The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects decorating the mortal or transitory human body with religious paraphernalia. Because, in the end, when the dead body is placed on pyre or tossed into a cremation furnace, all religious paraphernalia drops off the body!
Hence, they are of no use to the soul or the mind that has no form-shape-color. It departs without any religious paraphernalia (symbols, robes, etc.).
Baabaa Nanak explains this in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) with an example of the sacred “thread” (“Janaeoo – ਜਨੇਊ “) , which the priest (Pujaaree) tried to put on Babaa Nanak during the “Janaeoo – ਜਨੇਊ ” ceremony. According to Baabaa Nanak, when this religious thread is put on a person by the priest, this is what happens — that person departs from this world without it:
- ਓਹੁ ਮੁਆ ਓਹੁ ਝੜਿ ਪਇਆ ਵੇਤਗਾ ਗਇਆ ॥੧॥: (Janaeoo or sacred thread) drops off (the body upon getting burnt in the pyre of that man, and he thus) departs without the thread (i.e., the religious symbol of thread does not continue with the soul)! (sggs 471).
Not the body, but it’s the mind of a person responsible for depraved or corrupt thinking (Soch) and consequent bad actions. Accordingly, Baabaa Nanak asks the Brahmin what’s the use of wearing the “thread” (or any religious symbols for that matter) if the mind is still engaged in corruption, theft, robberies, falsehood, adultery, abuses, deceptions, bad deeds done secretly, and so on!
- ਲਖ ਚੋਰੀਆ ਲਖ ਜਾਰੀਆ ਲਖ ਕੂੜੀਆ ਲਖ ਗਾਲਿ ॥ ਲਖ ਠਗੀਆ ਪਹਿਨਾਮੀਆ ਰਾਤਿ ਦਿਨਸੁ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲਿ ॥: (one wearing the thread or any religious symbol for that matter) commits thousands of robberies, thousands of acts of adultery, thousands of falsehoods and thousands of abuses. He practices thousands of deceptions and secret deeds (bad deeds done in secrecy), night and day, against his fellow beings. (sggs 471).
Symbol is a method of falsifying the Formless Reality
Baabaa Nanak reminds the priest (Pujaaree) that there is no sacred “thread” for the sense-organs (which can control their appetite). Further Baabaa Nanak tells the priest that you put the sacred “thread” on others but you yourself (i.e., your own sense-organs) wander about without it!
Clearly, it is as Baabaa Nanak is telling the priest (Pujaaree) not to bring ANY symbols in, because symbols is a method of falsifying the Formless Reality!
- ਤਗੁ ਨ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਨਾਰੀ ॥…: There is no (sacred) thread for the sense-organs (to control their ceaseless appetite), and no thread for the intellect. … (sggs 471).
The Gurbani reminds us that the Divine Principle has no form-shape-color. As such, the Divine is not only beyond the religious paraphernalia but also beyond the grip of any scriptures (religious Granths), and so on!
- ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਿੰਨ ॥: (“Prabh”) has no form, no shape, no color; “Prabh” is beyond these three worldly qualities (sggs 283).
Not only the Divine Factor is without form-shape-color, the Gurbani tells us that the mind is also without form-shape-color!
- ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕਉ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖਿਆ ਕਾਈ ॥: This mind has no form or outline (sggs 330).
But still, showing off oneself as religious or spiritual, many load their gross mortal bodies with all sorts of religious garbs, religious symbols, and so on. Obviously, in their guile, the Gurbani boldly says that such people take the Divine to be merely a toy or a play-thing and imitate what they see other people do (“Dekhaa Dekhee-“ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ”)
- ਮਾਥੇ ਤਿਲਕੁ ਹਥਿ ਮਾਲਾ ਬਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਗਨ ਰਾਮੁ ਖਿਲਉਨਾ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥੧॥: (People apply) ceremonial marks to their foreheads, hold maalaa or rosary in their hands, and wear religious robes. People think that Raam (Mool, Source…) is a toy or a play-thing ||1|| (sggs 1158)!
The Gurbani teaches us that all these external body robes, symbols, and other paraphernalia are nothing but a pompous show (“Adammbar“) of false ego-sense (Haumai) or stubborn mind. Hence rejected by the Gurbani.
- ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਮਨੂਆ ਦਹ ਦਿਸਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥: Outwardly for showing off, (the Manmukh) wears religious robes, (he thus tries to be) very clever, but his (instinctive) mind wanders in the ten directions (sggs 1099).
Baabaa Nanak further teaches us:
- ਬਹੁ ਭੇਖ ਕੀਆ ਦੇਹੀ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ॥: The more one wears religious robes, the more pain he causes his body (sggs 467).
- ਭੇਖੁ ਭਵਨੀ ਹਠੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਾ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਚੁ ਗਹਿ ਰਹੇ ॥੧॥: I know nothing about religious robes, pilgrimages or stubbornness; O Nanak, I only hold tight to the Truth ||1|| (sggs 843).
SGGS repudiates consciousness of religious Paraphernalia
Although the consciousness of religious wearing is repudiated in the Gurbani, but still body-frames are decorated and embellished with them. Why?
People do it for various reasons such as to look pious and Mahatma outside; to make believe that they know God; to establish their religious authority; to show they are spiritual scholars; to show they are better than those who do not wear such religious robes or symbols; to hide the fire of their worldly desires; to hide the filth of Maya within (hunger of Maya, ਮਾਇਆ ਦੀ ਭੁੱਖ); to show that they know the true meanings of the Gurbani; to impress upon simpletons and swindle them; to hide their untruthfulness; to cover up their wickedness; and so on. Simply put: They act without Being!
The Gurbani provides us with the authoritative answers as well as explanations as to why people do it.
