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Sabd Guru -An Introduction

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
A very good and new approach to the SGGS..our Shabad Guru..I enjoyed it so much I want to share it with you all.... Jarnail Singh.

Sabd-Guru - An Introduction

April 7, 2010 by Dr Dalvinder Singh Grewal

Year 2008 was very special for the Sikhs globally. We celebrated the tercentennial of installation of Holy Granth as the Guru of Sikhs. Sr Guru Granth Sahib, is alternatively known as Sabd Guru; the Sabd (word) as the Guru (the master). "Sabd-Guru" is not a terminology suddenly emerged.
The concept of sabd guru had been propounded by Guru Nanak, reaffirmed by his successor Gurus and finally authenticated by the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev once he compiled it and installed it at Sri Harimandir Sahib and venerated it more than himself. Not only in Sikhism, but in all other religions sabd, word, logos or its equivalent and relative terminologies have been given equal veneration globally, hence it has global significance.

Guru Nanak has explained sabd in Japuji and Sidh Gosht. In 38th stanza of Japuji, Guru Nanak describes the making of sabd: "Let continence be your workshop, patience the goldsmith, intellect the anvil and knowledge the hammer; let fear (of God) be the bellows, sincere effort the fire and His love the crucible wherein the nectar 'Naam' is melted and therefrom the sabd is coined." In this stanza Guru Nanak indicates the Sabd, Naam and the God on the same platform.

In "Sidh Gosht", Guru Nanak explains this in the form of question and answer. The question is:"Who is your Guru; of whom are you the disciple?" The reply is: The Holy Word is the Guru and by controlling the intellect with devoted meditation and I am its disciple. Here sabd is given the clear status of Guru.

'Whats' and 'whys' of Sabd, guru, sabd-guru; importance of sabd-guru and special place of Sabd-Guru for the Sikhs are very important to understand in this context.

Meaning of Sabd

In general, we take meaning of Sabd as sound (awaz), word (akhar), talk (kalam), name (Ism), essence (zameer), spoken word (bachan), exposition (wazahat), clarity (sarahat), expression (izhar), speech (taqrir), etc. From grammatical point of view, Sabd means a word, hymn or rendering. From linguistic point, Sabd is a composition of sounds. The sound means depicting a thing or a naad (tune). The Vedas tell us that naad brought into being fourteen bhavans or regions of the universe. In the Quran, it is mentioned that "kalma" created fourteen tabaqs or divisions. St. John, in his Gospel, has written that "Word" is the root cause of the creation.
In Mahan Kosh Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha gives the meaning of Sabd as:
1. Tune; Sound; Sabd (Dhun(i); Awaz; Sur)
2. Word; stanza; discussion
3. Knower of the God. (Brahm Gyata)
4. Teachings of the master (Gurupdesh)
5. The God, the Creator (Brahm, Kartaar)
6. Religion (Dharm; Mazhab)
7. Message (Paigham; Suneha)
8. Stanza (The stanzas of various saints)
9. The working life (karmic jeevan)
10. Meaning or purpose of the word (Vachya arth; sabd da maksad).​

Etymologically Sabd is made of two word-sounds: 'S' and 'bd'. 'S' or 'svai' means self, ('hau'+'mai' also combined to be spoken as 'haumai') and 'bd' means to kill, finish or end. Sabd thus means 'to kill, finish or end 'haumai'.

Guru Nanak has explained: "eradicating of haumai with Sabd in Sidh Gosht." He says: "In egotism, the world was formed; forgetting the Naam, it suffers and dies. One who becomes Gurmukh contemplates the essence of spiritual wisdom through the Sabd and he burns away his egotism." Eradicating egotism and individualism from within, and erasing duality, the mortal becomes one with God. Without the Sabd, the essence does not come and the thirst of egotism does not depart. The Guru's Sabd abides within the mind, and egotism is eliminated from within.
Haumai is the one which detaches the being from God. Haumai is the darkness which does not allow the being to see the God, the True Light and put up effort to be one with Him. It does not allow the being to meditate on the God. Guru removes this darkness of haumai with Sabd. Sabd thus depicts the removal of haumai, the darkness; it thus becomes Guru; gu+ru, the remover of darkness. It depicts the God, the Giver of Light; the Light that is God. Sabd, thus is personified as God, Guru and a being. Sabd has been so described in Indian literature. In English it is 'Word' and in Latin it is 'Logos'. However in Sikhism, it has very deeper spiritual connotation as compared to other religious scriptures. Sabd in Siri Guru Granth Sahib has the connotations as God, Hukum (Order) of the God received by Sat(i)gur, Guru Mantar, Gurbani etc.
The Holy Granth describes 'the Sabd' implicitly. Before the creation, sabd (as God) existed in its latent form and as such had no name. In this state, It was something completely established in Itself and was thus known as Asabd (sound-less), Anaam (nameless), Alakh (non-understandable), Agam (inconceivable), Akah(i) (unutterable) and Akath (indescribable). When it came into manifestation, It was called "Sabd" or "naam". Sabd when hidden was anaam; when in manifestation it became Naam.

