Sikh Missionary Society
Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
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Introduction to Sikhism
Introduction to Sikhism

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: Introduction to Sikhism: Contents

Section I: General

  1. What is religion?
  2. What is the science of religion?
  3. What is the place of religion in the modern age?
  4. Can I be happy without religion?
  5. Is fear the basis of all religions?
  6. What are the characteristics of the Sikh religion?
  7. What is the need and justification of the Sikh religion?
  8. What are the distinctive features of Sikhism?
  9. Is Sikhism suited to the conditions of modern society?
  10. Is Sikhism a faith of hope and optimism?
  11. How does a Sikh reconcile himself to the secular ideal?
  12. What is the contribution of Sikhism to the uplift of women?
  13. How has martyrdom helped Sikhism?
  14. Does Sikhism insist on faith?
  15. What is the role of Reason in Sikhism?
  16. What is the place of morality in Sikh religion?
  17. What is the place of sword in Sikhism?
  18. Should we teach our religion to our children?
  19. What is the role of religion in human life with special reference to Sikhism?

Q1. What is religion?

From times immemorial, man has felt the need of some power of deity to liberate him from his toils and to protect him from dangers. Further, he seeks to obtain peace and hope through contact with a superior power which is called Divinity.

Society and religion go together. Religion has occupied an important place in the history of civilization and philosophy. It gives a meaning and purpose to human life and satisfies man's longing for peace and salvation. Some form of religion existed in primitive societies. They believed in spirits, magic and images of gods and offered sacrifices to them. The basic forms of religious expression are sacrifice, prayer and ritual.

Religion has been defined as "the relationship between man and the super- human power he believes in and depends upon". According to Jakob Burchardt, "Religions are the expression of the eternal and indestructible metaphysical cravings of human nature." It includes a rule of conduct or principle of individual life on which one's peace of mind depends. Religions offer different paths to salvation. The goal of religion is getting in tune with the infinite. Moreover, the philosophy of religion is neither ceremony nor ritual nor going to the temple, but an inner experience which finds God everywhere.

Religion consists of a number of beliefs relating to a reality which cannot be demonstrated by proof, but which is an inexorable certainty to the believer. This reality induces him to adopt certain modes of action and behavior. When Guru Arjan(fifth Sikh Guru) was asked as to which is the best religion in the world, he answered: "The best religion in the world is the one which stresses the power of prayer and the performance of noble deeds." Holy living or altruistic action is the practical side of religion.

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Q2. What is the science of religion?

Some people think that religion is contrary to science because religion insists on faith, while science stresses reasoning and proof. But there is something like the science of religion. It includes two things: a general history of religions and the developments of a particular faith. While the science of comparative religion seeks to assess the varieties of religious experiences and a systematic analysis of their development, the history of a particular religion reveals the special features and deeper issues of an individual faith. It studies in depth the change in the forms and expression of a particular religion, the psychological development of particular communities in the matter of dogma and ritual. Connected with the science of religion are the sociological studies of the influence of social forms on the development of religion and psychology of religion which determine the place of religion in human life.

Theology must be distinguished from the science of religion. While the first is the pursuit of knowledge in the interests of a creed, the latter is a factual study of religious experience. Theology is based on the church, on the dogma. The religious scientist is objective and dispassionate. Religious science in its broadest sense is a history of ideas and therefore, has to find general answers to the common problems of life. One of the important ideas is holiness: what is holy as opposed to profane? Holiness creates reverential awe: The fear of God. An understanding of the basic concepts of religion has to be linked up with the practical demands of active and purposeful living. Metaphysics and the supernatural are beyond the realm of evidence. Their appreciation will largely depend on the widening of the frontiers of human knowledge and experience.

The inter-relationship between science and religion has been summed up by Prof. A. Toynbee as under:

"Science must be based on religion and religion must include scientific rationality. I think that the words of Albert Einstein. 'Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind', are of even greater importance now than when he uttered them".

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Q3. What is the place of religion in the modern age?

Throughout the ages man has believed in some sort of religion. It is thought that without religion he cannot comprehend the real purpose of his existence. In fact, religion has had a definite place in society and will continue to play a vital part in this age of science.

