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Talking Stick

The Guru
The Talking Stick Colloquium VI: Pauris 5 - 7, February 8 - 14

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA


 

THE DIALOGUE - So Far, and Moving Forward

In the previous conversation on Pauris 3 and 4, Guru Nanak introduced us to the concept of Amrit Vela, as the time for action, or an opportunity to commune with the True Name (Sach NauN) - the way to align with hukam, and by extension, connecting with the Hukmī (God) behind the hukam.

We were also reminded that individual effort - while necessary - was not sufficient, that Nadar (grace) was indispensable to find that portal or door (mokh dwar) which would lead to communion with Naam.

In these pauris, Guru Nanak again touches on themes raised in earlier stanzas, such as yogic practices and pilgrimages, but with a view to introduce us to the concept of Guru.

The Guru in Sikhi is that portal through which communication with the True Name is made possible. Here, God, addressed as Gurmukh, is introduced as the primordial Guru. Note that the term Gurmukh is also used for an ideal Sikh, literally meaning the face of the Guru or turning to the Guru - a directional goal for all Sikhs.

A Sikh has two orientations available: Gurmukh and Manmukh. A Gurmukh is centered (affixed) in the Guru through inner devotion ('liv', in gurbani) while attending to the affairs of the world. A Manmukh, on the other hand, lives a toxic, haumai based existence, driven by the external rat race (called dhaturbazi in gurbani).

We will together pause and reflect on the Guru as our guide and mentor, and in the parlance of Sikhi, our only hope for salvation.

 

THE MESSAGE

Pauri 5: We cannot manufacture and install the Truth and hope to communicate with it - a clear reference to idol worship. Guru Nanak suggests that God does not need a special idol or temple to manifest. Communion with the Truth is an inner process, which a Sikh must quicken by turning to the True Name in simple and loving devotion - reflecting on the divine qualities of that Supreme Being.  Grace is obtained through the Guru who reveals the underlying unity of creation. God is "seen" as diffused in creation.

In this stanza, God is referred to as the primordial Guru, and also called Gurmukh - the One who is the Word, the Scripture, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe - not to mention who is also the universal goddess, the fount of all virtues.

Pauri 6: Extending the point made in stanza 5, Guru Nanak here picks on holy dips at pilgrimages (tirath) to suggest that all external piety is meaningless if divine pleasure is not incurred - another way of saying that without communion with hukam, all action is for naught. The Guru's wisdom, if attended to, reveals hidden treasures (a metaphor for the True Name) that lie dormant within.

Pauri 7: Following the same line of thought, Guru Nanak defines what true success is by addressing the Yogis. A long life, celebrity, wealth, adoration and a large retinue - marks of worldly success even by today's standards - are meaningless without Grace.

LET'S PONDER:

ü         The concept of Guru is fundamental to Sikhi. Being a Sikh implies a Guru just as being a disciple implies a Teacher. Yet, "Guru" in the context of Guru Granth Sahib has different connotations - the Guru is God, the Guru is Shabad (Word), the Guru is also personal, as is evident by references to Guru Nanak made by Guru Arjan.

o        How do we make sense of the spectrum of meanings around 'Guru'?

o        There are multiple terms used for 'Guru' in the Guru Granth Sahib: Guru, Satguru, Gurdev and Gurbani, e.g.. What accounts for these variations, if any?

o        What explains the popularity of personal gurus even today?

o        My Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib, instructs me at virtually every page, to seek the company of "sants"; yet the word "sant" has become a pejorative term. What does it mean to go seek the company of "sants?"

o        Is "Sant" and Guru the same?

 

THE TEXT - Rendered in English

PAURI 5

Thāpi▫ā Na jā▫e kīṯā Na hoâ–«e  

Installed not, nor created,

Āpe āp niranjan so▫e

You just are - self existent, immaculate.

Jin sevi▫ā ṯin pā▫i▫ā mān

Honored are they, who venerate

Nānak gāvī▫ai guṇī niḏẖān

Nanak, sing to that treasure-trove

Gāvī▫ai suṇī▫ai man rakẖī▫ai bẖā▫o

Singing and listening with devotion,

Ḏukẖ parhar sukẖ gẖar lai jā▫e

Sheds despair and brings joy.

