Within the fortress of Kanchan Kaaiaa, the Lord is Realized (obtained, proved...). (sggs 449).

You may gold-fill or gold-plate facade of a building, it will survive and even make it look attractive. But, if you gold-fill or gold-plate a live human body, it will not survive. It will become a mummy! Obviously, here Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) would not be talking about gold-filling or gold-plating one's body. Furthermore, the SGGS would not be talking about importance of one's skin color or complexion, or accumulation of Gold. Because, as the SGGS points out, it really does not matter the body and all other possessions will ultimately be lost!

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਜਗੁ ਬਾਧਿਓ ਜਿਹ ਜੇਵਰੀ ਤਿਹ ਮਤ ਬੰਧਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ॥ ਜੈਹਹਿ ਆਟਾ ਲੋਨ ਜਿਉ ਸੋਨ ਸਮਾਨਿ ਸਰੀਰੁ ॥੧੧੭॥: Kabeer jag baadhio jih jevaree tih mat bandhahu Kabeer. Jaihahi aataa lon jiou son samaan sareer ||117||: Kabeer, do not bind yourself with that chain (of attachment to Maya), with which the world is bound. As the salt is lost in the flour, so willl disappear your gold like body (valuable, rare, Durlabh, ਕੀਮਤੀ, etc., if you chain yourself to Maya) ||117|| (sggs 1370).
  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਸੁਇਨੇ ਕੀ ਢਾਲਾ ॥: Kanchan kaaiaa suine kee dhaalaa (sggs 567).

Many people claim (based on total hearsay, imagination or speculation) that when a person becomes God-realized, his body literally changes to the color of the gold!

It's unimaginable to think that the Infinite Wisdom of the SGGS here might be talking about superficiality such as the color of one's skin!

Then what is it the Gurbani (SGGS) might be talking about here when it refers to the "ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ: Kanchan Kaaiaa" or golden body? In this context, through the Gurbani, we will attempt to grasp the following:

  1. What is "ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ: Kanchan Kaaiaa" or golden body?
  2. We are all born with the golden body.
  3. If we are born with the golden body, then how it became disfigured?
  4. How can we all reclaim our gold like radiant status back?

Number (1) will become obvious once we grasp the understanding of the number (2), (3) and (4) first. Therefore, to best understand #1, let's first try understanding # 2, #3 and #4 through the Gurbani.

We Are All Born With the Golden Body.

Yes, from the spiritually standpoint, we all are ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ - Kanchan Kaaiaa. here the term "ਕਾਇਆ " (Kaaiaa) refers to the Inner subtle body (ਅੰਦਰਲੀ ਦੇਹੀ ਜੋ ਅਖਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਨਹੀ ਦਿਸਦੀ - mind, soul, thinking...)), not the external or the gross body-frame.

But on account of our mistaken identification (disfigurement) with the gross body, we have forgotten it. As infants, we all are born Kanchan Kaaiaa (Kanchan = gold; and Kaaiaa = body), precious as gold both in value (i.e., rare to obtain, etc.) and purity. Now let's pause for a moment and think about the significance of the infant state. For one, a new born infant is the epitome of self-surrender and innocence. What does it mean? To be like an infant means to be free of the false ego-sense or Haume. To be free of Haume means to be free of its offspring like lust, anger, attachment, greed, pride and their numerous variations such as discontentment, selfishness, enviousness, stubborn-mindedness, corruption, possessiveness, slander, and so on. Freedom from Haume or Purity (freedom from Maya...) makes us lustrous as gold, and links us back to our Kanchan Kaaiaa within.

  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਹੰਸੁ ॥ ਜਿਸੁ ਮਹਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਅੰਸੁ ॥: Kanchan kaaiaa niramal hansu. Jisu mahi Naamu Niranjan Ansu: The mortal's Kanchan kaaiaa (is Pure), and the soul-swan is immaculate (Pure), in which there is even tiny particle of the Immaculate Naam (sggs 1256).
  • ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਬਾਲਕ ਬੁਧਿ ਅਚੇਤੁ ॥: Pahilai paharai rain kai vanajaariaa mitraa baalak budhi achetu: In the first watch of the night (of the life), O merchant friend, the (Jeev - an individual being is) of the child's Budhi (intellect), unmindful (ਬੇ-ਪਰਵਾਹ, unaware...). (sggs 75).

