Worship, Ceremonies & Institutions

What is the purpose of repeating Paath over and over again if you don’t understand it?

It is agreed by all that we should recite Paath regularly because that is a direction from the Gurus. In this, three steps are involved:

i) Reading (listening to) the message
ii) Understanding the message
iii) Benefiting from the message.

The first two steps are essential for the third. Hence, the beginning has to be made with reading. Obviously, reading alone without understanding and benefiting from the message is not of full use. There are many other examples in life where we end at the first or the second step and we fail to take the third, i.e., to obtain the full benefit. We know exercise is good for our health, but many of us don’t do it regularly. Smoking is very harmful for our health but some people still continue to smoke. Stealing is both immoral and illegal. Knowing all this, some people still get themselves involved in stealing. Our failure to benefit from the message is mentioned in Gurbani like this: Our mind knows what is right and what is wrong but still it leads us to do wrong things. How can one be saved if the person himself chooses the path?

ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਸਭ ਬਾਤ ਜਾਨਤ ਹੀ ਅਉਗਨੁ ਕਰੈ ॥
ਕਾਹੇ ਕੀ ਕੁਸਲਾਤ ਹਾਥਿ ਦੀਪੁ ਕੂਏ ਪਰੈ ॥੨੧੬॥
“Kabeer! The mortal knows everything, and knowing, he still makes mistakes.
What good is a lamp in one’s hand, if he falls into the well? ||216||”
(Ang 1376)

We should not feel discouraged that we cannot understand everything when we read Paath or because we cannot practice all what we do understand. We must make a start by reading and then try to move ahead steadily, maybe even slowly. Once we know the benefit of practising the lessons of Gurbani, our mind will start to enjoy the recitation and benefit from it. People who have been reading Jap Ji for 50 years or more still find something new and fresh in it when their mind turns to it. The inner meanings of Gurbani are known only under that situation. Reading Gurbani is a good habit and must be practised regularly by making all efforts to understand it and adopt the message. It is beneficial in many other ways ever if we do not understand it well and do not take full advantage of it.

Here are some reasons why Gurbani should be read daily:

i) Gurbani is written in poetic form. Its rhythm and sound waves have many positive effects. They cool our nerves and calm our mind in the same way as does music, which many of us also do not understand.

ii) Regular reading of Gurbani (Nitnem) forces a timely pause in the never-ending and never-slowing rat we are running. All doctors now agree that we must sit calmly and quietly to meditate on something to take away our mind from the worldly tensions. This is essential to give a daily rest to our over-worked and over-heated nervous system. Reciting hymns regularly provides us this benefit. It keeps our minds safe from the tensions and pressures of living the high-tech modern life.

iii) This practice is a repeated reminder to us that our life has a purpose; being reminded of this every day is very important to deep our lives on the right track. We are like children playing outside away from our Mother, God. When it is time to work, the mother gives a call to the child, “Dear, now stop playing, come home, and finish your school work in time.” The call is first ignored by the children because they love to play (as we love worldly life). Repeated calls of the mother put pressure on the mind of the child to come home and do his school work. Regular sittings for doing Nitnem are repeated call from the Mother, God, reminding us, “Dear, you have a responsibility towards yourself”. Now is the time, the call will touch the heart of the reader and motivate him to recite Gurbani hymns devotedly and obtain peace.

iv) In the evenings, we usually chat over a cup of tea with our friends. Many times we carry on our meaningless talks endlessly. If someone says, “Let us recite Rehras; it is time to do it”, those who were wasting your time and theirs too, melt away. For those who stay, the meaningless social gathering becomes a sacred Sangat, i.e., solace giving, calm restoring and God-loving congregation.

v) The test of the pudding is in tasting. If a person recited Gurbani sincerely (even when he doesn’t understand it fully, and most of us actually don’t) he will notice a change in him to the better side. The feeling “I do Paath, therefore, I should not do this bad thing” will become stronger and stronger, keeping him safe from all wrong acts. We know what is right and what is wrong, but we don’t have the moral strength to keep a check on us. The regular reading of Paath provides us the necessary reasoning and the required strength to keep our mind under control.

vi) The very question, “What use is reading Paath if I don’t understand it?” becomes very meaningful to a person who reads Gurbani regularly. One day it will awaken his soul and make him decide, “I must also know what I read.” When he knows what he reads, he will start practising it, making his own life happy and spreading happiness around him.