Kids Corner


Nanak's Intoxication

Translated by INNI KAUR




A giant in Punjabi Literature, Bhai Vir Singh (1872 - 1957) is celebrated as 'The Sixth River of Punjab'. He was a mystic, poet, novelist, essayist, exegete, historian, editor, publisher and a journalist. He was the leading figure in the Singh Sabha Movement, the dynamic Sikh renaissance in the late 19th - early 20th century Punjab. The following passage is translated from his book, “Guru Nanak Chamatkar“, from the original Punjabi.


khumariintoxication; ecstasy; ecstatic joy; transport; drowsiness; sleepiness [Dictionary].


The stars shimmered in the canopy of the sky. A light fragrant breeze permeated the air as Nanak, the First Master, walked towards the ashram of Bhartari the Yogi.

The yogis were sitting with bottles of liquor arrayed around them. Everyone seemed to be drinking.

Bhartari welcomed the Master warmly.

One of the yogis brought over a glass of liquor.

“What is this?”

“This is the drink of the yogis. You must try it,” said Bhartari. “After drinking this, we can meditate for a long time. Sometimes, our concentration remains for over twelve hours.”

“What happens when you have a hangover in the morning?”

“Diamond cuts diamond. Another drink overcomes the hangover,” replied Bhartari.

“And what happens if there is a hangover after the morning drink?”

“Then another drink …”

“Looks like you are only living for this worthless drink.”

“If you think we are living only for this drink, it isn’t so bad. At least we are meditating,” replied Bhartari.

“Alcohol intoxicates. Intoxication numbs the senses. When one is not in one’s senses, one is considered mad. This is not meditation. This drink only provides short-lived, worldly pleasure, nothing else.”

“You have said that I must constantly remember naam. With this intoxication, I am in constant remembrance. What is wrong with that?”

“Dear Bhartari, Naam is sacred. Its sweetness is life-giving. The sweetness in liquor makes you unconscious and if you drink too much, it kills you.

“Liquor is pleasure in the beginning
Half way it becomes a sickness
In the end it is death.
Naam is a struggle in the beginning
Half way it becomes sacred
In the end it is eternal joy.

“You are a seeker who wants to experience the divine. You have misunderstood this unconscious feeling as life.”

Bhartari put his head down, feeling a bit ashamed.

“Gracious Guru, I drink only for meditation. I don’t drink for passion. The few sips that I drink help my concentration. It doesn’t make me unconscious.”

“You may be right, but look around and see for yourself. You may have had a few sips but the rest of them are guzzling down glass after glass. Some of they are lying unconscious. They smell awful. Can we leave this place?”

“Yes of course! But, I would like to continue this conversation in my hut.”

They both left the gathering.

“O True Guru, please allow me to drink a few sips of liquor. It has become a habit. It makes my meditation easier.”

“Dear yogi, snakes are all right in the baskets of the snake charmers. Similarly, the snake of alcohol is all right in the bottle of the doctors. You are a seeker of naam. Liquor is poison and is a deception.”

“Deception? I don’t understand.”

“The first deception is riches and passions. The second deception is intoxication. Intoxication may be of liquor, opium or hashish. Under its influence, one does not understand what one is really doing. It is a state of mind that brings temporary joy but in reality it is taking one to a state of semi-consciousness.”

“But, but the joy and elation that I get from drinking, I do not get from anything else,” interrupted Bhartari.

“If you are near a lamp, you get light. If you go near fire, you get warmth. If you go near the life-giving Creator, you experience true living. Not this semiconscious state that you are experiencing.”

“What you say may be true, but how do I get to feel real joy?”

“Bhartari, you are a seeker of truth. Give up this worthless habit of drinking alcohol and pursue the nectar that comes from naam. Naam is bliss. Intoxication from liquor is not bliss; it is not serenity. Don’t ever think that the exhilaration that you experience when you drink liquor is like the bliss of naam.”

“I confess I hear divine mystic music after a little drink.”

“How can you call it mystic music? The sound that you hear when you press your ears after drinking liquor is a natural physical phenomenon. Those who truly experience mystic music do not live in fear and anxiety. They are permeated in naam. Their minds are free and their joy is boundless. They see the Creator within and in all. Do you see that?”

