The Experience of God

A Sikh perspective.

Transcendence. Experiencing the divine. Tasting that sweet essence of God. For the Sikh, God has no form. God has no shape, age, race, or gender. God was never born, and will never cease to be. God is. That's it. The Sikh definition of God, found in the beginning of the Sikh scripture (the Aad Guru Granth Sahib) and the main Sikh prayer (the Mool Mantra), is not so much a definition as an anti-definition. God is told to be timeless. The face of God Guru Nanak says the face of God is immortality. The enemy of God? God has no enemy, and God holds no enmity. So what is this God then?

One word: everything.

For a Sikh, GOD is EVERYTHING-the entire universe, and beyond. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first often Sikh Gurus. The Gurus were the Sikhs spiritual, social and political leaders. They were God realized human beings, ten people who so fully realized God, that they almost became the divine. For a Sikh, the route to God is through the Guru. After the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guruship was passed onto the Sikh scripture, which became the spiritual guidance of the Sikhs, and to the Sikh nation, the Guru Khalsa Panth. For the Sikh, people as a whole are the Guru. And this twelfth Guru has power over the social and political world. Guru Nanak writes that God is in all, in all the species, in all the planets, in all the stars, in all the galaxies. God is everything. Yet, God is one. That one manifest God is the one and the same, everywhere.

How can such a God be experienced? A God so beyond human comprehension?  While embracing the sciences fully, Sikhism is clear that no amount of rational thought or research can yield a definition of God. God is beyond the constraints of the human mind. To humanize God is to put limitations on God- it is to put God in human terms, and thus, God ceases to be something beyond our scope. God has be come mundane and human, not grand and transcendent.

The answer to how a God beyond definition can be experienced is simple: through love.

God is love, and to experience love is to experience God. This is what the Sikh Gurus preach. How is our love for God shown? Two key ways: meditation and service. Meditation on God is integral, as is music. Singing the poetry of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib is at the heart of Sikhism. Music is seen as the key to instilling love of God in the human heart, and that divine music (kirtan), when coupled with meditation, is the key to experiencing the transcendent. But it is not enough. In fact, it's only half of the picture- the other half is just as integral. Service for humanity (and for all species in fact) is integral for a religious life. Without service, there is no spirituality. Sikhism does not advocate a break in religious and social spheres; instead, a Sikh is taught to incorporate religion into her everyday life. That is essential. A Sikh must be a productive and positive member of society, and to be such a member, selfless service is integral. This service takes two routes: providing for people's basic human needs, and fighting for peoples basic political rights. Both are needed. People need freedom of choice, freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but those rights are useless if they do not have food, shelter or healthcare. Both are necessary. A Sikh's life has two purposes: to become one with the Divine God that is in and around us all, and to leave this world a better place than when we found it.


Radix article originally published in December 2001 by Santbir Singh

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