SGGS Conference 2017

Aug 182017

Shabad 1: Tu Sajan tu Pritam mera , chiteh na bisreh kahoo bera ; Raag: Suhi

Trainer: Prof Dalbir Singh

Prof. Dalbir Singh has been spreading the knowledge of Gurmat Sangeet to the seekers with devotion and dedication for the last thirty-five years. He is the son of the renowned Taus player, Giani Beant Singh, who was a disciple of Ragi Bhai Juwala Singh of Thattha Tibba gharana. Dalbir Singh was awarded with a gold medal in B.A. Honors Music from the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. And later, received his Master’s in music from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Since then, he has been teaching all over the world from India, to Thailand, and now in bay area, California. Dalbir Singh also has published three books in Gurmat Sangeet. His latest book, Gurmat Sangeet Rachnavali, has 122 compositions in 31 nirdharit Raags of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Participant : Sania Kaur

Sania Kaur Bhella is a 10th-grade student at University Preparatory Academy and has been learning kirtan from San Jose Khalsa School since she was 10.  Kirtan inspires her because it allows her to connect with the Gurbani and follow guru’s message to be a better person. She loves to sing the melodious praise of Guru’s grace, allowing her to be in the presence of Waheguru. She loves playing Rabab, Harmonium and enjoys science, specifically biology.



Participant : Mahima Kaur

Mahima Kaur Bhella is a 7th-grade student at University Preparatory Academy and has been learning Kirtan since she was 6 through Khalsa School. Doing Kirtan inspires her to learn more about Raags and Taals and really explores the world of Gurbani Kirtan. Mahima plays Harmonium, Dilruba, and Tanpura while also singingin Raag. She also enjoys dancing and acting.



Participant: Gurleen Kaur

Gurleen Kaur is a sophomore at Silver Creek High School and has been learning Kirtan at Khalsa school for 7 years. She loves Kirtan because it helps her learn more about her faith and helps her connect with Waheguru. Gurleen likes to spend time with her family and wishes to become a doctor in the future.

Participant: Japleen Kaur            

Japleen Kaur is in 7th grade in Chaboya Middle School and has been learning Kirtan since she was four years old. Kirtan inspires her because when listening and singing to shabads with Raags, she feels at peace and connected with Waheguru. In general, she enjoys being in the student council and carrying out community projects with her fellow members

Participant: Kunwarpreet Singh

Kunwarpreet Singh is a Grade 12 student in Evergreen Valley High School and has been learning Tabla since he was 9 years of age from Khalsa school. He also does Kirtan. He loves playing tabla because it’s an escape for him, from his fears and problems in life. He plays 3 instruments, speaks 4 languages, plays 2 sports, and wishes to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering






Shabad 2: Suhab, Suhab, Suhavi. Apney Pritam key Rang Rati; Raag: Suhi


Trainer: Bibbi Leena Kaur

Bibbi Leena has been spreading Gurbani’s message through multiple Radio channels for many years. Her interest in music originally started with exploring the 31 Raags in SGGS ji to understand and internalize the depth of Gurbani teachings. It quickly expanded to different horizons in music with desires to revive Sikh heritage instruments among our younger generation, and extend the richness of Sikh musical background and lyrics in Punjabi language to everyone. She is very inspired to bring the depth and light of Gurbani teachings through her music and seeks blessings from everyone in her endeavors.



Participant: Bhavandeep Kaur

Bhavandeep has been doing Kirtan for 8 years and was influenced by her sister and uncle as she watched them play for many years. She loves Kirtan because it’s fun to perform and she loves to sing and thinks it sounds beautiful. She attends Evergreen Valley High School and is now starting 11th grade.





Participant: Gurdeep Kaur

Gurdeep Kaur is starting college as a freshman at San Jose State University. She has been learning Kirtan since about five years now.  Her dad is her inspiration for learning Kirtan. She loves doing Kirtan because it relaxes her mind and she feels more attached to Gurbani. She plays two instruments: Harmonium and Tanpura.




Participant: Jasleen Kaur

Jasleen Kaur is a 9th grade student in Pioneer High School and has been learning Kirtan since she was 6 years old from Khalsa School. She enjoys Kirtan because it keeps her connected to Waheguru. She likes playing Dilruba and Harmonium and enjoys reading and learning math and science.




Participant: Jaspreet Singh

Jaspreet Singh is a 10th grade student at Monta Vista High School and has been learning Kirtan since he was six years old. He is inspired to do Kirtan because he loves music and singing Gurbani. He plays Rabab and Tabla, and also is interested in robotics.





Participant: Keerat Kaur

Keerat Kaur is a student in 12th grade at Monta Vista High School and has been learning Kirtan since she was seven years old. She is inspired to do Kirtan because it allows her to find a sense of tranquility in the busy everyday routine and stay close to Waheguru. Keerat enjoys playing Dilruba, Taus, and Violin. She is also passionate about science and space.



Participant: Sukhveer Singh

Sukhveer is a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino. He has been learning Tabla at Guru Nanak Khalsa School for over seven years. Sukhveer is passionate about playing Tabla and learning Kirtan. He also enjoys playing the violin and is part of the chamber orchestra at his high school




Participant: Tanvir Kaur

Tanvir Kaur is an 11th grade student at University Preparatory Academy, and has been learning Kirtan since she was 6 from Guru Nanak Khalsa School. She enjoys Kirtan because she feels like singing shabads from the Guru Granth Sahib helps her grow closer to Waheguru and create a bond between her and her culture. She likes to play Rabab, Dilruba, sing, and participate in speech competitio


Aug 162017

Sikh Way of LifeHarnoor Kaur: Sikh Way of Life Inspired by Guru Nanak

The author: Harnoor is 8 years old and is studying in grade 3 in Tom Matsumoto Elementary School. She has been participating in Hemkunt Speech Competition for the last 2 years. She gets her inspiration to participate in Speech Competition from her sister Japleen Kaur. In general, Harnoor enjoys painting and playing chess with her family and friends. She is an accomplished speaker at a very young age. At recently concluded Sri Hemkunt Foundation International Sikh Youth Symposium in Sacramento CA, she obtained first position in the group I (6-8 Years)



Geeta Kaur: Sikh Way of Life inspired by the novel “Satwant Kaur” by Bhai Veer Singh

 The author: Geeta is in 8th grade at Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino. She has been a regular participant in the Sri Hemkunt Foundation Symposium for the past seven years and this year has been placed first in group III at the International Sikh Youth Symposium. She enjoys playing the rabab, harmonium and violin as well as performing Kirtan. On Sundays, she helps teach Punjabi and Gurbani to young children at Guru Nanak Khalsa School at San Jose Gurdwara. In her spare time she loves reading fiction books.

Sukhveer Singh: Sikh Way of Life inspired by Sikh Rehat maryada.

The author: Sukhveer is a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino. He has been a regular participant in the Sri Hemkunt Foundation Symposium for over ten years. This year he was placed first in the senior most group at the International Youth Symposium. He enjoys playing the violin and is part of the chamber orchestra at his high school. On Sundays, he helps teach Punjabi and Gurbani to young children at Guru Nanak Khalsa School at San Jose Gurdwara.



Aug 072017

Prof. Nirinjin Khalsa


Today we see power structures erecting separatist ideologies along nationalistic, religious, ethnic, and racelines, escalating hate rhetoric and acts of violence, particularly aimed at our Sikh brothers and sisters. These divisive and harmful ideologies question the Unity and brotherhood of mankind that was revealed byGuru Nanak and enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib which recognizes all of creation as One – IkOngKar. Guru Nanak states “the highest yogic order is to see the brotherhood of mankind; through conquering yourown mind, you conquer the world.” (Sri Guru Granth Sahib 6) This interconnected perspective based on anexperience of ego-loss is the foundation of Sikh ethics. It encourages us to practice love-in-action asWarrior-Saints who have the courage to stand against injustice and defend those in need for the freedomand equality of All.

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Interconnected Ethics: Living as Warrior-Saints for the Freedom and Equality of AllAcross Centuries, Cultures, Religions and Continents

When discussing how we can apply the timeless and universal message of Siri Guru Granth Sahib across, time, space, cultures and religions, here and now, in today’s world – it becomes important to acknowledge how the Sikh teachings shape our own lived experiences. I was born and raised a Sikh in the 3HO (Healthy Happy Holy) Sikh Dharma community with Harbhajan Sikh Khalsa Yogi Ji’s emphasis on experiential knowing. Since 2000 I have been studying Gurbani Kirtan and the jori-pakhawaj with 13th generation exponent Bhai Baldeep Singh who honored me as the first female exponent of the Amritsari-Kapurthala Baaj. I have attended classes, spent time with and interviewed his Grand Uncles, Bhai Gurcharan Singh, Bhai Avtar Singh and son Bhai Kultar Singh. From 2010-2011 I traveled throughout Northern India as a Fulbright fellow, interviewing the extant memory bearers of the Gurbani Sangeet paramapra, hosted by Dr. Gurnam Singh and the The Gurmat Sangeet Department at Punjabi Univeristy Patiala. My graduate study with Dr. Arvind S. Mandair at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor expanded my horizons in Sikh Studies through its history, philosophy, language and culture. Now as a professor of Sikh and Jain Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, I teach an upper division undergraduate course “Sikhism: Warrior Saints”[1] where students visit multiple Gurdwaras in the area, attend Baisakhi and Guru Nanak’s Birthday at the LA Convention Center, sit in on Sunday school classes and get to know the lived aspects of Sikhi by interviewing community members. Students also are given opportunities to perform seva both at the Sikh Gurdwaras as well as with the Khalsa Peace Corps’ “Share a Meal” program where they make burritos on a food truck which they then serve to the homeless around Los Angeles. Additionally, students gain first-hand experience of aspects of Sikhi by performing a forty-day practice of their choosing (ie. nam simran, nam japna, meditation, seva, veganism/vegetarianism or relinquishing one of the five drives: kam, krodh, lobh, moh, ahankar.) For example, when a student chooses to work on their ego (ahankar) they begin to recognize their own self-centered tendencies or desires and move towards a mindset that acknowledges the self in relation to all others. Such a relationship is characterized by love for one another, a love that sacrifices the ego-self. It is this core concept of egolessness that offers a dynamic ethical paradigm based on the interconnectedness of life. By observing the symbiotic relationship between perspectives and practices, between thought and action, between mind, body and spirit, students experience first-hand how Sikhi offers ethical and moral guidelines for living in the world.

Timeless Universal Message

The wisdom enshrined in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib therefore is not meant to only be read, recited, sung, and studied, but is meant to be experienced, practiced and LIVED – today – here and now. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) conveys a harmonious vision beyond boundaries, borders, and divisions. It encapsulates the interconnected nature of this harmony through its materiality, musicality, authorship, language, script and content. It aligns pan-Indic spiritual insights and wisdoms, from multiple religions, regions, languages, faiths, and castes. Within the Siri Guru Granth Sahib this diversity is harmonized through a common text (SGGS), a common script (Gurmukhi), a shared musical language of raag, and a common message clearly conveyed by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji’s who said “If you can’t see God in All, You Can’t see God at all.” This popular phrase clearly illustrates the “Interconnected Ethics” revealed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji as IkOngKar, that we are ONE, a revolutionary concept that was continued by the succeeding Sikh Gurus, enshrined in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and imprinted in our hearts and minds. Guru Nanak states “the highest yogic order is to see the brotherhood of mankind; through conquering your own mind, you conquer the world (man jitai jag jit)” (Siri Guru Granth Sahib 6). This interconnected perspective based on an experience of ego-loss is the foundation of Sikh ethics. It encourages us to practice love-in-action as Warrior-Saints who have the courage to stand against injustice and defend those in need for the freedom and equality of All.

The Sikh notion of the Warrior Saint began with Guru Nanak. He taught a revolutionary mode of living in the world through a saintly mindset that renounces ego-centric behavior, recognizes our shared humanity and allows us to serve others with mutual care and respect, while also living the life of a householder – willing to stand against inequality, segregation, and discrimination. This ethical mode of living in the world offers a response to the separatist ideologies currently being erected along nationalistic, religious, ethnic, and race lines, escalating hate rhetoric and acts of violence, particularly aimed at our Sikh brothers and sisters.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s socio-religious intervention in the early 16th century promotes an ethical paradigm based on an interconnected oneness that resists religious and social inequality and communal violence. Guru Nanak Dev Ji paved the way for the 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji to transcend social, religious, and linguistic divisions by compiling the Adi Granth, a musico-poetic scripture unlike any other – with first-hand expressions of divine experience from the Sikh Gurus themselves, from their disciples, court musicians and sants of differing religious, ethnic, linguistic, and social backgrounds. The 10th Sikh Guru further transgressed socio-politico-religious norms by proclaiming that the Adi Granth scripture would henceforth be the eternal, living Guru of the Sikhs, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, recognizing the faulty nature of human authority, that can lend itself to unethical behavior, removed any possibility of ego-posturing in relationship to the Guruship. He ceased the lineage of human successors and instead invested the sovereign authority of the Guruship into the Guru Granth, the Shabd Guru. This act effectively displaced human authority that is subject to time and space, and invested it in the eternal Word as Guru that each Sikh can embody within their self, through the practices of nam jap, nam simran, and gurbani kirtan. In this way the Siri Guru Granth Sahib as Shabd Guru offers a radical mode of sovereignty that unifies rather than divides, that is not subject to laws of succession and infighting. It is an authority that itself contains the tools towards one’s own liberation from the ego-dominated self towards a path of Love. This revolutionary notion of sovereignty allows us to live as Warrior Saints who, through conquering our selfish ego-centered minds and behavior, recognize the shared humanity of all beings and stand courageously for the equal rights and freedom of ALL. Guru Gobind Singh poetically expresses:

“All men are the same though they appear different.
The bright and the dark, the ugly and the beautiful, …
All human beings have the same eyes, the same ears,
The same body build composed of earth, air, fire and water.
The names Allah and Abhekh are for the same God; …
The same is referred to in the Puranas and the Quran.
All human beings are the reflection of one and the same Lord.
Recognize the whole human race as one.”[2]

Guru Gobind Singh, like the Sikh Gurus before him, led by example, recognizing the interconnected nature of the hukam at play within the world. Even after his great-grand father, father, sons and disciples had been martyred for taking a stand against religious persecution and forceful conversion at the hands of Mughal rule, he understood the importance of fighting for justice without vengence, greed, pride, attachments, hate or enmity. Instead he fought so that those of all faiths may live and worship freely rather than submit to an oppressive unjust rule.


Relevance of Guru’s Message in Today’s World

While the world has changed much in the last 500 years since the time of the Sikh Gurus, there are many things that remain the same. People continue to struggle against unjust power structures. Due to the pervasiveness of fear and hate rhetoric, we continue to see boundaries erected along nationalistic, religious, ethnic, and race lines, separating ourselves from our shared humanity and causing acts of violence.

In the US there have been many hate crimes particularly aimed at our Khalsa Sikh fathers, uncles, husbands, brothers, grandfathers, and sons, whose identity with their turbans and beards visually represent to an un-informed public, terrorism, fear, and distrust rather than the Khalsa attributes as given by Guru Gobind Singh which represent contentment, acceptance, honor, strength, justice and Equality for all.

Thousands of hate crimes have been inflicted upon Sikhs since September 11, 2001 when terrorists flew their airplanes into the twin towers and the media continually showed Osama Bin Laden, with his turban and beard, as the epitome of evil – the enemy. Since then there have been countless hate crimes against Sikhs who continue to be targeted as terrorists, due to their own turbans and beards. Rather than responding with hate and rage the Sikh community has

called for greater education about who Sikhs are, with prayers for unity and with forgiveness in the heart.

A few days after September 11th, a Sikh man Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered outside of his gas station in Phoenix, Arizona by a man who killed him out of rage and hate because he perceived him as the “enemy.” After this horrific crime, Balbir Singh’s brother, Rana Singh Sodhi began working with activist Valarie Kaur to spread the Sikh message of Revolutionary Love and forgiveness, even for your opponents or enemies. While serving a life sentence, the killer agreed to speak with Rana Singh over the phone. In the spirit of Sikhi, Rana Singh offered him forgiveness.

We recently commemorated the 5th anniversary of the horrific shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin when on August 5, 2012 a white supremacist opened fire on the Sikh sangat during a Sunday Gurdwara service, killing six people. We keep Paramjit Kaur Saini, Suveg Singh Khattra, Ranjit Singh, Katwant Singh Kaleka, Prakash Singh, and Sita Singh, and Baba Punjab Singh, now paralyzed, in our prayers and hearts.


After this atrocity, Harpreet Singh Saini, who had lost his mother Paramjit Kaur in the attack, worked with the Sikh Coalition, to pass a resolution that the FBI’s national hate crimes database would finally track hate crimes against Sikhs. His testimony in front of the US Senate demonstrates the Sikh capacity to stand with courage and love in the face of enormous tragedy, loss, and grief.

“He killed my mother, Paramjit Kaur, while she was sitting for morning prayers. He shot and killed five more men –all of them were fathers, all had turbans like me. And now people know all our names: Sita Singh. Ranjit Singh. Prakash Singh. Suvegh Singh. Satwant Singh Kaleka. This was not supposed to be our American story. This was not my mother’s dream… Senators, my mother was our biggest fan, our biggest supporter. She was always there for us, she always had a smile on her face. But now she’s gone. Because of a man who hated her because she wasn’t his color? His religion?…I want to tell the gunman who took her from me: You may have been full of hate, but my mother was full of love.”[3]


This eloquent proclamation of love from a young Sikh man who had just lost his mother exemplifies how Sikhs continue to respond to these hate crimes. Rather than giving in to hate, anger, revenge, and fear Sikhs continue to stand with strength, courage and compassion.

The Sikh Gurus teach us how to live in Ik OngKar, with Nirbhao & Nirvair. How to be fearless warriors who also do not cause fear. How to be without enmity, to have no enemies and recognize our shared humanity. The warrior saint concept can serve as an ethical model for us all – to not vilify the other, but to act with compassion, grace, dignity, and understanding, even in the face of hostility and adversity.


Guru Nanak Dev Ji in this shlok instructs:

Jo to praem khaelan kaa chaao || Sir dhar talee galee maeree aao ||

If you desire to play this game of love with me, then step onto my path with your head in hand, and do not heed public opinion.

(Siri Guru Granth Sahib,1412)

The Sikh perspective that we must first conquer the ego-centered-mind to serve others underpins the warrior-saint tradition that calls us to stand against injustice and defend those in need; whereby serving others we serve the Divine interconnected whole. The Sikh Gurus teach us that the root cause of injustice and oppression is our haumai. That our selfish desires build walls between you and me but never make us truly happy. They teach that our desires are thirsts that can never be quenched while our minds beg for more, blind to the gifts we have already been given. It is our selfish nature that obscures our recognition of the Divine Light within ALL and

separates us from our humanity.

Psychoanalysis teaches us that the separation from the greater whole causes a deep existential pain, lack or void that the ego tries to fill by creating an economy of exchange that treats others as objects that can be used, bought, or sold. This existential grief and pain is then externalized, expressed as an economic lack, that can only be fulfilled through accumulation and oppression and that can only be solved by vilifying and hating the other rather than looking within one’s own mind, heart and self. Today we see this existential cum economic grief and pain projected onto precarious minority communities worldwide. From the killing of Srinivas in Kansas and the shooting of Deep Rai, a Sikh man in Kent, Washington who were both told “go back to your country,” to the bomb threats at Jewish community centers and fires and shooting at mosques, to the most recent killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville who, though concerned about the potential violence that would occur, decided to follow the path of love and protest the hateful white supremacist rally. She offered her heart and head to stand against social inequality and injustice, and was killed by a motorist full of hate and rage.

The Sikh teachings, enshrined in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, offer an ethical model to train our bodies and minds to live as warrior Saints who have the courage (“cor” is the latin root for heart) to give of one’s head, to give of one’s ego, to stand against injustice and defend those in need, for the Freedom and Equality of ALL. The 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Sukhmani Sahib gives a formula for how humans can remove their inner turmoil, pain, and sorrow to find peace, love and acceptance. He instructs:

Replace self-centered thought, speech and action

With love for All

By meditating on the Divine Unity of Creation

Our Pain and Sorrow Depart

And Peace dwells in our hearts and mind

We perform good deeds and selfless service for Others

Because we see no separation between our self and others

Once we are able to recognize the Divine Light that shines within ALL

We are then able to treat enemies and friends alike

And to peacefully accept whatever happens


The path of the Warrior Saint is not an easy one, it is difficult. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib instructs us to stand tall in the face of darkness, so that ALL may live in Chardi Kalaa! As a reminder to lead by example, I offer the “Song of the Khalsa” sung at the end of every 3HO Sikh Gurdwara, before the Anand Sahib:


Many speak of courage

Speaking cannot give it

It’s in the face of death that we must live it

When things are down and darkest

That’s when we stand tallest

Until the last star falls

We won’t give an inch at All


Stand as the Khalsa

Strong as steel, steady as stone

Give our lives to God and Guru

Mind and Soul

Breath and Bone[4]




Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa! Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!


[1] I also teach courses on Hinduism, Jainism, Yoga and a Master’s Comparative Mysticism course in which students practice Engaged Learning.

[2] (Dasam Granth 51)

[3] Testimony of Harpreet Singh Saini before the UNITED STATES SENATE Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Committee on the Judiciary on “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism” September 19, 2012.


[4] “Song of the Khalsa” written by S. S. Livtar Singh Khalsa.

About the Author

Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa, Ph.D. is Clinical Professor Sikh & Jain Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California where she teaches a highly popular course “Sikhism: Warrior Saints.” Professor Khalsa received her Ph.D in Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Michigan in 2014 on “The Renaissance of Sikh Devotional Music.” She has conducted extensive ethnographic research throughout Northern India, interviewing the remaining memory bearers of the Gurbani Kirtan parampara and was honored by 13th generation kirtaniya Bhai Baldeep Singh (grandnephew of Bhai Avtar and Bhai Gurcharan Singh) as the first female exponent of the Amritsari-Baaj on the jori-pakhawaj. Her ongoing research investigates diversity in the Sikh Diaspora particularly as it relates to gendered and institutionalized norms within the devotional sphere.


Aug 072017

I. J. Singh


All existence is the visible expression of Hukam and defies comprehension.

Hukum, central to most religions, often implies micromanagement by the Creator. Life is really the one breath we are engaged in at any given moment.  The breath that preceded it is the past; the breath yet to be taken is the future, never guaranteed.  The breath we are in defines the present; that alone is life.  Accept gracefully whatever happens — it is not in the realm of the impossible. Stop worrying and start living; treasure the moment that stands between life and death. This promises constant renewal in life. Look not to an imaginative string of past lives, and cyclical births for transferring responsibility to unknown others.

The Creator created systems for life to exist and evolve, allowing us considerable free will to rewrite our own narrative. We live and die by a complex interaction of genes and environment. Which of life’s battles to fight and from which to walk away? This, the most difficult to see as the determinant of sanity and survival, is the wisdom of Hukam and sets the trajectory of our lives.

Hukum: Accept the unexpected turns of life — pain and pleasure — as two robes in the wardrobe.

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HUKAM: What it is & What it Aint?

I.J. Singh


All existence is the visible expression of Hukam and defies comprehension.

Hukum, central to most religions, often implies micromanagement by the Creator. Life is really the one breath we are engaged in at any given moment.  The breath that preceded it is the past; the breath yet to be taken is the future, never guaranteed.  The breath we are in defines the present; that alone is life.  Accept gracefully whatever happens — it is not in the realm of the impossible. Stop worrying and start living; treasure the moment that stands between life and death. This promises constant renewal in life. Look not to an imaginative string of past lives, and cyclical births for transferring responsibility to unknown others.

The Creator created systems for life to exist and evolve, allowing us considerable free will to rewrite our own narrative. We live and die by a complex interaction of genes and environment. Which of life’s battles to fight and from which to walk away? This, the most difficult to see as the determinant of sanity and survival, is the wisdom of Hukam and sets the trajectory of our lives.

Hukum: Accept the unexpected turns of life — pain and pleasure — as two robes in the wardrobe.


How do I perceive the meaning of “Hukam” — a defining expression in Sikhi, nay, in pretty much all religions? I also refer you to the exposition of Hukam by Hew McLeod, in Punjabi University’s Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, 1996.

Hukam is Arabic for Order or Command. In English, Order has two meanings: Directive or edict, also systematic organization, as opposed to random disorder.

Hukam in Sikhi embraces both concepts: Edict or Command, but also organized structure.

In popular usage Hukam implies micromanagement of the creation by the Creator – that nothing happens without divine, precise control over all creation.

Contrary to popular belief, I do not mean that an all-pervading Creator controls each and every move that I or anyone will make. That He/She keeps precise, detailed tabs on every one’s shenanigans – yours and mine, ranging from the hopelessly evil or banal to the sometimes decent. I have difficulty ramping up serious fealty to these formulations. I refer you to Mark Twain’s “Letters from The Earth” for a rib tickling parody of such ideas.

I grant that it is reassuring to envision a Creator exerting precise control of our individual lives with every “T” already crossed and every “I” dotted. No one action then, not even a breath, is mine to perform, because it is already predetermined to be or not. Yet, our lives remain unpredictable – not only the seminal moments of birth and death, but minutia of our existence as well.

If the Creator is a micromanager, then nothing that I do is my doing, nothing is my fault; no way can I be held responsible or stand trial for any wrong I may do or contemplate.

Wouldn’t a micromanaging Creator become a free-pass-out-of-jail card? And our relationship with him becomes a bartering system – entirely transactional. Can we negotiate? “You (Creator) forgive me and I promise to recite so many (?) Sukhmani Sahibs every day for so many(?) days.” Sounds familiar? Very human?

How Sikhi Defines Hukam?

On page 1, Guru Granth engages with ideas of Hukam. How is Truth to be attained – veil of falsehood torn asunder (“Kiv sachiara hoyiyae kiv koorae thutae paal”) — asks Guru Nanak; his answer is the next line: By walking the Way of Hukam (“Hukum rajai chalnaa Nanak likhyaa naal.”).

The next stanzas tell us that all existence is the visible expression of Hukam. It transcends all description and nothing exists outside Hukam. The laws of cause and effect are an aspect of Hukam. The Creator in his fullness is beyond human comprehension, so too, is Hukam, which is the revelation of Akal Purkh., Hukam is a mystical experience that cannot be fully elaborated. Thus, Hukam gathers into a single principle all of God’s activity.

Notwithstanding Hukam, in fact, at some level we recognize that within the larger system that remains mysterious, humans have considerable free will. If there were absolutely no choices open to us, then Guru Nanak would not have said “As you sow so shall you reap (“aapay beej aapay hee khaahu” Guru Granth p. 4). Nor would Guru Granth advise us to live well and joyfully by our own honest efforts (“Uddam karendia(n) jio too” p. 522) or to resolve our own affairs/needs by our own efforts (“aapan hathee aapnaa aapay hee kaaj savareeyae.” p. 473).

Do not rue the results, nor lose the self in pride and pelf, but be at peace with life. Why? To live another day through both defeat and triumph. Engage with the present to experience Hukam. The goal here is to make honest choices, do the best with them and accept cheerfully what life offers in return.

What does it mean to live in the present?

Keep in mind that in Punjabi and related Indic languages, the word for both tomorrow (the future) and yesterday (the past) is the same – kull.

We largely live in an imaginary past, pining for an unknown but rosier future; the present is then lost between these enduring passions. This is the crux of our misalignment — our existence between utopia and dystopia.

How then to redirect the mind towards the present?   In Thailand, Buddhist monks meditate on dead bodies (corpses) to refocus on the present.  This is meant to enable them to come to terms with the transitory nature of our puny, but not pointless, existence, indeed of all life.

Undoubtedly, the past is loaded with regrets, the future just as full of worries that might or might not be. With our obsession with the past that needs to be buried and the future yet unborn, we overlook the present. Our paradigm shifts only when we accept that what will be will be, and our focus needs to turn to the present moment, not the moment that is now in the past, nor the moment that is yet to come. Discard worry by accepting Hukam; whatever happens is not in the realm of the impossible, so why worry when anything happens (Guru Granth: “Chinta ta ki keejiyae jo anhoni hoye” p. 1426).

And then a most challenging and meaningful citation (Guru Granth p. 660) can hold us — that we are creatures of one single breath only (“Hum aadmi hae(n) ik dami….).  This tells us bluntly that life is really the one breath that one is engaged in at any given moment.  The breath that preceded it is already in the past; the breath yet to be taken is the future, never certain, never guaranteed.  Only the breath we are in defines the present; that alone is life.  It is best then to live in the present to its hilt in that single breath that defines it.  In fact, to me the idea of “Hukam” or divine will that pervades Sikh teaching means exactly that — living fully and productively in the moment.

Our existence remains limited to the one breath in the present moment of time. Is it that easy?  Not really, but it is essential.


In Punjabi and related languages, the word “Admi” for a human can be parsed as “Aa” and “Dum” where Dum means breath and Aa stands for both the first primal number, One, as well for an invitation “to come”.  So, admi speaks of a creature of one breath — the singular reality of a single breath.  I am not a linguist but I wonder if the Biblical“Adam and the Punjabi Admi are related terms that come to us from shared linguistic and philosophic antecedents.

Briefly Hukam asks us to stop worrying and start living by a realignment of our lives to become alive to the reality of the moment that stands between life and death – in other words, we need develop a relationship of deep trust with the unknown, the unseen.

Walking in Hukam frees us of guilt, misplaced hubris and pride. Every moment then is a new dawn – the start of a new day. It effectively clears the slate for the future – the next moment – to write anew.

In short, the directive of Hukam becomes living life fully, honestly, and purposefully — to live in the present, to live fully in the moment. Hence the promise of constant renewal in life.

But People Will Be People

Thoreau bewailed human existence as lives of quiet desperation. What does it mean to accept the Creator’s Hukam? If a confession of helplessness, it is then not willing acceptance of what is but more like swallowing a bitter pill, because no alternative exists.

Then we cavil; Well! It’s God’s will that my lottery ticket didn’t pan out – perhaps next time. But an underlying thought tortures us: Why my neighbor won the lottery and I didn’t? Surely God knows, as I do, that my neighbor is a no-good jerk; and God knows as I do that I am a good person. I regularly attend services at gurduara and say my requisite prayers, I feed the homeless, so on and so forth. … ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And then an easy way out of the dilemma appears — lean on an imaginative string of past lives, cyclical birth and so on and on…of the Creator’s mysterious ways for transferring responsibility to unknown others. Hindu mythology certainly helps, doesn’t it? As does literal interpretation of such references in the Guru Granth.

A Possibly Reasonable Alternative

A more rational explanation exists. A benevolent Creator created the systems in which life exists and evolves. (A version of intelligent design!) He/She allows us considerable free will to rewrite our own narrative. We live and die as per the laws that govern us on Earth. Our lives are shaped by a complex interaction of our genes and the environment – our nature and nurture. And despite the many who pretend to read the past and foresee the future, life remains a mystery; a box, fuller than Pandora’s, that delivers pain, suffering, even death. This box also bestows on us heavenly delights and unequaled success. Unearned and uninvited come the many defeats, as do life’s triumphs. Like manna from heaven, they are best not seen as entitlements or earned.

Hukum, then, becomes a state of mind. It determines how we engage, in Shakespeare’s words, with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” An ancient prayer goes, “O God grant me the courage to change the things that I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.” The third clause is crucial.

Which battles to fight and from which battles to walk away with grace. This, the most difficult to see as a governing commandment of life, is a major determinant of our sanity and survival. It is the wisdom of Hukam and sets the trajectory of our lives.

To live with equanimity means to accept the unexpected turns that life offers — pain and pleasure, success and defeat — and see them as two robes in the wardrobe that each of us wears interchangeably (“Sukh dukh doey dar kaparay pehrey aaye manukh” p. 149). Guru Granth also advises that much in life is beyond our design, so accept it with good grace as the essential reality — whatever pleases (the Creator) is the good deed (“Jo tudh bhavae saayi bhali kaar” p. 3). As a popular adage goes: Que sera sera.

Thus, we cultivate positive lives without obsessing its downturns. And to face life with a realistic but hopeful and positive stance.

Sikhi takes this issue head on.  A plethora of citations can be mustered but I drive home my point with only two.  The Guru Granth (p. 922) pointedly challenges us with “Eh sareera meriya iss jug meh aye ke kya tudh karam kamaaya” (What footprints will you leave in the sands of time?) and then it adds (p. 1102,) “Pahila marn kabool kar jeevan ki chhudd aas” (Accept first the reality of death and abandon all hope of endless life).

How then to leave the world? An iota better would be plenty!



About the Author

I.J. SINGH came to the United States in 1960 on a Murry & Leonie Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He received a PhD in anatomical sciences from the University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health Sciences University), and a DDS from Columbia University. He is a professor emeritus of anatomical sciences at New York University. He serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Sikh Review (Calcutta) as well as Nishaan (New Delhi), and writes a regular internet column on Sikhi

Aug 072017

Dr. Kawaljeet Singh Anand


What is love? Scientists argue that “reducing love to its component parts helps us to understand human sexuality”.  Love is not just a mental state that leads to physical bonding, it is the highest of human emotions.  Throughout civilization, human beings have experienced and expressed Love for each other; some have described the attributes of Love through eulogies, poetry, drama, or fiction.  Like the taste of honey, true love can be experienced but just cannot be conveyed through words.  By raising our level of consciousness, all of us can intuitively realize more transcendent, subtle, and enduring meanings of Love.  We will realize that Love is an ingredient in creating the cosmos, it is the primal force that sustains Nature all around us, and it is the glue that holds the family, community and society together.  By consistently applying the Guru’s teachings in our lives, we will progress through the four stages of Love thereby transforming our lives from human to the divine state that our Gurus exemplified.

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Following the Guru’s path from human love to Divine Love


What is love? Scientists argue that “reducing love to its component parts helps us to understand human sexuality”.  Love is not a mental state that leads to physical bonding, it is the highest of all human emotions! Throughout civilization, human beings have experienced and expressed Love for each other; some have described the attributes of Love through eulogies, poetry, drama, or fiction. Like the taste of honey, true love can be experienced but cannot be conveyed through words. By raising our level of consciousness, all of us will intuitively realize the transcendent, subtle, and enduring meanings of Love. We will realize that Love is an ingredient in cosmic creation, the primal force that sustains Nature all around us, the glue that holds family, community and society together. By consistently applying the Guru’s teachings to our lives, we will progress through the four stages of Love thereby transforming our lives from human to Divine Love that the Gurus exemplified.

* * * * *

An article in the scientific journal Nature[1], argues that “reducing love to its component parts helps us to understand human sexuality”. What a travesty of Love! To think that the highest human emotion can been “reduced” to a physical interactions of bodies in the act of procreation is like labeling poison as the “amrit” (the elixir of immortality). Once a deeper understanding of Love is attained, nothing can be farther from the truth! Love is not just a mental state that leads to physical bonding; to assert that “biologists may soon be able to reduce certain mental states associated with love to a biochemical chain of events” 1 is both myopic and misleading!!!

Current events and the media constantly bombard our intellect with images and examples of hatred, death and destruction. Often, we hear about road rage accidents, hijacked planes, mass shootings, or other catastrophes. When hatred becomes more apparent, in communal clashes, internecine struggles, or wars, we try to protect our own through any means. Hate becomes a soul-searing experience, when a loved one is attacked or killed. The death of unknown people can be impersonal but the death of a loved one leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of our lives, and forces us to seriously choose between hatred versus love. Viewed from anger or cynicism, hatred appears powerful and permanent, whereas love appears weak and transitory! Deep down, however, below the chattering of the mind or arguments of the intellect, our heart refuses to accept that Love is weak or transient, it longs for deeper meanings of Love. If animal instincts are overcome, all human beings will intuitively seek more sublime, subtle, and enduring meanings of Love. If solely driven by self-interest or sense-gratification, we may find little or no purpose in these meanings, but those inspired to explore the spiritual realms by the Guru’s Word may feel the burning desire to undertake this journey.

Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have experienced and expressed Love for each other; gifted beings described the attributes of Love through eulogies, poetry, drama, or fiction; based on feelings or fantasy, or fable or folklore. Poets, philosophers, and scientists pondered the question of “What is Love?” but they could only come up with reductionist or simplistic answers that were unsatisfactory, even to themselves! Like honey, Love can be experienced, it cannot be described. No amount of knowledge about honey will create that indelible experience gained from a drop placed on the tongue. Love, as experienced by human beings, has the same result – no amount of talk about can supplant the beauty, inner joy, the fulfilling aspects of that experience, one that has inspired the greatest achievements of mankind!

Though all of creation can experience Love, only human beings can understand the essence of Love, realize the deepest meaning of Love, or to access the inner, inexhaustible bounty of Divine Love. Let us all approach an understanding of Love from the spiritual, the mental, and the practical aspects of human experience. The first proves that our universe cannot be created without Love, the second reveals Love as a powerful force in Nature, and the third shows how Love holds the fabric of human society together, yet one must be consciously aware that all these are simply the aspects of one entity, Love. Just as a statue photographed from different angles remains one, similarly, a description of the different aspects of Love will not alter what it is.

Love as an ingredient in Cosmic Construction

During his lifetime, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) realized the apparent existence of the universe, also eloquently stated by another great physicist, Sir James Jeans, who wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter . . . it is the creator and governor of the realm of matter”[2]. Guru Nanak said that Maya is a product of the mind, investigating it with the tools of the mind – like reason, or logic, or deduction, proposing or rejecting hypotheses – is like a fish (or an army of fishes) trying to map the extent of the ocean! What a futile and foolish endeavor! The human mind, which exists within and functions through the facility of consciousness, can never fathom the extent of consciousness and beyond. Whereas scholars and intellectuals, scientists and philosophers had partial success, the saints and seers made greater headway through intuition and revelations about the nature of the manifest universe. They realized and proclaimed an Absolute Reality, one that exists eternally, without undergoing any change or modification, which remains beyond time and space. The human mind, using the five organs of sense – capable of recognizing sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell, can only comprehend the properties of this reality, not the substance of absolute reality itself! Einstein referred to this “perceived reality” as an illusion, but remained silent about the nature of the Absolute Reality.

