Getting Hung Up On A Word


Sep 28, 2017
Houston, TX

Sangat ji,
On occasion as I read the Hukamnama I find myself cringing at a particular word used in the English translation. The word is "slave". Maybe it's because I'm an American and our national history with slavery, but whenever I read this word I find myself forced further from anand.

On a philosophical level I understand it. Everything we do is hukam and its inescapable, but the term slave/slavery has such a connotation of malice that I find it hard to reconcile the concept. I've taken to translating the word to "agents" in my head, but it's a slow change to establish.

It occurs to me though, maybe this is another weakness of the English language. I don't speak Punjabia at all. Can someone tell me whether this literally translates to the word slave?

Daily Hukamnama – November 24, 2017


Look for what is, not what you think should be
Nov 5, 2017
A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”, by G Stein, means “things are what they are”.

If the SGGS calls one a “slave”, then it is simply “calling a spade a spade”.

The Banis (Verses) of the SGGS often use this term and the meaning never changes.

The Verse you refer to is the Bani ending ||5||1|| on page 525 of the SGGS:

Kaise pūj karahi ṯerī ḏāsā. ||3||
how are Your slaves to worship You? ||3||

A “slave” is the “property” of someone – Here, it is God, the Creator and the Owner.

A slave is subject to, lives and acts within the Commands of the owner (whether they like it or not).

The 2nd page of the SGGS says:

O Nanak, it is written that you shall obey the Hukam of His Command, and walk in the Way of His Will. ||1||

By His Command, bodies are created; His Command cannot be described.

By His Command, some are high and some are low; by His Written Command, pain and pleasure are obtained.

Some, by His Command, are blessed and forgiven; others, by His Command, wander aimlessly forever.

O Nanak, one who understands His Command, does not speak in ego. ||2||

My humble thought is that, to remain true to God, to understand and obey his Commands, one has to destroy one’s ego, in this life, before death.

For it is the ego which says “I don’t like being called a slave” (I should be called something else which is acceptable to me).

For it is the ego which disobeys the Commands of God.

Please do not feel offended for that is not my intention, my intention being to try to present the truth,which sometimes is difficult to swallow. I too, have an ego which I am trying to destroy step by step.

Page 32, Line 19
Kathnī baḏnī na pā▫ī▫ai ha▫umai vicẖahu jā▫e.
He is not obtained by mouthing mere words, but by rooting out ego from within.

(One of the many Verses in the SGGS which refer to ego).

As always, I am ever receptive to corrections from those who have enlightenment, for I am but a slave to God and forever a student, a Sikh.

Sat Sri Akal.


Jan 10, 2011
London UK

The word "slave" was originally coined to denote legal relationship between the one part an owner, and the other, property belonging to the former; meaning, slave is the property of the owner. This was the forerunner to the Master and Servant Act legislated to regulate relations between employer and employee.

The context within which slave is used by the commentators of Gurbani is not the legal but the theological perspective. Getting your wires crossed would appear to suggest perspective disorientation. If you were to move away from the social to the divine perspective, you'll see how the creative power within switching perspectives distils the essential elements of the spiritual human. Enabling you to exercise caution and control over your emotional architecture.

Respectfully, I'm obliged to remind the seekers that Sikh Ideology is founded on relations that are spiritual and not physical in nature. Accordingly, must they be read within that context to hammer home intended meaning and message. Words used to decode, interpret or translate native language to a precise equivalent will always fall short of perfection.

God bless you All