As sunrise is the proof of immanent sunset or as the morning is the proof of approaching night, similarly, birth of an entity is the proof of it’s impending death.
The Gurbani calls the human body “Jajaree-ਜਜਰੀ” (meaning perishable, frail, weak, ਨਾਸਵੰਤ, etc.). The time eats it away, bit by bit! It dissolves slowly and steadily into the very elements from which it had come!
- ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਜਜਰੀ ਹੈ ਇਸ ਨੋ ਜਰੁ ਪਹੁਚੈ ਆਏ ॥: This body is perishable; old age overtakes it (sggs 584).
Once the measure of breath is full, interview with death is certain!
- ਮਰਣੁ ਲਿਖਾਇ ਮੰਡਲ ਮਹਿ ਆਏ ॥: Destined to die, (one) comes into the world (sggs 685).
- ਕੋ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਭਰੀਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੫॥: No one remains here when the count of the breaths is full ||5|| (sggs 465).
- ਮਲਕਲ ਮਉਤ ਜਾਂ ਆਵਸੀ ਸਭ ਦਰਵਾਜੇ ਭੰਨਿ ॥: Crushing death comes breaking open all doors (destroying all bodily senses or faculties, etc.). (sggs 1383).
However, on account of mind’s illusion, mortals think they are important and this will not happen to them!
Recently I read these beautiful lines inscribed on someone’s tombstone:
میں اہم تھا۔ = Mai Aham Thaa = I was important,
یہی وہم تھا = Yehi Veham Thaa = This was (my) illusion!
The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) time and again reminds us: Anything that appears will soon disappear. In other words, if there is birth, there is death. Use whatever euphemism you want to use for death, it cannot be avoided. In all directions, wherever we go, we will find it waiting — waiting from the moment one is born. Simply put, anything born must finish one day.
Between birth and death is “Jeevan-ਜੀਵਨ” (life, living, livelihood…). At the most, the body-frame can live through the three stages — childhood, youth, and old age (ਬੁਢੇਪਾ). After the third stage — old age (“Jaru-ਜਰੁ”, senility) — there is the death of the body-frame!
- ਬਾਲ ਜੁਆਨੀ ਅਰੁ ਬਿਰਧਿ ਫੁਨਿ ਤੀਨਿ ਅਵਸਥਾ ਜਾਨਿ ॥: Childhood, youth and old age – know these as the three stages of life (sggs 1428).
- ਜਨਨੀ ਜਾਨਤ ਸੁਤੁ ਬਡਾ ਹੋਤੁ ਹੈ ਇਤਨਾ ਕੁ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਜਿ ਦਿਨ ਦਿਨ ਅਵਧ ਘਟਤੁ ਹੈ ॥: The mother thinks that her son is growing up; (but) she does not understand that, day by day, his life is diminishing (sggs 91).
The Gurbani equates human life with a night, which could be of a few days, few months, few years. some may live up to 100 years or more. Regardless, everybody’s life-night must end, sooner or later.
- ਰਾਤਿ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਧਨੁ ਸੰਚੀਐ ਭਲਕੇ ਚਲਣੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: (The mortal) accumulates wealth for a night of his life, but in the morning, (he) must depart. (sggs 787).
One can color his or her hair to hide old age (ਬੁਢੇਪਾ), or get plastic surgery done to hide the signs of old age, but death ‘suddenly pounces’ just as a hawk suddenly pounces on an unsuspecting bird engaged in play!
- ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ ਪਰੋ ਆਜੁ ਕੈ ਕਾਲਿ ॥: Whatever is born will perish, today or tomorrow (sggs 1429).
- ਕੇਲ ਕਰੇਦੇ ਹੰਝ ਨੋ ਅਚਿੰਤੇ ਬਾਜ ਪਏ ॥: While a Hans (swan, goose…) is engaged in play, a hawk suddenly pounces on it. (sggs 1383).
The Gurbani also compares this human body with a clay-built pitcher. In a cracked clay-built pitcher, water will slowly and steadily leak out. Similarly, this pitcher of the human body — which also got cracked as soon as it took the first breath — will perish as well!
- ਛਿਨੁ ਛਿਨੁ ਅਉਧ ਬਿਹਾਤੁ ਹੈ ਫੂਟੈ ਘਟ ਜਿਉ ਪਾਨੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Each and every moment, your life is passing away, like water from a cracked pitcher. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 726).
