Gurbani Defines Form Of God

Religions and people have all sorts of concepts regarding the form of God (Akaar-ਅਕਾਰ, shape, structure, appearance, figure …). Many of these concepts are not only weird, but also laughable (ਹਾਸੇਹੀਣ).

The words of the Gurbani are abrupt, concise, direct, immensely profound but simple, terse yet potent — cutting to the core and wasting no effort on nonessential (e.g., rituals, external robes…).

The Gurbani seems to have the most realistic and commonsense definition of the form of God, which, in nutshell, is Formless — without form-shape-color (without “Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ”, “Raekh – ਰੇਖ”, and “Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ”). Out of many verses, a few verses are cited below:

  • ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਿੰਨ ॥ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ॥੧॥: (“Prabh”) has no form, no shape, no color; “Prabh” is beyond these three worldly qualities. O Nanak! They alone understand this reality who are spiritually blessed. ||1|| (sggs 283).
  • ਪਰਮ ਤੰਤ ਮਹਿ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੂਪੁ ॥: The Supreme Essence of the Reality has no shape or form (sggs 952).
  • ਤਿਸੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਅਦਿਸਟੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅਲਖੁ ਲਖਾਇਆ ॥: He has no form or shape; He is unseen and imperceptible (to the senses). The Gurmukh inscribes (delineate, realizes…) the Invisible (sggs 448).
  • ਵਰਨਾ ਚਿਹਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਲੇਖੇ ਬਾਝੁ ਅਲਖੁ ॥: The Invisible (Principle) is without color, mark, and beyond calculation (sggs 1289).
  • ਆਦਿ ਮਧਿ ਅੰਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੰ ॥: “Nirankaar” was in the beginning, (who) is in the middle, and (who) will be in the end (sggs 250).

A few terms in the foregoing verses are pretty significant:

“Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ” ~ Form, Akaar-ਅਕਾਰ, shape, structure, appearance, figure, look, etc.
“Raekh – ਰੇਖ” ~ Shape, line, mark, feature, etc.
“Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ” ~ Color, mode, complexion, etc.
“Adistu – ਅਦਿਸਟੁ” ~ Invisible, unseen, etc.
“Agocharu -ਅਗੋਚਰੁ” ~ Imperceptible to the senses, perceivable, etc.
“Alakhu – ਅਲਖੁ” ~ Invisible, not perceived by the senses, etc.
“Chihanaa – ਚਿਹਨਾ” ~ Mark, symbol, etc.
“Nirankaaram – ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੰ” ~ Formless or Attributeless Spiritual Principle, ਅਕਾਰ ਰਹਿਤ…

The Gurbani thus time and again elaborates on the term “Akaal Moorti-ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ” (the Timeless or Undying Form), which appears in the very first line of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) encapsulating the Essence of the Divine Message.

Clearly, as defined by the Gurbani, the Eternal Principle is subtler than the subtle, smaller than the smallest, near than the nearest, and also the most vast, beyond the reach of our bodily or Mayaic senses (including our doubt-ridden mind).

Simply put: Since God is beyond form-shape-color (i.e., “Roopu – ਰੂਪੁ”, “Raekh – ਰੇਖ”, and “Rangu – ਰੰਗੁ”), He is beyond religions. Thus, there is no such thing as a separate God of each religion!

In other words, there is no separate God of Sikhs, or a separate God of Muslims, or a separate God of Hindus, or a separate God of Christians…

To say it otherwise, there is no such thing as a separate Sikh Soul, a separate Christian Soul, a separate Muslim Soul, a separate Hindu Soul, a young Soul, an old Soul, a rich Soul, a poor Soul, a higher Soul or a lower Soul, religious Soul or an atheist Soul, and so on. The Gurbani believes in “Sameness” or “Oneness” — Gobind In Me Is Gobind In All.

Now, the question is: Where is this Timeless and Formless Subject located?

We humans can see a shape with our physical eyes ONLY if that shape has these three qualities: form-shape-color. Anything under the influence of these three qualities is time bound (ਕਾਲ ਰੂਪ), thus perishable.

  • ਬਿਨਸੈਗੋ ਰੂਪੁ ਦੇਖੈ ਸਭ ਦੁਨੀਆ ॥: (Your) beauty will vanish, as the whole world watches (sggs 325).

However the Spiritual Factor mentioned in the Gurbani is not perishable because He is without form-shape-color or Maya, thus unbounded by time — Timeless. This is also the reason we humans cannot see Him outside with our physical eyes, which are inflicted with the cataract of Maya.

