READING OF THE SCRIPTURES

ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀ ਲਦੀਅਹਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਭਰੀਅਹਿ ਸਾਥ ॥
ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਬੇੜੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀਅਹਿ ਖਾਤ ॥ (sggs 467).
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The words of the scriptures are meant to be read, their true meanings understood, and their instructions then applied to one's day-to-day living. Merely keeping the scriptures wrapped in fancy fabric and worshipping them will not do the trick. Most importantly, after reading, the words must be digested and lived. Because the scriptural texts enshrine codes of conduct for human behavior. Therefore, mere reading of the words without living them would be useless.

Accordingly, the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) time and again reminds us even if we were to read loads of books (Granth, etc.), it would be a "useless" exercise! Why it would be a "useless" exercise? What does Gurbani really mean by it? One thing is for sure, that is, in saying so, the Gurbani does not mean to contradict the sacred books of the world, nor laugh at any future prophets or their texts. Then why does the Gurbani make such bold statement? If reading of the scriptures is a "useless" exercise, then why have they been compiled and recorded for the man? Is there any hidden meanings or pregnant suggestions in such declarations? Yes. What is it?

The scriptures are recorded in human language; however, the language being limited in the framework of time and space is available to us for expressing our experiences in the finite field only. On the other hand, the theme of the scriptures is the Transcendental Truth, the Eternal and the Infinite; which is beyond the purview of the gross equipment of our body-mind-intellect (egocentric existence). Therefore, the language, words or phrases of any sorts can never hope to express, define or report upon the Perfect and the Immortal Reality. Baabaa Nanak says:

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾਗਦ ਲਖ ਮਣਾ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਕੀਚੈ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਮਸੂ ਤੋਟਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਲੇਖਣਿ ਪਉਣੁ ਚਲਾਉ ॥ ਭੀ ਤੇਰੀ ਕੀਮਤਿ ਨਾ ਪਵੈ ਹਉ ਕੇਵਡੁ ਆਖਾ ਨਾਉ ॥: O Nanak, if I had hundreds of thousands of stacks of paper, and if I were to read and recite and embrace love for God, and if ink were never to fail me, and if my pen were able to move like the wind, even so, I could not estimate Your Value. How can I describe the Greatness of Your Name? (sggs 14).

The Realized Beings have discovered that the words can be employed only in expressing four types of meaning; beyond these, language falters, stumbles and lags behind. The words can describe the substance (Padaarath or Vastu), they can describe the properties (Gunas), they can describe the activities (Kriya), and they can describe the relationships that exist among the finite objects of the world (Sambandh). These fourfold capacities of the words together constitute the entire world of finite things, beyond which the language cannot express anything at all. However, the Supreme Truth is not a finite Padaarath, which is also without Gunas, Kriya and without Sambandh.

Therefore, the Timeless and Formless Truth cannot be expressed by gross finite words of any language in the world. But, in our Indian scriptures, the great Spiritual Masters have made the impossible possible by employing the suggestiveness of the word used and not because of the literal word meanings of the language employed! This is why when scriptures are studied with a mere dictionary meaning, our study dumps us in a morass of confusions and misunderstanding.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਤ ਸਮੁੰਦਹਿ ਮਸੁ ਕਰਉ ਕਲਮ ਕਰਉ ਬਨਰਾਇ ॥ ਬਸੁਧਾ ਕਾਗਦੁ ਜਉ ਕਰਉ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਲਿਖਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeer, if I could change the seven seas into ink and make all the vegetation my pen, and the earth my paper, even then, I could not write God's Praises (sggs 1368).
  • ਬਾਵਨ ਅਖਰ ਸੋਧਿ ਕੈ ਹਰਿ ਚਰਨੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥੧੭੩॥: Baavan akhar sodi kai hari charanee chitu laai ||173||: Searching the fifty-two letters of the alphabet (i.e., through the Spiritual Inquiry into what's written), focus your consciousness on Hari (Mool). ||173|| (sggs 1373)
  • ਦੇਹੀ ਕਾਚੀ ਕਾਗਦ ਮਿਕਦਾਰਾ ॥ ਬੂੰਦ ਪਵੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਢਹਤ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ਬਾਰਾ ॥: The body is frail and perishable; the paper is limited. When the drop of water falls upon it, the paper crumbles and dissolves instantaneously (sggs 1048).
