“Vaheguru Gurmantr Hai...”

 By Manvir Singh Khalsa

“mehlaa: 5 paaprriaa pachhaarr baann sachaavaa sunn kai.   
gur mantrraa chitaar naanak dukh na theeve-ee”
- Fifth Mehl: Take aim with the arrow of Truth, and shoot down sin.
Cherish the Words of the Guru's Mantra, O Nanak, and you shall not suffer in pain. 2.
(Ang 521, SGGS)

Mantra is a Sanskrit word, simply meaning "incantation". Just as the fragrance is infused in the flower, and the light of the sun is hidden in the colours, similarly, the essence of the Divine Expression resulting from Super Consciousness is summed up in the Mantra. The Akhree or the letter form of Mantra is the expression of the subtle Primal Sound, which is beyond the reach of our bodily senses and the three modes of material nature. Thus the Mantra is not an ordinary word; it's embedded with the transcendental vibratory sound that represents the Absolute Purity.

"panche shabad vaje mat gurmat vaddbhaagee anhad vajiaa.
aanand mool raam sabh dekhiaa gur shabadee govind gajiaa. "
- The Panch Shabad, the Five Primal Sounds, vibrate with the Wisdom of the Guru's Teachings; by great good fortune, the Unstruck Melody resonates and resounds.
I see the Lord, the Source of Bliss, everywhere; through the Word of the Guru's Shabad, the Lord of the Universe is revealed.
(Kaanrra, Ang 1315, SGGS)

By chanting a Mantra we try to invoke the Pure Being who resides within. Thus, the Mantra is the Name of the Inner Being whom we are calling or want to Realise. Therefore, if chanted with concentration, intuitive understanding, determination, constancy, assiduousness and feeling, the Mantra will open a person to themselves — it will bring the person face to face with the Divine Light within.

"mantr tantr aukhad punehchaar. har har naam jeea praan adhaar."
- (To dispel the sleep of attachment, for that person the Lord’s Name is the) Mantra, Naam is Tantra (magic),
Naam is the all-curing medicines and Naam is the act of atonement.
The Name of the Lord, Har, Har, is the Support of the soul and the breath of life.
(Guarree, Ang 184, SGGS)

The Mantras for Simran (remembrance of the Lord) are usually short, containing only a few syllables. Relatively longer Mantras are impractical for chanting and meditation, thus loose their effectiveness. The shorter Mantras of fewer syllables are more effective, because they are more likely to flow better with the natural rhythm of the breathing process or Praans, easy to remember and more suitable for concentration and remembrance.

"satgur mantr deeo har naam. eh aasar pooran bhe-e kaam.2."
- The True Guru has given me the Mantra of the Lord's Name.
By this Support, my affairs have been resolved. ||2||
(Gaurree, Ang 196, SGGS)

"kahu kabeer akhar due bhaak. hoegaa khasam ta le-egaa raakh.3.33."
- Says Kabeer, chant the two letters of the Lord's Name (Baba Kabeer Ji’s Mantra was ‘Raam’: the Gurmukhi letters ‘Raaraa’ plus ‘Mammaa’).
If He is your Lord and Master, He will protect you. ||3||33||
(Gaurree, Ang 329, SGGS)

Guru Ji imparts self-knowledge (aatam giaan), which removes the veil of ignorance that separates us from Vaheguru. Guru Ji also gives his Sikhs the ‘Gurmantra’ (the Divine Name) whose unbroken chanting or meditation brings the individual mental-control and inner purity. Both of these essentials of spirituality have been provided to us by our Guru, Guru Nanak Sahib Ji. We have been blessed with the Gurbaani for self-knowledge, and the Gurmantar is bestowed to us by the Guru-roop Panj Piaare and Guru Granth Sahib Ji’.

‘Vaheguru’ (also spelt ‘Waheguru’) is the Gurmantra for the Sikhs (invocatory formula received from the Guru) or NAAM for repetition (silently or aloud) and meditation upon the Supreme Reality. The Gurmantra has been passed down to from the Guru to the Sikhs in initiation ceremonies (Amrit Sanskaar). The Panth Sikh Rehat Maryada describes this: “(o) After this the five beloved ones, all together in chorus, communicating the name of Waheguru to all who have been administered the ambrosial baptism…” (Article XXIII, Chapter XIII)

"saas saas saas hai jete gurmat naam samaare. saas saas jaae naamai bin so birthaa saas bikaare.7."
- 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||
(Nat Naraayan, Ang 980, SGGS)

Also in Chapter III of the Sikh Rehat Maryada under the heading of ‘Meditation on Naam (Divine Substance) and Scriptures’ states: “(1) A Sikh should wake up in the ambrosial hours (three hours before the dawn), take bath and, concentrating his/her thoughts on One Immortal Being, repeat the name ‘Waheguru’ (Wondrous Destroyer of darkness).”

