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Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Sri Guru Granth Sahib

"Jup," from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, available online from the Internet Sacred Text Archive at http://www.sacred-texts.com/skh/granth/gr01.htm

Compiled by Guru Gobind Singh in the eighteenth century

Sikhism emerged in the Punjab region of what is now India and Pakistan in the fifteenth century. The founder of Sikhism was Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1449–1538), who was born in an area of the Punjab that is now part of Pakistan. From an early age, he came to believe that external forms of worship were not as important as inner beliefs. He rejected many of the beliefs and practices of the Hindus who surrounded him, as well as that of Muslims. At one time Guru Nanak famously proclaimed, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim."

At the city of Sultanpur in India he had a revelation instructing him to preach about paths to enlightenment and to God. He opposed the caste system of Hindus (a hereditary system that defined and separated social classes) and any form of worship of idols, or substitutes for God. He also adopted the monotheism (belief in one supreme god) of Islam and placed a great deal of emphasis on the brotherhood of humankind.

"Endless are His Praises, endless are those who speak them. Endless are His Actions, endless are His Gifts. Endless is His Vision, endless is His Hearing."

The excerpt presents Guru Nanak's concept of God, a concept that all Sikhs adopt. It is taken from the Sikh sacred scripture, called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The section from which the excerpt is taken, titled "Jup," is an epic poem written by Guru Nanak. An epic poem is a work of poetry that may be as long as a book. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhs are reflected in the excerpt and are relatively simple. Sikhs believe that the purpose of religion is to create a close, loving relationship with God. One way to do this is through prayer, which repeatedly emphasizes the attributes, or characteristics, of God. The God of the Sikhs is a single God with no form that could be represented in, for example, a painting or sculpture. This is a contrast to the beliefs of Hinduism, in which God can take on many forms and be present in many things. The Sikh God fills the universe ("Endless are His Actions, endless are His Gifts"). He can be known only through meditation ("The faithful have intuitive awareness and intelligence").

The "Jup" consists entirely of an ongoing list of the features and qualities of God. God is to be honored and worshipped because of his creative power, his gifts to humankind, his virtue, his greatness, his beauty, his watchfulness over people, and many other characteristics. He has many names, such as True One, Infinite Lord, Highest of the High, and Treasure of Excellence. People can create a loving relationship with God by listening to Him and by striving to be pleasing to Him. Repeatedly, the prayer says, "May I never forget Him." The goal of always remembering God is central to the Sikh faith.

Guru Nanak was the first in a succession of ten gurus of Sikhism. A guru is a spiritual and religious teacher and counselor. The nine that followed him were regarded as reincarnations of Nanak. That is, they were considered to be new bodies into which Nanak was reborn. These gurus were the leaders of the Sikh faith until the early eighteenth century. The fifth guru, Sri Arjan Dev Ji (1563–1606), assembled the Sikh holy text, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, in 1603. The book consists of the hymns and writings of Sikhism's early gurus as well as those of various Hindu and Muslim saints. In later years, the Guru Granth was updated to include the writings of the some of the later gurus. In all it contains the work of six gurus: Nanak, Angad Dev, Amar Das, Ram Das, Arjan Dev, and Teg Bahadur.

Then, early in the eighteenth century, the last of the gurus, Gobind Singh Ji (1666–1708), compiled all of these writings into an updated version of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He proclaimed the text to be the eleventh and final guru of Sikhism. The Guru Granth Sahib is still personified in the early twenty-first century as the final guru, the living embodiment of the previous gurus, almost like a person. It remains the sacred scripture and spiritual guide of Sikhism.

The Guru Granth is the focus of worship in a Sikh temple, called a gurdwara, which literally means "residence of the Guru" or "door that leads to the Guru." Because Sikhs reject any form of idol worship (the worship of images that are not God) and believe that God has no physical form, there are no statues, pictures, incense, bells, or any other objects associated with religious ritual. Additionally, no copy of the Guru Granth is illustrated.

