Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak in the form of ten Gurus (1469 - 1708) in India. The tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh ended the personal Guruship and proclaimed Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture) as the last Guru forever.
Guru Granth Sahib was written and compiled by the Gurus themselves and hence it is authentic. No body is allowed to change even a comma or a period in it (1430 pages).
Guru Granth Sahib does not narrate the life story of the Gurus, but it is wholly dedicated to the glory of the Almighty God only. Sikhism is not a blend or a reproduction of earlier religions but it is a new revelation altogether. The teachings that the Gurus gave to this world, came DIRECT to them from God, which the Gurus confirm :
‘This Word comes from Him, Who hath created the world.’
To attain salvation, Sikhism rejects all fasts, rites and rituals. It rejects the claims of Yoga, mortification of body, self-torture, penances and renunciation. Sikhism does not believe in the worship of gods and goddesses, stones, statues, idols, pictures, tombs or crematoriums. Only One God, the Formless, is to be Glorified.
The Gurus preached Sikh religion strictly as monotheistic - requiring belief in none other than One Supreme Being only.
The idealistic approach of Sikhism is that it recognizes the existence of the same heavenly Light in every human being, rich or poor, high or low irrespective of caste, creed, color, race, sex, religion or nationality. Therefore the doors of the Sikh temple called Gurdwara (House of the Guru) are open for all in this world without any prejudice or social discrimination. Every person in this world has equal right to enter and join the services in the Gurdwara.
The institution of Langar (Guru’s free Kitchen) was started by the first Guru and strengthened further by the later Gurus. The rules of the Langar require that all should sit in the same row and partake of the same food without any discrimination of being high or low, rich or poor, and prince or the peasant. The institution of Langar, thus, translates the principle of equality into practice. It was the injunction of the third Guru that none would have his audience unless one had eaten in the Langar. Even Akbar, the Emperor of India, had to sit with common people and dine before he could see the Guru.
Before we proceed translating Gurbani (Divine Word) to English, we confess to our limitations since there is no authentic English version of our holy scripture to guide us. This is so because each translation would reflect the translator’s ability to understand both the languages. His dedication and involvement with religion would be evident in his work. This will result in diverse translations leaving no standardized version. In the case of our scripture there are numerous difficulties encountered by a translator. For example, “Sidh Gosht” - Guru Nanak’s dialogue with the Sidhas, the concept of “NAM”, the exhortation “Nam Japo”, concept of “Sehaj Anand” and “Onkar”, are highly difficult to translate. The English word ‘name’ is not at all synonymous for ‘NAM’. This is a Herculean task since the English speaking people know no such thing as the ‘True Name’ nor can they comprehend the practice of ‘Nam Japna’. There is no existing vocabulary to help translate these and a lot more abstract thoughts listed in Guru Granth Sahib.
While reading this book it should be remembered that it is completely impossible to justly translate any one language to another. Translation is not an exact science and therefore, literal interpretation of Gurbani is unachievable- there can be no accurate and definitive translation of our scripture. We, the authors, have endeavored to translate Gurbani to English, while preserving the quintessence of its message as ordained by the Guru.
All quotations are from Guru Granth Sahib unless otherwise noted. The English translation of the original verses has been taken from the various authors whichever was found most befitting, and Sikh Missionary Center is most grateful to all those authors. The purpose of this book is to spread the doctrine of Sikhism as laid down by the Gurus. There is no limit to the praise of the Almighty, but the authors have attempted to express Guru’s Divine Message and the Glory of His Kingdom in few and simple terms.
Nam is the central theme in the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib. Power of Nam is glorified and admired in Sikh Scripture. It is the cure of all sufferings. In Guru Granth Sahib, Nam is another name for God. It is Nam that sustains all beings and the universe. He is not a mental abstraction. He is the source of all life-physical as well as spiritual. Nothing is so perfect that it could or would exist apart from and independent of Nam(HIM).
Rebirth in descending order is a punishment and curse for one’s deeds. The soul passes through animal lives suffering untold agonies. Human life is a blessing. Human being is the crown of His Creation. Man has the capacity of being conscious of his own being. He has the capability to attain the highest pinnacle of spiritual advancement. Human form is the opportunity for the spiritual and moral progress. No religion and no philosophy can exist without man. Sikh Gurus sing the nobility of human being because he has the awareness of the Divine and it is only through human body that one can get salvation by meditating on Nam. Man cannot find his way to salvation through intellectual acrobatics and speculative ventures or ceaseless trance. It is achieved only through meditation on Nam. When the Gurus and the Bhaktas(saints) sing the Praises of the Lord, they sing them to man. They encourage man to advance to the loftiest peaks of spiritual glory. The exhortation “Nam Japo” by the Gurus is directed towards man because the highest spiritual goal is within the reach of man only. “Nam Japo” aims at spiritual evolution which is the ultimate goal of Guru’s Sikh.
“Were there any one Thy equal, O God, I’d praise Thee before him. (Since Thou hast neither equal nor rival) Therefore I will praise Thee before Thyself. Thy Name giveth sight to me, the blind.”
(Slok Mohalla 1, page 1242, Guru Granth Sahib)
With complete dedication and full humility, we extend our salute to our Lord, the Supreme Monarch.
March, 1990. Sikh Missionary Center