Human birth is an opportunity to be aware of the purpose of life, act accordingly and unite with the Creator. The fundamental role of all religions is to make their followers aware of the Creator's purpose of creating the universe. It guides them how to overcome allurements in life so as not to forget the divine commands. This is the role of the preceptor or Guru. 

The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and followed by nine serial successors. Their teachings along with other saints are recorded in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Its contents are called Gurbani, meaning the guru's word and this term is commonly used.

The SGGS starts with description of attributes of the Almighty:

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ 

1 Oankaar, satinaam, karta purakh, nirbhau, nirvair, akaal moorat, ajooni, sibha'n, gurprasaad-i.

The One singular/indivisible Almighty, whose writ is universal/inevitable, the Creator, fearless/the highest (not accountable to anyone), without animus/no equal, embodiment of timeless-ness/deathless-ness, does not incarnate (is the Spirit). Is understood with the guru's guidance.

The Formless Divine Spirit alone can be Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. A physical being cannot. 


ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ ॥ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ॥੧॥

Aad sach. Jugaad sach. Hai bhi sach, Nanak hosi bhi sach.

The divine writ or laws of nature were present/applicable at the origin of the universe, through the ages, are now, and shall ever be applicable.

Note: 'Sach' means truth, and stands for the inevitable divine writ, i.e. laws of nature.

Gurbani states that the universe is a composite system of celestial bodies and creatures. Their roles and applicable laws have been laid down. The humans exist as part of this set up. Gurbani says:

ਸਭਿ ਆਏ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਖਸਮਾਹੁ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਸਭ ਵਰਤਨੀ ॥ 

Sabh aaey hukam khasmaah-i hukam-i sabh vartni. P 723

Everyone is born according to commands of the Master, i.e. laws of nature/the divine-created system, and functions accordingly. 

This is how.

ਖਾਕ ਨੂਰ ਕਰਦੰ ਆਲਮ ਦੁਨੀਆਇ ॥ ਅਸਮਾਨ ਜਿਮੀ ਦਰਖਤ ਆਬ ਪੈਦਾਇਸਿ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥੧॥ 

Khaak noor kard'n aalam duneeaey. Asmaan Jimee darakhat aab paidaais khudaaey. P 723 

The Creator put life in dust and created the world; the sky, plants and water were all created by the Creator.

 It details this as follows:

ਸਾਚੇ ਤੇ ਪਵਨਾ ਭਇਆ ਪਵਨੈ ਤੇ ਜਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣੁ ਸਾਜਿਆ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮੋਇ ॥ 

Saachey tey pavnaa bhaiaa, pavnai tey jal hoey. Jal tey tribhavan saajiaa, ghatt ghatt jot samoey. P 19

From the Eternal came air, from air (oxygen and hydrogen gases) water was formed, and from water the creatures in/on three regions (oceans, land and space) came into being; the (jot = light) Divine Spirit pervades in all.


ਰਾਤੀ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ॥ ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਪਾਤਾਲ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ॥

Raati, ruti, thiti, vaar. Pavan paani agni paataal. This vich dharti thaap rakhi dharamsaal. Japji Paurri 34.

The Creator made: Days, nights, seasons, the lunar cycles, days of the week – through combination of the sun, earth and moon. Provided air, water, fire/energy and land - for life to exist. In this set up, the Creator established the earth with all these, as place for the creatures to perform their duties.

Learning from Nature

The Creator has made the human body comprising of the five elements - Air (breathing), water (seventy percent of body), earth (physical mass), fire/energy and sky (space). Gurbani says we should follow the characteristics of these five as below.


One who understands Divine virtues and commands - 

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਨਿਰਲੇਪ ॥ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲ ਅਲੇਪ ॥
Sadaa nirleyp, jaisey jal mah kamal aleyp. 

Is untouched by vices, like the lotus flower in water is untouched by it.

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਨਿਰਦੋਖ ॥ਜੈਸੇ ਸੂਰੁ ਸਰਬ ਕਉ ਸੋਖ ॥
Sadaa nirdokh, jaisy soor sarab kau sokh  

Has no antagonism with anyone, like the sun provides heat to all.

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਸਮਾਨਿ ॥ਜੈਸੇ ਰਾਜ ਰੰਕ ਕਉ ਲਾਗੈ ਤੁਲਿ ਪਵਾਨ ॥
Kai dristt samaan, jaisai raaja rank kau laagai tul pavaan

Sees everyone equal, like the air treats everyone equal.

ਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਏਕ ॥ਜਿਉ ਬਸੁਧਾ ਕੋਊ ਖੋਦੈ ਕੋਊ ਚੰਦਨ ਲੇਪ ॥

Kai dheeraj eyk, jio basudhaa jo-oo khodai ko-oo chandan leyp.

