POSITIVE LIVING AND HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
O man, how have you changed the course of your life? (sggs 939).
Actions (of humble beings) are pure, and their lifestyle is true (sggs 184).
The life in one's hands is supposed to be like a brush in the hands of a great painter! For a peaceful and harmonious life, it's essential to maintain positive outlook and healthy relationships in the world. Negative qualities that cause great harm to one's life and relationships include lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, enviousness, stubborn mindedness (and their numerous variations such as selfishness, arrogance, impatient, worries, corruption, foolishness, falsehood, and so on). When negative qualities increase in us, then our actions become damaging to the harmony. Some of the positive qualities are mutual respect, sharing, truthfulness, accountability, contentment, non-threatening or nonjudgmental behavior, fairness, trust, sacrifice, selflessness (selfless love, compassion, service or Nishakaam Sevaa, sacrifice etc.), humility, friendliness, mercy, tolerance, forgiveness, spiritual wisdom, faith, clarity of vision, right attitude, right understanding, etc. Usually, we conceal our negative qualities and behave well outwardly to present good image to the outside world (various masks of ego or Haume)! - "We are good at talking, but our actions are bad. Mentally, we are impure and filthy, but outwardly, we appear pure and clean" (sggs 85).
By and large, the focus of our attention is the outside world of illusory sense pleasures, power and prestige, ignoring the divine inside world. As a result, we end up hurting ourselves and others in the process. Life expresses out in the outside world through three aspects of our being: physical (body), emotional (mind), and intellectual. The limited ego (Jeeva or Haume), in turn, through this body-mind-intellect personality, gives rise to the perceiver of objects, the feeler of emotions and the thinker of thoughts. We deal with the inside world primarily through the spiritual aspect of our being, which, due to our neglect, generally remains in a dormant state. As long as we neglect our inside world, the outside problems (conflicts, differences, hatred, divisions, wars, etc.) and related suffering will not come to an end. Therefore, it's essential to pay attention to both the inside and the outside world, and integrate them. In other words, along with the outside world, the inner world also needs to be explored.
The reason we have lost touch with our inner world is that we have lost touch with the values of true spirituality - they are not applied in a practical way. We cannot experience inner peace as long as we have excessive fascination with the external world. In reality, the majority of us follow religion blindly. The great ones tell us that the religion is like the finger pointing at the fruit (i.e., spirituality, essence etc.), saying that if you eat that fruit you will experience eternal Bliss (Anand). But instead of going for the fruit, we are holding onto the finger and we miss out spirituality - value or the essence! The Gurbani tells us that the spiritual path is difficult like walking on a "two-edged sword" (sggs 918). Therefore, to succeed at this, we need to awaken within the guidance and the grace of the Guru-God by becoming fit. This needs right efforts made at the right time. It's an arduous journey of selflessness, commitment and sacrifice. The Gurbani provides us with beneficial spiritual principles, and are summarized in the pages to follow. For as long we do not apply these spiritual guidelines (Wisdom) in our lives, we will end up treading toward a hellish existence.
(1) The spiritual guidelines of the Gurbani (SGGS) are meant to be applied or lived — these principles are not to be crammed into the brain or confined to the tongue and the lips. When we grasp these principles, there will be a real change in our character and attitude. Therefore, we should not leave these spiritual principles confined to the pages of SGGS, we need to live them, letting the divine teachings (Gurmat) shine forth in all of our actions. Spirituality without practice is like trying to eat fruits shown in a painting or a picture! Spirituality is the practical (not theoretical) science of life. Therefore, if we practice these spiritual principles in our daily living, we will not be overwhelmed by crises in our life. Because, these spiritual principles teach us the real nature of the world (Sansaar), and live life in the best way possible. Thus, the Gurbani or Gurmat is not a load to be carried around, it is a principle to be brought into the heart and constantly practiced by the mind. Due to spiritual ignorance, however, the majority of us, have a completely materialistic view of the life. As a result, we give more importance to the material wealth than the spiritual Wealth. Hence, the importance of proper understanding is stressed in the Gurbani.
(2) Judge yourself, not others. Judgmental behavior is threatening and leads to anger, conflicts, tension, other negative qualities and disharmony. Therefore, the Gurbani's advice to each one of us is to become a "real judge" by only judging yourself, not others. Judging others is a symptom of the faulty mind inflicted with Haume (false ego). Also called Manmukh, the daily life of such a person is full of its natural contentions, contradictions, jealousy, usual competitions, selfishness, corruption, falsehood of baser desires and fears. Consequently, he ends up living a wrong life in all his worldly contacts and experiences; wasting useful time and energy by undergoing tensions, strains, and creating chaos within for himself and confusion without for others. Judging oneself means to know "Who Am I?" by improving oneself through self-observations and self-purification. To know oneself as the Source ("Joti-Svaroopa") is being the "real judge". This only is Self-realization - to know one's essential nature as Pure Awareness. Unfortunately, however, the majority of us do not want to know ourselves. But we want to know everything about others! We want to find faults in others, but not in ourselves. We want to see divine virtues in others, but not in ourselves! We want others to forgive and forget our demerits, but we don't want to forgive and forget theirs. Hence, on account of false ego-sense, instead of investigating and judging our own conduct, we commit the error of judging others. In other words, we are unaware of our own house being on fire, but we go out of our way to see if someone else's house is burning out there! According to the Gurbani, such behavior only tantamounts to madness. Spirituality is meant to starve the ego (Haume), not to feed it.
(3) Do not think yourself good and others bad. Baabaa Kabeer says that "whoever understands this is a friend of mine". In other words, if one does not think this way is not a friend of the Shabad-Guru. Good and bad is a product of Mayaic consciousness (Doojaa Bhaav or duality). The evil that the world contains is the result of the Karma of individuals for whom Divine Law (Hukam) is the discipliner. When one is able to conquer evil nature, godly nature is near at hand. Only grit and great strength of the mind can help in this effort to counter evil tendencies. Practicing right conduct helps to clean the mind of "filth" that obstructs Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) of good. Spiritual peace and harmony can be attained only when the evil nature of ignorance and misconception (illusion, doubts etc.) are washed away. The Gurbani stresses the importance of purifying the mind through Viveka-Budhi (sense of discrimination or discerning intellect) and Bairaag (spirit of non-attachment). Pure mind alone can lead one towards spiritual Life.
