Some Gursikhs claim that the word "Sant" is used only for Guru Sahib and cannot be used for Gursikhs. On the other hand there are Gursikhs who claim that the word "Sant" cannot be used for Guru Sahib but is reserved for an accomplished Gurmukh only. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The word Sant has been used in many meanings in Gurbani. It is used for at least the following meanings in Gurbani:
2. Guru Sahib - Singular
3. Guru Sahib - Plural
4. Bhagat Jan, Gursikh - Singular
5. Bhagats, Gursikhs - Plural
Depending on the pankiti and situation, this word comes in one of the above stated meanings.
Presented below are some Gurbani Pankitis, in which "Sant" has been used for Waheguru.
ਭਾਗੁ ਹੋਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਸੰਤੁ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ॥
ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
(Good Fortune sprouted, and my Guru enabled me to meet Sant-Roop Waheguru. I met indestructible Waheguru right within me.) Please look at the spellings of ਗੁਰਿ and ਸੰਤੁ . Some translaters claim that here the word ਸੰਤੁ is used for Guru Sahib but if this had been the case, then ਸੰਤੁ too would have had a sihaari in the end as ਗੁਰਿ does. The Sihaari of ਗੁਰਿ gives the meaning of "ne". ਗੁਰੂ ਨੇ ਸੰਤ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ. To derive the meaning of "ne" the aunkad had to go but it is established here. So the meanings according to Gurbani Viyakaran can only be ਗੁਰੂ ਨੇ ਸੰਤ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ.
ਹਮਰੋ ਭਰਤਾ ਬਡੋ ਬਿਬੇਕੀ ਆਪੇ ਸੰਤੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥
ਓਹੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਮਾਥੈ ਕਾਇਮੁ ਅਉਰੁ ਹਮਰੈ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥3॥
(My Husband (Master) is Great Bibeki (one who possesses all knowledge) and he himself is called a Sant. He is established on my forehead; for this reason Maya does not come near me).
The word ਭਰਤਾ in Gurbani is only used for Waheguru (it means husband); so here the word "Sant" has to be for Waheguru Ji only.
The word "Sant' has been used for Guru Sahib in a lot of places in Gurbani. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Ji in his great book "Sant Pad Nirnai" has written that most of the times, when this word appears as singular noun, it is used for Guru Sahib. Presented below are some pankitis in which this word has been used for Guru Sahib:
ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਸੰਤੁ ਸਤਗੁਰੁ ਸਤ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਜੋ ਬੋਲੈ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਬਾਨੀ ॥
ਜੋ ਜੋ ਕਹੈ ਸੁਣੈ ਸੋ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਹਮ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਸਦ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀ ॥1॥
Satguru is Waheguru's Sant, Eternal Purakh (person), and he speaks Baani describing Naam (Har Har Baani). Whoever utters and listens to this Baani get emancipated and I am sacrifice to such Satguru.
In the pankiti above, it is clear that the word Sant has been used for Guru Sahib.
ਗੁਰੁ ਸੰਤੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਸਗਲ ਇਛਾ ਪੁੰਨੀਆ ॥
When I met Guru-Sant, then I meditated on Waheguru Ji and all my wishes were fulfilled.
ਨਾਨਕ ਸੰਤੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਹਜ ਭਾਇ ਜਸੁ ਲੇਉ ॥1॥
When one meets Guru-Sant, then one attains the Truth (Waheguru) and such individual effortlessly praises Him.
In the above pankiti, the golden and basic principle of Gurmat is presented - Only when one meets the True Guru, one attains the Truth (Waheguru). So the word "Sant" here has to mean Guru Sahib.
For the most part, when the word "Sant" appears as a plural noun, it is used for Gursikhs but in some cases even when this word is a plural noun, it can still mean Guru Sahib. In Indian languages, out of respect for seniors and elders, they are addressed as plural. As an example if some Gurmukh comes to our home, we would not say, "ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਆਇਆ ਸੀ" but we would refer to them as plural and say "ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਆਏ ਸੀ". Same way, many times in Gurbani, Waheguru Ji and Guru Sahib have been referred to as plural. Some examples of the word "Sant" used for Guru Sahib as plural noun are:
ਭੇਟਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਇਆ ॥
ਸੰਗਤਿ ਕਰਤ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਮਨਿ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
ਸੰਤਹ ਚਰਨ ਮਾਥਾ ਮੇਰੋ ਪਉਤ ॥
ਅਨਿਕ ਬਾਰ ਸੰਤਹ ਡੰਡਉਤ ॥1॥
(When I met them (Sant Guru Ji), I remembered Waheguru. By doing their sangat, I got Santokh (contentedness) in my heart. My forehead is on the Charan of Sants (Guru Sahib). I prostrate before Sants many times.)
ਪੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸੰਤਨ ਪਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
(Drink Amrit, by the Kirpa of Sants).
