The Panj Pyares or the beloved five are the foundation of Gurmat/Guru’s Teachings. In Gurmukhi the word Panj “ਪੰਚ” refers to the saintly people of this world. Interestingly the word Panj “ਪੰਚ” also refers to five leaders of a community. Gurbani, the word of Guru is the dialog between the Saints of this world and Lord Creator. It can be said that teachings of Gurbani are the teachings of the Saints and they are addressed towards the Saintly people of this world to show them the true path towards salvation.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji defines the principle of Panj “ਪੰਚ” in the beginning of Japji Sahib in 16th verse where it reads ਪੰਚ ਪਰਵਾਣ ਪੰਚ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ॥ “The Panj / Five are accepted and they the true leaders” ਪੰਚੇ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਦਰਗਹਿ ਮਾਨੁ ॥ “The Panj / Five are respected in the company of holy” ਪੰਚੇ ਸੋਹਹਿ ਦਰਿ ਰਾਜਾਨੁ ॥ “The Panj / Five are decorated with honor in-front of the Lord” and the verse continues to further explain ਪੰਚਾ ਕਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਏਕੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥ ” The Panj / Five though meditation is guided by light/knowledge of ONE”
The Guru is trying to direct us to come under the leadership of the Panj “ਪੰਚ” / Saints and follow the principles laid down by the Saints in order to realize the truth. As a Gurmukh a follower of the Guru, one is required to abide by these principles in order to gain an understanding of oneself and the world around us. But on the other hand, Manmukhs, self-willed and self-centered person disregard the teachings of Guru and in result suffers due to one’s own ignorance.
Before we go into details of concept Five / Panj “ਪੰਚ” we must look into the mystery that surrounds Panj / number five. The number five is known to be the most balanced number in the infinite number system, it represents middle point/harmony in this universe. The origin of all physical world is based on the Five elements which are Air, Water, Fire, Earth (soil) and Space. These elements make up the building blocks of the whole universe. Where these elements meet or coexist that is where we find Life / Naam. Another interesting fact surrounding number five is that our physical bodies experience an external world with the help of five senses by seeing, hearing, smelling, Tasting, and Touching.
Along with these examples, there are numerous other examples which point out to the significance of number five. But what is the importance of five / Panj “ਪੰਚ” in Gurmat? Why is it so important that it is mentioned throughout the Gurbani. Why would our 10th Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji initiate Panj / Five Payaras with Panj Kakars ( 5 K ) into The Khalsa instructing them to read five banis on daily basis? It was done to symbolize the importance of Five / Panj“ਪੰਚ”
These important points point out to us that the concept of Five / Panj “ਪੰਚ” plays the significant role of Guru’s teachings. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji initiated Khalsa panth under the leadership of Panj Payare, great things were achieved. Panj Payare / Khalsa was the underlying force that brought down centuries-old corrupt mahant clergy system and took on a central role in the political and religious affairs concerning Sikh faith. It was the same force which uprooted Mughal Raj in Punjab which would slowly lose its hold over rest of India.
Today after 300 plus years it seems that we have lost the meaning of Panj Payare “ਪੰਚ”. They no longer possess the same central role for which they were initiated into Khalsa Fauj / pure army by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Today they are merely playing a ceremonial role in our Gurdwaras, having little or no authority over decision making regarding Sikh Panth. Rediscovering the principle of Panj Payare will help us overcome the problems that are facing us today in our religious and political institutions.
It is the job of ever Gurmukh is to spread the truth of Gurbani and make it available to the rest of humanity. Most of the world is suffering due to the lack of spiritual knowledge which is contained in Shri Guru Granth Sahab. We are witnessing the growth in conflicts between faiths and cultures at unprecedented levels. The world is lacking the guidance of Gurbani which teaches the world to live the life of coexistence, tolerance, respect, and love. Most importantly Gurbani shows us the importance of the Guru in life. To accomplish our goal of spreading the message of Gurbani to the rest of the world, it is very important that we understand the principals of Panj Payare “ਪੰਚ” and become enlightened so we can open the door of salvation for rest of the world.
For centuries the world has been seeking the light of God outside oneself in heavens above, in man-made temples, mosques, churches. This external search has only caused more darkness and conflict within man himself and his relationship to the outside world. But Gurbani’s message is unique, Guru shows us how to seek the light of God within our self and become truly enlightened. Guru shows us how to see beyond duality, isolation, fear and move toward oneness, fearlessness, towards timelessness.
