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Talking Stick

The Talking Stick Colloquium III: Pauri Two - January 18 - 24

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA

 

SESSION THREE

The following is the topic of discussion for the period - Monday, January 18 to Sunday, January 24.

On Monday every week -  a verse, or a combination of verses that share a common theme, is presented here, accompanied by a narrative. The supplementary text is merely to serve as a place holder or receptacle over which readers are invited to build an exchange of ideas through their own interpretations, comments, questions, ruminations, meditations, etc. This will enhance and enrich the narrative.

The dialogue around each verse - or theme - will conclude on Sunday of each week. And a new round will begin on the following (Monday) morning.

Please post your input at the bottom of this page, as instructed therein. And please adhere to the guidelines as shown on the right.

 

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC 

 

Stanza (PauRi) II

Through Hukam, all forms originate;

That Hukam, no one can state.

Through Hukam, all Life is manifest;

By Hukam are we richly blessed.

Through Hukam is rank and order maintained;

Through Hukam, joy and sorrow ordained.

Hukam spells release for some;

Endless wandering for others it becomes.

Writ large in all creation is Hukam's rule;

Immune not even the smallest molecule.

Says Nanak, if to Hukam we attune,

Lose forever the sense of separate self we assume.

 

THE MESSAGE

Our dialogue so far has centered on Hukam or Divine Will, to which we must conform in order to attain the goal of human life: becoming a sachiyaar.

A sachiyaar, we discovered, personifies Truth by awakening in his or her person, the qualities and virtues expressed in the Mool Mantar.

Ritual and practice, we concluded, if undertaken with inner awareness, could be a useful aid in this awakening process and provide the underpinning of a way of life.

Having stressed the need to recognize or attune to Hukam, Guru Nanak in Stanza II, shares with us intimations of Hukam - as it was revealed to him.

The word Hukam is of Persian-Arabic origins, meaning Order, Writ, Decree, Will or Command. Guru Nanak has invested it with a metaphysical or spiritual connotation which points to the Divine order that organizes and controls the entire life process.

All sentient life has been brought forth by Hukam; Hukam governs our moral and ethical worlds; its working determines the cause and effect of our actions; the distinctions in rank, status and achievement; sorrow and happiness, and the union and separation of events and people. Recognition of Hukam leads to destruction of haumai.

Haumai is a central concept in Guru Nanak's teaching and here he introduces us to the idea for the first time.

Haumai is conventionally understood to be Ego or self-centered pride. As we try to uncover the meaning of haumai during the course of this dialogue, we will discover that haumai does not really lend itself easily to a satisfactory English equivalent.

 

STANZA 2 - THE TEXT

Hukmī hovan ākār hukam na kahi▫ā jā▫ī.

Through Hukam, all forms originate;

That Hukam, no one can state.

Hukam is the creator of the world of phenomena that encompasses the formation of galaxies, planets as well as well as human forms. But Hukam cannot be described, because "no one knows Hukam in its fullness, nor can anyone take stock of its creativity." [GGS: 1241]

 

Hukmī hovan jā▫ī hukam milai vadi▫ā▫ī

Through Hukam, all Life is manifest;

By Hukam, are we richly blessed.

Hukam breathes life into all sentient beings and invests them with blessings. The greatest of all blessings is nadar which gives us the discernment to recognize Hukam.

 

Hukmī uṯam nīcẖ hukam likẖ ḏukẖ sukẖ pā▫ī▫ah.

Through Hukam is rank and order maintained;

Through Hukam, joy and sorrow ordained.

Hukam determines the supply chain, social order, and establishes the law that brings joy and sorrow. Put another way, since Hukam is the source of all creation, there is no high and low, and joy and sorrow become (at least in large part) the outcomes of human choice.

 

Iknā hukmī bakẖsīs ik hukmī saḏā bẖavā▫ī▫ah

Hukam spells release for some;

Endless wandering for others it becomes

Hukam controls the endless cycle of birth and death; "bakẖsīs" is commonly used to mean a blessing or a gift or even a tip for some service rendered. Here it is used as a metaphor for salvation. Just like a tip is "earned", so is bakẖsīs to be earned through our actions. Accordingly, some remain in the endless migratory cycle of birth and death while others secure an early exit.

