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Talking Stick

Amrit Vela
The Talking Stick Colloquium V: Pauris 3 - 4, February 1 - 7




Japji: Pauris 3 & 4


Our conversation on Hukam and Haumai showed how haumai proceeds from hukam as the principle of individuation, the process where the One differentiates itself into isolated bubbles of consciousness that we come to inhabit. Our environment - society, parents, education, and experience - teaches us self preservation and acquisitiveness, which only serves to strengthen our sense of self. Left unchecked, we concluded, it can degenerate into narcissistic self-love, preventing us from living fully.

In Pauris 3 and 4, which we will consider together, Guru Nanak poses the all important question again: how does one become a sachiyaara or personification of Truth? - a theme that we have been addressing all along. Here he offers further intimation.


Pauri 3: Our attempts to describe hukam are only feeble approximations because "the Divine chronicle is indescribable." [GGS:453] Yet, humans feel impelled to explain the workings of hukam. Some see hukam in terms of the Almighty, while others acknowledge the dispensation of a good life; yet others think of qualities, virtues and knowledge as springing from the source. To many, life and death must imply a creator and a destroyer - who appears far to some and immediate to others. Hukam remains impervious to our flattery and continues to sustain us through the ages.

Pauri 4: The word "sahib" which literally means Master is used here for the first time in the Guru Granth Sahib and can be viewed as a synonym for Hukam - or a reference to that inexplicable God. Continuing the theme from pauri 3, Guru Nanak advises us that the bounty of life proceeds out of unconditioned Love - our pleas notwithstanding.

Significantly, Guru Nanak reverts back, more directly, to the question raised earlier in pauri 1. How, he asks, should we submit ourselves, what manner of speech should we adopt to incur Divine pleasure? - another way of asking how to become a sachiyaara or a personification of the Truth, so that we can walk in step with hukam.

The answer: During "amrit vela," meditate on the True Name and reflect on its qualities and attributes (which we discovered in the mool mantar). Our actions determine the cloth and circumstance of our life, but look at it not as an entitlement earned but as a manifestation of Divine grace that will show us the Way to becoming a sachiyaara

Amrit Vela - literally 'The Ambrosial Hour', that pristine time in the early morn, at the commencement of dawn, when the stillness, both internal and external, makes it most conducive to receiving the divine ambrosia of the naam


ü        What does "amrit vela" mean to you? Is it a specific time during the day? Or is it a state of mind?

ü        If we are to do certain activities during amrit vela, what do we do with the rest of our time?

ü        Does "meditate" and "reflect" during amrit vela point to specific activities?

ü        If we can do things to incur divine pleasure (karmi aavey kapRah), then it follows that we also have the means and actions to incur divine wrath, does it not?

A REQUEST: Please use short sentences, and keep your overall comments short and focused on the topic of the week. Thank you


THE TEXT - Rendered in English

Pauri 3

Gāvai ko ṯāṇ hovai kisai ṯāṇ ll

Many acclaim your might, but who can describe your sway

Gāvai ko ḏāṯ jāṇai nīsāṇ ll

Many praise your gifts as signs of your display

Gāvai ko guṇ vaḏi▫ā▫ī▫ā cẖār ll

All virtue springs from you, the virtuous seem to say

Gāvai ko viḏi▫ā vikẖam vīcẖār ll

In knowledge you reside, proclaim pundits of the day,

Gāvai ko sāj kare ṯan kẖeh ll

Many worship you as Creator, the One who also reduces to clay

Gāvai ko jī▫a lai fir ḏeh ll

Many glorify you as the Destroyer who redeems as well as slays

Gāvai ko jāpai ḏisai ḏūr ll

Far away you appear to some,

Gāvai ko vekẖai hāḏrā haḏūr ll

Your omnipresence by many is sung

Kathnā kathī na āvai ṯot ll

You defy all description

Kath kath kathī kotī kot kot ll

Try as many a legion,

Ḏeḏā ḏe laiḏe thak pāhi  ll

You provide without tiring, we tire from receiving,

Jugā juganṯar kẖāhī kẖāhi ll

For eons we have been sustained

Hukmī hukam cẖalā▫e rāhu ll

Your Will shows the Way

Nānak vigsai veparvāhu ll

Says Nanak, You are forever in blossom - without a care.


