Vegan Sikh Geek

Death in Sikhi

April 30, 2018

Some months ago, I was humbled to be chosen to give an explanation of Sikhi’s perspective of death at the funeral of my uncle. Though I know very little, a cherished brother of mine helped me a great deal, and the result was the following. It’s my hope that it can perhaps help someone in understanding death as it did me. If needed, others are free to use the speech without need of giving credit. I’ve modified it slightly to remove names and improve clarity.

Vaahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa, Vaahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh

Dearest family and friends, We are gathered today for the purposes of remembering my TaayaaJee, sharing our love and support, and coming together in prayer for TaayaaJee’s well-being in the afterlife.

I am humbled to have been asked by the family to speak today for five minutes about death from a Sikhi perspective. I’m still learning myself but I will do my best to explain what I’ve learned to date and pray that I do not deviate from the teachings of our spiritual teacher, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Who We Are

In order to understand this concept, it’s important to know who we are as individuals. We should ask ourselves, “Who am I?” Perhaps a more relevant question is, “What am I?” Sikhi teaches us that we are not the body. The body is merely a vessel and who/what we are is the soul contained within that vessel.

The third Guru, Sri Guru Amar Daas Jee, says

ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥
O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light - recognize your own origin.

This makes it clear that our essence is the soul, that divine light. Shortly, we will uncover from where that divine light comes and for what purpose. For the time being, I would implore you to keep this knowledge of self as being a soul at the forefront of your mind as we go through the next points.


An example that I’d like to share with you to better understand the concept of death is that Vaahiguroo, God, has created this game where we, the souls, are participants.

The fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee, says

ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸ ਤੇਰੈ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਖੇਲੁ ਦਸਾਹਰਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੪॥੨॥੯॥
Slave Nanak is a sacrifice to You; Your Entire Play is self-evident, Lord. ||4||2||9||

The fourth Guru, Sri Guru Ram Daas Jee, says

ਜੀਅ ਜੰਤ ਸਭਿ ਤੇਰਾ ਖੇਲੁ ॥
All living beings are Your playthings.

In addition to this, our coming and going in this game is done according to Vaahiguroo’s Hukam or God’s Will:

The second Guru, Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji, says

ਜੇਹਾ ਚੀਰੀ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਤੇਹਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥
As His Decree is issued, so is His Command obeyed.

ਘਲੇ ਆਵਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਦੇ ਉਠੀ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥
Those who are sent, come, O Nanak; when they are called back, they depart and go. ||1||

To Succeed

If, indeed, this is a game, it is only natural to ask how it is that one succeeds. In simple terms, it is to meditate, internalize Gurbani (scripture), gain virtues, and eradicate our demerits or faults, which is possible through the Guru’s universal teachings.

In Rehraas Sahib, the evening prayers, we read the following every day:

The fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, says

ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥
This human body has been given to you.

ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥
This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe.

ਅਵਰਿ ਕਾਜ ਤੇਰੈ ਕਿਤੈ ਨ ਕਾਮ ॥
Nothing else will work.

ਮਿਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਜੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮ ॥੧॥
Join the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; vibrate and meditate on the Jewel of the Naam. ||1||

One of the most important virtues to practice, by which means we succeed in life, is to love.

The tenth Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, says

ਸਾਚੁ ਕਹੌ ਸੁਨ ਲੇਹੁ ਸਭੈ ਜਿਨ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਕੀਓ ਤਿਨ ਹੀ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਪਾਇਓ ॥੯॥੨੯॥
I speak Truth, all should turn their ears towards it: he, who is absorbed in True Love, he would realize the Lord. 9.29.


What is death? Put simply, death is the expiry of the number of breaths that are preordained when one enters this world.

The fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, says

ਙਣਿ ਘਾਲੇ ਸਭ ਦਿਵਸ ਸਾਸ ਨਹ ਬਢਨ ਘਟਨ ਤਿਲੁ ਸਾਰ ॥
He has counted all the days and the breaths, and placed them in people’s destiny; they do not increase or decrease one little bit.

And so while we do not know precisely when anyone’s time will come, by arming ourselves with the knowledge that it is a certainty, we are better prepared for acceptance.

We find solace in the knowledge that the soul never dies, but takes multiple births as it continues its journey to merge with God.

Bhagat Ravi Daas Ji says

ਬਹੁਤ ਜਨਮ ਬਿਛੁਰੇ ਥੇ ਮਾਧਉ ਇਹੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹਾਰੇ ਲੇਖੇ ॥
For so many incarnations, I have been separated from You, Lord; I dedicate this life to You.

ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਆਸ ਲਗਿ ਜੀਵਉ ਚਿਰ ਭਇਓ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੇਖੇ ॥੨॥੧॥
Says Ravi Daas: placing my hopes in You, I live; it is so long since I have gazed upon the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan. ||2||1||

What happens to the body after death is that the elements will merge back to their source, which is why in Sikhi we cremate the body. Our Guru teaches us to not attach ourselves to the body, as the soul is immortal. Depending on our actions, we are given a new body as our soul continues its journey.

The holy congregation has high significance in Sikhi. When we come together and in a unified voice offer our prayer for someone’s well-being, God is pleased and blesses the congregation as well as the individual that is being prayed for…

Everyone’s presence here and feelings for TaayaaJee are of utmost importance because our prayers, love, and well-wishes transcend the physical realm in which the temporary vessel resides and extend to the immortal soul.

While speaking, I may have made many mistakes. I ask for the forgiveness of the Sangat and our Satguru. Please join me in saying the Fateh:

Vaahiguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa, Vaahiguroo Jee Kee Fateh

Navdeep Singh

Written by Navdeep Singh. His work is on GitHub. He's also on LinkedIn.