 

Hukmai anḏar sabẖ ko bāhar hukam na ko▫e

Writ large in all creation is Hukam's rule;

Immune not even the smallest molecule.

Everything is contained within Hukam: from the physical structure of the Universe, to the social and moral order that governs humans, to the quantum world - nothing is immune from the authority of Hukam.

 

Nānak hukmai je bujẖai ṯa ha▫umai kahai na ko▫e.

Says Nanak, if to Hukam we attune,

Lose forever the sense of separate self we assume.

This line is the crux of Guru Nanak's message. Solving (or living) the riddle of Hukam, is a consciousness altering experience that results in an awareness of the true nature of things. The consequence is profound: we "see" everything connected in an underlying Unity. There is no separate self (haumai).  

 

COMMENTARY

Hukam appears to be the term used for the creative or regulatory agency that operates at all levels of existence. In today's terms, we could, perhaps, think of it as the spiritual impulse that drives evolution of the species, regulates the natural order, establishes the moral and ethical framework, and exists in us as the sense of self.

This impulse or drive can be seen as the intersection of the formless God (nirgun) and expressed in Time and History as creation (sargun).

Although Hukam is ultimately beyond the comprehension of the human intellect, it lies within the range of human experience. There is embedded in us another knowing or understanding that surpasses the intellect and it is to this mystical faculty that we must turn to understand Hukam.

This knowledge, (also called a priori knowledge by western philosophers) is with us from birth in a dormant state (forgotten, or vismaran) but can be brought to surface by the process of recollection (simran).

In subsequent verses of the Japji, Guru Nanak gives us further insight into how to activate this knowledge. For now, let us see if we can make sense of Hukam in practical terms and what might it mean for us in terms of our daily lives.

Equally importantly, we will pause - briefly - to attempt an "unpacking" of the concept of haumai which finds mention here (verse 2) for the first time in the Guru Granth Sahib.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

ü       Hukam appears to be teleological or having direction and purpose in Time. Can we infer from this that uncovering this purpose is the "riddle of life?" In other words, will an upshot of understanding Hukam be the discovery of our own individual purpose?

ü       If Hukam is the creative impulse of God and runs through all of creation, does it mean that we have an obligation to be co-creators with the Divine?

ü       Another point of interest, which remains somewhat open, is the role of the so-called five evils, "Anger, Pride, Lust, Greed and Attachment." Can these be uprooted? Should they be 'killed' or eradicated?

 

 

Conversation about this article

1: D.J. Singh (U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 5:38 AM.

'Everything is contained within Hukam: from the physical structure of the Universe, to the social and moral order that governs humans, to the quantum world.' Belief in God and religion is a kind of passion that has generated both noble works and evil deeds. It has produced great literature, music, art, architecture and sculpture. It has also produced intolerance, civil strife, wars, cruelty and persecution. Are good and evil both part of this Hukam? Then why complain of sickness, atrocities, war and suffering?

2: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 9:41 AM.

I have always felt that Hukam is God's command, and everything happens according to His command. We can simply observe His command but we cannot interpret it. This includes the good and bad things. However, are they really good and bad, or is just how we interpret them to be? Is it good that God has given us the intelligence to ponder over these things, or is it bad that he has made a creature that is aware that it will die, but is powerless to prevent its own death?

3: Yadwindwer Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 11:28 AM.

As we discussed earlier , Hukam can be razaa or rahmat. In real life presume that these are two banks of a river, rahmat is one and razaa is the other. So if we are blessed with something, the challenge is not to get excited, but to maintain a balance and poise. On the other hand, if there is a bad time, try to maintain the same balance and poise in the midst of a storm ... or tragedy, death, fianancial loss, recession, etc. So, if we think razaa is hukam in bad times, rahmat is hukam of boom times and a Sikh`s reaction is to the same in either case.

4: D.J. Singh (U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 1:49 PM.

