On the occasion of Parkash Purab of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, let us look at the fruitful and fruitless affairs as per Guru Ji’s own shabad. The Rahaao lines of the shabad convey its essential message, while the other lines are supporting statements plus clarifications to the central idea being conveyed in the Rahaao lines. Here Guru Ji is saying:

ਜਪਹੁ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮਾ ਅਵਰਿ ਨਿਰਾਫਲ ਕਾਮਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥”

“Japahu ta eko naamaa. Avar niraafal kaamaa. 1. Rahaao.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 728)

Translation: Meditate on the Name of the One Lord. All other actions are fruitless. ||1||Pause||

We are seeing that the emphasis by Guru Nanak Dev Ji is on “Naam Japna” or meditating on Naam. In this shabad, Guru Ji shares how that process of “Naam Japna” takes place, which we will explore. Guru Ji starts by employing the metaphor of milk and its transformation to butter:

“ਭਾਂਡਾ ਧੋਇ ਬੈਸਿ ਧੂਪੁ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਤਉ ਦੂਧੈ ਕਉ ਜਾਵਹੁ ॥

ਦੂਧੁ ਕਰਮ ਫੁਨਿ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਮਾਇਣੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਰਿਾਸ ਜਮਾਵਹੁ ॥੧॥”

“Bhaanddaa dhoi bais dhoop dhevahu tau dhoodhai kau jaavahu. 

Dhoodh karam fun surat samain hoi niraas jamaavahu. 1.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 728)

Translation: Wash the vessel, sit it down and anoint it with fragrance; then, go out and get the milk. 

Add the rennet of clear consciousness to the milk of good deeds, and then, let it sit free of desires to curdle. ||1||


The vessel or utensil is first to be washed with clean water and then it is set out in the sun to dry and disinfect. Some writers' interpretation is that the vessel is disinfected with the smoke from the incense stick, but in essence the idea of disinfecting remains. Thus, the first step of cleaning the vessel is the purification of body/mind. Then with the clean vessel go out to get the milk of good deeds. To this milk in the vessel add the starter of meditation to ferment and leave it undisturbed to curdle overnight making the yogurt.  

What is the current state of the vessel (metaphor for the body/mind) now? Guru Nanak Ji says: It is utterly soiled “Bhaanddaa utt maleen” (SGGS, Pg. No. 730). Guru Ji says it is soiled with the thoughts of greed, guilefulness, slandering and aggression etc. Additionally, it is obsessed to hear its own praises and ever ready to trash others. It craves violence, and aggression makes it feel good. It has been scientifically proven that aggressive events trigger a dopamine release to the brain providing it with thrill. So, Guru Ji says our body vessels are filthy. There is a torrent of thoughts in the mind. Many a time they are constantly vacillating in nature. Even the types of thoughts that we get are not conducive to the remembrance of God. Guru Ji says it needs to be washed, dried, and made free from toxins. Where can such a cleansing take place? Guru Ji provides the place and the methodology as:

“ਗੁਰੂ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਹੋਇ ਸੋਝੀ ਪਾਇਸੀ ॥

ਏਤੁ ਦੁਆਰੈ ਧੋਇ ਹਛਾ ਹੋਇਸੀ ॥

ਮੈਲੇ ਹਛੇ ਕਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ਆਪਿ ਵਰਤਾਇਸੀ ॥”

“Guroo duaarai hoi sojhee paisee. 

Aet dhuaarai dhoi hachhaa hoisee. 

Maile hachhe kaa veechaar aap varataisee.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 730)

Translation: Through the Gurdwara, the Guru's Gate, one obtains understanding.

By being washed through this Gate, it becomes pure.

The Lord Himself sets the standards to discriminate between good and evil. 

Now the analogy of cleaning the vessel makes sense. The cleaning that Guru Ji is talking about is not of the physical body cleaning with the great cleaning agent as water, but the cleansing of thought process is being suggested by Guru Ji. It is from Guru alone, the rationale of right and wrong will emerge. This is the place for the start of transformation. The result will be that the aggressive nature will be replaced with a loving nature, full of reverence. Then only that vessel will become clean, a suitable receptacle for milk of good deeds. Guru Ji refers to milk as the daily actions in life. Milk symbolizes purity, as well as its nurturing quality, same way our actions will become pristine, nurturing, without the traits of greed, lust, aggression etc. So, when reverence is inculcated within, the results of cleansing process will become manifest, as Guru Ji shares: 

ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਭਾਂਡੈ ਭਾਉ ਤਿਨਾ ਸਵਾਰਸੀ

ਸੂਖੀ ਕਰੈ ਪਸਾਉ ਦੂਖ ਵਿਸਾਰਸੀ

ਸਹਸਾ ਮੂਲੇ ਨਾਹਿ ਸਰਪਰ ਤਾਰਸੀ ॥੧॥”

“Jin kau bhaanddai bhaau tinaa savaarasee. 

Sukhee karai pasaau dhookh visaarasee. 

Sahasaa moolae naeh sarapar taarasee. 1.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 729)

Translation: Those, whose minds are filled with reverence, will be embellished.

They are blessed with peace, and their pains and sufferings eradicated.

Absolutely, without any doubt, they will be ferried across. ||1||

The reverent attitude is a true inner adornment, and it will be reflected in daily life activities. Then with that raised awareness, bereft of worldly hopes and expectations, totally detached from worldly desires, as the ferment (starter), apply and leave it undisturbed. The stilled mind devoid of thoughts will thus transform the milk of daily activity into yogurt. This is the process of transformation of rising above worldly desires. Guru Ji elaborates on the further development process as:

ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਈਟੀ ਹਾਥਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਨੇਤ੍ਰਉ ਨੀਦ ਆਵੈ

ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਤਬ ਮਥੀਐ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪਾਵਹੁ ॥੨॥”   

“Eih man ieeTee haath karahu fun netrau needh na aavai. 

