Why Sikhi is not a Religion

The fact is, everyone is born a Sikh, because everyone is born to learn and understand reality....

"Jesus came and left. Moses came and left. Guru Nanak came and left. Mohammed came and left. Everybody left, but nobody left. They all said the same thing, and they continue saying the same thing. They goaded people, they guided people, they climbed mountains, gave this sermon and that sermon, gave this counsel and that counsel. It is all cataloged and nothing has changed. Neither they have stopped trying nor have you stopped listening. It is a tug of war. Everybody has said the same thing from time immemorial to now. You have two ears, yet neither have you listened nor are you willing to listen.

"God told Guru Gobind Singh, 'Go and establish a path of righteousness. Let the human Worship the Undying Being, The Akaal Purkh, not the dying being.' Jesus said not to worship idols yet I have never seen a single church where he is not hanging on the cross outside. Is that not an idol? Moses said to love all and worship one God, yet Jews feel they are the special chosen beings and everybody else is out. The Hindus were told to see God in everything. Their God is in their temple, sleeps at a certain time and gets up at a certain time. Otherwise everything goes berserk. That is the hypocrisy of religion."

-Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji - 1977

What is a Sikh? It is a very simple thing. “Sikh” means student. A student of what? A student of life. One who is here on this earth to learn how the universe works. The fact is, everyone is born a Sikh, because everyone is born to learn and understand reality. Some become Christians, some become Jews, some become Buddhists, some pretend that they are Sikhs, and a very few remain true Sikhs.

We begin life outside the womb suckling at our mother’s breast… suckling at the breast of all life. We are the most perfect student. Merged with the One teacher... utterly receptive. All knowledge flows into us spontaneously from the source of all life. The goal of this human life is to return to that state... to become consciously conscious that we have a consciousness, and to know that that consciousness is One with the Universal consciousness.

We completely misunderstand the word ‘religion.’ It comes from the Latin ‘ligare’ which means to tie or fasten. It is the same root as the word ligature or ligament. It means to be connected, tied. Doesn’t that remind you of the word ‘yoga’ which means to tie or yoke? To most of us a religion is set of beliefs and practices. But just as yoga is not a set of postures but a state of being – the state of union with the One – so the actual meaning of religion is to experience that state of being connected or tied to the One – to our origin and our Infinity.

But the concept of religion has degenerated from the experience of union into a business where middlemen can collect money from people who want to know the truth of their own existence.  It is a sham. It is a lie. The entire Piscean Age was built upon this lie: that you are separate from God and that you need someone else to intervene for you with that God who is “up there” so that you can be delivered from sin and redeemed. But actually the concept of redemption is also not understood. Again from the Latin ‘redimere,’ it means to buy back again, to regain possession of what one has sold or lost. So what are we talking about?  The soul has taken birth in this human form to attach itself back to the Infinity.  Each of us is a part of God.  The part of God in us is called the soul. So, we are here to merge with the totality.  We are already One with God.  We have simply forgotten. The experience of remembering is what we call redemption. It is regaining the knowledge, with which we were all born, that we are one with the One.

All ‘religions’ are of the past. In the future, there will be no such thing as religion. The concept of middlemen: priests and rabbis, etc. will seem absurd. Each of us will stand as sovereign spiritual, self-sensory human beings consciously connected in the web of all existence.

“People will be open, straight, simple, and their beauty will be internal, not external. Men and women are going to reach out to each other with dignity, devotion, and an elevated loftiness of self. The beauty of the human character will be so bewitching, that not only will the ones who are willing become realized, but also their realization will be so profound that no destructive temptation by another person will be able to work. The Age of Aquarius will be the age of experience in which people of experience will be liked, respected, worshipped, talked to, and understood. It's not a matter of how old you are or how young you are or how white or how black you are. It is the fact that there is nothing more beautiful, more worthy, or more conscious than you.”
Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji, August 1, 2000 (The Self Sensory Human)

So what’s with wearing turbans and all that stuff? It looks like a religion, but actually it is a technology. It is the technology of the future.