Gurmukẖ nāḏaʼn

Gurmukh is the primal sound,

Gurmukẖ veḏaʼn

Gurmukh is the divine fount.

Gurmukẖ rahi▫ā samā▫ī

Gurmukh remains immersed.

Gur īsar gur gorakẖ barmā gur pārbaṯī mā▫ī

The Guru is Destroyer, the Guru is Preserver, the Guru is Creator; Guru is the Universal Goddess.

Je ha▫o jāṇā ākẖā nāhī kahṇā kathan na jā▫ī

Fathom the Guru if I could, remain silent I would - saying would not suffice.

Gurā ik ḏehi bujẖā▫ī

The Guru has revealed this truth

Sabẖnā jī▫ā kā ik ḏāṯā so mai visar na jā▫ī

The One Giver lords over all beings - never forget.

   

PAURI 6

Ŧirath nāvā je ṯis bẖāvā

Immerse in a holy dip I would, if only your pleasure is obtained;

Viṇ bẖāṇe kė nā▫e karī

Else, to what avail?

Jeṯī siraṯẖ upā▫ī vekẖā viṇ karmā kė milai la▫ī

In your creation, nothing without your Grace is attained.

Maṯ vicẖ raṯan javāhar māṇik je ik gur kī sikẖ suṇī

To the Guru if I turn, gems of wisdom would I gain.

Gurā ik ḏehi bujẖā▫ī

The Guru has revealed this truth

Sabẖnā jī▫ā kā ik ḏāṯā so mai visar na jā▫ī

The One Giver lords over all beings - never forget that.

 


PAURI 7

Je jug cẖāre ārjā hor ḏasūṇī ho▫e

Four ages were I to live, even ten times longer,

Navā kẖanda vicẖ jāṇī▫ai nāl cẖalai sabẖ ko▫e

Known in the nine regions, celebrated by all,

Cẖanga nā▫o rakẖā▫e kai jas kīraṯ jag le▫e

A great reputation, praised by the world,

Je ṯis naḏar na āvī ṯa vāṯ na pucẖẖai ke

Without your Grace, all this would be waste.

Kītā anḏar kīt kar ḏosī ḏos ḏẖare

Among worms, be as a parasite; among sinners, scorned would I be.

Nānak nirguṇ guṇ kare guṇvanṯi▫ā guṇ ḏee

O Nanak, you bestow virtue on the worthless, the worthy you grow in truth.

Ŧehā ko▫e na sujẖ▫ī jė ṯis guṇ ko▫e kare

Who can return this favor?

Conversation about this article

1: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), February 08, 2010, 11:47 AM.

At first glance, it does look like the word "guru" is being used interchangeably for God and the Guru (Teacher) in the Sikh sense. But I was fortunate to be taught several years ago that the English transliteration loses the subtle nuance of the Punjabi vowels - syarhi, byarhi, etc. - which leads us to such confusion. Someone who knows far more than me - Dr. Pashaura Singh ji comes to mind immediately, as one such person - can shed some light on this, please. The switch of the use of one vowel to another apparently changes the meaning markedly!

2: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 08, 2010, 1:03 PM.

It is a bit off the topic for sure, but while I was reading - as mentioned by T.Sher Singh ji - how the literal meaning changes with one switch of a vowel, this suddenly raised a question in my mind: What is the meaning of Sikh as a word in the Gurmukhi/ Punjabi? If someone could just tell me in few words, please ...

3: Dr. Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 08, 2010, 3:32 PM.

