The Sant Nirankari Mission
, abbreviated as, SNM
, and also known as Universal Brotherhood Mission
, is a spiritual organization.
The Sant Nirankari Mission is neither a new religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
nor a sect
A sect is a group with distinctive religious, political or philosophical beliefs. Although in past it was mostly used to refer to religious groups, it has since expanded and in modern culture can refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and...
of an existing religion, but an all-embracing spiritual
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...
movement dedicated to human welfare. Its objective is to establish Universal Brotherhood among people from diverse backgrounds throughout the world.
Today, SNM has over 100 branches outside India, most prominently in Britain and North America. Its world headquarters is located in Sant Nirankari Colony, Delhi. Baba Hardev Singh Ji provides spiritual guidance for Nirankari devotees. The group is characterized by its focus on a living leader.
- संत refers to a saint in Hindi and Nirankar
– निरंकार refers to the "formless God". "Nirankari- निरंकारी" is a person who is devoted to this formless entity.
The exact description of Nirankar
Nirankar means without form or formless and is used in the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, to refer to God....
(or formless God) below is taken from the official Sant Nirankari website.
"The Mission believes in God, who is One and omnipresent and care taker , omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal
While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existence for a limitless amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside time. By contrast, infinite temporal existence is then called sempiternity. Something eternal exists outside time; by contrast,...
, formless, a non-psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...
objective reality and perceivable. He is distinct from celestial
- Science :* Sky objects, bodies and the following astronomy terms:** Astronomical objects, see for detailed description of celestial bodies and objects** Celestia, a 3D astronomy program that allows users to travel through the universe...
bodies such as sun, moon, stars; earthly elements such as earth, water, fire; and subtle elements such as air, ethar and jeeva. These nine elements constitute the entire creation and are distinguishable from the tenth, the All-pervading Divine Spirit, which creates, sustains and regulates the whole universe. This aspect of cosmos
In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος , meaning "order" or "ornament" and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe . The word cosmos originates from the same root...
has been termed as 'Nirankar' (Formless God), though invisible yet all-pervading. In fact what we see is unreal as it decays and dies. But what we do not see is reality because out of that invisible power the visible comes into existence. The changeless in the changing physical world is called God and the changeless in the changing human body is called the Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...
. The one who experiences it is known as 'Nirankari'. The sole aim of the Mission is to impart the knowledge of Nirankar (The Formless God) to the seekers' soul."
In fact, as mentioned in an article published in February 2006 issue of the English version of the Sant Nirankari
(which is the main publication of SNM), that "It is the clarion call by the Nirankari Mission to one and all, 'Come and see God.' "
The fundamental beliefs of the Sant Nirankari Mission include:
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....
- God is a single entity, though He has been called by several different names such as Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...
Ishvara is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or the Supreme controller in a theistic school of thought or the Supreme Being, or as an Ishta-deva of monistic thought.-Etymology:...
etc. throughout history.
- God is formless and therefore may also be called as (Nirankar)
- God can be personally realised. In fact, God realisation is the sole purpose of human life.
- All human beings are God's children.
- A True Spiritual Guide reveals God. Without a True Master, a human being cannot attain God-realisation.
- If a human being wishes to gain God Knowledge, they must ask for it.
- God can be seen.
- Following the five principles (see below) is essential for attaining God realisation.
(Reference: SNM Ideology section and Avtar Bani)
During the session in which a devotee receives Divine Knowledge, the devotee is also introduced to the Five Principles that he/she must practice to the best of their ability.
1. All assets – physical, mental and material – belong to the Divinity and man, as a mere trustee, should use them as such. One should not feel proud of their possession
2. Not to be proud of one's caste, creed, race, faith and other class distinctions and hate others on this account. All men should be regarded as such. One has to feel himself as one with whole human family and love the mankind.
3. Not to look down upon anybody because of his mode of dress, diet and living.
4. Not to renounce worldly life to become a vagrant recluse or ascetic but to lead family life in accordance with normal social norms and sustain family by honest livelihood.
5. Not to divulge the Divine Knowledge bestowed by the Satguru to others without his permission. Never to be possessed by pride because of enlightenment.
The original description of the Five Principles may also be found in Avtar Bani Verses 9A to 9E. The explanation of these verses may also be found in the The Unique Mission
, authored by Amrik Singh.
Nirankari devotees are introduced to the simran (prayer) below when they are given Divine Knowledge from an authorised saint, who has been appointed by the Satguru
Satguru does not merely mean true guru. The term is distinguished from other forms of gurus, such as musical instructors, scriptural teachers, parents, and so on...
Tu hi Nirankar
Main Teri Sharan Haan
Mainu Baksh Lao
A direct English translation might be:
Thou formless One
I take refuge in Thee
I pray, forgive me
The devotees use this simran
to attain spiritual strength. They may pray whenever/wherever they feel like (after all for them God is omnipresent, i.e. all around), but constant realisation of formless God is encouraged. This is reflected by the Avtar Bani verse 117, which says that "Keep on remembering God, saying Tuhi Nirankar [One Thou Formless God] and keep on singing the praise of God; do remember Him every moment and make Him dwell in your mind." (Please refer to the Punjabi version for the original verse as this is only an English translation)
Saints often advise "Hath kar wal, te dil yaar wal"
, which simply means that while worldly responsibilities are being carried out using the body, the mind of devotees must remain connected with Nirankar.
