The word ‘Sikh’ means a disciple. A Sikh is a disciple and has a Guru.
The Guru of the Sikhs is Shabad Guru Shree Guru Granth Sahebji.
The first Guru of the Sikhs Guru Nanak Dev ji started the spiritual way of Sikhee and thereafter transferred the Guru Jyote to the Guru’s that followed and evolved the way in the physical world. The Tenth Guru – Guru Gobind Singh ji gave the Sikh full form with five kakars- Kesh (unshorn hair) to be kept covered , Kanga (a small comb) ,The Kirpan ( small Sword), Kara ( an Iron Bracelet) and Kacherha ( a stitchedcotton underwear).
The person who takes on the Guru becomes a Sikh popularly known as Amritdhari Sikh as he has ceremoniously taken Amrit to enter into Guru-Sikh relationship. The Amritdhari Sikh adorns these five Sikh kakars which the 10th Guru had asked the Sikhs to adorn.The Sikh accepts Sikhee voluntarily at any time during his life and enters into a well crafted spiritually disciplined life.
To be a Sikh is an individual choice.The keeping and maintaining full natural hair is the first step towards Sikhee that a Sikh has to take.
The people around of other religions and cultures do not keep long hair, so why is the question that is often asked. Even the Sikh children at times ponder on this aspect when the others out of curiosity ask this same question.
The answer starts with the very nature of Sikh spiritualism where the life to be lived is of a householder but the way of life is spiritual. The significance of five kakars is clearly connected with the Sikh spiritual path. Once the spiritual path is seen in broader perspective the relevance of the symbols becomes quite apparent.
The Guru Nanak had come as illuminator in this age of kalyug. In this kalyug there is prevalence of ignorance. The conception and ideas of creator God were grossly distorted. The religious practices had become ritualized. The grandeur and magnitude of ritualistic practices of religions were keeping the minds of people rooted to ignorance. Their life was mired in vices and afflictions. There was a force in collective consciousness that kept the people involved in ritualistic practices leading to little spiritual growth. The sadhus and saints who had spiritual illumination were far and few in numbers and kept away from the society in the mountains.
Only the spiritual knowledge could lift the people out of ignorance and the pulls of ritualistic practices of masses which induces false idea of being the right way.
Guru Nanak’s path was that of spiritual knowledge. The way was connection with the source of creation – Naam. The method was Simran. The effect of Simran was to lift the veils of ignorance. The Simran cuts the attachments and lifts the mind vibrationally at a level where joy and love exists. The spiritual path is that of re-molding of mind. The higher spiritual knowledge coming out of Simran and state of being. The correct knowledge of Creator God and perception through beingness step by step led to highest spiritual growth. All this becoming part of daily life of the individual, who also has to live as a responsible member of the society.
Guru Nanak made use of the well established Guru-Disciple format by giving it a new dimension and thus the Guru-Sikh relationship became cornerstone of Sikhee. The Sikh (disciple) while remaining a householder has to bring spirituality in his daily life.
The daily habits are hard to go. For remolding a strong commitment is required. So also ‘faith’ which was imperative in acceptance of Guru’s direction and statements that through Simran made the Sikh a Gurmukh – the one who lives a higher spiritual life developed as a result of following the Guru’s word and directions.
The Sikh’s life that truly follows Sikhee is deeply spiritual; his approach to issues of a householder is spiritual. He lives above the passions that afflict a person. His life is free from anxieties. The life that he lives is positive with abundance of Seva (welfare of others), Simran (closeness to GOD and oneness), and Kirt (an honest high quality working life of a householder). The prosperity comes to him with ease and life is a smooth flow.
He or she has to have a bond of relationship with the Guru.This commitment is shown and kept by being like the Guru.The Sikh kept long hair and did not cut the hair.The kesh (hair) became a strong bond between the Sikh and the Guru.
The Kesh that became the first Sikh symbol grew in strength with time. The Sikh Gurus were keeping kesh and were wearing turban. The persons who became their Sikhs also kept keshas.
The first step to be a Sikh is to accept the Guru by becoming a Gurmukh. The ideas, beliefs ,and way of life that that the person has from the outside world is to be changed and new ideas and way of life as explained by the Guru is to be followed. This is imperative that the lower vibrational way of living where anger , greed and selfishness ruled the persons life is given up by him new way of living is brought about.
Trust and acceptance is the quality that is required for this change. When a Sikh questions and doubts the wisdom of the Guru with the mind that is only worldly in nature and lacking in perspective and knowledge the change towards being a Gurmukh – with a spiritual life and thinking would become difficult. So the Sikh starts by being like the Guru. The keeping of Keshas signifies his faith towards the Guru’s teaching and way of moulding the mind. The person has come to the Guru for this change and spiritual life and this is what the Guru gives.
