ONE BREATH

ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ ਮੁਹਲਤਿ ਮੁਹਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥:
Ham aadamee haan ik damee muhalati muhatu na jaanaa:

We are human beings of one breath and we do not know the
duration (term, limit, etc., of our life) and the moment of
our departure (i.e., death). (sggs 660).
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What's the length of one's life? The SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) answers this query by depth in the foregoing verse. It says that "We are human beings of one breath". That is, our "ਮੁਹਲਤਿ" (ਮਿਆਦ or duration) is just one breath. In other words, the length of a human's life can best be measured by the breath.

  • ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ ਮੁਹਲਤਿ ਮੁਹਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥: Ham aadamee haan ik damee muhalati muhatu na jaanaa: We are human beings of one breath and we do not know the duration (term, limit, etc., of our life) and the moment of our departure (i.e., death). (sggs 660).

To the contrary, the length of one's body may be measured in time - days, months, years, etc. The body goes through different phases such as childhood, youth, adulthood, old age, and finally death. The body is born, it remains for a while (may survive for several years), and ultimately it dies. In other words it has beginning, middle, and end. Anything or any entity that has a beginning, middle, and end cannot be beyond thr influence of time (i.e., it cannot be timeless). Thus, the length of a body is measured in time because it is bound in time and space - ever changing, fleeting, fluctuating, vanishing, momentary, temporary, impermanent, relative, mortal, and so on.

When the Gur-Shabad says "We are human beings of one breath", it indicates something beyond time, beyond the flux, beyond the changefulness, beyond the relativity, beyond the fleeting physical phenomena, and beyond the principle of plurality.

"One" is non-dual. It represents Unity, Eternal or Immortal aspect, and hence Reality. More than one indicates duality, the principle of plurality, outer, unreal, illusion, etc. In other words, the life is inside or within. Thereby it's ageless, and timeless. Although life is in the inner, but it expresses in the outside through the body-mind-intellect personality, which gives rise to the perceiver of objects, the feeler of emotions and the thinker of thoughts.

The inner aspect of saying - "We are human beings of one breath" - in English translation is not as meaningful as it does reading the Gur-Shabad say "ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ" (Ham aadamee haan ik damee). The word "ਦਮੀ" (Damee) comes from (Dama), which is Farsi/Arabic in origin. Its nearest counterpart in Indian languages is the word "Pran or Prana" (pronounced as Praan). The Gurbani has frequently used this word Praan (ਪ੍ਰਾਨ or ਪਰਾਣ), which is much more significant and meaningful than the word breath. Other closest equivalents in English for this Sanskrit word Praan is energy, force, wind, and air.

If we look at ourselves, first we see the outer frame: the gross body. Within this gross body is the inner subtle body (call it soul, Self, Infinite Potentiality, Shakti, or whatever you may). That which links these two (outer and the inner) is Praan, the breath.

  • ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਹਰਿ ਪਿਆਰੈ ਜੀਉ ਗੁਫਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਰਖਿ ਕੈ ਵਾਜਾ ਪਵਣੁ ਵਜਾਇਆ ॥: Kahai Nanak har piaarai jeeou gufaa andar rakh kai vaajaa pavan vajaaiaa: Says Nanak, the Lord placed the soul to the cave of the body, and blew the air into this musical instrument of the body (sggs 922).
  • ਜੀਅ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਕੀਏ ਜਿਨਿ ਸਾਜਿ ॥: Jeea praan keeeae jin saaj: He fashioned the soul and the Praan (sggs 862).

So long this link between the matter (Jarr-ਜੜ) and spirit (Chetan-ਚੇਤਨ) remains unbroken, we are alive and called human (or Aadamee). But when this link between the form and formless is broken (i.e., one stops breathing or no more Dama), one is declared dead. That is, with the breakage or snapping of the link of Praan between the world and the no-world, the Immortal soul and the mortal body separate from each other.

Interestingly, when we are born, the first thing we do is breathe, and the last thing we will do is stop breathing when we die! Thus, it's the Praan that joins the body and the soul. Without this vital Praan the body has no value; for the body is under its power. In other words, the cessation of Praan in the body is the cessation of the enchanting world-appearance. The energy which thus vibrates in the Heart-lotus is known as Praan. All limbs of the body drive their energy from it.

  • ਮਾਣਸ ਕਾ ਫਲੁ ਘਟ ਮਹਿ ਸਾਸੁ ॥ ਸਾਸਿ ਗਇਐ ਕਾਇਆ ਢਲਿ ਪਾਇ ॥: Maanas kaa fal ghat meh saas. Saas gaiai kaaiaa dhal paai: The value of the human lasts only as long as the breath in the body. When the breath is taken away, the body crumbles into dust (sggs 1256).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਭੰਨੀ ਘੜੀ ਸਵੰਨਵੀ ਟੁਟੀ ਨਾਗਰ ਲਜੁ ॥: Fareedaa bhannee gharhee savannvee tutee naagar laj: Fareed, the beautiful body breaks apart (as the) beutiful (i.e., subtle) thread of the breath snaps (sggs 1381).
  • ਨਿਕਸਿਆ ਫੂਕ ਤ ਹੋਇ ਗਇਓ ਸੁਆਹਾ ॥: Niksiaa fook ta hoi gaio suaahaa: But when the air leaves him, he turns to ashes (sggs 392).
  • ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਗਏ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਫੁਨਿ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥: Paraan gaye saagar milai fun kaam na aavai: When its breath of life is gone, even an ocean is of no use to it (sggs 858).
  • ਓਹ ਜਿ ਦਿਸੈ ਖੂਹੜੀ ਕਉਨ ਲਾਜੁ ਵਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਲਾਜੁ ਘੜੀ ਸਿਉ ਤੂਟਿ ਪੜੀ ਉਠਿ ਚਲੀ ਪਨਿਹਾਰੀ ॥: Oh ji disai khooharree koun laaj vahaaree...: This well (i.e., the enchanting world), which (we) see, who has lowered the rope in this well (i.e., whosoever comes into this world starts consuing his life enjoying the worldly objects)? Whose rope (of the breath) breaks away from the pitcher (of the body), and the water-carrier gets up and departs (i.e., the one engaged in pleasure seeking dies and departs) (sggs 333).
  • ਕੋ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਭਰੀਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੫॥: Ko rahai na bhareeai paaeeai ||5||: No one remains here when the count of the breaths is full ||5|| (sggs 465).

Here the Gur-Shabad helps us understand many points such as:

(a). What is the psychological ego (Haume)? It's simply accepting the body-mind-intellect personality as the Immortal soul. In other words, what we are is something far more profound, which cannot be confined within the limits of the finite experiences of our limited body-mind-intellect apparatus.

(b). Why the Gurbani again and again hammers the message into our heads that the Lord is non-dual, one without a second - He has no other beside Him. The Gurbani reminds us there prevails only an essential identity between all beings, and that is the same One Praan.

  • ਏਕੋ ਪਵਣੁ ਮਾਟੀ ਸਭ ਏਕਾ ਸਭ ਏਕਾ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਬਾਈਆ ॥ ਸਭ ਇਕਾ ਜੋਤਿ ਵਰਤੈ ਭਿਨਿ ਭਿਨਿ ਨ ਰਲਈ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੀ ਰਲਾਈਆ ॥: Eko pavan maatee sabh aykaa sabh aykaa joti sabaaeeiaa. Sabh ikaa jot vartai bhin bhin na ralee kisai dee ralaaeeaa: There is only one air; all are made of the same clay; the light within all is the same. The One Light pervades all the many and various beings. This Light intermingles with them, but it is not diluted or obscured (sggs 96).

(c). The word Praan is not really just breath, energy or a force. It is the Total summation of all energy, all force, in its countless manifestations (ਏਕੋ ਪਵਣੁ ਮਾਟੀ ਸਭ ਏਕਾ ਸਭ ਏਕਾ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਬਾਈਆ ॥ ਸਭ ਇਕਾ ਜੋਤਿ ਵਰਤੈ ਭਿਨਿ ਭਿਨਿ ਨ ਰਲਈ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੀ ਰਲਾਈਆ ॥) . Hence, if seen through the unfragmented and uncoditioned wisdom of the Gurbani, it is surely the radiance of the Supreme or the Joti-Svaroopa.

Physics (physical science) has proven that all matter (atoms with their orbiting electrons and protons) is in vibration. All things are made up of atoms. It is the movement, or vibration of those atoms, that make all things. When the smallest subdivision of matter is reached, Praan, or pure energy, remains. In a nutshell, Praan is the sum total of energy, because, in a sense, the whole material universe is manifested from it. This is why the inner aspect of saying - "We are human beings of one breath" - in English translation is not as expressive, significant, revealing, or considerable as it does reading the Gur-Shabad say "ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ" (Ham aadamee haan ik damee).

(d). What is devotion (Bhagti)? Why engage in Naam Simran? With the help of the Gurbani we can say that all this is to bend the outer to the inner; making the body-mind-intellect express the Real, or the Whole, which is All and beyond all. We can deal with the inside world primarily through the spiritual aspect of our being, which, as indicated in the Gurbani, generally remains in a dormant state due to our neglect.

(e). Why the Gurbani time and again urges all of us not to waste any breath. It asks us "With each and every breath, meditate in remembrance on the Lord of the Universe". Once harnessed, turned inward and transmuted through the continuous practice of "ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ", this life force (Praan) charges the aura, and drives the spiritual process forward to Realize our Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...). To be really focused on "ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ" is to be fully in the present moment, or NOW, free from the past and future. It is not possible to "conquer" or "kill" the the mind without the constant Shabad-Vichaar. Focus on "ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ" is indicated to be the means to overcome the mind, which leads to bear the fruit of realization of one's Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...).

  • ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ॥ ਮਨ ਅੰਤਰ ਕੀ ਉਤਰੈ ਚਿੰਦ ॥: Saasi saasi simrahu gobind. Mann antar kee utrai chind: With each breath, remember "Gobind" (Mool...). (So that) anxiety within (your) mind be erased (sggs 295).
  • ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰੀਐ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਜੀਅ ਪਰਾਣ ॥: So kiou manahu visaareeai jaa ke jeea paraan: How can He be forgetten who created soul, and the praanaa? (sggs 16).

To say it otherwise, to much extent, how we live depends on how we breath! For example, watch the breathing pattern when in the sway of any of the numerous faults (Bikaars, passions, negativities, etc.) of Haume (false ego-sense): lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment, pride, jealousy, stubbornness, selfishness, and so on. If we watch ourselves carefully when in the vertex of such conditioned consciousness, we will notice that our breathing pattern will be very choppy, thumping, pulsating, wavering, fast, inharmonious, inconsistent, dissonant, unrhythmic, feverish, unnatural, chaotic, and so on. In this conditioned state, our senses omit nothing but "ਦੁਰਗੰਧ" (Durgandh, literally meaning foul smell or bad odor). In this contaminated state, our aura shrinks, which repels.

  • ਬਿਰਥਾ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨਾ ਤਨੁ ਅੰਧ ॥ ਮੁਖਿ ਆਵਤ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਦੁਰਗੰਧ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਦਿਨੁ ਰੈਨਿ ਬ੍ਰਿਥਾ ਬਿਹਾਇ ॥ ਮੇਘ ਬਿਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਖੇਤੀ ਜਾਇ ॥: Birthaa naam binaa tanu andh ...: Useless is the body of the spiritually blind, without the Name of the Lord (Naam: Giaan). From his mouth, a foul smell (of ignorance, Bikaar, falsehood...) issues forth. Without the Simran (of the Naam, his), day and night pass in vain, like the crop which withers without rain (sggs 269).

To the contrary, however, when in meditation (Naam-Simran, Shabad-Vichaar), the pattern of our breathing is totally different - it's very rhythmic, harmonious, silent, natural, and so on. We feel at Home. In this more refined state, one has a big aura, which attracts. In fact, in deep Simran, at times the breathing becomes so silent that we can hardly notice it. Essentially this is the idea behind continually contemplating, observing, and witnessing each and every breath.

  • ਪੂਜੈ ਪ੍ਰਾਣ ਹੋਵੈ ਥਿਰੁ ਕੰਧੁ ॥: Poojai praan hovai thir kandh: One who worships the Lord with his Praan (i.e., Saas Saas), gains stability in his body (i.e., becomes free of Bikaars, passions, etc. (sggs 1289).

Thus, the sincere and unbroken Simran can help us breathe naturally. When breathing naturally, a profound serenity will arise within. By and by it can help us realize that we are different than the outer body-frame. On the other hand, the faults of Haume ( false ego-sense) make us breathe unnaturally, causing us waste our vital energy.

  • ਹਉ ਮੁਆ ਮੈ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਪਉਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਦਰੀਆਉੁ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਥਕੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਤਾ ਨਾਇ ॥: So long Jeev is smitten with "Ego", a river (of desires, Trishanaa) flows within (that Jeev). O Nanak! Desire is exhausted only when the mind is imbued with the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Divine Wisdom, Divine Virtues...). (sggs 1091).

We can imagine how choppy, violent, aggressive, and bumpy a river flow can be! To avoid such "river" - the Gurbani urges us to become the Gurmukhs (the spiritual beings, the followers of the Truth and truthful living, etc.), and engage in continual Simran ("Nit Japeeai", "Sadaa", " Aath Pahar", "Din Raat", etc.), with each and every breath.

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਸਦਾ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਜੀਅ ਪਰਾਨ ॥: Gurmukh hari jeeou sadaa dhiaavahu jabb lagu jeea paraan: Becoming a Gurmukh, meditate on the Divine forever, so long there is the breath of life (sggs 1334).
  • ਨਿਤ ਜਪੀਐ ਸਾਸਿ ਗਿਰਾਸਿ ਨਾਉ ਪਰਵਦਿਗਾਰ ਦਾ ॥: Nit japeeai saas giraas naaou parvadigaar daa: With every breath and morsel of food, chant the Name of the Lord, the Cherisher (sggs 518).
  • ਜਿਸੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਸਭਿ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਨਾਸਹਿ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੋ ॥ ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਤੁਮ੍‍ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਜਾਪਹੁ ਜਾ ਕਾ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਰੋ ॥੧॥ ਪੂਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਕੀ ਆਸੀਸ ॥ ਨਿਮਖ ਨ ਬਿਸਰਉ ਤੁਮ੍‍ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਭਜਹੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Jis simarat sabh kilavikh naasahi pitaree hoi oudhaaro. So har har tum sad hee jaapahu jaa kaa ant na paaro. ||1|| Pootaa maataa kee aasees. Nimakh na bisaro tum kaou har har sadaa bhajahu jagadees ||1|| rehaao ||: Remembering Him (God), all sins are erased, and ones "Pitaree" are saved. So meditate continually on the Lord; He has no end or limitation. ||1|| O son, this is the mother's hope and prayer, that you may never forget the Lord, even for an instant. May you meditate upon the Lord of the Universe. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 496).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org