Gurmat – The Wisdom of Guru

The word ਗੁਰਮਤਿ (Gurmat) is made of ਗੁਰ+ਮਤਿ gur=Guru and mat=wisdom, which means the Wisdom of Guru as described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion started by Guru Nanak in the fifteenth century in India. For Sikhs, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not only a scripture but a living Guru. Sri Guru Granth Sahib was bestowed guruship by the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh and he ordained that Sikhs should treat it as the eternal Guru after him. It contains the Bani (hymns) of the Sikh Gurus, fifteen Bhagats (saints of other faiths), seventeen Bhatts (bards) and four Sikhs. The Bani is written in poetic form in the musical genre, designed to be sang in the congregation.

Purpose of Human Life

According to Gurmat, the main purpose of human life is to understand and recognize its origin and to merge with the Creator.

ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥

O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light – recognize your own origin.

ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਤੇਰੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਾਣੁ ॥

O my mind, the Dear Lord is with you; through the Guru’s Teachings, enjoy His Love.

SGGS – Ang 441

Due to the forces of Maya (creation) – ego, lust, greed, anger and attachment, the human got disconnected from the source, the Creator. The human is attached to the things, Lord created for him, and became so much engrossed in the things that the Creator is forgotten.

ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਗਾਰਬਿ ਅਟਿਆ ਗਾਰਬਿ ਲਦਿਆ ਜਾਹਿ ॥

O mind, you are so full of pride; loaded with pride, you shall depart.

ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਣੀ ਮੋਹਿਆ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੂਨੀ ਭਵਾਹਿ ॥

The fascinating Maya has fascinated you, over and over again, and lured you into reincarnation.

SGGS – Ang 441

Birha ( ਬਿਰਹਾ ) – The Pain of Separation

At some time in life, the human feels that whatever I did in my life was just the false pursuit of happiness. The cars, houses, investments, relationships, travels, bank balances just gave some temporary happiness. The lasting happiness was never felt or realized. This causes dissatisfaction in life and the void of true bliss is felt. The pain of disconnect or separation from the Creator is felt. In Gurmat terms, this pain of separation is called Birha (pain of separation). But this pain only some blessed ones feel. Others, who are still engrossed in gathering wealth do not feel it.

ਬਿਰਹਾ ਬਿਰਹਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਬਿਰਹਾ ਤੂ ਸੁਲਤਾਨੁ ॥

Many talk of the pain and suffering of separation; O pain, you are the king of all.

ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜਿਤੁ ਤਨਿ ਬਿਰਹੁ ਨ ਊਪਜੈ ਸੋ ਤਨੁ ਜਾਣੁ ਮਸਾਨੁ ॥੩੬॥

Fareed, that body, within which the pain of separation does not well up – look upon that body as a corpse (empty and desolate). ||36||

SGGS – Ang 1379

This pain is not bearable, it is extremely painful. But in the above hymn Baba Sheikh Fareed says that if someone does not feel this pain, that body is empty and desolate like the corpse of a dead person. Its only after the feeling of Birha, the search for meaning of life starts. This is when the spiritual journey starts.

The Spiritual Journey

The spiritual journey is a lifetime journey. During the lifetime human goes through various phases or spiritual levels and will face setbacks, failures, frustrations, encouragements, advancements, sufferings, healings and much more. There are so many unknowns in the life that human needs the guidance to swim across the world ocean to meet the beloved Lord.

ਭਗਤਿ ਭਾਵ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਬਿਖੜਾ ਗੁਰ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਕੋ ਪਾਵਏ ॥

This path of loving devotional worship is very difficult; how rare are those who find it, through the Guru’s gate.

ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਜਿਸੁ ਕਰੇ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਭਗਤੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਵਏ ॥੧॥

Says Nanak, that one, upon whom the Lord casts His Glance of Grace, links his consciousness to the worship of the Lord. ||1||

SGGS – Ang 440

Focus on Self-Improvement and Moral Character

Before being Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, or atheist, we are humans. The Gurmat focuses on the human development and spiritual advancement of mind through learning, dialogue and practice, rather than on empty rituals and rhetoric to infuse the fear of God to silence the genuine human curiosity and questions challenging the irrelevant rituals and traditions.