The unwritten or sound sabd or Name is of two types: Firstly we have the attributive names of the Supreme Reality, such as, Hari, Govind, Ram, Haq, Rahim, etc. Secondly, the names brought to the world out of empirical studies, observation of nature, or experience of great prophets, such as, the Name "Om" in the Upanishads, 'Ahura Mazda' in the Zend Avastha or Tao of Lao Tzu. Wahiguru, Sat(i)nam and Onkar are immensely evocative and highly esteemed in the Sikh scriptures.
Whatever is spoken or heard, written or read is Sabd. It reveals the real nature of things and explains the hidden reality or mystery thereof. The Sabd is the revelation by God and the True guidance for a being to perform. The Word of God is a lighted lamp in the darkness of ignorance which helps in self-realization. It is in this context that the scriptures of various religions have the clear references to the basic common factor, the Divine Light as the only means for creation and maintenance of the universe and the regeneration of mankind.
Purpose of sabd is to reach a state where thought is absent. Its scope lies in not allowing yourself to be moved by any form of allurement. Its nature is stillness and its activating agent is wisdom.
Sabd has been the cause of attention in various religions in various word forms. Almost all the religions have accepted Sabd as pertaining to God in one form or the other. Sabd is considered as God Himself, Sabd as written word, Sabd as Name of God (Naam), Sabd as Sound, Sabd as Guru, etc. in all the religious scriptures, "Sabd" is stated to be the root instrument of creation, development and the regeneration of the universe.
According to the doctrine of Logos, as propounded by Philo Judaes, a Jew, who lived in Alexandria in the first-half of first century B.C. and first-half of first century A.D., the Word is the creative, actively expressed and revelatory thought and Will of God which is at once distinguished and identified with Him. It is the immanent Rational Principle in the universe, and it is the active principle in all divine and esoteric knowledge. The Logos is the Reality of all realities underlying the whole universe. It is the First Substance from which everything has its origin.
Gurbani has used Sabd as written as well as unwritten in the form of sound. Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the written Word while recitation of God's Name is sound Word. In the sound form it is taken to mean dhun, naad, bani etc.

From the theological point of view; Siri Guru Granth Sahib relates Sabd to 'The God' 'Order of God', 'Guru', 'Religion', 'God's word given by Guru' and 'Gurbani'. From the above the implications of Word are given below:

