What is the Mool Mantar?

The first page of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji displaying the Mool Mantra as the opening verse followed by the Bani (prayer) of 'Jap' (known as 'Jap Ji Sahib').

The basic creed of the Sikhs – the Mool Mantra – gives the idea of Reality in a few telling words. The creed is:

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
Ikoaʼnkaar saṯ naam karṯaa purakẖ nirbẖau nirvair akaal mooraṯ ajoonee saibẖun gur parsaaḏ.
“There is One Universal Creator, Sustainer & Destroyer; The Name is Truth; the Doer pervading in everything; Without Fear; Without Hate; Timeless Undying Image; Beyond Birth; Self-existing; Known through the True Guru’s Grace.”
(Ang 1)

The meaning of each word:

ੴ – Ik O’ankaar

This first statement of the “Mool Mantra” is made of three syllables –  “1” , “Oan” and “Kaar”. “1” (“Ik” in Punjabi and “Ek” in Sanskrit) refers to the numerical figure “1”; “Oan” refers to God (Transcendent, Absolute, Non-dual Reality); “Kaar” refers to that which pervades everything uniformly and ceaselessly (One Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience, One Transcendent Absolute Reality, One Indivisible, One but only One God etc). It also means “the One who does” (Doer, Immanent etc). This statement highlights the Sikh belief that God is One and only One (unalloyed monotheism). If it’s only limited to our words, then it has no meaning. It has to be brought into our lives. This state can be experienced within, if we choose to be enlightened. It’s not an accidental happening.

ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ – Sat Naam

The Naam translates as Name. God is also manifested in the Divine-Name that vibrates universally. The Name of God is “Sat” (Truth; Eternal), meaning that it is true or existed in the past, present and future. The term “Sat” comes from the Sanskrit word “Satya”. God’s Name is Eternal Truth. The point to note here is that the Name (Naam) and the object signified by the Name are one and the same! Therefore, simply put, Naam is God’s Word or the Divine Essence. He is reached by constantly reflecting on Truth.


ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ – Kartaa Purakh

“Kartaa” refers to Creator, Doer or Creative Being. The word “Purakh” has many meanings. But, in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji it primarily indicates the Transcendental Reality or the Supreme Being that is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient (Intelligent Conscious). The entire creation is pervaded with this Infinite, Timeless, Universal Truth. In short, God is the Creator who is pervading in everything.

ਨਿਰਭਉ – Nirbhau


“Bhau”
means fear, and “Nir” means without or devoid of. “Nirbhau” means God is without fear. Why is He devoid of fear? Duality (two-ness or the notion of “others”) gives rise to fear. In other words, not being subject to any other being, and not being subject to needs, He is fearless. As revealed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji here, there is no duality in the Absolute “Ik Oankaar”; for He Himself is Immanent in every particle. Hence, He is without fear, and He is all Bliss (Anand).

ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ  – Nirvair

“Vair” means enmity, hostility, hate or ill-will, vengeance etc. “Nir” means without or devoid of. Thus, the “Ik Oankaar” is without hate or enmity. Why? As discussed before, God is without a second (Non-dual). Then against whom is He to have “Vair”? All divisions and differences are created by the self-erected walls such as the body-mind-intellect personality (Haumai), which, in its own delusion, feels for itself a separate entity or individual. But the “Ik Oankaar” is with no such delusionary identification, distinctions and divisions. So He is said here to be without “Vair”. Instead, God is understood to be all Pure Love, dwelling deep within us, free from negativity such as selfishness (“mine, mine”), hate or enmity.


ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ – Akaal Moorat

“Kaal” translates as time, and “Akaal” translates as “not subject to time” (i.e., beyond time). Time denotes change. For example, if their is the birth, then there is the death. Hence “Akaal” means that Eternal or Immortal Entity, which is beyond change (i.e. birth and death etc.). “Moorat” literally means form, image, shape etc. Combining these two terms, “Akaal Moorat” implies “Ik oankaar” is beyond time, space, form and features (Supreme Absolute Reality, Undying, without origin, without beginning and ending). He is Changeless, Immortal, Timeless and forever the same. Change is only for the deluded or conditioned consciousness (Haumai– or ego-mind).


