The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) reinforces the age old fact that from Nature (Kudrat) we come and to Nature we will return, meaning our birth is in Hukam and death is also in Hukam (i.e. System-Rule-Law-Order of Nature etc.).
What we call ‘my life or Jeevan-ਜੀਵਨ’ is existence between birth and death. One may consider his/her birth pretty significant, but an insignificant occurrence in the larger scheme of the universe.
- ਕਹਾ ਤੇ ਆਵੈ ਕਹਾ ਇਹੁ ਜਾਵੈ ਕਹਾ ਇਹੁ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਈ ॥ : What Is the Origin of Life; Where does it go? What Is Its Ultimate Destination? (sggs 940).
- ਹੁਕਮੇ ਆਵੈ ਹੁਕਮੇ ਜਾਵੈ ਹੁਕਮੇ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਈ ॥ : The origin of life is by way of the Hukam; its ultimate destination is by the Way of Hukam; it is to be lived in Realization of the Hukam. (sggs 940).
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.
In short, death is a part of life, inevitable — if there is birth, there is death!
- ਅਨਿਕ ਜਤਨ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਲੁ ਸੰਤਾਏ ॥ ਮਰਣੁ ਲਿਖਾਇ ਮੰਡਲ ਮਹਿ ਆਏ ॥ : The fear of physical death is debilitating in so many ways. Destined to die, (one) comes into the world. (sggs 685).
- ਰਾਣਾ ਰਾਉ ਨ ਕੋ ਰਹੈ ਰੰਗੁ ਨ ਤੁੰਗੁ ਫਕੀਰੁ ॥ ਵਾਰੀ ਆਪੋ ਆਪਣੀ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਬੰਧੈ ਧੀਰ ॥ : All human beings – the ruled and the rulers, the poor and the wealthy, the temporal and the religious – are merely awaiting their turn. We are in all in que / line. None can step out of the que. (sggs 936).
Neither science, nor religion, nor prayers (Ardaas), nor Yoga or meditation can help us outrun or postpone death. A person who has become the Gurmukh lives his or her life meaningfully is always ready to embrace death at any time.
- ਸਭਨਾ ਮਰਣਾ ਆਇਆ ਵੇਛੋੜਾ ਸਭਨਾਹ ॥ : All have to die and all have to be separated. (sggs 595).
- ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ ਪਰੋ ਆਜੁ ਕੈ ਕਾਲਿ ॥: Whatever is born, will perish today or tomorrow (sggs 1429).
- ਆਇਆ ਮਰਣੁ ਧੁਰਾਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਈਐ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਹੋਈਐ ॥੧॥ : Death is pre-ordained and everyone who is born has to die (i.e. BIRTH IS THE PROOF OF IMPENDING DEATH) but people cry (at the death of someone) only because of false ego-sense. (On the other hand) remembering the Naam, the mind becomes unshakable and unaffected (when death comes — it remains steadfast in moments of joy and grief). ||1|| (sggs 369).
The Gurbani calls the human body ‘Jajaree-ਜਜਰੀ’ (meaning perishable, frail, weak, ਨਾਸਵੰਤ, etc.). The time eats it away, slowly and steadily, bit by bit! Ultimately It dissolves 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).
- ਨ ਦੇਵ ਦਾਨਵਾ ਨਰਾ ॥ ਨ ਸਿਧ ਸਾਧਿਕਾ ਧਰਾ ॥ ਅਸਤਿ ਏਕ ਦਿਗਰਿ ਕੁਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਤੁਈ ਏਕ ਤੁਈ ॥੨॥: No (imaginary) demigods live forever. Neither the demons (i.e. bad or corrupt people) nor human beings live forever. No Sidhas or seekers (Yogis etc.) remained here on earth. (These are all perishable, then) who else is everlasting? (O Rabb: Universal Energy, Hukam: System-Rule-Law of Nature…) You alone are forever. (sggs 143).
In a nutshell, once the time is up, an interview with death is certain!
- 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).