First of all, my compliments to the organizers of this colloquium to start this thread. May Akal Purakh bless you all! Yes, the meaning of any term in Gurbani changes with the change of the ending vowel. Most of the times when Guru Nanak uses the term "Guru" or "Satguru", it refers to the Divine Guru (Akal Purakh himself), to the voice of Akal Purakh and to the Word, the 'Truth' of Akal Purakh. To experience the eternal Guru is to experience divine guidance. Guru Nanak himself acknowledged Akal Purakh as his Guru: "He who is the infinite, Supreme God is the Guru whom Nanak has met"[GGS:590]. In Sikh usage, therefore, the Guru is the voice of Akal Purakh, mystically uttered within the human heart, mind and soul ("munn"). In Sikhism, the term Guru has evolved over time to encompass four types of spiritual authority: the eternal Guru, the personal Guru (Ten historical Gurus from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh), the Guru Granth and theGuru Panth. Now, the meaning of "Gurmukhi" in the text under discussion is quite special here. It becomes obvious only when we look into similar usages elsewhere in the Guru Granth Sahib. For Guru Nanak, "the voice that came out of the mouth of the eternal Guru ("Gurmukhi" -'voice of Akal Purakh') is the sacred sound ('naad'), that voice is the source of scriptural knowledge ('ved') and that voice permeates all." This is the meaning of this particular line from the Japji. Guru Nanak elaborates it in Ramkali Raag as follows: "sabh nad ved gurbani" - 'Gurbani embodies all the scriptural knowledge (ved) and the eternally sounding melodious vibration (naad) that permeates all space' [GGS:879]. I think I should stop here.

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 08, 2010, 5:50 PM.

Dr. Pashaura Singh ji, thank you for your participation and explanation. My request to you would be to continue to share with us the benefit of your scholarship, insight and grounding in Sikhi.

5: Avtar Reehal (Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 08, 2010, 9:43 PM.

Dr. Pashaura Singh ji - simply, Thank You! Please continue ...

6: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 09, 2010, 10:12 AM.

That the term Guru has been used variously to denote God, Guru Nanak, Guru Granth and Guru Panth is abundantly clear. We need to be mindful of these distinctions to avoid confusion. An understanding of "lagan/ matran," is equally important; another pitfall to avoid is to interpret Gurbani literally. But all of this should not detract us from the central message which is overwhelmingly consistent. A fundamental requirement - if we are to truly appreciate gurbani - is ongoing, consistent and honest engagement. This means taking the time to recite, to sing, to ponder and to absorb. Are we taking the time?

7: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 10, 2010, 9:43 AM.

Dr. Pashaura Singh ji mentioned the Panth as Guru. I wonder if he could elaborate on that. What is the relationship between the Panth as Guru and the Granth as Guru? If the Panth is Guru, then how does the Panth communicate to each individual Sikh? Another question (for anyone) is: Sikhs are very insistent that the line of personal Gurus stopped with Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikh Gurus were Gurus because we believe that they were fully "awake", that the Word (shabad) was fully manifest in them. Does that mean that such awakening is no longer possible? Surely, there are enlightened individuals today. Why dont Sikhs treat them as Gurus? The reality of a lot of individuals who are called Gurus is also very visibile - Radha Soamis, Nirankaris, Namdharis, etc. How do we explain this phenomena? Interestingly enough, they all use gurbani (the bani of the Sikh Gurus) as the basis of their teachings. Would be interested to hear some views on this.

8: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Texas, U.S.A.), February 10, 2010, 1:16 PM.

First and foremost, none of our Gurus called themselves by this title. Guru Granth is the proof of it where they gave themselves just numbers, but at the same time they respected those who already had the titles like Bhagats, Sheikhs, etc. We, the followers called them Gurus. Guru in Guru Granth is Shabad Guru. The word Guru, as we all know means a teacher. It could be anyone or anything that awakens us up from sleepwalking. The Wow! and Awe! factors that surround us are part and parcel of this. As being a Sikh means a learner, a student, so anyone and anything that can breed goodness in us is our "Guru" but it is not a title, just like the word 'sant'. Both are used as adjectives in the Guru Granth which require continuous actions. In other words, a spring of water is only a spring when it continuously spouts water. The moment it stops, it is just one more hole in the ground.

9: Guravtar Dhaliwal (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 10, 2010, 3:27 PM.

