Gurmat and Shabad Vichaar

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches that Gurmat is taken or begotten through the Shabad-Vichaar. In other words, the eyes of Vichaar are needed to see the true Beauty and True Nature (Saroop) of the Gurbani! In a nutshell:

Gurmat = Teaching of the Gurbani, Brahm-Giaan or spiritual Wisdom of the Guru’s Shabad or Gurbani.

Shabad-Vichaar = Reflections on the Gurbani or Gur-Shabad, Spiritual Inquiry into the Gur-Shabad, churning the Gurbani etc.

In other words, the Way of the Gurbani is the Way of understanding! Here is the Gurbani’s ultimate edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ):

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਨੋ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵੇਖਦਾ ਜੇਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਚੁਕਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥ : Everybody in this the world physically see the Satgur. Nothing going to happen just by seeing (the Satgur); one can not be ‘Mukt‘ (liberated, unentangled, unhindered etc.) until and unless the Message within the Shabad is Reflected upon. (Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar) the filth of Haumai (false ego-sense) is not removed, and love for the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Divine Virtues, Divine Wisdom, Giaan…) does not get affixed (in the mind). (sggs 594).
  • ਜਪਹੁ ਤ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮਾ ॥ ਅਵਰਿ ਨਿਰਾਫਲ ਕਾਮਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਈਟੀ ਹਾਥਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਨੇਤ੍ਰਉ ਨੀਦ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਤਬ ਮਥੀਐ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪਾਵਹੁ ॥੨॥ : Realize the One Naam (Wisdom / Virtues). All other deeds (i.e. all rituals, which fail to bring Realization of the One Naam) are useless efforts. ||1||Pause|| Control your mind, like you control the churning spindle with rope and its wooden handles with both hands. As butter is obtain by churning yogurt, likewise internalize Naam ( live by Naam while doing daily chores), this way you would obtain the Amrit. ||2|| (sggs 728).

Clearly, the Gurbani asserts merely seeing or being in the physical presence of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is NOT enough.

Also, nothing can be achieved by merely bowing the head (Mathaa Tekanaa -ਮੱਥਾ ਟੇਕਣਾਂ) to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib if the mind does not engage in the Shabad-Vichaar. Baabaa Nanak says:

  • ਸੀਸਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਐ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਕੁਸੁਧੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥ : What can be achieved by merely bowing the head, when the heart remains resorted to falsehood (i.e., nothing is achieved!)? ||1|| (sggs 470).

In other words, the Gurbani cautions its learners (i.e. Sikhs) that — without Shabad Vichaar — mere seeing (Darshan-ਦਰਸਨ) the SGGS and mere reading it will not and cannot liberate anybody from Maya, doubts, duality, Haumai (false ego-sense), delusion, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.), and so on. The Gurbani compares the spiritual path (the Gurmukh Mindset) to chewing iron with the teeth of wax!

Therefore, according to the Gurbani, to preach, propagate, or believe that mere seeing the Guru or mere bowing to the Guru will free or emancipate anyone is a fallacy, fraud, Pakhand etc.

Ironically, now-a-days, this ritualistic bowing to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and ritualistic reading of it seems to be the emphasis in the Gurdwaras!

Obviously, the self serving Pujaaree (clergy: Granthis, Parcharaks, Ragis, Dhadees etc.) and the freeloading Deraa-Vaad Baabaas (ਵੇਹਲੜ) etc. is succeeding in their alliances with management to convert Gurdwara programs into pre-1469 Brahmanical practices.

Furthermore, the Gurdwara programs are restricted to only singing and recitations without Shabad-Vichaar. If there is any Shabad-vichaar, it is only by the self-serving Pujaaree (clergy) and not by those with true understanding of the Gurbani. All of this is similar to what was prevalent before Baabaa Nanak!

Sikh Gurus introduced a major shift in Spiritual practices by promoting ShabadVichaar to Internalize the spiritual Message of the Shabad. But unfortunately we seem to be going back to the pre-1469 era of concocted concepts and worthless rituals (Karamkaand)!

The Gurbani tells us that one can only be liberated through Reflections on the Shabad. Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar, the inner filth of the mind does not end. Also, without the Shabad-Vichaar, love for the Naam (Wisdom / Virtues…) cannot be implanted in the mind.

The Gurbani cannot be more clear! Reason the Gurbani emphasizes so much on the Shabad-Vichaar is that it enhances our Understanding of the Gurmat, which can sustain the mind.

  • ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਬਿਧਿ ਮਨ ਹੂ ਜਾਣੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ : (When a mortal) understands through the Shabad-Vichaar, (then he) comes to know the ways and means (of controlling) the mind (sggs 1260).

