UNLEARNING

Forget all your greed and emotional attachment (sggs 343).
O mind, give up the love of duality (sggs 33).
Give up corruption from your mind (Bikaars),
and the True One will grant you Truth (sggs 422). <><><><>

The Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) indicates that our mind gets conditioned the wrong way from the very childhood. Hence, the way to fix the mind would be by unlearning what we have gathered since childhood. In other words, primarily spiritual evolution involves unlearning what we have collected in worldly life. This amounts to overcoming certain faulty notions or concepts we have formed which distance us from God or our True Nature as "Joti-Svaroopa". In other words, unlearning is giving up, losing, forgetting or overcoming the faulty knowledge or wrong concepts most of us have acquired while growing up and transacting with the Sansaar. According to English dictionary, "unlearning" is: 1) to put out of one's knowledge or memory; 2) to undo the effect of : discard the habit of. Not easy at all to change or mend one's ways and discard acquired habits!

  • ਏਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਅਵਗਣਿ ਬਾਧਿਆ ਸਹੁ ਦੇਹ ਸਰੀਰੈ ॥: Ih mann avgan baadhiaa sahu deh sareerai: (So long) this mind is tied to its faults; (untill then one) suffers (pain) in ithe body (sggs 1012).
  • ਮੈ ਅਵਗਣ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਰੀਰਾ ॥: Mai avagan mann maahi sareeraa: My mind and body are filled with faults and demerits (sggs 1189).

An infant's mind is said to be unconditioned; for it is not influenced by the world. Such Pure mind is free of the imprisonment from the false ego-sense (Haume) - lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, jealousy and stubborn mindedness. With these Bikaars (negative propensities of the mind) come uninvited their numerous variations such as untruthfulness, selfishness, hatred, slandering others, and so on. As an infant, we all were born with such a Pure Mind! However, afterwards, while growing and living in the world, we get programmed to learn identify with the feeling of "mine, mine!". In the process, side by side, false ego-sense (Haume) develops as we grow from infancy to adolescence. Haume then gets stubborn and firmly rooted after we marry and entangle in the achievement of various worldly desires. As soon as the ego-regime becomes stronger in us, we become prisoner of baser desires, fears and delusions (duality). Consequently, the "mirage-like" world looks real (permanent) to us. We mistakenly take our body-frame to be our true Self. Such faulty learning and conditioning results in false self-identifications with the time-bound consciousness (Haume), resulting in contamination of the state of our Pure Being (Joti-Svaroopa). The spiritual traditions tell us to unlearn in order to abandon this "burden" of false self-identification with the time-bound consciousness if we want to retrace our steps back to our Original State that we all were born with - the state of egolessness or desirelessness, Timeless Awareness or Intact Consciousness (Saabat Soorat).

