Anhat Shabad

Oct 21, 2009
The Meaning of "Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela":Holy Word as Soul Teacher

Bhai Sahib Kirpal Singh Gill* (Malaysia)

The Experience of its Awakening (Surat Dhun) is Discipleship (Chela). This enigmatic yet pragmatic ?proverbial statement appears in the Siddh Gosht, Ramkali, Bani of the founding prophet of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It consists of 73 stanzas, which mainly embody a synopsis of answers to searching questions put to the Prophet by the premier Yogic Order of the 15th century India. These answers cover a wide variety of spiritual Reality and Truth. It thus lays down in brief the central basis of true Religion and of Sikhism in particular.

As a corollary, it puts into proper perspective the prevailing beliefs and notions held by the Yogic cults of the times, who were then toting around some of their misleading views to the masses of India. As such, the Sidh Gosht (Discussion with the Sidhas) is most revealing, inspirational and elevating. It embodies primordial truths of how the Soul, the Atma of man, can claim its high heritage by aligning into rightful resonance with the Param-Atma, the Cosmic Creator.

Among a host of other equally mystical and metaphoric outpourings, Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela", stands out as a cardinal Divine direction, which demands a comprehensive cognition of its true meaning and import. It is a far-reaching, penetrative and all-embracing pervasive pointer, which, when adequately understood and thereafter imbibed, opens the door to ultimate solace and salvation. We shall then need no external Master or Guru, to give us answers to our multifarious daily doubts and difficulties. Such is its importance and value, that the entire teaching of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (S.G.G.S.) can be encapsulated into its mystical allegory. The metaphor employed in it has hitherto defied a thorough and comprehensive comprehension of its true meaning.

Let us try to unravel the mystical meaning behind this cryptic directive. Permit me to mention as a prelude, that until and unless one is already blessed with the actual experience and feeling of the profound spiritual states of ecstasy and euphoria in meaningful meditation (Simran/Bhagti), variously alluded to as Vismaat, Rangan, Kheira, Wajjad, Anand, etc., one will never be able to fully grasp and understand the Divine meaning behind this and many other such mystical utterances enshrined in our sanctified Scriptures.

Until then, we will keep on giving only literal interpretations and providing merely academic expositions, thus inadvertently and ignorantly, misleading the masses. Such renderings and dissertations, when wantonly and egoistically continued, can even reach blasphemous proportions, which perforce have to be repaid in unimaginable and hellish after-lives. Hence, it is prudent to be mindful of our present inadequacies and incompetence’s and thus wait for the ripe moment when God, through His benevolence and grace, has eventually prepared us for such an onerous task of correct Gurbani translations.

What is Shabad:
The first word Shabad depending upon the context in which it occurs, can have four main connotations. They are,
(i) The Word, or Teaching of the Guru, which, in its elevated connotation, originates from God.
(ii) Through the Teaching of the Guru and /or God.
(iii) The all-pervading Divine power which percolates the entire Universe. This is also alluded to as Naam or Naam Kalla which is resident inside of man but normally in a dormant, inert state.

"Nau nidh amrit prabh ka naam, theyhee mei is kaa bisraam"
(Sukhmani) meaning,

"The providential Naam which can bestow us with the nine Treasures and is a Nectar, is resident inside of man in a restful, dormant state".
(iv) The fourth meaning is, "the process and the actual and a vibratory experience of this awakening of Naam Kala", which under normal circumstances is usually lying sleeping, and dormant but docile in man, as brought out under (iii) above.
In the title phrase under review, this first word Shabad carries all the four meanings hretofore enumerated, but more empathetically the connotation at (iii) above, which is Naam Kala (the Holy Life Force). Additionally, it also refers to the hidden aspect of God within us, the Jeev-Atma, which has the potential of manifesting a multitudinal attribute of the Creator.

Who is Guru
This second word Guru does not require much explaining:
It simply means a Guide, a Master, someone who removes darkness, an Enlightener. But the third and fourth words, Surat dhun need careful study.