The Gurbani tells us that our mind can only be restrained by the Wisdom :

  • ਕੁੰਭੇ ਬਧਾ ਜਲੁ ਰਹੈ ਜਲ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੁੰਭੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਗਿਆਨ ਕਾ ਬਧਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥ : As the water remains confined in a pitcher, (just so) the mind is restrained by the Spiritual Wisdom. But (as) the pitcher cannot be shaped without the water, (just so) there can be no Spiritual Wisdom without the Guru. ||5|| (sggs 469).

In a nutshell, just as fire is the means of cooking the food, similarly, the Gurmat Wisdom is the means of traversing a successful practical spiritual Life and Mool-Abidance.

With the Gurbani’s Brahm-Giaan (Wisdom laden with deep insights), one spiritually grows. As a result, the iron-like Maya and Haumai or vices become like cotton candy!

  • ਹਉ ਹਉ ਮੈ ਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਖੋਵੈ ॥ ਦੂਜਾ ਮੇਟੈ ਏਕੋ ਹੋਵੈ ॥ ਜਗੁ ਕਰੜਾ ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਖਾਈਐ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗਨਿ ਮਰੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਭਾਣੈ ॥੪੬॥ : (Genuine spirituality requires the) extrication of sense of self-centered hubris or false ego-sense from within. (Genuine spirituality requires the) adoption of the One Creator and elimination of spirituality other than relating to the One. Spiritual Life is impossible in a self-willed and unenlightened state. To undertake genuine spirituality is to Become the Shabad (by Internalizing the Shabad, one can chew genuine spirituality which is difficult or hard like iron). (To become the Message of the Shabad is to) Realize the One Creator Within and Without. Nanak, the flames (of desires) die only when the Satgur’s (the Shabad’s) will is carried out. ॥46॥ (sggs 943).

To say it otherwise, according to the Gurbani, Liberation comes from the true Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ) of the Gurbani. In other words, if reading or listening of the Gurbani does not translate into understanding, no Liberation will come! This is the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ). Baabaa Nanak says:

  • ਪੜਹਿ ਗੁਣਹਿ ਤੂੰ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਪੁਕਾਰਹਿ ਵਿਣੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਤੂੰ ਡੂਬਿ ਮੁਆ ॥੮॥ : (You fool) read, reflect, and proclaim out loud, but without understanding, (you) are drowned to death (absorbed in perplexity, death of spiritual life, ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). ||8|| (sggs 435).

Once the mind is restrained by the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad then, as the Gurbani says, the mind stands conquered!

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਗਤਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਘਰੈ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਇ ॥ : Through the Gur-Shabad, the mind is conquered, and the State of Liberation is obtained in (one’s own) home (sggs 26).

Therefore, according to the Gurbani, Understanding the Gur-Shabad, and then living it in daily life — the true state of ‘ਤੁਧੁ ਡਿਠੇ ਸਚੇ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ – Tudh dithae sachae paatsaah‘.

With this Gurmat Vision (ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਦੇ ਦਰਸਨ) will end the inner filth of Bikaars, Haumai (false ego-sense), ailments of the mind — the true state of ‘ਜਿਸ ਡਿਠੇ ਸਭਿ ਦੁਖਿ ਜਾਇ – Jis dithae sabh dukh jaai’).

In other words, by merely reading, reciting or singing, ‘… ਜਿਸ ਡਿਠੇ ਸਭਿ ਦੁਖਿ ਜਾਇ – Jis dithe sabhi dukhi jaai’ will not bring an end to mental ailments (i.e. vices or Bikaars, Haumai or false ego-sense, and so on). The Gurbani does NOT want us to be under any illusion!

Therefore, the Gurbani reminds us that if carried on the head, Divine Wisdom (Spiritual Knowledge) is a burden; but the same Wisdom is beautiful if brought into the practice (implementation-ਅਮਲ!

So, if we truly want to respect the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), then, as the Gurbani urges us, we must inculcate Wisdom / Virtues through Shabad-Vichaar and live accordingly.

The one who truly respects the Gurbani in SGGS becomes Enlightened (the Gurmukh Mindset) and his mind and life get transformed (ਜੀਵਨ ਪਦਵੀ).

As follows, the Gurbani in the SGGS reveals to its Sikhs (students, learners) the nature of the Guru’s Service (‘Gur Ki Sevaa‘). 

