ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਵਟਾਇਆ ॥:
Kit bidh purkhaa janam vataaiaa:
O man, how have you changed the course of your life? (sggs 939).

The human life has a purpose — to change it for better and make it something worth when incarnated in human body. As teeth are necessary for chewing, so is the positive change in the course of life to transcend the material illusion (Maya, ignorance, falsehood etc.) for leading a fruitful life in the world. Due to the defective vision, however, the Gurbani says we have the course of our life steered inappropriately, making us unable to pursue this objective. Consequently, the fundamental inquiries "Who am I?" and "What am I here for?" do not arise in our bosom. The Gurbani asks us to learn correcting our vision and realizing our Real Self so that we can make this life something worth while as a human. Because, if we do not understand the significance of the human birth, then this precious life is a waste.

  • ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਪੁਰਖਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਵਟਾਇਆ ॥: Kitu bidhi purkhaa janamu vataaiaa: O man, how have you changed the course of your life? (sggs 939).
  • ਏ ਸਰੀਰਾ ਮੇਰਿਆ ਇਸੁ ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਆਇ ਕੈ ਕਿਆ ਤੁਧੁ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥: Ae sareeraa meriaa isu jag mahi aaye kai kiaa tudhu karam kamaaiaa: O my body, since you came into this world, what actions have you performed (i.e., have you gained thinking conducive to Mool-realization, or have you gained thinking to the contrary)? (sggs 922).
  • ਕਉਡੀ ਬਦਲੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ਚੀਨਸਿ ਨਾਹੀ ਆਪੈ ॥: Kouddee badalai janam gavaaiaa cheenas naahee aapai: Man wastes this human life in exchange for a mere shell; he does not understand his own Self (sggs 753).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਜਨਮੇ ਗਵਨੁ ਮਿਟਾਇਆ ॥: Satgur kai janame gavan mitaaiaa: (This is how I have changed the course of my life) by awakening the True Guru (Realization of Mool, Shabad-Surti, Joti-svaroop etc.) within, my mind's wandering has ended (sggs 940).
  • ਸੋ ਬਉਰਾ ਜੋ ਆਪੁ ਨ ਪਛਾਨੈ ॥ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਨੈ ਤ ਏਕੈ ਜਾਨੈ ॥੪॥: So baouraa jo aapu na pachaanai. Aapu pacchaanai ta ekai jaanai ||4||: (That man) is crazy who does not Realize the Self (Realization of his Mool, Source, Jot ...). When he knows himself (ਆਪਣੇ ਅਸਲੇ ਦੀ ਪਛਾਣ, Realization of his Mool), only then he comes to know the One. ||4|| (sggs 855).
  • ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਤਤੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਦ੍ਰੁਲਭ ਦੇਹ ਕਾ ਕਰਹੁ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥: Raam naam tatu karahu beechaaru. Drulabh deh kaa karahu udhaaru: Reflect on the Essence of the Divine Name. Redeem this human body, so difficult to obtain (sggs 293).
  • ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਬਾਧਾ ਸਰਪਨਿ ਖਾਧਾ ॥: Durmati baadhaa sarpani khaadhaa. Man is bound by evil-mindedness, and (because of bondage) he is consumed by the serpent (of Maya) (sggs 939).

If one wants to see a noble world, then he himself needs be that change first. However, as repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), given man's fickle minded nature and his propensity to succumb to distractions and temptations generated by the pulls of this world, it's not easy to direct the human mind towards the Higher Awareness (Joti-Svaroopa). Therefore, what really needs to happen immediately is the deconditioning of the ego-mind or false-self. Because, regardless of where we live, what's important is what we do and what we think. This requires learning as to how to bring about positive change in the life to make it meritorious.

  • ਮਨੁ ਵਸਿ ਦੂਤਾ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਦੋਇ ॥: Mann vas dootaa durmati doi: The mind is in the control of evil passions, evil intent, and duality (sggs 222).
  • ਭਨਤਿ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਸੁਮਤਿ ਭਏ ॥: Bhanat Naamdaou sukirat sumat bhaae: Says Naam Dev, become a man of good deeds and good thoughts (sgg 718).