While science and technology might assist man in improving his physical conditions, surroundings and economic standards, religion and ethics help to develop his personality and inner self. Man may live in comfort and prosperity and yet have no peace of mind. Even in a highly affluent society like that of the United States of America, it is realized that wealth and power are not everything. Spiritual progress is intrinsic and shows itself in inner satisfaction and sense of fulfillment.

Moreover, modern society dominated by technology cannot be regarded as an ideal society. It suffers from great strains and a sense of frustration and futility. Science has now given the man the power to destroy his own civilization and the human race. It is religion alone that can save society from such a catastrophe and check the erosion of human values. It reinforces basic ethical values and discourages racial prejudice, economic exploitation and social injustice. Religion like science is devoted to the service of man. Religion corrects the lopsidedness of science, because without moral and spiritual foundations, science can bring ruination to mankind. Religion and ethics humanise the scientist and make him realize his social responsibility. It shifts the emphasis in science and industry from exploitation and power to social uplift, peace and co-operation. Man must be the master and not the slave of machines.

Great scientists themselves realize the limitations of science. They look to religion to remedy the social evils. According to Dr. Julian Huxley: "Religion of some sort is probably a necessity." One need not accept the dogmas of religion, but one must appreciate its search for Truth and its endeavor for the uplift of the masses. Prof. A.N. Whitehead says in this connection. "The future of civilization depends on the degree to which we can balance the forces of Science and Religion."

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Q4. Can I be happy without religion?

Much depends on one's idea of happiness. True happiness is a state of mind in which man finds tranquility and contentment. The external happiness conferred by material possessions and worldly activities is ephemeral and superficial. In Communist countries people may appear to be satisfied and contented as their material conditions improve, but can they really be said to have achieved true happiness and real peace of mind?

Perhaps one of the reasons for the present day decline in morals is the neglect of religion. Without high ethical standards, which are the foundations of all religions no organized and disciplined life is possible. Promiscuity and sexual aberrations are no doubt due to ignorance and a neglect of the fundamental principles of ethics. In a secular state, it is the duty of parents and voluntary organizations to impart to children a knowledge of moral and spiritual values and ennoble them. If a man who is under a strong temptation thinks that moral rules are man-made, he may easily violate them. He will hesitate more to disobey them, if he believes that they are God made and have been revealed to him through a Divine Teacher or the Guru.

Even men of piety and great devotion are apt to fall a prey to temptation. There are such notable examples as Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Joga Singh. If religion is not sincerely practiced, it has little effect on our private lives or that of the community. An interest in religion makes people seek the company of holy men, which can give them the solace and happiness they really need.

Some people make a show of being religious. This does not serve any useful purpose. What is needed is a positive attitude, to seek the company and assistance of those persons who are truly devoted to religion.

Some people think that religion is an irrelevance, a matter of no consequence, and that they lose nothing if they exclude religion from their lives. They believe in the motto: 'Eat, drink, and be merry'. But does this give an edge or meaning to life? Life has a purpose. Religion makes a man conscious of his spiritual heritage and goal.

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Q5. Is fear the basis of all religions?

In ancient times, it is true that the fear of the unknown, the anger of gods and goddesses and the concept of divine punishment compelled people to believe in some sort of religion. They began to worship the forces of nature. In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church set up the Inquisition to punish the wrongs against the church. As man's knowledge increased, this fear was replaced by a conviction that behind the universe was a Creator, who was just and merciful and not revengeful or mischievous.

Fear is not always a bad thing. Fear of police and of imprisonment makes many people abide by the law. The fear of venereal diseases keeps many persons away from sexual over-indulgence. The fear of sickness has turned men's minds to research and the discovery of remedies for many chronic diseases and violent epidemics.

According to the new science of psychiatry, fear of any kind, particularly in the case of children, undermines their personalities. Instead of telling people about penalties for moral wrong doing they should appeal to their higher sense and considerations of the social good. It is in the interest of religion itself to discourage such fear and to strengthen the individual's moral values and social conscience. The moral code ought to be a part of daily life and any breach should be regarded as an injury to society, and against the best interests of the community.

Sikhism does not encourage fear. It does not believe in a system of punishment or the inducement of rewards. In place of fear, it advocates personal courage. It believes optimistically in the ultimate victory of the moral order.

