SHARDHA or Sardha (Skt. sraddha), a conscious positive mental attitude towards a person owing to some special development of a virtue or power in him, is closely connected with faith or bhakti, i.e. loving devotion to God. Etymologically speaking, it is a compound word formed by a combination of srat, `heart` and dha, `to put`, meaning to put one`s heart and mind on something. Translated into English, belief, trust, confidence and faith are the terms which put forth different shades of sraddha.

In so far as sraddha is related to sradha, a funeral rite in Hinduism performed in honour of the departed spirits of dead ancestors or relatives, it can be interpreted as reverence.Shardha or faith is the bedrock of all religions. In the Vedic texts, sraddha denotes a belief in the powers of rituals and the priests for securing all that is desired including svarga, heaven. The Upanisads, however, present us with new dimensions of sraddha. In these texts, sraddha emerges as a moral and religious notion. Here it is closely connected with the ideas of dhayana, yoga, karma, sansara and moksa, the ideas which were originally pecular to Sramana thought.

The Mundaka Upanisad representative of the Sramanic impact treats the entire heritage of old Vedic knowledge as lower and declares that knowledge as higher (paravidya) which reveals the Indestructible (Mundak. 1.1.5.).This higher knowledge which leads to spiritual emancipation is die object of sraddha. However, it must be noted here that the nature and function of sraddha in these texts are relative to ritualistic, theistic, dualistic and non-dualistic theologies. The Bhagavadgita gives to this term a definitive meaning for subsequent Brahmanical developments.

According to the Bhagavadgita, faith (sraddha) is a factor in mukti (III.31) : those endowed with faith attain wisdom, and those without faith perish (IV. 3940) : faith is directly associated with devotion and ado radon (VII. 21) : among all the yogis one endowed with faith is the best.This soterio logical significance and importance of sraddha is tacitly accepted in all the sects of the Brahmanical tradition including Saivism, Saktism, Vaisnavism and the yogic schools. In addition to God or goddess, the prescribed paths, and the scripture, in these schools, the position of teacher or guru becomes an increasingly important object of sraddha.

The concept of sraddha occupies an important place in the Sramanic traditions of Jainism and Buddhism also. The word sardha occurs in the Guru Granth Sahib at numerous places. Often it is associated with other related theological terms such as prem, bhagati (bhakti), puja and seva (devotion, adoration and service, respectively).The necessity of faith and confidence is tacitly accepted in Sikhism and there is a general uniformity in its meaning throughout the Sikh texts. Besides sardha we find other words, nihcha (nischaya), bisvas and partiti (GG, 87,284, 292,877,1270) ; these words may be translated as `faith`, `belief and `confidence`. The word partiti (Skt. pratiti) can also be translated as faith or belief.

One has partiti when one has clear apprehension of or insight into anything; it gives the sense of complete understanding, ascertainment and conviction. By implication partiti means credit, respect, trust, confirmation and acknowledgement. Partiti thus is a synonym of shardha in Sikhism. It is a cardinal moral virtue and a prerequisite of piety.The nature and function of shardha in Sikh religion and the way of life cannot be understood without recourse to Sikh theology. Devotion to God proceeds from faith in God : faith in God is linked to love for God : love for God manifests itself in adoration and service.

It is, therefore, appropriate to understand the concept of shardha in the context of bhagti, prem, puja and seva. All these terms bear a significance in Sikh teaching only when we consider their meaning in relation to the reality of Supreme Lord (paramesvara). The first object of faith in Sikhism is thus the supreme Lord. His nature and existence are revealed by the Teacher (Guru) who is another object of faith.This office of revealer and guide has been held by a line of ten teachers ; the ten Gurus from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh are therefore equally the centre of faith in this tradition. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the Holy Granth assumed the authority of the Teacher.

It is now justly called the Guru Granth Sahib, the Book that is the Teacher or the Teacher Scripture. This being the collection of canonical texts of Sikhism, is the third major object of faith in Sikhism. In this system shardha is directed to God, Guru and the Granth. Belief in God and love of God go together: the functional value of loving and believing leads to the same purpose and would seem to be equal.The devotee is said to spread the bed made of shardha for his Lord hari Aari sardha sej vichhai prabhu chhodi na sakai (GG, 836) ; because of shardha fixed on his Beloved he cannot live even for a moment sardha lagi sangi pritamai iku tilu rahanu najai (GG, 928).

