New Translation and Commentary by Doug Marman
Down through time, mystics, seers, and spiritual travelers have journeyed into higher states of consciousness. They returned transformed and inspired. Each described their experiences differently. Some say they saw the Cosmic Tree of Life. Others tell about merging into a pool of truth, or visiting a golden temple of wisdom. These are not myths, but poetic ways of describing the awareness that bathed, illuminated, and enlightened them.
“Sukhmani” means “bringer of peace to the heart.” Guru Arjan wrote this book over 400 years ago, after someone struggling with life begged him to share how he found peacefulness. Arjan’s answer is one of the deepest and most insightful testaments ever recorded.
However, this book tells another story, as well: That spiritual teachings are often lost through dogmatic thinking and the practice of rituals – even when the author warned of this danger.
Sukhmani should be of particular interest to modern day followers of Eckankar, Sant Mat, and Radhasoami. The connection with Eckankar is especially strong. The Sukhmani opens with this line:
Ek Onkar Sat Guru Prasad.
This means: “The One Reality – realized through the grace of the True Guru.” Some translations spell it this way:
Ekankar Sat Guru Prasad.
The resemblance to Eckankar is no accident. Paul Twitchell derived the name for his modern teaching from this phrase. The connection goes deeper, as Guru Arjan was teaching what he knew of Eckankar, in his time.
This new translation is an attempt at restoring Sukhmani to its original meaning, to return a sacred stone, once lost, to its original source. Reading Guru Arjan’s words shows us how timeless the living path of Spirit truly is.
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EXCERPT FROM SUKHMANI – THE SECRET OF INNER PEACE:
Ek Onkar (The One God) is realized through the grace of the True Guru.
I bow to the Primal Guru, the source of all teachings.
I bow to the Guru of the Ages, who existed before time.
I bow to the True Guru.
I bow to the Living Guru.
Remember, remember, remember God,
And obtain the spiritual peace that dispels the troubles of mind and body.
Remember the Name of Ek (The One) which showers blessings upon the world.
Its name is uttered and remembered silently by countless beings.
Writers of the holy books have found the most sacred word of Ek.
They declare this Word is God’s name.
In whomever’s heart the Ek resides, even to a small extent,
No praises can describe such a one.
There are lovers who long for only one glance from IT.
O Nanak, join the society of those who are closest to God.
God’s Name is Sukhmani (Bestower of spiritual peace and happiness).
This nectar resides in the hearts of true lovers of God.
By remembering God, Soul leaves behind the cycles of birth and rebirth.
By remembering God, the Lord of Death stands aside.
By remembering God, the dark shadow of Kal cannot approach.
By remembering God, the inner enemies of turmoil and confusion retreat.
By remembering God, obstacles of the heart cannot arise.
By remembering God, the lover of God remains awake, inwardly, night and day.
By remembering God, fearfulness leaves the mind.
By remembering God, sorrow and pain may pass by, but they cannot grip Soul.
The gift of the remembrance of God is gained in Satsang, amongst true lovers of God.
O Nanak, all treasures of wealth are obtained through the sincere love of God.
* * * * *
LISTEN TO THE RESONANCE and reverberation of Arjan’s phrase, “remembering God,” over and over. This sound carries an echo of the spiritual exercise it is describing: repeating the sacred names of God. This is what this chapter describes through its words and, even more importantly, with its fabric and design.
* * * * *
This theme will resurface throughout Sukhmani. But even though Arjan says it over and over, never once is the actual name of God ever mentioned. There is a reason for this. . .
This shows us that the Name is something else. It is not a word to be spelled out with letters. It can only be uttered in the unspoken language, as Guru Nanak called it. This means that only Soul knows how to speak it. It must come from within.
Even more importantly is the fact that this is not mentioned in writing. The practice of chanting the name of God is taught to those who would follow these teachings. This shows that the power of this system is derived not from the word itself, but from the grace of the True Guru or Spiritual Teacher.
This is the meaning of the opening phrase of Sukhmani. This teaching is gained “through the grace of the True Guru.” It is imparted, or shall we say transmitted, to the follower. The seeker must catch its inner form and resonance from those who have it.
* * * * *
[W]hen Arjan refers to the True Guru, he means something more than a human being. It manifests both outwardly and inwardly. It belongs to no religion, since it pre-dates all of them. Yet, It is the source of all spiritual teachings and wisdom. Connecting us on the outer to the true name of God, the True Guru leads us back to the original source, which is God Itself.
The need of a Guru, Master, or Spiritual Teacher is at odds with our modern scientific culture. Academic education teaches intellectual knowledge that can be gained from studying written words. To scholars, sacred teachings are no more than what is contained in the holy books of the various traditions. If we study and read these holy books, they claim, we will understand everything known to religion.
This shows that our modern educational system is focused on the outer world. There is no mention of an inner teaching that can only be caught through contemplation and by connecting with those who have gained it before. Only Soul, or Surat, can gain these secrets of Spirit.
The other problem with gurus and spiritual teachers, of course, is how difficult it can be for seekers to distinguish the true ones. Wherever we look, we see examples of men and women claiming to be teachers. Many are no more than orthodox preachers, and the worst are deluded by their own self importance. This makes finding a Living Guru a difficult task.
Popular Western society has no solution to this dilemma. It rejects the problem by claiming that those who follow spiritual teachers are fools. As a result, the mainstream belief today is that we should only depend upon ourselves or God, but never another person.
Sukhmani gives out a very different teaching. The message is just as relevant today as it was 400 years ago. The path of the mind is a road filled with doubts and fears, because the mind cannot resolve these issues. But the Nam of God can. As Rumi, the Sufi mystic, once explained, God doesn’t solve each problem separately, but provides one answer that resolves all questions.
Therefore, practice of the remembrance of God, when learned from one who carries this Nam upon their tongue, restores to us the true meaning of the Path. Soul recognizes the truth of this, and the happiness discovered is proof of this. This is how Sukhmani imparts spiritual peace.