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Talking Stick

Hukam & Haumai
The Talking Stick Colloquium IV: January 25 - 31




Hukam & Haumai

A Reflection, Synopsis and Looking Ahead

This week we will take a cue from the "rahao," that appears in gurbani (although not in the Japji), to take a pause before proceeding to the next stanza (pauri).

Our dialogue has reached a point where a pause seems natural.

Stanza 2 focused exclusively on hukam, with a view to exhaust our exchange on this central subject - mindful, of course, that hukam itself is inexhaustible.

We deferred discussion on another, equally important subject that was introduced in Stanza 2, namely, haumai.

It is to haumai that we will turn our attention this week.

There are other themes that also surfaced during our discussion, such as the concept of karam and transmigration or reincarnation. We will dwell on these as we come to points of natural rahao later - as we journey through the "spritscape" of Japji Sahib.

The Discussion on Hukam - Synopsis

An attempt has been made to highlight the salient features of our discussion on hukam last week by creating a narrative. The account below has been stitched together by using the words of the participants, which appear in italics. The non- italicized words are connectors provided by the convener.

Here is what we appear to have said:

Although we seem to "limit our comprehension of key terms," including hukam and "may want to look at a wider, more encompassing meaning, such as Order - not 'order' as 'command', but 'order' as in Law and Order," the fact remains that gurbani is quite emphatic in stating that hukam, in its fullness, is simply beyond human ken.

Our attempts at definition will remain meager approximations. We simple have to recognize that.

Because hukam is ineffable, it gives rise to the "wow" and "awe" factor - called vismad in gurbani. Vismad is what triggers spiritual appetite, without which no spiritual formation or a recognition of hukam is possible.

If hukam is all encompassing, "are good and evil both part of this hukam?" If they are, "then why complain of sickness, atrocities, war and suffering"?

Hukam "includes the good and bad," but raises a further question, "are they really good and bad, or is just how we interpret them to be?"

We can debate the issue of good and evil till the cows come home, but the fact remains that a Sikh is to remain centered through thick and thin, abiding by hukam with calm acceptance: "if we think razaa is hukam in bad times, rahmat is hukam of boom times and a Sikh`s reaction is to the same in either case."

Does hukam allow us Free Will or "does God micromanage our existence or does He lay down the ground rules but does not interfere with our daily lives?"

Clearly, there are "billions of possible and available 'choices' to live our lives," because, "if there were absolutely no choice available to us, then Guru Nanak would absolutely NOT have advised us - "aapay beej aapay hee khaah" - "As you sow, so shall you reap" - later in the Japji Sahib."

The key is to "make honest choices, do the best with them and accept what life will do with them. Not rue the results, nor lose the self in pride of achievement but to be at peace with life."

It is in this sense that we have free will or conscious choice - we can make the choice but cannot guarantee its outcome to match our desire.

Having made one's choices, it becomes incumbent to "live and feel and enjoy and cherish effortlessly," without requiring "explanation or justification."

A Sikh who lives life in accordance to hukam lives life "fully, honestly and purposefully - in the present, or as some might say, to live the moment."

Convener's wrap up on Hukam

I find Guru Nanak's astpadi, "Ŧerā hukam na jāpī keṯ▫ṛā likẖ na jāṇai ko▫e" [GGS:53] especially poignant and humbling.

No description and no flight of fancy, Guru Nanak tells us, can grasp hukam - our efforts notwithstanding. To paraphrase Lao Tzu, the Chinese sage when he speaks of Tao - or the Way which is very akin to Hukam: if it can be spoken of, it is not hukam.

Guru Nanak goes on to tell us that God or Waheguru isn't waiting on our expertise and counsel on how to manage the affairs of Creation. Our existence is very much at the pleasure of hukam.

Yet, some mode of understanding is possible and connection to hukam necessary for living the life of a gurmukh - the ideal life that all Sikhs must aspire to. Being a gurmukh, as the word implies, requires a turning to the Guru.

It is by turning to the Guru that we obtain the discernment of naam, the key that unlocks the secret of hukam. In fact, hukam and naam are synonymous, as can be inferred from this saying of Guru Nanak, "Ėko nām hukam hai Nānak saṯgur ḏī▫ā bujẖā▫e jī▫o [GGS:72]

If I may be so bold: hukam can be thought of as the Big Bang and the subsequent process that has created humans - arguably the only self conscious species in the Universe with a penchant for examining itself.