Sikhism preaches that we should neither cause fright to anyone or be afraid of anyone. This healthy spirit has been responsible for the Sikh's willingness to offer his life for his faith. True heroism, requires a lack of fear and a lack of hatred. The Sikh believes in the cause he serves, without any idea of reward or punishment.

In Sikhism, the awe of God turns into love. Just as a faithful wife is careful and cautious not to cause any annoyance to her husband but rather minister to his comforts. In the same way, the true devotee is prepared to offer his all to please God and to serve His Creation.

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Q6. What are the characteristics of the Sikh religion?

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith. It recognizes God as the only One. He who is not subject to time or space. He who is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of the Universe.

Moreover in Sikhism, ethics and religion go together. The inculcation of moral qualities and the practice of virtue in everyday life is a vital step towards spiritual development. Qualities like honesty, compassion, generosity, patience, humility etc. can be built up only by effort and perseverance. The lives of the Gurus show how they lived their lives according to their code of ethics.

Sikhism does not believe in Avtarvada, that God takes a human form. It does not attach any value to gods and goddesses and other deities.

The Sikh religion rejects all rituals and routine practices like fasting and pilgrimage, omens and austerities. The goal of human life to merge with God is accomplished by following the teachings of the Guru, by meditation on the holy Name and performance of acts of service and charity.

Sikhism emphasizes Bhakti Marg or the path of devotion. It does, however, recognizes the limited value of Gyan Marg(Path of Knowledge) and Karam Marg(Path of Action). It also lays stress on the need for earning God's Grace in order to reach the spiritual goal.

Sikhism is a modern, logical, and practical religion. It believes that normal family-life(Grist) is no barrier to salvation. That it is possible to live detached in the midst of worldly ills and temptations. A devotee must live in the world and yet keep his head above the usual tensions and turmoils. He must be a soldier, scholar and saint for God.

The Gurus believed that this life has a purpose and a goal. It offers an opportunity for self and God realization. Moreover man is responsible for his own actions. He cannot claim immunity from the results of his actions. He must therefore be very vigilant in what he does. Finally, the Sikh Scripture (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) is the perpetual Guru. This is the only religion which has given the Holy Book the status of a religious preceptor. There is no place for a living human Guru(Dehdhari) in Sikh religion.

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Q7. What is the need and justification of the Sikh religion?

The advent of Guru Nanak in 1469 came at a time of socio-political necessity. India had fallen on evil days. There was no security of life and property.

Guru Nanak rang the alarm-bell and saved masses from fake religions. Religion then was either by form of ritual or hypocrisy. He released people from the rut of formalism and the parrot-like repetition of scriptures. Guru Nanak challenged the division of men into classes, castes and communities. For him, all men were equally worthy of respect.

Guru Nanak stressed the uniqueness of each individual and wanted him to progress through a process of self-discipline. The discipline was three-fold: physical, moral and spiritual. The physical discipline included acts of service and charity, while leading a householder's life; the moral discipline included righteous living and rising above selfish desires; the spiritual discipline included the belief in only the One Supreme Being, (the Timeless Almighty) and the exclusion of the Pantheon of gods and goddesses, in whom they had formerly believed.

The Gurus brought a course of discipline to their Sikhs that lasted for a period of nearly 230 years till the creation of the Khalsa SIKH, the ideal man' of the Tenth Guru (Guru Gobind Singh Ji).

Guru Nanak opposed political tyranny and subjugation. He raised his voice against Babar's invasion and the tyrannical deeds perpetrated by his army in India. However, the imprisonment of Guru Nanak and the wonderful way in which he conducted himself and performed the tasks assigned to him in the camp awakened the soul of the Mughal invader. The Guru emphasized the dignity of the individual and his right to oppose injustice and oppression. His main task, however, was to turn men's minds to God. Guru Nanak opposed mere ceremony and ritualism as dead wood. True religion is purposeful and exalts conscientious living, and not the tread-mill of ritual.

Other than for Guru Nanak, the lamp of spirituality would have been extinghuished in Asia.

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Q8. What are the distinctive features of Sikhism?

Each prophet gives some light and message to the world. Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikhism, and his nine successors made a distinct contribution to religion and religious thought. Sikhism may be distinguished from other religions from three stand-points: philosophy, community or institution and physical appearance.

