Sikh, Sikhi & Sikhism

Who is a Sikh? Is Sikhi and Sikhism one and same? Prof Devinder Singh Chahal thinks not. He outlines his thoughts in this article which is a chapter from his soon-to-be-published book 'NANAK and His Philosophy'


By Prof Devinder Singh Chahal | Opinion |


The term, who is a SIKH, and the differences between SIKHI and SIKHISM are not well understood in their intrinsic meanings by many Sikh scientists, theologians, and Sikh and Non-Sikh writers. Most Sikh theologians and writers consider Nanak (1469-1539) as the founder of a Sikh Religion that has been anglicized as SIKHISM. Recently, Sikhi has become very common among Sikh and non-Sikh writers in place of Sikhism. They think that Sikhi and Sikhism are interchangeable. The fact is that Nanak founded SIKHI, which is quite different from Sikhism. The term, Sikhi, is defined by Guru Nanak in one phrase as follows:

ਸਿਖੀ1 ਸਿਖਿਆ2 ਗੁਰ3 ਵੀਚਾਰਿ4
Sikẖī sikẖi▫ā gur vīcẖār.

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 465.

Sikhi1 is the teachings2 which are based on the enlightening3 philosophy4.

AGGS, M 1, p 465.


ਸਿਖੀ (Sikhi): This word is understood as a verb to “learn” by many theologians; thus, they go far away from the actual theme of defining “Sikhi” as a noun.

ਸਿਖਿਆ (Sikhia / Teachings): something that is taught:  philosophy.

ਵੀਚਾਰਿ (Vichar / Philosophy): the branch of knowledge or academic study devoted to the systematic examination of basic concepts such as truth, existence, reality, causality, and freedom; a particular system of thought or doctrine.

It is evident from the above definition that Sikhi is the philosophy of Nanak embodied in his Bani. This philosophy has been termed “Nanakian Philosophy,” as discussed in Chapter 6.


It becomes evident from the above definition that Sikhi is a philosophy of Nanak, which has been slowly and steadily converted into a highly institutionalized religion, Sikhism. Therefore, the simple difference is that Sikhi is the philosophy of Nanak, and Sikhism is a religion developed by his followers. I have noticed that some traditional Sikh theologians do not use the academic term “philosophy”; instead, they prefer to use ‘Gurmat’ while teaching or writing about Sikhi or Sikhism. It is unknown who the Guru is of this ‘mat’ (philosophy). Nevertheless, the term philosophy is commonly used by many contemporary Sikh writers while writing about Sikhi and Sikhism.

ਸਿਖੁ (Sikh) in Sikhi

Nanak describes a ‘Sikh’ as follows:

ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ1 ਨੀਰੁ2 ਗਿਆਨਿ3 ਮਨ4 ਮਜਨੁ5 ਅਠਸਠਿ6 ਤੀਰਥ7 ਸੰਗਿ8 ਗਹੇ ॥ 

Amriṯ nīr gi▫ān man majan aṯẖsaṯẖ ṯirath sang gahe. 

The one4 who bathes5 in the life-giving1 water2 of wisdom3 gets8 the benefit of bathing at sixty-eight6 sacred places7.

ਗੁਰ9 ਉਪਦੇਸਿ10 ਜਵਾਹਰ11 ਮਾਣਕ12 ਸੇਵੇ13 ਸਿਖੁ14 ਸੋੁ ਖੋਜਿ15 ਲਹੈ ॥੧॥ 

Gur upḏes javāhar māṇak seve sikẖ so kẖoj lahai. ||1|| 

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 1328.

The enlightening9 philosophy/teachings10 are like gems11 and jewels12, and the one who can research/discover15 that fact is a Sikh14 and practises13 it.

AGGS, M 1, p 1328.

It is evident from the above phrase that the concise and precise definition of a SIKH is:

The one who discovers the enlightening philosophy (fact/truth) and practices it.

According to this definition of a Sikh by Nanak, all philosophers, scientists, and researchers of the world who are discovering the enlightening philosophy (fact/truth) and practicing it are the SIKHS.

The word, ਸਿਖੀ (Sikhi) has been used as the plural of ਸਿਖੁ (Sikh) by Guru Ram Das:

ਉਪਦੇਸੁ1 ਜਿ ਦਿਤਾ2 ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ3 ਸੋ ਸੁਣਿਆ4 ਸਿਖੀ5 ਕੰਨੇ ॥
Upḏes jė ḏiṯā saṯgurū so suṇi▫ā sikẖī kanne.

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 4, ਪੰਨਾ 314.

The Sikhs5 listened4 to the teachings/philosophy1 imparted2 by the Truly enlightened person3.

AGGS, M 4, p 314.

Note: Here, the ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ3 (True/truly enlightened person) is Nanak.

Who is a Sat Guru?

Many Sikh theologians consider ‘Sat Guru’ as God, but Guru Arjun has defined ‘Sat Guru’ as follows:

ਸਤਿ1 ਪੁਰਖੁ2 ਜਿਨਿ ਜਾਨਿਆ3 ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ4ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਨਾਉ5 ॥  

Saṯ purakẖ jin jāni▫ā saṯgur ṯis kā nā▫o. 

 ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 5, ਪੰਨਾ 386.

The one, who understood3 the Ever-Existing1 Entity2, is called5 the Truly Enlightened Person4.  

 AGGS, M 5, p 386. (Sukhmani)

According to this definition of ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ (Satguru), Guru Arjun has declared Nanak as ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ (Satguru) as follows:

ਸਭ1 ਤੇ ਵਡਾ2 ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ3 ਨਾਨਕੁ ਜਿਨਿ4 ਕਲ5 ਰਾਖੀ6 ਮੇਰੀ7 ॥੪॥੧੦॥੫੭॥ 

Sabẖ ṯe vadā saṯgur Nānak jin kal rākẖī merī. ||4||10||57||

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 5, ਪੰਨਾ 750.

 Nanak, the truly enlightened (Guru)3, is the greatest2 of all1 the Gurus who has made me capable5 to understand6 myself7.

AGGS, M 5, p 750.

But if we investigate the SGGS Gurmukhi-Gurmukhi Dictionary (Thind, n.d.), which defines “ਕਲ” (kal) as ਸ਼ਕਤੀ (shakti), ਸਮਰਥਾ (samartha), ਤਾਕਤ (takat), ਸੱਤਿਆ (satya), ਧਰਮ-ਸਤਾ (dharma satta) (in English: Energy, capability, power, truth, religious status). If the meaning of “ਕਲ” (kal) is “capability,” then its interpretation as given above becomes justified.

On the other hand, G. Singh (1987), S. Singh (1972), Talib (1988), and many others have interpreted it as follows:

ਸਭ ਤੇ ਵਡਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਲ ਰਾਖੀ ਮੇਰੀ।

Sab te vadda Satgu Nanak jin kal raakhi meri

Guru Nanak is the greatest of all who protected my honor.

When ‘kaka’ of Nanak is with ‘ounkar’’ it is generally considered Nanak as a person, Guru, or Sat Guru but not as the pen name. However, in some verses, kaka is without ounkar; still, Nanak is interpreted as a person, not a pen name. However, it is not a common law of the Grammar of Gurbani. Therefore, one must be careful to interpret the name ‘Nanak,’ keeping in view the theme of the verse.

Nevertheless, some theologians put a comma after Satguru and interpret it as follows:

Nanak (pen name of Guru Arjun) says:

God (Satguru) is the greatest of all, who protected my honour.

However, at some places of Bani of some Gurus, Satguru is considered the Eternal Entity (ੴ – God). For example,

Guru Ram Das believes ‘Sat Guru’ is the Eternal Entity (ੴ – God):

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ1 ਮੇਰਾ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ2 ਨਾ ਆਵੈ3 ਨਾ ਜਾਇ4 ॥ 

Saṯgur merā saḏā saḏā nā āvai na jā▫e. 

