Ik Onkār (One God): Sikhism is a monistic form of monotheistic (panentheistic) religion in its belief. This means that God is believed to be the one and sole Reality in the cosmos, and no god or goddess or power like Satan or Ahriman or any other has reality such as God's. God alone is worthy of worship, and the highest end of existence, that is mukti or liberation can come through Devotion to God alone. All other worship is false and a waste of the precious gift of the human life.
1. The Idea of the Supreme Being (God): Sikhism is a Theistic religion, and totally rejects all reasoning which may attempt to prove that the universe is an automatic machine, or that it is a continuation of atoms which are self-created and self-perpetuating.
2. Self Created: According to the Sikh belief, God is self-created and all that exists, has emanated from God. As to any speculations about the origin of God or the creation of the universe by Him, no mythological or any other explanation is offered. Man's intellect cannot penetrate the Divine mystery, and hence all that man can attempt is to feel or realize the existence of God through intuition or spiritual experience, called "anubhava" in Indian philosophy.
3. Beyond Logic and Endlessly True: Logic or any other kind of reasoning can neither prove nor deny the existence of God, for against one kind of reasoning another can be advanced. Hence for man it is to try to realize the existence of God in a spirit of humility, and to engage in prayer and devotion, so that a person may become one with the Supreme Reality, that is God. Guru Nanak said;
ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥
Keethaa Pasaao Eaeko Kavaao ||
You created the vast expanse of the universe with one word!
ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥
This Thae Hoeae Lakh Dhareeaao ||
Resulting in millions of streams of existence.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Japji Sahib, Ang 3
ਕਵਣਿ ਸਿ ਰੁਤੀ ਮਾਹੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਹੋਆ ਆਕਾਰੁ ॥
Kavan S Ruthee Maahu Kavan Jith Hoaa Aakaar ||
What was that season, and what was that month, when the universe was created?
ਵੇਲ ਨ ਪਾਈਆ ਪੰਡਤੀ ਜਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਲੇਖੁ ਪੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
Vael N Paaeeaa Panddathee J Hovai Laekh Puraan ||
The Pandits, the religious scholars, cannot find that time, even if it is written in the Puraanas.
ਵਖਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਕਾਦੀਆ ਜਿ ਲਿਖਨਿ ਲੇਖੁ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
Vakhath N Paaeiou Kaadheeaa J Likhan Laekh Quraan ||
That time is not known to the Qazis, who study the Quran.
ਥਿਤਿ ਵਾਰੁ ਨਾ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਾਣੈ ਰੁਤਿ ਮਾਹੁ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ॥
Thhith Vaar Naa Jogee Jaanai Ruth Maahu Naa Koee ||
The day and the date are not known to the Yogis, nor is the month or the season.
ਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਿਰਠੀ ਕਉ ਸਾਜੇ ਆਪੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਸੋਈ ॥
Jaa Karathaa Sirathee Ko Saajae Aapae Jaanai Soee ||
Only the Creator (God) that created this creation knows.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Japji Sahib, Ang 4
4. Eternal: God is believed in Sikhism to be eternal—that is, God is without beginning and without end. All else that is visible, had a beginning and will end. Even the sun and the moon, the stars, the earth—all will end.
5. Vedic Gods: The gods, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indira — and all others are mortal. In other words, they are subject to the control of Time which marks their beginning, decline and end. God alone is Timeless (Akal). Akal is one of the key-concepts in Sikh spiritual thought. While this term is from the Sanskrit in its origin, consisting of 'a' (negative prefix) and Kal (time), the particular spiritual and philosophical signification which belongs to it in Sikh thought is unprecedented in Indian philosophy.
6. Monism: Besides panentheistic, Sikhism also emphasizes another philosophical idea, which is known as monism. Monism is the belief that all that our senses apprehend is only appearance; that God is the sole Reality. Forms being subject to Time, shall pass away. God's Reality alone is eternal and abiding.
7. Man of God: Hence behind the show of things, the spiritual vision is always aware of the reality of God. According to this philosophy, the differences created by man's limited thinking which result in selfishness, egoism and hate are meaningless. Since nothing exists except God; the man of God sees in all beings the reality of God. A few texts from the holy Guru Granth Sahib will illustrate this point:
ਜੋ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਦੂਜਾ ਕੋਈ ਜੀਉ ॥
Jo Anthar So Baahar Dhaekhahu Avar N Dhoojaa Koee Jeeo ||
That which is inside, is the same is outside; nothing else exists;
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮੋਈ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥
Gurmukh Eaek Dhrisatt Kar Dhaekhahu Ghatt Ghatt Joth Samoee Jeeo ||2||
As Gurmukh, look upon all with the single eye of equality; in each and every heart, the divine light is contained. ||2||
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Raaj Sorath, Ang 599
ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਉਪਜੈ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਦੂਰਿ ॥
Jal Mehi Oupajai Jal Thae Dhoor ||
The lotus originates in the water, and yet it remains distinct from the water.
ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਰਪੂਰਿ ॥
Jal Mehi Joth Rehiaa Bharapoor ||
Just so, the Divine Light pervades and permeates the water of the world.
