THE ACTOR

When Baajeegar (an actor, a juggler, etc.) stages his play (ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਪਾ ਕੇ ਵਿਖਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ); he plays many characters in
different costumes. But when his play (ਬਾਜ਼ੀ, Tamaashaa) ends, he takes off the costumes, and then he remains just one - Baajeegar.
(Similarly, this universe is God-Baajeegar's Play - Jagat Tamaashaa - and He pervades in this Play of His so
many different ways, etc., but when He takes off the costumes and stops His Expanse - Play -,
then He the only One remains) ||1|| (sggs 736).
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Here the Gurbani uses very popular as well as very powerful simile of an actor to drive the message home. The point is to teach us as to how one should live a detached life amidst the happenings of the ever changing world. Assume for a moment that you are standing at the edge of the river bank, and your body's shadow falling in the water. Notice that, even though the body's shadow is in the water, however, your body does not feel any wetness. The body would feel wet only when you jump in the water. In the same way, as long as we play our part in life without attachment, and stand aside and witness the passing show as a passing show (Leelaa, Cosmic Play or "Jagat Tamaashaa"), the false ego-sense or Haume (Maya's knot) is no more.

  • ਬਾਜੀਗਰਿ ਜੈਸੇ ਬਾਜੀ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਨਾਨਾ ਰੂਪ ਭੇਖ ਦਿਖਲਾਈ ॥ ਸਾਂਗੁ ਉਤਾਰਿ ਥੰਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਿਓ ਪਾਸਾਰਾ ॥ ਤਬ ਏਕੋ ਏਕੰਕਾਰਾ ॥੧॥: Baajeegar jaise baajee paaee. Naanaa roop bhekh dikhlaaee. Saang utaar thanmiho paasaaraa. Tab eko ekankaaraa ||1||: When Baajeegar (an actor, a juggler, etc.) stages his play (ਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਪਾ ਕੇ ਵਿਖਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ); he plays many characters in different costumes. But when his play (ਬਾਜ਼ੀ, Tamaashaa) ends, he takes off the costumes, and then he remains just one - Baajeegar. (Similarly, this universe is God-Baajeegar's Play - Jagat Tamaashaa - and He pervades in this Play of His so many different ways, etc., but when He takes off the costumes and stops His Expanse - Play, Tamaashaa, etc. -, then He the only One remains) ||1|| (sggs 736).
  • ਨਟੂਆ ਭੇਖ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ਬਹੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਜੈਸਾ ਹੈ ਓਹੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਰੇ ॥: Nattooaa bhekh dikhaavai bahu bidh jaisaa hai ouhu taisaa re: The actor displays himself in many disguises, but he remains just as he is (sggs 403).

On the other hand, however, by sticking to the play and roles an actor plays and identifying with them, the actor will only regret later. In other words, if an actor is playing the role of a beggar or a villain, and if he identifies (or attaches) with that in real life, he will surely regret it. In reality he is neither a beggar nor a villain, because he remains detached from those roles he plays. It's just the role he was playing on the stage! The Wise person in the state of eternal witness lives in this material world just like an actor, or just as a bird that flies in the sky without leaving any footprints or mark behind, or just like a lotus flower that grows in the mud but remains untouched by it! If a person does not live like that, he will surely regret it later. Once the breathing stops, all acting and music will come to an abrupt end.

  • ਸ੍ਵਾਂਗੀ ਸਿਉ ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਰੀਝਾਵੈ ॥ ਸ੍ਵਾਗਿ ਉਤਾਰਿਐ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਵੈ ॥: Savaangee siou jo mann reejhaavai. Savaang utaariai phir pashutaavai: One who loves the actor in his mind, later regrets it (after seeing the actor's reality) when the actor takes off his costume (sggs 1145).
  • ਮੰਦਲੁ ਨ ਬਾਜੈ ਨਟੁ ਪੈ ਸੂਤਾ ॥: Mandal na baajai natt pai sootaa: The drum does not sound, and the actor has gone to sleep (sggs 478).