(4) Use the power of discrimination (Viveka-Budhi) and Dispassion (detachment or Bairaag). The subtle sense of discrimination helps one to know the difference between Sat and Asat (truth and falsehood). Thus, a person of true discrimination knows that the Absolute Reality alone is eternal (Sat) and that everything else in this material world being in the framework of time and space is temporary (Asat). The Gurbani says that without Viveka, this precious human life is a total waste. Because without it, we will be unable to discern between right and wrong. Dispassion or detachment is the absence of sensual attachment to accepting things for one's own sense gratification. In other words, detachment towards that which is temporary in life (unreal) and attachment to God (Real) only constitute Bairaag. Such detachment must be the consequent to developing the quality of discrimination; otherwise detachment will result because of frustration in life and not out of conviction! Detachment does not mean that one should become inactive or idle. It is the state of being able to discriminate between the Self and ever changing body and external world. One who has developed the most intense Bairaag is not influenced adversely by the inherent charm of the mundane objects. In nutshell, Bairaag is a complete attachment to Spirit, and complete detachment from matter. Therefore, in order to develop intense Bairaag, one's activities must be Guru- or God-centered. The Gurbani declares that without Bairaag, Maya (corruption of conditioned consciousness etc.) cannot be transcended. So that we can remain detached, the Gurbani tells us this world to be Mithiya, dream, unreal, temporary, fleeting, mirage-like etc. We need to discharge our duties and responsibilities without attachment or aversion.
(5) Forgive and forget. To experience lasting happiness in life, we must discover the joy of harmony with the Universe, and live in tune with with the symphony of Creation. One who has so mastered the life will have no anxiety, fear or conflicts while living his life. To feel this closeness between the Universe and the Jeeva (individual being) we must eradicate all our intolerance, hate, animosity, discord or antagonisms with the external world. We must learn to forgive the mistakes of others. With the attitude of "love for all and malice for none", we can end brutality and conquer even the most cruel and evil forces around us. To live such a life of perfection (Jeevan Padvee) and joy is the goal of human life. This is God-Realization — the state beyond distress, tensions, conflicts, discords, vengeance, differences, disharmony, frustration, and suffering. This is the joyous fulfillment that life can ever offer us. We like or love an object due to our delusion and emotional attachment, and we hate or dislike an object due to our enviousness and other such negative traits. Egoism (Haume) is at the root of all negative qualities.
(6) Conquer (control, discipline, purify or annihilate) the ego-mind - shatter the hard shell of false ego-sense (Haume). Ego is the notion of "mine, mine". We re asked to give it up and surrender it to God. Very subtle and clever, the ego-mind is the outsider and the impostor. It is nothing but thoughts-stuff or memories of the past (Vaasnaas) and worries of the future. Each present moment becomes the past the next moment. The mind that lives in the cumulative memories of the past and worries of the future is one's enemy, and the mind that is free from both is one's good friend. Thus, it is said that the mind can be one's good friend as well as one's worse enemy. Since all suffering and sorrows are of the mind, the Gurbani tells us that all the knowledge is in annihilating one's mind (false ego-sense, Haume, relativist consciousness etc.). One can then resist sensory distractions and negative tendencies. So long we identify with the negative emotions (lust, anger, greed etc.), we will never be able to bring the mind under control. Negative emotions (faults of false ego or Haume) supply the mind with necessary food for its thoughts and identity. The majority of us have a faulty mind: full of negative emotions. Along with negative qualities, our minds also have positive qualities. The idea is to work hard to remove negative qualities of the mind (lower mind), and replace them with positive qualities (Higher mind). Thus, the Gurbani says, "through the mind itself, the mind is killed." Hence, the mind needs to be closely watched for it's the big liar and trickster. Memories of the past and worries of the future are the heart's snare. The mind in bondage cannot function well. Although to control the mind is very difficult, but with constant practice it can be trained. Just as eating bitter gourd is very difficult, but with practice one can develop taste for it. The "conquered" mind will think only what we want to think. Just as the moon is reflected in the calm waters of a pond, the real Self is reveled when the mind is absolutely calm and quiet. The ego-mind is extrovert (sense-bent). It needs to be controlled by turning it toward the real goal of the life (God-Realization).
(7) Live in the NOW; for the life is in the NOW. It's the present that needs to be worked out by surrendering our body and mind (ego) to God, not the past. Past is like a void check. By brooding over the past no one can taste and enjoy the present. By not living in the NOW we inflict more wounds on ourselves, increasing the pain of our past experiences. Instead of solving the present, we thus allow ourselves to be robbed. "Don't let yourself be robbed", says the Gurbani. The majority of us generally live in the past or the future. Memories of the past (past is dead and over) and anxieties of the future (future is unknown) both poison life by creating tension and disharmony. Meditation (Naam-Simran, Jap) helps us to live in the NOW. It helps us cope with all situations of one's life positively - we become able to responding (positivism) to life's situations instead of reacting (negativism) to them. Past is ugly. It's a shackle. Living in the past is like digging the dead or decorating a dead body. Therefore, to think and grieve about the past is foolishness (Moorakhataa). It is unimportant to a seeker to live in time other than the present. When we do not live in the NOW, the time seems to go really fast or it seems as there is not enough time. When we live in and taste the NOW, we somehow find enough time. That's why the Wise ones (Gurmukhs) tell us to live in the NOW instead of the past, as well as the future. To experience NOW, the pendulum of the mind must cease swinging. It must become absolutely still.
(8) We are responsible for our own actions (Karma). Therefore, we have to accept the consequences of our actions. When one bites a chili can there be any escape from its sharp tang? This life is likened to a field (Khet) in which our Karma is the seed. We harvest exactly what we sow. No less, no more. This infallible law of Karma holds everyone responsible for what he is or going to be. Based on the total sum of past Karma, some are close to their Pure Being in this life, and others are separated or far apart. This is the Gurbani's (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) law of Karma. The law of physics states that the action and reaction are equal and act in the opposite direction. This is a universal fact. Similarly, the law of Karma is also a universal fact. If there is a cause, there is an effect. If there is a Karma or activity (cause), there is a reaction or result (effect). This is the underlying principle. This is the law that brings back the "earned" results of one's actions to him as long as one has the ego (Haume). Also, one person's Karma can affect others as well. For example, if someone in the family goes to jail, others members of the family suffer too. With right attitude, actions can be converted into worship by remembering God in every action and breath. While each one is expected to do the allotted work, the emphasis of the scriptures is on the performance of action without attachment. The sense of "I" or (mine, mine) has to be totally absent. In other words, all work is to be done in a spirit of selflessness, and for the sake of the Guru or God. What is the difference between the action of a person of wisdom (Giaanee) and that of an unwise person? An unwise person acts with attachment while the Giaanee engages in action without attachment, firmly rooted in Dharma.
(9) Remember death (without fearing it). We often hear people say, "life is very short". This is only half the story. The other half is that this shortness of one's life is hidden from us — thus, unpredictable. It can end any moment. Therefore, each breath is in a way a new life, and each day is a new birth. Death sits and waits at the door-step from the day one a person is born. Therefore, the Gurbani says the life should not be wasted in frivolous pursuits. Furthermore, the human life is said to be very rare and precious gift. Because devotion is possible only in human form. The ultimate purpose of human life is to realize Mool within, here and now. Therefore, it is vital that this rare privilege of human birth is not frittered away in the love of Maya.
(10) Get along with everyone. Be kind even to your enemies - "No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger to me. I get along with everyone" - teaches the Gurbani. People consumed with conflict (Rosay-Gilay), resentment, hatred etc. are called Manmukh (material or unenlightened beings) in the Gurbani. The Gurbani tells us that the One Creator (Kartaa Purukh) is the Support of the entire Universe. It simply means that Creation and Creator are not different. But our body and mind (false ego-sense, Haume, corrupt consciousness etc.) create the barrier, which is the cause of apparent differences. When this barrier is transcended, the notion of differences disappear. In other words, if we are one with the Supreme Consciousness (Gurmukh state), there is the sense of "Sabh gobind hai sabh gobind hai" (which simply means One God has become everything), and we see the whole Universe as our own Self. As the flower is composed of many petals, but is one flower. Similarly, the world consists of many regions, countries, cultures, religions, languages, races, and people, but there is just the One.
(11) Cultivate humility. It is the way to remove ego (Haume). The Gurbani tells us that humility is the essence of all good virtues. Therefore, to become humble is the purpose of spiritual practices - we can rise through humility and good conduct. While we cultivate humility, other divine qualities such as truth, charitable attitude (Sevaa-Bhaav), pure conduct, contentment in all situations, compassion or mercy, intuitive Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) etc., will also become natural. Humility puts us in a right relation to God and the Creation. A humble person is a godly being, modest, kind, and contented. His actions are not abominable. Accordingly, humility abides in the heart of those fortunate ones who have divinized their inner-self: the mind, intelligence, consciousness, and ego. Hence the importance of this Divine Virtue of "humility" is underscored in the Gurbani. True humility is the recognition of one's imperfections. Further, humility is to consider others better than yourself. The material conception of life makes us finding faults in others by ignoring our own; because we are lacking. Due to this lack, we are unable to recognize our own imperfections. The humble and modest feeling of being meek and lowly comes when we attain humility. For example, all God-realized persons are embodiment of true humility; for they always think themselves meek and lowly. Their pattern of humility is unblemished. Humility is a habit of mind and heart corresponding to our comparative meanness, unworthiness and vileness before God (Self or Soul-Nature). A truly humble person is sensible of the small extent of his knowledge, and the great extent of his ignorance, and of the limited extent of his understanding as compared with the understanding of God. He is sensible of his weakness, limited strength, and limited ability. Accordingly, the Gurbani calls humility a formidable weapon. The true spirit of humility and surrender can put us in proper frame of mind to receive the grace and guidance of the Guru or God.
(12) Abandon the falsehood of baser desires and expectations (lust, cravings, Vaasnaas, mind's wanderings etc.). Act without them for it's not possible to satisfy them. If everyone gets his desires and expectations satisfied, there will be chaos and disharmony in the world. For example, the people who runs cemeteries and those who manufacture coffins want more and more people to die so they can make more profit, but people do not want to die!
The Gurbani does not suggest that we should no partake of any sense enjoyments, but that we should not become slaves of our habits, mind and senses. It simply reminds us there is higher meaning and purpose of life. Traffic rules are necessary for everyone's safety on the road. Similarly, spiritual rules or principles are also necessary to enjoy peace and Bliss (Anand) in life.
Unfulfilled desires and expectations beget disappointments, leading to anger, fear, frustrations and even depression. Anger is like a knife without handle, it hurts both the giver and the receiver of anger. When fulfilled, more desires spring up and they gain strength - they rejuvenate themselves, and thus don't let us rest. In this way our greed is nurtured. Thus, anger and greed are the two children of the desire. The amount of suffering one experiences is directly proportionate with the strength of his desires and expectations. Therefore, they are the root of bondage to the world. Bondage is diametrically opposite to selflessness, wisdom, love, peace and harmony. We also need to exercise control over impulses and temptations. The glitter of sense objects continues to attract those who live in worldly consciousness (Manmukhs). As smoke and fire go together, similarly if there is desire there is sorrow. Therefore it is said that desires are one's worst enemy, accordingly, there is the need to put conscious effort to overcome them. A person of wisdom is free of desires. Having no desire of his own, without a personal agenda at all, such person moves about in the world in utter freedom like a dry leaf in the wind. The highlight of the Gurbani's teaching is the urgent need for us to realize that the pursuit of worldly desires is self-destructive, a truth well illustrated in examples such as the fish falling for the bait, the moth seeking the light, capture of the monkey or deer or elephant, etc. We can reduce the number of desires by learning to understand that the true locus of real happiness is within, not in outside objects and circumstances. Knowing that desires cause suffering, if one still associates with them, then it would be like living with a rabid dog at home.