Pauri 4

Sācẖā sāhib sācẖ nā▫e ll

True Master, true thy Name

Bbẖākẖi▫ā bẖā▫o apār ll

With unbounded love you communicate

Ākẖahi mangahi ḏehi ḏehi ll

Constant, our begging and supplication

Dāṯ kare ḏāṯār ll

Unremitting, your dispensation

Fer kė agai rakẖī▫ai jiṯ ḏisai ḏarbār ll

What can we offer to get your glimpse?

Muhou kė bolaṇ bolī▫ai jiṯ suṇ ḏẖare pi▫ār ll

What can we say to win your love?

Amriṯ velā ll

Amrit Vela is the Time,

Sacẖ nā▫o vadi▫ā▫ī vīcẖār ll

Meditate on the True Name, contemplate and reflect

Karmī āvai kapṛā ll

Karma brings the cloth of human birth

Naḏrī mokẖ ḏu▫ār ll

Salvation obtains through Grace alone

Nānak evai jāṇī▫ai sabẖ āpe sacẖiār ll

Says Nanak, know this to be the Way.             



Conversation about this article

1: Tejwant Singh (U.S.A.), February 01, 2010, 12:59 PM.

My question to all: When is NOT the time - vela - for amrit, gurbani vichaar, contemplation, introspection, to breed goodness within?

2: T. Sher Singh (Guelph, Ontario, Canada), February 01, 2010, 5:14 PM.

Like in almost everything in poetry generally, and in the Guru Granth specifically, "amrit vela" has layers of meaning and application. And, like everything else, you have to start at the beginning in this case too. That is, by taking the literal meaning of "amrit vela" and applying it in our life: starting the day while the rest of the world sleeps, and doing things that are important to you during these early, quiet, serene, still, peaceful hours. We'll find that once we start doing this regularly, the rest of the steps follow automatically, as if we are being led by the proverbial little finger. Again, this is an experience that each one of us has to live through personally ... words will always fail and prove grossly inadequate in trying to explain or convey the 'ambrosia'.

3: Jasvinder (Hamilton, New Zealand), February 01, 2010, 10:47 PM.

Amrit vela, generally we take it literally as the time in the morning, if we look at it in the worldly sense. It is probably so because that is the time of the day when everything is quiet, in terms of outside noise and thoughts in our mind. So, in the early morning, it is easier to connect and reflect on the Supreme Being and have conversation with Him. Personally, I think that the early morning time helps if you are at the earlier stages of building a relationship with God, like in our other worldly relationships we pay more attention to them in the beginning. But once we have established the relationship with our Supreme Soul, Waheguru, then any time of the day can be amrit vela for us, i.e., time to commune with God. Amrit vela is the time when the mind/ consciousness is connected to God. What do we do in amrit vela? For me, it is like in the morning I have a long talk, conversation, reflection with Him, about myself and His teachings, then during the day I do my worldly things but I keep sending him text messages to him as well. Meditation and reflection can be different things for different people; the activities you do can be different for each individual, in terms of how you sit or how you read or what you do physically. That probably doesn't matter or isn't that important, as it is more of a thing to be done by our mind, as long as with your mind you are doing some contemplation and reflection with your thoughts. In terms of divine pleasure and divine wrath, it is like following a system which has been set up, like a processing plant - God has nothing to do with it, in my opinion. The kind of raw material I put in, according to that will be the end product that I will receive, either wrath or pleasures. Tejwant singh ji has asked a very thought-provoking question, and as mentioned by T.Sher Singh ji, it is a personal journey for sure for each and every one of us. Contemplating and reflecting on other people's views will show the directions in this journey, as mentioned by our Gurus, being in the sangat of the truly pious and spiritual scholars.

4: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 02, 2010, 6:39 AM.

