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An Outline of Sikh Doctrines
An Outline of Sikh Doctrines

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: An Outline of Sikh Doctrines

Mission of Human Life

The Nature of God or The Name

Mission of Human Life

The aim of life, according to the Sikh Gurus, is not to get salvation or a heavenly abode called Paradise, but to develop the best in us which is God.

If a man loves to see God what cares he for Salvation or Paradise?

�Everybody hankers after Salvation, Paradise or Elysium, setting their hopes on them every day of their lives. But those who live to see God do not ask for Salvation: The sight itself satisfies their minds completely.�
How to see God and to love Him? The question is taken up by Guru Nanak in his Japji:
�What shall we offer to Him that we may behold His council chamber?
What shall we utter with our lips, which may move Him to give His love?
In the ambrosial hours of the morn meditate on the grace of the true Name;
For, your good actions may procure for you a better birth, but emancipation is from Grace alone.�
We should worship the Name, believe in the Name, which is ever and ever the same and true.

The practice of the Name is prescribed again and again in the Sikh Scriptures, and requires a little explanation.

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The Nature of God or The Name

God is described both as nirgun, or absolute, and sargun, or personal. Before there was any creation God lived absolutely in Himself, but when He thought of making Himself manifest in creation He became related. In the former case, when God was Himself self-created, there was none else; He took counsel and advice with Himself; what He did came to pass. Then there was no heaven, or hell, or three-regioned world. There was only the Formless One Himself; creation was not then. There was then no sin, no virtue, no Veda or any other religious book, no caste, no sex.

When God became sargun or manifest, he became what is called the Name, and in order to realize Himself He made nature where in He has His seat and is diffused everywhere and in all direction in the form of Love.

In presenting this double phase of the Supreme Being, the Gurus have avoided the pitfalls into which some people have fallen. With them God is not an abstract idea or a moral force, but a personal Being capable of being loved and honored, and yet He is conceived of as a Being whose presence is diffused all over His creation. He is the common father of all, fashioning worlds and supporting them from inside, but He does not take birth. He has no incarnations. He Himself stands for the creative agencies, like the Maya, the World and Brahma; He Himself is Truth, Beauty and the eternal yearning of the heart after Goodness (Japji). In a word, the Gurus have combined the Aryan idea of immanence with Semitic idea of transcendence, without taking away anything from the unity and the personal character of God.

�O! give me, give some message of my Beloved.
I am bewildered at the different accounts I have of Him.
O happy devoted souls, my companions, say something of Him.
Some say that He is altogether outside the world;
Others say that He is altogether contained in it.
His color is not seen; His features cannot be made out;
O happy devoted souls tell me truly.
He lives in everything; He dwells in every heart;
Yet He is not blended with anything; He is separate.�
�Why dost thou go to the forest in search of God?
He lives in all, is yet ever distinct; He abides with thee too.
As fragrance dwells in a flower, or reflection in a mirror,
So does God dwell inside everything; seek Him therefore in the heart.�
People who come with preconceived notions to study Sikhism often blunder in offering its
interpretation. Those who are conversant with the eastern thoughts fix upon those passages which refer to the thoughts of immanence and conclude that Sikhism is nothing but and echo Hinduism, while those who are imbued with the Mohammedan or Christian thought take hold of transcendental passages and identify Sikhism with Islam or Christianity. Others who know both will see here no system, nothing particular, nothing but confusion.

If however, we were to study Sikhism as an organic growth evolved from the existing systems of thought to meet the needs of a newly evolving humanity, we would find no difficulty in recognizing Sikhism as a distinct system of thought.

Take, for instance, Guru Nanak�s Asa-ki-Var, which in its preliminary stanzas lays down the fundamentals of Sikh belief about God. it is a trenchant clear-cut monotheism. God is called the in-dweller of Nature, and is described as filling all things �by an art that is artless�. He is not an impotent mechanic fashioning pre-existing matter into the universe. he does not exclude matter, but transcends it. The universe too is not an illusion. Being rooted in god who is real, it is a reality; not a reality final and abiding, but a reality on account of God�s presence in it. His Will is above Nature as well as working within it, and in spite of its immanence it acts not as an arbitrary force but as a personal presence working most intelligently.� The first thing about God is that He is indivisibly one, above every other being, however highly conceived, such as Vishnu, Brahma, or Shiva, or as Rama and Krishna. The second thing is that He is the highest moral being, He is not a God belonging to any particular people, Muslim or Hindu, but is �the dispenser of life universal�. The ways to realize Him are not many, but only one, and that way is not knowledge, formalism, or what are received as meritorious actions which establish a claim to reward, but love and faith, the aim being to obtain the grace of God.

The only way of worshiping Him is to sing His praises and to meditate on His name.

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