Bani And Significance

Bani and Significance
What is commonly understood by Bani
Gurbani is the term used by Sikhs to refer to any compositions of the Gurus. Gurbani is composed of two words: 'Gur' meaning 'the Guru's' and 'bani' meaning 'word'.
Bani (Punjabi ਬਾਣੀ), short for Gurbani (Punjabi ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ), is the term used by Sikhs to refer to various sections of the Holy Text that appears in their several Holy Books. These Banis are also found in small Gutkas or Small Books containing sections of Gurbani. These Gutkas can vary from just a few pages to hundreds of pages and are used by the Sikhs to read these Banis on a daily basic. The handy size of the Gutkas makes it easy to carry them in a coat pocket or purse. Although the Gutkas have to be treated with respect and care, the Sikhs do not accord the Gutkas the same treatment as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib their perpetual Guru, which is treated like a living Guru.
· Sikhs carry the Gutka covered in a clean cloth and wash their hands before handling the Gutka.
  • One must not put any Gurbani script on the floor; nor handle with unwashed hands; read without covering your head; turn the pages with licked finger; or cause any disrespect to the honourable word of our Gurus.
· The Sikh normally would sit comfortably on the floor or if this proves difficult on a bed or sofa, cross-legged with the spine in a straight position in a quiet place in their home or wherever you are and then read quietly the Banis from the Gutka or from memory[1].

Nitnem Gutka

are usually recited daily by some devoted Sikhs in the early morning. Rehras Sahib is read in the evening and Kirtan Sohila before going to sleep at night. No exact time is stipulated by the Guru for the reciting of the Banis and it is left to the individual. However, the morning Banis are normally read early in the morning when the world is still asleep and it is peaceful and silent. One should endeavour to do this as early as possible in the "ambrosial" hours of the morning. Some devout Sikhs read their Banis as early as 4 am but most practising Sikh usually recite their Banis at about 6 am and it takes about 1 hour to complete their meditation.

Recommendation oF SGPC

The SGPC have recommended that the following 5 Banis should be recited by a Sikh on a daily basic: Japji Sahib, Jaap Sahib and Amrit Savaiye in the morning, Rehras Sahib is to be read in the evening (about 6pm) and Kirtan Sohila before going to sleep at night.
Whether one recite just one Bani or all the above Banis everyday, the Sikh must bear the following advice given by SGGS:
  • Gurbani is jewel:
  • Gurbani is the jewel, the treasure of devotion. Singing, hearing and acting upon it, one is enraptured. ||2|| (page 376)
  • Hold your mind steady while reciting Bani:
  • Under Guru’s Instructions, hold your mind steady; O my soul, do not let it wander anywhere. One who utters the Bani of the Praises of the Lord God, O Nanak, obtains the fruits of his heart’s desires. ||1|| (p538)
  • Focus one’s mind on the True Lord:
  • When the Lord shows His Mercy, He enjoins the mortal to work for the Guru. His pains are taken away, and the Lord’s Name comes to dwell within. True deliverance comes by focusing one’s consciousness on the True Lord. Listen to the Shabad, and the Word of the Guru’s Bani. ||1|| (p1277)
Respecting Gurbani

A Gutka is kept covered in a clean cloth. A person must wash their hands, feet and face, and cover his/her head before handling the Gutka. Gurbani should never be put on the floor or in a place which is lower than any furniture upon which a person may sit or lie.
A Gutka should never be taken to any place where any of the four major sins ("bajjar kurehats) are/do take place: sexual relationships outside of marriage, consumption of tobacco products (or any other intoxicants including alcohol), cutting or removal of hair from the body or consumption of meat or eggs.
Bani as per Sikh Encylopedia

BANI, Sanskrit van! (meaning sound, voice, music; speech, language, diction; praise, laudation), refers in the specifically SIKH context to the sacred compositions of the Gurus and of the holy saints and sufis as incorporated in the Scripture, the GURUGRANTH Sahib. Compositions of Guru Gobind SINGH comprising the DASAM GRANTH are also referred to as Bani. For SIKHS, Bani or the compound Gurbani (Guru`s ban!) is the revealed word. Revelation is defined as the way God discloses and communicates Himself to humanity. There are different views on how he does this. The Hindu belief is that God occasionally becomes incarnate as an avatar and thus communicates Himself through his word and action while living on this earth. For the Muslims the revelation consists in actual words in the form of direct messages conveyed from God through an angel. Gabriel, to the Prophet. Another belief is that God communicates not the form but the content of the words, i.e. knowledge, to man. A related view is that, as a result of the mystic unity they achieve with the Universal Self, certain individuals under Divine inspiration arrive at truths which they impart to the world.

