Guide to Naam - Simran
Simran is the ladder leading to God. It is heard to climb heavenward without Naam. Some masters conceive simran to be the essence of worship. By the study of spiritual books, by hearing the words of pure souls, we are prompted to be at one with God. Through Simran we begin to walk on the path leading to God. Studying the Guide To London, wakes the desire to visit London, but to do so we must leave our home and undertake a voyage. Simran is the souls voyage to the heavens. The divine knowledge that we acquire through Simran, becomes part and parcel of our being. Without Simran, knowledge sharpens our mind and worsens our previous state. There is a world of difference between a hair-splitting philosopher, and those who, through Simran, acquire divine knowledge. The teachings of good souls and the words of Mahapursh in books cannot by themsleves create faith. He alone can have the fortitude to be sawn in half who has firm faith in union with God after death. He alone can mock death, who is at one with the source of life.
1Simran washes and purifies the mind and helps it to concentrate. The wondering mind is feeble, the concentrated mind is strong and capable of deep thought. Only Simran provides the most convenient and effective means for concentration.
2In the concentrated state of mind, Simran creates a yearning to realise God. Simran, unlike other methods, helps us to be at one with our original self, which automatically results in the dislike for wordly pleasures.
3It creates a wondrous ecstasy in the soul, and the greater the ecstasy, the greater the aversion to sensual pleasures.
4The concentrated mind tries to know and realise the soul and the Infinate Soul.
5Simran saves the mind from wavering. It stabilises its concentration and does not permit its derailment.
6Simran tends to keep God’s attributes constantly before us and thus these permeate our being.
7Simran lightens and calms the mind
8Simran exterminates the illusion of egoism and selfness.
9It makes the mind at one with God.10Only Sikhism truly shows the full glory and relevance of Naam Simran as revealed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Gurbani comprises the daily recitation of the prescribed portions of our daily prayers, repetition of a particular verse or verses, and participation in sangat kirtan singing. The average mind wonders and is full of dreams and fantasies. Gurbani transforms and purifies the ideas, and helps us understand the teachings of the Gurus. Thereby, we are led to remember God. Thus when we concentrate on Gurbani our baser thoughts are purified and we are then blessed with heavenly sights, which produce an ecstatic feeling.
To recite the prescribed daily prayers, to resort to a Gurdwara to listen to kirtan, or God’s praises is what devout Sikhs do. But earnest spiritual seekers must practise Naam also. The sacred Word gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of God, of Sachkhand. But though the Sacred Word gives us a vision of the peace and beauty of that realm of the spirit, it is Naam alone that can groom us to take our place in it. Those who seek to dwell in God’s realm, must seek refuge in Naam. To travel over land we require a car or train, but for an aerial journey we need an aircraft. Similarly, in life, we need the assistance of Gurbani and if we wish to soar to the realm of the spirit, we need naam. In its contact with the world, the soul cannot remain unsullied, unless it is inspired by gurbani. But if the soul wishes to fly Godward, it requires the wings of Naam. Initially one must create love for gurbani and step by step, one should start practising Naam alongside it.
In the initial stages we should recite aloud gurbani or else the mind will not be able to concentrate upon it. And as the mind becomes anchored we can read gurbani in an undertone, till eventually we can recite it mentally. This method is suggested by many mahapursh who hold the view that progress in stages helps ultimately to read gurbani in silence, which paves the way for the practise of Naam.
The prescribed daily routine of gurbani recitation should of course be gone through, but devotees should also try to progress with Guru Granth Sahib Ji with intelligent care. We cannot grasp the core of Guru Ji without two or three carefull readings from end to end. In Guru Granth Sahib Ji there is light for every spiritual stage, and if we only try, we can find usefull paths suited to our individual needs. If we study Guru Ji thus, we are guided by them at each step, as a living teacher guides our footsteps. At first one is astonished at the close inter-connection between the soul and Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which seem to answer your problems as they arise.
If we go repeating a verse, its sense becomes rooted in our mind, the mind is moulded accordingly, and when it is thus moulded, it is bound to assume the corresponding form is due course.
Many intelligent people labour under a delusion about Naam. They do not understand the scientific truth underlying it, and in a way they are justified in their scepticism, for it is impossible to realise the potency of Naam without actually practising it. How can we know the taste of something that we have never tasted? The best way to thoroughly understand the philosophy of Naam............................. is to practise it.
Another problem about Naam is that the initial stages are so difficult and puzzling that few people take to it, but we must bear in mind that diamonds are found in hard rocks, and pearls in the mouths of oysters.