(13) Look at the bigger and the brighter picture. The ultimate purpose of this rare and precious human life is God-Realization (Pure Consciousness or Joti-Svaroopa). Therefore, life needs to to be oriented to this spiritual goal, and there must be a perceptible progress towards the goal in an individual's life. One of the common pitfalls that need to be overcome by us is said to be the tendency to postpone the pursuit of this spiritual goal to some other time or old age. As per the Gurbani, this concept is incorrect. In old age it might be too difficult to do anything. Spiritual life cannot be divorced from the worldly life we lead. Actions must be oriented to the spiritual goal so that there is a gradual withdrawal from engaging in sense pleasure and material pursuits as one advances in age. Eventually by the time a person discharges his worldly duties he will develop the right frame of mind and detachment to devote the rest of his life to realize God (Joti-Svaroopa), which is the rationale of human birth. The Gurbani tells us that the human body is the temple of God and should be maintained well (without pampering it). Development of indomitable faith (not mundane intellect) is necessary to practice spiritual principles. Seeing the One God in all and knowing others to be the extension of our own Self is Realization. Thus what is essential is a real change in one's perspective altogether. What matters is the genuine detachment from worldly objects and achievements and sincere longing to know the Truth.
(14) Unburden yourself of stagnant negativity and defilement. Clear the consciousness of worries, fear, hurt, and attachments. Gain true spiritual understanding. To move forward in life one has to let go the big burden of the past and future, otherwise life spins in endless circle! In negative relationships, usually there is no major issue other than "I said - you said" talk and some imagination fabricated over the past in one's doubting or faulty mind. False ego-sense (Haume) is the great crushing burden. We are crippled carrying it around for too long! Now, in this present life, we are given an another chance to unburden ourselves of this great load. Choice is ours. Either we can chose to carry it around longer and keep suffering, or we can chose to end it now. To end it right now will need inner awakening, courage, vigilant, watchfulness, determination and constant spiritual discipline. For the ego-mind is a great trickster and a liar.
(15) Marry and live a productive household life (Grahasta Jeevan). But what kind of household life? Two types of householders are indicated by the two Sanskrit words: "Grahamada" and "Grahasta". "Grahamada" is he who selfishly only cares about himself and his wife and children — this selfish attitude constitutes worldliness. In other words, he cares less for the happiness of others ("Sarbat Daa Bhalaa") or sharing his fortune with others ("Vand Shaknaa"). On the other hand, a "Grahasta" is a spiritual person who selflessly not only cares about his wife and children, but he also selflessly cares about others in the society ("Sarbat Daa Bhalaa" and "Vand Shaknaa"), without expecting anything in return! The Grahastaashrama of the Gurmat is a spiritually oriented family life, while at the same time carrying out one's responsibilities and duties truthfully. Living the householder's life is a way of removing hurdles (all bonds, the attitude of "mine, mine" etc.) on the path to realize God. Therefore, a householder's life should not end where it began! Unfortunately, this institution of Grahasta is becoming weaker with the time. It's not the fault of God or His Word. It's because of our selfishness. The result is the rise in divorces and domestic violence.
The household life, thus, is the ultimate test. Just as the potter rolls, pats, and then places his pottery in the oven in order to harden it, similarly, the journey of the household life helps us become mentally strong and mature. Thus, completeness is obtained through the unity of the masculine and the feminine, though not on a physical level but on a spiritual level. In Sikh thought, therefore, man and woman do not enter into matrimony for bestial reasons, but rather for spiritual advancement. In Sikh thought marriage based on selfless love, compassion, mutual respect, good understanding, trust, fidelity, chastity, loyalty and friendship is considered an essential part of physical life. With the example of a worldly marriage performed on a material plane between a man and a woman, the Gurbani explains in the four "Laavaan" as to how we can join (marry or link) with the Higher Consciousness within. Thus, marriage in the Sikh Way of life is supposed to be an unbreakable spiritual union of two souls into one. It is a mean to learn helping each other and attain together a balanced life, self-fulfillment, spiritual Unfoldment and Self-knowledge leading to perfection in life ("Jeevan Padvee") or spiritual Realization.
The Gurbani regards the woman as "Ardhaaganee" — man's other half, to the doorway to spiritual Liberation (Mukti). It goes without saying that the man is the other half. In other words, one half cannot claim to superior to the other half. In other words, they both are but a complementary force. One incomplete without the other. Thus, both husband and wife are to be considered equal. The difference between the two is mainly at the body (physical) level. They both have their unique roles in the society. When both live in harmony, they can reach the goal (Self Realization). Disharmony sets in when one tries to dominate the other. When both man and woman do not live in harmony, it causes discontentment and lack of peace in individuals thereby in the society.
As indicated in the verse above, a spouse should not "leave" the other. Especially in golden years (old age) when they need the help of each other the most. Unfortunately, after living together for several years and making children together, many feel tired of each other and then seek separation or divorce in their old age. Which indicates that, instead of becoming wiser with age, many become nuttier and unwise! Such stupor tantamount to family's devastation (including children) physically, economically, mentally and spiritually. Many go on and remarry to a new person. After a while, however, the same troubles resurface again, because although the "wrapper" is new, the "content" is still the same! You have not changed. Marriage is a compromise. We must be willing to accept change. But we want only others to change but not ourselves! Instead of justifying one's failures and mistakes, it's wise to admit them instead of blaming other people or situations for them. Because difficulties and problems are to be found within one's own mind. But the nature of the stubborn ego is never to admit it. Thus, it is the unripe ego (I-ness) that gives rise to one's all problems. In this world, there isn't a perfect spouse or marriage (only Gurmukhs or Enlightened Souls are perfect).
Children are one of the worldly responsibilities of both parents. They are gift to us from God. So they need to be loved and taken care of properly. Although the Gurbani does not want us to become emotionally attached to them, both mother and father need to shape their children to make them good human beings. Therefore, we need to help and guide them to experience a holistic development. Children are the future of this world.
Because we lack basic understanding of human nature and are unwilling to change, sometimes there is a serious misunderstanding between the wife and the husband. As a result, often some do not even try to understand each other, and thus live in two separate worlds without any real connection between them. Generally, men are mostly intellectually centered and women are emotionally (selfless love, sacrifice, compassion, service, caring, tolerance, patience, etc.). Therefore, both woman and man need to know what the other is really like, and how to bridge this gap.
