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Seize The Opportunity
The Talking Stick Colloquium #44




The Dialogue - Last Week

A spirited discussion around "Awakening to Purpose" last week was quite understandable and to be expected. Trying to figure out the purpose or meaning of life is perhaps the most primal - and elemental - of questions, at once universal and deeply personal.

We seek meaning and a purposeful existence; to know not only the "why" of our life, but also to live it with commitment. As we discovered during our dialogue, there are no easy answers - perhaps there is no one final answer.

Although a single answer may be elusive, it is the asking of such questions that marks us as human. Without such inquiry we remain, to paraphrase the English mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, no better than "well fed pigs."

Despite the diversity of perspective in our discussion, there are recurring themes: our relationship to the larger context of the universe around us; a larger purpose beyond our narrow selfish interests; the nature of our authentic self and the importance of being free to pursue dreams and goals. Above all, a perennial longing or a sense of vacuum - that also goes by the name of God.

Pascal referred to the vacuum as being God shaped, meaning that while the traditional God of religion has disappeared under the assault of Science, its absence still haunts us. The danger is that in the absence of traditional God, we risk ignoring the Sacred in our lives by not paying attention to this emptiness.

That is why we must keep these questions alive.

Who should we listen to as we struggle to find meaning and purpose and carve a path for our life?

If we can learn to relinquish the certainty offered by some believers of religion, or the clichés of our gurdwara granthis, and live, instead, with these questions and the uncertainty they arouse, we may just begin to connect with the sacred of Guru Nanak - the ultimate reality that cannot be named but is the Name (Naam), the Absolute that cannot be described except in the poetic and metaphoric language of gurbani.

It is through gurbani that we re-discover the sacred. Gurbani guides us through the landscape of our consciousness, enabling us to explore the geography of our emotions, and along the way re-introducing us to that which was lost (or forgotten): the qualities of dharma that accompany an experience of the sacred - vismad (awe), shukrana (gratitude), daya (compassion), bharosa (faith).

The Message - This Week

This week, we move to a related subject: the notion of time as both chronological and an opportunity. In gurbani we find repeatedly the exhortation to seize the opportunity, and not to lose time. A small sampling is offered here - to serve as the basis of our discussion.

kai-ee janam bha-ay keet patangaa ...

In many births were you a worm and an insect;
In so many others were you an elephant, a fish and a deer.
Or a bird, a snake.
Yoked were you as an ox and a horse.
Meet the Lord of the Universe, for now is the time

ihee tayraa a-osar ih tayree baar ...

This is your chance, and this is your time.
Look deep into your own heart, and reflect on this.
Says Kabir, you can win or lose.
In so many ways, I have proclaimed this out loud.

The first shabad describes the evolutionary journey to our present consciousness as humans, which is a juncture, not a final point, suggesting an opportunity. The reference to opportunity in the second shabad is "a-osar," whose root means to shape or to create, but is also used for time or moment or instance.

Interestingly enough, this dual notion of time is also be found in Greek thought - chronos and kairos. The first, chronos, refers to the everyday, sequential time (from which we derive words like chronic, chronological, etc.) and whose tyranny we experience (and measure) when rushing to meet deadlines (like writing this piece!) or missing flights.

Kairos refers to a quality of time that cannot be measured (like the past, present and future) because it is now, in the moment. It represents eternal life or Eternity. And since Eternity is not measurable, it is now - in the moment!

Time, in its dual sense, can be seen as the process of creation itself and evolution as being driven by a spiritual impulse, Hukam in Sikh parlance. Hukam is the agency ("a-osar") of creation where the formless (nirgun) Akal Purakh discloses itself as (sargun) Karta Purakh, the Doer - in time and space.

Thoughts to Ponder

Let's take the shabads together and reflect on what they are pointing to:

-   There is here a suggestion, as elsewhere in gurbani, that we must seize the opportunity or it will be lost for a long, long time (firat firat maanukh bha-i-aa khin bhangan dayhaad - 'Through endless wandering, the human consciousness appears, but this body lasts only for an instant' [GGS:810])

-   What opportunities/ possibilities do the shabads point to? 


January 24, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 24, 2011, 3:07 PM.