As soon as the name of any object is mentioned, its form, attributes, nature and our reaction to it rush into our minds. Name a friend and you have before your minds eye his form, nature and all the memories associated with him Similarly, if we repeat God’s Name, His attributes, as conceived by us, can be visualised. Through the study of gurbani and by listening to the discourses of holy men, we form some sort of mental picture of God. As we repeat God’s Name, this picture grows clearer to us. Even if we have no mental concept of God, by repetition of His Name, His attributes are realised, and so we go on doing so, His attributes are slowly assimilated by us. It is a peculiar quality of our mind that if something impresses us profoundly, and if we aspire to be shaped in the same pattern, we are gradually moulded accordingly.
Guru Ji says “You are moulded in the form of what you adore”
The edifice of Naam has been raised on this natural trait of the mind. In the hottest weather, if we visualise snow capped mountains and we concentrate on this mental vision – cold blasts or air, people shivering – we shall in time begin to fell cold ourselves, or at any rate the intensity of the heat will diminish. Through repetition of God’s Name, we begin to be moulded in His pattern and we begin to assimilate His virtues.
Naam is essential if the mind is to remain in repose. Naan is a sort of train, aeroplane or ladder leading to God. It is the key that unlocks the gate to Heaven. Adoration begins with Naam and Naam leads to perfection. Guru Granth Sahib Ji uses the word Naam many times. Naam has been used for simran and also for the spiritual stages resulting from it. There, Naam signifies the realisation of the end as also the means adopted. Just as when we see a magnificent palace, we might remark “How great is the power of money,” similarly, the blissful condition produced by Naam is also called Naam.
Naam can be practised at any time and anywhere, but, in the initial stages it would be prudent to practise in a secluded place with a peaceful and tranquil mind. Beautiful surroundings – a river bank, the foot of a hill, a garden – are conductive to turning thoughts towards God. If such natural surroundings are not available we might resort to a special room reserved for simran. After some time we will associate the room with reverence and devotion. It is a place of pilgrimage where one can wash away the dirt of the mind and imbibe a fresh spiritual impulse. Incense, flowers and perfumes induce a spiritual urge and aura. When we have made sufficient progress in the realm of Simran, it is immaterial where we turn to God.
Amritwella period of the early morning is believed to be the best time for Naam. During these hours there is perfect silence and calm in nature and the attuned mind is in raptures in His unity effortlessly and without disturbance. This period is also called the Brahm hour or heavenly time. When we have sufficiently advanced in simran, we become accustomed to it at all hours and no rigid schedule is necessary. In the last stage, simran is life and life is simran. A break in simran, as Guru Gobind Singh Ji has said is tantamount to the agony of dwelling near the hole of a cobra.
In the initial stages we would do well to practise Naam seated. In seclusion one should squat cross legged on the floor in an erect position even if it is slightly inconvenient at first. To avoid fatigue a cushion may be used to sit upon. When practising simran we must observe the golden rule of alert concentration on God. When the spiritual seeker has mastered the preliminary steps he will find that when his mind descends from a higher spiritual plane and he is again conscious of the world around and of his physical frame, he will find it easier to control his body and mind if he is sitting upright.
When beginning the practise of simran, we should do well to think of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s ideal personality.
In the initial stage of simran we should practise by uttering the Divine Name aloud. If this fails to result in mental concentration we might resort to the beads of the rosary. Subdued utterance of the Divine Name and listening to its sound helps us concentrate. At first the mind does wander and concentration is difficult to attain. In this tug-of-war, irrelevant thoughts are bound to occur but one need not despair, as Guru Arjun Dev Ji says “There is no escape except through Simran.” We may select any of God’s names according to our creed or faith because all names are sacred. Personally I would use the word “Waheguru” for simran and recommend it to all Sikhs. All other names, Ram, Raheem, Allay, Madho symbolise a particular attribute of God and when a spiritual seeker grows conscious both of the immanence and glory of God he would not like to call God by a name that is indicative of only one attribute. It would be like referring to the ocean as a cup or bowl, it would diminish the area of one who is meditating on the All-Pervasive.
The great poet/author of Suraj Parkash Bhai Santokh Singh and many other writers expound the meaning of the word “Waheguru.” Bhai Gurdas Ji says that Guru Nanak Dev Ji originally recited the word of “Waheguru”.
Waheguru sach manater sunia….. 1st Var of Bhai Gurdas Ji.
Waheguru gur mantar hai jap hauimai koi …. 13th Var.