What is Surat?
Just like the words Shabad Surat and also Dhun, reflect many a meaning depending upon the context in which they are employed. Surat can mean.
(i) Ordinary Consciousness.
(ii) Sub and Superconsciousness, the Budhi.
(iii) Inner superior knowledge; knowing.
(iv) Attention, Contemplation, profound Prayer/Meditation.
There is a cogent quotation from Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Varaan which uses the words Shabad and Surat in the context of the meaning enumerated above:
"Raag naad Sabkoe Sunai, Shabad Surat Samjai Veirloee" meaning.

"Each and sundry listen to melodious music (practice of praise of the Divine in devotional Bhagti); only a fortunate few can
understand (imbibe and feel) the depth of such devotion".

As you will note, this quotation of Bhai Gurdas Ji is itself rather enigmatic and is replete with mystical meaning.
In the title phrase under consideration, this word, Surat reflects all the various definitions listed above, but more particularly those under (ii), (iii) and (iv).

Where Does Dhun Dwell?
The word Dhun can also be used in various applications and connotations such as:
(i) Sound, Spontaneous utterance or Reaction, as referred to in the S.G.G.S. Ramakali by Guru Nanak," .... Dhun Vaajei anhad ghoeraa..."
(ii) Vibration, Trembling, Ecstatic and Euphoric Feeling and Experience.
(iii) Echo, Reverberation, Automatic Outcome, Spontaneity.
(iv) A Song or Tune’s basic central theme, as in the Science of Music (Sangeet Vidya).
In the title phrase under deliberation, this word Dhun manifests all the meanings categorised under (i), (ii) and (iii) above, but more pregnantly that listed at (ii), which is a Feeling, a religious spiritual Experience and Reaction, variously referred to as Anhad Dhun, Shabad Dhun, Akaath Kathaa, etc.

Who is Chela
: The last word Chela has also here a deeper and more profound meaning than ordinarily attributed to it, which is a Disciple. In the phrase under discussion it is more akin to Discipleship or, better still, Receivership.
Having briefly explained the meaning of each word, the correct translation or interpretation of this famous proverbial but pragmatic and pithy passage, "Shabad Guru Surat Dhun Chela", would read as below :

Having laid down the possible meanings of each word in the unique quotation under review, a translation of it is herewith attempted, which perforce may yet require further elucidation:

"The potentially powerful and all-pervading Naam Kalla lying dormant within man, is our eternal and ever present Guru and Godly Guide (Shabad Guru). We become the Recipients (Cheilla, Discipleship) of its ever available guidance always from within, when it is awakened into a vibrant, ecstatic and euphoric feeling and experience in effortless spontaneity (Surat Dhun)".
The above translation although appearing as a fairly detailed interpretation, would still require further clarification to render it more readable and understandable to an average Gursikh?most of whom are still neophytes into the deeper spiritual insights of Gurbani.

Naam and Shabad ?As Manifest Divinity
Before we can delve deeply into Gurbani, we must, first and foremost, get established in our minds that on most occasions where the word Naam appears in the Gurbani, it does not connote a mere name of God, but a tangible entity, and a power-house of a tremendously potent and powerful source of all-pervading energy, normally lying still, dormant and inert in man. The following passages from the Sukhamani Sahib will make this point clear.
"Naam kei dhaarei agaas pathaal. Naam thei dhaarei sagal akaar. Naam kei dhaarei pureiaan sabh bhavan" meaning :-
"All the planets, whole Galaxies and the entire Cosmos is created and subsequently supported and sustained in their proper and precise orbits, by the Divine Power of Naam".
Again, it is recorded, towards the end of the formal Sikh Ardaas, "Guru Nanak Naam Chadhthee Kellaah, Terei Bhanei Sarbat Thaa Bhellaa".

