To act without understanding is to lose the treasure of this human life (sggs 33).
They (disguisers or Bhekhdhaarees) do not understand themselves,
and they lose the game of life (sggs 230).

The human personality structure consists of the following three — 1) experiencer, feeler or perceiver, 2) doer or performer, and 3) learner or knower. The body, mind and intellect are the three equipments through which these three expresses out in the universe.

1. Experiencer, feeler or perceiver:

In the case of the majority of us, false "I" (false ego-sense or Haume) is the sole experiencer in us. It's absent in the beginning, when we are infants. Because the infant's mind is innocent, free of Haume. Because of this, he is able to express himself fully. However, as the child grows older, the false ego-sense ("I-ness" or Haume) arises, which gets stronger and stubborn when one starts identifying with the worldly attractions. As a result, limitations of the psycho-physical personality get imposed on the True Self obscuring our True Nature (Pure Awareness or "Joti-Svaroopa"). On account of the relativists consciousness and forgetfulness of our True Nature, we then identify with the experience (body consciousness or ego) and forget as to who the real experiencer is.

  • ਆਪਨ ਬਿਭਉ ਆਪ ਹੀ ਜਰਨਾ ॥: Aapan bibho aap hee jaranaa: He Himself is the splendor, and He Himself is the experiencer of it (sggs 803).
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਭਰਿ ਜੋਬਨਿ ਮੈ ਮਤਿ ॥ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਕਾਮਿ ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਅੰਧੁਲੇ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚਿਤਿ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ਹੋਰਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਰਸ ਕਸ ਮੀਠੇ ॥: Doojai paharai rain kai vanajaariaa mitraa....:In the second watch of the night (of the life), O my merchant friend, you are intoxicated with the wine of youth and beauty. Day and night, you are engrossed in lust, O my merchant friend, and your consciousness is blind to the Naam. The Lord's Name is not within your heart, but all sorts of other tastes seem sweet to you (sggs 75).
  • ਹਠੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਕਰੈ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਵੈ ॥: Hatha ahankaar karai nahee paavai: Acting in stubbornness and egotism, (Truth) is not attained (Realized, etc.) (sggs 905).

Life is a series of experiences. These experiences are like a classroom - we can learn from the past experiences and build the future with care and positive attitude. If all experiences are considered as a classroom, they can be valuable tools in providing deeper understanding of the life. To the contrary, it will be of no avail to remain in the classroom and keep reacting to lessons (experiences) being learnt! The Gurmukhs (spiritual or enlightened beings) do not react to the lessons. Because, they identify with the real experiencer instead of the experience. They see themselves as "Joti-Svaroopa" (Pure Awareness) that runs through the mind and everything else.

  • ਲਖ ਟੋਲੀਂ ਇਕ ਟੋਲ ਨ ਆਪ ਗਣਾਈਐ ॥: Lakh toleen ik tol na aap ganaaeeai: The end result of lacs of experiences is that (the Gurmukh) never exhibits his ego (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas, 3).

2. Doer or performer:

With the development of the experiencer, feeler or perceiver aspect of the human personality, the notion "I am the doer" also becomes deeply rooted (false "I"). This is duality (Doojaa Bhaav) the Gurbani so much talks about. In reality we all are just a channel or an instrument of doing; not the doers, for the Doer (Kartaa Purakh) is God alone. However, with the rise of false ego-sense (Haume), we forget this truth and mistakenly take ourselves as the doers.

  • ਕਰਣੈ ਵਾਲਾ ਵਿਸਰਿਆ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: karanai vaalaa visariaa doojai bhaai piaar: I have forgotten the Doer of all; I am caught in the love of duality (sggs 39).
  • ਕਰਣ ਕਾਰਣ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਏਕੁ ਹੈ ਦੂਸਰ ਨਾਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥: Karan kaaran prabh ek hai doosar naahee koi: God alone is the Doer of deeds - there is no other at all (sggs 276).

3. Learner or knower:

These first two aspects of the human personality (that is, "experiencer" and "doer") are common in both humans and animals. It is this third aspect of human personality (i.e., "learner") that separates humans from animals. Humans can learn from their own mistakes, and can experience deeper understanding unfolding from within and move upward towards the understanding of harmony and Bliss (Anand). Worldly life is full of sorrows (Dukha). Nonetheless, it can also give us joy if we have some understanding of the spiritual principles.

