Gurmat Concept of Death

Our Spiritual Guide, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), asks us to START living the Joyful Life (ANAND) HERE and NOW. In order to do that, the Gurbani (SGGS) teaches us STOP living in fear, anxiety and stress of DEATH. Instead, START living in the Spirituality of the Shabad (Enlightenment).

Gurmat or the Spirituality of the Shabad (SGGS) is for life HERE AND NOW, NOT AFTERLIFE. Gurmat debunks the concocted narrative of after death liberation (mukti)! 

Our Gurus and Bhagat Sahibaan questioned every cultural, religious, political traditions and proclamations. They redefined / changed them as the situation demanded. They all courageously and firmly stood up against the long held stale traditions, concocted narratives, and futile rituals (Karamkaand) of Hindus, Musalmans, Yogis, Jain etc.

In a Revolutionary way, Baabaa Nanak redefined all pre-1469 spiritual concepts and traditions of Sanatan, Brahmanical, Yogic and that of Semitic religions etc. — concepts such as God, after death journey, Paap Punn, Sutak (pronounced Sootak-ਸੂਤਕ), Hell and Heaven, Religion, Dharma, Ghosts or Bhoot Pret, cycle of reincarnation (Avaa Gavan), ritual bathing, locations of pilgrimage (Tirath), Kirtan (ਕੀਰਤਨ), Bhagti (ਭਗਤੀ), Jum Doot/Dharma Raj/Chitr Gupt etc.

  • ਕਾਦੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੋਲਿ ਮਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੀਆ ਘਾਇ ॥ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਅੰਧੁ ॥ ਤੀਨੇ ਓਜਾੜੇ ਕਾ ਬੰਧੁ ॥੨॥: The clergy of the Muslim faith was corrupt, the Brahmin was murderous and the Yogi Un-Enlightened. These three (clergy) had become the root cause for the spiritual wreckage and desolation that mankind had
    come to endure. (sggs 662).

All composers of the Gurbani (SGGS) have used terms that were already within the use and within the psyche of people of their time. However, these terms — afterlife, death etc. — have been used in the SGGS as examples (ਹਵਾਲਾ), but explicitly with new meanings and understanding to fit the new spiritual paradigms of Sikhi or Gurmat of Baabaa Nanak; NOT to regurgitate pre-1469 beliefs.

The Gurmat Giyan-Wisdom in the SGGS talks about three types of death:

  1. Death – transformation – of the physical body-frame (ਸਰੀਰਕ ਮੌਤ), which everybody has to go through, no exception. Nobody can neither avoid nor stop it.
  2. Death of the spiritual or divine life (death of Gurmukh Lifestyle, Aatmak Maut – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ) on account of vices/Bikaar. This death can be avoided and stopped.
  3. Dying in the Shabad (realization/internalization of the Enlightening Spiritual Message of the Guru Shabad), which causes death of vices/Bkaar, delusion of Maya etc. This death is also in one’s control, hence, can be avoided and stopped.

1. Death – transformation – of the physical body

Gurbani in the SGGS teaches us that death of the physical body is certain.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਜਾਇਗਾ ਸਕਹੁ ਤ ਲੇਹੁ ਬਹੋਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਂਗੇ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਤੇ ਗਏ ਜਿਨ ਕੇ ਲਾਖ ਕਰੋਰਿ ॥੨੭॥ : Kabeer, this body will perish one day, stop it if you have the power (to save you from physical death)! Remember, even the richest of the rich depart nude after time. ||27|| (sggs 1365).

‘What happens after death?’

The answer to this question provided by the institutionalized and organized religion and their self-styled and self-serving Pujaaree (clergy) is: (1) either one goes to heaven/hell (2) or one gets reincarnated. This concocted answer of the institutionalized and organized religion keeps people riding the wagon of concocted ‘fear‘ and ‘promises’


In fact, Gurmat (SGGS) liberates us from this concocted fear and false promises of the institutionalized and organized religion, and their self-styled and self-serving Pujaaree (clergy).

