Kids Corner

Talking Stick

Attentive Listening:
The Talking Stick Colloquium VII - Pauris 8 to 11, Feb 15 - 21

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA

 

 

THE DIALOGUE  TO DATE

We have touched on some key philosophical concepts that are central to understanding Guru Nanak's message and teaching: Ik Oankar or The One - expressed as Sat Naam (True Name) informing the manifest universe as a numinous presence. Hukam or the creative agency of Sat Naam, regulating and directing the evolving universe - and to which we must conform. Haumai or the process of creation (individuation), also signifying our symbolic existence - which impels us into a self-centered narcissistic existence, obscuring Hukam and our true purpose. Amrit Vela or Time - whether an instant, a moment, a day or a life time, that is forever flowing, to be grasped as an opportunity to act and connect with the Guru to realize our purpose.

We discovered that the term "Guru" is used in various ways: to signify God expressed as Shabad (Word); to address Guru Nanak in his ten historical forms; to refer to the Word in the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as to the collective community as Guru Panth. God as Shabad found its fullest expression in the person of Guru Nanak and is enshrined forever as the Word in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is to this Guru that we must turn to receive the Truth into our lives. Shabad is the Guru and the source of Divine Wisdom.

Pauris 8 through 11 are devoted to "Suniyeh," which literally means "by listening." "Suniyeh" here can be understood to mean the Guru's instruction which a Sikh must follow, as well as the Guru's Word (Shabad), to which a Sikh must commune in order to reach the goal - here expressed as "sadaa vigaas."

"Sadaa vigaas" or "forever abloom" - is the state of consciousness inhabited by bhagats (gurmukhs) who walk in the Will (Hukam) by listening to the Guru's Word. In Sikh parlance, this state of existence has also been referred to as "Anand," or "sadaa basant," meaning 'forever spring or flowering'.

Access to such a state is available only through the Guru. Why? Because the Guru possesses the key to the Way, "Nanak, meeting the Guru, one is taught the Way: liberation is found while living in this world - in laughter, in play, in wearing and in eating." [GGS:522]

THE MESSAGE - Pauris 8 - 11

Listening holds the key to transformation. The pauris emphasize listening as a means to transcend our limited consciousness into cosmic awareness, gaining access to deeper dimensions of knowledge and existence. As we read through, we recognize the emphasis Guru Nanak places on listening and the fruits of such communion.

LET'S CONSIDER:

ü        Listening - as we practice it - is selective, self serving and conditioned. We like to hear our own echo. Any sound, word, or speech that reinforces our viewpoint is welcome and eagerly sought. Any disagreement or criticism is not received well. Our filters are built-in to reinforce our world view.

  • How can such selective hearing transform us?

ü       The Guru's Way, which we will dwell on, emphasizes the art of listening, or attention.

  • Is the Guru suggesting that we should learn to listen better or is the Guru speaking of another mode of listening - or both?
  • What are we supposed to listen to?

ü        "Sadaa Vigaas" means to be forever in bloom. I read that to mean to be "in the flow" or "in the moment" - which can happen only if we are completely attentive to the moment (i.e., whatever it is that we are doing at that moment). It is only then that we are fully creative or in a state of "vigaas" or "anand."

  • What does the Sangat think?

 

THE TEXT - Rendered in English

PAURI 8

Suṇiai siḏẖ pīr sur nāth.
By listening - are we made an adept, a spiritual preceptor, god like, and a king among yogis.

Suṇiai ḏẖaraṯ ḏẖaval ākās.
By listening - are we made privy to the secret of your creation.

Suṇiai ḏīp lo▫a pāṯāl.
By listening - are the continents, nether regions and higher realms made clear.

Suṇiai pohi na sakai kāl.
By listening - are we delivered from the kiss of Death.

Nānak bẖagṯā saḏā vigās.
O Nanak, the devotee who listens to your Name, remains forever in bloom.

Suṇiai ḏūkẖ pāp kā nās. 
By listening - is release from sorrow and sin obtained 

 

PAURI 9
Suṇiai īsar barmā inḏ.
By listening - we become like shiva, brahma and indra.

Suṇiai mukẖ sālāhaṇ manḏ.
By listening - are we made capable of your praise.

Suṇiai jog jugaṯ ṯan bẖeḏ.
By listening - are the secrets of yoga and the body gained.

