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Deist Sikhs and an experiment on prayer

Guest DumbIdiotBanda

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Guest DumbIdiotBanda



I was scrolling through the sikh reddit the other day and found this 


The Christian-led John Templeton Foundation spent over $2.4 Million of donation moneys from 2003-2006 to prove the efficacy of praying as an effective alternative to medicine. This ‘prayer project’ was captained by Dr. Herbert Benson (senior cardiologist Mind/Body Medical Institute) who went on record stating (opinionating) that ‘medical’ evidence substantiating the power of prayer in medical circumstances was mounting and the Christian world would soon evidence the power of God over science. Needless to say, the entire project was carefully administered and studied by impartial bodies who while skeptical also desired to put a nail in Templeton’s coffin (figuratively).


So what happened? Benson and associates monitored over 1,802 patients at six hospitals who had recently undergone coronary bypass surgery and were divided into three categories.

Category A consisted of patients who were not aware they were being prayed about.

Category B was formed by patients receiving 0 prayers who knew nothing about the experiment.

Category C were patients who received prayers and were aware of the whole exercise.

Benson and his sponsors organized three churches based in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Missouri to pray for the patients and for their experiment’s success. Ultimately, in April 2006 the American Heart Journal delivered an earth-shattering crescendo which cemented Benson’s credits as a religious scientist who prized faith above field. The outcome of his experiment could not have been more decisive for American Christians and religious medical specialists in general. The whole experiment stood exposed as a mindless sham with only the incredulous falling for it.


The American Heart Journal reported that despite the frequency of prayers, neither category exhibited any positive changes either rapidly or slowly. In fact Category C (patients who knew what was happening) swiftly deteriorated plagued by the fear that surgeons were preparing them for death. Benson’s red-faced humiliation wasn’t as amusing as his supporters sudden rush to distance themselves from him. Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne, unable to logically exonerate the whole charade, resorted to fatalistically begging the patients to accept their fate. Naturally, he was set upon by various scientists with the most vocal being Richard Dawkins. Others demanded the patients be given legal advice to sue Templeton. More shamefacedly, the rest of the Abrahamic faiths coterie set upon Christianity arguing that its impermanence and fallacy was proven (neither have they been able to prove why they are any different). In hindsight, Benson handed the scientific world his own head on a golden platter.

Failed Prayers:

What exactly transpired to negate the whole ‘prayer project’? The whole experiment would later be analyzed by Scientific American, Dawkins in The God Delusion and multiple others. Recurring findings would all agree:

-The experiment was ill-thought out and based more on emotion than empiricism.

-Benson and Templeton had hoped to indulge in a cheap publicity exercise.

-Prayers don’t work and are only a means to augment existing fictions originated by theism.

This last point regarding theism would become the cornerstone of significant scientific attacks on the ‘prayer project.’ None would be more truculent than Dawkin’s caustic offensive in his The God Delusion. To paraphrase him:

***Theism-***Term used to define a God who is separate from Creation but occasionally interferes to work miracles, alter his allegedly perfect works for imperfect humans and punishes sins. The theistic God also emphasizes the annihilation of non-conformists while creating them; has predestined infidels for hell but complains they do not profess belief in him and incites terrorism against them.

Deism-A God who has established Creation and has beaten a retreat from active life and is MIA.

The aforementioned isms refer to a supernatural God prevalent throughout the majority of religions who believe that only their prayers are worthy of answer. To quote Ambrose Bierce’s sarcastic definition of theistic/deistic prayer:

‘…to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.’

The next two isms are profoundly intertwined and are being studied as principles even today.

Pantheism-The term God does not refer to a personal supreme Creator who interferes and alters his works for conforming individuals. Rather, God is nature whose workings are infinite but also within the grasp of human comprehension at certain times. If, however, there is a God in the conventional sense then he requires no prayers and prayer is a waste of time as he is resident in nature which is collectively more important than the individual.

***Panentheism-***Much like Pantheists, Panentheists believe in the primacy of nature but also believe in a self-willed Creator who communicates via Creation. There are various speculations on the nature of Panentheism but it allows for a personal Creator who is a guide and teacher emphasizing effort as man is made an equal stakeholder in Creation. The greatest distinction between a Theist and Panentheist Creator is the latter answers prayers for guidance in living life while the former supposedly answers prayers for everything from bombing recipes, hijacking planes to getting the girl next door.

