Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spiritual Significance of Five Kakars-Sikh symbols (defining emblems)


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:

SHALOK: The one who knows the True Lord God, is called the True Guru. In His Company, the Sikh is saved, O Nanak, singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord. 1
ASHTAPADEE: The True Guru cherishes His Sikh. The Guru is always merciful to one in HIS service. The Guru washes away the filth of the evil intellect of His Sikh. Through the Guru's Teachings, he chants the Lord's Name. The True Guru cuts away the bonds of His Sikh. The Sikh of the Guru abstains from evil deeds. The True Guru gives His Sikh the wealth of the Naam. The Sikh of the Guru is very fortunate. The True Guru arranges this world and the next for His Sikh. O Nanak, with the fullness of His heart, the True Guru mends His Sikh. 1

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 )

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

31. Being a Sikh

The Sikh way of life is unique. The Sikh lives a disciplined life even as a householder or a worldly person and at the same time is ever growing spiritually inward. To find God and be with God the Sikh does not wander around. The Sikh way of living, known as Sikhee, is a lifestyle designed by the Guru and intends to keep the Sikh spiritually focused and live a prosperous worldly life.

The creation of the Sikh panth started with Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru and reached the fulfillment during the time of Guru Gobind Singh ji the tenth Guru. The Spiritual Guruship was then enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahebji.

The Spiritual path that Sri Guru Granth Sahebji lights up is one of discipline and effort. It is unique in that it gives freedom in the exercise of intention to pursue the path. The path is based on the tradition of Guru-Disciple relationship. The word Sikh means a disciple and the intention to be a Sikh who enters into relationship by accepting the Guru is of paramount importance in Sikhee. The Sikh accepts Sikhee voluntarily at any time during his life and enters into a well crafted spiritually disciplined life.

The spiritual wisdom of Sri Guru Granth Sahebji is for all the humanity. The message is same for all the communities and castes. The Gurdwara is open to all, what so ever be their beliefs, religion, status or position in the society. They may be innocent or full of guilt. They may be thieves or victims. The Guru sees everyone in the same light. The message is same for all and easily accessible. The path is easy to see and look at. Who so ever hears and sees the Guru is by divinely touched.
The Guru is not coercive. The Guru is silent and understanding. The Guru’s presence and hearing of Gurbani is a solace to all. The Guru is ever forgiving and patient.

The choice to enter the Sikh fold and embrace Sikhee is a personal one. Even a person born to Sikh has to exercise this choice. To be a Sikh is to accept and surrender your ‘own’ mind before the Guru and to live life wisely shaped and directed by the Rehat (Code of Conduct and Conventions) in daily life with growth of inner spiritual life closer to God. This choice is like entering a school. It is just like going to an institution.

The first thing that a person does who joins a school is to wear a dress and reports in the school for learning. He or she then is in the fold of culture associated with that institution. This culture is imbibed consciously as well as subconsciously to the major extent. A person who lives in a clan imbibes its culture. This is true and easily seen in the life around us. The group we associate with or the place we live in has an affect on us. The culture in which we are raised reflects in our values, attitudes, and behavior. There are many aspects of our lives that we take for granted are in reality based on cultural influences which can be appreciated only when we visit someone from a different culture, or go abroad or even talk to others. The way we dress, the music we listen to, the ways of living together, the relationships between parents and children, the food choices , attitudes in business , etc are all a result of cultural influence. The Sikh panth has a similar influence. This influence is reflected in the way the Sikh lives life, in the way the Sikh conducts business, the way responsibility is accepted and duty done, the way situations in life are met. The whole approach to life of a Sikh becomes different when the Sikhee is embraced by him or her.

The choice of willingly accepting the Sikh symbol’s is the first one that a Sikh exercises, while embracing Sikhee and to enter the Sikh panth. This choice is reflected by first keeping unshorn hair and thereafter sealing of the relationship with the Guru through a ceremony of Amrit Sanchar. The Sikh chooses to be like his Guru.
The Sikh symbols make a Sikh unique and protects from other cultural influences.
The five symbols of Sikh identity are
1. Kesh - Uncut hair and beard and head is covered by a turban. Hair with a tied turban and beard is a highly visible symbol of membership of the group. Hairs indicate the perfection of God's creation - naturalness. Hairs are also a spiritual aid connected with subtle energies. Devout Sikhs who do regular Simran observe heat on top of the head.
2. Kanga - Wooden comb for hygiene and maintenance of the Kesh.
3. Kara - Iron bracelet worn on the hand. Physical reminder that a Sikh is bound to the Guru and the Sikh has to earn his living in a fair manner. The Kara is a reminder of self esteem and strength of character.
4. Kachera - Specially designed cotton underwear which gives natural comfort and is dignified. The Kachera is reflective of modesty and high moral character.
5. Kirpan - A Strapped sword, usually small in size. It is worn as a reminder to protect the faith. It is meant not to show bravery, nor is a mere weapon but is a reminder to protect the weak and to stand up to injustice.

