Sarbat da Bhala (Welfare of All) is a keynote phrase of the Sikh prayer (Ardas) and scriptures.
It is believed that the Christian Prayer (Our Father … ) was taught by Jesus to His disciples. It resembles some elements of Jewish prayers, like praise, petition, and a yearning for God. The Muslims, likewise, praise God and ask for forgiveness and blessings, and express gratitude. Similar noble objectives are stated in different words as part of prayer in every other faith.
Scientific evidence supports the view that prayer (in addition to the normal health care and medical treatment), gives mental peace and relief to a diseased person. It relaxes the human brain and produces strong faith which helps in accelerating healing. Dr. Bernie Siegel, Surgeon at Yale University, Dr. H. Benson, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Dr. David Larson, Director, National Institute of Healthcare Research (USA), conducted research in this matter and wrote a book with the Title: “Timeless Healing, the Power & Biology of Belief” ( Scribner, New York).
They concluded that our bodies are nourished and healed by prayer and other exercises of belief. Their arguments are based on the experimental fact that brain is an electro-chemical organ which generates electrical power in the body in the form of four types of ‘brain waves’ (called alpha, beta, theta and delta states by the scientists).
In Beta state (frequency range of 15 – 40 cycles per second), which is the common state of mind, the brain waves are most active though their amplitude is low. A person who is actively engaged in conversation, debate, speech, teaching, or a talk-show would be in this state.
Stated simply, the term frequency here gives the average number of brain waves that cross the mind every second, while amplitude represents their imact (as of loudness of sound waves).
In Alpha state (frequency range of 9 – 14 cycles per second), the brain waves are slower, less active, but higher in amplitude. A person who has completed a task, and is sitting down to rest or meditation,, would be in this state. Research by Siegel, Benson and Larson showed that brain goes to Alpha state (from the usual Beta state) upon meditation and prayer (Ardas).
In Theta State (frequency range of 5 – 8 cycles per second), brain activity is much reduced, but the wave amplitude is higher than in the previous two states. A person driving on a freeway, who is mentally relaxed, is in this state of mind.
In Delta State (frequency range of 2 – 4 cycles per second), brain waves are slowest, as in sleep, with the highest wave amplitude. (Zero frequency brain waves imply brain death).
Gurbani, is the compilation of verses composed by Sikh Gurus in praise of The Divine Truth, and is enshrined in holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). The word ‘Sarbat‘ in Gurbani includes All Living Beings; humans, as well as flora, and fauna. Sikh Ardas is a Worship in itself, aimed not merely at one’s own benefits but the Good of All in the Universe.
Ardas is mandated for all Sikhs, with humility, daily in the morning (after recitation of morning Paaths), and in the evening (before going to bed). Ardas is also recommended before starting any new or important event (like baptism, schooling, marriage, new job or business or any other venture) or before performing the last rites of a person. Though Sikhs respect all religions and their modes of worship and prayer, they have been ordained by their Gurus to offer prayer (Ardas) standing before their Eternal Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) only.
Ardas starts with invocation to the Power of the One Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Truth ( call it God ) with Sword (Bhagauti) as a metaphor of divine as well as physical strength. Guidance from the ten Sikh Gurus and The Last Eternal Guru (SGGS) is sought. It respectfully recalls past sacrifices of the Sikhs for basic Human Rights of all. Sikhs also remember the Panj Pyareys (Five Beloved Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru), Four Sahibzadas (his brave sons), the Forty Mukteys ( forgiven and liberated by him), the Martyrs, and all those who were tortured but who remained steadfast devotees of their faith, despite the worst adversities.
Ardas also stresses the significance of the Five Seats of Sikh spiritual and temporal guidance (Takhts), Sikh Flag (Nishan Sahib), all their places of worship (Gurdwaras), including those not accessible to them today, sharing their honest earnings with others (wand chhakna), and distributing free meals (Langar) to all, irrespective of caste, community, class, and gender. It seeks divine blessings for becoming able to follow the Gurbani in life, freedom from the five cardinal sins (lust, violence, greed, infatuation, and ego), observe the principles and precepts, as in the Sikhs’ prescribed Code of Good Conduct (Rehat-Maryada) and a truthful life (of a Sachiar) devoted to truthful living and self-less service to society (Nishkam Sewa).
Ardas reminds Sikhs of their glorious past, their culture, history, and the teachings of their Gurus, all in their mother-tongue ( Punjabi, written in SGGS in Gurmukhi script). By repeating it daily, and on all important occasions, they are made aware of their rich heritage and embed a vision of the Gurus’ spiritual philosophy in their mind. These facts increase their faith and bring more self-confidence, moral strength as well as peace of mind. Transition from the usual Beta state to the Alpha state of mind, observed by Scientists, supports this conclusion.
An interesting postscript.
“Prayer Plant ” (whose Leaves Open flat in the Morning and Fold up like hands in the Evening)