ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਸਨਾ ਕਹਹੁ ॥ Har Har Har Har Rasna Kaho.
Karminder Singh. Phd (Boston)
The verse is penned by Guru Arjun ji and appears on page 1138 of the SGGS. It is often used by proponents of chanting to suggest that this verse is explicit proof that the SGGS supports chanting.
The primary “proof” is in the repetitious nature of the words. Har being repeated four times as Har Har Har Har is considered as evidence of the acceptance of chanting as a Sikhi practice. The use of the word “Rasna” (translated literally as “Tongue” is considered as more evidence. Chanting is after all done by the Tongue.
Are these valid considerations? Is the use of “repetitive words” evidence of Chanting? This article will answer this question by examining this verse in the context of the entire shabd
The complete Shabd is as follows:
ਭੈਰਉ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਹਹੁ ॥ Sach Padarath Gurmukh Laho
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਾ ਭਾਣਾ ਸਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਹਹੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ Prabh Ka Bhaana Sat Kar Saho.
ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਰਹਹੁ ॥ Jeevat Jeevat Jevat Raho.
ਰਾਮ ਰਸਾਇਣੁ ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਪੀਵਹੁ ॥ Raam Rasayean Nit Uth Peevho.
ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਸਨਾ ਕਹਹੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Har Har Har Har Rasna Kaho. Rahao.
ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ Kaljug Meh Ek Naam Adhaar
ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ੨ ॥ ੧੧ ॥ Nanak Boleh Brham Bichar.
The poetic construction of this Shabd needs to be understood. In a vast majority of Shabds, Verses appear as COUPLETS. A Couplet is defined as two verses that rhyme. Both verses are taken together to understand the meaning of that particular verse.
In some Shabds however, the composers (Gurus, Bhagats etc.) have composed TRIPLETS – defined as three verses that rhyme.
In this Shabd of three paras, we can see that the first and final paras appear as a Couplet – Marked by the figure 1 and 2 respectively after the para ends.
The Rahao para (in the middle) is however composed as a TRIPLET – three verses. All three are rhyming – suggesting that Guru ji composed them to be read together as part of the Rahao Verse.
The numeral 1 after the third verse of the TRIPLET is clear in the Guru’s intent that ALL three verses are part of the one and single Rahao para.
Since the central idea of a Shabd is contained within the Rahao Verse, we will begin with an attempt to understand this verse first.
The Rahao para is:
ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਰਹਹੁ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਸਾਇਣੁ ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਪੀਵਹੁ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਸਨਾ ਕਹਹੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Jeevat Jeevat Jevat Raho.Raam Rasayean Nit Uth Peevho Har Har Har Har Rasna Kaho. Rahao.
Jeevat – Spiritual Life. Raho – Alive. Raam – The Omnipotent Creator. Rasayen – Essence. Nit – Daily, regularly, all the time. Uth – Awaken / Rise. Peevho – Lit. Drink; Internalize. Har – The Omnipresent Creator. Rasna – Lit. Tongue; Mind. Kaho – Lit. Say, Utter in Conversation.
My Spirituality is Truly Alive. I Internalize the Essence of the Omnipotent Creator all the time. My mind is in Constant Appreciation of the Omnipresent Creator.
In this Rahao para, Guru ji uses FOUR physical words – Rasayen, Peevho, Rasna and Kaho (essence, drink, tongue, speak in conversation). ALL four have to do with the TONGUE.
But the physical (literal) meaning will make no sense – how can we physically drink the essence of God with our physical tongue?
We know spirituality is a function of the MIND; so all the four words –Rasayen, Peevho, Rasna and Kaho – will have to be interpreted at the SPIRITUAL level, or MIND level.
At the SPIRITUAL / MIND level then, Rasayen is Essence; Peevo is Internalize, and Kaho is Inner Conversation.
Given that at the physical level ALL four have to do with the TONGUE; and since all four needed to be converted to the SPIRITUAL, MIND level, then the word RASNA too will have to be understood at the SPIRITUAL, MIND level.
The following Verses from the SGGS make clear that RASNA does mean the MIND especially where it matters MOST in Sikhi.
RASNA AS MIND
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜੀ ਬਸਹਿ ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਰਸਨਾ ॥ Prabh Jee Bsey Saadh Kee Rasna. SGGS 263.
Meaning: The Creator Resides in the Mind of the God Connected Being. (It would make no sense to say that God resided on the tongue.)
ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਾਨੀ ਰਸਨਾ ਚਾਖੇ ॥ ੩ ॥ Amrit Bane Rasna Chakey. SGGS 395.
Meaning: The Amrit that is Banee is nourishment for the Mind. (It would make no sense to say Banee was nourishment for the tongue.)
ਰਾਮ ਰਸਾਇਣੁ ਰਸਨਾ ਚੀਨੇ ॥ Ram Rasayen Rasna Cheeney. SGGS 1150
Meaning: The Essence of the Omnipotent Creator is Joy for the Mind. (It would be meaningless to say “that the essence was joy for the tongue”)
ਰਸਨਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਸਾਇਨੁ ਪੀਜੈ ॥ Rasna Raam Rasayean Peejey. SGGS 1164.
Meaning: The Essence of the Omnipotent Creator is consumed by the Mind. (It would be meaningless to say “the essence is consumed by the tongue”)
ਸਬਦੇ ਹੀ ਹਰਿ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਰਸਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਰਸੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ ੩ ॥ Shabdey He Har Munn Vasey Rasna Har Russ Khaye. SGGS 68
Meaning: The Shabd resides within the mind; the mind internalizes the essence of the Omnipresent Creator. (it would be meaningless to say “the tongue eats (Khaye) the essence).
ਰਸਨਾ ਸੋਈ ਲੋਭਿ ਮੀਠੈ ਸਾਦਿ ॥ Rasna Soee Lobh Methay Saad. SGGS 182.
Meaning: The Mind is Asleep in the joys of Greed. (It would be meaningless to say the Tongue was asleep in the Joys of greed. Greed is not an issue for the Tongue, but for the Mind).
ਮਹਾ ਕਸਟ ਕਾਟੈ ਖਿਨ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਚਿਤਾਰੇ ॥ Mhaa Kashat Katey Khin Beetar Rasna Raam Chitarey. SGGS 210
Meaning: The greatest of sorrows are eliminated within a second of the Mind remembering (Chitarey) of Naam. (it would make no sense to say “the Tongue remembering Naam” Remembering is not a function of the tongue; but the mind).
RASNA AS TONGUE
There are instances in Gurbani where the word RASNA indeed refers to the Tongue.
ਮਲਾਰ ਮਹਲਾ ੩ ॥ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਕਹੈ ॥ Rasna Naam Sabh Koyee Kahey. SGGS 1262
Meaning: Everybody utters the Nam with the tongue.
The message here is that this (merely uttering the Nam with the tongue) is NOT something the Guru wants Sikhs to do. Hence the verse is written in a prohibitory tone.
The fact that everybody is merely uttering with the tongue means it is easy, it is pretentious, it is not the right thing, etc. Just like the following verse:
ਰਾਮੁ ਰਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਫਿਰੈ Ram Ram Karta Sabh Jagg Firey SGGS 555
Meaning: The whole world goes about uttering Ram Ram.
The tone of this message is also prohibitory. Going about uttering Ram Ram is NOT something our Gurus want us Sikhs to do. That is why the second part of the verse is:
ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥ Raam Na Paiya Jaye.
Meaning: This is not the way to Realize the Omnipotent Creator Within.
And that is because our Gurus want us to bring spirituality to the Mind level – Understanding, Believing, Accepting and Becoming are elements of spirituality at the Mind level. Merely uttering, saying – even if repetitiously and chanting – with the tongue is NOT the mind level.
The repeated use of words (Ram Ram, Tu Tu, Har Har etc) are NOT a suggestion to chant them.
The use of words in a repeated manner in Gurbani are on account of a number of reasons.
In Rahao para of the same Shabd that we are discussing above we have this verse: ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਜੀਵਤ ਰਹਹੁ ॥ Jeevat Jeevat Jevat Raho. Does this mean we are asked to chant “jeevat jeevat”?
Jeevat is Alive. The Guru is saying Jeevat Jeevat to EMPHASIZE. It means TRULY alive.
Here is a sampling of verses where Guru jis deploy repetitive use of words.
REPETITIVE WORDS IN SHABDS
Just prior to the Shabd that we are discussing, there is a Shabd by Guru Arjun ji that reads
॥ ਖੂਬੁ ਖੂਬੁ ਖੂਬੁ ਖੂਬੁ ਖੂਬੁ ਤੇਰੋ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਝੂਠੁ ਝੂਠੁ ਝੂਠੁ ਝੂਠੁ ਦੁਨੀ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Khoob Khoob Khoob Khoob Khoob Tero Naam. Jhooth Jhooth Jhooth Jhooth Jhooth Dunee Guman. SGGS 1137
Khoob means beautiful, wondrous. If we argue that by writing Khoob repetitiously Guru ji is telling us to Chant “Khoob Khoob Khoob Khoob”; then will we also chant “Jhooth Jhooth Jhooth Jhooth:”?
Obviously the objective of repetition is to emphasize, stress, underline and highlight the word; and NOT to give us a license to chant away.
Here is another verse.
ਹਰਿ ਜੁਗਹ ਜੁਗੋ ਜੁਗ ਜੁਗਹ ਜੁਗੋ ਸਦ ਪੀੜੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਚਲੰਦੀ ॥ Har Jugg Juggo Jugg Jugg Juggo Sad Peerree Guru Chalandee. SGGS79
Jugg is a measure of time. The repeated use is to emphasize the extreme LENGTH of time; and certainly not to suggest chanting.
Here is yet another verse.
ਉਡੀਨੀ ਉਡੀਨੀ ਉਡੀਨੀ ॥ ਕਬ ਘਰਿ ਆਵੈ ਰੀ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Udeene Udeene Udeene. Kab Ghar Avery Ree. SGGS 830
Meaning: I await. I await. I await. When will you come to reside within my mind? The repetition is to emphasize the AGONY of waiting. It has nothing to do with providing us Sikhs a license to chant.
Here is yet another one.
ਹਰਿ ਆਪਨੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਕਰੀ ਆਪਿ ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਆਇਓ ਹਮ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਗੁਰ ਕੀਈ ਹੈ ਬਸੀਠੀ ਹਮ ਹਰਿ ਦੇਖੇ ਭਈ ਨਿਹਾਲ ਨਿਹਾਲ ਨਿਹਾਲ ਨਿਹਾਲ ॥ ੧ ॥ Har Apnee Kirpa Karee Aap Greh Aiyo Hum Hr Ke Gur Keeye Hai Bsethee Hum Har Dekhe Bhaye Nihal Nihal Nihal. SGGS 977
Meaning: The Omnipresent Creator blessed me and came to reside within my mind, upon which I am overjoyed, overjoyed, overjoyed. The repetition is to put across the depth of the joy.
And finally, one more illustrative verse
ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪੀਆ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਬੀਸ ॥ ੨ ॥ Jan Nanak Amrti Peeya Gurmatee Dhan Dhan Dhan Dhan Dhan Guru Sabees. SGGS 1297
Meaning: Nanak has acquired the Guru’s Banee Mindset; Great Great Great Great Great is my complete Guru.
This shabd is titled Partaal (5 taals/ rhythms) by the Guru. It is thus meant to be sung in a different taals – one verse for each taal. There are short taals and there are long taals. Being the final verse, it is reserved for the longest taal. Hence the repetition of “Great Great Great” is employed BOTH to emphasize the euphoria of greatness as well as to fulfill the poetic, musical and taal needs of the Shabd.
There are numerous such Shabds which contain repetition of words for the purposes mentioned above.
Let us complete our quest of attempting to understand the Shabd at hand.
ਸਾਚ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਹਹੁ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਾ ਭਾਣਾ ਸਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਹਹੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ Sach Padarath Gurmukh Laho
Prabh Ka Bhaana Sat Kar Saho.
Sach Padarth – Godly Gifts. Gurmukh (with sihari) – From the Guru’s Mukh (mind), Shabd. Laho – Received. Bhana – Will, Hukm. Sat (with sihari) – Creator. Kar – Doing. Saho – Bear.
I Have Received Godly Gifts from The Guru’s Shabd; They Have Allowed Me to Bear The Creator’s Will.
ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ੨ ॥ ੧੧ ॥ Kaljug Meh Ek Naam Adhaar
Nanak Boley Brham Bichar.
Kaljug – Worldly Mindset. Ek Naam – The Virtues of the One Creator. Adhaar – Basis, Support. Boley – Utters. Brham Bichar – Discourse of the Creator.
The Virtues of the One Creator are the Basis for Spirituality for a Worldly Mindset; Nanak thus Utters the Discourse of the Creator.
In summary we can consider the following three messages as takeaways from this Shabd.
- The way to infuse life into our spirituality is to keep a constant focus of the blessings of the Omnipresent Creator; they are around us everywhere.
- Towards this end, the Guru’s Shabd is a gift to be treasured. The messages of the Shabd create both a sense of constant appreciation of the Creator as well as to allow us to bear the Creator’s will at all times.
- The journey of Sikh spirituality is discoursed by the fifth Nanak as one whose basis is the acquisition of virtues of the One Creator.