SHARDHĀ or Sardhā (Skt. śraddhā) , a conscious positive mental attitude towards a person owing to some special development of a virtue or power in him, is closely connected with faith or bhakti, i.e. loving devotion to God. Etymologically speaking, it is a compound word formed by a combination of śrat, 'heart' and dhā, 'to put', meaning to put one's heart and mind on something. Translated into English, belief, trust, confidence and faith are the terms which put forth different shades of śraddhā. In so far as śraddhā is related to śrādha, a funeral rite in Hinduism performed in honour of the departed spirits of dead ancestors or relatives, it can be interpreted as reverence.

        Shardhā or faith is the bedrock of all religions. In the Vedic texts, śraddhā denotes a belief in the powers of rituals and the priests for securing all that is desired including svarga, heaven. The Upaniṣads, however, present us with new dimensions of śraddhā. In these texts, śraddhā emerges as a moral and religious notion. Here it is closely connected with the ideas of dhayāna, yoga, karma, saṅsāra and mokṣa, the ideas which were originally pecular to Śramaṇa thought. The Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad representative of the Sramaṇic impact treats the entire heritage of old Vedic knowledge as lower and declares that knowledge as higher (parādvidyā) which reveals the Indestructible (Muṇḍāk. 1.1.5.). This higher knowledge which leads to spiritual emancipation is the object of śraddhā. However, it must be noted here that the nature and function of śraddhā in these texts are relative to ritualistic, theistic, dualistic and non-dualistic theologies. The Bhagavadgītā gives to this term a definitive meaning for subsequent Brāhmaṇīcal developments. According to the Bhagavadgītā, faith (śraddhā) is a factor in muktī (III.31) : those endowed with faith attain wisdom, and those without faith perish (IV 39-40) : faith is directly associated with devotion and adoration (VII. 21) : among all the yogis one endowed with faith is the best. This soteriological significance and importance of śraddhā is tacitly accepted in all the sects of the Brāhmaṇīcal tradition including Śaivism, Śāktism, Vaiṣṇavism and the yogic schools. In addition to God or goddess, the prescribed paths, and the scripture, in these schools, the position of teacher or gurū becomes an increasingly important object of śraddhā. The concept of śraddhā occupies an important place in the Śramaṇic traditions of Jainism and Buddhism also.

        The word sardhā occurs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib at numerous places. Often it is associated with other related theological terms such as prem, bhagatī (bhakti), pūjā and sevā (devotion, adoration and service, respectively). The necessity of faith and confidence is tacitly accepted in Sikhism and there is a general uniformity in its meaning throughout the Sikh texts. Besides sardhā we find other words, nihchā (nischaya), bisvās and partīti (GG,87,284, 292,877,1270); these words may be translated as 'faith', 'belief' and 'confidence'. The word pārtīti (Skt. pratīti) can also be translated as faith or belief. One has partīti when one has clear apprehension of or insight into anything; it gives the sense of complete understanding, ascertainment and conviction. By implication partīti means credit, respect, trust, confirmation and acknowledgement. Partīti thus is a synonym of shardhā in Sikhism. It is a cardinal moral virtue and a prerequisite of piety. The nature and function of shardhā in Sikh religion and the way of life cannot be understood without recourse to Sikh theology.

        Devotion to God proceeds from faith in God: faith in God is linked to love for God : love for God manifests itself in adoration and service. It is, therefore, appropriate to understand the concept of shardhā in the context of bhagtī, prem, pūjā and sevā. All these terms bear a significance in Sikh teaching only when we consider their meaning in relation to the reality of Supreme Lord (parameśvara). The first object of faith in Sikhism is thus the supreme Lord. His nature and existence are revealed by the Teacher (Gurū) who is another object of faith. This office of revealer and guide has been held by a line of ten teachers; the ten Gurūs from Gurū Nānak to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh are therefore equally the centre of faith in this tradition. After the death of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, the Holy Granth assumed the authority of the Teacher. It is now justly called the Gurū Granth Sāhib, the Book that is the Teacher or the Teacher-Scripture. This being the collection of canonical texts of Sikhism, is the third major object of faith in Sikhism. In this system Shardhā is directed to God, Gurū and the Granth.

