Reading and Interpreting the Scriptures

The Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhi script. However, there are words from many languages including Persian and Sanskrit. The Gurus aimed at making mysticism accessible to general masses but there are specific mystic terms from a range of traditions – Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.

The texts of previous mystics were collected by Guru Nanak Dev and he added his own hymns to the collections. These were passed down through a succession of Gurus till they were collected in a single volume, a granth. This text is called the Adi Granth and was compiled by Guru Arjun Dev Ji in 1604. The original manuscript still exists and is kept at Kartarpur, in the Punjab in Northern India. Later, the writings of the Ninth Guru were added and the text known as the Guru Granth Sahib was finalized in 1708.

The most significant complementary texts are the writings of Bhai Gurdas which are regarded as a basic summary of the main themes of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. There were also texts written by the poets of the court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. They had been dismissed by the Emperor Aurangzeb as he regarded poetry as un-Islamic. They took residence with the Guru and wrote a range of texts, including the Diwan-i-Goya. Some maintain that they also wrote many or all of the texts that have been collected in what is today called the Dasam Granth, although other Sikhs maintain that some or even all of these poems were written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Some commentators interpret the language of these texts within the structure of Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist thought, while others see it as metaphorical and mythological. For example, some groups within Sikhi use literal interpretations of heaven and hell while others regard these as metaphors. Some groups use tradition as a guide to practice while others argue that it is important to continue to re-apply the principles to situations in the present.

Analysis is always from a perspective, a lens. Therefore, no commentator assumes that their understanding is perfect largely because the text is a dialogue between different mystics and the One, the mystics among themselves and between the soul of the reader or commentator and the One.

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