Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a Source of Spiritual Education (Brahma Vidya)
Prof Dalvinder Singh Grewal
The sabd Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a store house of vidya (education) and gyan or knowledge; it is very extensive, varied and significant and we have the need of it in the present and the future. It’s very basic purpose is to educate the masses in field of spirituality and worldliness. It gives us the transcendental knowledge; the knowledge about God and the ways to attain Him (Brahma Vidya) or Para Vidya. Being a religious scripture, it includes the theory of the science of spirituality. It also provides us the knowledge of worldly dharma Apara Vidya; how to live in the world and attain Brahm Vidya.
The knowledge that comes through the senses is the branch of knowledge coming within the range of Apara Vidya. All the syllabus books based on western educations system form part of Apara Vidya; knowledge of the world. Apart from the Apara Vidya, or worldly knowledge at the level of thinking and writing, there is a subtler and higher type of knowledge which is gained at the supra-mental level. It is independent of the knowledge gained through the ordinary senses as it is intuitive and a direct experience of the soul. Hence it is called Para Vidya, or the Knowledge of the Beyond. Para Vidya is not being taught in the professional colleges. The scripture that provides the knowledge about the God comes under para vidya. They form a wonderful record of the spiritual experiences of the rishis; prophets and saints of old, and inspire in us a longing to have similar experiences of our own. They also contain ethical truths of great value (apara vidya), which pave the way for an ethical life; and if followed scrupulously, they lay a solid foundation for a spiritual superstructure.
In all religions, para vidya is spoken of as the real Gyan or true knowledge. It is gained by the spirit or soul when it reflects back upon itself. It is an outcome of self-analysis by a regular process of inversion or looking within. It is a thing of actual experience and realization within one’s own self, and gradually leads to self-knowledge and God-knowledge. All doubts and differences vanish when the light of self-knowledge dawns. True Gyan or knowledge lies in knowing and experiencing the Ultimate Reality, in the Light and Life of which we live, move about, and have our very being rooted into. With all our washings of the body we cannot keep it clean, but the elixir of Gyan purifies both the mind and the body. The Gyan destroys all fear and makes one see the Reality, and one gains Omniscience with the stilling of the mind. He alone wakes up into Reality who applies the Gyan to his eyes.
So there is a vast difference between Apara and Para Vidya. The former keeps on expanding as we proceed, but with no way out. The poet Tennyson describes it aptly:
Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that un-traveled world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
It is a kind of wilderness through which there is no way out. Even a person with all his wits about him is sure to be lost in its labyrinthine maze of the material world. Like a flogging horse, he may kill himself with sheer exhaustion, but cannot possibly get through. Such is the terrible path on which we move in this material world.
On the other hand, Para Vidya has boundless possibilities, unfolding new realms of celestial splendor as the pilgrim soul proceeds on the Path. It is a very pleasant journey, for the wayfarer has with him a sure companion, an unerring guide who knows the Path and its dangerous turns and twists. He takes him along in safety, shows him especially beautiful scenes and makes him acquainted with everything on the way. His companion has a radiantly smiling face and a divine dignity, and imparts to him directly that first-hand knowledge of the Beyond of which the pilgrim may have read in books. With all its traps, turns and slips; the Path moves through uncommon splendor and affords a sure way out to a haven of rest and repose. The journey’s end is nothing but the Kingdom of God; the New Jerusalem or Holy City; Sach Khand or Sat Lok where peace and quiet reigns. Thus real Gyan or knowledge deals with Realized Truth.
In the Bhagavad Gita, we come across two terms: Gyan and Vigyan. The knowledge of Paramatma or God, actively operating in all living creatures that appear and disappear like so many bubbles, is called Gyan; and the realization that the God is the material and efficient cause of all that exists is known as Vigyan. A person possessed of Gyan or Vigyan then actually sees nothing but God in His creation and creation as established in God; that is to say, the two as identical and not separate from each other—God in man and man in God—which is akin to the pantheistic view of religion (identification of God with the Universe).
We have need, great need, for knowledge on the intellectual level, and that we get from scriptures and discourses of Masters. Gyan or Enlightenment comes as a gift from God. We cannot practice spirituality unless we first know its theory: what it is, its technique, how it can be practised, obstacles in the way and how to overcome them, etc. We cannot therefore ignore the theory aspect of Para Vidya, for theory always precedes practice in every branch of knowledge. But after having learned the theory, we must put the theoretical knowledge into practice so as to make it our very own. Theory by itself cannot satisfy the innate craving of the spirit which must be fed on manna or the heavenly food — the Bread of Life to satiate her hunger and supplied with the Elixir of Life to quench her thirst. Theory and practice, therefore, are interdependent. But to achieve the goal, one has to work for it and this requires stilling the mind and intellect before anything else. After full comprehension of the theory, nothing remains but to gain practical experience of it at the level of the spirit, far above the level of the senses and sense organs. We have thus to separate the two by a process of self-analysis or transcension of the body consciousness, a practical demonstration of which the Guru (Master) gives in the laboratory of the body at the time of initiation.
