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As You Sow, So You Reap
The Talking Stick Colloquium XI: Stanza 20, March 15 - 21

Convenor: RAVINDER SINGH TANEJA

 

 

THE DIALOGUE  TO DATE

"Mannai mugg na chalai panth // mannai dharam seti sanbandh" in stanza 16 of the Japji led us to a consideration of religion and spirituality last week. The question we were trying to address was whether "mannai" - the state of transcendent grace that the Panch experience - could be independent of a religious context? After all, many people are moved by similar spiritual experiences but don't belong to any religious denomination.

Not surprisingly, the terms 'spirit', 'spiritual' and 'religion' meant different things to each participant, but there seemed to be an overwhelming feeling that religion and spirituality were inextricably intertwined. Religion provides the basis for the spirit to soar.

What remained un-addressed was the dynamic tension between the two and the extremes that both can lead to.

For example, consider the need for the discipline of nitnem in spiritual formation. Most of us are too lazy to submit to this discipline but will find all manner of excuses to justify their avoidance.

Yet others are meticulous about nitnem, becoming prisoners to the routine, allowing no room for "graced" interruptions. 

Both are attempts to pervert the discipline and are symptomatic of spiritual brokenness. The balance is somewhere between complete avoidance of discipline and "do-it-yourself" spirituality.

There was a feeling that we may have strayed away from our primary focus - the text of the Japji. Perhaps so, but that is an accommodation that we need to make; occasionally branching out, or even straying, only enriches the texture of the discussion.

One of our aims is to understand our spiritual heritage in the context of our environment and that will force a pause here and there.

This week, we will revert back to the text of the Japji.

THE MESSAGE - Stanza 20

In this stanza, one can discern arriving at a milestone on the journey.

First, the Guru reiterates, yet again, that physical cleaning, while appropriate for the body and clothes, will not remove the taint of sins. Sin, or spiritual defilement, should be understood in terms of Haumai. It is the hot breath of haumai that fogs the mirror of our consciousness; it is haumai that makes us sin (or miss the mark) and taints our spirit. Naam or the Word is the only solvent that will remove this stain and reveal the Hukam to which we must learn to submit.

Guru Nanak then holds us accountable, "Āpe bīj āpe hī kẖāhu," suggesting that by the choices we make, we create our own experience. Actions, good or bad, will continue to fetter us - unless they stem from a mind that has been cleansed of haumai.

LET'S CONSIDER:

We got bogged down last week in the Religion vs. Spirituality discussion and stanzas 17 -19 remained largely unaddressed. The recommendation for this week's discussion is that we re-visit those stanzas in the context of the message in stanza 20.

In the preceding stanzas, Guru Nanak described the range of human activity by listing our pursuits - both sacred and profane. Both stanzas conclude with "jo tuDh bhave, sai bhalee kar."

-   Is Guru Nanak suggesting that none of these activities are pleasing to the Creator? Or is he saying that the choices we make - good or bad - don't really matter since they all stem from Hukam? If so, a related question would be: if all is ordained under Hukam, do we have conscious will?

-   In stanza 20, choices seem to matter. Is there a missing ingredient here? For example, we could be practicing good deeds outwardly but our motivation or intention could be suspect, i.e., be haumai driven. In such a situation, do good deeds (action) matter?

-   Consider the reverse: Hypothetically, if someone steals a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib (we would label that "bad" because stealing is bad) but what if the intention was good? What if the person who stole the copy could not afford it but was driven by a desire to engage with the Guru (we would label that "good")?

-   What is the difference between the two?

-   Is Guru Nanak pointing to yet another fulcrum from which our actions should emanate: that of a centered, purified mind that is anchored in Naam (liv) as opposed to a mind that is driven by the maya of personal desire (dhat or dhaturbazi)?

-   The Panch are, after all, not motivated by a personal stake in things, but by the larger good as envisioned by Hukam, ""Brahamgyani paropkar umaaha.

 
THE TEXT - RENDERED IN ENGLISH

Bẖarī▫ai hath pair ṯan ḏeh.
As grubby hands and feet - or a body smeared with dirt,

Pāṇī ḏẖoṯai uṯras kẖeh.
Water washes clean.

Mūṯ palīṯī kapaṛ ho▫e.
As clothes soiled by pee stains,

Ḏe sābūṇ la▫ī▫ai oh ḏẖo▫e.

