THE SIKH WAY OF LIFE
BY RANBIR SINGH
Dr. Edward A. de Bittencourt Ph. D. (Santiago), Litt D. (Michigan)
SARDAR RANBIR SINGH, the author of the standard work on the Ten Sikh Gurus entitled The Glimpses of The Divine Masters, has written a new masterpiece : The Sikh Way of Life.
In his first great work Sardar Ranbir Singh already has said a few pointed words about The Sikh Way of Life, from pages 398 to 408 inclusive, he devotes a short chapter to the subject to which he now dedicates a whole volume. Before beginning the analysis of the latest work of S. Ranbir Singh, we will quote a few words from his first and major work :
Page 399-Caption First Thing First :
"NANAK placed first thing first. He exhorted the people to forget all supposed agencies of creation, sustenance and death. And he restored their faith and undivided loyalty to One God (Ek-Onkar) as source of all creation. The Religion, that Guru Nanak preached was strictly, monotheistic, requiring belief in none other than the one Supreme Being only. Guru Nanak described God as Absolute yet Personal, the Eternal, All-Pervading Divine Spirit, the Creator, the Cause of Causes, without fear, without enmity and without hate."
This is a great progress over the God of the Old Testament Who is an enemy of all peoples, except the chosen people, id est : the Jews or Israeli, that is why this attribute of God "without enmity and without hate" was introduced by Guru Nanak in the Mula Mantra and very first Shloka of Shri Guru Granth Sahib. This is another unique feature of The Sikh Religion that the Sikh concept of God is so pure that as far as I know it is the only Monotheistic Religion which conceives God as without enmity and hate, this contrasts with the Semitic concept of God of Religion where God us full of enmity, full of wrath, wrecking vengeance on all; but the chosen people and occasionally even on the chosen people, unto the millionth generation A. D. (AE Ternitatem). "Without hate" compare this epithet without hate and revise your "Old Testament" and see how much hate is attributed to God by the Semitic writers of the Bible.
To continue the above quotation of Ranbir Singh regarding concept of God :-
".both immanent in His creation and transcendent. He is not jealous or merely a just God, but God of Love and Grace. That being so, He creates man not to punish him for his sins or reward him for his good actions but for the realization of his true purpose in the cosmos and to merge-in from where he issued forth".
Ek-Onkar- One God
The ancient Hindus worshipped gods and goddesses. Their worship consisted in reciting hymns and offering oblations in sacred fire. This kind of worship is called ‘Yag’ or ‘Yajna’ (sacrifice). The Vedas, the oldest Scriptures of the world, deal mostly with details relating Yagas- the ancient mode of worship of gods and goddesses. Hence the Vedas concern mainly with rites, rituals and ceremonials known as ‘Karam-Kand‘. But however, the Upanishadas dwell primarily on the knowledge of God. This idea of one-ness of God was present in the Upanishadas, but though later on it became obscured, and almost completely lost from view.
In the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad, which forms the final portion of the Shatapatha-Brahmana, Yajnavalkya Rishi shows himself a true SIKH and a strict monotheist. He also shows himself against the performance of sacrifices and penances and he adds that he who left this world without knowing God was pitiable.
When questioned by the lovely Hindu girl philosopher Gargi : he says textually "Under the rule of God (the Absolute) the sun and moon are held in their orbits, heaven and earth hold their positions, all periods of time are maintained in their places, and rivers keep to their respective courses".
So the Hebrews were not the first monotheists, the Hindu Rishis of Upanishadas were the first monotheists, but by a process akin to that which we can observe the Roman Catholicism of South America, they , I mean the masses, lost view of First Thing First and the same as the so-called Christians of south America worship saints, virgins, patron, divinities, ghosts of their departed ancestors and so forth, mediaeval Hindus came to worship their Ishta Devatas and many other gods and goddesses and forgot Ek-Onkar (One God). It was reserved for the religious genius of a great Master like Guru Nanak to re-estate in a clearer, precise, definite and accurate way and at the very opening of Gurbani the Oneness of God.
The Bible, really does not begin like Gurbani with One God. It begins with many gods, the Hebrew Word Allahim or Elohim is the plural of the Semitic Allah or God.
It is only in the King James version of the Bible that appeared in 1611 A.D. that is to say a hundred years after Guru Nanak (1469-1539) verse (genesis 1-1) runs thus : "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth."
The Jews became monotheists only after Akhnaton the fourth monotheistic religion had permeated through the Exoteric Sects of Kabbalists. The exoteric religion of the Jews became truly monotheistic about the time of Solomon.
So we can truly say that only two world religions have been completely and strictly monotheistic from the very start, first Islam and second Sikhism, all the other religions have at least flirted with polytheism.
It is evident from the close reading of the pages from the Old Testament that the Jews had several gods beside the Jealous Jehovah, Mammon was god of wealth equivalent to Hindu Kubera or Lakshmi. Astoreth, the Jewish Venus or Aphrodite was goddess of Beauty and Love and she was worshipped with rites, which were ultraist of Hindus Vama-Marga. The goddess was served by virgins who served at the temples. Jehovah ascended to chief god after he has been god of war.