During most of the time Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji was teaching in the United States, he traveled almost every weekend to another city to visit the local ashram there and inspire, teach and touch hearts. It was our custom to always go to the airport to be with Yogi Ji if he had a layover in an airport that was near us. His travel schedule was amazing and there were many opportunities to be with him during waits between flights.

During the 1970's and 80's I served as the head of the ashram in Columbus Ohio. Yogi Ji was passing through and so about a dozen of us went to the airport to be with him during about a two-hour layover. As we sat in the terminal, Yogi Ji, dressed in his long white robe and turban, closed his eyes and stretched out his long legs. We all knew better than to assume that he was sleeping.

All of a sudden an American businessman barged into our midst. He was immaculately dressed in a perfectly pressed three-piece suit and tie, carrying a briefcase and wearing very shiny expensive shoes. He looked rather indignant, and he rudely approached Yogi Ji and said in a loud, annoyed voice, "What are you?!"

Yogi Ji opened one eye slowly and looked the businessman up and down, then he closed his eye and said simply, "A human being."

Annoyed, the man responded, "Yes, I know. But where are you from?"

Yogi jI replied with out opening his eyes... "Venus" he said.

Now the fellow was getting really annoyed. "But what kind of clothes are those?"

Yogi ji opened both eyes... wide.... and carefully looked the man up and down before replying, "What kind of clothes are those?"

"These are normal American clothes!" The man replied.

"No" said Yogi Ji, "Don't you know that those are British clothes?"

Indignantly, the man said, "Well, what kind of clothes are you wearing?"

Yogi Ji closed his eyes and settled himself comfortably.

"These... (he said with a slight smile on his lips) are the clothes of the future."

Turbans go way back in history as part of a spiritual practice. The top of our head is the tenth gate or the crown chakra. It is normally covered by hairs that act as antennae to protect the top of the head from sun and exposure, as well as to channel sun and vitamin D energy. Yogis and Sikhs do not cut their hair, they coil or knot it on top of the head on their solar center. In men the solar center is on top of the head at the front (anterior fontanel). Women have two solar centers: one is at the center of the crown chakra , the other is on top of the head towards the back (posterior fontanel). For all, coiling or knotting the hair at the solar centers channels the radiant energy and helps retain a spiritual focus.

This hair knot is traditionally called the “rishi” knot. In ancient times, a rishi was someone who had the capacity to control the flow of energy and prana in the body. A “maharishi” was someone who could regulate the flow of energy in the body, meditatively and at will. The rishi knot assists in the channeling of energy in meditation. If one cuts off the hair, there can be no rishi knot.

God is the Unknown. It is mastery as well as mystery. Living with an awareness of God within you as well as outside of you (God in all) is an attitude. Covering your head is an action with the attitude that there is something greater than you know. Your willingness to stand under that greatness of God is expressed by taking the highest, most visible part of you and declaring it as a place that belongs to the Creator. Covering your head is also a declaration of humility, of your surrender to God. It is a technology of understanding – of standing under.

For many, hair is also sexually attractive. By covering our hair we can keep from stimulating the lower nature of others who are not our spouses. It is up to each of us to maintain our purity and integrity.

Wrapping a turban every day is our declaration that this head, this mind, is dedicated to our Creator. The turban becomes a flag of our consciousness as well as our crown of spiritual royalty. Wearing a turban over uncut hair is a technology of consciousness that can give you the experience of God. This experience is for everyone, men and women alike.

The Guru of the Sikhs is the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is not a book.  It is a container of the Shabd. The sound current of the songs in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are known as the Shabd Guru. The Shabd Guru is not just a collection of uplifting, inspiring words written by enlightened saints, but a vessel of the sound current – the living Guru. By listening and experiencing this sound current we understand that those who wrote these words transcended individual identity and ego. Their words came from their unlimited exalted state of consciousness. Whenever we read, sing, chant, or listen to these songs, we connect with our own excellence and our own infinity. There is no need to deal with any external human personality in this process. People have good days and bad days. They may be up or they may be down. But with the Shabd Guru, there is only a direct relationship with the Infinite. The Shabd Guru is a powerful technology, which is universally available to anyone in any walk of life to use to uplift and transform ourselves and others.