Rasanaa naam japahu tab matheeaai in bidh a(n)mrit paavahu. 2.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 728)

Translation: Let your mind be the handpieces, and then ever awareness as the churn-string churn it.

Utter the Naam, the Name of the Lord, with your tongue, then the yogurt will be churned. In this way, the Ambrosial Nectar is obtained. ||2||


With the two end handpieces as mind and the string of ever awareness churn the shaft back and forth with alertness. The desireless tongue acting as the blades will churn the yogurt of good deeds. In other words, the good deeds are credited to God as He channeled those through the doer, instead of taking credit for them as the doer. This process of churning will produce butter which will float to the top of the vessel. The butter is the metaphor for ambrosial nectar or wisdom. Let us recap the steps:

  1. Washing the Vessel – Is the cleansing of the awareness 
  2. Disinfecting the Vessel – Keeping the mind pure and elevated through the daily activities amidst the worldly temptations. In short, becoming a person of high character and clear consciousness. 
  3. Adding the starter to ferment – Keeping the awareness in Supreme God 
  4. Let it sit to become yogurt from the milk – Becoming detached to worldly desires
  5. End Handpieces of the churn-string – Keeping the watchful eyes over the daily actions
  6. Churn-string of awareness – Watching over with each breath to ensure that the mind is not being lulled to sleep of unawareness by the glitter of the material world.  
  7. Process of Churning – Uttering and remembering the Divine Virtues with the tongue.
  8. Butter rising to top of the vessel – The Ambrosial Naam is obtained. God is experienced within. 

We briefly saw the metaphor of making butter from milk being employed by Guru Ji to share the most significant message of Guru Ji’s teachings. In the process of making the butter, there is constant back and forth churning, producing an agitation in the contents of the vessel. However, outwardly the vessel appears to be in a state of complete rest without any movement at all. But the calmness is only on the outside, yet inside there is an agitation of unique desire to connect with Naam. Guru Ji has shared the state of the mind of the seeker. Connecting with Naam implies remembrance of the realization that I am not the doer, just a medium through which the Doer – God, is doing.

Guru Ji continues with the shabad and provides another metaphor of washing the statues of gods and making offerings of flowers and petals to them. But for this discussion we will restrict ourselves to the first metaphor of making butter and further explore its nuances. 

First let us start with the question of urgency with all these efforts. Guru Ji says because the life that we are born with is fleeting away approaching the end point. With each breath life is winding down, Guru Ji wants us to be concerned about the soul:

“ਛੀਜਤ ਡੋਰਿ ਦਿਨਸੁ ਅਰੁ ਰੈਨੀ ਜੀਅ ਕੋ ਕਾਜੁ ਨ ਕੀਨੋ ਕਛੂਆ ॥੨॥”

“Chheejat ddor dhinas ar rainee jeea ko kaaj na keeno kachhooaa. 2.”

(SGGS, Pg. No. 206)

Translation: The string of life is dwindling thin uninterrupted day and night, and you have done nothing worthwhile for your soul. ||2||

Guru Ji clarifies where the whole efforts have been misdirected:

ਲਬੁ ਕੁਤਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਚੂਹੜਾ ਠਗਿ ਖਾਧਾ ਮੁਰਦਾਰੁ

ਪਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਪਰ ਮਲੁ ਮੁਖ ਸੁਧੀ ਅਗਨਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਚੰਡਾਲੁ

ਰਸ ਕਸ ਆਪੁ ਸਲਾਹਣਾ ਕਰਮ ਮੇਰੇ ਕਰਤਾਰ ॥੧॥”

“Lub kutaa kooR choohaRaa Thug khaadhaa muradhaar. 

Par nindhaa par mal mukh sudhee agan karodh chanddaal. 

Ras kas aap salaahanaa e karam mere kartaar. 1.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 15)

Translation: Greed is a dog; falsehood is a filthy street-sweeper. Cheating is eating a rotting carcass.

Slandering others is putting the filth of others into your own mouth. The fire of anger is the low worker who burns dead bodies at the crematorium.

I am caught in these tastes and flavors, and in self-conceited praise. These are my actions, O my Creator! ||1||

Guru Ji wants us to redirect our efforts in collecting ambrosial nectar of Naam as all other endeavors are fruitless. Because that Naam alone is the savior in this world and in the after world. Guru Ji has declared that:

ਤੇਰਾ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਤਾਰੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥”

“Teraa ek naam taare sansaar.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 24)

Translation: Your Name alone, Lord, saves the world.

So, Guru Ji explains the process of “Naam Japna” as:

  1. To utter/sing praises of God with a word or a string of words
  2. To hear those words being said/sung
  3. By singing the praises, try to internalize those in the heart
  4. To elevate one’s our own character emulating the characteristics heard in the process of “Naam Japna”

Thus, “Naam Japna” is to intentionally remember and internalize God or reside Him in the heart, mind, and soul. There is tremendous power in remembrance which we have never explored. It brings us closer to whom we remember, strengthening faith. It builds positive feelings and affirms the powers of God. Guru Ji says their coming to this world is fruitful in these words:

“ਆਇਆ ਤਿਨ ਕਾ ਸਫਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਹੈ ਇਕ ਮਨਿ ਜਿਨੀ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥”

“Aaiaa tin kaa safal bhaeya hai ik mun jinee dhiaaiaa.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 579)

Translation: Fruitful is the coming of those, who meditate single-mindedly on Him. 



  1. www.Sikhitothemax.com
  2. https://www.livescience.com/2231-humans-crave-violence-sex.html

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