Gurbani appears to endorse the idea that humans are the most evolved species, endowed with the necessary apparatus (the human body, consciousness, mind) to become God like - suggesting that we are co-creators with God.

Unlocking hukam becomes a necessity and a duty for a gurmukh. Our personal ends must blend with our larger responsibility as God's partners. This means that we cannot act out of the selfish narrowness of haumai.

There appeared to be the suggestion that suffering - individual and collective - was somehow "bad" or undesirable, causing us to look askance at hukam. I think we need to re-consider this stance.

Suffering is very much a part of life, and creation. Guru Nanak speaks of "dukh daru sukh rog bhaiyah" which appears to defy our established notions but must be true since they come from the source. Suffering brings about a sense of detachment or "birah," which like vismad is necessary for spiritual growth. 

We move on to try and understand haumai.

Haumai - Thoughts to ponder for our discussion

Haumai, the subject of our discussion this week, is a central concern of Sikh teaching and shares an intimate and symbiotic association with hukam and will require our keenest attention - if we are to make any headway in understanding gurmat.

We have discovered in our discussion that if naam unveils hukam, then haumai appears to be the veil that separates us from it, "Dhan pir(i) kâ ik hî sang(i) vâsâ,Vich(i) haumai bhît(i) karârî." [GGS:1263]

Let's Consider:

-   What is the nature of this separation? In other words, how does haumai arise and cause this separation?

-   How do we close this gap? What does gurbani recommend?

-   Please provide examples from day-to-day living. What would the life of a gurmukh - one who has obviously resolved the problem of haumai - look like?

-   Is the goal eradication of haumai or sublimation?

Conversation about this article

1: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), January 25, 2010, 10:30 AM.

In my understanding and experience, Haumai is the monster that sits between you and your ability to truly and fully submit to the Hukam. It is a herculean task to vanquish the monster, but it is the pre-requisite to getting past it. There is no other way in ... total humility, total submission, total surrender, are the weapons we have been given to vanquish the dragon. With those in hand, it's magical all the way ...

2: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 12:09 PM.

Haumai is denial of the reality that surrounds us that we must face and having haumai means living one's life in denial. Some examples: having chest pains - the sign of a heart attack and taking it as mere mal-digestion; sucking the belly in while looking at the mirror where reality shows that physical exercise is needed; not being a good listener as a husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, etc.; and many more of our daily actions that we act upon quite mechanically with the 'so what'! mentality. All this makes us dwell in me-ism and takes us away from One-ism, which accepting hukam is. With these actions, we create a cocoon, a shield, a veil and pretend that we can live in this bubble for the rest of our lives, knowing quite well at the same time that this is a utopic self-created hell. Now the question arises: how do we get rid of it or rather control it. Gurbani gives us the tools to do that. One can open the Guru Granth randomly on any page and find the inspiration, motivation, determination, perseverance and, last but not least, the acceptance of hukam. But this can only happen when we can lasso our haumai by creating awareness, realization, understanding that leads us to the acceptance which, in result, makes us leap towards freedom - what gurbani calls- jeevan mukti- total liberation.

3: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 1:23 PM.

I wonder if Tejwant Singh's very apt description of haumai as denial of reality is built in or is it an acquired habit? I sometimes think of it as akin to wearing 3-D goggles for a movie - it shifts our perception of reality. So, does the physical body that our consciousness wears similarly distort reality? Is it meant to be that way?

4: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 2:47 PM.

Ravinder ji: Gurbani talks about the Five Thieves and gives us how-to tools to lasso them so that we can find the gurmat fulcrum within us. We are born with the five and haumai is the gumbo of all the five - kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, ahankaar. But if we keep on living in me-ism, then we acquire them as the building blocks of our cocoon of denial. Let me put it in another way. With a lead pencil, one can draw like Leonardo da Vinci or Sobha Singh and with the same lead pencil, one can also kill someone. It is the same energy but it depends on us how we use it. If we use gurbani as a catalyst to channelize this energy properly, then we can all become Leonardos or Sobha Singhs and even better. We can all become Nanaks.

5: Atika (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 3:39 PM.