Maintains patience, like land does not care whether someone digs it or coats it with Sandalwood paste, i.e. with fragrance.

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕਾ ਇਹੈ ਗੁਨਾਉ ॥ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਉ ਪਾਵਕ ਕਾ ਸਹਜ ਸੁਭਾਉ ॥੧॥
Ka ihai gunaau, Nanak jio pavak ka sahj subhaau.

Is always steady, like the quality of fire is – ever to provide heat.

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਤੇ ਨਿਰਮਲਾ ॥ਜੈਸੇ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ਜਲਾ ॥

Nirmal tey nirmalaa, jaise mail na laagai jalaa

Is free from vices, like dirt does not stick to waterP 272-73.

Temptations, and how to overcome them

Gurbani uses allegories to show how different types of creatures fall prey to one temptation each and perish, because they have no guide. On the other hand, humans face numerous allurements. They have no hope unless they follow the guru to overcome them.

Mrig meen bharing patang kunchar eyk dokh binaas. Panch dokh asaadh ja mah ta ki keytak aas. P 486

The deer, fish, bumblebee, moth and elephant perish for one weakness each.

What hope then for the human who has five unchecked weaknesses.  

 The weaknesses of these five creatures and humans are:

The deer runs towards where music plays and is caught.

The fish being greedy goes for the bait and is caught.

The bumblebee is tempted by fragrance of the flower and perishes in it.

The moth goes for the lamp and dies there.

The elephant being obsessed with lust goes for the model of a female elephant placed on a pit, falls into the pit and gets caught.

The human being has lust, wrath, greed, attachment to worldly things and vanity.

Gurbani also uses metaphors to show how to remain alert to vices.

Jaisey jal mah kamal niraalam murgaaee naisaaney. Surat sabad bhavsagar tareeai nanak naam vakhaaney. P 938 

Like the lotus flower in water remains untouched by it; or the duck does not let its wings get wet when in water.

We can swim across/overcome the world-ocean of temptations by focusing our consciousness on the Divine commands.

Methods of worship

The usual methods of worship in various religions are to offer flowers in front of the deity, light lamps, burn incense and wave a fly whisk on the deity. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion (1469-1539) once went to a temple named Jagannath temple or temple of the Master of the world in Orissa state in India. The worship called Aarti was being performed there. In this, the priest places lamps, flowers, monetary offerings etc. in a tray and moves it in a circular fashion. Guru Nanak watched but did not participate. When asked why he did not participate in worship, he said you built or bought the perceived image of a deity and call it Master of the world, enclose it in a room and worship it. "But I join in worship of the true Master who pervades the whole universe". He then described it as follows. 

Gagan mai thaal rav chand deepak baney taarika mandal janak moti. Dhoop maliaanlo pavan chavro karey, sagal banreeey phoolant joti. P 13.

The sky is like a tray in which the sun and moon are the lamps, and the constellation of stars are the gems and jewels.

The fragrance of sandalwood trees is the incense, and the breeze waves the fly whisk; all vegetation is the flowers.

Learning from Water

Human form is the opportunity to appreciate Divine majesty experienced within the self and seen in nature. This way, one feel humble and praises the Creator. Our conscience tells us to conduct ourselves in conformance to nature. As follows.

The water in the oceans sees its duty to irrigate the land, be useful for washing and bathing and finally get back to the ocean. 

It evaporates from the ocean, travels as clouds, drops rains in higher reaches to form rivers and the water travels. It has initially to overcome obstacles like rocks, with no clear passage, but it finds its way. 

The humans build dams for storage of water or for hydroelectric plants. It helps in that. The turbulence and obstacles so faced ends when it enters the plains and finally merges with the sea. Similarly, when the human is able to experience nearness to the Almighty, s/he becomes at peace. This is union with God. 

ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ਸਾਲਾਹਿ ਏਤੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਨ ਪਾਈਆ ॥ ਨਦੀਆ ਅਤੈ ਵਾਹ ਪਵਹਿ ਸਮੁੰਦਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੀਅਹਿ ॥

Saalaahi saalah eyti surat na paaeeaa. Nadeaa atey vaah pavah-i samund na jaaneeah. Japji Paurri 23.

Praise the praiseworthy Almighty intuitively such as not even to know you are doing it. Like the rivers and streams flowing into the sea lose their identity.


