REALIZATION : THE TRUE PATH OF SIKHI
THE MEANING OF NAAM
Has any reader experienced being told in a gurdwara ‘Kintu Prantu Na Karo’ (DO NOT QUESTION) just say ‘Haanji, Sat Bachan, Sat Bachan’ (YES, YES JI)?
But wait a minute, didn’t Baba Nanak write his Q & A discourse (Sidh Ghost) after his journey to search the path of truthfulness by QUESTIONING? So in fact, Gurbani encourages CRITICAL THINKING. By asking, a Sikh LEARNS faster.
This verse – especially its translation – provides us an opportunity at unlearning and relearning.
(SGGS 394 Asa M : 5)
ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥
Tera Keea Meetha Lagai ||
Your actions seem so sweet to me.
ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥੨॥੪੨॥੯੩॥
Har Naam Padharath Nanak Mangai ||2||42||93||
Nanak begs for the treasure of the Nam, the Name of the Lord.
The (inaccurate) translation provided is ‘All Your doings appeal to me. I seek only Your Name.’ It is the second part especially (I seek only Your Name) that needs unlearning.
NAAM in Gurbani does not refer to NAME. God has no proper name. All the names by which we humans refer to God are coined by us humans. Each of these names is given based on a perceived descriptive trait of God (Giver, Protector, Benevolent, Compassionate etc). These are Godly virtues.
Just look at what Gurbani has to say in this verse.
(SGGS 1083 Rag Maroo M : 5)
ਕਿਰਤਮ ਨਾਮ ਕਥੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਜਿਹਬਾ ॥
Kirtam Naam Katheh Terey Jihba ||
All the names by which I refer to You are KIRTEM (from the word KIRET – meaning attributes, Your Virtues).
ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਪਰਾ ਪੂਰਬਲਾ ॥
Sat Naam Tera Para Poorbala ||
Sat is Your most basic Virtue.
Note: SAT means “in perpertual existence” This is the MOST BASIC virtue because if we don’t accept the fact that God Exists – then the other virtues of God being fearless (Nirbhau), without enmity (Nirvair) etc become meaningless. We must first accept that God actually exists and exists perpetually (forever) and only then seek to understand His other virtues.
So the meaning of the above verse is
All the names by which I speak of You are descriptive of Your perceived deeds (KIRT-EM).
Let’s take a look at the GAVEY (Pauree 3) in Jup Banee that ascertains the point of the various virtues.
(SGGS 1 Jup M : 1)
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਤਾਣੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਕਿਸੈ ਤਾਣੁ ॥
Gavey Ko Taan Hovai Kisai Taan ||
Some sing of His Power-who has that Power?
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਦਾਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥
Gavey Ko Dhath Janey Neeaan ||
Some sing of His Gifts, and know His Sign and Insignia.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਗੁਣ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਚਾਰ ॥
Gavey Ko Gun Vadeyaa Char ||
Some sing of His Glorious Virtues, Greatness and Beauty.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵਿਖਮੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
Gavey Ko Vidhia Vikham Veechar ||
Some sing of knowledge obtained of Him, through difficult philosophical studies.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਸਾਜਿ ਕਰੇ ਤਨੁ ਖੇਹ ॥
Gavey Ko Saj Karey Tan Kheh ||
Some sing that He fashions the body, and then again reduces it to dust.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜੀਅ ਲੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਦੇਹ ॥
Gavey Ko Jee Leh Fir Dheh ||
Some sing that He takes life away, and then again restores it.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜਾਪੈ ਦਿਸੈ ਦੂਰਿ ॥
Gavey Ko Japai Dhisai Dhoor ||
Some sing that He seems so very far away.
So it makes no sense for US to first “GIVE ” a name to God and then say “I SEEK your Name.”
However it does make sense to say “I seek Your Virtues.” Seeking, inculcating and internalizing Godly virtues is a very basic principle in Sikhi.
Therefore the correct translation of the verse TERA KEEYA MEETHA LAGEY. HAR NAAM PADARATH NANAK MANGEY is “
Nanak asks for the Godly virtue (NAAM) that allows me to accept all that You do as sweet.”
