Father, Mother, Kin & Brother Too YUKTANAND SINGH
Letter & Spirit - #3
Let us suppose there are two visitors in a forest: one is there for firewood, the other is there to meditate or to appreciate nature. They will come home with totally different results.
Similarly, we can approach gurbani with the aim of self-improvement or for spiritual enlightenment. True progress includes both, but the spirit needs to blossom under the light of hukam, under the Guru's hukam, to be precise.
The language of the spirit is different from the language of self-reliance or haumai. Reliance on Waheguru needs to emerge from inside. Singing gurbani and singing in spiritual company is particularly useful.
We continue to make the effort, but the Guru is to be congratulated at each step, and for each success. We need to maintain this delicate balance. This is why the path of a spiritual seeker is called narrow or sharper than a razor's edge.
But all this is important only if we are interested in being spiritually enlightened.
There are other paths. Buddhism, for example, relies on personal wisdom and self analysis, but does not accept a separate entity called God. Vedanta says that our self is same as God and we just need to realize this. Some shabads may support these notions, but they do so only in a narrow context, not for practice at our level.
In real practice, at all levels, the (subtle) haumai stands in our way to absolute freedom [GGS: 255.3-5; 278.13-19]. The solution lies in dissolution of our haumai in service of someone who has true love. Only Waheguru (or God) has true love.
Gurbani’s approach is thus ‘Not I, but you’ [GGS: 657.17; 827.16]. It is important to remember that this is the basis of gurmat.
* * * * *
Any marriage would fall apart and no counselling would be of any help if the couple does not talk with each other. Gurbani, more than once, compares us with a bride. But our marriage is a dysfunctional one. The bride is busy with the house and decorating herself, and ignores her husband, except when she is in a dire need. This cannot be called a marriage!
As doctors, we are careful to involve the patient, calling the patient by name and asking questions when rounding with the residents, unless the patient was unconscious or mentally deranged.
But when we discuss God, it’s as if he is unconscious or absent. It is no surprise that some of us then say there is no God. We are thus, spiritually ill.
Other paths implement various methods to remedy the problem, but they do not remedy the illness. Their error is partly due to the fact that God is unseen. We imagine him as being inaccessible. Some of us even think that Waheguru does not listen to us or that he is not free from the 'laws of nature' (otherwise he would strike us whenever we are bad, I guess.)
Gurbani, on the other hand, says that wherever we go we are with God. He is never away from us. There are only two entities here: God and us. In fact, only God remains in the end and thus there is only one entity. Obviously, then, we are always in his attention. Gurbani also says that God is above everything and is totally free.
The biggest hurdle we face is that our heart does not agree with what we say. Our 'aachaar' or conduct does not match our words. "jin ma-n hor mukh hor se kaa-n-day kuchchi-aa" [GGS: 488.8] meaning, those who say one thing but have something different in their heart, they are judged as not ready. Tenacious self-analysis is thus, necessary at each step.
* * * * *
Gurbani tells us to meditate on naam (‘God’s name’), but confused, we ask, ‘What is naam?’ ‘Where can we find it’?
Suppose we visited our grandma and asked around how to address her or where she was, it would be as if we did not believe that grandma was there. Otherwise we would simply callout to her: "Grandma!"
The premise of naam too is as simple and straight-forward. The decay in our life is because the bride does not talk with her husband. The ultimate remedy lies in the husband also responding to the bride.
But the practice of naam is often complex. The complexity is artificial. It is due to our conditioning. Our deranged spiritual state requires various corrections, disciplines, and repetitions. They are absolutely necessary. But without correcting the core dysfunction, all these disciplines are unable to remove our misery in the end.
Also, naam is a difficult practice. It is not easy to be mindful of the fact that we are under constant scrutiny, in the presence of the most important one in the entire universe, who also knows everything we think and feel (but who also loves us and forgives us.) Naam is easy when God starts responding to our overtures and sprinkles it with His love.
For some, it appears, it is much easier to improve themselves, educate themselves, do some charity work, visit distant holy places, practice some yoga, examine and study the self, even silence the mind … all of it looks easier than to lose the self in His presence.
Living with the truth causes a shift in our attention and a change in our character. We resist this change and miss out on true living.
It is no surprise that we see people quote gurbani, that we are 'jyote saroop' or God's own light and that we only need to recognize our origin. It inspires us. But we never see anyone citing its practice, which is also proposed in the very same verse … practicing the fact that He is always with us. We skip it because our heart has not yet recognized its significance.