Soap restores to their sheen.

Bẖarī▫ai maṯ pāpā kai sang
The Mind when tainted with sin

Oh ḏẖopai nāvai kai rang

Is cleansed by communion with the Word.

Punnī pāpī ākẖaṇ nāhi.
The virtuous and the sinner are not mere labels

Kar kar karṇā likẖ lai jāhu.
But the result of actions recorded

Āpe bīj āpe hī kẖāhu.
As you sow, so you reap

Nānak hukmī āvhu jāhu.

Says Nanak, by Your Hukam do we come and go.

Conversation about this article

1: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 15, 2010, 3:25 PM.

I have tried to find answers to the questions asked here and make sense for myself, then maybe I can be corrected by other people in discussion here in terms of their understanding of the things. The choice is something we always have, Waheguru has left it to us to make choices, and what He has done is placed an order of things (hukam) according to which we get results. In that sense, we create the hukam for ourself or we create our own destiny, by using our own conscious will power to make choices out of what is presented to us. The onus is on us to understand the choices we have and act in the right manner. After choices, there is the question of intentions, and intentions are paramount when we make choices. We can do all the rituals in the world, or all the good deeds, but if they are not done with the right intentions, they will not give us the desired effect. The 'bhav' of our deeds matter very much, we need to pay attention to the bhav behind our actions, like whenever we listen to spoken words, we always check, what is the bhav behind whatever is being said. Good deeds will only matter if done with good intentions and intentions are considered as well when hukam is applied to any action. Any deeds need to be seen in the light of intentions and their appropriateness to a particular situation. We cannot generalize everything; for example, if someone steals, it needs to be seen in the light of intentions and reasons behind it. If I kill someone, the judge and the law will consider why I killed, was it self-defence or intentional killing, and according to that I will get punished, either for manslaughter or murder ... or set free. But other aspects of it that I need to know: the law as well (hukam) because ignorance of law is no excuse, it doesn't mean I'll not get punished. Similarly, good and bad becomes very relative again, according to the situation, like different laws operating in different countries, driving on the left hand side in NZ in against the law but is okay in the USA. The panchs are the people who will see everything in light of appropriateness and consequences of their actions as they know everything around us is interconnected in this world. One person's actions can have effect on so many other people (like all the unthoughtful lending in USA is affecting the whole world), so the panchs will consider other people around themselves before making a particular choice, and will not be motivated by personal stakes in things, but they will see the larger good as they know about the laws of nature, and order of things/ Hukam. It becomes very simple when we understand that we have choices and we need to make choices based on right intentions, our understanding of hukam, and the appropriateness of the situation.

2: Guravtar (Johnson City, TN, U.S.A.), March 16, 2010, 8:12 AM.

Guru Nanak has done a marvelous job in organizing step-wise progress of the human mind and soul from the lowest ebb to the highest status of a 'panch' and in between comprehending almost every aspect of natural phenomena. To interpret stanza 20, it is better to start with the theme in the last few lines. That is, "punee paapee aakhan nahi/ kar kar karnnaa likh lai jahi/ aapae beej aapae hee khahe/ Nanak hukmae aavae jaahu". Ravinder ji has asked a good question: "If all is ordained, do we have a conscious will?" The answer to the question lies in the sentence, "aapae beej aapae hee khaahe." If it was all ordained, then nobody would be held responsible for the deeds; because, all is in the hukam. Jasvinder ji from New Zealand in his commentary has explained hukam and individual responsibility very nicely. The hukam in gurbani has often been interpreted as an Order, Will or even direct command from God itself; whereas when applied as universal laws ministering every aspect of natural phenomena, it holds individuals responsible for their actions. The last sentence of the stanza, "Nanak hukamae aavhae jaahu", requires further deliberation. The phrase 'aavhae jaahu' is often interpreted as reincarnation. Gurbani considers aavhae-jaahu as the way nature operates; people are born and they die. No one has returned to tell us otherwise! Guru Arjan has written very clearly [GGS:885] that the breath merges back into the atmosphere, dust to dust, the soul merges back into its origin, 'brham gyaani mil karhu bichaaraa/ ih thaoe chalt bhyaa". "This is the tradition to be contemplated by the scholars. Nothing is known of the next world. The crier will also depart. These are all bonds of doubt and superstition. The dreamers of the next life are blinded by the latter. This is the pattern created by the Creator, that coming and going is according to the universal laws (hukam). Neither one dies nor is capable of dying. Nothing perishes; because natural phenomena is ever alive and eternal. Whatever is known to man is not so. And I am sacrifice to the person who knows it. Nanak, I shed all my doubts and superstitions by the grace of the Guru that no one dies and no one comes." In addition to stressing upon the mother of all sufferings, 'haumai', one needs to work hard on doubts and superstitions as well.

