Gurbani Teaches to be Humble even if You are Intelligent or Powerful

The highest result of Wisdom/learning/education (ਗਿਆਨਵਾਨ) is humility. Having said that, the purpose of Wisdom/learning/education is not to become somebody, but to become humble or tolerant. Aptly, as envisaged by the Gurbani in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), humility is the Essence of all divine Virtues. Here is the more often quoted verse of Guru Nanak:

  • ਮਿਠਤੁ ਨੀਵੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਗੁਣ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਤਤੁ ॥ : Nanak, humility is the sweetness from which all other Virtues emanate. (sggs 470).

Spirituality is simplicity, humility, humbleness, modesty, unpretentiousness, freedom from vices/Bikaar etc. For our Mool (Source, Reality…) is said to be very simple. Therefore, genuine peace and happiness can only be found in simplicity. It’s like racing along the razor’s edge though!

  • ਭਗਤਾ ਕੀ ਚਾਲ ਨਿਰਾਲੀ ॥ ਚਾਲਾ ਨਿਰਾਲੀ ਭਗਤਾਹ ਕੇਰੀ ਬਿਖਮ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਚਲਣਾ ॥ ਲਬੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਤਜਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਬੋਲਣਾ ॥ ਖੰਨਿਅਹੁ ਤਿਖੀ ਵਾਲਹੁ ਨਿਕੀ ਏਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਜਾਣਾ ॥ : The lifestyle of Bhagat (Daas, Jan , Gurmukh, Enlightened…) is unique (extraordinary…). The lifestyle of Bhagat is unique, for they follow the most difficult Way of life. (That is, they reform themselves by) renouncing greed, avarice, pride, desire and excessive talkativeness. This Way of life they take is sharper than a two-edged sword, and finer than a hair (i.e., very difficult). (sggs 918).
  • ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮਿਲਣੈ ਕੀ ਏਹ ਨੀਸਾਣੀ ॥ ਮਨਿ ਇਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਣੀ ॥ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੰਤੋਖਿ ਸਦਾ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਾਸੇ ਅਨਦੁ ਖਸਮ ਕੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਜੀਉ ॥੩॥ : This is the sign of Mool-Realization: one’s mind abides in the Divine Hukam (Universal Sysytem-Rule-Law of Nature; ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ). Those who live in harmony with the Divine Hukam remain established in Sahaj (Natural State of Being, Giyan- Wisdom Avasthaa…), Godly contentment, enduring satisfaction (from worldly desires) and Bliss. ||3|| (sggs 106).
  • ਉਸੁ ਊਪਰਿ ਹੈ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਮੇਰਾ ॥ ਸੇਖ ਫਰੀਦਾ ਪੰਥੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰਿ ਸਵੇਰਾ ॥੪॥੧॥ : My Way lies on top (of the path which is sharper than a two-edged sword and very narrow). (Therefore) O Shaykh Fareed! Keep watch on that path early on (i.e., understand it and protect it…). ||4||1|| (sggs 794).

But, to be wise and simple is not as straightforward as it sounds. Because our stubborn mind in love with Maya is accustomed to novelty and constant wanderings (activity, ਫੁਰਨੇ), resulting in forgetfulness of our natural state of Being (Sahaj, Giyan-Wisdom Avasthaa…).

Also, it’s not easy to be modest, specifically when one is powerful etc. It’s not that power corrupt people, it simply allows people to drop the mask — the pretenses that disguise who or what they truly are and what they really stand for. That’s why it is said that if you want to test a person’s character, give him/her power! Power in hands of good people makes them better and it makes corrupt people appear worse. The reason people who acquire power appear as if power has corrupted them whereas the fact is that it is a case of a corrupt people having acquired power.

However, the Gurbani teaches us to be ‘iaanaa-ਇਆਣਾ’ (humble, modest, simple, unpretentious etc.) even when one is wise or intelligent. Furthermore, the Gurbani teaches to be ‘Nitaanaa-ਨਿਤਾਣਾ when one is powerful (to be without power, to be without strength etc.)!

  • ਮਤਿ ਹੋਦੀ ਹੋਇ ਇਆਣਾ ॥ ਤਾਣ ਹੋਦੇ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਤਾਣਾ ॥ ਅਣਹੋਦੇ ਆਪੁ ਵੰਡਾਏ ॥ ਕੋ ਐਸਾ ਭਗਤੁ ਸਦਾਏ ॥੧੨੮॥ : Be simple (even when you are) wise. Be as (you are) without power (even when you are) powerful. Share, even when almost nothing to share. Only a rare one (with such virtues) is called Bhagat (Gurmukh, Daas, Jana…). (sggs 1384).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਲੋਗਾ ਮੈ ਤਉ ਮਤਿ ਕਾ ਭੋਰਾ ॥ : (Bhagat Kabeer says) O people of Hari, I am just a simpleton (foolish…). (sggs 692).

