Guru and Sikh
by Yuktanand Singh

Terms & Phrases

Many volumes can be written on this, and the next two sections. I am now, simply going to list some Sikh vocabulary, some buzzwords. They represent the core of the Sikh thought, conduct, and tradition, not subject to change with the fads of the ever-changing society. This list is not complete. From a philosophical view, each of these is just a different facet of Naam. I apologize, for using too many non-English words. If you want, you may go to the next sections first and read this later.

A student of Sikh Panth should understand at least these. They are not in an alphabetical order:

Gurudwara: A Sikh place of worship. In a Gurudwara, any Gursikhs can take turns to lead the activity as long as they respect Maryada and time constraints. A Granthi (Custodian) or a secretary is merely there to maintain order.

Amrit: Ambrosia of eternal life, the Initiation of a Gursikh with Amrit, a Sikh form of Baptism. When the Sikh submits completely to the Guru, Five Gursikhs give him instructions regarding the Nitt Name, the Rehet, and how to meditate on a Word. Waheguru is the Sikh Gurmantra. Amrit is the only way to spiritually receive Gurmantra from the Sikh Guru. Having a Gurmantra is not an exclusive privilege of a Gursikh, though. It is an ancient practice, followed in some form by all serious seekers and Saints. Meditation on the Sikh Gurmantra without Amrit is compared to someone trying to earn a diploma without being enrolled in the school. A Gurmantra, with submission to a Guru and proper meditation, is essential for a true repose in God, leading to a wholesome life. To stress this, this is the only time the Fifth Master has used such harsh words: "A living being without a Gurmantra turns his precious human birth into disgrace. He becomes putrefied and foul. This fool is like a (helpless) dog, a (muck loving) swine, a donkey (toiling for others), a (vagrant) crow, and a (venomous) snake." (SGGS, p.1356)

Rehet or Reht: The Sikh conduct, whether alone or in the company of others, as The Tenth Master explained to the "Five Beloved." Rehet has the essential attributes of Tenth Master's lifestyle, including the five K's (see the next section) and the Nitt Name. In the words of The Tenth Master, "My Sikh is only he who lives the Rehet, he is my master and I am his servant." Why? Rehet allows The Tenth Master to turn the Sikh into Khalsa, which is his own personality.

Maryada: Rules for conducting various ceremonies in a Sikh's life, including procedures in the Gurudwara.

Gurbani or Bani: The verses in the Sikh Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Any other verses or writings may be respected, but they are not to be considered as Gurbani. To emphasize this, The Tenth Master did not include his own writings in the Guru Granth Sahib, though they should be considered as Gurbani. Gurbani acts as a verbal teacher, as well as the Shabad. The Tenth Master mandated: "The Panth was launched only after God's command. All Sikhs are ordained to regard the Granth as the Guru. You shall see Guru Granth Ji as the Guru's physical body. Whoever wants to see God, can search, and find all the guidance in the Shabad."

Shabad or Shabd: The Word. God's Voice. God's Light. It is manifest to the world in Gurbani, now in Guru Granth Sahib. Shabad is useless without Surat: Inner attention fixed on the Shabad. Surat is the place where Shabad (Gurbani) acts. When Surat is tied to Shabad through Guru's Mercy, a sad but peaceful and spontaneous, melody of God's Love can be "heard" in the mind, and in everything else. Then the Shabad is felt to be present everywhere. A seeker follows this delicate thread, leading him to where the Shabad resides. Some day, by Guru's Grace the seeker gives up everything, including food and personal care, but he would not let this thread go. This is one example of Naam (God's Name). The Gurbani stresses its importance by repeatedly recounting the stories of its practice by Kabir, Namdev, Dhruva and Prahalad. Only this kind of union with Naam creates a perfect Saint (Sant).

Satt: Being a man of your word. Having a yearning for the absolute Truth. Santokh: Contentment. To give up chasing things of the world, and Vichaar: Reflection. Analyzing Guru's message. These are three prerequisites for understanding Gurbani. A Sikh is expected to understand and absorb when he reads and recites Gurbani, not just use it as a mouthwash.

Nam or Naam: Worship of God during all activity. Not forgetting Him, and thanking Him for his gifts, life, body, and other things of the world, while, not losing your soul among those things. Realization that life without Him, like a leaf broken away from a tree, cannot thrive. Holding on to God as the ultimate aim of life at every moment, just like a mother cannot forget her newborn child during all her activities. This needs to be developed as an inner, mental habit, not to become a show. In time, it turns into perpetual inner exchanges with God.

Daan: Giving. Taking care of the needy, giving to the poor. The spiritual gift of Naam is considered as the greatest Daan.

Ishnan: A spiritual act of washing oneself with prayer and water before dawn. A bath or shower taken after dawn is not considered as Ishnan.