Seize the special opportunity of human life: "Avar kaaj tayrai kitai na kaam mil saadh sangat bhaj kayval naam" [GGS:12.7] - "Nothing else would matter; join the holy saadh sangat, and meditate on the Jewel of Naam" Or, summarized, "Naam Juppna, Kirat Karni, and Wund Chhakna". Also: "Kabir maanas janam dulamb hai ho-ay na baarai baar" [GGS:1366.10] - "Kabir, it is difficult to obtain this human form, it does not come over and over again."

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 24, 2011, 6:10 PM.

This poem may seem longish as a comment. But I thought it addresses the topic head-on - "If" by Rudyard Kipling [1865-1936]: If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,/ If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,/ But make allowance for their doubting too;/ If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,/ Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,/ Or being hated, don't give way to hating,/ And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:/ If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,/ If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;/ If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two impostors just the same;/ If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken/ Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,/ Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/ And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:/ If you can make one heap of all your winnings/ And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,/ And lose, and start again at your beginnings/ And never breathe a word about your loss;/ If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew/ To serve your turn long after they are gone,/ And so hold on when there is nothing in you/ Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"/ If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,/ Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,/ If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,/ If all men count with you, but none too much;/ If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,/ Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,/ And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

3: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 25, 2011, 1:44 PM.

Thank you, S. Sangat Singh ji, for introducing us to such an inspiring poem. I love your comments, always. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom on Talking Stick as it is so inspirational, and thought-provoking too, by giving us another perspective.

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 25, 2011, 10:05 PM.

Thanks for posting Kipling's poem IF. It will make for a good discussion, I hope. Kipling's evocation to maintain a stiff upper lip (a Victorian virtue) in the face of adversity finds resonance in gurbani, especially in the saloks of Guru Tegh Bahadar. But I wonder if Kipling's motivation and impulse were the same as the Gurus'?

5: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), January 26, 2011, 7:52 AM.

Guru Nanak: "This human birth is so difficult to obtain; only a Gurmukh obtains it. The mind and body are dyed in the deep red color of devotional love, if it pleases the True Guru. He departs with his life embellished and successful, taking the merchandise of the True Name. He is honored in the Royal Court of the Lord through the Shabad, the Word of the True Guru, and the Love of God" [GGS:751]. Guru Amardas: "By great good fortune, I obtained this body; in this human life, I have focused my consciousness on the Word of the Shabad. Without the Shabad, everything is enveloped in utter darkness; only the Gurmukh understands. Some merely waste away their lives - why have they even come into the world? The self-willed manmukhs are attached to the love of duality. This opportunity (life) shall not into their hands again; their foot slips, and they come to regret and repent" [GGS:1065]. Guru Ramdas: "... Blessed is human life which is obtained only by the most virtuous actions; this body is radiant and golden" [GGS:575]. Guru Arjan: "By Your Grace, I obtained this human body; grant me the Blessed Vision of Your darshan, O Sovereign Lord King" [GGS:207]. Guru Teg Bahadar: "Wandering, wandering around for so many ages, he has grown weary, and finally, he obtained this human body. Says Nanak, this is the opportunity to meet the Lord; why don't you remember Him in meditation?" [GGS:631]. Guru Nanak says: "Listen, O my mind, my friend, my darling: now is the time to meet the Lord. As long as there is youth and breath, give this body to Him. Without virtue, it is useless; the body shall crumble into a pile of dust" [GGS:20].

6: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 26, 2011, 10:20 AM.

Ravinder ji, I had a couple of mails that said: 'Kipling seems to have translated Guru Teg Bahadar's shabad.' Incidentally, Mohandas Gandhi's favourite hymn, "Vaishnav jan to taynay kahyeeye, jay peerh paraayee janney ray par dukkhey upkar karey, toyey man abhiman na anney ray" - '"A godlike man is one/ Who feels another's pain/ Who shares another's sorrow,/ And pride does disdain": this was 100 percent plagiarized from Guru Teg Bahadar's shabad: 'Jo nar dukh mai dukh nahi maanai ...'- 'He who grieves not in grief,/ From avarice, pleasures and fear is free,/ And considers gold as good as dust...'

7: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 26, 2011, 4:14 PM.

By Kipling's own admission, the poem IF was inspired by Dr Leader Jameson (a friend of Kipling) whose treatment by the British Government over the Boer War was seen by Kipling as a betrayal. It is unlikely that he translated Guru Tegh Bahadar. More later.

8: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 27, 2011, 5:10 PM.

