Logic and Sikhi – Part 2

In this second of a two-part series on LOGIC AND SIKHI, Karminder Singh argues that Guru Nanak’s use of logic, reason, intellect, and persuasive argument within his spirituality, places Sikhi at the epi-center of modern spirituality

| Opinion | 27 Sept 2016 | Asia Samachar |

By Dr Karminder Singh (Audio Transcribe)

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

Pyareo, this commentary is a continuation of our previous one that attempted to explain the position of logic, within Sikh spirituality. The primary question remains the same; namely whether logic and reason have a place in Sikhi, in general, and in Gurbani, in particular.

So this is part 2. It would be easier to follow if you have listened to part 1.

SEE ALSO: Logic and Sikhi – Part 1

Now, one verse from Gurbani has since been put forward for discussion, to suggest that logic and reason have actually been negated or rejected within Gurbani. So this commentary will examine this verse to see if indeed logic is contradictory to Gurbani. The verse is:-

ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ ॥

Sochey Soch Na Hovaee Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar.

This verse, as we know, is the first verse of the first Pauri of Jup Bani which appears on Page 1 of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and it has been translated as follows:-

By thinking, He cannot be reduced to thought, even by thinking hundreds of thousands of times.

So, the suggestion is that if thinking is being negated in Gurbani, then it follows that logic and reason also being negated. This is because logic, reason, argument and persuasion are all derived from thinking process.

Now the first question to ask is if, indeed, this is the correct meaning of the verse.

Pyareo, there are many Gurbani verses that are wrongly translated into English and then there are many verses that are wrongly pronounced even in Punjabi. And if there is one verse that has suffered from both of these defects, namely wrongly pronounced and wrongly translated, then this is the verse indeed.

Now, the verse as written by Guru Nanak Ji is: ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ॥ Sochey Soch Na Hovaee Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar.

But very often it is read as “soicAY soic n hoveI….Sochian Soch N Hovaee Jay Sochee Lakh Vaar.

It is NOT soicAY soic n hoveI….Sochian Soch N Hovee, it is socY soic n hoveI…  Sochai Soch N Hovaee.

So this is where the misconception originates. Because “soicAY”  “Sochian” is thinking. “soicAY” Sochian means: socx dy nwl / socx dy rwhIN  Sochan Dey Naal, Sochan  Dey Rahi, by thinking.

But the word is NOT “soicAY” Sochian. It is  soic  “Soch”, and Soch is something else altogether.

So what exactly is the meaning of “Soch”? I think once we find the meaning of “Soch” we will then be able to figure out what Guru Nanak Ji truly means by the verse: “ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ… Sochai Soch Na Hovaee.

When wanting to determine the meaning of concepts and words in Gurbani, the basic principle is to look for the meanings from within the Guru Granth Sahib Ji itself. So this is the foundational principles, that Gurbani explains Gurbani.

In Punjabi, we say gurbwxI dy ArQ gurbwxI rWhI krny “Gurbani Dey Arth, Gurbani Rahi Karney”.

Now, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a monumental text of 1,430 pages. Every word and every concept that is used in Bani by the Gurus and the Bhagats is explained. It is given its definition and then provided its meanings. We only have to look for it within the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

On Page 495 of the Guru Granth Sahib, under Gujree Mahla 5, we get this Slok:

ਅਠਸਠਿ ਮਜਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਆਏ ਧਰ ਸਾਰੀ ॥

Ath Sath Majan Kar Ishana Bhram Aye Dhar Saree.

ਅਨਿਕ ਸੋਚ ਕਰਹਿ ਦਿਨ ਰਾਤੀ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਅੰਧਿਆਰੀ ॥੩॥

Anuk Soch Kareh Din Ratee Benn Satgur Andhiaree.

ਅਠਸਠਿ Ath Sath is sixty-eight. ਅਠ Ath is 8 and Sath ਸਠਿ is 60 so when we add them together it becomes 68. ਅਠਸਠਿ Ath Sath Teerath, therefore, refers to 68 Teeraths or the 68 places of pilgrimage.

If one takes cleansing baths (ਮਜਨੁ Majan and ਇਸਨਾਨਾ Isnana) at the 68 sacred shrines of pilgrimage, and the next verse is ਅਨਿਕ ਸੋਚ ਕਰਹਿ ਦਿਨ ਰਾਤੀ Anuk Soch Kare Din Ratee – and therefore performs physical cleansing and washing day and night.

So it is clear that the meaning of the word soc “Soch” in Guru Granth Sahib Ji refers to physical cleansing, it refers to the taking of baths at pilgrimages etc.

So, in the verse we began with,  ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ, Soche Soch Na Hovaee, Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar, the word ਸੋਚਿ Soch refers to physical cleansing. It does not refer to thinking.

Furthermore, the word ਲਖ ਵਾਰ Lakh Vaar in the same verse ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ (Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar) helps us to confirm the meaning.

