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Part of a series on
Sikh Beliefs

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History of Sikhism
Sikh practices

1a. Simran
1b. Seva

2. Three Pillars
2a. Naam Japo
2b. Kirat Karni
2c. Wand kay Shako

3. Five Evils
3a. Kam
3b. Krodh
3c. Lobh
3d. Moh
3e. Ahankar

4. Five Virtues
4a. Sat
4b. Santokh
4c. Daya
4d. Nimrata
4e. Pyare

Articles on Sikhism

Naam ( ਨਾਮ ) and the related terms Naam Japo or Naam Japna - convey the message of the need to remember God (the Creator) by repeating and focusing the mind on His Name and Identity. The names given to God primarily refer to the attributes of the Almighty and His various qualities. The guideline in the Rehit Mariyada of Guru Gobind Singh demands that the Sikh engages in Naam Simran as part of his or her everyday routine.

The concept also permeates the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the way in which humans can conquer ego, greed, attachment, anger and lust, together commonly called the Five Evils or Five Thieves, and to bring peace and tranquility into one's mind. The Sikhs practice both, the quiet individual recitation of Naam in one's mind (commonly called Naam Simran), and the communal recitation of Naam (called Naam Jaap). However, these are not strict definitions of the practices, and some variations may be found among the different Sikh communities.


In Gurbani, Guru Arjan Dev tells us the importance of Naam and the value the Guru attaches to Naam thus:

ਮੀਤੁ ਸਾਜਨੁ ਸਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਏਕ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਕਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਟੇਕ

Mīṯ sājan sakẖā parabẖ ek. Nām su▫āmī kā Nānak tek.
The One God is my Intimate, Best Friend and Companion. The Naam, the Name of my Lord and Master, is Nanak's only Support. (4)(87)(156)

The Guru says: "Naam is Nanak's only support!". This statement outlines the importance that the Guru places on the concept and aspect of "Naam". It is clear that the understanding of this term is of great value to the student of Sikhi. The word 'Naam' appears in the Guru Granth Sahib at least 2,542 times. At each of these occurrences of the word, the Guru explains this concept in more and more elaborate ways.

Concept of Naam

‘Naam’ is a common word used in Gurbani and represents an entity which is unlimited; the word is an instrument to helps us perceive and realise the un-perceivable Lord in a limited and personal way; to the extent of our limited human faculties. This concept which Guru has given to the Sikhs has to be lived through and practised in ones life. One has to become imbued with ‘Naam’ to understand the blessings that come with this realisation. When one is imbued with ‘Naam’ only then can the person understand the essence of the Lord - Waheguru, Raam, Allah, God, etc. As one understands this term better, he or she gains a better idea of the concept of God and His Creation; His expanse and vastness; His presence everywhere and in everything.

Some scholars of Sikhi state that Naam is not just the reciting of God's name but the conceptualization of the reality that we call "God" in one's psyche; the understanding of the term and realisation of the vision of God as explained by the Guru. Further, the Sikh owes a duty to understand this concept of God and to then keep this reality in focus as one leads their normal life.

The Ladder to reach Reality

Naam, stands for the union of the mind and spirit with Reality; which is to be attained by the devoted repetition of his Name both verbally and "mentally". Naam is the sign, the symbol and the song of God. It is the key to enter into the presence and the heart of God. By adoration and singing his praises, saintly hearts glow within. Naam brings in peace and tranquillity; and a calmness that otherwise can never be experienced.

It is described as the most potent "detergent" which frees the mind of its filth and afflictions and dyes it to prevent further erosion. The sub-conscious mind or the "budhi" is further sharpened and moulded into instant insight or intuitiveness (sudhi). In this sphere, mystical experience occurs at the mere sway of thoughts. Indeed the universe is sustained and held together by Naam: "Naam ke dhare khand brahmand".

God's greatness is beyond human comprehension. But He can be approached through a ladder called 'Naam' which can take us to His height. Naam, therefore, is greater than everything else "sabte ucha jaka nao" and "wada sahib uncha thaon, uche upar ucha nao." In the Sikh scripture God is called by various names such as Ram, Gobind, Mukand, Madhav, Prabhu, Rahim, Karim, Vithal,etc. All such epithet are known as "Karam-Naam" expressing quality and attribute of God. According to Guru Nanak, His eternal name is "Sat", i.e. Truth. He is true and so is His Naam - "Sacha sahib, sach nae." Sat Naam, an attribute given in the Mool Mantra has been His name even before the primal age - "sat naam tera para- purbala."

Naam brings blessings and chardikala

In Jap Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh has mentioned several hundred Karam-naams in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Punjabi. Before spelling these out, he has humbly submitted, in his prologue, that since God is beyond comprehension and description, full justice cannot be done to the subject matter. The appropriate word used by him is "Neti, Neti"; this is not all, this is not all as something more is yet to be said about Him.

A devotee absorbed in Naam is oblivious to sorrow and pain; he remains in ever ascending spirit (chardhikala), wishes everyone well (sarbat da bhala) and is always ready to protect the weak and saint (sant ubaran dusht uparan) and fight for righteous causes (shubh kiarman te kabhun na taron). His main demand or prayer is for Naam-Daan, (the gift of Naam, the singing or reciting or remembering of the Lord's presence) the greatest gift and Grace one can aspire for.

In conclusion, it may be said that Naam is the ultimate Truth. It is word to describe the eternal, comprehensively symbolic God's attributes, formless, immaculate and absolute. His devolution meditation is the gateway to God's domain of Grace and bliss.

See also