From Sanskrit origin, the term “Saadhoo” (also spelt Sadhu – ਸਾਧੂ), there are several possible interpretations means: good, right, holy, virtuous, a saintly person, straight, unerring…
The term Sant (ਸੰਤ) is derived from the Sanskrit sat (ਸਤ) and has several possible interpretations means: true, real, honest, right, pure, saintly, holy… Its root meaning is “one who knows the truth” or “one who has experienced Ultimate Reality.”
It appears that in the SGGS the word Sant is used in three ways: for God, for the Guru, and for God’s true devotees.
Further, wherever it is used to indicate God’s true devotees (call them Sant, Saadhoo, Brahm-giaanee, Gurmukh, a Holy person, God-like person …), it is not used to indicate a specific person wearing a specific robes and/or exhibiting a specific external appearance (outward signs etc.).
Such pure devotee is not fettered by ceremonies, taboos and rituals. He is pure in thought, word and deed (Mann, Bachan and Karma). He is a man of Perfection (Pooran Pada) who lives a dedicated life of remembering God, helping others remember Him and act in His name, and always looking for opportunities to serve God through selflessly serving humanity, etc. Thus, he is the spiritual force who touches the inner lives of others in transforming ways. He is the one who has completely “conquered” his mind. He is a living liberated (Jeevanmukta), Enlightened (Gurmukh). He is the person of total non-attachment, full Awareness (non-mechanical), wisdom, understanding, ethics, truth (Sach Khand), Sahaj, peace, calm, serenity, tranquility, centeredness, selflessness, humility, compassion, contentment, collectedness, poise, self-mastery, and so on. He is even-minded and simple-hearted: he is neither cunning, nor corrupted, nor scheming, etc.
The Gurbani very specifically defines “Sant” and “Saadhoo” as follows:
- ਜਿਨਾ ਸਾਸਿ ਗਿਰਾਸਿ ਨ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਾਂ ਮਨਿ ਮੰਤੁ ॥ ਧੰਨੁ ਸਿ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਪੂਰਨੁ ਸੋਈ ਸੰਤੁ ॥੧॥: Jinaa Saas Giraas na visarai…: Those who do not forget the Lord’s Name even for the duration of a breath or when swallowing a morsel, are praiseworthy. Says Nanak, they are the perfect Saints ||1|| (sggs 319).
- ਸੋਈ ਸੰਤੁ ਜਿ ਭਾਵੈ ਰਾਮ ॥ ਸੰਤ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਕੈ ਏਕੈ ਕਾਮ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Soee sant ji bhaavai Raam. Sant Gobind kai ekai kaam ||1||Rahaaou||: He alone is a Saint, who is pleasing toGod. The Saints, and God, have only one job to do ||1||Pause|| (sggs 867).
- ਸਾਧੂ ਸੰਤੁ ਸੁਜਾਣੁ ਸੋਈ ਜਿਸਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜੀ ਮਾਨਈ ॥: Saadhoo sant sujaan soee jisahi prabh jee maanaee: He alone is holy, a Saint, a truly wise person, who is accepted by the Dear Lord (sggs 925).
- ਸੋ ਸਾਧੂ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਸੋਈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸਾਏ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲਾਗਿ ਨ ਤਾਮਸੁ ਮੂਲੇ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ : So saadhoo bairaagee soyee hirdai Naam vasaaye. Antar laag na taamas moole vichahu aap gavaaye: That person is a Holy Man and a recluse, whose heart is filled with the Naam. His inner being is not touched by anger or dark energies at all; he has lost his selfishness and conceit (sggs 29).
- ਸੋ ਧੰਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਸੰਤੁ ਸਾਧੂ ਜੋ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਰਤੇ ਭਾਵਏ ॥: Blessed, blessed are those Saints and Holy People of the Lord, who are pleasing (ਜਿਹੜਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਨੂੰ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਲੱਗਦਾ ਹੈ) to the Creator Lord God (sggs 1115).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਸੰਤ ਸੰਤ ਹਰਿ ਏਕੋ ਜਪਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੋਹੰਦੀ ॥: O Nanak! the One Lord and the Saint are one and the same (ਇਕ-ਰੂਪ). Chanting the Name of the Lord, (the soul-bride) is adorned (i.e., of a beautiful life – ਸੋਹਣੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਾਲੀ) (sggs 79).
- Also, see pages 271-274 of sggs wherein the qualities of a Brahm Giaanee are elaborately described.
In nutshell, Sant simply means who has become the Whole (Saabat, Pooraa or Pooran, God-like…). Such a true devotee does not exist as himself but he exists as the entire Creation or the Universe – he is a person who has lost himself in the Whole. His ego (Haume) is completely annihilated. He is the Complete or Perfect Being (“Pooran Purakh”). Essentially, both “Sant” and “Saadhoo” are the persons who have broken all bondages (Bandhan) and are dedicated to godly life (Gurmukh Lifestyle).
This is where the Indian word of “Sant” or “Saadhoo” differs from the western word of “saint”. The western word “saint” comes from the root “sanctus”, meaning sanctioned by the church (Pope!). To put it mildly, this is not only ridiculous but also meaningless. How anybody can sanction or certify a saint? Nobody can issue certificates for saints. Either one has become a saint or he has not. So the word “Sant” or “Saadhoo” does not mean a saint in that way — the western way.
