Guru Nanak Ki Bani

Articles on Sikhism written by Sujan Singh

Concept of God in Sikhism

Concept of God in Sikhism


Sujan Singh

Humans have always been anxious to know who created this entire universe, who controls it and who created all the living beings. The ancient man thought that some  super power is there above us who controls all his creation. That super power in ancient Hindu scriptures, Upanishads, was named as Om or Braham. Later, the concept of soul originated probably on the basis of some evidence provided by some persons who remembered their past lives. In  Upanishads, soul is described as indestructible and with the death of a person, the body, the physical being, is either cremated or buried but the soul, the ethereal self, takes another birth. The concept of God then changed and was considered as supreme soul governing all the souls in the living beings.  God was named as Parmatma, the supreme soul and all the souls in humans as a part of that supreme soul. Later, it was theorised by ancient scholars that the souls take birth in human form according to their deeds or karma in their past lives. A human, after his or her death, may take birth again in human incarnation or may take birth in any of the 840,000 creations on the basis of his or her good or bad deeds. It was also theorised that a human’s soul merges with the supreme soul of God if he purifies his soul through good deeds in his human life and does not commit any sin.

Later, with the advancement in knowledge, the concept of God continued to change. According to Hindu philosophy, concept of trinity God, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, originated. Lord Brahma gives births to all living beings depending upon their good or bad deeds. Lord Vishnu gives sustenance to all the living beings in this universe again on the basis of good or bad deeds committed in their previous births. Lord Vishnu thus controls the entire material world. Lord Mahesh takes away lives from all the living beings and is thus called the destroyer. The kings who were cruel and committed sins were called demons and those kings who were kind to the public and who defeated and killed demons were considered as reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and are worshipped as prophets by Hindus. In all ten prophets are recognized in Hindu religion. These are Kachh, Machh, Warrah, Narsinha, Vaman, Purshuram, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Mahatma Buddha and Kalki. The last one, Kalki, is still to manifest.

In other religions also, God has different names and prophets are sent by God to eradicate evil from this world. In Christianity, God is named as God. In Islam, God is named as Allah. Jesus is the last prophet in Christianity and is considered as the beloved son of God. Similarly, Hazard Mohammed is the last prophet in Islam.

No one has defined God in any religion though every religion describes various qualities of God. Guru Nanak Dev JI for the first time defined God as Ikoankar or Ekamkar and explained this in his Bani at various places in Guru Granth Saheb Ji.

Ikoankar or Ekamkar is composed of three words I.e. Ik, Oank or Om and Kaar. Each of these three words describes God and His existence in this universe.

Concept of God before creation of Universe

In Sikhism God is conceived in two forms i.e. in Nirguna form and in sarguna form..‘Ik’ (meaning one) in Ikoankar defines Nirguna state of God. It is that state of God when He had not created the universe as yet. He was one and the only one at that time. He was in himself. There was no universe, no suns, no planets, no satellites, no living or non-living creatures, no good or bad deeds, no light, no days or nights. In fact there was total darkness at that time. God had not created in Himself His own powers, including the power of creation and the power of destruction.  He was thus devoid of any characteristics or any qualities. He was one and only on. The ancient Hindu books describe this period of darkness, when God was one and only one, extending to 36 yugas (one yug is variously described as 1000 years, 10, 000 years or even more).

Once, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was asked by learned saints (Sidhas) to describe the ‘Nirguna’ state of God. Guru Nanak Dev Ji replied that ‘Nirguna’ state of God is a divine wonder. A man is too little a creature to even think of that state, let alone to describe that state. When God Himself had not acquired His power of creation, how can a created one, the human, think of that state of God? Everyone and everything is created by God. How can a created one think of the state of a creator when there was nothingness, no creation, only the creator. He, the creator, only knew about Himself of that state.

Strangely enough, science, also explains the state of universe prior to Big Bang in more or less a similar way.“ What existed prior to this event is completely unknown and is a matter of pure speculation. About 15 billion years ago, the entirety of our Universe was compressed into the confine of an atomic nucleus. All the matter and energy of space was contained at one point. Known as a singularity, this is the moment before creation when space and time did not exist. According to the prevailing cosmological models that explain our universe, an ineffable explosion, trillions of degrees in temperature in any measurement scale that was infinitely dense, created not only fundamental subatomic particles and thus matter and energy but also space and time itself”(world website, Google, Canada).

