Hymns of Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism, more properly called Sikhi. The Sikh scriptures are called the Guru Granth Sahib, and this scripture, this sacred book of the Sikhs is also their Guru, the one who removes the darkness and leads them to the Eternal Guru, Nanak. What follows is an excerpt from an unpublished translation.

A Selection of Hymns of Guru Nanak
from the Guru Granth Sahib Adi Granth

ik omkar

God is One,
He is the True Name,
The Maker and All-pervading Spirit
Fearing nothing, hating no one,
A Being beyond time,
Self-existent beyond birth,
Revealed by the grace of the Guru.


Before all things existed He was Truth,
In the beginning of all things He was Truth,
Today He is Truth, Nanak,
And Truth He will ever be.

Though I think a hundred thousand thoughts of God, thought alone cannot reach Him.
Though I remain in deep and silent meditation, such meditation alone cannot achieve the divine Silence.
Though I hunger for Him my hunger does not depart if I am filled only with this world’s goods.
Though I possess a hundred thousand worldly devices not one avails for this task.

How then can I be true?
How can the barrier of untruth be demolished?

By obeying the pre-ordained Will of the Lord, Nanak.

Through His Will things come to be,
His Will is indescribable.
Through His Will souls come to be,
Through His Will excellence is obtained.

Through His Will some are high born, others low;
Through His pre-ordained Will some receive pain, others pleasure.
One through His Will receives blessing,
The other through His Will must ever wander.

His Will applies to all,
None shall escape His Will,
Nanak, he who knows His Will
Cannot glory in his own self.

Some who have the power sing of His might.
Some sing of His gifts, who know His signs.
Some sing of His attributes, His excellent greatness.
Some sing of His knowledge, His deepest thought.
Some sing of His creation of the body and of its dissolution to dust.
Some sing of His taking life and of its restoration.
Some sing of His apparent distance from us,
Some sing of His nearness, beholding us face to face.

Discourses and expositions are endless,
Millions of sermons by millions of preachers.
The giver gives and the receiver wearies of receiving,
Age upon age man is refreshed and replenished.
The Sovereign by His Will has ordered man’s path.
He remains happy, Nanak, in His contentment.

The Lord is Truth, His Righteousness is true, His language is infinite love.
We pray and beg, ‘Give us, give us’, and the Giver gives.
What then can we offer Him that we may see His Court?
What words should we utter that He might show us love?
At fragrant dawn reflect on the True Name and His greatness.

Past actions determine our garment, His Grace gives us the door of salvation.
Know this, Nanak, that this is the way to know that the True One is everything.

He cannot be made and installed like an idol,
He Himself of Himself is self-existent.
Those who have served Him have received honour.
Nanak, praise the Lord, the Treasury of virtues.
Sing and hear and retain His love in your heart,
Thus will sorrow flee and joy shall dwell in its place.
The Guru’s voice is the eternal sound, the Guru’s voice is the
Veda, the Guru’s voice is all-pervading.
The Guru is Ishwar, the Guru is Gorakh and Brahma, the Guru is Parvati and the Mother-goddess.
If I know Him should I not tell His story, but He cannot be described by words.

The Guru has explained one thing to me:
There is but one Giver of all life, let me never forget Him.

I would pilgrimage to a holy river if I thought I would gain His love,
But without it the ablutions are useless.
I behold all created beings,
But without grace what can they obtain?
The mind is filled with gems and precious stones
If we listen to just one item of the Guru’s teaching.

The Guru has explained one thing to me:
There is but one Giver of all life, let me never forget Him.

Though a man’s life spanned the four ages or ten times more,
Or his reputation spread to nine continents and everyone followed him,
Or his name were praised and his renown known in all the world,
If His Grace does not descend on him then he is as someone ignored.
He becomes a worm among worms, even the sinful accuse him of sin.

Nanak, those lacking virtue God makes virtuous, even the virtuous were given their virtue by Him.
I cannot think of anyone else who could grant them virtue.

He who hears the Word becomes like Ishwar, Brahma and Indra.
He who hears, though he be of low estate, will be filled with praise.
He who hears discovers the way of yoga and the secrets of the body.
He who hears understands the Shastras, Smritis and Vedas.
Nanak, the devotees are always happy.
For him who hears, sorrow and sin are destroyed.

Innumerable His names and innumerable His dwellings,
Inaccessible and incomprehensible His innumerable realms.
It is folly even to say that they are innumerable.
In letters we spell His Name, in letters we sing His praise,
In letters are spelt His Wisdom, in letters are His praises sung and His virtues known,
In letters we write down the spoken word,
In letters is a man’s destiny inscribed on his brow;
But they are not found on the head of Him who inscribed them.
As he ordains so shall man receive.
As great is creation, so great is His Name.
There is no corner without His Name.
What power of thought have I to describe His creation?
I am not worthy to be sacrificed to Him even once.

Whatever pleases Thee is a good deed.
Thou dost endure always, Formless One.

When hands, feet and the body are dirty,
Water washes the dirt away.
When your clothing is soiled,
With the use of soap it is washed clean.
When the mind is polluted by sin,
It is cleansed by delighting in the Lord’s Name.
Purity and sin are not mere words,
Rather are they actions with effective results.
A man eats what he sows.
Nanak, by God’s Will we come and go.

Pilgrimage, penance, compassion and the giving of alms
Are given the least honour;
He who hears, obeys and loves God in his heart,
Bathes in a place of pilgrimage within himself.
All virtues are Thine, Lord. I have none.
But without virtue, devotion to Thee is impossible.
Hail to Thee who created Maya, the Word and Brahma,
Thou art Truth and Beauty, whose heart is ever filled with delight.

