BHĀṆĀ, lit. liking, pleasure, will, wish or approval, is one of the key concepts in Sikh thought. In Sikhism, it refers specifically to God's will and pleasure. Razā, an Arabic term popular in the context of various schools of Sūfī thought, also appears frequently in the Sikh texts to express the concept of bhāṇā. According to this concept, the Divine Will is at the base of the entire cosmic existence. It was His bhāṇā, His sweet will which was instrumental in the world's coming into being : "Whenever He pleases He creates the expanse (of the world of time and space) and whenever He desires He (again) becomes the Formless One (all by Himself)" (GG, 294). All our actions, our pain and pleasure, our worship, penance and self discipline, metempsychosis and liberation, heaven and hell, are subject to bhāṇā(GG, 963).

        Bhāṇā or razā, the Divine Will, expresses itself through hukam, the Divine Law of nature. Bhāṇā and hukam are closely related and are often used synonymously. In the very first stanza of, Japu, Gurū Nānak uses hukam and razā as a compound term. There is, however, a subtle difference between the two concepts. Hukam is the Divine Law while bhāṇā is the Divine Will. The latter is the source of and sanction behind the former; "hukam is that which you desire" (GG, 17). Hukam is the medium and instrument of the expression and operation of bhāṇā. The basic idea implicit in hukam is its imperative and unimpeachable nature to which man must submit, but such submission is again subject to His bhāṇā. "When He desires He makes man to submit to hukam" (GG, 337): "In His Will, the Lord makes man submit to His command" (GG, 1093).

        The inexorable hukam having its source in bhāṇā, it follows that the latter is equally, even more, inescapable and inevitable subject only to itself in the form of nadar (q. v.). It therefore becomes the duty of man to submit to the Divine Will willingly and gracefully. Submission to razā is thus inherent in the concept of bhāṇā. Bhāṇā in the Sikh tradition yields primarily the meaning of Divine Will itself, though taking equal cognizance of the other meaning, viz. the attitude of submission on man's part to the Will Divine. The latter itself arises out of God's Will or Grace. In this sense, i. e. bhāṇā as attitude of submission of itself, is defined in gurbāṇī as a great gift. As says Gurū Arjan, "The truth is that there is no gift as great as bhāṇā (submission to the Lords' Will)'' (GG, 1093); says Gurū Amar Dās, "On whomsoever Thou bestoweth bhāṇā, to him Thy Will is pleasing" (GG, 1064).

        The Divine Will in the sense of inexorable ordinance or law of nature is intimately related to the problem of determinism versus free will. If nothing happens or can happen without the Divine Will, there would be no place for ethics and moral responsibility of man for his actions, good or bad, whereas the Sikh precept keeps reminding man to make the choice: to become acceptable at his portal or remain recalcitrant. Making a choice is a volitional act and pursuing it involves freedom of action. Thus Sikhism positing active participation in life does recognize freedom of action, but "within the contingencies of his finitude. " In this context, the Sikh is required correctly to understand what pleases God, what is His pleasure (bhāṇā). Concentrated attention to and meditation upon the Gurū's word helps him in such understanding. Guided by his understanding of bhāṇā, the Sikh is not only free to act but is required to participate, "to battle on in open field with his mind fully in control" (GG, 931). He is supposed to quell his haumai (I-ness), to dedicate his actions to the Lord's Will and to surrender himself to His razā as regards the outcome of his actions.


  1. Balbir Singh, Foundations of Indian Philosophy, Delhi, 1971
  2. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
  3. Jodh Siṅgh, Gurmat Nirṇaya. Lahore, 1932

Wazir Siṅgh