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Liberation In Life:
The Siddh Gosht - Part V
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 81






We took a diversion last week to examine the form and structure of the Siddh Gosht - a choice that invited some interesting comments. Among them was a visible lament that we seemed pre-occupied with “routine” stuff instead of focusing on “How a Sikh can be like the Guru?”

This is an interesting point because the implied postulation is that our inner and outer lives are somehow antithetical.

I quite agree that all flows from the inner, but would suggest that the relationship between the inner and the outer is symbiotic - where one informs the other. In the Sikh worldview, the temporal world is equally a part of the Absolute and partakes fully of its characteristics. The deeper our awareness and experience of the Inner, the more inspired and vibrant does our experience of the worldly become.

We must turn to the Guru, not just for inner technology - shabad guru surat dhun chela - but worldly skills as well, such as the art of dialogue.

The process is not sequential but parallel and iterative.


My initial thought was to proceed to stanzas 26-42 where an extended exposition of gurmukh is given to us by Guru Nanak. On second thoughts, though, I have decided to place before you a major - if not central - theme of the Siddh Gosht that we have glossed over, namely, mukti.

Before we proceed to the next stanzas, let's reflect on the concept of mukti in the Eastern philosophical systems - its various iterations and associated experiences and methods of attainment.

In the religious traditions of the subcontginent, mukti is the highest spiritual attainment and its expression is multi-faceted. Specific connotations and their associated labels are derived either from the specific religious practice or associated with a spiritual entity.

There are references in gurbani to the different shades of mukti - mokh dwar or freedom from karmic debt; pad nirbani, derived from Buddhist thought and associated with becoming free of desire; turia avasthā, a state of consciousness that transcends normal waking (and sleeping) states; chautha pad, which exceeds the three gunns: tamas, rajsic and sattvic; amar pad or the state of deathlessness; and nirbhau pad, where worldly fears evaporate.

Similarly, the mystical or peak experience associated with mukti has different expressions in gurbani - atam prakash, antar jyot, bairāg, and nihal – all reflective of the prevailing ideas of mukti.

A four-part classification of mukti - saalokiya, sameepiya, saroopiya, and saayujiya - denoting different states of the mind’s
progression, starting from living in the presence of Waheguru to dissolving into Waheguru were prevalent in traditional schools of thought.

In the early stanzas of Siddh Gost, we see how the Nath yogis put forth their methodology for mukti, a process that Guru Nanak rejects.


Is mukti, as we have considered above, even the highest Sikh ideal?

The Sikh ideal is that of a jeevan mukt or one who is liberated while alive - in contrast to the traditional view that mukti is attainable only in death.

• How is the Sikh ideal different from the various shades of mukti?
• What about the methodologies suggested?
• In particular, reflect on Guru Nanak’s analogy of the lotus flower being untouched by water (stanza 5).
• What does “being in the world but not of it,” mean?
• What is Guru Nanak’s recommendation in lieu of mukti?

• Since the Sikhi ideal is one of a jeevan mukt, what are the markers of such an individual?
• How does a jeevan mukt live life?


May 2, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), May 07, 2012, 1:06 PM.

Former hazoori raagi, Bhai Hari Singh who served at the Darbar Sahib daily for 55 years, said to me when I met him last year: "If you let go of all the things that bother you or cause unhappiness, then that's mukti in itself!" Being in the world and living untouched by worries is not a bad ideal.

2: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, India), May 07, 2012, 1:06 PM.

The Sikh ideal is only one and that is the simran of Naam. This ideal is quite different from various shades of Mukti listed by the philosophers ... they are all addressed through the ideal of Naam.

3: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, India), May 07, 2012, 1:11 PM.

There is only one methodology suggested by Guru Nanak and that is the contemplation of Shabad to get tuned to Naam

4: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, India), May 07, 2012, 1:28 PM.

In lieu of mukti, Guru Nanak recommends that one remain surrendered with love at the Lotus feet of Waheguru.

5: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), May 07, 2012, 3:13 PM.

Mukti means a person has to realize his/her true self. Waheguru, the source of happiness, is within each individual, providing self-realization. Life of peace and happiness, though difficult to attain, provides mukti.

6: Kulwant Singh (U.S.A.), May 07, 2012, 6:17 PM.

A jeevan mukht lives his/her life surrounded by maya, but is not influenced by her charms. The jeevan mukht lives in accordance to truth. The lotus flower grows in dirty water, but it still retains its beauty. That is the quality of a true holy person.

7: Ravnder Singh (Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.), May 08, 2012, 8:37 AM.

Mukti or freedom from what? That is the question. The various ways in which the word 'mukti' is used, suggest that how a human feels bound which can be expressed in contemporary idiom as fears, addictions, pleasures of the flesh, death, irrational thoughts - all of these bind us and prevent us from living life the way we were meant to and designed for. So, how does a lotus flower retain its beauty amid muddy waters? What it means (in my estimation) is that we have to break the pattern of our conditioning that the world has impressed upon us. Only then can we get past the neurosis of haumai.