As indicated in the SGGS, the soul is the Image of God — Light of God (self-effulgent, ever fresh and young, full of Beauty and luster as gold) diffused in all, the Essence of life and the Source of Bliss. Nothing in the body has the power to function without it. Once the soul-swan has departed and flown away, the body is medically declared dead. The soul is "Immaculate" (Pure or "Joti-Svaroopa") like the gold, encased in the body-frame it animates. Spiritually, we all are born with "Kanchan Kaaiaa": "the infinite fortress of gold". When the soul gets superimposed with the egoism (Haume), functions of the body-mind-intellect apparatus also get tainted.

  • ਦੇਹ ਕੰਚਨ ਜੀਨੁ ਸੁਵਿਨਾ ਰਾਮ ॥ ਜੜਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਰਤੰਨਾ ਰਾਮ ॥: Deh kanchan jeen suvinaa Raam. Jarh Har Har naam ratanna Raam: That body-horse is like gold (Pure, precious, radiant etc.), which is saddled (adorned) with the Jewel of the Naam (sggs 576).
  • ਕਾਇਆ ਕੰਚਨ ਕੋਟੁ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥ ਜਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਰਵਿਆ ਸਬਦੁ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥: Kaaiaa kanchan kot apaaraa. Jis vich raviaa shabad appaar: That Kanchan Kaaiaa is the infinite fortress (of gold); which is permeated by the Infinite Shabad (sggs 1059).

To be in the gold-like Pure state is to be saturated with the Unconditioned, Immaculate, Intact, Complete, Total, Undivided, Unadulterated, Unalloyed, Unbroken, Timeless, Uncontaminated, Immutable, or Pure Consciousness (Saabat Soorat) where there is no time, space and causation, or past and future (Doojaa Bhaav or duality). Such a state arises when there is no attachment to the mind (egoism, Maya...).

  • ਕਾਇਆ ਕਿਰਦਾਰ ਅਉਰਤ ਯਕੀਨਾ ॥ ਰੰਗ ਤਮਾਸੇ ਮਾਣਿ ਹਕੀਨਾ ॥ ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥ ॥੧੨॥: Let the 'Kirdaar' (conduct, character, good deeds, practice, ਅਮਲ, ਆਚਰਨ, ਚਾਲ-ਚਲਣ... ) of your 'Kaaiaa' (subtle body - mind, soul, thinking, ਸੋਚ...) be high, free from Bikaar (lust, and so on, so that woman can trust you, etc.). Enjoy what's rightfully is yours. (You are) impure, purify (yourself) -- let this be your counsel of 'Hadees'. Let your Intact Consciousness ("Saabat Soorat" -- consciousness free of Bikaar...) be the turban on your head. ||12|| (sggs 1084).
  • ਨਦਰਿ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਉ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿ ਸਾਬਤੁ ਲਾਏ ਰਾਸਿ ॥: Nadari tinaa kau Nankaa ji saabatu laaeae raasi (sggs 1238).

If We Are Born With the Golden Body, Then How It Became Disfigured?

Simply put, it's the rise of the false ego-sense (Haume, Maya duality...) on the Infinite Pool of the Pure Awareness ("Joti-Svaroopa") that veils the golden state.

  • ਦੇਹ ਕੰਚਨ ਵੇ ਵੰਨੀਆ ਇਨਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਵਿਗੁਤੀਆ ॥: Deh kanchan ve vanneeaa in houmai maar viguteeaa: This golden body (Pure, Beautiful, Precious etc.) has been disfigured and ruined by egotism (sggs 776).