ਅਜੂਨੀ – Ajoonee

“Ajoonee” translates as “beyond birth or who does not take birth”. Hence, the “Ik Oankaar” is Unborn – free from the cycle of births and deaths. Simply put: “Ajoonee” implies that God is not subject to birth and death.

ਸੈਭੰ – Saibhun

“Saibhun” translates as self-Illumined, self-manifested, self-existent etc. Thus, the “Ik Oankaar” is also self-Illumined, self-manifested or self-existent. It simply means that God does not depend for His birth or His sustenance on anything else; for He exists self-sufficiently in relation to Himself.


ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ – Gur Parsaad

The Mool Mantar ends with “Gur Prasaad”, which is indicated by the putting of a full stop (“॥”). The term “Gur” means Guru (that which brings ones from darkness (ignorance) to light (enlightenment)). “Prasaad” (or Parsaad) translates as “Grace”, “Blessing”, “Nadar” or “Kirpaa”. Hence, “Gur Prasaad” implies that Oneness with the One Truth is realized with the Grace of the True Guru (Light of the Knowledge/ Wisdom of Gurbani). In other words, One Truth expresses Himself in His Word (Shabad). However, to experience this Grace, we need to understand Gurbani (the Guru’s Word) through vichaar (delving the meanings) and living it. Thus, this Mool Mantra urges us to bring one’s divided consciousness (duality) in tune with One Truth (Pure Consciousness, Pure Intellect etc.) in becoming a living image of the Perfect God. “Gurprasaadi” also implies that it is through sincere devotion (Bhagti) and prayer (Ardaas) God’s Grace may be awakened (“Pargat”) within, leading to His Realization.

Professor Sahib Singh (1892 – 19977), the renowned Gurbani scholar honoured by the Panth, writes:

ਇਹ ਉਪਰੋਕਤ ਗੁਰਸਿੱਖੀ ਦਾ ਮੂਲ-ਮੰਤਰ ਹੈ | ਇਸ ਤੋਂ ਅਗਾਂਹ ਲਿਖੀ ਗਈ ਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ ਹੈ ‘ਜਪੁ’ | ਇਹ ਗੱਲ ਚੇਤੇ ਰੱਖਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਇਹ ਮੂਲ-ਮੰਤਰ ਵੱਖਰੀ ਚੀਜ਼ ਹੈ ਤੇ ਬਾਣੀ ‘ਜਪੁ’ ਵੱਖਰੀ ਹੈ | ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਵਿਚ ਇਹ ਮੂਲ-ਮੰਤਰ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਹੈ, ਜਿਵੇਂ ਹਰੇਕ ਰਾਗ ਦੇ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਵਿਚ ਭੀ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਮਿਲਦਾ ਹੈ | ਬਾਣੀ ‘ਜਪੁ’ ਲਫ਼ਜ਼ ‘ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ’ ਤੋਂ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ | ਆਸਾ ਦੀ ਵਾਰ ਦੇ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਵਿਚ ਭੀ ਇਹੀ ਮੂਲ-ਮੰਤਰ ਹੈ, ਪਰ ‘ਵਾਰ’ ਨਾਲ ਇਸ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਸੰਬੰਧ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ, ਤਿਵੇਂ ਹੀ ਇੱਥੇ ਹੈ | ‘ਜਪੁ’ ਦੇ ਅਰੰਭ ਵਿਚ ਮੰਗਲਾਚਰਨ ਦੇ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਇਕ ਸਲੋਕ ਉਚਾਰਿਆ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ | ਫਿਰ ‘ਜਪੁ’ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀਆਂ ੩੮ ਪਉੜੀਆਂ ਹਨ |
The above is Mool-Mantar (root Mantra) of GurSikhi. Beyond this the sacred prayer (Bani) named “Jap” (i.e. Japji Sahib) is written. It is worth remembering that the Mool Mantar is a separate entity from Bani (sacred prayer) of “Jap”. At the beginning of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the Mool Mantar is written, similarly it appears before each Raag (chapter heading). The Bani of “Jap” begins with “ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ”. The Mool Mantar is also written in the beginning of Aasa Di Vaar, but it has no relation to the ‘Vaar’, the same applies here. “Jap” begins with a Salok. Then Japji Sahib has 38 Pauris (stanzas).
(Taken from Guru Granth Darpan)

In summary, this Sikh Fundamental Creed or “Mool Mantra” revealed through Guru Nanak Dev Ji summarizes the Essence of his Message. It sums up Sikh beliefs about One God and encapsulates the entire Sikh theology. To put in a nutshell, the remaining of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is an elaboration of this “Mool Mantra” and revolves around this main Message. The tenth and the last human Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, eternally sealed these teachings along with the Sikh theology in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

A note on gender: the Sikh philosophy does not attribute particular gender to God; it’s only for the ease of writing and reading that a pronoun “He” for God (or human beings) is used herein.

ਨ ਨਰ ਹੈ॥ ਨ ਨਾਰ ਹੈ ॥
“(God is) neither man nor woman”
(Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Akaal Ustat).

ਸੁੰਨ ਮੰਡਲ ਇਕੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਬੈਸੇ ॥ ਨਾਰਿ ਨ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕੋਊ ਕੈਸੇ ॥
“The Yogi, the Primal Lord, sits in the deepest Samaadhi (meditative state). (Since God) is neither male nor female; how can anyone describe Him?”
(Ang 685)

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Historical photographs of the Mool Mantar:

Below are images of signatures (nishaans) of the Sikh Gurus recorded:

Handwritten Mool Mantar by Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the Fifth Guru.

Handwritten Mool Mantar by Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the Ninth Guru, dated 1673.

Handwritten Mool Mantar in Saroop at Gurdwara Mainee Sangat in Patna, dated 1714 (Bikrami)

Handwritten Mool Mantar by Guru Har Rai Ji, the Seventh Guru.

Handwritten Mool Mantar by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru, in Patna Sahib Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

The below picture shows Mool Mantar inscribed on the marble wall above the door leading inside Sri Darbaar Sahib (Amritsar). The left side reads:

“The ‘seva’ (selfless service) of Sri Guru Raam Daas Ji of gold plating and white marble has been done by Sri Bhai Sant Giani Ji with the authority of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji.”

The middle reads:

“ik oankaar satnaam karta purakh nirbhau nirvair akaal moorat ajooni saibhun gurparsaad. May the Great True Guru forever maintain the honour of the Khalsa.”

The right side reads:

“‘Seva’ done on date 1896 (Bikrami) under the supervision of  Sri Maharaja Kharag Singh Ji and Prince Sri Nau Nihaal Singh Ji who are blessed with a kingdom with the True Guru’s Grace.”

Note: The modern-day Damdami Taksaal claims that same Giani Sant Singh who did seva of writing the Mool Mantar above the door of Sri Darbaar Sahib is the sixth Jathedaar of Damdami Taksaal.

Mool Mantar displayed above the door leading to Sri Darbaar Sahib, Amritsar.


Why do some Sikhs read Mool Mantar up to ‘Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach’?

Mool Mantar in accordance to Damdami Taksaal Maryada handwritten by Baba Thakur Singh Ji

Some Sikh schools and groups believe Mool Mantar does not end at “Gur Prasaad” but “Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach.”

Ikoaʼnkaar saṯ naam karṯaa purakẖ nirbẖau nirvair akaal mooraṯ ajoonee saibẖun gur parsaaḏ.
JAP. Aad sach jugaad sach. Hai bhee sach naanak hosee bhee sach. ||1||
“There is One Universal Creator, Sustainer & Destroyer; The Name is Truth; the Doer pervading in everything; Without Fear; Without Hate; Timeless Undying Image; Beyond Birth; Self-existing; Known through the True Guru’s Grace. Jap (Repeat). True in the beginning; true before time. True now; O Nanak! True in the future.”
(Ang 1)

The Nihang Singh, Nirmala, Damdami Taksaal, and Udaasi schools of thought believe in the extended version of the Mool Mantar. These groups believe that from “Ik Oankaar” to “Gur Prasaad” is a Mangla Charan (invocation), whereas the Panthic Maryada would consider “Jap” to be the title for Japji Sahib, and “Aad Sach” to “Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach” a Salok.