Tejwant ji and Sher Singh ji have brought out the layered nuances of what Amrit Vela might mean. Conventionally, Amrit Vela is thought of as the early hours of the day (3-4 am being the magical hour) when a Sikh is expected to arise and do naam simran. Well, are we exempt the rest of the day? Amrit Vela also refers to the human life span - to Tejwant ji's point, 'when is it not Amrit Vela?' - provided we are connected.

5: Kuljeet Johar (Powell, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 02, 2010, 7:35 AM.

"Ek jaaganday na lahan" - Many fail to receive such gifts, even though they wake up early. "Ekna sutea(n) day-e uthaal" - Some are blessed by Him and He awakens them from their slumber. The early morning is ideal for simran since a good night's rest, a fresh mind and the peaceful nature of the early morn helps us in concentration. Otherwise, I believe Amrit Vela has no more significance than the other moments in the day. Guru Arjan says that simran can be done at any time. [GGS:150] - "Har simran ki sagli bayla" - Every moment is time to remember God.

6: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 02, 2010, 8:38 AM.

Amrit Vela is a state of mind; a person practicing a spiritual life will feel hungry for shabad or gurbani any time of the day or night. Evan nitnem, Sukhmani or singing shabad-kirtan any time during the day is Amrit Vela. To most, it is a specific time of the day, especially the early morning. This is the time when all are fast asleep, no noise, and fresh air in those good old days. With today's advance technology, the atmosphere is not the same all over. The early morning is recommended for simran and for enjoying a morning walk remembering God - parbhaat feri! [GGS:305] - "Pheer chadde diwas gurbani gaave".

7: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 02, 2010, 10:14 PM.

Before we discuss this wonderful concept of Amrit Vela, we should make ourselves aware of the accountability of our actions. In Sikhi, is accountability after death (as in other major religions) or is it with every breath we take? If we fail to understand the concept of accountability in Sikhi, then the concept of Amrit Vela becomes mute. Most of the religions believe that accountability is only after death, which makes one wonder that as we can take nothing with us when we die, how can we carry all the ledgers of our lives there? "Farida, char gavaieah hund kei, char gavaieah sun, Lekha rub mangesiah, tun kerei aahoh kum?" - "O man, you waste 12 hours wandering around and the other 12 by sleeping, When your time for accountability comes, how will you explain what you have been up to?" A Sikh has a 'Day Book' which he/she opens when they get up. The book is closed shut when we recite the Soheila at night: "Deo sajjan assissarrian, jei hovei sahib seo meil." - "O Waheguru, give me the blessing when I meet you, in other words when my last breath is gone." So a Sikh is born (that is, becomes conciously aware) when he wakes up and is ready to die when he goes to bed. In the life of a Sikh, accountability is a must and it should happen with every breath we take, the same way a bookkeeper keeps track of every transaction in his day book. The Guru Granth is full of verses showing us exactly that. Amrit Vela is the first transaction in our 'Day book'. Now the question arises: what is Amrit Vela? Amrit Vela is when we are ready to start our day book.

8: Bal SIngh (London, United Kingdom), February 03, 2010, 3:24 AM.

Guru Ramdas: "One who calls himself a Sikh of the Guru, the True Guru, shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord's Name. Upon arising early in the morning, he is to bathe, and cleanse himself in the pool of nectar. Following the Instructions of the Guru, he is to chant the Name of the Lord, Har, Har. All sins, misdeeds and negativity shall be erased. Then, at the rising of the sun, he is to sing Gurbani; whether sitting down or standing up, he is to meditate on the Lord's Name. One who meditates on my Lord, Har, Har, with every breath and every morsel of food - that GurSikh becomes pleasing to the Guru's Mind." I think the reference to singing gurbani as the sun rises is very significant. Sometimes I think people make amrit vela much earlier than it should be. In our Guru given ideal, we should be singing gurbani whilst the sun rises, after we have done some naam simran. So we are talking about the time before sunrise, time to have a bath and simran, then (presumably) we do nitnem. An important factor to consider is how Sikhi arose in an era prior to the mechanical clock, when time was defined less strictly than now (using the sun and moon). Also we weren't stuck in any rat race then and I suspect it was easier to follow the rhythms of the sun than now. I can't imagine people setting out to work prior to sunrise without a good reason.

