ISHANAAN

When the mind is filthy, everything is filthy;
by washing the body, the mind is not cleaned (sggs 558).
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The Gurbani has painstakingly explained the need to understand the difference between one's external body (Bidehee, Pindaa-ਬਿਦੇਹੀ, ਪਿੰਡਾ...), and one's Soul that is Formless, Immortal, and Undying (Gupat Dehee, Kaaiaa..). The external body has a temporary existence and is visible to the physical eyes. to the contrary, the subtle Gupat Dehee or Kaaiaa cannot be seen with the physical eyes.

  • ਦੇਹੀ ਗੁਪਤ ਬਿਦੇਹੀ ਦੀਸੈ ॥: Dehee gupat bidehee deesai (sggs 900).

Therefore, in nutshell, Ishanaan as mentioned in the Gurbani is of the mind, for the mind, and by the mind. For a lack of more fitting word in English, generally Ishanaan is taken to mean bath...

Hygiene — whether it be community hygiene, industrial hygiene or personal hygiene — is the study and observance of health rules, which have been practiced from ancient times and are important to the maintenance of personal and public health. Bathing or showering (external body) is one such practice which is part of the daily regimen for men and women for ancient times. It promotes outer cleanliness; thus social well being of the individual. The body-skin produces an oily substance called sebum that helps protect the skin from the environment. This oil traps dirt, dust, dead cells and the odor causing substances created by the action of bacteria on perspiration. Hence the main reasons for bathing are to remove dirt, dead skin cells, microorganisms and body odor. If plain water is unable to do the job, soap is used to dissolve and remove the debris and odor from the skin, which can then be washed away. External bathing is also commonly viewed as leisure activity, therapeutic and source of relaxation or rejuvenation. Therefore, keeping the body clean is a good practice in personal hygiene — a common sense. The Gurbani does not ask us not to take bath. However:

  • ਭਰੀਐ ਹਥੁ ਪੈਰੁ ਤਨੁ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਪਾਣੀ ਧੋਤੈ ਉਤਰਸੁ ਖੇਹ ॥ ਮੂਤ ਪਲੀਤੀ ਕਪੜੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਦੇ ਸਾਬੂਣੁ ਲਈਐ ਓਹੁ ਧੋਇ ॥ ਭਰੀਐ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਧੋਪੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ॥: Bhareeai hath pair tanu deh. Paanee dhotai outaras khaeh. Moot paleetee kaparr hoi. Dae saaboon layeeai ouhu dhoi. Bhareeai Mati paapaa kai sangi. Ohu dhopai naavai kai rangi: When the hands, feet and the body are dirty, water can wash away the dirt. When the clothes are soiled and stained by urine, soap can wash them clean. But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sin (acting opposite to the Hukam, living devoid of Gur-Giaan…), it can only be cleansed by the Love of the Divine Name (to live in Hukam, Gur-Giaan, Divine Virtues…) (sggs 4).

As mentioned in the foregoing verse, there is another type of dirt — very subtle in nature — which cannot be washed away with water or any other material product. This dirt is the "filth" of our instinctive mind (inner garbage), which is responsible for our repeated suffering and delusion. It's called by many names including false ego, love of Maya, ignorance, delusion, doubts, conditioned consciousness, duality, selfishness, desires and fear, falsehood, evil passions, lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment, self-conceit, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, corruption, and so on. The physical bathing can remove the outer dirt and odor of the body, but it can never remove the "filth" of the mind.

  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮਲੁ ਧੋਵੈ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਜੂਠਿ ਨ ਜਾਏ ॥: Baahar mal dhovai man kee jooth na jaaye: Outwardly, he (hypocrite) washes off the filth, but the impurity of his mind does not go away (sggs 88).
  • ਮਨਿ ਮੈਲੈ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਤਨਿ ਧੋਤੈ ਮਨੁ ਹਛਾ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Mani mailai sabh kish mailaa tani dhotai manu hashaa na hoe: When the mind is filthy, everything is filthy; by washing the body, the mind is not cleaned (sggs 558).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਲੋਭ ਬਹੁ ਝੂਠੇ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਵਹੁ ਕਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥: Antari mailu lobh bahu jhoote baahari naavahu kaahee jeeou: O man, within you is the great filth of greed and falsehood; why do you bother to wash your body on the outside? (sggs 598).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਸਦਾ ਬਗੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਲੁ ਲਾਈ ॥ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰੈ ਪਰੁ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜੀਵਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਚੁਕਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੬॥: Manamukh sadaa bagu mailaa houmai malu laaee. Isanaan karai paru mail na jaaee. Jeevat marai gur sabadu beechaarai houmai mail chukaavaniaa ||6||: The Manmukh (self-willed, materialistic, ego being, denier of truthful living ...) will always be filthy crane (Manmukh is like a hypocrite crane -ਬਗਲੇ ਵਾਂਗ ਪਖੰਡੀ); he is smeared with the filth of ego. (He) may bathe (ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਉੱਤੇ - at shrines of pilgrimage, etc.), but filth (of his ego - ਹਉਮੈ ਦੀ ਮੈਲ) is not removed (by doing so). One who dies while yet alive (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ ਵੱਲੋਂ - liberated from Haumai), and contemplates the Shabad (ਸਬਦ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੇ ਅੰਦਰ ਟਿਕਾਈ ਰੱਖਣਾ), is rid of this filth (of ego) ||6|| (sggs 129).
  • ਮਲੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਧੋਤੀ ਕਿਵੈ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਜੇ ਸਉ ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਇ ॥: Malu houmai dhotee kivai na outarai jae so teerath naai: This filth of egotism cannot be washed away, even by taking cleansing baths at hundreds of sacred shrines (sggs 39).
  • ਸਤਗੁਰੁ ਪੁਰਖ ਨ ਮੰਨਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਲਗੋ ਪਿਆਰ ॥ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਜੇਤਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥: Satgur purakh na manniou sabad na lago piaar. Isanaan daan jetaa karahi doojai bhaai khuaar: Those who do not have faith in the the Satguru, and who do not enshrine love for the Shabad, such people take their cleansing baths, and give to charity again and again, but they are ultimately consumed by their love of duality (sggs 34).