ਓਹੁ5 ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ6 ਪੁਰਖੁ7 ਹੈ ਸਭ8 ਮਹਿ ਰਹਿਆ9 ਸਮਾਇ10 ॥੧੩॥ 

Oh abẖināsī purakẖ hai sabẖ mėh rahi▫ā samā▫e. ||13||

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 4, ਪੰਨਾ 759.

My True Guru1 exists forever2, and neither takes birth3 nor dies4.

That5  is imperishable6 Entity7 and pervades9,10 in everything8.

AGGS, M 4, p 759.

In two places, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjun used Satguru as an enlightened person, but in the last phrase Guru Ram Das says that Satguru means God, Who exists forever. Does it mean Satguru has two meanings or do the statements of Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjun contradict with each other.


A Sikh in Sikhism

A Sikh, defined by Guru Ram Das, is as follows:

The first example of converting Sikhi into Sikhism was by Guru Ram Das, who assigned several duties to perform to be called a Sikh of Satguru:

ਗੁਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਜੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਅਖਾਏ ਸੁ ਭਲਕੇ ਉਠਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵੈ ॥

Gur saṯgur kā jo sikẖ akẖā▫e so bẖalke uṯẖ har nām ḏẖi▫āvai.

One who calls himself a Sikh of the Guru, the True Guru, shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord’s Name.

ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰੇ ਭਲਕੇ ਪਰਭਾਤੀ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰੇ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵੈ ॥

Uḏam kare bẖalke parbẖāṯī isnān kare amriṯ sar nāvai.

Upon arising early in the morning, he is to bathe, and cleanse himself in the pool of nectar.

ਉਪਦੇਸਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਪੁ ਜਾਪੈ ਸਭਿ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਪਾਪ ਦੋਖ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਵੈ ॥

Upḏes gurū har har jap jāpai sabẖ kilvikẖ pāp ḏokẖ lėh jāvai.

Following the Instructions of the Guru, he is to chant the Name of the Lord, Hari, Hari. All sins, misdeeds and negativity shall be erased.

ਫਿਰਿ ਚੜੈ ਦਿਵਸੁ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਗਾਵੈ ਬਹਦਿਆ ਉਠਦਿਆ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵੈ ॥

Fir cẖaṛai ḏivas gurbāṇī gāvai bahḏi▫ā uṯẖ▫ḏi▫ā har nām ḏẖi▫āvai.

Then, at the rising of the sun, he is to sing Gurbani; whether sitting down or standing up, he is to meditate on the Name of Hari.

ਜੋ ਸਾਸਿ ਗਿਰਾਸਿ ਧਿਆਏ ਮੇਰਾ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਸੋ ਗੁਰਸਿਖੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਨਿ ਭਾਵੈ ॥

Jo sās girās ḏẖi▫ā▫e merā har har so gursikẖ gurū man bẖāvai.

One who meditates on my Hari, Hari, with every breath and every morsel of food – that Gursikh becomes pleasing to the Guru’s Mind.

ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਦਇਆਲੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਤਿਸੁ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਗੁਰੂ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਸੁਣਾਵੈ ॥

Jis no ḏa▫i▫āl hovai merā su▫āmī ṯis gursikẖ gurū upḏes suṇāvai.

That person, on whom my Lord and Master is kind and compassionate – upon that Gursikh, the Guru’s Teachings are bestowed.

ਜਨੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਧੂੜਿ ਮੰਗੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਕੀ ਜੋ ਆਪਿ ਜਪੈ ਅਵਰਹ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਾਵੈ ॥੨॥

Jan Nānak ḏẖūṛ mangai ṯis gursikẖ kī jo āp japai avrah nām japāvai. ||2||

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 4, ਪੰਨਾ 305-306.

Servant Nanak begs for the dust of the feet of that Gursikh, who himself chants the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. ||2||

(Interpretation by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa.  (Thind, n.d.)

AGGS, M 4, p 305-306.

It becomes evident that the Sikh defined by Guru Ram Das is quite different from that Sikh defined by Nanak. The Sikh of Guru Ram Das must perform specific duties, while the Sikh of Nanak is to discover the truth. Guru Ram Das recommends to his Sikh to meditate and repeat Hari, Hari,…

Moreover, a Sikh defined by various Sikh organizations differs from that described by Nanak and Guru Ram Das. For example, A Sikh in Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 (The Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925).  

The Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 (Part I, Chapter 1, Section 1) defines a Sikh as follows:

(9) Sikh – ‘Sikh’ means a person who professes the Sikh religion, or in the case of a deceased person, who professed the Sikh religion or was known to be Sikh during his lifetime. If any question arises as to whether any living person is or is not a Sikh, he shall be deemed respectively to be or not to be a Sikh if he makes or refuses to make the following declaration to the (State)1 government: page 9

1Sikh: “I solemnly affirm that I am a Sikh, that I believe in the Guru Granth Sahib, that I believe in the Ten Gurus, and that I have no other religion.”

2(10) “Amritdhari Sikh: “means and includes every person who has taken Khande-ka-Amrit or Khanda de paul prepared and administered according to the tenets of Sikh religion and rites at the hands of five payaras/ beloved ones.” 

This Act also describes other types of Sikhs as follows:

3(10-A) “Sehjdhari Sikh” means a person – who performs ceremonies according to Sikh rites; who does not use tobacco or kutha (Halal meat) in any form; who is not a Patit; and who can recite Mul Manter.

4(11)Patitmeans a person who, being a Keshadhari (uncut hair) Sikh, trims or shaves his beard or keshas (hair) or who, after taking Amrit, commits any or more of the four kurahits (act against code of conduct)

A Sikh in Sikh Rehit Maryada (Sikh Rehit Maryada, 1945)

Finally, the Sikh Rehit Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) Published by the SGPC in 1945, has introduced another definition of a Sikh as follows:

ਜੋ ਇਸਤਰੀ ਜਾਂ ਪੁਰਸ਼ ਇਕ ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖ, ਦਸ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬਾਨ (ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਾਕ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ ਤੋਂ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਤਕ), ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਅਤੇ ਦਸ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬਾਨ ਦੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਤੇ ਸਿਖੀਆ ਅਤੇ ਦਸਮੇਸ਼ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਅੰਮ੍ਰੀਤ ਉਤੇ ਨਿਸ਼ਚਾ ਰੱਖਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਕਿਸੇ ਹੋਰ ਧਰਮ ਨੂੰ ਨਹੀਂ ਮੰਨਦਾ, ਉਹ ਸਿੱਖ ਹੈ । 

The literal translation is as follows:

“A woman or a man, who believes in one Almighty, ten Guru Sahibans (from Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib), Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Bani and advice of ten Guru Sahibans and the Amrit of Dasmesh Ji and does not accept any other religion, is a Sikh.”

A Sikh in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act 1971 (Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act – Central Government Act, 1971)  

“A Sikh means a person who professes the Sikh religion, believes and follows the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and the ten Gurus only, keeps unshorn hair, and has no other religion.”

He shall be deemed respectively to be or not to be a Sikh if he makes or refuses to make in the manner prescribed by rules the following declaration: I solemnly affirm that I am a Keshadhari (uncut hair) Sikh, that I believe in and follow the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the ten Gurus only and that I have no other religion.”

Keshadhari Sikh

Keshadhari (uncut hair) Sikh” is another term that has not been defined anywhere, but it is commonly used for a Sikh who has uncut hair.

The above discussion indicates that a Sikh defined by Nanak differs from that formulated by Guru Ramdas and other Sikh organizations. All the definitions of a Sikh other than that of Nanak are inconsistent and do not meet the definition of a TERM (a SIKH).



In Sikhi Sabd is Guru

During the Siddh Gost, (discourse between Siddhas and Nanak) the Siddhas, the most learned persons of that time, questioned Nanak, who is your Guru?

ਕਵਣ ਮੂਲੁ1 ਕਵਣ ਮਤਿ2 ਵੇਲਾ3

ਤੇਰਾ ਕਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ4 ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਤੂ ਚੇਲਾ5

Kavaṇ mūl kavaṇ maṯ velā.

