The Sikh Symbolism
When personal love for Jesus Christ ebbed away from Europe and mere Christian principles took hold of the minds of his disciples, the creative and true feeling of discipleship ended. And the long-flowing locks of Christ worn by a few devoted Saints, Jesus images, went out of fashion. The symbolism born of the fire of human feeling, be it a kiss, or a wound or a lock of hair, a ring, a tree, is an index of the intensity of life. The traditional form of Christ is the seal on His Word; both go together. Take one away, the other becomes lifeless. So it is with the Sikhs and Guru Gobind Singh.
Worship of the Word
After all it may be said, there is a good deal of symbolism with the Sikh. He has the Golden Temple, the Akal Takht, his worship of relics similar to the Buddhists, his worship of “The Book”, his submission to the authority of his unique church, like that of the Vatican, and a hundred other symbols and traditions. True. And all this shows that there is a genuine religious feeling, for whenever there has been a genuine feeling, it clothes itself in similar forms. Symbolism is dead if the feeling is absent; and if feeling is there, it cannot live without creating its own clay. To think of a genuine religious feeling without its cherished symbolism is to think of a soul without a body: Dead symbolism, however, hugs the pictures of other peoples, loves, and as such is empty self-deception; it is the glorification of a corpse1, in the words of Guru Arjan Dev. But to pretend to rise above portrait-worship and above the affection of love letters from one’s beloved, and above the worship of relics and memories, and yet to claim at the same time to have feeling burning within one’s bosom is a peculiar freak of dead puritanism which is equally lifeless and vain.2
It is our personal love for the Guru who has fascinated our soul with his life, his endeavour and love for us that gives to us the breath of life. Such dedication is our faith. There is deep solace for us repeating the Name. Our cherished sentiments and even superstitions, however crude and primitive seemingly from the viewpoint of shallow faithless rationalism or of a dry, academic metaphysics about God and Man, have all the same, an essential bearing on the fervent continuation of our life-giving traditions in the society and the individual. The sentiments and symbols of a living faith are artistic forms of its highest poetry.
My Bosom Throbs
The other day a God-intoxicated Sikh went along muttering a prayer between his lips. I put my ear to his bosom and heard his heart-beat:
“I have come away now,
My bosom throbs.
The Guru has called me to the service of the Khalsa; I am offering my heart’s blood, only a few drops they are, for mixing it with the cement with which one more marble slab is to be laid today on the floor of our Hari Mandir.3
“Ah! why do not my brothers accept my prayers?
Why do they not bless me thus?
“Ah! why don’t they accept it at once”
Baptism of Fire
The baptism of fire and steel inaugurated by Guru Gobind Singh is the inspiration that remoulds man to a new faith, a new death in love. It is emancipation by the touch of the Adepts4 who have the Guru’s authority to give the gift of personality. It is the miracle of man-making by a divine touch,
“Come, let us not despair.
“We too go out and seek the Emancipated ones
“Those whom God has favoured with His Own gift of love.
“Perchance we may find them,
“And attain liberation from misery of Illusion of Duality.
Our Long Tresses
Don't you know these tresses of ours are the wandering waves of the sea of Illusion? Guru Gobind Singh gathered the waves of the Ocean of Consciousness as the mother gathers the hair of the child. What is man but an ocean of consciousness. The Master washed them, combed them and bound them in a knot as the vow of the future manhood which shall know no caste, no distinction between man and man, and which shall work for the peace and amity of spiritual brotherhood. He who wears His knot of hair is a brother to all men, freed of all ill-feeling of selfishness. He is to be on the bayonet's point to be of no separatist creed, no religion, nor of any national combine of men bent upon loot and plunder and the tyranny of subjugating other men.
Those who do not yet understand the law of love cannot and should not wear the Master's knot of the sacred tresses and those who do should wear it as a token of spiritual isolation from the herd. So did Guru Gobind Singh command. And obedience to him is life. There is no life outside that Great Love.
The aim of the Brothers of the tress-knot of Guru Gobind Singh is different, different the direction, different their persuasion.
We do not concern ourselves with the conditions of life. We glow like flowers on the thorny bed or the bed of velvet moss with equal joy, for facing Him and living in Him and breathing Him is our life. And all who desire to be Brother of the tress-knot of Guru Gobind Singh come and be. This is the life of love, not of any other truth. All other truths are of no concern to us! We are now the Sangha of the tress-knot of Guru Gobind Singh, our purposes are as inscrutable as those of the God of Destiny.
1. Varan, Bhai Gurdas.
2. This insight should be carefully understood and its meaning sought for in one’s experience.
3. The original name of the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar.
4. These are the Panj Pyare, symbolized by five devoted Sikhs who administer Amrita or the Baptism of Immortality or of the Sword to he initiate.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All