- ਅਧਿਕ ਤਿਆਸ ਭੇਖ ਬਹੁ ਕਰੈ ॥: Excessive thirst (for Maya) makes people wear all sorts of religious garbs (sggs 352).
- ਭੇਖ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਕਮਾਵੈ ॥: (To show off, the stubborn fool) ostensibly wears religious robes, but does not practice Truth (sggs 738).
In order to fill Golak (box or bag for collecting and keeping money), such fraud is more prevalent in Gurdwaras and so called Teerath Asthaan (places of pilgrimage) and Deraas, etc. The Pujaare Group (ਪੁਜਾਰੀ ਲਾਣਾਂ) in Sikhi seems to be no better (if not worse!) than the crafty Brahmins and Pandits — exploit human vulnerabilities and fears regarding death, disease, business, employment, court litigations, children, barrenness, loss of loved ones, and so on. Because of fear or greed, people accepts this fake God created by the crafty Pujaaree Group.
To further make us aware of such fraud — again with the example of the sacred “thread” — Baabaa Nanak says:
- ਮਾਣਸ ਖਾਣੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥ ਛੁਰੀ ਵਗਾਇਨਿ ਤਿਨ ਗਲਿ ਤਾਗ ॥: The man-eaters (i.e., those who are tyrant, corrupt, bribe takers…) say prayers (i.e., pretend to be religious…)! Those who wield the knife (i.e., those who oppress others, hurt others, bring calamity upon others…) wear the sacred thread around their neck. (sggs 471).
Understandably, the Gurmat (Wisdom of the SGGS) neither encourages nor approves religious rituals (Karamkaand) and symbols.
Baabaa Nanak asks to take up the following instead
If one wants to decorate the gross body with the sacred “thead” — Baabaa Nanak teaches us to wear the sacred “thread” of spiritual Knowledge (Giaan), compassion (love), contentment, annihilation of bad thoughts, noble conduct, Naam …
- ਗਿਆਨੁ ਜਨੇਊ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਕੁਸਪਾਤੀ ॥: let spiritual wisdom be the sacred thread, and meditation the ceremonial ring (sggs 355).
- ਦਇਆ ਕਪਾਹ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਸੂਤੁ ਜਤੁ ਗੰਢੀ ਸਤੁ ਵਟੁ ॥ ਏਹੁ ਜਨੇਊ ਜੀਅ ਕਾ ਹਈ ਤ ਪਾਡੇ ਘਤੁ ॥ ਨਾ ਏਹੁ ਤੁਟੈ ਨ ਮਲੁ ਲਗੈ ਨਾ ਏਹੁ ਜਲੈ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਧੰਨੁ ਸੁ ਮਾਣਸ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜੋ ਗਲਿ ਚਲੇ ਪਾਇ ॥: (O Pandit! That “thread” whose) cotton is compassion (love), whose yarn is contentment, whose knots are complete annihilation of bad thoughts (Bikaar), whose twist is Truth (noble conduct). This is the thread of the mind, if you have it, O Brahman, then, put it on me. O pandit! (such “thread”) does not break, it cannot be soiled by filth (of Bikaar), it cannot be burnt, or lost. O Nanak! Blessed are those mortals, who wear such a thread around their necks (or, whose mind departs wearing such thread). (sggs 471).
- ਨਾਇ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਪਤਿ ਊਪਜੈ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ਸਚੁ ਸੂਤੁ ॥ ਦਰਗਹ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਤਗੁ ਨ ਤੂਟਸਿ ਪੂਤ ॥੩॥: Accepting the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Wisdom, Virtues…), honor is obtained (in the Divine Court, because,) the Divine Praise (to follow Virtues, Wisdom…) is the true sacred thread. Such a sacred thread is worn in the Divine Court and it (never) breaks. ||3|| (sggs 471).
Furthermore, Baabaa Nanak teaches us to take up the “Giaan Kharragu” (sword) of the Divine Knowledge (i.e., Brahm-Giaan of the Gur-Shabad…). This “Giaan Kharrag” is the Sword of Aatmaa. Because, Aatmaa can ONLY wear the sword of the Spiritual Wisdom (Giaan…)!
- ਗਿਆਨ ਖੜਗੁ ਲੈ ਮਨ ਸਿਉ ਲੂਝੈ ਮਨਸਾ ਮਨਹਿ ਸਮਾਈ ਹੇ ॥੩॥: Taking up the Sword of the Spiritual Wisdom, struggle with the mind, and (all Mayaic desires, thoughts, ਫੁਰਨੇ, ਖੋਟੀ ਮਨਸਾ, etc., ) born of the mind are nipped within the mind. ||3|| (sggs 1022).
Furthermore, Baabaa Nanak teaches us to wear a waistband of the true contentment.
- ਕਮਰਬੰਦੁ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਕਾ ਧਨੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ॥੨॥: I have made Contentment my waist-band (Camarbandh), and Your Naam is my wealth and youth (sggs 16).
Furthermore, the SGGS teaches us to wear a rosary of the remembrance of the Divine Naam.
- ਰਾਮੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਜਪਮਾਲੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Let your rosary be the enshrining of Raam (-Naam) in your Heart. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 503).
Furthermore, the SGGS teaches us that the turban on one’s head should be the Intact Consciousness (“Saabat Soorati” => the state of Pure Awareness, Unconditioned Consciousness, Total Awareness, Undivided Consciousness, Unadulterated Consciousness, “Joti Saroopu-ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ“)…
- ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥: Purify what is impure, and let the Lord’s Presence be your religious tradition. Let your Intact Consciousness (“Saabat Soorat”) be the turban on your head (sggs 1084).