Ŧerā kavaṇ gurū jis kā ṯū cẖelā.

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 942.

What is the source of the beginning1, and which type of philosophy2 is of this Age3(Kali Yuga)?

Who is the ‘guru’4 of whom you are his disciple5?

AGGS, M 1, p 942.

Guru Nanak replied about his ‘guru’ and the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ as follows:

ਪਵਨ1 ਅਰੰਭੁ2 ਸਤਿ3 ਗੁਰ4 ਮਤਿ5 ਵੇਲਾ6

ਸਬਦੁ7 ਗੁਰੂ8 ਸੁਰਤਿ9 ਧੁਨਿ10 ਚੇਲਾ11

Pavan arambẖ saṯgur maṯ velā.

Sabaḏ gurū suraṯ ḏẖun cẖelā.

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 943.

The air1 is the beginning2 of every life, and this is the Age6 of Enlightenment5 known through the Truly3 Enlightened4 person.

Who is the Guru? It is explained in the second sentence:

The sabd7 is the guru8 (enlightener), and my keen10 conscience9 is its disciple11.

AGGS, M 1, p 943.

What is the ‘Sabd’ that is the ‘Guru’ of Nanak?

That ‘sabd’ is described by Nanak himself in pauri (stanza) # 38 of JAP Bani as follows:

ਜਤੁ1 ਪਾਹਾਰਾ2 ਧੀਰਜੁ3 ਸੁਨਿਆਰੁ4

ਅਹਰਣਿ5 ਮਤਿ6 ਵੇਦੁ7 ਹਥੀਆਰੁ8

Jaṯ pāhārā ḏẖīraj suni▫ār. Ahraṇ maṯ veḏ hathī▫ār.

Self-control1 should be the furnace2, and patience3 of the goldsmith4.

Wisdom6 should be the anvil5 and knowledge7 should be the tools8.

ਭਉ9 ਖਲਾ10 ਅਗਨਿ11 ਤਪ ਤਾਉ ॥

ਭਾਂਡਾ12 ਭਾਉ13 ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ14 ਤਿਤੁ15 ਢਾਲਿ16

ਘੜੀਐ17 ਸਬਦੁ18 ਸਚੀ ਟਕਸਾਲ19

Bẖa▫o kẖalā agan ṯap ṯā▫o.

Bẖāʼndā bẖā▫o amriṯ ṯiṯ dẖāl.

Gẖaṛī▫ai sabaḏ sacẖī taksāl.

Love9 for the Eternal Entity (God) should be the bellows10 to blow air into fire11 to make it super-hot.

The body (mind), full of love13, is the melting pot12 where the self-control, patience, knowledge, and wisdom as matter15 to be melted16 together to construct17 the sabd (idea/philosophy)18 as an Amrit (elixir)14 in the mint19 of truth.

ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ20 ਕਰਮੁ21 ਤਿਨ ਕਾਰ22

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ23 ਨਦਰਿ24 ਨਿਹਾਲ25 ॥੩੮॥

Jin ka▫o naḏar karam ṯin kār.

Nānak naḏrī naḏar nihāl. ||38||

 ਅਗਗਸ, ਜਪੁ # 38, ਪੰਨਾ 8.

Such work22 to construct sabd (idea/philosophy) can only be done by those with the capability21 of vision20.

Nanak says:

The Eternal Entity (God) is happy25 for people with this type of vision23, 24. 38.

AGGS, Jap # 38, p 8.

The Pauri (stanza) # 38 of JAP Bani indicates that the ‘sabd’ is constructed using self-control, patience, knowledge, and wisdom without involving any deity. The word ‘said’ means the ‘idea’ or ‘philosophy’ that enlightens people to discover the right path in life. Therefore, ‘sabd’ is interpreted as an ‘enlightening idea/philosophy.’

Char Patharath (Four Characteristics)

Nanak further explains that humans inherit four characteristics: (Seeing, hearing, sensation, and thinking/capability to analyze the data collected.) I interpret the following stanza keeping in view human Physiology and Neurosciences:

ਚਾਰਿ1 ਪਦਾਰਥ2 ਲੈ ਜਗਿ3 ਆਇਆ4

ਸਿਵ ਸਕਤੀ5 ਘਰਿ6 ਵਾਸਾ7 ਪਾਇਆ ॥

ਏਕੁ8 ਵਿਸਾਰੇ9 ਤਾ ਪਿੜ10 ਹਾਰੇ11 ਅੰਧੁਲੈ12 ਨਾਮੁ13 ਵਿਸਾਰਾ14 ਹੇ ॥੬॥ 1027

Cẖār paḏārath lai jag ā▫i▫ā.

Siv sakṯī gẖar vāsā pā▫i▫ā.

Ėk visāre ṯā piṛ hāre anḏẖulai nām visārā he. ||6||

 ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 1027.

The human was born4 into this world3 with four1 characteristics2.

All these characteristics of humans6 are based7 on Universal Energy5.

If one8 forgets9 about these four characteristics, then that foolish (human)12 loses11 all his capabilty10, and forgets14 how to use the Laws of Nature/Universe13 for the betterment of one’s life.

AGGS, M 1, p 1027.

Note: ਚਾਰਿ1 ਪਦਾਰਥ2 (Char Patharath):  Nanak has not named the Char Patharath in this stanza, but the author (Chahal) considers that according to human physiology and neurosciences, the Char Patharath could be seeing, hearing, sensation, and thinking/capability to analyze the data collected.

ਸਿਵ ਸਕਤੀ (siv shakti) has been used by Nanak as the ‘Universal Energy’ but not the mythical energy of Shiva.

ਨਾਮੁ (Naam) here means Laws of Nature/Universe.

Although Nanak has not mentioned the names of Char Pataraths  in his above stanza but Prof. Sahib Singh, 1972b) explains Chaar Padarath as follows:

ਚਾਰਿ ਪਦਾਰਥ: 1. ਧਰਮ – ਸ਼ੁਬ ਕਰਮ, 2. ਅਰਥ – ਪਦਾਰਥ, 3. ਕਾਮ – ਕਾਮਨਾ, ਇਛਿਆ, 4. ਮੌਖ – ਮੁਕਤੀ.

English: 1. Dharam (good deeds), Arath (various things), Kaam (lust, desire), Mokh (liberation or salvation from the cycle of reincarnation).

On the other hand, in, Char Patharath are different that that of Nanak and Prof. Sahib Singh are discussed as follows:  (Char Patharath, 2020)

Gyan Padarath: (Treasure of Spiritual Knowledge),

Mukat Padarath: (Treasure of Salvation),

Naam Padarath: (Treasure of Divine Wisdom), and

Janam Padarath: (Treasure of Spiritual Birth).

These Padaraths are based upon Vedas and Vedanta philosophies.

In stanza #38 of JAP Bani, Nanak explains how a sabd (idea/philosophy) is constructed (formulated) as Amrit (life-giving elixir – the way of life), which will mold a person to be highly moral and progressive. Besides, a Sikh of Nanak inherits four patharaths: Seeing, hearing, sensation, and thinking/capability to analyze the data collected, but not that of Eastern philosophy, as explained by Prof. Sahib Singh and

Despite the above teachings of Guru Nanak, some Sikhs continue to follow Eastern philosophy to have a personal Guru instead of a Sabd Guru for guidance to achieve a moral life, to meet God, and to achieve Mukti (salvation). That is why many Sants/ Babas have appeared in Punjab and are brainwashing their followers to depend on their advice rather than using their intellect to construct the sabd taught by Nanak.  Of course, some people may need a Guru (teacher) to teach the qualities required to build that ‘sabd.’ Nevertheless, Nanak further explains that the body and brain have the four faculties (seeing, hearing, sensation, thinking/capability to analyze the data collected) needed to resolve problems and cross the so-called “dreadful sea of life.”

