ਅਬ ਨ ਭਜਸਿ ਭਜਸਿ ਕਬ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਆਵੈ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਭਜਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥
ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਅਬ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਹੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਪਾਰੁ ॥੩॥ (sggs 931).

We are born Original (Joti-Svaroop) - Unconditioned Consciousness. But, as we come in contact with the material world (Maya), our consciousness becomes conditioned and we turn duplicate or false (Asat). As the sensory apparatus of the body is by nature extrovert, we preoccupy ourselves mostly with worldly pursuits and affairs. Consequently, we lose out our True Identity and real meaning and purpose in life. So we die as duplicates; even though we were born Original!

  • ਸਾਬਤੁ ਰਖਹਿ ਤ ਰਾਮ ਭਜੁ ਨਾਹਿ ਤ ਬਿਨਠੀ ਬਾਤ ॥: Saabat rakhahi taa raam bhaj naahi taa binathee baat (sggs 1376).

As waves rise from the ocean, evolve in the ocean and finally merge into the ocean, similarly, we came from the Pure Divine, evolve in That and ultimately merge into That. Thus, although we may not be conscious of our Essential Identity, but deep down we occasionally do intuit that we are other than this material body, that there is a profound meaning to life and a noble purpose for being here. As repeatedly asserted in the Gurbani, very rare ones, however, find this purpose consciously and become seekers on the Spiritual path; evolving into Gurmukhs (Spiritual Beings) while still alive. Swayed by the senses and succumbed to the attractions of the worldly pleasures, the rest of us (over 99.9 percent category) — living as Manmukhs in bondage to Sansaar (life-and-death cycle) — remain preoccupied with Mayaic efforts, evil ways or material pursuits.

  • ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੋਟਨ ਮੈ ਕੋਊ ਭਜਨੁ ਰਾਮ ਕੋ ਪਾਵੈ ॥: Jan Nanak kotan mai kou bhajan raam ko pave: O servant Nanak, amongst millions there is hardly any mortal, who attains Divine meditation (sggs 219).
  • ਨਿਸਿ ਦਿਨੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਨੇ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਡੋਲਤ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਕੋਟਨ ਮੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੋਊ ਨਾਰਾਇਨੁ ਜਿਹ ਚੀਤਿ ॥੨੪॥: Nis din maya kaarane praanee dolat neet. Kotan mai Nanak kou narain jih cheet: Night and day, for the sake of Maya, the mortal wanders constantly. Rare is the one amongst millions, who enshrines Divine in his mind, O Nanak (sggs 1427).

As indicated in the foregoing verses, being immersed in passions and pleasure seeking, the majority of us in the world do not even get to start on the Spiritual adventure. Some others may feel the need for Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) but the desire to pursue it is either superficial or totally absent. For example, one may read a scripture or attend a Spiritual event here and there only if he has nothing else to do! Others make the excuse that their time to take on Spiritual journey has not yet come, and that when God will wish they will do it! Yet there are some who make the excuse it's already too late for them, or the path of Spirituality is too difficult for them to tread. "We want to do all that, but now I neither have time nor deep interest for it", they say!

The true Gurbani tries to awaken us from this sleep of unenlightened existence. "Don't wait for old age or twilight years", the Gurbani roars. For longer we wait, more repeated pain and delusion we will experience. The gurbani urges us that everything in one's life can wait, but not the search to know one's True Identity — the Mool.

Shabad-Vichaar is the fire in which the very seed and roots of the conditioned mind (false ego, ignorance, impurities, Maya, etc.) are burnt completely. Only then does the Original State (Joti-Svaroopa) manifest itself, within.

  • ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਜਰਾ ਰੋਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਆਇਆ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਕਾਲਿ ਗ੍ਰਸੀ ਨਹੀ ਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਬਿਕਲ ਭਈ ਨਹੀ ਬਾਨੀ ॥ ਭਜਿ ਲੇਹਿ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਸਾਰਿਗਪਾਨੀ ॥੨॥ ਅਬ ਨ ਭਜਸਿ ਭਜਸਿ ਕਬ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਆਵੈ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਭਜਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਅਬ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਹੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਪਾਰੁ ॥੩॥: Jab lagu jaraa rogu nahee aaiaa...| (sggs 1159)
  • ਤਰਨਾਪੋ ਇਉ ਹੀ ਗਇਓ ਲੀਓ ਜਰਾ ਤਨੁ ਜੀਤਿ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਹਰਿ ਮਨਾ ਅਉਧ ਜਾਤੁ ਹੈ ਬੀਤਿ ॥: Taranaapo iou hee gaio leeo jaraa tanu jeet. Kahu Nanak bhaj hari manaa aoudh jaat hai beet (sggs 1426).
  • ਲਾਹੇ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਆਇਆ ਜਗਿ ॥: Laahe kaarani aaiaa jagi: For the sake of earning the (Spiritual) Profit, the mortal comes into the world (sggs 931).

