Mul Mantar in Guru Arjan handwriting, 17th century Kartarpur manuscript.

Mūl Mantar (Punjabi: ਮੂਲ ਮੰਤਰ, IPA: [muːlᵊ mən̪t̪əɾᵊ]) are the opening words of the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. It consists of twelve words in the Punjabi language, written in Gurmukhi script, and are the most widely known among the Sikhs.[1][2] They summarize the essential teaching of Guru Nanak.[1] The Mul Mantar is a succinct doctrinal statement of Sikhism.[3]

The Mul Mantar has been variously translated, with the interpretation of the first two words particularly contested.[4] These are rendered as "There is one god", "One reality is", "This being is one" and others. Sometimes the disagreements include capitalizing g in god, or r in reality, which affects the implied meaning in English.[1] Some consider it monotheistic, others monist. The general view favors the monotheistic interpretation, states Eleanor Nesbitt – a scholar of Sikhism, but not the Semitic understanding of monotheism. It is rather "Guru Nanak's mystical awareness of the one that is expressed through the many", states Nesbitt.[1] The remaining ten words after the first two are literally translated as truth by name, the creator, without fear, without hate, timeless in form, beyond birth, self-existent, (known by) the grace of Guru.[1][4]

The Mul Mantar is repeated in the Sikh scripture before numerous Shabad, or hymns.[5] It existed in many versions in the 16th-century, according to Pashaura Singh – a Sikh scholar. The essential elements of the Mantar are found in Guru Nanak's compositions, the various epithets he used for Akal Purakh (Ultimate Reality). It was given the final form by Guru Arjan in the 17th-century.[6]

EtymologyEdit

A Mantar or Mantra means "formula, succinct doctrinal or sacred words with spiritual meaning".[7][8] The word mūl means "root, main or "fundamental." The Mul Mantar is thus "root formula",[7] a succinct spiritual statement,[3] or the root statement of Sikhism.[1]

TextEdit

The Mul Mantar is:[4]

Gurmukhi Transliteration Translation 1
(Eleanor Nesbitt)[1]
Translation 2
(Eleanor Nesbitt)[9]
Translation 3
(Pashaura Singh)[10]

ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ
ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ
ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ
ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ
ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ
ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥
ikk ōankār
sat(i)-nām(u)
kartā purakh(u)
nirpà'u nirver(u)
akāl mūrat(i)
ajūnī sepàŋ
gur-prasād(i)
There is one god,
truth by name,
the creator,
without fear, without hate,
timeless in form,
beyond birth, self-existent,
(known by) the grace of the Guru.
This Being is one,
truth by name,
creator,
fearless, without hatred,
of timeless form,
unborn, self-existent,
and known by the Guru's grace.
There is one supreme being,
the eternal reality (true name),
the creator,
without fear, devoid of enmity,
immortal,
never incarnated, self-existent,
(known by) the grace of the Guru.

The included grave accent in the transliteration illustrates tones and guide the verbal pronunciation of the verse. The small letters in the transliteration above, denoting short vowels, are not etymologically part of the word they are added to, but are included in the Guru Granth Sahib for vocalization purposes.

TranslationEdit

 
Illuminated Adi Granth folio with Mul Mantar of Guru Gobind Singh

The Mul Mantar is a widely known part of Sikh scripture, but it has posed a challenge to translators.[1] The first two words Ik Onkar has been rendered multiple ways. It has been translated as "'There is one god', as 'One reality is', and 'This being is one'" and the varying capitalization of "God", "Reality", or "Being" affects the meaning in English, states Nesbitt.[1] A number of translations erroneously change the Mul Mantar from a list of qualities to a statement of facts and possessive adjectives. For example, they may change Satnam from "truth by name" to "His name is truth", which adds a masculine quality to the Mul Mantar which does not appear in the original Gurmukhi. These sacred words of Sikhism do not presume a particular gender.[1]

The primary difference in various translations involves the term Ik Onkar. According to Khushwant Singh, it connotes 'there is one God',[11] while Wazir Singh states that it connotes 'singularity despite seeming plurality'.[12] The Indologist Wendy Doniger states that the Oankar of Sikhism is related to Om in Hinduism. She adds that some Sikhs disagree who view it as "distinctively Sikh theological emphasis" on "the ineffable quality of God" as "the Person beyond time," "the Eternal One," or "the One without form."[13] The phrase is a compound of the numeral one (ik) and onkar, states Doniger, canonically understood in Sikhism to refer to "absolute monotheistic unity of God".[13] According to Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, these disputes emerged and its current interpretation largely reflect the hermeneutical effort to define Sikh identity by Khalsa Sikhs in late 19th- and early 20th-century during the Singh Sabha Movement.[14] This effort, with close cooperation between Khalsa leaders and Max Arthur Macauliffe, sought to present Sikh doctrines in a monotheistic fold, with the Mūl Mantar and the Guru Granth Sahib interpreted as asserting the existence of one God. On the other hand, according to Mandair, while Ernest Trumpp also considered "the chief point of Nanak's doctrine" to be "the unity of the Supreme Being," he held that "there were no reasonable grounds for specifically differentiating the notion of God in the Adi Granth as distinct from orthodox Hindu philosophies," whether "Hindu pantheism or Buddhist atheism."[15] Trumpp interpreted the Oankar in the Mul Mantar as unable to "transcend multiplicity," and as a result, omitted the numeral ੧ (one) from the Ik Oankar symbol in his translation, deeming it "superfluous [and] an empty gesture on Guru Nanak's part," as in Trumpp's view the contents of the Sikh scripture did not correspond conceptually to the numeral "one," held to represent "transcendance of multiplicity and conceptual coherence."[15] This, states Mandair, reflects the clear influence of the Brahminical leanings of his Nirmala collaborators.[16][15] Pashaura Singh disagrees with the view that the reification of the concept of Ik Oankar began with the works of either McLeod or the Singh Sabha, instead considering the process to begin within the writings of Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan themselves,[17] the numeral ੧ (one) as emphasizing the unity of Akal Purakh in monotheistic terms,[17] and that the Mūl Mantar was intended as a "succinct statement which set the Sikh doctrine apart from the philosophical systems of both Indic and Semitic religious traditions."[3]

