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Talking Stick

Epilogue
The Talking Stick Colloquium XIX, Salok, May 10-16

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA

 

 

THE DIALOGUE - TO DATE

We conclude the Japji this week with a consideration of the epilogue which appears as a Salok (a poetic form) after the 38th stanza. The salok is believed to have been authored by the second Nanak, Guru Angad - just as it is also believed that the entire Japji may have been arranged by him under the supervision of Guru Nanak.

The Japji was an obvious place to begin: its placement at the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib is a testimony to its importance and tradition has it that the fifth Nanak, Guru Arjan, declared it to be the  quintessence of  Gurmat - of which the  entire Guru Granth Sahib was only an amplification.

Apart from being the most important liturgical text, it is the most popular as well. Hundreds of translations and interpretations of it exist.

The subject matter of the Japji - as we have re-discovered - is perennial and one that will be continuously revisited by successive generations. The Japji speaks of universals: what is Truth and how do we uncover it, if at all? What is our purpose and where on Earth are we going? How do we live life at an existential peak - at our fullest potential? How do we live and die with dignity?

Guru Nanak has given us a repertoire of ideas to chew on: Hukam, Haumai, Suniyeh, Maniyeh, Panch, Dharam and the Five Khands, among others. He is an exemplar in courage - the courage to question and challenge existing myths (as he did) and the conviction to speak the truth.

Above all, he has shown us The Way - emphasizing that everyday life is sacred; that what passes for spirituality is not just a Sunday affair at the gurdwara; that God is truly in the details of everyday living.

To experience this, he enjoins us to transform ourselves by cultivating the qualities of continence, patience, discernment, to love and live with knowledge and discipline.

On a personal note: when we began this journey, an important objective was to forge an authentic community of seekers, coming together to reflect on gurbani, and in the process, develop true fellowship through a melding of the minds, where individual egos dissolve in a larger bonding.

I note with much gratification that we have indeed made a quantum leap in the direction that Guru Arjan has pointed to:

Meeting is not a meeting,

Unless one bonds together

In harmony of Spirit ||3|| [GGS: 791]

I would be exceedingly remiss if I did not call out Sardar T. Sher Singh ji for making The Talking Stick Colloquium possible. Thank you for providing this forum and your indefatigable spirit.

Manjyot Kaur, who is a regular contributor on this site, has a keen sense for nuance and correct usage - to her, many thanks for the feedback and help in translating the text. There is more to come!

Dr. I.J. Singh is an old friend and mentor. To him: as always, thanks for the conversations, advice and insight.

But none of this would have been possible without you, the reader and fellow seeker and traveler. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for making this possible - and providing the springboard, I hope, for a still deeper dive for the treasures of gurbani.

After the conclusion of Japji, we will move on to Kirtan Sohila, the 'night prayer'. Just as the Japji unlocks the day, Kirtan Sohila closes it to allow us repose.

Kirtan Sohila is relatively short and that is, I suppose, a good way to change pace.

As we move along, suggestions and feedback are vital for continuous improvement - individually and collectively. So please do not hesitate to speak your mind, either on the forum or directly to the convener (via email or phone).

THE MESSAGE - Salok

This salok reiterates the underlying connectedness of all creation by stressing the mix of common elements in us. As members of a single commonwealth, our actions and deeds will be the ultimate judge of how we end up - embraced and welcomed or sent back for remedial training until we get it right. Success here is measured by the degree to which we are able to draw on the power of attentive hearing (dhyan) to connect with the Word. Put another way, how well we execute the script of our lives, how fully do we draw from the creative potency of Naam to bring about individual achievement and social good.

LET'S CONSIDER:

This week, let's take a respite and share our personal experience on this journey that we have collectively undertaken. Suggestions have been made and some issues that popped up had to be tabled because of time - feel free to bring up what you feel is pertinent to the discussion at hand.  

 

THE TEXT - RENDERED IN ENGLISH

Pavan gurū pāṇī piṯā māṯā ḏẖaraṯ mahaṯ

Guru, the breath of life; water the sire;

And the great earth, womb of all being.

