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True Colors
Letter & Spirit - #2
A New Weekly Column






Gurbani has used the word ‘color’ (‘rung’ in Punjabi) in several important ways.

At one place, it compares Creation to a painting [GGS:340.15]: We must be then the paint and paint brush in the painter’s hands.

The world, nature and its laws must be His canvas. Each color and each stroke carry His expression. Nature’s music and its beauty express His love. This is also called his ‘kudrat’ in gurbani, and Waheguru watches over it. [GGS:464.5-9]

We could also surmise that science examines the materials and methods while religion explores its message and intent. We cannot know everything by merely examining the painting. Only the painter knows his intent. But, “Nanak says, someone who realizes His hukam, learns His secret” [GGS:885.11].

Last week we discussed living in hukam.

Gurbani exhorts us to seek the painter. Can we find the painter with a particle collider, or in outer space? Is he hiding in some religion, or in learning? Is he found by silencing our mind, or through a lifetime of meditating? Gurbani says that God is not attracted by these. [GGS: 962.9-11]

This week we will explore some colors (emotions) of the soul.

The true colors of our soul take us from the creation to our creator.

Gurbani says that the way to God is inside us. But this must not be confused with study of the mind or self improvement. Learning and education are useful, so are meditation and training the mind. But gurbani appears to say that more important than these is that we take care not to obstruct the music of our soul.

This is because love is paramount in gurbani. Nature, art and music can express God’s love. God’s abode is often described as the light, inner awareness, and the unstruck melody that pulsates with love, within each particle. Our soul is a copy of this awareness.

Some people say that we need to emulate God’s qualities and manifest them in us. This appears to be an error. Does gurbani support this? Can we understand all his qualities?

Rather, gurbani says that all virtues are gifts, that we must seek them from God, and not see them as our own. This understanding, I guess, keeps our haumai (ego) at bay. As we know, haumai is the biggest roadblock.

Humility is a virtue of the soul. Its practice begins at home, with our family, our spouse, even children: “May I (have the wisdom to) address the lowest of the low, even the smallest child, with utmost humility.” [GGS: 529.8]

Gurbani says that hurting others, even in their absence (slander) turns God away [GGS: 1384.17-19] because everyone, with all their faults, is part of this same picture, created by the same God. The same God resides in every heart.

Love, compassion, and forgiveness are thus fundamental colors of our soul. Our inner reaction towards others determines whether these colors will shine through. Dark colors -- anger, greed, resentment, revenge, guilt and fear -- replace and smudge the color of the soul and thus they keep God out of the picture.

“O Kabir! Where there is spiritual wisdom, there is dharma. Where there is falsehood, there is sin. Where there is greed, there is death. Where there is forgiveness, there is God Himself.” [GGS: 1372.15]

“O Farid! Answer an evildoer with benevolence. Do not harbor anger in your heart” [GGS:1381.19].

Following this advice, not only do we gain physical health, we retain the most precious wealth, closeness to God. Inner health results in outer health, a healthy society, and a healthy world.


July 10, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 10, 2012, 3:53 AM.

A beautiful article! As humans, we are in awe of colour which is all around us: blue sky, white clouds, red roses, magenta fish, etc. Yet Guru Nanak tells us the One who is responsible for this feast of colour is 'colourless' and 'formless'. He plays this game of colours and kinds within his limitless creation.

2: R.S. Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, U.S.A.), July 10, 2012, 7:56 AM.

Really appreciate the wisdom in these essays. I have had questions about the view that "dark colors - anger, greed, resentment, revenge, guilt and fear - replace and smudge the color of the soul and thus they keep God out of the picture". Then is God not in these dark colors? Can God be kept out of certain areas? Can't we accept the "darkness" as hukam too? (After all, 95% of this universe is dark). If God is the painter, and we the pliable paint/paint-brush, then who are we to judge? If we are not in a position to judge, then why seek justice for crimes? How can we judge our own actions when we do not know the intent of the painter? There is certainly a lot more we don't know about the painter than we know ... which is humbling in itself.

3: Darvesh Kaur  (California, USA), July 10, 2012, 9:28 AM.

True - color images pervade the Guru Granth. I particularly like the references to the "fast" colors - majeetth, for example. "Color me red!" sings the Guru - that is, in his naam. So that it never washes away.

4: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), July 11, 2012, 6:05 AM.

Hermann Hesse's short story titled "The Painter" is an attempt to understand the intent of the painter and the painting process. A good read.

5: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 11, 2012, 11:07 AM.

Good questions. I was hoping that someone would reply. It is true that we do not know much about the painter, but isn't that why we seek the Guru's guidance? Gurbani is clear that the painter's intent is that we seek him and find him. "gobind milan ki eh teri bar-i-aa" [GGS:378.1], meaning, "This is the time to meet God."

6: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 11, 2012, 11:10 AM.

It is true that God is everywhere, even in the "dark" colors. Everything is his creation. "Evil" also serves some function in the cosmic picture and it is not outside God. Poison is also God's creation under his hukam and so is its antidote. Just as Oxygen is there but someone dying from poison cannot use it, God is always there but he is missing from our heart if the dark colors prevail inside us.