So, to examine spiritual aspects of Love, we must understand the process of Creation, how the Uncaused Cause, the “Anhad Shabd”, behind all this kaleidoscopic reality created the manifested universe. From popular science, the Big Bang Theory is a commonly accepted cosmological model of the universe, one that is best supported by most of the available scientific evidence. “Big Bang” generally refers to the idea that the universe initially existed as a primordial, extremely hot and extremely dense nucleus at a finite time in the past (around 13.73 ± 0.12 billion years ago), and that it continues to expand to this day! Georges Lemaître (1894-1966), a Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest, first propounded the theory of the Big Bang, although he called it the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”. This cosmological model was built on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, but to gain acceptance it needed Edwin Hubble’s discovery in 1929, showing that galaxies were moving away at high speeds. Almost 6 years after it was proposed, Einstein finally accepted Lemaître’s theory after a series of seminars in January 1933, saying, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”

Without any evidence for the earliest instant of the expansion, however, the Big Bang theory does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition, though it may explain the general evolution of the universe after the Big Bang and onwards. Where did that dense, primordial nucleus come from? Or, what triggered the initial rapid expansion and cooling of the universe? From the Big Bang theory have emerged other Inflationary Universe Theories, perhaps starting with Alan Guth in the late 1990’s (The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins). Since then, the scientific community has proposed 50 different variants, but all the current theories have serious flaws and cannot explain the mysterious origins of our universe.

To develop an understanding of Creation, physics or astronomy are worthless, the mind and the intellect are powerless, space exploration or technology cannot help, thereby forcing us to look at metaphysical explanations of the universe, using the tools of spirituality like intuition or revelation. Few scientists realize that these same tools have given us most of the greatest discoveries in science!

Before the Universe comes into creation, nothing exists – there is no Time or Space, no galaxies, no Milky Way, no light, no sound, no matter exists – not even the “dense matter” that made up Lemaître’s “primeval atom”. Yet, there is an Absolute Reality, a Divine and Blissful Awareness, the Akaal Purakh, who remains absorbed in the self as Pure Being. To know itself, this Divine Awareness creates a primordial energy – the “Aadi Shakti”. The innate and inherent nature of energy is propulsive, so it starts expanding in all directions. But the intrinsic nature of the Pure Being is Love, which attracts, which brings close to itself, which abhors separation or any centrifugal forces. Between this expansion and contraction, a vibration is set up, which became the source of all Creation! The Source of this vibration is only One, the Ik Onkaar prescribed by Guru Nanak.

This primal vibration has been described in the scriptures of various religions. Christian texts described it as the Word of God, or Amen:

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” – St. John I: 1-3
  • “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;” – Revelation 3:14
  • “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth but the Word of God shall stand forever.” – Isaiah 40: 8

Ancient Hindu texts identify the Word of God by various different names, such as “AUM” or “Nad Bind” or “Akash Bani” or “Shabd Brahman

  • “…the Sound principle AUM becomes manifest as prakrithi or Nature” – Hatha Yoga Pradipaka
  • “He hath taken the support of the Word, the melodious tune.” – Chandogya Upanishad
  • “Let the Yogi sit on Sish Asan and while practicing the Vaishnavi mudra, he should hear the sound AUM through his right ear.” – Nad Bind Upanishad
  • “By communion with the Word he will become deaf to the external sounds, and will attain the Turiya Pad or a state of equipoise within a fortnight.” – Nad Bind Upanishad

Islamic texts speak of Kalma, the Word of God, and exalt this vibration as “Amin”, calling it the Sultan-ul-Azkar (the king of prayers) or Saut-i-Sarmadi (the divine song) or Nida-i-Asmani (sound from Heaven) and describe its role in Creation:

  • “The fourteen regions were made by the Kalma.” – the Holy Qu’ran
  • “Take the stopcock from thy ears, and hear thou the voice of emancipation, coming to thee. Attach not to material world, the elixir of life is showering from above.” – Khawaja Hafiz
  • “Grow not skeptical, but attune thyself to the sound coming down from the Heavens. Thy soul shall have revelations from afar. What are these but glimpses of the Unrevealed; were I to speak of these sweet melodies, even the dead shall rise from their graves.” – Maulana Rumi
  • “…the Voice of God comes unto my ears as any other sounds.” – Prophet Mohammed

The Sikh scriptures also speak of Omkaar (the Word) or Shabd Gurmat (the divine counsel) or Gurbani as the Word of God and describe it as immanent in all of creation:

  • “The Word is both earth and ether. These had their being through the Word. This Word expressed itself in other aspects as well. The whole creation sprang up after the Word… O Nanak, that endless Word is reverberating in each heart.”   – Guru Nanak
  • “The all-pervading Word has attracted my entire mind. What else have I to think of? Communion of the soul with the Word creates everlasting Bliss.” – Guru Nanak

Semantic differences exist between religions, but it is clearly evident that the entity they talk about is the same – a Primal Vibration at the beginning of Creation. Whether we call it “Amen”, or “AUM”, or “Amin”, or “Omkaar”, the name does not change the true essence of what it is – an eternal, invisible vibration from which countless streams of creation sprang up, still reverberating as the source of the manifest universe.

Within this vibration, which is eternal and essentially changeless, the Divine Being inserted the idea of change. Out of this idea, being nothing but a figment of imagination or a conceptual notion, the powerful construct of “Time” was born. Thus, Time is measured by change and change is linked inexorably with Time. Without this facility of Time, the human mind is incapable of comprehending the manifest Universe. Because all of Creation happens in one glorious moment, all of the past and all the future (ad infinitum in both directions) occur in the present moment of Now, the feeble human mind cannot make sense of this and therefore needs the conceptual assistance of Time in order to experience or interact with all of Creation. No wonder, then, that Time stands still when the mind is quiescent, or slows down when we are suffering, or speeds up when we are with a loved one! All these experiences show that Time is just an imaginary concept, a mere idea, it exists only in the mind, like a moving mental frame that allows us to make sense of reality.

Within this vibration, which is eternal, continuous, and essentially indivisible, the Divine Being inserted the idea of division. Out of this idea, again, which is nothing but an imaginary concept, the powerful notion of “Space” was born. This Space is filled with primordial energy, which is why the universe continues to expand at an accelerating rate (deduced from the Type Ia supernovae in 1998, later corroborated by measurements of the cosmic microwave background, gravitational lensing, measurements of redshift change, large scale structures). To scientists, it is amazing that the universe continues to expand even after 14 billion years and that the massive gravitational forces postulated within black holes have not swallowed it up! But to the students of spirituality, the primordial energy creating this universe is infinite and inexhaustible, so it will continue to expand infinitely until the Divine Being contracts it back into nothingness again.

These four entities (Being, Energy, Time, Space) acted on the cosmic vibration to make it appear as if it was particulate, like a ray of light illuminating an object appears as discrete photons hitting that object. Divine Awareness is contained in each one of these particles as consciousness – creating, for each particle, an illusion that it was somehow “separate” from the rest, from the Whole. This illusion is so persistent and widespread, that it becomes the source of “Haumai” or Ego. To overcome the powerful Ego, we must realize – as deeply as our Being allows – that Love is the only antidote to the disease of ego and that Love and Energy are the only two ingredients that created the Onkaar – so they are very source and essence of the manifest Universe!

Love is, therefore, at the core of all Creation; it occupies a position even greater than the Word of God! Love is the very essence of the Divinity that supports Creation in the entire universe! Just as a flame has two aspects – heat and light that cannot be separated from it, similarly, Divinity has two aspects – Truth and Love that cannot be separated from God. Truth is the static aspect of God, Love is the dynamic aspect of God.

From this perspective, the entire universe is simply an expression of Love, all its myriad forms are suffused with this Love; even our being is filled with Love – actually, in essence, each of us is a manifestation of Love walking on two feet[3]! Just live with this thought for a while, and Creation around us will start revealing the innumerable ways in which it is loving us and receiving our love.

Love as the Primal Force in Nature

Having realized that Love and Energy are the primary ingredients used to create the universe, we may start to realize the importance of Love, or perhaps start looking for an answer to Einstein’s dilemma. Albert Einstein was baffled as to why every nucleus, which contains positively charged protons in extremely close proximity, does not fall apart simply because of the intense repulsive forces that would be generated between similarly charged particles. Even at the end of his life, Einstein was puzzled by this seeming anomaly. Since there were no gravitational forces within the nucleus, it seemed miraculous that protons in every atom could stay in such close proximity without repelling each other.

Given our knowledge from the previous section, it is easy to see why the only force holding the nucleus of every atom together is Love. Atoms come together to form molecules, their chemical bonds are strands of Love, physically manifested as a sharing of electrons or ions, and dancing in unison with all of Creation. Fritjof Capra, an Austrian-born American physicist, who performed ground-breaking research on subatomic particles and systems theory, describes this experience in a preface to his book, “The Tao of Physics”:“I was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, watching the waves rolling in and feeling the rhythm of my breathing, when I suddenly became aware of my whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance….. As I sat on that beach my former experiences came to life; I “saw” cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I “saw” the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I “heard” its sound…….”

All of Nature is engaged in a loving play between creation and consciousness…. The sunlight lovingly warms our fingers and toes, the moonlight soothes and lights our way playing hide ‘n seek in the clouds, the stars twinkle loving messages in a Morse code entirely their own, the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, the rainbow and the raindrops – all of these exist simply for the sake of sharing their love with the rest of creation. Nature behaves in myriad ways to clearly proclaim the ingredient of love…

  1. Love always expands – and so does Nature, overcoming all obstacles through the power of love;
  2. Love is selfless – and therefore Nature provides her bounty for all beings to share, never holding back anything for herself;
  3. Love is forgiving – human beings may exploit Nature for their personal benefit, but all the damage perpetrated by selfish beings can be repaired quickly if we treat Nature with love and respect…
  1. Love expands constantly and so does Prakriti or Nature. Not only is the manifest physical universe expanding, but all around us, Nature is constantly expanding as well. As a tree grows it expands from within, as a flower opens – nothing forces it to blossom – it just expands from within, as a leaf grows it expands from within – nothing is added to it from the outside, but all the change comes from within. Life is expressed through expansion, using the power of Love from within. This is also the underlying principle behind evolution and survival of the fittest. When forces within Nature are aligned such that they create an obstacle for the expansion of life forms, these life forms will lovingly adapt, thus allowing the species to expand beyond every obstacle. The expansive power of Love caused the earliest proto-organisms to escape the confines of oceanic life and evolve into air-loving plants, or snails, or reptiles; the expansive power of love taught the dinosaurs to fly or the nightingales to sing; it is expansive love that drove chimpanzees to start walking on two legs or humans to transcend the frontiers of space and time. Again, it is the expansive power of Love that drives each one of us to aim for the best, to excel in what we do, to touch as many lives as we can, to break down barriers or overcome difficulties that are insurmountable.
  2. Love is selfless and so is Prakriti or Nature. Does a tree ever bear fruit for its own consumption? Do the bees consume the honey they collect? Do the rivers or clouds hoard water for themselves? Out of love, each aspect of Nature is giving its bounty and sacrificing itself to support higher and higher forms of creation. Plants offer themselves to insects or herbivores or man, worms sacrifice themselves for birds, birds and fish offer themselves (or their eggs) to sustain mammals, lower mammals serve or provide sustenance to man. From oxygen to food to shelter, there are myriad ways in which the well-being of mankind depends on Nature. Being the highest form of life in the universe, all aspects of Nature are eager to serve the needs of mankind.

A common characteristic of early civilizations was their love and respect for Nature. Ancient cultures lived in harmony with Nature, sharing its bounty with all in their community. They did not have many comforts, but, because of their unselfish approach to life, they effortlessly used the tools of intuition, telepathy, clairvoyance for their survival. Today, the suffering of aboriginal tribes now living in Australia, India, or remote parts of the world has forced them to develop a sense of ownership, or selfishness, and are losing their intuition and culture. Throughout history, human powers were progressively lost, only because they were used for personal benefit, without caring for all of humanity and all aspects of creation.

A tendency to garner the benefits of Nature or products and services of society for oneself, or one’s extended self (family, friends, clan, race, or country), though considered normal, is a learned and unnatural habit. Self-interest has become the primary driving force, the commonest motivation, or the only consideration for our choices and actions today. Very few can overcome our conditioned selfishness that starts from infancy, is confirmed during childhood, and becomes ingrained in youth and early adulthood. This ubiquitous conditioning leads us to believe that an individual is “separate” from the rest of creation, and therefore, it must “protect” its interests from the rest of creation. The relentless pursuit of greater personal benefits, coupled with the constant exploitation of Nature, has resulted in an increasing frequency of natural disasters, global warming, epidemic diseases, wars and internecine struggles – bringing mankind to the brink of disaster!

  1. Love is forgiving and so is Prakriti or Nature. All the damage perpetrated by selfish beings can be repaired quickly if we collectively start treating Nature with love and respect. The greatest of environmentalists have recognized this aspect of Nature, how it quickly forgives the excesses or exploitations perpetrated by mankind.

My fourth reason for hope is the incredible resilience of nature. I have visited Nagasaki, site of the second atomic bomb that ended World War II. Scientists had predicted that nothing could grow there for at least 30 years. But, amazingly, greenery grew very quickly. One sapling actually managed to survive the bombing, and today it is a large tree, with great cracks and fissures, all black inside; but that tree still produces leaves. ….I have seen such renewals time and again, including animal species brought back from the brink of extinction. …Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace impatience and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And love.

Dr. Jane Goodall (1934 – )

Numerous stories abound of recovery and repair in ecosystems that were damaged potentially beyond repair, because of uncontrolled human greed and pollution. The Caribbean reefs were degraded by massive disease-induced mortality of the herbivorous urchin Diadema antillarum in 1983. Declining reef health was characterized by progressive increases in macroalgae. Despite scientific predictions of irreparable damage, recent discoveries showed that the reef has rebounded much faster than predicted, even following desultory efforts to rescue it. Another example relates to the South China tigers, smallest among the tiger species, that numbered ~4,000 in the early 1950s. These tigers were critically endangered when Communist leader Mao Zedong labeled them as “pests” and ordered their extermination. South China tigers were considered extinct and had not been seen in the wild since 1964. Soon after Chinese farmers became aware of environmental concerns and tried to protect the few remaining forests, a South China tiger was sighted and photographed in the wild as recently as October 12, 2007[4]. If humans show sincere love and respect for Nature, it will respond by repairing the damaged ecosystems with remarkable speed and efficiency – again, teaching us how Love can be giving and forgiving. Could these virtues, manifested by Nature, also help us to repair all the ills of human society?

Love is the Glue in Family, Community & Society

At a sports meet for handicapped children, nine contestants were assembled at the starting line for the 100-meter dash. At the gun, they all started out running to win the race. One little boy, however, stumbled and fell, and began to cry. The others heard him cry; they slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back to him. One girl bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better”. Then all nine children linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood up, cheering for several minutes….. Witnesses of this event are still telling the story. Why? Because deep down we all know one thing: when one of us falls or fails, we all lose! What matters in life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters is helping others to win, even if it means changing course.

Human brains are only three times larger than the great apes, closest to us in evolution, yet they have evolved many skills that are not seen in other primates, from dexterity and balance, to complex languages, to mathematics and scientific reasoning, to music and art and culture. Most of these advances can be linked to social interactions and human values. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology tested 106 chimpanzees, 32 orangutans, and 105 two-year-old children (who had used language for less than 1 year, before literacy or schooling). They found that children and adult chimpanzees had comparable cognitive skills for dealing with the physical world, but children were far more sophisticated for dealing with social constructs than the two ape species[5]. Can we ignore the unique human ability to build social relationships, which have nothing to do with procreation or the struggle for survival?

The first source of this social-cultural conditioning is from their mother or surrogate mother-figure. Slowly, patiently, consistently, playfully, joyously, and lovingly, a mother teaches her child basic values and social behaviors, the means of communication, the control of bodily urges and impulses, and countless other things that go into developing a child’s “social intelligence”. The child consistently experiences love and learns the meaning of Love. This early mother-infant bond becomes the template with which a child views the world; not only it enhances the child’s cognitive development and exploratory behaviors, but also becomes the basis of a child’s emotional regulation. Any disruption or derangement of these early experiences in infancy have dire consequences for their ability to form mutually supportive relationships, or friendships with peers, or the social skills to live and succeed within society.

Love within the family shows up as concern for the well being of others, a sensitivity to their needs, a willingness to happily sacrifice one’s self-interest. From affectionate interactions in the family emerge altruistic motives in society. Unlike material goods or worldly credits, love grows when it is shared. Love is the basis for building character in children. The highest human qualities: patience, forbearance, truthfulness, charity, speaking sweetly and/or softly – these are different manifestations of Love. Verily, love is the core of all human values!

Great leaders have recognized and propagated these values. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized “a web of mutuality”, President John F. Kennedy recognized “our common humanity”, and used it to fight injustice. As our innate oneness between human beings is recognized more and more, collaboration overtakes competition, service supersedes selfishness, being together is more than being better. Love literally is the glue that holds a family, a community, or a society together – because it allows humans to rise above the motives of self-preservation and self-interest. Examples of love are around us all the time. A mother’s love for her infant even under the most trying circumstances, a family’s response to the sickness of a loved one, a community’s support for accident victims, or society’s response to a natural disaster. Love manifests as “random and senseless acts of kindness” all the time and allows us to experience a higher calling than other creatures. More and more we see people simply helping people, children sharing their lunch box with less fortunate classmates, high schoolers volunteering at homeless shelters, young adults launching or enrolling in social entrepreneurship programs. Indeed, despite what the popular media may project, waves of violence and fear-motivated actions are becoming more stark, but fewer and more restricted; whereas love-motivated actions are slowly gaining ground and popularity. Philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren are the role models of today!

Today, as the current economic, environmental, social and political problems seem to overwhelm even the most powerful governments and multinational corporations, can the power of Love help us heal the wounds of greed and selfishness and hatred? Or solve the most complex and pressing problems facing humanity today? Families, communities, societies, and governments must rise above their selfish motives, to cooperate, collaborate, and collectively address the problems that threaten our planet. When leaders are making the most difficult decisions, they may well ask: “what is our most loving option?” or even consider the words of Emmet Fox:

“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer, no disease that enough love will not heal, no door that enough love will not open, no gulf that enough love will not bridge, no wall that enough love will not throw down, no sin that enough love will not redeem.

   It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake – a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.”

Just as the body’s cells are organized into tissues, organs, and organ systems, each of which contribute to the overall well-being of the body, so too, all individuals, groups, and organs of society must contribute to its well-being. Cells or tissues that garner additional resources for themselves leading to unbridled growth are cancerous, ultimately threatening the survival of the body they arose from. Similarly, the organs of society (like health care, or banking, or industry) that gain excessive influence or resources and disregard their responsibility for the overall well being of society can threaten its survival.

What is called for, to solve the current economic, environmental, social, or political crises is our ability to rise above our narrow self-interests. In the Recession of 2008, “greed layered upon greed, frosted with recklessness” brought the entire banking system to disaster! To avoid mishaps like this, our emphasis must shift from accumulation of wealth to sharing of wealth, with an equitable distribution of the resources and benefits in society. And the motive for this approach will come from Love, not from a desire for power or privilege or self-aggrandizement of any sort. The underlying intent is as important as the actions performed[6].

Only selfless love between communities will solve the Israel-Palestine conflict, or heal the wounds of hostility, or repair the ravages of war. Returning violence with violence only escalates conflict and increases human suffering. Love alone can build trust in the stock market, safeguard the rights of factory workers, or strengthen the moral fiber of corporate America. A health care system driven by love and compassion – not reimbursement, not power or greed, will make the right decisions for each patient and eliminate waste, promote prevention, and enable universal health care for all. The leaders of today must harness the most sublime of human emotions, the underlying cause of Creation, the most powerful binding force in Nature, to solve the pressing problems created by greed, distrust, or self-interest.

The German poet and playwright, Goethe, referred to the world as “the living visible garment of God”. This garment is woven with love, maintained by love, and can be repaired through love. Sohuman ther hand that by progressing through the four stages of Love.

