SGGS Conference 2014

Jul 072014


Sri Guru Granth Sahib talks about an internal battle, which you have to fight with your own mind. The five evils (kaam, krodh, etc.) are very powerful. You have to rise up to fight this battle against them

ਕਾਮ ਕਰੋਧੁ ਨਗਰ ਮਹਿ ਸਬਲਾ ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਉਠਿ ਜੂਝੁ ਕਰੀਜੈ ॥
There is no other way to escape than this struggle with your own mind.

ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਸਰਣਾਈ ਛੁਟੀਐ ਜੋ ਮਨ ਸਿਉ ਜੂਝੈ ॥
Only Gurmat Naam, the Word of the Shabad, can help win this battle.

ਮਨੁ ਮਰੈ ਧਾਤੁ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥
When the mind is conquered, its turbulent wanderings are stopped.

ਬਿਨੁ ਮਨ ਮੂਏ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇ ॥
Without conquering the mind, how can the Lord be found?

ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਮਰੈ ਦਾਰੂ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਇ ॥
Rare is the one who knows the medicine to conquer the mind.

ਮਨੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਜਨੁ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥
|The mind is conquered through the Word of the Shabad; this is known to the Lord’s humble servant. ||1||

I will try to speak on this subject in light of SGGS only, a great treasure of wisdom.


Video of Presentation

Body of Paper

[The English version of this paper is available below after the Punjabi version]

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English Version of Paper

How to Win a War Within?

Jarnail Singh (Journalist)

 Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji teaches us the gurmat way to win a battle within. This human life has purpose and it is the only  chance to win the war within, which we cannot do in non-human births (joon).


ਲਖ ਚਉਰਾਸੀਹ ਜੋਨਿ ਸਬਾਈ ॥

Out of all the 8.4 million species of beings,

ਮਾਣਸ ਕਉ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਦੀਈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥

God blessed mankind with glory.

ਇਸੁ ਪਉੜੀ ਤੇ ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਚੂਕੈ ਸੋ ਆਇ ਜਾਇ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਦਾ ॥੨॥

That human who misses this chance, shall suffer the pains of coming and going in reincarnation. ||2||


If we looses this chance, then we will be reincarnated again and again, and will always suffer in sadness.  As long as we have life, we have a chance to win this war. Surprisingly, only a few fortunate people realize they have to fight this war to win.  The majority of people lose the battle before they even start fighting.  They are happily under control of the five evils (vikkars), and don’t want to change.    Inside their minds, the five evils are yelling and screaming, so that they are not able to hear their inner voice.

Humans are living their lives under the influence of the five evils.  They are not able to differentiate between right and wrong.  They are so much under the influence of Maya, that they cannot recognize the inner bliss.  The evils overpower one’s mind, so that they don’t recognize the light of truth within.  The mind becomes obsessed with these evils.  In it’s actual form, the mind is the pure light of truth (jot saroop). It becomes filthy because of the evils, just like in a mud puddle, you don’t see the pure water, you only see the mud; similarly, you only see the filth of the evils, not the pure mind.  If we will not remove the filth of the mind, then it will only stink more.

It is very difficult to wind the mind, but we can win the mind.  That’s why Guru Sahib reassures us and calls us when we have lost faith.

ਬਿਖਮੋ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਅਖਾੜਾ ਮੈ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਜੀਤਾ ਰਾਮ ॥
Meeting the Guru, I have won the most arduous battle in the arena of life.

ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਜੀਤਾ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਤਾ ਤੂਟੀ ਭੀਤਾ ਭਰਮ ਗੜਾ ॥

Meeting the Guru, I am victorious; praising the Lord, Har, Har, the walls of the fortress of doubt have been destroyed.

ਪਾਇਆ ਖਜਾਨਾ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਨਿਧਾਨਾ ਸਾਣਥ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਪਿ ਖੜਾ ॥

I have obtained the wealth of so many treasures; the Lord Himself has stood by my side.

            Before we start talking about how to control the mind, first let’s talk about what is the meaning of controlling the mind.  The mind is not the body, nerve, skeleton, bone, the mind is not made of blood, than how will we control it?  According to Gurmat, control of the mind is also called making the mind pure.

ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਜੈਸਾ ਗੰਗਾ ਨੀਰੁ ॥

Kabeer, my mind has become immaculate, like the waters of the Ganges.

ਪਾਛੈ ਲਾਗੋ ਹਰਿ ਫਿਰੈ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਕਬੀਰ ॥੫੫॥

The Lord follows after me, calling, “Kabeer! Kabeer!” ||55||

            Control of the mind, or stopping the mind from following the five evils and redirecting it to spiritual awareness (Atam bibek), or we can say, sculpting the mind, bringing the mind back to it’s original pure form (nij ghar), are all signs of killing the mind.  When all the evil thoughts are controlled, the mind comes into it’s original form.  Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh says, “When mayavi thoughts are abolished from the mind, then one can see the glimmer of pure inner soul.”  Or we can say we feel like this;

ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਸਰੋਵਰਿ ਨਾਤੇ ॥

Bathing in the nectar tank of Ram Das,

ਸਭਿ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਪ ਕਮਾਤੇ ॥

all sins are erased.

ਨਿਰਮਲ ਹੋਏ ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ॥

One becomes immaculately pure, taking this cleansing bath.

ਗੁਰਿ ਪੂਰੈ ਕੀਨੇ ਦਾਨਾ ॥੧॥

The Perfect Guru has bestowed this gift. ||1||

            We have to kill our mind.  The killing of the mind is also abolishing self derived intelligence (manmat).  As long as we are listening to our mind, our lifestyle is influenced by our mind, in other words, we are manmukh.  When we follow the concept of gurmat in our life, then all our actions will intuitively be according to gurmat.  If one leaves his body as a manmukh, then Guru Sahib says;


ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਆਵੈ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਵੈ ॥

The self-willed manmukh comes, and the self-willed manmukh goes.

ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਚੋਟਾ ਖਾਵੈ ॥

The manmukh suffers beatings again and again.

ਜਿਤਨੇ ਨਰਕ ਸੇ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਭੋਗੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲੇਪੁ ਨ ਮਾਸਾ ਹੇ ॥੧੨॥

The manmukh endures as many hells as there are; the Gurmukh is not even touched by them. ||12||

            As long as you are under the influence of your mind, you’ll be unhappy and constantly reincarnating, The intelligence of the mind, under the influence of the five evils, is incomplete.  We may discuss and debate on different subjects, but if our mind is attached to the five evils,  nothing useful will come of these discussions and debates.

    ਚੇਰੀ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਦੀਸੈ ॥

He serves the maid, and does not see his Lord and Master.

ਪੋਖਰੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਵਿਰੋਲੀਐ ਮਾਖਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਰੀਸੈ ॥੭॥

Churning the water in the pond, no butter is produced. ||7||

            You may churn the water of the dirty pond as much as you want, but butter will never come from it.  Only filth comes out of empty discussions.  As long as the filth of the evils is not cleaned from the mind, you will not reach any conclusion.  To win the mind is also to sculpt the mind.  But before we sculpt the mind, we should understand the properties of the mind. If somebody has to make a sculpture from iron, they need to understand the properties of  iron, of what it is comprised.  We have to heat the iron, strike it hard, then only we can change the form of the iron from a lump of ore to a sharp sword.  We know the form of wood and stone also, we also know the tools used to sculpt them

We should know the form of the mind.  The mind includes a never ending combination of thoughts, concepts, and desires.  Even when a person sleeps, still these continue.  People even see these continuously in their dreams.  But these are influenced by five evils, which we see can effect dreams as well.  If your negative desires are inhibited by societal norms, they will show up in your dreams.

It seems like the mind is identical to the soul.  Maybe this is the reason why Guru Sahib says that our mind comes through many births.  It is attached to the soul, or it is a reflection of the soul.

ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਕੇਤੜਿਆ ਜੁਗ ਭਰਮਿਆ ਥਿਰੁ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥

This mind has wandered through so many ages; it has not remained stable – it continues coming and going.


ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੩ ॥

Shalok, Third Mehl:

ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਕੀ ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕਉ ਮਲੁ ਲਾਗੀ ਕਾਲਾ ਹੋਆ ਸਿਆਹੁ ॥

The filth of countless incarnations sticks to this mind; it has become pitch black.

ਖੰਨਲੀ ਧੋਤੀ ਉਜਲੀ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸਉ ਧੋਵਣਿ ਪਾਹੁ ॥

The oily rag cannot be cleaned by merely washing it, even if it is washed a hundred times.

ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜੀਵਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਉਲਟੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਮਤਿ ਬਦਲਾਹੁ ॥

By Guru’s Grace, one remains dead while yet alive; his intellect is transformed, and he becomes detached from the world.

ਨਾਨਕ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਲਗਈ ਨਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨੀ ਪਾਹੁ ॥੧॥

O Nanak, no filth sticks to him, and he does not fall into the womb again. ||1||

With Guru’s kirpa, one dies while yet alive, and his intellect is transformed.  Then no more filth sticks to him, and he is free from reincarnation.  The inner soul, the mind, is pure in it’s original form.  But, because the filth of the five vikkars is stuck to it, we cannot see that original form.  Gurbani makes one understands the original form of the mind (jot saroop).

ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥

O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light – recognize your own origin.



The mind is dirty and we have to clean it, to kill it.  There is only one soap, Naam, Shabad, Akaal Purakh, Singing the praises of Vaheguroo.  Nothing will happen with empty thoughts. There may be discussion among thousands of manmukhs, and they may spend a lot of time in their discussions, but their minds will not become pure.  If we have dirty clothes, and we rub them together, they will not get clean.  The filth from one may simply transfer from one to the other.  Without soap they will not get clean.  Maharaj says;

ਭਰੀਐ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ॥

But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sin,

ਓਹੁ ਧੋਪੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ॥

it can only be cleansed by the Love of the Name.


ਸਹਸੈ ਜੀਉ ਮਲੀਣੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਤੁ ਸੰਜਮਿ ਧੋਤਾ ਜਾਏ ॥

The soul is polluted by skepticism; how can it be cleansed?

ਮੰਨੁ ਧੋਵਹੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਾਗਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਰਹਹੁ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥

Wash your mind by attaching it to the Shabad, and keep your consciousness focused on the Lord.

            In the beginning, the mind will not agree with us.  We will have to beat it. Yes, we have to beat it.  Maharaj says;

ਕੂਟਨੁ ਸੋਇ ਜੁ ਮਨ ਕਉ ਕੂਟੈ ॥

He alone is a pimp, who pounds down his mind.

ਮਨ ਕੂਟੈ ਤਉ ਜਮ ਤੇ ਛੂਟੈ ॥

Pounding down his mind, he escapes from the Messenger of Death.

ਕੁਟਿ ਕੁਟਿ ਮਨੁ ਕਸਵਟੀ ਲਾਵੈ ॥

Pounding and beating his mind, he puts it to the test;

ਸੋ ਕੂਟਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬਹੁ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੧॥

such a pimp attains total liberation. ||1||



            These days there is a tradition that one should not upset another.  Do whatever the intellect says, don’t break anyone’s heart.  It is just like someone is drinking poison in front of us, but rather than stopping them we let them.  No! We should definitely hurt and beat the mind.  We have to shoot arrows of truth to pierce our intellect.

ਕਬੀਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੂਰਮੇ ਬਾਹਿਆ ਬਾਨੁ ਜੁ ਏਕੁ ॥

 Kabeer, the True Guru, the Spiritual Warrior, has shot me with His Arrow.

ਲਾਗਤ ਹੀ ਭੁਇ ਗਿਰਿ ਪਰਿਆ ਪਰਾ ਕਰੇਜੇ ਛੇਕੁ ॥੧੯੪॥

As soon as it struck me, I fell to the ground, with a hole in my heart. ||194||

            This is the nature of the Gurbani of Satguru Ji.  This was not initiated by the mind. Akaal Purakh himself sent it from his court.

ਇਹ ਬਾਣੀ ਮਹਾ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੪੦॥

This is the Bani of the Supreme Being; through it, one dwells within the home of his inner being. ||40||

            No philosophy, intelligence, or knowledge originating from the mind can make the mind pure, or can dwell within the  home of the inner being, neither can it sculpt the mind.  We cannot win our mind without quitting our own intellect.  We have to surrender our mind, we have to surrender our intelligence and knowledge, and we have to obtain Guru Sahib’s understanding.  Until we have reached that level;


ਤੂ ਸਮਰਥੁ ਵਡਾ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਤਿ ਥੋਰੀ ਰਾਮ ॥

You are great and all-powerful; my understanding is so inadequate, O Lord.

            Until that time, the light of Guru Sahib’s knowledge will not dwell within us.


ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਇਸੁ ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਕਰਮਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਏ ॥੧॥
Gurbani is the Light to illuminate this world; by His Grace, it comes to abide within the mind. ||1||

            Gurbani’s recitation, meditation, and singing (keertan) are the techniques by which we win our mind.

In our mind we are fighting a battle.  Someone has said that the devil is at war with the saint. And someone has said something else.  Somebody asked a noble person of the battle between two wrestlers (good and evil), who will win the war?  The noble person answered, that who so ever we feed properly will win the war.  Whatever food you consume, that’s what you become.  Similarly, whatever you feed the mind, the mind becomes.  If we will feed the body fried and fast food, the body will become fat and diseased.  If we feed it healthy food, then it will become healthy.  Likewise, whatever food we feed the five senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin), is what our mind will become.  If someone watches adult movies all the time, or if someone gossips all the time, what kind of function will that mind have?  If the mind will have the sangat of gursikhs,  listen to Gurbani and katha vichaar, what kind of function will that mind have?  It is clear that whichever wrestler we feed properly will overpower the other.  Bhai Gurdas ji says:


akhee vaekh n rajeeaa bahu ra(n)g thamaasae||

The eyes are not satisfied with beholding sights and exhibitions

ousathath ni(n)dhaa ka(n)n sun rovan thai haasae||

The ears are not satisfied with hearing praise or blame, mourning or rejoicing.

saadhee(n) jeebh n rajeeaa kar bhog bilaasae||

The tongue is not satisfied with eating what affords pleasure and delight.

nak n rajaa vaas lai dhuraga(n)dhh suvaasae||

The nose is not contented with good or evil odour.

raj n koee jeeviaa koorrae bharavaasae||

Nobody is satisfied with is span of life, and everyone entertains false hopes.

peer mureedhaa(n) pireharree sachee reharaasae ||9||

But the Sikhs are satisfied with the Guru and theirs is the true Love and delight.(9)

            In this world, nothing can satisfy the mind.  Actually, the mind doesn’t want to be satisfied.  It always wants to remain unsatisfied.  That’s the reason it keeps on reincarnating.  If the mind will be satisfied, then it will stop reincarnating.  We have to tighten the reigns of the mind, otherwise it will run with high speed.  The mind can roam around the globe in seconds.  We have to ride upon the mind.  Kabeer sahib says;

ਗਉੜੀ ਕਬੀਰ ਜੀ ॥

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:

ਦੇਇ ਮੁਹਾਰ ਲਗਾਮੁ ਪਹਿਰਾਵਉ ॥

I have grasped the reins and attached the bridle;

ਸਗਲ ਤ ਜੀਨੁ ਗਗਨ ਦਉਰਾਵਉ ॥੧॥

abandoning everything, I now ride through the skies. ||1||

ਅਪਨੈ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ਅਸਵਾਰੀ ਕੀਜੈ ॥

I made self-reflection my mount,

ਸਹਜ ਕੈ ਪਾਵੜੈ ਪਗੁ ਧਰਿ ਲੀਜੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

and in the stirrups of intuitive poise, I placed my feet. ||1||Pause||

ਚਲੁ ਰੇ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਲੇ ਤਾਰਉ ॥

Come, and let me ride you to heaven.

ਹਿਚਹਿ ਤ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਕੈ ਚਾਬੁਕ ਮਾਰਉ ॥੨॥

If you hold back, then I shall strike you with the whip of spiritual love. ||2||

ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਭਲੇ ਅਸਵਾਰਾ ॥

Says Kabeer, those are the best riders,

ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਤੇ ਰਹਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਰਾ ॥੩॥੩੧॥

who remain detached from the Vedas, the Koran and the Bible. ||3||31||

Kabeer sahib is talking about that spiritual state where the mind’s reigns have been tightened, and now the he is riding through the sky, abandoning everything.


ਚਰਣ ਚਰਣ ਚਰਣ ਗੁਰ ਸੇਵੇ ਅਘੜੁ ਘੜਿਓ ਰਸੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਥਾ ॥੩॥

I serve the feet, the feet, the feet of the Guru, and manage the unmanageable. I have found the juice, the sublime essence. ||3||

ਸਹਜੇ ਆਵਾ ਸਹਜੇ ਜਾਵਾ ਸਹਜੇ ਮਨੁ ਖੇਲਾਇਆ ਥਾ ॥

Intuitively I come, and intuitively I go; my mind intuitively plays.

The mind has reached the palace of the inner being.

The five vikkars, lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego, are powerful.  It’s almost impossible to win them over.  The other religious people have tried to win them over, control them, stop them.  But they have failed.  Obviously they will fail, because they have used the efforts of the body instead of the mind to win them over.  If they have used their own mind, they have only used their own intellect.  The mind has always remained unconquered with its own intellect and duality.  Gurmat Naam, simran, gurbani can only conquer the mind.


ਬਸੰਤੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥

Basant, Ninth Mehl:

ਪਾਪੀ ਹੀਐ ਮੈ ਕਾਮੁ ਬਸਾਇ ॥

The heart of the sinner is filled with unfulfilled sexual desire.

ਮਨੁ ਚੰਚਲੁ ਯਾ ਤੇ ਗਹਿਓ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

He cannot control his fickle mind. ||1||Pause||

ਜੋਗੀ ਜੰਗਮ ਅਰੁ ਸੰਨਿਆਸ ॥

The Yogis, wandering ascetics and renunciates –

ਸਭ ਹੀ ਪਰਿ ਡਾਰੀ ਇਹ ਫਾਸ ॥੧॥

this net is cast over them all. ||1||

ਜਿਹਿ ਜਿਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰਿ ॥

Those who contemplate the Name of the Lord

ਤੇ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਰਿ ॥੨॥

 cross over the terrifying world-ocean. ||2||

ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਸਰਨਾਇ ॥

Servant Nanak seeks the Sanctuary of the Lord.

ਦੀਜੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਰਹੈ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਇ ॥੩॥੨॥

Please bestow the blessing of Your Name, that he may continue to sing Your Glorious Praises. ||3||2||

            Anyone who contemplates the Naam, who sings the Naam, only he is successful.  This play is dear to Vaheguroo.


ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਜੀਤਹੁ ਐਸੀ ਖੇਲ ਹਰਿ ਪਿਆਰੀ ॥੨॥

Conquer sexual desire, anger, greed and worldly attachment; only such a game as this is dear to the Lord. ||2||


Everyday, we need to wake up and fight a battle with the mind.


ਕਾਮ ਕਰੋਧੁ ਨਗਰ ਮਹਿ ਸਬਲਾ ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਉਠਿ ਜੂਝੁ ਕਰੀਜੈ ॥

 Sexual desire and anger are very powerful in the body-village; I rise up to fight the battle against them.

            Some say, if we have read gurbani once, if we have understood the meanings, what is the need to do it again? What is the need of reciting the Naam like a parrot, again and again?  What benefit can we get with simran and keertan?  We just need to understand it once.  Oh my dear people, this mind is betraying you.  Don’t we breathe again and again?  Don’t we eat again and again?



ਹਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਭੋਜਨੁ ਨਿਤ ਭੁੰਚਹੁ ਸਰਬ ਵੇਲਾ ਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਵਹੁ ॥

So eat the Ambrosial Name of the Lord as your food; put it into your mouth at all times.

ਜਰਾ ਮਰਾ ਤਾਪੁ ਸਭੁ ਨਾਠਾ ਗੁਣ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਨਿਤ ਗਾਵਹੁ ॥੩॥

The pains of old age and death shall all depart, when you constantly sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe. ||3||

            These five vikkars don’t want you to;


ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਗਾਵਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ॥

Rise early, and sing the Glorious Word of God’s Bani.

ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ॥੨॥

Twenty-four hours a day, meditate in remembrance on the Lord, O mortal. ||2||

            The mind doesn’t want to be conquered.  It’s always bickering with us.  If we think, after reading gurbani, didn’t we watch TV?  Haven’t our five senses experienced, heard, or spoken the filth?  Whenever we go to the market, don’t we bring a filthy mind home with us?  If the mind is getting filthy every day, we need to wash it every day.  Yes, when the day will come, when we have attained the focus, when the mind is always connected with Vaheguroo, our concentration will not go anywhere else, we will always be attuned with Vaheguroo.


ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਮੁਰਗਾਈ ਨੈ ਸਾਣੇ ॥

The lotus flower floats untouched upon the surface of the water, and the duck swims through the stream;

ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੇ ॥

with one’s consciousness focused on the Word of the Shabad, one crosses over the terrifying world-ocean. O Nanak, chant the Naam, the Name of the Lord.

            In this state of mind, there is little effect of Maya. Actually, in this state, the mind wants to be continuously (athey peher) attuned in the celestial sound of Vaheguroo.  If we don’t have this state, then will always find excuses to be under the influence of  Maya.

Some people always want to use their own concepts of mind, they feel that whatever concept they have is correct.  They use the concepts of their own mind to understand Gurbani.  In reality, they should use the concepts of Gurbani to check the direction of their mind.




ਮਨਹਠ ਬੁਧੀ ਕੇਤੀਆ ਕੇਤੇ ਬੇਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥

There are so many stubborn-minded intelligent people, and so many who contemplate the Vedas.

ਕੇਤੇ ਬੰਧਨ ਜੀਅ ਕੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰ ॥

There are so many entanglements for the soul. Only as Gurmukh do we find the Gate of Liberation.

ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥੫॥

Truth is higher than everything; but higher still is truthful living. ||5||

            Guru Sahib states;


ਸਹਸ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਤ ਇਕ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥

Hundreds of thousands of clever tricks, but not even one of them will go along with you in the end.



ਰੇ ਜਨ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਧਉ ਸਿਉ ਲਾਈਐ ॥

O humble people, link your mind to the Lord.

ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਨ ਚਤੁਰਭੁਜੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Through cleverness, the four-armed Lord is not obtained. ||Pause||


ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਕਿਤੈ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਈਐ ॥

Cunning and cleverness are of no use.

ਤੁਠਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਜੋ ਦੇਵੈ ਸੋਈ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੩॥

That which the Lord Master gives, by the Pleasure of His Will – that is pleasing to me. ||3||

ਜੇ ਲਖ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਈਅਹਿ ਕਿਛੁ ਪਵੈ ਨ ਬੰਧਾ ॥

One may perform tens of thousands of actions, but attachment to things is not satisfied.

ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੀਤਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਰ ਹੋਰੁ ਛੋਡਿਆ ਧੰਧਾ ॥੪॥੧॥੧੦੩॥

Servant Nanak has made the Naam his Support. He has renounced other entanglements. ||4||1||103||

            This cleverness and cunning nature is of the mind.  If one becomes cunning and clever, it’s difficult for him to leave manmat and attain gurmat.  It’a easy to bring an innocent person to gurmat.  Guru Sahib states;

ਪਾਇਓ ਬਾਲ ਬੁਧਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੇ ॥

Adopting the innocent mind of a child, I have found peace.


ਧੰਨੈ ਸੇਵਿਆ ਬਾਲ ਬੁਧਿ ॥

Dhanna served the Lord, with the innocence of a child.

ਤ੍ਰਿਲੋਚਨ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਭਈ ਸਿਧਿ ॥

Meeting with the Guru, Trilochan attained the perfection of the Siddhas.

            Childlike innocence is very important.  If we want to sculpt our minds, win our minds, then we need to practice gurshabad, simran, keertan, and praises.  There is no other way.


ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਗਤਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਘਰੈ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਇ ॥

Through the Word of the Guru’s Shabad, the mind is conquered, and one attains the State of Liberation in one’s own home.

            It’s not easy to win over the mind, we need to surrender to Guru Sahib, and we  need to beg and request again and again.  We need to cut out our ego and self respect, and beg in front of Vaheguroo.


ਗਉੜੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥

Gauree, Fifth Mehl:

ਰਾਖੁ ਪਿਤਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮੇਰੇ ॥

Save me, O My Father God.

ਮੋਹਿ ਨਿਰਗੁਨੁ ਸਭ ਗੁਨ ਤੇਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

I am worthless and without virtue; all virtues are Yours. ||1||Pause||

ਪੰਚ ਬਿਖਾਦੀ ਏਕੁ ਗਰੀਬਾ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਰਾਖਨਹਾਰੇ ॥

The five vicious thieves are assaulting my poor being; save me, O Savior Lord!

ਖੇਦੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਅਰੁ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਸੰਤਾਵਹਿ ਆਇਓ ਸਰਨਿ ਤੁਹਾਰੇ ॥੧॥

They are tormenting and torturing me. I have come, seeking Your Sanctuary. ||1||

ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਹਾਰਿਓ ਅਨਿਕ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਤੀ ਛੋਡਹਿ ਕਤਹੂੰ ਨਾਹੀ ॥

Trying all sorts of things, I have grown weary, but still, they will not leave me alone.

ਏਕ ਬਾਤ ਸੁਨਿ ਤਾਕੀ ਓਟਾ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਮਿਟਿ ਜਾਹੀ ॥੨॥

But I have heard that they can be rooted out, in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy; and so I seek their Shelter. ||2||

ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਸੰਤ ਮਿਲੇ ਮੋਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਤੇ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥

In their Mercy, the Saints have met me, and from them, I have obtained satisfaction.

ਸੰਤੀ ਮੰਤੁ ਦੀਓ ਮੋਹਿ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥੩॥

The Saints have given me the Mantra of the Fearless Lord, and now I practice the Word of the Guru’s Shabad. ||3||

ਜੀਤਿ ਲਏ ਓਇ ਮਹਾ ਬਿਖਾਦੀ ਸਹਜ ਸੁਹੇਲੀ ਬਾਣੀ ॥

 I have now conquered those terrible evil-doers, and my speech is now sweet and sublime.

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨਿ ਭਇਆ ਪਰਗਾਸਾ ਪਾਇਆ ਪਦੁ ਨਿਰਬਾਣੀ ॥੪॥੪॥੧੨੫॥

Says Nanak, the Divine Light has dawned within my mind; I have obtained the state of Nirvaanaa. ||4||4||125||

Guru Sahib states in Gurbani;


ਸਲੋਕੁ ॥


ਫਾਹੇ ਕਾਟੇ ਮਿਟੇ ਗਵਨ ਫਤਿਹ ਭਈ ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤ ॥

The noose of Death is cut, and one’s wanderings cease; victory is obtained, when one conquers his own mind.

ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਥਿਤ ਪਾਈ ਫਿਰਨ ਮਿਟੇ ਨਿਤ ਨੀਤ ॥੧॥

O Nanak, eternal stability is obtained from the Guru, and one’s day-to-day wanderings cease. ||1||

            We need to concentrate on one more thing.  Where Guru Sahib talks about winning the mind, he also talks about winning the soul.  In Gurbani it comes;



ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਉ ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਆਤਮੁ ਜੀਤਾ ॥

Those who remember God conquer their souls.

ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਉ ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਰੀਤਾ ॥

Those who remember God have a pure and spotless lifestyle.


ਸਲੋਕੁ ॥


ਆਤਮੁ ਜੀਤਾ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਏ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ॥

 The soul is conquered, through the Guru’s Teachings, singing the Glories of God.

ਸੰਤ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦੀ ਭੈ ਮਿਟੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨਸੀ ਚਿੰਦ ॥੧੫॥

By the Grace of the Saints, fear is dispelled, O Nanak, and anxiety is ended. ||15||




            It feels like winning the mind or winning the soul is the same thing.  Yes, but we have to win one or the other.


ਸਾਧਸੰਗੇ ਨਾਮ ਰੰਗੇ ਰਣੁ ਜੀਤਿ ਵਡਾ ਅਖਾੜਾ ॥

In the Saadh Sangat, imbued with the Naam, the Name of the Lord, I am victorious on the great battlefield of life.

ਬਿਨਵੰਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਰਣਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਜਮਿ ਨ ਉਪਾੜਾ ॥੪॥੩॥੧੨॥

Prays Nanak, I have entered the Sanctuary of the Lord and Master; the Messenger of Death shall not destroy me again. ||4||3||12||


To win, we need the sangat of Gursikhs imbued in gurmat Naam. This is the reason we will have to work seriously towards regular sangat of Gursikhs imbued in Naam.  Guru Sahib assures us;


ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਸਰਣਾਈ ਛੁਟੀਐ ਜੋ ਮਨ ਸਿਉ ਜੂਝੈ ॥

He alone is emancipated in the Sanctuary of the Lord, who struggles with his own mind.

ਮਨਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਪੁ ਕਰੇ ਹਰਿ ਦਰਗਹ ਸੀਝੈ ॥੧੧॥

One who contemplates and meditates on the Lord in his mind, succeeds in the Court of the Lord. ||11||


ਤਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਲਾਇ ਚਾਬਕੁ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੀਤਿਆ ॥

Applying the whip of the Lord’s Love to his body, the Gurmukh conquers his mind, and wins the battle of life.

ਅਘੜੋ ਘੜਾਵੈ ਸਬਦੁ ਪਾਵੈ ਅਪਿਉ ਹਰਿ ਰਸੁ ਪੀਤਿਆ ॥

He trains his untrained mind with the Word of the Shabad, and drinks in the rejuvenating essence of the Lord’s Nectar.


            Even in the light of Gurubani, Guru’s knowledge, manmukhs don’t agree.  Guru Sahib states;

ਮਃ ੩ ॥

Third Mehl:

ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਲੋਕੁ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ਕਦਹੁ ਸਮਝਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥

The self-willed manmukhs may be taught, but how can they really be taught?

ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਰਲਾਇਆ ਨਾ ਰਲੈ ਪਇਐ ਕਿਰਤਿ ਫਿਰਾਇ ॥

The manmukhs do not fit in at all. Because of their past actions, they are condemned to the cycle of reincarnation.

ਲਿਵ ਧਾਤੁ ਦੁਇ ਰਾਹ ਹੈ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਇ ॥

Loving attention to the Lord and attachment to Maya are the two separate ways; all act according to the Hukam of the Lord’s Command.

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਸਬਦਿ ਕਸਵਟੀ ਲਾਇ ॥

The Gurmukh has conquered his own mind, by applying the Touchstone of the Shabad.

ਮਨ ਹੀ ਨਾਲਿ ਝਗੜਾ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਨਾਲਿ ਸਥ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਮੰਝਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥

He fights with his mind, he settles with his mind, and he is at peace with his mind.

ਮਨੁ ਜੋ ਇਛੇ ਸੋ ਲਹੈ ਸਚੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਭਾਇ ॥

All obtain the desires of their minds, through the Love of the True Word of the Shabad.

ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਦ ਭੁੰਚੀਐ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਇ ॥

They drink in the Ambrosial Nectar of the Naam forever; this is how the Gurmukhs act.

ਵਿਣੁ ਮਨੈ ਜਿ ਹੋਰੀ ਨਾਲਿ ਲੁਝਣਾ ਜਾਸੀ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥

Those who struggle with something other than their own mind, shall depart having wasted their lives.

ਮਨਮੁਖੀ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਹਾਰਿਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਕੁਸਤੁ ਕਮਾਇ ॥

The self-willed manmukhs, through stubborn-mindedness and the practice of falsehood, lose the game of life.

ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣੈ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਤੀ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥

Those who conquer their own mind, by Guru’s Grace, lovingly focus their attention on the Lord.

ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥੨॥

O Nanak, the Gurmukhs practice Truth, while the self-willed manmukhs continue coming and going in reincarnation. ||2||

            Guru Sahib states;


ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰੇ ਧਾਤੁ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥

When someone kills and subdues his own mind, his wandering nature is also subdued.

ਬਿਨੁ ਮੂਏ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇ ॥

Without such a death, how can one find the Lord?

ਮਨੁ ਮਰੈ ਦਾਰੂ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਇ ॥

Only a few know the medicine to kill the mind.

ਮਨੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਜਨੁ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥

 One whose mind dies in the Word of the Shabad, understands Him. ||1||


When we win the mind, then the gurmukh says;


ਹਉ ਗੋਸਾਈ ਦਾ ਪਹਿਲਵਾਨੜਾ ॥

I am a wrestler; I belong to the Lord of the World.

ਮੈ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਉਚ ਦੁਮਾਲੜਾ ॥

I met with the Guru, and I have tied a tall, plumed turban.

ਸਭ ਹੋਈ ਛਿੰਝ ਇਕਠੀਆ ਦਯੁ ਬੈਠਾ ਵੇਖੈ ਆਪਿ ਜੀਉ ॥੧੭॥

 All have gathered to watch the wrestling match, and the Merciful Lord Himself is seated to behold it. ||17||

ਵਾਤ ਵਜਨਿ ਟੰਮਕ ਭੇਰੀਆ ॥

The bugles play and the drums beat.

ਮਲ ਲਥੇ ਲੈਦੇ ਫੇਰੀਆ ॥

The wrestlers enter the arena and circle around.

ਨਿਹਤੇ ਪੰਜਿ ਜੁਆਨ ਮੈ ਗੁਰ ਥਾਪੀ ਦਿਤੀ ਕੰਡਿ ਜੀਉ ॥੧੮॥

I have thrown the five challengers to the ground, and the Guru has patted me on the back. ||18||

ਸਭ ਇਕਠੇ ਹੋਇ ਆਇਆ ॥

All have gathered together,

ਘਰਿ ਜਾਸਨਿ ਵਾਟ ਵਟਾਇਆ ॥

but we shall return home by different routes.

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਹਾ ਲੈ ਗਏ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਚਲੇ ਮੂਲੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੧੯॥

 The Gurmukhs reap their profits and leave, while the self-willed manmukhs lose their investment and depart. ||19||

ਤੂੰ ਵਰਨਾ ਚਿਹਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਾ ॥

You are without color or mark.

ਹਰਿ ਦਿਸਹਿ ਹਾਜਰੁ ਜਾਹਰਾ ॥

The Lord is seen to be manifest and present.

ਸੁਣਿ ਸੁਣਿ ਤੁਝੈ ਧਿਆਇਦੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਭਗਤ ਰਤੇ ਗੁਣਤਾਸੁ ਜੀਉ ॥੨੦॥

 Hearing of Your Glories again and again, Your devotees meditate on You; they are attuned to You, O Lord, Treasure of Excellence. ||20||

ਮੈ ਜੁਗਿ ਜੁਗਿ ਦਯੈ ਸੇਵੜੀ ॥

Through age after age, I am the servant of the Merciful Lord.

ਗੁਰਿ ਕਟੀ ਮਿਹਡੀ ਜੇਵੜੀ ॥

The Guru has cut away my bonds.

ਹਉ ਬਾਹੁੜਿ ਛਿੰਝ ਨ ਨਚਊ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਉਸਰੁ ਲਧਾ ਭਾਲਿ ਜੀਉ ॥੨੧॥੨॥੨੯॥

 I shall not have to dance in the wrestling arena of life again. Nanak has searched, and found this opportunity. ||21||2||29||

            To see Vaheguroo, to hear Vaheguroo, is not the subject of the five senses.  If we ask someone to smell with the eyes, to see with the tongue, to speak with the ears, is this possible? Every sense has it’s own function.  Whatever is the subject of of the sense, that is the work it will do.  These all have limited abilities.  The eyes cannot see the impulse of the mobile phone, the ears cannot hear the sound of the information crossing the internet.  The tenth gate (dasam duar) is not the subject of the five senses.  This is a subject of the inner being (soul).  And for this;


ਆਤਮੇ ਨੋ ਆਤਮੇ ਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਤੀਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਤਾ ਘਰ ਹੀ ਪਰਚਾ ਪਾਇ ॥

 If the individual soul has faith in the Supreme Soul, then it shall obtain realization within its own home.

            This is not the subject of the intellect.


 ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥

conquer your own mind, and conquer the world.

About the Author


Jarnail Singh, Journalist (Writer) was born in Delhi in 1973. After a master’s degree in Political Science from PGDAV college, he completed a diploma in journalism from the YMCA in 1994. He worked for 15 years in National Media and covered Parliament, Defense, National Human Rights commission, various ministries and political parties. He has written extensivel on the the Sikh massacre of 1984 and its aftermath as a Journalist. Wrote a book “I accuse – Anti Sikh violence of 1984″ published by penguin. Sikh Katleaam da sach (Punjabi Version), Kab Kategi chorasi (Hindi).
Jarnail Singh is trying to create awareness on massacre of 1984 and its impacts. In last 4 yrs. he has made more than 300 speeches all over the world on massacre of 1984 and Issues related to Sikhism- Identity, principles and challenges. Actively participated to find a solution for Turban issue in Europea Sikh summit at Paris in 2011. He was special invitee for 2nd and 3rd Global Sikh Conferences, organized by United Sikhs. Working to spread Sikhi in Madhya Pardesh with help of other Sikhs. Helping Victims, Witnesses of 1984. Represented Sikhs point of view in Media many times.


 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Apr 072014


Following the clarion call of Universal Brotherhood of Mankind raised by Guru Nanak, the Nishaan was born out of the deep sense of faith of like-minded persons. This illustrated journal of the Sikhs, now in its fifteenth year, celebrates the philosophy, people, places and events that have shaped the history of the Sikhs and which continues to guide their destiny.

Amongst esteemed writers are world-respected Sikh scholars including Dr Darshan Singh Maini, Bhayee Sikandar Singh, Dr Jaswant Singh Neki, Dr IJ Singh and Bhagwant Singh Dalawari, with continuous theme in rejoicing the glorious teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.

The holy scripture is indeed our perpetual Guru and we are required to show extreme reverence, utmost humility and respectful presence, everyday, all the time. What has diverted our attitudes, is the fact that our Guru is neither the holy Book nor its external regalia which, of course, give the scripture exalted royalty but our real Guru is the Shabad, the Word, the message command as set out in various hymns of Guru Granth Sahib.

Video of Presentation

S. Pushpindar Singh was unable to attend the conference and deliver the paper in person

Body of Paper


Guru is the Shabad, the Word

The clarion call of the Universal Brotherhood of Mankind raised by Guru Nanak is verily the quintessence of the vedantic, biblical, koranic and bhakti (sufi) traditions. The successive alchemy of sacrifice for social equality and generation of self-confidence to oppose tyranny over the next two centuries made the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh transform an oppressed people into fearless saint-warriors on the Baisakhi of 1699.

Three hundred years after that epochal moment, in 1999, evolved the Nishaan which was, backed the deep sense of faith of like-minded persons, committed to preserve, project and propagate the uniqueness and glories of the Khalsa Panth. The need had long been felt for a rallying medium for the Sikh community, in all its diaspora, to give it appropriate forum in the global arena. An intelligently planned and well-produced illustrated Journal was conceived to be an effective means of reaching out to the community and others the world over, to be an instrument of inspiration and a standard to exclaim the aspirations and achievements of the Sikhs.

Aim of the Nishaan quarterly illustrated journal of the Sikhs is to continually focus on aspects of the community’s success, perpetuate traditions and thus reinforce the faith. The journal particularly seeks to inspire those who are wavering in their confidence of belonging to this unique order as also to project aspirations of the community in the new millennium. Essentially, the Nishaan is about the philosophy, people, places and events that have shaped the history of the Sikhs and which will continue to guide their destiny.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Nishaan has been blessed by the guidance of its founding editors, including Dr Darshan Singh Maini, Bhayee Sikander Singh, Dr Jaswant Singh Neki, Dr IJ Singh and Bhagwant Singh Dalawari, the continuous theme being to rejoice in the glorious teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. I am therefore presenting some of their collective wisdom in this paper.

Prof Darshan Singh Maini, in his very first essay for Nishaan, ‘The Moment of the Khalsa: Vision, Values and World view’ elucidated on the veracity and potency of the ‘moment’ when Sikhism was born. “In the case of Sikhism, we may identify two primal or significant moments — the first when Guru Nanak broke away from the moribund, sacerdotal Hinduism of his day to found a new creed of vision and work, and the second when the wheel of faith came full circle with the formal baptism of the Khalsa by the Last Master”.

“That moment, then, was the moment of making, of a moment that brought to a heroic conclusion the vast, untapped energies of a people given to a life of labour and endeavour. In other words, all the disparate elements, sects, splinter groups within the Sikh fold were unified into a Commonwealth of the Khalsa”.

“At one stroke, all distinctions of caste, birth, colour and degree were abolished. A sword had flashed in the sun, and a community emerged, which was invested with a large humanist dream, given a definitive mandate, and set on the high road of evolution. The subsequent events that shaped the community’s Collective Consciousness only authenticated the primal vision, which, coming from Guru Nanak, gathered energies and fresh dimensions through the successive Gurus, a vision consummated when the Tenth Master closed the chapter of human succession, and made the Adi Granth, compiled earlier by Guru Arjan Dev, the sole authority in matters of doctrines, values, right conduct. The Sikh holy scripture has no parallel in the world so far as its Catholicity and supremacy of song are concerned. It carries not only the bani of the Gurus, but also the compositions of saints and divines owing allegiance to different creeds, languages and cultures. Guru Gobind Singh pronounced the Granth as the Sikhs’ guide, mentor and Guru”.

The Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh ended the line of living Sikh Gurus by raising the Adi Granth to the status of a permanent Guru. Guru Gobind Singh transmitted Guru Nanak’s divine light into the divine Word and declared that after him, the next Guru would be Guru Granth Sahib. He commanded the Sikhs that it was to be revered as the body and spirit of the ten Gurus :

Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth.
Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth.
Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh.
Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le.
Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe,
Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe.

Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created.
All Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru.
Consider the Guru Granth as an embodiment of the Gurus.
Those who want to meet God, can find Him in its hymns.
The pure shall rule, and the impure will be no more,
Those separated will unite and all the devotees of the Guru shall be saved.   (Ardas)

As the Guruship was passed on, Guru Granth Sahib became the embodiment of Divine Light. It should, therefore, be remembered very clearly that bowing before Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhs, is not bowing before a book, but is a bowing before the Divine Light or Jot (Guru) which was passed on when the Guruship was conferred upon it. Respect and veneration for Guru Granth does not imply idol worship, but rather respect for a divine message, the ideas and ideals contained in the Sikh scripture. It is the source or a means to the worship of God through His Word, and not an object of worship in itself. Both the Gurus and the Book are accorded the respect because of the bani which they express, the word of divine truth. Bhai Gurdas ji states that “the picture of the Guru is the gurbani” (Bhai Gurdas, Var 24, pauri 11).

Expounding further on the essence of Guru Granth Sahib as the ‘institution of succession of Sikh faith and philosophy’ and the ‘extinction of personality’, Guru Nanak’s successors propagated submission to the imperatives of the inner self. They affirmed not only the spirit of humility and gratitude, but also the power of the word to become the word, of the message to become the mandate of the vision to become the incarnate. It was an illumination (jyoti) that proved in action the grand link of God, pontiff and believer, a spiritual bond of Father, messenger and man. It was a divine wheel come full circle!


It is important at this stage to aver that the scriptural finality was not to be taken as the truth embalmed in letter only. The word became a divine message, and the vision flesh when there was a complete harmony between the letter and the spirit. Thus, at the very outset, Sikhism was so primed as to frown upon lifeless rigidities and orthodoxies. In fact, a certain kind of mental resilience, or hospitality to other thoughts was built in the very fabric of the bani. A mere worship of the letter produced in the end one-dimensional, closed communities, whereas Sikhism embraced new thoughts without jettisoning its heritage of insights and values. That is why, in a very special sense, Sikhism remains modern in its outlook. The essentially egalitarian world-view of the Gurus, and the essentially democratic character of all Sikh institutions and bodies set it apart from militant or monolithic religious communities.

Pertinent to note is the fact that the quantum of literature created by the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, both social and spiritual, is almost as expansive as the Guru Granth Sahib. The variety of subjects he chooses is fantastic, from the absolutes of Jaap Sahib and Akal Ustat, to myths of the paths (duly demolished) in Avtaars and sociologically controversial Charitras. His canvas is that of life, as vast and massive as is the universe. There is no subject which he does not address with clinical objectivity.

Above all, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a remarkable storehouse of spiritual knowledge and teachings which does not preach any rites or rituals but stresses meditation on the Name of God; salvation can be obtained by means of regular, persistent and disciplined meditation. Most of the hymns are addressed to God and often describe the devotee’s condition: his aspirations and yearning, his agony in separation and his longing to be with the Lord. There are no mythological narratives, although God is described in anthropomorphic terms and the Gurus are not afraid to use the imagery of family relationships to describe the union of God and man.

The subject of Guru Granth Sahib is truth: how to become a ‘person of truth’, that is, an ideal person or gurmukh. As Guru Nanak states in the Mool Mantar, God is the Ultimate Truth and one has to cultivate those qualities which are associated with Him. Through its teachings, the Granth enables humans to lead a purposeful and rewarding life while being members of a society. It seeks universal peace and the good of all mankind. There is not a word in the Guru Granth Sahib that might be derogatory to any other belief or religion. The Guru Granth Sahib also stresses the democratic way of life and equality of all people. It teaches that we are karam yogis, that is we reap what we sow.  The emphasis is on moral actions, noble living and working for the welfare of all people.

One of the obviously most distinctive features of the Guru Granth Sahib is that it is the first religious book which contains myriad writings of those belonging to different communities, castes, and diverse regions and faiths across the length and breadth of the country. It incorporates and sanctifies the writings of holy men of different faith. Therefore, the language of the Granth is a mixture of several languages of India, yet it is written exclusively in Gurmukhi script. Guru Arjan Dev ji, unlike many other religious leaders, did not believe that there is one particular sacred language in the sense that man can pray to God only in that language.

The Granth Sahib contains 937 hymns of 36 Hindu saints, Muslim sufis and bards. The hymns of these holy men cover a period of six centuries (from the 12th to the 17th century). In all gurdwaras and many Sikh homes, the Granth is read every day. No Sikh ceremony is regarded as complete unless it is performed in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. On a daily basis, Sikhs receive a hukam or divine order in the form of a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib, either in a Gurdwara or at home. The hukam is the first hymn of the holy book from the left hand page when it is opened at random. Similarly, at the end of a service, after the ardas, the Adi Granth is opened at will and a portion read. Many Sikhs do this daily, regarding the verses as words from God which they will find helpful during the day. This is called vak lao, taking advice.

On special occasions, the Granth Sahib is recited non-stop from cover to cover by a string of readers. This continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is known as an akhand path. It is regarded as the highest and the noblest ceremony in the Sikh religion, and can be performed on any important occasion; it requires nearly 48 hours for completion.

I now quote from a piece ‘Celebrating the Tri-Centennial: Guru Granth Sahib (1708-2008) – my roadmap to self-realisation’ penned by Bhagwant Singh Dalawari for the Nishaan in 2008. He states, “Ever since I was graced to understand the magnificent teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, I have often wondered whether we have really imbibed them or even tried to imbibe them. My belief is that Guru Gobind Singh’s injunction for our perpetual allegiance to our perpetual Guru, Guru Granth Sahib. The holy scripture is indeed our perpetual Guru and we are required to show extreme reverence, utmost humility and respectful presence. What has diverted our attitudes is the fact that our Guru is neither the holy Book nor its external regalia which, of course, give the scripture exalted royalty but our real Guru is the Shabad, the Word, the message command as set out in various hymns of Guru Granth Sahib. Because of this hiatus between our external devotion and internal alienation, we have failed to reach the heights of gurmukh as envisaged and remain embedded into Karam-Kandi bhakti which Guru specifically eliminated by drawing us to the all-pervading naam and stating `Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela”.

“Guru Granth Sahib is not just the clearest and effective guide for the Sikhs but for all mankind. In fact every word that I ponder over, every hymn that I sing, every concept that I learn from our Guru represents the authenticity of Guru’s love and grace. Let me share with Nishaan readers five distinct messages that reach my heart:

Not only is every word true and every command everlasting but devotees can experience the truth in their own lives.

The Guru governs all aspects of man’s life, both spiritual and temporal and the follower of Guru’s commands can never go wrong. Indeed, the devotee is required to live spiritually even when engaged in the mundane affairs of life.

Humility and self annihilation is the core point. The easiest way to enter the ashram of the Guru’s feet is to become a non-entity, in Guru’s words: jeevatian mar rahiye.

The devotee is required to have full faith in the Guru’s Word, the efficacy of Guru’s protection and Guru’s power of guiding force.”

“And, if a devotee responds to the guidance of the Guru, there is a clear roadmap for him and her to reach the loving embrace of the Creator. When I listen to amrit vela kirtan from Harmandir Sahib every morning and concentrate on the messages being disseminated, I am always enthralled and feel that when Guru’s guidance is so simple and clear, why do we get into cumbersome discussions, useless debates, unproductive commentaries on the externals ?”

Worship Satguru as God Himself and serve him day in and day out. Recognise your Satguru by looking at him with your own eyes. When you recite the name of the Lord according to the Guru’s commands, you can get whatever you wish. Remember, you can think of so many possibilities but what will happen is what is destined to happen. Everyone wishes well for himself, but the Lord does what has never crossed our minds. Concentrate on the Lord’s name 24 hours and live in accordance with Guru’s commands. My Lord, my thoughts or wisdom is under your control; we are mere instruments on which you play. My Lord, you are the do’er of everything and I speak what you dictate me to speak. (‘Harjan Dekhau Satgur Naini’ of Guru Ramdas on p. 800 of Guru Granth Sahib).

The cardinal principles of our philosophy, that is the Sikh philosophy, are the complete universality of spirituality, complete equality of man and love of all mankind. I call any shabad of Guru Granth Sahib a roadmap to embrace of the Lord and will be clear from the analysis of Guru Ram Dass’s above shabad:

“Worship of God or devotion to Lord is available to everyone. The Guru is an extraordinary divine messenger and it is not given to us to question his command. Guru Granth as the Lord’s word. We are fortunate in having the Shabad Guru in Guru Granth Sahib which eliminates the slavery of a devotee to a self-proclaimed Baba of a Dera. The seva, day and night, of Guru Granth Sahib means the remembrance of the Lord in every breath and living the message in day-to-day life.”

“What a wonderful concept, looking at the Guru, with our own eyes! Unfortunately, we have been thinking that the darshan of Guru Granth Sahib as a Holy Scripture conveys this meaning. No, what the Guru intends to tell us that within our hearts we should have the innermost understanding of the Word by remembering Him in accordance with Guru’s commands.”

The Guru assures us that we will have whatever we wish. The wonder of our shabad Guru is that on the one hand, he makes it clear that we cannot see the Lord with our worldly eyes because he has no form (roop no rekha na ran kichch), on the other he calls upon us to look at him. In my view, it would mean attachment to Guru’s Word in word and deed, which will result in Guru’s darshan within. Savour this: Gurka shabad lago man meetha, parbrahman ta te mohe deetha — when you begin to relish the sweetness of Gurshabad, you can have feeling of having seen the Lord.


About the Author

Pushpindar psc


S Pushpindar Singh is Executive Editor of the Nishaan, ‘Illustrated Journal of the Sikhs’ published from New Delhi, launched in 1999.

Coming from a Gursikh family of Amritsar-Lahore, he grew up in a Services environment, studied at The Doon School at Dehra Dun and later the Punjab University, Chandigarh. He joined the Engineering Division of a multi-national company in Bombay, later becoming Chief Executive of a leading German aerospace company in 1978 which he headed for 24 years.

He is now engaged in historical research has published several books. Aerospace may be his profession, but Sikhism is his passion, exemplified by his devotion to the Nishaan magazine and regular participation in seminars and conferences organised by the Nagaara Trust.

In July 2014 he was invited to be part of the Centre for Guru Granth Sahib Studies at Rakabganj Sahib in New Delhi, chaired by the venerable Dr Jaswant Singh Neki, a most notable Sikh personality and well known to the community in San Jose.

 Posted by at 12:23 pm
Apr 072014


Sikh means student and Guru means teacher, yet in common stereotypes about Sikhs, education is never mentioned in a positive way.
Guru Nanak the founder of Sikh religion was the greatest teacher ever born. The mass education he started brought about a profound social, religious and political revolution in its wake.
How did our Gurus do it? Besides the divine grace, we examine the education delivery means employed by them to spread their message. These methods include role of teachers, poetry, music, repetition, letters, learning in a class, learning by questioning, use of native language, graphics and many others. We will find that modern education technology is learning about the role of many of these only now and we can improve our secular education system by borrowing from the methods used by the Gurus.

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Sikh means student and Guru means teacher, yet in common stereotypes about Sikhs, education is rarely mentioned in a positive way. Guru Nanak the founder of Sikh religion is one of the greatest teachers ever born. The mass education he started and carried out by the nine Gurus who followed him, brought about a profound social, religious and political revolution in its wake.

How did our Gurus do it? Besides the divine grace, we examine the education delivery means employed by them to spread their message. These methods include use of native language, poetry, music, repetition, use of letters, role of teachers, learning in a class, learning by questioning, graphics and many others. We will find that modern education technology is learning about the role of many of these only now and we can improve our secular education system by borrowing from the methods used by the Gurus.

Guru Nanak was indeed one such visionary and a teacher. He was inspired by Waheguru Himself. The divine vision and education process that Guru Nanak provided, transformed a society that was in spiritual and moral darkness. He questioned faith in multiple Gods, the caste system, empty rituals, dominance of the clergy, gender inequality and the bigotry of the rulers. He provided a simple path based on faith in one God, equality of all, compassion, contentment, high moral conduct and truthful living. He and the nine Gurus who followed him, produced a society that was enlightened, one that worshipped one loving God and was committed to truthful living, liberty, justice, dignity and equality for all.

A religious, social and political transformation at such a scale was unprecedented. How did Sikh Gurus do it? In this paper we will examine some of the methods of education delivery that Sikh Gurus employed. We may be surprised to find that the modern society has discovered many of the same methods after years of research, trial and error and there are many others with which we still need to catch up.

To better define the scope of this paper, we consider that the field of education has three main components; (a) Knowledge to be delivered (b) Methods used to deliver the knowledge and (c) Methods used to measure the success of this process. In this paper we will concern ourselves mainly with (b) the methods used to deliver the knowledge.

The education delivery used by the Sikh Guru Sahibs has following significant components. Many of these are enshrined in Gurbani

  1. Use of Mother Tongue
  2. Poetry, Rhymes, Singing and Music
  3. Listening and Practicing
  4. Repetitions
  5. Graphical Presentation
  6. Use of Letters
  7. Quantification
  8. Role of Teacher/Mentor Group
  9. Role of Class (Sangat)
  10. Learning by Questioning
  11. Role of Practice
  12. Getting rid of social biases against learning

We will now consider significance of each of these elements and see how our Guru Jis implemented these through Gurbani and real life teachings.

1. Role of Mother Tongue: When Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to this world, religious teachings were imparted either in Sanskrit or Persian. This limited the spiritual learning to Brahmins and  Maulvis. Guru Ji, instead, adopted the language of the people to write Gurbani. Guru Angad Dev Ji perfected the Gurmukhi script so that common people could learn Gurbani and other religious  knowledge without the help of the priestly classes.

It is now well recognized that early education should be in mother tongue of the child. Waiting for a child to learn another language, before knowledge can be imparted, will severely delay the learning and hurt the development of brain in the formative years.

This issue has important implications for the Sikh children growing up in the western world. Unless a child has a bilingual upbringing (in both Punjabi and English), the early education about Sikhi should be given in English as that tends to be the primary language of the child. Gurmukhi and Punjabi should be taught along with as a second language. When child has acquired sufficient proficiency in Gurmukhi/ Punjabi, shift can be made to Punjabi.

It has to be realized that language is not just script and words, it includes with it the social and cultural context. Dr. IJ Singh has rightly argued for the need to produce an English translation of Guru Granth Sahib that reflects the culture and social context of the Sikhs in the diaspora.

In India, many parents are making a mistake by enrolling the children in English medium schools. While learning English is important in the modern world, without bilingual upbringing in the early years (0-5) we can hurt the intellectual development of child, by starting his education in a language other than mother tongue.

2. Use of Poetry, Rhymes and Singing: Our Gurus were blessed with the gift of writing poetry. Gurbani they wrote is a marvelous piece of literature in its own right. Poetry and rhymes make learning fun, evoke the emotions and make it is easy to absorb the central message.

Our Gurus prescribed Keertan as a major medium of worship. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Gurbani is organized in 31 Ragas. Poetry and rhymes help develop the so called associative memory and make it easy to remember the facts. Singing makes repetitions a much more pleasant experience and enables the message to be imbibed subliminally.

Poetry and singing can be an important part of secular education as well. I grew up in India. In our elementary school, we learned the multiplication tables by singing them. It made learning them fun and easy to remember. Recent renaissance of Punjabi music tells us that there is no dearth of poetic talent among Punjabis and Sikhs. Some of that needs to be channeled towards education. Imagine how much fun learning would be if the classes ended the often boring lecture with the students singing the facts taught in that lecture!

In the US there is a Science Song Writers association that promotes writing songs for learning science. For more details see

3. Listening and Practicing: Hearing is a physical phenomenon. Listening on the other hand is mindful hearing. Listening is very important in gaining the knowledge.

Gurbani lays a great emphasis on Listening and Practicing (ਸੁਣੀਐ ਅਤੇ ਮੰਨੀਐ). It is well known to educationists that listening improves the mental focus, while practicing builds the actual skills. Both of these are required for learning.

4. Repetition: In Sri Guru Granth Sahib, each message is repeated several times often in different contexts. Repetitions help in memorization and to deepen the understanding. This helps in imbibing the message in one’s life. Aristotle said “It is frequent repetition that produces natural tendency.”

Memorization and reflection on the repeated ideas has many positive implications for our brain development also. Memorization involves making neuron connections. When a message is repeated in different contexts, additional connections are formed reflecting those contexts. These additional connections help in recalling the message more easily.

5. Graphical Presentation: Modern graphical tools were not available at the time of Guru Sahibs. In many instances they used the language brilliantly to describe their thoughts graphically. There are  several examples from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Bani e.g.

ਗਗਨ ਮੈ ਥਾਲ ਰਵਿ ਚੰਦੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਬਨੇ ਤਾਰਿਕਾ ਮੰਡਲ ਜਨਕ ਮੋਤੀ ॥

ਧੂਪ ਮਲਆਨਲੋ ਪਵਣੁ ਚਵਰੋ ਕਰੇ ਸਗਲ ਬਨਰਾਇ ਫੁਲੰਤ ਜੋਤੀ ॥


ਸੋ ਦਰੁ ਕੇਹਾ ਸੋ ਘਰੁ ਕੇਹਾ ਜਿਤੁ ਬਹਿ ਸਰਬ ਸਮਾਲੇ ॥

ਵਾਜੇ ਨਾਦ ਅਨੇਕ ਅਸੰਖਾ, ਕੇਤੇ ਵਾਵਣਹਾਰੇ ॥ ਕੇਤੇ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀ ਸਿਉ ਕਹੀਅਨਿ ਕੇਤੇ ਗਾਵਣਹਾਰੇ ॥

A picture is worth thousand words.  Benefits of graphics or graphic language in communicating knowledge cannot be overemphasized. This benefit is well recognized by the modern educationists as well. It is because of this that the early childhood books are full of colorful pictures. Pictures from Hubble telescope of galaxies and stars have helped increase the understanding of the cosmos among the masses. Microscopic pictures of bacteria and other microorganism are helping to educate people about the health issues.

6. Quantification: Guru Sahibs were very aware of assigning even quantitative qualities to their subject of worship. Of course for Waheguru it was always, zero, infinite, priceless or indescribable e.g.

ਸਰਗੁਨ ਨਿਰਗੁਨ ਨਿੰਰਕਾਰ, ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਧੀ ਆਪਿ ॥


ਤੁਮਰੀ ਗਤਿ ਮਿਤਿ ਤੁਮ ਹੀ ਜਾਨੀ ॥


ਅਮੁਲ ਗੁਣ ਅਮੁਲ ਵਪਾਰ ॥

Quantification is an important aspect of education. Gurbani does not ignore it.

7. Use of Letters: Guru Sahibs have emphasized the importance of letters.

ਅਖਰੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਖਰੀ ਸਲਾਹੁ ॥  ਅਖਰੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਗੀਤ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਹ ॥

ਅਖਰੀ ਲਿਖਣੁ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਬਾਣੁ ॥  ਅਖਰਾਂ ਸਿਰਿ ਸੰਜੋਗੁ ਵਖਾਣਿ ॥

Cavemen used graphics to convey information. Humanity later evolved to use of letters. Letters form the basic elements of reading and writing.

Guru Sahiban have emphasized the importance of learning these in the 15th century, when most people were illiterate. There were no printing presses either.

Guru Sahiban were also well aware of the limitations of the letters. Letters (for that matter any media) simply do not capture the greatness and glory of the God almighty. It has to be sensed by the soul itself.

8. Need of a Teacher: Gurbani emphasizes the importance of a teacher for spiritual education.

ਗੁਰੂ ਪਉੜੀ, ਬੇੜੀ ਗੁਰੂ, ਗੁਰੁ ਤੁਲਹਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਉ ॥

The Guru is the Ladder, the Guru is the Boat, and the Guru is the Raft to take me to the Lord’s Name

ਕਾਲਰਿ ਬੀਜਸਿ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਐਸੀ ਨਿਗੁਰੇ ਕੀ ਨਿਸਾਨੀ ॥

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਘੋਰ ਅੰਧਾਰਾ ਡੂਬਿ ਮੂਏ ਬਿਨੁ ਪਾਣੀ ॥

Without proper knowledge/guidance, even the most well intentioned efforts can be worthless. In these Gurbani lines, Guru Ji illustrates this with example of a farmer who not having proper guidance is tilling and seeding a dry field.  Even after all the hard work he is going to be disappointed.

Teacher should be selected with care.

ਗੁਰੂ ਜਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਅੰਧਲਾ ਚੇਲੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਠਾਉ ॥

Having a proper teacher is obviously very important for secular education as well.

9. Importance of Classroom/Sangat: Gurbani lays great emphasis on company of those who are also trying to gain enlightenment.

ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਮਿਲੁ ਸੰਗਤੀ ਸਚਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵਿਸਾਹ ॥

Participating in Sangat teaches one the importance of cooperation and team work. Through the teamwork one not only reaches the goals much faster but also opens up new opportunities. Modern education realizes this aspect very well. In the US classrooms cooperative learning is highly emphasized.

Gursikhs pray for the company of other Gursikhs, just as good students seek admission to good universities.

ਤਿੰਨ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਦੇਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮੈ ਜਾਚਿਕ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸ ॥

Picking up improper company for pursuit of knowledge can be disastrous (e.g. party town colleges/universities in the USA).  Many students in such places can start using drugs or alcohol under peer pressure and can ruin their lives and careers.

ਬਗੁਲਾ ਕਾਗ ਨੀਚ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ, ਜਾਇ ਕਰੰਗ ਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਇਐ ॥

Participation in class increases commitment, improves focus, allows us to learn about other perspectives on the issue and enhances learning.

10. Learning by Questioning: Guru Nanak Sahib was a great teacher. He made people learn great lessons by making them ask questions or examine their own actions. There are several examples of these methods in Sakhis from his life e.g.:

  1. The Janeau Ceremony
  2. Haridwar Sakhi
  3. Incident at Mecca
  4. Wealth of Duni Chand

Critically examining the knowledge is an important part of learning. Questioning encourages a “growth mindset”. The education departments in most of US states are presently implementing new education standards called “Common Core”. An essential element of Common Core methods is that students are encouraged to ask questions and discover the answers. They explore different ways of solving the problem. Guru Ji was far ahead of everyone else.

11. Learning by Practice: There are several Sakhis from lives of our Gurus, which emphasize learning by practice. An example is that of Bhai Lehna Ji who later became the second Guru, as Guru Angad Dev Ji. Bhai Lehna Ji, before he met Guru Nanak Sahib, was a devotee of Vaishno Devi. He came from high caste Hindu family. Besides giving Bhai Lehna the spiritual knowledge, Guru Nanak Dev Ji also taught him the dignity of labor.

He made him work in the fields. Bhai Lehna went to the fields with nice white clothes. Guru Ji asked him to carry a bale of hay on his head to the village. The hay was wet and soil was dripping out of it. This soiled his clothes. Normally this kind of work was done by low caste Hindus. But Guru Nanak Dev Ji wanted Bhai Lehna to experience the labor first hand. Similarly once he asked him to retrieve some utensils from dirty sewer. Bhai Lehna Ji did this with a smile.

Guru Gobind Singh ji once refused to take water from a wealthy Sikh, who had never done any labor with his hands.

All these sakhis point to the need for practicing what we believe and preach. Only by doing things we learn the value of education.

In the diaspora many well to do Sikh/Indian families don’t let their children do any summer jobs. The purpose of these jobs is not only earning money, but also learning new skills and practicing the ones already learned. These jobs are a valuable part of the education for life.

12. Everyone Can Learn: One of the greatest blessings that Guru Sahibs bestowed upon humanity was that everyone is created by the same supreme power and that everyone is equal and has the same potential.

This implies that by proper effort everyone can learn. For ages, the high caste Brahmins had exploited the lower caste people by telling them that they are not fit for learning. They made it difficult for them to learn by making them “untouchables”. The Education was imparted in Sanskrit, and means to learn that were not provided to the lower caste people. Guru Sahibs broke that barrier and provided education in the language of the people. Guru Angad Dev Ji perfected the Gurmukhi script so that everyone could learn.

Stereotypes play a very negative role in education. They lower the self-esteem of the class of people they are directed at. Even in western world, these are not uncommon. One of the stereotypes in USA is that mathematics or computer science learning is not for the girls. This is even sometimes believed by the parents and that hurts education of the girls. Other stereotypes include that Blacks and Hispanics cannot learn. Again this is as far from truth as it can be. But if Blacks and Hispanics believe this, they will not learn. Sometimes teachers in the classroom ignore Black and Hispanics for the same reason, further hurting their education and learning.

In India, some people use crude jokes to portray Sikhs as too incompetent to learn. Unfortunately some of us believe that. We need to learn the message of our Gurus. If we look around, we will find that it is the hard work of Sikh scholars at the agriculture university that is now feeding a large part of India, that the inventor of fiber optics is a Sikh and that a company started by a Sikh is transforming the field of optical communication around the globe and many more such examples.

Opposite stereotypes are also damaging. In US it is often quoted that Asians are designed for math and science. This puts too much pressure on Asian children and can limit their quest for learning in other fields. In Punjab, Sikhs are often told that they are designed to be the best soldiers. Again this can limit their ability to explore other fields of knowledge.

Equality of learning extends to all fields of human endeavors. What is important is the appropriate effort combined with Grace of the Guru. Guru Angad Dev Ji propagated the tradition of langar, not only to emphasize equality but also that sewa through physical labor is for all and not only for lower castes. He also prescribed physical fitness for all. He did not limit it to the warrior class alone. He used to have the young children participate in games and wrestling. Guru Gobind Singh Ji on one hand had many scholars and poets in his court. However at his time, Indians were considered too meek to fight the Mughal rulers. Guru Gobind Singh Ji changed that. He said

“ I will have the sparrows defeat the hawks, only then I will deserve the name Gobind Singh”

The rest is history. He completed the mission started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. But we should remember that we are Sikhs, the perpetual students. Our education and learning must continue, following the principles laid in Gurbani from our eternal Guru, Guru Granth Sahib Ji and lessons from lives of our Guru Sahibs.