We have seldom, if ever, suspected that in this daily prayer/ardaas of the Sikhs, that Naam is succinctly defined directly as a Chardee Kalla, a Power House of limitless Energy that is never depleted but is ever in ascendancy, i.e. always self-replenishing and exuberant, which only God, the primordial Creator can actuate.
The Awakening of Consciousness
:As already pointed out under the third attribute of Shabad above, Naam is also resident inside of man, but normally existing in an inert and dormant state. This can be awakened but only through God’s Grace and Benevolence, after we adopt a stance of total, utter and unconditional surrender / submission to the depths of the Divine within, during our meditation moments in meaningful worship. This is corroborated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as follows:
Page 268: "Asthir Bhagti Sadh ki Saran, Guru Nanak jap jap jeevai Har kei Charan" - meaning:

"The highest form of meditation (Bhagti) is carried out by completely surrendering oneself to God. Guru Nanak liveth by worshipping submissively in a totally surrendered state".

Please note that "Saad" here does not mean a Sadhu or a Saint, but God Himself, and since God, the formless all-pervading presence, cannot have any feet, "Har Ke charan" also alludes to surrender in complete submission.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Page 754:"Har Ki Bhagti Sadh rung raatei, houmei vichoen jaallei", meaning
"Meditation (Bhagti) actuated by God is always accompanied by a feeling of ecstasy and a reaction (rung raatei) when the egoistic and other such self-willed tendencies are exterminated".
The Arousal of Surat(i):
When this all important charismatic commodity of the (Naam Kalla) is awakened from its state of slumber (Bisraam), it must leave behind in its wake, a tell-tale sign and an ecstatic experience. How could it be that when this great sleeping giant (Naam Kalla) is aroused and awakened inside of us, that we will not receive any sort of feeling and experience? Surely, we must! If inspite of our many holistic efforts, there occurs none of the prescribed experiences, as copiously described in our Sanctified Scriptures, then we can be certain that it has indeed not yet been stirred into the requisite - and much sought-after -awakening, variously termed as Naam Rung, Naam Rus, Naam daan (Gift of the awakened Naam), Naam Praaptee, Naam melai ("Guru Nanak Naam melai Taan Jiwaan, Tan mun theewei Hariaah") ?This is the last sentence in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji on Page 1429 meaning:
"Only when I received this Gift of the awakened Naam, can I be considered as really alive and living, resulting in my Body/Mind complex blooming in radiance".
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Page 279: "Naam rung sarab sukh hoei. Bud-bhagee kesai prapat hoei", meaning:

"The experience of the arousal of Naam Power gives complete peace and solace, but only the fortunate few can attain this high state".
The dire need for the "Naam Rung", the awakening in ecstasy of this Holy Life Force, is further emphasised in the next quotation which we regularly recite in our morning obligatory prayers, without paying any heed to its importance and, least of all, how to go about imbibing its Truth!
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Page 4 (Japji Sahib):"Bhareeai mutt pappaan kai sung. Oh dhopai nawai (naam) kai rung" - meaning:
"When our mind and being are polluted brimful by sinful activities, this is cleansed and purified through a vibrant stirring of the awakened Naam power (in meditation)".

It is only when the holy word (Shabad) within us has been stirred into an awakening that we are able to communicate meaningfully with the Divine centre, the Shabad Guru within us, which is the direct representative of the Param-Atma, the all-knowing aspect of our Being. He will then provide us with answers and solutions to any question or doubt which we need to pose to it.

The modus operandi of such sanctified and charismatic communication is through the vehicle of an ecstatic experience (Surat Dhun), similar to what we may have been used to receiving, in our usual Simran-Bhagti (Meditation) sessions. The more sensitivity we have been gifted to experience, during these mystical higher states of altered consciousness (Surat Dhun), the more accurately will we begin to receive the desired answers.