The keeping and maintaining of Keshas is the first commitment of a Sikh towards bringing the change. It is the devotion to the Guru and understanding the Guru’s word (Gurbani) that starts his journey in following Sikhee.The Kesh are thus a Symbol of Sikhee.
It is often questioned that what is the need for symbols when the mind is required to be made pure and these external symbols have no purpose and meaning.Here the point that is missed is 'how to achieve purity of mind' . Also missed is the point that what would be behavior of the person with a mind that is pure.Pure mind is that which has control over passions. Such a mind has predominant love feelings. Appreciation,cooperation,understanding,gratitude etc are visible in their behaviour.Such a state of purity , as Guru Sahebji says can only be achieved through 'Naam" connection. It infact comes with spiritual development through guidance,direction and above all 'mehar' of a 'Puran Guru'.
A Guru can take along his disciple only up to the level he has reached. A 'Puran Guru' is one who is ' Nirankari Jyote' and one with Creator GOD.The association with such a Guru is a most fruitful event. The Nirankari Guru "Jyote" Guru Nanak laid the foundation of Sikhism and the Tenth "Guru Jyote" Guru Gobind Singh ji gave it a final shape and leaving the 'Guru Jyote' in Shree Guru Granth Sahebji.The tenth master also declared that ' who soever wants to meet the Creator God should find HIM through the 'Shabad' in SGGSji. The tenth master also introduced the system of partaking Amrit through Panj Pyaras .
The path that the person chooses by taking Amrit is one for becoming a Khalsa (pure). This way choice is exercised to enter into Guru-Sikh relationship formally. The 5K symbols are a daily subtle reminder of the direction, the life of the person adorning them has to take. The symbols have associated with them a group consciousness that subtly makes available to the Sikh subtle subconscious learning and awareness. The power of these symbols is inherent in the way the Sikh develops relationship with them .As a reminder and an object of strength these symbols help shape the mind of the Sikh.
The Kesh reminds the Sikh to make effort to keep Guru-Sikh relation by becoming a Gurmukh. The Guru-Sikh relation is not to be a mere formality but the Gurbani has to be listened, read, understood and followed. The Kesh symbolize commitment of the Sikh towards this relationship and true acceptance of Guru’s words so that faith proper is developed for spiritual growth.
About the 5Ks Bhai nand lal ji has written :
Nishan-e-Sikhi ast in Panj har kaf
Hargiz na bashad azin panj muaf
Kara, Karad, Kacha, Kanga bi dan,
Bina kesh kes hech ast jumla nishan.
- Bhai Nand lal
These five letters of K are emblems of Sikhism.
These five are most incumbent, Steel Bangle,big knife, shorts and a comb;
without unshorn hair the other four are of no significance.
-Bhai Nand Lal
The Kesh thus have paramount importance. Their connection is with Sikhee itself.
The Sikhee is life itself. It is the way a Sikh thinks and feels. It is the way a Sikh behaves. It is the way a Sikh relates to environment and society. It is the way the Sikh contributes to growth and well being of the world at large.
All around what one see is people engaged in so many different practices and worships with different reasons. For some the association with religion is just simply an association. the material world has at present have them in total grip. Some fear the life itself , they have lived through the ups and downs of life. Some are on look out for a way out of anxieties and fears . Whereas some are in need of Creator to resolve their life issues and problems.
Why do we go to a Guru?
Is it for material prosperity or resolution of issues.
Is it for an happy and joyful life.
Is it for growth and support in the material world.
Or Is it to seek the knowledge of mystery that is GOD.
The Gurus word the Gurbani is available as guidance to all in many and varied ways. The level and extent to which the individual relates to the Guru is the extent the result he gets. To the one seeking temporary solution, the solution would be temporary. For the one seeking transformation and a regular joy in life, the result would be so. For this the Guru requires commitment. Both the mind and body has to be placed before the Guru for change.
With this act of surrender of one gives up following the present improper way of thinking and behavior by following the Guru’s way of life as given in Gurbani.
This change is a positive change in a positive affirmative way. The change is as per the pace set by the Sikh and mysteriously at appropriate time appropriate guidance is available.
The next commitment is to accept the words and direction of the Guru. This commitment is the base for developing faith that is imperative to acknowledge as reality the spiritual truths which the Guru reveals gradually. For example when the Guru says ‘HE is everywhere and in everything.’ then this truth is difficult to accept but when faith is there the HE everywhere is a spiritual experience. There are many ways a Guru changes his Sikh as the Guru states in Gurbani itself:
The keeping of Kesh depicts this commitment and relates the Sikh with the Guru. There develops a strong bond between the Sikh and the Guru. From the love of this relationship develops Sikhee. The Sikh thereby transforms in to a spiritually evolved individual, a real asset to the society and the world..
The wisdom and growth comes to those who receive ‘Gur-prasad’ through a Guru-Sikh relationship fostered on a regular basis.
(In the next part II -Spiritual Significance of Kanga )