4 Important Aspects of Sikhism

The Spiritual Support of Bani, Bana, Simran, Seva

The practices of Sikhism are meant to enable the devotee to overcome the effects of ego in order to realize the divine within, achieve peace, and attain enlightenment and salvation. Four very important aspects of Sikhism provide spiritual support to the practitioner engaged in dharam (dharma), or righteous living:

  • Bani  (*ba-NEE) - Holy word of scripture also known as Gurbani.
  • Bana (*ba-NAA) - Spiritual attire.
  • Simran (*sim-RAN) - Meditation.
  • Seva (*se-VAA). - Altruistic service.

(*Pronounced with emphasis on second syllable so that words rhyme.)

Scripture tells us that we are living in an age where the support of three of the four legs of spirituality have been lost and that only the one leg remains to supports us, and that is engaging in the praise of the Lord's name:

  • "Kalijug har keeaa pag trai khisakeeaa pag chouthaa ttikai ttikaae jeeo
    The Lord ushered in in the Dark Age of Kaliyug in which three legs of religion are lost and only the fourth leg remains intact.
    Gur sabad kamaaiaa aoukhadh har paaiaa har keerat har saant paa-e jeeo
    When the Gurus instruction is acted upon, the medicine of the Lord's name is obtained, and by singing God's praise peace is attained.
    Har keerat rut aaee har naam vaddaaee har har naam khaet jamaaiaa ||
    God's praise is sung in the season when God's name is glorified and the Lord's name is propagated within the field of the body.
    Kalijug beej beejae bin naavai sabh laahaa mool gavaaiaa ||
    In this dark age if any seed is sown other than the name, all profits and capital are lost.
    Jan Naanak gur pooraa paaiaa man hirdai naamh lakhaa-e jeeo ||
    Servant Nanak has found the perfect Guru who has revealed to his mind, heart, and soul, the holy name within.
    Kaljug har keeaa pag trai khisakeeaa pag chouthaa ttikai ttikaae jeeo ||4||4||11||
    The Lord ushered in in the Dark Age of Kalyug in which three legs of religion are lost and only the fourth leg remains intact." ||4||4||11|||| Guru Raam Das SGGS|| 446

Bhai Gurdas tells that the Guru's word instructs his Sikhs in the way of consciousness so as to restore the three legs of spirituality through the Three Golden Rules. Where before there was one leg, by means of righteous living there are again four legs:

  • "Aad purakh aades kar aad jagaad sabad vartaaiaa ||
    Worship the primal Creator, since the dawn of time and throughout the ages, His word pervades.
    Naam daan isanaan dirr gur sikh dae sainsaar taraaiaa ||
    The name's meditation and charitable acts are the ablutions with which the Enlightener instructs the disciple to carry them across the sea of worldly living.
    Kaleekaal ik pair hu-e chaar charan kar dharam dharaaiaa ||
    Where before one leg remained [with Gurus grace] four legs are attained through righteous living." Excerpt Var||24

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Bani the Holy Word

Bani Pro Nitnem CD
Bani Pro Nitnem CD. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Bani is the actual Guru of Sikhs and therefore often referred to as Gurbani.

  • "Banee guroo guroo hai banee vich banee amrit saree ||
    The Word is the embodiment of the Enlightener and the Enlightener is embodiment of the Word within the Word is the immortal essence contained.
    Gurbaanee kehai saevak jan maanai paratakh guroo nistaarae ||5||
    When the Enlightener's words are acted upon in faith, the humble servant is personally by the Enlightener emancipated." SGGS|| 982


Reading, reciting, and receiving Bani, the words and message of the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, are at the core of Sikh worship. The divine hymns of Bani provide guidance directly from the Enlightener Guru to the Sikh disciple as the means and way of attaining redemption, salvation, and enlightenment.

Hearing Bani is considered by the devotee to be life itself, and singing Bani the highest form of worshipful adoration as is evidenced by this hymn sung by Bhai Nirmal Singh:

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Bana Wearing Spiritual Attire

Bana Spiritual Attire
Bana Spiritual Attire. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Wearing the spiritual attire of Sikh Bana is a visual outer mirror of inner commitment to Sikh identity and a way of maintaining personal grace  rather than dressing to appease society's dictates of fashion. Donning spiritual accoutrements instills a sense of Sikh pride. Bana promotes self respect and freedom from enslavement to the demands of egoistic vanity.

  • "Abigat gat agaadh bodh aparanpar baanaa||
    His unmanifest position is unknowable and His form a formless guise." Bhai Gurdas Var||13

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Simran Contemplative Meditation

Simran
"Simran Karo" Reminder to Do Meditation. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The practice of Simran and remembering the divine in daily meditation is central to the Sikh way of life. Remembering, repeatedly uttering, and praising the holy name is considered as the most exalted act and capable of eradicating filth from the mind and instilling virtue.  

 

  • "Prabh kaa simran sabh tae oochaa ||
    Remembering God in meditation is the all highest and most exalted.
    Prabh kai simran oudharae moochaa ||
    Remembering God, many are saved.
    Prabh kai simran trisnaa bujhai ||
    Remembering God, spiritual thirst is quenched.
    Prabh kai simran sabh kichh sujhai ||
    When remembering God, all things are known.
    Prabh kai simran naahee jam traasaa ||
    While contemplating God, there is no fear of death.
    Prabh kai simran pooran aasaa ||
    When contemplating God, hopes are fulfilled.
    Prabh kai simran man kee mal jaa-e ||
    Contemplating God, the mind is cleared of filth.
    Amrit naam rid maa-eh samaa-e ||
    The immortal name of the Lord by the heart is absorbed.
    Prabh jee baseh saad kee rasnaa ||
    God abides upon His Saint's the tongue.
    Naanak jan kaa daasan dasnaa ||4||
    Nanak is servant to the slave of His slaves." ||4|| SGGS||263

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Seva Selfless Service

Shoe Seva
Shoe Seva. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Seva is the concept of selfless service performed with utter humility for the sake only of serving, without thought of personal compensation. Such altruistic attitude is regarded in Sikhism as the means to reduce the effect of ego. 

  • Aap chhodd saevaa karan jeevat mu-ae rehann ||2||
    He who forsakes selfishness, subdues conceit while performing selfless service, they remain dead [to ego] while yet alive. ||2|| SGGS ||233
  • Gur kai grih saevak jo rehai ||
    In the Guru's household the selfless servant lives.
    Gur kee aagiaa man meh sehai ||
    The Guru's commands he obeys mindfully, entirely.
    Aapas ko kar kachh na janaavai ||
    To himself he calls no attention whatsoever.
    Har har naam ridai sad dhiaavai ||
    Upon the Name of the Lord, within his heart he continually meditates.
    Man baechai satigur kai paas ||
    His mind's wares he sells to the True Enlightener.
    Tis saevak kae kaaraj raas ||
    That humble servant's affairs are settled.
    Saevaa karat hoe nihkaamee ||
    Selfless service when performed without thought of reward,
    Tis ko hot paraapat suaamee ||
    That one shall attain to his Lord and Master.
    Apanee kirpaa jis aap kara-ee ||
    He Himself grants His merciful Grace;
    Naanak so saevak gur kee mat la-ee ||2||
    O Nanak, to that selfless servant who lives the Guru's teachings. ||2||

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