In today’s Shabad Kirtan Vichaar, we are blessed to sing and understand the meanings of this Shabad gifted to us by our 5th Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. You will find this Shabad on page 625 in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).
This Shabad has 2 stanzas with 1 Rahao.
If you can remember, in my previous recording, I explained about the Rahao stanza which gives the central idea of the Shabad. It gives the gist of what the whole Shabad is about and ties up the concept of the messages in all the other stanzas within the Shabad.
So, let’s take a look a look at the Rahao stanza first.
ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਨਾਮ ਕੀ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥
ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਈ ॥
ਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੇ ਤੇ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Har Ke Naam Ki Vedeayii.
Aath Peher Gun Gayee,
Gur Purey Te Payee. (SGGS 625)
So, whenever we see the word Naam, remember it means Divine Virtues. Guru Ji is telling us to remember the creator’s virtues which are also within us. If there is any greatness, then the greatness is in His virtues.
So, how must we remember His virtues?
Guru Ji says
ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਈ ॥
Aath Peher Gun Gayee
If we take the literal meaning, then it’s going to be pretty difficult to do anything in life except you’ll need to make yourself completely useless, sit somewhere and start singing or chanting 24 hours a day. No one can do this and neither does Guru Ji wants us to this too.
I’m not saying singing or doing kirtan is wrong or bad. I’m just saying this concept has been misconstrued by many. Even the translators of Gurbani have got it wrong. Here are TWO (2) translations which you will find commonly out there:
- Professor Sahib Singh
ਅੱਠੇ ਪਹਿਰ ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਸਿਫ਼ਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ ਦੇ ਗੀਤ ਗਾਣੇ
Professor Sahib Singh translated it as 24 hours a day one is to sing the praises of God.
- Sant Singh Khalsa MD
Twenty-four hours a day, I sing His Glorious Praises.
Both of these translations are inaccurate and only talks about the literal meaning of “gun gayee” as singing. But the shabad is beyond its literal sense.
We also probably heard this from several Sikh groups proclaiming that they know Sikhi better than the rest. They say one must make it a point to sing His praises (literally sing) for 24-hours (which they themselves can’t do).
They also say, if we aren’t able to do that, then we are less fortunate. They translated this concept literally and made others around them feel guilty for not being able to sing His praises 24-hours a day. They proclaim they are better and more pious than the rest because even though they can’t sing and the rest can’t.
So, how do we understand this verse beyond its literal meaning? How does one remember God 24 hours a day and what does Guru Ji actually mean?
The answer is within the preceding lines of this Shabad.
ਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੇ ਤੇ ਪਾਈ ॥
Gur Purey Te Payee
The understanding, wisdom and knowledge on how to remember God and His divine virtues at all times is obtained ONLY from the wisdom of a perfect Guru (Shabad Guru).
So, in the following verse Guru Ji explains…
ਜਿਤੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਇਆ ॥
Jit Parbrahm Chit Aiya.
Guru Ji says,
The true way of remembrance of God, is when He resides in our conscious mind. (chit aiya).
Let me share with you an example to make this concept even clearer.
Say, Ajit Kaur is a working mom. She works in the office and she has a 3-year-old baby whom she’s left at home with the maid. Despite Ajit Kaur being away physically from her child, she is constantly in remembrance and thinking about the baby.
Hoping and praying that the baby is safe and nothing untowardly happens. She is still working, doing her chores etc but the mind is affixed to her baby.
Consciously and subconsciously putting ones mind onto something. It is something that one can never forget even if they tried. It is beyond the senses. It is beyond memory.
In the next line, Guru Ji says…
ਸੋ ਘਰੁ ਦਯਿ ਵਸਾਇਆ ॥
So Ghar Dayee Vesayiaa
Realize the compassionate creator within.
‘Dayee’ comes from the word ‘Dayaal’, meaning compassionate or kind hearted. Who is compassionate? Almighty. This is a virtue which we need to consciously be aware and realize within us. Because the Creator lives within us. We all have this embedded in us too. It is just that we haven’t made a conscious effort to realize it.
So, now I’m sure we can all understand this concept even better. If one is to remember God in this way, it makes more sense, doesn’t it?
