Serial Bus

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Ik Onkar i.e. One God

with 3 comments

Every Monday morning, Nidhi drops me off at New Haven. As we drive out at 6am, it is still dark with a flicker of morning sun in the distant sky. We like listening to music in the car and the number we always start with is ‘Ik Onkar’, as sung by Harshdeep Kaur in Rang De Basanti, set to music by Rahman. I have always found the rendering very moving and spiritual. Today, I decided to find out what it means.

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥

Ik oaʼnkār saṯ nām karṯā purakẖ nirbẖa o nirvair akāl mūraṯ ajūnī saibẖaʼn gur parsāḏ.

Its called the MulMantra (Root Verse), the chief tenet of Sikhism and was composed by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. This is a very powerful evocation of the nature of God. 

I provide below the meaning of each phrase, separated by pauses in the song. For more commentary on the MulMantra, visit here.

Ik onkaar: There is only one God                                                                                                                  

Sat naam: His name is Truth

Kartaa purakh: The one who Creates

Nirbh-a-o: One without Fear

Nirvair: One without Hate

Akaal moorat: A Being beyond Time

Ajoonee, saibhan: Unborn, Self-existent 

Gur parsaad: Attained through dedication to Him

Jap: Worth repeating

Aad sach: Truth in the Beginning

Jugaad sach: Truth through the Ages

Hai bhee sach: Truth even Now

Naanak hosee bhee sach: Shall remain the Truth, says Nanak

Sochai soch naa hov-a-ee: By thinking, He can’t be reduced to Thought

Jay sochee lakh vaar: Even if one thinks 100,000 times

Chupai chup naa hov-a-ee: By being silent, Silence can not be achieved

Jay laa-i rahaa liv taar: Even by being absorbed deep within

Bhukhi-aa bhukh naa utree: The hunger of the hungry is not appeased

Jay bannaa puree-aa bhaar: Even if a load of worldly goods is attained

Sehas si-aanpaa lakh hoh: Hundreds of thousands of clever tricks

Taa ik naa chalai naal: But not even one will last

Kiv sachi-aaraa ho-ee-ai: How can you become truthful?

Kiv koorhai tutai paal: How do you remove the veil of illusion?

Hukam rajaa-ee chalnaa: You shall obey His command

Naanak likhi-aa naal: It is written, says Nanak!


It is interesting to note how different religions have the same core monotheistic message: that God is ‘but One’ and is usually, without form. Lets check out the principal messages of some other religions:

Islam: La Ilaha illalah (There is no lord worthy of worship except Allah)

Christianity/Judaism: I am the Lord your God, You Shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol (from the Ten Commandments)

Hinduism: Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadantya (Truth is One, but sages call upon God by many names) from Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture


I wonder why religion is at the centre of so much divisiveness and difference of opinion, when most religions have the same core philosophy. Since times immemorial, most apologists for religion continue to accuse people of misinterpreting God’s message. If you think about it, the message seems too important (& apparently too complex) to be risked being misunderstood by a world full of people with largely moderate IQs. If the shoe never fits, may be the feet are better off unshod.

But, I guess that would be another story and another post….


Written by serialbus

October 5, 2008 at 9:07 am

3 Responses

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  1. Assuming that most religions have the same core philosophy (which could depend on where you choose to locate the ‘core’ because most religious philosophies are extensive and very often self contradictory in several places. In fact, as you probably know a large amount of religious discourse is often about how to align inconsistent religious texts. How do you then, I wonder, locate the core of any religion?) Anyway, getting back to my original comment,

    “There is no lord worthy of worship except Allah.” or “I am the Lord your God, You Shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

    True, these lines talk about the existence of one God, but that ‘one God’ also negates the other religions’ ‘one God’. So each religion is ok with one God/one Truth in its own universe (world view or whatever you might like to call it). The difference of opinion steps in when the two universe collide.

    Did I tell you that I found your Blog on LHC very entertaining :)?


    October 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm

  2. The ‘One God’ concept is universal and I have been wondering off late if the God is nothing but us individuals ourselves – My take is that God is literally inside each one of us – in our brians as thoughts and extrasensory. It is upto each of us individuals to interpret those in a way we deem ideal. But man being a social animal always finds comfort in sharing or participating in groups. And that I think could have been the reason to form a religion – belong to a group of individuals who share your ideas of GOD. Then as population enlarged, entropy set in, ideas diverged and many religions sprang up!!! End of it all, the GOD is still inside us – no one has ever seen HIM/HER (i believe) but a lot of us believe this.

    Read some interesting article (neurotheology) about how our brains function when subjected to religious, semi religious and atheist view points – this study was performed on a diverse set of individuals ranging from radical religious to extreme non-believers 🙂
    Another interesting read –


    October 9, 2008 at 7:49 am

  3. Another interesting read from wikipedia


    October 10, 2008 at 2:01 pm

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