Any building that has a copy of the Guru Granth can be regarded as a Gurdwara. While a leader, called a Granthi, reads passages from the Guru Granth for the assembled worshippers, this person is not a priest. He is regarded simply as a reader and custodian of the Guru Granth, though he is expected to live an exemplary life. The Guru Granth is stored in a room by itself during the night. When Sikhs gather to worship, it is carried out in ceremonial fashion and placed on a raised platform or throne, where it is covered by a rich cloth when not being read. Sikhs regard the Guru Granth as an expression of God and a living embodiment of the gurus, so copies of it are treated respectfully.

While Sikhism rejected certain elements of Hinduism, particularly what it saw as Hinduism's emphasis on rituals and outward forms of worship, Sikhs believe in several central Hindu concepts:

  • samsara, or the endlessly repeated cycle of birth, life, and death;
  • karma, or the concept that the sum of a person's good and bad actions determines how he or she lives a future life; and
  • reincarnation, or rebirth following death.

In this respect Sikhism differs from many other religions in the world that teach that when a person dies, his or her soul goes either to heaven or hell forever. A person can become a Sikh by recognizing a single immortal God, by believing in the ten gurus as well as the Guru Granth Sahib, and by accepting the teachings of the gurus.

The Gurdwara

The gurdwara is a Sikh temple. Each gurdwara has four doors that lead into it. They are called the Door of Livelihood, the Door of Peace, the Door of Grace, and the Door of Learning. The four doors have symbolic meaning. They suggest that anyone is welcome to enter from the four points of the compass. They also suggest that members of any of the four Hindu castes are welcome. A light is always kept burning in the gurdwara to show that the Guru Granth's visible light can be seen by anyone at any time. There are approximately two hundred gurdwaras in India and an equal number in the United States.

Things to remember while reading the excerpt from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib:

  • The "Jup" differs from much of the rest of the Guru Granth in being more like an epic poem than a song, prayer, or hymn. The Guru Granth evolved from an earlier text called the Adi Granth. The Adi Granth consisted of poems, prayers, verses, and hymns that Nanak and later gurus wrote down.
  • The excerpt repeatedly calls on Guru Nanak ("O Nanak") for spiritual wisdom. Because a guru to Sikhs embodies divine wisdom, calling on Nanak is akin to calling on God.
  • At the time the Guru Granth was being compiled, religious texts in India were written largely in Sanskrit. This was a written language that the people did not speak. In contrast, the Granth was written largely in Punjabi, the language of the people. When asked why this was so, the third guru, Amar Das (1479–1574), replied (according to Sandeep Singh Brar, author of " The Third Master Guru Amar Das (1479–1574)"): "Sanskrit is like a well, deep, inaccessible [out of reach] and confined to the elite [a select few], but the language of the people is like rain water—ever fresh, abundant and accessible to all."

Excerpt from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Section 01—Jup—Part 001

   One Universal Creator God. The Name Is Truth. Creative Being Personified. No Fear. No Hatred. Image Of The Undying,
   Beyond Birth, Self-Existent. By Guru's Grace ∼
   Chant And Meditate:
   True In The Primal Beginning. True Throughout The Ages.
   True Here And Now. O Nanak, Forever And Ever True.
   By thinking, He cannot be reduced to thought, even by thinking hundreds of thousands of times.
   By remaining silent, inner silence is not obtained, even by remaining lovingly absorbed deep within.
   The hunger of the hungry is not appeased, even by piling up loads of worldly goods.
   Hundreds of thousands of clever tricks, but not even one of them will go along with you in the end.
   So how can you become truthful? And how can the veil of illusion be torn away?
   O Nanak, it is written that you shall obey the Hukam of His Command, and walk in the Way of His Will.
   By His Command, bodies are created; His Command cannot be described.
   By His Command, souls come into being; by His Command, glory and greatness are obtained.
   By His Command, some are high and some are low; by His Written Command, pain and pleasure are obtained.
   Some, by His Command, are blessed and forgiven; others, by His Command, wander aimlessly forever.
   Everyone is subject to His Command; no one is beyond His Command.
   O Nanak, one who understands His Command, does not speak in ego.
   Some sing of His Power—who has that Power?
   Some sing of His Gifts, and know His Sign and Insignia.
   Some sing of His Glorious Virtues, Greatness and Beauty.
   Some sing of knowledge obtained of Him, through difficult philosophical studies.
   Some sing that He fashions the body, and then again reduces it to dust.
   Some sing that He takes life away, and then again restores it.
   Some sing that He seems so very far away.