Ḏivas rāṯ ḏoe ḏāī ḏāiā kẖelai sagal jagaṯ.

Nursed by Day and Night, nurtured in their lap is the world at play

Cẖangāīā buriāīā vācẖai ḏẖaram haḏūr

Good deeds and bad will all be weighed

KarmÄ«  āpo āpṇī ke neá¹›ai ke ḏūr

By our actions we are in Your presence or afar

JinÄ«  nām á¸áº–iāiā gae maskaṯ gẖāl

They who have centered on Your Name, their labors are done

Nānak ṯe mukẖ ujle keṯī cẖẖutī nāl

Nanak, their faces aglow, they are free to go;

      ferrying others across with them. //1// 

Conversation about this article

1: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), May 10, 2010, 5:49 AM.

My comments here are about the Bhakti movement that Atika ji has mentioned in the discussion of last week. (These are just my views based upon my understanding of what Guru Nanak is saying. However, I want to say that gurbani is much more than that about what I am summarizing here). It is true that during Guru Nanak's times (and before that as well) the Bhakti movement was quite influential in parts of India, and, it is still prevalent in India in one form or the other. Before the Bhakti movement, majority of people worshiped deities. By doing that, their aim was to have 'darshan' - a vision - of the deity that was considered God's representative or an intermediary. The bhakts of the movement rejected that view on the ground that the worship of a deity does not represent worship of God. God is higher than the deity. But emphasis still was on having 'darshan'. Their method was singing the praises of God who is not limited to only one sect. This approach was also the one that was taken up by the Sufis. The emphasis still was on having a vision/ darshan. In their view, that was all that was needed for redemption. In gurbani, this is alluded to as the 'opening of the tenth door'. To Guru Nanak, the mystical revelation to him may have felt like knowing/ seeing the Truth first hand. In that he saw a whole lot more about everything than any one else did before (at least he seems to be the first to record that). Regarding the aspect of his mystical vision that we are looking at here, his conclusion however was that while it is a great achievement for any bhagat or saint to have that vision of the Truth, but the persons (even the bhagat and saints) still will have to discharge their obligations that are due from them as per Hukam. That can only be done by doing deeds/ playing the role as a human being. If man wants to receive divine grace, he has to do these deeds truthfully, otherwise he merely 'comes and goes'. While knowing the Truth (having the vision - opening of the tenth door) is great - as it is considered a very high achievement in the spiritual domain, but still higher than that is doing the deeds truthfully - the truthful living per Hukam. So, Guru Nanak in his observation concludes that man really does not have to have his 'tenth door' opened - it is not essential (if the tenth door opens in the process, it an extra blessing), but man must live truthfully instead. To merge back with the infinity, however, the highest path of living that man can take is that described in the Japji, or the alternate path which S. Ravinder Singh Taneja has, in his translation, named as the Path of Entanglement. The path described in Japji emphasizes doing dharam with daya and exercise santokh. The other (the path of entanglement) is about working on reducing the role of haumai in daily life, being watchful of the group of the five negatives, and to exercise santokh. In any event, the final divine grace is not likely to be granted, till the shabad of man (song of his mind/ consciousness) becomes acceptable to Naam. What deeds we do and how we do them (intention, remembering God and bhau), is the main factor in crafting that shabad.

2: Kartar Singh Bhalla (New Delhi, India), May 10, 2010, 6:01 AM.

Having read 5 - 6 translations of Japji Sahib and not being fully satisfied with any of them, I attempted my own translation. I reproduce below my translation of the salok: "Air is the Divine Teacher (who eradicates ignorance); Water is the Father (who gives us life) and Earth is the Great Mother (who feeds us). Day and Night are the nurses who caress the entire world in their laps. Our good and bad deeds are examined by the Overseer of righteousness (Dharam Raj) in the presence of the Lord. Those judged good would be nearest to God and those judged bad would remain separated from Him. Those who meditated on the Lord's Name and worked hard to spend their lives according to the will of God will gain salvation after death. Nanak says: Their faces are radiant with success and with them many more who remained in their company will gain salvation."