From the philosophical stand-point, the contribution of Sikhism may be called Naam Marg. Guru Nanak emphasized the need for man's devotion to the Timeless Almighty. He illustrates the attributes of God in his Mul-Mantra. He asks man to dedicate himself, day and night to the remembrance of God and His Name.

The Guru also gave to his followers the form of a community with certain institutions such as Deg, Teg, and Fateh. By Deg is meant the system of community kitchen (Langar) maintained by contributions of the Sikhs. Everyone is to donate one-tenth (Daswandh) of his income. Teg, is the sword or Bhagwati represents power, which was necessary to preserve freedom of religious worship and to end tyranny. For this reason, Guru Gobind Singh gave to God among other names, the name of Sarbloh(All steel). The Sikh believes in God's victory(Fateh). His salutation is Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh: the victory is God's and the Khalsa is God's. The Sikh always believes in Chardi Kala, (progress and optimism) in the reform and improvement of society, as a continuous process.

Sikhism also believes in discipline. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Sikh a new appearance and administered him the Baptism of the Sword. He infused in him a spirit of fearlessness and a belief in his own invincibility and told him to maintain the five symbols*, each beginning with the letter K.
(*symbols are: Hair (Kes), Sword (Kirpan), knee-long Underwear (Kachhera), Comb (Kanga), Iron Bracelet (Kara).)

Another tenet of Sikhism is humility (Garibi). The Gurus asked their followers to regard themselves servants of the Congregation (Sangat). The tenth Guru, after administering his new baptism to the five chosen ones, asked them on bent knees and with folded hands, to administer baptism (Amrit) to him. In the entire human history, there is no other case of a Guru kneeling before his followers.

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Q9. Is Sikhism suited to the conditions of modern society?

The principle of "the survival of the fittest", is applicable as mush to religions as to communities or people. Those faiths which cannot meet the challenge of their time or the new conditions in society are likely to suffer eclipse.

Sikhism however is suited to the needs of modern life. It believes in the individual and his right to develop his personality to the maximum extent possible. According to Guru Nanak, every man has power or merit; he is a part of the divine. He is not a useless weakling, a mere product of the chain-reaction of Karma. The Sikh is essentially a man of action, with an overwhelming sense of self-reliance. He should invoke the Guru's Blessing at every step in his life and ask for His Divine Favor or Grace.

Sikhism is both modern and rational. It does not foster blind faith. Guru Nanak exposed the futility of meaningless ritual and formalism. He questioned the superstitious practices of his time and he brought about a revolution in the thinking of his people.

Sikhism rejects all distinctions of caste and creed. It stands for the 'Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man'. It believes in a casteless, egalitarian society which guarantees equal rights to women. At a time when woman was regarded inferior to man, Guru Nanak placed woman on a high pedestal: "Why call her inferior, who gives birth to kings?"

An important aspect of modern society is the belief in democracy. The welfare of man is best secured by his elected representatives. This principle is the guiding rule of the Khalsa, which entrusts all decisions to elected Five Sikhs.

Sikhism also believes in the concept of a socialistic pattern society. Man's responsibility to society lies in taking his contribution to social welfare as a sacred duty. The gulf between the more fortunate and the less fortunate has to be bridge. The Guru instituted the Temple of Bread (Langar) to break the caste system. This is a good example of true democracy in daily life.

Sikhism is thus distinct from other religions and has something new to offer to man.

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Q10. Is Sikhism a faith of hope and optimism?

Yes, the Gurus prescribed the sovereign remedy of "The Name" as the panacea for all mortal ills. While some religions condemn men as miserable sinners destined to damnation and the unending fire of hell, Sikhism believes that there is hope even for the worst man. Kauda the cannibal, and Sajjan the thug, were reclaimed to good life by Guru Nanak with the gift of Naam.

All is never lost. If man realizes his mistakes and shifts the center of his life from the lower self to the higher self, he can attain to the highest goal. But this change comes through an understanding of the Guru's word(Bani) and God's Grace. In moments of crises, even the most pious and virtuous of men may succumb to temptation. Undoubtedly, evil and sorrow test the mettle of man, but his true support through all his trial is his faith in God and prayers for His Grace.