However, in utter ignorance of the Gurbani, many Sikhs have turned the external bathing into a religious ritual Ishnaan; equating the physical neatness and cleanliness with mental Purity or Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle)!

According to the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), this is shear foolishness. Because the physical cleanliness is not the same thing as mental Purity stressed in the Gurbani. But in stubborn mindedness and deluded intellect, many preach that if you do not take a cold bath or a shower in the early morning, you cannot find God! They further preach that one must visit the places of pilgrimage and perform unmeaning rituals such as taking bath in the waters of their ponds or rivers, otherwise you will not be emancipated! Rejecting all this absurdity, the Gurbani declares such people to be Manmukhs (egoistic, Mayadhaaree, fools...), whose mental state is no better than a "frog"!

  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਜੇ ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਕ ਪਤੀਣੇ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਅਯਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਪੂਜਹੁ ਰਾਮੁ ਏਕੁ ਹੀ ਦੇਵਾ ॥ ਸਾਚਾ ਨਾਵਣੁ ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਲ ਕੈ ਮਜਨਿ ਜੇ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਮੇਂਡੁਕ ਨਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਮੇਂਡੁਕ ਤੈਸੇ ਓਇ ਨਰ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨੀ ਆਵਹਿ ॥੨॥: Antar mail je teerath naavai tisu baikunth naa jaanaan ...: With filth within (ਵਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਮੈਲ), even if one bathes at sacred places of pilgrimage, still, he does not go to heaven. Nothing is gained by trying to please others (seeing you bathing at sacred places people may think you are Bhagat, religious, etc., but) — the Lord cannot be fooled (for He is knower of all the hearts). ||1|| Worship the One Divine Lord. The true cleansing bath is Gur-Sevaa (through the Naam). If salvation can be obtained by bathing in water, then what about the frog, which is always bathing (always remains in water)? As is the frog, so is that mortal; (without the Lord's Naam, Giaan...) he is reincarnated, over and over again ||2|| (sggs 484).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮੁਗਧੌ ਦਾਦਰੁ ਭਗਤਿਹੀਨੁ ॥: Manu mugadho daadur bhagatiheen: The mind devoid of true Bhagti is like a foolish frog (sggs 1188).
  • ਸੰਧਿਆ ਪ੍ਰਾਤ ਇਸ੍ਨਾਨੁ ਕਰਾਹੀ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਭਏ ਦਾਦੁਰ ਪਾਨੀ ਮਾਹੀ ॥੧॥: Sandhiaa praat isnaan kraahee. Jiou bhae daadur paanee maahee||1||: Those who take their ritual baths in the evening and the morning (and think that by doing so they have become pure, they) are like the frogs living in the water ||1|| (sggs 324).
  • ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਤਾ ਕਿਆ ਕਰੇ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥: Tirath naataa kiyaa kare mann mahi mail gumaan: What is the use of bathing at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, when the filth of stubborn pride is within the mind? (sggs 61).
  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਗਿਆਨ ਧਿਆਨ ਇਸਨਾਨ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਲੋਭੁ ਸੁਆਨ ॥: Baahari giaan dhiaan isanaan. Antari biaapai lobh suaan: Outwardly, people display knowledge, meditation and purification but within clings the dog of greed (sggs ).
  • ਨਾਤਾ ਧੋਤਾ ਥਾਇ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: Naataa dhotaa thaai na paaee: Man's outer cleansings and washings will not be approved (sggs 951).
  • ਕੂਰ ਕਿਰਿਆ ਉਰਝਿਉ ਸਭ ਹੀ ਜਗ ॥...:Koor kriyaa urjhiyo sabh hee jag. Sri bhagvaan ko bhed na paaio: The whole World, being in the grip of false rituals, has not known God's secret (Guru Gobind Singh Jee).