Suṇiai sāsaṯ simriṯ veḏ.
By listening - is divine knowledge attained.

Nānak bẖagṯā saḏā vigās.
O Nanak, the devotee who listens to your Name, remains forever in bloom.

Suṇiaiḏūkẖ pāp kā nās.
By listening - is release from sorrow and sin obtained

 

PAURI 10

Suṇiai saṯ sanṯokẖ gi▫ān.
By listening - truthfulness, contentment and wisdom is born.

Suṇiai aṯẖsaṯẖ kā isnān.
By listening - you're immersed, as if on the sixty-eight pilgrimages.

Suṇiai paṛ paṛ pāvahi mān.
By listening - scholarly repute we gain.

Suṇiai lāgai sahj ḏẖi▫ān.
By listening - is mindful attention attained.

Nānak bẖagṯā saḏā vigās.
O Nanak, the devotee who listens to your Name, remains forever in bloom.

Suṇiai ḏūkẖ pāp kā nās. 
By listening - is release from sorrow and sin obtained.

 

PAURI 11

Suṇiai sarā guṇā ke gāh.
By lisening - the ocean of virtue is fathomed.

Suṇiai sekẖ pīr pāṯisāh.
By listening - sage like, spiritual teachers and emperors we become.

Suṇiai anḏẖe pāvahi rāhu.
By listening - even the blind see the Way.

Suṇiai hāth hovai asgāhu.
By listening - the fathomless is grasped.

Nānak bẖagṯā saḏā vigās.
O Nanak, the devotee who listens to your Name, remains forever in bloom.

Suṇiai ḏūkẖ pāp kā nās. 
By listening - is release from sorrow and sin obtained.

 

Conversation about this article

1: Dr. Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), February 15, 2010, 10:59 AM.

Traditionally, listening has always been regarded as a passive skill. Nothing could be further from the truth. This myth, that listening is a passive act, fails to account for the interpretations listeners make as they "hear" the spoken word according to their own purposes, their expectations, and their own store of background knowledge. Modern research has shown that "listening" is not only "active" but also very demanding. This dynamic skill can be learned as a part of "work" related to listening activity. To use modern computer-based terminology, "listening" involves activities that are in the task-based and communicative-outcome modes, where "work" can be made rather enjoyable in a problem-solving and discovery-process format. Students may soon realize that although listening is "work", they need to do in order to become better readers, writers, and speakers in any language, it is not something that comes automatically. It is certainly not an overnight phenomenon. One has to work hard to learn the art of proper listening. Here, one can truly appreciate, for instance, Guru Nanak's emphasis on the value of "listening" in the Japji Sahib: "From listening, sin and sorrow disappear." But what is this 'attentive listening'? Is it an ordinary process of "hearing" or something deeper? How can one attain the spiritual heights/ rewards described in the four stanzas of Japji Sahib under consideration, just by listening? Or does this process refer to a 'mystical way of listening' to the divine Word/divine Name (Shabad/ Nam), eternally sounding vibrations which are the source of all scriptural revelatioins? Or does it refer to the spiritual stage where the discipline of meditation on the divine Name becomes internalized and *nam-simran* continues automatically ('ajapa jap') and where one listens to the music ('dhuni') of the divine Word within one's self? Guru Nanak describes this experience as a kind of musical mysticism: "There, the drum of the divine Word resounds, with the accompaniment of the melody of five musical instruments. In that spiritual state shall be revealed wondrous continents, regions, lands and zones. The King of the Universe sits on the true throne, where celestial strains resound to the accompaniment of stringed instruments" [GGS:1290-91]. There is a correspondence of this spiritual realm with the actual setting of the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) where devotional singing goes on continuously day and night. For mortal beings like us, the process of "attentive listening" begins with the listening of the recitation of gurbani, kirtan and other such devotional activities. When the seekers advance in their spiritual achievements, they can internalize the process and listen to the ever-present divine music of the Word in their own heart, mind and soul. This happnes only when we shut our ears to nonsensical worldly noise, slander, gossip, and so on. Only in personal experience can one attain this stage. There is no shortcut to it.

2: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), February 15, 2010, 1:46 PM.

