The Numeral 5 – Groups of Five: Panch (ਪੰਚ)

There are a large number of concepts in groups of five used in Gurbani. For these the word ਪੰਚ (Panch), or ਪੰਜ (Panj) both meaning five has been used. Panch also means a respected person and we start with this concept. In South Asia the word Panch is used for member of a village council called Panchayat, itself derived from Panch. The Panches are the elected members of the Panchayat and are highly respected. It is also used for people who get a high status. In Japuji, the first composition in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) the word Panch is used in these contexts:

ਪੰਚ ਪਰਵਾਣ ਪੰਚ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ਪੰਚੇ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਦਰਗਹਿ ਮਾਨੁ ਪੰਚੇ ਸੋਹਹਿ ਦਰਿ ਰਾਜਾਨੁ ਪੰਚਾ ਕਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਏਕੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ

A Panch is acknowledged, he is accepted as a leader; a Panch receive honor in God’s court; the Panches receive a place of honor with the kings; the panches are single minded devotees (SGGS, p 3).

A panch deserves the respect he or she receives. In the spiritual context, and this may be extended to every day life, this means application of the self for the cause that one is to perform. The purpose of human birth is to enable the soul to merge with the Creator by overcoming obstacles created by distractions in life. For this purpose some people perform rituals, some people think accumulation of wealth is the blessing, some pride themselves with their wisdom. But these do not take one nearer God. Then what does? Japu Ji lays down five qualities for the purpose.

Guru Nanak asks and answers the question in the first Pauri of Japu Ji:

Q: ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ How can we break the obstacle of illusions and reach the Truth? A: ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ Live according to the preordained Divine commands (SGGS, p 1).

Simply put, being born in a family, the relatives one has, the spouse, children and profession form the environment in which one is placed by the Creator. Such placement and the need to do one’s duties happily in the given environment are Divine commands. Needless to say the concept must be expanded to accept oneself as part of the larger society. One needs to be reminded of the commands until they become embedded in the mind. Japuji tells us in the fifth Pauri:

ਗਾਵੀਐ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਮਨਿ ਰਖੀਐ ਭਾਉ Praise, listen, believe and love the creator (SGGS, p 2). We praise some one whom we would like to follow. We listen to the praises, believe them and then try to emulate the virtues we are praising. This then becomes a commitment for life. So carrying out the commands, and firming them in our mind by singing, listening to, believing in and trying to emulate the virtues being praised are the five things that make one a Panch before the Creator. Some one being accepted as a panch is neither automatic or arbitrary. The position has to be earned; this cannot be achieved through rituals or knowledge but by one’s deeds: ਕਰਮੀ ਕਰਮੀ ਹੋਇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ਸਚਾ ਆਪਿ ਸਚਾ ਦਰਬਾਰੁ ਤਿਥੈ ਸੋਹਨਿ ਪੰਚ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਨਦਰੀ ਕਰਮਿ ਪਵੈ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ੧ ੭ It is decided after consideration of deeds past and present; the Master is just and so is His judgment. Those who deserve Grace are marked; such Panches receive honor (SGGS, p 7). The qualities for being accepted a panch are aquired by participating in holy comgregations: ਜਿਨ ਕੇ ਬੰਧਨ ਕਾਟੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਤਿਨ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ਪੰਚ ਜਨਾ ਮਿਲਿ ਮੰਗਲੁ ਗਾਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਭੇਦੁ ਨ ਭਾਈ ੫ ੨੦੫ Those whose bondages are cut remember the Creator in holy congregation. The Panches then sing the songs of the Creator’s glory, there is then no difference between the panch and the Creator 9SGGS, p 205). The Panches are accomplished people who are able to discriminate between illusion or deceit and reality:

ਪੰਚਮਿ ਪੰਚ ਪ੍ਰਧਾਨ ਤੇ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨਿਓ ਪਰਪੰਚੁ ਕੁਸਮ ਬਾਸ ਬਹੁ ਰੰਗੁ ਘਣੋ ਸਭ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਬਲਬੰਚੁ ੫ ੨੯੭

There are plenty of distractions but they are transitory like the fragrance of flowers, they are misleading.The Pnches are those who understand the purpose of creation and thus know the difference (SGGS, p 297). These Panches are diferent from the community leaders. They are also called Panches who resolve problems but they cannot help in fighting evil. For this one needs to seek refuge in the Lord:

ਮਿਲਿ ਪੰਚਹੁ ਨਹੀ ਸਹਸਾ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ਸਿਕਦਾਰਹੁ ਨਹ ਪਤੀਆਇਆ ਉਮਰਾਵਹੁ ਆਗੈ ਝੇਰਾ ਮਿਲਿ ਰਾਜਨ ਰਾਮ ਨਿਬੇਰਾ ੫ ੬੨੧

The Panches cannot relieve me of doubts; the leaders cannot satisfy; those in authority cannot resolve the problems; only the Lord God can resolve the problems (SGGS, p 621).

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