  • ਕਾਗਦਿ ਕਲਮ ਨ ਲਿਖਣਹਾਰੁ ॥: No paper, no pen, no scribe can record the state of the faithful (sggs 3).
  • ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕਵਣ ਕਹਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Kudrati kavan kahaa veechaar: How can (God's) Creative Potency be described? (sggs 3).
Thus, finite words cannot ever successfully define the Infinite Being. With this understanding of human language, scriptural reading can be categorized in the following three headings: reading without any understanding, reading with dictionary meaning, and reading with true understanding. It's the first two types of reading (or study) that are condemned in the scriptures.
  • ਕਿਆ ਪੜੀਐ ਕਿਆ ਗੁਨੀਐ ॥ ਕਿਆ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨਾਂ ਸੁਨੀਐ ॥ ਪੜੇ ਸੁਨੇ ਕਿਆ ਹੋਈ॥ਜਉ ਸਹਜ ਨ ਮਿਲਿਓ ਸੋਈ ॥: What use is it to read, and what use is it to study? What use is it to listen to the Vedas and Kateb (Bible, Quraan, etc.)? What use is reading and listening, if naturally or spontaneously (Sahaj) the Self is not realized? (sggs 655).
  • ਅਖਰ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਭੁਲੀਐ ਭੇਖੀ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥ Akhar parr parr bhuleeai bhekhee bahutu abhimaan: (In spite of) Reading books over and over again, people make mistakes (due the pride of this reading); wearing of religious robes also gives rise to much pride (in the mind). (sggs 61).
  • Men of small knowledge gets very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas....(Geetaa, 2.42).
  • When your mind is no longer bewildered by the flowery language of the Vedas, and when it remains fixed in the trance of Self-realization, then you will have attained the divine consciousness (Geetaa, 2.53).
Here is a case in point. For instance, in the foregoing verses, taking their literal or dictionary meaning, readers of the scriptures belonging to the first two categories can easily make mistake of assuming that the Gurbani and Geetaa condemn the Vedas, Bible, Quraan, and so on. But it's not so!

The Truth is One. The scriptures point toward That One Truth. The differences are only in the depth to which each scripture is able to describe this Spiritual Truth. That's where the confusions and misunderstanding arise! In reality, none of the scriptures condemn the others. This is why we are urged by the Gurbani to refrain from denigrating any scriptures; for the scriptures are not false, but false are those who keep reading or singing their contents without understanding them, or without reflecting and contemplating on their sublime Divine Essence.

  • ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਕਹਹੁ ਮਤ ਝੂਠੇ ਝੂਠਾ ਜੋ ਨ ਬਿਚਾਰੈ ॥:  Do not say that the Vedas and the Kateb (Bible, Quraan, etc.) are false. Those who do not reflect and contemplate them are false (sggs 1350).
  • ਓਅੰਕਾਰਿ ਬੇਦ ਨਿਰਮਏ ॥: Oankaari Beda nirmaye: God created the Vedas (sggs 930).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਬੇਦ ॥: Gurmukhi saastra simrit Beda: By becoming a Gurmukh, understand the Simritees, the Shaastras and the Vedas (sggs 942).
  • ਸੁਣਿਐ ਸਾਸਤ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਵੇਦ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤਾ ਸਦਾ ਵਿਗਾਸੁ ॥: Listening—the Shaastras, the Simritees and the Vedas. O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss (sggs 2).
Thus, what's condemned in the Gurbani is the act of reading (studying) scriptures without reflecting and contemplating on their sublime Divine Essence. In other words, what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures without attaining their intuitive understanding (Aatma-Giaan); what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures undertaken without hand-in-hand intense subjective discipline; what's condemned is one's life void of the practice of the truth indicated in the scriptures; what's condemned is the ritual reading of the scriptures in stubborn mindedness; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures in selfishness; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures in desire and fear; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures without following their injunctions; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures not followed by truthful living; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures in duality (Doojaa Bhaav); what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures in a businesslike manner; what's condemned is the reading of the scriptures to make a mere academic acquaintance with them; what's condemned is the study of the scriptures undertaken with the help of the pick ax of dictionary or word meanings; and so on.
  • ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੋਥੀ ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਪਾਠਾ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਣ ਪੜੈ ਸੁਣਿ ਥਾਟਾ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਰਸ ਰਾਤੇ ਮਨੁ ਬਹੁ ਨਾਟਾ ॥: You may read, recite and study the scriptures, the Simritees, Vedas and Puraanas; but without being imbued with the Divine Essence, the mind wanders endlessly (sggs 226).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪੜੈ ਨਹੀ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਲੂਝੈ ॥: One who reads, while attached to duality, does not understand. He yearns for the three-qualitied Maya (sggs 127).
  • ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਬਹੁ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਏ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੁਮਰੇ ਦਰਸ ਬਿਨੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਨਾਹੀ ॥: Simrit saasatar bahu karam kamaaeae prabh tumarae daras bin sukh naahee: One may read the Scriptures, and perform all sorts of religious rituals; but that will not bring us to the Divine Darshan, without which there is no Intuitive Peace (sggs 408).
We often go through the scriptures, but our false ego does not let the scriptures go through us! Why? Because most often our reading of the scriptures is undertaken without hand-in-hand intense subjective discipline. To put it in other way, instead of reflecting and contemplating on their Divine Essence and becoming one with it, our material consciousness enjoys worshipping the physical "I"; for our ego-mind likes the crooked ways! In such unenlightened existence, we are merely satisfied with the superficial dictionary meaning of the scriptures; because we only care for the superficial and external show of religion! The problem, thus, lies in us, the Manmukhs (material beings). The scriptures have no problem!
  • ਸਾਸਤੁ ਬੇਦੁ ਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਆਪੋ ਆਪੈ ਪੂਜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: Aapo aapey pujaa hoi: No one cares for Shastras and Vedas. Each person is worshipping himself (sggs 951).
  • ਪੜੀਐ ਗੁਨੀਐ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੁਨੀਐ ਅਨਭਉ ਭਾਉ ਨ ਦਰਸੈ ॥ ਲੋਹਾ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਹਿਰਨ ਹੋਇ ਕੈਸੇ ਜਉ ਪਾਰਸਹਿ ਨ ਪਰਸੈ ॥੧॥ ਦੇਵ ਸੰਸੈ ਗਾਂਠਿ ਨ ਛੂਟੈ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਦ ਮਤਸਰ ਇਨ ਪੰਚਹੁ ਮਿਲਿ ਲੂਟੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Parheeai guneeai naam sabh suneeai anabhaou bhaaou n darsai. Lohaa kanchan hiran hoi kaisae jaou paarasahi n parasai ||1|| Dev sansai gaanth n shootai. Kaam krodhh Maya mada matasar in panchahu mil loote ||1|| Rahaaou ||: All read, hear and reflect upon God's Name; but (due to lust, anger, etc.) they cannot develop the Divine Love, and they cannot Experience God within. How can iron be transformed into gold, unless it touches the Philosopher's Stone? ||1|| Lust, anger, Maya, intoxication (with pride. arrogance, etc.) and jealousy - these five have combined to plunder the world. (As a result) the knot of skepticism from within does not get untied ||1||Pause|| (sggs 973-974).
In spite of the repeated warnings in the Gurbani, today, for example, in the Gurdawaaraas the continual page to page reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib called Akhand-Paath is sold to the devotees in a businesslike manner. This is the way of the deluded Pujaarees (priest-class). The Gurbani warns us that even Brahma ended up wasting his life by such useless reading of the scriptures in duality, what to speak of us!
  • ਸਨਕ ਸਨੰਦ ਅੰਤੁ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪੜੇ ਪੜਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੇ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਬਿਲੋਵਨਾ ਬਿਲੋਵਹੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਸਹਜਿ ਬਿਲੋਵਹੁ ਜੈਸੇ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਤਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਮਟੁਕੀ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਬਿਲੋਈ ॥ ਇਸੁ ਮਟੁਕੀ ਮਹਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਸੰਜੋਈ ॥੨॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਬਿਲੋਵਨਾ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਧਾਰਾ ॥੩॥: Sanak Sanand antu nahee paaiaa. Bed parre parri brahame janamu gavaaiaa ||1|| Hri ka bilovanaa bilovahu mere bhaaee. Sahaji bilovahu jaise tatu n jaaee. ||1||Rahaaou|| Tanu kari matakee man maahi biloee. Isu matakee mahi Sabadu sanjoee. ||2|| Hari kaa bilovanaa man kaa beechaaraa. Gur prasaadi paavai amrit dhaaraa ||3||: By reading and reading (i.e., reading the Vedas over and over again), Sanak and Sanand (the sons of Brahma) wasted their lives away (but could not find Hari...). ||1|| O Brother! Churn the churn of the Hari (Shabad-Vichaar...). Churn it steadily (i.e., in Sahaj Avasthaa - Natural State of Being, transcending Maya...), so that the Essence (ਤੱਤ - ਗਿਆਨ) may not be lost. ||1||Pause|| Make body the churning jar (ਚਾਟੀ), and churn therein with the (stick - ਮਧਾਣੀ - of the) mind. In this (body-) jar, gather (the milk of) the Shabad. ||2|| The churning of the Hari is to Reflect (Shabad-Vichaar) within the mind. (One who does this churning) by the Gur-Prasaadi (Grace of the Gur-Giaan, he), obtains (within) the stream of Amrit. ||3|| (sggs 478).
  • ਮੂਰਖ ਅੰਧੇ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕਪਟੁ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਣ ਕੈ ਤਾਈ ਪਾਠ ਪੜਹਿ ਗਾਵਾਰੀ ॥: Dealing with Maya alone, the blind fools remain subservient to the three qualities of material nature (i.e., Rajo, Tamo, Sato). With deception within, the fools do Paath (reading of sacred texts) to fill their bellies (sggs 1246).
In mental stubbornness (Haume, egoism or ignorance), many pay dearly to these Pujaarees, or hire Paathees (professional Gurbani readers) for the reading of the so-called Akhand-Paath in their homes. Also, many read scriptures themselves in a ritualistic manner, over and over again, and listen to their recitations. But the Gurbani declares that this type of reading has nothing to do with Spirituality; because by reading religious books one can neither attain Spiritual Wisdom nor catch God. The only purpose of reading the scriptures is to develop Divine Understanding (Aatma-Gian), and then act upon it.
  • ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਸੁਣਿ ਸਿਖੁ ਸਚੁ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਜੇਤਾ ਪੜਹਿ ਪੜਤ ਗੁਣਤ ਸਦਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥: Eko naam nidhaan pandit suni sikh sach soee. Doojai bhaai jetaa parhahi parhat gunat sadaa dukh hoee ||1||: The One Name is the treasure (of everythng), O Pandit. Listen to it, and learn this Truth (to meditate on the Naam, Simran, etc.). No matter what you read in duality (in the love Maya), reading and contemplating it, you only continue to suffer ||1|| (sggs 492).
  • ਸਾਚੁ ਕਤੇਬ ਬਖਾਨੈ ਅਲਹੁ ਨਾਰਿ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਪਢੇ ਗੁਨੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਛੁ ਬਉਰੇ ਜਉ ਦਿਲ ਮਹਿ ਖਬਰਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੨॥: Saach kateb bkhaanai Allah naar na purakh nahee koee. Parhe gune naahee kashoo baoure jaou dil mahi khabari n hoee ||2||: (O Qazi) your holy scriptures say that Allah is True (Truth, eternal, ਸਦਾ ਕਾਇਮ ਰਹਿਣ ਵਾਲਾ, etc.), and that he is neither male nor female (ਜਿਸ ਵਿਚ ਕੋਈ ਜਨਾਨੀ ਮਰਦ ਦਾ ਭਾਵ ਨਹੀ ਹੈ). You gain nothing by reading and studying, O mad (Qazi), if you don't gain (this) Understanding (ਸੂਝ) in your heart ||2|| (sggs 483).
