Way of the Gurbani is the Way of Understanding

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is NOT a subject ritual reading and memorizing, worshipping (as an idol-Poojaa), or ritual listening. Instead, its a subject of understanding, for the Gurbani is ‘BRAHM VICHAAR’.

  • ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੇ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Jan Nanak utters the Brahm Vichaar (Divine Wisdom…). (sggs 370).
  • ਗਿਆਨ ਹੀਣੰ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਪੂਜਾ ॥ ਅੰਧ ਵਰਤਾਵਾ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ॥: Bereft of Spiritual Wisdom, (people) worship ignorance. In the love of duality (in love of Maya, their) conduct or behavior (keeps them mentally blind or ignorant of their spiritual life). (sggs 1412).

Hence, Baabaa Nanak asserts: We must UNDERSTAND it if we want to realize the Truth or our mind’s Mool within. Without understanding the Gurbani, nobody can apply its Wisdom in daily life!

  • ਬਾਣੀ ਬੂਝੈ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ॥: (One who) understands the Bani, gets absorbed in the Truth (sggs 412).

Baabaa Nanak further reminds us that without UNDERSTANDING, we become perplexed. A perplexed person cannot live a Divine Life – a Gurmukh Lifestyle.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਸਭ ਹੋਇ ਖੁਆਰ ॥: Without understanding, ALL are troubled (afflicted, distressed, perplexed…). (sggs 791).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਕੋ ਥਾਇ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: Without understanding, (one) cannot obtained the Realm (of Truth). (sggs 412).

Hence, unequivocally, the Way of the Gurbani (or Gurmat, Wisdom of the SGGS) is the Way of UNDERSTANDING. The Gurbani further confirms it as follows:

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

Since the Gurbani is BRAHM VICHAAR, and the Way of the Gurbani is the Way of UNDERSTANDING (Soojh Boojh: ਸੂਝ ਬੂਝ), it has no room for dogma, Karamkaand (rituals), blind Pooja (ਪੂਜਾ), Pakhand, superficial religiosity, show off spirituality, trickery, counting beads (ਮਾਲਾ ਫੇਰਨੀ), or PilgrimagesTeerath Yaatraa, or Bhekh (ਭੇਖ-religious paraphernalia) etc.

The Way of the Gurbani is so logical and universal that not only worldly desires (sense-gratification…) but even the desire or greed for liberation (Mukti) is shunned!

  • ਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲਾਰੇ ॥: (O Prabhoo, I) neither desire for empire (Bhugati or materiality) nor liberation (Mukti); (my) mind longs for the love of your lotus feet (Virtues, Wisdom, Naam, Hukam…). (sggs 534).
  • ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬਪੁੜੀ ਭੀ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਤਿਆਗੇ ॥: A spiritually Wise forsakes even liberation (sggs 1078).

As we know it, Baabaa Nanak did not have any embodied being as his Guru.

Apparently, during his life he came across many self-appointed teachers, Yogi, ascetics, scholars, clergymen, etc.

But Baabaa Nanak found them to be fraud, greedy, or simply ignorant. Although, on the outside, they did not look as such.

However, Baabaa Nanak poked into their minds, he found them to be more worldly than the so-called worldly people. He found them to be more materialistic (Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree) than the so-called materialists. He could not see Dharma blossoming out of them. Instead, he found them full of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.), and desires (to attain heaven or eternal gratification in the afterlife…), and so on.

In other words, Baabaa Nanak found their perplexed lifestyle perfumed with the flavor of spiritualism. Thus, he found their outer religious garbs and spiritualism to be a deception and fraud.

It is as if one has anointed a dog with sandalwood. The dog remains a dog; fragrance of sandalwood can only deceive fools!

  • ਕੁਤੇ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਲਾਈਐ ਭੀ ਸੋ ਕੁਤੀ ਧਾਤੁ ॥: (You) may apply sandalwood to a dog, but its real nature will still be of a dog! (sggs 143).

Or, it is as if one has anointed a donkey with sandalwood. The donkey remains a donkey; fragrance of sandalwood can only deceive fools!

  • ਚੰਦਨ ਲੇਪ ਹੋਤ ਦੇਹ ਕਉ ਸੁਖੁ ਗਰਧਭ ਭਸਮ ਸੰਗੀਤਿ ॥: (A donkey’s) body may be anointed with sandalwood, but the donkey still loves to roll in the ash (sggs 673).