3: Ravi K. Natt (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), May 10, 2010, 12:10 PM.

I have followed the colloquium with keen fervour and found the exchange enlightening. This has been of immense benefit to many of us, whose first and only written language is English. Although I have read many interpretations of Japji Sahib, this is the first time the context is not literal but objective. I felt as though the participants had delved into the ocean of Guru Nanak's founding shabad and captured pearls to string the essence of Japji Sahib for us mere mortals. This dialogue has clarified the meaning of many elements of the shabad. Thank You! I also want to commend the discipline with which the exchange took place and the respect conferred by the participants to each others' view points. If only we could mirror this discipline in our gurdwaras! I am hoping that you will summarize and compile the dialogue into a publication for easy reference and continue with such a conversation on other banis.

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville Ohio, U.S.A.), May 10, 2010, 12:38 PM.

Thank you, Kartar Singh ji. The trouble with translations is that no translation will satisfy everyone. Yet, we continue to translate - as we must, in my opinion. Brevity, poetic form, colloquial idiom, etc., are important guidelines in my approach. My aim is not to provide a precis but rather leave something to the readers' imagination.

5: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), May 10, 2010, 9:09 PM.

Bhai Gurdas was the first to offer his interpretation of Guru Nanak's Salok. He brings out the meaning of the phrase 'Air is the Guru' in the light of the Sikh doctrine of Word as Guru (guru sabad) as follows: "Salok// Air is the Guru, water the Father, and earth the mighty Mother of all ..." In his Vaar 2:19, Bhai Gurdas expounds: "Air is the Guru in the sense of Word as Guru, and [this knowledge comes from] the contemplation of the music of the Word. Water is the Father and earth the Mother, which give birth to the whole creation ..." The real issue here is to understand the identification of "Guru" with "air." It is instructive to note that in all languages, the metaphorical kernel of spirit is "air" (pavan) or breath. Breathing is the most primary of all primary concerns of life, the act marking the transition from the embryo to the baby, and our most continuous activity thereafter. We can go on for days without food, but a few minutes without breathing and we "expire." In fact, the transition from the embryonic to the ordinary world suggests, by analogy, a second transition from a natural world to a spiritual world, which we reach by taking a second breath or inspiration in a higher kind of air. This process is a rebirth or a higher birth. Guru Nanak's identification of "Guru" with "air" (pavan guru) makes perfect sense when we apply the notion of "transition" from a natural world to a spiritual world. In his Siddh Gost, he actually makes the same assertion that as life begins with "air", so does the life of spirituality begin with the Word (sabad) of the Guru [GGS:943). Bhai Gurdas's interpretation of Guru Nanak's Salok elaborates on this point from a doctrinal standpoint, since by his time the doctrine of "Word as Guru" was well established within the Sikh tradition. Secondly, with slight linguistic variation, this Salok is repeated under the authorship of Guru Angad in Vaar Majh [GGS:146]. There is an interesting explanation behind this. The Puratan Janam-sakhi claims that Guru Nanak recited this Salok just before he passed away at Kartarpur in 1539. It was thus introduced in Sikh worship as part of the Japji by his successor Guru Angad who made it obligatory that this Salok must be recited at the conclusion of all the Sikh ceremonies. As this Salok marks the transition of the office of the Guru from the founder to the successor, so it has come under the authorships of both the Gurus in the Guru Granth Sahib. Similarly, there are other such instances in the scripture when a composition is repeated at two different places under the symbol of two succeeding Gurus. For instance, Guru Amar Das' Salok 2 (11) in Vaar Siri Rag [GGS:86] is repeated under the symbol of Guru Ram Das as Salok 28 in Salok Varan te Vadhik [GGS:1424]. In both these instances these Saloks mark the transition of the office of the Guru. To be continued ...

6: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), May 10, 2010, 9:37 PM.