Let’s look at a deeper definition of Shabd Guru from its root structure. "Shabd" comes from Sha- and -bd. "Sha" means the ego, the attachments we identify with. "Bd" means to cut out/off, or to eradicate. The root meaning of Sha-bd is “that which cuts the ego.” It is not just any sound. It is not even a wise sound, or a song of truth. It is a sound that cuts away the ego that hides the truth from you. In the Aquarian Age ego will no longer work for anyone. The shift of the Age is changing the conditions of the mind. The Piscean consciousness operated with less sensitivity. You could hide actions, thoughts and feelings with a high degree of short-term success. Some ego positions were favored above others by the conditions in a family, society or environment. That has fundamentally changed in this new Age: all finite positions of ego are equally vulnerable.

We need to develop a new habit of awareness. We must learn an inner technology on which to base the identity of our Self in the Infinite. The Shabd Guru is the quantum technology that establishes that awareness. It is a compass point that directs us to the Infinite within each finite action.

The second word in the phrase Shabd Guru is "Guru." If we break this word to its inner naad, or atoms of sound, it becomes Gu -Ru. Gu means darkness or ignorance. Ru is light and knowledge. Gur - is a formula or instruction. A Guru then gives a Gur - a formula or technique- that transforms darkness into light, ignorance into knowledge, and the gross into the refined.

A Guru then is an active knowledge. It is not the intellectual knowledge that simply classifies or analyzes. Guru changes you. Guru develops within you the capacity to see the Truth. It removes darkness and confusion.

The Shabd Guru transforms us by removing the barriers erected by the needs of the ego. The encounter with the Guru is through action. It gives you “Know How” not just “Know What.”  It gives you procedural knowledge that is in your cells and subconscious, not just representational knowledge in the ideas in your mind. To encounter the Shabd Guru is to learn by doing, by experience. The Guru will give a practice. That key practice for Shabd Guru is the meditation and repetition of specific primal sounds and phrases.

Where do the patterns of the Shabd Guru come from? They exist from the beginning of creation. They are the tides and rhythms of the movement of the creative pulse of Infinite consciousness. They vibrate in all things continually. It is the ability to hear and feel them that is needed. That capacity comes to a mind that is fearless, neutral, open and awakened. The ten living Gurus and the many saints and bhaktis  of the universal Sikh path heard it perfectly. They put that rhythm and pattern of energy into the poetic compositions of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. That's why it is called a Granth rather than just a collection. Granth means ‘knot.’  It is a knot that binds the pattern of awareness into the words of the songs.

Each Shabd is a template for an aspect of awareness and a potential of consciousness. Each Shabd is a kind of spiritual DNA that restructures the mind and stimulates the brain. The way of the Sikh is the conscious experience of the technology of merging the finite into the infinite. It is the technology for remembering our true identity. It is the path of Raj Yoga.

For thousands of years it has been known as Raj Yoga: The Royal Path of Union with the Infinite. It is a gift to us passed down by the ancient sages and embodied in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is not a religion in the sense of a set of beliefs and practices, but it is, in fact, the daily technology that gives the actual experience of union.

So what is a Sikh? We are all Sikhs. That is our fundamental nature as human beings. This universe is a university, and we all must be graduated! So our job is simple: pay attention to the lessons and pass the tests. And what do we do after graduation? Simple! We care for each other and we serve each other. We live in love on our Mother Earth and we fearlessly create the future in each moment through the words we speak and the actions we take. That is the path of the Sikh.

May all of us be blessed to be graduated with honors.

“Religion is not a documentation of rules and do’s and don’ts. Religion is my own life conducted by me. It is my conduct, my personality, and my reality. It is my truth, my light, my prosperity, my happiness, and my totality.”

- Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji 

Editor's Note: This article was originally published 2010

Guruka Singh

M.S.S. Guruka Singh Khalsa

Mukhia Singh Sahib Guruka Singh Khalsa is the original founder of SikhNet and now serves as President and C.E.O. of SikhNet

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