WHAT IS GOD?
We have neither heard nor found any writing starting with a numeral. The Sikh Holy Scripture (Guru Granth Sahib) begins with numeral ‘1’ indicating the Oneness of God and the fact that there is no Second like Him. Guru Granth Sahib begins with the Definition of God:
Ek-Onm-kaar God is One but only One
Sat-Naam Eternal Truth
Karta-Purkh Almighty Creator
Nirvair Without hate and enmity
Akaal Murat Immortal Entity
Gurparsaad Realized by the Grace of True Guru (Divine Word)
This is called Mool-Mantar
Jap Thou shall worship
Aad Sach Who was True before the Creation
Jugaad Sach Who was True in the beginning of Creation
Haibhi Sach Who is True Now, and O Nanak
Nanak Hosibhi Sach Who Shall be True For Ever
This is called Sach (True) Mantar.
There are three tenses in the world - past, present and future but Guru Nanak used the fourth tense too and that is He was True before the Creation, in the beginning of the Creation, now and in the future for ever. The above (Mool-Mantar + Sach Mantar) is called the Preamble of Guru Granth Sahib. Some call it God while others call it Ram or Allah but Sikhism calls this Power as Waahay-Guru (Wonderful God).
Doctrine of God has been clearly revealed in the opening paragraph of Sikh Holy Scripture as being One and Only One. The Oneness of God does not only mean numerically one but Unique without a second like Him. He is the Absolute One. In Asa Mohalla 1, page 10 of Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak says, “Such is His greatest merit that there is none like Him. Neither there was any other, nor shall there ever be like Him.” Guru further describes Him in Japji Sahib(24), page 5 of Guru Granth Sahib::
“Great is the Lord and High is His Mansion,
Supreme above all is His Name.
If only one is as exalted as He, might know His extent,
But how great He is, only He Himself knows.”
God is the defender of the right and chastiser of evil. He has no wants nor imperfections and hence His act of creation is not an ordinary act but it is a manifestation of His Eternal Power. The whole realm of existence , liberation and bondage all are created and governed by The Eternal Writ of God . God’s Will is All-pervasive and Absolute. Every good that comes to human beings, is His gift. All virtues, excellences and perfections in individuals are due to His Grace. Guru Nanak made every effort to secure all praise, adoration, love and worship for the One and only One God. He condemned image worship and denounced idols. There can be no image of the One Who is Formless. Guru Nanak exhorts human beings that there should be ceaseless remembrance and contemplation of the Holy Name till the human soul becomes one with Him. In Sikh monotheistic concept of God, He is a symbol of perfection, not incarnated but self-existent and eternal. He is conceived as an object of veneration and reverence by the Sikhs.
The word Om (Om) was used for God and to write it in the beginning of Granths (scriptures), letters and other writings. Guru Nanak put numeral ’1’ before Om meaning that there is One God and put ’Kar’ after Om which means that there is One God and there is nothing else but Only One God. So Guru Nanak sealed this situation for ever saying ’Ek-On-Kar ’ - God is One but Only One. Then he used Onkar (Onmkar) as Super Being Lord (God). So Onkar is He who created Brahma, who created mountains and Yugas (ages), who created Vedas and who emancipated all through Divine Word.
Guru Nanak went to Banaras (also called Varanasi in India) which was known as the seat of Hindu Religious Learning and abode of Shiva. Pandit Chatur Das was the chief Brahmin of the city. There was long discussion between the two. The Guru asked the Pundit what did he learn, what did he teach to the people and what type of knowledge did he impart to his disciples? The Pandit replied, “By the Will of God I teach fourteen sciences to the people.” The Guru explained that better than all these sciences was the knowledge of God. Upon this the Guru uttered the fifty-four stanzas of Ramkali Mohalla 1- Dakhani Onmkar given at page 929 of Guru Granth Sahib.. The True God is superior to all other gods. On hearing the Sabad of Ramkali, Pandit Chatur Das fell at the feet of the Guru, and became his Sikh. He did a lot to spread Sikh Religion in that area. Some of those stanzas of Dakhni Onmkar are given below:
“Onkar is He who created Brahma
Onkar is He who fashioned the human mind.