The Gurmantra is also referred as “Beej Mantra”, meaning the seed Mantra, which one should sow in the field of the mind and soul. Naam Japna (repeated utterance of Divine Creator’s Name, Vaheguru) is one of the three core moral principals of Sikhi, the other two being ‘Kirat Karnee’ (honest labour and living) and ‘Vand Chhakna’ (sharing one’s provisions with the needy). In Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the word “Vaheguru” (vwihgurU) appears thirteen times and the word “Vahguru” (vwhgurU) appears three times. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Nanak, used “Vaheguru” in the invocatory formula: “Ik Ounkaar Sri Vaheguru Jee Kee Fateh”, beside the traditional “Ik Ounkaar Satgur Prasaad” at the beginning of some of his compositions as well as in the Sikh salutation – “Vaheguru Jee Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Kee Fateh”.

As briefly mentioned, the word “Vaheguru” is made up of two word “Vaah(e)” and “Guru”. “Vaah” or “Vaahe” is an ecstatic expression of awe and wonder. Therefore it is often translated as “wondrous” or “wonderful”. “Guru” derives from two words. “Gu” means darkness, and “Ru” (‘Roo’) means light. Therefore ‘Guru’ means that power, being, and presence, which dispels darkness and brings light, in other words ‘Enlightener’. Cumulatively, the name implies wonder at the Divine Light eliminating spiritual darkness. It might also imply -‘Hail the Lord whose Name eliminates spiritual darkness.’ Thus the two constituents of Vaheguru (Vaahe+Guroo) implies the state of wondrous ecstasy and offering homage to the Divine Creator Being.

The attitude of wonder and total submission at the sight of Divine Greatness is prominently visible in Sri Guru Nanak Ji when he recorded Gurbaani, for example:

"gagan mai thaal rav chand deepak bane tarikaa manddal janak motee.
dhoop malaanlo pavann chavro kare sagal banraae phoolant jotee.1."
- In the bowl of the sky, the sun and moon are the lamps; the stars in the constellations are the pearls.
The fragrance of sandalwood is the incense, the wind is the fan, and all the vegetation are flowers in offering to You, O Luminous Lord. ||1||
(Dhanaasree, Ang 663, SGGS)

"kete pavann paannee vaisantar kete kaan mahes.
kete barme ghaarrat gharreeahi roop rang ke ves."
- So many winds, waters and fires; so many Krishnas and Shivas.
So many Brahmas, fashioning forms of great beauty, adorned and dressed in many colours.    
(Ang 7, SGGS)

"vismaad naad vismaad ved."
- Wondrous is the sound, wondrous is the wisdom…
(Aasa Di Vaar, Ang 463, SGGS)

Wonder and ecstasy are expressed at the cosmic order and its mystery full of Divinely appointed system. The salok mentioned above from Aasa Di Vaar concludes with:

"vismaad nerrai vismaad door. vismaad dekhai haajraa hajoor.
vekh viddaann rehiaa vismaad. naanak bujhann poorai bhaag.1."
- Wonderful is closeness, wonderful is distance. How wonderful to behold the Lord, ever-present here.
Beholding His wonders, I am wonder-struck. O Nanak, those who understand this are blessed with perfect destiny. ||1||
(Aasa, Ang 464, SGGS)

Following on Guru Ji says in the next Salokh in Aasa Di Vaar:

"bhai vich pavann vahai sadvaao. bhai vich chalhe lakh dareeaao."
- In the Lord’s fear, the wind and breezes ever blow.
In the Lord’s fear, thousands of rivers flow.
(Aasa, Ang 464, SGGS)

Gurbaani here expresses wonder at the cosmic ‘fear’ under which the universe operates in obedience to the Divine Law, which the Divine Creator alone is exempt from.

