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. Thanks jio ਇਕੁ ਤਿਲੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਵਡਾ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ Ank 21

  2. Bhai Sahib ji- we may agree that Gurmat is all about inquiry into the being through reflections ( Vichar) research(Khoj) and measurement (Tol). Please allow me to clarify with an reference from Gurbani: ਕਹਤਉ ਪੜਤਉ ਸੁਣਤਉ ਏਕ ॥ (Ank 685) This triggers an inquiry….the question to answer is who is speaking, reading, listening? and how? further, how these three functionalities ( listening, speaking, reading) could be ( performed by) One Only ? this will likely help exploring several layers to discover the meaning and this will intensifying the research from Gurbani through reflection and analysis in the right direction, Gurkirpa. please disregard everything else what I have said in my post.

  3. T Singh ji,
    My question is this:
    Is Waheguru Jaap (as majority of sikhs believe is best way of naam simran) is going to help one become one with Naam. If yes, then I am very curious to find how Guru Granth Sahib points this out.

  4. Dear Prakash Singh Ji,
    I am not against repetition and yes you are right everything is based on repetition. We bathe daily, brush daily and do Nitnem daily. But, Nitnem is a conversation, a message, a thought, a veechar of our Guru, which if understood and contemplated can really change one’s thought process. The thought process will make this human do better deeds (karams), because its all about karams. But Sikhs are now being preached that “Waheguru” word recitation is going to give you all that Gurbani talks about. Is this true? If yes, can one word change our behavior? It is true meditation (focusing on one word) makes one’s lighter, because state of thoughtlessness is a good exercise for the brain, but that is it, its an exercise. It’s not going to clean up one’s thoughts. Is Simran – a recitation? a repitition? in Gurmat?
    As far as I have understood, Guru Nanank’s naam simran (recitation of Gurbani and contemplation) is:
    6) living a true life (performing pious deeds), which is only possible when:
    5) there is divine love in our heart, which will come through:
    4) realization, which will come through:
    3) understanding of Naam, which will come through:
    2) understanding of Gurbani and living according to Gurbani, which will happen only:
    1) when we will read and start finding all answers from Gurbani only.

    (How to become a doctor will be not found in Gurbani, but becoming a doctor with love for humanity is the message a doctor will take from Gurbani…. and that will influence the doctor to do Pious Deeds or perform his duty diligently on Dharamsaal – earth)

    People are giving so much importance to one word recitation, that it has now become more important than their Nitnem. This kind of thnking can be Sant-mat, Dera-mat, Jog-mat, but doesn’t sound like Gur-mat.

    My words might be blunt and straight, but my idea is to become Sikh and live as Guru wants a Sikh to live.
    Bhul Chuk di Maafi!

  5. Dear Charan Singh Ji, in all honesty I am unable to understand what you meant up there.

    But let me try: – Did you mean that if we repeat the word and become mindful while the repetition process then Wahe-Guru (Wonderous Lord) becomes part of our thoughts, he actually becomes our companion in everything we do?

    Is the phrase you used above from Gurbani? – ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਨ ਇਕਲੇ + ਰਹੇ ਪਤਿ ਇਸ ਸੰਗ ( I am not saying alone- You are with me as a companion), if yes, please state the ang, would love to read the full shabad.

    Would await your reply.

  6. Thanks Veer Charan S. and Veer Prakash S. Bagaa Ji for taking the time to respond!

    I believe what Veer Puninder Singh Bhatia is talking about is ritualistic mechanical repetition (robotic reading/hearing, etc.) WITHOUT Understanding what the Gurbani is saying.

    If one does not understand the Gurbani, he cannot live it!!
    • ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਸੂਝੈ ॥ (sggs 1044).
    • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥ (sggs 148).
    • ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਥਿ ਤਤੁ ਕਢੀਏ ॥੪॥੫॥੫੭॥ (sggs 367).
    • ਏਨੀ ਅਖੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Enee akhee nadari n aavaee jicharu sabadi n kare beechaaru (sggs 1279).