As one grows, due to the social mold and the environment one is thrown into, he ends up with the conditioned mental make-up. Then, from this conditioned body-mind-intellect personality (Haume or ego-being) arises the ego-being. In the process, we get separated from the Pure Consciousness (golden state, Mool, Jot, Source, Origin...). In other words while growing up, we get programmed and trained to identify with the feeling of "mine, mine!". In this mode, side by side, false ego-sense (Haume) gets developed and our doubts (Bharam-ਭਰਮ) get densed as we grow from infancy to adolescence. It then gets firmly-rooted after we marry and entangle in the achievement of various worldly desires. The moment physical ego becomes stronger in us, we become locked up, walled or cribbed in the prison of desires and fears. Consequently, the worldly consciousness (Haume, Maya) looks real to us. As a result, one becomes entangled in emotional attachment to his wife, children, relatives, friends, parents, and so on. Anger and greed follows the lust.  Such conditioning results in false self-identifications with the time-bound consciousness (Haume), resulting in forgetfulness of the state of Pure Being (gold-like state).

  • ਸਾਬਤੁ ਰਖਹਿ ਤ ਰਾਮ ਭਜੁ ਨਾਹਿ ਤ ਬਿਨਠੀ ਬਾਤ ॥: Saabat rakhahi taa raam bhaj naahi taa binathee baat (sggs 1376).
  • ਪਰਮੇਸਰ ਤੇ ਭੁਲਿਆਂ ਵਿਆਪਨਿ ਸਭੇ ਰੋਗ ॥ ਵੇਮੁਖ ਹੋਏ ਰਾਮ ਤੇ ਲਗਨਿ ਜਨਮ ਵਿਜੋਗ ॥: Paramesar te bhulliaan viaapan sabhe rog. Vemukh hoi Raam te lagan janam vijog: Forgetting the Transcendent Lord, all sorts of illnesses (of this material world) are contracted. Those who turn their backs on the Lord (in this life) will be separated from Him for many lives (sggs 135).
  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਪੋਟ ਉਠਾਈ ਚਲਿਅਉ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਡਾਨ ਭਰੇ ॥ ਪੋਟ ਡਾਰਿ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਤਉ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਭਏ ॥: Jayu layu pota ....: As long as I walked along, carrying the load (egotism, love of Maya...), I continued to suffer. (But) O Nanak! meeting (Realizing...) the Perfect Guru (the Perfect Aatam-Giaan, Gur-Giaan, Upadesh of the Gur-Shabad ...), I unloaded myself and became Fearless (sggs 214).
  • ਮੇਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਡੂਬੇ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮੁਏ ਗਵਾਰਾ ॥: Meree meree kari kari doobe khapi khapi muye gavaaraa: Continually claiming, "mine, mine", the mortals are drowned; the fools waste away and die (sggs 380).

How Can We All Reclaim our Gold Like Radiant Status Back?

"Why do I need to reclaim it back?", one may ask. Because, as the Guru-Shabad indicates, the Lord is revealed within only if we transcend Maya. So if one has the longing to Realize the Moll within (Source, Origin Jot...), he has to first reclaim his golden status back. Very simple!

The SGGS indicates we can reclaim the golden Kaaiaa by eradicating the culprit that disfigured or veiled it in first place: Haume or false ego-sense. Perhaps now we can appreciate as to why the SGGS time and again indicates Haume to be the "greatest disease" and urges us to eradicate Haume. By abandoning this "burden" of false self-identifications with the time-bound consciousness, we can retrace our steps back to the Original gold-like State - the state of no Maya, Haume or ego. How we can accomplish this is explained by the following verses (and many more throughout the SGGS).

