Teerath Yaatraa – Pilgrimage

First thing first, Teerath Yaatraa (also spelt Tirath or Tirth Yatra – ਤੀਰਥ ਯਾਤਰਾ ) is repudiated in the Gurmat (Teaching of the Gur-Shabad).

The SGGS does not ask us to wander around these places!

Then, as per the Gurbani, what is considered Teerath (place of pilgrimage, holy spot, etc.)? According to the Gurbani – not according to the fool-o-sophy – the true Teerath in Gurmat is the Hari Naam.

  • ਤੀਰਥੁ ਹਮਰਾ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: The Hari Naam is my Teerath. The Guru has instructed me in this True Essence of spiritual Wisdom (Aatmic-Giaan; ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਸੂਝ ਦਾ ਇਹ ਨਿਚੋੜ – ਗਿਆਨ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1142).
  • ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਣ ਜਾਉ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ॥: Teerathi naavan jaaou teerathu naamu hai (sggs 687).
  • ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਤੀਰਥ ਮਜਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Aath pahar simarahu prabh Naamu… (sggs 184).

Where is this Teerath of the Gurbani located?

Baabaa Nanak made it very clear in the outset of the SGGS that this Teerath is located within. And we must go within and cleanse ourselves in this Teerath.

  • ਅੰਤਰਗਤਿ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਮਲਿ ਨਾਉ ॥: Cleanse yourself with the Naam, at the Teerath deep within. (sggs 4).

Then why do many (educated and uneducated alike) wander around at the external places called Teerath?

Again, according to the Gurbani, these people are Manmukh, deluded by doubt (ਭਰਮਾ ਦੇ ਪੱਟੇ ਹੋਏ), corrupt minded, Mayadhaaree (mammon worshippers), Haumai ridden (egoistic), greedy (who have reduced the Gurbani to a mere mundane business), who are ignorant of the Gurbani’s true Teaching…

  • ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਭਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗਹੈ ॥: Deluded by doubt (he) visits all Teerath (external shrines of pilgrimage). (sggs 948).
  • ਮਨ ਕਾ ਝੂਠਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਨੋ ਫਿਰੈ ਤਪਾ ਸਦਾਵੈ ॥ ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਭਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗਹੈ ॥: The man of false mind practices falsehood. He runs after Maya, and yet pretends to be Tapaa (a devotee, a hermit, a recluse, etc.)… (sggs 1142).
  • ਜਿਸੁ ਜੀਉ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਤੀਰਥ ਭਵੈ ਦਿਸੰਤਰ ਲੋਇ ॥: Jisu jiou antaru mailaa hoi. Teerath bhavai disantar loi (sggs 1169).

In nutshell, those who wander at the external Teerath are mammon worshippers, who have no clue as to what the Gur-Shabad is saying. It’s the hunger for Maya that makes many roam around; for Maya itself is “Dolanee” like wind (“ਡੋਲਨੀ”-that wavers, roams, wanders, ਜੋ ਟਿਕਦੀ ਨਹੀ…).

How can we all realize the Teerath within as commanded by the Gurbani?

Again, according to the Gurbani, the True Teerath within can be realized through the Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan) cultivated through the earnest Shabad-Vichhar.

  • ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ॥: To Reflect on the Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar…) is the Teerath (because of this) Spiritual Wisdom arises within (sggs 687).
  • ਗੁਰਦੇਵ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰੋਵਰੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨ ਮਜਨੁ ਅਪਰੰਪਰਾ ॥: The Gurdev is the Teerath, and the pool of Amrit; bathing in the Guru-wisdom, one experiences the Infinite. (sggs 262).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ॥ ਮੈਲੁ ਗਈ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰਿ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਇ ॥: Deep within is the sacred shrine (Teerath) of Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom…), which the Satigur has revealed. Bathing in (this Teerath), the pool of Amrit, filth of the mind (filth of Bikaars…) is removed and it becomes pure. (sggs 587).

