Misinterpretation of Gurbani: Wadda Hoa Dunidaar

It is important to note here that spiritual philosophy of the Guru Granth completely rejects all life after death theories. In this 4th of a 7-part series on misinterpretation of Gurbani, Harbans Singh Kandola lists out three reasons, guided by the Shabad

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By Harbans Singh Kandola | Opinion |

(This is the fourth of a 7-part series on Misinterpretation of Gurbani. Click for Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7. Click here for all articles by the same author)

Wadda Hoa Dunidaar Gal Sangal Ghat Chalaia (SGGS, page 464).
ਵਡਾ ਹੋਆ ਦੁਨੀਦਾਰੁ ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ ਘਤਿ ਚਲਾਇਆ ॥

This verse of Bani Asa Ki Var (ਆਸਾ ਕੀ ਵਾਰ) has been variably interpreted as: he may be great, but when he dies the chain is thrown around his neck, and he is led away. Prof. Sahib Singh writes: when one is engulfed and attached to material things and outwardly pleasures, upon death, chains are put around his neck and he is led away. This interpretation by Sikh Scholars is unfortunately against basic principles of Sikhi. Surely this is because of their mistaken belief in life after death theories.

In Hindu Vedantic theology it is believed that after death Yamdoots (messengers of Lord of Death), tie human SOUL in chains and lead away the soul to Yamraj (Lord of Death). In Yamlok (Court of YAMRAJ), the soul is sent to heaven for good deeds or hell for sins. I may point out here that these are beliefs and beliefs without reality are dangerous.

It is interesting to note why Guru Nanak used the term sangal ghat ਸੰਗਲੁ ਘਤਿ (chains around the neck). It is because this is language that people understood at the time. Guru Nanak used the metaphor to highlight the real sangal in our life here and now. Nanak says,

Maya Moh Pret Hai Kaam Krodh Ahankara. Eh Jamm Kee Sarkar Hai Ena Opar Jamm Ka Dand Krara (SGGS, 513)
ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਪਰੇਤੁ ਹੈ ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਏਹ ਜਮ ਕੀ ਸਿਰਕਾਰ ਹੈ ਏਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਉਪਰਿ ਜਮ ਕਾ ਡੰਡੁ ਕਰਾਰਾ ॥

meaning when we are attached, identified with material objects, consciously we become polluted with sexual lust, greed, anger, hatred and ego. This is the real chain of Yamdoots in our life, here and now, not after death. Therefore, to interpret terms literally is a serious mistake.

It is important to note here that spiritual philosophy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) completely rejects all life after death theories, for the reasons given below.

  1. According to spiritual philosophy of SGGS, God, Waheguru or Parmesar is Shabad, bani, divine wisdom, divine knowledge, divine intellect, and treasure of virtues. This God is within each of us, within humanity. Salvation, security, and peace is inward, not outward journey.
  2. Whole of Gurbani speaks of the present, here and now. Nanak says Agaha Koo Trang Pichha Pher Na Muhdra. Nanak Sidge Aweha Waar Bahur Na Howee Janmra ਆਗਾਹਾ ਕੂ ਤ੍ਰਾਘਿ ਪਿਛਾ ਫੇਰਿ ਨ ਮੁਹਡੜਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਿਝਿ ਇਵੇਹਾ ਵਾਰ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਜਨਮੜਾ ॥੧॥ (SGGS, 1096)

meaning meditate, contemplate for spiritual awakening now, continue this journey for higher state of enlightenment. Nanak says this is the life you have, here and now, the present, there is no birth again. Make the present your success. Gobind Milan Kee Ehoo Teree Baria ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥ (SGGS, 12) meaning this life is the only chance you have, to realize God here and now. Nanak further says Jeevat Marhe Dargah Parwan ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਹਿ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਰਵਾਨੁ (SGGS, 176) meaning those who destroy ego and realize truth in this life, never experience conscious death.