, we can use love only to understand human sexuality or other animal instincts, thus promoting society’s steady march to anarchy and exploitation, destroying humanity in its wake. Or, we can synchronize our heart beats to the pulse of this planet and reap the benefits of sharing our love with all of Creation. How do we do that? Every human being has the opportunity to do that by progressing through the four stages of Love.

The four Stages of Love

Just as pure white light, when passing through a prism breaks up into the colors of the rainbow, similarly, pure love, when passing through the prism of the mind, manifests the entire spectrum of human emotions. But the skeptics would ask: If that is the case, then what about hate? Does that also come from love? The physical world helps us understand this paradox. Just as darkness is defined as the absence of light, or cold is simply the absence of heat – in reality, darkness and cold do not really exist as separate entities! Similarly, hatred is simply the absence of love – when love is focused intensely in one particular direction – the opposite direction perceives an absence of love. Extremists are obsessed with extreme love for some aspect of creation – an idea or an ideal, so they consider other aspects of creation as threatening, or insignificant, and thus dispensable. Under the right conditions, this obsession can overwhelm the rational or discriminative faculties of the human mind and crystallize as a hate crime, or justify the Holocaust, or lead to attacks like those on 9/11. Ostracizing or torturing these individuals simply hardens their stance – or recruits others to their cause! Instead, they need to know and understand the impact of their misdirected love. Again, the advice of Sri Sathya Sai Baba comes to our rescue: “Foster the tiny seed of Love that clings to ‘me’ and ‘mine’; let it sprout into love for the group around you, and grow into love for all mankind, and spread out its branches over animals, birds, and those that creep and crawl, and let that love enfold all things and beings in all the worlds. Proceed from less love to more love, from narrow love to expanded Love”.

The expansion of love occurs in four stages, outlining the natural progression of human love. In the first stage, the widely prevalent form of human love is like a lamp kept in a room. A particular lamp illumines only that room. The glow of this love illumines a small group of people, like family and friends, and does not extend to others. The second stage of love is like the moonlight. This love goes beyond direct relationships and bathes everyone (inside and outside the room), but is not very effulgent or intense. The third stage of human love is selfless, like the sunlight – it brilliantly illuminates those both inside and outside the room – and indeed, all of creation feels its presence. But, it is not constant in the sense that the sun is not visible at night. Of course, this is not a permanent absence, because the sun rises each morning. Likewise too, selfless love may appear to be absent at some times, but it inevitably appears again.

The fourth and final stage is reached when human love is intense and is always present, beyond the confines of worldly relationships, in all places, at all times, under all circumstances. For such a person, all experiences and perceptions are suffused with Love, all thoughts, words and deeds emanate from intense Love, all relationships and interactions are based on Love. Indeed, the fourth stage of Love is imperishable, it is eternal. This degree of love is immanent in each and everyone – with the Guru’s Grace, we all have the potential to attain the fourth stage of Divine Love. Whenever any human being develops such love, they will be established in a peace “that passeth all understanding”, they will be remembered by generations of sincere men and women; – they will be living answers to the question of “what is love?”

[1] Young L. J. Love: Neuroscience reveals all. Nature vol. 457: page 148; January 8, 2009.

[2] R. C. Henry, “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436: 29, 2005.

[3] This conclusion may appear preposterous to those who are cynical or skeptical, or those forced to build a protective shell around their heart, because of some traumatic experience(s) in their life. But, dear reader, just allow for this as a temporary possibility, and later we will discover how only love exists – that hate does not even exist!


[5] Esther Hermann and colleagues, Science (Sept. 7, 2007) volume 317: pages 1360-1366.

[6] Anand KJS, Hall RW. Love, pain, and intensive care. Pediatrics 2008, volume 121, issue 4, pages 825-7.



About the Author

Dr. Kanwaljeet Singh Anand graduated from M.G.M. Medical College, Indore (India). As a Rhodes Scholar at University of Oxford, he received the D.Phil. degree, followed by post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School. His pioneering research was recognized by the British Paediatric Association (1986), American Academy of Pediatrics (1992), International Association for Study of Pain (1994), American Pain Society (2000), Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health (2004). He received the highest international honor in Pediatrics, the 2009 Nils Rosén von Rosenstein Award (given by Swedish Academy of Medicine every 5 years). Dr. Anand presented the “In Praise of Medicine” Public Address at 100th Anniversary of Erasmus University Medical Center (2013), the 2015 Journées Nationales de Néonatologie Address at The Pasteur Institute in Paris, and received the Nightingale Excellence Award (2016) from Stanford Children’s Healthcare. His community service activities founded the Harmony Health Clinic, promoted inter-faith harmony, and served victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, recognized by Father Joseph Biltz Award (2007) from NCCJ and Dr. Martin Luther King “Salute to Greatness” Individual Award (2008) from Governor of Arkansas.  He is currently Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.


Aug 072017

S. Sundeep  Singh (Bobby) Bedi


The talk will explain, with audiovisual examples, the use of 360° projection, 4DX technologies that work on all the senses, multi-channel spatial sound and holographic imaging to explain the contemporary relevance of the core values ensconced in Gurbani. The values showcased will be relevant to contemporary life and easily relatable to the youth of today, irrespective of their faith. What we ultimately want to achieve is to impress on young Sikhs and non-Sikhs as well as the international community, that Sikhism is a modern faith and it promotes values that apply today and apply to all of humanity.   The values highlighted will be Secularity, Caste and Gender equality, the use of strength only for the protection of others, irrespective of their faith, caring and sharing and deep respect for nature and the environment.

Video of Presentation

Body of Paper

Communicating the contemporary relevance of Guru Granth Sahib using cutting edge AV Technology

Thousands of years of history have shown that whenever mankind strays into an undesirable space there is a need for correction and some enlightened person takes on the role of a master and attempts to redefine a way of life. Over a period of time this way of life matures into a programmed set of actions and then takes on the shape of a faith or religion.

The suggested practices start being followed in letter, not in spirit.   This leads people away from spirituality and into blind faith. People are again led astray, the cycle is complete and a new Master comes onto the scene and we start again.

Krishna and Moses existed more than four thousand years ago, Buddha and Mahavira walked this earth two thousand five hundred years ago. Five hundred years later there was Christ and four centuries after Christ came Mohammad. In that context Sikhism is a very young religion. The five centuries that have elapsed since its founder GURU Nanak walked upon this earth are but a blink of an eye in the history of men. Events happening at that time are well known; men who lived at that time are easily remembered. It was at that the time that Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the new world, that Vasco da Gama found the route to India, that Magellan completed the first voyage around the world.

William Shakespeare was writing his plays and his complete works were compiled before he compilation of the Granth Sahib. All this just demonstrates how recent and contemporary The Granth Sahib is. More recent than Shakespeare which is taught in schools even today.

The Lodhi tombs are from the time of Nanak’s lifetime; Humayun, whose tomb is not far away, was battling to save his fledgling kingdom when Nanak passed into eternity. The Qutub Minar, in fact, was already dominating Delhi’s skies two centuries before Nanak was born. The beauty is that the text is available with us in its original form, fully authenticated and set to music in specified ragas. This is the story of a very young religion. Its concerns are immediate; its message, fresh.

However, even though it is the most recent and probably the most relevant faith, it is still centuries away from the present world – especially the youth of today. The development of AV technologies in the past few decades have pushed even current written matter into the past. Science text books are supported by animated diagrams comics have become animated films, novels and books are now films and TV. Virtual and augmented reality have enabled people to transport themselves into immersive experiences and environments. All this just means that today’s young people are very unlikely have either the inclination or the languages or even the time to read the spiritual texts – the Gita, Bible, Quran or even the recent Granth sahib, the words of masters or Gurbani. This is sad because many of the values captured in our Gurbani are relevant and even taught today.

Some of them are

  1. Secularism
  2. Gender equality
  3. The use of Violence only in the defense of the defenseless, not for personal gain
  4. Caring and sharing
  5. Deep respect for Nature and Environment

The Mool Project is an initiative that takes Gurbani that relates to or expresses the above five values and communicates them to two key target audiences. The first and primary target is our own children who would otherwise be unwilling to imbibe the values of their faith. The second and equally relevant audience is the international community. People who have a reluctance or difficulty in understanding the tenets of Sikhism. Recent events in the US and other parts of the world have shown that the distinct identity of the Sikhs is confusing them and confusion naturally leads to uncertainty and even negative impressions and actions.

using the latest Audio-Visual technology such as

Dome Projection

Mechanised seats

Multichannel sound


Technology that uses motion, breeze, perfume etc.

In other words, we talk to young people about core values using their language, their aesthetic and their technology. I believe it is a natural form of evolution.

The Mool Project is designed as a show which is written by well-known writer and Diplomat Navtej Sarna, many of whose words are reproduced in this talk. It will be presented through the medium of Holographs by Kabir Bedi and will be directed by a host of young directors. The Gurbani and other music will be done in a non-traditional manner by contemporary singers and artists and produced by a many time Grammy award winner.


It will take several forms. Initially it will be shown as a permanent show housed in a special building in Central Delhi, a stone’s throw from India’s parliament, a location akin to the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC and subsequently on devices using immersive and wearable technology such as Google Glass etc.


Finally, the content will be formatted to be made available globally to anyone who wants to showcase it in locations of their choice.

Bobby Bedi

About the Author

S. Sundeep Singh (Bobby) is a graduate in Economics and an MBA in Finance. He has worked with HCL Technologies Ltd. Philips and Sony before he started Kaleidoscope Entertainment Private Limited. Bobby has produced several national and International award winning films which have featured in Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, Montreal, Goa, Pusan, London and Valladolid film festivals. Some of his films are Bandit Queen, Fire, Mangal Pandey, Maqbool and Saathiya.

Bobby has received the National Award for Best Film by the President of India twice and in 2016 he received a lifetime achievement award by the Valladolid Film Festival in Spain. Apart from producing feature films and directing documentaries, Bobby designs, and produces content for Museums. These include Virasat E Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib, The Mahabharat Multimedia Gallery at Kurukshetra , The Bihar History Museum at Patna and the Baba Baghel Singh Museum at Bangla Sahib.

At present Bobby is creating the MOOL PROJECT, a multi-dimensional show using holography, 360° Projection, and 4DX Technology in New Delhi. Bobby has conceptualized the building and is designing and producing the content.

Bobby has been invited to speak several times on Intellectual Property issues at WIPO, Geneva and has represented the FIAPF (The world Producer Body) at Internet Governance Forum Brazil (2015) and Guadalajara, Mexico (2016) and at the Beijing Treaty (2012). Bobby is on the board of Indian Motion Picture Producers Association and a Vice President of the Film Federation of India. He is also on the board of TiE.

Aug 072017

Dr. Jaspal Kaur Kaang


Very well-known is the fact that the Bani complied in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is addressed to all the human beings and not to any one community or any one sect. The eternal message of Guru Granth Sahib is addressed to the welfare of all human beings above the boundaries of caste, colour, creed, culture and religion. It lies in loving, understanding, respecting and accepting the existence of others as well as prohibiting oneself from encroaching on freedom and rights of others. The life experience and the great works of the Gurus is indicative of the practicability of these ideas through which they dialogue with the ideologues of the other religions and made them realise that human unity and oneness can be achieved through tolerance, communication and respect for other’s existence. The fear of war or tension in the world is due to lack of communication and effective dialogue between the various communities. Bani’s message is a model of universal brotherhood and world peace which is revealed in its every couplet and illuminates the entire universe.

All the efforts to improve life of the human race have been industrial and commercial in nature and cater to material aspect of life. Little is being done to nourish the soul. Living by the glorious philosophies of Bani like Langar, Pangat, Sangat, Kirat (hard & honest earning), Sarbat da bhala, Dasvandh (charity), Vand Chakna (sharing) and truthful living is what can nourish the human soul and promote peaceful and harmonious co-existence, human unity and world peace.

In today’s era, we face threats and fears from interfaith conflicts military aggression, terrorism etc. Territorial possessions which have overpowered the human sentiments and the very presence of the ideas contrary to one’s beliefs is irksome. The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib are all the more relevant today to resolve all these problems. In this paper, I would like to focus my views through the lens of Religious Pluralism, tolerance and Multicultural Society.

Video of Presentation


Slide Presentation

Body of Paper



Dr. Jaspal Kaur Kaang

Professor and Academic-Incharge

Department of Guru Nanak Sikh Studies

Panjab University, Chandigarh, INDIA

Religion is closely linked to the conscious as well as the sub-conscious of a particular social group, religion gives expression to its transcendental and spiritual experiences and takes the shape of a social organization by providing the members of the group with a definite code of conduct and a life-style governed by strict discipline. On the one hand, religion lays bare the possibilities and ways of bringing human being in unity with God and, on the other, it promotes the feelings of fraternity and cooperation by advising a human being to adopt a humanistic approach while dealing with others, an approach which goes to form the foundation of the development of any social group. There are a number of religions in the world and many of these have their specific scriptures which contain the tenets to be adopted by the devotees and the scriptures also help in maintaining distinct entities of the respective religions. Guru Granth Sahib is the cherished scripture of the Sikhs as it contains the exclusive Sikh philosophy and religious code of conduct to be adopted by the followers of Sikh religion.

Guru Granth Sahib is such a creative work of Indian medieval age that enshrines, on the one hand, matchless elaboration of spirituality and, on the other, a powerful expression of the message of revolutionary ideals of social welfare, multicultural distinctness and eternal ethical code aimed at cultural reconstruction. It is widely accepted that Sikhism is related to the most modern philosophy and the concepts and doctrines expressed through Guru Granth Sahib contribute to the all round welfare of modern global community. Through its insights and dialogue the underlying meaning of Gurbani (verses included in Guru Granth Sahib) when combined with modern perception gives form to varied dimensions of inter-cultural exchange of views and process of human transformation thereby maintaining its timeless and multi-facetted relevance.

Global Village

The world-level culture based on the post-modern informative thought- process and human consciousness is described as universal or global village. Such a global village has come into being through development of modern communication techniques, revolution in means of transportation, emigration and need for economic co-existence at the international level. The process of globalization begins with the arrival of capitalistic system and it emerges as a highly developed economic system representing the modern market and consumer culture. In this culture, many forms of cultural, racial, religious, regional, linguistic limitations are in the process of decay. Modern human being is living in amulti-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious, multilingual and multi-regional world. As a result, the world community is face to face with innumerable challenges and problems related to racial, regional, communal, gender and cultural identity. In view of these problems, it has become necessary to explore intra-faith dialogue, multi-religionism, creation of multi-cultural society and globally relevant ethical norms in this global village for establishing everlasting peace, harmony, balance and mutual understanding and, in this context, Guru Granth Sahib emerges as a unique text which presents a multi-layered and multi-dimensional assessment of the reality of human life.

Religious Tolerance and Role of Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Granth Sahib is an eminent creative work of the medieval Panjabi literary world and culture and it presents a revolutionary consciousness and humanitarian vision for the welfare of human society and whole of the mankind. The content of Guru Granth Sahib includes insights which are as much practical and relevant in the modern times at the inter-cultural and global level as these were in the Indian medieval era. It has become necessary to redefine the essence of religion for developing uniformity and harmony in the modern multi-cultural society. In this context, concepts of pluralism and inter-faith dialogue are playing a very active role and these cannot be functional in an effectively productive manner unless communal tolerance is established firmly. The communal tolerance as presented through Guru Granth Sahib has, basically, taken into account the fact that we should treat all the religions at par with one-another even though we do not agree to the distinctive tenets propagated through them. The communal tolerance of Gurbani aims at developing unity in diversity instead of giving a unified shape to diversity. In this way, the aim of religious tolerance is not to accept or adopt religious beliefs, doctrines and activities of others nor is it to assimilate these into one’s own religion. Its aim is only to give respect to the religious creeds and beliefs of others without distorting these in any manner so that an environment of peace and understanding is maintained in the society.

Guru Granth Sahib is a unique example in the context of religious tolerance. The marvelous process of creativity and editing of Guru Granth Sahib is based directly on religious tolerance.It comprises verses composed by 36 holy persons connected with varied provinces, states, regions, faiths, beliefs and sects. These holy persons include 6 Sikh Gurus, 15 Bhagats, 11 Bhatts and 4 devotees of the Gurus. Bhagats include Hindus as well as Mohammedans. Some of them belong to higher caste sections while some of them belong to lower caste groups but their compositions have been selected without any discrimination. We can see religious tolerance at its peak in Guru Granth Sahib because there is no consideration given to one’s religious faith or caste. Every caste has been treated with respect here, every religion enjoys an honorable status here so long it preaches virtuous deeds and noble practices. The compilation and creation of Guru Granth Sahib, therefore, plays the role of building up a harmonious society by removing the walls created by sectarianism. Such a spirit of tolerance is also visible in the case of language of the compositions. The varied diction used in the Granth springs from multiple sources. The verses included in Guru Granth Sahib preaches the message of


(I have but only one master, that is, God.)



(There is but the same spirit emanating from the God and pervading all the human beings.)

and, thereby, tries to bring home the idea that we cannot afford to be intolerant towards God’s creation and His offspring i.e. the whole mankind because we all have only one master. When this belief takes roots in human mind all the conflicts would disappear. Guru Granth Sahib, in totality of its compositions, promotes the concept of ‘welfare of all’ and it can never attempt to humiliate any of the religions. Gurbani preaches the message of


(The supreme religion among all.)

which leads to a situation of


(There is no and no enemy.)

No doubt, Gurbani does not teach partiality, discrimination or fault-finding; it rather gives the lesson of self-assessment and self-realization through self-study. In this way, the compilation, as a whole, treats the world as a closely related entity, craves for its welfare without any selfish motive and prays for grant of bounties and happiness for all:

(I beseech you oh, Almighty ! Be merciful and save the burning world; save it in whatever way it can be saved !)

The cosmic vision of Guru Granth Sahib exhorts the followers of all the religions of the world to rise above mutual differences and conflicts and provides them with a common pattern for the welfare of the whole mankind. Religious Pluralism is a concept of ‘global responsibility’ based on the mutual relation of respect for differences, tolerance for others’ views and healthy exchange of ideas.2

Religious Pluralism presented through Guru Granth Sahib

Religious pluralism recognizes all the religions of the world as authentic and pure. Every religion is authentic as it is capable of providing a human being with suitable guidance for attaining peace and happiness. Religions of the world describe the same ultimate truth in various ways and, therefore, are similar to a great extent in approach. In fact, every religion aims at reaching the ultimate truth under different circumstances and prepares norms for welfare of mankind. Religious pluralism is, therefore, a particular approach vis-à-vis religious traditions according to which no single religion is an exclusive expression of supreme or complete truth and every religion possesses the capacity of reaching only some selected truths and values. A truly religious person is the one who believes in religious pluralism and attaches similar importance to all the religions. The monopolistic feeling or any specific claim carried by any religious sect regarding the ultimate truth only leads to violence, hatred and tension. Religious pluralism is an effort to remove the conflicts among different religions and to bring them closer to one another through the elimination of their mutual differences. But, in the modern times, the scene of religion reflects the serious, rather, critical situation at the world level. Moving away from its genuine spiritual meanings, religion has fallen into clutches of violence and distrust. Human society at the world level is face to face with decadence in religious, social, economic, and political fields and, as was the case with the medieval period, terror created by hostility, hatred, caste-system, selfishness, regionalism and violence prevails everywhere. As such, the role of religion has become extremely challenging in the modern times. Religion may be a significant need of the human beings today but what is more important is recognizing the other religions treating them with due respect for each.

