I have heard of Saas Giraas simran. What is the historical evidence or origins of this?
Some people use “Saas Giraas simran” and “Swaas Swaas simran” interchangeably. Commonly people say “Saas Giraas”, but “Saas” = breath, “Giraas” = morsel of food… i.e. to remember God with every breath and when eating. On the other “Swaas Swaas” refers to remembering God with each breath.
Sadly, many people don’t know much about Swaas Swaas simran. Some people think that Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, the founder of Akhand Kirtani Jatha, had started it. However, as one does more research, read Gurbani, read books, and actually practice Sikhi, you learn new things and develop understanding. Swaas Swaas simran is not invented by Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh. Gurbani talks about Swaas Swaas simran time and time again. There are many shabads, for example:
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||”
(SGGS – Ang 980)
Gurbani says “Gurmat Naam”, meaning Naam in accordance to the Guru’s instructions. So what is the Guru’s instructions? This is discovered at the Amrit Sanchaar. However, sadly the reality today is that people take Amrit and then ask others like Sants and Holy men “How do we Japp Naam?” Why are they asking others? If someone has taken Amrit and are happy that are Japping Naam, then great, but if not, then its sad. The Guru is Great. If the Guru gives GurMantar then he also has given a method for Japping it.
Someone could argue that “okay, Gurbani talks about Swaas Swaas simran and Gurmat Naam, but where is the proof for “Swaas Swaas” simran technique given by some Amrit Sanchaars and not others. Is this an AKJ thing?” As mentioned before, Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh did not invent or find any new Rehit. He simply “revived” the puraatan (old) Maryada of Guru Sahib which had been forgotten by the majority of the Panth and only preserved by a small group of people.
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. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji tells us that the Gurmantar is first whispered into the ear of the seeker:
ਮਨਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੁ ਭਇਓ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਨਾਸਿਓ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਦੀਓ ਗੁਰ ਕਾਨ ॥੧॥
“My mind was enlightened, and my doubt was dispelled, when the Guru whispered His Mantra into my ears. ||1||
(SGGS – Ang 1302)
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, the Name of the Lord. ||3||
(SGGS – Ang 384)
Naam is then instilled within the devotee through the Guru (in the form of the Panj Piyaare). Gurbani gives the hints that when a seeker receives Naam from the Guru in the form of the Panj Pyaare then the Panj Pyaare place their hands on the head of seeker and make 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||”
(SGGS – Ang 696)
ਸਮਰਥ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਿਰਿ ਹਥੁ ਧਰ੍ਯ੍ਯਉ ॥
ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਅਉ ਜਿਸੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਚਰੰਨ ਅਘੰਨ ਹਰ੍ਯ੍ਯਉ ॥
“The All-powerful Guru placed His hand upon my head. The Guru was kind, and blessed me with the Lord’s Name. Gazing upon His Feet, my sins were dispelled.”
(SGGS – Ang 1300)
ਮੈ ਸੁਖੀ ਹੂੰ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
ਗੁਰਿ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਵਸਾਇਆ ॥
ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਪੁਰਖਿ ਵਿਖਾਲਿਆ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਧਰਿ ਕੈ ਹਥੁ ਜੀਉ ॥੯॥
“I have obtained the comfort of spiritual comforts. The Guru has implanted the Word of the Shabad deep within me. The True Guru has shown me my Husband Lord when He has placed His Hand upon my forehead. ||9||”
(SGGS – Ang 73)
The above Gurbani quotes are clear that the Guru “places His hand” on the head of the Sikh and awakens Naam. The reality of this is seen in the Amrit Sanchaar when the Panj Pyaare place their hand on the head of the Abhilaakhee (Amrit candidate). However, this tradition has gradually been lost by the majority, and only few groups are left that keep this alive.
Individuals can Japp Naam however they wish, just like a baby can drink its mother’s milk however it wishes. The main thing is “quenching the thirst”. However, at the same Guru Sahib has given a certain technique for Japping Naam which was passed down from each Guru. From Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, which was given to all Sikhs that took Amrit (whether it be Charan-Pahul or Khande-Di-Pahul). Then the Guru Khalsa was given the right in 1699 to give Amrit and Naam to Sikhs.
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’)
‘Rehat-Nama Prem Sumarg’ (p. 119, Piara Singh Padam – ‘Rehatnamay’) mentions the “exact” technique as Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh revived in Amrit Sanchaars which is still kept alive today in Amrit Sanchaars “organised” by Akhand Kirtani Jatha and few other groups in the Panth. The same technique is mentioned in the literature written by Baba Nand Singh Jee (Nanaksar), Baba Ishar Singh Jee (Rara Sahib Wale), Baba Attar Singh Jee (Mastuana Wale) and Bhai Raghbir Singh Bir (panthic scholar). Baba Takhur Singh (Damdami Taksaal) also practiced Swaas Swaas simran in the same method. The “Prem Sumarg” Rehat-Nama quote is evidence that Guru Gobind Singh jee gave “the” technique of Japping Naam to the Sikhs that took Amrit and he is instructing Mata Jeeto Ji to Japp Naam.
Gurbani tells us to do Swaas Swaas simran and then the Guru-Roop Panj Pyaare give you Naam and the Jugtee (method). Naam and Jugtee can only be given by the Guru to his Sikh. No Sikh has the right or authority to give Gurmat Naam to a Sikh. Gurbani is clear; time and time again Gurbani says that Guru gives Naam, Guru awakens Naam, Guru gives Amrit etc.
Naam in the form of Gur-Mantar is given in all Amrit Sanchaars. However, the ways of giving Naam and instilling Naam differ. In Amrit Sanchaars where they give the method of Swaas Swaas simran and also get the Abhilaakhee to japp Naam with each breath through the Panj Pyaare’s blessings, the seeker takes a short-cut to the stage of Swaas Swaas simran. For those who are not as fortunate to have the Panj Pyaare blessing one with the gift of japping Naam with each breath should do Ardaas at the Feet of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. There are many examples of rare beloved Gursikhs who have not taken Amrit from an Amrit Sanchaar that didn’t give Naam Jugtee (the method of Japping Naam), however through constant Ardaas with heart and soul, the True Guru has been graceful and blessed them with Swaas Swaas simran.