So, you’ve been attending satsangat for years. What is it all about?

Ayko Naam Vakhaanee-ai: Realise within the divine virtues of one creator

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By Jasswant SinghOpinion |

REALIZE WITHIN THE DIVINE VIRTUES OF ONE CREATOR

We attend Satsangat in Gurudwaras for various reasons as has been conditioned by our learning thus far from our own experience, from our parents, peers, parcharaks and babas. What is the real emphasis of the satsangat? Guru Nanak defines Satsangat as follows

ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੈਸੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥  
satsangat kaisee jaanee-ai.  (SGGS 72)
What constitutes (Satsangat) a congregation of learners/seekers?

ਜਿਥੈ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ॥
jithai ayko naam vakhaanee-ai.
Satsangat is where there is contemplation/ realization and/or deliberation /discourse on/of ONLY ONE Creator and His Divine Virtues in calculated in daily life.

ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥
ayko naam hukam hai naanak satgur dee-aa bujhaa-ay jee-o.
Nanak says, ONLY ONE Creator and His Divine Virtues is the Divine Hukm, the messages of the Perpetual Guru in existence has given me this understanding.

2. Four matters has been emphasized in these phangthis:

  • Eko ਏਕੋ  the One and Only Creator,
  • His Naam ਨਾਮੁ  His Divine Virtues as contained in Gurbani,
  • ਵਖਾਣੀਐ the Divine Virtues are to be contemplated, understood, deliberated and assimilated in daily use and,
  • therefore understanding Creator’s ਹੁਕਮੁ Hukm within – Cosmic Law from the messages of the Satguru as contained in the Gurbani. Here we have an irrefutable definition of the Satsangat as provided by Guru Nanak.

By using the term ‘EKO NAAM‘ in the foregoing verse, Guru Nanak has eliminated any speculation and doubt. That is, only that Sangat, which meets this criteria of the Gurbani is to be known Satsangat, otherwise, it’s not qualified to be known or called Satsangat.

3. Now let’s dwell upon some of the possible reasons some of us attend Satsangat (congregational gatherings). For now I shall categorize this into five main reasons.

(a) First, it is a Pooja –  worship / ritualistic – we attend because it is good to attend. It is sacred. The wow factor of attending satsangh. The conditioned mind – my parents has been doing this, I also should do the same. Sikhs are encouraged to attend satsangat without understanding its objective. We do all kind of physical sewa at the very institution build for learning (gurudwara) about Naam but do not partake in shabad vichaar.  Then there is the social aspect of satsangat – I must show my face as I have been invited by my relatives and friends.

(b) Second, we attend satsangat believing and expecting a miracle that life will change for the better. You will obtain what you been desiring for. Or half-baba has stated, never mind, you just keep on attending and things will look up automatically, miraculously.

(c) Third, the routine has set in for decades and is continuing that satsangat should be attended –  has became rutten (repetition of sorts) but nothing changed for I don’t know what to look for while attending satsangat. Or satsanghis (people who attend Satsangs) get together to repeat a word continuously. It becomes an organised religious obligation.

(d) Fourth, attending satsangat out of fear of punishment from God. This a conditioning some of us pick up in our life journey. Some of the half-babas become advisors when innocent satsanghis seek their counsel for their sorrow and pain. These half-babas infuse fear that the satsanghis’ ancestors re unhappy, and that is root cause of their difficulties. Many become victims of doing paths to appease the ancestors rather than we ourselves learning the divine virtues – realizing the Hukm within to be applied in our daily life to become a Gurmukh. It makes no sense fearing God who is sitting right within me as the driving force of my life. It makes a lot of sense to love, appreciate, revere and realise this Creator. Guru Nanak empowered us as human being with divine virtues of Fearlessness (Nirbhau) and Contentment (Santokh).