Sikhism is a practical religion. It shows mankind how to live a worthy and useful life in the world. It teaches him how to face and overcome evil through selfless service, devotion to duty. man can work his way to self-realization. If he trusts in God, feels that he is with Him, and that He will guide him to his goal. When a Sikh has to face trial and torture when everything seems lost, he prays for Divine guidance from his scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, and bears all difficulties with faith and fortitude. Gurbani(The Guru's word or Holy Spirit) affords him true solace and enables him to accept the Divine will(Hukam) patiently. He prays in a spirit of dedication and not with the expectation of reward. A true Sikh never despairs even in the most adverse circumstances. He feels that he is in the company of the Guru, this gives him strength and he can then face every crisis with courage and an unshakable faith in God and the Guru.

Sikhism is suited to the challenges of the modern age. Mr. Bunker, ex-ambassador of USA to India, and a Christian, once said: "The Cardinal principles of Sikhism are very much akin to my own religion. It is a religion for our time."

As pointed out by Dr. Arnold Toynbee, "In the coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scripture the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."

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Q11. How does a Sikh reconcile himself to the secular ideal?

Sikhism recommends an active life, the life of a house-holder(Grist), life in society(not in isolation), where every individual makes his contribution to the development of society. There is no place for asceticism in Sikhism. Every Sikh must work for his living, and not be a burden on society. Sikhism lays emphasis on the right type of living-Dharam di Kirt (the labour of Dharam = Righteousness. This refers to honest living and Dignity of labour.). Worldly duties may be performed side by side with the search of "The Truth". A Sikh must set an example to others; he should become a better farmer, a better businessman and a better public servant. He is not to shun material gain or the comforts of life.
"Salvation is not incompatible with laughing, eating, playing and dressing well".
(A.G. p 522)
Sikhism lays emphasis on man's social obligations. Man is a part of society and has to work for its uplift. That is why social reform is a strong point in the Guru's teaching. The Gurus rejected the caste system, untouchability, taboos against women, good and bad omens and the worshiping of graves, idols and mausoleums. Sikhism believes in the equality of man which is practically demonstrated through the institution of Langar(the Temple of Bread) where all dine together in single line. Inter-caste marriages and mixing on equal terms with person of diverse faiths and nationalities is the norm. As stated by Dr. Gokul Chand Narang: "The appearing of Guru Nanak was a great step towards arousing consciousness of a common nationality."

Sikhism lays stress on one's duties as a citizen rendering service to the community as a whole. The sword is meant for protecting not merely the citizen but also all victims of tyranny. Guru Teg Bahadur's sacrifice for preserving Hinduism from Aurangzeb's fanatical crusade is yet another aspect of the right of freedom of religion, which is so necessary in a secular state. Secularism requires an equality of all religions, without special favor to the religion of the majority or any designated as State faith Religion.

Thus, a belief in Sikhism is not incompatible with the ideals of a secular democracy.

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Q12. What is the contribution of Sikhism to the uplift of women?

When Guru Nanak appeared on the Indian scene, the place assigned to woman was low and unenviable. The tyranny of caste had left its marks on Hindu women. They had resigned themselves to their miserable lot. A widow had to burn herself on her husband's funeral pyre to become a Sati(the ancient Hindu custom rejected by the Gurus).

The position of Muslim women was also far from satisfactory. A Muslim could lawfully marry four women. Who were regarded chiefly as objects of sexual gratification. Women were kept within Purdah(veil) and their education and movements were restricted.

The Sikh Gurus gave women equal status. They gained social equality and religious freedom. The false notion that they were inherently evil and unclean was removed.

Sikhism conferred religious rights on women. Some Hindu scriptures had allowed an inferior position to women, and affirmed that they were unworthy of performing religious worship. A woman was regarded as temptation-incarnate. The lot of a widow was deplorable. The Gurus exposed the folly of such notions. They rehabilitated women in Indian society. Religious gatherings and Kirtan were thrown open to women; they could participate fully in religious ceremonies and received the baptism(Amrit) on equal terms with men. Guru Amar Das deputed some women for missionary work. Guru Hargobind called woman 'the conscience of man'. In religious gatherings, men and women sang and preached without any distinction.

Guru Amar Daas condemned the practice of female infanticide and Sati. He advocated widow remarriage. Guru Teg Bahadur blessed the women of Amritsar and said that by their devotion they had made themselves "acceptable to God". Sikh history furnishes names of many women who inspired men to heroic deeds. The "forty immortals" were put to shame by their women folk on their betrayal of the Tenth Guru, and thus goaded to action they welcomed martyrdom and earned pardon of the Guru. They were returned to the Guru faith by a woman. In the Indo-Pak conflict(1971), Sikh women on the border formed the second line of defence and gave valuable assistance to our fighting forces.

