Outlines of Sikh Doctrines: Principal Teja Singh
FORMS AND CEREMONIES
This institution of the Khalsa entails a certain additional disciplinary outfit in the shape of forms and vows, which are often misunderstood. It is true that if religion were only a matter of individual concern, there would be no need of forms and ceremonies. But religion, as taught by the Gurus, is a force that not only enables individuals but also binds them together to work for nobility in the world. Organization is means of enlarging the possibility, scope and effectiveness of this work. In order that an organization itself may work effectively, it is necessary that the individuals concerned in it should be able to keep up their attachment to the cause and a sufficient amount of enthusiasm for it.
It is, however, a patent fact that men by their nature are so constituted that they can not keep their feelings equally high strung for a long time at a stretch. Reaction is inevitable, unless some means are devised to ensure the continuity of exertion. This is where discipline comes in, which keeps up the spirit of individuals against relaxation in times of trial and maintains their loyalty to the cause even in moment of ebb. This discipline, or what is called esprit de corps, is secured by such devices as flags, drills and uniforms in armies, and certain forms and ceremonies in religion. Uniformity is an essential part of them. They create the necessary enthusiasm by appealing to imagination and sentiment, and work for it in moments of depression. They are a real aid to religion, which is essentially a thing of sentiment. Man would not need them if he were only a bundle of intellectual and moral senses; but as he has also got sentiment and imagination, without
which the former qualities would be inoperative, he cannot do without articulating his ideas and beliefs in some forms appropriate to sentiment.
These forms must not be dead but living index of his ideal, waking up in his vivid intimations of the personality that governs his religion. They should be related to his inner belief as words are to their meaning, tears to grief, smiles to happiness and a tune to a song. It is true that sometimes words become meaningless, when we no longer heed their sense, or the language to which they belong becomes dead. It is true that sometimes tears and smiles are only cloaks for hypocrisy, and a tune mere meaningless jingle. But there is no denying fact that, when their inner meaning is real and we are sincere about it, they do serve as very helpful interpreters. Forms are the art of religion. Like Art in relation to Nature, these forms impose certain limitations on the ideal, but at the same time they make the ideal more real and workable for general use.
Sometimes, however, when the forms are determined, not by the necessity of uniformity which is so essential for discipline, but by local or racial causes, they narrow the applicability of the ideal and create division and exclusiveness where they should have helped men to unite. When the spirit in which they had been originally conceived dies out, they become mere handicaps to religion, and the people who use them would be well-advised to abandon them. It was such forms that Guru Nanak asked people to leave. “Destroy that custom,” he said, “which makes you forget dear God.”
But the Sikh forms were not conceived in a spirit of exclusiveness, or as essential to the advancement of individual souls. They were simply appointed to serve as aids to the preservation of the corporate life of the community, and any man who likes to serve humanity through the Sikh Panth can wear them.
It is possible for a man to love God and cultivate his individual soul without adopting these forms; but if he wants to work in a systematic manner, not only for his own advancement but for the good of others as well in the company of Sikhs, he must adopt these disciplinary forms of their organization. The Sikhs, who are the soldiers of Guru Gobind Singh and whose religion is surcharged with his personality, find the uniform worn and ordained by him as a real help in playing their part as units of the Panthic organization. This help comes from the appeal made to sentiment by the process of association and not through any inherent efficacy of the forms themselves. This association is not with places or things, but with an ever-living personality that is itself a symbol of the Highest Personality.
As is God, so is the Guru; and as is the Guru, so must be the follower. Wearing a Knicker ensuring briskness of movement at times of action and serving as an easy underwear at times of rest, and iron ring on his right arm as a sign of sternness and constraint and a sword by his side as an instrument of defense, offense, and as an emblem of power and dignity, the Guru presented an impressive picture of a simple but disciplined soldier. He, however, combined in him the saintliness of the old Rishies with the sternness and strength of a knight. Therefore, like his predecessors, he kept long hair, which all the world over have always been associated with saintliness. A comb was a simple necessity for keeping the hair clean and tidy. These are the forms with which the Sikhs are invested at the time of their initiation to the Khalsa in order to look exactly like their master, as they are to behave exactly like him.
From the history of Sikhs in the past as well as in the present, it is quite evident how effectively these articles of faith and forms, with the accompanying vows of purity, love and service, have aided them in keeping themselves united and their ideals unsullied even in times of the greatest trial. While keeping the Sikhs associated with their Guru and maintaining his spirit amongst them, they have not produced any narrowing effect on their beliefs or modes of worship. All worship and ceremony, whether in Gurdwara or home, whether on birth, marriage or death, consists of nothing else but praying and chanting hymns. Could anything be simpler?
We all want peace but only a few make any effort to keep it. Most of us are busy fanning fire of war due to our ego. God created peace. However, man enslaved by hatred, lust, greed, anger, etc., invites violence and makes the world suffer from it. Peace, therefore, has become an extremely rare commodity.
Man has reached moon, which is so far away, but not his mind, which lies in his own body. Is it not a great paradox? No! For reaching moon, it needs a scientist, but for controlling mind, that is, its ego, one has to be a brave holy policeman. Our unbridled minds destroy peace and create wars. We ourselves burn in them.
The violence and love are generated in the mind of men, they are the source of war and peace respectively. Mind is like a knife. The user can harm or help the people by it. A knife can be used to cut salad and fruit for feeding the hungry or to cut the throat of the weak to shed their blood. The tongue was given to man to sing virtues of the Lord, and say good words to soothe the sad minds. However, we often use it to cause violence when we say disgraceful words to abuse people and challenge their self respect.