ਕਿਸੁ ਨੇੜੈ ਕਿਸੁ ਆਖਾ ਦੂਰਿ ॥
Kis Naerrai Kis Aakhaa Dhoor ||
Who is near, and who is far away?
ਨਿਧਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਾ ਦੇਖਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ॥੭॥
Nidhh Gun Gaavaa Dhaekh Hadhoor ||7||
I sing the Glories of the Lord, the treasure of virtue; I behold Him ever-present. ||7||
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Raaj Asa, Ang 411
9. Differences: are owing to one's ignorance of the Supreme Truth, and to the influence on a person of Maya (illusion). Through prayer and devotion and Divine aid the illusion created by Maya is lifted, and then one views the Reality of the universe as one, leaving no scope for hatred, avarice or egoism.
The Mool Mantar, composed by Guru Nanak, is an explanation and amplification of the single phrase – Ik Onkar, which is the first entry in the holy Granth. In its original form it reads;
ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
Ik Onkar Sat Naam Karta Purakh Nirbhau Nirvair Akaal Murat Ajuni Saibhan Gur Prasaadh ॥
One God, True Name, Creator Being, No Fear, No Hatred, Timeless Form, Beyond Birth, Self-Existent, By Guru's Grace.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 1
The various elements in the above yield the true significance of the Sikh belief and its idea of God. The first phrase Ik Onkār contains two terms: Ik (One) and Onkār (The Supreme Being). Onkār comes from the Upanishad and is an extended form of Om, which is the holiest of all names of God.
In the Guru Granth Sahib Om is also used—once by Guru Nanak and twice by Guru Arjan Sahib. Onkār is the Eternal Reality, above gods and goddesses and is holy and self-existent. To it, in order to emphasize the idea of the sole reality of God, Guru Nanak has added the numeral 1, which in several Indian languages is pronounced as Ik. This Ik Onkār is the transcendental, unattributed Absolute. In other words, it is that which is above all Existence, has no attributes, since these will limit its absoluteness and Eternity. In Sukhmani it says;
ਆਗਿਆਕਾਰੀ ਧਾਰੀ ਸਭ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ॥
Aagiaakaaree Dhhaaree Sabh Srisatt ||
The world is obedient to God's will.
ਆਪੇ ਆਪਿ ਸਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਆਪਿ ॥
Aapae Aap Sagal Mehi Aap ||
God is within itself.
ਅਨਿਕ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਰਚਿ ਥਾਪਿ ਉਥਾਪਿ ॥
Anik Jugath Rach Thhaap Outhhaap ||
In God's many ways, God establishes and dis-establishes.
ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਿਛੁ ਖੰਡ ॥
Abinaasee Naahee Kishh Khandd ||
God is imperishable; nothing can be broken.
ਧਾਰਣ ਧਾਰਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡ ॥
Dhhaaran Dhhaar Rehiou Brehamandd ||
God supports and maintains the universe.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Raaj Gauri Sukhmani, Ang 281-282
In the Ik Onkār in the Mool Mantar, as elsewhere, implies that reality which is above and beyond all other existence. The next phrase, Satnam contains two terms. Sat (Satya) is both real and holy. Naam is a spiritual idea, which stands for the Essence, the Absolute Reality. It is not merely the name as is commonly believed, but that for which the name of God stands, that is, the Divine Essence. Karta Purakh: Karta is Kartar (Creator).
The universe is fashioned by God and not by any deity. God is the Kartar, which is one of the commonly emphasized terms for God in Sikh belief. Purakh is the same Purusha (Male, this Mighty Eternal Creator). Purusha has come from the Rig Veda into Indian philosophy, and is one of the holiest words, as implying the Eternal Creator. Nirbhau (without fear) and Nirvair (without rancour) are two negative attributes, implying God's absoluteness. Not being subject to any other being, and not being subject to need. God is fearless. Since God is the creator of all existence, God is without hate. God is all love, all benevolence. Hence in Sikh teaching, God is referred to again and again as Father, implying God's love and care for all creation.
Akal, as said earlier, is Timeless, Eternal. This term is characteristically Sikh. In numerous Sikh phrases this term occurs. Akal is as unmistakably the Sikh name for God, as Allah in the muslim tradition.
Ajuni implies that God is not subject to birth and death. Hence the Incarnations of God who are worshipped in various religions in India and outside, are not God, for God is unborn. God is not subject to the physical process of having a father and a mother. Related to this is Saibhang. This is a popular form of Sanskrit Swyambhu (Self Existent).
The last phrase, Guru Prasaadh implies that God's knowledge or realization can come to man neither through reasoning or learning nor through ritual performances like pilgrimages, fasting and keeping sacred days. None of the attempts in the ritual practice of religion will help God's realization. Through devotion and prayer God's grace (kindness, mercy) may be aroused and through that alone may God be realized.
This is the great mystery of mysteries, which no man can understand. Grace comes mysteriously and in ways unexpected. Only prayer and devotion from the depth of the heart may draw it on man. For grace (prasaadh) other terms employed by the holy Gurus are mehar (love), karam (bounty), nadar (glance of compassion), daya (compassion), kirpa (kindness). So, this last phrase is essential in the enunciation of the basic idea of the Sikh faith.
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