Guru Nanak is further confirming the fundamental attributes of Akal Purakh as listed in the Mool Mantar. The Akal Purakh cannot be structured in any form, and is beyond description. Guru ji has already stated in the 2nd pauri that 'hukam' pervails in every aspect of creation - kudrat. Since there is no form or figure of Akal Purakh, there is no mouth to it either. Because of 'kudrat', the human has been blessed with intellectual faculties to comprehend natural phenomena. Guru Nanak is referring to the belief promoted by the Vedas and Sidhanta that proclaim gods like gorakh and iser (Shiva). But, then he reiterates, "Akal Purakh is indescribable. Even if one comprehends, one still cannot describe." Then, addressing that Primal Being, Guru Nanak asks for comprehension of the mystics about the Creator he never wishes to forget. To say that any scripture is handed down by Akal Purakh is against the precepts of Gurbani. Guru Nanak wrote: 'kurat ved puran kateba kudrat sarab beechar' [GGS:464]. The veds, purans and all the Semitic religious books and their deliberators exist because of the natural phenomena. Akal Purakh blessed the human with the ability to learn and admire the Word.

10: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), February 10, 2010, 10:23 PM.

It is always good to bring scholarship into a discussion. It enhances the texture of the debate. Therefore my personal welcome to Dr. Pashaura Singh ji. This discussion started with the Mool Mantar. The collective opinion was that in the Sikh Faith, God has no form. Assuming our general opinion remains the same, can Guru Nanak meet God? Dr. Pashaura Singh's statement has created confusion for me. Also, if the Eternal Guru is formless, can it have a mouth. I also had a problem finding any related lines in on GGS:590. Additional reflection on these thoughts will be greatly appreciated. The prolific use of the word Guru in the Guru Granth can be confusing not only due to the use of Gurmukhi vowel signs, but also to take the reference towards the Living Guru while the intent is towards Eternal Guru. It will be a great service to the Sikhs (learners) if a project is initiated to define each reference to Guru in the Guru Granth and have it properly explained.

11: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 6:45 AM.

I would like our fellow writers to chime in on what I think is a puzzling phenomenon of wanting to believe in a live being rather than the written Word. I have observed that there seems to be a very real need for human beings to have a live priest, 'baba' or 'sant' to give them divine guidance or a sense of purpose. It may be similar to the fact that at a live concert, the same old songs have a more delightful appeal than those we listen to at home. Is this taking hold in Sikhism again due to a lack of education or the fact that we haven't put any significance to our coming generations of engaging with the Guru Granth? When I watch our Punjabi TV channels, during the morning parkash, it's hard not to notice sangat members almost tumbling over each to touch the palki, reminiscent of darshan of the 'guru' as our hindu brethren do, whereas more emphasis needs to be on contemplation of the shabad Guru. I have also noticed that some of our orators are now beginning to ask why we have started this practice of paying hefty prices for rumallaas and decorative clothing which I feel originates from the belief that if I offer something of significant value to my Guru, then I will get what I desire. I do not intend any disrespect towards some of the established practices of our deep reverence towards the Guru Granth, but some excesses need to be pointed out. Another observation among some of my friends from Sikh families is if I am critical of the gurdwara bhai, they are very quick to tell me not to say anything awkward about the 'baba', as he is referred to by them. Maybe there is an embedded psyche in thinking that since these bhais read the Guru Granth every day, they are of an unreachable pious status. As you point out, only a consistent engagement with gurbani will uplift our understanding and peel away these layers of ignorance.

12: Mohan Singh  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 11, 2010, 9:28 AM.

Great comments by Gurdev Singh and Nirmal Singh. It is true that our Guru is shabad (gyan) guru. Some people refer to rumaalla sahib, chaur sahib and palki sahib. Let there be Guru Granth Sahib only. God is Guru and Guru is Akal Purakh. In the Mool Mantar, Gur Parsad refers to Akal Purakh (God's Grace). Akal Purakh is 'aad sachh, jugaad sachh ...' Also, the first shlok of Sukhmani: 'Aad gureh nameh, Jgad gureh nameh ...' refers to Akal Purakh. Gurbani is 'dhur ki bani' or gyan from Akal Purakh. Our Guru's body was a platform from which guru shabads were delivered. Divine words and messages compiled in the Pothy, the first Granth. It was also called Pothy Parmeshwer by Guru Arjan since it was the compilation of shabad-gurbani, and once it was completed, it was proclaimed Guru by the Tenth Master. Each chapter in the Guru Granth starts with the Mool Mantar as an invocation of the Akal Purakh. Each paragraph start with Gur Parsad, again invoking the grace of the Akal Purakh.