Dawkins, on the basis of the above, is more than happy to entertain the existence and viability of the Pantheist and Panentheist systems. After all, as he argues, his role models such as Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein accepted both sans distinction rather than the blind faith necessitated by theism and deism. The same thought runs in the works of Stephen Hawkings and even Issac Newton. If a Supreme Intelligence exists it does not lend its ear to any other mundane and trivial prayer. It too retains a criteria for aiding humans. Otherwise what importance would human independence hold if some supreme Being was always negating it by disallowing it from being put into play?

The Sikh View:

Based on our limited understanding we would hazard the guess that Sikhi can be associated with the Panentheist system. While of course not every belief system can be shoehorned under the four flags of isms we should remember that outsiders, at the very least, will relate Sikhi to such categories to at least superficially understand what it entails. So what of prayer in Sikhi? What importance does it hold?


The term Ardaas or entreaty was favored by Guru Nanak rather than any suitable terms for prayer. At the conclusion of every Sikh congregation the attendees arise and perform an Ardaas or entreaty entreating the Creator to bless them with the strength and wisdom to uphold Sikhi, their distinct long-haired identity, their code of conduct, their intelligence, their self-sacrifice, their faith and their contribution to Creation. Whereas nowdays some clerical minded individuals have commenced reading a list of personalized requests during the entreaty for certain donors, historically this practice was considered blasphemous.


The Guru Granth enunciates a stringent criterion to be adhered to when performing an Ardaas. What should one entreat for? Or more succinctly, what should one not entreat for?

ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਤਿਆ ਨਹ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥

ਮਨਮਤਿ ਝੂਠੀ ਸਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥

ਸਗਲ ਬਿਗੂਤੇ ਭਾਵੈ ਦੋਇ ॥

ਸੋ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਧੁਰਿ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਹੋਇ ॥੧॥

“That which is done in hubris never furnishes peace. Know this to be true: the way of the (base) mind is forever false. Those mired in doubt tread to their own ruin. Whatever you do you accrue the divinely ordained consequences for.”

-Guru Granth, 222.

An Ardaas performed in hubris and while adherent to one’s base mind is an Ardaas performed for accruing fallacious results. Oscillating between ever altering terms of good and bad the Manmukhs (the unenlightened individuals) ruin themselves by not entreating their Maker for what they need rather begging for what they want. The verse concludes with the remainder: it is divinely ordained that we reap what we sow and if we hanker after the trivial than we will suffer for the trivial as well.

So what should one ask for then? What entreaty does a Khalsa make?

ਏਕ ਸਬਦ ਇਕ ਭਿਖਿਆ ਮਾਗੈ ॥

ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਚੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥੪॥

“They (the enlightened individuals) entreat only for the benefaction of the divine word. They remain forever awake to reality being wise and observant as a result.”

-Guru Granth, 223.

The divine word arises from the divine truth or Satguru which is prevalent within reality (Hukam) and can be comprehended only when one selects to pursue wisdom and remain observant of the world around them.

ਤੁਧਨੋ ਨਿਵਣੁ ਮੰਨਣੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਉ ॥

ਸਾਚੁ ਭੇਟ ਬੈਸਣ ਕਉ ਥਾਉ ॥

ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥

ਤਾ ਸੁਣਿ ਸਦਿ ਬਹਾਲੇ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੧॥

ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥

ਐਸੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਸਾਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

“To supplicate to you one must believe in your wisdom. This is the true offering which earns one a seat close to you. Entreat for contentment with the truth. The Creator will surely hear this entreaty and call you near. Nanak none (who perform such an Ardaas) go empty handed. Such is the court of truth.”

-Guru Granth, 878.

An Ardaas should solely be performed for acceptance of the truth and wisdom to empower oneself to show one’s Maker what one can do. To ask for anything else is to invite trouble and unnecessary pain.

ਵਿਣੁ ਤੁਧੁ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਿ ਮੰਗਣਾ ਸਿਰਿ ਦੁਖਾ ਕੈ ਦੁਖ ॥ ਦੇਹਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੀਆ ਉਤਰੈ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਭੁਖ ॥

“To ask for anything besides you (your path) is to invite trouble after immense trouble. Bless me with your wisdom so my mind’s hunger can be appeased.”

-Guru Granth, 958.