Understandably, the Gurbani time and again reminds us not to look for Him outside, because our eyes cannot perceive something that has no form-shape-color. Instead, the Gurbani teaches us to search within — not just look within but search within!

gur_heart_visualਤੂ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਗੁਪਤੁ ਵਸਹਿ ਦਿਨੁ ਰਾਤੀ ਤੇਰਾ ਭਾਉ ਨ ਬੁਝਹਿ ਗਵਾਰੀ ॥: (O Lord!) You dwell, hidden, within the Heart day and night; but the fools do not understand how to Love You. (sggs 607).

Thus, the Gurbani frees us from the outer domination. Furthermore, since the Truth is without form-shape-color, the Gurbani reminds us that  it’s difficult (“Akath-ਅਕਥ“) to explain the Truth (Sach-ਸਚ)!

  • ਆਖਣਿ ਅਉਖਾ ਸੁਨਣਿ ਅਉਖਾ ਆਖਿ ਨ ਜਾਪੀ ਆਖਿ ॥: It is difficult to explain (Truth, Naam…); it is difficult to listen to it. It cannot be explained with the mouth (sggs 1239).

The outgoing senses will affect us so long we identify with the form-shape-color-name (i.e., Maya, I-am-the-body-idea, body-consciousness, I-am-ness). As a result, it will be difficult to break out of the shell of doubt (Bharam – “ਆਂਡਾ ਭਰਮ ਕਾ “).

Hence the Gurbani teaches that there is nowhere to go but inside. Understandably, the Gurbani’s edict is that the Gurmukhs search Him within, while Manmukhs just wander around perplexed by delusion, doubt..

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਖੋਜੈ ਹੋਰ ਸਭ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਈ ॥: One who becomes the Gurmukh searches within his body; all others just wander around in confusion (sggs 754).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅੰਦਰੁ ਨ ਭਾਲਨੀ ਮੁਠੇ ਅਹੰਮਤੇ ॥ ਚਾਰੇ ਕੁੰਡਾਂ ਭਵਿ ਥਕੇ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਤਿਖ ਤਤੇ ॥: Deluded (cheated, etc.) by self-conceit, the Manmukhs do not search within their own selves. (Due to) burnt by desire (of Maya…) within, they grow weary wandering in the four directions (sggs 1093).
  • ਰਤਨੁ ਰਾਮੁ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਕੇ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਤਾ ਕੋ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ॥: The Jewel (of Raam) is deep within the Heart, (but the mind entangled in Maya) does not have any Knowledge of Him (sggs 703).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਵਸੈ ਨ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: (God) abides within; do not go outside looking for Him (sggs 728).

Now, how can such Dynamic Spiritual Energy which is without form-shape-color be realized? The Gurbani tells us that this task — the purpose of human life — can be accomplished through the Gur-Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar):

  • ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਸੂਖਮੁ ਅਗਮੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਕਟੀਐ ਅਚਿੰਤੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥੧॥: “Hari” is subtle and inaccessible (unfathomable, etc.); by what process (we) can met (Him)? When the doubt is dispelled (from within the mind) through the Gur-Shabad, “Achint” (Hari, Parmaatam) always remains (remembered) in the mind. ||1|| (sggs 756).
ਦਿਨਸੁ ਨ ਰੈਨਿ ਬੇਦੁ ਨਹੀ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਤਹਾ ਬਸੈ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਨਰ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਬਾਵਰਿਆ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ॥੪॥੪॥੩੭॥: Says Kabeer! O crazy-men of the world, reflect on the Formless (“Hari”) which dwells where there is neither day nor night, and neither Vedas nor Shaastras (i.e., He is Realized in that Spiritual State which is beyond Maya; beyond scriptures …). ||4||4||37||(sggs 484).
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Filed Under: Desires, Senses, Formless, Niraakaar, Giaan, Wisdom, Ignorance, Gurbani, Maya, Illusion, Dream, Mool, Source, Origin
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15 Comments On This Post Join the Shabad-Vichaar ...

  1. Kirpal Singh

    Prabh ji basey sadh ki Rasna (M. 5).

  2. CharanS

    Piaarih Jio-
    It is interesting how some is connected to the whole -;) I had just finished reading following from a book of renowned French Scholar Derrida, and happened to see a link to your article sent to me by a friend. Thanks for doing great write up on the theme of Primordial form of being.