13: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 9:57 AM.

To Nilvi ji: I would say that we we need to be mindful of the limitations of our binary or syllogistic logic when we deal with matters of the spirit. By logic, Guru Nanak could not have "met" God because God is formless. But Guru Nanak is emphatically clear that he has indeed seen God. However, he is equally clear in stating that the eyes with which he "saw" God are not the ones that we normally refer to. That is why bani calls it "anubhav prakash" and "akath katha". To say that the Guru has a mouth is again not to be taken literally - language is limiting, but how else do we communicate with each other? To Guravtar ji: I would offer that while Akal Purakh has no mouth, all mouths are Akal Purakhs - isn't that what bani tells us? Nature is not divorced from Akal Purakh - Akal Purakh lives in Nature and that is how we recognize Akal Purakh.

14: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 11, 2010, 1:34 PM.

I wish to add to what Gurdev Singh ji said: we as masses follow without having the right knowledge, and get swayed by ego again, doing bigger and better things for God, thinking giving more will get me more (give more for sure if you have more, as you will help your fellow humans maybe or help build bigger gurdwaras). That supreme soul who we call Akal Purakh doesn't want any physical things form us, as He is not physical; He wants our thoughts and our love and that is the way he communicates with us. He wants a relationship from us in the form of a son, daughter, lover, student, friend, and so on. Thoughts are the vehicle He communicated with Guru Nanak, as probably He could see that Guru Nanak was apt for delivering His message at a time when people were mired in rituals, instead of connecting with Him. I think there is a dire need to make us and our next generations understand the real knowledge, its meaning and the way to connect to God, than just going to gurdwaras for a service. Otherwise the dust that is already on the real knowledge will get thicker. We should clean the mirror and see the clear picture. The problem comes when we try to understand gur ki bani with our physical senses and we are so limited in our physical world because we interpret things with our five senses only. We never try to see with our mind and try to understand it logically, which is a great teacher, it will clears our confusions. I am no scholar for sure but I have some thoughts that the Guru in my opinion should be your real consciousness which arises out of you when you understand the meaning of Guru Granth Sahib, when you keep God as your friend with you, and when you research other religious books for that matter, and apply logic. As a Sikh and a learner, we should explore a little more outside as well, rather than just sticking to our Guru Granth, surely that is our starting point. Because everything else written and said in other religions (keep aside the practices developed by physicality of humans) is also the knowledge given by same supreme soul who we as Sikhs call Akal Moorat. There can be many physical gurus, as we go along the journey but before we make them gurus, we need have to pure consciousness, so we can distinguish the good from the bad. Until then, we should follow Guru Granth Sahib and and its teachings will enlighten us. For a lot of people who are not scholars, they do need teachers in the physical sense and these guides should teach us and our kids the meaning of these holy scriptures, so that we get the right direction and follow it with an open mind and logic. With regard to Nirmal Singh ji's comment, did Guru Nanak meet God, I would say 'yes', he did, and we too can do that with our mind only. I think when you meet Him, it is nothing physical that happens; there will not be thunder, lightning or that we will see an oversized figure emerging in front of us. When we concentrate and build a relationship with Him, He then keeps talking to you through your mind as He did with Guru Nanak. If we keep clear and clean in our consciousness, then it is easier to tune our frequencies to His frequency and connect with Him.

15: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 1:53 PM.