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Q13. How has martyrdom helped Sikhism?

No nation, sect or community can survive and prosper unless it has a band of persons who are prepared to die, to uphold its faith, integrity, unity, its tradition and way of life. That is what the history of the world demonstrates clearly.

The essential condition for entry into the Sikh fold is self- surrender and devotion to the Guru and God. Readiness for the supreme sacrifice, or of offering one's head on the palm of one's hand to the Guru is an essential condition laid down by the Gurus for becoming a Khalsa Sikh. Seeking death, not for personal glory, winning reward or going to heaven, but for the purpose of protecting the weak and the oppressed is what made the Khalsa brave and invincible. This has become a traditional reputation of the Khalsa. Right from the times of the Gurus till the last India-Pakistan conflict (1971), the Sikhs have demonstrated that death in the service of truth, justice and country, is part of their character and their glorious tradition. They do not seek martyrdom, they attain it. Dying is the privilege of heroes. It should, however, be for an approved or noble cause. Sikh history furnishes outstanding examples of Guru Arjan, Guru Teg Bahadur, sons of Guru Gobind Singh and countless other Sikh men and women, who laid down their lives to uphold the cause of the religious freedom and the uproot of tyranny.

Undoubtedly, in a world of evil and sin, men of God must be prepared to suffer for the cause of righteousness and truth. According to Guru Gobind Singh, the true hero is one who fights to uphold "The Truth". He then does not run away from the battlefield.

Martyrs face the gallows with a smile. The greatest tortures hold no terror for them. They look at the executioner with equanimity because they believe in the justness of their cause. A true martyr regards himself as God's instrument. Sri Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom was unique. He sacrificed himself not to save any of his own followers but to save the Hindu Religion. Sikh History is replete with the glorious deeds and the heroic sacrifices of the Sikhs who suffered for upholding decency, truth, justice and moral values.

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Q14. Does Sikhism insist on faith?

When we repose our trust in someone it means that, we have faith in him. For instance, when we send a child to school, it is on account of our faith in the value of education. In the matter of love, one has to put faith in the beloved. So faith is not peculiar to religion; it is found in almost every activity of life.

Sikhism insists on this kind of basic faith. Just as you cannot learn to swim unless you get into water, in the same way you can never know spirituality unless you believe in God. Sikhism enjoins faith in the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man.

Sikhism emphasizes the need of the Guru for spiritual training. Fortunately, the Guru Granth Sahib is with us for such guidance. Many seek the solution of their spiritual and temporal problems in the Granth and seek light from Gurbani. We thus repose our faith in the Guru, discover the great truths enshrined in his message as our wisdom, acting in the light of Gurbani, tells us.

Sikhism enjoins us to love God. We cannot love God if we love ourselves. Ego is at the root of all evil and our sufferings. If we concentrate our minds on God and sing His praises, we subordinate and even drive ego out of our minds we can then acquire those great qualities and virtues, which we associate with God.

Sikhism believes in universal goodness. The Sikh seeks the God's Grace, not only for himself but also for the whole world for he believes in the good of all mankind (Sarbat da bhala). This sense of fellowship makes him feel at home everywhere and to look on all as friends: "No one is my enemy or a stranger", Guru Nanak wrote. He thus acquires an optimistic outlook on life.

The need for a Faith is recognized even by the greatest scientists. Indeed, reason alone cannot fathom the mysteries of existence and the Universe. Guru Nanak says: "The intellect cannot grasp what is beyond the bounds of the intellect. Rise above the limited human awareness and you will know of God and His works." Atomic energy and nuclear power have further strengthened the scientists' belief in the unlimited powers of Nature and Providence.

Albert Einstein writes in this connection: "Man does not understand the vast of veiled Universe into which he has been for the reason that he does not understand himself. He comprehends but little of his organic processes and even less of his unique capacity to perceive the world around him, to reason and to dream."

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Q15. What is the role of Reason in Sikhism?

