IMPEDIMENTS TO BHAGTI

There is no happiness without Bhagti (Gur-Giaan, Gurmat...). (sggs 210).
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In nut shell, for a Sikh, Bhagti (also spelt Bhakti ) is to recieve the Gur-Giaan (Gurmat....).

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਤੂੰ ਲੇਹਿ ਇਆਨੇ ॥ ਭਗਤਿ ਬਿਨਾ ਬਹੁ ਡੂਬੇ ਸਿਆਨੇ ॥: Gur kee mati toon lehi iaane. Bhagti binaa bahu doobe siaane: You ignorant fool, take the Gurmat (Aatmic-Giaan, Gur-Giaan, Shabad-Vichaar...); without Bhagti, even many clever have drowned. (sggs 288).

Maya is all alluring. Her snaring-nets are mighty charming. She is all powerful of creating all types of illusion, deceptions, distractions, pitfalls, and impediments to snare seekers into Her nets. Obstacles created by this deceptive Maya (Cosmic Charmer) are innumerable, and come in various shapes and sizes. As a result, circumstances conducive to performing Bhagti (or Bhakti) are very rare. On the contrary, unconducive circumstances, events, and environment to Bhagti are plenty. With the help of the Divine Guide of the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), a few of the potential impediments are briefly discussed in the pages that lie ahead.

1. Among all Maya's allures, false ego-sense (Haumai) or spiritual blindness is the worst one. As the Gurbani says, although we all are trying to do Bhagati, but the problem is we are doing it in ignorance. This kind of Bhagti is useless. If a person is spiritually blind, he becomes an ideal candidate to be cheated by swindlers in the garb of so called saints, Baabaas, Raages, Yogis, Giaanees, Parchaarak, Gurus, Swamis, and so on. Therefore Bhagti and false ego-sense do not go together. To become egoless means to become free from bodily concept or doership, which in turn helps one to become free from material hankering and lamentation.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਬੁਝਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: Haumai vich bhagati na hovaee hukam n bujhiaa jaayi: In egotism, Bhagti cannot be performed, and the Hukam cannot be understood (sggs 560).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਵਿਰੋਧੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਇ ਨ ਵਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਠਾਇ ॥: Houmai naavai naal virodh hai due na vasahi ik thaae: Egotism is opposed to the Naam (Divine Name -Giaan...); the two cannot coexist (sggs 560).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰੇ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਨਾ ਮਨੁ ਭੀਜੈ ਨਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Haumai bhagti kare sabh koi. N manu bheejai n sukh hoi: In egotism, everyone can pretend to do Bhagti. But this does not make the mind drenched (with the water of the Naam: ਨਾਮ-ਜਲ), and it does not bring Peace-ਆਤਮਕ ਆਨੰਦ (sggs 1277).
2. There are basically three categories of people. Belonging to the first category are the Gurmukh (Spiritual Beings...). In the second category are the Manmukh (self-willed, Maya worshipper, ego-beings...) who do not care about God unless they run into some problems such as financial, legal or bodily disease, etc. After the problem is gone, they forsake God again. They outwardly show as they are very religious, but in reality they are not. Majority of the people (over 99.9 percent) belong to the second category. The Gurbani warns us against Bhagti performed in the mode of Manmukhtaa (Paakhand or hypocrisy, egotism, etc.); for it will not bear fruits.
  • ਪਾਖੰਡਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਨਿਰਤਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Paakhandi bhagati nirati dukhu hoi: The dances and Bhagti of the hypocrites bring only suffering - Dukh (sggs 364).
  • ਪਾਖੰਡਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: Paakhand bhagti na hovayee parbrahm na paaiaa jaai: Through hypocrisy, Bhagti cannot be done, and Paarbrahm is not Realized (sggs 849).
3. A true devotee is never recognized by his or her own family or community! To the contrary, upon seeing you practice Bhagti, immediate family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, and so on, generally start behaving contemptuously — rolling eyebrows, crossing eyes, laughing sarcastically, calling names, and so on. Thus, if anything, they become the source of distraction and hurdle to spiritual seekers. The Gurbani urges us not be concerned as to what family members and others would think if you started Bhagti. What the Gurbani says matters the most. If one is sincere in his Spiritual endeavor, nothing can impede his Spiritual Unfoldment.
  • ਤੇਰੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਛੋਡਉ ਕਿਆ ਕੋ ਹਸੈ ॥ ਸਾਚੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਮੇਰੈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਵਸੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Teri bhagati n chodaou kiaa ko hasai. Saach Naam merai hirdai vasai ||1||Rahaaou||: I will not renounce Your Bhagti; what does it matter if people laugh at me? The True Name abides within my Heart ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1170).
In this context, the best example can be given of Baabaa Nanak. Whenever people saw him engaged in glorifying the Divine, contemptuously they would call him names such as spirit, demon, etc. Did this sort of worldly nonsense cause him to give up Bhagti? No! Thus, Baabbaa Nanak's life teaches us very important lesson: One must give up shame or reserve (Lok Laaj) when it comes to Bhagti. Behavior of the Gurmukh is beyond the understanding of an ordinary human being of limited vision.
  • ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਭੂਤਨਾ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਬੇਤਾਲਾ ॥ ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਆਦਮੀ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵੇਚਾਰਾ ॥੧॥: Koee aakhai bhootna ko khai betaala. Koee aakhai aadami Nanaku vechaaraa. ||1||: (For not following the worldly ways-ਦੁਨੀਆ ਦੇ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਡੂੰਘੀਆਂ ਸਾਂਝਾਂ ਨਾਹ ਪਾਣ ਕਰ ਕੇ) Some call (Nanak) a ghost; some call (Nanak) a demon. Some call (Nanak) Vechaara (ਵੇਚਾਰਾ: wretched, helpless, poor, etc.) ||1||. (sggs 991).
If people can call Baabaa Nanak demon, then what to speak of us!

