For the lack of better word in English, Bibek or Viveka - ਬਿਬੇਕ, ਵਿਵੇਕ, etc. - is discrimination. But not "discrimination" as in connoisseur, racial, social and religious discrimination, prejudice, bigotry, intolerance etc. In the West, this word "discrimination" is by and large linked with such expressions. The Latin origins of the word "discrimination" include two words: "discriminate" (to divide) and "discernere" (to separate).
However, according to the SGGS and other Eastern scriptures, in the deepest sense, "discrimination" is the firm conviction that God alone is Eternal, and that everything else is impermanent in this world. Thus, Viveka is the discriminating intellect, clear understanding or wisdom, and the power of separating the Changeless from the changeful world. This subtle sense of discrimination helps one to know the difference between Sat and Asat (truth and falsehood) and right and wrong. Without this noble quality a spiritual seeker would be unable to discriminate between the real and unreal — Eternal (permanent) and the ephemeral (impermanent). Only a person of Bibek-budhi (the Gurmukh) knows that the Absolute Reality alone is eternal (Sat) and that everything else in this fleeting or changeful world being in the framework of time and space is temporary (Asat).
Thus, Bibek (also spelt Viveka) is not the all consuming material intellect; for such intellect is the state of delusion — "intoxication", "corruption", "Maya's filth", "Manmukh" or "rabidness" aspect. Therefore, the SGGS time and again reminds us not to use this jewel of "discrimination" blindly but in the right way, as only then will there be the clear Understanding. Otherwise this rare opportunity given to us in the human birth will be wasted and lost.
Perhaps a little story can help us understand the point these foregoing verses are trying to make. Once a man found himself in a large inaccessible forest teeming with beasts of prey such as tigers, lions etc. Near his wandering in the forest, there were several tiger cubs. When the mother tiger saw him near her cubs, she charged him. Seeing the tiger charging him, the man began to run hither and thither in fright. However, he could not succeed in distancing the mother tiger or freeing himself from her presence. In course of his hastily running, he fell into a invisible pit whose mouth was covered with many creepers and shrubs. He became entangled in those clusters of creepers that were interwoven with one another. He continued to hang there, feet upwards and head downwards. While he was in that posture, many other dangers overtook him. For example, he beheld a large and mighty python within the pit. A number of rats were eating away the roots of the creepers he was hanging by. He saw the angry mother tiger at the top of the pit waiting to devour him as soon as he was within her reach, and so on.
While falling in the pit, the man observed that he had disturbed and broken off part of a beehive. The honey (collected in the comb) fell in many jets below on his head. While hanging in the pit, he continually drank those jets. In drinking that honey, he forgot his distressful situation and all those dangers surrounding him. Unsatiated, he desired for more honey — his thirst for the fleeting pleasure of the honey remains unquenched. Even then he did not become indifferent to his life. If allowed, what a trickster the mind really can be!
Here in this story, that which is described as the wilderness is the material world (Jagat). The forest within it is the limited sphere of one's own life. Those that have been mentioned as beasts of prey are the diseases (to which we are subject). The pit symbolizes the body of embodied beings. The huge python dwelling in the bottom of that pit is time, the destroyer of all embodied beings. The cluster of creepers growing in that pit and attached to whose spreading stems the man hanged down is the desire for life. The tiger standing at the mouth of the pit is the year. The tiger's cubs represent months or seasons of the years. The rats that are cutting off the roots symbolize days and nights that are continually reducing the periods of life of all creatures. Bees in the beehive are our desires. The numerous jets that are dropping the honey at the man's head are the sense-pleasures derived from the gratification of our desires to which our senses are strongly addicted.
This illustrates how the man in the story failed to use his discrimination properly. Although he was surrounded all sides by danger but he was lost in the temporary (fleeting) pleasure of the honey. As a matter of fact, the condition of the majority of us is not so different from him! Although we are surrounded by suffering, disease, old age, death etc., yet we do not make sincere effort to free ourselves from the round of unenlightened existence and self-imposed limitations. It suggests that the majority of us do not use our discrimination (Viveka) properly. The Gurbani says at present we are walking around in a sleep state.
Here is a joke that illustrates the point of real value of proper discrimination. Three men were sentenced to death by hanging execution. A royal priest accompanied them to administer the Last Rites. The hanging execution procedure involves dropping the executee some distance and stopped by a rope fastened around his neck. All three men were ordered to stand on the "trap door". The hangman released the trap door of the first man but the "trap door" remained stuck and did not open. The royal priest took it as a sign from God and released the man. The same thing happened to the second man. The third man was an engineer. When his turn came, he looked at the "trap door" mechanism and pointed out the problem as to why the "trap door" failed to open for the first two men. Not only that, he also gave instructions to repair it. The "trap door" was fixed and the engineer was successfully executed! Here the engineer was using his talent, knowledge, and intellect without using his discrimination.
As the mind can be a clever trickster (of course if allowed), many take the extreme view suggesting not to use the discrimination (Bibek) at all. For they argue it to be the greatest of all mistakes. However, the SGGS does not seem to agree with this extreme view. In fact, "Bibek" is equated with the "Guru" in the SGGS. If we do not use our discrimination in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use love in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use compassion in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use non-attachment in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use Vichaar, wisdom or knowledge in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use humility in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not use charity in the right way, then who is at fault? If we do not read scriptures without understanding their essence, then who is at fault? List can go on and on. Clearly, if we do not use noble qualities properly, then they are not at fault. Because, if we allow the mind, it can use any quality in the wrong way. Those without noble qualities are indicated in the SGGS to be nothing but "Maya's filth". Furthermore, the SGGS indicates that this noble quality of Bibek is obtained from the Satgur.
So the Gurbani urges us to pray to Parameshar to bestow upon us the power to proceed intelligently and with proper discrimination in every circumstance. Using intelligence without proper discrimination can reduce our strengths and talents to weakness or destructive force. On the other hand, intelligence coupled with proper discrimination can modify our weaknesses into strengths and help us use these strengths and talents most creatively and effectively, leading to Bairaag (also spelt Bairaag) meaning detachment from that is untrue (falsehood) or impermanent, good actions (Karanee), the mind's purity and expansiveness, permanent inner Peace, and ultimately Mool-Realization (Realization of Source, Jot...).
— T. Singh
Updated on Friday, October 5, 2012 10:38 PM (PST)
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