How to develop a Sikh Response - Sikh Research Institute

How to develop a Sikh Response

A Sikh worldview begins with Ik Oankar – One Force – the opening 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 Ik Oankar.


A Sikh worldview requires that you know what the Sabad – the Infinite Wisdom – on IK Oankar imparts!  Everyone has a worldview whether they realize it or not.  One’s response to news about human-lynching is based upon one’s worldview.  One’s response to gender-killings is based upon one’s worldview.  One’s response to Sarbat Khalsa (Sikh Governing Body) is based upon one’s worldview.  One’s response to issues of birth-death is based upon 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 operate as a Sikh?


A Sikh worldview cannot be based upon mere opinions or 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 that had “red lenses,” everything one would see would be “red.”  If one were to put on a pair of glasses that had “green lenses,” everything one would see would be “green.”  I personally have red-green colorblindness, so the spectrum chart is not 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 Ik Oankar, one will seek to develop an answer for every situation, issue or problem that centers around Ik Oankar.  For example, let’s suppose a Sikh worldview integrates Creator-Creation:  perspective that the world came to be out of naturalistic causes within Ik Oankar’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 Ik Oankar and is elucidated in the Sabad.  


A Gurmat framework is an approach to Sikhi that recognizes how Guru Nanak Sahib revolutionarily delivered a message of Oneness by illustrating 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.  To develop this understanding, three facets of bani (message), tavarikh (history) and rahit (lifestyle) are explored.  It seeks to answer that the greatness of a religion-revolution is when harmonious balance between the Ultimate Reality and visible form is exemplified thru the aforesaid facets. 


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.  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 ramifications of affirming love with Divine, to the economic center created by the Guru Sahibs, 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 becomes relevant, here and now.  Lifestyle is not limited to codes or ethical behavior alone, but how the Sikh lives in ordinary life preparing for extra-ordinary 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 termed Gurmat.  That is so because now it is not just philosophical, historical, or contemporary understanding.  Rather, it connects the message, the revolution and the life-style in a nuanced manner to constitute Gurmat’s relevant application to world realities.




To develop a Gurmat framework, 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 first hand (or is first to record these immediately following an event), or conveying the experiences and opinions of others—that is, second hand.


Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question.  These original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such 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, and 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 draw conclusions about 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 Sikh context, the Guru Granth Sahib is the primary source.  Here are few examples of primary and secondary sources:

Primary Sources Secondary Sources
Zafarnama (Guru Gobind Singh Sahib) Sahije Racio Khalsa (Harinder Singh Mahibub)
Varan & Kabitt-Savayye (Bhai Gurdas) Varan Bhai Gurdas Satik (Bhai Vir Singh)
Diwan-i-Goya (Bhai Nand Lal) Tasnifat-i-Goya (Gyani Mahan Singh)


When evaluating primary or secondary sources, the following questions might be asked to help ascertain the nature and value of 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, along with third-party eyewitness accounts, impressions of contemporaries, newspaper accounts)?


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


Recall, the center piece of a Sikh worldview is Ik Oankar, its entire focus is on Ik Oankar.


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


  • A timeless intergalactic morality which earthlings must interpret to establish their ethics for themselves for their era.
  • Separation from the Lover is our greatest problem; we are all born as divine gift, but due to our distance from the Lover, we develop negative influences.
  • 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.


Developing a worldview has a far greater impact than one might initially think.  For, if one has a Sikh worldview one will know how to respond to issues in the world.  Having a Sikh worldview gives one confidence, answers to life’s problems, and a 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, army and police, welfare, intoxicants, dietary habits, gambling, homosexuality, germ lines, abortion, 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 too, 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 make the statement, “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 Ik Oankar 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. 


It is only when one understands a Sikh worldview that one can 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 is honored with nuancing and thoughtfulness.


It is only when the Sikh collective develops a Gurmat-centered Sikh worldview that we can aptly think-feel how Ik Oankar 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 really delivers Panth-ki-Jit or Sarbat-da-Bhala impact armed with Light-Love! 



Harinder Singh is an educator, thinker and activist who tweets @1Force

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