21. What Does “Satnaam” Mean?


In this article with Guru’s kindness, I will try and tell you "The Truth, The whole Truth and nothing but the TRUTH, so help me God!"


On Guru Nanak Ji’s travels he met a group of holy men high up in the mountains.  Through years of meditation and yogic practices they had mastered many supernatural powers.  When Guru Nanak ji came to them they tried to impress him with their powers.   To show how great they were.   Once they had finished their display, they challenged Guru Nanak to show off his powers.  The great Guru said the following in the words of Bhai Gurdas Ji the sikh scholar of the time of the Gurus.


Baba Nanak  said, O respected Holy Man! Please listen to the Truth that I utter.
Without SATNAAM (The Name "Truth") I have no other miracle.
I may wear the clothes of fire and build my house in the Himalayas.
I may eat the iron and make earth move to my orders.
I may expand myself so much that I could push the earth.
I may weigh the earth and the sky against few grams of weight.
I may have so much power that I push aside anybody just by saying.
But without SATNAAM (The Name "Truth"),
all these powers are momentary like the shadow of the clouds.


Bhai Gurdas Var 1


A blessed Gursikh Bibi ji told us that she was blessed with divine vision of Dhan Dhan Guru Gobind Singh ji a few weeks ago (Jun 04).  She said that she could hear the Khalsa all chanting ‘SAT SAT SAT SAT…’.  Why was it that Guru Gobind Singh Ji wanted her to know that "SAT SAT SAT" was being chanted in the realm of Truth SACH KHAND where his divine vision came from?

It is interesting that 300 years into Sikhism that the majority of Sikhs associate only chanting of "WAHEGURU WAHEGURU" with Guru Gobind Singh ji and not "SAT SAT SAT".  Only a handful of holy people that I am aware of including Harbhajan Singh Yogi USA, Dya Singh Australian Muscian, Sant Sheesha Singh India still promote SATNAAM.  


Otherwise, the word "SATNAAM" seems to have been buried under centuries of different traditions within Sikhism introduced by countless religious leaders.  Nowadays it gets translated as the TRUE NAME.  And often WAHEGURU is added afterwards, so "SATNAAM WAHEGURU" gets translated as the TRUE NAME IS "WAHEGURU". 


However the phrase SATNAAM WAHEGURU does not appear in Guru Granth Sahib Ji.   To get to the real meaning of SATNAAM we have to dig deeper.  The following verse by Guru Gobind Singh Ji confirms what Bibi ji experienced:




Guru Gobind Singh Ji writes the following Dohira that is sung at the end of the "Sikh Artee".


"Aisay chand partaap tay
dayvan badhi-o partaap
teen lok jai jai karai
rarai NAAM SAT jaap"


After exalting Ad Shakti (God the Primal Power)

All divine beings were exalted.
The three worlds resounded with ‘Hail ! Hail !’
and the name (NAAM) of Truth (SAT) was repeated (JAAP).


When you rip away all the outer layers of Sikhism, underneath the uniform, the image, the history, the strange language and ceremonies you are left with a simple seed that it all started from.  That seed is called "Sat Naam".  Two words SAT and NAAM




God’s presence is everywhere, supporting all things at all times – in todays language we could say the energy structure of the whole Universe.   That presence of God, of Supreme Light Energy Being is called the NAAM by the Indian mystics and Sikh Gurus.


Other people call it by different names and dont always associate it with God.  New age people and Reiki practioners call it "Life Force",  Indian Yogis call it the  "Prana" , Chinese martial artists and monks call it  "Chee", Christians call it "The Holy Spirit".  Essentially it is the presence of God inside us and supporting absolutely everything.




Means TRUTH.  Meaning all we see around us is temporary, even we are just here like a spark emerging from a fire and disappearing after a second.  The only permanent thing is God’s presence.   So God’s original primal name that He chose for Himself was "TRUTH" or SAT.