Lineage of Guru-Ship

According to the hagiographies, Nanak bestowed Guru-ship upon Lehna Ji and named him Angad as a limb of Nanak. It is also said that Nanak kept a notebook (pothi) which he used to write down his Bani. Nanak handed over his pothi to Guru Angad. However, we do not find evidence in his Bani that Nanak favors passing on the Guru-ship to his follower. For example, he writes in his Bani as follows:

ਕੁਲਹਾਂ1 ਦੇਂਦੇ2 ਬਾਵਲੇ3 ਲੈਂਦੇ4 ਵਡੇ5 ਨਿਲਜ6 ॥ 

Kulhāʼn ḏeʼnḏe bāvle laiʼnḏe vade nilaj. 

Those, who bestow2 ceremonial hat1 (passing on Guru-ship) onto their followers, are fools3, and those, who accept4 such Guru-ship, are very5 disgraceful6 followers.

ਚੂਹਾ7 ਖਡ8 ਨ ਮਾਵਈ9 ਤਿਕਲਿ10 ਬੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ11 ਛਜ12 ॥ 

Cẖūhā kẖad na māv▫ī ṯikal banĥai cẖẖaj.

ਅਗਗਸ, ਮ: 1, ਪੰਨਾ 1286.

It is comparable to as if a mouse7 having tied11 a winnowing basket12 on his back10, cannot enter9 into his hole8.

AGGS, M 1, p 1286.

It is evident from this phrase that Nanak is not in favor of bestowing Guru-ship onto any of his followers, not even to any of his sons. However, Satta and Balwand, Bhatts in the court of Guru Arjun, wrote a Vaar (poetic diction in which the hero is eulogized) about 65 years after the demise of Nanak, indicating that Guru-Ship was bestowed upon Lehna Ji, the most obedient follower (disciple) of Nanak as follows:

ਨਾਨਕਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੈ ॥ 

Nānak rāj cẖalā▫i▫ā sacẖ kot saṯāṇī nīv ḏai. 

Nanak established the kingdom and built the fortress on the most vital foundations. 

ਲਹਣੇ ਧਰਿਓਨੁ ਛਤੁ ਸਿਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਿਫਤੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪੀਵਦੈ  

Lahṇe ḏẖari▫on cẖẖaṯ sir kar sifṯī amriṯ pīvḏai. 

He installed the royal canopy over Lehna’s head; chanting the Lord’s Praises, He drank in the Ambrosial Nectar

ਮਤਿ ਗੁਰ ਆਤਮ ਦੇਵ ਦੀ ਖੜਗਿ ਜੋਰਿ ਪਰਾਕੁਇ ਜੀਅ ਦੈ ॥ 

Maṯ gur āṯam ḏev ḏī kẖaṛag jor purāku▫e jī▫a ḏai. 

The Guru implanted the almighty sword of the Teachings to illuminate his soul. 

ਗੁਰਿ ਚੇਲੇ ਰਹਰਾਸਿ ਕੀਈ ਨਾਨਕਿ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਥੀਵਦੈ ॥ 

Gur cẖele rahrās kī▫ī Nānak salāmaṯ thīvḏai. 

The Guru bowed down to His disciple, while Nanak was still alive. 

ਸਹਿ ਟਿਕਾ ਦਿਤੋਸੁ ਜੀਵਦੈ ॥੧॥ 

Sėh tikā ḏiṯos jīvḏai. ||1|| 

While still alive, the King applied the ceremonial mark to his forehead. ||1|| 

AGGS, Satta and Balwand, p 966. The English translation is by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa. (Thind, n.d.)

On the other hand, Satta and Balwand also indicate in the same Vaar that Nanak rejected his sons because they were most disobedient to Nanak as follows:

ਪੁਤ੍ਰੀ ਕਉਲੁ ਨ ਪਾਲਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਪੀਰਹੁ ਕੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਮੁਰਟੀਐ  

Puṯrī ka▫ul na pāli▫o kar pīrahu kanĥ murtī▫ai. 

His sons did not obey His Word; they turned their backs on Him as Guru. 

ਦਿਲਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਆਕੀ ਫਿਰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਬੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਭਾਰੁ ਉਚਾਇਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਛਟੀਐ ॥ 

Ḏil kẖotai ākī firniĥ banėh bẖār ucẖā▫iniĥ cẖẖatī▫ai. 

These evil-hearted ones became rebellious; they carried loads of sin on their backs. 

ਜਿਨਿ ਆਖੀ ਸੋਈ ਕਰੇ ਜਿਨਿ ਕੀਤੀ ਤਿਨੈ ਥਟੀਐ  

Jin ākẖī so▫ī kare jin kīṯī ṯinai thatī▫ai. 

Whatever the Guru said, Lehna did, and so he was installed on the throne. 

ਕਉਣੁ ਹਾਰੇ ਕਿਨਿ ਉਵਟੀਐ ॥੨॥ 

Ka▫uṇ hāre kin uvtī▫ai. ||2|| 

Who has lost, and who has won? ||2|| 

AGGS, Satta and Balwand, p 967. The English translation is by Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa (Thind, n.d.)

Whatever the case, Lehna ji as Guru Angad succeeded to the House of Nanak. Guru Angad left Kartarpur and went back to his village Khadur Sahib. Bhai Bala Janam Sakhi indicates that Nanak gave his Pothi to Guru Angad when he bestowed Guru-ship onto him. Therefore, he was supposed to preach and teach Sikhi of Nanak from that Pothi; instead, he started to write his own Bani. Now we know that the Original Pothi of Nanak has been lost. Is it not strange that Nanak’s Kharavan (wooden sandals) and Chola (robe) are preserved but not the most valuable article, Original Pothi of Nanak? Discovering what happened to the Original Pothi of Nanak isn’t easy.

This practice of bestowing Guru-ship continued to the next Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjun, Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Teg Bahadur, and the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Now the Sikhs have ten Gurus instead of one Prophet as Buddha in Buddhism, Jesus in Christianity, and Mohammad in Islam.

Bani Guru, Guru Hai Bani

Now the Bani has been declared as Guru instead of Sabd by Guru Ram Das as follows:

ਬਾਣੀ1 ਗੁਰੂ2 ਗੁਰੂ3 ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ4 ਵਿਚਿ ਬਾਣੀ5 ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ6 ਸਾਰੇ ॥ 

Baṇī gurū gurū hai baṇī vicẖ baṇī amriṯ sāre. 

The word1 (Bani) is Guru2, Guru3 is the word4 (Bani), and in this word5 (Bani) is found as the elixir of life6.

ਗੁਰੁ7 ਬਾਣੀ8 ਕਹੈ ਸੇਵਕੁ9 ਜਨੁ10 ਮਾਨੈ11 ਪਰਤਖਿ12 ਗੁਰੂ13 ਨਿਸਤਾਰੇ14॥੫॥ 

Gur baṇī kahai sevak jan mānai parṯakẖ gurū nisṯāre. ||5||

Guru7 says Bani8 and human10 servant9 accepts11 it and Guru13 will obviously12 emancipate14 him (from sin).

AGGS, M 4, p 982.

Guru Ram Das took a second step toward developing Sikhism by declaring “Bani is Guru” and “Guru is Bani,” ignoring the Sabd described by Nanak in pauri 38 of JAP Bani is the Guru. Moreover, Guru Ram Das does not indicate the name of the Guru, who says, Bani in his above stanza. Is it Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, or Guru Ram Das himself the Guru?

Guru Ramdas founded the Sarovar (Holy Pool).

In 1574 Guru Ram Das made his home by the side of the pool, which was regarded as blessed with miraculous healing powers. In 1577, Guru Ram Das, finding the air and water of his abode health-giving, purchased the pool and some surrounding land from its owners, the neighboring Jats (farmers). One of the first acts of Guru Ram Das was to excavate the pool further to construct a shrine at the center (Sri Hari Mandir). (The Pool of Nectar, n.d.)

There are a couple of phrases about this Pool of Nectar (Ram Das Sarovar) by the next Guru Arjun as follows:

ਸੰਤਹੁ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਸਰੋਵਰੁ ਨੀਕਾ ॥ 

Sanṯahu Rāmḏās sarovar nīkā. 

