The Concept of Guru to Sikhs

In Sikh Dharma, the Guru is many things and can be experienced in many forms, or even without form. Guru is often translated to mean, “that which takes you from the darkness to the light.” A “Guru” is often thought to refer to a teacher, such as with a teacher of classical Indian music. But even when referring to such a teacher, it is understood that the Guru’s role is to train the student in all facets of being. In the full definition, Guru is an infinite resource of teaching, healing and guidance.

The spiritual path can be difficult to navigate alone. The role of the Guru here is to be the “boat” that crosses the treacherous waters, that connects our limited self to our infinite self; to be the “doorway” that opens our understanding to the expanded vision of the path forward; to be the “beacon of light” leading our ship to safe harbor. By the Grace of the Guru, the door opens – our ears open, we hear the call and we respond to it.

Formless Guru

Often, one may first experience the Guru in the form of sudden or fleeting insight or guidance. This can be categorized as the Nirgun (formless) Guru. Or this can be said to be the “hand of the Guru.” One can feel as though there is a divine intervention. It can be as mundane as a revealing comment spoken by another person in a casual conversation that changes your understanding of an important aspect of your life. Or it can be in a sudden change in the direction of events where you are spared some seemingly unavoidable unpleasant outcome.

Embodied Guru

There is also the Sargun (fully-manifest) Guru where this source of divine connection is continuously present in someone or something. Many people may not recognize, with full understanding, the depth and authenticity of such a Guru. In this form the Guru delivers God’s Truth with clarity and depth and is the source of continued and inspired regeneration of hope – hope in ourselves and hope in the world. In this form the Guru inspires and guides all to their highest destiny. The relationship between Guru and “Chela” (student) has been highly developed in India over the last couple of thousand years. To find a Guru in that system there was a lot of importance put on vetting the pedigree of a Guru, to be sure that his Guru, and his Guru’s Guru were of recognized value and importance. There were plenty of opportunities to choose poorly; to unwittingly choose a Guru stuck in their own struggle with materialism, hence limiting the student’s progress to Infinity.


What is the Best Way to Understand and Experience the Guru?

“Gurbani” means the words or voice of the Guru. “Shabad Guru” is another term that is also used to refer to this.

For Sikhs, Gurbani or Shabad Guru are the words that were spoken by saintly people when they were in a state of Divine consciousness.  By listening to or reciting these same words ourselves, our being can be uplifted as well.

When reciting Gurbani out loud, listening to the sound current of the Guru’s words and to your own voice reciting the Guru’s words, it can be a transformational experience.

You can click here to find Shabads to listen to, or visit the SikhNet Gurbani Media Center to listen to a huge, beautiful library of Gurbani.


~ The resources for this content are from Sikh Dharma International ( ) and in the book Living Reality (1994) by Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa.