Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism



A few brief paragraphs, unburdened with detail, on the origin and progress of religion until it received its monotheistic consummation accepted by Guru Nanak appear to be necessary.

Statius, the Latin poet, expressed his opinion that it was fear which first made gods in the world.[1] Miserable and resourceless primitive man felt the inclemency and fury of the elements, and prayed and sacrificed to avert their wrath or to gain their favour. But as there were malignant, so there were benignant natural agencies which received devout and earnest worship. The Sun, which gives light and heat, appears to have been worshipped by all primitive peoples. He was, however, distant and non-tangible; but when fire was discovered, long ages after man had appeared on the surface of the earth, it appears to have received the greatest homage from the human race in all parts of the globe. By its means men warmed themselves, cooked their food, and smelted metals. It was to fire (Agni) the Indians of the Vedic period addressed some of their sublimest hymns; and its discovery and importance led the ancient Greeks to suppose that it must have been stolen from heaven, which had so long been parsimonious of its gifts.

As civilization progressed and the fruits of agriculture were added to the spontaneous gifts of nature, the bounty of the heavens was deemed necessary for man's comfort and sustenance. It was then that the sky, under the various names of Dyaus, {Greek Zeu's}, and Varuna, {Greek Ou?rano's}, was invoked, both in India and Greece, to shed its choicest blessings on crops and men.[2] Other deities arose as prompted or required by human necessities. Prithwi, the earth, as the parent of sustenance, logically and necessarily received, as the

[1. Primus in orbe deos fecit timor.' Theb. iii. 661.

2. For long years after the discovery and study of Sanskrit there was no doubt whatever cast on the identity of Varuna with Ouranos. Doubts have now arisen in the minds of some persons on account, it is stated, of phonetic difficulties.]

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spouse of the sky, divine honours both in India and Europe.[1] Each deity addressed received all the homage and adoration that poetic fancy could lavish or imagine. His worshippers endeavoured to make him feel that he was the great god who ruled the world and controlled man and nature; and they hoped that by judicious flattery and plenteous sacrifice he would listen to and grant their passionate supplications.

The gods as well as their votaries appear to have lived in friendly contiguity both in India and in Greece. Jupiter had his temple near that of Venus as they are found to-day in the disentombed city of Pompeii. Near Delphi Apollo had exclusive sway even to the extent of relegating Jupiter into a subordinate position. Each province selected in the wide domain of Olympus some deity which it worshipped to the exclusion of all others. In India, though the worship of Shiv, which is associated with knowledge, is different from that of Vishnu, which is associated with devotion, and though the worshippers of both gods frequently quarrelled and addressed each other in injurious language, yet they were united by the common bond of Hinduism, and sometimes celebrated their worship in harmony.[2]

When man extended his horizon, the sufficiency and omnipotence of the gods ordinarily invoked began to be canvassed. In Greece the minor deities became completely subordinated to Zeus, the great ruler of Olympus. They could do everything but regulate human fate and action. That was reserved for the supreme deity alone:--

{Greek A!'pant? e?paxðh^ plh`n ðeoi^si koiranei^n.
e?leu'ðeros ga`r ou?'tis e?sti` plh`n Dio's.}[3]

In India a belief in an infinite, illimitable, and supreme power was gradually evolved by seers and philosophers

[1. Tacitus wrote of the ancient Germans--'Herthum, id est terram matrem, colunt eamque intervenire rebus hominum, invehi populis arbitrantur,' Germania, cap. xi.

2 An idol in a temple, Harihareshwar, on the outskirts of the Maisûr (Mysore) State contains the conjoint emblems of Vishnu and Shiv.

3 Aesch. Prom. Vinc. 49.]

ages before the emigration of the Aryans to Europe. Prajapati, who was represented as the father of the gods, the lord of all living creatures, gradually received exceptional human homage. There was also Aditi, who appears under various guises, being, in one passage of the Rig Veda, identified with all the deities, with men, with all that has been and shall be born, and with air and heaven. In this character she corresponded to the Greek Zeus;

{Greek Zeu`s e?sti`n ai?ðh'r, Zeu`s de` gh^, Zeu`s ou?rano's,
Zeu's toi ta` pa'nta xw?'ti tw^nd? u!pe'rteron,}[1]

and to the Latin Jupiter

Iupiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moveris.[2]

But there appears again to have been even a more exalted concept of a divinity who was inexpressible and who could only be described by a periphrasis. He was bright and beautiful and great. He was One, though the poets called Him by many names.