Section 01—Jup—Part 002

   Some sing that He watches over us, face to face, ever-present.
   There is no shortage of those who preach and teach.
   Millions upon millions offer millions of sermons and stories.
   The Great Giver keeps on giving, while those who receive grow weary of receiving.
   Throughout the ages, consumers consume.
   The Commander, by His Command, leads us to walk on the Path.
   O Nanak, He blossoms forth, Carefree and Untroubled.
   True is the Master, True is His Name—speak it with infinite love.
   People beg and pray, "Give to us, give to us," and the Great Giver gives His Gifts.
   So what offering can we place before Him, by which we might see the Darbaar of His Court?
   What words can we speak to evoke His Love?
   In the Amrit Vaylaa, the ambrosial hours before dawn, chant the True Name, and contemplate His Glorious Greatness.
   By the karma of past actions, the robe of this physical body is obtained. By His Grace, the Gate of Liberation is found.
   O Nanak, know this well: the True One Himself is All.
   He cannot be established, He cannot be created.
   He Himself is Immaculate and Pure.
   Those who serve Him are honored.
   0 Nanak, sing of the Lord, the Treasure of Excellence.
   Sing, and listen, and let your mind be filled with love.
   Your pain shall be sent far away, and peace shall come to your home.
   The Guru's Word is the Sound-current of the Naad; the Guru's Word is the Wisdom of the Vedas; the Guru's Word is all-pervading.
   The Guru is Shiva, the Guru is Vishnu and Brahma; the Guru is Paarvati and Lakhshmi.
   Even knowing God, I cannot describe Him; He cannot be described in words.
   The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him!
   If I am pleasing to Him, then that is my pilgrimage and cleansing bath. Without pleasing Him, what good are ritual cleansings?
   I gaze upon all the created beings: without the karma of good actions, what are they given to receive?
   Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once.
   The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him!
   Even if you could live throughout the four ages, or even ten times more, and even if you were known throughout the nine continents and followed by all,
   with a good name and reputation, with praise and fame throughout the world
   still, if the Lord does not bless you with His Glance of Grace, then who cares? What is the use?
   Among worms, you would be considered a lowly worm, and even contemptible sinners would hold you in contempt.
   O Nanak, God blesses the unworthy with virtue, and bestows virtue on the virtuous.
   No one can even imagine anyone who can bestow virtue upon Him.
   Listening—the Siddhas, the spiritual teachers, the heroic warriors, the yogic masters.
   Listening—the earth, its support and the Akaashic ethers.
   Listening—the oceans, the lands of the world and the nether regions of the underworld.
   Listening—Death cannot even touch you.
   O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss.
   Listening—pain and sin are erased.
   Listening—Shiva, Brahma and Indra.
   Listening—even foul-mouthed people praise Him.
   Listening—the technology of Yoga and the secrets of the body
   …
   O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss.