In Japji Sahib, and shabads throughout Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, one prominent theme and subject is the expresses wonder at the cosmic order. In the 16th Pauree (Stanza) of Japji Sahib, is the conveys wonder at the limitlessness of space:

"ketaa taann suaalihu roop. ketee daat jaanai kaunn koot. keetaa pasaao eiko kavaao.
tis te hoe lakh dareeaao. kudrat kavann kahaa veechaar.
vaariaa naa jaavaa eik vaar. jo tudh bhaavai saaee bhalee kaar.
too sadaa salaamat nirunkaar.16."
- ...What power! What fascinating beauty! And what gifts! Who can know their extent?
You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow.
How can Your Creative Potency be described? I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.
Whatever pleases You is the only good done, You, Eternal and Formless One! ||16||  
(Ang 3, SGGS)

The17th –19th Paurees (Stanzas) of Japji Sahib, each begin with ‘Asankh’, meaning "Countless” is uttered in the same feeling of wonder and awe.

"asankh jap asankh bhaao. asankh poojaa asankh tap taao."
- Countless meditations, countless loves.
Countless worship services, countless austere disciplines...
(Ang 3, SGGS)

The Divine Creative Being has been attributed with countless Names, for example, ‘Allah’, ‘Raam’, ‘Kudaah’, ‘Guru’, ‘Satguru’, ‘Gobind’, ‘Raam,’ ‘Nirunkaar’, ‘Gopal’etc and so on. However Gurbaani clearly states that the Creator Being has no name and is beyond our description.

"eik jeeh gunn kavan bakhaanai. sehas phanee sekh ant jaanai.
navtan naam japai din raatee ek gunn naahee prabh kehi sangaa.16."
- Even the thousand-headed serpent does not know Your limit.
One may chant new names for You day and night, but even so,
O God, no one can describe even one of Your Glorious Virtues. ||16||
(Maaroo, Ang 1083, SGGS)

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Nanak, says in Jaap Sahib:
"tav sarab naam kathai kavan karam naam barnat sumat.1."
- No one can tell all the Names of the Lord, who is called by special Name by the wise, according to His excellences and doings. ||1||
(P. 2, Dasam Granth)

The Fourth Nanak, Guru Raam Daas Ji says:
"har har naam asankh har har ke gun kathan na jaahi."
- The Names of the Lord, Har, Har, are countless.
The Glorious Virtues of the Lord, Har, Har, cannot be described.
(Kaanrraa, Ang 1316, SGGS)

Therefore, there is no name for Vaheguru, but instead we use Vaheguru’s actions andvirtues to address him and praise Him. For example ‘Hari’ means one who makes something blossom and brings life or greenery to nature. ‘Gopal’ means ‘Lord of the Universe’. Similarly, “Vaheguru” means ‘Wonderful Enlightener’ or ‘Wondrous Lord’. ‘Raam’ means “All-Pervading’. ‘Shiv’ (‘Shiva’) means ‘embodiment of goodness’ (kaliaann-saroop).

"surag peiaal mirat bhooa manddal sarab samaano eikai ouhee.
shiv shiv karat sagal kar jorhi sarab meiaa thaakur teri dohee.1."
- In the heavenly paradise, in the nether regions of the underworld, on the planet earth and throughout the galaxies, the One Lord is pervading everywhere.
Everyone calls upon You with their palms pressed together, saying, "Shiva, Shiva" (meaning ‘the Giver of goodness and peace’). O Merciful Lord and Master, everyone cries out for Your Help. ||1||
(Gaurree, Ang 207, SGGS)

"guroo sikh sikh guroo hai gur updes chalaae.
raam naam mant hirdai devai, naanak milann subhaae.8.2.9."
- The Guru's Sikh, and the Sikh's Guru, are one and the same; both spread the Guru's Teachings.
The Mantra of Raam Naam, the Lord's Name is enshrined within the heart,
O Nanak, and we merge with the Lord so easily. ||8||2||9||
(Aasa, Ang 444, SGGS)

Gurbaani is given to us so that we can attain true Spiritual Understanding. For the specific purpose of Naam Jap, Guru Nanak Sahib Ji gave us a very short and sweet, a four-syllable word ‘Va-he-gu-ru’ as the Gurmantar, which is to be repeated or meditated upon day and night while eating, walking, working, standing, sitting, talking, etc.

