Naam or Word



    NAAM is easier said than known and practiced. It is only an adept in the mysteries of Naam who knows its true significance and the great power that lies hidden in it. Apparently it is just a syllable, but what it connotes is beyond understanding even by the most learned in book knowledge; though it may be possible to apprehend it through the grace of one well versed not only in the theory but in the practice as well of the Word.

    "Name" and the "named" are, in fact, one and the same. There is hardly any distinction between the two: one is the abstract form of that which is concrete. Light cannot be separated from the sun. The two go together all the world over. Similarly Godhood and God cannot be demarcated and set aside in watertight compartments as two separate entities. The former is just an attribute of the latter. "Naam" is nothing more nor less than Godhood of God; one may call it what one may like - the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, etc. It is the primal manifestation of God, responsible for the entire creation. It is the primeval  form of God. St. John speaks of it thus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that  was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not. 1

In these memorable words, St. John has tried to give us some idea of the marvelous nature of the Word or Naam, as it is also called. It combines in it the triple principle of Creation, Sustenance and Destruction - the Trimurti of the Hindu mythology of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer respectively, all the three deriving their motor power from Godhood or God-in-action, Naam or Word.

     Hazrat Moieen-ud-Din Chishti, in this context, says,

Name and the Named are but one,
Light of Name witnesseth His glory.
All that is, is of and from Naam, for it pervades everywhere. It is the life principle of the entire creation. He in whom this Word or Naam becomes personified is called a saint for it is said that, "Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Such a one has reached the summum bonum of life and gained the El Dorado of human existence. For him there is nothing more to wish for and aspire for.
On the other hand, one who has not been able during his lifetime to establish a contact with Naam, at the time of death quits the body like a defeated gambler who leaves a gambling den with empty hands. Sant Kabir says,
Better by far is a leper with weeping sores, if established in Naam,
Than a fine stalwart swain who knows not the value of Naam.


    The access to spiritual regions cannot be gained except with the wings of Naam. A Persian poet says,

It behooves thee to fly to the higher realms and
that thou canst do with the wings of Naam.
 If thou wishest union with Truth, thou must get united with Naam (i.e., Word or the manifest form of Truth unmanifested) for therein lies the only possible union with Truth. The constant meditation of Name means constant companionship with the Named.
A touch with the Divine current purifies a person of all iniquities. All doubts and distractions disappear and the mind becomes steady and firm, with the result that God's light is reflected therein.
If thou wert to cleanse the mirror of thy mind with the sweet remembrance of His Name, His glory shall surely shine within thee.
Kabir Sahib has beautifully described the value of Naam:
Naam may appear but a monosyllable compared with the countless sins that abound;
But a little dose of the Naam when taken, reduces the entire garbage
  to a heap of ashes;
And the practice of the Naam rubs clean all the mental impurities;
For the Naam acts as a spark of fire in a powder magazine;
By communion with the Naam, one transcends the limitations of the flesh,
And reaches far beyond the realm of the pairs of opposites.
All the supernal powers serve but Naam;
Blessed with Naam, one becomes the abode of all powers.

    A contact with Naam assures salvation to all, whether good or bad, learned or unlettered. As sun and fire give warmth and light to all, snow and ice give exhilarating freshness, so Naam cannot fail to produce its effect, no matter how the contact may come about, with or without faults. Khwaja Nizam-ud-Din Chishti says,

The glory of God's Naam has attuned my body and soul,
The parched and thirsty get honeyed nectar from it.

    The sages and the saints have described God in innumerable terms, as for instance Swami or Soami, meaning Lord God; Nirala (peerless or without a compeer); Anami (the nameless); Har Rai, Agam or Alakh (the incomprehensible or the ineffable); Ram Rai or Sat Purush (the eternal Truth or unchangeable permanence); Ek Ankar (the one life breath or live principle); Puran Chetan Purush (complete consciousness); Akal (timeless or the deathless one).