Nitt Nem: Daily Routine. This includes Ishnan, Simran and meditative recitation of five prescribed pieces of Gurbani: The Japji, Jaap Sahib, Anand Sahib, Savaiyae, and Chaupaee. A spiritual practice is considered a routine, and it starts being fruitful, after it has been practiced for forty consecutive days.

Amrit Vela: Last three hours of the night, the ambrosial hours. This time is reserved for meditation and Ishnan. A Sikh should not waste these precious moments in useless talk etc. Meditation during these hours is infinitely more fruitful than meditation done at any other hour of the day or night.

Hukam or Hukm: Command, God's Will: Realizing that only God is the real doer and everything is working out according to His Will. Accepting His work above personal preference and desires. Since Guru's Command is in-tune with God's will, it is also the Hukam.

Haumei: Ego, the basic human disease. This is the real sin. All other sins originate from the ego: Feeling rational and self-sufficient while apparently thriving as separated from God. Pride, or, self-condemnation. Feeling responsible for one's past actions. An outlook, as if we are in complete control of our life. Ego is the opposite of Hukam. Ego comes in countless and deceptive forms and shapes. To avoid this, a Sikh does not worship God as the Self. Ego is the only barrier between the man and his true nature. Obeying the True Guru's teaching and his Command is the only way to release the heart and soul from the grips, and invisible chains of ego.

Waheguru: The Gurmantra. It is the word for meditation. It is a pregnant word. It is also used as a synonym of "God." Its meaning, just like Gurbani, continues to renew and expand for the seeker who meditates on it. Literally, it means, "God-Guru, The Spiritual Light, You are beyond description." A Sikh worships only One, formless God, who has no limits, and who is able to transcend His own laws.

Nam Japna or Simran: Meditation on God's Name, seeing Waheguru everywhere. Repetition of Gurmantra with breath, as explained during Amrit, the Sikh form of baptism. Breaths taken without the Simran are totally wasted. Just like something most precious is allowed to run out from a leaking container, without making a good use of it. This is why, upon realization of this loss, a Sikh prays to have "a million mouths" (tongues), so that he can make up with what is left so far. This realization is not possible without Sadh Sangat.

Wand Chhakna: Feeding the hungry before feeding oneself. Sharing everything with the needy. It seems the Gurus advocated this form of socialism, implemented at the personal level.

Dharam Di Kirat: To earn only an honest livelihood. Not accepting gifts that are not earned.

Daswandh: Tithing. Giving 10 percent of income to the Guru, or to poor and needy Sikhs.

Sangat: A Spiritual alliance. Gursikhs gathered for singing of Kirtan, discussion, and meditation on Gurbani with other Sikhs. Often overlooked: Correct and steady posture with crossed legs when sitting and, undivided attention is also necessary. A parrot-like recital, or listening to prerecorded Kirtan, while doing other things, is of little value.

Sat Sangat: Sangat gathered only for God's Voice and Nam. In Sikh Panth, sharing God's Name with others is the highest form of Yoga. This is the purpose of Gurbani. Among the Sikhs, to assure that we are engaged in a sharing of True Naam without someone's ego contaminating it, a meeting is restricted to singing (Kirtan) of Gurbani (From Guru Granth Sahib) or, listening to Katha. The Tenth Master's writings are also considered as Gurbani, though we know that he did not designate his own writings as the Guru.

Writings of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal are the only other acceptable pieces, as footnotes, for singing during Sat Sangat. This is because: 1) They were written during the time of the ten Masters, who approved them, and 2) they are written to help us follow Gurbani. They were not written with an intention to replace, be equal to or as an addition to, the Gurbani. Other "Satsangi" people, outside the Panth can do or sing whatever they like, a Sikh does not argue with anyone. Quiet meditation on one word for a prolonged period, generally does not build a Sat Sangat, because, everyone's thoughts are not then harnessed by the music and Gurbani.

Sadh Sangat: Spiritual company of a True Saint. For Sikhs, it is Guru Granth Sahib in Sangat, or, Sangat of an enlightened Sikh, a Khalsa Gursikh. Sadh Sangat, with Kirtan, is the best spiritual activity, higher than any form of Yoga.

Pangat: Sharing of food while sitting together on floor mats, a traditional practice to remove class differences and to generate humility. To feed and sit with the homeless and the destitute. Sikh Gurus required all visitors, even a king, to sit and eat in a Pangat with the homeless, before seeing the Guru.

Seva: Service of the Guru without a desire for any outcome. Service of the Sangat and others without ego. A neutralizer of Seva is to envy others who do Seva or, to want a reward or recognition.