I'm very pleased that the author has made the leap by comparing hukam to the Big Bang, the event whereby the dimensions of space, time, and matter came into existence. Now, while the big bang happened approx. 14 billion years ago (which is also how old the universe is), the Homo sapiens, in comparison, are only 0.0002 billion (= 200,000) years old. In other words, it has taken 13.9998 billion years for the only self-conscious species, the Homo sapiens, to evolve to its present form. Therefore, although the feats of human intelligence seem truly amazing, we cannot however gloss over the fact that this evolution has come about in an awful large amount of time. In turn, this evolution has been guided by the laws of nature, which in the opinion of Paul Davies (Author, 'The mind of God') are very similar to God, in that they are universal, absolute, eternal and omnipotent. But, as rational beings, our current understanding of the laws of nature ceases to work, both at the microscopic level - where we cannot estimate the position and momentum of an electron (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) - and at the macroscopic level - where we cannot understand the origin of the universe surrounding and preceding the big bang. So, maybe these laws of nature are the Hukam (or God) that cannot be explained - it is unknowable to most, except for the few mystics who have experienced the universal reality, like Guru Nanak Himself. Now, if you were to believe that all the evolution since the big bang is part of God's plan, then you would agree that we (humans) are part of that grand scheme. At this point, I am reminded of an analogy S. Ravinder Singh ji had shared with our gurbani vichaar group, in the context of haumai. To quote him, "If you were part of a symphony orchestra, then you would want to be in sync with the rest of the group, you wouldn't be any good sitting alone in a corner playing your own separate tune on the violin."

6: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 6:04 PM.

The Five that demean and rob us, or do they? Without the passion of kaam, life is not possible, but when allowed to transform into uncontrolled lust, it can destroy life. Anger, too, is necessary to ensure justice, for instance; when it becomes rage, then it is better stemmed. It is good to desire and work for the better things of life but when it morphs into greed, it is best rooted out. Attachment to worldly possessions is not evil, but when carried beyond the pale as avarice, it most certainly is. And ego, perhaps, feeds them all - the root of all evil - but, as Guru Nanak also says, the cure lies in the disease: "haumai dheeraj roag hai, daroo bhi iss mahi." A controlled and disciplined ego defines us and appears as our sense of self; when this self-assertiveness becomes aggression, then it is best ripped out of our lives. So, each of these serves an essential and defining purpose in our lives. It is only when they become undisciplined masters that rule us that they diminish us. Reined and wisely used, they are essential to a life that is well and fully lived with pleasure in hukam.

7: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 6:07 PM.

Atika, on a slightly different note, sometimes life is like learning to play the violin while performing on stage - painful for both the listener and the player.

8: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 25, 2010, 8:21 PM.

We need to realize that man is like a tiny speck in time and space. He thinks he is macho and wants to be recognized through his achievements, status, money, house, social circle, political connections, etc. But I have realized that if you talk to a Nobel prize winner, an internationally renowned person in a any field, a really super-wealthy person - they are all ordinary people. Haumai is a sign of an underachiever and reflects that something in life is not in order. A Sikh need to learn that ultimately, in the greater scheme of things, he is nothing, he knows nothing, and that he needs to learn. Also presuming that out mutt is a recording button of a taperecorder and our tongue a play button, if we listen more, we will learn more. Here I am stressing the importance of 'suniye' and speak less through our ego, so we can move towards a sehaj state. Only a gurmukh with a conquered ego can achieve that goal. People with a big ego tend to speak more because they think they know more, they keep the play button on all the time, but rarely press the recording button.

9: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Dallas. Texas. U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 12:35 AM.

