"CHARIOT OF FIRE"

The age of Kali Yuga is the chariot of fire,
and falsehood is the charioteer ||1|| (sggs 470).
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In Raag Aasaa, Baabaa Nanak makes the declaration that the present age of the Kali Yuga (also called the dark or iron age) we live in is like a chariot of fire, and it's charioteer is none other than the falsehood. We all are seated in it. That is, we all are the passengers of this burning chariot. If that's not enough, the driver of this chariot is indicated to be the falsehood!

  • ਕਲਜੁਗਿ ਰਥੁ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਅਗੈ ਰਥਵਾਹੁ ॥੧॥: Kaljugi rath agan kaa koorr aggi rathavaah ||1||: Kalijugi is the chariot of fire, and falsehood is the charioteer ||1|| (sggs 470).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਦ ਜਲੈ ਸਰੀਰਾ ॥: Haumai vichi sada jalai sareeraa: In egotism, the body is forever burning (sggs 1068).
  • ਜਗਤੁ ਜਲੰਦਾ ਰਖਿ ਲੈ ਆਪਣੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ ॥: Jagat jalandaa rakh lai aapanee kirapaa dhaar: (O Lord) The world is going up in flames - shower it with Your Mercy, and save it! (sggs 853)

Why the Kali Yuga is equated to a "chariot of fire" in the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS)? Within the majority of us is burning the fire of "five thieves" (the faults of false ego-sense or Haume — lust, anger, greed, attachments, self-conceit and their numerous variations such as selfishness, jealousy, stubborn mindedness, slander, untruthfulness and so on). Thus, calling this present age the "chariot of fire" is symbolic of the collective, predominant, demoniac mentality of the people of the world.

  • ਕਲੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿੰਨਾਂ ਦਾ ਅਉਤਾਰ ॥: Kalee andar Nanakaa jinnaan daa aoutaar: In this Kali Yuga, O Nanak, the demons have taken birth (sggs 556).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪੰਚ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਿਉ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਧੀਜੈ ॥: antari panch agani kio dhheeraju dheejai: The five fires (i.e., evil passions: lust, anger, greed, etc., and their countless variations) burns within; how can patience (composure, solace, tranquility, ਮਨ ਦਾ ਟਿਕਾਉ...) be held (kept or sustained in the mind so lond these fires of Bikaar are burning within)? (sggs 905).
  • ਸਚਿ ਕਾਲੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਵਰਤਿਆ ਕਲਿ ਕਾਲਖ ਬੇਤਾਲ ॥: Sach kaal koorr varatiaa kal kaalakh betaal: There is a famine of Truth; falsehood prevails, and the blackness of the Kali Yuga has turned people into demons (sggs 468).
  • ਹੰਸੁ ਹੇਤੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਕੋਪੁ ਚਾਰੇ ਨਦੀਆ ਅਗਿ ॥ ਪਵਹਿ ਦਝਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤਰੀਐ ਕਰਮੀ ਲਗਿ ॥੨॥: Hansu het lobh kop chaare nadiaa agi. Pavahi dajhai Nanakaa tareeai karmee lagi ||2||: Cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger are the four rivers of fire (flowing in this world). Falling into them, one is burned. Says Nanak, with the Guru's Grace, one is saved only by holding (tight to the Guru's feet) ||2|| (sggs 147).

This time, the Kali is characterized by quarrel and conflicts, disagreement, cheating, deceit, cynicism, hypocrisy, duplicity, misinformation, darkness (ignorance), corrupt alliances, fall in moral fiber and Dharma, bad deeds, etc. Further, we are relatively short-lived, not very intelligent or fortunate, and we are constantly disturbed and agitated by anxieties and worries. In addition, our minds are egoistic, constantly flickering, turbulent, swift, restless, obstinate, and so strong that it often overcomes even one's own intelligence. In this situation people have difficulty to concentrate and meditate on God; their involvement in various other wasteful activities prevent them from aspiring to know about God; material possessions rather than noble values are the sole criterion for judging the greatness of people; moral code of conduct, adherence to truth and righteousness is replaced by falsehood and immoral behavior; might and power derived from wealth and corruption are able to control the world and are the basis of all rule and law; devotion to the Lord is difficult to pursue, people perform unmeaning rituals (Karamkaand), and so on. The effects of Kali in terms of decline in good conduct, moral values and code of conduct are clearly evident. Clearly, the present age is seem to be a bitter struggle for a life of short duration!

