This book, Ardas of the Sikhs, is an Inclusive, yet discreet work on the subject. While acknowledge the universality of prayer and its efficacy, the author attends to this multisensate phenomenon in all its dimension- historical, hermeneutical, psychological, philosophical, etc. he does this with all deference to the various other extant spiritual disciplines.
Ardas for the Sikhs is the way of life ordained by the Gurus, it is but another way of simran or Practising the Presence of God. It pithily condenses the comic glory, spiritual experiences and ethical values enshrined in the perennial holy Word of Adi Granth,
Profoundly expounding every phrase of the Arda, the book has been considered a precious addition to the existing spiritual literature of the world. Its version in the Punjabi language had been described ‘an all-time classic’ by the Chief Editor of Encyclopaedia of Sikhism.
Jaswant Singh Neki is professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at the Punjabi University, Patiala. He has been decorated with ‘Order of the Khalsa’ and ‘Shan-e- Khalsa awards.
A psychiatrist of international standing, he has been Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and consultant to the World health Organization and UNDP.
An outstanding metaphysical poet in the Punjabi Language, he received the national Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980.
Who has not prayed? Someone might pretend that he hasn’t but almost everyone who finds himself in a state of utter helplessness during threatening or trying times, tends to turn to prayer. That is why, prayer has been perenmial as well as universal. However, historians have always chosen to keep quiet about them. They talk at length about emperors and potentates, invaders and conquerors, autocrats and despots, tyrant dictators and paranoid proprietors, but say little about those who suffered at the hands of such personages. Undoubtedly, millions in distress must have prayed. In spite of the negligent silence of history, there yet exists an important document that has sought to fill this gap. It is the congregational prayer of the Sikhs popularly known as the ARDAS.
To pray without words, one needs to be on top of spiritual form. However, spiritually accomplished souls might occasionally have uttered a phrase or two that history gets compelled to preserve. The Ardas is a remarkable album of such spiritually charged phrases that have come to be incorporated into it over a long series of generations. Occasionally a half-baked phrase also managed to sneak into it, but soon such phrases got weeded out. Thus the asdas became an ever evolving creative word of great significance.
The phrases that got incorporated into the arda were no ordinary ones. Lives had actually been lived according to them before they found their place in the ardas. Divine presence had actually been experienced. His holy Name had verily been meditated upon. Bread had been shared with the needy, even with enemies. Holy cauldrons had been continually kept warm. The sacred sword had been plied to save the oppressed from the oppressors. Faults of others had actually been overlooked. Divine will had been accepted without demur. Thus every phrase in the ardas became an epitome of a truly lived faith.
Multiple dimensions seem to characterize the structure of the ardas. It is at one an invocation, a laudation, an inspiration, a dedication, an affirmation of faith and a supplication. Every supplication is on behalf of the entire congregation. In its first part, it speaks for the entire commonwealth of those who have pledged to be the Lord’s saint-soldiers, the Khalsa. It reinforces the fraternity of the Khalsa by awakening their pride in the lofty traditions of the religious fraternity to which they belong, and praying for the fulfillment or their collective aspirations. The next supplication is for those who claim themselves as belonging to the Sikh faith.
Then there is space for supplication of behalf of an individual or individuals for any specified purpose. The penultimate supplication in ardas is: ‘Grant us, o Lord, company of such lovely souls, meeting whom we may automatically remember your Name’. The ardas does not conclude without an ardent supplication for the welfare of the entire mankind under the Lord’s benevolent will. Thus it becomes the prayer for all mankind for all times, transcending both time and space. It is a prayer that is held in utmost reverence almost at par with gubani (the gurus word), even though it is the composition of the panth (the entire Sikh fraternity).
This hermeneutic study of the ardas aims at providing a faithful exposition of every section of this delightful piece of poetic prose, the like of which, it is said, is hard to come by anywhere else.
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