The Hindu masses, even to-day, are worshippers of images and idols of various gods and goddesses. They worship even the cow. They believe that bathing at the Ganges on certain occasions would absolve them for their sins. They are mostly steeped in meaningless rites, rituals and debasing superstitions.
The Muslim worship the toms of their saints. The masses say their Nimaz only mechanically without any understanding. The Shiah Muslims bemoan the death of Imam Hassan and Hussain and do not resign themselves to the Will of God. Roman Catholic Christians worship the dead Christ and not the living Christ, their priests dressed in black, the absence of colour indicates the negation of light and life. They have all become more or less necrophilic religions.
But Sikhism forbids the worship of any thing of the creation. Only God, the Creator of the world, is to be glorified. All gods and goddesses have been dispensed with in Sikhism. The Vedas dealing with Karamkand, rites, rituals and ceremonies have absolutely no significance for the Sikhs. Thus Sikhism is the only living faith that gives you the healthy outlook on life. It is a wholly new, original and genuinely monotheistic religion. It is an independent religion, which naturally may be said to have a background of Hinduism and Islam much as Christianity has a background of Akhnatonism and Zoroastrianism and previous Semitic Paganism.
Now after this brief exordium, back to our pleasant task, Ranbir Singh’s The Sikh Way of Life.
Sardar Ranbir Singh’s style in English is luminous, clear cut, a direct style, which places in evidence a depth of feeling and synthesis or economy of statement, which is the chief characteristic of the prose of Ranbir Singh. Both of his books shine with a chaste English, lucidity of concepts and they are easy to read and well-constructed books. One can feel that Sardar Ranbir Singh is not only a good writer, but that he loves his subject and is enthusiastically and genuinely devoted to the study and meditation of the Guru Granth Sahib and to the life and works or Lila of the Ten Gurus. At the very genesis of his most recent work we already find evidence of the qualities annotated:
"Sikhism is a way of life shown to mankind by the Ten Divine masters-Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, who were in direct and constant touch with the Eternal Reality. Sikhism is a practical way leading man straight to his goal and does not involve itself in verbose theorizing. It is a religion concerned with Now and Here".
Here comes a second uniqueness of the Sikh religion; "Concerned with Now and Here". The Sikh Way of Life leads us straight to our goal-the realization of God within us. We can find God and be united to him, not after death in some unknown region but Now and Here in this very life. There will be no more delusion, no more sin. We get celestial peace, bliss and joy ever-lasting now and here in this very life.
Sikhism does not condone asceticism. Although the Gita 5000 years ago has spoken in its sixth Adhyaya 46th shloka and also at another place it says: "He who sitteth outwardly controlling organs of action but dwelling in his mind on objects of senses that bewildered man is a hypocrite". It is only the Sikhs who have well understood this dictum of Lord Krishna. The self-styled followers of Gita have not understood the Bhagwan as is evident by the austerities and self-denial still practiced in Hindu India.
Now refer to The Sikh Way of Life -Chapter headed The Spiritual Clean-up page 27, second paragraph :
It is true that one has to release himself from the bondages of Maya; but it does not come through self-torture or mere escape from the battle of life. Renunciation is unhealthy out-look on life. Maya overtakes man everywhere whether one lives in a jungle or in a hut or in a palace. Abandoning home, one may go to the forest, he may live on roots and wild fruits, but so vicious is the mind that it forsakes not evil still".
(Kabir Ji : Bilawal)
"The mind carries with itself its thoughts, feelings and its desires, its likings and dislikings, wherever it goes and these have to be conquered and mind subdued. Austerities practiced on the physical body can never change the inner ‘Rasas’ or the instincts and impulses of the mind which is above the physical plane".
On the other hand The Guru Says :
"Take care of the body that you may meditate upon the Lord and apply it to His Service".
Sikhism is thus a very, not to say a totally, different philosophy to, at least popular Hinduism. It is a world affirming not a world denying philosophy and Religion. Besides it is Philosophical Intuitionism using Gurbani as the springing board unto the realms of the Absolute.
To find books which point the way to Gurbani and the Ten Gurus such as Ranbir Singh’s book is what is termed in India to possess good Karma and Samskaras.
In Sri Guru Granth Sahib the Holiest Sikh Scripture we find a confirmation of the value of being shown the way to the true Guru. Now the one who shows the way performs the most meritorious work of all.
"I serve my own True Guru with one mind, with one thought and love. The True Guru is the heart’s desire and Tirtha of him, whom he instructs. He obtains the boon, for which his heart has been anxious : the fruit he wishes he gets".
This quotation from Sri Guru Granth Sahib synthesizes and incorporates what Sardar Ranbir Singh tells us in his under the chapter heading ‘The Way To God’.
"In the Sikh Scriptures God is described both as Nirgun or Absolute and Sargun or Personal. Before there was any creation. God lived absolutely in Himself unmanifested. He first formed Himself into Nam or Divine Name, and beside Himself. He made nature, which He sustains with His own presence in it. The universe and the object in it are real, not simply true as opposed to false but REAL as opposed to imaginary and delusive as conceived in Vedantism".