In conclusion, the methods of education delivery enshrined in Gurbani and Sakhis from lives of our Gurus 

About the Author


Gurinder Pal Singh is Chairman of Religious and Education Committees at the Sikh Gurdwara San Jose. He is among the founding directors of Guru Nanak Khalsa School, San Jose and Chardi Kalaa Foundation. He is regional coordinator for Sri Hemkunt Foundation Keertan Darbar for the Western region.

He holds a Ph.D degree in Physics from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India and  M.Sc in Physics (Gold medalist) from Punjabi University Patiala. He has worked as a scientist at Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany and IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He recently retired as Principle Engineer from HGST Company of Western Digital Corporation. He holds 13 patents and 36 publications in fields of Science and engineering.

 Posted by at 12:22 pm
Apr 072014


Ta ko dhoka kaha biape ja ko oat tuhari : (page 711 SGGS)
Deception does not plague those that have YOU as their support.

At some time or another many of us have felt betrayed or deceived by those we love. Trust and betrayal are intertwined.  Betrayal occurs in the closest and most trusted relationships and causes a lot of pain.  Can betrayal possibly lead to something good? Could it be a significant milestone where we have to break through certain barriers?  Jessi Kaur delves into how the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib enable us to transcend hurt through compassion and forgiveness.


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Betrayal, Hurt and Forgiveness

By Jessi Kaur

Betrayal is an intrinsic part of human experience.  Most of us experience it at some time in our life. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) provides constructive guidance on how to overcome betrayal without getting embittered and seize it as a moment of growth.

Trust and betrayal are intertwined.  Betrayal occurs in the closest and most trusted relationships. When someone close to us cheats us, lies to us, abandons us, or humiliates us, we feel let down, heartbroken and utterly disillusioned. We feel pain such as we have never experienced before.

The first reaction when one is betrayed is to lash out. We want to hurt back.  Our peace of mind is lost. We want to expose the one who has let us down so terribly. We want to get even. Our thoughts spiral down to visions of revenge.

Epic plays have been written on the subject of revenge.  Many movies and television shows have revenge as a central theme.  Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense films called revenge “sweet but not fattening. “

But is it – sweet?  Indeed not. We can never get even. Revenge only take us further down the spiral of unconstructive actions bringing more pain and anguish.

A wise man once stated that if you seek revenge – dig two graves – one for yourself. As long as we dwell on revenge, we keep our own wounds raw. When we allow anger to consume us, we lose sight of the bigger picture and become instrumental in hurting our selves further.  Sri Guru Granth Sahib warns us of such a course of action;

Bair birodh kaam krodh moh

Jhooth bikaar maha lobh droh

Ehaoo jugat bihane kayee janam

We have wasted several life times staying locked in anger, conflict, slander, greed attachment.

SGGS Page 267

Slander is another way in which anger expresses itself. It is an equally futile exercise.  It neither makes the hurt go away, nor resolves the conflict. Furthermore, slanderers lose respect because no one likes them. Sri Guru Granth Sahib  condemns slandering in harsh terms :

Ninda bhali kisay ki nahin manmukh mugadh karan

It is not good to slander anyone; the foolish and misguided engage in it.

SGGS Page 755

The outcome, warns the Guru, of slander is horrific:

Muh kale tin nindka narke ghor pavav

The faces of slanderers turn black and they are tossed in hell

SGGS Page  755

How, then do we handle betrayal and hurt?  Sri Guru Granth Sahib offers an alternative perspective, one that has the power to shift our frame of mind from reproach to acceptance :

Bhulan andar sab ko abhul guru kartar

As human beings, we are imperfect and full of flaws. The only one beyond faults and imperfections is the Creator. SGGS Page 61

All of us wittingly or unwittingly hurt those we love. Some transgressions are minor and easily overlooked. Others are of a more serious nature and harder to ignore. When we anchor our expectations on someone or get emotionally attached, we leave our selves vulnerable. There is another dynamic at play in human relationships. We are attached to our own perspective.  When we get hurt, we resist and deny the possibility of any wrong doing on our part; the blame game is in full throttle. We forget the beautiful lesson in humility that Guru Nanak taught us to abide by in all interactions:

Hum nahin chungay bura nahin koay

I am not good; no one is bad.

SGGS Page 728

Blame has never wrought any good in any relationship. When betrayal occurs the tendency is to debunk the entire relationship. One negative interaction action becomes the entire focus of the relationship and everything that was positive is wiped out. We relive, regurgitate and remain stuck in the moment of hurt. We shatter the equilibrium that keeps us in harmony with our inner self and the cosmos. While swirling in this abyss of pain, if only we could hear the Guru’s voice that begs the questions:

Kahe janam gavavho vair vaad

Why waste your life in hatred, vengeance and conflict?

SGGS P 1176

Can betrayal possibly lead to something good? Can it help us grow? Could it be a part of a larger plan that the omniscient Creator is unfolding for us? Is it possible to break out of our conditioning of hurt, betrayal and revenge, and open our heart to a much larger and nobler perspective?

Perhaps it is time for a new beginning. Perhaps we are now free from a relationship that has done its time.  Perhaps it’s time to shake off frail bonds and seek something more meaningful.

But before this can take place, anger has to be resolved. Healing has to occur. Suffering has to be transformed. Feelings of revenge put to bed. Trust and faith in a larger plan for our good has to unfold in our consciousness.

The key to overcoming betrayal is forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, is not easy. It takes time and necessitates becoming larger than we ever were, and more empathetic and compassionate than we ever thought we could be.  It calls for trust in the Divine plan.

Beverly Flannigan, clinical psychologist and author of Forgiving the Unforgivable  presents a model of forgiveness  where both parties let go of their ego and open themselves to listening to the other’s point of view. The wrong doer takes responsibility and offers reparations and assures that the offense will not be repeated. There is an outpouring of emotion and a recommitment to the relationship.

The act of relinquishing the ego brings healing:

Haumai mamta maar kay har rakhea ur dhaar

Subduing ego and attachment, the Lord has preserved my heart from pain.

SGGS Page 26

However, very often the hold of ego is strong and like a thorn in the flesh it is hard to extract.

Sakat har rus saad na janea tin antar haumai kanda hey

The sublime awareness of the Guru’s blessing is not experienced when the thorn of egotism is embedded deep within.

SGGS Page 13.

The ego presents many reasons not to forgive. Forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness. It is also viewed as an enabler of bad behavior. Very often the justification offered to stand our ground or remain engaged in conflict is that Guru Gobind Singh taught us to stand up against injustice. We ignore that the tenth Guru pulled out the sword in the face of an existential threat after all peaceful means had failed. Guru Gobind Singh showed immense compassion even in the battlefield  where he fought against tyranny. His arrows were tipped with pure gold for the last rites of the individuals who died in an attempt to kill him. Compassion for the injurer is the bearer of “har rus” in the quote above.

The loving, merciful, and kind Creator is present where there is forgiveness:

Jahan lobh tahan kaal hai jahan shama the aap

Where there is greed, there is death. Where there is forgiveness, there is God

SGGS P 1372

The confluence of ego, anger and arrogance creates barriers to forgiveness. Conversely, humility, compassion and empathy are an antidote for the calcified heart that shuns forgiveness.

Compassion, forgiveness and love are prized virtues recommended as a pathway to the Beloved. They also provide a fertile space in which a profoundly healing process begins for the wounded heart.

Our Gurus and other sages through the ages have demonstrated how not to succumb to anger, hatred  or revenge . They have broken out of the confinement of pain and left luminous examples of heroic acceptance. The example of Guru Arjan Dev’s shaheedi often held up as the epitome of grace under pressure is worth revisiting. Guru Arjan was no ordinary mortal. He lived and died for a higher cause. His life had a unique purpose and mission. He was willing to be tortured to death so millions other could live in liberty.

When we chafe at the disappointments and disillusionments in our relationships, the mere remembrance of his last song as he sat on a hot stove with sand pouring over his head should snap us out of self-righteous anger:

Tera kiya meetha laagey

Whatever you do, seems sweet to me

SGGS Page 394

Can we find sweetness in the challenges we face?  Could our experience serve a higher purpose even for our self? Can we steer away from resentment and anger and grasp at forgiveness and taste its sweet release?

Coming in contact with the Guru’s wisdom, I have been cleansed

The fires of ego and desire have been totally quenched.

Relinquishing anger, I have grasped forgivenss?

SGGS page 233

Guru Arjan created a better world for humanity? Can we create a better world for our self; a life that is not engulfed in narcissistic anger? When we are angry and unforgiving, we poison the ecosystem of our being. Our very essence is tarnished by the scars we do not allow to heal.   Our emotional angst spills over and hurts those we love. The Guru assures us:

Ta ko dhokha kaha biapey ja ko oat tuhari

How can betrayal hurt when You protect me?

SGGS Page 711

When we gracefully accept what life unfolds even if we don’t understand it at the moment, we create the space for healing and wholeness.  We allow our self to move on without rancor because we believe that God’s plan has something better for us in store. If a relationship has ended perhaps it was meant to be over. Its purpose has been served and something more meaningful lies ahead.  If we have lost a job, a better one may be in store for us. Life does, very often, offer beautiful second chances when we become open to them.

It is equally important to forgive ourselves for transgressions we may have made. Self-pity and self flagellation are just as unhealthy as blame and accusations.

Forgiveness is particularly difficult when the injurer is unrepentant. Unresolved rage stirs up within us every time we cross paths with the individual who has wronged us. It is for our own good that we need to move forward and not remain fixated on the wrong done to us.

Moving forward does not mean that the wrong doer was right; it simply means that we keep faith in the Divine plan that keeps everything in balance. We have so many gifts that outweigh the pain we experienced. The betrayals we face are often an affront to our ego,  a rejection of our love or contributions, or a lack of loyalty.  Rarely do they pose an existential threat. Rarely do we need to pick up the sword or prepare to annihilate. So, let’s put things in perspective.

When dialog is not possible, when confrontation is guaranteed to lead to further strife, when the wrong doer is cavalier and unrepentant, remember we do not forgive for the good of the other, we forgive for our own well being.  We move forward with a lightness of spirit and allow grace to bear fruit in our life just like a pruned tree that yields sweeter and juicier fruit.

Remember, too, that in our daily prayer we ask for forgiveness for all the wrongs that we do consciously or unconsciously. If we don’t practice forgiveness, how can we hope to be forgiven?  There is freedom in letting go.

Let the inexorable law of karma settle the score if a score needs to be settled.

About the Author



Jessi Kaur is the author of Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy, and The Royal Falcon, highly acclaimed children’s books. She is the editor of Sikhpoint, ( , a web magazine. A theater aficionado, she produced The Royal Falcon Musical, a show that won accolades as the first ever Sikh musical of its kind. She has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and seminars at international conferences and Sikh youth camps. She has been an invited speaker on Sikh tradition and culture in several interfaith and multicultural events including Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona and Melbourne, and the Smithsonian

 Posted by at 12:22 pm
Apr 072014


We spend our lives pursuing whatever we believe will make us happy – wealth, success, popularity, excitement or whatever, but even if we achieve any of these, we find that the pleasure is fleeting, and we still remain unsatisfied. Meanwhile, we find many reasons for unhappiness and suffering.

We will look at what Gurbani has to say about achieving a deeper and more lasting happiness and how to apply it in our lives.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

– Inder Mohan Singh

We all spend our lives pursuing happiness in one form or another. The US declaration of independence even defines the pursuit of happiness as a basic human right, along with life and liberty.

Everyone strives for whatever they believe will make them happy.  It starts with the little baby – when it is hungry it wants milk, and it cries. The mother nurses it, and it is happy. Later it misses its mother, and it cries again. The mother comes and holds the baby, and it is happy and smiles. As the baby gets older it wants toys – perhaps the latest toys the child sees on TV. After the kids get toys, they will play with them for a while, but they will get bored and want newer toys. As they get older and become teenagers, popularity becomes important to them. They want their friends to think they are really cool. As they get older, popularity with the opposite sex becomes a big drive.  As adults, we pursue money and success in our careers, love, marriage and a family, and a bigger house.  And we still go after toys, but the toys may be more expensive –  a flashy car, neat gadgets like the latest iPhone or Apple watch.

The pursuit of happiness is never ending. We are always looking for something else, something that we believe will make us happy.  As we get what we want, we may be happy for a while, but the excitement wears off. We are again unsatisfied, and the search for happiness continues.

In a recent study [The Things We Think Make Us Happy… Don’t –]

it was found that when people achieve a goal or experience a major positive event in their life,  their happiness level goes up, but then it wears off over a few months and drifts back to the same level of happiness as before. The study did find a wide variation in the happiness level of the participants, but each participant’s happiness level tended to revert to the participant’s base level some months after the positive event in their lives. Those who were relatively happier to begin with eventually stayed happier and those who were comparatively unhappy stayed that way.

In the words of the author of the study Ross Pomeroy: “Fame, talent, wealth, beauty; most people think that ‘if I only had these things I would be happy’. But it turns out that the people who have these things are not on average happier than people who lack these things. The grass is always greener on the other side of the street.”

In other words, the things we believe will make us happy do not quite get us there.  As we achieve our desires, we may find that our needs grow or change.

Furthermore, things often do not go our way in spite of all our efforts. Bad things happen – some things work and some things do not.

ਮਾਨਸ ਜਤਨ ਕਰਤ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਤਿ ॥
ਤਿਸ ਕੇ ਕਰਤਬ ਬਿਰਥੇ ਜਾਤਿ ॥
The mortal makes all sorts of efforts
but these attempts are in vain. [Guru Arjan Dev, SGGS p. 286]


Happiness and Suffering – the Ups and Downs of Life

Gurbani tells us that Dukh and Sukh, happiness and suffering, are a part of life.  Good and bad things are going to happen; life is full of ups and downs.

ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਇ ਦਰਿ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਮਨੁਖ ॥
Pleasure and pain are the two garments given, to be worn in the Court of the Lord. [Guru Nanak, SGGS p. 149]

So while we chase after things that we expect will make us happy, what occurs is according to His Hukam or Divine Will: good fortune, bad fortune, ups and downs.

ਜਤਨ ਬਹੁਤ ਸੁਖ ਕੇ ਕੀਏ ਦੁਖ ਕੋ ਕੀਓ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੋ ਹੋਇ ॥੩੯॥  [SGGS p. 1428]
People make all sorts of efforts to find peace and pleasure, but no one tries to earn pain.
Says Nanak, listen, O my mind: whatever pleases God comes to pass. ||39|| [Guru Teg Bahadur, SGGS p. 1428]

Yo yoOur emotional state bounces around with the ups and downs that life hands us.  One moment you are promoted at work, and you are all excited and on top of the world. Then, you go home and have a fight with your wife, and you feel terrible.

ਕਬਹੂ ਜੀਅੜਾ ਊਭਿ ਚੜਤੁ ਹੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਜਾਇ ਪਇਆਲੇ ॥
Sometimes, the soul soars high in the heavens, and sometimes it falls to the depths [Guru Nanak, SGGS p. 876]

That is life – we are constantly tossed about on the stormy ocean of life that Gurbani calls “bhaujal”, an ocean full of the waves of “Maya” of material existence.

We think our happiness or suffering is caused by external events or situations, and that is what we try to control. But in reality it is how we react to them and how we handle these situations that determines our emotional state, much more than what happens to us.


The Two Types of Happiness

There are two significantly different ways in which we think about and use the word “happiness.” The first type refers to that which give us pleasure – wealth, success, fame, etc. This is what most of us spend our live chasing. The words used in Gurbani for this kind of happiness include “khushi, hasna and rauna, harakh and sog.  In English we talk about pleasure and excitement. This type of happiness is externally driven, it depends on the situation we are in, and it is fleeting, leading to emotional ups and downs. This is the type of happiness and suffering that Gurbani cautions us about. We are admonished not to get caught up in it, but to learn to transcend it.

There is a deeper kind of happiness, which we refer to here as true happiness, which Gurbani leads us towards. This happiness is constant and deeper; it is more of an inner mental and spiritual state than something externally driven. In speaking of this type of true happiness , Gurbani uses words like anand, Sehaj, vigaas (blooming like a flower), chau (as in man chau bhaiya prabh aagam sunya), and chardi kalaa. (The phrase Chardi kalaa is not in not found in SGGS, but it has become an important part of Sikhi vocabulary). Gurbani also uses the imagery of lush greenery (hariaaval). There is a beautiful shabad – “man hariya khirya baag” (my mind is a lush garden full of flowers in bloom) to describe this kind of blissful state. In English, we often talk about Bliss, joy, peace and serenity.

It is this second form of happiness – a constant, joyful, uplifted spiritual state of sehaj and anand that we should aspire for.  This is what Gurbani promises us if we follow its teachings in the way we live our lives.

In terms of the first type of happiness, which is transient, and externally driven, Gurbani urges us to learn to transcend this kind of sukh and dukh, to treat happiness and sorrow the same.

ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੋਨੋ ਸਮ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਮਾਨੁ ਅਪਮਾਨਾ ॥
ਹਰਖ ਸੋਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਅਤੀਤਾ ਤਿਨਿ ਜਗਿ ਤਤੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥੧॥
One who knows that pain and pleasure are both the same, and honor and dishonor as well,
who remains detached from joy and sorrow, realizes the true essence in the world. ||1||
[Guru Teg Bahadur – SGGS p.219]

It is not that we should not feel happiness or sorrow, but that we should be able to take the ups and downs of life in our stride. The Gurmukh learns to maintain an even keel, a level of serenity, of aatmak adolta, a state of sehaj no matter what happens. The Gurmukh looks at both happiness and suffering as gifts from Waheguru. In Japji Guru Nanak shows us how even when the worst things happen, he accepts the Divine Will gracefully

ਕੇਤਿਆ ਦੂਖ ਭੂਖ ਸਦ ਮਾਰ ॥
ਏਹਿ ਭਿ ਦਾਤਿ ਤੇਰੀ ਦਾਤਾਰ ॥
So many kinds of distress, deprivation and constant abuse.
Even these are Your Gifts, O Great Giver [Guru Nanak, SGGS p. 13]

How do we go about achieving this second type of true happiness, this deeper, lasting state of chardi kalaa.

Strategies for True Happiness – Naam Simran

The most basic strategy that Gurbani gives us for true happiness is Naam Simran -constant remembrance and awareness of the Divine Presence. Nam Simran  is a subject worthy of it own separate article, but very briefly,  this is achieved through an integrated process that includes (1)Naam Japna or meditating on the Divine Name, (2) study and reflection on Gurbani or Paath and Gurbani vichaar, (3) kirtan and (4) prayer or Ardaas.

This leads to a state of sehaj or equipoise and Chardi Kalaa, in which one can transcend pleasure and pain and maintain an even keel through the ups and downs of life.

ਕਬੀਰ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਸਿਮਰਨੁ ਜੋ ਕਰੈ ਸੋ ਸੁਖੀਆ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥
ਇਤ ਉਤ ਕਤਹਿ ਨ ਡੋਲਈ ਜਿਸ ਰਾਖੈ ਸਿਰਜਨਹਾਰ ॥੨੦੬॥
Kabeer, whoever meditates in remembrance on the Lord, he alone is happy in this world.
Protected by the Creator Lord, he shall never waver, here or hereafter. ||206|| – [Kabeer, SGGS p.1375]



This graph below sketches out the process of transformation that Naam Simran can bring about in our lives. The horizontal axis shows the spiritual growth through Naam Simran from the initial state of a Manmukh to that of a Gurmukh. The vertical represents the level of happiness.

happiness graph

We start out being relatively unhappy, and bouncing up and down as we are buffeted by good and bad experiences. As we progress through our lives practicing the teachings of Gurbani and growing spiritually, our overall level of happiness and feeling of wellbeing is elevated, while the amplitude of emotional swings is reduced. In the advanced stages, as a Gurmukh one learns to maintain a more constant state of bliss. When things don’t go our way, we don’t despair or get angry with others or God. When good fortune strikes, we are thankful.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. We start out towards the left end and hopefully by Waheguru’s Grace, we movie to the right and upwards as we follow the teachings of the Guru. Our average level of happiness steadily goes up, and the oscillations in our emotional state get reduced as we learn to take things in our stride and maintain our chardi kalaa. When something unfortunate happens we are able to snap back quicker, and when good fortune strikes, we accept it with humility and Grace and don’t get diverted from the Sikhi path.

Naam Simran is the core, basic path for achieving true happiness. Now we will look at a few other specific areas, that we can work on. These are in fact all related to Naam Simran.


Sharan and Ardaas

An important enabler for transcending the ups and downs of life and maintaining our serenity is to constantly lean on Waheguru, (sharan vich aana),  to always depend on Him, praying to Him – knowing that we can always count  on Him to take care of us.

ਊਠਤ ਸੁਖੀਆ ਬੈਠਤ ਸੁਖੀਆ ॥
ਭਉ ਨਹੀ ਲਾਗੈ ਜਾਂ ਐਸੇ ਬੁਝੀਆ ॥੧॥
ਰਾਖਾ ਏਕੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥
ਸਗਲ ਘਟਾ ਕਾ ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Rising up, I am at peace; sitting down, I am at peace.
I feel no fear, because this is what I understand. ||1||

The One Lord, my Lord and Master, is my Protector.

He is the Inner-knower, the Searcher of Hearts. ||1||Pause||  [Guru Arjan, SGGS p. 1136]

The Gurmukh knows that Waheguru is the kind, loving parent of all. He has no doubt that God knows what is good for us much better than we do and will take care of us.

ਤੁਮ ਕਰਹੁ ਭਲਾ ਹਮ ਭਲੋ ਨ ਜਾਨਹ ਤੁਮ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥
ਤੁਮ ਸੁਖਦਾਈ ਪੁਰਖ ਬਿਧਾਤੇ ਤੁਮ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਬਾਲਾ ॥੩॥
You do good for us, but we do not see it as good; You are kind and compassionate, forever and ever.
You are the Giver of peace, the Primal Lord, the Architect of Destiny; please, save us, Your children! ||3||

Prayer or ardaas is a great source of spiritual strength and confidence. It is also an important part of building a strong personal relationship with Waheguru.



Another key component of the strategy for true happiness is recognizing His Hukam, knowing that all that happens is according to the Divine Will. This is an important part of dealing with the down part of the up and down cycle – to live in tune with His Hukam and accept it cheerfully.

ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਬੂਝਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
Understanding His Hukam leads to peace and happiness [Guru Arjan, SGGS p. 281]

We have to accept gracefully whatever happens, both good and bad, as His Hukam

ਜੋ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸਾਈ ਭਲੀ ਕਾਰ ॥
ਤੂ ਸਦਾ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ ॥੧੬॥
Whatever pleases You is the only good done,
You, Eternal and Formless One! ||16|| [Guru Nanak, SGGS p. 3]

Most of the time we think of God only when things go wrong. We treat God like a spare tire, to be invoked in times of trouble. Instead, we should think of Him as the steering wheel of our life, who is needed all the time to guide and shape our lives. When something goes wrong, think of Him and offer your prayers to him. When something goes well, think of Him and thank him. Always remember that it is all in His Hukam – He is the steering wheel of your life.