In the preliminary stages many seekers of the truth, while resorting to the simran of “Waheguru” fix their mind on Guru Nanak Dev Ji or Guru Gobind Singh Ji but they have to face a great difficulty in the final stages. One may have a picture of Guru Nanak Dev Ji before your eyes while doing simran, at first this device proves useful in promoting concentration. As one progresses one may visualise the picture scintillating with sparks of light as if Guru Ji were present in the flesh, and your joy knows no bounds. Whenever you choose you get a glimpse of Guru Ji.
When the state develops further it becomes hard to contemplate God in His transcendence, while our union with Him is the climax of spiritual growth. When one now tries to concentrate on the formless one, there rises before you a picture of Guru Ji, and it is only with great effort, greater then the effort to bring a picture of the Guru in the mind, to break this habit. It is therefore essential to reflect on the Formless God from the very outset, else difficulties arise. The concentration and meditation should therefore be only on the Guru’s shahad and the seeker should dwell on His Name by process of meditation.
Repetition on the Name at times leads to automatic mental simran: the lips cease to move and yet mental simran progresses. This induces mental peace and joy. As we grow spiritually mental simran will always progress unceasingly. The physical aspect of simran ends and mental repetition continues day by day. The external attractions and distractions begin to drop while mental harmony with Him begins. All the powers of the mind, which were diffused in external objects begin to be concentrated through sweet soft mental sinran. The seeker perceives a flood of mental peace through his whole body; the mind is at rest, the lips are motionless and yet mental simran continues.
Those who are regular in the recitation of gurbani especially as a mental process taste this joy now and then. But it is far more useful and methodical to get to the stage of mental simran through the repetition of Naam. Some seekers deeply preplexed in this stage – they could recite gurbani mentally, but when they begin Naam-simran they can only continue for a short period. At this stage if we accustom ourselves to the practise of Simran with our every breath it brings much joy. As we intake we mentally utter “Wah” and when we exhale we utter “Guru.” The lips do not move, this is mental simran and we practise Naam with our every breath, this is the second stage.
The Third Stage.
Mental Simran promotes concentration and the gentle sound the mental Simran creates within our being becomes more audable. The sounds of the external world are drowned in the sound of Simran within. We hear nothing but the music of Simran within. The music is pitched at such a high key that even when travelling on a train moving at high speed, for the person practising mental Simran the rattle of the wheels is inaudible.
The spiritual stage gradually continues to such an extent that we consider even the recitation of mental Simran as superfluous. Then the physical process of Simran ceases, but the mind is now in union with God. Now, both the physical and mental state of Simran ceases and the mind is perfectly at rest. This is called SAHEJ stage, whose peace and bliss defy description.
The true joy of Naam is experienced at this stage. The mind is in a state of inebriation and is full of unfathomable bliss, and the joys of the world stand no comparison to it and pale into insignificance. Sant Attar Singh Ji once said “This spiritual stage is superior to the previous stages and the very object of Simran is to attain this state of peace. Let the mind remain in the state of Sahej as long as it will stay there. When it descends take to Simran, and through simran it could regain the same ideal state of Sehaj. In the course of time, the mind will ever abide in the state of ceaseless mental peace and bliss.”
The seeker labours under another illusion. In this spiritual state he fall into a state of “Sukh Nindra” or Sleep of Ease, which the yogis call the sleep of Tandra. In this stage we live as in a sweet dreamless sleep when all thought is absent. But the devotee must beware of this sleep and remain poised in the state of Sahej. This sleep of Ease blocks the way to further spiritual progress, and labouring under a delusion, we fancy that this is the culminating stage of spiritual advancement.
In this state of Sahej the seeker perceives within himself many centres where consciousness could rest in a state of concentration and when him mind is diverted to such centres he feels unfathomable joy. As compared with this supreme bliss the pleasures of the world are nothing. The love and union of a man and woman is supposed to be delightful, but, the seeker finds in Sahej that indescribable unfathomable bliss of exhilaration and invigorating buoyancy that defies description.
There are six centres in the body where consciousness is concentrated; a little below the navel, the heart, the neck, midway between the nose and eyes and the cortex of the brain. When consciousness is concentrated in the cortex of the brain, bliss is unbounded and mind feels the intoxication of joy. The Gurus call this Dasam Duar, or the tenth gate. Impatience to reach this marvellous centre is not desirable. Only the ideal seeker can aspire to reach this centre. When one reaches this centre one derives infinite delight and are averse to returning to our normal waking condition. We enter into a Samadhi or trance like state and some pure souls can shed their mortal frame while in this stage. Those who attain this stage are not much interested in worldly affairs. Descending from this stage one feels like a stranger and perceives that humanity in general is on the wrong track. Some say that householders should not indulge too much in the excess of smadhi for it tends to create too much detachment from worldly affairs and one feels disinclined to throw one’s whole heart into normal matters.