MOOL MANTRA

ੴ ਸਤਿਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ
ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ (sggs 1).
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Both "Mool" (also spelt Mul) and "Mantra" are Sanskrit words — "Mool" simply meaning "Root" (or Source, Primordial, Base, Foundation, Origin...); and Mantra simply meaning incantation (or text of the Gurbani...). Hence Mool Mantra (or Moolmantar, Mool Mantar ) means Root-Mantra. Just as the fragrance is boxed in the flower, and the light of the sun is hidden in the colors, similarly, the Essence of the Divine (ਪ੍ਰਮੇਸਰ ਦੇ ਸਾਰੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਦਾ ਖਜਾਨਾ, Brahm-Giaan...) is summed up in the Mool Mantra. Revealed by Baabaa Nanak, it's the commencing or opening (first) composition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). It also appears (in full or short form) before the commencement of most of the Raagas within the SGGS. The Mool Mantra is said to encapsulates the Essence of the Divine Message, thus it's the heart of the Sikh-Thought.

Note that neither Baabaa Nanak (the author of this opening composition of the SGGS) nor Guru Arjan Dev Jee (the compiler of the SGGS) named or called this very first line of the SGGS as "Mool Mantra"!! Exactly who, why, and when this opening composition of the SGGS was attributed this name - "Mool Mantra" - is beyond the scope of this Gurbani Article.

However, in the Gurbani, there is reference of Mool Mantra and its meaning along with Beej Mantra, Naamu Mantra, Mahaa Mantra, Gur Mantra...

Thus - as time and again indicated by the Gurbani - all Mantras are in the Lord's Name ("ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ", Brahm-Giaan... ):

And, where is That "ਹਰਿ-Hari" (One Truth, ਸਚ, ਮੂਲ...) located? Within our Hearts, indicates the Gurbani (ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਮਾਹਿ: Hari japi Hirdai maahi, sgggs 1370).

The first nine statements of the SGGS are as follows:

  1. ੴ : Ik Oankaar
  2. ਸਤਿਨਾਮ: Satinaam
  3. ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖ: Kartaa Purakh
  4. ਨਿਰਭਉ: Nirbhaou
  5. ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ: Nirvairu
  6. ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ: Akaal Moorati
  7. ਅਜੂਨੀ: Ajoonee
  8. ਸੈਭੰ: Saibhang
  9. ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ: Gurprasaadi

The first eight statements indicate the eight (ਅਸਟ) Divine Qualities (ਗੁਣ, ਲਛਣ, indications...) of the One (i.e., That Ik, which is One or Saabat-ਇਕ, ਸਾਬਤ...), and the ninth statement indicates how to Realize That One - ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ (Gurprasaadi -ਗਿਆਨ ਦੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਨਾਲ, ਗਿਆਨ ਦੀ ਰੋਸ਼ਨੀ ਨਾਲ, ਗਿਆਨ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼ ਨਾਲ...), that is, through the Grace of the Gur-Giaan (ਬੀਜ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਸਰਬ ਕੋ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥: Beej mantru sarab ko Giaan, sggs 274).

It is the most condense, brief, intricate and comprehensive composition indeed! Being the Base or Mool of the entire Sikh theology, the rest of the SGGS is said to be an elaboration or expansion of these statements. A small attempt is made here to reflect upon each statement separately as follows.

1. ੴ : Ik Oankaar

In addition to "Ik Oankaar", it can also be seen written in English as Ek Onkaar, Ek Onkar, Ek Ongkaar, Ek or Ik Omkaar or Ekankaar, Ek Aumkaar, Ek-Onm-Kaar, and so on. This first statement of the "Mool Mantra" is made of three syllables— "1" , "Oan" and "Kaar". "1" ("Ik" in Punjabi and "Ek" in Sanskrit) refers to the numerical figure "1";"Oan" refers to One Lord or Parmesar (Transcendent, Absolute, Non-dual Reality, Truth); "Kaar" refers to that which pervades everything uniformly and ceaselessly everywhere (One Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience, One Transcendent Absolute Reality, One Indivisible, One but only One Truth, etc.). It also means "the One who does" (Doer, Immanent etc.). This statement highlights the Sikh belief that the (Formless or Niraakaar) Truth is One and only One (not two or three). This is negation of duality, which implies absoluteness of the Truth. Truth or God being the Absolute, it also implies that it is not possible to attain Spiritual Knowledge unless a person has the necessary insight. The mind (Haume) has to surrender to get insight into the Truth (ਸਚ, ਮੂਲ...) within.

Clearly, Baabaa Nanak's indication of the Lord is based on his firm conviction in the Unity of the Divine (ਇਕ, ਸਾਬਤ...). This was also in contrast to the polytheism traditions of the Indian society. What's more, during his time (even today!), the so called lower castes as well as women were not entitled to benefit from Spiritual Enlightenment through reading and listening scriptures, conducting religious ceremonies, etc. His firm conviction in the Unity of the Lord (unadulterated monotheism) departed from old traditions, making everyone entitled to Spiritual Enlightenment (regardless of caste, creed, race or gender). Baabaa Nanak has reiterated this negation of duality (division, cracked state, ਦੋ ਚਿੱਤਾ...) and his unshakable belief and conviction in the Unity of God in various ways in his other compositions in rest of the SGGS.