Or, it is as if on a cow dung heap one has sprayed some perfume. The cow dung (‘ਗੋਬਰੁ’) remains cow dung; perfume can only deceive fools!

  • ਗੋਬਰੁ ਜੂਠਾ ਚਉਕਾ ਜੂਠਾ ਜੂਠੀ ਦੀਨੀ ਕਾਰਾ ॥: Impure is the cow dung, impure is the kitchen and impure are the lines that mark it off.  (sggs 1195).

Baabaa Nanak was not fooled by any of these ‘Thugs of Baanaaras‘ (‘ਬਾਨਾਰਸਿ ਕੇ ਠਗ’). He could see through and through. He boldly told them if Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.) is there than you are a Manmukh, Saakat, Mayadhaaree!

  • ਫਾਹੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਮਲੂਕੀ ਵੇਸੁ ॥ ਹਉ ਠਗਵਾੜਾ ਠਗੀ ਦੇਸੁ ॥ ਖਰਾ ਸਿਆਣਾ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਭਾਰੁ ॥ ਧਾਣਕ ਰੂਪਿ ਰਹਾ ਕਰਤਾਰ ॥੩॥ : Although I appear as a holy (with religious robes, symbols…), but My focus is on defrauding or trapping people. I have become a den of deceit or Thuggy (ਠੱਗੀ ਦਾ ਅੱਡਾ), I am deceiving the country (i.e., the world). As I become more clever (in cheating), I carry more and more load (on my head). O Creator! I am living as a dreadful huntsman (ਭਿਆਨਕ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਰੀ). ||3|| (sggs 24).

When Baabaa Nanak said that these so-called religious people are all worldly (Mayaic), materialists, Bikaaree or Manmukh, Saakat, Mayadhaaree, of course the Pandits, Brahmans, Yogis, Qazis, Mullahs, etc., were angry. So angry that they turned against him (including his own sons!).

  • ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਸਦਾਇਦੇ ਮਨਹੁ ਮੂਰਖ ਗਾਵਾਰ ॥: Outwardly, (Manmukh) call themselves Pandit, but mentally they are foolish and ignorant (sggs 1091).
  • 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).

Simply put: A dog is dog even if pasted with sandalwood! Or a donkey is just a donkey whether loaded with gold, anointed with sandalwood, or loaded with Granth!

Similarly, for a Sikh, without understanding the Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), everything else is useless. This is the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ).

  • ਮਾਨੁਖੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਆਇਆ ॥: Without understanding, man’s coming (into the world) is useless (sggs 712).
  • ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਪੜੇ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਗੁਨੁ ਖਰ ਚੰਦਨ ਜਸ ਭਾਰਾ ॥: (O pandit!) What is the use of reading the Vedas and the Puraanas? It is like loading a donkey with sandalwood (If Mool is not understood…). (sggs 1102).

It should be noted that understanding the Way of the SGGS is inclusive of living it in daily life (implementation, practice, application, Gurmukh Lifestyle, ਅਮਲ). Because, the Gurbani tells us that without living it in daily life, understanding remains deficient.

  • ਜਹ ਕਰਣੀ ਤਹ ਪੂਰੀ ਮਤਿ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਘਟੇ ਘਟਿ ॥੩॥: When one’s ‘Karanee’ (doing, performance, practice…) is right (according to the Gur-Giaan or Wisdom, then this would indicate) there is perfect understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ, ਅਕਲ). Without ‘Karanee’, (Understanding) remains deficient. ||3|| (sggs 25).

Now, let’s turn our attention to the present-day situation in Gurdwaras. For example, in any Gurdwara around the world, just listen to Ardaas (prayer) being performed by the present-day band of paid Pujaaree (ਪੁਜਾਰੀ ਲਾਣਾ, Bhais, Ragis, Deraa-vaad, Saadh or Sant-vaad, Kathaakaars, Parchaaraks, Jathedaar, foolish so called scholars, etc.)  — you can’t help noticing that it is full of greed, selfishness, material demands and desires for sense-gratifications; totally contrary to the Way of the Gurbani, which reminds us:

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕੈ ਘਰਿ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮੁ ॥੪॥੪॥: There is only Naam in Nanak’s Home (inner Home, Heart) ||4||4|| (sggs 1136).

