SARBATT DĀ BHALĀ, literally, Weal to all… Weal to everyone. This is the concluding line which marks the finale or ardās or supplicatory prayer, with which every Sikh service or ceremony concludes. The full couplet reads: Nānak nām chaṛhdī kalā tere bhāṇe sarbatt dā bhalā (May God's Name, may the human spirit forever triumph, Nānak: And in Thy will may peace and prosperity come to one and all). Sarbatt (lit., all) here does not stand for members of a particular sect, community or nation, but for the whole humankind. Sarbatt dā bhalā is not a mere pious profession of goodwill for all beings; it is a living concept in the Sikh tradition central to the Gurūs' spiritual vision. A line in the Scripture reads, "eku pitā ekas ke ham bārik-- the One Lord God is the father of all of us; of the One Lord are we the children" (GG, 611). Belief in One Absolute and Infinite Creator God is a fundamental postulate of the Sikh faith. God is the creator, the ultimate ground of all that exists. From God emanated man. Man, in Sikhism, is the creation of God, and he partakes of His Own Light. The "stainless soul" within the material body is a spark of the light He is. There can be no distinctions and divisions made among men for reasons of birth, race, colour, country or creed. "All men are God's own creation," declared Gurū Nānak. "False is caste and false are worldly titles. One Supreme Lord sustains all" (GG,83), "Mānas kī jāti sabhai ekai pahachānbo-- recognize all of the human race as one," said Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. This concept of a single humanity is basic to the Sikh world view. Out of this feeling of common fellowship arises the Sikh's wish to be of use to others. For him religious faith will not be fully realized unless he filled his everyday life with deeds calculated to secure the welfare of the people as a whole.
Sikhism enjoins active participation in life. This participation must be morally based. The religious man, according to Sikhism, has to be an engage. In the Sikh way of life, the end of spiritual endeavour is not a state of consciousness passively experienced ; it is the attainment to a cognitive, affective, conative condition of being which is characterized as much by active goodwill for all beings as by the discovery of the true essence of things and the attendant joy and equipoise. Truth, as says Gurū Nānak in his Japu, is attained by subjecting oneself to a multidimensional discipline which comprises not only the willing direction of one's mind to the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, intellectual discernment through knowledge, the cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility and harmony with Divine will, but also persistent effort to promote the general good. Habitual pursuit of the common good marks the peak of spiritual ascent ; it is through consistent striving for the welfare of others that the process of devotion is brought to perfection. "Without doing good to others, devotion remains imperfect -- viṇu guṇ kite bhagati na hoi" (GG.4).
The end of learning is that it should impel one to serve others-- vidiā vīchārī tā parupkārī (GG, 356). Man has, according to Sikhism, come from the Divine and his travails will end when he merges back into the Divine. What stands in the way of man's union with the Divine is his haumai, his finite ego, his divisive concern with the self with its penumbra of base feelings and impulses. This merger into the Divine liberation, i.e. the goal of Sikh spiritual quest is attained through the obliteration of haumai. Freedom from the bondage of haumai is achieved negatively by restraining concern with the self and positively, and more fruitfully, by expanding one's affection to embrace the entire, creation. Involvement in the welfare of others is an essential element of the Sikh spiritual and moral ideal. It is a conscious and consistent pursuit -- a deliberately chosen principle of action rather than a momentary response to the phenomenon of misery, want or suffering. It is not just an act of benevolence, but a natural disposition. A Sikh always prays for the welfare of all. This precept of sarbatt dā bhalā, predicated on the belief in the brotherhood of man and in all men being equal heirs to God's grace, permeates the entire Sikh tradition. It was exemplified in deeds of sevā, humble, self-abnegating service in the common cause and in the Gurū kā Laṅgar, the community refectory where all sat together to share the meal, overruling distinctions of caste, creed or clime.
The value epitomized by sarbatt dā bhalā has been a potent factor in the tradition and sensibility of the Sikhs. Even when they became a militant force to fight oppression, they had not forsworn the principle. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, who fought several actions against the Hindu hill chiefs and the Mughals, especially applauded Bhāī Kanhaiyā, one of his Sikhs who served water to the wounded on the battlefield regardless of whether they were Sikhs or Muslims. Qāzī Nūr Muhammad, a chronicler who accompanied Ahmad Shāh Durrānī on his seventh invasion of India in 1764 and celebrated his exploits in the masnavī entitled Jaṅg Nāmah, uses imprecatory language about the Sikhs and yet pays them a handsome tribute saying that they never chased the fleeing enemy, did not harm a soldier who had surrendered and did not loot a woman's valuables. Another Muslim, Ghulām Muhayy ud-Dīn, who had earlier taken part in a battle against Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur wrote in his Fatuhāt Nāmah-i-Samadī that Sikhs did not look upon a woman except as their mother.
In the Sikh system, group ethics and individual morality harmonize and are not fragmented. Sarbatt dā bhalā is, therefore, as much a common human objective as it is a personal ideal. It must lead to the individual's ethical and spiritual perfection as also to a better world order. Both these goals are enshrined in the daily-repeated maxim sarbatt dā bhalā. Singly and in groups, in their homes and in congregations in their places of worship, the Sikhs conclude their morning and evening prayers, or prayer said at any other time as part of personal piety or of a ceremony with the words-- Nānak nām Chaṛhdī kalā tere bhāṇe sarbatt dā bhalā. This prayer for the welfare of all mankind has thus been institutionalized in Sikhism. For the Sikhs this is not a mere mystical quest, but a firm religious and social goal. Towards its realization a Sikh must constantly endeavour.