(e) Fifth, our habit of asking and begging out of our desires and greediness for things for ourselves and our children. And this has been encouraged by half-babas who dictate long ardas (prayer) for their followers who are in the mode of begging and fear. In Gurbani, the only asking advocated is asking for contentment. The virtue of contentment is the starting point of Sikh spirituality. It begins with inner testimony that the Creator is within me, hence I have no fear and no want. Why should I be asking when the Creator of Universe is sitting right within me? Begging, pleading, fearing and crying out to an entity that is sitting within me as the giver and driver of my life makes no sense. The rightful emotion of the Creator within me is love, reverence and realisation. Sikhi begins with an affirmation to the effect that the Creator has given me all that I need. I ask for nothing. My only prayer is one of Thanks, of Appreciation and of Gratitude – in Contentment.

(half baba – meaning a pacharak with a following, who does shabad vichar but is still immersed/conditioned in the pujaris/bipar mind set with emphasis on pooja, miracle, rutten and putting people in doubts of fear and asking)

4. From the definition of Satsangat of Guru Nanak it is clear that when a Sikh makes up his mind to attend satsangat he should affirm and objectify that I shall make an effort to realize the Hukm of the One Creator within me by knowing/understanding/contemplating His Divine Virtues through the messages within the Shabad and applying this Divine virtues in my day to day life.

5.  Sikhi is living 24/7 the Gurmukh-Lifestyle — a Lifestyle guided by the Divine Wisdom (virtues) of the Gurbani. In short, if WE ARE WILLING TO REALIZE WITHIN and PRACTICE after attending satsangat, as the SGGS provides us Wisdom (Giaan), which:

  • protects Sikhs from deception, fraud, hypocrisy or Pakhand,
  • makes Sikhs Wise, just, rational or discreet ,
  • inspires Sikhs to be ONLY good human being,
  • motivates Sikhs to pursue higher education,
  • makes Sikhs prudent and brave,
  • builds high character, originality and conviction,
  • inspires to live a learner life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle),
  • removes delusion, doubts, fear and Karamkaand,
  • leads people to the straight path of realizing His Hukm,
  • does good to the society,
  • rejects Jaat Paat (casteism), inequality, injustice, and so on.

6. Fittingly, the Gurbani’s edict is that Sikhi is an unbroken learning of the Divine Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad through Shabad-Vichaar, and then living that Wisdom in daily life (Gurmukh Lifestyle). The word ultimate (ootam) has been used.

ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥
ootam karnee sabad beechaar. ||3||  (SGGS 158)
The ultimate action is Reflections/Contemplation on the Shabad – Shabad Vichaar.

7. Guru’s sewa has been distorted and skewed more towards physical sewa but according to Gurbani definition it is ultimately Shabad Vichar. All the support and sewa at a Gurudwara is towards this goal. And the objective to attend satsangat at Gurudwara is for contemplation of the shabad. If this is not happening, then there is a need for introspection of what you are doing. Are you attending satsangat for reasons as stated in paragraph 3 above? Only through contemplation of shabad, one’s vices (vikaars) and ego are kept at bay.

ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
gur kee sayvaa sabad veechaar.  (SGGS 223)
The Guru’s Seva or Service is Shabad Vichaar  – Internalizing the Shabad – Enlightening oneself with the Updesh or message of the Shabad.

ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੭॥
ha-umai maaray karnee saar. ||7||
Undertaking (this) essential effort, one subdues haumai (i.e. false ego-sense and its vices – Bikaar).

8.  At page 413 of the SGGS, Guru Nanak states when you live your life according to the divine virtues from vichar of the shabd there is no doubt one realizes the creator within.

ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਨਹੀ ਭ੍ਰਾਤਿ ॥੭॥
sabad veechaar milan nahee bharaat. ||7||  (SGGS 413)
Through the Shabad Vichaar, Union with the Creator is Realized within; there is no doubt in it.

9.   Shabad-Vichaar is must to cultivate the Divine Knowledge, for the Gurmat (teaching or Wisdom of the SGGS) is the Way of understanding. It is meant to be learned, understood and applied. The Gurbani Guides:

ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਪੂਛਿ ਜਨਾਂ ॥
gi-aan kamaa-ee-ai poochh janaaN.  (SGGS 1180)
Gain Spiritual Wisdom by consulting Jan (Bhagats, Daas, Gurmukhs) the humble servants of the Creator.

