Naam or Word – Introductory

NAAM is easier said than known and practiced. It is only an adept in the mysteries of Naam who knows its true significance and the great power that lies hidden in it. Apparently it is just a syllable, but what it connotes is beyond understanding even by the most learned in book knowledge; though it may be possible to apprehend it through the grace of one well versed not only in the theory but in the practice as well of the Word.

“Name” and the “named” are, in fact, one and the same. There is hardly any distinction between the two: one is the abstract form of that which is concrete. Light cannot be separated from the sun. The two go together all the world over. Similarly Godhood and God cannot be demarcated and set aside in watertight compartments as two separate entities. The former is just an attribute of the latter. “Naam” is nothing more nor less than Godhood of God; one may call it what one may like – the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, etc. It is the primal manifestation of God, responsible for the entire creation. It is the primeval  form of God. St. John speaks of it thus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that  was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
In these memorable words, St. John has tried to give us some idea of the marvelous nature of the Word or Naam, as it is also called. It combines in it the triple principle of Creation, Sustenance and Destruction – the Trimurti of the Hindu mythology of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer respectively, all the three deriving their motor power from Godhood or God-in-action, Naam or Word.

Hazrat Moieen-ud-Din Chishti, in this context, says,

Name and the Named are but one,
Light of Name witnesseth His glory.

All that is, is of and from Naam, for it pervades everywhere. It is the life principle of the entire creation. He in whom this Word or Naam becomes personified is called a saint for it is said that, “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Such a one has reached the summum bonum of life and gained the El Dorado of human existence. For him there is nothing more to wish for and aspire for.
On the other hand, one who has not been able during his lifetime to establish a contact with Naam, at the time of death quits the body like a defeated gambler who leaves a gambling den with empty hands. Sant Kabir says,

Better by far is a leper with weeping sores, if established in Naam,
Than a fine stalwart swain who knows not the value of Naam.
GREATNESS OF NAAM AND ITS NEED

The access to spiritual regions cannot be gained except with the wings of Naam. A Persian poet says,

It behooves thee to fly to the higher realms and
that thou canst do with the wings of Naam.

Again,

If thou wishest union with Truth, thou must get united with Naam (i.e., Word or the manifest form of Truth unmanifested) for therein lies the only possible union with Truth. The constant meditation of Name means constant companionship with the Named.

A touch with the Divine current purifies a person of all iniquities. All doubts and distractions disappear and the mind becomes steady and firm, with the result that God’s light is reflected therein.

If thou wert to cleanse the mirror of thy mind with the sweet remembrance of His Name, His glory shall surely shine within thee.

Kabir Sahib has beautifully described the value of Naam:

Naam may appear but a monosyllable compared with the countless sins that abound;
But a little dose of the Naam when taken, reduces the entire garbage
to a heap of ashes;
And the practice of the Naam rubs clean all the mental impurities;
For the Naam acts as a spark of fire in a powder magazine;
By communion with the Naam, one transcends the limitations of the flesh,
And reaches far beyond the realm of the pairs of opposites.
All the supernal powers serve but Naam;
Blessed with Naam, one becomes the abode of all powers.
KABIR
A contact with Naam assures salvation to all, whether good or bad, learned or unlettered. As sun and fire give warmth and light to all, snow and ice give exhilarating freshness, so Naam cannot fail to produce its effect, no matter how the contact may come about, with or without faults. Khwaja Nizam-ud-Din Chishti says,

The glory of God’s Naam has attuned my body and soul,
The parched and thirsty get honeyed nectar from it.

VARIOUS NAMES OF GOD

The sages and the saints have described God in innumerable terms, as for instance Swami or Soami, meaning Lord God; Nirala (peerless or without a compeer); Anami (the nameless); Har Rai, Agam or Alakh (the incomprehensible or the ineffable); Ram Rai or Sat Purush (the eternal Truth or unchangeable permanence); Ek Ankar (the one life breath or live principle); Puran Chetan Purush (complete consciousness); Akal (timeless or the deathless one).

All these are just attributive or qualitative names – names signifying one or another of God’s attributes. Such names simply describe any one aspect or facet of God as appealed foremost to someone’s individual liking. Thousands of such names appear in holy scriptures: Ram (all-pervading), Rahim (gracious or merciful), Girdhari (encompassing), Murari, Allah, Khuda, Wah-i-Guru, and the like. The Jews call Him Yahweh or Jehovah. All these names are worthy of our adoration for each one of them tries to single out some aspect of the Beloved.

I revere each one of Thy names, O God!

WHAT IS NAAM?

We talk and hear a lot about Naam, but never for a moment pause to ponder over what it is, and how to gain salvation or Nirvana through it.

What is that Name, the remembrance whereof leads to Nirvana?

What is that name, the repetition whereof enables a person
to cross over the world of sorrow?
GURU TEG BAHADUR
In fact the Lord God is nameless, but we have given Him myriads of names. What name can indeed describe the Formless, the Limitless, the Incomprehensible, one beyond the grasp of senses and the intellect?  Still man has, through the ages, endeavored to put Him in the trammels of words and clothe Him with epithets just for the sake of expression, though all combined together fail hopelessly
to do any justice to Him. After all words do come from a limited source and cannot possibly limit the Limitless:

If all the mountains were pounded into ink-powder and mixed with the waters of the oceans, pens were made out of all the forest trees, and the entire earth were a sheet of paper, the glory of God or Naam of God-into-expression Power could not even then be described.
SAHJO BAI

All names are Thine and so are all forms Thine, but all fail to enumerate
Thy countless attributes.
GURU NANAK

Thou embracest in Thee all powers and potentialities, all riches and treasures, for Thou art the Primeval Cause, the Causeless Cause both material and efficient. The Lord of all, Thy names are numberless.
GURU ARJAN

God has names beyond our comprehension. He cannot be known and no name can describe Him. The learned and the unlettered have done their very best but have not been able to evaluate even a particle of His greatness.