ਜੋ ਨਾਵੈ ਸੋ ਕੁਲੁ ਤਰਾਵੈ ਉਧਾਰੁ ਹੋਆ ਹੈ ਜੀ ਕਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ 

Jo nāvai so kul ṯarāvai uḏẖār ho▫ā hai jī kā. ||1|| rahā▫o

AGGS, M 5, p 623.

Faridkot Vala Teeka:

ਹੇ ਸੰਤੋਂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਜੋ ਸਰੋਵਰ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ ਜੀ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਬਹੁਤ ਸੁੰਦਰ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਇਸ਼ਨਾਨ ਕਰਤਾ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਕੁਲੋਂ ਕੋ ਤਾਰਤਾ ਹੈ ਔਰ ਅਸ਼ਨਾਨ ਕਰ ਤਿਸ ਜੀਵ ਕਾ ਕਲਿਆਣ ਹੂਆ ਹੈ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ 

(English: Hey, Saints! The Holy Pool of Ram Das, which is in Amritsar, is magnificent. Whosoever bathes therein his lineage is saved, and bathing in it, he is also getting blessed. Pause.

Manmohan Singh, SGPC, Amritsar:

O saints, the sublime is the tank of Ram Dass.   Who-so-ever bathes therein, his lineage is saved, and his soul is blessed too. Pause.

Dr Sant Singh Khalsa:

O Saints, the purifying pool of Ram Das is sublime.

Whoever bathes in it, his family and ancestry are saved, and his soul is also saved. ||1||Pause|| 

Prof. Sahib Singh:

ਹੇ ਸੰਤ ਜਨੋ! ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤ (ਇਕ) ਸੁੰਦਰ (ਅਸਥਾਨ) ਹੈ।

ਜੇਹੜਾ ਮਨੁੱਖ (ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤ ਵਿਚ) ਆਤਮਕ ਇਸ਼ਨਾਨ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ (ਮਨ ਨੂੰ ਨਾਮ-ਜਲ ਨਾਲ ਪਵਿਤ੍ਰ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ), ਉਸ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦ ਦਾ (ਵਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਤੋਂ) ਪਾਰ-ਉਤਾਰਾ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ, ਉਹ ਆਪਣੀ ਸਾਰੀ ਕੁਲ ਨੂੰ ਭੀ (ਸੰਸਾਰ-ਸਮੁੰਦਰ ਤੋਂ) ਪਾਰ ਲੰਘਾ ਲੈਂਦਾ ਹੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥

(English: Hey, Saints! The Congregation of saints is a beautiful place. Whosoever takes a spiritual bath in this congregation, his sins are washed away, and the sins of his lineage are also washed away.

Guru Arjun again repeats the same concept about Ram Das Sarovar as follows:

ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਸਰੋਵਰਿ ਨਾਤੇ ॥ 

Rāmḏās sarovar nāṯe.

ਸਭਿ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਪ ਕਮਾਤੇ ॥ 

Sabẖ uṯre pāp kamāṯe. 

AGGS, M 5, p 625.

Faridkot Vala Teeka:

ਜੋ ਪੁਰਸ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ ਜੀ ਮੈਂ (ਨਾਤੇ) ਨਾਏ ਹੈਂ ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਸਭ ਪਾਪ ਕਮਾਏ ਹੂਏ ਉਤਰੇ ਹੈਂ॥

(English: Those persons who have bathed in Sri Amritsar (Nectar-pond), their all sins are washed off.)

Manmohan Singh, SGPC, Amritsar:

By bathing in the Nectar-tank of Ram Das, all the previously committed sins are washed off.  

Dr Sant Singh Khalsa:

Bathing in the nectar tank of Ram Das, all sins are erased.

Prof Sahib Singh:

ਹੇ ਭਾਈ! ਜੇਹੜੇ ਮਨੁੱਖ ਰਾਮ ਦੇ ਦਾਸਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਰੋਵਰ ਵਿਚ (ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤ ਵਿਚ ਨਾਮ-ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਲ) ਇਸ਼ਨਾਨ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ, ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ (ਪਿਛਲੇ) ਕੀਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਸਾਰੇ ਪਾਪ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ।

(English: Hey, Brothers! Those persons, who bathe in the pond of servants of Ram (with Naam Amrit in Sadh Sangat), their sins committed in the previous life are washed away.

Note: Interpretation/translation of the two above phrases by Faridkot Vala Teeka, Manmohan Singh, Sant Singh, and Prof Sahib Singh is from the website,, of Dr. Thind ( n.d.)

Comments:  In both phrases, the translations in the Faridkot Vala Teeka, by Manmohan Singh, SGPC, Amritsar, and that of Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa are similar, where the Holy Pond is, which was dug by Guru Ram Das. However, Prof. Sahib Singh is trying to camouflage the truth by converting the Holy Pond of Guru Ram Das as the place of congregation of the servants of Ram (God).

Here are two questions:

Whose interpretation is correct?

Who is an expert who can decide which interpretation is correct?

Guru Arjun constructed Hari Mandir (Fig. 1)

According to Bhupinder (Bo) Singh (2021), Guru Amar Das (1479 – 1574), after having acquired a piece of land, assigned the work of construction of Sarovar (pool of Sacred Water) to the fourth Guru Ram Das (1534-1581). The excavation of Sarovar was started in 1570 and completed in 1577. The fifth Guru Arjun (1563 -1606) completed the brick lining of the Sarovar. This Sarovar was called Amrit Sarovar by Guru Arjun, meaning the lake of immortality.

He continues to say that most historical records and verbal traditions confirm that the foundation brick of Hari Mandir was laid by Hazrat Mian Mir (1550 –1635) of Lahore in 1588. His full name was Baba Sain Mir Mohammed Sahib, and he was a leader of the Qadiri Sufi order of Islam faith. On the other hand, some believe that Guru Arjun himself laid the actual foundation brick. The construction work of Hari Mandir was started in 1589 and completed in 1601. The Temple is described by Ian Kerr and other scholars as a mixture of Indo-Islamic Mughal and Hindu Rajput architecture.

The Name of the Temple, Hari Mandir, indicates it is dedicated to Hari. According to Google Research, Hari means: Hari (Sanskrit: हरि) is among the primary epithets of the Hindu preserver deity Vishnu, meaning ‘the one who takes away‘ (sins). It refers to the one who removes darkness and illusions and removes all obstacles to spiritual progress. Some steps go down into the Sarover called Har ki Pauri (Hari Ki Pauri). Usually, Hari Mandar is called Darbar Sahib by the Sikhs and is generally known as Golden Temple by others.

Compilation of Aad (Adi) Granth

The Hari Mandir (Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple) is ready amid the Sacred Pool; now there is a need for a sacred book containing the Bani of Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Ramdas, and Guru Arjun. There was a copy of the ‘Pothi Sahib‘ in two volumes with Baba Mohan, son of Guru Amar Das. In one book, there was the Bani of the Gurus. In the other volume was the Bani from the Bhagats (saints). From Baba Mohan, Guru Arjun procured these volumes after much persuasion.

On the other hand, Prof. Sahib Singh has refuted all the fictitious stories reported in Gur Partap Suraj Parkash by Kavi Santokh Singh, Gur Bilas Patshahi Chhevain (author unknown), and Twarikh Guru Khalsa by Giani Gian Singh, about procuring of pothi from Baba Mohan. He thinks Guru Nanak passed his pothi to the next Guru, Angad. He wrote his Bani in this pothi and passed it on to Guru Amar Das, who added his Bani and passed it on to Guru Ram Das. finally, this pothi with all the Bani was received by Guru Arjun.) (S. Singh, 1972) It is generally said that when Guru Arjun found this inherited treasure, he exclaimed with astonishment as follows:

ਪੀਊ1 ਦਾਦੇ2 ਕਾ ਖੋਲਿ3 ਡਿਠਾ4 ਖਜਾਨਾ5 ॥ 

Pī▫ū ḏāḏe kā kẖol diṯẖā kẖajānā. 

When I (Guru Arjun) opened3 and looked4 into the inherited1,2 treasure5 (Bani of Guru Nanak).