    The primordial impression is the absolute beginning of the generation- the primal source, that from which all others are continuously generated. In itself, however, it is not generated; it does not come into existence as that which is generated but through spontaneous generation. It does not grow up( it has no seed): it is primal creation – this is [what Heidegger does explain in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics] “the source point” or “primordial impression ” ( The phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, Appendix I) – P.83 The Voice That Keeps Silence from SPEECH AND PHENOMENA – Jacque Derrida, Northwestern University Press 1973

  3. Thank you CharanS Ji for taking the time to respond!

  4. Prakash S Bagga

    In my understanding we need to critically understand the true meaning of the word “NIRANKAAR” as being envisaged in SGGS ji. We generally take its meaning to be as FORMLESS but is it truely so.
    I find that NIRANKAAR is reference for the very SPECIFIC FORM of ABINAASEE PRABHu. We need to understand this form which is stated to be WAVE FORM and in SGGS ji this WAVE FORM is being described thru the word Guroo.
    This SINGLE WAVE (Abinaasee Prabhu) also being refered as EKANKAARu expands further in infinite waves (PASREO AAP HOYE ANANT TARUNG)..Sukhmani Sahib.
    This expansion of waves is OANKAARu.

    • Thank you Veer Ji for taking the time to respond!

    • CharanS

      Thanks PrakashSBagga jio. Yes your are right, however, it seems, there are several other simlies/metaphors that document the pasar( expansion) such as soot(thread, mati/soil, Jali/mesh…and some more). In the western thought this process is expressed as ultimate in wisdom. Socrates/ Aristotle/ other Greeks use the word “Phronesis” that Socrates describes in Cratylus as a “Phronesis (wisdom), which may signify Phoras kai rhou noesis (perception of motion and flux), or perhaps Phoras onesis (the blessing of motion), but is at any rate connected with Pheresthai (motion); gnome (judgment), again, certainly implies the ponderation or consideration (nomesis) of generation, for to ponder is the same as to consider; or, if you would rather, here is noesis, the very word just now mentioned, which is neou esis (the desire of the new); the word neos implies that the world is always in process of creation.”

      Gurbani does provide wisdom and knowledge about this world as shown above the universally explains the concepts of east and west, in addition, the BaNnee- which Sikhs are mistaken not been yet fully able to appreciate and consider BaNnee somewhat as ordinary language like with some grammar rules. GoRBaNnee is a Bridge connection to both side of the Formless and the Form ( that expands with desires) – a distinct gift of GuR NaNK not for Sikhs but the entire mankind, animal, plants and planetary domains. The NaMou BaNnee connects all.

  5. Prakash S Bagga

    In my understanding there exist nothing as FORMLESS . We should distinguish between VISIBLE and INVISIBLE forms. The WAVE FORM of anything is always INVISIBLE .There is transition of INVISIBLE FORM to VISIBLE PHYSICAL FORMS.
    And all Visible Phyical forms are perishable and only invisible Wave form is imperishable. That is why Gurbani connects us with Abinaasee Prabhu THE ENTITY which is IMPERISHABLE and is for ever.
    This IMPERISHABLE FORM is what is AADi SACHu,JUGAADi SACHu HAIBHEE SACHu NANAK HOSEE BHEE SACHu.

    • Thank you Prakash S Bagga Ji for taking the time to respond. The Gurbani’s edict is that the Brahm is beyond the worldly qualities of form, shape, color:
      • ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਿੰਨ ॥ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ॥੧॥: (“Prabh”) has no form, no shape, no color; “Prabh” is beyond these three worldly qualities. O Nanak! They alone understand this reality who are spiritually blessed. ||1|| (sggs 283).

  6. Makhan Singh Rayat

    If, we thinks, likes ,behaves as……………..” HIM”

  7. mukesh

    Gurbani says Gur ke charan dhoi dhoi peeva, is it talking about a true guru in human body or what?, is living guru necessary for jeevan mukti?

    • Thank you brother Mukesh Ji for taking the time to respond.

      is it talking about a true guru in human body or what?, is living guru necessary for jeevan mukti?

      NO.

      Duality — Doojaa Bhaav, Doojaa Bharam, or Dubidhaa, etc. — is the principle of plurality, relativism, two-ness, the notion of ‘I, you, me’, ਦੁਚਿੱਤਾ, etc. As such, it gives rise to divisions, friction, separateness, and so on. It’s the ignorance of the Haume mind (ego-mind), thus a fiction, a non-reality, mirage, Bharam (doubts), illusion (Maya) or deception (ਛੱਲ).

      The Sidhaant of the Gurmat (Upadesh, Teaching or Wisdom of the Gurbani) is DUALITY-BREAKER!!

      Understandably, the Gurbani asks why you want to server someone in a human body knowing he himself is caught in the vertex of duality (“he is born, then he dies”)?

