Sewa, Simran, Ruhaniyat and Rahit

Sewa, Simran, Ruhaniyat and Rahit

This title is not meant to be metaphorical; it is a statement on the progression of a ‘Sikh of the Khalsa’ life in this ‘yug’ or age. 

The human mind has a tendency to pick up bits and pieces of religion, culture, literature, art, history as per their interpretation of relevance. These bits are then applied to our individual lives, unfortunately at times resulting in an overlapping of symbols, socio-religious idioms and history. A conundrum thus presents itself when we find Sikhs overlooking learning about the holistic perspective philosophised in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The ‘symbols’ gifted by the tenth Guru were intended to magnify the inner progression of a human. Unfortunately, we have isolated their physical significance and stagnated the stature of these symbols.

Let’s look at the ascending steps of Sewa, Simran, Ruhaniyat and subsequent Rahit.

Sewa means to serve; but when done in isolation it only improves the cycle of Karma (deeds); one needs to merge it with Simran, which literally means meditating on the Oneness. 

The third step of introspection is Ruhaniyat; serving humanity while meditating on the Ik (Oneness) leading to divinity or Ruhaniyat. This is the stage where the mind and body are disciplined to follow the framework designed by the Gurus – the Rahit. 

Rahit primarily includes getting up at Amritvela (predawn hour) and meditating on Ik in addition to Nitnem (reading and understanding Japji and Jap). These practices are followed by the act of embodying kindness or goodness through the day, practicing truthfulness with a sweet demeanour (mithbolna) and maintaining the Khalsa form alongside, as expounded by the tenth Guru. 

This human body consists of five elements: air, water, earth, fire and space. The ‘sudh’ (consciousness) which is ranked higher than the physical self, marches the physical elements to connect with ‘naad’ (primal creative sound) produced by these individual elements. These five elements which form the physical self should be put to good use in order to synchronise with the Sudh and subsequently connect with the Naad.

Sewa is one such path towards which the five senses are directed. 

Binu sewa phal kabhu na pawasi

 sewa karni sari”

“Without sewa one never obtains reward

do sewa and lead your life”

“Satgur ki sewa safal hai

jeh ko kare chit laye”

Satgur’s sewa is always yielding

if it is done with sincerity.

Sewa can have multiple connotations, giving an individual the choice to pick  his favorite option. However all these terms used by the Gurus rendered in Gurbani are naturally synchronized. 

“Gur ki sewa sabad vichar

haume mare karni sar”

“Contemplating on the Guru’s word is true sewa

Subdue your ego and complete your karam”

What is Simran? What is the meaning of taking the Naam?

There is no protocol for taking Naam. It can be done at any time in the day or in the night. It just means meditating on the name of Almighty and focusing the mind on the omnipresent qualities of the Almighty. Additionally, remembering the Almighty with shukrana (gratitude).

Aath pehar saalaahi Sirjanhaar Tu”

“Appreciate the creator all twenty four hours.”

When one’s motor and sensory reflexes are in sync with the mind, one starts climbing the ladder of Ruhaniyat, of heightened awareness, of Ik !

Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in his Gurmat Sudhakar says,

“ maintaining external Rahit without obeying the internal Rahit will definitely not lead to the Akalpurakh’s door.”

Once the human mind is aligned with the Creator (Ruhaniyat) then one’s conduct as per Rahit transforms into something meaningful and real. Parading the symbols without the journey inwards is facile, often resulting  in an insincere understanding of our venerated Symbols.

Historically if we were to analyse the Rahit, there is a huge contradiction in the authenticity of the Rahitnamas. None of these documents, brought out post Guru Gobind Singh’s demise, carry the seal of Guru Sahib. Still, if we were to align our doubting minds with the final ‘Rahitnama’ issued by 1950, post Singh Sabha reforms, then too it is an incomplete progression of mind, intellect and spirit, when we comply with the ‘Rahit’ carrying out the compliance of external symbols without understanding the Guru Granth Sahib and without learning about the internal Rahit from within it.

Sikhism as a religion is a faith of progression. It was ‘Ik Jyot’ that passed from Guru Nanak Dev Ji through the other Gurus to Guru Gobind Singh Ji.  To study the teachings of one Guru by dissociating him from the preceding Guru or the succeeding Guru is gross injustice to the spirit and understanding of Sikhism. So externalizing the symbols- the five Ks or other dictates supported in Rahitnamas (of doubtful authenticity), and isolating Sikhs from the Khalsas of the Sikhs is not commendable for the evolution of our religion. 

The Guru who said, “Manas ki jaat sabhe eke pehchano” ( Akal Ustat) cannot isolate Sikhs from the Khalsa or the sehajdharis from amritdharis. The Sikhs have limited their mental and intellectual research to the gifting of the five Ks’; whereas in reality the Gurus have given us a number of metaphorical symbols or Rahit to understand and follow.

Chaurasi lakh jon vich

utam janam so manas dehi

akhi vekhan, kan sun

mukh subh bolan bachansanehi

hathi kar kamavani

pari chal satsang milehi”

Bhai Gurdas (Rahit)

“After eighty four births is given the precious human form:

to see pure, to hear pure 

to utter pure compassionate words;

with hands do pure deeds

then one achieves the company of true, pure men.”

Bhai Gurdas came into the Sikh fold under Guru Ram Das and understood Gurbani from the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. He died during Guru Hargobind’s time making his innate knowledge of Gursikhi as expressed in his Vaars. As per him the symbols we have to treasure are: Purity of the five senses , humility and Satsang.

Guru Gobind Singh in Akal Ustat says:

Kes dhare na mile Har pyare”

“By simply keeping the hair we cannot unite with the Almighty.”

Apparently the thrust is on the internal Rahit foremost and then external Rahit. Sikhs have to open up their minds and understand the spirit of Sikhism in totality.

The preceding generation unequivocally supports the external Rahit, exceptions persist. The contemporary generation is fairly radicalized by totally negating the internal Rahit. Our Peers and succeeding generations are thoroughly confused due to the debatable authenticity of Rahitnamas and the interpretation of the term Rahit. Sikhs need dedicated and honest researchers who can interpret and translate the original scripts penned down by the Gurus and their inner coterie.

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Reema Anand

Ms Reema Anand is a published author and columnist and has written for various publications such as ‘The Outlook’, ‘The Indian Express’, ‘Hindustan Times’, ‘Times of India’ amongst others. Her extensive knowledge and deep engagement with Sikh literature and practice has inspired her to author and translate several books and also make films on Punjab and Sikh history. Her notable works include Scorched White Lilies of '84, The Heart Has Its Reasons with Krishna Sobti and Rehras, Evensong: The Sikh Evening Prayer with Khushwant Singh. Ms Anand won the ‘Katha translator Award’ in 1998 and the ‘Hutch Crossword Book Award’ in 2005. Ms Anand is also an Editor and Social Worker.

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