Naam or Word

Book Five

Bani and Gurbani

Scriptures and Inner Music

    THE term Bani is rather difficult to define and to understand; its significance goes far deeper than is commonly supposed. In common parlance it means words that we read, write or speak. But saints have used it with an altogether different meaning. Ordinarily there is not much difference in the terms Bani, Shabd and Naam, for the three are used interchangeably to denote one and the same thing.

    Bani or Naam is of two kinds: Varan Atmak and Dhun Atmak. The former is an outward expression of inner feelings by means of words through reading, writing or speaking; and the other is the Inner Sound Principle or Sound Current.

Varan Atmak Bani

    Varan Atmak Bani can be classified into four subdivisions: Baikhri, Madhma, Pashyanti and Pra.

Baikhri: These are labial sounds or sounds which are uttered with the aid of
  tongue and lips.

Madhma: These are guttural sounds which are produced in the throat or at the back
  or root of the tongue and palate.

Pashyanti: These are sounds which originate from the heart center.

Pta: These are sounds which arise through vibrations from the navel center.

These four types of sounds or words are related in one or another form with the six physical ganglionic centers, and have nothing to do with Naam or the Word or Logos, which is contacted above the six ganglions, is capable of granting salvation, and is technically called Dhun Atmak Bani or the Eternal Sound Current, the source of God's Light and Life Principles. It is, in fact, the Eternal and Unchangeable Voice of God.

The Water of Life is given by the Satguru,
It is made manifest at the tenth door,
There the Dhun Bani reverberates without an end,
And leads one to the state of Sehaj. 1
                                        GURU RAM DAS

The five strains commingling forth produce sweet Harmony.
The Bani flows in unending streams all the time. 2
                                                                  GURU ARJAN

There are four different forms* of Thy creation
  and four various modes of speech;
But apart from Naam, one wanders without a lead.
                                                                 GURU AMAR DAS

* According to the Hindu scriptures, there are four types of created beings, classified according to the manner of birth: Setaj, or moisture-born; Uttbhuj, or seed-born; Andaj, or egg-born; and Seraj, or womb-born. The Masters make frequent use of such concepts and doctrines from ancient Hindu lore, but they refer to them not necessarily in a spirit of scientific truth, but as divine poets, who employ allusion and mythology to drive the point home.

The entire creation expresses itself in one or another kind of Varan Atmak sound and not in the Dhun Atmak and as such wanders about restlessly in the giant wheel of life.

    The Varan Atmak language is also known as the language of the Pranas or the vital airs for it depends on different types of vibrations in the air; but as said above, it leads to a wilderness with no way out.

We speak and hear the airy language,
And the mind gets entangled in oblivion. 3
                                                  GURU NANAK
Dhun Atmak Bani

    This is the Eternal Sound Current reverberating endlessly in every living thing. It is an Unwritten Law and an Unspoken Language. It is above the ken of elements and the six chakras. It becomes audible, however, when a spirit rises above body-consciousness. In Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, this Sound Principle is generally referred to as Naam down to Trikuti; and below Daswan Dwar, where the causal region extends, It is called the Trigun Bani, or Sound within the regions of the three gunas. It is also described as Brahm Janjalla, the network of Brahm, the God of creation. This Trigun Bani or Brahm Janjalla is still within the domain of Kal or Dissolution and hence must disintegrate. Kabir Sahib says:

Japa (oral), Ajapa (soundless) and Anhad (the limitless Sound), all have an end,
The Surat when absorbed in Shabd alone escapes.
Guru Amar Das says,
The Bani that is within the three gunas is a great network of the Creator (Brahma);
It keeps on talking, reasoning and thinking within the realm of Kal. 4
The Sound Current beyond the reach of Kal is known as Sar Shabd, described as Sachi Bani or True Word, and It alone is the real Life Current or Life Chord capable of linking the spirit or soul with the Oversoul.
The Word of the Master is an elixir True,
O Nanak! through the Word, one can cross over. 5

The True Word bursts asunder the three-fold egg,
O Nanak! It is the Saviour that saves all. 6
                                                     GURU NANAK

He Himself draws in and absorbs, making the spirit neat and clean,
He is Truth, True is His Sound that effects the Union True. 7