The simran also has some salient points of interest. Notice that it involves the use of the word "Ik"
(One). The idea behind this is to simply illustrate the principle that God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....
is a single entity, even though this entity has been called by several names used throughout history by different people. The simran
also uses the word "Nirankar", to signify the formless nature of this entity. The use of the words "teri"
(thy) and "Tu"
(thou) highlights the fact Nirankari devotees relate to this entity as closely as the way two ordinary human beings interact with each other.
Sant Nirankari members have no particular place of worship as it is considered that regardless of wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you can worship formless God. The members meet at places called Satsang
Satsang in Indian philosophy means the company of the "highest truth," the company of a guru, or company with an assembly of persons who listen to, talk about, and assimilate the truth...
(Congregation Halls), to share their spiritual experiences and praise the almighty formless God. The mission believes that congregations help devotees to strengthen their faith, increase their devotion towards Nirankar and attain spiritual steadfastness. This is reflected by the verse 56 of Avtar Bani, which says that "Seek the company of True Saint, this will bring spiritual glow on your face; seek the company of True Saint, this will remove impurity from your heart."
(Please note that there are other verses 57, 112, 138 and 223 that elaborate on this point. Please also refer to the Punjabi version for the original description as this is only an English translation)
The congregations are open to all without any discrimination of religion, caste, nationality, colour or race, and irrespective of whether one is rich or poor, and literate or illiterate. Holy scriptures of different religions or sects are also read and the common aim of all religions i.e. selfless love for all is stressed upon.
In Satsang Bhawans
a chair on a stage (platform) is reserved for a pre-decided devotee who will represent the Satguru
and other devotees pay respect to Satguru
by bowing down to him. Another devotee, known as stage secretary, sits on stage floor and manages events. Nirankari's also bow down (to touch the feet) of one another irrespective of age, gender, financial or social position as they believe and perceive the presence of God in all. Touching each others feet is also seen as a practice useful in removing pride or ego from a devotee's mind.
A typical Nirankari congregation
A few minutes before the satsang
is due to begin, the stage secretary or another appointed devotee sings verses from the Avtar Bani. The Nirankari congregation usually then begins with the following verse (Thou Formless One 1; Avtar Bani), reproduced below. (Note that the congregation usually sings this in Punjabi language, but the English translation of this verse is available here). Normally, devotees present in the congregation sing along with person on the stage, but there is not a strict obligation to do so.
Thou Formless One 1
(Avtar Bani, Prayer 1)
O' Thou, formless, colourless and boundless God, millions of bows unto Thee;
O' Thou, beyond the comprehension of mind, intellect and wisdom, millions of bows unto Thee.
O' Thou, the Infinite, incomprehensible Lord, millions of bows unto Thee;
O' Thou, the Lord of Lords, the Supreme Sovereign, millions of bows unto Thee.
O' Thou, Eternal, Ageless, Omnipresent, millions of bows unto Thee;
O' Thou, the Redeemer of sinners in all ages, millions of bows unto Thee.
O' Thou, the Omniscient, Knower of the instincts of all beings, millions of bows unto Thee;
O' Thou, the Divine Name and the One the Divine Name stands for, millions of bows unto Thee.
O' Thou, the Sustainer of all living creatures, millions of bows unto Thee.
Avtar says, O' the Sustainer of the life-breath, millions of bows unto Thee.
O' God, I pray for Thy shelter, Thy support, I sacrifice my body and mind unto Thee;
Avtar says, I do sing Thy praise day and night.
None can move without Thy command;
Avtar says, I cannot do anything, only Thy will prevails.
The congregation then proceeds and this is where most of the variation between different congregations occurs. Devotees at this stage are called upon to express themselves. This can be either in the form of a speech, poem or a devotional hymn but sometimes plays may also be enacted. To gain a greater insight of the kinds of hymns, speeches, poems and plays presented in the congregations, the reader can refer to the youth section of the official website. The website also hosts a whole range of regional and national congregations in audio-visual format under the Archives section, some of which may be in English. It may also be of interest to know that most devotees begin and end their presentation by saying "Saints say with love, Dhan Nirankar
or its Punjabi/Hindi equivalent.
Towards the beginning of the final discourse by the saint presiding on the stage, the congregation recites the following verse (Invocation; Avtar Bani), reproduced below. (Note that the congregation usually sings this in Punjabi language, but the English translation of the invocation is available here). The speech from the presiding saint is usually of the longest duration, but may vary anything from 15 minutes to an hour. Some presiding saints use a selected Avtar Bani verse that they may like to base their speech upon. In that case, the stage secretary reads about two lines of a particular verse at regular intervals during the speech.
O' Almighty God, beyond attribute and formless;
Thou art the creator of the universe; Thou art the sustainer of all.
