NADAR (Arabic nazar: glance, favourable regard, favour), implying Divine grace, is a concept central to Sikh religious tradition affirming its faith in a Transcendental Being responsive to human prayer and appeal for forgiveness and mercy. It reiterates at the same time a belief in the sovereignty of Divine Will (razd) overriding the law of karma which itself is a constituent of hukam, the all pervading and all regulating Divine Law. From His Will flows grace which as the divine initiative leads the seeker to his ultimate destiny. It is postulated as the critical determinant in this process.

In their holy utterances recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Gurus have repeatedly stressed how indispensable is God`s grace in one`s spiritual quest and how in devotion and contemplation it be constantly solicited.Some other terms used to express the concept of nadar are prasdd (graciousness, favour, mediation), kirpd (krpd: tenderness, favour, clemency), kirpd katdkh {krpd katdksa: glance or nod of grace), and dayd or taras (pity, mercy, compassion) drawn from Indian tradition. Others, drawn from Islamic tradition, particularly of Sufi orientation, are karam (bounty, favour, grace), bakhshish or bakhshish (gift, grant, beneficence) and mihar (love, favour, mercy). Nadar implies a cosmic order wherein a law superior to the law of karma, i.e. ordained system of retribution, operates.

In systems like the Sankhya and Purva Mimarisa and in creeds like Buddhism wherein karma is held supreme in determining and shaping destiny, the concept of nadar will have little relevance.It is in the theistic creeds, particularly those with attachment to devotionalism and with sensitiveness to cosmic mysteries that it takes priority as a principle overriding retribution. Within the traditional Indian religious thought, the concept of grace Finds its strongest expression in the philosophy of Visistadvaita (identity in difference) formulated by Ramanuja. In Islamic tradition which describes Allah employing epithets such as rahmdn and rahim (merciful), karim (beneficent, gracious), ghafur (forgiving, clement), sattdr (concealer of sins) and rauf (benign), karam and/aza^are the words used for grace.

In Christianity, too, the concept of grace is firmly established. But even in these creeds grace is not uncaused or an arbitrary favour, but is the result of good actions, devotion and complete surrender and submission of the self to the Universal Self.Yet the phenomenon is not unknown that of the many who tread the path of good actions and devotion and strive to grasp the Ultimate Truth, only a few in fact lay hold on it. As says Guru Nanak: tere darsan kau keti bilaldi, virld ko chmasi gur sabadi mildimany there be who long for Thy vision; but few encounter and perceive the Guru`s Word (GG, 1188).

In the Sikh system the doctrine of nadar is juxtaposed to that of karma. Karma is certainly important in that it will determine a favourable or unfavourable birth. At times the theory seems to receive support in the Sikh scriptures that those who in their previous existences have lived lives of relative merit acquire thereby a faculty of perception which enables them to recognize the Guru.But the total order of creation visualized in Sikhism, besides according a necessary place to karma as far as the initial perception of the Word is concerned, specifies mercy or grace as the ultimate arbiter.

It is finally through nadar that the initial desire for liberation is roused as well as opportunity to lay hold on the means of liberation is obtained. In a significant line in the Japu, Guru Nanak contrasts the two, karma and nadar. karami avai kapara nadan mokhu duarukarma determines the nature of our birth, but grace alone reveals the door to liberation (GG, 2). Nadar is the basic and primal factor even in prompting the human self (jivatman) to devotion.

Says Guru Arjan: ja kau kirapa karahu prabh td kau Iavahu sev whomsoever Thou favourest, 0 Lord, him Thou putest in the path of devotion (GG,8H). And, again, it is through God`s grace that the seeker reaches his goal: gur parsadi hari paiai matu ko bharami bhulahi through Divine grace is union with God attained, let no one linger in doubt about this (GG, 936). Just why Akal Purakh should show mercy or grace in this manner is a matter which must remain a mystery. Mankind`s understanding of the Divine Order will not provide an explanation for the fact that the prerequisite perception is awakened in some, whereas others remain bereft of it.

There is a point beyond which the human understanding cannot proceed, and the giving or withholding of such perception is an issue which lies beyond that point. Akal Purakh confers this awareness of nam, sabda and hukam, through His sovereign Will (raza) and Grace (nadar), freely and openly bestowed, yet not upon all seekers. The ability to find the True Guru, to hear to the Guru`s voice (sabda) and to respond to it comes to some by AkalPurakh`s gift of mercy. Were He to withhold it, there is nothing a man can do. Without this gift of initial perception, without a divine stirring, the Guru will not be heeded and the divine Name remains unrecognized.

There is, however, no cause for fatalism and despair. Sovereignty of the Divine Will notwithstanding, Guru Nanak points to the path to divine favour.One is to be content in His Will and to cleanse the mind with a view to deserving and receiving His Grace, if and when bestowed. Resorting to the imagery of curd making for which the vessel must be thoroughly washed, the Guru affirms at the opening of Raga Suhi: bhdndd dhoi baisi dhupu devahu tau dudhai kau jdvahuwash the vessel, purify it with incense, only then proceed to receive the milk (GG, 728). Another helpful way is that of sukrit (right action) which has a lasting effect.

Says Guru Nanak: “Listen, listen to our advice, 0 my mind, it is the right action that will last; and there may not be another chance” (GG, 15455). At another place, he says: “Everyone desires, but whether one will be fortunate enough to achieve depends upon karam” (GG, 157).The use of the term karam raises a kind of ambiguity. Karam as spelt and pronounced in Punjabi may mean either the Sanskrit karma (action) or its resultant karam of Punjabi meaning fate or destiny, or it may mean the Persian karam (grace, favour).

In any case, the doctrine in Sikhism is that nadans most likely to descend on one who engages in good actions. Another way to earn grace is ardds, prayer and supplication in extreme humility, self abnegation and self surrender to Divine Will. Such humility of spirit is the basis on which the spiritual and ethical life pleasing to God may be built, and grace obtained. In a nutshell, Divine favour (nadar) prompting the self to prayer and devotion may possibly be won through humble supplication and through cultivation of virtue and right action.

References :

1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1969
2. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
3. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
4. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
5. Wazir Singh, Philosophy of Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1981
6. Harned, David Baily, Grace and Common Life. Patiala, 1970