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Talking Stick

Wilting Chrysanthemums:
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 94

Convenor: AMRIT KAUR




They say that man is the crest of the wave of life.
But what is man, since he has forgotten his soul and dropped his blossoms in a helpless waste of thought!
And what is man who is lost in the smoke of the fire that burns within him!
Ah! What is man who burns and troubles and frowns and hates,
Whose heart doth seethe like a cauldron with the dark passions of self!
Ah! He has become a wilted flower, a dead and decaying leaf;
He is not the lord of creation.
For he is lord of creation
Only if he be lord of himself

[From “To My Chrysanthemums - Good-Bye!” … a poem from Nargas - Songs of a Sikh, by Bhai Vir Singh. Translated from Punjabi by Puran Singh.]

Bhai Vir Singh’s poetry is gentle and caressing.

I turn to it often when I need comfort. It’s like chicken soup: warm and nurturing, full of things that are good for you. It calms you down with a wash of serenity.

So, imagine my surprise, when I was jolted upright by these strong words, as I was reading the poem this morning.

I have read it before, often, each time moved by the laadd and viraag -- endearment and longing -- expressed by the poet, as he laments the passing of the season, and the annual death of the blossoms. But each time in the past I’ve been engulfed by the tenderness and, it appears, I have glossed over the verse that I quote today and missed its import.

These words stopped me in my tracks this time around.

It is not unusual for Bhai Sahib to throw in nuggets of wisdom amongst his usually gentle and loving offerings, but these words ring with loud grandfatherly admonishment.

We are reminded of our duty -- while being on the “crest of life” -- to be kind and forgiving, compassionate and never vengeful, humble and sweet-spoken, and not give in to the ’dark passions’ and allow ourselves to seethe and burn and hate.

It echoes the message from the Guru: conquer thyself … and the rest follows. Until then, it is all nought. A wilted flower. A dead and decaying leaf.

Bhai Vir Singh asks us to introspect before we interact with the world, no matter what the circumstances: victory or defeat, triumph or disaster, success or failure. Our ultimate strength, our greatest power, lies in humility.

Let’s not wilt in the cauldron of hate, he says, and self-destruct in the smoke and fire of “waste of thought”.

Pride leads to spiritual death. How do we renew ourselves and blossom again, in time for Spring?

Would love to hear how you interpret this verse.  


November 7, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 07, 2012, 9:21 AM.

The Guru tells us again and again that the ego generates extreme amounts of energy and if it is not contained, it is consuming and distracting to the point of being self-destructive.

2: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA.), November 08, 2012, 3:26 PM.

The Guru's message is: "aa-ee panthee sagal jamatee munn jeetai jag jit". The world can be conquered just by conquering oneself. It is our mind that extinguishes the "fire" of the ego. The Unfathomable is within, but not realized because of the veil of the ego.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 08, 2012, 5:34 PM.

American ego created the World Trade Towers and a Saudi's ego demolished them! The world is consumed in the ego.

4: Sarjit Kaur (Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.), November 11, 2012, 10:10 AM.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji's sacrifice for the brahmin Hindus doused the ego of the Muslim King. Hindu mobs repaid by fueling their own ego with the genocide of the followers of the Guru.

5: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), November 11, 2012, 10:14 PM.

Guru Gobind Singh ji in the "Bacchitar Naatak": "Tegh Bahadar kay chalat bh-a-yo jagat ko shok / hae hae hae sab jug bh-a-yo / jae jae jae sur lok" - "At the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadar, the world was in shock, but in the heavens, he was received with honour". It is true that the ego is responsible for all the ills of the world. But the world is born because of ego and can be rightly said: through God's Will. The essence is in what Guru Nanak Sahib in in Japji, pauri 28: to conquer the world, first one must conquer one's ego.

6: Prakash.Singh Bagga (Indore, MP, India), November 12, 2012, 11:01 AM.

One should more clearly understand the essence of conquring the "munn" as envisaged in gurbani. It means bringing the whole of one's thought process under the control of gurmat raam naam. It involves a realignment and reorientation of one's thinking with naam. Then one becomes neutral and fearless towards all situations to win over. This should be a major consideration for a gursikh.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 94 "

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