A Sant or Saadhoo is not and cannot be certified by any government or an institution. For one to know if someone is a true devotee (Sant, Saadhoo, Gurmukh, etc.) or not, first one himself has to be a true devotee (Sant, Saadhoo, Gurmukh, etc.)! A Sant cannot be made to an order. One has to become one.
Thus, to be a Holy person (or a saint, for lack of a better word in English) is to be living in a totally different dimension — the dimension of authentic Spirituality. A Sant has moved from the biological dimension (Manmukhtaa) to the Spiritual dimension (Gurmukhtaa). In other words, he is the person who has taken the quantum leap from Manmukhtaa to Gurmukhtaa, from materiality to immateriality, from falsehood (Asat) to Truth ( Sat), from outer to Inner, from visible (Drisht) to Invisible (Adrisht), from time to Timelessness (Akaal), from fleeting to Eternal, from temporary to Permanent, from ego (Haume) to egolessness, from conditioned state to Unconditioned state (Uncorrupted, Uncontaminated, Joti-Svaroopa), and so on. He is the Jeevanmukta (living liberated, twice born, reborn, or truly alive person). He has cleansed his heart of dross of evil passions (Kaam, Krodh, Lobh etc.), and thus made his conduct Immaculate. His every act is done with the right (Spiritual) attitude; for he is established in the Spiritual Realm.
- ਮੰਤ੍ਰੰ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੰ ਧ੍ਹਾਨੰ ਸਰਬਤ੍ਰ ਪੂਰਨਹ ॥ ਗ੍ਹਾਨੰ ਸਮ ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖੰ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਨਿਰਵੈਰਣਹ ॥ ਦਯਾਲੰ ਸਰਬਤ੍ਰ ਜੀਆ ਪੰਚ ਦੋਖ ਬਿਵਰਜਿਤਹ ॥ ਭੋਜਨੰ ਗੋਪਾਲ ਕੀਰਤਨੰ ਅਲਪ ਮਾਯਾ ਜਲ ਕਮਲ ਰਹਤਹ ॥ ਉਪਦੇਸੰ ਸਮ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਸਤ੍ਰਹ ਭਗਵੰਤ ਭਗਤਿ ਭਾਵਨੀ ॥ ਪਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਨਹ ਸ੍ਰੋਤਿ ਸ੍ਰਵਣੰ ਆਪੁ ਤ੍ਹਿਾਗਿ ਸਗਲ ਰੇਣੁਕਹ ॥ ਖਟ ਲਖ੍ਹਣ ਪੂਰਨੰ ਪੁਰਖਹ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਸਾਧ ਸ੍ਵਜਨਹ ॥੪੦॥: Mantram Raam Raam naamam dhyaanam sarabatr pooranah…: (A Sant) engages in meditation on the All-pervading Lord through the Mantra of His Name. He has the Wisdom to look alike upon pleasure and pain (i.e. to become free of duality, the pair of opposites or “likes and dislikes”) and to live the pure lifestyle, free of ill-will. He is kind to all beings and he has overpowered the five thieves (lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride. All other evils tendencies in the world are a function of these five. They overtake us like a disease, spreading their filth until they control us). He takes the Kirtan of the Lord’s Praise (Rabb Dee Sifat-Slaah) as his food; and remains untouched by Maya, like the lotus in the water. He shares (Divine) Teachings with friend and enemy alike (i.e., he adopts Teaching in which the friend and the enemy look alike to him); and he loves the devotion of God. He listens not to slander; and he renounces self-conceit (eradicates false ego-sense or Aapaa) to become the dust of all (i.e., to develop humility). Says Nanak: whosoever has these six Qualities is the Perfect Person; he is called the Holy (Saadh), the Friend (sggs 1357).
Clearly, it is very difficult to become a Sant; for his Way is very arduous. Accordingly, as the SGGS points out, it is “rare” to be a Sant in the true sense of the word. It’s not that the world is without them, but there are not too many of them – they are “few and far between”, etc. Because a saint’s way is like walking on a two-edged sword!
- ਹੈਨਿ ਵਿਰਲੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਘਣੇ ਫੈਲ ਫਕੜੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥੧੨॥: Hain virale naahee ghanae fail fakarr sansaar ||12||: (Saintly beings – ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਸਿਫ਼ਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲੇ ਮਨੁੱਖ) are few and far between; everything else is but a pompous show and wrangling in this world (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਨੂੰ ਨੀਵਾਂ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲਾ ਬੋਲ ਬੋਲਣਾਂ) ||12|| (sggs 1411).
- ਇਸੁ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਕੋ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਜਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੇਟਿ ਸਮਾਏ ॥: Is jug mahi ko birlaa Giaanee ji haoumai meti samaae: In this world, the Brahm Giaanee is very rare who, eradicating ego, remains absorbed in (the Reality) (sggs 512).
But still there is huge crowd of Sants in the Sikh community now-a-days!! Not only in India, they are also pullulating Gurdawaaraas all over the world, specially in the West. It is easy money, tax free! Additionally, when western currency is converted to Indian, it multiplies! Also, when one is presented as a Sant in the media, one’s nefarious activities become obscured!