Aug 292016

The Mystique of Ik (One) and its Profound Applicability


It has been stated by authoritative Sikh scholars (Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Veer Singh) that Jap Ji summarizes the message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and the essence of Jap Ji has been distilled in the Moolmantra. Furthermore, it has been said that the symbolic imagery Ik Ongkar encapsulates the plurality and vastness of the manifest world that emanates from a single source, Ik (One). In her presentation Jessi Kaur will focus on Ik, and explore its mystique and munificence. She will move from a conceptual understanding of Ik to its experiential aspect, and the profound impact the application of the essence of Ik can have on our life.

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The mystique of One and its profound applicability to life

By Jessi Kaur

Legend goes that when Guru Nanak was living in a town called Sultanpur Lodhi, one day while bathing in a river he disappeared into it. Everyone thought he had drowned. He returned after three days and made the proclamation that “There is no Hindu and there is no Musalman”, and thereafter proceeded with reciting the Jap Ji, the first of many divine revelations he received.

Authoritative Sikh scholars (Bhai Veer Singh, Singh Sahib Giani Mani Singh) are of the opinion that Jap Ji summarizes the message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and the essence of Jap Ji has been distilled in the Moolmantra, the opening verse of Jap Ji: “Ik Ongkar Sat naam Karta Purak Nirbhu Nirvair Akaal Murat Ajooni Sehbnahg Gurparsaad.”

Ik or Ek, is germane to understanding the basic premise of Sikhi because the entire expanse of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is an exploration of the mystique and munificence of Ik. I will attempt to move from a conceptual understanding of Ik to its experiential aspect and the profound impact of its application in our lived reality.

Guru Nanak chose IK (numeral one) to describe the essence of the Creator. According to Bhai Veer Singh (Santhya SGGS Pothi 1), Ik is not used as an adjective that describes a noun, but is used as a noun, the name of a person. The rest of the mool mantra describes the uniqueness and vastness of Ik, endowing the Ik of Jap Ji with a depth of meaning that is as fathomless as the nature of Ik.

Ik is placed before Ong, the age old symbol representing the auspicious sound manifestation of the Creator. But Guru Nanak opened the vowel ura at the top to indicate its expanse as Kar (dynamic action). He used the imagery of Ongkar to embody the manifestation of Ik into many.

Ongkar eko rav reha sab ekas mahe samavego

Eko roop eko bahu rangi sab ekat bachan chalavego

Gurmukh eko ek pachhata gurmukh hoay lakhavego (SGGS 1310)

The One and Only Creator of the Universe is all-pervading everywhere. All shall once again merge into the One. His One Form has one, and many colors; He leads all according to His One Word. || 4 || The Gurmukh realizes the One and Only Lord is revealed to the Gurmukh.

Furthermore, Ik is both formless and immanent in creation.

Agam agochar roop na rekheya,

khojat khojat ghat ghat dekhya (SGGS P838)

Fathomless, invisible, without form

Upon searching is found in each and every heart.

Even as Ongkar diffuses in every particle of creation, it remains inviolable and intact as a singular and unique entity.

Ekam ekamkaar nirlala, amar ajoni jaat na jalaa

The One Universal Creator is unique, immortal, unborn, beyond social class or involvement. SGGS P 38

Mool matra goes on to state another quality of Ik which is inherent in its quintessence: Ik is constant, does not vary or change. It is the only truth because anything that changes is not truth, it is transitory. Truth however is stable and unvarying.

Aad sach jugad sach, haibhi sach

Nanak hosi bhi Sach

True in the primal beginning, true throughout the ages,

True here and now, O Nanak forever and ever true. SGGS P1

Sat is followed by Naam which literally means name, but is not intended to give Ik, the nameless cosmic force a name. Naam refers to the vibration, light, the spirit, the essence if you will, of the creative force. Naam also refers to the innumerous qualities of the Doer. Sat naam is the essence of the timeless supreme truth that words fail to describe, eyes are unable to see, and the mind cannot comprehend.

Karta Purakh further explains the doer aspect of Naam that with one utterance manifested a dynamic Universe with infinite forms, immutable laws, held together by the Will of the Creator and infused with its essence.

The moolmantra describes Ik as Nirbhau and Nirvair. Being the Creative force, Ik is also the nurturer, the benevolent provider, the protector with no hatred, angst, malevolence towards anyone. Being above and beyond its creation, the first cause, and indebted to none, Ik is fearless. Furthermore, the creator Ik is not far from its creation; it is a part of it, immanent in it and watches over it. But while creation ebbs and flows, forms and dissolves, shapes and reshapes, Ik remains undying (akaal murat), unborn (ajooni), self-created (saibhang) entity within the churning and outside of it.