ਤਾ6 ਮੇਰੈ7 ਮਨਿ8 ਭਇਆ9 ਨਿਧਾਨਾ10 ॥੧॥ 

Ŧā merai man bẖa▫i▫ā niḏẖānā. ||1|| 

Then6 my7 mind8 understood9 the value of this treasure10. 1. 

ਰਤਨ11 ਲਾਲ12 ਜਾ ਕਾ ਕਛੂ13 ਨ ਮੋਲੁ14 ॥ 

Raṯan lāl jā kā kacẖẖū na mol. 

This treasure is like jewels11 and rubies12, whose price14 cannot be evaluated13.

ਭਰੇ15 ਭੰਡਾਰ16 ਅਖੂਟ17 ਅਤੋਲ18 ॥੨॥

This store16 of treasure is full15, inexhaustible17, and immeasurable18. 2.

ਖਾਵਹਿ19 ਖਰਚਹਿ20 ਰਲਿ21 ਮਿਲਿ22 ਭਾਈ23 ॥ 

Kẖāvėh kẖarcẖėh ral mil bẖā▫ī. 

Oh Brothers23!

Understand19 and disseminate20 by meeting22 together21.

ਤੋਟਿ24 ਨ ਆਵੈ ਵਧਦੋ25 ਜਾਈ ॥੩॥ 

Ŧot na āvai vaḏẖ▫ḏo jā▫ī. ||3|| 

By using this treasure, it does not diminish24 instead, it continues to increase25. 3.

ਕਹੁ26 ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਸੁ ਮਸਤਕਿ27 ਲੇਖੁ28 ਲਿਖਾਇ29 ॥ 

Kaho Nānak jis masṯak lekẖ likẖā▫e. 

ਸੁ30 ਏਤੁ ਖਜਾਨੈ31 ਲਇਆ ਰਲਾਇ32 ॥੪॥੩੧॥੧੦੦॥ 

So eṯ kẖajānai la▫i▫ā ralā▫e. ||4||31||100||

AGGS, M 5, p 186. 

Nanak says26:

The one with such destiny28 written29 on one’s forehead27 that one30 is the partner32 of this treasure31. 4. 31. 100.

On the other hand, to be recognized as Guru, Prithi Chand, elder brother of Guru Arjun, started to compile a ‘pothi’ (sacred book) wherein there were hymns of the first four Gurus, saints (Bhagats) and his Bani. He composed Bani under the name of Nanak. Prithi Chand’s son Meharvan also started to write Bani under the pen name of Nanak. So, the number of hymns under the name of Nanak was increasing.

But the situation quickly became so confusing that an undiscerning individual needed help to discriminate between the genuine and the false Bani.

This situation has been observed by Guru Amar Das as follows:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ1 ਬਿਨਾ2 ਹੋਰ3 ਕਚੀ4 ਹੈ ਬਾਣੀ5 ॥ 

Saṯgurū binā hor kacẖī hai baṇī. 

The Bani (huymns)5 other3 than2 of the truly enlightened person1 is false4.

ਬਾਣੀ6 ਤ ਕਚੀ7 ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ8 ਬਾਝਹੁ9 ਹੋਰ10 ਕਚੀ11 ਬਾਣੀ12 ॥ 

aṇī ṯa kacẖī saṯgurū bājẖahu hor kacẖī baṇī. 

All other Bani (hymns)12 other than9 of the truly enlightened person8 are false7,11 Bani (hymns)6.

ਕਹਦੇ13 ਕਚੇ14 ਸੁਣਦੇ15 ਕਚੇ16 ਕਚੀ17 ਆਖਿ18 ਵਖਾਣੀ19 ॥ 

Kahḏe kacẖe suṇḏe kacẖe kacẖīʼn ākẖ vakẖāṇī. 

Those who recite13 the Bani (hymns) are false14, those who listen15 to it are false16, and those who deliberate18,19 on such Bani (hymns) are also false17.

AGGS, M 3, 920.

 Therefore, Guru Arjun told Bhai Gurdas that genuine hymns should be separated from false ones because the Meenas (Prithi Chand and his companion) were mixing them up. This led Guru Arjun to prepare and preserve the Bani of the preceding Sikh Gurus and other saints in their original form. (“Compilation The Adi Granth,” 2009) This is my gut feeling that there seem to be still many Bani under the pen name of Nanak may not be the Bani of Nanak.

There is a question:

How difficult it could be to distinguish the false and genuine Bani written under the pen name of Nanak. Moreover, there is another problem distinguishing Nanak, the composer of Bani, from that of Nanak, used by Angad, Amar Das, Ram Das, and Arjun. The Harmandir Sahib and Aad (Adi) Granth remained in the custody of Meenas for a long time. Guru Hargobind left Sri Harmandir Sahib in 1634 and settled at Kiratpur. After that, no succeeding Guru, even Guru Gobind Singh, ever visited Sri Harmandir Sahib for about 65 years. It was 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh assigned the duty of Bhai Mani Sikh to take over Sri Harminder Sahib. It means the custody of Sri Harminder Sahib and the Aad (Adi) Granth remained with the meenas for 65 years. The possibility of interpolation in the Bani in the Aad (Adi) Granth during that time must be addressed. (Kochhar, 2020)

After all the selection was made, Guru Arjun started dictating the Bani to Bhai Gurdas. Bhai Gurdas wrote it into Gurmukhi script. Guru Arjun often instructed Bhai Gurdas to revise and correct the portion of Aad (Adi) Granth that he had written during the day. The use of words such as ‘Sudh keechay‘ (Correct them) was added in some places in Aad (Adi) Granth. The Aad (Adi) Granth was completed in 1604. (Chahal, 2004)

 Guru Nanak declared that sabd is his Guru during discourse with the Siddhas as follows:

 ਸਬਦ1 ਗੁਰੂ2 ਸੁਰਤਿ3 ਧੁਨਿ4 ਚੇਲਾ5

Sabaḏ gurū suraṯ ḏẖun cẖelā.

The sabd1 is the guru2 (enlightener), and my keen4 conscience3 is its disciple5.

Nanak has further described sabd in stanza (iiiii) # 38 of JAP Bani. (For details, go back to Chapter 3.) The Pothi, in which the Bani of five Sikh Gurus, Bhagats, and Bhatts was incorporated, was equated to Parmeshar (Eternal Entity) by Guru Arjun sometime before its compilation in 1604, as is indicated in his following stanza:

ਪੋਥੀ ਪਰਮੇਸਰ ਕਾ ਥਾਨੁ ॥

Pothī parmesar kā thān. 

ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਗੁਣ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਪੂਰਨ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Sāḏẖsang gāvahi guṇ gobinḏ pūran barahm gi▫ān. ||1|| rahā▫o.

This phrase is invariably interpreted by many scholars as follows:

This Holy Book is the home of the Transcendent Lord God.

Whoever sings the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy people, has the perfect knowledge of God. ||1||Pause|| (Sant Singh Khalsa from Web site of Dr. Thind (n.d.).

My critical analysis of this phrase indicated the logical and scientific interpretation of this phrase is as follows:

ਪੋਥੀ1 ਪਰਮੇਸਰ2 ਕਾ ਥਾਨੁ3 

Pothī parmesar kā thān.  

This Granth1 is a place (source)3 wherein one can find the attributes of the Supreme God2.

ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ4 ਗਾਵਹਿ5 ਗੁਣ6 ਗੋਬਿੰਦ7 ਪੂਰਨ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ8 ਗਿਆਨੁ9 ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ 

Sāḏẖsang gāvahi guṇ gobinḏ pūran barahm gi▫ān. ||1|| rahā▫o.  

Therefore, Guru Arjun is advising:

To sit in the company of noble people4 and try to comprehend5 the attributes6 of the god of Universe7 and great knowledge9 about the Universe8.

 AGGS, M 5, p 1226.