Dear Brijinder Singh ji, there is no question that blindness, stroke, cancer, rape and murder are bad. There is nothing left to interpretation about these! The question is: are these part of Hukam? In order to understand Hukam, it is also important to identify how we perceive God. In other words, where does this Hukam come from? 1) Do we believe in an authoritarian God who is deeply involved in our daily lives and world events? This God gets angry and punishes the unfaithful or ungodly. 2) Do we believe in a benevolent God who is deeply involved in our daily lives and world events, but is mainly a positive force less willing to punish? 3) Do we believe in a critical God who does not really interact with the world but is unhappy with the current state of the world and will exact divine judgment? 4) Do we believe in a distant God who does not interact with the world and is not angry? This God is more of a cosmic force that sets the laws of nature in motion. So the real question is: does God micromanage our existence or does He lay down the ground rules but does not interfere with our daily lives?

5: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 4:30 PM.

In the last line, Guru Nanak talks about haumai - I would like to know the panel's point of view on this, and what can we do to eliminate haumai from our life!

6: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 6:01 PM.

D.J. Singh ji, there is no doubt that the things you have mentioned are bad, however even they are tied to Hukam. "Hukmae andar sab ko bahar hukam na koe". Everything is subject to God's Hukam, and nothing is free from it. Everything comes from Hukam, but it is we who decide what is good and what is bad. God does not have any position or intention. Therefore, one cannot say that God is so cruel to let murder, rape and disease happen. He does as He wishes, but who are we to judge his actions? We cannot expect Him to conform to our system of morality. I do not believe that God is a being that is watching over the Universe. Rather, God is the Universe. The creation is part of God and God is within the creation. God is a cosmic force that binds the universe together, and it is all around us. Your last question really brings up the idea of destiny. Do we have free will, or has everything in our lives already been pre-arranged? I don't know if there is a satisfactory answer to this. Some will argue that we have the ability to choose, but is this simply an illusion? Have our choices already been chosen for us?

7: D.J. Singh (U.S.A.), January 18, 2010, 7:00 PM.

Dear Yadwinder Singh ji, Japji Sahib teaches us that spiritual success is dependent upon the suppression of the ego with the discipline of morality and meditation, as well as molding one's life in accordance with His Will. Guru Nanak suggests a three-fold course for realisation: 1) Sunai or listening to the Holy Name; 2) Maniai or conviction in the truth of the Guru's Word; and 3) Nidhiasan or carrying out the Guru's instructions in daily life.

8: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), January 18, 2010, 7:19 PM.

I fear we are getting stuck in the paucity of single-word translations. If we think of Hukam as mere command, I think it will take us to a dead end. Ravinder has already mentioned the multiplicity of component meanings of key terms, including the word "Hukam". We may want to look at a wider, more encompassing meaning, such as Order - not 'order' as 'command', but 'order' as in Law and Order! And, add other levels of meaning, to get a fuller understanding of Hukam. I remember Maskeen ji talking about it as including the Law of Gravity as part of Hukam. Thus, if I may extend his analogy, life and death, pain and suffering, illness and death ... all are part of the Law of Nature. Similarly, a fruit blossoms, it ripens, it rots, it dies. Is that good or bad ... or simply living ... and yes, dying, within Hukam! That got me thinking about how much we limit our comprehension of key terms.

9: Mohan Singh  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 18, 2010, 8:37 PM.

God is without any physical shape, but all his creation is in physical form, and every creation is in his Hukam [GGS:464, et al]. This is how Guru ji wanted to emphasize that all of God's creation is in His Hukam. As human being, our birth and death is in his Hukam, but we are independent in our deeds. God created water and from the same, some made liquor and some made nectar. Similarly, being a gurmukh or munnmukh is determined by our behaviour. Pauri 2 of Japji Sahib asks us to understand His Hukam. In the 1st pauri, Guru Nanak asked us to learn to live in Hukam and here in the 2nd pauri he clearly states that we are all in His Hukam, so let us understand and control our Ego. The five evils cannot be uprooted, killed or eradicated; they are to be controlled. Controlling kaam is to view other women as mother, sister or daughter, and not to have bad intentions. Controlling lobh is to earn one's living with honesty and dignity and not by corrupt means. Those who are busy amassing wealth, but do not have time for their spouse, kids or the community - they too are in lobh. Krodh and moh are fed by ahankaar. An ahankaari wants to parade his ego wherever he can; upon failure, he expresses anger. On the other hand, he would love to attach with those who support him by stroking his ego. Gurbani is all about controlling the ego and other evils and understanding Hukam.

10: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 7:06 AM.

I discern two strands of thought here: one, raised by Yadwinder Singh on Haumai. My recommendation to the participants would be to hold off discussing Haumai till next week. It is too important a subject to be mixed up with the current discussion on Hukum - although I am mindful of the fact that they are intertwined. The second thought process - around Hukam - is what we should try and focus on this week. Let's not get ahead of ourselves by talking about "suniyeh, maniyeh" yet. The exchange between D.J. Singh and Brijinder Singh raises some serious - and worthy - questions. Let's hear from the rest of the sangat. Are we being micromanaged? Do we have conscious Will? We may not come to a conclusion this week, or ever, but that is okay. The dialogue is important because it might give us (individually) openings or intimations from the Divine.

11: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 9:06 AM.

T. Sher Singh ji, I agree with you. I think it is important for us to keep in mind that Guru Nanak wrote Japji in a poetic form. Therefore, a lot of the words that he uses are figurative or metaphorical, instead of literal. Hukam may not be a literal command, but a system of law and order that encompasses everything in the universe, and nothing is free from this system.

12: Dr. Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 19, 2010, 9:21 AM.

Just a thought - Life begins with "Hukam" and ends with "Hukam" - in between, we choose from billions of possible and available "choices" to live our lives. I have seen many a time that we usurp our entire lifetime attempting to explain to others why we made those choices and why they are good and/or appropriate, knowing fully well... what can I say, we all know the answer. God's actions and godly living is there to live and feel and enjoy and cherish effortlessly. They stand out by themselves and touch you ... and require no explanation or justification.

13: Jasvinder Parmar (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 19, 2010, 12:26 PM.

I agree with T. Sher Singh ji and Birjinder ji. The "hukam" here signifies the laws around us according to which this universe works. I believe in God who is there just to look after us like our parents and energize us to live in this world's drama ('supne ju saansar'). He never has intentions to do any harm to us or punish us ever. Whatever happens around us is the result of our own actions (karam), which are governed by Hukam, the laws of nature, spirit, science and all other laws like that. E.g., as you sow, so shall you reap! There is always going to be reaction to our actions. If our actions have been good, then we get good results. Maybe sometimes we don't remember our actions, as they might have been in the past life too. So here I think Hukam refers to this system and laws according to which everything around us is functioning - such as the laws of nature and all the scientific laws that have been discovered by now. But these laws have always existed. Once we know of them, we can use them to our advantage. For example, I know now that if I try to fly off the edge of a building, I am only going down. So I don't try to fly, unless I can counter gravity somehow!) Similarly, if we pay attention to these spiritual laws as described in gurbani, then we can use them to our advantage and make our life beautiful and get rid of our haumai. This is easy to do if we keep reminding us what our religion has been teaching us.

14: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 19, 2010, 12:39 PM.

Just to add to my earlier post, razaa and rehmat must be the results of our actions. If our actions have been good, then we get rehmat, and if our actions have not been good, then we end up facing razaa. It is all in our hands, as we create our own destiny everyday.

15: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 3:53 PM.

