Kids Corner

Talking Stick

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living





Without self-realization, we're no better than well-fed pigs [GGS:761]


Wishing you all a wonderful Gurpurab and a Happy New Year!

We have completed two years of the Talking Stick.

Congratulations to all of you, and thank you, all,  for making it possible through your interactive and passionate participation.

As we step into the New Year, may I share some personal thoughts?

We began this column as a way to create a sense of fellowship, a melding of the minds through an open, honest discussion of gurbani. My hope was that we would accomplish this with humility and without pontification.

As I look back, I can say with a sense of gratification that we have, by and large, had a very dignified conversation, thanks to your sense of restraint and circumspection.

Let's start the New Year by visiting Socrates famous last words, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

He delivered these words after his conviction for allegedly undermining religion and corrupting the youth and the Athenian Jury offered him an alternative to the death penalty - exile or silence.

Socrates chose Truth (sat) over his own life. He would rather die than give up the pursuit of self-understanding.

Guru Nanak admonishes us in a similar vein. He goes a step further, calling us animal-like for our failure to inspect and introspect.

Self-examination is the starting point for change.

Self-examination requires courage. Many of us avoid looking at ourselves because of fear - fear of what might be revealed. It is much more comfortable to live in the cocoon of an inherited belief system.

Yet, a Sikh’s spiritual quest requires stepping out of the margins of acquired belief.

We must move from becoming Sikhs by birth (belief) to Sikhs by choice (experience).

Let us commit ourselves to an authentic Sikh life by dedicating ourselves to a life long apprenticeship of the Guru - for us, the only Guru: Guru Granth Sahib.

Climbing the inner mountain is not a solo trip. It requires the anchor of sangat. That is why we have to embark and journey in isolation but anchored to each other.


January 2, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 02, 2012, 9:46 AM.

Sikhism offers something for living that no other ideology can ...that is, NO FEAR! A follower of Guru Nanak-Gobind Singh is not afraid to live or to die and realizes that whatever the 'game' the Creator plays, we can only win this game of life with LOVE.

2: Gurdip Kaur (New York, U.S.A.), January 02, 2012, 6:42 PM.

Certainly, Guru Sahib always offers nothing but the truth. Bhagat Kabir ji says: "bande khoj dil har roz na fir pareshani mane' - "Search the creator within your hearts, and your troubles will disappear."

3: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), January 04, 2012, 11:14 AM.

Self-realization is to get rid of the ignorance that makes you feel apart from the self. To know the self as the only reality (jot-saroop) and all else as temporary (jhootth or koorrh), self-realization is also the source of intuitive peace or bliss (anand). The goal of human existence is to become linked or reestablished in one's true self, the soul-consciousness within. This is the ultimate aim of living: realization of man's true nature, as made in the image of the divine light, ever existing, ever conscious. Whatever has come upon this unconditioned consciousness is time bound, and therefore illusion. Gurbani guides us as follows: self-realization is none other than knowing the within, that God is within me. It is not considering oneself the body while acting in this world, but to identify with the pure consciousness. It is the linking with the divine spirit which dwells in the body. It is the direct experience or perception of the truth by the all-aware intuitive faculty of the soul.

4: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), January 04, 2012, 11:20 AM.

Upon self-realization, distances oneself from all the activities of life, but the duties will still be there, life's strife will still be there, body's diseases and sickness and death will still be there. This is the reason for undergoing suffering even by the self-realized souls! The only major change is the perception or angle of vision of life, that is, one becomes witness to one's life, without any trace of emotional attachment. One accepts everything one undergoes as due to God's hukam. Simply, the mind of a realized being becomes open to everything, but remains ever detached from everything! In Guru Granth Sahib there is a glorious description of this transcendental state. "Begampura, "the city without sorrow", is the name of that place (or state of mind). There is no suffering or anxiety; there are no troubles or taxes on commodities. There is no fear, blemish or downfall in this most excellent city. There is lasting peace and safety for all siblings of destiny. ||Pause|| God's Kingdom is steady, stable and eternal. There is no second or third status; all are equal there. This city is populous and eternally famous. Those who live there are truly wealthy and contented. They stroll about freely, just as they please. They know the realm of the divine presence, and no one blocks their way. Whoever is a citizen of this city is a friend of mine" - says Bhagat Ravidas [GGS:345].

5: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), January 05, 2012, 9:11 AM.

This year's three resolutions - first, examine life. Second, don't be a skinny or an over-fed pig. Finally, respect Sangat - even if there are skinny and over-fed pigs in it. I would claim to be. at best, a diligent student and a very imperfect practitioner of a philosophy handed down to us by our Gurus.

6: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), January 06, 2012, 12:33 PM.

I can't find the shabad quoted by the author on page 761. Need help.

7: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), January 07, 2012, 1:58 PM.

This thought has remained basic to human awareness and existence. Lack of intensity or significance is that of an individual, and not necessarily human ignorance, as often assumed. That is why every society, over time, has benefited from the jolting thoughts and experience of Socrates or Guru Nanak, re-emphasizing its usefulness. It remains as much a challenge today in spite of much expansion in thought, knowledge and communication. Like other human aspects, the approach is a double-edged sword. Organized religions and other human entities present themselves as rare and unique, confounding or blunting our natural instincts. Sikhism is no different in this realm. There is a lesson to learn here. We should visit this topic more often, and benefit from our God-given inner capacity to self examine. It helps us purge wasteful kinks, stay focused on purpose-driven acts, enrich our life and assist others in pulling themselves up by their boot straps.

8: Yuktanand Singh (MI, U.S.A.), January 07, 2012, 3:30 PM.

Self-examination is another grave subject. Well done, Ravinder Singh ji, but you will not find many takers! I do not want to divulge my personal laundry either, but I can try to be wise. Remembering Dr. I. J. Singh's book which I have not read (yet) - particularly its title - "Sikhs & Sikhism: A View With A Bias" - let us remember 'bias'. Bias is necessary for survival just as well as it retards personal growth. Self-examination should include dissection of our biases, strengthening good biases while weakening others. It is no surprise that bias and haumai are connected. When we meditate properly, our hidden biases start surfacing, just like tea leaves in a cup of tea. As Sikhs, we are supposed to be biased towards anything that takes us closer to Waheguru. "Hamaraa dharrhaa har rahi-aa samaa-ee" [GGS:366], meaning: 'My alliance is immersed in the Lord."

9: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), January 07, 2012, 7:30 PM.

Very few turn their minds inwards to realize the self within. And for this we need a philosophical mindset! Most of us pursue external perplexities to resolve the joy and sorrow attached to worldly objects.

10: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), January 08, 2012, 9:17 AM.

The larger dilemma is not our failure to self-examine or the graveness in the issue, but our biased approach which tends to ignore self shortcomings but pads on good deeds. The entire approach requires honest evaluation. We need common sense (not scriptures) that guide us to become true drivers of our life. If we don't, who else will. Surviving on biases is not facing reality but a myth and a cop-out. That is where scriptures are supposed to kick in and teach us to face life's realities with truth, not myths or easy ways-out. For some of us with a practical mind-set, scriptures are not meant to cogitate on the next life or merging with God; but to learn to live this life based on truth, goodness, kindness, humility, respect/love for others, self dignity, etc; values mostly emerging from religious thought. It is our understanding and approach to religious dictum that sets most of us on divergent paths and views. It boils down to making difficult choices, hard work, taking chances that ultimately determines outcome; just as laid out in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Comment on "The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.