Looking at it from the point of view of the Creator’s Hukam (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) or the Gurbani, THERE IS NO DEATH – it is cyclic returning of the elements that make up our physical body back to their Origin.

In short, looking at from the spiritual world, the Gurbani teaches us:

  • The Creator/Hukam is Universal Energy which can neither be created nor destroyed it just changes its form and manifestation.
  • The same ONE Universal Energy appears in everything including our human body. This Energy moves on when the body dies.
  • As such, the Gurbani further teaches us WE NEVER DIE.
  • Hence, the Spiritual world we exist in is an infinite existence.

Guru Arjan Ji explains this process beautifully in the following Shabad that inquires: What or who is it that dies? It defines physical death as the CYCLIC RETURN of Elements to their Origins; it teaches us what happens to life after death (life itself returns to its Source-‘ਜੋਤੀ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਲਿ ਜਾਇਆ’). This is the only journey one undertakes. There is NO exception to this order, nature and cycle.

  • ਪਵਨੈ ਮਹਿ ਪਵਨੁ ਸਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਜੋਤੀ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਲਿ ਜਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਾਟੀ ਮਾਟੀ ਹੋਈ ਏਕ ॥ ਰੋਵਨਹਾਰੇ ਕੀ ਕਵਨ ਟੇਕ ॥੧॥ ਕਉਨੁ ਮੂਆ ਰੇ ਕਉਨੁ ਮੂਆ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਿਲਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਚਲਤੁ ਭਇਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਅਗਲੀ ਕਿਛੁ ਖਬਰਿ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਰੋਵਨਹਾਰੁ ਭਿ ਊਠਿ ਸਿਧਾਈ ॥ ਭਰਮ ਮੋਹ ਕੇ ਬਾਂਧੇ ਬੰਧ ॥ ਸੁਪਨੁ ਭਇਆ ਭਖਲਾਏ ਅੰਧ ॥੨॥ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਰਚਨੁ ਰਚਿਆ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ॥ ਆਵਤ ਜਾਵਤ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਅਪਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਹ ਕੋ ਮੂਆ ਨ ਮਰਣੈ ਜੋਗੁ ॥ ਨਹ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ਹੋਗੁ ॥੩॥ ਜੋ ਇਹੁ ਜਾਣਹੁ ਸੋ ਇਹੁ ਨਾਹਿ ॥ ਜਾਨਣਹਾਰੇ ਕਉ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਉ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਿ ਭਰਮੁ ਚੁਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੧੦॥: After physically death, air (breath) returns to merge with air (atmosphere). The light (life/conscience) returns to merge with its Primary Source (Parmaatam). The dust (physical body) gets consumed into the dust (earth). What support is there for the one who is grieving? ||1|| Who is it that has died; who is it that has really died? O Enlightened beings get-together and reflect over it; (upon reflecting you will know that) this is the order and nature of life and death (by the way of Hukam). ||1||Pause|| No one knows what happens next. The one who is lamenting will also depart. Mortal beings are bound by the bonds of doubt and attachment. Mentally blinded (by doubts and attachment, the mortals) babble about death as like in a dream! This world is the creation of the Creator (Hukam). Coming (birth) and going (death) is controlled by the infinite Hukam. No one dies as no one is capable of dying. The Eternal One does not die; it is undying (Imperishable). ||3|| That which you think you know (as told by the self serving Pujaaree), it’s nothing like that. I am awestruck by the one who understands this Reality. Says Nanak, the Guru has dispelled my doubts that no one dies, and no one comes and goes (i.e. energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another). ||4||10|| (sggs 885).