    All these are just attributive or qualitative names - names signifying one or another of God's attributes. Such names simply describe any one aspect or facet of God as appealed foremost to someone's individual liking. Thousands of such names appear in holy scriptures: Ram (all-pervading), Rahim (gracious or merciful), Girdhari (encompassing), Murari, Allah, Khuda, Wah-i-Guru, and the like. The Jews call Him Yahweh or Jehovah. All these names are worthy of our adoration for each one of them tries to single out some aspect of the Beloved.

I revere each one of Thy names, O God! 2


  We talk and hear a lot about Naam, but never for a moment pause to ponder over what it is, and how to gain salvation or Nirvana through it.

What is that Name, the remembrance whereof leads to Nirvana? 3

What is that name, the repetition whereof enables a person
  to cross over the world of sorrow? 4
                                                                           GURU TEG BAHADUR

In fact the Lord God is nameless, but we have given Him myriads of names. What name can indeed describe the Formless, the Limitless, the Incomprehensible, one beyond the grasp of senses and the intellect?  Still man has, through the ages, endeavored to put Him in the trammels of words and clothe Him with epithets just for the sake of expression, though all combined together fail hopelessly
to do any justice to Him. After all words do come from a limited source and cannot possibly limit the Limitless:

If all the mountains were pounded into ink-powder and mixed with the waters of the oceans, pens were made out of all the forest trees, and the entire earth were a sheet of paper, the glory of God or Naam of God-into-expression Power could not even then be described.
                         SAHJO BAI
All names are Thine and so are all forms Thine, but all fail to enumerate
  Thy countless attributes. 5
                        GURU NANAK
Thou embracest in Thee all powers and potentialities, all riches and treasures, for Thou art the Primeval Cause, the Causeless Cause both material and efficient. The Lord of all, Thy names are numberless. 6
                                                 GURU ARJAN
God has names beyond our comprehension. He cannot be known and no name can describe Him. The learned and the unlettered have done their very best but have not been able to evaluate even a particle of His greatness. 7

O God! so many art Thy names, that the poor tongue faileth to enumerate them. 8
                                                                                                                               GURU RAM DAS

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, says,

Who can sing of the glory of all Thy names?
Still the wise tell us of Thine attributes.
All names fall into two categories:

   (i)  Karam Naam or names indicative of gunas (qualities) or swabhave, that is, qualitative or attributive names; like Ram, Rahim and Karim (i.e., all-pervading, merciful and compassionate).

   (ii) Pura Purbala Naam or personal names which are all-comprehensive, ancient and eternal.

We generally sing the glory of God with man-made names,
But His Great Name-Sat Naam-is eternally the same. 9
                                                                              GURU ARJAN
The question that now arises is one of choice: which of these countless names is the most efficacious and speedily fruitful? The Hindus in general glorify "Om" and speak highly of "Ram-Naam." The Muslims prefer "Allah" and the Sikhs "Wah-i-Guru." Every religious order has thus adopted one or the other name as a central tenet and makes use of it in their daily worship and devotion. To confine one's self to any of these exclusively would mean making God partial. Our quest leads us to a number of issues such as:

  (a) Selection of the most fruitful name.

  (b) Mode of repetition: Should the name selected be repeated mentally or through meditation on the
      meaning of the word selected.

If we refer to the Sikh sacred literature, we come across varied references, some dealing with Japa or repetition, others with Sunan or hearing, Manan or acceptance, Dhyan or meditation and last but not least, Self-illumination and Sound Principle as well.

