Gurmat - Psychology of the Enlightened

These articles attempt to present an outline psychology within Sikh thought known as Gurmat Marg (path of the Guru) in relation to psychology. They explore concepts, such as Sunyata, Anatam, Buddha nature and Atman, as well as introducing the Sikh model of a Human being, Naam, healing and the cyclic patterns of disturbing emotions.

Gurmat Introduction

Gurmat, is a therapy in the sense that it has a theory of how suffering comes about and it has a range of practises (as a lifestyle) designed to alleviate this condition, and it is specifically psychotherapeutic in that it sees the mind as playing a crucial role in this process.

The starting point is that human beings have much to discover about Being, and not just psychological exploration, as modern western paradigms generally understand. Western psychology is the product and exponent of European enlightenment and therefore has not yet been able to accommodate other cultural world-views on an equal par.

Sikhism, like Buddhist and Hindu mythos, are rooted in a different matrix, including a different mapping of mind, body & consciousness. According to Nikky Gurinder Kaur in her translations of Sikh Scriptures, “the British legacy induces young Punjabi Sikhs to study English and Western philosophies and literatures, drawing them away from their own mother-tongue and their own literature heritage.” (1996).

She further goes on to say, “Sikhs taught in English-speaking schools which were founded by Victorian colonialists, many Sikhs do not possess the basic linguistic tools to recognise the subtleties of their sacred text”. This lead to a Christianised interpretation of Sikhism, overlaying a rich mystical tradition with Western concepts devoid of its meaning or authentic practice.

In contrast to the purely intellectual approach, Bhakti movement dominated during 15-16th century in India. It is during this time the Sikh spiritual tradition emerged in Northern India when, the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, declared: There is no Hindu and no Muslim, there is only the One spiritual essence within all (Singh, 1975). Sikhism is regarded as Prem bhakti marg and that the focus of the religion is to make life better on earth, rituals are not the heart of the religion, but service to others is.

For a Sikh there are four relationships that are cultivated, Das (Guru and Disciple), Sakha (friendship), Vatsalya (parent-child) and Madhurya (lover-beloved). After the death of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1706, the Guruship was bestowed upon the Sikh Scriptures (1604), thus, the Guru for a Sikh is Shabd or sound, specific mantra.


Gurmat is the wisdom of the Gurus and Gurbani (the inspired utterances that are found in the Guru Granth Sahib) which can in essence be understood to be synonymous with Sikhism itself. Gurmat covers directional and prescriptive aspects of the Sikh dharma (The True Law, the righteous path. This word connotes righteousness, Justice and Duty).

Gurmat also relates to the entire Sikh way of life on an individual and social basis as expressed over the centuries. Guidance received by Sikhs in their daily affairs from organisations set up by the Gurus and by the community nurtured with their teachings also fall within the frame of gurmat.

The wisdom (mat) of the Guru relates to the teaching within the Gurbani, exemplified by the ten Gurus in person. Guidance derived from gurmat ought to become a Sikh's ultimate norm in terms of the direction of his/her life, whether that relates to spiritual or secular matters. The spiritual path a Sikh is urged to pursue is one that ought to be oriented towards obtaining release, that is, freedom from ego. A fulfilled life is the fruit of curbing one’s ego.

How? By the discipline of naam, absorption in the Divine Word, and by seva, selfless service and love.