The Guru’s Word and Salvation
Dr. Shamsher Singh
Timeless God Almighty’s own words are enshrined in the Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. God’s word is like the lamp of knowledge. It removes the darkness of ignorance in human mind and gives divine light. Lighting this lamp of divine light in their holy hearts, the Gurus gave a lead upto the year 1708 A.D. in their physical form and thereafter the light passed on to the Word-Guru and got enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, providing eternal guidance for all times to come:
Satgur sabad ujaro deepa.
Binsio andhkaar tih mandir
Ratan kothri khuli anoopa. (SGGS, 821) Satguru’s word is the lamp showing light
Which removes darkness in the mind
It opens the cell full of pearls of knowledge.
The Guru’s word has been accepted as the centre point of Sikh faith, Sikh philosophy, Sikh culture and Sikh tradition. Believers of different faiths have accepted the power of the word as source of knowledge, but have not accepted it as the Guru. Only the Sikh Gurus accorded the status of Guru to the word. The Bani which has been composed under a Divine Command, the Divine Word, is the truest and the highest. It has been written for the benefit of the world. It has been ordained to have faith and devotion in the Divine Word and to always keep in mind these hymns composed by the Great Ones:
Bani Guru Guru hai Bani
vich baani amrit sarai.
Gurbani kahey sewak jan manai
partakh Guru nistarey. (SGGS, 892) The Bani is Guru and Guru is Bani
Which has in it the essence (nectar)
What Gurbani says is accepted by the devotees as the holy word uttered by the Gurus themselves.
Gur darsan udhrai sansara.
Je ko laye bhao piara (SGGS, 361) Guru’s glimpse (word) saves the world
One should have full faith and love it.
The meaning of the ‘Word’ as given in the Mahankosh (The Encyclopedia) by Bhai Kahan Singh, is sound, tune, dialogue, the guru’s exhortation, Brahm, Creator, faith, religion, message, etc. In Gurbani ‘Word’ is taken to mean the Creator’s power, the Guru’s command, ordinance, life of righteousness. The Word is the Divine Command. The world was created under His Command:
Eiko sabad eikai prabh vartai
Sabh eikas te utpat chalai. (SGGS, 1334) One Word pervades everywhere like God
The Creation came into being
through the One Word only.
Word is immortal. Water cannot drown it, a thief cannot steal it, and fire cannot burn it. For the blind world it is the supporting stick, for a seeker of truth in the ocean of births, it is the ship. The true definition of the Word is known only to the Creator or the perfect Guru. The learned ones have defined it in their own way. Sardar Kapur Singh says about the Word:
Shabad uh tatt hai jinoo jandiyaan
sach di sojhi hundi hai atey sach
naal ik-mik ho jayeeda hai. Word is something knowing which
One gets enlightened about the truth and
is able to mingle with it.
Macauliffe writes that the ‘Word’ is that secret form of language which imparts knowledge about the Unseen.
‘Word’ is not taken in its simple meaning in Gurbani as definitive of something. It has been used in the spiritual sense in Gurbani. The full import of the ‘Word’ or enlightenment is realized when the human mind, goes inward controlling the outward senses, and centres itself on the Divine. This is called Sehaj Jog (state of equipoise) or the ‘attunement of the mind with the word’:
Nau dar thake dhavat rahaye.
Dasvein nij ghar vaasa paye.
Othai anhad sabad vajahe din rati
Gurmat sabad sunavnia. (SGGS, 124) Having stopped going out of the nine doors
(mouth, ears, nostrils, eyes, anus, urinary organ)
Have settled now in the abode of the tenth door
Where day and night is heard the unstrung sound
Made possible by listening to the Guru’s Word.
Guru’s Word is a ‘passion’ which has been confirmed at many places in Gurbani. Guru Arjan says, ‘As God makes me say, I say all this (Word). Guru Ram Das confirms this:
Satgur ki Bani sat sat kar janahu Gursikhahu
Har karta aap muhahu kadhaye. (SGGS, 308) Regard the Gurus’ words as absolute Truth, O Sikhs.
God Almighty Himself makes them utter thus Hau apahu bol na janada
Mai kahya sabh hukmayo jio. (SGGS, 763) I don’t know at all how to say this
I say only what is commanded to me.
