Gurbani is Meant to be Understood and Applied

The Gurbani is meant for the human mind. It gives us the spiritual Knowledge (Giaan, ਉਚੀ ਮਤ, ਸਮਝ… ) so that we may mend or reform our deluded mind (thinking-ਸੋਚ), and change our way of living.

However, this will only happen if we thoroughly understand the Gurmat (Wisdom or the Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) through a diligent Shabad-Vichaar and then apply it to the daily life (‘ਆਪੁ ਸਵਾਰਹਿ’).

  • ਆਪੁ ਸਵਾਰਹਿ ਮੈ ਮਿਲਹਿ ਮੈ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੇ ਤੂ ਮੇਰਾ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਹਿ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੯੫॥: If you REFORM yourself then you will Realize Me (i.e. God), and when you Realize Me (i.e. God), you will rejoice in Spiritual Bliss. O Farid, (reforming yourself) if you become Mine then the entire world would become yours. ||95|| (sggs 1382).
  • ਸੋ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ਜਿ ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ॥: Who listens, understands and applies the Gur-Upadesh or Wisdom, that person is liberated in this world (here and now). (sggs 519).

Hence the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is: Once KNOWN or UNDERSTOOD, that Knowledge should be applied to daily life (ਅਮਲ).

If not lived, it will be no more than an information cluttering the mind, which will get us in troubles in life (‘ਪੂਰੀ ਪਰੀ ਬਲਾਇ’). Bhagat Kabeer Ji Awakens us from this dreadful sleep paralysis:

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਜਿਨਹੁ ਕਿਛੂ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਨਹੀ ਤਿਨ ਸੁਖ ਨੀਦ ਬਿਹਾਇ ॥ ਹਮਹੁ ਜੁ ਬੂਝਾ ਬੂਝਨਾ ਪੂਰੀ ਪਰੀ ਬਲਾਇ ॥੧੮੧॥: O Kabeer! Those who do not KNOW or UNDERSTAND (the riddle of life) live a life of perpetual slumber or indifference. I have understood what needed to be understood and my troubles have ended (because now I live that UNDERSTANDING or GIAAN in my daily life…). ||181|| (sggs 1374).

Thus the Gurbani is not meant to be merely read, listened, or memorized. After reading, listening, or memorizing it is meant to be Understood by churning it, and ultimately applied (i.e., live it in daily life-ਅਮਲ).

If a person is disease-stricken, his mere reading of the medicine’s label without taking the medicine will not cure him. In order to be cured of the disease and related pain, one has to take the medicine and stop mere reading the label.  Similarly, if you have food in front of you and you are hungry, isn’t your responsibility to make effort and put that food in your mouth? Are you just going to chant “food, food” and hope your hunger will be satisfied? In fact, the Divine has given you the food, and now it’s your responsibility to put it in your mouth! The SGGS and Bhai Gurdaas Ji explain all this in simple words and simple day-to-day examples:

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਖਾਏ ਬੂਝੈ ਨਹੀ ਭੂਖ ॥ ਰੋਗੁ ਜਾਇ ਤਾਂ ਉਤਰਹਿ ਦੂਖ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਲੋਭ ਮੋਹਿ ਬਿਆਪਿਆ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਕੀਨਾ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਪਿਆ ॥੩॥: Without eating, hunger is not satisfied. When the disease (i.e., mind’s disease: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride…) is cured, it is then that the pain goes away. (Mind) is engrossed in lust, anger, greed and attachment (i.e. all Bikaar). (Mind) does not understand it’s Source — Prabhu (Mool, Jot, Hari…). ||3|| (sggs 1149).
  • ਖਾਂਡ ਖਾਂਡ ਕਹੈ ਜਿਹਬਾ ਨ ਸ੍ਵਾਦੁ ਮੀਠੋ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਅਗਨਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਹੈ ਸੀਤ ਨ ਬਿਨਾਸ ਹੈ ॥ ਬੈਦ ਬੈਦ ਕਹੈ ਰੋਗ ਮਿਟਤ ਨ ਕਾਹੂ ਕੋ॥ ਦਰਬ ਦਰਬ ਕਹੈ ਕੋਊ ਦਰਬਹਿ ਨ ਬਿਲਾਸ ਹੈ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਚੰਦਨ ਕਹਤ ਪ੍ਰਗਟੈ ਨ ਸੁਬਾਸੁ ਬਾਸੁ ॥ ਤੈਸੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਗੋਸਟਿ ਕਹਤ ਨ ਰਹਤ ਪਾਵੈ॥ ਕਰਨੀ ਪ੍ਰਧਾਨ ਭਾਨ ਉਦਤਿ ਅਕਾਸ ਹੈ ॥: By mere saying (repeating, chanting or uttering again and again) the word ‘sugar, sugar’ one cannot taste the sweetness of sugar. By mere saying the word ‘fire, fire’ one cannot drive the cold away. By merely uttering the word ‘doctor, doctor’ one cannot cure the illness. By mere saying the word ‘money, money’ one cannot have money (or enjoy it). By mere chanting the word ‘Chandan, Chandan‘ one cannot make its fragrance appear (i.e., cannot manifest or experience sandalwood’s fragrance). Similarly, by mere saying the word ‘Knowledge’ one cannot live it. ‘Karanee‘ is supreme (implementation, practice, putting the spiritual Wisdom or Advice of the Gurbani to work, live it, walk it, do it, ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਈ etc. — walk the talk!), like the rising sun in the sky (Kabit Savaiye, Bhai Gurdaas).
  • ਜੈਸੇ ਗਿਆਨ ਗਿਆਨ ਕਹੈ ਗਿਆਨ ਹੂੰ ਨ ਹੋਤ ਕਛੁ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ । ਤੈਸੇ ਗੁਰ ਧਿਆਨ ਕਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਧਿਆਨ ਹੂ ਨ ਪਾਵਤ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਗੁਰ ਦਰਸ ਜਾਇ ਨ ਸਮਾਈਐ ॥੫੪੨॥: Just by saying (repeating, chanting or uttering again and again) Giaan (spiritual Knowledge) again and again, knowledge cannot be obtained. It can only be acquired by lodging it within the mind. Similarly just repeatedly asking for a glimpse of the Guru, one cannot acquire contemplation of the Guru. This is possible only when one engrosses or merges oneself in the Guru’s Message (i.e. BECOMING ONE with Guru’s Upadesh, Advice, Giaan). ॥542॥ (Kabit Savaiye, Bhai Gurdaas).
  • ਗਲੀ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਖੰਡੁ ਖੰਡੁ ਕਰਿ ਸਾਉ ਨ ਭੋਵੈ । ਮਖਨੁ ਖਾਇ ਨ ਨੀਰੁ ਵਿਲੋਵੈ ॥੧੭॥: By mere talking, none gets satisfied, as by mere uttering word ‘sugar’ one cannot have his mouth sweet. If one is to eat butter, one should not go churning water, i.e. mere talks cannot produce the right results. (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 17, Paurhee 17).
  • ਪੂਛਤ ਪਥਕਿ ਤਿਹ ਮਾਰਗ ਨ ਧਾਰੈ ਪਗਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ ਕੈ ਦੇਸ ਕੈਸੇ ਬਾਤਨੁ ਕੇ ਜਾਈਐ । ਪੂਛਤ ਹੈ ਬੈਦ ਖਾਤ ਅਉਖਦ ਨ ਸੰਜਮ ਸੈ ਕੈਸੇ ਮਿਟੈ ਰੋਗ ਸੁਖ ਸਹਜ ਸਮਾਈਐ । ਪੂਛਤ ਸੁਹਾਗਨ ਕਰਮ ਹੈ ਦੁਹਾਗਨਿ ਕੈ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਿਬਿਚਾਰ ਕਤ ਸਿਹਜਾ ਬੁਲਾਈਐ । ਗਾਏ ਸੁਨੇ ਆਂਖੇ ਮੀਚੈ ਪਾਈਐ ਨ ਪਰਮਪਦੁ ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਗਹਿ ਜਉ ਲਉ ਨ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥੪੩੯॥ : One asks the Way to Realize the Creator but does not tread even a step on it. Without launching oneself on that Way, how can one Realize the Creator by mere prattles? One asks the physician (the Guru), the medicine of curing the malady of false ego-sense (Haumai), but does not consume the medicine (Guru’s Giaan-Wisdom) with dedicated discipline and precautions. Then how can the ailment of egotism be cured and spiritual peace acquired? One asks from the dear and beloveds of the Lord husband the Way of Uniting Him, but all her actions and deeds are like of wretched and discarded women. Then how can such a seeker wife with deceitful heart ever be called to the nuptial bed of the husband Lord for Union? As long as one does not follow (live, practice – ਅਮਲ) the teachings of the Guru, it is not possible to Realize the Creator Within even if one goes through rituals of eye-closing and doing chanting/Kirtan. ॥439॥ (Bhai Gurdas, Kabit Savaiye).