The concept of Naam had been around well before Guru Nanak Ji’s time.   But that "life force" or "energy"  was not always associated with God.  What Guru Nanak ji did was put SAT infront of Naam.   He emphasised that this Naam was not just an energy or life force, but actually the prescence of God, of TRUTH, of SAT.



The tongue describes You using (various) praise names (eg HAR, WAHEGURU, RAM etc),
but the name "Truth" (SAT NAAM) is YOUR OWN original primal name.


Guru Ram Das. SGGS Ji 1083



Guru Nanak Ji teaches that God was in deep meditatation for an incredible amount of time (36 AGES).  And He broke this deep meditation by uttering a word – a vibration – what nowadays we might think of as  the BIG BANG.  When God gave the first vibration to start the Creative process He effectively said "I am God, I am SAT (Truth)".  Guru Nanak Ji wrote this down as "Ik Oankar Sat Naam" meaning "One God Named "Truth". 




What God wants us to do is to go into deep meditation (smadhi) inside ourselves and join HIM in HIS deep meditation.  When Guru Nanak entered the state of deep meditation (smadhi), he was blessed by God directly.  God gave Guru Nanak Ji two things to give suffering humanity:


a)         the SAT NAAM  mantra blessed by God (called the "Gur Prasadi Naam") and

b)         humility.


And like one candle lights another, Guru Nanak Ji would bless people with these two things. 


Although the popular chant of "SATNAAM WAHEGURU" does not appear in Gurbani, the following verse does appear twice.  And describes perfectly what Guru Nanak Ji was doing – giving the NAAM of SAT with GUR PRASAD – God’s blessing that was coming through him.


One God Named "Truth" by God’s Grace.


With God’s grace (Gur Prasad) the Sikh would meditate on the mantra SATNAAM in utmost humility.


I bow to Guru (Nanak) who announced the mantra of "SAT NAAM".


Bhai Gurdas Ji. Line 1 var 1.


The major objection I have heard as to meditating on SATNAAM is that Bhai Gurdas also writes at the end of the first var, that WAHEGURU is the GUR MANTR, by repeating which ego is erased.


Yes , no doubts that Sikhs at the Guru’s times did repeat "WAHEGURU WAHEGURU" as well.  It was the Gur Mantr, it was important for erasing the ego.  But it is not the NAAM.  Bhai Gurdas ji does not write that WAHEGURU was the NAAM.    WAHEGURU was not the GUR PRASADI NAAM that Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji refers to.


One God Named "Truth" by God’s Grace.


Repeating the Gur Mantr of "WAHEGURU WAHEGURU" will if done correctly help to erase ego.  But at some point after that a person needs to be blessed with God’s Graceful Name of Truth – Gurprasadi Naam.


And that blessing comes through the holy ones.   The whole of Siri Guru Granth Sahib ji praises the holy ones again and again.   SACH KHAND is run by the holy ones.  And you only enter SACH KHAND with the blessings of the holy ones.


Look at Baba Nand Singh Ji he meditated by himself for many years as a child.  Then Guru Gobind Singh Ji came to him in a vision and told him to go and learn from Baba Harnaam Singh Ji.  Even Guru Gobind Singh Ji being Guru, told Baba Nand Singh ji to go and serve the holy one and to learn Siri Guru Granth Sahjib ji from him.  


And thats what he did, and that’s where he got GUR PRASADI NAAM from.  The first thing Sant Harnam Singh ji made Baba Nand Singh ji do was 150,000 repititions on Mool Mantar – whci is effectively the longer version of Ik Oankar Satnaam.


This is how God’s Gurprasadi Game works.


Even in my own experience, for the first 6 years of my religious life after taking khanda-batta-da-pahul (Sikh Initiition) I did everything by the book.  I was not destined to have the the company of holy people at that time. 


Everything I knew about Sikhism was from parents and history books and translations of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.   I was trying really hard to do everything I was reading.  Practising things I picked up from Bhai Randheer Singh Ji’s autobiography, as well as books about Baba Nand Singh ji and Sant Attar Singh Ji.  I attended Sikh youth camps for 5 or 6 years, and was taught that there is no need for holy people, only Guru Granth Sahib ji. 


