1. Khalsa Akaal Purakh ki fauj,
Pragatiyo Khalsa Parmatam ki mauj
The Khalsa is the army of the Timeless God;
It was created with His joyful prerogative.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji
2. Jaisa satgur suneeda taiso hee mai deetth,
Vichhuriya meley prabhu, har dargeh ka baseetth
Just as I have heard of the True Guru, so I have seen Him.
The Guru re-unites the separated ones back with God;
He is the mediator in God’s Court.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p.957
3. Rehni rahey soi sikh mera, oh sahib meh us ka chera
Whichever dear Sikh remains within the Rehat (code of conduct),
That Sikh is the master, and I am his disciple.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji
4. Gur satgur ka jo sikh akhaaey, su bhalke utth har naam dhiyaavai
Whosoever calls oneself a Sikh of the True Guru,
Shall rise in the early hours of the morning and meditate upon God’s Name.
Guru Ram Das Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p305
Initiation is essential in all religious faiths as a formal expression of spiritual commitment by a devotee. It enables the spirit of a finite mortal to establish a spiritual union with the infinite and timeless God, who is beyond birth and death – thus it is akin to a marriage with God. It is a ceremony of spiritual igniting to kindle the soul.
The formation of the Sikh dharam, or faith, started in 1469 with the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first of ten consecutive Sikh Gurus. Through a process of selection, each Guru chose his spiritual successor during his own lifetime. The ‘jyot’ (eternal light) of Guru Nanak Dev Ji was carried through the nine Gurus who embodied this spiritual enlightenment. They were different candles burning the same flame, each making their unique contribution to the progressive establishment of the Sikh dharam. It was in this manner that the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, bestowed eternal Guruship to the sacred volume of scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, at Takhat Sri Hazur Abchalnagar, Nanded, Maharastra, India, in 1708.
Initiation existed in the Sikh dharam from the very outset. From the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji through to the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, Sikhs were initiated through charan amrit – by drinking holy water blessed by the Gurus’ sacred feet. Guru Gobind Singh Ji transformed charan amrit into amrit pahul, the unique Sikh initiation ceremony. In doing so, the tenth Guru did not depart from tradition, but crystallised and framed the 230 year old picture sketched by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The Guru’s Sikh was now complete to become a ‘Khalsa’. A fraternity was created that would not hide out of fear, but would fight tyranny and oppression with the blessings of God. This ‘army of the Timeless God’ would not only be able to uphold their own honour and dignity in times of oppression, but would also rise to safeguard the honour and dignity of humanity.
On the 30 March 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji called a gathering of Sikhs in the mountainous surroundings of Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India. Guru Ji appeared before the congregation, and asked for a Sikh who was willing to give his head for the sake of dharam (faith). Silence struck – all looked upon Guru Ji in amazement and awe as he put his followers to the test.
Guru Ji had asked for the supreme sacrifice. To be initiated in the true sense a devotee must sacrifice himself and submit completely to God with selflessness, love and commitment. These are the pre-requisites to be admitted into the kindergarten of spirituality.
The first Sikh who rose to offer his head to the Guru was Bhai Daya Ram (1661 – 1708), a Sobti Khatri from Lahore. The, one after the other four others rose, prepared to lay down their lives in sacrifice, with absolute trust in the Guru: Bhai Dharam Das (1666 – 1708), a farmer from Hastinapur; Bhai Himmat Rai (1661 – 1705), a water carrier from Jagan-nath Puri, Orissa; Bhai Mokham Chand (1663 – 1705), a cloth printer from Dvarka, Gujarat; and Bhai Sahib Chand (1662 – 1705), a barber from Karnataka.
All underwent the spiritual experience of being re-born. The divine power in their Guru was capable of creating and destroying life. They were from disparate parts of India, of diverse professions, and from varying castes – but now they stood together manifesting the oneness and equality of humanity that would be represented within the Khalsa. Hailed by the Guru as the Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Ones, they appeared before the crowd wearing similar attire, shining in the same image as their Guru and glowing radiantly in front of the congregation. They were now ready to be blessed with amrit –‘the elixir of immortality’. They had given their lives in utter submission to their Guru, and in return the Guru bestowed upon them blessings for eternity and granted them salvation.
The prepared amrit was administered to the Five Beloved ones by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Through the amrit they were given the Blessing of Naam. Naam is the ‘Divine Word’ of God, created by God Himself, through which He can be realised. There is no difference between God and Naam. For Sikhs the most basic form of Naam is the Gurmantar (the word Waheguru, referring to ‘Wondrous God’) and the Mool Mantar (the opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib which relates the characteristics of God). The entire Guru Granth Sahib is also considered to be the embodiment of Naam.
The blessing of Naam was bestowed upon the Panj Pyare through the amrit. Firstly, five palmfuls were given to the Five Beloved Ones to drink, acting as the purifier of their inner self and speech, so that they would commit to refrain from lies, malicious language, swearing and gossip. It was then sprinkled five times into their eyes, to enable them to recognise God’s presence everywhere and to constantly see the ‘Creator in creation’. Five palmfuls were then poured on the top of the head, so they would pledge to purify and uplift their thinking. All in all, they were to ‘speak no evil, see no evil, think no evil.’ Then, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in utter humility as the tenth Guru, bowed down to the five disciples who had been initiated by him, in order to receive amrit from them.
All initiated Sikhs are called to live a life of discipline. Guru Gobind Singh Ji stated; ‘Whichever dear Sikh remains within the Rehat (code of conduct), That Sikh is the master, and I am his disciple.’
When Amrit is administered, men and women alike vow to live by a code of conduct, to prepare the body as a vessel for Naam and promise not to commit the four ‘Kurehats’:
- not to cut hair from any part of the body
- not to take any intoxicants such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- not to indulge in any pre-marital or extra marital relationships
- to be genuine and utterly compassionate, refraining from eating meat, fish and eggs
Initiated Sikhs are to rise and bathe in the early hours of the morning (between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.) and meditate upon God’s Name. As can be seen from the final quotation, Guru Ramdas Ji, the fourth Guru, stated that the very definition of a Sikh was one who, first and foremost, cultivated the habit of doing this.