Sri Guru Granth Sahib – Concept of Sat (Truth)
Dr. James Massey
For paucity of time I have not been able to do full justice to the topic given to me. Therefore I apologies to all of you, especially the editor of this special issue of Vismadnad (and the Director of this Seminar, Dr. Sutinder Singh Noor). Without going into the details of this topic, I will try to briefly state my views based on Guru Nanakbani (especially Japuji Sahib), in regard to the concept of truth.
The word Sat (combining all the different grammatical connotations) has been used more than 2000 times in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. (1) But the use of the word Sat alone independently and with the word ‘Naam’ has been in both the forms. For us, first of all, especially, the use of Sat as made in Mool Mantra along with ‘Naam’, demands our attention. This use has been made in the Mangalacharan (Invocation) 43 times. The meaning of this use of Sat i.e. about the meaning of ‘Satnaam’, the scholars are not unanimous. Dr. Ram Singh has divided the scholars who have tried to translate or interpret Sat as used in Mool Mantra in three groups, (2) as under:
The first group is that which regards Sat as the adjective of ‘Naam’ (For example, Principal Teja Singh writes in his translation of Japuji Sahib “Of the True Name” (3) i.e. ‘His Name is True’ Here the emphasis is more on ‘Naam’)
The second group of scholars is that which lays equal emphasis on Sat and ‘Naam’. They translate ‘Sat Naam’, according to Dr. Ram Singh “Truth and Name”. Bhai Vir Singh is an example among the Punjabi translators who have interpreted Sat and ‘Naam’ as separate words. According to him, Sat means eternal in all the three times, past, present and future, and constant’ and ‘According to Gurbani, ‘Naam is a spiritual knowledge’ (5). The essence of the views of this group of scholars has been given by Dr. Jagjit Singh Saluja as under:
“Sat Naam” is not one word, nor Sat is the adjective of Naam. Both “Sat” and “Naam” speak of the ‘Divine Power’ ‘Knowledge’. Sat is indicative of God’s attributeless power, which is ever-True for all times. This power pervades everywhere in the form of ‘Naam’. Naam is Sat but Sat is not ‘Naam’ alone. Sat manifests itself in the form of ‘Naam’ which can be revealed…the Sat, which is “beyond experience”, can be experienced through ‘Naam’. Different scholars, as divided into groups by Dr. Ram Singh on the basis of their views and the quotes given in brackets by me, lay emphasis on the fact that there is difference of opinion among the scholars about the concept of Sat. My personal opinion about this problem, however, is that this difference of opinion is based on the different traditions of interpretations. Dr. Taran Singh, in his book Gurbani Diyaan Vyakhya Pranaliyaan has explained this in greater detail, which I have cursorily studied. But the most important of these is the ‘Sehaj Pranali’, according to which, the Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib itself explains elsewhere the definitive words, symbols, views, emotions, theories, etc. …The existence of this ‘Sehaj Pranali’ is confirmed by the belief that Mool Mantra is explained by Japuji and the entire Bani is the explanation of Japuji.’ In the next two parts of this brief paper, taking recourse to this ‘Sehaj Pranali’, in the first instance, I have paid attention to both the words Sat and ‘Naam’, that is their mutual relationship and then I have tried to know the meanings of Sat, which throw light on some of the aspects of Sat in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
(c) Guru Nanak has made use of the words Sat and ‘Naam’ together and separately in his leading composition Japuji Sahib in their grammatical forms. For example:
Sacha sahib saach naye bhakhya bhao apaar. (SGGS, 2)
True is the Master, True is His Name and the True Ones have recited His Name with the utmost adoration. (8)
Soyee soyee sada sach sahib sacha sachi nayee.
That and that Supersoul is eternal Truth. He is True and True is His Name.
In both the instances given above, Guru Nanak has used the words ‘Sacha Sahib’ (True Master) and ‘Sacha Naye’ (True is His Name) for the same meaning. ‘Sach’ defines the main attribute of ‘Sahib’ and ‘Naye’.