This brings us to one of the most important components of our “true happiness strategy” – gratitude.  Let us remember Him not only in times of trouble, but also when things go well and thank him for all our blessings.

Much of the time, we are unhappy because we feel we don’t have something that others have. We compare ourselves with others in various ways. A billionaire like Larry Ellison with a huge house worth over $200 million looks at someone with a still bigger house and he is unhappy that he doesn’t have the biggest house in the world – maybe it is only the second or third biggest. So we can always find someone who has more. We forget that there are so many more people who have much less.

If we just stop to count our blessings, and remember to be grateful for them, this can be one of the most important steps towards a happier life.

I am gratefu for

Figure 1 – So many blessings to be thankful for

Even when there is nothing special or unusual happening, there are so many things to be grateful for if we only stop to think about it. A key secret to true happiness – count our blessings and be grateful.

One thing that I try to do, but don’t always remember, is to go over all the good things that happened during the day before going to sleep, and thank Waheguru for them. And in the morning, thank Waheguru for another beautiful day. The whole day goes better when I remember to do that at the two ends of it.



Another very important step is to learn to let go of any grudges or anger that lingers in our hearts towards any one. 

ਪਰ ਕਾ ਬੁਰਾ ਨ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਚੀਤ ॥
ਤੁਮ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਭਾਈ ਮੀਤ ॥੩॥
Do not harbor ill will towards others in your mind,
and you shall not be troubled, my brothers, my friends. ||3|| [Guru Arjan, SGGS p. 386]

We all have situations where someone has hurt us in some way. But if we carry that sense of hurt or anger in our hearts, that weight becomes a major obstacle to our own happiness and peace of mind. You sit down for Naam Simran, and your mind runs off such that you can’t concentrate. It hurts one self more than hurting the other person. Holding a grudge against someone is like giving that person rent-free space inside your own head.

Forgivness is so powerful, it has been equated to the Presence of God himself – “jahaan khimaan tahaan aap”


Seva and Parupkar

Seva or selfless service and parupkar or doing good deeds for others, which form an important part of the Sikhi ethos, can be a powerful source of personal fulfillment and happiness. Interestingly a study reported that people involved in caring for others had the highest levels of happiness – those working for NGOs, often working in poor areas in the third world, and members of the health sector, particularly nurses and others assistants. These people dedicating themselves to serving others led happier, more fulfilling lives than success-driven people focused on doing well in their own careers.

There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Gurbani tells us that those who are spiritually enlightened delight in doing good things for others:

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰ ਉਮਾਹਾ ॥
The God-conscious being delights in doing good to others.  [Guru Arjan – SGGS p. 273]

Seva and parupkar are not limited to volunteering at the Gurdwara or for non-profit organizations. It can be things we can do for a spouse, children and parents, for friends and neighbors, or at work. The work environment can be very competitive, but if instead of just focusing on personal success and advancement, we try and help our colleagues and subordinates to be successful, we can get more self-fulfillment in our jobs, and probably be more respected and help our own careers.

Of course, this only works if it is voluntary. Those forced into serving others because of poverty or other personal situations can be unhappy instead. Those forced into taking care of sick parents or relatives can become resentful and angry but those who willingly do things for their parents, children and others are among the happiest people.


The Perils of Seeking “Happiness”

Now let us look at a kind of paradoxical message from Gurbani about happiness.

As we read in Rehras every day, Guruji tells us that happiness can be a disease and suffering can be a cure –  dukh daaroo sukh rog bhaiya.

How can that be? How can suffering be good and happiness a disease?

Let us look at the downside of “happiness”, or when good things happen that we think will make us happy.

Often we take credit for our good fortune, thinking it is all our doing, instead of recognizing the Divine Hukam. We get arrogant and look down upon others. It strengthens our haumai or ego. We know from Gurbani that haumai is one of the biggest obstacles on the spiritual path.

ਹਉਮੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਵਿਰੋਧੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਇ ਨ ਵਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਠਾਇ ॥
Ego is opposed to the Name of the Lord; the two do not dwell in the same place.  [Guru Amardas, SGGS p. 560]

We see this even in the field of religion. Some of the most dedicated religious people can develop a “holier than thou” attitude, and start preaching to others and becoming very critical of those who they may condemn as sinners. Some may become religious leaders and acquire followers, but lose their own way in the process:

ਕਬੀਰ ਸਿਖ ਸਾਖਾ ਬਹੁਤੇ ਕੀਏ ਕੇਸੋ ਕੀਓ ਨ ਮੀਤੁ ॥.
ਚਾਲੇ ਥੇ ਹਰਿ ਮਿਲਨ ਕਉ ਬੀਚੈ ਅਟਕਿਓ ਚੀਤੁ ॥੯੬॥
Kabeer,  he has made many students and disciples, but he has not made God his friend.
He set out on a journey to meet the Lord, but his consciousness failed him half-way. [Kabeer, SGGS p. 1369]

Furthermore, when we get something, we want more. Satisfaction eludes us and we get greedy. This is one of the reasons why nothing seems to keep us happy for long.

ਸਹਸ ਖਟੇ ਲਖ ਕਉ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥
ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਛੈ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
Earning a thousand, he runs after a hundred thousand.
Satisfaction is not obtained by chasing after Maya. [Guru Arjan Dev, SGGS p. 278]

We also look at others who have more and get envious.

The more good things happen to us, the more we get entangled in them and life gets more and more complicated. If you have more money you have to invest it wisely, and watch out for scammers who want to cheat you out of your wealth. You have to worry about taxes, consult tax specialists to set up clever tax shelters. If you have a huge, beautiful mansion, you have to deal with maintenance, get alarm systems, or if you are in India, hire a chaukidaar. If you are leaving town, you have to get somebody to house sit for you.

ਵਡੇ ਵਡੇ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਲੋਗ ॥
ਤਿਨ ਕਉ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਰੋਗ ॥੧॥
Those who seem to be great and powerful,
are afflicted by the disease of anxiety. ||1|| [Guru Arjan, SGGS p. 188]

So for all these reasons, what appears to be good fortune can in fact distract us from the spiritual path and actually keep us from achieving real happiness in our life.

For those of us who are blessed with these things that are supposed to make us happy – wealth, success, a happy family, the more God blesses us with worldly happiness, the harder we need to work on our spiritual side to inoculate ourselves from these downsides of “happiness”.  We need an extra dose of Naam Simran and a strong sense of gratitude to handle good fortune.



If we follow the teachings of Gurbani about true happiness, we can aspire to a constant state of chardi kalaa as experienced by Gurmukhs. This is expressed beautifully in these words by Guru Arjan Dev Ji:

ਦੁਖੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਸਭੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੀ ਹੈ ਰੇ ਏਕੈ ਏਕੀ ਨੇਤੈ ॥
ਬੁਰਾ ਨਹੀ ਸਭੁ ਭਲਾ ਹੀ ਹੈ ਰੇ ਹਾਰ ਨਹੀ ਸਭ ਜੇਤੈ ॥੧॥
He has no pain – he is totally happy and at peace. With his eyes, he sees only the One Lord.
He does not see any one as evil – all are good. There is no defeat – he is totally victorious. ||1|| [Guru Arjan, SGGS p.1302]

About the Author

Dr. Inder M. Singh


Dr. Inder M. Singh is the Chairman of Chardi Kalaa Foundation, and has served on the boards of several Sikh non profit organizations including SALDEF and Sikh Foundation.
He is the Chairmanof Lynx Software Technologies and was CEO until 2006. He founded Excelan, and served as its chairman, CEO and president.. He was a co-founder of Kalpana, one of Cisco’s early acquisitions. Dr. Singh has served on the boards of several high-tech companies.. He holds Ph.D. and M.Phil. degrees in computer science from Yale University, an MSEE from Polytechnic Institute of New York, and B. Tech (Hons) in Electronics from IIT, Kharagpur.

 Posted by at 12:21 pm
Apr 072014


The title posits Sikhi as being a dual process.
Being a Sikh is seen as no more than an accident of birth that is taken for granted and requires no more than a passive acceptance of an inherited belief system within a given cultural context.  It provides a legitimizing worldview and serves as a “survival kit.”
Becoming a Sikh, however, is an active developmental process and involves a life-long apprenticeship to the Guru. It involves questioning the very basis of one’s acquired beliefs that leads to transformational change.
Against the backdrop of his own journey in Sikhi, the presenter will attempt to share his understanding of the message of the Guru Granth Sahib and how divine intimations from the Guru have shown him the way to negotiate and reconcile the dual processes of Being and Becoming a Sikh.

Video of Presentation

Body of Paper


Background and Context

Spiritual journeys are never ending, and rarely progress in a straight line. They are more like a downward meandering spiral into the core of one’s being, bringing us back to the same spot, again and again, only to reveal a deeper shade and meaning of the Truth that is always present.

The Truth, at some level, is already homogenized in us, much like butter in milk and flint in wood. The implicit knowledge of our connection to the Universe around is embedded in us. It takes constant “churning” to bring it forth.

Such, indeed, has been my journey with my Guru – so far. Over the years, I have discerned a similar process playing out in my own development as a Sikh, fueled by an ongoing inner dialectic that can best be described as Being and Becoming A Sikh.

The philosophical notion of Being and Becoming is an old one, going back to Plato. In this narrative, I wish to use Being and Becoming as a concept to capture the fundamental difference – and a dynamic tension – between being born a Sikh and becoming a Sikh.

To me, the difference between Being and Becoming can be summed up as the difference between acquired belief and authentic faith; between meaning and experience; between passive internalization and active absorption; between acting on handed down cultural scripts and writing one’s own story.

What I wish to convey is that birth alone does not a Sikh make, that there is a transcendent quality to becoming a Sikh that involves making conscious choices.

To frame this in Sikh parlance, Being and Becoming a Sikh reflects the divergence and ongoing conflict between the limiting and circumscribing demands of our empirical self and ego consciousness (Haumai) and the compulsion of our Spirit (man toon jot saroop hain) to soar and be freed from the very restraints that tether us to our Haumai.

This tension and dialectic between Haumai and Hukam actually symbolizes the human condition.

Being and Becoming a Sikh means to live in the balance between these two seemingly antithetical positions. We are – whether we know it or not – constantly crossing the boundary between Being and Becoming, going back and forth, creating another space that overlaps the two but exceeds the previous.

Theory U: Learning from the Future as it Emerges

I have borrowed a framework from organizational change management called Theory U to explain the developmental process inherent in Being and Becoming a Sikh. My motivation in doing so stems from my conviction that the onus to revisit and re-examine the tenets of Sikhi is squarely on the individual Sikh. Instead, we have abrogated this right to a new breed  – Guruduara Granthis, so-called Sikh theologians and Katha Vachaks.

There is simply no mandate for an ordained clergy to act as intermediaries, arbiters or interpreters of Sikhi. As has been rightly pointed out, “What is needed is “not years of schooling or clergy for its interpretation, but an open mind and a willing heart”.

I also believe it important to continually explore and re-examine the basic tenets of the faith in the language and the world-view of the times in which we live. It is in this spirit that I have attempted to represent the developmental process of Being and Becoming a Sikh in terms of the lingua franca of the day – Science and Business.

The U process is based on a concept called Presencing, first developed by Peter Senge in his pioneering work on Learning Organizations, The Fifth Discipline. A blend of two words, “presence” and “sensing, “ Presencing stands for a heightened state of attention that allows individuals and groups to shift the inner place from which they function. When that shift happens, an individual – or group – develops the capacity to operate from a future space of possibility that they feel (“presence”) is waiting to emerge. Being able to facilitate that shift is, according to Senge and his colleagues, the essence of Leadership today.

“Sensing and actualizing one’s highest future possibility—acting from the presence of what is wanting to emerge.”

Since it emerged around 2006, Theory U has come to be understood in three primary ways: first as a framework; second, as a method for leading profound change; and third, as a way of being – connecting to the more authentic of higher aspects of our self.

I have attempted to adapt the model to explain the journey of a Sikh, which requires a similar shift – from a Manmukh to a Gurmukh.  It is an archetype of the human journey.

The U process is so called because of the shape of the journey. In order to get to the deepest point of transformation, indicated at the bottom of the U, it is necessary first to go down the left side.

There are 3 phases labeled Sensing, Presencing and Realizing and 7 gestures, signifying milestones in the journey.



I. SENSING: Seeing Ones Own Seeing and Transforming Perception

a. Haumai, the Blind Spot or The Ego System (KuR di Paal)

In tracing the dialectic between Being and Becoming a Sikh on the U Curve, our starting point is Haumai located on the upper left side: this equates to Being a Sikh by birth.

Being a Sikh by birth means being a Sikh by habit. Adherence to an inherited belief system provides us with the formality of being a Sikh. Our assertion, made quite freely, that we are Sikhs by birth must be viewed as no more than the conditioned reflex of a believer trained to accept cultural myths and authorized beliefs – and often with a vested interest in preserving and perpetuating the status quo.

This is not to suggest that belief is without value. Belief systems help us translate and affix meaning to the external world, making it possible to navigate through life. They also provide the necessary glue to hold communities together, making social life possible.

But here is the paradox: the very conditioning process that ensures our survival in the external world also thickens and coagulates our Haumai at the same time – effectively shutting off our capacity to experience our true source or Reality. Gurbani alludes to this in various places.

This conditioned self that Gurbani calls Haumai, is our blind spot, the KuR di Paal that Guru Nanak refers to early on in the Japji. In Gurmat terms, Haumai is the blind spot that accepts Reality as it is presented to us – immediate and unmistakable. It limits our awareness. More importantly, Haumai or the process of individuation, also signifying our symbolic existence, also impels us into a self-centered narcissism, obscuring Hukam and our true purpose.

But it appears that we are wired to have Haumai. Indeed, Haumai is fundamental to Creation.

The malady of Haumai was instilled in humans. SGGS: 1140:16

A Sikh by birth, then, is primarily a product of genetic and cultural conditioning that is contained and driven by a strong sense of Haumai. Beliefs, rituals, mythic structures, prevailing stereotypes are important support structures for Haumai. Preservation of the status quo is indispensible.

Haumai-laden, we become a Manmukh, inured to a Haumai based existence.

Ensnared in this transitory drama, they (Manmukh) have lost their moorings; they are neither here nor there. SGGS: M3: 29:2


b. Suspending or Jigyasa

Fortunately for us, the Guru offers hope and a way out.  Our affliction (Haumai) carries the seed of its own remedy.

            Haumai is a chronic affliction, but its remedy lies within it. SGGS p.466: 5

The term Sikh offers some clues: Becoming a Sikh means being a student or a disciple and that implies a developmental process that involves a life-long apprenticeship to the Guru. It requires that we look at the world with fresh eyes, that we drop habitual ways of thinking. It requires the boldness of questioning of the very basis of one’s acquired beliefs.

Transforming Perception or Seeing Your Own Seeing becomes the basis for change. The term in Punjabi is Jigyasa  – which stems from the Sanskrit root curiosity and denotes desire for knowledge.

To Question is to Quest. Where Socrates deemed an unexamined life as not worthy of living, Guru Nanak admonished us in a similar vein, calling it an animal existence, “Mool na bhujan āpṇā, se pasūā se dẖor jīo.”

The awakening of what we call Jigyasa in Punjabi or Questing becomes the basis for change and enables REDIRECTING inwards.


c. Redirecting or LIV vs. DHAT

Gurbani tells us that two orientations are available to us: Liv and Dhat. “Liv ḏẖāṯ due rāh hai,” (GGS p 87).

A Haumai based existence (or an ego system) is fueled by fear and anxiety, characterized by what Gurbani refers to as Dhat or Dhaturbazzi – the vicious cycle of our daily grind (rat race) that snares us into this worldly web of existence (Maya), causing us in turn to lose our inner bearing and spiritual compass.

Becoming a Sikh is to heed our inner voice, to heal our fractured connection to Reality. Our Haumai driven Dhaturbazzi needs to be offset and balanced by cultivating the capacity to see through the veil of Maya (Seeing Our Own Seeing).

This is the journey of PRESENCING and begins by REDIRECTING our attention inward. Redirecting is the movement downward on the left hand side of the U curve and represents this inner journey.

In Gurbani, this process of inversion is represented by the term Liv that stands for an anchoring of our existence in inwardness – or inner centeredness.

We become Gurmukhs by remaining externally driven (engaged with the world) but internally centered.

d. Letting Go/Haumai or Suniyeh, Manniyeh

Becoming a Sikh is radical and profound change that is transformational. This transformation requires work, a deep inner and private practice that should be rooted in a broader social practice (Sangat). It is a lifelong apprenticeship to the Guru.

According to the developers of the U, “the foundational capacity of the U is listening. Listening to others. Listening to oneself. And listening to what emerges from the collective. Effective listening requires the creation of open space in which others can contribute to the whole.”

This is very similar to Guru Nanak’s insistence on developing this capacity (which he calls suniyeh). Guru Nanak’s core teaching rests on the cultivation of attentive listening (Suniyeh).

Although listening is self- evident to most of us, Guru Nanak’s repeated emphasis (almost a tenth of the Japji) begs the obvious question: are we not listening already, or, is there another kind of listening that Guru Nanak wants us to cultivate. If so, what might that be?

Ordinary hearing is passive, inattentive and shrouded by our inner mental chatter, filtering out most of what is heard. We hear what is agreeable and that only serves to reinforce our habitual patterns. Attentive listening, on the other hand is a dynamic process, requiring a quiet and open mind.

Listening, for Guru Nanak, is the foundation for spiritual formation and growth, leading ultimately to communion with Naam. Naam becomes the journey as well as the goal.

Gurbani is very clear – and insistent – that the “ears were attached to our bodies so that we could listen to the Truth.” [GGS: 922]  All other hearing is but “falsehood blowing around in a gust of wind; only listening to the Word of the Guru can be deemed successful.” [GGS: 577].

In the Japji Sahib, Suniyeh is followed by Manniyeh, which literally means “by believing” or “being firm in” or “being held in one’s mind.” If Suniyeh emphasizes listening as the means, Manniyeh can be thought of as complete absorption or immersion in the sabaḏ (the Word).

This practice is popularly called Naam or Naam Simran and is the discipline or practice recommended to activate the power of listening or attention (dhian).


The allegory of a goldsmith using an alchemical process to transform baser metals to gold, beautifully illustrated in the 38th PauRi of the Japji, points to Guru Nanak’s foundational message on how to transform our “manmukh” nature into that of a “gurmukh” by aligning to Hukam.

A Sikh cultivates his inner environment through the application of Guru Nanak’s recommended spiritual technology of attentive listening and immersion in Sabad (Word), “Gurmukh āpṇā man māriā sabaḏ kasvatī lāe.” (GGS p.87).

The cultivation of inner virtues (devotion) listed in the 38th PauRi is what gives a Gurmukh the necessary purity of motive, integrity of action and autonomy to transcend dogma (‘Mannai mug na cẖalai panth’), materialistic bias and narcissistic self- obsession (Haumai).

In other words, a Gurmukh pulls away from the lure and pull of established mental patterns – exemplified by our attachment to instinctive behavior such as “Kām,” “Kroḏẖ,” “Lobẖ,” etc. and moves towards the call of Hukam through the practice of the discipline of Naam.

This is, indeed, the process of becoming a truly cultured and integrated personality, a necessary condition for a successful life. This central teaching has been amplified and explained by succeeding Gurus in no uncertain terms. It is only from this existential fulcrum that a truly fulfilling, purpose-driven life is possible.




Here is what the developers say about the transformational experience at the bottom of the U:

On that journey, at the bottom of the U, lies an inner gate that requires us to drop      everything that isn’t essential. This process of letting-go (of our old ego and self) and          letting-come (our highest future possibility: our Self) establishes a subtle connection to a         deeper source of knowing. The essence of Presencing is that these two selves-our current             self and our best future Self-meet at the bottom of the U and begin to listen and resonate        with each other.
 Once a group crosses this threshold, nothing remains the same.            Individual members and the group as a whole begin to operate with a heightened level of            energy and sense of future possibility. Often they then begin to function as an intentional      vehicle for an emerging future.

In Gurmat, this is Naam – the process, the practice and the destination. Here is where a Sikh, through the practice and inversion transforms from a Manmukh to a Gurmukh by apprehending directly the truth of Gurbani, “Man toon jot sarūp hain, āpṇā mool pacẖẖān.

There dawns an awakening that there is a remarkable power (Naam in Gurbani) that runs through everything and is latent in the individual well.

Outwardly, a Gurmukh life may appear conventional, but inwardly, a very different consciousness is now at work.  A Gurmukh does not live simply for individual goals or accomplishments – biological, social, political or economic – but is inspired by a higher or larger purpose, and acts as an instrument of Hukam to create a new “social blueprint” or social order that is characterized by Halemi Raj.



We have seen that it is by turning to the Guru that we obtain the discernment of naam, the key that unlocks the secret of Hukam. In fact, Hukam and naam are synonymous in Gurbani.

Once an individual goes through the proverbial eye of the needle at the bottom of the U, an awareness of Hukam, labeled on the upper right of the U, surfaces. One discerns a deeper and more extensive source of Reality that is largely insulated from direct human experience or comprehension.

There is also the discernment that Hukam is also the creative or regulatory agency that operates at all levels of existence. In today’s terms, we could, perhaps, think of Hukam as the spiritual impulse that drives evolution of the species, regulates the natural order, establishes the moral and ethical framework, and exists in us as the sense of self.

This impulse or drive can be seen as the intersection of the formless God (nirgun) and expressed in Time and History as creation (sar guṇ).

Although Hukam is ultimately beyond the comprehension of the human intellect, it lies within the range of human experience. There is embedded in us another knowing or understanding that surpasses the intellect and it is to this mystical faculty that we must turn to understand Hukam.

This knowledge, (also called a priori knowledge by western philosophers) is with us from birth in a dormant state (forgotten, or Vismaran) but can be brought to surface by the process of recollection (Simran).

Hukam is the Future that is seeking to emerge.



Becoming a Sikh, then, involves a deliberate choice and a fundamental shift in focus and orientation: from being a believer to a seeker of Truth; from claiming Sikhi as a birthright to becoming a student – as the term Sikh implies. It requires stepping outside the margins of acquired belief and embarking on a pilgrimage of self-discovery, traveling on the path of metamorphosis bringing about an inner change in orientation from being a Manmukh to a Gurmukh. 


An authentic Sikh life can thus be likened to a lifelong alchemic process of apprenticeship to the Guru where psychological lead (manmukh) is cast in the mold of love to become spiritual gold (Gurmukh).

