Concept of Guru in Sikhism

The author elaborates her views on the Granth and the Gurus.

Concept of Guru in Sikhism

Human being is the only being which is always in the search of fullness, fullness of his mind, desires etc. but materialistic things cannot make him contented. The reason is everything in this world has its own essence either living or Non-living. Anything can be called complete only if it is related or joined strongly to its roots or essence because without its roots it always keeps on wandering. Roots of a particular thing decide that what is the aim for its survival and what it is going to give in while living in this universe.


Human life is so precious, it has been given to us by God for finding our essence, so we need to always remain connected with God, means with our roots. For example, if a tree is strongly connected it its roots it can give fruits, flowers, fragrance etc. Similarly, to know our roots or essence, we should connect ourselves with the Guru. Guru is the one which makes us to join with our roots i.e. Transcendental Lord.


ਬਹੁਤ ਜਨਮ ਬਿਛੁਰੇ ਥੇ ਮਾਧਉ ਇਹੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੇ ਲੇਖੇ ॥
bahut janam bichhure the maadhau ih janam tum(h)aare lekhe ||
For so many incarnations, I have been separated from You, Lord; I dedicate this life to You.
ਮੈਂ ਅਨੇਕਾਂ ਜਨਮਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਤੇਰੇ ਨਾਲੋਂ ਵਿਛੜਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਹਾਂ, ਹੇ ਸਾਈਂ! ਇਹ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੈਂ ਤੇਰੇ ਸਮਰਪਣ ਕਰਦਾ ਹਾਂ।
Guru Granth Sahib Ang No 694

Now question arises Who is Guru, How to find him?


The word 'Guru' is denoted to its usual meaning such as a teacher or an expert or a guide or a human body, but this is composed of two words- GU and RU.

GU means darkness and RU means Light, i.e.

Light that disperses all darkness called JOT OR DIVINE LIGHT, which can be achieved through counseling of mind and soul, which helps increases values and knowledge not only internally but externally also.


In order to do the counseling a specific type of knowledge is required which can be acquired through teacher or counselor. A knowledge which can be an exemplar in life, an inspirational source and which reveals the meaning of life. So, through which we gain this Inner Light is called “Guru’. Guru can be in any form, Word (Shabad), teacher or an expert or a guide or a human body.


Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly states about who is Guru in Chopai Sahib:


ਜਵਨ ਕਾਲ ਜੋਗੀ ਸ਼ਿਵ ਕੀਯੋ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਰਾਜ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਜੂ ਥੀਯੋ ॥ ਜਵਨ ਕਾਲ ਸਭ ਲੋਕ ਸਵਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਮਸ਼ਕਾਰ ਹੈ ਤਾਹਿ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥੩੮੪॥ ਜਵਨ ਕਾਲ ਸਭ ਜਗਤ ਬਨਾਯੋ॥ ਦੇਵ ਦੈਤ ਜੱਛਨ ਉਪਜਾਯੋ ॥ ਆਦਿ ਅੰਤਿ ਏਕੈ ਅਵਤਾਰਾ॥ ਸੋਈ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਮਝਿਯਹੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥੩੮੫॥ Dasam Granth, 384-385
The Temporal Lord, who created Shiva, the Yogi; who created Brahma, the Master of the Vedas; The Temporal Lord who fashioned the entire world; I salute the same Lord. The Temporal Lord, who created the whole world; who created gods, demons and yakshas; He is the only one form the beginning to the end; I consider Him only my Guru.

In Sikhism, Guru is the source of all knowledge which is Almighty. It is clearly described in Guru Granth sahib


ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਨਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥
gur bin gi-aan na hova-ee naa sukh vasai man aa-ay.
Without the Guru, spiritual wisdom is not obtained, and peace does not come to abide in the mind.
ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਬਾਝੋਂ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ-ਬੋਧ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੁੰਦਾ, ਨਾਂ ਹੀ ਠੰਢ-ਚੈਨ ਆ ਕੇ ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮੇ ਟਿਕਦੀ ਹੈ।
Guru Granth Sahib Ang 163

“Only a master, one who knows God, may rightly teach others about Him. To regain one’s divinity one must have such a master or Guru. He who faithfully follows a True Guru becomes like him, for the Guru helps to elevate the disciple to his own level of realization.


ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨ ਦੀਪਕ ਉਜਿਆਰੀਆ ॥੧॥
bikh bikhi-aa pasree at ghanee.
The lamp of the Guru’s spiritual wisdom illuminates and enlightens. ||1||
ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਵੀਚਾਰ ਦਾ ਦੀਵਾ ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਰੋਸ਼ਨ ਕਰ ਦਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ
Guru Granth Sahib Ang 210

A true, God-illumined Guru is one who, in his attainment of self-mastery, has realized his identity with the omnipresent Spirit. Such a one is uniquely qualified to lead the seeker on his or her inward journey toward perfection.