  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਪੋਟ ਉਠਾਈ ਚਲਿਅਉ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਡਾਨ ਭਰੇ ॥ ਪੋਟ ਡਾਰਿ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਤਉ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਭਏ ॥: Jayu layu pota ....: As long as I walked along, carrying the load (egotism, love of Maya...), I continued to suffer. (But) O Nanak! meeting (Realizing...) the Perfect Guru (the Perfect Aatam-Giaan, Gur-Giaan, Upadesh of the Gur-Shabad ...), I unloaded myself and became Fearless (sggs 214).
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਗਇਆ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥: Kahu Nanak praanee doojai Paharai visar gaya dhiyaan: Says Nanak, in the second watch of the night, you have forgotten to meditate on the Name (sggs 75).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਭਰਿ ਜੋਬਨਿ ਮੈ ਮਤਿ ॥: Doojai Pahrai raani kai vanjaariyaa mittra bhar joban mai mati: In the second watch of the night, O my merchant friend, you are intoxicated with the wine of youth and beauty (sggs 75).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਮਨੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ॥: Doojai Pahrai raani kai vanjaariyaa mittra man lagaa doojai bhae: In the second watch of the night, O my merchant friend, the mind is attached to the love of duality (sggs 76).
  • ਤੀਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਬਿਖੁ ਸੰਚੈ ਅੰਧੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ॥: Kahu Nanak praanee teejai pahrai bikh sanchai andh agiaan: Says Nanak, in the third watch of the night, the blind and ignorant person gathers poison (Sggs 77).
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਲਾਵੀ ਲੁਣਿਆ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: Kahu nanak praanee chauthai pahirai laavee luniaa khet: Says Nanak, in the fourth watch of the night, O mortal, the reaper reaped the field (sggs 75).
  • ਜੈਸੀ ਅਗਨਿ ਉਦਰ ਮਹਿ ਤੈਸੀ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਅਗਨਿ ਸਭ ਇਕੋ ਜੇਹੀ ਕਰਤੈ ਖੇਲੁ ਰਚਾਇਆ ॥ ਜਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਣਾ ਤਾ ਜੰਮਿਆ ਪਰਵਾਰਿ ਭਲਾ ਭਾਇਆ ॥ ਲਿਵ ਛੁੜਕੀ ਲਗੀ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਅਮਰੁ ਵਰਤਾਇਆ ॥: Jaisee agni udar mahi taisee baahari maya...: As is the fire within the womb, so is Maya outside. The fire of Maya is one and the same; the Creator has staged this play. According to His Will, the child is born, and the family is very pleased. Over time, love for the Lord wears off, and the child becomes attached to desires; the script of Maya runs its course (sggs 921).
  • ਮੇਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਡੂਬੇ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮੁਏ ਗਵਾਰਾ ॥: Meree meree kari kari doobe khapi khapi muye gavaaraa: Continually claiming, "mine, mine", the mortals are drowned; the fools waste away and die (sggs 380).

In nutshell or to put it in simple terms, unlearning is to drop the Haume infected mind (conditioned mind) completely that the society (parents, family, and so on) has given us. Unless we do that, we cannot follow SGGS. Once that is dropped — once the roots of the Haume mind are cut — then our thoughts, words and actions should reflect what we have learnt from our unlearning!

Humans have longer periods of infancy and childhood when compared to other primates. During this usually long childhoods, a great deal of learning takes place. Humans are also distinctive because our other life-stages (adulthood, etc.) are relatively extended as well. During these life-stages, by and by our Haume (false ego-sense) becomes stubborn and stronger. Faulty learning during these life-stages make life that of miserable experience. If we do not unlearn, then in old days our only entertainment will be to worry, brood over the past and fear the death.

The following humorous story may help drive the point home. When the Supreme Self conceived a multitude of species, it was time to allocate to each species its respective life span. He started with man; to whom he gave a life span of thirty years. Obviously, the man was unsatisfied with that allocated life span and demanded a longer life. God told him that a life span cannot be arbitrarily increased. However, God said, "This is what I can do for you. I am going to call other creatures, and if any of them do not want their allotted life span, I will give you the remaining years of their allotment. Next came ox, and God proposed him the life span of forty years. The ox mournfully said, " O Lord, that's too long life. I cannot bear to live such a long laborious life, so please have mercy upon me and cut it in half." God cut his life span to twenty years, and gave the remaining twenty years to the man. The man was happy that now he a got life span of fifty years (30+20ox-years). But he still was not contended so he stood their hoping to get more. Next came donkey to whom God allotted the life span of fifty years. "O Lord I do not want to live that long carrying load on my back. Twenty-five years is more than enough for me.", said the donkey. God cut his life span to twenty-five years, and gave the remaining twenty-five years to the man. The man was happier that now he got a life span of seventy-five years (30+20ox-years+25 donkey-years). But he still was not contended so he stood their hoping to get some more. Next came dog, to whom God allotted a life span of thirty years. The dog started howling in protest, "O Lord don't I wan to be on earth for more than fifteen years." God cut his life span to fifteen years, and gave the remaining fifteen years to the man. The man was happier that now he got a life span of ninety years (30+20ox-years+25 donkey-years+15 dog-years). But the man still stood their expectantly. Then came the turn of worm, to whom God was about to bless with a life span of ten years. Upon hearing this, the worm panicked and pleaded, " O Lord, I am scared of such a long life of crawling around. So kindly reduce it to a few days or a few hours." The man was very happy to receive another ten years. Now he had the life span of 100 years (30+20ox-years+25 donkey-years+15 dog-years+10 worm-years).