* * * * *
Sant Naranjan Singh ji used to say that if a well stinks, we may clean it and change its water. But the smell will continue until we remove the dead cat from it. Similarly, our spiritual decay cannot be remedied until we remove the cause.
When the inner bond is initiated, the bride may call her husband darling, honey, master, etc. Sometimes no words are necessary at all. The question, 'What is naam?' then becomes irrelevant. Various names … Raam, Allah, even father or mother … are equally good then. In most cases, just 'Wahe-Guru' (Wow-Guru) will suffice. We combine this with our breath so that we do so spontaneously, all the time.
Gurbani teaches us in various ways how to repeat naam and how to hold an inner dialogue with God. This is why, we will notice that gurbani addresses Waheguru in the second person at every opportunity. If God is here with us then this is the only proper form of addressing Him and to envision Him.
The language of our dialogue with God is musical, emotional, and spiritual in nature.
The Guru has supplied it to us in the form of gurbani.
Singing gurbani from the heart is thus a practice of naam.
Let us examine this shabad: "tuo mera pita tu hai mera maata" [GGS: 103.12]
"You are my father, you are my mother. You are my kin, and my brother too."
We have now realized his loving presence. Our beloved Waheguru is now everything to us.
"You are my protector everywhere; why need I feel any fear or anxiety?"
We are under the protection of the almighty. There is no room for fear, etc.
"By your Grace, I recognize you. You are my shelter, and you are my honor. Without you, there is no other; the entire universe is the arena of your play."
We must learn how to live within his will and to recognize that all wisdom is His.
"You have created all beings and creatures. As it pleases you, you assign tasks to one and all. All things are your doing; we can do nothing ourselves."
People often ask why God wants us to praise him. This is akin to asking why water wants us to drink it. Only someone who has no thirst in the heat would ask such a question. We need to analyze why we do not have this thirst.
True thirst is absolutely necessary. Gurbani kindles this thirst in us.
"Meditating on naam, I have found great peace. Singing the glorious praises of the Lord, my mind is cooled and soothed. Congratulations to the perfect Guru are pouring in. Nanak is victorious on the arduous battlefield of life!"
July 18, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 18, 2012, 12:15 PM.
This elusive and mysterious 'God' thing in Sikhism is no other than a 'faultless' and 'stainless' father or mother nurturing a child with love and gifts which are endless!
2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 19, 2012, 5:45 PM.
Yuktanand Singh jio, Farid met those two in the forest and painted in his sholak: "kandh kuhara sir ghara van kai lohar/ Farida ha-o lori saho apna tu loreh angi-ar" [GGS:1380.2] - "With the axe on his shoulder and a bucket on his head, the blacksmith is ready to cut down the tree. Farid, I long for my Lord, you strive only for kindling."
3: Yuktanand Singh (USA), July 20, 2012, 12:16 PM.
Sangat Singh ji, discussion of gurmat should stimulate us to explore gurbani, not just discuss it. For this reason I avoid adding a reference to each statement. I am delighted to see that you were paying attention. We find multiple references to another one, the rain-bird: "I do not even consider any other water; please bless this rain-bird with a drop of your water." [GGS:1321.14]
4: Jaipreet (Richboro, PA, USA), July 23, 2012, 2:04 PM.
Beautifully written! It seems the author has deep insight into the realm of gurbani and reality of life because all gurbani talks about is the reality of life.
5: Kamaldeep Singh (London, United Kingdom), July 25, 2012, 10:21 AM.
Yuktanand Singh, it is an absolute pleasure to read your articles. I find them to be insightful, well thought out, and infused with the essence of gurbani. Highlighting the metaphor of the dysfunctional relationship between the bride and the husband was quite enlightening. Whilst I have read it many a time before, I have never fully grasped it till of late. With regards to naam, I have always felt that this is a strong, powerful resonance that makes up the very foundation of the entire creation. It is not limited to this, however, and completely permeates and pervades it too. Essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I believe that this is what is meant by the fact that the only entity is God [GGS:485], that we are not to worship creation in any way [GGS:1136], and that God rejoices in what He has created [GGS:8]). The second point is of particular importance as it is a practice which actually deprives one of experiencing naam and is in fact the source of our mistakes [GGS:1136]. Something I feel would be beneficial here is "Naam: From the Pen of Bhai Vir Singh", translated by Inni Kaur. http://www.sikhchic.com/poetry/naam_from_the_pen_of_bhai_vir_singh '... So, naam is a ceaseless remembrance of the divine in the mind and a feeling of continuous love of the divine towards you. It is a living sensation and exuberance ...' Definitely food for thought. Once again, thank you for your exquisite articles.