The Rahao Principle – Part 2

In this second of a three-part series on the significance of Rahao, KARMINDER SINGH talks about the green apple and applies the principle to the shabad Naru Marey Nur Kaam Na Avey



By Karminder Singh Dhillon / Audio transcript by Harpreet Kaur

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

Gurmukh Pyareo. This commentary comes to you in the form of a series of audios that will attempt to establish the basic principles which we can apply, in helping us understand Gurbani. Each audio will be devoted to one basic principle. After establishing the principle, a follow up audio will attempt to apply the principle to shabads from the SGGS.  

This is the second audio in this series. The principle that we are discussing is the Rahao principle. The basic principles of the Rahao Principles were established in audio one. This audio will make better sense if you have already listened to Audio One.


So lets begin by summarising the Rahao principle that we discussed in Audio One.

First, Rahao does not mean pause. In the context of the message of the shabad, the Rahao verse is the one that contains the essence of the message. So Rahao means the essence, the gist, the core, the central idea of the shabad.

Second, an accurate understanding of the Rahao verse must be obtained first so as to derive a more accurate understanding of the remaining verses of the shabad.  This is because it is the Rahao verses that is exemplified and expanded in the remaining verses of the Shabad.

Third, it is the Rahao verse that ties in all the non-Rahao verses. The Rahao verse is the unifying verse, the nucleus verse, the central verses that connects all the non-Rahao verses into one holistic message.

It follow therefore that understanding a shabad must begin with comprehending the Rahao verse.


To further establish the above elements of the Rahao principle, let us try to apply them to an illustrative example. A sort of a made-up example or what we call a make believe example before we apply them to an actual shabad from Gurbani.

Our illustrative or make believe example will have four verses. Lets say that the first verse reads: A Green Apple Falls to the Ground. The second verse reads: The Most Challenging Part of an Airplane is in the Takeoff. The third verse reads: The Earth’s Spin is a Productive One.

A Green Apple Falls to the Ground.

The Most Challenging Part of an Airplane is in the Takeoff.

The Earth’s Spin is a Productive One.

Now, the first thing we notice is that all these verses appear disjointed, unconnected to one another and not making any sense in terms of continuity. The first is about an apple falling. The second about an airplane taking off, and the third about the earth spinning on its own axis.  

Beginner students of Gurbani usually have this complaint. They see the verses of Gurbani as disjointed, unconnected and having little of no continuity at all. They are, therefore, at a loss to connect them all to a single coherent message.

The Rahao Principle – Part 1 (Asia Samachar, 10 Nov 2016)

The Rahao Principle – Part 2 (Asia Samachar, 13 Nov 2016)

The Rahao Principle – Part 3 (Asia Samachar, 20 Nov 2016)

The second thing we notice from the make believe example above is that if we took the verses one at a time, and tried to make sense of them, we could virtually make anything we wanted out of them.

Take the first verse. A green apple falls to the ground. We could take the color and expound on it and say that there is something very special about the color green, that’s why it’s mentioned. We could say it was the author’s favorite color, so we should all wear green. We could say that the apple was the author’s favorite fruit, so we should all eat apples. The interpretations are virtually limitless.

This is the other complaint about Gurbani Katha, Vichaar and discourse. Many a time our Ragis, Kathakaars, and Kirtanias take a single verse and make just about anything out of it to establish a point of their personal choosing.

Which is why we should never attempt to use single verses from Gurbani. We should be suspicious on those who insist on taking just one or two verses and try to explain major spiritual principles to us based on that one or two single verses. More often than not, people who do so are using Gurbani as a tool to establish their own personal points.

So how do we make sense of it all? To understand that, let’s get back to that illustrative, make believe example.

Recall that it had four verses. Now imagine that the fourth verse is the Rahao verse; and it reads “Gravity is the Force that Draws objects towards the Earth. Rahao.”

A Green Apple Falls to the Ground.

The Most Challenging Part of an Airplane is in the Takeoff.

The Earth’s Spin is a Productive One.

Gravity is the Force that Draws objects towards the Earth. Rahao

You will see that now everything falls in place. All the verses get connected to each other by virtue of their connection to the Gravity Verse or the Rahao verse in our make believe example.

So the discourse now would be that the Green Apple Falls to the Ground due to Gravity. The airplane’s take off is the most challenging part because it has to break away from Gravity. And the third verse that reads that the Earths’ spin is a Productive Endeavour would not require speculative debate over what was meant by the words “productive endeavor” because it is clarified in the Rahao Verse which was the Gravity verse.