The ‘Word’ is an imperishable truth. In Gurbani it is called ‘Adi Sabad’, ‘Purkhotam Brahm’, ‘Bani Niranakaar’, etc. (Primordial Word, the Highest One, The Formless One in Word form etc.), and described as indicative of its being an all-time truth (past, present and future).
Vahu vahu Bani nirankar hai tis jevad avar na koye.
Vau vahu agam athah hai vahu vahu sacha soye. The Wondrous Word is the Divine Word
Equal to which there is nothing to be seen
He’s Himself, Unfathomable, Inaccessible,
Verily the True Lord Himself.
The Word is spiritual knowledge. The outer knowledge which is dependent on organs of ‘action’ is subject to change. But such knowledge lacks permanence. The Guru’s word is ‘Unchangeable’. It was there before the Creation of the universe, it is there now and it shall there in the future too. Even now this power is pervading through the world as the light:
So sabad nirantar nij ghar aachhai
Tribhavan joti so sabad lahai. (SGGS, 945) The eternal word abides in its place
Illuminating the three worlds indeed.
The Word pervades this world and the other world, in all the four directions, regions, continents and skies in the form of the Word. The Word is Brahm in its formless manifestation, it is Truth:
Gurmukh Bani Brahm hai sabd milava hoye.
That Bani is Brahm is known by becoming a Gurmukh
The word makes it possible to have a glimpse thereof. Satgur ki Bani Sat saroop hai Gurbani baniai.
(SGGS, 304) The word of the True Guide is the manifestation of Truth
Which is realized through Gurbani
Devotion to Sikh faith is not limited to only talking but it calls for action, it’s the name of love, it needs giving and not demanding, to act; it asks for sacrifice. What do we think of? What do we want to do? What do we do; all this is mere saying only. What can we become is practical faith. Bhai Gurdas says: Gursikhi da karam ehu….
Gur farmavai Gursikh karna (18.10)
It is the duty of the Gurus’ Sikh
To act upon Guru’s exhortation. Wondrous mystery is hidden in the Guru’s word; between a creature and the Brahm, word is a power which is capable of uniting the two. Word being the heart of Brahm, is gyan (knowledge). Soul is life and the word is the life of the soul: Jia andar jio sabad hai
Jit saha melava hoye. (SGGS, 1250)
Life in all the living ones is the word
Which helps one to unite with God. Kaya kanchan sabad vichara.
Tithai Hari vasai jis da ant na paravara.
In the body of gold lies the essence of word
There abides the Almighty and Infinite God. Without the light of the Almighty, the darkness of doubt has spread all around; ignorance and lack of understanding pervades there. Man is caught in the web of transmigration.
Sattey deep andher hai
Gurmukh Deepak sabad ujara.
(Vaar Bhai Gurdas, 29.8.2)
Darkness prevails in all the seven continents
By Guru’s Grace can the light of His Word be had. Bin sabdai antar anehra.
Na vast lahai na chookai phera. (SGGS, 124) Without the word all is dark inside.
Neither the attainable is attained nor is
The cycle of births and deaths broken.
The real act one has to do is to comprehend the import of the word, the essence of all activity. Without the word, all else is the mist of attachment in which the mind ever remains entangled:
Is jag mahi sabad karni hai saar.
Bin sabdai hore moh gubar. (SGGS, 1342)
It is the Guru’s command to grasp the import of the word and to put it into practice. Guru’s image is Guru’s word. The connection of the word is with the human mind. The Word is the heart of the Guru; the mind gets purified by dwelling on the word. The Word is such a perfect light as never dwindles; it shines uninterrupted constantly. The Word destroys ignorance on the one hand and illuminates the mind on the other. The Guru diverts one’s mind from his body and inspires one to move towards the soul. Salvation cannot be attained by simply looking at the word, dwelling on it illuminates the mind and makes it bloom: Satgur no sabh ko vekhda jeta jagat sansaar.
