'When the sun rises the moon leaves sight. When true knowledge illuminates ignorance is eradicated.' - Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee - Ang 791 SGGS

Part of an introductory discourse on Sikhi

The pursuit of the Sikh faith is to achieve oneness with God through abiding to the tenets of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee. World religions have traditionally encouraged the seeker to extend love for all of humanity (Metta Sutta, Buddhism) or to ‘love thy neighbor’ (Mark 12:31, Christianity) and the Sikh Faith too asks for the well being of mankind in its daily supplication known as the Ardhaas. At glance, it may seem contradictory that this spiritual race who cite humility and compassion, as the foundations for a righteous life to be adherents of a martial code.

However the notion of achieving universal harmony is different for Sikhs; for them the freedom to practice righteousness (Dharma) for all of humanity is the key ingredient to a righteous and thus beneficial society. To achieve or preserve such a society the Sikh Path advocates use of ‘sacrifice’ and where wholly appropriate ‘force’. This what is meant by the saint-soldier or sant-sipahee.

In the society that the Sikh faith was nurtured (medieval India) in the divide between the spiritual who had become ascetics reliant upon society to mantain and protect them in contrast to the temporal who became so engrossed in conquest that they were becoming cruel in their actions was huge. This caused great oppression of the spiritual that often faced persecution and lost religious freedom; whereas the temporal class of rulers lost all sense of morality and restraint and so were acting tyrannously. The result was chaotic.

Typically the components of a saint are that of perseverance and morals which guide him/her on a path of spirituality; the components of a temporal authority are to wield great power. The concept of the Saint Soldier was to merge the two: to make the moral saint a soldier so that he could defend himself as well as to give boundaries and morals to those that had power and strength in the world. This had finally bridged the gap; India had never seen anything like it. For centuries tales had been told of Vishvamitra the ruler who wanted to become a saint and was made to adorn the garbs of an ascetic but society had not heard that man could become both at the very same time. This empowered the common man.

Quite uniquely, the Gurus of the Sikhs did not lay out ambiguous guidelines in scripture but identified clear boundaries through the example of their own lives to show what this really means. The fifth Guru Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee was persecuted; physically tortured in the most gruesome of ways by the state but mentally and spiritually he remained unmoved and indifferent, accepting the will of God. It was at this stage that the Sixth Guru revived the idea of saint-soldier or sant-sipahee that was prescribed and alluded by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee in his compositions within Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Saint Soldier is equipped with the virtues taught in scripture, by the examples of the Gurus, and led by examples Sikhs in history -this is really what makes the ‘saint-soldier’ the complete human and an ideal for the rest of humanity.