In this context, also consider a few more verses from the SGGS:

  • ਪਾਂਚ ਤਤ ਕੋ ਤਨੁ ਰਚਿਓ ਜਾਨਹੁ ਚਤੁਰ ਸੁਜਾਨ ॥ ਜਿਹ ਤੇ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਲੀਨ ਤਾਹਿ ਮੈ ਮਾਨੁ ॥੧੧॥: O clever and wise person, know that (the physical body) is composed/constructed of the five basic elements (air, water, fire, ether and earth). O Nanak, be sure that the elements of which (this body) is made will merge back into the same elements from which it has Originated. ||11|| (sggs 1427).
  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਧੂਰਿ ਸਕੇਲਿ ਕੈ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਬਾਂਧੀ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਦਿਵਸ ਚਾਰਿ ਕੋ ਪੇਖਨਾ ਅੰਤਿ ਖੇਹ ਕੀ ਖੇਹ ॥੧੭੮॥ : Kabeer, the complete physical body was composed/constructed by putting together the elements. After we have completed this short life, at the end, dust retunes to merge with dust (i.e. merges with Source). ||178|| (sggs 1374).
  • ਜੋ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡੇ ਸੋਈ ਪਿੰਡੇ ਜੋ ਖੋਜੈ ਸੋ ਪਾਵੈ ॥ : (Hukam: Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature-ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) which is applicable to the entire Universe, the same (Hukam) is applicable to human beings as well. A person who tries searching Within and understands this point, he can understand God residing within.
  • (sggs 695).
  • ਪਉਣੈ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਕਾ ਮੇਲੁ ॥ ਚੰਚਲ ਚਪਲ ਬੁਧਿ ਕਾ ਖੇਲੁ ॥ ਨਉ ਦਰਵਾਜੇ ਦਸਵਾ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਬੁਝੁ ਰੇ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਏਹੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੧॥ ਕਥਤਾ ਬਕਤਾ ਸੁਨਤਾ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਆਪੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥ ਦੇਹੀ ਮਾਟੀ ਬੋਲੈ ਪਉਣੁ ॥ ਬੁਝੁ ਰੇ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਮੂਆ ਹੈ ਕਉਣੁ ॥ ਮੂਈ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਬਾਦੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਨ ਮੂਆ ਜੋ ਦੇਖਣਹਾਰੁ ॥੨॥ ਜੈ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਤਟਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਜਾਹੀ ॥ ਰਤਨ ਪਦਾਰਥ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਮਾਹੀ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਬਾਦੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ॥ ਭਤਿਰਿ ਹੋਦੀ ਵਸਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ॥੩॥ ਹਉ ਨ ਮੂਆ ਮੇਰੀ ਮੁਈ ਬਲਾਇ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਨ ਮੂਆ ਜੋ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਰਤਾ ਜਾਤਾ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥੪॥ : (O wise man! From the Guru‘s teachings) Understand that when water, air and fire (elements) unite then this body is created. Then the play of mercurial restless intellect starts within the body. All the nine doors of the body (such as nose, eyes, ears etc.) are involved in this rat-race), it’s only the mind through which the knowledge of the spiritual life can be obtained. O wise man! reflect upon this and understand. ||1|| The human being who (according to the Guru’s teachings) keeps on examining his spiritual life, becomes a human being with spiritual Wisdom. (He understands) that (the One Universal Energy alone pervades all beings) is the speaker and listener. ||1||Pause|| The body is made of earth (various elements) and it is the air (breath) that keeps it alive. O wise one, then tell me who died because the body and the air it breathed are still here? It is consciousness that died along with disputes caused by egotistical pride, but the One (Creator / Hukam) who takes care of all does not die. ||2|| For the sake of this (jewel of Naam…), you journey to the banks of so locations of pilgrimage); but this Jewel (of Naam) is within you. Pandit reads (Vedas…) and stirs up arguments and controversies, but he does not understand the secret that Naam dwells within. ||3|| I understand that (when my body dies) it is not that I have died, but it is my demon (vices or Bikaar, ignorance, falsehood…) which has died. The Omnipresent Creator (the One Universal Energy, Hukam, Natural elements…) never dies. Nanak, the Guru has revealed to me the All-pervading God. Now none seems to me to die or to take birth. ||4||4|| (sggs 152).

The meaning of the foregoing verses becomes very clear when we consider that God is both manifest (Sargun) as Cosmos and un-manifest (Nirgun) as Omnipresent Hukam (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) – death of the body affects only the manifest form of God (the matter or elements) that constitutes the body. The matter (elements) goes back to earth and is recycled to create new life. The Universal Hukam operates in all living beings and pervades everywhere and in everything.