A warm welcome, Aryeh Leib ji. In the previous segment, you raised certain basic thoughtful concerns. As you said, within Abrahamic religions, the faithful have to make a choice between 'deism' or 'divine intervention'. Other religions have the same challenge: reason vs. divine existence/ acceptance. The religious mind may not be able to have it both ways. These are simmering issues for the 21st century mind. The human quest to seek reason-based answers about the universe, life, its purpose, after life, etc., has not changed. Rather, the expectation for reason/ proof has strengthened with the discovery of DNA, artificial life, space adventure and many others marvelous things. In a way, the religious mind may be responsible for the rise of these issues due to lack of practical approach and dogmatic rituals. The nature of conflict is no different than the one that arose from Galileo's discovery of the earth/ sun connection. Galileo had no intent to question religious thought. He merely wanted to share his discovery. Human mind's deist thought is real, genuine and will continue unless reason-based elements are brought in to the 'divine' concept. In Sikhism, we view the concept of 'nadar' as more realistic and practical. You had a chance to understand and reflect closely. How do you view it from your vantage point? Other thoughts!

7: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 11, 2010, 5:12 AM.

Ravi ji: thank you for the encouragement, and yes, the intent is to eventually compile and publish the dialogue. We hope to continue this conversation on The Talking Stick and start with a shorter bani (Kirtan Sohila) next week.

8: Kartar Singh Bhalla (New Delhi, India), May 11, 2010, 5:21 AM.

Sardar Ravinder Singh ji, please pardon me. I had no intention of criticizing you. I seem to have given a wrong impression. I am sorry.

9: Aryeh Leib (Israel), May 11, 2010, 2:54 PM.

Nirmal ji, warm greetings back to you - myself being a former resident of the Lone Star state! I'm not sure I made myself completely understood in my previous post. Judaism (of the Orthodox variety, and even here I run into difficulties - as the Orthodox posit that theirs is the only normative interpretation, in direct line with some 3500 years of unbroken, heavily documented tradition) understands man's relationship with God to be immanent to the point of direct, personal involvement in even the most seemingly mundane of our activities. That we don't see it happening nowadays (as opposed to events like the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, which were, according to Scripture, viewed by some three and a half million people)- unless we consciously look for it - in no way negates its occurrence, and it serves to bolster faith. It in no way absolves us of the responsibility to make our own choices and to live with the consequences thereof. Deism, on the other hand, is God's transcendence, minus His immanence; a very different proposition altogether, with very different ramifications, i.e., we're on our own, and God is relegated to the role of Heavenly Observer only. Nadar, as I understand it (and, I'm more than ready to hear other viewpoints) must depend on our efforts, while, at the same time, we have no knowledge of what will tip the balance for us.

10: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 12, 2010, 3:24 AM.

Sardar Kartar Singh ji: rest assured, I did not think you were criticizing me and my response was not a defense of my myself - just an observation about the difficulty of translating in general. My attempt - like yours - will not appeal to everyone, and no doubt falls short. So keep at it, but more than just a translation, offer us your views as well.

11: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 12, 2010, 4:19 AM.

Many of you have told me (privately) that you read the column but are reluctant to write - for a variety of reasons, none of them convincing. Readers, please chime in with your personal experiences on the path. We would love to hear about your engagement with the Japji - what it means to you? Do you recite it regularly? Do you have it committed to memory? So on. We do not have to be an "authority" on Sikhi to talk about it; we are certainly authorities on our own lives, so share your personal insights, please.

12: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 12, 2010, 4:26 AM.

Following my own advice, I will share my first reaction to Japji as a child: an older cousin convinced me that "hukam rajaa-ee chalna" meant that one was expected to carry one's "razaai" (quilt/ blanket) wherever one went. Needless to say, I was quite baffled by the requirement. Years later, I discovered that it was a popular joke! But you can imagine my discomfiture.

13: Atika (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 12, 2010, 3:25 PM.