Onkar is He who created mountains and Yugas (ages).
It is the One Lord (Onkar) who created Vedas.
Onkar is He who, through the Word, Emancipated all.
It is the One Supreme Lord through Whom God-men were saved.
Listen to discourse on the syllable Om1 worthy of obeisance-
The Eternal Lord is the essence of three worlds.” (1)
Hear, O Pandit2, why writest thou the worldly puzzles?
By Guru’s Grace, write thou only the Name of the Lord,
The Cherisher of the world. (Pause)
“God created the whole world spontaneously and
Permeated the three worlds3 with His Light.
Pick up thou the gems and pearls of the Name and by the Guru’s grace
Thou shall obtain God, the Real commodity.
If man understands, reflects and comprehends what he reads and pursues, he
Ultimately comes to realize the True Lord within All.
The pious person perceives and contemplates the True Lord,
Without the True One, this world is but Illusion. “ (2)
“Loving another (than God) man loses Divine Knowledge, he becomes rotten in ego and eats poison.
He who loves not the Lord’s Praise, loses the Profound and Unfathomable Lord.
But if one loves the Guru’s True Utterance, one obtains Nectar and mind and body in truth finds joy.
The Lord Himself is the Exalted Guru, Himself He blesses man with Nectar-Name and Himself makes him drink this Nectar. “ (4)
“Everyone says, “He is One,” but each is engrossed in ego and pride.
But he who knows the One Lord within and without, he sees the Lord’s Presence in his very home.
The Lord is near: think Him not afar: He alone Permeates the whole world.
There is but One Lord. There is not another, Nanak, remains merged
in One Lord. “ (5)
“The One God is in all ways, all forms, all colors.
He works through air, water, fire and various shapes.
The One soul wanders through the three worlds.
And if one realizes the One Lord, one is blessed with honor.
He who gathers Divine wisdom and meditation, abides in the state of Equipoise.
Some rare one attains to One Lord by Guru’s grace.
He, who is blest by His Grace, he attains Bliss.
And he utters (the Truth) through the Guru’s Word.” (7)
As a matter of fact the whole of Guru Granth Sahib is about the Concept of God. It is wholly dedicated to the Glory of the Almighty God Only. The Guru further elaborates the Concept of God in Rag Sorath:
“The Unseen, Infinite, Inaccessible, Inapprehensible God is not subject to death or destiny.
He is of no caste, unborn, self-existent, without fear or doubt.
I am a sacrifice to the Truest of the True.
He hath no form or color or outline.
He becometh manifest by the True Word.
He hath no mother, father, son, or kinsman;
He feeleth no lust, and hath no wife or family;
He is Pure, endless, and infinite; all Light is Thine, O Lord.
God is concealed in every heart, His Light is in every heart.
He whose understanding’s adamantine doors are opened by the Guru’s instruction, fixeth his gaze on the Fearless One.
God having created animals, made them subject to death, and retained all contrivances in His Own power..
He who serveth the True Guru obtaineth the real boon, and is delivered by repeating the Word.
Truth is contained in pure vessels; few there are whose acts are pure.
By seeking Thy protection, saith Nanak, the soul blendeth with the Supreme soul”
(Sorath Moh. 1, p-597, Guru Granth Sahib)
(All quotations are from Guru Granth Sahib unless it is noted otherwise)
GOD - IMPERSONAL AND PERSONAL:
God is both Impersonal (Nirgun) and Personal (Sargun). Impersonal God is Formless beyond human reach. When He reveals Himself through His Creation, He becomes Personal and related. It is just like the rays coming from sun. The source is Formless and the whole universe is His Personal form. No form howsoever unique it may be, is independent of Him. Infinite can manifest into an unlimited number of finites but any number of finites, alone or together, cannot be equal to the Infinite. So any finite form cannot be worshipped as God, Who is Infinite and Formless:
“ God is Formless, colorless, markless,
He is casteless, classless, creedless,
His form, hue, shape and garb
Cannot be described by anyone.