The faculty of listening for human communication is basic but an infrequently perfected skill. What we choose to listen potentially encompasses a profound effect on the formation of human attitudes, skills, behavioral patterns and perceptions. Effective listening is a clear modality not tainted by any particular sound or gesture. It enriches wisdom that helps human beings to progress to become either one with the Universe or self-centered egoists without realization of its real purpose in the cosmos. The chaotic environment through which humanity is passing forms the basic result of not listening effectively. With the environmental and societal stimuli revolving around us day to day, taking time to listen to others as well as to the inner self is a rare occurence. Listening can make the difference between knowledge and ignorance, correct information and misinformation, involvement and detachment, enjoyment and pleasure. Guru Nanak, realizing the significance of listening, wrote in Japji, "mat vich ratan jawahar maanak/ jey ik gur ki sikh sunnee" - [GGS:2] - 'Consciousness can be enriched with gems, jewels and rubies of knowledge leading to realization of the truth, only if one listens to the Guru's teachings.' Guru Nanak provided several metaphors and references of established listeners in the four stanzas in Japji Sahib, for Sikhs to recognize the process and its necessity, and the blissful rewards achieved by effective listening. Listening does not rise, does not cease, and it cannot be brought about. A person is effectively listening to what is being said without attaching the taint of his/her own personal ideas or bias before the statement is finished, and not thinking about what he/she will say in response; such a person is an open-minded and good listener. It is not easy for every body to listen and comprehend the intent of what is heard. In the absence of listening effectively, the world would have developed and progressed rather slowly. Guru Amar Das elaborated on such a scenario when he wrote, "bin sabdae sunnyaie na daekhayie jag bola anhaa bharmaaiae" - 'Without the ability of listening, visualizing and understanding the Guru's Word, the world would have been blind and deaf, lost in superstitions' [GGS:429].

3: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 15, 2010, 3:06 PM.

In these four verses, Guru Nanak has shown us the difference between the dogmatic religions and the pragmatism on which Sikhi is based. Listening cultivates pragmatism. 'Listening' in these four beautiful verses is not what we want to hear, or what we already know. Here it means for us to pay attention to our own denial within - the ego, haumai. This also clearly shows that naam japna - simran - is not meaninglessly repeating the same word or words again and again - in other words parroting, does not serve any purpose. When one listens, one becomes attentive; one becomes aware of one's own shortcomings, one's defensive walls crumble, one bursts out of the self-created cocoon. One becomes aware. One starts interacting, conversing. One becomes a learner, a seeker, a Sikh ... and it is the duty of a Sikh to listen so he/ she can be aware of, comes to understands his/ her faults so they can be mended, which in turn breeds acceptance of Hukam and rejection of denial. So, let's become true listeners. Listen to our kids, to our spouses, to our brothers and sisters, to our parents, to our friends and, last but not least, to the voice within where Ik Oankaar dwells.

4: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 15, 2010, 9:24 PM.

It is true that whatever we listen to, and how we interpret it, is based on our beliefs. Our beliefs about a certain topic will make us explore it further or reject the idea completely. It is also true that we need to have an open mind to listen to new ideas and grasp them and judge the credibility of them. How I would interpret here what Guru Nanak is saying to us will be based on my beliefs again, then I will listen to other people's views and might change my understanding or reinforce the one I have already, if I keep an open mind. Is Guru Nanak asking us to listen to what the Supreme Soul is saying? He says we can attain so many attributes if we just listen. The question is, what does he want us to listen to? Is it gurbani, whatever he is going to say to us next, or he wants us to listen to our own voice inside which is our real self, which is connected to the Supreme Soul. Thanks to S. Pashaura Singh ji for clarifying that I need to listen to my consciousness, which arises out of me when I become a spiritual person, a gurmukh, and then I get rid of mind-created haumai as well. I will then be in an eternal state of bliss (sadaa vigaas), which is inside me, which surfaces up when I get rid of haumai, which is present because of my attachments to the things around me, and is the reason for my pain and my lack of bliss. I hope I have interpreted it correctly for myself to move further.

5: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), February 15, 2010, 11:23 PM.