There is a striking similarity in the Guru's call to seize the moment and Kairos in Greek mythology where he is depicted as the personification of opportunity - with winged feet, long locks in the front and a bald head at the back, implying that opportunity must be seized headlong (by the locks) or else it is lost (one cannot grip a bald head) and it flies away swiftly on winged feet. A similar strain can be detected in Sikh teachings which sees human life as an opportunity which, if missed, leaves behind regret and lament. The question is: what is this opportunity?

9: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 28, 2011, 6:49 AM.

I have a friend who has been asking just one question for the last 50 years or so. "What is the purpose of life?" It did not matter what answer you gave him. The next day he would pose the same question. Now I ask him the same question before he opens his mouth. His good wife has a good laugh to have him paid back in the same coin. In Japan, in one of the famous Zen Buddhist monasteries, a monk asked this same question of the head Abbot. "Why do you ask this question?" "Since you are a venerable learned head of the monastery, I thought you might provide an answer that has alluded me," said the younger monk. "Well, then, here's the answer: there is no purpose of life!" The younger monk, for next hour or so, expounded upon the holy texts that he had read and quoted at length various authorities. All this while the head Abbot had a benign smile on his face. When he had finished, the Abbot had the last word. "You came here not to seek an answer but to tell me how much you knew and the texts you had studied." Oh yes, we were talking about 'what is this opportunity?' Sorry, I don't know the answer except "A-osar beeti-o jaat hai kahi-o mann lai mayro" [GGS:727.2] - 'Your time is passing away; listen carefully to what I say.'

10: Prakash.Singh.Bagga (India), January 28, 2011, 9:45 PM.

We should not get confused over the teachings of gurbani. It is worth noting that all teachings of gurbani are neutral in dealing with any specific effect. More important is to know the Creator who is referred to as Guru-Gur. We are therefore required to get to know this One so that we can get the actual message of gurbani. To date we do not differentiate between the reference meanings of the words Guru and Gur. If we can know what is Guru and what is Gur, this would open a new vista of gurbani message and then we would be able to say "pi-o daadey ka khol dittha khazaana ta mere munn bhayaa nidhaana."

11: Prakash.Singh.Bagga (India), January 28, 2011, 11:30 PM.

This opportunity is to know the Creator and its Naam. Knowing this would enable us to make our spiritual journey a success. Human life is the only opportunity to get to know this and to do it. As we know from gurbani: "ram naam ur mai gayo ja ke sum nahi koi/ jeh simrat sankat mitae daras tuhaaro hoe."

12: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 7:13 AM.

Ah, S. Sangat Singh ji! Your friend has been asking the question, "What is the purpose of life?" for fifty years but the question has been asked for thousands of years - and will likely be asked forever. Even if the answer is elusive, the question must be kept alive. That is what we try to do on this forum. Like you, I don't pretend to have the answers, but dialogue and discussion enhances us. Take, for instance, Prakash Singh Bagga ji's message, which is enlightening. He tells us that the opportunity is to know the "Creator and its Naam." Thank you, Prakash Singh ji for pushing this discussion forward.

13: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 29, 2011, 9:59 AM.

"Ayvad ooccha hovai ko-ay tis oocchay ka-o janani so-ay/ jawad aap jaanai aap aap" [GGS:5.10] - 'It takes an entity as great and as high as God Himself to know His superlative and exalted state; Great as He is only, He alone knows His own greatness."

14: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A,), January 29, 2011, 4:38 PM.

We need to digest the simple meaning of gurbani, as it is. We lack the hunger [GGS: 9.16] and we circle the food everyday and we discuss it, instead of eating it. We search for new interpretations or we marvel at the general ideas in gurbani because the specifics are too simple and restrictive. They are viewed with suspicion by the educated genre. Others view gurbani as the emancipator, as we sing it in the crowd that we now call sangat, where people are also paid to sing gurbani. The specifics of gurbani continue to elude us. Otherwise we could all be brahmgyani (Naam conscious) by now. I am no different except that I have seen some people who have escaped from this rut.

15: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 4:41 PM.

