This is the second part of the blog post and video titled “Is Gurbani Written With Grammar?” If you haven’t read or watched Part-1, I highly encourage you to do so before reading further. Click here to read and watch Part-1.
(If you prefer to view the video instead, kindly scroll down and click on the video link).
In this post, I will try to examine several questions, predominantly:-
1) Why were we never taught Gurbani with grammar?
2) Why are the translations we see projected in Gurdwaras at times make NO sense. (or should I say, “most times” it makes no sense.)
3) Which groups of Sikhs are proclaiming their viewpoint that our Guru’s placed the vowels (muktas, siharis etc) based on their whims and it means nothing?
I will attempt to answer the last question first as the answer to this question will inherently answer the rest of the questions too.
The questions is….
Which groups of Sikhs are proclaiming their viewpoint that our Guru’s placed the vowels (muktas, siharis etc) based on their whims and it means nothing?
If you can recall, in Part-1, I mentioned two individuals whose work on the first grammar based translation of SGGS took place from the early 1900s – Yes! Principal Jodh Singh and Professor Sahib Singh.
Even before these two great scholars’ work was disclosed, the general acceptance among Gurbani translators, interpreters and clergy was that its okay to ignore the vowels in SGGS entirely.
They proclaimed that the vowels (aungkar, sihari, bihari etc) were inserted by our Gurus and other composers based on their inner whims and that the vowels had no meaning.
These group of Sikhs say we (the commoners) should not try to make sense of the Guru’s writings either. Why? Because we (the commoners) are not educated in Gurbani. Therefore it’s best to leave the correct interpretation and translation of Gurbani to these so called “trained clergy” (gianis, parcharaks and kirtaniyas).
They claim that the ‘real’ and purest meanings of Gurbani verses have been passed down to them by the clergies before them for generations to generations, and therefore we (the commoners) should not question the clergies.
They say when we question the clergy’s explanation of Gurbani (eventhough the explanation makes no sense or sounds ridiculous), we create doubt in our own minds and in the minds of the people around us and that is a sin.
So exactly, who are these people proclaiming such? They are no other than the ‘sant deras’ and ‘taksals’. These groups have it in their interest to delude and keep the common Sikhs coming back to them because that is how they make their living. The lesser we (the commoners) know of the Guru’s message, the better for them and their ‘wealth-generating’ ways.
A second group of Sikhs are proclaiming that the vowels witnessed in the writings within SGGS are meant to be pronounced and there is NO such thing as grammar function in Gurbani.
They say every word within Gurbani has to be pronounced exactly as they are spelt.
If we take a look at just one line within Jup bani:
ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਚਲਾਏ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ (sggs 2)
What these so called “trained clergy” are trying to say is the word ਹੁਕਮੁ (hukmu) and ਰਾਹੁ (rahu) must be pronounced as they are spelt. Hukam as hukmu; and rah as rahu.
Sadh sangat, have you noticed? When reciting Jup baani, how do you pronounced these words?
Unfounded In Gurbani Dictionary
Now try looking up for these two words (hukmu and rahu) in a Gurbani dictionary, and likely you’ll never find it. Why? Because, these words do not exist in Gurbani. If you requested someone from this group of Sikhs to explain what does rah(u) mean, they would not know, because to them, it doesn’t matter what the words mean. As long as the words are pronounced correctly.
They belief that the effect and ‘real’ results of Gurbani are contained in the utterance and not in the meaning.
They proclaim that we Sikhs should repetitively recite Gurbani because the effects of the uttered word carries some sort of power which can eliminate sins and provide sustenance.
They belief Gurbani is a mantar and mantars are meant to be chanted. Bearing in mind, the concept of chanting and repetitive recitation is seen predominantly in the Brahmanical and Hindu ways.
Blasphemy Towards Our Gurus?
Some of our clergy have even gone to the extent of blasphemy proclaiming that our Guru’s themselves used to chant the ‘gur mantar’ and ‘mool mantar’ when there is NO evident of such claims found anywhere within the 1429-pages of SGGS or in Vaars of Bhai Gurdas Ji.
If chanting and repetitive recitation was important, don’t you think our Guru’s would have mentioned it? Something else to ponder upon.
They claim Gursikhs should partake Amrit, wake up in the wee hours of the morning (regardless how tired one is after a hard days work), take a cold shower and sit crossed legged for at least 2-3 hours and recite the five banias (Jup, Jaap, Tav Parsaad Sewaiyeay, Benti Chaupayee and Anand Sahib). AND for those who can continue, they should not rest and should do countless ‘mala japs’ (repetitive recitation of a word or verse using a rosary) before heading out to work. I’m sure you’ve heard of this.
Sadh sangat, I did this for many-many years. Blind recitation without understanding of what the baanis meant. And for the days I could not wake up, I used to feel very guilty. I tried making the lost time the next day but it was never the same. The biggest question I had in my mind, as I began to read Gurbani with understanding was, why didn’t our Gurus mention this kind of lifestyle (even once), in SGGS if it was that important?
Again, these methods of blind recitation and chanting can be traced back to the Hindus and Buddhist ways.
Culprits To Blame
What has lead Sikhs to fall for these absurd understanding and strange way of life is anyone’s guess but I belief it all stemmed from two main texts –
- Bhai Santokh Singh’s Suraj Prakash – a distorted text about our Guru’s and Sikhi ; and
- Fareedkot Wala Teeka – one of the earliest Gurbani translations that were done by the Nirmala sect (Hindu priests) funded by the Fareedkot state rulers.
The first appearance of the Fareedkot Wala Teeka appeared in 1883. Subsequently, all other Gurbani translations used this Fareedkot Wala Teeka as their basis of understanding, interpretation and explanation, even until today!
There is no surprise then why a huge amount of Brahmanical ways and views were placed within the translations in these texts. Gurbani was initially translated and interpreted by a group of Nirmala Hindu priests.
There is no surprise then why we Sikhs today belief in chanting, mantras, reincarnation, life after death, karma etc. It is no surprise then why we are prepared to discard the concept of grammar within Gurbani; not wanting to understand the true concepts of Gurbani with meaning but rather chant Gurbani repetitively and blindly.
Sadh sangat Ji, this concludes Part-2 of this series.
I hope, I’ve presented sufficient info here for you to make an informed conclusion that Gurbani is NOT a mantra.
Every word, verse and shabad within SGGS has a profound and deep meaning; which IF studied carefully (using grammar connotations), the real Sikhi concepts as intended by our Gurus will unfold.
Only after knowing what Guru Sahib is saying, one is able to apply the teachings of Gurmat in ones life. Understanding and then applying the teachings will surely bring about positive changes in our psyche and the way we live our lifes.