Pra Vidya in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Sri Guru Granth Sahib has very deep knowledge about Brahm Vidya. Important Questions about God, Universe, Creation, Nature, Man, Transmigration, Spirit etc., are answered in Sri Guru Granth Sahib diligently. For example questions often asked about God are answered in the following paragraph
God: Only the God knows what He is (SGGS, p. 6:3) or only the person who can rise to His height can know Him (p. 5:10). A person, who says he knows Him, has no knowledge of Him because the person who comes to know of Him cannot describe Him (p. 2:9). God watches the entire universe, but none can see Him, hence the cause of confusion about His existence (p. 7:3). He is primal, pure, sans beginning, indestructible and of ventures all the ages through (p. 7:1). The Eternal Holy Truth, the Creator of the universe is invisible yet visible through His creation. He is free from fear and malice. He is Immortal and Ever-living (p. 1:1,2). He is self-created, self-existent. He created Himself and Himself assumed a Name. (p. 463:4) His names are uncountable. The beginning is a real wonder. Before beginning He dwelt in void. (p. 940:11) From formless, the Lord assumed the Immaculate Form; from attribute-less-ness He became with attributes (p. 940:14). God’s place, name and greatness are not fully known or described. No one can reach His place or measure His residence to know Him and describe Him. (p. 53:15) However, He is pervading all over and He has created a system for His entire creation. He is contained amongst all. Where ever you see, you will find Him. (p. 944:12) Hence His abode is in the entire nature; entire universe; entire human beings. He made the Nature and got seated in it and beholds it with delight. (p. 463:4) He is both manifest and unmanifest.(p. 128:13, 862:6) He is unmanifest because He is invisible and unapproachable. He is manifest because He abides and can be seen in all the beings. He is Omnipresent; present everywhere and in each existence. (p. 1291:18, 1345:4)
The God is ageless; (p. 1) He is ever safe and sound (p. 4:11) and is Imperishable (p. 1026:9) He does not die (p. 9:18). He is ever living. He existed in the prime, beginning of the ages; exists even now and shall ever exist. (p. 1) He alone knows his state and extent and none accept Him can appraise His worth. He is un-perceivable, un-apprehensible and unapproachable. Thus none knows how much and how great His expanse is. (p. 9:10) By pondering over God or His existence man cannot have a conception of Him, even though one may ponder over millions of times (p. 1:5). No one is capable of appraising and narrating Him (p. 9:9). He Himself knows of His self. One can call Him the Greatest at the most (p. 5:4).
God created the entire nature and enlivened the entire universe (p. 24:7). He has fashioned the world in numerous diverse colours and kinds.(p. 6:14) Having created His creation He is enjoying it as He pleases. Whenever and whatever He pleases He does that according to His Will as no one can order Him (p. 6:14-16). He enjoys the play through creating and destroying. He has set the system of creating and destroying to ensure that there is continuous development and change and there are no stoppages and breaks. The entire world is continuously moving forward. He destroys all obstructions and unpleasantries and gives a new form in an instant ((p. 1034:19). He has created the world with continuous change system (coming and going) (p. 1283:8). He Himself is manifested into three forms i.e., Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the protector and Mahesh, the destroyer to conduct His task of creation, colouration and destruction. (There are no different gods as such). By His order the bodies are created, the souls enter the being and reach greatness. By His command He makes the mortals high and low and obtains woe and weal. Some are awarded the salvation through His order while others are ever made to wander in transmigration. All are subject to His command. No one can be out of the Divine order (p. 1:7, 8). Though the Lord has no form or colour and is free from darkness and worldliness yet He can be seen (464:5) and identified through Nature (p. 83:18). He is recognised and seen through the Name and His creation (p. 944:15) the nature where he abides (p. 464:5).Imbibing love for the Lord, the True One is seen pervading everywhere. By the true Guru’s instructions, the Fear-free Lord is known and he blends man’s soul with the Supreme (p. 464). To understand Lord’s Order, one has to realise smallness of one self and have to forego his self-ego and pride (p. 1:10). For this one must have a guide (Guru). The True Guru only can guide him how to know, realise and reach Him. He is pervading in all and through the True Name He can be seen. The Name is the treasure of bliss that can be seen only with the help of a perfect Guru. (p. 1284:12)
Guru and Gyan
One cannot get the Light of Brahm Gyan (knowledge of God and His universe)without a Guru. One may try all means; he cannot get to the Lord. Without the Master, one cannot contact the Word nor find the Path, The Light of gyan is the true essence, for it leads Godward. Without the Master, one cannot have the Light of gyan or inner peace, Without the Word, the worldly-wise forfeit the human birth. The Guru alone can give the Gyan that shows the all-pervading Power of God. The Master gives the Gyan that dispels all darkness. A true Guru is met with the grace of God and one witness the Light within. The Guruward researches into the matter with knowledge and burns the ego.(p. 946:3) Once one realizes that the God is everywhere; both inside and outside; one starts loving the Naam of the God. (944:16)