Reason and Faith are complementary. They operate in different spheres, though each is sovereign in its own field. Reason has certain limits. Faith is necessary in certain basic things, as for example, the existance of God, or the need of the Guru's assistance. Reason operates in specified fields, as for example, when a man shall pray and what actions he may take. Religion does not exclude the operation of the intellect, though it certainly acts as a limiting factor.

Guru Nanak challenged the superstitious practices and rituals of his age. He questioned the value of offering food and water to one's dead ancestors or the idea that child-birth causes impurity, or that eatable things should be cooked within an encircled space, made sacred by plastering it with cow-dung. He employed the touchstone of reason to test their truth and proved them false. He appealed to men to accept reason as their guide in all such matters.

However, spiritual realization is beyond the ken of reason. On the other hand, great scientists of the world have accepted the higher truths revealed by religion. Man is an imperfect creature and his faculties and powers are limited. Albert Einstein observes: "Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose". Man is unable to comprehend the ultimate reality unaided. He needs the assistance of a religious leader or Guru whose divine knowledge and wisdom can guide him to his spiritual goal.

Science continues to make new discoveries and inventions which, sometimes reject the theories of previous scientist. Could man 30 years ago consider it feasible to orbit through space or land on the moon? What may be regarded as a miracle at one time may become a fact later.

The theory of karam is based on reason, the logic of cause and effect. This means that in order to ensure a good and bright future, man should perform good actions. How can man expect good out of evil actions?

Perhaps it would be best to have a recourse to reason when insensibility or blind faith proves of no avail. But where reason is obiviously not applicable, we must rely on faith. This is particularly true of spiritual matters.

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Q16. What is the place of morality in Sikh religion?

It is argued that one can be moral without a belief in religion. There are many people in various parts of the world, generally in Communist countries, who may not believe in God and yet are good citizens, kind and useful members of the society.

All the same it is generally recognized that religion is a great aid to morality. Man is subject to temptation. Though he is is born with certain good potentialities, the temptation to evil is so strong that without some moral background and religious convictions, he may easily sccumb to it. In such moments of difficulty, when he is likely to be overcome by evil, the Guru, or true spiritual leader will give him the guidance and courage to resist it.

Ethics and morality are the basis of Sikhism. Evolution of the spirit is not possible without righteous conduct and adherance to social morality. Guru Nanak emphasizes this point:

"Greater than Truth is Truthful living."
(A.G. p62)
The Sikh follows personal ethics like telling the truth, gentle speech, fair play, service, humility and tolerance. Morality cannot be an end in itself. It is an aid to the evolution of spiritual life. Sin is a definite obstacle on the path of Divinity.

Immorality is something of which one is ashamed or which one practises in secret. The morality of Sikhism is based on the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. Service for God is the service of His Creation. Acts of love and charity, even self-sacrifice, are not spiritual deeds in the strict sense of the term, but they do help to prepare the ground for the elimination of egoism. They show a love for humanity and a love of God.

Sikhism believes that this is a just and moral world. Though some bad people may seem to thrive, sooner or later, they will have their punishment. God is a strict judge and He treats people according to their deserts. Guru Nanak says:

"According to their actions, some get near to God and some distant."
(A.G. p8)
But like any good judge, God is charitable too and tempers mercy with justice.

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Q17. What is the place of sword in Sikhism?

No faith can survive unless it can defend itself. Sikhism was born in a hostile atmosphere and had to face a lot of persecution. In addition to giving Sikhs lessons in the art of daily living, the Gurus gave Sikhs power to uphold their beliefs. For this reason Guru Hargobind donned two swords: one of spiritual leadership and the other of temporal power. He was the first Guru to throw a challenge to the Mughal power and to wage a war against the cruel and corrupt administration. His disciplined soldiers were successful against the Mughal armies in three battles. Guru Hargobind popularized the cult of the sword for purposes of defence and justice.

In a similiar situation, after the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh took up arms against Emperor Aurangzeb. He justified the use of force as the only means of survival. He wrote in Zafarnama:

"When affairs are past other remedies, It is justifiable to unsheath the sword."
Where goodness and sacrifice cannot avail, violance has to be met by violance. Undoubtedly, in certain circumstances there are exceptions to the practive of non-violance.

