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Talking Stick

Naam Simran
The Talking Stick Colloquium VIII: Pauris 12 - 15, Feb 22 - 28




Last week, we touched on "Sunniyeh," meaning "by listening." Although listening is self- evident to most of us, Guru Nanak's repeated emphasis (almost a tenth of the Japji) compelled 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?

We discovered during our conversation that ordinary "hearing" is often confused with attentive listening, especially the kind that Guru Nanak is teaching. 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].

This week we turn to Pauris 12 through 15, which are devoted to "Manniyeh," which literally means "by believing" or "being firm in" or "being held in one's mind." If "Sunniyeh" in pauris 8-11 emphasized listening as the means, "manniyeh" can be thought of as complete absorption or immersion in the shabad (the Word) - a state that is the outcome of "sunniyeh" or attentive listening, and is akin to "dissolving" in naam - in much the same way that sugar, when dissolved in water is inseparable from it.

In Sikhi, naam simran or naam japna is the discipline or practice recommended to activate the power of listening or attention (dhyan) and it is to this that we will direct our attention and conversation this week.

THE MESSAGE - Pauris 12 - 15

These stanzas can be seen as an extension of the previous four. Having emphasized listening as a foundational activity, Guru Nanak here devotes four stanzas describing the fruits of such listening.

He is quick to point out (pauri 12) that describing the state of mind that is attuned with hukam (as a result of listening) is impossible to describe; nevertheless, he does make an attempt in the successive pauris.

The gurmukh who practices listening to the Word progresses to a higher consciousness beyond the confines of narrow physical consciousness. Intuitive awareness and understanding reveals the unity of all creation. A gurmukh ceases to act out of haumai which spells the end of suffering and an escape from the wheel of Time.


Naam Simran refers to the practice and/ or discipline that a Sikh is expected to incorporate into daily life. The term Naam Simran is used variously as naam, simran or naam simran. Naam is also associated with another term, Jap (pronounced 'jupp', also the name of the bani currently under consideration).

Naam Simran can also be thought of as the "jugaṯ" or method that gurbani recommends as the "complete Way of the Guru that brings liberation in the midst of daily life." [GGS: 522]. 

There are divergent views of what naam simran or naam papna entails. Let's hear it from the sangat.

THE TEXT - Rendered in English

A note on the translation

"Manniyeh" was difficult to render in English. Existing translations (at least the ones I am familiar with) have used "belief," "faith," "remembrance," "practice" - all of which I found less than satisfying. Absorption - the word that was eventually used, seemed to best convey the idea of a "state of mind" that is completely dissolved in naam, or completely "coloured" with naam. Feedback will be appreciated.

Pauri 12

Manne kī gaṯ kahī na jā▫e
The experience of the True Name cannot be stated,

Je ko kahai picẖẖai pacẖẖuṯā▫e.
Those who try are filled with remorse.

Kāgaḏ kalam na likẖaṇhār.
No paper, pen or scribe,

Manne kā bahi karan vīcẖār.
Can capture the experience of those enraptured.

Aisā nām niranjan ho▫e.
Such is the True Name - spotless, without stain.

Je ko man jāṇai man ko▫e.
Revealed, if one beholds It.

Pauri 13
Mannai suraṯ hovai man buḏẖ.
In absorption - consciousness is heightened and understanding sharpened

Mannai sagal bẖavaṇ kī suḏẖ.
In absorption - insight into all realms is gained.

Mannai muhi cẖotā nā kẖā▫e.
In absorption - the blows of Fate are repelled.

Mannai jam kai sāth na jā▫e.
In absorption - the Grim Reaper leaves us alone.

Aisā nām niranjan ho▫e.

Such is the True Name - spotless, without stain

Je ko man jāṇai man ko▫e.
Revealed, if one beholds It.

Pauri 14
Mannai mārag ṯẖāk na pā▫e.
In absorption - there are no roadblocks.

Mannai paṯ si▫o pargat jā▫e
In absorption - we proceed with credit and recognition.

Mannai mag na cẖalai panth.
In absorption - we do not stray into blind alleys.

Mannai ḏẖaram seṯī san▫banḏẖ.
In absorption - we remain affixed on the Word.

Aisā nām niranjan ho▫e.
Such is the True Name - spotless, without stain.

Je ko man jāṇai man ko▫e.
Revealed, if one beholds It.

Pauri 15

Mannai pāvahi mokẖ ḏu▫ār.
In absorption - the door to liberation is found.

Mannai parvārai sāḏẖār.
In absorption - kith and kin are saved, as well.

Mannai ṯarai ṯāre gur sikẖ.
In absorption - we ferry ourselves and companions across.

Mannai Nānak bẖavahi na bẖikẖ.
In absorption, O Nanak - we don't wander to go a-begging.

Aisā nām niranjan ho▫e.
Such is the True Name - spotless, without stain

Je ko man jāṇai man ko▫e.
Revealed, if one beholds It.


Conversation about this article

1: Gurpal (Wolverhampton, United Kingdom), February 22, 2010, 3:11 PM.

Ravinder ji: Is this your own translation? It is refreshing to read.

2: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 22, 2010, 3:47 PM.

The pauris of 'sunniye' give us the tools to create awareness within through listening and hence shedding denial. The first four taught us how to crawl and these four teach us how to walk the walk. They tell us after having listened how to breed goodness within, it is time to accept our own shortcomings and understand them so they can be mended. These steps are the building blocks of being in connection with The Source all the times. This connection makes us conscious of our own behaviour. They make us not to tread in murky waters of life hoping to become lotuses but to face the grime of life - the injustices, e.g. - and act in order to remove it. These beautiful verses tell us to stop being in denial so that one is able to face reality, no matter how bitter or murky it may be. Then only can we blossom as lotuses. This is the true Naam Simran, not parroting some words again and again. One does not become an accountant by just memorizing the tables. One cannot become a doctor by just memorizing some difficult words from a book. One should not do anything mechanically, i.e., without being aware of, without listening to, without accepting one's own faults and without understanding what one is doing. The same goes for Naam Simran, which is to use the tools given to us in the Guru Granth. The rRest is nothing but parroting which builds nothing.

3: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 22, 2010, 7:59 PM.

The most difficult composition of the entire Guru Granth Sahib is Guru Nanak's Japji. There are more than 500 commentaries on it, each offering a distinctive perspective. The first attempt to explain the eight stanzas of "Listening" ('sunniye') and "ponderning" ('manniye') was made by Guru Ram Das in Var Sarang [GGS:1239-1242, pauris 5-12). The point I am trying to make here is that the process of "attentive listening" and "pondering" is linked with the discipline of the "rememberance of the divine Name" ('naam-simran'). I am glad that today's title of discussion is "Naam Simran." This three-fold process ranges from the repetition of a sacred word (usually 'Waheguru! Waheguru!), through the devotional singing and listening of hymns with the congregation, to sophisticated meditation on the nature of Waheguru. The first and the third levels of this practice relate to private devotion, while the second refers to its corporate sense. The four stanzas under discussion fall under the third stage in the discipline of naam-simran. The process of meditation on the divine Name begins with the recognition that the human body is a field in which the seed of the divine Name is to be sown. The transforming power of the divine Name sanctifies the whole life of the individual in much the same way as a seed 'sprouts' with continuous watering and 'grows' into a beautiful tree in a garden. It involves the cultivation of virtues such as patience, wisdom, contentment, charity, humility, love, fear of Waheguru, purity, and true living. This process makes a person virtuous in thoughts, words and deeds. On the whole, the discipline of naam-simran is designed to bring a person into harmony with the 'Divine Order, Command and Will' ('hukam'). The person thus gains the experience of ever-growing wonder ('vismad') in spiritual life, and achieves the ultimate condition of blissful 'equanimity' ('sahaj') when the spirit ascends to the 'Realm of Truth' ('sach khand), the fifth and the last of the spiritual stages, in which the soul finds mystical union (or 'absorption' as described by Ravinder ji) with Waheguru. This stage is beyond description! Throughout his works, Guru Nanak places the greatest emphasis on the need to wait for the divine Truth to reveal itself, to be silent before it. No one should make bold claims of one's spiritual achievement. In fact, Guru Nanak's hymns breathe a deep tranquility that makes him the least belligerent of all his contemporary Bhakti poets. He speaks time and again of the value of pondering and listening ("From listening sin and sorrow disappear..."): "That Name ... so immaculately clear ... only the mind that ponders it can truly be aware." This is the stage of one truly devout who "flowers and flourishes forever." This is the stage of 'chardi kalaa' in the Sikh faith.

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 22, 2010, 9:01 PM.

Gurpal ji: While the translation is mine, I do rely on some good friends to review them before posting on-line.

5: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 23, 2010, 12:13 AM.

Ravinder ji: Absorption conveys the perfect meaning of "manniyeh": complete engrossment or occupation of the mind; assimilation, concentration, immersion, complete attention; intense mental effort. One can go on and on while looking into the words from various dictionaries. But here, the meaning is deeper than all the words mentioned above. Guru Nanak describes "manniyeh" in the verses where every cell in our body is imbibed and absorbed with Naam. Naam makes us sponges on a cellular level and its result is the true experience of blissfulness which cannot be described by using basic instruments like pen, paper or a computer notepad. What a beautiful poetic way for us to find our GPS within, with the help of gurbani!

6: Aryeh Leib (Israel), February 23, 2010, 7:34 AM.

I have found the comments as enlightening and instructive as the article itself. Truly a beautiful collaborative effort ...

7: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 23, 2010, 11:07 AM.

The keywords applied in stanzas # 12-15 stress four different meaningful interpretations. Keywords: mind, absorbed, to imbibe, enlightened, way, path, method, emancipation), organized sect, creed, or religion. Having established attentive listening for comprehending deep meaning attributes of Akal Purakh, Guru Nanak in these pauris is writing about emancipation of an enlightened personality. He started with inability of such an enlightened person to express his/ her spiritual exalted state. The common reference given here is 'as sweets are to a mute'. The essence of these pauris lies in the last sentence - 'the name of God is so immaculate and unattached with Maya that it is absorbed by a rare comprehending and realizing mind.' The path to become an enlightened person with absorbed comprehension is suggested as naam simran. The interpretation of the word 'simran' from gurbani into English (remember, meditate) is not justifiably appropriate; because of the limitations of the English vocabulary compared to the words applied in the gurmukhi. There are about 34 different words used in describing applications of simran in the Guru Granth. Similarly, the four words for 'manniyeh' are applied in pauris 12-15, they are grammatically different when used as verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns. Why simran? Because a controlled and relaxed mind can be considerate, loving, caring for others and becoming more productive in personal relations leading to better business progress. The common factor emphasized in all resources of managing stress is meditation or simran. The most dangerous affliction that can be called as the mother of all other vices affecting human is haumai - the ego. Describing various effects of ego, Guru Arjan wrote: "All mankind is afflicted with the malady of egotism ... All creation wanders in sickness again and again/ Entangled in disease, they cannot stay still, even for an instant./ Without the True Guru, the disease is never cured.(3)/ Only when the Supreme Akal Purakh blesses with grace, the mortal is grabbed by the arm and pulled out of the disease./ Simran, through the company of the sadh-sangat, a mortal's bonds are broken,/ Says Nanak, the Guru cures him/ her of the disease of haumai." [GGS:1140] When simran establishes absorption of naam in the mind of an enlightened person, suffering from the ego departs; because, nam and ego cannot co-exist. Guru Amar Das wrote: "The ego and Naam have animosity, The two cannot dwell in the same place." [GGS:560]

8: Himmat Singh (Leicester, United Kingdom), February 23, 2010, 4:48 PM.

Ravinder Singh ji's translation of these pauris makes it easy to understand them whilst retaining their beauty. They are exercises in building faith in one's newly formed ideology which has no room for any ritual or superstition; only a belief in Nirankaar, or the formless creator. The only religion is that of dharma or a path of righteous living. [GGS:3.9] I understand 'manniyeh' as complete acceptance or, in this context, as the one who accepts (things as they are). With 'absorption' I feel there is an over-emphasis on the unknowable Lord, whereas I feel Guru Nanak is actually driving towards truth and reality, hence a complete release from the speculative practices prevalent in his era. Absorption, to me, does not quite fulfill the need for a word to shift one from being controlled, to self-control. Nevertheless, absorption is also a very powerful word and one seeks it when doing naam simran. I beg to differ slightly with the ending of each pauri: 'aisaa naam niranjan ho-ay jay ko man jaanai man ko-ay'. I understand it as: "Such an elevated spiritual and knowledgeable state comes if one knows the inner mind". This part of each pauri drives home the point being made in the immediately preceding lines. Guru Nanak's Lord resides as much within as without. He is found within. 'Naam' and 'niranjan' are used metaphorically, suggesting one who reaches such a state has received naam from the all-knowing, formless Lord, to aid faith building.

9: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), February 23, 2010, 8:23 PM.

It is enlightening to read these thoughtful comments. The choice of words and the expression of thoughts used in Japji are so open and vast, the interpretations are bound to be varied. We collectively understood the value of attentive listening. To benefit from the knowledge obtained, it is necessary to accept/ believe or 'manniyeh' in certain parts of the acquired knowledge. Our internal filters are there, dutifully serving to keep us within our established principles, values and expressions. For this reason, our interpretations of the word 'manniyeh' are likely to vary. We also are aware that certain human traits, regardless of geographic or cultural surroundings, are universally considered wise and honourable. That brings me to the meaning of the word 'manniyeh' in this discussion. In Guru Nanak, the concept of 'manniyeh', after attentive listening and thoughtful reflection upon the acquired knowledge, we must develop an internal mechanism in which our mind and brain are able to work together in developing certain beliefs where both are in complete agreement. The intensity and the absorption of knowledge is such that both mind and brain are fully saturated with the information. And thereafter, our inner thoughts and values come out with an unwavering style and manner in thoughts, words and deeds. It becomes a part of our personality, a distinctive trade mark, under which the delivery of our inner values represent honesty of thoughts, integrity/ sincerity in expression and conviction in deeds/ actions. Guru Nanak is emphasizing the development of such character in his definition of 'manniyeh'. Such character becomes a noble and powerful asset for others to emulate. Such character serves us well in many ways. Others respect such character, gravitate towards such persons, take comfort in their counsel, want to be their friends, do business with them, help in time of need and many other benefits associated with this type of character. We all are aware of such character and long to develop one ourselves. That is the meaning and the purpose of the word 'manniyeh' Guru Nanak is conveying in these pauris. Development of such character and Guru Nanak's message is not necessarily limited to religious or spiritual aspects only. Rather, we observe utter lack of such character in many persons claiming to be religious or spiritual. There is a dire need for people with such character in all affairs religious in nature. Our views on Naam Simran have our own distinct utility as well. The use of words 'Naam Simram' here may be more to use as an example and not for the purpose or goal in developing such character. By citing the generally understood connection between Naam Simran as a means of attaining God, Guru Nanak is viewing 'manniyeh' with similar and equally critical manner in developing the character he is talking about. Guru Nanak has used such similes effectively elsewhere in his writings. Here, he is attempting to solicit response to 'manniyeh' by attaching reverential essence to the concept. People always pay more attention to something religious than to usual life-related events. Even in this discussion, there is a tendency to lean more towards religious or spirituality aspects in interpretation than considering the utility of the concept towards the followers. The older the religion, more the involvement of God for eliciting good behavior/ deeds. It is interesting to observe how religious preachers fail to connect religious tenets with relative benefits in daily life. That is perhaps one of the reasons why educated people living currently under vastly different social environments do not understand the benefits of religious tenets in this life, other than to please God and benefit in the after-life.

10: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 24, 2010, 10:04 AM.

Based on the feedback, "acceptance" could be an equally valid word for "manniyeh" - although we need to be mindful of Guravtar ji's caution around using English. We have addressed Naam Simran as a process (Pashaura Singh ji) or path (Guravtar ji). What about Naam Japna? Is there a difference? Tejwant ji: granted, that memory or memorization/ repetition may not be an end in itself, but surely it is a building block for all learning. Learning any new skill involves repetition. Take tennis, for instance - learning how to stroke the ball correctly requires remembering the right grip on the handle, the placement of the body in relation to the ball, the follow through, etc. This has to be repeated hundreds of times before it becomes effortless or "natural." Likewise with becoming an accountant or doctor; some facts have to be memorized and the process is very mechanical indeed. I am inclined to believe that Naam Simran or, more precisely, Naam Juppna may be mechanical, but is a requisite first step on the path of Naam Simran. Would love to hear your thoughts.

11: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 24, 2010, 12:59 PM.

Ravinder ji: I totally agree with you. Memorization is very important but as only an early stage. But if we do not move forward by standing and learning how to walk and keep on repeating the first step for years, then we will be crawling all our lives. Gurbani is full of verses letting us know how to read, study, understand and practice it and the changes will gleam through our personal behaviour. If no changes occur, then it shows that we just love to crawl and refuse to take the next step.

12: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 24, 2010, 2:55 PM.

Truly feel blessed to be following this forum; never had experienced the meaning of gurbani like this before, which is open and based on logic. I would like to ask about this comment made by Dr. Paushura Singh ji that "It involves the cultivation of virtues such as patience, wisdom, contentment, charity, humility, love, fear of Waheguru, purity, and true living". My question is, are we supposed to be fearful of God, if so why?

13: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 24, 2010, 6:26 PM.

The prime purpose of human life according, to Guru Arjan, is to realize the presence of God in all creation through the practice of simran while living a disciplined life, righteously and maintaining self-restraint. The mind being dependent upon thoughts (influenced by duality and ego) is known to be a wanderer and can run in ten different directions at any given moment. To restrain the mind, we need to do simran and for that, training through naam-juppna is required. The education from all available sources and personal experience helps the mind to develop its own concepts and react with the world through the physical senses and organs. The mind is the originator, processor and activator of emotions. The inferential knowledge, emotional perceptions, intuition, introspection and emerging consciousness help it to develop concepts. The thinking process is a function of the brain and is the source of all thought-waves. The mind, being an attribute of the brain, is the fundamental physical component where thoughts originate and responses are processed. Learning and memory are the tools that allow individuals to modify their behaviour through experience by encoding, storing and retrieving information. These processes occur in stages that proceed serially and in parallel, and involve multiple brain regions and systems. The deeper the mind penetrates into its own thought process, the more clearly it understands that forms of thinking are conditioned; therefore a mind trained with naam is stilled in simran. It does not mean that the mind is gone to sleep. On the contrary, it is very alert, no longer needing constant remembrance of the 'Word' or shaping by discipline. It is correct that to master any procedure, there are steps that have to be taken before achieving perfection. 'Naam Juppna' is not necessarily the initial step. The first step is to comprehend the correct interpretation, second to know why, third to know when, where, how and how much. Some times, people can spend their entire life-time in naam without understanding a thing about it. Doing simran in certain numbers, and certain durations of time, or on certain occasions/ days/ months, etc., is against the principles of gurbani. To do paatth of any shabad is a whole lot more enjoyable when the interpretation of words is comprehended correctly. Then, we apply the shabads to our daily life and enjoy living in 'awe'.

14: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 24, 2010, 7:13 PM.

The twelfth pauri is about those who have already surrenderd to God, and this happens by the grace of God. The state of their mind cannot be described; one who tries to do so shall fail. No paper, no pen, no scribe, can record the state of the mind of such a person. Furthermore, Nanak says: 'Manney surt hovey munn budh' - 'as one submits to God's Will and surrenders to the Creator, he is freed from selfishness and conceit; believing in the Naam, one obtains true honor and adoration.' I have seen such transformation in one of my friends, Jeet. Since 2001, he has been practicing naam simran, engrossed in shabad gurbani, all by the Grace of God. His determination is strong and firm as since then he has ignored all rituals and superstitions, since they have no religious significance and only prove to be distractions. He has no belief in astrology, and has removed his rings of gemstone from his fingers. He is a firm believer in the Guru Granth only, and never runs after sants or babas. He is always cool and in a happy mood, a vegetarian and a non-drinker. He says, "By submitting to Hukam, one finds peace and tranquility ... you stay in tune with Hukam." 'Har ka naam daas kee oatt' [GGS:264,M5], and 'Hukam mannay so junn parvaan' [GGS:1175, M3].

15: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 24, 2010, 11:50 PM.

Jasvinder ji: Thanks for your query. The actual meaning of the Punjabi word 'bhai' is "fear" but it has to be understood in the sense of "reverence" or "awe" of Akal Purakh / Waheguru. Without the 'fear' of Akal Purakh, no one can become fearless ('bhai bin nirbhau kiu thiai'). It is a kind of "bond of reverence" between the seeker and God that cements the relationship. Once that "bond" / "fear" is broken, no one can remain disciplined and one can go astray. We do not have to be "scared" or "afraid" of God in any negative sense as we normally feel in our ordinary life when we are scared of certain people or bad circumstances. In the spiritual world, there is no "scare" of any kind. There is only love. One is carefree and without any worry or fear. I hope I have clarified my point. Let me add I have thoroughly enjoyed all the posts. They are the result of deep engagement with gurbani. My compliments to one and all.

16: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 25, 2010, 2:13 AM.

In the previous four stanzas on 'sunniyeh', it was a physical exercise using our ears. These four stanzas are a spiritual exercise very appropriately referred to as absorption. In response to Tejwant ji, I believe repetition is a requisite. To hone any skill, as Ravinder ji has pointed out, repetition is a discipline that needs cultivation. Bear in mind, it has to be mindful or attentive repetition, not the mechanical repetition you fittingly refer to. The exercise is to calm this fluttering, chattering mind. 'Mannai jumm kai sath na jaae' - 'Once the mind is stilled, then the mind is not confined by time and space.' My take on the line 'Mannai parvarai sadhaar' is that when we are reborn as per our previous karams, our relationships are predestined too. So, when we become parwaan, we free ourselves from these relationships and so are their relationship to you; we are freed from our bonds, hence the 'parvarai sadhar'. I believe Guru Nanak wants each one of us to earn one's keep, as far as this journey is concerned. This journey is a persevering journey and we can only hope to rid ourselves of the inbuilt filters that confine and limit our thoughts. I feel very fortunate to be part of these wonderful educational contributions from our learned sangat and scholars.

17: Harbans Lal (Arlington, Texas, U.S.A.), February 25, 2010, 1:48 PM.

The line in stanza 14, 'Mannai mugg na chalai panth/ mannai dharam seti sanbandh', needs further elaboration and I invite input from the readers. To an unfussy reader, it means the following: 'Those who live in the state of mannai, cease to walk on specific religious paths and no more subscribe to a particular panth or ways of organized religions or religiousity. Instead, they become intimate with dharam. 'Dharam' may be dwelt in greater detail during the discussion of the five khands described in the last stanzas of the Japji. Ravinder ji's presentation of stanzas 12-15 (I like to go along with Guru Arjan's divine wisdom not to label them as pauris in contrast to numerous other hymns where the title pauri was used appropriately) generated a lively and positive discussion. One is pleased to see the ramification of many translations in the actual life of a Sikh. In the same sense, I would like to know how others will translate the line in stanza 14.

18: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 25, 2010, 2:05 PM.

Allow me to add something to Dr. Pashura Singh ji's comment about bhai. When we love someone/ something dearly then just the thought of losing him/ her/ it gives us goose bumps, makes us shudder and we try our best to get rid of that thought and at times it is manifested physically through our body language. Ik Oankaar is 'sans fear' and 'sans enmity', which makes us God-loving rather than God-fearing. So, 'bhai' in gurbani is that horrendous thought of losing love, the most precious thing.

19: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), February 25, 2010, 3:13 PM.

'Bhau', in its many variations, is an oft-used term in the Guru Granth. I got a better understanding of the term when, years ago, I pursued its usage in the lavaan - the wedding hymns of the Anand Karaj. I came to the conclusion that the word in such usage for God and Love does have an element of 'fear' in it, but it is NOT in the sense of dread, but rather of "awe".

20: Himmat Singh (Leicester, United Kingdom), February 25, 2010, 6:44 PM.

Harbans Lal ji: I had also wondered whether to comment on the line, 'Mannai mugg na chalai panth/ mannai dharam seti sanbandh', but had refrained from doing so lest my comments offended anybody. As you have now asked for some input, for my own part, I would say that Guru Nanak is stating: "Those who accept, do not follow any formal religion; they who accept, truthfully and firmly follow Dharam." This has deep ramifications, and could be a contentious point to many Sikhs and may be a bit of a Pandora's Box. As you say, 'dharam' may be discussed later, and I think it may be useful to consider how it is treated in Hinduism and Buddhism. I hope nobody is offended, as there is no intent on my part to offend. Ravinder Singh ji, I agree with you that 'Naam Juppna' is mechanical, and this type of repetitive process is very useful in faith building, but I would say it becomes far more useful after at least some form of Naam Simran. I find if one contemplates first, then tries to memorize the conclusions, then it becomes easier to recall and makes it easier to put what has been learnt into practice, but obviously there may be individual variations. I don't know how useful Naam Juppna might be without reflection. It could end up as parroting. [Editor: Re your first point, it cannot be much of a pandora's box because these words are read by people every day ... and understood by many as well. There are a number of messages in these words, but before we get into them, we first need to understand and agree on what Guru Nanak meant by "panth" and "dharam", and not get caught in the morass of the distorted or convoluted meanings given to them today. Also, it is worth contemplating on the direction Sikhi is taking today ... are we moving away from what Guru Nanak meant us to be, and becoming part of the very problem he was trying to address? - points worth looking at in this and future conversations!]

21: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 26, 2010, 12:00 AM.

Thanks to everyone who answered my query regarding fear of God. It shows how important it is to understand each word in the right perspective, because if we take things literally, we don't understand anything, we are still ignorant, or believe in the wrong idea. As I always thought that Akal Purakh can only love us, because his love is unconditional, I should never even fear that I can lose it. Because we haven't felt unconditional love in many of our relationships, that's why we might feel he can get annoyed with us like people here in physical world do. I live in 'awe' of Waheguru all the time, it happens every day, as I find out more and more about the Akal Purkh and his existence and his powers; he is my true beloved. Just as we are prone to taking words literally without understanding the hidden meaning behind them, similarly a lot of people take naam juppna literally as well. In my opinion, naam juppna is just a method to control the ever wandering mind, but without comtemplating on the words, it is merely a mechanical tool, and not the way to connect to Him. I agree with Himmat singh ji that most of the time our fore-fronters of the religion these days are more concerned with creating the panth, than following the dharam. Dharam should for sure get more importance, which is not given; it happens with all religions. As followers of Guru Nanak, we should certainly refrain from such an error and try to teach (rather than preach) that religion needs to be understood and lived instead of being followed in blind, ritualistic faith.

22: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia  (Canada), February 26, 2010, 12:40 AM.

I think the translation given of the line "Mannai mug na chalai panth" by Sardar Ravinder Singh conveys the right sense. The word 'panth' to mean the Sikh religion came to be used only in Guru Gobind Singh's and post- Guru Gobind Singh's times. I have not heard any other religion or sect originating from India using the word "panth" for religion. So it must have meant something else before that time. In gurbani, the word means a path - a road. In the above mentioned line, the words "mug" and "panth" mean the same. They mean street/ road/ path / way. One should also keep in mind that this line is just one taken out of the whole stanza and the Japji. What it means should be interpreted in the context of the whole. Below is given the literal translation of that one line of poetry (as I understand it): [Please note that diacritic "onkarh" (u`) added to the words mag and panth denotes being on something - as walking "on" a path, or belonging to something.] The believer - a person who has been convinced of, .. on the road (magu`) .. does not walk - (nor is) on the path (panthu`) - he does not follow the rituals blindly - nor wanders aimlessly - is not undecided where to walk).

23: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 1:23 AM.

The word 'bhae' came up in the discussion. In the Guru Granth, the word is used in three different ways. Each has a different meaning. The first one means fear, the second means love/ affection, and the last one is for a secret. I hope this will help. Harbans Lal ji raised a valid question about 'manne mugg na challe panth, manne dharam seti sanbandh'. In my approach to the meaning of the word 'manne', which is to develop our own internal understanding about the conflict between our mind (always thinking, dreaming) and our brain (reasoning, practical) with knowledge and experience and develop a character which is calm, assuring, compassionate, helpful, reason based, thoughtful, deliberate, respectful, kind, wise, etc, - the first part of the stanza means - 'in developing our value, we should not try to fit in the group. Our value should truly reflect what we believe without undue group influence. It does not have to confirm to other's views'. The second part means - our belief should be strong enough so that it relates with our character. And our traits show in our words and deeds. For me, here the word 'dharam' does not mean dharma or faith in the conventional sense. It refers to our belief. And our belief is strong like our faith. I admire Himmat ji for sharing his reluctance to express his thoughts on this stanza out of his sensitivity towards others. I have reasons to bring it up. In a discussion on a religious subject like this, the human mind has self-imposed internal limits to not appear out of line in our interpretation or understanding of the scriptures. To stay within limits, we use carefully chosen words to express our thoughts to maintain those internal boundaries. Second, out of our sensitivity towards fellow believers, we may be reluctant to say exactly what we truly believe, unlike as we may do re other topics. Third, the degree to which we display our true understanding of the concept is limited and depends upon the degree of our reverence towards the scriptures. When the meaning is complex or conflicting, we tend to take the least questionable approach. Last, the interpretation always somehow should fall within godly, divine, spiritual boundaries only. And the outcome is peace, exaltation, communion, etc. I wonder in a faith like Sikhism why we cannot find these values through daily noble, honorable, compassionate, helpful, productive actions. Is it again out of our need to connect religious tenets towards situations divine only. Just a thought to solicit your views. I believe the Sikh tenets offer us plenty of opportunity and reasons to mold our thoughts, words and actions to engage in pursuits which are congruent with traits we otherwise consider divine. The concept of Naam Simran is a good example. When we talk about Naam, reading, reciting (juppna), gurbani only comes to every Sikh's mind. Naam Simram does not have to be reading, reciting gurbani only. A fully engaged and focused mind in service is also Naam Simran. Complete dedication in helping a fellow human being is Naam Simran. Another thought for your reflection. The meaning and purpose of Naam Simran is wide and varied. It is up to us individually to define it and put into practice. Deeds should override thoughts and concepts. Let us not forget that amongst the Sikhs, as in members of all religions, there is a gorge between concepts and practice. This issue has already come up in our discussion.

24: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 5:48 AM.

Just to add a thought on "bhau" and "bhai" - two terms that sound similar and sometimes appear together in gurbani and seem to be related pre-requisites for spiritual formation. 'Bhai' or "fear" appears to have been used as fear in the common sense as in "Jin andar naam nidhan hai tin ka bao sabh gavaisee." [GGS:310, M4]. It seems paradoxical, but to eradicate worldly fear, one needs to cultivate "fear of God" - "duja nahin aour ko takah bao kariyeh" [GGS:399, M5]. While fear comes naturally, "fear of God" has to be cultivated and in fact comes from the Guru and is necessary for understanding Hukam - "Jis Satguru milai tis bao pavai sa kulwanti naar, sa hukam pachane kant ka jisno kirpa kiti kartar." I see "fear of God" as a kind of "moral compass" - a faculty to be developed, without which an ethical and moral life is impossible. Any spiritual advance is dependent on this moral and ethical underpinning. The other term "Bhao" seems to me to be a mix of devotion and awe (as Sher Singh ji put it), which also is the essence of all spiritual practice. Without this "feeling" of awe and wonderment (vismaad) all methods are of no avail - "kia jap kia tap kia sanjamo kia barat kia isnaan, jab lagh jugat na janiyeh bhao bhagat bhagvan" [GGS:337, Kabir]. The two go hand in hand - "Nanak jinah man bao tinah man bhao." [Asa ki Vaar]

25: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 26, 2010, 7:32 AM.

Jasvinder ji, Akaal Purakh is Nirvair, He is 'Mitth Bolraa jee Har Sajjan swami moraa' [GGS:784, M5]. God is not fearful, but He is merciful. Waheguru is our father, mother, brother, etc., as described in gurbani. Japji pauri 27 says: 'Gaavan tud nu pavan paani besantar'. Again - 'Bhey vich pavan vahei' [GGS:464, M1]. We are to respect the principles and obey the Hukam of Akaal Purakh. It is like 'nirmal bhey' (respect & Obay) and not 'fear'. As gurbani says: 'Jehaa bije so lune' - we are to have fear of only our own bad deeds.

26: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 9:26 AM.

The literal translation of words applied in a poetic genre does not necessarily provide a correct interpretation unless we keep in mind the social, political and religious environments of pervailing times or the specific religion being referred to. There is a plethora of references throughout gurbani to other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Jainism relating to their messages, modus operandi and rituals. In all the four stanzas (12-15), the essence is "identifying the immaculate Naam and being imbibed in it." The words (marg, mugg and panth) applied in stanza 14 essentially mean the same: 'path, way, mode, procedure, etc.) 'Mannai marg tthaak na paaie' means that the enlightened one does not just stop at the first sign of the destination on the way; but instead continues unwavered towards the actual destination. 'mannai puth sio pargat jaaie' - when related with stanza 12-13, it makes sense; the enlightened person proceeds with honor and renown. 'mugg na chalae panth' - the enlightened one then does not follow any ritualistic path (e.g., Hinduism) or an organized panth (e.g., Buddhism/ Sidhanta). Instead, one continues living righteously (dharam), comprehending the relationship with the Akal Purakh. To understand poetry, it is better to know the personality of the poet and the environment he lived in.

27: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 11:22 AM.

Harbans Lal ji has triggered the discussion on the 14th stanza with regard to the meanings of the words "Mugg" and "Panth" respectively: "The true believers who ponder/ reflect on the divine Name do not experience any obstacles on their path, following it with honor and acclaim. For them, the broad way ('panth'), no narrow path ('Mugg') they tread, always obedient to the call of sacred duty' ('dharam'). The original Punjabi reading must be recited with a pause immediately after "na" as follows: 'Mannai magg na/ challai panth// Mannai dharam seti sanbandhu//' The message from this stanza is that true seekers do not follow narrow paths of cults ('deras') but follow the 'shah-rah' (highway), i.e. panth based on the teachings of gurbani. There are a number of references in gurbani about 'suhela panth' (the 'comfortable path'). The dichotomy between "individual religion" and "institutional religion" is not the one that is described here. One can be individualistic or one can follow an institutional religion. The Sikh Gurus established the panth as a "spiritual highway" for all people to follow.

28: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 12:12 PM.

After reviewing the thought provoking and varied approaches to the stanzas from the Japji under review, let me share my summary take on its meanings. First a comment on the poetic beauty of 'je ko munn janai munn koi'. It is a most beautiful poetic arrangement of words to convey the central theme of the overall message. Only if and when the mind agrees and decides to become aware and learn the importance of the knowledge received through the listening faculty provided by nature - then many benefits accrue to the person who decides to adopt it in practice. Personal enlightenment and freedom are obvious outcomes ('aisaa naam niranjan ho-e.' There are numerous ways to use knowledge, many beneficial aspects of it, many ways to analyze it, its uses may vary from person to person, etc. ('manne ki gat...'). Those who put a limit on its applications may regret later on. Some of the benefiting aspects include heightened intelligence, better contemplation, avoiding grave mistakes, sidestep destiny-type errors, reduce road blocks, navigate in honorable/ respectful ways, find desired liberation of/ by mind, help other related/ associated humans, succeed yourself and assist others to succeed by the grace of the Guru, and save the self from becoming a beggar. This is not only a literal summary of the message, it also covers many critical aspects of life we in reality want to learn to emulate. And those aspects we must learn to avoid/ minimize. Because our goal in life is to adopt the skills which help us succeed, gain happiness and a sense of contentment/ satisfaction. The trick to all these endeavors in Guru Nanak's concept is to gain knowledge, put it into practical use after understanding its value and learn to use it properly to our own style and requirements. Avoid being a sheep in the flock, merely copying others. Learn to be an individual in one's own right to maximize the potential benefits of the knowledge by making intelligent choices in its application. That is the essence of the message for me. And I believe it is brief, to the point, easy to adopt, logical and convincing from any angle I want to view it. It avoids typical religious jargon that creeps into such an important concept.

29: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 1:26 PM.

Harbans Lal ji: Please allow me to add my two cents' worth on your query. Guru Nanak's mission on this earth was not to create a new religion but to create a new thought process no matter which religion one belonged to. He told the Muslims what their five prayers meant, what was the true significance of the Hajj and of the prayer mat. In the same way, he told the Hindus what a true aarti was, etc. He urged all to become pragmatic and build open-mindedness, instead of remaining dogmatic by performing mechanical rituals and hoping for some miracles to happen. So, in other words, Guru Nanak then and, later, the Guru Granth gave us the tools to empower ourselves and hence to be able to empower others, rather than a 'system' using our inner strength for our own benefits. This stanza is the first step in that direction.

30: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 26, 2010, 4:20 PM.

Thank you, Mohan Singh ji. I do believe that Akal Purakh only loves us and gives us love always. I am never fearful, the only thing I have to check is my deeds because I get results from them ... according to Hukam. May be I can't give references like scholars here, but when I read their views here, it does strengthen my beliefs. Thank you, all!

31: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 26, 2010, 4:22 PM.

When human beings came into existence, they were very fearful of their surroundings because they did not understand them. This was true among all peoples from the Incas in the Andes to the Adhivasis in the deep jungles of the subcontinent. Gradually, when people understood the natural phenomena of the Akal Purakh, they became less fearful. However, some among them saw the opportunity to become the 'spiritual leaders' of the tribes by becoming "the only ones with 'the Truth' in that little circle". These people engaged in fear tactics to keep the tribes under their influence. They created demons, hell and fireballs in the imagined worlds beyond, where they said those who did not obey them or follow their teachings would perish or be damned eternally. These 'leaders' evolved into priests and their followers multiplied in numbers, hence the cults became religions. But the fear tactics remained the same in all religions ... until the birth of Guru Nanak in the 15th century. "Satguru Nanak pargatyah mitti dhund jugg chaanan ho-a". Here Bhai Gurdas is not giving us the weather report of the day, nor is he describing the day Guru Nanak was born. He is emphasizing the Guru's teachings that lifted the veil of darkness created by fear. Thus, fear-created darkness began to evaporate and bright rays of love began to shine. Fear is darkness; love is light. Fear breeds repression and submission; love breeds freedom. Fear makes us cringe; love makes us open our arms. Fear breeds rebellion; love creates harmony. Fear is shackles; love is the 5K's. This cultivation of love has continued ever since and only due to our love towards Waheguru Sikhi has flourished and has become the fifth largest religion with almost 30 million Sikhs worldwide in less than five-and-a-half centuries. If someone says to you, "We should be fearful of God", please recite them the verse of our Tenth Guru: "Jin prem kioh tinh hee prabh payyo" - Only they who have Loved have found God!"

32: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 27, 2010, 10:57 AM.

'Mannai mugg na chalai panth/ mannai dharam seti sanbandh' - here 'mugg is 'maarag' (path) and 'panth' is also 'maarag'. 'Maarag panth chalay gur satgur sang sikhaa' - [GGS:1116, M4]. A Sikh travels with the True Guru on the path, along the road, and 'Panthaa prem naa jaanee bhoolee firaiy gavaar' [GGS:1126, M5] - 'Those who do not know the way of love are foolish; they wander lost and confused.' 'Jinee sun ke manniya tinaa nij ghar vaas' [GGS:27, M3] - 'One who is in the state of mannai, will be engrossed in naam simran.' When a river merges with the ocean, it is no longer a river, so is the state of mannai upon spiritual enlightment ('sach khand'). Guru Granth Sahib is a stage of 'sarva dharma sammelan' for ever.

33: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 27, 2010, 11:36 AM.

S. Pashaura Singh ji: the pause after "na" that you suggest is unlike what we have conventionally understood - namely, to pause after "mannai." By your reckoning, there is a also a distinction between "mugg" (which you interpret as narrow) versus "panth" (which is a kind of broader path); yet, in essence, they mean the same thing. What distinguishes a "broad" path form a "narrow" one? Is the distinction necessary to understand the crux of the message which is in the subsequent line, "mannai dharam seti sanbandh"? I would suggest that what is being said here is that "regardless of the path we are on", the essence of all paths is to be steadfast in "dharam". If not, then it matters little whether you are on a broad or narrow path. Dharam, of course, is another discussion that we will be conversing about. Tejwant ji: Guru Nanak is very clear about his mission, as were his successors in further amplifying it. There is substantial evidence (in gurbani and in the historical development of Sikhi) to suggest that the Gurus were indeed laying the foundation of a new Way (Religion), if not a new civilization. Guru Nanak is sounding a note of caution, it seems to me: that we can get caught up in our paths, which become sources of conflict; we can get caught up in ritual, which can fossilize the spirit or essence behind it, i.e. our practice becomes mindless. Dharam is the kernel of all religions and the different paths are just like the exterior husk or chaff.

34: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), February 27, 2010, 11:01 PM.

The path to walk on shall always be walking alone and within the confine of Hukam. Hukam is infinite. So there must be limits within the Hukam where human activity would take place. That limitation is put by Naam, our "de facto" creator. How then does the Hukam get translated to what we do, or what activity is considered within the matrix of Hukam for human beings? My view is that this starts to happen when a person begins to listen to himself within his consciousness. Hearing and listening at a level other than consciousness is vibratory in its attributes (meaning that it involves energy, that which exists only in the world of Maya - a world defined by time-space dimension). Listening, at the depth of consciousness level, is awareness in its attribute - no vibratory mode exists there - it is from beyond the "sunn", or from the other side of the "sunn" state. One who reaches that stage reaches there only with the grace of the Akal Purakh. It is at that stage that one becomes aware of the Naam stream, and becomes aware of the limitation within which human activity can take place. Awareness is said to be instant; no extra brain activity is needed; it is not vibratory in its attribute but the brain activity is vibratory. So, one may pick up one path of activity from the choice of several. How Guru Nanak may define "Dharma", perhaps, may relate something to that stage. So I am keenly waiting for the views that are elicited when S. Ravinder Singh introduces the topic of "Dharma". However, one does not have to attain that stage to decide what activity to engage in (deeds to do). The ability for that comes naturally, when we try to minimize the role of haumai in our daily lives. It is believed that the "sunn" stage is the barrier past which the consciousness looks at the world through the prism of Maya, and also in the reverse, the brain - the controller of man as a physical machine- looks past the "sunn" state at the consciousness through the stream of Naam. The rhythmic exchange of listening between the brain and consciousness generates the pulse of 'pran'. When that exchange stops, the body ceases.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium VIII: Pauris 12 - 15, Feb 22 - 28"

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