Spiritual Pain: YUKTANAND SINGH
Letter & Spirit - Part 9
People often ask:
“Does spirituality have any practical significance?”
“Will it feed my family?”
Many believe that spirituality is only for dreamers, that it is neither relevant nor necessary in the real world. Talk of spirituality is thus, for them, just like talking in the wilderness.
Discussion of the spiritual meaning of gurbani, therefore, interests not everybody.
Some people have faith in a God and believe in a judgment day, but faith in spirituality is still ‘other worldly’ in their opinion; while some others believe that even faith in God is just like taking a drug that masks our pain and merely makes us feel good.
But, sooner or later, everyone experiences some form of crisis. Our beliefs then can seem harmful to our health. The deeper the belief, the greater is the agony during the crisis. This makes some people ask if having belief in God is worth the trouble. Does God really exist?
The trouble lies in our failure to grasp God’s nature. Many people still see God as someone who is watching us from a distant and elevated ‘heaven’ waiting to punish or reward us, or someone who stands ready, waiting for us to pray whenever we are ready, as if God was our servant, not our master. It is no surprise that we have a crisis when events do not go our way.
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The word ‘crisis’ is derived from a Greek word meaning decision, judgment, or time to choose (between truth and falsehood). The emotional instability we experience during a crisis is because we have neglected to analyze our intentions before a crisis occurs.
Because we are humans, we are supposed to analyze the reason for our acts and intentions, the purpose of our life, and the purpose of our faith.
We treat spirituality as if it is something one resorts to if searching for one’s child during a flood or tsunami, but otherwise unnecessary. We are not aware of this, but in life we are all separated from our love. It is only upon realization of this loss that brings out that same search deep within us.
Not only are we separated from love, we are groping in dark. The only world we know is the one that we can see and touch.
Gurbani teaches us to be prepared to move from one mode to the other. The tsunami that terrifies us also makes us seek the stable unseen truth hidden behind the visible world. When we do so, the flood water then does not drown us any longer. [GGS: 717.5-8]
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The purpose of faith is not to make us happy and comfortable. It is supposed to make us miserable. As long as we are not connected with our husband, everything in the world is supposed to make us miserable. This feeling is often misdiagnosed as depression. Guru Nanak’s parents called a doctor to treat him for this illness.
We need to analyze why we are not suffering from the same illness. Are we better than Guru Nanak? Does modern education obviate spiritual suffering?
When we are in dark, we rely on someone who is not, or the Guru. But first we need to accept that we are in the dark. We are, because cannot see God. Then we need faith in God. Finally, God has to accept us. We cannot force Him to do so. We can only ask.
Having faith in God is no different than having faith in life. Gurbani says that only God is the awareness that lives in us. This awareness, not some chemical reaction, is the true source of compassion, love and forgiveness. The singularity of this awareness has been spiritually experienced and corroborated by various teachers. Experience of oneness and His love is the origin of religion.
Thus: we are alive - therefore God is.
Everything else dies, but the unseen reality. Hidden in everything is the One who was always here and will always be here. ‘aad such jugaad such …’ [Japji].
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Since our soul is a reflection of God, the most appropriate approach would be to seek God within us, and to see Him hidden inside every heart. But He resides outside the circle of ‘me and mine’ (haumai). This is why gurbani advocates the ‘you’ approach that we have discussed earlier.
People often feel that when they learn about spirituality and about God, they must ‘go out’ and do something. But the first outcome of this learning is being completely alive towards the one who is inside us. Only then can we successfully help the world.
True spirituality is having a relationship with God as spirit, through our soul. Our Guru resides with us in our soul. I cannot say about you but sometimes my soul does not talk to me for days. I must be doing something wrong. But we cannot dictate to God.
We call God’s will ‘hukam’ because His will is free of everything, including fear, rancor, etc. God has no needs, but we do. For this reason, even though God listens to us, there is no guarantee that He will agree and grant our prayer. God is controlled only by love.
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In my opinion, gurbani promotes the purest form of love and effort. Gurmat (Guru’s teaching) advocates the path of ‘sehaj’. Sehaj has been translated as ‘slow’, ‘easy’, etc. but the most suitable meaning is ‘natural’ - the natural or a relaxed way. An emotional grasp of truth in gurmat make us naturally and effortlessly walk on the path of Sikhi.
