Daan in Gurbani.
Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD
The word DAAN appears in Gurbani multiple times in three different versions ਦਾਨ (44 times) and ਦਾਨੁ (234 times) and ਦਾਨਿ (7 times). The difference is meaning between these 3 versions is provided at the relevant portions of this essay.
A study of these verses, their context and usage provides the following conclusions.
1. DAAN AS A SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY IS REJECTED in Gurbani. Daan – defined as the giving or offering of material by the human being to spiritual entities, beings or institutions is NOT a Sikhi principle.
The English word for DAAN is SPIRITUAL OFERING. Daan is offered in the name of spirituality, as a spiritual act, with spiritual expectations and for spiritual purposes.
Daan as a spiritual activity in Gurbani is spelt as ਦਾਨ and always written together with the word Punn – either as DAAN PUNN or PUNN DAAN.
The concept of PUNN (positive spiritual rituals) is also NOT a Sikhi principle.
The concept of PAAP and PUNN (sinning rituals and beneficial rituals) is derived from the KARAM KAAND (ritualistic) practices of Bhramanism.
The biggest PAAP (sin) is listed in Karam Kaand as the murder of a Brahmin. And the biggest PUNN is in the form of DAAN of the highest material value to the Brahmin. People offered material, money or their wives or daughters to the Brahmin as DAAN.
The Brahmin also appropriated all DAAN made by people to deities and mandirs.
The concept of PUNN as defined by the Brahmin is rejected in Sikhi. So is DAAN.
2. THE GURBANI POSITION IS THAT there is NO spirituality in DAAN as defined, practiced and mandated by the dictates of Karam Kaand.
There is NO spirituality EVEN if the Daan is made in Sikhi settings, by a Sikh, to Sikh entities and institutions. Such a position is derived from the following three principles of Gurbani.
A) Our Gurus and Gurbani NEVER critiqued rituals simply because of the method in which they were being done. Our Gurus never said, for example, that statute worship by the Brahmin clergy while reciting his mantras was WRONG; but it would be fine if Sikhs could make a statute of our Gurus and worship it by reading Gurbani shabds.
Gurbani also does not say it was wrong for others to bathe in places of pilgrimage with the expectation that their sins would be washed away; but that it was fine for Sikhs to set up their own such places and bathe in them for the same purpose.
Similarly, Gurbani does not say it was futile to do Artee with lit lamps, incense and flowers before a statue; but fine for Sikhs to do the same ritual before the SGGS ji while reading shabds from Gurbani.
The issue was NOT the METHOD, the mantras or that the Brahmin was doing it. The issue was the RITUAL ITSELF. Whatever ritual was bad for others was ALSO bad for Sikhs. Gurbani does not advocate double standards – critiquing rituals outside of Sikhi while condoning them within Sikhi parameters.
B) The human being is incapable of DAAN because he OWNS nothing. All the DAAN that he makes is given to him by God in the first place. Taking things from God and offering them back to God as DAAN is spiritual trickery – an act to fool ourselves.
The verse on page 694 of the SGGS makes this clear: ਤੇਰੋ ਕੀਆ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਕਿਆ ਅਰਪਉ Tero Keea Tujhey Kya Arpo. Meaning: Everything is Yours, how then can I offer anything to You.
DAAN is thus akin to a kid who takes a hundred dollars from his dad’s wallet and gives ten to him as a father’s day gift.
C) Instilling Godly virtues is the CRUX of Sikhi. The act of DAAN does NOT instill VIRTUES. Instead, it builds HAUMAI (Ego) on the FALSE premise that WE are offering something. This Ego is anchored on a false basis because as pointed out in (B) above, we humans do not OWN anything on our OWN accord.
Building pride on the basis of DAAN is like feeling great after giving out borrowed / misappropriated stuff of others. The verse is:
ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਅਰੁ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਿ ਮਨ ਮੈ ਧਰੈ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਹਫਲੁ ਜਾਤ ਤਿਹ ਜਿਉ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ] 46 ] 1428 Teerath Barat Ar DAAN Kar Munn Meh Dharey Gumaan. Nanak Nehfel Jat The Jion Kunchar Isnaaan.
Meaning: The rituals of going to places of pilgrimage, keeping fasts and undertaking DAAN anchors (Dharey) one in ego (Gumaan). Consider them as useless, O mind.
Readers will note that this verse has been wrongly translated by some as “The rituals are bad IF done in ego. “ This means Gurbani is saying in effect “that the rituals are FINE if done WITHOUT ego.
