Sunday, 15 May 2011

Reading Bani Without Understanding

Gurbani and Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji

One day Satguru Sri Guru Har Rai Maharaj’s Sikhs inquired whether those who read the Guru’s hymns without understanding them derived any spiritual advantage there from. Guru Ji gave no reply at the time, and the next morning whilst travelling, on a level plain on his way he saw pieces of a pot, which had held butter. The sun was melting the butter on the potsherds. Guru Ji took one of them in his hand and said, ‘You see, my Sikhs, these are old potsherds, but when they are heated, the butter that has adhered to them rapidly melt. As the grease adheres to the potsherds, so do the Guru’s hymns to the heart of his Sikhs. At the hour of death the Guru’s instruction shall assuredly bare fruit. Whether understood or not, it has within it the seed of salvation. Perfume clings to the broken vase.

The meaning of this parable is, that whoever daily reads the Guru’s hymns shall assuredly obtain peace. And even though he does not fully understand them Waheguru will undoubtedly assist him.
Satguru Sri Guru Ram Das Ji Maharaj said, ‘The word is the Guru, and the Guru is the Word, and in the word is the essence of ambrosia’.

Satguru Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji Maharaj also said, ‘Waheguru will not destroy your labour’.
‘That is, even though you understand not. God will accept your prayers. God never in the slightest degree spoils a good act, so why daily repetition of our hymns should be wasted?’
The Guru’s questioners were satisfied and their devotion increased.


There will always be benefits if one recites without understanding. But there will be greater benefit if one contemplates the advice/meanings of Gurbani, and the biggest benefit is following the advice of Gurbani. That being said I think its important to make an effort to understand the meanings of Gurbani. We live in the age of information. There are so many dictionries, encyclopedias, discussion forums, where we can inquire about the meanings of Gurbani so there is really no excuse we can make. So we should take advantage of all these resources. When I first started to learn Gurbani there were so many words I did not understand. So I would look up each unknown word in a dictionary. Knowing the words in Gurbani helped me in my concentration. Even today I have a hard time concentrating when reciting Jaap Sahib because I dont know the meanings, but I have no doubts that Im still benefiting for following GUru Jis Hukum in reciting Nitnem. Guru Ji tells us to recite Gurbani so if we do so we well get benefits even if we dont understand.

I have also noticed that when I dont do much Naam Abhyiaas then the meanings and concentration of Gurbani become much harder. Our minds our pitch black due to the deeds of many life times. Naam Abyiaas helps remove this blackness , and when the blackness is removed the mind more easily soaks the meanings of Gurbani which is pure light . I think when we recite Bani and we dont do Naam Abhyiaas along with Bani then the ego kicks in which makes it impossible to connect to the illuminated essence of Gurbani.



Gurbani has two-fold mission. It is Guru-roop and it is Mantra-roop. Being our Guru, it shows us the way to Vaheguru. In order to fully understand Gurmat, it is imperative that Gurbani be understood but as per Gurbani, there are very rare ones who do vichaar on Gurbani:

ਬਾਣੀ ਬਿਰਲਉ ਬੀਚਾਰਸੀ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ਇਹ ਬਾਣੀ ਮਹਾ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਹੋਇ ੪੦
(Only a rare person contemplates on Gurbani and such person can do so only if he is a Gurmukh. This Baani of great Purakh is such that who ever contemplates on it, finds residence in real personal abode.)

The above reference from Gurbani leaves no doubt that an effort should be made to understand Gurbani. Another important thing is that this understanding should come directly from Gurbani and not from translations. In the beginning and even at later stages one has to refer to translations done by Gurmukhs but as one progresses spiritually, one finds that Gurbani itself reveals itself to the one who serves it (does paath with shardha). Effort should be made to understand words used in Gurbani and also an attempt should be made to understand the basic grammar of Gurbani. It greatly assists one in understanding Gurbani.

If one understands Gurbani, it greatly enhances the Vismaad one gets from listening to Kirtan or Paath. Without understanding, this Vismaad is hard to get.

The second function of Gurbani is that it is Mantra-roop. Mantra is such word or combination of words that if spoken with a certain maryada, yield results. It does not matter if one understands the meaning of Mantra or not; it still has effect. It does not matter whether one knows the nature of fire or not. If one brings one's hand near fire it will burn. Same way, whether one knows that water cleans one's body or not, it still cleans it. Similarly, Gurbani cleans one's inside. When one does paath of Gurbani and listens attentively to the sound of Gurbani, it has an enchanting and life-changing effect on the seeker. Just by listening to Gurbani one's sorrows and pains are removed. One becomes close to Vaheguru. Amritdhari Gursikhs know that when one does paath of Gurbani with maryada, automatically and effortlessly, the Naam Abhyaas from within starts. One's mind wants to japp Naam. This is the Paaras Kala of Gurbani.

Does water understand the meaning of Gurbani? No. But still it turns into Amrit when Gurbani Paath is done in its vicinity. What else is the Khande di Pahul? If we take away Gurbani from it, what is left behind? Just sweet water. So it is proven beyond doubt that it is the paath of 5 Amrit Baanis that turn the sweet water into Amrit. Water does not understand Gurbani but it still turns into Amrit. Our body too is 75% water. Would it not turn into Amrit, if Gurbani paath is done with maryada. In other words, the whole body would turn into Amrit, if paath would be done with Maryada. Can any disease remain in the body then?

The four pauris of Suniai in Siri Jap jee Sahib teach us the greatness of listening to Naam and Gurbani. Just by hearing it, one's sorrows are removed but the condition is that one MUST HEAR GURBANI. If we do paath and our concentration is not in Gurbani, then too the benefit is there but at a very low level. The full effect comes with listening to Gurbani, while doing paath of it.

May Guru Sahib enable us to do vichaar of Gurbani and listen to Gurbani with full maryada.

- taken from an e-mail

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