  • ਕਾਇਆ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਤਾਂ ਥੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਲਏ ਮਿਲਾਏ ॥: Kaaiaa kanchan taan theeai jaan Satgur laye milaaye: Kaaiaa becomes like gold (Pure, precious, Holy, etc.), when the Satguru unites one with Himself (through His Teaching or Upadesh) (sggs 584).
  • ਸਦਾ ਰਹੇ ਕੰਚਨ ਸੀ ਕਾਯਾ ਕਾਲ ਨ ਕਬਹੂੰ ਬਯਾਪੈ ॥: Sadaa rahe kanchan si kaaiaa kaal na kabahoon biaapai: (By meditating) the Kaaiaa always remains radiant like gold and become Immortal (Sri Guru Gobind Singh, 1346).
  • ਕਾਇਆ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ ॥: Kaaiaa kanchan sabad veechaaraa: Contemplating the Shabad, the Kaaiaa becomes (like) golden (sggs 1064).
  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਨਿਰਮਲੀ ਜੋ ਸਚਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਚਿ ਲਾਗੀ ॥: Kanchan kaaiaa niramalee jo sach naam sach laagee: Kanchan Kaaiaa attached to the True Name of the True Lord is immaculate (Pure) (sggs 590).
  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਵਾਸੀ ਹੇ ॥: Kanchan kaaiaa Gurmukh boojhai jis antar naam nivaasee hey: By becoming the Gurmukh, within whom the Naam dwells, Understands the Kanchan Kaaiaa. (sggs 1048).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਰਚੈ ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਜੋਤੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਮਿਲਈਆ ॥: Gurmukh parachai kanchan kaaiaa nirabhaou jotee jot mileeaa: (sggs 833).
  • ਮਾਣਸ ਜਨਮੁ ਵਡ ਪੁੰਨੇ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੇਹ ਸੁ ਕੰਚਨ ਚੰਗੜੀਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰੰਗੁ ਚਲੂਲਾ ਪਾਵੈ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਵ ਰੰਗੜੀਆ ॥: Maanas janam vadd punne paaeiaa deh su kanchan changarreeaa...: (sggs 575).
  • ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਏ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਰਾਇਣੁ ਕਹੈ ਕਹਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਵਾਟ ਮਹਲੁ ਘਰੁ ਪਾਏ ॥੩॥ ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਜੋਤਿ ਅਨੂਪੁ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਦੇਵਾ ਸਗਲ ਸਰੂਪੁ ॥: Aaasaa manasaa sabad jalaaye...: (sggs 414).
  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਕੋਟ ਗੜ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਧਾ ॥: Kanchan kaaiaa kot garh vich har har sidhaa: Within the fortress of Kanchan Kaaiaa, the Lord is Realized (obtained, proved...). (sggs 449).
  • ਕੰਚਨ ਕੋਟੁ ਬਹੁ ਮਾਣਕਿ ਭਰਿਆ ਜਾਗੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਤਤਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਈਆ ॥: Kanchan kot bahu maanak bhariaa jaage giaan tati liv leeaa: The gold like fortress (of Kaaiaa) is filled with Jewels (of Virtues-ਉੱਚੇ ਆਤਮਕ ਗੁਣਾਂ ਦੇ); it is awakened by becoming absorbed the Essence of the Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan). (sggs 833).
  • ਅਠੀ ਪਹਰੀ ਅਠ ਖੰਡ ਨਾਵਾ ਖੰਡੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਉ ਨਿਧਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਏਕੁ ਭਾਲਹਿ ਗੁਣੀ ਗਹੀਰੁ ॥ ਕਰਮਵੰਤੀ ਸਾਲਾਹਿਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਰਿ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ॥ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਹਰਿ ਸਬਾਹ ਕੈ ਸੁਰਤਿਆ ਉਪਜੈ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਤਿਨਾ ਦਰੀਆਵਾ ਸਿਉ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਸਚਾ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਓਥੈ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਵੰਡੀਐ ਕਰਮੀ ਹੋਇ ਪਸਾਉ ॥ ਕੰਚਨ ਕਾਇਆ ਕਸੀਐ ਵੰਨੀ ਚੜੈ ਚੜਾਉ ॥ ਜੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਸਰਾਫ ਕੀ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਨ ਪਾਈ ਤਾਉ ॥ ਸਤੀ ਪਹਰੀ ਸਤੁ ਭਲਾ ਬਹੀਐ ਪੜਿਆ ਪਾਸਿ ॥ ਓਥੈ ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੀਐ ਕੂੜੈ ਘਟੈ ਰਾਸਿ ॥ ਓਥੈ ਖੋਟੇ ਸਟੀਅਹਿ ਖਰੇ ਕੀਚਹਿ ਸਾਬਾਸਿ ॥ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਫਾਦਲੁ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਖਸਮੈ ਪਾਸਿ ॥1॥: Athee paharee ath khand naavaa khand sareer...: (consider eight watches of the day and night as eight Khand or places, and the body the ninth Khand) During the eight watches of the day and night (twenty-four hours), (O’ mortal !) transcend eight things [five deadly passins: lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride) and three qualities (of the material nature or Maya: Taamas, Raajas, and Saatav)], and transcend the body-consciousness (the ninth Khand). Within the body are the Naou Nidhi (treasure) of the Naam - seek it there and become the ocean of Virtues. O Nanak, making the Guru their spiritual Guide, the blessed ones praise the Lord. In the fourth watch, a longing arises in those of higher consciousness (exalted understanding). They become attuned or friend with those who have the True Nam in their minds and on their lips (Gurmukhs within whom is flowing the stream of Naam). The Amorist (of the Naam) is distributed there, and fortunate ones receive this Gift. (As the gold is assayed by treating it with the process of heat, similarly, by applying the Naam) the Kanchan Kaaiaa is assayed. If the Jeweler (the Lord) casts His Glance of Grace, they do not need further heat treatment (trial, assaying, or Ghaalanaa). Throughout the other seven watches of the day, it is good to practice Truth, and sit with the spiritually Wise (Gurmukhs). There, vice and virtue are discerned (judged or discriminated), and the capital of falsehood is decreased. (Because) there, the falsehood (counterfeit) is cast aside, and the Truth is cheered. Says Nanak, (there one also gets this Understanding that) pain and pleasure are in the power of God, therefore it's vain to talk (or complain) about (pain etc.) ||1|| (sggs 146).

