SIGNIFICANCE AND PURPOSE OF HUMAN LIFEਕਵਨ ਕਾਜ ਸਿਰਜੇ ਜਗ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਜਨਮਿ ਕਵਨ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥:
Kavan kaaj siraje jag bheetari janami kavan falu paaiaa:
For what purpose (I have been) created and brought into the world?
What benefit (I have) have reaped from this birth? (sggs 970).
As highlighted in the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib), there is a profound meaning to life, a profound purpose for being here. However, the SGGS indicates that a "rare" few find this purpose consciously and begin to pursue life as a great spiritual adventure, a journey within. It also indicates that living Consciously as Joti-Svaroopa (ego or Haume free state etc.) is a Spiritual Lifestyle (Gurmukhtaa) and living unconsciously (ego or Haume regime, etc.) is an unspiritual or Mayaic lifestyle (Manmukhtaa, Saakat...). And that being wrapped in ignorance of the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, ਅਸਲਾ...), the Jeeva (individual being) loses its moorings and is unable to identify its Goal of life, namely seeking his Mool within. The SGGS enlightens us about how to live in this world so that we can realize the life's Ultimate purpose.
- 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||: (O brother) this human body has been given to you. This is your chance 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) join the Holy Company; (there) contemplate on the Divine Name alone ||1|| (sggs 12).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਹਾ ਲੈ ਗਏ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਚਲੇ ਮੂਲੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੧੯॥: Gurmukhi laahaa lai gaye manmukh chale moolu gavaai jeeou ||19||: Those who have become the Gurmukhs (Spiritual Beings...), reap their (Spiritual) Profits (of Naam, Gurmat: Aatam Giaan...) and leave, while the Mmanmukhs (self-willed...) lose their Mool and depart. ||19|| (sggs 74).
- ਚਿਰੰਕਾਲ ਪਾਈ ਦ੍ਰੁਲਭ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਹੂਣੀ ਹੋਈ ਖੇਹ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਪਰੇਤ ਮੁਗਧ ਤੇ ਬੁਰੀ ॥ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਨ ਬੂਝੈ ਜਿਨਿ ਏਹ ਸਿਰੀ ॥੩॥: Chrankaal paaee duralabh deh. Naam bihoonee hoee kheh. Pasoo pret mugadh te buree. Tisahi n boojhai jin eh siree ||3||: After a very long time, one obtains this human body, which is so difficult to obtain. Without the Naam, it is reduced to dust (because of Bikaars). (Without Name and because of Bikaars) the fool's (body) is worse than a beast and a demon. He does not understand (or remember) Him who created it - this human body ||3|| (sggs 890).
Tree is hidden in the seed. But in itself the seed is not enough. First, in proper season and climate, it has to go under the earth. Subsequently, it has to be cared for, protected, watered, fertilized, and so on, before it becomes a tree and comes to bloom and fruit. In other words, we have to put efforts so the seed sprouts and becomes a tree.
Similarly, the life in itself is not enough. In other words, life in itself is not the goal. The purpose or goal of life is Spiritual Realization - Realization of one's Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, ਅਸਲਾ...) that pervades everything and everywhere equally. Thus, to Realize what's beyond this physical existence. Thus life is not an end by itself but very significant means to the end. It is the opportunity given to us to realize the goal, which surpasses it. Since the purpose or goal is hidden deep in life, it cannot be found if we were to stay on the surface or periphery of it. we need to dive deep within — go within, seek within, etc. If we are to stay at the surface, we are bound to miss the goal. To say it otherwise, if man becomes overly attached or obsessed with life, then naturally he will never be able to transcend it. And, in the process, he will be lost in the means and miss out the opportunity to understand something deeper, far significant and superior.
For example, high school is generally to educate us and prepare us for something greater: to get admission in college, university etc. But if one becomes too obsessed or attached to the high school and refuses to leave it, then obviously he will never be able to transcend it. In other words, if the preparation becomes without end, then the goal is lost, rendering the preparation meaningless, pointless and a total waste, thus a burden.