He is the Spirit of Eternity,
Self-Radiant, He shineth in His Splendor.”
(Guru Gobind Singh)
God neither takes birth nor does He die:
“Burnt be the tongue that says
The Lord takes birth and undergoes death.”
(Bhairon Moh. 5, p-1136)
GOD IS WITHOUT HATE AND ANIMOSITY:
God is not Revengeful but He is Gracious and beyond measure Merciful. He Himself never brings calamity to punish the people rather it is our own actions that bring disaster as punishment. As you sow so shall you reap. For example there are millions of people living in a city. All of them are not in the jail or all of them are not on death roll. Those who committed crime are the only ones who are in the jail. Those who murdered someone are the only ones who are on the death roll. The rest of the population is living happily and enjoying. Those who are in the jail or are on death roll, are not punished by the president but they are there because of their actions. How can any one blame the president for their punishment? In the same way God does not punish anyone, we are responsible for our actions. God is rather Gracious. Even a worst sinner in this world would be pardoned when surrenders before the Almighty. The Divine Word says:
“The sinner who is patronless in the world, when surrenders before the Lord
(Bhairon Moh. 5, p-1141)
There are so many examples in history to prove His Graciousness. It is recorded that Ajamal was an atheist. He was Brahmin by caste and was living with a prostitute. Being a Brahmin and living with a prostitute is a cardinal sin according to the eastern religions. She gave birth to a son who died immediately. History reveals that she gave birth to six sons and every one of them died immediately after birth. Ajamal was completely shaken up. He met a Sadhu (a blessed saint) and told his story of grief. The Sadhu suggested to Ajamal that if he meditated on the Name, the situation would change. But being an atheist Ajamal refused to do so. However he agreed at the end. The Sadhu told him to meditate on the Name, “Narayan (God)” and that he should focus his attention in the meaning of the Word and repeat, “Narayan, Narayan, Narayan …………” After some time again a son was born but this time he did not die. Ajamal was wonder-struck and named him, ’Narayan’. So whenever he called his son by name (Narayan), actually he was also meditating on the Name. Ajamal got salvation.
“For the love of his son Ajamal uttered ‘Narayan’-
Who smote and drove away the Death’s myrmidons.”
(Maru Mohalla 5, p-999 )
Guru Nanak is explaining that if a notorious and recognized sinner like Ajamal can get salvation by meditating on the Name, anybody can get deliverance if one surrenders to Him. The Essence of the Sikh Religion is the Meditation on the Name (of God). Nam (Name) is the central theme in the House of Guru Nanak:
“The Lord has given Nanak the gift of this game
That in his home Resounds only the Name.”
(Bhairon Mohalla 5, p-1136 )
The paramount Characteristic of God, Guru explains, is that whosoever surrenders to Him, gets Deliverance:
“God embraces him who seeketh His protection
This is the characteristic of the Lord.”
(Bihagra Moh.5, p-544 )
WHERE IS GOD?
After visiting Mecca and Madina, Guru Nanak went to Baghdad. There
he met Behlol, a high Muslim priest. He told Guru Nanak," You have
to answer our questions or we will punish you." Guru replied, "I do not answer
questions under any kind of threat but I have set out from my home just
to answer the questions of this world." Behlol addressed, "I have been worshiping Allah, I have been meditating but three questions are always hanging on my mind, pray if you kindly answer those questions:
First- What was before God?
Second- Where does God live?
Third- What does He do?"