(16) Balance motherly and fatherly qualities. The Gurbani refers to One God as our "Mother" and "Father". The Gurbani also states that the same One God has made us in His True Image. This means He must have endowed us with both the motherly and fatherly qualities. Everything God does is perfect and beautiful. Both the man and the woman need to awaken these complementary powers within themselves. Of course, the true Self transcends both (duality). As indicated before, generally, men are mostly intellectually centered and women are emotionally centered. The gap between these two centers can be closed with the unifying factor of true spirituality. Usually the spirituality practiced by the majority of us is reactionary. Dry intellect and knowledge is seriousness (false pride, arrogance, etc.). And seriousness is devoid of real joy. Therefore, to awaken joy in life, it's essential to strike a balance. One must move from dry intellect to intuitive intellect (Sahaj). Intuitive intellect denotes pure Wisdom — a mind that is intuitively balanced. The Heart must also expand along with it. Therefore, to awaken selfless love and harmony in life, it is essential to understand spiritual principles and their implications in daily life. With better spiritual understanding, we can learn to respect feelings of each other and learn to listen to each other's problems with selfless love, care and forgiveness, compassion and affection. It will soothe and heal feelings of hurt and guilt. The reason "no one is free of conflict and strife" in the world is that we are out of balance.
(17) Become a Gurmukh, live truthfully, earn living by honest means, and share with others (Vand Shaknaa), keeping focus on One God within. The Gurbani does not assign special importance to any particular hour, day or month as holy. The Gurmukh is the person who lives the Divine Lifestyle (Realization of the Self or Dasam Duaar) in accordance with the spiritual principles. He is the person with intuitively balanced mind. Manmukh (who symbolizes bondage) is the opposite of the Gurmukh. So the idea is to shift consciousness from the Manmukh state to the Gurmukh state. Otherwise, the Gurbani warns us we will end up losing all in this life! A Gurmukh bears no malice or ill feelings towards any being (including his enemies), and is able to rejoice in the welfare of all creatures ("Sarbat Daa Bhalaa"). He expresses noble virtues such as humility, infinite wisdom, friendliness, compassion, love, contentment in all situations, mercy, even mindedness (equanimity) etc. He earns his living honestly and righteously (Kirat Kamaaee). He is able to evaluate the worldly associations that are derived through his embodied state as merely temporary. He is thus able to rise above the feeling of "mine, mine", which is the greatest barrier in the path of spiritual Realization. He is forgiving by nature, and is constantly part of an infinite unbroken whole continuity. Such a devotee would have automatically subdued negativity of his body-mind-intellect-senses personality, and surrendered it (or false ego-sense or Haume) to God within. A true Gurmukh knows that it is not what we gain or receive, but what we are able to give, that determines the value of our life. He is at Peace within and works to make the difference outside.
Hence, according to the Gurbani, to become a Gurmukh is not a question of heredity, family of birth, ancestry, race, region, social status, caste, creed, education, titles, religion, or any peculiar external appearance of a person; it is a question of Self-Realization (to be established in Intact Consciousness, going beyond everything etc.)! Similarly, a Manmukh symbolizes an unenlightened existence, falsehood, cynicism, egoism, ignorance, hypocrisy, bondage, mental delusion, body-consciousness, and so on!
(18) Engage in Meditation, Bhagti (devotion) and God's Praises with faith (Sharadhaa). The purpose of meditation (Naam-Simran or Jap) is not to become somebody, but to become integrated, humble and free of the negativity of the mind. As mentioned earlier, humility is the essence of all good virtues. The Gurbani highlights the effectiveness of selfless Bhagti (devotion) as a sure path to God Realization. It reinforces the reciprocal love between God and His devotees. True devotion does not ask anything from the God but Him and service to Him (through selflessly serving the Creation). Besides being a mean to liberation from bondage, it is an end by itself. Thus it is a unique spiritual practice which changes the outlook of the devotee, eventually devotion maturing into loving meditation of God for His own sake. This type of devotion is termed as "Prema" or "Love". Thus devotional practice such as chanting Praises is a worthwhile pursuit. For the practice of Bhagti, cultivation of faith and sincerity is fundamental. A joyful existence totally free of difficulties is certainly not what one can expect from life on earth. What the Gurbani teaches us and the Great ones have shown by example is that the challenges of life have to be faced courageously and resolutely without getting disheartened. The Gurbani extols the value of maintaining equanimity of mind towards both joy and sorrow (i.e. duality). Bhagti is completely surrendering of one's body and mind (ego or Haume) to the Infinite. In essence, Bhagti is the way of knowing yourself. Therefore, its main objective is helping sincere seekers to attain concentration or Purity of the mind; for behind the mansion of the mind stands the Lord! Simply put: Bhagti means acting spiritually in accordance with the God's Hukam (Divine Will). It is the science for Self-realization, which brings about divine Union, in love, between the unit consciousness, Jeeva, and the Infinite Consciousness. In essence, perfect Bhagti is the absolute love for God. Thus, Bhagti is not just repetition of "Mantra" or singing of devotional songs. It is to discriminate between the right and wrong or eternal and transitory. Therefore, real progress can be made if devotion is rooted in the real understanding of the essential spiritual principles. In such Pure form, it is God Realization - Immortality or Eternality (Amrit). Chanting God's praises with devotion is a purifying process. Thus, Meditation, Bhagti and God's Praises are interrelated and complementary.
(19) Develop holistic spiritual understanding. Such understanding or awareness of life and the physical body liberates one from bondage. Without it, as the Gurbani says, one essentially lives in an animal-consciousness. Accordingly, we are urged by the Gurbani about the need to conduct ourselves in life with much care and good understanding. Off course, the practice of spiritual understanding begins at home - we must know where we are in consciousness all the times. It deepens or unfolds within with meditation. Lack of mature understanding of life or physical body makes us live in anger and frustration, thus not progressing spiritually (the Gurmukh Lifestyle). Many a time, our understanding of the purpose of life or physical body is superficial, but our reactions are emotionally strong. This leads to a lot of conflict within and without. Control (of the body-mind-intellect apparatus) is at its best when we change through proper understanding and not through reactions, frustration, fear or anger. Just as all counting has to begin with the number one, right understanding of life has to start with the NOW, not some other time or place. Time and again we will meet with delicate situations in life, which will test our equanimity, vigilant, and concentration in all our actions. With proper understanding born of concentration, attention, desires and fears do not take root in the mind.
