CONCEPT OF NAM (DIVINE NAME)
According to Gurmat (Guru’s teaching) before the creation, God lived absolutely by Himself, Formless. When He made Himself manifest, He first formed Himself into Nam (pronounced as Naam) and then created Nature. After creating Nature, He did not go away from it, rather He sustained His creation with His Own presence into it and felt delighted.
“God Himself created Hisownself and assumed Himself the Name
Secondly He then created Nature and seated within it, He beholds it with Delight.
Thou Thyself art the Donor and Creator,
Being pleased Thou bestoweth and showest mercy.
Thou art Knower of all, Thou givest and takest life with a word.
Abiding within, Thou beholdest Thy creation with delight.”
(Asa Mohalla 1- pauri 1, p-463 Guru Granth Sahib)
A): Nam (Divine Name) and God are not two different entities. Nam is just another aspect of the Almighty, still Formless. Nam is the total expression of all that God is. Nam sustains everything:
“Nam sustains and controls all beings,
Nam supports the universe and its regions.
Nam sustains the Simiritis, Vedas and Puranas,
Nam sustains the processes of listening, enlightenment and meditation.
Nam is the prop of the skies and under-worlds.
By the might of Nam are sustained all beings.
Nam is the support of all the worlds and spheres.
All by listening to the Holy Nam find liberation.
He, whom He mercifully attaches to His Name,
O Nanak, obtains salvation and gets into the fourth state of beatitude.”
(Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 16-5, p-284)
B): Nam is not expressed as mere noun and it does not mean that there is a special name of God and by enchanting of which, one will meet Him. God is Infinite and can be called by infinite names, but who can count His Infinite Names? The enlightened and the blessed ones remember Him through His Attributes:
“God hath no marks, no color, no caste, no lineage,
No form, no complexion, no outline, no costume; none can in any way
He is Immovable, Fearless, Luminous, and measureless in might;
He is accounted King of kings, Lord of millions of Indras;
He is Sovereign of the three worlds, demigods, men, demons;
The woods and dales declare Him Indescribable.
O Lord, who can tell all Thy Names? The wise call Thee special names according to Thy deeds.”
(Guru Gobind Singh- Jap Sahib)
C): God may be called by countless names by the devotees who create these name according to His Attributes and qualities, but the first and the foremost name of God is clearly depicted as ‘SAT’ (Eternal Truth) which shows the ever existence of God:
“Our tongue utters only Thine acquired Name
But ‘SAT NAM’ (Eternal Truth) is Thy Primal and Transcendental Name.”
(Maru Mohalla 5, p-1083 Guru Granth Sahib)
D): The word NAM (Name) is used in practical religious life and in discipline of meditation. God is remembered by His Attributive Names. In Sikhism “Waahay-Guru” is the True Name to be meditated upon which represents the total power of God. Other religions have given the Divine Names like Ram, Allah, God etc. Contemplation or meditation on True Name (WaahayGuru) is called practicing the presence of God in our consciousness.
E): Gurbani (Divine Word) itself is NAM: Gurbani is the Divine Word which came through Guru Nanak (from the mouth of the Guru) and his successor Gurus direct from God. That Divine Word is the Sikh Holy Scripture (Guru Granth Sahib).
I)- Gurbani is Nam:
“The Guru’s Word is the (Lord’s) Name:
This Name I enshrine in my heart.
Dwelling on the True Guru, the mind bird comes under one’s sway;
Saith Nanak: If He, the Lord, becomes merciful,
One is Attuned to the Name.”
(Sarang ki Var, pauri, p-1239)
ii)- The term ‘Nam Japo’ (or Nam Japna) means to remember God and to invoke His Presence in our consciousness. All modes of meditation take the devotee into the presence of God, but Hari Kirtan (musical recitation) of Gurbani, is the Super form of meditation. It invokes one’s consciousness to the maximum level, into the Presence of God:
“Glorious is the Lord’s praise and the Lord’s Name,
It is the Sublimest Deed in the Dark Age.”
(Kanre ki Var Mohalla 4, p-1314)
iii)- Salvation cannot be attained without Nam. In other words, anything that delivers
salvation is Nam. Since Gurbani delivers salvation, therefore, Gurbani is Nam:
“The True Bani is the sweet-nectar
Whosoever is devoted to it, attaineth salvation.”
