Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Translating the Mool Mantra



The Mool Mantra is composed of nine adjectives that define the nameless.  There is no noun. It makes sense because what is being described is indescribable.

Further, there are no verbs, no pronouns, no predicates or subjects.  This is what makes the Mool Mantra especially mysterious.  It does not conform to any grammatical laws of the world. It is free from the bonds of language and grammar.

There is no apparent rhyme either; although I have found some beautifully syncopated hidden rhymes in the mantra. This enhances the mantar's mystery, and magnifies its magic and meaning. 

The magic and mystery is lost when we translate portions of the mantra by saying "God is one" or "He is the creator" or "His name is truth" or "His name is true." We are making a lot of assumptions in such translations.  Even "God" is an assumption.  "He" is a bigger assumption.  As soon as we say "is" we are interjecting our will on the ultimate doer. We are adding a finality that does not exist. 

In all such descriptive translations we are losing the vastness of the mantra.  Who are we to say that we are talking about "He" or "She" or whatever?  Who are we to ignore "You"?  Who are we to ignore "I." Who are we to put labels with affirmative is's? Who are we to ignore the universe of possibilities.  

The best translation for the mool mantra I can think of is the most minimalist translation. Here is another attempt after meditating on the mantra:

Ekonkaar
One Vibration (or One Force, or One Om)

Satnaam
True identity (True name)

Kartaa Purakh
Doer

Nirbhau
Fearless

Nirvair
Foeless

Akaal Murat
Timeless

Ajuni
Birthless Deathless

Saibhang
Self existent

Gur Prasaad
Guru's Gift


Updated in June 2017:

Ekonkaar
Oneness

Satnaam
Truth

Kartaa Purakh
The Doer

Nirbhau
Fearless

Nirvair
Foeless

Akaal Murat
The Timeless

Ajuni
Constant

Saibhang
Selfmade

Gur Prasaad
Guru's Gift

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Mool Mantra is responsible for my success - Gen Ayub Khan

A story of faith from Sant Sipahi (April, 2003)


Meharban Singh is a prominent Sikh living in Singapore. In the decade of 1970′s, I was also living there and Meharban Singh narrated to me a very interesting incident. He said that he, along with his family, had gone to Pakistan for paying obeisance at the Gurdwaras over there. General Ayub Khan was the President of the country in those days. He invited us to his residence over a cup of tea. When we entered his drawing room, I was taken aback on seeing the front wall of his room. It was painted with the words Ik Onkaar Satgur Parsaad, with two frames hanging underneath. Mool Mantra from Ik Onkaar Satnaam till Gurparsaad was inscribed in Punjabi in one frame and in Urdu in the other.

As I felt curious to know the background of these frames with Mool Mantra, I did not take much time in exchanging the initial pleasantries and said, “General Sahib, if you kindly permit me, then I would like to know about these lines of Gurbani over there (pointing my finger towards the frame with the Mool Mantra)”. For a moment he became emotional and then poignantly replied, “It is indeed Guru Nanak Sahib’s Kalaam (verse) because of which I am able to reach this highest post of the President of Pakistan.”

General Sahib went on to narrate his childhood experience connected with the Mool Mantra, with the following words: “I was studying in a school in Abbotabad and was very weak in my studies. As a punishment, I invariably used to get bashed in the class. One day, I thought of bunking the school simply to save myself from the daily ordeal and instead went to the Gurdwara Sahib, falling in the vicinity, to take shelter.

The Baba Ji (head Granthi of the Gurdwara Sahib), who was known to me, noticed my actions and enquired, ‘Ayuba, where are you loitering, is it not the time for you to go to school?’ I said, ‘Baba Ji, I will not go to school today. The teachers beat me up daily, I am unable to take it anymore.’ He took me fondly into his arms and said, ‘Henceforth you will not get any bashing. Recite this Kalaam continually on your way to school.’ I did the same and went to school. It was the first day, I did not get any bashing and it so happened that I never got any punishment after that.

“I started feeling a lot of change in my life and became more serious towards my studies, work and duties. The final exams approached and I went to the same old man again to request him to pray for me so that I get through the exams. Baba Ji said, ‘Ayuba, Guru Nanak’s Kalaam of Mool Mantra is with you.

Understand it, meditate on daily basis and never leave it wherever you go. Whatever you wish for, you will get.’ Today, I have reached this highest post of the country by the grace of Baba Nanak’s Mool Mantra and shall ever remain thankful to him for his blessings.”

In the year 2000, I got an opportunity to visit Pakistan. I was taking a round of the market in Lahore when I suddenly recalled the above narrated incident of President Ayub Khan. I went to a book stall and asked for a biography of the General. The shopkeeper showed me a book titled Friends not Masters. I went through the pages of the book hurriedly and verified the incident narrated by Meharban Singh. Eminent historian Principal Satbir Singh has also referred to the above incident in one of his books.V.P. Menon, former Foreign Secretary and India’s Ambassador to Russia, in his autobiography, shares a memorable experience during a visit to England to appear for an exam: “I visited the Southall Gurdwara to spend a night.

The Head Granthi of Gurdwara Sahib welcomed me. In the morning, when I was leaving for the examination center, I requested the aged head Granthi to pray for me so that I am able to pass the exam with good marks. He gave me a piece of paper by writing Ik Onkaar Satgur Parsaad and advised me to remember these words of Guru Nanak Sahib in my heart all the time and recite the same in case of any problem during exam and said, ‘Go and Guru Nanak Sahib will help you out.’ I don’t know what magic was there in his saying. His words entered my body in such a way as if I had an electric shock. I felt electrified when I reached the examination hall to appear for the exam. On reading the question paper, I started sweating. Then I remembered the advice of the Granthi Sahib. I took out that piece of paper from my pocket, recited the name of Guru Nanak and read those words Ik Onkaar Satgur Parsaad and started writing the paper. The result was astonishing and beyond my expectation. I went to thank the Granthi Sahib and asked the old man ‘Baba Ji what magic is there in these words?’

Granthi Ji said, ‘Never part with this mantra and always remember and recite these words. You will never fail in your life and succeed in all your ventures.’ Till date, whenever I start any work, I start it with Ik Onkaar Satgur Parsaad.”

Source: Sant Sipahi, April, 2003

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Minimalist translation of the Mool Mantra



Ekonkaar 
One Om* Shaped

Satnaam
True name

Kartaa Purakh
Creator

Nirbhau
Fearless

Nirvair
Foeless

Akaal Murat
Timeless

Ajuni
Birthless Deathless

Saibhang
Self existent

Gur Prasaad
Guru's Gift

*Om: Om or Aum is the sacred sound that encompasses everything in the universe: Where does Aum Come From

Neti Neti - The divine is not this, not that

In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya is questioned by his students to describe God. He states "The Divine is not this and it is not that"  (neti, neti).

Sanskrit Shloka:-
तत्त्वमस्यादिवाक्येन स्वात्मा हि प्रतिपादितः ।
नेति नेति श्रुतिर्ब्रूयादनृतं पाञ्चभौतिकम् ॥ २५॥ (Avadhuta Gita 1.25)

English Transliteration:-
tattvamasyādivākyena svātmā hi pratipāditaḥ ।
neti neti śrutirbrūyādanṛtaṁ pāñcabhautikam ॥ 25 ॥

Purport:-
"The Divine is not this and it is not that" (neti, neti).

Neti or नेति  =  न  + इति means "not this, not this" that is beyond description. 

Guru Arjan Dev Ji agrees with this concept and mentions it in his Salok Sehshritee on page 1359 of the Granth Sahib. 

न संखं न चक्रं न गदा न सिआमं ॥ 
God has no conch-shell, no religious mark, no paraphernalia; he does not have blue skin. 

अस्चरज रूपं रहंत जनमं ॥ 
His Form is Wondrous and Amazing. He is beyond incarnation. 

नेत नेत कथंति बेदा ॥ 
The Vedas say that He is not this, and not that. 

ऊच मूच अपार गोबिंदह ॥ 
The Lord of the Universe is Lofty and High, Great and Infinite. 

बसंति साध रिदयं अचुत बुझंति नानक बडभागीअह ॥५७॥ 
The Imperishable Lord abides in the hearts of the Holy. He is understood, O Nanak, by those who are very fortunate. ||57|| 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shivpreet Singh on Pandora!

It was great to get this email from Pandora that my music is finally on Pandora. This was one of the main reasons why I had decided this year -- after 5+ years of making music available on reverbnation -- to make my music available to larger audiences. 

I believe this will continue to improve my music and to make me a better person.