God - the Only Reality
In spite of the mention of the names of various gods and goddesses in different contexts in the Gurbāṇī, the Sikh Scripture, the fact remains that the Sikh gurus were definitely opposed to polytheistic or henotheistic ideas. They were outspoken exponents of monotheism.
The Sikh Scripture begins with the numeral 1. Words may bear or may be made to yield different interpretations but not numerals. Their meaning is fixed once for all.
To denote the oneness of the ultimate reality, therefore, guru Nānak uses the numeral 1. This number, followed by Om, is pronounced as Ek Ongkār.
“The reality connoted by syllable Om is one. If you want to name Him, call Him satya (Eternal—Truth). He is the Doer, All-pervading, Without-fear, Without-malice. His Being is unaffected by time. He is Unborn and Self-existent. He can be realized through the grace of the guru!”
- These words constitute the mūla mantram or kalima of Sikhism. At the time of initiation, every novitiate is made to repeat this mantra five times.
Belief in One Eternal Reality, call Him God, Allah or Rama, is one fundamental doctrine of Sikhism and the ultimate goal of the life of a Sikh is to realize His existence and be in tune with Him.
God as envisaged by guru Nānak and his successors is the sole creator of all that is visible and invisible in this universe. He does not stand in need of any other agency to bring the saṁsāra into being.
“Thou thyself art the tablet, the pen, and the writing on it. Talk of One alone, Nānak: Why mention a second? Thou Thyself pervadest everywhere. Thou Thyself didst fashion the world.
There is none else besides Thee. Thou art immanent in all. Thou Thyself knowest Thy measure and purpose and Thou Thyself canst evaluate Thyself.
Thou art Unknowable, Unfathomable, Indiscernible by senses but Thou can be realized through the word of the guru!'
Prakṛti, māyā, moha, guṇas, gods and demons are His creation, they are not independent of Him:
“Having created the conscious (puruṣa) and the unconscious (prakṛti) the creator Himself has promulgated His order (hukam)!”
“The self-existent brought into being the play of the whole creation. He created the three guṇas and intensified māyā and moha.”
“He created millions of incarnations of Viṣṇu, millions of universes are His schools to teach dharma. He created and destroyed millions of Śivas and put millions of Brahmas on fashioning the world. My Lord is such a Master. I cannot describe the extent of His virtues.”
“Men repeat what they have heard. Śiva does not know His mind. All gods have become tired in a search for Him. The goddesses are unable to fathom the mystery. The Unknowable Para-Brāhman transcends all.
He sports as He pleases. He Himself unites and Himself separates. Some wonder in doubt; others bow in devotion to Him. He creates the worlds and then reveals Himself.
Listen to the true evidence of the saints. They say what they have seen with their own eyes. He is above all virtue and vice. The Lord of Nānak is Self-Existent.”
“One light pervades all ages and all worlds. There is neither growth nor decay in it, nor shall it be ever subject to growth or decay.”
“My love is rooted in that true Being who neither dies nor transmigrates. He pervades all and cannot be separated. He destroys the pain and misery of the low. For His servant He is the Reality. The guru has united me with Him.
O Mother: Who is of unparalleled beauty and without impurity. O Brothers: make the Lord your friend. A curse on attachment to illusion and delusion, which bring happiness to none.
He is Wise, Generous, Benevolent, Pure and of infinite Beauty; the greatest Friend and Helper, Lofty and beyond measure. He knows neither childhood nor old age.
His Court is Eternal. Whatsoever we ask at His door, we get. He is the mainstay of the weak. Seeing Him all sins are destroyed and mind and body both get peace.
Banishing all mental doubts and with one mind meditate on the One Ocean of all Virtues, He is ever young. His gifts are perfect. Propitiate Him day and night; never forget Him.”
Some thinkers have held that the supreme Spirit is a mere witness, a non-doer. The creation is a play of māyā or prakṛti. The Sikh gurudo not subscribe to this view:
“The one Lord is the cause of all causes, there is none else, O Nānak! May I be a sacrifice unto Him, who pervades waters, deserts, the earth and the skies.”
“He first created Himself and then He created the name. He created nature, entered it and was pleased to look at His own creation.”
Diverse theories have been put forward to explain the existence of evil in this world. Some teachers posited two Gods: the God of good and the God of evil.
Others subordinated the God of evil, Satan, to the God of virtues. Some say evil or ignorance exists from the beginning but can be destroyed through knowledge.