We know for certain now that the force referred to is the gravitational force which was the product of the spinning and not to some other arbitrary force.

The gravity verse also removes the possibilities of wrong interpretations. We now know the words “green apple” or the color green had no real significance even though we could have ended up making a huge mountain our of these two words.


Gurmukh pyareo, now let’s examine how we can apply the Rahao principle to a shabad from Gurbani.  

We will discuss a shabad by Bhagat Kabir ji which appears on page 870 of the SGGS ji:

ਗੋਂਡ ॥

ਨਰੂ ਮਰੈ ਨਰੁ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਮਰੈ ਦਸ ਕਾਜ ਸਵਾਰੈ ॥੧॥

ਅਪਨੇ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ॥ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ਬਾਬਾ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਹਾਡ ਜਲੇ ਜੈਸੇ ਲਕਰੀ ਕਾ ਤੂਲਾ ॥ ਕੇਸ ਜਲੇ ਜੈਸੇ ਘਾਸ ਕਾ ਪੂਲਾ ॥੨॥

ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਨਰੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥ ਜਮ ਕਾ ਡੰਡੁ ਮੂੰਡ ਮਹਿ ਲਾਗੈ ॥੩॥੨॥

Naru Marey Nur Kaam Na Avey. Psu Marey Dus Kaaj Swarey.  

Apney Karam Kee Gutt Mein Kya Jano. Mein Kya Jano Baba Rey. Rahao.

Haad Jaley Jaisey Lakree Ke Tula. Kesh Jaley Jaisay Ghaas Ka Pula.  

Kaho Kabeer Tub Hee Nur Jagey. Jum Ka Dund Moond Mein Lagey. (SGGS, p870)

Lets take the first two verses. Literally Naru means man, Marey means dies. Psu means an animal and dus kaaj sawarey means has 10 benefits or uses.

The usual meaning provided is that when a man dies he is of no use to man. But when an animal dies, it serves 10 purposes.

This is what happens when we attempt to understand or explain verses in a vacuum. We can think of the following three major problems with such kind of an understanding.

  1. The fact that when a man dies is of no use to another man produces no new knowledge. It produces no useful knowledge. No knowledge of any spiritual benefit. To suggest that Gurbani is merely stating such superficial information that is already known to all of us – is to miss the immense beauty and spiritual genius of Gurbani.
  2. The point about a dead animal serving ten purposes is equally problematic. We can perhaps count up to three of four. Firstly, the skin can be used to make things. Second, the carcass could be used as food. Third, it could be used as fertilizer. Someone may be able to add one or two more. But ten is still far away. Even then, these three or four uses are applicable only to a certain group of animals. A dead cat or dead rat – both of which are animals, for instance – can produce none of even the three or four benefits we mentioned above.

Now let’s look at the other verses. Haad Jaley Jaisey Lakree Ke Tula. Kesh Jaley Jaisay Ghaas Ka Pula. Haad is bones, jaley is to burn, lakree ke tula is a pack of sticks. Kesh is hair, ghaas ka pula is a bundle of grass.

The usual translation is in terms of the cremation process for a deceased man: That my bones burn like a pack of sticks and my hair like a bundle of grass.

Beyond the fact that this is also superficial knowledge of no real substantial value, such a translation produces the following two problems:

  1. What about people who don’t cremate their dead? Three quarters of the earth’s dead are buried. So the verses don’t apply to those billions who don’t get cremated. But Gurbani is meant for all. Hence this cannot be the correct translation.
  2. The second problem is what about people who are cremated but die without any hair on their head? Again, Gurbani messages should apply to all – with and without hair.

So that’s four problems we have had so far.

When all these verses are put together we have yet another problem.

Which is that they are disjointed, not connected to each other. What is the connection between a dead animal producing ten benefits and the hair and bones burning like bundles of wood and twigs?

So that’s five problems. The result is we often go back thinking Gurbani is disjointed, hodge podge of verses, doesn’t make holistic sense, is meant only for some people, etc.

Pyareo, we will be able to solve all these five problems by applying the Rahao principle. Lets look at the Rahao verse. It reads:

ਅਪਨੇ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ॥ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ਬਾਬਾ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Apney Karam Kee Gutt Mein Kya Jano. Mein Kya Jano Baba Rey. Rahao.

Apney means my own. Karam kee means actions, acts, or deeds. Gutt Mein Kya Jano means I am not in account, not in discernment, not in measure, not in control of my actions. Baba rey is a cry, a calling out to Guruji for help.

Remember, this is the core verse that contains the nucleus idea, the gist, and the crux of the message. It therefore MUST be understood first.   

