Nam and Simrin
As ‘Guru Prasad’ is a whole phenomenon with the Guru, so Nam and Simrin in the Guru’s house are laws of being. The embodied God has a name and form. Nothing can be without Him. Word is also form. Sound too is of the Form.
These words – Nam and Simrin – are the corner – stone of the gospel of the Bhaktas of medieval India. If the words mean exactly what they mean to them, then Sikhism, in this respect, would turn out to be nothing but a kind of mystic reverie which, in its ecstasy, seeks absorption into the Infinite, as a peace that shuts itself up and shrivels up evidently in all ordinary practice to a mere dead concept of – all is one. It would mean a modification of the doctrines of Yoga which are condemned by all the Guru with great vehemence. The Nam mutterers roam by the thousand in yellow robes on the banks of the Jummna and Ganga even now to no purpose. Such peace ceases to be creative. Creativeness being the only critical test which differentiates living peace from dead peace, the Gurus did not mean by Nam and Simrin what these would signify in Brahminism. With the Guru Nam and Simrin is assuredly no attempt to die in the formless unknown Infinite, but is the peopling of the void with a thousand forms. It is living in a paradise of Beauties that subsist in name and form, by the Name.
“Whose Name”? “Simrin” – Remembrance of what? The Japa of Pranava or the repetition of OM as in the Upanishads has been the process of Simrin. The ancient Simrin has been the applied form of the Brahminical philosophy of the Absolute, and its end was a mental abstraction which ended in a so-called Brahmgyani on whom all the opposites had lost their effects and who was not embodied in action, an embodiment of uncreative peace of being. The springs of all action, thought and feelings, were allowed to get rusted and a state of bliss was reached which looked at life in a dazed way. This led the Hindu to look at his navel, expecting the whole universe to spring from there. It. has not yet sprung. Thousands of names for God have been invented by the Hindus. And the process was in full activity before and after Guru Nanak. It had sunk deep into all the theological expositions of the Brahminical lore, that the mere muttering of names grings merit. The indolent people, having had no strength left in them for noble action, took to reciting names and called this meaningless muttering the end of all religious effort. In a few well-directed cases, it might have led to the development of some concentration, but as the whole process was alloyed with fundamental spiritual inanity, the results so far have been throughout wholly disastrous. Bhai Guru Das traces the kindship of ages upto the Sikh period of the true process of Nam and Simrin, but he says that its full development and true significance came with Guru Nanak. In different ages only the few attained to the intensive spirituality of Nam. Nam is inspiration, not a mechanical sadhana, or effort to be what one cannot be without inspiration. Yoga and its process may yield some strange accomplishment, but accomplishments, however, extraordinary, do not belong to the essential beauty of the soul.
It goes without saying that Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru should most of all, understand the message of Guru Nanak. If anyone could rightly interpret the language of Guru Granth, it was he. And undeniably so, because it was he, who after what interpretation of it he gave to the disciples called upon the latter to worship Guru Granth as his successor. He enthroned the Word, he crowned the song of the Guru as the King Eternal of the Khalsa. There is a soul in the great anthems of man, and the song of the, Guru is he himself speaking to us, disciples, from a myriad throats. Simrin is more or less a spiritual planetary system of divine rememberance and inspiration. Jesus Christ cannot die, nor Mary, nor Mary Magdalene. They are living much more than they could live here. To feel that those spiritual words of theirs are at our back, they watch us, and to have a spontaneous memory of them as we have of absent friends ‘and relatives is Nam and Simrin in the spiritual sense, in which Guru Nanak uses these words. To have the consciousness of the Heavens at our back is to live in Nam.