If Baabaa Nanak were to come into this world today, what would he say after seeing what’s going on in Gurdwaras in his name and in the name of the SGGS and Sikhi; and how the present-day band of paid clergy in alliance with the Gurdwara committees knowingly mislead people into the way of Maya (ਗੋਲਕ, ਚੌਧਰ, Golak, power, privilege, name fame, Karamkaand or rituals, Bharam or doubt, turning the SGGS into an object of idol worshiping instead of UNDERSTANDING and then living it (ਅਮਲ)!

  • 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).


  1. The basic problem is that we are stuck up even with the word “GuRoo” as written in your message.
    How many sikhs are familiar with this.

    There is no doubt we have to understand gurbanee from within itself
    but first we should be clear about the forms of words as written and their reference meanings then only one can go ahead.

  2. Piaarae Jio

    Following may be some helpful questions to explore:

    Should there be a dictionary of Gurbani or Should Larivaar GuRoo Saroop be the Core Inspiration for finding meanings/ Gurbani Reflections? The advantage of later seems, learner learns directly from the GuRoo.

    Should there be a dictionary of Gurbani or All inspirations, meanings, reflections, references should come from within the Gurbani such as GuR NaNK’s Patti Likhi and other similar resources as enshrine and illuminate the GuRoo


  3. In SGGS ji there are words from different languages of that time and thus there is great need of A DICTIONARY (Alphabetcal) of words in SGGS ji with their Meanings ,Context in Gurbaane along with their grammar.
    This way it would be rather easy to get the understanding of gurbaanee messages and there would be uniformity in understanding
    of all .
    This is only a suggestion..because our and coming generations are not familiar with the proper meanings of gurbaanee words.

  4. Sir ji the last alphabet is clearly “Bh” not as “B” alone so it has to be pronounced as “Bhoo”.

  5. “Swaiboo” is another a new pronunciation.

    By reading it sounds like “Saae-bhn” and it is also recommended in Dr. Kulwant Singh’s Nitnem file

    But generally all (including scholars) read it as “Saibhang”

    I feel more comfortable by reading “saae-bhn” as per writing. But don’t want pronounce wrong.

    Please give me more thoughts….


  6. As per my understanding the correct is as under
    Oankaar(u) or Onkaar(u)
    Bhul Chuk Maaf

  7. Need help on Gurbani pronunciation. Which one is correct from following?

    1. Oankar or Oamkar or Ongkar or Onkaar
    2. Saibhang or Saae-bhn


  8. Dear Nikki Ji,
    There is a wonderful promise in Gurbani, which is worth trying. The awareness of this verse has done wonders in my life for many years ‘ਬਿਰਥਾ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਜਿ ਆਵੈ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਹਿ’ – I consider its understanding as ‘Gurparsad’ to me. Kindly contemplate on Gurbani with total faith in Guru and Waheguru – the doors of wisdom and guidance shall open as to what you need to do in life. However, the first step will give up your own houmai/ego and put Waheguru in the driving seat:-
    ਤਿਥੈ ਤੂ ਸਮਰਥੁ ਜਿਥੈ ਕੋਇ ਨਾਹਿ ॥ ਓਥੈ ਤੇਰੀ ਰਖ ਅਗਨੀ ਉਦਰ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਸੁਣਿ ਕੈ ਜਮ ਕੇ ਦੂਤ ਨਾਇ ਤੇਰੈ ਛਡਿ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਅਸਗਾਹੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਪਾਰਿ ਪਾਹਿ ॥ ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਲਗੀ ਪਿਆਸ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸੇਇ ਖਾਹਿ ॥ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਏਹੋ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਗੁਣ ਗੋਵਿੰਦ ਗਾਹਿ ॥ ਸਭਸੈ ਨੋ ਕਿਰਪਾਲੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਲੇ ਸਾਹਿ ਸਾਹਿ ॥ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਜਿ ਆਵੈ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਹਿ ॥੯॥ (Raag Raamkali M. 5, GGS. 962-1).
    in addition, a daily Ardas asking for Gurmat (sumatt) and divine guidance helps removes one’s dubidha/bharam with Waheguru’s grace as blessings.

  9. Gurbaanee understanding is a journey with THE WORD GUROO…
    One should make THE WORD GuROO as ones True Teacher and see how one is being guided for the understanding of Gurbaanee.The results are JUST AMAZING to say GuROO as Wah GuROO.

Leave a Reply to T. Singh Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. * = required fields. Comment Policy.