Bhav Saagar – the Ocean of Worldly Life…

The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Grant Sahib (SGGS) teaches us about (1) Sukh Saagar (‘ਸੁਖ ਸਾਗਰ’), and (2) Bhav Saagar (ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ).

This post will attempt (through the SGGS) to Reflect on the ‘Bhav Saagar’:

  1. What’s ‘Bhav Saagar‘?
  2. Where is it located?
  3. Who is caught in it?
  4. Who is not caught in it?
  5. Last but not least, how to get across it?

What is ‘Bhav Saagar’?

Bhavsaagar is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms ‘Bhav‘ and ‘Saagar‘. Literally:
Bhav’ (‘ਭਵ’) = world, worldly existence, birth, Maya etc.
Saagar’ (‘ਸਾਗਰ’) = sea, ocean, ਸਮੁੰਦਰ etc.

Hence, ‘Bhav Saagar’ (ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ) = ocean of corrupting influences of worldly temptations.

To say it otherwise, it is a ocean of attachment to Maya, ocean of vices or Bikaar (i.e. lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride…), ocean of materiality, Mayaic mind, worldliness, ill-thoughts, ill-doings, bad habits, wickedness or badness (ਬੁਰਾਈ), desires, fear, mental traps or bondage, Bharam or doubt, Dubidhaa (duality – ਦੁਬਿਧਾ’, suffering (‘ਦੁਖ ਸਾਗਰੁ’) etc.

  • ਝੜ ਝਖੜ ਓਹਾੜ ਲਹਰੀ ਵਹਨਿ ਲਖੇਸਰੀ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਿਉ ਆਲਾਇ ਬੇੜੇ ਡੁਬਣਿ ਨਾਹਿ ਭਉ ॥੪॥ : In this ocean of worldly life, millions of waves of vices or Bikaar surge like the torrential rains, storms and floods. If you call upon the Satigur (i.e. true Wisdom-ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) for help, then you will not have any fear of drowning your boat of life in this world-ocean of vices or Bikaar. ||4|| (sggs 1410).

It is also mentioned by many other terms in the Gurbani. A few are quoted here: Bhavjal (‘ਭਵਜਲੁ’), Bhaoujali (‘ਭਉਜਲਿ’), Bhaoujal (‘ਭਉਜਲੁ’), Sansaar Saagar (‘ਸੰਸਾਰ ਸਾਗਰ’), Saagar Sansaare (‘ਸਾਗਰੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੇ’), Bhav Dutar (‘ਭਵ ਦੁਤਰੁ’), Kali Ghor Samudr (‘ਕਲਿ ਘੋਰ ਸਮੁਦ੍ਰ’), Samund (‘ਸਮੁੰਦ’), Bhav Sindh (‘ਭਵ ਸਿੰਧ’), Bhav Nidhi (‘ਭਵ ਨਿਧਿ’) etc.

  • ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਤਜਿ ਬਨ ਖੰਡ ਜਾਈਐ ਚੁਨਿ ਖਾਈਐ ਕੰਦਾ ॥ ਅਜਹੁ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਨ ਛੋਡਈ ਪਾਪੀ ਮਨੁ ਮੰਦਾ ॥੧॥ ਕਿਉ ਛੂਟਉ ਕੈਸੇ ਤਰਉ ਭਵਜਲ ਨਿਧਿ ਭਾਰੀ ॥ ਰਾਖੁ ਰਾਖੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਬੀਠੁਲਾ ਜਨੁ ਸਰਨਿ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : Even if we abandon our households and go to forests and jungles, and survive by eating root vegetables; but still this Bikaar-ridden and vices- ridden mind doesn’t forsake its evil pursuits. ||1|| (O God), how can I get liberated? How can I swim across this Bhavjal? O my God, I have come to Your refuge (of Virtues / Wisdom), save me from this Bhavjal. ||1||Pause||(sggs 855).

In a nutshell, whatever we see with our physical eyes is Bhav Saagar.

Since the Gurbani addresses the mind, from a spiritual standpoint, Bhav Saagar (ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ) = Manmukhi-Saakat-Mayadhaaree mindset, Mayaic mindset, ignorant mind, Bikaar or vice ridden mind, deluded mind, wandering mind, doubt-ridden mind, Haumai mind (false ego-sense), mind separated from its Mool (Source, Jot Saroop, Original Nature…), conditioned mind, stubborn mind, mind ridden with Parpanch or Pakhand etc.