"saas saas simarhu gobind. man antar ke utrai chind."
- With each and every breath, meditate in remembrance on the Lord of the Universe, and the anxiety within your mind shall depart.
(Gaurree, Ang 295, SGGS)

"so prabh nerai hoo te nerai.
simar dhiaae gaae gun gobind din rain saajh saverai.1.rahaao."
- Vaheguru is the nearest of the near.
Remember Him, meditate on Him, and sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe, day and night, evening and morning. ||1||Pause||
(Devgandhaaree, Ang 530, SGGS)

Where does this one Word of Shabad come from? Although it is mentioned throughout Guru Granth Sahib Ji in various names as discussed above, the full form of this Mantar, ‘Vaheguru’, was revealed by the realised Bhattas (Bards) in their Baani. It was also mentioned in the writings of Bhai Gurdaas Ji, the contemporary and maternal uncle of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who also was the scriber of the ‘Pothi Sahib’.

"…sat saach sree nivaas, aad purakh sadaa tuhee, vaaheguroo, vaaheguroo, vaaheguroo, vaahe jeeo.1.16."
…O Vaheguru, You are forever True, the Home of Excellence, the Primal Supreme Being. “Vaheguru”, “Vaheguru”, “Vaheguru”, “Vaahe Jee-o”. ||1||6||
(Ang 1402, SGGS)

"keeaa khel bad mel tamaasaa vaaheguroo teree sabh rachnaa.
too jal thal gagan payaal poor rah(h)aa amrit te meethe jaa ke bachnaa…
 - You have formed and created this play, this great game; O “Vaheguru”, this is all Your creation.
You are pervading and permeating the water, land, skies and nether regions;
Your Words are sweeter than Ambrosial Nectar…
(Ang 1403, SGGS)

"sevak kai bharpoor jug jug vaahguroo sabh sadkaa.
nirunkaar prabh sadaa salaamat kehi na sakai ko-oo too kad kaa…
 - Your servants are totally fulfilled, throughout the ages; O "Vaheguru", it is all You, forever.
O Formless Lord God, You are eternally intact; no one can say how You came into being…
(Ang 1403, SGGS)

Throughout Gurbaani, Guru Ji instructs us to meditate and chant on the ‘Guru’ (referring to God), and to praise the ‘Guru’. Therefore, the Bhatts, did not reveal a new message from Guru Nanak Sahib Ji.

"ahan toro mukh joro. gur gur karat man loro. pria preet piaaro moro.1.rahaao."
- Give up your ego, and turn your face to Vaheguru.
Let your yearning mind call out, ""Guru, Guru"". My Beloved is the Lover of Love. ||1||Pause||
(Kaanrraa, Ang 1306, SGGS)

"guroo guroo jap meet hamaare. mukh oojal hovhi darbaare.1.rahaao."
- Chant and meditate: “Guru, Guru”, O my friend. Your face shall be radiant in the Court of the Lord. ||1||Pause||
(Gaurree, Ang 190, SGGS)

"vemuhtaajaa veparvaahu. naanak daas kahahu gur vaahu.4.21."
- The Lord is absolutely independent, and totally care-free;
O servant Nanak, chant “Gur Vaahu” (Wondrous Guru). ||4||21||
(Aasa, Ang 376, SGGS)

For a deeper understanding of the word “Vaheguru”, we can look at its four syllables individually. These four syllables (in Gurmukhi) are "Vaavaa", "Haahaa", "Gaggaa", and "Raaraa". Guru Granth Sahib Ji reveals to us on ang (respected word for page) that these four syllables represent the Names of the One Creator Supreme Being. For example, Vaavaa represents ‘Vaasudev’, Haahaa represents ‘Hari’, Gaggaa represents ‘Gobind’, and Raaraa represents ‘Raam’. All these are different names of the same One Timeless Reality, which have been repeatedly used throughout the Gurbaani; which suggests that this Mantra is not only condensed into a short and sweet form, but also very powerful!

"vavai vaaree aaeiaa moorre vaasudeo tudh veesriaa."
- Vavai (Vaavaa): Your turn has come, you fool, but you have forgotten Vasudev (God).
This opportunity will not come again, you fool; you will fall under the power of death's messenger.”
(Aasa, Ang 435, SGGS)

"haahai har kathaa boojh too moorre, taa sadaa sukh hoee.
manmukh parrhi, tetaa dukh laagai, vinn satgur mukat na hoee.16."
- Hahaa: Understand the Sermon of Har (God), you fool; only then you will attain eternal peace.
The more the Manmukhs (self-willed people) read, the more pain they suffer.
Without the True Guru, liberation is not obtained.
(Aasa, Ang 435, SGGS).

