The focus of the Guru is on purifying the heart and becoming more Life-centred/Naam-centred and realising that the self is part of Life and supported by it, so there is no gain by being self-centred, to the exclusion of others. By drawing Life into one’s life, we become lamps for the Light that is God. Then, we can spread that Light to others. The whole technology of gurmat (Way of the Guru) is for this purpose.
Since gurmat is about how we live Life, most people tend to regard discussion of spirits as superstition, or at best irrelevant. This is unfortunate since there is nothing in Guru Granth Sahib Ji/Gurbani or the daily prayers which is not for our benefit. That various spirits exist is mentioned many times in Gurbani. In common with many indigenous traditions, there is mention of the elemental spirits of water and fire, and mother earth (“mata dharat mahat”), various Hindu gods and goddesses, the prophets mentioned in the Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), many Buddhas and others. Free from the confusion that this world is all there is, the spirits cannot be sincere atheists. Whether they serve or rebel against God, they remember the Name.
“Demons, angels, snake kings of hell, and sprites utter the Name all the time.” (Tav Prasad Swayyas, verse 7, third of morning prayers)
However, in this material world, people often go on to worship these other spirits rather than God. Gurbani tells us that,
“Some fools go to worship idols, while others, behaving unenlightened as animals go to worship the dead.” (Tav Prasad Swayyas, verse 9)
This does not include only black magic and voodoo but also lighting candles at the tombs of dead saints and praying to them, often accompanied by music, which was a common practice of Sufi Muslims. It is different from remembering dead beloved ones. What happens to those we loved after death? The angel of death is sometimes called Yama, by which name he is also known to the Jains, Buddhists and Hindus, and Azrael, which is what the Muslims call him. The soul is taken from the body and then taken to the Divine Court for Divine Justice. According to our good and evil deeds, people are placed in heavens (rewards) and hells (punishment). Thereafter they may be given another chance at serving God through being reincarnated.
“Those who obey God do not go with the angels of punishment.” (Jap Ji Sahib, verse 13, first of morning prayers).
“Those who have not recited the Naam – the gurmantra (Wahe-Guru), the praises of God, and sincerely sought through prayer the Presence of God, are unfortunate and will go with the angels of punishment.” (Raag Gujri, Fourth Guru, verse 3 in evening prayers).
The only criteria will be worship of God and good deeds towards the Light of God in every heart, including your own. Either there is rejoicing or sadness, but the choice is ours, here, now.
“They shall not get back lost time – the fruit of their actions shall they receive. With face blackened, into deep hell shall they be hailed, as a thief by the neck bound.” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p.303).
According to the Guru the real devil is the devil inside, our hau-mai or ego-centredness which is born of and leads to ignorance. The opposite, of course, is the Sikh or student of Life. If our choices were meaningless, we would not be alive, but mere puppets. God’s gift of life, God’s love for us, implies that our choices matter. Therein, is the risk of evil and disaster. We have five energies which are supposed to serve us, to be under our control – pride, anger, lust, greed, and attachment. When these control us, we behave like devils.
“Those devoid of love for God are ego-centred goblins – how long can they find consolation?” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p.305).
Those seeking God outside the self are “misguided goblins” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p.309). Why? Because it denies that God is with us and in us. We are part of Life/God as well as a gift from Life. The dancer is in the dance yet the dance cannot be compared to the dancer. Similarly, God’s Light is in all things, even as God stands outside creation. WaheGuru dwells with us as reflection in a mirror, fragrance in a flower, fire within wood. If one dissects and analyses a mirror, a flower, or a piece of wood, one will not find these things “in” there, yet our own experience tells us that they are “in” there somewhere. Similarly, the law of karma, of right and wrong, is universally written on every heart as common sense, and the law of wird, of God’s Grace and love for us, reaching out to us, and guiding us to deeper and deeper love for all good and holy things is an unplayed symphony resounding in every fiber of the universe. Through choosing life over death, trusting in God’s help which is always available, we also can say,
“You have subdued the five evils (five inner energies gone out of direction) and destroyed the torments of death.” (Anand Sahib, verse 5 in evening prayer).
Whatever inner demons, external enemies of Life, or angels of punishment nothing can harm one who seeks comfort and shelter with God, the Lord of the Worlds.
Satan is mentioned six times in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. His aim is to cause evil and lead people from God’s worship to evil. One of his works is to destroy spiritual discipline. Presented below are multiple translations giving the interpretations of different people on this topic.