Haumai is an acquired trait. As we grow and learn skills necessary for our survival, haumai sprouts as a by-product. The entire social system around us contributes (even encourages) its emergence. Our parents, relatives, friends, teachers, all indirectly contribute to its development. Take for example a newborn baby who is very pretty. The parents take pride in their offspring. Everybody else coming in contact with the baby praises her. As the baby grows, she also obtains a sense of prettiness. The entire process is contributing and adding to her being superior to others. This sense of superiority is the birth of haumai. This process continues at school, at work, at play and in social circles. Nobody cautions you against developing that sense of haumai. Even if someone does, we tend to dismiss it by labeling the other person jealous or envious. This routine becomes a part of our mental process and you literally expect it with haumai becoming a part the process. For someone who may not be born pretty, the process takes a different path. That person for his self-confidence and survival, learns to acquire other means to compensate for whatever may be lacking in him. As he succeeds in minimizing his mentally perceived deficiency he gains confidence and sense of pride for his efforts. This success becomes the starting point of him gaining haumai as a reward for his efforts. Other persons complimenting the efforts help in reinforcing his success and developing his sense of haumai. Once we become accustomed to these accolades and expect more, we set ourselves on the path of haumai. There is no reason or incentive for us to get rid of this feel-good state of mind, till something bad happens. Or someone points us to the haumai trait we may have enveloped ourselves in. How does one close the gap? That is a lot more tricky because there few to help. Becoming aware of the issue and realizing the negative impact of the trait is one way. Contrary to prevailing myths, encountering a bad outcome as result of haumai is another fortunate possibility. Attending a place of worship and getting into the habit of reading gurbani is most helpful in becoming aware of the negative aspects of haumai. In Sikhism, more stress on gurbani in gurdwaras is needed. I believe the life of a gurmukh will be easier once he/she becomes aware of the negative effects of haumai on one's daily activities. The realization of what haumai habitually makes a person go through many unnecessary mental processes should remove the burden of all those activities. As the world is becoming more industrialized, the evolving societal changes are making us more prone to haumai. Eradicating haumai is out of the question because it has beneficial aspects up to a point. Making compromises and developing a balance is essential. Attaining sublimation is possible and should be our goal. Those who reach this level are well rewarded in the process.

10: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 3:26 AM.

Ravinder has put together a very incisive presentation. I believe that the way life is lived ordinarily we condition ourselves to this haumai or egotism and get tangled in our own traps. If you observe a young child who has recently learned to talk and ask the child, 'are you hungry?' the child will respond: 'yes, Babli is hungry", thus using the third person. The child still has no concept of identity, we as parents then teach that child to say, 'I am hungry', and so the seed of 'me' and 'mine' conditioning takes root. As that young mind develops and with societal demands and conformity, that ego takes shape. Guru Nanak had to be very determined to help us discipline this evolving beast in us, as it was a very potent roadblock in the realization of the self that leads to a mountain of pain. 'Haumai rog vadaa sansaar' - The world is suffering from the terrible disease of egoism [GGS:1278]. If you look at the five evils, they are all associated with haumai. Kaam is what 'I' desires and needs to be fulfilled. Anger is a reaction to a desire not being fulfilled. Greed is a very selfish need for acquisition of more than one needs. Attachment is a subtle emotion that can be a huge problem if not controlled. Guru Nanak reminds us over and over again to seek the company of sat-sangat, for it is the society that we keep that is a huge factor in shaping our ego. If we reflect on the virtues taught by our Gurus, it will surely affect our outlook towards our fellow beings whereas in bad sangat we pick up bad habits that influence how our ego manifests itself. Eradication of haumai is very difficult and probably not a desirous goal. The individual sense of identity is important for functioning in a society and only with the Guru's teachings and blessings can we find the tools to control or sublimate our haumai. 'Karahi bikaar vithaar ghanere surati sabad bin bharami paiaa/ Hauumai rog mahaa dukh laagaa guramati levahu rog gaiaa ||6||' - You act in corruption (lust, anger, greed, etc.), and put on ostentatious shows, but without awareness of the shabad, you have fallen into confusion. You are afflicted with great pain from the disease of egotism. Following the Guru's Teachings, you can be rid of this disease [GGS:906].

11: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 6:47 AM.

Tejwant ji, I wonder if we are born with the so-called five thieves? Perhaps we are born with the propensity, but it seems to me that our social conditioning plays a huge role in nurturing them into existence. Yadwinder, I like your analogy about the play and record button. We should take our cue from nature that gave us two ears but one tongue! Looking forward to exploring the art of listening as we move forward [Japji:8-11]. Atika, thanks for the amplification on the Big Bang - I could not have put it better. Dr. I.J.Singh makes eminent sense - as always - but the question is, when and how do we know that things have gotten out of hand, i.e. degenerated into greed, lust, etc? Most of us don't seem to have a clue that we might be acting out of greed or lust that is fueled by social sanction and encouragement.

12: Kuljeet Johar (Powell, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 7:27 AM.

'Haumai dheeraj rog hai daaroo bhee is maahi [GGS:466] - The ego is a chronic disease, but it contains its own cure within. I firmly believe that the total suppression of ego or 'self' in man would mean a negation of all that is assertive, innovative and dynamic in the human spirit. We need to find a balance between unhealthy haumai and a healthy one. Unhealthy haumai, or self-centeredness leads to denial of God, of His will and his hukam. Such a human being has no inhibitions and is a slave to the five vices. However, if man becomes God-conscious and once the morbid ego is curbed and harnessed, its healthier counter-part emerges.

13: Harbans Lal (Arlington, Texas, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 12:34 PM.

I appreciate Ravinder ji's intent to discuss Hukam and Haumai together. However, in this discussion, I notice an underlying constraint that is preventing us from full appreciation of these two inter-related concepts. It is anthropomorphic and thus anthropological topology of God concepts. It pre-supposes a framework of analysis based on limited human understanding. God may work in ways that seem mysterious to the human mind; God's inhumanity may be part of a full picture that we cannot see. Haumai is neither ego nor ahankaar; it is also neither sin nor pride (garb); it may be a tool of our inner soul to make contact with the outside world of maya. Haumai is a part of hukam but the one posing as a malady waiting to be treated. The term haumai is derived from two Sanskrit source-words: ham and mamma, meaning 'I' and 'my', thus literally meaning the experience of 'I-ness' and 'my-ness'. In the delusion of I-ness and my-ness wanders the whole world [GGS:841]. In a reply to the Sidh yogis, Guru Nanak said: the world comes into being through haumai [GGS:916]; Impelled by haumai, creation takes place [GGS:466]. Perhaps, haumai is a mental faculty to recognize our surface experiences, that is, without any familiarity with the deeper expanses of animal or human reality. Gurbani says, 'Absorbed in enjoyment of venomous pleasures, the blind human realizes not his errors, reaping the fruits of haumai his whole life passes [GGS:242]. Further, even pious acts performed in haumai ultimately become only bondage [GGS:242]. Haumai separates human consciousness from god consciousness. The 'bride' and her Divine Spouse occupy the same bed, but between them, the wall of haumai stands [GGS:1263]. In a nutshell, haumai is a malady which is characteristic of manmukh, or a person turned towards human self in contrast to a gurmukh meaning one oriented towards divine wisdom. The wretched manmukh understands not Divine Ordinance, Impelled by haumai, he toils ever [GGS:1423]. Gurmat then asks us to look for the remedy by which the source of maladies should vanish [GGS:1279]. There comes the role of living in the hukam. The doctrine of hukam provides us with a sense of universe as God's blueprint. It consists of the laws operative in qudrat: physical and biological laws of nature that the Creator has set in motion. Further, we are not passive observers of reality; instead, we are creators in a partnership with the Creator God. Guru Arjun [GGS:1141] said : "My Father has revealed Himself within me." In this way, God the Father and the son have joined in partnership. What fun! Our challenge is to break free of our present concept of a false and passive reality to create brand new dreams that will bring the ultimate to life through human creativity.

14: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 1:55 PM.

In answer to your question, Ravinder ji: In other words, nature provides us with these five seeds and nurture makes them germinate like sweet berries to relish the bliss and ecstasy or thorns which inflict pain and agony.

15: Satinder (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), January 26, 2010, 3:23 PM.

Great elaboration on haumai by everyone! How can we tell haumai is getting out of hand? In my opinion we cannot, we all try to do the best within the constraints of our available awareness ('mutt budh'). The only way is to expand our awareness with gurbani and live by it, which again depends on our receptivity, perhaps pay attention to criticism by others because they can see us better than we can see ourselves with our awareness. 'Ninda jun ko kheri piari'! Learn from other people's mistakes because human behavior is more or less the same in everyone. An average person may accept faults and work on them but correction to haumai gets more elusive when we are highly educated and can talk our way out or when we think we are spiritual and don't need to be corrected by anyone else. Ultimately, humility that comes with the 'walk-not-just-the-talk' understanding has a direct bearing on the management of haumai and attaining spiritual rewards in our individual lives.

16: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 26, 2010, 10:10 PM.

I am glad that Bhai Harbans Lal ji has touched on the bi-polar connotation of haumai in gurbani - a fact that is often overlooked in discussions. We have been focused on haumai as it exists in the individual, but haumai has a cosmic context as well where it denotes the principle of individuation or the principle of diversity. Thus, the same force accounts for the formation of the universe as well as the flow of consciousness that runs within us; in other words, we are not solitary figures with isolated powers but expressions of a universal force. If we realize this, haumai will depart.

17: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), January 26, 2010, 10:49 PM.

