Kids Corner


The Dance of Life:
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 73





The hands beat like cymbals, the eyes, percussion like, the rebab sounds the tune
The ears resonate, the strains of the flute, the tongue, singing the song.
The mind dances to the sway of anklets||1||
This is the dance of Life.
The Merciful One watches. ||1||Pause||
The world is a stage, the sky a giant canopy.
The wind is the director; people are born of water.
From the five elements the puppet was created. ||2||
The sun and the moon like two lamps lighting the cosmic stage.
The senses, like the chorus - sing and dance together.
Playing their part, their own moves, and their lines. ||3||
Day and night the dance continues, the bugles blow.
Some dance and whirl around; some come and go; some are reduced to dust.
Says Nanak, one who meets with the True Guru, does not have to dance the dance
over and again. ||4||7||
  [Guru Arjan, GGS:884]



The passage describes the underlying symbiosis of all creation. The world a stage, the sky a giant canopy, sun and moon the arc lights. The mind, besotted with maya, dances to the tune that the body makes (with its senses).

This is the dance of life, the coming and going that marks human existence.

Despite our unenviable condition, as described in this passage, there is also the promise of change. The cacophony of our present lives can be transformed into a harmonious symphony.

The frequent use of body metaphors in gurbani seem to suggest (at least to me) that in Sikh teachings, the body is seen as the ground of all understanding, a vital link between sensory experience and the highest mystical vision. Plato seems to have proposed a similar thought: the physical senses can open the mind’s eye to the divine.

This attitude is in marked contrast to prevailing views where much of spirituality is contaminated with hostility towards the body that has resulted in a fracture between the spirit and the body. We are conflicted between sense pleasure and the joys of the spirit.

From this passage, I gather that the music in our lives requires the body as much as the mind and soul. If the mind is the director, then it needs the different parts of the body as instruments to play the piece.

“If the doors of perception are cleansed,” William Blake suggests, then, “everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

How do we discover this healing?


January 16, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 16, 2012, 6:53 PM.

The heart beat and the cosmic beat are one ... so, ultimately no matter who we are and how long we exist, the beat and the 'dance' continue for reasons only known to the Creator.

2: Prakash.Singh Bagga (India), January 17, 2012, 6:35 AM.

Gurbani teaches us that our munn should dance before the GurJot. In other words, our munn should always remain in tune with naam.

3: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), January 17, 2012, 12:56 PM.

Our Gurus employed music for spiritual purposes. Gurbani, when sung accompanied with music, generates maximum emotional effect. Our Gurus realized that there is a sense of spiritual want in a human, because of the atmaa(n), which is the same in all and permanent.

4: Prakash Singh Bagga (India), January 18, 2012, 2:23 AM.

Gurbani is the music of divine words ... in particular patterns which are referred to as raags.

5: Nirmal Singh Nilvi (Texas, U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 9:57 AM.

I can't imagine more a realistic approach and basic available resources to build life than one presented in this shabad by Guru Arjan. And the rendition is inspiring and thoughtfully woven by employing human organs and pleasure giving senses of dance and music, critical natural elements of the sun and moon and His benevolent presence. Guru Arjan concludes with an emphasis on escaping from the customary concept of re-birth; but the message offers tremendous appeal to enjoy life, seek purpose, use equally available faculties and obtain uplifting results. All ingredients are there for us to become aware of, learn to the connect dots, become expert users, carve a path and enjoy the ride all the way to the end. Life is a journey, malleable to individual wishes and desires, within reach and easy/simple to direct. All we need is a well conceived choice and an expertly executed approach.

6: Prakash Singh Bagga (India), January 29, 2012, 2:18 AM.

In this shabad, dance has been referred to as the play of maya and every one is stated to be dancing under the influence of this creation of the One. The shabad goes on to conclude that whoever meets the One is then freed from the dance.

7: Jasvir Singh Dhillon (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 30, 2012, 3:15 AM.

Nirmal Singh ji, I seem to have interpreted the shabad differently from the perspective that you presented. My thoughts focused on the end of the second stanza: "From the five elements the puppet was created." To me, the concept of a puppet is very distinct. A puppet, as you know, is one who is controlled by strings. How can someone's individual wishes cause life to change if one's actions are controlled? I'd be interested to learn your perspective or anyone else's, on this point.

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 73"

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