That being said, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS teaches us to prepare ourselves for the physical death. Because our birth is the proof of our impending physical death.
If we don’t prepare ourselves by taking the Wisdom of the SGGS and learning from it, then there will be plenty of fear, anxiety and distress about death! We cannot learn it at the last moment. This is how Bhai Gurdas Ji describes this truth of the Gurbani:
- ਜੈਸੇ ਘਰਿ ਲਾਗੈ ਆਗਿ ਜਾਗਿ ਕੂਆ ਖੋਦੀਓ ਚਾਹੈ ਕਾਰਜ ਨ ਸਿਧਿ ਹੋਇ ਰੋਇ ਪਛੁਤਾਈਐ । ਜੈਸੇ ਤਉ ਸੰਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਸਮੈ ਸੀਖਿਓ ਚਾਹੈ ਬੀਰ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਅਨਿਥਾ ਉਦਮ ਜੈਤ ਪਦਵੀ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ । ਜੈਸੇ ਨਿਸਿ ਸੋਵਤ ਸੰਘਾਤੀ ਚਲਿ ਜਾਤਿ ਪਾਛੇ ਭੋਰ ਭਏ ਭਾਰ ਬਾਧ ਚਲੇ ਕਤ ਜਾਈਐ । ਤੈਸੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਧੰਧ ਅੰਧ ਅਵਿਧ ਬਿਹਾਇ ਜਾਇ ਅੰਤਕਾਲ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿਨਾਮ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈਐ ॥੪੯੫॥: Just as while sleeping, someone’s house catches fire and he wakes up and starts digging well, he cannot succeed in putting off the fire. Instead, he then repents and cries. Just as someone wants to learn the art of warfare when the battle in progress. It is a futile effort. Victory cannot be achieved. Just as a traveler goes to sleep at night and his companions proceeded further leaving him behind, the where will he go with all his luggage when the dat breaks? Similarly, an ignorant man entangled in worldly love and attachments (i.e. hunger of Maya), spends his life accumulating wealth. How can he engross his mind to the divine Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Shabad, Hukam…) when he is on his last breaths? (Kabit Bhai Gurdas Ji, 495).
However, on account of mind’s illusion, mortals think they are important and death 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!
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.
- ਜਨਮੰ ਤ ਮਰਣੰ ਹਰਖੰ ਤ ਸੋਗੰ ਭੋਗੰ ਤ ਰੋਗੰ ॥: (Where) there is birth (there) there is also death, (where) there is happiness then there is also sorrow, (where) there are pleasures (of Mayaic or material things) then there are also diseases arising from them. (sggs 1354).
At the most, the body-frame may 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!
- 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 unreal (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 unreal. 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-Sadeevee, forever, permanent…)?
The Gurbani time and again reminds us — since the body is not forever and ever — its seeing (‘Deedaar‘ or ‘Darshan‘) cannot be forever either, ONLY the Shabad (Wisdom or Giaan, Naam, Upadesh, Hukam: System-Rule-Law of Nature…) is forever (ਸਦੀਵੀ-Sadeevee)!
Accordingly, a real Sikh (a true learner) wants to Realize the Gur-Shabad through Shabad-Vichaar (churning the Gurbani). Thus, known as a Gurmukh in the Gurbani, the whole life of such an Awakened Being becomes a celebration itself! He understands the human life’s target and the purpose. There is no fear of old age or death to him.
- 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 (= the Creator) never gets old or invalid — does not age, remains the same in past, present and future. However, as asserted by the Gurbani the Truth cannot be Realized until one is pure in 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 ॥ : The Creator is Realized then when the mind has BECOME true (sincere, genuine). (sggs 468).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਬਧਾ ਘਰੁ ਤਹਾਂ ਜਿਥੈ ਮਿਰਤੁ ਨ ਜਨਮੁ ਜਰਾ ॥੪॥੬॥੭੬॥: O Nanak! This is how the house (state of the mind) is built where there is neither death nor birth nor old age (i.e. the state of the mind free of repeated suffering. ||4||6||76|| (sggs 44).