ਧਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਏਹੋ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਗਿਆਨ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਆਖਹੁ ਕਰਮੁ ॥... ਸਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਰੂਪੁ ॥...
ਕਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਜੋਰੁ ॥... ਸਚ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਸੈ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ॥... ॥੩੭॥ (sggs 7-8).

Three things are very rare and difficult (Dulabh) to obtain. First is human body, second is true Bhagti to Realize the Truth, and the third is Realization of the Truth itself (Mool, Source, Origin, etc.), within. As such, the human form is said to be the most precious and rarest of all. And we are so fortunate to have it! It is so important that the practice of Bhakti is said to be possible only in this human birth.

  • ਇਸ ਦੇਹੀ ਕਉ ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ਦੇਵ ॥ ਸੋ ਦੇਹੀ ਭਜੁ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ॥੧॥: Is dehee kaou simrahi Dev. So dehee bhaj Hari kee sev ||1|| (sggs 1159).
  • ਦੁਲਭ ਦੇਹ ਪਾਈ ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਜਪਹਿ ਤੇ ਆਤਮ ਘਾਤੀ ॥੧॥: Dulabh deh paaee vadabhaagee. Naan na japahi te aatamghaatee ||1|| (sggs 188).
  • 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|| (sggs 12).
As indicated in the foregoing verses, the true aim of human birth is to Realize our essential nature, which is "Joti-Svaroopa" or Unconditioned Consciousness. At last, the soul is offered with this opportunity to make sincere efforts (Uddam) towards this Spiritual Goal of life. However, without Spiritual Unfoldment, Spiritual-Experience is unattainable; without Spiritual-Experience, liberation from repeated suffering is impossible...

What's impeding us from realizing the ultimate goal of life? The outer world is experienced and perceived through three apparatus: body, mind and intellect. Each one of these apparatus has different appetite and demands. For example, the body with its senses has ceaseless appetite for material gratification; the mind has emotional demands; and the intellect is obsessed with opinions. Thus, the body, mind and intellect together form the formidable walls around the Mool (Source, Origin, Reality...). Due to these walls, we are unable to glimpse the Pure Self, or experience our True Being within.

The Gurbani reveals to us just how to go about controlling the demands and appetite of our body, mind and intellect. For example, Baabaa Nanak in the Gurbani outlines the following five Khand (or "realms") of Spiritual experience a Jeeva (an individual being) must pass through to Realize Divine or Eternal Life — the Gurmukh Lifestyle (sggs 7-8):

  • The realm of Moral Duty or Dharma Khand - ਧਰਮ ਖੰਡ
  • The realm of Spiritual Knowledge or Giaan Khand - ਗਿਆਨ ਖੰਡ
  • The realm of Spiritual efforts or Saram Khand - ਸਰਮ ਖੰਡ
  • The realm of Grace or Karam khand - ਕਰਮ ਖੰਡ
  • The realm of Truth or Sach Khand - ਸਚ ਖੰਡਿ
Dharma Khand: The Realm Of Duty

This is the first part of Spiritual journey. The Gurbani urges us to abide by Dharma at all costs. Through the Gur-Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Spiritual Wisdom, Aatam-Giaan, Gurmat, Shabad-Vichaar ...), the Gurbani urges us to build the fence of Dharma around. In fact, the Gurbani calls this earth "ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ" (Dharam Saal - the place for Jeeva to practice Dharma, ਜੀਵਾਂ ਲਈ ਧਰਮ ਕਮਾਉਣ ਦਾ ਅਸਥਾਨ...).

  • ਸਾਚ ਧਰਮ ਕੀ ਕਰਿ ਦੀਨੀ ਵਾਰਿ ॥ ਫਰਹੇ ਮੁਹਕਮ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥੨॥: Saach Dharam kee kari deenee vaari. Farahe muhkam gur giaanu beechaari. ||2|| (sggs 430).
  • ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ॥: Tisu vichi dharatee thaapi rakhee dharam saal (sggs 12).
  • ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਸਭੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਚੇ ਕੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੋਤਿ ॥ ਗੁਹਜ ਰਤਨ ਵਿਚਿ ਲੁਕਿ ਰਹੇ ਕੋਈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਕਢੈ ਖੋਤਿ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਇਕੁ ਰਵਿਆ ਇਕੋ ਓਤਿ ਪੋਤਿ ॥ ਇਕੁ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਇਕੁ ਮੰਨਿਆ ਇਕੋ ਸੁਣਿਆ ਸ੍ਰਵਣ ਸਰੋਤਿ ॥: Ih sareer sabh dharma hai jis andar sache kee vich joti. Guhaj ratan ... (sggs 309).