(Malar Mohalla 1, p-1275)
“Whosoever devoted to Eternal Bani
Will get deliverance.”
(Dhanasri Mohalla 1, p-661)
“Whosoever lauds the Ambrosial Gurbani
One obtains the Immortalizing Name Nectar.”
(Majh Mohalla 3, p-118)
It is, therefore, very clear that any form of recitation of Gurbani, simple reading with attention and devotion, or meditation on any Sabad (Word) of Gurbani or Kirtan (musical recitation) of Gurbani is fully deemed as Nam Japna (mediation on Nam), that is to invoke the presence of God in one’s consciousness.
iv)- Gurbani is Guru:
“Gurbani is the embodiment of the Guru and Guru is the embodiment of Gurbani
In Gurbani are contained all the Nectars,
If the devotee accepts what the Word Proclaims, the Guru in person saves him.”
(Nat Mohalla 4, p-982)
Gurbani is Nirankar(Formless):
“Wauh, Wauh (wonderful) Bani is the Formless Lord.
There is none so Great as He.”
(Slok Mohalla 3, p-515)
Gurbani is all Nad, Ved:
“The Guru’s Word (Gurbani) is the Nada1, the Guru’s Word is the Veda;
For, through it, one is Imbued with the Lord of the Universe,
In it is contained the merits of all austerities, fasting and pilgrimages.”
(Ram kali Mohalla 1, p-879)
It is, therefore, Nam that ultimately leads a person to Eternal Bliss. For God consciousness, one must come in contact with Nam, but without Guru one cannot attain Nam and would wander away in the darkness:
“Were a hundred moons to appear
Were a thousand suns to arise
There would still be utter darkness
If there were no Guru.”
(Asa di Var, Mohalla 2, p-463)
“Let no one in the world remain in doubt
That it could ever be possible to be saved without the Guru.”
(Gaund Mohalla 5, p-864)
“In this age of falsehood, Nam lieth hidden
Though the Lord filleth all hearts,
The Jewel of Nam becomes manifest in the hearts of only those
Who resort to the Guru’s refuge.”
(Parbhati Mohalla 3, p-1334)
“All repeat God’s Name, yet He is not attained
But when through the Grace of the Guru
God comes to reside in the mind
It is only then one’s life becomes fruitful.”
(Gujri Mohalla 3, p-491)
Nam and Human Being: According to all eastern religions, there are 8.4 million lives in the world. Half of them are in the water while other half are on the land and in air.
“For several births thou wert a worm and a moth;
For several births an elephant, a fish, a deer;
For several births a bird, a serpent;
For several births yoked as a bull, a horse;
Meet thou the Lord of the Universe (God), for, now is the time,
After ages thou has attained to the glory of human birth, (pause).”
(Gauri Guareyre Mohalla 5, p-176)
After going through lower species we got human life. It is, therefore, very precious. Human being is supreme in a hierarchical chain of His creation. Emancipation of the soul is possible only through human form. Only man has the opportunity and capacity for the spiritual and moral progress. No religion and no philosophy can exist without human being. When the Gurus and the saints sing the Glory of the Lord, they sing it to human being because he has the awareness of the Divine. Guru Nanak makes him aware of his origin:
“O my mind, thou art the spark of the Divine Light,
So realize thy origin.”
(Asa Moh. 3, Chhant Ghar 3, p-441)
Sikh Gurus praise the nobility of man since he alone has the capabilities of achieving the Divine qualities. The exhortation - “Nam Japo”, by the Gurus is directed towards man exclusively because the highest spiritual goal is within the reach of human being only. (Concept of ‘Nam Japo’ aims at spiritual evolution and development of human soul). Such are the great qualities of this humanly creature. Shakespeare in one of his works, “Hamlet” saluted him by calling him “a marvelous piece of work” created by God. Given such a high status and with his supremacy over everything else, he does not have the power to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and cross through peril and suffering of material life. Nor can he achieve salvation of his own soul without the help of some supernatural power. In Sikh Holy Scripture this supernatural power is defined as “Nam (Name of God)”. Nam is the sole refuge for a man tossed about in the furious ocean of worldly existence. The essential trait of Sikh Religion is Nam (Naam). It is the central theme in the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib. Power of Nam is glorified and admired in Sikh Scripture. It is Nam that sustains all beings and the whole universe. Nothing is so perfect that it could or would exist apart from and independent of Nam (Him). The objective of Guru Nanak’s Guruship was to give instructions in the True Name and to save humanity from immersing in the ocean of distress and misery arising out of the worldly life, and to blend the human souls with their Creator. There is only one thing in Sikhism, it is the Nam in the house of Guru Nanak:
“The Lord has given Nanak the gift of this game
That in his house resounds only the Name.”
