FOUR RIVERS OF FIRE
ਹੰਸੁ ਹੇਤੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਕੋਪੁ ਚਾਰੇ ਨਦੀਆ ਅਗਿ ॥ ਪਵਹਿ ਦਝਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤਰੀਐ ਕਰਮੀ ਲਗਿ ॥੨॥:
Hansu hetu lobhu kopu chaare nadiaa agi. Pavahi dajhai
Nanakaa tareeai karmee lagi ||2||:
Cruelty, material attachment, greed and
anger are the four rivers of fire (flowing within).
Falling into them, one is burned. Says Nanak, with the Divine Grace (or Karma - sowing
the seed of Naam within...), one is saved only by holding (tight to the Guru's feet -
the Giaan or Divine Knowledge of the Gur-Shabad that sprouts within...) ||2|| (sggs 147).
Water from a river swollen with downpour of heavy rains can sweep, destroy
and devastate anything that comes in its way. Just imagine if the same
river is consisted of burning fire instead of water! According to the Gurbani
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), man is surrounded by not only one, but four such
rivers of fire! These fiery rivers are: Bikaar like (1) cruelty, (2) material attachment,
(3) greed, and (4) anger.
At the microcosmic level, these four rivers of burning fire
flow within each Jeeva (individual being). Combining all individual
Jeeva make the total world. Therefore, at the macrocosmic level,
or looking from a standpoint of totality, the entire material world is engulfed
in this fire. This present sorrowful condition of the Sansaar — the
place of repeated pain and delusion — is described in the Gurbani as follows:
- ਹੰਸੁ ਹੇਤੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਕੋਪੁ ਚਾਰੇ ਨਦੀਆ ਅਗਿ ॥ ਪਵਹਿ ਦਝਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤਰੀਐ ਕਰਮੀ ਲਗਿ ॥੨॥: Hansu hetu lobhu kopu chaare nadiaa agi. Pavahi dajhai
Nanakaa tareeai karmee lagi ||2||: Cruelty, material attachment, greed and
anger are the four rivers of fire (flowing within). Falling into them, one is burned. Says Nanak, with the Divine Grace (or Karma - sowing the seed of Naam within...), one is saved only by holding (tight to the Guru's feet - the Giaan or Divine Knowledge of the Gur-Shabad that sprouts within...) ||2|| (sggs 147).
The aim of this Gurbani Reflection is to attempt reflecting on these four streams
of fire flowing within all beings. Also, it will attempt to summarize the
teachings of the Gurbani as to how Jeeva (individual beings) can escape
the spell, onslaught and devastation of these rivers of fire while living in their
- ਕਲਜੁਗਿ ਰਥੁ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਅਗੈ ਰਥਵਾਹੁ ॥੧॥: Kaljugi rathu agani kaa koorru aggi rathavaahu ||1||: Kalijugi is the chariot of fire, and falsehood is the charioteer ||1|| (sggs
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪੰਚ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਿਉ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਧੀਜੈ ॥: antari panch agani kiou dhheeraju dheejai: The five fires (i.e., evil passions: lust, anger, greed, etc., and their countless variations) burns within; how can patience (composure, solace, tranquility, ਮਨ ਦਾ ਟਿਕਾਉ...) be held (kept or sustained in the mind so lond these fires of Bikaar are burning within)? (sggs 905).
- ਗੂਝੀ ਭਾਹਿ ਜਲੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ਭਗਤ ਨ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੪॥: Goojhee bhaahi jalai sansaaraa bhagat n biaapai Maya ||4||: The world is being consumed by this (Maya's) hidden fire, but Maya does not cling to the Lord's devotees. ||4|| (sggs 673).
- ਆਤਸ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਖੁਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਖੁਦਾਇਆ ॥੨॥: Aatas duneeaa khunak naam khudaaiaa ||2||: The world is (like) fire; the Lord's Name is cooling and soothing. ||2|| (sggs 1291).
A Spiritually ignorant person (the Manmukh) is cruel by nature; for materialistic living
and cruelty go hand-in-hand. A materialistic person, society or nation is always
seen engaged in inventing something for the sense gratification. In their
view, such materialistic advancement is considered to be the advancement of
the human civilization, but the result is more and more violence and cruelty
towards other beings — animals and human alike.
- ਖਾਤ ਪੀਵਤ ਹਸਤ ਸੋਵਤ ਅਉਧ ਬਿਤੀ ਅਸਾਰ ॥ Khaat peevat hasat sovat aoudh bitee assaar: Eating, drinking, laughing
and sleeping, life passes uselessly (In ignorance). (sggs 1229).
A materialistic person — also called Manmukh — has no true Divine Knowledge, or his real Identity (Joti-Svaroopa). Since he is essentially ego-being, his life is dominated
by his strong bondage to material consciousness, far and far away from Spiritual
discipline (Aatam-Giaan, ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ). Enveloped in material perplexities, Manmukhs
are identified in the Gurbani as Saakat (faithless cynics), Kusang
(bad company), Aatam Ghaatee (self-murderer), Chor (thief), Mayadhaaree
(Maya-stricken or illusioned), Bimukhan (non-devotee), Jhooth
or Koorh (false or fake), demon, beast, idiot, fool, less intelligent,
Now, what might be the root cause of cruelty? Why people practice it? The
reason a person practices cruelty or violence towards others is that he does
not see the same One God in all people. Under the spell of false ego-sense (Haume) or
ignorance, he has no sense of Oneness. Thus, a Manmukh is a demoniac
being who's always engaged in activities that brings the human society harm. Such people are enemies of the goodness in the world, because
they are always engaged in inventing or creating something that is conducive
to only destruction.
Cruelty is of three kinds: cruelty of the mind, cruelty of the speech, and
cruelty of killing others beings. In short, cruelty of the mind is to think
ill of others, cruelty of the speech is to speak ill of others, and cruelty
of killing is causing distress to other beings either by taking their life or
hurting them otherwise.
- ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰੁ ਨਿਤ ਚਿਤਵਤੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਛੁ ਪੋਚ ॥੨॥: Paraupakaar nit chitavate naahee kashu poch ||2||:
Those who continually remember God, do good deeds for others; they harbor
no ill will towards anyone ||2|| (sggs 815).
- ਮੰਦਾ ਕਿਸੈ ਨ ਆਖਿ ਝਗੜਾ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥: Mandaa kisai n aakh jhagarraa paavanaa: Do
not speak ill of others, (by speaking ill of others) don't create quarrel (sggs 566).
- ਜੀਅ ਬਧਹੁ ਸੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਅਧਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਤ ਭਾਈ ॥: Jeea badhahu su dharam kar thaapahu adharam kahahu
kat bhaaee: (O Pandit) you kill living beings, and
call it a righteous action. (Then) tell me, brother, what would you call an unrighteous
action? (sggs 1103).
Material or worldly attachment can be defined as accepting things for one's
own sense gratification. Opposite to attachment is the dispassion or detachment, which is the absence of such sensual slavery. In other
words, passion for all mundane objects and dispassion to the Mool within (Source, Origin...) constitutes the material attachment.
Abandoning worldly attachment does not mean that one should become inactive,
idle or abandon his family or this world. It simply means not to get attached to actions and
their fruits. A Spiritually Wise (the Gurmukh) never gets adversely influenced by the
inherent charm of the mundane objects. He is fully aware that the enchanting
worldly objects are full of venom that would deviate him from the Spiritual
Life. Accordingly, he looks upon them with an eye of dispassion and discriminating
intellect (Bibek Budhi).
The Soul is Pure by nature. This may lead to the following question: then,
how does it become contaminated? Due to the mind's involvement with false
ego ("I-ness", Maya...), it gets bonded to the worldliness. The excessive
sense of attachment brings bewilderment of the mind, followed by the loss of mental
equilibrium and degradation of the Soul.
- Maya moh visaariaa jagat pitaa pritipaal: In
attachment to Maya, one forgets the Father, the Cherisher of the World (sggs
- Moh thagaulee hayu muee saa vartai sansaar:
The drug of emotional attachment has destroyed me, as it has destroyed the
whole world (sggs 61).
As a result, one becomes full of animal propensities namely eating, sleeping,
mating, and defending. Because of such conditioning, his activities are
never in the mode of goodness. He tries to dominate the material nature
and, hence, becomes subjected to its effects — lust, anger, greed, attachment,
false pride, enviousness and stubborn mindedness (and their numerous variations).
Greed & Anger
- ਕਰਤੂਤਿ ਪਸੂ ਕੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਾਤਿ ॥ ਲੋਕ ਪਚਾਰਾ ਕਰੈ ਦਿਨੁ ਰਾਤਿ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੇਖ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮਲੁ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਛਪਸਿ ਨਾਹਿ ਕਛੁ ਕਰੈ ਛਪਾਇਆ ॥: kartoot pasoo kee maanas jaat. Lok pachaaraa karai din raat. Bahri bhekh antar mal Maya. Shapasi naahi kashu karai
shapaaiaa: They (ਮਾਇਆ-ਧਾਰੀ ਜੀਵ - those in love with Maya, etc.) belong to the human species, but they act like animals. Day and night, they make show (ਲੋਕ ਦਿਖਾਵੇ ਦੇ ਕੰਮ). Outwardly, they (those who act like animals) wear religious robes, but within is the
filth of Maya. They cannot conceal (their inner filth with outwardly wearing religious robes) (sggs
- ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਸਭ ਨੀਚ ਜਾਤਿ ਹੈ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਕਾ ਕੀੜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੭॥: Bin naavai
sabh neech jaat hai bista ka keeraa hoi ||7||: Without the Name, every one is
of low caste, like the worm of ordure ||7|| (sggs 426).
In material existence, once we are faced with a problem, we start thinking
about it's solution, rather than it's cause. Unless the root cause of any
problem is known, one will be unable to see the reality of that problem. And,
without thinking about the reality or understanding the nature of the problem,
he will be unable to eradicate it once for ever. Consequently, one may
solve the problem for time being, however, the problem will arise again. One
can not kill a snake by merely destroying his hole in the ground!
By the technique of Spiritual Inquiry (Shabad-Vichaar), one can seek
to understand the nature or root cause of any problem. Once we know the
answer, we can find a permanent solution to it. For instance, let's try to find
out where greed and anger come from.
Upon inquiry, we will find that these demoniac instincts of greed and anger
result from another such instinct called Kama (pronounced Kaam). What is Kaam? Kaam
can be defined as lust, material desires for one's own sense gratification,
emotional attachment to matter, hankering after worldly pleasures, etc. Thus,
Kaam is the unlimited lustful desires (Vaasnaas or Trishnaa)
that entice man to indulge in sensory pleasure.
This evil instinct of Kaam corrupts one's sensory
apparatus. As a result, through the corrupted sense of sight, man lusts after
material objects; through the corrupted sense of hearing, man craves to hear the
slow poison of flattery and other sounds that rouse his material nature; through
the corrupted sense of smell, he is enticed toward wrong environments and actions;
through the corrupted sense of taste, he lures to consume such foods and
drinks that destroys his physical and mental well being; and contaminated sense
of touch lusts him for indulgence in physical comforts and sex.
Thus, the fire of intense anxiety created by Kaam consumes man's inner
peace and mental poise. Under the influence of corrupted
senses he then looses his sanity and acts like a donkey, swine, elephant, etc. In
the name and guise of fulfilling his necessary needs, false ego lures him to
continuously seek self-satisfaction until death, resulting only in further suffering,
sorrows, fears, worry, and anxiety. Thus, the Kaam ruins man's
happiness, health, mind, intelligence, memory, and discriminative judgment (Bibek
Thus, an egoistic or materialistic (Manmukh) life
begins with Kaam. When Kaam can not
be satisfied by efforts, it manifests into anger. If it does get satisfied, then it gives rise to greed or more deisres. This trio then become
three gates leading to a hellish life.
- ਹਉ ਰੋਗੁ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਚੁਕੈ ਨ ਭੰਗਾ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਅਤਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਜਰੰਗਾ ॥: Haou rog biaapai chukai n bhangaa. Kaama krodh ati trisan jarangaa:
(Those who stubborly practice rituals) get afflicted with the disease of egotism (Haume), and (the shortage / deficiency of spiritual life or ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) does not end. They keep burning in the fire of lust, anger, and extreme cravings (sggs 1305).
- ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਕੇ ਲੀਨੇ ਗਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਏਕੈ ਜਾਨੀ ॥: Kaama krodh trsnaa ke leene gati nahee ekai jaanee:
Man indulged in lust, anger and greed does not know
the way of the Lord (sggs 1123).
After explaining us the nature and root cause of the problem; also, after giving
us the proper understanding of the problem, the Gurbani now imparts the seeker
with a permanent solution. This is the beauty of the Gur-Shabad!
The Gurbani reveals to us that our body is like a furnace, and the mind
is the iron within this furnace; there the fire of vices constantly heat
it. What keeps the fire burning? Mayaic efforts are likened to the charcoal (i.e.,
fuel) placed upon it, which keeps this fire going that burns the mind.
The anxiety and worry act as tongs, which turn the mind around on the furnace!
How one can eradicate these fires from within his mind? First of all, the
Gurbani urges that we need to cultivate the true Spiritual Knowledge (Aatam Giaan), which
is the opposite of the material knowledge. The real Knowledge brings about
the transformation within ourselves. With this inner transformation comes
the sense of Oneness, humility, friendship, love for all...
- ਅਨੇਕ ਜਤਨ ਕਰੇ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਵਸਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਕਾਮਿ ਕਰੋਧਿ ਜਲੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੇਵੇ ਮਨੁ ਵਸਿ ਆਵੈ ਮਨ ਮਾਰੇ ਮਨਹਿ ਸਮਾਇਦਾ ॥੧੫॥: Anek jatan kare indree vasi na hoee. Kaami krodhi jalai sabhyu koee. Satigur seve manu vasi aavai man maare manahi samaaidaa: (Without taking refuge in the Sanctury of the Gur-Giaan) making
countless efforts, lust is not overcome. Everyone is burning in the
fires of lust and anger. Serving the Satguru (ਸਚ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ, Divine Knowledge...), one brings his mind under control; conquering his mind, he merges in the Mind (Higher Mind, ਆਤਮਕ ਅਡੋਲਤਾ, which does not burn in passions or Maya anymore) ||15|| (sggs 1062).
The Gurbani time and again reminds us that Shabad-Surti (Naam-consciousness, Aatam Giaan...)
is the killer of Maya. Therefore, with the true understanding of the Gurbani
comes the real understanding of the human apparatus consisting of the body-mind-intellect
personality. This Intuitive Understanding, in turn, causes one to die while
living (dissolving of the mind or false ego), making his senses widow! Thus,
one kills the snake as well as destroys the snake-hole!
- ਸਗਲੀ ਜਾਨਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਮਉਦੀਫਾ ॥: Saglee jaan karo mauleephaa: Let your daily worship be the knowledge that God is everywhere (sggs 1084).
- ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਪੀਲਕੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕੁੰਡਾ ਜਹ ਖਿੰਚੇ ਤਹ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਸਤੀ ਕੁੰਡੇ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਉਝੜਿ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥: Manu kuncharu peelaku guroo giaanu kunddaa jah khinche tah jaai. Nanak hasatee kunde baahraa phiri phiri ujharri paai ||2||: The mind is the elephant, the Guroo is the elephant-driver, and Knowledge (Gur-Giaan) is the whip. Wherever the Guroo drives the mind, it goes. O Nanak, without the whip (of Knowledge or Giaan), the
elephant (of the mind) repeatedly wanders into the wilderness (of Maya). ||2|| (sggs 516).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਅਗਨਿ ਨਿਵਾਰੀ ॥: Gurmukh houmai agan nivaaree: The Gurmukh puts out the
fire of egotism (sggs 943).
- ਚਾਰੇ ਅਗਨਿ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ਮਰੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਲੁ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸਿਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਭਰਿਆ ਅਘਾਇ ॥: Chaare agani nivaari maru gurmukhi hari jalu paai. Antari kamalu pargaasiaa
amritu bhariaa aghaai: Becoming the Gurmukh, through the Naam-water, quench the four fires. (Thus) the Lotus blossoms Within, and (your Heart) gets filled
with the Amrit-Naam (sggs 22).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਸੀਤਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਪਾਇਆ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਜੁਆਲਾ ਜਗੁ ਜਾਰਿਆ ਸੁ ਜਨ ਕੇ ਉਦਕ ਸਮਾਨਿ ॥੧੭੫॥: Kabeer manu seetal bhaiaa paaiaa braham giaan. Jin juaalaa jag jaariaa s jan kae
oudhak samaan ||175||: Says Kabeer, I have attained Brahm Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Aatam Giaan...), (as a result) my mind is cooled and soothed. The fire (of Maya) that has burnt the world is (cooling and soothing) like water to the Lord's
humble servant (Bhagat-ਬੰਦਗੀ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲੇ). ||175|| (sggs 1373).
- ਤਨ ਮਹਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਅਗਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਬੁਝਾਈਐ ॥੧੯॥: Tan mahi trisnaa agg Shabad bujhaaeeai ||19||: In the
body is the fire of desire. It is quenched with the Shabad ||19|| (sggs 147).
— T. Singh
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:48 AM