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Mul Mantra

The Mul Mantra (ਮੂਲ ਮੰਤਰ, , or ਮੂਲ ਮੰਤ੍ਰ, , Mul Mantra) is the most important concept within the Guru Granth Sahib, and is considered the basis of Sikh theology; a position that is emphasized by its appearance as the first composition written in the Granth. It is said that the Mul Mantra was the first composition of Guru Nanak. It is philosophically dense, difficult to explain and understand as it encapsulates the entire Sikh theology in roughly 8 concepts: it is the foundation upon which the subsequent verses, hymns, and prayers of the Guru Granth Sahib (which amounts to about 1430 pages) elaborate.

The Mantar

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
ISO 15919 transliteration:
Simplified transliteration: ||
English: One Universal Creator God, The Name Is Truth, Creative Being Personified, No Fear, No Hatred, Image Of The Timeless One, Beyond Birth, Self-Existent, By Guru's Grace.

Pronunciation

When pronouncing the Gurmukhi text of the Mul Mantra, all final short 'a's, 'i's and 'u's should not be pronounced unless a vowel precedes the final letter. The simplified transliteration above indicates when not to pronounce a particular letter. For example, ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ, is pronounced sat nām, but ਨਿਰਭਉ, is pronounced nirbha'u

There is only One God

Ika

There is one God, the sole Supreme Being, the Ultimate Reality. Bhai Gurdas writes, "By writing 1 (one) in the beginning, it has been shown that Ek Oankar, God, who subsumes all forms in Him is only One (and not two or three)." The number one also affirms identity and not void or shunya.

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 the human mind. A simple example of this is in imagining distances: one could quite easily indicate that a meter in height is so high; even two or three meters. 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 us. But in spite of manifesting in such diverse forms, God remains One; He is immanent in His creation, while being at the same time transcendent. This God is at once one and many, implying unity in diversity. Kapur Singh suggests Oan = Transcendent, -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."

Sati Nāmu

His Name is Truth

Sati

In Sanskrit, there are two words which have this root: Sat, which means beingness or existence, and Satya, which means truth or 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 and always has been, 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 art, 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 at 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. Creation is the result of God's hukam, which never ceases. All things in the universe are constantly being recycled or changing in molecular structure.

Nāmu

Naam means, literally, the Name. A fuller definition of the word can only be found within the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Naam is God’s Word, or the Divine Essence. Etymologically, the word has a striking resemblance to 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 Shabad 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 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 Essence/Naam/Shabad/Logos is formless, colourless, and featureless but, as said, is present in all creation. There is no plant, no creature, in which it is not present. The Earth and other heavenly bodies exist because there is Naam in this universe, and when God withdraws this Naam from this Universe, there are natural calamities (Parloh/Mahaparloh) all over the universe. This is the time that the universe perishes and all the living creatures perish. Being as it is, the Essence cannot 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 appearances delude us) and we cannot penetrate deeper to experience the all-pervading Reality. The physical dimensions of Reality (the outer shell) are always in flux; they keep 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.

We cannot focus our mind or attention on God, who is Absolute, the invisible Essence. The Naam (SHABD), the Name of God, is the only medium available to us for approaching Him. The Naam actually is a combination of five words (which are the names of five supernatural heavenly places along the soul's journey toward the SACHKHAND) which only a true Guru can give to his disciples. All who receive Naam from the Guru have to concentrate at one point in their mind and recite the Naam in their mind without actually uttering it. When we recite Naam, our soul starts responding to it. It actually starts to shrink and starts moving towards the point in our body called the THIRD EYE. When a person practices it for a very long time he/she reaches the SACHKHAND. Thus, it is through the Naam that we are able to think of Him, to remember Him. In other words, the Naam 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 continuous recitation of and attentive listening to the Naam focuses our mind on the object of invocation, resulting in a ceaseless remembrance of God (DHYAAN). This Dhyaan, in turn, results in complete absorption of our consciousness to 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 the Essence of God pervading throughout His Creation.