A general human tendency and misconception prevalent about Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) is that it can be pursued in the final days of one's life when all his worldly responsibilities are over. But the truth is totally to the contrary! Therefore, the scriptures and the Men of Light never get tired of reminding us that the goal of liberation from worldly bondage due to which the bonded individual undergoes repeated pain and delusion cannot be postponed to old age. The main reasons are as follows: (1) there is no guarantee about one's life-span — it can end any moment; (2) man is a creature of habits and what he does not cultivate in his young age cannot be acquired in his old age; (3) as one advances in age, senility overtakes the body and its faculties start failing; and (4) by then the worldly attachments and fear of death will be so strong that it will completely distract the mind from pursuing it.

Human life is like that of a bubble that appears in water one moment, only to disappear the next. Just as one cannot avoid taking food, drinking water, experiencing grief, having desires and reaching old age, in the same way, one cannot avoid death. However, when and where this ultimate end of the physical body will occur is unknown. It can happen the next moment, carrying away everything instantly what one had tried to preserve all his life as his own just as a river in spate wipes out everything in its course! Hence the scriptures advise human beings to pursue the Spiritual goal along with their worldly life from early age and not to wait for tomorrow, let alone the old age.

  • ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਤੈਸੇ ਰਚੀ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਮੀਤ ॥੨੫॥ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਚੇਤਈ ਮਦਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਅੰਧੁ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਭਜਨ ਪਰਤ ਤਾਹਿ ਜਮ ਫੰਧ ॥੨੬॥: Jaise Jal te budbudaa... (sggs 1427).
  • ਹੰਸਾ ਸਰਵਰੁ ਕਾਲੁ ਸਰੀਰ ॥: Hansaa saravar kaal sareer (sggs 325).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਗਹਗਚਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਕੁਟੰਬ ਕੈ ਕਾਂਠੈ ਰਹਿ ਗਇਓ ਰਾਮੁ ॥ ਆਇ ਪਰੇ ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇ ਕੇ ਬੀਚਹਿ ਧੂਮਾ ਧਾਮ ॥੧੪੨॥: Kabeer gahgachi pario kuttamb kai kaanthai rahi gaeio raam. Aai pare dharm raai ke beechahi dhoomaa dhaam (sggs 1372).

Instinctive mind (Mayaic intellect) is a bundle of habits — a collection of ever changing desires, notions or feelings arising from contact with the gross objects (beings, things and places). New habits are built into us from childhood. Some remain conscious and others enter our subconscious. However, due to our habitual identifications with different objects, deep-rooted subconscious tendencies (Vaasnaas) are the most difficult to overcome. Thus, a man ends up ruled by his deep-rooted subconscious habits. These habits, in turn, form tendencies, moods and desires. Early habits formed in the childhood create significant influence on our growing up. These habits are generally formed watching parents, other family members, teachers, friends, leaders, people we meet along the way, and so on. Other factors that influence shaping our habits include environment and association we keep. For example, undiscriminating association with the world creates bad habits in us.

  • ਜਿਹ ਕਰਣੀ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਸਰਮਿੰਦਾ ਇਹਾ ਕਮਾਨੀ ਰੀਤਿ ॥: Jih karnee hovahi sarmindaa ih kamaanee reeti: You have made it your habit to practice those deeds which will bring you shame (sggs 673).
  • ਦੁਤੀਆ ਭਾਉ ਬਿਪਰੀਤਿ ਅਨੀਤਿ ਦਾਸਾ ਨਹ ਭਾਵਏ ਜੀਉ ॥: Duteeaa bhaaou bipareet aneeti daasaa nah bhaaveae jeeo: The love of duality, this evil practice, this bad habit, is not liked by the true devotees (sggs 80).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਧਿਆਇਓ ਮੋਟੀ ਲਾਗੀ ਖੋਰਿ ॥: Kabeer Raam na dhiyaayiyo motee laagee khor (sggs 1368).
Material contamination of our mind begins with Myaic habits; for the mind is slave to routine, customs or habits. Once mind becomes accustomed to a habit, it then likes to go on doing it. Eventually, habits become like "grooves" in which actions run. More a habit is indulged in, it becomes much easier for the mind to run in that groove. After more repetitions, it begins to enjoy it. After that, the mind never wants to leave these beaten grooves or path. For example, to fulfill a desire, the first thing mind does is it brings itself into the action and establishes a groove or habit. Once a groove is established, like a locomotive, it does not want to leave the track (or groove ) on which it is set. All this is because man feels that he can gain everlasting happiness from never-lasting material objects! At early stage, therefore, if we do not form Spiritual habits, we are sure to form evil habits. Habits which have not been formed in youth while the faculties are yet sound cannot be formed in the evening of the life when one's enfeeble faculties are dying and infirmities torment his body. Death follows and carries the life away, leaving the body to be consumed by fire, or by worms or vultures. Since habits die hard, the scriptural texts underscore the importance of ingraining the habit of Spiritual Life in one's nature even from childhood.
  • ਸਰਬ ਦੋਖ ਪਰੰਤਿਆਗੀ ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਦ੍ਰਿੜੰਤਣਃ ॥: Sarab dokh parantiaagee sarab dharma drirrantanah (sggs 1361).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ... ॥੧੨॥: Fareedaa kaalee jinee na raaviaa dhoulee raavai koi. Kari saanee siu piraharree rangu navelaa hoi ||12|| (sggs 1378).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਸਿਰੁ ਪਲਿਆ ਦਾੜੀ ਪਲੀ ਮੁਛਾਂ ਭੀ ਪਲੀਆਂ ॥ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਗਹਿਲੇ ਬਾਵਲੇ ਮਾਣਹਿ ਕਿਆ ਰਲੀਆਂ ॥੫੫॥| (sggs 1380).
  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਜਰਾ ਪਹੂੰਚਿਓ ਆਇ ॥ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੰਦਿਰ ਦੁਆਰ ਤੇ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਢਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeer raam na chetio jaraa pahoonchio aai. Laagee mandir duaar te ab kiaa kaadhiaa jaai (sggs 1371).
  • ਬਨਿਤਾ ਬਿਨੋਦ ਅਨੰਦ ਮਾਇਆ ਅਗਿਆਨਤਾ ਲਪਟਾਵਏ ॥ ਖਿਸੈ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਬਧੈ ਜਰੂਆ ਦਿਨ ਨਿਹਾਰੇ ਸੰਗਿ ਮੀਚੁ ॥ ਬਿਨਵੰਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਆਸ ਤੇਰੀ ਸਰਣਿ ਸਾਧੂ ਰਾਖੁ ਨੀਚੁ ॥੨॥: Banitaa binod anand maya agiaantaa laptaavae. Khisao joban badhai jarooaa din nihaare sangi meech ||2||: (O Lord) in ignorance, I cling to the pleasures of woman and the joys of Maya (ਮਾਇਆ ਦੇ ਮੌਜ-ਮੇਲਿਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਗਰਕ ਹਾਂ). My youth is wasting away, old age is approaching, and Death, my companion, is counting days (of my life, ਮੇਰੀ ਜਿੰਦਗੀ ਦੇ ਦਿਨ). Prays Nanak, my hope is in You, Lord; please preserve me, the lowly one, in the Sanctuary of the Holy ||2|| (sggs 458).

Moment by moment, day-by-day, by the force of the all-powerful Time, the body wears away, the length of life shortens, bodily strength and keenness decline, and old age overpowers it. Also, day after day, righteousness, contentment, veracity, purity of mind, forgiveness, compassion, memory and humility decline, and death closes on to seize the body. In this pitiable state of the body-mind-intellect apparatus, one will not be able to meditate on the Divine. Worse yet, if taste for the Spiritual Life is not developed in early days, even in this pitiable condition when the hair has turned white, teeth have fallen and it has become difficult to walk upright and death knocks at his door, man will continue to entertain worldly desires and seeks to fulfill them.

  • ਜੋਬਨੁ ਘਟੈ ਜਰੂਆ ਜਿਣੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਆਵ ਘਟੈ ਦਿਨੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: Jobanu ghattai jarooaa jinai vanajaariaa mitraa aav ghattai din jaai (sggs 75).
  • ਓੜਕੁ ਆਇਆ ਤਿਨ ਸਾਹਿਆ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਜਰੁ ਜਰਵਾਣਾ ਕੰਨਿ ॥: Orrak aaiaa tin saahiaa vanajaariaa mitraa jaru jaravaanaa kanni: Your breath is coming to its end, O my merchant friend, and your shoulders are weighed down by the tyrant of old age (sggs 76).
  • ਥਰਹਰ ਕੰਪੈ ਬਾਲਾ ਜੀਉ ॥ ਨਾ ਜਾਨਉ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਸੀ ਪੀਉ ॥੧॥ ਰੈਨਿ ਗਈ ਮਤ ਦਿਨੁ ਭੀ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਭਵਰ ਗਏ ਬਗ ਬੈਠੇ ਆਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕਾਚੈ ਕਰਵੈ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਪਾਨੀ ॥ ਹੰਸੁ ਚਲਿਆ ਕਾਇਆ ਕੁਮਲਾਨੀ ॥੨॥ ਕੁਆਰ ਕੰਨਿਆ ਜੈਸੇ ਕਰਤ ਸੀਗਾਰਾ ॥ ਕਿਉ ਰਲੀਆ ਮਾਨੈ ਬਾਝੁ ਭਤਾਰਾ ॥੩॥ ਕਾਗ ਉਡਾਵਤ ਭੁਜਾ ਪਿਰਾਨੀ ॥ ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਇਹ ਕਥਾ ਸਿਰਾਨੀ ॥੪॥੨॥: Tharhar kanpai baalaa jeeou. Naa jaano kiaa karasee peeou ||1|| Rain gaee mat din bhee jaai. Bhavar gaye bagg baithe aai ||1|| rahaaou|| Kaachai karavai rahai na paanee. Hansu chaliaa kaaiaa kumalaanee ||2|| Kuaar kanniaa jaise karat seegaaraa. Kiou raleeaa maanai baajh bhataaraa ||3|| Kaag oudaavat bhujaa piraanee. Kahi Kabeer ih kathaa siraanee ||4||2| (sggs 792).

Therefore, the Gurbani urges that Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) must be pursued from young age when our faculties are normal; for it cannot be relegated to old age when the senility, degeneracy and infirmities of the body will not allow one to sustain such practices. On the onset of the demoness of senility, all painful and distressing symptoms of a physical breakdown such as cough, hard breathing dyspepsia, emaciation, etc., manifest themselves; and makes the body the laughing stock of other people. Old age thus cuts the root of life, and destroys the body. Then it is too late for a man to change his life's course, alter his lifestyle or make his life more meaningful and purposeful.

  • ਬਰਧਮਾਨ ਹੋਵਤ ਦਿਨ ਪ੍ਰਤਿ ਨਿਤ ਆਵਤ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਬਿਖੰਮ ਜਰੀ ॥: Baradhamaan hovat din prati nit aavat nikati bikham jaree: Man grows day by day, as the horrible specter of old age comes closer and closer (sggs 1387).
  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਜਰਾ ਪਹੂੰਚਿਓ ਆਇ ॥ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੰਦਿਰ ਦੁਆਰ ਤੇ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਢਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeeraa raam na chaetio jaraa pahoonchio aai. Laagee mandir duaar tae ab kiaa kaadhiaa jaai (sggs 1371).
  • ਛਿਨੁ ਛਿਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਛੀਜੈ ਜਰਾ ਜਨਾਵੈ ॥ ਤਬ ਤੇਰੀ ਓਕ ਕੋਈ ਪਾਨੀਓ ਨ ਪਾਵੈ ॥: Shinu shinu tanu sheejai jaraa janaavai. Tabb teree ok koee paaneeo na paavai: Moment by moment, the body is wearing away, and old age is asserting itself. And then, when you are old, no one will pour water into your cup (sggs 656).
  • ਤਿਨ ਜਰੁ ਵੈਰੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿ ਬੁਢੇ ਥੀਇ ਮਰੰਨਿ ॥: Tin jaru vairee Nanakaa ji budhe theei maranni (sggs 788).

Spiritual practice from an early age will ensure that as a person grows, he will develop a deep affection to his Pure Being only, not attaching himself to the vanishing pleasures. Hence a person who is serious about attaining Spiritual Realization in this birth will not postpone it to the shriveled ugliness of old age. Because habits which have not been cultivated in early age cannot be cultivated in old age when one's body-mind-intellect are failing on him. If one is sincerely interested, various types of procedures have been made available to enable him walk on the path of Spiritual Life.

Both the Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) and day-to-day worldly life can be pursued simultaneously; for it requires only an attitudinal change by orienting all actions towards the goal of freedom from bondage. Thus, there is no need to abandon the family and society and take abode in inaccessible mountain-tops, or secluded places in jungles or caves. As indicated in the scriptures, the key is to develop detachment towards material comforts and dependence on them. If we don't, then our dependence on them will impel us to causative actions and thereby fuel our worldly cravings and passions. This is why we are advised by the scriptures to learn to live with minimum comforts required for sustaining one's life in the world. Otherwise we will end up wasting the precious opportunity of a human birth by frittering it away in materialistic pursuits and do not make any attempt to reform ourselves. As a result, although when old we will be unable to satisfy our desires physically, nevertheless they will flourish and grow.

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਮਨਿ ਆਗਲੜਾ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਜਰਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਭਉ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਗਇਆ ॥: Maya mohu mani aagalarraa praanee jaraa maranu bhau visar gaiaa: When the mind is totally attached to Maya; the mortal forgets his fear of old age and death (sggs 92).
  • ਜਰਾ ਜੋਹਿ ਨ ਸਕਈ ਸਚਿ ਰਹੈ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥: Jaraa johi na sakaee sachi rahai liv laai: Old age cannot torment one who remains lovingly absorbed in his True Being (sggs 1009).
  • ਨੈਨਹੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਬਹੈ ਤਨੁ ਖੀਨਾ ਭਏ ਕੇਸ ਦੁਧ ਵਾਨੀ ॥ ਰੂਧਾ ਕੰਠੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨਹੀ ਉਚਰੈ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਹਿ ਪਰਾਨੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਇ ਹੋਹਿ ਬੈਦ ਬਨਵਾਰੀ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਸੰਤਹ ਲੇਹੁ ਉਬਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਮਾਥੇ ਪੀਰ ਸਰੀਰਿ ਜਲਨਿ ਹੈ ਕਰਕ ਕਰੇਜੇ ਮਾਹੀ ॥ ਐਸੀ ਬੇਦਨ ਉਪਜਿ ਖਰੀ ਭਈ ਵਾ ਕਾ ਅਉਖਧੁ ਨਾਹੀ ॥੨॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਜਲੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਇਹੁ ਅਉਖਧੁ ਜਗਿ ਸਾਰਾ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦਿ ਕਹੈ ਜਨੁ ਭੀਖਨੁ ਪਾਵਉ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰਾ ॥੩॥੧॥: Nainahu neer bahai tanu kheenaa bhae kes dudh vaanee. Roodhaa kanth sabad nahee oucharai ab kiaa karahi paraanee ||1|| Raam raai hohi baid banavaaree. Apane santah lehu oubaaree ||1|| rahaao || Maathe peer sareer jalan hai karak kareje maahee. Aisee bedan oupaji kharee bhaee vaa kaa aoukhadh naahee ||2|| Hari kaa naam amrit jal niramal ihu aoukhadh jagi saaraa. Gur parasaad kahai jan bheekhan paavo mokh duaaraa ||3||1|| (sggs 659).

The lord has endowed man with freedom and freewill to act. So how one makes the optimum use of the opportunity given is within one's control. This is the reason the Gurbani emphasizes that one must adopt steps when he is young to lead a life of Shabad-Vichaar. As one progresses Spiritually through Shabad-Vichaar, one's negative tendencies or conditionings of his mind disappear. Unconditioned mind gives one equanimity to accept the vagaries of life without getting dejected when beset with adversities or elated when blessed with fortune. Such a seeker lives a right lifestyle, without emotional attachment.

— T. Singh