The beauty of Sikhism is that the teachings of the Gurus is profound and yet simple. The problem anyone trying to walk this path is that one cannot find something “Spiritually interesting” unless it also comes across as profound. So, one tries to make things profoundly complex to give it enough “weight”. And therein loses that which is the core.
I am not well versed in Sikh scriptures nor have I had much knowledge of the history or the spiritual/theological discourse. But I find baani (words) of the Gurus very enriching. One of the things that I was wondering the past week was the reason for having something “new” as a way of addressing. “Sat Sri Akal”, in this case vs “Namaskar”. Now, its not that the Gurus were against Namaskar or anything like that. Guru Gobind Singh himself addresses his way of respect the Cosmic/Infinite God with a “namaskar” in his own prayer (Benti Chaupaee).
jvan kal jogi siv kio. baid raj brahma joo thio. jvn kal sabh lok svara. namaskar hai taeh hmara
namaskar tis hi ko hamari. skal prja jin aap svari. sivkn ko siv gun sukh dio. sttrun ko pul mo bdh kio
What would he be trying to denote when the call of Sat Sri Akal first resounded? Now, Sikhism is a unique mix of Bhakti Yogis taking on the sword to honor their karmic situation. So, Sikh Gurus approached war with spiritual sensitivity.
In a tradition, where for the love of one’s Guru, the disciples gave their lives – often tortured in the most horrific ways – it was important that the same element of sacrifice be invoked in the war. When the war is fought – consciously – not for one’s own gain, but because it needs to be done due to the situation, then the war cry had to be different.
And nothing exemplifies it more that the Sikh war cry itself. Sat Sri Akal, Jo Bhole So Nihaal. The Way I understood it by looking at its literal meaning which is simple yet profound!
That which is Sat (Satyam, the Truth), that which is Sri (Sundaram, the Beauty) and that which is Akal (Shivam, the Timeless). When it says/calls “Jo Bole” (the voice of the Infinite, Timeless Truth will be in form of the Cosmic Law or the Hukam or Dharma), then I be so without intervention “So Nihaal” (when the ego of the “me” doesn’t interfere in my action, and my action is of the situation).
When the Timeless, the Beautiful, the Truth beckons (Jo Bole), then I submit in complete Devotion. May this happen to me. That is how I understand the chant – Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal!
This salutation, which became the war-cry of many Sikhs – was to invoke the sacrificing tendency of a disciple firmly entrenched in the love of his Master, so that he may fight but not for his personal reasons. For general good and because the situation demands it. If the situation didn’t demand it, such a Sikh would be contented to live as a Saint. In its spiritual sense, it is very similar to Namaskar, in that when just “Sat Sri Akal” may be used as a salutation, one is reminded that the “other” is One Truth/Beauty/Timeless reality.
This one salutation, if properly understood in its profundity, can take one beyond all limitations of physical and mental constructs… to the timeless state of being. In ‘Sat Sri Akal’, is hidden the message that even war cannot be waged for one’s personal ego or good. It brings out the beauty of Sikh teachings. Simple, yet profound!