GOOD AND BAD OMENS

Only idiots and fools worry about
these omens and days (sggs 843).
<><><><>

Compare to modern societies, the ancient societies seem more superstitious. Nonetheless, as the Gurbani says, "the world wanders lost in doubt" . From ancient time, the educated are generally less subject to such beliefs. Fears related to bad omens and superstitions have a hold over the generally uneducated segment of any society. Although the rich and educated are anything but immune to many of the widespread omens and superstitions. Even among the educated, generally the spiritually inclined persons (those with spiritual knowledge or Aatam-Giaan etc.) are less likely to cleave to omens and superstitions as opposed to the people possessing material knowledge. Although many omens and superstitions are unique to local areas, but some appear to have a universal appeal.

  • ਉਤਮ ਮਧਿਮ ਜਾਤੀਂ ਜਿਨਸੀ ਭਰਮਿ ਭਵੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥: Outam madhim jaateen jinasee bharam bhavai sansaar: High and low, social class and castes - the world wanders lost in doubt (sggs 1243).
  • ਭ੍ਰਮ ਕੀ ਕੂਈ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਰਸ ਪੰਕਜ ਅਤਿ ਤੀਖ੍ਹਣ ਮੋਹ ਕੀ ਫਾਸ ॥: Bhram kee kooee trisanaa ras pankaj ati teekhyan moh kee faas: Superstition is the well, thirst for pleasure is the mud, and exceedingly tight is the noose of emotional attachment around neck (sggs 204).
  • ਰੋਗੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਭੇਦੁ ਮਨਿ ਦੂਜਾ ॥: Rog bharam bhed mani doojaa: The mind is diseased with doubt, differentiation and duality (sggs 416).

What is superstition or omen? According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, superstition is 1 (a): a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation (b): an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition. 2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary. Omen is: an occurrence or phenomenon believed to portend a future event.

The belief that objects, or living beings could possess special spiritual properties was widespread in primitive societies. That belief still exists in modern societies. Stones, trees, springs, caves, lakes, swamps, mountains, animals, bugs, days, moon, planets, eclipses, furniture, nature, and so on, are all deemed to be hosts to spirits. Some of these omens are strange, laughable, etc. In fact, many make living by forecasting omens and then providing remedies for them. Of course one has to pay them for their services!

  • ਨਾਰਿ ਪੁਰਖ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨਿ ਛਿਕ ਪਦ ਹਿਡਕੀ ਵਰਤਾਰਾ ॥: Naar purakh paanee agan shik pada hidakee varataaraa: It is superstitious to draw good or bad omens from meeting a widow, a bare headed man, water, fire, sneezing, breaking wind, hiccups (Bhai Gurdaas Jee, Vaar 5).
  • ਕਿਤੜੇ ਸਉਣ ਸਵਾਣੀ ਹੋਏ ॥: Kitarre saoun savaanee hoye: Many are there who forecast about the good and bad omens and thus earn their livelihood (Bhai Gurdaas Jee, Vaar 8).

In context of good and bad omens, and superstitions, the Gurbani helps us understand the followings: (1) who in the first place belive in these; (2) why they believe in these; and (3) remedy.

(1) Who Does Believe In Omens, etc.

The gurbani questions: "When He (God) kept Himself, All-in-all, unto His Own Heart, then who considered omens to be good or bad?" In other words, when all power, wisdom, scriptures, etc. were latent within God, then who was there to consider omens (to be good or bad) and superstitions? Therefore the Gurbani boldly declares that "Only idiots and fools worry about these omens and days".

  • ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਤਾ ਜਾ ਸਚਿ ਰਾਤੇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮਹਿ ਕਾਚੇ ॥੭॥ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮਰਹਿ ਮਰਿ ਬਿਗਤੀ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਏਕੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਹਿ ਦੂਜੈ ਲੋਭਾਹਿ ॥ ਅਚੇਤ ਪਿੰਡੀ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਕਿਉ ਪਾਏ ਪਾਰੁ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਉਪਾਏ ਉਪਾਵਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਆਪੇ ਕੀਤੋਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੮॥ ਬਹੁਤੇ ਭੇਖ ਕਰਹਿ ਭੇਖਧਾਰੀ ॥ ਭਵਿ ਭਵਿ ਭਰਮਹਿ ਕਾਚੀ ਸਾਰੀ ॥ ਐਥੈ ਸੁਖੁ ਨ ਆਗੈ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੁਏ ਅਪਣਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਖੋਇ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੇ ਭਰਮੁ ਚੁਕਾਏ ॥ ਘਰ ਹੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਮਹਲੁ ਪਾਏ ॥੯॥ ਆਪੇ ਪੂਰਾ ਕਰੇ ਸੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਏਹਿ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਦੂਜਾ ਦੋਇ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਅੰਧੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ॥ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਮੁਗਧ ਗਵਾਰ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਸੋਝੀ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਇਕਤੁ ਨਾਮਿ ਸਦਾ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧੦॥੨॥: Ehi thitee vaar doojaa doi. Satgur seve taa fal paaye. Thitee vaar sabh sabadi suhaae. Gur sabad nihachal sadaa sach samaahi. Thitee vaar taa jaa sach raate. Bin naavai sabh bharamahi kaache ||7|| ....Aapae pooraa kare su hoi. Ehi thitee vaar doojaa doi. Satgur baajhahu andh gubaar. Thitee vaar sevahi mugadh gavaar. Nanak gurmukh boojhai sojhee paai. Ikat naam sadaa rahiaa samaai ||10||2||: All the lunar days, and the days of the week are beautiful, when one contemplates the Shabad. If one serves the True Guru, he obtains the fruits of his rewards. The omens and days all come and go. But the the Guru's Shabad is eternal and unchanging. Through it, one merges in the True Lord. The days are auspicious, when one is imbued with Truth. Without the Name, all the false ones wander deluded. ||7||.....Whatever the Perfect Lord does, that alone happens.Concern with these omens and days leads only to duality. Without the True Guru, there is only pitch darkness. Only idiots and fools worry about these omens and days.O Nanak, the Gurmukh obtains understanding and realization;he remains forever merged in the Name of the One Lord. ||10||2|| (sggs 842-843).
  • ਜਬ ਅਪਨੀ ਸੋਭਾ ਆਪਨ ਸੰਗਿ ਬਨਾਈ ॥ ਤਬ ਕਵਨ ਮਾਇ ਬਾਪ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਸੁਤ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਜਹ ਸਰਬ ਕਲਾ ਆਪਹਿ ਪਰਬੀਨ ॥ ਤਹ ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਕਹਾ ਕੋਊ ਚੀਨ ॥ ਜਬ ਆਪਨ ਆਪੁ ਆਪਿ ਉਰਿ ਧਾਰੈ ॥ ਤਉ ਸਗਨ ਅਪਸਗਨ ਕਹਾ ਬੀਚਾਰੈ ॥ ਜਹ ਆਪਨ ਊਚ ਆਪਨ ਆਪਿ ਨੇਰਾ ॥ ਤਹ ਕਉਨ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਕਉਨੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਚੇਰਾ ॥ ਬਿਸਮਨ ਬਿਸਮ ਰਹੇ ਬਿਸਮਾਦ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਪਨੀ ਗਤਿ ਜਾਨਹੁ ਆਪਿ ॥੫॥: Jab apanee sobhaa aapan sang banaaee. Tabb kavan maai baap mitr sut bhaaee. Jah sarab kalaa aapahi parabeen. Tah bed kateb kahaa koou cheen. Jabb aapan aap aap ouri dhaarai. Taou sagan apasagan kahaa beechaarai. Jah aapan ouch aapan aap neraa. Tah koun thaakur koun kaheeai cheraa. Bisaman bisam rahe bisamaad, Nanak apanee gati jaanahu aap ||5||: When His Glory was contained within Himself, then who was mother, father, friend, child or sibling? When all power and wisdom was latent within Him, then where were the Vedas and the scriptures, and who was there to read them? When He (God) kept Himself, All-in-all, unto His Own Heart, then who considered omens to be good or bad? When He Himself was lofty, and He Himself was near at hand, then who was called master, and who was called disciple? We are wonder-struck at the wondrous wonder of the Lord. O Nanak, He alone knows His own state ||5|| (sggs 291).
  • ਸਉਣ ਸਗੁਨ ਬੀਚਾਰਣੇ ਨਉਂ ਗ੍ਰਹ ਬਾਰਹ ਰਾਸਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਕਾਮਣ ਟੂਣੇ ਅਉਸੀਆਂ ਕਣ ਸੋਹੀ ਪਾਸਾਰ ਪਾਸਾਰਾ ॥: Saoun sagun beechaarane noun grah baarah raas veechaaraa. Kaaman toone aouseeaaan kan sohee paasaar paasaaraa: The life led in the light of omens, the nine planets, the twelve signs of the zodiac; incantations, magic divination by lines and by the voice is all futile (Bhai Gurdaas Jee, Vaar 5).
  • ਗਣਤ ਗਣੀਐ ਸਹਸਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਜੀਐ ॥: Ganat ganeeai sahasaa dukh jeeai: By making calculations (of auspicious or inauspicious time, ਸੁਭ ਅਸੁਭ ਮੁਹੂਰਤਾਂ ਦੇ ਲੇਖੇ ਗਿਣਨੇ, etc.), doubt and suffering afflict the Jeeva - individual being (sggs 904).

(2) Why People Believe In Omens

Then why people believe in them? What is the symbolism behind our belief in omens and superstitions? When we have lust, anger, greed, attachment, self-conceit, jealousy, stubborn mindedness (and numerous variations of these evil propensities) - that is our omens and superstitions. In other words, when these evil passions dwell within us, we are omens ourselves. That is to say, when there are evil tendencies in our thoughts, words and deeds, we become omens for others. That's why the Gurbani repeatedly urge us to remove these negativities and defilements from our Haume-minds (Bikaars).

