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Naam: The Language of Divine Power

Ravi M. Chopra*

* Scholar of Oriental lore. Address: 678 Marshall House, 25 Strand Road, Kolkata-700 001.

According to Guru Nanak everything in the universe is created by the power of Divine Name (NAAM) and without the Divine Name there is no way (The Japji, Pauri 19). He explains that all the visible forms are held by the Divine Name; everything takes its rise from the Divine Name and is again absorbed in it. The Divine Name is the essence of the four Vedas and is the repository of the True Reality. The Divine Name is synonymous with the Divine Word or Sabad.

God is the Ultimate Reality which has innumerable Names assigned to Him and the Names are identical with His being. There is no difference between His Being and His Name. The Name, Form and the essential Nature of God are the same; there is no difference between them ?all the three are conscious and sublime bliss by nature. Guru Nanak says ?lt;/P>

Hearkening to the Name bestows

Truth, divine wisdom, contentment,

To bathe in the joy of the Name

Is to bathe in the holy places. The Japji, Pauri 10.

It is also held by Guru Nanak that God is anaam (Nameless), yet He is possessed of infinite names: "Numberless Thy Names and numberless Thy places" (The Japji, Pauri 19). His Names are in consonance with His Attributes which are infinite. His Name is Truth (Satnam). His Name is Formless (Nirakar). His Name is the Absolute Creator (Karta). His Name is the Immortal Being (Akal Purakh). In fact, Guru Nanak took all the historical attributive names of gods and goddesses for the One Absolute Reality from the Hindu as well as the Muhammadan names such as Vishnu, Brahma, Govinda, Gopal, Hari, Keshava, Krishna, Narayana, Parmeshwar, Rama, etc. from Hindu pantheon, and Muhammadan names like Allah, Haq, Karim, Khaliq, Khuda, Rahim, Rabb, etc. from Muslim Holy books. All these names stand for the same God. To these Names of God more Names have been added by the Sikh Gurus, such as, Piara, Pritam, Mitter, Sajjan, Satguru, Waheguru, etc..

God belongs to all religions. He does not belong to any particular religion. This broader outlook of Guru Nanak led him to the conception of a secular God, and the rejection of a sectarian one. In the Sukhmani (Ashtpadi, 3, Pauri 8), Guru Arjun Dev affirms ?lt;/P>

Of all Religions the best Religion is:

To utter the Holy Name with adoration,

And to do good deeds.

However, now Waheguru ?Wondrous Lord ?has assumed a special significance as a name of God for the Sikhs as, for instance, Allah is for the Muslims, Ram and Ishwar for the Hindus. This development took place much after the formation of the Khalsa. Wahe-guru is not so much a name of God as the expression of the entire feeling of elation which man gets from an aesthetic experience of nature and of the cosmology.

Guru Nanak frequently uses the word ?lt;I>Sabad?in place of the Divine Name. Sabad, or the Divine Word, is believed to have descended directly from the Divine Spirit, in which the Divine Knowledge is embodied and is the power and potency of God Himself. Therefore, Sabad, the Divine Word, the Divine Name and NAAM are synonymous with the True Reality. Says Guru Nanak, in Asa-di-Var:

God created Himself

And assumed a Name

Second, besides Himself,

He created Nature.

Seated in Nature He watches

With delight what He creates. Rag Asa (SGGS-463)

The word ?lt;I>Sabad?has also been used by Guru Nanak in the sense of teachings of the Guru (Gurbani). The Guru gives the Divine Word, or the Divine Name, to his disciple and tells him to contemplate on it. By contemplation on the Divine Name, the disciple gets the wall of illusion removed from his eyes and he attains the state of bliss. Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Guru, says in Sodar-Rehiras (Evening Prayer):

O my friend, my divine Guru!

Set alight His Name within me;

The Name taught by my Guru

Is the help of my soul;

The praise of the Lord is my vocation;

Happy, most happy are the Lord’s people,

Who have faith in the Lord,

Who thirst for Him,

And with the gift of His Name

Their thirst is slaked.

If the Divine Word of the Guru remains in the heart of a disciple, it is believed, he is always free from any kind of fear, anxiety and pain; he remains indifferent to joy or grief and maintains his equanimity under the most stressful and trying conditions.