(Bhairon Moh. 5, p-1136)
WHY MEDITATION ( Nam Japna) IS NECESSARY?
Under the materialistic comfort and progress, we forget God and never feel the urge of Nam Japna. But the Divine Word explains that without Nam the whole life has no value. Why is it so necessary to remember God? Religion is not science, it is a Faith. If one has firm Faith then it is gold.
1. Whatever power is working inside our body and sustaining it when it leaves us the body is dead. It is then cremated or buried. As body is dead without life so life itself is dead without Nam. Without Nam our soul will wither away.
2. When a person is dead, where does the soul go? The soul does not die. It takes some other form human or animal according to the Divine Ordinance which judges our daily activities in this life. Before it takes that form after leaving the body, it goes to God’s court for final judgment. That journey for the soul is long and tedious. It comes across numerous hurdles on the way. For example when we travel from Los Angeles to New York, we take our car and enter the freeway. After some hours of drive the car runs out of gas and we also need something to eat. We take the exit, fill up the tank with gas, get something to eat and then hit the road again. Suppose we have no money, no credit card and we do not know anybody on the way. That will be horrible predicament with no help insight. Sikh Divine Word explains that the soul has long journey ahead of it. During our life time we work hard and save some money so that we spend our old age in comfort and peace. Similarly when we remember God (Nam-Japna - meditation) and utter His Name in all awareness, we accumulate wealth of Nam and in return build credit in our account for the benefit of our soul. Hearing Lord’s Name, repeating and chanting His praises with our tongue throughout the span of life, helps our soul at the time of need. The road that leads to God’s court has countless miles and Lord’s Name will be its food and companion. When the soul wanders in pitch darkness during its journey, the Light of God’s Name will show the path. When it has no company, He shall guard it. Nam will cover the soul with shade where there is heat. When it is thirsty, God shall rain with nectar and quench its thirst. When it is in deep distress only His mercy can save it from those agonizing moments. Nam is the ladder to climb to salvation, the raft for crossing the ocean of transmigration thus liberating the soul from worldly torment helping it rest in peace and not being chastised by Yamas (couriers of death). A body is dead without life and life itself is dead without Nam.
Sikh Scripture repeatedly urges its disciples to dwell on His Glory to attain
celestial tranquility. Singing His excellences brings everlasting solace to inner self of human beings. Taking refuge in Him emancipates the soul from all material bondages. His mercy saves our honor by forgiving all our sins and writing off our omissions and commissions. The forgiving power of the Merciful God can nullify the law of retribution, the dictum- “As you sow so shall you reap.” It is the innate nature of our Master that He leaves us not when we seek His protection. This is the teaching of our immaculate Guru Nanak, the king of kings. Sikhs should remember that the message of their great Master does not get diluted nor polluted amidst the forces of modernism and industrialization and the torch of His spiritual light is not extinguished. Before Guru Nanak arrived in this world, minds of the masses had been enclosed in the rigid framework of rituals and ceremonial acts. Groups of factions based on different sets of dogmas and creeds had emerged. Yogis and recluses were preaching and practicing husk, the outer shell and not the spirit of religion. Guru Nanak sought to purge the society of its superstitions and meaningless rituals. Spiritual stature is judged not from the external mode of behavior but from the sincerity and earnestness of the inner self. With great poetic power he preached his lofty ideals and exhorted people not to let go the moral and spiritual anchor. Guru Nanak’s religion brings out the best and the noblest in human beings. He awakened the souls of the people and guided them towards the right and spiritual path. He who worships the Immaculate, shall become immaculate. He who worships the changing or the decaying , will himself change or decay.
If we do not have any wealth of Nam in our account, imagine what will happen to us on the way to God’s court after death?