Ravinder ji: Thanks for your understanding that Nature in its every aspect is permeated with the Akal Purakh. The question is then why are we trying to isloate or create another Akal Purakh that only special eyes can see. Guru Nanak and the succeeding Sikh Gurus are consistent in their writings that God is indescribable, but It can only be realized (anubhav) through attributes. Guru Nanak wrote: 'naa tis roop naa raekhiaa kaayee' - God is without any form or feature [GGS:750]. And Guru Ram Das wrote: 'kichh wakhar hoie soe varniyae, tis roop naa rikhaa' - Only if God was a material subject, it could be described. Since, It does not have any form or feature, It is indescribable [GGS:1316]. That brings us back to Nature as infused in every aspect with the Akal Purakh. Guru Amar Das described it as, "maya ka roop sabh tis tae hoie.' - All natural phenomena (including human beings) emanate from It [GGS:797]. The questions we are all faced with are not new, Guru Amar Das had the same question as well. He wrote: 'tis roop naa raekh adrishat kahu, jun kio dhyaayeeai' - When Akal Purakh does not have any form or feature, making It invisible and indescribable, pray, tell us how can we then meditate upon It [GGS:664]. Fortunately for us, Guru Ram Das provides us with the answer: "tis roop naa raekiayaa ghat ghat daekhayaa gurmukh alakh lakhawannyiaa' - Akal Purakh, having no form or feature, can be realized by apppreciating every aspect of Nature, though it takes a gurmukh to comprehend such non-descript identity [GGS:130]. I think that is what you mean by special eyes for 'unbhav parkash' - a gurmukh realizing attributes of the Akal Purakh in natural phenomena. And, Guru Nanak, having the supreme intellect, made shabad as the significant mark for realization of nature. He wrote: 'naa tis roop varan nahi raekhiaa saachaie sabd nisaann' - Akal Purakh has no form, feature, creed or color; but, through the shabad has made a significant mark and can be ralized [GGS:597]. In conclusion, Guru Nanak referring to the veds and sidhanta in pauri 5 is affirming the fact that the Akal Purakh cannot be manufactured, created or posted in any form or feature. Having written so much about an indescribable and invisible Akal Purakh, Guru is not contradicting himself by saying that he has seen God; instead, he is telling us that he has, with his super-consciousness, realized the attributes and any gurmukh can do the same. Guru Arjan, in mentioning the unquenchable desire to realize more of Akal Purakh, is confirming the writings of Guru Amar Das, when the latter wrote: 'teh anaek roop naaoe nav nidh tis da anth naa jaayee paaiaa' - The treasure of natural phenomena has so many varied attributes of the Akal Purakh, that nobody can reach the limits [GGS:922]. Hence, God cannot be contained in one image or impression.

16: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 5:01 PM.

Guravtar ji: the intent is certainly not to create another Akal Purakh but simply to say that Akal Purakh can be "seen" or "experienced" through the "eyes of awareness or consciousness." Gurdev and Jasvinder ji: A personal "guru" is anathema to us but I do believe that some spiritual mentoring can be beneficial - whether in the shape of a sangat or even a one-on-one relationship. Most of us have a "transactional" relationship with Akal Purakh - the greater the investment, the better the returns we can expect. We translate gurbani to validate and reinforce our habitual way of looking at the world (haumai/ manmukh); whereas we should be using gurbani to break down the walls of conditioning and see the world afresh and anew.

17: Dr. Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 6:08 PM.

Thanks, S. Nirmal Singh ji, for pointing out the mistake in the citation. The actual citation is on page 599 of the Guru Granth Sahib in Sorath Raga: 'aparampar parbrahm parmesar nanak gur milia soii jio' - "He who is the Infinite Supreme God is the Guru whom Nanak has met" [GGS:599]. My appologies. This is Guru Nanak's personal assertion about the nature of the Guru that he had met in his spiritual experience. If we confine Akal Purakh to only nirgun aspect (i.e. 'formless'), then the sargun aspect is de-emphasized. In gurbani, both 'nirgun' and 'Sargun aspects are equally stressed by the Gurus. ('Nirgun sargun nirankar sunn samadhi ap'). 'Karta Purakh (the 'Creator Person') in the Mool Mantar specifically refers to "Personal God" who answers the prayers of his devotees. Then eight attributes of God's personality are described in the Mool Mantar ('nirbhau, nirvair, akal, murat, ajauni, saibhang, gur parsad'). All these attributes can be realized in one's personal development. One can become "fearless, without rancor, the master of time (i.e. punctual), beautiful, independent, self-motivated, knowledgeable, and compassionate. Indeed, divine virtues become the source of human development. It was Guru Ram Das who put the greatest emphasis on the "personal nature" of God ('so Purakh') who becomes the source of human relationships as father, mother, brother, friend and so on. Gurbani has inexhaustible potential for meaning.