Remember Naam, O my brethren-in-faith,
This grants peace, O keep the mind ever fixed in Naam. 10

By hearing Naam, the mind gets stilled,
The  greatness  of  Naam  is  known  through  the Master. 11

Commune with Naam till the last breath of life,
This brings proximity to God and He saves in the end. 12

Those who contact not the Naam, why do they come into the world?
Arid is the field of life for them and they die a miserable death. 13

The devotees of the Lord are His representatives and unto them we pray,
We, the filthy worms, are at their feet, let the Divine light fill us through. 14

A contact with the Sound Current gives self realization which is the summum
  bonum of life. By it one is washed of all impurities of the mind and easily merges
  into Life Divine. O Nanak! this contact is established by a rare gurmukh. 15
                                                                                                                GURU RAM DAS

A contact with Naam makes one self-luminous, with luminosity vying with
  myriads of suns. 16

By Thy grace manifest the Divine light of Naam. 17
                                                              GURU RAM DAS

In Naam there is perfect food, both for the eyes and the ears. Next we hear of the sinking in and dwelling of Naam in the tablet of the mind. It is clearly stated in the sacred Sikh scriptures that this contact can only be had beyond the domain of senses and sensory organs:

Naam is not the subject of the eyes. It is something wonderful and indescribable. 18
                                                                                                                                      GURU NANAK
References like these lead to but one irresistible conclusion: that the true Naam is something beyond this or that word. It is a great magnetic Power, and a force that can grip the mind. It is characterized by sweet strains and melodious tunes, which can be heard, and powerful light which can be seen and witnessed. It is this Naam or Power and Force of Godhead which cannot be comprehended by the senses and can only be realized and experienced in Super-sensual planes. It is a Life Current that pervades the entire creation and is hence called Ram Naam or All-Embracing Impulse. Kabir Sahib says:
There are myriads of names in the world, but none of them can grant salvation.
The Primeval Name is a hidden one and a rare soul can know and realize it.
Oral repetition of names has its own place and utility, and is needed for some purposes, but it cannot lead to self-realization and God-realization, both of which can be achieved only through contact with God-in-action, call it what we may - Shabd, Ram-Naam, Kalma, Word, Sruti, Sraosha, etc.;  and this contact can come about only through the Grace of some competent living Master.
Everyone is repeating the monosyllable Ram but gets no touch with the Power Ram
  behind the monosyllable:

It is the Grace of the Master alone that can give a living touch with the
  All-Embracing Life Impulse and the wish-yielding Elixir.

A thirsty traveler can not quench his thirst by simply crying for "water," unless he actually gets the substance, water. Yari Sahib, therefore, says:
The tongue tires itself out by repeating the word Ram,
The repetition of the word "water" never quenches the thirst,
One may slake the thirst by taking a draught of water.
Kabir Sahib, in this context, speaks thus:
Mere repetition of this or that name, without an actual touch with the named,
  is of  no avail. If one were to become rich by calling for riches, then there
  would hardly be one who is not rich.
Nameless is He and yet all names are His. If one can but get in touch with His Power, all names become inconsequential, for actual contact is what matters and not the words. If a thirsty person gets the substance, water, to quench his thirst, it does not matter if he calls for it as ab (Persian), water (English), aqua (Latin), eau (French), ma (Arabic) or hudor (Greek), for his purpose is served by any of these words. Similarly, the word "bread" is quite a different thing from the real bread. While one is just an expression used to distinguish it from other things, the other is the real bread that dispels hunger. So one must strive to contact the Reality rather than run after the shadowy words that stand for the Reality.

  From a mere name one has to get to the named before one can have the real benefit, a satisfaction to the ever inner urge for filling the inner vacuum of the soul. Maulana Rumi saith:

O thou repeater of the Name, go and search out the Named,
Without the Named, how can a mere name give thee comfort?
Sant Tulsi Das, the famous author of the Hindi Ramayana or the biography of Lord Rama, has given precedence to Naam over both Rama and Brahma, since Naam is at once the Creator and the controlling power of Brahma, Parbrahma, Sat Naam, Alakh and Agam.
(1) In magnanimity and large-heartedness, Naam far excels both Brahm and Rama.

(2) Personal and Impersonal God are the two aspects of Brahm for He is at once Indescribable, Beginningless, Incomprehensible and Formless. I feel that Naam far transcends these two; for both of them are within its controlling Power, from age to age. Though both Brahm and Ram are beyond comprehension, yet they can be known and realized through Naam. I therefore say that Naam is greater than both Ram and Brahm.