Is Hukam such that every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed in life? Hukam is a difficult concept to get our hands or minds around very easily. It is command, edict, and also order, as opposed to disorder. It is to recognize the limits of even our best or worst efforts. Within the larger order that remains mysterious and mystifying, humans do have free will. If there were absolutely no choice available to us, then Guru Nanak would absolutely NOT have advised us - "aapay beej aapay hee khaah" - "As you sow, so shall you reap" - later in the Japji Sahib. Nor would the Guru Granth then advise us to "Uddham karendia(n) jio too" or "aapan hathee aapnaa aapay hee kaj savareeyae." The idea here is to make honest choices, do the best with them and accept what life will do with them. Not rue the results, nor lose the self in pride of achievement but to be at peace with life. Why? To live another day through both defeat and victory. In short, the purpose of Hukam to me, then, becomes living life fully, honestly and purposefully - to live in the present, or as some might say, to live the moment.

16: Satinder (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), January 19, 2010, 5:39 PM.

I totally agree with Ravinder Singh ji's interpretation. Meaning, when we see the underlying unity of the universe, the ego dies. I believe in D.J Singh ji's description that God does not micromanage our existence, He only lays down the ground rules but does not interfere with our daily lives. We are totally accountable for our choices in our lives, even though some of our inclinations and tendencies might be ingrained in our personality from the past lives. However, I believe that our very best of choices might not bring out the individual material results we seek in this life, because other people's choices might be countering our results. A spiritual person must accept such results in the name of freedom to make choices ('sarbat da bhalaa') with somewhat of Yadwinder Singh ji's attitude/ humility. I believe that a seeker's choice of right action is a humble offering to God to prove the willingness to clean the heart (the throne) where the seeker wishes God will sit one day. The journey is long, personal, and as unique as our personalities, full of challenges, but with the light of gurbani and the support of sangat, we will continue on the right path till we are blessed with His grace to know the universal truth.

17: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 5:56 PM.

I would like to say that even though Japji Sahib is written in poetic format, but the Mool Mantar is free of any form. Thus, Waheguru cannot be restricted by words. And His Hukam or existence or actions are beyond the scope of our comprehension.

18: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 19, 2010, 6:41 PM.

Hukam is to live according to the social rules, abide by the law of nature, and maintain discipline. Each religion has spelled its own code of conduct. God never gives us illness or misery. He is merciful, nirvair and daata. He cares and gives to everyone be a gurmukh or a manmukh. He does not discriminate. Sukh-Dukh or illness is the result of our bad actions, our excesses. Everything in excess is poison. If you put others in trouble, it will bounce back multifold. If we plant a mango seed, the fruit will be mango, not apple. This is the principle of God [GGS:449]. So Hukam is to live as a gurmukh with moral behaviour and to be attached with God through gurbani. Every day in ardaas, we ask for "Sikhaan da munn neevaan, mutt Ucchee; Mutt-putt da raakhaa aap Akal Purakh" - that is, we are in Hukam. As in India, we are used to driving on the left side of the road, but in western countries we have to change to the right. Thus we follow the trafic rules; this is an example of what it means to live in Hukam.

19: Tejwant Singh (Nevada, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 8:16 PM.

Hukam means: what ought to happen in any form or shape is going to happen. Our limited, limited language and intellect cannot express it nor can they grasp this Wow! and Awe! factors of Hukam. We should not confuse human actions good or bad, inactions with the Hukam of The Source which in itself is unfathomable and indescribable. Hukam teaches us acceptance which is umpteen steps ahead of tolerance that other dogmatic religions teach. Hukam is a vast tent under which all humanity has the capability of living in harmony. Mool Mantar is the blue print of Truthful living, Jap is its foundation and the rest of the Guru Granth teaches us that if we abide by the Hukam, then we can all lead a truthful life, irrespective of our hue, creed or faith.

20: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 19, 2010, 9:30 PM.