Such a translation is wrong on two counts. One – it disregards the word “DHREY” which means “build on” or “anchors”. Second, it disregards the word ਕਰਿ (Kar with a sihari). It means “through the performing of rituals”. This means that the ego builds through the activity of Daan.
[ ਪੁੰਨ ਦਾਨ ਅਨੇਕ ਨਾਵਣ ਕਿਉ ਅੰਤਰ ਮਲੁ ਧੋਵੈ ] 243 Punn Daan Anek Navan Kion Antrar Mull Dhovey.
Meaning: Undertaking the rituals of PUNN, DAAN and repeated baths at holy places does NOT result in the virtue of inner cleansing
D) The act of DAAN is defined as a KAPATT (fake spirituality) and those who do it are termed PAKHANDI (pretentious spiritual seekers).
The shabad on page 973 of the SGGS is about KAPPAT and PAKHAND. The Rahao verse is as follows:
ਛੋਡਿ ਛੋਡਿ ਰੇ ਪਾਖੰਡੀ ਮਨ ਕਪਟੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤਹਿ ਲੀਜੈ]1] ਰਹਾਉ] Chod Chod Re Pakhandee Munn Kapatt Na Keejey. Har Ka Naam Nit Niteh Leehey.
Meaning: Desist from Pakhand, and stop the Kapatt (fakery); O mind. Acquire instead the Godly virtues in your daily life.
The remaining verses of this Shabd mention the various Pakhand and Kappat rituals.
Verse I mentions TUPP (Penance) as the first KAPATT and PAKHAND. Verse 2 talks of bathing (at holy places. Verse three talks about DAAN, as follows.
ਅਸੁ ਦਾਨ ਗਜ ਦਾਨ ਸਿਹਜਾ ਨਾਰੀ ਭੂਮਿ ਦਾਨ ਐਸੋ ਦਾਨੁ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤਹਿ ਕੀਜੈ ॥ ਆਤਮ ਜਉ ਨਿਰਮਾਇਲੁ ਕੀਜੈ ਆਪ ਬਰਾਬਰਿ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਸਰਿ ਤਊ ਨ ਪੂਜੈ] 3 ]
Aass Daan Gajj Daan Sehja Daan Naree Bhoom Daan Aiso Daan Nit Nitheh Keejey. Atam Jo Nirmael Keejey Aap Brabar Kanchan Deejey Raam Naam Sar Taoo Na Pujey.
Meaning: DAAN of horses, elephants, beddings, property, one’s wife or daughter, one’s self, and one’s weight in gold; even if done daily are never equivalent to the acquisition of Godly virtues.
3. GURBANI CRITIQES DAAN and Advocates the Acquisition of Godly Virtues (Naam) Instead.
[ ਪੁੰਨ ਦਾਨ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਜੇਤੇ ਸਭ ਊਪਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ] GGS 401
Punn Daan Jup Tup Jeytey Sabh Upar Naam.
Meaning: Above ALL of Punn, Daan, Chants and Penances is the acquisition of Godly Virtues (Naam).
4. THE CONCEPT OF DAAN IN GURBANI IS UNIQUE. It is spelt (ਦਾਨੁ and ਦਾਨਿ mostly). The following principles can be discerned from studying the relevant verses.
A) A Sikh never considers himself as a DANEE. He accepts only the Guru and the Creator as Danee.
B) A Sikh asks looks at spirituality as being given to him in DAAN by the Guru.
C) A Sikh looks at life as being a DAAN from His Creator.
D) A Sikhs seeks the Daan of Godly virtues in his spiritual journey.
ਨਾਮੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਗੁਰਿ ਪੂਰੈ ਦੀਓ ਮੈ ਏਹੋ ਆਧਾਰੀ] 1 ] ਰਹਾਉ ]
Naam Daan Gur Purey Deeyo Mein Eho Adharee.
Meaning: My Guru has given me enlightenment of Godly virtues in Daan. This is my sustenance in my spiritual journey.
[ ਤੂ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਦਾਤਾ ਦਾਨਿ ਮਤਿ ਪੂਰਾ ਹਮ ਥਾਰੇ ਭੇਖਾਰੀ ਜੀਉ ] 597
Tu Prabh Data Daan Mutt Pura Hum Tharey Bheykharee Jeo.
Meaning: O Creator, You are the perfect giver, I am a beggar at Your door step.
[ਕਰ ਜੋੜਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਨੁ ਮਾਗੈ ਅਪਣਿਆ ਸੰਤਾ ਦੇਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਦਰਸੁ ] 4 ] 406
Kar Jorr Nanak Daan Mangey Apneay Santa Deh Har Daras.
Meaning: I ask for Daan in folded hands, Nanak. Give your seekers realization.
[ਕਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਥਾਪਿਆ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਨੋ ਦਾਨਿ] 817
Kar Dhar Mastuk Thapeya Naam Deno Daan.
Meaning: You blessed me with the Daan of Your virtues.
Gurbani has rejected ALL existing notions of Daan undertaken by human beings for spiritual purposes. As a spiritual act, it is of little or no value.
The underlying reason for its rejection in Sikhi is the notion that the human being CANNOT be a Danee because nothing belongs to him. Doing Daan of things that don’t belong to us in the first place is pretentious and fake. It grows the vice of ego and false pride – both are deeply detrimental to one’s spiritual journey.
Daan giving Sikhs are known to insist their names be announced in ardas or inscribed on walls of the Gurdwara. Other daan givers are known to make demands of positions in the Gurdwara. These are manifestations of the uncontrolled malady of ego and false pride.
When it comes to the Guru and the Creator, the SIKH stands as a RECEIVER always. Never a giver/ danee.
[ਹਮ ਭੀਖਕ ਭੇਖਾਰੀ ਤੇਰੇ ਤੂ ਨਿਜ ਪਤਿ ਹੈ ਦਾਤਾ] SGGS 666
Hum Bheekhak Bheykharee Terey Tu Nijpat Hai Daata.
Meaning: I am a beggar receiver of Yours; You alone are the Giver.
The conclusion therefore is that no Sikhi should claim to be spiritual on the basis of a non-Sikhi ritual / practice called Daan. Conversely, no one should be considered less spiritual if one does little or no daan. Daan is simply NOT connected to spirituality.
WHAT ABOUT DASWANDH THEN?
The word “daswandh” does NOT appear even once in the SGGS ji. It is therefore NOT a spiritual concept.
Daswandh is a man-made concept that aims to allow Sikhs within the community to pool their resources together to construct, maintain and operate their institutions and community development programs. The meaning of Dawandh is a tenth of one’s earnings.
Daswand has no spiritual link. Giving or not giving does not make one more or less spiritual. However, Daswandh has a humanitarian and sharing component. It is in line with the spirit of Vand Key Chakna component of practical Sikhi way of life; provided it is done with care and caution.
Daswandh does come with responsibility and accountability. There are two critical elements that a Sikh must pay attention to as follows:
1. There can be no Vand Key Chakna if there was no Dharam Dee Kirt in the first place. This means there can be no sharing if one has not earned a decent and honest living in the first place.
Our clergy are often heard telling sangats “Kamayee safal karlo” Meaning undertake Daan and or daswandh and you entire earnings will be blessed.
This is against the principles of Sikhi and Gurbani. Obviously this is of no concern to our clergy. They care only for their earnings and have thus taken over the role of the Brahmin clergy that is critiqued by our Gurus.
The Gurbani principle is that one cannot take out daswandh from earnings earned illegally, immorally or in corrupt living and then contribute some of it. Nanak, this is the recognition of the way of sharing ways.
This is in line with the general principle of SHARING as enshrined in the SGGS.
ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ SGGS 1425.
Ghaal Khaye Kich Hatho Dey. Nanak Rah Pechaney Sey.
Meaning: Earn an honest and decent living and share it out.
2. Daswandh must be directed towards the needy and constructive elements within humanity. It makes no sense to contribute daswandh towards destructive activities. But the responsibility is more than that. It is our duty to seek out those in need. This is a difficult task, but it makes daswandh meaningful.
Most Sikhs are content with giving daswandh to Sikh institutions (Gurdwaras, deras, etc). In the event that these institutions are engaged in wasteful and dysfunctional activities such as unnecessary renovations, ritualistic akhand paths, nagar kirtans and big diwans – the daswandh giver then becomes an enabler and contributor towards such waste – defeating the purpose of sharing.
A Sikh should look out for individuals and institutions in need of our daswandh – hospitals, schools, educational sponsors, welfare and old folk homes – the list is long. Without such diligence on the part of the Sikh, daswandh too stands the risk of becoming a KAPPAT and PAKHAND.