A newly sprouted plant is very tender and flexible when young. However, as it grows to become a big tree, it loses its flexibility and tenderness. Similarly, a child is very flexible, however, as a child grows older, his/her false ego-sense (Haumai) also hardens and becomes dense. Bhagat Kabeer Ji describes it as follows:

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਜੈਸੀ ਉਪਜੀ ਪੇਡ ਤੇ ਜਉ ਤੈਸੀ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਓੜਿ ॥ ਹੀਰਾ ਕਿਸ ਕਾ ਬਾਪੁਰਾ ਪੁਜਹਿ ਨ ਰਤਨ ਕਰੋੜਿ ॥੧੫੩॥ : Kabeer, if one continues to keep tenderness and flexibility like that of a newly sprouted plant in his heart till the end, then his life becomes so sublime that what to speak of one poor diamond, even millions of jewels cannot equal his worth! ||153|| (sggs 1372).

The Gurbani captures Varied facets of the crooked human nature and the gross and subtle ways in which the right conduct can be transgressed.

  • ਸਿੰਮਲ ਰੁਖੁ ਸਰਾਇਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਦੀਰਘ ਅਤਿ ਮੁਚੁ ॥ ਓਇ ਜਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਆਸ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੇ ਕਿਤੁ ॥ ਫਲ ਫਿਕੇ ਫੁਲ ਬਕਬਕੇ ਕੰਮਿ ਨ ਆਵਹਿ ਪਤ ॥ ਮਿਠਤੁ ਨੀਵੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਗੁਣ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਤਤੁ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਨਿਵੈ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਪਰ ਕਉ ਨਿਵੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਧਰਿ ਤਾਰਾਜੂ ਤੋਲੀਐ ਨਿਵੈ ਸੁ ਗਉਰਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਅਪਰਾਧੀ ਦੂਣਾ ਨਿਵੈ ਜੋ ਹੰਤਾ ਮਿਰਗਾਹਿ ॥ ਸੀਸਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਐ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਕੁਸੁਧੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥ : The Simmal tree is straight, very tall and wide. But the birds that come and sit on it with the hope of eating its fruits, depart disappointed. Because its fruits are tasteless, its flowers are nauseating, and its leaves are useless. Nanak, humility is the sweetness from which all other Virtues emanate. Everyone bows for one’s own sake (own selfishness), not for the sake of others. (But notice that) when something is placed on the balancing scale and weighed, the side which descends is heavier (similarly he who shows genuine humility is deemed a better person)! The transgressor (i.e., one who does not live in harmony with Hukam) is the one who bows down twice as much like the hunter stalking the deer. What can be achieved by merely bowing the head, when the heart remains polluted (i.e nothing is achieved)? ||1|| (sggs 470).

But, what sort of humility or simplicity the Gurbani is asking us to practice? It is the Inner simplicity: The absence of psychological construct self-image (Haumai or false ego-sense).

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ॥੮॥੪॥ : Nanak, (with the Internalization / Enlightenment of the Shabad) one kills his/her false ego-sense (Haumai) and realize the Creator Within. ||8||4|| (sggs 231).

From within it expands outwardly. With inner simplicity comes a natural integration of emotional, intellectual and physical layers of one’s personality. The Gurbani teaches us that by consistently cultivating good thoughts, we can change the character-formation in us. By aligning our thinking with our true Being (Jot-Saroop) within, we can avoid sowing any seeds of ignorance. In other words, by constantly identifying with the real Being within, one can manifest his spiritual nature in which there is no phenomena.

  • ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਅਖਰੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਗੁਣੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਮਣੀਆ ਮੰਤੁ ॥ ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਵੇਸੋ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਜਿਤੁ ਵਸਿ ਆਵੈ ਕੰਤੁ ॥੧੨੬॥ ਨਿਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਅਖਰੁ ਖਵਣੁ ਗੁਣੁ ਜਿਹਬਾ ਮਣੀਆ ਮੰਤੁ ॥ ਏ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਭੈਣੇ ਵੇਸ ਕਰਿ ਤਾਂ ਵਸਿ ਆਵੀ ਕੰਤੁ ॥੧੨੭॥ : What is that permanent letter; what is that virtue; and what is that jewel-like spell? What are those clothes, which I can wear to overbear the “Kant” (Truth-ਸਚ)? ||126|| Humility is the word, tolerance is the virtue, and sweet speech is the jewel-like spell. O sister (soul)! Wear these three robes, then you will come to overbear God. ||127|| (sggs 1384).