18: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 9:51 PM.

To seek the company of sants means to surround yourself with those who are entrenched in their respective religions. Those that are pure at heart. It doesn't matter if they are of a different faith, as Guru ji has taught that there are many different rivers that flow from the same source. Unfortunately today, there are those who are only sants in name. They use their influence to gain money and political clout. It is our challenge to recognize these imposters and take action against them.

19: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A..), February 11, 2010, 10:25 PM.

One more reference for our fellow writers to ponder. In the last slok of the Japji, Guru Nanak also refers to air as Guru, 'Pavan Guru'. The one explanation so far I have is that since the shabad is the Guru, the shabad cannot be communicated if air is absent. When Guru Nanak says 'aakhaan jeevaan visrai mar jaa-o [GGS:9], he is expressing that the shabad recitation is what sustains me and for that we need air (as the medium).

20: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 12, 2010, 6:39 AM.

Glad to see that Dr. Pashaura Singh ji has steered the discussion to personal development. One of the drivers of this colloquium was to understand gurbani exactly in those terms. To the attributes that Pashaura Singh ji has listed (which we must inculcate), I would suggest that a gurmukh (our goal) must also be conscious of being engaged in a purpose that is higher/ bigger than narrow selfish ends. Of course, we are wired for self-preservation and that comes naturally, but beyond a point, a gurmukh is obliged to seek cause with a higher purpose. To me, that higher purpose is embedded in Hukam - which operates not only at a macro level, but also at a micro level (within me). We should all be consciously asking ourselves, "what is the hukam for me?" Hukam is revealed to us by the Guru ('satguru diya bhujaye jio'). Understanding who the Guru is and how communication with the Guru occurs therefore becomes crucial.

21: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), February 12, 2010, 11:31 PM.

Dr. Pashaura Singh ji, thanks a lot for your insights. I don't know whether you agree with the interpretation of GGS:99, line 7. But the literal translation in the Guru Granth prepared by Prof. Sahib Singh implies that Guru Nanak has met God. I would encourage all participants to read 'Rag Sorath' from p 595 line 3, to p 599, line 7. In this, Guru Nanak more than once describes God as formless, indescribable and many other ways. He also states that He is within us and around us ('jo antar so bahr dekhhu, avar na duja koi jio'). He is in everyone of us ('Nanak gian ratan parvasia, har mann vasia nirankari'). A gurmukh should look with the same eye of eqality to see His Light in every eye ('Gurmukh ek darist kar dekhhu, ghat ghat jot samai jio'). After reading the entire 'Rag Sorath', it appears highly unreasonabe to say that Guru Nanak says he has met God. It is a literal translation of Prof. Sahib Singh Ji whose work I admire otherwise. After reading Guru Nanak's bani, it is hard for me to believe that Guru Nanak will claim such a thing. Let me assure you I do not believe in raising such points for the mere sake of doing so. If someone wants to believe in Guru Nanak meeting God, just like some believe in miracles, I have no personal problem with it. However, it does have implications. We encourage others to continue making such erroneous labeling and use this discussion as a reference. Sikhism will appear like Islam (Guru Nanak meeting God like Mohamed meeting Allah). God being Formless, Guru Nanak's meeting God will be like Jesus being son of God in Christianity. I hope to have the benefit of your opinion after your reading 'Rag Sorath'.

22: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 13, 2010, 8:29 AM.

Kudos to the participants for another week of lively and insightful conversation around Gurbani. It is quite natural for a conversation to branch out into unforeseen and unintended directions - that is the beauty of dialogue. But I would remind ourselves to stay hewed to the topic of the week - which was the concept of 'Guru'. To turn to Nilvi ji's comment about Guru Nanak "meeting" God: Gurbani - as you know - has multiple meanings - we need to get past the literal and beyond the allegorical - into the mystical. Now, I realize this is mumbo-jumbo to some, but gurbani is not meant to be informational alone, it should be transformational. That is why it has a mystical meaning as well. "Meeting" God cannot be understood - nor does it make sense - unless one has the same experience that Guru Nanak speaks of.

