Reality of the Name

We hear a good deal about the praise and contemplation of the Name, but we have not thought very much about Its reality. What is the Name, and which is the Name that leads to salvation?

Which is the Name by repeating which one can gain release?

Ramkali M9, 902-5

Which is the Name by repeating which one crosses the ocean of the world? Which is the Name of the Lord by repeating which one crosses the ocean?

Sorath M9, 632-12

The Lord has no name; He is without a name; let us salute the Nameless One.

Jap Sahib

Innumerable are His names, but he is beyond all. He has no limit, no end. How can he be described in words? Knowing this, the wise men and seers, in order to praise Him, have given Him many names which indicate His infinite nature. But even then they could not describe the Reality.

You have many names and innumerable forms; no one can describe Your virtues.

 Asa M1, 358-15

Oh Lord and life of the world; all fortunes and treasures and powers are in the palm of Your hand; You have infinite names.

Dev Gandhari M5, 536-6

The Lord is unfathomable, and infinite are His names. The wise tried hard to describe His virtues, but could not properly evaluate Him.

 Kalyan M4, 1319-5

Oh Lord, Your names are innumerable. The tongue cannot count them.

 Bhairon M4, 1135-17

The tenth Guru in the line of Guru Nanak says:

How can all Your names be spoken or described?

Jap Sahib, Patshahi 10

There is a difference in the names. Some are descriptive and some are personal. The tongue utters Your descriptive names. Sat Naam is your old original name.

Maru M5, 1083-12

Which of these names should be accepted, or which is the highest one? Hindus lay emphasis on Om and sing the praises of Ram. Allah is used by Muslims, and Waheguru by Sikhs. Every religion has its own names. Which is the name that leads to salvation? What is the purpose of contemplating on a name or praising it? Is it merely to understand its meanings by repetition, or is it something else in addition? The repetition of words and meditating on their meanings can only lead to mental goals. 

The Gurus have at various places, in their writings, emphasized the repetition of Names, the hearing of the Name, contemplation on the Name, dwelling on the Name in the heart, and seeing the Light of the Name.

Repeat the Name, my dear friends. Repeat the Name and be happy. Hear the Master's words and keep the Name ever in mind.

 Asa M4, 367-15

On hearing the Name my mind felt bliss. By following the directions of the Master, I enjoyed the benefits of the Name.

M 4 Asa 367-16.

Meditate on the Name as long as you have life and breath. The Lord will then accompany you at the time of death and save you.

M 4 Sri Rag 82-4.

Oh Lord! Barren should be the mothers of those in whose heart You do not dwell. Their empty bodies wander without the Name and they die in woe.

 Jetsari M4, 697-15

The devotees of the Lord and Master Pray again and again to the Master. We worms and insects seek Your shelter. Oh Master, have mercy and enlighten us with the Name.

Gauri M4, 492-9

The Gurus, in addition to mentioning repetition and meditation on the Name, have also spoken about hearing the melody of the inner Sound and seeing the light of the Name or Word of God.

By hearing the Name one knows himself, and gets the benefit of the Name. By hearing the Name sins are expiated, and the mind becomes pure. Oh Nanak, blessed are those who hear the Name. A devotee always meditates on It.

Sarang Var M4, 1240-16

By repeating the Name one gets the light of millions of suns.

Jetsari M5, 700-18

Have mercy and give us the Light of the Name.

Gujri M4, 492-10

The Name has in It the means of both complete hearing and seeing. In the Gurbani, mention is made of the Name abiding in the heart. It has been clearly stated that the Name is beyond the mind and the senses.

Nam is infinite, invisible and imperceptible.

Maru M1, 1041-19

From this it is clear that the Lord's true Name is not mere words, but is something else which dwells in the inner recesses of our being. There are sweet and enrapturing melodies in it which can be heard. There is light in it which can be seen. That Name is, in reality, invisible, imperceptible and infinite. It is all-pervading. 

Kabir Sahib has clearly stated:

The millions of names current in the world do not lead to release; the primal Name, which is the secret formula, is rarely known.

The Gurus have mentioned that repetition of names has its own place and is necessary, but we cannot, in this way, merge with the Lord. Unless we get connected with God-in-action who has been described as Shabd or Naam, we cannot get release. But this can only happen through a Perfect Master.

Every one utters the Name of the Lord but through utterance alone one mounts not to God. When by Guru's Grace the Lord is enshrined in the heart then alone does one gather the fruit.

Gujri M3, 491-l

Merely crying water, water, is of no avail. It is only when we get water that we feel its coolness and our thirst is quenched. 

Yari Sahib says:

The tongue is tired of repeating Ram (Lord). By merely saying water, thirst is not quenched, this is done only when one drinks it.

It is said in the hymns of Kabir Sahib:

Without seeing and feeling, it is no use repeating the Name. If one were to become wealthy by talking of wealth. No one would remain a pauper.

All names are for the Named. If one unites with the One whom the Name represents, one may remember Him by any name. 

If we get water, it is immaterial if it is called pani, as in Punjabi; Eau, as in French; Hydor, as in Greek; Aqua, as in Latin; or water, as in English. When we meet the One whom these names represent we get Him and His virtues. 

Hunger is not removed by crying 'bread, bread', or thirst by saying 'water, water'. The words 'water' and 'bread' are quite distinct from the actual water and bread. It is only by using these things that thirst and hunger are satisfied. We do not get the real benefit unless we unite with that which the Name represents.

Maulana Rum says:

Repeat the Name and search for the Named; without this the Name is useless. Saint Tulsi Das states that the real Name is superior both to Brahm and Ram (God), because Brahm, Par Brahm, Sat Naam, Alakh and Agam were all created by the Name. The Name is higher and more bountiful than Brahm and Ram (God).

Ramayana, Bal Kand 25

Brahm is both 'formless' and 'with form.' Indescribable, unfathomable, beginningless and wonderful.

According to me, the Name is greater than both of them. He has had them in His power through all the ages.

Ramayana, Bal Kand 22-1

The unfathomable has been realized through the Name. The Name is, therefore, greater than Brahm and Ram (God).

Ramayana, Bal Kand 22-3

Tulsidas goes to the extent of saying that praise of the Name is infinite, since even Rama cannot adequately sing its praises.

How far can I sing the praise of Nam (Name)? Even Rama Himself cannot do so.

Ramayana, Bal Kand 25-4

The reason for this is that Rama is an incarnation of Brahm and Brahm and Par Brahm were all created by the Name.

Those who have forgotten the real Name and are repeating other names, cannot derive full benefit. They are entangled in this world like a worm that wastes its time running hither and thither in a dunghill. Those who give up the real Name and repeat other names, are like worms that waste their time in a dirt heap.

Sarang Var M3, 1247-5

Apart from the repetition of the real Name, all reading and recitals are within the sphere of maya. Except the Name nothing is permanent and except for its repetition, all reading and recitals lead to nothing.

False is all other reading, false is all other speech, false is the love of maya. Oh Nanak! without the Name nothing is eternal, they who read undergo woe and misery.

Sri Rag Var M3, 84-15

In the Gurbani only study and contemplation of the Name are regarded as true worship; but only a rare few understand this.

Oh Nanak, study and meditation on the Name is the only true worship; but very few realize this.

Sarang Var M3, 1246-16

The Gurus have said that reading and writing are worldly occupations. To gather knowledge is no more than to follow the way of the world.

Sorath Var M3, 650-11

The Reality in all religions is the Name of God which is supreme in all of them. The essence of all faiths is contained in the Name of the Lord.

Gauri M5, 296-4

No spiritual or other deed can equal repetition of the real Name. The Name is superior to all charities and alms-giving, recitals and austerities, study of the Vedas, and all other religious and meritorious deeds.

Everyone asks for happiness, but the Lord does as He wills. No deed, charity or devotion equals the practice of the Name.

 Vadhans M1, 566-9

Above all acts of piety and charity, austerity and concentration, is contemplation on the Name. He who utters the Lord's Name, fulfills the object of his life.

 Asa M5, 401-3

People study the Vedas and the Shastras in order to cross the world; they do many meritorious deeds, but above them all is the Name.

Asa M5, 405 9

Millions of meritorious deeds cannot equal contemplation on the Name. All outer deeds such as pilgrimages, alms-giving and charities, fasts, acts of piety, and so forth, fall short of It. It is only the practice of the Name which can take one to the highest spiritual regions. There is no other way.

You may offer your body in tiny bits in sacrifice, you may offer body and mind as sticks to the fire day and night; you may do myriads of deeds, but none equals the worship of the Name. You may have yourself cut in two by placing your head under the sacred saw. You may freeze your body in the snows of the Himalayas, still the disease of the mind will not be cured. You may be absolutely certain that this will not equal the worship of the Name. You may give heaps of gold, fine horses and good elephants in charity; you may give away land and cows, and feel proud of doing so, but you get the true gift only from the Master if the Name of the Lord has pierced your mind. You may through arduous intellectual work study the Vedas, but you will still be in bondage. Only the Master opens the gates of release. All your efforts will fall short of the Name. This is indeed the only true kind of conduct.

 Sri Rag M1, 62-6

The praise of the Name is beautifully sung in the Adi Granth:

Repetition, austerities, knowledge, meditation, commentaries on the six Shastras and the Smritis, the practice of yoga, the performance of rituals, renunciation and wandering about in the forests, making all other kinds of efforts deeds of charity and piety and oblations to the sacred fire, cutting up of the body and offering each bit as sacrifice, keeping fasts and doing other deeds of merit; these equal not meditation on the Lord's Name; oh Nanak! after hearing the Name only once from a Perfect Master (at the time of initiation). If one scans the nine regions of the world and live long; becomes a great and detached ascetic; offers his life to the fire; gives away gold, horses, elephants and land in charity, practises inner washings and yogic postures, disciplines himself with hard practices like a Jain, and has himself cut in pieces bit by bit, but does not get rid of the dirt of his ego, none of these things equals the name of the Lord; oh Nanak, a devotee gains salvation by repeating the Name.

If one dies at a sacred spot with desires in his mind, he is not rid of ego and pride of self. If one washes his body day and night, one's mind is not cleansed of dirt, one may discipline one's body in many ways, but one does not succeed in ridding the mind of the poison of ego. One may constantly wash the body, but how can a wall of mud be washed clean? Oh mind, sing the praises of the Name of the Lord; oh Nanak, the Name has saved many a sinner.

 Gauri M5, 265-10

Commentaries on the Vedas, Puranas and other scriptures all say that all practices except that of the Name are of no avail.

Commentaries, Vedas, Puranas and other scriptures all proclaim: that all practices save that of the Name are false and vain, the prattle of children.

Suhi M5, 761-16

The traditions of the house of Nanak emphasize the practice of the Name. The house of Nanak relies on the Name alone.

Bhairon M5, 1136-18

All true Saints, holy men and devotees have engaged in the practice of the Name and all religions preach it.

The Name is the path of Nanak and Kabir; know it in your heart. Dhru and prahlad were intoxicated with it.

Dulan Das.

The primal poet knew the greatness of the Name, He became a Saint by repeating It in the reverse order.

Ramayana, Bal Kand 18

The devotees of the Lord praise the Name at all times. Standing, sitting and in sleep they repeat the Lord's Name, for this, oh Nanak, is the eternal task of the devotee.

Gauri M5, 286-5

All the religions sing Its praise. The essence of all religions is the Name of the Lord.

Gauri M5, 296-4

The best of all duties is this duty; perform the purest act, the repetition of the Name of the Lord.

 Gauri M5, 266-13