I really applaud and appreciate the views presented by Bhai Harbans Lal ji, and thank him for giving us the literal meaning of haumai. The question then arises, do we know who is 'I' and who is 'me'... and when we don't understand the difference between the two, therein enter the ego and the five vices. The ego is sort of like a curtain or a barrier that comes between I and me. When I don't know who I am, then I start thinking that my body, my name, my house, my car, my family, my profession, my religion, my country ... all are 'me'. That is how I describe myself. So we are all attached to these things and these attachments are the cause of all the vices in us and the separation between I and me. Once we realize who we are, what our purpose is in life, then we can follow the right path. It is like when we don't know who is I that we stumble as if in a dark room with all the furniture in it. But as soon as I know who I am, at that moment I have turned the light switch on in the room and I can see clearly everything, where all the furniture is - i.e., what is right and what is wrong in the real sense. Haumai arises because of the attachment we have with things (including the body); it is the very cause of separation. Haumai, I think, can therefore be translated into who am I: it is the attachment to a wrong image of our self.

18: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 27, 2010, 7:33 AM.

Haumai is woven into all the texture of the universe (including us) and makes possible the diversity of creation as well as our ability to do "good" things like create civilizations and "bad" things like kill each other. Good and bad are choices that haumai makes and it is in our choices that we can set ourselves free - this is the "daru" inherent in haumai. So, the question to ponder is: what kind of choices, generally speaking, would a Gurmukh (our ideal) make?

19: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 27, 2010, 1:08 PM.

Haumai is developed through thoughts. Buddhi is the cause of the little "I". 'I'-ness and 'mine'-ness bind a man to the world. During childhood, haumai is not very developed. It gets developed and firm-rooted during adolescence, for the achievement of various worldly desires. A child is fearless, but the moment the little 'I' becomes stronger, various sorts of fears and desires take a firm hold with tremendous influence. You cannot realize God, if you have the clouds of haumai hovering in your head. The deep roots of haumai can be controlled by simran, shabad gurbani, and thus we win the wealth of Naam.

20: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), January 28, 2010, 12:44 AM.

Haumai has been covered well with wide a variety of thoughts. Very little has been said about hukam and the connection between the two. Calling the Five Vices as thieves is troublesome to me. [Editor: It is only a metaphor, and it is used as such in the Guru Granth.] Because these five emotions are not thieves. They are nature-given traits necessary for our survival. For example, krodh, lobh, moh and ahankaar are critical for sustaining our own existence. And kaam helps us contribute to the universe by procreating for its continued functioning. Haumai may be the product of these five emotions but we are responsible for its happening. Haumai does not automatically evolve. This is a very important point for us to understand and accept if we really want to understand haumai. Gurbani does not label these emotions vices. If not properly used, gurbani warns us about the danger of these emotions turning into vices. Satider Kaur ji has raised a good point: 'How do we tell that haumai is getting out of hand". We all know when haumai starts inching beyond our capacity. Instead of doing something about it, we dismiss our internal signals. Because we do not want to forego the pleasure we receive in the process. Gurbani helps us realize the importance and need to establish our own parameters in controlling our urges. To help us, gurbani emphasizes 'munn toon jot saroop hain, apna mool pehchan'. In such discussions, we always forget another critical human need. To live life with respect and dignity. In the pursuit of this need, we fall prey to haumai by pretending to be more than we are. Our desire to do well leads us to compete with others instead of establishing our own criteria. Another relevant point here is that our problems mostly stem from either our own actions or due to the conflict of our needs with the needs of others around us. Nature-caused hurtful events are rare these days. Religious philosophy is all about learning our about attitude and behavior, and of others. And to fine-tune our conduct, keeping in mind the needs of others and their pursuit under the influence of these five emotions as well. The purpose of writing religious texts was to help us in this critical area. But unfortunately, we get into all these conceptual rituals of God, heavens, cosmos (I am not necessarily against these) and lose focus of our priorities. And, as a result, we end up with 'I and me'. And haumai being an accessory to this approach, follows. This is where understanding the meaning of 'hukam' becomes important. Guru Nanak has strongly hinted at considering our Universe to be the force (hukam) which in other older religions is called God. That is perhaps the reason that in Sikhism no name is assigned to that force. God in every religion is a conceptual entity. But this Universe is a reality amongst us. The characteristics of this Universe are in line with the description of this force in Mool Mantar. It is sad for me to notice that we are more inclined to follow the old (godly) conceptual nature of this force rather than the Universe-connected definition. Under the Universe- as-the-force concept, we have to make our life here as the focal point and view our relationship with others critical to our well being. Adoption of such a practical approach is likely to force us to view haumai with a different perspective. Viewing hukam as the working order of our Universe and us becoming part of the package is likely to lead us to more squarely face our responsibilities here. God is a conceptual myth created by older religions and I believe it is a useful myth. However under this concept we have failed to understand the creation of our universe, our birth, our purpose here, etc. I seriously doubt if anybody has the answer to these questions. Regardless of our approach and barring natural calamity, it is critical for us to learn to pay more attention to our actions in this life. And in the process we have the capacity to mold our existence more in line with our desires. Gurbani is an excellent source for knowledge in understanding human traits and how to get along with others. Learning to live according to the advice contained in the Guru Granth and accepting the working order of this Universe can help us go through the life journey better.

