What is the Shabd?
An Explanation by Maharaj Sawan Singh
The Shabd, Sound Current, Word or Holy Spirit is not a subject matter for speech or writing. In order to make it understood, we can only say this much, namely that it is the quintessence of the Lord and that it sustains millions of universes and regions. It is the soul-current of consciousness. It is the celestial melody. It is the life-current which originates from the Lord and pervades everything. The Lord creates and sustains the entire universe through this great current of power. It gives life to the whole of the creation and can take every living being back to his original home or the Lord. The currents of the Lord pervade everywhere, like radio waves. His divine music fills all space. Unless our radios are correctly tuned to it, we cannot hear this music. As we grow more and more subtle, we begin to hear clearly its melodies. Shabd is a string which connects everyone and everything with the Lord.
The Shabd is the basis of all true religions, for religion means ‘that which connects us with the Lord’. All the forces of nature are sustained by the Shabd. The life force is also its manifestation, even though it is working in the regions of Maya. Like electricity, Shabd, whether manifest or unmanifest, pervades everywhere. It is all powerful and is the Creator of all. Guru Nanak describes it as Hukam (command or law) in the Jap Ji Sahib. He says that it cannot be adequately expressed or explained. However, he describes in the second stanza of Jap Ji Sahib whatever is happening is within its compass:
According to Law, he manifests;
The Law cannot be described.
According to Law living beings appear;
According to Law they grow;
According to Law they are high or low;
According to Law they get pleasure or pain;
According to Law one gets salvation;
According to Law one wanders always;
All are subject to Law; None can transgress it.
He who understands the Law,
O Nanak! is no more guilty of egotism.
Shabd is of two kinds: manifest and inner. The manifest Shabd is called varnatmak and the inner Shabd is called dhunatmak. Knowing the varnatmak Shabd, it is possible to know to a certain extent the dhunatmak Shabd.
On hearing words of love, every pore of our being is thrilled with delight. On hearing words that speak of detachment and self-effacement, we begin to entertain feelings of detachment and surrender. On hearing harsh words, we become angry. Sweet words produce happiness, and bitter words, pain. Words of sympathy give hope and unsympathetic words depress. All these powers are inherent in Shabd:
Shabd killed them and they died.
Kings lost their kingdoms because of Shabd.
Those who always remembered Shabd,
Succeeded in their mission.
Kabir Sakhi Sangrah
The greatness of Shabd is unfathomable and limitless. If this is true of the manifest Shabd, it can well be imagined how powerful the inner Shabd is. On listening to the melody of a violin, one gets peace. It attracts our attention and makes us become absorbed in it. When a gross outer sound can produce such a condition, how powerful would the inner Shabd be?
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV
One little portion of Nam or Shabd, an atom of it,
burns thousands and millions of our karmas.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II