Guru Granth Sahib is such a creative work through which different layers of religious pluralism could be identified. From the point of view of place and time, Guru Granth Sahib is an historical document covering a period from 12th century CE to 17th century CE incorporating a variety of geographical regions, occupations, languages, communities, includes compositions of saints, Bhagats and Sufi Faqirs, besides the Sikh Gurus, all of whom, though connected with different beliefs, sects, provinces and doctrines are engaged in guiding the whole mankind. This is quite a genuine illustration of religious pluralism. Guru Nanak travelled through many parts of the world to preach and spread his religious message. His long-drawn journeys (each called an Udaasi) were, in reality, aimed at preaching religious pluralism. Every language has been given a respectful status in Guru Granth Sahib. In the modern times languages of the minority communities are shrinking, with some of them being at the verge of extinction. Guru Granth Sahib has been the first to maintain the distinctiveness of such languages by pulling them out of the dominance of the majority community languages. “The basis of the thought process of the authors of verses of Gurbani is focused on that metaphysical expanse of cosmic consciousness where feelings of disagreement and discrimination lose their significance.3 As such, this scripture emerges out as a common platform for unifying the whole mankind into one fraternity. The greatest contribution of Guru Granth Sahib lies in its aim of creating an ideal human being living in a peaceful society; it teaches the mankind, divided into sects by the religious fanaticism and narrow political approach, how to live in an atmosphere of mutual love and understanding.

Unitary Pluralism

The quintessence of Guru Granth Sahib presents the unity of Brahm (the Supreme Soul) and the cosmos. Here, the first form of pluralism appears as Unitary Pluralism. The Main features of Brahm(different from Hindu god Brahman) are described in the opening lines (called Mool Mantra) of ‘Japp’ composition:


Guru Granth Sahib, as a whole represents the unity of God (Brahm), the Supreme Soul. These days multi-dimensional expanse of cultures, communities and ideologies is being recognised and it is an extension of <> only. The very foundation of Guru Granth Sahib is provided by the following couplet composed by BhagatKabir:


eyknUrqysBujguaupijAwkaun Bly komMdy]5

Avval Allah noor upaaia kudrat key sab bandey

Eyk noor tey sab jag upjia kaun bhaley ko mandey.

(The Almighty created one spirit which pervades all the human

beings who form a part of His creation. So no one is better or worse as compared to the others.)

The concept of unity of the Brahm (the Supreme Soul) does not suggest ill-will against any one. The message of

‘sBnw kw mwipauAwpuhY’

(The Brahm is the mother as well as father of all.)

eliminates the feeling of discrimination completely. No religion stands ignored or neglected in Guru Granth Sahib. It gives due recognition to the utility and identity of each of the different religions. Gurbani does not reject any religion, it only presents arguments against the dress symbolizing a particular sect, cunningness and hypocritical practices on the part of followers and leaders of various sects.

Pluriform Pluralism

Guru Arjan who compiled the verses of the holy persons having faith in different religions had also referred to the existence of different religions and life-styles of the authors and such a propensity leads to expression of pluriform pluralism which is presented in many forms in Guru Granth Sahib:








koeI EFY nIlkoeIsupyd]




pRBswihb kw iqinBydjwqw]6

Koi boley Raam-Raam koi khudaai.

Koi sevei gusayaan koi Allahi.

Koi karan kareem.

Kirpa dhaar raheem.

Koi naavei tirath koi hajj jaai.

Koi karey pooja koi sir nivaai.

Koi parhey beyd koi kateyb.

Koi odhey neel koi supeyd.

Koi kahei turak koi kahei hindu.

Koi baachhei koi surgind.

Kahu Nanak jin hukam pachhaata.

Prabh sahib ka tin bheyd jaata.

(There are innumerable ways devotees name their deities,

adopt their ways of worship, arrange their physical appearances

and designate their respective sects but there only one ultimate

reality needs to be recognized by one and all.)

Ethical Pluralism

Ethical pluralism is that form of religious pluralism which supports a universal ethical system. All the religions of the world preach some fundamental values many of which are common to them, for example, love, sweetness, humility, sympathy, service, welfare, respectfulness, austerity, renunciation, patience and forgiveness.   Gurbani aims at preaching human values among whole of the mankind through inculcation of virtues such as sweetness of words

iek iPkw n gwlwie sBnw mY scw DxI

Ik phikka nag alai sabhna mei sacha dhani

nwnkiPkwbolIAYqnumnuiPkw hoie

Nanak phikka boliei tan man phikka hoi


‘PrIdw QIau pvwhI dBu jy sweI loVih sBu

Farida theeo pavaahi dabh jey saai lorheh sabh

invxu su AKru Kvxu guxu ijhbw mxIAw mMq

Nivan su akkkhar khavan gun jihba manian mant


Mithatt neeveen Nanka gun changiayan tatt

Productive work

PrIdw ijnI kMmI nwih gux qy kMmVY ivswir

Farida jinni kami naahi gun tey kammrhey visaar


drvySW no loVIAY ruKW dI jIrWid

Darveyshan nu lorhiyey rukkhan di jeeraand


PrIdw bury dwBlwkirgusw mn n hMFwie

Farida burey da bhala kar gussa man n handaai etc.

‘Through such teachings of virtuous conduct, Guru Granth Sahib builds up a moral code which could serve as a solid and healthy foundation for bringing about excellence in individual and collective life of human beings”.7

Inter-faith Dialogue

In the modern times, increased number of terroristactivities and fundamentalist trend of religious intolerance have created an atmosphere of tension and confrontation among different religions. Although the international bodies such as the U. N. O. are engaged in making sincere efforts to deal with such a situation yet inter-faith dialogue has also become a necessity. Religious pluralism and inter-faith dialogue are,however, not the same. In fact, inter-faith dialogue is a model for religious pluralism. Paul Knitter’s view needs to be given deep thought that religious pluralism does not aim at making the different religions of the world to look similar. It is, rather, to create an approach of criticism of others and assessment of the self through positive and face-to-face dialogue for total development of human being and welfare of all. In fact, peace and harmony cannot be built up among various communities and nations until mutual understanding is not established among different religions and such an atmosphere of mutual understanding cannot be built up unless inter-faith dialogue is established. In the contemporary times, inter-faith dialogue has become a primary necessity at the international level and persistent efforts need to be made in this direction. We should encourage the process of interaction, tolerance, learning and teaching vis-à-vis faiths adopted by the others. Such a dialogue should be made possible which does not denigrade other religions as second rate religions, which does not try to encourage assimilation of religions into a particular religion and which only tries to encourage the tendency of appreciating the points of view held by the religions of the others. Guru Granth Sahib arranges inter-faith dialogue as an alternative to crusades in order to keep the whole of mankind united and tension-free. The approach of mutual interaction which is being preferred in the modern times was adopted by the Sikh Gurus centuries ago and they incorporated it in their compositions. Through the dictum

jb lgu dunIAw rhIAY nwnk ikCu suxIAY ikCu khIAY

Jab lag duniyan rahiyei nanak kichh suniyei kichh kahiyei

it preaches expression of the self before others and also lays stress on the need to lend the ear to what others have to say. This approach would remove the ignorance and will spread purposeful knowledge among the masses. Interaction at a common platform brings all the religions at par with one another and removes the fear of assimilation of one religion into any other one.

The beginning of inter-faith dialogue in Sikh philosophy takes pace with Guru Nanak. The aim of four voyages undertook by him on the international terrains was connected with knowledge of real form of religion. He visited different religious centres during his voyages and talked to the devotees on truth and purity. He also collected religious hymns from various places during the course of his journeys. ‘SidhGoshit’ composed by Guru Nanak is the example of authentic form of inter-faith dialogue between him and members of Yogi sect. An effort was made through to create awareness about the genuine religion enshrouded by the useless rituals, insignificant rites, religious symbols. BhagatKabir also spoke on the irrelevant unnatural practices adopted by the Yogi ascetics. Similarly, the Guru lays bare the futility of ritualistic practices adopted and preached by the members of Brahmin class of Hindus as well as Mohammedan devotees and religious leaders. Such a dialogue emerges as an inter-active cultural process leads to building up an exclusive life-style and it contribute significantly towards the growth of common Indian culture.

Gurbani, having faith in concepts such as

nwhmihMdU n muslmwn

No one is Hindu or Mohammedan and


All belong to the same fraternity

extends from an individual to the whole of mankind. The contributors to the text of Guru Granth Sahib, devoted as they were to the service of humanity were committed to development of pure and truthful character. And they paid similar respect to all the religions of the world. Therefore, adoption of the model of inter-faith dialogue presented by Guru Granth Sahib can play a useful role in dealing with the challenges of the unsavoury situation created by religious fanaticism and intolerance at the world level.Guru Granth Sahib, representing affinity between unity and diversity, builds up multi-cultural society by laying the foundation of world community for the development of diverse cultures,classes, races and especially the minority groups.8

Multi-cultural Society

The cultural model presented in Guru Granth Sahib is not that of a fanatic religion of any particular community or caste group. In essence it belongs to the people from different provinces, communities and faiths, the people who are attuned to cosmic harmony. The ideals preached through Guru Granth Sahib appear as futuristic dialogue which does not admit any discrimination or animosity. The model of multi-cultural society as presented in Guru Granth Sahib is multi-dimensional based as it is on the welfare-of-all doctrine which extends the same respect to strangers as is extended to those who are closely related. Gurbani includes a number of couplets which express deep reverence for the people belonging to so-called lower castes, for example,

nIcw AMidr nIc jwiq nIcI hU Aiq nIc]

nwnk iqn kyY sMig swiQ vifAw isau ikAw rIs]

ijQY nIc smwlIAin iqQY ndir qyrI bKsIs] 9

Neecha andir neech jaat neechee hoo ati neech.

Nanak tin kei sang saath vaddian siu kia rees.

Jithei neech samalian tithei nadir teyri baksees.

(Nanak says that he is in tune with the lowest of the lowly,

heprefers their company in comparison to the highly placed

people because one earns the grace of the Almighty by giving

care to the under-privileged.)

The main message of Gurbani is to recognise the identity and dignity of each culture on equal basis and to contribute towards establishing the same in effective and meaningful manner. Gurbani discourages animosity, discrimination and violence and promotes communal tolerance, racial harmony and inter-cultural dialogue these being important ingredients of multi-cultural society. Guru Granth Sahib teaches us to recognise and respect the values cherished by the others. The following comment is particularly relevant here:

“The Gurus wanted to create a classless, casteless society,where each individual enjoyed freedom of expression;observance and adherence to religion, religious tolerance, and social equality where duties and rights wereaccorded equal importance. In such a multi-culture society,adherence to one’s religion and faith is no crime butdisrespect and intolerance to other religious faiths was certainly a sin.”10

Moral Values

The scientific explorations and technological development of the modern times have affected the moral values quite adversely. No doubt science, technology, communication techniques and means of transportation have brought in revolutionary changes in human living. The major impact of these is that of material progress and globalisation. The race for material gains has led to rise of individualism and selfishness. Human relations have lost their value and relevance as moral degradation has over-powered the human psyche. As a result, feelings of love, affection and sympathy for others are disappearing fast. Today, every institution or system connected with human welfare is exploring the ways and means for restoring the equilibrium in human life. It is here that Gurbani steps in to re-establish the balance amongst human beings through its message of decency and ethics. Gurbani imparts utmost importance to honest living and seva (service to others) especially through sharing one’s earnings and bounties with others.



(Nanak says, earn by the sweat of your brow and share

your earnings with the needy. This is an ideal way of living.)

Gurbani aims at developing spiritually prosperous, mentally poised and morally sound human beings and, therefore, warns against evil actions through exhortations such as

min jIqYjgujIq’

(Having control over one’s mind is like having control over the whole world)

‘mnu mYdwn kir

Man meidaan kar

(One must erase one’s ego.)

bury dwBlwkr’

( One should be helpful even to an evil-doer.)

ihAwaU n kwhYTwih

( One should not injure anyone’s feelings.)


Nanak phikka boliei tan man phikka hoi

(Nanak says, if we speak rough we invite mental as well as physical ailments)

kwlyilKu n lyK

Kaaley likh na leykh

(We should neither inculcate nor express evil thoughts.)

Such pieces of advice contribute a lot towards developing sound moral character. The technique of making one’s conduct simple and straightforward through a disciplined mind is one of the distinct and special aspects of the teachings of Gurbani. Qualities of ignoring pitfalls on the part of others and being soft spoken and sweet in speech go a long way in forming the foundation of an ideal way of living. Utterances replete with sweetness and humility contribute in a big way towards building up a congenial and pleasant environment.

Gurbani rejects the habit of vilification and opposes the slanderers because such people badly pollute the social and cultural environment. Conveying the feelings of humility and courtesy,Gurbani clarifies that inculcation of virtue of humility eradicates one’s ego vanish completely. Once the barrier of ego is removed, feelings of hatred, backbiting, jealousy, slander and anger disappear automatically. No doubt, the model of morality presented through Gurbaniimparts the qualities of patience, contentment and continence to human beings and teaches them how to develop self-control and self-discipline which help in freeing oneself evil deeds. The principles of morality endow a human being with mental alertness and, building up awareness in human beings, equips them with qualities of firmness, boldness and resourcefulness for entering new and successful lives. ‘The moral code presented by Guru Granth Sahib is not a concept of western type. Instead, it forms a healthy ingredient of Indian philosophical tradition though it is not supplementary to it. It tends to recognize the significance of the spiritual as well as the practical aspects of ethical values’.12


Today, the whole of the world looks to have fallen prey to selfishness, disorder and tension-ridden atmosphere born out of mutual differences and conflicts and, being face to face with terror and barbarity, it seems to be standing on a pile of dynamite. It is, therefore, essential to disseminate and adopt the message of universal brotherhood given by Guru Granth Sahib. The practicability of the message of religious tolerance, awareness of religious pluralism and model of inter-faith dialogue, as contained in Guru Granth Sahib having the potential of establishing an international fraternity or multi-cultural system,would definitely stir up the human consciousness. Such an effort in the form of virtuous conduct can certainly unite the whole world as one family by strengthening human fraternity and mutual understanding and prove a medium for solution of world level problems. It would be quite relevant to quote Arnold Toynbee here

“Mankind’s religious future may be obscure, yet one thing can

be foreseen: the living higher religions are going to influence

each other more than ever before, in these days of increasingcommunication between all parts of the world and all branches

of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh

Religion, and its scriptures, the AdiGranth, will have something

of special value to say to the rest of the world. This religion is

itself a monument of creative spiritual intercourse between two

traditional religions whose relations have otherwise not been

happy. This is a good augury”13

———- 0 ———-



  1. Guru Granth Sahib853
  2. F. Knitter, Jesus and the other name: Christian Mission and Global

Responsibility,pp 26-39

  1. Jagbir Singh (Dr) BhartiVirsey da Pratik: Guru Granth Sahib, ‘Gurmat

Kav, SidhantteyVihar’,p. 81

  1. Guru Granth Sahib1
  2. Ibid, p.1349
  3. Ibid, p.885
  4. Sabar,Jasbir Singh (Dr), JasbirKaur (Dr) Sri Guru Granth Sahib da

SadacharShastar: Sri Guru Granth Sahib VibhinnParipeykh (ed.),

Publication Bureau, Panjabi University, Patiala, 2005,p.139

  1. Jagbir Singh (Dr), Guru Granth Sahib di SamkaleenPrasangikta,
  2. 96
  3. Guru Granth Sahibp.15
  4. Gurpreet Singh, Soul of Sikhism, Fusion Books, New Delhi 2005


  1. Guru Granth Sahibp.1245
  2. Sabar,Jasbir Singh (Dr), JasbirKaur (Dr) Sri Guru Granth Sahib da

SadacharShastar: Sri Guru Granth Sahib VibhinnParipeykh (ed.),

Publication Bureau, Panjabi University, Patiala, 2005,p.1128

  1. Arnold Toynbee (Prof.), Selections from Sacred Writings of the Sikhs,


About the Author

Working in Panjab University, for the last 38 years, I have translated the universal wisdom and ethical values represented in the lives and works of Sikh Gurus into the interdisciplinary pedagogical modules for the dissemination of value education through Punjabi Language, literature and culture. Moreover, as an administrator (being the member of Senate, Chairperson, Dean, Member of Finance Board and Member of Academic Bodies of various Universities), I gave my best to promote Mother Languages and Indian culture as directed by UNESCO and contributed to the reconstruction and the restructuring the policies, programmes and pedagogic practices to nurture the idea of Indianism. My objective is to spread all over the world, the eternal values symbolized by our great Gurus, which are more relevant in today’s world.


Aug 072017

By walking the walk with SGGS and our beloved Gurus, are Sikhs designed to be civic entrepreneurs, public ombudsmen, or leaders?

Harbir Kaur Bhatia


Sikhi’s universal principles of Naam and its birth in a time of turmoil with 200 years of invasions, religious oppression and misuse, and Moghul and Brahman leadership has presented a way of life that is resilient, practical, inclusive, and of high ideals! Sikhi has fundamentally given high value to activism, equality, justice, community service and brotherhood; and empowered all for direct connection with “GOD”, irrespective of identification or religion. “Recognize the human race as one”, said Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and proclaim “the betterment of all, sarbat da bhalla”, said Guru Nanak.  From a laymen’s practice of Sikhi, Harbir sites examples from SGGS and our beloved Gurus about the design for leadership, and why more Sikhs are needed for successful societies!

By walking the walk of Sikhi, a Sant -Sipahi, could the future Governor be a Sikh? Could the future US President be a Sikh?


Video of Presentation

Body of Paper

“By Walking the Walk with SGGS and Our Beloved Gurus, Are Sikhs Designed to be Civic Entrepreneurs, Public Ombudsmen, or Future leaders?”

By Harbir Kaur Bhatia


Sikhi’s universal principles of Naam, social values, and their birth across 200 years of turmoil and invasions, religious oppression by foreign invaders, and religious abuse under Brahmic leadership, have presented a way of life that is resilient, practical, inclusive, and of high ideals! It enjoins the Sikhs to live a God (Divine) conscious, moral, and socially ethical life. Sikhi has fundamentally given high value to activism, equality, justice, community service and brotherhood; and have empowered all for direct connection with the “Divine” irrespective of social status or religious affiliation. “Recognize the human race as one”, said Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and proclaim “the betterment of all, sarbat da bhalla”, said Guru Nanak.  By walking the walk of Sikhi, a Sant -Sipahi, could the future Governor be a Sikh? Could the future US President be a Sikh?  One doesn’t have to be an expert theologian or have a doctorate in Sikhi to see the opportunity, possibility, and reality. I will cite specific examples from SGGS and stories of our beloved Guru in our history that has designed Sikhs to be activists and leaders. Sikhs can help create successful societies.

To provide a frame and perspective around why I share this view, let me share a little about my background. I grew up in the Midwest USA with my Parents, a brother, and a sister. My educational and professional background has been in Engineering. Our family taught us the values of social service, and Sikhi was a central part of our upbringing. It was a pillar of strength and identification for us as children. Sikhi directly impacted our actions and choices. Through Sakhis of the Gurus and Gurbani we gained most of our fundamentals that weaved into the fabric of who we are. The Sakhis (stories of our Gurus) and examples of Gurbani I will share are not unknown to you, but I hope to provide a perspective on how they designed and developed the character of activists and leaders. I have always found religions interesting and explored many with the empowerment of Sikhi to accept others. This helped my understanding of Sikhi more and also allowed me to appreciate other stories as well. Having worked and served in various forms of public, service, and private sectors across more than 30 years, I share this perspective from personal experience.