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੭॥ : Undertaking the deed of controlling my false ego-sense (Haumai) and Enlightening myself with the spiritual Message within the Shabad (Shabad Vichaar) is service (Sevaa) of the Guru (ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ – Gur Ki Sevaa). ॥7॥. (sggs 223)..
  • ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਨਹੀ ਭ੍ਰਾਤਿ ॥੭॥ : Through the Shabad Vichaar, Union (with the Mool) is Realized; there is no doubt in it (sggs 413).
  • ਸਭਸੈ ਊਪਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹੋਰ ਕਥਨੀ ਬਦਉ ਨ ਸਗਲੀ ਛਾਰੁ ॥੨॥ : Reflection on the Gur-Shabad is above all (other notions, speculations, calculations…). I don’t care for anything else, for all else (i.e., other than the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad) is just worthless. ||2|| (sggs 904).

The Gurbani claims that this Sevaa or service — Shabd Vichaar (ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ) — of the Guru is meaningful (fruitful, successful, worthwhile etc.) when done in sincerity:

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਫਲ ਹੈ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਰੇ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥ : Service in The Name of the Satguru (Creator-connecting True Wisdom – ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) Is meaningful when done in sincerity. (sggs 552).

This is the gist of the Gurbani, which has nothing to do with grip or possession (ਕਬਜਾ) of Golak (money) in its name; or corruption and business (ਧੰਦਾ) in its name; or alliances and counter-alliances (of Manmukhs, ਧੜੇਬੰਦੀ…) in its name; or fight and lawsuits in its name (tussle, murder, ਲੜਾਈ-ਝਗੜੇ etc.); or worthless rituals in its name; or Pakhand in its name; or pilgrim and and ritual bathing in its name; and religious paraphernalia and religious robes in it name; and so on!

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਤੂੰ ਲੇਹਿ ਇਆਨੇ ॥ ਭਗਤਿ ਬਿਨਾ ਬਹੁ ਡੂਬੇ ਸਿਆਨੇ ॥ : O you ignorant, take the Gurmat (internalize the Message embedded in the Gur-Shabad); without this Bhagti, even very wise (self-willed) persons have succumb to vices/Bikaar (worldly temptations and their corrupting influences – Bhav Saagar…). (sggs 288).
  • ਸਚੀ ਕਾਰੈ ਸਚੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਸੋ ਨਰੁ ਜੰਮੈ ਨਾ ਮਰੈ ਨਾ ਆਵੈ ਨਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਦਰਿ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ਸੋ ਦਰਗਹਿ ਪੈਧਾ ਜਾਇ ॥੪॥੧੪॥ : Let man do honest and true work. Then understand that he has come to understand the TruthGurmat has settled in his mind. Such a person will not waver. He will not die a spiritual death (ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ) because of repeated good and bad thoughts. Wearing this Siropa (of the Gurmat), that person lives as a ‘Pardhaan‘ (supreme, distinguished, eminent etc.) in this universal ‘Dargah’. ||4||14|| (sggs 19).

This is called ‘Gurmati Bhagtiਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਭਗਤਿ’ in the Gurbani. The Gurbni asserts that true Bhagti and Bhagats are very ‘RARE‘. Because, challenges in this quest are many and need courage to surmount them.

  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਜਨੁ ਕੋਈ ॥੧॥ : A RARE ‘Janu’ (Gurmukh, Bhagat, Daas) realizes the ‘Gurmati Bhagti’ (Understanding of the Gur-Shabad, Naam, Hukam…) ||1|| (sggs 879).
  • ਬਾਣੀ ਬਿਰਲਉ ਬੀਚਾਰਸੀ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਇਹ ਬਾਣੀ ਮਹਾ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੪੦॥ : Only a RARE Gurmukh (Enlighted State of the Mind) Reflects on Gurbani. This Bani is of the Satguru and through it, one abides in his own True Self within. ||40|| (sggs 935).


  1. @prakash s bagga Ji, thanks a lot for taking the time to reply Ji.

    @mukesh, thanks for taking the time to respond to this post. To add to what brother Prakash Ji has already said in his reply, hearing or reading of the Gurbani must stimulate and reform thinking (ਸੋਚ).

    In other words, hearing (and reading) the Gurbani has to transform the mind. It’s a spiritual Surgery, if you will. Much has to go under the Knife of the Divine Surgeon of the Gurbani!!!!

    More related reading:

  2. Mukesh ji,
    Your confusion may be correct
    .But one should understand one has to start ones journey to reach the destination.
    And one needs to start the journey as being directed by Guroo and in this context SABAD VICHAAR is of paramount importance .

  3. Gurbani says” gavao sunaho padao nit bani gur poore tu rakhia”. SGGS 611. Always sing, listen and read gurbani, so I am confused that is it compulsory to do nitnem or shabad vichaar is sufficient. Please guide me on this

  4. Thank you brother Tejinder Singh Ji for taking the time to respond to this post! Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!
    Thank you for your kind words and encouarement.


  6. Thank you Loveleen Ji for taking the time to respond to this post! Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!
    Thank you for your kind words and encouarement.

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