Every living entity and object has its Dharma. For instance, a fish remains in water and swims, as this is the Dharma of the fish. Removed from water she dies. Similarly, truthfulness is the Dharma of man; therefore it should flow naturally in man's veins. Therefore, the Gurbani says the best Dharma is performing righteously, truthfully, and the same time remembering the Divine Name. There is no devotion or Bhakti without virtue. This is to say that Spiritual evolution of Jeeva (individual being) is impossible without adherence to excellent conduct guided by Dharma.

  • ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਸਤ ਭਾਉ ॥: Karam dharam sanjamu sat bhaaou (353).
  • ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Vinu gun keete bhagti n hoi (sggs 4).
Once the importance and purpose of human birth is rightly understood, one starts performing virtuously in order to purify the mind. Everyone is judged by the Divine Law (Hukam). For a while, one may think he is free to do whatever he likes, but, eventually one has to reap the consequences of his actions. We harvest exactly what we sow.
  • ਜੇਹਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲੁਣੈ ਕਰਮਾ ਸੰਦੜਾ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: Jehaa beejai so lunai karma sandrhaa khet (sggs 134).
The benefit of living a virtuous life is that it entices us to put efforts in cultivating Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan...). As a result, we become qualified to experience the second part of our Spiritual journey — the realm of Knowledge or Giaan Khand.

Giaan Khand: The Realm Of Spiritual Knowledge

A virtous conduct makes man to detach from untruthfulness, and, as a result, one begins to think about Spiritual matters. In the light of such pure thinking, an individual then starts realizing the greatness, omnipresence, vastness, and all pervasiveness of the One Reality. This gives birth to a strong desire for understanding "Who am I?", Divine matters, nature of the world, the purpose of human existence, and so on. With knowledge comes the resolve to do the right thing.

  • ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣੀ ਭਵੈ ਸਬਾਈ ॥: Giaan vihoonee bhavai sabaaee (sggs 1034).
  • ਮਨ ਸਮਝਾਵਨ ਕਾਰਨੇ ਕਛੂਅਕ ਪੜੀਐ ਗਿਆਨ ॥੫॥: Man samajhaavan kaarane kashooak parreai giaan ||5||: (sggs 340).
  • ਗਿਆਨ ਕਾ ਬਧਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥ Giaan kaa badhaa manu rahai gur binu giaanu n hoi (sggs 469).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਗਿਆਨ ਪਰਗਾਸੁ ॥ ਉਸੁ ਅਸਥਾਨ ਕਾ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਨਾਸੁ ॥: Antar hoi giaan pargaasu. Ousu asathaan kaa nahee binaasu (sggs 278).
After experiencing this Giaan Khand - in which the Spiritual wisdom reigns supreme - a devotee still has three more Khands to pass through. Generally what happens is that many seekers get stuck in this realm! Why? After gaining some knowledge, many become proud of their wisdom, and, as a consequent of this, glide down into the dark pit of false ego-sense. For example, instead of calling themselves simply a Spiritual student (Sikh), many start calling themselves "Saint", "Baabaa", "Saadhoo", "Bhagwaan", "Guru", "Brahm Giaanee 108", "God", and so on. This is the beginning of man's ruin. As declared by the Gurbani, all such people including the so called Brahma, etc., are stuck in this realm! So, the Gurbani's advice is to realize the Intuitive Wisdom, and then go beyond it, way beyond it!

As we can see, one may read about wisdom, one may talk about wisdom, one may even externally look wise; but in reality, he may be just cultivating ignorance instead! For example, a painted pot of nectar can not be nectar, a painted flame can not be fire, and a painting of a person can not be a real person. Similarly, wise words are mere words unless they are substantiated by the inner transformation. This leads to a question: What is then the proof of Spiritual wisdom? The real proof of Spiritual wisdom is the absence of desire for sense gratification or evil-mindedness (lust, anger, greed, attachment, self-conceit, enviousness, and stubborn mindedness).