According to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, all creations were into God when God was in Nirguna state. Tenth guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji also said that when God attained creative powers, He created the entire universe, the living and non-living, the planets and suns, the galaxies and thus the universe. But when at any moment, God would like to destroy His creation; all created would go into Him.

Concept of God after the creation of universe

When God desired to create the world, He came out from Nirguna (without any qualities or characteristics) to Sarguna state (having acquired all His qualities). Thus ‘Oank or OM’ in Ikoankar depicts God’s Sarguna state. In Surguna, Guru Nanak Dev Ji recognizes God in three forms.

1.  He is inaccessible 

It is beyond conception of any living being to know where God actually lives. No body can reach Him. A created one with a physical existence is unable to visualize the exact abode of his creator when the creator is beyond any physical existence. A human being can conceive things around him with the help of his five senses of perception i.e. the sense of hearing, sense of seeing, sense of smelling, sense of tasting and sense of touch. None of these senses are capable of reaching up to God. God in that state cannot also be described in words. Worldly things do not affect him. He is purest of the pure. He is somewhere beyond this universe, beyond any cosmic world if it exists. Yet He is the lord of the entire universe, the master of the entire world. He controls His kingdom, the kingdom of this universe or any cosmic world beyond this universe. Every thing exists through His will. If at any time, He desires to destroy His creation, He would do it in a fraction of a second. The entire universe exists at the mercy of God.

2. He is omnipresent

This is His second mode of existence. In spite of being inaccessible, His existence is evident in everything created by Him. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says that God first manifested Himself from Nirguna to Sarguna state, and then acquired in Him by Himself all the qualities including the qualities of creation and powers to govern His creation. He then created nature and established His throne in nature to enjoy His creation which included the universe, galaxies, stars, planets, satellites, moons, and all animate and inanimate things on earth. He created microorganisms, plants, insects, animals, land, oceans, and mountains. He created man, the master of all other creatures on earth. How can then the presence of God be felt in His creation? We can explain it by citing the example of an artist. An artist makes a picture and people see the picture, appreciate it and admire the qualities of the artist who made the picture. But God does not merely exist in nature just to see that His creation admires Him. He is present in His creation to govern His creation. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says that God created the universe by His supreme command or Hukam. Sikh’s fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji states that all the creation created by God is bound by certain fixed principles and these principles work under the divine command of God. Nothing is created haphazardly. Everything is created under some principle and these principles are strictly obeyed, both by living and non-living beings under His divine command, described as HUKAM by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.Every living and non-living creation is under the fear of supreme command or Hukam of God that God will punish those who disobey or disrupt His creation. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says that the wind blows, the rivers flow, the fire does its work, the earth bears the weight of everything on it, the revolution of moon around earth, earth around sun and sun around other suns in its galaxy all work under the fear of the supreme command and do not defy the principles on which the entire system of this universe works If any created one tries to disobey His divine command, there would be total destruction. Everything will finish in no time. Thus the existence of God in nature can be seen through His Hukam or supreme command which none of His creation dare to disobey.          

For a moment, if we consider that the earth changes its course around sun just by a few centimeters, everything on earth will perish. The moon will perish and with that the other planets revolving around our sun would loose their balance. Thus everything in this universe is continuously revolving around some other thing under a fixed principle, under the divine command (Hukam) of God. All their movements work on more or less same principle, be it a sun, earth, moon or a tiny electron revolving around protons and neutrons. They are all governed by a fixed principle. If that principle is disturbed; havoc ensues. Just imagine fission of a tiny atom enabled scientists to make an atomic bomb with immense energy stored in that. Then imagine how much energy is stored in revolution of earth around sun, or moon around earth. If somehow, this energy or a part of it were released, what havoc would it cause? It will bring with it total destruction. Thus there lies the caution that we should obey the nature and through it, obey the divine command of God. We should not disturb nature. Disturbing of nature amounts to disobeying the divine command of God, the HUKAM of God. Therefore it is the fear of God’s divine command that nature is working with His fixed principles. This fear exists in every thing, living and non-living, every electron, positron, neutron, wind, water, fire, mountains, oceans, stars, planets, satellites. It is this fear that keeps us in check to disturb or destroy nature. He is thus omnipresent. He exists in everything He created through His divine command. For example every country has its own constitution to govern his people. They enact laws. No man can dare to kill another man under the fear of the law of his land. If he does kill, he himself is destroyed. He meets his fate of disobeying the law. In the same way, in a broader perspective, disobeying God’s principle of creation would bring havoc, self-destruction of us humans. We will destroy ourselves under His divine command. God therefore exists in His creation in the form of His HUKAM, His divine command which none can dare to disobey. He is thus omnipresent.

