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The Exemplars of Dharam
The Talking Stick Colloquium IX: Stanza 16, March 1 - 7

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA


 

THE DIALOGUE TO DATE:

We used the word "absorption" to describe "Mannai" in our conversation last week, fully aware that "acceptance" could have been used just as well. Regardless, any word used to translate "Mannai" - or another gurmat term, for that matter - can at best approximate or suggest the real meaning. We are left with pointers and intimations that we choose to do with what we will.

"Mannai" signifies the experience or state that results from "sunniyeh" or attentive listening, which is the start of an inner journey, a pilgrimage of self discovery. 

Heeding our inner voice, we travel inwards, plumbing the depths of our souls, healing our fractured relationship with the Ultimate Reality or Consciousness. This brings about a metamorphosis, an inner change that shifts our orientation.

"Mannai" signifies this culmination or shift in our inner consciousness - from acquired belief to authentic faith; from meaning to experience; from passive internalization to active absorption; from acting on handed down cultural scripts to writing one's own story.

In short, from being a manmukh to becoming a gurmukh

There is a fundamental shift in orientation implied here: through attentive or mindful listening, we begin to proceed in an inward rather than the usual outward direction. The search shifts to the heights and depths within the self; it is deep within ourselves that we discover the "hidden" divine, homogenized into the essence of our being.

 

THIS WEEK'S MESSAGE - Stanza 16, 'Panch Parvan'

Stanza 16 of the Japji introduces us to the "Panch" as exemplars of "mannai", or those who embody the spirit of "mannai"; at the same time, another important concept, Dharam, first introduced in Stanza 14, is further elaborated. There appears to be an association between 'panch' and 'dharam' - a relationship that we will explore this week.

Interpreters of gurbani have ascribed various meanings to the word 'panch', including the number 'five', the five elements and the mind. But the overwhelming - and correct, I think - opinion is that 'panch' denotes an exemplar, or an iconic figure - someone worthy of being held up as an example. [In current parlance in Punjab, the 'sar-panch' is the headman of the village.]

In gurbani, 'panch' is also used to refer to those who are not caught up in the web of "parpanch", a synonym for Maya. It is in this sense that we have used the meaning here.

Dharam, a term that Guru Nanak introduced in Stanza 14, is re-visited here with a little more elaboration. The concept of dharam or "dharma" has an ancient lineage in Indian and Buddhist thought. Broadly speaking, dharam was used to mean "the way things are", or the "natural order of things" or that which sustains the universe, Natural Law; but a second, narrower meaning also came to be attached to it: duty, or one's role in society.

Guru Nanak uses the term in the sense of that which sustains the physical universe; but he also uses the term to denote moral and ethical law as well, where dharam is the product of compassion.

An understanding or alignment with dharam is the key to becoming a sachiyaar, which, as we have repeatedly seen, is the purpose of human life.

LET'S CONSIDER:

Guru Nanak holds out the 'panch' as exemplars, those who have scaled the spiritual summit. For sojourners of the spirit, the panch hold out the hope that the divine is accessible, even if it is unseen.

The spiritual summit or the state of "mannai" is an inner state, relating to our consciousness. Just as there are tools and equipment to scale a mountain, is there an inner technology to climb the inner mountain?

  • "Panchaa kaa gur ayk Dhi-aan." Is the word "gur" here being used to mean the inner technology?

Consider the fact that traditional religion usually offers "God-in-a box" authorized versions of reality that demand unquestioned obedience. Is this what Guru Nanak is objecting to when he dismisses ritual, rites, pilgrimages, etc. - which are the outward manifestation of all traditional religions. There is an implication, carried over from the previous stanza, that all traditional paths are missing the mark because dharam or the spiritual essence is "missing". Guru Nanak equates dharam with compassion.

  • What does having compassion mean in the context of Guru Nanak's teaching?
  • If traditional religions are missing the mark, if we are confusing the map for the territory, does that mean we do not need organized religion?

             

THE TEXT - Rendered in English

 

Note on the translation: For the word "panch", several words came to mind: the Elect, the Chosen Ones, the Impeccable Ones, Saints and the Pure in Spirit. Exemplars was used primarily because it seemed to best convey the idea of being iconic figures, people to look up to - spiritual leaders.

Your feedback on the translation is sought and welcome.

 

Pauri 16

Pancẖ parvāṇ pancẖ parḏẖān.

The Panch are exemplars: by Your sanction, the chosen ones,

Pancẖe pāvahi ḏargahi mān.

Honoured in Your Court,

Pancẖe sohi ḏar rājān.

Resplendent at Your Door,

panchaa kaa gur ayk Dhi-aan.

They remain transfixed on Your Name.

jay ko kahai karai veechaar.

Mere speech and thought,

kartay kai karnai naahee sumaar.

Fail to account for Your Creation.

Dhaul Dharam da-i-aa kaa poot.

Dhaul, the mythical Bull, is Dharam, the Eternal Law - born of compassion,

santokh thaap rakhi-aa jin soot,

With the bond of contentment holding Creation in place;

jay ko bujhai hovai Sachiyaar.

Those who realize this know the Truth

Dhavlai upar kaytaa bhaar.

The weight of Dhaul's load

dhartee hor parai hor hor.

Extends beyond our Earth - to endless worlds!

tis tay bhaar talai kavan jor.

Who supports this weight?

jee-a jaat rangaa kay naav.

All species incarnate, their forms and names,

sabhnaa likhi-aa vurhee kalaam.

Are all recorded by the ever-flowing Pen of Hukam.

ayhu laykhaa likh jaanai ko-ay.

Who can write this account?

laykhaa likhi-aa kaytaa ho-ay.

The more one writes, the bigger it becomes!

kaytaa taan su-aalihu roop.

What power! Behold the beauteous Form!

kaytee daat jaanai koun koot.

What bounty! Who knows Your creative potency

keetaa pasaa-o ayko kavaa-o.

That created this vast expanse - with One Sound,

tis tay ho-ay lakh daree-aa-o.

Bringing forth all streams of life.

kudrat kavan kahaa veechaar.

Your creative force I cannot state

vaari-aa na jaavaa ayk vaar.

I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.

jo tuDh bhaavai saa-ee bhalee kaar.

What pleases You is the only good deed,

too sadaa salaamat nirankaar.

You are Eternal, O Formless One!

 

Conversation about this article

1: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 01, 2010, 9:30 AM.

Thank you, readers, for a stimulating, dignified and enlightening conversation to date. Speaking for myself, it has been one heck of a ride, a beautiful learning process. The current stanza seems to me to be a milestone of sorts: starting with Guru Nanak's credal message (or his metaphysics) and from there inferring our purpose, we moved on to the mechanics of the individual development necessary to achieve our purpose. A subtle, but discernable change is visible in this stanza (16) where I believe two inter-related concerns are being addressed - one, the Panch or exemplars as we have chosen to translate the word, and two, the manner of their life, described as being imbued with "dharam". I understand these to be ethical and moral concerns - apart from the "dharam" which is the spiritual essence of all religions. Are we then meant to be instruments of moral and ethical action in this world? What about separating the spiritual kernel (in all religions) from the ritual chaff? How does that work?

2: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), March 02, 2010, 1:13 AM.

With a keen perception, S. Ravinder Singh has recognized the shift in theme in this stanza from the previous ones. Here Guru Nanak writes about 'dharam' (which, at this stage, I would call it the obligations of a spiritually inclined person). Guru Nanak starts to build up the theme that one of the most important obligations of man is to support/ uphold the creation. This theme carries on into quite a few more pauris. In summary, what he is saying is that just as all other creatures, vegetation, and other forms of life - of various shapes and colours - are all acting within Hukam, we are to support creation, support other life-forms, create colours and beauty on this earth. All the beauty and colours, greenery production of food and sustenance is because of the life-forms of various types playing their part in the order of things that exists. It is very unlikely that God has exempted man from playing his part in it. It is interesting that the mention of dharam starts with the mention of 'dhaul'. I assume most people are familiar with what 'dhaul' is, but there may be some who do not. Well, according to mythology, the Earth is supported on the horns of a bull called Dhaul. Guru Nanak introduces the term dharam, essentially by saying that let us share the burden that Dhaul carries (and make that our dharam/ obligation). Lest we believe literally in that mythology (of the Dhaul carrying the earth on its horns), he quickly points out the load that the mythical Dhaul is supposed to be carrying, is carried to, distributed to other earths/ worlds. So, who supports the Dhauls that are carrying the loads? (To emphasize that all he is dealing with is mythlogical metaphors, Guru Nanak elsewhere in gurbani states that there are many spheres/ worlds, all supported in their respective locations by the order/ laws of the universe.) S. Ravinder Singh also asked if this is the spiritual core of dharam/ religion. (I hope I understood him correctly.) I am also aware that many people think that religion should limit itself to something called spirituality, which seems to be very much like the stage that was called 'attentive listening' in these discussions. Are they not missing the essential part of Guru Nanak's message? However, what was discussed so far, has been pure 'piri' in Sikhism. I think there is more to come in Piri discussions. And we should carry on further with it, rather than going off track by discussing what should be a core meassage of religion. Then there is the Miri aspect of Sikhism. (Personally, I am a firm believer in Miri being a part of our religion, but without the needless rituals that have crept in and have been hindering the development of the social aspect of Sikhism). So, let us keep going further before posing that question.

3: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 02, 2010, 1:37 AM.

May be we don't need organized religion, but we do need some form of organisation which can tell us the real meaning of dharam as encouraged by Guru Nanak. In the present scenarios, dharam is translated into religion, rather than into righteousness. There is probably a need of bringing out the spirituality in religions, because as a common person (not spiritual person), if I just follow my religion, it will very hard for me to understand or make sense of what my religion teaches me, or it will take me years to figure it out.

4: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), March 02, 2010, 4:31 PM.

Guru Nanak's conception of *panch* ("five") is quite significant in Sikh doctrine and tradition. It refers to the truly devout who win divine approval to become supreme as the leaders of humankind ('panch parvan panch pardhan). In fact, Guru Nanak's ideal of panch later on became the inspiration of Guru Gobind Singh's selection of the 'Cherished Five' (panj piarey) on Vaisakhi Day 1699, who were given the authority of the Guru to initiate people into the Order of the Khalsa. They carried the moral authority of the Guru to make decisions on behalf of the Sikh Panth, because their undivided attention rests upon the divine Guru alone ('panchan ka gur ek dhian'). Even Guru Gobind Singh himself bowed before them to receive the initiation of the double-edged-sword to become the member of the Khalsa Panth. The readers may be thinking that I am stretching the argument too far, i.e., from Guru Nanak's Japji to Guru Gobind Singh's creation of the institution of the Khalsa. The point I am trying to make here is that Guru Nanak's bani provides the basis of all Sikh institutions. There is no way that anyone can break this fundamental unity and continuity of Sikh thought. Historically, it took more than two centuries to actually create an ideal saint-soldier in the person of the Khalsa, but its model was set in Guru Nanak's ideal of panch in the Japji. Earlier, Ravinder ji asked the question: how is the authority of Guru-Panth understood within Sikhism? The 'exemplars' of moral action (dharam) alone can carry that authority. If they act under the influence of any political maneuvering, they cannot represent the authority of the Guru. The stability of society and the whole universe rests on the mighty power of righteousness (dharam), the offspring of 'compassion' (daya), and it is woven with the rope of 'contentment' (santokh). Symbolically, these ethical virtues were personified in the names of the 'Cherished Five' (daya, dharam, himmat, mohkam and sahib) who became the 'exemplars' of moral action. They were the ones who sacrificed their mind and body at the 'call' of the Guru. These were/ are the people who exclaim in unison with Guru Nanak: "How can I, abject and worthless, ever describe your mighty power? Worthy is that which pleases you, eternally constant, O Nirankar (Formless One)!"

5: Atika Khurana (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 02, 2010, 6:03 PM.

Why should I (or any other human being) think about himself/ herself as being 'abject and worthless'? When the sangat has previously discussed that each one of us has our own personal hukam, that we are the co-creators, then how can we be worthless? I would love to hear the sangat's response to this question. As far as organized religion is concerned, we need to keep in mind that it is a social construction, which has been carried forward across generations mainly because of its benefits to society. An individual's connection with the unknown or with one's own inner self (some call it spirituality), on the other hand, is highly personal and intimate - where one can exclaim 'Hey, dude!' Organized religion and personal spirituality may have some overlapping elements like sangat, but I think they can and do have separate existences.

6: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 03, 2010, 12:57 AM.

I disagree or not believe that we are worthless, in any way at all. Akal Purakh would have never intended for us to feel like that. If He did, how can we have a relationship with Him which is based on love. It is like in the physical world as well. If we think of a very affluent person or a scholar or any one who has achieved a lot more than us, we find it hard to relate to that person. We can't build a relationship with him or her. I think the unmanifested one is my mata, pita, bandhap, prata ... and we are all His balaks, His kirpa is on us forever, and children are never worthless for a parent. Parents just give and give endlessly, which is what Akal Purakh does too. He shows His compassion no matter what we do, He is ready for us, waiting for us to go to Him and get all the love and compassion. It is all in our perception, and our own perspective, which is different for everyone of us (I am respectful towards that, as we are all different), but I like to stick to this one. As it is, it takes so much energy to live in this illusionary world, if I start thinking His love is conditional too, where will I go for help then? We can all recognize the feeling we get when our parents think we are worthless.

7: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 03, 2010, 5:53 AM.

In stanza 16, 'Panch parvaan panch pardhaan/ panche paavai dargeh maanâ', the word 'panch' is from village/ panchayat usage (panel of justice - sirpanch). In parmarth, a sant is considerd as panch as from the state of manniye, a spiritual person belongs to 'dharam khand'. In pauri 34, Guru Nanak has said - 'Sachaa aap sachaa darbaar/ tithai sohan panch parvaan' [GGS:7]. Justice is also refered to as dharam (scales in a court of law) and the same concept is adopted on the Indian highways as 'dharam kantaa' for gauging transporters' truck weight as acurate and honest as dharam. Without mercy, true dharam is not possible, as Guru Nanak has said - 'Dhol dharam daya ka poot'. Tulsidas also said 'Daya dharam ka mool hai'. In other words, karam done out of daya is dharam, such as seva. Mercy (religion) reflects goodness, compassion, kindness, fairness, charity, nobility, forgiveness, tolerance, love, happiness, health, prosperity, peace, bliss, and all other sublime virtues of divinity. Religions are also known as panth, path or marag and they were created to inspire and guide the inner consciousness of man. It is to be lived and practiced with every breath, and should be reflected and manifested in all aspects of life. In fact, religion is meant to provide a link between God and man, and between man and man. Through spiritual practice (simran), one can attain santokh (contentment) and daya (mercy-compassion). Once you are content, you will not be concerned of other's progress and with mercy you will love to help those who are behind you to progress in all respect. Respect and be honest to your religion in which you are born as it is God's desire or hukam. According to some scholars, all religions have three main aspects: spiritual, social and political. The spiritual aspect is personal for each individual, as during simran, he/she may think of God using any term; it is between God and the person. The political aspect belongs to care-takers of places of worship. [Today, they are disparagingly referred to as 'dharam de thekkedaar' or 'chaudharies'. They have no concern with the content of scriptures, and are rarely religious from within. The social aspect is further classified as 1) dress code or identity. 2) Code of Conduct, which is like the Rehat Maryada. 3) Karam Khand (physical rituals): by and large, people are more into this. They are involved in a variety of activities. Guru Nanak said: 'Nachan kudan man ka chao' [GGS:465]. Acharya Rajnish has interpreted this particular line as the five 'indries' - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin - being the main doors to see, to hear, to smell, to taste and to feel with the sense of touch, but the real recognition is through dhyan, something that is above our surat.

8: Himmat Singh (Leicester, United Kingdom), March 03, 2010, 2:28 PM.

Even though Guru Nanak appears to be holding out the panchs as 'exemplars', I am not so sure he is exalting them, in his first four references in this pauri: 'panch parvaan panch pardhaan/ panchay paaveh dargeh maan/ panchay sohi dar rajaan'. The subsequent lines: 'panchaa ka gur ayk dhi-aan jay ko kahai karai vichaar kartay ka karnai nahi sumaar', raise doubts in my mind about reading his evaluation of the panchs of his day as an exaltation. I surmise that his initial reference to these role models may be sarcastic, in that there will have been panchs who set themselves up as model figures, and will have had positions in royal courts of Guru Nanak's era, but are not true. Instead, the true panchs will be those people who carefully follow the Hukam of the Lord, as is, even though they will not be able to describe the actions of the Lord. I am only guessing and maybe somebody can explain why there is the switch from 'panchay' to 'panchaa', in case this is of significance. Ravinder Singh ji touched on the word 'gur' in his opening notes, and I believe it is a reference to a form of inner technology, and is the seed in the mind bestowed by the Creator Lord that enables us to judge actions as good or bad, before dharam makes the final judgement mentioned in the salok to Japji Sahib. Mohan Singh ji Ahluwalia discusses 'dharam' really well, and how 'true' dharam encompasses compassion as well as other virtuous actions. The ending lines in this pauri: 'kudrat kavan kahaa vichaar vaari-a na jaavaa(n) ayk vaar, jo tudh bhaavai saa-ee bhali kaar toon sadaa salaamat nirankaar', address man's complete inability to describe the qualities of the Creator; Guru Nanak accepts his lowly status relative to the Creator, and furthermore states that all that could please the Lord is good deeds (i.e., follow true dharam, as described by Mohan Singh ji).

9: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A..), March 03, 2010, 10:19 PM.

In Dr. Pashaura Singh's rendering of the last line in the stanza: Guru Nanak, in total humility, beseeches that his/ our shortcomings have led him/ us to this separation from Him. To Jasvinder: let's look at it from another angle, and I offer this as an example: many times, I reflect that I have come nowhere near my father's industriousness and struggle in raising us and fulfilling our needs, without asking much in return. I have grown up and failed to do anything of significance in my life by wasting all opportunities afforded to me. Will there not be a realization at some point in time, say when my father is aged/ helpless or on his deathbed, that I might reflect and with a great feeling of remorse tell my Dad that I am worthless to even try to imagine what you have done for me. I think it is in that context that that last line is most resonant. It is us who never appreciate His innumerable blessings, rather than He looking at us as worthless.

10: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), March 04, 2010, 6:45 AM.

The scriptures narrated by the Gurus are not easily fathomable. The words applied in the poetic genre are very specific and very complex, having deep meanings. While interpreting gurbani, it is essential to keep in mind the environment during which the Guru uttered it. To keep continuity of the theme "gurmukh within creation and it's relationship with the Creator", following stanzas 8 through 15 (effective listening and adapting the truth about Creator and creation), Guru Nanak in stanza 16 is honouring the exalted person as 'panch', a noble of high moral values and accomplishments, renowned everywhere. The panch (noble) possesses all the attributes of the exemplars referred to in the previous stanzas (8-15) by establishing standards and status in relation to their comprehension of the Creator and the creation. The metaphor of 'dhol'- a white bull - is applied because of the unquestioned tireless work characterstics of the mythical bull that is content with 'as it is' drawn from dharam - a disciplined way of conduct delivered with compassion. The term 'dhol-dharam' applied in the context of stanza 16 is reflective of unselfish and unquestioned devotion of the noble soul to the Creator and being content with the disciplined ways of natural phenomena, observing them 'as they are'. If someone can comprehend this mystery and become sacchiyaar, then the person can comprehend how much load this mythical bull is carrying. Then Guru ji expressed creation and the universe surmising unaccountable and infinite expanse of the natural phenomena that he is in awe to be sacrifice many times over.

11: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 04, 2010, 7:37 AM.

Feelings of "guilt" and "worthlessness" are associated with the "original sin" - but I don't think that is a Sikh problem. Dr. Pashaura Singh's rendering should be seen in context: I would read it as a comparative statement, saying that I am not "big" enough or "capable" enough of fathoming You or your creation. When we talk about self-worth in the sense that Atika appears to be, we are still talking from a sense of "haumai", meaning we consider ourselves to have an existence that is independent; the Panch have figured out that we are not singular but plural, that "haumai" or me does not really exist - it is created as part of an extensive network that extends backwards and forwards in time: parents. education and the environment interact with us to create this sense of worth or lack of it. In the context of this stanza, the Panch "see" or experience a Reality that we do not in ordinary experience. Hence, "mannai ki gat kahi na jaaye".

12: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 04, 2010, 7:44 AM.

Himmat Singh ji, thank you for your compliments. To Jasvinder ji and Atika ji, nothing is worthless on this earth, every thing is created by God, and it is His pleasure, desire or hukam. Akal Purakh has given unique talents to each human being and He also feeds countless people even filled with 'vikaar' as listed in the Japji, pauri 18. Guru Nanak stressed the uniqueness of each individual and wanted him to progress through the process of self-discipline, such as spiritual, physical and moral. The spiritual discipline is meditation with belief in one Supreme Being. The physical includes acts of service and charity. Moral discipline is righteous living and rising above selfish desires. Gurbani is 'dhur ki bani' and is filled with musical hymns and its interpretation in Punjabi and melodious shabad kirtan will touch your heart, and give you peace of mind. Translation in any other language does not contain the same flavour or essence. (Dhol dharam - a white bull - also refers to the white colour of peace).

13: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), March 04, 2010, 7:04 PM.

I have two concerns regarding the misinterpretation of my rendering of one line of the stanza of Japji in the present discussion. Some readers have taken it out of context and given it a twist as if I consider human beings as worthless or sinners. First, English translations do not capture the beauty and original spirit of the bani. We are just trying to preserve the spirit of the original by giving free translation rather than more literal translation. In the process of translation, cultural meaning also gets translated into a different worldview. So this problem will remain. Second, it is the greatness of Guru Nanak who always speaks the language of humility without showing any trace of *haumai* ("I-ness, my-ness, or self-centeredness"). He addresses Akal Purakh in the original: *mere sahiba kaun janai gun tere//kahi na jane augun mere// "Oh my Sovereign! who can know the extent of your virtues? My own vices cannot even be counted." This is the language of utter humility. There is no claim to any spiritual achievement. For those of us who have lived in this western world, the meaning of gurbani has also changed. After all, we bring our own expectations into our interpretations. There is nothing wrong with it. Only we have to realize that, in the process, we may go off on a tangent and not stay with the original idea.

14: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 10:11 AM.

In the Japji stanza under review, Guru Nanak has brought us to a stage where we have to use our learned skills in daily life. Each of us have to decide what 'panch' means. What'pardhan' or 'parvaan' represents and our role in this life. Several interpretations of 'panch' suggested are as good as any. My belief is to rely on five nature-provided senses (faculties) that we all have. These include hearing (ears), seeing (eyes), speaking (tongue), smelling (nose) and touching (skin, etc.) We must learn to effectively use these faculties to define our mission in life and develop divinely traits to carry out our stated objective. Over centuries we have discovered good traits to include in our lives: compassion, righteousness, empathy, duty to ourselves and others, fairness, courage, responsibility, contentment and many others. These traits are universally well accepted. This approach is logical in advancement and development of our mental growth and knowledge of this world. Regardless of approach to 'panch', the end objective remains the same: to develop a mind-set with good human values as a guiding base. Defining 'panch' as chosen ones appears problematic for me. Who chooses the 'exemplars' in the interpretation? Akal Purakh in the Sikh Faith does not choose because He treats us equally. The example of the 'mythical bull supporting the earth' for me is to understand the challenges of life and prepare ourselves to face many burdens associated with living a purpose-based life. A connection between spirituality and religion has been suggested. In my view, this connection is a hijacking of the concept of spirituality by religious forces to enhance the value of religion in our minds. Because we are born with spirituality as an integral part of us, it is a frame of mind. Watching the rainbow with its beauty and awe, looking at a flower with its wonders, and similar other natural phenomena, initiate within us the spiritual mind-set we are talking about. Certain religious promoted concepts (naam simran) may promote a spiritual mind-set but religion is not the only domain for us to become spiritual. We were spiritual long before we invented the concept of religion or God. In my view, religion should be looked upon as an ancient or early knowledge about human life and our surroundings. The introduction of the man-constructed concept of the divine (God) has evolved into certain automated opinions and thoughts for us. Many of the religious or godly perceptions created in our minds from childhood, in reality, we find to be false later on. Unfortunately, our perceptions have not changed over time, because the role of parents and cultural views in our growing up have not changed. In most other stanzas, Guru Nanak is elaborating on the meaning, necessity, importance of our traits, and connection between us fellow humans and the Creator of the Universe. As we progress with our study of the Japji, this trend will continue by covering many other aspects of this relationship.

15: Himmat Singh (Leicester, United Kingdom), March 06, 2010, 3:12 PM.

Nirmal Singh ji raises some interesting additional points. Re: "1) Defining 'panch' as chosen ones appears problematic for me. Who chooses the 'exemplars' in the interpretation? Akal Purakh in the Sikh Faith does not choose because He treats us equally." - I think as far as Sikhi is concerned, it seems to me Stanza 2 suggests there really are 'chosen ones', otherwise all would be born in equal circumstances, and would remain equal throughout their lives. However, it is the role of the Creator to decide who is the chosen one. The stanza discusses Hukam and it appears to me to suggest Guru Nanak feels God does not treat people equally at all, but it is His choice, and it is for us to accept His decisions. At the same time, we should assist others, rather than live egotistically and sit on our laurels if we happen to be one of the chosen ones. Re: "2) A connection between spirituality and religion has been suggested. In my view, this connection is a hijacking of the concept of spirituality by religious forces to enhance the value of religion in our minds. Because we are born with spirituality as an integral part of us, it is a frame of mind ... Many of the religious or godly perceptions created in our minds from childhood, in reality, we find to be false later on. Unfortunately, our perceptions have not changed over time, because the role of parents and cultural views in our growing up have not changed." - Spirituality is not an absolute that is the same for all people, and neither is the concept of God. Mankind's search for answers to the unknown raises sensations of awe, fear, pleasure, etc., which could be defined as spirituality. As soon as a rational and viable explanation is known the spiritual feeling usually diminishes, but until this happens man's interest will maintain many different hypotheses, some of which can lead to the spiritual frame of mind Nirmal Singh ji refers to. As no one can irrefutably prove any concepts related to God, such concepts depend on faith alone. Nothing can be proven to be false about God, and nothing can be proven to be true. As individuals, we can choose whether to manipulate our minds, and if we do choose to do so, we can then choose the method. This is where religion enters the fray, along with more scientifically established methods, and even clinical drugs and intoxicants. Re: "3) "Guru Nanak is elaborating on the meaning, necessity, importance of our traits, and connection between us fellow humans and the Creator of the Universe." - I fully agree with Nirmal Singh ji that Guru Nanak is revealing the nature of the human mind and how it is affected by external factors. Guru ji provides a method by which the mind can become resistant to external factors, to keep it content in a variety of circumstances. As to the connection with the Creator of the Universe, I personally think Guru ji is putting this aside as God's Hukam, as His grace, as the unknown and unknowable. Instead, Guru ji provides a practical method to achieve contentment in life, for oneself and for others. Whether it was Guru Nanak's intention to establish a religion or not, one has been established, and it is up to individuals to decide on the balance between maintaining particular practices, on God and spirituality, or tethering their minds. The differences in opinion are one reason why sects are established.

16: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), March 06, 2010, 11:54 PM.

Bani of Guru Nanak is "Dhur ki Bani". It is the words revealed to him by God. (Please refer to what is called God in his writings). It is not parts of different parts put to-gether. It is not developed from any philosophy existing at that time. So, it does not read like a book of philosophy where ideas and concepts are defined. What he is writing about appeared to him as inspiration. Guru Nanak is writing what he is seeing in his mental and mystic frames. He himself said something to the effect that he says/ sings of what is revealed to him. So that is what he is writing. He does not give his opinion, does not make arguments - just writes what he sees. (Only very rarely, in describing such frames has he recorded what appears to be his own commentary). These frames are as are seen from some vantage point in the Akal state, the state outside the time space dimension - from outside the domain of Maya. So what may be seen in the frame is what is situated in the field of Hukam - the nature of things, the nature of the universe, and the nature of the infinite that extends beyond the domain of the universe. These are pictures/ impressions in the consciousness. There is no language there, just the awareness. So, when these frames get transferred to the brain, the brain is left with the task of expressing it/ translating it into language by finding the closest fitting words selected from the vocabulary of the times stored in its memory. That is the nature of revealed words (gurbani). It is the description of something that is situated in the Hukam, put in words. In all the frames discussed in the "Talking Stick Colloquiums" thus far, the description of some of the relevant attributes of God, description of what Hukam is and description of man and his relationship as embedded in the Hukam is given. This is akin to a discovery in the subject of spirituality - like discovering what things are in the order of the universe - viewed from the ways of God. It is not a concept that Guru Nanak has come up with - it is describing in a way the "Ultimate Reality" of all things that has come to appear in "sargun" state. It is the discovery made by Guru Nanak, and made for others. He did not need it for himself. Think of Newton discovering the Law of Gravity. He did not make the law. The law already existed embedded in the nature of things. He merely 'discovered' it. He did not create a concept of philosophy, it existed in the Hukam that we have put in the category of mechanics/ physics. Guru Nanak's work is in the field of "spirituality". When S. Ravinder Singh introduced Colloquium IX, he mentioned that he sees a shift in the theme from the previous one. In my view, that indeed is the case. Starting with pauri 16, Guru Nanak is "chalking" out the path that exists in the field of Hukam that a person who wants to be on the road to become a sacchiyaara has to take. This path is doing deeds with compassion - a path emanating from the sense of obligation felt in the consciousness of being a human. It is not a rigid path like the path of "duty" would be. In "dharam with daya", one has to accommodate compassion. There are countless paths within the Hukam that one can take. In the Japji, Guru Nanak is trying to locate only one path. He does not say that it is a "good" path or "bad" path. He is focusing on the path that is taken by a sacchiyaara, and that is what he has started describing in pauri 16 on. The frames in the beginning of pauri 34 are also directly related to this. There, Guru Nanak describes that there are nights, seasons, days like that on the moon, winds, fires and "other types" of worlds, but it is the Earth that is chosen for doing deeds (daramsaal). There (on earth) are countless living things of various colours and skills and of countless names, doing their toil. They are judged in God's court by what they do to support the creation and are awarded accordingly. Immediately after pauri 34, Guru Nanak starts to describe the frames related to the khands. Thus Guru Nanak is showing that the path for a person who wants to become a sacchiyaara is inscribed in Hukam. It is not constructed by arguing through philosophical debates. Can a set of guidelines be formed for man's actions taking into consideration the "land marks"/ "markers" of this path? Well, I leave it for the Miri institutions of Sikhism to debate.

17: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 07, 2010, 7:19 AM.

To Nilvi ji: Wittingly or unwittingly, we do, as a matter of fact, individually decide what "panch" means. That is why I picked "exemplars" because I wanted to stay as close to the Punjabi meaning as possible - in the way I understood it. To me "panch" has the same connotation as "sant," "brahmgyani," etc signifying individuals who personify the state of "mannai". "Parvaan" to me signifies both "acceptance" in Punjabi as well as "providing an example, or an example" or "parmaneek or parmaan denah". Hence the choice of "exemplars" and "chosen." Based on this discussion, I feel that the "accepted ones" may have been more neutral. The "panch" or the chosen are not be confused with an elected offical, like a "sarpanch" in a Punjabi village. Who elected or chose Guru Nanak to be our Guru? Gurbani is quite clear about the use of "panch" and it is within this framework that we should try to understand the use of the word. For example, "Pancham panch pardhaan teh/ jeh janyo parpanch," [GGS:297] or "Jo jeevan marNa janai|| so panch sail sukh manai," [GGS:655]. Clearly referring to individuals and an exalted state of mind/ spirit. Similarly, " Jin man vasaiyah parbraham/ seh purai pardhaan" [GGS:45] points to individuals in an awakened state. Not wanting to make this too long, we will touch on your other point, religion/ spirituality in the next colloquium.

18: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 07, 2010, 7:40 AM.

As we wind down the week, I want to acknowledge all the participants for making this a lively and provocative session. Tomorrow, we will move on to stanzas 17 - 19, mindful that we do not intend to hermetically seal off conversations (or topics) every week. These are all variations on one theme.

19: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), March 07, 2010, 9:04 AM.

Himmat Singh ji: I appreciate your reflections on my views. Such exchange of thought is the part I enjoy the most in this discourse and is my motivation for participation. It adds to our collective knowledge. On the point labeled 1) in your response, you may have misunderstood me. What I meant to convey is that it is through the knowledge gathered, its proper use and display in action, that we differentiate ourselves in this world. And the differentiation does not remain obscure. It invariably gets notice, appreciation and recognition by fellow humans. And it is such earned recognition that moves some of our fellow humans into 'the chosen ones' category. I have no issue with your approach, even if our thoughts and path may be different.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium IX: Stanza 16, March 1 - 7"









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