People’s and Society’s Challenges and Issues

When we look at the issues affecting modern day society, you’ll see the similar themes to history showing time and time again. An article in the New York Times ‘What Do You Think Is the Most Important Problem Facing This Country Today?’ shares the results by Gallup’s polls from 1935 through Feb 2017, from times of President Franklin Roosevelt to the beginning of President Trump’s term in office.   Below, I have shared the 1935 and 2017 results.

1935, Priorities and Issues

February 2017, Priorities and Issues

The themes and issues are surprisingly common through history, and looking back into our Sikh history appears very similar, too, correct?

  • Economy & Poverty
  • Government and Corruption
  • Access to Resources: Education, Healthcare
  • Human Rights: Equality and Justice
  • Values: Religious and Moral
  • International Affairs
  • Environment
  • Safety – Security-War

Need For Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All .

The summary of what is affecting us today is lack of those willing to serve the whole community fairly and equally. Even at the time of the presentation, we see the riots in Charlottesville with the open showcasing racism and violence. There is a strong need for independent, fair & just, and inclusive mindset. The teachings of Sikhi provide that.

South Asian History

Let’s examine the times of the Guru’s and South Asian history. For centuries upon centuries Indian Subcontinent had faced constant foreign invasions and with it varied philosophies, traditions, and communities of people. In the earlier phases of invasions, cultures were mostly incorporated and absorbed into the way of life from early BCE, Greeks (Alexander), Scythians, Parthians, Ionians, Bactrians, Huns and others over hundreds of years.

Whereas, the times of late Medieval India, the invasions from Arabs to Moghuls, India’s culture faced two different challenges 1) externally foreign rulers with oppressive regimes and foreign religions and 2) internally a country weakened by ritualism, caste system, apathy, and inequality. In summary, the times were covered with abuse of power and misuse of religion, spiritual and morale decline, poverty, injustice, foreign invasions, divided society, lack of resources and opportunities, powerlessness and lack of security, access, and so much more. There was a need for a fair & socially responsible society.

Sikhi Gave a Way Out:

Through this period what resulted was a new way of life, Sikhi, and a final Guru and guide for all times.

  • Courage to Challenge the Norm and Leaders
  • Empowerment to impact one’s own future based on good actions
  • Self Worth and Hope in People
  • A Sense of Belonging to something positive and uplifting
  • Spiritually and Morally Awakened People
  • Freedom and Equal Access to GOD and Religion
  • Simplified Religious Practice
  • Inclusive Society for All
  • A More Socially Responsible and Community Mindset
  • Defend Equality, Freedom, Liberty and Justice

Finally, it laid the groundwork for a complete halt of invasions from North West, and empowered and activated the community to participate in their own future and the society as a whole.

Through the immense challenges and the teachings, we see that the basic and fundamental principles, practices, and stories highlight and promote the values of unity of GOD, unity and equality in all mankind, activism, justice and fairness, higher thinking, and empowerment for bettering one’s own life and those of others. Together Sikhi’s golden rules or three pillars are summarized as 1) Naam Japna–reflecting/reciting Naam (essence of GOD), 2) Vand Ke Chakna–sharing with others, 3) Keerat Karna– honest work

Design – Gurbani

Throughout Gurbani we find examples of the common themes of unity GOD and amongst mankind, therefore we should not ignore harm, inequality, or injustice of others. Instead, help or serve them. There are many examples, and I hope the following provide a perspective and also inspire you to explore more.


Pārbarahm parabẖ ek hai ḏūjā nāhī ko▫e.

There is only the One Supreme Lord God; there is no other at all.


Manas Kee Jaat Ek Ko Pachaniya

Recognize the human race as one

Sarbat Da Bhalla,

We look for the betterment of all


Guraa ik dayhi bujhaa-ee. sabhnaa jee-aa kaa ik daataa so mai visar na jaa-ee.

The Guru has made one thing clear: the One God is the provider for all beings – May I never forget this.


Brahm giānī kai dristi saman.

The God-conscious being looks upon all-alike,

Jaise rāj rank ka▫o lāgai ṯul pavān

like the wind, which blows equally upon the king and the poor

Standing with the Underprivileged

Neecha Undar Neech Jaat, Neechi Hoon Aat Neech!

Nanak Tinke Sang Saath, Baddian Se Kiyya Rees!, Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Nanak says, stand with the lowest of the low class, the very lowest of the low. Why with those that are from the upper-class (rich)?


jithai neech samaalee-an tithai nadar tayree bakhsees.
the place where the lowly are cared for, there the Blessings of Your Grace rain down.

Integrity and Faith

Kahe Re Ma Chitvae Udam Ja Aahar Har Jeeo Paria,

O my mind, why you keep on worrying about livelihood, when God Himself is taking care of it.

(this does not mean that one should not work for a livelihood. What this means is that one should make the honest effort but not worry about the results).


Sail Pathar Me Jant Upaaye Taa Ka Rijak Aagae Kar Dharia

Look, even for those creatures He created in rocks and stones (tiny worms), He provided their livelihood in advance (even before they were born).

Action and Empowerment vs. Entitlement

Jaat Paat Nahin Poochhiae, Sach Ghar Leh Basai!

Sa Jaat Sa Paat Hai, Jaise Karam Kama

Levels of have in society are irrelevant. We are made by our actions

Activism and Defending Rights

Soora so pehchaniye jo lare deen ke het

Purja purja kat mare kabhi na khet

This is the badge of a true solider to fight to the end for justice and freedom

The values of high character were laid down and reinforced in Gurbani again and again in various passages through the whole Guru Granth Sahib. Through the Nitnem, Amrit Kirtan, and SGGS the explanation is provided poetically to help us understand this throughout the 10 Guru’s lives. Sikh character was formed.

  • The “Divine” is the same and only one though referenced differently
  • See All As Equal
  • Courage to Act
  • To work in highest order, the ‘Huqam’
  • Challenge the Norm
  • Think Practically, Innovatively, & Independently
  • To Standup, Defend, Care & Serve
  • To Be Inclusive and Accessible
  • To Work Hard and Excel
  • To Do What’s Right
  • Togetherness (Langar)
  • Stand up for liberty, equality, and justice for all

Design in the Lives of the Gurus

Stories of our history provide examples of the practical applications of these characteristics in religious practice, activism, leadership, righteousness, and service to humanity. Let’s take a look at a set of stories.

Sakhi 1: Bhai Lalo and Malik Bhago

During one of the many travels of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He traveled to the city of Saidpur (Eminabad). The stories and words about the Guru had reached many through out the region that he may be visiting the town of which Malik Bhago was the Chief. Malik Bhago was known for gaining much wealth from corrupt means of unfairly taxing the poor farmers and taking the majority of the crop for himself. Leaving the famers will little. When arriving to Saidpur, Guru Nanak, chose the house of a poor carpenter, Bhai Lalo, to stay with. With little means, Bhai Lalo was able to offer only little simple food but much love and devotion. Malik Bhago came to know the Guru is in his town and should join him in a feast. Malik Bhago was offended that Guru Nanak refused to join him. “Oh holy Man, I have prepared so many dishes for you, but you are staying with a poor carpenter and eating his dry bread, why?” The Guru replied, “I cannot eat your food because your bread is ill-begotten and has been made with money sucked from the poor through unfair means, while Lalo’s bread is made from the hard-earned money.” Asked to prove how why he believes this, history shows that Guru Ji squeezed one Chapati by Bhai Lalo and the other from Malik Bhago. Bhai Lalo’s Chapati dripped of milk and Malik Bhago’s dripped blood. For the Malik, his life was changed as he realized his failure and shared his wealth to be reborn. The story presents multiple principles and characteristics when looking closely. First, it shows that truth and love are greater wealth than money and riches. Secondly, our methods matter. Thirdly the through art of conversation and a strong argument. Finally, the most important was courage to speak up against wrong, irrespective the power and status!

Sakhi 2: Guru Hargobind ad 52 Princes

Guru Hargobind was arrested by the Mughal king of the time along with 52 other Indian Princes as prisoners. But due to constant protests from his devotees, the King agreed to release Guru Hargobind from Gwalior jail with conditions. He refused to leave unless all other princes were also released with him to be fair. So the authority decided that anyone that could hold his Guru Ji’s garment would also be able to walk out free along with him. So Guru Hargobind creatively had a robe made with 52 tabs that became quite large. Thus allowing all the 52 princes to hold a tab each. Therefore, they all walked out free along with him. Again showcasing the importance of seeing equality in human beings irrespective of their stature in society, and fearlessness against challenging unjust rule.

Sakhi 3: Guru Hargobind and Guru’s Majeet on the River Beas, Sri Hargobindpur

After a Guru Hargobind Sahib victoriously fought a fierce battle even thought the army was heavily out numbered by the Moghuls near River Beas. The Guru decided to stay a settlement was formed and expanded into a town, which became known as Sri Hargobindpur. The town was fortified to with stand the Moghul invasions such that many of the city walls are still visible today. throughout Sri Hargobindpur in Gurdaspur. People of all faiths came to this town knowing that Guru Hargobind’s desire for a secular town off of the Beas. The local Muslims came to ask Guru Ji for support in building a Masjid (Mosque). Since they their limited numbers and resources. Guru Hargobind was known for his equal view of the people, whether Sikhs, Hindus or Muslims and therefore ordered the construction and handed it to the Muslims. This story is a true example of caring and leading one’s community fairly and equally, irrespective of their faith. He was known to defend, support, and serve all the members in a thriving and cooperative community. Seeing oneness of humanity, first, in all.



Sakhi 4: Equality or Religions, Kashmiri Pandits and Guru Tegh Bahadur  

At the times of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Moghul regime had been making significant efforts to force conversions. One of the communities Kashmiri Pandits was facing force by the Moghuls to convert or face death. They came to Guru Tegh Bahadur to request protection from the Mughal rulers. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, ambition as to make an Islamic country.

Guru Tegh Bahadur had realized that the only way to do this was for him to stand against the Mughal emperor likely would him self killed in the process. Guru Tegh Bahadur suggested the Pandits notify the Emperor they would accept Islam if he could convert the Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadhur foreseeing the risks ahead, selected Gobind Rai as the next Guru to succeed him. On the way to Delhi, Guru Ji was arrested soon after departing at Malikhpur. Together he and Bhai Dayala, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Sati Das were sent Sirhind the following day. The Guru Ji was then kept in detained in Bassi Pathana iron cage from July 1675 and moved in November 1675 to Delhi. He was ordered to be kept in chains and tortured until he accepted Islam. Since Guru Ji didn’t change his position, he was then asked to perform miracle to prove his grace. He refused and therefore was beheaded at Chandni Chowk on 24 November 1675. His followers were also tortured and killed, one by boiling in hot water, the other being cut by a saw, and the third being burning alive. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji came to be known as “Hind Ki Chaddar”, “The Shield of India” for giving up his life to protect the religious freedom of others! This story is story helps us see the value that was given to freedom and liberty of all people, irrespective of their faith or identity. This is likely one of the most powerful examples showcasing the importance of fighting for human rights worthy to give up one’s own life. This is a true sign of one that would care for and be an activist for all the people.

Gurugadi and Compilation of Guru Granth Sahib

The Gurus teachings and selected teachings by Hindus and Muslims were included by the Guru’s themselves. Since we are all on our own journey’s to recognize, the human condition is not perfect and we are always in a fight with the five vices, lending to desire for power and greed over other humans. Therefore blind faith in a human Guru is not necessary because the complete messages were completed into the Granth to provide us the way of life necessary to go forward. A universal message that can be applied then, now and forever for anyone without declaration of association or of a particular tradition. Again showing that humanity is the greater association vs., seeking identification and care of only one.

Additional Thoughts

Throughout Gurbani, the Shabads explain the five vices of the ego that play the greatest challenge in our abilities to be truly effective and serving the greater good vs. only self-gain The five vices of kaam (lust), krodh (rage), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankar (arrogance) are to be overcome, which practically speaking reduces ones own selfishness and rather for greater good of society. That is required in leadership and civic service. At the same time the Gurus also explained the five virtues that are the best of humanity: Sat (Truth), Santok (contentment), Daya (compassion), Nimrata (humility), and Pyaar (love). Together tackling these help the leader be one intended to seek the best for all.

The Guru’s provided us Banis such as in Nitnem that help us be reminded of the basics on a daily basis of the principles and virtues. It resets us to be an in alignment with the teachings beginning the day and ending the day before we shut our eyes.

Sikhi has provided by design the teachings, examples, and tools to allow for the principles to applied to better serve society. Though these sound like common sense principles, these are a unique combination of principles that are needed to lead and serve at at all levels of society for all.


Example: Opportunity and Alignment with American Declaration of Independence

We see through the various levels of leadership and support needed in society from neighborhood leaders, school boards, public servants in City-State- National roles, to be innovators and entpreneurs bringing the best of private and public sector together, and more. There are various forms and opportunities as leaders, civic entrepreneurs, trusted ombudsmen, etc.

Looking at the American Declaration of Independence, we see the practical alignment of the core values, including the right to question the authority and government if it is not in alignment of those values.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


Through examples in Sikh history and recent history concerns and the issues have the same and similar themes again and again over time. These issues could be plugged into the past, today, or in the future, and they are all around the same. Which leads to constant need for social service for freedom, opportunity, equality, and justice.

Sikhi has provided by design the principles for social justice to stand for all men and women to live free and fair lives in which they have the liberty to create their own future justly. The inclusive and unifying views of humanity are key to fundamentally bettering society if applied. There are very few traditions or faiths that promote and accept a multicultural and multi-faith world for healthy and successful unified existence. Guru Nanak gave us the tradition of core principle of courage to stand up for right and the defenseless to always serve through leadership, positions of integrity, and positions of activism.

In North America, Sikhs have been here since 1900s and share the common values and a long heritage of building the nation and its industries. It’s now time for Sikhs to participate more in society at all levels to bring courage, equality, liberty, and justice for all by the principles and virtues provided, selflessly!

Sikhi Is Timeless!

Today the need is great!

Today the opportunity is great for global citizens to serve the world!

Be the Sikhs as they were DESIGNED to be!

By Harbir K Bhatia

Image Credits: Little Sikhs, Google Images, and my own.


About the Author

Harbir is a very active community leader in Santa Clara and Santa Clara County. Her background includes 20 years of Engineering and an even longer history of volunteerism and community development. Today she is a Commissioner with the City of Santa Clara Cultural Commission, Board Member of The Chamber of Commerce, a Rotarian, Library Foundation Board Member, founder of Joy of SEWA, and most recently the CEO of HI5 Youth Foundation, amongst others. Harbir was recognized as a ‘Community Hero’ by the State of California and was given “Women’s Empowerment: Inspiring Achievers Award”.

Through community organizing, she has become known for bringing “Sikh Awareness” in City of Santa Clara and South Bay cities. She hopes to help increase Sikh awareness in other cities, and activate more Sikhs to be community leaders. As she is currently paving ways for Sikh community in Santa Clara.

Aug 072017

ਗਲੋਬਲ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਵਾਲਾ ਧਰਮ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ : ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ

Dr. Jaspal Singh


ਧਰਮ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਦੀ ਪਰੰਪਰਾ ਵਿਚ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦਾ ਆਪਣਾ ਇਕ ਨਿਵੇਕਲਾ ਮੁਕਾਮ ਹੈ। ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀ ਵੱਡੀ ਵਿਲੱਖਣਤਾ ਇਹ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਦਾ ਘੇਰਾ ਬਹੁਤ ਵੱਡਾ ਹੈ। ਉਸ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਹਨ। ਉਸ ਦੇ ਸੰਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਕ੍ਰਿਤੀ ਤੇ ਪਹੁੰਚ ਜਾਹਿਰਾ ਤੌਰ ’ਤੇ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਹੈ। ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਅਧਿਆਤਮਕ ਪਾਸਾਰ ਵਿਚ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਬਾਰੇ ਚਰਚਾ ਪ੍ਰਮੁੱਖਤਾ ਨਾਲ ਸ਼ਾਮਲ ਹੈ।

ਕਈ ਵਾਰ ਇਹ ਸੁਆਲ ਮਨ ਵਿਚ ਉਠਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਕਿਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਰਚਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ। ਕਿਸੇ ਰਚਨਾ ਦੇ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਹੋਣ ਦੀ ਪਛਾਣ ਕੀ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ। ਮੇਰੀ ਸਪਸ਼ਟ ਮਾਨਤਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਜਿਹੜੀ ਰਚਨਾ ਵਿਚ ਮਨੁੱਖ-ਮਨੁੱਖ ਵਿਚਕਾਰ ਖਿੱਚੀਆਂ ਹੱਦ-ਬੰਦੀਆਂ ਤੋੜ ਦੇਵੇ, ਜਿਸ ਰਚਨਾ ਵਿਚ ਹਰ ਲਕੀਰ ਨੂੰ ਪਾਰ ਕਰ ਜਾਣ ਦੀ ਸਲਾਹੀਅਤ ਹੋਵੇ, ਜਿਹੜੀ ਰਚਨਾ ਹਰ ਦੀਵਾਰ ਲੰਘ ਜਾਣ ਦੀ ਸਮਰਥਾ ਰੱਖਦੀ ਹੋਵੇ, ਉਹ ਰਚਨਾ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ। ਫਿਰ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਵਾਲੀ ਰਚਨਾ ਉਹ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ ਜਿਹੜੀ ਸੰਵੇਦਨਸ਼ੀਲ ਹੋਵੇ। ਜਿਹੜੀ ਵਿਆਪਕ ਪੱਧਰ ’ਤੇ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਭਰ ਵਿਚ ਵਸਦੇ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਬਾਰੇ ਖੁੱਲ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਗੱਲ ਕਰਦੀ ਹੋਵੇ। ਸਾਂਝੇ ਤੌਰ ’ਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰ ਮੰਨਦੀ ਹੋਵੇ।

ਰਤਾ ਸੰਜੀਗਦੀ ਨਾਲ ਵਿਚਾਰ ਕਰੀਏ ਤਾਂ ਇਹ ਤੱਥ ਸਪਸ਼ਟ ਰੂਪ ਵਿਚ ਉਭਰ ਕੇ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਆਉਂਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਿਚ ਦਰਜ ਸਮੁੱਚੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਪਾਰਗਾਮੀ ਹੈ। ਉਸ ਦੇ ਪਾਸਾਰ ਅਤੇ ਪਰਵਾਹ ਅੱਗੇ ਹਰ ਹੱਦਬੰਦੀ, ਹਰ ਦੀਵਾਰ ਟੁੱਟਦੀ ਚਲੀ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਸਮੁੱਚੀ ਮਨੁੱਖਤਾ ਦੇ ਦੁਖ-ਦਰਦ ਤੇ ਵੇਦਨਾ ਦੀ ਤਰਜੁਮਾਨੀ ਕਰਦੀ ਹੈ – ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀ ਬਾਣੀ। ਸਾਰਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੇ ਕਲਾਵੇ ਵਿਚ ਲੈ ਲੈਣ ਦਾ ਸੁਭਾਅ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਧੁਰ ਅੰਦਰ ਤਕ ਸਮੋਇਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਪੂਰਾ ਗਲੋਬ ਅਤੇ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਕਾਰ, ਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਵਿਸ਼ਾ-ਵਸਤੂ ਹੈ।

