The Scriptures and Authority
The sacred text known as the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the most important source of authority for all Sikhs. Second, Sikhs will look to the Sikh Rahit Maryada or Code of Conduct developed and re-developed by the Khalsa. Third, they will re-consider the practice of the Gurus which are collected in Janam Sakhis or ‘life stories’.
1. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji can be translated as the ‘Respected Guru Folio’. ‘Sahib’ means ‘respected’ and a ‘folio’ is simply a large bound book. It is a chorus of praise for God. There are 36 authors in addition to six Gurus.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539 CE) collected the writings of mystics from different traditions that had predated him. Their writings along with his own were handed to his successor. This is suggested by the evidence that later Gurus have used phrases from or commented on phrases in the writings of previous authors. The collection was then arranged according to ragas or Indian musical measures by Guru Arjan Dev Ji in 1604. He collected the preachings of six gurus and two non-Sikhs.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1708 CE) completed the work and declared that the Granth would be his successor and so became the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, or ‘ Holy Book, Guru’. Thus the text became the permanent authority or Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. The writings bear witness to the spiritual experiences of people from different religious traditions across five centuries of South Asian history – twelfth to seventeenth centuries.
The Guru Granth Sahib Ji does not contain stories but covers both religious and social subjects, such as devotion to God, the importance of the Guru and the need to be pure, as well as breaking down the caste system, service to others and family life. The most sacred section of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the Mool Mantar which encapsulates Sikh beliefs.
There is one God
Eternal Truth is His name:
The Creator, devoid of fear and hatred
Immortal, unborn, self-existent,
Great and bountiful …
2. The Sikh Rahit Maryada, the Code of Conduct, was announced at the Akal Takht which is part of the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. If clarification is required for the Code of Conduct, or a new issue has emerged, the mukhi (mouthpiece) of the Akal Takht will call a meeting to which all Sikhs may attend. The consensus decision reached will be announced from the Akal Takht.
Sikhs may choose to ignore provisions of the Sikh Rahit Maryada. This is because they might feel that a mistake was made. However, Sikhs do not defy the authority of the Akal Takht which would be the same as defying the authority of the Khalsa, which is the organization set up and joined by the last human Guru.
3. The stories connected with the Gurus exist in texts called janam sakhis or life stories. The stories show how the Gurus are regarded as being guided by God, at one with the Divine Light, forms of the Formless, visualizations of God in the same way as one can see a cow in a calf.
The most significant complementary texts are the writings of Bhai Gurdas which are regarded as a basic summary of the main themes of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. There were also texts written by the poets of the court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. They wrote a range of texts, including the Diwan-i-Goya.