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. It is interesting to see that in Gurbani we clearly come across these words
    2..ਗੁਰੁ and
    These are three distinct Noun words. We are required to understand the true n correct reference meanings of these three words then only we can move ahead.
    Further what is the significance of these words ,there seems to be some important inter relationship between these three words that we should find out.This inter relation ship is well clarified in Gurbani but we have to recognize,understand n accept this.

  2. Thanks a lot CS ji ,
    I appreciate your such an understanding about Gurbani.

  3. Thank jio- I agree we should write Gurmukhi and roman; interestingly, Guru Bani – enshrines and illuminates as Bani Guru (ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰੂ) , not as Guru Bani – [ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ] Reference is ਗੁਰੁ ਬਾਣੀ or ਗੁਰ ਬਾਣੀ probably no where illuminates as ਗੁਰੂ ਬਾਣੀ. I further agree with you about “how we understand the word Guru” is very very important.

  4. CS ji ,
    I may bring to your kind notice that Guru Bani word is very much there within SGGS ji .The point is how we understand the word Guru .( This word Guru is with matra of Aukad under its last letter R not with Matra of Dulakad as we generally understand)

    In fact we should wriye important Gurbany words in Gurmukhi script also along with Roman Script for more clear understanding.
    This is my suggestion only.

  5. We are fortunate and thankful to the Guru, for bringing us together and guiding us to continue learning and reflecting on Gurbani with each others’ participation jio. Thank you so much Puninder Singh Bhatia jio for your insights and luv for the Gurbani.

  6. Vir jio – Im sorry that was a typing error “Gurubani with Gurbani” I could not edit /fix the post immediately. It is the same as you and Vir T Singh ji understanding – learning Gurbani from Gurbani, understanding Gurbani by reflecting, researching from Gurbani only. Thanks for picking it -;). Appreciated.

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