Origin Of Bani

The Gurus did not subscribe to the incarnation theory "The tongue be burnt that says that the Lord ever takes birth" (GG, 1136), nor did they acknowledge the existence of angels or intermediaries between God and man. They were nevertheless conscious of their divine mission and described the knowledge and wisdom contained in their hymns as Godgiven. "As the Lord`s word comes to me, 0 Lalo, so do I deliver it," says Guru NANAK (GG, 722). Guru ARJAN: "I myself know not what to speak; all I speak is what the Lord commandeth" (GG, 763).

Bani : Revealation for the sikhs

It is in this sense that Bani is revelation for the Sikhs. It is for them God`s Word mediated through the Gurus or Word on which the Gurus had put their seal. The Bani echoes the Divine Truth; it is the voice of God "the Lord`s own word," as said Guru Nanak; or the Formless Lord Himself, as said Guru Amar Das: vahu vahu bani nirankar hai tisujevadu avaru na koi (GG, 515) Hail. hail, the word of the Guru, Which is the Formless Lord Himself; There is none other, nothing else To be reckoned equal to it. Being Word Divine, Bani is sacred and the object of utmost veneration. That the Bani was reverenced by the Gurus themselves even before it was compiled into the Holy Book is attested by an anecdote in Gurbilas Chhevin Patshahi. While returning from Goindval after the obsequies of his father, Guru Arjan took with him some pothis or books containing the Bani of the first four Gurus. The Sikhs carried the pothis, wrapped in a piece of cloth, in a palanquin on their shoulders. The Guru and other Sikhs walked along barefoot while the Guru`s horse trailed behind bareback. When the Sikhs suggested that the Guru ride as usual, he replied, "These [pothis] represent the four Gurus, their light. It would be disrespectful [on my part to ride in their presence]. It is but meet that I walk barefoot." "The Bani is Guru and the Guru is Bani...." sang Guru Ram Das (GG, 982).

Guru Nanak, the founder, had himself declared, "sabda, i.e. word or bani, is Guru, the unfathomable spiritual guide; crazed would be the world without the sabda" (GG, 635). "SabdaGuru enables one to swim across the ocean of existence and to perceive the One as present everywhere" (GG, 944). Thus it is that the Bani of the Guru commands a Sikh`s reverence.

Content Of Bani

The content of the Bani is God`s name, God`s praise and the clue to Godrealization. God is described both as immanent and transcendent. He is the creator of all things, yet He does not remain apart from His creation. He responds to the love of His creatures. HUKAM or the Divine Law is the fundamental principle of God`s activity. Man`s duty is to seek an understanding of His A ukam and to live his life wholly in accord with it. God is the source of grace (nadar) and it behoves man to make himself worthy of His grace. The Bani, which is Guru in essence, brings this enlightenment to men. It shows the way. Listening to, reciting and becoming absorbed in Bani engenders merit and helps one to overcome haumai, i.e. finite ego or selflove which hinders understanding and realization. In proclaiming the supreme holiness and majesty of God, the Bani has few parallels in literature. It contains one of the most intimate and magnificent expressions of faith in the Transcendent. It is an earnestly given testament about God`s existence and a sterling statement of a deeply experienced vision of Him.

Bani : A spritual key for sikhs

The Bani is all in the spiritual key. It is poetry of pure devotion, love and compassion. It is lyrical rather than philosophical, moral rather than cerebral. It prescribes no social code, yet it is the basis of Sikh practice as well as of the Sikh belief. It is the source of authority, the ultimate guide to the spiritual and moral path pointed by the Gurus. The form of the Bani is as sublime as is its content. It is a superb body of verse in a variety of metre and rhythm, arranged under thirtyone different musical measures. Besides its ardent lyricism and abounding imagination, it displays a subtle aesthetic sensitivity. The aptness of its image and simile is especially noteworthy. Its musicality is engaging. The language is mainly PUNJABI in its simple spoken idiom. The downtoearth, sinewy presence of its vocabulary and the eloquence of its symbolism drawn from everyday life give it a virile tone. The Bani constitutes the springhead of Punjabi literary tradition and the creative energy the latter acquired from it informed its subsequent growth and continues to be a vital influence to this day[2].

1. Shackle, C., A Guru Nanak G/ossary. London, 1981
2. Kirpal Singh,
3. Kahn Singh, Bhai, Gunnat Martand.

[1] The 5 Banis Japji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Anand Sahib, Benti Chaupai and Amrit Savaiye

[2] The Sikh Encyclopedia