According to modern science (Einstein etc.), mass–energy equivalence is the relationship between mass and energy. The equivalence principle implies that when energy is lost in chemical reactions, nuclear reactions, and other energy transformations, the system will also lose a corresponding amount of mass. What it means is that mass and energy are interconvertible but the sum total of the two remains constant.

Now let us examine death from this perspective. A human being is simply a temporary bundle of mass/energy. After the dissolution of the elements (mass/energy), we say that a person has died. But a more careful examination reveals that it is only that particular configuration of mass/energy which we previously identified as ‘person’ has ceased to exist. The mass/energy which previously comprised that person continues to exist in a constantly changing form. That is why Guru Arjan Ji says, no one dies, and no one comes and goes’ (‘ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇਆ’). Hence the SGGS rejects both the Hindu and the Semitic concepts of ‘soul’ and afterlife concepts.

That being said, the SGGS reinforces the age old fact that from Nature (Kudrat) we come and to Nature we will return.

  • ਨਾ ਜੀਉ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਡੂਬੈ ਤਰੈ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰੈ ॥ : Neither the Jio (Joti, soul, Surat, conscience etc.) dies, nor it drowns or swims (i.e. does NOT transmigrate). The One who has created the Cosmos (Hukam: Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) also controls its working. (sggs 151).
  • ਕਾਇਆ ਹੰਸਿ ਸੰਜੋਗੁ ਮੇਲਿ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਹੀ ਕੀਆ ਵਿਜੋਗੁ ਜਿਨਿ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥ : It is Hukam (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) that puts consciousness in the body. It is also Hukam that takes away consciousness from the body. (sggs 139).
  • ਖੇਹੂ ਖੇਹ ਰਲਾਈਐ ਤਾ ਜੀਉ ਕੇਹਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਜਲੀਆ ਸਭਿ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਉਠੀ ਚਲਿਆ ਰੋਇ ॥ : What happens to Jio (Joti, Surat, conscience…) when the body made of dust mingles with the dust after death? All acts of cleverness end; (devoid of Naam) it departs repenting. (sggs 17).
  • ਸੁੰਞੀ ਦੇਹ ਡਰਾਵਣੀ ਜਾ ਜੀਉ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਭਾਹਿ ਬਲੰਦੀ ਵਿਝਵੀ ਧੂਉ ਨ ਨਿਕਸਿਓ ਕਾਇ ॥ : The lifeless body without Jio (Joti, Surat, conscience…) is dreadful. It stops breathing when the fire (energy) that kept it alive is extinguished. (sggs 19).
  • ਤੂ ਦਾਤਾ ਜੀਆ ਸਭਨਾ ਕਾ ਜੀਆ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਤੁਹੀ ॥੨॥ : You (Creator) are the Benefactor of all lives as well as the Jio (Joti, Surat, conscience…) within all. ॥2॥ (sggs 1254).
  • ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਚਾਨਣਿ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਹੋਇ ॥ : The light flowing in everyone is from the same Supreme Light (i.e. the One Creator). The Light that aluminates all is from the same (One Creator). (sggs 663).

Hence, the Gurbani (SGGS) is liberating from the Bipar’s concocted afterlife concepts, ceremonies, formalities, beliefs, unbelievable and chimerical tales and lies!

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 demise.

In short, whosoever is born, sooner or later, interview with death is certain! But that does not mean an end of Energy!!

  • 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).
  • 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). (sggs 1383).
  • 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).

The Gurbani calls the human body ‘Jajaree-ਜਜਰੀ’ — meaning perishable, frail, weak, ਨਾਸਵੰਤ etc.

  • ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਜਜਰੀ ਹੈ ਇਸ ਨੋ ਜਰੁ ਪਹੁਚੈ ਆਏ ॥: This body is perishable; old age overtakes it (sggs 584).
  • ਰੇ ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਭਜੁ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਤਜਹੁ ਜਗਜੀਵਨ ਰਾਮ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਆਵਤ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਦੀਸਈ ਨਹ ਦੀਸੈ ਜਾਤ ॥ ਜਹ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਤਹੀ ਜੈਸੇ ਪੁਰਿਵਨ ਪਾਤ ॥੨॥: O (Mayaic) mind! Abandon doubt, join Hari within — the Universal Energy or life. That (Universal Energy or life) is never seen coming, and never seen going. Where it is born, there it perishes like the leaves of the water-lily! (sggs 857).

Baabaa Nanak says:

  • 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 (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature, ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ); its ultimate destination is by the Way of Hukam; it is to be lived in Realization of the Hukam. (sggs 940).

Bhagat Kabeer Ji makes it crystal clear — then there is no coming back when by the Way of the Hukam everything goes back to its Source:

  • ਉਦਕ ਸਮੁੰਦ ਸਲਲ ਕੀ ਸਾਖਿਆ ਨਦੀ ਤਰੰਗ ਸਮਾਵਹਿਗੇ ॥ ਸੁੰਨਹਿ ਸੁੰਨੁ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਸਮਦਰਸੀ ਪਵਨ ਰੂਪ ਹੋਇ ਜਾਵਹਿਗੇ ॥੧॥ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਹਮ ਕਾਹੇ ਆਵਹਿਗੇ ॥ : Just like water from the river merges into the water of the oceans. Just like waves merge into the water. Just Like Air merges into air. I too will return to my pure and complete origin. ॥1॥ Why then should I come back? (sggs 1103).

In nutshell, it’s clear from the foregoing Shabad that death is a transformational process, which continually goes on by the Way of the Hukam.

  • ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਮੇਟਿਆ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਸੋ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ ਕਉਣੁ ਮੂਆ ਕਉਣੁ ਮਾਰਸੀ ਕਉਣੁ ਆਵੈ ਕਉਣੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: The Hukam (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) cannot be erased or disobeyed; (all mortals) are subject to this Hukam. (So,) no one dies, no one kills, no one comes or is born, no one goes or dies (i.e., this is a transformational process). (sggs 1091).
  • ਜੁਗੁ ਜੁਗੁ ਸਾਚਾ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਹੋਸੀ ॥ ਕਉਣੁ ਨ ਮੂਆ ਕਉਣੁ ਨ ਮਰਸੀ ॥: (The Hukam: Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) is true in every age, is present even now, will be (in the future). Every creature that came into this world has (finally) died, whatever will come (will also) die. (sggs 1022).

To this end, the Gurbani time and again reminds us: Anything that appears will soon disappear. In other words, if there is birth, there is death. We are all in que and awaiting our turn.

This critique debunks the clergy-concocted tales that we do come back after going through the 8.4 mil cycle.

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…). 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 (the matter or elements)!

In other words, death of the matter (elements) is always hovering over one’s head. Just because the Jeeva (individual beings) have forgotten death, that does not mean the death has disappeared!

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅੰਧੇ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਸੂਝੈ ॥ ਮਰਣੁ ਲਿਖਾਇ ਆਏ ਨਹੀ ਬੂਝੈ ॥: The blind Manmuks (mentally blind or ignorant self-willed…) don’t understand anything. Death was pre-ordained for them when they came (into the world), but they do not understand. (sggs 114).

The Gurbani equates human life with a night. Somebody’s life-night is few days, few months, few years. some may live up to 100 years or more. Regardless, it is certain that everybody’s life-night must end sooner or later. Because the material world is the world of decay and therefore fleeting.

  • 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 old age, but death ‘suddenly pounces’ just as a hawk suddenly pounces on a bird!

  • ਚਿੰਤਾ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਜੋ ਅਨਹੋਨੀ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਥਿਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥੫੧॥ ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ ਪਰੋ ਆਜੁ ਕੈ ਕਾਲਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਇ ਲੇ ਛਾਡਿ ਸਗਲ ਜੰਜਾਲ ॥੫੨॥ : Worry about something that is unnatural. Nanak, this is the rule (of Nature) in the world that nothing is everlasting. ||51|| Whatever takes birth, will die today or tomorrow. Nanak, shun all worldly temptations with corrupting influences and live life with Godly Virtues. ||52|| (sggs 1429).

