Question: Can ordinary folks experience a state of grace?
BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
I think the closest concept to a “state of grace” in the Sikh faith is the state of “sehaj,” which is the state of realization and awareness of God. A person in the state of sehaj attains a constant state of contentment and bliss and is aware of the presence of God’s light within.
This state is only possible through the grace of the Guru but is available to all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or class. But the lives they lead in order to attain this state are far from “ordinary.”
The Sikh Gurus taught that spirituality isn’t limited to any group. The Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is composed of verses not only of the Sikh Gurus but also of bards and saints from many different backgrounds and castes.
Amongst those included were saints like Ravidas and Kabir who were from the lowest of the so-called castes and for whom it was taught that spirituality or salvation were impossible. Kabir wrote, “if anyone sings or if anyone listens to the name of God with focused consciousness ... there is no doubt, in the end they will attain the highest state of salvation.” (ang 335).
Another belief that the Sikh Gurus contested was that spirituality was only possible for a priestly class or for those people who abandon the world in search of God.
The Gurus declared that there would be no priesthood and any Sikh could lead services or address the congregation. Family life was encouraged and the Gurus taught that abandoning one’s family and renouncing the world to find God was in fact counterproductive.
All this having been said, the people who attain the state of sehaj live far more than just “ordinary” lives. They live according to a spiritual discipline and are driven by a thirst to experience God. They live a life of service to both God and the world and are an inspiration to countless others.
So, while “ordinary folks” can certainly experience God and the state of sehaj, the experience transforms them into something extraordinary.
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