10. Guru Amardasji, emphasising further on sewa being shabad vichaar, states

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
satgur jinee na sayvi-o sabad na keeto veechaar.   (SGGS 88)
Those who have not served the Creator in perpetual existence through the contemplation/internalization of the shabad,

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥
antar gi-aan na aa-i-o mirtak hai sansaar.
No wisdom has awakened within them, they may appear as alive but they are as dead in the world – spiritually dead.

Clearly, spiritual quest significantly rests on Vichaar of Gur-Shabad, which goes beyond dogma, empty rituals of repeating a word, traditions and organized religions. Vichaar is not just collecting information. Neither it is reading and memorizing scriptures nor philosophies, etc. It is real learning/awareness that has to change us, transform us, and make us grow within daily.

11.  An important component of Vichaar is the freedom to question (spiritual inquiry), which helps remove doubts and confusions of the mind. Unfortunately, in Gurdwaras, question and answer format is totally missing. As a result, we do not get to Realize the full Spiritual Benefit (Laahaa) of the Gurbani. As there is no mechanism or system in place whereby members of the congregation (Sangat) are afforded and encouraged to ask questions to those (professional preachers, raagees, bhais, etc.), conducting sermons in Gurdwaras.

12. If we have been attending satsangats for decades and further there are opportunities to ask questions to remove doubts and confusions of the mind, but instead we are still in turmoil and struggle to understand Gurbani and blindly accept half babas authority, than the heart is not yet pierced through, by the arrow of the Gur-Shabad, then obviously there is something wrong! Bhagat Kabeer ji states

ਕਬੀਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੂਰਮੇ ਬਾਹਿਆ ਬਾਨੁ ਜੁ ਏਕੁ ॥
kabeer satgur soormay baahi-aa baan jo ayk. (SGGS 1374)
Kabeer, the Satgur, the Spiritual Warrior, has shot me with one Arrow – of spiritual Knowledge of his Shabad, Giaan.

ਲਾਗਤ ਹੀ ਭੁਇ ਗਿਰਿ ਪਰਿਆ ਪਰਾ ਕਰੇਜੇ ਛੇਕੁ ॥੧੯੪॥
laagat hee bhu-ay gir pari-aa paraa karayjay chhayk. ||194||
As soon as the ‘arrow’ struck me, I fell to the ground (i.e., became egoless), with a (hole in the Heart) – my Heart became assimilated or weaved with the Gur-Giaan, spiritual Knowledge).

13. Since the journey of a Sikh (learner) begins with sincere spiritual inquiry, there is tremendous emphasis on search (Khoj) and Shabad vichaar in the SGGS – reflecting on the Gur-Shabad or realizing the divine virtues in daily life. So, if we truly want to respect the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), then, as the SGGS urges us, we must seek/churn Giaan (Divine Wisdom or Virtues) in the Gurbani through the Shabad-Vichaar and become the Gurmukh (the follower of Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad), and live accordingly. The one who truly respects the SGGS becomes the Gurmukh and his mind and life gets transformed. He gets absorbed into the Gurmat (ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ, ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ) the Gurbani’s Teaching, Virtues, Wisdom, Giaan).

14. The Gurbani cannot be more clear! Why Shabad-Vichaar is must? One ought to study Knowledge to some extent, because, it is the Shabad-Vichaar  that gives rise to Giaan (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ, Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan, Gurmat, Spiritual Wisdom, Self-Knowledge).

ਮਨ ਸਮਝਾਵਨ ਕਾਰਨੇ ਕਛੂਅਕ ਪੜੀਐ ਗਿਆਨ ॥੫॥
man samjhaavan kaarnay kachhoo-ak parhee-ai gi-aan. ||5||  (SGGS 340)
To instruct the mind one ought to study Knowledge to some extent.

15.  Without Shabad-Vichaar, mere seeing (Darshan-ਦਰਸਨ) of SGGS will not, and cannot, liberate anybody from Maya, doubts, duality, Haumai (false ego-sense), worldly bondage, mind’s delusions, Vikaars, and so on.