“The journey whose distance is immeasurable
There, the Name of the Lord is thy food.
The journey upon which one goes in utter darkness
There, the Lord’s Name is one’s Light.
On the way where there is no acquaintance of thine
There, God’s Name is thy recognition.
Where in utter Wilderness there is Heat and Fire
There, the Lord’s Name is thy (only) Shade.
Where thirst tears thy mind
There, O Nanak, the Lord’s Nectar rains on thee.”
(Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 2(4), p-264)
3. Upon death, couriers of death come and drag a person by hair. One will be powerless. Only Nam will save from the wrath of the couriers of death.
“When Death’s myrmidon comes and seizes thee by the hair and knocks thee down
On that day thou shalt be powerless.
Thou rememberest and contemplatest not God, nor practiced Compassion,
You will be struck in the Face.
When the Righteous Judge asks for thy account, what face shalt thou show him?
Saith Kabir: Listen O devotees of God!
In Holy company shalt thou find liberation.”
(Kabir Maru, p-1106 Guru Granth Sahib)
4. The cycle of death and rebirth will continue unless it is broken. There is one and only one way to break it, is NAM. It is only the Name of God (NAM) that can break it:
One cannot buy happiness and one cannot buy health either. These are the gifts of Nam in life. This is why Meditation (Nam Japna) is necessary if we want to achieve happiness in this life and Salvation of the soul hereafter.
“By great good fortune is obtained the gift of human body,
They who remember not God’s Name are self-murderers.
Those forgetful of the Lord, of shame should die,
Without the Name of what avail is the life?
Eating, drinking, playing, laughing and making ostentations,
Of what use are the decorations of the dead?
They who hear not the Praise of the Supreme Bliss,
Are worse than the beasts, birds and species of creeping creatures.
Says Nanak, the Guru has implanted God’s Name within me,
The Lord’s Name alone abides within my heart.”
(Gauri Mohalla 5, p-188)
SALVATAION - THE WAY TO GOD:
Sikh faith rejects all the claims of Yoga, mortification of body, self-torture and penances or retirement from life. Gurus forbid the worship of anything of the Creation as a means to attain salvation of the soul. In Sikh monotheistic concept an Absolute and Only One God, the Formless and the Creator of the world is to be Glorified. Devotion should be offered only to the Absolute One and not to His incarnations. His supremacy should be asserted over everything else.
Sikh faith aims towards the elevation of human soul to the heights of attunement with the Lord and paying homage to His Divine attributes. There is no place for formal ritualism. Without complete loyalty to the Guru, Sikh faith would be buried deep under a heap of senseless dogmas, meaningless rituals and ceremonial acts. Guru’s word should be supreme in our daily existence without which life will be impure and polluted and will be in a deplorable condition which will lead to spiritual degeneration.
The road that leads us to God is the most difficult and complex one. But Guru Nanak has made this road simple and crystal clear by showing us a technical approach. He explains that life before it obtained human form, has been through different lower species. It has gathered along the way the impurities of every life it has passed through. Human mind has, thus, become quite black with these impurities:
“The impurity of many births hath attached to man’s mind
And it has become quite black.”
(Slok Mohalla 3, p-651)
As long as the human mind remains impure, it will not merge with the One Who is Absolute and Pure. How does the mind become pure?
“Nanak is Thy trader; Lord! Thou art my capital,
Then alone, the doubts depart from the mind, when I praise and pray to Thee.”
(Rag Wadhans Mohalla 1, 557)
Those who have done it, have crossed the ocean of Maya (materialism) and merged with Him:
“Thou art the True Lord, Beautiful is Thy Praise
He who utters it, is saved.”
(Slok Mohalla 1, p-469)
EXPLANATION: If a glass is full of dirty water, pour pure water into it constantly. The constant pouring of pure water into the glass will throw the dirty water out and ultimately the glass itself will be full of pure water.