Thus, we are time and again told by the Gurbani that all pilgrimages are in the Divine Naam (Gur-Shabad, Hukam, Aatam-Giaan of the Gurbani…), through which one realizes the “sixty-eight” places of pilgrimage within his own Heart by becoming the Gurmukh.

  • ਸਚਾ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵਣੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ॥ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਤਿਤੁ ਨਾਤੈ ਮਲੁ ਜਾਏ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਹੈ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨਾ ਮਲੁ ਲਗੈ ਨ ਲਾਏ ॥ ਸਚੀ ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਚੀ ਸਾਲਾਹ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਪਾਏ ॥੫॥: Sachaa teerathu jitu satt sari naavanu gurmukhi aapi bujhaaey… (sggs 753).
  • ਸਚੁ ਤਾਂ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਆਤਮ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥: Sachu taan paru jaaneeai jaa atam teerathi kare nivaasu (sggs 468).

This little story attributed to Bhagat Kabeer Sahib highlights the emptiness of Teerath Yaatraa and ablutions. It goes something like this: A disciple of Bhagat Kabeer Sahib 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 of Teerath places, he also bathed the gourd. Upon his returning from the pilgrimage, he gave the gourd back to Bhagat Kabeer Sahib. In turn, Kabeer Sahib 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 deluded and immature student 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 ablution. This is the Gurbani’s edict. The outer mind is like an oily rag, which can only be cleansed with the Water of the Divine Name within — the Inner bodily Pool or “Sarovar“.

  • 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॥: (People of) evil mind and thievish bodies (body occupied with thieves like lust, anger, greed, etc.), go to bathe at the pilgrim places. The one part of their bodily filth (external filth) is washed off by bathing, but they accumulate twice as much (of mental filth – pride, ego…). (It’s like a gourd) a gourd may be washed off on the outside, but on the inside, it remains filled with poison (i.e., bitterness…). Pious or virtuous beings are blessed, even without such bathing (at pilgrim places – ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ), while thieves remain thieves, no matter how much they bathe (at pilgrim places – ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ) ||2|| (sggs 789).
  • ਬਹੁ ਤੀਰਥ ਭਵਿਆ ॥ ਤੇਤੋ ਲਵਿਆ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਭੇਖ ਕੀਆ ਦੇਹੀ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ॥…: The more one wanders at Teerath the more one talks uselessly (in ego, he goes around telling others that he has visited this Teerath or that Teerath). The more one wears religious robes, the more pain he causes his body. (sggs 467).
  • ਜਹਾ ਜਾਈਐ ਤਹ ਜਲ ਪਖਾਨ ॥ … ਊਹਾਂ ਤਉ ਜਾਈਐ ਜਉ ਈਹਾਂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥ : (Bhagat Rama Nand Ji proclaims:) Wherever (i.e., pilgrim places) I go, I find (only two things) water and stones (i.e., idols). … I would need go there only if the Divine were not here (within my mind, meaning since the Divine is within I need not go to visit any pilgrim place). ||2|| (sggs 1195).
Filed Under: Gurbani, Pilgrimage, Ablutions, Tirath-Teerath
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48 Comments Leave a Reply to Harvinder Singh

  1. Peter Jansen

    Dear T. Singh,

    I have a question about the number sixty-eight (places of pilgrimage). Where does this number originate from? What is it’s metaphorical meaning?

    • Thanks Peter Ji for taking the time to respond!

      “Where does this number originate from?”

      According to Hindu belief, there are sixty-eight external places of pilgrimage (Teerath). The Hindu priest-class may have counted them and came up with this number! These so called holy places are marked on the map of India.

      To arrive at the ultimate freedom, Hindu Mat requires that a person bathe at sixty-eight holy places.

      So, people wander at these places in the hope of arriving at the ultimate freedom!!

      However, as revealed in the Gurbani, Baabaa Nanak’s observations of these places are quite different. That is, he found these places to be corrupt.

