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Exploring The Spiritual Cave
The Talking Stick Colloquium # 32, October 18 - 24





We have covered much ground on our shared spiritual journey that we began at the start of this year.

Spiritual journeys have been described variously, but my personal favorite is the analogy of a descending spiral - a movement inwards to the core of one's being. Along the way, we repeatedly return to the same spot, but to a deeper experience of Truth - that is always present, homogenized in us much like butter in milk.

This week, we return to a familiar spot, a ground that we have covered previously, but hope to look at it anew: What is this all about? Who am I and what am I here for?

As we re-examine perennial but fundamental questions, we must remain mindful of the fact that these questions may be ultimately unanswerable. To some, they may even appear futile or a waste of time.

So, why bother?

The answer is quite simple: an unexamined life is simply not worth living. And the questions we ask shape who we become. Questioning is questing and the questions have to be asked over and again if we are to progress. Spiritual formation is not a
static position but a dynamic and ceaseless developmental journey, as the word Sikh implies.

To use the metaphor of a spiral journey, every twist and turn in our questing and questioning results in an increasingly faithful response to the Truth: the One, Ik - whose hukam shapes our path and whose nadar redeems our frequent detours and
whose naam is the transforming presence that we encounter at every turn. The fact that Guru Amardas raises these concerns in Anand Sahib - which Sikhs recite daily - lends credence to the need to keep such questions alive.

A spiritual journey should not be viewed as some kind of an add on to our lives. When we think of spirituality as a supplement, like a power shake, we run the risk of looking for the latest formula, the most potent technique to solve our problems or achieve fulfillment. Too often, one hears this refrain - more paatth, a better meditation technique or more rounds of the rosary or the latest trend in breathing exercises.

This is akin to telling a person without legs to run more to get stronger. It also gives us the false sense that on this journey, somehow we are in control.

Coming back to the descending spiral: we must be like spelunkers - explorers - of the spiritual cave, digging past the surface of our everyday psyche. Every question acts like a sonar that helps us detect hidden pitfalls and sound out the dimension of our soul.

This is the central underlying message of Sikhi: that human life is a rare gift; that it is imbued with an even rarer opportunity; that we must awaken to this opening. The awakeining involves looking deep within oneself.


What do I really want? Although it is woven into the fabric of our existence, desire is ultimately insatiable. No matter what or how much we feed it - whether with money, fame, drugs, sex, what have you - there is always an inner void that leaves us restless and yearning for something else and something more.

What ought we to desire? How does Gurbani guide us to winnow our desires by separating addictions and neuroses from wholesome desires?

Is there meaning in my life? What is the appropriate question to ask: what is the meaning of life or what is the purpose of my life? Does my life serve a purpose that goes beyond personal survival? Are the accidents of my birth, status, neurosis and
talents special opportunities to serve?

Gurbani is relentless in proclaiming that we have a rare gift and a special duty in this lifetime. Gurbani is equally forceful in preventing us from looking in the wrong direction.

Questing (or questioning) also leads us to wonder about the world around us. We cannot continue to accept traditional notions or worldviews because Science has pretty much demolished them. Questions like: Why is there something rather than nothing? What is Reality and what are the limits of our experience? How do we know that we know anything?


References from Gurbani have not been inserted quite deliberately. My sense is that all of us - fellow travellers - are engaged enough with bani to make the connection.

But for the benefit of those who would like to refer back, here are a few - based on the subject. There are many others.

1  GGS:921 - 922:  Ä– rasnā ṯū an ras rācẖ rahÄ« ṯerÄ« piās na jāe
2  GGS:45:  Parāṇī ṯūʼn āiā lāhā laiṇ Lagā kiṯ kẖufkaá¹›e sabẖ mukḏī cẖalÄ« raiṇ
3. GGS:1159:  IhÄ« ṯerā aosar ih ṯerÄ« bār
4  GGS:751:  MÅ«l na bÅ«jẖėh āpṇā se pasūā se dẖor jÄ«o


October 18, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 18, 2010, 2:42 PM.

If we were to summarize this erudite essay, it would be akin to a boisterous child who runs around in circles the whole day, comes home and plunks himself into his mother's lap and slips into a deep peaceful sleep without a care in the world. He has come home. "Bujhi tapat ghareh pir pa-i-a" [GGS:738.2] - 'The fire has been quenched and I have found my Husband Lord within my own home.' Then I don't have to go anywhere, not until the morning at least when the 'chanchal mutt' would re-emerge and start another play. The ultimate remains: "Kathu na ja-e ghareh bass-e" [GGS:1307.8] - 'I do not go out anywhere. I dwell in my own home.'

2: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), October 19, 2010, 11:25 PM.

Guru Arjan said: "This human body has been given to you and this is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe" [GGS:12]. Guru Nanak said: "Soon as you start breathing, the age of the True Guru's teachings starts [GGS:943]. Guru Arjan: "I have come so far, seeking the Protection of Your sanctuary [GGS:763]. Bhagat Ravidas: "For so many incarnations I have been separated from You, Lord; I dedicate this life to you" [GGS:694]. Guru Arjan: "Wandering and roaming through endless incarnations, you have now been given this human life, which is so difficult to obtain" [GGS:1017]; and "Wandering around through countless incarnations, I endured pain and suffering in so many lives, over and over again" [GGS:207]. Guru Ramdas: "Blessed is human life, which is obtained by virtuous actions ... this body is radiant and golden" [GGS:575]. "So eat the ambrosial Name of the Lord as your food; put it into your mouth at all times. The pains of old age and death shall all depart, when you constantly sing glorious praises of the Lord of the Universe" [GGS:611]. Guru Arjan: "O mind, you are full of pride; so, loaded with pride you shall depart. Maya has fascinated you, over and over again, and lured you into reincarnation. O foolish mind, in the end, you shall regret and repent. You are afflicted with the diseases of ego and desire, and you are wasting your life away in vain"; "O my mind, you are the embodiment of the Divine Light - recognize your own origin. O my mind, the dear Lord is with you; through the Guru's teachings, enjoy His love. Acknowledge your origin, so that peace comes to the mind, and gladness resounds; then, you shall be acclaimed." [GGS:411]. In Japji, there are five realms for one's spiritual attainment. And in the 38th paurri of Japji, using the metaphor of a goldsmith's shop: "Let self-control be the furnace, and patience the goldsmith. Let understanding be the anvil, and spiritual wisdom the tools. With the fear of God as the bellows, fan the flames of tupp, the body's inner heat. In the crucible of love, melt the nectar of the Name, and mint the true coin of the shabad, the Word of God. Such is the karam of those upon whom He has cast His glance of grace. O Nanak, the merciful Lord, by His grace, uplifts and exalts them." Guru Arjan: "My mind is imbued with His glorious praises; I chant them, and He is pleasing to my mind. Truth is the ladder to the Guru; climbing up to the true Lord, peace is obtained. Celestial peace comes; the Truth pleases me. Fraud, attachment and corruption are taken away, as are falsehood, hypocrisy and duality. Churn ambrosial nectar, and drink it in; dedicate this mind to the Guru, and He will value it highly. I intuitively realized my God, when I linked my mind to the True Lord [GGS:766].

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The Talking Stick Colloquium # 32, October 18 - 24"

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