Sikhi: a Way of Life

All organizations – including all organized religions (Mazhab-ਮਜ਼ਹਬ) – are political in nature.

This politicization of religion by rulers, governments, politicians, clergy or clerics (Pujaaree, priests…) etc. gives rise to corruption (fraud, adulteration, misinterpretation, abuse, degradation etc.).

No organized religions can claim to be free from such corruption. In fact older the religion greater the corruption.

History tells us that, from time to time, transformational personalities have emerged and challenge this corruption.

Most notable were the ten Sikh Gurus, many Bhagats etc. who truly hit hard on this corruption in the society.

Often misunderstood, Sikhi is not a combination or offshoot of any other religion (Mazhab-ਮਜ਼ਹਬ). It’s a revolutionary ‘Soch‘ (thinking) of all 35 revolutionary writers whose Baanee (ਬਾਣੀ) or hymns are present in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

  • ਨਾ ਹਮ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਨ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ ॥: I am not a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim. (sggs 1136).
  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥੩॥: Whatever the Pandit and the Mullaan have written (the path of Karamkaand, Shariyat…), I have abandoned (all of that) I have not taken any of it ||3||. (sggs 1159).

In fact, Sikhi is a distinct Way of life based on the Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) — a full-time, persistent, unabating or incessant Way of life of Love and universal brotherhood. 

This unique and new spiritual paradigms of Sikhi expounded by Baabaa Nanak and then the Teaching/Guidance was subsequently carried forward by 9 more Sikh Gurus. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is a 1430 pages compilation of hymns praising the Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature…) which enshrines the Bani of not only the Sikh Gurus but also 30 other Hindu and Muslim Bhaktas, drawn from across the length and breadth of India.

It is relevant even more today. By healing individuals, it heals the world torn by strife and misery. In nutshell, the true Sikhi expounded by the SGGS:

  • teaches oneness; one god (Universal Energy…) that lives within the creation (‘ਨਾਨਕ ਏਕੋ ਪਸਰਿਆ’), NOT separate from man but equally present in all,
  • shuns negativity and hatred. It embraces all of humanity irrespective of gender, faith, color, creed, status, wealth etc. It teaches universal brotherhood, compassion, love, responsibility, respect for all of creation and to see the divine in all beings,
  • doesn’t discriminate or divide humanity into ‘us versus them’, it does not teach to be hostile to what is different nor does it discriminate between one individual or type and the other being,
  • embraces all of existence,
  • respects and celebrates life,
  • recognizes that Creation is Infinite Energy beyond description,
  • emphasis on practical spirituality,
  • accepts the contradictions of our existence, good and bad, night and day, evil and good, flowers and thorns etc.,
  • alike science, it encourages questioning, it helps the questioner/seeker/learner (i.e. the Sikh) to Awaken so as to find his or her own answers,
  • extols nobility and integrity in thought, speech and deeds (ਮਨ, ਬਚਨ, ਕਰਮ) ,
  • emphasizes self-efforts to improve ownself, persuade ownself, change ownself, search ownselfinstruct own mind etc. — hence, each person’s competition is with his ownself; try to be better than yourself!,
  • emphasizes hard and honest work (Kirat Karo), responsibility etc.,
  • encourages sharing Knowledge (ਗਿਆਨ), helping the needy etc. (Vand Chhako),
  • insists on taking Wisdom or Giaan (‘Naam Japo); developing keen Understanding and discerning intelligence (Bibek Budh – and reasoning),
  • teaches to practice tolerance, respect, universal brotherhood, accepting all mankind without any preconditions or compulsions for there are no enemies but friends, social justice and equality,
  • teaches all the days, months, seasons (i.e. all times) are auspicious,
  • focuses on the Here and Now, NOT ‘afterlife‘,
  • teaches world is good and we are inherently divine (Jot Saroop); live a Wise, friendlier, happier and optimistic life (‘Charh Di Kalaa‘) of love and joy — live a divine life (Gurmukh Lifestyle),
  • shuns casteism (Jaat Paat, bigotry, class barriers etc.),
  • teaches to serve (Sevaa-ਸੇਵਾ) the fellow human beings, help and support the poor and unfortunate (‘Sarbatt Daa Bhalaa‘),
  • teaches respect women as equals and give them same rights and privileges as men,
  • asks us to awaken bit by bit each day Virtues within — Truth, honesty, contentment, mercy, patience, Sahaj (Natural State of Being), Wisdom, humility, sweet speech etc. and imbibe them,,
  • asks us to lead a responsible and successful worldly life as a householder and a contributing member of the society,
  • rejects the corrupt and crafty clergy or priests system (‘ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਛਾਡੇ ਦੋਊ’),
  • rejects rituals (Karamkaand), superstitions, ‘Bhekh’ (religious paraphernalia), dogmas, external ablutions, external pilgrimage (Teerath Yatra), stubborn mindedness, blind faith, middlemen etc.,
  • respects of the environment (creation, Kudrat: ‘ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਵਸਿਆ’), and so on.

