7. The Path and Discipline | Sikhi
7. The Path and Discipline
The Gurus have prescribed three modes of discipline:
(a) Company of God-centred persons,
(b) moral life or service of man, and
(c) prayer and remembering God.
It is a code of conduct the seeker has to practise throughout the entire course of one's life.
(a) Company of God-centred persons:
The Society of the ideal man is of great value to the seeker, both as a model and as a guide.
His influence is the best for shaping man's growing personality and giving him strength and direction in times of doubt and difficulty.
"Just as the Harind (Castor Plant) imbibes the fragrance of Chandan tree,
the fallen are emancipated by the saints."
"In good company one becomes good."
"God sends saints to reveal God's concern for man."
(b) Moral life and service:
Guru Nānak says that the earth is a place for the practice of righteousness.
In Sikhism, moral activity is a step towards freedom and creativity: Hence, the highest importance of moral activity in the spiritual training and system of the Gurus.
Spiritual discipline aims at enabling man to face life in a righteous and creative way. As such, a householder's life is an essential moral responsibility of man.
The seeker's training has to take place during the course of a normal life and not in a monastery. It is important to understand that the Gurus never created any monastic system or a place for the training of a few:
The psyche can be properly conditioned only when it is subject to the stresses and strains of the social environment of man. One can learn to swim only inside the pool and not outside it.
This is exactly the reason that the Gurus excluded ascetics from the Sikh fold, and condemned all ritualistic, yogic and other-worldly practices and austerities.
In Sikhism, moral activity is the basis of all spiritual growth, and this activity can be done only in the social field. For, such activity alone is the way to eliminate egoism, and test the seeker's progress.
Keeping in view the character and role of the Gurmukh it is obvious that progress is possible only through moral life.
"Singing and dancing in ecstasy are no worship;
love and the giving up of ego are the ways of real worship."
"Drive out selfishness and one is fulfilled."
"Where the weak are cared, there is showered God's mercy."
"Evil separates,' good deeds unite."
“Service in the world is the way to be fulfilled."
There is, indeed, no spiritual progress without active moral functioning:
The service of God is a synonym for the service of man. Moral activities have the highest priority in Sikhism, these being the best means of training.
The use of human rationality and a sense of discrimination have a distinct place in moral life.
Sikh theology being non-deterministic, man has a distinct moral freedom and responsibility in the choice of his actions. It is this exercise of right choice that determines his spiritual progress.
"By use of discrimination or intellect one serves God.''
God's concern for the moral development of man can be gauged from the fact that it is
"His innermost, nature to help the erring."
"With, self- control and discipline, we forsake vice
and see the miracle of man becoming God.''
For the moral life of man two virtues, namely, humility and love, find the highest priority in the Guru's ethical system and the discipline prescribed for the seeker.
(c) Remembering God and Prayer:
In the Guru Granth, there is considerable emphasis on remembering God.
But, the remembering of God is by itself not enough to link oneself with Him. This contemplation does not mean yogic practices for the achievement of the so-called bliss as an end in itself.
We are unaware of any hymn in the Guru Granth recommending yogic practices or any tradition in this regard.
Nor are we aware of any hymn in the Guru Granth which, apart from recommending prayer and keeping the fear of God always in one's mind, directs the practice of day-long meditations in seclusion, and away from the day's work.
There are clear hymns against the use of such a course as a means to spiritual advancement:
"Everyone repeats God's name, but such repetition is not the way to God."
"With guile in heart, he practises guile but mutters God's name.
He is pounding husk and is in darkness and pain.''
The Gurus deny the utility of any mechanical means of worship or mere repetition of words or hymns. But remembering can be a way to keep in mind one's basic ideals.
Evidently, remembrance of God is a kind of preparation for the virtuous activities to be undertaken in the social life. It is actually the character of the subsequent deeds that will be the test of man.
This remembering is like keeping the fear of God in mind and moving in life strictly on the moral path. It does not mean mechanical repetition every day or morning.
That is why the Guru says that "it is only one out of crores who remembers God."
Prayer, as in any other theistic system, finds a place of eminence in the Guru Granth, Prayer, expresses the humility and insignificance of the devotee.
It is a mode of seeking God's grace. It is a humble attempt to draw upon God's strength so as to restore one's sagging energies and will in the moral struggle of man.
"My energies are exhausted and I am helpless.
But O God, with Thy Grace nothing is difficult for me to accomplish."
Such a prayer is not a repetitive formula or practice, nor is it an end in itself.
It is really a preparation for the moral activity to be undertaken in the world. In fact, it is inalienably linked with the subsequent activity. Without its external operation, the internal activity remains invalid.
The very fact that the Gurus started no monastic system shows that they never advocated either -prayer or any other meditational system as an independent mode of spiritual training.
"One is emancipated while laughing and playing in life and living a full life.''
"The God-centred lives truth while yet a house-holder.''