Most of the times when this word "Sant" appears as singular noun, it is used for Guru Sahib but there are some exceptions:
ਮਨਹੁ ਕਠੋਰੁ ਮਰੈ ਬਾਨਾਰਸਿ ਨਰਕੁ ਨ ਬਾਂਚਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਸੰਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਹਾੜੰਬੈ ਤ ਸਗਲੀ ਸੈਨ ਤਰਾਈ ॥3॥
If one has a stone heart (heart without Bhagti), then even if he dies in Kashi Banaras (holy city for Hindus), he cannot escape hell. On the other hand if a Sant of Waheguru dies in the cursed city of Hadamba (City cursed by Shiva; whoever dies here is reborn as a donkey), he not only is freed himself but also frees all his companions.
There is a belief in Hindus that whoever dies in the Shiva's city of Kanshi or Banaras, goes straight to heaven. For this reason, in olden days, many people in old age used to go and reside in this city. Some were too eager to die here and go to heaven and they used to commit suicide by having them cut by suicide-aid-professionals.
ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਕਰੇ ਜਿਸੁ ਪ੍ਰਾਨਪਤਿ ਦਾਤਾ ਸੋਈ ਸੰਤੁ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵੈ ॥
ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਮਨੁ ਲੀਣਾ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਮਨਿ ਭਾਵੈ ॥2॥
On whom the master of Life Waheguru does Kirpa (does mercy), only such Sant sings his praises. His mind is taken by Prema-Bhagti (Devotional worship) and Waheguru's loves such Bhagat with heart.
In the above pankiti, we clearly see that the word "Sant" is a singular but given the context in which this word has been used, it is more likely that here this word refers to a Gurmukh. The half-pankiti seems to be talking about a Gursikh Bhagat - ਸੋਈ ਸੰਤੁ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵੈ (Only such Sant sings praises of Waheguru)
When the word "Sant" appears as a plural noun, then most of the times it is used for Gursikhs:
ਸੰਤ ਜਨਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਜਾਇ ॥
In the Sangat of Sant Jan, the disease of Ego is eliminated.
ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਤੇ ਸੰਤ ਜਨ ਜਿਨ ਮਨਿ ਵੁਠਾ ਆਇ ॥
Such Sants are fortunate, in the hearts of whom, Waheguru has appeared.
ਸੰਤ ਜੀਵਹਿ ਜਪਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਅਧਾਰਾ ॥
The Sants live chanting Waheguru who is the support of their life.
Many Gursikhs claim that the word "Sant" is never used for any specific individual in Gurbani. To refute their claims, presented below are some pankitis where the word "Sant" has been used for Bhagat Prahalad Ji and Bhagat Kabir Ji:
ਸੰਤ ਪ੍ਰਹਲਾਦ ਕੀ ਪੈਜ ਜਿਨਿ ਰਾਖੀ ਹਰਨਾਖਸੁ ਨਖ ਬਿਦਰਿਓ ॥3॥
Waheguru kept the honour of Sant Prahlaad and killed Harnakash with his nails.
In the above pankiti, Sri Guru Ji has called Bhagat Prahlaad Ji a Sant.
ਕਿਆ ਅਪਰਾਧੁ ਸੰਤ ਹੈ ਕੀਨ੍ਾ ॥ ਬਾਂਧਿ ਪੋਟ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਕਉ ਦੀਨ੍ਾ ॥
ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਪੋਟ ਲੈ ਲੈ ਨਮਸਕਾਰੈ ॥ ਬੂਝੀ ਨਹੀ ਕਾਜੀ ਅੰਧਿਆਰੈ ॥3॥
Bhagat Kabir Ji referring to himself is saying, "What crime has Sant committed that he has been thrown before the mad elephant to be trampled and crushed. The elephant instead of trampling and crushing the Sant (Bhagat Kabir Ji) started bowing his head hefore him but the blind (Stupid) Kazi (Muslim Religious Judge) still did not understand (realize that what he was doing was wrong).
In the above pankiti, Bhagat Kabir Ji's intentions should not be misunderstood when he calls himself a Sant. He does not mean to call himself a Sant in an egoistic manner but Bhagat Ji is simply and with surprise asking, "What crime has a (harmless) Sant done that he has been thrown in front of an elephant to be trampled?" Here Bhagat Ji is not referring to him as Sant to show that he is a big Bhagat or something but Sant here should be understood as meaning "Faqir".
The word "Sant" or "Santan" in Gurbani has been used for Waheguru, Guru Sahib and Gurmukh Bhagats. However, there are many 'Pakandi Sants'. It is not a good idea to cheapen this word by calling every Tom or Harry a Sant. It is a modern trend to call people Sant to elevate their name. The so called Sant's also allow people to bow to them or are given money and thereby become Pakandi Sants. A large majority of current Sants are Pakandi. Perhaps, this title like "Bhai Sahib" should be bestowed by Sri Akal Takhat Sahib on selected Gurmukhs.
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