  • ਦੁਤਰ ਅੰਧ ਬਿਖਮ ਇਹ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: This Maya (as if it is an ocean) which is full of darkness and difficult to cross. (sggs 377).
  • ਸੈਸਾਰ ਗਾਰ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਸਾਗਰ ਪਤਿਤ ਮੋਹ ਮਾਨ ਅੰਧ ॥ ਬਿਕਲ ਮਾਇਆ ਸੰਗਿ ਧੰਧ ॥: This world is like a swamp of vices or Bikaar, the mortals blinded by the emotional attachment and pride remain caught up in it, and they remain bewildered by the love for Maya and worldly entanglements. (sggs 1306).
  • ਸਾਗਰ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਭਵ ਉਤਾਰ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਬਹੁ ਤਰੇ ॥: This world is Bhav Saagar; by remembering the Naam many people are crossing (this Bhav Saagar). (sggs 377).

Where is Bhav Saagar located?

The Gurbani reveals that the Bhav Saagar is within the Sukh Saagar:

  • ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰ ਸੁਖ ਸਾਗਰ ਮਾਹੀ ॥: The Bhav Saagar is within the Sukh Saagar. (sggs 323).

Understandably, the Gurbani tells us that a Wise or Enlightened person sees the visible or gross within the Invisible!

  • ਸੂਖਮ ਮਹਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਅਸਥੂਲੁ ॥: (A Pandit who understands the Essence) sees the visible (‘Asathool-ਅਸਥੂਲ’-material, gross world or Jagat…) within the Invisible (‘Sookham-ਸੂਖਮ’ – subtle…). (sggs 274).

In other words, a Spiritually Enlightened person (ie. Gurmukh State of the Mind) sees the Bhav Saagar in the Sukh Saagar.

Who is caught in Bhav Saagar?

According to the Gurbani, caught in this Bhav Saagar are unenlightened beings – Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree mindsets.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਭਉਜਲਿ ਪਚਿ ਮੁਏ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਤਰੇ ਅਥਾਹੁ ॥੮॥੧੬॥: The Manmukhs decay and die (Spiritual death) in the dreadful and bottomless ‘Bhaoujali‘ of vices but those who have become Enlightened – Gurmukh Mindsets – swim across. ||8||16|| (sggs 64).

As a result of not living daily life with the Guru’s Wisdom, some are already drowned in the Bhav Saagar (of Maya), some are stuck half-way.

  • ਤਿਤੁ ਸਰਵਰੜੈ ਭਈਲੇ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਾਵਕੁ ਤਿਨਹਿ ਕੀਆ ॥ ਪੰਕਜੁ ਮੋਹ ਪਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਚਾਲੈ ਹਮ ਦੇਖਾ ਤਹ ਡੂਬੀਅਲੇ ॥੧॥: ||1||: That (world) pool, (in which people) have made their homes, there is the fire (of Maya in it, instead of) the water! In the mud of emotional attachment, (their) feet cannot move. As we see, (many Jeeva stuck in this mire of attachment) are drowning there. ||1|| (sggs 12).
  • ਭੂਡੜੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਬੂਡੜੈ ਕਿਆ ਤਿਸੁ ਚਾਰੋ ॥ ਗੁਣ ਛੋਡਿ ਬਿਖੁ ਲਦਿਆ ਅਵਗੁਣ ਕਾ ਵਣਜਾਰੋ ॥੩॥ : (Stuck in Maya) the wicked person has forgotten the Naam; he is drowning – he cannot do anything to help himself. Forsaking Virtues, he has loaded (gathered…) the poison (of Maya…); (thus, during his lifetime, he) trades in demerits. (sggs 580).

Who is not caught in Bhav Saagar?

The SGGS teaches us that very ‘rare‘ ones realize the treacherousness of this Bhav Saagar! Those who realize how treacherous this Bhav Saagar is are called Enlightened beings (Gurmukh Mindset). in the SGGS

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਉਤਰਹੁ ਪਾਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: By becoming the Gurmukh, cross over the ‘Baoujal’. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 229).
  • ਮਹਾ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਵਿਰਲੈ ਪੇਖਿਆ ॥ Rare (one) has realized how very treacherous is this ocean (of Maya…)!|(sggs 398).

How can Bhav Saagar be crossed over?

  • ਕੈਸੇ ਮਨ ਤਰਹਿਗਾ ਰੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਬਿਖੈ ਕੋ ਬਨਾ ॥ ਝੂਠੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਦੇਖਿ ਕੈ ਭੂਲਾ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: O my mind, how will you swim across the world-ocean filled with poisonous water of vices or Bikaar? O my mind, seeing the false Maya (love of the transitory worldly stuff), you have forgotten God and have gone astray. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 486).

In a nutshell, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS tells us that this Bhav Saagar cannot be crossed over without becoming living-dead (Enlightened, the Gurmukh mindset).

