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The word Sukhmani is rendered into English as “consoler of the mind.” The entire poem has been translated into English more than once under the commonly preferred title, "Jewel of peace", “Psalm of peace” or “Song of peace”, signifying the soothing effect it has on the mind of the reader. Sukh literally means peace or comfort and mani means mind or heart also jewel ( ਮਣੀ in Gurmukhi can mean jewel, gem, precious stone
One of the fundamental texts of the Sikh faith, the Sukhmani presents a complete scheme of the teachings of the Sikh faith. While each astpadi has a fresh vision to impart, a particular aspect of Truth to unfold, the whole text may be regarded as the reiteration of basic themes such as Divine immanence, Divine compassion, abundance of grace, God’s succouring hand, the merit of devotion, of holy company and humility. With such reiteration, the composition as a whole has a remarkable gripping quality reinforced by the striking imagery which in stanza after stanza brings home to the seeker the truths he must own.
Significance of ‘Sukhmani’
There is a great significance of Sukhmani in the Sikh way of life and also enjoys reverence among the devotees of the Sikh faith. They used to recite it in the early hours of morning. Generally it takes more than half an hour to recite it. Any one who reads it with love, faith and devotion opens the doors of the treasure of eternal bliss and the very spring of peace, the reason being that the author (Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji) has poured into this composition his very spirit which was peace itself. This peace he had got from his constant communication with God. It is a treasure of all kind of happiness and pleasure.
The Sukhmani is one of the master pieces of Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji, the compiler of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This composition is complete in all respects and it enjoys its independent status. The major religious ideas of Guru Arjan Dev ji are believed to have been treasured in it. Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji preached the message of universal peace, to all the inhabitants of the world. The Sukhmani urges that in order to gain the peace of mind a man should make it a constant practice to remember the Name of God. The remembrance will put a sort of fence; so to say, around him which no worldly trouble or evil will dare to break. According to S.S.Johar, “The Psalm of peace, its aim is to give solace to the mind. Guru Arjan, the composer of Sukhmani himself says ’He who listens to it with love and gives it a place in his heart shall enable himself to commune with the Lord.” A person tired of life or deeply entrenched in sorrow or in remorse or in anxiety derives consolation and peace from reading Sukhmani.
The beginning of the composition opens with innovation to the Shabad Guru who is the source of bliss: ‘Aadi gurey nmh] jugadi gurey nmh] satigurey nmh] sri gurdyvey nmh]’(sri guru granth saihb, page 262) Here Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji has made a departure from the prevalent Hindu tradition which refers to Personal God and gods. It also refers to the personal Guru-ship and the particular Gurus. Here the Guru wants to emphasize that way to God realization is only Naam-Simran.(page 262)
When and where written: It is believed in Sikh tradition that the great Guru composed Sukhmani at Amritsar, while he was in a process of preparing the Holy Scripture for humanity by which he preached the massage of universal peace, to all the inhabitants of the world. Sukhmani is arranged in the Gauri rag of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
This composition is in 24 ashtpadis and each consists of eight stanzas along with a slok at the beginning just to give the theme of the canto concerned.
Meaning of the heading ‘Sukhmani’: Different scholars have given their interpretations regarding the significance of the heading of this composition. Some are of the view that the word Sukhmani represents the yogic term ‘sukhmana’, a mythical vein which is situated where ‘ira’ and ‘pingula' join together. It seems to be a wrong interpretation because in the Guru Granth Sahib all the Gurus are against ‘hath yoga’ which emphasises ‘pranyam’ and other ‘aasans’ - physical exertion.
Perhaps it would be a better and safer interpretation if we say that Sukhmani refers to a highest state of spiritual bliss. This interpretation would be in agreement with the Sikh thought and it would also explain the contents of the composition. Some scholars also agree to this interpretation. Prof. G.S.Talib calls this composition a jewel of Bliss or joys. It deals with the essentials of Sikhism and devotional philosophy of man. It breeds the spirit of universal brotherhood, peace and love. Principal Teja Singh in his book ‘The Psalm of Peace’ translated his version Sukhmani. He gives in the introduction that this composition is based on the basic unity of mankind which is derived from the unity of Truth. This argument seems to be in agreement with the fundamental thought of Sikhism. Sikhism builds its philosophical structure of non-dual Reality which is both manifest and unmanifest. If Reality is one and there is unity of Truth then humanity can be considered as manifestation of the Ultimate Reality. Therefore, Sukhmani throws light on different manifestations of Reality which is in essence based on the unity of non-dual Reality.
