What is Naam?

The word ‘Naam’ is derived from the Sanskrit “Naaman” which means the practice of remembrance. The remembrance of God – “Naam Marg” is the essence of Sikhi.

Just as water has different forms (liquid, vapour, and ice) but yet it’s still water. Similarly there is no difference between God and Naam. Naam is the ‘Divine Presence’ felt everywhere, supporting all things at all times – in today’s language we could say the energy structure or power of the whole Universe. Essentially it is the presence of Waheguru, which is inside us, and supporting absolutely everything, and is the universal vibration of the creation.

ਜਲਿ ਥਲਿ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਨਾਮੋ ਡੀਠਾ ॥੨॥
“In the water, on the land, and everywhere, I see Naam. ||2||”
(Ang 863)

The Power of Naam holds the whole creation together, including the elements of Nature. All the universes stand projected and are held together by the Power of Naam. Naam is the support of all beings; Naam is the support of the whole universe. Naam unites the devotee with the Lord. Naam cements the bond, the true relationship of the worshipper with the Worshipped. In Sukhmani Sahib it says:

ਨਾਮ ਕੇ ਧਾਰੇ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਸਭ ਭਵਨ ॥
ਨਾਮ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਉਧਰੇ ਸੁਨਿ ਸ੍ਰਵਨ ॥
ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਆਪਨੈ ਨਾਮਿ ਲਾਏ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਚਉਥੇ ਪਦ ਮਹਿ ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਏ ॥੫॥
“Naam is the Support of all worlds and realms.
Associating with Naam, listening to it with the ears, one is saved.
Those whom the Lord mercifully attaches to His Name –
O Nanak! (Rising above Maya, the illusionary world,) in the fourth state, those humble servants attain salvation. ||5||”
(Ang 284)

The sound-current is the most stupendous and vital fact in all the realms of nature, and to emphasize its utter importance for salvation of the soul. Saviours have come to our Humanity and laid strongest stress on this Great Truth. Every force moving from a static to a dynamic expression must vibrate from the potential to the actual, and vibration is the sound of the current running between, to, and from the universal to the individual.

The great Power of Naam, the Shabad-sound current-is that like a magnet it pulls the soul upward, and without the soul’s being lifted up by its saving grace, salvation is not possible. Naam, the Shabad, is the spirit-sound-current, it is substance-quality-vibration, it is life-current which has originally emanated from the Supreme Being and is the only means of taking and raising the Spirit to the Source from which it emanated. The Shabad given by the True Perfect Guru is the bridge that carries the devotee across the chasm of birth and death to the bosom of the Eternal. It is like a ship carrying souls across the oceans of birth and death to the Port of Paradise in the land of Immortality.

ਤੇਰਾ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਤਾਰੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥
ਮੈ ਏਹਾ ਆਸ ਏਹੋ ਆਧਾਰੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
“Your Name alone, Lord, saves the world.
This is my hope; this is my support. ||1||Pause||
(Ang 24)

According to the Guru, Naam is manifested in the “GurMantar” (the Mantra given by the Guru) or the “Divine-Name” revealed by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji.

ਅਖਰੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਖਰੀ ਸਾਲਾਹ ॥
“From the Word, comes Naam; from the Word, comes Your Praise.”
(Ang 4)

Gurmat Naam is bestowed to the Sikh when one receives Amrit from the Panj Piyaare (5 initiated Sikhs who are the physical representation of the Guru) in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Naam is instilled within the devotee through the Guru (in the form of the Panj Piyaare) placing his hand over the Sikh and making the devotee repeat Naam.

ਮੇਰੈ ਹੀਅਰੈ ਰਤਨੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਬਸਿਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਹਾਥੁ ਧਰਿਓ ਮੇਰੈ ਮਾਥਾ ॥
ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਕੇ ਕਿਲਬਿਖ ਦੁਖ ਉਤਰੇ ਗੁਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਓ ਰਿਨੁ ਲਾਥਾ ॥੧॥
“(When) the Guru placed His hand on my forehead, the Jewel of the Lord’s Name came to abide within my heart. (Whoever) the Guru has blesses with Naam, the Name of the Lord, their sins and pains of countless incarnations are cast out and the debt (of sins) is paid off. ||1||”
(Ang 696)

ਮਹਾ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਗੁਰ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਬਸਿਓ ਅਚਰਜ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੁਨਿਓ ਰੀ ॥੩॥
“The Guru has implanted the Maha Mantra, the Great Mantra, within my heart, and I have heard the wondrous Naam. ||3||”
(Ang 384)

Naam is something to ‘Jap’ (chant), reflect and contemplate through which Naam becomes woven in the heart of the devotee, and Waheguru becomes imprinted on the heart of the devotee – one is to ‘live’ Naam. There is nothing in this world, which equals the value of the Divine-Name. The Lord and His Name are identical. They are one.

ਤੁਧੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਦੂਜਾ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥
ਗੁਰੁ ਪਰਸਾਦੁ ਕਰੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੇਵੈ ਨਾਮੇ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੨॥
“Without You, there is no other at all.
When the Guru showers His Grace upon us, He blesses us with Naam; through Naam, we merge in Naam. ||2||”
(Ang 130)

The repetition of the Sikh mantra “Waheguru” is an invocation of the Divine Presence. Life without The Name or Naam Simran (The remembrance of The Name invoking God) is barren and meaningless. The Name alone brings true peace of mind. The obstacles to The Name are worldly thoughts, sleep and occult powers.

ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਰਬਾਣੁ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਉਰਿ ਧਰਹੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੩॥੧੫॥
“Enshrine the Naam, the Name of the Lord, within your heart, and dwell in Nirvaanaa. Chant Guru, Guru, Guru; through the Guru, the Lord is obtained. ||3||15||”
(Ang 1401)

Naam is inside every individual. The Guru reveals it to the devotee.

ਹਰਿ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਹੈ ਮੇਰੇ ਗੋਵਿੰਦਾ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਗਾਜੈ ਜੀਉ ॥
“Everyone has the treasure of Naam deep within, but through the Word of the Guru’s Shabad, the Lord God is revealed (within).”
(Ang 174)

ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਪੂਰਿ ਰਹੇ ਸੁਖ ਸਾਗਰ ਭੈ ਭੰਜਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ॥
ਮਨਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੁ ਭਇਓ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਨਾਸਿਓ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਦੀਓ ਗੁਰ ਕਾਨ ॥੧॥
“He is pervading and permeating each and every heart; He is the Ocean of Peace, the Destroyer of fear. He is my praanaa – the Breath of Life. When the Guru whispered His Mantra into my ears, my mind was enlightened and my doubt was dispelled. ||1||”
(Ang 1302)

The devotee does his normal duties with hands and feet, but he keeps his conscious mind in tune with His Lord. A Sikh breathes Naam with each breath as per the technique or method (‘Bidh’) taught and shown by the Guru through the Panj Pyaare at the initiation ceremony (Amrit Sanchaar). This method of repeating Naam given by the Guru (Gurmat Naam) with each breath (Swaas Swaas) was practised by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji and given to the seeker when being initiated into the Guru’s Path. From Guru Nanak Sahib Ji and the nine Guru Sahibs, the method (known as ‘Naam Jugtee’) has been passed down till present and can only be given by the Guru (in the physical form of Panj Pyaaray) to the seeker. ‘Rehat-Nama Prem Sumarg’ (p. 119, Piara Singh Padam – ‘Rehatnamay’) also mentions the Guru’s instruction to repeat Vaheguru with each breath with the certain method prescribed by Guru Sahib.

ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ ਹੈ ਜੇਤੇ ਮੈ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੇ ॥
ਸਾਸੁ ਸਾਸੁ ਜਾਇ ਨਾਮੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਸੋ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਸਾਸੁ ਬਿਕਾਰੇ ॥੭॥
“With as many breaths as I have, I chant the Naam, under Guru’s Instructions. Each and every breath which escapes me without the Naam – that breath is useless and corrupt. ||7||”
(Ang 980)

Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji, contemporary of 10th Guru, records the 10th Guru’s instruction in his Rehat-Nama (ethical code):

ਗੁਰੂ ਕਾ ਸਿਖ ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਉਚਾਰ ਕਰਦਾ ਰਹੈ ॥
“The Guru’s Sikh with each and every breath (‘Saas Saas’) should keep uttering ‘Vaheguru’.”
(p. 105, Piara Singh Padam – ‘Rehatnamay’)

Naam performs three functions – it is purgative for the removal of evil; it is illuminative, because it gives us knowledge of The Truth, Beauty and Goodness; it is unitive since it may bring one in tune with God. The remembrance is three-fold: with words, with the mind and with action. The repetition of Gurbani helps the mind to concentrate on God. It is food for the soul.

ਨਾਮੋ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਸਵਾਰੈ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੋ ਸੋਭਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਤਾਰੈ ॥੧॥
“The Naam is spiritual wisdom, the Naam is my purifying bath. The Naam resolves all my affairs.
The Naam, the Name of the Lord, is glorious grandeur; the Naam is glorious greatness. The Name of the Lord carries me across the terrifying world-ocean. ||1||”
(Ang 1302)

The technique of meditating on Naam follows certain phases – first the repetition of Waheguru by mouth; secondly, the percolation of Waheguru into the mind (mental remembrance) through Swaas Swaas simran as taught by the Panj Pyaare; thirdly, the longing for God like a lover waiting for his beloved; fourthly the awareness of God every-where; then finally, the ultimate union with God.

Sikhi recommends the following plan as the easiest way to practice Naam marg. Get up early morning and meditate during the ambrosial hours of the dawn. Avoid idleness and the five great vices. Seek the company of holy men, this is a great help to meditation. Try to maintain strict moral conduct; this too, helps you to a spiritual plan. Even then Divine Grace is necessary for the practice in humility of Naam Simran.

To meditate on ‘Naam’, is to practice the presence of God by keeping Him ever in one’s mind as also by singing His praises or dwelling on His excellences. From this may come the feelings of wonder and bliss.

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