O God! so many art Thy names, that the poor tongue faileth to enumerate them.
GURU RAM DAS
Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, says,

Who can sing of the glory of all Thy names?
Still the wise tell us of Thine attributes.

All names fall into two categories:

(i)  Karam Naam or names indicative of gunas (qualities) or swabhave, that is, qualitative or attributive names; like Ram, Rahim and Karim (i.e., all-pervading, merciful and compassionate).

(ii) Pura Purbala Naam or personal names which are all-comprehensive, ancient and eternal.

We generally sing the glory of God with man-made names,
But His Great Name-Sat Naam-is eternally the same.
GURU ARJAN

The question that now arises is one of choice: which of these countless names is the most efficacious and speedily fruitful? The Hindus in general glorify “Om” and speak highly of “Ram-Naam.” The Muslims prefer “Allah” and the Sikhs “Wah-i-Guru.” Every religious order has thus adopted one or the other name as a central tenet and makes use of it in their daily worship and devotion. To confine one’s self to any of these exclusively would mean making God partial. Our quest leads us to a number of issues such as:

(a) Selection of the most fruitful name.

(b) Mode of repetition: Should the name selected be repeated mentally or through meditation on the
meaning of the word selected.

If we refer to the Sikh sacred literature, we come across varied references, some dealing with Japa or repetition, others with Sunan or hearing, Manan or acceptance, Dhyan or meditation and last but not least, Self-illumination and Sound Principle as well.

Remember Naam, O my brethren-in-faith,
This grants peace, O keep the mind ever fixed in Naam.

By hearing Naam, the mind gets stilled,
The  greatness  of  Naam  is  known  through  the Master.

Commune with Naam till the last breath of life,
This brings proximity to God and He saves in the end.

Those who contact not the Naam, why do they come into the world?
Arid is the field of life for them and they die a miserable death.

The devotees of the Lord are His representatives and unto them we pray,
We, the filthy worms, are at their feet, let the Divine light fill us through.

A contact with the Sound Current gives self realization which is the summum
bonum of life. By it one is washed of all impurities of the mind and easily merges
into Life Divine. O Nanak! this contact is established by a rare gurmukh.
GURU RAM DAS

A contact with Naam makes one self-luminous, with luminosity vying with
myriads of suns.
GURU ARJAN

By Thy grace manifest the Divine light of Naam.
GURU RAM DAS
In Naam there is perfect food, both for the eyes and the ears. Next we hear of the sinking in and dwelling of Naam in the tablet of the mind. It is clearly stated in the sacred Sikh scriptures that this contact can only be had beyond the domain of senses and sensory organs:

Naam is not the subject of the eyes. It is something wonderful and indescribable.
GURU NANAK

References like these lead to but one irresistible conclusion: that the true Naam is something beyond this or that word. It is a great magnetic Power, and a force that can grip the mind. It is characterized by sweet strains and melodious tunes, which can be heard, and powerful light which can be seen and witnessed. It is this Naam or Power and Force of Godhead which cannot be comprehended by the senses and can only be realized and experienced in Super-sensual planes. It is a Life Current that pervades the entire creation and is hence called Ram Naam or All-Embracing Impulse. Kabir Sahib says:

There are myriads of names in the world, but none of them can grant salvation.
The Primeval Name is a hidden one and a rare soul can know and realize it.

Oral repetition of names has its own place and utility, and is needed for some purposes, but it cannot lead to self-realization and God-realization, both of which can be achieved only through contact with God-in-action, call it what we may – Shabd, Ram-Naam, Kalma, Word, Sruti, Sraosha, etc.;  and this contact can come about only through the Grace of some competent living Master.

Everyone is repeating the monosyllable Ram but gets no touch with the Power Ram
behind the monosyllable:

It is the Grace of the Master alone that can give a living touch with the
All-Embracing Life Impulse and the wish-yielding Elixir.

A thirsty traveler can not quench his thirst by simply crying for “water,” unless he actually gets the substance, water. Yari Sahib, therefore, says:

The tongue tires itself out by repeating the word Ram,
The repetition of the word “water” never quenches the thirst,
One may slake the thirst by taking a draught of water.

Kabir Sahib, in this context, speaks thus:

Mere repetition of this or that name, without an actual touch with the named,
is of  no avail. If one were to become rich by calling for riches, then there
would hardly be one who is not rich.

Nameless is He and yet all names are His. If one can but get in touch with His Power, all names become inconsequential, for actual contact is what matters and not the words. If a thirsty person gets the substance, water, to quench his thirst, it does not matter if he calls for it as ab (Persian), water (English), aqua (Latin), eau (French), ma (Arabic) or hudor (Greek), for his purpose is served by any of these words. Similarly, the word “bread” is quite a different thing from the real bread. While one is just an expression used to distinguish it from other things, the other is the real bread that dispels hunger. So one must strive to contact the Reality rather than run after the shadowy words that stand for the Reality.