Similarly, the Gurbani is only meant to be understood and applied, otherwise it has no meaning – there will be no gain (ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤੀ).

Just as a medicine helps mitigate a disease, in the same way, with the stick of collyrium of the Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan), the Gurbani helps us remove from our mind’s eyes the cataract of Maya – relieving us from our inner filth (‘ਮੈਲੁ’, Bikaar…) so that we can Realize our true Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot Saroop…).

However, the Gurbani will NOT do the trick if we simply verbalize it or merely worship it as an idol. In other words, mere reading of it, listening to its recitations, or memorizing it will not cure us from our psychological illness (Haumai or false ego-sense…). This addict of the Gurbani is very clear from the following verses (and many more):

  • ਚਿਤੁ ਜਿਨ ਕਾ ਹਿਰਿ ਲਇਆ ਮਾਇਆ ਬੋਲਨਿ ਪਏ ਰਵਾਣੀ ॥: Those whose consciousness has been lured by Maya keep reciting mechanically (ਫਰ ਫਰ, ਉਪਰੋਂ ਉਪਰੋਂ, ਤੇਜੀ ਨਾਲ…). (sggs 920).
  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਖਟੁ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੈ ਭੇਖਿ ਕਿਸੈ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਅਲਖੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਹਾਵਣਾ ॥ : Not by just reading (scriptures), but it is through spiritual Wisdom one Understands this fact (that God is infinite). No one can merge in the eternal God by merely adopting the garbs mentioned in the six Shastras (the Hindu holy books). The eternal God is unfathomable, but revealed through the Guru’s Shabad, He (i.e. Creation, Hukam) looks beautiful. (sggs 148).
  • ਮੂਰਖੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਚੀਨਈ ਸੂਝ ਬੂਝ ਨਹ ਕਾਇ ॥੫੩॥: The fool does not think of the Shabad. He has no understanding, no comprehension ||53|| (sggs 938).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥:Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥: Listening to the Gurmat (Shabad-Giaan, Teaching of the Gurbani, etc.), (if) no Spiritual Wisdom (understanding of the Spiritual Life…) wells up within; (then it would be) like a beast (routinely) filling its belly (sggs 685).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪੜੈ ਨਹੀ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਲੂਝੈ ॥: One who reads (scriptures), while attached to duality, does not understand (what he reads). (While reading scriptures, inside) He longs for the threefold Maya (sggs 127).
  • ਪੜੇ ਸੁਨੇ ਕਿਆ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਜਉ ਸਹਜ ਨ ਮਿਲਿਓ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥: What use is reading and listening, if Sahaj (Natural state of Being, Poise, Giaan Avasthaa or Divine Knowledge…) is not gained therewith (i.e., Sahaj will come only with practice or implementation of what has been heard, listened and reflected upon) ||1|| (sggs 655).
  • ਬੂਝਹੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Boojhahu giyani Shabadu beechaari (sggs 840).

In short, only when one fully assimilates the Gurbani will all be well with him! That is, reading or listening or memorizing the Gurbani can only be beneficial if we take the next step: Churn it (Shabad-Vichaar), understand it (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ), and then live it (‘ਕਰਣੀ’-Karanee: ਅਮਲ, application).

Therefore, the Gurbani’s emphasis is on understanding the Gur-Shabad (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ) and then living it in daily life (‘Karanee‘: implementation, application, practice, living the Gurmat, ਅਮਲ…). We are reminded that the Gurbani is the ‘Brahm Beechaar’, not just a song (‘ਗੀਤੁ’)!!

  • ਲੋਗੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਇਹੁ ਗੀਤੁ ਹੈ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥: People think that the (Gur-Shabad) is (an ordinary) song, but it is a ‘Brahm Beechaa’. (sggs 335).
  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥੧੧॥: The Divine Naam (Giaan-Wisdom, Virtues…) of the One Creator are the Basis for Spirituality for a Worldly Mindset; Nanak thus Utters the Discourse of the Creator (Brahm Beechaar). (sggs 1138).

In other words, reading, listening or memorizing of the Gurbani must result in removal of the evil of ignorance. If it does not, then apparently we are doing something contrary to the Gur-Shabad (ਗੁਰ-ਉਪਦੇਸ)!!