Everything from beginning to end exists in Sabd. The physical elements, the subtle and ethereal powers and vibrations, the causal seeds and essences, one and all are from Sabd and nothing but Sabd personified. We live and have our very being in Sabd and ultimately dissolve into Sabd. All the scriptures of the world tell us that Sabd is above the material and efficient cause and All-Controlling Power of the Universe. He is all in all Himself and revels in His creation by supporting it by Sabd. In speaking, in seeing and in words, one must remain immersed in the Sabd.
Etymologically the word Guru is composed of two terms-'gu'- means darkness and 'ru'- meaning Light. The Word Guru thus means from darkness to light or from ignorance to enlightenment. The term 'Guru' in Sikhism is not used for a teacher or a guide or an expert or even a human body but as a spiritual guide who enlightens the mind towards the God and guide one to be in union with the God.
1. Sweet forms of sugar (Gud, Siahkand)
2. to put up effort, to kill, to damage, to raise (yatan karna; udam karna; maarna; nuksaan karna; ubharna; ucha karna)
3. Originated from 'gri' root meaning to gulp and teach; Guru is the one who eats ignorance and explains the knowledge of the matter to the learner. (Guru sabd gr dhatoo ton bania hai. Is de do arth han; niglna te samjhauna. Jo agyan nun kha janda ha ate Sikh nun tatt gyan samjhaunda ha uh guru hai) -- (Mahan Kosh).
Sabd-Guru has a special connotation in Sikhism. Sabd is considered as Guru in Siri Guru Granth Sahib, Sabd and Guru are interconnected. The Word is Guru; the Guru is the Word; the Word contains all nectars. The Sabd is the Guru, to carry one across the terrifying world-ocean. Darkness is removed from the body by the light of lamp of Guru's Sabd. Sabd is the Guru and Peer; the serious guide with depth of knowledge; this is why the entire universe is madly seeking the Sabd.
Guru is the one who gives gyan through sabd and enlightens the true disciple, a Gurmukh removing darkness of ignorance and salvaging through Naam. When the sabd is itself considered as Guru, the repertoire of gyan, the enlightening and salvaging process starts with the Sabd Guru.
Sabd Guru Gyan Naam Naad Anhad Enlightenment Salvation Gurmukh. Guru Granth Sahib as Sabd-Guru
In the Sikh context Sabd Guru refers to the sacred compositions of the Gurus and the holy saints and sufis incorporated in the Scriptures Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh anointed Sabd-Guru as the ever living guru of the Sikhs. Passing of Guruship to Sabd Guru rather than to a Guru in living body form was not just a sudden thought by Guru Gobind Singh. All the Gurus themselves advocated Sabd as Guru and emulated it so. They considered that the sabd is the real guide, the guru and not the body which is merely an instrument to deliver word. A scripture too is an instrument of delivering the Word, hence is equally important. The essence is that the sabd alone is guru and not its bodily forms. The follower of the guru has to follow the sabd and not the body activity or form. One has to have faith in the Word and follow it up truly if one wants to get enlightened. These facts are available in Guru Granth Sahib and the other contemporary records.
All the Gurus considered sabd as the supreme path provider and the true spiritual guide. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru passed on Guruship to Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sabd Guru.
The Sabd Guru; Siri Guru Granth Sahib is thus the True Guru of Sikhs. All Sikhs are urged to follow the Guru's teaching as recorded in Siri Guru Granth Sahib. They must realize the spirit of Sabd through reading or through Sadh Sangat; the congregation of the holy Sikhs in the presence of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. If they follow the teaching of Sabd and understand through the congregation of holy; the Sadh Sangat, and mould their life according to Sabd Guru; they shall surely be redeemed. It is futile to hanker after the mortals who use the Sabd Guru to maintain their status and to gain power and pelf. The congregation of the holy (Sadh Sangat)is the instrument of delivery of the sabd.
Siri Guru Granth Sahib is thus the supreme religious Sikh scripture. It is now venerated as the printed Word on 1430 full scale pages and revered as Guru. These Words are the hymns of 6 Gurus, (Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur) and great Hindu and Muslim saints of the twelfth century to seventeenth century A.D. The hymns are in lyrical form i.e., in 31 chosen Raagas and 29 Raginis making a great variety of 70 raag-raginis but all blended in a harmonious way. The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib are natural and spontaneous. They have nothing ritualistic; whatever is taught is directly appealing and applicable without any difficulty. It is easily understood even by the commoner and practiced by all without any barrier of caste and religion.
Gurbani is a living rhythm imparted through Sanga. Bani in Guru Granth Sahib is the creative force of the infinite rhythm. It has the permutation and the combination and when recited it creates the internal rhythm of the body and the being.
The Words of Siri Guru Granth Sahib are all practical and lived through by the Gurus and saints themselves. They are soul-stirring, guiding to spiritual heights and attainment of the Ultimate. Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi found, "Siri Guru Granth Sahib as the matchless Divine Treasure of synthetic embrace of the whole global community and a paradise of spiritual harmony." Pearl S Buck studied the scriptures of all great religions, but "did not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as in Siri Guru Granth Sahib."
The power and projection of the sound current in the sabds of Guru Granth Sahib are in Raagas. These Raagas are a methodology of harmonious play of life force. The blessings of Siri Guru Granth Sahib nurture in trees, humans, bees and birds, demons and angels alike. It is a song celestial which sings the glory of the sole God in one harmonious melody from the beginning to end. Once the honeybees sat on a branch to create the honey and the tape of the Gurbani was played at a distance constantly. That beehive gave three times the honey of the other hives.
Guru Granth is matchless Divine treasure of synthetic embrace of the whole global community; Siri Guru Granth Sahib is a paradise of spiritual harmony. True integration, harmony and unity can only usher in, on a solid foundation of love. This love stands out beautifully, harmoniously, synthetically in its pristine purity and glory in Siri Guru Granth Sahib where the hymns-celestial of divine lovers of different religion, faith, creed are enshrined in one religion of Love, in brotherhood of man and in sole Fatherhood of God. So Guru Granth Sahib flows and glows the salvation of humanity.
Siri Guru Granth Sahib is thus about the universe and for the universe and has the applicability for people from all walks of life globally. This universality aspect needs to be expounded and propagated further so that the message of Guru Granth Sahib reaches all the corners of the world, is understood and applied to make the world a better living place.
Keeping in view, the above aspects, Sabd is discussed as in various religions in general and in Sikhism in particular in its various forms as God, God's Order (Hukum), and Guru. A Gurmukh's salvation process by the guru is also considered through God's Name (Naam), Divine Musical Hymn (Bani), Divine Music (Anhad Naad), Knowledge (Gyan), Divine Light (Jyot). Siri Guru Granth Sahib is thereafter discussed as SabdGuru - as a Word revealed, as Record of Origin of Universe, its history of Installation, Doctrines, Concepts and Theories, its Universal Relevance. Finally how the Word is expounded through Sadh Sangat and Khalsa are given out.