In order to fulfill these intentions of the Gurmat, clearly, Sikhi can NOT be a part-time job — hauling one’s physical body to gurdwara one-hour a week or so on Sundays! Instead, the Gurmat Wisdom asserts it’s a perpetual or ‘Nirantar Bhagti‘, ‘Nij Bhagati, living Gurmukh-Lifestyle 24/7.

  • ਦੁਖੀ ਦੁਹਾਗਨਿ ਦੁਇ ਪਖ ਹੀਨੀ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਨਾਹ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਕੀਨੀ ॥: That Jeev remains miserable like a discarded bribe, who is NOT engaged in persistent or ‘Nirantari Bhagti-ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਭਗਤਿ’). (sggs 793).
  • ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ ਹੈ ਜੇਤੇ ਮੈ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੇ ॥: With (all) breaths (i.e, ਲਗਾਤਾਰ-continually…), take care of the Naam through the Gurmat (i.e., unceasingly maintain the Divine Knowledge – ਆਤਮ ਗਿਆਨ – through the Gurbani’s Instruction). (sggs 980).

In short, instead of making one hour or so of life ‘Saphal-ਸਫਲ’ (fruitful, successful, rewarding, gainful, fruitful, prolific etc.) on Sundays, the Gurbani asks its learners (i.e. Sikhs) to make the WHOLE life fruitful or successful!

  • ਸਭੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਸਫਲੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਨਾਮ ਕੀ ਮਨਿ ਲਾਗੀ ਭੁਖਾ ॥ : Their whole life has been successful for those who have the hunger for the divine Naam in their mind (meaning, ‘Naam‘ becomes the support of their life). (sggs 588).
  • ਸਫਲ ਜਨਮੁ ਇਸੁ ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਆਇਆ ॥ ਸਾਚਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਸਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ : That person who has come into this world has a successful life, who naturally abides in the True Naam. ||1|| (sggs 1174).
  • ਸਫਲ ਸਫਲ ਭਈ ਸਫਲ ਜਾਤ੍ਰਾ ॥: (Imbibing the Guru’s Wisdom) the journey of (entire) human life is successful. (sggs 687).

Furthermore, the Gurbani asks this life should be made fruitful or successful (‘Saphal-ਸਫਲ’) HERE AND NOW, not after death. Because, once dead — regardless if cremated or buried — ultimately this body will mingle with dust, and grass will grow on top of it!

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਗਰਬੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਊਚਾ ਦੇਖਿ ਅਵਾਸੁ ॥ ਆਜੁ ਕਾਲ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਭੁਇ ਲੇਟਣਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਜਾਮੈ ਘਾਸੁ ॥੩੮॥: O Kabeer! Seeing one’s high palace one should not be arrogant (this is also a game of four days only: temporary). Today or tomorrow (leaving this palace when death comes) our body will mingle with dust and grass will grow on top (of our body). ||38|| (sggs 1366).

Fittingly, the Gurbani’s edict is that Sikhi is learning and taking the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad through Shabad-Vichaar, and then living that Wisdom in daily life (i.e. Gurmukh Lifestyle). 

  • ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਦਰੀ ਕਰਮਿ ਲਘਾਏ ਪਾਰਿ ॥ : Sikhi is contemplation on Guru’s teaching (Upadesh, Giaan, Bibek or Wisdom) and acting on it. Being blessed by the Grace of the Guru’s Giaan (or Wisdom) one then crosses the worldly ocean (Bhav Saagar). (sggs 465).
  • ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: The Guru has instructed (Upadesh) me in this True Essence of spiritual Wisdom (Aatmic-Giaan – ਗਿਆਨ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1142).
  • ਸਫਲ ਜਨਮੁ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਗੁਰ ਕੀਨਾ ॥: The Guru’s Giaan or Wisdom has made my (entire) life successful. (sggs 857).

Aptly, there is tremendous emphasis on Shabad-Vichaar or churning the Gurbani — dying through the Shabad.

  • ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥: The ultimate action is Reflections on the Shabad – Shabad Vichaar ||3|| (sggs 158).

Hence, Sikhi is not to be lived part-time. Rather, it’s to be lived full-time (persistent, unabating, incessant etc.) free of Pakhand, formalities or Karamkaand and so on!

Since the Gurbani is a Way of understanding, it is meant to be understood and applied.

Although an uphill climb, nonetheless it is the real Bhagati in Sikhi.

Hence, NO time limit or price tag can be put on Sikhi. Also, one cannot make a Sikh to an order or give Sikhi or Aatam-Giaan (Spiritual Knowledge) to someone in a ready-made package! In nutshell, one cannot bribe or buy someone into the Sikh fold. Because:

  • ਗੁਰੁ ਸਿਖੀ ਦਾ ਸਮਝਣਾ ਜੋਤੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਜਗਾਵਣਹਾਰਾ।: To understand Sikhi is to have the ‘Joti’ (mind, consciousness, Surat-ਸੁਰਤ…) Awakened to ‘Joti’ (Mool, True Nature, Antar-Aatmaa, Wisdom or Gur-Giaan…).   (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 28).
  • ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖੀ ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖ ਸੁਣ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਿਆਣਾ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੋਲਾ।: listening to the Gur-Giaan (Wisdom, Upadesh..), Gur-Sikh become Wise within and simple (innocent) without. (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 17).

Since Sikhi is Shabad-Consciousness NOT body-consciousness, one’s own mind has to become a Sikh, through earnest spiritual efforts or Uddam (i.e., Shabad-Vichaar or churning the Gurbani). Nobody else can do it for anybody! Since the mind is nothing but thoughts-stuff (Phurne-ਫੁਰਨੇ), a Sikh’s thinking (Soch) must change with the Gur-Giaan (Gur-Wisdom). Transformed thinking translates into transformed mind or thoughts, speech and actions (Karma).

In nutshell, Sikh is the Conscious (Surat – ਸੁਰਤ), NOT the physical body-frame. Therefore, it’s the mind that needs to become a Sikh

  • ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥: The Shabad (i.e. Giaan or Wisdom is my) Guru. (Not the body, but) abidance of the Consciousness (i.e., my mind or Soch-ਸੋਚ) is the disciple (of this Shabad-Guru). (sggs 943).

However, it’s the gross body-frame still being worshipped. As a result, it’s the gross body-frame itself is still being made a ‘Sikh‘!

But brandishing religious paraphernalia on one’s ephemeral body-frame is not a Sikhi of Baabaa Nanak or the SGGS. Baabaa Nanak says:

  • 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).

By becoming a Wise person (i.e. Gurmukh), the Gurbani asserts it’s possible for everyone to make one’s entire life or human birth ‘Saphal-ਸਫਲ’ (fruitful, successful, rewarding, gainful, prolific etc.).

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਹੋਇ ਦਇਆਲੁ ਤ ਸਰਧਾ ਪੂਰੀਐ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਹੋਇ ਦਇਆਲੁ ਨ ਕਬਹੂੰ ਝੂਰੀਐ ॥ : The human being with Grace of the True Wisdom (ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) is firmly entrusted. Because of this True Wisdom, he never complains (in the face of adversity). (sggs 149).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਦੇਖਿ ਜੀਵਾ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੇ ਚਰਣ ਧੋਇ ਧੋਇ ਪੀਵਾ ॥੧॥: As I understand and live (i.e. implementaion-ਅਮਲ) by the Gur- Giaan or Wisdom, I get spiritual life (divine or Gurmukh Life). As I wash the Guru’s feet (i.e. as I engage in Shabad Vichaar or churning the Gurbani) I get (the spiritual life-giver) Naam (Jal) to drink. ||1|| (sgg 239).