In constructing the picture of an ideal person in Gurmat – a Gurmukh – we have seen that by choosing the right orientation (liv’ vs. ḏẖāṯ) and invoking the power of attentive listening (also referred to as ‘dhian’), a Gurmukh’s consciousness finds its inner center where the writ of Hukam becomes clear.

Hukam becomes the lighthouse – providing clarity of purpose and direction as it guides us across the sea of life. We also discovered that the practice of attentive listening cultivates a Gurmukh’s inner environment (consciousness) so that virtues like compassion, contentment and service can flower and bloom. Combined with ‘bhao’ – the self-regulating restraint and discipline that manifests as inner devotion and love of God – these form the foundation and the roadmap of a Gurmukh’s life.

A gurmukh, then, is guided by Hukam as it plays out in our individual lives and acts out of a sense of Dharam – duty and righteousness – and is imbued with inner devotion in service to society and love of God.

Experiences like ‘vismaad’ (awe and wonderment), ‘bairāg’ (inner withdrawal) and ‘biraah’ (separation), are feelings that Gurmat views as necessary components of spiritual formation. These experiences – or feelings – should be viewed as markers on the road to becoming a Gurmukh – a goal that we should all aspire to.

What is new and unique about a Gurmukh is a fundamental change in the structure and process of identity formation. A Gurmukh identity is not frozen or stuck in some semblance of a given “social” character. A Gurmukh identity is fluid and mobile, more susceptible and adaptable to change, more open to variation.

A Gurmukh identity is not based on any “belongingness” to the tribe. It is not tribal. It is universal in that it is committed to similarities as much as differences.

A Gurmukh identity is not totally a part or apart from the inherited culture. A Gurmukh is at once new and old, traditional and modern.

I would like dwell on some of the implications of this. While it is the individual who is wrestling with himself, this is by no means something to be done isolation from the world.

I have not dwelt on the right side of the U – which is the social manifestation of a Gurmukhs action. The implication is that personal mastery (as represented on the left side of the U) must, after passing through the bottom switch to the right side. In other words, spiritual formation that does not find social manifestation is just narcissism.

A Sikh must be a socially active Renunciate.



Ravinder Singh Taneja

About the Author



Ravinder Singh spent his formative years in Singapore and Delhi and has lived in the U.S. since 1976. He graduated from the Simon School of Management at the University of Rochester. He has worked with multinationals in Singapore, London and New York and currently works for a Financial Services company.
His consuming passion is Sikhs and Sikhi – in all its flavors and dimensions. He is the founder and convener of the Talking Stick, a weekly online colloquium devoted to a dialogue around Gurbani that appears on the online magazine, Ravinder has served as the Executive Director of the Sikh Research Institute and is currently on its Board of Directors. He is also on the Editorial Board of Khoj Gurbani an online crowdsourcing platform that aims to provide Sikhs with educational resources. He moderates a weekly online discussion on Gurbani and Gurmat.
Since 1997, he has lived in Westerville, Ohio, with his wife, Harjit, and his daughter, Simran.

 Posted by at 12:20 pm
Apr 072014


According to Gurbani, mukti is a state of liberation from maya and the vices that generally control us. It is a state that is achievable while we are alive, rather than what we may be granted after we die. Gurbani discusses mukti and related concepts in the context of our surat rather than that of our physical body. This is because the spiritual journey in Sikhi is that of our surat, and not that of our physical body. Accordingly, rituals performed at the level of our physical body cannot help us achieve mukti. Gurbani offers advice on how living our life according to Guru’s message can lead us to achieving mukti.

Video of Presentation

Body of Paper

The concept of mukti in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
(Satpal Singh)

First and foremost, I would like to thank the organizers for the honor and the privilege to share some thoughts on mukti, as I understand from Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

I must admit that it is a difficult topic, particularly for someone without any expertise or training in theology. I hope that with input from those who are present here, particularly those with expertise in Sikh theology, we would have a fruitful conversation.

The context in which to understand the concept of mukti

In order to understand the concept of mukti in Gurbani, we first need to understand the overall context in which mukti and related concepts have been discussed in SGGS.

A foundational principle enunciated in SGGS, including in the first pauri of Jap ji Sahib, is that our spiritual journey is the journey of our surat, our consciousness, and not that of our physical body. This important principle underlies various aspects of our spiritual mission.

In response to a question from the yogis, Guru ji said:

ਪਵਨ ਅਰੰਭੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਲਾ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥…॥੪੪॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 943}
The air marks the beginning of life. This life is the time to follow True Guru’s Teachings. The Shabad is the Guru, and my consciousness the disciple.

Neither our Guru (shabad), nor the follower (surat), is a physical body. Thus it is for our surat to undertake the spiritual journey, not for our body.

In addition, all our spiritual striving, including the focus of all our prayers, meditation, and adoration, is related to the Creator itself, and not to any creation. This is independent of whether something has been created directly by the Creator (such as the Stars, the Sun, the Moon, various animals and other living beings, or inanimate objects), or it has been crafted or established by humans or other animals, such as buildings, idols, a specific language, caste, various religions traditions, or other divisions among humanity.

The above principles form the framework for all aspects of our spiritual life, including irrelevance of rituals, the meaning of Guru’s darshan and naam simran, the approach to mukti, the mukti itself, and ultimately the concept of being one with Waheguru.

The concept of mukti in Sikhi

In Sikhi, mukti means liberation from maya and the vices that control us.

ਏਕ ਨਗਰੀ ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਬਸੀਅਲੇ ਬਰਜਤ ਚੋਰੀ ਧਾਵੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਹਦਸ ਮਾਲ ਰਖੈ ਜੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਮੋਖ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 503}
In the one village of the body, live the five thieves; they have been warned, but they still go on stealing. One who keeps his spiritual assets safe from the three modes and the ten passions, O Nanak, attains liberation and emancipation.

ਬੰਧਨ ਕਾਟਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਜਨੁ ਭਇਆ ॥ ਜਨਮ ਮਰਨ ਦੂਖੁ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਗਇਆ ॥…॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 289}
The bonds of the humble servant are cut away, and he is liberated. The pains of birth and death, and doubt are gone.

ਕਾਮਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧਿ ਲੋਭਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਮਨੁ ਲੀਨਾ ॥ ਬੰਧਨ ਕਾਟਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨਾ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 804}
The mind is engrossed in sexual desire, anger, greed and emotional attachment. Breaking these bonds, the Guru has liberated me.

Mukti: while we are still alive

In many traditions, mukti and related concepts, like heaven and hell, are generally related to what happens to us after we die, i.e., after we leave our body.

However, according to SGGS, as mentioned above, mukti is a goal for our surat, and not that of our body. Since it is what our surat has to achieve, it can be achieved by the actions of our surat and not those of our body. And since it is liberation from maya and the vices that control us, this liberation can be achieved while we are alive. It is not something that would be granted to us after we die if we perform some designated rituals or live our life in a prescribed way.

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 522}
O Nanak, meeting the True Guru, one comes to know the Perfect Way. While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, he is liberated.

In fact, many shabads in SGGS directly emphasize that mukti is not something that is granted to us after our death.

ਥਾਕਾ ਤੇਜੁ ਉਡਿਆ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਖੀ ਘਰਿ ਆਂਗਨਿ ਨ ਸੁਖਾਈ ॥ ਬੇਣੀ ਕਹੈ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਰੇ ਭਗਤਹੁ ਮਰਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਿਨਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 93}
Your light has gone out, and the bird of your mind has flown away; you are no longer welcome in your own home and courtyard. Says Baynee, listen, O devotee: who has ever attained liberation after death?

ਮੂਏ ਹੂਏ ਜਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੇਹੁਗੇ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਕੋਇਲਾ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1292}
If You grant liberation after the death, none will even know about such liberation.

ਜਉ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਦੂਰਿ ਕਰਤ ਹਉ ਤਉ ਤੁਮ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬਤਾਵਹੁ ॥ ਏਕ ਅਨੇਕ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਿਓ ਸਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਅਬ ਕੈਸੇ ਭਰਮਾਵਹੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਾਮ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਤਾਰਿ ਕਹਾਂ ਲੈ ਜਈ ਹੈ ॥ ਸੋਧਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਹਾ ਦੇਉ ਕੈਸੀ ਕਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਾਈ ਹੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਤਾਰਨ ਤਰਨੁ ਤਬੈ ਲਗੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਅਬ ਤਉ ਬਿਮਲ ਭਏ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੨॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1104}
If You keep me away from You, then tell me, what is liberation? You, the One, dwell within all of us assuming many forms; how can You confuse me now? ||1|| Waheguru, where will You take me, to save me? Tell me where, and what sort of liberation shall You give me? By Your Grace, I have already obtained it. ||1||Pause|| As long as people don’t understand the essence of reality, they talk of salvation and being saved. I have now become pure within my heart, says Kabeer, and my mind is pleased and appeased. ||2||

Death as spiritual death, not physical death

The concept of mukti, which is the aim of our surat and not that of our body, is related to the concept of being spiritually alive. At many places, SGGS enunciates the fact that it is spiritual death, and not the physical death of our body, that is of consequence in our spiritual journey.

ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 9}
Remembering Waheguru, I live; forgetting Waheguru, I die.

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾਂ ਜੀਵਾਂ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਥੀਵੈ ਹਰਿਆ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1429}
O Nanak, if I am blessed with the Naam, I live, and my body and mind blossom forth.

Thus keeping our conscious attuned to Waheguru is critical to being spiritually alive. At the same time, being attuned to Waheguru is all that is needed to achieve mukti:

ਓਹੁ ਧਨਵੰਤੁ ਕੁਲਵੰਤੁ ਪਤਿਵੰਤੁ ॥ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਜਿਸੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਭਗਵੰਤੁ ॥…॥੮॥੨੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 294}
He is wealthy and prosperous, and of noble birth; he is Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive; in whose heart the Lord God abides.

Viewing it from these points of view, mukti is linked to the state of being spiritually alive as we course through our life, rather than to the state of being bodily dead.

Sacrificing our ‘self’

In a similar way, the act of sacrificing ourselves, or of giving up our head, also relates to our surat, rather than to our body or to our physical head. In fact, giving up our ‘self’ is critical to adopting Guru’s message and to living in Waheguru’s Will.

ਤੈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕੀ ਬਾਤ ਜਿ ਆਖੈ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਆ ਦੀਜੈ ॥ ਸੀਸੁ ਵਢੇ ਕਰਿ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਵਿਣੁ ਸਿਰ ਸੇਵ ਕਰੀਜੈ ॥…॥੧॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 557-558}
One who brings me a message from my Lord and Master — says Nanak, what shall I offer him? Cutting off my head, I shall offer it to him to sit upon; renouncing my ‘self’, I shall serve Him.

ਸੁਣਿ ਯਾਰ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਸਜਣ ਇਕ ਕਰਉ ਬੇਨੰਤੀਆ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਮੋਹਨ ਲਾਲ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਹਉ ਫਿਰਉ ਖੋਜੰਤੀਆ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਦਸਿ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰੀ ਉਤਾਰੇ ਇਕ ਭੋਰੀ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 703}
Listen, O my close friend — I have just one prayer to make. I have been wandering around, searching for that enticing, sweet Beloved. Whoever leads me to my Beloved — I would cut off my head and offer it to him, even if I were granted the Blessed Vision of His Darshan for just an instant.

In addition, it is worth noticing here that such offer of sacrifice, or total surrender, is not in exchange for any demand, including the demand for mukti, as that would make it a trade. Instead, it is the expression of pure unconditional love for, and devotion to, one’s beloved.

Since Waheguru communicates to us in the language of unconditional and boundless love…

ਸਾਚਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਨਾਇ ਭਾਖਿਆ ਭਾਉ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥…॥੪॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 2}
Waheguru is eternal, Waheguru’s logic is eternal; Waheguru’s language is boundless love

…it is such complete, unconditional love for, and devotion to, Waheguru and Waheguru’s Will that rids us of our attachments and other afflictions.

ਜਉ ਹਮ ਬਾਂਧੇ ਮੋਹ ਫਾਸ ਹਮ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਬਧਨਿ ਤੁਮ ਬਾਧੇ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਛੂਟਨ ਕੋ ਜਤਨੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਹਮ ਛੂਟੇ ਤੁਮ ਆਰਾਧੇ ॥੧॥ ਮਾਧਵੇ ਜਾਨਤ ਹਹੁ ਜੈਸੀ ਤੈਸੀ ॥ ਅਬ ਕਹਾ ਕਰਹੁਗੇ ਐਸੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 658}
While I had been bound by the noose of emotional attachment, I have bound You with the bonds of my love. How would You escape from this bond of love, Lord; I have escaped by worshipping and adoring You. O Lord, You know my love for You. Now, what will You do?


Even hell and heaven are not physical places that we go to after our death

Gurbani refers to heaven in a similar manner as mukti:

ਅੰਮਾਵਸ ਮਹਿ ਆਸ ਨਿਵਾਰਹੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਸਮਾਰਹੁ ॥ ਜੀਵਤ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰ ॥ ਅਨਭਉ ਸਬਦੁ ਤਤੁ ਨਿਜੁ ਸਾਰ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 343}
Give up your hopes (on fasting, ritualistic bathing etc.) on the day of the new moon. Remember the Lord, the Inner-knower. You shall attain the Gate of Liberation while yet alive. You shall experience Shabad, Waheguru’s Word, and the essence of your own inner being.

ਸਰਬ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਮੋਖ ਪਾਏ ॥ ਏਕ ਨਿਮਖ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਏ ॥…॥੮॥੨੦॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 290}
Everything is obtained: the heavens, liberation and deliverance, if one sings the Lord’s Glories even for an instant.

If mukti, or heaven, were to be granted to us only after death, then what would be the meaning of such attainment through “eyk inmK hir ky gun gwey” (singing Waheguru’s praises for even a moment), since “hir ky gun gwey” is possible only when we are physically alive? For example, if we surmise that singing Waheguru’s praises at this time would qualify us for mukti or heaven after our death, then what would be the consequences of our irresponsible actions once we have attained such early-admission to post-death mukti or heaven?

The above also brings up another related concept, that to sing Waheguru’s praises does not refer to a physical activity. If that were the case, then one could simply call Waheguru to be great (“hir ky gun gwey”), for just a moment (“eyk inmK”), and achieve mukti (“srb bYkMuT mukiq moK pwey”). The connotation of “hir ky gun gwey” is to be attuned to Waheguru, i.e., for our conscious, our surat, to be completely imbued with the essence of Waheguru, as in:

ਹਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਭਿੰਨੇ ਲੋਇਣਾ ਮਨੁ ਪ੍ਰੇਮਿ ਰਤੰਨਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਮਿ ਕਸਵਟੀ ਲਾਇਆ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਸੋਵਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਚਲੂਲਿਆ ਮੇਰਾ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੋ ਭਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਜਨੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮੁਸਕਿ ਝਕੋਲਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨਾ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 448-449}
My eyes are drenched with the Nectar of the Lord, and my mind is imbued with His Love, O Lord King. The Lord applied His touch-stone to my mind, and turned it into pure gold. By following the Guru, I have been dyed in the deep red of the poppy, and my mind and body are drenched with His Love. Servant Nanak is drenched with His Fragrance; blessed, blessed is his entire life.

Attaining mukti

As mentioned above, attaining mukti refers to achieving liberation from maya and the vices that control us. It is generally very difficult to liberate ourselves from these afflictions.

ਮਾਇਆ ਮਮਤਾ ਛੋਡੀ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਸੇ ਛੂਟੇ ਸਚੁ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਈ ॥…॥੧੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1024}
Love and attachment to Maya cannot be abandoned. They alone find release, who practice deeds of Truth.

ਹਉ ਵਿਚਿ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਹਉ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਿਆਣਾ ॥ ਮੋਖ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 466}
In ego they are ignorant, and in ego they are wise. They do not know the value of salvation and liberation.

Our misled attempts to attain mukti

In our attempt to attain mukti or heaven we often follow an approach that has been practiced over centuries. It involves actions and rituals associated with our body. However, SGGS emphatically cautions us that such an approach does not work, because anything done at the level of our physical body is irrelevant to attaining a state of mukti or of being in heaven. Waheguru is not naïve to mistake our ablutions and other bodily actions as achievements of our conscious.

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਜੇ ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਕ ਪਤੀਣੇ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਅਯਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 484}
With filth within the heart, even if one bathes at sacred places of pilgrimage, still, he shall not go to heaven. Nothing is gained by trying to please others — the Lord cannot be fooled.

However, we still keep engaging in such ineffective rituals at the level of our bodies, whether it is observing fasts, dipping in sarovars (bodies of water) or fulfilling the duty of reading Gurbani as an obligation, without living our life according to the message of Gurbani or without even paying attention to what we are reading. We should realize that many of us do engage in rituals that are contrary to the message of Gurbani.

ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਪਾਖੰਡ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਜਮੁ ਜਾਗਾਤੀ ਲੂਟੈ ॥ ਨਿਰਬਾਣ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਵਹੁ ਕਰਤੇ ਕਾ ਨਿਮਖ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਜਿਤੁ ਛੂਟੈ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 747}
The religious rites, rituals and hypocrisies that are seen, are plundered by the Messenger of Death, the ultimate tax collector. Without any desires in return, sing the Kirtan of the Creator’s Praises; contemplating Waheguru in meditation, even for an instant, one is saved.

ਅੰਨੁ ਨ ਖਾਇਆ ਸਾਦੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੂਜਾ ਭਾਇਆ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 467}
One who does not eat, misses out on the taste. One experiences great pain, in the love of duality.

ਨਾਵਹਿ ਧੋਵਹਿ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਸੈਲਾ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਤੇ ਮੈਲੋ ਮੈਲਾ ॥ ਗਰਬੁ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਸਾਰਥਿ ॥ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਜਪਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਿਰਤਾਰਥਿ ॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 904}
You bathe, wash, and worship stones. But without being imbued with the Lord, you are the filthiest of the filthy. Subduing your ego, you shall receive the supreme guidance of God. Meditating on the Lord, the mortal is liberated.

ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਭਿ ਸਾਸਤ ਇਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਪੜਿਆ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥…॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 747}
One may read all the books of the Vedas, the Bible, the Simritees and the Shaastras, but they will not bring liberation.

Mukti cannot be achieved as a barter in exchange for specific deeds

Anything done with the expectation that we would get mukti defeats the purpose, because by definition it becomes a trade, or a barter deal.

ਧਰਮੀ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਗਾਵਾਵਹਿ ਮੰਗਹਿ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 469}
The righteous waste their righteousness, by seeking the door of salvation.

ਕਿਰਿਆਚਾਰ ਕਰਹਿ ਖਟੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਇਤੁ ਰਾਤੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਬਾਜੀ ਹਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਮੇਰੇ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਰਖਿ ਲੇਵਹੁ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰੀ ॥ ਕੋਟਿ ਮਧੇ ਕੋ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਸਗਲੇ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 495}
They perform the four rituals and six religious rites; the world is engrossed in these. They are not cleansed of the filth of their ego within; without the Guru, they lose the game of life.  || 1 ||   O my Lord and Master, please, grant Your Grace and preserve me. Out of millions, hardly anyone is a servant of the Lord. All the others are mere traders.

Does it mean that we should not live by the Naam, or engage in sewa etc? We should, but not because we want something in return. We should do so because we feel love for it, because we get joy in it by itself, because it comes natural to us.

ਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲਾਰੇ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 534}
I do not seek power, and I do not seek liberation. My mind is in love with Your Lotus Feet.

ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ਸੁਣੀ ਦਾਤਾਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਢਾਢੀ ਕਉ ਮਹਲਿ ਬੁਲਾਵੈ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਦੇਖਦਿਆ ਦੁਖ ਭੁਖ ਗਈ ਢਾਢੀ ਕਉ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥…॥੯॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1097}
God, the Great Giver, heard the prayer, and summoned the minstrel to the Mansion of His Presence. Gazing upon God, the minstrel was rid of all pain and hunger; he could not think of anything else to ask.

ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਾਖੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਾਣੀ ਪੀਵਤ ਹੀ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਭਇਆ ॥ ਦਰ ਦਰਸਨ ਕਾ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੈ ਕਰੈ ਕਿਆ ॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 360}
The Teachings of the Guru, the Ambrosial Bani — drinking them in, one becomes accepted. Unto the one who loves the Lord’s Court, and the Blessed Vision of His Darshan, of what use is liberation or paradise?

What does help in achieving mukti?

Such unconditional love and devotion, as mentioned above, comes to us with Guru’s bakhshish. We can then be liberated from our spiritual afflictions.

ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਏ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਤੇ ਮਿਲੈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਨ ਤਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥੯॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1058}
One who lives the Word of the Guru’s Shabad becomes Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive. He remains forever immersed in the Lord. By Guru’s Grace, one is blessed with glorious greatness; he is not afflicted by the disease of egotism.

ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਨੀਕਾ ਨਾਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਨੁ ਅਸਥੂਲੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਵਿਚੁ ਦੇ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਹਉਮੈ ਗਈ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹੀ ਸਭ ਆਇ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਜੀਉ ਸਦਾ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਹੈ ਸਹਜੇ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 509-510}
O Nanak, the gate of liberation is very narrow; only the very tiny can pass through. Through egotism, the mind has become bloated. How can it pass through? Meeting the True Guru, egotism departs, and one is filled with the Divine Light. Then, this soul is liberated forever, and it remains absorbed in celestial bliss.

ਤਜਿ ਅਭਿਮਾਨ ਮੋਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਫੁਨਿ ਭਜਨ ਰਾਮ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਵਉ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਹਤ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪੰਥ ਇਹੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ਤੁਮ ਪਾਵਉ ॥੨॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 219}
Renounce your egotistical pride and your emotional attachment to Maya; focus your consciousness on the Lord’s meditation. Says Nanak, this is the path to liberation. Attain it by following the Guru.

Once we are liberated from our spiritual afflictions, we attain freedom from suffering in our life. In fact, the very distinction between what we generally consider suffering or happiness just disappears.

ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਏ ਬਾਧੇ ਜਿਹ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਤਿਹ ਤੁਮ ਜਾਨਉ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਤਾਹਿ ਤੁਮ ਮਾਨਉ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਕੋ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ॥੩॥੭॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 220}
Those who are not bound by pleasure and pain — know that they are truly wise. O Nanak, recognize those mortal beings as liberated, who live this way of life.

Such a state of mukti is achievable in our very life, and it does not need us first leaving our body. There are several examples from the life of our Gurus and other Gursikhs. When Guru Arjan Sahib was tortured, it is not just that he was able to bear such brutal torture. He had achieved such spiritual heights that suffering did not matter to him. He had attained the rare state of surat where all there was to it was Waheguru’s Will.

ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥੨॥੪੨॥੯੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 394}
Your actions are sweet to me. Nanak seeks the treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord.

With Guru’s bakhshish, we can rise above all distinctions between good and bad. Living in Waheguru’s Will becomes a natural part of our being, our very existence.

ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਆਗਿਆ ਆਤਮ ਹਿਤਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਸੋਊ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਹਰਖੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੋਗੁ ॥ ਸਦਾ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਤਹ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਓਗੁ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਸੁਵਰਨੁ ਤੈਸੀ ਉਸੁ ਮਾਟੀ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤੈਸੀ ਬਿਖੁ ਖਾਟੀ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਰੰਕੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਰਾਜਾਨੁ ॥ ਜੋ ਵਰਤਾਏ ਸਾਈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਓਹੁ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੭॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 275}
One who, in his soul, loves the Will of God, is said to be Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive. As is joy, so is sorrow to him. He is in eternal bliss, and is not separated from God. As is gold, so is dust to him. As is ambrosial nectar, so is bitter poison to him. As is honor, so is arrogance. As is the beggar, so is the king. Whatever God ordains, that is his way. O Nanak, that being is known as Jivan Mukta.


About the Author


Dr. Satpal Singh is a former Chairperson of the World Sikh Council – America Region. He frequently speaks on Sikh philosophy and the Sikh way of life in various forums and participates in interfaith dialogues on diversity, religion and peace. He also speaks and writes on the issue of violence against women. He is a professor at the University at Buffalo, N.Y.

 Posted by at 12:17 pm
Apr 072014


While we usually think of living and dying as opposing, Gurbani also speaks of a kind of living and dying that are in conflux. In this presentation, I explore the message in Sri Guru Granth Sahib of this manner of living and dying, and their convergence, and then reflect on what that might mean in practical terms, every day, every moment.

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About the Author


Dr. Inderjit N Kaur is Research Associate in the Music Departmentat UC Santa Cruz, specializing in the historical, aesthetic and performative aspects of Sikh Shabad Kirtan. She has published and presented widely for the academia as well as the community. She has worked closely with 11th generation raagi, late Bhai Avtar Singh, and at his request, translated into English the text of his four-volume book on raags and historical compositions from the Sikh tradition. Her research has offered a significant new interpretation of the term “ghar” in shabad titles, as melodic variations from different locales (, and a critique of the term “Gurmat Sangit” (  Inderjit holds an MA in Ethnomusicology and a PhD in Economics, both from UC Berkeley. She has earned senior diplomas in Indian classical music and in Indian classical dance. Singing Shabad Kirtan has been an integral part of her whole life.


 Posted by at 12:17 pm
Apr 072014


My personal experience as an American born Sikh with parents from Christian and Jewish backgrounds.  The changing world of Sikhi, and how people from different cultures and continents are connecting with this lifestyle. The lessons I have learned, and how I apply the teachings of Gurbani and Sikhi in my life and through


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Oct 31st 2014 – by Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa

This paper is about my personal experience as an American-born Sikh with parents from Christian and Jewish backgrounds; the changing world of Sikhi, and how people from different cultures and continents are connecting with this lifestyle, along with some lessons I have learned, and how I personally apply the teachings of Gurbani and Sikhi in my life and through SikhNet

The universal message of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib has spread through the hearts of people all over the world from all religions and cultures. This article shares a little bit of my story in this tale of inspiration, the challenges, and also tells my experience of how the Guru continues to inspire seekers in places you might not know through many different avenues.

Most Sikhs come from families born in India. However, during the past 40+ years, many small “sprouts” have grown in various parts of the world, from other cultures and backgrounds. Like ripples in the water they are spreading further and further out. With Guru’s blessings, and the lifetime seva of SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, countless people have been exposed to the teachings of Guru Nanak.

SSS with BibijiWhat most Sikhs don’t understand is what attracts these souls to this path. It’s quite different when you are born into a Sikh family and culturally are raised in this environment. However, when you are born in a different culture, with different language and religious beliefs there are many more bridges that have to be crossed to relate to Sikhs and this lifestyle. If “Joe American” were to walk into an average American Gurdwara and ask questions, there are major communication challenges in explaining Sikhi in a way that the western mind can understand and relate to.

SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji had a way of relating and communicating to westerners that really connected with the American youth of the time. He originally came to America (from India) in 1968 to teach yoga at Toronto University, and during a visit to Los Angeles,  though virtually unknown, Yogi Bhajan met a number of young hippies, the “spiritual seekers” of that era. He immediately recognized that the experience of higher consciousness they were attempting to find through drugs could be achieved by practicing the Science of Kundalini Yoga, while simultaneously rebuilding their health and nervous systems.  People becoming Sikhs was an unintended “side-effect.”

Yogi Bhajan - September 1970.tif-2So while most of you probably do not practice yoga, for countless other people Kundalini Yoga was THE way they got introduced/exposed to Sikhism and the teachings of Guru Nanak. These people would likely never have been exposed to Sikhism or even considered it their spiritual path.  Ultimately the Guru can work through all of us. For whatever reason Guruji guided SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa to come to the west (America/Canada) and start teaching Kundalini Yoga, meditation, and a healthy, happy and holy lifestyle.  These “seeds” were planted and they are still growing and flourishing today. 50 years from now I can only imagine what these “seeds” will have grown into, and how they will have spread far and wide. It gives new meaning to the the slogan we recite after Ardas “Raj Karega Khalsa…Aaki rahe na koe, Khawar hoe sabh milainge, bacheh sharan jo hoe.

Gurumustuk Singh and familyI am a second generation Sikh born in the mid 1970’s in Los Angeles, California with the name “Guru Mustuk Singh Khalsa.” My parents’ generation were some of these “pioneers” embarking on a totally new journey on this Sikh path. Both came from mixed religious backgrounds; with my mother from a Jewish family and my father from a Christian family. They were some of the early western/non-Indian people to adopt the Sikh path. My mother was just a teenager when she met Siri Singh Sahib/Yogi Bhajan. She was like many others who were inspired by the universal message he shared, and she yearned to learn more.

Many Sikhs underestimate the hardship and challenges that are the result of someone NOT from a Sikh family becoming a Sikh. I know of many friends who have been disowned by their parents because they changed their religion and gave up the “family name.” Just imagine if none of your friends and family that you grew up with were Sikhs, and if many of them didn’t support your choice of wearing a turban, growing your hair and living this lifestyle. It takes real courage to make these choices and adopt the Sikh lifestyle which is very different from your upbringing.

Gurumustuk Boarding School1When I was about 8 years old, I started my own adventure by going to boarding school in Mussoorie – India and I continued school there in India till I graduated from high school. Those 10 years really shaped who I am as a person and gave me the cross cultural understanding which helps me serve through SikhNet in the role of a bridge builder. Coming from multiple religious and cultural backgrounds has helped me be much more open, compassionate and understanding to other people. It helps me truly appreciate the path of Nanak who preached of One God, many paths, and all of us being from the same Creator.


Gurumustuk school

I still get questions from people shocked that I (a white person) am Sikh and wondering WHY??? As if they missed something, or just couldn’t imagine that the Guru’s message and practices would be of value/interest enough for someone not born into it. For me it just shows how disconnected many Sikhs are from the value and message of the Gurus, and the gift that this lifestyle is.

Even though I was born to a Sikh family, It was difficult being a “white” Sikh youth. Everywhere I went I would get stares. We were clearly different. In India, it was such a novelty for people seeing a “white sikh” since it was not very common. In America the stares were there as well with people wondering who/what I was. So everywhere I went I would stand out like a sore thumb. Most kids want to fit in, NOT stand out. It didn’t help either that many “Heritage” Sikhs from Punjabi background would pre-judge and generalize me and the actions of any western born Sikhs into a single “3HO” entity, as if we were the same person and all the same. Most often this was out of lack of understanding about who we were, what we were about, and little or no real understanding of this community of seekers.  All that was required was someone to have an open heart and look deeply to see the same longing for the Guru, and to get to know me and others as real people.

WeAreOneTo this day I and other “white Sikhs” are generalized and lumped into a category of “3HO people” (typically when being criticized) as if we were not “real” Sikhs. These sort of labels and categorizations are inaccurate and only divide us. Definitely not what Guru Nanak Dev ji had in mind, since he always embraced diversity and accepted everyone.

I don’t make any apologies to others for who I am or my daily practice as a Sikh. Whatever tools I can use to become stronger and connect to the Guru I will use. Every morning in the amrit vela when I wake up, I start my Sadhana (daily discipline) with some Kundalini Yoga – to stretch and wake up my body and mind, so that when I recite the banis and do Waheguru simran I’m fully alert. My body becomes “tuned up” for the day. It’s how I stay healthy and handle the stresses of everyday life and working on a computer all day for SikhNet.

OneGodManyFaithsWhether you practice yoga or not, It’s a good idea for all of us to put more emphasis on exercise, healthy body and healthy living (through whatever means you prefer). If I have all kinds of health problems my energy and focus are not there; I then may not be able to sit in Gurdwara, I can’t focus or meditate or will be focusing on my own pain and discomfort. Are we really following the Sant Sipahi (Soldier Saint) lifestyle that Guru Hargobind started and Guru Gobind Singh  embodied? There are many tools and things that can be done and it is up to each individual to practice what works for them. What works for me may not work for you, but there is the blessing that we have many options for each of us to choose from.

Detractors will try to tell me how yoga is against Sikhi without even understanding what I practice and the practical benefits of it to a householder. Then there are some people who have so much anger or hate inside themselves that they have made it their “mission” to slander, spread false and misleading information, making every attempt to put down SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa and Sikhs from western origin, in a supposed attempt to “save” others from us, as if they know THE right way. They spread false info saying we regard yogi bhajan as our “Guru”, or “worship idols”, do “hindu pujas” and all sorts of random things that are so far from the truth; and people blindly believe it! I only wish they would come and see the reality for themselves. There is so much “Hindu-phobia” that anything someone posts online that triggers that “itch” is believed, and the negativity then spreads. Such is the disease of Ninda (slander). God gave us limited energy on this earth and we can choose it to uplift or destroy.

People can be so close minded that they fail to understand that there is no “One way” or the “right way”, and so many ways to look at something. It all just depends on your frame of reference. It’s important for us to open our minds to other perspectives. Without doing so, I think we become stuck and don’t grow spiritually.

The reality is, that when someone from a different religious and cultural background is learning about Sikhi, they do so from a very different frame of reference.

When my parents and others were first learning about Sikhism and adopting this path, they didn’t have an instruction manual. There was (and still is) a lot of learning and mistakes along the way. There was the language and cultural barrier that was very real. Everything from how to tie a turban, organizing a Gurdwara, taking a hukam, why we wave the chauri sahib, making prashad, taking shoes off, concepts of langar, doing nitnem, everything was a blank slate and had to be learned. It wasn’t till much later that printed materials like the “Victory and Virtue – Sikh Dharma Ministers Manual” were created to be references for the sangat to learn about some of the basics.

Before the digital age of Gurbani our community relied on “shabad sheets” that were given out during Gurdwara that had English translations and romanized versions of the Gurmukhi so the sangat could sing the kirtan and understand the shabad. Ardas was most often recited in English and even Akhand path was read by individuals in either English or Gurmukhi (depending on their ability).  For us it was a necessity to have some understanding and connection to the Guru in the language we understood. It made the Guru more accessible to new seekers discovering this path.

votos-amrit_53Probably the most frustrating thing I have found on this path is the tendency for so many Sikhs to be extremely closed minded and judgemental. Especially in this digital age where we see or hear about people from afar, and don’t really know them. This is a challenge for new people coming into this Dharma or youth finding their identity as Sikhs. I grew up listening to the stories of the Gurus. The stories of compassion, gender equality, acceptance, courage, openness and acceptance of all. In reality what I see too often is far from this picture of Sikhi.  Why would anyone want to become or stay a Sikh if they were judged and criticized about what others thought they were doing wrong?? Why not give the person some help or try to understand what they are going through by seeing from their perspective. It’s as if our minds are trained automatically to find fault in anything that someone is doing, instead of seeing the God and goodness in the other person. It’s a self destructive path that only divides.
To illustrate this point: In 2001 on SikhNet we posted a news article with some pictures and story about the first Amrit Sanchar in Chile (South America). When I read the article and saw the pictures, It was so inspiring for me seeing the faces of these new Khalsa in this far away place having the gift of receiving the Guru’s amrit. I could see their love and longing for the Guru. When reading the comments on the page I was surprised to see a number of people picking out various things and criticizing. It’s as if they had not noticed that a monumental thing had happened (despite any shortcomings). The beauty of what had happened appeared to have been totally missed. I could go on and on with examples such as this, but you get the point.

Gurumustuk - 1979This same issue applies to youth (from Punjabi families) growing up in the west who feel less connected to Sikhi, and who, during their ups and downs of trying to find their identity as a Sikh, are “cast out” of the community and Gurdwaras instead of being supported during their “down times.”

When I was a teenager and finding my way, I went through a phase of experimentation with drugs, alcohol, smoking, partying, etc. If my family, friends and community cast me out during this time then I would be a very different person than I am today. For me that low part of my life was necessary for me to understand and appreciate the value of this path. It gave me the passion and drive to devote my life to serving through SikhNet. It helped me be compassionate to others and more understanding, since I have no idea what their destiny is and what lessons they need to learn to become a better person. It’s not for me to judge. Just for me to see the God and light in that person. I try to see below the surface, the hurt and pain that is showing up on the surface for that person. You can watch the Youtube video where I share a more detailed account of this and the beginnings of SikhNet.

This inspiring quote by Marianne Williamson is very relevant:

Amrit Sanchar 2013 Espanola

New Amritdharis after Amrit Shanchar at 2013 3HO Summer Solstice Camp

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Experiencing the Guru Through Music

Gurbani Kirtan and music is such a part of our lifestyle and daily practice. Many musicians have joined their love of the Guru and their love of music as a way to inspire and uplift people. We are used to seeing ragis play kirtan in Gurdwara or sell CDs in the market, but it’s not the norm to see the audience of Gurbani Kirtan be people who are NOT Sikhs.

With the popularity of Yoga and growing spiritual awareness in the world, many musicians have come forward sharing kirtan style music to the masses. This has led to a new uplifting genre of New Age music that is meant to be sung and chanted. Gurbani is unique in that the recitation of these words and mantras has the power to heal and change a person even if one doesn’t understand the meaning. It becomes a tool for upliftment and change to all people (Sikh or not).

Over the past 10 years musicians like Snatam Kaur, Satkirin Kaur, Chardikala JathaNirinjan Kaur and many other musicians are reaching a huge audience of people who are getting exposed to Gurbani and indirectly the Sikh faith. These musicians are like ambassadors for us, sharing the values of the Sikh path. There are also large events like “Sat Nam Fest” which is a music festival that draws people from all walks of life and is quite popular.

Snatam KaurSnatam Kaur is probably the most well known musician of this genre. Her recent Barcelona, Spain concert attracted over 3,200 people in a giant auditorium. I saw a video clip from the concert of these thousands of people (mostly people of other faiths) chanting “Waheguru” all together, full of joy and excitement. Snatam Kaur and other musicians have been an inspiration and role model for so many people spreading the message of Nanak that is accessible to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

“Snatam Kaur’s albums have topped New Age Retailer’s Top 20 lists every year since 2004. She was the only artist to have 3 albums in the Top 20 in a single year. Her albums have consistently ranked in the top 20 in both Indie New Age and Indie World Music on Amazon throughout 2009 and 2010. Her music can be heard around the world in venues from yoga studios to schools to Hollywood films and in the homes of her fans worldwide.

An international favorite with fans across the U.S, Europe, Asia, South America and the South Pacific, Snatam Kaur performs at over 60 venues each year, from the Bahamas to Russia. One fan spoke for all when he admitted, “We come to Snatam’s concerts to experience the beautiful atmosphere her voice creates, to heal and grow.”

Dressed in distinctive Sikh clothing, Snatam Kaur embodies the Sikh message of strength through inner serenity. Snatam plays the harmonium and violin, and along with her voice delivers a universal message of peace. Accompanied by Todd Boston, a gifted guitar player and musician, her band is an alchemy of eastern and western musical sounds. While traveling the world on tour she also teaches yoga and meditation to children and adults alike, as a part of her commitment to give people tools for a daily experience of inner peace.” – Excerpt from Snatam Kaurs Facebook page

Sikhs in Brazil

Sikhs in Brazil

New Beginnings around the world

Just as my mother and others in the early days began this spiritual path, I now see more and more people beginning this path in their own way. This time from further and further out places like China, Iceland, All across South America (Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina) Mexico and Europe. There is a new generation of seekers coming with so much love and innocence.

As Sikhi spreads, so does the need to share the message and wisdom in people’s own language, and presented in the context of the local culture, so they can understand and relate to it.

Sikhs in Chile

Sikhs in Chile

Spanish Translation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Completed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sikh community in Mexico has grown over the years since the 1970’s when SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji traveled out to Mexico and many places around the world. This community of Sikhs primarily speaks Spanish, so the importance of translating things into Spanish was high. Out of love for the Guru and longing to understand the Guru’s bani in their own language came the lifelong task of some sevadars to translate the full Siri Guru Granth Sahib into Spanish. The translation was started in 1975 by Singh Sahib Babaji Singh Khalsa.  Six years had passed since Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji came to America. He was then teaching Kundalini Yoga and inspiring thousands of students who were then becoming inspired in Sikh Dharma.

A lot of people began to live in the Sikh Dharma lifestyle. They all wanted to understand the words of Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, but there was no Spanish translation available.

When Babaji became 28 years old a very strong cancer invaded his body. It was then that the Siri Singh Sahib ordered him to translate the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Babaji Singh was cured. He survived not only that cancer, but 3 more. He died of a fourth, 31 years later, happy grateful, and blessed.

In translating the Siri Guru Granth Sahib to Spanish he found the sense and purpose of his life. The Guru gave him courage, wisdom, patience and grace to go through the physical pain without suffering from it. Babaji Singh was a happy man.

When his wife, Guru Amrit Kaur Khalsa met him – she found him a happy man in 1999. He told her that he was not going to die until he finished the complete translation and transliteration in Spanish. It was his destiny. He wanted to honor Yogi Bhajan’s words.

He translated the Siri Guru Granth Sahib from Dr. Gopal Singh’s English translation over a period of 30 years. He was working at the same time, teaching yoga in the evenings and spending long periods of his life in hospitals or at home in bed.

In the last 3 years of his life, he worked with his wife in the early morning translating. She remembers him writing with so much devotion and love, researching the exact meaning of every word, hoping the Spanish speaking community could be able to read and understand the beauty of each word.

In 2006, he was diagnosed with the cancer again. After one of the several surgeries he had that year, he said to his wife, he wanted to die at home at the Ashram. At that time the translation had gone to print. His agony lasted 6 days. Because his kidneys were not working, he began to lose consciousness the third day.

The day prior, he had asked for the printed translation as he wanted to see it in finished in print. He had asked for the best imported Spanish fabric for the cover and wanted to be sure that the printing was well done. A group of his devoted students were in the Print House in prayer to the Creator to be able to bring this to him before he passed away. They knew that their spiritual teacher was losing consciousness and if late, he would not be able to see it.


That night Babaji went into a coma which brought a great sadness to all around him. The next day all the community gathered with chanting and prayer until the Spanish translation of the Guru arrived with the students.

Babaji Singh woke up for a moment, read the Mul Mantra at the start of Japji, with difficulty but with a spark and light in his eyes. He lost consciousness after this blessing and died two days later with the Mexican community reading to him for the first time from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib in Spanish.


The first Akhand Paath, the traditional Sikh non-stop reading of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, was performed in Mexico the 17th of November 2006.

Guruka Singh recounts visiting the ashram in Mexico City and seeing a small alcove at the back of the yoga classroom where the Spanish translation of the Guru sat in prakash and available to be read. Outside the curtain over the doorway were signs instructing people to wash their hands, bow and do a prayer before entering and reading. He remembers seeing students who had come for the yoga class, who had no knowledge of Sikhi nor of the Guru, going into the alcove to read from the Guru and watching them emerge later with tears streaming down their cheeks as the Guru’s words touched their hearts.

Hukamnama printed in spanish from SikhNet’s Daily hukam / Shabad printer

Hukamnama printed in spanish from SikhNet’s Daily hukam / Shabad printer

Spanish Translations on SikhNet in Digital Form

The seva from this effort now ripples out and serves all the Spanish speaking countries.

  • Now every day people can read the Daily Hukamnama in Spanish on SikhNet.
  • While listening to Gurbani kirtan in the SikhNet Gurbani Media Center people can read and understand the Gurbani being played on their computer or smartphone.
  • In Gurdwaras all over South America the sangat has the option to take a hukam or participate in an Akhand Path in Spanish using the printed version produced by the Mexico Sangat.

SikhNet Gurbani Media Center - Spanish Options

Printed Siri Guru Granth Sahib 5 volume Set

One of the needs of native English speaking countries is to have a physical printed version of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib with modern English translation easily available. Most people who are new to Sikhi don’t understand Punjabi/Gurmukhi and so it is important for communities to have printed versions that can be used in Gurdwara or Akhand Paths.

In the past, acquiring even a multi-volume Siri Guru Granth Sahib set with English translation has been very difficult for Sikhs in small communities that don’t have connections to India, since they are not available online and hard to find. In addition, the available printed options from India include old translations that use antiquated English words and Judeo-Christian concepts which people don’t understand or relate to.

Siri Guru Granth Volumes - English2

SikhNet used to frequently receive emails from people asking how they can get a printed copy of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib which includes a good English translation. To serve this need SikhNet published a beautiful new 5 volume set which includes the more modern English translation of Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa, and have made this available online for people to order. This is done as a pure seva to assist with making Gurbani available to growing Sikh communities that I have spoken about in this article.

Siri Guru Granth Volumes - English1

To illustrate the use of the 5 volume Siri Guru Granth Sahib set, we have seen how various small communities have already started to benefit from this  by having first ever Akhand Path in those countries.

First Akhand Path held in Iceland

On August 12th, 2013 a small group of seekers finished the very first Akhand Path done in Iceland. Here is an excerpt by Guru Suraj Kaur about the experience:

First Akhand Path in Iceland 2 - Aug 5 2013Bringing the Guru to Iceland started out as a deep need in my being that I could not ignore. Once that was settled it became very clear that we needed to start with an Akandh Path. If you ask me why, I have no tangible answer; it was just something that needed to happen. The steps from committing to installing the Guru to finishing the Akhand Path were many and I had really solid backup – from Sikh friends in New Mexico and London and great help from my husband and yoga friends – but the strongest element in all of this was faith. Faith that we should and we could, and we did!

