COLLECTING MERE SHELLS AT THE SEASHORE OF LIFE

In exchange for a shell, (Saakat: the one who is disconnected from Truth) gives up
a jewel (of the Lord's Name). He tries to get what he must give up. He collects those
things which are worthless. Enticed by Maya, he takes the crooked path.  ||1||(sggs 892).
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The Lord's Name ( Nam or Naam ) is likened to a precious jewel in the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib). Additionally, human birth or life is also likened to a jewel (ਹੀਰੇ ਜੈਸਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਹੈ). For the life is also mentioned in the SGGS to be "rare" and "precious" like a jewel, meant only for contemplation (Shabad-Vichaar) on the jewel-like Divine Name.

But, instead, the SGGS says that the majority of us (over 99.9 percent category) pass life contemplating on "things which are worthless". As time and again indicated in the SGGS, "enticed by Maya ", we waste it "uselessly", and thus, it's like losing it in exchange for mere shells, pieces of glass, potsherds (ਠੀਕਰੀਆਂ), pebbles, filth, etc. We pass it collecting things that are of no real value at all.

  • ਹੀਰੇ ਜੈਸਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਹੈ ਕਉਡੀ ਬਦਲੇ ਜਾਇ ॥: Heere jaisaa janam hai koudee badale jaai: Human life is such a precious jewel, but it is being lost in exchange for a mere shell (sggs156).
  • ਬਿਲਾਵਲੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ ਐਸੇ ਕਾਹੇ ਭੂਲਿ ਪਰੇ ॥ ਕਰਹਿ ਕਰਾਵਹਿ ਮੂਕਰਿ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਪੇਖਤ ਸੁਨਤ ਸਦਾ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕਾਚ ਬਿਹਾਝਨ ਕੰਚਨ ਛਾਡਨ ਬੈਰੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਹੇਤੁ ਸਾਜਨ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਖਰੇ ॥ ਹੋਵਨੁ ਕਉਰਾ ਅਨਹੋਵਨੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਮਹਿ ਲਪਟਾਇ ਜਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਅੰਧ ਕੂਪ ਮਹਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਪਰਾਨੀ ਭਰਮ ਗੁਬਾਰ ਮੋਹ ਬੰਧਿ ਪਰੇ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਹੋਤ ਦਇਆਰਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਭੇਟੈ ਕਾਢੈ ਬਾਹ ਫਰੇ ॥੨॥੧੦॥੯੬॥: Bilaaval Mahalaa 5 || Aise kaahe bhool pare ...: Bilaaval Mahalaa 5. Why do you wander in delusion like this? You act, and incite others to act (evil Karma), and then deny it. The Lord is always with you; He sees and hears everything. ||1||Pause||You purchase glass (worldliness), and discard gold (Truth or Divine Name); you are in love with your enemy (Maya), while you renounce your true friend (God or HIs Name). That which exists (Truth or Divine Name), seems bitter; that which does not exist (illusion or Maya), seems sweet to you. Engrossed in corruption, you are burning away. The mortal has fallen into the deep, dark pit (of attachment), and is entangled in the darkness of doubt, and the bondage of emotional attachment. Says Nanak, when God becomes merciful (when the Divine Mercy is awakened within), one meets with the Guru, who takes him by the arm, and lifts him out ||2||10||96|| (sggs 823).
  • ਰਾਮਕਲੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥ ਕਉਡੀ ਬਦਲੈ ਤਿਆਗੈ ਰਤਨੁ ॥ ਛੋਡਿ ਜਾਇ ਤਾਹੂ ਕਾ ਜਤਨੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਸੰਚੈ ਜੋ ਹੋਛੀ ਬਾਤ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿਆ ਟੇਢਉ ਜਾਤ ॥੧॥ ਅਭਾਗੇ ਤੈ ਲਾਜ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਸੁਖ ਸਾਗਰ ਪੂਰਨ ਪਰਮੇਸਰੁ ਹਰਿ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਮਨ ਮਾਹੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਕਉਰਾ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਮੀਠੀ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਕੀ ਬਿਧਿ ਨੈਨਹੁ ਡੀਠੀ ॥ ਕੂੜਿ ਕਪਟਿ ਅਹੰਕਾਰਿ ਰੀਝਾਨਾ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੁਨਤ ਜਨੁ ਬਿਛੂਅ ਡਸਾਨਾ ॥੨॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਝੂਰੈ ॥ ਮਨਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਕਬਹਿ ਨ ਉਸਤਤਿ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ ਦਾਤਾਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਿਉ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਨ ਕਰੈ ਗਵਾਰੁ ॥੩॥ ਸਭ ਸਾਹਾ ਸਿਰਿ ਸਾਚਾ ਸਾਹੁ ॥ ਵੇਮੁਹਤਾਜੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੁ ॥ ਮੋਹ ਮਗਨ ਲਪਟਿਓ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਗਿਰਹ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਰੀਐ ਤੇਰੀ ਮਿਹਰ ॥੪॥੨੧॥੩੨॥: Ramkalee Mahalaa 5 || kouddee badalai tiaagai ratan ...: Ramkalee Mahalaa 5. In exchange for a shell, (Saakat: the one who is disconnected from Truth) gives up a jewel (of the Lord's Name). He tries to get what he must give up. He collects those things which are worthless. Enticed by Maya, he takes the crooked path ||1||.  You unfortunate man — have you no shame? You do not remember in your mind the ocean of peace, the perfect Transcendent God ||1||rahaaou||. Amrit (Naam) seems bitter, and poison sweet. Such is the Saakat's condition, which I have seen with my own eyes. He is fond of falsehood, fraud and egotism. If he hears Naam, he feels like he ahs been stung by a scorpion ||2||. He continually yearns for Maya, and he never chants God's Praises in his mind (and/or) with his mouth. The Lord is fearless and formless; He is the Great Giver. But you do not love Him, you fool! ||3|| God, the True King, is above the heads of all kings. People are intoxicated by emotional attachment, entangled in doubt and family life. Nanak: they are saved only by Your Mercy, Lord. ||4||21||32|| (sggs 892).