- ਪਵਨਿ ਅਫਾਰ ਤੋਰ ਚਾਮਰੋ ਅਤਿ ਜਜਰੀ ਤੇਰੀ ਰੇ ਮਾਟੁਲੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (O man!) Your skin is puffed up by air, and your body-pitcher has grown old (frail, etc.). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1246).
That which is Real never ends, and that which ends is not Real (i.e., false, impermanent, “ਸੋ ਕਾਚੋ ਕਾਚਾ”). Thus, the Gurbani’s edict is what comes and goes is not Real.
Anything that is time-bound cannot be Eternal (ਸਦੀਵੀ, forever, permanent…), hence not Real. To be Real means to be free of beginning, middle and end. Whatever comes and goes is bound and limited by beginning, middle and end, therefore unreal.
- ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਚਾਲਨਹਾਰੁ ॥: Whatever is seen (entire material world) is perishable (sggs 268).
Then what is Eternal (ਸਦੀਵੀ, forever, permanent…)?
The Gurbani time and again reminds us — since the body is not forever and ever (ਸਦੀਵੀ-Sadeevee) — its seeing (“Deedaar” or “Darshan”) cannot be forever (ਸਦੀਵੀ-Sadeevee, permanent), ONLY the Shabad (Wisdom or Giaan, Naam, Upadesh, Hukam or Sytem-Rule-Law of Nature…) is forever (ਸਦੀਵੀ-Sadeevee)!
Accordingly, a real Sikh (a true learner of the SGGS) wants to Realize the Gur-Shabad through Shabad-Vichaar (Reflections on the Gurbani). Thus, known as a Gurmukh in the Gurbani, the whole life of such an Awakened Being becomes a celebration itself! He knows the human life’s target and the purpose.
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੀਵੈ ਮਰੈ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥ ਆਰਜਾ ਨ ਛੀਜੈ ਸਬਦੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥: (Who ) becomes the Gurmukh, (his) life and death is of avail (ਸਫਲ, ਕਬੂਲ). (His) life does not waste away; (because he) realizes the “Sabadu” (sggs 125).
The Gurbani tells us that the Truth (“ਸਚੁ”) never gets old or invalid — does not age, remains the same in past, present, future…). However, the Gurbani confirms that the Truth cannot be Realized until one is pure in heart or mind.
- ਸਚੁ ਪੁਰਾਣਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਸੀਤਾ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਪਾਟੈ ॥: The Truth does not grow old; and once stitched, it is never torn again (sggs 956).
- ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਸਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: Truth is known then when the Truth is in the Heart (sggs 468).
Accordingly, a Gurmukh is also said to never grow old as well!
Obviously, here the Gurbani is talking about the ‘old’ (or the young) from a Spiritual standpoint! In nutshell, a Gurmukh abides in Truth or spiritual Wisdom of the SGGS – his Budh or intellect has become ‘Kheevaa-ਖੀਵਾ’ or Enlightened, his mind has left the ‘Trikutee-ਤ੍ਰਿਕੁਟੀ’ and has come to rest into the Heart (“Hirdaa-ਹਿਰਦਾ”, “Ghat-ਘਟ”, ‘Khorr‘, ‘Dasavaa Duaaru-ਦਸਵਾ ਦੁਆਰੁ’). His Haumai is extinguished.
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੁਢੇ ਕਦੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥: The Gurmukhs never grow old; within them is Intuitive Understanding and spiritual Wisdom (understanding of the real purpose of life, consciousness of Divine Knowledge, ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਸੂਝ ਦਾ ਟਿਕਾਵ, ਆਤਮਕ ਅਡੋਲਤਾ, ਸਹਜ ਧਿਆਨੁ, etc.) (sggs 1418).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਬਧਾ ਘਰੁ ਤਹਾਂ ਜਿਥੈ ਮਿਰਤੁ ਨ ਜਨਮੁ ਜਰਾ ॥੪॥੬॥੭੬॥: Nanak has secured his House (-Heart) where there is no death and no old age (to Spiritual Life), and no birth (repeated suffering). ||4||6||76|| (sggs 44).
- ਹਰਿ ਸੇਤੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਗਹਿ ਰਹੈ ਜਰਾ ਕਾ ਭਉ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੀਵਨ ਪਦਵੀ ਪਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Consciousness shall hold on to Hari (Mool…). Spiritual Status of life (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦਾ ਦਰਜਾ, immortal Status…) so obtained shall have no fear of old age. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 490).