Jote and Jugat: The Light (Jote), and the Method (Jugat) for uncovering this Light. These are two aspects of the Guru. Jote resides in Guru Granth Sahib. Jugat cannot be explained. It is the proper inner conduct combined with Rehet. It can be learned only through the company of other True Gursikhs. Meditation without proper Jugat is not very fruitful in uncovering the Jote. Jugat resides in the heart of a Khalsa. It resides in the Guru's Mercy. Real Jugat starts only after Amrit from the Five Gursikhs. It then unfolds in a Gursikh's heart through Simran, Sangat, and Seva. Jugat also comes naturally through the service of a True Saint, which, for a Sikh, is only a Khalsa.

Katha: Listening to history and works of the Ten Masters, and spiritual exposition of Guru Shabad.

Sanmukh: A Faithful Sikh. A Sikh with firm faith in the Guru finds that the Guru always stays with him to help and guide him. He depends on the Guru's inner guidance for each breath and activity, and does not do anything without the Guru being present. This nurtures a spiritual link between the Sikh and the Guru. Among other things, it also assures clean thoughts and action. A Sanmukh Sikh sees his Guru in everyone. Its opposite is Bemukh.

Deg (Dish): It symbolizes food. Food is a representative of God as His Love. A Sikh does not take a bite without thanking God for this and His other Gifts. A state of gratitude toward God, then, expands and accompanies all his other activities. This is an important spiritual practice. It can even lower your cholesterol and blood pressure! Deg is also a reminder that a Sikh is to take care of the hungry. Hoarding food away from the hungry is not in a Sikh's nature.

Guru Ka Langar: Guru's Free Kitchen is open to all at a place of worship, without discrimination about a person's religion, race, political views, cast, class, or occupation. Feeding each other's friends at the end of a meeting, as is common in the western Gurudwaras, is not what the Gurus aimed for. It can be called only a form of Pangat. Wherever possible, Guru Ka Langar is open all days of the week, to feed the really needy and the poor. It is based at a Gurudwara.

Teg or Kirpan (Sword): It symbolizes Force, or Mahan Kaal (The Great Destroyer). This represents God, as Force, Death, and Mercy. Death, of the personal ego, the evil, and, ultimately, everything that He created. The Sixth and The Tenth Gurus taught the Sikhs to worship God also as the Force, and not be afraid to fight and die for justice. Death during such an act puts one directly in the lap of Force, or Mercy. For a Sikh, this is the preferred form of death, than dying on a bed or in the ICU. This does not mean that a dying Sikh is to go out and pick a fight with someone! A Sikh is prepared to defend Dharma, and protect the persecuted and the saints. He prays that, when he is old, he may die while engaged in a combat with some tyrant.

The Tenth Master says: "O Shiva, bless me so that: I may not avoid any pious deeds; I may not be afraid when I fight with a tyrant; I may be always victorious through my faith in you; I may preach only to myself; may my only desire be to utter your praise; and when I am nearing death may I get executed while fighting fiercely." (DG, p.99)

Parshad: A Gift out of pure Mercy, not because of any merit in the recipient. It is a synonym of Kirpa (Grace) or, God's Merciful Touch. A sweet dish served after the prayer as the representative of God's Grace, after it is touched with Kirpan (A symbol of God's Mercy) is also called Parshad.

Nanak Nam Charrdi Kala (Nanak says, life under Your Name is always advancing and cheerful) Tere Bhanne Sarbatt Da Bhala (Because, whatever You do is, always for the best of everyone): This is the way every Ardas (The Sikh Prayer) is concluded.

Sat Siri Akal (Only God is immortal and real): This is the common way of greeting among Sikhs.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh: This is a required greeting between Gursikhs. It represents the Khalsa Panth revealed by The Tenth Master. Its meaning is, "Khalsa is God-Guru's property, and ultimate victory belongs only to Him."

Mool Mantra: The first stanza of Guru Granth Sahib. This is the foundation (Mool = root) of Sikh philosophy. Mool Mantra is the first few words uttered by Guru Nanak when he came out of a deep trance, after having disappeared into the river for three days. Bhai Gurdas writes about Guru Nanak: "Guru Nanak engulfed the whole world in a spiritual light causing the thick fog of ignorance to vanish. It is like the sun rising against the stars, or, when a lion roars, all the deer go into hiding. Each house is now a temple of worship. Kirtan and spiritual joy is the rule. Finally, a Gurmukh has emerged during the Iron Age."

