The 1001 Ways We Know GodT. SHER SINGH
I love the relationship we Sikhs have with God. He - or She, if you will - is "tu(n)", not "tusi" or "aap". We address Him with a tu and not a vous, as some other traditions do, as well.
I like that.
I like the informality. I like the absence of rules and boundaries. I particularly like that there are no rituals.
It is all left to the individual - purely personal, one-on-one - to determine the terms of endearment.
I love the freedom we have been given to refer to or address God as whatever we want, in whatever language we choose.
It makes sense, because if He is infinite, then surely, if we add all that each one of us in the world comes up with in describing Him, the sum would still fall short of the whole.
So what does it matter if we call Him God, or Waheguru, Allah or Yahweh, Om or ... whatever. Equally, I think it is even okay to call Him "nothing", or that "God Does Not Exist". They're all merely parts of the whole, the pieces of an infinite puzzle.
I remember the nursery rhyme we taught our daughter - and that millions of others recite to this day - to capture the magic of love:
I love you in the morning,
And in the afternoon;
I love you in the evening
Underneath the Moon!
We're taught early in life that "love" is all-encompassing, all-inclusive, all-embracing ... that is, it is greater than the sum of all parts.
It boggles my mind when I hear - and I wince everytime I do - some Americans and many other westerners insult "Allah" in venting their anger against Muslims.
It gives me great pride to know that those who practice Sikhi develop a built-in aversion in their DNA to the idea of insulting another faith, or to referring to another prophet in any derogatory manner.
I grew up in India surrounded by insults by Hindus - mercifully, there are always exceptions - against Allah or the Gurus or Christ. For example, the Arya Samaj "bible" - the Satyaarth Prakash - single-handedly insults everyone in sight!
Most Christians still think that "Allah" is an entity limited to the Middle East.
Many Jews believe, as a basic pillar of their dogma, that Yahweh has singled them out, to the exclusion of all other human beings.
And so on and so forth.
Sikhs, too, practice their fair share of goofinesses, but I like that, at least on this issue, the universality of God - no matter what name or gender you ascribe to "Him" - is considered inviolable.
Islam celebrates a list of names - the Asma al-Husna, or "The 99 Most Beautiful Names of God" - consisting of a range of adjectives and word-constructs, proclaiming the attributes of God. After all, that is all that we can do ... describe Him!
So, how could one limit ownership of these names to any one language or religious group?
Our Gurus - Nanak to Gobind Singh - have freely used many of those names in their own compositions to sing of God.
And then, they have added umpteen names from Indian, Hindu and Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythologies.
Thus, ... Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Krishan, et al. rub shoulders with Allah, Rahim, Karim, Azizul Niwaaz, Ghanimul Khiraaz ... all are exalted.
But, a word of caution ... not in a subjugated or subordinate role as gods and goddesses, but as the very names of God, the Supreme One!
Thus, the "Shiva" in "deh shiva bar mohe ihai ..." is not the god from the Hindu pantheon, but a name - one of thousands that occur in the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth - for God Himself.
In this shabad and context, if you read it as the Hindu Shiva, you have simply got on the wrong bus! If you interpret the word as "God" or "Allah", then you've hit the nail on the head!
The very opening words of the Guru Granth set the tone:
Ik Oankar - All is One
Sat Naam - Truth is the Name
Karta Purakh - Primal Creator
Nirbhau - Without Fear
Nirvair - Without Enmity
Akaal Moorat - Timeless
Ajauni - Unborn
Saibhang - Self-existent
GurParsad - Grace
Aad Sach - Truth before Time
Jugaad Sach - Truth throughout Time
Hai-bhi Sach - Truth Here and Now
Hosi-bhi Sach - Truth Evermore
And in the 1429 pages that follow, thousands of different names are used for God: Sanskrit, Persian, Gujerati, Marathi, Arabic, Bihari, Brijbhasha, etc., etc. - and, of course, Punjabi!
No one name is proclaimed supreme or better than all others.
Add to the list, if you will. Add all the hundreds used by Guru Gobind Singh in Jaap Sahib.
Buddha is already on the list. But, add Jesus if you want ... as long as you use it as a word for God, and not for a mortal!
Once you use a word, any word, for God ... then automatically, it applies to the same God and therefore is elevated to the level of God-names.
The idea is simple. Unconvoluted, uncomplicated, and true to the original teachings of all saints and scriptures. It is the only approach that makes sense and fully glorifies the God we all imagine in our limited ways.
A couple of years ago, I decided to start listing the different names for God that I came across in my readings of the Guru Granth Sahib. I have collected hundreds by now, and I know I've missed countless ones as I've gone along.
And I haven't even scratched the surface ...
This is but a sampling.
I suggest we embark on a project: a mural listing 1001 names of God, according to Sikhi.
