The recent launch of the Sikh Channel, has brought to every home, recent trends in the Sikh faith; beautiful kirtan, katha or sermons and inspirational interviews on the concepts of the Sikh faith. The launch was such a great joy and thrill to everyone.
The thought of an acronym for the word Sikh crossed my mind several times but no words were befitting it; different words of values and attributes were seeping through my mind. I switched over to the Sikh Channel, and there appeared on the Sikh Channel, the effervescent Bhai Guruka Singh Khalsa Ji, who started rolling out the acronym of SIKH: S for Spirituality, I for Individuality, K for Knowledge and H for humility which I thought just fits the bill nicely!
This inspired me to focus on the four aspects of the acronym and I
thought I might share my views and opinion of others with the readers.
The word Sikh goes back to the Sanskrit word ‘shishya’ meaning a learner or disciple; the word has different spelling as sikkha or siksa meaning a pupil or one under training in a religious doctrine. According to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 passed by the Punjab legislature: “Sikh means a person who professes the Sikh religion”. The Act further provides that in case of doubt, a person shall be deemed to be a Sikh if he subscribes to the following declaration without any regard to caste or ethnicity: “I solemnly affirm that I am a Sikh, that I believe in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, that I believe in the Ten Gurus, and that I have no other religion.”
The Sikh believes in the unity of God, the Creator who is formless and eternal, transcendent and all-pervasive. The popular Sikh formula for upright living is naam japna, kirat karni and vand chhakna (constant remembrance of God’s Name, earning one’s livelihood through honest labour and sharing with others.)
Spirituality is about having a deep-seated sense of meaning and purpose in life, together with a sense of belonging. It is all about acceptance, integration and wholeness of one’s personality, which tend to be affected in the face of emotional problems. There are an abundance of definitions, but the definition that seems most apt to me describes spirituality thusly:
The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the Universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes especially into focus in times of emotional stress, loss, bereavement, death and physical and mental problems. According to WHO, spirituality is categorised under four headings: transcendence, personal relationship, codes to live by and specific beliefs; this involves connectedness to one’s spiritual being or inner life force which gives meaning to life, wholeness and integration, divine love, inner peace, serenity, harmony, inner strength, hope, optimism and control over one’s life.
Personal relationships demand kindness to others, selflessness, acceptance of others and forgiveness. The teachings and practices of the Sikh faith strive for spirituality within the spirit of selfless service to others and by doing so without any recognition nor reward and carried out in a humble way.
Some of the spiritual values of honesty, courage, patience (unhurriedness,) tolerance, compassion, kindness, generosity, joy, hope and love are advocated by the Sikh faith and without doubt extend to other faiths as well. The strands of the values are the same but interwoven in such away to ensure that such values are upheld and are in practice.
Spirituality may also include the development of the individual’s inner life through practices such as meditation and prayer, including the experience of the presence of God, the supernatural, a divine influence, or the understanding of what happens after physical death.
Those who speak of spirituality outside religion often identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and generally believe in the existence of many “spiritual paths” (denying that there is an objectively definable best path to follow). Such people often emphasise the importance of finding one’s individual path to the Divine.
If spirituality is understood as the search for, or the development of, inner peace or the foundations of happiness, then spiritual practice of some kind is essential for personal well being. This activity may or may not include belief in supernatural beings. If one has such a belief and feels that one’s relationship to such beings is the foundation of happiness then spiritual practice will be pursued on that basis: if one has no such belief, spiritual practice is still essential for the management and understanding of thoughts and emotions which otherwise prevent happiness. Many techniques and practices have been developed and explored in religious contexts and are immensely valuable in themselves as skills for managing aspects of the inner life and contributing to one’s well-being.
Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a unique person possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. As commonly used, individual refers to a person or to any specific object in a collection. Individuality is shaped by nurture and nature and the combination of both factors influences the character and inner attributes of the individual; it also sets the values, beliefs and his interaction with the others. Sikhs have their own individuality with their belief system, thinking of Guru Ji within the responsibility of the grihasti or householder and fostering goodwill, brotherhood, equality, tolerance and to serve others. Sikhs have unique individuality and we must all have heard of the never-die spirit of the Sikhs which exemplifies the virtues of the Sikh consciousness. Individuality of the Sikh is shaped by the unique culture, traditions and the belief system propagated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his successors. Each individual has a unique gift to bring to the earth and a unique work to deliver. We are each a flower in the garden of God; uniquely beautiful yet even more beautiful when together with others.
Knowledge is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate. But there is a deeper level to knowledge that comes not by study alone, but through experience.