Wonderful indeed is the Bani that unites one with Truth,
Nanak saturated in that wondrous wonder, has met the Lord;
One gets to it only through great good fortune. 8

He alone meets God whom God so ordains,
And in him the True Bani manifests as Shabd,
O Nanak! then one ever sings of the virtues of the True One,
And so singing gets truly absorbed in them. 9

The fearless Donor comes to reside in the mind,
And the True Bani descends in the heart of a rare fortunate soul. 10

The fortunate with a virtuous past alone meets a Master-soul,
And the Word of the Master makes the True Bani manifest. 11

The elixir of Guru's Bani is delectably sweet,
A rare disciple of the Master may taste of It. 12
                                                        GURU AMAR DAS

The endless Bani may be manifested by a Master.
He who listens to It is perpetually blessed,
And all comforts come unto him as a pure gift. 13
                                                                GURU ARJAN

Rare souls alone get absorbed in the Bani through the grace of a Master,
The Bani of the Lord takes one to the Eternal Home of the Father. 14
                                                                                                          GURU NANAK

True is the Shabd and True the Bani,
A devotee of the Master reaches It, and sings of It in every age. 15
                                                                                               GURU AMAR DAS

This does not mean that whatever the Saints utter by word of mouth has no value and is ineffectual. On the contrary, it means that of all the Varan Atmak words and sounds, these occupy the highest place, for the flow of their words comes from out of the inexhaustible fund or reservoir at the back of all Fuqra-i-Kamil or Master-souls, and they speak of nothing but what they actually see and experience in the depth of their soul. Their words are worth tons of gold and emeralds for the seekers after Truth. They do not speak at the intellectual level, but their words well out of themselves and are charged with inner inspiration, and carry in them the weight of conviction.

Whatever comes to me from the Father,
That do I utter, O Lalo. 16
                  GURU NANAK

When a Sadh opens his mouth,
A veritable nectar-spring burst forth. 17
                                               GURU ARJAN

The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His Word was in my tongue. 18
                                                                                                            KING DAVID

Holy men of God spake as They were moved by the Holy Ghost. 19
                                                                                                          ST. PETER

Lowly Nanak speaks out only when he is bidden to do so. 20
                                                                                    GURU ARJAN

The writings of the saints are wonderful and valuable records of their spiritual experiences and serve the pilgrims as guide-posts on the Path of spirituality.

Except the words of the Master, nothing is up to the mark,
All the writings and sayings are verily imperfect,
Imperfect is the speaker and imperfect will remain the listener
  as the words come out of the imperfect. 21
                                                GURU AMAR DAS

O ye the disciples of the Master, sing the Naam eternally,
  for God Himself makes It manifest through a Godman,
Believe ye the words (Bani) of the Master as really true,
It is only God who speaks through the human pole. 22

Blessed is the devotee of the Lord and blessed are the words (Bani)
  he utters for the good of mankind,
He who attends to His discourse in all sincerity,
 God himself helps him through. 23
                            GURU RAM DAS

The words (Bani) of the Sadh are ambrosial,
Whoever puts them into practice, reaches the goal
  and always speaks of the Word. 24
                                      GURU ARJAN

The words (Bani) of the devotee are divine,
He presents the Eternal Truth in varied forms,
Blessed is such a life, for not only does he attain salvation
  but many another through him. 25
                             GURU RAM DAS

The writings and discourses of the Saints point out to us the True Bani, which is the very life of the creation and grants Nirvana or salvation. It is the actual Truth, the Formless and Absolute, Sehaj Katha (the Perennial Language), Akath Katha (the Unspoken Language). It is the Voice of God, self-flowing Nectar, call it Naam or Shabd, Word, Amrit or Logos, Kalma or Bang-i-Illahi, or Sruti. It is the source and spirit of the creation; It is the very life and light, self-luminous, shadowless and eternally radiant.