“What should I do?” asked Bhartari confused.

“Get rid of this habit of drinking. Drinking liquor to meditate is like trying to get rich by gambling. Human life is very precious. Don’t waste it like that. Remember the Creator in everything that you do. As that remembrance becomes a part of you, it will keep you away from vices. Gradually you will experience a constant divine joy of life.”

“If I follow your way, will I reach heaven and get salvation?”

“My dear yogi, here lies your problem. This is the cause of your confusion. If your aim is to experience naam, then your actions should be focused on reaching this goal. Heaven, salvation means nothing to a seeker of naam. If you want to experience naam, be in love with the Creator and serve the Creator’s creation joyfully. Gradually your mind will detach from the world, your sufferings will disappear and you will begin to walk totally carefree.

“Mystic music cannot be heard with these ears. It is everywhere. You too will experience this sensation when your consciousness rises. But don’t stop at this stage. Continue towards your goal. Don’t be enticed by other desires. When you have renounced even the desire for salvation, then there will be nothing else to entice you.

“Focus on your goal. Fruit will follow automatically. Remember two important things: love for the Creator and the desire to experience divine union. Keep these two things constantly in your mind.”

“Then will I get a glimpse of the Creator?”

“Bhartari, you are still mistaken. You cannot see the Creator with these eyes. These eyes can only visualize the world. They are perishable. They can see only worldly sights. To see the Creator, one has to see inwards. Naam will take you to the end of the visible world. From there on it is up to the Creator. You may experience a divine pull. It will be in the form of a sensation. Here you will experience the Creator within your body and outside in nature. In this state of divine union, you will get incessant glimpses.”

Sighing, Bhartari said, “Is this really true? Please don’t stop speaking. The lips of my ears should keep on drinking from the bowl of these words of nectar. Please take me along and keep me at your feet.”

“It is not yet the time to take you along. Recite naam, be immersed in naam and your time will come.”

[The translator is the author of a children's book series, Journey with the Gurus – She also serves on the board of the Sikh Research Institute.]

July 1, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Jasbeer Singh (Delhi, India), July 01, 2013, 8:52 AM.

Excellent piece! Worth reading. Self-explanatory. Thank you so much. Keep sharing.

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 01, 2013, 9:33 AM.

Alcohol and drugs have ruined the world! We have instead the heady intoxication of the beauty of our Scripture and of Nature itself, to give us real joy and ecstasy!

3: Harinder Singh (Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA), July 01, 2013, 10:30 AM.

Inni bhain-ji is gifted. Guru Nanak Sahib via Bhai Mardana: "Make excellent behavior your distillery, speaking the truth your molasses, now make the best liquor of divine identification" [GGS:553].

4: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), July 01, 2013, 5:22 PM.

I (among a few other fortunate ones) get the honor of reviewing Inni Kaur's re-told stories for "Journey with the Gurus" way before they take a final shape for children. Each time I read through a raw version - I shiver, overwhelmed by the pure beauty and devotion that goes into bringing these stories to our children. This story in its simpler form will become Chapter 11 of the Volume 3 and I am glad that many more can share the raw inspiration and realize the potential of these books. This work is history being made.

5: Amarpal  (Libreville, Gabon ), July 01, 2013, 5:23 PM.

Nice stuff. Loved reading it ...

6: Jiwan Dhaliwal  (Hamilton, New Zealand), July 01, 2013, 7:04 PM.

Very good piece of work but "Nanak's Intoxication" does not do justice to the message. Perhaps "Nanak Naam" would've been a more suitable choice.

7: Jaspal Singh Kohli (Mumbai. India), July 02, 2013, 5:34 AM.

Beautifully translated piece from Guru Nanak Chamatkar. Please keep up the good work. Wish all Sikhs would learn from this message and at least try a taste of Naam, to begin with.

8: Paramjit Singh Grewal (Auckland, New Zealand), July 02, 2013, 5:40 AM.

Lovely piece. Thanks, Inni ji.

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Nanak's Intoxication"

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