As revealed in the Gurbani, one's belief in ritual bathing and equating physical cleanliness with Inner Purity is nothing but ignorance and delusion. Because a physically clean person may be a vile in character. But, to the contrary, a physically unclean looking individual may be situated on the platform of Transcendental Consciousness! Hence the Purity stressed in religions and the scriptures is neither in physical cleanliness, nor in taking pilgrimage, nor in wearing religious robes. Purity is a state of Being in which one is close to Pure Consciousness. In other words, one is Pure only if he is in touch with his True Being within.

  • ਸਾਧ ਭਲੇ ਅਣਨਾਤਿਆ ਚੋਰ ਸਿ ਚੋਰਾ ਚੋਰ ॥੨॥: M: 1|| Saadh bhale annaatiaa chor si choraa chor ||2||: A saintly being is blessed, even without such bathing (at pilgrim places - ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ), while a thief is a thief, no matter how much he bathes (at pilgrim places - ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ) ||2|| (sggs 789).
  • ਸੂਚੇ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਬਹਨਿ ਜਿ ਪਿੰਡਾ ਧੋਇ ॥ ਸੂਚੇ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਨ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਸੋਇ ॥: Sooche ehi na aakheeahi bahani ji pindaa dhoi. Sooche seyee Nanakaa jini mann vasiyaa soi: They are not called pure, who sit down after merely washing their bodies. Only they are pure, O Nanak, within whose minds God abides (sggs 472).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਮੋਲਿ ਲੇ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ ਸ੍ਵਾਂਗੁ ਧਰਿ ਭੂਲੇ ਭਟਕਾ ਖਾਹਿ ॥੧੩੫॥: Kabeer thaakuru poojahi moli le mannahathi teerath jaahi. Dekhaa dekhee svangu dhari bhoole bhatakaa khaahi: O Kabeer! (People) buy idols to worship; in stubborn mindedness, they make pilgrimage to sacred shrines. (ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ, ਨਕਲ ਕਰ ਕੇ, ਹੋਰਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਦੇਖ ਕੇ, ਦਿਖਾਵੇ ਦੀ ਖਾਤਰ…, people ) look at one another and disguise (in religious robe, impersonation, ਸਾਂਗ ਬਣਾ ਲੈਣਾਂ...), but they are deluded and lost (from the true Way of life-ਸਹੀ ਰਾਹ ਤੋਂ ਖੁੰਝੇ ਹੋਏ ਇਹ ਲੋਕ ਭਟਕਦੇ ਹਨ). ||135|| (sggs 1371).
  • ਸੋਚ ਕਰੈ ਦਿਨਸੁ ਅਰੁ ਰਾਤਿ ॥ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਤਨ ਤੇ ਜਾਤਿ ॥ ਇਸੁ ਦੇਹੀ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਸਾਧਨਾ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਮਨ ਤੇ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਟਰੈ ॥ ਜਲਿ ਧੋਵੈ ਬਹੁ ਦੇਹ ਅਨੀਤਿ ॥ ਸੁਧ ਕਹਾ ਹੋਇ ਕਾਚੀ ਭੀਤਿ ॥: Soch karai dinas aru raati. Mann kee mailu nu tann te jaat. Isu dehee kou bahu saadhanaa karai. Mann te kabahoo na bikhiaa tarai. Jali dhovai bahu deh aneeti. Sudh kahaa hoi kaachee bheeti: You may cleanse your body day and night, but the filth of your mind will not leave your body. You may subject your body to all sorts of disciplines, but your mind will never be rid of its corruption. You may wash this transitory body with loads of water, but how can a wall of mud be washed clean? (sggs 265).

However, overtaken by misunderstanding, doubts, confusion or duality, the focus of the stubborn ritualistic mind (the Manmukh or Mayaic intellect...) is always on physical cleansing instead of cleansing the mind of its impurities (Bikaar). In the process, as indicated in the Gurbani, such "idiotic Manmukhs" end up accumulating more mental "filth" in the process!