SIREE RAAG, FIRST MEHL, THIRD HOUSE: Make good deeds the soil, and let the Word of the Shabad be the seed; irrigate it continually with the water of Truth. Become such a farmer, and faith will sprout. This brings knowledge of heaven and hell, you fool! || 1 || Do not think that your Husband Lord can be obtained by mere words. You are wasting this life in the pride of wealth and the splendor of beauty. || 1 || Pause || The defect of the body which leads to sin is the mud puddle, and this mind is the frog, which does not appreciate the lotus flower at all. The bumble bee is the teacher who continually teaches the lesson. But how can one understand, unless one is made to understand? || 2 || This speaking and listening is like the song of the wind, for those whose minds are colored by the love of Maya. The Grace of the Master is bestowed upon those who meditate on Him alone. They are pleasing to His Heart. || 3 || You may observe the thirty fasts, and say the five prayers each day, but ‘Satan’ can undo them. Says Nanak, you will have to walk on the Path of Death, so why do you bother to collect wealth and property? || 4 || 27 || (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p.24)
You observe the thirty Ramadan fasts and make five daily prayers your companions. Keep these in a way that Satan violates not their merit.
The implication is not just that Satan attacks Muslims trying to observe their fasts! But rather that Satan will try and undo anyone trying to follow guidance of religious practices. One who lives in an evil way is described as behaving like Satan.
PAUREE: He sees the terrible, awful wilderness as a city. Gazing upon the false objects, he believes them to be real. Engrossed in sexual desire, anger and egotism, he wanders around insane. When the Messenger of Death hits him on the head with his club, then he regrets and repents. Without the Perfect, Divine Guru, he roams around like Satan. || 9 || (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p.707-8)
A terrible forest has man thought of as a city; viewing unreal objects has he taken them to be real. Involved in lust, wrath and pride man in madness wanders along. As falls on his head Yama’s baton, has he regrets. Without guidance of the Holy Master, perfectly endowed, in diabolical thoughts he wanders along.
Satan is shown to be an active force for evil in the world, for instance, in the rape and murder of women by the soldiers during the invasion of India by the Moghuls.
TILANG, FIRST MEHL: As the Word of the Forgiving Lord comes to me, so do I express it, O Lalo. Bringing the marriage party of sin, Babar has invaded from Kaabul, demanding our land as his wedding gift, O Lalo. Modesty and righteousness both have vanished, and falsehood struts around like a leader, O Lalo. The Qazis and the Brahmins have lost their roles, and Satan now conducts the marriage rites, O Lalo. The Muslim women read the Koran, and in their misery, they call upon God, O Lalo. The Hindu women of high social status, and others of lowly status as well, are put into the same category, O Lalo. The wedding songs of murder are sung, O Nanak, and blood is sprinkled instead of saffron, O Lalo. || 1 || (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 722-3)
Friend Lalo, as descends to me the Lord’s word, I express it. Babar with the wedding party of sin from Kabul rushed down and forcibly demanded surrender of Indian womanhood. Then went modesty and righteousness into hiding and falsehood was strutting about in glory. Set aside were Kazis and Brahmins, and Satan went around solemnising marriages. Muslim women, reciting the Koran in their affliction called on Khuda. Other women of lower castes and of the Hindus in this suffering too include in your account. Says Nanak, Divine Beloved! Sung are paens of blood and sprinkled is blood for saffron.
His evil is not simply seen in such dramatic instances, but also in the day-to-day evil which we encounter:
SHALOK, FIRST MEHL: Thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and pimps, make friendships with the unrighteous, and eat with the unrighteous. They do not know the value of the Lord’s Praises, and Satan is always with them. If a donkey is anointed with sandalwood paste, he still loves to roll in the dirt. O Nanak, by spinning falsehood, a fabric of falsehood is woven. False is the cloth and its measurement, and false is pride in such a garment. || 1 || (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 790)
Thieves, fornicators, harlots and procuresses, all in mutual friendship are bound. The wicked associate with each other, and together eat and drink. They know not the essence of devotion (attributes of God), ever in Satan’s company living. A donkey rubbed over with sandal-paint, will still roll about in dust. Evil the measure and in wearing evil take pride. Says Nanak, those that spin evil (falsehood), evil is their wearing.
One should never approach the black arts, nor play with it, but rather call on God for safety and protection. This is the answer if we ever have the misfortune to encounter evil spirits. Only fear God – do not fear evil, but the consequences of evil, and be truthful with people about the situation. One should become God’s own. In old times, land owned directly by the Ruler was called the Khalsa. Thus, the Khalsa means one who belongs to God. When one receives Khande-de-Pahul (amrit ceremony) one becomes part of this Khalsa. “WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa” means ‘the Khalsa belongs to God’, “WaheGuru Ji Ki Fateh!!” affirms that no-thing can stand against the Power and Victory of God. By entering the Khalsa you affirm that you will strive to be part of the victory, rather than the loss.
