The Sikh tradition is deeply rooted in Vaishnava principles
as revealed by the teachings of great Sikh gurus.
For me, accepting Krishna consciousness was not hard, but being its member became a challenge. I was born to Sikh parents, married into a Hindu Punjabi family. My transformation from Randeep Anand to Radhika Krpa Devi Dasi, an initiated Krishna devotee in ISKCON, was the most decisive moment of my life. I was quite apprehensive of taking a right path at that crossroad of life. Inspiration, courage, and determination played a vital role. I had to confront queries, doubts, arguments that were often hit with a view to defy. Not ready to be defeated I stood the trial, as I was amidst two different faiths. I sought a solution which could pacify all. With the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and my spiritual master His Holiness Gopala Krishna Goswami, I immersed myself in the study of Sri Guru Grantha-sahib (the religious scripture of Sikhs) as well as Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I prayed to Sri Sri Radha Syamasundar to let me derive a conclusion that would satisfy all the rivals. They answered my prayers enlightening me to fathom the depth of both the scriptures. I could now clear most of the doubts and suspicions quite authentically quoting from the scriptures.
Here are some enlightening thoughts and quotes that reveal a lot for the intelligentsia.
The following are mystical lines from the sacred Sri Guru Grantha-sahib. This is a compilation of verses sung in the praise of Hari, Govinda, Rama and guru. The scripture recommends one to become a “Sikh” (sishya), or a disciple of the spiritual master, in order to attain the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord. Sri Guru Grantha-sahib is composed in a poetic form in various classical ragas.
Guru Nanakadevaji, the first Sikh guru, recites in the raga ramakali mahala 1, dakhni omkar as follows:
Ik omkara satgur prasada
Omkari brahma utpatti
Omkarau kia jini citi
Omkari saila juga bhaya
Omkari veda nirmaya
Omkari sabadi udhera
Omkari gurmukhi tera
Onama akhara sunahu bicaru
Onama akhara tribhavana saru
Suni pande kia likhahu janjala
Likhu rama nama gurmukhi gopala
Translation: God is one and is realized by the grace of the guru. Absolute Truth Om is the creator of Brahma. Brahma stored Om in his heart, in his consciousness. Absolute Truth is the creator of mountains and eras (yugas). From the Absolute Truth came the Vedas, and Omkara is the word that liberates. By following the instructions of the guru and chanting Omkara the living entity achieves liberation. Hear and ponder the meaning of Om; it is the essence of the three worlds. Listen O pandey! Why do you pen down all the worldly deeds; write, by the mercy of the guru, only about the name of Rama and Gopala.
Lord Krishna declares in Bhagavad-gita (7.8), pranavah sarva-vedesu: “I am syllable om in the Vedic mantras.” Thus there is no ambiguity about the real nature of the Absolute Truth. Guru Nanakadevaji also mentions how Krishna is the source of Brahma in Gujari mahala 1:
Nabhi kamal te brahma upaje veda padahi mukhi kanthi savari
ta ko antu na jai lakhna avata jat rahai gubari
Pritama kiu bisarahi mere prana adhara
Jaki bhagati karahi jana pure muni jana sevahi gura vicari||1||
rahau ravi sasi dipaka ja ke tribhavani eka joti murari
Gurmukhi hoi su ahinisi nirmalu manmukhi raini andhari
Translation: After appearing from the lotus stem originating from Lord Vishnu’s naval Brahma cleared his throat and got absorbed in the Vedas. He entered the stem of the lotus and traveled up and down but could not find the source of his creation. O my beloved Lord, how can one forget the Supreme on whom all are dependant? The devotees are absorbed in devotion to Him; the sages and the saints, under their guru’s instructions, are engrossed in serving Him. Sun, moon and stars all are created by Him; in all the three worlds, there is only one light: Murari. One who follows the instructions of the guru forever lives, but one who is a mental speculator forever wanders in the darkness.
The lines below quite clearly portray the Supreme Lord, leaving nothing to imagination:
Kanvala naina madhura baina koti saina sanga sobha kahata ma jasoda jisahi dahi bhatu khahi jiu.