I was totaly dedicated to this path and wore the blue bana, did all the nitnem and much more like Sukhmani Sahibs and strict code of conduct.   But inside I was still crying for God unable to understand why I had had no spiritual progress.  Although by now I was well respected due to my Sikh uniform and attendance at camps at Gurdwaras.   


I started going to Gurdwara twice a day, doing as much seva as possible and standing in ardas with hands pressed together infront of Guru Granth Sahib Ji begging for God to meet me.  And one day God showed me a divine aura of white light around an elderly Singh in the sangat (Uncle jee).  WOW!  I was gobsmacked, but forgot about it for a few months.  


Then when I got desparate again I read Bhai Gurdas Ji’s var which said that a Sikh is the one who serves others and then eats.   So I used to rush to the Gurdwara in the morning to do langar seva.  And who would come to eat – but Uncle jee.    Everyday he would tell me something divine. 


First day he said "Just by looking like a good Sikh doesnt mean you are close to God on the inside".  I was going to argue with him about the importance of wearing the bana, but then another thought came into my mind saying "God showed you HIS divine light on this person, so listen and learn." 


 So over the next 6 months of his holy sangat, and respecting him as how Sukhmani Sahib says to respect a saint, my spiritual dreams were fulfilled.  God blessed this fool with a view of Himself.


Uncle ji did not say he was anything other than an ant at the Guru’s feet.  But as Sukhmani Sahib says the one who become the lowest in this world, becomes the highest in SACH KHAND Gods realm of Truth.


And I learnt a very big lesson from that.    We pray infront of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.  We read Sukhmani Sahib countless times and chant the Gur mantr "WAHEGURU WAHEGURU".  But until we do what Guru Granth Sahib ji and Sukhmani Sahib says and go and serve the holy ones, we will have no spiritual progress.   This path to God is a GUR PRASADI GAME.  And the GurPrasad – God’s grace – is bestowed upon an individual by through a holy person. 


By someone who has already pleased God and who resides in SACH KHAND.   This does not undermine the importance of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.  Guru Granth Sahib ji is telling us to do this.  By doing this we are actually respecting Guru Granth Sahib Ji fully, instead of just paying lip service and bowing with empty hearts. 


Also this does not undermine the importance of the Punj Piaray.  The original Punj Piaray were each supremely blessed holy souls – pooran brahmgianis, pooran Khalsa …"khalsa mera satguru poora".   They were authorised by God to give Gurprasadi Naam.  And prior to the Guru’s, the bhagats received Gurprasadi Naam through their own Guru. 


For example just like Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Bhagat Ramanand Ji created five more blessed souls like himself including Bhagat Kabir ji.  All 6 of these great souls have had their bani included in Guru Granth Sahib Ji.   So it may be that God has it destined for you to get GURPRASADI NAAM at the Sikh Initiation ceremony via the blessed holy ones who should be of the same standard as the original panj piaray – pooran khalsa – to be effective.  Or it may be you get Gurprasadi Naam from a Bhagat, like Uncle Ji God put me in touch with. 


By meditating on the NAAM TRUTH, SATNAAM, with the blessings of God from a holy person we start our journey on the GURPRASADI GAME.  And by living a TRUTHFUL life we enter deep meditation and experience the same divine union with God as Guru Nanak Ji did.


But dont take my word for it, try it for yourself.   Here’s a simple way to get started with meditation for a complete beginner.  Even if you do not yet have the company of the holy persons, start meditating on god and start begging for GUR PRASADI NAAM.  And God will take care of the the time and place when you meet the holy person who will help you.


Sit down for 20 minutes every morning in a quiet place on a chair or on the floor whatever is comfortable. 


Close your eyes.  


Press your palms together and do ardas asking the Guru "Please bless me your gurprasadi naam (graceful name) so I may meditate."


Slowly repeat "SATNAAM SATNAAM", or "TRUTH TRUTH" or whatever TRUTH translates to in your own language.   (Even in gurbani SAT is also written as SACH which is just a translation).