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਨੋ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵੇਖਦਾ ਜੇਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥
satgur no sabh ko vaykh-daa jaytaa jagat sansaar. SGGS 594
Everybody in this  world physically see/notice the Creator in perpetual Existence.

ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
dithai mukat na hova-ee jichar sabad na karay veechaar.
Nothing is going to happen just by seeing (the Satgur); one can not be liberated, untangled, unhindered  from bondages – until and unless the Messages within the Shabad is Reflected upon and lived. 

ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਚੁਕਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
ha-umai mail na chuk-ee naam na lagai pi-aar.
Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar –  the filth of Haumai (false ego-sense) is not removed,and love for the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Divine Virtues, Divine Wisdom, Giaan) does not get affixed (in the mind).

The foregoing verse also provides us with the clue as to how liberation (Mukti) is realized. That is, we can only be liberated of the bondages of vices – vikaars through the Reflection on the Gur-Shabad (Vichaar of the Gur-Shabad). Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar, the filth of the false ego-sense (Haumai or Bikaar of the mind) does not end. Also, without the Vichaar of the Gur-Shabad, love for the Naam (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan, Gurmat) cannot be implanted in the mind and the love for Virtues of the Creator does not well up.

16. Guru Nanak says that people without the Divine Knowledge are plundered.

Gurbani indicates that although the material of this world is for man’s livelihood, however, in reality, it turns into vices when attachment sets in! Because, abandoning the Spiritual Wisdom, we fall in love with the mirage-like enchanting world, and misappropriate everything — we use it unwisely!

ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਸੈ ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣੀ ਖਾਇ ਗਇਆ ਜਮਕਾਲੁ ॥੧॥
Nanak musai gi-aan vihoonee khaa-ay ga-i-aa jamkaal. ||1||  (SGGS 465)
O Nanak! Without the Guru’s Wisdom (guidance), one is plundered and devoured by vices – vikaars.

Jasswant Singh is a practicing lawyer of 27 years and a former teacher. He does katha on SGGS regularly at various gurdwaras throughout Malaysia. He can be contacted at dasmeshpita(at)gmail(dot)com

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1 COMMENT

  1. Gurfateh.
    A very well written and explained article.
    All of us went to SCHOOL..and we studied, we did the homework, we sat the Exams and we passed out as successful students (and some who didnt – failures or dropouts). But..we all knew that schools/universities are for STUDY..not washing classroom floors, collecting funds to feed the hungry, cleaning bathrooms, cutting grass etc etc. ( All perfectly good actions for Character building/social responsibility etc etc..BUT NOT THE MAIN reason for attending SCHOOL.
    For reasons unknown…we AVOID the real reason for attending the GURDWARA – DOORWAY TO GYAAN/KNOWLEDGE and spend all our time on physical actions outlined in above article. These physical actions are good for Character Building, cultivating HUMILITY, BROTHERHOOD, HUMANITY, and much more…BUT thats NOT all ..its NOT the MAIN REASON to attend Gurdwara !! We didnt attempt to GAIN any GYAAN form the GREATEST and LATEST SOURCE of UNIVERSAL GYAAN parkashed under the Royal canopy – the SGGS – gifted to us by the 35 Contributors who laid bare their Life experiences vis a vis this GYAAN so that we would have it EASY..all laid out for us like on a Silver Platter….THAAL vich tin vastu !!!! and instructions to KHAVO BHUNCHO Bhai…..and RELISH the sweet nectar of that GYAAN dripping into our Life consciousness. NO..we preferred to perform the MUNDANE TASKS..all the physical acts..except the REAL ONE ORDAINED by the GURU…SATGUR KI SEVA SAFAL HAI…we never bothered to find out what SAFAL…SUCCESS means. SEVA of the DEH..leads to DEHDHAREEISM…the slippery slope of the Full BABAS and the HALF BABAS. Lets return to the ROOTS – Shabad Vichar and GO BACK to the BASICS…Even the Half Babs and the rest of us who actually do SHABAD VICHAR and take it to mean “INTERPRETATION”..we need to go deeper……The basic idea is to morph interpretation into interpenetration so that it can become part of our nature 24/7.

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