9: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 3:46 AM.

Ravinder's take on the message of pauris 3 and 4 is well done. I'd like to put a different take on it (please bear with me on this). In pauri 3, Guru Nanak is telling us how our focus has shifted from what the correct path (meditation) is. Guru Nanak starts by asking who has the taan (capacity) to describe Him? And the next five lines refer to what our hindu brothers are engrossed in, lost in describing his virtues. 'Vidia' refers to brahma's attempt at capturing all knowledge. The next two lines are on how the 3 shaktis got established of brahma, vishnu and shiv. The next two refer to how we are engrossed in fruitless discussions on His 'near-ness' and 'far-ness' and the extensive writings on God by many religions (including ours: there are numerous interpretations on the Japji alone!). Guru Nanak closes that thought (Hukmi hukam ...) as Ravinder has described. In pauri 4, Guru Nanak is again pointing to how many veer off the path. Guru Nanak has used 'Sahib' to differentiate us from how the other religions have tried to relate to God. In Judaism & Islam, God is given the attributes of a judge, where good actions/ deeds are rewarded and bad ones bring about His wrath. The danger in this is that we get bogged down with what actions are good versus bad. Then Jesus claimed the father/ son relationship and we all know that when the son grows up his devotion or affection to the father diminishes. In Sufism, they relate to God as two devoted lovers would relate to each other. Guru Nanak here refers to the relationship that would transcend all, that of master and slave, since the slave's mandate is only to fulfill the master's dictates; "mul khareedhee laalaa golaa, maeraa naao sabhaagaa | gur kee bachanee haatt bikaanaa, jith laaeiaa thith laagaa |1| thaerae laalae, kiaa chathuraaee | saahib kaa hukamu, n karanaa jaaee |1| rehaao | [GGS:991]. The next line refers to us begging for the daat that he has already bestowed on us. The third line refers to us giving back to him what he has bestowed to us (as in a circular motion) and the desire to see his 'darbar'. I too believe that Amrit Vela is anytime of the day or night when we are in a state of awareness and/ or meditating on His name. When we tie down a specific time, then does a Sikh who has a job to do during the graveyard shift feel he is missing out on the Amrit Vela? He/she may wake up at noon or 1 p.m. and meditate and that is his or her Amrit Vela. I feel that if we are making an effort to encourage our fellow satsangees to start on this enlightened path, it shouldn't be one that seems difficult or very challenging. As one gets established and conditioned to the practice of simran, then the Guru's calling can be at any time of the day or night or maybe those early tranquil hours. I feel that 'meditate' and 'reflect' during amrit vela don't indicate specific activities other than jap on Waheguru or Satnam. In reference to 'karmi aavey kapRah', I feel that our karams in the present life dictate as to how our next 'kapRah' will be like. I don't believe a benevolent God has any divine wrath; we have a choice to do the right thing and we will get the fruits of what we sow.

10: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 7:02 AM.

There are some obvious difficulties if we think of "Amrit vela" only as clocked time (say, 4am). What if I worked the night shift? 4 am would be bedtime, in that case. How would one account for different time zones? That implies multiple "amrit velas"; which one is right? And, to my earlier point, what about the rest of the day? Arising early may be a personal preference dictated in large measure by ones circadian rhythm and social conditioning. Some of us are natural larks while others are night owls. I sense that gurbani refers to human life as amrit vela - an opportunity to awaken. More later.

11: Karan Singh (United Kingdom), February 03, 2010, 7:57 AM.

Any and all time is Amrit Vela but, at the same time, one must awake at the ambrosial hour of the early morn, as it is the hukam (refer to the pungti in S. Bal Singh's post). I fear that those who have never tasted the ambrosial hour, or are reluctant to, may find rationalization in the wider definition.