The animal character of the man (in his mind) misguides him to subdue people rather than serving them. Man challenges God by attempting to take away the human rights of people, given to them by God. The life of a man and his desire to love God are his gifts of God to man. No king, community or society can take them away without displeasing God. Such acts destroy peace of the people and the wars become inevitable.
Man becomes a devil because of his desires to command other people. He forgets that all of us are the children of the same Father. God, hence equal. The ego not only pricks the men in power but also creates problems for all the people. War, worries, poverty, hunger, looting, robbing, killing, and all other kinds of violence emerge from such desires of the dictatorial minds. The same power and authority if properly exercised, can by used to meet the needs of the people and provide them with comfort and peace.
Some people love God by His name ‘A’, while others love to remember Him by His name ‘B’. Because of their ignorance, each group claims, their’s is the only correct name of God, all others are wrong. They forget that He is the Father and we all are His children and can love Him by any name and in any language. There are innumerable languages and cultures, hence there are innumerable names and innumerable methods to love Him. A father can be loved by his children as dad, daddy, papa, etc. Our Lord, the Father of whole humanity can by loved by so many names that nobody can count them. It is no credit or honour to Him, to believe that He only has one name. It is the sincerity and love in the words and not the sound of the words which is valued by God. In His court, no name is rated as inferior or superior to other names.
The seed of violence is sown in the minds of men when one person labels the other person as ‘lost’ and forcibly wants to ‘save’ him. The belief that ours is the right path and their’s is the wrong path, hence they are opponents is the cause of the problems of the people. Because this raises a “sacred” desire, either to “retrieve” the ‘lost’ people and bring them to the ‘right’ path or torture them and kill them, in case they don't submit. Alas! They believe it to be holy act, to be rewarded with ‘seats’ in the heaven reserved for them.
The quarrels and fights between the children of daddy and the children of papa, the two names for the same Father, can never please Him. The children of daddy and the children of papa are not cousins but real brothers and sisters. Some of His children address Him as Daddy, others call Him Papa or many other such names. God, the Father is displeased with all such people who fight with any of His children just because they address Him by different names.
‘Holy’ people, because of their ignorance, are thus still committing unholy deeds of hating other people and trying to bring them on the ‘right’ path. Is is not silly indeed? But don't we do it and call it a religious act? This is causing ‘religious’ wars killing millions of men. We can stop it, when we believe that all are His children. We have to love all of them, and feel the greatness of God by knowing that He is loved by great many methods and numerous names.
Modern weapons are not the root cause of war, they are only the tools used to commit violence. Actually violence emerges from the ego and hatred in our minds. We commit violence with his bare hands, e.g. a man can kill another man just by pressing his throat. If we remove the hatred from our minds, none of the arms and weapons, including our hands and tongue, will be used for committing violence. Rather the energy in them can by directed to explore the seas and skies for the benefit of man.
God created a garden of humans. They have different colors of the skin and several kinds of features of their faces. Their bodies have different sizes and shapes: tall or small, fat or flat. They speak numerous languages, wear variegated costumes and live with many kinds of cultures. A man has to be thankful to God for all His wonderful favors. While watching all this colorful garden we should utter wow and love His creation all the time.
Alas! Flowers of one kind feel jealous of the flowers of the other kind and hate them. As a consequence many of us want to injure the other kind of flowers, stop their fragrance and destroy them. All of this we see expressed in our racial fights, ethnic violence and religious wars. The garden of God contains many kinds of sweet smelling flowers but because of our ignorance we ourselves are busy destroying His garden rather than living in it and enjoying it. God the Gardener, is not pleased to see any kind of plants being injured by another kind. The Gardener wants each of us to help and support the other kind, that is the way to win His favors.
The World Conference of Religions for Peace, 1979, was actually endorsing the basic principles of Sikh faith, when they, in their meeting in New Jersey concluded:
“Too often the names and practices of our religions have been associated with
warfare and strife. Now we must reverse this by:
(i) Breaking down barriers of prejudice and hostility between religious communities and institutions.
(ii) Confronting the powers of the world with the teachings of our religions rather than conforming to them when they act contrary to the well-being of humanity.
(iii) Building inter-religious understanding in our local communities.”
Guru Nanak said that we can love God by any name and any language. In his hymns he rhymed together names of God and holy scriptures used by different religions, for example, Ram-Raheem; Ved-Kateb; Puran-Quran. Along with the hymns of the gurus, the hymns of other holy persons, Hindus, Muslims and even the so called untouchables are included in the holy scripture of the Sikhs. He said, “There is ONE FATHER only. All of us are His children.”
Those who help and love the needy irrespective of their caste, color or creed are loved by God and accepted by Him.
If any person hurts them or harms them, he can never have peace or pleasure here or afterwards.
All the languages and cultures of this world have been created by God and He understands them well. We have His permission to use any names and any language to love Him. The holy scripture of the Sikhs has many languages and dialects then prevalent in Asia.
Gurdwara, is not just a place of worship where all people can pray as equals but it is also a place where needy are cared for.
Gurdwara provides, without distinction of their faith, all the persons, a place to live, food to eat and environment to love God. It provides protection from repression even if it is inflicted by the rulers of the state on their opponents or people having different beliefs or views than those of the rulers. The Sikh prayer concludes with,
Rev. Bradshaw of U.S.A. wrote in Sikh Review, Calcutta, “Sikhism is a universal world faith with a message for all men. Sikhs must cease to think of their faith as just another good religion and must begin to think in terms of Sikhism being the religion of this new age.” Ms. Pearl Buck in her fore ward of the translation of the holy Sikh scriptures wrote, “Perhaps this sense of unity is the source of power I find in these volumes. They speak to persons of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mind.”
Dr. Gurbakhsh Singh]