Gurbani Defines True Yoga and Yogi

First off, the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) rejects symbolism and Karamkaand (formalities, ritualism).

Second, the Gurbani is not written for Yogis, Brahmins, Pundits, Jain, Qazi, Mullah, etc.

In fact, these individuals may not even read the Gurbani.

Furthermore, they are not expected to read it, or understand it, or implement its Unique and New Message in daily life!

As a matter of fact, it is meant for the Sikhs (learners, seekers of Truth…)!

Sikhs are expected to read it with understanding, reflect on its Wisdom, and then live it in daily life!

That said — regardless of one’s religion, family of birth, nationality, etc. — anybody can choose to become a Sikh! Sikhi is a Way of life!

After reading the Gurbani, if a Sikh acts or think (Soch) same as a Brahmin, or a Muslim or a Christian, or a Yogi, or a Qazi or a Mullah, etc., then what’s the difference!

In short, the truth is that the Gurus and Bhagats did not come to regurgitate the outdated and irrelevant messages already prevailing in India’s religious traditions and teachings before them!

Yoga simply means to ‘Join’

It would be an understatement to say there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist with regard to the purpose and meaning of Yoga.

The word ‘Yoga’ (or ‘Yog’) comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj‘, meaning ‘Join’.

Thus, ‘Yoga’ simply means the joining of the ego-self (Haumai) to the Higher Self within — Joining of the mind to its Jot Saroop or True Nature, recognizing one’s true Self (‘ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ’), etc.

In other words, Yoga means uniting of the time-bound consciousness with the Timeless Consciousness within (Mool…) — experience or realization of Unity (Rabb or Universal Energy); or existing as an Indivisible Whole (Saabat Soorat), or complete merger with Totality or Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature), and so on.

The Yoga and Yogi of the Gurbani

According to the Gurmat, a person who has become the Gurmukh is a true Yogi.

The Gurbani asserts a Gurmukh obtains Yoga through the Shabad-Vichaar or churning the Gurbani — abiding in ‘Hari Gun’ (divine Virtues) and the Wisdom, followed by living it in daily life.

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੨੦॥: O hermit! By becoming the Gurmukh, (one) practices Yoga; to contemplate or reflect on the Shabad (Gur-Giaan or Wisdom) is his abstinence and truth ||20|| (sggs 908).

According to the Gurbani — while living in the midst of happenings of the world or Maya — prerequisite necessary for abiding in the Gurmukh Lifestyle is being affectionately detachment (Bairaag), Bhagti, self-control, Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth, Bibek…), and so on.

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

Thus, its the skill in thoughts, words and action (Karma) that leads to the state of Perfection (Pooran Pada), which is full of Bliss (Anand) and free from the experience of repeated suffering (sorrow or Dukha).

One may ask, ‘how is it possible to live in the midst of the world without desires?’.

For this, it is essential to understand why one gets overwhelmed with desires in the first place.

Barrage of desires arise in the mind on account of foolishness and Bikaar — lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, possessiveness, jealousy, selfishness, stubborn mindedness, etc.

  • ਆਸਾ ਬੰਧੀ ਮੂਰਖ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਲਪਟਿਓ ਅਸਨੇਹ ॥: The body of a foolish person (i.e., every sense organ) remains hooked on to desires. (The foolish person) remains trapped in the bonds of lust, anger and attachment (i.e., Bikaar). (sggs 178).

The mind can find contentment, fulfillment or satisfaction only in itself.

When the limitations imposed by the body-mind-intellect personality are overcome, the mind becomes one with its Jot Saroop within. The SGGS tells us Bikaar and resulting Mayaic desires thin out when dispassion (Bairaag) grows.

Clearly, it’s an uphill climb to be a true Yogi of the Gurmat. The Gurbani indicates whosoever knows the ‘ਜੁਗਤਿ’ (Way of life, etc.) to live properly is a true Yogi (i.e., Gurmukh).

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥: A person who has become the Gurmukh is the (true) Yogi, that person realizes the Way (of life or Yoga).
  • ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਏ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਕੀ ਨਗਰੀ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵਸੈ ਭੇਖੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਐਸਾ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਕੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਘਟਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥: He alone is a Yogi, and he alone finds the Way, who, as Gurmukh, obtains the Naam. In the body-village of that Yogi are all (Virtues); this Yoga is not obtained by outward show (of religion). O Nanak! such a Yogi is very rare; within whom Awakens (Naam: Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 556).