Now ਲਖ ਵਾਰ Lakh Vaar means a hundred thousand times. So it is referring to a quantifiable activity. It is referring to actions that can be counted in numbers.

Baths at pilgrimages can be counted, thinking cannot be counted. The act of cleansing which is measured how many times one does it. Thinking, however, is measured in how deeply one contemplates or how long one contemplates. ਲਖ ਵਾਰ Lakh Vaar cannot apply to thinking.

Hence, the true meaning of the verse: ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ Soche Soch Na Hovaee Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar is: Were one to physically cleanse oneself even a hundred thousand times the cleansing of the mind does not result, does not come about.

So it is clear ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਹੋਵਈ Soche Soch Na Hovaee does NOT refer to thinking. And thinking is never negated in Gurbani.

In fact at page 1245 of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, we have this verses of Guru Nanak Patshah ji who says:

ਅਕਲੀ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨੁ ॥

Aklee Sahib Sayveay Aklee Paiyeay Maan

ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥

Aklee Parh Key Bhujeeay Aklee Kechay Daan

ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥

Nanak Aakjhey Rah Eh Hor Gallan Shaitan.

Now Akl “Akul” means intellect. It means the thinking process. So Guruji uses the word ਅਕਲੀ Aklee repeatedly; four times exactly,  to tell us to use our thinking while undertaking spiritual and religious activities such as remembering Him. ਅਕਲੀ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸੇਵੀਐ, Aklee Sahib Sayveay. ਸੇਵੀਐ  Sayveay means to remember Him. Then he says, use your intellect to understand and know Him, ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ, Aklee Parh Key Bhujeeay etc.

Guruji even declares: ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ, Nanak Aakjhey Rah Eh: this is the real Spirituality, one that engages, uses and deploys the intellect and thinking ability given to us by God.

And then He says: ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ Hor Gallan Shaitan. To say something else, to say the reverse, is to take mankind away from God.

So, in conclusion, this verse: ਸੋਚੈ ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ ॥ Soche Soch Na Hovaee, Jey Sochee Lakh Vaar is NOT about thinking, it is, therefore, never a critique of logic and not a critique of reason.

Problem Statement

Now I would like to re-iterate that logic and reason are firmly grounded within Sikhi, and that Gurbani is deeply anchored within foundations of logic and reason.

The entire Jap Banee is in fact a reasoned and logical argument. Such is that logic of the Jap Banee that Guru Nanak begins by outlining the problem that needs fixing, as they say why fix something that is not broken.

So Guru Nanak begins by telling us in the first pauree (stanza) what is broken, what needs fixing, in the spiritual sense.

In scientific research, we call it the statement of the problem. What is the problem that needs a solution?

The problem is human beings are doing lots of things and they think these things are spiritual and will take them to God, and they are NOT, and that they will NOT.

So what are they doing wrong? This is Pauree One in essence. Guru Nanak defines the problem in four verses.

The first verse is socY soic n hoveI jy socI lK vwr ]Sochey Soch N Hovaee Jay Sochee Lakh Vaar.

There is huge population of people who believe the way to God is to cleanse themselves. So that is what they do, cleansing themselves, washing at holy rivers, dipping at holy lakes, bathing at places of pilgrimage, temple pools, etc.

Guru Nanak says cleansing of the mind can never come about even if one takes baths a hundred thousands of times.

In the second verse, he says:

ਚੁਪੈ ਚੁਪ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਲਾਇ ਰਹਾ ਲਿਵ ਤਾਰ ॥

Chupai Chup Na Hovaee, Jay Laa-ay Rahaa Liv Taar.

Then there were equal number of people who thought sitting and meditating in some corner of the earth would take them to God. Guru Nanak says one could meditate as deep and focus as much as one wants to the extent of ਲਿਵ ਤਾਰ ‘Liv Taar’ meaning becoming one with your own conscience, but inner silence or silence of the mind would still not take place.

Then Guru Nanak Patshah says in the third verse:

ਭੁਖਿਆ ਭੁਖ ਨ ਉਤਰੀ ਜੇ ਬੰਨਾ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਭਾਰ ॥

Bhukhi-aa Bhukh Na Utree, Jay Bannaa Puree-aa Bhaar.

There were large numbers of people who believed that fulfilling their physical desires first would free them with time, energy and opportunity to devote to God later on.

So they had plans. First 25 years grow up, the next 25 years accumulate, you know accumulate wealth, children, family, etc. Get fulfilled. Get satiated. And then the final 25 years, find God.

Guru Nanak Ji says human desire never gets filled, even if one accumulates mountain loads of all that one desires  ਜੇ ਬੰਨਾ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਭਾਰ “Jay Bannaa Puree-aa Bhaar”.

Then in the next verse, Guru Nanak ji says:

ਸਹਸ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਤ ਇਕ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥

‘Sahas Si-aanpaa Lakh Hohi Ta Ik Na Chalai Naal’.

Then there were those who figured the way to God was through their cleverness. So they cooked up all sorts of clever methods, calculated ways to reach God, coming up with long list of what to do, what conditions to do them, when to do them, under whose guidance to do them, what not to do, etc.