A great one has said, "If you want to prove God, improve yourself". Improving yourself is to change the course of life — to learn to lead a truthful, righteous and an all-inclusive harmonious life. This will require freeing oneself from self-will (Manmukhtaa), selfhood and selfishness. And, as indicated in the Gurbani, freeing from affront of the inevitable pulls and pressures and twists and turns of the material existence is to attain Wisdom (Self-knowledge or Aatam Giaan), virtuous conduct and Spiritual-inquiry.

  • ਫਾਥੀ ਛੂਟਹਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਿਆਨ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Faathee shootahi gun giaan beechaar: O man, you are trapped. You can only be saved by virtuous conduct, Spiritual Wisdom and Spiritual-inquiry (sggs 1275).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸ ਸਚੁ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰ ॥: Nanak daas sach karanee saar: O slave Nanak, the true way of life is excellent conduct (sggs 1299).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਇਆ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਲਾਧਾ ॥: Manmukh khoiaa gurnukhi laadhaa: As the self-willed Manmukh, one loses (the precious life, ਜੀਵਨ ਦਾ ਲਾਹਾ, etc.), and by becoming the Gurmukh, one gains (ਜੀਵਨ ਦਾ ਲਾਹਾ) (sggs 939).

The reason we worry about life hereafter is that we live a corrupt life in human form. If we can change the course of life for good while living in human form, then we do not need worrying about next life or life hereafter! When we live a life free of falsehood (wrong notions), then the next life is taken care of itself. Because truth ever remains steady; while falsehood never stops moving. In other words, it is the falsehood that creates more insecurity in life. When caught in the vertex of falsehood, the life soon becomes a quicksand in which any effort then tends to make us sink more. It is the falsehood that makes us to lose sight of the goal of human life.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖੀ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਹਾਰਿਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਕੁਸਤੁ ਕਮਾਇ ॥: Manmukhee manahath haariaa koorr kusat kamaai: The Manmukhs (material being), through stubborn-mindedness and the practice of falsehood, lose the game of life (sggs 87).
  • ਸਾਚ ਛਾਡਿ ਕੈ ਝੂਠਹ ਲਾਗਿਓ ਜਨਮੁ ਅਕਾਰਥੁ ਖੋਇਓ ॥: Saach shaadd kai jhoothah laagio janam akaarath khoio: O man, abandoning Truth, you cling to falsehood; your life is uselessly wasting away (sggs 663).
  • ਲਾਲਚ ਝੂਠ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਮਹਾ ਮਦ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਅਉਧ ਬਿਹਾਨਿ ॥: Laalach jhooth bikaar mahaa mada ih bidh aoudh bihaan: O man, you are engrossed in greed, falsehood, corruption and great arrogance. Your life is passing away in vain (sggs 1124).

Since falsehood never endures, negating the falsehood at the center of our living can facilitate change in many ways. Awareness of the vulgarity of our fears and emotional attachments can bring in us a basic change, releasing fresh energy to live correctly. When we live rightly then fundamental Spiritual-inquiry (Shabad-Vichaar) naturally arise in our bosom, paving the way to a certain radical change in us. Wholesome transformation then follows spontaneously.

Mind-control or self-control is at its best when we change through proper understanding and not through fear of any sort. One's perfect understanding (True Knowledge) and right actions or right doing go hand in hand. There is a natural and spontaneous (Sahaj) right conduct where the selfishness or desire for personal interest does not raise its head. The Gurbani says this must be done through reasoning (Viveka), while living in the midst of the realities of the world. In other words, running away from the realities of the existence is not an option. Because the same mind that makes one abandon the realities of the world goes with him no matter where he goes!

  • ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣੀ ਭਵੈ ਸਬਾਈ ॥: Giaan vihoonee bhavai sabaaee: Without the Divine Knowlege, the entire world wanders about (sggs 1034).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਛੋਡਿ ਭਈ ਬੈਰਾਗਨਿ ਤਬ ਸਾਚੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਮਾਨੀ ॥: Houmai shod bhayee bairaagan tabb saachee surati samaanee: Abandoning false ego-sense, I have become detached. And now, I am absorbed in true intuitive understanding (sggs 1197).
  • ਬੂਝੈ ਬੂਝਨਹਾਰੁ ਬਿਬੇਕ ॥ ਬੂਝੈ ਬੂਝਨਹਾਰੁ ਸਭਾਗਾ ॥: Boojhai boojhanhaar bibek. Boojhai boojhanhaar sabhaagaa: Only one with discriminating intellect understands it. Very fortunate is the one who knows this (sggs 285).
  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Sabh kai madhh sagal te udaas: Live in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

