PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY

Who lives a Spiritual Lifestyle (i.e., practical Spirituality) -
he alone is a true (Yogi) (sggs 223). <><><><>

Often we hear the term "Spirituality", and other related terms such as Aatamic-Jeevan, Adhiaatamic-Jeevan , and so on. These perplexing terms give rise to several challenges such as: What do these terms really intend? What is Spirituality? What is Aatamic- or Adhiaatamic-Jeevan? What are nuts and bolts of such a lifestyle? What's the distinction between Spirituality and religion?

WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?

Spirituality is difficult to define. It is all about how a human conducts himself with all other beings. It brings about the best in a person, hence it is what a person can be, given the burning or intense longing, determination and commitment for Inner Growth to realize the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...). Once Enlightened (the Gurmukh), he cannot help being what he is (Joti-Svaroopa, Mool... ). Come worldly temptation or any danger, nothing can change his nature from what he is. Throughout history of the world there have been such men and women who have set example for others through the Perfect Life they lived (Pooran Pada, Jeevan Padavee...). To mention a few names, consider the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Jee, beheading of Guru Tegh Bahadur Jee, and great sacrifices of Guru Gobind Singh Jee. No circumstances could unbalance their equanimity. Nothing could push them, pull them or split them. They handled every threat and situation with sangfroid. Their Spiritual eminence made it possible for them to retain the Vision of Pure Awareness at all times and yet relate to the ordinary world. Their's is the Real Spirituality! Difficult to define indeed! But, clearly, it represents the Essence of the human personality, the core of one's True Being.

Although difficult to define, however, the great Mahaatamaans, Bhagats, Gurmukhs and the Gurus out of compassion for us (i.e., Sansaaree Jeeva) have given insights into this State that are invaluable for Spiritual seekers. For example, consider some of the following pointers:

  • Spirituality (ਅਧਿਆਤਮਿਕਤਾ) is immateriality. It pertains to Spirit — thus beyond flesh.
  • The Essence of real Spirituality is the quest to know and discover one's True Nature (Joti-Svaroopa, Mool, etc.).
  • Real Spirituality means to be fully and continually Conscious, Aware or Awake. Spiritual State is beyond time, space and causation.
  • The true Spirituality (the Gurmukh lifestyle) is to have constant Awareness and alertness in thoughts, words and deeds.
  • Spirituality is living one's life from the Realization that the limited body-mind-intellect personality we have been taught to identify with is not real us.
  • Spirituality is Inner Path. Its Divine or Holy. Thus it's the Divine Life of Truthful living; contemplative life of Naam-Simran, kindness, True contentment (Sat Santokh), etc. It's Pure Experience that transforms one's life.
  • It's the body of Ultimate Truth. Therefore, it teaches us the art of living right. 
  • Spirituality is to get rid of Haume (egoism).
  • Spirituality is the deep Inner Silence — the silent Stillness (the state of self-surrender and Sunn).
  • Spirituality teaches us how to maintain equanimity of the mind in all ups and downs of life.
  • In Spiritual Vision, there is no division (duality). There is only Unity, Oneness and Love. In other words, where there is division, there cannot be any real Spiritual Experience. Thus, the real Spirituality is seeing the One Lord in everyone.
  • It's the linking of the individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness (Mool).
  • To become humble is the very purpose of Spiritual life (e.g., Baabaa Nanak was the epitome of Humility). For humility alone is the way to the Spiritual Life.
  • Spirituality forms the path that helps transform lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, enviousness etc. into Divine Qualities like compassion, love, humility, inner devotion, unselfishness, friendship, contentment, fearlessness, harmony, equipoise, dedicated life of service, and so on.
  • Spirituality teaches us how to overcome desires, cravings, Vaasnaas (latent tendencies) and Bikaars (negativity). It makes us go beyond Maya.
  • Spirituality is the science of conquering, annihilating or mastering the mind by understanding its Source (Mool).
  • Spirituality bestows mental strength to smile at any situation in life.
  • It creates hearts full of love and compassion; for the Lord can shine within such hearts only. A Spiritual person can never think of harming others.
  • Spirituality helps us see everything as Rabb Dee Leelaa (the Divine Play) so that even the moment of death becomes a Blissful experience.
  • Spirituality is to become living dead (Jeevanmukti).
  • Spirituality is becoming like a childlike: innocent (no ego).
  • Spirituality is becoming centered in the center or core of one's Real Being within (Mool).
  • Spirituality is not conscious display or exhibition of miracles for personal gains...

WHY SPIRITUALITY?

As indicated in the SGGS, the real purpose of life is to Realize the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...), "here" and "now". It is not a future event. Therefore, the real purpose of life is to experience what is beyond one's mere physical existence while living in the body, not after death.