4. The Gurbani says that an aspirant should not be concerned about being slandered by "moodh" (fools). Because, according to the Gurbani, slandering or criticism is in fact beneficial to a devotee! In this connection, there is an instructive legend as follows.

Bhagat Kabeer had a sharp-tongued neighbor, who, in order to tarnish Kabeer's name in the community, always employed most of his time slandering the master. One day this slanderer died. People exultantly broke this news to Kabeer hoping this news of the death of his constant faultfinder must make him happy. On the contrary, upon hearing this, Kabeer became very sad! Kabeer's devotees could not understand this. They asked Kabeer as to why he was so sad instead of being happy now that the person who did nothing except tarnishing his name throughout his life is finally dead. Kabeer replied: "The reason I am feeling sad that now he is gone, who will wash my sins off by slandering me".

This is how the Gurbani expects us to feel about our slanderers. Therefore, like Kabeer, we must love people who tarnish us, for they do us a great favor! Unaware of the consequences, they wash our sins off and take upon themselves. It's pretty good deal!

  • ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਛਾਡਉ ਰਾਮ ਕੀ ਭਾਵੈ ਨਿੰਦਉ ਲੋਗੁ ॥: Bhagti na cchaadayu raam kee bhaavai nindayu logu: I will not forsake Raam's Bhagati even if people slander (sggs 1366).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਨਿੰਦਹਿ ਨਿਗੁਰੇ ਪਸੂ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥੨॥: Hari kee bhagti kare tin nindahi nigure pasoo samaanaa ||2||: They are like animal (i.e., their life is like that of an animal) who slander those engaged in the Lord's Bhagti ||2|| (sggs 1138).
5. It is easy to get distracted by fruitive activities, mental speculations, material logic, penances, austerities, absurd doctrines, frightening concepts of God, dogmas, and so on. However, Bhagti should not be adulterated by such notions, activities or physical torture. Also, Bhagti should be selfless. If Bhagti is performed with selfish motives such as some desire of material gains, then it is not a Bhagti anymore.
  • ਬੈਸਨੋ ਸੋ ਜਿਸੁ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੁਪ੍ਰਸੰਨ ॥ ਬਿਸਨ ਕੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਭਿੰਨ ॥ ਕਰਮ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਿਹਕਰਮ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਬੈਸਨੋ ਕਾ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਧਰਮ ॥ ਕਾਹੂ ਫਲ ਕੀ ਇਛਾ ਨਹੀ ਬਾਛੈ ॥ ਕੇਵਲ ਭਗਤਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਸੰਗਿ ਰਾਚੈ ॥ ਮਨ ਤਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਗੋਪਾਲ ॥ ਸਭ ਊਪਰਿ ਹੋਵਤ ਕਿਰਪਾਲ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਦ੍ਰਿੜੈ ਅਵਰਹ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਓਹੁ ਬੈਸਨੋ ਪਰਮ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੨॥: Baisno so jis oopar suparsann... (sggs 274).

