Gurmat & Hinduism

What is Gurbani’s view of Hindu Devi & Devtas (deities)?

Gurbani states:

ਦੇਵੀ ਦੇਵਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਹੈ ਮਾਇਆ ॥
ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ ਜਿੰਨਿ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥
ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਪਸਰਿਆ ਸੰਸਾਰੇ ਆਇ ਜਾਇ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੨॥
“The source, the root, of the gods and goddesses is Maya (the yearning for pleasure and the fear of pain). This Maya gave birth to the Simritees and the Shaastras (meaning, the Simritees and Shaastras were composed for the sake of obtaining of pleasure and getting rid of sorrow). Sexual desire and anger are diffused throughout the universe, as a result of which people come and go in the cycle of reincarnation and suffer in pain. ||2||
(Maajh M:3, 129)

According to Gurbani Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma were kings of their respective times. However they are not given any importance or significance at all. Gurmat does not accept them as God nor as incarnations of God. Like any other human beings, they had virtues and they had weaknesses. Gurbani says:

ਜੁਗਹ ਜੁਗਹ ਕੇ ਰਾਜੇ ਕੀਏ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਕਰਿ ਅਵਤਾਰੀ ॥
ਤਿਨ ਭੀ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਿ ਆਖਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੭॥
“In each and every age, God creates the kings, who are sung of as His Incarnations. Even they have not found God’s limits; what can I speak of and contemplate? ||7||”
(Aasa M:3, 423)

It is clear that these kings were normal people but people sung of them and made them out to be Avtars (incarnations of God) and hence they are referred to as “Devtas” or “gods”. Similarly the Pharaohs were glorified and projected as living gods and as God who kept creation alive and were the creators of the world. In eastern tradition, for example in Burma or China, any time the public saw the king or emperor people would lay down and prostrate and revered the ruler as God or incarnation of God. For example these figures are sometimes depicted with ten heads or ten arms. This is not to say that they looked like aliens because they were humans. Rather the ten heads is an artists way of depicting that the figure had the power of ten people etc. However, Gurbani is totally clear that no one can put a limit on God and God is unborn. No human can claim to be God. Just as no drop of water can claim to be the ocean.

The basic and unalterable concept of Sikhi, as opposed to that of Brahminism, is that God does not incarnate. This concept is an integral element of the Mool Mantar revealed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the very beginning of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This concept is the corner-stone of Sikh theology. So much so, that the Guru Ji says:

ਸੋ ਮੁਖੁ ਜਲਉ ਜਿਤੁ ਕਹਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਜੋਨੀ ॥੩॥
ਜਨਮਿ ਨ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਰਹਿਓ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੪॥੧॥
“Let that mouth be burnt, which says that our Lord and Master is subject to birth. ||3|| He is not born, and He does not die; He does not come and go in reincarnation. The God of Nanak is pervading and permeating everywhere. ||4||1||”
(SGGS – Ang 1136)

ਨਾਨਕ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਏਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥
“God alone is the one who is not born of a woman”
(SGGS – Ang 473)

The Sikh Gurus clearly deny belief in the theory of incarnation of God. In order to dispel such ideas they state:

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਕੇਤੇ ਰਾਮ ਰਵਾਲ ॥
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਕੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕਹਾਣੀਆ ਕੇਤੇ ਬੇਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥
“The Formless alone, Nanak, is without fear, many are Ramas as the dust of His Feet, many Krishnas. Many are their stories and many are the Vedas.”
(SGGS – Ang 464)

Gurbani is clear that God created countless Brahmas and Maheshs and Vishnus and all are under the power of One Waheguru.

ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਸਦਾ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਕਹਿ ਨ ਸਕੈ ਕੋਊ ਤੂ ਕਦ ਕਾ ॥
ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਬਿਸਨੁ ਸਿਰੇ ਤੈ ਅਗਨਤ ਤਿਨ ਕਉ ਮੋਹੁ ਭਯਾ ਮਨ ਮਦ ਕਾ ॥
“O Formless Lord God, You are eternally intact; no one can say how You came into being. You created countless Brahmas and Vishnus; their minds were intoxicated with emotional attachment.”
(Ang 1403)

Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu

The Vedic tradition believed that three deities were responsible for creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. However, Gurbani uses their reference and explicitly says that all the functions of the deities are in fact all present within Waheguru – which means that one should give up worship of deities and worship the True One (Waheguru). The fifth Pauree (stanza) of Japji Sahib says:

ਏਕਾ ਮਾਈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਵਿਆਈ ਤਿਨਿ ਚੇਲੇ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥
ਇਕੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ਇਕੁ ਭੰਡਾਰੀ ਇਕੁ ਲਾਏ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ॥
ਜਿਵ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਵੈ ਚਲਾਵੈ ਜਿਵ ਹੋਵੈ ਫੁਰਮਾਣੁ ॥
“(It is believed that) the One Divine Mother conceived and gave birth to the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh who were given duties for creation, sustenance, and destruction). (However) the One (God) is the Creator of the World; the One (God) is the Sustainer; and the One (God) is the Destroyer. God alone makes things happen according to the Pleasure of His Will. Such is His Celestial Order.”
(SGGS – Ang 7)

In the shabad “arbad narbad….” (Ang 1035) about creation, it is clear that there was no trinity and the origin is only God. God created these beings.