But, just as in the story of the "blind men and the elephant" wherein each blind man feels and describes the elephant differently, similarly, the each one of us looks at life differently. On account of our desires, life becomes that whatever meaning we give to it. The normal way of living is considered, for example, getting a college degree, married, a job, a car, children, a house, and a plenty of money and other worldly possessions. Thus, for various reasons — financial, cultural, social, economic, political etc. — we end up superimposing (or enforcing) a certain character upon ourselves.

However, as indicated in the SGGS, there is more to life, a Higher Purpose, which is to know and Realize one's True Essence (Mool) within while living in the body. By knowing who we truly are, we gain everything. This Spiritual Realization makes life Perfect (Pooran). One feels Full, Complete, and well-grounded in the Real Center of his Being. Just as for the seed to sprout and grow upward, first it has to go beneath the soil, similarly, each individual (Jeeva) has to follow the Spiritual Lifestyle to grow Spiritually and raise one's consciousness to the highest plane. In other words, Spirituality is one's  character or quality that makes one go beyond Maya: worldliness, relativism (duality), illusion, sense-gratification, and so on; and Realize one's connection with the Universal Spirit or Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...). 

  • ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਕਰਮ ਕਰਿ ਆਤਮ ਪ੍ਰਵੇਸ ॥: Adhiaatm karma kar aatam pravesa: Lead a Spiritual Life to Experience the Soul (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Ji)
  • ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਕਰਮ ਪਰਮਾਤਮ ਪਰਮ ਪਦ ॥: Adhiaatm karma paramaatam param pada: Spiritual Life bestows Transcendental State of Parmaatam (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Ji).
  • ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥ ਅਵਰਿ ਕਾਜ ਤੇਰੈ ਕਿਤੈ ਨ ਕਾਮ ॥ ਮਿਲੁ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਜੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਨਾਮ ॥੧॥: Bhaee praapat maanukh dehureeaa. Gobind milan kee ih teree bareeaa. Avar kaaj terai kitai n kaam. Mil saadh sangat bhaj keval Naam ||1||: (You) have obtained (this) human body. This is your chance (time, opportunity...) to meet God. (If no effort is put forward to Realize God, then) all other efforts (work, ਉੱਦਮ) will be of no use (to your Soul). (Therefore) merge with the Saadhsangt and contemplate the Naam (Gur- or Aatm-Giaan...) alone ||1|| (sggs 12).

Spiritual journey is an exploration that each individual undertakes not out of compulsion from outside but from Inner prompting. As indicated in the SGGS, the Path to Spiritual Realization is anything but smooth. That is, it's not a straight one in which the Spiritual aspirant can progress easily. It's a bumpy road! Authentic self-efforts (Shabad-Vichaar...) are needed to succeed.

  • ਮਾਨ ਮੋਹ ਮੇਰ ਤੇਰ ਬਿਬਰਜਿਤ ਏਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਖੰਡੇ ਧਾਰ ॥: Maan moh mer ter biburajit ehu maarag khande dhaar: To forsake pride, emotional attachment, and the sense of "mine and yours" (ego-sense), is the path of the double-edged sword (sggs 534).

The non-dual, logical and rational Teaching of the SGGS posits that there is no fundamental difference between the Absolute Reality (Parmaatam, Akaal Purakh, or the Lord) and the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...). It is this essential identity that is the crux of the Teaching in SGGS for its objective is to enable the Spiritual seeker to experience His Spiritual Nature (Joti-Svaroopa ) within "here" and "now". The essential identity of Parmaatam and Aatamaa is indicated in the SGGS to show that the Reality behind the entire creation is the same as the Mool within the each one of us.

  • ਤਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨੁ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਬਾਈ ਸੋਹੰ ਭੇਦੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ਜੀਉ ॥: Tat niranjan joti sabaaee soham bhed na koee jeeo: The essence, the immaculate Lord, the Light of all — I am He and He is me — there is no difference (sggs 599).
  • ਆਤਮ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਲਹੰਤੇ ॥: Aatam mahi paarbraham lahante: Within the Soul, find the Supreme Lord (sggs 276).
  • ਆਤਮ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਾਮ ਮਹਿ ਆਤਮੁ ॥: Aatam mahi Raam Raam mahi aatam: God is in the Soul, and the Soul is in God (1153).
  • ਆਤਮੁ ਚੀਨੈ ਸੁ ਤਤੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ॥: Aatam cheenai su tatt beechaarae: One who understands his own Soul, contemplates the essence of Reality (sggs 224).

