The Nature of the Shabad Guru


by Siri Singh Sahib Ji on January 3, 1995 in Espanola, NM, USA

“Shabd” means sound, “Guru” means teacher or knowledge that transforms you. The simplest meaning of Shabd Guru is a special sound that is a teacher. But what is it that we learn from the Shabd Guru and how does the use of sound act as a teacher?

To answer this question look at a deeper definition of Shabd Guru from its root structure. “Shabd” comes from Sha- and -bd. “Sha” means the expression of the ego, the attachments we identify with.”Bd” means to cut out/off or to eradicate. The root meaning of Sha-bd is that which cuts the ego. It is not just any sound. It is not just a wise sound or a song of truth. It is a sound that cuts away the ego that occludes the truth from you.

Ego is formed by the mind’s constant automatic processing that attaches us to and identifies us with objects, feelings and thoughts. The ego is not inherently bad. It is just limited. Ego is a chronic malady and in itself lies the cure (Siri Guru Granth Sahib, page 466)

In itself it can be useful and even necessary to functioning. But when you act attached to the ego as if it is your real nature and as if it defines your reality and scope, then you create pain, unhappiness and problems. Your spiritual reality is that you are part of a vast creation. In experience, you are a creature that is not separate from the larger matrix of life and consciousness. When you act in your specific role toward a goal or project, you must focus and limit your attention and energies. You can do that and forget anything other than your current attachment. Or you can act with passion and commitment as you remember and intuitively connect to the larger Self that is you and to the larger world that you act within.

The ego creates a kind of forgetfulness.You forget the Creator. You forget vastness. The energy of the mind begins to act in narrow ways with petty feelings and limiting beliefs. You act according to the information patterns of a small part of your potential and experience.

What is the alternative? If we cannot base our identity in the known or on any limited position of ego what can we do? Act egolessly. Base an identity in the Infinite and the connection to your sense of the Infinite. That may seem a great or mystic accomplishment, but it is the natural state of the Self. We are part of the Infinite by nature. It is the mind that forms a limited sense of self. We do not need to create an Infinite self. It already exists. That existence is called SAT NAAM. SAT  is reality, truth or existence. NAAM is the identity or creative name. We are all in essence a reality that vibrates and creates. Most of the time we act as if we are not. That is the pain imposed on our life by ego. The Shabd removes that pain by removing barriers to perceiving and acting from the Real Self.

This is one of the miracles of grace embodied in the teachings of the ten Gurus of Sikh Dharma. Each of the ten Gurus carried the Guruship and the Infinite identity of the Shabd Guru with very different personalities, ages and situations. And yet each affirmed they were all one Light. The identity they embedded in the Shabd Guru did not depend on ego or any finite identity. They sang Shabds that merged the one who recites them into the Infinite and infinity of self, beyond the limits of time and space. It is exactly such a technology that is needed. It establishes a link with the sense of the Infinite no matter what mood and position you begin with. There is a raga and sutra to lift every possible position of the ego into egoless merger.

Ego will no longer work! The shift of Age has changed the conditions of the mind. The Piscean consciousness operated with less sensitivity. You could hide actions, thoughts and feelings with a high degree of short term success. Some ego positions were favored above others by the conditions in a family, society or environment. That has fundamentally changed in this new Age: all finite positions of ego are equally vulnerable.

We need to develop a new habit of awareness. We must learn an inner technology to base the identity of our Self in the Infinite. The Shabd Guru is the quantum technology that establishes that awareness. It is a compass point that directs us to the Infinite in each finite action.

The practice of Jappa of the Shabd Guru changes the frequency of OUR words. We go from the words of the manmukh – one who speaks with attachment to the mind and intellect, to a gurumukh – one who speaks from the heart. When we speak from ego our words carry a hook, a calculation for what we believe we need or want. When we speak egolessly our words go to the heart of the other person and speak wisdom that is true regardless of advantage. Words spoken in ego are ruled by impulse and intellect. The words sharpened by the Shabd Guru are ruled by integrity, intelligence and intuition.

It is the function of the Shabd Guru to make our ego nothing so we can serve and be served by everything. In a cyclone you go to the eye of the storm to escape its turbulent power. In an Age swirling with chaotic change the path to the center of the storm is through the neutral mind, established by quelling the conscious and subconscious reactions to the ego. A sense of identity based on the experience of the subtle and the Infinite within us is the only source of stability and power in the Aquarian Age.

The second word in the phrase Shabd Guru is “Guru.” If we break this word into its inner naad, or atoms of sound, it becomes Gu-Ru. Gu means darkness or ignorance. Ru is light and knowledge. Gur is a formula or instruction. A Guru then gives a Gur, a formula or technique, that transforms darkness into light, ignorance into knowledge, the gross into the refined.

A Guru then is an active knowledge. It is not the intellectual knowledge that simply classifies or analyzes. Guru changes you. Guru develops the capacity to see. It removes darkness, obfuscation.The Shabd Guru transforms the practitioner by removing the barriers erected by the needs of the ego. The encounter with the Guru is through action. It gives you Know How not just Know What. It gives you procedural knowledge that is in your cells and subconscious, not just representational knowledge in your ideas. Think of the difference between discussing death in general, and discussing your potential death from cancer with your doctor. “Death” takes on an urgency and relevance when it is yours. It forces a deep evaluation of it, along with everything else that is important to you. And you want to know what to do; what action to take. To encounter the Shabd Guru is to learn by doing, by experience. The Guru will give a practice. That key practice for Shabd Guru is the meditation and repetition of specific primal sounds and phrases.

That may seem easy. Simple is not necessarily easy or without challenge. The greatest challenge is the practitioner’s own subconscious. The mind is not trained to base itself in a relation to the Infinite. It is based in ego. It is filled with reactive thoughts that try to maintain the attachments of the ego and tries to avoid pain. When you repeat the patterns of sound and thought in a Shabd, those thoughts counter the direction and intensity of the habitual thoughts. The Shabd provokes a dumping of the stored subconscious patterns of thinking and feeling. If, under the torrential flood of subconscious feelings and thoughts, you persist in repeating the pattern of the Shabd Guru, then the new pattern establishes itself, your mind clears, and you awaken dormant inner capacities or enhance existing ones.

Copyright:  Teachings of Yogi Bhajan

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