From a mere name one has to get to the named before one can have the real benefit, a satisfaction to the ever inner urge for filling the inner vacuum of the soul. Maulana Rumi saith:

O thou repeater of the Name, go and search out the Named,
Without the Named, how can a mere name give thee comfort?

Sant Tulsi Das, the famous author of the Hindi Ramayana or the biography of Lord Rama, has given precedence to Naam over both Rama and Brahma, since Naam is at once the Creator and the controlling power of Brahma, Parbrahma, Sat Naam, Alakh and Agam.

(1) In magnanimity and large-heartedness, Naam far excels both Brahm and Rama.

(2) Personal and Impersonal God are the two aspects of Brahm for He is at once Indescribable, Beginningless, Incomprehensible and Formless. I feel that Naam far transcends these two; for both of them are within its controlling Power, from age to age. Though both Brahm and Ram are beyond comprehension, yet they can be known and realized through Naam. I therefore say that Naam is greater than both Ram and Brahm.

(3) I cannot possibly sing the greatness of Naam. Even the blessed Lord Rama himself can hardly do any  justice to the glory of Naam.
The last dictum of Sant Tulsi Das is significant indeed. Rama is said to be the incarnation of Brahm, and the latter with the entire hierarchy upward is the by-product or creation of Naam. In Jap Ji Sahib, Guru Nanak also refers to it pertinently:

There is one Spirit that has created the Universe; and given over its control to
the three guardian angels: Brahma, Vishnu and Siva: one of whom is entrusted
with the task of creation, the other with that of sustenance or maintenance
and the third with that of administering justice according to the Divine Law.
That Spirit always keeps a watchful eye on the works of all the three, but the
latter have no knowledge of It.
The majority of the multitudinous world has forgotten the Reality – the Ever-enduring Spirit of Naam – and are mightily busy in parrot-like repetition of the so many names of that Spirit, with the result that they keep engrossed all the time in gathering husk and chaff instead of the grain. Hence all their hard labor goes unfruitful and they live in a famished state without getting any satisfaction:

Those who ignore Naam or the Power of God and are busy with various other names
are just like muck-worms wallowing in filth.

The scriptural studies, the religious debates are all Mayaic or illusory
and shadowy nothings,
O Nanak! except Naam, nothing is stable, and all acts not centered on Naam
are fruitless.

Verily, verily, O Nanak! the true study is the study of Naam.

Bookish knowledge is all worldly wisdom.
GURU AMAR DAS

Hari Naam is the essence of all religions.
GURU TEG BAHADUR

Everyone wants happiness but gets what God may ordain,
All acts of devotion and charity count for nothing when compared with Naam.
GURU NANAK

Naam far excels Japa, Tapa, deeds of charity and the like
A contact with Naam gets all desires fulfilled.

One cannot by the study of the scriptures cross the ocean of life
Naam far transcends all acts of piety and charity.
GURU ARJAN
Naam is a Power and Motor Force behind everything and hence outer actions like pilgrimages to holy places, acts of charity, fasts, penances, yajnas or sacrificial oblations to fire and the like are of no avail to a seeker after Truth. Naam alone is the link between God and man. It is with the help of Naam that one can traverse to higher regions. It serves as an electric lift that can safely carry a spirit
yearning for God-realization. Except Naam, there is no other Path Godward.

The body may be consigned to the flames or cut to pieces. The mind and the body may be made an  offering and allowed to be consumed from day to day. All such penances and austerities are of no consequence when compared with Hari Naam.
The body may be cut in twain and the head be cut off for an offering or else it may be allowed to rot in the Himalayan snows, yet none of these acts can cure the mind. Alas, these have no efficacy, for we  have tried them all with no avail.
One may give millions in charity including horses and elephants, lands and kine, yet these will make him a bloated coxcomb. It is only Ram Naam (the all-pervading Sound Current ) that can still the mind, and It comes as a pure gift from a Master-soul. All intellectual wranglings, Hath-yogic practices,  scriptural studies, are but the varied types of karmic bondages. The only way to freedom and salvation is a Master-saint.

Truth is greater than everything but higher still is true living.
GURU NANAK

In Sukhmani, we have a wonderful account of Naam:

The rosary, the penances, knowledge and thinking,
The study of shastras, smritis and scriptures,
The yogic practices and the performances of rites and rituals,
A life of solitude in the deep recesses of the forests,
All endeavors of various types, including deeds of charity for name and fame,
cutting of limbs in self-conceit,
All these and more still, do not come up to the merit of Naam,
O Nanak! a beloved of the Master is ever engaged in communion with the Word.
Circumambulation of the globe and a life of longevity,
Observance of austerities coupled with renunciation,
Life spent in the midst of five fires, or one devoted to charitable deeds
like giving away of worldly possessions,
The observance of Niyoli Karm(One of the Shat Karma or six acts in Hatha Yoga, in which the
breath is held inside and the bowels are made to move both sides, right and left, so as to clear away
waste matter  from   them.) and many other yogic postures as enjoined by Jain scriptures,
And even a holocaust of one’s body inch by inch,
All these and still more fail to purify the dirt of egoism;
Nothing comes up to the merit of Naam,
O Nanak! a beloved of the Master saves himself through
communion with the Naam.
Even the desire to die at a sacred place does not rid one of his egoism,
All efforts to purify the body cannot sanctify the mind,
All physical practices cannot drive away the mental impurities,
All the methodical washings of the body cannot wash clean the clay-house,
The Power of Naam far transcends all these,
O Nanak! it has saving grace even for the worst of sinners.

The Vedas, the Smritis and all other sacred scriptures  unanimously proclaim
that besides Naam there is no other Sadhan for spiritual advancement;
all else is mere idle talk.

Nanak has the riches of Naam to dole out.
GURU ARJAN

Nanak and Kabir both taught the science of the Naam,
And I too have manifested Naam within me,
Dhru and Prahlad were intoxicated with the elixir of Naam,
And Lord Siva too is ever engaged in meditating on Naam.
DULAN DAS
The world reveres those who have sought the path of the Naam for Naam can transform sinners into saints, for it ennobles and purifies:

By practicing the science of inversion, one becomes world famous,
Even Valmik, a well known highwayman, acquired the status of a Brahm.
TULSI DAS

The lovers of God are ever engaged in the practice of the Word:

Whether awake or asleep and in whatever condition,
O Nanak! while doing everything they remain  contacted within.
GURU ARJAN

In the scriptures of all the religions, there are references to the Power of the Word:

All the religions are deeply rooted in the Naam,
There is no religion higher than that of the Naam.

The practice of the Naam is the noblest of all virtues.
GURU ARJAN
DEVOTION TO NAAM IS THE ONLY TRUE WORSHIP

The significance of Naam (the true devotion of God) cannot be put in words:

Rare indeed is the devotion to Naam (or Hari),
We cannot do full justice to the greatness of Naam.
GURU AMAR DAS

Naam alone is immaculate and everything else is of no consequence. What then can we give in offering?

But we are all as an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
ISAIAH

Whatever we say and utter in praise of Naam is inadequate. The entire mankind is indeed engaged in singing praises of Naam and in the performance of devotional exercises. But as all this is being done on the intellectual level and on the plane of the senses, it does not bear any appreciable fruit. A rare soul here and there, who is born anew through Naam or the Power of God, is truly immaculate. Only such a devotion is acceptable at His Court. There is no other devotion like that. Such a soul always
cries out:

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
THE PSALMS

The Bible tells us,

The Word of God is quick (living) and powerful and sharper than
any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit
and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts
and interests of the heart.

As we do not know what Naam is and its true significance, we live as if in a dome of many-colored glass which by its bewildering effect deludes the senses. All our prayers are but a confused jargon, and our words, though loud and strong, vanish into thin air and yield no results.

Everyone does worship but on the sensual plane only, and so gets no results,
But absorption in the Naam purifies the mind and bears fruit in abundance,
Those who are devotees of the Naam are truly pure and beloved of the Lord,
But for Naam all other worship goes in vain, and the people at large are deluded.
The beloved of the Master (Guru-mukh) knows himself by coming in contact with
the all-pervading Word (Naam).
The Immaculate Lord Himself becoming the guide contacts the soul
with the Sound Current,
Those who worship with no proper guidance, remain wandering
in the realm of duality,
A devotee of the Master alone knows the Path and bows before His Will.
GURU AMAR DAS

NAAM IS THE GREAT CONTROLLING POWER

By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them.
…He spake and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
THE PSALMS
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God.
CHRIST

Naam or Word is the chief Controlling Power. It is the only support that one can have either in this world or in the next:

I need no obsequies after my death, I depend wholly on Sat Naam,
the maker of all, and pervading all, here and hereafter.
GURU NANAK

Naam is beginningless and endless. It is invariable and Unchanging Permanence, ancient and eternal.

Leaving aside all thy learning and cunning,
worship the Great Formless beyond Brahm.
Except the Naam all others fall away.
GURU ARJAN

Excepting the True Naam, the rest is all trash. Four things alone
are eternal and lasting: Naam or Sound Current; Sadhu
or a disciplined soul well established in Word; Guru
or Word-personified, with a divine commission to
contact others with the Naam; and lastly, Gobind
or the Lord God – the Eternally Formless One.
GURU TEG BAHADUR
Everything is within the Controlling Power of Naam:

Naam is just a pure gift from God;
He alone may get the gift through the Guru, to whomsoever
He may grant it,
O Nanak! all is within the mighty grip of the Naam,
He alone is blessed with Word, who may be so ordained.
GURU AMAR DAS
NAAM IS THE GREAT MASTER FORCE

Word or Naam is the Sound Current or Sound Principle. This current or principle lay merged in the Great Silence and was hence nameless. There was then nothing but Deep Silence with no name or pattern, no design or form and no color or shade. The life vibration (principle) hidden therein, stirred the Great Deep and there came a Great Sound called Word and the whole creation came into being, and is being sustained by this. With the withdrawal of the Naam or Sound there sets in disintegration and decay in all that lives, with consequent putrefaction, and the result is dissolution which in common parlance is known as death. Thus this Sound is at once the beginning and the end of all that exists:

He – the Nameless – expressed  Himself  and made the Naam or Word.
GURU NANAK
It is called variously as Sound, Sruti (that which is heard), Shabd or Akash Bani (voice from the heaven), Udgit, Sraosha (music of the beyond), Word or Harmony, Logos or the Holy Spirit, Kalma or Bang-i-Ilahi (call from God) or Nida-i-Asmani (heavenly sound).

Thou manifested Thyself as Naam and set up the creation.
Out of the Formless proceeded forms in varying degrees.
GURU NANAK

This entire extensionalism is just of the Naam and there is nothing which is not of Him:

Thou art immanent in all;
And nothing is where Thy Word is not.
GURU NANAK

Again,

All that is of life and all that is of matter is from the Naam
(whether visible or invisible) ;
Without a Master-soul one cannot have contact with the Naam.
GURU AMAR DAS

It may here be necessary to describe in brief the four Grand Divisions of the Universe. These Grand Divisions are:

(i)   Sach Khand or the region of Sat Naam: This region is of pure spirit
unalloyed by matter.

(ii)  Par Brahm: Here spirit and subtle form of matter combine in varying degrees,
yet spirit is the ruling force.

(iii) Brahmand: Where spirit and matter in its gross form combine. Here the spirit,
for its manifestation, has to depend on matter. It consists of Trikuti and
Sahasrar (Und).

(iv)  Pind or the physical plane: Where the spirit lies dormant under a heap
of matter in its grossest form.

Naam or Word is both the Creator and the Sustainer of the Universe:

The Naam or Word is the Power of God that has created the Universe,
The same Power is sustaining all by its immanence in every form.
GURU RAM DAS

Everything comes into being and lives by the Naam or Power of God,
Forgetting the Naam, we breathe hollow.
GURU AMAR DAS

Upholding all things by the Word of His Power.
And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.
ST. PAUL

By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made,
And all the host of them . . . for He spake, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
THE PSALMS

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God . . .
ST. PAUL

By the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth
standing out of the water . . . But the heavens and the earth
which are now, by the same Word are kept in store . . .
ST. PETER

Word is at once the Creator and the Sustainer of the Universe.
Word transcends all forms and all names,
They who worship the Word, alone live.

Word sustains the entire creation,
He is the Kernel in every shell.
GURU ARJAN
John Dryden, in his song for St. Cecilia’s Day (1687), refers to it as Harmony:

From Harmony, from heavenly Harmony,
This Universal frame began;
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head
The tuneful voice was heard from high
Arise, Ye more than dead!
From Harmony, from heavenly Harmony
This Universal frame began:
From Harmony to Harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.
Word or Naam is the great Progenitor or the Primeval Cause of the entire creation with the various divisions high and low. We have the testimony of Guru Arjan in this behalf:

Naam is the life-principle in all that lives,
Naam is the foundation-stone of the Cosmos with its divisions.
Naam is the Creator of Heavens and nether lands,
Naam is the Manifester of all forms.
Naam is the sub-strata of all regions,
Naam is the liberator from all bondage.

The various Khandas or planes exist because of Naam and different Yugas or classifications of time owe their origin to Naam:

There is but one source of the different divisions of time and Universe. This
has been revealed to me by the Master-soul. Naam is a great storehouse
of all that one may wish for. Why then should I move out for this or that?
GURU ARJAN

NAAM: WHAT IT IS

All scriptures speak of Naam but have not been able to say adequately what It is. It is impossible to define and delineate It in words. It may be described as “life-impulse” or “conscious-principle.” When It begins to vibrate, It produces melodious sound, which is termed Naam or Shabd. This Sound Current proceeding from the Deep Silence of the Formless Kutasth is responsible for all forms and colors, visible and invisible to the naked eye. All life hangs on this life-principle. No life can exist
without Naam. The Sound-principle is all-pervading; it may or may not be felt, yet It is reverberating from top to toe. It is the Kernel and the Essence and at once both the material and efficient Cause of the endless universes in which this physical earth is but a speck.

O Pipa! this universal vibration is the Primal Causeless Cause,
But can be apprehended only through a Master-soul.
RAJA PIPA
In all religions God is spoken of as the Sound-manifest or Life Principle. It is a current, live and conscious, and has in It the germs of creation. It is because of this link between the Creator and the creation that the spirit or soul of a person can cross over the physical body and traverse the spiritual regions to reach the True Home of our Father – Sach Khand. From scriptures we learn that Sound Principle or Naam is of two kinds: (i) outer, and (ii) inner. The former consists of words that may be spoken or written down and recorded. This constitutes all learning and knowledge at the intellectual level and is termed Apra Vidya or knowledge of the world and the worldly surroundings. All worldly wisdom is included therein. It is also called Varn-Atmak, for with it Atma or Soul can express itself
and functions in the world. All book knowledge is because of Varn-Atmak Shabd. Comprehension of world and worldly relations depends on this type of Shabd which helps outwardly in the physical
plane. It serves as the means of conveying ideas and emotions from man to man, just as any other animal would do. Outer sound then, serves as the first step in the study of the Science of the Spirit. Theory precedes practice and the Master-saint has to make use of it for explaining this most abstruse subject. Again Japa or oral repetition of certain words or names of God is to be done by Varn-Atmak
Shabd. The preliminary training of the mind is the first essential on this Path and hence the need for outer sound  or Shabd. Japa is of four kinds:

(i)   Baikhri or oral, performed by tongue.
(ii)  Madhma, done mentally at the seat of the Shakti in the Kanth or throat.
(iii) Pashianti, done at the seat of the heart.
(iv)  Para, also a mental process performed with attention riveted at the seat of the navel.

All these types of Japas give solace of varying degrees and one gets peace of mind of a temporary nature only, because the various bodily ganglions involved in them are of a lower order, situated below Shiv-Netra or the Third Eye.