  1. Gurbani does not believe in SOUL as perceived by some religious faiths. The essence of our life is universal life energy. After the physical body dies, individual life energy merges with universal life energy as a drop of water merges with the ocean. Nanak says

Jotee Mahe Jot Ral Jaia. Matee Matee Hoee Ek (SGGS, 885)
ਜੋਤੀ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਲਿ ਜਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਾਟੀ ਮਾਟੀ ਹੋਈ ਏਕ ॥

meaning life energy merges with universal life energy and body elements merge with earthly elements. I may state here that all life after death theories are based on the existence of the SOUL. As I explained, spiritual philosophy of SGGS completely rejects such a belief system.

For me, to interpret the subject verse in its true perspective, I need to pay attention to three things. One is basic principles of Gurbani as discussed above. Second, the central idea in the hymn. This pauree of Asa Ki Var has five verses. The central verse is

Mann Anday Janam Gawaia (SGGS, 485)
ਮਨਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥੩॥

This verse has erroneously been interpreted as: the blind man has wasted his life. Gurbani does not refer to mann anday as blind man. Nanak says

Anday Eh Na Akhian Jin Mukh Loain Nahe. Anday Seyee Nanaka Khasmaho Ghuthay Jahe (SGGS, 954)
ਅੰਧੇ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਜਿਨ ਮੁਖਿ ਲੋਇਣ ਨਾਹਿ ॥ ਅੰਧੇ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਘੁਥੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੧॥

meaning in the spiritual philosophy of SGGS blind is not the one who has lost eyesight, blind is the one who is completely identified with ego and is ignorant of truth. Now I understand Mann Anday Janam Gawaia (ਮਨਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ) means: O Man, your life is being squandered because of your identification with ego and ignorance of truth. Three, Gur Kee Bani Gur Te Jatee ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਇ (SGGS, 1346) meaning if in any doubt about meaning of one word, find the answer from within SGGS Ji.

As I mentioned, this pauree has five verses. I have picked one verse for my article. With an understanding of the basic principle of Sikhi and the central idea of the puaree, I am now in a position to interpret the subject verse. Dunidar (ਦੁਨੀਦਾਰੁ) means engulfed in material world.

Gal Sangal (ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ) does not mean chains around the neck.

Nanak says: Jam Danda Gal Sangal Pariaa (SGGS, 155)
ਜਮ ਡੰਡਾ ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ ਪੜਿਆ ਭਾਗਿ ਗਏ ਸੇ ਪੰਚ ਜਨਾ ॥੩॥

meaning you have become slave to human vices, craving for more, anger, greed, intolerance and slander. Your identification with ego is the real chain around the neck.

Wadda Hoa Dunidaar (ਵਡਾ ਹੋਆ ਦੁਨੀਦਾਰੁ) meaning: O man, you have pride in having wealth, power, fame in the society. You are completely attached to outward forms, and worldly pleasures have become the focus of your life. It is however your illusion that this will bring peace, security and happiness.

Gal Sangal Ghat Chalaia (ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ ਘਤਿ ਚਲਾਇਆ): O man because of your separation from reality and truthful living, you are slave of your own mind, ego. You are shackled with greed, craving for more, anger, slander, intolerance. You are engulfed in anxiety, worries, stress and depression.

Mann Anday Janam Gawaia (ਮਨਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ) meaning: O man, you lived your whole life without meaning and purpose. Your life has been all a waste.

In conclusion, misunderstanding, misinterpretation and distortion of the true message of Gurbani over the past 300 years has resulted in a lost opportunity to live the blissful, Sikhi way of life that Guru Nanak tried to teach and show to humanity. We have forgotten what it means to be a Sikh and live a SIKHI way of life. While we may understand and follow on a basic level the tenets of Naam Japna, truthful living, kirat karnee, ethical earning and wand chhakna sharing with the needy, more work needs to be done to relearn the deeper essence of our Guru’s teachings. It is in this context, the responsibility of Sikh scholars to begin a RENAISSANCE OF SIKHI without delay.

