Ik Onkar Satnaam Karta Purakh Nirbhau Nirvair Akaal Moorat Ajooni Saibhang Gurprasad
To understand the depth of the Mool Mantra, let us understand each word and phrase.
Ik Literally, Ik means One. At the heart of the Sikh belief about God is the faith that there is One God. There is no duality or multiplicity.
Onkar In common usage, Onkar means God. Using etymology, one can decipher Onkar to mean That Which Was, Is, and Will Be. This provides a basic definition of God. Taken together, Ik Onkar, refers to the uniqueness of the entity we call God.
SatnaamSatnaam is a compound word and can be broken into Sat and Naam. Sat means Truth. Naam means Name. So, taken literally, Satnaam means (God's) Name is the Truth. But, what is this "name" that we are talking about? When one studies the Guru Granth Sahib, one realizes that the Name is the Word of God (also called Shabad). So, Satnaam means that God's word is the truth.
Karta Literally, Karta means the One Who Does.
Purakh Literally Purakh translates to Man or Being. So, Karta Purakh means the Being That Does All That is Done. This is a motif that is oft-repeated in the Guru Granth Sahib – All that happens is by the act/consent of God.
NirbhauNir means Devoid Of and Bhau means Fear. So, Nirbhau means Devoid of Fear. In the context of the Mool Mantra, this fearlessness is sometimes taken literally. But, some believe that the intent of Nirbhau is to inform that God is unequalled and Supreme.
Nirvair As earlier, Nir means Devoid Of and Vair means Enmity. So, Nirvair means Devoid of Enmity. In the context, Nirvair means that God is all-loving and does not discriminate between different parts of his creation based on any attribute.
Akaal-Moorat Kaal has two common meanings – Time and Death. Akaal hence means One Who Is Not Subject to Time/Death. Moorat literally means Shape. So, Akaal-Moorat means The Entity That Is Not Subject to Death Or Bound By Time. The word Moorat (shape / form) must not be mistaken to attribute any physical manifestation to God. The Guru Granth Sahib makes repeated mention of the formless nature of God.
AjooniJoon is Birth. Sikhism believes that living beings go through cycles of birth and death. But God is A-Jooni, i.e., Beyond Birth / Death. Never was a time when God did not exist, nor will there ever be a time when God will not exist.
SaibhangSai (Self) Bhang (Existent) means Self-Created.
Gurprasad The purpose of following the path of Sikhism is to attain oneness with God. Guru means Teacher, Prasad means Grace. Taken together Gurprasad means (God Is) Attained by the Grace of the Guru.
Aad Sach,Jugad Sach
Hai Bhi Sach,Nanak Hosi Bhi Sach
True before creation, True through all ages, True also today
says Nanak, True He shall eternally be.