Others assert that what can be destroyed never was, for whatsoever is shall ever be and hence māyā or illusion, the root of all evil, is non-existent.
Bhai Gurdās has explained the existence of evil by an apt simile:
“The Gods and demons churned the ocean and life-giving nectar and death-dealing poison both came out of it.”
None knows why it happened this way but everyone knows “that if we take poison we die, and if we drink nectar we get the everlasting life.”
Guru Arjun likens the world to a great wrestling arena:
In order to develop spiritual strength the soul has to wrestle against lust, anger, greed, delusion and egoism. These obstacles have been put in our way to make us spiritually stronger and greater:
“I am a puny wrestler of the Lord of the universe, but on meeting the guru I have donned a lofty turban. We have come together for a wrestling bout; the Lord Himself is the spectator.
The drums are beating, big bout-drums and small kettle-drums. The wrestlers are walking round in the arena.
The guru patted me on the back and I pinned to earth the five opponents. They all came in force to attack me but they had to return crestfallen. Those who follow the guru earn high reward. Those who follow their own whims lose even the principal.”
The Sikh gurus, therefore, regard the Eternal Akāl Puruṣa as the only reality. Modern scientists, too, have come to believe in the unity of the ultimate reality.
Atoms have been further analysed and the different elements are now thought to be composed of electric charges of various kinds. But they still stick to the theory that life and consciousness have sprung out of unconscious and dead matter.
The one ultimate Reality of which the Sikh gurus have sung is, on the other hand, a conscious entity:
“He understands, perceives and distinguishes. He is one and He is many.”
“He creates and He Himself destroys. He has knowledge of everything. He understands and thinks. Through His power He assumes many forms in a moment.”
The light of consciousness in all beings is from Him. There is light in all beings and that light is He:
“Everything is illumined by His light.”
“In high and low pervades the light, in every living being dwells the Lord. O good men! He fills every vessel. The perfect One pervades all form.
The Lord abides in the waters and in the deserts. Nānak sings praises of the Ocean of virtues. The true guru has removed all doubts. The In-dweller permeates everything though ever detached.”
The ideas of immanence and transcendence are thus reconciled.
Is God a mere hypothesis to explain the riddle of the universe or has He a real existence? This is a question which has puzzled many.
The gurus have no doubt whatsoever. They have stated again and again that God does exist. We cannot know Him as we know an object different from ourselves, but we can be as sure of His existence as we are of our own.
The existence of Reality is to be experienced and is beyond logical proof or sense perception:
“How can the Immeasurable be measured? One could do so if He were an object separate from oneself. But none is separate from Him. How can He be evaluated?”
But though beyond all thought and word He does exist:
“The saints and servants of the Lord: brothers, listen to the evidence of the true guru—only those whom luck favours shall give it a place in their hearts.
I slowly drank the nectar of the sacred and lofty discourses of the guru on God. Then the light dawned and darkness disappeared as the sun chases away the night.
Through the grace of the guru, I saw with my own eyes, the Invisible and the Unknowable, who is without impurity and so difficult of apprehension.”
"The eyes that can see my beloved are different from the physical eyes.”
And the fifth guru has given a detailed description of the beatific vision:
“Inside ourselves and outside us dwells the same Infinite. The Lord pervades all vessels. He fills the earth, the heavens and the nether regions and all the universes and sustains them.
The Supreme Being is in every blade of grass in the forest. All act as ordered by Him. He is in winds, in waters and in fires. He pervades the four quarters and the ten directions. No place is without His presence.
Realize this through the grace of the guru and obtain peace. See Him in the Vedas, the Purāṇas and the Smṛti. He fills the moon, the sun and the constellations. All speak the language of the Master.
He is unshakable and never wavers. Equipped with full powers He is engaged in the play. No one can evaluate Him. His virtues are priceless.
His light fills all luminous bodies. The Lord sustains them, warp and woof. Those whose doubts have been destroyed through the grace of the guru have this faith, O Nānak.”
Guru Nānak has painted the picture as follows:
“Thou hast thousands of eyes, but no eye is Thine. Thou hast thousands of forms, but no form is Thine. Thou hast thousands of feet, but no foot is Thine. Without a nose of Thine, Thou hast thousands of noses. This play of Thine has bewitched me.”
God is; He has created by His own power man and Universe, and the ultimate object of human life is to realize the Truth; this is, in substance, the Sikh doctrine.