Gurbani can only be Comprehended Through Gurbani Itself

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is the most Unique philosophy of life. This is an Enlightening Message of universality for all. It is the divine Giyan-Wisdom of freedom from hatred, fear, anxiety, illusions, delusions, superstitions, doubts, and vices/Bikaar. It is a test of a healthy, happy, free, fearless, selfless, and unbiased life journey. This is the divine principle of self-examination of life in the Bani of the Gurus and the Bhagats contained in the SGGS.

The Gurbani enshrined within the SGGS teaches Sikhs (lifelong learners/students of the Guru Shabad) that in any doubt about meaning of one word or SHABAD, find the answer from within the SGGS.

In other words, the spiritual meaning and essence of words or SHABADS contained in the SGGS are to be found in the SGGS, NOT any other religious texts. Why? Here is the Gurbani’s answer:

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਬਿਨਾ ਹੋਰ ਕਚੀ ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ ॥ : The Bani uttered by anybody other than the Satguru is ‘Kachee‘ (half baked; useless; lies, false, devoid of divine Wisdom etc.). (sggs 920).

With that said, the GURBANI in the SGGS calls for the use of the GURBANI to understand, explain, translate and interpret it.

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਪਾਵਨ ਸੇ ਜਨ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੮॥ : The Guru’s Bani (Gurbani’s teachings) can only be comprehended through the Bani itself by those who with love remain imbued with the Guru Shabad (SGGS). Such people are of clean conduct and pure consciousness (i.e. free of vices/Bikaar) for they live by Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Hukam...). ||8|| (sggs 1346).

The above assertion in the foregoing verse of the Gurbani is significant as it underscores that the key to understanding and imbibing Sikhi based on the teachings of the Gurbani is within the SGGS itself.

This provides us with an essential gauge or basis (‘ਆਧਾਰੁ’) with which to discover the Uniqueness and universal scope of the Massage of the true Sikhi of Guru Nanak.

  • ਮੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੇਤੀ ਪਿਰਹੜੀ ਕਿਉ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਜੀਵਾ ਮਾਉ ॥ ਮੈ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਆਧਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਲਾਗਿ ਰਹਾਉ ॥੮॥ : I have deep love for the ‘Satigur‘ (True Wisdom-ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ). O my mother (metaphor for Mayaic mind, intellect, conscience…), how can I live without Guru (Giyan-Wisdom). Gurbani (i.e. the Enlightening spiritual  Wisdom of the Guru Shabad) is the Base or Support of my life. Attuned to the Guru Shabad I remain spiritually alive. ||8|| (sggs 759).

Misinterpretation and distortion of the Gurbani in the SGGS happened after GURU period in the hands of UDASI and NIRMALA sects, who rewrote the spiritual messages of GURBANI in context of VEDANTIC SPIRITUALITY when administration of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions came under their control. UDASIS and NIRMALAS had their origins in Snatan and Vedic beliefs. They infused Vedic mythical beliefs and rituals and superstitions  into the Unique spirituality of Guru Nanak.

  • ਮਾਰਿਆ ਸਿਕਾ ਜਗਤ੍ਰਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਪੰਥ ਚਲਾਇਆ । : In the world of spirituality, the Panth of Nanak has its Trademark in its Uniqueness as being ‘Nirmal‘-uncontaminated (by existing pre-1469 beliefs). (Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar1, Pauree 45).

The first ever translation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is known as the FREEDKOTI TEEKA. This Freedkoti Teeka was undertaken by the members of the same group of people who injected Snatan and Vedic beliefs into the Gurbani. Sadly, this Freedkoti Teeka became the prototype for future translations of the SGGS. The result is that the currently available variety of distorted Teekaas of the SGGS are primarily based on sources OUTSIDE of Gurbani. For example:

  • Literal methods,
  • Incident (time, location, person etc.),
  • Framework of Shastras, Vedas, Purans, and other Indict texts,
  • Yogic slants, methods, system,
  • Ideology of Bipparvaad, Brahmin, Pandit etc.,
  • Deraavaad, who promote themselves instead of the enlightening spiritual Message contained in the Guru Shabad,
  • Fake Sakhis (made-up stories, ਮੰਨ-ਘੜਤ) that distort meaning of the Unique spirituality of Guru Nanak,
  • Books written by the anti-Nanak and anti-Sikhi groups — about three dozens or so books such as Suraj Parkash, Gurbilas, Janam Sakhis etc. are all written by the UDASIS and NIRMALAS and all filled with infiltration of Snatan and Vedic beliefs and mythology into the Unique (Nirmal) and Revolutionary Sikhi of Guru Nanak.