In these dark regions of the spirit-world live all the desire-bound beings, who do not let man go safe beyond. In these dark regions are the slums of those who have violated their purity. Here is man, self-fettered by his own violent deeds which have been suicidal to him in as much as they created a “curvature” in his soul, and he cannot be freed even after physical death. Unless he has by luck been introduced to the higher regions of absolute freedom, man rots in his own desires for centuries, in his own violent crimes, in his own filth and mire of sin that sticks to him even beyond death. A Sikh saint of Simrin (whom I have seen) told us one day that there are souls that by their own heaviness sink into the earth; others live on its surface. Very few rise up and they are caught by, their earthly relatives who died before them-mothers and fathers and uncles and grandfathers. Then there are men-gurus, the mental hypnotists and charlatans who crushed men here by their mental power. Many a soul like that of “Lilith” flutters like birds caught in the noose of someone’ s mental powers. Many souls are I rotting in the eternal prisons of unillumined dungeons of the minds of those occults, divines, those who passed as great saviours of men, by the excitement of their intellect here on earth. Both masters and disciples are fettered to each other. And there are innumerable soul-worlds where many such live. The Yogis who make on earth tremendous efforts to be something : extraordinary, live eternal in their own little cocoons.
They have no peace, they have no power. After death, they come to know that their best religions and best efforts were their undoing. They become prisoners of the ego.
Higher, still higher; far, far away (to use this relative language of ours) are the regions of freedom where the Guru lives, where the Ten Gurus as Ten solar systems still shine. And men who love them as their personal friends, as fathers, as guides, as gods, whatever the subjective relation one might find suitable for self-culture, provided the feeling is real and sincere, are but earning themselves a passage to that great kingdom of freedom-love, joy and song after death, aye before death. This spontaneous relationship with the great is Nam and Simrin of the Guru; it is inspiration of attachment to those stars. With a similar madness and inspiration as came once to the dreamy, The Maid of Orleans who actually heard voices of angles, without the spiritual gift of the prophet Muhammad, without the visionary poetic sensibility of Dante, with- out the intensity of an Hanuman or a Prahalad, without the majesty and glory of a Chaitanya’s emotion for Krishna, with which he throwaway the idol of Krishna from the Hindu sanctuary and sat himself in the place of the stone-idol; without the devotion of a St. Theresa and without the full resolution to charge and scale the higher heights with the will of Napoleon, it is idle to think of the cosmic process of Nam and Simrin of Guru Nanak. It is unimaginable by uninspired beings. It cannot be a wearisome superstition to the uninitiated. Without this cosmic Guru-parshad religion, in spite of centuries of practice is tyranny.
Here is how Guru Gobind Singh interprets Guru Nanak in living words of clashing steel, shining sabres, and in the elevated fearless accents of the Universal dissolution of all that had gone before. Guru Gobind Singh starts a new world, a new Earth, a new Sky in his great epics. He wants the lightning to speak for him, the thunder to give his message, the floods of his soul to destroy all and to create again and afresh the natural manhood and equally supernatural natural Godhood of man.
Now there must be nothing in Guru Granth which should contradict this spirit of the Tenth Guru. And if the traditional meaning of words as the learned scholars both Hindu and Sikh, gave them is given, there is hardly what brings out this spirit. To bring in archaic, dead, non-creative Sanskrit philosophy and Brahminical mythology and all the cock and bull stories as to how the universe was made, what is God, what is the beginning and end of this world, is assuredly to go against the undefinable spirit of music that sublimates life out of dead matter, the music which pervades the Guru’s Song. The music of that Great Symphony of this Guru cannot be philosophized over in any particular manner.
Thus the Guru’s “Nam” is the supernaturally natural function of a poetical genius who though in body, is at all times of day and night under the influence of the higher.. Soul-worlds of Freedom. It is a state of mind akin to the rapturous state of Swedenborg; it is a state of mind which came to the prophet Muhammad, it is that remembrance in which Christ remembered the “Father in Heaven” in the Son of Man. It is the state, omniscient state of a Prophet’s consciousness. It is the pure subjectivity of love bursting up under the sole and invisible spiritual guidance from below the crusts of earthiness, from under the hard conditions of earthly life. The Sikh Saint of Simrin feels he is continuously and inwardly raised above the gross worlds of filth and dirt and desire and self, and he feels as light as if he had no body. The physical efforts of this state of mind are marvellous. He finds in himself, in his head above his forehead, a pool of nectar-his eyes are always pulled upward by this continuous inebriation. His inner and true religion is this continuous inebriation; this is His Nam and Simrin. The breezes of Heaven keep gently blowing on that inner Amritsar of his. He is perfectly healthy when this magnetic attraction is on, but if anything happens to upset this balance, he loses power. When he is in this self-centre where so to say, the souls of the Regions of spiritual Freedom fill him with Grace, his wishes are kinetic. He can best do good to man from there. He can always do more from there than by running out of his centre and rendering physical help or mental sympathy. His altruism is of the spirit. Those who are of broken spirits, those who with all mental and physical self-expansion are despondent, are made whole by his wishes they become radiant with faith. All poets who have been so gloriously pessimistic were mental giants. They were sublimed Excitements, they had not yet realised the soul, the Nam, to which realization Guru Nanak points, without which he says life is but a process of burning.
Mere children who are happy and innocent are greater than the poets of the earth in “spirituality” of the guru’s Grace. “His devotees are in unbroken bliss” (Japuji). Ask such a one. He would not discourse on the why and wherefore, but would just reply, “1 live in a state of life which is indescribable and when I live there, I feel I am in perennial contact with a world I cannot describe, and in this stream like contact I feel I am alive. Once broken from there, I feel I am dead”. And he would “tell you that “It cannot be taught, it cannot be described.” Those whom “HE” favours, the lucky ones, get it. This is the message of Guru Granth. The discipleship is wholly of soul-consciousness. Nam and Simrin thus is this spontaneous condition of self-consciousness fully concentrated in the silvery stream of inspiration that united him with those masters who become his body and mind. He feels helpless, all is as He wills. The continuousness of his inspiration from on high takes this final form of love on earth. Spiritual character of man is the mere effect of this inflow of inspiration. It is as spontaneous and creative a surrender as of woman to man. And it has its levels of rise and fall. All living inspiration must rise and fall. Sometimes it is an undetermined melting away, melting away into the infinite. Sometimes it is as adamantine as granite rocks, sometimes as bright as the sword flashing and destroying darkness. The dull academic unity of all things does not interest him; it matters little to a living man, whether the ultimate reality is one or many. The man of Nam and Simrin does not concern Himself with metaphysical speculation. He thinks his brief life is cut still shorter by idle mental abstractions. This occasion of life is for learning the divine music of life; it means hard labour, it means some kind of artistic perfection.
Nam and Simrin thus become in the Guru’s system, an effect of inspiration, not a speculation but a realistic attitude, towards the freedom of soul that one can find partly here, but wholly only in the life after death, realms where the Ten Gurus, their apostles and disciples now live. It presupposes other worlds of freed life than ours which in unspatial space are right here with us. It establishes living relationships with the mighty saviours that live in that shining Unseen space and time, the Akal. It suggests a certain process of selection and sublimation at work in the swing of souls. We find the Guru saying that Nam is the Favour of God. “Some get it while fast asleep. He Himself comes, awakens them and puts the Holy Cup of Nectar to their lips, while others (who suppose themselves fully conscious of this scheme often get it not." Hence the Guru says the Gurmukh is one whose mouth is open for the reception of the nectar of the Guru.
This personality of the “Logos” embodied in flesh form is like the material yet immaterial magneto-electric point. It is the nucleus round which the play of creative processes goes on, like those in atoms and solar systems. One sees clearly in the biographies of all the Ten Gurus, that as men they themselves moved and behaved as disciples. They themselves reverenced the spirit of the Guru in individual, in groups of men, in song and in word. This is unique.
Like Buddhism, Sikhism is an art of living so that everyone might one day attain to Buddhahood, Guruhood. Life is conceived as artistic Action, as distinguished from the metaphysical concept of life, as something illusory that has no reality. The words Brahman (Brahm) and Para-Brahm also come in Guru Granth, but as Cunningham says, “by way of illustration only”. Similarly the names of all gods and goddesses of the Brahminical Pantheon.
In Bavan Akhari, Guru Arjan Dev Says: “This Large letter (Akhar) of Creation that we see is the pure Para Brahman.”
Simrin when accumulated, has an alchemical effect on the personality of man and even on natural objects. Acts of devotion gathered for ages and expressed in cathedrals and temples, in art and in charity make a nation glorious. Simrin, according to the Guru, is the feeling, which gathers itself grain by grain and suddenly gives birth to the highest arts of celestializing nature and man.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies,
2009, All rights reserved.