Thy vast entity is there in every particle of the universe;
Thou were true in the past, art true at present and shall be true in future, and the world is an illusion.
O' God, Thou dwelt in every being, Thou art beyond decay, and Thou art the supreme creator;
Be kind and bless everybody to transcend the ocean of materialism.
Thou art formless and in form, Thou art the nurturer of the universe;
Endless is Thy glory, Thou art the supreme donor, the boundless.
O' the Supreme Father God, all human beings are Thy own children;
Be kind and benevolent to all, may all be redeemed.
The congregation finally concludes with a prayer (see the English translation below) that all devotees sing along in the end.
Thou Formless One; Hail the True Master
(Taken from Avtar Bani)
O' the Supreme Father God, Thou pervadeth each and every particle;
Thou art the Supreme Doer, the Commander, and the Master of all.
Beholding Thee all around, Avtar prays unto Thee;
Thou art the Lord of Lords, and I am the humblest of the humble.
Nirankari Sant Samagam
Annual Nirankari Sant Samagam in Delhi can easily be described as the "Mission in Action". Its message of human unity, equality and fraternity based on spiritual awakening finds a fine expression. People from all shades and layers of society assemble at one place forgetting their social, economic or financial status. The mammoth gathering presents a view of unity in diversity, and mutual love, respect and understanding. Humility marks the conduct of every devotee participating in the Samagam so much so that one is found touching the feet of the other irrespective of the age, sex or the status.
Sewa Dal (Volunteer group)
While the Sant Nirankari Mission is a spiritual movement, it believes that devotion to Nirankar (formless God) may be expressed by exemplary behaviour towards other human beings. The Mission therefore has actively promoted the creation of a Sant Nirankari Sewa Dal
(i.e. a volunteer group).
Dhan Nirankar (Hail the formless God)
The English translation of this greeting, Dhan Nirankar
, which is used by all Nirankaris, means "Hail the Formless God". It symbolises that the devotee seeks to "welcome the Formless in the person he meets and eulogise only 'Him' in his or her 'auspicious' company".
The Avtar Bani
outlines the key philosophy of the Sant Nirankari Mission. It may in fact be considered the Bible or Quran of the Mission. It is named after its author Shahenshan Baba Avtar Singh
. Its initial version was first published in 1957. Its "Big Brother", the Sampuran Avtar Bani
(meaning – the complete Avtar Bani) was published in 1965. The Avtar Bani was originally written in easy Punjabi verse, but some stanzas were in the Urdu and Sindhi Language. It contains 376 hymns which describe the qualities of Formless God (Nirankar), the important role of a True Spiritual Guide in attaining God realisation, the kindness and grace of the True Master, the purpose of human life, the five fundamental principles, true devotion and how a man can lead a saintly life. The Avtar Bani is not worshipped as a holy religious book like the Quran or the Bible, but it is highly regarded by the Nirankari devotees for its authenticity. It has been published in Gurumukhi, Devnagari, Urdu and Roman scripts. It has also been translated and published in English (verse and prose), Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Nepali and Marathi verse.
Normally, a verse from the Avtar Bani is read out before every discourse in most congregations (except when His Holiness Himself is giving the discourse). The verses are also read out at the beginning of each congregation. Devotees are however free to sing/read these verses as hymns anytime they prefer for personal spiritual enlightenment. In fact, many Nirankari households keep a copy of it. It may also be available from the Publications Department found in each Satsang Bhavan (congregation hall).
The five famous slogans below shed light on the philosophy of the Mission.
- Religion Unites, Never Divides
- Peace, not Pieces-let us work for it
- Unity in Diversity, not Uniformity
- Know One, Believe in One, Be One
- Our Mission is Universal Brotherhood
Besides these slogans the sayings of Baba Gurbachan Singh ji
Baba Gurbachan Singh was the leader of the Sant Nirankari sect, considered to be heterodox by mainstream Sikh. He was declared Satguru by his predecessor Baba Avtar Singh in 1962.He should not be confused with Gurbachan Singh Manochahal.-Events of 1978-1980:...
and Baba Avtar Singh ji
may also be found in the books titled Precious Pearls
and Spiritual Sparks
Santokh Sarovar (Holy Lake)
The Sant Nirankari Sarovar Complex contains a sarovar
(Holy Lake) which contains Holy water. It is named after the devotee, Reverend Santokh Singh ji. The sarovar
is surrounded by a beautiful park. Many devotees use the sarovar during the Annual Nirankari Samagams
(very large congregations), which are held in November every year in New Delhi, India....
The Nirakari Museum was officially launched by Baba Hardev Singh ji on 22 February 2005. The museum is located within the Sant Nirankari Sarovar in North Delhi. The museum depicts the journey of Nirankari Mission through audio-visuals and pictures.
- Super Achievers Award for administration, awarded by Bharat Nirman on 30 April 2007
- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru International Award for Intercontinental Peace, Tolerance and Harmony, awarded to His Holiness by Interfaith Harmony Foundation of India on 21–22 April 2007
- Best Stall Award for use of Technology, Presentation and Cleanliness at India International Trade Fair held from 14–27 November 2006