We find some more references in Japuji, wherein Guru Nanak has used the word ‘Sach’ and ‘Naam’ separately, but these references reveal to us their mutual relationship more closely. For example:
Adi sach jugadi sach.
Hai bhi sach Nanak hosi bhi sach. (SGGS, 1)
Truth was in the beginning, Truth has been through the ages, Truth present even now and sayeth Nanak
And in future too, shall Truth prevail.
Jini Naam dhyaeya gaye masaqat ghaal.
Nanak te much ujlai keti chhutti naal.
Those who meditated on His Name, toiling thus,
Sayeth Nanak, shall go with beaming faces before
Him; many more shall attain salvation with them.
In the first reference in the first saloka of Japuji, Guru Nanak has used ‘sach’ as the masculine gender. Before this, in the two references from Guru Nanakbani, on which I had focused attention, Guruji has used ‘sach’ for Guruji’s ‘Master’, a personal name, or as an attribute, but in this reference ‘sach’ has been used in place of ‘Master’, which means, only Truth is Guru Nanak’s Master.
The second reference given above is the concluding saloka of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Here Guru Nanak has used ‘Naam’ separately, but again in the form of masculine gender, which draws our attention to the Divine Personage, about Whom Guru Nanak had drawn our attention in the first saloka, that is, Truth. About Him, in the first pauri while referring to the greatest need of man, he had drawn our attention. It is Guru Nanak’s question:
Kiv sachiayara hoyeeai kiv koorai tuttai paal.
How can we be truthful, and how can the veil of falsehood be torn?
So it is true that in the second references above Guru Nanak Dev has made use of the word ‘Naam’ separately, but the meaning here also is the same as that in the ‘Sat Naam’ of Mool Mantra.
Besides Guru Nanak Dev, the fourth Guru Ram Das and the fifth Guru Arjan Dev had used Sat and ‘Naam’ together many a time. Some examples:
Jap man Satnaam sada satnaam.
(Guru Ram Das, 670)
Recite the True Name, O my mind, ever the True Name.
Satnaam tera para poorbala.
(Guru Arjan Dev, 1083)
Primordial and ab anitio is Thy True Name.
Satnaam Prabh ka sukhdayee. (Guru Arjan, 284)
God’s True Name, bestows happiness.
Bhai Gurdas too has used these two words together ‘Satnaam’ in his twenty-fourth Vaar. He says:
Sat roop sat naam kar Satgur Nanak Deo japaiya. (24.1)
Guru Nanak has made the world recite His Name
(‘Satnaam karta purkh’, etc.)
It becomes clear from the above that in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the words Sat and ‘Naam’ are very closely related and to understand the meaning of one word, the second word too demands our attention. As I had said at the outset, because of paucity of time, I would not be able to do full justice to the topic given to me; in the same way, without paying full attention to ‘Naam’ and the meanings found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, I will dilate now on the meaning of ‘Sach’.
(a) One of the main topics of Guru Nanakbani is Sat (Truth). This is confirmed by his using ‘Sat’ 43 times in Mangalacharan (Invocation). Its prominence is seen from the fact that he assigned Sat the immediate position after ‘Ik Onkar’. But the true import of Sat dawns on us only by studying his Bani very carefully. For example, the following four references are given, of which we have drawn attention to two already:
Adi sach jugadi sach.
Hai bhi sach Nanak hosi bhi sach. (SGGS, 1)
Truth was in the beginning, Truth has been through the ages, Truth is present today and sayeth Nanak, in the future too, shall Truth prevail.
Sach khand vasai nirankaar. (SGGS, 8)
The Formless Master abides in the realm of truth.
Sacha Sahib Saach naye…. (SGGS, 2)
The Master is True, True is His Name….
Soyee soyee sada sach Sahib,
Sacha sachi nayee (6)
That Master is ever True.
He’s True, and Truth is His Name.
These four references from Japuji Sahib bring before us very clearly the views about Sat or ‘Sach’. In these parts of his Bani, Guru Nanak has not only given the meaning of Sat but also its relationship with Nirankar (Formless), Sahib (Master) and ‘Naam’ (Name) has been very clearly explained.