"The world and all things in it are not creation of a dream, but veritable existences set in their places with a real purpose and governed by His Real Laws".
Here we notice a profound difference between Sikhism on the one hand and Vedantism and Buddhism on the other; for Sikhism the world and its objects are real as coming from God, which is the Reality, they could not be otherwise.
For Vedantist the world and its objects are false, non-existent in the three periods of timefor Buddhism not only the world and its objects are false, but also the individual soul and personality of man and all living beings are transient, changing and delusive in ‘The Jewel of Transcendental Wisdom’ (Chin Kang Ching) a Chinese translation of a Sanskrit Original, translated from the Chinese by A. F, Price, Buddha is saying :
"Yet when vast, uncountable, immeasurable number of beings have thus been liberated, verily no being has been liberated. Why is this Su-Bhuti? It is because no Bodhi Sattva who is a real Bodhi Sattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality"(Page26 of book referred to) Section XXXII of the same book under caption. ‘The Delusion of Appearances’ Buddha says : "So I tell you" : –
"Thus shall ye think of all this feeling world. A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightening in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream."
"When Buddha finished this Discourse the venerable Su-Bhuti together with the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, lay brothers and sisters, and the whole realms of gods, men and Titans were filled with joy by his teaching and taking it sincerely to heart they went their was."
I respect all ideas sincerely held; but, for one, prefer the Sikh teachings of the reality of the universe and of the objects in it and wholly subscribe to Sardar Ranbir Singh’s words :
"The world and all thing in it are not creation of a dream but veritable existence set in their places with a real purpose and governed by His Real laws."
Or as the American Poet puts it:-
"Life is real, life is earnest and the grave is not its goal."
If the world is un-real mithya false as in Vedantism and Buddhism, what does it matter who rules in it, who owns it, or who enjoys what has no real existence?
The virile affirmation of the world only, would make Sikhism superior in doctrine both to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Now let us say something about the means or the Way to God, the Way is clearly traced by Sardar Ranbir Singh.
"A body is dead without life and life itself is dead without Nam. Nam is the elixir of life without which life would be a blunder and purposeless waste. There is no spiritual awakening, no peace, no joy without Nam. Realization of Nam is the essential condition for a true and fruitful life. To practice Nam, means to practice the presence if the All pervading Divine Spirit by keeping Him ever in mind with love and devotion and by singing His praises (Kirtan) or dwelling on His excellences. Simran literally means loving remembrance. ‘Without Him my soul takes fire and is reduces to ashes.’ Says Guru Nanak, "The tongue that is not lyrical in repetition pf His Name, better it be cut out in ribbons, bit by bit."
Nam Simran is, of course, not the mechanical, automatic way that is generally now practiced under the name of ‘Japa Yoga‘, which is as mechanical as the Rosary or muttering of prayers of some of the Christians in the West.
Ranbir Singh writes further:-
"Nam endows the mind with Light and power to turn from unreality to Reality. It enables man to surrender himself to the Divine Will. And by complete and unconditional surrender, the aspirant attains to the highest pinnacle of spiritual advancement".
I will not go on quoting from The Sikh Way of Life by Sardar Ranbir Singh, I will begin practicing it, living it: because due to my enthusiasm for the Sardarji’s work I might be carried to write too long a Foreword which might delay readers impatient not only to read The Sikh Way of Life; but to embody the Sikh principles contained therein in their own beings and in their daily lives.
As finishing words, I insist on careful reading; with concentrated mind, of and of The Glimpses of The Divine Masters by Ranbir Singh. On living the teachings contained therein, and having this book always as a Vademecum for all young Sikhs, if they read Gurbani and Ranbir Singh’s books there will be no apostasies, no not even among those young Sikhs who live in America and who fall sometimes, rarely though, under the glamour of Western bad habits, such as shorn hair and shaven faces, smoking, and other bad habits that Churchainity, or Christianity in its zeal for members, quantity and not quality, tolerated: while Sikhism which is truly God-loving will not attempt to correct or improve on god’s work by suppressing an essential organ to bodily economy, such as Keshas (Hair) is:-
Only effeminate men will shave their beards and moustaches and become emasculated. "The personality of the Sikh with his long tresses into a knot at the top of his head, covered by a turban and his beard reflect his outlook of life, just as a clean shaven head and ochre of a monk reflect his outlook of life.", writes Sardar Ranbir Singh.
In fact, the Keshas is a symbol of saintliness. The holy Rishis of ancient India, Sri Rama, Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ and Hazrat Mohammad, all of them had long tresses (unshorn hair). And of course, all the Ten Gurus wore keshas. For the Keshas preserve the spiritual energy generated at Meditation. Hair is indeed associated with holiness.
May God bless Ranbir Singh with health, long life and prosperity for having had the good will to publish his luminous books.
Santiago Dr. Edward A. de Bittencourt
3rd April, 1968.
Foreword courtesy of : S Nirvair Singh