It is often said that different religions in this world are only different ways people take to reach the same destination. It is like saying that God is sitting in some central place and people of different religions are heading towards It from different directions taking different routs. Is this true or false? Do people invariably have to take different routs to reach their destination? Guru Nanak challenged this concept and said that there is only one way leading towards God, and we are all required to walk this way irrespective of the religion we belong to or not. What is that one way? An attempt has been made in the following lines to explain and understand the religion or way revealed by Guru Nanak. It is the way that transcends all religions.
Let us knock at the door and start with the name. Sikhism is unique in name. Its name tells a lot about it. One just has to ponder about and compare it with the names of other religions of the world. Sikhism is the common but inappropriate translation of the Punjabi word Sikhi. While the word Sikhism connotes a set of philosophical principles that Sikhs follow, the Punjabi word Sikhi emphasizes more on the process of learning those principles and becoming a Sikh. Now compare this name with the names of other major world religions. Christianity is named after Jesus Christ. Christ means messiah or prophet. Buddhism is named after Gautam Buddha. Buddha means the enlightened. Both Christ and Buddha were not the original names of Jesus and Gautam, but these are the titles showered upon them by their followers. Hazrat Mahammad named his religion as Islam. Islam means to resign to the will of God . The word Hinduism does not tell anything about the Hindu religion. It is more geographical than philosophical as it is derived from the name of the river Indus . Sikhism is the only religion that derives its name from its followers and not from it originators or the place where it originated. It is the only religion whose name lays more emphases on the process of Becoming than on Being. The name “Sikhism or Sikhi” is suggestive of the underlying philosophy of the religion revealed by Guru Nanak. Sikh means a student or pupil and Sikhi means the state of being a Sikh or student. The name suggests that Sikhism as a religion is not merely focusing on the destination but gives due importance to the way as well. This is fundamental to the understanding of Sikhism.
But as Shakespeare has said what is there in the name of a rose, what matters at the end of the day is the smell of the rose. Does Sikhism have the smell or fragrance that matches and justifies its name? To find out an answer to this question, we shall have to dig deep into the philosophy of history of Sikhism.
Concept of Oneness
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion but with a difference. It carries the theory of oneness to its logical conclusions. Christianity and Islam are also monotheistic religions, but they have limited this monotheism to oneness of God only. In contrast to this Sikhism carries this concept to much greater and logical conclusions. Guru Nanak explains his concept in detail in the following verse.
ਬਸੰਤੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੧ ॥ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੀ ਪਆਿਸ ਜਸਿੁ ਨਰ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਏਕਤੁ ਰਾਚੈ ਪਰਹਰ ਿਦੋਇ ॥ ਦੂਰ ਿਦਰਦੁ ਮਥ ਿਅੰਮ੍ਰਤਿੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਿਬੂਝੈ ਏਕ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਤੇਰੇ ਦਰਸਨ ਕਉ ਕੇਤੀ ਬਲਿਲਾਇ ॥ ਵਰਿਲਾ ਕੋ ਚੀਨਸ ਿਗੁਰ ਸਬਦ ਿਮਲਿਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਵਖਾਣ ਿਕਹਹ ਿਇਕੁ ਕਹੀਐ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਬੇਅੰਤੁ ਅੰਤੁ ਕਨਿ ਿਲਹੀਐ ॥ ਏਕੋ ਕਰਤਾ ਜਨਿ ਿਜਗੁ ਕੀਆ ॥ ਬਾਝੁ ਕਲਾ ਧਰ ਿਗਗਨੁ ਧਰੀਆ ॥੨॥ ਏਕੋ ਗਆਿਨੁ ਧਆਿਨੁ ਧੁਨ ਿਬਾਣੀ ॥ ਏਕੁ ਨਰਿਾਲਮੁ ਅਕਥ ਕਹਾਣੀ ॥ ਏਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਜਾਣੁ ॥੩॥ ਏਕੋ ਧਰਮੁ ਦ੍ਰੜਿੈ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤ ਿਪੂਰਾ ਜੁਗ ਿਜੁਗ ਿਸੋਈ ॥ ਅਨਹਦ ਿਰਾਤਾ ਏਕ ਲਵਿ ਤਾਰ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਿਪਾਵੈ ਅਲਖ ਅਪਾਰ ॥੪॥ ਏਕੋ ਤਖਤੁ ਏਕੋ ਪਾਤਸਿਾਹੁ ॥ ਸਰਬੀ ਥਾਈ ਵੇਪਰਵਾਹੁ ॥ ਤਸਿ ਕਾ ਕੀਆ ਤ੍ਰਭਿਵਣ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਅਗਮੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਏਕੰਕਾਰੁ ॥੫॥ ਏਕਾ ਮੂਰਤ ਿਸਾਚਾ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਤਥਿੈ ਨਬਿੜੈ ਸਾਚੁ ਨਆਿਉ ॥ ਸਾਚੀ ਕਰਣੀ ਪਤ ਿਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥ ਸਾਚੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਵੈ ਮਾਣੁ ॥੬॥ ਏਕਾ ਭਗਤ ਿਏਕੋ ਹੈ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਬਨਿੁ ਭੈ ਭਗਤੀ ਆਵਉ ਜਾਉ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਸਮਝ ਿਰਹੈ ਮਹਿਮਾਣੁ ॥ ਹਰ ਿਰਸ ਿਰਾਤਾ ਜਨੁ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥੭॥ ਇਤ ਉਤ ਦੇਖਉ ਸਹਜੇ ਰਾਵਉ ॥ ਤੁਝ ਬਨਿੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਸਿੈ ਨ ਭਾਵਉ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਉਮੈ ਸਬਦ ਿਜਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਸਤਗਿੁਰ ਿਸਾਚਾ ਦਰਸੁ ਦਖਿਾਇਆ ॥੮॥੩॥ (GGS, M1, Page 1185)
(Millions seek the truth but only those who imbibe wisdom of the revealed word get it. The seeker if driven by the thirst for the vision of Truth should abdicate duality and become absorbed in the One supreme Lord. This results in elimination of all pains of duality. Religious books say God is one, who is limitless and unknowable. There is only One God who creates and sustains this universe. There is only One philosophy pertaining to God and it is enshrined in the revealed word that comes from the Guru. There is only one religion or way that is/was required to be followed in all times. A person, who with the help of the Guru, gets in tuned for every moment of his life, to the reality of One God, realizes the infiniteness of the One supreme lord. There is only One supreme Kingdom and one Supreme King who rules everywhere and judges us all on the same criterion. His creation is his only One pictures and his name is true. There is only One way, the love of God, which breaks the cycle of birth and death. The person who follows the wisdom of the Guru, lives like a guest in this world, gets rid of his/her ego, and worships only One God.) 
From the above it is clear that in Sikhism the concept of One God has been extended to its logical conclusions. It has been extended to humanity. It has been extended to Guru. It has been extended to knowledge. It has been extended to religion. The thread of logic runs like this. God is One who is fearless, has no hostility towards any one; and It creates and sustains this cosmos. This means that all of us are Its children and are equal in all rights and duties. Further given that the God is one and is fearless and have no enmity or malice towards any one, there can not be more than one criterion by which It judges us all. This means there can not be more than one philosophy or knowledge pertaining to God. And if there is only one philosophy, there will be only one Guru who carries the flame of this knowledge. Now if Guru is one, then it can not be a person, it has to be a Shabad, the revealed word, the divine knowledge. All this trickles down to the conclusion that there can not be more than one religion in this world.
It will be in order here to quote some more verses from AGGS to substantiate this concept of oneness preached by the Sikh Gurus. This will also show that above verse is not just a one off example, but the entire AGGS is full of verses that corroborate this concept. Sikhism is so loud and clear about the oneness of God that AGGS  starts with digit one as adjective for God and it has been repeatedly reiterated in the ensuing 1428 pages. Some examples are given below.
ਹਰਿ ਇਕੋ ਦਾਤਾ ਵਰਤਦਾ ਦੂਜਾ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
(GGS, M3, Page36)
(There is no one else but God alone who pervades every where and looks after us.)
ਇਕੁ ਪਛਾਣੂ ਜੀਅ ਕਾ ਇਕੋ ਰਖਣਹਾਰੁ ॥
(GGS, M5, Page 45)
(The One Lord knows us all and is the only one Savior for us all.)
ਤੂੰ ਸਾਝਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਬਾਪੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਉ ਨਿਧਿ ਤੇਰੈ ਅਖੁਟ ਭੰਡਾਰਾ ॥
ਜਿਸੁ ਤੂੰ ਦੇਹਿ ਸੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਿ ਅਘਾਵੈ ਸੋਈ ਭਗਤੁ ਤੁਮਾਰਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥
ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਆਸੈ ਤੇਰੀ ਬੈਠਾ ॥ ਘਟ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਤੂੰਹੈ ਵੁਠਾ ॥
ਸਭੇ ਸਾਝੀਵਾਲ ਸਦਾਇਨਿ ਤੂੰ ਕਿਸੈ ਨ ਦਿਸਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੩॥
(GGS, M5, Page 97)
(O God you are our Father and you have inexhaustible treasures, but only those of us get, to whom you give. Every one has hopes on you and you dwell in all hearts. We are all shareholders and no one is an outsider.)
And the entire humanity is required to take guidance from the Shabad Guru. During his debate with the Sidhs , Guru Nanak was asked the question who is his Guru. This question and his answer are recorded in his famous poem Sidh Ghost (The debate with Sidhs).
ਕਵਣ ਮੂਲੁ ਕਵਣ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਲਾ ॥ ਤੇਰਾ ਕਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਤੂ ਚੇਲਾ ॥
(GGS, M1, Page 942)
(The Sidhs asks Guru Nanak, what is the root that sustains life and what is this life meant for? Who is your Guru that you follow as disciple.)
ਪਵਨ ਅਰੰਭੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਲਾ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 943)
(Guru Nanak replies air sustains this life and this life is an opportunity to follow the teachings of the True Guru. The revealed Word, the Shabad, is my Guru and focused attention is the disciple.
It is important to note that Guru Nanak has also explained who the disciple in his answer to the Sidh is. It is attentive mind who follows the teaching the Guru. That is reason he chose the name Sikh (which means the pupil or the student) for his followers. This concept of Shabad Guru has been further explained and made clearer in the following verse.
ਇਕਾ ਬਾਣੀ ਇਕੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਇਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥
ਸਚਾ ਸਉਦਾ ਹਟੁ ਸਚੁ ਰਤਨੀ ਭਰੇ ਭੰਡਾਰ ॥
ਗੁਰ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਤੇ ਪਾਈਅਨਿ ਜੇ ਦੇਵੈ ਦੇਵਣਹਾਰੁ ॥
(GGS, M 3, Page 646)
(There is only One Guru and same thought or philosophy emanates from the revealed word full of jewels of wisdom. You understand only with the help of discerning intellect blessed by God)
Now the logical question that follows is that if the entire humanity is to follow the same religion then what is that religion? Is it Sikhism? My answer to this question is both yes and no. The answer is yes if you look at the theory and practice of Sikhism during the times of Sikh Gurus and a few decades after that. Roughly this period will stretch from 1469 (the birth year of Guru Nanak, the first Guru in Sikhism) to early eighteenth century. The answer is no if you look at the way Sikhism is preached and practiced today by majority of the Sikhs. The answer is yes if you follow the way showed by Sikh Gurus. The answer is no if you follow Sikhism as preached by the well established but unauthorized (scripturally) priestly class that has captured the centre stage in Sikhism. I must add here that this One religion is not the monopoly of followers of any particular religion of this world. This will become more lucid and clear as we advance further in our discussion. Sikhism does explain in detail what this religion is. How do we get attached to this religion? What is this religion?
The One Religion
Let us go through some of the verses of AGGS to get an answer to the questions we have raised above. Guru Nanak tells us that the first and foremost thing to do to get attached to this religion is to listen, accept and adopt wisdom of Guru as a way of our life. Guru Nanak explains it in Jap, the first verse in GGS, which is universally considered to be the quintessence of AGGS.
ਮੰਨੈ ਮਗੁ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਪੰਥੁ ॥ ਮੰਨੈ ਧਰਮ ਸੇਤੀ ਸਨਬੰਧੁ ॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 3)
(If you accept and follow the wisdom of the Guru, you do not go astray on to different paths, but get attached to religion)
What should we accept and follow has been made clearer by Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, in his following verse.
ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਪਰਵਾਰੈ ਸਾਧਾਰੁ ॥੮॥
(GGS, M 3, Page 833)
(Acceptance and adoption of wisdom of Guru as your way of life is the essence of everything and it opens the door of salvation.)
In Jap Guru Nanak describes five stages  of the spiritual development of a person. It is worth noting that religion is the first stage and is followed by Knowledge, Hard work, Blessing and Truth. A person becomes religious and gains knowledge about the reality of life by accepting the wisdom of his Guru; works hard and applies this knowledge in every fields of his life; which entitles him to the blessings of God and he/she gets the vision of ultimate Truth.
Given below are ten more quotes from AGGS on this subject. After going through these quotes it will be easy for us to capture an idea of the One religion that Guru Nanak refers to in the quote from page 1188 of AGGS given in the earlier part of this write up.
ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਰੁਖੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਫੁਲੁ ਫਲ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥
ਰਸਿ ਰਸਿਆ ਹਰਿਆ ਸਦਾ ਪਕੈ ਕਰਮਿ ਧਿਆਨਿ ॥
ਪਤਿ ਕੇ ਸਾਦ ਖਾਦਾ ਲਹੈ ਦਾਨਾ ਕੈ ਸਿਰਿ ਦਾਨੁ ॥੧॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 147)
(Guru is the tree of contentment; religion is its flower that matures into the fruit of knowledge. This tree is evergreen as it is irrigated by love of God; the good deeds ripen the fruits. To eat this fruit is the greatest gift of life)
ਅਉਖਧ ਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਤੰਤ ਸਭਿ ਛਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਰਣੈਹਾਰੁ ਰਿਦੇ ਮਹਿ ਧਾਰੁ ॥੩॥
ਤਜਿ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮ ਭਜਿਓ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਟਲ ਇਹੁ ਧਰਮੁ ॥੪॥
(GGS, M 5, Page 196)
(Remember God, the creator, in your heart; abdicate recitation of Mantras and rituals of Tantriks. Do not be in doubt, meditate on God. This is the eternal and everlasting religion.)
ਇਸੁ ਜੁਗ ਕਾ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੜਹੁ ਤੁਮ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਪੂਰੈ ਗੁਰਿ ਸਭ ਸੋਝੀ ਪਾਈ ॥
ਐਥੈ ਅਗੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਖਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਾਮ ਪੜਹੁ ਮਨਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਮੈਲੁ ਉਤਾਰੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਵਾਦਿ ਵਿਰੋਧਿ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥
ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਫੀਕਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਚਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥੨॥
(GGS, M 3, Page 230)
(Learn the religion of your time from the true Guru. It helps you everywhere. Peruse and deliberate on the name of God. It will cleanse your heart. You can not learn this religion by indulging in useless discussions. Instead it will harm your mind and body. Absorb you mind in the name of God, through the words of the Guru)
ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
ਸਗਲ ਕ੍ਰਿਆ ਮਹਿ ਊਤਮ ਕਿਰਿਆ ॥ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਲੁ ਹਿਰਿਆ ॥
(GGS, M 5, Page 266)
(The best amongst all religion is to remember God and be honest in deeds. The best thing we can do is to cleanse our heart by keeping the company of good people.)
ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਸਭੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਚੇ ਕੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੋਤਿ ॥
ਗੁਹਜ ਰਤਨ ਵਿਚਿ ਲੁਕਿ ਰਹੇ ਕੋਈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਕਢੈ ਖੋਤਿ ॥
ਸਭੁ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਇਕੁ ਰਵਿਆ ਇਕੋ ਓਤਿ ਪੋਤਿ ॥
ਇਕੁ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਇਕੁ ਮੰਨਿਆ ਇਕੋ ਸੁਣਿਆ ਸ੍ਰਵਣ ਸਰੋਤਿ ॥
ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਲਾਹਿ ਤੂ ਸਚੁ ਸਚੇ ਸੇਵਾ ਤੇਰੀ ਹੋਤਿ ॥੧੬॥
(GGS, M 4, Page 309)
(This body is the arena of religion and has the light of God in it. The priceless jewels hidden in it are discovered by a person who takes advice from the Guru and realizes that God pervades everywhere. That person now sees, listens to and accepts the existence of One God everywhere)
ਧਰਮੁ ਭੂਮਿ ਸਤੁ ਬੀਜੁ ਕਰਿ ਐਸੀ ਕਿਰਸ ਕਮਾਵਹੁ ॥ ਤਾਂ ਵਾਪਾਰੀ ਜਾਣੀਅਹੁ ਲਾਹਾ ਲੈ ਜਾਵਹੁ ॥੮॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 418)
(If you plant the seeds of truth in the soil of religion and reap the harvest, only then you make the true profit.)
ਕਉਨੁ ਕਰਮ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਕਹੁ ਕੈਸੀ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਉਨੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਕਰਈ ॥ ਕਉਨੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਗੁਰ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ ਕਉ ਤਰਈ ॥੧॥ ਕਲ ਮੈ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਨਿਧਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਜਪੈ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਅਉਰ ਧਰਮ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਸਮ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਬੇਦੁ ਬਤਾਵੈ ॥੨॥
(GGS, M 9, Page 632)
(What education should I take? What deeds should I do to achieve the goal of my life? To cherish the remembrance of God in my heart is the answer that is given in the religious books.)
ਊਠਤ ਬੈਠਤ ਹਰਿ ਜਾਪੁ ॥ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਤਾਪੁ ॥ ਬੈਰੀ ਸਭਿ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਮੀਤ ॥ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਚੀਤ ॥੨॥ ਸਭ ਤੇ ਊਤਮ ਇਹੁ ਕਰਮੁ ॥ ਸਗਲ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ਹਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਕਾ ਉਤਰੈ ਭਾਰੁ ॥੩॥
(GGS, M 5, Page 895)
(Remember God while doing your daily chores of life. All agonies will vanish from your life. Your mind will become pure and clear, no one will be an enemy any more. This is the best deed one can do and this is the best religion. Remember God all the time and this will cleanse your mind from the dirt collected for ages.)
ਕਰਮ ਪੇਡੁ ਸਾਖਾ ਹਰੀ ਧਰਮੁ ਫੁਲੁ ਫਲੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥ ਪਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਛਾਵ ਘਣੀ ਚੂਕਾ ਮਨ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥੨॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 1168)
(Your deeds are the tree that blossoms into flowers of religion that matures into fruits of knowledge. It has a dense cooling shade as it gets us rid of the heat of ego.)
ਨਿਰਮਲ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮ ਬਹੁ ਕੀਨੇ ਨਿਤ ਸਾਖਾ ਹਰੀ ਜੜੀਜੈ ॥ ਧਰਮੁ ਫੁਲੁ ਫਲੁ ਗੁਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ਬਹਕਾਰ ਬਾਸੁ ਜਗਿ ਦੀਜੈ ॥੫॥ ਏਕ ਜੋਤਿ ਏਕੋ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਸਭ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਇਕੁ ਕੀਜੈ ॥ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮੁ ਸਭ ਏਕੈ ਹੈ ਪਸਰੇ ਸਭ ਚਰਨ ਤਲੇ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ॥੬॥
(GGS, M 4, Page 1325)
(The pure unselfish deeds make the tree sprout into green branches. It blossoms into the flowers of religion and gives fruit of knowledge.)
From the above quotations we can deduce some of the attributes of the One religion we are talking about. Religion has been described as blossom of a tree. This tree is the advice of True Guru and it is planted in the soil of human body. Once this tree is nourished carefully, the blossoms ripen into fruits of knowledge. To nourish this tree, we are required to believe in One God and remember him all the time by following the wisdom/advice of the Guru. Further the fruit of knowledge from this tree is the best possible diet for our spiritual health. How do we eat this fruit? When we apply and follow this knowledge in our daily life we eat this fruit. The above may sound very vague and poetic. But Sikhism has given this theory a very practical shape in the form of three cardinal principles of Sikh way of life. These are Nam Japo (Remember God), Kirat Karo (Work honestly) and Vand Shako (share your earnings with the needy). This is the most comprehensive and simple philosophy of life ever given. The three components of this philosophy go together and if applied separately are vulnerable for distortion and misuse. The true way of life is to work honestly while nourishing love for God in your mind, being socially active and sharing your earnings with those who are unlucky and need your help.
A couple of things are worth noting before we advance to the next step of this discussion. Sikhism considers religion as an activity that is practiced on and by the human body. Religion is the actions of a human being while living in this world. An action that is done in isolation, far from this world hiding somewhere in the caves, does not qualify to be a religious act in Sikhism. It is for this reason that human body has been called a rare gift and a rare opportunity . Religion of a person is what he or she does while living as a human being on this earth. It is not any ritual performed by any one on behalf of us. Human body is the playground of our actions and only our actions determine what we achieve in this life. Guru Ram Das makes it clearer in the following verse.
ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਧਰਤੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਥਿ ਮਥਿ ਤਤੁ ਕਢਈਆ ॥ ਲਾਲੁ ਜਵੇਹਰ ਨਾਮੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸਿਆ ਭਾਂਡੈ ਭਾਉ ਪਵੈ ਤਿਤੁ ਅਈਆ ॥੨॥
(GGS, M 4, Page 834)
(Human body is the field where a person who follows advice of his/Guru works hard to obtain the priceless jewels of Name of God)
“Working hard” means to do good deeds while living in this world. Guru Nanak has explained it in very simple words in this verse.
ਵਿਚਿ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਸੇਵ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਾਹ ਲੁਡਾਈਐ ॥੪॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 26)
(Do good deeds here in this world and be happy in the court of God)
Guru Amardas advises the Yogi to search for truth in city of his body instead of wandering about in jungles and caves.
ਕਾਇਆ ਨਗਰੀ ਮਹਿ ਮੰਗਣਿ ਚੜਹਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਤਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਈ ॥੩॥
(GGS, M 3, Page 909)
(Hey, Yogi you will find God if you go the city of your body)
Secondly religion is not the end product; it is only a means to an end. It is the blossom not the fruit. It is up to God to bless these flowers to mature into fruits. God is the ultimate judge of whatever we do. Religion is only the first step of your journey towards God. There are miles and miles to go before we earn to enjoy the sleep of eternal bliss. Since God is the ultimate judge, it ensures that no ritual passes as religious act or good deed. There is a major difference between rituals and good deeds. Good deeds are selfless acts while rituals are acts with motives. Besides rituals are designed to force God for favours. It is for this reason that it has been stated in AGGS that even if a person becomes religious for a selfish reason, he/she ends up as a loser.
ਧਰਮੀ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਗਾਵਾਵਹਿ ਮੰਗਹਿ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 469)
(The religious person loses everything if he/she performs religious acts for a motive)
God is the supreme judge who is fearless, without hatred or malice towards anyone, and judges all our deeds without any prejudice or favour. It permeates everywhere, and Its command runs over every nook and corner of this world. Religion is not just what we do within the four walls of a church, a mosque, a temple, a Gurudwara or any other religious place. Wherever and whatever we do in our life on this earth is part of our religion and we will be judged upon this. That is reason Guru Nanak called the whole earth a Dharmsal (a place for learning religion) while describing the first stage (religion) in the development of a person’s spiritual life mentioned in the earlier part of this write up. Interestingly Dharmsal  was also the original name of Sikh place of worship. It was only during the times of sixth Sikh Guru that it came to be known by its present name Gurudwara .
Now the question is do we have to become a Sikh to adopt this One religion. You don’t have to become a Sikh, a Chritian, a Muslim or any other religion to practice this One religion. You can practice this religion while being a member of any or none of these. Do we have any proof of this in Sikhism?
Proof of the Pudding
Now the next question will be is there any proof in Sikh philosophy and history to substantiate the idea that it is possible to practice this religion by becoming a member of any of none of the established religion of the world. Yes Sikh history is full of it. When Guru Nanak visited Mecca, the Kadies asked him, who is great a Muslim or a Hindu. Guru Nanak replied that it is not religion what the deeds that will make a person great or mean. When Sikhism was born, people of India were broadly divided into three religious groups. These were Muslims; there were Hindus who followed the teachings of Brahmin or Pundit and Yogis who lived in caves and jungles. Guru Nanak confronted all of them and held discussions with them. He convinced them that what matters is their deeds. There are verses in AGGS addressed to these groups. Sikh Gurus have explained how a person can become a true Muslim, a true Hindu and a true Yogi by adopting the principles of this One religion.
ਮਿਹਰ ਮਸੀਤਿ ਸਿਦਕੁ ਮੁਸਲਾ ਹਕੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥ ਸਰਮ ਸੁੰਨਤਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਰੋਜਾ ਹੋਹੁ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਬਾ ਸਚੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਕਲਮਾ ਕਰਮ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥ ਤਸਬੀ ਸਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵਸੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਖੈ ਲਾਜ ॥੧॥
ਹਕੁ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੂਅਰ ਉਸੁ ਗਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਹਾਮਾ ਤਾ ਭਰੇ ਜਾ ਮੁਰਦਾਰੁ ਨ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਗਲੀ ਭਿਸਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਈਐ ਛੁਟੈ ਸਚੁ ਕਮਾਇ ॥ ਮਾਰਣ ਪਾਹਿ ਹਰਾਮ ਮਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗਲੀ ਕੂੜੀਈ ਕੂੜੋ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥
(GGS, M 1, Page 140-141)
(To be a Muslim make mercy for others your mosque; faith your prayer mat; truthful living your Koran; modesty your circumcision, good conduct your fast. Your deeds are your Kaaba; Truth your prophet; good actions your prayer; to accept the will of God is your rosary; only then God will save you.
To misappropriate what belongs to others is like eating pork for Muslims and beef for Hindus. If we do this no Prophet will come to our help. You can not earn an entry into Heaven by mere talking; you have to do good deeds for this.)
ਨਿਰਗੁਣੁ ਸਰਗੁਣੁ ਆਪੇ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਤਤੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਤਰੈ ਸਗਲੇ ਕੁਲ ਤਾਰੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਮੰਨਿ ਵਸਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੧॥
(GGS, M 3, Page 128)
(The Pundit is one who realizes the basic fact that God is in both what is manifest and what is obscure. Such a person has God in his/her mind all the time and is able to save him/her and others.)
ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਪਰਬੋਧੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਆਤਮ ਮਹਿ ਸੋਧੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਸਾਰੁ ਰਸੁ ਪੀਵੈ ॥ ਉਸੁ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਕੈ ਉਪਦੇਸਿ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਵੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਕਥਾ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਬਸਾਵੈ ॥ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਮੂਲ ॥ ਸੂਖਮ ਮਹਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਅਸਥੂਲੁ ॥ ਚਹੁ ਵਰਨਾ ਕਉ ਦੇ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਉਸੁ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਕਉ ਸਦਾ ਅਦੇਸੁ ॥੪॥
(AGGS, M 5, Page 274)
(That person is Pundit who educates his own mind and searches for the reality of God. He/she imbibes the delicious juice of God’s name. The world survives on the teachings of such a Pundit. He/she has God’s reality enshrined in his mind and is out of the circle of life and death. He goes deep in the study of religious books and realizes the reality of what is not manifest in this manifest world. He gives his instructions to persons of all castes. Nanak bows in reverence before such a person.)
ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਖਿੰਥਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਡੰਡੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਸਮ ਚੜਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੁੰਦੀ ਮੂੰਡਿ ਮੁਡਾਇਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਸਿੰਙੀ ਵਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੧॥ ਗਲੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮੜੀ ਮਸਾਣੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤਾੜੀ ਲਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਦੇਸਿ ਦਿਸੰਤਰਿ ਭਵਿਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੨॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਭੇਟੈ ਤਾ ਸਹਸਾ ਤੂਟੈ ਧਾਵਤੁ ਵਰਜਿ ਰਹਾਈਐ ॥ ਨਿਝਰੁ ਝਰੈ ਸਹਜ ਧੁਨਿ ਲਾਗੈ ਘਰ ਹੀ ਪਰਚਾ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੩॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜੀਵਤਿਆ ਮਰਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਵਾਜੇ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਸਿੰਙੀ ਵਾਜੈ ਤਉ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਤਉ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੪॥
(GGS, M 1, Page730)
(Yoga is not mere talk and outward appearance. Yoga is to treat pain and joys of life alike. Yoga is not in having a patched coat, nor is it the wielding of a walking stick of a yogi. It is not smearing ash to the body, nor is it wearing ear rings or blowing a horn. Yoga is to remain unattached while living in and enjoying this world. Yoga is not to leave the home and wander around in the world or to meditate sitting in tombs and graveyards. When you meet the true Guru, all your doubts are dispelled and peace descends on your mind. The real Yoga is to experience death in life. It is to listen to the melodies of a horn without the horn being blown.)
History is a witness to this truth that Sikhism practiced the principals of One religion. Consider the following facts.
- Sikhism does not believe in conversions by force of any kind. So much so that Bhai Mardana, who was born in a Muslim family and was life long companion of Guru Nanak, was given the option to choose cremation or burial after his death by none else but Guru Nanak. Bhai Mardana chose cremation but his progeny are still Muslims.
- GGS contains verses from Muslims and Hindus. Sikhs have accorded these verses the status of Shabad Guru along with verses from the six Sikh Gurus. These verses were collected by Guru Nanak, compiled in the AGGS by the fifth Guru, which was declared eternal Guru of the Sikhs by the tenth Guru.
- Guru Teg Bahadur the ninth Sikh Guru sacrificed his life for freedom of religion.
- Bhai Ghanya was publicly appreciated and awarded by Guru Gobind Singh for tending to the injured soldiers from the army fighting against Guru Gobind Singh
Sikh history is full of many more such examples.
The Last Question
We have one last question to answer before we conclude this discussion. Why did Guru Nanak start a new religion when it was possible to reach God by being a follower of any or none of the existing religions in this world? The question is basically flawed. Guru Nanak did not say that it is possible to reach or realize the ultimate truth of God by being “follower” of any religion. Instead he says that all of us have to tread the same path to reach our destination. He preached that path and there is ample proof in his preaching and practice that anyone, irrespective of the religion he/she is born into, who treads that path, will reach the destination. Some one might come up with the question here saying why Sikhs, the followers of the religion started by Guru Nanak look different from other people in this world. The outward appearance  of Sikhs is a full-fledged topic in itself and it will not be possible to cover it in full detail in this write up. However, I would like to say here that the instructions regarding appearance in Sikhism are protective in nature. They are designed to keep the natural appearance and live a civilized life by taking care of this natural appearance.
In conclusion we can say that,
- There is only one God and all of us are Its children and have equal rights and duties.
- There is only One Guru in this world and it is the Shabad or Knowledge
- All of us are will be judged upon in the court of God according to what we do in our life.
- So the only way to be rewarded in the court of God is to work honestly, remember God all the time and share our earnings with those who are unlucky.
- This is the only religion in this world which we should adopt and adhere to.
1 Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature, Bhai Kahan Singh, Page119, 1990 edition.
2 Ibid page 275
3 Quotations from GGS, the scripture of Sikhism, have been given in the following pattern. AGGS, M 1, Page 1188. AGGS is the abbreviated name of Sikh Scripture; M followed by digit 1,2,3,4 or 5 refers to first, second, third, fourth or fifth Guru in Sikhism.
4 The translations of quotes from GGS are not literal translation. Instead an effort has been made to convey the underlying thought in simple language.
5 GGS the abbreviation of Guru Granth Sahib (Also called Aad Granth) is the only scripture in Sikhism. Bulk of it is written by Sikh Gurus. It also contains verses from other saint poets like Kabeer, Nama, Ravidas (all Hindus) and Farid (a Muslim). It has 1430 pages. The last two pages containing Raag Mala are controversial as unlike the other 1428 pages they do not carry the stamp as to who is the author of this verse, not does this verse matches in style or content with the preceding 1428 pages.
6 Sidhas are a sect of Hindus. Guru Nanak traveled far a wide in all direction during his life and held debates with all the religious personalities of his times.
7 These stages have been described at page 7 and 8 of GGS in stanza 34 to 37 of Jap
8 The concept of human life as a rare opportunity has been repeated many times in GGS. Its important can be measured from the fact that it has been included in the collection of verses called Rehraas which a Sikh is required to recite and ponder upon daily.
ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥
(GGS, M5, Page 12)
(Human life is a rare opportunity to realize God)
9 Dharmsal is a Sikh religious place where there is a provision of free food and boarding for everyone and the Knowledge of Sikh religion is imparted. See Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature, Bhai Kahn Singh, Page 416, 1990 edition.
10 Ibid Page 662
11 A Sikh is required to keep his hair (Kesh) unshorn, wear underwear (Kachh), wear an iron bracelet (Kara), have a comb (Kanga) for the hair, and keep a Kirpan. These are popularly known as 5 ks.
Note: This was written in Dec 2005 and published in Journal of Institute of Understanding run by Dr DS Chahal.