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੁਗਧ ਕਰਹਿ ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ॥ ਨਾਤਾ ਧੋਤਾ ਥਾਇ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: Manmukh mughad kare chaturaaee. Naataa dhotaa thaaye na paaee: The idiotic Manmukhs (materialistics, self-willed, etc.) try to be clever (claim they have performed pilgrimmage and ablution -ਤੀਰਥ-ਇਸਨਾਨ -, etc.), but in spite of their bathing and washing, they will not be acceptable (ਪਰਵਾਨ ਨ ਹੋਂਣਾਂ) (sggs 114).
  • ਪੁੰਨ ਦਾਨ ਅਨੇਕ ਨਾਵਣ ਕਿਉ ਅੰਤਰ ਮਲੁ ਧੋਵ ॥: Punn daan anek naavan kiyu antar mall dhov: How can giving donations to charities and countless cleansing baths wash off the filth within the Heart? (sggs 243).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਲੋਭ ਬਹੁ ਝੂਠੇ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਵਹੁ ਕਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥: Antar mailu lobh bahu jhoothe bahari naavahu kaahee jeeyu: Within you is the great filth of greed and falsehood; why do you bother to wash your body on the outside? (sggs 598).
  • ਨ੍ਹਾਤ ਫਿਰਿਓ ਲੀਏ ਸਾਤ ਸਮੁਦ੍ਰਨਿ ਲੋਕ ਗਯੋ ਪਰਲੋਕ ਗਵਾਇਓ ॥: Naat phiriyo leeyai saat samundaran lok gayo parlok gavaayo: Those who have bathed even in seven oceans (i.e., all places of pilgrimages in the entire world) would loose this world as well as the next one (Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Savaiye 9).
  • ਪਹਿਰੈ ਬਾਗਾ ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਚੋਆ ਚੰਦਨ ਲਾਏ ॥ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ ਨਹੀ ਚੀਨਿਆ ਜਿਉ ਹਸਤੀ ਨਾਵਾਏ ॥: Pahirai baagaa kar isanaanaa choaa chandan laaeae. Nirabhou nirankaar nahee cheeniaa jiou hasatee naavaaeae: You wear white clothes and take cleansing baths, and anoint yourself with sandalwood oil. But you do not contemplate the Fearless, Formless Realuty - you are just like an elephant bathing in the mud (sggs 213).

At the time of Baabaa Nanak, unmeaning ritualistic practices such as pilgrimage, ritual bathing or ablution were on the rampant in the society. He struck at the root of superstitions and doubts by totally disapproving such empty beliefs. He exposed the religious absurdity, falsehood, sham, pettiness, hypocrisy, cynicism, and corruption of the Pujaaree group (priests, clergy and clerics). In the very outset of the SGGS, Baabaa Nanak made it perfectly clear as to what constitutes the true Ishanaan in Gurmat (Divine Knowledge, Aatam Giaan of the Gur-Shabad) — it is none other than remaining immersed in the Inner Ambrosial Pool of the Divine Name (Amrit-Naam) or focusing of the consciousness on the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...).

  • ਸੁਣਿਐ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਕਾ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Suniai athasathi kaa isanaan: Focussing consciousness on the Divine Name equals bath at the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage (sggs 3).
  • ਙਿਆਨ ਧਿਆਨ ਤੀਰਥ ਇਸਨਾਨੀ ॥ ਸੋਮਪਾਕ ਅਪਰਸ ਉਦਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਸੰਗਿ ਮਨਿ ਨਹੀ ਹੇਤਾ ॥ ਜੋ ਕਛੁ ਕੀਨੋ ਸੋਊ ਅਨੇਤਾ ॥ ਉਆ ਤੇ ਊਤਮੁ ਗਨਉ ਚੰਡਾਲਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਹ ਮਨਿ ਬਸਹਿ ਗੁਪਾਲਾ ॥: Giaan dhiaan teerath isanaanee. Somapaak aparas udiaanee. Raam naam sangi mani nahee haetaa. Jo kashu keeno sooo anaetaa. Ouaa tae ootamu ganaou chandaalaa. Nanak jih mani basahi gupaalaa: One may practice spiritual wisdom, meditation, pilgrimages to sacred shrines and ritual cleansing baths. He may cook his own food, and never touch anyone else's; he may live in the wilderness like a hermit. But if he does not enshrine love for the Divine Name within his heart, then everything he does is transitory. Even an untouchable pariah is superior to him, O Nanak, if the Divine abides in his mind (sggs 253).
  • ਕਿਆ ਜਪੁ ਕਿਆ ਤਪੁ ਸੰਜਮੋ ਕਿਆ ਬਰਤੁ ਕਿਆ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਨੀਐ ਭਾਉ ਭਗਤਿ ਭਗਵਾਨ ॥੨॥: Kiaa japu kiaa tapu sanjmo kiaa barat kiaa isnaanu || Jab lagu jugti n jaaneeai bhaaou bhagti bhagwaan ||2||: Jap, Tap, Sanjam, fasting, and cleansing bath are of no use until the Way of the Lord's Loving Bhagti is known (or understood). ||2|| (sggs 337).

Therefore, whenever there is a mention of Ishanaan in the Gurbani, it indicates Self-purification through the Inner Ishanaan — bathing in the Inner Pool ("Sarovar") of the body filled with the Water of the Divine Name or Shabad (Aatam Giaan...). The purpose of which is to wash off the scum of false ego attached to the conditioned mind. In other words, cleansing of the mind is the perfect Ishanaan. It is a stage in Naam-Simran in which mind becomes devoid of all kinds of Mayaic thoughts. Insistence on any other type of Ishanaan for Spiritual Realization will only indicate no faith in the Gurbani, bewilderment of the mind, ignorance of the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...), absurdity of the intellect indulged in worldly affairs, duality, selfishness, falsehood, religious hypocrisy, small-mindedness, cynicism and corruption. The Gurbani roars as follows:

  • ਏਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਸਰਵਰੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਤਹੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰੇ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥੧੩॥: Ehu sareeru saravaru hai santahu ishnaan kare liv laaee ||13||: O saints, this (human) body is a pool (Srovar); (who) enshrine love for God (it's like he is) bathing (in the Srovar) ||13|| (sggs 909).
  • ਭਾਈ ਰੇ ਮੈਲੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜਲਿ ਨਾਇ ॥: Bhaayee re mailu naahee nirmal jal naayi: O brother, filth is washed away by bathing in the Pure Water of the Divine Name within (sggs 57).
  • ਕਰਮੀ ਸਹਜੁ ਨ ਊਪਜੈ ਵਿਣੁ ਸਹਜੈ ਸਹਸਾ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਹ ਜਾਇ ਸਹਸਾ ਕਿਤੈ ਸੰਜਮਿ ਰਹੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਏ ॥ ਸਹਸੈ ਜੀਉ ਮਲੀਣੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਤੁ ਸੰਜਮਿ ਧੋਤਾ ਜਾਏ ॥ ਮੰਨੁ ਧੋਵਹੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਾਗਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਰਹਹੁ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਸਹਜੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਇਹੁ ਸਹਸਾ ਇਵ ਜਾਇ ॥੧੮॥: Nah jaai sahasaa kitai sanjami rahae karam kamaaeae. Sahasai jeeo maleen hai kit sanjam dhotaa jaaai. Mannu dhovahu sabadi laagahu hari siou rahahu chit laai. Kahai Nanak gur parasaadee sahaj oupajai ihu sahasaa iv jaai ||18||:By rituals (ਕਰਮ-ਕਾਂਡ, ਬਾਹਰੋਂ ਧਾਰਮਿਕ ਦਿਸਦੇ ਕੰਮ), Sahaj (Natural State of Being, ਆਤਮਕ ਅਡੋਲਤਾ) is not produced and without Sahaj, ਸਹਿਮ (doubt, worry, skepticism, etc.) does not depart. ਸਹਿਮ (doubt, worry, skepticism, etc.) does not depart by any contrived actions (ਕਰਮ-ਕਾਂਡ, ਬਾਹਰੋਂ ਧਾਰਮਿਕ ਦਿਸਦੇ ਕੰਮ). May people have grown weary of performing (such) ceremonial rites.  Sahasai jeeo maleenu hai kitu sanjam dhotaa jaaai. Mannu dhovahu sabadi laagahu hari siou rahahu chit laai: So long the mind is in the grip of ਸਹਿਮ (doubt, worry, skepticism, etc., born of from our love for Maya), it is rendered filthy. By no ਸੰਜਮਿ (Jugati - external tact, skill, device, knack, etc.) this filth of the mind can be cleansed. Attach yourself to the Shabad (Gur-Giaan…), continue to fix your consciousness on God, and  (like this), wash your mind. Says Nanak, by Guru's Grace, Sahaj is produced, and this ਸਹਿਮ (doubt, worry, skepticism, etc.) is dispelled. ||18|| (sggs 919).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਸਭ ਉਤਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਿੰਦੁੜੀਏ ਹਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਤੇ ਰਾਮ ॥: Houmai mail sabh outaree maeree jindurreeeae hari amrit hari sari naatae raam: The filth of egotism is totally wiped away, O my soul, by bathing in the Pool of the Amrit-Name of the Divine within (sggs 539).
  • ਅਨਦ ਸੂਖ ਕਲਿਆਣ ਮੰਗਲ ਸਿਉ ਘਰਿ ਆਏ ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ॥: Anad sookh kaliaan mangal siou ghari aaeae kari isanaanaa: In bliss, peace, pleasure and joy, I have returned to my own Home within, after my purifying bath in the Divine Name (sggs 621).

Here the Gurbani makes it very clear that undivided bathing of the mind in the purifying Water of the Shabad, or Amrit-Naam within only constitutes the true Ishanaan. Also, time and again, the Gurbani makes plain as the nose on one's face that the Divine or His Name (Shabad or Amrit-Naam...) is not to be found outside — in external things or places. Those who look for It outside are called by the Gurbani as "deluded by doubts". It's located nowhere else but within, "here" and "now". All we have to do is bring the outgoing mind Home, and make it bathe in the purifying Water of the Divine Name within, day and night.