[1] jq pwhwrw DIrj suinAwru[[ Ahrix miq vydu hiQAwru[[
Bau Klw Agin qp qwau[[ BWfw Bwau AMimRq iqqu Fwlu[[
GVIAY sbdu scI tkswl[[(jpujI mhlw 1, pMnw.8) ( Japuji M 1: 8)
[2] qyrw kvxu ਗੁਰੂijs kw qU ਚੇਲਾ ((rwmklI mhlw 1, pMnw, 943:11)
[3] ਸਬਦੁਗੁਰੂਸੁਰਤਿਸੁਰਤਿਧੁਨਿਚੇਲਾ ((rwmklI mhlw 1, pMnw, 943:11)
[4] Mahan Kosh, National Book Shop, New Delhi, 1985 edn, p.46
[5] SGGS, Siddh Gost M 1, p.943-945.
[6] ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਜਗੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਨਾਮਿ ਵਿਸਰਿਐ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਈ
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਤਤੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਏ
(rwmklI mhlw 1, pMnw.946:3) (SGGS Ramkali M 1: 946:3)
[7] ਹਉਹਉ ਮੈ ਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਖੋਵੈ ਦੂਜਾ ਮੇਟੈ ਏਕੋ ਹੋਵੈ (rwmklI mhlw 1, pMnw.943:5) (SGGS Ramkali, M1:943:5)
[8] ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਰਸੁ ਆਵੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਹਉਮੈ ਪਿਆਸ ਜਾਈ
(rwmklI mhlw 1, pMnw.945 :1) (SGGS Ramkali M.1:943:5)
[9]uਕਾਸਬਦੁiiਸਆਹਉਮੈ iਵਚਹੁo(m 1, Mਨਾ 61:5) (SGGS, M.1: p.61:5)
[10] Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha: Gurmat Martand, Part I, SGPC Amritsar, Oct., 1983, p.131.
[11] Extracts from "The Path of Sudden Attainment" by Hui Hai : a scripture of Mahayana
Buddhism translated by John Blofeld: Method of Enlightenment by sudden apprehension.
[12] Basant M1
[13]ਆਖਣੁਵੇਖਣੁਬੋਲਣਾਸਬਦy ਰਹਿਆਸਮਾਇ (ਮਃ3, ਪੰਨਾ 35:9) (SGGS, M3, p. 35:9)
[14] Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Mahan Kosh, p.419, 421)
[15]bwxI gurU gurU hY bwxI ivic bwxI AMimRq swry (SGGS, p.982)
[16] ਸਬਦਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਭਵਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਇਤ ਉਤ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ (SGGS
[17]sbdu gur pIrw gihr gMBIrw ibnu sbdY jgu baurwnM (SGGS, p.635)
[18] Harbans Singh ( ed), 1992, Encyclopedia of Sikhism, , p.276
[19] Bhatt Wahi Talaunda, Pargna Jeend. As mentioned in ‘Guru Kian Sakhian’ (ed. Piara Singh Padam and
Giani Garja Singh Publishers Kalam Mandir, Patiala:1986, p.14)
[20] AwigAw BeI Akwl kI qBI clwieau pMQ[[
sB isKn ko hukum hY guru mwinau gRMQ[[
guru gRMQ jI mwinau pRgt gurW kI dyh[[
jo pRB ko imlbo chY Koj sbd my lyh[[
[21] Yogi Harbhajan Singh: Eternal Glory of Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Simriti Granth; Aduti Gurmat Sangeet Sammelan 2001: Jawadi Taksal, Jawadi, Ludhiana


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