Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha describes the meaning of Santhia as ‘Obtaining Vidhya (knowledge) after quieting the Man (mind) and Indria (bodily and sensory organs).’ Santhia is learning the correct pronunciation of Gurbani, along with the usage of punctuation and pauses (vishram). Santhia not only enables us to read Gurbani but also empowers us to begin understanding what Gurbani is saying to us. If we do not pause at the appropriate places in Gurbani, or pronounce the vowels correctly, the meanings of Gurbani can change. For example, one verse in Gurbani is written as follows;
If we apply the vishram in the above verse at “ghar”, the meaning will be, “In Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s house, Guru Ramdas ji has been born.” However this meaning is flawed as everyone knows that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the son of Guru Ramdas Ji, and the actual meaning should be “In the house of Guru Ramdas ji, Guru Arjan has been born.”
Hence, the verse should be read with a pause at “Arjan”, and the meaning will correctly unfold – “Guru Arjan, was born in the house of Guru Ramdas ji”. This is a key example of why Santhia is crucial to read and understand Gurbani.
‘Samparda’ is the word traditionally used to describe the institutions where Vidhya can be obtained, for example, the Taksaal. Delving deeper into this word gives us the ethos and philosophy of learning Santhia – that this is not something to keep and obtain for one person, this Vidhya is something to pass on to others. The word ‘Samprada’ is a Sanskrit word, meaning “gift, grant, bestowing; or handing down by tradition.” Samparda is thus a system passed on throughout history by verbal transmission — it is the lineage or living tradition of spiritual knowledge. A traditional school of religious teaching, transmitted from one teacher to their student, who further passes the Vidhya on to their students. It is in this way that the Santhia we learn can be traced back to Dasam Patshah, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji themselves. Learning Santhia and then teaching it to others is what keeps this ancient institution of ‘Taksaal’ alive and is one of the greatest services we can do to join the Sangat to Gurbani.
In order to understand what we are trying to achieve and what we stand for, it is important that we know the meaning behind choosing the name ‘Nihung Santhia’. We did not choose this particular name because we belong to any specific Jathebandi. Nor because we are promoting any kind of Maryada, or accepting a certain ‘category’ of student. It is merely a play with words that appeals to ones thinking.
‘Nihung’ is made up of two words, ‘ni’ meaning without and ‘Hung’ referring to the ego.
1) Before receiving Gurbani Santhia, it is imperative that one leaves their ego behind to bear the full fruit of reading Gurbani.
In life, ego is a major obstacle, preventing us from receiving the true blessings of Guru Maharaj. There are millions of Ardas performed every day, but when our Ardas does not bear fruit, instead of reflecting on our mindset when we performed the Ardas (our ego), we begin to lose faith in Guru Sahib and question their power. Consequently, some result to placing their faith elsewhere, typically in a self-proclaimed ‘Baba’, or so-called ‘Sadhu’.
The problem is not our Guru, Sadh Sangat ji, we are the ones performing the Ardas, meaning we are the ones in need. We teach our children to ask nicely, but with us being children of Guru Sahib, we also need to learn how to ask nicely. Any blessing from Guru Sahib is received the same way, be it through Ardas, or Gurbani Santhia, so we encourage that one comes onto the path with full humility.
2) Receiving Gurbani Santhia to rid oneself of their ego.
Coming into a situation with the right mindset is imperative in determining what you will receive from it. If we are conscious of our ego from the start, as well as the need to discard it, then there is no better cure than Gurbani Santhia.
Gurbani is the cure for all physical and mental diseases, and Guru ji is the only Doctor with this medicine. (‘Satguru Baajjhu, Vaaid N Koee’ – Understand, there is no other Doctor than SatGuru).
In the confines of receiving Gurbani Santhia from an Ustaad, Gurbani can be seen as the medicine being prescribed tactically in particular doses and methods. Correspondingly, the Ustaad can be seen as the doctor, carefully nurturing and prescribing the remedy.
3) Wearing the internal Bana, as well as the external Bana.
Today we have many Gursikh brothers and sisters who are blessed to be wearing Guru Sahibs Bana, and Shastar, but when it comes to reading Gurbani, their internal traits do not always balance with the unblemished sight of Guru ji. The external form is a focus point for all societies, regardless of the race or ‘group’ one belongs to. We choose to dress a certain way to conform to society, or sometime even to stand out, and it is commonly viewed as a means of one to express themselves. Similarly, where the Bana is symbolic of who we are, it does not necessarily determine our actions. As Gursikhs, we are weighed on our actions, so it is imperative to have complete focus on our internal image.
It is very easy to take on the outer form of the Khalsa through the Bana, but without Gurbani, the inner qualities of a Khalsa cannot be obtained. Both work together hand in hand, as quoted in old writings such as the Rehatnamas:
ਬਾਣੀ ਬਾਣਾ ਪੰਥ ਪਛਾਣੋ, ਸਿੰਘ ਗੁਰੂ ਕਾ ਪੰਛੀ ਜਾਣੋ ||
Bana (outer appearance) and Bani are the two wings, which allow the Sikh of the Guru to fly (i.e. progress on the spiritual path.)
A true Nihung is one who rids themselves of ego, which can only happen through the power of Gurbani. Therefore Santhia (learning the correct pronunciation and meanings of Gurbani) is one of the first steps to be able to get closer to this state of ‘Nihangta’ (freeness from ego.)
It is every Gursikh’s responsibility to not only be Shastar-dhaaree externally, but also internally. We must wear our internal Shastar (Gurbani) with care, be responsible with them and know how to use them to battle our inner demons. This is the true path of a Gursikh and ‘Nihung Santhia’ aims to Spread Gurbani Santhia, so our Panth is internally armed and trained to fight the internal battle of life!