It is difficult to be short without using aphorisms or cliches. The summary that I posted last week was bundled into a chunk (by this forum) that was too big to swallow. In fact (for the benefit of those who are open and new to Sikhi) each sentence, or a pair of sentences, was a single item that deserves a book. I should have broken it into several posts. Add to it our disdain of cliches, bred by our familiarity of Naam, gurbani and sangat, since our childhood (but without having received the benefits described therein.) Thus most of us will gloss over it because 'we already do all that in our gurdwaras'. It is no surprise that we search for new definitions. It is surprising that many are still in a haste to continue reinterpreting gurbani with lofty generalities that we have heard all along, while any personal (practical) touch is missing.

16: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 4:47 PM.

Moving on, time, particularly, with the 'present moment awareness' heralded in the West by Ram Dass and further made popular by Ekhart Tolle recently, is an interesting topic. Mindfulness (of the present) is an important Buddhist practice also. Time has various contexts in gurbani. Guru Gobind Singh calls Time (Kaal) as the basis of all existence, death, even an aspect of God - "Everything is a play of Time" [Chaupai:7]. And as we know, God is everything [GGS:922.6]. Thus, according to gurbani, time (kaal) manifests in many ways. It is not possible to discuss it only as kairos or chronos. The term in the title, 'opportunity' is now but I feel that this now is neither the Greek 'kairos' nor 'chronos'. As for the 'now', consider this: "One kills anticipation, and stays, holding the true Guru's concepts in the heart" [GGS:907.14].

17: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 4:50 PM.

We cannot harness time and thus gurbani does not ask us to attempt finding the 'present moment' because that would be like struggling to fall asleep. We see that gurbani also ignores the acts that must be carried out with haumai. Not that we should abandon the exercises that help us break erroneous patterns (the constant inner chatter, for example.) Proper exercises make us much greater than we are now, but they do not take us to the end. Gurbani emphasizes curbing the traits that keep us from the essence, or controlling the thieves [GGS:600:6] that steal the 'Amrit' hidden in the so-called present moment. We are then, naturally established in sehaj.

18: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 4:53 PM.

The scholars have not discussed this, so I will try. Two terms come to mind in relation to the Greek word 'kairos'. One is 'mahoorat'(moorat in gurbani) or, auspicious time. Any moment that is filled with the music of reality is considered as special [GGS:618.9] or a perfect mahoorat. That is all. As we have discussed above, one way to avoid experiencing it is to deliberately attempt to do so. Instead, we work on removing the obstacles. As we have discussed during the earlier weeks, true experience of reality (Naam) is a gift. It is not an act. Otherwise, it would be laced with haumai, and it would not be a true experience. Gurbani does not recognize any single time more auspicious than another, for this experience.

19: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 29, 2011, 5:02 PM.

The other term is 'Waqt' or, proper time, because, just as in everything else we do, the circadian cycle influences our spiritual practices also. We cannot be separated from nature and thus "a true servant is only someone who considers proper time" [GGS:84.1] or, "those are real kings who would rather die fighting for (observing the proper) time" [GGS:145.19]. As we know, Guru Nanak declared that Amrit Vela (the time before dawn) is most suitable to ask for reconnection with God. Another example of the importance of waqt in Sikhi is ishnaan. This Sikh discipline is practiced before dawn also. "Rising early in the morning before dawn, one does ishnaan (bathes) and (thus) bathes in the pool of amrit" [GGS:305.17]. Night, particularly the last part (picchalee raat) [GGS:1383.15] of the night is an important waqt for retraining our mind. "Your gift is as great as you are, to those who considered the night as their day" [GGS:10.1]. These statements will ruffle many feathers but they are offered as food for thought. Many will not agree with my translation either. So I will stop here. Sorry if I continued for too long.

20: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 29, 2011, 6:23 PM.

God has given us body, mind and soul. The mind keeps wandering, the body keeps running behind and the soul feels hungry. If the soul remains hungry for long, our life will mess up. The purpose of life is to make the wandering mind wonderful by feeding the soul with Naam. Guru Arjan said "Naou nidh amrit prabhu ka naam" [GGS:293]. The nine treasures are in the ambrosial Name of God. The Guru further said: "Wandering and roaming through endless incarnations, we are given this human life which is so difficult to obtain [GGS:1017]. Guru Nanak: "Listen, O my mind, my friend, my darling: now is the time to meet the Lord. As long as there is youth and breath, give this body to Him. Without virtue, it is useless; the body shall crumble into a pile of dust" [GGS:20]. Guru Ramdas: "The True Guru is the giver of the life of the soul, but the unfortunate ones do not love Him. This opportunity shall not come into their hands again; in the end, they will suffer in torment and regret" [GGS:1310].