21: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 28, 2010, 9:46 AM.

Huamai is a part of daily life and cannot be written off. We need a little bit of haumai on a scale of 1 through 10, I would say '3' is reasonable. Haumai is needed to sustain self-confidence and self-esteem. We do not want a gurmukh to bow his/her head in front of any body or everybody. Also, I would like to add that we do not want haumai to overpower the rest of our faculties so that we arrogantly disrespect others or think that they are beneath us in any way. As we have been saying all along, all these five traits should remain in moderation, and they are reasonable if we master these essential emotions in a positive and creative way.

22: D.J.Singh (U.S.A.), January 28, 2010, 5:20 PM.

Nirmal Singh ji: can you please elaborate further on "God is a conceptual myth created by older religions and I believe it is a useful myth". This might help us understand Hukam better!

23: Brijinder Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), January 28, 2010, 8:42 PM.

I feel that haumai is what stands in the way of one's ability to recognize hukam. Haumai leads one to think that the universe revolves around him, when in reality the individual is very insignificant. Although haumai cannot be eliminated, I believe that it is the task of a Sikh to learn how to keep it in check. A good example can be found in the langar hall. The act of doing seva, where one has to bend down and serve those who are sitting side-by-side on the floor, promotes humility and equality.

24: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, U.S.A.), January 28, 2010, 10:10 PM.

At GGS:560, Guru Amar Das talks about haumai: that it is a big obstruction in the way of following hukam. Haumai and hukam are inversely proportional; therefore a self-centered or manmukh person cannot imbibe in the Naam.

25: Nirmal Singh. Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), January 29, 2010, 1:20 AM.

D.J.Singh ji has asked me to elaborate my views on God being a conceptual myth. Both God and religion are very personal. Our individual beliefs are dear and often sacred to us. I hope I will be able to remain sensitive to his views and freely express my opinions and be helpful. I am going to take his inquiry in the spirit in which he has asked the question. For me, God is a concept. I may even call it a mythical concept. Because I have never seen it and never will. It is a simple fact and has nothing to do with my sensory or emotional feelings. For this reason, I call it mythical. I call God a concept because its name, its traits and its perceived benefits have been evolving throughout human history and vary even today. It is not a theory yet based on our existing rules. A thousand years ago, it was perhaps a law according to the rules of those days. For those for whom it may be a reality, it will be a reality in their perception only. The entire concept is the work of very perceptive and intelligent humans which is a proven fact based on human history. The concept is not universally accepted and its core principles vary geographically and culturally. And most often humans are not afraid of acting completely against its most coveted rules and values. Which means in action we don't take the values as sacredly as we tend to imply to the concept. As the importance of the values in the conceptual God have varied over time, my opinion about the concept is also affected by the availability of a better alternative from my Sikh faith. However I still believe that the God based concept has beneficial value for mankind. In difficult times the concept acts as an anchor of last resort. It provides hope to the hopeless and emotional comfort to those in turmoil. It acts as a hidden power to keep the unlawful under control. People look upon it as an invisible force commanding the followers to behave and act better. For Sikhs, our Gurus have suggested an alternative. Instead of looking upon this conceptual God, Guru Nanak has suggested to consider the Universe around as the force (Hukam) to provide the same functions as provided by the traditional God in other religions. Under Guru Nanak's approach, the Universe may be as unknown and mysterious as God is. But we can perceive it more definitively because we physically live in it. Being a visible part of the Universe, we can see a lot more aspects of this force in action. Also, with knowledge, we can become aware and accept that most of the problems we encounter in life are either due to our poor actions or due to conflict with fellow humans. This provides us an opportunity to learn to fine tune our actions and develop skills to better relate with this Universe related force. In the process we can have some control on the direction of our journey in this life. Guru Nanak called this Universe related force to be Hukam or the way in which Universe works. And defined the traits of this force in The Mool Mantar. For this reason, the Sikh Gurus did not assign a name to this Force (or entity). These are some of the reasons for me to consider this alternative in Sikhism superior in concept in dealing with than the concept of the invisible, traditional God. (P.S.: I could have provided a brief answer but may have lost the needed clarity.)

