Night and day, the days of our lives wear away. Night and day both bear witness
to this loss.The blind, foolish, Manmukh (material being) is not aware of this;
death is hovering over his head (sggs 1061).

The ancient Indian system divides the night into four parts called Pahar. Mortal's life is compared by the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) to these four parts or watches of the night. It further explains to us as to how we mortals waste each part of our life-night in vain (sggs 74). Also, the Gurbani shows us as to how we can make the best use of each part of our life-night.

As the night has beginning and end, so does the human life. Both are born; both go through childhood and youth before becoming old and weary; and ultimate, both vanish. Thus, one thing is permanent in life: Change. Body is born, it goes through changes every moment of its existence, and ultimately it dies. This is the story of mortal's entire life-night.

First Part of The Life-Night

As indicated in the Gurbani, it is in accordance with the Hukam (Divine Law...) that Soul is placed into the womb. In upside-down position, we dwell in the utter darkness and heat of  the womb for close to ten months. How does the Jeev (individual being) survive there? 

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਪਇਆ ਗਰਭਾਸਿ ॥੧॥: Pahilai pahrai rain kai vanjaariaa mitraa hukmi paiaa garbhaas: Says Nanak, in the first watch of the night, by the God's Hukam or Will, you enter into the womb (sggs 74).
  • ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪੇ ਆਰਾਧੇ ਵਿਚਿ ਅਗਨੀ ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਜੀਵਿਆ ॥: Har Har Naam jape araadhe vich agnee Har Jap jeeviaa: Jap of the lord's Name and worship within the fire of the womb, your life is sustained by dwelling on the Divine Name (sggs 76).
This life is given for the sole purpose of re-establishing our lost relationship with our Mool (JSource, Origin, Jot...).
  • ਦਸੀ ਮਾਸੀ ਮਾਨਸੁ ਕੀਆ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਕਰਿ ਮੁਹਲਤਿ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥: Dasee maasee maanas keeaa vanjaariaa mitraa kar mulat karam kamaahi: In the tenth month, you were made into a human being, O my merchant friend, and you were given your allotted time to perform good deeds (sggs 77).
As one is born into this world of names and forms, his material mother and father are delighted to see his face. Caught in emotional attachment, Maya, they love their newborn. This emotional attachment to family members and worldly affairs is compared by the Gurbani to "a ocean of fire, worst pain and anxiety, ruins, deep dark pit, horrible hell, something totally worthless, cursed living, illusion, passing shade of a tree, ignorance,  foolishness, intoxicants, pool of mud", etc.

How can this first part of life be saved? At this stage, infant's mind is innocent — free of emotional attachment or false ego.  Without meditation, however, one is sure to get drowned in the love of duality (Doojaa Bhaav). Therefore, in the very onset, the Gurbani reminds us not to get caught in emotional attachment to the child, instead, one must remember and reflect upon the Divine to whom the child belongs. Such pious family environment also helps the infant develop Spiritual inclinations instead of material or evil instincts. 

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਪਹਿਲੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਹਰਿ ਜਪੀਐ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ ॥੧॥: Kahu Nanak praanee pahlai pahrai Hari japeeai kirpaa dhaar ||1||: Says, Nanak, O mortal, in the first watch of the night, dwell upon God, who will shower you with His Grace ||1|| (sggs 77).
The Gurbani says that we harvest and eat exactly what we have planted for ourselves in this body field (Khet). Further, if the seed is planted on right time, it will bring the best harvest. Similarly, if the seed of  God's Name is planted in this first Pahar or first part of one's life, it will certainly grow into a healthy tree of Bhagti through the subsequent Parts of life. Otherwise, this very rare and difficult to attain human life will go in vain.
  • ਇਹੁ ਮਾਣਸ ਜਨਮੁ ਦੁਲੰਭੁ ਹੈ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨਾ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਸਭੁ ਜਾਏ ॥ ਹੁਣਿ ਵਤੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਬੀਜਿਓ ਅਗੈ ਭੁਖਾ ਕਿਆ ਖਾਏ ॥: Ihu maanas janam dulanbh hai naam binaa birathaa sabh jaae. Hun vatai har naam na beejio agai bhukhaa kiaa khaae: It is so difficult to obtain this human birth, and without the Naam, it is all futile and useless. Now, in this most fortunate season, man does not plant the seed of the Lord's Name; what will the hungry soul (hungry of the Naam) eat, in the world hereafter? (sggs 450).
  • ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਬੀਜਿਆ ਫਿਰਿ ਤੋਟਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਹਰਿ ਪੁੰਨ ਕੇਰੀ ॥੩॥: Jan Nanak Hari punn beejiaa phir tot na aavai Hari punn keree ||3||:  Serf Nanak has sown the virtue of God's Name; and the virtue of God's name never exhausts ||3|| (sggs 451).
Second Part Of The Life-Night

Childhood passes into youth. Through this transition, the child and parents become emotionally attached to each other without realizing that at the end, nothing will be theirs. Consequently, what sustains us in the mother's womb takes the back seat.

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਵਿਸਰਿ ਗਇਆ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥੨॥: Kahu Nanak praanee doojai Paharai visar gaiaa dhiaan: Says Nanak, in the second watch of the night, you have forgotten to meditate on the Name (sggs 75).
Without the seed of Bhagti planted in the first watch of life, one becomes intoxicated with the wine of youth and beauty. The fullness of youth rises in him like waves in the storm, and tosses him around. Day and night, he is engrossed in lust. As a result, the Pure Consciousness he was born with becomes conditioned. Instead of God's Name (Giaan...), all sorts of other worldly tastes seem sweet to him. In other words, the Truth gets replaced with falsehood, binding us to the cycle of repeated pain and delusion.
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਭਰਿ ਜੋਬਨਿ ਮੈ ਮਤਿ ॥: Doojai Pahrai raani kai vanjaariyaa mittra bhar joban mai mati: In the second watch of the night, O my merchant friend, you are intoxicated with the wine of youth and beauty (sggs 75).
Instead of clinging to the Giver, we cling to His gifts! From parents we pick up the feeling of "I, me, mine, and you", resulting in attachment to the love of duality (Doojaa Bhaav, Maya). Consequently, instead of becoming God-conscious, we becomes body-conscious (egoistic). Blinded by such mental madness, we loose the faculty of discriminative intellect (Bibek-Budhi), and then we cannot distinguish between good and evil.
  • ਦੂਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਰੈਣਿ ਕੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਮਨੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ॥: Doojai Pahrai raani kai vanjaariyaa mittra man lagaa doojai bhaai: In the second watch of the night, O my merchant friend, the mind is attached to the love of duality (sggs 76).
How can we salvage this second watch of life? The Gurbani reminds us here that the road ahead is treacherous, death never devours anyone, and that emancipation comes only by the Purity. Therefore, the Gurbani's advice is as follows: by becoming a Gurmukh (Spiritual Being...), Reflect on the Divine Name. The Gurbani also reminds us that rituals and religious ceremonies are of no use.
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਭਾਇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨਿਸਤਾਰਾ ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਵਿਆਪੈ ਦੂਜਾ ॥੨॥: Nanak bhaai bhagat nistaaraa dubidhaa biaapai doojaa ||2||: O Nanak, deliverance comes only by loving devotional worship; through duality, people are engrossed in worldliness ||2|| (sggs 75).
Third Part Of The Life-Night

The mind of a mortal whose consciousness is focussed on lust and material possessions, gets entangled in worldly and household affairs. As a result, he becomes entangled in emotional attachment to his wife, children, relatives, friends, parents, and so on. Anger and greed follows the lust. With the waves of greed rising up within, one thinks of nothing but how to accumulate more and more material wealth. This is like "gathering poison" (Maya), says the Gurbani.

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਤੀਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਬਿਖੁ ਸੰਚੇ ਅੰਧੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੩॥: Kahu Nanak praanee teejai pahrai bikh sanchai andh agiaan ||3||: Says Nanak, in the third watch of the night, the blind and ignorant person gathers poison ||3|| (Sggs 77).
In such a bewildered state of mind, one becomes completely confused, doubt-ridden and superstitious; wasting his precious time and energy uselessly. Here the Gurbani reminds us again that attachment to material wealth, property, etc., are Maya's trap thus false. In the end, one must leave these behind, and depart alone in sorrow.
  • ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤੈ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਬਿਕਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਸੰਗਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Hari ka Naam na chetai praanee bikil bhayaa sang Maya: You do not remember God's Name, and you become confused by Maya (sggs 75).
While caught in the bondage of Maya, it's impossible to practice Dharma. Under the influence of the mighty waves of greed, one avoids Shabad-Vichaar and Spiritual Company. Before one knows, youth wears itself out, and old age triumphs. The white hair come and land upon the pool of the head. The intellect leaves us, and the wisdom departs. Death draws closer and closer. Now, all one can do is repent for the evil deeds he committed and suffer the consequences.

Instead of gathering "poison" (Maya), the Gurbani's advice is to trade in Dharma. Further, we are urged by the Gurbani to engage in Shabad-Vichaar, so that we can be assured union with our Mool within.

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਤੀਜੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਚੇਤਹੁ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥੩॥: Kahu Nanak praanee teejai paharai prabh chethau liv laai ||3||: Says Nanak, O mortal, in the third watch of the night, let your consciousness be lovingly focused on God ||3|| (sggs 76).
Fourth Part Of Life-Night

At this stage of the life-game, one's body grows old and weak, eyes go blind and cannot see, ears do not hear any words, tongue is unable to taste or speak, shoulders are weighed down by the tyrant of old age, he lives only with the help of others, and finally breath comes to its end. At the final moment, the reaper comes to reap what he has planted in the previous Pahars of his life-night. The death seizes one. All his weeping and wailing then is of no avail. In an instant, one becomes a stranger!

Thus, we get exactly what we practiced throughout our life — we reap what we sow. The entire life-night spent without Spiritual Virtues, wisdom (Aatam-Giaan), detachment, and devotion to the real Mool, etc., becomes consigned to suffering. Thus, for the mentality we cultivate throughout our lives, we, the Manmukhs, suffer.

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਲਾਵੀ ਲੁਣਿਆ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੪॥੧॥: Kahu nanak praanee chauthai pahirai laavee luniaa khet ||4||1||: Says Nanak, in the fourth watch of the night, O mortal, the reaper reaped the field ||4||1|| (sggs 75).
However, one who practiced Dharma throughout their life-night, and served the Mool within each and every instant comes to realize the Naam-Surti or God-consciousness (Shabad-Surti) at the end (Self-realization). As a result, one becomes a Gurmukh, living liberated, and do away with the pains of repeated suffering.  On the contrary, one who does not realize the Mool, remains a Manmukh.
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਚਉਥੈ ਪਹਰੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੪॥: Kahu nanak praanee chauthai paharai Gurmukh Shabad pachaan ||4||: Says Nanak, O mortal, in the fourth watch of the night, the Gurmukh recognizes the Shabad ||4|| (sggs 76).
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਛੂਟੈ ਸਾਚੇ ਤੇ ਪਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੫॥੨॥: Kahu nanak praanee chootai saache te pat pat paavai ||5||2||: Says Nanak, when the mortal becomes Gurmukh, he is saved and honored by God ||5||2|| (sggs 76).
  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤ ਸੋਹਹਿ ਦਰਵਾਰੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸਦਾ ਭਵਾਤਿ ॥੫॥੧॥੪॥: Kahu Nanak Bhagat sohahi darvaare Manmukh sadaa bhavaat ||5||1||4||: Says Nanak, the devotees look beautiful in the Court of the Lord; the Manmukhs wander forever in reincarnation |5||1||4|| (sggs 78).
Thus, the Gurbani teaches us to know Mool, and we must take pleasure in loving devotion (Bhagti) while keeping the Mool . Upon becoming immersed in the Mool within, one enjoys undivided ecstasy within, and do away with the effects of pains of birth, old age, disease, and death.
  • ਕਰਿ ਸੇਵਹੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਸਭ ਚਲੀ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਦੀ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਵਹੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਢਿਲ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਕਰਿਹੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਜੁਗੁ ਜੁਗੁ ਹੋਵਹੁ ॥: Kar sevo pooraa satguru vanjaariaa mittraa sabh challee raini vihaadee. Hari sevahu khin khin dhil mool na karihu jit asthir jug jug hovahu:  Serve the Perfect True Guru, O my merchant friend; your entire life-night is passing away. Serve the Lord each and every instant—do not delay! You will become eternal throughout the ages (sggs 77).

— T. Singh

Updated on Thursday, March 15, 2012 3:18 PM (PST)

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