Naam or Word



The Sound Principle

    In Sanskrit "Shabd" is a root but we do not know its construction, as with other words. It means awaz (sound), akhar (word), kalam (talk), Ism (name), zamir (essence), bachan (spoken word), wazahat (exposition), sarahat (clarity), izhar (expression), taqrir (speech), etc. Whatever is spoken or heard is Shabd, and it reveals the real nature of things and explains the hidden reality or mystery thereof. But in the terminology of the saints, the term "Shabd" has a much deeper significance, quite
different from its commonly accepted meaning.


   Before the creation, Shabd existed in its latent form and as such had no name. In this state, It was something completely established in Itself and was thus known as Ashabd (sound-less), Anaam (nameless), Alakh (ununderstandable), Agam  (inconceivable), Akeh (unutterable) and Akath (indescribable). When It came into manifestation, It was called "Shabd" or "Naam."

Shabd when hidden was Anaam,
Shabd in manifestation became Naam.
                    SWAMI SHIVDAYAL SINGH
Before its manifestation, there was no form whatsoever; nor was there any sun nor moon nor sky nor earth, for then the Shabd existed by Itself in a formless state. The essence of Shabd is Pure Consciousness. It is the active life-principle of the whole creation. It is the Guiding and Controlling Power behind all that exists. All manifestation is the result of Shabd and without It nothing exists. It is the very life-essence of everything. The Muslim divines call it Jauhar (essence) and the Hindu saints describe It as Mul (the root cause). It is the vital principle immanent in every form and permeating all, the visible and the invisible. It is the Causeless Cause, the eternal self-existing life, running endlessly in and out of time. It is the very soul of the Creative Power, all pervading even to the purely spiritual realm - Sat Lok. Shabd is the primal cause of both birth and dissolution.
Both birth and death come about by Shabd,
Rebirth too is because of Shabd. 1
                             GURU AMAR DAS
Everything from beginning to end exists in Shabd. The physical elements, the subtle and ethereal powers and vibrations, the causal seeds and essences, one and all are from Shabd and nothing but Shabd personified. We live and have our very being in Shabd and ultimately dissolve into Shabd. All the scriptures of the world tell us that Shabd is above the material and efficient cause and All-
Controlling Power of the Universe.
He is all in all Himself and revels in His creation by supporting it by Shabd. 2
                                                                                                                       GURU NANAK

There is none like Thee in the entire creation,
In Thy Word Thou art manifesting Thyself.
Whatever Thou wishest, that comes to pass. 3
                                                       GURU RAM DAS


    The subject of Shabd is such that we cannot do justice to it by discursive reasoning. All that can be said is that "Shabd" implies the Power of God that has created and is sustaining the various grand divisions, divisions and sub-divisions of the vast creation of God. It is a current from the Ocean of Consciousness and is characterized by Sound-vibration, or in other words, It is a live and active principle which, emanating from God, is enlivening all creation. It is the instrument with which God creates, controls and sustains His vast universe. It acts as a life-line between the Creator and His creation and serves as a golden bridge between the two. The divine currents, like the ethereal waves of a radio, are spread out in the atmosphere in all the directions of the compass, giving out delectable strains of music. We, however, cannot catch the ethereal vibrations and listen to the divine melody until we get in tune with the Infinite by adjusting our mental apparatus. Therefore we become etherealized more and more as we come in tune with the heavenly music. Shabd is the connecting
link between God and man. In brief, Shabd alone is the true religion - a binding force that rebinds us to our Source. All the powers of Nature depend on and work through this Shabd or the Sound Principle. The Pranas or the vital airs, that are the source of all energy - electrical, mechanical, magnetic or atomic - and are the most active agents in the physical material plane, are but an outer manifested form of the Shabd. Like the electric waves with which the whole atmosphere is charged, Shabd in its most subtle form pervades everywhere in Its fullness and is thus the Creator. Guru Nanak, in the Jap Ji, has called It Hukam and describes Its working:

All things are manifestations of His Will,
But His Will is beyond description.
By His Will is matter quickened into life,
By His Will is greatness obtained.
By His Will some are born high and others low,
By His Will (the impious) wander in endless transmigration.
All exists under His Will,
And nothing stands outside.
One attuned with His Will, O Nanak, is wholly free from ego. 4
Shabd is of two kinds: outer and inner or Varn-Atmak and Dhun-Atmak, respectively. The Varn-Atmak to a certain extent gives a clue to the Dhun-Atmak Shabd. It is a matter of common experience how martial music stirs up men to arms, sad dirges bring tears to the eyes, loving strains bewitch the mind, doleful songs strike the spirit, solemn notes inspire awe and reverence. Again, the words of the wise act as a soothing balm for lacerated minds and smarting taunts cut us to the quick.
Words there be that cut the very heart-strings,
And words may lead to profound renunciation,
Words may work as soothing balm or may strike misery,
Some of them inspire hope and others engender helplessness.