(3) I cannot possibly sing the greatness of Naam. Even the blessed Lord Rama himself can hardly do any  justice to the glory of Naam.

The last dictum of Sant Tulsi Das is significant indeed. Rama is said to be the incarnation of Brahm, and the latter with the entire hierarchy upward is the by-product or creation of Naam. In Jap Ji Sahib, Guru Nanak also refers to it pertinently:

There is one Spirit that has created the Universe; and given over its control to
  the three guardian angels: Brahma, Vishnu and Siva: one of whom is entrusted
  with the task of creation, the other with that of sustenance or maintenance
  and the third with that of administering justice according to the Divine Law.
  That Spirit always keeps a watchful eye on the works of all the three, but the
  latter have no knowledge of It. 19

The majority of the multitudinous world has forgotten the Reality - the Ever-enduring Spirit of Naam - and are mightily busy in parrot-like repetition of the so many names of that Spirit, with the result that they keep engrossed all the time in gathering husk and chaff instead of the grain. Hence all their hard labor goes unfruitful and they live in a famished state without getting any satisfaction:

Those who ignore Naam or the Power of God and are busy with various other names
  are just like muck-worms wallowing in filth. 20

The scriptural studies, the religious debates are all Mayaic or illusory
  and shadowy nothings,
O Nanak! except Naam, nothing is stable, and all acts not centered on Naam
  are fruitless. 21

Verily, verily, O Nanak! the true study is the study of Naam. 22

Bookish knowledge is all worldly wisdom. 23
                                              GURU AMAR DAS

Hari Naam is the essence of all religions. 24
                                     GURU TEG BAHADUR

Everyone wants happiness but gets what God may ordain,
All acts of devotion and charity count for nothing when compared with Naam. 25
                                                                                                                              GURU NANAK

Naam far excels Japa, Tapa, deeds of charity and the like
A contact with Naam gets all desires fulfilled. 26

One cannot by the study of the scriptures cross the ocean of life
Naam far transcends all acts of piety and charity. 27
                                                                       GURU ARJAN

Naam is a Power and Motor Force behind everything and hence outer actions like pilgrimages to holy places, acts of charity, fasts, penances, yajnas or sacrificial oblations to fire and the like are of no avail to a seeker after Truth. Naam alone is the link between God and man. It is with the help of Naam that one can traverse to higher regions. It serves as an electric lift that can safely carry a spirit
yearning for God-realization. Except Naam, there is no other Path Godward.

    The body may be consigned to the flames or cut to pieces. The mind and the body may be made an  offering and allowed to be consumed from day to day. All such penances and austerities are of no consequence when compared with Hari Naam.
    The body may be cut in twain and the head be cut off for an offering or else it may be allowed to rot in the Himalayan snows, yet none of these acts can cure the mind. Alas, these have no efficacy, for we  have tried them all with no avail.
    One may give millions in charity including horses and elephants, lands and kine, yet these will make him a bloated coxcomb. It is only Ram Naam (the all-pervading Sound Current ) that can still the mind, and It comes as a pure gift from a Master-soul. All intellectual wranglings, Hath-yogic practices,  scriptural studies, are but the varied types of karmic bondages. The only way to freedom and salvation is a Master-saint. 28

Truth is greater than everything but higher still is true living. 29
                                                                                            GURU NANAK