        Belief in God and love of God go together: the functional value of loving and believing leads to the same purpose and would seem to be equal. The devotee is said to spread the bed made of shardhā for his Lord-- hari hari sardhā sej vīchhāī prabhu chhoḌi na sakai (GG, 836) ; because of shardhā fixed on his Beloved he cannot live even for a moment-- sardhā lāgī saṅgi prītamai iku tilu rahaṇu na jāi (GG,928). To have faith in God means to have love for god, and vice versa, to have love for god means to have faith in God.

        As an ultimate commitment and supreme concern, shardhā may be summed up as concentration of belief in God. It has been said that those that have faith in Rām Nām, do not turn their thoughts to any thing else--jin sardhā rām nām lāgī tin dūjā chitu na lāiā rām (GG,444). The nature of faith is unifying, which is also to say, it is exclusive and undivided. One cannot have faith in both Divinity and egoity, in God and not-God at the same time. Firm and undivided faith leads to union with God. He who is endowed with true faith is united to God-- jin kai mani sāchā bisvāsu, pekhi pekhi suāmī kī sobhā ānandu sadā ulāsu (GG,677).

        Occasionally this term is used in the sense of a wish or longing for God. Thus when we read nānak kī prabh sardhā pūrī, we have to understand it in the sense that 'God has fulfilled the desire of Nānak’ (GG,893). Again, chīti āvai tā sardhā pūrī -- when awareness (of God) comes then the longing is satisfied (GG,114). We can even say that in these usages sardhā is like mansā, thought, wish, longing, quest. God is the object of love and object of faith and therefore the object of quest.

        Although God is attainable through love and faith or loving faith, it is clearly taught that one becomes faithful through God's grace (hari kirpā), faith in His name is inspired by Him-- hari hari kripā karahu jagjīvan mai sardhā nāmi lagāvaigo (GG,1310). Faith in God comes through faith in Gurū who unites the seeker with the former --sardhā sardhā upāi milāe mo kau hari gur guri nistāre (GG, 983). God's servants are very good because they uphold Hari in their heart with faith, and Hari is so good that He accepts the faith of His followers and upholds their honour--prabh ke sevak bahutu ati nīke mani sardhā kari hari dhāre ; mere prabhi sardhā bhagati mani bhavai jan kī paij savāre (GG,982). Those who with faith sing, listen, and cause others to listen (the glory of God) and drink the Divine elixir (hari ras), they are indeed fortunate-- gavat sunat, sunāvat sardhā hari rasu pī vaḍbhāge (GG,1306).

        In addition to God, Gurū and the Granth, a fourth field for the cultivation of faith in Sikhism consists of the holy company (sādhsaṅgati) of the devotees (sādh, sant). Faith rises in their company and one enjoys the taste of the Divine essence through Gurū's Word-- mili saṅgat sardhā upajai gur sabdi hari rasu chakhu (GG,997). Happiness (sukh), peace and longing (sardhā) all these are attained with the help of the holy -- sukh sītal sardhā sabh pīrī hoe sant sahāī (GG,1000). The Scripture lays down that the dust of the feet of those sages should be kissed with love and confidence who have given their lives for the sake of God -- jin hari arathi sarīru lagāiā gur sādhū bahu saradhā lai mukhi dhūṛā (GG,698). The sages found Hari through faith ; they found Hari through the word of the Teacher. That is to say, faith in the Teacher's word is the door to God realization. The word gurmukh literally means 'Teacher's mouth'; it symbolically means the word (śabda) or speech (bāṇī) which comes out of Gurū's mouth. This word or speech documented in the Granth is an object of faith because it is the vehicle to go beyond saṅsāra. The gurmukh or Teacher's word is therefore called the door of deliverance (mokhu-duār). As is well known, the word gurmukh also means a pious person imbued with faith, who has turned towards God or the Gurū, a God-faced person. As such, the gurmukh is the ideal person of Sikh culture and, therefore, an embodiment of shardhā, faith.


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L. M. Joshi