Wednesday, December 22, 2021

How and when should we read Gurbani?

How should you read Gurbanee?

Simple answer: With love. 

Practically, it means:

  • your eyes be focused on the reading
  • mind concentrating on the recitation and meaning
  • ears should be listening carefully
  • read it in a tone that is respectful
  • singing it in the correct Raag (musical format) is best
  • quiet surroundings
Ultimately, it is about love, so if there are things beyond your control causing your environment issues, or your health is suffering, you do the best you can as God understands your condition. You should foster love for Gurbanee in your heart. Understanding the Raag (musical format) that it is written and singing accordingly should also help with focus, concentration, listening, and engagement of the mind. 

When should you read it?

If you are an Amritdhaari Sikh, you have to follow rehat and have instructions to read certain Gurbanee in the morning and others in the evening, while ending the day with Sohila Sahib at night.

However, if you are new and learning to read, anytime is a good time to practice. Many Gurdwaras have practice sessions to read in the evenings for morning prayers. Once you learn them, you can start reading in accordance to rehat (code of conduct for Sikhs).

Also, in addition to daily Nitnem, you can read Gurbanee when you experience certain states of mind or conditions you want to improve.

How many times should you read?

There are various recommendations for reading a Gurbanee once, 5 times, 10, 21, 51, 101, 1000, 100,000, etc. Read it as many times that allows your mind to understand, accept, and practice it. Read it as many times as you need it. More is generally better as long as the quality isn't decreasing.

How fast should you read it?

That depends on your concentration. At different times, different speeds have worked to concentrate my mind. Sometimes we can concentrate better when it is read fast, others when it is slow. With that said love, respect, concentration, understanding, and singing in proper format is the ultimate goal. 

Is all of Gurbanee written in Punjabi?

No. Punjabi uses Gurmukhi alphabets, but not all of Gurbanee is written in current day Punjabi. Learning Punjabi helps with vichaar and discussion as there are many Sikhs in Punjab and many of them preach or discuss in Punjabi. 

Can I read it in English or another language?

Transliteration if properly done is great as there are saroops in Devanagri, Farsi, English, Spanish and other languages. If you listen to audio with proper pronunciation, reading in another script is better than not reading it at all. Reading it in Gurmukhi Script will help with proper pronunciation. If you are interested in translations or explanations of Gurbanee, there are many sevadaars who have contributed in many languages, including Bhai Jagraj Singh of Basics of Sikhi, Bhai Satpal Singh from Nanak Naam.

Should you read alone or with others?

Reading it with Sangat who is in sync with you will help elevate your experience. However, other times, we experience more bliss on our own. Try mixing both. At times, laziness kicks in and the Sangat helps your mind stay connected.

Is pronunciation important, or is the meaning more important?

Both. Are you going to struggle in the beginning? Yes. Should you be sincere in your improvements? Yes. Without understanding the meaning, making changes in ones reality becomes difficult as the mind doesn't understand, so it fights. Without proper pronunciation, we may change the meaning of words. If we mispronounce certain words we may never understand the proper meaning of what we are reading as well causing unintentional disrespect. It is also better to be respectful to the language that is used for the particular Gurbanee. Typically, Tskaali Singhs focus on pronunciation more than others. Giani Thakur Singh Patiala wale, and Bhai Jairnail Singh Damdami Taksaal wale are very careful with pronunciation in their recitation of Gurbanee. Early as possible in your journey, learning about Santheaa (proper prounciation and etymology of Gurmukhi and Gurbani) is very useful in saving mistakes. Always, ask for forgiveness at the end, just in case.

Can I just listen to it and not read it?

Most beginners just listen. Listening alone is better than not listening to it. Listening is powerful. Even when we read it out loud, listening is still most important. Listening with an attentive mind is the most important. To learn the correct pronunciation, listening to someone who has studied Santheya (etymology and pronunciation) of Gurbanee helps.  If you turn it on and doze off or start watching TV, or surfing the internet, you are not going to receive the benefit. Also, you don't want to disrespect Gurbanee. Gurbanee is the Guroo, so please treat it that way. If the Guroo was present physically, you would focus carefully, so we should the same when reading, singing, discussing, and listening Gurbanee.


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