[This email was sent on November 11, 2006 in reply to an email from Dr Baldev Singh wherein he referred to an an article of his that is available at this link: http://www.sikhspectrum.com/052006/khands.htm%5D

Dear Dr Baldev Singh jio,

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa; Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

You are right in assuming that I had not read your article about Khands on Sikh Spectrum. My contact with debates raging in the Sikh circles has been rather intermittent in the last couple of years. I hope to rectify this situation in the coming days. About the Khands:
1.    We have to be careful that we don’t disagree for the sake of disagreeing with what McLeod says. I am not aware of what exactly McLeod has written about the Khands, and I am sure he has cleverly let slip some damaging statements while making some right ones. We should, therefore, be more careful in dismissing only the wrong statements while sifting them from the right ones.

2.    I think you might have to revisit the idea that “Dharam Khand” is the arena of practice of a Gurmukh “(God-centered being) who is in perfect union with God.” As also the idea that “Becoming a gurmukh is the ultimate state of human spiritual evolution in accordance with the Nanakian philosophy.” Gurmukh simply means what it says – a Guru-centred or Guru-focused person. It is certainly not “the ultimate state of human spiritual evolution”, for that is “union with Waheguru”.

3.    Gurmukh is not the one already “in perfect union with God”, but one who is on the right path to be in union with Waheguru (with it being the sole prerogative of Waheguru whether that union happens or not). We have to keep in mind that a Manmukh has the capacity to become a Gurmukh – ‘manmukh’ is not a permanent state of being. Similarly, Gurmukh is not a permanent state of being either – as the Guru says, the path a Sikh is to walk is “sharper than the edge of a sword and smaller than the breadth of a hair”. And a Sikh can fall off this path at any given moment (due to numerous temptations caused by our five instincts). Like a tight-rope walker, even the most expert one is always aware of the chance of falling down, due to loss of focus.

4.    The point thus is that to walk the path shown by the Guru, one has to be focused. Manmukh lacks the focus, hence is incapable of walking the narrow, sharp path shown by the Guru. But the Gurmukh has the necessary focus to learn to identify and walk the path. One wrong step and the fall may be steep even for a Gurmukh. And we should also keep in mind that a Gurmukh is quite capable of making a mistake, as the Guru says, only Waheguru is faultless,
everyone else is prone to making mistakes.

5.    It may also be worthwhile to revisit the idea that the five Khands are “different aspects of God-consciousness (Cosmic-consciousness), and not five different stages of spiritual development in ascending order”. You seem to assume that these five different aspects of God-consciousness are not related. I make this assumption based on your statement further down the article that the mention of previous Khand in the following Khand is more like that of a teacher
discussing what was discussed in the previous lecture. I think the analogy lacks the necessary depth and has the ability to mislead. However, it is more than likely that I am wrong.

6.     Let me share with you how I understand the Khands (rather the whole Jap ji), and the path that took me to this understanding.
a)    I started my reading of Gurbani right at the beginning, for I assume that is how a Sikh is meant to approach Guru Granth Sahib – start where the Guru says start.
b)    You mention that Jap ji is “the most difficult section of AGGS to interpret and understand in its entirety”. To be honest, I think it is as difficult (or easy) to understand as any other section of Guru Granth Sahib.
c)    I have gradually come to realize that the whole Gurmat is like a jigsaw puzzle. We can keep fitting the pieces together as we understand each piece and its proper place according to our “then” understanding. By the time we finish the whole picture (Waheguru willing), we would have revisited our understanding many a time, and changed the places of many a piece. The most important thing to keep in mind is that even if one piece is missing or out of place, our understanding of Gurmat is lacking. For instance, we cannot join together, say, five pieces and then stop and claim that “I am as much of a Sikh as the one who has joined 10 pieces and continues to work on his puzzle”.
d)    This analogy has also helped me understand the significance of sangat. If I have joined five pieces of the jigsaw, and another person has joined 10 or 20, I can learn from that person and join more pieces of my puzzle. Quite interestingly, the other person may also learn from their interaction with me, as my five pieces may not be the ones that they have joined together. It is of course essential that we interact with those who are working on the same puzzle, for those working on a different puzzle would only end up misleading us.
e)    My understanding of the Khands flows from my understanding of the previous 33 pauris. I found it quite easy to resolve any contradictions in my understanding of Gurbani once I applied the methodology of scientific hypothesis – that repetition of “mool mantar” at various places in Guru Granth Sahib is a reminder for the Sikh that the statements that follow must be understood keeping in mind that there is only One Supreme God, who is True, who is the only motive force, without fear, without enmity, beyond the pale of time, beyond the cycle of birth & death and self-created. Every time I encounter a contradiction in my understanding of Gurbani, it is going back to the “mool mantar” that helps resolve it. And the picture of Gurmat that is gradually taking shape in my consciousness.
f)    If you revisit the 5 Khands, you might find it interesting to view them as summarizing what has preceded. For instance, Jap ji starts with a question in the first pauri. The answer is also given in that same pauri, but it is quite intriguing – for what does the Guru mean by “Hukam”? That is how one finds oneself in the Dharam Khand – with the knowledge that there is a Supreme Power who has brought one into being to serve some purpose. But what that purpose is, embarks one on a life long journey.
g)    The subject matter explained from second to the 11th pauri is summarized in pauri 35 – Gian Khand.
h)    Pauri 36 (Saram Khand) summarizes pauris 12 to 23.
i)    Pauri 37 (Karam Khand, Sach Khand) summarizes pauris 24 to 33.
j)    Pauri 38 summarizes all the stages one needs to pass in order to be “Nihal”. Pauri 38 in fact leaves little doubt that Jap ji (as of course the whole Guru Granth Sahib) is about stages one must pass through before one is able to experience the state of bliss, with the Grace of Waheguru. We are not to try and fathom the sea, but to know that part of the sea inside out where we are to spend our life, which would enable us to be safe from the predators and live a life that has fulfilled its purpose.