  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੩ ॥ ਪੜਣਾ ਗੁੜਣਾ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੀ ਕਾਰ ਹੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭਿ ਪੜਿ ਥਕੇ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਪੜਿਆ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਬੀਨਾ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਦਰੁ ਖੋਜੈ ਤਤੁ ਲਹੈ ਪਾਏ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਗੁਣ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਸਹਜਿ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਧੰਨੁ ਵਾਪਾਰੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਧਾਰੁ ॥੧॥: Slok M: 3|| Parhnaa gunanaa sansaar kee karr hai andar trisnaa vikaar ...: Slok M: 3. Reading and studying (have become) just worldly pursuits, (but still) greed and corruption remain present within. Reading in egotism, all have grown weary; through the love of duality (Maya), they are ruined. He alone is educated, and he alone is a wise Pandit, who reflects and contemplates the Gur-Shabad (i.e., consider that person Pandit - ਉਸ ਮਨੁੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਸਮਝੋ). He searches within himself, and finds the True Essence within; he attains the Door of Salvation. He finds God, the Treasure of Excellence, and contemplates with Sahaj (ਆਤਮਕ ਅਡੋਲਤਾ ਵਿਚ ਟਿਕ ਕੇ, Natural State of Being, etc.). Blessed is the trader (of Naam, the Name), O Nanak, who, as a Gurmukh (Spiritual Being, etc.), takes the Name as his only Support ||1|| (sggs 650).
Ironically, nowadays, people are booking Akhand-Paaths far-off places and overseas on the Internet! What a pity! This is a burning example of Karamkaand in ignorance (Jhoothaa Sodaa or worldly entanglements)! The shameless Pujaaree group (some of the so called Sants, Baabaas, Raagees, Giaanees, Bhais, Kirtan Jathaas, Granthees, Paathees, Pundits, Mullaas, Rabbis, Paadrees or Padres, etc.) will say and do anything to make money in the pretext of religion! Why? Because the majority of them have no interest in understanding the Transcendental Truth indicated in the scriptures, consequently, they care less if other people gain any understanding or not. Their only interest seems to be in keeping the generations brainwashed and tied to the knot of egoism and resulting empty rituals that existed before Baabaa Nanak came into this world. Why? Because this insures them good return business! You see, it's all about lust and greed ('Kanik Kaamini')! Baabaa Nanak warns us as follows:
  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀ ਲਦੀਅਹਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਭਰੀਅਹਿ ਸਾਥ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਬੇੜੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀਅਹਿ ਖਾਤ ॥ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਬਰਸ ਬਰਸ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਮਾਸ ॥ ਪੜੀਐ ਜੇਤੀ ਆਰਜਾ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਸਾਸ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਲੇਖੈ ਇਕ ਗਲ ਹੋਰੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਝਖਣਾ ਝਾਖ ॥੧॥: Slok M: 1 || (One may) read cart-loads of books, (one may) read heaps and heaps of them. (One may) read boat-loads of books, (one may) read and fill pits with them. (One may) read year afte year, (one may) read all the months, that there are. (One may) continue to read entire life, (one may) read with all breaths. O Nanak! Only one thing is of any account (understanding, ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ...), all else is but useless and idle talk in ego ||1|| (sggs 467).
  • ਮੂਰਖਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਦੂਜਾ ਭਾਉ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਦੁਖੁ ਸਬਾਇਆ ॥: The fool reads and reads, but holds tight to duality. He performs all sorts of rituals, but still suffers terrible pain (sggs 424).
Why are the Pujaaree (priest group) so successful in cheating people? Because people want something as sublime as God and want it cheaply, as a result, they put themselves in a position to be cheated. In other words, a person in material consciousness has no sense of consequences of his actions!
  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਅਵਰੁ ਕਿ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਪੜਹਿ ਉਠਾਵਹਿ ਭਾਰੁ ॥ : O Pandit, O religious scholar, reflect on this in your mind. Why do you read so many other things, and carry such a heavy load? (sggs 1261).
  • ਹਰਿ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਅਤਿ ਊਜਲਾ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਾਇਆ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਪਾਠੁ ਪੜੈ ਨਾ ਬੂਝਈ ਭੇਖੀ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਹਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਪਾਇਆ ਰਸਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਰਸੁ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੩॥: Hari Nirmal ati oojalaa binu gur paya n jaai. Paathu parrai n boojhaee bhekhee bharami bhulaai. Gurmatee hari paya rasanaa hari rasu samaai ||3||: The Lord is Pure and Luminous; without the Gur (the Gur-Giaan, Aatm-Giaan, Wisdom, etc.), He cannot be Realized. (Those who merely) read (scriptures - ਧਾਰਮਿਕ ਪੁਸਤਕਾਂ ਦਾ ਨਿਰਾ ਪਾਠ) cannot understand (this secret); the "Bhekhee" (those who thus merely read disguised in religious garbs, deceitful pretenders, sham, false, impersonator, etc.) become more deluded by doubts. Through the Gurmat (Guru's Teachings, Shabad-Giaan, Gur-Giaan, Aatm-Giaan, etc.), the Lord is always Realized, and (one's) tongue remains permeated with the Sublime Essence of the Lord (Naam: Aatm-Giaan, Wisdom...). ||3|| (sggs 66).
The instructions of the Gurbani is not only for those who read Vedas, Bible, Quraan, and so on. It's also for the Sikhs who read Sri Guru Granth Sahib! It's not that the Gurbani is only telling others not to practice such "useless" rituals or Karamkaand, it's also telling the Sikhs as well. If  a Sikh does "Karamkaand" than why wouldn't a Brahmin be helped along with his "Karamkaand", or a Muslim or a Christian or a Yogi with his? In truth, the Gurbani's instructions are for the good of all mankind; including Sikhs as well.
  • ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥: One should read (Bani) with intelligence, and then understand its real essence (i.e., assimilate it). Also, one should use intelligence in giving charity. Says Nanak, this is the True Path; other things lead to Satanic life ||1|| (sggs 1245).
  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥: Parriai naahee bhedu bujhiai paavanaa: Not by reading (books), but through Understanding, is the Mystery Realized (that the Lord is Limitless) (sggs 148).
The Gurbani's emphasis, thus, is on attaining true understanding of the scriptures. Why? Because the content of the scriptures is esoteric knowledge recorded for the purpose of reflection and contemplation; which must be followed by Shabad-Surti (God-consciousness)! This is the key. As the Gurbani puts it, without the intuitive understanding of the Word of the scriptures we simply live like beasts, donkey and demons!
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Bin boojhe pasu bhaye betaale: Binu boojhai pasu bhaye betaale ||6||: Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥: Gurmati suni kashu giaan n upjio pasu jiou udar bharaou: Despite listening to the Gurmati (Shabad-Giaan, Divine Teaching of the Gur-Shabad, etc.), (if) no spiritual wisdom (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਕੁਝ ਭੀ ਸੂਝ) wells up within (me); (then it would be) like a beast (routinely) filling its belly (sggs 685).
  • ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਕਰਹਿ ਕਹ ਬਪੁਰੇ ਨਹ ਬੂਝਹਿ ਇਕ ਏਕਾ ॥: What can the poor Vedas and Kateb (Bible, Quraan, etc.) do? People do not understand the One and Only Lord (sggs 1153).