(6). Other principles of Bhagti that need to be followed include remaining free from illicit sex (lust), gambling, intoxicants, sense slavery, etc. Because, the Jeeva's (individual being's) material contamination or spiritual downfall begins with these heinous habits.

  • ਅਲੁ ਮਲੁ ਖਾਈ ਸਿਰਿ ਛਾਈ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਮੂਰਖਿ ਅੰਧੈ ਪਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ ॥: Alu malu khaayee sir chhaayee paayee. Moorakh andhe pat Gvaaee (sggs 467).
  • ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਮਤਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਬਰਲੁ ਪਵੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਇ ॥ ਆਪਣਾ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨ ਪਛਾਣਈ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਧਕੇ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਖਸਮੁ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਜਾਇ ॥ ਝੂਠਾ ਮਦੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਪੀਚਈ ਜੇ ਕਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਵਸਾਇ ॥: Jit peetai mati door hoi baral pavai vich aai. Apnaa paraayaa n pahhanaee khasmahu dhakke khaai. Jit peetai khasam visrai dargah milai sajaai. Jhoothaa madu mool n peechaee je kaa paar vasaai (sggs 554).
  • ਪਰ ਨਾਰੀ ਸਿਉ ਘਾਲੈ ਧੰਧਾ ॥: Par naaree siou ghaalai dhandhaa (sggs 1165).
7. Who is best fit to be worshipped? Though known by many names, there is only one entity qualified to be worshipped and served — Ik Oankaar and His Word. Worship of demigods or swindlers in the garb of phony saints, Baabaas, Raagees, Bhaais, Parchaarak, Swamis, Giaanees, Yogis, Gurus, etc., is a shear ignorance. Further, for Bhagti to evolve, one has to acquire humility, and also learn accepting the Hukam (Bhaanaa...). In the absence of these two qualities, egoism will never leave the mind.
  • ਜਿਹ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ਪਾਈ ਦ੍ਰੁਲਭ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰੇਹ ॥੩॥: Jih prasaad paaee durlabh deh. Nanak taakee bhagati kareh ||3|| (sggs 270).
  • ਦਾਸਨ ਕੀ ਹੋਇ ਦਾਸਿ ਦਾਸਰੀ ਤਾ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਸੋਭਾ ਹਰਿ ਦੁਆਰੀ ॥੨॥ ਇਹੀ ਅਚਾਰ ਇਹੀ ਬਿਉਹਾਰਾ ਆਗਿਆ ਮਾਨਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੀ ॥ : Daasan kee hoi daas daasaree taa paavahi sobhaa Hari Duaaree ll2ll. Ihi aachaar ihi biouhaaraa aagiaa maan bhagti hoi tumaaree (sggs 377).
8. The Gurbani reminds us that God can not be seen with our material senses. Because of this fact, people readily accept anyone who says "I will show you God", or who says "I am God". Instead of searching the Truth ourselves, we accept such cheaters who come along claiming to be God. So many of these "Thug" or swindlers in the garb of saints, Raagees, Bhaais, Giaanees, Yogis, Baabaas, Swamis, Parchaaraks, Gurus, etc., are pullulating nowadays both in India and in the West. If one is not alert, he can be easily distracted, cheated, and snared into their net.

As long as people give them money, these cheaters will tell people exactly what they like to hear. You give them money, in exchange, they will give you some secret Mantra. As long as they are paid, they care less if you keep going on engaging in sense gratification and all kinds of nonsense which is rejected by the scriptures. If these cheaters are so interested in giving a helping hand to suffering people, why don't they give the Mantra free and openly to everybody?

We must remember one thing: If we want something as sublime as God and want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated!! Baabaa Nanak came across many such cheaters during his spiritual journey on this earth. The Gurbani addresses such cheats as follows:

  • ਗਜ ਸਾਢੇ ਤੈ ਤੈ ਧੋਤੀਆ ਤਿਹਰੇ ਪਾਇਨਿ ਤਗ ॥ ... ਓਇ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਸੰਤ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਬਾਨਾਰਸਿ ਕੇ ਠਗ ॥: Gaj saadhe tai tai dhoteeaa tihare paain tag. Galee jinaa jap maaleeaa lote hath nibag. oi Hari ke sant n aakheeahi Baanaaras ke thug: They wear loin cloths, three and a half yards long, and triple-wound sacred threads. They have rosaries around their necks, and they carry glittering jugs in their hands. They are not called God's Saints — they are thugs of Benares (sggs 476).
  • ਤਨਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਮਸਤਕਿ ਪਾਤੀ ॥ ਰਿਦ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਕਰ ਤਲ ਕਾਤੀ ॥ ਠਗ ਦਿਸਟਿ ਬਗਾ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗਾ ..: Tan chandan mastak paatee. Rid antar kar tal katee. Thag distee baggaa liv laagaa: You rub your body with sandalwood oil, and place basil leaves on your forehead. But you hold a knife in the hand of your heart. You look like a thug; pretending to meditate, you pose like a crane (sggs 1351).
9. Many talk about contradictions in the scriptures. It is easy to become confused and distracted by such so called apparently contradictory statements in the Gurbani (or any other scriptures for that matter). One should not make much of them because, in reality, there is no contradiction! All contradictions only exist in our deluded mind.

The scriptural statements reveal different meanings to different people. It is because we all are at different stage of spiritual development — Saatav (stage of goodness), Raajas (stage of passion), Taamas (stage of ignorance). Within these three stages or modes, there are thousands of sub-stages. Now, perhaps, we can appreciate how likely it is to become confused about the so called apparently contradictory statements in the scriptures!

For example, some verses may say it is possible to realize God through our own efforts, some verses may say it is not possible to realize God through individual efforts, while some other verses may say it is possible through God's grace only. As mentioned before, all verses are true; the different meanings come from the different modes of spiritual development.

An important point the Gurbani wants us to remember is that God's Grace is always present within each and every one of us. It neither decreases nor increases. As God is impartial, so is His Grace. This may lead to a question: Then why is it that some rare Souls are fortunate enough to realize God, while the rest of us (about 99.9% ) live in a state of mental delusion?

A beautiful example provided in the Gurbani is that of a Bhaandaa (vessel or utensil). Suppose it is raining out there, and you want to collect rainwater in a vessel. If the vessel is left inverted or if it is leaking, would you be able to collect water in it? Off course not. Similarly, if our individual vessel (i.e., mind) is inverted (i.e., filthy or unfit), then we can not experience the rain of Lord's Grace, which is ever present within.

  • ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ਜੋ ਭਾਡਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਊਂਧੈ ਭਾਂਡੈ ਟਿਕੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: Naam smaavai jo bhaandaa hoe. Undhai bhaandai tikai na koe: The Name can be treasured up if the mind-vessel is up-right; in the inverted vessel, nothing can be contained (sggs 158).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚੁ ਭਾਂਡਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਸਬਦ ਪਿਆਸ ॥: Nanak sach bhaandaa jis Shabad piyaas: Nanak says, true is the mind-vessel, which is thirsty after the Shabad (sggs 158).
If I am hungry, I have to eat food for myself. I cannot ask some one else to eat the food for me. If I want to get married, I cannot substitute some one else to take "Phere" for me, I have to do it myself. In the same way, If I want to realize Divinity, I cannot ask some one else to do Bhagti for me. I have to do it myself. If one becomes conscious of God (Naam or Shabad-Surti), he is certain to awaken the Divine Grace within. Later on, one will realize that everything is either induced or assisted by the Divine!
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਸਖੀਏ ਮਿਲਿ ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰੇਹਾ ਮਨਾਇ ਲੈਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੰਤੈ ॥: Suni sakheeae mili uddamu karehaa manaai laihi Hari Kantai (sggs 249).
  • ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਰਮੀ ਪਾਈਅਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਾ ਭਗਤਿ ਭੰਡਾਰ ॥੪॥੨॥੧੬॥੩੬॥: Jan Nanak karmee paaeeani Hari Naamaa bhagti bhandaar ||4||2||16||36||: O, servant Nanak, by God's Grace, man receives the treasure of His Name and Bhagati ||4||2||16||36|| (sggs 162).
Spiritual Enlightenment requires self-efforts. The reason our efforts do not seem to work is that we are not devoid of baser desires (material or celestial) and fear. Our Bhagti is adulterated by selfish actions, body-consciousness, and nonsense beliefs and rituals. We lack faith and conviction. Rather, we try to please our inflated ego. Our spiritual endeavors lack utmost sincerity and earnestness. Our self-efforts are not rightfully placed. As a result, we start doubting scriptures and the Gurmukhs. The best self-effort is defined as follows:
  • ਸਗਲ ਉਦਮ ਮਹਿ ਉਦਮੁ ਭਲਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਜੀਅ ਸਦਾ ॥: Sagal uddam mahi uddamu bhalaa. Hari ka naam japhu jeeya sadaa: Of all self-efforts, the best self-effort is to persistently engage in Naam-Jap (Understanding the Gurbani's Giaan...). (sggs 266).
10. Empty rituals make people atheist. Such unmeaning acts result only in increasing the fire of ego. Accordingly, rituals and related ceremonies or beliefs are rejected by the Gurbani as God-consciousness can not be realized by them. However, in spiritual blindness we practice these rituals and beliefs because we think the Supreme Lord is just as foolish and ignorant as we are. We are reminded in the Gurbani that God is not a toy or a plaything. Also, the Gurbani roars that without the True Name, wearing religious robes, applying ceremonial marks or hanging objects to this perishable material body are like decorations on a dead body. Without the Truth, there is nothing in this world that can render us pure.
  • ਕਰਮ ਕਰਤ ਬਧੇ ਅਹੰਮੇਵ ॥: Karam karat badhe ahanmev: Ritual practices bind people in egotism (sggs 324).
  • ਮੈ ਅਵਰੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਪੂਜਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਵਸਿ ਰਹੇ ॥ ਭੇਖੁ ਭਵਨੀ ਹਠੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਾ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਚੁ ਗਹਿ ਰਹੇ ॥੧॥: Mai avaru giaanu n dhiaanu poojaa Hari Naamu antari vasi rahe. Bhekhu bhavnee hathu n jaanaa Nanakaa sachu gahi rahe ||1||: God's Name dwells deep within, I know no other wisdom, meditation or worship. I know nothing about religious robes, pilgrimages or stubbornness; O Nanak, I only hold tight to the Truth ||1|| (sggs 843).
11. Nowadays, in the holy shrines such as Takhats as well Gurdwaaraas, the page to page reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib called Akhand Paath is sold to the devotees in a businesslike manner. Out of shear greed and selfishness, some people (shameless, Manmukh or Mammon worshippers) have turned the Holy Takhats and other Gurdwaaraas of the world into dens of Mammon worshipping. This type of practice has nothing to do with Bhagti as recommended in the Gurbani. Therefore, such Mammon worshippers are branded as thieves in the Gurbani.
  • ਕਾਲੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਸਤ ਕਾ ਢਬੁ ॥ ਥਾਨਸਟ ਜਗ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਹੋਏ ਡੂਬਤਾ ਇਵ ਜਗੁ ॥: Kaalu naahee jogu naahee naahee sat kaa dhabu. Thaanasat jag bharisat hoye doobataa iv jagu: No, no, this is not the time, when people know the way to Yog and Truth. The holy places of worship in the world are polluted, and so the world is drowning (sggs 662).
  • ਸੰਪੈ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਚਾਕਰ ਚੋਰ ॥: Sanpai kaarani chaakar chor: For the sake of wealth, (some) become servants and thieves (sggs 937).
  • ਭਲਕੇ ਉਠਿ ਨਿਤ ਪਰ ਦਰਬੁ ਹਿਰਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਚੁਰਾਇਆ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਤਿਨ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਤ ਕਰਹੁ ਰਖਿ ਲੇਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਇਆ ॥: Bhalke uthi nit par darabu hirhi Hri Naamu churaaiaa. Hari jiou tin kee sangati mat karahu rakhi lehu Hari raaiaa: They rise early in the morning, to cheat and steal from others; they hide from God. O Dear God, let me not even associate with them; save me from them. (sggs 1244).
Many times people hire Paathees (professional Gurbani readers) to perform Akhand Paath in their homes. It is invariably seen that, while the Paath is in progress, the host family and their friends generally assemble in the adjacent room to engage in gossip, slandering those who are not present there, shooting all kinds of nonsense, exotic dancing, listening to cheap music, and so on. Then, at the end of the Paath, the host family generally has a big list containing material demands from God/Guru. The hired priest then reads the list during the Ardaas (prayer). In order to secure the return-business, these shameless priests or Bhais will say or read anything to please their host!

These sort of efforts or practices are totally waste of useful time and energy. The Manmukh or mammon worshippers such as the priests (Granthis, Bhais), Raagees (professional singers), Paathees, Giaanees (Wise) etc., are making a good business out of this common ignorance. Why these swindlers are so successful in robbing people? The answer is very simple: If we want something as sublime as God and want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated!