Water stands in a pitcher; a pitcher without water is of no consequence, the mind is wedded to Gyan (knowledge), but True Gyan (Flaming Sound) never comes without a Guru. The Naam can be received only from the true guru. The yoga for the true Naam cannot be invented.(946:14) The Guru is knowledge personified; and this knowledge he imparts to a rare Gurmukh, i.e., one who completely surrenders himself to the Guru. A True Gurucan manifest that Light which is capable of granting Mukti. It is an inner science and one has to work for it under the guidance of a perfect Guru; no one has ever got it without him. The Light of True Knowledge is the greatest gift of a Master-soul. The Guru gives the greatest gift of Gyan by creating a craving for the Word (Naam). He links one with Truth (the Power of God), a treasure-house of supernatural powers that grow from more to more.
For obtaining the knowledge and meditating on the God, the sweet word of the Guru is needed.(p. 162:3) The Guru gives the healing ointment of spiritual wisdom, and dispels the darkness of ignorance. The company of a saint is the company of the Truth and the congregation sings His glory, the scintillating gyan sheds lust within, dispelling all darkness born of ignorance. Those who are devoted to the True Guru are honored and accepted in God’s Court; the Light of Gyan dawns in them to whom He may grant it. By the Lord’s Grace, a saint is met who enlightens the mind.(293:13,14)
Devotion to the Master creates love true and eternal, and the gift of Gyan gives knowledge of the three worlds. Thetrue knowledge with the Guru is the Word which comes through practice of the Sabd. He alone achieves it; who accepts and follows the instructions of the Guru, with all his heart and soul. To control one’s mind from wandering one has to obtain God’s Grace. The mind can be stilled through the grace of the Guru, the Master, and with Gyan he returns to his place of Origin i.e., The God. His glance of grace gives one, right understanding, and brings one to the crest jewel of Gyan. Inside the body is the Gyan of the Guru, that grants salvation with His glance of grace; he may grant it to whomever He may like and make him acceptable. Those with a writ of the Lord in their forehead do meet a true guru, and have all their doubt and distrust driven out by the blaze of gyan.
The gyan of the Guru is all ablaze, filling one with Light to the deepest depths of the soul. This knowledge then is self-luminous. When it comes, there dawns an everlasting Light in the initiate’s soul. From then on, he walks always in God’s kindled Light which accompanies him wherever he may be. This is true devotion and grants one full protection from all harm. If one wishes for a dip in the sacred pool of Naam, that pool is verily within you; a true pilgrimage for the soul is Sabd which is replete with Gyan. The Guru’s sayings (sabd, naam, sach) bring light in this world; these enter into one’s mind by the Grace of God or Guru.(p. 67:10) By the word of the Guru we praise the God and our ego vanishes from inside.(p. 37:15) We must obey the order of the Guru and sing the hymns relating to God.(p. 918:5) We must accept that the word is our guru and we must submit our intellect to it as its followers.(p. 943:11)
Guru Arjan also tells us that with the dawn of Guru’s Gyan within, comes the advent of Heaven’s Light both within and without, enveloping all; and the mind gets satiated and is freed from all illusions and delusions. One is thus led to the inexhaustible fountains of the Elixir of Immortality, on drinking it one becomes desire free and has no fear of death; he gains immortality. By realizing Guru’s word one gets into the true place; our ultimate destination.(p. 46:8)
Gurmukh and Gyan
The follower of the Guru knows Sabd, and rests in the ambrosia of Lord’s Naam. The Guru’s Gyan is superbly high as it drives away the darkness of ignorance. The Guru applies the medicine of Gyan into follower’s eyes and the light becomes effulgent within and the darkness vanishes. Gyan with the Guru is Naam and he makes one steady in it. One who is destined, gets it by devotion to the lotus feet of the Guru. Once we get to our perfect guru we shall get to the treasure of the word.(p. 46:10)
Gyan and Meditation
One must practice Gyan, meditation and Harmony by absorption into sabd and be one with Him; the one Who is beyond all limitations, peerless and without fear. Knowledge and meditation on Sach (Truth) have a very deep meaning; no one knows of their inmost secret and greatness but we must hear and understand the sabd and meditate on the truth.(p. 429:4)
Gyan and Enlightenment
The scriptures tell us that Gyan is characterized by the Light Principle. Guru Amar Das, speaking of Gyan describes it as “Eternal Light within,” which serves as an altar for ceaseless devotion and grants one the full fruit of Naam: the Guru’s Gyan brings forth eternal Light within, it keeps one absorbed in ceaseless devotion: the greatest gift of the all-pervading Word. As a result of the Gyan from the Guru one receives Heaven’s Light and all things get truly lighted. (Knowledge of the entire matter is obtained).
