Naam or Word


continuation of

The Sound Principle


   The unending strains of Music are of a variety of types, and become manifest through a competent Master:

Various are the unending dulcet Melodies,
One cannot describe their delicious strains. 151
                                                          GURU NANAK
Bhai Gurdas Ji tells us in this context:
By listening to the countless strains of the limitless Song,
   one is struck with ineffable wonder. 152

Out of these, only five melodies are considered of immense value, and the scriptures speak highly of them:

The five-sounded Melody keeps reverberating and my soul
  is ever attracted by It as a Sarang is ever after water.
O the Formless One beyond all knowledge!
I worship thee with all my heart. 153

The five sublime melodies become manifest through the grace of the Master,
And a rare soul gets attached to them. 154
                                             GURU RAM DAS

The five sublime strains become distinguishable,
The drum, the conch, and the thunder. 155
                                                            BENI JI

As these five melodies proceed from God's throne, God is described in the scriptures as "Panch Shabdi" (i.e., Lord of the five-sounded Melody).
The glorious consummation takes place,
When the Lord of the five Melodies comes. 156
                                                          GURU NANAK
The five Melodies constituting the Word come from Him and become the means of reuniting us with Him. The saints also adore the Word; in the Jap Ji we have:
The saint lives by and meditates on the One Word. 157
                                                                        GURU NANAK
Bhai Gurdas Ji tells us that it is only after one transcends body-consciousness that one gets contact with the five-sounded Song.
When the spirit crosses over the world of matter,
The five-sounded Melody comes to greet her. 158
It is only a rare devotee of the Master that practices the five Melodies and thereby reaches the Kingdom of God.
The soul of a true devotee can listen to the five- sounded Music,
The Song of the Master is characterized by five distinct strains. 159

God Himself dwells in the five Sounds,
And the five Sounds give a clue of Him. 160
                                                BHAI GURDAS

All saints and sages have taught the five Sounds. Hafiz, a great mystic poet, speaks of the five Naubats:
Be attentive and listen to the five drum-beats, coming down
  from the high heaven;
The heaven that lies beyond the six ganglionic centers
  and is far above the seven skies.
The teachings of Shamas Tabrez, as well, centered round the five-sounded Melody:
Every day the five drums play at His door to announce His greatness,
If their Music were to fall on thine ears, thou wouldst be rid of all thine I-ness.
Again, the saint tells us that one can hear the five melodious tunes only when one puts up his tabernacle in the seventh region (i.e., rises above the six chakras of the Pind and comes up to the first astral plane, behind and between the two eyebrows).
Thou shalt meet the five Naubats in the seventh region;
As soon as you take your bivouac far above the six planes.
                                                                                SHAMAS TABREZ
The audible Sound Current is in fact only one continuous creative life-principle which, emanating from the Immaculately Pure One, steps down from plane to plane for the purpose of creating five regions below: pure conscious, great causal, causal, subtle and physical, and as It passes through varying degrees of density, peculiar at each place, It acquires a distinctive sound and hence has come to be known as Music of the five melodies or Sounds. There are two distinct sounds up to Trikuti and two more are added up to Sach Khand and the fifth sound is that of Sat Lok. In Sat Lok, all the five melodies are completed in their fullness and richness. The mystery of the Sound Principle is revealed by some Sound-incarnate Master and it is by practice of and communion with the five melodies that the soul is gradually led to the Lord of the five-tuned Music.
It is by the Grace of the Master that one devotes himself wholeheartedly
  to this practice,
And meets the All-Merciful, by listening to the five Shabds. 161
                                                                                   GURU AMAR DAS
All the five Sounds are characterized by a delectable harmony; and whoever concentrating his spirit current, recedes back and rises above body-consciousness is sure to meet them.
In the temple of the body whoever sings, and sings of the Lord,
He, while singing, hears the five Melodies in the body and gets the highest glory. 162
                                                                                                                              GURU RAM DAS
In the scriptures it is said that the reverberation of these tunes becomes manifest in the forehead:
For ages past I have been Thy devotee; how can I now be separated?
The harmony playing at Thy door, becomes manifest in my forehead. 163
Where then is this harmony to be located? In which part of the forehead? This harmony can be traced between and behind the two eyes in the Sukhmana and one can hear It only there.
Listen ye to the divine Music in the Sukhman,
Attend ye to It with all attention. 164
The Muslim divines and darveshes have spoken of it as Shah-rag and the Mehrab, meaning thereby the life-chord in the great archway of heaven (i.e., forehead).
When in meditation I see Thy beloved form, O Master!
A great Harmony (Sound) springs up in the central archstone of my forehead.
Bulleh Shah says,
God is much nearer than even the life-chord.
In the Koran it is said,
I am nearer to thee than thy life-line.
   Those who practice the Surat Shabd Yoga under the guidance of a competent Master, begin to unravel the mystery of Self and of God and begin to see the All-pervading Truth both within and without. Secondly, from the varying sounds he learns at what region he is in his spiritual journey, for they serve as milestones on the Path and thus save him from wandering astray.
And thine ears shall hear a Word behind thee saying,
  this is the Way, walk ye in It, when ye turn to the right hand,
  and when ye turn to the left. 165
One can find his way to the five Melodies from a competent Master, by practicing his Word.
The five Sounds become audible by following the instruction of the Master,
A person with a great good fortune can hear the Limitless Sound Principle. 166
                                                                                                                   GURU RAM DAS
A detailed description of the five Sounds relevant to the five regions is given by the Sant Satguru at the time of initiation, and the disciple, as he advances in practice, verifies the truth of the Master's words as he moves forward from plane to plane.