What passion cannot Music raise and quell.

When there is so much magic in Varn-Atmak Shabd, one cannot possibly imagine the Power that lies hidden in the Dhun-Atmak Shabd, which is very subtle and ethereal in nature. The inner Shabd is sublime and pure, with an irresistible magnetic pull which a freed soul cannot but plunge into.


    In all the religious scriptures, "Shabd" is stated to be the Creator of the Universe. The Vedas tell us that "Nad" brought into being fourteen Bhavans or regions. In the Koran, it is mentioned that "Kalma" created fourteen tabaqs or divisions. St. John, in his Gospel, has written that "Word" is the root cause of the creation.

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 life was the light of men . . .5

The sacred Sikh scriptures also tell of the same thing - the entire manifestation has sprung from "Shabd" and is being maintained by Him. The sun, the sky, the earth and the heavens all are within His Controlling Power and there is no place where He is not. The immanence of Shabd is all-

Shabd is the directive agent of God,
And is the cause of all creation. 6
                           GURU AMAR DAS

The earth and the sky were made by Shabd,
Shabd has been the source of all light.
The whole creation sprang from Shabd,
O Nanak! Shabd is the very life of life. 7

Having set up everything, He beheld His own imprint therein,
He established the beautiful earth and the starry welkin,
He raised the tabernacle of heaven with no pillars to support.
He created the sun and the moon with all the starry host
  and His light is pervading all. 8
                              GURU NANAK

Again, "Shabd" is not only the Creator but He is the Destroyer also, and the rebirth of the creation takes place through Him.

Both the creation and the dissolution are from Shabd,
And Shabd again is the cause of re-creation. 9
                                                    GURU AMAR DAS

In the Hindu scriptures, It is described as the essence of ether, which goes to show that It is more subtle than ether and is all-pervading. Its presence, in fact, is felt in the union of matter and spirit, for every union implies vibration and vibration is caused by Shabd or Sound-the active life-principle permeating all space, nay receding far back into Itself; for God too is described as "Shabd," as the Power of God (Shabd) is not distinct and separate from God: God and Godhood (God-in-action) always go together.

Thy "Shabd" is Thyself and whatever Thou ordaineth that comes to pass. 10
                                                                                                                 GURU RAM DAS
All the religious books, including the Vedas, the oldest of them, have described "Shabd" as the primal manifest form of God. In Sama Veda we have,
Shabd is Brahm and "Silence" too is Brahm
Brahm alone is vibrating everywhere.
The Mohammedan divines tell us that the world owes its very life and existence to Shabd. Shamas Tabrez says:
World came into being through Saut (Shabd or Sound Principle).
 And from Saut spread all light.
Again Abdul Razaq Kashi tells us,
The Great Name (ism-i-azam) is the very essence and life of all names.
Its manifested form (Shabd) is supporting the entire creation,
It is the great sea in which we all appear as waves.
He alone can understand this mystery who belongs to our order.


    The Inner Sound Principle is All-Conscious and too subtle for the ears, the tongue and the pen. It is an Unwritten Law and an Unspoken Language. It is self-existing, self-sustaining and self-supporting and yet is the very life of all that exists both in the animate and inanimate creation. But It can be realized in the deepest depths of the soul, for the two are of the same essence, the soul being but a drop of the Ocean of All-Consciousness. In the Sikh scriptures, It is also called "Sacha Shabd" or the True Word:

With the True Word, one knows the Truth,
With the True Sound, one sings the glory of the Lord. 11
                                                                               GURU NANAK

Meditate on the feet of the Master, and leaving aside all thy cleverness,
  be absorbed in the True Word. 12

Remember the Lord, O dear friend,
And ever love the True Word. 13
                                GURU ARJAN

It can be seen without eyes,
It can be heard without ears. 14
                              GURU NANAK

Lao Tze speaks of It:

The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be defined is not the unchanging Name. 15

Maulana Rumi says:

The Turks, Kurds, Parsis, Goans and Arabs,
They have all known It without the aid of lips and  ears.
The Upanishadic sages have described It as "Pranav" or that which can be heard through the pranic vibrations, without the help of tongue, lips and palate, for It is reverberating of Itself in and out of space.

