Gurbani comprises the daily recitation of the prescribed portions of our daily prayers, repetition of a particular verse or verses, and participation in sangat kirtan singing. The average mind wonders and is full of dreams and fantasies. Gurbani transforms and purifies the ideas, and helps us understand the teachings of the Gurus. Thereby, we are led to remember God. Thus when we concentrate on Gurbani our baser thoughts are purified and we are then blessed with heavenly sights, which produce an ecstatic feeling.
To recite the prescribed daily prayers, to resort to a Gurdwara to listen to kirtan, or God’s praises is what devout Sikhs do. But earnest spiritual seekers must practise Naam also. The sacred Word gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of God, of Sachkhand. But though the Sacred Word gives us a vision of the peace and beauty of that realm of the spirit, it is Naam alone that can groom us to take our place in it. Those who seek to dwell in God’s realm, must seek refuge in Naam. To travel over land we require a car or train, but for an aerial journey we need an aircraft. Similarly, in life, we need the assistance of Gurbani and if we wish to soar to the realm of the spirit, we need naam. In its contact with the world, the soul cannot remain unsullied, unless it is inspired by gurbani. But if the soul wishes to fly Godward, it requires the wings of Naam. Initially one must create love for gurbani and step by step, one should start practising Naam alongside it.
In the initial stages we should recite aloud gurbani or else the mind will not be able to concentrate upon it. And as the mind becomes anchored we can read gurbani in an undertone, till eventually we can recite it mentally. This method is suggested by many mahapursh who hold the view that progress in stages helps ultimately to read gurbani in silence, which paves the way for the practise of Naam.
The prescribed daily routine of gurbani recitation should of course be gone through, but devotees should also try to progress with Guru Granth Sahib Ji with intelligent care. We cannot grasp the core of Guru Ji without two or three carefull readings from end to end. In Guru Granth Sahib Ji there is light for every spiritual stage, and if we only try, we can find usefull paths suited to our individual needs. If we study Guru Ji thus, we are guided by them at each step, as a living teacher guides our footsteps. At first one is astonished at the close inter-connection between the soul and Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which seem to answer your problems as they arise.
If we go repeating a verse, its sense becomes rooted in our mind, the mind is moulded accordingly, and when it is thus moulded, it is bound to assume the corresponding form is due course.
Many intelligent people labour under a delusion about Naam. They do not understand the scientific truth underlying it, and in a way they are justified in their scepticism, for it is impossible to realise the potency of Naam without actually practising it. How can we know the taste of something that we have never tasted? The best way to thoroughly understand the philosophy of Naam............................. is to practise it.
Another problem about Naam is that the initial stages are so difficult and puzzling that few people take to it, but we must bear in mind that diamonds are found in hard rocks, and pearls in the mouths of oysters.
As soon as the name of any object is mentioned, its form, attributes, nature and our reaction to it rush into our minds. Name a friend and you have before your minds eye his form, nature and all the memories associated with him Similarly, if we repeat God’s Name, His attributes, as conceived by us, can be visualised. Through the study of gurbani and by listening to the discourses of holy men, we form some sort of mental picture of God.
As we repeat God’s Name, this picture grows clearer to us. Even if we have no mental concept of God, by repetition of His Name, His attributes are realised, and so we go on doing so, His attributes are slowly assimilated by us. It is a peculiar quality of our mind that if something impresses us profoundly, and if we aspire to be shaped in the same pattern, we are gradually moulded accordingly.
Guru Ji says “You are moulded in the form of what you adore”
The edifice of Naam has been raised on this natural trait of the mind. In the hottest weather, if we visualise snow capped mountains and we concentrate on this mental vision – cold blasts or air, people shivering – we shall in time begin to fell cold ourselves, or at any rate the intensity of the heat will diminish. Through repetition of God’s Name, we begin to be moulded in His pattern and we begin to assimilate His virtues.
Naam is essential if the mind is to remain in repose. Naan is a sort of train, aeroplane or ladder leading to God. It is the key that unlocks the gate to Heaven. Adoration begins with Naam and Naam leads to perfection. Guru Granth Sahib Ji uses the word Naam many times. Naam has been used for simran and also for the spiritual stages resulting from it. There, Naam signifies the realisation of the end as also the means adopted. Just as when we see a magnificent palace, we might remark “How great is the power of money,” similarly, the blissful condition produced by Naam is also called Naam.
Naam can be practised at any time and anywhere, but, in the initial stages it would be prudent to practise in a secluded place with a peaceful and tranquil mind. Beautiful surroundings – a river bank, the foot of a hill, a garden – are conductive to turning thoughts towards God. If such natural surroundings are not available we might resort to a special room reserved for simran. After some time we will associate the room with reverence and devotion. It is a place of pilgrimage where one can wash away the dirt of the mind and imbibe a fresh spiritual impulse. Incense, flowers and perfumes induce a spiritual urge and aura. When we have made sufficient progress in the realm of Simran, it is immaterial where we turn to God.
Amritwella period of the early morning is believed to be the best time for Naam. During these hours there is perfect silence and calm in nature and the attuned mind is in raptures in His unity effortlessly and without disturbance. This period is also called the Brahm hour or heavenly time. When we have sufficiently advanced in simran, we become accustomed to it at all hours and no rigid schedule is necessary. In the last stage, simran is life and life is simran. A break in simran, as Guru Gobind Singh Ji has said is tantamount to the agony of dwelling near the hole of a cobra.
In the initial stages we would do well to practise Naam seated. In seclusion one should squat cross legged on the floor in an erect position even if it is slightly inconvenient at first. To avoid fatigue a cushion may be used to sit upon. When practising simran we must observe the golden rule of alert concentration on God. When the spiritual seeker has mastered the preliminary steps he will find that when his mind descends from a higher spiritual plane and he is again conscious of the world around and of his physical frame, he will find it easier to control his body and mind if he is sitting upright.