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The Path Of The Gurmukh:
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 79
Siddh Gosht - Part III





Some noteworthy comments made by our esteemed participants deserve our attention.

How to discuss gurbani on this forum, especially a densely packed philosophical treatise like the Siddh Gosht, without glossing over, if not skipping over, some of its contents? Or, as a reader observed, how do we approach Siddh Gosht, indeed all gurbani, without imposing our own “rigid mind set” or to merely seek “validation” for our own world-view.

Personally, I share these concerns. Our rigid mind-set, or the desire of our ego to use gurbani to find validation instead of instruction from gurmat is always the lurking danger.

We just have to be mindful of the fact that, ultimately, the goal is to dissolve our haumai. The hope is that the dialogue we have on the Talking Stick will cause us to investigate our personal lives and deepen our connection with the Guru.

As the convenor, however, I recognize the limitations of any online forum: it simply cannot replace a good face-to-face dialogue. The Talking Stick is also not intended to be a site for scholars, nor is the dialogue meant to be academic. Our mission is:

-  To forge an authentic community of seekers, albeit a virtual one in cyberspace, that is together embarked on a spiritual quest with Gurbani as our beacon.

-  To capture a sense of the sacred in our daily lives through an idiom that is modern and offers greater meaning and

-  To create an alternative to the pontificating Gurdwara sermon by inculcating a more open discussion that takes into account the prevailing scientific temper.

-  To sow a seed of interest in gurbani. If successful, we hope, it'll encourage the reader to continue his/her search by pursuing the journey through personal research and study.

It is through this interaction that we strive to create a true kinship which, Guru Arjan reminds us, is the ultimate goal.

What we strive to do is to bring gurbani center-stage, no matter how superficially. Our cherished hope is that it will stir up some ongoing personal interest in the readers who will want to delve deeper.

Coming back to the Siddh Gosht:

How did I decide that we should stop at stanza 11 and which theme to stress?

Stanzas 1-11 seemed to me to focus on what is the desired life-style to obtain freedom (mukti); that is the central concern based on the rahāo verse, “Why wander?”

Stanzas 1-11 are also interesting because they specifically refer to two yogis of the Gorakh tradition, Charpat and Loharipa.

Stanzas 12- 73 do not bring up any specific names of yogis. This suggests the setting of the stage in the earlier stanzas.

The tension between “living in the world” and “renouncing the world” in the quest for spiritual liberation is central to Eastern philosophical and religious thought. It shouldn’t surprise us that Guru Nanak would take on the siddhs by posing the challenge, “Why wander?” since he is espousing a dramatically different way of being.


We will consider two themes contained in stanzas 12 - 18.

The first, in stanzas 12-13, Guru Nanak establishes the way of "true yoga" as being the path of the gurmukh - in contrast to the way of the manmukh.


Who is hidden?

Who is liberated?

Who is connected - inside and outside?

Who comes and goes endlessly?

Who remains immersed in the One that pervades all? (12)


Guru Nanak:

The One [Waheguru] is hidden, the gurmukh liberated!

The shabad connects.

The manmukh wanders endlessly,

Says Nanak: the gurmukh is immersed in Truth. (13)

Stanzas 17 and 18 are significant. The Siddhs try to turn the tables.

The last time they met him, it was in the plains in Batala, where he had come dressed in a householder's garb. Seeing Guru Nanak now in the mountains, dressed as a traveling renunciate, far away from home, leads them to question him:

Why have you left your home and traveled this far?

Why have you adopted these religious robes?

What is your trade?

How will you ferry others across?

Guru Nanak’s response:

I have come thus in search of gurmukhs

I have adopted these robes to find them.

I peddle the Truth

Says Nanak: with the help of gurmukhs, others can be ferried across.

What are the implications of the questioning in stanza 17?

What about the response in stanza 18?

What lessons can we take away from Guru Nanak’s response?

We have noticed that the Siddhs are quite fixated on bodily processes and external garb. What does Guru Nanak’s emphasis on the inner life suggest?

In stanza 18, Guru Nanak appears to acknowledge that he is wearing a renunciate's garb, but dismisses it as being unimportant.

His real mission is finding gurmukhs.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


April 16, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Ravinder Singh (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), April 16, 2012, 9:19 AM.

In considering stanzas 12-18, I have intentionally "glossed over" stanzas 14-16. The reasoning is that in stanza 12/13 and 17/18 two things stand out: one, Guru Nanak's reference to the gurmukh and his own 'quest' for the company of gurmukhs; and, two, his attire as a renunciate that the Siddhs are intrigued by. Is a gurmukh and the gurmukh way of life distinct from the life of a normal householder? Why does Nanak coin this distinct term? Sangat and its importance is being stressed. But why is Guru Nanak wearing an alien garb? The question I have is: did Guru Nanak don udasi robes deliberately? Bhai Gurdas (vaar 24) refers to Guru Nanak as ("baabey bhekh banaya udasi") wearing the renunciate's robes and then discarding them at Kartarpur ("phir baba aaya kartarpur/ bhekh udasi sagal utaara").

2: Kulwant Singh (U.S.A.), April 16, 2012, 8:53 PM.

Stanza 13 is self-explanatory. Waheguru is Truth. Those who find truth become gurmukhs and are liberated. The shabad connects us with truth. Manmukhs can't see the truth, that's why they wander endlessly in the cycle of birth and death. I think Guru Nanak donned udasi robes to attract holy men and engage them in debate. The purported holy men might not have given Guru Nanak the time of the day if he didn't first meet their external criteria.

3: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), April 16, 2012, 9:14 PM.

Guru Nanak insisted on inner life and not on any particular label. Guru Nanak: "mussalmaan kahaavan muskal jaa ho-ay taa mussalmaan kahaavai". That is, "It is difficult to be a true Muslim. But if one were really so, let him remain a Muslim". Labels to Guru Nanak did not matter if they advanced spiritual life. Guru Nanak wanted to bring change to the content of their (yogis) belief which was certainly fallacious.

4: Prakash.Singh.Bagga (Indore, India), April 19, 2012, 2:14 PM.

If we look at the word 'gurmukh' in Siddh Gosht, we should make sure what this word actually refers to. We can see mostly the word is with a matra of sihari under its letter 'kh', so the word is GURMUKH(i). It means through or from the mouth of the Guru. Therefore we should try to understand the message as per this context of word meaning. It would be misleading to take the meaning of this word as reference to a person/ persons.

5: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), April 28, 2012, 4:47 PM.

Enticing the youth through extrapolation of gurbani into business and family situations is worthwhile, as long as the reader is made aware of this intent. Ravinder ji, your opening statements are generally complete and they leave little to be discussed in this respect. But again, the title of this talk asks for more. Gurmukh is the life of Sikhi. Scant responses make me feel pressured to say something but I will try to be short.

6: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), April 28, 2012, 4:48 PM.

'Sikh' is a noun. Gurmukh is an adjective, meaning real Sikh. Truth is unspeakable. It cannot be shown either. It can be only shared. Only then it can be experienced. Those who did this, in the past, have left a trail of religions behind them. But the original ingredient, one who shared the experience, is missing in what they left behind. This leads to the mushrooming of so-called and pseudo gurus, a profession that is as old as prostitution. Guru Nanak wanted to establish a way so that the company of a Gurmukh is always available to us, without falling prey to any imposters. This is the path of Sikhi.

7: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), April 28, 2012, 4:50 PM.

Guru Nanak has used Siddh Gosht only as a vehicle to enumerate the core Sikh concepts just because they were discussed during that meeting. Not to compare them with us. There is no difference between a gurmukh (a true Sikh) and the Guru but our careless usage has made these terms ordinary and banal. We have trouble describing it because only a gurmukh can understand a gurmukh. As they say in India: an elephant has two sets of teeth - one set is for show, the hidden set is for mastication. Similarly, Sikhi of the masses is not exactly the same as Sikhi of someone who, silently, dives deeper into gurbani. The term 'gurmukh' describes only such rare Sikhs, not us.

8: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), April 28, 2012, 4:53 PM.

As a child, I prayed and recited gurbani only for favors. I still do. But at least, now I also read gurbani for illumination through comprehension and contact. The experience of truth requires further growth, leading to a much greater inner transformation. Most paths are self-help paths and thus, they have difficulty in understanding this, but according to gurbani, this transformation needs to occur free of any personal haumai. Such is the path of a gurmukh that a gurmukh lets the Guru do so. A gurmukh dies and is reborn as one who lives, breathes and feels only the Guru. People may call some ordinary and transitory change as 'born again' but this is not what is meant here in gurbani.

9: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), April 28, 2012, 4:55 PM.

Books can be written about 'gurmukh'. Further details should be studied from Siddh Gosht and other places where a gurmukh is described. 'Being born into the Guru's place, the wandering is eliminated' [GGS:940.2]. Gurbani, sangat and seva allow us to reap the benefits of having 'partakh Guru', meaning, actual presence of the Guru among us. This is how a gurmukh experiences, and shares, the unspeakable truth. Others in the company of such a person can share it and thus learn how to do so themselves. This is why we read, 'kay-tee chhuttee naal', meaning, their company saves countless others. All this can now be accomplished without becoming a servant of any particular person. Gurbani makes all this possible. This was Guru Nanak's unique gift to the world.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 79
Siddh Gosht - Part III"

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