We all know that a whole book could be written on exposition of Mool Mantra alone, because each statement has several deep implications. The whole Guru Granth Sahib can be very accurately called an expansion of Mool Mantra and Gurmantra. Here is a brief meaning of the Mool Mantra:

: Pronounced EkOnkar: The Only One is everything. The letter "O" here, represents everything. Guru Nanak used only a number (1) before it to indicate God, the reality. He did not want to pollute the unity in the reality by adding any man made words. If he did, it would not be a 1 anymore! In The Tenth Body, in the form of Guru Gobind Singh, two hundred years after Japji, Guru Nanak composed the Jaap Sahib, naming several different aspects of this number (1). Only the One is the reality in everything, the visible and the invisible.

SattNaam: In reality, He is the Naam. His real Name (Naam) is He Himself. This is the ultimate Truth. A Sikh's destination is His Name. A Sikh has no reason to argue about which other name is correct. He uses the Hindu names of Ram, Gobind, Shiva as well as Muslim Allah and Christian God, etc., interchangeably and without hesitation because all these names are equally provisional. This is why the Sikh Gurus chose "Waheguru" as a closer match to God's name.

This leads to another important understanding, that all the religions are also provisional. They all become merely skeletal when the seeker reaches this fact: The only proper Dharma is whatever God himself approves for each individual. Only He can show us how we should worship Him. Books cannot teach it. In the Sikh Panth, Gurbani is the only written word that can communicate true Dharma in the spirit.

Karta: He is The Doer. He is the real creator and the real doer of everything, though it may not be so obvious at first. Everything in the world is like a puppet show. God is the puppet master behind everything. As Shri Naranjan Singh Ji used to say, "Even a single leaf cannot quiver in the breeze without His Will." How does God do it? The Surat can see this. This is worship. A Sikh is not to lose sight of the Puppet Master behind all the various forms of puppets.

Purakh: He is The Husband. We may imagine God as an energy field or force (which could be harnessed and used by anyone), a light (which can be directed, controlled, or blocked, it has no will of its own), an emotion or a feeling (which presumes someone other than itself experiencing it), or, a space, a ghost, a cloud, a human, an animal, the list can go on and on. None of these represent God. It is important that God is understood as our Master, acting only by His own will which is completely fearless and carefree, and who controls everything.

Guru Nanak called Him, Husband, to foster a more accurate image of a Seeker's relationship with Him. Sorry if this offends any females, or the males. If it is any consolation, Guru Nanak has called Him as our Master, Father, Mother, Brother, and Friend also. There is no question that He is also the real Guru.

Nirbhau: He has no fear, because He has only Love for everything He created, and because there is nothing that is outside His control. His Will is not influenced by some kind of threat, because He has no rival, or death, to worry about. This is in contrast to theology where people believe in God's battle with a rival who has fallen out of God's command.

Nirvaer: He holds no grudge or hostility. We are all equally His Children. He has only love and forgiveness for His Children. All we need is to become receptive, ask Him sincerely, with a sincere desire to be correct. It is us, who do not forgive ourselves. It is not in His nature to view, and to dwell upon our mistakes. Only the ego carries a detailed and a permanent record of everything we ever did. The ego, bound by the law of Karma and Dharamraja, prescribes the rewards and penalties also. He made the ego. Only He has the power to erase it.

Akaal: He is beyond time, and space. He made the time. He created the space. He is Eternal. He has no limits. He is above all the law and the restrictions of nature. He can do anything. He sees everything, in the past, the present, and the future, as if it were here and now.

Moorat: He is still. He is motionless, He neither is coming from somewhere, nor is he heading somewhere. He is everywhere. The universe in Him is constantly in motion when he is perfectly still. How can this be? Only He can do this. He is above His own laws. That is why we call Him God. He is the creator of all motion, inside the stillness. He just is, always.

Ajooni: He is the only one beyond birth and death. He does not have a life cycle. He has no beginning or end. All entities at various godly levels (Brahma etc.) are subject to falling back into the lowest life forms at any moment. Only He holds the key for releasing a Jiva (life) from transmigration.

Saibhun: He is Existence. Everything is, because of God. He is self-effulgent and Self-Sufficient. There is no one else out there, and there is no such thing as "outside Him." He is not here (or, everywhere) because of someone or something else. Therefore, He is also in a state of ultimate love, peace, and certitude, which is beyond human imagination.

GurParshad: He is in Guru's Mercy (see Parshad above).

Such: I could go on and on. I would like to just mention the fist stanza of Japji. Japji starts with the command: "Japa" (Meditate), to meditate on Truth. Next, Guru Nanak gives us the absolute test of Truth: "Truth always was before anything else, it has been here through the ages, it is here now, and it will always be." Everything else, because it does not pass this test, is not the Truth, and not worthy of meditation. Whenever this word, Truth ("Such" in Gurmukhi, with a Gurmukhi u at the end), is seen in Gurbani, the same yardstick is to be used, so that we will understand its meaning in the proper context. When everything visible and thinkable is gone, the Truth will still be the same.