Besides these, there is Simran or Japa of the indescribable and hidden Sound Current that proceeds of Itself from the depths of the Great Silence. It is technically termed “Para-Vidya” (Knowledge of the Beyond)  or “Dhun-Atmak Shabd.” In this type of Japa one has just to listen to the all-pervading Naam or Shabd. As this Sound cannot be expressed in any symbolic form, it is expressionless. It may be contacted above the sensory plane,behind the center of the two eyebrows. The true significance of Naam, the Creator of various planes and divisions of the endless universes, may be known by one who is an adept in the Surat Shabd Yoga or has united his soul with the Sound-principle.

He who performs Japa with the tongue of thought,
knows the true nature of the Sound Current (Word or Naam)
GURU NANAK

No doubt Dhun-Atmak Shabd is the very essence of one’s soul, but one cannot apprehend It without the help and guidance of a Master-soul or adept in the line, and  without Surat Shabd Yoga, i.e., establishing a contact of the spirit or soul with the essential live-principle (through a regular process of inversion or self-analysis). One does not get life’s richest gift; for the spirit is engaged all the
time in outer pursuits by constant association with the mind and the senses, reveling in the enjoyment of the world and worldly objects. Emerson, the great American philosopher, speaks of inversion as “tapping inside.” Lord Jesus metaphorically speaks of it:

Knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Naam or Name is Varn-Atmak, while Naami or Named is the Great Power behind the descriptive words and is Dhun-Atmak. From epithetic words, one has to recede to the Power which the words denote and stand for. The Japa or Varn-Atmak is performed orally by the tongue and is just a preparatory course in the spiritual discipline of the soul. Sant Ravi Das says in this context:

Without actual sight (of an object) longing does not arise.
Whatever is visible to the naked eyes is perishable indeed,
He who establishes an inner contact of Surat and Shabd (Spirit and Sound)
through the help of Varn-Atmak words, is a true Yogi, desireless and free.

Varn-Atmak or epithetic names look just like dolls apparently dancing by themselves; but they in fact are being made to dance by invisible hands controlling the lines behind them. In exactly the same way there exist infallible links between Naam and the Naami (or the Name and the Named:  Varn-Atmak and Dhun-Atmak Shabds). Varn-Atmak words pave the way to Dhun-Atmak Shabd and are thus essential aids in stilling the mind of oscillations, purging it of all impurities and rendering it capable of apprehending the Dhun-Atmak current within, for without this vital chord, the spirit cannot transcend the physical plane and enter the higher spiritual planes leading to the Home of our Father. The Varn-Atmak words may and do differ because of lingual differences, but the Dhun Atmak Shabd being the Life-Principle of the spirit or soul is the same throughout. It has indeed been an Unspoken Language and an Unwritten Law throughout the ages and it shall remain so till eternity; for all life is one and one only for the entire creation, though it is in multitudinous forms. The teachings of the Saints which center round the One Reality are, therefore, a common heritage for the
entire humanity and not for this or that class or social order or religious sect. The Saints are secular in their outlook and not sectarian. Children of Light, they give light to one and all, irrespective of caste and creed. God made man (an embodied spirit) and man made religions and is caught in his own handiwork just like a silkworm in his cocoon. The Saints come to liberate man from his own self-made bondage, to take him out of the narrow grooves which he has molded himself through centuries of habitual way of living. The Saints do not meddle with social orders nor do they create any. Their call is addressed to the spirit alone. They come with a divine mandate:

To lead man from Darkness to Light, from Untruth to Truth,
from Death to Immortality.
Arise, awake and stop not until the goal is reached.
THE VEDAS

Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
CHRIST

Again,

For them (saints) there is no difference between the so-called twice-born:
the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas and the low-born Sudras,
for they address them all alike.

The beloved of the Master (Gurmukh) worships the Naam and attains Moksha
(liberation)-the Naam which, O Nanak! pervades equally in all.
GURU ARJAN
In the life story of Guru Nanak we find the anecdote of Mian Mitha, a fakir of Mithankot, a town in the Punjab (now in West Pakistan). In his wanderings, Guru Nanak came across this fakir and told him that without Naam or Word one found no peace here and hereafter and could not escape from the Karmic bondage. As to what this Naam or Word was, he said that it was not a subject of
comprehension by the senses, but it could be apprehended on a super-sensual plane. The Guru asked Mian Mitha to listen within himself, but the Mian could hear nothing. Thereupon the Guru took him
aside and looking at him asked him once again to attune himself within, whereupon the Mian exclaimed that he could distinctly feel the vibrations of Naam in every pore of his body. This shows that the Word of God is characterized not by words but by vital vibrations.

A beloved of the Master feels and experiences the quickening of life-impulse
in all the pores of his body.
GURU NANAK

The Saints, therefore, in common, say that God is one and there is only one way that leads Godward. The spiritual discipline does not interfere with nationality or social religion. Every person, whatever his nationality or religion, can practice this discipline and successfully follow the Path of the Saints. The Divine Link or Word is already present in each individual, no matter who he is and whatever his vocation in life. It is attained by a process of self-analysis and inversion and one who learns and practices this process can come into contact with It. But the trouble is that everyone clings to the age old convictions and is not prepared to break away from them and accept ideas which appear new and novel. But by constant association with a Godman or a man of realization, the Light of Truth gradually dawns upon him, and in course of time he begins to realize the Truth.