Gurus have taught that their teachings are for all castes (varnas) and religions, and all have the right to receive the teachings of the Gurus. To initiate one's soul so that it starts towards the ultimate goal (SACHKHAND), one must repeatedly and continuously recite the Naam, and cherish it in one's heart all the time. This is the essence of prayer and devotion to God.

In Gurbani, the word Gurshabd or Shabd is synonymous with Naam. Without ceaseless recitation of Naam, God cannot be realised. This does not refer to repeated verbal utterances.

Karatā Purakhu

The Creator

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 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 the 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 that God is the Creator, one may think that the Creator and His creation are separate. When an artist sculpts an idol, they are both separate from one another. If the sculpture fractures, the sculptor is not affected in any physical manner, because the two are separate. There is no such similarity between God and His creation.

What kind of relationship exists between God and His creation? It is like the one between a dancer and the form of his dance. When man dances, can you separate him from his dance? Can he return home leaving the dance behind? If the dancer dies, the dance dies with him. When the dance ends, he is no longer the dancer. They are united, one. 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.

A 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 says there is no need to renounce or run away from the world. Wherever you are, He is. Guru Nanak Dev gave birth to a unique religion in which the householder and sannyasi are one. He alone is entitled to call himself a Sikh who, being a householder, is yet a sannyasi; who, being a sannyasi, is still a householder. In light of this, it is difficult to be a Sikh. It is easy to be either a householder OR a sannyasi, but as a Sikh one is to be both. One must remain in the house--but as though one was not there for one's personal self. One must keep running the shop, but maintain the remembrance of His name ever throbbing within; one can be immersed in the mundane tasks of life, yet remember His name along with it.

A further point to note here is that the householder-sannyasi, as exemplified 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 formidable being because he cannot be corrupted. He who exists in this world and yet is not of it, can in no way be tempted. The Khalsa is spiritually rich; the spirituality cannot be taken from him or her. He or she also earns a living and yet is not enamoured by the lure of wealth and worldly pleasures.

Nirabha'u

Without Fear

Bhao translates as fear, and Nir translates as without. God is without fear: fear always involves the other, and such fear is possible only if there is another being besides Him. If someone can take something away from you it destroys your security. But, as God is Absolute, Himself immanent in all His Creation, whom should He fear? A corollary to this attribute, stated positively, is that God is all Bliss.

Niravairu

Without Hate

Vair translates as enmity or hostility, and Nir translates as 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.

Akāla Mūrati

Being Beyond Time

Akaal translates as "not subject to time or death" and Moorat translates as form, shape, or 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; everything 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 would drop away, and then time would stop; it would cease to exist. For God all things are as they are; nothing changes, everything is static.

Ajūnī

Beyond birth and death / Gurus Atma/Soul

Joon is a feminine noun and translates as birth or existence; the A- suggests 'Beyond'.

God is Uncreated, Beyond Incarnation: He Himself, being the Primal Being, no being prior to Him can be conceived.

Self-existent

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.

Gura Prasādi

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 Mul Mantra was intended as epithets of God; Macauliffe suggests the phrase to mean, "the great and bountiful."

Guru Nanak Dev ji had no human Guru; his Guru was Satgur (Sat, meaning true or truth; gur, as in Gurmukhi, literally meaning idea, solution, or key to a problem). It was during the spiritual supremacy of his successors the favour of the Guru was invoked, and deemed indispensable for deliverance. Moreover, suggests Macauliffe, though Gur Prasad does sometimes in the Guru Granth Sahib mean 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."

References

  • Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications. ISBN 81-7536-132-8.
  • Shackle, C (1981). A Guru Nanak Glossary. School of Oriental and African Studies. ISBN 0728602431.
  • 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 1-895471-08-7.
  • Osho (1994). The True Name, Vol.1 : Discourses on Japji Sahib of Guru Nanak Dev. New Age International(P) Ltd. ISBN 81-224-0606-8.
  • Dr Sahib Singh, D Lit (Jan 1972). Shiri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan. Raj Publishers (Regd), Adda Husharpur Jallundhar.

External links

Mul Mantra links

Audio

Holy Book

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