3. He is within every human being.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji states that after creation of humans, God incorporated in them His own self, His NAAM,( His qualities) to act as a judge to analyze good or bad and to guide us humans to purify our souls from sins committed in past and present life. At another place in holy Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev Ji says that God’s holy light within us guides us to spend our lives in a righteous way by washing out our sins through doing good deeds. Only good deeds can take us to the door of God. God’s NAAM,(His characteristics or good qualities), enshrined in us at the time of our births guide us to analyze what is good or bad. Whenever we go astray, our inner self, which is a part of God’s self, guides us towards right path. Whenever we do some sin, our inner self rebukes us and forbids us not to commit sin. If in spite of this guidance, we still commit a sin then that becomes our destiny. We will have to suffer for that sin in our life at one time or the other. We commit sin only when we ignore His guidance, ignore our inner voice or suppress our inner self. As an example your child makes a mistake. You slap him on his face. The child weeps. Your inner self warns you that you have committed a wrong doing. You at once realize your mistake and abide by the guidance given to you by your inner self. You love the child. Your child becomes happy. You experience happiness in your inner self. You have ultimately obeyed God’s divine command enshrined within you and you feel eternal happiness. In the same way, if we work under the command of our inner self, which is a part of God, we would elevate our selves to higher heights. We will cleanse our soul. We will not hate others. We would love everybody.  We would not come under the hold of false pride. We will not be perturbed by physical troubles. We will not hurt others’ feelings. We will not tell lies for our petty gains. We will lead an honest, truthful and righteous life. Such a person who leads his or her life under the  guidance of  inner soul,inculcate in him or her all the good qualities of God by which we identify God on this earth, becomes like God or saint or Brahamgiani.

So ‘Oan’ in ‘Ikoankar’ stands for Sargun state of God who is inaccessible to any living being but is present in His every living and non-living creation in the form of His divine command and  exists within every human in the form of His light or guiding principle or NAM which at every moment analyses our good or bad deeds.

Concept of monotheism

The last part of ‘Ikoankaar’ is ‘Kaar.’ ‘Kaar’ means ‘only’, only one. Ik denotes God’s state before creation when he was one and only one. ‘Oan’ after creation. ‘Kaar’ means, he remained only one even after creation. He remained only one even after being present in all living and non-living ones created by Him. He does not distribute His duties to any other deity. He is the only Supreme Being. He is the only one who created everything and Guru Nanak Dev Ji says whatever He created, He created at one stroke.

Sikhism does not believe in the concept of incarnation of God. God does not come on earth in human incarnation as is believed in other religions. But a human can become like God if he purifies his soul by avoiding sins and doing good deeds. Guru Nanak has even said that a human who has inculcated the qualities of God in his life, even becomes above God.



Daily Hukamnama in English

  • Aasaa: As long as the oil and the wick are in the lamp, everything is illuminated. But when the oil is burnt, the wick goes out, and the mansion becomes desolate. ||1|| O mad-man, no one will keep you, for even a moment. Meditate on the Name of that Lord. ||1||Pause|| Tell me, whose mother is that, whose father is that, and which man has a wife? When the pitcher of the body breaks, no one cares for you at all. Everyone says, "Take him away, take him away!"||2|| Sitting on the threshold, his mother cries, and his brothers take away the coffin. Taking down her hair, his wife cries out in sorrow, and the swan-soul departs all alone. ||3|| Says Kabeer, listen, O Saints, about the terrifying world-ocean. This human suffers torture and the Messenger of Death will not leave him alone, O Lord of the World. ||4||9|| Hukamnama from

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