In the pauris under review, Guru Nanak has moved us into another critical human trait: our ability and need to learn to listen. When we develop a habit of 'listening, not hearing', we are moving ahead on the right path and into another important realm of human life. Let us recognize the difference between listening and hearing. Most of us view these two as the same. May I emphasize the need to recognize and appreciate the diversity of examples Guru Nanak has used to draw our attention to the importance of listening. They range from the sky, the cosmos, demi-gods, vedas, knowledge, pilgrimages, blinds, concentration, yoga, shastras, spirituality, etc. They all are a representation of our daily activities. The logical approach of Guru Nanak is quite obvious. He started his concept by defining "The Entity" (God). He leaves the choice of assigning His name to us. Then he establishes a relationship between us and Him with the concept of Hukam. He inducts the significance of collective singing to create a human bond with the role of the Guru and concepts such as truthfulness, time for worship, etc. A few more traits of the Entity are included. He also declares that once we initiate this concept of Him on the suggested lines, there is hardly any difference between us and Him. He further emphasizes that he has seen and met Him ... and so can we. Unfortunately, the general concept of God many Sikhs develop is far from the mental construct envisioned by Guru Nanak. There is a wide gap in the way an average Sikh reflects upon the definition of God as well. The general perception of God in common practice amongst many Sikhs today is a combination of Sikh thought, cultural and religious influence of Hinduism, Islam and even Christianity. We need to recognize this deep fissure that exits in Sikh places of worship.

6: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 16, 2010, 9:14 AM.

The faculty of listening is a continuum - just like our body-mind-soul-spirit is a continuum. We are ordinarily familiar with physical hearing, enabled by the senses; we are also distracted by the inner noise of our own minds. A capacity that lies dormant in the deepest core of our being and the one we need to activate/ awaken is mystical listening: here the sound is not physical but "anahad naad" - the shabad that has created everything - 'keeta pasaao eko kavaao||' - and continues to pulsate outward in all creation. Our receptors for catching this "sound" are not physical either, but our "surat" or consciousness is. It is this "anahad" that Guru Nanak is teaching us to listen to - "anhad sun maniya sabad vichari, atam chineh bhaye nirankari||' [GGS:415]. If I had to put this in everyday idiom, I would say that this is akin to developing a capacity for listening to the sound of silence or "sunh" in Gurbani. Speech and language connect you and me, but it is silence that connects me to my authentic self. Gurbani is Guru Nanak's personal testimony to such "listening" and some of the most beautiful passages speak of the "vismaad" or awe (the wow factor, in today's parlance) that Guru Nanak felt when connected to this mystical sound. I might emphasize that this is not esoteric mumbo jumbo (I keep coming back to this phrase; it must have struck a chord with me) or some escapism, like being on a drug; rather, this is the basis for revolutionary transformation - both of the individual and social. It is only the consciousness of a "brahmgyani" (one who has "listened" to the Guru) that can act selflessly - "brahmgyani paropkaar umaha" - and transform society where "halemi raj" reigns. We have to start with ourselves.

7: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 16, 2010, 2:06 PM.

If we are Sikhs, we are seekers of knowledge, the truth within. If we should listen, listen with open-mindedness ... should we listen to others outside the label of Sikhs? Are we supposed to be seekers all our life or do we become finders as well? What are we trying to find?

8: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 16, 2010, 7:28 PM.

As a child, our growth and development depends on listening from parents and other family members; in school or college we pass through listening to our teachers, in the same way in parmarth, our devotion depends on listening with concentration. Pauri 7 of the Japji -'Gaaviye sunniye munn rakhiye bhau, dukh parhar sukh ghar lai jaaye' - has a link with these four verses. 'Suniye sidh pir surnaath' is the same as 'Bhey vich sidh budh surnaath' [GGS:464]. Further in pauri 10, Guru Nanak says: 'Suniye lagay sehaj dhyan' - 'He who begins to listen to grbani, to the Naam, Waheguru showers upon him great honour and respect'. Pauris 8-11 are about what generosities are bestowed upon him. When our attention becomes engrossed in the sound of the shabad, all type of doubts and ignorance disappear and the light of knowledge shines as divine light. Listening to gurbani with attention and awerness, all worries, sorrows, sins and pain disappear. Problems cease only through listening ('dhun meh dhyan'), not just by reading or hearing without awareness or understanding. Guru Amar Das says in Anand Sahib [GGS:922] - 'Eh shravno meryo saache sun-ne-no pathae ... suneho satt bani', and 'Anand sunho vadbhaagio sagal manorath puray' [pauri 40] is another example of 'dookh rog santaap utray sunee (suniye) sachhi bani'.

9: Atika Khurana (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 16, 2010, 8:38 PM.

