We are all lovers, devotees of a higher power, thousands of lovers, but the Beloved is one for all. He whom we desire is the beloved of the whole world and is the one God for all men, not specifically for Muslims only, or for Hindus only, or for Christians only.
          Sant Kirpal Singh

What is Naam?

From the book "Naam or Word", written by Sant Kirpal Singh

We talk and hear a lot about Naam, but never for a moment pause to ponder over what it is, and how to gain salvation or Nirvana through it.

What is that Name, the remembrance whereof leads to Nirvana?
What is that name, the repetition whereof enables a person to cross over the world of sorrow?

In fact the Lord God is nameless, but we have given Him myriads of names. What name can indeed describe the Formless, the Limitless, the Incomprehensible, one beyond the grasp of senses and the intellect? Still man has, through the ages, endeavoured to put Him in the trammels of words and clothe Him with epithets just for the sake of expression, though all combined together fail hopelessly to do any justice to Him. After all words do come from a limited source and cannot possibly limit the Limitless:

If all the mountains were pounded into ink-powder and mixed with the waters of the oceans, pens were made out of all the forest trees, and the entire earth were a sheet of paper, the glory of God or Naam or God-into-expression Power could not even then be described.

All names are Thine and so are all forms Thine,
but all fail to enumerate Thy countless attributes.


Thou embracest in Thee all powers and potentialities, all riches and treasures,
for Thou art the Primeval Cause, the Causeless Cause both material and effi­cient.
The Lord of all, Thy names are numberless.


God has names beyond our comprehension.
He can­not be known and no name can describe Him.
The learned and the unlettered have done their very best
but have not been able to evaluate even a particle of His greatness.

O God! so many art Thy names, that the poor tongue faileth to enumerate them.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, says,

Who can sing of the glory of all Thy names?
Still the wise tell us of Thine attributes.

All names fall into two categories:

(i) Karam Naam or names indicative of gunas (quali­ties) or swab have, that is, qualitative or attributive names; like Ram, Rahim and Karim (i.e., all-pervad­ing, merciful and compassionate).
(ii) Pura Purbala Naam or personal names which are all-comprehensive, ancient and eternal.

We generally sing the glory of God with man-made names,
But His Great Name – Sat Naam – is eternally the same.


The question that now arises is one of choice: which of these countless names is the most efficacious and speedily fruitful? The Hindus in general glorify "Om" and speak highly of "Ram-Naam." The Muslims prefer "Allah" and the Sikhs "Wah-i-Guru." Every religious order has thus adopted one or the other name as a central tenet and makes use of it in their daily worship and devotion. To confine one's self to any of these exclusively would mean making God partial. Our quest leads us to a number of issues such as:

(a) Selection of the most fruitful name.
(b) Mode of repetition: Should the name selected be repeated mentally or through meditation on the meaning of the word selected.

If we refer to the Sikh sacred literature, we come across varied references, some dealing with Japa or repetition, others with Sunan or hearing, Manan or acceptance, Dhyan or meditation and last but not least, Self-illumination and Sound Principle as well.

Remember Naam, O my brethren-in-faith,
This grants peace, O keep the mind ever fixed in Naam.

By hearing Naam, the mind gets stilled,
The greatness of Naam is known through the Master.

Commune with Naam till the last breath of life,
This brings proximity to God and He saves in the end.

Those who contact not the Naam,
why do they come into the world?

Arid is the field of life for them
and they die a miser­able death.

The devotees of the Lord are His representatives
and unto them we pray,
We, the filthy worms, are at their feet,
let the Divine light fill us through.

A contact with the Sound Current gives self reali­zation which is the summum bonum of life.
By it one is washed of all impurities of the mind and easily merges into Life Divine.
O Nanak! this con­tact is established by a rare

A contact with Naam makes one self-luminous,
with luminosity vying with myriads of suns.


By Thy grace manifest the Divine light of Naam.

In Naam there is perfect food, both for the eyes and the ears. Next we hear of the sinking in and dwelling of Naam in the tablet of the mind. It is clearly stated in the sacred Sikh scriptures that this contact can only be had beyond the domain of senses and sensory organs:

Naam is not the subject of the eyes.
It is something wonderful and indescribable.


