The Mool Mantar
The Mool Mantar is the most important composition contained within the Sri Guru Granth Sahib; it is the basis of Sikhism. It’s importance is emphasised by the fact that it is the first composition to appear in the SGGS and that it appears before the commencement of most of the Raags within the Sikh holy scripture.
The Mool Mantar is said to be the first composition uttered by Guru Nanak Dev ji upon enlightenment at the age of 30. Being the basis of Sikhism it encapsulates the entire theology of Sikhism, and as a result, it is also the most difficult composition to fully understand. The proceeding Japji Sahib and the rest of the SGGS totalling 1430 pages, are efforts to explain that which is contained within the Mool Mantar.
Ek Oankaar | ੴ
There is only One God
Ek | One
There is but one God, the Sole Supreme Being, the Ultimate Reality. The number one denotes that God is non-dual (advait). Bhai Gurdas writes, "By writing 1 (one) in the begining, it has been shown that EkOnakar, God, who subsumes all forms in Him is only One (and not two or three)" The number one also affirms His being a personality and not merely Shunya or void.
The negation of duality implies Absoluteness of God's Being. Being Absolute, God cannot be comprehended by the mind. The mind is capable of knowing only those things, phenomena, facts and concepts which are bipolar or relative. God being Non-Dual and Absolute, is Unknowable to man's mind. A simple example of this is in imagining distances: one could quite easily indicate that a metre in height is so high; even two or three metres. However when it comes to large distances, one mile, or two miles it cannot be imagined by the mind, or fully comprehended and so a standard is used for comparison: this mountain is x miles high, this tree is so high etc
The word 'O-ankaar' denotes that God manifests Himself ceaselessly throughout His Creation in diverse forms, features and colours, and in this way becomes knowable to man. But, in spite of manifesting Himself diversing, God remains One; He remains Immanent in His Creation, while at the same time remaining Transcendent. This God is at once One and Many implying Unity in Diversity. Kapur Singh suggests Oan = Transcedent, -kar = Immanent. The Mandukopanishad defines the word as: "That which was, is, will be, is all Onkar. And that which triple transcends is Onkar too."
Satnam | ਸਿਤਨਾਮ
His Name is Truth
In Sanskrit there are two words which have this root: Sat which means beingness, existence and Satya which means truth, validity. There is a great difference between the two. Satya is the quest of the philosopher who seeks truth. What is this truth? It lies in the rules whereby two plus two always equals four, and never five or three. So Satya is a mathematical formula, a man-made calculation, but it is not Sat. It is logical truth but not existential reality. Sat is that which just is, always was, eternal. God is both Sat and Satya, existence as well as truth. Being both He can neither be fully attained through science, which probes truth, nor through arts, which explores existence. Both are incomplete in their search, because they are directed only towards one half of Him. Where both meet, where the mind and heart meet, religion begins. If the mind overpowers the heart, science is born. If the heart overpowers the mind, the realm of art is entered: poetry, music, song, sculpture. Science and Art are dualities, religion is the synthesis.
Giani Jagtar "Jachak", past head granthi in Harmandar Sahib teaches that God is the only, stable origin of creation. He creates, and He constantly touches up His masterpiece creation, like an artist who caringly touches up his work. The universe will eternally follow the plan of His "hukam" all the natural laws of the universe. Creation is the results of God's hukam which never ceases. All things in the unviverse are contstantly being recycled or changing in molecular structure.
Naam literally means, the Name. A fuller definition of the word can only be found within the SGGS itself. Naam is God’s Word, or the Divine Essence. Etymologically, the word has a striking resemblence with the Greek neumena or the Bright Essence as opposed to phenomena. Naam is not merely the ‘Name of God’ as is commonly believed; it symbolises the Being of God filling all Creation. Naam is also referred to as Sabad in the SGGS.
Where there was no creation, there was nothing in existence – no air, light, water, earth or space. God existed alone in deep meditation and self absorption. When God willed for the manifestations of his values, He created universes, worlds and all material and other living beings by uttering a single Word. His Word is all pervasive and the sole source of all Creation; the Word created the universes and supports and sustains all things within them. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib further enlightens us that God’s Word turned into waves of light, rays of which are present in all creatures and all other parts of His creation. This is consistent with a fundamental principle of physics that sound vibrations, when increased several fold, change into waves of light.