The substance of the prayer (asking) is within the contents of the first verse (that all You do is sweetly accepted by me). The summary of the asking is in the second verse (I seek this VIRTUE). To accept the WILL and Command of GOD is the prayer that is contained within these two verses.
Naam is Godly Virtue. Japna is the process that leads to BECOMING the Godly Virtue. The process of Japna involves LISTENING, BELIEVING, ACCEPTING, INCULCATING, INTERNALIZING, REALIZING and BECOMING the Godly Virtue.
The title of Guru Nanak’s Banee is Jup (the root word for JUPNA) The two saloks and 38 paurees of Jup each describe the PROCESS – GAVEYA, SUNENA, MANENA, PARVAAN and finally MUKH UJELEY (BECOMING). This process is elaborated in 1429 pages of the SGGS.
Most Sikhs have reduced NAAM JUPNA to picking one NAME of God, sitting down and chanting. Chanting does not lead to the process that is explained in Jup Banee.
Always remember the fact that SGGS is of 1429 pages. Guru ji could have just made do with the moolmantar (PREAMBLE) or the Jup, why write another 1429 pages?
The key words for NAAM JAPNA are “ REALIZATION of GODLY VIRTUES.” The layman word for REALIZATION is KNOWING. In Punjabi we say ‘Mainu is tera JUPDA hai ke it’s going to rain.’ Here JUPDA is used in layman terms. It means “I have a knowing sense that it’s going to pour.”
Reading Banee on a nit (regular/daily) nem (basis) is to help us bring about the PROCESS described above. But for many Sikhs even that has been reduced to chanting out the verses and getting on with it. Many of us read for years but the process described in JUP BANEE has not even begun!
Nitnem has evolved into a ritual of reading or parroting. Today, few do nitnem with understanding. Most do recitation and that, too, normally at top speed. Some of my friends will proudly declare that in less than an hour’s time span they can complete x number of banis!
When I ask them if they understood anything, it is always along the lines of ‘the understanding will come as I do more of it.’ But my question is this, if effort is put merely in recitation and none in understanding, will we have progressed in our spiritual journey in any way?
By picking up one name of God are we referring to Waheguru Ji? And is the chanting of this chosen name truly NAAM JAPNA?
Being godlike, without understanding, inculcating and applying, how does it help? Being ritualistic is easy. But making an effort to understand and apply is very difficult. Hence, most take the easier route, hoping they would progress. But will they?
Ritual has an inbuilt slippery slope character. When one spiritual activity is reduced to a ritual then the impact will reverberate on the rest of our spirituality. Thus we slide down the slope.
Once we reduce REALIZATION (knowing) to ritualistic chanting, then all else follows a ritualistic path. So much so that the entire 1429 Pages and all spiritual activity such as kirtan and sewa, becomes empty of meaning as it becomes ritualistic reading, ritualistic singing and ritualistic practice of activity.
Here are some tests we can apply to ascertain if an activity is ritualistic.
1) Does KNOWING or REALIZATION come about from the activity?
2) Is there SPIRITUAL MEANING for me in the activity?
3) Is the journey of my Sikh spirituality progressing closer to me -BECOMING GURBANI – as a result of the activity?
4) Has my spiritual TRANSFORMATION come about from that activity?
5) Am I now more enlightened than I was prior to the activity?
So an activity may be a ritual to begin with. But a perfectly GOOD spiritual activity can be MADE into a ritual by us too.
Going to gurdwara is a GOOD spiritual Sikhi activity. But some people go regularly for 50 years and undergo no change IN THEIR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY. When we apply the above test, going regularly to gurdwara has been MADE INTO a ritual by these people!
This may come as a surprise to some of us. But even the beautiful act of asking questions has become a ritual for some people. Questions are asked regularly but the answer is not accepted or practiced. This statement is not directed at any individual. I am just giving a rather jolting example – to wake us up to the reality of the futility of ritual. Are we just asking for the sake of asking, but never intending to change? Whom are we fooling, the mentor or ourselves?