Before there was anything, before there was either death or immortality, before there was any distinction between day and night, there was that One. It breathed breathless by itself. Other than it nothing has since been. Then was darkness, everything in the beginning was hidden in gloom, all was like the ocean, without a light. Then that germ which was covered by the husk, the, One, was produced.[3]

Guru Nanak, as we shall see, gave expansion to this conception of the one God:--

[1. Aesch. Frag.

2. Lucan, Pharsalia ix.

3 Rik Veda, X, 129. Tacitus indicates one God worshipped under different names by the Germans, and only perceived by the light of faith: 'Deorum nominibus appellant secretum illud quod sola reverentia vident.' It may be here noticed that Tacitus' account of Germany and its people is much more trustworthy than that of Caesar, who was a less philosophical writer. Caesar states that the Germans worshipped the sun, fire, and the moon, and them only.]

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In the beginning there was indescribable darkness;
Then was not earth or heaven, naught but God's unequalled order.
Then was not day, or night, or moon, or sun; God was meditating on the void.
Then were not continents, or hells, or seven seas, or rivers, or flowing streams.
Nor was there paradise, or a tortoise, or nether regions;
Or the hell or heaven of the Muhammadans, or the Destroyer Death;
Or the hell or heaven of the Hindus, or birth or death nor did any one come or go.
Then was not Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiv;
No one existed but the One God.
Then was not female, or male, or caste, or birth; nor did any one feel pain or pleasure.
There was no caste or religious garb, no Brahman or Khatri.
No hom, no sacred feasts, no places of pilgrimage to bathe in, nor did any one perform worship.
There was no love, no service, no Shiv, or Energy of his;
Then were not Veds or Muhammadan books, no Simritis, no Shastars;
The Imperceptible God was Himself the speaker and preacher; Himself unseen He was everything.
When He pleased He created the world;
Without supports He sustained the sky.
He created Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiv, and extended the love of Mammon.
He issued His order and watched over all.[1]

For many centuries thinking men in India have rejected gods and goddesses, and made no secret of their faith in the sole primal Creator, by whatsoever name called.

An important question arose how the Supreme Being should be represented. He could not be seen, but He was believed to exist. The highest conception that primitive man could form of Him was that He was in man's own image, subject to the human passions of wrath, jealousy, revenge, love of praise, and adoration. This conception is what has been termed anthropomorphism-that is, that

[1. The Indian words in this hymn will subsequently be explained.]

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God is in man's image, or, conversely, that God made man in his own image.[1]

When man's conception of God extended, and it was admitted that He had created the heavens and the earth, and held control over His boundless creation, it became difficult for the philosopher to imagine Him in human form. Were He such, it would appear to be a limitation of His omnipotence and omnipresence, and, moreover, the belief that God is infinite and governs His infinite creation, but at the same time is not included in it, though possibly intelligible to faith, is not equally so to reason. To overcome this difficulty the belief arose that God is diffused through all matter, and that it is therefore a part of Him. This belief is known as pantheism.

In India, pantheism may be said to be the creed of intellectual Hindus, but it cannot. be held to be a generally satisfying or useful cult to the world. When a man believes that he is a part of God, and that God, who pervades space, pervades him also, moral obligation must obviously be relaxed. Nor can supplications be satisfactorily addressed to nature, with its elemental forces, even though God be held to reside therein. Pantheism is too cold and too abstract to satisfy the reasonable aspirations of the human soul. And the fact admitted by most philosophers, that men are endowed with free will, must make them pause before they accept the pantheistic philosophy in its entirety. Moreover, to gratify his emotional instinct, man must have access in spirit to a personal God to appeal to in order to grant him favours, to afford him solace in affliction, to love him as a son, and as a kind and merciful friend to take an interest in him when he needs assistance. According to the Sikh Gurus, God was a being to be approached and

[1. The ancient Greeks also believed that God made man in the divine image. Thus Plato--{Greek W!s d`e kinhðe'n au?to` kai` zw^n e?no'hse tw^n a?ïdi'wn ðew^n gegono`s a?'galma o! gennh'sas path'r, h?gasðh te kai` eu?franðei`s e?'ti dh` ma^llon o!'moion pro`s to` para'deigma e?peno'hsen a?perga'sasðai} (The creative Father seeing that this image of the immortal gods had both motion and life was pleased, and in his delight considered how he might fashion it still more like its prototype'), Timaeus.]