12: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 03, 2010, 8:10 AM.

There is no fixed time for Amrit Vela: 'Saa ruth suhaavee jith har chith aavai' [GGS:1183]. About 'Sahib'- Sahib means Master and can be viewed as a synonym for Hukam in reference to God. Here, Guru Nanak is the sevak ('chaakar' - [GGS:728,936] and hence the relationship here between the two is of master and the servant who is always waiting for the Hukam (order). God is referred to variously as Pita, Naath, Pati and Swami also. In real life, Hukam or Agya is ignored several times by a souse or son in such relationships and is easily tolarated too. Whereas deliberate ignorance of Hukam by a servant is never tolerated and as a result the Master may punish or even kick him out. Here Guru Nanak, by addressing God as Sahib, says that 'your sevak' is here and waiting for your Hukam to follow and will never dare to ignore it. There are several shabads where Nanak refers to himself as sevak ('Tu sahib sevak ardas [GGS:180]). Visiting Harmandar Sahib or a gurdwara is for the purpose of receiving his hukam and following it as a sevak. Our Granth is Guru Granth Sahib, from which we receive our hukam every day.

13: Bal Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 03, 2010, 9:15 AM.

I disagree with the notion that "amrit vela" is any time we like. Given Guru Ramdas's clear reference to the period prior to sunrise (given above), how can we say that? As bhagti is a personal experience, there is no problem with individual amrit velas across time zones. To me, amrit vela signifies 'the start', and as Sikhs we try to start the day right with simran/ nitnem to help us remove the barrier between us and Akaal Purakh. How we start our day often has a big impact on the frame of mind we have during the rest of the day. So each morning, we are supposed to dedicate the day to the Lord and start the day by putting God at the centre of our focus. This, I imagine, can help in ego eradication. I think amrit vela may be a way to put our subjective experience on the right track. I confess that I've only just started keeping amrit vela, so I could be way off the mark.

14: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 11:55 AM.

To Tejwant ji's insight on accountability, I will only add that accountability for every breath comes from practicing awareness - to be forever alert that Waheguru is forever "hazar nazar." Put another way: living consciously in every moment, aware of the presence and committed to a bigger cause than our narrow, self-centred ends. What this bigger cause is will be another subject for another day.

15: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 12:35 PM.

Agreed that we cannot make individual - and arbitrary - choices; however, I find gurbani's allusion to amrit vela as a human opportunity to transcend to more gratifying heights ("Gobind milan ki eh teri bariya"). Isn't that what the word "amrit" means - "immortal" or beyond death - timeless. A successful life - in this sense - would be one that is also transcendental - i.e. one that has surpassed its limitations by becoming god-like in consciousness. Such success is possible only if every moment (the building blocks of our life) and every day is lived in awareness. By extending our view of Amrit Vela to mean human life, we are, in effect, holding ourselves accountable for every breath - instead of a fixed time during a 24 hr cycle.

16: Livleen Kaur (Mumbai, India), February 03, 2010, 1:09 PM.

True, Ravinder ji, but we're losing sight of the ground. As Sikhs, we need to keep our feet on the ground. Sikhi is a religion of practicality, not esoteric mumbo-jumbo. What the Gurus have given us is a day-to-day plan of living, an exact how-to-do steps, rather than empty philosophical meanderings. True, Amrit Vela can ultimately mean the elixir of life itself. But that's not what our Gurus are trying to get us to do NOW ... they want us to start with the baby steps - which, I bet you, very few, if any, have started on yet - and those steps will lead us to Hukam, Sahib and Amrit Vela. We must resist the temptation of theorizing too much because it is easy to be an armchair Sikh ... we tend to find comfort in pontificating and then we go back to our meaningless routines. I hope I have not offended any of you ... but please, please, keep your feet on the ground when trying to get the most out of these wonderful words that we have inherited.

17: Mohan Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 03, 2010, 3:02 PM.