Although we all have understanding in some way, but whether it's based on right knowledge is a different story. Understanding which cannot distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, Dharma and Adharma, eternal and temporary (for example, body is temporary and the Soul is eternal, etc.) is just in the mode of ignorance and passion. Such faulty and shallow understanding works in the opposite of the way it should — always strives in wrong direction or wrong action. The understanding by which one knows what ought to be done and feared, and what ought not to be done and feared, what is binding and what is liberating, is in the mode of goodness.
The Gurbani says there are two paths available to man. The first is to perform actions that deserve to be performed in accordance with the Gurmat (Divine teachings of the Gurbani, SGGS). The other path is to perform actions that do not deserve to be performed in accordance with the Gurmat. Faulty understanding steers us in the erroneous path. Regardless of how much our emotions are upset and our body is suffering, there is something in us that never changes - the Self, Soul-Nature, Joti-Svaroopa. Further, it also remains ever calm, peaceful, dynamic, vibrant, and watching. We need to hold onto this Center. Then build on it.
(20) The Gurbani says this world is on fire, and we are all suffering in this fire (of worldly existence). With the exception of those who have become Gurmukhs (spiritual Beings), rest of us are all suffering. So if one is having problems in life, don't think you are the only one suffering or God has singled you out. If we look around from a hilltop view, we will notice the majority of the mankind is burning in the same fire. But that does not mean we should be satisfied with that and keep suffering. Because the ultimate purpose of this human life is to transcend material suffering by realizing one's True Nature, which is free of suffering!
(21) Consume the mistaken identity. Without letting go of our mistaken identity (body consciousness), we cannot rise to the level of our true Being. Sorrows arise when we entertain "I am the body" idea. In error we identify ourselves with the mortal body-frame. Instead, as the Gurbani time and again reminds us we are the "Joti-Svaroopa". Thus, due to our mistaken identity, we create our own prison and our own imprisonment. Nobody else is responsible or involved. On account of ignorance, man forgets about his Essential Nature as "Joti-Svaroopa" or Pure Consciousness. In this mistaken identity (false ego or Haume regime, "mine, mine"), he then confounds the Immortal Self with the finite body-mind-intellect apparatus. Seen in this blunder is the phenomenal world of names, shapes, movements and miseries. So long we identify with the body-consciousness, there will be differences or divisions. Because this mistaken identity makes us aware of time-space consciousness, which gives rise to differences or divisions. In turn, these differences or divisions make everything appear to be separate from us. Realization of this mistaken identity is what we call Self-Realization, perception of One Universal Consciousness.
(22) Engage in Shabad-Vichaar - the SGGS also indicates that the true Sikhs are those who have understood to live Sikhi by learning it through the Gur-Vichaar (contemplating or reflecting on the Guru's Teaching or Words): ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ — Sikhee (or Sikhi) sikhiaa gur veechaar (sggs 465). It helps us unburden our negativity and defilement (bondage) by unlearning and rising above dogma, preconceived notions, delusion, etc. Spiritual- or Self-Inquiry (Shabad-Vichaar) is a gradual process. Curiosity to know the cause of our existence and the relationship to the world (beings, objects, things, places etc.) is the starting point of this quest. It opens our minds. But there should also be a willingness to know and understand the complex of this Universe. Each individual's quest is a personal search and becomes meaningful with every sincere effort taken (i.e., self-purification and self-observation). In the Gurbani's teachings, the accent is on the individual's honest endeavor to develop sincere devotion coupled with Shabad-Vichaar, love and self-sacrifice which leads one to detachment and loss of the sense of the false ego (Haume) in the process.
(23) Share in virtues of others, not their faults or shortcomings. The Gurbani roars from the top of its voice that we have no business to share in faults of others. The reason is this: we are not here to deal with faults or weaknesses. Because, such negative thinking does no good to anybody. The Gurbani calls such dealings "false trade". Therefore, we are asked for shunning such negative conduct and mental habit patterns. We are here to deal with only virtues or good. Because only virtues or good can be conducive to the divine Life (Gurmukhtaa). Accordingly, the Gurbani time and again urges us to make this our real business - leave behind our faults and be absorbed in virtues. In the final analysis, says Baabaa Nanak, "the mortal is emancipated only when all his faults are eradicated."
(24) Be patient (Sahaj, Dheeraj etc.). Also, at the same time be enthusiastic and optimistic. Ego is always impatient. That's why ego always demands instant gratification. Impatience can only destroy. And thus can only produce negativity, disharmony, faulty vision, evil mindedness, and imperfection. No wonder the world seems to have been fallen into the grip of an octopus of fear and destruction — individuals clashing with individuals, families clashing with families, nations clashing with nations, religions clashing with religions, and so on. The way of nature, spirituality or God is evolutionary — Sahaj. Accordingly, the spiritual Path is not a straight one in which the spiritual aspirant can progress easily. There are ups and downs, which may not be discernible because spiritual evolution is gradual. The quality of patient helps the mind become calm and peaceful. Such mind, in turn, can lead one to spiritual expedience in life.
(25) Go within. The greatest challenge for human beings is to understand the true Self ("Joti-Svaroopa"), the inner essence of one's existence. This awareness is totally experiential and not conceptual. So long we neglect our inside world, the outside problems will remain, and we will not be able to understand the true Self. The human life has an ultimate purpose - to change it for better and make it something worth when incarnated in human body. If one wants to see a noble world outside, then he himself needs be that change first within. The Gurbani's simple message is this: there is One God and He is within and without - He is our own Self. The purpose of human life is to know and understand this realm of Truth inside the body while alive ("here" and "now") through self-purification and self-observation. Then we can take off from the levels of ignorance, falsehood and selfishness (i.e., eradicate all negativity and defilement) into the heights of selflessness (the state of no false ego), spontaneity ("Sahaj") and perfection in life ("Jeevan Padvee"). To Realize one's real Self ("Joti-Svaroopa") is the end of all searching; for the Self is the only Truth, all else is inference. To create the right conditions needed for rediscovery of this Supreme Truth, therefore, we are urged to look inside. When we realize who we are within, all outside problems cease. Although God lives inside the "cave" of our heart, but we are unable to see Him for our mind is not inside - it's wandering outside in all directions.