NAAM IS THE SOUND PRINCIPLE

Naam is characterized by a sweet and serene Sound Current. This Ethereal Music is going on in each individual. In fact, there is no place without It. Its Divine notes can be heard through the grace of some Master of Divine Music or Master-soul. All the scriptures of the world make pertinent references to this heavenly Harmony.

God manifested Himself as Naam-the ever reverberating Naam,
The Vedas, Shastras and Smritis sing of Naam, times without number.
GURU ARJAN

The Naam (Sound-principle) reverberating as It is in all hearts, does not diminish
or increase and is Unchanging Permanence,
Without Naam all are just paupers, and this Truth comes only from a Master-soul.

Hearing the Naam one becomes the knower of the Self,
and gets all that is good and noble,
Hearing the Naam all sins drop off of themselves
and one easily gets at the Truth,

O Nanak! by hearing the Naam, one’s face shines with glory,
The beloved of the Master is ever in contact with the Naam.
GURU NANAK

Then the Eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the Ears of the deaf
shall be unstopped. Then shall the Lame man leap as an hart,
and the Tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out,
and streams in the desert.
ISAIAH

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
ST.  PAUL
THE SEAT OF NAAM OR WORD

The body is the Temple of God, for God made man in His own image. But it is only after the spirit, through the process of inversion, gets concentrated between and behind the two eyebrows that one can hear the divine melody. Guru Nanak, when questioned by the yogins (those engaged in yogic exercises like Pranayam, etc.) about this music, told them:

O yogi, you may have the gift of the Divine Link only if you transcend the body.

This Divine Link is essentially musical in character and has a great magnetic force a which pulls the Spirit upward to spiritual realms, as Spirit, Word and God are of the same essence. When like attracts like, the Spirit is irresistibly drawn out of the bodily raiment. Maulana Rumi therefore
says:

If I were to give thee a little account of the divine strains, all the spirits
would leave their respective bodily abodes.

Christ too speaks of it:

When the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, they that hear shall live.

This heavenly Harmony is already within each one of us, and we could distinctly hear it if we could by leaving the outgoing faculties through repetition of certain name or names, withdraw the spirit from the sensory plane. The reverberations of this music make us self-absorbed and self-intoxicated.

One dyed in the Naam is ever absorbed within and gets eternal bliss.
GURU NANAK

All the intoxicants of the world produce but a passing inebriation and a momentary forgetfulness; but a spirit dyed in the color of Naam or Word is ever-engrossed in the Sound Principle arising from the Deep Silence of the Soul and experiences an everlasting bliss which is interminable:

The intoxication of the Naam, O Nanak, works round the clock.
GURU NANAK

Naam is the Life Principle that works through all that lives and its withdrawal means disintegration, dissolution and death:

I live when I listen to Naam’s music and I die when I forget it.
GURU NANAK

Again,

O my Beloved, I do live when I contact the Naam,
Without that there is no life, my Master has instilled this in me.
GURU RAM DAS

So long as this inner contact of the spirit with the Naam which is latent in each one of us is not established, there is no way out for the spirit and it gets no peace.

TIME FOR PRACTICING SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

One may devote oneself to the worship of Naam or Word at any time and at any place for there are no restrictions in this behalf. But Amrit-Vela (early dawn) is the most appropriate and fruitful for the purpose.

At the ambrosial hour of the early dawn,
Be ye in communion with the divine Word,
And meditate on His glory.
GURU NANAK

Again,

O thou rise early, and worship the Word day and night,
and then, O Nanak, thou shalt have no grief and escape from all troubles.
GURU RAM DAS
WHY IS NAAM INAUDIBLE?

Our mind is ever in a state of oscillation. It is covered with the dust of ages upon ages. All the time our mental faculties are flowing outward into the world, and never for a moment have they known any rest. Until the mind is purified and stilled, one cannot listen to the reverberations of the Sound Current.

There can be no devotion with an unclean mind, for one cannot have
access to the Sound Current,
A man dwelling on the plane of the senses, dies in the senses
and loses all respect here and hereafter.
GURU AMAR DAS

Again,

Oscillating between this and that on account of  egoistic life, the mind gets lost
and finds neither charm nor interest in the Sound Current.
GURU AMAR DAS
NAAM IS A SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE

Naam in the real sense is beyond perception, comprehension and apprehension. It is an unspoken language and mutely it speaks. Madam Blavatsky calls It the Voice of the Silence. A continual touch with the Word helps in stilling the mental vibrations and quieting the mind. Guru Nanak speaks of It:

Naam cannot be seen with the eyes, nor can it be comprehended,
but with all this, it is so sweet and so loving,
O God! grant Nanak this ambrosial nectar from age to age,
so that he may ever be engaged in its limitless vibrations.
REAL NAAM: INCOMPREHENSIBLE AND HIDDEN

The real essence of Naam is all-pervading in each individual and is yet hidden and unfelt. It can be made manifest through the grace of a Master-soul who is established in the Naam, or in other words is Naam-personified and capable of transmitting to others his own life-impulse.

In the present age, the Unmanifested Naam reigns supreme, and is surging
in abundance in each individual,
It, however, becomes manifest in such hearts as take refuge
at the lotus feet of a Master-soul.
GURU AMAR DAS

In this world, one can have each and every thing one may desire; but the Unmanifested Word is too difficult to be achieved. It is the heritage of one who is a Gurmukh or established in the Master-soul.

Hari Naam is a very rare commodity,
It may grow in the heart of some Guru-man.

