The word ARDAS is derived from the Persian word ARZ DASHT (Petition) meaning a request to a superior authority. ardas is not a part of Guru Granth Sahib ( The Holy Book) but has evolved over a period of time as the community struggled and won victories and got into a thanksgiving mode.
In Sikh ardas we start by evoking the timeless one, the ten gurus and the living guru, the Guru Granth Sahib. It is followed by the mentioning of the Sikh deeds of bravery and the brave Sikhs who were involved in them. The Sikh role models, the martyrs and heroes are given due respect and the community expresses its gratitude to them for helping the community under very difficult circumstances. In short, Sikh ardas is not only a humble request but has mind/soul uplifting echoes.
ardas also points to the importance Sikhs give to Hazur Sahib Nanded, Maharashtra , India, along with other places of worship and their banners. Sikh ardas helps Sikhs to internalize the aspirations of the Sikh community as the Sikhs changed from Saints to Saint-soldiers. It also points to the Sikh belief system “where faith becomes assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen but attainable.” Sikh prayer is a delightful uplifting spiritual experience in which the heart outpours its requests to Sat Guru as possibilities and begs for the blessing of faith and goodwill to all humanity.
Through ardas the individual or Sangat can seek gifts such as humility, wisdom, purity, and protection through Divine Power. A request to help in controlling the evil aspects of the mind such as lust, wrath, greed, attachment and ego. From time to time, salutations to “Wondrous Lord” are made and Sikhs are reminded that Khalsa (pure) belongs to the Lord to whom the victory belongs. Sikhs are reminded that True Timeless Lord will fulfil all those who say PRAYERS in this manner by connecting their MIND/SOUL to the Divine Ground.
It is very important that Sikh ardas be examined from the psycho-spiritual dimension. As a student of psychology, I feel that ardas and saying it (verbalizing and visualizing it with deep conviction) while reaching the Alpha State of consciousness has a significant effect on the personality-functioning and mental health of the Sikhs. As the Sikhs emerged as an assertive nation, it could be that the daily internalizing of ARDAS became part of their cognitive psyche. Their mounting enthusiasm to lead an assertive spiritual life filled with health, creative work, desire for civic action, and mastering the environment may have roots in their daily ardas. Sikh ardas helps them to whole-heartedly pursue their goals by developing autonomy and self-reliance without losing social sensitivity and self actualization.
By remembering historical experiences of the community in ardas, Sikhs stay in touch with their “collective unconscious”. Through ARDAS they develop an aptitude for capitalizing on their past struggles, self control, ability to envisage ideals, social reliability, predictability, capacity to act independently while acknowledging SAT GURU’S Grace and Hukam.
It has been empirically established that ARDAS as a prayer produces FAITH which leads to healing. Famous Yale University Surgeon Bernie Siegel, Dr. H. Benson, Harvard Medical School, Dr. David Larson Director National Institute of Healthcare Research, U.S.A., and, many other academic leaders (see note below) from the East and West endorse the power of prayer (ardas) in healing. They feel that prayer could be colloquial, petitionary, ritualistic and meditative. In the opinion of the present author Sikh ardas has components of all of the above methods of prayer.
During the Sikh ardas, the whole Sangat experiences Stillness, Connectivity, and Wholeness and goes into meditative aspects, contemplative mode of consciousness. In the petitionary form of ardas, the Sikhs tell their Sat Guru their concerns and gratitudes and petition Him for specific wishes. They also actively “listen” and ask Sat Guru for directions. In meditative ardas, the Sangat collectively “listens” to Sat Guru through Shabads and Naam Simran which makes them experience His presence in the most intimate way. They become a partner in Divine Hukam and wait for His directions and blessings. After Naam Simran, the Sikhs wait for his “Vak” (from the Holy Granth), His words of wisdom.
I would end this article on the healing power of ardas with a quote taken from a book written recently by Dr. H. Benson of Harvard University, Boston entitled Timeless Healing, the Power & Biology of Belief (1996. Page 305, Scribner, New York).
“Our bodies are nourished and healed by prayer and other exercises of belief. To me this capacity does not seem to be a fluke, and the design does not seem haphazard. There is a ‘deliberate supernatural design’, a potency of faith which gets proven over and over again in my research”.
Above article adapted from original by Dr. S.S. Sodhi
Specialists who have endorsed the power of “faith”:
Father Andrew M. Greely (famous Catholic researcher), Dr. Larry Dossey (heart specialist), Dr. Randolph Byrd, Cardiologist San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Scott Walker University of New Mexico, Dr. Kenneth Ferraro Medical Sociologist Purdue University, Thomas Onman Psychiatrist Dartmouth University, U.S.A., Dr. Jared Kass Harvard Psychologist, Dr. Bernard Grad Biologist McGill University Montreal, Dr. Elizabeth McSherry Veteran’s Hospital Brockton MA, Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Robert Schuller, Rabbi David Wolpe, Prof. Margaret Poloma Sociologist University of Akron, U.S.A., Father Dick Rici Director Spiritual Centre St. Paul MN., David Rast Benedictine Monk, Rabbi Larry Kushner, Jim Castelli writer of famous book How I Pray, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell General Secretary National Council of Churches, Rev. Roger Ten Mile High Church of Religious Science, Denver, U.S.A., Dr. Andrew Weil Harvard M.D. Director California-based Institute of Noetic Science, Saint Thomas Aquinas 15th century Christian thinker, Dr. Richard Michael Boston Psychologist, Dr. Jerome Frank, John Hopkins School of Medicine, Leonard Laskow M.D. New York University, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology California State Dr. Joan Borysenko, former Professor of Medicine Harvard University, Director Mind/Body Clinic Boston,