3: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 16, 2010, 8:31 AM.

In drawing attention to the line, 'As you sow, so you reap", the intent was have a dialogue around action/ karam. To ourselves, we appear to be free agents - registering the world around us and making decisions (choices) that seem to arise from our free will. In stanzas 17-19 which we considered last week, Guru Nanak listed good and bad actions that individuals undertake as being part of the Divine Plan (Pashaura Singh ji's text). Stanza 20 suggests that we have to learn to make the right choice (i.e., become accountable) because we reap what we sow. The question - for now - is, to what degree are we free to make choices? Are we erring in reading Hukam as predetermined? So much for now. More as we proceed.

4: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), March 16, 2010, 9:52 AM.

Throughout his writings, Guru Nanak conceived of his work as divinely commissioned, and he demanded the obedience of his audience as an ethical duty: 'As the Word (bani) of the Lord comes to me, so do I proclaim its knowledge, O Lalo!' [GGS:722]. At another place, he says, 'I spoke, O Lord, only when you inspired me to speak.' [GGS:566]. These passages testify to Guru Nanak's sense of his divinely inspired mission. At the root of this mission is Guru Nanak's concept of hukam, a concept that may be defined as a higher, all-embracing principle that is the sum total of all the divinely instituted laws in the cosmos. In other Indian religions, karma is popularly understood as an inexorable, impersonal law. In Sikh doctrine, however, karam is not inexorable, not absolute. Rather, it is subject to the 'divine order' (hukam). For Sikhs, karam is not an impersonal law, but a principle that can be overridden in the name of justice by Akal Purakh's omnipotent grace. In fact, divine grace always takes precedence over the law of karam in Sikh teachings, and can even break the chain of adverse karam. In fact, the law of karma is replaced by Akal Purakh's hukam which is no longer an impersonal phenomenon; it falls within the sphere of divine omnipotence. The subservience of the doctrine of karma to the divine order/ command of a monotheistic and just Akal Purakh must certainly sound the death knell to all arguments that Sikhism developed merely as a sect of Hinduism. The recognition of this divine command (hukam) by an individual through complete submission is an essential part of the discipline propounded by Guru Nanak. One must understand this command and act in accordance with its ethical dictates. This, in Guru Nanak's view, is the fundamental blueprint of social interaction. In this context, hukam can be seen as a rational principle of social organization based upon divine authority. From this perspective, the social responsibility advocated by Guru Nanak is not merely a call for moral reform, but rather it is a declaration of an independent conception of cosmological order. Moreover, the primacy of divine grace over personal effort is fundamental to Guru Nanak's vision. Yet there is neither fatalism nor passive acceptance in this view of life. Rather, personal effort in the world in the form of good actions is seen as an integral part of spiritual discipline: 'With your own hands, carve out your own destiny' [GGS:474]. By teaching his followers to see their own 'free' will as part of Akal Purakh's will, Guru Nanak encouraged them to create their own destinies. The necessity of balance between meditative worship and righteous life in the world is summed up in the following triple commandment: earn your living through honest labour, adore the divine Name, and share the fruits of your labour with others.

5: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), March 16, 2010, 11:57 AM.

'As you sow, so you reap' is a statement with profound impact on every body's life. Our understanding, approach and significance may vary, the truth and the meaning in the quote cannot escape the reality of the message. The religious angle may heighten the significance but does not change the utility of the advice. The lesson to learn is: our accomplishments are a measure of our efforts. To increase the results, we must increase efforts instead of blaming others or justify with excuses for the shortage. In my view, for those who understand the concept, there is nothing to add. Those who don't, can learn from the message in this quote. This quote has been true for all times, in all cultures, religions and locations. And has existed in every society. To support the concept, my rationale is basic. We all are born with a similar mind for thought and action; a brain to assist us in reason-based decisions and a certain number of years (variable) for life on this planet. What we do and accomplish in that time-frame is up to us. We cannot deny that in reality, the results of our efforts for the same task, vary considerably from person to person. The primary reason for the variance is summed up in this quote. There may be other factors that play a role but the impact of those is relatively small. And Guru Nanak is reminding us of the message in these lines. By definition, our belief cannot be contingent upon situations. It must be consistent for all times. Any exception must have an overwhelming rationale. In making good decisions, our emotions matter, our intent vs. ethics count, truthful assessment of our efforts is necessary. Religious tenets and experience of others is very helpful.

6: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 16, 2010, 5:39 PM.

Nirmal singh ji has brilliantly put forward the concept of "aape beej aape khao'. I would like to add a little to that in terms of when he says we are all born with the same mind and reasoning. It is true we are all equal when we are born, but how we progress in our life and condition ourselves depends on our external factors, how we develop our intellect depends on what information we are fed from various sources and how we build our beliefs. Based on these beliefs, we act and condition ourselves (subconsciously) in a particular manner. Similarly, the result of our efforts varies a lot, and most of the time we get favorable results for them, but many more times the results are not we want them to be. This difference in result can be attributed to hukam operating, according to which we and everything around us in this universe is interrelated, interconnected and interdependent. This plays a major role in what results we end up with. There are different factors playing a part in different situations for different people, so the result for everyone is not going to be same. Based on this, there can be four possible results: more than we expect, less then we expect, same as we expect, or no result. This is hukam playing its role. If we understand this concept, then we can accept hukam gracefully. This does not mean we don't do the effort, because effort always pay off. It's just that we don't know how sometimes.

7: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 16, 2010, 10:32 PM.

I have a question for Dr. Pashaara Singh ji: when you say that the Law of karma is not inexorable or impersonal in Sikh doctrine, what does that actually mean in layman's terms, please? Does it mean if I unintentionally do something unethical or wrong, can I be forgiven for it by Akal Purakh if I ask for forgiveness, by being absorbed in his Name?

8: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), March 17, 2010, 6:53 AM.

Jsvinder ji, We are in agreement on every thing you said. I appreciate your keen observation on external factors and let me share my perspective on the effort part. You were more gracious in saying we are born equal, because I did not. I only implied that we are given the same tools (mind and brain). It is our responsibility to learn and inculcate a habit of effectively using these two faculties. Learning includes several areas. Information (knowledge) is a must. Second, discovering the mind's role, capabilities, positive/ negative traits and its capacity to adapt through training. Third, the role and purpose of the five emotions and the emergence of 'haumai'. Fourth, preparing the mind to meet the challenge of the task/ enterprise. This should include four basic rules: the purpose and goal is not to accumulate but to acquire enough to reduce the nagging sense of shortage and insecurity; generate extra to give away (share) for inner assurance of having more than enough; aim for success by making failure not an option; commit both mind and body to give all (time, energy, focus, inconvenience) to achieve the desired goal. Last, our attitude and demeanour ought to be to appreciate and acknowledge the contribution of others with humility and sincerity. We have covered all these requirements in the Japji interpretation. We learned about accepting and emulating His attributes in order to become a better person. In the 'Spirituality & Religion' discussion, we explored mind functions and the role of religious tenets. We discovered emotional red-herrings, learning through 'sunniye', 'mannai' and the five senses, and Guru Nanak's deliberate attempt to cite many examples of good/ bad, right/ wrong actions, behaviour, attitude and human folly. And, in so doing we essentially acquired tools to help us make good decisions and apply the efforts necessary for a successful outcome. Our thoughtful approach and respectful attitude towards others help us get more a productive response to facilitate a smarter and better execution. And, in the end, our efforts prove more successful. This success inspires every body to do better next time. And soon the process acquires a rhythm of its own to lend to the old saying, 'Success breeds success', and turn it into reality. As you said, the difference comes from how well we understand and put into practice acquired outer and inner knowledge and blend the two by training the mind and brain to engage in a collaborative effort to produce goal-oriented results instead of working in a counter-active internal struggle. One more point: let us not forget the role of Him in all this. After doing our best, we must learn to leave the outcome to His grace. Because most often, the outcome is beyond our control.

9: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, U.S.A.), March 17, 2010, 9:34 AM.

Jasvinder ji, let me try to simplify what I have already written. Karma, popularly understood in Indian thought as a sort of bank account-cum-Master Card, where your current balance may be either a credit or a debit (good karma, bad karma), is actually the principle of cause and effect. Etymologically, the root meaning of karma is activity or doing, and the karmic principle could be stated, 'You are what you do'; or, in the context of time, 'your actions determine what you become'. Actions include thinking and all other functions of the mind. Because you think the way you do, you act the way you do, and your actions reinforce or prove the validity of your thinking. This principle of karma is logical and inexorable, but karma is also understood as a predisposition that safeguards the notion of free choice. In Sikh doctrine, however, the notion of karma undergoes a radical change. For Guru Nanak, the divine order/ command/ will (hukam) overrides the law of karma. Indeed, divine grace (nadar) can cancel the effects of millions of karma in an instant when one is deeply imbued with the love of nam-simran. Yes, Akal Purakh is always forgiving when you ask for forgiveness in your thoughts and prayers (without even speaking about it) after having unintentionally committed something unethical and wrong. The problem with us is that we become fixated on our own guilt because of our wrongdoings and do not forgive ourselves. The moment we turn our thoughts towards Waheguru we are released from the guilt and our mind is cleansed of all evil thinking. This process is beautifully described in the stanza of Japji under consideration: 'If hands and body are smeared with grime, water will wash them clean. Clothes may be stained with traces of urine, but soap will restore them again. If the mind be soiled and defiled by wrongdoing, it is cleansed with love of the Name.' I hope I have responded to your question. I am in complete agreement with Nirmal Singh ji's following observation: "After doing our best, we must learn to leave the outcome to His grace. Because most often, the outcome is beyond our control."

10: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 17, 2010, 1:35 PM.

I am enjoying this. Some of my thoughts - in no particular order: Nirmal Singh ji, in his first posting, appears to posit some sort of direct co-relation between effort and accomplishment. Is that always the case? One witnesses a fair amount of inequity in this regard. One of the questions floating around in my head lately is: to what degree are we really autonomous choice-makers? This thought was triggered in part by a book I was reading entitled "The Illusion of Conscious Will" by an eminent psychologist at Indiana U and listening to a Washington Post columnist (I forget his name, Indian guy) read an excerpt from his book entitled "The Hidden Brain", suggesting that we are not the rational choice-makers we think we are but act, instead, from conditioning (memory, emotion, etc); that we are not autonomous but more like a node in a network (which I found to be a rather neat decription of haumai). Not to mention the fact that there are texts in gurbani like "apna kia kachu na hoi, jeh sao prani loche koi" [GGS:282 - Sukhmani Sahib), or "Nanak karaN karte wuss hai". What do we make of that? I end (for now) with a limmerick that is quite appropriate to the subject at hand: There was a young man who said, "Damn,/ It is borne upon me that I am/ A creature that moves/ In predestinate grooves - Not even a bus, but a tram."

11: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 17, 2010, 2:16 PM.

Definitely the outcomes are not in our control. Nirmal Singh ji, no matter how hard we try. Sometimes even after we focus on all the things you mentioned, the outcome is not favourable. Our job is to do all you said, do our best effort. 'Karam kiye ja phal ki chinta mat kar' - why? because 'phal' (the fruit) is not in our control, it is in Waheguru's control. He is the only one with all knowledge, and knows how all these things are interconnected and how the results will come. Thank you very much, Dr. Paushura Singh ji, for explaining. A new realization for me is how Waheguru helps us get over own guilt, He forgives us when we don't forgive ourselves nd live in fear that something wrong will happen because of our wrong actions. I think even if we get result of wrong actions in some undesirable way, Nam helps us to accept it and go through it, because if we look at it logically, if there is a cause, their should be an effect of it too. Thank you, everyone ... learning immensely from all of you!

12: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 18, 2010, 8:11 AM.

A question - for anyone: Karma is not just action but thinking as well (Pashaura Singh ji); we always have choices (Jasvinder ji). If that is so, do we choose our thoughts? It seems to me that thoughts just surface without asking us. How do we account for this?

13: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), March 18, 2010, 8:12 AM.

Ravinder ji, a few comments to add to your musings. Intent is to help resolve, but has potential to add to the confusion as a side effect. Hence caution is advised. About human effort: effort is not only necessary but a must to produce results and all efforts produce results. It is the law of nature. The results may not be adequate or in accord with our expectations. Sometimes they can even be counter to expectations. Reflection upon your thoughts in reference to two books: To be fair, let us remember our discussion is in the context of our conditioned minds. In our desire to create a more comforting and safer universe, mind conditioning began hundreds of thousands of years ago. In my view, at the time of our (human) creation, we had a free will (mind), just like other species in the universe. Our existing mind is highly conditioned in every aspect one can imagine but still retains some free spirit (hidden) and shows. We condition it for the overall collective welfare of the social order we have created. Religions, moral codes, godly concepts, all are creations of our mind to maintain this better world for ourselves. To maintain the social order of this world, we have to keep our mind within the confines that supports the order. A free-spirited mind will not help us maintain order. Intriguing and contrary thoughts we all allude to are perhaps the product of the human mind's yearning to revert to its original intended state and purpose and yet cope with a man-created world in which it has to operate.

14: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 18, 2010, 8:23 AM.

At this juncture, if we have been listening attentively then our mind should have a firm grounding in a moral/ ethical compass. Guru Nanak is reminding us in the first line that water is best used to cleanse our bodies and clothes, as opposed to water being used to cleanse us of our sins in places of pilgrimage. Our fellow writers have made exemplary analyses to all the lines in this stanza. In 'punni paapi aakhan naahi', Guru Nanak is asking us not to get bogged down in that an issue is good and bad, or get into a debate, when at the moment of action we need to do the best of our abilities. A good example comes to mind: we save a person from drowning and that same person kills other people later on when robbing them. We did the right thing to save a person, but that 'right' deed caused the deaths of others, and the related guilt, which could have been avoided, had we not saved him/her. We have an unfortunate tendency to seek divine intervention in our personally desired goals whereas, as has been pointed out, the outcome should be left in His hands. In 'kar kar karna likh lai jah', Nanak says: we do have a choice to do the right action and take on personal responsibility (but we need not trap ourselves into thinking that if we do no bad, then no adverse situation will come to us). The other read I have on this line is that our karams/ deeds have a way of etching our DNA in a subtle way and then we then follow/ justify future similar actions, on whatever side of the pendulum they may be. In 'aape beej aape hi khaho', I felt the best way to read this is: 'man haalee kirasaanee karanee saram paanee than khaeth// naam beeju santhokh suhaagaa rakh gareebee vaes' [GGS,M1:595-10] - 'Make your mind the farmer, good deeds the farm, effort the water, and your body the field. Let the Lord's Name be the seed, contentment the plow, and your humble dress the fence. If we sow and nurture this seed of naam, we will prevail with its fruit.' And the next line reminds us that our release from kaal will still be subject to His hukam. Please chime in if I'm off the point.

15: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 18, 2010, 12:50 PM.

The day we realize that our thinking is included in karma as well, it changes our attitude towards things around us, it changes our beliefs and it changes our actions. Generally, people believe that doing something with hands is accounted for karma, then intentions are not important for them. But when we understand that thinking is included too, then we always check our intentions behind any of our actions. We always have the choices but we make them based on the beliefs we have, like Nirmal Singh ji said, the conditioned mind, which is due to centuries of a social order in place. I will always have a choice for doing something or not but but which option I take is based on what I think is right for me, based on my beliefs in me due to my conditioning as a result of my environment. It is even said we carry forward the conditioning from previous births with us too, that's why two identical twins, brought up in same external environment are still different. our choices are always in our control if we want to change our choices then we have to change our thinking, which is possible, but takes effort as we have to remove what is already ingrained on the CD of our mind and reload the CD again. this reloading is about changing our beliefs, in terms of what 'I think' is right or wrong for me, people and things around me. If I think people see my beauty, my clothes, my car, then I get respect from others, then my actions will be focused on enhancing my beauty, buying loads of clothes and changing my car, but the day I change my belief to 'No, all this doesn't matter, but how I treat people is what attracts people to me,' then my actions will be focused on treating people with respect, trust, and show responsibility for my actions. We always have choices, but we make them based on their consequences in the social order in place in whichever way it applies to us. If I say I have to go to work, that is because I have to feed my family. I can also choose not to go work and let my family suffer. To change conditioning of my mind, I have to change my thinking, and my beliefs. We always have choices but the consequences of our choices bounds us always too, the cause and effect applying again here. So we make choices according to what is right and wrong for me, as Gurdev Singh ji mentioned, there is no right or wrong, in terms of actions - but there are right or wrong in terms values, or the beliefs we have.