21: Prakash.Singh Bagga (India), January 30, 2011, 7:03 AM.

Gurbani is perfect with clear and specific perception. In fact it is a mistake of our own understanding, due to lack of our own knowledge as how to understand the true meanings of gurbani, if we find ourselves astray. So far we all are familiar with the literal meanings of gurbani words and this is the main cause of deviation in comprehending the true message of gurbani. We have not given the attention to the method of understanding gurbani as per grammar indications given along with the words. On the contrary, we have ignored the subtleties of grammar altogether, to our peril. Therefore we cannot put blame on gurbani for our lack of understanding. In fact we tend to embark on lengthy and detailed interpretations of gurbani words without first getting to know the language of gurbani. If we try to understand the usefulness of grammar indications and give meanings to the words as per the grammar of the words, anybody can find the gurbani meanings very specific and direct without any confusion.

22: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), January 30, 2011, 8:59 AM.

I agree with the posts by Yuktanand Singh and Prakash Singh: bani is supreme and above all.

23: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 30, 2011, 12:19 PM.

Thank you to the contributors for some thought provoking posts. I encourage readers to react. The specifics of gurbani are indeed simple, restrictive and constant. But their interpretation, understanding, and assimilation is not; that varies from time to time and from individual to individual. Individuals have to approach gurbani anew, and metabolize its meaning in the light of their unique circumstances. That we lack "hunger" is quite right, Yuktanand Singh ji. We seem to have "lost our appetite." Food, no matter how delectable, does not interest a sick person. Likewise, a lack of spiritual hunger points to a deeper malaise - Haumai, in this case. So, how does one recover one's appetite? Doctors prescribe medicine and for Sikhs the medicine is gurbani. More later

24: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 30, 2011, 6:06 PM.

Part of the motivation on The Talking Stick is to be able to question our "normal" judgement; to be able to say, "Oh! I have been reading this passage (or verse) forever but never quite thought of it this way!" That can happen only when our thoughts interact, intersect - and sometimes collide - to create the opening for an "aha" moment. This is how we learn from others.

25: Prakash.Singh Bagga (India), January 30, 2011, 8:54 PM.

There should be a detailed interaction on the subject of understanding gurbani to find where we are wrong and how this wrong can be rectified. This should be done with an open mind.

26: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 31, 2011, 10:31 AM.

Thank you, Yuktanand Singh ji, for offering some very stimulating thoughts to this dialogue - especially around dual (or multiple) notions of time. Interesting that you should have picked up on the word 'opportunity' and read it as 'now', or the 'present' - which is certainly one way to look at it. When I chose the title, however, I was thinking of opportunity as possibility! My sense of Kairos is 'opportune time' or the right time. To use your example of the Chaupai: Guru Gobind Singh references the appearance of Brahm, Shiv at the opportune time. Human life, then, becomes a moment in time (opportune time) that is pregnant with possibilities. Honestly, I had not thought about 'Mahurat' or auspicious time - which really has no place in gurmat (as you rightly point out). My personal thinking is more in tune with what you say about 'waqt'. The re-training of the mind you mention is very important in this context. The military re-trains its recruits; the medical profession retrains residents by subjecting them to rigorous training - a kind of breaking down. A similar re-training is the discipline of Naam. In my experience, I have been fortunate to have met and experienced individuals who have practiced the discipline of Naam. All of them, unfailingly and without exception, have arisen during 'picchalee raat'. Tough, I know, but these were people who had professions as well! It is all about hunger and the desire to satiate it.

27: Prakash.Singh Bagga (India), February 04, 2011, 9:39 AM.

My personal expereince about the discipline of naam is that there is no such pre-condition for getting attuned in it. When Satgur puts the hand of grace on the head of any person, there is auto tuning of naam within the thought processes of the person. The requirement is to ask for grace and the gift of naam by way of performing ardaas whenever and wherever possible.

28: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 9:20 AM.