    Blessed indeed is the temple of the body in which the five Sounds become audible and the Way to God opens up.

Fortunate is the house, the body, where the five Sounded Word becomes manifest,
Blessed indeed is the sacred house which stands by It.
                                                                        GURU AMAR DAS

The wondrous Music of the five melodies,
God Himself may make audible if He so wisheth. 168
                                                                   GURU NANAK

The five Shabds peal continuously and overflow in their fullness,
Peerless are the five Sounds and unceasingly do they sport about. 169
                                                                                                     BHAI GURDAS

Five Sounds make the perfect Harmony,
And the limitless Song brings in wondrous intoxication. 170
                                                                                GURU ARJAN

The unending Melody is ever rich in Its fullness. 171

The five symphonies combine together to make the subtle Word perfect which lulls the mind to sleep forever and frees the soul from the trigunatmac bondage, never to return to the cycle of births and deaths.

Learn from the saints to live in harmony with the sublime Word,
The Word made perfect by the five symphonies constituting it. 172
                                                                                               BHAI GURDAS

Now that One Word abides in me
There can be no more coming into the world. 173
                                                            GURU NANAK

My Beloved has taken me beyond the three Gunas
And I remain ever absorbed in the sublime Word. 174
                                                              GURU AMAR DAS

Day and night I live in perfect bliss,
Attuned as I am with the Word. 175
                              GURU RAM DAS

Those who live in tune with the one Word are worthy of our highest esteem and adoration:
O Nanak! they deserve the greatest homage,
Who live in harmony with the Word. 176
                                         GURU NANAK


    The Primordial Form of the Lord is the Sound Principle, and myriads of tunes are playing at His Door all the time:

Fortunate I am to have the Lord as my friend and companion,
For endless Symphonies keep playing at His Door. 177
                                                                      GURU ARJAN

It is through Shabd that the creation came into being, with its various divisions and sub-divisions. Each division has its own peculiar musical notes which one hears as one rises from one higher plane to another. All the saints have given detailed account of these Sounds and in Gurbani particularly we have an elaborate exposition on the subject.

  It is a matter of common knowledge that the Hindus as they visit a temple strike the big bells hanging over the doorway. The Christian churches are invariably provided with a belfry and the bell is pulled by the bell ringer before the commencement of the church service. In the earlier Sikh temples either a conch was blown or a gong was struck, though this has now been replaced by playing a big drum (Naqara). A careful research on the subject reveals that all these outer things, viz., bells, gongs, conches, etc., are but symbolic representations without of the inner Sound Principle. Again, a careful study of the structure of all these places of worship also helps us to understand a significant religious element involved therein. Hindu temples have a dome-like shape with a big saucer-shaped bell hanging from the center of the dome, and whoever goes in for worship first clangs the bell. In the temple of the human body also, in the dome-like structure of the head, the pilgrim soul, as it enters the astral region, hears a sound that resembles that of a gong or a conch. Similarly the Christian cathedrals are either in the formation of a big dome resembling the human head or are steeple-shaped, reminiscent of the ascending human nose, over which, as the soul concentrates at the still-point behind and between the two eyebrows, a bell-like sound is heard. Khawaja Hafiz, a mystic poet of great repute, speaks of It thus:

None knows where my Beloved abides,
But sure enough comes the sound of a bell therefrom.
In Sikh scriptures it is stated:
The Sound of the gong is heard everywhere. 178
                                                             GURU ARJAN
The Buddhist monasteries are also dome-shaped and are always embellished with two drums: one on the right and the other on the left. The scriptures of all religions contain references to the ringing sound of bells or the blowing of horns and conches: the reason being that this is the First experience of the soul as it rises above body consciousness and enters the temple of the Most High, the way to which begins from the root of the nose behind the two eyebrows. In the same way countless melodies greet the soul as it proceeds onward on the Path; but five of them are generally considered and accepted as of immense value in leading and guiding one on the journey Godward. These melodious tunes interchangeably lead from plane to plane until one catching the native Melody reaches the Home of his Father, with the proper help and guidance of some Master-saint.

   In the Wars of Bhai Gurdas, one comes across many references in this context:

    The soul hears the playing of Singhi (Zither). 179

    The unending Music plays and the Light of Toor appears. 180

   In the silence of the soul there is effulgent Light,
   Be ye absorbed in the sweet exhilarating Music. 181

Hafiz says:
Listen ye to the heavenly orchestra,
With notes of dulcimer, flute, zither and guitar.
These inner musical notes, which can be contacted through a Master, help in liberating the soul from the walls of finitude and take her up to the high home of the Father - the Kingdom of God; for that is the only Highway.


   We see in our everyday experience that music, instrumental or vocal, plays an important role in religious congregations, whatever the nature, whether of the Yogins, the Hindus, the Christians or the Sikhs. We see the practice of Qawwali among the Muslims, the rich music in the quatrains of Omar Khayyam, and the poetical compositions of Shah Niaz, Khawaja Hafiz, Shamas Tabrez and Maulana Rumi. All the teachings of the Sikh Masters in the voluminous Granth Sahib are arranged on Rag forms  - musical compositions. The fact is that effusions from the depths of one's soul flow in unpremeditated numbers. Poetry is, in fact, the language of the soul, as much as prose is of the intellect. All these outer musical aids have, however, an inebriating effect that lull a person to a state of intoxication but cannot rouse in him Super-consciousness gradually expanding into the efflorescence of Universal Awakening and Cosmic Awareness.

All the wild ecstatic dances in accompaniment with the outer music
  are of no avail to the mind that is both blind and deaf. 182
                                                                          GURU AMAR DAS
There are several reasons for this ineffectiveness. In the first place the music that one very often hears is not an out-pouring of the soul. It is a cheap commodity and merely a means of livelihood.
A musician makes use of his tunes for the sake of earning a living
And makes all sorts of gesticulations, waving himself from side to side.
With rattling ripplets at the ankles, one calls himself a devotee of Ramdas
  and thereby earns a living,
Another shows himself off with the observance of fasts, vigils
  and performance of set rituals,
And still another sings out hymns and verses with a mind
  an utter stranger thereto. 183
                           GURU ARJAN
With the dog of hunger gnawing at the very vital chords within, one cannot possibly get over his sense of doubt and skepticism, with the result that he remains in darkness, far removed from Reality.

  Secondly, most of the musicians spend all their time and energy in setting right the tunes and strains of their instruments, vocal or otherwise. A searching investigation of some of the Ragis (professional singers) revealed that they live in constant fear of losing their gift of popular tunes and thus always try to show off what they may or may not actually possess. With the attention riveted all the time on the tunes alone they simply sing off the Bani regardless of its true import and thereby not only lose sight of the inner meaning it conveys but more often than not make such phonetical blunders that the true significance
itself is distorted and lost.