In Sikhism this started from Guru Nanak, who helps the society to get upliftment and teaches to society how to live a life. He was a bold man by Character, he believes that action separated a person from weak to strong, he never truly believed in giving up to external oppression and evils. With courage many oppressions can be overcome and the God guides the person with courage too.


Guru according to him is the voice of God, the true source of Knowledge & Salvation. He says there is only one God who is the Supreme Truth and Ultimate reality. He knows no Fear and does not have any enemies.


The teachings of Guru Nanak clearly depicts on other nine Guru’s of Sikh religion, all other nine Guru’s extended the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev and keep the Guru Nanak Philosophy common, in order to follow the path shown by Guru Nanak, other Guru’s face obstructions but they didn’t change the philosophy, result is this Sikhism becomes a different philosophy which works only for Humanity having faith in God, Faith in the Will of God.


Faith in God changes the character of person as we can see by following the philosophy of Guru Nanak. Guru Arjan Dev Ji didn’t fear to sit on hot plate instead bowing in front of oppression. A bold character shown by Guru Hargobind by starting Miri Piri, how both religiously we can fight with unkindness, injustice.  Further, giving birth to Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh is an example which converts the ordinary person to Saint Soldier. They gave the common man an Identity.


Sikh has an identity which reflects from his character, Sikh always depicts Honesty is the Best Policy, There is no better serving than Helping the Poor, Equality, Respect for Women, Selfless Service, Superstitious and Caste Eradication, God is Everywhere, Compassion, Musical Healing (Kirtan), Finding the Purpose of life and Stand Against Oppression. 


These all characters are given by Sikh Guru’s and we can see in Sikh’s, when Guru has a bold and humble character then their disciple will also become bold and humble, we can clearly find the clear picture of Guru from their disciples. Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly tells about Sikh and who is their Sikh:


Rehat Pyari Mujh Ko Sikh Pyara Nahi
It is a Sikh's code of conduct that I love, not the Sikh without it.
Rehni Rahe Soi Sikh Mera, O Thakur Me Uska Chera
One who has discipline is my Sikh, then one is my master and I his disciple.
Rehat Bina Nahi Sikh Akhawe Rehat Bina Dar Chotan Khawe
Without discipline none shall call you Sikh, without discipline you will keep on getting hurt.
Rehat Bina Sukh Kabhoon Naa Lahe, Taan Te Rehat Su Drid Kar Rahe
Without discipline you will not be in peace, devoid of discipline, the Lord makes you poor.

The Guru-Disciple relationship is the highest expression of friendship, for it is based on unconditional divine love and wisdom, here is an example we can find in Bhai Kanhaiya Ji who was serving water while in battle to soldier of Sikh and Muslim. Then some Sikhs point out this in front of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, they called Bhai Kanhaiya and asked why are you giving water to those who had killed our soldier, then Bhai Kanhaiya said I am finding you “Guru Ji” in all human being and I am not able to discriminate between Muslim and Sikh. 


Then Guru Ji said, Khaneya not only serves water but also apply ointment on their wounds too. So, this is the Guru Disciple relationship and the character of Guru which reflects from disciples. This is power of Guru which even makes his disciples more strong and compassionate.


A Guru focuses His disciple on spiritual growth, which in turn makes the disciple self-sufficient in overcoming problems where the root causes are spiritual in nature.


ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੋਝੀ ਨਾ ਪਵੈ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਨ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਜਾਇ ॥
bin satgur sojhee naa pavai ahaNkaar na vichahu jaa-ay.
Without the True Guru, understanding is not obtained, and egotism does not depart from within.
ਸੱਚੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਬਾਝੋਂ ਸਮਝ ਪਰਾਪਤ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਨਾਂ ਹੀ ਹੰਕਾਰ ਅੰਦਰੋਂ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ।
Guru Granth Sahib Ang 463

However, where the disciple is lucky enough (or destined) to end up or surrender at the feet of a Satguru, the Satguru, who transcends names, forms and schools of philosophies, will guide the disciple to the most appropriate “God” and school of philosophy best suited to him.


ਵਾਹੁ ਵਾਹੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਰਾਵਾਰੁ ॥
vaahu vaahu satgur nirankaar hai jis ant na paaraavaar.
Waaho! Waaho! Blessed and Great is the Formless True Guru, who has no end or limitation.
ਧੰਨ ਧੰਨ ਹਨ ਸਰੂਪ-ਰਹਿਤ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਸਚੇ ਗੁਰਦੇਵ ਜੀ, ਜਿਨ੍ਰਾਂ ਦਾ ਅਖੀਰ ਤੇ ਓੜਕ ਜਾਣਿਆ ਨਹੀਂ ਜਾ ਸਕਦਾ।
Guru Granth sahib Ang 1421

What the disciple needs to do afterwards is to surrender his ego at the feet of his guru and remain steadfast in his faith, goal and commitment. It is also said that, in reality, it is the guru who seeks and gets the disciple.