References like these lead to but one irresistible conclu­sion: that the true Naam is something beyond this or that word. It is a great magnetic Power, and a force that can grip the mind. It is characterized by sweet strains and melodious tunes, which can be heard, and powerful light which can be seen and witnessed. It is this Naam or Power and Force of Godhead which cannot be comprehended by the senses and can only be realized and experienced in Super-sensual planes. It is a Life Current that pervades the entire creation and is hence called Ram Naam or All-Embracing Impulse. Kabir Sahib says:

There are myriads of names in the world,
but none of them can grant salvation.
The Primeval Name is a hidden one
and a rare soul can know and realize it.

Oral repetition of names has its own place and utility, and is needed for some purposes, but it cannot lead to self-realization and God-realization, both of which can be achieved only through contact with God-in-action, call it what we may – Shabd, Ram-Naam, Kalma, Word, Sruti, Sraosha, etc.; and this contact can come about only through the Grace of some competent living Master.

Everyone is repeating the monosyllable Ram
but gets no touch with the Power Ram behind the mono­syllable:
It is the Grace of the Master alone that can give a living touch
with the All-Embracing Life Impulse and the wish-yielding Elixir.

A thirsty traveller can not quench his thirst by simply crying for "water," unless he actually gets the substance, water. Yari Sahib, therefore, says:

The tongue tires itself out by repeating the word Ram,
The repetition of the word "water" never quenches the thirst,
One may slake the thirst by taking a draught of water.

Kabir Sahib, in this context, speaks thus:

Mere repetition of this or that name, without an actual touch with the named, is of no avail.
If one were to become rich by calling for riches, then there would hardly be one who is not rich.

Nameless is He and yet all names are His. If one can but get in touch with His Power, all names become inconse­quential, for actual contact is what matters and not the words. If a thirsty person gets the substance, water, to quench his thirst, it does not matter if he calls for it as ab (Persian), water (English), aqua (Latin), eau (French), ma (Arabic) or hudor (Greek), for his purpose is served by any of these words. Similarly, the word "bread" is quite a different thing from the real bread. While one is just an expression used to distinguish it from other things, the other is the real bread that dispels hunger. So one must strive to contact the Reality rather than run after the shad­owy words that stand for the Reality.

From a mere name one has to get to the named before one can have the real benefit, a satisfaction to the ever-inner urge for filling the inner vacuum of the soul. Maulana Rumi saith:

O thou repeater of the Name,
go and search out the Named.
Without the Named,
how can a mere name give thee comfort?

Sant Tulsi Das, the famous author of the Hindi Ramayana or the biography of Lord Rama, has given precedence to Naam over both Rama and Brahma, since Naam is at once the Creator and the controlling power of Brahma, Parbrahma, Sat Naam, Alakh and Agam.

  1. In magnanimity and large-heartedness, Naam far excels both Brahm and Rama.
  2. Personal and Impersonal God are the two aspects of Brahm for He is at once Indescribable, Beginningless, Incomprehensible and Formless. I feel that Naam far transcends these two; for both of them are within its controlling Power, from age to age. Though both Brahm and Ram are beyond comprehension, yet they can be known and realized through Naam. I therefore say that Naam is greater than both Ram and Brahm.
  3. I cannot possibly sing the greatness of Naam. Even the blessed Lord Rama himself can hardly do any justice to the glory of Naam.

The last dictum of Sant Tulsi Das is significant indeed. Rama is said to be the incarnation of Brahm, and the latter with the entire hierarchy upward is the by-product or creation of Naam. In Jap Ji Sahib, Guru Nanak also refers to it pertinently:

There is one Spirit that has created the Universe; and given over its control to the three guardian angels: Brahma, Vishnu and Siva: one of whom is en­trusted with the task of creation, the other with that of sustenance or maintenance and the third with that of administering justice according to the Divine Law. That Spirit always keeps a watchful eye on the works of all the three, but the latter have no knowledge of It.

The majority of the multitudinous world has forgotten the Reality – the Ever-enduring Spirit of Naam – and are mightily busy in parrot-like repetition of the so many names of that Spirit, with the result that they keep en­grossed all the time in gathering husk and chaff instead of the grain. Hence all their hard labour goes unfruitful and they live in a famished state without getting any satisfac­tion:

Those who ignore Naam or the Power of God
and are busy with various other names
are just like muck­worms wallowing in filth.

