GURMUKH (gur = Gurū mukh = face), a word employed in Sikh Scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib, in several distinct shades of signification. The gurmukh is, for instance, the Primordial Gurū (God) who created all forms; it is He, too, who strings them into one thread --- oaṅ gurmukhi kīo akārā ekahi sūti provanhārā (GG, 250). Gurmukh is also the Gurū who instils the awe of the Fearless One, and through the Word shapes the mis-shapen (minds). In another sense, gurmukh is the God ---conscious or the God-inspired man who, imbued with the Word, is crowned with glory at the Lord's portal --- gurmukhi hari dari sobhā pāe (GG, 125). In Mārū Solahe by Gurū Amar Dās, Gurmukh is the mystic sound (nād), spiritual knowledge (Ved), and the contemplation thereof (GG, 1058). At a few places in the Gurū Granth Sāhib the word gurmukh is used in its literal sense of the face of the Gurū. "Beholding the Gurū's countenance one attains the highest bliss gurū mukhu dekhi garū sukhu pāyau" (GG, 1400). Varyingly, it signifies "by the Master's Word" (adv.). "By the Master's Word is attained the Name that is like cool water, whereby elixir of the Name divine is quaffed in long draughts -- gurmukhi nāmu sītal jalu pāiā hari hari nāmu pīā rasu jhīk" (GG, 1336).

         However, the principal sense in which the word most frequently occurs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib is that of the God-inspired or theocentric man -- one who follows the way of life prescribed by the Gurū and acts on his precepts. In this sense, he has his "face turned towards the Gurū." Gurmukh is a Siddha or the perfect being. Gurū Nānak, according to Sidha Gosṭi, had as a pilgrim been searching for such a one all over -- gurmukhi khojat bhae udāsī (GG, 939). Gurmukh stands in contradistinction to manmukh, the ego-centred one, who has turned his face away from the Gurū : the ego-centred one. turns his back (upon him) -- gurmukhi sanmukhu manmukhi vemukhīā (GG, 131). The gurmukh thus embodies the acme of the personality typology postulated in Sikh thought. The God-facing man (gurmukh) is inspired by the Gurū's spirit. He scrupulously follows the Gurū's teaching and lives as the Master bids, for he is "merged in the Gurū's Word" (GG, 1054-55). Gurmukh lives for truth and reighteousness. Having bathed in the pool of truth the soul of the gurmukh is purified. Truth pervades his speech, Truth bedecks his vision, Truth fills his actions, too. To a gurmukh alone is Truth revealed, for he is rid of doubt, delusion and pride -- gurmukhi hovai su sojhī pāe haumai māiā bharamu gavāe (GG, 1058-59). His is an illumined mind-free from ignorance and dubiety. While a manmukh even at his best practises but deception, the gurmukh is a serene follower of truth. Discrimination (vivek) is his hallmark and he burns his ego through concentration on the Sabad (śabda ) -- gurmukhi haumai sabadi jalāe (GG, 942).

         The gurmukh dwells upon the Name of God. He constantly meditates through simran and gains stability of mind. Mind not attuned to the true self becomes limited. The gurmukh dispels all dubiety of the mind -- gurmukhi sagalī gaṇat miṭāvai (GG, 942). Freedom from attachment characterizes his conduct. The gurmukh carries out actions, but himself he transcends them. His deeds are good spontaneously. He is above pleasure and pain. The Lord Himself has apportioned woe and weal to man... but the gurmukh is untouched by these. He is a renouncer in spirit even while carrying out duties of the householder. The gurmukh indulges in the actions dictated by his destiny and yet is not lost in them because spiritual discipline and divine enlightenment qualify him to distinguish truly between desired action (pravṛtti) and renunciation (nivṛtti) -- gurmukhi parvirati narvirati pachhāṇi (GG, 941). Jñānī, sant, brahmgiānī are some other terms which are used in Gurbāṇī synonymously with gurmukh. In Sikhism the connotation of gurmukh is wide and comprehensive and the term has been applied to a whole continuum of the enlightened ones from the self-searching Jigyāsu through one who has attained sahaj (equipoise), mental and spiritual.


  1. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1964
  2. Santokh Siṅgh, Bhāī, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth. Amritsar, 1927-33
  3. Jodh Siṅgh, Bhāī, Gurmati Nirṇaya. Lahore, 1932
  4. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
  5. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
  6. Wazir Singh, Philosophy of Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1981
  7. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944

Jaswant Siṅgh Nekī