The Light - Sikhism

The Adi Granth makes frequent reference to the human encounter with a Divine Light: “God, being Truth, is the one Light of all.”

“God Almighty (Brahman) resides within all humans as Light, a fact that is supported by all scriptures. Thus we can meditate on Him within and that long search for the Creator is at last over, ending within ourselves. That is why Jesus kept telling the ignorant masses two millennia ago that the Kingdom of God is within.

A few months ago i asked my daughter Lalita what is that Light above Shri Mataji in her Sahasrara (Kingdom of God). She replied 'God!'

i remained silent for a long time to absorb the immensity of that single word answer.”


The Light Divine

Guru Nanak clearly referred to spiritual attainments in this life as being akin to the experience of death: "every day do I die and every day do I come back to life....”3

This meant that the Guru could attain an NDE-like experience without actually dying physically. The Adi Granth, also, mentions specifically the vision of the Divine Light in the same context as"overcoming death":

Pray to the Lord, to the True Guide,
That in Him thou mayest meet the Beloved Friend.
In this meeting the soul is happy
And death dies of its own disease
May I live in the [Divine] Name,
May the name in me be indwelling.
Without the Guru to teach us, we walk in darkness,
Without the Word, we have no understanding.
The Word of the Guru is light,
His Word's light leads to the Truth.
There, Death has no existence.
His light is joined with Light.... 4

The Adi Granth makes frequent reference to the human encounter with a Divine Light: “God, being Truth, is the one Light of all.” God"shines out in His own splendour.”Moreover,” His brightness shineth forth“With“The blaze of the splendour dazzling like the sun.”5

Guru Nanak added more on this issue in other writings. For Nanak, God is“The light of all light.”The light of God“Illumines land and seas.”God is“The embodiment of light; the lamps of the sun and moon and all their light emanate from Him....”God is"pure light" ... the"ever pure light.”This“All-wise Being of light sits on the throne eternal.”God's light is“Infinite,” and God Himself“Is immaculate and all light.”6

The Adi Granth also makes it clear that this Divine Light can be found within one's self: “The Eternal Light indwells in the human mind, and the human mind is the emanation of that light.” Further,” the best light is the Light of God in the heart.” Ultimately, the Sikh aspirant wishes to be immersed in the Divine light, as was Guru Nanak: “As waves blend with water, so my light is blended with the Lord's Light.”7

Nanak goes on to say that“In Thy creatures is Thy light...”; indeed,” in every heart there is the same light....”In this ultimate union,” our light blends with the light eternal,” and Nanak encourages followers to"merge your light with the light eternal.” As the guru himself would put it,

within every body
Is the Lord hidden;
within every body
Is His light.
Searching his body, his home,
By the master's instructions one finds
the Name revealed within. 8

Divine Encounters - Sikhism - The Light Divine


3. J. R. Puri, Guru Nanak: His Mystic Teachings (Punjab, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1982), 82. This title will be abbreviated as Mystic Teachings from this point onward.
4. The Adi Granth, in Selections from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs, trans. Dr. Trilochan Singh, Bhai Jodh Singh, Kapur Singh, Bawa Harkishen Singh, and Khushwant Singh; revised by George S. Fraser (NY: Samuel Wiser, 1973), 71. All references to the Adi Granth will be taken from this collection.
5. Adi Granth 31, 267, 270.
6. Mystic Teachings, 12.
7. Adi Granth 98, 195, 180.
8. Mystic Teachings 158, 170, 369, 418, 84.

Joti (Light) is term used to describe the Godhead, God's creation or the state of highest spiritual experience

Nikky-Guninder Kaur
Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh:
The Feminine Principle in the Sikh
Vision of the Transcendent

Chapter 2: Mother; the Infinite Matrix

As the"spiritual"principle, the female images the One Transcendent within the individual. The term used most frequently in Sikh scripture for the Spirit within the body is joti (or nur at times), meaning light. Joti is grammatically feminine; joti is metaphysically the feminine dimension of the numeral One. Light has been a crucial concept in the religious heritage of humankind. It is used to describe the Godhead, God's creation or the state of highest spiritual experience. This image is found in various traditions:

Hindu: Lead me from the unreal to the real,
From darkness lead me to Light. [44]

Jewish: Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord! [45]

Buddhist: Hold firm to the truth as a lamp and refuge. [46]

Christian: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. [47]

Islam: God is the light of the heaven and the earth. [48]

Shinto: She lights the far corners of Heaven and Earth—the great Kami of the Sun. [49]

And Sikh: There is a light in all and that light is the Ultimate One. [50]

It is in its aspect as light—as joti—that we shall now explore the role of the feminine principle in the Sikh vision of the Transcendent. This dimension of the feminine principle raises three important issues: What is the nature of joti? How can the Transcendent remain transcendent if the One Light is immanent in all? What meaning does this ontological base have for society?

We shall first examine the feminine nature of joti and its relation to the Transcendent. Joti (light) has been strikingly—and aptly — used as an image for the Transcendent Reality, for the nature of light is manifestation. Light is being, just as its absence, darkness, is nothingness.”There is nothing that is more without need of being defined than light.”[51] Joti, continuing the feminine dimension of the Transcendent is no ordinary light. Its ineffability and noetic quality have been beautifully rendered by Guru Nanak:

jhilmili jhilkai candu na tara
suraj kirani na bijuli gainara
akathi kathau cihanu nahi koi.

It is brilliantly dazzling,
yet it is neither the moon nor the stars,
Neither the sun-ray, nor the lightning of the skies,
Words cannot describe it, nor can any sign or symbol.

Joti is thus totally transcendent: it is not the radiance from the moon, the stars, or the sun, or the flash of lightning. In this case, light has no form, and it never becomes an attribute of anything other than itself. It subsists by itself.

This image of joti from the Sikh scriptures corresponds to Suhrawardi's perception of Nur al-anwar and the Upanisadic-Gitic perception of Jyotisam jyoti. Both Nur al-anwar and Jyotisam jyoti signify the light of lights, the ontological ground of the universe. In both philosophies, the light of lights has a direct symbol in every domain: the sun in the skies, the fire in the elements, and al- nur al-ispahbadi (Ishraqi) or atman (Hindu) within the individual.... Joti is accepted as the source of all energy and every being — everything depends on it. A verse in the Guru Granth reminds us of the ontological base of our existence; we exist only because of the joti placed in out bodies by the One:

e sarira meria hari tum mahi joti rakhi
ta tu jag mahi aia.

O my body, the One put joti (light) inside you,
Only then did you come into the world.

That joti pervades the body is reiterated in another hymn of Guru Nanak as well:

jis da jio pranu hai
antari joti apara.

The One who has given life and breath
Has placed in the body Its joti (light) infinite...

According to the Guru Granth, most of us remain oblivious to the divine light within us. This condition is portrayed through an eloquent simile—that of a deer which, ignorant of the musk within its own body, runs frantically in the jungle searching for it.”The perennial light is within us all,” says a verse;“It's only the enlightened ones who recognize this"(ghati ghati joti nirantari bujhai gurmati saru) 59

Joti is therefore both all-pervasive and transcendent, and this single ontological base has enormous significance for human society. A popular couplet from the Granth brings out the social implications latent in this conception of the Transcendent:

aval allah nuru upaia kudrati ke sabh bande
ek nur te sabhu jagu upjai kaun bhale ko mande.

Allah first created Its light, and from it were all made,
From that One Light came the whole cosmos,
whom shall we then declare good, whom bad?

From One Light (ek nur) has originated the entire cosmos. One Light is beyond all and yet simultaneously within all....

It is because creation emanates from the One Source, ek nur, that the Sikh tradition upholds the equality and unity of humankind. When from One Light all are born, who can be called good, who bad, who high, who low?... A thoroughly egalitarian and liberating structure emerges out of the Transcendent Light's being the spirit in us all. Shattered are all caste structures, shattered are all racial and gender monopolies. The ground is set for a just social, political, and economic world in which oppressive and hierarchical systems would not find any base.

The Sikh understanding of joti, the feminine principle of the Transcendent, residing within all initiates the search of the individual, man and woman, for his or her origin. It provides both men and women with the spiritual goal, with the right opportunity to exclaim with Ntozake Shange:

i found god in myself
& I loved her
I loved her fiercely. 67

Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh,
The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent,
Cambridge University Press, 1993, page 59-64
ISBN 0521432871

44. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.
45. Psalms 4:6.
46. Mahaparinibbana Sutta.
47. John 1:5.
48. Qur'n XXIV. 35.
49. Cited by David Kinsley, The Goddess' Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West (New York: State University of New York Press, 1989), 71.
50. Guru Granth, 663.
51. S. H. Nasr, Discussion of Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-Ishraq, bk. II, ch. 9, Class lecture, Temple University, February 24, 1982.
52. Guru Granth, 1033.
53. S. H. Nasr, Three Muslim Sages (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), 69. The following passage by Suhrawardi has been cited:
The essence of the First Absolute Light, God, gives constant illumination, whereby it is manifested and it brings all things into existence, giving life to them by its rays. Everything in this world is derived from the Light of His Essence and all beauty and perfection are the gift of His bounty, and to attain fully to this illumination is salvation.
The ontological status of the various planes of reality is dependent upon their proximity to the Nur al-anwar and upon the extent to which they are themselves illuminated. The tashkik al-dhati theory of Suhrawardi's finds a parallel in the Hindu ontological speculation. For it is maintained in the Hindu religious texts that the universe is constituted of the various gradations of light....
54. Guru Granth, 921.
55. Ibid., 140.
59. Guru Granth, 20.
60. Ibid., 1349.
67. Ntozake Shange, For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (New York; Macmillan, 1975).

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