In Sukhmani, we have a wonderful account of Naam:
The rosary, the penances, knowledge and thinking,
The study of shastras, smritis and scriptures,
The yogic practices and the performances of rites and rituals,
A life of solitude in the deep recesses of the forests,
All endeavors of various types, including deeds of charity for name and fame,
  cutting of limbs in self-conceit,
All these and more still, do not come up to the merit of Naam,
O Nanak! a beloved of the Master is ever engaged in communion with the Word.
Circumambulation of the globe and a life of longevity,
Observance of austerities coupled with renunciation,
Life spent in the midst of five fires, or one devoted to charitable deeds
  like giving away of worldly possessions,
The observance of Niyoli Karm(One of the Shat Karma or six acts in Hatha Yoga, in which the
  breath is held inside and the bowels are made to move both sides, right and left, so as to clear away
  waste matter  from   them.) and many other yogic postures as enjoined by Jain scriptures,
And even a holocaust of one's body inch by inch,
All these and still more fail to purify the dirt of egoism;
Nothing comes up to the merit of Naam,
O Nanak! a beloved of the Master saves himself through
  communion with the Naam.
Even the desire to die at a sacred place does not rid one of his egoism,
All efforts to purify the body cannot sanctify the mind,
All physical practices cannot drive away the mental impurities,
All the methodical washings of the body cannot wash clean the clay-house,
The Power of Naam far transcends all these,
O Nanak! it has saving grace even for the worst of sinners. 30

The Vedas, the Smritis and all other sacred scriptures  unanimously proclaim
  that besides Naam there is no other Sadhan for spiritual advancement;
  all else is mere idle talk. 31

Nanak has the riches of Naam to dole out. 32
                                                         GURU ARJAN

Nanak and Kabir both taught the science of the Naam,
And I too have manifested Naam within me,
Dhru and Prahlad were intoxicated with the elixir of Naam,
And Lord Siva too is ever engaged in meditating on Naam.
                                                                                        DULAN DAS

The world reveres those who have sought the path of the Naam for Naam can transform sinners into saints, for it ennobles and purifies:

By practicing the science of inversion, one becomes world famous,
Even Valmik, a well known highwayman, acquired the status of a Brahm.
                                                                                                                       TULSI DAS
The lovers of God are ever engaged in the practice of the Word:
Whether awake or asleep and in whatever condition,
O Nanak! while doing everything they remain  contacted within. 33
                                                                                                  GURU ARJAN
In the scriptures of all the religions, there are references to the Power of the Word:
All the religions are deeply rooted in the Naam,
There is no religion higher than that of the Naam. 34

The practice of the Naam is the noblest of all virtues. 35
                                                                                GURU ARJAN


    The significance of Naam (the true devotion of God) cannot be put in words:

Rare indeed is the devotion to Naam (or Hari),
We cannot do full justice to the greatness of Naam. 36
                                                                     GURU AMAR DAS
Naam alone is immaculate and everything else is of no consequence. What then can we give in offering?
But we are all as an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. 37
Whatever we say and utter in praise of Naam is inadequate. The entire mankind is indeed engaged in singing praises of Naam and in the performance of devotional exercises. But as all this is being done on the intellectual level and on the plane of the senses, it does not bear any appreciable fruit. A rare soul here and there, who is born anew through Naam or the Power of God, is truly immaculate. Only such a devotion is acceptable at His Court. There is no other devotion like that. Such a soul always
cries out:
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. 38
                                                                                         THE PSALMS
The Bible tells us,
The Word of God is quick (living) and powerful and sharper than
  any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit
  and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts
  and interests of the heart. 39
As we do not know what Naam is and its true significance, we live as if in a dome of many-colored glass which by its bewildering effect deludes the senses. All our prayers are but a confused jargon, and our words, though loud and strong, vanish into thin air and yield no results.
Everyone does worship but on the sensual plane only, and so gets no results,
But absorption in the Naam purifies the mind and bears fruit in abundance,
Those who are devotees of the Naam are truly pure and beloved of the Lord,
But for Naam all other worship goes in vain, and the people at large are deluded.
The beloved of the Master (Guru-mukh) knows himself by coming in contact with
  the all-pervading Word (Naam).
The Immaculate Lord Himself becoming the guide contacts the soul
  with the Sound Current,
Those who worship with no proper guidance, remain wandering
  in the realm of duality,
A devotee of the Master alone knows the Path and bows before His Will. 40
                                                                                                               GURU AMAR DAS

Continued (this section broken into 2 parts to reduce file size & load times)