Section 01—Jup—Part 003

   Listening—pain and sin are erased.
   Listening—truth, contentment and spiritual wisdom.
   Listening—take your cleansing bath at the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage.
   Listening—reading and reciting, honor is obtained.
   Listening—intuitively grasp the essence of meditation.
   O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss.
   Listening—pain and sin are erased.
   Listening—dive deep into the ocean of virtue.
   Listening—the Shaykhs, religious scholars, spiritual teachers and emperors.
   Listening—even the blind find the Path.
   Listening—the Unreachable comes within your grasp.
   O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss.
   Listening—pain and sin are erased.
   The state of the faithful cannot be described.
   One who tries to describe this shall regret the attempt.
   No paper, no pen, no scribe can record the state of the faithful.
   Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord.
   Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind.
   The faithful have intuitive awareness and intelligence.
   The faithful know about all worlds and realms.
   The faithful shall never be struck across the face.
   The faithful do not have to go with the Messenger of Death.
   Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord.
   Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind.
   The path of the faithful shall never be blocked.
   The faithful shall depart with honor and fame.
   The faithful do not follow empty religious rituals.
   The faithful are firmly bound to the Dharma.
   Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord.
   Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind.
   The faithful find the Door of Liberation.
   The faithful uplift and redeem their family and relations.
   The faithful are saved, and carried across with the Sikhs of the Guru.
   The faithful, O Nanak, do not wander around begging.
   Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord.
   Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind.
   The chosen ones, the self-elect, are accepted and approved.
   The chosen ones are honored in the Court of the Lord.
   The chosen ones look beautiful in the courts of kings.
   The chosen ones meditate single-mindedly on the Guru.
   No matter how much anyone tries to explain and describe them, the actions of the Creator cannot be counted.
   The mythical bull is Dharma, the son of compassion; this is what patiently holds the earth in its place.
   One who understands this becomes truthful.
   What a great load there is on the bull!
   So many worlds beyond this world—so very many!
   What power holds them, and supports their weight?
   The names and the colors of the assorted species of beings were all inscribed by the Ever-flowing Pen of God.
   Who knows how to write this account?
   Just imagine what a huge scroll it would take!
   What power! What fascinating beauty!
   And what gifts! Who can know their extent?
   You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word!
   Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow.
   How can Your Creative Potency   be described?
   I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.
   Whatever pleases You is the only good done, You, Eternal and Formless One!
   Countless meditations, countless loves.
   Countless worship services, countless austere disciplines.
   Countless scriptures, and ritual recitations of the Vedas.
   Countless Yogis, whose minds remain detached from the world.

What happened next …

The Sikhs have a political as well as a religious history. After the death of the tenth guru in 1708, leadership of the Sikhs fell to his follower, Banda Singh Bahadur (1670–1716). His goal was to create a Sikh homeland in the Punjab. At the time, though, the Persian army was repeatedly invading India, carrying back captured riches and slaves. On their expeditions, they had to pass through the Punjab region, where they encountered ferocious resistance from the Sikhs. Using the tactics of guerrilla warfare, Sikh warriors harassed the Persians, reclaiming the booty and freeing the slaves. When the Persians pursued them, the Sikhs would suddenly turn and assault them, usually killing most of their pursuers. By the middle of the eighteenth century, Sikhs were largely in control of the Punjab region.

Through the early 1600s, the Sikhs lived in relative peace with Muslims in the region. That changed, though, under the Muslim emperor Jahan-gir, who opposed Sikhism. He was determined to convert its followers, including Guru Arjan Dev, to Islam. In the following decades, Sikhs took up arms and conducted military training to defend their faith. Violent battles between Sikh and Muslim armies erupted. The Sikhs were determined to defend the principle of religious toleration, not just of Sikhs but of Hindus as well.