23: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 13, 2010, 11:57 AM.

Sardar Nirmal Singh ji: I am extremely grateful to you for your pearls of wisdom. Indeed, I am humbled and honored at the same time with your engagement with my post. We are now talking to each other through internet, but we have never met in person. If in future we happen to run into each other, that moment will be a special experience and full of joy. We will both exclaim: "Finally, we have met and seen each other!" We repeat in our evening prayer Guru Nanak's inspired utterances: 'sun vadda akhai sabh koi// kaivad vadda deetha hoi//' - 'All proclaim your greatness by merely hearing the reports of your greatness. But your true glory/ greatness is known only to those who have beheld it [in personal experience]' [GGS: 9]. Throughout his works, Guru Nanak repeatedly proclaims: 'adist disai tan kahia jai// bin dekhe kahana birtha jai// gurmukh deesai sahaj subhai// seva surat ek liv lai//' - 'Should the Invisible One ever become visible, one may describe Him. But without 'seeing' Him it is vain to set out to describe Him. Through the grace of the Guru alone, His sight comes spontaneously. This spiritual experience results in the life of focussed attention ('ek liv') and service to humanity' [GGS:222]. Ultimately, an understanding of gurbani depends upon the perception and the level of preparation of the seeker. Sardar Ravinder Singh ji spoke about "anubhav prakash" in this thread. If Guru Nanak had not personally experienced the presence of Akal Purakh when he describes so intensely that he had "met the Supreme Being" (earlier citation), spontaneous pouring of gurbani from his lips would never had taken place and we would not have the kind of Sikhism on the world stage that we now have. I deal with rational explanation of gurbani in my teaching career every day in an academic environment. But I am fully aware of its limits and scope for deeper understanding. Gurbani speaks in different ways to different people, the one to a person requiring simple meaning and the other to someone of deep perception. All people derive a message from gurbani, but not all receive the same one. The range is indeed infinite as people differ in their perception and their diversity. It is naive to imagine that gurbani will speak at the same level and degree of understanding to ordinary people as opposed to the person who has devoted many years to meditation on the divine Name. Personally, I do not claim to have fathomed the depths of gurbani. It is a lifelong process. Whatever understanding I have at this moment I have shared with my readers/ audience. If it does not appeal to more refined individuals, I seek their forgiveness. I also believe that we should now move beyond the rhetoric of 'Sikhism in danger' (or continuously feeling about the possibility of "misrepresenting Sikhism" like Islam or Christianity) and express ourselves with more confidence and the courage of conviction. Bhul chuk muaf.

24: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), February 13, 2010, 2:49 PM.

Thanks to Dr. Pashaura Singh ji for interjecting into the discussion. For me it is the fundamental purpose of religious teaching: to learn, understand and practice, and become a better human being in the process. I also agree that anyone who agrees with Guru Nanak's definition of Akal Purakh (Nature around us) and inculcates some of the traits outlined by him, can perceive and see HIM. He is within us.People mistakenly assume that Guru Nanak met (or saw) the proverbial God somewhere in the blue sky with angels, busy in passing judgment and sending us to heaven or hell.

25: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 14, 2010, 6:01 PM.

Nirmal ji: I agree with you. God resides in all His creation, and if we believe in this, then only can we get a direction to understand the Will of God. As sargun, God is within us and in all his creation, and as nirgun he is as nature around us. Meeting God is like 'Har jan aisa chaheeye jaisaa har hi hoi', a state of mind, and only few can achieve this stage. Bhagat Kabir said 'Milay hai sarangpani/ raam kabira ek bhayo hai koi naa sakey pahchan'. Here, physically Kabir is the same but from within he is as good as Raam. Namdev also said 'Naamey narayan nahee bhet'.

26: Amarjit Singh (Canada), December 18, 2011, 1:36 PM.

The Guru is Shabad Guru and when one practices it in all forms, it leads to union with Waheguru. Only people whose inner journey has begun can see Almighty when their dhriv dristi is awakened. As gurbani says, Guru and God are one when shabad and surat come together.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium VI: Pauris 5 - 7, February 8 - 14"









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