To Bal Singh ji, your reference to the shlok of Guru Ramdas [GGS:305], also says 'Jo saas giraas dhhiaavai mera har-har so gursikh guru man bhaavai.' It is breathe in and breathe out, a process of 24 hours, (aatth pehar), suggests that Amrit Vela is any time of the day. For naam abhyaas, simran in the early morning is recommended, when the air is fresh and pleasing with peace and silence all around.

18: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 11:54 PM.

Livleen Kaur ji: I am not sure if your remarks were addressed to me directly, or whether you were making a general observation. Nonetheless, you most certainly did NOT offend me. Believe me, I have often been called a pontificating armchair Sikh, and I freely admit to flights of fancy. Describing Sikhi as practical is perhaps our way of saying that Sikhi is not divorced from everyday life. And I couldn't agree more. But we run the danger of oversimplification and flattening out the true message and experience of Sikhi. The Guru is calling for a radical transformation - which can be very unsettling. I don't believe that we are expected to live by a "checklist" that tells us what to do at every step. That would require putting our critical faculties aside and become robots - a fate that the Guru could not have wished for us.

19: H (New York City, U.S.A.), February 04, 2010, 12:28 AM.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you./ Don't go back to sleep./ You must ask for what you really want./ Don't go back to sleep./ People are going back and forth across the doorsill/ Where the two worlds touch./ The door is round and open./ Don't go back to sleep. - Rumi -

20: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A..), February 04, 2010, 1:09 AM.

Before expressing my views on the topic, I glanced at the comments made thus far. I was overwhelmed with the depth and breadth of ground covered around 'amrit vela' by all the participants. Let me elaborate. I found every approach as good as any. Bal Singh ji and others consider the meaning of 'amrit vela' one way. Ahluwalia ji and a few others found another significance. Kuljeet ji, Gurdev Bir ji have another approach. I believe all of you are right. I have learned from each one of you. And that is the purpose of such discussion: to learn and validate your own approach and tweak it if necessary. I also admired Tejwant ji's opening salvo for questioning the need for the question. This is what I consider to be an important trait to possess as an independent individual within our own rights. Just the way our 'maker' intended us to be. Surprisingly, I also noticed something very interesting; the focus mostly on "amrit vela' and not the purpose of its role. The action required from us in 'amrit vela'. 'Amrit vela' is simply a reference to time for certain action. The significance lies in the action and the purpose of that action. We must accomplish something from our actions and the result must have tangible benefit to us. Only then do we retain the motivation to apply it consistently. There is something important to learn here about the human mind and the way it works. We have the propensity to go after something without thinking why we are doing it. This may be obvious from our focus on 'amrit vela' also. The point is, why do 'nitnem', why do 'vichaar', if we don't know the purpose and its accrued benefit. This brings me to the intrigue hidden in the comments of Livleen Kaur ji. She has laid it down as simply and meaningfully as possible. It is 'Now', it is today and our actions that should matter to us. Rest is all 'mumbo jumbo' in her view and I agree. May be she can expand her views on what action/ steps she includes in her 'Now' and her rationale for the same.

21: Bal Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 04, 2010, 4:27 AM.

Mohan Singh ji, I agree and disagree with your post. No one is disputing that Sikhs are instructed to remember Waheguru with each breath but the shlok in question is a rare instance of rehat-like instructions of how to structure your life according to Sikhi. The use of the word 'phalkay' indicates the start of new day. I still find it difficult to accept the proposition that 'amrit vela' can be any time of day. Sure, we should remember the Lord at all times but 'amrit vela' seems to refer to sunrise and the period immediately leading up to it.

22: Ravinder Singh Taneja (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 04, 2010, 12:56 PM.

To extend Nilvi ji's point further, we need to turn to the "activity" associated with Amrit Vela and its significance. It does not really matter if we think of Amrit Vela as a specific time of day, the whole day or ones entire life; the point is, what do we need to do - at a given moment, day or lifetime. Guru Nanak in this pauri stresses "sach naUn vadiyaee vichaar" - we need to reflect on that.

23: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 04, 2010, 2:20 PM.

Ravinder ji: "Sach naUn vadiyaee vichaar" tells us to use the tools given to us in the Guru Granth to breed goodness within so that it can be shared with others. In other words, our Guru shows us that Amrit Vela is the time when we strive in becoming flowers that emit their scent in all directions sans bias. Hence, accountability is a must in order to keep on plugging and having the continuous connection with The Source. Only with the connection, this Gurmat flower always blossoms and never withers.

24: Balbinder Singh (Birmingham, United Kingdom), February 05, 2010, 1:36 PM.

What Livleen Kaur ji was trying to say - I think - is that the whole discussion seems to have become diverted into a collective navel-gazing on a single term, Amrit Vela. The rest of what is in these pauris - the beautiful attempt at a description of God's traits and the loving supplication therein - seem to have been totally overlooked as we have argued over whether Amrit Vela is the morning, or the whole day, or the entire life. Can we accept - as was suggested at the very outset - that the term has multiple layers of meaning, and move on to the other treasures contained in this exquisite poetry?

25: Radha Venkatraman (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), February 06, 2010, 7:18 AM.

Some thoughts from a non-Sikh ... hopefully it will add to the discussion. 1) If Guru Nanak ji has said that we need to get up in the morning, in the Amrit Vela time-frame to reflect on the One, why do we allow our minds to delude us into thinking that he did not necessarily mean it literally? Can't we sacrifice a bit of something as simple as sleep in order to reach a lofty goal of becoming a sachyaara? 2) To become a doctor, engineer, etc. in life, don't we have to submit ourselves to the discipline of 4-5 yrs in college? Similarly, to undertake reflection on the One, isn't the first step the purification of our mind? Are our minds even available to contemplate on the One instead of not mulling on daily issues all the time? The first step in my mind is not allowing our habits to dictate our lives, but gaining control over it ... and the first step in that would be getting up at the best time to undertake this journey. 3) One more thought on what we should be doing the rest of the time - If we were to buy a car for example, the thought of models, features, price, etc. dominates our mind so much so that everywhere we go, we are totally focused on it. The question for me has always been, how can I have the spotlight of mind mind on the One whilst in the midst of my daily activities?

26: Bhai Harbans Lal (Arlington, Texas, U.S.A.), February 06, 2010, 9:08 PM.

"Sach naUn vadiyaee vichaar" is the action to engage in relation to 'amrit vela' irrespective of how 'amrit vela' is defined. It is an occasion to imbibe the identity (naam) of the Virtual Truth (sach) by contemplating (vichaar) on the greatness (vaddiyaee) of the Infinite Wisdom (Waheguru). How to do it is left to one's personal choice and temperament, due to the diversity of traits and likings that we are endowed with. The effectiveness of methodology and associated rituals can readily be tested and the Guru has described those tests (subject of another discussion). Sikhism is open to accepting many ways as equally good and potent. Guru Arjan and Bhai Gurdas even gave a count of meditation methods by saying that there were nine prevalent methods of bhakti. Most suitable in our age are essentially narrated in the same hymns that we are elaborating this week. As an antecedent, we overcome haumai by comprehending the Hukam (for discussion, see previous postings). Then, essentially, we begin to live out two phases of simran technology. First, we bring quiescence to the mind by using the technology of meditation. Then, we proceed to mindfulness of divine attributes and divine greatness until the experience of sehaj, and the resonance of love and gratitude comes streaming out from our whole being. My own preferred way is to live in His Naam by reverberating and recognizing divine identity in the numerous gifts He bestows upon us ("Gaavai ko ...", GGS:1). Others imbibe His splendor by connecting with His glorious virtues, greatness and beauty. Still others do so by singing his benevolent watch over us, face to face, and ever-present. The purpose is to identify God as a source and manifestation of all creation and laws. For human beings of today, lively and proactive engagement with the natural world is a key to the spiritual journey and that is what we mean from Naam Japna. Abundance of Nature inspires spirituality and gratefulness because we learn that it is the province of something beyond our human consciousness as opposed to universal consciousness, whether that nature is majestic and distant or everyday and close-at-hand. Simran through contact with nature does take us beyond ordinary consciousness; it takes us to the realm of visualizing our reality unmarked and vibrant, and brings deeper understanding, or brings beauty to our lives in ways that are reminiscent of life's sacredness.