Guru Nanak responded, "I will answer your first question only after you offer
me pearls." Behlol brought pearls and offered them to him. The Guru then asked Behlol,
"Please slowly but loudly start counting the pearls." Behlol started,” One, two." Guru stopped him there saying that he was counting wrong. Start counting again slowly but loudly. Behlol started counting again,” One, two, three….." Guru stopped Behlol again saying that he was still counting wrong and told him to try one more time and warned him that he would stop him if he committed the same mistake. Behlol started, "One." Guru one more time stopped him right there and asked ,” Does counting begin with one?" The Divine Guru cast one gracious glance towards Behlol who got the Realization. Behlol said,” Sir, I am not counting wrong. Nothing is before one and the counting begins only with one." This meant that nothing was before One (God). Behlol got the answer of his first question and touched Guru's feet in acknowledgement, "He is the competent and perfect Faqir (prophet)."
Before answering the second question the Guru said to Behlol, "I will answer your second question only after you offer me milk."
A bowl of milk was brought and offered to the Guru.
Guru looked at Behlol saying, "This milk is not pure, it has some mixture in it."
Behlol replied,” Sir, the bowl was thoroughly cleaned and pure milk was poured
in it. So it is pure."
The Guru again told him, "No, it is not pure."
The Guru then asked Behlol, "Does this milk have butter in it?"
Behlol replied, "Yes sir, it has butter in it."
The Guru then explained,” The milk has butter in it but eyes cannot see it. In the same
way the bowl of entire firmament has butter (God) in it but it is not seen." God
is everywhere but cannot be seen.
At the end the Guru told Behlol that he would answer his remaining question only if he lets him sit in his seat. Behlol vacated his seat and let Guru sit in his place. While seated in Behlol’s spot the Guru went into a trance. "Sir,“ asked Behlol, “You have not answered the third question, rather you are sitting motionless with your eyes closed.“ Guru Nanak opened his eyes and said, "Those who sit on the throne, God can bring them down and those who are sitting down, He can put them on the throne. This is what God does."
Behlol touched Guru's feet. After that whenever Guru Nanak wanted to leave, Behlol begged him to stay. According to Sikh history, the Guru stayed there for 17 days before he came back from Baghdad.
Behlol became Guru’s follower. History narrates that he spent sixty long years meditating -sitting at the foot of the slab, where the sacred feet of the Guru had rested during their discussion. Later on a shrine was built on this spot in the memory of the Guru. The English translation of the inscription on the slab inside the shrine is:
"In memory of the Guru, that is the Divine Master, Baba Nanak,
Faqir Aulia, this building has been raised with the help of seven
saints, and the chronogram reads. The blessed disciple has
produced a spring of Grace year 917 (Muslim year)."
(The Sikh Review- October-November 1969 (issue), p.113)
Swami Anand Acharya of Sweden mentions in his book, 'Snow Bird',
published by Macmillan & Sons, London, that during his visit to Baghdad,
he found another inscription on the slab dated 917 Hijri. The inscription reads:
"Here spoke the Hindi Guru Nanak to Faqir Behlol, and for these
sixty years since the Guru left Iraq, the soul of Behlol has rested on
Master's word like a bee poised on a dawn-lit honey rose."
It is said that once Shah of Iran came to see Behlol and he was so much
wonder-struck seeing the glow on his face that he remarked, "If the sight of
your face is so wondrous and beauteous, what about your Guru (Nanak)?"
There is a Sikhs Gurdwara (Sikh church) in his memory on this spot where the
sacred feet of Guru Nanak rested during this discussion in Baghdad, Iraq.
GOD IS THE SAVIOR OF HIS SAINTS:
God is the one and the only one savior of the humanity but His devotees (saints) are particularly near and dear to Him. Harnakhash was the king of Multan (now in Pakistan) and an staunch atheist. He had a son, Prahlad who was a devotee of the Lord. He used to meditate on the Word, ‘Ram’ but his father (Harnakhash) did not like it and asked him not to do it. When Prahlad did not stop, his father would punish him. Prahlad’s mother pleaded with his son, “My dear son, he is your father and he is also a king, so do what he tells you to do and do not meditate on the word, ‘Ram‘ and save your life.” Prahlad replied, “Mother, I will not stop reciting His name, my Guru has instructed me to do so.” The Sikh Scripture describes the exchange between the mother and the son:
“The mother counseled the son, ‘My dear son, abandon the Name of the Lord and save thy life.’
