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By Divine Favor ...

EK ONG KAAR KAUR

 

 

 

 

Some of you may have read in these very pages about Hari Simran Singh Khalsa, a very beautiful young Sikh man who recently left his body. He died because of an accident that happened while mountain-climbing in Mexico.

Sukhmani Sahib by Guru Arjan is a prayer that we traditionally recite during difficult times – especially the time after a soul has left the body and continued on its journey.

Recently, I completed a translation of
Sukhmani Sahib. The translation took eight years to complete, and I hope to present it in its entirety this summer. But in honor of Hari Simran Singh’s memory, I wanted to share a piece of it today.

This is the Fourth
Ashtapadi (eight-stanza poem). It speaks about the gift of life, and how we can get lost in the experience of life, forgetting about the One who made the experience possible. The translations that I do are poetic interpretations, meant to use English in a way that opens the door to the deeper dimension of what Gurbani means.

This may take a little time to read, but if you chose to read it, I hope you enjoy it. Every line is a meditation in itself.

 

O innocent one,
Without virtues or merit,
Always remember the Creator.

Put the One who does everything
Into your awareness.
Be with it, Nanak, and become successful.

*   *   *   *   *

You who live by the breath of life,
Contemplate the qualities
Of that magnificently beautiful Creator,
Who, from the beginning,
Made all this visible.

Who fashioned you,
Arranged your existence,
And adorned you.

Who brought you out of the fiery womb.
Who made you drink milk
When you were just a child.

And in the bloom of youth,
Provided food,
A comfortable sense of well-being,
And a sound mind.

When old age happens,
Friends and relatives
Look after you.

The Giver gives you
A place to sit.
Food and drink
For your mouth to enjoy.

O person, devoid of merits,
You don’t understand these virtues at all.
Take these things as gifts.
Then, O Nanak,
You shall be successful. II 1 II


By divine favor,
You live peacefully on the earth,
And you laugh in the company
Of your children, siblings, friends and spouse.

By divine favor,
You drink cool water.
Air and fire – so priceless –
Make you comfortable.

By divine favor,
You enjoy all the delights
And every material object
Comes to keep you company.

You have been given hands, feet, ears, eyes and a tongue.
But you ignore the Creator
And get absorbed in the companionship of others.

In this way,
You become overwhelmed
By your own stupidity
And ignorant mistakes.

O Nanak,
The Creative Master alone
Can pull you out of this. II 2 II


From the source of creation
Until the end of time
There is One who protects and sustains us,
But the fools don’t love that One.

Doing His service, we receive the nine treasures,
Yet, the stupid ones
Don’t apply their minds
To the task.

We are always and forever
In the presence of the divine Master,
Yet the blind ones consider the Master
To be far, far away.

Doing divine service, we receive honor
In the divine court.
But through foolishness and ignorance,
People forget.

O Nanak,
The One who protects and sustains us
Has no boundaries and no limits. II 3 II


Forsaking the jewel,
They seek the company of the bitter.
Abandoning the Ultimate Reality,
They associate with companions
Who lie.

They consider those things permanent
That they will have to leave behind.
What shall happen,
They believe to be many breaths away.

They labor on behalf of what they must walk away from.
And shun the company
Of those who can help.

Washing away the sacred balm
That would deliver them,
They become donkeys who love
To keep company with ashes.

In a well of darkness,
They are fallen, frightened people.

Nanak,
The Creator’s compassion can lift them from this state. II 4 II


They have the status of a human,
But their actions are like animals.
And they show it to the entire world
Day and night.

Wearing a disguise on the outside –
They become dirty on the inside –
Focusing on the material world.
Even though they hide things,
Nothing is truly hidden.

Outwardly they display knowledge and meditation,
And they take purifying baths.
Yet inside they are filled
With a dog-like greed.

The fire within
Turns the outer body to ashes.
How can a person swim across this deep ocean,
With such a stone around her neck?

Those people within whom
The Creator lives,
O Nanak,
They effortlessly merge with the Divine. II 5 II


How can a person without sight
Deeply listen to find the way?
By holding onto that Hand, he successfully reaches the end.

Yet how can a person who cannot hear
Understand such a riddle?
Describe the night to him,
He will perceive it as morning.

How can someone without a voice
Sing the most complex spiritual song?
She could put forth a good effort,
But the gods would still disrupt it.

How can a person who cannot walk
Stroll across the mountains?
It’s not possible for her to roam those heights.

O Doer of All,
Kind Creator,
I, who have nothing,
Make this request.

Nanak knows,
Only your divine compassion
Delivers a person. II 6 II


He doesn’t remember
The divine Helper who keeps him company.
Instead, he loves those
Who fight and oppose him.

He dwells within a house of sand,
And plays at bliss,
Tasting the sweet pleasures
Of the earthly realms.

He accepts firmly in his mind
That this is his true faith.
The fool doesn’t pay attention to death.

Hostility, conflicts,
Sexual desire outside the divine Will,
Anger,
Attachment,
Lies, distortions,
Incredible greed,
And ill-meaning deceptions,
All of these are his code of conduct,
And in this manner he wiles away
So many lifetimes.

O Nanak,
A person is protected and brought out of this
When the kindness of the Divine
Prevails in his life. II 7 II


You, Master of Creation,
We make our prayer to you.
Our bodies, our souls
Everything
Is your property.

You are our mother and father.
We are your children.
Through your kindness,
We receive peace in abundance.

Nobody knows Your limits.
Among the highest,
You are higher still,
Most venerable divine One.

Your thread holds
Every object in place.
What you arrange and command
Happens.

Only you know
Your true state and condition.

Servant Nanak
Sacrifices himself to you
Forever. II 8 II IV II




January 22, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Aryeh Leib Lerner (Israel), January 22, 2015, 12:21 PM.

Absolutely gorgeous and captivating. Your hard work has not been in vain. Truly, every stanza is a meditation in its own right (as well as in its own "write", and its own "rite").

2: Tarsem Singh  (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom), January 22, 2015, 1:09 PM.

A very poignant reading of the Ashtapadi in remembrance of Hari Simran Singh, a great human being who in a very short span of his life touched innumerable individuals with his compassionate leadership, preaching the values instilled by our great Gurus. Ek Ong Kaar Kaur ji, your translation of Sukhmani Sahib is a pleasing read, poetical - taking a cue from Gurbani, it makes a deep impact on the heart and mind. Your eight years of labour-of-love could not have been achieved without Parmatma's blessings on you. You are unique, one in a million. Thank you for this great gift.

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 22, 2015, 3:00 PM.

What a lovely, lyrical translation! When it comes out of the depth of the heart, each word becomes a prayer. Cannot thank you enough for your outpouring. You are blessed.

4: Gurpal Singh Mann (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA), February 17, 2015, 7:36 PM.

I can feel Waheguru within us all, smiling as His mysteries are unveiled through His own exalted kindness bestowed onto you. Satnaam to you for presenting this melody to us all. Just plain gorgeous expose that will be treasured as it is meant to be for eons.

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