In short, the Gurbani asserts a true Yogi is the one who lives his daily life of ‘Hari Gun’ or Virtues —  Truth (ਸਤ), honesty (ਇਮਾਨਦਾਰੀ), contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), humility (ਮਨ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ, ਬੁਧਿ ਗਰੀਬੀ), sweet speech (ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲੜਾ)…

  • ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Without acquiring Virtues, Bhagti can not be performed (sggs 4).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੇ ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਹੋਇ ॥: Yogi is that person who serves the Satiguru (True Wisdom or ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ). (sggs 223).

What is not Yoga?

Now, once we know through the Gurbani what the true Yoga is, it becomes relatively easy to digest as to what is NOT Yoga and Yogi!

In the Light of the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS, one thing becomes crystal clear — one cannot realize Yoga though stubbornness of the mind, religious garbs and symbols, rituals or Karamkaand, renouncing family and wandering around, Pakhand, etc.!

  • ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਗਵੀ ਕਪੜੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੈਲੇ ਵੇਸਿ ॥: Yoga is not obtained by wearing saffron or dirty robes (sggs 1421).
  • ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ ਹੰਢੈ ਪਾਖੰਡਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: (O Pakhandee or hypocrite) Yogi, you have lost the Way; you wander around confused. Through hypocrisy, Yoga is not attained (sggs 909).
  • ਹਠਿ ਨਿਗ੍ਰਹਿ ਨ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਾਵਹਿ ਭੇਵਾ ॥: None can satisfy (his mind) through the stubborn (rituals etc.) (sggs 906).
  • ਏਹੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਿ ਕੁਟੰਬੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਭਵਣੁ ਕਰਹਿ ॥: This is not Yoga, O Yogi, to abandon your family and wander around (sggs 909).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ॥੬੮॥: O Nanak! without the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), Yoga is never obtained, Reflect on this in your mind and see for yourself. (sggs 946).

In other words, renouncing ‘Sansaar’ or the world is not Yoga! In truth, one’s mind under the negative impact of Haumai (false go-sense) is the ‘Sansaar’ (world or Bhav Saagar).

The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS tells us that this deluded mind and its created ‘Sansaar’ can only be be destroyed by Wisdom (Giaan), not by its renunciation!

  • ਪੂੰਅਰ ਤਾਪ ਗੇਰੀ ਕੇ ਬਸਤ੍ਰਾ ॥ ਅਪਦਾ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਤੇ ਨਸਤਾ ॥ ਦੇਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਦੇਸਹਿ ਧਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਚੰਡਾਲ ਨਾਲੇ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥: You worship fire (ਧੂਣੀਆਂ ਤਪਾਂਣਾਂ) and wear saffron colored robes. Smitten by calamity (distress, trouble…), you run away from your home. Leaving your country, you wander in foreign lands. (But your Mayaic mind) brings the five pariahs (i.e., Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) with it. ||4|| (sggs 1348).

In nutshell, anything or any activity that keeps one away from the uninterrupted Gurmukh Lifestyle is disapproved in the SGGS.

In other words, if one’s spiritual efforts turn into a mere show of empty rituals or Pakhand (hypocrisy) and makes one freeloader (ਵੇਲੜ, ਮੰਗ ਖਾਣੇ, ‘ਮਖਟੂ’- lazy bums…) etc., is disapproved in the SGGS.

  • ਨਾ ਓਇ ਜੋਗੀ ਨਾ ਓਇ ਜੰਗਮ ਨਾ ਓਇ ਕਾਜੀ ਮੁੰਲਾ ॥ ਦਯਿ ਵਿਗੋਏ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਵਿਗੁਤੇ ਫਿਟਾ ਵਤੈ ਗਲਾ ॥: They are not Yogis, and they are not Jangams, and they are not Qazis or Mullahs. Lost (separated…) from the Merciful (Lord), they wander around in sad plight, and their entire band is disdainful (sggs 149-150).

In fact, the SGGS claims that such useless Yogi or Yoga are responsible for the destruction of the human society along with their counterparts (e.g., Brahmins, Qazi…).

  • ਕਾਦੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੋਲਿ ਮਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੀਆ ਘਾਇ ॥ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਅੰਧੁ ॥ ਤੀਨੇ ਓਜਾੜੇ ਕਾ ਬੰਧੁ ॥੨॥: Telling lies, the Qazi eats filth (of taking bribe and what pertains to others …). The Brahmin kills (inflicts pain on people by mistreating and misguiding them: ਆਤਮ-ਘਾਤੀ..), and then takes (cleansing, ਤੀਰਥ-ਇਸਨਾਨ) baths. The Yogi is (mentally or spiritually) blind, and does not know the way of life (ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਜਾਚ). These three are the cause of destruction of spiritual life (of their own and other people by leading them astray from the Way of Truth). ||2|| (sggs 662).

Particularly In the West as well as in India, the majority associate Yoga with gymnastic like feats, indulging in sex and intoxication (Smoking Sulphaa, Gaanjaa, and so on), mere physical postures (Aasan), mental and breathing exercises, showing half-naked women in seemingly impossible poses on covers of magazines, books or in media.

Even though regular exercises are important for maintaining a healthy body, however, they are not equal to Self-Realization or Mool-abidance. Hence, we need to regard them only for what they are worth, no more and no less.

Thus, the Gurbani repudiates any and all sorts of Pakhandbaajee associated with Yoga practices.

Mere talks will not do the trick

We are also repeatedly reminded by the SGGS that Yoga cannot be realized through mere talking about it; reading books about it; debating about it, pretending about it, etc.

  • ਕਹਤ ਸੁਨਤ ਕਛੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਊ ॥: By just hearing and telling stories, no one attains Yoga, or Union with God (sggs 251).

In nutshell, becoming a true Yogi is like chewing steel-balls with the teeth of wax! As such, the Gurbani says those who realize the true Yoga are very ‘rare’ in this world.

  • ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਖਿੰਥਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਡੰਡੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਸਮ ਚੜਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੁੰਦੀ ਮੂੰਡਿ ਮੁਡਾਇਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਸਿੰਙੀ ਵਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੧॥ ਗਲੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮੜੀ ਮਸਾਣੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤਾੜੀ ਲਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਦੇਸਿ ਦਿਸੰਤਰਿ ਭਵਿਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਈਐ ॥: Union (with the Jot Saroop within) is not realized by putting on a patched coat; nor by (walking with) the staff (in hand); nor by smearing the body with ashes; nor by wearing the ear-rings, nor by the shaven head, nor by blowing of the horn. The Way to realize Union is by remaining unblemished in the midst of the worldly filth (Maya). ||1|| Union (with the True Self within) is not realized by mere talks or words. One who looks upon all with a single eye (even vision), and knows them to be one and the same — he alone is known as a Yogi. ||1|| Pause|| Union (with the True Self within) is not realized by wandering to the tombs of the dead; nor by sitting in trances; nor by wandering through native and foreign lands or bathing at places of pilgrimage. (sggs 730).

Baabaa Nanak’s conversation with Yogis

There is Baabaa Nanak’s Bani called ‘Sidh Gosati’ on page 938 of the SGGS.

There are a total of 73 stanzas or Pourhee in this entire ‘Sidh Gosati’.

However, there is ONLY one Rahaaou (ਰਹਾਉ) in the entire ‘Sidh Gosati’!

But, this one Rahaaou (ਰਹਾਉ) gives us a principle or the central point of the entire ‘Sidh Gosati’ Bani:

  • ਕਿਆ ਭਵੀਐ ਸਚਿ ਸੂਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਸਬਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Baabaa Nanak tells Yogis) what is the use of wandering around (in peculiar external appearances at places of pilgrimage, mountains, jungles, etc.)? One becomes pure by uniting with Truth. Without the true Shabad (Upadesh, Wisdom…), no one finds liberation ||1||Pause|| (sggs 938).


  1. Thanks for keen insight and deep reflection on the topic of Yoga and Yogi: yet, i remain perplexed by your defitnition of Naam as virtues.Of cource life without virtues is a complete failure.The key question is : Are virtues the source of Naam or Naam the source of all virtues? Is it not true that according to Gurbani, Naam is the source of all existence and it is Naam that supports and sustains all existence?Would it it not be logical to say that virtues are the bi-product of Naam?
    Thanks ji

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