hanting Vaheguru is such a powerful and mystical experience. Many modern Sikhs fail to understand the importance of doing it. Some are even uncertain about how to do it. This article attempts to explain the different ways of chanting Vaheguru Mantra/doing Naam Simran. It also explains the importance of doing Naam Simran and what Gurbani says about it. Naam Simran is a common term referring to chanting the Vaheguru Mantra.
Why Chant Vaheguru Mantra?
Vaheguru is called Gurmantar in Sikhi. We know this to be Gurmantar because Bhai Gurdas Ji tells us that. Bhai Gurdas Ji was a Sikh historian and a poet. Bhai Gurdas Ji spent a lot of time with Guru Sahibs. He was the nephew of Guru Amardas Ji and the uncle of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji honored him by stating that his writings are the Kunji (key) to Guru Granth Sahib Ji. He was also one of the two Sikhs who did the Seva of building Akal Takht Sahib by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Bhai Gurdas Ji states
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਹੈ ਜਪਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਖੋਈ।
He says that the word Vaheguru is the Gurmantar. By doing Naam Japna (chant) or Naam Simran (remember) of this Gurmantar, you will lose your Haumai (ego). Haumai (ego) is the biggest illness inside us that keeps us separate from Vaheguru/Creator. The point of Sikhi is to get you away from the sense of separateness from the divine.
Does Gurbani speak of Chanting?
An easy way to understand the chanting of Gurmantar is through the following Gurbani quote from Sukhmani Sahib. It states to chant upon Vaheguru again and again and again.
ਬਾਰੰ ਬਾਰ ਬਾਰ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਜਪੀਐ ॥ਪੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਧ੍ਰਪੀਐ ॥
Chanting Vaheguru is meant to create a mystical experience. To understand Naam Simran, imagine, we're basically on one side of a wall where we are within the illusion. The creator is on the other side of the wall that is the ultimate reality. Guru Sahib is saying to poke a hole in that wall and make it bigger. Naam Simran and the connection with the divine are designed to make you do that. Gurbani says that the mind is filthy and it needs to be washed. The following Gurbani quote from Sukhmani Sahib states that by doing Simran of Vaheguru, the dirt of our mind gets washed away and the immortal name resides in the heart.
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮਲੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਰਿਦ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥
This experience is indescribable. It is a bit strange because I am doing so now. Having that mystical experience is intrinsically linked to your Dasam Duaar (tenth door). Dasam Duaar is located on top of the head. Simplistically, it could be called a door into your body. There are a total of ten doors in the body - two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, one mouth, rectum, reproductive organ, and the tenth being the Dasam Duaar (pineal gland on top of your head). In other faiths, they have different names for this specific spot. In Buddhism, it is called the flowering spot of the thousand petal lotus. In yoga, it is called the seventh chakra.
Some of the different methods of doing Naam Simran
Naam Japna (Chanting of Vaheguru Mantra) is the key way for a Sikh to have this mystical experience. However, Chanting Vaheguru Mantra does not guarantee this experience. As our Guru Sahibs tell us that we need Loving Worship, Mind and Senses involved and the Grace of Vaheguru to experience the Naam.
Now we will discuss five different ways of doing Naam Simran. Any one of these could work for you and there is no specific one right way.
- Wow Guru - The first one is to say "Vahe - guru". So we're saying "Wow-guru". We're basically splitting up Vaheguru into two words Vahe and Guru or Vaah-Guru. Through this method, we're saying that our Guru (the enlightener) is "wow"! Guru Nanak Dev Ji and all the Gurus are "wow" but also the Vaheguru is great. It's an expression of "wow".
- "Va-he-Gu-ru" Process - There are four syllables in "Va-he-Gu-ru". So we're saying "Wow" with the first one "Va" and then "He" is very personal Hey, you! In nearly every language, the word "He" is almost like calling someone. Then "Gu" is darkness and "Ru" is light. So by saying the four syllables of "Va-he-Gu-ru" very slowly and separately, you're basically describing a process. You're saying "wow! When I meet you, I go from darkness to light." It is similar to the first one but slightly different because you're not saying "wow" or "Vahe", you're saying "Va-he-Gu-ru". As you are saying "Va-he-Gu-ru", you're being enlightened by that process.
