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The Meaning and Power of Vahiguru for a Sikh

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    A very devoted Sikh boy in the langar hall once asked me the meaning of Vahiguru and I had to conjure my thoughts for an explanation. I recollected what was written in the book written by the erudite and prolific Bhai Khushwant Singh in A History of Sikhs, Volume 1, page 40 at the footnote the meaning of Vahiguru. My curiosity did not stop there but I persevered to delve deeply into the subject. As stated in the footnote, Vahiguru is about adoration of God. At a later stage in the evolution of Sikh faith, Vahiguru became the Sikh name for God. Vahiguru literally means, “Hail Guru” and is very close to the Muslim Subhan Allah. Vahiguru is also spelt as Waheguru by others, but it is synonymous meaning the Wondrous Lord or God.

    It has been suggested that the word is a combination of different Hindu names in God: Vasudev, Hari, Govinda and Rama. Guru Nanak Dev Ji used both Hindu and Muslim nomenclature for God, Ram, Govinda, Hari Murari, Rab and Rahim, the attribute he usually ascribed to Him was that of the True Creator (Sat Kartar) or the True Name (Sat Nam). The Satguru, the True Guru of Satyug was Vasudev, who led people to chant Vishnu as the name of God. Vahiguru’s first letter V comes from this letter of then chant Vishnu. In Duapar, the Satgur of the Time was Hari whose incarnation; “Lord Krishna led people to chant Har har. The second letter of Vahiguru H comes from this Yug’s chant of Har. In Treta, Lord Raam’s name was chanted to seek bliss and happiness. The R of vahiguru comes from Raam Raam Jap (chant) of Treta Yug. In Kalyug, before the birth of Satguru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Gobind Gobind was chanted by Bhagats as the name of God. Guru Nanak Dev Ji took this G in Vahiguru from the chant of Gobind. Guru Nanak Dev Ji took these letters from the invoked and powerful chants of all the Four Yugs and combined them to create the all-pervading powerful mantra: Vahiguru. The name of the Almighty, the Mantra to be chanted by the Beings of kalyug (present troubled times) to realise and be in communion with God.

    Bhai Gurdas Ji actually has stated this and how each of the four names was the mantra of each of the previous joogs and that the one in which the Mantra Vahiguru has been combined to form the four previous names of the previous joogs give the Sikh the spiritual fruits of many times the Four.Vahiguru, is also spelt as Waheguru and is the distinctive name of the Supreme Being. This term occurs in the hymns of Bhatt Gayand, the bard contemporary with Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji used Vahiguru in the beginning of some of his compositions as well as in the Sikh salutation ( Vahiguru ji kah Khalsa, Vahiguru ji keh Fateh).

    Vahiguru is a compound of two words, one from Persian and the other from Sanskrit, joined in a symbiotic relationship to define the Indefinable Indescribable Ultimate Reality. Vah in Persian is an interjection of wonder and admiration, and guru (Sanskrit meaning heavy, weighty, great, venerable; a spiritual parent or preceptor) has been frequently used by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his successors for Satiguru (True Guru) or God. Bhai Santokh Singh Ji, another renowned writer in Sri Guru Nanak Prakash (pp 1249-51), reporting Guru Nanak’s testament to the Sikhs has thus explicated Vahiguru: Vah is wonder at the Divine might: Gu is spiritual darkness whilst ru is illumination brought to eliminate this darkness; cumulatively, the name implies wonder at the Divine Light eliminating spiritual darkness. Considering the two constituents of vahiguru (vahi+guru) implying the state of wondrous ecstasy and offering of homage to the Lord, the first one was brought distinctly and prominently into the devotional system by Guru Nanak Dev Ji as evidenced in the hymn in Dhanasari Mahalla 1: Gagan mai thalu ravi chandu dipak bane tarioka mandal janak moti (SGGS 663); in measure Suhi: Kaun raaji kavanu tula tera kavanu saraphu bulava (SGGS 730) and in Jap Ji Sahib: Kete pavan pani vaisantar kete kan mahes, kete barame gharati ghariahi rup rang ke ves(SGGS 7).

    Wonder and ecstasy are expressed at cosmic order and its mystery full of contradictions, yet all comprehended in the Divinely-appointed system. In Asa Ki Var(SGGS 462-475), the opening sloka to pauri 3 is woven round vismad-visamadu nad vismadu ved, wondrous is the sound, wondrous the wisdom. This sloka concludes with: “Ever present to our gaze is wonder. At the sight of this mystery are we wonderstruck. Only the Supreme good fortune is it unravel led.” In the opening of sloka to pauri 4-bhai vichi pavanu vahai sadvau, in the Lord’s fear bloweth the wind with its myriad breezes-is expressed wonder at the cosmic “fear” under which the universe operates in obedience to the Divine Law, the Lord alone being exempt from such fear.

    In Japji Sahib, besides other themes, one that stands out prominently is wonder at the cosmic order, its infinitude and the mystery of its moral elan. As a matter of fact, the theme of Jap Ji Sahib may be said to be what occurs in the course of stanza 4: Vadiai vicaharu (contemplation of the Divine infinity) In stanza 16, is the expression of wonder at the limitlessness of space, Stanza 17-19, each beginning with asankh (infinite) are uttered in the same mood. In order to get the feel of the infinite and its magnitude, understanding of the Jap Ji Sahib will give one the depth of the prayers. In stanza 22- patal patal lak agasa agas, countless the worlds beneath, countless the worlds above- is a vision of the limitlessness of the universe. So flows the subsequent stanzas 24, 25, 26, 27, 32, 34, 35 and 35, it is in response to this overwhelming vision of Guru Nanak Dev Ji that the unique Name of the Supreme Being, Vahiguru, originated a response in the human self –attuned to devotion and ecstasy.

    Guru Amar Das Ji has also used the term and the interjection of vahu-vahu is used as many as 96 times. It also occurs in Guru Ram Das Ji in conjunction with Satiguru. In Guru Arjan Dev Ji by whose time the formulation Vahiguru appears to have become current and acquired distinctiveness as the Name Divine, the phrase Guru Vahu figures in as a measure (SGGS 376). This is the only as inverted form of Vahiguru and has the same force and significance. Kavi Santokh Singh in Sri Guru Pratap Suraj Granth uses the term as synonymous: simrahu vahiguru guru vahi, or contemplate ye Vahiguru, the Lord all Hail.

    The earliest use of Vahiguru is traceable back to Varan by Bhai Gurdas Ji and to Gayand hymns as I mentioned earlier. In both it may be said to have occurred contemporaneously, for while no date can be assigned to Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Varan, the work may be assumed to have appeared soon after the compilation of the SGGS by Guru Arjan Dev Ji in 1604, being so much alive with its spirit and phraseology. Gayand made use of Vahiguru as the Supreme Name Divine and in Savaiyya 11, the term occurs twice as Vahiguru and it is repeated thrice as Vahiguru in the opening line, expressing fervour of devotion. In Savaiyya 12, Vahu vahu (Wonder personifying the Lord) signifies the Supreme marvel, embracing the infinitude of the universe.

    Some relevant lines from Bhai Gurdas, Varan has been produced putting faith in Vahiguru, the Masters teaching, the seeker drains peace and tranquility the cup of devotion. In his book, vahiguru is ubiquitous thus indicating the essence and power of Vahiguru. Bhai Gurdas Ji (1551-1670) makes the statement: Vahiguru is the gurmantra, repeating it thou hast thy ego erased.”

    Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the temple at Kartapur established the realm Eternal as the Holy congregation, and imparted to it the Divine Vahiguru; Sati namu karta purakhu vahiguru vichi ridai samae, let the seeker lodge in his heart the Holy name, the Creator immanent, Vahiguru. In these verses, vahiguru signifies the supreme Name Divine, to which devotion is offered. It is transcendent and annular of sin and evil, thus combining in itself the attributed and the unattributed aspects in the consonance with the Sikh doctrine voiced in the Scripture. The main point is that by the Guru Arjan Dev’s time and thereafter, this name with others was established as the objects of devotion. The term received the final seal in the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

    Vahiguru is for the Sikhs the gurmantra (invocatory formula received from the Guru) or naam for repetition (silently or aloud with or without a rosary) and meditation upon the Supreme Reality. Bhai Gurdas Ji in his Varan refers to it variously as japu mantra (invocation for repetition), guru sabadu (the Guru’s Word), sacha mantra (true mantra) and gurmantra. It is also called naam or the Name and is sometimes compounded as Satnam Vahiguru to be chanted aloud in the congregations at Sikh camps, Darbar Sahib or sadhsangat to connect with the Lord. The power of uttering Vahiguru in the congregations simultaneously with kirtan, is the most relaxing and congenial form of connecting with the Vahiguru. It is the constant repetition of Vahiguru with full concentration, withdrawing one’s mind from the world of the senses, is practicing the Sikhs spiritual discipline of naam so reverberatingly as inculcated by the Guru in the SGGS.