      So, the Gurbani boldly declares that Saakat (separated from their Mool, faithless, Mayadhaaree, Manmukh…) wander around at these corrupt or polluted places:
      • ਸਾਕਤ ਥਾਨ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਫਿਰਾਹੀ ॥੫॥: Saakat Thaan Bhrisat phiraahee (sggs 239).

      “What is it’s metaphorical meaning?”

      In reality places on the map are merely symbols, which represent an inner journey through which one must pass to attain Divine Virtues or Divine Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan).

      The external map is a symbolic translation of man’s internal world. Everything within man is very subtle. Priest-class of all religions is known to be crafty, thus good at misleading people.

      The Gurbani makes it very clear that all Teerath are located within. And we must go within and cleanse ourselves there. The article has elaborated on this.

  2. Gurpreet K.

    Why do we even need to go on yathras or specific generates if Guru no is with us, and his Gurbani is within us (should we learn what Gurbani is teaching us and apply it to our lives). Guru ji says Saajanra mera Saajanra, nikat kaloriya mera Saajanra.
    If we do believe that God can it be found in a certain place, that just sounds like we are saying that God is only created for a certain spot, or for a certain group of people. This is not the case at all. God created everyone equal, and gave everyone the equal opportunity to learn Gurbani. We cannot have the belief that God only resides in one place.
    In Gurbani, Guru ji also states the two places Haramba and Banarse. People go to Banarse thinking that all their wrong doings will be completly be washed off, but Guru no says that is not the case. He says person with good morals, and who is a Gurmukh can go to the city of Haramba and he will stay with God, and nothing can hurt or touch him. In that sense, all the manmade ideas that we have created without logically thinking about them have kept us in darkness. That abroad of darkness can only be removed if we logically understand Gurbani.

    • Thank you sister Gurpreet Ji for taking the time sharing Vichaar! We welcome you to the Gurbani Blog.

      That abroad of darkness can only be removed if we logically understand Gurbani.

      Yes, the Wisdom (Divine Knowledge, Brahm-Giaan…) of the Gurbani can completely remove the darkness of ignorance.
      • ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪਲੀਤਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਹਵਾਈ ਗੋਲਾ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਅਗਨਿ ਸਹਜੇ ਪਰਜਾਲੀ ਏਕਹਿ ਚੋਟ ਸਿਝਾਇਆ ॥੪॥ (sggs 1161-1162).

  3. Prakash S Bagga

    Verr Harvinder Singh ji,
    I appreciate your understanding of interpretation ofGurbaanee words as per grammatical considerations but the word for “Guru da parsaad” has to be a Noun and the word for “Guru di kirpa naal” has to be A TRANSITIVE.In this context it would be nteresting to understand the grammar of following words in Gurbaanee as

    1..PRASAADi………….Matra of Sihari
    2.PRASAADEE………Matra of Bihari
    3…PARSAAD…….Without any matra
    4…PARSAADu……With matra of Aukad with letter D

    The words 3 n 4 are NOUNS whereas 1 n 2 are Trasitive
    Bhul Chuk Maaf


  4. Prakash s Bagga

    I would like to refer to the contents of your message as
    “‘Cause “Gurmat” word here is a feminine word ” Guru di matt” and therefore SIHARI is used here to represent this word as feminine but the pronounciation will still be “Gurmat” and not “Gurmatee”.
    I have written Gurmat as Gurmati not as gurmatee
    and in view of above consideration what should be the pronunciation for the Word “PRASAADi” which is not a feminine ? Why this is pronounced as Prasaad only leaving the pronunciation rel;ated to matra sihari.

    • Harvinder Singh

      Here, sihari to word “Parsaad” represents a “connection”, also called Preposition” in English.
      and called ” Sambandhak” in punjabi.
      A sihari with a masculine word almost always represents a connection to the word before it.
      For ex. “Gur Parsaad” where “parsaad” has a sihari..means :Guru da parsaad” or “Guru di kirpa naal”

  5. Prakash S Bagga

    One should give consideration to a Quote from Gurbaanee as

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