He has 7,000 commanders, and hundreds of thousands of prophets; He is said to have 88,000,000 shaykhs, and 56,000,000 attendants. || 1 || I am meek and poor — what chance do I have of being heard there? His Court is so far away; only a rare few attain the Mansion of His Presence. || 1 || Pause || He has 33,000,000 play-houses. His beings wander insanely through 8.4 million incarnations. He bestowed His Grace on Adam, the father of mankind, who then lived in paradise for a long time. || 2 || Pale are the faces of those whose hearts are disturbed. They have forsaken their Bible, and practice Satanic evil. One who blames the world, and is angry with people, shall receive the fruits of his own actions. || 3 || You are the Great Giver, O Lord; I am forever a beggar at Your Door. If I were to deny You, then I would be a wretched sinner. Slave Kabeer has entered Your Shelter. Keep me near You, O Merciful Lord God — that is heaven for me. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p.1161)
He who has seven thousand chiefs of his hosts and has a lakh-and-a-quarter prophets under Him, whose devotees are eighty-eight crore in number, whose special attendants number fifty-six crores. Who to him shall present my petition, a humble man’s? Far is His court, a rare one to His mansion attains. Thirty-three crores are His domestics: in eighty-four lakh species whirl creatures crazed. To Adam, ancestor of mankind the Lord showed grace, whereby he attained fullness of paradise. Whoever has perturbation in heart, turns yellow-faced, and leaving scriptures (Kateb, implying the Koran), follows Satan. Such a one blames the world and carries a grievance against mankind: each receives his desserts according to his deeds. You the Provider, we perpetually beggars. Should we answer You back, we turn sinners. Kabir, Thy servant Thy shelter seeks. Merciful Lord, pray keep me close to paradise.
Whether someone has played with these satanic arts or not, the answer is the same. Keep on devotion to God. Fear of God will eat up all other fears, and Love for God will become Love and Compassion for all, including yourself. Love by its Nature is offered; it may be rejected and then there is nothing but regret, tragedy and loss. The Nature of Life is growth and the Sikh is always a ‘learner’, learning by doing Life, always growing. But Life by its Nature cannot be imposed. It is the gift of the Generous, Compassionate and Forgiving God who wishes us to live and be victorious. Disobeying God one can choose to self-destruct in which case there is only bitterness, anger and regret.
SHALOK, FIRST MEHL: Cursed are the lives of those who read and write the Lord’s Name to sell it. Their crop is devastated — what harvest will they have? Lacking truth and humility, they shall not be appreciated in the world hereafter. Wisdom which leads to arguments is not called wisdom. Wisdom leads us to serve our Lord and Master; through wisdom, honor is obtained. Wisdom does not come by reading textbooks; wisdom inspires us to give in charity. Says Nanak, this is the Path; other things lead to Satan. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji p.1245)
Cursed is the life of such as write out God’s Name and sell it as incantations. Those whose crop (devotion) is ruined, what harvest shall they have. Those without truth and modesty in the hereafter honoured shall not be. To indulge in disputation is to lose sense – such is not the way of wisdom. By wisdom is the Lord served, by wisdom is attained honour. By wisdom are books interpreted, by wisdom is dispensed charity. Says Nanak, there is one sole path to God (devotion) – all else is Satan’s prompting.
No one will ever regret loving too much, and God is Love. “Jin Prem Kio Tin He Prabh Payo.” – ‘only those who love, know and live God-Life.’ God’s love for you is greater than powers of hate, but will you choose Love or hate? The purpose of Satan is to take you from God. Therefore, to focus on the negative qualities in yourself or in others is Satan’s work and not God’s. God is Wahe-Guru, ‘Wah’ meaning WOW or amazing, ‘Guru’ meaning Grace. [The ‘heh’ is the pause in breathing, it is not part of the spelling, but an aspirant/sound in the reciting. It recalls God putting Her Spirit, Her ‘Ruh’, Her Breath into the world giving it Life. By reciting the Guru-mantra, one moves towards and joins the streams of praise joining the Ocean of Happiness. There are specific verses of Gurbani which may assist someone who feels touched by evil. Traditionally, people some have advised hymns like “Tatti vah na lagaye” – ‘even the hot wind does not touch…those who turn to God whatever evil they may have done.’ This is part of Dukh Bhanjani Sahib, a collection of hymns to counter-attack negative feelings and forces. Send me an e-mail if you need further information regarding anything. There is only One Law which applies however damned you may be feeling. The verses above may be repeated as a kind of mantra (simply keep repeating them) in order to invoke the Power of the Name of God. Misery in this life and exile from God are always self-imposed and go against the Will of the Most Holy. God has made us to flourish in Happiness, not to fail. God reaches out to us in love. This is what we mean by God’s grace and what we mean by Gurmat – the Way of the Guru.
Dr. Kanwar Ranvir Singh