These were people of measured sadhanas, or fixed asanas and specific mantra to go to God.

Guru Nanak Ji says none of these clever methods, even if they number in hundreds of thousands will work,  ਚਲੈ ਨਾਲਿ ‘Chalai Naal’ means will work.

So there was the problem. Stated exhaustively in four verses about spiritual people adopting the four foundation ways to God, albeit wrong ways.

Number one, physical cleansing i.e. Sochey Soch. Number two, meditating i.e. Chupey Chup. Thirdly, fulfilling physical desires FIRST, and then turning to spirituality i.e. Bhukhi-aa bhukh, and then using all sorts of methods Sahas Si-aanpaa.

But none of them, reaching God.

Primary Question

Now after the statement of the problem, Guru Nanak Ji puts forth the primary question.

The foundational issue, the basic concern, the crucial matter and that is:

ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥

‘Kiv Sachi-aaraa Ho-ee-ai Kiv Koorhai Tutai Paal”.

How, then, if not through the above mentioned problematic ways, how then does one become ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ‘Sachi-aaraa’? ਸਚਿਆਰਾ Sachi-aaraa means a God realised being.

Pyareo, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib never ever ask a question and then leaves it at that.  The answer is always provided immediately, most often in the same verse or sometimes immediately in the next.

Here, Guru Nanak Patshah immediately provides the summary answer to the question ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ‘Kiv Sachi-aaraa Ho-ee-ai’ which is:

ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥

Hukam Rjaa-ee Chalnaa Naanak Likhi-aa Naal.

The way, according to Guru Nanak, is to abide by His Hukm or Rjaa, to Chalnaa or flow along in this Hukm or Rjaa. Such is the logic, and such is the reasoning, such is the structure and the order of this beautifully arranged and organised banee called Jap Banee of Guru Nanak.

After outlining the problem in the next pauree, Guruji explains the hukm. He then talks about the method which involves Gaavahi (Pauree 3), Suni-ai (four Paurees, 7 to 10), and Mannai (four paurees again, 11 to 14.

Then He talks about Parvaan, being accepted. Panch Parvaan in pauree 15.

Then He goes on to talk about the immenseness and vastness of God, the Asankh paurees, the Amul paurees right up to pauree 25. Then He talks about the operationalisation of Hukm in the So Dar pauree which is pauree 26.

Then He talks about the four stages, what we call the Khand – the Dharam Khand, Gian Khand, Saram Khand all the way right up to Sach Khand, in Pauree 38.

Finally, the Salok about reaching God, about realising God, ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਉਜਲੇ Nanak Te Mukh Ujale. ਮੁਖ ਉਜਲੇ Mukh Ujale are those who are realised and those who are connected to God.

ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਗਏ ਮਸਕਤਿ ਘਾਲਿ ॥

ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਉਜਲੇ ਕੇਤੀ ਛੁਟੀ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥

And then these Salok connects to Salok number 1 which describes God that we want to realise:

ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ ॥ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ॥੧॥

Aad Sach Jugaad Sach Hai Bhee Sach Naanak Hosee Bhee Sach.

So we see, Pyareo, this is the spiritual genius of Guru Nanak Ji. In this spiritual brilliance, there is structure, there is order, there is flow. There is arrangement from pauree to pauree.

In Guru Nanak’s spiritual wisdom and His Godly genius, there is persuasion, there is powerful persuasion, there is reasoning, solid reasoning, reasoning that is unassailable and unshakeable.

And in Guru Nanak Ji’s spiritual brilliance and His Godly genius, there is logic, a logic that is so powerful and so commanding that it uproots completely blind faith, it shreds meaningless rituals and demolishes religious activities that do not lead to God.

Most importantly, Guru Nanak’s use of logic, reason, intellect, and persuasive argument within his spirituality, places Sikhi at the epi-center of modern spirituality. A spirituality meant for the thinking and the discerning spiritual seeker, a spirituality fit for the 21st century and beyond.

Bhul Chuk di Khima Karnee. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

Audio Transcribe by courtesy of Harwan Singh Butterworth and Harpreet Kaur


Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston) writes on Gurbani and Gurmat issues in The Sikh Bulletin, USA. He also conducts Gurbani Katha in local Gurdwaras. He is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of the Asia Samachar.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]


Logic and Sikhi – Part 1 (Asia Samachar, 24 Sept 2016)

The God of Dasam Granth – Part Three (Asia Samachar, 16 Sept 2016)

Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? The Assessment. (Asia Samachar, 9 Jan 2016)

Sikh Nishan Sahib demystified (Asia Samachar, 2 Oct 2015)

Artee and Sikhi – KARMINDER (Asia Samachar, 10 Mar 2015)

Lohree, Birthdays, Culture and New Year (Asia Samachar, 21 Jan 2015)

Kee Lohraa Aa Gya (Asia Samachar, 13 Jan 2015)