The Gurbani's message is that there is no purpose in merely rolling the beads nor the tongue readingthe Gurbani or singing without the True Love Bhagti, concentration, conviction, selflessness, etc. The purpose of reading or listening to the Gurbani is to develop Divine Understanding (Aatam-Giaan, Bibek-Budhi...) , and then act upon it. If that does not happen, then, the Gurbani thunders there is no difference between a human being engaged in reading or listening to the Gurbani and a beast engaged in filling its belly.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Binu boojhe pasoo bhaye betaale||6||: Without understanding, people become beast and demon (-nature) ||6|| (sggs 224).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥: Gurmati suni kashu giaanu n upjio pasu jiou udaru bharaou: Despite listening to the Gurmati (Shabad-Giaan, Divine Teaching of the Gur-Shabad, etc.), (if) no spiritual wisdom (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਕੁਝ ਭੀ ਸੂਝ) wells up within (me); (then it would be) like a beast (routinely) filling its belly (sggs 685).
  • ਪੜੀਐ ਗੁਨੀਐ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੁਨੀਐ ਅਨਭਉ ਭਾਉ ਨ ਦਰਸੈ ॥ ਲੋਹਾ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਹਿਰਨ ਹੋਇ ਕੈਸੇ ਜਉ ਪਾਰਸਹਿ ਨ ਪਰਸੈ ॥੧॥ ਦੇਵ ਸੰਸੈ ਗਾਂਠਿ ਨ ਛੂਟੈ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਦ ਮਤਸਰ ਇਨ ਪੰਚਹੁ ਮਿਲਿ ਲੂਟੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Parheeai guneeai naam sabh suneeai anabhaou bhaaou n darsai. Lohaa kanchan hiran hoi kaisae jaou paarasahi n parasai ||1|| Dev sansai gaanth n shootai. Kaam krodhh Maya mada matasar in panchahu mil loote ||1|| Rahaaou ||: All read, hear and reflect upon God's Name; but (due to lust, anger, etc.) they cannot develop the Divine Love, and they cannot Experience God within. How can iron be transformed into gold, unless it touches the Philosopher's Stone? ||1|| Lust, anger, Maya, intoxication (with pride. arrogance, etc.) and jealousy - these five (i.e., all Bikaar) have combined to plunder the world. (As a result) the knot of skepticism from within does not get untied ||1||Pause|| (sggs 973-974).
12. Higher Spiritual Realization can not be attained through our deceitful nature, material cleverness, cunningness, hiding one's own shortcomings and flattering others. In fact such conditioned nature and fulfilling of one's undigested desires (Vaasnaas) go hand in hand. Accordingly, the Gurbani time and again reminds us to abandon such conduct. If we don't, then the true Bhagti will not manifest in us.
  • ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਕਿਤੈ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਈਐ ॥: Chaturaaee siaanapaa kitai kaami n aaeeai: (Man's) cunningness and cleverness is of no avail (sggs 396).
  • ਚਤੁਰਾਈ ਨ ਚਤੁਰਭੁਜੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Chaturaaee n Chaturbhuj Paaeeai: The Lord is not obtained through cleverness (sggs 324).
  • Man karma vachan shand chturaayee. Bhajtahin karapaa karat Raghuraayee: Abandoning all deceit and desires, one should practice Bhagti (Tulsi Das).
13. Self-imposed limitations of place or time for doing Bhagti will also block spiritual progress of an aspirant. In Sanskrit, the word Bhagti or Bhajte comes from the root word of Bhaj, meaning "to serve". Therefore, the process of Bhagti must include three items or three B's: Bhagta or Bhakta (servitor), Bhagti (service), and Bhagavaan (the served). Accordingly, Bhagti should be performed keeping in mind the Omnipresence of the Lord. A sincere seeker, for that reason, will not limit his Bhagti to a particular place or time. They constantly see the All-pervading Spirit in everything and every where, all the time. The limitation of time and place belongs only to hypocrites (Manmukhs) who have very limited vision.
  • ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਜਨ ਦੇਖਿ ਹਜੂਰਿ ॥ : Bhagti kare jan dekh hajoori: Seeing (the Lord) just present, his slave performs His Bhagti (sggs 1174).
  • ਹਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਕੀ ਸਗਲੀ ਬੇਲਾ ॥: Hari simran kee saglee belaa: Any time is a good time to meditate (Simran) (sggs 1150).
  • ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕੋ ਥਾਉ ॥: Vinu naavai naahee ko thaaou: Without the Naam (Divine Name), there is no place at all (sggs 4).
  • ਜੇ ਵੇਲਾ ਵਖਤੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੀਐ ਤਾ ਕਿਤੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਭਗਤਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਨਾਮੇ ਰਤਿਆ ਸਚੇ ਸਚੀ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਇਕੁ ਤਿਲੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਿਨੇਹੀ ਹੋਇ ॥: Je velaa vakhat veechaareeai taa kit velaa bhagti hoi ...: If one considers the time and the moment (for Bhagti), then Bhagti cannot be performed at any time. Night and day, one who is attuned to the Name becomes (one with) Truth. If someone forgets the Beloved (the Lord), even for an instant, what sort of Bhagti is that? (sggs 35).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਤੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਤਿਤੁ ਵੇਲੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਇ ਜੀਉ ਮੇਰਾ ॥੫॥: Nanak jiut velaa visrai meraa suaamee titu velai mari jaai jeeou meraa ||5||: O Nanak! That moment when I forget my God — at that moment, my Soul dies ||5|| (sggs 562).
  • ਜਹ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਸੋ ਥਾਨੁ ਸੁਹਾਵਾ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਵਿਸਰਹਿ ਤਾ ਲਾਗੈ ਹਾਵਾ ॥੧॥ Jah chit aavahi so thaan suhaavaa. Jit velaa visrahi taa laagai haavaa ||1||: Wherever (the Lord) come to mind, that Place (i.e., that mind, that Heart-place, etc.) becomes blessed. (O Lord!) The moment I forget (You), I become stricken with regret ||1|| (sggs 563).