The Word of the Master is a sweet Harmony (Bani)
And sings of Hari Naam day and night,
The True Lord abides in the core of the heart,
A heart like this is pure indeed. 26

Bani or Shabd is verily the Great Truth, O! love them with all your heart;
With the Word or Naam dwelling inside, one is rid of anger and egotism. 27

Shabd or Bani (Divine Music) is the Water of Life (Amrit),
And comes to reside in one's soul when one follows the instruction of the Master. 28

Engage ye in the True Bani, the True Melody and the True Sound,
To live always in Truth is fortunate indeed and blessed is the one who does so. 29
                                                                                                                         GURU AMAR DAS

The Jnana, the meditation and the Dhun Bani (Inner Music) are all one
  and describe the Indescribable,
The Word (Shabd) speaks of the True One but the Word
  can be experienced through the Master. 30
                                                      GURU NANAK

Take mercy on me and accept me as Thy bondsman,
And snap all my bonds and take me out of the net,
Let me live always in the sweet remembrance of Thy Word (Naam)
  or Thy Sound Principle (Bani),
Nanak Thy slave would gladly offer himself as a sacrifice unto Thee. 31

The untold tale of the Voice of God (Prabh Bani)
  is the true Water of Life (Amrit);
Nanak says: a truly wise man lives in communion with Him (Bani). 32

How great His glory and life-giving His Bani (Sound Principle),
Let His Word (Naam) alone abide in my heart. 33

Listen ye the blessed one, to the sweet Music of the Amrit Bani
  (life-giving Sound Principle),
He who is so destined, in his heart alone It becomes manifest. 34

In the Vedas we have a wonderful account of It. Vak Devi (the Divine Voice or Word) says:
All Devas (gods) have their abode in me, and I look after each one of them. I am the efficient and the material cause of the very creation and I am sustaining the same. I am Knowledge and Enlightenment. 35
                                              RIG VEDA
I am the Creator of all regions and the demons and I am all-pervading like the Pranas or vital airs in all forms and bodies. I occupy all space and girdle the Universe in the form of ether. In fullness I exist here, there and everywhere, beyond the earth and sky with hosts of solar systems; and by the power of my inherent nature, they have assumed all forms and all colors. 36
                               ATHARVA VEDA
This Vak Devi or Bani is characterized by Dhun or Harmony, for It is Sound Principle, the primal manifestation of the Formless God (Kutastha).
The unstruck self-existing Sound (Anhat Bani) pours forth symphonies from the wondrous throne of God,
The Melody of that Sound bewitches me, O Lord. 37

Naam, Dhun or Bani is the manifestation of God,
So say the Smritis, the Shastras and the Vedas. 38
                                                                   GURU ARJAN

What is the signpost of the Abode of God?
There springs forth the perennial Harmony. 39
                                                                      BENI JI

It is an Eternal Sound Principle not bound by time and space.
Everything rests in and is sustained by Sound;
In the four divisions of time,
This Sound Principle was ever heard;
Emanating from Truth, It speaks of Truth. 40

Sterling true is the Word (Sound Principle),
Godmen have manifested It in every age. 41
                                             GURU AMAR DAS

The True Sound (Bani) has been adored in all the four ages.
Everything is from that Truth and there is nothing besides Him. 42

The True Sound (Bani) has in all the four ages been described
  as the Water of Life,
With great good fortune, one preordained is taken to
  and rests in the Word (Naam). 43

I sing of the Lord, should the Lord be so pleased,
With the fragrant Word (Naam) and the Sound (Shabd)
  beating the core of my heart;
Gurbani (the Word of the Master) is heard reverberating on all sides,
Springing right from Truth, It ends in Truth. 44

Gurbani is Naad, Vedas and still more, and
The mind when saturated in It gets fully absorbed, like Sarang in Water. 45

The wondrous Bani is from the Formless One,
And nothing outshines the glorious Bani.
Its extent and Its depth surpass all imagination,
For It is Truth Himself and naught else. 46
                                           GURU AMAR DAS

Now the question is, where is this Sound Principle whirl has been reverberating throughout the four Yugas (divisions of time), and how can It be found out ? Guru Nanak tells us,

The True Bani (Sound) is reverberating in the body,
Should the True One so ordain, one can know himself,
It is with the knowledge of the Self that the True One becomes known,
  and Truth manifests Itself. 47
                    GURU AMAR DAS

The sweet Nectar of Thy Voice (Bani)
Abides in the heart of Thy devotees. 48
                                            GURU NANAK

The tuneful trumpet of Thy doorway,
Sounds in the middle of my forehead. 49

It is all-pervading both within and without for there is no place where It is not in Its fullness.