At certain times, Japji is my 'razaai' (a security blanket). On other occasions, it helps me to ground myself, to train my mind (by reflecting on the virtues described), and calm my thoughts (dhaturbazee). Throughout Japji, Guru Nanak is saying that Ik Oankaar cannot be described. One important lesson that I have learnt from this online discussion is to accept the limits of my rational mind, and say "I don't know!" I don't know what God is. I feel a sense of awe when I look at nature. To me that awe is beyond description. That's all I know and I rejoice in that feeling!

14: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), May 12, 2010, 9:43 PM.

Thought interpretation in the salok is perhaps the most complex. The reason is the depth and range of meaning conveyed in each word. The approach is multi-fold. By pairing words representing nature and life, a meaningful relationship is developed to signify the similarity of functions. The purpose is to imply the significance of the connection between humans, nature and the higher power. A few highlights include superb poetic mastery in conveying the message. The precise selection of symbols is awe-inspiring. The words used are of daily utility to help understand and internalize easily. It is short yet precisely constructed to convey/ cover so much. The words keep the message persuasive to multiple mind orientations and conditions. Imaginative power in the message requires reader's focused imagination to understand and plumb the depth and reach. The opening line sets the stage to unleash your imagination. 'Pavan', meaning air, signifies the utmost human need to breath constantly to remain alive. However, the significance and utility goes beyond, such as wind/ rain, clouds, tornadoes, global traverse, etc. 'Guru' signifies Waheguru, creator, divine, teacher, knowledge. The purpose is to fuse the inherent truth in one (natural element) with a human conceived entity - Guru. Water means the life-sustaining critical element, cleaning, purification, vegetation, oceans. 'Father' represents male, seed, protector, provider, seeder. 'Mata' is for creation, nurturing, compassion, love. "Dhart' is earth, life growth medium, dwell, shelter, support. In the second line, day and night represent light/ darkness, visible/ hidden, sun/ stars, active/ passive, order. 'Dai daaya' - nursing, care-taking, service. universe functioning, rhythms, seasons, earthquakes, etc. In the third line, the focus shifts towards human created concepts such as right/ wrong, good/ bad, ugly/ pretty, assessment, evaluation. The fourth line covers action, deeds, approach, connected/ removed. In the fifth line, the thought is towards the outcome of good actions, His remembrance, orientation, attitude. In the last line, there is a clear approach to assess the outcome of deeds, intent, etc. One appears like a successful radiant face and with a sense of liberation after a difficult challenge or task. To emphasize the significance of the wider message in the salok, I purposely took a more deliberative approach contrary to the Sikh tradition. Guru Angad established and Guru Arjan carried out the task of including the salok in the Guru Granth after the Japji. Bhai Gurdas was the first to interpret the salok and diligently followed Guru Angad's instruction to interpret it by orienting its every meaning towards Waheguru. That is the reason why most interpretations tend to be mostly oriented towards the divine in accordance with Sikh tradition. Two more points to stress: The thought in the salok is so wide and deep, it applies to every human, regardless of his religious orientation, belief, culture, location or tradition. Its message truly lays out its universal application and appeal. To read the salok, start with an open mind, and let the message usher in with the help of your imaginative floating mind. You will experience the joy of truth, realities of life in each line and the connectivity with the universe and Waheguru.

15: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), May 13, 2010, 2:19 AM.

I encountered this forum by accident, and what a pleasant accident it has been. It was enlightening at each and every point, and it has deepened my understanding of many concepts in life. The great thing about the forum was the practicality part of it and analysis of various ideas and concepts rather just the literal translation of the text. I have gained and learned immensely from everyone and my heartfelt thanks to all the experts. There are certain terms that are stuck in my mind for forever, and their meaning such as hukam, huamai, first sunniye and then manniye, dhol daram, amrit vela, the concept of karam, five khands, renunciation, and so on. I am delighted to hear the news that the forum is carrying on.

16: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 13, 2010, 3:20 AM.

Jaswinder ji raised some fundamental questions in last week's posting: what do I do next? How do i apply these teachings? This is indeed crucial. I will offer a start: over the years, I have cultivated the habit of watching myself - as though I lived outside of my body. I have tried to observe my reaction to things, people, events, etc. In time, a pattern has emerged: what sorts of things I gravitate to, what repulses me, my tendencies. This is like an experiment - except that you are the lab, the experiment, the observer and the observed - all rolled into one. I have found that just "watching" yourself and your reactions to the world around you helps to dissolve and shed a lot of the needless burden we carry. Would love to hear the experience of others.

17: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), May 13, 2010, 6:31 AM.

Aryeh ji, I agree with your view: we need more information and understanding. In 'nadar', Sikhs reinforce His immanence, not detach. As far as tipping the balance, isn't it dicey in each concept? What do you think? As you wisely said, in Deism, lack of His immanence - which many like - is an issue. Likewise, His transcendence in most religions remains an issue. Because it boils down to whether you want to believe in the concept or not. Another plausible argument is: do you want to put all your eggs in one invisible basket, as the saying goes. The collective wisdom advises otherwise. And you can sense the conflict. Often, in an objective discussion about 'divine' and or its 'providence', the answer ends up: 'I told you so'. Which is also the case between a young budding child's mind who is trying to learn and a mature wise grown-up mind who does not have a complete or plausible answer. This gap is the challenge for the 21st century mind I alluded to.

18: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), May 13, 2010, 5:09 PM.

In my earlier post, I have provided the historical context of the final Salok of the Japji and how it has been recited at the end of every Sikh ceremony for nearly five centuries now. Nirmal Singh ji is right that its message is of universal appeal and application. All human beings on this planet, Mother Earth, are given the freedom to act according to their own will. They are given the freedom of choice. But few know that they are constantly being watched and their actions, good or bad, become revealed in the full light of the hidden camera of righteousness (dharam), to use the analogy from modern-day technology: 'In the court of the Righteous One, all stand revealed, their deeds declared, both good and ill. As we have acted so we are recompensed, some brought near and others driven away.' This is based upon the universal standards of justice and the retributive system. There is, however, another category of human beings who are aware of the divine presence through the practice of meditation on the divine Name (nam-simaran). Such people take the responsibility of their actions. In fact, their actions bear the mark of divine approval. They dedicate their entire life for the welfare of others: 'They who have faithfully followed the divine Name have run their course, their labors done. Freed are they and others with them. Radiantly, Nanak, they go to glory.' It is quite evident that individual salvation/ liberation is not Guru Nanak's ideal. The stress here is on altruistic concern for humanity as a whole (sarbat da bhalla). From a historical angle, Guru Nanak's goal was clearly different from the protagonists of the Bhakti movement or the Sant tradition of North India. Those leaders seem to have been individuals working out their own problems towards achieving their personal and spiritual aims and aspirations. They did not do what Guru Nanak did. In fact, the Bhakti movement could not play a revolutionary role on the sociological level due to its individualistic mystique. Guru Nanak enlarged the conception of salvation/ liberation by investing it with a collectivistic, societal dimension. This is what is Guru Nanak's last will contained in the Salok of the Japji that 'others become free along with those of radiant faces' I am extremely grateful to the organizers of sikhchic.com, Ravinder Singh ji, Aryeh Leib ji and fellow seekers who have offered their pearls of wisdom in this discussion.

19: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 3:28 AM.

We have multiple threads going on. Let me try and summarize what we are saying: 1) Unlike the figures of the Bhakti movement - who were focused on individual salvation within the confines of their social structure - Guru Nanak placed an equal, if not higher, emphasis on connection with God through social action and change. 2) Spirit, or the animating principle of life, works in us through the medium of breath, which requires Air - making it Guru, or of utmost significance. 3) The dichotomy between Faith and Reason (or deism and divine) is what hampers the faithful, who must rely on reason-based thinking, especially in this age of science and technology.

20: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 7:55 AM.

We have emphasized the "practicality" of Guru Nanak's message, yet said little, if anything at all, about how it all relates to our daily lives. Our discussion tends to get a little too philosophical with no insights on how to absorb Guru Nanak into the things we do on a day-to-day basis: work, family, kids, social realtionships, etc. Jaswinder ji had asked very specific questions which are important. I am going to recommend that we continue this for another week and focus on practice and not doctrine. Thoughts, anybody?

21: Atika (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 8:41 AM.

I whole-heartedly agree! It is a relatively easy task to translate and deliberate, the real challenge, however, lies in applying the teachings. What is the point of reciting Japji everyday, if it does not bring a change in our thoughts, attitudes and actions? Towards that end this colloquium was initiated, so that those who are seeking can better understand the meaning of Guru Nanak's message. Application of that understanding is an integral next step and thus worthy of greater attention. I am keen to hear other readers' experiences - how an understanding of Guru Nanak's message has changed their lives? What are the obstacles and challenges they face in practicing Sikhi?

22: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 9:28 AM.

In the Japji, the message is to know yourself first and foremost. In that process, learning to use emotions appropriately/ wisely and the intellect for processing, reasoning and decision-making is critical. Understanding the function and use of others faculties is equally vital. Developing purpose is your responsibility. Good execution is equally important to succeed. There are many techniques, approaches, traits, resources and styles: know yours and learn from others to improve/ enhance. Other humans and learning to deal with them is equally vital. Every natural and faculty acquired knowledge has only one purpose, to use and succeed/ accomplish. Natural needs include survival, spiritual, knowledge, and curiosity. Rest are self perceived. Tinker, establish your own and avoid mimicking. Spirituality is critical. Religious institutions act as good sources. Belong to one and use as you desire. There is a universe with many species, elements and phenomena around you. Understand its impact and learn to cope and benefit from it. There is a higher power out there - real or perceived. Accept and know about it because it is helpful and wise. Its recognition serves a vital purpose to strike a balance in purpose and pursuit of life. Do not take every thing too seriously and learn to enjoy, contemplate and be content (and happy). All are worth incorporating for longevity, balance and comfort.

23: Atika (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 11:24 AM.

Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague who had recently experienced a break-up and was struggling with the resulting insecurities. While encouraging her, I pondered on my own struggles as a graduate student living all by myself, far away from my family. There is no doubt that I found my anchorage in Sikhi, and for that I will forever be grateful to Ravinder ji. It was because of his eminent presence in the Gurbani Vichaar group that I was able to develop the broad and progressive outlook I have towards Sikhi. He continues to encourage all of us in the group to apply what we meditate on in our daily lives. I can speak for myself that my bond with Sikhi exists because he guided and supported me on my journey, both by sharing his personal experiences and by his ever-readiness to boldly face and answer my endless list of questions. Thank you, Ravinder ji!

24: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 14, 2010, 11:52 AM.

Guru Nanak has given so many examples and metaphors - if out of all those, even if we adapt one teaching in our daily life, then, I think this whole discussion was worth it.

25: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), May 14, 2010, 9:43 PM.

If I look at the practicality part of it all, the first thing I learned was the concept of hukam, whatever happened to me it was meant to be, it was the result of my actions, whatever I am getting today has been shaped by me and I am responsible: this helps me forget the past. The next thing that helps me is my full and utter faith when I think about the future that whatever will happen will be for my good only, so I stop worrying about it. Instead of looking at the problems in the present and saying obstacles are IN my way, I say this is THE way for me and this helps me to deal with the present. Like Ravinder Singh ji said, it is a constant process of evaluating yourself, your actions, your thoughts, your feelings, which are leading to various issues in our lives. I have learned "acceptance" is the only way whenever something happens to you. In any situation, or with any person, I can't control them; they will do as they wish, always responsibility comes on me, how I react to it, and that makes my destiny, and it is an indicator of my state of mind too. It is all about our state of our mind; if that is stable and contented, we have achieved the greatest success in life, and that is the only success. Achievements in the physical world will happens eventually, or they won't even matter then. The gist of it all is keeping our mind stable in the present, and that comes from understanding gurbani and ourselves. The biggest question is how to think right, create right thoughts. I guess we have learned a lot from each other and hopefully will continue to do so and that will guide us to think right.

26: Rawel Singh (India), May 15, 2010, 12:12 AM.

If we read the Japji carefully, it is all updesh - instruction - to the human soul for leading a fruitful life, finally merging in the source, Akal Purakh. The Sikh faith is not just for precept but for living. Having described the concepts and shown the place of the human in the universe in the first 19 pauris, Guru Nanak gives us their application in the remaining nineteen. Application starts from the 20th pauri by saying "kari kari karna likh lai jahu" - 'The consequences of your deeds are written and go with you.' In pauri 25, the Guru says "God cannot be tempted by offerings and sukhna - "vaddaa data til na tamaaey". We have to act. Pauri 27 tells us to perform our role in life naturally, the way air, water and fire do according to their nature. The message is: O man do not disobey nature. Having told us about the yogis in pauris 28-31, pauri 34 tells us to perform our duties as part of the environment - "raati ruti thiti vaar/ tis vich dharti thaap rakhi dharamsaal" - 'Day and night, the seasons, the lunar cycle, the days of the week; in this environment the earth is the place to perform our duties.' It would be noticed that the early part of the salok reiterates this: "pavan guru paani pitaa mata dharat mahat/ divas raat doey daaee daaiaa khelai sagal jagat". The meaning of the salok therefore becomes clear. Guru Nanak says elsewhere that air is the beginning of everything: "saachai te pavana bhaiaa pavnai te jal hoe" - 'The Creator made the air from the Self and from it came water.' How is water the father? The Guru says "jal te tribhavan saajiaa ghat ghat jot samoey" - The whole creation was then molded with water (and dust). God is present in all. Day and night determine how we are to work. 'Changiaaeeaa(n) buriaaeeaa(n)" is a repetition of the idea in "karmi karmi hoey veechaar" in pauri 34. The literal meaning of the line "jinni naam dhiaaiaa ga-ye masakat ghaal" is 'the toil of those who remember naam is fruitful". Here again, our faith is not of reciting mantras but doing karam - deeds. The meaning of naam is clear from pauri 4: "amrit vela sach nau vadiaaee veechaar" - 'Right in the morning, reflect on naam, the virtues of the Eternal.' These virtues must then be emulated in action. The line would therefore mean: "those who recount and emulate Divine virtues make success of their lives and many others too are saved in their company.'

27: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 15, 2010, 4:42 AM.

Atika, you give me more credit than I deserve. To provide some context to the readers: Atika and I are fortunate to belong to a small group of seekers in the Columbus, Ohio, area which has met every Friday (with few exceptions) for close to three years at the local gurdwara for Gurbani Vichaar. The evolution and spiritual bonding of this group is quite remarkable - I would call it true sangat with the mystical presence of the Guru guiding us. Our routine has developed over time without intervention; it just happened. We begin with reading 10 pages of the Guru Granth Sahib - aloud and in unison. The effect is quite hypnotic. When we first started the reading sessions, some of us were unsure of their Punjabi and reluctant. What a difference practice makes - we all sound like a bunch of pros now! Reading is followed by simran (or Waheguru Jaap) followed by quiet meditation. Then it is an open forum and we usually hone in on a theme. This sangat has changed all of us - for the better I would say. Share with us if you have participated in a similar setting.

28: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, USA), May 15, 2010, 6:43 AM.

Please count me in for another week of contemplation upon the message in Japji vs. its practical adoption in real life. Several other comments reflect similar sentiments. In that vein, another comment made is worthy of note. Let us not share our knowledge of the concepts in Japji. Instead, focus on the aspects we may have learned in the study; good principals we have attempted to influence our mind to follow and succeeded; the principals we have incorporated in our approach to life. And few other basic perimeters to stay within. General view on religion and its tenets vary vastly. Yet most will agree: it does serve a vital purpose. That is where we begin to diverge: the purpose. Let us include that also, if we agree.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium XIX, Salok, May 10-16"









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