The Guru Granth Sahib is a ship whose destination is the attainment of Parabrahma Paramatma.
(This article is a translation from Hindi of the first chapter of the book Adi Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ki Mahima by Dr. K.P. Agrawal (Voice of India, New Delhi). It was translated by M. Shreenivas Somayaji.)
The Mahabharata has been considered a fifth Veda. After the Great War, Lord Shri Krishna bestowed a boon upon the grandsire Bhishma, who lay on a bed of arrows awaiting the Uttarayana. Lord Krishna blessed Bhishma saying that whatever he said on the subjects of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha on the sacred land of Kurukshetra would be considered as authentic as the Vedas. In addition to the pronouncements of Bhishma, the Mahabharata also contains the teachings of Lord Krishna himself in the form of the Bhagavad Gita, given to Arjuna on the battlefield, in the shade of the arrow and the sword.
It is our conviction that the Guru Granth Sahib, which was composed and compiled also amidst the clash of swords and arrows, in the present Kali Yuga, is also such a book -- a book which can easily lead people to peace of mind and repose of soul, and to an easy attainment of the Supreme Moksha. This great work, composed in the language of the people contains in itself all the esoteric secrets and principles of the Vedas. A confluence of love, devotion and wisdom in the book resembles that of Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati. To bathe in the cool waters of the holy Triveni has become easy for everybody because the words of the Guru Granth are charged with the great Tapasya and Siddhis of the Gurus. The grace of the Almighty permeates the Granth.
It is our belief that the Guru Granth can be properly understood only by those who have studied and meditated upon the Upanishads, Smritis and the Puranas. Even if all the Vedic lore, the Puranas and the Shastras were to disappear, and only the Guru Granth Sahib were to remain, the ancient wisdom expounded by the Rishis and Munis would still be completely intact.
The Guru Granth Sahib is a ship whose destination is the attainment of Parabrahma Paramatma. The ship has been painted with the virtue of non-attachment, its flag-pole is the Hari-Nam, and on it flies the flag of Onkar. The ship carries the Sadhaka across the waters of the Bhavsagar, breaks the vicious cycle of Maya, and grants him deliverance from the eighty-four lakh births. The ship's engine is Ram-Nam and the fuel thereof is Devotion, Wisdom, Love and Non-attachment. The decks of the ship carry cushioned seats of the Saguna and Nirguna aspects of Brahman. Great Veda-vakyas like Neti-Neti and So'ham are the compass the ship is steered with. On the decks of the ship, the Leelas of the Avatars of the Heavenly Father are unceasingly enacted, to the tune of melodious Ragas. The personal form of Paramatma, in the form of the Satguru, is Himself the captain of the ship. The only ticket that one needs to get on board the ship is the Japa of the holy name. No one who climbs on this firm and seaworthy ship that is the Guru Granth Sahib can fail to cross the ocean of Samsara easily.
There are 1430 pages in the Guru Granth Sahib, irrespective of the shape or script the book is printed in. The book is set to 31 Ragas and Raginis. The Ragas and Raginis have been described in the last one and a half pages, in the Ragmala. The name of Hari appears about 10,000 times in the book. The name of Rama figures 2400 times, that of Parabrahma 550 times. Onkar has been referred to 400 times, and mention has been made of the Vedas, Puranas, Smritis and Shastras 350 times. Likewise, terms indicating the formless aspect of God such as Jagadish, Nirankar, Niranjan, Atma, Paramatma, Parameshvar, Antaryami, Purush, Kartar, etc have been used 2600 times. If the word "Naam" used in the sense of Paramatma is included, the number increases to 7000. In referring to Gurus with earthly forms, or to the Paramatma, the Granth Sahib makes a mention of the personal aspects of God about 2000 times in the words Govind, Murari, Madhav, Shaligram, Vishnu, Krishna, Sarangpani, Mukund, Thakur, Damodar, Vasudev, Mohan, Banwari, Madhusudan, Keshav, Chaturbhuj and so on. Puranic words like Kalimal, Bohit, Charankamal, Varuna, Yama, Dharmaraja, Chitragupta, Bhavajala, Vaikuntha, Tirtha, Kirtana, etc have been used 1700 times. Vedantic terms such as Neti-Neti, Triguna, Brahmanada, Jeevan-Mukta, Turiya, Amritpada, Parampada, Nirvana and others appear 1150 times in the Guru Granth.
All the Gurus have worshipped the Almighty in the form of a husband, likening themselves to a devoted wife. The pining of the beloved wife for the Divine husband has been described in very moving terms on several occasions in the Guru Granth. Words related to this emotion such as Pritam, Kanta, Khasam, Pati, Suhagin, Dohagin, Singar, Kamini, Saiyaraman have occurred 2500 times. Puranic words, for instance, Kali Yuga, Dharmaraja, Charankamal, Vaikunth, Kirtan, Moksha, Yama's noose, Maya, Lakh-Chaurasi, Tribhuvan, the four Ashramas, Rasatal, Patal etc have been mentioned 2000 times. All the poems and couplets composed by each of the Gurus carry the name Nanak at the end. The word Nanak thus appears 5000 times in the Granth, the name of Kabir 500 times, and those of other saints some 300 times.
At every step, the Guru Granth describes the proof of the unending and unconditional grace of God towards the devotee. The story of the Lord coming to Draupadi's rescue in the court of the Kauravas, or that of the Lord comforting Dhruva and Prahlada in times of distress, or leaving the luxuries of Duryodhana's palace to stay in Vidura's humble hut, or instantly saving Gaja from the clutches of Graha on hearing his cry for help, or the story of the Lord upholding his friendship with Sudama -- all are mentioned again and again to help the devotee strengthen his faith in the Lord. The story of Bhakta Prahlada has been told in detail four times. The Guru Granth has also repeatedly criticized hypocrisy and the following of paths which are contrary to the Shastras, in the severest terms. During the period when the Guru Granth was being composed, the masses were struggling under the rule of foreign rulers professing an alien faith. The anguished cry of the oppressed populace can be heard clearly in the Guru Granth Sahib, along with a severe and fearless indictment of the wicked rulers. The Guru Granth has on several occasions called upon the religious fanatics trapped within the confines of an intolerant faith to accept a truer, more universal religion. At every step, the Guru Granth reminds us to be unaffected by the transience of earthly existence but to perform our duties well, always remembering the Lord's name.
In articles to follow, we will try to describe how the deep secrets of the Vedas were easily captured in the words of Guru Nanak, and how stories from the Puranas were excerpted in the Guru Granth to make these principles even more accessible. It is a miracle wrought by the Granth Sahib that crores of simple, uneducated people, mostly the masses of Western India, could drink deep of the nectar-sweet ancient wisdom of the Shastras. It is the fruit of the tremendous Tapasya of the Gurus that this precious knowledge became available to the people in the colloquial language of the time. A perusal of these articles will enable the reader to understand why, in Western India and especially in Punjab, Hindu families have long felt privileged whenever one of their members became a Sikh.
The translator, M. Shreenivas Somayaji, is grateful to the publisher Sita Ram Goel (now sadly deceased), Voice of India, for permission to distribute the material in the book Adi Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ki Mahima by Shri K.P.Agrawal. The original book (in Hindi) can be purchased from the publisher: Voice of India, 2/18, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110002, India