These could manifest into a variety of vibrant and dynamic modes, including physical, mental, visual (visions), auditory (Sunanaa), vocal (Akath Kathaa), Sensory, i.e. through all our other supplementary senses, which our body-mind complex is capable of responding to.

Through all these responses we assume the metaphoric receivership role of a Cheillaah. This is how the Master, the Shabad Guru, the motivating Naam Power within us, becomes the internal Guide and how our recipient and responsive aspect, assumes the Discipleship (Cheillaah) through the all important link of a sensitised Surat Dhun.

This is similar to the Guru-Cheillaah relationship, where the Guru is the Giver and the Cheillaah, the Disciple is usually the Receiver. We are then able to claim our high heritage bestowed upon us by the Creator, and thence, we do not have to seek any external Guru or Guide, because we have, at long last ,found Him resplendent within our own noble being. Then the search stops, for we begin to become recipients of bountiful blessings of the awakened Shabad, the Divine Guru within us. You may now turn back to the "True Translation" appended above, to grasp and comprehend its fuller meaning and thus appreciate its importance.

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ੴ / Ik▫oaʼnkār
Dec 21, 2010
Taranjeet Singh veer ji thanks for posting the article.

Veer ji since the author did not post the article, I assume you will be able to provide some direct or indirect elaboration. I am particularly interested in the following,

Until then, we will keep on giving only literal interpretations and providing merely academic expositions, thus inadvertently and ignorantly, misleading the masses. Such renderings and dissertations, when wantonly and egoistically continued, can even reach blasphemous proportions, which perforce have to be repaid in unimaginable and hellish after-lives. Hence, it is prudent to be mindful of our present inadequacies and incompetence’s and thus wait for the ripe moment when God, through His benevolence and grace, has eventually prepared us for such an onerous task of correct Gurbani translations.
I want to hear your thoughts on the highlighted. Namely,

  1. Basis of this statement (bold underlined) in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
  2. Basis of such statements (bold underlined) in SRM
  3. Basis of such statement (bold underlined) and reference to paying for what you do while living in some kind of after-life
    1. I assume re-incarnation or Yamraj is implied
  4. Basis of or description of after-life in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
  5. Basis of concept of Hell in Sikhism
By highlighting the above in the original article I assume you are like minded. Thanks for the curses if such has any place in Sikhism. How can one claiming to be learned make such statements. If this was at the beginning of the article any Sikh should just throw it into a garbage can as chain letter or junk mail.

This kind of mindset creates blind faith, dehras, exploitation of the followers, etc. If a well educated and very perceptive person can buy into this imagine the power of the technique in terms of the more gullible Sikhs.

I have other questions but let us first go through the above and I will pose those later. Look forward to your response.

Wishing Healthy, Happy and prosperous 2012 to all.

Sat Sri Akal.
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ੴ / Ik▫oaʼnkār
Dec 21, 2010
The author is Malaysian Retired Engineer head of our national Broadcasting Dept and has passed away recently.
Veer Jarnail Singh ji any comments on the article itself. Lot of top down type of talk and I could not relate to much but I found the language very disturbing. We all have styles.

Sat Sri Akal.
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Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Its Not the style jios..its the content..if you go through the Obituary will get my point. You will notice similarities with the Beas "content".....its a hocus pocus run around for the English educated Middle class lost and mired in MAYA..looking for short cuts..anhadd shabads to save their souls while they go on running the rat race and maya chase....almost the same "medicine" the Beas Guru dishes out during His own Ruhanne satsangs....My view....

prem judge

Dec 17, 2004
Veer Jios,
Every translation even by our most respected authors, is the authors own understanding
of the topic done with great research and dedication, yet no 2 translations of the same topic will be the same. Does this negate the value of the work? Coming to the article in question my understanding of the words highlighted in red is that it is aimed at the very gurus/deras who knowingly mislead poor simple masses, for their own selfish gains. As
far as curses are concerned dear Ambarsaria ji, far from it, as the author was a gentle loving soul readily hugging even his most venomous critic.