Dithai mukati na hovayee jichar sabad na karai vichaar. (SGGS, 594)
Every one perceives the true Guru but one cannot have salvation merely by having a glimpse of the Guru unless one deliberates on Guru’s word. Bhai Gurdas has emphasized time and again the need to go into the import of the word to become a true Sikh. Gur sikhi da sikhna
Sabad surt sat sangat sikhai. (Vaar: 24.5)
A true follower fixes his mind in the word
And lives in the company of righteous ones.
The light of the lamp of the Word shines in the mind but the ego and the feeling of ‘mine and I’ dims this light:
Antar alakh na jayee lakhya
Vich parda haumai payee
The indescribable cannot be seen within
Because of the veil of ego in between. One is not able to have the knowledge of one’s being the part of the ‘original light’ (God). The dim light of this lamp of the soul can be made most powerful under the guidance of the Guru. That is why the Word has been given the status of a Guru in Gurbani:
Sabad gur pira gaher gambhira
Bin sabdai jag bauranang. (SGGS, 635)
The Word is the Guru or Pir through and through
Without the Word, the world is groping in the dark.
Dwelling on the Word is like bathing at sixty-eight holy places; it removes the dirt forever and purifies the body and mind, that is, the attachment to worldly possessions goes away.
Athsath tirath gur sabad dikhaye tit nhatey man jaye.
Sada sabad sacha hai nirmal, na mal laglai na laye. (SGGS, 753).
The Word is eternal; it is light which has been defined by the Great ones. It gives light. It lights up another lamp which had extinguished. It sheds its light in all the four directions. It always burns upward and its light symbolizes high spirits. The light of the word does not separate, it rather joins. The light remains constant and at equal degree (neither more nor less) throughout the ages.
Zimin zaman ke vikhai samast aik jote hai.
Na badh hai ghat hai na badh ghat hote hai.
(Dasam Granth) (Explained above)
Becoming countless from one, it ultimately remains one. It does not divide man into castes, classes, countries, nations, etc. It binds man into the world fraternity and grants constancy and oneness with Him:
Sabad soor jug charai audhoo
Bani Bhagat bichari (SGGS, 908)
Guru tells the siddhas that it is the light of Word
pervading everywhere, as viewed by saints.
Through the power of the word, the Creator pervades in the creation – out of sheer ignorance man tries to look for him at distant places. To recognize Him abiding in every one, one has necessarily to seek the Guru’s support. The secret of success in life lies in realizing Him through the Word, which is explained by Guru:
Jin jag sirj samaiya
So Sahib qudrat janoba.
Sachra door na bhaliai
Ghat ghat sabad pachhanoba. (SGGS, 581)
The surest way to unite with Him is through the Word. Bearing the Word within, one gets purified within and outside. The word destroys double-mindedness and changes fickleness to firmness. Guru’s word is the infallible mantra, the effect of which is never wasted.
Eik sabad Ram Naam nirodhar.
Gur devai pat mati. (SGGS, 931)
One goes on wandering caught in the web of the three attributes of maya (illusion), raja, tamo and sato, which cause three fevers to body and mind –
Adhi – mental pain
Biadhi – physical pain
Upadhi –pain caused by doubts
The Guru’s word removes the ego. The mind blooms and one can perceive One God in everyone.
Tribidh mansa manhi samaiye.
Saachai sabad sada hai mukta
Maya moh chukaida. (SGGS, 1066)
Gur kai sabad kamal pargasiya haumai durmat khoyee.
Sabhna mahi eiko sach vartai virla boojhai koyee. (1334) The lotus within blooms with the Guru’s word
And the sense of ego is destroyed.
The One Truth abides in one and all
Rarely does one realize this truth.
The word has the power to mould man. The coin of the human personality, moulded in the mint of the Word, is the only acceptable real tender in God’s treasury. The base coins are thrown out, that is, people go back to the cycle of births and deaths.
