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How to Develop a Sikh Response

A ‘Gurmat’ Framework

Monday
,
31
July
2017

How to Develop a Sikh Response

A ‘Gurmat’ Framework

Monday
,
31
July
2017
Sikhi
Gurbani
Sikhism
History
Sikh History
⟵ Back to articles

How to Develop a Sikh Response

A ‘Gurmat’ Framework

Monday
,
31
July
2017
Who can curate a Sikh response? Why is a framework necessary? What is Gurmat? How do Bani, Tvarikh, and Rahit consitute Gurmat? Which sources can be classified as primary and secondary?‍

A Sikh worldview begins with IkOankar – 1Force – the opening logo, alphanumeric characters, or phonetic signifier in Guru Granth Sahib. A Sikh worldview is viewing the world: the beginning, the people, the problems, the governments, the conflicts, the solutions, the future, and so on, through IkOankar.

A Sikh worldview requires that one knows what the Sabad – the Infinite Wisdom – on IkOankar imparts: the culture of Nam, Identification with the 1Force! Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. One’s response to news about human lynching is based on one’s worldview. One’s response to gender killings is based on one’s worldview. One’s response to Sarbat Khalsa (Sikh Governing Body) is based on one’s worldview. One’s response to issues of birth and death is based on one’s worldview.

Everyone has developed a “system of beliefs” and core values that they operate from. But is that “system of beliefs" based totally on the Sabad if one wants to serve as a Sikh?

A Sikh worldview cannot be based upon mere opinions or a system of beliefs and values developed via circumstantial osmosis!

An effortless way to explain a worldview is “simply how one sees the world.” If one were to put on a pair of glasses with “red lenses,” everything one would see would be “red.” If one were to put on a pair of glasses with “green lenses,” everything one would see would be “green.” I have red-green colorblindness, so the spectrum chart is not the same as 90% of all men and 99% of all women. Oh well!

The same is true for a worldview. In a Sikh worldview, everything one sees is viewed through the Sabad. If one has a Sikh worldview that begins with IkOankar, one will seek to develop an answer for every situation, issue, or problem that centers around IkOankar. For example, let’s suppose a Sikh worldview integrates Creator-Creation: the perspective that the world came to be out of natural causes within IkOankar’s Order. If you are coming from an atheistic or Christian worldview, you will do everything in your power to promote your view and discredit your opponent’s view.

The Sikh worldview is based on Gurmat – the Guru’s Wisdom – which commences with IkOankar and is elucidated in the Sabad and experienced in Nam.  

A Gurmat framework is an approach to Sikhi that recognizes how Guru Nanak Sahib revolutionarily delivered a message of 1Ness by illustrating an in-sync connection between idea and practice. It engages in zeroing in on what “Guru” means in the Sikh context and how one can begin to comprehend the Guru’s Way, i.e., Gurmat. Three facets of bani (message), tavarikh (history), and rahit (lifestyle) must be explored to develop a Gurmat understanding. It seeks to answer that the greatness of a religion-revolution is when a harmonious balance between the Ultimate Reality and visible form is exemplified thru the facets mentioned above.

Bani – The Message is the Sabad on which we build our understanding of the Guru’s wisdom. To actively engage with and learn about Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptural canon. It is a journey: know your Guru, feel your Guru, dialogue with your Guru. Essentially, build a personal relationship with the Guru that goes from “the Guru” to “My Guru.” “Without Eternal Guru, other teachings are immature” [GGS: 920]. It also incorporates the wisdom recorded by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, Bhai Gurdas, and Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya.’

Tavarikh – The Revolution is how the Gurus exemplified “The Wisdom” in their lives on this Earth for 239 years to develop Nam-drenched beings—firstly, surveying the lives of Guru Nanak Sahib through Guru Gobind Singh Sahib to understand them in a social, political, economic and spiritual dimension. It explores the ramifications of affirming love with the Divine, to the economic centers created by the Guru Sahibs, and to the activism of all kinds. The inspiring history of the Gurus reminds us how relevant, active and exemplary the revolution of Sikhi is. “The ancestral narratives transform an average child into a progeny” [GGS:951]. In addition, it also incorporates the history of the Guru Khalsa Panth since 1699.

Rahit – The Lifestyle is how the Message and the Revolution become relevant here and now. Lifestyle is not limited to codes or ethical behavior alone, but how the Sikh lives in ordinary life, preparing for extraordinary challenges. It is the incessant chiseling to be of the Guru, for the Guru, by the Guru. At that juncture, the contradictions of life become non-dual paradoxes, the Beautiful One enters life, and a Sikh gives her response most befitting at that moment in time and space. Protégé emulates the Mentor:  “All-Pervasive’s votary needs to be just like the All-Pervasive” [GGS: 1372]. This is gathered via Rahitname (individual accounts on code of conduct from Guru Gobind Singh Sahib period onwards), the twentieth-century legal definitions, and explorations by great Sikhs in their personal and public lives.