27: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), February 07, 2010, 10:36 AM.

Radha focuses on an important isue when she asks, "how can I have the spotlight of my mind on the One whilst in the midst of my daily activities?" I think Sikhi asks of us a life that is internally centered and externally engaged - that is the Miri-Piri doctrine to me. It is like a wheel that is centrally controlled at its axle and externally engaged at its rim. The rim, of course, stays connected by its spokes to the periphery. Without the axle of raised consciousness (gurbani), its spokes will not connect to the rim and the wheel will not be. How to maintain that connectedness is the question: Some will find the way in nitnem, others by a mixture of activities that are so focused that they define a life. Or as Harbhajan Singh Yogi said somewhere and I don't have the exact citation at hand: God is within and without, inside you and about you."

28: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.), February 07, 2010, 6:48 PM.

Another thought on Radha ji's question: 'How can I have the spotlight of my mind on the One whilst in the midst of my daily activities?' I.J. Singh ji has suggested several ways with good back up of principles contained in the Sikh faith. All of them are good and practical. There are other paths available as well. The key is not only the principles but discovering within ourselves the best way to use them. And that depends upon understanding the conditioning of our mind which has established its own rhythm of initiating thoughts and coordinating with the brain in managing those thoughts. That is where our method of establishing priorities becomes important. The advice in religious teaching helps in establishing priorities as well. We are also taught to monitor whether the entire process works best for us or not. In your example, you have two viable paths and both can work for you. You can focus on the action you are engaged in to achieve best results by concentrating on that task only. I do not believe you have violated your belief system unless you feel that way and also feel guilty in your mind. You sleep for 8 hours and I seriously doubt you keep Him in your subconscious thoughts during sleep. If keeping Him in your view is critical, then you have the ability to train your mind and brain to multi-task and still achieve the best outcome from your actions. Our responsibility is to accomplish the task in a way that helps us achieve the best outcome. Is it critical for me to remember Him all the time. Not really. It is something we have learned from religious teaching. However if it creates duality in the working of my mind and brain, then the practice is not good for us because it dilutes the focus. I do not believe religious preaching meant it that way. That is where religious teachings become 'mumbo jumbo' for many of us: getting hinged between the advice (religious) and its implementation. The key is to learn from the collective wisdom imbibed in the religious teaching and learn to use it judiciously to obtain the best results for our own good. With one exception: when we bring God into the process and somehow learn to serve Him first, this self-imposed duality complicates and further impedes our actions. That issue has been discussed already and may be further explored at another time.

29: Manjit Singh Bara Pindia (Canada), February 07, 2010, 6:54 PM.

The interpretation of Miri-Piri principle given by Sardar I.J Singh is very interesting. I must say that this is the first time I have seen it being interpreted this way. My understanding was that Piri is about the Hukam of Nirankar, and Miri is about hukam (Laws and rules) made by human beings. Piri, as I understood, is about the Hukam of Waheguru as how it relates to all creation. For all practical purposes, it can be understood as the laws of nature. Piri is about God and His ways. Human beings cannot change that. Piri principles are universal and apply equally whether one professes to be a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Atheist, Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative. Piri is about how God relates to man and what relationship there exists between man and God. However, human beings, on the other hand, are social animals. They live by forming societies, groups, nations, and religions. To maintain orderly behaviour and to control the behaviour of their members in thsee groups, they formulate rules and laws of their own. And they make rules about how to interact with other groups that differ from their own. Miri in Sikhism, as I understood, is about how to make such hukam (rules) and enunciation of such hukam, keeping in mind what is revealed in Piri. The custodian of Piri is the Guru Granth; and in Sikhism, Miri is vested in the institution of the Akal Takht.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium V: Pauris 3 - 4, February 1 - 7"

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