Engaging with gurbani is a dynamic and on-going process. At present, my understanding is that 'attentive listening' implies being acutely 'aware' - not just of our outside environment and our interactions with it, but also of our own selves from within. Awareness is the same as being "in the flow" or "in the moment", as the author described it. Any type of creation also happens when the creator is 'in the flow' or 'in the moment'. Most, if not all, of us have probably experienced 'awe' as an instinctive reaction to creation of any form of poetry, painting, music, etc. I think I can sum up my thoughts with the following words of Tagore: "The self-expression of God is in the endless variety of creation." On a side note, I also believe that any individual who is genuinely seeking spiritual progress can do so with discipline, a strong will and grace. Devotional activities are not a pre-requisite. Note that in my previous sentence I have chosen not to use superlative terms like 'achievement' because according to gurbani, no one is better or superior.

10: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), February 16, 2010, 10:36 PM.

Jasvinder ji: an excellent question! In my opinion, Guru Nanak is not suggesting that we listen to any particular thing. He is suggesting we understand and awaken to the power of listening. And learn to develop keen listening skills and use them in all worthy spheres of interest to us in our life, including gurbani. Most people do not have that kind of listening skills. Because listening being a nature-given faculty, we take it for granted. We are not taught how to make the best use of this trait. We develop our individual style in its utility. We get peripheral assistance in developing our style. Starting with our birth, parents and others are diligently engaged in helping us learn to talk. Later in life, special training courses are available to augment our speaking skills. But not for listening, except those who may be slow in development after birth. Society is prone to accord a higher profile to talkers than to good listeners. Listening in a nut-shell is learning and gaining knowledge. Listening is to absorb more knowledge than letting it out (a talker does that). During Guru Nanak's time, listening was the predominant source of knowledge. There was no internet, television, radio, etc. However, good-listening skill remains a very valuable faculty in many ways. Universally, most people gravitate to good listeners. They are a better source of emotional comfort, wiser, compassionate, thoughtful, patient, contented, graceful under pressure, and with less haumai. These qualities help us better cope with the daily challenges of life. Listening is not just hearing patiently. It is also to be a good observer of what goes around us. A calmer demeanour results in lower blood pressure, low heart beat and better health and, maybe, even longer life. In my opinion, Guru Nanak's approach and emphasis on listening is unique and lends uniqueness to the Sikh faith. In the Japji, listening is perhaps fifth most critical trait for us to develop. For Guru Nanak, listening is so important that he has proposed a concept of reward to those who sharpen their listening skills. The reward is less pain and suffering associated with daily life - 'sunniai dookh paap kaa naas'. In religious thought, listening helps us connect better with the surrounding natural and human forces. In the Sikh faith, we have introduced a traditional form of preachers (bhai ji). They are one step ahead (the wrong way) of talkers. They never understood the concept and its importance. This tradition is contradictory to Guru Nanak's concept. No wonder Sikhs have not been taught the importance of listening like Guru Nanak envisioned. That is why perhaps we are considered more talkers.

11: Kuljeet Johar (Powell, U.S.A.), February 17, 2010, 5:31 AM.

To me 'sunniye' stands for association. It is only by associating with things that we tend to get influenced. These influences manifest in our actions. The word "sangat" come to mind. Guru Nanak, in these pauris, reveals the benefit of one's association with gurbani.

12: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 17, 2010, 2:08 PM.

"Seek and thou shall find", that is all I can say. Thank you, Nirmal Singh ji. You are right, we are a society of talkers these days and we get so influenced by the environment and conform to lower standards. We all try to put our point forward and many time forget that a conversation requires good listening skills too. Thank you for clearing it for us that Guru Nanak is asking us to develop good listening skills which will in turn lead us to gaining so much more out life. I think we all need to be like Arjun in the legendary epic Mahabharat, who had the ability to ask questions and listen to the answers, and who could learn and adapt to the knowledge provided to him.

13: Himmat Singh (United Kingdom), February 17, 2010, 2:26 PM.