(Kabit Bhai Gurdas)
ਪੂਛਤ ਪਥਕਿ ਤਿਹ ਮਾਰਗ ਨ ਧਾਰੈ ਪਗਿ।। ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ ਕੈ ਦੇਸ ਕੈਸੇ ਬਾਤਨੁ ਕੇ ਜਾਈਐ।
Poochat Pathak Teh Marag Na Dharey Pug. Pritam Kay Des Kaisey Batun Sey Jaiyeeeh.
Asking of the destination, but never stepping on the path, how can one reach destination (country of beloved) just by talking?
The meaning here is that if we keep on asking for directions but never step onto the path, how then do we reach God through mere asking (POOCHAT)?
Here is a verse relating to the ritualistic practice of picking up one name for God and chanting.
The verse is LAKH LAKH GEYRA AKHEEYEAH EK NAAM JUGDEESH in Pauree 32 of the Jup Banee.
(SGGS 7 Jup M : 1)
ਇਕ ਦੂ ਜੀਭੌ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਲਖ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਲਖ ਵੀਸ ॥
Ek Du Jebhau Lakh Hohe Lakh Hovey Lakh Vees
If one’s toungue should become one lakh, and from one lakh become twenty lakhs.
ਲਖੁ ਲਖੁ ਗੇੜਾ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ॥
Lakh Lakh Gera Aakhyeah Ekh Naam Jugdees
And if (with these 20 lakh tongues) one says the one name of God lakhs of times.
Note: These two verses are a commentary of EXISTING methods of “attaining God”, namely chanting. Guru Nanak is providing a critique.
ਏਤੁ ਰਾਹਿ ਪਤਿ ਪਵੜੀਆ ਚੜੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਇਕੀਸ ॥
Eet Rah Putt Pavreeah Chareeah Hoye Ekees
The way to becoming one with God requires the climbing / elevation of one’s mind rung by rung.
Note: This verse is a description of GURU NANAK’S WAY. The use of the word PAVREAH (rungs of a ladder) is in line with the flow of Jap Banee. The Banee is a pauree by pauree (rung by rung) flow chart for elevating one’s spirituality to attain God.
ਸੁਣਿ ਗਲਾ ਆਕਾਸ ਕੀ ਕੀਟਾ ਆਈ ਰੀਸ ॥
Sun Gallan Akaas Kee Keeta Aiyee Rees
Upon hearing the wonder of elevation (of one’s mind step by step), even the insect wants to imitate / fake the (real) process.
Note: Guru Nanak is putting the EXISTING methods of attaining God (namely chanting of mantras) into perspective within the REAL method. Guru Ji calls its REES. The meaning of REES is “FAKE IMITATION”. Such can never be the real thing.
Also worth noting are the words AKAAS (the highest elevation) and Keeta (ground insects). There are those who SOAR in the AKAAS, and then there are those who walk the ground and can perhaps fly a few inches off the ground if they tried hard enough. It as if a lowly insect attempting to imitate the Falcon.
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਕੂੜੀ ਕੂੜੈ ਠੀਸ ॥੩੨॥
Nanak Nadree Payeah Kooree Korey Thees.
Nanak, the Realization of God is through His blessings, the fake (imitated) ways of the pretentious people is no more than a lie.
Note: This is the conclusion. Guru Nanak is saying the ultimate is to attain His blessings. The 38 paurees (rungs) of Jap Banee are aimed at elevating the spirituality to be worthy of such blessings.
And for the OTHER method (chanting), Guru Nanak says KUREE KUREY THEES. It will remain nothing but a fake imitation, a pretentious emulation, a lie.
Guru Nanak used the word “EK NAAM”. So he meant “to take ANY ONE NAME” and “to chant it hundreds of thousands of times” is KEETA AIYEE REES and KUREE KUREY THEES – meaning It will remain nothing but a fake imitation, a pretentious emulation, a lie.
THE MESSAGE IN GURBANI
Gurbani strives to stop us from sliding down the slope of being merely ritualistic. Hence the emphasis on knowing, realizing and becoming. Ritual has no role in any of these three parameters of spirituality. Mere rattan (parroting) will get us nowhere. We need to open our minds, use our intellect and understand the true message of Guru Nanak that the path to true spirituality lies in our REALIZATION.
For a clearer understanding of realization, please refer to the Jup Banee videos on SVF Website.