Time is merciless, inexorable, and cruel. Full of destructive tricks, time is the greatest magician! All the hopes and enjoyment of man in this world are consistently destroyed by the time (or death). Time alone wears everything out and devours all and everything in this world. There is nothing in creations that is beyond its reach!
The Gurbani repeatedly reminds us not to be oblivious of the time — careless, negligent, forgetful, inattentive of the time (ਗਾਫਿਲ), unaware, unconscious, ignorant, blind; unconcerned, unmindful, etc.
For example, we never seem to forget or ignore to cherish our body, all day along, everyday. Not only that, we all take care of our body without anybody reminding us!
- ਭਲਕੇ ਉਠਿ ਪਪੋਲੀਐ ਵਿਣੁ ਬੁਝੇ ਮੁਗਧ ਅਜਾਣਿ ॥ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਛੁਟੈਗੀ ਬੇਬਾਣਿ ॥: Arising each day, this body is cherished, but without (Divine) understanding, (it) remains foolish and ignorant. (It) does not remember Prabhu (Mool, Source…), and in the end (it) will be cast into wilderness (cremation ground, graveyard…). (sggs 43).
Similarly, the Gurbani time and again impinges us to be Alert and Aware, not to be oblivious of the time, and use this human life to realize the Divine within and without, here and now.
- ਭਜਹੁ ਗੋੁਬਿੰਦ ਭੂਲਿ ਮਤ ਜਾਹੁ ॥ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਨਮ ਕਾ ਏਹੀ ਲਾਹੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Unite with Gobind (Mool, Source…) and don’t forget this. This is the profit of this human birth (ਮਨੁੱਖਾ-ਜਨਮ ਦੀ ਖੱਟੀ ਕਮਾਈ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1159).
In fact, Baabaa Nanak says ONLY that person deserves to be called “Bandaa” (Man, human being, humble self…) who, adhering to the Wisdom of the Gurbani, reflects upon his allotted life-span; who reflects on the purpose of life; who reflects on who am I or why I am here in this world; who reflects upon the Divine Hukam (the Law of Kudrat…), etc. Otherwise, this life-span will become a heavy burden!
- ਵਖਤੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੁ ਬੰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: One who reflects upon time (opportunity, circumstance…), is alone “Bandaa” (Man, humble self…). (sggs 83).
- ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਨੈ ਸੁ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਨੈ ਬੰਦਾ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੩॥: Whoever realizes the Hukam, knows the One (Divine). He alone is said to be “Bandaa” (Man, humble self…). ||3|| (sggs 1350).
What’s so special about this human form? For one thing, the human birth is indicated to be “Dulambhu-ਦੁਲੰਭੁ” (rare, unique, excellent, difficult, etc.). Because the Spiritual Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) is meant for human beings, not for animals. In other words, Bhagti is most possible in this human body.
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਨਮੁ ਦੁਲੰਭੁ ਹੈ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਬਾਰੈ ਬਾਰ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਬਨ ਫਲ ਪਾਕੇ ਭੁਇ ਗਿਰਹਿ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਲਾਗਹਿ ਡਾਰ ॥੩੦॥: O Kabeer!It is “Dulambhu” (rare, difficult, etc.) to obtain this human body; it does not just come over and over again. It is like the ripe fruit on the tree; when it falls to the ground, it cannot be re-attached to the branch ||30|| (sggs 1366).
This leads to questions such as: Are we really living and using this human life any better than animals? Is our conduct any better than animals? Or, are we wasting it away, in a state of sleep paralysis?
- ਮੂਲੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਹਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਸੇ ਪਸੂਆ ਸੇ ਢੋਰ ਜੀਉ ॥: Those who do not understand their own Mool (Source, Origin, Jot…); they are beasts and they are cattle (i.e., great fools of animal intellect)! (sggs 751).
The Gurbani has vivid descriptions of how mortals pass their life. If we divide human life in ten stages (mental realm of Mayaic consciousness), these ten stages are summarized in a Shabad of Baabaa Nanak as follows (sggs 137):
- ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਿਆਰਿ ਲਗਾ ਥਣ ਦੁਧਿ ॥: In the first stage, the baby loves mother’s milk.
- ਦੂਜੈ ਮਾਇ ਬਾਪ ਕੀ ਸੁਧਿ ॥: In the second stage (when one grows up a little), he learns of his mother and father.
- ਤੀਜੈ ਭਯਾ ਭਾਭੀ ਬੇਬ ॥: In the third stage (he learns about), his brothers, sisters-in-law and sisters.
- ਚਉਥੈ ਪਿਆਰਿ ਉਪੰਨੀ ਖੇਡ ॥: In the fourth stage, the love of play (to play with worldly objects) awakens.
- ਪੰਜਵੈ ਖਾਣ ਪੀਅਣ ਕੀ ਧਾਤੁ ॥: In the fifth stage, he runs after food and drink.
- ਛਿਵੈ ਕਾਮੁ ਨ ਪੁਛੈ ਜਾਤਿ ॥: In the sixth stage, he does not even inquires a woman’s caste in his urge for lust.
- ਸਤਵੈ ਸੰਜਿ ਕੀਆ ਘਰ ਵਾਸੁ ॥: In the seventh stage, he gathers (wealth and possessions) and dwells in a house.
- ਅਠਵੈ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਹੋਆ ਤਨ ਨਾਸੁ ॥: In the eighth stage, he becomes angry which consumes (destroys, wastes…) his body.
- ਨਾਵੈ ਧਉਲੇ ਉਭੇ ਸਾਹ ॥: In the ninth stage, he turns gray, and his breathing becomes labored.
- ਦਸਵੈ ਦਧਾ ਹੋਆ ਸੁਆਹ ॥: In the tenth stage, he is cremated, and turns to ashes.
The Gurbani further explains from a different angle as follows. As the night has beginning and end, so does the human life. Both are born; both go through childhood and youth before becoming old and weary; and ultimate, both vanish. The Gurbani divides a mortal’s life-night in four parts (or watches) as follows:
- ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਪਇਆ ਗਰਭਾਸਿ ॥੧॥: Says Nanak, in the first watch of the (life-) night, by the Hukam (the Law of Nature), you enter into the womb (sggs 74).
- ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਗਇਆ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥੨॥: Says Nanak, in the second watch of the (life-) night, mortal forgets to meditate (sggs 75).
- ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਤੀਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਧਨ ਜੋਬਨ ਸਿਉ ਚਿਤੁ ॥੩॥: Says Nanak, in the third watch of the (life-) night, mortal’s mind remains attached to wealth and youth. ||3|| (sggs 75).
- ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਲਾਵੀ ਲੁਣਿਆ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੪॥੧॥: Says Nanak, in the fourth watch of the (life-) night, the reaper (death) reaped the mortal’s (body-) field ||4||1|| (sggs 75).
The Gurbani says we are born Original (Joti Saroop) – Unconditioned Consciousness. But, as we come in contact with the material world (Maya), our consciousness becomes conditioned and we turn duplicate or false (Asat). So we die as duplicate; even though we were born Original!
- ਤਰਨਾਪੋ ਇਉ ਹੀ ਗਇਓ ਲੀਓ ਜਰਾ ਤਨੁ ਜੀਤਿ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਹਰਿ ਮਨਾ ਅਉਧ ਜਾਤੁ ਹੈ ਬੀਤਿ ॥: (Your) youth passes away uselessly, (now) the old age has overtaken the body. Says Nanak – O mind! Unite with Hari (Mool, Source…), life is fleeting away. (sggs 1426).
The Gurbani tells us that the realization of the purpose of life — realization of Timelessness (Mool-realization) in which no death can enter — is possible in the midst of Maya, here and now. No need to abandon family and society, taking refuge in jungles or mountain-caves. In fact, there is nowhere to go: It’s all within!
- ਰੈਣਿ ਅੰਧਾਰੀ ਕਾਰੀਆ ਕਵਨ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਭੋਰੈ ॥੧॥: The (life-) night (of the mind attached to Maya) is dark and gloomy; what is the way by which morning (i.e., the sun of spiritual Knowledge) may dawn for him? ||1||
According to the Gurbani, what’s needed is becoming the Gurmukh through Shabad-Vichaar — complete annihilation of the relativist consciousness (which is the product of the Mayaic or doubt-ridden mind) that comes about when one dies in the Shabad, and the shell or egg of doubt is bursted.
- ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜੀਵਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭਵਜਲੁ ਤਰਣਾ ॥੨॥: Through the Gur-Shabad, the Gurmukh remains dead while yet alive, and swims across the world-ocean (of Maya…). ||2|| (sggs 69).
Established in his Mool within (Source, Jot, Raam, Hari, Gobind...), only a Gurmukh’s mind is fearless to leave the “Trikutee-ਤ੍ਰਿਕੁਟੀ” and come to rest into the Heart (“Hirdaa-ਹਿਰਦਾ” or “Ghat-ਘਟ” or “Dasavaa Duaaru-ਦਸਵਾ ਦੁਆਰੁ”).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਨਮੁ ਸਕਾਰਥਾ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਮਲੁ ਖੋਈ ॥: The birth of the Gurmukh is approved; his life becomes Pure, he removes his filth (i.e., inner filth of demerits or Bikaar). (sggs 1247).
The Gurbani says NOW is the time!
- ਕਬੀਰ ਕਾਲਿ ਕਰੰਤਾ ਅਬਹਿ ਕਰੁ ਅਬ ਕਰਤਾ ਸੁਇ ਤਾਲ ॥ ਪਾਛੈ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਇਗਾ ਜਉ ਸਿਰ ਪਰਿ ਆਵੈ ਕਾਲੁ ॥੧੩੮॥: O Kabeer! That which you have to do tomorrow, do it now; and that which you have to do now, do it immediately (without any delay, same moment, ਹੁਣੇ ਹੀ). (Because) later on (you) will not be able to do anything, when death hangs over (your) head. ||138|| (sggs 1371).