Please note that as I have written above, this is my understanding at this stage, and it is quite possible that this understanding would change at some point in future as I (hopefully) progress with solving “my puzzle”.

I am grateful to you for providing me this chance to revisit my own understanding and see things in a fresh light. Please don’t feel obliged to respond to the points I have raised in this or previous emails, although I find exchanging views with you highly stimulating and look forward to continuing this exchange.

Apologizing once again for any presumptions on my part, I remain
Sincerely yours,

Verpal Singh


4 thoughts on “An exchange of views on 5 Khands of Jap ji

  1. Dear Verpal Singh ji,
    Sat Shri Akal,
    In Para 3 you have said that ” Gurmukh is not the one already “in perfect union with God”. I find here you are not correct. At what stage one has been described in Gurbani as Gurmukh is needed to be under stood. As per you a person who is moving in the right direction is to be called a Gurmukh. This not entirely true as per my interpretation. One has to pass the stage of Dharam Khand and Gyan Khand and enter Saram Khand to be called a Gurmukh. Even a person standing at the entry point of Saram Khand may not be a Puran Gurmukh. Houme (Ego) in a person may still linger on with him when he is crossing/passing through Dharam Khand and Gyan Khand and Gurbani at variuos places states that it is with the Grace (Karam) of Waheguru and with understanding of Shabad that houme rog is treated. It is at Saram Khand that when he is removed the Maya jal and understands his true self One has crossed the threshold – moved from manmukh to Gurmukh. The stage after crossing the threshold is irreversible. Gurmukh can not fall or commit mistakes. Now I won’t say you are entirely wrong when you say “….the Gurmukh has the necessary focus to learn to identify and walk the path. One wrong step and the fall may be steep even for a Gurmukh. And we should also keep in mind that a Gurmukh is quite capable of making a mistake, as the Guru says, only Waheguru is faultless, everyone else is prone to making mistakes.” Now to understand this one has to define Manmukh. One way to define Manmukh is one who is not Gurmukh. Which is more appropriate as per my understanding. But one who has attained the stage of Dharam Khand and Gyan Khand and is moving on the right path towards Saram Khand, what you call him. You, Verpal Singh ji, have understood him as Gurmukh. He is prone to falls. Many Gurbani Vicharak, Gayani, Kathakars you and me may be at some stage( some at the beginning like me and some at a stage about to reach Saram Khand) thinking to move towards this path can not be called Gurmukh. They can described as sikh or Gursikh(Students in search of Shabad). This my understanding and my apologies if it is not correct. I have a very alpat mat (Chhoti Budhi).
    Bhul Chuk Maf.
    Waheguru ji ki Fateh.
    Col (Retd) TS Anand

    • Dear Col (Retd) Anand,

      Waheguru ji ka Khalsa; Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

      Thank you for sharing your views. You may be right in your interpretation of Sikh worldview, but as far as my understanding goes, Guru Sahib classifies this world in two types of beings – those who are focused on the (Wahe)Guru (gurmukh) and those who are focused on their own self (manmukh). It will be a mistake to expect a gurmukh to be infallible – the reasons for this I have already expressed above. It is quite possible that a gurmukh may not ever make a mistake – but that would be like saying that a gurmukh is not a Sikh (for the best way one learns is from one’s own mistakes or mistakes of others, and a Sikh is always learning). Your reference to a “gursikh” is possibly misplaced – gurmukh and gursikh (or Sikh) are not different categories – for throughout our history and Gurbani, this point has been stressed again and again that there are no half-measures when following the Guru’s path. Either one follows the Guru one hundred percent or one is not a Sikh of the Guru. I point you to the third Nanak’s dictate – “first pangat then sangat”. This was meant to drive home the point that a Sikh could not pick and choose to follow some teachings of the Guru and some not. Some of those from “higher castes” who had become Sikhs still practised caste-discrimination and refused to share their meal with those from “lower castes”. Third Nanak’s dictate was a clear indication that either one follows the Guru wholeheartedly or one is not considered a Sikh at all. In conclusion, if we start categorising Sikh according to our own understanding of “nearness” or “distance” from (Wahe)Guru, then it would require us to sit in judgement on others and judge whether someone is a Sikh, Gursikh or Gurmukh or none of these but a manmukh. Converse of this would be that we will have to define categories of manmukhs as well – some will have to be judged as “less manmukh” than others. I hope you get my drift. So I have to disagree with your reasoning.
      Kind regards,

      • Dear Sir,

        I absolutely agree with you and Sardar Verpal Singh ji that Guru Sahib classifies this world in two types of beings – those who are focused on the (Wahe)Guru (gurmukh) and those who are focused on their own self (manmukh).
        Everyone or most of us are Manmukh. We believe in worldly things. Only few (Virle) are Gurmukh. At Ang 37 of Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Gurbani describes who are Manmukh and who are Gurmukh.

        ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਈ ਅਵਗਣਿ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਦੂਰਿ ॥
        The self-willed manmukhs do not know the Shabad; those without virtue are far removed from God.

        ਸਚਿ ਮਿਲੇ ਸੇ ਨ ਵਿਛੁੜਹਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ॥੪॥੨੬॥੫੯॥
        Meeting with the True One, O Nanak, the Gurmukh shall not be separated from Him again. ||4||26||59||

        So from these lines I get my understanding that One who gets complete control on his mind, who is no more self centred, who understands Hukam and Shabad becomes Gurmukh. Once a Gurmukh can not become Manmukh. Only Manmukh can falter. In other words I understand from Gurbani is that one who is prone to falls or can falter is not a Gurmukh.

        ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਹੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
        The Word of the Gurmukh is God Himself. Through the Shabad, we merge in Him.

        ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਦਰਗਹ ਮੰਨੀਅਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਆਪਿ ਲਏ ਗਲਿ ਲਾਇ ॥੨॥
        The Gurmukhs are honored in the Court of the Lord. The Lord Himself takes them in His Loving Embrace. ||2||

        ਗੁਰਮੁਖਾ ਨੋ ਪੰਥੁ ਪਰਗਟਾ ਦਰਿ ਠਾਕ ਨ ਕੋਈ ਪਾਇ ॥
        For the Gurmukhs, the Way is obvious. At the Lord’s Door, they face no obstructions.

        ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਦਾ ਮੁਖ ਊਜਲੇ ਹਰਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥

        So Sir, finally The faces of the Gurmukhs are ” ALWAYS ” radiant; the Lord has come to dwell within their minds.

        No where Gurbani says Gurmukhs can falter too.

        If you find a place where it is said so, kindly guide me. I may or may not agree with you and you need not to agree with me.

        Bhul Chuk Maf
        Waheguru ji ki fatah

        Col (Retd) TS Anand

      • You are right that to have a fruitful discussion we do not necessarily have to agree with each other or try to impress upon the other that “I am right”. This in fact has been the tragedy of our community that we fail to understand that difference of opinion does not mean we suddenly become enemies – for it is only time which proves who was right and who was wrong. And herein also lies the answer to your assertion about the infallibility of a person focussed on (Wahe)Guru (i.e., Gurmukh) – there is only one judge in this world, Waheguru; if a Gurmukh assumes that he/she is infallible then he/she is making the mistake of usurping the role that is of only and only Waheguru. If someone like you and me starts to say that so-and-so person is a Gurmukh, hence infallible – we are also guilty of the same mistake of usurping the role of Waheguru.

        There are many instances in Gurbani wherein Guru Sahib mentions that to sit in judgement means we ‘know’ Waheguru’s mind – which is impossible as only one equal of or greater than Waheguru may know His/Her mind. We know that Sikh worldview unambiguously states that Waheguru is one greater than whom or whose equal there is none. It follows from this that since a human being is incapable of sitting in judgement over their fellow beings, we cannot assert that someone has reached a state where they have become infallible (for that involves sitting in judgement).

        It is also a pillar of Sikh worldview that there are very few permanent do’s and don’t’s – for each of us has to make the right decision in a given set of circumstances at every moment we are breathing. Of course this righteous decision-making comes easy to those more attuned to Waheguru’s Hukam compared with those who may not be as attuned or not attuned at all. But the potential to make a mistake always exists (as exists the chance that a manmukh might also act righteously without knowing the difference) – it vanishes completely only at the point where human being becomes one with the Supreme Being. That is a clear distinction made in Gurbani:
        ਸਿਰੀਰਾਗੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੧ ॥
        ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਭੁਲੈ ਭੁਲਾਈਐ ਭੂਲੀ ਠਉਰ ਨ ਕਾਇ ॥
        ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋ ਨ ਦਿਖਾਵਈ ਅੰਧੀ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥
        ਗਿਆਨ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਖੋਇਆ ਠਗਿਆ ਮੁਠਾ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥
        ਬਾਬਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਇ ॥
        ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲੀ ਡੋਹਾਗਣੀ ਨਾ ਪਿਰ ਅੰਕਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
        ਭੂਲੀ ਫਿਰੈ ਦਿਸੰਤਰੀ ਭੂਲੀ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਤਜਿ ਜਾਇ ॥
        ਭੂਲੀ ਡੂੰਗਰਿ ਥਲਿ ਚੜੈ ਭਰਮੈ ਮਨੁ ਡੋਲਾਇ ॥
        ਧੁਰਹੁ ਵਿਛੁੰਨੀ ਕਿਉ ਮਿਲੈ ਗਰਬਿ ਮੁਠੀ ਬਿਲਲਾਇ ॥੨॥
        ਵਿਛੁੜਿਆ ਗੁਰੁ ਮੇਲਸੀ ਹਰਿ ਰਸਿ ਨਾਮ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥
        ਸਾਚਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੋਭਾ ਘਣੀ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਨਾਮ ਅਧਾਰਿ ॥
        ਜਿਉ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਉ ਰਖੁ ਤੂੰ ਮੈ ਤੁਝ ਬਿਨੁ ਕਵਨੁ ਭਤਾਰੁ ॥੩॥
        ਅਖਰ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਭੁਲੀਐ ਭੇਖੀ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥
        ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਤਾ ਕਿਆ ਕਰੇ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥
        ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਕਿਨਿ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਸੁਲਤਾਨੁ ॥੪॥
        ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਤਤੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
        ਸਾ ਧਨ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੀਗਾਰੁ ॥
        ਘਰ ਹੀ ਸੋ ਪਿਰੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਹੇਤਿ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥੫॥
        ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਚਾਕਰੀ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
        ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਖੋਇ ॥
        ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਲਾਭੁ ਸਦਾ ਮਨਿ ਹੋਇ ॥੬॥
        ਕਰਮਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾ ਪਾਈਐ ਆਪਿ ਨ ਲਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥
        ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਚਰਣੀ ਲਗਿ ਰਹੁ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥
        ਸਚੇ ਸੇਤੀ ਰਤਿਆ ਸਚੋ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥੭॥
        ਭੁਲਣ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਅਭੁਲੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥
        ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਨੁ ਸਮਝਾਇਆ ਲਾਗਾ ਤਿਸੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
        ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾਚੁ ਨ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਮੇਲੇ ਸਬਦੁ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥੮॥੧੨॥

        Essentially, we have to note that each of us must work to establish our personal link with that Supreme Being and attune our mind and body to act in accordance with Waheguru’s Will – a Will which communicates itself to us at any given moment, it is not something that I can tell you or you can tell me – although we can take inspiration from each other and learn from each other, but Waheguru’s Will for me remains between Waheguru and me; and for you, between you and Waheguru.

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