What is "Kanchan Kaaiaa": Golden Body?

Now let's sum it up as to what the "Kanchan Kaaiaa" is as indicated by the Gurbani. Essentially, it's the state of:

  • Pure Consciousness, Intact Consciousness, Unconditioned Consciousness ("Joti-Svaroopa"), precious as gold, radiant as gold
  • Satt-Svaroopa (ਸੱਤ ਸ੍ਵਰੂਪ) - completely genuine (ਪੱਕਾ), devoid of Bikaars or defects (ਬਿਕਾਰ ਜਾਂ ਖੋਟ ਤੋਂ ਖਾਲੀ)
  • Gurmukhtaa
  • Spiritual Perfection (Pooraa, Pooran Pada)
  • The mind at Perfect Rest or Peace (Sahaj), beyond the bounds of time, space and causation
  • The mind linked to the Mool (ਮੂਲ - Source, Origin, Jot...) within
  • The mind permanently established in correct Vision or outlook
  • Perfect Spiritual Fitness
  • Sahaj, Sunn, Bismaad, Immortal Bliss (Anand)
  • Naam-consciousness
  • Shabad-Surti
  • Unbroken Awareness
  • Linking of one's individual light to the Cosmic Light
  • Baal-Budhi
  • No Haume or ego
  • Infinite Wisdom, Grace and Joy
  • Inner Transformation
  • Realization of the Truth within
  • Unbroken Communion with the Divine within
  • Absolute Purity in thoughts, speech and actions
  • Becoming One with the Satguru within (Gurmat, Teachings of the Gurbani or Upadesh)...

In nutshell, when one is established in his Kanchan Kaaiaa, not only lips but his entire being smiles — radiating luminous rays of Grace, Wisdom, Peace and Joy...

Such Spiritual Being (the Gurmukh) sees One Parameshar in all beings, and shares unconditioned love and compassion with everyone. The innocence of a child awakens within (free of ego or Haume, worry, anxiety...). The world becomes Bismaad (a wonder). Indeed, to be in the Presence of such a Spiritual Being (the Gurmukh) situated in the elevated state of Spiritual Realization (Spiritual Attainment...) is to experience the best the life has to offer. The very presence of such an Enlightened Being — his calmness, his serenity, his overflowing Bliss (Anand) and compassion, and his enlightened vibes — pulsate others towards a new life.

— T. Singh