Our Haume (false ego-sense) projects illusions and mirages on the screen of the deluded mind. But an illusion and mirage cannot be real. As a drunkard sees phantoms in the sky, the illusioned Haume-mind sees mirages in the world-appearance. Whatever we see in a mirage or illusion is unreal (Asat or Mithiya). But the SGGS indicates that we mistakenly take them as real and chase after them all the way to the end of life.

  • ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥: Dristimaan hai sagal mithenaa: All that is seen is an illusion (sggs 1083).
  • ਪੇਖੁ ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੜੀ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਨਾਹੀ॥ਮਾਇਆ ਰੰਗ ਜੇਤੇ ਸੇ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਜਾਹੀ ॥: Behold — the world is an illusory castle in the air; nothing here is permanent. The pleasures of Maya, which are many in number, will not go with you (sggs 461).

All this as repeatedly mentioned in the SGGS is to stir detachment from the menacing Haume (egotism) mind. Haume has five deadly offsprings: Kaam (lust), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (attachment), and Ahankaar (pride). In turn these five have numerous offsprings of their own like jealousy, stubborn mindedness, desires, Triashnaa, selfishness, unrighteousness, fear, so on and so forth. If there is Haume, there is also lust, anger,greed, attachment, and Ahankaar (pride), and vise versa. They just love each other, and, thereby, cannot exist separately. If one is present, rest of them are also present. These together delude us and cause us lose the "jewel" in exchange for mere shell, pieces of glass, potsherds, pebbles, filth, and so on.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲਾ ਜਗੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜੰਮੈ ਵਾਰੋ ਵਾਰ ॥: Haumai mailaa jagg phirai mari jamai vaaro vaar: The world wanders around in the filth of egotism; it dies, and is re-born, over and again (sggs 756).

The SGGS considers collecting of all our possessions as collecting mere shell (Maya), pieces of glass, potsherds, pebbles, filth, etc — of no importance and significance. While we are busy collecting them, the jewel of life is slipping out of our hands. It's that game of the dice, which we are bound to lose. So the SGGS remind us that this jewel-like life and the precious opportunity it offers us is not to be wasted in collecting mere shells, etc.

  • ਕੂੜੀ ਡੇਖਿ ਭੁਲੋ ਅਢੁ ਲਹੈ ਨ ਮੁਲੋ ਗੋਵਿਦ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਜੀਠਾ ॥: Koorree dekh bhulo adh lahai na mulo govid naam majeethaa: Gazing upon the false world (i.e., impermanent, fleeting, perishable etc.) you are lost. It is not worth even half a shell. Only the Name of the Lord is permanent (sggs 777).
  • ਅਬ ਪੂਛੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹਾ ॥ ਲੈਨੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਰਸੁ ਨੀਕੋ ਬਾਵਰ ਬਿਖੁ ਸਿਉ ਗਹਿ ਰਹਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਦੁਲਭ ਜਨਮੁ ਚਿਰੰਕਾਲ ਪਾਇਓ ਜਾਤਉ ਕਉਡੀ ਬਦਲਹਾ ॥ ਕਾਥੂਰੀ ਕੋ ਗਾਹਕੁ ਆਇਓ ਲਾਦਿਓ ਕਾਲਰ ਬਿਰਖ ਜਿਵਹਾ ॥1॥ ਆਇਓ ਲਾਭੁ ਲਾਭਨ ਕੈ ਤਾਈ ਮੋਹਨਿ ਠਾਗਉਰੀ ਸਿਉ ਉਲਝਿ ਪਹਾ ॥ ਕਾਚ ਬਾਦਰੈ ਲਾਲੁ ਖੋਈ ਹੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਇਹੁ ਅਉਸਰੁ ਕਦਿ ਲਹਾ ॥2॥ : Abb pooshai kiaa kahaa...: Now if (you) are asked, what can (you) say? You was supposed to have gathered the sublime essence of the Amrit-Naam, the Name of the Lord, but instead, the mad-man was busy with poison (that kills once Aatamic Jeevan or spiritual life). ||1||Pause|| This human life, so difficult to obtain, was finally obtained after such a long time. But it's being lost in exchange for a shell. You came to buy musk, but instead, you have loaded dust and thistle grass. ||1|| You have come in (this world) in search of profits, but you are entangled in the enticing illusion of Maya. You lose the jewel, in exchange for mere glass. When will you have this blessed opportunity (of human birth) again? ||2| (sggs 1203).

Whether our Haume concurs with this or not: the biggest obsession in the world appears to be amassing money, which, in turn, leads to other obsessions and desires. In order to accumulate money, the majority of us keep on trading our lives and collecting shells and filth in exchange!

Here one may get the idea that perhaps the SGGS is suggesting us to renounce the world or abandon everything. No, no, no...

Let's face it, money cannot be amassed without corruption (falsehood, greed, unrighteousness, illegal and unethical activities, selfishness, and so on). If this corruption is fully taken out of the equation, then what will be left over is the "Kirat Kamaaee" (honest earning). Which is strongly encouraged and supported by the Gurmat (Universal Teaching of the SGGS). In fact, we are to remember and emphasize three practices in our individual and corporate life, "Kirat Kamaaee" is one of them. These three are: (1) Kirat Karnee, (2) Vand Shaknaa, and (3) Naam Japnaa. First, "Kirat Karnee" is the truthful way of living which includes honest or truthful way of labor and work side by side with the search of Absolute Truth. Second, "Vand Shaknaa" is giving or sharing with others. And third is "Naam Japanaa", which is to engage in Understanding of the Gur-Shabad.

  • ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਗਾਵੈ ਗੀਤ॥ਭੁਖੇ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਘਰੇ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥ ਮਖਟੂ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਕੰਨ ਪੜਾਏ ॥ਫਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਣ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਲਗੀਐ ਪਾਇ॥ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥: Giaan vihoonaa gaavai geet ...: The one who lacks spiritual wisdom sings religious songs (for the sake of earning bread). The hungry Mullah turns his home into a mosque (or he also goes to mosque for the sake of bread!). The lazy bum has his ears pierced to look like a Yogi. Someone else becomes a panhandler, and thus loses his self-respect. Someone calls himself a guru or a spiritual teacher, while he goes around begging for bread - don't ever touch their feet. One who truthfully works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the path (sggs 1245).
  • ਸੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਮਹਿ ਏਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: So kish kar jit mail na laagai. Har kirtan mahi eh manu jaagai ||1|| ||Rahaaou||: Make only those efforts by which the "filth" (fith of Bikaars: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and their countless variations) may not stick to your mind; and your mind remains awake (alert or aware of the pull of Bikaars) through the Lord's Kirtan (ਪਰਮਾਤਮ ਦੀ ਸਿਫਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ) ||1|| ||Pause|| (sggs 199).

This way, instead of selling life in exchange for shells, it could have been used in more sensible, positive and creative way. This way It could have become a Mool-realization (realizing that we are "Joti-Svaroopa"). This way it could have become harmonious, compassionate, balanced, intuitive, full, Whole (Saabat), Sahaj (natural state of Being), selflessness. It could have become Freedom (Mukti) from bondage (Maya), a prayer, a contemplation, a Divine Dance, a Divine Poetry, Love, a Unspoken Speech, an experience of Oneness, and so on

But we missed the rare and precious opportunity. If not already missed, we will if not awakened in a timely manner to the Gurbani's calling.

The SGGS seems to suggest to us to live in this world but not of it. To eat to live in this world but not live to eat. To live in the midst of the worldly possessions (Maya) but not to let possessions live in us: to live in a house but not to let the house live in us, etc!

  • 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).

In other words, the SGGS seems to reminds us that the gross objects of the world are fleeting, ephemeral temporary, or perishable; thus ultimately false (Koorh). Therefore, any pleasure derived from them is also temporary at best and ultimately flawed. As such, the sensory world can never give us any lasting or infinite satisfaction, contentment, happiness, peace, joy or blessed life. It's not that no happiness is gained from the objects of the world, but any happiness developed from them is not only fleeting but also minuscule or microscopic portion of the Infinite Bliss (Anand). The SGGS urges us to go for the Real Substance — the Infinite Bliss of the Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...).

One day we and all our possessions will disappear within a moment! Look at anything in this universe, everything reminds us of its impermanency. In fact, one day, nobody would pay any price for this body or head after they are dead! The SGGS gives us a taste as to what will happen after our death. It's not a pretty picture at all, unless we stop selling life in exchange for Koorh of this world. Of course this Koorh looks beatuful. But, after all, as the SGGS repeatedly points out, its just Koorh!

  • ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਚਲਸੀ ਕੂੜਾ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਵੇਖੁ ॥: Jo deesai so chalasee koorraa mohu na vekh: Whatever is seen shall pass away. So do not be attached to this false show (sggs 61).
  • ਕੂੜੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪਰਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜੁ ਮੰਡਪ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾੜੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੈਸਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੁਪਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪੈਨ੍‍ਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਪੜੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜੁ ਮੀਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੀਬੀ ਖਪਿ ਹੋਏ ਖਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜਿ ਕੂੜੈ ਨੇਹੁ ਲਗਾ ਵਿਸਰਿਆ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥ਕਿਸੁ ਨਾਲਿ ਕੀਚੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ਕੂੜੁ ਮਿਠਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾਖਿਉ ਕੂੜੁ ਡੋਬੇ ਪੂਰੁ ॥ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਤੁਧੁ ਬਾਝੁ ਕੂੜੋ ਕੂੜੁ ॥੧॥: Koorh raajaa koorh parajaa koorh sabh sansaar...: False is... (sggs 468).
  • ਊਚੇ ਮੰਦਰ ਸਾਲ ਰਸੋਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਘਰੀ ਫੁਨਿ ਰਹਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਐਸਾ ਜੈਸੇ ਘਾਸ ਕੀ ਟਾਟੀ ॥ ਜਲਿ ਗਇਓ ਘਾਸੁ ਰਲਿ ਗਇਓ ਮਾਟੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਭਾਈ ਬੰਧ ਕੁਟੰਬ ਸਹੇਰਾ ॥ ਓਇ ਭੀ ਲਾਗੇ ਕਾਢੁ ਸਵੇਰਾ ॥੨॥ ਘਰ ਕੀ ਨਾਰਿ ਉਰਹਿ ਤਨ ਲਾਗੀ ॥ ਉਹ ਤਉ ਭੂਤੁ ਭੂਤੁ ਕਰਿ ਭਾਗੀ ॥੩॥ ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਸਭੈ ਜਗੁ ਲੂਟਿਆ ॥ ਹਮ ਤਉ ਏਕ ਰਾਮੁ ਕਹਿ ਛੂਟਿਆ ॥੪॥੩॥: Ooche mandar saal rasoee..: You may have lofty mansions, halls and kitchens. But you cannot stay in them, even for an instant, after death. ||1|| (Let alone mansions) This body is like a house of straw. When it is burnt, it mixes with dust. ||1||Pause|| (After death) Even relatives, family and friends begin to say, "Take his body out, immediately!"||2|| And (after his death, even his) wife, who was so attached to his body, runs away, crying out, "Ghost! Ghost!" (i.e., he is dead, he is dead)||3|| Says Ravi Das, the whole world has been plundered (by this illusion that the body, property relatives, etc. are mine), but I have escaped (from this plundering), chanting the Name of the One Lord ||4||3|| (sggs 794).
  • ਨਰੂ ਮਰੈ ਨਰੁ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਮਰੈ ਦਸ ਕਾਜ ਸਵਾਰੈ ॥੧॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ॥ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ਬਾਬਾ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਹਾਡ ਜਲੇ ਜੈਸੇ ਲਕਰੀ ਕਾ ਤੂਲਾ ॥ ਕੇਸ ਜਲੇ ਜੈਸੇ ਘਾਸ ਕਾ ਪੂਲਾ ॥੨॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਨਰੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥ ਜਮ ਕਾ ਡੰਡੁ ਮੂੰਡ ਮਹਿ ਲਾਗੈ ॥੩॥੨॥: Naroo marai nar kaam na aavai ... (sggs 870).

Why everything is Koorh? Because everything is moving towards its end — death. So the SGGS is urging us not to hanker for them. For the hankering mind only collects shells and filth. If we are not disillusioned by shells and filth, then we will not be able to realize Truth. This is what SGGS seems to be essentially telling us here.

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org