  Sant Kabir has called It "Videh" for It is above the realm of physical existence and can be apprehended by the soul when it is unclogged from bodily raiment.

All sing of the Shabd without realizing that It is Videh or the Bodiless,
No tongue can describe It, but soul may contact It within.
Hazrat Bahu says in this context:
Everyone repeats the Kalma orally, by word of mouth,
A rare soul may repeat It with the tongue of thought;
And whoever repeats It within with loving devotion,
He cannot describe it in words.
My Master has taught me a lesson, a lesson that goes on repeating Itself,
And is heard in the ears without the aid of stop-cocks.
Maulana Rumi has beautifully described It:
O God, lead my soul to that blessed place, wherein  the symphonies flow.


    In all religious books we find references to Shabd or the Creative Sound Current: Hindu scriptures speak of It as Shabd Brahm and Ashabd Brahm or Nad, that is responsible for the creation of the world. The ancient sages and seers sang of It in their songs, and called It Shruti, meaning "that which is heard." The esoteric teachings were passed on from Master to disciple and the Word was made
manifest individually after years of spiritual discipline. In the Upanishadic Age, it came to be known as Udgit or Song of the Beyond, meaning at once of the other world (spiritual) and beyond the senses, for senses could not comprehend It and one had to transcend them to catch Its strains. 16 Other words that also came in to use for It are Pranav and Aum, for It could be heard in the mental ears alone and could be sung with the pranic vibrations without any outer aid of tongue or lips. In Chapter 6 of the Maitreya Upanishad it is stated that there are two Brahms, one Shabd Brahm and the other Ashabd Brahm and to reach Ashabd Brahm, one has to meditate, in the first instance, on the Shabd Brahm which has different kinds of Sounds that can be heard within by stop-cocking the ears with the thumbs; and by this means one can cross over to the Ashabd or Gupt Brahm, a state beyond the three
Gunas and the three mental conditions, and called Turiya Pad or super-sensual plane.

    In Yog-Sandhya, 17 it is enjoined that a yogin, practicing yogic disciplines, ought to close his ears with the thumbs and listen within him to the musical strains of the Chidakash or mental horizon and thereby still the mind and attain the Turiya state and merge in the Avyakat.

  In Chhandogya Upanishad 18 it is mentioned that Nad (heavenly music)  springs from the Universal Sun (of Brahmand) and that this secret was given by Ingris Rishi to Krishna, the darling son of Devki.

  Guru Amar Das tells us, in Rag Bhairon, that Bhakt Prehlad was saved by Shabd:

It (Shabd) has been the saving lifeline in all the ages,
Prehlad, the son of the demon-king, knew neither Gayatri nor any rituals,
He became one with God through contact with the Shabd. 19
                                                                                GURU AMAR DAS
    In Gita it is said,
Though under the sway of the senses, one feels drawn toward God
  by force of the habit acquired in previous births; nay, even the seeker
  of enlightenment transcends the Shabd Brahm.
The  yogi,  however,  who  diligently  takes  up  this practice,
  attains perfection in this very life with the help of latencies of many births
  and being thoroughly purged of sin, forthwith reaches the supreme goal. 20
    In the Nad-bind Upanishad, 21 we find,
A yogin ought to sit in Sidha Asan (a yogic posture), and adopting
  Vaishnavi Mudra, should hear within him the "Sound" coming
  from the right side.

    In Yog Sandhya, an elaborate account is given of the practice of "hearing the Shabd."

    In the Rig Veda 22 and the Atharv Veda 23  there are hymns in praise of Shabd. In Hans Upanishad of the latter it is given that one who does japa of the Hans Mantra, millions of times, comes to the realization of Nad. It is also stated that Nad consists of ten different types of melodies, nine of which are to be passed over, and the tenth, which resembles the sound of the thunder of distant clouds, is to be meditated upon and practiced, for It takes one to Par-Brahm.

