What is the Sikh view on life on other planets?

universe

More than 500 years ago Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh faith, said that there were countless universes and galaxies and that God’s creation could not be measured. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scripture, describes God as:

ਕੋਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡ ਕੋ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਸਰਬ ਜੀਆ ਕਾ ਦਾਤਾ ਰੇ ॥
“the Lord and Master of millions of universes; the provider for all beings.”
(Ang 612)

Furthermore the Guru says:

ਕੇਤੀਆ ਕਰਮ ਭੂਮੀ ਮੇਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਧੂ ਉਪਦੇਸ ॥
“So many worlds and lands for working out karma. So very many lessons to be learned!”
(Ang 7)

There is a story in the Sikh tradition of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s meeting with a respected saint, Peer Dastgeer of Baghdad, who insisted that there were only seven heavens above the Earth which contained the sun and moon.

The shrine commemorating Guru Nanak Dev Ji's stay in Baghdad.

The shrine commemorating Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s stay in Baghdad.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji explained his position that there were, in fact, countless planets and galaxies.

ਪਾਤਾਲਾ ਪਾਤਾਲ ਲਖ ਆਗਾਸਾ ਆਗਾਸ ॥
“There are nether worlds beneath nether worlds, and hundreds of thousands of heavenly worlds above.”
(Ang 5)

Guru Nanak Dev Ji is said to have shown in the blink of an eye the vastness of creation and the universes within it and convinced Pir Dastgir of the truth of his statement. The full account of the incident that took place in Baghdad is recorded by Bhai Gurdas Ji:

ਪੁਛੇ ਫਰਿ ਤਕਰਾਰ ਕਰਿ ਏਹ ਫਕੀਰ ਵਡਾ ਅਤਾਈ ॥
ਏਥੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਬਗਦਾਦ ਦੇ ਵਡੀ ਕਰਾਮਾਤਿ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ ॥
ਪਾਤਾਲਾ ਆਕਾਸ ਲਖ ਓੜਕਿ ਭਾਲੀ ਖਬਰੁ ਸੁਣਾਈ ॥
ਫੇਰਿ ਦੁਰਾਇਣ ਦਸਤਗੀਰ ਅਸੀ ਭਿ ਵੇਖਾਂ ਜੋ ਤੁਹਿ ਪਾਈ ॥
ਨਾਲਿ ਲੀਤਾ ਬੇਟਾ ਫਰਿ ਦਾ ਅਖੀ ਮੀਟਿ ਗਇਆ ਹਾਵਾਈ ॥
ਲਖ ਅਕਾਸ ਪਤਾਲ ਲਖ ਅਖਿ ਫੁਰਕ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭਿ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ ॥
ਭਰਿ ਕਚਕੌਲ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ਦਾ ਧੁਰੋ ਪਤਾਲੋ ਲਈ ਕੜਾਈ ॥
ਜਾਹਰ ਕਲਾ ਨ ਛਪੈ ਛਪਾਈ ॥੩੬॥
“The Peer debated and came to know that this Faqir is much more powerful. Here in Baghdad he has shown a great miracle. Meanwhile he (Baba Nanak) talked about myriads of netherworlds and skies. Peer Dastgeer asked (the Baba) to show him whatever he had seen. Guru Nanak Dev Ji taking along with him the son of the Peer, melted into thin air. And in a wink of eye visualized him the upper and lower worlds. From the nether world he brought a bowl full of sacred food and handed it over to Peer. This manifest power (of the Guru) cannot be made to hide.”
(Vaar 1, Pauri 36)

01 - Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Patala Pataal

Indeed, if there are countless universes and planets, then the odds would certainly suggest that at least some of them do have “intelligent, ethical life.” The fact that Guru Nanak Dev Ji brought a bowl of sacred food from another planet provides evidence of this.

ਜਲਿ ਥਲਿ ਜੀਆ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਲੋਆ ਆਕਾਰਾ ਆਕਾਰ ॥
“There are beings and creatures in the water and on the land, in the worlds and universes, form upon form.”
(Ang 466)

Many of the world’s greatest scientists, including Stephen Hawking, have also come out clearly in support of the belief that life exists beyond this Earth and may in fact be “common.”

While thinking about extraterrestrial life and dreaming about journeys into outer space is interesting, I’m not sure it has many practical implications for our day-to-day lives. Humanity has an abundance of issues to deal with on planet Earth before dealing with life on other planets.

In the Sikh faith, while it is acknowledged that creation is boundless, the focus is on seeking God within and practising the principles of compassion and kindness in our lives.

The true search is not the one that takes us into outer space, but the one that takes us within ourselves to realize and experience God. That is certainly a much more practical journey to be reflecting upon.

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