Kids Corner


Metaphor and Reality, Part III:
Letter & Spirit #57





Continued …

Guru Nanak says in Japji: “Sing and listen (to gurbani) with longing in the heart” [GGS:2.6].

When we do this, then the emotion hidden in gurbani can be ignited within our own heart and bear its fruit some day. An individual who cherishes gurbani’s gifts as paramount, who holds the Guru’s inner guidance above everything else, is called a ‘gurmukh’.

Guru Nanak says that the fruit of regarding the Guru above all texts, all gods and goddesses and all other teachers, is much greater than what can be described.

Discussion of this subject fails to sink-in until we are emotionally ready. When we are ready then sparse discussion is enough. Contemplation and singing of gurbani in the sangat then helps us grow further. This is the preferred method of learning from gurbani rather than a discussion.

*    *    *    *    *

We spend our entire lifetime enjoying - or should we say, suffering from - various emotions. Our emotions encompass a wide variety of moods and mental states. Gurbani mentions five major states that we need to overcome.

Desire to have more pleasure and more possessions, attachment to other beings and objects, and living with the feeling that ‘I’ am the doer of my deeds, these three create the substrate for all the other worldly sentiments.

Lust is governed mostly by the level of hormones just as certain mental illnesses are influenced by physiologic and hormonal imbalance. Anger is modulated by thoughts as well as hormone levels. But both can obliterate our faculty of judgment just as if we were drunk or mentally ill.

These five are called the ‘five thieves’ because they displace or “steal” the most prized sentiment, God’s love, from our heart.

We often resist waking up from a dream even though it may be a silly dream. Similarly, even though we can choose to wake up, most of us prefer to continue living in the state of swoon induced by these five thieves.

Negative emotions - anger, guilt and remorse, etc. - weaken us and they increase toxins in our body. Conversely, gratitude, compassion, empathy and forgiveness detoxify our body and make us stronger mentally and emotionally. They arise from our spiritual nature.

The emotions that are associated with the body keep us rooted in the world of death. The ones that arise from our spiritual nature point towards naam where death does not exist.

We see that all our emotions somehow influence our mental and physical state, our hormones, even the gut flora (the mind-body connection). Gurbani says that naam is a sentiment that is felt in the mind (in our heart) as well as in the body, but it transforms and purifies both.

*    *    *    *    *

One of the most celebrated sentiments in the world is love. Poets on the Subcontinent have idolized it in their tales and lyrics. Songs like ‘chalo dildar chalo’ are examples of the dream of a love that would take us beyond the world, beyond the moon and stars, into a journey that would continue even after death.

The malleable adolescent brain is particularly able to taste such love. Life then becomes uniquely beautiful and the world glows with love that is almost spiritual ...until maturity strikes.

Such innocent love enriches our heart. But this vision of a ‘happily ever after’ life falls prey to reality, to the realization that such love in worldly relationships exists only in our imagination. In the best case scenario this love matures into a lifelong companionship with understanding and acceptance of human limitations. Still, it ends with death and separation.

For this reason, gurbani has called all worldly relationships as ‘koorrh’ or false, not because everyone was feigning them, but that the outcome is not permanent and thus not true. Even when the love is real it has to eventually face disease, death, desolation and sorrow. All worldly relationships are designed to end in this manner. They all have a lesson to teach.

Most of us get the lesson but only temporarily and only whenever we ourselves experience a sad outcome. This is called ‘vairaag’ meaning sorrow. Next stage of ‘vairaag’ is disillusionment. But we often fail to recognize the ubiquitous and inevitable pattern of transience in everything and we fail to reach the state where vairaag matures into sustained inner detachment.

Depression and frailty of old age also manifest as detachment and anhedonia   (inability to feel pleasure). But these did not arise from the discernment (called ‘vivek’ or ‘bibek’ in gurbani) that results from deep insight.

Gautam Buddha had the discernment. He attained the mature stage of vairaag during his youth after simply observing the sorrow of others. He did not wait until he had to experience some misfortune or illness himself. He renounced the world in search of lasting happiness and peace.

