Different Paths for Achieving Emancipation
For the achievement of Emancipation, in the history of religion, five different paths had been recognised in the world before Guru Nanak:
- Karma Yoga (Path of action)
- Jnana Yoga or gnosis (Path of knowledge)
- Bhakti Yoga (Devotion)
- Tapa Yoga (Asceticism or maceration)
The last two have been rejected by Guru Nanak. The first three have been mentioned in the Sikh scriptures and accepted with some modifications and varying degrees of emphasis. Guru Nanak has given a different path instead, called ‘Nam Simran Marag’ which includes the first three in their purified form. Karm Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga can be called the corollaries of the Nam Simran Marag. The Nam Simran Marag advocates the need of socially and morally good life of Karma Yoga, the psychological and spiritual knowledge of the Jnana Marag and emotional life in the service of God of the Bhakti Marag.
Spake Fifth Nanak:
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਉ ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ਸੇ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰੀ ॥ (੨੬੩)
He who medidates on the Lord, doeth good to others.
ਹਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਭਗਤ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਾਏ ॥ (੨੬੩)
Meditating on the Lord the Devotees are revealed to the world.
The Nam Simran Marag is, therefore, the most efficacious path leading to the vision of God.
What is Nam?
God is the ultimate Reality or Truth (Sat) which is neither material nor mental alone; it is the universal consciousness and .Supreme Spirit merged together. The universe is the manifestation of the Supreme Spirit. Further God or the Supreme Spirit is noumenon (Nam).
Noumenon means the inner spirit; it is an unknown and unknowable substance or thing as it is in itself. It is opposed to phenomenon or the form through which it becomes known to the senses or the understanding. So God is that Spirit or Essence which is called Nam.
In different religions God has been remembered by different names. In the Quran the names found are Allah, Khuda, Rabb, Maula. In Hindu religious lore God is remembered by the words Ram, Bhagwan, Gobind, Gopal, Narayan, Hari, Prabhu, Ishwar. All these names appear in the Adi-Granth. These words lay varying stress on different attributes of God. In order to avoid these differences Guru Nanak used the word Nam (Name) for God. Wherever this word Nam is used, it means the essence of God.
For meditation on God the Sikh uses the word ‘Sat-Nam’ or ‘Wahu-Guru’ (The Wonderful Lord). Guru means God and Wahu means wonderment. Guru Nanak was all amazement at the unlimited attributes of God which were indescribable.
How is God to be Realized under this Nam Simran Marag?
(i) Meditation on ‘Wahu-Guru’ or Sat-Nam’
The main plank of this Marag is that ‘as one thinks so one becomes’; think of God and you will develop the qualities of God. God is to be dwelt upon through Nam (His Name). One is required to meditate on Wahu-Guru, the Name of God but this Word is not to be uttered mechanically. It is to be a qualitative expression of His Personality. While meditating, His attributes are to be kept in mind. Only then the meditator can become like him. The Nam is a symbol that treasures within itself all what God is, all what the All-pervading Spirit is. “Mere mechanical repetition of Divine Name can result in a kind of’ numbed stupefaction that is as much below analytical thought as intellectual vision is above it.” (Huxley)
Spake Guru Nanak:
ਰਵਨੀ ਰਵੈ ਬੰਧਨ ਨਹੀ ਤੂਟਹਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਭਰਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ (੩੫੩)
But by mere utterance with the tongue, thy bonds are loosed not for thy ego and doubt leave thee not. (353)
ਰਾਮ ਰਾਮ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਕਹਿਐ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਤਾ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਵੈ ਕੋਇ ॥ (੪੯੧)
Everv one utters the Name of the Lord, But through utterance, one mounts not to one’s God.
