ਸਗਲ ਉਦਮ ਮਹਿ ਉਦਮੁ ਭਲਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਜੀਅ ਸਦਾ ॥:
Sagal uddam mahi uddamu bhalaa. Hari ka naam japhu jeeya sadaa
Of all self-efforts, the best self-effort is to persistently engage in
Naam-Jap (Understanding the Gurbani's Giaan...). (sggs 266).

Religion and the theory of Karma is used by the wily to exploit the spiritually ignorant masses, resulting in people turning to fatalistic behavior and beliefs. As a result, people begin to believe and think that it is some outside agency namely Divine dispensation or fate that has determined their present situation, not their own thinking (Soch-ਸੋਚ).

  • ਏਕ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਸਭ ਊਪਰਿ ਜੇਹਾ ਭਾਉ ਤੇਹਾ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥: Ek nadar kar vekhai sabh oopar jehaa bhaaou tehaa phal paaeeai: (The Satguru lovingly) looks alike upon all, but we receive the fruits according to our own motives (ਭਾਵਨਾ, ਨੀਅਤ, etc.) (sggs 602).
The Gurbani thus remind us that man is not the creature of his circumstances. Through self-efforts of Shabad-Vichaar, Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ), He can change his activities if he wants to. Thereby, he can change the results of his actions if he wants to. We are given this life (opportunity) to rebel against the wrong. Through the self-efforts of Shabad-Vichaar, once we become linked to our Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot, Thakur...), the Thaku fro within will prevent our mind from doing any wrong. Everyone of us in this human form is given the invitation to end the repeated pains, troubles, and doubts arising out of our mental delusion.
  • ਜੇਹਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲੁਣੈ ਕਰਮਾ ਸੰਦੜਾ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: Jehaa beejai so lunai karma sandarhaa kheut (sggs 134).
  • ਆਪਿ ਬੀਜਿ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਖਾਇ ॥: Aap beej aapae hee khaai: As we plant, so we harvest and eat (sggs 25).
  • ਜੇਹੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਤੇਹਾ ਤਿਨ ਰਾਹੁ ॥: Jehee surit tehaa tin raah: As is (beings') awareness, so is (their) way (sggs 25).
  • ਜੈਸਾ ਸੇਵੈ ਤੈਸੋ ਹੋਇ ॥੪॥: Jaisaa sevai taiso hoi ||4||: one becomes just like the One he serves (as one thinks, so he becomes). ||4|| (sggs 223).
  • ਜੇਹੀ ਮਨਸਾ ਕਰਿ ਲਾਗੈ ਤੇਹਾ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਏ ॥: Jehee mansaa kar laagai tehaa phal paae: As are the desires (ਮਨ ਦੀ ਕਾਮਨਾ ) one harbors (when he serves the Satguru), so are the rewards one receives (as is the aspiration, so is the reward) (sggs 116).
Thus, the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) cautions us against fatalism. It seems to rejects fatalistic thinking, belief or behavior, and warns those who use it as just another device to exploit the unsuspecting people. The Gurbani emphasize the need for self-effort for both material needs and Spiritual Progress.
  • ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ਜੇਹਾ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲੇ ॥: Dukh sukh deeaa jehaa keeaa so nibahai jeea naale: God bestows pain and pleasure, according to the deeds done; the record of these actions stays with the Soul (sggs 581).

The Gurbani takes the ball out of God's court and places it firmly in our court because, for our pain and pleasure, we can blame neither God nor a devil nor some other outside agency.

If some outside agency is responsible for all our troubles, then we humans have no responsiblity!! Then why follow Truth (ਸਚ), Dharma, or engage in Shabad-Vichaar or Bhagti, etc.!! It does not make any senses.