  • ਹਰਿ ਜਲੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਮਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੀ ਮਜਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਭਾਈ ॥: Hari jalu niramalu manu isanaanee majanu satiguru bhaaee: Hari (Naam) is the immaculate Water; the mind that has bathed (in this immaculate Water of Hari Naam, such Ishnan) bath is pleasing to the Satiguru. (sggs 505).
  • ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਟੋਲੈ ਸੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਹੀ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨੀ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੋ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥: Sabh kishu ghar mahi ... (sggs 102).
  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਢੂੰਢਿ ਵਿਗੁਚੀਐ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਵਸਤੁ ਸੁਥਾਇ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਿ ਮੁਸੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥: Searching outside of themselves, they are ruined; the object of their search is in that sacred place Within the Home of the Heart. The Manmukhs (material beings), in their ego, miss it; the Gurmukhs (Spiritual beings) receive it in their laps (sggs 63).
  • ਨਉ ਨਿਧਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਦੇਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਇਸ ਕਾ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮੁ ॥: The nine treasures and Amrit (Immortality) is the Divine Name. Within the human body is its place of rest (sggs 293).
  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਢੂਢਤ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਘਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਘਟ ਮਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥: By searching around on the outside, you will only suffer great pain; Amrit (Immortality) is found within the Home of your own Being (sggs 598).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਖੂਹਟਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਭਰਿਆ ਸਬਦੇ ਕਾਢਿ ਪੀਐ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥: Antari khooahataa amriti bhariaa... (sggs 571).

Our mind is similar to a mirror as it reflects whatever thoughts preoccupy it. When the mind is covered with "dust" of egoism, one is caught in the cycle of repeated pain and delusion: worlds continually arise. If it's occupied by the Divine Name, the mind gradually becomes cleansed of base qualities such as cravings, selfishness, falsehood, lust, greed, anger delusion, attachment, self-conceit, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, and so on, thereby enabling it to experience the bottomless Ocean of Truth, Pure Consciousness and Bliss within. The mind so kept pure and constantly fixed on it's Divine Nature sheds the influences of past compulsive action and does not hanker after limited and temporary enjoyments. Thus, as indicated in the Gurbani, the meditation on the Divine Name within is the Holy Water in which we should take continual Ishanaan with ardor so that the sorrow of shackling repeated pain and delusion may cease.

  • ਨਾਮੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਮਜਨ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Naam hamaarai majan isanaan: The Naam is my cleansing bath and purification (sggs 1145).
  • ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਇਸਨਾਨੀ ॥: Prabh kai simaran teerath isanaanee: In the remembrance of God are purifying baths at sacred shrines of pilgrimage (sggs 262).
  • ਗੁਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਜੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਅਖਾਏ ਸੁ ਭਲਕੇ ਉਠਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵੈ ॥ ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰੇ ਭਲਕੇ ਪਰਭਾਤੀ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰੇ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵੈ ॥: Gur satgur kaa jo sikh akhaaeae su bhalakae othi har naam dhiaavai. Uddam karae bhalakae parabhaatee isanaan karae amrit sari naavai: (sggs 305).
  • ਸਚੁ ਵਰਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥ ਦਇਆ ਦੇਵਤਾ ਖਿਮਾ ਜਪਮਾਲੀ ਤੇ ਮਾਣਸ ਪਰਧਾਨ ॥: Sach varat santokh teerath giaan dhian isnaan. Daya devta khimaa japmaalee te manas pardhaan: The most excellent people (Pardhaan) are those persons who make truth their fasting, contentment their pilgrim-station, cognition and meditation their ablution, compassion their deity, and forgiveness their rosary (sggs 1245).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਧੂੜਿ ਕਰਉ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Gur kee dhoorr karo isanaan: I take my cleansing bath in the dust of the Guru's Feet - Divine name (sggs 1270).
  • ਨਾਮੋ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਸਵਾਰੈ ॥: Naamo giaan naam isanaanaa har naam hamaarae kaaraj savaarai: The Divine name is spiritual wisdom and my purifying bath. It resolves all my affairs (sggs 1302).
  • ਸਚੁ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਚੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਅਰੁ ਭੋਜਨੁ ਭਾਉ ਸਚੁ ਸਦਾ ਸਚੁ ਭਾਖੰਤੁ ਸੋਹੈ ॥: Sachu teerath sachu isanaan aru bhojan bhaau sachu sadaa sachu bhaakhant sohai: The True Name is the sacred shrine, the True Name is the cleansing bath of purification and food. The True Name is eternal love; chant the True Name, and be embellished (sggs 1392).
  • ਗੁਰੂ ਸਮੁੰਦੁ ਨਦੀ ਸਭਿ ਸਿਖੀ ਨਾਤੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥: Guroo samund nadee sabhi sikhee naatai jit vadiaaee: The Guroo is the ocean, and all His Teachings are the river. Bathing within it, glorious greatness is obtained (sggs 150).

In this connection, here is a story to the effect that a disciple of Bhagat Kabeer asked his permission for visiting pilgrim places and taking ritual bath in their so-called holy rivers and ponds (Srovars). Kabeer gave his disciple a gourd and asked: "Please bathe this gourd wherever you bathe". The disciple did exactly that — wherever he bathed in the so-called holy waters, he also bathed the gourd. Upon his returning from the pilgrimage, he gave the gourd back to his Master, Kabeer. In turn, Kabeer handed it over to the cook in charge of the kitchen with the following instructions: "Please cook this gourd and serve it with the next meal to all devotees". So he did. However, as we know that the gourd is poisonously bitter, no one could eat it. Kabeer wanted to make the point to his immature disciple that, as the gourd did not shed its bitterness by bathing at all of the so-called holy places, similarly, the mental filth cannot be washed off by any type of external Ishanaan. If someone thinks otherwise, obviously he as no clear concept of the Divine Principle. The outer mind is like an oily rag, which can only be cleaned with the Water of the Divine Name within - the Inner bodily Pool or "Sarovar".

  • ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਨਾਵਣ ਚਲੇ ਤੀਰਥੀ ਮਨਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਤਨਿ ਚੋਰ ॥ ਇਕੁ ਭਾਉ ਲਥੀ ਨਾਤਿਆ ਦੁਇ ਭਾ ਚੜੀਅਸੁ ਹੋਰ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਧੋਤੀ ਤੂਮੜੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਵਿਸੁ ਨਿਕੋਰ ॥ ਸਾਧ ਭਲੇ ਅਣਨਾਤਿਆ ਚੋਰ ਸਿ ਚੋਰਾ ਚੋਰ ॥੨॥: M: 1|| Naawan chale teerthee man khote tan chor. Ik bhaaou lathee naatiaa dui bhaa chreeus hor. Baahar dhotee tumree andar vis nikor. Saadh bhale annaatiaa chor si choraa chor ||2||: M: 1. Men of evil mind and thievish bodies (body ocupied with thieves like lust, anger, greed, etc.), go to bathe at the pilgrim places. The one part of their body filth (external filth) is washed off by bathing, but they accumulate twice as much of mental filth (pride, etc.). Like a gourd, they may be washed off on the outside, but on the inside, they are still filled with poison (of egoism). A saintly being is blessed, even without such bathing (at pilgrim places - ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ), while a thief is a thief, no matter how much he bathes (at pilgrim places - ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ) ||2|| (sggs 789).
  • ਖੰਨਲੀ ਧੋਤੀ ਉਜਲੀ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸਉ ਧੋਵਣਿ ਪਾਹੁ ॥: Khanalee dhotee ujalee na hovee jae so dhovan paahu: The oily rag cannot be cleaned by merely washing it, even if it is washed a hundred times (sggs 651).
  • ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨਾ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਹੈ ਮੈਲਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਰਮਿ ਪਤਿ ਖੋਈ ॥: Naam binaa sabhu jagu hai mailaa doojai bharami pati khoee: Without the Divine Name, the whole world is polluted; wandering in duality, it loses its honor (sggs 1234).
  • ਹ੍ਰਿਦੈ ਕਪਟੁ ਮੁਖ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਝੂਠੇ ਕਹਾ ਬਿਲੋਵਸਿ ਪਾਨੀ ॥੧॥ ਕਾਂਇਆ ਮਾਂਜਸਿ ਕਉਨ ਗੁਨਾਂ ॥ ਜਉ ਘਟ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਹੈ ਮਲਨਾਂ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਲਉਕੀ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਈ ॥ ਕਉਰਾਪਨੁ ਤਊ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੨॥: Hirdai kapat mukh giyaani. Jhoothai kahaa bilovas paanee. ||1|| Kaaiaa maanjas kaou gunaa. Jaou ghat bheetar hai malnaa. ||1||Rahaaou|| Laoukee athsath teerth nhaaee. Kaouraapan taooo n jaaee ||2||: (O hypocrite man) in your heart there is deception, and yet in your mouth are words of wisdom. ||1|| (O deceptive man) you are false — why are you churning (this) water; why do you bother to wash your body (i.e. you look clean on the outside, but inside you are "filthy")? (For) Your heart is full of filth. ||1||Pause|| (Remember) the gourd may be washed at the sixty-eight sacred shrines, but even then, its bitterness is not removed (from inside) ||2|| (sggs 656).
  • ਅਉਸਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਗੁਣ ਰਮਣ ਜਿਤੁ ਕੋਟਿ ਮਜਨ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Ausari hari jasu gun raman jitu koti majan isanaan: This is the time to sing the Praise and the Glory of God, which brings the merit of millions of cleansing and purifying baths (sggs 49).
  • ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਤੀਰਥ ਮਜਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Aath pahar simarahu prabh naam. Anik teerath majan isanaan: Twenty-four hours a day, meditate in remembrance on God's Name. In it are the many sacred shrines of pilgrimage and cleansing baths (sggs 184).
  • ਨਾਮਿ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੇ ਜਨ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਸਬਦੇ ਮੈਲੁ ਗਵਾਈ ॥: Naam isanaan karahi sae jan niramal sabadae mailu gavaaee: Those who cleanse themselves through the Divine Name are the most immaculate people; through the Shabad, they wash off their filth (sggs 909).
  • ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਾ ਜੇ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਭਾਣੇ ਕਿ ਨਾਇ ਕਰੀ ॥: Theerath naavaa jae tis bhaavaa vin bhaanae ki naae karee: If I become pleasing to the Lord, then that is my pilgrimage and cleansing bath. Without pleasing Him, what good are ritual cleansings (ਭਾਵ, ਜੇ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਪਰਮਾਤਮ ਖੁਛ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੁੰਦਾ, ਤਾਂ ਤੀਰਥ ਉੱਤੇ ਇਸਨਾਨ ਕਰਕੇ ਕੀ ਖੱਟਿਆ)? (sggs 2).
  • ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਤਿਤੁ ਨਾਤੈ ਮਲੁ ਜਾਏ ॥: Athasathi teerath gur sabadi dikhaaeae tit naatai malu jaaeae: The sixty-eight sacred shrines of pilgrimage are in Gur-Shabad; bathing in it, filth is washed away (sggs 753).