ਮਨੁ ਬੇਚੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਪਾਸਿ ॥ man baychai satgur kai paas. One who sells his mind to the True Guru ਜੋ ਆਪਣੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀ ਸੱਚੇ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਕੋਲ ਵੇਚ ਦਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ,
ਤਿਸੁ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਰਾਸਿ ॥ tis sayvak kay kaaraj raas. that humble servant’s affairs are resolved. ਉਸ ਗੋਲੇ ਦੇ ਕੰਮ ਸੌਰ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ। Guru Granth sahib Ang 286

In Sikhism, Sikhs consider Granth (holy book) as their living Guru, they give regard and respect to Guru Granth Sahib.  Guru Granth sahib contains Bani (the actual words spoken by the Sikh Guru’s and other Saints).


Bhai Gurdas, a great scholar of the Sikhism clearly mentioned, "In the Word is the Guru, and the Guru is in the Word (shabad)". In other words, the human body was not the Guru, but the light of the word (shabad) within the heart was their real personality. When the human mind dives deeper and deeper into the Guru's word, all mental impurities depart and the wisdom of the Guru permeates the human soul. Thereby the devotee attains the divine light and wisdom which leads him to contemplate and meditate on God's name (Naam). In the light of the above realities, the Sikh religion makes the holy Granth the living master of the Sikh Panth.


ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸਾਰੇ ॥ banee guroo guroo hai banee vich banee amrit saaray. The Word, the Bani is Guru, and Guru is the Bani. Within the Bani, the Ambrosial Nectar is contained. ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਦਾ ਸਰੂਪ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਸਰੂਪ ਹਨ। ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਅੰਦਰ ਸਮੂਹ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ-ਰਸ ਹਨ।
ਗੁਰੁ ਬਾਣੀ ਕਹੈ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਜਨੁ ਮਾਨੈ ਪਰਤਖਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਿਸਤਾਰੇ ॥੫॥ gur banee kahai sayvak jan maanai partakh guroo nistaaray. ||5|| If His humble servant believes, and acts according to the Words of the Guru’s Bani, then the Guru, in person, emancipates him. ||5|| ਜੇਕਰ ਟਹਿਲੂਆ, ਜੋ ਕੁੱਛ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦਰਸਾਉਂਦੀ ਹੈ, ਉਸ ਦੀ ਕਮਾਈ ਕਰੇ, ਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਸਾਖਸ਼ਾਤ ਅਵੱਸ਼ ਹੋ ਉਸ ਨੂੰ ਤਾਰ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਹ। Guru Granth Sahib Ang 982

Guru Gobind Singh, bowed his head before Guru Granth Sahib and conferred the Guruship. He then delivered a self-composed hymn:


Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth. Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth. Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh.
Jo Prabhu ko milo chahe khoj shabad mein le. Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe, Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe."
"Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created. All Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru.
Consider the Guru Granth as an embodiment of the Gurus. Those who want to meet God, can find Him in its hymns. The pure Khalsa shall rule, and the impures will be left no more. Those separated will unite and all the devotees of the Guru shall be saved."

From Guru Granth Sahib, we can find “Who is Guru, How to attain Guru”. The teaching and path shown in Guru Granth Sahib clearly tells us the purpose of getting this human life and how to utilize this life so that we can merge with supreme power (God which is Omnipresent) from where we are originating, after doing worldly affairs. Guru Granth Sahib, a True Guru of Sikhs gives light and knowledge not only to Sikh but also to human being. In Guru Granth Sahib we come to know that:

  • We attain a stability of mind in the company of Guru

  • The true Guru cherishes his devotee

  • Guru is always merciful to the servant

  • Guru washes away the filth of the evil intellect of his devotee.

  • With the guru teachings, the devotee chants the lords name

  • With the fulness of his heart the true guru mends his servant

  • One who sells his mind to the true guru that humble servant affair are resolved

  • One who obeys the guru teaching one hundred percent that selfless servant comes to know the state of the transcendental lord.

  • He is the treasure of everything the giver of life

  • Guru is perfect and his teachings are ever lasting because servants mind become contented and the soul is fulfilled

  • Guru has endless virtuous qualities his worth cannot be appraised

  • That person whose mind is illuminated by the treasure of excellence (the treasure we obtain from our Guru) never dies.



Author: Amandeep Kaur


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