(26) Attain Freedom (Mukti) in the midst of Maya. There is nowhere else to go. To make the point, the Gurbani gives us several examples including the lotus flower that lives in slimy water but remains unblemished and serves others by fragrance and beauty, and an actor who plays many roles but remains the person he is. Freedom in the midst of Maya means to be free from negativity and defilement (bondage) while incarnated in the body - to become Jeevanmukta or living liberated (the state when one is permeated with One Pure and Undivided Consciousness). The majority of us are in bondage and not free at the present moment. If we were free we would not be suffering. Because we are in bondage, more often we feel unhappy in spite of all our efforts to avoid pain and sorrows. So what can we do? One thing is for sure, running away from the world or life is not the answer. Given the circumstances or conditions, what we can do is free ourselves to the extent that we will not be adversely affected by the happenings of the external world and the phenomena of the conditioned mind. In other words, we must realize the Truth-Knowledge-Bliss of the Self and its indivisibility so that we are unaffected by the objective conditions - "likes and dislikes" or preferences, which are mighty disruptions to one's inner peace for they make the mind agitated and restless, thus weak. In other words, we can attain freedom in the midst of Maya by being in the world but not of it! The Gurbani time and again reminds us that everything that appears must disappear. Nothing lasts forever in life, as life itself is impermanent. All things are short-lived, both good and bad. Wealth, possessions, kith and kin, name, fame, titles, and so on, in these nothing is permanent. The true freedom is working selflessly for others. Working selflessly for others is working selflessly for God through serving others. Working selfishly for oneself is bondage. Therefore, selfishness must disappear. In other words, the real freedom is inner renunciation: living in the world but not of it. This is the state of truthful living or "Truth in action", in which one is free of all Bikaars (evil passions) of the mind. The Gurbani does not want us to run away from responsibilities of the life. It teaches us how to succeed in life while remaining in the midst of worldly happenings and obstacles. Whatever role an "actor" plays, he always knows who he really is.
(27) As you think so you become. In other words, as is the perceiver, so is the perception. Since our life is shaped by our minds, what we think, is what we become. As the mind is nothing but thoughts-stuff (Phurne), whatever is in one's mind will reflect in his words. In turn, words manifest as actions (Karnee or Karma). In turn, actions form habits; and habits solidify in character. Simply put: what we consistently cultivate in our minds determines our character-formation, and our destiny. For that reason, if a person wants to change the character-formation in him, he can do so by consistently changing his thoughts. Thus goes the proverbial expression: "Man is the architect of his destiny". Clearly, our thoughts have great power over our life. This statement - as you think, so you become - which all the wise ones agree on, is at the core of true understanding as to how our thinking affects who we are. It also highlights the connection between what we think and what we ultimately become. As we exist in the ego-mind, the majority of us have entire life of wrong thinking. On the unsteady base of conditioned mind we perform all our activities. Due to inattention to the core of our true Being within, we are only aware of thinking, feeling and doing. But we are not aware of our true Self. Whatever is happening in life is a direct result of the mentality we have cultivated and the choices we have made in the past. Therefore, we are advised by the Gurbani to use the freedom of choice wisely.
(28) Let's not look for happiness in the wrong things and conditions. All human efforts and activities are aimed at two things: (a) gaining happiness (inner peace); and (b) attaining freedom from all sorrows (Dukha). Accordingly, all our endeavors are motivated by the impulse to seek out joy-giving things and circumstances, and avoid any sorrow-giving things and situations. In other words, we want happiness that is unlimited and unconditional, regardless of people, objects, time, circumstances, and places. But, strangely enough, we search for happiness in the very same people, objects, time, circumstances, and places, which are ever changing and fleeting by their very nature because the happiness we get from these is incidental not intrinsic! Seeking unchanging happiness from changing things is like expecting snow on the sun! To make the point, the Gurmukhs (Great Souls) in India tell this little story. One day while walking around his capital, a king stubbed his toe against a small piece of sharp rock protruding out of the ground. His toe started bleeding. In anger he ordered his ministers and guards to carpet all the roads in the city. Upon hearing this strange command, a wise minister politely said, "My King, instead of carpeting all the roads in the city, would it not be wiser if you wear a pair of good shoes?" The moral of the story is that instead of trying to adjust everything for our own expediency, we should try to adjust ourselves to the external situations. This is possible through spiritual Life based on clear understanding.
(29) Understand the inner significance of spiritual practices, and thereby transcend them to experience the Ultimate Truth within. If we do not understand their inner significance and thereby do not strive to go beyond them, then they become empty rituals. There is no point of practicing them if they do not lead one to realize that there is no God existing separately from our own innermost Self ("Joti-Svaroopa"). The experience of Oneness with the inner Truth is the goal of all religions. Spiritual practices are meant to attain a certain amount of mental purification, provided we have the right attitude. Attachment to empty rituals become a stumbling block in one's spiritual growth.
(30) See the same One God in everything. God is both immanent and transcendent, All-pervading Consciousness. Therefore, real Self-realization is seeing One God in all things and knowing all beings as the extension of one's own Self. This is said to be the true Wisdom. In this Wisdom, there is no room for our foolishness and selfishness. Selfishness is the "taker" not the "giver". So long we are selfish, we would not know how to give, share (Vand Shaknaa) and care for others, without expecting anything in return.