Amor Fati:

The Stoics coined the term Amor Fati or for the love of fate. It emphasizes that while one might not be free from predetermined elements and circumstances arising out of one’s control, at least one is free to choose their reaction. Sikhi similarly emphasizes that one accept the outcome of what they entreat for/pursue. As we have shown above, in Sikhi the Creator fulfills entreaties for wisdom in the Creator’s role as a guide. The Creator distinguishes between wants and needs selecting to fulfill needs with the greatest need being wisdom while wants and the consequences of hankering after them are left in the hands of man.

ਵਿਣੁ ਬੋਲਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਜਾਣਦਾ ਕਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਕੀਚੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਏਕੋ ਵਰਤਦਾ ਸਬਦਿ ਕਰੇ ਪਰਗਾਸ ॥

“Even without us speaking our Maker knows everything we desire. Nanak, the Maker is in the very microcosm of what has been Made and enlightens through the medium of words.”

-Guru Granth, 1420.

Through reality (Hukam) our Maker enlightens us but only if we accept reality on its own terms. We cannot control reality but we can always decide our reaction to it.

ਸਚਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਣਿਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਸਚੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ॥

“The Gurmukh acknowledges your Hukam (reality) to be true. Immersion in Gurmat requires the eradication of the base self to acknowledge the truth.”

-Guru Granth, 144.

When one accepts reality then one understands what to entreat for. At this stage, the self-autonomy and self-empowerment which fills the Sikh is effectively summarized as:

ਜੋ ਮਾਗਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਤੇ ਸੋਈ ਸੋਈ ਦੇਵੈ ॥

“Whatever one asks for from their Master so they receive.”

-Guru Granth, 681.

But as Gurbani clarifies,

ਝੂਠਾ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਜੇ ਕੋਈ ਮਾਗੈ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਮਰਤੇ ਘੜੀ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਜੋ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਸੇਵੈ ਸੋ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਕਹਣਾ ॥੧॥

“If anyone requests anything then they usually request the mundane, that which does not take long to perish. But one who serves your truthful eminence is also the one who receives your divine wisdom and is liberated from base cravings.”

-Guru Granth, 109.

The mundane is perishable and shows that one who hankers after it is sacrificing the long term for the short term. But one who entreats for wisdom and divine virtues is pricing the long term over its shorter counterpart.

ਜੋ ਮਾਗਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਤੇ ਸੋਈ ਸੋਈ ਦੇਵੈ ॥

“Whatever one asks for from their Master so they receive.”

Ask for guidance and be liberated; ask for the trivial and you waste your life and suffer the resultant consequences when frustrated at the absence of any divine intervention you take matters in your own hands. Immortal divine providence does not deign to fulfill ephemeral desires and wants.

Guru Nanak and Bhagat Dhana:

Bhagat Dhana was a maverick reformer whose works were incorporated into the Guru Granth by Guru Nanak. The structuring of the Guru Granth’s content indicates a perennial dialogue between the Gurus and the 15 Bhagats whose works form a portion of the canon. Dhana writes,

ਗੋਪਾਲ ਤੇਰਾ ਆਰਤਾ ॥

ਜੋ ਜਨ ਤੁਮਰੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰੰਤੇ ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਕਾਜ ਸਵਾਰਤਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਦਾਲਿ ਸੀਧਾ ਮਾਗਉ ਘੀਉ ॥

ਹਮਰਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਕਰੈ ਨਿਤ ਜੀਉ ॥

ਪਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀਆ ਛਾਦਨੁ ਨੀਕਾ ॥

ਅਨਾਜੁ ਮਗਉ ਸਤ ਸੀ ਕਾ ॥੧॥

ਗਊ ਭੈਸ ਮਗਉ ਲਾਵੇਰੀ ॥

ਇਕ ਤਾਜਨਿ ਤੁਰੀ ਚੰਗੇਰੀ ॥

ਘਰ ਕੀ ਗੀਹਨਿ ਚੰਗੀ ॥

ਜਨੁ ਧੰਨਾ ਲੇਵੈ ਮੰਗੀ ॥੨॥੪॥

“Master of the earth, your slave addresses you. Whosoever pays obeisance to you you deign to set their affairs in order. Lentils, flour and butter-I beseech you for these. The fulfillment of this desire will put my mind at ease. Fine apparels and shoes with all seven kinds of grains, I desire these next. A milk cow and a water buffalo accompanied by a Turkish steed; a good thrifty wife to take care of my house-all these your slave Dhana begs from thee.”