ਮੌਜੂਦਾ ਸਥਿਤੀ ਦੀ ਗੱਲ ਕਰੀਏ ਤਾਂ ਇਕ ਵੱਡੀ ਹਕੀਕਤ ਸਾਡੇ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਹੈ। ਦੁਨੀਆ ਦੀ ਨੁਹਾਰ ਤੇਜ਼ੀ ਨਾਲ ਬਦਲ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ। ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਵਿਸ਼ਵੀਕਰਣ ਦੇ ਨਵੇਂ ਵਰਤਾਰੇ ਨੇ ਦੂਰੀਆਂ ਘਟਾ ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਹਨ। ਪਰ ਹਕੀਕਤ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਇਹ ਪੂਰਾ ਸੱਚ ਨਹੀਂ। ਅਸਲੀਅਤ ਇਹ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਦੂਰੀਆਂ ਵੱਧ ਗਈਆਂ ਹਨ। ਫਾਸਲੇ ਹੋਰ ਵੱਡੇ ਹੋ ਗਏ ਹਨ। ਰਿਸ਼ਤੇ ਟੁੱਟਦੇ ਨਜ਼ਰ ਆ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ। ਤੰਗ-ਦਿਲੀ ਅਤੇ ਬੇਵਿਸ਼ਵਾਸੀ ਵਿਚ ਖਾਸਾ ਵਾਧਾ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਫਿਰ ਦਾਅਵਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਇਕ ਪਿੰਡ ਵਰਗੀ ਬਣ ਗਈ ਹੈ। ਪਰ ਹਕੀਕਤ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਅੱਜ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਦੀ ਤਰਤੀਬ ’ਚੋਂ ਪਿੰਡ ਗਾਇਬ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ। ਸਭਿਆਤਾਵਾਂ ਦੇ ਟਕਰਾਅ (Clash of Civilizations) ਦੀ ਚਰਚਾ ਸਾਰੀ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਵਿਚ ਛਿੜੀ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ। ਬਹੁਤ ਸਾਰੇ ਵਿਚਾਰਕਾਂ ਦਾ ਕਹਿਣਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਨਵੀਂ ਉਭਰ ਰਹੀ ਬਹੁ-ਧਿਰੀ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਵਿਚ ਖ਼ਤਰਨਾਕ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਹੁਣ ਵੱਖ-ਵੱਖ ਸਭਿਆਤਾਵੀ ਹੋਂਦ ਰੱਖਣ ਵਾਲੇ ਲੋਕ-ਸਮੂਹਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਵੱਖ-ਵੱਖ ਬਣਤਰਾਂ ਵਿਚਕਾਰ ਹੋਣ ਦੀ ਸੰਭਾਵਨਾ ਵੱਧ ਗਈ ਹੈ।

ਐਸੀ ਬਿਖੜੀ ਅਤੇ ਟਕਰਾਅ ਵਾਲੀ ਸਥਿਤੀ ਵਿਚ, ਦੁਨੀਆ ਨੂੰ ਇਕ ਨਵੀਂ ਸੇਧ ਦੀ ਲੋੜ ਹੈ। ਮੈਂ ਪੂਰੇ ਵਿਸ਼ਵਾਸ ਨਾਲ ਕਹਿ ਸਕਦਾ ਹਾਂ ਕਿ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਕੋਲ ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹਾ ਸੋਚ-ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧ ਮੌਜੂਦ ਹੈ ਜਿਹੜਾ ਇਹ ਸੇਧ ਦੇਣ ਦੇ ਸਮਰਥ ਹੈ। ਜੱਗ ਜਾਹਿਰ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਬੁਨਿਆਦੀ ਸੁਭਾਅ ਸਦਭਾਵਨਾ ਵਾਲਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਉਸ ਦਾ ਰੁਝਾਨ ਬਹੁਲਵਾਦੀ (Pluralistic) ਹੈ। ਗਲੋਬਲ ਸਰੋਕਾਰਾਂ ਵਾਲੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਕੋਲ ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹਾ ਫ਼ਲਸਫ਼ਾ ਮੌਜੂਦ ਹੈ ਜਿਹੜਾ ਮਨੁੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਬਹੁ-ਧਿਰੀ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਵਿਚ, ਵਿਭਿੰਨਤਾਵਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸਵੀਕਾਰਦਿਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਸਤਿਕਾਰਦਿਆਂ ਹੋਇਆਂ ਜੀਵਨ ਜੀਉਣ ਦੀ ਜਾਚ ਸਿਖਾਉਂਦਾ ਹੈ। ਸਹਿਹੋਂਦ ਵਾਲੇ, ਖੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ-ਡੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਗਲੋਬਲ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਵਾਂਗੂੰ ਵਿਚਰਨ ਦਾ ਸੰਦੇਸ਼ ਦਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ।

Video of Presentation

Body of Paper

Sri Guru Granth Sahib:  Scripture of Global Concerns

All religious scriptures of the world deserve reverence. The message of all scriptures guides our lives in one – way or the other. But there is the least doubt that the place and position of Guru Granth Sahib is singular in the tradition of religious scriptures of the world.

Guru Granth Sahib is the only Holy Scripture in the world which occupies the status of the Guru. It is looked upon by the Sikhs not as only a scripture but as the visible body of the Guru. History tells us that the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in addition to Bani of the Gurus, compiled and edited the collected Bani of Saints and Bhaktas before installing Guru Granth Sahib in Harmandar Sahib for the first time in 1604 A.D. Following this, the Bani of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib was added to the Bir, edited by Guru Arjan Dev, by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh under his own supervision and direction at Damdama Sahib. This Damdami Bir was then installed at Abchal Nagar, Hazoor Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 and was given the exalted status of a Guru for all times to come.

The distinctness of Guru Granth Sahib lies in the fact that its concerns are global. The nature of Bani and its reach is manifestly global. The global concerns are discussed predominantly in the spiritual scope of Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes, a question comes to mind, which composition can be identified as global and what are its essential features. I firmly believe that a global composition is the one which has the capacity to bridge the gap between human beings and the potency to cross all the hurdles and impediments of the world by talking about them in all its candidness.

An in-depth study of the Bani very clearly brings out the fact that it transcends all walls of discriminations and divisions. Every barrier and obstacle caves in before its forceful and spontaneous flow of words. The entire humanity is immersed into its fold. It’s a gateway to resolving all kinds of problems inflicting upon the human society and the whole world and its concerns is the subject-matter of the Bani.

Questions like what is the global scope of Guru Granth Sahib and who is covered in its ambit also come to my mind. Here, the following lines from Asa-Ki-Var, composed by Guru Nanak, seem to me quiet befitting while answering this question:

Purkhan birkhan tirthan tattan meghan khetanh

Dipan loan mandlan khandan varbhandanh

Andaj jeraj utbhujan khani setjanh

So mit janai Nanka sran meran jantah

Nanak jant upai kai samale saabhnah

Jini kartai karna kia chinta bhi karni tah


“Men, trees, holy places,

banks of sacred streams,

clouds and fields, islands, spheres,

universes, continents and solar system.

The sources of creation, egg-born,

womb-born, earth-born and sweat-born

and oceans, mountains and sentient beings;

He, the Lord, knows their condition,

O Nanak, having created the beings,

the Lord takes care of them all.

The Creator, who has created the world.

He takes care of it well.”

    Arti is another beautiful composition of Guru Nanak Dev which is recited in every Sikh shrine. Nothing can be written better than this to depict the whole universe and its creation. These lines reflect the enormous and panoramic wisdom of Guru Nanak:


Gagan main thalu ravi chandu dipak bane

tarika mandal janak moti

Dhup malanlo pawanu chavro kare

sagal banrai phulant joti

Kaisi arti hoi Bhav khandana teri arti

“The sky is Thy salver,

The sun and moon Thy lamps,

The galaxy of stars as pearls scattered.

The woods of sandal are Thine incense,

The forests Thy flowers,

What a beautiful worship is this O Destroyer of fear.”

It is quite obvious from the above facts that the nature and scope of the Bani of Guru Granth Sahib is global and its sensitivity is responsive to all global concerns.


In this paper, I intend to discuss one important issue with reference to the global concerns of Guru Granth Sahib. One of the major concerns of Guru Granth Sahib is religious pluralism in the situation that exists in the world today. In fact, Pluralism has become a key challenge in present globalized world. On one hand, the present globalization has brought the whole world closer together, while on the other hand, the world has become divided and fragmented. Undoubtedly, we are living in an era of possible conflicts and violence. Strengthening religious pluralism and mutual understanding is more important and required than ever before.

In today’s situation what we need is a true pluralistic model which teaches tolerance towards each other, understanding each other and appreciating each other. A model through which we learn to share what is common in our religious philosophies. This is, in fact, the very essence of pluralism.

I am of the opinion that, the message of Guru Granth Sahib is fully capable of giving an affirmative direction to this world facing a grave confrontational situation. It is a crystal clear truth that the quintessence of Bani corresponds to righteousness in a pluralistic society, as it doesn’t cater to any kind of discriminatory tendencies. The followers of Bani also look forward to the emergence of a large, liberal and progressive world.

We have a perfect pluralistic model in the Guru Granth Sahib, which can guide us and give us direction in the present scenario. In this model, different religious traditions and their identities have been given due recognition. The Bani, very emphatically, lays stress on plurality and is quite explicit in accepting the identities of the different religious traditions. Not only this, the Bani of Guru Granth Sahib appreciates and glorifies pluralism and considers the plurality of the world it beauty and strength. Furthermore, the Bani of Guru Granth Sahib shows the way for – how to promote and how to strengthen the process of consolidation of the pluralistic system.


The fifth Guru, Guru Arjan, in one of his hymns in Rag Ramkali, accepting the independent identities of the different religions, has given due recognition to their established and diverse traditions and customs. He says:

Koi bolai raam raam koee khudaae.

Koee sevai gusaeeaa koee alaahe.

Kaaran karan kareem.

Kirpaa dhaar raheem. Rahaao.

Koee naavai teerath koee haj jaae.

Koee karai poojaa koee sir nivaee.

Koee parai bed koee kateb.

Koee odhai neel koee suped.

Koee kahai turrak koee kahai hindoo.

Koee baachhai bhisat koee surgindoo.

Kah Naanak jin hukam pachhaataa.

Prabh sahib kaa tin bhed jaataa.

“One calls Him Ram, another Khuda;

Some call Him Gosain, some Allah.

He is All-powerful, bountiful, beneficent and merciful.

Some go to Hindu bathing-places; some to Mecca;

Some perform Hindu ritual of worship, others bow down in namaz.

Some read the Vedas; others the Koran.

Some wear blue; others white.

Some are called Turk; others Hindu.

Some covet Bohisht, some Swarga.

Saith Nanak, he who has understood God’s commandment,

He alone knows His ways.”

Guru Granth Sahib declares that all religious dispensations are equal and lead to the humanity to salvation. Guru Amardaas, in one of His hymns says:

Jagat jalandaa raakh lai aapnee kirpaa dhaar.

Jit duaarai ubrai titai laih ubaar.

“The world is burning, save it, O Lord,

Out of thy mercy,

Save it through whichever dispensations,

Thou consider best.”

In his Bani, Guru Nanak teaches us how to respectfully accept the identity of all religious denominations. He says:

Nanak wechaaraa kiaa kahai

Sabh lok salaahe eksai,

Sir Nanak lokaa paav hai

Balihaaree jaao jete tere naav hai.


“What can poor Nanak say that is new?

The whole world louds the Sole Lord.

At feet of those uttering Thy names,

Is placed Nanak’s head in reverence.

To all Thy Names am I a sacrifice.”

Let me also quote here a poetic composition of the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, which over-rules differences and divisions among men on the grounds of birth, caste, creed or religious belief and lay emphasis on common fatherhood of God and common brotherhood of man:

Kou bhyo mundia sanyasi, kou jogi bhaio;

Kou brahmchari, kou jati anmanbo.

Hindu turak kou, rafzi immam safi;

Manas ki jaat, sabe ekey pehchnbo.

Karta karim soi, rajak rahim oei;

Dusro na bhed koi bhul bharm manbo.

Ek hi ki sev, sabh hi ko Guru Dev ek;

Ek hi sroop, sabe eke jyot janbo.

“Many believe that they have become superior

by accepting celibacy or undertaking meditation,

by giving up material comforts, or by making

themselves look different, or by wearing matted

hair or no hair.

Others feel higher by joining a

Particular sect of Islam as, Shia, Sunni, etc.

But no one should overlook the basic fact that

followers of all religions are the same human beings.

The Creator of all provides for the needs of all humans.

There is one Lord of all and that

Lord alone should be worshipped.

Do not remain an ignorant and

believe in anyone else

except the one Lord.

All humanity is equal, each one of us carries

the reflection of the Creator in us,

and we are all manifestations of one Creator.” (8)


Another salient feature of Guru Granth Sahib is that its structure is Pluralistic. The exclusivity of Guru Granth Sahib lies in the fact that in addition to the Bani of Gurus, the Bani of Bhaktas has also been included in it. Not only this, their hymns have been given the same degree of esteem as the hymns of the Gurus and this Bani enjoys the same status and reverence for the Sikhs. In fact, the range of contributors in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is quite vast. A contributor belonging to any caste, religion or occupation had the privilege to find space for his hymns in the Granth. He could be a Hindu-Jaidev or a Muslim-Baba Farid, a Brahmin Parmanand or a so-called low caste-Ravidas, Namdev of Maharashtra or Bhagat Kabir of Banaras. Evidently, by including the hymns of Bhaktas belonging to different castes and faiths, the Gurus tried to eradicate the caste system and inculcate the spirit of tolerance among the people.

It can clearly be stated that to incorporate the hymns of Saints and Bhaktas in Guru Granth was a revolutionary step. The decision of the Gurus took the shape of a crusade to give a boost to the concept of religious pluralism in India. From the historical point of view, it can be said that the influence of these Saints and Bhaktas spanned over five centuries and they belonged to different parts and regions, which stand a testimony to the fact that their geographical influence was traversing all boundaries. It should also be noted here that this historical step led to the preservation of precious Bani of Saints and Bhaktas on one hand and on the other added glow and grace to Sikh tradition. Dr. Radhakrishan, observed very aptly, when he says. “A remarkable feature of the Adi-Granth is that it contains the writings of the religious teacher of the Hinduism, Islam etc. This is in consistency with the tradition of India which respects all religions and believes in the freedom of the human spirit.”


This fact should also be clearly understood that Pluralism cannot be confined to knowing each other. Knowing each other’s traditions is also not enough. Having a dialogue between different religious communities is extremely important and necessary for peace and understanding. The days are gone when people of one religion could afford to live as separate religious groups without much interaction with other religious communities. The people of different religions and the people who have faith in different religious philosophies have to live together and are bound to interact with each other. Constructive and meaningful Inter-faith dialogue is a must in the present scenario.

Here, I am reminded of the process of Inter-faith dialogue, which was started by Guru Nanak five centuries ago and of the pluralistic model of Unity in Diversity which emerges out of the Bani of the Gurus and various Bhaktas compiled in Guru Granth Sahib.

Five centuries ago, Guru Nanak initiated inter-faith dialogue to establish the Universal Brotherhood of men. During his travels to Multan, Pakpattan, Haridwar, Kurukshetra, Kashmir, Banaras, Gaya, Rajgir, Puri, Ceylon, Tibet, Mecca, Madina and Bagdad etc, Guru Nanak opened a dialogue with all the existing faiths. He filled the inter-religious void with love, ethical humanism and spirituality for the first time. He approached every religion as his own and presented his own faith and philosophy as everyone’s religion. In all his dialogues with Yogis, Siddhas, Vedantists, Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Buddhists, Jains, Sufis, Mullas, Pandits, etc. Guru Nanak told them that religion is worthless till it joins the main life-current of humanity and implies itself socially and spiritually into mankind. Certainly, Guru Nanak, for the first time, introduced ecumenism in religion and philosophy and brought closer to each other different religions and religious philosophies.

Today Guru Nanak’s philosophy of inter-faith understanding through dialogue is the only approach to attain peace and progress of humanity and Unity in Diversity.


To conclude, once again I would like to reiterate the fact that Guru Granth Sahib is a scripture of Global Concerns. It is also a fact that one of its major concerns, in the present context, is Pluralism. The Bani of Guru Granth Sahib very clearly manifests that Pluralism is the way of life. It teaches us to accept and respect the diversities and always remain in dialogue with others. The message of Guru Granth Sahib is very clear. It can be summed up as – To maintain Pluralism in true spirit and to have meaningful dialogue among different denominations, we must make a commitment:

  1. to accept the identity of others,
  2. to respect the identity of others, and
  3. to protect the identity of others.

It is worth mentioning here what the noted historian Arnold Toynbee

has written about the everlasting important message of Guru Granth Sahib. He says- “Mankind’s religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Guru Granth, will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world.”

About the Author

Dr. Jaspal Singh is the former Indian High Commissioner to Mozambique and Swaziland and former Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala

Dr. Jaspal Singh held the post of Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University Patiala, India from 2007 to 2017. During his tenure, the University established a number of new institutions: Women’s Study Centre, Academic Staff College, Baba Farid Centre for Sufi Studies; Centre for Diaspora Studies; Centre for Census Studies and Research; Sophisticated Instrumentation Centre; a monumental Media Centre; and School of Social Sciences. The overall development of Punjabi, language, literature and culture has been the major thrust area with launching of Punjabipedia on the lines of Wikipedia, All-India and Regional Punjabi Conferences, and Mission Punjabi-2020 as the highlighting factors.

Dr. Jaspal Singh has authored five highly acclaimed books on Sikh religion, Sikh politics and Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He has authored over 300 articles on Medieval literature with particular focus on Sikh scriptures including Guru Granth Sahib.

The Sahitya Akademi, Government of India, has bestowed the prestigious Bhasha Sanman on Dr. Jaspal Singh in recognition of his significant contribution to the classical and medieval literature in 2015. He has been awarded several other fellowships and awards (too many to list) by government and private academic and literary organizations.

Aug 072017

Living in alignment with Hukam (Hukam rajaaee chalnaa)

Dr. Inder Mohan Singh


In Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev Ji asks how can we achieve union with the Divine and tear away the veil of illusion, and provides the answer – by living in harmony with the Divine Hukam  “Kiv sachiara hoeeai — hukam rajai chalna Nanak likhya naal”. We will look what Hukam, the Divine Will or Command, is and how we can live our lives In harmony with Hukam.


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Living in alignment with Hukam (Hukam rajaaee chalnaa)

Dr. Inder Mohan Singh

In Japji Sahib, near the beginning , Guru Nanak Dev Ji asks “Kiv sachiaara hoeeai – How can we achieve union with the Divine or the True One?” and He gives us the anwer “hukam rajaai chalnaa, Nanak likhia naal – Walk in the Hukam, which is inscribed within us, within all creation.”

Let us look at what is Hukam, and what does it mean to walk in alignment with the Hukam. How do we become sachiaara, or one with Truth? How do we achieve that state of union with the True One, with Waheguru, through hukam rajaaee chalna?

The word hukam means a command or edict. In the relgious context it is often translated as Divne Will or Commandment. Hukam also refers to the System or Framework ordained by the Creator under which everything in the universe operates. Gurbani tells us that everything is under His Hukam – nothing happens outside Hukam.

ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ [SGGS Japji M1 p1]
Everything operates under His Hukam, nothing is outside of Hukam.