Some of the arguments given for the Mool Mantar ending at “Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach” are the following:

1. Bhai Gurdaas Ji expands and explains “Ek Onkaar” to “Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach” in Vaar 39:

ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ||
ਏਕੰਕਾਰੁ ਇਕਾਂਗ ਲਿਖਿ ਊੜਾ ਓਅੰਕਾਰੁ ਲਖਾਇਆ||
ਸਤਿਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਸਦਾਇਆ||
ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਪਰਤਖਿ ਹੋਇ ਨਾਉ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਭਾਇਆ||
ਗੁਰਪਰਸਾਦਿ ਸੁ ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਹ ਜੁਗੰਤਰਿ ਹੋਂਦਾ ਆਇਆ||
ਹੈਭੀ ਹੋਸੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਉ ਸਚੁ ਦਰਸਣੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ||
ਸਬਦ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਲਿਵਲੀਣੁ ਹੋਇ ਗੁਰੁ ਚੇਲਾ ਪਰਚਾ ਪਰਚਾਇਆ||
ਗੁਰੁ ਚੇਲਾ ਰਹਰਾਸਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੀਹ ਇਕੀਹ ਚੜ੍ਹਾਉ ਚੜ੍ਹਾਇਆ||
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖਫਲੁ ਅਲਖੁ ਲਖਾਇਆ ||੧||
One Oankar, the primal energy, realised through the grace of the divine master.
That Supreme Reality (God) first was written as numeral one (in Mool Mantar – the root formula) and then He was inscribed as Ura syllable of Gurmukhi, further pronounces as ‘Oankaar’. Then He was called ‘Sat Naam’, the Truth by name, ‘Karta Purakh’, the creator Lord, narwhal, the fearless one, and nervier, without rancour. Then emerging as the timeless ‘Akaal Moorat’ to be called as ‘Ajoonee’ (unborn) and ‘Saibhun’ (self-existent). Realised through the ‘Gur Parsaad’, grace of Guru, the current of this primeval Truth (God) has continuously been moving since before the beginning and throughout the Ages. He is verily the Truth and will continue to be the Truth for ever. The True Guru has made available (for me) the glimpse of this Truth. One who merging his consciousness in the Word establishes a relationship of Guru and disciple, only that disciple devoting himself to the Guru and progressing from worldliness attunes his consciousness in and with the Lord. The Gurmukhs have had the glimpse of imperceptible Lord who is the fruit of delights. ||1||

(Note:  Bhai Gurdaas Ji has not stated that he is writing about the Mool Mantar. So therefore, it could be easily argued that he has expanded upon the Mool Mantar & 1st Salok.)

2. On the Chakra of Baba Deep Singh, Mool Mantar is written until “Nanak hosee bhee sach”. This Chakra is now housed in Sri Akal Thakt Sahib in Amritsar.

3. At one the entrances of Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple), “Ek Oankaar” to “Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach” is engraved in gold at the top of the door. This was engraved by the carpenter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 19th century. (Note: “Ek Oankaar” to “Gur Prasaad” is engraved in another entrance of Harimandir Sahib – see photographs).

'Ek Oankaar' to 'Nanak Hosi Bhi Sach' on the Darshani Deori scribed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh's carpenter

4. Mool means ‘root’ or beginning. If you see the first page of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, after Gurprasad there is only two dandees, whereas at the end of “Nanak hosee bhee sach” there are not only two dandees but four dandees with the number 1 in between (i.e. ||1||). This is interpreted to mean that Mool Mantar ends at the four dandees, i.e. after “Nanak hosee bhee sach”. (Note: The same argument is used by those who support the Panth approved Mool Mantar as the “Jap” (|| ਜਪੁ ||) has four dandees as well).

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