Saints/Gurus understood it very well that in order to bring about the spiritual light into the consciousness of human beings, there needs to be a lineage of Saints/Gurus to propagate the vision of saintly values through the help of Gurbani. They knew from their bottom of heart that by praising The Lord Spirit with love and devotion, it is possible to correct the path of humanity which has gone astray from the truth. They knew that the true word in the form of Gurbani would prevail time and soon the world would come out of darkness to the light of One.
This idea was brought into practical means by Guru Nanak Dev Ji when he laid the foundation of Guruship and started organizing Gurbani under the title of “Mahalas” / Mansions. In this way, there can be continuity in the flow of true message of Gurbani, which is to recognize the presence of The One inside all living beings and to live in harmony with one another. Five more Gurus would follow Guru Nanak Dev Ji and write Gurbani under the title of Mahalas 2,3,4,5, and 9. All Gurbani would be compiled as Adi Granth along with Gurbani of the saints. Shri Guru Granth Sahib would become the central object of worship according to the teachings of Gurbani which says “ਪੋਥੀ ਪਰਮੇਸਰ ਕਾ ਥਾਨੁ ॥” “The scripture is the place where the knowledge of One resides”
Shri Guru Granth Sahab ji would prove to be the most meaningful in worshiping places compared to idols, statues, graves, relics, buildings, walls, stones etc. The first most relevant holy book for the whole humanity which is written by the founders of the faith themselves. The Principals known as Sikhi are explained throughout the Gurbani by the Gurus/Saints, teaching humanity to become One with the Lord. The same principles were further evolved by Guru Hargobind Ji, Guru Harrai ji, and Guru Harkrishan Ji whom brought them into practical means and showed the world how to attain salvation by bringing Gurbani into practical means. The Gurus showed the world that it is possible for anyone to attain the highest state of consciousness by living a simple household life alongside everyone else. This was the first time such claim was made in this world where most understood salvation to be subject of rishis, yogis, Brahmins, Bikkshues, messiahs and “saints” who first have to abandon the domestic life in order to be One with God. This would be the first time that basic human principles such as equality, respect, justice, truthfulness, devotion, meditation, self-knowledge were set above caste, gender, tribe, nation, status, wealth, exclusivity etc.
For the first times, the very founders of the faith wrote the scriptures themselves and they used a number matrix system making it impossible for unauthorized amendments. All of the Gurbani is in lyrical pottery style which can be sung with musical instruments. It flows evenly though out and it is organized in ragas according to its emotional tone. This is a brilliant way to make sure that the True message of Gurbani remains intact for thousands of centuries to come. All this was done in the most volatile times in the history.
The principles set forth in Shri Guru Granth Sahib would challenge and speak against then the current status-co in religious and political arenas which were unjust to its very subjects in every way possible. The concept of Panch / “ਪੰਚ” first brought forward by Gurus would bring revolution in the political system of villages of India. Panch system starting from Punjab villages it would eventually spread to rest of India allowing people to have more say in their own communities. Centuries-old Droga System was quickly toppled within the century in every village of India. People truly realize the power of organizing under Panch Mukhi. Also, it effectively puts checks and balance in place so there is little corruption as possible by a single individual trying to manage the large communities.
In religious arena, Gurubani swept the ills of society like a tsunami. Pundits and Mullahs were directly criticized because of their corrupt practices. People started waking up and accepting Sikh faith in great numbers. Masses crippled by centuries-old oppression left Hinduism and Islam to become Sikh. This was considered a direct threat to the establishment and brought both Pandits and Mullahs together to build an evil alliance against Gurus and their followers. It was because of this evil alliance that thousands of innocent children, mothers, sisters, and brothers would be declared martyrdom including the multiple Gurus and their entire families. This grudge against the people of the true path would result in unjust violence against an unarmed population, but this evil would fail to break the spirit of Khalsa. Sikhi would be challenged time after time but its foundation would prove unshakable because they were laid on the Truth of Gurbani, the true word. Every time the dark forces of human nature wanted to overrun it, Gurmukhs would get up and build their faith in Guru stronger than before.
We are at the similar cross point again in this play of time where such dark forces have a disguise to challenge us from within. How we deal with these challenges would shape our identity, how soon we can overcome it would measure our strength. Time has come to questions our norms and recheck ourselves in accordance with the teachings of Gurbani and Hukam of our Guru. By doing so we will bring back the principal of ਪੰਚ / Panj Payare in the center of our religious and political institutions.