    In Hath Yog Pradipka24, there are many Shlokas in praise of Shabd. In the Vedas, It is spoken of as Nad and Akash Bani (Voice of Heaven). In the Buddhist scriptures, It is referred to as Sonorous Light or Flaming Sound.

    The ancient Greeks also spoke of Shabd. In the writings of Socrates, we read that he heard within him a peculiar Sound which pulled him irresistibly to higher spiritual realms. Pythagoras also talked of Shabd. Plato spoke of It as the "Music of the Spheres." In the Greek language we have the term Logos, from "logo," to speak, which stands for the "Word" or Second Person of the Trinity.

    This term Logos also figures in both Hebrew and Christian philosophy and theology and in its mystic sense is used both by the Hellenistic and Neo-platonist philosophies. St. John has used the term "Word." It is a Sound Principle (Shabd) emanating from the Great Silence (Ashabd). In Chinese scriptures, it is known as Tao. Lao Tze, in the fourth century B. C., used the word Tao meaning "Road" or "Way" to denote the Hidden Principle of the Universe.

    In the Avestic writings of Zoroaster, the Persian prophet of life, we come across the word Sraosha, which stands for the angel of inspiration that inspires the Universe. It is a Power apart from the six spiritual Powers of which Zoroaster speaks. It is the cult of Eternal Life and is from the Sanskrit root "Shru" (to hear) and means that Power of God which can be heard. In the Zend Avesta, we have an invocation to Mazda praying for the gift of Sraosha for those whom He loves. It is the same as Shabd in the terminology of the saints.

    In our own times from Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak down to Guru Gobind Singh, the ten Sikh Gurus, Dadu, Jagjiwan, Tulsi, Darya Sahib, Baba Lal Das, Paltu and many others preached of Shabd.

   Many of the references to this subject in the Judaeo-Christian tradition have been given above, in Book One.

    Madam Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, has described It as the "Voice of God." In the Masonic Order we hear of It as the "Lost Word" in search of which the Mason Masters set up their Order.

    In Koran, there is an Ayat, "God commanded and it was done," Kun-feu-Kun. This, in fact, is the Kalma of the Muslims.

    The Sufis, an Order of Muslim mystics, call it Vadan. It is said:

If the Anaam (Nameless) had not wished to manifest Himself and become Naam, there would have been no "Sound" and no Universe.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, a modern Sufi mystic, tells us that this creation is nothing but the "Music of God" for It is the outcome or manifestation of His Power. He calls it Saute Sarmadi or the intoxicating vintage from the Garden of Allah (God) and has given an elaborate description of It, as appears from the following account:
    All space is filled with Saute Sarmad or the "Abstract  Sound." The vibrations of this Sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material ears or eyes, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form and colour of the ethereal vibrations on the external plane. It was the Saute Sarmad, the Sound of the abstract, which Mohammed heard in the cave, Ghar-e-Hira, when he became lost in his ideal. The Koran refers to this Sound in the words: "Be and all became"  (Kun-feu-Kun).  Moses  heard  this  very Sound on Mount Sinai (Koh-i-Toor), when in communion with God. The same Word was audible to the Christ when. absorbed in his Heavenly Father in the wilderness. Shiva heard the  same Anahad Naad during his Samadhi in the Himalayas.  The flute of Krishna is symbolic of the same Sound allegorically explained. This Sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters to whom It is revealed from within and it is, therefore, that they know and teach the one and the same Truth.

    The knower of the mystery of the Sound knows the mystery of the whole Universe. Whosoever has followed the strains of this Sound has forgotten all earthly distinctions and differences; and has reached the same goal of Truth in which all the Blessed Ones of God unite. Space is within the body as well as around it; in other words the body is in space and space is in the body.

    This being the case, the Sound of the Abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Man does not hear It as a rule, because his consciousness is entirely centered in his material existence. Man becomes so absorbed in his experiences in the external world through the medium of the physical body that space,  with  all its  wonders of  Light and  Sound, appears to him blank . . . The limited volume of earthly sound is so concrete, that it dims the effect of the Sound of the Abstract to the sense of hearing; although in comparison to It the sounds of the earth are like that of a whistle to a drum. When the Abstract Sound is audible, all other sounds become indistinct to the mystic.