The whole world is devoid of Naam,
Yet it may be obtained from a Guru-man.
GURU AMAR DAS
NAAM: DIVINE LINK BETWEEN MAN AND HIS MAKER

The Controlling Power of Naam has within its mighty grasp the endless series of universes. Human body too has been designed on the model of Cosmic Order. This microcosm made up of diverse elements likewise owes its integrity and organic unity to Naam. It is the indissoluble link between God and man. Just as a fish can ride a mighty wave, so a spirit can ride the Sound Current and reach the
Sea of Sound or Naam.

The Path of Sound Principle is known as a process of inversion. All other paths lead to extensionalism, with no way out of the panorama of life.

Whoever gets linked with Naam, he alone, O Nanak, can realize
the Immaculately Pure.
GURU ARJAN
THE PATH OF NAAM LEADS TO SEHAJ STATE

Naam helps a spirit in the attainment of Sehaj-a state of perfect equipoise beyond the realm of the three Gunas: (Satvik, Rajsik and Tamsik; i.e., Equanimity, Action, and Inertia respectively). It is a state not subject to decay and disintegration.

Let the Beloved of Nanak have mercy on him for
Naam is the blind man’s staff unto him.
GURU ARJAN

O God! Thy Name is a pilgrim’s staff to the blind,
To me who is a poor and helpless wretch,
Thy name is my prop and support.
NAM DEV
NAAM: THE MOST EFFICACIOUS SADHNA IN THE PRESENT AGE

Whenever vice predominates and virtue goes underground and good acts are altogether ignored, the Saints preach the spiritual sadhna or practice of Naam, for it is the easiest and the quickest remedy. In this age all individual and social acts and the performance of rites and rituals as enjoined by the scriptures are hardly of any substantial use for they are outmoded and out of time.

In this age, Kirtan (the Sound Principle) occupies the highest place
(among spiritual practices).
GURU ARJAN

Sant Ravi Das testifies to this:

In Sat Yuga (the golden age) “Sat” or Truth reigned supreme;
in Treta (the silver age) sacrificial oblations had their day;
in Dwaper (the copper age) idol worship was the law of the land;
but in Kal Yuga (the iron age), Naam is the most potent and sovereign remedy.

Swami Tulsi Das Ji concurs:

Meditation (on the Sat) prevailed in the first unit of time, Yajnas or sacrifices
in the second, Bhakti or loving devotion in the third and now in the fourth
when evil is in the ascendant and the mind is wholly engrossed in evil
like a fish in the sea, Naam or the discipline of the spirit works as the saving
life line from the ocean of delusive matter.
TULSI  DAS

In Kal Yuga Naam is the only precious thing, for with the help of Naam,
the devotees are saved.
GURU RAM DAS

In this Kal Yuga, all Sadhans or practices are of no avail except that of Naam,
for it alone is a potent remedy.
SWAMI SHIVDAYAL SINGH

In Kal Yuga, Naam is the only means of salvation.

Now that Kal Yuga has set in, it is the most appropriate season
for sowing the seed of Naam,
Nothing else can bear fruit now, do not be in any delusion on this account.

Nanak would gladly make an offering of himself to one who
has been linked with Naam.
GURU ARJAN
NAAM: THE SAVING FACTOR IN ALL THE FOUR AGES

The Path of the Naam is the most ancient and the most natural. It is in consonance with the Divine Law. In all the During the last five hundred years, saints like Kabir Sahib, Guru Nanak and the other nine Sikh Gurus, Dadu Sahib, Paltu Sahib, Tulsi Sahib, Swami Shiv Dayal Singh, Baba Jaimal Singh and Baba Sawan Singh have been the great exponents of this Path. The Muslim divines have been practicing and preaching the Path of Kalma for fourteen hundred years or more. The Prophet Mohammed, Shamas Tabrez, Maulana Rumi, Hafiz Sahib, Moinuddin Chishti and others taught this very thing. Again, two thousand years ago, John the Baptist and Christ laid down the Path of the Word or Logos. Zoroaster long before preached of Sraosha or the Sound Current in Persia. Lord Buddha,twenty-five hundred years ago, practiced this very sadhna. The teachings of Gorakh Nath, long before Buddha, centered round this cardinal principle. Four thousand years back, we find that in Egypt it was known as the “Path of Aton” which was preached by King Ikhnaton. In the Upanishads we find references to “Udgit” or the “Harmony” of the Beyond. Lord Krishna, long before,
was fully conversant with this science. In the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of the world, we read
in Wak Devi Sukat of “Naad” or music and “Sruti” or that which is heard.

Kabir Sahib tells us that he came in all the four Yugas, and every time he preached of Naam or Word. In each Yuga he was known differently as Sat Sukrat, Munindar, Karunamae and lastly as Kabir.

The Sikh scriptures testify in plain words that during the four Grand Divisions of time people benefited by the practice of Naam by sitting at the feet of saints:

In all the four ages, Naam occupied a predominant position and people
meditated on the Shabd. In this age, Gurmukh (Guru-man) alone is saved.

Whosoever benefited, he did so through Naam, obtained by the grace
and the blessings of some Gurmukh (Master-soul)

Naam alone has been the Saving Life Line through the ages.
GURU AMAR DAS

Source:

http://www.ruhanisatsangusa.org/naam/naam_b1_intro1.htm &

http://www.ruhanisatsangusa.org/naam/naam_b1_intro2.htm

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