Should We Have Images Of The Gurus At Home Or Elsewhere?
Sikhing Answers - XXII
This is the 22nd in our series of questions and answers where we seek your active participation.
A question is posed to you, our readers, inviting you to provide your answers.
That is, each one of you - young and old - is invited to share with us what YOU believe is the correct answer. There is no presumption of a right or wrong answer, and nothing is sacrosanct - that is, please feel free to tell us what you honestly think, believe or conjecture.
Each question will remain open for answers for ONE WEEK at the end of which, we’ll close the question, and have a moderator review all the answers, do some research as well, and collate it all in order to come up with a concise and definitive answer.
Once the moderator formulates the “final answer”, it’ll be posted, and all the answers provided to date to that particular question will be deleted.
This is not an academic exercise. Sikhi being a layperson’s religion, we encourage all to provide what they know through their personal knowledge and research.
All we ask is that:
1 you steer away from academic or esoteric lingo
2 not regurgitate what you unearth on google, wikipedia, etc.
3 be very short, and to the point
We’ll fine tune this process as we go along and, before long, hope to have several questions on the table at the same time, with their closing dates staggered so as to allow you to concentrate on one question at a time.
The answers will to be posted at the bottom of each question page, where space has been provided for “Comments”.
We suggest that you encourage each of your children to participate separately, as can each adult in a family or household.
Thus, we will teach each other.
TODAY'S QUESTION - # 22
Is it okay to have pictures of our Gurus around at home, or elsewhere, such as at work, etc?
If we do, how should we handle these objects, or behave towards them?
Hindus and Christians, to take but two examples, like to have idols of their deities around them. Should we allow statues of our Gurus in the form of idols?
As art? In museums?
If not, why not?
Posted on May 2, 2012
Closing Date: May 9, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), May 02, 2012, 11:14 AM.
No. I believe we should have verses of our shabad Guru in our homes and offices to guide us if we want to, but certainly not pictures and statues. It is like falling in all those traps from which Guru Nanak wanted the people to set themselves free.
2: R. Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), May 02, 2012, 12:36 PM.
The issue of images and paintings is easily resolved. Do Sikhs worship images or do they follow the shabad Guru? Are they to bow before the Guru Granth in reverence, or should they do so before pictures and images?
3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), May 02, 2012, 12:59 PM.
When printing these images en masse, we should remember that will inevitably end up in rubbish bins and/or under our feet. If we produce them to express our reverence, then are we going about it the right way?
4: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), May 02, 2012, 2:16 PM.
5: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), May 02, 2012, 8:09 PM.
Artistic renderings of the Gurus to revisit their lives and history are acceptable, but having these at home and bowing to them is not and actually counter to their message and teachings.
6: Simon (London, United Kingdom), May 03, 2012, 3:53 AM.
Reading, writing or even the process of thought invokes an image in the mind, so what's the difference? So long as people are aware that the picture is an artist's impression or depiction. "A picture speaks a thousand words", regardless of your academic background, and it's a valuable media for communicating with the masses who are not so fortunate. The focus of Sikhi is "spiritual", not religious, so how or why we try to formalize our day to day activities or to emulate other religions is of no spiritual value. Since God has no form, are we not supposed to conjure up an image of the Gurus to guide us in simran? Or am I totally off the mark?
7: Simon (London, United Kingdom), May 03, 2012, 5:14 AM.
On the subject of images, why do we always depict the Gurus as "father" figures? Is it to conform with social norms that older is wiser? as I said before, spirituality has no age restrictions, so let's see the Gurus in their formative years and show the world that Sikhi has a new and "younger" message away from the ritual religious norms.
8: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 03, 2012, 6:03 AM.
No. I have never subscribed to unrealistic images of Guru Nanak and other Gurus even though done by well known artists. Just imagine Guru Nanak's obese figure immaculately dressed as if Mardana carried his wardrobe together with his 'rabab' on his for udaasis, which were dome mostly on foot. There is one painting done in Bagdad by a Muslim artist during his fourth udaasi that is considered an authentic painting of Guru Nanak. I have a copy of this painting that adorns our home.
9: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), May 03, 2012, 6:20 AM.
The only entity to be worshipped in Sikhi is Waheguru. The One Waheguru who pervades everything and resides within each one of us. The way to worship him is through his Naam and service unto his creation. We also believe our Gurus are one. To my understanding the Gurus are one with him and it is Him who we worship. The One has been very clearly defined in the Mool Mantar as the undefinable. Some of His traits have been sung by the Guru and Bhagats. So obeisance to pictures and statues seems to me quite opposite to the teachings of Sikhi. As far as art and museums are concerned, they are of course perfectly fine. But if there is a danger that their presence is distracting and misleading, it is better to avoid having them around at home.
10: Simon (London, United Kingdom), May 03, 2012, 2:09 PM.
S. Sangat Singh ji, would you kindly scan the image of Guru Nanak in Baghdad and share it with us, please?
11: R. Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 03, 2012, 4:24 PM.
I would second Baljit Singh. We need to differentiate between art and idolatory. Cheap calenders for mass consumption and photo-worship with dhoops (incense sticks) and maalas (garlands) as depicted Hindu-style in Bollywood movies mostly, is definitely a no-no. We revere our Gurus, respect our historical figures but worship only The One. Good art, especially depicting Sikh history, is great to have in all homes, but never to be focus of reverence as religious images.