EMPIRICAL AND NON-EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge can be grouped in two types. The first kind of knowledge pertains to the materiality of this world (Maya) and thus is empirical and perceptible (Drishti) to the senses and the mind. Generally we easily accept such knowledge as it can be directly experienced by our senses. Such knowledge can also be passed on to others. The second kind of knowledge — Spiritual knowledge — pertains to the Unseen (Alakh, Adeeth, Adrisht, Gupt, Niraakaar or Formless, etc.). It is different from the empirical knowledge in that it cannot be fully gained from books or fully passed on to others. Till Spiritual Knowledge results whatever one learns by study will only remain at the conceptual level. Knowledge about the state of Mukti (liberation from the state of bondage or Maya) or Spiritual Vision (Mool-realization etc.) is example of the latter. Such Experience or Knowledge of the Unseen cannot be given to others as a mundane gift or made to an order.

  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਆਨ ਗਿਆਨ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਨਹੀ ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਗਿਆਨ ॥: Jaou laou aan giaan taou laou nahee adhiaatm giaana: So long one has non-spiritual knowledge (empirical or pertaining to materiality), until then Spiritual Knowledge does not dawn (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas Ji).
  • ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਏਕੋ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅਲਖੁ ਲਖਾਇਆ ॥: Ghatt ghatt har prabh eko suaamee gurmukh alakh lakhaaiaa: The One God is in each and every heart. By becoming the Gurmukh, see the unseen (sggs 772).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੋਲੈ ਤਤੁ ਬਿਰੋਲੈ ਚੀਨੈ ਅਲਖ ਅਪਾਰੋ ॥ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਮੇਟੈ ਸਬਦੁ ਵਸਾਏ ਤਾ ਮਨਿ ਚੂਕੈ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੋ ॥ Gurmukh bolai tatt birolai cheenai alakh apaaro. Traai Gun metai Sabad vasaae taa mann chookai ahankaaro: By becoming a Gurmukh (Spiritual Being), one churns the Essence (meditates on the Naam, the Lord's Name, with each breath) comes to understand the Reality, and realizes the Unseen, the Infinite. When one enshrines the Shabad within, he eradicates (spell of) the three qualities of Maya from his mind, and then his mind is rid of egotism (sggs 944).

Therefore, the ecstatic state of Spiritual Vision is indicated something to be experienced for oneself and cannot be fully understood from second-hand sources. For the Bliss of Spiritual Experience is difficult to express and mystics who have reveled in this Experience (Divine Union or the Experience of the Universal Spirit) speak about it metaphorically. Any amount of objective knowledge and personal assets that a person gains will not bestow on him universal qualities like compassion, love, humility, selflessness etc.

RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY

Proper Understanding and Bibek Budhi (discriminating intellect) are needed to differentiate between religion and Spirituality. The Gurmukhs use various similes to help us grasp the differential as follows.

(a) Consider a tree with fruits. Religion is the finger pointing at the fruit (i.e., Spirituality) urging us that if we eat that fruit (Spirituality) we will gain Spiritual Realization (Immortality, God or Spiritual Realization etc.). But Unfortunately, the majority of us (over 99.9 percent category) keep holding on the finger and just keep looking at the fruit (Spirituality) from a distance, instead of eating it. What's the result? We miss out Spirituality, which is the Essence of religion. (b) An another simile given by the Gurmukhs to explain the difference between religion and Spirituality is that of the coconut. If we want to eat the flesh (Guddaa, kernel) of the coconut and drink the liquid from inside of it, then we need to open the outer shell (brown fiber) of the coconut and reach the inside — the essence. If we keep holding on the outer hard shell and keep biting on it, then we will miss out the liquid and the kernel (Guddaa) inside — it's essence. If religion is compared to the outside of the coconut, Spirituality is then the inside of it (Guddaa or kernel): its Essence. In Spiritual ignorance, the majority of us mistake the inside for the outside! Just imagine, if one keeps chewing the husk and the outer skin of the coconut, he will only make his mouth bleed! Implication is that, if we do not go beyond the body-consciousness, we will never taste our Real Being. (c) An another simile includes surface of the ocean and pearls that lie beneath its surface. If religion is compared to the surface of the ocean, Spirituality is like the priceless pearls that lie hidden deep beneath the surface. Now, if we just stand at the bank and keep counting waves, we will never attain pearls. To get to pearls, we will have to jump into the water and dive deep in it, beneath the surface (as the swan or Hans). The bank is static and stagnant. Thus if we just stand at the bank, we will go nowhere: we will have no Inner Growth; we will have no Inner Development; we will have no Inner Transformation; and we will have no change in our vision. We will remain worldly or material persons (the Manmukh who mainly desires Maya...); and we will not comprehend the immaterialality (the Gurmukh linked to his Mool within...).

  • ਤੂ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਹਮ ਹੰਸ ਤੁਮਾਰੇ ਤੁਮ ਮਹਿ ਮਾਣਕ ਲਾਲਾ ॥: (O Prabhoo!) You are the Ocean, and I am Your swan; (by living in You-Ocean, I obtain) the Pearls and Rubies (of Divine Virtues, Wisdom ...). (sggs 884).
  • ਹਰਿ ਸਰੁ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਸੰਤ ਚੁਗਹਿ ਨਿਤ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਈ ॥: Har saru saagaru niramalu soee. Sant chugahi nit Gurmukhi hoee (sggs 128).

Hence, to differentiate between religion and Spirituality, one needs proper Understanding and Bibek Budhi (discriminating intellect) to penetrate the outer skin of religion to dive deep into the True Essence. In other words, if religion is the science of Inner growth or development, and Being and Becoming, then Spirituality is its accomplishment. Thus the true Essence of religion is Spirituality. Or we may say Spirituality begins where religion ends (its not saying they are separable).

As clearly indicated in the following verse, mere engaging and limiting oneself to religious rituals (Karamkaand) is not Spirituality. Obviously, the SGGS extols the spirit behind acts of devotion and not the external ostentation that may accompany them.

  • ਕਾਂਇਆ ਸਾਧੈ ਉਰਧ ਤਪੁ ਕਰੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਕਰਮ ਜੇ ਕਰੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਕਬ ਹੀ ਪਾਇ ॥: Kaaniaa saadhai ouradh tapu karai vichahu houmai na jaai. Adhiaatm karma je kare naam na kab hee paai: One may torment his body with extremes of self-discipline, practice intensive Tapa and hang pside-down, but (in this way) his ego cannot be eliminated from within. To progress spiritually, if one performs (such religious rituals), he can never obtain the Naam. (sggs 33).

All humans are Spiritual Beings first. The Spirit being All-pervading, Unchanging, Eternal and Timeless, Spirituality is to Realize Oneness with this Universal Spirit. Because of being born or converted to a particular religion, people may practice their Spirituality a certain way. But our Mool (Source, Origin, Jot, Pure Awareness...) is a part of who we all are. In that sense, Spirituality is listening to one's Inner Self. It's a personal Inner Path that transcends all worldly barriers. And so, religious leaders of all world-religions can guide their followers back to the true Essence of religion (Spirituality) if they dare cast aside their own ignorance, stupidity, narrow-mindedness, selfishness and wickedness.

SPIRITUAL QUEST - PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY

Human birth has an edge over all other creation because human beings are endowed with the ability to think, reflect, probe, question and understand Truth and the ultimate purpose of life (Realization of the Mool within). This rational power of cognition is an additional asset, a God-given gift, which, as repeated pointed out to us by the SGGS, should not be wasted. So the Gurbani's call to all of us is to become engaged in Spiritual quest. When we respond with self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...) to this calling of the SGGS from deep within, the call sooner or later will certainly awaken the slumbering True Nature within us.

  • ਚਰਨ ਸਰਨਿ ਗੁਰ ਏਕ ਪੈਡਾ ਜਾਇ ਚਲ ॥ ਸਤਿ ਗੁਰ ਕੋਟਿ ਪੈਡਾ ਆਗੇ ਹੋਇ ਲੇਤ ਹੈ ॥: Charan saran gur ek paidaa jaai chala. Sat gur koti paidaa aage hoi leta hai: If we move one step towards the Guru, the Satguru advances a hundred steps to receive us (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas jee).

Spiritual Life is not the privilege of a chosen few — it is for everyone. Because liberation (Mukti) from bondage is the birthright of every human being. As indicated in the SGGS, we all have the capacity to Realize our Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...), "here" and "now". Then, why the majority of us live as Manmukhs (unenlightened persons, the one opposite of Gurmukhs or Enlightened Being)? According to the SGGS, it's because only a "rare" one develops the taste for true Spirituality. Therefore, it seems to our advantage to develop such taste and approach the Gur-Shabad with unshakable faith to the last letter, a burning longing for Spiritual Vision and searching questions such as: "Who am I?" What is worldly bondage? How does it arise? How does it continue to exist? How is one to get rid of it? What is non-Self? Who is the Supreme Self? How is one to distinguish between the two? Probing such basic questions is necessary for a logical and reflective understanding of the individual self in relation to the universe. The Gur-Shabad would reveal answers to such questions, thus enlightening us about the nature of the universe and the mechanics of the human body and mind and awaken the Divinity within us.