    So, the Gurbani rejects such empty exercise (ਪਖੰਡ) in very strong terms:
    • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥ (sggs 224).
    • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥ (sggs 685).
    • ਪਾਖੰਡਿ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਪਾਏ ॥ (sggs 88).

  7. One can see how one is living with repetition of breath . A Quote as “SAAS SAAS SIMRAu GOBIND MUN ANTAR KEE UTARE CHIND” points to such a state of repetition with NAAMu(HARi and/or RAAM)
    I agree with CS ji for what is termed as mechanical repetition

  8. Please allow me to share a slightly different perspective – if we write in punjabi langauge something that is close and phonetically equivalent to “Mechanical Repetition” it seem the phrase becomes : ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਨ ਇਕਲੇ + ਰਹੇ ਪਤਿ ਇਸ ਸੰਗ ( I am not saying alone- You are with me as a companion, challenge seems to be identifying who is saying, how and what ) That brings me to a interesting concluding point to ponder -what is termed as mechanical repetition, with little mindfulness becomes Co-Awareness of the Waho !! Companion that dwells along ( sada ang sange)( kehto parto sunto aek0). Positivity is subtle and hidden in every thing – only to be rediscovered. I think Sikh seeks and rediscover, this is veechar./ reflective researching -:)

  9. Thanks Puninder Singh Bhatia Ji for taking the time to respond! Welcome to the Gurbani Blog Ji!

    One thing disheartens me a lot that when Gurbani says hundreds of time that a Sikh should contemplate/understand, practice and himself become a truth,

    Thank you Bhai Sahib Jio! well said!

    then why almost every other kathakaar or kirtani preaches mechanical repetition of the word Waheguru and call it Naam Simran?

    Because, simply put, clearly, such “kathakaar or kirtani” etc. either don’t understand the Gurbani or don’t believe it!!
    • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥ (sggs 224).

    According to the Gurbani, such “kathakaar or kirtani” etc. are Manmukh, Saakat, or Mayadhaaree (mammon worshippers)
    • ਚਿਤੁ ਜਿਨ ਕਾ ਹਿਰਿ ਲਇਆ ਮਾਇਆ ਬੋਲਨਿ ਪਏ ਰਵਾਣੀ ॥ (sggs 920).
    • ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪੜੈ ਨਹੀ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਲੂਝੈ ॥ (sggs 127).
    • ਪੜਹਿ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਪਰੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਨਾ ॥ (sggs 1032).
    • ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਭੀਜੈ ਸਾਕਤਾ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਆਵਨੁ ਜਾਨੁ ॥ (sggs 21).

    Such “kathakaar or kirtani” etc. have inflicted so much damage to the Gurmat (teach or wisdom of the SGGS) that it may be irreversible.

    Babaa Nanak tells these Ragis (professional singers) that it does not matter how many different ways they sing, but “Hari” (Mool, Source, Raam…) is not pleased by these. Baabaa Nanak says that these mentally blind Ragis do all this for the sake of “bread” (“ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ”) – Maya, Golak…
    • ਕੋਈ ਗਾਵੈ ਰਾਗੀ ਨਾਦੀ ਬੇਦੀ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਨਹੀ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਭੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥: Koee gaavai raagee naadee … (sggs 450).
    • ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀਆ ਰਾਗਿ ਨ ਭੀਜਈ ॥: Iki gaavahi raag pareeaa raagi n bheejaee (sggs 1285).
    • ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ ॥: Roteeaa karani poorahi taal (sggs 465).

  10. If we cant transliterate the gurbaanee words in ROMAN SCRIPT as SIMILAR as in Gurmukhi script then how can we get correct understanding of Gurbaanee messages .-just not possible.

    Second point is knowing the correct starting reference for understanding of Gurbaanee ..This is very important n so far no consideration is given to such a reference .

    In my opinion if starting reference is correct then one would find that Gurbaanee can be understood as Guroo is speaking in SGGs ji. With wrong reference of understanding we are always going to draw different meanings and remain inconclusive.

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