16: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 19, 2010, 8:02 AM.

Jasvinder ji, what you mentioned is exactly what Guru Nanak addresses in the 4th line of stanza 7 - 'jay tis nadar na aavee ta vaat na puchhai kay' - "Without your Grace, all this would be a waste." Our focus should be on what would be pleasing to Him in our actions and demeanour. As you say we are way too engrossed in pleasing our fellow beings because it uplifts and strokes our haumai. So, the controlling of the mind with naam simran which then erodes haumai, is the state we need to be in. The start of stanza 7 elaborates how we humans are so intent on being celebrated and pleased by the world we live in that all we (no matter how good or moral our leadership is) achieve in that environment is to raise our levels of haumai to the point where we hope to be looked at as in a 'godly' status.

17: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas. U.S.A.), March 19, 2010, 9:44 AM.

Instead of commenting, let me share thoughts of an unknown philosopher I came across a while back. He said 'your thoughts matter the most; so beware of your thoughts, because they become your words; beware of your words, because they become your actions; beware of your actions, because they become your habits; beware of your habits, because they become your character; beware of your character, because it becomes your destiny'. If you see the naked truth in this statement, as I do, each one of us has to connect the dots of our perceived destiny which I believe we can. Another helpful thought, I hope. If we add 'jey Satgur nadar karey' to the above statement, we can pretty much sum up the core concepts and the message in the Sikh faith. Happy introspection.

18: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), March 19, 2010, 10:09 PM.

In this pauri, the line "the result of actions are recorded" and the line "As you sow, so you reap" are written in the context of the last line - "In Hukam we come and go". The phrase "come and go", appears numerous times in gurbani. It is generally translated as being reincarnated. But I think the literal meaning is more appropriate. By that I mean that when our consciousness engages - connects the matter in the material world (the world defined by time and space) we grow/ come into existence. And when the consciousness disengages/ disconnects from our physical body, we go out of existence. The consciousness is in akaal state (timeless state) whereas our physique is in time-space dimension. During our existence, all our actions that are of significance with respect to Hukam get recorded in some layer of our mind. Gurbani sometime names it as "chitt gupat" (the literal translation is the 'hidden mind'). The term "chitt gupat" appears for the first time in gurbani in pauri 27 of Japji. The consciousness engages with the material world - the world of maya - the world in time-space dimension, through the Naam stream; a channel, a tunnel, in which all the possible attributes of Hukam related to human beings have been placed by Naam. Guided by those, and with that what has been recorded in "chitt gupat", our consciousness constructs the new identity, so we "come" into existence. From gurbani, it appears that what has been recorded in chitt gupat when we "go", to be the key factor in the making of what we "come" as. The line, "As you sow, so you reap", conveys this sense. Gurbani describes many more things relevant to creation, human behaviour, haumai, and more. In my view, Japji is about the path that someone who wants to be a "Sachiara" would take to clean his consciousness so that he can merge back into Him. Guru Nanak describes this path in answer to the question "kiv sachiara hoviye" he himself posed in the first pauri. So, drawing too many inferences about other issues just from Japji, perhaps would not be a good approach to take.

19: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 19, 2010, 10:31 PM.

So true, Nirmal Singh ji... the version I know is - that my single thought about any thing/ person is always followed by a feeling (good or bad); then a lot of feeling toward that thing shapes my attitude; this attitude translates into actions (words/ deeds); repeated actions create a habit; a lot of my habits put together make my personality; then, according to my personality, I act and create my destiny. So, we are the masters of our destiny, and if we want to change our destiny we need to change our thoughts. At any time, if we don't like what we are getting in life, we should check what we are giving out, in terms of our thinking and actions. The mind is the most powerful thing in this world, or you can say consciousness is.

20: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 21, 2010, 10:28 AM.

Thank you for the conclusion of another week of insightful discussion. I think this was a very important concept (Karma/ Free Will/ Choice/ Outcomes) to reflect on because it is so fundamentally different from the prevailing Indian world view - yet many a Sikh interpretation fails to make that distinction. Thank you, all of you, for parsing this idea so successfully.

Comment on "As You Sow, So You Reap
The Talking Stick Colloquium XI: Stanza 20, March 15 - 21"









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