In these pauris, Guru Nanak, in my humble opinion, is empowering himself, (hence the references to himself). He is telling himself to listen to his inner Guru, and thus forces a change in perception. As one develops over time, a blueprint is created in the human mind that models one's future behaviour and tendencies. It is hard to break free from traditions and customs, especially by the time when one is thirty. (I understand he was about 28 when he emerged from the River Bein, inspired and enlightened.) Such reminders, such as 'jupp', or 'sunniye', are required as part of placement meditation techniques to enforce change in behaviour. He has already been through a process of analytical meditation, leading to his realization and conclusions upon the failure of existing practices. He now needs to fix his conclusions and embed them in his mind (and then his Sikhs). It is an urge to dwell upon the conclusions, to chant them, to change one's thinking patterns. It is part of the process of breaking free from all traditional religion ('No Hindu, No Mussalman'): the only religion is that of God and He shows the truest path! In these pauris, he sings of the various types of people of his era, and at the same time intermingles his song with lines that express the joy of those who free themselves and reach a state of inner bliss and contentment. He makes it clear that all can attain such a state ( subject to the grace/ blessing of one's ability to follow God's Hukam): Pauri 2:5 - 'karmee aavai kaprrha nadri mokh du-aar' - 'One's human shell is attained as a consequence of karma to date, and the gate of liberation is obtained with the Guru's grace' (if one can free oneself from self-grasping, the nature of a manmukh, and revert to following God's will, the nature of a gurmukh.) Particularly pertinent lines to me in these four pauris are: 'sunniye poh na sakai kaal/ Nanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas'. Guru Nanak is completely free of any fear of death. He is carefree, and sings in joy. He is free of all religions after finding God within. He exhibits his 'akaal' (deathless) nature as the 'moorat' (image) of the deathless Lord, Ik-Oankaar, and is enjoying recognition of his own eternal nature. As a footnote, dear sangat, if you read Buddhist texts, I think you may find much in common. The methods of self-awareness by meditation, contemplation and reflection when in a suitable state of mind (e.g., early morning), (naam simran and naam japna), combined with patient acceptance with faith in karma and reincarnation, are all there. Such techniques and faith, can lead to control of delusional states of mind (anger, greed, attachment, self-grasping), contentment and inner peace. Pain is accepted, there is love for all, and enemies are seen as friends. Ultimate liberation is attained once one reaches the required level of karma through good or compassionate deeds. I think it is a fact much overlooked that Guru Nanak traveled to Sri Lanka, Tibet and Assam where Buddhism flourished, and left a deep mark in each community ... and dharmsalas.

14: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 18, 2010, 7:13 AM.

The thing to remember is that Guru Nanak is calling for radical change, not business as usual. Trouble is, we hear what we want to hear; nothing gets past our conditioned thinking. Even when we "hear" Guru Nanak, we "translate" what we hear through our existing filters and "interpret" what we "hear" to suit or reinforce our habitual way of thinking. Gurbani becomes justification for doing more of the same - except that we expect a different outcome. To be a good listener, one has to get out of the way - by being silent. Outward silence ('chuppey chupp') is of no value because the mind is still chattering, creating static. We must learn to silence the mind, to set aside habitual patterns in order to achieve the state that Guru Nanak is talking about. If we develop this capacity, then the quality of our experience will become so much more heightened. We are able to extract more out of life and live it fully.

15: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 19, 2010, 8:00 AM.

The sangat has dwelt at length on listening and how the capacity to listen can benefit us in a variety of ways, from acquiring new skills, to developing traits that were latent, and ultimately (I would suggest) lead us to connect with our true selves. Little has been said about the relationship between listening and attention (dhyan). Are they the same thing? Not much has been said about "sadaa vigaas". Is this the same as "living in the moment" - which appears to be the New Age mantra? What about 'Naam Simran?" Is that a technique to develop the capacity for listenting or to develop our attention?

16: Atika Khurana (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 19, 2010, 11:06 AM.

1) Little has been said about the relationship between listening and attention (dhyan) - I would think that 'real' listening cannot happen without attention (dhyan), and hence the title of the topic, 'Attentive Listening'! 2) Is 'sadaa vigaas' same as "living in the moment" - Partly so. Besides living in the here and now, a certain amount of poise, I suppose, would be needed to experience the state of 'sadaa vigaas'. 3) Is naam simran a technique to develop the capacity for listening or to develop our attention? - I am still trying to figure that one out. Does naam simran entail meditating on Waheguru, or can it also include any other activities when I am fully engaged, like solving a math problem?

17: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 20, 2010, 9:28 AM.