To have faith in God means to have love for god, and vice versa, to have love for god means to have faith in God. As an ultimate commitment and supreme concern, shardha may be summed up as concentration of belief in God. It has been said that those that have faith in Ram Narn, do not turn their thoughts to any thing else/J`n sardha ram nam lag! tin duja chitu na laia ram (GG,444). The nature of faith is unifying, which is also to say, it is exclusive and undivided.One cannot have faith in both Divinity and egoity, in God and not God at the same time.

Firm and undivided faith leads to union with God. He who is endowed with true faith is united to GodJ`in kai mani sacha bisvasu, pekhi pekhi suamiki sobha anandu sada ulasu (GG,677). Occasionally this term is used in the sense of a wish or longing for God. Thus when we read nanak ki prabh sardha pun, we have to understand it in the sense that `God has fulfilled the desire of Nanak` (GG, 893). Again, chiti avai ta sardha pun when awareness (of God) comes then the longing is satisfied (GG, 114). We can even say that in these usages sardha is like mansa, thought, wish, longing, quest.

God is the object of love and object of faith and therefore the object of quest. Although God is attainable through love and faith or loving faith, it is clearly taught that one becomes faithful through God`s grace (hari kirpa), faith in His name is inspired by Him Aari Aari kripa karahujagjivan mai sardha nami lagavaigo (GG,1310). Faith in God comes through faith in Guru who unites the seeker with the former sardha sardha upai milae mo kau hari gur guri nistare (GG, 983). God`s servants are very good because they uphold Hari in their heart with faith, and Hari is so good that He accepts the faith of His followers and upholds their honourprabA ke sevak bahutu ati mke mani sardha kari hari dhare ; mere prabhi sardha bhagati mani bhavaijan ki paij savare (GG, 982).

Those who with faith sing, listen, and cause others to listen (the glory of God) and drink the Divine elixir (Aariras), they are indeed fortunate gavat sunat, sunavat sardha hari rasu pivadbhage (GG, 1306). In addition to God, Guru and the Granth, a fourth field for the cultivation of faith in Sikhism consists of the holy company (sadhsangati) of the devotees (sadA, sant). Faith rises in their company and one enjoys the taste of the Divine.essence through Guru`s Word miA` sangat sardha upajai gursabdi hari rasu chakhu (GG,997). Happiness (sukA), peace and longing (sardAa) all these are attained with the help of the holy sukh sital sardha sabh pin hoe santsahai (GG, l()()0).

The Scripture lays down that the dust of the feet of those sages should be kissed with love and confidence who have given their lives for the sake of God jin hari arathi saiiru lagaia gursadhu bahu saradha lai mukhi dhura (GG, 698). The sages found Hari through faith ; they found Hari through the word of the Teacher. That is to say, faith in the Teacher`s word is the door to Godrealization. The word gurmukh literally means `Teacher`s mouth`; it symbolically means the word (sabda) or speech (ban!) which comes out of Guru`s mouth.

This word or speech documented in the Granth is an object of faith because it is the vehicle to go beyond sarisara. The gurmukh or Teacher`s word is therefore called the door of deliverance (mokhuduar). As is well known, the word gurmukh also means a pious person imbued with faidi, who has turned towards God or the Guru, a Godfaced person. As such, the gurmukh is the ideal person of Sikh culture and, therefore, an embodiment of shardha, faith.

References :

1. Jayatillake, N., Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge. London, 1963
2. Gyomroi-Ludowyk, `The Valuation of Sraddha in the Early Buddhist Texts` in The University of Ceylon Review, Vol. V
3. Edward Conze, Buddhism. Oxford, 1951
4. Minuchehar, `Notes on Two Sanskrit Terms : bhakti and sraddha` in Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. VII, 1964
5. Rao, K.L. Seshagiri, The Concept of Sraddha. Patiala, 1971
6. Sabadarath Sn Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Amritsar, 1964
7. Wazir Singh, Dharam da Darshanik Pakkh. Patiala, 1986