The Gurbani also compares this human body with a clay-built pitcher. In a cracked 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).

The Gurbani’s edict is what comes and goes is not REAL. In other words, that which is Real never ends, and that which ends is not Real (‘ਸੋ ਕਾਚੋ ਕਾਚਾ’)! 

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.

Accordingly, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS teaches us to prepare ourselves for the immanent death of the physical body. Our birth is the proof of our impending death.

If we don’t prepare ourselves by taking the Wisdom of the SGGS and learning from it, then one’s death certainly will be very painful! It’s just not possible to learn anything 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).

2. Death of spiritual life (Aatmak Maut – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ)

The Gurbani also talks about death of the spiritual life on account of vices/Bikaar.

  • ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥: I come alive (Aatmak Jeevan-ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) as I am in a Realized State. The Un-Realized State Brings Spiritual Death (Aatmak Mout-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 9 – 349).
  • ਅਤਿ ਸੁੰਦਰ ਕੁਲੀਨ ਚਤੁਰ ਮੁਖਿ ਙਿਆਨੀ ਧਨਵੰਤ ॥ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਹੀਅਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਿਹ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਭਗਵੰਤ ॥੧॥ : A person may be very handsome, of high birth, clever, talking wise, and wealthy. (But) O Nanak! That person is called a walking corpse (spiritually dead-Aatmik Maut) if he has no Love within for Bhagvant (divine Virtues, Wisdom, Truth – spiritual Awakening…) ||1|| (sggs 253).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: (Those beings) who have not served the ‘Satiguru‘ (through the Shabad-Vichaar), no Wisdom has Awakened within them, (they may appear as alive but they) are as dead in the world (spiritually dead-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 88).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਜਗਤੁ ਮੁਆ ਮਰਦੋ ਮਰਦਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: The world is (spiritually) dead in false ego-sense (Haumai), it is constantly falling down. (sggs 555).
  • ਸੋ ਜੀਵਿਆ ਜਿਸੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਜੀਵੈ ਕੋਇ ॥: (In reality) Only that person is truly alive within whose mind That (i.e. One Hukam: Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature: ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ) abides. O Nanak! No one else (i.e., who denies the Hukam…) is truly alive (sggs 142).
  • ਹਰਿ ਬਿਸਰਤ ਸੋ ਮੂਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: One who forgets ‘Hari’ (Mool, Virtues, Wisdom, Truth…) is dead (death of divine life – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 407).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਮਰਤਾ ਮਰਤਾ ਜਗੁ ਮੂਆ ਮਰਿ ਭੀ ਨ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਐਸੇ ਮਰਨੇ ਜੋ ਮਰੈ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਮਰਨਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੨੯॥ : The world has experienced physical death in abundance but has not realized the need for death (of vices or Bikaar). One who dies such a death (on account of vices) will never suffer spiritual death again. (sggs 1365).

Therefore, Baabaa Nanak teaches us:

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਦਾ ਅਰਾਧਿ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਜਾਂਹਿ ਮਰਿ ॥੧੭॥: O Nanak! Always adore the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), you will not die ever (spiritual death-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). ||17|| (sggs 1363).
  • ਕੈਸੇ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਹੋਇ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥ ਜਬ ਨ ਹੋਇ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਅਧਾਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : How Can I acquire Spiritual Life, if it is NOT based upon acquiring Naam (Divine Wisdom, Virtues)? (sggs 329).
  • ਕਿਉ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ ਬਿਨੁ ਮਾਈ ॥ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਬਿਛੁਰਤ ਹੋਤ ਮਿਰਤਕਾ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਮਹਿ ਰਹਨੁ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : How can I become spiritually alive (obtain spiritual life) without Realization of the Creator. Spiritual death happens to me when I am devoid of that Realization. When that realization does not remain steadfast Within me, I suffer death. (sggs 1207).