Many readers have made commendable observations but the first line of the stanza pretty much sums up the fact that hukam cannot be described. Just as the seed planted in the soil becomes a beautiful plant or tree, that is something that can only be experienced in wonder and not explained, and so it is with hukam [GGS:268 'tumri gat mitt tum hi jaani']. Interestingly Guru Nanak in the next 4 lines gives us an inkling as to what it encompasses. 'Hukmee utam neech' refers to the natural order of his creation, e.g. carbon is both in charcoal and in a diamond, in trees the chandan and the simmal, in wild animals the hog and the lion, in birds the vultures and the birds of paradise, etc. The second part of the line pertains to the fact that this duality of pain and pleasure in life is all part of hukam. It is in our egoistic nature to always want comfort and pleasure. When we do 'good' things like punn, daan and seva and a calamity happens, we are easily pained and seek answers, when all that is happening is in His hukam. Also note that the important message in the last line is a 'bujharat' (riddle) that will take time and meditation to understand, and through the Guru's grace, upon this realization, that we are really not separate from Him, and hence the diminishing of haumai. This non-separateness gives us this creative potential, in my humble opinion it is woven into our fabric and we only have to discover it. We have witnessed time and again how some of our fellow humans have created wonderful inventions and made fascinating discoveries leaving us in awe. We all need to realize our potentials and as I.J. Singh mentions, to live in the moment and to live life fully calls for nothing short of continually being creative and living in the sensation of vismaad.

21: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 20, 2010, 1:09 PM.

A few of you have brought up the topic of Karma - as you sow, so shall you reap. Then how do we explain bad things happening to good people? For example, in the Haiti earthquake, can we assume that all of the thousands of people who died were all sinners? Does rape, murder and disease only happen to bad people? Do we do good deeds to please God, or do we do them to please others? Also on the topic of past lives, I have always wondered if gurbani teaches of a literal reincarnation of the soul. If so, then how do we explain the increase in human population over time? Shouldn't the population remain the same?

22: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 20, 2010, 4:40 PM.

In response to Brijinder, death is another stage in this worldly existence. If you listen to Bhai Vir Singh, when we see a picture of ourselves when young, that individual in that picture has passed on to another stage in life and is no longer here (similar to dying). Scientifically, every cell in our bodies has renewed itself thousands of times in our lifetimes, so death is another stage in this process of living, and all part of hukam. When the fifth and ninth Gurus were brutally tortured and killed, do you think they had sinned to deserve what happened? There is no 'karm' or action that can be done to please God. He doesn't have a need to be pleased. We only have to remember him in meditation and assume his qualities. Later on in the Japji we read of 'bad' things (like rape and murder) where Guru Nanak towards the end of stanza 18 says: 'Nanak neech kahai veechaar'. We will ponder on that stanza when we come to it.

23: D.J.Singh (U.S.A.), January 20, 2010, 6:44 PM.

The Supreme Being, the Hukam, and me! The mool mantar describes God as a universal, self existent, timeless being who is beyond comprehension. On the other hand, I have a finite height. I was born with a fixed lifespan, and will ultimately leave this physical world by the process of death. This makes me realize that in the larger scheme of things, I am a non-entity. I am nothing! Therefore, I have no ego. Every moment that I meditate on God's Name, I understand my limits. After shedding my ego, I now want to be a part of the Ultimate Reality. I now want to understand the scheme of things - the Hukum, the Universal Order! In Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak instructs us to meditate on God's Name; believe in God;s Word; and carry out the Guru's instructions in daily life. What is God's Word? If we cannot comprehend God, how was His Word revealed to us? Some believe that God's Hukam encompasses ground rules for our existence; and God does not interfere in our day to day existence. Should we then pray to God every moment of our existence? How about daily nitnem? Should we pray to God at birth, marriage and death? Should we pray to God prior to school examinations or starting a new business? If God does not interfere with our free will and choice, how does divine justice come into play? There are others who believe that God micromanages our existence. 'Not a leaf falls without His Knowledge'. Then why do bad things happen to good people? Why has there been sickness, suffering and tragedy in the last 2010 years. Is it because God gave us free will and we did not utilize it wisely or God has been unable to micromanage our existence? Or is there another Truth which we are unable to comprehend!

24: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 21, 2010, 1:22 AM.