  • ਭੀਤਰਿ ਪੰਚ ਗੁਪਤ ਮਨਿ ਵਾਸੇ ॥ ਥਿਰੁ ਨ ਰਹਹਿ ਜੈਸੇ ਭਵਹਿ ਉਦਾਸੇ ॥੧॥: Bheetar panch gupat mani vaase. Thir n rahahi jaise bhavahi oudaase ||1||: The "five" (i.e., all evil passions: lust, anger, greed, etc.) dwell hidden within the mind. They do not remain still, but move around like wanderers (ਠਠੰਬਰੇ ਹੋਇਆਂ ਵਾਂਗ, and do not let my mind remain still) ||1|| (sggs 359).
  • ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਚਿਤਵਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰਾ ॥: Panch doot chitavahi vikaaraa: The five demons think of evil and corruption (sggs 1068).
  • ਪੰਚ ਦੋਖ ਛਿਦ੍ਰ ਇਆ ਤਨ ਮਹਿ ਬਿਖੈ ਬਿਆਧਿ ਕੀ ਕਰਣੀ ॥: Panch dokh shidr iaa tann mahi bikhai biaadh kee karanee: The five wicked enemies are within this body; they lead the mortal to practice evil and corruption (sggs 1219).
  • ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਬਿਆਪਤ ਅੰਧਿਆਰ ॥: Panch doot biaapat andhiaar: (Maya) torments us through the darkness of the five evil passions (sggs 182).
  • ਪੰਚ ਸਮਾਈ ਸੁਖੀ ਸਭੁ ਲੋਗੁ ॥: Panch samaaee sukhee sabh logu: (As the Gurmukh when) one overcomes the five evil passions, he becomes the happiest of all men (sggs 414).

The Gurbani also reveals to us as to who most likely is to be effected by omens. Regardless of one's level of education or status in the society, the Gurbani states that "Good omens and bad omens affect those who do not keep the Lord in the mind".

  • ਸਗੁਨ ਅਪਸਗੁਨ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਲਗਹਿ ਜਿਸੁ ਚੀਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥: Sagun apasagun tis kaou lagahi jis cheet na aavai: Good omens and bad omens affect those who do not keep the Lord in the mind (sggs 401).
  • ਹਰਿ ਬਿਸਰਤ ਸਹਸਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਬਿਆਪੈ ॥: Har bisarat sahasaa dukh biaapai: Forgetting the Lord, superstition and sorrows overtake the mortal (sggs 190).
  • ਆਤਮੁ ਨ ਚੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਭਰਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੂਤਾ ॥੧॥: Aatam na cheenhai bharamai vich sootaa ||1||: They (Manmukhs or unenlightened beings) do not remember their soul (soul-nature, Aatamic Jeevan etc.); they are asleep in doubt ||1|| (sggs 362).

(3) Remedy

Does the Gurbani provides us with remedy? Yes. The remedy it provides us is also free of charge! The Gurbani asks us to simply engage in Naam-Simran (meditation on the God's Name or Jap), and attain genuine understanding of spiritual practices. Because, as the Gurbani says, lack of both the genuine understanding and concern with omens and days lead only to duality (Doojaa Bhaav). Bhoot-Pret (demons and goblins), good and bad omens, etc. all are "attached to duality". The Gurbani asks us not to worry about things like bad omens, days, and foretold. Because, whether we laugh or cry, omens, days and predictions are going to pass. Therefore, in spiritual life, the Gurbani emphasizes that we should go beyond the instinctive mind wandering in delusion.

  • ਗਰਹ ਨਿਵਾਰੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਦੇ ਅਪਣਾ ਨਾਉ ॥: Garah nivaare satguru de apanaa naaou: Bestowing His Name, the True Guru removes the evil omens (sggs 400).
  • ਵਰਤੁ ਨੇਮੁ ਨਿਤਾਪ੍ਰਤਿ ਪੂਜਾ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਸਭੁ ਭਾਉ ਹੈ ਦੂਜਾ ॥: Varat nem nitaaprati poojaa. Bin boojhe sabh bhaaou hai doojaa: Without genuine understanding, all fasts, religious rituals and daily worship services lead only to the love of duality (sggs 841).
  • ਏਹਿ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਦੂਜਾ ਦੋਇ ॥: Ehi thitee vaar doojaa doi: Concern with these omens and days leads only to duality (sggs 842-843).
  • ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਸਭਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਹਾਏ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੇ ਤਾ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਏ ॥: Thitee vaar sabh sabadi suhaae. Satgur seve taa fal paaye: All the lunar days, and the days of the week are beautiful, when one contemplates the Shabad (sggs 842-843).
  • ਪ੍ਰੇਤ ਭੂਤ ਸਭਿ ਦੂਜੈ ਲਾਏ ॥: Pret bhoot sabh doojai laae: All the goblins and demons are attached to duality (sggs 841).
  • ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ਤਾ ਜਾ ਸਚਿ ਰਾਤੇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮਹਿ ਕਾਚੇ ॥: Thitee vaar taa jaa sach raate. Bin naavai sabh bharamahi kaache: The days are auspicious, when one is imbued with Truth. Without the Name, all the false ones wander deluded (sggs 842-843).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org