"gagai gobind chit kar moorre, galee kinai naa paaeiaa.
gur ke charan hirdai vasaae moorre, pichhle guneh sabh baksh leiaa.15."
- Gaggaa: Keep Gobind (God) in your mind, you fool; by mere words, no one has ever attained Him.
Enshrine the Guru's feet (i.e. Gurbaani) within your heart, you fool, and all your past sins will be forgiven.
(Aasa, Ang 435, SGGS)

"raarai raam chit kar moorre, hirdai jin kai rav rehiaa.
gur parsaadee jinee raam pachhaataa, nirgun raam tinee boojh lehiaa.17."
- Raaraa: Centre your consciousness on Raam (God), you fool; abide with those whose hearts are filled with Him.
By Guru's Grace, those who recognise Him, understand the Absolute Being.
(Aasa, Ang 435, SGGS).

Therefore joining the word letters and syllables, which form to make the word “Vaheguru” represents four Names attributed to the One Creator Supreme Being into one word, which means “Wondrous Guru” or “Wondrous Dispeller of Darkness”. Bhai Gurdaas Ji says in his poetry:
"vaaheguroo gur shabad lai piram piaalaa chup chalolaa."
- The Guru's word he receives is "Vaheguru", the wondrous Lord, and remains silently immersed in delight.
(Vaar 4, Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Contemporary of Guru Arjan Dev Ji)

Bhai Gurdaas Ji ‘re-emphasises’ Guru Nanak Sahib Ji’s Mantar, which he blessed the Sikhs with. The Mantra, which is recorded in Gurbaani and also bestowed upon Sikhs by the Panj Piaare:
"vaaheguroo gur mantr hai jap haumai khoee.
aap gavaae aap hai gunn gunnee paroee.13."
- The Gurmantra is "Vaheguru", through reciting which erases egotism.
Losing egotism and merging into the qualities of the supreme Lord, he himself becomes full of qualities.
(Vaar 13, Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Contemporary of Guru Arjan Dev Ji)

Knowing the meaning of the Mantra is very helpful when one is concentrating on it. Then the person will know when they reach the goal, which the Mantra is supposed to produce Within them. The word ‘Vaheguru’ (Wondrous Lord) implies that the Mantra is essentially meant for praising the One Creator Supreme Being through chanting, Keertan, or Naam Simran with each and every swaas (life breaths) as taught by the Guru-roop Panj Piaare.

"hamre jagjeevan har praan. har ootam rid antar bhaaeiou gur mant deeo har kaan.1.rahaao."
- The Lord, the Life of the World, is my Breath of Life.
The Lofty and Exalted Lord became pleasing to my heart and my inner being, when the Guru breathed the Mantra of the Lord into my ears. ||1||Pause||
(Prabhaatee, Ang 1335, SGGS)

"beej mantr har keertan gaao. aagai milee nithaave thaao.
gur poore kee charnnee laag. janam janam kaa soeiaa jaag.1."
- Sing the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises, and the Beej Mantra, the Seed Mantra. Even the homeless find a home in the world hereafter.
Fall at the feet of the Perfect Guru; you have slept for so many incarnations - wake up! ||1||
(Raamkalee, Ang 891, SGGS)

A spiritual Christian girl used to study with me at Sixth Form. She said every time she sees a beautiful flower or tree she praises the God by saying “You are Wonderful! You are Amazing! Wonderful Lord”. I smiled and said that is wonderful to hear. I explained that similarly Sikhs are instructed by our Guru to say ‘Vaheguru’. Explaining what Vaheguru meant she smiled and realised the beauty of Word. ‘Vaheguru’ being the Gurmantar of the Sikhs, there is no doubt about this. A Sikh day and night remains in the awe and wonder of the Dispeller of darkness, the Guru, and chants ‘Vaa-He-Gu-Roo’ with each breath realising the beauty of the Lord within and around them. The Guru’s instructions are re-emphasised in the Rehatnaama of Bhai Desa Singh Ji, a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji:

"vaaheguroo nit bachan uchaare. vaaheguroo ko hirdai dhaarai."
- He/she repeats the True Name of 'Vaheguru' daily. He/she enshrines Vaheguru in his heart.
(Rehatnaama Bhai Desa Singh)

Manvir Singh Khalsa