Did you know …

  • Strict Sikhs continue to exhibit the five emblems of Sikhism, sometimes called the "five K's." The first emblem is Kesh, or uncut hair, which is seen as a gift from God. Male Sikhs can typically be recognized by the turban that is wound tightly around the head to contain the hair. The second emblem is Kungha, or a wooden comb to keep the hair neat. The third is Kasha, or an undergarment, like shorts, that was worn by Sikh soldiers and suggests chastity and cleanliness. The fourth, Kara, is a steel bracelet that symbolizes a connection with God, and the last, Kirpan, is a saber carried in readiness to defend the weak or uphold the right.
  • Sikhism's baptism and naming ritual began in 1699, when the first five Sikhs were baptized with amrit, a mixture of water and sugar that they drank from the same bowl. The five Sikhs were all members of different castes, and until that time it would have been unheard of for members of different castes to drink from the same bowl. With the use of amrit, this ceremony makes clear that anyone can be a Sikh, regardless of his or her background, family, social class, or other factor. As part of the ritual, each man's last name is replaced with the name Singh, meaning "lion." When women are baptized, their last names are replaced with Kaur, meaning "princess."

Consider the following …

  • Throughout the poem, God is frequently referred to just as "He" or "Him." Give a possible explanation for why much of the text avoids mentioning God by name.
  • Summarize the role that God plays in people's lives, as that role is developed in the "Jup."
  • The "Jup" is regarded as a morning prayer by Sikhs. Explain why the poem seems suitable for this purpose, focusing especially on the repeated line "May I never forget Him."

For More Information

BOOKS

Kalsi, Sewa Singh. Simple Guide to Sikhism. Folkestone, UK: Global Press, 1999.

Mann, Gurinder Singh. Sikhism. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Singh, Pashaura. The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

WEB SITES

Brar, Sandeep Singh. "The Third Master Guru Amar Das (1479–1574)." Sikhism. http://www.sikhs.org/guru3.htm (accessed on June 5, 2006).

"Religion and Ethics: Sikhism." bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/index.shtml (accessed on June 5, 2006).

"Shri Guru Granth Sahib: Jup." The Internet Sacred Text Archive. http://www.sacred-texts.com/skh/granth/gr01.htm (accessed on June 5, 2006).

The Sikh Home Page. http://www.sikhs.org/topics.htm (accessed on June 6, 2006).

"Sikhism: History, Beliefs, Practices." Religious Tolerance.org. http://www.religioustolerance.org/sikhism.htm (accessed on June 5, 2006).

Reduced: Simplified or limited.

Obtained: Acquired.

Absorbed: Occupied, having one's attention held.

Appeased: Satisfied.

Illusion: A false idea.

Hukam: Divine will.

Insignia: Symbol of authority, like a badge.

Darbaar: The court of a king.

Evoke: To bring forth.

Ambrosial: Very pleasing.

Immaculate: Without fault.

Naad: The essence of all sounds.

Vedas: Hindu sacred texts.

All-pervading: Present everywhere.

Shiva: Hindu god of destruction and transformation; one of the trinity of gods that includes Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver.

Vishnu: Hindu god of preservation; the second member of the trinity that includes Brahma the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer.

Brahma: Hindu god of creation and also of knowledge; the third member of the trinity that includes Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer.

Paarvati: The consort, or wife, of Shiva.

Lakhshmi: The consort, or wife, of Vishnu.

Pilgrimage: Trip to a sacred place, taken for a religious reason.

Contemptible: Looked upon with disgust.

Bestows: Gives as a gift.

Siddhas: Human beings who have reached perfection.

Yogic: Having to do with yoga, the Hindu discipline aimed at gaining a state of perfect spiritual understanding.

Akaashic: In Hinduism, relating to one of the five great elements that make up the world.

Nether: Located below or in a lower position.

Indra: In the Hindu Vedas, a warrior god, ruler of the sky and weather.

Intuitively: Instinctively, without needing explanation.

Essence: The most important quality or feature.

Devotees: Dedicated followers.

Scribe: One who copies down documents or religious texts.

Dharma: Divine law as a source of happiness and contentment.

Redeem: Restore the reputation of or pay for the sins of.

Compassion: Sympathy for the suffering of others.

Inscribed: Written down.

Potency: Strength.

Austere: Strict.

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