We humans are endowed with the capacity to learn and grow continuously. To learn means to know what's right and wrong or be able to "separate water from milk" as the mystic swan. This faculty of discriminating intellect (Viveka-Budhi) is absent in animals. Merely knowing what's right and wrong is not enough, the Gurmat demands that one must also be determined to practice what's right. Humans have the ability to do just that. This is what so special about this human form — the capacity to learn with undivided attention and interest. For that reason, the Spiritual Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) is meant for human beings, not for animals. To put it otherwise, human beings are most fit to be instructed about the nature of the Truth. That's to say, God's devotion (Bhagti) is most possible in this human body. In view of that, if humans do not fully develop and constantly use this faculty, then they are no better than animals. This leads to the following questions: Do we as humans live and use this life any better than animals? Is our conduct any better than animals? Or, are we foolishly wasting it away to death?

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥: Binu boojhai pasu bhaye betaale ||6||: Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਦਾਸ ਸਾਧ ਸਖਾ ਜਨ ਜਿਨ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਭਰਾਂਤਿ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਦੁਧ ਭਿੰਨ ਭਿੰਨ ਕਾਢੈ ਚੁਣਿ ਹੰਸੁਲਾ ਤਿਉ ਦੇਹੀ ਤੇ ਚੁਣਿ ਕਾਢੈ ਸਾਧੂ ਹਉਮੈ ਤਾਤਿ ॥੨॥: Hari ke daas saadh sakhaa jan jin miliaa lahi jaai bharaanti. Jiu jal dudh bhinn bhinn kaadhai chuni hansulaa tiyu dehee te chunni kaadhai saadhoo haumo taati ||2||: The slaves of the Lord (His devotee - ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦੇ ਭਗਤ) are our Holy companions (ਸਾਧ-ਮਿੱਤਰ). Meeting with them, doubt (wanderigs, ਭਟਕਣਾ, etc.) is taken away. As the swan separates the milk from the water, the Holy Saint removes the fire of egotism from the body ||2|| (sggs 1264).

In fact, according to the Gurbani, the qualification of a true Sikh (spiritual student) is his undivided interest to learn and listen to the Guru's teachings and instructions (Gurmat) with devotion, sincerity, enthusiasm, undivided interest and dedication, and then apply them in his daily life to conquer the deluded mind (Haume). But such Sikh is said to be very rare! The learning becomes useless if one does not apply it in day-to-day life.

  • ਸੇ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਸੁਣਿਆ ਹਰਿ ਕੰਨੀ ॥: Se gursikh dhan dhann hai jinee gur oupades suniaa har kannee: Blessed, blessed are those Gursikhs, who, with their ears, listen to the Guru's Teachings about the Lord (sggs 590).
  • ਵਿਰਲਾ ਸਿਖ ਸੁਣੈ ਗੁਰ ਪੀਰੈ ॥: Viralaa sikh sunai gur peerai: Rare is the Sikh who listens to (and accepts) the teachings of the Guru (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas, 4).
  • ਜਿਨਾ ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਸੰਤੁਸਟੁ ਹੈ ਤਿਨੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਗਲ ਮੰਨੀ ॥: Jiinaa gursikhaa ko har santusat hai tinee satgur kee gal mannee: Those Gursikhs, with whom the Lord is pleased, accept the Word of the Satguru (sggs 591).
  • ਜਿਨ ਸੁਣਿ ਸਿਖਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਮੰਨਿਆ ਤਿਨਾ ਭੁਖ ਸਭ ਜਾਵੀ ॥: Jin sun sikhaa gur manniaa tinaa bhukh sabh jaavee: Those Sikhs who hear and obey the Guru - all heir desires depart (sggs 726).
  • ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਜਿ ਦਿਤਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਸੁਣਿਆ ਸਿਖੀ ਕੰਨੇ ॥: Oupades ji dittaa satiguroo so suniaa sikhee kanne: The Sikhs listen to the Teachings imparted by the Satguroo (sggs 314).
  • ਧਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਭਾਗ ਤਿਨਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਾ ਜੋ ਗੁਰਸਿਖ ਲੈ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣਤਿਆ ॥: Dhan dhan bhaag tinaa gurmukhaa jo gursikh lai manu jinatiaa: Blessed, blessed is the good fortune of those Gurmukhs, who live as Gursikhs, and conquer their minds (sggs 649).
  • ਸੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਸਖਾ ਬੰਧਪੁ ਹੈ ਭਾਈ ਜਿ ਗੁਰ ਕੇ ਭਾਣੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਵੈ: So sikhu sakhaa bandhapu hai bhaaee ji gur ke bhaanae vichi aavai. O brother! He alone is a Sikh, a friend, and a relative, who walks in the Way of the Gur-Will (Divine Hukam, Bhaanaa, Gurmat, the Gurbani's Giaan or Wisdom...). (sggs 601).