    The Sound of the Abstract is called Anhad in the Vedas, meaning unlimited sound. The Sufis name It Sarmad, which suggests the idea of intoxication. The word intoxication is here used to signify upliftment, the freedom of the soul from Its earthly bondage. Those who are able to hear the Saute Sarmad and meditate on It are relieved from all worries, anxieties, fears and diseases; and the soul is freed from captivity in the senses and in the physical body. The soul of the listener becomes All-pervading Consciousness; and his spirit becomes the battery which keeps the whole Universe in motion. . . .

    This Sound develops through ten different aspects because of Its manifestation through the different tubes of the body (Nadis); it sounds like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, running water, the buzzing of bees, the twittering of sparrows, the Vina, the whistle, or the sound of Shankha (Conch) until it finally becomes Hu the most sacred of all sounds. This Sound Hu is the beginning and end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast, or thing.
                                    THE MYSTICISM OF SOUND

    In the Muslim scriptures, It is variously described as Kalam-i-Ilahi (The Voice of God), Nida-i-Asmani (the Sound from Heaven), Ism-i-Azam  (the Great Name), Saut-i-Sarmadi  (the Intoxicating Sound), Saut-i-Nasira (the Sound Melodious), Kalam-i-Majid (the Great Commandment) and Kalam-i-Haq (the Voice of Truth) which can be heard inside, and It was taught as Sultan-ul-Azkar or the King of prayers. We have innumerable references to this Sound in the teachings of the Mohammedan fakirs:

Rise above thy mental horizon, O brave soul,
And listen to the call of Music coming from above.
                                                                 MAULANA RUMI

The whole world is reverberating with Sound,
To listen to It thou must unseal thine inner ears,
Then shalt thou hear an Unending Music,
And that shall lead thee beyond the confines of death.
                                                                                     SHAH NIAZ

An unceasing Sound is floating down from the heaven,
I wonder how ye are engaged in pursuits of no avail.

Drive away all skepticism from thy mind,
And listen to the strains of heavenly music,
And receive within thee the messages of God,
For these come only by holy communion with the self.
The Prophet declared that he heard the Voice of God,
And it fell on his ears as clearly as any other sound,
But God has sealed thy ears,
And so ye listen not to His Voice.
                               MAULANA RUMI

    About the Prophet Mohammed it is said 25 that at the age of forty he began receiving messages from God, after he had for fifteen years practiced communion with Awaz-Mustqim (Anhad Shabd or the Ceaseless Word), and had seen the glimpses of Truth (flashes of heavenly light) for seven years. At one time he remained for two years in the cave of Hira in meditation.

    It is further stated that the prophet practiced in the cave of Hira, for six years, the Sultan-ul-Azkar (Surat Shabd Yoga) and that Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jillani, did the same for twelve years in that sacred cave. 26

    All the Sikh Gurus and other saints, time and again, taught this very thing in very clear terms. Guru Nanak spoke thus:

With stone-deaf ears thou hast lost all thy wits,
For thou hast not got contact with the Shabd,
And by slavery to the Mind thou hast forfeited thy human birth;
Without the Master-soul, one remains blind to the Reality. 27
                                                                                       GURU NANAK

Hundreds of moons and thousands of suns may illumine the world,
But without a Master-soul, they fail miserably to dispel the darkness
  of the human mind.
Without contact with Shabd, one remains stark blind and deaf,
Of what avail is their life in this world
They get not the Water of Life and escape not the endless cycle of births. 28
                                                                                                                   GURU AMAR DAS

Practice ye the Word of the Master,
For one knows the Reality through the Word. 29
                                                          GURU RAM DAS

Without the Master, there is no holy congregation,
Without the Word one cannot know the Reality. 30
                                                            GURU AMAR DAS

From the above it is sufficiently clear that all Master-souls, whether Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and countless others, were conversant with the practice of the Word, though they did not necessarily expound it as a regular science. Most of them tell of Anhad Shabd only, leading up to Und and Brahmand or the subtle and cosmic regions. But perfect saints, irrespective of whether they belonged to one religion or the other, have gone even beyond this and have spoken of Sar Shabd and Sat Shabd as well, and of regions beyond Brahmand (Par-Brahmand, i.e., Sach Khand, Alakh and Agam Deshas).

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