14.  In general, Kirtan is sung in greed and heard to gratify ears – ਕੰਨ ਰਸ – (with “rare” exceptions) at religious places, religious ceremonies, homes, radios, televisions, tape-players, CD-players, Internet, and so on. As per the Gurbani, is it the purpose or definition of Kirtan? Not according to the Gurbani!

Kirtan is defined in the Gurbani as Viaakhiaa of the Gurbani, of the One… (Viaakhiaa – ਵਿਆਖਿਆ: ਬਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਾਨੁ, commentary, explanation, interpretation, definition, annotation, elucidation…)

  • ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਬਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਾਨੁ ॥: Andinu Keertanu keval bakhyaanu (sggs 281).

Thus, singing of selfless Kirtan is the definition of a true spiritual aspirant (Sikh). Singing of Kirtan for making money as we see at organized religious places does not constitute selfless Kirtan. That is a mundane business. The Gurbani warns such Raagees and their listeners as both will be ruined in the end.

  • ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਤ ਰਹੇ ਮਨਿ ਸਾਦੁ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: Iki gaavat rahe mann saadu n paai. Haumai vichi gaavahi birathaa jaai: Some sing on and on, but their minds do not find happiness. In egotism, they sing, but it is all wasted uselessly (sggs 158).
  • ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਸਭ ਕੋ ਸੁਣੈ ਸਬਦ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਮਝੈ ਵਿਰਲੋਈ ।॥: Raag naad sabh ko sunai sabad surti samjahi virloee: Everybody just listen to "Raag and Naad", but a very rare one understands Shabad-Surti (Vaar Bhai Gurdass).
  • ਭਗਤਿ ਨਾਰਦੀ ਰਿਦੈ ਨ ਆਈ ਕਾਛਿ ਕੂਛਿ ਤਨੁ ਦੀਨਾ ॥ ਰਾਗ ਰਾਗਨੀ ਡਿੰਭ ਹੋਇ ਬੈਠਾ ਉਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਪਹਿ ਕਿਆ ਲੀਨਾ ॥੩॥: Bhagati Naaradee ridai n aaee kaash koosh tanu deenaa. Raag raagnee bhind hoyi bethaa un Har pahi kiyaa leenaa ||3||: That person who adorns his body (with religious symbols, marks, etc.), but Bhagti ("ਭਗਤਿ ਨਾਰਦੀ" - Naarad like Bhagti or ਪ੍ਰੇਮਾ-ਭਗਤੀ) does not enter into his heart; he sits and play music, but he sits as a hypocrite (ਪਖੰਡ ਦੀ ਮੂਰਤ); what can such person obtain from the Lord? (i.e., nothing) ||3|| (sggs 654).
  • ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ ॥: Roteeyaan Kaaran poorahi taal: For the sake of bread, they perform melodiously (sggs 465).
  • ਸਚਾ ਅਲਖ ਅਭੇਉ ਹਠਿ ਨ ਪਤੀਜਈ ॥ ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀਆ ਰਾਗਿ ਨ ਭੀਜਈ ||... ਹਰਿ ਭਗਤੀ ਅਸਨੇਹਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਘੀਜਈ ॥੧੭॥ Sachaa alakh abheou hathi n pateejaee ...: The True, Unseen, Mysterious (Lord) is not won over by stubbornness. Some sing according to traditional Raag, but the Lord is not pleased by these Raag... By becoming the Gurmukh, (one) attains (the Bliss of) Bhagti of the Lord ||17|| (sggs 1285).
Singing or listening Kirtan for the sake of pleasing the taste of ears or other senses is worthless; because it only inflates the false ego-sense. If we keep singing and listening Kirtan in this fashion, the mind is bound to become more excited, discontented and restless (impure). The realm of Truth (Sach Khand) is beyond all mental activities. The Gurbani warns us as follows:
  • ਕੋਈ ਗਾਵੈ ਰਾਗੀ ਨਾਦੀ ਬੇਦੀ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਨਹੀ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਭੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥: Koyee gaavai raagee naadee bedee bahu bhant kar nahee Har Har bheejai Raam Rajai: Some sing of Lord' glories through musical Ragas, through the Naad (conch, etc.), the Vedas, and in so many other ways. But the Lord is not pleased by these (sggs 450).
  • ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਛੋਡਿ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨੁ ॥: Raag naad shodi Hari seveeyai taa dargahi paayeeyai maan: Leave behind the melody and music, instead, serve the Lord (by meditating on His Name); then, you will obtain honor in the Court of the Lord (sggs 849).
Thus, for the Kirtan to register, it must be internal. By internal means, one must Understand, Comprehend and Realize the Truth, and than live by it. When one begins to hear the Sound of this internal Kirtan (Shabad-Surti) and enjoys it, he becomes liberated. The Gurbani affirms that the mystery of the Shabad is grasped only through it's true Understanding.
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰਾਗ ਸੁਆਦ ਅਨ ਤਿਆਗੇ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਭਗਤੀ ਜਾਗੇ ॥: Gurmukhi raag suyaad ann tiyaagai. Gurmukhi ihu manu bhagtee jaagai: The Gurmukh renounces other "Raag" and tastes. The mind of the Gurmukh is awakened to Bhagti. (sggs 415).
  • ਅਕਲੀ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕੈ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਅਕਲੀ ਕੀਚੈ ਦਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਆਖੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਗਲਾਂ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥੧॥: Aklee parh kai bujheeyai aklee keejai daan. Nanak aakhai raah eho hor gallan saitaan ||1||: One should read (Bani) with intelligence, and then understand its real essence (i.e., assimilate it). Also, one should use intelligence in giving charity. Says Nanak, this is the True Path; other things lead to Satanic life ||1|| (sggs 1245).
  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥: Parrai naahee bhedu bujhiai paavanaa: (sggs 148).
  • ਸਮਝੈ ਸੂਝੈ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਅੰਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਸਾਚਾ ॥: Samjhai soojhai parh parh boojhai ant nirantar saachaa (sggs 930).

15. As time and again expressed in the Gurbani, the other impediments on the path to realizing one's True Nature (Mool-Source, Origin, etc.) within is to think: "When God showers His mercy on me then I will start Bhagti"; or "when my time is ripe then I will engage in Bhagti"; or "if and when it is in my fate then I will engage in Bhagti." The truth is, if one waits like this, only death will come! Without surrendering the corrupt "Antahakaran" — internal equipment consisting of deluded mind, corrupt intellect and psychological ego — Bhagti is said to be impossible. Surrender simply means to dwell in only Pure Consciousness of "Hari Naam".

  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਜਰਾ ਪਹੂੰਚਿਓ ਆਇ ॥ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੰਦਿਰ ਦੁਆਰ ਤੇ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਢਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeer raam na chetio jaraa pahoonchio aai. Laagee mandir duaar te ab kiaa kaadhiaa jaai (sggs 1371).
  • ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਵੈ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨਾਚੈ ਆਪੁ ਨਿਵਾਰੇ ॥: Uddamu krat hovai manu niramal naachai aap nivaare: Making the effort (e.g., Shabad-Vichaar...), the mind becomes pure; in this dance, the false self (egotis, Haumai...) is Silenced (sggs 381).
  • ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਅਰਪਉ ਪੂਜ ਚਰਾਵਉ ॥: Tan man arpau pooj chraavau: Surrender and offer your body and mind as your worship (sggs 525).

— T. Singh
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