Harbans Singh Kandola. Born in Ludhiana, Punjab, he read Ph.D. in Agriculture from Punjab Agriculture University in 1972. He moved to Canada in 1973 and retired as senior bank manager in 2005. He reads Gurbani passionately to understand its spiritual message and how it matters in his daily life. He read Prof Sahib Singh’s ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan’ (SGGS translation) in five years, with complete notes. In the past two decades, Harbans has engaged in Gurbani discussion in radio and television programmes, as well as newspapers and the Sikh Bulletin. He believes that we now have literature with the true and real message of Gurbani which has to be presented to Sikhs and non-Sikhs. This article is from his unpublished book ‘Renaissance of Sikhi’.

RELATED STORY:

Misinterpretation of Gurbani – Introduction (Asia Samachar, 2 Sept 2022)

Lost in Translation (Asia Samachar, 8 May 2019)

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Guru Nanak’s message is – Live life now and here. For the many who wringly believe that they will be reincarnated into any of the 8.4 million soecies of life forms (Note: Baba Google says there are 8.7 million species) are delusional to say the least. Death is long sleep, and a person does not even know that he/she has passed on!! As for the soul (God), this is the conscience within us that speaks and tells us what is right or wrong. It just merges with the Creators creation.

  2. Harbans Saab. Again this is your personal interpretation. You mention that there is no such thing as soul. ਲਿਖ ਨਾਵੈ ਧਰਮੁ ਬਹਾਲਿਅਾ…there is an *Aunkad* under ਮ meaning that the creator has created one Dharam Raj. This asserts a heavenly court to deal with the mind that has been engulfed with a soul in its afterlife. The belief that you are trying to instill that Gurmat does not believe in soul needs to be carefully presented Sir. There are numerous lines on ATMA. If this does not refer to the soul then what does it refer to?

    I would like to draw your attention to page 469 of SGGS. Mahala 2, (Guru Angad Dev Ji) Ek Krishnag, Sarab Dewa, Dev Dewa Tan ATMA…. ATMA Bas etc etc…. What Does ATMA Refer to? Maybe something else in your perspective?
    There is after life. It’s nothing Hinduism about it. We carry a mind that may need a shape into anything in our next life. To give a life to that entity, A soul is allocated. This happens by default. I would like to draw your attention to Pg 470 of SGGS. Hukum kie Man Bhavande Rahe Pheede Aage Jawna… So the mind we nurture destinies our journey, could be a tough one… But in the next line “Nangga Dojak Chalia” …. The journey is not pleasant. And in another phrase Guru Ji mentions.. AGGE JAAT NA JOOR HAI… AGGE JEO NAWE… Pg 469 Raag Asa.. Another life kingdom is in the waiting after this life…. How do these lines inscribed by Guru Ji referring to soul be ignored?
    There is no controversy in Gurbani.
    It’s perfect to its core, saab ji.

  3. PS
    In my aforementioned comment, I inadvertently omitted Prof Sahib Singh’s “misinterpretation”. Here it is now. Awaiting the good author’s correct interpretation…

    ਪਉੜੀ ॥
    Pauree:

    ਆਪੀਨੈ੍ ਭੋਗ ਭੋਗਿ ਕੈ ਹੋਇ ਭਸਮੜਿ ਭਉਰੁ ਸਿਧਾਇਆ ॥
    ਰੱਬ ਆਪ ਹੀ (ਜੀਵ-ਰੂਪ ਹੋ ਕੇ) ਪਦਾਰਥ ਦੇ ਰੰਗ ਮਾਣਦਾ ਹੈ (ਇਹ ਭੀ ਉਸ ਦੀ ਅਚਰਜ ਕੁਦਰਤ ਹੈ) । (ਸਰੀਰ) ਮਿੱਟੀ ਦੀ ਢੇਰੀ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ (ਤੇ ਆਖ਼ਰ ਜੀਵਾਤਮਾ-ਰੂਪ) ਭਉਰ (ਸਰੀਰ ਨੂੰ ਛੱਡ ਕੇ) ਤੁਰ ਪੈਂਦਾ ਹੈ ।
    Enjoying his pleasures, one is reduced to a pile of ashes, and the soul passes away.