When by the Guru’s Grace, the Lord is enshrined in the mind, Yea, then alone one gathers the Fruit. (491)
(ii) Concentration and unitive knowledge of God
Meditation helps in concentration of mind and realisation of the Reality. Huxley observes:
“Japam has effect upon the subconscious mind, inducing the selfless one-pointedness of will and thought and feeling without which the unitive knowledge of God is impossible. Japam will end by presenting God to the soul in the form of an integral intuition. By this the soul passes into Reality. It is helpful when the concentration results in such mental stillness, such a silence of intellect, will and feeling that the Divine Word can be uttered with in the soul.”
Spake Fifth Nanak:
Meditating on the Lord, thou mergest in Poise…Meditating on the Lord thou becomest all-knowing…Meditating on the Lord, cleans the scum of thy mind. (284)
Spake Guru Nanak:
Imbued with the Lord’s Name, one is rid of ego.
Yea, imbued with the Name, one abideth in Truth.
Imbued with the Name, one knoweth the way of true Yoga; Yea, imbued with the Name, one is emancipated;
And knowth one the mystery of the three worlds, And is ever in Bliss.
Imbued with the Name one converses truly on Yoga;
For he who is imbued with the Name practiseth true austerity.
Yea, the essence of true living is to be imbued with the Name;
Only then one reflects truly on Virtue and Wisdom.
Without the Name, all that one uttereth is vain.
Yea, they who are imbued with the Name,
O, Victory be to them. (941)
Sayeth Fifth Nanak:
ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਆਪਨੈ ਨਾਮਿ ਲਾਏ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਚਉਥੇ ਪਦ ਮਹਿ ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਏ ॥ (੨੮੪)
He, on whom is Thy Grace, is dedicated to Thy Name.
And sayeth Nanak: “He getteth Release in the Turya State (of Bliss).
So, meditation helps in concentration, getting knowledge of the Transcendental, cleansing the mind, living a life of Equipoise and finally living in tune with the Infinite.
(iii) Doctrine of Mantram is Rejected by Guru Nanak
Nam Simran Marag, is not synonymous with the Hindu Doctrine of Mantram. The Mantram doctrine as advocated by Hinduism is:
There is associated with each object and each element of Nature and with each organic creature, subhuman, human and super human, including the highest orders of deities a particular rate of vibration. If this be known and formulated as sound in a Mantra and used expertly it is capable of disintegrating the object or element of which it is the keynote, or, vibratory accord, or, in case of spiritual beings, of impelling the lesser deities and elementals to appear, and the superior deities to emit telepathically their divine influences. (Kapur Singh in Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh)
Meditation on Nam does not aim at acquiring such miraculous powers. Guru Nanak was against such an attitude because such a power, if acquired, produces ego that reinforces the dividing wall between Man and God and takes an individual away from Him.
Spake Guru Nanak:
ਤੰਤੁ ਮੰਤੁ ਪਾਖੰਡੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥ (੭੬੬)
I know not the trickeries of Tantra and Mantra, I only cherish my God with whom my mind is pleased. (766)
Thus the ancient concept of uttering specific words in a special way leading to some occult powers is rejected outright by Guru Nanak because it is not a path for realisation of God.
Instead in the very beginning of Adi-Granth just after the Mul-Mantra, Sayeth, Guru Nanak:
Who is True in the beginning,
True in the Primeval age,
True He is and True He shall be. (1)
Sayeth Fifth Nanak:
Meditate thou on Him, who fills the Universe,
Whose Name is uttered by myriads of creatures,
The Vedas, Puranas, and Smritis of Pure Word,
Are but the creation of the One Name of the Lord. (232)
Try to be in tune with God and submit to Him but do not try to become His rival by Matram by acquiring occult powers. These powers fill you with ego.
(iv) Asceticism (Tap Marag)
Asceticism as a path for Moksa consists in diet control, fasts, indifference to bodily comforts, clothing restrictions, abjuration of animal food and castigation of sex. The Yogis carried it to the extreme. They resorted to minimum vegetable food and maximum physical tortures of all sorts to the body. The clothing restrictions amounted to complete nudity. The castigation of sex amounted to absolute dismissal of all thought, words and acts connected with the sex and discarding married and family life. The ascetics lived in mountains, and forests away from the habitations. They became altogether unsocial beings.
Guru Nanak considers these ascetics as practical dreamers inept and inefficient He exhorts the people to live a normal life keeping a balance between the material well-being and spiritual uplift. There must be some incentive for life in this world without which the human species cannot survive. One must not become a slave of the senses but the body must be kept going. This path, therefore, does not suit the common man.
This Marag, therefore, was totally rejected by Guru Nanak. The Yogis were asked to lead settled family lives and build a healthy society. Nam Simran Marag was much better than this wasteful method of asceticism.
Spake Guru Nanak:
‘Some there are who repair to woods, composed in silence.
Some suffer pangs of wintery forests and freeze themselves like ice.
Some besmear their bodies with ashes and cleanse them not,
Some keep their hair matted to look wild, and look different from fellow beings.
Some wander about naked, they sleep not and doze not,
Some burn themselves in fire, limb by limb, and thus waste themselves away.
Without the Lord’s Name, their bodies are reduced to dust. (1284)
The Yajnas, the sacrificial fire, pious conduct austere living, the routine worship, subject one’s body ever to pain. (1127)
This Marag consists of rites, sacraments and ceremonials. In ancient religions the rituals were very predominant. The worshippers meditate on some symbol of a particular power. This method has several defects:
- If sacramental rites are constantly repeated with spirit and devotion some effect is produced on psychic medium but the symbol cannot be regarded as God. God is the Supreme Soul and His real worship can be done in an impersonal form because He is formless.
- If the sacraments are observed with the object of getting some supernatural powers and not for a union with God, then these become idolatry. Worshipping God, as anything but spirit, is undesirable because it causes delay in the ultimate union with God. The symbols distract the mind.
- Rituals require some sort of organisation in which priests dominate. The priestly class abuses these powers.
Spake Third Nanak:
Many ceremonies are practised,
But without the Name of the Lord, they are but woe and egotism.
One is bound by the fetters of Maya,
He can procure release only by the Light of the Guru, sayeth Nanak. (162)
Nam Simran Marag, therefore, is superior to all the five Marags: Karma Marag, Jnana Marag, Bhakti Maragy asceticism and ritualism. It is more efficacious and is easier to follow. It includes the essential and desirable elements of all the first three Marags. It lays proper emphasis on getting spiritual knowledge through hearing and learning, the conduct of the disciple through service, love for Nirguna God through music, and it gives a simpler method of realising God or Liberation. The method lies in meditation on the Name of God, keeping before mind His attributes and loving Him and mankind, and singing His praises. Everybody, may he be a worker, a peasant, a shopkeeper, a servant, can follow it. It does not require renunciation, asceticism or ritualism. It is within the reach of all. It is simple, intelligible, efficacious, natural and complete in itself. It is the greatest contribution of Guru Nanak to the confused people of India. By laying proper emphasis on its adjuncts—Hearing and Learning, Faith, Love, Service, Sangat and spiritual music—it becomes a perfect path, complete in itself. It can easily replace all the other Marags that have been in vogue in India.
About Nam Simran Marag Tennyson gives his own experience:
A kind, of working trance I have often had quite from by boyhood when I have been all alone. This has generally come upon me through repeating my own name two or three times to myself silently till all at once, out of intensity of the consciousness of individuality, the individual itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being ; and this is not a confused state but the clearest of the clearest and the sunset of the surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond words where death was an almost impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming not extinction but the only true life.
Kapur Singh says:
It is the discipline of Nam through which Sikhism seeks, not only to ensure the continuous renewal but a firm conservancy of the fundamental traditions of the great religions of the mankind and, in addition it thereby seeks to discover new experiences so as to apply them for the purpose of a new integration of human personality, such as would transform the man and his destiny on this earth.
Source – Trinity of Sikhism by Pritam Singh Gill