In the light of this little story, let's reflect on the life span of conditioned (Manmukhs) Jeeva (individual beings) like the majority of us. Until the age of thirty, the life is relatively easygoing for the man — this is the period of education, learning vocation etc. for him. Then he gets married. From that point on his life resembles to that of an ox. Dealing in Moh-Maya, living a laborious life he reaches the age of fifty. Between the age of fifty and seventy-five, he still carries the heavy burden of life like the donkey. During these donkey-years (borrowed from the donkey), his health and energy also begin to deplete and as a consequent of this he becomes weak, slow and lazy. After the donkey-years have passed, man is almost exhausted and not much strength is left in his body. For the next fifteen years (borrowed from the dog) he guards his house and other worldly possessions like a dog, and look after the grandchildren. He is ignored by everybody. He spends his time thinking about past memories and worrying about death. The last ten years that were borrowed from the worm, man spends crawling like a worm. Due to the old age and diseases, his breathing becomes labored; and his body and senses become very weak. Finally he dies like a worm and is cremated or buried. After some time, even his name dies. This is the face of an ego-centric (Haume) life of sorrow, regret and despair. The Gurbani divides the Manmukh (mentally blind ignorant person) life-style in ten stages as follows:

  • ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਿਆਰਿ ਲਗਾ ਥਣ ਦੁਧਿ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਮਾਇ ਬਾਪ ਕੀ ਸੁਧਿ ॥ ਤੀਜੈ ਭਯਾ ਭਾਭੀ ਬੇਬ ॥ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਿਆਰਿ ਉਪੰਨੀ ਖੇਡ ॥ ਪੰਜਵੈ ਖਾਣ ਪੀਅਣ ਕੀ ਧਾਤੁ ॥ ਛਿਵੈ ਕਾਮੁ ਨ ਪੁਛੈ ਜਾਤਿ ॥ ਸਤਵੈ ਸੰਜਿ ਕੀਆ ਘਰ ਵਾਸੁ ॥ ਅਠਵੈ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਹੋਆ ਤਨ ਨਾਸੁ ॥ ਨਾਵੈ ਧਉਲੇ ਉਭੇ ਸਾਹ ॥ ਦਸਵੈ ਦਧਾ ਹੋਆ ਸੁਆਹ ॥ ਗਏ ਸਿਗੀਤ ਪੁਕਾਰੀ ਧਾਹ ॥ ਉਡਿਆ ਹੰਸੁ ਦਸਾਏ ਰਾਹ ॥ ਆਇਆ ਗਇਆ ਮੁਇਆ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਪਿਛੈ ਪਤਲਿ ਸਦਿਹੁ ਕਾਵ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਅੰਧੁ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥ ਬਾਝੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਡੁਬਾ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥੨॥: Pahilai piaar lagaa thhan dhudhh....: In the first stage, the baby loves mother's milk. In the second stage (when one grows up a little), he learns of his mother and father. In the third stage (he learns about), his brothers, sisters-in-law and sisters. In the fourth stage, the love of play (to play with worldly objects) awakens. In the fifth stage, he runs after food and drink; In the sixth stage, he does not even inquires a woman's caste in his urge for lust. In the seventh stage, he gathers (wealth and possessions) and dwells in his house. In the eighth stage, he becomes angry, and his body is consumed. In the ninth stage, he turns gray, and his breathing becomes labored. In the tenth stage, he is cremated, and turns to ashes. His companions (those who go to cremate him) send him off, crying out and lamenting. The swan of the soul takes flight, and asks which way to go. He came and he went, and now, even his name has died. After he left, food was offered on leaves, and the crows were called to come and eat (food offered to crows etc.). O Nanak, the Manmukhs' love (of the world) is blind (ignorant). Without the Guroo (without surrendering to Him), the world drowns (in this blind love) ||2|| (sggs 137).

The foregoing story may sound humorous, but it's very true to the life most of us are living. Therefore sooner we can unlearn or unburden ourselves, only then we will be able to live in Truth. In other words, sooner we learn to become a Gurmukhs (spiritual beings), only then we will be able to learn to live as we never existed. The Gurmukh is a Jeevanmukti (living liberated, Enlightened being Free of Haume or ego), while the majority of us live only to find death at the end! We know through our faulty learning how to create lust, anger, greed etc. ("Kaam, Krodh, Lobh" etc.) , but unlearning through spirituality and "Gurmat" will teach us how to overcome them. In other words, we cannot grow if we learn without genuine understanding. So the Gurbani urges us to let go of wrong notions and judgments. Unlearn and simplify.

  • ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਬਿਗਿਆਨਿ ॥: Mukti nahee bidiaa bigiaan: But liberation does not come from learning without understanding (sggs 903).
  • ਮਤਿ ਹੋਦੀ ਹੋਇ ਇਆਣਾ ॥: Mati hodee hoi iaanaa: If you are wise, be Simple (sggs 1384).
  • ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੋ ਹੋਈ ॥: Jeevan mukat gurmukh ko hoee: How rare are those who, as Gurmukh, become Jeevamukta - liberated while yet alive (sggs232).
  • ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਸੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ॥: Jeevan mukat so aakheeai jis vichahu houmai jaai: He alone is called Jeevanmukta, liberated while yet alive, from within whom ego is eradicated (sggs 1009).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੀਵੈ ਮਰੈ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥: Gurmukhi jeevai marai paravaanu (sggs125).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਕਾਲੁ ਨ ਖਾਏ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Gurmukh marai na kaal na khaaye gurmukh sach samaavaniaa: The Gurmukhs do not die; they are not consumed by death. The Gurmukhs are absorbed in the True Lord (sggs 125).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਜਨਮੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਮਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥: Gurmukh marai na janamai gurmukh gurmukh sabad samaahaa hay: The Gurmukh does not die, the Gurmukh is not reborn; the Gurmukh is immersed in the Shabad (sggs 1055).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅੰਧੁਲੇ ਸੋਝੀ ਨਾਹੀ ॥: Manmukh andhule sojhee naahee: The blind material beings do not understand (sggs 1028).
  • ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖੀ ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖ ਸੁਣ ਅੰਦਰ ਸਿਆਣਾ ਬਾਹਰ ਭੋਲਾ ॥: Gur sikhee gur sikh sun andar siaanaa baahar bholaa: Listening to the teachings of the Guru, the Sikh becomes wise internally though apparently he looks a simpleton (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Jee, 4).
  • ਸੰਚਿ ਹਰਿ ਧਨੁ ਪੂਜਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਸਗਲ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥: Sanchi har dhann pooj satgur shod sagal vikaar: Gather in the Wealth of the (Name of the) Lord, worship the True Guru (within), and (thus) give up all your corrupt ways (sggs 51).

The SGGS urges us to know how the mind's Bikaars (man's animal-nature) work and how to get rid of them. To that end, spiritual discipline (Naam-simran or meditation, spiritual company or Saadh-sangat, truthful living, contentment, detachment, humility, compassion, Daya or mercy, spiritual wisdom, genuine understanding, Shabad-Vichaar, listening or reading about Truth, etc.) is essential to attain Freedom from an ego-centric life, which is the purpose of life. But due to mind's conditionings (faulty learning), it is not easy for all to grasp this real purpose of life. But just because it is difficult, it does not mean it should be ignored and we stop perusing it. Mere knowledge of this purpose cannot lead one to God-realization. One has to make a sincere effort to understand the Gurmat from the young age. Once we are old and conditioned, it's too late! Knowing the spiritual message alone is not enough. One has to act on the message and live it in his daily life. It's just as mere reading of the medicine label will not be enough to cure the disease; one has to make the effort to administer the medicine! Hence, true penance is achieving self-control over Bikaars (Panch Chor or five thieves) of the mind and exercising control over the five sense organs for overcoming their demands. Spiritual practices are intended to distance oneself from worldly engagements and re-orient oneself to the purpose of human existence in the world.

  • ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਕੀ ਜਾਣੈ ਰੀਤਿ ॥: Panch chor kee jaanai reet: O man, you must know the way the five thieves work (sggs 344).
  • ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਲਾਗੇ ਨਗਰੀਆ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਧਨੁ ਹਿਰਿਆ ॥: Panch chor mil laage nagareeaa raam naam dhan hiriaa: The five thieves join together and plunder the body-village, stealing the wealth of the Lord's Name (sggss 1178).
  • ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਆਗੈ ਭਗੇ ਜਬ ਸਾਧਸੰਗੇਤ ॥: Panch chor aagai bhage jab saadhasanget: The five thieves run away, when one joins the Saadh-sangat, the Company of the Holy (sggs 810).
  • ਪੰਚ ਭਾਗੇ ਚੋਰ ਸਹਜੇ ਸੁਖੈਨੋ ਹਰੇ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਵਤੀ ਗਾਵਤੀ ਗਾਵਤੀ ਦਰਸ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥: Panch bhaage chor sahaje sukhaino hare gun gaavatee gaavatee gaavatee daras piaar: The five thieves have run away, and I am in Peace and Poise; singing, singing, singing the Glorious Praises of God, I obtain the Vision of my Beloved. (sggs 1305).
  • ਆਪੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Aap beechaare su giaanee hoee ||1||Rahaaou||: One who engages in Vichaar (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਪੜਤਾਲ) becomes truely Wise or Giaanee (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਸੂਝ ਵਾਲਾ) ||1||Pause|| (sggs 152).
  • ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥: Ootam karanee sabad beechaar ||3||: The ultimate action is Reflections on the Shabad - Shabad Vichaar ||3|| (sggs 158).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਬਉਰਾਨਾ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਨਾ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਚਿਤਵੈ ਆਪੁ ਨ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥ ਧੰਧਾ ਕਰਤਿਆ ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਵਿਹਾਨਾ ॥: Houmai vich sabh jag bouraanaa ...: The entire world has gone insane in egotism (Haume). In the love of duality, it wanders deluded by doubt. With the mind distracted by acute worry, one cannot recognize his own (True self, Mool...). Occupied with their own worldly affairs, their nights and days are passing away (in vain) (sggs 159).
  • ਪੰਚ ਸਮਾਈ ਸੁਖੀ ਸਭੁ ਲੋਗੁ ॥: Panch samaaee sukhee sabh log: Overcome the five evil passions, and become the happiest of all men (sggs 414).
  • ਪੰਚ ਜਨਾ ਗੁਰਿ ਵਸਗਤਿ ਆਣੇ ਤਉ ਉਨਮਨਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਲਗਾਨੀ ॥: Panch janaa gur vasagat aane taou ounaman naam lagaanee: When the Guru helped me to overcome the five thieves, then I found ultimate bliss, attached to the Naam (sggs 1200).
  • ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਬਚਨਿ ਆਰਾਧਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਗਏ ਸਭਿ ਦੁਖਾ ॥: Jinee gur kai bachan aaraadhiaa tin visar gaye sabh dukhaa: Those who worship the Lord in adoration, through the Word of the Guru's Shabad, forget all their pains and suffering (sggs 588).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org