  • ਕਵਨ ਸੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਭਵਜਲ ਤਰਉ ॥੨॥ : How can I cross over the BhavJal (Bhav Saagar, ocean of Maya…). ||2|| (sggs 187).
  • ਕਿਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ॥ ਜੀਵਤਿਆ ਨਹ ਮਰੀਐ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: How can I cross over the world-ocean? While I am living, I cannot be dead (i.e., without becoming living-dead it cannot be crossed over). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 877).

In ‘Sidh Gost‘ (sggs 938), Baabaa Nanak was asked by Sidhas as to how one can cross ‘Bhav Saagar’?

  • ਦੁਨੀਆ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਦੁਤਰੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਪਾਰੋ ॥ ਚਰਪਟੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਹੁ ਸਚਾ ਬੀਚਾਰੋ ॥: Spiritual life is a challenge to undertake; how then can one do so successfully. Charpat requested (Nanak) for godly discourse on how to navigate spiritual life successfully in a detached manner. (sggs 938).

Baabaa Nanak replied as follows:

  • ਸਬਦਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਭਵਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਇਤ ਉਤ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥: The Message within the Shabad brings about the attainment of the spiritual Goal of Realization (‘BhavSaagar Treeai-ਭਵਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ’) of the one Omnipresent Creator. (sggs 944).
  • ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਮੁਰਗਾਈ ਨੈ ਸਾਣੇ ॥ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਖਾਣੇ ॥: The way to successful spirituality is to be detached from the world WHILE LIVING IN IT; just like the detachment of the Lotus from the stagnant water and the swan from the river water. O Nanak! The Journey of spirituality (i.e. to go across Bhav Saagar) is thus transversed in detachment by keeping the Message of the Shabad within our Consciousness in order to Realize / live the Virtues of God. (sggs 938).

Although a man fallen in the ocean may be a very expert swimmer and may struggle very hard to save himself from drowning. However, if someone comes and picks him up from the water, then he is easily rescued!

Similarly, Baabaa Nanak says the Wisdom or Spirituality of the Shabad picks up the struggling Jeev (individual beings) from this dreadful world-ocean of Maya (Bhav Saagar) and rescue him from deception.

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜੀਵਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭਵਜਲੁ ਤਰਣਾ ॥੨॥: Through the Gur-Shabad, the Gurmukh remains dead while yet alive, and swims across the world-ocean (of Maya…). ||2|| (sggs 69).
  • ਰਮਈਆ ਜਪਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਅਨਤ ਜੀਵਣ ਬਾਣੀ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਤਰਣਾ ॥੨॥: O mortal, Realize God through the Guru’s Bani; which bestows eternal life. In this way, you can swim across the terrifying world-ocean of vices. ||2|| (sggs 92).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਚਰਣ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਉਰਿ ਧਾਰਿ ॥ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਚੜਿ ਉਤਰਹਿ ਪਾਰਿ ॥੨॥: Enshrine God’s Naam (i.e. Wisdom / Virtues) in your mind. By boarding (the ship of the Divine Naam you will) cross over the world-ocean of vices. ||2|| (sggs 196).

In short, dying in the Gur-Shabad (Naam, Wisdom, Virtues, Message or Upadesh, Hukam etc.) is must to cross the Bhav Saagar of worldly temptations and their corrupting influences:

  • ਗੁਰ ਚਰਨੀ ਲਾਗਿ ਤਰਿਓ ਭਵ ਸਾਗਰੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਾ ॥੪॥੨੬॥੯੦॥: Nanak, by humbly following that Guru’s Giaan-Wisdom, and by Internalizing the God’s Naam, I am swimming across the worldly ocean of vices. ||4||26||90|| (sggs 630).

In other words — through the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad death of one’s false ego-sense or Haumai, Bikaar, Maya’s hunger etc. is must.

  • ਹੁਕਮੁ ਬੂਝਿ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਨਿਹਾਲਾ ਇਹ ਭਤਾ ਕੀ ਘਾਲਣਾ ॥੧੧॥: Your ‘Jan’ (Bhagats, Daas, Gurmukhs...) remain delighted by Understanding Your Hukam, and this is the achievement of Your ‘Jan‘. ||11|| (sggs 1077).
  • ਜਗੁ ਕਰੜਾ ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਖਾਈਐ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Spiritual Life is impossible in a self-willed and unenlightened state. To undertake genuine spirituality is to Become the Shabad (by Internalizing the Shabad, one can chew genuine spirituality which is difficult or hard like iron). (sggs 943).


  1. SOOCH, UNDERSTANDING is all in all
    Gurbani makes sooch GREAT ( upgrade )

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