In the first reference Guruji has used ‘sach’ three times in the masculine gender. This usage points to us the masculine nature of ‘sach’ and self-existence. Then its use three times, shows the relationship of ‘sach’ with the past, present and the future. ‘Sach’ is not only present in all the three ‘Times’, it existed even before the existence of ‘Time’. The word ‘Adi’ denotes this fact. Thus ‘Sat’ is an existence which was always there, is there and shall be there. In the fourth reference, the words ‘sada sach’ supports this fact.
In the second reference given above, Guru Nanak links his ‘nirankar’ with ‘sach’. The abode of his ‘sach’ is ‘Sachkhand’ (realm of truth). What demands our attention most here is the fact that ‘Sachkhand’ is the experience of the last phase of human quest and the experience of ‘Truth’ or ‘sach’. In the first pauri (stanza) of Japuji, Guru Nanak raises a basic question, which pertains to everyone living in this world. The question is: ‘Kiv sachiara hoyeeai, kiv koorai tuttai paal.’ (How to become truthful and how to tear the veil of falsehood?) After posing this question, he answers it very systematically, relating the spiritual journey of man in this world, beginning with the first pauri and upto the thirty-seventh pauri, and says that God abides in the Sachkhand. But before this, he explains the four phases of human journey: Dharam Khand (realm of duty), Gyan Khand (realm of knowledge), Saram Khand (realm of toil) and Karamkhand (the realm of Grace) (p.7-8). Passing through these four realms, man has experiences, which we may call ‘divine’, spiritual, sufiana or rabbiana, which ultimately lead man to Sachkhand where God resides Himself. The nature of Guru Nanak’s Formless God is such that He is not born, nor can He be experienced but the fact is that ‘He is True and He exists. Therefore it is possible to experience Him and know Him.
Based on his personal experience, Guru Nanak calls Him by personal names like ‘Sach naye’, ‘Sach Sahib’, etc. As a matter of fact, according to the above references from Japuji Sahib, ‘Sach’, ‘Sach naye’ and ‘Sach Sahib’ are one and the same.
We find many other references in Guru Nanakbani, wherein he has gone beyond the ordinary meanings of ‘Sacha’, ‘Sachra’, Sat, etc’. Some more examples:
Je sabad bujhai ta sach nihaala.
Antar saach sabhe sukh naala.
Nadr karai jakhai rakhvaala. (SGGS, 412)
If one understands the import of Naam,
He can perceive the Truth, the True Master….
Sachra door na bhaliai
ghat ghat sabad pachhanova (SGGS, 581)
Don’t look for Him at far off places.
Recognize Him dwelling in everyone.
Sat sat vartai gaher gambhira.
Sacha Sahib sach parkhai
Sachai hukam chalayee hey. (SGGS, 1023)
One is then absorbed in Truth and Thee, o deep and unfathomable Lord.
The Master of Truth tests the seekers on the touchstone of Truth and issues True ordinances.
I conclude this paper with the above hymns of Guru Nanak.
Ranjit Singh Saluja (Dr): Mool Mantra: sankalp ate vivechan, Ludhiana, 1982, p. 67)
Ram Singh: Satti nam in Sikh Concept of the Divine. Edited by Pritam Singh, Amritsar, 1985, p. 56)
Teja Singh: Japji of Guru Nanak’s Meditation Rendered into English and annotated, Amritsar, 1974, (Seventh Edition), p. 19.
Dr. Surinder Singh Kohli, Philosophy of Guru Nanak, Chandigarh, 1980, p. 27.
Bhai Sahib Dr. Bhai Vir Singh Ji: Japuji Sahib (Santhya), Amritsar, 1981, p.11, 15).
Jagjit Singh Saluja (Dr): p. 72
Taran Singh: Gurbani diyaan vyakhia pranaliyaan, Patiala, 1980, p. 23).
The meanings of the references quoted from Guru Nanakbani given in simple words in brackets have been taken from the translations by Sardar Manmohan Singh into English and Punjabi (Hymns of Guru Nanak, Language Department, Punjab, Patiala, 1972).