Simply put, our thoughts and Mayaic efforts are responsible for our troubles. Whether we want to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions or not is irrelevant. We reap exactly what we sow. As indicated in the Gurbani, man is the architect of his own fate or destiny because every thought and action of him builds his future experience. In this regard, self-effort called Uddam in the Gurbani is very essential. In fact, our self-effort is the best help we can count on! This Gurbani Reflection will attempt to reflect on the following in this context:

  • The meaning of self-effort, divine will, and fate
  • Renouncing fatalism
  • Impure self-effort
  • Pure self-effort
The Meaning Of Self-Effort, Divine Will, And Fate

Inactivity is death. Only a corpse is inactive. Everybody else in this universe is active through mind, speech, or body. Such activities yield appropriate results which determine the mind's condition. The Gurbani says this life is a field (Khet) our efforts, in which whatever we sow so do we reap. To put it otherwise, as is the effort so is the fruit. For example, if our efforts are Mayaic, the results or effects will be accordingly. On the other hand, if our efforts are Spiritual, the results or effects will be accordingly as well. Therefore, what we call Divine dispensation or fate is none other than the fruits of our own actions or self-efforts.

  • ਬੀਜੁ ਬੋਵਸਿ ਭੋਗ ਭੋਗਹਿ ਕੀਆ ਅਪਣਾ ਪਾਵਏ ॥: Beej bovas bhog bhogahi keeyaa appnaa pavaye: As are the seeds one plants, so are the fruits; he receives the consequences of his own efforts (sggs 705).
The Cosmic Order (Hukam) people refer to as Divine Law or ordain or fate ensures that one's every effort is blessed with appropriate fruition. This Cosmic Order is maintained by the Infinite Consciousness that revels everything (Inner-Knower). Therefore it does not seem wise or appropriate to blame Cosmic Order (Hukam) if don't stop my mind from doing wrong or engaging in Mayaic efforts. We blame Cosmic Order (Hukam) for mere self-satisfaction. In fact it is the fruits of one's own efforts (Mayaic or Spiritual) that manifest as tendencies.
  • ਦਦੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੇਊ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਕਰੰਮਾ ਆਪਣਿਆ ॥ ਜੋ ਮੈ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੀਜੈ ਅਵਰ ਜਨਾ ॥: Daddai dos na deooo kisai dos krammaa aapaniaa. Jo mai keeaa so mai paaiaa dos na deejai avar janaa: Dadda (a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet), I should not blame anyone else (for my suffering); I blame instead my own actions. Whatever I did, for that I have suffered; I don't blame anyone else (sggs 433).
  • ਕਰਮਾ ਉਪਰਿ ਨਿਬੜੈ ਜੇ ਲੋਚੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ॥: Karma upper nibrai je lochai sabh koi: According to one's actions, his destiny unfolds, even though everyone wants to be so lucky (sggs 157).

Renouncing Fatalism

Renouncing fatalism is applying self-effort (Uddam, etc.) in Spiritual Unfoldment (Shabad-Vichaar...).

  • ਉਦਮੁ ਕੀਆ ਕਰਾਇਆ ਆਰੰਭੁ ਰਚਾਇਆ ॥: (The Satiguroo) inspired me to make the effort (Shabad-Vichaar; I did it, and made a beginning (Naam Japa: understanding the Naam...). (sggs 399).
The present efforts are more potent than the past efforts. Those who are fatalists are simply satisfied with the fruits of their old self-effort; which they regard as fate or destiny. Consequently, in this foolish frame of mind, they waste the present by not engaging in self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...), "here" and "now". In fact, according to the scriptures, the appropriate present self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...) can erase the effects of old efforts.
  • ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਾਟੈ ਕੋਟਿ ਕਰਮ ॥੩॥੧॥: Gur ka Shabad kaatai koti karam ||3||1||: The Gur-Shabad eradicates millions of Karma ||3||1|| (sggs 1195).
Without self-effort or exertion one cannot even jump over the footprint of an animal. The Uddam alone determines for whatever we attain here. Therefore, the wise seeker (the Gurmukh) knows that the fruits of his actions are commensurate with the intensity of his self-effort "now" (Shabad-Vichaar...). Accordingly, he does not sit and blame an outside agency. For example, if one is hungry, he can appease his hunger by taking food. If he does not make effort to take food, or if he just sits there on account of his fate (fatalism), he is sure to die of starvation!

Grieving over inevitability is fatalism. For example, knowing that the death is inevitable, a fatalist will daily worry and grieve it. The Gurbani emphasizes for persistently applying self-effort that leads to Spiritual Wisdom (Aatm Giaan). Upon acquiring Spiritual Wisdom one realizes that this self-effort is not without its own end, but an indispensable means to the end. Thus, the Gurmukh (the Wise, Spiritual being, Enlightened, etc.) knows what is attainable by self-effort and what is not. As such, he will renounce the fatalism. To the contrary, a Manmukh (spiritually ignorant, fool, ego-being, materialistic, etc.) will name an outside agency for his suffering. For example, when someone is in suffering and pain, people generally console him by suggesting and saying: "it is your fate"!

  • ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਵੈ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨਾਚੈ ਆਪੁ ਨਿਵਾਰੇ ॥: Uddamu krat hovai manu niramal naachai aapu nivaare: Making the effort (e.g., Shabad-Vichaar...), the mind becomes pure; in this dance, the false self (egotism, Haumai...) is Silenced (sggs 381).
  • ਤੁਹ ਕੁਟਹਿ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਕਰਮ ਕਰਹਿ ਭਾਈ ਪਲੈ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥: Tuh kutahi manmukh karam karahi bhaaee pallai kishoo na paai ||2||: Actions performed by the Manmukh are like the threshing of the chaff — they obtain nothing for their efforts ||2|| (sggs 603).
Everything is achieved by self-effort; not by sitting idle. Even the mighty lion has to go out and hunt! No prey falls into its mouth if it stays idle. An ant goes a long distance as it keeps moving. Even mighty eagle can not make any progress if he does not get up and move! Similarly, no one can attain Yoga (union with God) by mere daydreaming or talking!
  • ਗਲੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥: Galleen yogu n hoyee (sggs 730).
Impure Self-Effort

Impure efforts are Mayaic efforts that only increase bondage to worldliness. In such selfishness, our love is false, our acts are false, and we become fully engrossed in falsehood. As a result, we become a display of lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride, mental stubbornness, and enviousness. This is what the Gurbani calls collecting of "Poison" (i.e., Maya). Except the Naam (Aatam Giaan...), all else is this poison.

  • ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਧਨੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਹੋਰੁ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਛਾਰਾ ॥: Vin naavai hor dhan naahee hor bikhiaa sabh shaaraa: Without God’s Name, there is no other wealth (that will stay with us - ਨਾਲ ਨਿਭਣ ਵਾਲਾ). Everything else (the wealth of Maya - ਮਾਇਆ ਵਾਲਾ ਧਨ) is just poison and ashes (sggs 141).
All demoniac tendencies in a man represent his inauspicious efforts. We are not born to live a corrupt life. But this is exactly what happens if one clings to non-eternal things. When there is clinging to nonessential efforts (Mayaic efforts), their is arrogance and corrupt desires. With such conditioned mind, it is not possible to love our Mool within (Source, Origin...). This false ego is the veil that conceals the Truth. The Gurbani compares such lifestyle with animals. In this context, the Gurbani gracefully teaches us as follows:
  • ਉਦਮ ਕਰਹਿ ਅਨੇਕ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਗਾਵਹੀ ॥ ਭਰਮਹਿ ਜੋਨਿ ਅਸੰਖ ਮਰਿ ਜਨਮਹਿ ਆਵਹੀ ॥ ਪਸੂ ਪੰਖੀ ਸੈਲ ਤਰਵਰ ਗਣਤ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਆਵਏ ॥ ਬੀਜੁ ਬੋਵਸਿ ਭੋਗ ਭੋਗਹਿ ਕੀਆ ਅਪਣਾ ਪਾਵਏ ॥ ਰਤਨ ਜਨਮੁ ਹਾਰੰਤ ਜੂਐ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਆਪਿ ਨ ਭਾਵਹੀ ॥ ਬਿਨਵੰਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਰਮਹਿ ਭ੍ਰਮਾਏ ਖਿਨੁ ਏਕੁ ਟਿਕਣੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਹੀ ॥੨॥: Uddam kare anek Hari naam na gaavahi ...: (because of egotism and its faults - Bikaars, the man) makes all sorts of efforts, but he does not sing God's Name (Naam-Japanaa, meditation on the Lord's Name, etc.). He wanders around in countless incarnations; he dies, only to be born again. (He is born) as beasts, birds, stones and trees — their number cannot be known. As are the seeds he plants (self-efforts), so are the fruits (ਫਲ) he enjoys; he receives the consequences of his own doing. He loses the jewel of this (precious) human life in the gamble, and God is not pleased with him at all. Prays Nanak, wandering in doubt, he does not find any rest, even for an instant ||2|| (sggs 705).
With the birth of ignorance of the Mool withinf, self-binding actions arise. Such actions are considered impure; for they are performed with an attached mind solely for the attainment of sensual experience (Mayaic tastes). As the Gurbani tells us, the delight derived from such sense-pleasures is fleeting at its best, and it binds the Soul to sorrows (Dukha).
  • ਦੁਖ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੰਮੈ ਦੁਖਿ ਮਰੈ ਦੁਖ ਵਿਚਿ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਇ ॥ ਗਰਭ ਜੋਨੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਨ ਕੀਨੀ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਭਾਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Dukh vich jamme dukh vich kaar kamaai ...: (The self-willed Manmukh) in pain he is born, in pain he dies, and in pain he does his deeds. He can never be released from the womb of reincarnation, (because, he) is ever immersed in manure (of Bikaars, evil passions, etc.). ||1|| Cursed, cursed is the self-willed Manmukh, who wastes his life away. He does not serve the Perfect Guru; he does not love the Name of the Lord. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1130).
Pure Self-Effort

The Pure self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...) is essential for Self-development, Self-improvement, Sel-integration, and Self-unfoldment; which, in turn, leads one to reach his Mool (Source, Origin...) within and the acme of Perfection (Pooran Giaan... ).

We constantly accumulate material filth or Mall (mental rubbish) in us. As our hearts are full of such Mall, there is no room for Divine Substance. Therefore, we must keep clearing the mental rubbish that keep accumulating daily in us. This inner "disposing of the garbage" is achieved by the pure self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar...).

  • ਸੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਮਹਿ ਏਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: So kish kar jit mail na laagai. Har kirtan mahi eh manu jaagai ||Rahaaou||: Make only those efforts by which the "filth" (fith of Bikaars: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and their countless variations) may not stick to your mind; and your mind remains awake (alert or aware of the pull of Bikaars) through the Lord's Kirtan (ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਸਿਫ਼ਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ) (sggs 199).

The very essence of all scriptures can be summed up in these words: Divert the impure mind to pure endeavor by persistent self-effort. The self-effort which diverts the impure mind to Purity is based on the Divine Knowledge (Aatam Giaan). Such self-effort brings an Inner Awakening in the intelligence, which leads mind to make Pure decisions, resulting in righteous physical action.

Self-effort consists of mental, verbal or physical action. However, the Pure self-effort is that which is in accordance with God's Teaching (Gurmat or Shabad-Giaan). So called God's grace is proportional to the intensity of such pure exertion. Moreover, (non-Mayaic) actions performed in conjunction with Giaan of the Gurbani instead of the deluded mind become non-actions, thereby non-binding.

  • ਭਗਤ ਸੋਹਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਸਦਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਜੈਕਾਰਾ ਰਾਮ ॥: Bhagat sohan Hari ke gun gaavahi sadaa karahi jai kaaraa Raam: I(With God's Grace) the devotees are adorned, they sing God's Glorious Praises; they proclaim His Eternal Victory (they become that of a spiritual Life - ਸੋਹਣੇ ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਾਲੇ ਬਣਦੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ) (sggs 784).
Any other self-effort that is not in accordance with the Giaan of the Gurbani is motivated by delusion (Maya), hence impure and self-binding. Accordingly, the Gurbani urges us that right from the childhood one should make Uddam of Reflecting on the Gurbani (Shabad-Vichaar).
  • ਸਗਲ ਉਦਮ ਮਹਿ ਉਦਮੁ ਭਲਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਜੀਅ ਸਦਾ ॥: Sagal uddam mahi uddamu bhalaa. Hari ka naam japhu jeeya sadaa: Of all self-efforts, the best self-effort is to persistently engage in Naam-Jap (Understanding the Gurbani's Giaan...). (sggs 266).

Man's true self-effort and God's Grace are interdependent. Without one, the other is impossible. The Divine is unattainable by ceremonies, rituals, pilgrimage, education, scholarships or material wealth. He is attained by transcending Maya. Fate or divine dispensation does not enter here. Accordingly, theGurbani urges us to to cultivate Divine Wisdom (Aatm Giaan through Shabad-Vichaar), and then constantly live it.

— T. Singh