  • ਇਕਨਾ ਨਾਦ ਨ ਬੇਦ ਨ ਗੀਅ ਰਸੁ ਰਸ ਕਸ ਨ ਜਾਣੰਤਿ ॥ ਇਕਨਾ ਸੁਧਿ ਨ ਬੁਧਿ ਨ ਅਕਲਿ ਸਰ ਅਖਰ ਕਾ ਭੇਉ ਨ ਲਹੰਤਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੇ ਨਰ ਅਸਲਿ ਖਰ ਜਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਣ ਗਰਬੁ ਕਰੰਤਿ ॥੨॥: Iknaa naad n beda n geea rasu ras kas n jaananti. Iknaa sudhi na budhi na akali sar akhar kaa bheou na lahanti. Nanak se nar asali khar je bin gun garabu kranti ||2||: (Those who are blind from the mind) do not have taste for understanding the Naad and the (essence of) Vedas; nor (they have) understanding of (other worldly) tastes. (These blind-minded) are not blessed with Awareness, intelligence (wisdom...), or reservoir of reasoning (intellect...); they do not grasp the mystery of the Word (i.e., ਅਖਰ ਦਾ ਭੇਦ...). O Nanak! Those who are very proud of themselves without any Virtues, they in reality are just donkeys ||2|| (sggs 1246).
Despite stern warnings from the scriptures, the reading of the scriptures in "useless" manners continues by those controlled by the life's sensuousness (egoism or Haume)! Why do we recite scriptures in useless manners in the first place? The Gurbani provides us with an insight to this false behavior of ours. Since our "Chitt" (consciousness) is illusioned by the Cosmic Charmer called Maya, we act "Kach Nicach" (falsest of false). As the Gurbani reveals to us, those who have their "Chitt" illusioned by Maya (ignorance, delusion, egoism, conditioned consciousness, etc.) recite scriptures in a mechanical manner!
  • ਚਿਤੁ ਜਿਨ ਕਾ ਹਿਰਿ ਲਇਆ ਮਾਇਆ ਬੋਲਨਿ ਪਏ ਰਵਾਣੀ ॥: Chitu jin kaa hiri laiaa maya bolani paye ravaanee: Those whose consciousness has been lured by Maya, keep reciting mechanically (ਫਰ ਫਰ, ਉਪਰੋਂ ਉਪਰੋਂ, ਤੇਜੀ ਨਾਲ...). (sggs 920).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪੜੈ ਨਹੀ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਲੂਝੈ ॥: One who reads, while attached to duality, does not understand. He yearns for the three-qualitied Maya (sggs 127).
Taking advantage of such corrupt mentality of the people, Governments around the world are squandering the tax payers money to establish, sustain and conduct scholarly research in laboratories and libraries through stipends, scholarships, titles and endowments.

However, the Word of the scriptures is not the subject of mechanical and ritual reading, or egoistic scholarly research in the laboratories or libraries. Eternal Knowledge is boxed in the scriptures as fragrance in the flowers. When the grammarians and dictionary mongers approach the scriptures, they hack the glory from this Eternal Knowledge!

  • ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ॥: Meditate on God, and read and reflect upon the Gur-Shabad. Meditate on God, and read and reflect by removing your ego (sggs 424).
  • ਬਾਣੀ ਬਿਰਲਉ ਬੀਚਾਰਸੀ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ॥: By becoming a Gurmukh (spiritual being, True Being, etc.), a rare one contemplates (ਵਿਚਾਰ, Refletion, spiritual Inquiry, etc.) the Bani (sggs 935).
  • ਹਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਜੀਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਪੜਿ ਬੁਝਿ ਮੰਨਿ ਵਸਾਵਣਿਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪੜਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਲਾਹਹਿ ਦਰਿ ਸਚੈ ਸੋਭਾ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: I am a sacrifice, my soul is a sacrifice, to those who read, and then understand and enshrine God within their minds. The Gurmukhs read and praise God’s Name; they are honored in the True Court (sggs 127).
  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੩ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਨੋ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵੇਖਦਾ ਜੇਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਚੁਕਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: Slok M: 3. Satigur no sabhu ko vekhadaa jetaa jagat sansaar. Dithai mukati n hovaee jicharu sabadi n kare vichharu. Haumai mailu n chukaee naami n lagai piaaru: Salok M: 3. All the living beings of the world behold the Satigur. One is not liberated by merely seeing, unless the Shabad is Reflected upon (Vichaar of the Gur-Shabad). (Because without the Vichaar of the Gur-Shabad) the filth of ego does not end, and nor the love for the Naam (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan, Gurmat...) enshrine. (sggs 594).
