is the Sanskrit for "sound, speech" In Sanskrit grammar, the term refers to an utterance in the sense of linguistic performance.

In Indian linguistics

Katyayana stated that shabda "speech" is eternal (nitya), as is artha "meaning", and their mutual relation. According to Patanjali, ("meaning") is not identical with shabda, but rather its permanent aspect, while dhvani "sound, acoustics" is its ephemereal aspect.

Bhartrihari on the other hand held a shabda-advaita position, identifying shabda as indivisible, unifying cognition and linguistic performance, ultimately identical with Brahman. Bhartrhari recognizes two entities, both of which may be called shabda, one is the underlying cause of the articulated sounds, while the other is used to express the meaning. Bhartrhari thus rejects the difference posited by logicians between the ontological and the linguistic. His concept of shabda-brahman identifying linguistic performance and creation itself has parallels in the Greek concept of logos.

Language philosophy in Medieval India was dominated by the dispute of the "naturalists" of the Mimamsa school, notably defended by Kumarila, who held that shabda designates the actual phonetic utterance, and the Sphota school, defended by Mandana Mishra, who identified spotha and shabda as a mystical "indivisible word-whole".

In religion

Shabad is the term by Sikhs to refer to a hymn or paragraph or sections of the Holy Text that appears in their several Holy Books. The main holy scripture of the Sikhs is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS.) The first Shabad in the Guru Granth Sahib is the Mool Mantar. The script used for the Shabad in the holy book is Gurmukhi.

Esoterically, Shabd is the “Sound Current vibrating in all creation. It can be heard by the inner ears.” Variously referred to as the Audible Life Stream, Inner Sound, Sound Current or Word in English, the Shabd is the esoteric essence of God which is available to all human beings, according to the Shabd paths teachings of Eckankar, the Quan Yin Method, Sant Mat and Surat Shabd Yoga.

Adherents believe that a Satguru, or Eck Master, who is a human being, has merged with the Shabd in such a manner that he or she is a living manifestation of it at its highest level (the “Word made flesh”). However, not only can the Satguru attain this, but all human beings are inherently privileged in this way. Indeed, in Sant Mat the raison d’être for the human form is to meditate on the Sound Current, and in so doing merge with it until one’s own divinity is ultimately realized.

Referring to the Shabd, Sant Kirpal Singh, a contemporary Sant Mat guru, stated that "Naam" ("Word") has been described in many traditions through the use of several different terms. In his teachings , the following expressions are interpreted as being identical to "Naam":

*"Naad", "Akash Bani", and "Sruti" in the Vedas
*"Nada" and "Udgit" in the Upanishads
*"Logos", "Word" and "Holy Spirit" in the New Testament
*"Tao" by Lao Zi
*"Music of the Spheres" by Pythagoras
*"Sraosha" by Zoraster
*"Kalma" and "Kalam-i-Qadim" in the Qur'an
*"Naam", "Akhand Kirtan" and "Sacha ('True') Shabd" by Guru Granth Sahib

Sant Baljit Singh, a contemporary Sant Mat Master, uses the term "Light and Sound Current." He describes it as the connecting link between human beings and God.

See also


  1. Glossary of Oriental terms and important names of persons and places .
  2. Singh, K. (1999). Naam or Word. Blaine, WA: Ruhani Satsang Books. ISBN 0-942735-94-3


  • Patnaik, Tandra, Śabda : a study of Bhartrhari’s philosophy of language, New Delhi : DK Printworld, 1994, ISBN 81-246-0028-7.
  • Singh, Kirpal (1949). A Great Saint, Baba Jaimal Singh. Ruhani Satsang Books, p. 7-9.

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