This world-appearance is the stage. We are all actors on this stage, playing our parts. Also known as Divine Leelaa (Cosmic Dance), we all are part of this play, which is Mithiya or illusion (neither real nor unreal). It exists as the product of the reflection in the Transcendental Consciousness. In this Play, we experience our own Vaasnaas (latent tendencies, past memories or undigested desires). Some of these experiences are the repetition of the old experiences, and some are new. This Play of mirage-like world-appearance gets in action on account of the rise of false ego-sense (Haume). Hence it is our physical ego (false "I") who is the transitory actor in this Drama. Only the Spiritual Beings (Gurmukh) fully established in the eternity of the "now" can understand the illusion of this world and the nature of the Truth. The rest of us begins to identify with the roles (duality) we play, and suffer in the process.

  • ਆਖਾਰ ਮੰਡਲੀ ਧਰਣਿ ਸਬਾਈ ਊਪਰਿ ਗਗਨੁ ਚੰਦੋਆ ॥: Aakhaar mandalee dharan sabaaee oopari gagan chandoaa: The whole earth is the dance stage, with the canopy of the sky overhead (sggs 884).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪਿੜ ਬੰਧਿ ਨਾਚੈ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Maya kaaran pirr bandhi naachai doojai bhaai dukh paavaniaa: For the sake of Maya, they set the stage and dance, but they are in love with duality, and they obtain only Dukha or suffering (sggs 122).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਨਟਿ ਬਾਜੀ ਪਾਈ ॥: Maya mohi natt baajee paaee: The Actor has staged the drama of emotional attachment to Maya (sggs 230).
  • ਅਪੁਨੇ ਚਲਿਤ ਆਪਿ ਕਰਣੈਹਾਰ ॥: Apune chalit aap karanaihaar: In His own play, He Himself is the Actor (sggs 279).
  • ਅਪਨਾ ਖੇਲੁ ਆਪਿ ਕਰਨੈਹਾਰੁ ॥: Apanaa khel aap karanaihaar: He Himself is the play, and He Himself is the actor (sggs 280).
  • ਤਪੀ ਤਪੀਸੁਰ ਮੁਨਿ ਮਹਿ ਪੇਖਿਓ ਨਟ ਨਾਟਿਕ ਨਿਰਤਾਏ ॥: Tapee tapeesur mun mahi pekhiou natt naattik nirataaye: I have seen Him among the men of severe self-discipline, the silent sages, the actors, dramas and dances (sggs 1139).

The dance of Maya (or imagination or ignorance) sets in motion with the birth of the identification with the body-mind-intellect apparatus (ego or Haume). In ignorance of the Unconditioned Reality, we identify with the actor and perform reactionary or causative Karma, which in turn keeps our worldly or transmigratory existence in a spin. The Eternal Law (Hukam, Divine Will, Bhaanaa, Waheguru, Divine Principle, etc.) brings back the results of one's actions to him. This is the underlying principle, from which there is no easy escape. This is what the Gurbani means when it says: "As it pleases the Divine, people dance." To put it in simple language, the Sansaar — illusive flow of the world-appearance — is the stage on which we dance to the tune of our Karma.

  • ਨਾਨਾ ਰੂਪ ਜਿਉ ਸ੍ਵਾਗੀ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਵੈ ਨਚਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੋਈ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੂਜਾ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੭॥: Jiyu prabh bhaavai tivai nachaavai ...: As it pleases the Divine, people dance. In various costumes, like actors, they appear. Whatever pleases Him, comes to pass. Nanak, there is no other at all ||7|| (sggs 278).

The Gurbani urges us to just play our role like a detached actor, but not to get attached to that role. Due to ignorance, however, if we get attached to the roles we are plying, we are sure to regret it later! Here the Gurbani gives us an another popular example of a king. It is just like that king, who in his dream became a beggar. Now, if upon waking up, he still behaves as a beggar not as the king that he is, then he is certain to make a fool of himself!

