Gurbani and liberation

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This article deal with Gurbani relating to "Spiritual Liberation" or Mukti. The basic concept underlying mukti or liberation is that human life is in bondage on account of its own deeds and acts (karma). All the major schools of Indian philosophy conceive of an emancipated soul which, after exhausting the effects of all karmas, attains the liberated state.

Although sometimes translated as ‘salvation’, mukti is different from the Christian salvation. The latter is a composite concept embodying redemption and reconciliation. Redemption is ‘the change in man’s relation to God by the removal of guilt and sin’ [1] Guilt and sin, however, are not ingredients that play a direct part in the concept of mukti.

What exactly is regarded as 'bondage' and what is believed to be 'liberation' varies from school to school. Generally, it is conceived that 'liberation' is awakening from the deep sleep of ignorance. This process could take a millisecond or a lifetime. It requires conquering ones own mind. Guru, the master spiritual guide is the one who is awake and it is the Guru who awakens us if we can accept Guru’s hand in the learning process. "The mind is like an elephant, drunk with wine. The Guru is the rod which controls it, and shows it the way. (2)" (SGGS p 159)

Liberation results in a paradigm shift where the same mind that used to generate poison before, now generates Amrit. Here is a Shabad that explains the liberated state of mind. "My mind has now been restored to its original purity. When I became dead while yet alive, only then did I come to know the Lord." (SGGS p 327)

Relevant Shabads

Liberation needs learning with understanding

ਮ੝ੰਦ੝ਰਾ ਫਟਕ ਬਨਾਈ ਕਾਨਿ ॥ ਮ੝ਕਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਬਿਗਿਆਨਿ ॥ ਜਿਹਵਾ ਇੰਦ੝ਰੀ ਸਾਦਿ ਲਭਾਨਾ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਭਝ ਨਹੀ ਮਿਟੈ ਨੀਸਾਨਾ ॥੬॥
Munḝrĝ fatak banĝ▫ī kĝn. Mukaṯ nahī biḝi▫ĝ bigi▫ĝn. Jihvĝ inḝrī sĝḝ lobẖĝnĝ. Pasū bẖa▫e nahī mitai nīsĝnĝ. (6)
You make ear-rings of glass to wear in your ears. But liberation does not come from learning without understanding.

You are lured by the tastes of the tongue and sex organs. You have become a beast; this sign cannot be erased. (6)

Which Name of God should one remember

ਕਉਨ੝ ਕਰਮ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਕਹ੝ ਕੈਸੀ ਧਰਮ੝ ਕਉਨ੝ ਫ੝ਨਿ ਕਰਈ ॥ ਕਉਨ੝ ਨਾਮ੝ ਗ੝ਰ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ ਕਉ ਤਰਈ ॥੧॥

ਕਲ ਮੈ ਝਕ੝ ਨਾਮ੝ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਨਿਧਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਜਪੈ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਅਉਰ ਧਰਮ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਸਮ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਬੇਦ੝ ਬਤਾਵੈ ॥੨॥

Ka▫un karam biḝi▫ĝ kaho kaisī ḝẖaram ka▫un fun kar▫ī. Ka▫un nĝm gur jĝ kai simrai bẖav sĝgar ka▫o ṯar▫ī. (1)

Kal mai ek nĝm kirpĝ niḝẖ jĝhi japai gaṯ pĝvai. A▫or ḝẖaram ṯĝ kai sam nĝhan ih biḝẖ beḝ baṯĝvai. (2)

Which actions, what sort of knowledge, and what religion - what Dharma should one practice?

What Name of the Guru should one remember in meditation, to cross over the terrifying world-ocean? (1) In this Dark Age of Kali Yuga, the Name of the One Lord is the treasure of mercy; chanting it, one obtains salvation. No other religion is comparable to this; so speak the Vedas. (2)


  1. ^ R. Hazelton, ‘Salvation’ in a Handbook of Christian Theology edited by M. Halverson and A. Cohen, London: Collins Fontana Books