GIĀNĪ, from giān or the Sanskrit jñāna, means one who possesses giān, i.e. knowledge or spiritual understanding. In the Gurū Granth Sāhib the giānīs and Brahmgiānīs are accorded high praise: "They who to the Word are attached are giānīs" (GG, 831). Such a person must adhere in every thought, word and deed to the truth and should remain detached from worldly temptations while still living in this world: "Live thou as detached (from the world) as does the lotus from the water (on which it lives) " (GG, 272) . From this scriptural usage, the title assumed demanding qualifications in its traditional Sikh form. Without abandoning the ethical associations implied in the scriptural definition, the traditional usage emphasized the possession of mastery in the understanding of Sikh doctrine, explicitly requiring a deep knowledge of Sikh beliefs and implicitly assuming a personal fulfilment of their demands. The title attained particular respect during the Siṅgh Sabhā revival and it still commands a reputation in orthodox circles. A school of Sikh learning also shares the name Giānī. It originated with Bhāī Manī Siṅgh (d. 1737), contemporary with Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, and represents a distinctive tradition of Scriptural interpretation coming down from him. The term in this sense is to be distinguished from the formal academic title of Giānī granted by universities on a course in Punjabi literature.
W. H. McLeod