Three messages come out clear from this Rahao Verse. First, actions need to be accounted for – good deeds needs to be maximised and bad deeds eliminated from my life. This message is derived from the words – Apney Karam Kee Gutt.

Second, due to inherent weaknesses as a human being, I am unable to do this on my own. This message is derived from Gutt Mein Kya Jano.

The third message is, that I need assistance, I need help, I need blessings from my Guru to help me make this accounting. This is derived from the cry that Bhagat ji is making: Mein Kya Jano Baba Rey. Meaning I don’t know, but Guru ji You do, so please bless me.

Now, pyareo, we apply the understanding derived from the Rahao verse to the first verse.

ਨਰੂ ਮਰੈ ਨਰੁ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਮਰੈ ਦਸ ਕਾਜ ਸਵਾਰੈ ॥੧॥

Naru Marey Nur Kaam Na Avey. Psu Marey Dus Kaaj Swarey.  

Given that all the key principles in the Rahao verse had to do with Karam – meaning deeds, or acts or actions – it follows that the words Naru and Psu must be looked at in terms of actions.

Naru, therefore, means actions of a good human. Actions that reflect humanity. Humane activities. Deeds that have the fragrance of human-ness within them. Things done that are useful to mankind.

Pasu – being the opposite of Naru – therefore means actions of an animalistic nature. In Punjabi psUpuxw.  Or pSUAW vwlIAW krqUqW.   

Just like how Guru Arjun Pathshah says in Sukhmani: 

ਕਰਤੂਤਿ ਪਸੂ ਕੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਾਤਿ ॥

Human in name and creed but animalistic in actions and deed.

So the meaning of these verses:

Naru Marey Nur Kaam Na Avey. Psu Marey Dus Kaaj Swarey.  

When the actions of a good human WITHIN ME die, when actions that reflect humanity within me are no more, when I stop performing deeds that have the fragrance of human-ness within them, when humanity within me vanishes (Naru Marey) then I become worthless (Nar Kaam Na Avey) towards both my own spiritual journey as well as to the brotherhood of humanity.  

IN Punjabi – jdo myry ivco ienswnIAq vwly krm mr jWdy ny, ienswnW vwly lCx Kqm ho jWdy ny, mY iPr nw Awpxy rUhwnI kMm Awaux jogw rihMdw hW nw mnuKqw dy[

On the other hand, when actions of an animalistic nature, deeds of a lower order, negative acts are eliminated from within me, (Psu Marey) then I am able to be of plentiful use both to my own spiritual journey as well as to others around me. In Punjabi, pr dUjy pwsy, jdo myryy ivco  psUpuxw nwS ho jwvy, jdo myry ivco   pSUAW vwlIAW krqUqW mr jwx, jdo mY Awpxy Awp ivco psU ibrqI nU Kqm kr lYUdw hW, then what happens is Dus Kaaj Swarey happens.

The phrase DUS KAAJ SWAREY does not mean TEN benefits. IT is idiomatic. It means plenty, it means maximum, it means bountiful.

We say in Punjabi: qUM BWvy ds vwrI kih dy qyrI g~l koeI nI mMnxI,  Or  ieQy BWvy ds bMdy lY Awau kMm iPr vI TIk nhI hox l~gw, qUM BWvy ds icTIAW ilK dy, auhny pVHnI koeI nI.  

So, pyareo, the verses Nur Kaam Na Avey. Psu Marey Dus Kaaj Swarey are not about an animal dying or a human passing away. They are both about actions, about different types of actions – opposing types of actions, humane actions versus animalistic actions, and about the outcome of these actions to our own spiritual journey and to those around us.

How do we know they are about actions? Because the Rahao verse says so – Apney Karam Kee Gat Mein Kya Jano? How do we know they are about my actions and not the actions of others – because the Rahao verse says Apney Karam Kee Gat.

WE will look at the remaining verses of this shabad in the next audio.

Haad Jaley Jaisey Lakree Ke Tula. Kesh Jaley Jaisay Ghaas Ka Pula.

These verses will be examined in Audio 3. None of these verses are about a cremation, too.

Till then, thank  you for listening. Bhul chuk di khima Karnee. 

AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT COURTESY OF SIKHI VICHAR FORUM MALAYSIA. See more audio/videos at their Youtube channel.



Karminder Singh, 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:]


The Rahao Principle – Part 2 (Asia Samachar, 13 Nov 2016)

The Rahao Principle – Part 1 (Asia Samachar, 10 Nov 2016)

Logic and Sikhi – Part 2 (Asia Samachar, 28 Sept 2016)

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



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