O Lord, You are forever Merciful to those who are
receptive to the Guru's Teachings (sggs 961).

The Gurmat — Teachings, Instructions or the Eternal Wisdom of the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) — does not only give us the clear Goal of life but also means to achieve that Goal. It's ready to lead us to realize that ultimate Goal of life, provided we are! In other words, to receive what the SGGS is offering us, we are urged by the Gur-Shabad to become receptive. When we are properly receptive, the Guru's Teaching sheds light on the path.

If we are not properly receptive and open, we will not be able to understand the Guru's words as we hear or read them. They will enter through one ear and out the other ear. As a result, we will be unable to grasp the real gist of the Gur-Shabad as it is being read, expressed or explained. This will cause the Gur-Shabad and its true gist to be bent and marred by the noise of our own mind (Haume). That is, we will end up interpreting them in our own ways according to the color of our own tendencies, inclinations, personal agenda, vested interest, views, preoccupations, preferences, fear, desires, likes and dislikes, and so on.

As a result, due to the lack of proper receptivity, we cannot realize full benefit of the Guru's words. Hence, it is clear that mere physical closeness or proximity to the Guru is not sufficient; one's proper receptivity is of most importance. Simply put, to fully benefit from the Guru's words, we need to become open and receptive as an innocent child to His words.

  • ਤਿਸ ਨੋ ਸਦਾ ਦਇਆਲੁ ਜਿਨਿ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਮਤਿ ਲਈ ॥: Tis no sadaa daiaal jin gur te mati layee: O Lord, You are forever Merciful to those who are receptive to the Guru's Teachings (sggs 961).
  • ਬਾਲ ਸੁਭਾਇ ਅਤੀਤ ਉਦਾਸੀ ॥: Baal subhaai ateet oudaasee: With a childlike, innocent nature, remain detached, turning away from the world (sggs 1076).
  • ਮਨੁ ਬੇਚੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਪਾਸਿ॥ਤਿਸੁ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਰਾਸਿ ॥: Manu bechai satgur ke paas. Tis sevak ke kaaraj raas: One who surrenders his ego to the Satguru, that humble servant's affairs are resolved (sggs 286).

Thus, it seems that proper receptivity demands surrendering of the mind (false ego-sense, Haume or Ahambudhi) to the Guru. Otherwise, His words will always be obscured by our own Vaasnaas: tendencies, inclinations, personal agenda, vested interest, views, preoccupations, preferences, fear, desires, likes and dislikes etc. One cannot hope to collect water even in a torrential rain on a mound or in a vessel that is turned upside down. Likewise, one cannot hope to have sunlight in a room if all windows and doors are closed.

  • ਨਾਮਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ਜੋ ਭਾਡਾ ਹੋਇ॥ਊਂਧੈ ਭਾਂਡੈ ਟਿਕੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: Naam smaavai jo bhaandaa hoe. Undhai bhaandai tikai na koe: The Name can be treasured up if the mind-vessel is up-right; in the inverted vessel, nothing can be contained (sggs 158).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚੁ ਭਾਂਡਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਸਬਦ ਪਿਆਸ ॥: Nanak sach bhaandaa jis Shabad piyaas: Nanak says, true is the mind-vessel, which is thirsty after God's name (sggs 158).
  • ਢੇਰੀ ਜਾਮੈ ਜਮਿ ਮਰੈ ਗਰਭ ਜੋਨਿ ਦੁਖ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਮੋਹ ਮਗਨ ਲਪਟਤ ਰਹੈ ਹਉ ਹਉ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥: Dheree jaamai jami marai garabh joni dukha paai. Moh magan lapatat rahai hayu hayu aavai jaai: Those within whom there is the mound (of the ego or Haume), suffers the pain of reincarnation through the womb. One who is intoxicated by emotional attachment and entangled in egotism thus continue coming and going in reincarnation (sggs 256).

So the true receptivity is free of the struggle of the mind (false ego or Haume). When the receptivity of the mind becomes pure, it can produce a true copy of whatsoever is happening. That indicates true love and faith. To illustrate the point, let's consider a few examples from the SGGS, the lives's of the Gurus and Bhagats etc.

This little story is about Baalmeek, whose name is mentioned in the SGGS. According to the legend, there lived a highwayman by the name of Ratnakar, who made his living by robbing and killing people. It so happened that one day a holy man fell into his hands. To cut the long story short, the holy man told Ratnakar he could help him become a good man if he agreed to chant God's Name. "How?", inquired Ratnakar. The holy man asked him to chant the Word "Raam" with sincere feeling, faith, determination, and intense concentration. As Ratnakar's consciousness had become so filthy by putting people to death, at first his tongue was unable to utter the Word "Raam". The bandit asked the holy man if he could utter "Maraa" (meaning "dead"!) instead of "Raam". The holy man said, "if you feel comfortable with uttering "Maraa", so be it". He then began chanting the Word "Maraa, Maraa....", with utter love and faith. With concentrated practice, first the sound "Maraa Maraa..." spontaneously turned into "Raam Raam...", then, in a due course, he became absorbed in its Transcendental vibratory sound. Later, that bandit came to be known as Rishi Baalmeek, who wrote the famous epic of Ramayana! Although the highwayman in this story had Satsang of a Holy man for only few hours or so, but because of his openness and receptivity, he achieved ultimate Goal of life.

  • ਰੇ ਚਿਤ ਚੇਤਿ ਚੇਤ ਅਚੇਤ ॥ ਕਾਹੇ ਨ ਬਾਲਮੀਕਹਿ ਦੇਖ ॥: Re chit chet chet achet. Kaahe na Baalmeekahi dekh: Be conscious, be conscious, be conscious, O my unconscious mind. Why do you not look at Baalmeek? (sggs 1124).

Most of us probably heard this Sakhi (story) of Baabaa Nanak, Laalo and Bhaago. During one of his journeys, Baabaa Nanak stayed with a carpenter named Laalo in a place called Emnabad. Bhaago was a local wealthy man, who decided to give a feast and invited all around. He heard about Baabaa Nanak staying with Laalo in the town, so he also invited Baabaa Nanak to the feast. However, Baabaa Nanak did not attend the feast. Bhaago became furious and asked why Baabaa Nanak did not accept his invitation. Baabaa Nanak replied he would rather eat the carpenter's simple bread because it had been earned by his honest work (Kirat Kamaaee), whereas Bhaago's great feast had been the result of corruption and exploitation of the poor, therefore, Bhaago's bread had been stained by the blood of the poor and falsehood. When Bhaago protested, Baabaa Nanak took a piece of Laalo's bread and a piece of Bhaago's bread and squeezed them both. It's said that milk dripped from Laalo's bread, while Bhaago's dripped with blood. Seeing this Bhaago repented very much. Because of Bhaago's receptivity to Baabaa Nanak's instructions, that one incident changed his life, and thereafter he then devoted the rest of his life helping those in need, and earning honest living for himself.

There is also a story of Baabaa Nanak and robbers. During many of his journeys, once Baabaa Nanak and His companion Mardana were passing through the depths of a dense forest. They passed by a small village where the locals were cruel and selfish — they used to rob people passing through that area, beat them up and leave their victims to die there in the jungle. The robbers spotted Baabaa Nanak and Mardana and surrounded them with axes, swords and other sharp weapons. To cut the long story short, upon seeing and hearing Baabaa Nanak, thieves eventually realized that Baabaa Nanak whom they were planning to rob and kill was none other than the savior of lost souls. All thieves of that village asked Baabaa Nanak for His mercy and forgiveness. Baabaa Nanak said, "I will forgive you with one condition — you all must mend your crooked ways and become decent honest human beings." And thereafter, they all did change their ways accordingly. This is receptivity. There are so many such inspirational Sikh Sakhis. Let's ponder: how many times we hear this and many similar other Sakhis and how many times we hear and recite the Gur-Shabad, and how many times we actually mend our crooked ways? We lack proper receptivity.

This next little story is about Bhagat Kabeer Sahib. It shows the intensity of his receptivity. Kabeer Sahib was brought up in a family of Muslim weavers. He had intense desire to be initiated by Bhagat Ramanand, who was a Hindu. Because of the rift existing between the Muslim and Hindu communities, Kabeer Sahib did not go directly to Ramananad. Instead, finally, one day he thought up a clever plan. Kabeer Sahib knew that every morning before sunrise, Ramanand used to go to the river for his bath. One morning Kabeer Jee went to the bathing Ghaat of the river well before Ramanand and lay down on one of the many steps leading down to the river. As it was still pretty dark, he knew that Ramanand would not be able to see him laying down there and thus would accidentally touch him by stepping on him. According to an old tradition in India (it is still practiced in many parts of India) if one's foot touches someone, then one touches that someone and bring the hand to his forehead as a mark of respect. At the same time, one may also exclaim God's name. As Kabeer Sahib expected, Ramanand while coming down the steps in darkness did not see Kabeer laying down there and thus happened to step on him. Upon realizing he stepped upon someone, Ramanand immediately sought for forgiveness by exclaiming God's name "Raam", "Raam!". Kabeer Sahib took it as initiation from Ramanand, prostrated to him and left. His trick worked. Kabeer Jee's receptivity was so perfect that for him a touch of the Ramanand's foot was enough! A lot of Bhagat Kabeer's writings outside SGGS exist. Therefore, not only among Sikhs, Kabeer Sahib and his Bani is treasured by people all over India. There is also one hymn of Bhagat Rmanand in the SGGS.

Last but not least, many of us who have received their early education in India perhaps remember reading in the school texts about "Angulimala" — a contemporary of Buddha — who had taken a vow to murder 1,000 human beings. He had already killed 999 people when he saw the Buddha passing through the jungle. In hope to make the Buddha his 1,000th kill, he began to pursue the monk in the forest. No matter how much he tried, Angulimala could not catch up with the Buddha even though the Buddha was walking at a leisurely pace! Finally frustrated and exhausted, Angulimala called out, "Oh, monk, stop!"

"I have stopped long ago. It's you who have not yet stopped", replied the Buddha. "What do you mean?", asked confused Angulimala. The Buddha explained, "I say I stopped long ago because I have given up cruelty, killing, ill-treating all beings, and have established in myself in the Universal Consciousness through reflection. But it's you who have not yet given up killing and hurting others, and thus you are not yet established in the Universal Consciousness. Hence, you are the one who have not stopped." Angulimala was instantaneously transformed by these words. Consequently, he hurled away his weapons of killing and torture. It's said that later Angulimala was even able to realize God. Thus, just a few minutes of association changed Angulimala forever. What a receptivity he had!

Spiritual Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) cannot be imposed or given to somebody as a gift or made to an order. It has to be awakened within. Hence, the more we are receptive to the Eternal Message of the Gur-Shabad, the more we will be transformed spiritually. Consequently, comes the importance of proper receptivity to the Guru's Teaching.

Hence, the Eternal Message is not something to be said; it's something to be lived. According to the SGGS, the true Sikhs are those who have learnt to live Sikhi by learning it through the Gur-Vichaar (contemplating or reflecting on the Guru's Teaching): ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ — Sikhee (or Sikhi) sikhiaa gur veechaar (sggs 465).

  • ਮਤਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਰਤਨ ਜਵਾਹਰ ਮਾਣਿਕ ਜੇ ਇਕ ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਿਖ ਸੁਣੀ ॥: Mati vich ratan javaahar maanik je ik gur kee sikh sunee: Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies (i.e., Divine virtues), if one listens to the Guru's Teachings, even once (sggs 2).
  • ਭਾਈ ਰੇ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸਾਚਿ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Bhaaee re guramat saach rahaaou: O brother, follow the Shabad's teachings and dwell in Truth (sggs 30).
  • ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਦੇਹੀ ਸੋਧਿ ਤੂੰ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਇਸੁ ਦੇਹੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ਹੈ ਪਾਈਐ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਹੇਤਿ ਅਪਾਰਿ ॥੮॥੧੦॥੩੨॥: Ihu manu dehee sodhi toon gur sabadi veechaari. Nanak isu dehee vichi naami nidhaani hai paaeeai gur kai heti apaari ||8||10||32||: Search this mind and body, by the Gur-Shabad-Vichaar (by reflecting on the Gur-Shabad...). O Nanak! Within this body is the Treasure of the Naam; it is attained through the unbounded love for the Gur (Gur-Giaan...) ||8||10||32|| (sggs 427).

The purpose of spirituality is to bring about a shift in our perception — from Manmukhtaa (worldly, external, falsehood etc.) to Gurmukhtaa (spiritual, inner, truth etc.). Guru/God's Grace is always there, but it depends on our receptivity whether we receive it. Therefore, to become receptive, we may need to mend our ways we lead our lives.

— T. Singh