The carrying of the sword or kirpan may perhaps be questioned in the atomic age. In the present world it continues to be a symbol of power, as it has been in the past. On ceremonial occasions, practically all armies in the world wear it. Its carrying reminds one of belief in one's own self and therefore it creates self-confidence. Even Gandhiji justified the use of violance for a high purpose. The Sikh sword is a symbol of self-respect, prestige and independence. Guru Gobind Singh hailed it as the Saviour and Protector of saints and the oppressed. Infact he even referred to God as 'sarbloh'(All steel).

The sword is one of the compulsory symbols of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is ever ready in his uniform to protect the weak and suffer for a just cause. Guru Gobind Singh demonstrated in a practical way that the sword can be reconciled with spirituality. Goodness without the means to sustain and activate it will fail to survive. Therefore, it is right to say that the sword holds a very important place in the history and philosphy of the Sikhs.

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Q18. Should we teach our religion to our children?

Some people, purely for psychological reasons, would not like to acquint their children with any religion. They think that the child must grow up and then form his own ideas and select his own religion. They would give no religious instruction or moral training. This is not the right attitude, for then children in their formative years are denied the vital direction they need or like wild plants, their growth will be arbitrary and undisciplined. As children, they must ask questions and if they are not satisfied or receive vague replies they feel that something is wanting. They thus grow up in a spiritual limbo. The idea that when they grow up they will select a suitable moral code or spiritual guide does not work. Neither they will have the time, desire or opportunity, to do any thinking or searching for themselves.

Undoubtedly, children have a right to the best their parents possess in all phases of life, including religion. If the parents are Sikhs, they must make the effort to bring the truths of Sikhism and the noble ideals of the Gurus to the notice of their children. In the Rahat Nama of Bhai Desa Singh, Guru Gobind Singh called upon the Sikhs to bring up their children in the Sikh Faith and give them Sikh baptism. To deprive children of religious instruction is to deny them the assistance that the teachings of the Gurus can give them. This will also mean that the vacuum in the child's mind will remain unfilled and he will continue to live in a state of uncertainty and moral ignorance. It is better to provide him with some moral ideas rather than none.

Let us make a more positive approach to the problem. It is not enough to encourage the social instincts of children. This may help in a limited way to make them realize that social instincts should have preference over selfish ones but the temptations in life are so sudden and strong that mere sense of social responsibility will not avail. A strong moral foundation is necessary to withstand the onslaught of evil ideas or bad company.

It is meaningful and rewarding to tell children of the benefits of the moral support of the Gurus and the assistance they will receive if they follow the Sikh ethical code.

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Q19. What is the role of religion in human life with special reference to Sikhism?

The goal of human life according to some is the attainment of perfection, and according to others, it is the acquisition of happiness. Pleasure-seeking and fleeting joys should not be mistaken for happiness. Religion is the key to real happiness because it produces harmony by an integrated development of human personality and control of impulses, desires and thoughts. There can be no rigid approach for a human being as the problems of each individual are peculiar. Religion has to be flexible to suit the need of individual development.

Religion is the realization of a "Divine presence" within oneself while leading a normal life. If divinity, progress and truth are not realized in human existence then the very purpose of man's life is defeated. True religion implies a search for the Truth and flexibility, in the individual approach to spiritual matters. Myths, forms and systems have fossilised religion and destroyed 'The Truth' and vitality in it.

Guru Nanak felt that spiritual development should not be crushed by outward symbols and forms. To bind the soul to the wheels of a socio-religious machinery is a type of spiritual slavery. Freedom of the soul is vital for its adjustments to the needs of life and the complexity of social organization. Constant adaptation is necessary for the achievement of harmony, between the individual and the Supreme Being. Man's nature is extremely complex and it is suicidal to chain it to a rigid groove or pattern.

Guru Nanak discarded all the prevalent superstations of traditional forms of worship and symbols. He pointed out the absurdity of idolatry, hypocrisy, caste exclusiveness and pilgrimage. He challenged the use of intoxicants and narcotics, and the practice of Sati and infacticide. At the same time, he advocated the maintenance of ethical values in daily life: justice, truth, honesty, humility, fearlessness and gratitude. These qualities make a man a true citizen of the world.

The universality of Guru Nanak's teachings makes an individual approach possible. Guru Amar Das says:

"God! Save by Your Grace this world which is in flames.
Save it by whatever way it can be saved."
(A.G. p853)
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