvest exactly what we sow. If our seed (Karma) is false (Karma done without the God's Fear), then naturally our harvest (results, consequences, rewards or fruits) will also be equally false, setting the cycle of the Law of Karma in motion. Repeated suffering and fears of all sorts are the consequences.

Thus, the SGGS indicates that one's life would be a waste if one were to die without the Fear of God. To die without the Fear of God is to die in all other fears. Also without God's Fear, one cannot retain the "Color" of the God's Name or attunement to the Shabad within. In short, without the God's Fear, we remain false, unable to become the Gurmukh (Spiritual Being, Self-realized etc.)and fearless (from all other fears) and cross over the dreadful ocean of the repeated suffering.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਭੈ ਵਿਣੁ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ਮੁਹਿ ਕਾਲੈ ਉਠਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: Nanak bhai vin je marai muhi kaalai outh jaai: O Nanak, if you die without the Fear of God, you will arise and depart with a blackened face (disgrace) (sggs 149).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਰੰਗਾਏ ਬਿਨੁ ਭੈ ਕੇਹੀ ਲਾਗਿ ॥: Nanak sabad rathe har naam rangaaye bin bhai kehee laag: Nanak, those who are attuned to the Shabad are dyed in the Color of the Lord's Name. Without the Fear of God, how can they retain this Color? (sggs 29).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਕਿਉ ਥੀਐ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥: Bhai bin nirabhoau kiou theeai gurmukh sabad samaai: Without the Fear of God, how can anyone become fearless? Become the Gurmukh, and immerse yourself in the Shabad (sggs 18).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਘਾੜਤ ਕਚੁ ਨਿਕਚ ॥ ਅੰਧਾ ਸਚਾ ਅੰਧੀ ਸਟ ॥ : Bhai bin ghaarrat kach nikach. Andhaa sachaa andhee satt: Without the Fear of God, all remain false (or sinful). (Just as anything moulded in a defective mould cannot acquire the right shape), so is the case of a false person who follows blind or sinful path (sggs 15).
  • ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਲੰਘਸਿ ਪਾਰਿ ॥: Bhai bin koi na langas paar: Without the Fear of God, no one crosses over (the ocean of repeated suffering) (sggs 151)
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਪਾਹੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਕੋਰੈ ਰੰਗੁ ਨ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਖੁੰਬਿ ਚੜਾਈਐ ਸਰਮੁ ਪਾਹੁ ਤਨਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤੀ ਜੇ ਰਪੈ ਕੂੜੈ ਸੋਇ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: naanak paahai baaharaa korai ra(n)g n soe. bhai vich khu(n)b charraaeeai saram paahu than hoe. Nanak bhagathee jae rapai koorrai soe n koe: O Nanak, without treatment, the raw fabric cannot be dyed. (Similarly) The cloth of the body is bleached white in the Fear of God, and if the mordant of Holy Effort are applied. O Nanak, if one is imbued with devotional worship, his reputation is not false (sggs 468).

Who is Filled With the Fear of God

Those who contemplate and live the Gur-Shabad (Guru's Teaching, Instruction, Word, Divine Message etc.) are "filled with the Fear of God". It appears that Baabaa Nanak has used the term "Guru" clearly in three senses. The Guru is God; the Guru is the Voice of God; and the Guru is the Word, the Truth of God. These three senses (God, Guru and Guru's Word) are ultimately inseparable.

  • ਆਪਣਾ ਭਉ ਤਿਨ ਪਾਇਓਨੁ ਜਿਨ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Aapanaa bhaou tin paaioun jin gur kaa sabad beechaar: Those who contemplate the Word (Gur-Shabad) are filled with the Fear of God (sggs 35).