  • ਕੜਛੀਆ ਫਿਰੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਸੁਆਉ ਨ ਜਾਣਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਸੁਞੀਆ ॥ ਸੇਈ ਮੁਖ ਦਿਸੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਤੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਰਸਿ ॥੧॥: The ladles cruise through the food, but they do not know the taste of it. I long to see the faces of those, O Nanak, who are imbued with the essence of God’s Love ||1|| (sggs 521).

The Gurbani's message is that there is no purpose in merely rolling the beads nor the tongue reading scriptures or singing the praise of God without true love, devotion, concentration and intuitive understanding. The purpose of scriptural texts is to prepare the person emotionally and intellectually for pursuing the Spiritual Life. Therefore, they must be pursued with faith, belief, and willingness to follow their Divine teachings, without which the scriptural study will amount to only scholarship or unmeaning ritual.

Thus, the purpose of reading or listening to scriptures is to develop Divine Understanding, and then act upon it. If that does not happen, then, there is no difference between a human being engaged in reading or listening to scriptures and a beast engaged in filling his belly.

  • ਅਗੈ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਪੁਛੀਐ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਹੋਰੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਪੜਣਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਮਾਵਣਾ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: Hereafter, no one is questioned about his caste; excellent and sublime is the practice of the Shabad. Other study is false, and other actions are false; such people are in love with poison (sggs 1093).
All scriptures are contained in the Naam, the Name of the Illuminating Principle. Therefore, the Gurbani urges us that the reading of the scriptures should be performed for the sole purpose of reflection and contemplation on the Holy Word, followed by the Naam-consciousness (Shabad-Surti or God consciousness); without which the egoist mind will keep wandering endlessly! In other words, the scriptures end where the God-consciousness begins! Therefore, the Gurbani declares that the blessing of studying scriptures is that, by become the Gurmukh and imbued in Love-Devotion (Prema-Bhagti), we may meditate on the Divine Name and realize the Essence of our Unconditioned Nature (Joti-Svaroopa) within.
  • ਮੂਰਖ ਪੜਹਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਹਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਵਿਰਲੈ ਜਾਤਾ ਹੇ ॥੧੫॥: Moorakh parrahi Sabad nahee boojhahi Gurmukh virlai jaataa he ||15||: The fools read (scriptures), but do not understand the Shabad. How rare are those who, as Gurmukh, understand it ||15|| (sggs 1053).
  • ਸਮਝੈ ਸੂਝੈ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਅੰਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਸਾਚਾ ॥: If one understands, realizes and comprehends what he reads and studies, in the end he will realize that the True God dwells deep Within his nucleus (sggs 930).
  • ਸਾਧੋ ਰਾਮ ਸਰਨਿ ਬਿਸਰਾਮਾ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਪੜੇ ਕੋ ਇਹ ਗੁਨ ਸਿਮਰੇ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮਾ ॥: O Saadhoos (Holy Men), rest and peace are in the Sanctuary of the Lord. This is the blessing of studying the Vedas and the Puraanas, that you may meditate on God's Name (sggs 220).
  • ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ ਬੇਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ॥ ਜਪੀਐ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਪਾਰਿ ਉਤਾਰੇ ॥: The Simritees, Shaastras and Vedas reflect that with the Naam Jap you will be saved and carried across (sggs 804).
  • ਬੇਦ ਬਖਿਆਨ ਕਰਤ ਸਾਧੂ ਜਨ ਭਾਗਹੀਨ ਸਮਝਤ ਨਹੀ ਖਲੁ ॥ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਰਾਚੇ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਦਹਨ ਭਏ ਮਲ ॥: The Holy Saints preach the teachings of the Vedas, but the unfortunate fools do not understand them. Servant Nanak is absorbed in Prema-Bhagti (loving devotional worship); meditating on God, one’s inner pollution is burnt away (sggs 717).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਪੜਣਾ ਗੁਨਣਾ ਇਕੁ ਨਾਉ ਹੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥: O Nanak, there is One Name to read (chant) and dwell on; how rare are those who reflect on this and understand (sggs 1246).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org