3. Dying in the Shabad

According to the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…), dying in the Shabad or through the Shabad Awakens the Divine Wisdom (Giaan, Bibek, Truth…) and Virtues (ਗੁਣ) within, and thus annihilate the negative or bad impact of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, pride, etc.).

When died through the Shabad (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), one is saved from the death of his/her spiritual life or the Gurmukh Lifestyle. Dying in the Shabad causes death of vices/Bikaar, delusion of Maya etc.

  • ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ : Whose self-conceit/egotism dies in the Shabad (i.e. Upadesh/Wisdom/Virtues…), then he does not experience spiritual death (ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 153).
  • ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਭਗਤਿ ਪਾਏ ਜਨੁ ਸੋਇ ॥੩॥: One who dies in the Shabad, obtains Bhagti ||3|| (sggs 159).
  • ਮਨੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਪਰਤੀਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਹਉਮੈ ਤਜੇ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥: When one’s mind dies in the Shabad gains Knowledge and conviction, and (he) sheds egotism and ‘Vikaar‘ (sggs 162).

In a nutshell, dying in the Shabad or dying through the Shabad is the continuous abidance in the Shabad-SurtGur-Updesh, Naam-consciousness, Guru’s Giyan-Wisdom, Virtues, etc. In other words, it’s to live a Divine or Gurmukh Lifestyle.

  • ਜਿਹ ਮਰਨੈ ਸਭੁ ਜਗਤੁ ਤਰਾਸਿਆ ॥ ਸੋ ਮਰਨਾ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਅਬ ਕੈਸੇ ਮਰਉ ਮਰਨਿ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਮਰਿ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਤੇ ਜਿਨ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: That death, which has terrified the entire world – the reality of that death is revealed unto me by the Gur-Shabad (i.e., Gur-Giann, Wisdom, Upadesh…). ||1|| Now, I will not die (i.e., Aatmak Maut – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). My mind has already accepted death (i.e., to die in the Shabad: ਸ਼ਬਦ ਵਾਲੀ ਮੌਤ). Those who do not know Raam (-Naam: Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), die over and over again (i.e., death of spiritual life – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs327).

It is to free the mind of the negative or bad impact of Haumai (false ego-sense), Maya, duality, doubts, ignorance, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.), Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree lifestyle. It is to be Awakened to one’s Mool or ‘Nij Gharu Within. It is to become living liberated or dead while alive. It is to remain constantly (ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ: each and every breath) linked with one’s Jot Saroop Within.

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜੀਵਤੁ ਮਰੈ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥੧॥: Through the Gur-Shabad, who remains dead (to Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) while yet alive, Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…) comes to dwell within his mind. ||1|| (sggs 33).

Upon dying in or through the Shabad, one attains Perfection (Jeevan Padavee), becomes the embodiment of the the Divine Knowledge that is contained in the Gur-Shabad, as the fragrance is boxed in the flower…

  • ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਸੋਈ ਜਨੁ ਪੂਰਾ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਆਖਿ ਸੁਣਾਏ ਸੂਰਾ ॥: Perfect (ਪੂਰਨ) is that ‘Janu’ (Bhagat, Daas, Gurmukh) who dies through the Shabad. The brave Satiuru utters and proclaims this. (sggs 1046).

In other words, when died through the Shabad, the Inner (‘Antar’) Awakens to the Hukam, Naam, Divinity, Wisdom etc. Such exalted State is indicated by the Gurbani to be beyond the physical instruments of tongue, ears etc.

Hence, according to the Gurbani, the real death is to remain dead in the Shabad (Gur-Giyan, Wisdom, Upadesh…) while still alive – become liberated in life, become living dead or Jeevanmukta.

  • ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਲਾਹੀ ॥: Mukti (Liberation) Padaarath is obtained through the counselor of the Shabad (Giyan-Wisdom, Upadesh… (sggs 1024).

Accordingly, a Sikh (a learner of the SGGS) wants to Realize the Guru Shabad through Shabad-Vichaar. