What is the Name – Naam?
What is the Name whose praise is sung in every hymn written by the Gurus? It is necessary to ponder over this question. It is impossible to describe the Name in human language. It is a current of consciousness or divine Sound, Shabd. When there is motion in the consciousness, the Sound appears. We call this the Name or Word of God. This Name or Sound is the sustainer of the entire universe. Whenever there is creation, there is divine Sound or Shabd. Creation cannot be carried out without the divine Sound. This Sound is all-pervading. No place is without It. It is, however, manifest at some places, and unmanifest at others. It is resounding from head to foot. It is the essence and real substance of the universe.
Oh Pipa, the Sound is the real essence; but only a perfect Master can reveal It.
Pipa, Dhanasri 695-15
All religions describe the Lord as being a divine Sound. The Name is a current of consciousness which has the power to create. By Its aid the soul reaches its Original Home after passing through the physical, astral and causal spheres. Holy men have mentioned two kinds of names. One is the external name, which can be spoken or written. This is called apra vidya or external knowledge. It is also called the Varan-atmak Name. The Varan-atmak or utterable Name is used in worldly matters. It is used in all the scriptures. By utterances of the tongue men and other living beings convey their thoughts to others. A monkey screeches and gathers all the other monkeys. The Varnatmik Name is the first step in spiritual progress. In order to still the mind we have to repeat the Name with the tongue or mentally.
This Varan-atmak repetition is done in four ways.
Bekhari: By the tongue.
Madhyama: Through the mind at the throat centre.
Pashyanti: Through the mind at the heart centre.
Para: Through the subtle current of mind at the naval centre.
By the repetition of this name some happiness or peace is obtained, but it is not perfect, since all of the centres at which it is repeated are below the eye centre or the Third Eye, the seat of the soul.
The second Name is the unfathomable, imperceptible and secret Name, which emanates from the Lord Himself and is His form. It is called Para Vidya, divine science, or Dhun-atmak Naam, unutterable Name or Naam heard by the Soul. In it the melody of the personal divine Name can be heard. It cannot be spoken. He who repeats it in his heart without the use of his tongue can know God, the Creator of all regions.
He who repeats It without the tongue, he only knows the nature of the Name.
Malar M1, 1256-10
The melody of the Name is inside man. But unless one meets someone who knows the secret, one cannot hear it. We waste our lives without It. The Name is the Word and the Named is Dhun-atmak. The Lord can be known only by rising above words. The repetition of the Varan-atmak utterable Name is done with the tongue. This is the first step on the ladder of spirituality and is therefore, necessary.
Saint Ravi Das says:
Without seeing Him, desire does not well up; but how to see Him when all that seems will pass away? He who dwells upon the Lord's Name through His praise that Yogi alone becomes detached.
Ravi Das, Bhairon 1167-9
The utterable Name is like a puppet which appears to be independent; but in reality there is a hidden wire attached to it which is in the hand of the manipulator. The relation between the Name and the Named is similar. We have to realize the real God through the spoken word 'God'. Utterable words are necessary to still the mind. But the soul cannot ascend to higher regions, after leaving the body, without the melody of Naam, the unutterable Name which is within the body.
The Varan-atmak Name of God is a spoken word uttered in languages that differ from country to country.
The Dhun-atmak Name, however, resounds in a language that cannot be spoken and which is the Same for the entire world. The advice of the Saints is the same for all, whatever their nationality, caste or creed. The message of the Naam which is resounding within us, is the same for all classes and races.
The teachings imparted to the four castes are alike; the devotee repeats the Name and is redeemed. Oh Nanak, the Naam resounds in every heart in the Iron Age.
Suhi M5, 747-19
The story about Mian Mitha, in the book called Janam Sakhi, throws light on this subject. There lived in Mithankot a holy man by the name of Mian Mitha, who met Guru Nanak and discussed various subjects with him. Guru Nanak said, "Oh Mitha, without the True Name one remains in bondage and cannot obtain salvation." When Mian Mitha asked what the Name was, Guru Nanak said, "Mian Mitha, no one has been able to describe the Name. It is not a matter of mental knowledge; it can only be experienced." Mian Mitha then said, "Oh Lord, tell me this secret by one means or another." The Guru said, "Listen with attention. Do you hear anything?" Mian Mitha replied, "I hear nothing". Guru Nanak then took Mian Mitha aside, looked at him intently and then asked, "Mian Mitha, do you hear anything now?" Then Mian Mitha replied, "Oh Merciful and Redeeming One, I feel as if the eternal waves of the Name of God are flowing in every pore of my body."
From this it is clear that the Name is indescribable in words. It manifests as a melody and It can only be experienced.
A true devotee praises the Lord with every pore of his body.
Ramkali M1, 941-5
The Saints, therefore, say that the Lord is one, and that there is only one method of meeting Him. This is a method that does not interfere with any caste or religion. One may belong to any caste or religion, yet he can follow the method without any hindrance.
The Path of the Name is inside all. One can unite with the Lord by following it. He can only be realized when one unites with this Name. Everyone is tied down by the fetters of birth and rebirth because of his attitudes and convictions and is not ready to adopt new ideas. But by staying in the company with a holy man one begins to understand something about the Name.