The Yogin plays the part with his hands,
But the tunes do not ring in true. 184
                                GURU RAM DAS
The hearers too cannot understand the verses properly; unless they are well acquainted with it beforehand, they lose it in the strains and tunes of the accompanying music. The saints have, therefore, not attached any special importance to outer music for it fails to develop true concentration and consequently one cannot contact the Reality within, lose the sense of I-ness and get above body consciousness, nor achieve inner peace and ecstasy.
O Yogin, with the music of the zither you cannot develop concentration
  nor reach the Truth,
O Yogin, your zither shall not give you inner peace
  nor shall it rid you of your egotism. 185
                                    GURU AMAR DAS
The time spent in preparing tunes and strains is a dead loss without any yield whatever. If this time were spent in attuning the soul with the inner Word, according to the instructions of the Master, one could gather many untold treasures of Divinity.
How long will you adjust to play the ripplets and the guitar?
Why not spend the time in the Word instead of in preparing the tunes?
How long will you dance and extend your hands? 186
                                                             GURU RAM DAS
It is no good to emotionalize, sing and dance wildly to the accompaniment of music, tire oneself out of breath and then faint away, sinking into oblivion that leads the spirit nowhere. The outer musical aids no doubt do help temporarily in gathering in the scattered outgoing faculties and wandering wits, but cannot lead one to higher  Consciousness. On the other hand, they take one to a state of forgetfulness both of one's self and of God. Beethoven tells us that music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. We seem to enter into a new mental world of our own which, of course, is superimposed on us by the musicians. But it fails to wean the mind from the inner cravings for the world and all that is worldly. In brief, the teachings of the Masters are crystal-clear on this subject. We may be attracted by and get absorbed in the outer music and all of us fully enjoy it, yet with all that we cannot break loose from the three Gunas and transcend into the beyond. Without the aid of the True Music of the Soul that is going on everywhere and all the time, one remains a constant prey to sorrow and affliction in the realm of mind and matter.
Engaged in useless pursuits, the musician keeps the people spell-bound in Ragas,
He remains within the snares of the three Gunas
  and goes round in transmigration,
As without contact with the All-pervading Word one remains
  in suffering and sin. 187
            GURU NANAK

It is only the Word that can take one out of the delusive matter. 188
                                                                                             GURU AMAR DAS

The saints have, therefore, never recommended any course of discipline, neither of music, nor yogic practices nor anything else. They have always laid stress on the love of Naam or Word, the primal Sound Principle of Godhead.
Some engage in the music of the bells,
Some in fasts, vigils, beads and the like,
Some smear their bodies with sandal paste.
But I have only the Lord for my devotion. 189
                                                       GURU ARJAN
The Muslim devouts also preferred the practice of Kalam-i-qadim, the most ancient inner Call of God, to all kinds of outer musical melodies.
Take the stop-cock of doubt and distrust from your ears,
And listen to the Melody that is floating down from above.
O brave soul, rise above the sensory plane,
And hear thou Heaven's Music.
What a pity to remain in the prison-house of the body,
And not to listen to the Voice of the All-Merciful.
Bhai Gurdas, in his Kabit Sawais, tells us that by Nad-Bad (outer ragas and raginis - tunes and melodies), one cannot have access to the True and unending Melodies.
So long as one enjoys ragas and raginis,
He remains far removed from Anhad. 190
The ragas and raginis (musical notes) have just a sensual appeal and one engaged in them remains entangled all his life, trapped unawares like a swift-footed stag or a mighty elephant, both of whom, in their ignorance, fall an easy prey to the wiles of the hunter.
Just as a stag by listening to the music of the drum gets drenched in ignorance,
So man without Shabd remains without peace and happiness. 191
Far beyond Nad-Bad (outer music) lies the Anahat or the unstruck self-supporting Music.
One has to go far beyond the musical tunes for union with the Anhad. 192
It is only by communion with Anhad that one can rise above the physical plane of the three Gunas. This Godly Music helps us in breaking through the bondage of the world, and while remaining in the world we cease to be of the world. Henceforth, like a lotus flower we keep above the muddy water which is our natural habitat, and like a sea-fowl always keep high and dry, unaffected by the
natural element in which we live.

    In the Sikh scriptures the Nad-Bad has often been described as Bikh-bani or Bikh-Nad, meaning Bani or Nad with a mortal sting in it, for it injects one with a deadly poison from which one can find no escape.

Through palate and eyes we are all entangled,
And we get deadly poison through the ears,
Without the Shabd we are lost all the time. 193
                                                         GURU NANAK

The ears get so attuned with the false music,
That the Music of God does not appeal to us. 194
                                                              GURU ARJAN

It is only by substituting the Nad-Bad with the Divine Melody that we can have any honor in His presence:
Leave off Ragas (outer music) and commune with the Word,
Then shalt thou be honored in His Court,
O Nanak! by meditating on Him according to the instructions of the Master,
  one rids himself of all vanities. 195
                              GURU RAM DAS
The worldly-wise keep busy all the time in Nad-Bad which is nothing but sound arising from matter:
O Man! how shall I describe all this?
It is all but a false rattle from matter. 196
                                                 GURU ARJAN
The Path of the Masters starts where all these ragas and raginis (musical notes and tunes) come to an end and one transcends the plane of the senses, beyond which the unstruck Music ceaselessly plays of Itself. One who is in tune with this Dhun-atmak Shabd (Song of the Soul) may sing as much as he likes and it benefits him to do so.
He who has seen the Reality,
His songs are acceptable, and
He is honored in His Court. 197
                    GURU RAM DAS
It is only by contact with the Word that one can escape from the sea of delusive matter; outer musical notes of whatever description are of no avail.
The mind keeps oscillating when sitting in devotion,
But by listening to the Master's Word it gets stilled,
The True Sound drives away all worldly attachments,
The Shabd opens the eye to Reality. 198
                                     GURU AMAR DAS

While engaged in sinful pursuits one sings Ragas (songs)
  and bears testimony to the truth of what they say,
  little knowing that without the Word all is a farce. 199
                                                                          GURU NANAK

The inner Music of the soul is the real song. Its tunes are self-existing and self-supporting and need no outer aids of hands, feet or tongue and lead to the source from whence they come, the Minstrel divine.
The sweet symphonies of the Music float without the aid of hands and feet,
Whoever communes with this Music, he beholds the Truth. 200
                                                                                       GURU NANAK
The strains of the Heavenly Music become manifest only to one who is a true devotee of the Master; through a Master-soul many get benefited:
A devotee of the Lord sees and sings of His glory,
He hears the playing of cymbals, bells, zither, guitar and flute,
He surrenders his all to Him and gets to the Truth,
Whoever believes in Him gets on the Path and ends his round of births,
He doth escape the fires of hell, O Nanak! and truly comes to his own. 201
                                                                                                                 GURU ARJAN
The Yogins and Derveshes, however, make use of the outer music as an aid in developing the transcendental hearing.
   The Sufis, in particular, call music a divine or celestial
   art, not only because of its use in religion and devotion,
   and because it is in itself a universal religion, but
   because of its fineness in comparison with all other
   arts and sciences. Every sacred scripture, holy picture
   or spoken words produces the impression of its identity
   and leaves its own image upon the mirror of the soul, but
   music stands before the soul without producing any
   impression whatever of either name or form of the objective
   world, thus preparing the soul to realize the infinite .

      The Sufi, recognizing its importance, calls music
   Ghiza-i-Ruh, the food of the soul and uses it as a
   source of spiritual perfection; for music fans the fire
   of the heart and the flame arising from it illumines
   the soul. The Yogins and ascetics blow Narsinghas
   (big-horned instruments) or Shankha (a conch or a
   big shell), to awaken in them the inner tone.
   Derveshes play Nai or Algoza (a double flute) for the
   same purpose. The bells and gongs in the churches
   and temples are meant to suggest to the thinker the
   same sacred Sound, and thus lead him towards the
   inner life. 202

Music used as the art of arts and the science of sciences, containing the fountain of all knowledge, is helpful in developing the finer sense of hearing; but if practiced for exhibition and show or as a means of earning a living it loses its inherent charm and real utility.

    The saints at times press music into their service as a handy aid in collecting an audience, for people are generally attracted more by music than by anything else.

    Again, it is out of the abundance of heart that a man speaketh. As the true saints are imbued with the intoxication of the inner unstruck divine Music (Anahat), the spontaneous songs welling out of the depths of their soul bring about a tremendous impact on the listeners and at times transform their very being, instantaneously leading them to full spiritual efflorescence.

    From a study of ancient tradition we see that the first divine messages were given in songs; the Song of Solomon, the Psalms of David and the Gathas of Zoroaster. The Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Zend Avesta, the Kabala and the Sikh Scriptures are all in verse. Kabir, Nanak, Baba Farid, Hazrat Bahu, Surdas, Dharamdas, Sadna and other saints used mostly verse for disseminating their ideas. The very atmosphere in the gatherings of the saints is charged with spiritual vibrations and often some of the devout listeners get into Wajd or a state of intoxication
at their very sight. The two simple words "Hari Bole" addressed to a washerman by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the sage of Bengal, turned the very washing ghat into a veritable ring of dancers with the chant of "Hari Bole" on their lips. This then is the power of real music coming from within the
secret chambers of the heart.

This completes the Book 2 : " SHABD - The Sound Principle"

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