ਜੈਸੀ ਧਰਤੀ ਊਪਰਿ ਮੇਘੁਲਾ ਬਰਸਤੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਆ ਧਰਤੀ ਮਧੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਧਰਤੀ ਮਧੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਰਗਾਸਿਆ ਬਿਨੁ ਪਗਾ ਵਰਸਤ ਫਿਰਾਹੀ ॥੧॥

Jaisi ḏẖarṯi oopar meygẖula barsaṯ hai kiaa ḏẖarṯi maḏẖey paani naahi.   Jaisey dharti madhey paani pargaasiaa, bin pagaa varsat phiraahi. P 162

Whatever the type of land, the clouds drop rain on it; is water not present in the earth?

Like water can be seen enclosed by land, it forms clouds and drops rain.

Message: The soil needs its lost moisture to be replenished even though the oceans are full of water. Similarly, the humans ignore divine commands present within, because of temptations and need to be reminded by listening to scriptures and attending holy congregation where divine virtues and commands are recounted.

Impediments in way of union with the Creator

The soul performs a similar role. It comes from the Creator, gives life to the body, and aims to merge with the Creator. However, delusion caused by allurements of the world act as impediments as one forgets divine commands.

Gurbani gives examples and solutions as follows, on page 657-58.

ਜਬ ਹਮ ਹੋਤੇ ਤਬ ਤੂ ਨਾਹੀ ਅਬ ਤੂਹੀ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਅਨਲ ਅਗਮ ਜੈਸੇ ਲਹਰਿ ਮਇ ਓਦਧਿ ਜਲ ਕੇਵਲ ਜਲ ਮਾਂਹੀ ॥੧॥ 

Jab ham hotey tab too naahi; ab toohi mai naahi. Anal agam jaisey lahar mayi odadh, jal keyval jal maahi.

When there was ego in my mind, then You were not there, o Almighty; now that my ego is dissolved only You are present.

It is like waves rise above the water of the ocean when there is turbulence, but the waves fall back when the turbulence ends.

Message: When there is turbulence in the mind, all types of thoughts arise and one forgets the Master. When turbulence is over, one is at peace and finds the Master within.

ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ 

Madhvey kiaa kaheeau bhram aisa; jaisa maaneeai hoey na taisa.

What is this delusion caused by, o Almighty. It is believing in something which is not that.

Here are examples

ਨਰਪਤਿ ਏਕੁ ਸਿੰਘਾਸਨਿ ਸੋਇਆ ਸੁਪਨੇ ਭਇਆ ਭਿਖਾਰੀ ॥ ਅਛਤ ਰਾਜ ਬਿਛੁਰਤ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੋ ਗਤਿ ਭਈ ਹਮਾਰੀ ॥੨॥ 

Narpat eyk singhaasan soiaa supney bhaiaa bhikhaari. Achat raaj bichhrat dukh paaiaa so at-i bhaee hamaari.

A king sitting on the throne dozed off and found himself to be a beggar in a dream.

He being a king lost his kingdom and felt miserable; such is our state.

Message: The Almighty is within us but being inebriated by attachment to the world-play, we become oblivious. We can become alert and find the Master with the guru’s guidance.

ਰਾਜ ਭੁਇਅੰਗ ਪ੍ਰਸੰਗ ਜੈਸੇ ਹਹਿ ਅਬ ਕਛੁ ਮਰਮੁ ਜਨਾਇਆ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਕਟਕ ਜੈਸੇ ਭੂਲਿ ਪਰੇ ਅਬ ਕਹਤੇ ਕਹਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਆ ॥੩॥ 

Raaj bhuia’n prasang jaisey hai ab kachh maram janaaiaa. Anik kattak jaisey bhool parey ab kahtey kahan na aaiaa.

Like in the story of a piece of rope lying on dark street is mistaken as a snake – the delusion ends when light comes on. Or, ornaments made from gold are considered different from gold, but one who is aware, does not say so.

Message: Delusion is caused by ignorance; one feels ornaments made from gold are different than gold. When that delusion goes one sees the truth, i.e. the soul is part of the Creator and merges back, like ornaments when melted are gold.

ਸਰਬੇ ਏਕੁ ਅਨੇਕੈ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਸਭ ਘਟ ਭੁਗਵੈ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਹਾਥ ਪੈ ਨੇਰੈ ਸਹਜੇ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਹੋਈ ॥੪॥੧॥ 

Sarbey eyk aneykai suaami sabh ghatt bhugvai soee. Kah Ravidas haath pai neyrai sahjey hoey so hoee.

The One Almighty is the Master of all creatures of various types; and is present in all.

The Master being present within is nearer than where the hands can reach on the body; everything happens naturally – according to the divine system, says Ravidas.

Message: The reference to hands above in the context that they have the maximum reach of all the organs of the body, but the Master is nearer - within.

We Reap what we Sow - We Determine our Destiny

The clergy asks people to believe in efficacy of worship, dogmas, superstitions, and rituals to avoid hell and deserve heaven. Sri Guru Granth Sahib teaches that there is no such place as heaven or hell. One blossoms or perishes according to one's deeds. It uses the allegory of a farmer and says:

ਅਮਲੁ ਕਰਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਬੀਜੁ ਸਬਦੋ ਕਰਿ ਸਚ ਕੀ ਆਬ ਨਿਤ ਦੇਹਿ ਪਾਣੀ ॥ ਹੋਇ ਕਿਰਸਾਣੁ ਈਮਾਨੁ ਜੰਮਾਇ ਲੈ ਭਿਸਤੁ ਦੋਜਕੁ ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ ॥੧॥

Amal kar dharti beej sabdo kar sach ki aab nit deyh paani. Hoey kirsaan eemaan jamaaeylai bhist dojak moorrey eyv jaani. P 24

Make your deeds the soil, and put divine commands as the seed; irrigate it with the water of truthful obedience to divine commands.

You will then be a farmer whose conduct is honest; this is how one knows what is heaven and hell.

Gurbani says: 

ਹੁਕਮਿ ਚਲਾਏ ਆਪਣੈ ਕਰਮੀ ਵਹੈ ਕਲਾਮ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚਾ ਸਚਿ ਨਾਇ ਸਚੁ ਸਭਾ ਦੀਬਾਨੁ ॥੨॥ 

Hukam chalaaey aapney karmi vahai kalaam. Nanak sachaa sach naaey sach sabhaa deebaan. P 1241

The Almighty’s pen moves by His command; the pen moves depending on our deeds. The Almighty is just His justice is just – it is natural justice.

One should tell the self.

ਦਦੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੇਊ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਕਰੰਮਾ ਆਪਣਿਆ ॥ ਜੋ ਮੈ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੀਜੈ ਅਵਰ ਜਨਾ ॥੨੧॥
Dadaa dos na deyoo kisai dos karammaa aapniaa. Jo mi keeaa so mai paaiaa dos na deejay avar Janaa. P 433

I cannot blame others for my woes, the fault lies with my deeds. I obtained consequences of my deeds; I cannot blame anyone else.

Some people complain of God’s indifference when in trouble saying why did God have do this to me. The point to understand is that the Creator has laid down how everything happens. It is our actions which determine the result.


Japji Sahib, the first composition in SGGS is a step-by-step guidance for a practical spiritual life. It culminates with this epilogue.

ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ ॥ ਦਿਵਸੁ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਦਾਈ ਦਾਇਆ ਖੇਲੈ ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤੁ ॥

Pavan guru paani pitaa maata dhrat mahat. Divas raat duey daaee daaiaa kheylai sagal jagat

Air is the guru, water the father, and earth the great mother.

Day and night are the two nannies and the whole world plays/functions as per their schedule, i.e. work and rest.

 (Note: These are metaphors to convey that the soul is the master of the body, while the father’s semen and the mother’s egg procreate like water and soil produce and maintain crops and plants). 

ਦਿਵਸੁ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਦਾਈ ਦਾਇਆ ਖੇਲੈ ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤੁ ॥

Divas raat duey daaee daaiaa kheylai sagal jagat

Day and night are the two nannies and the whole world plays/functions as per their schedule, i.e. work and rest.

ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਬੁਰਿਆਈਆ ਵਾਚੈ ਧਰਮੁ ਹਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਕਰਮੀ ਆਪੋ ਆਪਣੀ ਕੇ ਨੇੜੈ ਕੇ ਦੂਰਿ ॥

Changiaaeeaa buriaaeeaa vaachai dharam hadoor. Karmi aapoaapni key neyrai kay door.

The metaphoric judge in divine court relates good and bad deeds of the creatures to God.

It is by deeds that one either gets near, i.e. unites with the Almighty or is kept away.

This means attaining solace or remaining miserable.

ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਗਏ ਮਸਕਤਿ ਘਾਲਿ ॥ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਉਜਲੇ ਕੇਤੀ ਛੁਟੀ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥

Jini naam dhiaaiaa gaey masakat ghaal. Nanak tey much ujley keyti chhuttee naal. P 8.

Those who pay attention to divine commands acts as ordained – and unite with the Almighty.

Their faces are clean/free of blemish and many others are saved from separation from the Almighty, in their company.

The Sikh religion teaches to ever remain aware of, and conform to, divine virtues and commands. Delusions caused by temptations can be overcome with this awareness. One needs to be naturally and intuitively dedicated, not display piety to please the world.

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