In nutshell, the goal of true learning is to attain proper understanding of life so that we can enjoy the life's journey - with right understanding we know where we are in consciousness all the times. It deepens or unfolds within with meditation (Naam-Simran or Jap). Lack of mature understanding makes us live in anger and frustration, thus not progressing in spiritual life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle). Many a time, our understanding of the purpose of life or physical body is shallow, but our reactions are emotionally strong. This leads to a lot of conflict within and without. Mind-control is at its best when we change through right understanding and not through reactions, fear or anger. The Gurbani tells us about the need to conduct ourselves in life with much care and understanding. With proper understanding born of concentration, attention and alertness, baser and fears do not take root in the mind. As a result, with true learning comes Giaan (Knowledge), humility, contentment, compassion, selflessness, truthfulness and simplicity. The Gurbani's stress on these Divine qualities reinforces that this alone is the goal of true learning. To receive such true learning to understand the right way of life, the Gurbani asks us to seek the Company of the Holy (Saadh-Sangat).

  • ਸੰਤਾ ਕੀ ਹੋਇ ਦਾਸਰੀ ਏਹੁ ਅਚਾਰਾ ਸਿਖੁ ਰੀ ॥: Santaa kee hoi daasaree ehu achaaraa sikh ree: Become the servant of the Saints, and learn this way of life (sggs 400).
  • ਸੋ ਪੜਿਆ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਬੀਨਾ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਕਮਾਣਾ ਨਾਉ ॥: So parhiaa so pandit beenaa jinhee kamaanaa naaou. He alone is learned and wise, and he alone is a scholar, who practices the Name (sggs 1288).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਬਿਬੇਕੀ ਜਾਣੀਐ ॥: Gurmukh budhi bibaek bibekee jaaneeai: Gurmukh has such wisdom, which is competent to separate water from milk. This is why he is called wise (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas, 19 ).

Unfortunately, in the lives of the majority of us, our learning is faulty or shallow. As it's easier for a fisherman to net the fish in the shallow water, similarly, it's easier for Maya (illusion, darkness of ignorance etc.) to snare in her net (Maya-Jaal) those who have shallow understanding of the game of life. So Kabeer Sahib advises us to abandon the little pool (egocentric life) and return to the Limitless Ocean (the Source or the state of no-Haume).

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਥੋਰੈ ਜਲਿ ਮਾਛੁਲੀ ਝੀਵਰਿ ਮੇਲਿਓ ਜਾਲੁ ॥ ਇਹ ਟੋਘਨੈ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਹਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਮੁੰਦੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਲਿ ॥੪੯॥ : Kabeer thorai jal maachhulee jheevar maylio jaal. h toghanai na shootasahi fir kar samund samhaal ||49||: Kabeer, the fish is in the shallow water; the fisherman has cast his net. You will not escape this little pool; think about returning to the ocean ||49|| (sggs 1367).

Though it is crucial that one has to gain insight into one's essential or divine nature as Pure Consciousness ("Joti-Svaroopa"), but it is a difficult and demanding process akin to walking on a two-edged sword. The human form is a combination of matter and spirit, and the awakening of one's essential nature in him is the road to the development of one's personality, which is a lifetime process. It is with the pure mind and intellect that an individual can understand the divine nature in him. The Gurmat helps us to develop our personality by cultivation of selfless love, compassion, humility, contentment, spiritual wisdom, truthful living, and negation of selfishness.

— T. Singh