As Birjinder Singh ji has asked about whether there is any reference to reincarnation in our gurbani, I would also like to find that out about this. I will like to add as well that even our thinking is considered as karam, and any negative thought we have about ourselves or others is going to give us the results accordingly. It is not just the actions done by our hands or words spoken out of our mouth, that constitutes karam. In Hindu mythology, they say that more and more people keep coming on this earth, and once someone comes here they will not go back, but they will keep being reborn. May be that's why the population keeps increasing? [EDITOR: If this is true, it only applies to Hindus, not Sikhs!] We should not do good karam to merely please God or others, as mentioned earlier by someone else in the posts too. The reason we do good karams is a bit selfish because it is only us who will have to suffer the consequences of the bad karams.

25: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 21, 2010, 5:55 AM.

I agree with Gurdev Singh ji, we have to remember God in meditation and assume his qualities with shabad-gurbani. Our soul is an integral part of the 'Prime Soul' in very much the same way as a ray of light belongs to its source, the Sun. The two differ only in degree, but in essence they are the same. Man is said to have been created by God 'in His own image'. [Editor: A caveat - this is a Christian concept, not a Sikh one.] Our soul (atma) has to merge with the Prime Soul (parm-atma).

26: Tejwant (U.S.A.), January 21, 2010, 12:38 PM.

Karam, simply put, is a scientific term. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karam needs no dogmas or any snake oil rub as in Hinduism, which seems to have contaminated the Sikh psyche, sadly to say. As far as the questions raised by Brijinder Singh re earthquakes and other natural disasters, I am sorry to say but they have nothing to do with the karams of anyone. This is part of the Hukam that can not be avoided. One more question raised by him: "Then how do we explain bad things happening to good people?" My own personal life indicates to me that things happen. It is our perspective towards the happenings that makes them either good or bad. When we look at the same event as bad, we ask: "Why me?" And when we look at something good as bhaana and hukam, then we say, "Why not me?" The sacrifices of our Gurus would show us that. Lots of bad things happened to them but a lot good came out of it. June 5 of every year is just one date of many which reminds us of that. We are the living proof of that good. So, the question should not be: "Why bad things happen to good people?" but when things happen, whether good or bad, how can one make the best out of them? Guru Granth is the best tool box which teaches us how to make lemonade when life offers us a lemon or two.

27: Satinder (Calgary, Alberta, canada), January 21, 2010, 12:49 PM.

So we understand about Hukam in animals that a cat has certain behaviors of survival and a dog has certain others. The sun rises within a certain hukum and planets exist and revolve in a certain order of balance. All kinds of vegetation grows, and produces fruit and flowers of different varieties ... all within a certain order. The forest burns, the volcano erupts, rivers form, the earthworm tills the soil, countless bacteria contribute to the recycling and, rejuvenating of soil ... under a certain order. The universe is a giant ecosystem functioning within an order with constant sprouting, feeding sometimes on each other, growing, seeding and finally dying to provide conditions for new growth. On occasions, human beings discover a fraction of this order and get applauded by the rest of humanity to win, say, the Nobel Prize. Only human beings have the ability to see, discover and use this 'order' for good or bad such as in atom bombs or climate change. So sometimes there are catastrophic consequences such as earthquakes or tornadoes due to the operation of the natural order ... or possibly due to human misuse of the order (as due to carbon emissions, global warming etc), which in turn is also part of the order. So human beings suffer sometimes due to collective choices and always due to individual bad choices. Such sufferings remind us that our time as mortals is limited, forces us to look at the bigger picture, shakes us into awareness of the purpose of life, and perhaps gives us an opportunity to aspire/ refocus our energies to the wisdom in gurbani. So that, with His grace, the words of gurbani come alive in us and we will know the real hukum.Then I (the ego) will be no more.

28: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 21, 2010, 2:09 PM.

Why don't we accept other religions and their teachings? Are my religious teachings the best? Just because I was born in a Sikh family, am I limited to following Sikhism strictly? [Editor: Great question. Another forum, another day ... But for this conversation, let's keep focus on the second pauri.]

29: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 21, 2010, 2:20 PM.

Jasvinder and Brijinder have raised questions about incarnation, reincarnation and related matters. I can refer them to two of my earlier columns on this site: "From Here to Eternity", posted on June 13, 2008 and "Here & Now", posted September 23, 2009. The first essay is more specific to these issues; the second explores related issues. A detailed response now would be repetitious.