Where bani, tavarikh, and rahit intersects may possibly be understood as Gurmat. That is so because now it is not just philosophical, historical, or contemporary understanding.  Rather, it connects the message, the revolution, and the lifestyle in a nuanced manner to constitute Gurmat’s relevant application to world realities.

sikh-response-gurmat-jul31.png

To develop a Gurmat framework, a survey and research of primary and secondary sources is a must. Equally important is the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary source material. Why? Because this distinction illustrates the degree to which the contributor or author of a piece is removed from the actual event being described, informing the reader as to whether the author is reporting impressions firsthand (or is first to record these immediately following an event), or conveying the experiences and opinions of others—that is, secondhand.

Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e., not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews, and other unpublished works.  They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (so long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.

Secondary sources’ function is to interpret primary sources so they can be described as at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review. Secondary source materials, then interpret, assign value to, conjecture upon, and conclude the events reported in primary sources. These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books but may include radio or television documentaries or conference proceedings.

Within the Sikh context, the Guru Granth Sahib is the primary source. Here are a few examples of primary and secondary sources:


When evaluating primary or secondary sources, the following questions might be asked to help ascertain the nature and value of the material being considered:

  • How does the author know these details (names, dates, times)? Did the author witness the event?  
  • Where does this information come from — personal experience, eyewitness accounts, or reports written by others?
  • Are the author's conclusions based on a single piece of evidence, or have many sources been considered (e.g., diary entries, third-party eyewitness accounts, impressions of contemporaries, newspaper accounts)?

Ultimately, all source materials of whatever type must be assessed critically, and even the most conscientious and thorough work is viewed through the eyes of the writer and/or interpreter. This must be considered when attempting to arrive at the 'truth' of an event. The only exception is Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru for the Sikhs!

Recall that the centerpiece of a Sikh worldview is IkOankar; its entire focus is on IkOankar.

Gurmat upholds IkOankar created all beings who evolve in their existence. And Gurmat imparts to us:

  • A timeless intergalactic morality that earthlings must interpret to establish their ethics for their era.
  • Separation from the Lover is our greatest problem; we are all born as a divine gift, but we develop negative influences due to our distance from the Lover.
  • People’s greatest problem is solved with Love which propels Justice through intervention and education.
  • Every man and woman is divine, and their life’s purpose is to become Divine-like, here and now.
  • All Sikhs aspire to chisel themselves with Sabad to experience Nam.

Developing a worldview has a far more significant impact than one might initially think.  For, if one has a Sikh worldview, one will know how to respond to issues in the world. A Sikh worldview gives one confidence, answers to life’s problems, and hope for the future.

Sikhs must know and understand what Gurmat tells us about: religion, hate crimes, money, social status, marriage, family, infanticide, gender, sex, euthanasia, activism, justice, genocide, nationalism, war, army and police, welfare, intoxicants, dietary habits, gambling, homosexuality, germ lines, abortion, gun laws, human rights, and so on.

If one does not know what Gurmat says about issues confronting or stressing us in personal and public domains, one will not be able to consult, and if one chooses to, implement a Sikh worldview. One is simply operating in a default mode” or “status quo” and vulnerable to believing the potential tyranny of the majority.

If one’s grid is empty, many things one sees, hears, or reads might make sense because one does not have the plumb line of truth to compare it to. The question is: is one’s grid-based upon what Gurmat says, or what the world propaganda has taught one? If it is full of Gurmat, then one will be able to discern the apt response. For example, if I hear someone say, “Abortion is not taking a life. You do not become a human being until birth.” If one filters this information through the “Gurmat grid” based on IkOankar and Sabad, one may say, "That makes sense, or it doesn’t make sense.” I know this because I understand what Gurmat imparts about this very sensitive and divisive topic laden with hyper-political funding and policy issues.  

Only when one understands a Sikh worldview can one best understand life on this earth. For it is a Sikh worldview that answers the fundamental questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is my problem? What is the solution? And where am I going?  

When one centers life around fundamental questions, one has the foundation and training to delve into resolving duality or conflicts that confront mortals daily. When enough mortals raise their consciousness with Sikh values based on Gurmat, it creates a groundswell for trans-valuation in the community and nation. That’s where acceptance and choice are honored with nuance and thoughtfulness.

Only when the Sikh collective develops a Gurmat-centered Sikh worldview can we aptly think-feel how IkOankar relates to our possessions, vocation, family, neighbors, nation, and Panth.

The Wisdom (Gurmat) is in interlinking the message (bani), the revolution (tavarikh), and the lifestyle (rahit).

That’s when the next movement of Sikhi delivers Panth-ki-Jit or Sarbat-da-Bhala impact armed with Light-Love!

Revised:
24
June
2022

This Content has been made available for educational purposes only. SikhRI does not make any representation concerning the completeness of the Content. This Content is not intended to substitute research or a deeper understanding of the topic. SikhRI encourages readers to read multiple authors to gain a complete understanding of the topic.

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Written By

Senior Fellow, Research & Policy

Harinder Singh is the Senior Fellow at the Sikh Research Institute. He holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University, an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Kansas, and an MPhil from Punjab University in the linguistics of the Guru Granth Sahib. 

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