  • ਸਚੁ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: The practice of Truth is the essence of the Shabad (sggs 114).

When a wooden log is on fire, it makes crackling noise and flames. But when the log is completely burnt, then no more noise is heard! Our deluded mind (Haumai, false ego-sense) is the log; attached to the worldliness (Pakhand, Mayaic efforts, superficial religiosity…) it makes noises (of restlessness, wanderings, imaginations or ਫੁਰਨੇ…) and the flames of Bikaar are seen (i.e., lust, anger, greed, etc.). By applying the Gur-Shabad, when the burning is over, it becomes quite (Sahaj, stable, ਟਿਕ ਜਾਣਾਂ…). Such mended Mind (or Pure Budhi) is the voice of the Mool (Source, Jot…), within.

  • ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: By Reflecting on the Gur-Shabad (i.e., Shabad-Vichaar), study and understand ‘Hari’ (Naam). (sggs 424).
  • ਖੋਜ ਬੂਝਿ ਜਉ ਕਰੈ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਤਉ ਭਵਜਲ ਤਰਤ ਨ ਲਾਵੈ ਬਾਰਾ ॥੪੦॥: When someone understand by searching oneself (‘Khoj’), and engages in Vichaar (Reflection on the Divine Virtues, Wisdom…), then (he) crosses over the ‘Bhavjal‘ (Bhav Saagar or dreadful ocean of Maya, etc.) in no time. ||40|| (sggs 342).

The Gurbani is a very simple and basic human Guide for human life, which outlines man’s own Mool-ward journey (not Karamkaand-ward journey).

The Gurbani’s Teaching has relevance to day-to-day life of each individual in the world. To fully appreciate, understand, and live the Gurbani, we are repeatedly asked by the SGGS to become the Gurmukh (NOT Manmukh), because one can grasp it only by becoming a Gurmukh (‘ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਤੀ’), for the Gurbani has been uttered by the Gurmukhs (‘ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਖੀ’)!!

  • ਆਖਣੁ ਵੇਖਣੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਸਬਦੇ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥: In speaking, in seeing and in words, remain immersed in the Shabad (sggs 35).

Simply put: The Gurbani asserts a Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree cannot understanding the Gurbani! Because, the Gurbani tells us that the mind such person is nothing but ‘Rol Ghacholaa‘.

  • ਸੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਜੋ ਸਬਦ ਨ ਪਛਾਨਹਿ ॥: They alone are Manmukhs who do not realize the Shabad (sggs 1054).

In nutshell, the Gurbani is meant to be ‘DIGESTED’ — meant to be  understood, assimilated, applied or lived in daily life!

  • ਥਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਤਿੰਨਿ ਵਸਤੂ ਪਈਓ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੋ ॥ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਾ ਪਇਓ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਸਭਸੁ ਅਧਾਰੋ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਖਾਵੈ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਭੁੰਚੈ ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੋ ॥: In the human (Conscience), three things remain —  the truth, Contentment and thoughtful Reflection or Insight (into spiritual Life); in which has manifested the Amrit Naam (Giaan-Wisdom, Virtues…), the support of all. The benefit (Laahaa) is to he who consumes (‘ਖਾਵੈ-Khaavia), and he who digests it (‘ਭੁੰਚੈ Bhunchai‘. (sggs 1429).


  1. Dear Prakash Ji
    SABAD is that power which is behind the entire universe and doing every thing
    we may call it NAAM or SABAD or Dhur Ki Baani which has two features (Gun)… Light & Sound and it is in every being of this universe…. you and me and others are doing anything just because of that SABAD or NAAM which is inside us….. and it is drop of ocean or part of Lord…
    and this SABAD is also called as LORD

    that is why that lord is in everybeing and everyone can experience that Light & Sound through SIMRAN …….
    but one thing that must be kept in mind…..that there should be someone who can tell us the way to get connected with NAAM or SABAD…. THAT IS CALLED GURU


    bhul chook maaf

  2. My understanding is that there is great significance of the word SABADu
    Thus there is great need of understanding the correct reference meaning of the word SABADu
    in Gurbanee.
    It can be observed that we generally writethis word incorrectly and give meaning accordingly.
    whereas this word is actually SABADu (word SABAD with matra of Aukad under its last letterD) and thus this word should be understood in this context of matra for its correct and true meaning applicable to Gurbanee messages.

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