Whenever we see a beautiful face, a beautiful place, a beautiful object, etc., we admire them. We become obsessed with their beauty. We fall in love with them. In that moment of enrapture, we think they and their beauty are ever-lasting, and that there is nothing like it.
Physical or external beauty of things in this world is only superficial or skin deep – fleeting, temporary, perishable, or time-bound. For example, a rosy face can be made pale by just a scratch!
Then, what’s that “Most Beautiful Place” the Gurbani is talking about?
Is that place a particular building, a particular room in that building, a particular altar, a particular face of a person, and so on?
None of that!
Unfortunately, available translations and interpretations of the SGGS in most part are based on the literal / worldly meanings.
For example, in the Gurdawaras – after “Sukhaasan or Sukh-Aasan” (at night after reciting So Dar Rehraas, SGGS is put to rest in a special room or place) – probably most of us have heard Bhais (Pujaarees) reciting the following Shabad:
- ਜਿਥੈ ਜਾਇ ਬਹੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥ …: Jithai jaai bahai meraa satiguroo so thaan(u) suhaavaa Raam raaje.
Literally, “ਸੋ – So” = That – ਉਹ,
“ਥਾਨੁ – Thaan(u)” = Place – ਥਾਂ,
“ਸੁਹਾਵਾ – Suhaavaa” = Beautiful – charming, attractive, pious, ਸੋਹਣਾ, ਖੂਬਸੂਰਤ, ਪਵਿਤਰ, ਸ਼ੋਭਨੀਕ, ਸੁਖਦਾਈ, etc.,
Many translate this verse literally, as well as take it literally!
As a result, they think only a particular building, a particular room, a particular altar, a particular place, etc., to be the most beautiful place (“ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ-So Thaan Suhaavaa”).
The Pujaaree’s only goal is to make money (ਗੋਲਕ!, ਧੰਧਾ, business in the name of the Gurbani) and secure the return-business in order to maintain a lifestyle of freeloading and luxury (ਐਸ਼-ਪਰਸਤੀ). Thus, in Mayaic consciousness, they are corrupting the Gurbani’s true Message or Wisdom.
The SGGS asserts that the Gurbani can ONLY be understood FROM the Gurban!
- ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਇ ॥: Gurbani is understood from the Gurbani by those who are lovingly imbued with the Shabad (-Vichaar, Upadesh, Naam, Giaan or Wisdom…). (sggs 1346).
The Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS) speaks from the level of the mind, NOT from the level of Maya. Accordingly, it’s the mind that needs to become a Sikh as well as Beautiful NOT a building, or a place, or an object!
However, we are repeatedly reminded in the Gurbani, whatever is seen with our naked eyes is nothing but Maya – “Koorh”, perishable, fleeting, temporary, Mithiaa, etc.
Clearly, the Beautiful Place (ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ) mentioned in the gurbani cannot be a material or Mayaic place or an object!
- ਜਿਥੈ ਜਾਇ ਬਹੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥ ਗੁਰਸਿਖੀ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਭਾਲਿਆ ਲੈ ਧੂਰਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਵਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਕੀ ਘਾਲ ਥਾਇ ਪਈ ਜਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵਾ ॥ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਜਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਜ ਕਰਾਵਾ ॥੨॥: O Divine! (The mind, Heart…) in which the True Wisdom (Satiguroo-ਸਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) becomes established (Awakened), that (mind, Heart-) Place becomes Beautiful. Gur-Sikhs (learners of the SGGS) seek out that Place (in which the Wisdom abides) for they want to become like that (or copy that…). Gur-Sikhs who ponder on the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), their efforts fall in the right place. Those who adore the True Wisdom, are adored (by others). (sggs 450).
- ਗੁਝੜਾ ਲਧਮੁ ਲਾਲੁ ਮਥੈ ਹੀ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਥਿਆ ॥ ਸੋਈ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਥਾਨੁ ਜਿਥੈ ਪਿਰੀਏ ਨਾਨਕ ਜੀ ਤੂ ਵੁਠਿਆ ॥੩॥: I have found the hidden Jewel (of the Divine Wisdom…). My mind is enlightened (with it). O Nanak! Beautiful is the place (i.e., mind) where You dwell (i.e., Wisdom…). ||3|| (sggs 1096).
- ਜਹ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ॥: Wherever You come to mind, that (mind-) place is beautiful. (sggs 563).
We are here in this world to Awaken this Wisdom within and then live it in daily life (Saas Saas-every breath). In fact, to learn is to be a Sikh!
- ਊਚਉ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਣਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਮਹਲੁ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ॥: Upon that Highest Plane of Sublime Beauty, stands the Divine Realm (sggs18).
- ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਨ ਕਾ ਰੂਪ ਰੰਗੁ ॥: Hari Naam is the Beauty and Delight of Jan (Gurmukh, Daas, Bhagat…) (sggs 264).
The Gurbani asserts that nothing is more Beautiful then the Heart or the mind which is Awakened to its Joti-Saroop (Mool, Pure Consciousness, True Nature, Truth, Wisdom, Virtues… ) – that is the most “Beautiful” Place.