  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਧੜੇ ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਝਗੜਾਏ ॥: Kalijuga mahi dharre panch chor jhagarraae: In Kalijuga, the five thieves (i.e., all evil passions or Bikaar) instigate alliances and conflicts (sggs 366).
  • ਕਲਿ ਕਾਲਖ ਅੰਧਿਆਰੀਆ ॥: Kal kaalakh andhiaareeaa: In this Kali, there is only pitch darkness(sggs 210).
  • ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥: Kal kaatee raaje kaasaayee dharma pankh kar udariyaa: Kali (thoughts, imagination, ਫੁਰਨੇ, ਕਲਪਨਾ, ਕਲਜੁਗ ਦੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਯਾ...) is the scalpel, (as a result) kings (minds...) are butchers (have become ਜਾਲਮ...), and the Dharma has taken wings and flown away (sggs 145).
  • ਇਸੁ ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥: Is kalijug mahi karam dharam an koee: In this Kalijuga, no one is interested in good Karma, or Dharmic faith (sggs 161).
In such unfavorable circumstances and conditions what are we supposed to do? According to the Gurbani, we need to become Gurmukhs (Spiritual, Enlightened or Self-realized Beings). Because, in Kali Yuga, only the Gurmukhs are said to be able to cross over the dreadful ocean of the worldliness. How? By contemplating on the Naam, they put out their fire of false ego-sense (Haume).
  • ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਪਾਰਿ ॥: Kal mahi gurmukh outharas paar: In Kali Yuga, only the Gurmukhs cross over (sggs 229).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਅਗਨਿ ਨਿਵਾਰੀ ॥: Gurmukh houmai agan nivaaree: The Gurmukh puts out the fire of egotism (sggs 943).
  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗਿ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਬੋਹਿਥਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਰਿ ਲਘਾਈ ॥: Kalijug raam naam bohithaa guramukh paar laghaaee: In this Kali Yuga, the Lord's Name is the boat, which carries the Gurmukh across (sggs 443).
  • ਕਲੀ ਕਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਏ ॥: Kalee kaal vich gurmukh paaye: In the Kali Yuga, the Gurmukhs obtain it (i.e. Naam) (sggs 666).
                    In Kali Yuga, devotion (Bhagti) alone brings about union with the Supreme Being. Among the different modes of devotion, chanting the Divine Name takes the pride of place for its efficacy and the ease with which anyone can adopt it. The Gurbani assures that even in this Dark Age of Kali Yuga, the most sublime state of God -realization can be experienced.
  • ਚਹੁ ਜੁਗੀ ਕਲਿ ਕਾਲੀ ਕਾਂਢੀ ਇਕ ਉਤਮ ਪਦਵੀ ਇਸੁ ਜੁਗ ਮਾਹਿ ॥: Chahu jugee kal kaalee kaandhee ik outam padavee is jug maahi: Of the four ages, Kali Yuga is called the Dark Age, but the most sublime state can also be attained in this age (sggs 651).

The Gurbani declares that if anything can cool the fire of this Kali Yuga is the God's Name and singing of the Kirtan with the Saadh-Sangat (Holy Company of the Self-realized Gurmukhs). The Gurmukhs have often described the method of chanting God's Name as the royal highway to realization of God. For the majority of people who are caught in the web of worldly miseries (Kali Yugi nature) the divine Name is the panacea. Just like a spark of fire reduces a mountain of cotton to ashes in no time, the divine Name is capable of counteracting all sins when chanted. The spiritual practice of chanting God's Name as in Jap (Simran or meditation) removes man's ignorance, which is the cause of bondage. This process can be likened to cleansing a mirror covered by dust. When the veil of ignorance is lifted the devotee understands that God resides in him as the All-pervading Self, which liberates him from bondage.

  • ਕਲਿ ਤਾਤੀ ਠਾਂਢਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਉ ॥: Kal taatee thaandhaa har naaou: The Kali Yuga is hot (i.e., the fire of Bikaar or evil passions are burning individuals); only the Lord's Name is soothing and cooling (sggs 288).
  • ਨਾਮ ਤਤੁ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਪੁਨਹਚਰਨਾ ॥: INaam tatu kali mahi punahacharanaa: In Kali, only the Naam Tatu ("ਨਾਮ ਤਤੁ" - the One Reality, the One Supreme Life Consciousness...), is atonement (for Paap...). (sggs 254).
  • ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਕਲਿਜੁਗਿ ਊਤਮੁ ਹਰਿ ਜਪੀਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਭਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥: Har naam padaarath kalijug ootam har japeeai satgur bhaai jeeou: The wealth of the Lord's Name is the most exalted in Kali Yuga; so chant it according to the Way of the True Satguru (sggs 444).
  • ਕਲਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Kalajug mahi raam naam hai saar: In Kali Yuga, the Lord's Name is the most sublime (sggs 1129).
  • ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਕਲਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਤੇ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਆਇਆ ॥: Saadhasng kal keeratan gaaiaa. Nanak te te bahuri na aaiaa: In Kali Yuga, those who sing the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy - O Nanak, they do not have to endure reincarnation again (sggs 253).
  • ਧੰਨੁ ਸੁ ਕਲਿਜੁਗੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਈਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਧਾਰੁ ਹੀਓ ॥: Dhann su kalijug saadhsang keeratan gaaeeai Nanak naam adhaar heeo: Blessed, in this Kali Yuga, is the holy Saadh Sanggat, where the Lord's Praises are sung. O Nanak, the Naam is my only Support (sggs 382).
  • ਕਲਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਪਰਧਾਨਾ ॥: Kalajug mahi keeratan paradhaanaa: In Kali Yuga, the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises are most sublime and exalted (sggs 1075).
  • ਕਲਿ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਪਛਾਨੁ ॥: Kal keerat sabad pashaan: In the Kali Yuga, realize the Shabad (sggs 424).
  • ਜਿਉਂਕਰ ਮੈਲੀ ਆਰਸੀ ਸਿਕਲ ਬਿਨਾ ਨਹਿੰ ਮੁਖ ਦਿਖਾਈ ॥: Jiounakar mailee aarasee sikal binaa nahim mukh dikhaaee: It is similar to the fact where we know that without cleansing of the mirror, the face cannot be seen in it (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Jee, 1).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org