The scriptural studies, the religious debates are all Mayaic or illusory and shadowy nothings,
O Nanak! except Naam, nothing is stable, and all acts not centred on Naam are fruitless.

Verily, verily, O Nanak! the true study is the study of Naam.

Bookish knowledge is all worldly wisdom.

Hari Naam is the essence of

Everyone wants happiness
but gets what God may ordain.
All acts of devotion and charity count for nothing
when compared with Naam.


Naam far excels Japa, Tapa, deeds of charity and the like.
A contact with Naam gets all desires fulfilled.

One cannot by the study of the scriptures cross the ocean of life,
Naam far transcends all acts of piety and


Naam is a Power and Motor Force behind everything and hence outer actions like pilgrimages to holy places, acts of charity, fasts, penances, yajnas or sacrificial oblations to fire and the like are of no avail to a seeker after Truth. Naam alone is the link between God and man. It is with the help of Naam that one can traverse to higher regions. It serves as an electric lift that can safely carry a spirit yearning for God-realization. Except Naam, there is no other Path Godward.

The body may be consigned to the flames or cut to pieces. The mind and the body may be made an offering and allowed to be consumed from day to day. All such penances and austerities are of no con­sequence when compared with Hari Naam.

The body may be cut in twain and the head be cut off for an offering or else it may be allowed to rot in the Himalayan snows, yet none of these acts can cure the mind. Alas, these have no efficacy, for we have tried them all with no avail.

One may give millions in charity including horses and elephants, lands and kine, yet these will make him a bloated coxcomb. It is only Ram Naam (the all-pervading Sound Current) that can still the mind, and It comes as a pure gift from a Master-soul. All intellectual wranglings, Hath-yogic practices, scrip­tural studies, are but the varied types of karmic bond­ages. The only way to freedom and salvation is a Master-saint.

Truth is greater than everything but higher still is true living.

In Sukhmani, we have a wonderful account of Naam:

The rosary, the penances, knowledge and thinking,
the study of shastras, smritis and scriptures,
the yogic practices and the performances of rites and rituals,
a life of solitude in the deep recesses of the forests,
all endeavours of various types, including deeds of
charity for name and fame, cutting of limbs in self-conceit,
all these and more still, do not come up to the merit of Naam, O Nanak!
A beloved of the Master is ever engaged in communion with the Word.
Circumambulation of the globe and a life of longevity,
Observance of austerities coupled with renunciation,
Life spent in the midst of five fires, or one devoted to
charitable deeds like giving away of worldly pos­sessions,
The observance of Niyoli Karm* and many other
yogic postures as enjoined by Jain scriptures,
And even a holocaust of one's body inch by inch,
All these and still more fail to purify the dirt of egoism;
Nothing comes up to the merit of Naam, O Nanak!
A beloved of the Master saves himself through communion with the Naam.
Even the desire to die at a sacred place does not rid one of his egoism,
All efforts to purify the body cannot sanctify the mind,
All physical practices cannot drive away the mental impurities,
All the methodical washings of the body cannot wash clean the clay-house,
The Power of Naam far transcends all these, O Nanak!
it has saving grace even for the worst of sinners.

The Vedas, the Smritis and all other sacred scriptures unanimously proclaim
that besides Naam there is no other Sadhan for spiritual advancement;
all else is mere idle talk

Nanak has the riches of Naam to dole out.

Nanak and Kabir both taught the science of the Naam,
And I too have manifested Naam within me,
Dhru and Prahlad were intoxicated with the elixir of Naam,
And Lord Siva too is ever engaged in meditating on Naam.


The world reveres those who have sought the path of the Naam for Naam can transform sinners into saints, for it ennobles and purifies:

By practising the science of inversion, one becomes world famous,
Even Valmik, a well known highwayman, acquired the status of a Brahm.


The lovers of God are ever engaged in the practice of the Word:

Whether awake or asleep and in whatever condition, O Nanak!
while doing everything they remain con­tacted within.


In the scriptures of all the religions, there are references to the Power of the Word:

All the religions are deeply rooted in the Naam,
There is no religion higher than that of the Naam.

The practice of the Naam is the noblest of all vir­tues.



*One of the Shat Karma or six acts in Hatha Yoga, in which the breath is held inside and the bowels are made to move both sides, right and left, so as to clear away waste matter from them.