  • ਨਰਪਤਿ ਏਕੁ ਸਿੰਘਾਸਨਿ ਸੋਇਆ ਸੁਪਨੇ ਭਇਆ ਭਿਖਾਰੀ ॥ ਅਛਤ ਰਾਜ ਬਿਛੁਰਤ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੋ ਗਤਿ ਭਈ ਹਮਾਰੀ ॥੨॥: Narapati eku singhaasani soiaa supane bhaiaa bhikhaaree. Ashhat raaj bishhurat dukhu paaiaa so gati bhayee hamaaree ||2||: It is like a king, who falls asleep upon his throne, and dreams (that he has become a) beggar. (Although) his kingdom is intact, but separated from it (in his dream), he suffers pain. Such is our condition. ||2|| (sggs 657).

Think sitting in front of a television set, watching all sorts of pictures projected on the screen of the picture tube. Some of these pictures are of rain, murder, gun shots, romance, and so on. When the show is over, the screen neither becomes wet from the rain, nor has blood stains from the murder, nor bullet holes from the gun shots, nor emotions from the romance. The screen itself is clean and unchanging; for the projections are ever changing (thus unreal), and the screen is real. The mind (deluded consciousness) is the creation that arises out of the Pure Self. We are this screen. All the manifestation we see on this screen is the projection of our Vaasnaas that fall across our mind. This projection of Vaasnaas causes us to identify ourselves as the projected watcher of the drama or movie. The problem starts the moment we run after the projections thinking they are real. With this delusion (or duality) comes the perception that the seer is different than the seeing and seen. But in reality, the "seer", "seeing" and "seen" are one and the same!

Just as the cloud obscures the sun, so does the mind's negativity, false concepts, restrictions, assumptions, self-identification or self-limitations in time and space (false ego) obscure the Reality. But a Giaani's mind (the Wise person or the Gurmukh) enjoys completeness and perfection; for it is Pure thus lacks nothing. His mind is like the sun, who knows no darkness. In other words, his mind is nothing but the Unconditioned Self, dispassionate witness, the "Joti-Svaroopa", beyond the glamour of the enchanting world-appearances. His every moment is free and spontaneous (Sahaj). He does not identify with the actor! He simply reads his part, detached, in all situations! In other words, he enjoys the Leelaa as it happens; without attachment, desire and fear. Such enlightened person (Gurmukh) is like a dry leaf.. Having no desire and fear of his own, without a personal agenda or preconceived ideas at all, he moves about in the world in utter freedom from ego or Haume.

  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਪੜਹਿ ਨਾਟ ਸਾਲਾ ॥: Antar krodh parrahi naat saalaa: but if there is anger within him, he is merely reading his part, like an actor in a play (sggs 832).
  • ਸ੍ਵਾਂਗੀ ਸਿਉ ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਰੀਝਾਵੈ ॥ ਸ੍ਵਾਗਿ ਉਤਾਰਿਐ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਵੈ ॥: Savaangee siyu jo mann reejhaavai. Savaang utaariyai phir pashutaavai: One who loves the actor in his mind, later regrets it when the actor takes off his costume (sggs 1145).
  • ਹਸਤੀ ਘੋੜੇ ਦੇਖਿ ਵਿਗਾਸਾ ॥ ਲਸਕਰ ਜੋੜੇ ਨੇਬ ਖਵਾਸਾ ॥ ਗਲਿ ਜੇਵੜੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਕੇ ਫਾਸਾ ॥2॥ ਰਾਜੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਸਾਰੀ ॥ ਮਾਣੈ ਰੰਗ ਭੋਗ ਬਹੁ ਨਾਰੀ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਨਰਪਤਿ ਸੁਪਨੈ ਭੇਖਾਰੀ ॥: Hastee ghorre dekh vigaasaa. laskar jorre neb khavaasaa. gal jevrre haume kr phaasaa. maanai rang bhog bahu naaree. Jiou narapat supanai bhekhaaree: Man is pleased at the sight of his elephants and horses and his armies assembled, his servants and his soldiers. But the noose of egotism is tightening around his neck. ||2|| His rule may extend in all ten directions; he may revel in pleasures, and enjoy many women - but he is just a beggar, who in his dream, is a king (sggs 176).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ਨਿਸੰਗੁ ॥: Gurmukh aavai jaai nisang: The Gurmukh comes and goes without fear (sggs 932 ).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org