In other words, the Gurbani tells us only the Wise persons are truly alive. The rest are just passing or killing the time or the time is killing them!

  • ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥: I come alive (Aatmak Jeevan-ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) as I practice (Naam – Virtues, Wisdom, Truth…). Upon forgetting (Virtues, Wisdom, Truth…), I die (spiritual death-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 9 & 349).

SGGS teaches us ‘Chaj(u)-ਚਜੁ’ of life

The Wisdom (Giaan) of the SGGS teaches us ‘Chaj(u)-ਚਜੁ’ of life —  the Way of proper living, proper behavior in life, ability to live pious life, ability to live with virtuous and truthful conduct, Work ethic, Gurmukh lifestyle, good manners, skill of living, method of living, understanding, discerning intellect, ਸਮਝ, ਅਕਲ, ਜੀਵਨ-ਜਾਚ, ਚੰਗਾ ਚਲਨ, ਚੰਗੀ ਸੋਚ-ਕਰਮ …

Hence the SGGS asks us to learn the proper skill of life by learning the Wisdom (Giaan) of the Guru.

  • ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਚਜੁ ਅਚਾਰੁ ਸਿਖੁ ਤੁਧੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਦੁਖੁ ॥੩॥ : Meeting the Gur (-Giaan, Wisdom…), learn skill (of life) and good conduct, then  sorrow will never affect you. ||3|| (sggs 50).

If we don’t learn ‘Chaj(u)-ਚਜੁ’ of life by reading to the SGGS, then what’s the use?

  • ਗੁਰ ਕਉ ਜਾਣਿ ਨ ਜਾਣਈ ਕਿਆ ਤਿਸੁ ਚਜੁ ਅਚਾਰੁ ॥: A person who deliberately does not learn and practice the Guru’s (Giaan or Wisdom), then the method or style of his whole life is NOT right. (sggs 19).

4 comments

  1. Many appreciative thanks Brother T. Singh ji, for this very wide-ranging and cogent essay which is practically a “manifesto” of the precious Wisdom of Sikhi. Although the world is inherently good and we are inherently divine, the traps of Maya can make it all seem like total insanity. Our only remedy is clinging to Gur-Giaan 24/7! “Baar viddaanarhai hummas dhummas kookaa paeeaa raahee. Tau sah setee lagarhee ddoree naanak anad setee ban gaahee.” (In this wondrous forest of the world, there is chaos and confusion; shrieks emanate from the highways. I am in love with You, O my Husband Lord; O Nanak, I cross the jungle joyfully.) — SGGS 520. Thanks again! Your essays always make me feel connected to Sikhi and Gurbani in amazing ways!

  2. Thank you Bhai Sahib Kirpal Singh Ji for taking the time reply.
    Sorry, I’m not sure if I understand your question.
    However, I’m pretty sure you are familiar with this declaration of Baabaa Nanak in the Gurbani:
    – ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥: Ghaal Khaai Kichh(u) Hathhu Daei. Nanak Raah(u) Pachhaanhi Saei ||1|| (sggs 1245).
    In which:
    ‘ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ-Ghaal Khaai‘ –> Do hard work, do honest work, do Kirat-ਨੇਕ ਕਮਾਈ…
    ‘ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ-Kichh(u) Hathhu Daei‘ –> Share some (with needy), help the needy…
    Nanak Raah(u) Pachhaanhi Saei‘ –> O Nanak! Such people know the true Way of life…

    As far as Naam Jap is concerned, the entire Gubani is about Naam Jap!!!!!!!
    – ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਦਾ ਜਪੁ ਜਾਪਿ ॥: Hari Hari Naam(u) Sadaa jap(u) Jaapi(sggs 1143).

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