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loved as a fond and faithful wife loves her spouse, and human beings were to be regarded with equality as brothers, and not to be considered as divided into castes which were at variance with or despised one another.

But though the Sikhs believe in a personal God, He is not in man's image. Guru Nanak calls Him, Nirankar--that is, without form. Gur Das speaks of Him as formless, without equal, wonderful, and not perceptible by the senses. At the same time all the Gurus believed that He was diffused throughout creation. Guru Nanak wrote, 'Think upon the One who is contained in everything.' This same belief was again enunciated by Guru Ram Das, 'Thou, O God, art in everything and in all places.' And, according to Guru Gobind Singh, even God and His worshipper, though two, are one, as bubbles which arise in water are again blended with it. This belief, according to the Guru, admitted of no doubt or discussion.[1] It is the error of men in supposing distinct existence, together with the human attributes of passion and spiritual blindness, which produces sin and evil in the world and renders the soul liable to transmigration.

No religious teacher has succeeded in logically dissociating theism from pantheism. In some passages of the Guru's writings pantheism is, as we have seen, distinctly implied, while in other texts matter is made distinct from the Creator, but an emanation from Him. Although anthropomorphic theism is a religion, while pantheism is a philosophy, and anthropomorphic theism is generally held orthodox and pantheism heterodox, yet, on account of the difficulty of describing the Omnipresent and Illimitable in suitable human language, both religion and philosophy are inextricably

[1. Compare; {Greek ?Anðrw'pou ge psyxh', ei?'per ti kai` a?'llo tw^n a?nðrwpi'nwn, tou^ ðei'ou me'texei}, Xenoph. Memor.; 'Humanus autem animus decerptus ex divina mente cum alio nullo nisi cum ipso Deo, si hoc est fas dictu, comparari potest,' Cicero, Tusc. Disp.

2. Compare also the expressions attributed to Christ in the Gospel according to St. John, 'I and My Father are One,' 'I am in the Father and the Father in Me,' and again, 'I am in My Father, and ye in Me and I in you.']

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blended by sacred as well as profane writers. Let us take a few examples:--

Doth not the Lord fill heaven and earth?--JEREMIAH.

God in whom we live, and move, and have our being.--ST. PAUL.

Spiritus intus alit totanique infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet.--VIRGIL.

Estne Dei sedes nisi terra, et pontus, et aer,
Et caelum et virtus? Superos quid quaerimus ultra?

Iupiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moveris.--LUCAN.

All in all and all in every part.--COWLEY.

Lives through all life, extends through all extent.
Spreads undivided, operates unspent.--POPE.

Deum rerum omnium causam immanentem, non vero transeuntem statuo.--SPINOZA.

Se Dio veder tu vuoi,
Guardalo in ogni oggetto;
Cercalo nel tuo petto;
Lo troverai in te!--METASTASIO.

An indefinite number of such examples might be cited. will strive to be most comprehensive directory of Historical Gurudwaras and Non Historical Gurudwaras around the world.

The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras. brings to you a unique and comprehensive approach to explore and experience the word of God. It has the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Amrit Kirtan Gutka, Bhai Gurdaas Vaaran, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib and Kabit Bhai Gurdas . You can explore these scriptures page by page, by chapter index or search for a keyword. The Reference section includes Mahankosh, Guru Granth Kosh,and exegesis like Faridkot Teeka, Guru Granth Darpan and lot more.
Encyclopedias encapsulate accurate information in a given area of knowledge and have indispensable in an age which the volume and rapidity of social change are making inaccessible much that outside one's immediate domain of concentration.At the time when Sikhism is attracting world wide notice, an online reference work embracing all essential facets of this vibrant faithis a singular contribution to the world of knowledge.