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 minds (thinking-ਸੋਚ), and change our living style. 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 (O man) you reform yourself, you will meet me, and meeting me, you will be at Peace. O Fareed! If you will be mine, the whole world will be 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 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 merely uttering the word ‘sugar, sugar’ one cannot taste the sweetness of sugar. By merely uttering the word ‘fire, fire’ one cannot drive the cold away. By merely uttering the word ‘doctor, doctor’ one cannot cure the illness. By merely uttering the word ‘money, money’ one cannot have money (or enjoy it). By merely uttering the word ‘Chandan, Chandan’ one cannot make its fragrance appear (i.e., cannot manifest or experience sandalwood’s fragrance). Similarly, by merely uttering the word ‘Knowledge‘ one cannot live it. ‘Karanee’ is supreme (practice, implementation, ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਈ, Putting the Shabad Giaan – Knowledge / Wisdom – to work, live it, do it, etc.), like the rising sun in the sky (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).

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 contamination (‘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 ॥: Not by reading (books), but through Understanding, is the Mystery Realized. (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).

Hence, 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).
  • ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥੧੧॥: Nanak speaks the ‘Brahm Beechaaru’ (sggs 1138).

In other words, reading, listening or memorizing of the Gurbani must result in Spiritual Unfoldment. 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).

Therefore, 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 indicates that 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 short, 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 ॥: (Through all the contributors of the SGGS, You O Paarbrahm!), have placed one Thing on this Plate (of the letters of the SGGS, ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦੇ ਅੱਖਰਾ ਰੂਪ ਥਾਲ…) — contemplation or Reflection on the true contentment (i.e., ਸਤ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਦੀ ਵੀਚਾਰ — How to experience or realize through the true contentment). (This is) the Amrit Naam of the Divine that has been placed (upon the Plate of the letters of the SGGS); it is the Support of all. One who eats it (i.e., Amrit Naam or Giaan or Wisdom – ਆਤਮਕ ਭੋਜਨ) and digest it is saved (i.e., freed from Bikaar…). (sggs 1429).


  1. Good effort Pyare Veer ji. Waheguru tuhanu horr V deep vichar te sikhi jeevean bakhshan.
    Many thanks for ur sharings

  2. I am reading a translation that consists of 5 volumes. Title is the essence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Author is gurbachan Singh makin. You may need to get this from India or Canada. Not sure where mom got this from but it’s been eye opening.

  3. Dear Shammi Ji, thank you for sharing your longing for Spiritual Life.

    Intense Longing For Mool-Realization is a prerequisite of Mool-realization or Self rediscovery – freedom or liberation from Maya, egotism or Haumai…
    • ਉਪਜੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਰਸੁ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਮਨ ਤਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਇਹੀ ਸੁਆਉ ॥: Upajee preeti prem rasu chaaou. Man tan antari ihee suaaou (sggs 290).
    This Intense Longing seems to have already been lit within you! Keep it buring. Things will happen! For one’s Mool that each one is trying to Unite with (the Target of human birth) is situated within!!

    I wish that you could suggest me some books

    Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
    A practical Guide for the Divine Life (Gurmukh Lifestyle), the Gurbani is the Treasure of Wisdom (Giaan-Guroo). Which provides all that’s needed to raise consciousness to the Higher dimension…

  4. Dear T. Singh Vir ji
    I wish that you could suggest me some books to comprehend knowledge upon gurbani in english or in hindi… or how should i start reading SGGS to get insights.

  5. Thank you Bhai Sahib Balwant Singh Seera Ji for your feedback.

    Gurbani is to be read, understood and implemented in life.Tis is need of the hour.

    • ਭਾਈ ਰੇ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸਾਚਿ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Bhaaee re gurmati saach rahaaou: O brother, follow the Gurmat (Teaching of the Gur-Shabad) and dwell in Truth. (sggs 30).
    • ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥: Akalee parhih kai bujheeai… (sggs 1245).
    • ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ॥ (sggs 424).
    • ਹਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਜੀਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਪੜਿ ਬੁਝਿ ਮੰਨਿ ਵਸਾਵਣਿਆ ॥ (sggs 127).

  6. Gurfateh!
    I am very deeply impressed by your thoughts.You said very rightly that Gurbani is to be read, understood and implemented in life.Tis is need of the hour.

    Balwant Singh

  7. A great piece replete with precious Gurbani verses and supporting similes.

    Both the analogies were quite apt – mere reading of the label on the medicine bottle being completely ineffective and the burning log going quiet on the combustion attaining maturity.

    T singh Ji, I am always amused at your ability to keep contributing new precise terms to the dictionary of Gurbani-Wisdom. This eddition saw the welcome addition of at least two new entries : Mool-ward and Karamkand-word.

    Deep regards.

    PS – I think there’s a typo in the line – However, the Gurbani will not do the trick if we simply verbalize it or merely worship it as an idle. I believe you meant to write ‘idol’.

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