How can one live in the world and yet remain detached from it? The analogy of an ocean helps to illustrate how an individual can remain poised in his Real Self ("Joti-Svaroopa") while engaging in activity in the world. The ocean neither dries up when the rivers become dry in summer and no water flows into the ocean, nor overflows during monsoon when the swollen rivers empty their waters into it. Just as the ocean retains the same level and fullness irrespective of the volume of water discharged into it, the Gurmukh (man of Wisdom) retains Self-awareness and remains poised amidst all the happenings he engages in the world. While his body-mind-intellect apparatus functions in its respective realms he remains unaffected, poised in his True Being.

  • ਨਦੀਆ ਅਤੈ ਵਾਹ ਪਵਹਿ ਸਮੁੰਦਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੀਅਹਿ ॥: Nadeeaa atai vaah pavahi samund na jaaneahi: Streams and rivers flowing into the ocean do not know its vastness (sggs 5)!

The main hurdle in changing or improving the life is that we are fearful. Why? Because we are afraid if we change, it will jeopardize the lives of those who depend on us. This sort of fear leads us to falsehood and psychological insecurity. As indicated in the Gurbani, the way out is to shun desires and fears and face the reality of life. For fear in itself is death. As fear drains our energy and cripples us, we can hardly live. The Gurbani urges us look fear in the face and get rid of it by eliminating it's root cause the false ego-sense (Haume). When we come face to face with fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence.

  • ਡਰਿ ਡਰਿ ਪਚੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਵੇਚਾਰੇ ॥: Dari dari pache manmukh vechaare: The wretched Manmukhs (one in material consciousness or unenlightened beings) are ruined through fear and dread (sggs 677).
  • ਆਪੁ ਗਇਆ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਭਉ ਗਇਆ ਜਨਮ ਮਰਨ ਦੁਖ ਜਾਹਿ ॥: Aap gaiaa bhram bhaou gaiaa janam maran dukh jaahi: When false ego-sense departs, doubt and fear also depart, and the pain of birth and death is removed (sggs 1093).

Thus, to become truly good requires a radical change, a revolution within. It requires banishment of the false "I" Haume, ego-consciousness, falsehood or evil nature. Here the Gurbani is not talking of becoming "relatively better". For example, one may say, "I was not good before, but I am much better now." This sort of patting on our own back in appreciation can falsely console our conscience and put off the real fundamental Self-inquiry (Shabad-Vichaar) needed for radical change within.

The Gurbani also alerts us that in an eagerness or interest to change, we should not become something else than what we really are! According to the Gurbani, what we really are at this very moment is "Joti Svaroop" — Pure Consciousness or Pure Awareness. But we have forgotten it. We should only change ourselves to recollect this True Nature of ours that we have forgotten. This is to "understand own Self". So to avoid any division or contradiction, the Gurbani asks us as a Gurmukh (one in Spiritual Awareness) we should spontaneously (Sahaj) live every moment confirming we are that Total Awareness ("Joti-Svaroopa"), here and now. In other words, although change is intrinsic to life at the physical and mental levels but there is an Unchanging Awareness underlying these phenomena. To learn to become aware of one's True Self is to realize that changes pertain only to the body-mind-intellect apparatus and that the Real Self is changeless.

  • ਹੈ ਹਜੂਰਿ ਕਤ ਦੂਰਿ ਬਤਾਵਹੁ ॥ ਦੁੰਦਰ ਬਾਧਹੁ ਸੁੰਦਰ ਪਾਵਹੁ ॥: Hai hajoori kat doori batavahu. Dundar baadhahu sundar paavahu: God is present, right here at hand; why do you say He is far away? Tie up your disturbing passions, and find the Beauteous God (sggs 1160)
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Gurmukh sach sanjam karanee saar: The Gurmukh practices true self-control, and excellent conduct (sggs 159).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਬਾਧਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਛੂਟਾ ॥: Houmai baadhaa garmukhi shootaa: Egotism is bondage; by becoming a Gurmukh, one is emancipated (sggs 131).