In conclusion, Purity lies in purity of one's character and conduct, not in the outer neatness and cleanliness of the body. Purity is truthful living, Spiritual Beauty, goodness in thoughts and speech and actions, etc. Hence the perfect or pure mind makes the perfect Ishnaan. To become immersed in the Ambrosial Pool of the Divine Essence or Truth within, we are urged by the Gurbani to become true Spiritual Beings (Gurmukh). To that end, the Gurbani's advice is to engage in Shabad-Vichaa. Since the Undeceivable Essence is ever present within, He cannot be fooled by our material trickery!

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਹੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਾਢਹਿ ਧੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਮੈਲਿਆ ਮੁਏ ਜਨਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਖੋਇ ॥: Haumai aantar mailu hai sabadi na kaadhahi dhoi. Nanak binu naavai mailiaa muye janam padaarath khoi: People are filled with the filth of egotism; they do not wash it away with the Word of the Shabad. O Nanak, without the Divine Name, they die in their filth; they waste the priceless opportunity of this human life (sggs 1415).
  • ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਸੁਗਿਆਨੁ ਮਜਨੁ ਆਪਿ ਅਛਲਿਓ ਕਿਉ ਛਲੈ ॥: Isanaan daan sugiaan majanu aapi ashalio kiou shalai: (God) Himself is Undeceivable; how could He ever be deceived by cleansing baths, charity, knowledge or ritual bathings? (sggs 766).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਸਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵੈ ॥: Guramukh manu niramal sat sar naavai: Immaculate and pure is the mind of the one has become the Gurmukh; he bathes in the Pool of Truth (sggs 1058).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਚੁਕਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Nanak naam vasai mann antar gurmukh mailu chukaavaniaa: Says Nanak, let the Naam abides deep within the minds; by becoming the Gurmukhs, cleanse your filth (sggs 121).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਜਨੁ ਚਜੁ ਅਚਾਰੁ ॥: Gurmukh majan chaj achaar: The Gurmukh's cleansing bath is the performance of good deeds (sggs 932).
  • ਸਚਾ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵਣੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ॥: Sachaa teerath jit satt sari naavan gurmukh aapi bujhaae: True is that place of pilgrimage, where one bathes in the pool of Truth, and achieves Self-realization by becoming a Gurmukh (Spiritual Being). The Gurmukh understands his own Self (sggs 753).
  • ਪੂਰਾ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ॥: Pooraa maarug pooraa eisunaan. Sabh kish pooraa hirdai Naam: Who has the Divine Name awakened in his Heart, his every effort is perfect; this is the perfect path, this is the perfect cleansing bath (sggs 188).
  • ਹਰਿ ਧਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਧਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਸੰਗਿ ਲਾਇ ਧਿਆਨਾ ॥: Hari dhanu isanaan hari dhanu giaan hari sangi laai dhiaanaa: The wealth of God's Name is my cleansing bath and my wisdom; I center my meditation on It (sggs 495).
  • ਸੰਤ ਕਾ ਦਰਸੁ ਪੂਰਨ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Sant kaa daras pooran isanaan: The Blessed Vision of the Sant (Mool within...) is the perfect cleansing bath (sggs 189).
  • ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਸਰੋਵਰਿ ਨਾਤੇ ॥ ਸਭਿ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਪ ਕਮਾਤੇ ॥ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਹੋਏ ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਿ ਪੂਰੈ ਕੀਨੇ ਦਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਸਭਿ ਕੁਸਲ ਖੇਮ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਧਾਰੇ ॥ ਸਹੀ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਸਭਿ ਥੋਕ ਉਬਾਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਮਲੁ ਲਾਥੀ ॥ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਭਇਓ ਸਾਥੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥ ਆਦਿ ਪੁਰਖ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੨॥੧॥੬੫॥: Raamadaas sarovar naatae. Sabh utarae paap kamaatae niramal hoeae kar isanaanaa. Guri poorai keene daanaa. sabh kusul khaem prabh dhhaarae. Sahee salaamat sabh thok ubaarae gur kaa sabad veechaarae. ||rahaaou|| Saadhsangi malu laathee. Paarabrahm bhaeio saathee. Nanak naam dhiaaeiaa. Aadi purakh prabh paaiaa ||2||1||65|| (sggs 625).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org