In Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, a sant is a human being revered for his or her knowledge of "self, truth, reality" and as a "truth-exemplar".
Sant is sometimes translated as "saint", but this is a false cognate (there is no etymological commonality).Sant is derived from the Sanskrit root sat, which can mean "truth, reality, essence", and saint is derived from Latin sanctus, which means "holy, sacred", from Indo-European root sak-, "to sanctify"
Schomer and McLeod explain Sant as preceptor of Sat or "truth, reality", in the sense of "'one who knows the truth' or 'one who has experienced Ultimate Reality', that is a person who has achieved a state of spiritual enlightenment or mystical self-realisation". William Pinch suggests the best translation of sant is "truth-exemplar".
Sant differs from saint not merely in the etymological sense but also in usage. The word is used in various contexts:
- In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century India under Islamic rule, it was used generally to describe teachers and poet-scholars who led worshippers and communities the praises of god or goddess within the Bhakti movement in Hinduism.
- It referred to the Gurus of Sikhism religion that developed from the 15th century onwards, and other holy men who later taught Guru Granth Sahib.
- In modern era, the term sometimes describes any holy man or woman who advocates a particular form of spirituality or members of the group that leads a Sant Mat (teachings of a spiritual congregation).
- The term is also used in a generic sense and in this respect is similar to the usage of saint to indicate a morally good person. As such, it has been applied to a wide range of gurus and other religious leaders.
- Hawley, John Stratton, ed. (1987), Saints and Virtues, University of California Press, ISBN 9780520061637
- Schomer, Karine; McLeod, W. H., eds. (1987), The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 9788120802773