It is a very young Sangat here in Iceland, no Sikhs but many seekers. About 40 people were willing to answer the calling of their soul and participate, more wanted to join once word got out about how great it was. Everyone reading and doing seva felt on some level that this was a true blessing for them personally as well as a blessing for the community as a whole. It was a really good feeling to sit and talk with all the people that came to read or just to be; it elevated our Sangat and brought us closer together.

The calling is still strong and now more people feel it – the need to meet the Word of the Guru in this powerful way. Our 2nd Akandh Path will start on October 31st. If you feel the calling, you are welcome to join!”

First Akhand Path held in China

Another small and growing community is in Shenzhen – China. They have been introduced to Sikhi through the practice of Kundalini Yoga and the teachings of SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa.

Here are some details shared by Atma Singh who is one of the persons involved with the Ajai Alai Kundalini Yoga Community Center in China:

Kundalini Yoga students from China on their yatra to Punjab

Kundalini Yoga students from China on their yatra to Punjab

Last January, with a group of 16 Chinese Yoga students, we went to Punjab. We visited the Golden Temple, Anandpur Sahib and also did the 84 steps in Goindwal. The coldness was challenging but most of the students kept going, bathing in the water after reading the Japji. They had a profound experience and felt a deep connection to the place, to the Guru, to the Shabd. From that Yatra, bringing the SGGS to China was obvious, and this Akhand Paath was a natural following up. I was really surprised to see so many people who were willing to read the SGGS. The SGGS is universal and allows people to connect back to their essence, to the essence. One love to all.

10298510_643022312435704_3752796878662655865_oMost of the Chinese ladies cried reading the Guru. After decades of communism and atheism the need to experience spirituality is so strong that emotions overflow.

Now, at Ajai Alai Center, we are doing prakash of the Guru every morning and sukhasan every evening.

Also, the prashad recipe is now part of the newborn 3HO Chinese community.


Satmukh Singh, who started all this process in China six years ago must be honored for the mission.

Jap Ji in ChineseThese are the comments of some of the Chinese ladies who participated to the Akhandh Path.

Saibhang Kaur : “Reading the Guru was indescribable, and sometimes feeling taken over”

Ramdev Kaur : “It felt like a new beginning, an opening and I am honor to be here for the first of what may be many to come”.

Devinder Kaur : “A Divine and Miraculous experience. I feel really close to God.”

Ajeet Dev Kaur : “Moving. When you make some mistakes, you feel guilty but someone didn’t judge you and saw the good part of you and treated you gently, just like the Guru’s love.”

Sukh Meher Kaur : “Amazing experience. When I was reading… I entered a space where I was worry free, care free. I could leave everything behind. I felt protected. I got much deeper understanding about the Sikh religion. In that space, I feel very comfortable, I just wanted to stay by the Guru. Also, one time, reading the Guru, I was crying.”

Chinese students learning Gurbani Kirtan

Chinese students learning Gurbani Kirtan

Global Sikhi and Youth of Today

Where do we go from here? It starts with me and you. My hope is that this article has helped show a picture of the emerging new generation of spiritual seekers. In order to serve these people and our younger generation, there is a strong need for every one of us to become more aware of the things we think and say. Our words and actions can either support or divide. They can put someone down or lift them up. It’s all a choice of where we focus our attention.  Mistakes are part of the journey and a way to learn. Our common goal should be to support everyone and stop the habit of tearing each other apart. It is time for us to stop judging something because it differs from your own frame of reference. I strive to use the example of Guru Nanak in my life who was ever compassionate, understanding and open to all. Let’s all work on this together.


Sikhs after Amrit SancharSikhs from Brazil, Los Angeles, New York and other places after receiving amrit during the 3HO Summer Solstice event in Espanola, New Mexico


First Amrit Sanchar in ChileFirst Amrit Sanchar in Chile (South America)

Langar Chile Seva“Langar Chile” a seva group that serves the hungry in and around Chile

Brazil GurdwaraGurdwara in Brazil

MPA - Brazil GatkaMiri Piri Academy – Brazil. Students practice Gatka

Mexico KaursKaurs in Mexico City

Sikhs in MexicoSikhs in Mexico City

1231611_566865670017702_1316074858_nGurdwara in Mexico

Izzat Di Punjab - Bhangra group 2010“Izzat De Punjab 2010” – Group from Espanola, NM who practice Bhangra & perform at special events

About the Author

gurmustuk Singh

Gurumustuk Singh, known by many from his web blog nick name “MrSikhNet”, started the website in 1995 as a teenager out of high school during the beginnings of the world wide web. He also started the first and largest online matrimonial service for Sikhs ( before any similar service like this existed for the Asian/Sikh community.  Later introduced many other innovative and unique web services  (Including SikhiWikiGurbani Media CenterThe Karma GameAudio Stories for KidsYouth Online Film Festival), which continue to serve the Sikh community today.  SikhNet (a non-profit organization based in Espanola, New Mexico) now in it’s 18th year continues to serve, inspire, educate and inform over 20,000 unique visitors a day from all over the world.  Gurumustuk lives with his wife, daughter, and son in Espanola, New Mexico and continues to develop the SikhNet website with the rest of the SikhNet team.


 Gurumustuk lives with his wife, daughter, and son in Espanola, New Mexico and continues to develop the SikhNet website with the rest of the SikhNet team. 


 Posted by at 12:16 pm
Apr 072014


Although originally penned in Gurmukhi script, Guru Granth showcases many Indic and Middle Eastern languages extant when it was composed 300 to 500 years ago.  The beginnings of Sikhi emerge from Punjab but Sikhs are now found all over the globe. Many newer generations of Sikhs are more at home in the language and cultural context of their world wide settlements.

How then to uncover the universality and the timelessness of the message of Guru Granth.  Clearly, it would be by forging a connection with the Guru Granth.  This requires that the message be available to all irrespective of their ethnicity or primary language.

A two-step approach is the key:  First, a comprehensive attempt to transliterate the Guru Granth initially at least in Roman script so that a non-Punjabi knowing reader can read correctly; and secondly, a thoughtful translation into English, but ultimately into many of the languages of the world. Neither task is simple.  Each mandates a multi-author, multi-year effort.  Examples from religious and secular literature are explored to highlight the rewards and pleasures as well the pitfalls and problems in translation and transliteration of sacred literature.

Video of Presentation

Body of Paper


It’s an honor to be starting the day-long conversation on how Guru Granth speaks to us today.  I need not tell you that for it to be universal and timeless, the Guru Granth must speak to us today in America as it did to countless others centuries ago in Punjab. Otherwise it loses all relevance.

Other speakers will parse the message; I will talk about how we come to terms with the message.

Today, there is perhaps no continent or country where Sikhs are not.  Wherever we have ventured, we have taken our lifestyle, family values, cuisine, song and dance, and our enterprising spirit; along with Sikhi – a unique, universal and timeless heritage that makes us what we are.

We now enjoy the globally connected existence of a nation without walls.  And now more than ever, Sikhs are growing up outside the linguistic and cultural cocoon of Punjab.

The mythological antecedents of India shaped us, not because they were essential to Sikhi, but because mythology was the overarching cultural context of India. This is now alien to a new generation of Sikhs.

We, in the diaspora, dearly value our mother tongue, Punjabi, but within our lifespan it has diminished to a transactional presence, limited to social banter, music and humor.  We are not comfortable enough to pick up a book of poetry, history or philosophy in it, so we usually don’t.  In English, too, our command of the language is largely transactional.  So, the education of the mind is often effectively stalled in both languages, even though I recognize the growing number of exceptions to this in the new generation of Sikhs.

The repository of our spiritual heritage,  Guru Granth, traditionally penned in the Gurmukhi script, contains little of present-day modern colloquial Punjabi.  With copious references to mythology, Gurbani showcases many Indic and Middle Eastern languages extant when it was composed 300 to 500 years ago.

Guru Granth does not endorse mythology but is written in the vernacular and frames the message to resonate with the average Indian of that time. Why?  Clearly, no matter the topic, teaching is best couched in the culture, context and language of the student or else the lesson is lost.

Two imperatives emerge when we engage with the Guru Granth Sahib.

Translations connect us to Gurbani without disconnecting us from the modern world in which we live.   But there are many languages in Guru Granth, including Arabic and Persian with Semitic roots, and also Sanskrit, and Braj from the tree of Indo-European languages.

Remember that India is a country of nation states that were for much of history semi- autonomous, each with its own narrative.  Add to this mélange the fact that Indian languages, like others, show many regional and dialectical variations.  English, French and Spanish are classic examples that are chockfull of such structural intricacies.

Moreover, Sikhs are and will remain a minority no matter where they live, even in India.  This reduces Punjabi in Gurmukhi script effectively to a minority language that is not commonly studied.  For many Punjabis, including Sikhs, Punjabi is mostly a spoken language today.

That’s why there is a generation of Sikhs, who do not comfortably read Gurmukhi.  True that a minimal commitment of a day or so would enable anyone to read it competently but human inertia being what it is, many Sikhs remain relatively clueless in reading the Guru Granth.  They need translations to comprehend Guru Granth and transliterations into Arabic or Roman script to read it. So, translation has an equally troublesome twin beside it and that is transliteration.

Also keep in mind that Guru Granth is mystical revealed poetry, teeming with allegories, metaphors and analogies, as all good poetry is.  In this potent mix the enormity of the task of translating Guru Granth into modern English or any other language becomes obvious. 

We need different sets of professionals to do things right:  For translation we need linguists and scholars of Sikhi who know the two languages intimately– their lexicon, grammar and historical-cultural context– and who can seamlessly travel between the two.  For transliteration we need masters of phonetics in the two spoken languages and the cultures involved. These must be mavens of the phonemes involved in the exchange.

Transliteration frustrates us but should be easier to tame. Let’s first dive into the issue of translations of Gurbani.

Some Translation Issues:

Think a moment: any conversation, no matter how simple, no matter if it is with an arch enemy or a soul mate.  Isn’t it accompanied by some thought about what the other person really means or understands? Understanding the other demands tuning into (translating) the other’s moods, gestures, body language and words, and mining them for meaning.

Translation remains the only effective insight into another mind.  War and peace stem from translating or mis-translating each other.

The literary output of past civilizations comes to us via translations.  That’s how we know of Homer, the greatest poet of ancient Greece, and of Virgil and Ovid, of similar standing in Rome, or Kalidasa, the preeminent playwright and poet of ancient India.

How accurately does a translation capture the mind and insights of a poet and the beauty of his meter and language?  Such questions are rarely laid to rest, but they give birth to new scholars of the original language and also the one in which a translation is done. Countless new PhDs result.

Times change as do cultures and languages; the vernacular becomes opaque, literary language even more so. For instance today, just a few hundred years later, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales defy comprehension without translation into modern English.  Similar hurdles abound in engaging with classics, such as the writings of Plato, or German and Latin Masters. I offer you a line from gurbani: “Bako Shubh Rasna.”  Shubh rasna, of course, speaks of a kind generous tongue but bakko as speech and as directing one to speak has now colloquially morphed into bakwas that is best translated as cheap or trash talk in American English.

How good is any translation?  This admits no easy answer but it deserves an exploration.  As examples, let’s revisit two classics and then we will segue into translations of Guru Granth.

Omar Khayyam’s Poetry & New Testament Bible:

A Persian poet and astronomer, Omar Khayyam, lived around 1050. Some of his quatrains (Rubaiyat) have seen at least 15 translations into English and into many other languages. Why so many English versions?  Obviously, scholars saw a lack of fidelity.  Some derisively labeled the popular version by Edward FitzGerald as the “The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar.”  FitzGerald himself published five editions in 30 years with significant variations among them.

My second example, even more instructive, comes from Christianity.

Many versions of the New Testament Bible exist. Followers of John Wycliffe gave us the first English translation of the Christian Bible but it was banned in 1409. King Henry VIII authorized an English translation; later another version (The Bishop’s Bible) came in 1568.  The puritans who were part of the Church of England did not approve these versions.

In 1604, King James I convened the Hampton Court Conference for a new English translation.  This — the Authorized Version of the Bible — was prepared between 1604 and 1611by 47 scholars, all from the Church of England.  Keep in mind: seven years and 47 scholars!

Opposition to this Bible surfaced quickly.   Hugh Broughton, a Hebraic scholar, condemned it in 1611, saying that “I would rather be torn in pieces by wild horses than that this abominable translation should ever be foisted upon the English people.”

But a hundred years later, it became the Bible in all Anglican and Protestant denominations.  It remains unchallenged today, except by The Roman Catholic Church.

My purpose is not to judge any scripture but to explore problems inherent in translation and transmission of a heritage.  Many Sikh sites on the Internet are abuzz these days with translation projects.  I welcome them and I also wonder.

Translations of Gurbani:

Our sacred writings are cast in inspired poetry that, to us, is divine.  And I don’t need to tell you the difficulty in deciphering the mind of a poet when he plays with words, language and meter. For example, take the root word chinta, meaning worry.  It occurs in Guru Granth as chint, chinta, chinti, even as Chind;  I suppose the variations reflect the demands of versification.  Or look at the verse from Aasa ki Vaar: Gyan ka badha munn rahay; Gur bin gyan na hoye. Is the word gur here poetic shorthand for Guru?  Should “gur” be translated as Guru since Guru is the source of gyan or should the word be literally rendered as technique or technology?  The Guru gives us the Gur that is method or technique.  Similar concerns abide in another line: Ete channan hondya(n) Gur bin ghor andhaar. In understanding the verse either word, Guru or Gur, would suffice. The translational difficulty here is likely harmless, but not always.

Yet, critical are good faith efforts to translate the poetry of Guru Granth to capture its message; how else would we understand or adopt it as a blueprint for our life.

When my interest in the Guru Granth awakened, my intimacy with its language and grammar was minimal.  My stumbling eased when I discovered the 1966 UNESCO publication, an English translation of selections from Guru Granth and related writings by five iconic masters of the grammar and lexicon of Sikh scriptures: Trilochan Singh, Jodh Singh, Kapur Singh, Bawa Harkishen Singh and Khushwant Singh, and edited by an English poet, George Fraser.  I find this by far the best translation, way better than any that I have seen.  It captures the magic, even though now the language seems a little archaic, and the book remains incomplete.

The early 1970’s saw complete translations of Guru Granth in English. (Ernst Trump’s translation was way earlier, but it was incomplete.)  Manmohan Singh’s phraseology was often awkward, and the meaning not always clear.  As translations by Gopal Singh, Trilochan Singh, Sant Singh Khalsa, Pritam Singh Chahil, and Kartar Singh Duggal appeared I eagerly pounced on them, but was left at sea by the language, style or clarity.

In time, I graduated to exegesis in Punjabi by Bhai Vir Singh and Professor Sahib Singh.  At times they, too, appeared to mix mythological lore with the pristine purity of the Guru’s message.

All existing translations bar two are solo efforts – one person’s endeavor.  Exceptions are the UNESCO publication and the four-volume Shabdarth in Punjabi which is not a translation, but a guide to difficult words and concepts in the Guru Granth; it is published by the SGPC and no single author is identified.

Of many that are possible, I offer you brief examples where the traditional translations often leave me baffled.

Should one literally interpret Farid’s recommendation to kiss the feet of the enemy? Or, for that matter, what to make of the traditional take on the cycle of birth and death; or that even our smallest action is controlled and prewritten by God, which would then leave us no free will and no option to act otherwise.  I don’t quite see that a Creator — that gurbani assures us repeatedly cannot be measured, has no form, shape, color, caste or gender — sits out there somewhere micromanaging my puny existence, keeping track of all my sins committed or contemplated, and yet all of my actions are in accord with God’s prewritten dossier on me.  It strikes as a wholly anthropomorphic model of God as the supreme puppeteer.

Such matters often leave one wondering what exactly the Guru meant. Literal rendition leaves us entirely lost while an interpretation free of the cultural context seems to go beyond the mandate of a translator. Perhaps we need a literal rendering accompanied by a footnote with interpretation of the poetry in modern English.

As I see it, living a life in Hukum, like walking in the shadow of the Creator, transcends Gurbani’s literal rendering.  To me it asks us to live wholly in the present – in the moment – to have the courage to change the things we can change, to accept with serenity (as Hukum) what we cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Translating Gurbani is a Never Ending Process:

Gurbani is mystical poetry, full of allegories, analogies and metaphors, seldom to be literally translated.

A translator has to know two cultures intimately: their languages, idioms and traditions, the land and the people, the history and mythology that have shaped them.  And then the translator has to navigate between the two realities seamlessly.   In the process an early loss is the inability to capture the rhythmic flow and cadence of inspired poetry that transcends the literal rendition.

Given the richness of the original language, grammar and mythology, any translation project promises to be a life-long unfinished quest.    A translator needs to merge the cold-blooded mind of an analyst and grammarian with the warm joyous heart of a poet in an existence of faith.  A daunting task but surely, many dedicated translators will come out of it steeped in Sikhi.

I offer you a brief detour:  Even when the language is not so alien or abstruse, differences in interpretation between equally brilliant minds are not uncommon.  Look at the laws of any country.  Without plausible and differing interpretations of the same law a society would not need thousands of lawyers, so many different layers of judiciary, and the courts would never be so busy striving mightily to ferret out the truth.

For example: What exactly did the framers of our Constitution really mean – Is ours (USA) a Christian nation?  How is the line between Church and State to be interpreted?  Do differences in interpretation of civil rights exist or don’t they? And have some such understandings changed with time?

This says to me then that I, or any Sikh, will always have to struggle to make sense of what the Guru likely meant from an inadequate translation, no matter how good it appears to be.  And that becomes the lifelong path of a Sikh.

But when I get lost I am reassured by Gurbani that my smallest, hesitant step towards the Guru would be reciprocated by the Guru covering miles towards me.  In other words, grace would pervade and prevail.  And that with reading and cogitation a sense of the poetry would emerge.

When I realized this, I knew that I was on my way home.

That’s how I grew to like “less than perfecttranslations — that don’t seem so easy or adequate.  They place the onus on me.  I then stop and wonder if the Guru could have meant what the translator implies.  If the translations had been excellent, I might never have made the struggle my own.

Guru Granth tells us (p. 594) “Dithay mukt na hoveyee jichhar sabd na karay vichhaar,” it is not the sight of the Guru Granth but thoughtful engagement with the Word that will liberate us.

No interpretation may be guaranteed to be totally true forever. The best scholar or translator, like an honest lawyer, can only guarantee sincerity of effort, not purity of result.

Translation initiatives?  Yes, embrace them but beware of the rocky road ahead.   What we translate today is NOT for ever; it would need retranslating and tweaking by every new generation. Explore the translations, and keep at hand the original text of Gurbani.  Will it be easy?  Never!  Is it necessary? Like breath to life!

Transliteration Issues:

This now brings us to the second, but I think the more manageable riddle of Tranliteration.

Just look at many imaginative ways that the opening alphanumeric of Guru Granth Sahib – Ik Oankaar – is rendered in Roman script – Oankaar, Omkar, Onkar, Ongkar ….  more such variations abound.

A phonetics expert could teach us the correct standard enunciation devoid of the baggage of regional variations and could help us record it precisely in Roman or any other script so that a non-native speaker of Punjabi could sound it out accurately, precisely and reliably.

A phoneme is defined as the smallest contrasting unit in the sound system of a language that is capable of conveying a distinct meaning.  The American language system recognizes a set of 20 to 60 distinctive phonemes or sound units – a different number for each spoken language that can be captured in Roman script.

Rules of pronunciation, in English, often seem to be arbitrarily derived from geography, social class, and, from the worldwide British colonial experience over two centuries.  Nevertheless, there are standards of phonetics that are both trustworthy and replicable.

Phonetics is not always a perfect science or art.  For example some tribal languages have guttural sounds and clicks as distinct parts of their lexicon and there is no way to render them adequately in the Roman alphabet as we know it.

I don’t know if anyone has systematically identified how many and which specific phonemes capture the Punjabi language, and if any gaps remain. Clearly, some sounds in the Gurmukhi alphabet and in Gurbani are not easily rendered into Roman script.    But in transliterations of Gurbani today there are as many systems as there are people doing them.  In today’s expanding global reality perhaps Roman script, the most commonly used alphabet system, could stretch its dimensions beyond its 60 phonemes.

But in this process we do start with a supreme advantage.  Punjabi, like most Indic languages, is a precisely designed phonetic language and to determine the variety of phonemes that capture should not be that complex if we can find dedicated experts in phonetics to take on the task.

All languages have blind spots.  A simple example: the Punjabi ear does not distinguish between the sounds of “v” and “w” because the language does not make the distinction, whereas English has no phonemes for the distinctions between the hard “d”, the soft “d” and for the combined “dh.” A phonetics expert can capture these distinctions but likely cannot show them in written form in the Roman script as it exists today.  Exactly how and by what standards a transliteration is done into the Roman script may spell the difference between war or peace, success or failure.

Both the writer and the reader need to be on the same page.  An arbitrary decision on pronunciation serves little purpose except to sow discord.  Please note that what follows next is not a judgment of what is right or wrong.  It is merely an example where an amateur like me can easily go astray.

Look at the expression “Guru Fateh” – universally used by Sikhs.  I have seen “Guru” spelled as “Goroo” and if I was learning to read by sounding it out, as in grade school, I would be lost.

I have seen “Fateh” transcribed as “Fatih, Fatah, Phatih or Phatah.” Now look at how a reasonably sane English educated non-Sikh would sound it out.   Certainly “Guru Fatah” reminds us of the Palestinian organization “Al Fatah,” while the last choice here “Guru Phatah” pushes us towards a totally unacceptable rendering in Punjabi where “Phatah” means “torn” like a piece of cloth, and to say the Guru is torn is not so good a greeting; it sounds almost blasphemous.


In summary, the issue is how to standardize the way to capture sounds from the languages of gurbani that don’t normally exist in English into Roman script.  Remember that “sounding it out” is how all of us mastered the fundamentals of ABC and the joy of reading.

The sole purpose of translation and transliteration is to enhance communication of the message, particularly with those who are on unfamiliar territory. We are talking here of the reasonably educated common man or woman, not one at home with the intricacies of linguistics and phonetics, or the time and energy to pursue them.

There is no question that we need both a standardized translation and transliteration of Gurbani and these are not what a single scholar, no matter how good, can or should handle alone.  We need linguists steeped in Sikhi as well as mavens of phonetics to work in tandem and produce a standardized body of knowledge that remains a work in progress and puts us on the path to progress.  This is eminently doable.

Translation and transliteration are very different species of animal but each demands our full, enduring and clearheaded engagement.  Nothing less will do.

About the Author


I.J. SINGH came to the United States in 1960 on a Murry & Leonie Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He received a PhD in anatomical sciences from the University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health Sciences University), and a DDS from Columbia University. He is a professor emeritus of anatomical sciences at New York University.


He serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Sikh Review (Calcutta) as well as Nishaan (New Delhi), and writes a regular internet column on Sikhi


 Posted by at 12:00 pm