8: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, India), May 08, 2012, 10:10 AM.

Mukti from what? It is the continuing thought process that keeps a person's munn always bound in wordly matters. When the munn starts living with naam, wordly bondages start breaking away and a stage may be achieved where a persons lives in only naam ... and when departing from this world, merges in naam. Thus, the naam within becomes one with the naam outside. This is jeevan mukt.

9: Jugraj Singh (Birmingham, United Kingdom), May 09, 2012, 10:31 AM.

What happens to a person who is locked up in a prison, away from all the attractions of the senses? Our mind (munn) is very greedy (lobhie) for the ras of the materialistic world, only the ras of naam can quench its thirst.

10: Prakash Singh Bagga (Indore, India), May 09, 2012, 12:31 PM.

How does a jeewan mukt live his/her life? "The gurmukhs are imbued with the Naam, and are saved; they contemplate the Word of the Guru's shabad. Meditating on the Name of the Lord, they are jeevan-mukt, liberated while yet alive. They enshrine the Lord within their hearts. Their minds and bodies are immaculate, their intellect is immaculate and sublime. Their speech is sublime as well. They realize the One Primal Being, the One Lord God. There is no other at all." [GGS:1259.13]

11: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 09, 2012, 7:19 PM.

Guru Tegh Bahadar has defined mukti in his concluding slok in Guru Granth Sahib on page 1427.

12: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), May 09, 2012, 10:07 PM.

To attain mukti, we have to divert life's course entirely. And that can be done only, and on a continuous basis, with prayer, love, sincere repentance and, above all, simran of the Name (NAAM). Above all, we need to cleanse ourselves by facing the consequences of our karam/ actions. Love and Grace of God are therefore necessary elements.

13: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:09 PM.

Two items have emerged in this discussion. Mukti or freedom from what? Obviously, our goals change and evolve with passage of time. Gurbani regards mukti as something that is incidental to the ultimate goal, but it is not our goal. Understanding the second item, 'the neurosis of haumai', and its search for freedom, is preferred to the search for mukti. Once the neurosis is gone, the search ceases to be relevant.

14: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:10 PM.

Even though our understanding of mukti evolves with our growth, it is based on innate desire of liberation from the helplessness and sorrow in the face of life with inherent pain and inevitable loss and death at the end. According to gurmat, our ultimate goal is absorption into our source. Only then we have real freedom. This absorption is an inner matter. It is a matter of 'sur(a)t' or inner life, not a matter of intellect or some outer activity.

15: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:12 PM.

Since we are not Confucius, brevity can be a handicap. No one can deny that we are in this world for a reason. Gurmat does not teach avoiding the world. What we learn inside, we create outside. One is not separate from the other. The world is our lab. If we fail the lab then we do not pass the theory. Even though they are connected, the goal is only inner absorption into oneness. But this same oneness is present in others just as it is in us. Thus, inner absorption includes fulfilling of our duty towards parents, spouse, children, friends, and the entire world.

16: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:13 PM.

Our outer conduct influences, facilitates and validates our inner life. Waheguru dwells in everyone. Thus, our conduct (even a single thought) towards others, and towards our own selves, takes us closer to or farther from this absorption. Guru Nanak declared that proper conduct is greater than the knowledge of truth [GGS:62.12] but this verse continues to be mistranslated. For starters, we could vow to quote these words in their intended form.

17: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:15 PM.

'Being like a lotus untouched by filth' is a popular reference but often, it is only an excuse to continue staying connected to the mud. We need to first learn how to be that lotus. Only then it would be safe to live in the mud untouched by it: "One, who, in his heart, loves the Will of God, is said to be Jeevan Mukt - liberated while yet alive. As is joy, so is sorrow to him. He is in eternal bliss, and is not separated from God. As is gold, so is dust to him. As is ambrosial nectar, so is bitter poison to him. As is honor, so is dishonor. As is the beggar, so is the king. Whatever such a person does then, that is the path. O Nanak, such a being is known as Jeevan Mukt." [GGS:275.4-6]

18: Yuktanand Singh (U.S.A.), May 17, 2012, 7:19 PM.

In short, since we live in the presence of Waheguru, who also does everything, we need to learn how to behave in His presence, or, learn how to receive, and thrive on, Naam. This requires an emotional awakening. This is why, as we have discussed before, several months ago, the fruit of our absorption is a 'russ'. Someone who has tasted this nectar has no interest in any form of freedom or liberation. Tasting this inner absorption requires inner transformation, as noted by the others above. This transformation requires certain inner disciplines. Only then we realize the fruits of our inner transformation in the outside world. See also:

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The Siddh Gosht - Part V
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 81"

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