In the same way the constant prayer and praise of God, will clean the impure mind. Human mind is in a chaotic state. It is full of five vices - lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride or ego. These are the obstacles in the Realization of Nam. Purity of mind is needed for spiritual uplift. No man nor monk can achieve salvation without disciplining the world of inner chaos. This discipline of inner chaos by banishing these five vices from the mind, is a prerequisite for spiritual excellence which is commanded by the Sikh Gurus. Singing the Glory of the Lord, the Mighty King, will help purge the mind of its impurities. By glorifying the Divine, the human mind imbibes divine qualities during the process. As a result when all the impurities are gone, Nam will enshrine the pure mind. This will lead to exalted mental state from the chaotic state. Spiritual evolution and development of mind will occur resulting in Heavenly Bliss. It is a profound awakening of the human soul:
“Prayer and Praise of God, shall give rise to Nam inside.”
(Ramkali Mohalla 3-Anand, p-917)
Gurmat (Guru’s teaching) further states that when hands are smeared with ordinary dirt, simple water will wash it away. If urine makes the cloth dirty, ordinary water cannot wash it, only soap will clean it. Similarly when our mind is full of impurities (sins), it needs some strong detergent and that detergent is Nam:
“As hands or feet besmirched with slime,
Water washes white; As garments dark with grime,
Rinse with soap are made light; So when sin foils the soul,
Prayer alone shall make it whole.”
(Japji- pauri 20, p-4 Guru Granth Sahib)
That is the stage a true devotee yearns for. By prayer and praise of the Lord, one’s mind comes in touch with Nam and becomes illuminated. Nam is registered by the consciousness and penetrates into the human soul and mind. As a result enlightened mind emerges and a person is reborn in the spirit of the Guru, he begins to make spiritual progress slowly. This glorious transformation or metamorphosis helps transcend human soul to a state of Absolute Bliss. It is a change in a person which occurs within the self from one form to another. The aspect of realization of God changes within and lifts the devotee from the Personal to Impersonal. All boundaries, limitations and barriers are broken and the individual soul starts merging with the Supreme Soul, as water blends with water, the light of human soul blends with Divine Light:
“His soul and body dyed with the Name of One God
Shall ever abide with the Supreme Soul.
As water blendeth with water,
So light is blended with Light.
Transmigration is ended and rest obtained-
Nanak is ever a sacrifice to the Lord.”
(Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 11-8, p-278)
WHAT TO MEDITATE UPON OR
HOW TO DO PRAISE AND PRAYER:
A sikh is to worship only One God and None else. But God is Formless, what to meditate upon? During the dialogue with the Sidhas, Yogi Charpat asked Guru Nanak, “O Guru, you say that one should not renounce the world rather live in it but the element of Maya (materialism) is so powerful, how can one overcome it and become one with God while living in Maya itself? Please explain your logic behind it.”
“The great sea of life is hard to cross, pray tell us how to get safely across it.”
(Sidh Gosht- Charpat, p-938)
Guru Nanak gave two examples:
A lotus flower always floats above the surface of the water. It cannot exist without water, yet it remains unaffected by the waves, always rising above the water level. A duck swims in the water but remains and stays above it for fear of drowning.
In the same way a person cannot live without Maya (materialism) in the world, yet while living in it, we are to live above Maya. Material needs are desired and are necessary to sustain the very vital functions of life. Therefore, as a lotus flower and duck do not drown in the water while living in it, a person should remain detached and disinterested with Maya, not forgetting God. That is possible through praise and prayer. Communion with Sabad (Divine Word) will suppress the element of Maya and would enshrine Nam within oneself which in turn would lead a person back into the Unmanifest One:
“As the lotus flower remains unaffected in water
As also a duck swims in it and is not drenched by water
So with fixed intent on Sabad realizing Nam
O Nanak, the dreadful world ocean is crossed safely.”
(Ramkali Mohalla 1, Sidh Gosht, 5, p-938)
To achieve an objective in life, a complete attention and dedication is required. The purity of mind and the sincerity of purpose are the requisites to obtain such mission. This task becomes more and more difficult when the object is Formless God. When we recite Gurbani (Sikh Holy Scripture), and if we do not know the meaning of the Sabad (Word or stanza) which is being recited, our meditation becomes mechanical, formalistic and hence futile. The result cannot be positive. Secondly, even if we know the meaning of the Sabad, but our mind is not in the Sabad and it keeps wandering away while we are reciting the Sabad, the outcome will not be significant. One must, therefore, remember that Prayer with absent mindedness will not be fruitful and thereby not acceptable to the Lord. Attentive, alert and completely untainted mind is required for meditation.