For example, we may be extremely sleepy but if someone was breaking into our house, our sleep evaporates instantly. Similarly, instead of forcing ourselves, or trying to grasp stuff that we cannot grasp well, gurbani stresses that we develop close contact with those who are emotionally saturated with reality. Their company lights the fire in us. Our progress is then natural and inevitable. Sehaj is an emotional state of natural love.
On one hand we are supposed to make a sincere effort. On the other hand true spiritual progress is possible only when God himself corrects us, in a manner that He likes. Those who are thus refined by God’s own hands are called gurmukh or Guru-oriented. As brides, we meet our husband only when He himself makes us worthy of Him.
This is why we read: ‘Guru Ramdas is glorious, glorious indeed; groomed by his own maker. The miracle was complete when his creator himself took abode in him. Sikhs and the congregation bow to him as if he was Lord Himself.’ [GGS: 968.9-10]
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Here are some lines of the shabad we have examined today:
“sun naah parabhoo jee-o aykalrhee ban maahay”
Hear me, O my dear lord – I am all alone in the wilderness.
How can I find comfort without you, O my carefree husband?
A bride cannot live without her husband; the night is so dark and painful.
This love now makes me sleepless, please listen to my prayer!
Other than the beloved no one cares, a lonely bride cries madly.
Says Nanak, separation is misery; that bride whom He himself draws, meets Him. [GGS: 243.1-3]
Conversation about this article
1: Aryeh Leib (Israel), September 12, 2012, 1:48 PM.
"... gurbani stresses that we develop close contact with those who are emotionally saturated with reality. Their company lights the fire in us." It then follows that we must pray that God will be merciful to us and allow us to meet such individuals, in order to jump-start our own progress. This desire is something we can "force" by attuning our desires; convince our pleasure-seeking, Maya-centered consciousness that spirituality provides the ultimate pleasure. Then we won't feel the seeming contradiction of wanting pleasure in our lives, but viewing spirituality as dry, esoteric and UNpleasureable. Then, the strength of will that we presently use to pursue the temporal blandishments of Maya will be channeled with double force - for true pleasure!
2: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), September 12, 2012, 2:45 PM.
You've zeroed in, Aryeh ji, on a key plea in the daily ardaas: "say-ee pyarey mael jinna(n)h milyaa(n) tera naam chit aaveh" - "Bring me (us) into the company of only those, O Lord, who bring forth Thy Name into our consciousness!"
3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 12, 2012, 4:37 PM.
To add to Sher Singh ji's comment: when you are ready, a gurmukh will appear to help you along the path.
4: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 13, 2012, 11:41 AM.
You will notice that I am extremely biased in this respect. Gurmukhs are not easy to come by. The first obvious step would be, knowing the six characteristics of a gurmukh (saadh) that we have discussed earlier on the Talking Stick Colloquium in these very pages. Do we all remember them? Looking back at history (including my own meeting with a gurmukh) I am beginning to feel that, barring God's pity and sheer mercy on us, either the desire to see a gurmukh or the evil and suffering in the society, has to reach a critical mass before a gurmukh crosses our path. It is true that we pray for that mercy everyday. But our prayer can be answered only when we are clear about what we are asking for.
5: Yuktanand Singh (USA), September 13, 2012, 11:44 AM.
According to Bhai Gurdas, Guru Nanak was the first gurmukh of our age. One of Guru Nanak's unique acts was establishing an unbroken stream of gurmukhs and giving us gurbani as the method to make this stream permanent among us. But the common Sikhs have lost the know-how along with their desire to recognize the gurmukhs. We have become spiritually apathetic and then we blame everything else for our deficiency. The institution of sadh sangat is now open for pillaging. If this continues then we will have only one option: wait for evil and suffering to reach a critical mass. Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh tried to prevent this. We the Sikhs were entrusted with this task.
6: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 13, 2012, 5:06 PM.
I first read Bhai Vir Singh ji's 'Rana Surat Singh' in 1955. Although in blank verse, it had a profound effect. Therein you meet gurmukhs according to your need, as you progress. I still remember the verse wherein the loving soul says, "This is as far as I can take you, but you will meet someone who will take you beyond." Since we are not perfect, we don't meet someone perfect the first day. Waheguru sends someone according to your need, no less. In this path, gurmukh qualities germinate. This is an arduous route and there is no standard prescription.