  • ਜਿਨਿ ਮਾਣਸ ਤੇ ਦੇਵਤੇ ਕੀਏ ਕਰਤ ਨ ਲਾਗੀ ਵਾਰ ॥: Jin maanas te devte keeye ..: He (the Guru), without delay, made angles out of men (sggs 462).

The SGGS also indicates that both worldly and Spiritual Life can be led side by side successfully provided we shun lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, expectations, jealousy, stubbornness, selfishness, unrighteousness, and so on. Thus the Gurbani's approach is very practical, logical and free of dogmatism and life-denial. In other words, the SGGS does not Teach us a theoretical or reactionary spirituality that would further bind us to the state of Mayaic bondage stemming from attachments, running after sense-gratification etc. It teaches us Spirituality in action — practical Spirituality — and provides all that's needed in aid of those of us struggling to resolve the tangles which plague us in the course of our day-to-day-life. Of course we must be determined, committed, earnest and willing to self-surrender and put forward the best self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...) to become Spiritually fit.

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Sabh kai madhi sagal te udaas: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

As to how a person can lead both worldly and Spiritual Life side by side successfully has been beautifully described in many Shabads in the SGGS. For example, consider the following verses of Bhagat Naam Dev Jee (in which he is addressing Bhagat Trilochan Jee's inquiry):

  • ਆਨੀਲੇ ਕਾਗਦੁ ਕਾਟੀਲੇ ਗੂਡੀ ਆਕਾਸ ਮਧੇ ਭਰਮੀਅਲੇ ...: Aaaneelae kaagadh kaatteelae gooddee aakaas madhhae bharameealae...: (O Trilochan, the boy) takes paper, cuts it and makes a kite, and flies it in the sky. (While flying the kite he) talks with his friends, but he still keeps his attention on the kite string. ||1|| Like the goldsmith, (while talking to others) whose attention is held by his work, similarly, my mind has been pierced by the Name of the Lord. ||1||Pause (Rahaaou)|| The young girls from town take pitchers (go out to get water), and fill them with water. They laugh, make merry, and talk with each other, but they keep their attention focused on the pitcher of water. ||2|| (O Trilochan) there is the house with ten gates, from this house (the cowherd person) take cows out to graze in the field. Cows (could be) grazing five miles away (from the house), but they keep their attention focused on their calf (similarly, this body is the house with "ten gates" or ten organs of perception and action — five organs of perception + five organs of action — these senses (like cows) go out and transect with the world, but, in spite of all that, as the Bhagat Jee indicates in the Rahaaou verse, his mind ever remains imbued in God's Name). ||3|| Says Naam Dev, listen, O Trilochan: the (mother) lays her child down in the cradle. (Although) she is busy working inside and outside (the house), but she (always) holds her child in her thoughts ||4||1|| (sggs 972).
  • ਹਾਥ ਪਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਚੀਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨੧੩॥ : With your hands and feet, do all your work, (but) let your consciousness remain with the Niranjan (the Immaculate ONE, beyond Maya's stains). ||213|| (sggs 1376).

Thus, the sure way to progress Spiritually seems to be to remain detached even while leading an active life in the world. True detachment is to live without likes (Raaga or Bhaaou) and dislikes (Dvesha or Abhaaou). If we pause to analyze, it will become clear that attachment arises from "likes" and, frustrations and anger from "dislikes", and both become the cause for further bondage.

  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਭਾਉ ਅਭਾਉ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਨੈ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਦੂਰਾਈ ॥: As long as this (mind) believes in love and hate (i.e., likes and dislikes), it is difficult (for this mind) to meet (its Mool, Prabh, Source...). (sggs 609).

The principle of Naam or Naam-Simran is central to one's Spiritual evolution in Sikhi. The potency of the Naam (Shabad, Hukam...) has been highlighted in the SGGS. If the mind can be trained to dwell on the Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) within through meditation (Naam-Simran), Divine Virtues will accrue to the person naturally, allowing the Grace and Pure Consciousness to flow in us, making us calm, quiet and Immortal. Thus it is indicated to be the saving principle, the ultimate medicine!

  • ਅਧਿਆਤਮੀ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਤਾਸੁ ਮਨਿ ਜਪਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ॥: Adhiaatmee har gun taas mani japqhi ek muraar: The Spiritual being chants and meditates within his mind on the One Lord (sggs 38).
  • ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਕਰਮ ਕਰੇ ਦਿਨੁ ਰਾਤੀ ॥ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜੋਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਜਾਤੀ ॥: Adhiaatm karma kare din raatee. Nirmal jot nirantar jaatee: Day and night he (the one who is blessed with the jewel of the Lord's Name) does only those spiritual deeds (that keep him united with God within). He recognizes the immaculate Divine Light that constantly pervades (everywhere) (sggs 1039).

The basic requirement for attaining Spiritual Vision is indicated to fully comprehend the Truth about God, the universe, and the Aatmaan, and the interrelatedness of these. The SGGS outlines the important guidelines that would facilitate Spiritual progress — developing Divine Values, guarding against worldly influences, etc., through the Shabad Vichaar.

The Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) sheds light on the nature of creation and of man's quest to attain the purpose of existence. Thus, to truly live Spiritually and enjoy the true Spiritual Experience within, the SGGS urges that we must shun negativity (Bikaars) and develop Divine Virtues or Qualities. Simply put, living a Spiritual Life essentially means leading a normal life with a Spiritual Attitude. Hence, Spirituality as indicated in the SGGS seems to bring about a shift in our perception (inner Transformation) by mending our evil ways, adapt to any circumstances and situations without being disturbed and becoming harmonious with the Eternal Law (Hukam).

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਸਪਰਵਾਰਿ ॥: Gurmukh nibahai saparavaar: By becoming the Gurmukh, (one) lives a spiritual life In the midst of (his) family (sggs 941).
  • ਸਰਾ ਸਰੀਅਤਿ ਲੇ ਕੰਮਾਵਹੁ ॥: Saraa sareeat le kammaavahu: Practice (Naam-Simran) and (religious) conduct — make this your real spiritual life (sggs 1083).
  • ਏ ਮਨ ਮੇਰਿਆ ਛਡਿ ਅਵਗਣ ਗੁਣੀ ਸਮਾਣਿਆ ਰਾਮ ॥: Eae mann meriaa shadi avagan gunee samaaniaa raam: O my mind, leave behind your faults, and be absorbed in God's Virtue (sggs 1112).
  • ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਰੋਵੈ ॥: Hukam na jaanai bahutaa rovai: (sggs 85).

Spiritual Way is indicated to be a constant churning and turning within: churning the True Essence of Reality through the Shabad-Vichaar, and turning the Light of the Pure Consciousness and True Knowledge (Gurmat-Aatam Giaan) in veils of the mind to dispel darkness. It is on this Path a person reveals his Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) to himself. In other words, Spirituality is becoming the Spiritual body ("Kanchan Kaaiaa"): becoming the body of the Soul and grasping the Infinite Wisdom, and then merging that body with the physical body. Spiritual body matures through the Gurmukh Lifestyle. Therefore, the SGGS teaches us the practical Spirituality — Spirituality in action. Meditation is not just sitting in a secluded place for a extended period of time with closed eyes, etc. Leading the Divine Life (Gurmukh Lifestyle) of Universal Values (love, compassion, selflessness, humility, truthfulness etc.) is also a meditation in itself — Spirituality in action!

  • ਅਧਿਆਤਮ ਕਰਮ ਕਰੇ ਤਾ ਸਾਚਾ ॥: Adhiaatm karma kare taa saachaa: Who lives a Spiritual Lifestyle (i.e., practical Spirituality) - he alone is a true (Yogi) (ggs 223).

Spiritual Way is Eternal and All-inclusive, thus cannot be cribbed or walled by caste, color, race, creed, religion, nationality, gender etc. Irrespective of one's level of Inner development and all our skepticism, it accepts and encourages all. It welcomes all and rejects none. Whatever religion we may espouse, whatsoever we may believe or deny, whether we know it or not, we all are on the Path to Truth.

The Aatmaan is Unseen (Adrisht) as it is beyond sensory perception. How then is one supposed toRealize it? Through the Grace of the Gur-Giaan, says the SGGS.

  • ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੋ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥: So Yogi jo jugati pashaanai. Gur parasaadee eko jaanai: He alone is a Yogi, who understands the Way (to live life properly to Realize he Lord within). By the Gur-Grace (the Grace of the Divine Knowledge, Aatam Giaan, Gur-Shabad-Giaan...), he Realizes the One (Lord). (sggs 662).

Where does Grace come from? The Gurbani is very logical and rational. According to the Gurbani, everything, including God is within. Thinking logically and rationally, if God is within, then His Grace also ought to be within. Once our mind becomes free from passions, restlessness, doubts, anxiety etc. (i.e., becomes Purified or Mature), then we become full and calm (Sunn) within. Then the Divine Grace starts happenings from our own center within. Thus it is not a gift from somebody else. It is the Inner Development. In other words, Grace is not something to be found outside, it is something to be Realized within. So the SGGS says go in and see.

  • ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਟੋਲੈ ਸੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਹੀ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨੀ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੋ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥: (The Divine Virtues, Wisdom, Spiritual tranquility, Naam, Shabad, Amrit, Prabh, ਆਤਮਕ ਸੁਖ...) all that is within the Heart-Home; not outside. Who searches outside is deluded by doubts. By "Gur Parasaadee" (i.e., by the Grace of the Gur-Giaan, the Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani ...), those who have Realized within are Happy (tranquil) inwardly and outwardly. ||1|| (sggs 102).

There is huge emphasis on Shabad-Vichaar in the SGGS (ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ sggs 465). Clearly, Spiritual quest significantly rests on Vichaar, which goes beyond dogma, empty rituals, tradition and religion. Vichaar is not just collecting information. Neither it is reading and memorizing scriptures nor philosophies, etc. It is Spiritual surgery. It is real learning that has to change us, transform us, and make us Grow.

An important component of Vichaar is the freedom to question, which helps remove doubts and confusions of the mind. Unfortunately, in Gurdawaras, question and answer format is generally not found. As a result, we do not get to Realize the full Spiritual Benefit (Laahaa) of the Gurbani. As there is no mechanism or system in place whereby members of the congregation (Sangat) are afforded and encouraged to ask questions to those conducting sermons (professional preachers, Raagees, Bhais etc.), Gurdawaaraa all over the world, to some extent, appear to be pullulated with foolish and selfish preachers (Parchaaraks), Kirtan singers (Raagees), Bhais etc.

The Gurbani indicates that the Inner Growth or progress depends on an individual's ability to gain control over his mind and knowing the tremendous effort required to do so. In one way the mind is the root enemy. The commonly used analogies of the camel (Karhalaa, Tukhaar), the monkey (Markat, Kapik etc.) and the drunken elephant (Gaja, Kunchar etc.) illustrate the mind's fickleness, restlessness and its wandering and uncontrollable nature. The mind creates desires and always wanders in the past or in future. However, the life always exists in the present moment (NOW).

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈ ਮਤੁ ਮੈਗਲ ਮਿਕਦਾਰਾ ॥: Manu mai matu maigal mikadaaraa: The mind is like an elephant, drunk with the wine (of false ego-sense - ਹਉਮੈ) (sggs 159).

As taming, annihilating or tempering the mind as well as controlling the senses is the aim of Spirituality — thus the crux of Spiritual discipline — there is tremendous emphasis in the SGGS on controlling the mind and the senses through proper understanding. For proper understanding brings discipline; it follows understanding as a shadow to it. Conquering the mind is called conquering the materiality. This is indicated to be the highest state: one who has soared into pure space by transcending all the materiality.

  • ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥: Mani jeetai jag jeet: If you conquer the mind, you conquer the material world (sggs 6).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Binu boojhai pasu bhaye betaale ||6||: Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).

The mind drives an individual's personality. It is the mind which remembers the enjoyment the senses derive from their respective objects of perception. The mind craves for pleasures that it had earlier tasted and it is this craving that is the root of desire. When the mind is unable to fulfil its desires it results in anger, and enviousness about others who enjoy such pleasures. When its desire is fulfilled the mind derives only temporary joy and soon there is greed for more and more of the same. The more a person enjoys lust, wealth, position, fame, power etc., the more he gathers frustrations and disappointments because the mind is quenchless and cannot find fulfillment in pursuit of worldly objects, power and money. As the mind has the quality of acquiring the nature of whatever it is preoccupied with, sense-gratification is said to become a hurdle to Spiritual progress. By removing the mind from frivolous pursuits and by understanding their detrimental nature of becoming habituated, we are urged to diverting the mind inward. Then the mind will instead reflect the nature of the Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...), which is Eternal and Blissful (Joti-Svaroopa). The mind that is established in the True Self is indicated to remain untouched by vicissitudes of life. In other words, when this happens (achieving the state of mind that does not succumb to the external organs and remaining unperturbed in all circumstances), it is possible to enjoy pleasure, Peace, Anand (Bliss) and Happiness independent of the sense-organs and their objects and the surrounding or circumstances.

In addition to controlling the mind, the other Divine Qualities that a spiritual seeker is urged to develop are indicated to be: developing truthful living, sharing, humility, total detachment, contentment, compassion, selflessness, moral courage, self-surrender, Knowledge; controlling the sensory organs and that of action; reposing total faith in the Guru-Shabad, and cultivating fellow feeling towards all in creation; by which one gains the eligibility to receive Divine Grace. Thus they are medicinal. They prepare us for the Truth to awaken, arise or enter in us.

Thus, Spirituality can be best expressed in terms of Divine Virtues or Qualities (ਗੁਣ). In other words, Spirituality is not merely material prosperity, physical and intellectual growth. It is to try to realize the best in man. It expresses itself in Divine Values or Qualities when one is saturated with Naam Consciousness. When we don't do evil deeds and are harmonious with the Eternal Law (Hukam), then all our deeds will be good. In other words, when we are centered in our true Being, then out of this centering whatever we do will be Virtuous, whatever we do will be good, whatever we do will be Dharma, whatever we do will be right.

In addition to meditation, the importance of cultivating the company of the Realized Beings (the Gurmukhs ) for spiritual evolution has been repeatedly highlighted in the SGGS as their influence can be understood only practically. Just as only an expert doctor can cure illness, the Gurmukhs can guide a Spiritual seeker to alleviate his (disease of the) worldliness and steer him towards liberation (Mukti) from his multi-layered ego (Haume) that has obscured his True Nature, the Realization of which will give him lasting Anand (Bliss). A patient who follows the instructions given by the physician gets well; similarly a seeker can benefit from the Gurmukhs only if he practices whatever directions he gets from those who have realized Pure Awareness.

It is indicated that as one progresses on Spiritual Way, his Haume (egoism) thins out and he becomes humble. Baabaa Nanak was the epitome of humility. Thus, Spirituality is the inner richness, acquired through a long and arduous efforts and gives one the real Peace, which nothing else can give - no wealth, no scholarship, no title, no fame, no possession, and so on; richness in the sense that one has attained Perfection (Pooran Pada, Jeevan Pada etc.) and that all the dimensions of life are complete (Gurmukhtaa) in him: his existence becomes perfectly Aware.

Spiritual Beings (the Gurmukhs) do not engage in the worldly life like the generality of people. Their pious and Virtuous behavior streams through all the portals of their human frame. Like an eternal flame, they simply continuously function from their "Joti-Svaroopa" (Pure Awareness). They exemplify how ordinary human beings can strive towards enlightened existence. They show how one can be very much in the world and still remain detached. They embody the Universal Values that lift human beings to higher planes. These Universal Values stand out from the many happenings in their Virtuous lives.

A general misconception that is prevalent about Spiritual Life is that it can be postponed to old age when all worldly responsibilities are over. Although Spirituality can be practiced irrespective of age, time and place, the SGGS indicates that Spirituality must be pursued from young age and should not be relegated to the evening of one's life.

The reason being is as follows. First, in twilight years of one's life the infirmities of the body will not allow him to sustain Spiritual efforts. Second, there is no guarantee about an individual's life span — human life has been compared to bubbles that arise in the water and drift along in the current for a while and burst at any moment. Third, man is a creature of habit and what he does not cultivate in his early age cannot be acquired in his old age especially when his faculties start weakening and failing. Fourth, as we know it, moment by moment, owing to the all-powerful Time, truthfulness, righteousness, purity, forgiveness, love, compassion, longevity, bodily strength and sharpness of memory will decline. Accordingly, the SGGS indicates that the taste for Spiritual Life must be acquired early in life as it is difficult to change one's habits and lifestyle in old age. Thereupon, Spiritual Life cannot be divorced from day-to-day life in the world — it is essential to become engaged in Spiritual quest in all urgency and earnestness.

  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਜਰਾ ਪਹੂੰਚਿਓ ਆਇ ॥ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੰਦਿਰ ਦੁਆਰ ਤੇ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਢਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: O Kabeer! (Before old age) You have not contemplated Raam (Mool, source...), now the old age has over taken you. (Since) the fire has reached the door of the house, at this moment not much can be saved (i.e., if the Mool-Realization is left to the old age, it would be too late!). (sggs 1371).
  • ਖੇਤਿ ਸਰੀਰਿ ਜੋ ਬੀਜੀਐ ਸੋ ਅੰਤਿ ਖਲੋਆ ਆਇ ॥: Khet sareer jo beejeeai so ant khaloaa aai: Whatever one plants in the farm of the body, that will appear before him (ਪਰਗਟ) in the end (sggs 1417).

So the SGGS repeatedly reminds us to wake up from the sleep-walk (of Maya), and not to be oblivious to how utterly brief life really is. Time is so precious, once spent, cannot be regained. Even our very next breath is no guarantee. So the SGGS urges us we should stop delaying our true purpose in life of pursuing Spiritual Values, and try to be seriously and intently focused on the true goal of life – realizing the Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) within.

In nutshell, the Essence of real Spirituality is the quest to know one's Real Being (one's Mool) within. Apparently, this fundamental appears to be the crux of all the nobel Spiritual Teachings.

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org