Ritualistic Reading of the Gurbani

The unique and new Message of the Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is NOT meant to regurgitate the ritualism or Karamkaand that was already existing in the society before the Gurus and the Bhagats.

However, due to our ignorance of the Gurbani and the resulting corruption of our minds (inner filth of Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.), the illiterate and corrupt Pujaaree-Vaad and other religious con artists are able to dupe us.

On account of our greed, fear and ignorance, so long we are willing participants they will continue duping us.

The great ones tell us to remember one thing: If we want something as sublime as Rabb and want it cheaply in the form of a ‘ready-made’ package (businesslike deal, ਧੰਧਾ), we put ourselves in a position to be cheated by the religious con artists (ਠਗ – Thugg)!

Also, there is a saying to the effect that where there are greedy people, a cheat (ਠਗ – Thugg, trickster, swindler…) will never starve there!

When the Gurus and Bhagats condemned the then Pujaaree system for reading Granths (Paath-ਪਾਠ) for the sake of making money (businesslike-ਧੰਧਾ), perhaps they had no idea that many in Sikhs masks would do the same with their Bani (ਬਾਣੀ) — make it a source of income (business, ਧੰਧਾ), INSTEAD of a source of learning Giaan or Wisdom!

  • ਮੂਰਖ ਅੰਧੇ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕਪਟੁ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਣ ਕੈ ਤਾਈ ਪਾਠ ਪੜਹਿ ਗਾਵਾਰੀ ॥: Dealing with Maya alone, the blind fools remain subservient to the three qualities of material nature (i.e., Rajo, Tamo, Sato). With deception within, the fools do Paath (reading of sacred texts) to fill their bellies (sggs 1246).
  • ਪਾਠੁ ਪੜਿਓ ਅਰੁ ਬੇਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿਓ ਨਿਵਲਿ ਭੁਅੰਗਮ ਸਾਧੇ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਜਨਾ ਸਿਉ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਛੁਟਕਿਓ ਅਧਿਕ ਅਹੰਬੁਧਿ ਬਾਧੇ ॥੧॥ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਮੈ ਕੀਏ ਕਰਮ ਅਨੇਕਾ ॥ ਹਾਰਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਕੈ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਦੀਜੈ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਿਬੇਕਾ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Some) read holy texts (Paath — ਪਾਠ ਕਰਨਾ), and contemplate the Veda. (Some) practice the inner cleansing techniques of Yoga, and control of the breath. (But, with these practices, one) cannot escape from the five (i.e., lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride…), and is all the more tied to ego-intellect. ||1|| My dear! I have performed many such rituals, but the Divine (Wisdom, Virtues…) is not realized by these methods (ਤਰੀਕੇ). (Forsaking the ritualistic practices or methods) I have dropped down weary at the Divine-door (Giaan-Guru, True Wisdom) and pray for the grant of Bibek-Budhi (discerning intellect…). ||Pause|| (sggs 641).

Keelee-Tang-Paath (ਕੀਲੀ-ਟੰਗ-ਪਾਠ)

The author remembers this story from his childhood. He heard it directly from his father. It may sound like a joke, but it’s a true story. In his village in India, there lived a Paathee (also spelt Pathi – a professional reader of the SGGS).

One day a man from the neighboring village visited him and said, ‘Someone has died in our family. We would like to hire you to do a Sahaj Paath in his memory (also called Sadhaaran Paath)’.

‘Sure, I am available’, said the Paathee.

‘How long it would take you to complete the Sahaj Paath?’, inquired the potential client.

‘About couple of weeks’, replied the Paathee.

‘But, unfortunately, we do not have that much time. We have only couple of days’, said the potential client.

‘In that case, I can sell you a Keelee-Tang-Paath (ਕੀਲੀ-ਟੰਗ-ਪਾਠ)’, said the Paathee.

‘What is the Keelee-Tang-Paath’, inquired the customer.