7: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 11, 2012, 11:14 AM.

The restraint is supposed to be internal. For example, "Do not turn and strike those who strike you" [GGS:1378.5] does not mean that we return violence with submission. Nor does it mean that we must not seek justice for a crime. But He dwells in everyone. We do not judge or condemn someone who took poison. Similarly, gurbani teaches us to not be angry, to be compassionate and to bless our enemies, even when we need to, albeit reluctantly, fight them.

8: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 11, 2012, 11:17 AM.

We will notice that gurbani concentrates on teaching our own self, and examining our own heart. As Sikhs we can do this better in the light of gurbani. Here gurbani teaches us to avoid the colors that Waheguru does not like. He may then look favorably at us and dye us with His color, the unique color of naam [GGS:722.3]. We know from gurbani that naam naturally eliminates all the dark colors.

9: Devinder Singh (India), July 12, 2012, 7:35 AM.

There is no escaping from the belief that, if God exists, He is All. All proceeds from Him; from what other source can it proceed? All exists in Him; in what other being or continent can it exist? Therefore evil must proceed from Him, evil must exist in Him. Since He is All-Wise, for all knowledge is His, it must exist for some wise and perfect purpose. Since He is All-Love, it must exist for good and not for anything which contradicts the good.

10: Devinder Singh (India), July 12, 2012, 9:51 AM.

There is no reference to a 'devil' in gurbani. The nearest is 'jum', the herald of death, but that does not convey the same meaning. Evil in gurbani, it seems to me, refers to the ignorance that needs to be overcome, and termed as maya.

11: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), July 14, 2012, 4:10 AM.

In fact all that appears to a person has its origin in Him because He is the only permanent reality. To believe that good and evil come from a person is itself the root of all evil. GGS:993 - "burra bhallaa kichh ...". All that happens in the world is His will. Peace, passion and inertia are all from Him. He is not affected, but they are contained in Him.

12: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), July 15, 2012, 11:04 PM.

Dear colleague Yuktanand ji, my complements to you for such a succinct description of a particular aspect of gurmat. There is a sentence in your essay which may be reconsidered. Your observation that "Some people say that we need to emulate God's qualities and manifest them in us ..." appears to be an error. Does gurbani support this? Can we understand all his qualities? Yes, several verses from gurbani will guide us to emulate divine attributes. Let me cite some evidence. For example, naam simran is meant to become aware of the reality of the divine within each one of us. "Within this body are all treasures of the divine identity; they are discovered through contemplating the Guru's shabad," says Guru Amar Das [GGS:754]. Naam simran practices include not simply praying to God, to glorify God, to obey God, to fear God, or to reject God, but in fact, to 'Become like God!' Such a state is to be enjoyed by all exalted, embodied, and intelligent beings. According to Guru Nanak, we are destined to become like God but have been tricked into becoming inmates, posing as creatures of destiny, a ghastly spread between what we are and what we could be. Guru Nanak teaches us that the more you recognize, practice and express your authentic self and inculcate the desired attributes, the more meaning, joy and fulfillment you will experience in your life. If you desire spiritual and personal growth, a change in your outer world, a new or better relationship with your environment, a more fulfilling job, or more fulfilling life in general, then you may need to awaken your divine inner self. "O my mind, you are the embodiment of the divine light - recognize your own core" - Guru Amar Das, [GGS:441]. This exactly is the purpose of reciting the sacred words embedded in gurbani. "O my mind, you will become the one you serve and emulate and your deeds will transform accordingly" - Guru Amar Das, [GGS:755]. Bhagat Kabir also expressed similar views. Kabir verse actually echoes Guru Nanak's, saying that the person of God becomes one with God. In short, the sacred gurbani is meant to be employed in daily practices of mindfulness in order to achieve the life goal of inner realization. Their practice will lead any one to live a life at the level of the inner soul; at a level where we truly know ourselves as divine-like, as creators and miracle-makers, and as limitless intelligence.

13: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 16, 2012, 10:11 AM.

Bhai Harbans Lal ji, thank you for your guidance. I agree with you. My confusion arises from the question whether we can emulate God's virtues without asking for them from Him. Gurbani can appear contradictory when we forget that each verse does not apply in all situations. My own situation is closer to, "We are blind among the blind, engrossed in the world. How do we walk on the Guru's Path?" [GGS:667.14]. At end of the day, I see that I do not fully understand what I write, much less practice it. You appear to have learned the way to emulate God's virtues. I seek the dust from the feet of such gursikhs. The company of such Sikhs is called sat sangat. "True congregation is the Guru's school where His virtues are learned." [GGS:1316.7]

14: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), July 18, 2012, 6:20 AM.

Thank you, my friend, for bringing forward the topic of sat sangat. It may be another topic worth engaging in purposeful deliberation.

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Letter & Spirit - #2
A New Weekly Column"

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