- ਜਿਤੁ ਘਟਿ ਵਸੈ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਸੋਈ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਥਾਉ ॥: That Heart, in which Paarbrahm abides, is the most Beautiful Place. (sggs 218).
In other words, the “Beauty” mentioned in the Gurbani is none other than the constant abidance in Aatmic-Giaan (Mool, Joti-Saroop, the Gurmukh Lifestyle, Sahaj, the state of living liberated or Jeevanmukti, Naam– or Shabad-Surti, and so on).
- ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇ ਕੈ ਹੋਹੁ ਹਰਿਆ ਭਾਈ ॥: O brother! Contemplating the Divine Naam, become fresh or healed (i.e., Virtuous, Wise…). (sggs 1193).
- ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਤ ਮਨੁ ਹਰਿਆ ਹੋਵੈ ॥: By living the Divine Virtues, the mind becomes fresh or healed (i.e., Virtuous, Wise…). (sggs 104).
Whatever one perceives in the state of pure Consciousness is Beautiful. Whereas, whatever is perceived through tarnished or conditioned consciousness is “filth”.
Thus, it is the Spiritual or Inner “Beauty” referred here in the Gurbani, not external or physical looks of a person, building or a decorated room.
Accordingly, the Gurbani labors to make us understand the difference between the real “Beauty” and the fading beauty so that we don’t make mistake of deeming false to be real.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਵਿਹੂਣੀਆ ਸੁੰਦਰਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਧ੍ਰੋਹੁ ॥: O Nanak! without the Divine Naam, the beauty of Maya’s illusion — the enchanting world-appearance — is fake (sggs 707).
The majority of us are unable to see the Wholesome “Beauty” of our True Nature (Joti-Saroop) for It has become covered with the “filth” of Haume (false ego-sense), doubt, etc. In other words, when the connecting link between Aatmaan and Paraatam (the Universal Energy…) is corroded, the inner “Beauty” becomes dimmed or obscured.
The Gurbani here speaks of how the Divine is realized by only those who are Pure in mind or Heart – the Gurmukhs.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਤਿਮਰ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਅਧੇਰੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥: O Nanak! The Divine Wisdom is obtained by becoming the Gurmukh, and the pitch darkness of ignorance is dispelled (sggs 512).
- ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ਸੋ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਥਾਨੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਥੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਧਰੇ ਵਿਖਾ ॥੧੯॥: Blessed, blessed and Beauteous is that body-place, where my Guru places His Feet ( of Giaan or Wisdom – i.e., that body-place is Blessed in which the Wisdom has Awakened…). ||19|| (sggs 650).
The Gurbani also calls the body “Harmandir“. The gurbani explains that deep in the cave of the Heart, the core of our personality, there resides the same Divine Factor in the body-“Harmandir” of each and everyone of us. It’s not only strange, but also tragic and unfortunate that many Sikh writers, researchers, Kathaakaars, etc., ignore this very valuable message of the Gurbani. Probably it’s by design (i.e., craftiness)!
- ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਏਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਹੈ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਰਤਨਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: This body is the “Harmandir” (Hari’s Temple, but this secret) is revealed by the Jewel of the Divine Wisdom (Aatm-Giaan, Brahm Giaan, Divine Knowledge …). (sggs 1346).
Many think of the external religious places to be a most beautiful or Divine (i.e., so called Teerath, etc.). To the contrary, the Gurbani observes these places to be the corrupt places in this world.
Also, the Gurbani’s One Rabb is said to be everywhere and in everyone, here and now — NOT separate from man. In other words, although the Universal Energy is omnipresence, but is Fully Realized or Awakened (as Aatam-Giaan or Wisdom) in the Hearts of the true learners. Hence, the mind or Heart is said to be the most Beautiful Place.
- ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮੈ ਜੋ ਮਿਲੈ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਇ ॥: Who unites deep within his Soul (ਜੋ ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮਾ ਵਿਚ ਮਿਲੇ – “Antar aatamai“), (only he) is said to be United (sggs 791).
The Gurbani indicates that Giaan, Dharma, and Dhiaan are all interconnected and are realized with the true understanding of the Gur-Shabad. Rest is essentially all Pakhand of the illiterate and crafty Pujaaree system, and the Pujaare groups — Ragi, Bhai, Kathaakaar, Deraa-Vaad, Baabaa-Vaad, Sant-Vaad, Jathedaar-Vaad, Takhat-Vaad, foolish scholars, etc.
- ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥: That person (who performs all sorts of rituals and has no Divine Virtues) has neither Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom, Divine Knowledge, Aatm-Giaan…) nor Dhiaan (meditation); neither Dharma nor Dhiaan (meditation). (sggs 935).
- ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਸੁੰਦਰਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਮਜੀਠੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਰੀ ॥: (Dye) this mind of yours with the Majeeth-like (strong, lasting) color of Hari Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 400).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਗਰਬੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਚਾਮ ਲਪੇਟੇ ਹਾਡ ॥: Kabeer, do not be so proud of your (body, after all it just a bundle of) bones wrapped up in skin. (sggs 1366).