‘You see, in my spare time, I do Paath (also spelt Path) at my home. When done, I tie a knot in a towel and hang it on a Keelee. In nutshell, it’s a Keetaa Kraaiaa Paath (ਕੀਤਾ ਕਰਾਇਆ ਪਾਠ, ready-made)’, explained the Paathee

Those who are not familiar with this Punjabi word ‘Keele’, it’s a peg driven into the wall for hanging clothes, etc.

If this sort of fraud  or Pakhand in the name of the Gurbani existed in the 19th century, just imagine what might be going on in the present Internet, digital and wireless information age!!

In fact there are some additional categories of Paath (ਪਾਠ) these days — reading of the Gurbani from more than one Beerh at the same time (i.e., ਇੱਕ ਤੋਂ ਵੱਧ ਬੀੜਾਂ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼ ਕਰਕੇ: ਆਖੰਡਪਾਠ, ਕੋਤਰੀ ਪਾਠ, ਸੰਪਟ ਪਾਠ), a sheer business and a sheer scheme of the corrupt and illiterate paid clergy to keep the unsuspecting, fearful and greedy people brainwashed for a return business.

  • ਅੰਧੇ ਅਕਲੀ ਬਾਹਰੇ ਕਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਸਿਉ ਕਹੀਐ ॥: There is no point in explaining this to the people who have been blinded and made devoid of intellect or Wisdom (i.e. made ignorant by the attachment to Maya). (sggs 229).

Brahman/Pandits have many categories of Paath with different rate for each category. Similarly, the Pujaaree-Vaad in Sikhi have many categories of Paath with different rate. What a fraud!

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is NOT a subject ritual reading and memorizing or worshipping (Poojaa) like an idol.

Instead, its a subject of understanding, for the Gurbani is ‘BRAHM VICHAAR’!

It is given to us (learners – ਸਿਖਿਆਰਥੀ) so we can help ourselves to drive away our mind’s ignorance of its True Nature (or Jot Saroop). It explains many ways the benefit (Laahaa-ਲਾਹਾ) of imbibing or by bringing the true Knowledge (ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ), understanding or intellect in life.

But, instead, the Sikh Pujaaree-Vaad has turned it into a business, worldly occupation, a job, fraud, etc. (ਦੁਨੀਆਵੀ ਵਿਹਾਰ, ਧੰਧਾ, ਲੁੱਟ…). It is like churning water and hope to produce butter!

  • ਪੋਖਰੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਵਿਰੋਲੀਐ ਮਾਖਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਰੀਸੈ ॥੭॥: If we churn water in a pond, no butter can come out of it. ||7|| (sggs 229).

Just look at what goes on in Gurdwaras and all Deeraa. It is worse than Brahman-Vaad. The following Shabad of Baabaa Nanak — which criticizes Brahman (Pandit) for practicing fraud in the name of ‘Paath’ — perfectly fits today’s paid clergy in Sikhi as well.

  • ਦੀਵਾ ਬਲੈ ਅੰਧੇਰਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪਾਠ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਉਗਵੈ ਸੂਰੁ ਨ ਜਾਪੈ ਚੰਦੁ ॥ ਜਹ ਗਿਆਨ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਮਿਟੰਤੁ ॥ ਬੇਦ ਪਾਠ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੀ ਕਾਰ ॥ …: When the lamp (of Giaan or Wisdom is lit within), darkness (of ignorance) is dispelled. (In this way) reading of religious texts as Veda destroys Paap (opposing of Hukam, corrupt thoughts – ਹੁਕਮ ਦਾ ਵਿਰੋਧ; ਮਾੜੀ ਸੋਚ…). When the sun rises, the moon is not visible. Where the Light of Divine Wisdom illuminates, ignorance is dispelled. The (mere) reading of religious texts such as Veda is worldly occupation (business, ਧੰਧਾ…). (sggs 741).

Allow the Gurbani to read us!

Although ladles (ਕੜਛੀਆ) cruise through all sorts of food, but they do not know the relish of food – they just remain empty of it!

Although many of us read the Gurbani (Paaths, Nitnem, etc.), but we rarely allow the Gurbani to read us!

  • ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਬੂਝਿ ਲੇ ਤਉ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਬੇਰਾ ॥: Understand by the Grace of the Gur-Giaan (Wisdom), this will be the right decision (i.e. resolve, judgement, ਨਿਰਨਾ). (sggs 229).