We are all on a spiritual journey of learning, whatever path we choose, be it uttering Ram, Allah, Waheguru or Lord, be it through reading of scriptures, silent contemplation,
meditation or numerous other ways. The end result is how we carry ourselves, care for others and His creation, what changes we bring into our lives and above all being able to
speak the truth, practise the truth and be Waheguruji inspired souls in all situations.

I have had the honour of beeing very closely assoiciated with Bhai Sahib as he was called for over 36 years, meeting almost 5 nights a week for spiritual discourses at his home during my early days into the spiritual journey. A CULT, no way quite the opposite as BS was totally opposed to these very gurus/deras/bomos and infact helped countless souls out of their grasp and put them on the path of "than than Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji"
and simeran bhagti. He brought us out of meaningless rituals, superstition and fanatical views, needing no gurus/masters other than the SGGS. BS spent some good 60 years in researching most of the scriptures of the world, travelling worldwide at his own expence,
meeting and researching most meditation systems and putting his stamp on Simeran Bhagti which he advocated and practised. The only mantar that BS advocated was the "Mul Mantar", recetation of this followed by simeran and also reading of the Sukhmani Sahib at times of need. There was NO secret mantars, laying of hands, blowing into ones ears or special initiation ceremonies, no none of these hocus pocus as Giani Ji puts it. Simerans were always done openly with all including BS if he was present taking part,
just like the rest. Yes there were many critics who implied that BS used auto suggestion,
black magic or hypnotism to create the special atmosphere, and feeling of Naam Kalah.
Wrong again, as I too have been conducting simerans where ever I go with the same
results and feelings even amongst those who have never done simerans at all. I am neither a hypnotist nor do I have, or want to have any supernatural powers, save the
blessings of Waheguruji. BS neithe sought guru worship nor allowed anyone to touch his feet, rather would give a loving hug to one and all. BS has stayed in my home for weeks at end on numerous round the world trips and I have had the chance to observe him at close quarters. He ate, spoke, walked and slept Simeran without any pretence. BS not only thought us Simeran, he also changed our eating habits (whoesome meals, no white sugar, rice and such harmful diets), fundamental views and much more. We would sit late into the night (2am) listning to Gurbani discussions, and he would be up again at 5am busily researching in his room. BS has singularly done more to spread the word of Gurbani to the world at large than all the organisations put together. There are numerous groups around the world of all races practising simerans today melodiously singing the "Mul Mantar" which even some of our very own shy away from. Not for money or fame , feverishly passing the message to all who sought, on many occasions puting his own money onto the hands of some needy soul.

To the numerous visitors who had the occassion to stay at his home, you could not find a better host, fussing around, making sure your bed was comfortable, then cooking up a most holesome meal with his own hands, pampering you with some delecious local fruits or some nourishing fruit shake. Which baba/yogi/guru would do that ? Most would be after the last penny you have, right. So where did BS go wrong? If one does not agree with his point of view, so be it, are we not all free to choose our own destiny?

For my part I have only love, humble respect and deepest gratitude to Waheguruji for
allowing us the company of BS all these years; he has left us enrichened, enlightened
and free from the grasp of manmat, deras, babas etc. BS has stood with us through trials of severe illness, financial crisis and much more without any condition, or reward; instead gifted us with our own SGGS Ji and numerous other books (Dasam Grant, Teekas,
SGGS translations, mahan kosh, steeks, etc) for our referance at his own cost. Note.
BS made us aware of the objectional parts of the Dasam Granth some 20 years ago and
go us copies so that we could read it ourselves.

I would be a lowlife unworthy soul if I did try and clarify this matter and I do so with total humbleness and truth, accepting or leaving it will not make any difference to a great departed soul, still it has to be done. Let us at least leave a departed soul in peace. All of Wahegurujis blessings for our onward growth peace and tranquillity. If ones needs more clarificatin please free to contact me. Guru Fateh.

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