Guru Sahib did not support renunciation of the world to attain vairaag. The world is our sounding board. True vairaag consists of not expecting any lasting happiness and satisfaction from the world, without having to leave it, and being detached from the world while still living in it.

We then love others but without being emotionally dependent on others’ love. We then depend emotionally on love with someone else within us. We break our ties with others but we now truly love them because this someone else resides within others too.

When we break our inner ties, then gurbani starts to unfold within our heart [GGS:917.18].

*    *    *    *    *

Guru Sahib says, “If I find wings for sale I would buy them in exchange for my flesh. I would then attach them to my self and fly to seek and meet my beloved friend” [GGS:1426.6].

This sentiment, the pain of longing to reunite with love, is called ‘birha’. Birha is the spark that is generated during separation from love. Birha is not the same as loneliness or depression.

Baba Farid says that the black color caused by burning in the fire of separation is praiseworthy [GGS:794.12]. He further says that someone who has never felt the pain of birha is a dead soul, just the same as a corpse lying in a graveyard [GGS:1379.15].

Birha enhances and enriches the culmination of love. The gods and demigods can be anywhere at will (except being with God). But they long for the human body so that they could also taste this love with this deep longing [GGS:1159.7].

*    *    *    *    *

We can generate and enhance any emotion within ourselves. But the emotion of naam cannot be generated by us. All our acts are carried out under the influence of haumai (ego). The emotion of naam is the antithesis of haumai.

We cannot be colored with this emotion until we make honest mental and physical efforts to reject all worldly attachments, as if we were allergic to them. We need to resist doing, seeing, hearing or thinking of any acts that involve the five thieves. This cleans our receptacle.

When Waheguru so desires, the emotion of naam can then take seat in our heart. All other emotions lose their power then and they are easily controlled.

The adolescent dream of endless love does in fact come true one day, but only when we are in love with Waheguru or the Guru, or with a Gursikh or Gursikhs who have become just the same as the Guru. Death does not exist in their company. Their companionship persists after death.

Only this love is everlasting. This is why it is called spiritual love. This love has no beginning. It was always here. We had never really lost it. We simply had not discovered it.

If we were freezing  in cold we can be warm by getting close to fire. Similarly, we can feel and absorb divine love in the Guru’s company. This is why Guru is necessary. Being in company of someone who has it makes us aware of its presence. It feels like coming home after being lost.

When it pleases Waheguru, we then choose to become slave to this emotion and strive to keep it alive by rejecting slavery to the ‘five thieves’. Only mercy of Waheguru and presence of this emotion can overcome the five thieves. We cannot on our own. Gurbani says so.

True mercy, empathy, forgiveness, and gratitude then arise naturally in a heart that is imbued with naam. Their expression is then governed by true inner wisdom, not by the haumai.

According to gurbani, naam is the only sentiment that is not tainted with the haumai.

*    *    *    *    *

In gurbani, love is preferred over knowledge, liberation or power. Spiritual powers, divine knowledge, yoga or liberation are not our goal. Being imbued with the color of naam as human beings is our real purpose. Yoga, knowledge, liberation, power, etc. are natural fruits of naam.

In Japji, Guru Nanak divides the path into five realms, probably to indicate a hierarchy. The realm of ‘Karam’ (compassion) where the bhagats reside, is closest to the realm of ‘Sach’ where formless God resides. Realms of modesty and beauty, of cosmic and divine knowledge and the realm of virtuous life are below the realm of Waheguru’s compassion.

Countless Buddhas, Siddhas, masters of yoga, gods and goddesses, etc. reside in the realm of knowledge. Fewer than these cross into the realm of spiritual modesty, and fewer still are made to reside in the realm of Waheguru’s compassion.

The words ‘Nadar’ (mercy) and ‘Karam’ (compassion) often appear together in gurbani. In the realm of compassion, Waheguru, the only one who has the power (see ‘jore’ as defined in pauri 33 of Japji) to do so, wields it on his bhagats and blesses them with his mercy, by totally melting their heart (their haumai) with His love.