The Word of the Guru is variously known as ?lt;I>Sabad? ‘Gursabad? ‘Gurmantra?lt;/I> or NAM. Sometimes Mulmantra is used as ‘Gurumantra? The disciple who is attuned with God and repeats the Divine Name (Simran), reaches the state of Samadhi (absorption) and feels in the presence of the Lord. In Sikhism, Three different approaches to the Word, Sabad and the Divine Name are found, viz. Theological, Philosophical, and Mystical.

Theological: The Divine Name, or Sabad, is identified with the presence of God which can be realized in one’s own consciousness. All spiritual expression of divine knowledge by the Gurus is called ?lt;I>Sabad? or ?lt;I>Bani? In practical, religious and mystical life, each prophet or Guru gave a word, or a formula of words, which not only describes the divine spirit but also, when used for practice in contemplation, was instrumental to the complete realization of the Divine presence. Therefore, from the theological point of view, according to Guru Nanak, there are two types of Names: Firstly, there are attributive names of the Supreme Reality, such as, Hari, Govind, Ram, Haq, Rahim, etc. Secondly, there are names that are brought to the world out of empirical studies, observation of nature, or experience of great prophets, such as, we find the Name "OM" in the Upanishads, ?lt;I>Ahura Mazda?in the Zend Avastha, Tao of Lao Tzu, ‘Omkar?and ‘WaheGuru?by the Sikh Gurus. Omkar and Waheguru are immensely evocative and highly esteemed in the Sikh scriptures.

Philosophical: The Divine Name, Word or Sabad, as used by Guru Nanak, from the philosophical point of view, comes very close to the concept of the Logos in the ancient European Philosophy. It has a great similarity with the doctrine of the 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. According to the doctrine of Logos, 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.

The Logos is an aspect of One Being. It stands between the Absolute Being and the contingent beings. It stands in closest relation to God’s knowledge. It is the consciousness of God. Through it is universe brought to manifestation. It is God conceived as the self-revealing principle of the Universe –God manifesting Himself in the form of Universal Consciousness.

This doctrine of the Logos was further developed by the Egyptian born Roman Philosopher Plotinus (2050 ?270 A.D.), who philosophic rendition is known as Nous, meaning rational mind, according to which the Logos appears as the creative and form-giving aspect of intelligence. God is the Rational Principle, the First and the Highest Intellect and is regarded as the World Reason.

The Sufi Philosopher, Muhiyuddin Ibn-al-Arabi (1165 ?1240 A.D.), who propounded the doctrine of Wahdat-al-Wajud, Unity of Existence, relied on Logos, the Word, and combined it within his ideology, among other things, the Rational Principle of Philo, the First and the Highest Intellect and God as the World Reason of the Nous of Plotinus and the Universal Reason of the Stoics. Stoics were the members of the School founded by the Greek Philosopher, Zeno in Athens in 308 B.C. This School believed and taught that the wise man should be free from passion, unsubdued by joy or grief, and should manifest indifference to pleasure or pain.

According to Ibn-al-Arabi, the Logos is not only an aspect of the transcendent Diety above the Universe, but also the immanent Rational Principle in the universe. He also calls it the Reality of Perfect Man. The Logos becomes the immanent instrument, and even at times the personal agency, through which the rational creative activity of the transcendent God is exerted upon the world. So the Divine Name, or Word, is the Logos through which God creates. It is also the embodiment of Divine Wisdom.

The Logos is the creative activity through which God becomes conscious of Himself. This consciousness, according to Ibn-al-Arabi, reaches its highest point in the Perfect Man in whom the object of creation, that is, the desire of God to be known, is realized and it is in the Perfect Man that God knows Himself perfectly. The mystical aspect of the Logos is that Universal Principle which finds its fullest manifestation in the class of men coming under the terms prophets and saints. According to Ibn al-Arabi each prophet is a Logos which manifests a particular attribute of the Reality. The prophets are called Logos and they are united in one Universal Principle which acts through all rational beings. It is the active principle in all revelations and inspirations.

In Guru Nanak’s concept of the Divine Name, the Word, or the Sabad, considerable influence of the thoughts of the ancient European and medieval Islamic philosophers, besides Indian Vedantists, is discernible. Guru Nanak traveled far and wide. In his third odyssey, from 1518 to 1521 A.D., he visited the Holy places of Islam and, perhaps, went as far as the Anatolian Peninsula (Asia Minor). In his travels, he is said to have held long discourses with Muslim clerics and mystics of Mecca, Baghdad and other Holy places. Guru Nanak was providentially endowed with an open, deeply perceptive and highly analytical mind. During the discourses held with the Muslim clerics and mystics in the Middle East, it can be surmised, he could have got aquatinted with the philosophic thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, Philo and Plotinus of the Hellenistic schools, which had already been translated into Arabic and assimilated in Islamic mysticism, and of Bayazid Bistami, al-Junaid, al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Arabi and Jalaluddin Rumi, of the Islamic mysticism which might have aided him in the final formulation of his own concept of the Word, or the Divine Name.