- "Va He Gu Ru" Four Ages & Four Syllables - The third way of saying Vaheguru is similar to the second one but each syllable takes on a different meaning. The first one starts with "vava" in Punjabi /Gurmukhi, then "haha" and then "gaga" and then "rara". These four syllables correspond to a different Jug (age). The four ages are as follows:
Sat jug - Truth age
Treta jug - Third age
Daupur jug - Second age
Kal jug - Dark age
We're in Kal jug right now, which is the worst age to be in since it is the age of darkness. Guru Sahib described this situation where you've got a table with four legs. When it's got four legs, it is very stable and it is Sat jug, the age of truth where everybody is enlightened. Then the legs start breaking off and you've got Treta with three legs. It is a bit unstable. Then comes Duapur which has two legs and now is Kal jug which only has one leg.
Bhai Gurdas Ji says that in Sat jug, the Satguru was Vasudev and he gave everybody the mantra of Vishnu. So "vava" comes from Vishnu. In Treta, the Satguru was HarKrishan and he gave everybody the Mantra of Hari. So "haha" comes from Hari. In Duapur, Ram was the Satguru and he gave everybody the Mantra of Ram. So "rara'' comes from Ram. In Kal jug, Guru Nanak is the Satguru and Guru Nanak gave everybody Govind. So the "gaga" comes from Govind. Bhai Gurdas Ji says that combining all these four syllables into one Mantra becomes a supreme Mantra. Guru Sahib gave us Vaheguru Mantra which covers all four ages. So we're saying Va He Gu Ru and stretching it out. By stretching it out, each sound vibrates through your very being and by tuning your mind to that sound and frequency, you're effectively tuning into Vaheguru. So, when we say Va He Gu Ru, you can almost imagine this Mantra going through all the four ages and each syllable corresponding to one age.
- Suaas Suaas Simran (With your breath) - The fourth way of saying Vaheguru is to do it with your breath. This is basically "Suaas Suaas Simran" and people have different ways of doing it. Some people say Vahe on the in-breath and Guru on the out-breath or some people say Vahe on the out-breath and Guru on the in-breath.
Some Gurdwaras have Naam Simran programs usually early in the morning. Most people go through each one of these methods at different times throughout the program. Sometimes they might go into Vahe-Guru Vahe-Guru Vahe-Guru which is the fourth one, breath meditation. And other times people might do it very slowly and therefore saying Va-he Gu-ru.
- Calling Vaheguru - The fifth type is a combination of the above four methods. It refers to calling someone. At this point, you're not thinking about using it as a Mantra with different meanings. All you're thinking about is calling your beloved. For example, Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Akaal Ustat started saying Tuhi Tuhi Tuhi (you, you, you) and then he went on to say Tu Tu Tu (you, you, you). Kabeer Ji also describes this experience in the following quote
ਕਬੀਰ ਤੂੰ ਤੂੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਤੂ ਹੂਆ ਮੁਝ ਮਹਿ ਰਹਾ ਨ ਹੂੰ ॥
When you are saying you-you-you-you-you, you are basically saying Vaheguru-Vaheguru- Vaheguru-Vaheguru-Vaheguru. You're calling your beloved. You are calling the one who made you, it's your father, it’s your mother, it's your true love, it's your true other half. These are all names and attributes that we place upon Vaheguru. We're just calling out our beloved and using this word to describe his attributes.
If you look at the Sikh greeting, “Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh”, the word “Vaheguru” stops being only the Mantra but it becomes a name/Naam and that name/Naam also has a "Ji" at the end. If you look at the other Mantra that is chanted in Harmandar Sahib, it says “Sat Naam Sri Vaheguru Sahib Ji”. So, the word Vaheguru has become the name for Vaheguru (creator).