Whenever you see the word ‘Dayee’ ਦਯਿ the pronunciation of the word will always be ‘Dayee’ regardless if there is a sihari before the character yeya, aunkar or Bihari or if there is no syllable at all (mukta). The pronunciation will still sound as ’Dayee’.
You might be wondering, so why do you need to religiously recite Gurbani or do ‘Nitnem’? If you have a compassionate heart , isn’t that enough?
Of course, if you are compassionate, that is good, but compassion is just one of God’s virtues. Within our mind, we have many vices (kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, ahankaar, chuglee, nindia, eerkha (jealousy) etc.) We need to address these vides and little by little, get rid of them or else other Godly virtues will no have no place to reside.
It is an ongoing effort of fighting vice against virtues. It is a fight within the mind to renounce evil thoughts and to replace them with good positive thoughts (virtues). When we recite Gurbani and shabad, the scriptures reminds us of what we’re supposed to do. That’s why it helps to recite (with understanding) daily.
But, having said that, do note, blind recitation and chanting is fruitless. We need to STOP doing things blindly! We are to do our duties and fulfil our responsibilities as a householder and not do what the yogis and pujarees have taught us to do.
Moreover, sitting down to read Gurbani religiously maybe required INITIALLY when we’re young to discipline the mind and to create the right habits but once you’ve surpassed that stage, you can consciously remember Him ‘chit ayaa’ throughout the day, at all times.
How can we achieve this? By first knowing the wisdom of the creator (via ‘Naam’ – divine virtues) and then living according to that knowledge, day in day out. This is what ‘Aath Peher Gun Gayee’ truly means. We need to look beyond the literal meaning.
In the next stanza, Guru Ji says…
ਸੁਖ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਤਾ ਸਹਸਾ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਟਾਇਆ ॥੧॥
Sukh Sagar Gur Paiya. Ta Sehsa Sagal Metaiya
So, what happens when one is able to remember God at all times? Guru Ji says, we will receives TWO outcomes.
One; we will attain true bliss and happiness (Sukh Sagar). Second; we will be able to eradicate worrisome, fear, doubt completely (Sagal Metaiya) from within.
Next, Guru Ji says…
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਅਕਥ ਕਹਾਣੀ॥ਜਨ ਬੋਲਹਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਾਣੀ॥
Prabh Ki Akath Kehani. Jan Boleh Amrit Bani.
To describe God is beyond words truly (Akath). No story (Kehani) can truly and satisfyingly depict God in its entirety. But those who are consciously imbued in remembrance (chit), they are the ones (Jan – the loving devotees) and whatever they speak of is truth (Jan Boley Amrit Bani).
In the last stanza, Guru Ji says…
ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸ ਵਖਾਣੀ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪੂਰੇ ਤੇ ਜਾਣੀ ॥੨॥੨॥੬੬॥
Nanak Das Vekhani. Gur Puray Te Jaani.
Fifth Nanak (Guru Arjan Dev Ji) says, I’m telling you this based on my own experience (Vekhani) that I have attained and learnt about this Truth divine knowledge from my perfect Guru (Gur Purey Te Jaani).
So, the message we need to grasp from this Shabad is clear.
We need to live our life’s in such a way that we are able to consciously remember the Creator. Not literally sitting somewhere and chatting or singing Kirtan 24hours a day. This is not possible. We need to become aware of the Creator’s divine virtues from within us.
Remember Ajit Kaur’s story. We need to be in constant remembrance of the Creator just like how a mother is in constant remembrance of her child despite being at work.
We must understand that Guru Nanak’s religion is about – Responsibilities. We must do whatever necessary to fulfil our responsibilities in this world while in constant remembrance of the Creator.
May we sing in glory of the Almighty by first realizing His virtues as the highest greatness (Vedeayii).
Guru wants us to become ‘Das’ (true devotees). Ones who is able to cleanse the filth of the mind and get rid of evil thoughts and desires so that we can realize the divine’s virtues – one of being compassion (ghar dayee vesaiyaa).
When we begin to feel compassionate, when we are kind hearted, then we are truly praising God. All else is fake pretense. We need to lift ourselves up from falsehood, inculcate His divine virtues and uplift our lifes.
Remember! God is in the form of divine virtues (naam). To incorporate His virtues is to truly praise and remember Him.
All Gurbani-English translation is done by the author based on the author's understanding and Gurbani Framework.