At what time, at which moment, what day of the month or week,
What was the season, what was the month, when it all took shape?
The pandits did not discover the time or it would be in the Puranic texts.
The qazis did not discover the time or they would have written it in the Qur’an.
Nor did the yogis or anyone else know the season or the month or the day of the month or week.
He who created the world alone knows when he did it;
How shall we address Thee, praise Thee, describe Thee or know Thee, Lord?
Nanak, all speak about Him, each man wiser than the next.
Great is the Lord, great is His Name, whatever He wills comes to pass.
Nanak, he who thinks himself something will not be honoured in the life hereafter. .

There are hundreds of thousands of worlds below and heavens above.
Men have wearied themselves searching limitless bounds;
but the Vedas say the Spirit is one.
The Muslim scripture says there are 18,000 worlds but that Reality is one principle.
If description were possible then it would have been written;
but men have exhausted themselves.
Nanak, call Him Great. Only He knows Himself.

There’s no limit to God’s praise, to His glorification no limit.
There’s no limit to His works, to His giving no limit.
We cannot limit Him by our seeing or by our hearing.
We cannot know the limit of the secret of His heart.
We cannot know the limit of His created world.
We cannot know the limit of His own accepted limits.
How many cry out to know His limits?
But His limits cannot be discerned.
This limit no one can know.
The more that is described the more remains.
Great is the Lord, His throne is exalted.
Higher than the highest is His Name.
If anyone were to be as highly exalted as He,
Then he would know His exaltation.
But God alone knows how great He is.
Nanak, what we receive is the result of Grace.

Make contentment thine earrings, spiritual endeavour thy
begging bowl and wallet, and meditation thy sacred ash.
Wear death like sackcloth, in manner of life let thy body be that
of a virgin and faith in God be thy staff.
Let communion with all men be thy holy order, control of the
mind means control of the world.
Hail, Hail to Him!
The First, the Pure, the One without beginning, the Indestructible, from age to age retaining the same vesture.

The union of the One with the Mother gave birth to three approved disciples.
One the world’s Creator, one its Sustainer, and the third its Judge.
According to God’s pleasure they perform their duties.
He watches over them, but they behold Him not. What a great marvel!
Hail, Hail to Him!
The First, the Pure, the One without beginning, the Indestructible, from age to age retaining the same vesture.

Let my single tongue become hundreds of thousands twenty times over,
So would I repeat the Name of the Lord of Creation endlessly.
Thus would I ascend the stairs to the Lord and become one with Him.
The sound of heavenly things makes the lowest want to rise.
Nanak, by Grace is God attained, the rest is false boasting.

God created the night, the seasons, days of the month and week.
He created the wind, water, fire and the worlds below.
In their midst he set the world as the sphere of dharma.
In it he placed animals of various species and colour,
Their names are many and endless.
Each one is judged according to his deeds.
The Lord Himself is True and His Court is true,
There the elect rejoice in their acceptance.
They bear the sign of grace and mercy.
There the bad and the good are separated.
Nanak, when we go there this will be manifest.

Such is the stage of Religious Duty.
Now I shall describe the activity of the stage of Knowledge.
How many are the winds, waters and fires, how many the Krishnas and Sivas!
How many the Brahmas who created worlds, of many forms and colours and vestures!
How many worlds of karma and mountains like Meru, how many Dhruvas under instruction!
How many Indras, moons and suns, how many universes and countries!
How many Siddhas, Buddhas and Naths, how many goddesses in different forms!
How many gods, demons and ascetics, how many jewels and seas!
How many sources of life, how many languages, how many royal dynasties!
How many approaches to God and servants of God!
Nanak, the process is endless.

In the stage of Knowledge divine wisdom shines forth;
It is the realm of the eternal sound, giving countless joys and pleasures.
In the next stage of Spiritual Striving the language is perfection;
There, things are fashioned in an incomparable way.
What goes on there cannot be described.
Whoever tries must later feel ashamed.
There inner consciousness, intellect, mind and wisdom are shaped.
There the state of being a sage and a Siddha is achieved.

In the stage of Grace, man is so filled with spiritual power
That nothing more can be added to him.
There are found very great warriors and heroes,
Whom the great Lord fills completely.
They are inextricably woven into the greatness of the Lord;
Such is their beauty it cannot be described.
They do not die neither are they deceived,
Those in whose hearts the Lord abides.
There also dwell communities of devotees;
They live in bliss, the True One in their hearts.

In the stage of Truth, the Formless One resides.
He, the Creator, beholds His creation and looks upon it with grace.
Here there are continents, worlds and universes.
Who can describe a boundless bound?
Here there are worlds within worlds and endless forms.
Whatever God wills, that they do freely.
God beholds His creation and rejoices.
Nanak, to describe it is iron hard.

Let chastity be your furnace, patience your goldsmith.
Let understanding be your anvil, divine knowledge your tools.
Let the fear of God be your bellows, penance your fire.
Let the love of God be your crucible, in which the divine nectar is smelted.
In this mint of Truth, the Word is coined.
This is the practice of those on whom God looks graciously.
Nanak, the Gracious One makes glad the heart of those upon
whom He looks with favour.

The air is the Guru, water our father, the great earth our mother.
Day and night are the male and female nurses, in whose care the whole world plays.
Good deeds and bad will be read in the presence of the Righteous One.
According to the operation of karma, some will be near and some afar off.
Those who have meditated on the Name and have departed, their toil completed,
Their faces, Nanak, will be bright and many will be released along with them.


Guru Nanak