There's no one right way of saying Vaheguru. The key thing is that we connect to our creator and we actually try to become one with the creator. As our Gurus tell us that we need loving Worship, Mind and Senses involved and Grace of Vaheguru to experience the Naam.
Importance of Naam
People have different opinions of what Naam is but we also know that Naam is extremely important to us. Naam can loosely be translated as the divine connection. Sat Naam is the second word that comes into Guru Granth Sahib Ji. If we look at the end of Jap Ji Sahib, the following quote says those people who have concentrated and earned this Naam, they've actually achieved something and their faces are bright when they go from this earth.
ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਗਏ ਮਸਕਤਿ ਘਾਲਿ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਉਜਲੇ ਕੇਤੀ ਛੁਟੀ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥
Those who have meditated on the Naam, the Name of the Lord, and departed after having worked by the sweat of their brows, O Nanak, their faces are radiant in the Court of the Lord, and many are saved along with them! ||1|||
Also, right at the end of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, where Guru Ji is putting Mondavni, which is a royal seal and the following quote of Mondavi says
ਥਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਤਿੰਨਿ ਵਸਤੂ ਪਈਓ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੋ ॥
ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਾ ਪਇਓ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਸਭਸੁ ਅਧਾਰੋ ॥
Upon this Plate, three things have been placed: Truth, Contentment and Contemplation.The Ambrosial Nectar of the Naam, the Name of our Lord and Master, has been placed upon it as well; it is the Support of all.
This tray has three things, Truth, Contentment and Contemplation. And the Amrit Naam of the creator is holding it all together. Then last bit says
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾਂ ਜੀਵਾਂ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਥੀਵੈ ਹਰਿਆ ॥੧॥
It says that only if I have this Naam, then I live and my whole mind and body blossoms. Just like the barren earth becomes green and it looks beautiful compared to how it was before. Naam is like water which is life-giving to us. In Rehras Sahib, Guru ji says
ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥
when I remember you, that's when I'm alive; when I forget you, I'm dead. So connecting to the One Vaheguru is the real cake of Sikhi. Then the icing on the cake might be the Roop and the Rehit. They're designed to help you to get a really lovely cake. We have our "Saant Sipahi" ideal. As Sikhs, we're trying to save the world, stand up for justice and freedom. It's very hard to do all these things if your inside is not strong. You are facing Guru Ji and that's what effectively a Gurmukh is. A Gurmukh is an ardent Sikh who has his face towards his Guru and he's not facing towards the world.
There is a positive experience of doing Naam Simran, the love and you merging with the One but there is another way of looking at it. In Asa Di Vaar, it says
ਨਾਉ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਇ ਲਇਐ ਨਰਕਿ ਨ ਜਾਈਐ ॥
The Naam is formless and indescribable. By saying this Naam, we won't go to hell. If you don't do Naam Simran, you've wasted this jewel of human life. Guru Teg Bahadur ji says in Salok Mahala 9,
ਮਨੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੈ ਫਧਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਬਿਸਰਿਓ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਭਜਨ ਜੀਵਨ ਕਉਨੇ ਕਾਮ॥੩੦॥
Your mind is trapped in Maya and forgot the name of Vaheguru. If you are not singing the praises of the One, then what's the point of life?
Different Ways of Connecting with Naam
There are many ways of connecting to the One in Sikhi and some are as follows:
Seva - Serving others selflessly
Simran - Remembering (God)
Japna - Chanting (Name)
Kirtan - Singing praises
Paath - Reading Gurbani
Within that, you also have to build your character and fight off against the five enemies that will steal all of your earnings. These five enemies are Kaam (lust), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (attachment), Ahankaar (pride) and reside inside everyone. They are going to rob you
while you're awake and you're still looking around. You get rid of these five to build up your character.
If you haven't chanted Vaheguru or experienced Naam, we'd recommend it. The best advice that I got was to do Ardaas for Guru Ji’s help. Try chanting in each of the above-described ways and go with what feels right. Find Sadh Sangat (holy company) to help you grow.
This article is a transcribed version of the video