-Guru Granth, 695.

Guru Nanak, utilizing the same poetic and linguistic parameters as Bhagat Dhana, clarifies that rather than beg for that which can be obtained by one’s own effort one should entreat their Maker for divine sagacity. He responds to Dhana with the following,

ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵੀਚਾਰੈ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਮਾਨੁ ॥

ਆਪਾ ਮਧੇ ਆਪੁ ਪਰਗਾਸਿਆ ਪਾਇਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਨਾਮੁ ॥੧॥

ਕਰਤਾ ਤੂ ਮੇਰਾ ਜਜਮਾਨੁ ॥

ਇਕ ਦਖਿਣਾ ਹਉ ਤੈ ਪਹਿ ਮਾਗਉ ਦੇਹਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਨਾਮੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

“The understanding derived through the grace of divine wisdom is the only understanding worth studying due to which countless honors are accrued. Within your own self, as a result, all reality will be displayed and the fount of immortal acuity will be found. You, the great Doer, are also my greatest donor. If anything, I entreat you for only one desire alone: give me your immortal wisdom.”

-Guru Granth, 1326.


ਪੰਚ ਤਸਕਰ ਧਾਵਤ ਰਾਖੇ ਚੂਕਾ ਮਨਿ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥

ਦਿਸਟਿ ਬਿਕਾਰੀ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਭਾਗੀ ਐਸਾ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੨॥

ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਚਾਵਲ ਦਇਆ ਕਣਕ ਕਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤਿ ਪਾਤੀ ਧਾਨੁ ॥

ਦੂਧੁ ਕਰਮੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਘੀਉ ਕਰਿ ਐਸਾ ਮਾਂਗਉ ਦਾਨੁ ॥੩॥

ਖਿਮਾ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਕਰਿ ਗਊ ਲਵੇਰੀ ਸਹਜੇ ਬਛਰਾ ਖੀਰੁ ਪੀਐ ॥

ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਰਮ ਕਾ ਕਪੜਾ ਮਾਂਗਉ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਵਤੁ ਰਹੈ ॥੪॥੭॥

“With the five foes subdued the (base) mind’s chaos is effaced. Deception, vice and malice flee such is the all encompassing wisdom. Please bless me with the rice of truth and self-discipline, the wheat of concern and the leaf plate of attention. Enrich me with the milk of acceptance and the butter of empathy. Such are the boons I entreat from thee. Fulfill my desire for the dual cows of pardon and tolerance; let my calf-like mind drink from both. Finally, provide me with the clothes of modesty and goodness. Nanak forever sings of your virtues.”

-Guru Granth, 1326.

The Templeton Tragedy:

So what should Benson and company have done? They should have accepted fate and reality rather than pray to alter it. Their indulgence in what could only be called sheer tomfoolery illustrated the blindness of professing belief in miracles and the like. The Guru Granth is emphatic, quick passes and prayers for ease rarely work. The Khalsa’s Ardaas should be for two elements:

Acceptance of fate.

Intelligence via which to live life and triumph above the base mind.

In summary, the prayer delusion foisted upon the world has rendered many believers obtusely stubborn and persistent in their desire to beg their way out of the battle of life. The Khalsa is to avoid such dead-ended idiocy and entreat the Creator for practical wisdom through which it achieve its purpose. Otherwise humanity has been praying blindly for centuries. Nothing has ever come out of it.

So... a bit weird isn't it?

I have been watching this man's podcast and it quite honestly makes a lot of sense, except when it doesn't.

From a previous question to the sangat, I came to the informed conclusion from Gurbani that Reincarnation is a state of mind as well as an actual occurance, and that is one thing I will have to take on faith.


But this seems quiet odd, knowing that a literal study on prayer has been published and it has results that were negative.



I read this wikipedia article (yes, it's not super trustworthy), and it said that 13 of 23 studies had significant postive results, with 1 study having a negative effect and the rest having no noticeable effect. Does prayer really work? In my subjective experience with Covid and my dad almost being put on a ventilator but he insisted not to, and being released with a little bit of Pneumonia 5 days later, it does. My ardaasan for waking up at amritvela without an alarm worked for a week, albeit I woke up with heartburn multiple times.


Can you really study the effects of prayer? If so why? If not why?



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