Say it with your tongue and just practise listening with your ears.   Just listen to each syllable coming out of your mouth.   Over time other thoughts will stop distracting you and you will be able to concentrate for longer.


For the last 5 minutes stop chanting, carry on sitting quietly without moving your tongue or opening your eyes.


Now just listen to the echoes of what you have been chanting in your own mind. 


With practise and Guru’s grace your need to chant loudly with the tongue (JAAP) will decrease and your time listening within your mind (SIMRAN) will increase.    Also God inside you as your inner Guru will start getting you up earlier and earlier to meditate for longer and longer.


"Truth" or "SatNaam" will go deeper and deeper into you.  You will experience the lifeforce the NAAM inside you.  The Truth of your existence.  And with the Guru’s grace you will meet the holy ones who will bless you even more along your jouney.


The whole of the Sikh Scriptures are in praise of one seed – SATNAAM.  God’s Grace – the GUR PRASAD is needed to plant that seed in your own mind.  The GUR PRASAD is received by pleasing the holy ones within whom the Supreme Light of The Lord shines fully bright.  


God’s blessed seed of SAT NAAM inside you will grow into a beautful flower.  And the fruit of your spiritual labouring will be living in the divine light, supreme love and pure bliss inside your innermost self.


For 90% of Sikhs, the above practise is a lost art.  Being so caught up with the externals of the religion and in the pursuit of fulfilling their worldy desires most have forgotten that Guru Nanak’s message was actually very simple:


1.         Solve the riddle of how to be TRUTHFUL.


How does one become Truthful?  How is the veil of falseness torn down?


Guru Nanak, SGGS Ji 1

2.         God is TRUTH.


One God Named "Truth" by God’s Grace.

Guru Ram Das Ji, SGGS Ji 81

3.         Meditate on TRUTH


O My mind meditate on the name "Truth", always and forever on the name of "Truth".

Guru Ram Das, SGGS Ji 670


4.         TRUTH will come to reside in your spiritual heart centre.

Guru Ram Das Ji had SATNAAM inside him:
Sat Naam, the Great and Supreme True Name of God, the Personification of Creativity, dwells in the Consciousness of Guru Raam Daas. ||1||

SGGS Ji 1404


By meditating on SATNAAM, inside yourself your soul will come to find eternal peace in the Realm Of Truth where God resides: Sach Khand.


In the Realm Of Truth the Formless Lord resides.

Guru Nanak, SGGS Ji 1


Let me know if you do meditate and your experiences – your life will totally change for the better in unexpected ways.    Also please email me if you want to know more about GurPrasadi Naam.

In a sentence, what is SATNAAM?  SATNAAM is food for your starving soul, fed to you by the holy person. And finally, if you still are not convinced, then Guru Arjun Dev ji makes it even clearer in Sukhmani Sahib Notice "His Naam is "SAT", the meditator becomes "SAT". 

asattapadhee ||


charan sath sath parasanehaar ||

His Lotus Feet are "SAT" , the toucher becomes "SAT".

poojaa sath sath saevadhaar ||

His devotional worship is "SAT", the worshipper becomes "SAT".

dharasan sath sath paekhanehaar ||

His Vision is "SAT", the beholder becomes "SAT".

naam sath sath dhhiaavanehaar ||

His Naam is "SAT", the meditator becomes  "SAT".

aap sath sath sabh dhhaaree ||

He is "SAT",  "SAT" sustains all.

aapae gun aapae gunakaaree ||

He Himself is virtuous goodness,and He Himself is the Bestower of virtue.

sabadh sath sath prabh bakathaa ||

The Shabad is "SAT", the speaker of God becomes "SAT".

surath sath sath jas sunathaa ||

Make your mind "SAT",  the listener  to the Praises becomes "SAT".

bujhanehaar ko sath sabh hoe ||

The one who understands this, realises all is "SAT".

naanak sath sath prabh soe ||1||

Nanak: The Lord God is "SAT SAT" ||1||


dust of your feet