Gurbani Defines True Yoga and Yogi

There is a vast contrast between the spiritual positions of Yogis (Sidhas) and that of Baabaa Nanak (i.e. Gurmat). The spiritual position of Yogis or (Yogmat) is simply that physical self is of paramount importance (i.e. physical renunciation of the family, society, world; physical nature of Asanas and breath control etc.). However, Baabaa Nanak telling them and rest of us that what’s matter in spirituality is NOT the ‘Physical’ per se, but the CONSCIENCE (the MIND) — the Conscience must remain imbued in the Creator Realization.

Thus , what’s paramount in the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) is the State of the CONSCIENCE (the MIND) Not the physical location etc.

First off, the Gurmat Wisdom of the 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 Sikhs (learners, seekers of Truth…)!

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

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In short, the Gurus and Bhagats did not come to regurgitate the outdated and irrelevant messages that were already prevalent in people’s psyche, India’s religious traditions and teachings before them!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’ (Jurhanaa-ਜੁੜਨਾ).

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’), being one with Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature) 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.

And, Yogi simply means the one who is united (Jurhiaa Hoiaa-ਜੁੜਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ).

The Yoga and Yogi of the Gurbani

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects this physical renunciation (ਉਦਾਸੀ).

  • ਬਾਰਹ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਵਲ ਖਪਿ ਜਾਵਹਿ ਚਹੁ ਛਿਅ ਮਹਿ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ॥ : (Missing the Shabad – Naam, Hukam, Wisdom…) the yogis of twelve sects and the sannyaasee of ten sects wander about and ruined (ਖਪਦੇ ਫਿਰਦੇ). (sggs 1332).

The Sikhi or Gurbani’s (SGGS) definition of renunciation is Shabad Based — Internalization of the Shabad (Message, Advice, Guide, Direction, Upadesh, spiritual Wisdom) while staying in the world.

  • ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੁ ਥੀਆ ॥ : The God-realized Being accepts the Shabad as Guru; become Enlightened by the Message within the Shabad. (sggs 940).

In a nutshell, instead of renouncing the world, the Gurbani urges us to engage in it, but with a detached attitude through Internalization of the Gur-Shabad (the state of Gurmukh-Hood). 

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥੬੯॥ : The spirituality of the Shabad Internalizes (the state of Gurmukh-Hood) the Way towards the Creator-Realization (within the Consciousness). Nanak Realized the One Creator through the Spirituality of the Shabad (the state of Gurmukh-Hood). ॥69॥(sggs 946).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ॥੬੮॥: Nanak, My Evaluation in my Inner Contemplation is that without divine Virtues Realization of the Creator (Yog) does not happen. ॥68॥ (sggs 946).
  • 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॥: So Yogi Jugati so paae jis no Gutmukh(i) Naam(u) praapat(i) hoi. (sggs 556).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੨੦॥: Gurmukhi Yog(u) kamaavai aoudhoo jat(u) sat(u) sabad(i) vechaaree. (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).
  • ਖਿਮਾ ਗਹੀ ਬ੍ਰਤੁ ਸੀਲ ਸੰਤੋਖੰ ॥ ਰੋਗੁ ਨ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਨਾ ਜਮ ਦੋਖੰ ॥ ਮੁਕਤ ਭਏ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਰੂਪ ਨ ਰੇਖੰ ॥੧॥ ਜੋਗੀ ਕਉ ਕੈਸਾ ਡਰੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਰੂਖਿ ਬਿਰਖਿ ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਸੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (O Pakhandee or Thugg yogi, a person who staying in household) makes forgiveness his daily practice; makes good conduct (humility, modesty, abstinence etc.) and contentment his daily practice (is the True Yogi). (Such a genuine yogi – household) cannot be afflicted by the disease (of Haumai or false ego-sense etc.), nor the suffering of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.). Such yogis become (living-) liberated, because they become one with the Formless Prabh (Mool, Source…). The real yogi has no fear (of being chased by the lusts of Maya. Hence (he would NOT run away from home into forest). He sees (the ONE Gobind – ONE Universal Energy…) everywhere in the plants, trees, house and the forest outside. (sggs 223).

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) here and now.

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

For this to happen, 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, within.

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-Hood state of the mind).

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)…

  • ਸਭਿ ਗੁਣ ਤੇਰੇ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: I Cleanse my mind Within (of vices) with Godly Virtues. Bhagti (spirituality) does not materialize without Internalizing these Virtues. (sggs 4).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੇ ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਹੋਇ ॥: Yogi is that person who serves the Satiguru (True Wisdom or ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ – he lives his daily life in accordance with the Guru-Giaan or Wisdom). (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 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).
  • ਬਿੰਦੁ ਨ ਰਾਖਹਿ ਜਤੀ ਕਹਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਮਾਈ ਮਾਗਤ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਲੋਭਾਵਹਿ ॥: (O Yogi!) You do not control your lust, but you claim to be a celibate. Begging Maya, you are trapped in this triple-qualitied Maya (i.e. abandoning their families and women, people go live in jungles. But they have no control over their lust. When begging for food and clothing from households, they call women ‘Maataa Ji’ – Mother – but inside their lust knows no bounds). (sggs 903).

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 Wisdom of the SGGS tells us that the deluded mind and its created ‘Sansaar’ can only be destroyed by the 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॥: The clergy of the Muslim faith was corrupt, the Brahmin was murderous and the Yogi Un-Enlightened. These three (clergy) had become the root cause for the spiritual wreckage and desolation that mankind had
    come to endure. (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 etc.

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.

In short, 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 (Mool-Abidance) 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 — the true spiritual Journey is travelled or transversed while living within the family, society and the world and living (becoming) the Shabad of the God Connected Guru.

  • ਕਿਆ ਭਵੀਐ ਸਚਿ ਸੂਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਸਬਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Baabaa Nanak tells Yogis) It’s of NO use wandering around (in peculiar external appearances at places of pilgrimage, mountains, jungles etc.) — renunciation (of world, society, family etc.) is not the way to liberate from the trappings of life, world, material etc. There can be no liberation without the guidance of the God-connecting Shabad (divine Message of the God-Connected Guru). ||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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