(But) said Prahlad, “Hark, O dear mother, I’ll not abandon the Name of God, for, such is the instruction of my Guru.”
(Bhairo Mohalla 3, p-1133 )
His teachers complained to the king that his son had not only gone astray but he made his classmates gone astray too. Ultimately Harnakhash got one very thick iron rod and put it in the fire till it turned red hot. He then dared Prahlad to embrace it. When Prahlad went near the rod, he saw an ant moving on the rod. He thought to himself that if a small ant could crawl on the red hot iron bar, he could embrace it too. Wonder of the Lord! When Prahlad embraced the rod, he found it cold. The Divine Word says:
“The devotee Prahlad was protected
And Harnakhash was torn apart with claws4”
(Maru Mohalla 5, p-999 )
The love of God gave Prahlad courage and fearlessness and he asked for divine intervention. God protected him in distress and saved him in a miraculous way. For the sake of His devotee, the supreme Lord assumed a different form and emerged out of the pillar tearing Harnakhash apart. Such miracles and supernatural help of God are considered a proof of His deep love for His saints. To protect His devotees is God’s paramount characteristic (Birdh). Practice of praising the Glory of the Lord is the highest of all practices. Sikh history proves that reciting His Name in all awareness saves His devotees from dangers. The story of Prahlad and autobiographic statements of Namdev and Kabir show that when in crisis, they prayed for help, God intervened and saved them. Saints and devotees in all ages have prayed to Him during their time of need and got divine help. These supernatural miracles of God should be distinguished from the miracles of the human beings which are performed by their magical powers. Miracles performed by Sidhas and Yogis were different from divine interventions. Supernatural and miraculous actions performed by His Might are deemed as part of His doctrine for the preservation of higher values. It is a concept of Divine Justice overtaking evil deeds. God shows miracles to protect the righteous while other powers shown by human beings with magic are against the Will of God and are considered to be dangerous. He protects His saints and prophets from perils and pitfalls unless He wills that their suffering and martyrdom should serve a higher purpose.
“In every age God created His Devotees and preserved their honor.
The wicked Harnakhash was slain and Prahlad was protected.
On the egotists and slanderers the Lord turned His back and
Namdev5 He ushered into His Presence.
Nanak has contemplated such a Lord (God) Who Emancipates him in the end.”
(Asa Mohalla 4, p-451 )
God is not under anybody. He is not swayed by anyone. He does not yield to any power. But He is ever pleasing by the devotion of His Devotees:
“One gains (pleases) Thee not, O God, by despising the world.
Nor, if one reads the Vedas.
Nor, if one bathes in pilgrim-stations,
Nor, if one roams the whole world through.
Nor, by being knowledgeable and clever.
Nor, if one gives away more and more in charity.
For, everyone is under Thy Sway, O Inaccessible and Inapprehensible God.
But, Thou art in the power (of devotion) of Thy Devotees
And they lean on Thee alone.”
(Ramkali ki Var- Moh.5, Pauri, p-962)
GOD IS THE CHERISHER:
“My tongue utters solely Thy Name
In mother’s womb You are alone our Cherisher;
In this mortal world You are our only Sustainer (pause).”
(Sarang Mohalla 5, p-1215)
Some people say that we work for eight hours a day and bring checks. We make house payment, car payment and buy groceries, how God is the Cherisher? How is He bringing us up?
We have electricity in our homes. If we do not pay the electrical bill for six months, the electric workers will come and cut off the electric connection. It will be all dark. The Almighty God Who has given us so much light of the stars, the moon and the sun, do we ever pay any bill for that?
If there is no air, people would die out of suffocation. Is He a Cherisher or not?
If there is no water, there would be no produce. The whole world would die out of starvation. Is He not a Cherisher? A person asked a small child to bring a glass of water. When the child brought the water, he said, “Thank you very much.” Why thanking a child?
The reply was that we were civilized people even if a small child had given you a glass of water, we must say, “Thank you”. Very good civilization. The Almighty God Who has given us so much water, Have we ever thanked Him?