      • ਅਵਰੁ ਦੂਜਾ ਕਿਉ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਜੰਮੈ ਤੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: Avar doojaa kio seveeai janmai tai mar jaae: Why serve another who is born, and then dies? (sggs 509).
      • ਦੂਜਾ ਸੇਵਨਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸੇ ਪਚਿ ਪਚਿ ਮੁਏ ਅਜਾਣ ॥: doojaa sevani Naanakaa sae pachi pachi mueae ajaan: Those ignorant ones who serve duality, O Nanak, rot, waste away and die (sggs 315).

      During “Sidh Gosti” (also spelt Sidh Gost etc.), Sidhas posed many questions to Baabaa Nanak. Three of those questions were as follows: “Who is your Guru? How do you become a disciple? Where does the Shabad reside?” Baabaa Nanak’s answers were as follows ( rwmklI mhlw 1 isD gosit ):
      • ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥: Sabadu Guroo surti dhuni chelaa ||: The Shabad is (my) Guroo. (My) “ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ” or focusing of Consciousness is the disciple (of This Guroo) (sggs 943).
      • ਸੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਆਛੈ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਜੋਤਿ ਸੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਹੈ ॥: Incessantly, this Shabad is in its Nij Ghar (ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ-in its Own Real Home…); (it is) through this Shabad (one) seeks (God’s) Light that pervades the three worlds (sggs 945).

      Thus, the Gurmat’s Guru is Eternal, all-pervading, Formless Principle.
      • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਮੇਰੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥: The Perfect Satiguru is always with me (sggs 618).
      • ਗੁਰੁ ਮੇਰੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਸਦਾ ਹੈ ਨਾਲੇ ॥: My Guru is always with me, near at hand (sggs 394).
      • ਆਪੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਆਪੇ ॥: Aape Satguru Sabadu hai aape (sggs 797).
      • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਮੇਰਾ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਨਾ ਆਵੈ ਨਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਹੈ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧੩॥: My Satguru is Everlasting (Immortal, etc.); He neither comes nor goes (i.e., beyond birth and death). He Himself is the Imperishable Being (Eternal, Parmeshar, Parmaatam, Prabh, Mool, Jot, etc.) who, pervades among all ||13|| (sggs 759).

      Gurbani says Gur ke charan dhoi dhoi peeva

      It’s very clear from the Sidhaant of the Gurmat that the Gurmat’s “Gur ke charan” are not physiological “Charan”.

      Instead, the Gurmat’s “Gur ke charan” are => Divine Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad, Upadesh of the Gur-Shabad, Brahm-Giaan of the Gur-Shabad, ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸ, ਗੁਰ-ਸਬਦ ਦਾ ਸਚ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ….

      When the Gurbani asks us to attach to the Gur-Charan, it’s simply asking us to attach to the Divine Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad (ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸ ਜਾਂ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦੇ ਲੜ ਲਗਣਾਂ) and daily life accordingly.

      Now, the question is how would you serve such Formless Principle?

      According to the Gurbani, the best way to serve Him is to live daily life in accordance with the Gurmat. So, a true seeker serves Him by constantly practicing His Shabad, or Naam (Aatam-Giaan, Spiritual Knowledge…).
      • ਕਿਸੁ ਸੇਵੀ ਤੈ ਕਿਸੁ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੀ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ॥: Whom should I serve, and whom should I praise? I serve the Satiguru by praising the Shabad (sggs 1048).
      • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: The Gur-Sevaa is Shabad-Vichaar (Reflection on the Shabad). (sggs 223).
      • ਨਾਮੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ॥੧॥: Naam-Sevaa for me is the Gur-Sevaa (sggs 1145).

      Thus the Gurmat Sidhaant is original and unique — distinct from the Brahminical traditions!

      Bhul Chuk Maaf.

      • mukesh

        Thank u T Singh ji for the best answer, one more question I want to ask because I am full of ego and duality.
        In SGGS it is written, Japio jin Arjun Dev Guru fir sankat Jon garab na aayo. Means he will not come to cycle of birth and death. Guru Arjun Dev ji had also taken the human birth. The liberated souls do take human birth to leberate the human beings and they are God in the human form. Pls correct me if I m wrong

  8. prakash S Bagga

    Mukesh ji,
    In response to your message I would like to share my views asunder.
    It is important to understand that Arjun Dev ji did not take birth as Guru.As per Gurbani Guru is beyond cycle of births. There is no cocept of GOD in SGGS ji.
    Abinaasee Prabhu is the highest ENTITY as Ultimate Lord /Master.
    Therfore the interpretation of “Japio jin Arjun Dev Guru fir sankat Jon garab na aayo” should be understood in above contexts.

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