Guru and Sikh
by Yuktanand Singh


Religious Labels

Guru Nanak, the First Sikh Master, was born in 1469 in Punjab, India. He protested against the widespread social injustice, arguments and fights over religious labels, superstition and empty rituals being promoted as religion, and false display of piety. He urged everyone to have a true and ongoing inner relationship with our Father. This is everyone's birthright as well as a necessity. He called for pure intentions, a sincere and heartfelt devotion towards God, selfless service of God in others, generosity, and truthful living while earning an honest livelihood. There is no need to become a recluse, either. It is possible to become a perfect Saint while living in the society. This is true religion. This is the aim of a Sikh's life. Two hundred years later, the Tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh, finalized the spiritual rules of this social order established by Guru Nanak.

Though called a religion, Sikh Path is not, in the way a religion is commonly known. For instance: A Sikh does not exclude or condemn any religion. He does not believe that only he deserves heaven and all others are going to burn in hell, etc. We are all children of the same God. A Sikh respects everyone's religious sentiment and freedom to choose their own way to Truth. He believes that all religions originally lead to the same truth if we simply understood and followed the real teaching correctly.

Birth in a Sikh household does not make one a Sikh. A Sikh (Disciple) is only he who lives by the spiritual guidance of a personal Teacher (Guru). For a Sikh, It is a path of spiritual return to God through following, and connecting, with Gurbani (God's Word). Anyone can follow it. This is why the correct name is Sikh Panth (Punjabi word for path). "Sikhism" is a misnomer. It can be called a "Religion" in one way that, a large number of people, born in Sikh households, call themselves Sikhs without knowing what a Sikh really is! In this document, Panth means the path shown by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, The Tenth Master.

The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, contains authentic Gurbani from Saints of diverse religious origins. The Gurus also rejected many writings alleged to be of the same Saints because they did not meet the criteria to be worshipped as Gurbani. They included all Gurbani they could find, regardless of its cultural or religious origin. Though the Sikhs are the custodians of Gurbani, the Gurus addressed it to people of all faiths. Unlike some religious writings, Gurbani is not a history or prediction, related to some nation, etc. It is God's truth written in verse. It is for everyone. God put you in your religion for a special purpose. You do not need to convert in order to enjoy, understand, and take advantage of the Sikh Gurus' teachings. For example, anyone can learn to be always mentally aware of a unity (God) being present inside everyone.

God neither cares about the various religious labels, nor does He care how you call Him. What really matters, is that we, are spiritually sincere toward Him so that we do not lose our soul in the objects of the world, lead an honest life with clean thoughts, love one-another as His children, and take care of the poor and the oppressed. This enables us to achieve the highest fulfillment of our life. A Sufi Saint, Sheikh Farid Ji summed it up like this: " Spiritually sincere people have an enduring love of God in their heart. Unripe souls are not accepted, because their words did not match their intentions. Having witnessed a True Master, the Seekers live intoxicated with God's love. Others, who pass moments forgetting His Name, are in fact, excessive burden to this earth." (SGGS, p.488)

Often, trying to follow those who brought us this simple message, we do just the opposite, and argue among ourselves. A dysfunction of the human nature becomes integrated with most religious practices. Awed by their Glory, and due to our inner desire for magic, we worship the messengers, expecting some kind of magical transformation in us, rather than put their teaching into practice and become as complete as them. God wants us to follow His messengers in their footsteps, not just worship them and keep waiting to see them sometime later. He has already given us the miracle we are waiting for. It is in following His very simple rules. God continues to send someone periodically, to teach us the same lesson, again and again. The same Truth has been presented in different molds to fit the temperament and the environment of different people.

Sikh Path is not a branch of a religion, as some people claim. The prevailing Hindu and Muslim sects influenced the Sikh rituals and its outer skeleton. However, though it was not well defined till the Ten Sikh Masters, all True Seekers, since the beginning, have followed this Path in some form. Truth is universal. It is the same in all religions. Just as, Benjamin Franklin was an American of European ancestry. Does that make electricity American or European? You will notice the absurdity. The Sikh Gurus have taught the Sikhs to adopt and uphold everything that is good, in any religion, culture, or science. Calling the Sikhs as a part of some religion, is exactly the opposite of what Gurus want to accomplish through the Panth.

Guru Nanak said, "We are neither Hindu nor Muslim, all our bodies breathe a life from the same God, called Ram or Allah." Many Hindu and Muslim devotees enjoy worship at the Sikh shrines. Sikhs respect the Hindu, Muslim, and other places of worship the same way. Guru Nanak, The First Master, was the first Sikh to show this. He happened to visit a Muslim priest during the time of a Muslim prayer. Guru Nanak joined him in the prayer without hesitation. Later, this priest learned from Guru Nanak how to be a good and sincere Muslim. Guru Gobind Singh, The Tenth Master said, "The same God is worshiped in a Hindu temple and a Muslim Mosque. The same God resides in the Hindu Puja and the Muslim Nawaz. Yet, the appearance of variety tricks human beings." (DG, p.19)

My best friend, Saint Scholar Shri Naranjan Singh Ji, was well versed in Bhagwad Gita, the Upnishads, Ashtavakra Samhita, Patanjali, and Bhartrihari etc., as well as the western literature, beside the Sikh literature. He would quote Jesus, or the Gita, without hesitation. Guru Arjan, the Fifth Master wrote: "Some call Him Rama, Rama, others bow to Allah, while others would serve only Krishna. Some run to a Hindu pilgrimage, others say only a Haj will do, while others say only Hindu Puja is accepted. Some chant the Vedas others want only Koran. Lord, have mercy on them. Nanak says, those who live by His will, get to know the secret truth of my beloved Master (Then, all these differences become irrelevant!)." (SGGS, p.885)

Being a Sikh myself, I will be biased. However, this is not an attempt to advertise The Guru Granth Sahib, The Ten Sikh Masters, the Sikhs, or some other human "Sant," "Guru" etc. Nor is this an endorsement of, or an attempt to condemn, some specific religious group. Many serious religious groups, as well as some cults, use the ancient Indian, eastern, and Sikh terminology (Sant, Shabda, Bani, Guru, Singh etc.) liberally, when in reality they are not following the Sikh Path. Sikhs do not have an exclusive right to the Ten Gurus, the teaching of Guru Granth Sahib, or to the use of eastern words, either. People use them as they see fit. This results in confusion.

Words can be important vehicles of sacred information. However, in the present climate, highly esoteric terms, like Great Master, True Guru, Sat Guru, Sant, etc., are just a few more cults away from appearing on people's grocery lists. Several times in the past, such a tide of ignorance has reaffirmed God's reason for sending the Ten Masters to establish the Khalsa Panth. In fact, the primary goal of the Ten Masters was to inoculate the society against the false prophets or green gurus, and to nurture genuine Sainthood in common households. This document is an attempt to remove the prevalent ignorance about the True Guru, how not to get cheated by a fake guru, and about the Khalsa Panth. Many readers will find this document helpful in discerning the facts from fiction.

My American friends think that Guru Gobind Singh must be my blood relative, because of the same last name! Then I explain that he gave his own last name to all the baptized Sikhs, more than three hundred years ago, because he regarded them as his children. This name continues simply as a tradition among people born in those households. All the Sikhs are responsible, collectively, for society's confusion about some other, more serious Sikh issues. For instance, a growing spiritual relationship with the Guru, which is the foundation of Sikh faith, is ignored by most Sikhs. What can we say? The masses are not interested in any spirituality, anyway. Similarly, everything in this document will not be of interest to everyone. To many, this will be just another case of verbal diarrhea, as, a news poster put it very aptly.