    ਵਡਾ ਹੋਆ ਦੁਨੀਦਾਰੁ ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ ਘਤਿ ਚਲਾਇਆ ॥
    (ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ) ਦੁਨੀਆ ਦੇ ਧੰਧਿਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਫਸਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਜੀਵ (ਜਦੋਂ) ਮਰਦਾ ਹੈ, (ਇਸ ਦੇ) ਗਲ ਵਿਚ ਸੰਗਲ ਪਾ ਕੇ ਅੱਗੇ ਲਾ ਲਿਆ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ (ਭਾਵ, ਮਾਇਆ ਵਿਚ ਵੇੜ੍ਹਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਜੀਵ ਜਗਤ ਨੂੰ ਛੱਡਣਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਚਾਹੁੰਦਾ ਤੇ ‘ਹੰਸ ਚਲਸੀ ਡੁਮਣਾ’) ।
    He may be great, but when he dies, the chain is thrown around his neck, and he is led away.

    ਅਗੈ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਵਾਚੀਐ ਬਹਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਝਾਇਆ ॥
    ਪਰਲੋਕ ਵਿਚ (ਭਾਵ, ਧਰਮਰਾਜ ਦੇ ਦਰਬਾਰ ਵਿਚ, ਵੇਖੋ ਪਉੜੀ ੨) ਰੱਬ ਦੀ ਸਿਫ਼ਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ ਰੂਪ ਕਮਾਈ ਹੀ ਕਬੂਲ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਹੈ, ਓਥੈ (ਜੀਵ ਦੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਕਰਮਾਂ ਦਾ) ਹਿਸਾਬ ਚੰਗੀ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ (ਇਸ ਨੂੰ) ਸਮਝਾ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ ।
    There, his good and bad deeds are added up; sitting there, his account is read.

    ਥਾਉ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਪਉਦੀਈ ਹੁਣਿ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਕਿਆ ਰੂਆਇਆ ॥
    (ਮਾਇਆ ਦੇ ਭੋਗਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਹੀ ਫਸੇ ਰਹਿਣ ਦੇ ਕਾਰਨ) ਓਥੇ ਮਾਰ ਪੈਂਦੇ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਤੇ ਢੋਈ ਨਹੀਂ ਮਿਲਦੀ, ਉਸ ਵੇਲੇ ਇਸ ਦੀ ਕੋਈ ਭੀ ਕੂਕ-ਪੁਕਾਰ ਸੁਣੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਜਾਂਦੀ ।
    He is whipped, but finds no place of rest, and no one hears his cries of pain.

    ਮਨਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥੩॥
    ਮੂਰਖ ਮਨ (ਵਾਲਾ ਜੀਵ) ਆਪਣਾ (ਮਨੁੱਖਾ-) ਜਨਮ ਅਜਾਈਂ ਗਵਾ ਲੈਂਦਾ ਹੈ ।੩।
    The blind man has wasted his life away. ||3||

    Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Aasaa – 464

  4. It would be greatly appreciated if the author could also give a correct interpretation of the full pauri line by line as a continuous flow of thought, without missing out any lines.
    The currently availabe “misinterpretation” is as follows:
    ਪਉੜੀ ॥
    Pauree:

    ਆਪੀਨੈ੍ ਭੋਗ ਭੋਗਿ ਕੈ ਹੋਇ ਭਸਮੜਿ ਭਉਰੁ ਸਿਧਾਇਆ ॥
    Enjoying his pleasures, one is reduced to a pile of ashes, and the soul passes away.

    ਵਡਾ ਹੋਆ ਦੁਨੀਦਾਰੁ ਗਲਿ ਸੰਗਲੁ ਘਤਿ ਚਲਾਇਆ ॥
    He may be great, but when he dies, the chain is thrown around his neck, and he is led away.

    ਅਗੈ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਵਾਚੀਐ ਬਹਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਝਾਇਆ ॥
    There, his good and bad deeds are added up; sitting there, his account is read.

    ਥਾਉ ਨ ਹੋਵੀ ਪਉਦੀਈ ਹੁਣਿ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਕਿਆ ਰੂਆਇਆ ॥
    He is whipped, but finds no place of rest, and no one hears his cries of pain.

    ਮਨਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥੩॥
    The blind man has wasted his life away. ||3||

    Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Aasaa – 464

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