Knowledge or Gian is acquired through the mental faculties of cognition (process of knowing) and affection (affective process pertaining to feelings and emotions. Gian or knowledge is divided into two categories: ‘Paragian’ meaning higher or spiritual knowledge (i.e., the understanding of how the universe works) and a’paragian’ meaning lower or worldly knowledge. Gian leads to the awareness and the understanding of the Ultimate Reality. Knowledge enlightens human minds and eradicates the darkness of ignorance. The Sikh faith advocates spiritual knowledge and such knowledge is acquired by listening to Naam or God’s Name, having faith in it, internalising it with love and delving deeper into the inner recesses of one’s mind through reason, contemplation and meditation. That the jewel of Gian or understanding of the Ultimate Reality lies within one’s self and may be experienced by Grace. Faith has of course been prescribed as essential, but emphasis is also on contemplation and reason (veechar). Another crucial factor in the attainment of Gian is the Guru’s Bani whose words and whose favour are the key to true understanding. Knowledge of the History of the Ten Gurus, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the company of the devoted congregation (Sadhsangat) is also highly commended in the attainment of Gian. Mere intellectualism and sophistry are on the other hand, decried as useless wrangling detrimental to body and mind (SGGS Page 230). Possesser of the highest Gian, the Brahamgiani is highly praised by Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Sukhmani Sahib, The Psalms of Peace and is even equated with God Himself.
Humility:The term “humility” is derived from the Latin word “humilitas”, a noun related to the adjective “humilis”, translated not only as “humble”, but also alternatively as “low”, or “from the earth”, and “humus”, humid. Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasised in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the motion is often made more precise and extensive. Humility as a religious or spiritual virtue is different from the act of humiliation or shaming though the former may follow as a consequence of the latter.
Humility is a deep aspect of Sikhism preached as Nimrata. According to Sikh faith all have to bow in humility before God; paying obeisance to the Living Guru. The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure. With Humility they continue to meditate on the Lord, the Treasure of excellence. The God-conscious being is steeped in humility. One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility. The Sikh faith describes humility as one’s begging bowl before God. Guru Nanak, Founder of the Sikh faith said:
Make contentment your ear-rings, humility your begging bowl, and meditation the ashes you apply to your body. (SGGS Page 4)
Listening and believing with love and humility in your mind (SGGS Page 6).
In the realm of humility, the Word is Beauty. (SGGS Page 8).
Modesty, humility and intuitive understanding are my mother-in-law and father-in-law (SGGS Page 152).
There are many more aspects covered in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on humility which our Sikh Gurus demonstrated by their conduct and by example; one just has to emulate this quality. Humility is a natural outcome of the experience of the immanent presence of the Infinite.
Here is an analogy to help you understand the nature of humility, using the common spiritual metaphor of a drop of water falling into the ocean and thereby becoming one with the ocean. If the drop were to say: “I am the ocean”, its assertion would not be false pride, because the drop has indeed merged completely into the water of the ocean, thereby becoming one with it. However, if the drop were to say: “I am the best damn drop that has ever merged into the ocean”, then perhaps it would not be such a humble drop. So, be a humble drop of water. As Kirpal Singh says: “When the light of humility dawns on the soul, the darkness of selfishness disappears and the soul no longer lives for itself, but for God. The soul loses itself in God, lives in God, and is transformed into Him.” This is the alchemy of humility. It transforms the lowest into the highest.
Humility is considered an important virtue in Taoism. The following quote describes how a wise person should see his accomplishments, according to the Tao Te Ching (77.4) “a wise person acts without claiming the results as his. He achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority. “
and…. “The worst leaders are feared by the people. The next best leaders are obeyed by the people. But when the best leaders finish their work, the people all say, ‘we did it ourselves.'”
Humble words from great thinkers and food for thought:
Those who aspire to greatness must humble themselves – Lao Tzu.
It was pride that changed angels to devils; it is humility that makes men angels – St Augustine.
The tree laden with fruit always bends low – Ramakrishna.
For the Sikh to remain in chardi kala (high spirits) he has to be spiritual and have the values of compassion, love, kindness and humility; the individual has to have the good attributes and values of a firm individuality full of spiritual knowledge to achieve bliss within himself. In addition to the above attributes, one lives humbly and serves the community without seeking any recognition (nishkam sewa.)
That is the beauty and marvel of being a unique SIKH. It is Sikh by choice and not by force.
Acknowledgments: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Sikhism – Panjabi University, and Spirituality for Dummies by Sharon Jarvis.
Daljit Singh [email protected]