I must forewarn you ... it will include Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Om ... as well as all the beautiful names listed by the Gurus and the Bhagats.
Please send in your own names, as you find them in YOUR readings of the Guru Granth and other Sikh literature. Please add a citation, if possible - e.g., GGS, p ?, line ? ... DG, verse ? ...
Just post them below under "Comments", please.
Before long - Inshallah! - a 1001 Names of God!
* * * * *
THE THOUSAND ... AND ONE ... WAYS WE KNOW THEE . . .
Aad-Sach Aakal-Alaamai-SpiritualWisdom Aapar Abhanjey-Indestructible Abhekhey-Unattired Achint Adhaamang-BeyondAllPlaces Adharmang-BeyondAllDuties Agaadh Agganjey-Invincible Agumm Agochar Ajaa-ey-Unborn Ajauni Akaa-ey-Bodiless Akaaley-Timeless Akaal-murat Akarmang-BeyondAllDeeds Aleyp Aleykhey-Inexpressible Allah Anaamang-BeyondAllNames Anaamey-Nameless Anaath-ka-Naath Anoopey-Incomparable Antarjaami Apaar Aroopey-Formless Atthaamey-Placeless Azizul-Niwaaz
Balwant Be-ant Bhagauti Bhagwaan Bhagwant Bhakshand Bharpoor Bilandul-Makaanai-Mansion-on-High Budh
Deen-dyaal Devenhaar Dhanwant DharamRai Dukh-Bhanjan Dyaal
Ghanimul-Khiraaz Ghanilmul-Sikastai-Destroyer-of-the-Enemy Gareeb-Niwaaz Gareebul-Parastai-Protector-of-the-Poor Gobind God Gopal GurDev GurParsad
Hai-bhi-Sach Hameysul-Salaamey-Ever-Existing Hari Hazur Hos-bhi-Sach Husnal-Wuzoo-Acme-of-Beauty
Ik Ik-OanKaar Ishar
Jaananhaaar Jagdeesar JagMaata Jugaad-Sach
Karanhaar Karaavanhaar Karim Karnaihaar Karta-purakh Kartaar Khuda Kirpaaley-Merciful
Maat-Pita Madho Maheshar Manohar Meet Mittar
Naath Narayan Niranjan Nirankaar NirBhau Nirdokh Nirlambh Nirlaip Nirmal Nirmalaa NirVair Nribkaar
Paaravaara Paarbrahm ParmAatma Parmanand Parmang-Faheemai-HighestUnderstanding Parmeshar Pavitar Pooran-Purakh Prabh Prit-paalak Pritpaara Puneet Pyaare
Raajan-ke-Raaja Raakhanhaar Rachaavanhaar Rahim Ram
Saajan Sahib Sahib-Kalaamai-SourceofLanguage Saibhang-SelfExistent Sujjun Sajnaa Sampooran Salikhat-Mudaamai-Eternal-is-Your-Creation Sarbang-Kaleemai-MelodiousSpeech Sarnaagat Satgur SatKartaar SatNaam Sri-Asdhujh Sri-Aspaan Sultaan Swaami
* * * * *
[First published on January 28, 2009. Republished on February 1, 2017]
Conversation about this article
1: Tejwant (U.S.A.), January 28, 2009, 1:58 PM.
The moment we number the infinite, it ceases being The Infinite but becomes finite. To know IkOankaar, the Infinite, is to measure one's actions and deeds when no one is looking. [Editor: In the Eastern tradition, the '1' added to a round number - here, resulting in '1001' - signifies a continuum, and suggests infinity.]
2: Bechint Kaur (London, England), January 28, 2009, 3:04 PM.
The obvious ones that come to mind are: Ishar/Ishwar, Nirankaar, Parmeshwar, Sahib, Madho, Ram (not to be confused with the son of Dasrath, husband of Sita).
3: Harinder (Bangalore, India), January 29, 2009, 9:12 AM.
No one has seen GOD for sure and I am doubtful if any one will ever see him in future. It is our mind which tries to imagine him and we call him by different names and we go onkilling each other in his name(s). If I may add to the properties of GOD, then I can say that 1) He is reponsible single-handedly for all the bloodshed we see around us today. 2) God makes our mind biased against other human beings. I was amazed how some people from the Indian sub-continent belonging to two major faiths hate Jews even when they or their ancestors have never encountered Jews in their life. If you ask me, frankly 'God' as is interpreted by many today, sucks!
4: Param Kaur (Amritsar, Punjab), January 29, 2009, 9:15 AM.
Here are a few more: Gobind, Gurdev, Beant, Antarjaami, Rajan-ke-Raja, Raakhanhaar, Deendyal, Thaakar, SatKartaar, Kartaar, Devenhaar, Maat-pita, Jaananhaar, Bhagwant. Thank you for doing this ... it's made me more aware of what I read when I do paatth now. More later ...