Thy Voice is both within and without,
Thou speakest and makest It manifest. 50

The Word of the Master (Gur-ki-Bani) resides in every heart,
He Himself manifests It and he does hear It.
Whoever communes with It is freed from bondage,
And goes to an Everlasting and Eternal region. 51
                                                                GURU ARJAN

The Voice of God springs forth from the Light of God. True devotion, therefore, lies in the worship of the Sound Current, for It links man with God. Paltu Sahib says,

In the inverted well of the head there burns a lamp,
The lamp bums, but without any wick or oil.
Through six seasons and twelve months it bums night and day,
But none may himself see the Light, except with the Master's grace.
A Voice springs forth from within the lamp's flame,
In the stillness of the soul, one may hear the Voice,
O Paltu! blessed is the one that hears this Voice,
For in the inverted well of the head, there burns a lamp.
                                                                                   PALTU SAHIB

The disenchanted mind is freed from illusions,
When it gets disciplined through communion with Shabd;
From Heaven's Light within, there springs forth Harmony,
Which keeps one absorbed in the True One. 52
                                                          GURU NANAK

The famous Decalogue or Ten Commandments that constitute the core of Mosaic Law was delivered to Moses in the midst of thunder and flame. The very creation lives by the Power of Naam or the Light and Sound of God.
Oh! the one life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motions and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere.
                                                           S. T. COLERIDGE
Saints tell us that the Sound Current is reverberating within Sukhman, the central channel between Ida and Pingla, the two side nerves in the middle of the forehead.
The True Voice of the Master adept,
Is heard in the Sukhman with mind at rest. 53
                                                GURU AMAR DAS
It resides in each one of us, but only a Saint or a Master-soul can make It manifest to us:
Wonderful is the Voice of the perfect Master,
Manifested by the Master, It merges one in Truth. 54

By Practice of the True Word (Sachi Bani), one is rid of all pains,
  sorrows and afflictions,
The devotees are ever in bliss through the favor of the perfect Master. 55
                                                                                                            GURU AMAR DAS

Through the instructions of the Master, the Bani is made manifest within,
The True Word (Sachi Bani) sings the glory of God. 56
                                                                         GURU NANAK

Ambrosial is the Bani of the perfect Master,
In His mercy, He may make It manifest within,
No more doth one remain in the gyres,
But gets eternal peace and rest. 57
                                     GURU ARJAN

When one gets It, he knows of It,
Without true Jnana, one knows naught,
Master's gift ever abides in the heart,
Bani then remains eternally manifested. 58

The Voice of God (Bani) arises from and leads back unto Him,
His untold tale can be listened to in the Word made manifest
  by the Master. 59

One can know of the Voice of God through the grace of a perfect Master. It comes as a pure gift from the Master, and we cannot have It by any other means. Truly speaking, Guru is Word Personified, and each revels in abundance in the other. Guru Arjan addressed his Guru, "Glorious art Thou with Thy melodious Harmony."

The Word is the Master and the Master the Word (Bani) personified.
In the Word lies the Pool of Nectar (Amritsar);
The devotee of the Master practices the Word,
And the living Master rescues him. 60
                                  GURU RAM DAS
The above is clearly borne out by Bhai Gurdas when he says,
The Vedas and the scriptures are but handy aids to the Master,
The Way to true salvation lies in His hands; and
Unless the Guru appears, one cannot see God. 61
                                                              BHAI GURDAS
In Guru Granth Sahib, It is spoken of as Gupti Bani or the Hidden Voice, the Anhad Bani or the Limitless Voice, the Aghur Bani or the unspoken (unmanifest) Word.
The Hidden Voice becomes  manifest.
O Nanak! only the True One knows of It. 62
                                                     GURU NANAK

Limitless is the treasure of Sound,
Godman holds the key to the Sound. 63
                                            GURU ARJAN

With a true love for the Lord,
The unmanifest Word becomes manifest. 64
                                                         GURU NANAK