As repeatedly indicated in the SGGS, this is exactly what the majority of us (over 99.9 percent) have been doing for time immemorial. The SGGS wants us to peek into our past to know what has been happening to us again and again and again, because we keep repeating same mistakes from time immemorial. Gurbani wants us to look into it, and learn lesson from our experience up to now. Otherwise we will be back to square one.
- ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਭਏ ਕੀਟ ਪਤੰਗਾ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਗਜ ਮੀਨ ਕੁਰੰਗਾ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਪੰਖੀ ਸਰਪ ਹੋਇਓ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਹੈਵਰ ਬ੍ਰਿਖ ਜੋਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਮਿਲੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ਮਿਲਨ ਕੀ ਬਰੀਆ ॥ ਚਿਰੰਕਾਲ ਇਹ ਦੇਹ ਸੰਜਰੀਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਸੈਲ ਗਿਰਿ ਕਰਿਆ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਗਰਭ ਹਿਰਿ ਖਰਿਆ ॥ ਕਈ ਜਨਮ ਸਾਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਲਖ ਚਉਰਾਸੀਹ ਜੋਨਿ ਭ੍ਰਮਾਇਆ ॥੨॥: Kayee janam bhaye keet patangaa...: In so many births, you were a worm and an insect;
in so many incarnations, you were an elephant, a fish and a deer.
In so many incarnations, you were a bird and a snake.
In so many incarnations, you were yoked as an ox and a horse. ||1||
Meet the Lord of the Universe - now is the time to meet Him.
After so very long, this human body was fashioned for you. ||1||Pause||
In so many incarnations, you were rocks and mountains;
in so many incarnations, you were aborted in the womb;
in so many incarnations, you developed branches and leaves;
you wandered through 8.4 million incarnations ||2|| (sggs 176).
Hence, nothing is new! We have been everything in our past, not once but countless times. In other words, what we are now and what we are doing in this life is not for the first time. By reminding us of our past, the SGGS apparently wants us to understand and see the complete nonsense of our repetition — the wheel or the cycle of coming and going (Aavaa Gaman, birth and death, repetition etc.). Nonetheless, the Hub or the Center (Truth) remains the same.
Perhaps the SGGS is hoping that if we can understand and see the total nonsense of our mistakes we have been repeating for time immemorial, maybe then we can learn from them. For the learning makes one wise!
If one does not learn from mistakes, then one cannot hope to Grow, and thus one remains stagnant, stupid or ignorant. If we learn from past experiences, then we will say, "Enough is enough. I am not going to repeat the same mistake again and again and again". However, without understanding it, we cannot reason and inquire (Shabad-Vichaar) in a sensible, meaningful or significant way as to how to get out of it. Not only our past repetitions, but if we impartially examine our present life, we will notice constant repetition, obliviousness and forgetfulness. Then how can there be an end to the vicious cycle, and how can there be any chance of encounter with the goal, which is beyond the physical existence? Our general feeling about life that it is an end in itself, gives rise to trouble — existential suffering. Such feeling keeps us closed minded, and then we don't apply proper reasoning, contemplation and receptivity, thereby we lack understanding about the ultimate purpose of life.
- ਮਨਹੁ ਜਿ ਅੰਧੇ ਕੂਪ ਕਹਿਆ ਬਿਰਦੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ॥: Manahu ji andhe koop kahiaa birad na jaananhee: Those (people) whose minds are like deep dark pits (i.e., closed, ignorant, stupid etc.) do not understand the purpose of life, even when it is explained to them (sggs 1246).
The SGGS time and again reminds us of the evanescence of life, and wonders that even when the fleeting nature of human existence is perceived in everyday life, human beings tend to forget it easily and get immersed in worldly affairs (clinging, worries, frustrations etc.) instead of pursuing the ultimate goal of life. Just passing through life and learning are two different things: True Wisdom cannot be gained by just passing through life but by looking at experiences.
Life is perceived and interpreted differently (e.g., riddle, mystery, opportunity, etc.) according to each individual’s faith, beliefs, wisdom, likes, dislikes, and so on. The SGGS has grouped human beings into two different categories from the spiritual perspective to assess what their status will be after this birth. This knowledge is crucial for a spiritual seeker to know his level of evolution so that he can make appropriate efforts to realize the objective of life. These two groups are: (1) Gurmukhs (true spiritual beings, wise and enlightened), and (2) Manmukhs (material or unenlightened beings). As indicated in the SGGS, the majority of us (over 99.9 percent) belong to the second category (i.e., Manmukhs). The Gurmukhs follow the spiritual life faithfully, and hence there is no more sorrow for them here in this world or after. They are the persons of wisdom (Gurmat-Aatam Giaan) who live principled life. On the other hand, amongst Manmukhs, some of us maintain some religious and spiritual activities so long they fulfill our desires, and there are some who even though blessed with human birth waste this rare opportunity without doing anything to better their lot.
Apparently, there is a wide chasm between worldly people (Manmukhs) and Gurmukhs about their perspective of life. While the majority (Manmukhs) have a hedonistic outlook of life, those who are spiritually inclined (Gurmukhs) have the conviction that freedom from existential suffering is the end to be attained, and orient all their activities towards this goal. The SGGS teaches all of us the art of living at the micro, fundamental level. It essentially indicates that human life can be lived in two ways: with full control and knowledge of how life is to be lived (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) or living as one without any direction (the Manmukh Lifestyle). The SGGS emphasizes that one should choose how to live and become a Gurmukh instead of allowing it to drift on its own course (the Manmukh Lifestyle). The SGGS urges us using discrimination (Bibek Budhi ) and analyze what is right and wrong, and follow what is ultimately good for one's spiritual evolution. But to the contrary, highlighting the objective of life, the SGGS indicates that human beings spend their entire lifetime pursuing only worldly goals little realizing that all attainments will be of no avail when the end comes except the Divine Name.
- ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਇਆ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਧਾ ॥: Manmukh khoiaa gurnukhi laadhaa: The Manmukh (one in matrial consciousness) loses; the Gurmukh (Self-realized person) gains (sggs 939).
- ਜੀਵਨ ਪਦਵੀ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਸੁਆਉ ॥: Jeevan padavee har kaa naaou. Manu tanu nirmal saach suaaou: The Immortal status is the Name of the Lord. (Due to the Naam) the mind and body become pure, and the Eternal Lord (realizing Him) becomes the purpose of life (sggs 744).
Thus the SGGS urges us to understand and appreciate the ephemeral nature of worldly existence and then proceed Consciously to strive for Immortality or Eternal Happiness (Anand). It wants us to understand the significance, purpose, objective or goal of life, and then live intelligently to realize it. In other words, this human life affords a unique opportunity to keep our appointment with the Lord! So the SGGS would like us to inquire: who am I, why I am here in this world, and so on?
- ਕਵਨ ਕਾਜ ਸਿਰਜੇ ਜਗ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਜਨਮਿ ਕਵਨ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Kavan kaaj siraje jag bheetari janami kavan falu paaiaa: For what purpose (I have been) created and brought into the world? What benefit (I have) have reaped from this birth? (sggs 970).
- ਜੀਉ ਪ੍ਰਾਣ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਹਰੇ ਸਾਚਾ ਏਹੁ ਸੁਆਉ ॥: Jeeou praan manu tanu hare saachaa ehu suaaou: (By focusing consciousness on the Gur-Shabad, Aatam Giaan, Mool...) The soul, Praan (Vital Life-force), mind and body blossom forth (i.e.; Inner Growth); this is the true purpose of life (sggs 47).
The SGGS is a fountainhead of knowledge (Giaan) and deals with the knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Its Teachings (Gurmat-Aatam Giaan ) serve as a user manual to the individual (Jeeva) engaged in a constant effort to cope with the challenges of worldly life. By reinforcing the evanescent quality of life, these Teachings enable humankind to rise above the worldly glitter, and strive for Higher Purpose. It enables human beings experience Eternal Happiness in worldly life by realizing material ends and the ultimate aim of human life: spiritual realization. It points out that human birth is a blessing for it offers one a passage to Ultimate Freedom. The Gurbani tells us that one can realize Truth even when living in the midst of Maya, and have pointed out the importance of a life of ethical value.
In other words, the SGGS sheds light on various subjects which are important to both spiritual and temporal life. It provides us with infallible guidelines for human life (the art of proper, virtuous living), which can lead us to realizing the ultimate goal of Absolute Freedom (Mukti) from bondage. It shows us the way out of repetition (Aavaa Gaman).
We can exit repetition (Aavaa Gaman) only if we chose to do so. This life provides us the opportunity to do so. The SGGS adopts many means and methods to give expression to the esoteric nature of the Absolute Reality. From simple analogies (similes, etc.) to mystic statements, the teaching focuses on the search for the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, ਅਸਲਾ...).
The SGGS indicates that without emptying ourselves of Haume, Truth will not happen. The way of Haume (Manmukh) is crooked, zigzag, deceptive, monopolizing, and full of conflicts. The way of the pure-hearted (Gurmukh) is very simple, straight, harmonious and direct. Once Haume is eradicated, all other Bikaars (negativity) such as doubts, lust, anger, greed, etc. will also lose their grip. As Haume binds us to the repeated Cycle, the state of no-Haume will Free us.
- ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਕਟੀਐ ਨਾ ਆਵੈ ਨਾ ਜਾਗੁ ॥: Houmai rog bhram kateeai naa aavai naa jaag: (By always keeping the Company of the Holy, and focusing consciousness on the Guru) The diseases of ego and doubt are cast out; bringing an end to the cycle of coming and going (birth and death: Aavaa Gaman) (sggs 47).
- ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਸੁਣਹੁ ਤੁਮ ਗੁਰਸਿਖਹੁ ਸਚਾ ਇਹੈ ਸੁਆਉ ॥: Oupadesu sunahu tum gursikhahu sachaa ihai suaaou: O Gur-Sikhs! Listen to the Teachings (of the Gur-Shabad: Gurmat, Aatam Giaan, Spiritual Wisdom...). This alone is the true purpose of life (sggs 963).
- ਸਚੁ ਥਾਨੁ ਸਚੁ ਬੈਠਕਾ ਸਚੁ ਸੁਆਉ ਬਣਾਇਆ ॥: Sach thaan sach baithakaa sach suaaou banaaiaa: (With the Guru's Blessing) the eternal (True Name of the Lord) has become my place and seat (for Aatmic-Jeevan); I have made this my life's purpose (sggs 1002).
- ਆਨ ਬਿਭੂਤ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਨਹੁ ਸਾਚਾ ਇਹੈ ਸੁਆਉ ॥੧॥: Aan bibhoot mithiaa kar maanahu saachaa ihai suaaou ||1||: You must realize that (except the Wealth of the Lord's Name), all other wealth is false; (the eternal Wealth of the Name) alone is the true purpose of life (sggs 1219).
- ਸਬਰੁ ਏਹੁ ਸੁਆਉ ਜੇ ਤੂੰ ਬੰਦਾ ਦਿੜੁ ਕਰਹਿ ॥ ਵਧਿ ਥੀਵਹਿ ਦਰੀਆਉ ਟੁਟਿ ਨ ਥੀਵਹਿ ਵਾਹੜਾ ॥ : Sabar ehu suaaou je toon bandaa dirr karahi...: Let patience be your purpose in life; implant this within your being. In this way, you will grow into a great river; you will not break off into a tiny stream ||1|| (sggs 1384).
— T. Singh