As a result, currently available variety of translations have no spiritual value, no guidance how to be good human being (SACHIAARAA), no direction in changing SIKH PSYCHE for good, or no direction in changing society/world for good. Instead of facilitating Self-Awakening and the divine Enlightenment or teaching how to be a good human being, Sikhs are praying for trivial wants. This has destroyed the source of inspiration of Guru Nanak’s Sikhi and Sikhs.

It appears that those who came up with these literal interpretations may have had either (1) little understanding of the basic principles of Gurbani or (2) they had ulterior or selfish motives or (3) or they had sinister agenda…

The bottom line is that these distorted interpretations are becoming the sources of our confusion and misunderstanding of the Gurbani in the SGGS. The outcome is that the Sikhi of Guru Nanak has been taken back to the belief systems that existed prior to the advent of Guru Nanak in 1469 – which, in fact, have been damningly critiqued, debunked and rejected by Guru Nanak in his Bani within the SGGS.

As a result, the Sikh psyche is becoming blind to Guru Nanak’s divine Enlightenment for the entire humanity. Instead, the Sikh psyche is becoming content with false pride of empty and imaginary spiritualities of the Pujaaree (clergy clique) — the freeloading Deraa-Vaad Baabaas (ਵੇਹਲੜ) and their trained Granthis, Parcharaks, Ragis, Dhadees etc. pullulating worldwide. Furthermore, although Guru Nanak traveled across cultures, religions and continents, These freeloaders have confined his UNIVERSAL spiritual Message to a narrow ethnic context.

  • ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਇਸੁ ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਕਰਮਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਏ ॥੧॥ : Gurbani is the Enlightenment in my spiritual life or spiritual world. It comes to abide within the mind through the Grace (or divine Blessings) of my Internalization of the Enlightening Message of it. ||1|| (sggs 67).
  • ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਚਹੁ ਕੁੰਡੀ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਸਾਚੈ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਇਦਾ ॥੩॥ : The Gurbani’s Message of living by Naam (i.e. divine Giyan-Wisdom…) is UNIVERSAL; its listeners are inspired throughout the four corners of the world (i.e. everywhere in the world); one imbibes in the Eternal Naam as taught by the Guru Shabad. ||3|| (sggs 1065).

The Gurbani is full of explanations, proofs, logic (ਤਰਕ), questions (ਸਵਾਲ) and commonsense answers. However, when the interpretation or translation is done without using logic, reason, practicality, search within the Gurbani or without understanding, and without applying the basic principles of Sikhi we end up with a meaningless translation which result in NO change in Sikh psyche, and consequently Sikhs continue performing worthless religious practices and rituals (Karamkaand) that have been critiqued, rejected and debunked by Guru Nanak.

Apparently, literal and misleading translations of the SGGS have done serious damage to the Sikhi way of life and Sikh psyche.

The SGGS holds the Gurbani can only be comprehended FROM the Gurbani Itself

  • ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸਾਰੇ ॥: (Guru’s) Bani is the Guru (of Sikhs: Guru Shabad) and the Guru is the Bani. The Amrit ( Naam) is contained in the whole of the Bani. (sggs 982).

The interpretation of the Gurbani done in its proper perspective sends a very powerful Message about how to be good and conduct oneself in society. Every verse in the SGGS is a Message for Spiritual Awakening and Becoming Schiaaraa. Each verse is about how to be a good human being and how to realize the meaning and purpose of one’s own life, HERE AND NOW.

In order to CONVEY the truth of the BANI, composers (ਬਾਣੀਕਾਰ) of Bani included in the SGGS have used language, vocabulary, beliefs, phrases, terms, metaphors and traditions that were already within the use and within the psyche of people of the time. The verses written in different poetic forms and various languages in the SGGS highlight this aspect well. However, the use of this vocabulary does NOT at all mean that the writers of the Bani in the SGGS have accepted the meaning of the vocabulary in the form in which it was prevalent at the time. All composers of the Bani have used these terms as examples (ਹਵਾਲਾ), but explicitly with new meanings and understanding to fit the new spiritual paradigms of Sikhi or Gurmat of Guru Nanak. With that said – to cross over from literal to spiritual – the following is important to break from the mold of Vedantic, Yogic and literal slants:

  • Understanding the overall position regarding any concept in the SGGS is critical in deciphering the intended and authentic Message of any given verse. Then, put the pauses in the right places in any given verse.
  • Keeping in mind that the intent of the composers of the Bani included in the SGGS lies in the Bani. Therefore, the Gurbani is the only gauge of their original intent.
  • Using Gurbani as PRIMARY SOURCE, NOT SECONDARY SOURCE to understand Gurbani in the SGGS.
  • Using Gurbani to explain Gurbani, because answers lie within the Gurbani.
  • Making sure interpretation have internal validity and reliability.
  • Using Gurbani grammar for coherent interpretation.
  • Deciphering the meaning of the Rahaou (ਰਹਾਉ) verse first. This is because the Rahaou verse contains both the gist and the context for the entire Shabad. This means that all the spiritual messages of the remaining verses must be interpreted by applying this context.
  • When it comes to Paurees (ਪਉੜੀ), the FINAL verse of each Pauree functions as the Rahaou verse. As the concluding verse it contains the gist of the entire Pauree and sets the context for the remaining verses.
  • keeping in mind that the spiritual Message contained in the Guru Shabad is Universal, Unique, Revolutionary, timeless, wholesome etc.
  • Keeping in mind that the Gurbani is never specific to location, occasion, person, incident etc.
  • Rejecting the obsessions with the pre-1469 belief systems and the concocted concepts such as AFTERLIFE, Narak Surag (hell and heaven), rituals (Karamkaand), afterlife transmigration or reincarnation, separate God from man etc. which have been removed from the Gurmat.
  • Last but not least, since the whole of the SGGS speaks of the present, HERE AND NOW, the Message in the interpretation should be relevant to the present, daily life. It should guide the readers/listeners to realize the meaning and purpose of life, Awaken divine Giyan-Wisdom / Virtues within, bring Bliss and Joy in life etc.

Failure to recognize this regarding the makeup of the SGGS leads not just to mistranslations and misinterpretations (as is the case with variety of available translation on the Internet etc.), but towards of injection of contradictions within verses where none exists.

On top of that, for some time, Shabads that mention ‘birth‘ and ‘death‘, ‘sadness’, and ‘happiness‘ etc. are being sung/chanted only at those specific occasions or times by the Pujaaree clique who is devoid of the Gurmat Sidhaant. As a result, many times it so happens that the Gurmat Sidhant of a particular Shabad is totally different than the Message being given by the Pujaaree. Thus, we are trying to limit the Guru Shabad to occasion-specific when IT is not. Gurbani has taken us out of this sort of superstition, but we are being deluded by sitting next to the SGGS! All teachings of the Gurbani of the SGGS are consistent and all give us guidance in life – how to live a life of being ‘Sachiaaraa‘. IT seeks the equality and welfare of the entire humanity.

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਭਨਾ ਦਾ ਭਲਾ ਮਨਾਇਦਾ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਬੁਰਾ ਕਿਉ ਹੋਇ ॥ : Satiguru bestows the good understanding to all. A mind which realizes Bibek Budh (discerning intellect) through the Gurmat follows the straight path and wishes good of all (‘Sarbatt da Bhala‘). (sggs 302).

That being said, by using the Gurbani in the SGGS in a diluted and distorted manner, the self-serving Pujaaree has reduced Guru Nanak’s Unique (‘Nirmal‘) and Revolutionary spirituality to religiosity — blind worship, rituals (Karamkaand), fake stories (Sakhis), religious paraphernalia, religious robes, pilgrim (Teerath Yatra), Pakhand, ritual bathing (Ishnaan), robotic chanting and reading etc. that have been rejected and discarded by Guru Nanak.

Strangely, today’s Sikh community wants to understand the Bani of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) from the same Pujaaree whose life it calls accursed/sham and rejects in no uncertain terms. You CANNOT expect the Pujaaree to do any justice to SGGS. It’s like expecting a lion herding cows not to kill and eat them! 

Until Sikhi is freed from these distortions, Guru Nanak’s Unique and Revolutionary spiritual Message is not going to see the light of day.

  • ਇਕਾ ਬਾਣੀ ਇਕੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਇਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ : One Bani alone is the true Guru (i.e. Guru Shabad); therefore reflect only on the One Shabad. (sggs 646).

A person with the understanding and practice (ਅਮਲ) of Gurmat does not accept the gossip, concocted stories, Karamkaand (rituals) etc. of any Pandit, Mulan, Yogi, self-styled Giyani and Baabaas as Naam (divine Giyan-Wisdom…). He ventures to listen and purifies his mind/soul with Gurmat Wisdom as is.

  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥੩॥ : ALL that the Pandit and Mullah Clergy have prescribed or presented to us, I have DISCARDED (while walking on the Path of Spirituality). I DISCARD IT ALL and have ACCEPTED NOTHING at all. ||3|| (sggs 1159).

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  1. Many thanks Brother T. Singh Ji, for your very enlightening post. For those of us, such as myself, who unfortunately must rely to a large extent on English translations of SGGS, the situation you so rightly describe can be disheartening and disconcerting indeed. Very grateful for all your articles, which serve as “antidotes” providing encouragement to continue to delve deeper into the unique and sublime treasure of Gurbani.

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