Dekhi rupa ati anupu moha maha maga bhai kinakani sabada jhanatakara khelu pahi jiu.
kala kalama hukamu hathi kahahu kaunu meti sakai isu bramhu jnanu dhyanu dharata hiai cahi jiu.
sati sacu srinivasu adi purukhu sada tuhi vahiguru vahiguru vahiguru vahi jiu ||1||6||
Translation: You have lotus like eyes, sweet words like honey, and millions of associates who glorify You. You are that Krishna, whom Mother Yasoda lovingly feeds curd and rice. Seeing Your most beautiful face she is captivated by motherly affection, and when You plays Your anklets and waist-belt make a melodious tinkeling sound. The pen that writes the order of death is in Your hand O Lord! Tell, who can escape it? Shiva and Brahma etc., want to bear the knowledge and meditation given by You within their hearts. You are the embodiment of Absolute Truth. Goddess Laxmi is Your maidservant and You are the oldest person (adi purusha), parabrahman. You are vaheguru, vaheguru, vaheguru. I glorify You eternally. ||1||6||
Rama nama parama dhama sudha budha nirikara besumara sarabara kao kahi jio
sudhara cita bhagata hita bhekhu dhario hirnakhsu hario nakh bidari jiu
saìkha cakra gada padama apai aupu kiso chadama aparamapara parabhrama lakhai kaunu tahi jiu
sati sacu srinivasu… ||2||7||
Translation: Rama’s name is the ultimate abode and pure wisdom. You are infinite and have no material form. Who can match You? For the love of Your devotee You disguised Yourself as Sri Narasimhadeva, to tear apart Hiranyakashipu with Your nails. You bear conch, disc, mace, and lotus. You are the one who cheated King Bali (in Your form of Vamanadeva). O infinite Supreme God who can know You ?
You are the Absolute Truth…||2||7||
pita basan kuda dasana pria sahita kantha mala
mukutu sisa mora pankha cahi jiu
bey vazira bade dhira dharma anga alakha
agama khelu kia apnai uchahi jiu
akatha katha kathi na jai tini loka rahia
samai sutaha sidha rupa dhario sahana kai sahi jiu
sati sacu srinivasu … ||3||8||
Translation: Dressed in a yellowish attire, Your teeth are beautiful like buds of jasmine flower. You enjoy with Your consort (Srimati Radharani), wear a long garland made of forest flowers and a crown decorated with peacock feathers. You require no minister to render any advice; You are most patient; embodiment of religion, inaccessible, and You are the creator of this whole play, O lovable! O king of the kings, lovable, Your story cannot be narrated (to the full); You are pervading in the three worlds, and You can adopt any form You desire. You are the Absolute Truth… ||3||8||
Nestled in the Svayya mahala 4 the lines quoted above define and glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord is addressed here as vaha guru.
MEANING OF VAHE GURU
The followers of Sikh tradition chant Satanama vaheguru. The meaning of word vahaguru is described by Bhai Gurdasaji in his book Vara. He is the one who penned down the Guru Grantha-sahib while the fifth guru Sri Arjunadevaji recited it. In the section of 1 of Vara, pavdi 49 he says:
Satijugi satigura vasdev
vava visna namu japavai
duapari satiguru hari krisana
ha ha hari hari namu japavai
tete satiguru rama ji
ra ra rama jape sukha pavai
kalijugi nanaka gura govinda
gaga govinda namu alavai
care yagi cahu yugi panchina vica jai samavai
caro aksara ika kara vahaguru japa mantara japavai
jaha te upjia phira taha samavai
Translation: In Satya-yuga to attain the Lord, meditation on the Vasudeva form is advocated. The letter v of vaha guru reminds of Vishnu. In Dvapara-yuga Hari Krishna appeared; the letter h of vaha guru reminds of Hari. In Treta-yuga Rama appeared; the letter r of vaha guru reminds of Rama. In Kali-yuga came Nanaka as a guru to make others chant Govinda. The letter g of vaha guru reminds of Govinda. Thus the four yugas have concluded this. The four letters combined together to form this mantra (vaha guru). By chanting this mantra the living entity goes back from where he has come.
Non-different than the maha-mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, the Grantha-sahib describes the glories of singing: “Hari Hari Hare …Hare Hrsikesa Hare…, Hare Govinda Hare Govind…, Hare Nar Narhare Nar Narhare…” as the highest devotion.
The Grantha-sahib in Vara, raga kanra mahala 4 recites:
Rama nama nidhana hai hari
gurmata rakha ura dharada
dasana dasa hoaya rahu hau-maya bikhi-a mara
janama padarath jiti-a kadaya na avai hara
dhana dhana vadbhagi nanka jina
gurmata hari rasa sara
govinda govinda govinda hari govinda guni nidhana
govinda govinda gurmata dhiai-ai ta
dargaha pai-ai mana
govinda govinda govinda japa mucha ujla para dhana
… Sabh kahhu mukhahu hari hari hare hari hari hare hari bolat sabh papa lahogia
Translation: Through the the wisdom obtained from the guru, always treasure the name of Rama in your heart. Destroy the poison of false ego and be the servant of Lord Rama’s servant. Thus you will win the real wealth of human life and never face defeat. Nanaka says, “Those fortunate souls are glorious who by the mercy of the spiritual master taste the nectar of Hari and always remember Him.”