According to Guru Nanak, the Divine Name (NAAM), or the Word, which he also calls Sabad, is the Cause of the universe. It is the way of His expression. The phenomenal world is the attribute with which God is described. The attributes of God can be found only in an outward expression or manifestation in the external world. Besides, it is through these attributes that God manifests His creative activities in the world. Therefore everything of this world is an aspect of the Divine Name, or the Word, to which it owes its existence.

The Word, or the Divine Name, is the indwelling revealer of God. It is the cosmic Principle, the cause of all Creation and identified with the Holy Spirit and Creative Transformative Power of God. A Divine Name is the Divine Essence in one or the other of its infinite aspects. The Divine Essence is the One Universal Substance and is identical with Absolute Reality.

In Sikhism, philosophically, an identity of spirit is clearly recognised, based on the concept of the Logos, between the Divine Name (NAAM), or the Word of God, the spirit of the prophets and Gurus, and the Divine presence or the Light of God.

Mystical: The mystical approach deals with the practical ways of contemplating on the Divine Name or the Divine Word. The first and foremost requirement is that the disciple has to take initiation with the Word or Name from the Guru. He is required to contemplate on the Name with the tongue and through breathing which is known as Sadharan-Jap, or simple invocation of God’s Name. Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Guru says ?lt;/P>

Gur satgur ka jo sikh akhae

He who deems himself a Sikh of the True Guru

Should rise betimes and contemplate the Name.

In the early hours of the morning.

He should rise and bathe

And cleanse his soul in a tank of nectar,

And as he repeats the Name the Guru taught him.

Thus he washes away the sins of his soul. [Gauri, Var, SGGS-305]

Guru Arjun Dev, the Fifth Guru, has well testified to the value of this kind of Jap (Jaitsiri, SGGS-700) and, it is held, that by this both body and mind become gradually purified.

The second stage for the disciple to graduate from contemplation with tongue is to contemplation on Name by breath alone without using the tongue; this is known as Ajapa Jap. This is also known as contemplation on Name in mind observing silence. Guru Nanak was very much in favour of this kind of Jap (Ajapa japu japai mukhi ram ?Bilawal, SGGS-840). In this Jap, mental concertration is fixed on the Name and the disciple feels he is in the presence of the Lord.

The third stage of Nam-japna comes with that of Liv-jap in which the disciple contemplates on the Divine Name by bringing together the body, the mind and the tongue ?all the three. Guru Nanak describes this Jap by a beautiful metaphysical analogy, which is : The body is the sheet of paper, the mind is the inkpot and the tongue is the pen, while the writing is the glory of the Lord. Such a disciple is indeed glorified as he writes the truth he contains in his heart (Sorath, SGGS-636). In this Jap, the entire being of the disciple, that is, his body, mind and soul, is concentrated on the Name and he attains Samadhi (absorption) and feels one with the Divine.

Thus we come to the conclusion that the Divine Name is the Enlightener of the soul and the Spirit of God. There is no power in the universe that is not included in the Divine Name. There is nothing that cannot be attained by taking resort to the Divine Name. Says Guru Amar Das, the Third Guru ?lt;/P>

For mortal man there is no other refuge but Thy Name

By love of the Name the soul can be made beautiful. - The Anand Sahib, vii.

There is no value that is more valuable than the Name of God. The Divine Name is a priceless wealth, it is eternal and True. It cannot be destroyed by fire, death or any other means.

Name is the potency of God, who, in the pre-creation stage, existed without a Name. It is the agency through which God Creates. It is the spirit of God and the enlightened and purifier of the soul. Name has created everything in this universe.

Guru Nanak emphasizes on the recitation of the Divine Name (NAAM) which stands for God and His Creative Transformative Power and is the most powerful and effective means of attaining identity with the Divine Being. For attuning with God, Simran, or remembrance, and repeating of the Divine Name, or invocation, enables the disciple to reach that stage of absorption where he finds himself in His presence; it is a simple yet very efficacious method for internal spiritual growth of the disciple and supplies inexhaustible stores of energy and vitality for concentration and paves the way for reaching the Lord ?the ultimate objective of one’s life.