(31) Moderation. Eat less and sleep less —"this is the Essence of Wisdom", says the Gurbani. Therefore, there comes the importance of a simple diet. Simple diet helps gain Freedom from sense-slavery, greed etc.). Now-a days even health experts suggest light and simple diet! Simple diet also makes us sleep less. While a heavy and unnatural diet will make us lazy and sleep more. The Gurbani simply reminds us to avoid all excesses, and not to become slaves of the senses, mind and habits. Instead, we should become their master. Therefore, we are reminded to limit food, sleep, talk, thoughts, etc., to what is essential, and to avoid what is inessential.
(32) Know that everyone is subject to the One "Hukam" (Divine Order, Command, Will, Eternal Law...). Everything takes place according to this sweet divine "Hukam". Therefore, the Gurbani tells us to accept life as it presents itself to us, as God's Prasaad. In other words, accept all situations and experiences, seemingly negative or otherwise, and learn from them. There is a Divine message hidden in each one of them. If we penetrate beneath the surface of a situation or an experience, it will be revealed to us. Inner peace and lasting happiness follows in the wake of pain and suffering.
(33) The Gurbani wants us to know that in this material world "all are concerned only with their own happiness". Here the Gurbani neither seeks to discourage us nor tries to scare us away from forming worldly relationships. Instead, the Gurbani is simply making us aware of the real nature of these worldly relationships so that later we do not become stunned, disappointed, frustrated, or dejected.
(34) Reject the madness of believing in caste (Jaat-Paat), race, lineage, ethnicity, occupation, social status, power, name, titles, and so on. In Sikh thought, God is beyond all physical attributes. Kingdom of the One God or heaven is within each one of us, which is equally available to all. The essence of spiritual practices is attaining the state of experiencing the absolute state of Bliss (Anand). Birth, social status, religion or caste cannot stand in the way of a Soul engaged in this quest for Self-Realization.
(35) Seek, join and keep the spiritual or Holy Company (Saadh-Sangat, Satsangat etc.). The value of sandalwood lies in its fragrance that spreads out far and wide. The philosopher's touch stone (Paaras) has the same good quality: Any lowly metal that comes in contact with it is transformed into gold. In other words, whatever comes into contact with both sandalwood and Paaras is uplifted. The Gurbani compares the nature of Saadh-Sangat with that of sandalwood and Paaras. Because in Saadh-Sangat, a lowly conditioned Soul is purified, thus uplifted and transformed into Divine Consciousness! In the presence of such Holy Company, one finds the energy, integrity, understanding, and persistence to liberate himself from the domain of the false ego sense (Haume). The Gurbani has specified a strict criteria for a Saadh-Sangat: the Gurbani tells us, "Satsangat kaisee jaaneeyai. Jithai eko naam vakhaaneeyai, sggs 71". In other words, although congregational worship is important, but not every congregation is necessarily a Saadh-Sangat, for as per the Gurbani it must meet the specified criteria before it can be called a Saadh-Sangat. The association of real Gurmukhs is the true Saadh-Sangat. Search such Spiritual Company ("spiritual Friend"), who can sweep our "filthy" minds clean and remove our doubts. But they are very rare. Also, they are not easily decipherable from the imitation because such souls have risen above any worldly labels or dogmas. Their ways are unique and distinct (Bhagataa kee chaal niraalee, sggs 981). Their greatness get camouflaged by their simplicity and humility. Such true and wise ones ravel constantly in the Universal Consciousness, radiating selfless love, compassion, service (Nishakaam Sevaa), sacrifice, and deep peace to all. To recognize a true Saadh-Sangat, one needs the basic understanding of spirituality (power of discrimination, intuition etc.). Although some may chose to live in seclusion dissolved in the Totality, but others may chose (as suggested by the Gurbani) to become an offering to the world to selflessly help rest of us groping in the darkness of ignorance. Our minds are closed, but the Holy Presence opens them up thus changing our behavior. In Satsang faith — an important element of Bhagti (devotion) — is developed and strengthened.
(36) Be innocent like infants. Like little children, we should keep the heart filled with love, spirit of self-sacrifice, wonder, joy, imagination, faith and surrender (to mother), selflessness, intact consciousness (unconditioned awareness), simplicity, humbleness, and so on. Also, like infants, keep the heart empty of negativity and defilement. An infant's mind is unconditioned for it is not influenced by the world. Such Pure mind is free of imprisonment from false ego. As an infant, we all were born with such an unconditioned mind! However, afterwards, while growing up, we get programmed and trained to identify with the feeling of "mine, mine!". In the process, side by side, false ego gets developed as we grow from infancy to adolescence. It then gets firmly-rooted after we marry and entangle in the achievement of various worldly desires. The moment physical ego becomes stronger in us, we become prisoner of desires, fears, expectations and delusions. Consequently, the mirage of the world-appearance looks real to us. And we take this body-frame to be our true Self.
(37) Perform regular introspection. Introspection is the ability to stand aside and observe, search, inquire and review without any prejudice the conflicts of the day in one's mind to determine the favorable or unfavorable outcome. It's the impartial intuitive or discerning self-analysis by which one analyzes his thoughts, words and actions and assesses the strengths of the opposing forces of his good and evil tendencies.
(38) The Guru and God are one and the same. For God speaks through the Great Souls. The Teachings and the Teacher are really not different. Have sincere faith in Guru (Gur-Shabad), and fully surrender ego to Him. So the person who has fully surrendered to the Guru need not go in search of any holy waters and holy places. If someone goes in search of so called holy waters and sacred places, it means that the person's faith and surrender is limited and not firm. Everything is contained in the Guru. Therefore, there will be no spiritual advancement if we just keep wandering around visiting holy places and holy waters. Awaken the inner Guru. The veil of or our false ego-sense (Haume) hides the inner Guru in dormancy. Everything and Avery experience in life teaches us something. Accordingly, the Gurbani asks us to perceive Guru-God in everything in the universe.
(39) Last, but not least, be constantly watchful and awake. Such attitude leads to internal alertness. Time and again we will face situations in life, which will test our mind's equanimity. We can remain unaffected and insulated from the illusion of Maya by keeping ourselves awake, aware, alert, attentive, vigilant, concentrated, detached, discriminating (Viveka-Budhi) etc. By constantly remaining so, our understanding will become clear and our conduct in life will become positive.
— T. Singh
Updated on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 10:06 AM (PST)
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