    Naam Japna (repeated utterances of God’s name, that is Vahiguru), which gradually wipes out anything wrong, sinful or evil, is one of the cardinal moral principles of Sikh faith, the other two being kirat karni or honest labour and vand chhakna or sharing one’s acquisition or victuals with the needy. Since the manifestation of the Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib, Vahiguru has been part of the Sikh salutation: Vahiguru ji kah khalsa, vahiguru ji keh fateh (Hail the khalsa who belongs to the Lord God! Hail the Lord God to whom belongs the victory!) It has since also the gurmantra imparted formally at the Amrit initiation ceremony (khande di pahul or amrit for charan pahul) by the leader of the Panj Pyares, The Beloved Ones, carrying out the entire religious rites as exemplified by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

    It is amazing to note that Vahiguru is used only 18 times in the SGGS. Of there, Vahiguru occurs 9 times on page 1401 and 6 times on page 1402. Vahiguru occurs 2 times on page 1403 and 1 time on page 1404. It was also interesting to observe that I met a Slovakian gentleman in the langar hall and his knowledge of the meaning of Vahiguru was much deeper and he was able to reference it and relate to its significance. The utterance of Vahiguru should be constantly on the lips of everyone to save us from the present troubled times, Kalyug.

    I was recently reading the book by Dr Gurbakhsh Singh aptly entitled: The Sikh Faith. Chapter 1 in the book focused on Vahiguru. It is difficult to define and express the mystic joy of Vahiguru. It is liken to a mute person, after tasting the sugar, knows the taste, relishes it and expresses it with a smile, but being unable to speak, he cannot express the actual taste of it. Vahiguru is described as God and he created everything in the universe and it is a gift from Him, which baffles science. Gurbani expresses it in these words.Tu mera pita tu hai mera mata tun mera bandhap tu mera bhrata tun mera rakha sabhni thai ta bhau kaeha jio. We are created by Vahiguru and Vahiguru is immanent and also transcendent, hence not visible and difficult to understand. Vahiguru resides in mankind just fragrance is in the flowers and the reflection of us in the mirror. Saintly people say that each of us consist of two things; inert matter or our visible body and “livingness or soul, the cause of our life. The soul is the reflection of Vahiguru, the cause of all lives. Our soul (atma) is part of the whole (parmatma), Vahiguru. The Great Soul is the Generator, Operator and Destroyer of this Universe; hence its name is God, Vahiguru.

    Our life revolves around this great gift of Vahiguru and we may not know about it and takes the creation for granted. There is nothing without Him. Vahiguru thus appears to be a paradox when anyone attempts to describe Him. Gurbani teaches a disciple who wants to know Vahiguru and under the guidance, we cal learn the virtues of Vahiguru and enjoy His love, but we cannot fully describe our feeling to others. Our souls are reflections of Vahiguru, but are not able to understand or describe Vahiguru. As it has many dimensions including physical, metaphysical, spiritual and others unknown to us. One youth observed: I think Vahiguru is a grand plaza. Anything one can think of, and also, one cannot think of, is there. One can describe what one can see. Here it is limitless. There are shops, shops, shops etc etc, each of a different kind. Leave aside the knowing of the things inside the shops, one cannot know the number, size or kind of shops are there.

    Gurmat says this life is to be wasted in trivial pursuits. One has to accept the creation of the earth, sun and everything else that is here with us. We also know they will continue to be here even after death. Therefore, let us focus with the mission of human life (To love humanity, serve it and realise Vahiguru) and devote the time for utterance of Vahiguru. The world is a huge drama conducted and directed by Vahiguru; virtues lead us to peace and vices lead us to trouble. Worship of Vahiguru means to love Vahiguru to love His virtues and to love the truth. The purpose is that these good qualities and virtues become part of our life and these are the virtues that keep us happy and blessed with the favours of Vahiguru.

    I recommend that the readers listen to the Katha by Giani Thakur Singh (Patiala Wale) to get the feel of the meaning and power of Vahiguru. www.gurmatveechar.com/katha.php and navigate to "katha/present day katha/ Giani Thakur Singh Ji Patiala Wale" and look for "waheguru Gurmantar Hai Part 1."

    There are total of 9 parts:

    Present day Katha by Giani Thakur Singh Ji Patiala Wale.


    Daljit Singh aka Boodar Singh
    Boodar269@aol.com
     
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