This composition seems to be a reaction against existential socio-political situation which was prevalent in the times of Sikh Gurus. It was a period of tyranny and oppression, suppression, and hypocrisy. This composition comes forth with an invigorating (reviving) spirit to inspire human consciousness against all falsehood, evil and ignorance. It is a great consoler of the mind. Therefore, it has been given the heading of Sukhmani which gives the massage of love, peace and harmony. In order to justify the above argument we may give in brief the summary of the whole composition emphasizing different aspects which have been mentioned in the contents.
In the first three, the Guru mentions the advantages of repeating the Name of God. In cantos four to eleven Guru Arjan expresses his thoughts on God-man. Cantos twelve to twenty mention the process by which God’s grace can be won, that is, by self surrender or resignation to the Will of God. God is all truth. The Guru inspires the disciples with love of the Name, meditation. In the last four cantos the Guru elucidates the Name. Name covers both the personal and absolute aspects of God. The Lord is present in His creation. In the absolute form God is not subject to matter, time or space, God transcends and unifies all.
So far as we are concerned with the theme of the Sukhmani, we can say that the major is one and others are subordinate to the major one. The major theme is given in the first and the second pada. It is the following: ‘sukhmani sukh Amrit prabh namu] Bhgat jnan key man bisram]’(p.262) This shows that the peace can only be obtained by the recitation of the divine. This recitation ensures our contact with God and serves as a channel for the outflow of Guru’s virtue into ourselves. It is much evident that Nam Simran is the main theme. Nam is the treasure. If Reality is one unity, Truth or humanity must manifest their respective unities. All such unities are viewed within one Divine unity of the Almighty God... The Sukhmani states with the dynamic nature of non-dual Being which manifests unmanifest form and when it assures the form it marks the beginning of different yugas. Whenever it is in the manifest form it is expressing itself through the Divine Law which is expressed through the ‘sabad’ or ‘satguru’. These three forms of one Reality are respectfully invocated in order to Nam Simran.
In the 2nd ashtpadi, we come across that the Ultimate Reality pervades in every element/creature. This fact of all pervasive Reality is realized through Nam Simran. Nam Simran is the subtle creative energy which is the cause of all manifest forms. It also functions upon human mind to make him realize the Ultimate Creator. In the 3rd ashtpadi, the Guru makes a sharp comparison with other forms of worship based upon the previous scriptures of the Hindus and other religions. Guru has made it clear that he has studied many revealed and other scriptures but Nam Simran is superior to all other religious observances.(p.265) ’Nam-Simran is above all other means. Guru Arjan Dev bitterly criticises rituals, renunciation and ascetic practices. He is of the view point that if one is to get rid of pains and suffering, one is to practice Nam-Simran in the real spirit of the term (word). In the 8th chaupai of the 3rd ashtpadi Guru pin points that Hari’s name is far superior to other means of God-realization. In the last four ashtpadis Sri Guru Arjan Dev ji concentrates on the conception of Nam which is the fountain of spiritual Bliss- Sukhmani.
Like other religions, in the 4th ashtpadi Guru Arjan represents the human situation which has been accepted by the Sikh Gurus. According to Guru Arjan Dev man is presented as very weak and he is completely dependent on almighty Prabhu and in the Ashtpadi opening Slok says that the individual is without any... qualities and is child like also. Therefore, it is advisable for him to remember the creator who is always within and helps him to emancipate.(p.266) Owing to week, man is prospective to Almighty to surrender himself.(p.277)Owing to week nature, man is attracted by worldly things. With the result he forgets the Creator and is engrossed in the creation only. Thereafter Sri Guru Arjan Dev brings him the idea of grace and mercy which is the only source of inspiration to come out of clutches of Maya. For this purpose complete self surrender is expected of a spiritual aspirant for the true Guru. All evils like anger, greed, desires, attachment and I-consciousness are humiliated to Guru’s will
The Guru qualifies this statement that Truth and Truthfulness are very significant in the way of realisation. Truth can be realised in the company of realised persons.(p.271)
Having accepted that man is weak Guru Arjan Dev introduces the concept of Grace in the 6th and 7th Ashtpadis. Grace is such a multi-dimensional concept which has many aspects in different perspectives. It helps man evolve and develop spiritually, socially and other ways also.
