How is a Sant produced? Sri Naranjan Singh Ji used to say that, just as an almond has a kernel and a shell, the same way, Naam (Waheguru hidden inside everyone and everywhere) is the kernel, everything else (including religion, theology, and philosophy) is just the shell.
Only the moments lived with this truth in our heart are worthwhile. Those rare individuals who seek the kernel, the essence, and through Guru’s mercy, never turn their attention away from it, become perfect and they are known as a Sant (319:18, 1425:2-3).
All our acts, breathing, sitting, getting up and taking bath during the Amrit Vela, Simran, Nitnem, putting food in our mouth, thinking, interaction with others, experiencing pleasure or pain, everything is judged in the light of whether we have been true to this eternal law of Naam (463:16). However, mostly we stay oblivious towards it, being busy all our life mistaking the shell for the kernel. Except for that rare individual called Sant, we all vacillate, and thus, we remain imperfect and keep falling off the path. Being in dust from the feet of Sat Sangat, we can learn how to maintain a balance on this path (1263:7, 1065:2).
Unlike any other scripture, Gurbani, page after page, dwells upon the kernel. Gurbani does not belong to any particular religion. Shabads related to the essence, i.e., Naam Sant and Guru, are the least understood, and also the most difficult to explain. This is because of our own limitations. As Guru Ji says, only a Brahmgyani can understand a Brahmgyani (273:16), or only a Sant understands the glory of Naam (265:6). Nevertheless, it is imperative that we understand their importance in our life.
We could cite several hundred pages of Gurbani regarding importance of Sadh Sangat, and the Sant. On the average, the words Sant Sadh HarJan or Jan appear twice or more on each page. Only the words, ‘Gurmukh’ ‘Guru’ ‘Naam’ and various names used for God, exceed their frequency in Gurbani. In the Bani of Sukhmani Sahib, besides numerous other references to Sant and Jan, three complete Ashtpadi’s (chapters) are devoted to this topic alone. It should be obvious that an insight into its meaning, and more importantly, its application is absolutely vital to our understanding of Gurmat and to succeed as a Sikh.
Notwithstanding the prevalence of frauds and fakes, further compounded by an extreme rarity of a genuine Sant, a perfect Gursikh always lives somewhere. Some individuals would proudly display their derision of anyone called a Sant. This is unfortunate. A threat of deceit and abuse does not justify rejection of the institution of Sangat and its product, the Gurmukh or Sant. The charlatans have been always with us. During the time of the Ninth Master, there were 22 such individuals claiming to be the Guru, in just one small town of Bakala. Among people without any spiritual discipline, anyone with a little mental concentration and some knowledge of Gurbani can easily pass as the greatest Sant.
Let us understand at least this, Sant is a rare soul, extremely difficult to find, and a Sant would not claim to be a Sant. The rest of these “Sants” and “Gurus” are, at best, just a little more advanced and clever than the masses around them, and in fact, if they claim to be a Sant, they do more damage than any good they may seem to accomplish.
The terms, Sikh, Gursikh, Brahmgyani, Gurmukh, Jan or HariJan, Mahapurush, Sadh, and Sant, are the names given to Sikhs at various spiritual stages. The Sant is a sacred and supreme state recognized within the Panth.
The prevalent abuse of this term, along with widespread ignorance of what it stands for, has degraded its meaning for the masses today. This makes some scholars to even suggest that ‘Sant’ is just a metaphor, used only for Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Gurus, or God. This version could be acceptable if it had been indeed used sparingly, as a metaphor, not repeated on every page of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Most of Gurbani is simple, composed in the languages of that era. Confusing us with metaphors is clearly, not the aim of Gurbani. Gurbani also refers to Sant in the present tense. Thus, while Gurbani is quite unambiguous that Sant is a person, a Sant must also be alive and well.