30: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 21, 2010, 7:00 PM.

Kudos to the sangat for staying focused on Hukam - although related issues like karma, reincarnation, haumai, the value of other faith traditions, have also surfaced. But that was only to be expected and we hope to return to them later. Personally, my sense is that Hukam is the creative process behind all creation (of which we are a part) in which we must actively and consciously participate (conform) - for the sake of a purpose that is larger and greater than our own selfish and narrow ends. I think that the riddle of Hukam is solved by discovering - in our own lives - the intersection of this larger cosmic purpose and our own personal goals. The cosmic purpose is pretty clear: to participate actively with Hukam to bring about the fullest flowering of one's individual consciousness. The way to awaken our consciousness fully is the way of Naam. Only a fully awake consciousness can act without the taint of haumai. Our challenge then is to understand Naam - of which Hukam is only another expression.

31: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), January 21, 2010, 7:05 PM.

Reincarnation is just a fancy word for recycling. Nothing more. All organic and inorganic stuff (the latter also includes the dead) gets recycled. This is the law of the land - the Hukam from Ik Oankaar, the One and only Source.

32: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A. ), January 22, 2010, 3:47 AM.

Just as a follow up on my previous note: to participate in the process of life is just another way of saying, "participate in life!" At bottom, Hukam is the agency by which the Collective (universal) Consciousness conditions itself in Time and Space and projects out as a multiplicity of forms and appearances. This process, much like an apparition, is Maya, expressing itself through haumai - it veils us from "direct" experience of the Oneness of everything. I think this is the riddle Guru Nanak wants us to solve so that "Haumai kaheh na koi." Easier said than done!

33: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 22, 2010, 7:50 AM.

The iniitial pauris tell us about the significance of Hukam. Hukam helps us to achieve a sahaj stage of mind, at which point both pleasure and sorrow become equally palatable. This amazing chronology or sequence of pauris - Hukam, Suniyai, Maniyai - lays the foundation of a gurmukh life the way a mother teaches an infant how to eat, talk and walk.

34: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), January 22, 2010, 9:16 AM.

Our birth is not by our choice. The place of birth, time of birth, our color, our face, race and religion are not by our choice. Our parents, brothers, sisters and all other relatives are not our choice. They are all God's gift and we accept it as we grow. This is Hukam, but how to deal or behave with parents, brothers, sisters and all other relatives - in that, we have a choice: that is karam. Our behaviour will reflect our haumai or our submission to Hukam.

35: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Dallas. Texas, U.S.A.), January 22, 2010, 11:28 PM.

For me, in this 'pauri', Guru Nanak is elaborating his thoughts about Hukam. Which as I have already said is the universe around us. A few comments before I share my 'pauri'-related thoughts. There are two parallel thoughts going on about 'hukam' in this discussion. One is the literal translation (which has been with us for long time) and the other is metaphoric. Since Sikhism is a faith, each one of us has the right to interpret it the way we choose. However, there is one uniqueness in Guru Nanak's bani requiring comment. Besides the Mool Mantar, which I believe is his credal statement and hence beyond multiple interpretations. Otherwise, most of his bani uses images from natural phenomena. It may be air, water, bird, tree, human nature, etc. Back to the 'pauri' - Guru Nanak believes that everything we obtain is available to everybody within the existing order of the universe we live in. He gives several examples in this hard to visualize universe such as birth, recognition, pain, pleasure, better, worse, blessings, wandering/ runarounds, etc. We all are subject to many limitations embeded in the universe as well. We need to understand (bujhaai) our relationship with the universe and similar treatment met by everybody from the universe. Once we get that, there is not much room/ reason left for us to develop 'haumai'. Because 'haumai' arises out of our self perceived egoistic opinion about 'self' being special (birth, height, appearance), accomplishments, etc. The word 'bujhaai' for me is not a riddle. It is to understand, to realize, to become aware of. A comment was made about getting rid of 'haumai'. This 'pauri' provides ample reasoning and some ways to help us do that. More will follow as we move ahead.

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