Furthermore, Gurbani is clear that all these beings are thirsting for the opportunity to get the human form because it is only in the human form that we can get Gurmat Naam and realise Waheguru:
ਜਿਸੁ ਨਾਮੈ ਕਉ ਤਰਸਹਿ ਬਹੁ ਦੇਵਾ ॥
ਸਗਲ ਭਗਤ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਕਰਦੇ ਸੇਵਾ ॥
ਅਨਾਥਾ ਨਾਥੁ ਦੀਨ ਦੁਖ ਭੰਜਨੁ ਸੋ ਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੇ ਤੇ ਪਾਇਣਾ ॥੩॥
“So many gods yearn for Naam, the Name of the Lord. All the Bhagats (devotees of God) serve Him. He is the Master of the masterless, the Destroyer of the pains of the poor. His Name is obtained from the Perfect Guru. ||3||”
(SGGS – Ang 1078)

And also:

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਮਹੇਸ ਸਿਧ ਮੁਨਿ ਇੰਦ੍ਰਾ ਭਗਤਿ ਦਾਨੁ ਜਸੁ ਮੰਗੀ ॥੧॥
Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra beg for the charity of God’s Praise and devotion to Him. ||1||
(SGGS – Ang 1322)

For example Pauree 25, Ang 5 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

ਆਖਹਿ ਵੇਦ ਪਾਠ ਪੁਰਾਣ ॥
ਆਖਹਿ ਪੜੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਵਖਿਆਣ ॥
ਆਖਹਿ ਬਰਮੇ ਆਖਹਿ ਇੰਦ ॥
ਆਖਹਿ ਗੋਪੀ ਤੈ ਗੋਵਿੰਦ ॥
“The Vedas and the Puraanas speak/estimate God. The scholars also who lecture (to others) also speak of God. Many Brahmas speak, many Indras speak. Gopis (milk maids who used to adore Krishan) and many Krishans speak of God.”
(SGGS – Ang 5, 6)

It does not refer to a singular figure. There are many Brahmas; there are many Krishnas etc. There are many people throughout history who have been intellectuals, who have thought they are the creators etc.

The last line of the verse/ pauree is the key to understanding what Guru Sahib intends to tell us:

ਜੇਵਡੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਤੇਵਡੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਾਣੈ ਸਾਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥
ਜੇ ਕੋ ਆਖੈ ਬੋਲੁਵਿਗਾੜੁ ॥
ਤਾ ਲਿਖੀਐ ਸਿਰਿ ਗਾਵਾਰਾ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥੨੬॥
“O Nanak! God is as Great as He wishes to be. The Eternal True Lord knows Himself (how Great He is). If anyone presumes to describe God (and how Great He is), then that person shall be known as the greatest fool of fools! ||26||”
(SGGS – Ang 5)

Guru Sahib tells us that in the world there have been countless intellectuals and scholars and there will continue to be. But, till now no one has been able to work out how Great God is and how many blessings is He bestowing upon living beings. Infinite are His virtues and infinite are are His gifts. Without God, no one can know this. This work is not in the capability of humans. That human is the greatest fool who claims to have bundled together all of God’s virtues and gifts.

“Rama and Krishnahad received the homage of everyone as Divine beings. It was Nanak who boldly questioned their divinity and brought them down to the level of mortals… Guru Gobind Singh went further and stated: ‘He created millions of worms like Krishna, made many Ramas and destroyed them. Many Mohammads came into the world . All died when their time expired”.”

[Gokal Chand Narang: Transformation of Sikhism, p.384]

Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly states:

ਮੈ ਨ ਗਨੇਸ਼ਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਿਥਮ ਮਨਾਊਂ ॥ ਕਿਸ਼ਨ ਬਿਸ਼ਨ ਕਬਹੂੰ ਨਹ ਧਿਆਊਂ ॥
ਕਾਨ ਸੁਨੇ ਪਹਿਚਾਨ ਨ ਤਿਨ ਸੋਂ ॥ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੋਰੀ ਪਗ ਇਨ ਸੋਂ ॥੪੩੪॥
“I do not seek blessings or hail Ganesh before I start any task. (In old times, often Ganesh would be hailed before starting any task). Nor do I worship Krishan or Vishnu etc. I have heard of them but I do not recognise any of them. I am engrossed in the loving devotion of my Lord (Waheguru) alone.“
(DG – P. 733, Krishan Avtar)

Although English translations are useful and provide great knowledge to Sikh Studies. However, through literal word for word Panjabi or Gurmukhi translation to English causes the implied meanings of a Shabad (hymn) to be lost and for a reader with little or no knowledge of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, historical knowledge, grammatical knowledge, knowledge of smilies and metaphors, knowledge of culture and tradition referred to etc, the true meanings can be lost.