'Sadaa vigaas' is the state of joy. I witnessed it once a couple of years ago, when I visited the bookstore, 'Sacha Sauda' (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), to check out some books and CDs. It is always filled with customers since the store carries books, CDs/ DVDs, musical instruments, and various Sikh materials. A gursikh came in with his smiling face and he greeted all with a "Waheguruji ka Khalsa, Waheguruji ki fateh" and he started talking about gurbani to a customer standing close to the entrance. He was loud and personable. Having an interest interest in what he was saying, I joined them and he started talking to me about Guru Angad. When I asked him which gurdwara he frequented, he replied, "My taxi is my gurdwara". Later, I checked with the cashier who told me that the man was a taxi driver at the airport and was always in such a happy mood, busy listening to gurbani, and talking to every Sikh he came across, stranger or friend, about gurbani. This is the state of 'sadaa vigaas'. To attain this kind of stage, simran is required as naam abhyaas for a few years, depending upon your zeal and inclination. Meditation helps in mind elevation, cultivates contentment and compassion, and prevents you from nervous diseases. This will automatically generate interest in listening to shabad-gurbani, seva and simran in the course of your daily activities of your life. Such meditation requires devotion and commitment, unlike how it is being practiced in today's gurdwaras. It requires a peaceful atmosphere, like 'amrit velaa'.

18: Himmat Singh (United Kingdom), February 20, 2010, 4:11 PM.

In response to Ravinder ji's recent questions: Q: Little has been said about the relationship between listening and attention (dhyan). Are they the same thing? A: Listening involves only the ear and the part of the brain that processes hearing. Everything the ear picks up reaches the processing centre, providing there is no defect. First, it is treated at a subconscious level. Then, the matters of interest are brought to conscious attention. The simplest example is the calling of a name. If it is a third party's name, it is often ignored unless one is already paying attention to the one calling out the name, and the name is not even registered. If one's own name is called out, even quietly, it can be picked out even if one is not listening attentively. One's attention turns immediately to the one calling out the name. The listening is always ongoing, and only diminishes during sleep, but even then, one's name still usually triggers a response, so there is still some listening. Young children are far more receptive to new words, and their listening is far more attentive. They need it to be so whilst they learn language. Adults don't need this level of attention, as attention to all input will simply confuse them, with diversion of attention to false triggers, with possible missing of important triggers. Instead, the brain switches to subconscious initial processing of what is heard. However, in this context, 'sunniye' (listening) is equivalent to 'pay attention', i.e., with dhyan. It is an urge to listen consciously to the words that Guru Nanak utters next. Q: Not much has been said about "sadaa vigaas". Is this the same as "living in the moment" - which appears to be the New Age mantra? A: 'Nanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas' - I don't see how this is 'living in the moment'. I believe it is a simple statement that those who are devoted (to the Lord) will reap the reward of continuous contentment, whatever crosses their path. Q: What about 'naam simran?" Is that a technique to develop the capacity for listening or to develop our attention? A: Much is written elsewhere about naam simran, what it is, and how to do it. Simply, 'simran', or meditation, can cause one to reflect deeply upon what has come to one's attention, i.e., to a conscious level. It is a very effective form of concentration, with repeated analysis of what one is conscious of, and it causes one to come up with appropriate conclusions based on fact (the matters one is conscious of) rather than on intuition. I don't believe in the concept of naam, in terms of whispering mantras into people's ears. To me 'Satnaam' means that the only naam is truth itself. There is no other naam. So naam simran would be a technique to concentrate consciously on God, building faith in God to the highest levels. By doing this regularly and frequently, one is left with a high level of God consciousness (as in Sukhmani Sahib), even to the point that such consciousness is 24-7, with awareness of God only slightly dipping to a very marginally subconscious level when one engages in other activities. I have found I can wake up during the night and find I am immediately thinking about God, if I have been doing naam simran frequently and regularly. I don't like it though, and fear it, as I want to engage more fully in daily activities, and it reduces the ability to think of worldly affairs, and so I only do it occasionally. It may be simply a form of brain-washing and reducing consciousness of other matters, so for me, it is best not to go over the top.

19: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), February 20, 2010, 11:55 PM.