When the Sikh accepts the ‘Amrit’ from the punj payaras in an ‘Amrit Sanchar” ceremony it seals Guru-Sikh relationship. The amrit gives strength to the spiritual life of the Sikh and a shift occurs within him. A Sikh scholar compared it with a person standing in a queue being picked up and placed ahead. The spiritual change after this ceremony is more profound. This starts the Sikh, also now called Khalsa, to move through worldly life in a path with a new attitude and approach. The Simran gives the Sikh power to walk through worldly issues and situations with an ever inner connection with Waheguru ji (God).Sikh knows that Waheguru ji is ever accessible and always with him. Sikhs effort is to live life in a pure way and ever strive to live life of Simran. All along he is a worldly person with a check on five passions. The five passions a Sikh knows are kept in check by Guru’s grace only.

The Sikhee is devoid of any rituals in spiritual life. The focus all along is to develop inner life and find the God within. The spiritual wisdom of Shree Guru Granth Sahib ji is a guide from the early stage to a stage of deep spiritual living. The Guru is puran – meaning complete. The Sikh need not look towards any other source. The tradition of recitation of Gurbani, Kirtan (singing of hymns from SGGSji), Katha (explanation of Hymns from SGGSji), and discussions of with Gurmukh Sikhs and their writings is sufficient to clear doubts and a source of inspiration.

When looked closely at Sikhee, one is amazed to see that it is designed to make the follower to achieve and live a life of success, happiness, and fulfillment. The life of Simran connects the Sikh with higher power within recognized as Shabad Guru within. All a Sikh has to do is pray. All his thoughts are taken as prayers in fact and the higher power guides him to make the correct decisions in your life. The higher power is his protector and guide

So why do so many people fail to achieve success, happiness, and fulfillment? The answer is simple: not following the Guru’s Guidance. The wrong self willed methods would definitely lead to wrong results.

The persons who live a ritualistic life although accepting SGGSji as Guru without embracing the Amrit are like those who are standing at the bus stop and yet to start a journey.
The persons who keep unshorn hair (by birth in a Sikh household) and call themselves Sikhs are like those who are taking trial classes in an institution but not yet taken admission. They have yet to seal the Guru- Sikh relationship by partaking Amrit.

The persons who visit Gurdwara and so also have faith in other Gurus or Gods/Goddesses are like those who have feet in two boats. Any pain and struggles in their life is thus a result of following self willed path in their worldly life.

The people do have rights of choice. The Sikh thought does not encourage enforcing of choices but at the same time requires others not to temper with Sikh way to suit their own choices.

The Guru advices Sikhs not to follow blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc. The Guru teaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are all equal and teaches the full equality of men and women.

The first teaching of the Guru is that there is oneness in the creation with only One Creator God. All the people are the same. The goal of life is to lead an exemplary existence while maintaining a balance between spiritual obligations and temporal obligations so that one may know and become Jyote Swaroop (the same light as the creator). The Sikhee which is Sikh way of life makes possible the living of life as a householder, earning an honest living and avoiding of worldly temptations and sins.

The Sikhee starts with voluntarily embracing of the Sikh Symbols and Amrit Sanchar to seal the Guru- Sikh relationship. The Sikh then advances further in experiencing the nature of Shabad Guru as a higher power. The Gurbani recitation, Gurbani Kirtan and Simran then takes a new dimension taking the Sikh to a new level of spiritual experience.

The base of Sikhee is Simran on the ONE and Sewa ( self-less service ).
The three pillars on which it stands are :
Kirat Karna – Earn an honest livelihood
And carry out good deeds
Naam Japna – Is the remembrance of One God .
By repeating and focusing the mind on His name
through Guru Mantra -Waheguru .

Vand kay Chakhna - means to share ones wealth.To contribute at least
10% of their wealth/income called Dasvandh to the
needy , to distribute in Langar (free Kitchen) or to
a worthy cause.

The Sikh is associated with Truth and strives for truth in living.
The Sikh the ONE pervading everywhere and is ever Humble.
The Sikh sees HIS Hukam (Will) in operation and is compassionate
The Sikh enshrines love for HIM and so loves HIS creation.
The Sikh with Guru’s grace checks the Anger, Lust, Attachment, Greed and Ego.
( This article is also available for download in pdf form in the download section on this page)