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Sikhism and Monotheism
Posted by Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia Send Email to Author on Sunday, 6/14/1998 1:42 AM MDT
Before I begin typing I would like to thank S. Dharam Singh ji for the beautiful poem. You have excellently portrayed what the Sikh Faith is all about: EQUALITY OF HUMANKIND.
I will post excerpts from two different articles: "Naam and Sabad" and "Comparative Study of Monotheism in Mul Mantra and the Bible". Both these articles are quite lengthy, the former being very long. I may post it sometime in the future. I would like to continue posting from the book "Introduction to Sri Guru Granth Sahib", however, I'll make this one exception.


The article "Naam and Sabad" was published in the journal "Studies In Sikhism and Comparative Religion" a publication of the Guru Nanak Foundation, New Delhi. The author Sardar Daljeet Singh was formerly Secretary to the Government of Punjab, Department of Education. The following are some excerpts:

(i) God in Sikhism is Monotheistic. God is both "Transcendent" and "Immanent" and the world is his Creation.

(ii) The Transcendent God expresed Himself in "Naam" and "Sabad" that created the world.

(iii) "Naam" and "Sabad" are the 'Creative and Dynamic Immanence of God'.

(iv) The Sikh Gurus have clearly emphasized the transcendental character of God by saying that the world was created in time and space and the Transcendental God had been there while the world was uncreated. It is also stated that the "Word" was in God when there was no universe or form. "Naam" was prior to the creation of the universe i.e. "God manifested into Naam, after it the world was created."

(v) In no religious Scripture the distinction between the transcendent and the immanent aspects of God is made more clear than in the Guru Granth because God's Immanence has been given separate names viz. Naam, Will and Word. Evidently, all immanence can be expressed only in relation to the realm of creation i.e. when God's immanence as Naam creates, sustains and controls the world of name and form; when God's immanence as His Will moves and directs the becoming world; when His Immanence as His Word informs and supports the universe. In short, "He (God) is pervading everywhere (Immanent) and yet He is beyond everything, beyond pleasure and pain(Transcendent)."

(vi) Throughout the hymns of Guru Granth, nothing is more significant than acceptance of Creature-Creator relation between man and God. Invariably, God has been addressed as "Thou", "Father", "Mother", "Beloved" etc. Infact, a majority of the hymns are in the form of prayers, addresed to God........So much so that the Guru calls himself as the "lowliest of the low", and never does he mention another person as "That is Thou". The fifth Guru declined to include in the Guru Granth a hymn of Bhagat Kaanhaa, saying, "I am He, O I am the same", because the Guru felt it to be contrary to the Sikh thesis that man is not and cannot be God though he can be His instrument.


"Comparative Study of Monotheism in Mul Mantra and the Bible" was published in the "Journal of Sikh Studies", a Guru Nanak Dev University publication. Professor M.P. Christanand Pillai, was (formerly) Dean, Department of Philosophy, Saint Stephen's College, Delhi University. Before that he served as member of faculty, Department of Christian Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala. The following is an excerpt from the article:

"That the God of Guru Granth is a personal God, we can boldly say, is the unanimous affirmation of the majority of Sikh theologians and philosophers."


In the history of religions the concept of monotheism was certainly there, even outside Judeo-Christian culture. Zoroastrianism and Islam, for example, were practical monotheistic religions, opposing all that was contrary to worship of the one only God. Now Sikhism was not an exception to this rule. It also originated as a practical monotheistic religion, before it was expressed theoretically as such.

The "Mul Mantra", that epitomizes the formula of the Sikh creed, enunciates that God is the One only God whose name is Truth, and who is the Creator, without fear and without hate; the Eternal, whose "spirit pervades the universe"; the Ungenerated Purakh, Self-existent, to whose worship the grace of the "Guru" leads.

God is described as One, "Ek Oankar". There is but One God. Innumerable passages in the Guru Granth amply prove this. But what does "unity" mean? Does it mean a unity in the sense of monoism, that is, the unification of all realities (whether finite of infinite; whether created or uncreated), into the one Reality called God? Or does it mean the unification of all gods and goddesses into One God, as the Greeks did in ancient times? Or does it mean the One underlying principle or source from which all multitudes arise as the Greek philosophers' thought? Or does it mean the one only Good as opposed to evil in the world as Zoroaster's God came to represent? Or does it mean the Unique One, the Transcendental One?

The God of Guru Nanak cannot be the God of "Advaitists", because for Guru Nanak and his Sikhs, the world is not illusion, "maya". It is real:

"Sache tere khand sache brahamand
Sache tere loa sache akar" (SGGS, p.463)

(Real are Thy realms and real Thy Universe. Real are Thy worlds and real the created forms.)

Professor Harbans Singh in his book, "Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith", poits out:

"One of the conspicuous mark of Guru Nanak's teaching was its spirit of affirmation. It took the world as real and embraced man's life in its various aspects."