Benefits That Flow From the Fear of God

The SGGS observes that when a sincere devotee places the Fear of God in his Heart, He becomes the Gurmukh (spiritual being living a Divine Life); his deeds (Karanee) becomes excellent; he cherishes sincere Love for God and thus travels the path of Bhagti (devotion); he controls his mind, forgets the selfishness and burns away his false ego-sense (Haume); he attains True Understanding; he meditates on the Divine Name, sing and follow the Divine Word; he enjoys True and Real Life; his coming into this world becomes Blessed and Approved; his all other fears disappear — he becomes fearless; he is honored in the God's Court; the Glorious Virtues of the Lord dwell in the heart; and so on.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ਸਹਿਲਾ ਆਇਆ ਸੋਇ ॥ : Nanak bhai vich je marai sahilaa aaiaa soi: O Nanak, if one dies in the Fear of God, his coming (into the world) is fruitful (sggs 149).
  • ਡਰਿ ਘਰੁ ਘਰਿ ਡਰੁ ਡਰਿ ਡਰੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: Dar ghar ghar dar dar dar jaai: Place the Fear of God within the home of your heart; with this Fear of God in your heart, all other fears shall be frightened away (sggs 151).
  • ਕਿਆ ਡਰੀਐ ਡਰੁ ਡਰਹਿ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥: Kiaa dareeai dar darahi samaanaa: Why should we fear, when fear is dispelled by the Fear of God? (sggs 154).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ਨਿਸੰਗੁ ॥: Gurmukh aavai jaai nisang: As the Gurmukh, come and go without fear (sggs 932).
  • ਭੈ ਭਉ ਰਾਖਿਆ ਭਾਇ ਸਵਾਰਿ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਭੈ ਤਨਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਭਖੈ ਭੈ ਨਾਲਿ॥ਭੈ ਭਉ ਘੜੀਐ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਵਾਰਿ ॥: Bhai bhaou raakhiaa bhaai savaar ..: This Fear of God adorns the Love of the Lord ||1||Pause|| The fire of fear within the body is burnt away by the Fear of God. Through this Fear of God, we are adorned with the Shabad (sggs 151).
  • ਪਤਿ ਪਾਏ ਦਰਬਾਰਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਭੈ ॥: Pati paaeai darabaar satgur sabad bhai: One is honored in the Darbaar, the Royal Court, of the Lord, through the Shabad of the Satguru, and the Fear of God (sggs 751).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਮਨਿ ਭਉ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ  ਮਨਿ ਭਾਉ ॥੨॥: Nanak jinh mani bhaou tinhaa mani bhaaou : O Nanak, those whose minds are filled with the Fear of God, have the love of God in their minds as well ||2|| (sggs 465).
  • ਭੈ ਪਇਐ ਮਨੁ ਵਸਿ ਹੋਆ ਹਉਮੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਇ ॥: Bhai paiai manu vas hoaa houmai sabad jalaai: When the Fear of God comes, the mind is restrained, and through the Shabad, the ego is burnt away (sggs 645).
  • ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਟਿਕਹਿ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਭਉ ਭਾਵਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥ : Har gun hiradai tikahi tis kai jis antar bhaou bhaavanee hoee: The Glorious Virtues of the Lord dwell in the heart of that person, whose inner being is filled with the Fear of God, and His Love (sggs 1115).

How the Fear of God is Produced Within

When a person truly understands God's Immanence in everything and His Hukam that prevails all equally, he becomes free of all fears as there will not be anxieties of the false ego-sense (Haume) to torture him anymore. In the following verses (and many more), the SGGS advises us how the Fear of God can be produced within (e.g., taking on the Satguru, and so on).

  • ਸਤਗੁਰਿ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਸਦ ਭੈ ਰਚੈ ਆਪਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥: Satgur miliai sada bhai rachai aap vasai mani aai: Meeting the Satguru, one is permeated forever with the Fear of God, (and thus God) Himself comes to dwell within the mind (sggs 33).
  • ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਭਉ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਭਾਈ ਭੈ ਮਰਣਾ ਸਚੁ ਲੇਖੁ ॥: Gur miliai bhaou mani vasai bhaaee bhai maranaa sach lekh: Meeting with the Guru, the Fear (of God) comes to abide in the mind; to die in this Fear is the true dying (sggs 635).
  • ਭੈ ਕੇ ਚਰਣ ਕਰ ਭਾਵ ਕੇ ਲੋਇਣ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਕਰੇਇ ॥: Bbhai ke charan kar bhaav ke loin surat karayi: Let the Fear of God be your feet, and let His Love be your hands; let His Understanding be your eyes (sggs 139).
  • ਸੁਰਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਪਤਿ ਊਗਵੈ ਗੁਰਬਚਨੀ ਭਉ ਖਾਇ ॥: Surat hovai pat oogavai gurabachanee bhaou khaai: (by focusing on the One Shabad) Intuitive understanding is obtained and one is welcomed with honor (at the God's Door), by abiding in the Guru's Word he ends his (worldly) fears (sggs 18).
  • ਭਉ ਖਲਾ ਅਗਨਿ ਤਪ ਤਾਉ ॥: Bhaou khalaa agan tapa taaou: With the Fear of God as the bellows, fan the flames of Tapa (sggs 8).
  • ਪੋਥੀ ਪੁਰਾਣ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਭਉ ਵਟੀ ਇਤੁ ਤਨਿ ਪਾਈਐ ॥: Pothee puraan kamaaeeai. Bhaou vattee it tan paaeeai: Let the reading of your prayer book be the oil, and let the Fear of God be the wick for the lamp of this body (sggs 25).

— T. Singh