  • ਙੰਙਾ ਙਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਮੁਖ ਬਾਤਉ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਕਰਿ ਭਾਤਉ ॥ ਙਆਨੀ ਸੋਇ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਦ੍ਰਿੜ ਸੋਊ ॥ ਕਹਤ ਸੁਨਤ ਕਛੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਊ ॥: Nangaa giaanu nahee mukh baataou. Anik jugat sastar kari bhaatauu. Giaanee soi jaakai drirr so-oo. Kahat sunat kashoo yogu n ho-oo (sggs 251).

The Light of Divine Knowledge takes over the darkness of ignorance. At this juncture, doubts begin to vanish, and desires for sense gratification start to disappear. Now, the seeker is ready to experience the third part of his Spiritual journey — the realm of Spiritual efforts or Saram Khand.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਤਿਮਰ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਅਧੇਰੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥: Nanak Gurmukhi giaanu praapati hovai timar agiaanu andheru chukaaiaa (sggs 512).
  • ਗਿਆਨੁ ਭਇਆ ਤਹ ਕਰਮਹ ਨਾਸੁ ॥੩॥: Giaanu bhaiaa tah karmah naasu ||3|| (sggs 1167).
  • ਗਯਾਨ ਗੁਰੂ ਆਤਮ ਉਪਦੇਸਹੁ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਭੂਤ ਲਗਾਓ ॥੧॥: Giaan Guroo Aatam Oupadesahu Naam Bibhoot Lagaao||1|| (Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Dasam Granth).

Saram Khand: The Realm of Spiritual Efforts

In this third realm, a devotee engages in Spiritual efforts or Spiritual practices - here he sincerely tries to live by the Divine Word (Gurmat-Aatam-Giaan...). In other words, in the realm of Spiritual Efforts, the Word is Spiritual Beauty. Due to such sincere endeavors, his Anthakaran or subtle internal equipment (consciousness, intellect, ego and mind) become purified. This purification of the Antahkaran makes all his evil instincts and habits vanish. As a result, he attains Intuitive Perception, Ecstasy, Holy rapture, and becomes attune to the inner Realization of the Truth. Dharma becomes his habit.

  • ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਵਡਭਾਗੀਹੋ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਸੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਸਭ ਸੁਖ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਦੂਖੁ ਦਰਦੁ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥: Uddamu karo badbhaagee ho simrahu Hari Hari rai ... (sggs 456).
  • ਸਗਲ ਉਦਮ ਮਹਿ ਉਦਮੁ ਭਲਾ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਜੀਅ ਸਦਾ ॥: Sagal uddam mahi uddamu bhalaa. Hari ka naamu japahu jeea sadaa (sggs 266).
At this point, the seeker endeavors to live by the instructions of the Gurbani (Gurmat); because he can understand the underlying Truth in their statements. This progress brings Spiritual Beauty to the seeker; for Spiritual Beauty is the language of this realm. As a consequence of his Spiritual efforts (Uddam) and practice performed during this leg of the Spiritual journey, the seeker now becomes ready to experience the next realm.
  • ਨਾਮੁ ਧਨੁ ਨਾਮੋ ਰੂਪੁ ਰੰਗੁ ॥: Naamu dhanu naamo roopu rangu (sggs 286).
Karam Khand: The Realm Of Grace

At this point, the devotee's heart becomes filled with the Divine Love. At last, he becomes liberated from the spell of tripple-qualitied Maya. Absorbed in the Divine Name (Aatam-Giaan...), one's mind becomes established in Intuitive Peace. False ego-sense (Haume) surrendered to his Mool (Source...) within, now the individual sees the same One Realty in everything and every place.

  • ਮਨਿ ਤਨਿ ਰਵਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਜਗਦੀਸੁਰ ਪੇਖਤ ਸਦਾ ਹਜੂਰੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਵਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਸਭ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਰਬ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਰਪੂਰੇ ॥: Mani tani ravi rahiaa jagadeesur pekhat sdaa hajoore. Nanak ravi rahio sabh antari sarab rahiaa bharapoore (sggs 1269-70).

By reaching this far, the seeker becomes fit to receive, realize or experience Divine Grace from within. In other words, in the realm of Grace, the Word is Spiritual Power. It's not that Divine Grace was not there before. It was always there. However, the seeker was neither ready nor fit to receive the Grace. That's all! Just as an inverted pitcher or vessel can not be filled with liquid, similarly, a spiritually unfit heart or mind can not receive or be filled with the Divine Grace.

  • ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ਜੋ ਭਾਡਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਊਂਧੈ ਭਾਂਡੈ ਟਿਕੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: Naami smaavai jo bhaandaa hoi. Oondhai bhaandai tikai n koi (sggs 158).
Spiritual Force is said to be the language of this realm. Here, the Divine Power remains fulfilled within the heart of the seeker. The inner condition of such devotee is beyond any mundane description. At last, he becomes liberated or Self-Realized while incarnated in this human body (Jeevanmukta). Hereafter, the devotee ever lives in True Bliss (Anand), Joy, Ecstasy, Rapture, inner Beauty, Sahaj (natural state of Being), and free of the fear of death. The Divine Name never ever leaves him. He becomes Immortal (Amrit).
  • ਅਨੰਦੁ ਭਇਆ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਾਏ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਤ ਪਾਇਆ ਸਹਜ ਸੇਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਵਜੀਆ ਵਾਧਾਈਆ ॥: Anandu bhaiaa meree maae stigur mai paaiaa. Satigur ta paaiaa sahaj setee mani vajeeaa vaadhaaiaa (sggs 917).
Sach Khand: The Realm Of Formless Truth

The preceding four realms represent the four stages of Spiritual development of a seeker. After experiencing the fourth realm, he becomes Self-realized. Once a devotee attains Self-realization, he becomes situated in this final realm of Truth, the ultimate stage of Spiritual experience of linking with the Absolute. It is a state beyond duality or description, a state of Eternal Wonder and Light, which can neither be made to order or give to an another person as a mundane gift. It can be known only in personal experience. It's also called in the Gurbani Chauthaa Pada (Fourth State) because it is beyond three qualities of Maya. Some other names for it include Sahaj Pada, Sahaj Avasthaa, Sahaj Samaadhi, Turiyaa Pada or Turiyaa Avasthaa (Supreme State), Param Pada (Absolute State), Amara Pada (state of deathlessness or changelessness), Jeevan Pada, Amrit (Immortality), Sunn Samaadhi, Mahaasukh, Param Sukh, Param Anand (Bliss), Jeevanmukti (living liberated), Gurmukhhood, Divine Life, state of absolute Peace and tranquility, and so on. It is a state of existence in which the Aatmaan of the individual is linked and absorbed in the Mool, like a drop of water in the ocean.

  • ਸਭੋ ਸਚੁ ਸਚੁ ਸਚੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੋਈ ਜਾਣੈ ॥: Sabho sachu sachu sachu vartai gurmukhi koee jaanai (sggs 754).
  • ਤਬ ਲਗੁ ਮਹਲੁ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਨ ਚੀਤਿ ॥: Tab lagu mahalu n paaeeai jab lagu saachu n cheeti (sggs 58).
  • ਸਚ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਸੈ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ॥: Sach khandi vasai nirankaaru (sggs 8).

At this point, the seeker has become one with his Mool (Source, Origin, Joti-Svaroopa...) within. Here, he identifies himself with the One True, Formless, Infinite Consciousness. Linked with his Origin, the Absolute Reality, his Soul links with the Spirit just as rivers merge with the ocean. This is the journey of an Spiritual aspirant. This journey begins from a material plane and ends at the Spiritual Plane. But, the SGGS asserts that those who have completed this journey are very "rare" in this world.

  • ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਟੋਲਿ ਲਹੁ ਸੇ ਵਿਰਲੇ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: Sachi rate se toli lahu se virale sansaari (sggs 994).
  • ਸਚੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਸਚ ਮਹਿ ਸਾਚਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥: Sachu milai sachu oopjai sach mahi saachi smaai (sggs 18).

— T. Singh