5: Tejwant (U.S.A.), January 29, 2009, 11:30 AM.
Harinder writes: "No one has seen God for sure and I am doubtful if any one will ever see him in future". Ik OanKaar is an experience: "Gungei di Mittheaaiee - No words can describe Ik OanKaar. Guru Granth says: "Merei Laal jeeoh, tera anth nah janah/ Tun jul, thul maheehal, bhurh bhur leena, tun aapei sarab samanah." - My beloved, you are Infinite, you are in organic and in inorganic form and you create yourself. In other words, Ik OanKaar is Creative Energy - Ajauni Saibhang. So what name shall we give it that encompasses all that and beyond?
6: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), January 29, 2009, 6:45 PM.
How about 'Niranjan'. It came to me reading SGGS a few weeks ago but can't remember the page or stanza.
7: Amardeep (U.S.A.), January 29, 2009, 10:11 PM.
'Sajna', page 764. Also, 'Saajan' and 'Meet' come up many times.
8: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), January 30, 2009, 6:54 AM.
What a wonderful, universal aspect of Sikhi! I am overwhelmed to have been blessed by Guru Arjan's Shabad in Raag Maru at GGS p. 1083 remembering Waheguru with so many names beginning with "Achut Parbraham..." May I call it 'God's plenty'?
9: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 30, 2009, 8:39 AM.
A minor caveat or two: Jesus is not a name of God. Christianity makes a clear distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, even when it speaks of "three in one and one in three" in the concept of the Trinity. And Christ is and remains the Son of God. Also, Buddhism is somewhat ambivalent of a belief in God; Buddha, therefore, is not the name of God, but refers to the Enlightened One - primarily, the Founder of the faith, Gautama.
10: Amrik Pala (Perth, Australia), January 31, 2009, 7:42 AM.
I.J. Singh writes "Jesus is not a name of God. . . . . And Christ is and remains the Son of God." The ofspring(s) carry gene of the parents and share DNA. As a Son of God carrying God's gene, what would be Jesus's status in terms of Godliness? [Editor: Same as all of us, the Children of God!]
11: Tejwant (USA), January 31, 2009, 1:55 PM.
Amrik Pala writes:"The ofspring(s) carry gene of the parents and share DNA. As a Son of God carrying God's gene, what would be Jesus's status in terms of Godliness?" So if Jesus is the offspring and carries his father's DNA, does it mean that Jesus' Father - God - was a mere mortal and had sex with a woman to produce Jesus? I am all confused now.
12: Daljeet (Southall, United Kingdom), April 19, 2010, 12:17 PM.
13: Kirpal Singh (Los Angeles, California, USA), February 11, 2013, 2:29 AM.
To know God is to experience the absolute death of one's ego. Waheguru is a state of being. It's a state of consciousness and awareness. We tend to look around us for meaning when it's stored within us. We have the power to unlock it by simply meditating on that consciousness and giving our love to it. Every religion offers ways to understand God ... love, service, compassion, surrender to the Almighty. Sikhi in my opinion peels off all the layers of metaphor and superstition and simplifies our way to experience Waheguru. It is the ego of priests, religious con-artists and politicians that twists these beautiful messages and turns them into hideous agendas. Religion today lacks spirituality and has become too involved with the world instead of concentrating on the original focus ... a relationship with ourselves and the Almighty within. To sum this up, Waheguru, the wonderful teacher ... wisdom and knowledge through experience and growth, shedding our baser instincts and connecting with who we are ... that is how we experience God.
14: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 01, 2017, 8:51 AM.
"sir Nanak loka pav hay balhari jao jayta theray nau hai" [GGS:1168] - "Nanak places his head on the feet of such people who remember His names as many as there are ..."
15: RS Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, USA), February 01, 2017, 8:58 AM.
Besides names, it seems God is also described by attributes. A few examples: 1) chojee (playful) - [GGS:174]. 2) sujaan sakha (all-knowing relative) - [GGS:437]. 3,4,5,6 - baesumaar athhaah aganath atholai (beyond calculation, beyond measure, uncountable and unfathomable) - [GGS:292]
16: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), February 01, 2017, 9:57 AM.
In Geometry, sometimes we draw a line 'without thickness' to enhance the understanding of 'infinity'. Similarly we give a name to God as symbolic of His 'personality' (even though we insist He is not a person!) in all its diverse aspects. God is presented as a being who could speak with us and lead us down the path of love, truth and service. We address Him as our dear father and mother and try to establish direct relations with Him.
17: Dr K.N.Singh (Johor Baru, Malaysia), February 03, 2017, 7:45 AM.
God is the 'atma' within us. We can give him a thousand names but we need to look for God inside ourselves.