Ritualistic Reading of the Gurbani

The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches us that the purpose of reading / listening the Gurbani is one has to become Wise (the Gurmukh) by listening and reading it. If that does not happen then the following edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) of the SGGS applies to us:

  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥: Listening to the Gurmat (Shabad-Giaan, Teaching of the Gurbani, etc.), (if) no Spiritual Wisdom (understanding of the Spiritual Life…) wells up within; (then it would be) like a beast (routinely) filling its belly (sggs 685).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).

Until and unless we become Wise (the Gurmukh) by listening and reading the Gurbani, one can NOT validate one’s Knowledge (Giaan-ਗਿਆਨ) to determine if they are someone else’s anti-Gurmat agenda, misguided interpretations, prejudices, opinions etc. that we have simply adopted mistakenly thinking them to be facts. We can ONLY Look for the truth if we ourselves become familiar with the true meanings of the Gurbani, and ONLY then we can use that Knowledge to do what is right and appropriate.

The unique and new Message of the Gurmat Wisdom of the 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 religious texts (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 from it!

  • 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. 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 this ‘Keelee-Tang-Paath‘, inquired the customer.

‘You see, in my spare time, I do Paath 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 non-digital era of the 19th-20th century, just imagine what might be going on in the present age of Internet, digital and wireless information and media etc.!

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 Pujaaree 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 their attachment to Maya). (sggs 229).

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

  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥੩॥: ALL that the Pandit and Mullah Clergy have prescribed or presented to us, I have DISCARDED (while walking on the Path of Spirituality). I DISCARD IT ALL and have ACCEPTED NOTHING at all. ||3|| (sggs 1159).

The SGGS is NOT a subject of ritual reading and memorizing or worshipping (Poojaa) like an idol.

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

  • ਲੋਗੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਇਹੁ ਗੀਤੁ ਹੈ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥: People think that the (Gur-Shabad) is (an ordinary) song, but it is a ‘Brahm Beechaar’. (sggs 335).
  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥੧੧॥: The Divine Naam (Giaan-Wisdom, Virtues…) of the One Creator are the Basis for Spirituality for a Worldly Mindset; Nanak thus Utters the Discourse of the Creator (Brahm Beechaar). (sggs 1138).
  • ਜਿ ਠਗੀ ਆਵੈ ਠਗੀ ਉਠਿ ਜਾਇ ਤਿਸੁ ਨੇੜੈ ਗੁਰਸਿਖੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖਿ ਸੁਣਾਵੈ ॥ ਜਿ ਵਿਣੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੇ ਮਨੁ ਮੰਨੇ ਕੰਮੁ ਕਰਾਏ ਸੋ ਜੰਤੁ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੨॥: The GurSikh does not come close to the person who comes and goes to deceive. Nanak proclaims and announces this true Wisdom (‘Brahmu Beechaaru’) that a person who is not pleasing to the Mind of the ‘Satigur‘ (i.e. True Wisdom) may get his way (by deceptively making Gursikhs to serve him), but that being will only suffer in terrible pain. ||2|| (sggs 317).

It is given to us (learners – ਸਿਖਿਆਰਥੀ) so we can help ourselves to drive away our mind’s ignorance of its Original 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 devoid 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 reflecting on the scriptures with fire of worldly desires and Bikaar or vices in the mind are just worldly pursuits. People have grown weary of reading scriptures in egotism (Haumai) and are ruined through the love of duality. (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 spiritual indigestion!

  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਖਟੁ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੈ ਭੇਖਿ ਕਿਸੈ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਅਲਖੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਹਾਵਣਾ ॥ : Not by just reading (scriptures), but it is through spiritual Wisdom one Understands this fact (that God is infinite). No one can merge in the eternal God by merely adopting the garbs mentioned in the six Shastras (the Hindu holy books). The eternal God is unfathomable, but revealed through the Guru’s Shabad, He (i.e. Creation, Hukam) looks beautiful. (sggs 148).
  • ਬੇਦ ਪੜਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਹਿ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਲੂਝਹਿ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਅੰਧਾ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਦੁਤਰੁ ਤਰੀਜੈ ਹੇ ॥੧੪॥ : Pujaaree people (Priests) read a lot of religious books, but do not understand the Way of the Divine Life. They read for the sake of amassing Maya. They will fight if not paid dearly. These Pujaaree are filled with the filth of Maya. They are mentally blind because of ignorance. How can they swim across the world ocean (Bhav Saagar)? ||14|| (sggs 1050).

Hence, according to the Gurbani — not according to the illiterate and corrupt Pujaajee-system — the ONLY purpose of reading any religious text (Paath — ਪਾਠ ਕਰਨਾ, Nitnem 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” :)

    Off course I think for those who subscribe it’s for their convenience and they are just keeping up with tradition norms.

    Please have a read of the following posts to know the Gurmat teachings:
    Crowds of people follow the path of Pakhand
    Imitation: People See, People do
    Laahaa and Kufakarhe

    For example if someone close to one’s family dies and the family arrange…

    Please have read of the following post to know the Gurmat teachings about veneration of dead people:
    Veneration of Dead and Anti-Gurmat Rituals

  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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