12: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 03, 2012, 5:31 PM.
#10 - Simon ji, try the following site: http://powerofkhalsa.blogspot.com/2011/12/first-painting-made-of-guru-nanak-dev.html Painting by a Muslim Artist of Guru Nanak during his 4th udaasi in Baghdad.
13: Manjeet Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), May 04, 2012, 7:54 AM.
The garish paintings of the Gurus are the antithesis of his teachings. We have reverted to idol worshiping, which is forbidden. An important point has been overlooked in the discussion. The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib tells us that we are 'jote saroop' - "man tu jote saroop hai apna mool pechhaan". Thus, to attach our consciousness to any form, whether in the nature of pictures or idols, is against the teachings of the Guru Granth. In fact Bhai Gurdas has emphatically told us what is the 'gur murat'. Vaar 24, paurri 11 says: "gur murat gur shabad hai ..." - 'Only the Guru's shabad is the image of the Guru'. The 'jote' mentioned above will become manifest when the Guru gives His grace: "gur saakhi jote pargat hoye."
14: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 04, 2012, 9:59 AM.
Akal Purakh is formless and invisible. In light of this truth Guru Nanak rejected the concept of picture or idol worship. He professed gurbani as the only tool to attach with the One God and introduced the concept of Shabad Guru. All pictures we see around us are not real but merely creations of the imagination. Such pictures or portraits are not allowed in gurdwaras. Hence, they should not be bowed to or treated in an idolatory manner.
15: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), May 05, 2012, 5:11 AM.
It is very hard to decide, because it depends how we take any thing on board. The pictures and idols were introduced in Hindu religion, probably as symbol/form were used as medium to connect with the formless. The problem with our mind is we get attached to the form and don't look beyond that. If we are using the form and it is taking us away from the formless then we should not have them, but on the other hand if using a form is taking you closer to the formless then you can go ahead and use them. In Sikhi we were guided by our Gurus to use gurbani to get closer to the formless and we should continue to do so.
16: Daaljit Singh (Grand Forks, North Dakota, U.S.A.), May 08, 2012, 11:09 AM.
Not wrong having the paintings as Sikh art in our homes or offices but very wrong worshiping the pictures in any way.
17: Gurbux Singh (Chatsworth, Los Angeles, U.S.A.), May 08, 2012, 1:26 PM.
Very good and timely topic to be discussed. Sikhs have put on blinders and lost their way and are giving up on the world's best philosophy of life as shown us by our Gurus. Instead of pursuing Naam, we have embraced the exact anathema espoused by Guru Nanak not to worship: idols, etc. Pictures of Gurus are just art as seen by the painter and it is against Sikhi to decorate them with garlands and revere them in any way. This is also true for people who keep sculptures of the Gurus and worship them. I see some Sikhs treat the Guru Granth like an idol as well, and that too is totally wrong. Sikhi is a very simple, straightforward and pragmatic way of living. We should stick to its pristine simplicity.
18: Kiranjeet Kaur Dhillon (Shah Alam, Malaysia), May 08, 2012, 8:51 PM.
It all depends on how you look at those photos. I have them in my house to remind me of my beliefs and destiny as a Sikh. I also want my daughter to realize what a Sikh is and to remain as one until death. If there are no pictures of our Gurus around, I feel the younger generation and those after them will have nothing to hold on to and have a higher chance of being waylaid in their young lives. At times, we need to be thankful that we have pictures to relate to rather than to imagine them in our minds.
19: Sidak, Jashdeep, Sehaj (Tracy, California, USA), November 11, 2012, 2:35 PM.
Sikhism rejects any worship of idols including pictures and statues of Gurus. Pictures should be used for inspirational purposes and not be regarded as objects of worship. Sikhism is unique in that it rejects all rituals.
20: Bhupinder Singh (Singapore), March 27, 2014, 10:58 PM.
Stumbled upon your site. Very impressed. Lovely. I was actually looking for stock pictures in water color; I want to distribute yhem free of charge as sewa, to the sangat in the gurdwaras. Any suggestions?
21: Navjot Singh (Patiala, Punjab), September 18, 2014, 3:31 PM.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly told us that the Gurus (including he himself) are NOT to be worshipped. Only The One -- no idols, no images ...
22: Varinder Kaur (London, United Kingdom), November 13, 2014, 1:00 AM.
Our Gurus don't need to be shown to us in illustrations, we don't need a physical interpretation of what they looked like. All we need to know and remember and follow are their teachings.
23: Jatinderpal Singh Uppal (Nagpur, India), November 13, 2014, 10:37 PM.
In accordance with Gurbani, pictures, images, or sculptures of the Gurus are manmat and not gurmat. We are enjoined to the shabad Guru and having images and idols gets us detached from the shabad.
24: Chitranjan Dev (Patiala, Punjab), February 13, 2015, 6:35 AM.
Gurus' images are to be avoided in Sikhi because we should directly connect to Waheguru, not with images and idols. Guru Sahib has taught us that Waheguru is nirgun as well as sargun. He is everywhere. You may have read the story of Bhai Dhanna in the Guru Granth Sahib. In Punjab and all over this country, one sees images in trucks, stores, schools and even homes. However, the only important thing in Sikhi is Shabad Guru. But if you have an image of the Darbar Sahib, or of a Guru, it is not at all bad. It is the superstition that is wrong, not having the image itself. You should not bow to the image.