Thus, whenever we read, hear or sing Gurbani (Sabad - a stanza from Scripture), we must put our whole ATTENTION IN THE MEANING OF THE SABAD, which is being read, heard or sung. As our Attention of Mind and Sabad become one, our mind starts taking the impact of the spirit of the Sabad and the result of this COMMUNION IS BLISS, PEACE AND EVERLASTING JOY. In this communion one experiences a taste of Heavenly Elixir (Hari Ras):
“O man, all other ‘Rasas’ (things of relish) thou tasteth
Satiate not thy thirst even for a moment.
But if thou ever tasteth the Heavenly Elixir
Thou shalt be simply wonder-struck.”
(Gauri Guareri Mohalla 5, p-180)
When the communion of mind with Sabad is established, the disciple is reborn in the spirit of the Guru. He then blends with the Word (Sabad), and never faces death2 after this spiritual rebirth:
“He who dies in the Word, never dies again
And his devotion becomes fruitful.”
(Rag Sorath, Slok Mohalla 3, p-649)
Those who establish communion with Sabad (Gurbani - Divine Word), shall certainly experience uninterrupted Bliss:
“He will become holy, holy, holy, shalt undoubtedly be holy
O Nanak, who uttereth Nam with heartfelt love.”
(Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 12-8, p-279)
Human mind is suffering from untold miseries and calamities in the world. Nam (Name of God) is the cure of all suffering. Guru Nanak gave a prescription and stood guarantee to the humanity that whosoever one may be irrespective of caste, creed, race, sex, color, religion or nationality:
“He shall become pure whosoever repeateth His (God) Name
With devotion, affection and heartfelt love.”
(Gauri Sukhmani Mohalla 5, 20(7), p-290)
The natural tendency of our mind is to wander away hither and thither and not remain absorbed in the Word. So one should bring the mind back into the meaning of the Word while uttering the Sabad (Word).
1. Meditate on Gurmantar - Waahay-Guru (see below) means Wonderful God.
“Waahay-Guru, Waahay-Guru, Waahay-Guru………………………….”
2. Then meditate on Mool-mantar:
Ek-onm-kaar God is One and Only One
Sat-Naam (God is) The Eternal Truth
Karta-Purkh The Almighty Creator
Nirbhao (He is) Unfearful
Nirvair (He is) Without hate and enmity
Akaal-Murat Immortal Entity
Gur-parsaad (He is) Realized by the Grace of True Guru
(True Guru is now Divine Word)
“Ek-onm-kaar Sat-naam Karta-purkh Nirbhao Nirvair Akaal-murat
Ajuni Saibhang Gur-parsaad
(The sound of ‘on’ in Ek-onm-kaar is not actually like ‘on’ but it is a sound like onm
Ek-onm-kaar. It is not actually ‘n’ but it is mild sound of n like oanm)
SECONDLY: For everyday conduct Guru says:
“Truth is High but higher still is Truthful Living.”
Truthful Living: One must earn one’s livelihood by honest means.
No Tobacco or Drugs,
No Calumny (falseness or misrepresentation).
If it is done with sincerity daily without fail, one will find peace, happiness and contentment in life.
May God bless us all.
The word, ‘WAHEGURU’ when appears in Guru Granth Sahib signifies a devotee’s wonder at the Glory of God. This expression is not an intellectual state of mind but it is at the intuitional level. It is a personal expression of an individual. He feels and sees lovable, beautiful and attractive attributes of the Eternal around him and his inner self pours out in adoration. It is a sublime expression of the soul of a devotee to see and feel His splendors. There are numerous names of God reflecting His attributes and describing His excellences. The extent of God’s creation is also the extent of His names. The name that emerges from a person’s own experience and his vision of the Divine is ’WAHEGURU’ (pronounced as Waahay-guru) or Wonderful God. It shows a devotee’s thrill and enchantment while sensing the magnitude and greatness of His presence. It is a spontaneous, natural and effortless demonstration of an individual’s inner feelings. The word ’WAHEGURU’ is a Gur-Mantra in Sikhism. It is given by the Guru to the sikhs to meditate upon..
1- In the Yoga Philosophy, the nasal sound represented by a Semi-circle.
2- Never faces death means he is never afraid of the death and his cycle of birth and
death will end.