We also read in Japji that the greatest warriors reside in the realm of compassion. According to gurbani, a warrior is someone who has conquered his own self (not someone else) and someone who has thus become imbued with the color of naam [e.g., GGS:679.17] .

*    *    *    *    *

Entire bani emphasizes the need to be imbued with this one color of true love. In the morning we repeat the ten stanzas (the swayyas) from Akal Ustat. They stress the same theme.

Guru Gobind Singh says that he has observed various ascetics, devotees of various religions, greatest warriors, masters of yoga, gods living on nectar, and sants of various sects, but none of these was seen present in Waheguru’s court. Why not?

“Without having received Lord Master’s mercy, without having been imbued with the one color (‘ek ratti’) their value was as little as one ratti (a crab’s eye seed that was used as the smallest weight measure).“

Guru Gobind Singh continues to enumerate various other great entities, great kings, scholars and followers of various disciplines of the highest order, “but without having received Lord Master’s mercy they all will leave the world in disgrace.”

In conclusion Guru Gobind Singh says that without having been imbued with this one color, even ‘Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, and Indra will face death in the end. But humans who took sanctuary at the feet of Lord Master (and thus became imbued with His color) will be set free from birth and death.”

*    *    *    *    *

All serious readers should watch the two videos explaining the meaning of ‘Ten Swayyas’. Just search for “Prof. Maninderpal Singh Ji Live 0n 01-03-2013” and 02-03-2013 on youtube.

Everyone should also watch at least the first 15-20 minutes of “Gurbani Vyakaran (Part 1) - Professor Maninderpal Singh” in two parts. Look for the 52 minutes length (not the shorter sessions). Having watched these more than once I still need to learn plenty from them.

In addition, we must remember that Guru Sahib collected and preserved all writings of the bhagats in Guru Granth Sahib. But being true to their habits and traditions, people have created many apocryphal compositions, even granths, and have attributed them to these bhagats. We can be sure of only the bani in Guru Granth Sahib as being authentic bhagat bani.

*    *    *    *    *

In this shabad, Bhagat Ravidas says, “O Lord, when I realized that you never stop loving us regardless of what we do, then I want to never break my love with you either.”

“Just as a peacock does not leave the mountain, a partridge longs for the moon, the wick burns itself for the lamp, etc. I am also dedicated only to you at all times (“saachi preet”).

“I do not need to go to a special place to worship you. Wherever I go and whatever I do, you are there always present, always with me. There is no other such deity.

“The sole purpose of my singing is to obtain bhagti.“

*    *    *    *    *

Here is the complete shabad that we have discussed above:

“When you are the mountain, Lord, then I am a peacock.
When you are the moon, then I am the partridge in love with you, the moon.
O Lord, if you will not break with me, then I will not break with you.
For if I were to break with you, with whom would I then join? [Pause]

When you are the lamp, then I am the wick.
If you are a place of pilgrimage, then I am the pilgrim.
I am joined in true love with you, Lord.
I am joined with you, and I have broken with all others.
Wherever I go, there I serve you.
There is no other Lord Master like you, O Divine Lord.
Being devoted to you the noose of death is cut away.
Ravidas sings for the sake of bhagti.”

Please CLICK HERE for the kirtan of this shabad in Raag Sorath.

*   *   *   *   *


August 7, 2018


Conversation about this article

1: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), August 15, 2018, 4:40 PM.

Guru’s hymns are mostly in metaphors. Which warns us that the literal translations may lack in transmitting the actual lesson that our Guru intended. Yuktanand ji has done an excellent service to point this out with many examples. Be aware of finding much in the literal translations. That is the reason the Guru established the tradition of exegesis to transmit the message. When I see literal translations projected on the wall in gurdwaras, sometimes they make me laugh. Of course, not loudly but deep in my heart. The heart here is a metaphor too as no one can laugh in the heart which is beating all the time. Please insist on Gurdwara committees providing qualified katha-kars for continuing the tradition of exegesis in every gurdwara.

Comment on "Metaphor and Reality, Part III:
Letter & Spirit #57"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.