Bani: Its merits

1. It grants eternal peace and repose leading to salvation.

O Lord! Thy Word (Bani) is ambrosia or the Water of Life,
And by attuning to It, I am wafted Heavenward. 65
                                                                     GURU ARJAN
2. It destroys the canker of egotism or I-ness.
A touch with the Unending Sound (Anhad Bani) destroys all I-ness,
Let me scrupulously obey my Master and be a sacrifice unto Him. 66

The Virtuous Word (Nirmal Bani) ever resides with the Formless One (Nil Ghar),
O Nanak! It destroys all thoughts of I-ness, and rids one of all illusion. 67
                                                                                                          GURU AMAR DAS

3. It helps in acquiring self-knowledge and takes on beyond the Trigunatmac regions.
By losing oneself (in the Bani) one becomes all-knowing,
By attuning with the Word (Bani), one gets absorbed in Truth. 68
                                                                                              GURU NANAK

By devotion to the Master, one experiences the three worlds.
He becomes the knower of the Self and merges in the Lord. 69
                                                                                     GURU AMAR DAS

4. It washes off all sin and sorrow.
Pure is Bani and pure the Shabd,
And pure light resides in all.
The pure Bani sings of the glory of God,
And the practice of It washes off all sins. 70
                                                GURU AMAR DAS
5. It vanquishes the deadly sins.
Oh! I have vanquished the deadly sins,
How delectably sweet is the Savior Word (Bani)!
Nanak says: the mind gets enlightened,
And one reaches the region of Pure Silence (Bliss). 71
                                                                         GURU ARJAN
6. It helps in all possible ways, sets everything in order and grants bliss to body and mind.
By listening to the Voice of the All-pervading God (Bani Ram Naam),
One's endeavors are crowned with success,
From the very pores of the Master's devotees spring forth
  the Melodies of the Divine Harmony. 72
                                         GURU RAM DAS
Without the aid of Bani, one remains in ignorance and wanders in the wilderness of life, ever a prey to fears and mental distress.
He does not know the Shabd nor apprehend the Bani,
A slave to the mind and the senses, he remains in affliction and sorrow. 73
                                                                                                         GURU AMAR DAS
This is why in the Guru Granth Sahib great stress is laid on practice of the Bani.
Come ye the beloved disciples of the Master, sing the True Bani,
Sing the Bani of the Master, a Bani which is the crest jewel of all sounds. 74
                                                                                                              GURU AMAR DAS
The Bani springs into being under the Command (Hukam) of the Most High and one can listen to the same under His Will.
Only if Thou will it, can I sing the Bani,
Only if Thou will it, can I express the Truth. 75
                                                            GURU ARJAN


    Gurbani is not something separate from Bani. In fact, the two terms are synonyms. Since Bani is made manifest by the Guru, it is very often spoken of as Gurbani.
    Gurbani is Heaven's Light for the entire world and serves as a beacon or lighthouse to the people in distress.

In the stormy sea of life, Gurbani (Master's Word) is a powerful Lighthouse,
But one is guided by this Light only if so ordained. 76
                                                               GURU AMAR DAS
A contact with the Master's Word (Gurbani) purifies the mind and body of all impurities, mental and physical, and leads to the union of the little self with the Overself. Whoever practices the Word is saved from the clutches of death and regains the Kingdom of God.
In the treasure house of devotional practices, Gurbani is a peerless gem,
By listening, singing and practicing (Gurbani), one lives in a state
  of perpetual bliss. 77
          GURU ARJAN
Gurbani is Naad, the Anhad Dhun or the Sound Principle.
Only if it please Thee, my Lord, may I sing of Thy glory,
And within me shall dwell Thy Word, the fragrant Naam,
And the reverberations of the Gurbani (Shabd) be heard
  in the four corners of the Universe,
And thus all be absorbed in the True Naam. 78
                                                  GURU AMAR DAS

Gurbani is Naad, Vedas and still more,
Mind absorbed in It gets full satiation. 79
                                                GURU NANAK

O ye the beloved of the Lord, learn to know the Word
  of the Master (Satgur Bani),
Evanescent as the fleeting clouds are both the blooming youth
  and the aging body,
Death may come like a thief in the night; engage ye in
  the Inner Music of the Soul. 80
                              GURU NANAK

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