The power of the word moulds the human mind to perfection, it turns glass into gold. Poisons become nectar, cheap metal like iron turns red like a precious gem. A stone is turned into a diamond. Ordinary wood also turns into costly sandalwood. It turns a demon into God. An ordinary person is raised to the highest state, that of a Guru. Lehna was an ordinary person when he came to the Guru. It was the power of the Word-Name which raised him to the exalted position of the Guru. Bhattbani says in this regard:
Tit naam rasik Nanak Lehna
Thapiyo jen sarab sidhi (Swa., SGGS, 1392)
The lead provided by the Guru’s word bestows one with realization. One imbibes the moral qualities of patience and contentment. Doubts and misgivings are dispelled. Evil instincts are destroyed. One is relieved of all pain. Double-mindedness goes away. Evil instincts are given up and good deeds become the determining factor. One gets rid of worldly attachment. Desires are overcome and the ego is destroyed. One attains soulful bliss. Purity of mind is born. One gets determination and courage for leading an ideal life. One also gets rid of worldly bondage. The word is like the lamp lit in all the three worlds. One who dwells on it, becomes pure and enlightened:
Sabad Deepak vartai tihu loye
Jo chakhai so nirmal hoye (SGGS, 58)
Dwelling on the word, one’s personality gets crystallized. His organs of sense come under control. Instead of tyaga (renunciation) Gurmat vairag (detachment, living the Guru’s way) is born. The mind purified or moulded by the Word affords immortality, that is, by controlling the mind, transmigration comes to an end:
Sabad maraai so mar rahai,
phir marai na dooji vaar. (SGGS, 58)
By killing one’s instincts through the Guru’s word
One does not have to die again and again.
Though God dwells in the body, He is perceived only through the Guru’s word. By acting on the Guru’s word, the human body becomes the abode of God. Rubies begin to glow with the Guru’s word.
Gur parsadi veikh too
Hari mandar terai naal.
Hari mandi sabdai khojiai,
Hari Namo lehu samhaal. (SGGS, 1346) Just see, with the Guru’s Grace,
the temple of God is with you.
Hari’s abode can be found through the Guru’s word. Sabdai hi te paiai, Hari Namo lagai pyar. (SGGS, 58) One can find Him through the word
And then lead the life of His love.
The dirt sticking to the human mind through numerous lives does not go by bathing at holy places nor can fasts and austerities remove it. The yogic practices like neoli karam (cleansing internally with a piece of cloth) and other breathing exercises also prove to no avail. This dirt is removed in the company of the righteous ones and by dwelling on his Name. All the recitations, meditations, holy baths, discipline and worship lie only in His Name:
Sacha tirath jit satsar nahavan gurmukh aap bujhaye.
Athsath tirath gur sabad dikhaye.
Tit nhatai mal jaye. (SGGS, 753) Saglai karam dharam sooch sanjam
Jap tap tirath sabad vasai (SGGS, 1332)
Through the power of the Word is the universe created and destroyed. The power of the Word pervades in nirguna and sarguna (with attributes and without attributes). Through the power of the Word, Guru Nanak helped the people of the world get across the ocean of births. He held a dialogue with the Siddhas and highlighted the importance of the right way of life – Nirmal Panth (the path of pious life). One who dwells on His Name gets united with Him by His Grace:
Sabdai akath kathai salahey.
Merai Prabh saachey veparvahe.
Aapai gun data sabad milaye
Sabdai ka ras taha hey. (SGGS, 1057)
The Word is the medal awarded by Guru. This medal makes life comfortable here and bears witness to being righteous in the next world. A Sikh is considered honourable because of imbibing the Word. The Word comes to abide in one’s mind with Guru’s Grace:
Gur kirpa te ghat antar vasya
Sabad sacha salaha hey. (SGGS, 1057)
The word abides inside; seeking it outside is sheer ignorance. Those who have no idea of the word, have to wander aimlessly. The true import of the word can be had from the True Guru. The object of the word is to become truthful; to become one with the Truth. The true import of the word cannot be had by wandering in the woods and wearing a cloak of righteousness. Salvation is not possible without knowledge of the Word. Guru Nanak had said this in reply to the question put to him by the Siddhas:
Kya bhaviai sach soocha hoye
Saach sabad bin mukt na koye (SGGS, 938) What is the use of roaming about?
Salvation is attained only by reciting His Name.
One is able to know oneself only by Guru’s teachings. One is able to give up the worthless tastes of maya (illusion) and get interested in the taste of nectar:
Sabh ras dehi andar paye.