ਪੰਡਿਤ ਇਸੁ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥

O Pandit, O religious scholar, think and contemplate about the mind.

ਅਵਰੁ ਕਿ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਪੜਹਿ ਉਠਾਵਹਿ ਭਾਰੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Why do you read so many other things, and carry such a heavy load? ||1||Pause||

SGGS – Ang 1261

The word “Sikh” means learner. A true Sikh always remains a learner and ready to learn, as everyday we face new circumstances, situations, challenges and we learn from them. Gurmat emphasizes on developing high moral character by acquiring the moral and divine attributes like selfless service, sharing, contentment, humility, integrity, fairness, justice, faithful relationships, being non-judgmental, seeing God in all; and getting rid of lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego, jealousy, slander, backbiting, prejudice and judgement. Instead of judging others and finding faults in them, the Sikh focuses on introspection and opportunities for self-improvement.

ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੇ ਤੂ ਅਕਲਿ ਲਤੀਫੁ ਕਾਲੇ ਲਿਖੁ ਨ ਲੇਖ ॥

Fareed, if you have a keen understanding, then do not write black marks against anyone else.

ਆਪਨੜੇ ਗਿਰੀਵਾਨ ਮਹਿ ਸਿਰੁ ਨੀਵਾਂ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖੁ ॥੬॥

Look underneath your own collar instead. ||6||

SGGS – Ang 1378

ਸਭਨਾਂ ਮਹਿ ਏਕੋ ਏਕੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ॥

The true teacher preaches that the One Lord is within all beings.

ਜਾਂ ਏਕੋ ਵੇਖੈ ਤਾਂ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥

When he sees the One Lord in all, then he comes to know the One Lord.

SGGS – Ang 1261


Every soul has the same origin. Everybody is same in the eyes of Creator. Hence the true path to connect to the Creator also must be non-discriminatory. The Gurmat wisdom is for every human being to pursue, without regard of color, race, gender, ethnicity, caste, educational or social status.

ਖਤ੍ਰੀ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ ਸੂਦ ਵੈਸ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਚਹੁ ਵਰਨਾ ਕਉ ਸਾਝਾ ॥

The Guru’s message is same for all – Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Shoodras and Vaishyas (the different castes or social divisions of the time).

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪੈ ਉਧਰੈ ਸੋ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਾਝਾ ॥੪॥੩॥੫੦॥
One who, as Gurmukh, chants the Naam, the Name of the Lord, is saved. In this Dark Age of Kali Yuga, O Nanak, God is permeating the hearts of each and every being. ||4||3||50||

ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਗੋਵਿੰਦੁ ਧਿਆਵੈ ॥

That mortal who meditates on the Lord of the Universe,

ਪੜਿਆ ਅਣਪੜਿਆ ਪਰਮ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੧॥

whether educated or uneducated, obtains the state of supreme dignity. ||1||

SGGS – Ang 197

At the time of Amrit Sanchar (Sikh Initiation ceremony), Panj Pyare (the five beloved ones), gives the Amrit (holy water) from the same batta (bowl) and imparts the Sikh code of conduct to the new initiates. They specially tell the new initiates that, from today all your castes, creeds, titles are invalidated. Everybody must treat Guru Gobind Singh as your spiritual father and Mata Sahib Kaur your spiritual mother and all other Sikhs as your brothers and sisters.

In the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship), the Sikhs are instructed to partake the langar (community meal) before going to the congregation in the presence of Guru.

ਪਹਿਲੇ ਪੰਗਤ ਪਾਛੈ ਸੰਗਤ ॥

First eat in line, then go to congregation

– Guru Amar Das Ji

The langar is not just a meal to satisfy the hunger. It establishes and re-enforces the concept of equality, love and brotherhood among all. Everybody sits in the same line regardless of the caste, creed, color, race, gender, or social status. During the time of third Guru Amar Das, emperor Akbar also ate langar sitting in the same line as the grass cutters and peasants.