It is not surprising that human language is unable to convey the mystical phenomenon of Ik. It can be fathomed only by the grace of an enlightened soul (Guru).

As the creator and nurturer Ik is always kind, forgiving, benevolent, merciful, and endlessly giving. Dynamic creation extends from Ik and reverts back into it. As the rays of the light merge with the Sun, and rivers lose themselves in the Ocean, the dispersive light of the Creator comes back into its fold.

Suraj Kiran milay jal ka jal hua raam

Jyoti jyot rali sampuran thea raam

The rays of light merge with the sun, and water merges with water. One’s light blends with the Light, and one becomes totally perfect.

Such is the playful nature of Ik. In fact SGGS refers to creation as Waho waho ka vadda tamasa, an epic play of the Divine. The play is interactive. We are the performing actors that crisscross with the Divine, and other actors who are part of the caste.

The Creator made the play complex by throwing in some warring elements:

Eho jug aap upayean kar choj vidaan

Panch dhaat vich payean moh zhoot guman (SGGS P786)

The Supreme One created the world and staged this wondrous play

Within the five elements of the body were infused attachment, falsehood and conceit.

As if this were not enough some smokescreens were also added to throw the players off :

Ekam eke aap upayeya dubedha dooja tribadh maya

First, the One created the One; second, the sense of duality; third, the three-phased Maya. (SGGS 113)

We have to out game the maneuvers of Maya (a catch all for everything that distracts) that clouds our mind and take us away from constant alignment with the Divine and Bharam the illusion of separateness from the Divine and our co-actors that propels us to work against each other rather than for the benefit of one another.

The best outcomes are achieved only when we recognize the oneness that connects us – each one of us carries the same spark, is fashioned from the same clay and our goal is to merge back into the Light we come from which is also our true nature.

Ya yug mein eke ko aayea, janmat moehoe mohni maya

We have come into this world to become One,

But ever since birth, we have been enticed by the fascination of Maya. (SGGS 251)

An important step towards clearing the veil of braham is mindfully recognizing:

Bahar bheetar eko jaano eh gur gyan bataee

Jan Nanak bin aapa cheeney mitay na brahm ki kaee (SGGS 684)

Wisdom lies in recognizing that within us and outside of us -there is only One reality.

Without self- reflection the algae of doubt doesn’t go away.

Scientists and spiritualists are converging in seeing the connectedness of all things. We hear phrases like “unified field” form physicists and “ecology of oneness” from Sufi mystics. Our prejudices, biases, violence in words and in action stem from our ego and not from our essence. It is the dominance of ego that over arches the strong hold of kaam, krodh, lobh moh ahnkar (Lust, anger, greed, attachment and arrogance). The conquest of ego entails constant battling of two opposing forces – Ego and Oneness. The role of ego is to create walls, to serve the self, and to perpetuate selfishness. One is all embracing love that simply put brings down the walls. This is the game that is played out, won or lost on the stage of life. The tension is constant. The narrow trail that leads to wining has been described as finer than a strand of hair, sharper than a razor’s edge. The trail takes us away from the swamp of exploitation and steers us towards spiritual responses to daily challenges : choices and decisions that don’t merely serve material gains but help us garner true wealth that comes from preserving and sustaining the unifying presence that ties us to one another and to our eco system. The true wealth is earned by strengthening the sound vibration of naam in our heart through chanting, seeking guidance through prayer, and living by the principles laid out by the sages through the centuries. The synergy of daily practice and grace (gurprasad) enable us to expand our sense of self. Alignment with One enables our actions to be for the larger good of all. We find inner fulfillment and outer peace. Contradictions and conflicts are effaced in the experience of a unified whole.


1.Santhya Sri Guru granths Sahib Ji – Pothi Pehli – Bhai Veer Singh (Publisher Bhai veer Singh Sahitya Sadan 1983)

2.Sidhantik Steek Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Pehli Sainchi – Singh Sahib Giani Mani Singh (Publisher Gurbani Study Society – 1991)



About the Author


Jessi Kaur is the author of three highly acclaimed children’s books.She travels extensively to deliver seminars on Sikhi and is a frequent contributor to populous and scholarly publications. For more info

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