Sikhism > Sikhism Principles

Reading of Scriptures:
Many good thoughts and noble sayings are found in sacred books but mere reading cannot help much. It is only the first step. Guru Nanak Sahib says :"If a man reads books throughout his whole life, till breath leaves his body, only the Holy Name is valuable, all else is vanity of the self." Again, "the scholar is an idiot if he has greed, avarice and pride." What is important is the practice of the Name and the cultivation of virtue. An ounce of practice is preferable to a ton of knowledge. Ethics and laws tell us what to believe and what to do ; they are like signposts. But one has to do the walking oneself. One can-not reach God by books or by rituals. Scriptures are our guides for action. They cannot fill the disciple with divine love. The knowledge of Vedas does not bring liberation: "God is beyond the Vedas, beyond the holy books." He can be found within the self by digging inward.

The doctrine of Grace:
Guru Nanak Sahib tells us that God has chosen him as a bride out of a large number. This is the reward for the qualities of the bride- humility, loyalty, sweet words-which have won for her the grace of the Lord. Surrender to God is the highest virtue of freedom. Just as a faith-ful wife gets the utmost pleasure in her complete surrender to her good husband, in the same way, the devotee gets supreme bliss by surrendering himself to God. Self-surrender to God means the absence of earthly cravings and desires.

Grace and Karma:
The modification of Karma by grace is an essential principle of Sikbism. Guru Nanak Sahib says :

Karma is the cause of birth in this world,
But salvation can be obtained by His Grace.

Good actions win not only public approbation but also divine favour.God does not interfere with man's choice, though as the Ruler of the universe, he controls the over-all destiny of individuals.

Caste and Sikhism:
Sikhism does not inculcate belief in caste. No man is born great or low. Guru Amardas says, "All colours and forms are thine." Guru Arjan Sahib gives the simile of the potter. The clay has been moulded in different forms. All men are the vessels of God. People may follow different faiths or divide themselves under different labels, but essentially man is one and indivisible. Whoever meditates on God becomes as great as He. Look at Ravidas the cobbler, Sadhna the butcher, Saina the barber. They were raised to the pedestal of saintliness and honoured by all. Just as the philosopher's stone transmutes iron ore into gold, in the same way God's name changes a low-born person into a Bhagat.

God's name cleanses and purifies. It burns away all impurity. A person of high caste is worse than one of the lowest caste if he does not meditate on the Name. Moreover, caste is of no consequ-ence in the next world. In God's Court, men shall be judged by their thoughts and deeds, and not by their family or pedigree. The Guru brought the four castes under one banner. And yet he taught us to be humble and poor in spirit, because with-out it, we cannot sublimate egoism(humai).

Place of miracles:
Saints and prophets should not perform miracles to confirm the faith of people in them. Miracles should not be worked to prove the greatness or truth of a religion. In fact, it is a hindrance in the spiritual path. Guru Amardas says, "The desire to perform miracles is a worldly attachment and is an obstacle in the way of the Name residing in our hearts." Guru Nanak Sahib had no taste for miracle. The greatest miracle was not to perform a miracle, inspite of his capacity to do so. He said :

If I exercise supernatural powers
And can create wealth at pleasure,
Can appear and disappear at will,
And thus win popular respect,
These delude fools only,
Who have no God in their hearts.

When the Sidhs asked Guru Nanak Sahib to show them a miracle, he replied that he would not do so : "Except the True Name, I have no miracle." Guru Arjan Sahib and Guru Teg Bahadur underwent tortures but refused to perform miracles. Men of God do not like to engage in such tricks. Guru Hargobind rebuked his son Baba Atal for exhibi-ting supernatural powers for which the latter had to pay with his own life.

Renunciation of the world:
Leaving one's home and family and living away from people is not favoured in Sikhism. Guru Nanak Sahib remonstrated the Yogis and the. Sidhs who lived in lonely and deserted places. The mind does not get peace in physical solitude. He writes in Sidh-Gosht:

Even when one is far away from cities,
The mind wanders away in sleep ;
Live by all means in society,
But covet not another man's wife,
Through His Name, one gets self-control.

The Gurus regarded married life {Grahsta} as the best mode of life. Escapism from the realities of life is not saintliness. The house-hold is a school where self-love is transformed into service of others and where the need to make an honest living leads to elevation of character.Guru Arjan Sahib says :

Renunciation of lust, anger, attachment is praiseworthy.

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib described renunciation thus : "0 my soul, practise renunciation in this way; consider your house as a forest and yourself as an ascetic in it. Let continence be your matted hair and communion with God your ablutions; instead of growing long nails pray daily; exert for acquiring divine knowledge ; instead of rubbing ashes on the body repeat His Name."

Guru Nanak Sahib says, "He who fixes the mind on God's feet, who remains desireless amid desires and is in love with the True One, is a real Sanyasi" Such a man is neither depressed by sorrow and misfortune nor elated by joy. He accepts happiness and sorrow with the same spirit."

According to Sikh religion, pilgrimage confers no spiritual benefit. Guru Nanak Sahib says, "Pilgrimage does not have the value of even a mustard seed. At places of pilgri-mage people take bath in holy rivers or tanks. But outward washing does not cleanse the mind. Guru Nanak Sahib says :

Why wash the body from outside ?
Wash the mind,
Clean it of the dirt of desire, '
And tread the path of salvation

All Gurus have tried to remove the wrong notion of the efficacy of pilgrimage. Guru Nanak Sahib says, "I would like to go to pilgrimage only if it pleased Him." Again he says, "My places of pilgrimage are the Word, contemplation and divine knowledge within me."