Acknowledgement of Human Fallibility

In Gurmat there is no concept of Judgement Day, when all the souls will be resurrected, judged and sent to either heaven or hell forever. Humans are fallible. Everybody makes mistakes. If somebody made a mistake or a lot of mistakes, that person cannot be subjected to the endless hell. There must be some way to mend the mistakes and get back on the right path.

ਭੁਲਣ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਅਭੁਲੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥

Everyone makes mistakes; only the Guru and the Creator are infallible.

SGGS – Ang 61

The human life is the continuation of the separated soul’s journey through various life forms or incarnations in the great cycle of life. It is the opportunity for self-improvement and effort towards merging with the Creator.

ਭਜਹੁ ਗੋੁਬਿੰਦ ਭੂਲਿ ਮਤ ਜਾਹੁ ॥

Vibrate, and meditate on the Lord of the Universe, and never forget Him.

ਮਾਨਸ ਜਨਮ ਕਾ ਏਹੀ ਲਾਹੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

This is the blessed opportunity of this human incarnation. ||1||Pause||

SGGS – Ang 1159

Path of the Householder

The path of Gurmat is the path of house-holder. On this path the human does not need to leave the house or society and live in the jungles or monasteries. Normal social life is in no way an obstacle in the spiritual advancement. Before Guru Nanak, the spiritual paths were segregated into various paths like Yogi (yogis had twelve major denominations), Saniyasi (wandering ascetics, had ten major denominations), Jangam (naked wandering ascetics) Shaiv (worshipers of Shiva), Vaishnav (worshipers of Vishnu), Sarevarhe (monks) and different sects of Islam like Sunni, Shia, Sufi etc.

For spiritual advancement they used to leave the social life and live in the jungles, monasteries or groups of wandering ascetics. They treated the woman as the biggest obstacle in spiritual development. Guru Nanak had long journeys to various places of religious significance and met various Yogis and Saniyasies, Pandits, Sufis and spiritual leaders of the various faiths and engaged them in the dialogue to understand each other and explained them that Woman is also created by the same God who created the Man. They are complementary to each other and in no way an obstacle in the spiritual advancement. Gurmat teaches how to cleanse our mind and become the receivers of Truth. The householders, living in the family, laughing, playing, eating, enjoying, working can achieve the highest state of mind to get liberated and merge with the Creator.

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥

O Nanak, meeting the True Guru, one comes to know the Perfect Way.

ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੨॥

While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, one can become liberated. ||2||

SGGS – Ang 522

Accessibility of Gurmat Wisdom

In writing Gurbani, Gurus chose the people’s language rather than the scriptural languages of the time. The Hindu scriptures are written in Sanskrit, which is called the Dev Bhasha (the language of gods). Sanskrit scriptures were not accessible to all, as there were very few people in the Brahmin caste, who can read and recite the scriptures. The Islamic scripture Koran is written in Arabic and hence also was not accessible to the masses. Only few people could read or understand it. This inaccessibility caused the priest class to take advantage of the masses for their own purposes. People were misguided, exploited and suppressed by the priest class and many time incited for communal violence and riots.

Gurbani (hymns of Gurus) is mostly the dialogues of the various people with the Guru’s and Bhagats. The audience can vary from simple peasants, traders, farmers, or the highly literate Brahmins, Qazis, Mullahs. In Gurbani there are many languages. Gurus recited the bani (hymns) in the language of the people, who came to meet them. We can find hymns in Punjabi, Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Sindhi, and other languages in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Even though the dialogues were with the different individuals, but message was applicable to everybody.

ਪਰਥਾਇ ਸਾਖੀ ਮਹਾ ਪੁਰਖ ਬੋਲਦੇ ਸਾਝੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਹਾਨੈ ॥

Great men speak the teachings by relating them to individual situations, but the whole world shares in them.

SGGS – Ang 647

The processes, techniques, resources, milestones, and the steps required in the spiritual journey towards the Creator, are the subject matter of Gurmat. There is no messiah or prophet to promise the salvation. The methods and techniques enable the human to achieve the highest state of mind to merge with the Creator during this lifetime.


Tej Partap Singh

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