This Essence / Naam / Sabad is formless, colourless, and featureless but, as said, is present in all creation. There is no plant, no creature, in what it is not. Being so, the Essence can’t be seen or visualised by the mind. We can see only the physical dimension of Reality in God’s Creation – mountains, plants, trees, creatures etc. Thus the Outer Shell of Reality holds us (the appearences delude us) and we cannot penetrate deeper to experience the all pervading Reality. The physical dimensions of Reality (the outer shell) is always in flux; it keeps changing. While birth, death, creation, destruction etc occur in the physical dimensions of creation, the Essence, being Sat (Sat-Naam) never changes, it transcends space and time.
As we cannot focus our mind or attention on God, who is Absolute, or even on Naam, the invisible Essence, the Name of God is the only medium available to us for approaching Him. When we recite God’s Name, and sing the Praises of God (Kirtan) we evoke within ourselves His Glories and Excellences. Thus, it is through the Name of God that we are able to think of Him, to remember Him. In other words, the Name of God is God Himself, adopted to our limited powers of perception and thought, adopted to the capacities of our body and mind. Because we are endowed with the capacity to utter and attentively listen, the continous recitation of and attentive listening to the Name of God focuses our mind on the object of invocation, resulting in a ceaseless rememberence of God (dhiaan). This Dhiaan, in turn, results in complete absorption of our conciousness on the thought of God, who responds to our earnest invocation and reveals Himself in our inner being.
The revelation of the Essence of Reality within us is the revelation of Naam. When the revelation of Naam occurs within, the devotee sees His the Essence of God pervading throughout His Creation.
For Sikhs, the Name of God given, the Gurmantar, is Waheguru (literally wondrous enlightener). The Gurmantar is given on Amrit Sanchar (initiation) by the Panj Pyare. The Initate is to repeatedly recite the Gurmantar, and to cherish it in the heart all the time – this is the essence of prayer and devotion to God.
In Gurbani, the word Gursabad or Sabad is synonymous with Gurmantar. Without ceaseless recitation of Gurmantar, Naam cannot be revealed. (insert quotes)
Karta Purakh | ਕਰਤਾ ਪਰਖ
Karta translates literally as the Doer, the Creator. Purukh translates literally as man, husband, basically a male person.
In the Sankhya system of Hindu philosophy, Purusha (the Universal Spirit), eternal, indestructible, all pervasive, is without activity or attribute, and if it is left to Prakriti (primal nature), itself an uncaused cause, and an ultimate principle, to bring the phenomenal world into being.
The Sikh doctrine, however, while making use of the word, emphasizes Purusha being Himself and only Creator. As in Sufi and Vaishnavic lore, He is the only He, His creatures being females longing to go out and Unite with Him.
Dr.Santokh Singh says: God, the Supreme Being, Himself is the Creator (Kartaa), and being immanent in His Creation, is All Pervasive and fills all beings (Purakh). He is thus Omniscient, knowing each one's inner mind, and Omnipotent, doing everything everywhere - evoluting, sustaining, and involuting.
By stating God as the Creator, one may think that the Creator and His creation to be separate. When man sculpts an idol and the idol is completed, the sculptor and the sculpture are no longer one; they are separate. And the sculpture will remain long after the sculptor is dead. If the image fractures, the sculptor is not also broken, because the two are separate. There is no such distance between God and His creation.
What kind of relationship exists between God and His creation? It is like a dancer with his dance. When man dances can you separate him from his dance? Can he return home leaving the dance behind? If the dancer dies, so the dance dies with him. When the dance stops, he is no longer the dancer. They are united. This is why since ancient times, Hindus have looked upon God as the dancer, “Nataraj.” In this symbol the dancer and the dance are one.
The poet is no longer related to his poem, once it is finished. The sculptor is separated from his sculpture as soon as it is completed. A mother gives birth to a child, and they are separate; the father is always distinct from the child. But God is not distinct from His creation; He is contained in it. It would be more accurate to say: the Creator is the creation, or the creator is nothing but creativity.
This is essentially the reason why Guru Nanak Dev ji says there is no need to renounce or run away from the world. Wherever you are, He is. Guru Nanak Dev ji gave birth to a unique religion in which the householder and sannyasin are one. He alone is entitled to call himself a Sikh who, being a householder is yet a sannyasin; who, being a sannyasin is still a householder. It is difficult to be a Sikh. It is easy to be a householder OR a sannyasin, but as a Sikh you are to be both. You have to remain in the house – but as if you’re not there, as if you are in the Himalayas. Keep running the shop, but maintain the remembrance of His name ever throbbing within; you can count your cash but take His name along with it.
A further point to note here is that the householder-sannyasin as exampled by Guru Nanak, and further emphasised by Guru Gobind Singh in terms of the Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier), resulting in the formation of the Khalsa, is a formidible being because he cannot be corrupted. He who sits right in your world and yet is not of it can in no way be tempted. The Khalsa is spiritually rich, which cannot be taken from him and also he earns a living and so is not enamoured by the trappings of wealth.