The day in 1604, the Granth was compiled, equated to the Supreme god (Pothi Parmesar). Thus, the Sabd Guru of Nanak lost its identity. Since the compilation of Pothi in 1604, the teaching of Sikhism was done from this Pothi for about 104 years. Around 1705, Guru Gobind Singh added the Bani of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur. During the last day of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 on this Earth, he declared this Pothi a Granth Guru.

Is it not strange that the same Pothi from which teaching of Sikhism was done for 104 was not Guru but became Guru in 1708?


Concept in History

A new controversy on the declaration of Granth as Guru was started by McLeod in 1975. Since the ‘Granth Guru’ had become a fact in the old Sikh literature, Prof Madanjit Kaur (1988) wrote a detailed article entitled, “The Guru-ship and Succession of Guru Granth” to justify that Granth is Guru and Guru-ship was bestowed by Guru Gobind Singh in 1708.  She stated that this article was written to refute the following statement of McLeod “…tradition which conferred his (Guru Gobind Singh’s) personal authority upon the sacred scripture and the corporate Panth may perhaps be a retrospective interpretation, a tradition which owes its origin not to an actual pronouncement of the Guru but to an insistent need for maintaining the Panth’s cohesion during the later period.”

Grewal (1998) also pointed out about the contention of McLeod as follows: “He (Justice Gurdev Singh) thinks it is unfair on McLeod to suggest that Granth Sahib was installed as Guru to serve as a cohesive force for the leaderless community after the execution of Banda Bahadur and not because of the injunction of Guru Gobind Singh.”

In both contentions above, it appears that McLeod refused to accept that Guru Gobind Singh declared the Granth as Guru in 1708. He believes that it was a later addition after the execution of Banda Bahadur, the Granth was proclaimed as Guru as a cohesive force for the leaderless community.

In response to the above contention of McLeod Justice Gurdev Singh, Harbans Singh and Ganda Singh (cited from Grewal (1998), and Madanjit Kaur (1988) and Ganda Singh (1986) have proven historically that it was Guru Gobind Singh who bestowed Guru-ship on to the Granth in 1708 at the time of his demise.

Prof Piara Singh Padam (1997)  – p 24) also supported that it is a historical fact that Guru-ship was bestowed onto the Granth by Guru Gobind Singh, not by Singh Sabha as is heard from some mischievous persons.

Nevertheless, when I examined the information (data) given in Sri Gur Sobha (Ganda Singh (ed.), 1967), Gurbilas Patshahi 6 (Vedanti & Singh, 1998), Rahit Namay  (Pyara Singh Padam, 1984),  other historical evidence, and Gurbani a new picture appeared that originally ‘Sabd’ was accepted as ‘Guru’ but later ‘Sabd Guru’ was changed to ‘Granth Guru.’ It is explained as follows:

i) Sri Gur Sobha

Ganda Singh (ed.), 1967 – p 52 quoted a part of the following phrase from Sainapat’s Sri Gur Sobha to show that Guru-ship was bestowed onto the Granth:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ਅਜਰ ਜਰੰ ।

ਹਿਰਦੇ ਧਰ ਧਿਆਨੀ ਉਚਰੀ ਬਾਨੀ ਪਦ ਨਿਰਬਾਨੀ ਅਪਰ ਪਰੰ । 43. 808.

From this phrase, he had interpreted only a portion, ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ, as follows:       

Guru-ship was bestowed onto the Sabd, Eternal and limitless.”

The above translation indicates that Guru-ship was bestowed onto the sabd, but Ganda Singh used this phrase to justify that Guru-ship was bestowed onto the Granth. Madanjit Kaur also followed Ganda Singh’s interpretation to support her thesis. Moreover, a critical analysis of this phrase shows that Ganda Singh has not paid any attention to the previous stanzas of the above phrase to interpret it correctly. If we investigate the last stanza of the above phrase, # 808, an accurate interpretation will emerge. The previous stanza is as follows:

ਖਾਲਸ ਖਾਸ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਸੋਹੈ।  ਜਾ ਕੈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਭਰਮ ਨ ਹੋਈ ।

ਭਰਮ ਭੇਖ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਨਿਆਰਾ ਸੋ ਖਾਲਸ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਹਮਾਰਾ । 43.808

Khalis (pure) is that who has no superstitions in his/her mind.

And that Khalis, who remains free from superstitions and religious garb, is my Satguru.

This indicates that the ‘Khalis,’ free from superstitions and religious garbs, was declared the ‘Satguru.’ Then the interpretation of the second part, ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ਅਜਰ ਜਰੰ । would be different from that given by Ganda Singh:

Its accurate interpretation is as follows:

The Satguru (Khalis, the pure one free from superstitions and religious garbs as discussed above) is above all limits (ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ), who contemplates/deliberates on the Sabd (ਸ਼ਬਦ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ), and who can bear (face) the severe difficulties (ਅਜਰ ਜਰੰ).

The next stanza, ਹਿਰਦੇ ਧਰ ਧਿਆਨੀ ਉਚਰੀ ਬਾਨੀ ਪਦ ਨਿਰਬਾਨੀ ਅਪਰ ਪਰੰ ।, also explains the characteristics of the Khalis:

“{Khalis is that} who imbibes the Bani in mind and recites the Bani with full concentration. Consequently, he attains the status (of that Satguru), which cannot be described.”

Here in this phrase, it is crystal clear that the ‘Khalis’ (the pure one) is the ‘Satguru’’ who contemplates on Sabd. Nothing supports that ‘Granth is Guru’ in the above phrase # 808 as interpreted by Ganda Singh. Misinterpretation and misrepresentation of statements and Gurbani are common among Sikh scholars to support their concepts and views about Gurbani and Sikhism. This is called eisegesis, meaning an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s ideas, bias, or the like rather than the meaning of the text.

Although Ganda Singh failed to interpret phrase # 808 entirely and adequately, one can still easily find out from Sainapat’s phrase # 808 an essential message of Nanak that has been ignored by many scholars, which is as follows:

The Khalis, who is free from superstitions and religious garb, and when they contemplate/deliberate on Sabd, becomes Satguru (Truly Enlightened person).

ii) Rehit Nama of Bhai Nand Lal

Ganda Singh also mentioned that Bhai Nand Lal tells us in his Rehit Nama (written in Magar Sudi 9 Samat 1752 (1695 CE)) about 13 years before his demise Guru Gobind Singh made him understand that the Sabd is the Eternal:

ਨਿਰਗੁਣ ਸਰਗੁਣ ਗੁਰ-ਸ਼ਬਦ ਹੈ ਤੋਹਿ ਸਮਜਾਇ. 10.  ਨੰਦਲਾਲ,  ਰਹਿਤਨਾਮਾ ।  (Bhai Nand Lal, n.d.) :

Made him (Nand Lal) understand that the Transcendent and Immanent Guru is the Sabd.”

 Here it is clear that Guru Gobind Singh was preaching that the Sabd is the Eternal Guru.

iii) Rehitnama Bhai Prahlad Singh (Jatha Nihang Singh, n.d.) (Date of writing about 1720)

Despite the above information available in Sri Gur Sobha and Gurbilas Patshahi 6 that ‘Sabd’ was the ‘Guru,’ Madanjit Kaur and Ganda Singh have accepted the following statement ofBhai Prahlad Singh as accurate without testing its authenticity with the Nanakian philosophy:

ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੇ ਬਚਨ ਸਿਓਂ, ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਚਲਾਯੋ ਪੰਥ ।

ਸਬ ਸਿਖਨ ਕੋ ਬਚਨ ਹੈ, ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨੀਅਹੁ ਗ੍ਰਥ ।  30 ।

With the order of the Eternal Lord, Panth has been established. 

 All the Sikhs are at this moment ordained to obey the Granth as the Guru.

(Interpretation cited from (Ganda Singh, 1986) and (Kaur, 1988)

In the same Rehit Nama Bhai Prahlad Singh has declared ‘Khalsa as Guru’, and ‘Khalsa as the Body of the Guru’ in the following phrase:

ਗੁਰੁ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਅਹਿ ਪਰਗਟ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ ।

ਝੋ ਸਿਖ ਮੋ ਮਿਲਬੈ ਚਹਿਹ ਖੋਜ ਇਨਹੁ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹੁ ।  21 ।

Accept the Khalsa as Guru and Khalsa as the body of the Guru.