Thus, "Ik Oankaar" (ੴ ) represents in its symbolism, as well as in its syllabic-significance, not only the manifest world of plurality (Sarguna or Immanent aspect), but also its Substratum (or "Adhaar", Base, Foundation, Source... ), Non-dual Reality within all of us. If all this is "Ik Oankaar" or if God is One and only One, then, subjectively, "Ik Oankaar" must necessarily represent not only the matter-envelopments in us, but also the Spiritual Factor behind it all. Non-duality is the state and it implies that one spontaneously sees everything as one's own True Self. If it's only limited to our words, then it has no meaning. It has to be brought into our lives. This state can be experienced within, if we choose to be Awakened/Enlightened. It's not an accidental happening. Each one has to earn it himself.

By placing the numerical figure"1" in the front, Baabaa Nanak also made it clear that the contents or the "Upadesa" (advice, religious instructions, teachings, Self-knowledge, Aatam-Giaan, etc. ) of the SGGS are equal ("ਸਾਝਾ"-Saajhaa) to all segments of the society (e.g., all four Varnas or the entire human family..). Besides Mool Mantra, there is an another term Beej Mantra (Seed Mantra) — that occurs in the composition known as "Sukhmani" (Pearl of Peace) of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee, which further emphasizes this point (i.e., in "Gurmat" there is no distinction of gender or there is no room for practicing Jaat-Paat). To put it otherwise, the message or wisdom of the SGGS is meant for the whole humanity. However, on account of our narrow thinking and the influence of Brahman-Vaad (ਬ੍ਰਹਮਣੀ ਮਤ), some Sikhs forget this and instead impose limits on as to who can come to seek the wisdom of the SGGS!

The root of "Oankaar" is traceable to the sacred syllable "Om" (also written as "AUM") of the Vedic religion. So it is especially elaborated upon in the Vedas. For example, the Atharva Veda (Mandukay Upanishad) and the Yajur Veda (Taittiriya Upanishad) define it as follows:

The Gurbani says:

2. ਸਤਿਨਾਮ: Satinaam

The Naam translates as Name. The Naam (of "Ik Oankaar") is "Sat" (ਸਚ, True, Truth, Existence, Beginningless), meaning that which just is true in three times: past, present and future (i.e., Eternal). The term "Sat" comes from the Sanskrit word "Satya". God's Name is Truth. Hence, "Satinaam" (also spelt Satnam) refers to the Eternal "Ik Oankaar", which is Truth as well as Existence True in the past, True now and will be True in the future (or the One without beginning, middle or end). The point to note here is that the Name (Naam) and the object signified by the Name are one and the same! Therefore, simply put, Naam is the Divine Essence (Aatam-Giaan, Brahm-Giaan...). The Truth (ਸਚ...) is Realized by constantly reflecting on it.

In this way, Satinam simply indicates Divine Knowledge (Brahm-Giaan, Eternal Knowledge-ਅਮਰ ਗਿਆਨ, ਸਚ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ...) of the Truth.

In other words, the Infinite and the Eternal "Ik Oankaar" is not there yonder and at some other time or something to be known after death. It's Here and Now ("Haajraa Hajoor"). Each moment (or breath) is an opportunity given to us to live as the "Ik Oankaar". Most of us miss it because either we live in the past (which is dead) or in the unknown future (the womb of time).

3. ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖ: Kartaa Purakh

"Kartaa" refers to Creator, Doer, etc. The word "Purakh" has many meanings. But, in the SGGS it primarily indicates the Transcendental Reality (ਸਚ) that is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient (Intelligent Conscious). The entire creation is pervaded with this Infinite, Timeless, or Universal Truth.

Simply put: Karataa Purukh is the name of the Infinite Energy that exists in Satinaam. In essence, thus, Karataa Purukh is Satinaam. Furthermore, as Satinaam is Formless, Karataa Purukh is also Formless.

4. ਨਿਰਭਉ: Nirbhaou

"Bhaou" means fear, and "Nir"means without (or devoid of). Hence, the "Ik Oankaar" is without fear. Why is He devoid of fear? Duality (Doojaa Bhaav, two-ness or the notion of "others") gives rise to fear. Not being subject to any other (or second), and not being subject to needs (desires, etc.), He is fearless. As revealed by Baabaa Nanak here, there is no duality in the Absolute "Ik Oankaar". Hence, He is without fear, and He is all Bliss (Anand).

In this way, an individual being in this world on account of conditioning cannot be Nirbhaou - only the Formless Parmeshar is Nirbhaou.

5. ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ: Nirvairu

"Vairu" means enmity, hostility, hate, ill-will, vengeance, etc. "Nir" means without (or devoid of). Thus, the "Ik Oankaar" is without hate or enmity. Why? As discussed before, God is without a second (Non-dual). Then against whom is He to have "Vair"? All divisions and differences are created by the self-erected walls such as the body-mind-intellect personality (Haume), which, in its own delusion, feels for itself a separate entity or individual. But the "Ik Oankaar" is with no such delusory identification, distinctions and divisions. So He is said here to be without "Vair". Instead, God is understood to be all Pure Love, dwelling deep within us, free from negativity such as selfishness ("mine, mine"), hate or enmity.

In this way, an individual being in this world on account of conditioning cannot be Nirvairu - only the Formless Parmeshar is Nirvairu.

6. ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ: Akaal Moorati

"Kaal" translates as time, and "Akaal" translates as "not subject to time" (i.e., beyond time). Time denotes change. For example, if their is the birth, then there is the death. Hence "Akaal" means that Eternal Entity, which is beyond change (i.e., birth and death etc.). "Moorati" literally means form, image, shape etc. Combining these two terms, "Akaal Moorati" implies "Ik oankaar" is beyond time, space, form and features (Supreme Absolute Reality, Undying, without origin, without beginning and ending). He is Changeless, Immortal, Timeless and forever the same. Change is only for the deluded or conditioned consciousness (Haume- or ego-mind). In the "Joti-Svaroopa", there is no such defilement.

7. ਅਜੂਨੀ: Ajoonee

"Ajoonee" translates as "beyond birth or who does not take birth". Hence, the "Ik Oankaar" is Unborn - free from the cycle of births and deaths. Simply put: "Joni" implies that God is not subject to birth and death.

In this way, an individual being in this world on account of being an embodied-being cannot be Ajonee - only the Formless Parmeshar is Ajonee.

8. ਸੈਭੰ: Saibhang

"Saibhang" simply indicates that the "Ik Oankaar" is All-Powerful ("ਸਮਰਥੁ") - He can Create and Destroy. It simply means that the the "Ik Oankaar" is All-Able and evrything possible for Him (ਤਾਕਤ ਵਾਲਾ, ਸੱਤਿਆ ਵਾਲਾ, ਸਭ ਤਾਕਤਾਂ ਦਾ ਮਾਲਕ, ਸਭ ਕੁਝ ਕਰ ਸਕਣ ਵਾਲਾ...).

9. ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ: Gurprasaadi

"Gurprasaadi" is made of two terms - Gur" and "Prasaadi". The term "Gur" indicates Giaan (ਗਿਆਨ, or the Giaan-Satigur...) as described in the preceding eight statements. "Prasaadi" (or Prsaad, Parsaad) translates as "Grace", "Nadar" or "Kirpaa". Hence, "Gurprasaadi" implies that Oneness with the One Truth is realized with the Grace of the Gur-Giaan (Light of the Knowledge / Wisdom of the Gurbani, ਗਿਆਨ ਸਰੂਪ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ...). However, for the grant of This Grace, we need to understand the Gurbani through earnest Vichaar (Shabad-Vichaar) and live it. Thus, the Mool Mantra urges us to bring one's divided consciousness or duality-Doojaa Bhaav- in tune (i.e., becoming Saabat, Pooran, Pooraa...) with the Mool (One Truth - Joti-Svaroopa, Pure Consciousness, Pure Budhi...) within through the Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Gurmat, ਗਿਆਨ ਧੰਨ, ਨਾਮ ਧੰਨ...) of the Gurbani.

This Giaan destroys the Durmat (corrupted or conditioned or crooked mind, etc.) and Enlightened the mind.

In other words, one cannot Realize the One Truth either through reassuring, logic, philosophic speculations, etc., or through ritual practices like pilgrimages, outer display of religion (Bhekh-ਭੇਖ...), fasting on sacred days and so on. It is only through the Grace of the Giaan (ਸਚ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ, Divine Knowledge, Spiritual Wisdom...) one may Realize, know, or understand his Mool within.

In summary, this Sikh Fundamental Creed or "Mool Mantra" revealed by Baabaa Nanak summarizes the Essence of his Message. It sums up Sikh beliefs about One Truth and encapsulates the entire Sikh theology.

To put in a nutshell, the remaining Bani (ਬਾਣੀ) of the SGGS is an elaboration of this "Mool Mantra" and revolves around this main Message. The tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee, eternally sealed these teachings along with the Sikh theology in the SGGS.

A note on gender: the Sikh philosophy does not attribute particular gender to God; it's only for the ease of writing and reading that a pronoun "he" for the Lord (or human beings) is used herein , but surely the Lord (and Soul, which is His "Ansh" or part-and-parcel) being Formless Energy ("Tribhavan Joti") transcends all gender.

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org

Updated on Friday, March 30, 2012 9:18 AM (PST)

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