According to the Gurbani, such a shift in focus can be brought about only when the body-consciousness (false ‘I’, Haumai, corrupting influences of Maya…) is transcended through Shabad-Vichaar.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਭਰਮੁ ਨ ਚੂਕਈ ਨਾ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ॥੬॥ : Without the Shabad, neither the doubt (wandering of Maya, etc.) is dispelled, and nor the egotism is eliminated from within. ||6|| (sggs 67).

Thus, according to the Gurbani, the spirituous ‘medicine’ to conquer or annihilate the mind is internalization of the Enlightening spiritual Message embedded in the Guru Shabad.

False ego-sense or Haumai makes forget simplicity, Sahaj, or humility. Our Haumai-ridden mind being complex like the onion peels, does not like simplicity. It looks for cause for everything; thus making simple things complicated because it will read complex and far-fetched meanings in simple Truth. Mind ridden with false ego-sense (Haumai) wants complexity because it’s not contented with simplicity. For it’s pastime is to look for cause for everything. This is how it makes life un-simple. Living an egoistic life we forget that in reality we all are unconditioned consciousness (Jot-Saroop).

Therefore, the Gurbani teaches us that the way to manage one’s life free of difficulties and related anxieties or worries is through the psychological simplicity. Not external simplicity, but the simplicity of the mind (Sahaj) within. A truly Simple mind is free of negativity (Bikaar), doubts, etc. To achieve this simplicity requires mending of the body-mind-speech-intellect personality. The Gurbani guides us:

  • ਵਿਚਿ ਸਚੇ ਕੂੜੁ ਨ ਗਡਈ ਮਨਿ ਵੇਖਹੁ ਕੋ ਨਿਰਜਾਸਿ ॥ : Check it out and see in your mind — falsehood does not mix in Truth. (sggs 313).
  • ਧਨ ਬਾਲੀ ਭੋਲੀ ਪਿਰੁ ਸਹਜਿ ਰਾਵੈ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਕਰਮ ਬਿਧਾਤਾ ॥: The soul-bride who enjoys (remembers) her Husband in Sahaj (natural state of Being, state of Wisdom…) with a childlike innocence, meets the Creator (sggs 568).

The Gurbani emphasizes cultivating the Quality of humility. Because humility allows us to Grow (Inner Growth). A lifestyle void of humility exhibits undesirable qualities (Bikaars or negativity) such as lust, anger, greed, etc. (Manmukh lifestyle). It will gain us much more than we sacrifice. Proudly contemptuous words inflame prejudice and hatred, but humble speech spells ‘magic’ for it soothes. Words make or break human relationships. Words can make war or make peace, within and without. The words we say or write have tremendous power for good or evil. So the SGGS indicates we should be as careful with our words. In a way, words are like any other weapon!

Since man’s True Nature is simplicity (Sahaj), we already are That, here and now! But due to confusion, doubts, selfishness, superstitions, worthless rituals (Karamkaand) etc. we end up being complicated (un-simple).

Regardless of material wealth or sophisticated lifestyle, anybody can humble or simple, which is truly the key to much happiness in daily life. The Gurbani teaches when mind is simple, it easily recognizes the Truth. However, a multifaceted mind and its thoughts often creates complications in the way of living. It then pretends and invites undue difficulties and and related anxieties. Inner simplicity, which is absence of such self-created, psychological friction, is just what’s needed. A simple mind is able to live in the eternity of the Now. It bring about a natural integration of one’s personality.

In a nutshell, a simple mind is childlike innocent (Baal Budhi), Sachiaaraa, doubt-free, modest, virtuous, truly content, service oriented (selfless Sevaa), unselfish, Wise, compassionate etc.

  • ਬਾਲ ਸੁਭਾਇ ਅਤੀਤ ਉਦਾਸੀ ॥ : With a childlike, innocent nature, remain detached, turning away from the world (sggs 1076).
  • ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਮਿਲਿਓ ਸੁਖ ਬਾਲੇ ਭੋਲੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : I have realized God through childlike innocent nature, and I’am blessed with peace. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1307).

Some related Posts:


  1. Great read! Been following your blog for quite sometime. Great insight into the Sikh Philosophy. It helps me immensely in getting deeper into Gurbani since I come from a Hindu family.

    Thank you !

  2. Dear Devinder Singh,

    Thank you for your kind words!
    I wish to elaborate a bit on the mentioned family issues. I did not mean that people who deny God should be ignored, neglected or negated in any way. For this kind of action would be a negation of God by us.

  3. Dear peter Jansen…Sat Sri Akal..
    I read you for the first time & I really appreciate the your efforts to understand & follow Gurbani …also your efforts will inspire others too…Keep it up..


  4. Dear Ranjit,

    First of all: I do not claim to fully or even partially understand the teachings of the Gurbani, but I do try to follow them.
    The only thing you are doing ‘wrong’ is worrying. Worry = maya, bondage, attachment etc.
    Your children follow their own path in life. And if that path is away from the Gurbani teachings then so be it. Since the teachings show us that love for the One should be coming from within and be unconditional, you can’t force them in anything.
    Also, if I remember correctly, don’t the Gurbani state that all relations are false? Form maya point of view you ‘have’ a spouse and children. But do you really? Since God is everyone and everything, there is basically no difference between your child and a total stranger passing by.
    I know what you feel. My family members are convinced atheists. They don’t want to know or hear anything about the Gurbani teachings. I have even heard them blame God for their problems while they don’t believe in Him… I just keep silent, remember the One and try to keep following the path to liberation.

  5. SatShriAkal Ji
    It took me some time to understand this article but worth the time spent.

    Thank you for this initiative.

  6. Respected Sardar Sahib Ji,
    Sat Shri Akal,Your teaching of Gur-Gian came in my Chitt(Mind) Conscious in the core of (Heart & Soul) which is True speech of God coming through our mouth.Other our Matt Gian is false outside vanishable thinking as well understanding coming from outer Mind (selfishness of Ego).I Am nothing in me our Waheguru is only speaking,Looking,Listening,working through mouth,eyes,ears,Body(Hands&Legs) I donot know what wrong I did in Life,I worked Hard,I was just a village streets grass leaf,with the grace of God I came here in Canada for children So they can do good in Life.But all in vain,No doubt they are well from finance having good job.How can I handle this situation.Please give me advice,Thanks Sir,I gave so many recordings to them to Listen/read guru’s gurbani .You are welcome to send me as much gurgian knowledge as u can.I feels peace of mind.I have left all desires from mind.

  7. Thank you Ranjit Ji! Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!

    The wisdom of the Gurbani is said to be the panacea for all our worldly ailments.
    Thus, when we allow the Gur-Shabad to change our Budhi (intellect), it is the supreme medicine (“ਅਉਖਧੁ”-Aoukhadhu) – panacea !

    In other words, when our intellect (ਬੁਧਿ-Budhi) continually abides in the Wisdom (or Bibek-Budhi) of the Gur-Shabad, then it instructs (counsels, disciplines, etc.) the rebel mind (ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ ਲੈਕੇ ਬੁਧਿ ਫਿਰ ਮਾਇਕੀ ਮੰਨ ਨੂੰ ਸਮਝਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ).
    • ਮਨ ਸਮਝਾਵਨ ਕਾਰਨੇ ਕਛੂਅਕ ਪੜੀਐ ਗਿਆਨ ॥੫॥ (sggs 340).
    • ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ਅਉਖਧੁ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਾਂਤਿ ਪਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥: Gur sabadu kamaaiaa aoukhadhu hari paaiaa… (sggs 446).

  8. Explanation very awesome. One question my daughter is very rigid do not listen me when we talk about marriage & not obye.I am very sad & tennis. What’s I do.? She is adult.

  9. Gurbani prescribes one step transformation:-

    -ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਈਐ ਤਾ ਸਹੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਅਉਰੁ ਕੈਸੀ ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ॥ Raag Tilang ,Guru Nanak Dev, GGS. 722-130.
    Aap Gavaaeeai Thaa Sahu Paaeeai Aour Kaisee Chathuraaee ||

    ਸਹੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖੈ ਸੋ ਦਿਨੁ ਲੇਖੈ ਕਾਮਣਿ ਨਉ ਨਿਧਿ ਪਾਈ ॥
    Sahu Nadhar Kar Dhaekhai So Dhin Laekhai Kaaman No Nidhh Paaee ||

    -ਆਪੁ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਸਰਨਿ ਗੁਰਦੇਵ ॥(Raag Gauri, Guru Arjan Dev, GGS. 288-13).
    Aap Thiaag Saran Guradhaev ||

    -ਆਪਸ ਕਉ ਆਪਿ ਦੀਨੋ ਮਾਨੁ ॥ (Raag Gauri, Guru Arjan Dev, GGS. 282-9).
    Aapas Ko Aap Dheeno Maan ||

    ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜਨੁ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਨੁ ॥੮॥੧੪॥
    Naanak Prabh Jan Eaeko Jaan ||8||14||

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. * = required fields. Comment Policy.