Old age and overuse of "seize the opportunity" concept may have rendered it into a cliche for me. But it has not lost its iconic utility or status. In the human realm, anything which triggers an urge to seize has to be special and valuable. So, what is an opportunity? The dictionary defines it as a situation/ condition and/or favorable time to attain a need/ purpose/ goal. This does not resolve our basic concern: how the opportunity evolves, where it comes from and how we find it. These are the intrinsic aspects of the topic, and I hope deserve consideration in this discussion. In my view, we inherit this whole universe saturated with opportunities to conceive, discover and develop. Our life journey begins with a rare opportunity to be born in this fertile and opportunity-laden planet with so many elements - the sun and moon, water and air, species, plants, knowledge - all contributing to opportunity. Each element, including us, is the creator and user of the opportunities that abound around us. These opportunities evolve out of our curiosity, hunger, pain, adversity, wishes and a sense of vacuum. When the Guru Granth says "Gobind milan ki aiho tayri baria", it creates opportunity; so does "raam naam bhaj keval naam". That is why Guru Nanak discovered the unique, perfect, self sustaining realities of this universe and left us with the importance of the One being the center of this universe and our approaches, activities and needs. That is what energizes and inspires us to read and act upon in the "If" poem by Kipling, or in Guru Nanak's bani, art, music, divine concepts or whatever else we feel hungry for and consider worth attaining. Life in itself has a vacuum of knowledge, goodness, worth, etc. The variety in our individual approaches evolves out of the One making us different, unique and yet prized with a sense of dignity, respect and compassion. We are advised to extend these towards others to fill our own need to receive these virtues back. He has also given us the sense to work and compete; to get our share which leads us to understanding and acceptance of this valuable concept of "seize the opportunity". Timing and awareness are its two most critical elements. The more we know and learn to act judiciously, the better our odds of us obtaining our share.

29: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 9:18 PM.

Ravinder Singh ji, you have a difficult task of stimulating this platform with new ideas and articles. Any excuse to discuss gurmat (Guru's wisdom) is a good one. Thus you are a true source of stimulation here. I agree with you that the present life is an opportunity that is pregnant with possibilities. As for interpreting the term 'kaal' in gurbani, various views may appear different on the surface but they converge when we attempt to fathom Guru's reason of its use, in the light of gurmat. The subject of seizing the moment is a vast one and we could go on forever!

30: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 9:19 PM.

The concept of 'mahurat' still dominates various activities in the subcontinental culture. I feel that in gurbani it is not an insignificant item either. It was used, perhaps, because of its cultural weight, but with a totally different meaning. Metaphysically speaking, there are gaps between all events including our thoughts and activity, where, figuratively speaking, the haumai has to catch its breath. These gaps represent a silver lining in the clouds, so to speak. We do not know at which moment the light of God's mercy may shine through (even if it is for only a fleeting moment in the beginning) and we cannot know which of these gaps may coincide with a thinning of the fog of our haumai. Thus there is no need to dwell on it any further. But we can be ready.

31: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 9:22 PM.

Gurbani tells us to fill all our vulnerable moments, such as each inspiration and expiration and taking each morsel of food (saas giraas), any change in the position or activity (ootthat baitthat), experience of pleasure or pain (sukh dukh) with a receptive prayer called 'simran'. As we all know, we associate this prayer with the word Waheguru, also known as the gurmantar. That day or that moment, when the light of God's mercy shines though the fog of our haumai, is called the perfect mahurat or an auspicious time. Singing of gurbani (kirtan) is one way to augment and to facilitate it. This is the purpose of kirtan.

32: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 9:24 PM.

This is in addition to the special time reserved for training our mind in Guru's outlook and perspective, during that special period of the day. This activity during the amrit-vela spills over the rest of day and it perfumes all our moments, even our sleep. I agree that Naam is a gift and it is not controlled by any discipline, but the receptacle of this gift requires discipline and correction. Please read gurbani to confirm this, otherwise, this will become another long essay. The importance of observing a routine and waqt for personal discipline cannot be overstressed. Even my dog knows when it is time to eat, and he cannot read the clock (I think). Our biggest problem is that we are willing to spend a lifetime learning a minor art like playing the violin, but for training our mind for spiritual benefit, we want immediate results. Lack of success, then, insults our educated intelligence. In response, we reinterpret the teaching, that there is no specific time or activity requirement, and that naam is only a gift, etc. This gives us freedom to continue in our failure, without feeling any guilt, and we feel exalted. But this leaves us spiritually empty. If I may ask, how long did it take to teach something to our dog? Our mind is no different than an animal, but that is a whole new topic.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium #44"

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