Some thoughts on 'naam simran', 'listening vs. attention', 'living in the moment', etc. Living in the moment is a reality. We can only live moment by moment. But this does not mean we live aimlessly. So the thought to live moment by moment is more to describe a situation when things are fluid in our lives, which can happen to all of us. A family member seriously ill can put us in that situation. Slang expressions like this should not be taken literally. Even birds prepare themselves for major events in life. They build nests to lay eggs when the season comes to reproduce. Each one of us has to set pace, style and schedule for our short-term and long-term goals and objectives. I do not believe Sikh thought is opposed to such goals and objectives. The most important thing for us to do is to establish a purpose. And the religious tenets we are supposed to follow must have tangible benefits to us. Only then will the human mind take time and trouble to follow and put them into practice. "Gobind milan ke aahoo teri velaa' may be noble advice. But no 18-year old is going to follow it. Most 60-year plus will attempt to practice it with little convincing. Even after establishing a purpose, which road to take is still left for us to decide. Let us not forget that there are plenty of suggestions in gurbani for the approach. If one of us discovers our own path, I do not believe Sikh thought opposes it. The reaction and attitude of fellow Sikhs may be another issue. However, I am quite sure many of them will come around to your way, if they find out that your method not only worked well but also was an easy one. Dealing with that kind of fickle nature of the human mind is what gurbani is mostly about. The idea of 'naam simran' is good but has its owns nuances to consider. Five hundred years ago, life was different. The family could get together in the evening and after dinner do naam simran. It is still do-able, but more difficult due to many changes in life style. In my opinion, the purpose and idea of naam simran is still worthy because it has two great benefits. By making it a family activity, it can help us build a family bond we all wish to have in a family. And by establishing a regular practice, it becomes a consistent reminder for us to avoid thoughts, actions and habits that are bad for us. Attentive listening is essential to meaningful listening. Only then can we justify the purpose of good listening and benefit from the power of listening. I do not believe listening and attention have to be two separate entities. The human mind can easily make them look like two separate traits.

20: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 21, 2010, 1:27 PM.

Himmat Singh ji has described the listening part of the process very adequately. Guru Nanak is asking us to pay attention, like the author said "attentive listening". So we are urged here to pay attention, and not just listen, which means we are being asked to ponder over and analyze what is being said, at an inner level, internalize the words being said, ponder over them and see if we can make sense of them ourselves, each and everyone of us. We get the real answers from within, no matter how much someone tells us or explains to us. We understand only when we analyze something internally with our consciousness. In my opinion, Guru Nanak, is revealing the Truth, the reality of the situation, or the answer in few words, so we analyze it ourselves internally, think over it and find answers within ourselves, because the answers we get thus stay with us forever, then we are not like to forget them the next day. So dhyan here is internalizing the words. 'Sadaa vigaas' is not just living the moment but it is 'accepting the moment', as it is. If we accept each and very moment as it is, and accept that this is how it is meant to be, then we will be in eternal state of bliss (sadaa vigaas). If I accept the moment, then I am living the moment too. Then I will not say why is this happenning to me, why I am sick, why so-and-so doesn't do thing the way I want them to do, or why things don't go my way. If I accept the moment as it is and go with the Hukam, then there is sadaa vigaas for me. But this acceptance doen't mean I don't change the next moment or act on the situation. This acceptance means I stay stable in my mind eacn and every moment, as it is part of hukam. So sadaa vigaas is acceptng 'jo rab karda hai theek kardaa hai, jo ho raihya hai theek ho raihya hai'. Naam simran is reminding myself that He is with me whatever I do, I always keep Him on my side in whatever I do, I never fear because He is with me. It means to me having complete and utter faith in Truth and in myself. It reminds me again and again He is with me. How I do namm simran is an individual choice, which we can all make if we do some dhyan.

21: Sukvinder Singh (New York, U.S.A.), March 14, 2010, 8:11 PM.

Someone asked: Is naam simran a technique to develop the capacity for listening or to develop our attention? - I am still trying to figure that one out. Nam simran is given to people in order to keep them from going into depression, it helps control negative thoughts and hence maintain good mental and physical health. But meditation has even greater potential. Nam simran will develop both the capacity to listen and become more attentive. Your attention will increase because you are able to control negative thoughts and then you can have compassion to listen to others. If it is done for very long time, it can cure depression permanently, your energy can go up so high that you will permanently stay there. It creates an internal revolution.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium VII - Pauris 8 to 11, Feb 15 - 21"









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