The Giver is giving us eternally. Even a mother forgets to feed the child. When she hears the child crying, she realizes that the child is hungry. But He never forgets to give. We the receivers, sometimes get weary of receiving but He never gets tired of giving:
“You the Supreme Provider, perpetually granting boons,
Thou art contained in my soul and life-breath.
All kinds of viands You grant for our consumption
Yet I, ungrateful, admit not a single of your benefactions.”
(Basant Mohalla 5, p-1181 Guru Granth Sahib)
Guru Gobind Singh describes in his Swayias the bounties of the Almighty that He gives to all throughout the universe.
“To those who know Him He giveth;
To those who know Him not He also giveth;
He giveth to the earth; He giveth to the heavens;
O man, why waverest thou?
The beautiful and Holy Lord of wealth will care for thee.”
Guru Gobind Singh describes God in his writing- Akal Ustat (Praise of the Immortal):
“May we have the protection of the Immortal Being6
May we have the protection of All-steel!
May we have the protection of All-death!
May we have the protection of Great-steel!
I bow to the One Primal God Who extended sea and land, the nether regions,
And the firmament.
He is the primal Being, unseen, and Immortal;
His light is manifest in the fourteen worlds.
He is contained in the ant as in the elephant;
He deemeth the rich and the poor alike;
He is unequalled, unseen, and eternal;
He is the Searcher of all hearts;
He is invisible, indestructible, and without distinguishing dress7
He is without passion, color, form, or outline;
He is devoid of caste marks of every kind;
He is the primal Being, peerless and changeless;
He hath no enemy, no friend, no father, no mother;
He is far from all and near all;
His dwelling is in sea and land, the nether and upper regions.
Boundless is His form, and boundless His voice;
In the shelter of His feet dwelleth Bhawani;8
Brahma and Vishnu have not found His limits;
The four-faced Brahma pointeth out that God is indescribable.
He made millions of Indras and Bawans9;
He created and destroyed Brahmas and Shivas.
The fourteen worlds He made as a play;
And again blended them with Himself.
He made endless demons, deities, serpents, Celestials singers, Yakshas,
Excellent and beautiful.
He is spoken of in the past, the future, and the present;
And He knoweth the secrets of every heart.
He is not attached to any one love;
He is contained in the light of all souls;
He recognizeth all people and all places;
He is free from death and immortal;
He is the invisible, imperceptible Being, distinct from all the world.
He is Immortal, undecaying, imperishable, and of changeless purpose.
He is the Destroyer and Creator of all;
He is the Remover of sickness, sorrow, and sin.
He who with single heart meditateth on Him even for a moment
Shall not fall into Death’s noose.”
1- The syllable Onum (Om Namo) used in teaching that is associated with Omkar (Onkar).
2- Hindu learned Brahmin.
3- One world is what is at our level to infinity.
Second world is what is above us to infinity and
Third world is what is below us to infinity.
4- It is said that Narsingh (who is half man and half lion) came and tore apart Harnakhash with his nails.
5- Namdev was a devotee of God and belonged to the low caste. He went into Hindu temple while singing the praises of the Lord. The high caste Brahmin priests threw him out of the temple because of his low caste. Hindu temples have only one door. Namdev went at the back of the temple and sat there singing the praises of his Lord. Namdev himself has written at two-three places that as he sang the praises, the Almighty God rotated the temple around and turned the door towards him and the back towards the priests. His Devotees are very near and dear to Him.
6- The tenth Guru invented new names for God - Akal (the Immortal), Sarbloh (All- steel), Mahanloh (Great-steel), Sarbkal (All-death), Mahankal ( Great-death), Asidhuj, Asiketu, and Kharagketu (having the sword on His banner), Asipani (sword in His hand), that is, God as the impersonation and source of bravery.
7- Anbhekh. The word also means without form.
8- Parbati or Durga- the consort of Shiva.
9- Indra is the god of rain and Bawan was the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu.