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Talking Stick

Wisdom, Grounded in Humility
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 40, Ardaas, Part VIII





Our petition, as part of our daily ardaas,  for the inculcation of core Sikh values into our lives made it abundantly clear that Sikhi is a holistic way of life. Naam is the inner discipline (aatam ki rehat) to which a Sikh life is tethered; its outward expression (rehat) is the archetype of the Khalsa.

Such a life is infused with discernment, trust and faith - bibayk, visaah, bharosa - and forms the basis of righteous action (dharam) expressed through social and political institutions - Sri Amritsar ji dey darshan ishnaan, chau(n)kiaa(n), jha(n)day, bungay, juggo jug atull - to uphold the sovereignty of Justice and Truth - dharam ka jaikaar.

We see here a dual obligation for a Sikh: a deep personal commitment to the practice and discipline of Naam that is based on an impeccable and unimpeachable moral and ethical life, expressed through social and political activism for a larger cause, Hukam.

To borrow from the title of a book on Guru Nanak's Siddh Gosht, a Sikh must follow his Guru to be a Socially Active Renunciate.


Sikhaa(n) da munn neevaa (n), mut(t) ucchi, mut(t) da raakhaa aap Waheguru.

Hey Akaal Purakh, aapney panth dey sadaa sahaayi daataar jee-o!
Sri Nankaana Sahib te hor gurdwaareyaa(n) gur-dhaamaa(n) dey,
Jinhaa(n) to(n) panth nu vichhorheyaa gya hai,
Khulley darshan deedaar te seva sambhaal da daan Khalsa ji nu bakhsho

Grant to the Sikhs humility and lofty understanding,
May Waheguru be the guide and protector of our discernment.

O Timeless One, forever the Protector and Helper of the Panth:
To Sri Nankana Sahib, Gurdwaras and centres of the Panth,
From which the Panth has been cast asunder,
Grant the Khalsa free access and the privilege of unhindered service.


The first couple of lines starting with 'munn neevaa(n), mut(t) ucchi' - a plea for "higher wisdom, but grounded in humility" - is a reaffirmation and summation of the previous passage which petitions for the way of life we know as Sikhi.

The two parts of the phrase go hand in hand.

Munn is a term that occurs with great regularity in the Guru Granth Sahib, but discussing its composition, nature and expression in any detail is not possible here.

For our purposes, it is sufficient to think of munn as an inner faculty with immense potential (for good or bad) which also gives rise in us to a sense of "I" - or haumai, in Sikh parlance. Colloquially, the word "munn" is oft used variously for the mind or the self. 

Munn - depending on its orientation - can either be an invaluable possession - "eh man rattan jawahar manak tis ka mole aphaara," [GGS:754] or a mill around our neck. It has been referred to in Gurbani as a king, a yogi but also as a stubborn donkey.

An inflated sense of haumai infects the munn like a virus, making it delirious, and causing it to lose its proper orientation and sense of proportion. Such a munn becomes self indulgent, bound by its narrow selfish interests, and is rendered incapable of receiving the message of gurmat.

The petition here asks for "munn neevaa(n)" which is commonly translated as humility. But "munn neevaa(n)" can also be thought of as a "munn" that is purged of "haumai," - a munn that is receptive to the deeper and more universal dimensions of itself.

Only in such a state is mut(t) ucchi or true wisdom possible. The word "mut(t)" means, intellect or wisdom. "Ucchi" means raised or higher.

Gurmat or the teaching of the Guru is the agent, the cure that will cleanse the munn, which will then allow or facilitate the raising of the inner intellect.

The subsequent lines starting with, "Hey Akaal Purkh (O Immortal being) ...", were inserted post 1947 by a Hukamnaama
from the Akal Takht.

For Sikhs, the trauma of the Partition of 1947 was certainly about personal loss that millions of families endured. But in deeply significant ways, the partition was also a collective cultural and spiritual shock for the community. A connection to its heritage was torn asunder. Hundreds of major historcal gurdwaras, especially those associated with the life of Guru Nanak and the early Gurus, were now inaccessible and their preservation out of the control of Sikhs. Gurdwaras such as Nankana Sahib, Punja Sahib, Dehra Sahib, Gurdwara Baal Leela, Gurdwara Patti Sahib, Gurdwara Mali Sahib, Gurdwara Kiara Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurudwara Tambu Sahib and many more were lost to the community.

The lines reflect not only remembrance but also an aspiration.


Despite a panth-approved version of the ardaas, we do have some variations - but mostly in a very limited usage by fringe groups in the community. For instance, the Naamdhari ardaas follows much of the same pattern but includes references to those they consider following in the line of succession after Guru Gobind Singh.

What are Sikhs to make of it?

Similarly, "Sri Amritsar ji key darshan ishnaan" appears as "Sri Amritsar ji key ishnaan," in the Rehat Maryada ardaas. A reader asked, "Why the difference?"

Have we muted Guru Nanak's message? Have we ignored the political ramifications of his message?


December 13, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Balbir Singh (Germany), December 13, 2010, 1:14 PM.

Such a long list of demands! Do we need so much?

2: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), December 13, 2010, 11:00 PM.

I request that the line cited from GGS:754 be corrected to: "Eh man rattan jawahar manak tis ka mol aphaara."

3: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), December 14, 2010, 9:11 AM.

This is not about a long list of demands; this is a part of our submission, our desire and our right. Moreover, this is a collective ardaas of our Panth. As an individual, we have lots of demands, and they are never-ending; if one is fulfilled by the grace of Waheguru, ten more demands will come up. Throughout our lives, we are longing for our multiple demands to be fulfilled; this is our struggling way of life. Once we surrender to God, there will be no more demands. As regards darshan and ishnaan at Amritsar, we urge Waheguru to keep our Harmandar Sahib safe forever so that a Sikh can visit as often as he/she can, as the place was attacked over and over again by enemies of the Sikh Nation, and this follows the request for Nanakana Sahib and other gurdhaams to be liberated. "Munn neevaa(n) mut(t) ucchi", meaning Namrata (submission-humility) and moral behavior (vyohaar) in society (no reflection of haumai), "mutt da raakha Waheguru" is through gurbani. This applies to those who live life as per Sikhi, who remain attached to gurbani. Guru Nanak said in the third verse of Japji: "Tithai gharhee-ai surat mutt man buddh." Here, buddh is knowledge and mutt is wisdom/ prudence (discernment and avoidance of 'bipran ki reet').

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), December 19, 2010, 11:46 AM.

Thank you, Pritam Singh ji, for the correction. Balbir Singh ji, I have reserved my response for next week, which concludes our discussion on the Ardaas. To Mohan Singh ji, thank you - as always - for lending us your insight into gurbani, which is deeply appreciated.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 40, Ardaas, Part VIII "

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