Those who want to meet me search in the Khalsa.” 

According to Bhai Prahlad Singh, there are two Gurus:

‘Khalsa Guru’ and ‘Granth Guru’.

It is essential to know the differences between ‘Khalis’ used by Sainapat in Sri Gur Bilas and ‘Khalsa’ used by Bhai Prahlad Singh:

Bhagat Kabir in his Bani has used ‘Khalsay’ in the context of ‘Pure’ as follows:

ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥੪॥੩॥ 

Kaho Kabīr jan bẖa▫e kẖālseh parem bẖagaṯ jih jānī. ||4||3|| 

AGGS, Kabir, p 654-655. (Thind, n.d.)

Kabir says Those who have realized their devotion to God become Khalsay (Pure ones).

It appears that Sainapat has used ‘Khalis’ in the same context as ‘Pure’ in his book, Sri Gur Sobha (in phrase # 808), as used by Bhagat Kabir. But the word ‘Khalsa’ used by Bhai Prahlad Singh differs from that of ‘Khalis’ and its other form, Khalis and Khalsay, used by Sainapat and Bhagat Kabir, respectively.

The word ‘Khalsa’ has its roots in Persian and Arabic, meaning the land or property belonging to the king. In some, Hukm Namay Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh have used ‘Khalsa’ for their Sangat (congregation). (Ganda Singh, 1985) It means the Sangat (congregation) belongs to the Guru. This Sangat was composed of Amritdhari Sikhs and non-Amritdhari Sikhs, and Hindus and Muslims who accepted Guru Gobind Singh as their Guru.

iv) Bansawalinama (Chibber, 1769)

Another work we may refer to here is the Bansavalinama of Kesar Singh Chhibbar (completed in 1770 CE, i.e., 62 years after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh). Kesar Singh’s ancestors had been in the service of Guru Gobind Singh as diwan. He claims to have seen and consulted. The tenth chapter of Bansavalinama deals with the life of Guru Gobind Singh. In stanzas 678-683, the author mentions the death of the Guru and his last commandment in reply to the question of the Sikhs: The Granth is the guru, you hold the garment (seek the protection) of the Timeless God (ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਲੜ ਪਕੜਹੁ ਅਕਾਲ – 679). As stated by Madanjit Kaur and Ganda Singh.

The irony is that both these scholars, Madanjit Kaur and Ganda Singh, have ignored to mention that Kesar Singh Chhibbar also reported that “The Guru is Khalsa, the Khalsa is Guru” (ਗੁਰੁ ਹੈ ਖਾਲਸਾ, ਖਾਲਸਾ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੁ) And “Accept the command of Granth Sahib but discover the value of the command by researching the Sabd.”  (ਆਗਿਆ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਦੀ, ਕਰਨੀ ਸਬਦ ਦੀ ਖੋਜਨਾ । 680 ।)  

Here many scholars have ignored the critical message in it. The command of the Granth is to research the value of the Sabd.

Although Ganda Singh had explained in his earlier discussion that the ‘Sabd’ is the ‘Guru’ even then, he rode the bandwagon of other Sikh scholars who have accepted the ‘Granth as the Guru’ instead of ‘Sabd as the Guru.’

Ritualism Introduced   

As soon as the ‘Sabd Guru’ was changed to the ‘Granth Guru, ritualism was introduced. Koer Singh, the author of Gurbilas Patshahi 10 (written in 1751, 48 years of the demise of Guru Gobind Singh), tells in explicit terms that Guru Gobind Singh discontinued the lineage of family or personal Guru-ship and did not appoint anyone to succeed him as Guru. The author records that the Guru addressed his Sikhs before his demise and instructed them that there would be no successor to him, the Sarbat Sangat (the whole congregation), and the Khalsa should deem Sri Guru Granth Sahib as Supreme. Koer Singh further states that with five paise and coconut in his hand, the Guru paid homage to the Holy Granth and declared his succession as the Guru.

The latest discovery

Dr. Joginder Singh Ahluwalia (personal discussion) says that the following modified form of that phrase is as follows:

Aagiya bhaee Akal kee tabhai chalaaio panth.

Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru maanio Granth.

Guru Granth ko maanio pragat guran ki deh.

Jo Prabh ko milbo chahe khoj sabad mein leh. (G. G. Singh, 1987)

Dr. Ahluwalia further adds as follows:

“The troubling line is Guru Granth ko maanio pragat guran ki deh. Although the next line clearly says: Jo Prabh ko milbo chahe khoj sabd mein leh, the notion of “deh” still persists. We treat the Granth like a living person, in flesh and blood, sensitive to heat and cold, who must be put to bed for rest, etc.”

As early as Guru Amar Das emphasized that one does not get salvation just by seeing the Satguru/Guru: 

ਤਿਗੁਰ ਨੋ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵੇਖਦਾ ਜੇਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥

Saṯgur no sabẖ ko vekẖ▫ḏā jeṯā jagaṯ sansār.

ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥

Diṯẖai mukaṯ na hova▫ī jicẖar sabaḏ na kare vīcẖār.

AGGS. M 3, p 594.

All the humans of the world desire to behold the True Guru.

One does not get salvation by merely seeing (the True Guru),

Unless one deliberates/contemplates on Its Sabd (Word).

From this verse, it appears that Guru Amar Das must have noticed that some Sikhs might be coming to his Dabar (court) to see him rather than listening to the Sabd of the Gurus. The same situation is seen these days that Sikhs visit the Gurdwara just at the time of Bhog and pay their respect to the Aad Guru Granth Sahib, then go to Langar Hall.

Since the Granth has been declared as Guru, more and more attention is being paid to treating it as an idol and having its Darshan (seeing). Whenever it is recited as Akhand Paath, it is repeated as a mantram, as Gopal Singh (1987) pointed out, or as a fashion to entertain relatives and friends but never for deliberation of Sabd to understand the wisdom given in the Sabd Guru.

Let us resolve today to deliberate/contemplate the Sabd and stop treating the Granth Guru as an idol for Darshan and a mere recitation of Akhand Paaths


The terms Sikh, Sikhi, and Sikhism, being misunderstood in Sikh literature, have been appropriately defined based on the Bani of Nanak and other Gurus incorporated in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS). The Sikhi (enlightening philosophy) founded by Nanak has been converted by his follower Gurus, who succeeded to the House of Nanak, to a highly institutionalized religion, Sikhism. The definition of Sikh by Nanak was changed to a Sikh who was assigned various religious rituals by Guru Ram Das.  Guru Ram Das dug a sacred pool. Guru Arjun constructed the Harimandir. Then the Sabd of Guru Nanak was changed to Bani Guru, and pothi (a Granth compiled by Guru Arjun) was declared an abode of Parmeshwar (God). After that Guru Gobind Singh declared this pothi as the Guru after adding the Bani of his father, Guru Teg Bahadur. Thus, Sikhi, founded by Guru Nanak, became a highly institutionalized religion – Sikhism.


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*Reproduced with permission from Chahal, Devinder Singh. 2023. NANAK and his PHILOSOPHY. Singh Brothers, Amritsar.

Devinder Singh Chahal, PhD, a retired Professor of Microbiology, is the president of the Canada-based Institute for Understanding Sikhism. Relying on his long life as a Sikh, his training as a scientist and his love of the Guru, Prof Chahal has dedicated an enormous amount of energy trying to reform Sikhi by demonstrating the incorrect interpretations of the Aad Granth. Click here for his work. This article is a chapter from his soon-to-be published book NANAK and His Philosophy.


Guru Nanak’s Life and Works: A Scientific Perspective (Asia Samachar, 27 Oct 2022)

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  1. Well researched and argued article on a topic with appropriate citations. The topic is very important and is central to the Sikh existence. Chahal opens up several critical issues. They need further exploration as it is related to the Sikh nation and their survival. I recommend everyone to read and make their conclusion.

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