Adorned with the kindly Light of God, the spirit becomes acceptable to the Lord. The wandering wits learn to live under control and delight in Truth, and one drinks the nectar of Gyan (the exhilarating vintage of Naam) and desires nothing else. Awakened into the Light of Gyan, Saint Kabir felt dyed in the color of the Lord; the world over deluded; and mind metamorphosed by the all-pervading Power (God). Gyan is a supreme embellishment for the soul; blessed is the soul that loves Lord.
State of Enlightenment through Gyan
Guru Nanak, in Jap ji, Stanzas 35 and 36, while telling us at length of the Realm of Divine Knowledge (Gyan Khand) with countless gods, goddesses, and deities, beautifully sums up the description: Divine knowledge illumines in the realm of knowledge, while divine symphonies play unending music, and joy and bliss reign supreme. Heaven’s Light always serves as an unfailing friend in moments of dire distress, both without and within; and one walks steadily in it, in life and after.
In Sukhmani, Guru Arjan has devoted a full ashtpadi, a hymn in octave or eight stanzas, to this Light and the way it guides and leads the soul when it quits the body. This Light is there in the Sukhman, but one cannot get access to it without the help of a Guru: The Light of Gyan is a powerful aid both within and without, Mind has to commune with it; it destroys all affliction and sorrow. The Light of Guru’s Gyan is a peerless jewel that grants salvation. The God may give it to whomever He wishes to grant the honor of His Court. Once the Light of Gyan manifests within one’s mind, one easily wins the gift of the Word.
With the manifestation of Light one becomes enlightened, the Light of Gyan has been implanted by the Guru; by drinking the ambrosia of the Word (Naam), the mind is fully at rest and devoid of fear. With the dawn of Gyan, there is light on every side. In God’s boundless grace, He accepts even a filthy worm. (Bhagat Ravidas). With the practice of Naam, one is rid of all sorrow and pain, for it brings in supreme bliss. In scaling the spiritual heights, the pilgrim has actually been to the light beyond the stars, the moon and the sun. To hail the light of the moon and the sun within, as the soul rises into the astral world, is described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the Path of Gyan or True Knowledge.
Gyan Changes the Man
The wild elephant of the mind is controlled and domesticated by the mahout of a Guru, by means of the rod of Enlightenment. The Light of the Guru, variously called Sabd, Naam or Dhun, forms a link between the inner soul and the Outer soul; once this is firmly grasped, one can easily transcend to Sachkhand, the True Mansion of God.
One is thus a changed man. In Bible Saint Paul describes this state of a changed man: You have put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. The agency that regenerates or transforms our nature is the Holy Spirit. The experience which He must bring to us is called the New Birth, the Resurrection or the Second Advent. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; all things become new.
Jesus Christ, in unambiguous terms, warns us against this danger of losing the peerless gift from God and the Guru. Having once been gifted with Enlightenment (or Gyan or Divine Knowledge and Experience), one must practice it from day to day so as to develop it and not lose the holy Light of Heaven by sheer neglect in the mighty swirl of the world.
In spite of fire in the core, how charmingly fragrant is the vegetation, and so with the boisterous waters of the great seas when confined within their bounds, the real sun and the real moon are both within the human body, and yet one rarely gets to know true Gyan; the very soul of all that exists.
Gyan and Salvation
When one makes a vintage of Gyan and ferments it with meditation on the fire of His love and reverence; the Sukhman bubbles over with the Elixir of Life, which one then can drink to his fill. When with spiritual discipline (Simran and Dhyan, constant remembrance and concentration) the mind gets stilled and is at rest, then enlightenment comes. Rare indeed are such souls in the world. With it comes perfect satisfaction. Mind is controlled and the soul awakens from the lethargic sleep of ages. All desires come to an end, and one gets absorbed in his own self, and is gifted with all-pervading prevision and trans-vision, and rises into cosmic awareness. All karmas are burned away. Death, the last enemy of mankind, loses its sting; the minions of death cannot come near such a jivan-mukta or liberated being. These benefits cannot be had by outer intellectual wrestling.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All