The God of Guru Granth cannot be the Absolute of the monists, because the entire Guru Granth is a litany of hymns addressed to someone personal. The One, Guru Nanak speaks of is a transcendental one. But the transcendence is not in the sense of Deism, whose deity has no connection whatsoever with the world. For Guru Nanak He is also immanent, that is, not in the sense of pantheism but in a monotheistic sense. He is transcendent, since He is above the world as the highest being and as the ultimate cause, unique in every sense of the word. He is also immanent, since He is "present in" the world. This "present in" is certainly not the same as "identical with" the world. In the Guru Granth transcendence of God is greatly emphasized:

"Sochai soch(i) na hovai je sochi lakh var.
Chupai chup na hovai je lai raha liv tar.
Bhukhia bhukh na utari je banna puria bhar.
Sahas sianapa lakh hohi ta ik na chalai nal(i)" (SGGS, p.1)

(The English translation follows:)

"Not by thought alone;
Can He be known
Though one thinks
A hundred thousand times;
Not in a solemn silence
Nor in deep meditation
Though fasting yields and abundance of virtue
It cannot appease the hunger for truth
No by none of these,
Nor by a hundred thousand other devices,
Can God be reached."

The hymn extolling His transcendence are comparably more in number than those which stress His immanence.

Transcendence should be conceived not as something, "Up above" or beyond space; it is rather an essentially absolute independence, self-sufficient. In like manner, immanence is not a mixture of Divine Beings with created realities, but a mode of spiritual prescence, absolutely irreducible to that of corporeal prescence and by that very fact, infinitely more intimate, enveloping and capable of inhering in everything.

Guru Nanak says:

"Ekai pargat(u) ekai gupta ekai dhundhukaro"


"The One is Revealed
The One is Hidden
The One is behind the Dark Veil"

This states that God is so transcendent that revelation is needed to know Him:"The One is Revealed". He is so immanent that He cannot be seen:"The One is Hidden", yet since He is the Ground of all, He is said to be the One behind the veil: "The One is behind the Dark Veil"

.........Therefore the God of Sikhism is a "personal" God, otherwise the "Pita", "Pritam" and "Khasam-sahib" will have no meaning.

"Ek(u) pita ekas ke ham barik" (SGGS, p.611)


"The One God is the Father of all;
We are His children."

......Guru Nanak says that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. Even the highest gods of Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are all created by Him. Guru Nanak denies any kind of material cause by bringing in "Hukam" in the concept of creation, consistently and rightly. The creation takes place through His Will.

"Hukami hovan(i) akar..."
"kita pasau eko kavau"
"Jo tis(u) bhavai soi karasi"

His Will it is that creates the forms...
How speak of Him who with one Word did the
whole Universe create.
What He wills He ordains

Some scholars such as Dr. Sher Singh think that Guru Nanak's idea of creation is monistic. This is misleading. A correct understanding of the Guru's concept of creation, gives a better clue to the understanding of his concept, than using Hindu philosophy. The term creation expresses the way in which the world and everything pertaining to the world have their origin, ground and final goal in God. It implies a comprehensive action of God on the world and a total relationship of the world to God. The concept transcends all categories of thought, and the metaphysical systems like pantheism, emanationism and dualism cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of creation, because on the positive side, it is the action of a "personal" God.

Creation embraces the whole of reality of the world, not just its begining, but its whole existence including its consummation; and not just its static being, but its dynamism and activity. We must, therefore, insist that creation is not a "cause" within the category of causes, but the living transcendent ground of the world and its movement. Creation means everything without exception, is God's action and God's beneficient action towards man. The belief in Creation is to see someone behind all things, to see the world as "gift".

The goal of creation can only be man, as person and as community. How true this is when the sociological implication of "langer" is considered. Only man can receive love as love. Creation is considered as a free act of God to man. It means that the whole of reality comes to him as a "sabad" (Word) of God, summoning and inviting him to an equally total response, in which man responds to the "sabad" with the fullness of his own being and of his world.

"Nirankar(u) akar(u) hoi, ekmakar(u) apar(u) sadaia
Ekmakarah(u) sabad dhuni Oankar(i) akar(u) banaia"...Varan Bhai Gurdas, 26.2

The Guru uses words like "Kartar", "Siranda", "Usaranahar", "Khaliq" and "Karanhar", which are all personal names, as if to mean that the Creation is the action of a Personal God.


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Sikhism and Monotheism... (Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia - 14.Jun.98)
 . . Re: Sikhism and Monotheis... (Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia - 15.Jun.98)
 . . Re: Sikhism and Monotheis... (Jass Singh - 14.Jun.98)
 . . . . Re: Sikhism and Monotheis... (Krishna S. Khalsa - 15.Jun.98)
 . . . . . . Re: Sikhism and Monotheis... (Jass Singh - 15.Jun.98)

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