26: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), January 29, 2010, 5:41 PM.

How can one claim to seek understanding about something while at the same time claiming it to be beyond understanding?

27: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), January 29, 2010, 5:59 PM.

H.S. Vachoa has zeroed in on a question which is central to the spiritual journey. Because it is tangential to the topic of this week, I'll be brief. The ultimate answer to the spiritual questions posed are truly beyond understanding - that is, beyond mental and intellectual understanding. The answers can only be grasped experientially and spiritually. Thus, the journey, although a necessary one, leads you back to where you started ... that the answer lies in simran, in Naam, in the Hukam! Therein lies hidden the understanding that we seek! So the simple solution is - start walking. The journey will only be completed if you embark on it. One starts at the beginning ... and the trick is not get distracted along the way. And, there are no short cuts. If all of this sounds like a conundrum, it is because it is also beyond explanation. Simply put, you'll have to find the answer to your question within yourself.

28: D.J. Singh (U.S.A.), January 29, 2010, 9:36 PM.

Nirmal Singh ji, I admire your candour. God is the greatest mystery for mankind. Different scriptures provide their description of God. Should we synthesize the knowledge of all these scriptures to gain a better understanding of the concept of God?

29: Nirmal Sinfgh Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), January 30, 2010, 1:00 AM.

H.S. Vachoa ji has raised a provocative question. In my view the answer can be simple as well as complex, depending upon the context driving the question. Sher Singh ji has offered one approach. On a lighter note, an alternative path is possible and deserves consideration. And the answer has relevance to our discussion on 'haumai', a troublesome thief. I believe a person overloaded with haumai believes he can do both. We may doubt his ability to accomplish both, but after completing his training he can become a religious preacher. He has the ability to mesmerize people with his sermon on wonderful attributes of God by concluding at the end that God resides in heaven and is unavailable to all during this life cycle. Isn't that what preachers help us do. Preparing us to meet our maker. Remember we are in the 'rahao' period and can use a little humour (convener permitting).

30: Nirmal Singh. Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), January 30, 2010, 2:30 PM.

D.J.Singh ji's synthesis of God-related principles of all religions is available on line as well as from the books. To relate to your curiosity and thoughts about God, let me share a personal odyssey on the issue. I hope it will be helpful. During my engineering college days, I read the scriptures of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism - (Sikhism I had covered earlier). Why I did that I still don't know for sure, other than perhaps curiosity, boredom or seeking release from hard labor (math/ engineering formulae). But the experience was enriching. I do not believe I grasped the intricate message in the philosophical details of these religions as I do now. However the general perception I got was that all religions mostly preach similar human values with three distinct differences: The conduit (system) to God, reward/ punishment principles and the culture-driven variances. However, if one can grasp all the information we have shared on "hukam" and "haumai" in this discussion, for example, and add information about general principles of a faith (any one), and learn to emulate the knowledge in daily life, that person will have a plate full of knowledge and experience to remain occupied in understanding the vagaries of life and God. He can also enjoy a purpose driven and satisfying journey during his life.

31: Yadwinder Singh (Pickerington, Ohio, U.S.A.), January 30, 2010, 3:37 PM.

Hukam is given by AkalPurakh, which we might not be able to understand. That is why our Gurus helped us to understand it through gurbani. If we cannot understand gurbani, then we have the sangat (or cyber sangat) to assist us. The key to Hukam is 'sunniye', 'manniye' ... If we practice even a small fraction of what we are taught, it'll take us well on our way.

32: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A. ), January 31, 2010, 9:55 AM.

Thank you for an insightful dialogue. Hukam and Haumai are persistent themes in gurbani and we will often touch on these - even as we move on to the next stanzas of the Japji. For now, just a reiteration: this forum and discussion is less about speculative philosophy (although it is not always avoidable) but more about trying to live as a Gurmukh with gurmat as our guide and framework.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium IV: January 25 - 31"

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