In the 8th Ashtpadi the ideal man (brahm giani) of Guru Arjan Dev has been projected. Braham Gyani is a perfect person who completely identifies himself with the Ultimate Primal Source. In the 9th and 10th Ashtpadis comparison with other sects has been given in which the realization of Reality would not be possible. Different Saints, devotees belonging to different sects could have the partial vision of Truth but all of them are incapable to realise Him. They beg for His grace to gain strength. He is all in all and non-dual as well. He pervades every where without any discontinuity.
In the slok of Ashtpadi 17th the Guru outlines the basic structures of all comprehensive view of Reality. Like Guru Nanak’s first slok of the Japuji Guru Arjan Dev says that Reality Is true in the beginning, in the unfested state, and in the manifested form (p.285). And this fact about Truthfulness of Reality has self evident in the present and in the future as well. And in the Ashtpadi the Guru says the form of Being is true.When one understands it, one tries to realise this true form. Then the spiritual aspirant develops from within all qualities of Truth realization. All elements with gyan are transformed into reality itself(p.286).
And in the Ashtpadi 16th Guru also describes the transcendent nature of the Reality which is beyond form and contrary colours and the three strands of the Reality (p. 283). It should not be misunderstood that Guru Arjan Dev believed only in transcendent. He tries to reconcile the unmanifest and manifest aspects of Reality which indicates that he is developing a dynamic view of Reality. In nutshell Guru Arjan Dev presents his view that the Ultimate Reality is dynamic and non-dual which is both unmanifest and manifest.
Then an ideal man is expected to be one with Ultimate Reality. Guru calls such a person ‘sat purkh’. ‘Sat purkh’ in a personified sense is a creative principle in all the universe including living and non-living units of the Reality. The realisation of sat purkh is the main idea of Sukhmani Sahib. With this view the Guru emphasises on Nam-Simran again and again. Simran is the only fruitful activity which a person is expected to perform while living in this world. All other things do not help man to realise the Reality. Hari Nam is the real wealth. In the slok of ashtpadi 20th, the term ’phirti phirti’ wandering in the original context can be interpreted from two stand points. First, as man has undergone before this birth so many births. Second, after adopting different means of realization the devotee has come to know that Nam-Simran is the last resort.
In the last four ashtpadis Guru concludes that Nam stands for ‘shabad’ which is used to describe manifest attributes of the Real. The Real is a dynamic Reality which is both Nirguna and Sarguna when it assumes the manifest form it becomes the Naam as Personal Unity with infinite attributes. The remembrance of these attributes through Naam (Shabad) help human consciousness (surti) to develop from a form of multiplicity and duality (duja Bhao) and finally the state of complete oneness with Reality is realised. In the end we can say that this composition reveals that the real devotion of God is the praise of Lord. This is got from true Guru’s word. Hence the composition if recited with loving devotion shall work on human mind in the form of Naam and Shabad and the ultimate outcome shall be extreme spiritual Bliss that is Sukhmani.
“Thus we can say that the central theme of the Sukhmani is Nam Simran. It brings the treasure of all kinds of happiness and pleasure. When a man worships God in the real sense, he attains eternal bliss. Some good qualities are cultivated in the man’s personality which make him eligible to get other themes (grace of God, Love and dedication, nature of ideal man, ‘Sargun’ and ‘Nirgun’ aspect of God etc.) which are also incorporated by the Guru are subordinate to this major one. When a man leans towards Nam Simran he becomes free from the cycle of death and rebirth and gets the eternal state tranquillity of Sehaj.
There is something in the sincerity of the mental approach the hidden pathos and the verbal music which goes straight to the heart of the reader. It has a soothing effect on the nerves shattered by a life of hurry and furious activity. There is in it the still music of humanity, lyrical cry rising from the heart that has known suffering and has found peace.
The Sukhmani benefits the reader to a great extent. It makes one joyous and one feels refreshed, soothed and renewed after reading it because it came straight from the heart of Guru Arjan.”
- Above article edited by Gurwinder kaur(Dr.)
- Sukhmani sahib
- Message of sukhmani
- Structure of sukhmani
- Guru Arjan
- Bhai Vir Singh
- Brahm Giani
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