The only purpose of religions and scriptures is to change us for good — to bring a revolution within and make us truthful to our Real Self, which we have mistakenly superimposed with the false-self. Valuable thoughts and guidelines are given in the genuine scriptures and teachings of the Wise Men for the benefit of the entire mankind. As one diligently reads them, properly understands them and faithfully adopts the instructions, he will experience a radical change within him. Then he will be prompted to avoid activities not permitted and his mind will be purified when he will enjoy the inner Peace. The Teachings of the Gurbani (Gurmat), for example, will enable a person to shed his imperfections or evil tendencies (Haume) because of the indirect influence of the valuable thoughts therein.

  • ਗੁਰੂ ਸਮੁੰਦੁ ਨਦੀ ਸਭਿ ਸਿਖੀ ਨਾਤੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥: Guroo samund nadee sabh sikhee naatai jit vadiaaee: The Guroo ( the Divine or His Word i.e. Gurbani or Gurmat) is the ocean, and all His Teachings are the rivers. Bathing within it, glorious greatness is obtained (sggs 150).
  • ਗੁਰ ਸਾਖੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Gur saakhee joti paragat hoi: By the Divine Teachings, the Light is revealed (sggs 663).
  • ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Mann mere gurmat karanee saar: O my mind, follow the Gurmat and practice excellent conduct (sggs 559).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Houmai maare karanee saar: Subduing ego-sense, practice excellent conduct (sggs 223).

We change workplaces, friends, partners in life, but not ourselves! We celebrate new year, birthday or an anniversary when the year has changed to the next year. This is physical change. But Spiritually, it is a New Year or a Birthday or an Anniversary when the positive change or improvement occurs in one's attitude — from falsehood to truthfulness, from selfishness to selfless service, from bondage to freedom, from wrong notions to divine virtues, from greed to joy of giving, from negativism to positivism, from hatefulness to love, from evil nature to good nature or, in nutshell, from Manmukh (falsehood) to Gurmukh (Pure-consciousness). Nobody else can do it for others. Therefore — without looking for others to make the first step or without being concerned whether anyone else is doing it or not — the Gurbani says "now" is the time for each one of us to turn around and know our Real Self!

  • ਪ੍ਰਣਵਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਸੋਇ ॥: Pranvati Nanak giaanee kaisaa hoi. Aapu pashaanai boojhai soi: Prays Nanak, of what nature is the Giaanee (the Wise one, the knower of the Truth...)? (A true Giaanee is he who) recognizes his (Mool-ਮੂਲ, Source, Origin, Essential Nature, etc.), such (Giaanee-ਜੋ ਆਪਣੇ ਅਸਲੇ ਨੂੰ ਪਛਾਣਦਾ ਹੈ) Understands God (sggs 25).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਣ ਕਾਮਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਮਾਇਆ ਫੀਕਾ ਸਾਦੁ ॥: Bin gun kaam na aavee maya feekaa saadu: Without virtue, nothing is of any use. The taste of Maya is bland and insipid (sggs 61).
  • ਸਲੋਕ ਕਬੀਰ ॥ ਗਗਨ ਦਮਾਮਾ ਬਾਜਿਓ ਪਰਿਓ ਨੀਸਾਨੈ ਘਾਉ ॥ ਖੇਤੁ ਜੁ ਮਾਂਡਿਓ ਸੂਰਮਾ ਅਬ ਜੂਝਨ ਕੋ ਦਾਉ ॥੧॥ ਸੂਰਾ ਸੋ ਪਹਿਚਾਨੀਐ ਜੁ ਲਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਹੇਤ ॥ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਕਟਿ ਮਰੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੨॥੨॥: Salok Kabeer || Gagan damaamaa baajio pario nisaanai ghaaou. Khet ju maandio soormaa ab joojhan ko daaou ||1|| Sooraa so pehchaaneeai jo larai deen ke het. Purajaa purajaa kat marai kabahoo n shhaadai khet ||2||2|| (sggs 1105).
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਮਨ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਪਿਆਰਿਆ ਮਿਲੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਹੈ ਏਹ ॥: Sun mann mitar piaariaa mil velaa hai eh: Listen, O my mind, my friend & darling: now is the time to meet God (sggs 20).

— T. Singh