By reciting “Govinda Govinda Govinda,” one gains purity and radiance. All join together to chant Hari’s (Krishna’s) name and Hare (His internal potency) as this would lead to the forgiveness of the past sins.
Further it says:
hari hari hari hari nama hai gurmukha pavai ko-ay
hau-maya mamta nasa ho-aya
durmata kadhaya dho-aya
..sabha kahhu mukhahu hrsikesa hare
hrsikesa hare jita pavahi sabha fala falna
Translation: Only some are fortunate enough to be blessed by the spiritual master with the name of Hari, as this is the only name. By chanting Hari, the false ego, worldly ties, and bad qualities are cleansed. Let us all chant “Hrsikesa” (Krishna, the master of the senses) and “Hare” (His consort) so as to obtain all rewards.
Qualities of a Vaishnava
A Vaishnava has the topmost human consciousness as described in the scriptures. It has also been advocated in the Grantha-sahib. In the 9th verse (Astapati) of a hymn Sukhmani-sahib composed by Guru Arjunadeva, the word vaishnava has been well defined: “one who is bound to attain parama gati, the highest destination.”
mithia nahi rasna parasa
mana mahi priti niranjana darasa
par stri rupa na pekhey netr
sadha ki tahal satsang heyt
Translation: Falsehood his tongue does not touch and for a glimpse of the Lord his heart longs. His eyes do not look at the beauty of other women, and he serves the saints and remains in their association
karan na suneh kahu ki ninda
sabh tay janay apas ko manda
guru prasadi bhikhi-da parharay
mann ki basna mann tey taray
indrijita panch dokh tey rahata
nanak kotimadhay ko aisa apras ||1||
Translation: His ears do not hear anyone’s criticism, and he considers himself lower than everyone else. By the grace of the spiritual master he is able to give up bad habits, and lust leaves his mind as he conquers his senses. He conquers his senses and is free from the five faults (anger, lust, greed, envy, and illusion). Nanaka says, one among millions is such a detached soul.
vaishnava so jisa
bishana ki maya
tay ho-ay bhinna
karma karat hovai nihkarama
tisu baisno ka nirmal dharam
Translation: Vaishnava is one with whom the Lord is pleased. He is untouched by the worldliness created by the Lord. One who acts in inaction (without desire for fruit), only his (Vaishnava’s) religion is one with purity.
kahu phal ki ichcha nahi bachai
keval bhagati kirtana sangi racai
mana tana antari simran gopal
sabh upari hovat kirpala
Translation: He works with no aspiration for fruits. He is only engrossed in devotion and kirtana of the Supreme. One who Within his heart and by the activities of his body is always remembering Gopala. He is compassionate to all.
api dridai avroh namu japavai
nanaka oh vaishnava parama gati pavai
bhagauti bhagvant bhagati ka rangu
sagal tia gay dusat ka sangu
Translation: He is determined in devotional service and also makes others chant the holy names. Nanaka says, such a Vaishnava attains the liberation (parama gati). He is immersed in the color of bhakti, and stays away from the company of the wicked.
mann tay binsai sagala bharamu
kar pujai sagala parabhrahamu
sadha sangi paya malu khovai
tisu bhaguti ki mati uttama hovai
Translation: All doubts in his mind are destroyed. He realises that the Lord is everywhere and worships Him. One who washes the dirt of contamination of this world in the association of saintly devotees, his wisdom is the best.
bhagvant ki tahals krai nitaniti
manu tanu arpai bisana priti
hari ke carana hrdaya basavai
nanaka aisa bhaguti bhagvanta kau pavai
Translation: That devotee who serves the Lord following proper rules and regulations, who surrenders all activities of the body and mind in service and love of the Lord, who enshrines the lotus feet of the Lord within the recesses of his heart, Nanaka says only such a devotee can obtain God.
These revelations put at rest all the doubts instilling a novel, innovative approach. Vaisnavism is no wonder the language of Sikhism. Such literary endeavors build up bridges and break walls leading to communal harmony, peace, and universal brotherhood, with the core no doubt being Krishna consciousness.
Radhika Krpa Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Gopala Krishna Goswami Maharaja. She is an author of a book of devotional poetry and Vaishnavism in Sikhism from which this article was compiled. She lives with her family in Delhi.