Nirbhao | ਿਨਰਭਉ
Bhao translates as fear, and Nir translates as without. God is without fear: Origin of fear is possible only if there is another being besides Him. Fear always involves the other: if someone can take something away from you it destroys your security. But, as God is Absolute, Himself immanent in all His Creation, whom is He to be afraid of? A corollary to this attribute, stated positively, is that God is all Bliss.
Nirvair | ਿਨਰਵੈਰ
Vair translates as enmity, hostility and Nir is without. God is without rancour or enmity; As God is the Sole Supreme Being, Himself immanent and pervasive in His Creation, against whom is He to have rancour, enmity, hatred or ill-will? A corollary to this attribute, stated positively, is that God is all Love. He is above all fear and is free from all thoughts of enmity.
Akaal Moorat | ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਿਤ
Being Beyond Time
Akaal translates as 'not subject to time or death' and Moorat translates as form, shape, image. God is a Being beyond time: An Eternal, Indestructible Entity.
Time means change. We are aware of time because we are surrounded by change: the sun rises and it is morning, then it is afternoon and then evening; first there is the infant, then the youth, then the old man; a healthy man becomes ill, an ill person healthy; a rich man becomes a pauper, a pauper becomes a king. For God there is no time because He is eternal, perpetual, immortal. He is forever. For Him nothing is changing; everthing is static. Change is the experience of sightless eyes that do not see things in their full perspective. If we could see things from the furthest vantage point all change drops away, and then time stops; it ceases to exist. For God all things are as they are; nothing changes, everything is static.
Ajoonee | ਅਜੂਨੀ
Unborn / Not-incarnated
Joon is a feminine noun and translates as 'birth, existence', the A- suggests 'Beyond'.
God is Unborn, Uncreated, Beyond Incarnation: He Himself, being the Primal Being, no being prior to Him can be conceived.
Sikhism rejects out of hand the theory of incarnation of God. The Guru-Saint thus is not God-incarnate, even though he has all the attributes of a living, human God and so identified with Him, as is his Word the (disembodied) embodiment of the Gur through which he reveals his God-nature.
Saibhan | ਸੈਭੰ
Saibhan is derived from the Sanskrit swayambhu and as stated above, is translated as self-existent. The meaning of self-existent is that He is self-creating, He exists by Himself and has no support except His own; He is self-begotten and has no origin.
Gur Prasaad | ਗਰ ਪਰਸਾਿਦ
By the favour of the Guru
Gur stands for Guru: Master, Spiritual Teacher, Guide. Prasad translates as favour, grace; thus He is attained by the Grace of the Enlightener.
The above translation is that which is given by the majority of Sikhs. Both Macauliffe and Dr.Gopal Singh have suggested that the Mool Mantar was intended as epithets of God - Macauliffe suggest the phrase to mean, "the great and bountiful."
Guru Nanak Dev ji had no human Guru; his Guru was God. It was during the spiritual supremacy of his successors the favour of the Guru was invoked, and deemed indispensible for deliverance. Moreover, suggests Macauliffe, though Gur Prasad does sometimes in the Guru Granth Sahib means the Guru's favour, it more often expressed by Guru Parsadi.
Dr.Gopal Singh says that "...many Sikh and European translators have joined the word Gur and Prasad together to suggest: "By favour (or Grace) of the Guru (is He dwelt upon)". But here Guru Nanak is giving, in monosyllables, the attributes of God. The Guru here, therefore, is Guru-in-God whose Grace is invoked. As such Guru can only be rendered as "Enlightener" which is also its literal meaning in Sanskrit."
- Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications. ISBN 8175361328.
- Shackle, C (1981). A Guru Nanak Glossary. School of Oriental and African Studies. ISBN 07286002431.
- Singh, Dalip (1999). Sikhism in the Words of the Guru. Lok Sahit Prakashan. ISBN B0000CPD3S.
- Singh, Dr.Gopal (1962). Guru-Granth Sahib Vol.1. Taplinger Publishing Co.. ISBN.
- Singh, Dr.Santokh (1990). English Transliteration and Interpretation of Nitnaym Baanees, Sikh Prayers for English Speaking Sikh Youth. Sikh Resource Centre. ISBN 1895471087.
- Osho (1994). The True Name, Vol.1 : Discourses on Japji Sahib of Guru Nanak Dev. New Age International(P) Ltd. ISBN 8122406068.
- To see the holy book in it original text follow this link: Gurbani.net
- To see the holy book in it original text with translation follow this link: Sikhi to the Max
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