 
The extended version of the Mul Mantar at the Darshani Deori, or main entrance leading to the pathway into the Golden Temple

Some Sikh institutions, like the SGPC, consider the Mūl Mantar proper to end at "gur prasad," arguing that what follows is the name and first line of the Japji Sahib composition, citing the number of times that the verse appears as such preceding Gurbani compositions.[citation needed] On the other hand, other historic institutions, like some taksals (traditional Sikh religious educational institutions) and Gurmat schools, hold the Mūl Mantar to be the full following verse, claiming that the Mūl Mantar in this form has been used in the Amrit Sanchar baptizing ceremony since its inception.[citation needed]

The extended version with the Jap verse is:[18][19][20]

Gurmukhi Transliteration Translation
ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ

ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ
ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ
ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ
ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ
ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥

॥ ਜਪੁ॥

ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ
ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ॥
ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ
ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ॥੧॥

ikk ōankār sat(i)-nām(u)

kartā purakh(u)
nirpà'u nirver(u)
akāl mūrat(i)
ajūnī sepàŋ
gur-prasād(i)

॥ jap(u)
ād(i) sach(u)
jugād(i) sach(u)
he pì sach(u)
nānak hōsī pì sach(u)॥1॥

One creator, name is truth,

agentive (doer) being,
without fear, without hatred,
timeless form,
unbegotten, self-existent,
known by the Guru's grace.

Recite:
True at the beginning,
true through the ages,
is yet true,
O Nanak, and will be true.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eleanor Nesbitt, "Sikhism: a very short introduction", ISBN 0-19-280601-7, Oxford University Press, pp. 22-24
  2. ^ Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  3. ^ a b c Pashaura Singh (2006). Life and Work of Guru Arjan: History, Memory, and Biography in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-19-567921-2.
  4. ^ a b c Pashaura Singh (2006). Life and Work of Guru Arjan: History, Memory, and Biography in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 245–258. ISBN 978-0-19-567921-2.
  5. ^ Kalsi, Sewa Singh; Marty, Martin E. (March 2005). Sikhism. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-7910-8356-7. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  6. ^ Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. pp. 88–89, earlier versions of Mul Mantar and context: 82–90. ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  7. ^ a b Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  8. ^ Jan Gonda (1963), The Indian Mantra, Oriens, Volume 16, pages 244–247
  9. ^ Nesbitt, Eleanor (2018), "Sikhism", The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 1–12, doi:10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2186, ISBN 978-0-470-65722-5
  10. ^ Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. pp. 85–89 (the final version: 88–89). ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  11. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2002). "The Sikhs". In Kitagawa, Joseph Mitsuo (ed.). The religious traditions of Asia: religion, history, and culture. London: Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 0-7007-1762-5.
  12. ^ Singh, Wazir (1969). Aspects of Guru Nanak's philosophy. Routledge. p. 20. the 'a,' 'u,' and 'm' of aum have also been explained as signifying the three principles of creation, sustenance and annihilation. ... aumkār in relation to existence implies plurality, ... but its substitute Ik Oankar definitely implies singularity in spite of the seeming multiplicity of existence. ...
  13. ^ a b Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of world religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0.
  14. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2009). Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation. Columbia University Press. pp. 216–223. ISBN 978-0-231-14724-8.
  15. ^ a b c Arvind Mandair (2009). Kelly Pemberton and (ed.). Shared Idioms, Sacred Symbols, and the Articulation of Identities in South Asia. Routledge. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-1-135-90477-7.
  16. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsburg Academic. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7.
  17. ^ a b Pashaura Singh (2000). The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority. Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-19-564894-2.
  18. ^ Rahi, Hakim Singh (1999). Sri Guru Granth Sahib Discovered: A Reference Book of Quotations from the Adi Granth. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 9788120816138. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  19. ^ Chauhan, G. S. (2005). Sri Guru Nanak Dev's Japji. New Delhi, India: Hemkunt Press. pp. 44–51. ISBN 9788170103141. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  20. ^ Beck, Guy (2006). Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. pp. 146–147. ISBN 9780889204218. Retrieved 11 December 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications. ISBN 81-7536-132-8.
  • Shackle, C (1981). A Guru Nanak Glossary. School of Oriental and African Studies. ISBN 0-7286-0243-1.
  • Singh, Dalip (1999). Sikhism in the Words of the Guru. Lok Sahit Prakashan. ASIN B0000CPD3S.
  • Singh, Dr. Gopal (1962). Guru-Granth Sahib Vol.1. Taplinger Publishing Co.
  • Singh, Dr. Santokh (1990). English Transliteration and Interpretation of Nitnaym Baanees, Sikh Prayers for English Speaking Sikh Youth. Sikh Resource Centre. ISBN 1-895471-08-7.
  • Osho (1994). The True Name, Vol.1 : Discourses on Japji Sahib of Guru Nanak Dev. New Age International(P) Ltd. ISBN 81-224-0606-8.
  • Dr Sahib Singh, D Lit (January 1972). Shiri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan. Raj Publishers (Regd), Adda Husharpur Jallundhar.

External linksEdit