Virlai kau gur sabad bujhaye.
Andar khojai sabad salahey
bahar kaha jaha hey. (SGGS, 1056) All the tastes can be found within the body.
Very few know of this through the Guru’s word
Looking within, one lauds the power of the Word.
He has no need to go out anywhere for this.
The Guru’s word has been used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib for God’s Name, Name and part of the Brahm Who abides within but remains invisible because of the mist of illusion (maya). Man is able to keep the influence of five enemies at bay – (the enemies are kaam (passion, desire), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and hankaar (ego). By understanding the reality of life, one can remain attuned to Him.
Kaya kanchan kot apaara.
Jis vich ravya sabad apaara.
Gur kai sabad vanjan vapari
Nadri aap milaiyeda. (SGGS, 1059) Human body is a vast fort of gold
Wherein lies the wondrous Word.
Those who deal in the Guru’s word
Become worthy of His Grace
He Himself embraces them.
The light of God’s existence is seen through the Guru’s word. There is no effort as noble as trying to live by the Guru’s word. The body becomes healthy and beautiful like gold. The excellence of the body is because of its being the abode of God. Through the word one can have a glimpse of God daily.
Kaya kanchan sabad vichara.
Tithai Hari vasai jis da ant na paravara….
Hari cheteh tin baliharai jao.
Gur kai sabad tin meil milao. (SGGS, 1064)
We are very fortunate to have this human form, the main purpose of which is to pay our attention to the ‘word’. Otherwise it is of no use:
Vadei bhag ehu sarir paiya.
Manas janam sabad chit laiya.
Bin sabdai sabh andh andhera
Gurmukh kisahe bujhainda. 5
There is all round darkness
Without the (light of) the Word
Gur kai sabad pavitra sarira.
Tis vich vasai sach guni gahira.
The body gets purified by Guru’s word
In which abides the treasure of truth.
Ehu kaya pavit hai sarir.
Gur sabdi chetai guni gahir. (SGGS, 1065)
This body is a holy place wherein is kept
The Guru’s word, the treasure trove of virtues.
Is jug mahi bhagati Hari dhan khatya
hore bhagat bharam bhulaiya.
Gur parsadi naam man vasya
andin naam dhyaiya.
Bikhya mahi udashai haumai sabad jalaiya.
Aap tarya kul udhrai, dhann janendi maiya.
Those devoted to God find
the wealth of His Name in this age.
In whose mind abides His Name
with the Guru’s Grace. They think of
the Name day and night.
Those remaining detached
in poisonous maya (illusion)
Their ego is burnt by the fire of the Word.
Such a one gets across as also his lineage.
Blessed verily is the mother of such a one.
Success in life has been ascribed in Gurbani to God’s Grace. Five thieves live in this body but God too resides therein in micro form. When one does not heed the Guru’s word, one remains away from (unaware of) the micro form. If God bestows His Blessings through the Guru, one attains spiritual life through the Guru’s word and when the light of the word illumines the mind, one remains alive to such an experience all the time.
Mera Prabhu ati sualio gur sevia chit laga.
Sacha sabad sachi sach bani so jan andinjaga.2.
Under the influence of maya and ignorance, one lives one’s life in ignorance. Without knowing the word, one remains blind and deaf. His coming to the world serves no purpose. When the Guru’s word enters the mind and abides therein, one’s ego is destroyed. By destroying the ego, God’s presence in the mind is realized and life’s purpose is served. The Guru helps in attaining spiritual life, through the word by destroying evil instincts. Ham sabad muye sabad maar jivalai
sabdai hi mukt payee.
Sabdai man tan nirmal hoya
Hari vasya man aayee.
Sabad gur data jit man raata
Hari sio raya samayee.
Sabad na janai annhai bolai
sey kit aiye sansara.
Har ras na paya birtha janam gavaiya
jammeh varo vara. (SGGS, 601)
Living by the ‘word’, one’s ego dies and the body becomes the abode of God. Spiritual virtues are attained by imbibing the teachings of the Guru given through the Word. Gur parsadi veikh too
Hari mandir terai naal.
Hari mandar sabdai khojiai
Hari namo lehu samhal. (SGGS, 1346).