Until and unless we allow the Gurbani to go through us, our reading or hearing it is of no avail. Also, mere seeing SGGS or mere bowing to SGGS is of no avail either. This is the edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) of the Gurbani.

It’s not that the Gurbani is only telling Brahmins, Pandits, Yogi, Qazi, Mullah, etc. not to practice such fraud, it is also urging Sikhs as well!

If a Sikh practices falsehood than why wouldn’t a Brahmin be helped along with his falsehood/corruption, or a Muslim or a Christian or a Yogi with his?

  • ਪੜਣਾ ਗੁੜਣਾ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੀ ਕਾਰ ਹੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭਿ ਪੜਿ ਥਕੇ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥:  Reading and studying (have become) just worldly pursuits, (but still) greed and corruption remain present within. Reading in egotism, all have grown weary; through the love of duality (Maya), they are ruined. (sggs 650).
  • ਪੜਿਐ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਪੂਛਹੁ ਗਿਆਨੀਆ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥: The filth is not removed by reading. Go ahead, and ask the Wise ones ||1||. (sggs 39).

The Gurbani says that any listening/reading (of the Gurbani) has to be thoroughly understood of its true meaning, and then it must be lived in daily life (ਅਮਲ). Without all this, it will create only harm or spiritual indigestion!

  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥: Not by reading (books), but through Understanding, is the Mystery Realized. (sggs 148).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).

Hence, according to the Gurbani — not according to the illiterate and corrupt Pujaajee-system — the ONLY purpose of reading the scriptures (Paath — ਪਾਠ ਕਰਨਾ, Nitnem, Akhand Paath, etc.) is to Awaken Bibebk Budhi within (discerning intellect, logic, Giaan or Wisdom, divine Virtues, etc.). Such Bibek-Budhi bestows upon us Joy, Peace, Anand (Bliss), Mool-abidance, untainted thinking (Soch), commonsense, and so on.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਪੜਣਾ ਗੁਨਣਾ ਇਕੁ ਨਾਉ ਹੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥: O Nanak! Only one Naam (Giaan, Wisdom, Virtues…) is worth reading and contemplating; but a rare thoughtful (ਵਿਚਾਰਵਾਨ) person understands it. (sggs 1246).


  1. Thank you Baljit Soni Ji for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    “not when ਪਾਠ is read with good intentions”

    Yes, But as the title suggest this article is about “Ritualistic Reading of the Gurbani” :)

    if someone close to one’s family dies and the family arrange for the akhand paath or sahej paath they are merely keeping up with the social tradition norms

    Related https://www.gurbani.org/gurblog/veneration-of-dead-brings-no-good-to-dead-or-others/

  2. Response to your quote.
    Similarly, the Pujaaree-Vaad in Sikhi have many categories of Paath with different rate. What a fraud!
    I don’t think you can call this a fraud. Certainly not when ਪਾਠ is read with good intentions. You may call it business. Off course I think for those who subscribe it’s for their convenience and they are just keeping up with tradition norms. For example if someone close to one’s family dies and the family arrange for the akhand paath or sahej paath they are merely keeping up with the social tradition norms.

  3. Thank you sister Manjyot Kaur Ji for taking the time reply. Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!
    Learning is a lifelong process.
    We all are learning along with everybody!
    Keep reading the SGGS yourself. And read it with the aim of understanding it. Listen/read/consult as many sources you can find. By and by the intellect will develop and start appreciating the unique and sublime Message of the Gurbani. SGGS is like a fathomless ocean of Giaan or Wisdom!

  4. Thank you for this thought-provoking essay! In the case of someone (such as myself) who unfortunately needs to resort to the aid of English translations in order to read Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, what is the best way to try to ensure that one is really imbibing Its true messages? As we all know, many translations give (whether deliberately or not) distorted and inaccurate renderings of Gurbani’s unique and sublime teachings. I would be most grateful for your advice, as I truly wish to incorporate Gurmat tenets into my life as fully as possible.

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