ਜਿਉ ਜਿਉ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਤਿਵੈ ਤਿਉ ਹੋਵਣਾ ॥ [SGGS M5 p523]
As is Your Hukam, so will every thing will happen

ਸਗਲ ਸਮਗ੍ਰੀ ਤੁਮਰੈ ਸੂਤ੍ਰਿ ਧਾਰੀ ॥ [SGGS M5 p 268]
ਤੁਮ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਆਗਿਆਕਾਰੀ ॥

Everything in all of creation is strung on the thread of Your Hukam, and since it all comes from You it is obedient to Your Hukam

We can try to describe Hukam and talk about it, as we are doing here, but ultimately Hukam is beyond our ability to fully understand or describe. Like Waheguru Himself His Hukam is incomprehensible — agam and agochar.

ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੋਵਨਿ ਆਕਾਰ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥   [SGGS M1 p1]
By His Command, all beings are created; His Command cannot be described.

ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਪੀ ਕੇਤੜਾ ਕਹਿ ਨ ਸਕੀਜੈ ਕਾਰ ॥   [SGGS M1 p18]
No one knows how great the Hukam of His Command is; no one can describe His actions.

His Hukam cannot be fully described in words, however the Guru shows us how to walk on the Gurmat path in alignment with His Will.

There is a common image of God as a human like figure, a kind of puppeteeer, who is directing and micromanaging everything in the Universe. I like to think of Hukam more as a framework or system under which everything in the universe operates. This includes the laws of nature, which scientists have been studying for a long time, and which they are progressively understanding more and more. But beyond the laws of nature His Hukam is manifested through spiritual laws, which are the focus of Gurbani and other religious scriptures.

In Japji again Guru Nanak tells us:

ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥ [SGGS M1 p3]
ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥
You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word!
And hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow.

We can think of the Kavao or Word as the Divine Hukam or the expression by God of these laws of nature and the spiritual laws. Everything flows from the one Word or Hukam.

Scienists has discoveed over the centuries that there are certain laws underlying all the different phenomena we see in nature. While we have progressively learnt more and more, we still understand only a tiny fraction of all the wonders of His creation. There is much more that science still cannot address or explain. It is important to remember that anything that science does discover is a part of His Hukam, a reflection of His awesome glory and of the wonders of His creation.

Looking at all the myriad living beings including human beings, they are all created by Him under His Hukam. But the way I understand it, He did not just command each one into existense, as the proponents of “Intelligent Design” and others would have you believe; instead He produced all this incredible world of myriad creatures through the laws of nature, through the fascinating process of evoution, along with the underlying processses of physics, biochemisty and genetics. Just consider at the complexity and power of the eye, or the brain. All of these have been created through the basic laws of nature, including evolution. So there really is no contradiction between religion and evolution, or science in general.

If you look at the universe, not only is it incredible that there all these galaxies, stars and planets, but the whole process through which they have been created starting with the big bang is awe inspiring. There is so much beauty in how all this can happen from a few basic laws. You can almost feel spiritual reading about all the incredible discoveries that scientists have been making about the universe if you recognize that it is all a part of His creation, His Hukam.

ਕਰਤੇ ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਮੁਸਤਾਕੁ ॥ [SGGS M 5 p 724]

O Creator, beholding your creation, I am filled with love for you.

Gurbani also tells us that Waheguru is the Master of countless universes (kot brahmand ko thakur swami), and that he constantly creates and destroys universes. Many physicists are now speculating about the multiuniverse, and of bubble universes popping in and out of existense.

The laws of nature are only one part of His Hukam that we can see and talk about. There is a whole other universe of spiritual laws which are also a part of His Hukam and which are the subject of Gurbani. For example, Gurbani talks about the law of dharma, whereby each of us is judged and held accountable for our actions, and we reap the results of the actions that we sow. It also tells us about the path of naam simran and bhagti that we should follow. Gurbani also describes how God takes care of his devotees or bhagats :

ਅਉਖੀ ਘੜੀ ਨ ਦੇਖਣ ਦੇਈ ਅਪਨਾ ਬਿਰਦੁ ਸਮਾਲੇ ॥
ਹਾਥ ਦੇਇ ਰਾਖੈ ਅਪਨੇ ਕਉ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਪ੍ਰਤਿਪਾਲੇ ॥੧॥   [SGGS M5 p662]
The word birad is often translated as His innate nature but we can think of it as His way, one of His spiritual laws. According to this spiritual law, He watches over those who reach a certain stage of bhagti,

These are just a few examples of His spiritual laws given in Gurbani. Waheguru is the creator of these physical and spiritual laws, but He is not limited by them. He is beyond all limits and transcends these laws. He is not arbitrary or whimsical – He is just, kind and forgiving. If His Will appears to be unfair or mean, it is our limited understanding

ਪੂਰਾ ਨਿਆਉ ਕਰੇ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥       [SGGS M5 p 199]
The Creator administers true justice. And

ਤੁਮ ਕਰਹੁ ਭਲਾ ਹਮ ਭਲੋ ਨ ਜਾਨਹ ਤੁਮ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥   [SGGS M5 p 513]
What You do is always good, but we do not understand and appreciate it. You are always kind and compassionae.

What does it mean to live in alignment with Hukam or hukam rajaai chalna? There are two major aspects of Hukam Rajaaee Chalnaa – one is Hukam manana or joyful acceptance of whatever happens as His Hukam, and the other is understanding and living our lives according to His Hukam or Hukam kamaana.

What do we mean by that? Guru Nanak Ji says Hukam rajaaee chalna Nanak likhia naal. What does the Guru mean by likhia naal ? The universal Divine Hukam is writen deep within each one of us. However, we cannot understand it because we are separated from our true reality by our haumai – the strong sense of a separate identiy, often translated as ego. As we progress spiritually this universal Divine Hukam within ourselves is what we start to discover and to follow in our lives. Gurbani instructs us about this Hukam even when we are not yet at the stage where we can understand this Divine Hukam on our own. In other words, Gurbani is Hukam, in a form that is accesible to us. It tells how we should live our lives to achieve union with the Divine. So this aspect of Hukam rajaaee chalnaa is understanding and following the Divine Hukam as given to us by the Gurus in Gurbani – Hukam bujhnaa and Hukam kamaana.

Bhana mananaa

Let us take a closer look at the first aspect of Hukam – bhaana mananaa. What that means is to realize that everything heppens in His Hukam and to cheerfully accept whatever occurs as His Will.

ਜੋ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸਾਈ ਭਲੀ ਕਾਰ ॥ [SGGS M1 p. 4]

Whatever pleases you is good, and..

ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ [SGGS M 5 p.394]

Whatever You cause to happen is sweet to me.

We do have to be fully engaged in life and do our best, but at the same time we have to accept whatever happens as His Hukam. Even in the face of misfortune, we have to keep our faith and remain in Chardi Kalaa. The most inspiring example of bhaana manana is that of Guru Arjan Dev Ji who underwent the most horrific torture and still declared “tera keea meetha llagai”.

An important part of livng in Hukam is recognizing that everything is His Hukam and celebrating it and accepting it joyously. This is part of expressing our devotion and love for Him.

ਸੋਈ ਕਰਣਾ ਜਿ ਆਪਿ ਕਰਾਏ ॥   [SGGS M 5 p 108]
ਜਿਥੈ ਰਖੈ ਸਾ ਭਲੀ ਜਾਏ ॥
ਸੋਈ ਸਿਆਣਾ ਸੋ ਪਤਿਵੰਤਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਲਗੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥

The Gurmukh not only accepts the Divine Will, but considers it to be sweet – Hukam lagai jis meetah jio.

It is easy to talk about accepting His Will, but it can be really hard to actually do so in practice. As Guruji tells us
ਤੇਰਾ ਮਹਲੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੈ ਭਾਣਾ ॥   [SGGS M5 p 1186]
Your Mansion is imperceptible, O my Beloved; it is so difficult to accept Your Will.

Even when we are trying to do the right thing, and putting in our best effort, things don’t always work out the way we want.

ਤੂੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰਣਾ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਾ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥   [SGGS Rehras M1 p469]
He is doing what He wills; what I attempt may or may not work. But I have to try and then cheerfully accept the result. We must have faith that what happens in His Hukam is for the best

ਤੁਮ ਕਰਹੁ ਭਲਾ ਹਮ ਭਲੋ ਨ ਜਾਨਹ ਤੁਮ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥   [SGGS M5 p 613]
We know Waheguru is compassionate, we know he is just. So whatever He does is for the best, even though we may not realize it. However, bhaana mananaa is not to be confused with resignation or fatalism. Gurbani tells us to do our udam, to make our best effort to do the right things. Looking at the lives of the Gurus, we see that they didn’t just accept injustice and tyranny as His Will, they resisted and fought against it, often at great personal sacrifice.

When we talk about bhanaa manana, acepting His Will, we usually refer to how to deal with misfortune, when things go wrong. But both bad and good things, dukh and sukh, happen in His Will.

ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਇ ਦਰਿ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਮਨੁਖ ॥ [SGGS M1 p.149]
Pleasure and pain are the two garments given, to be worn in the Court of the Lord.

Sukh and Dukh, good and bad fortune, happiness and suffering are all His gifts

ਜੇ ਸੁਖੁ ਦੇਹਿ ਤ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਅਰਾਧੀ ਦੁਖਿ ਭੀ ਤੁਝੈ ਧਿਆਈ ॥੨॥   [SGGS M4 p 757]
ਜੇ ਭੁਖ ਦੇਹਿ ਤ ਇਤ ਹੀ ਰਾਜਾ ਦੁਖ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੂਖ ਮਨਾਈ ॥੩॥
If You will bless me with happiness, then I will worship and adore You. Even in pain, I will meditate on You. ||2||
Even if You give me hunger, I will still feel satisfied; I am joyful, even in the midst of sorrow. ||3||

We have to remember Him both in moments of pain, and of happiness.

Hukam is not just accepting misfortune, it is also celebrating when good things happen. When something bad happens, we say oh well it is God’s Will. We are effectively blaming Him but saying that we have no choice but to accept it, or perhapsto to pray to Him. When good things happen, we often take the credit for them – we believe that it is the result of our hard work, or our smarts, etc. or else we just take them for granted. It is important to remember that good things also happen in His Will. They are an opportunity to celebrate all our blessings and to remember Him and practice gratitude. If we just pause and reflect on all our blessings, we realize there is so much to be grateful for.

Beyond Bhaana mananaa or accepting the Divine Will, is Hukam kamaana, obeying or living according to Hukam. It is following the teachings of the Gurus and the Universal Divine Hukam deep within ourselves, and living our whole life according to this Hukam.

When the Guru asks kiv sachiaara hoiai, is it possible to become become one with the True One, with Waheguru, just by acceptance alone? The Guru is talking about more than bhaana mananaa, or accepting His Will. He is talking about being in alignment with the Divine Hukam, about living the Hukam.

ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਮੀਤ ਚਲਹੁ ਗੁਰ ਚਾਲੀ ॥   [SGGS M4 p667]
ਜੋ ਗੁਰੁ ਕਹੈ ਸੋਈ ਭਲ ਮਾਨਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਥਾ ਨਿਰਾਲੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
O Sikhs of the Guru, O friends, walk on the Guru’s Path.
Do as the Guru tells you – His message is wonderful.

The teachings of Gurbani can be said to cover two broad areas – one is spiritual or our relationship with the Divine — the path of Naam. The other is ethics or how we relate and act towards one another – our achaar.

ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥   [SGGS M5 p266]
ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
Of all religions, the best religion
Is to chant the Name of the Lord and maintain pure conduct.

It is clear that both spirituality and ethics have to go hand in hand. The practice of paath, kirtan and naam simran helps to overcome our haumai and cleanses us of our evil tendencies. But if we go through the motions of chanting Waheguru, Waheguru, doing kirtan and paath, but cotinue to cheat, be mean to others, or act in pride and anger, we are not going to make any spiritual progress. Our spiritual life has to be reflected in our actions. Otherwise we are trying to fool Waheguru, or ourselves.

Now, Hukam and Naam are closely related. Both words often refer to the all pervading Divine presence or jot that underlies everything.

ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥
The One Name is the Lord’s Command; O Nanak, the True Guru has given me this understanding. ||5||

ਹੁਕਮੁ ਜਿਨਾ ਨੋ ਮਨਾਇਆ ॥   [SGGS M1 p 72]

ਤਿਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਵਸਾਇਆ ॥

Those, whom God causes to abide by His Will,

Have the Shabad of His Word abiding deep within.

In other words, living in Hukam is to be in tune with Naam. Recognizing Hukam and living in alignment with Hukam helps to overcome Haumai, which is the biggest obstacle to Naam

ਹਉਮੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਵਿਰੋਧੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਇ ਨ ਵਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਠਾਇ ॥ [SGGS M3 p 560]

Haumai and Naam are essentially opposites. We cannot achieve Naam without overcoming our Haumai. At the same time, living in Hukam is the way to conquer Haumai.

ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੈ ਜੇ ਬੁਝੈ ਤ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੨॥   [SGGS M1 p1]
O Nanak, one who understands His Hukam, does not speak in haumai. ||2||

ਹੁਕਮੁ ਮੰਨਹਿ ਤਾ ਹਰਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥   [SGGS M3 p 560]
If you submit to the Hukam of the Lord’s Command, then you shall meet with the Lord; only then will your ego depart from within. ||Pause||

The ethical message of Gurbani includes overcoming our haumai and our evil tendencies – kaam, krodh, lobh, moh an ahankar (lust, anger, greed, unealthy attachment and pride) and all the other evil tendencies that come out of them – hatred, violence, cruelty, dishonesty. Additionally, there are the positive qualities or guns that we have to inculcate including Sat (Truth), Santokh (contentment), Daya (compassion), Dharam (doing one’s duty), Parupkar (altruism) and khima (forgiveness).

An important point to note is that Gurbani gives us a set of key ethical values, not a list of do’s and don’ts such as the ten commandments of Christianiy, the sharia law of Islam, or the karma kand of Hinduism. Such core ethical values are universal and timeless, while the do’s and don’ts of morality are often driven by cultural and historic context and they tend to be specific to a time and place. What people think of as morality differs from one group to another and this often leads to conflict and confusion. One group says “We cannot do this because my religion says so” and another group says “but my relgion says this instead”. Most people can, on the other hand, largely agree on the core values advocated by Gurbani.

As we discussed earlier, ethics and spirituality are intimately connected. One key guiding princple of our achaar or how we treat others is to recognize the Divine Light in all. We must treat everyone with respect and kindness because each one is a child of the same Creator.

ਨਾ ਕੋ ਬੈਰੀ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਗਾਨਾ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਮ ਕਉ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ ॥੧॥ [SGGS M5 p.1299]
…. ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਰਵਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਏਕੈ ਪੇਖਿ ਪੇਖਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਗਸਾਈ ॥੩॥੮॥
Guru Arjan Dev Ji says I do not see any enemy or stranger, and he goes on to add that he sees the same Divine Light pervading all.

Similarly in this shabad bhagat Kabeer Ji sees everything originating in the One Divine Light, so we should not judge any one as good or bad:

ਅਵਲਿ ਅਲਹ ਨੂਰੁ ਉਪਾਇਆ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕੇ ਸਭ ਬੰਦੇ ॥   [SGGS Kabeer p 1349]
ਏਕ ਨੂਰ ਤੇ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਉਪਜਿਆ ਕਉਨ ਭਲੇ ਕੋ ਮੰਦੇ ॥੧॥
First, Allah created the Light; then, by His Creative Power, He made all mortal beings.
From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad? ||1||
ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਨੈ ਸੁ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਨੈ ਬੰਦਾ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੩॥
The last line emphasizes that realizing the Divine Hukam we see the One in everyone, which is, again, the basis of how we should treat each other.

Free Will and Choice

One question that frequently comes up in the context of Hukam is the age old issue of determinism versus free will and choice.

According to Gurbani, everything is under His Hukam, we have no power on our own..

ਮੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਕਰਿ ਹੈ ਰਾਮੁ ਹੋਇ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥੪॥ [SGGS Kabeer p 1165]

ਤੂੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰਣਾ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਾ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ [SGGS M1 p 469]
You are the Creator Lord; I can do nothing. Even if I try, nothing happens. ||1

ਕੀਤਾ ਕਰਣਾ ਸਰਬ ਰਜਾਈ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਚੈ ਜੇ ਕਰਿ ਸਕੀਐ ॥
ਆਪਣਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਜਿਉ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਉ ਰਖੀਐ ॥੧॥
ਮੇਰੇ ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਤੇਰੈ ਵਸਿ ॥
ਅਸਾ ਜੋਰੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਜੇ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਮ ਸਾਕਹ ਜਿਉ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਵੈ ਬਖਸਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ [SGGS M4 p.736]
All that happens, and all that will happen, is by His Will. If we could do something by ourselves, we would.
By ourselves, we cannot do anything at all.

At the same time, Gurbani repeatedly tells us to make the right choices:

We are enjoined to walk on the path shown by the Guru. We have to do our paath and naam simran. As discussed earlier we must overcome our haumai, avoid evil and control kaam, krodh etc. and practice good achaar, exercise compassion, do parupkaar and seva and so on.

ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰੇਦਿਆ ਜੀਉ ਤੂੰ ਕਮਾਵਦਿਆ ਸੁਖ ਭੁੰਚੁ ॥

ਧਿਆਇਦਿਆ ਤੂੰ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਮਿਲੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਉਤਰੀ ਚਿੰਤ ॥੧॥ [SGGS Guru Arjan p. 15]

We have to make an effort to practice the teachings of Gurbani, do naam simran, and we will achieve union with God and all our anxieties and worries will be removed.

We are also told that we are held accountable for our actions, that we reap the results of what we sow through our actions both good and bad.

ਦਦੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੇਊ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਕਰੰਮਾ ਆਪਣਿਆ ॥

ਜੋ ਮੈ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੀਜੈ ਅਵਰ ਜਨਾ ॥ (SGGS M1 p. 433).

Clearly, Gurbani asks us to make the right choices and to do the udam or take the initiative and make a serious effort to follow through on the Guru’s teachings.

If God is directing everything and we do not have any real control over our actions, then why should we even bother to try?

How do we address this conundrum?

We have to realize that in any case, our choices are highly constrained. We have no control over our DNA which determines much of our personality and plays a big role in how we act in a given situation. We do not choose our parents or how the DNA from the mother and father is combined to generate our DNA. Furthermore, the environment in which we grow up also impacts who we are. The actions we can take are also limited by the external situations we face as we make our choices.

Nevertheless, it is my understanding, that I do have to make the right choices and take responsibility for my actions and try to follow the Guru’s teachings. At the same time, I must see it all as a part of His Hukam. My ability to do anything, including acting according to the Guru’s teachings, is through His blessing and I should be grateful. If things don’t work out as I intend, I also have to accept that as His Hukam.


About the Author

Dr. Inder M. Singh is the Chairman of Chardi Kalaa Foundation, and has served on the boards of several Sikh non profit organizations including SALDEF and Sikh Foundation.
He is the Chairmanof Lynx Software Technologies and was CEO until 2006. He founded Excelan, and served as its chairman, CEO and president.. He was a co-founder of Kalpana, one of Cisco’s early acquisitions. Dr. Singh has served on the boards of several high-tech companies.. He holds Ph.D. and M.Phil. degrees in computer science from Yale University, an MSEE from Polytechnic Institute of New York, and B. Tech (Hons) in Electronics from IIT, Kharagpur.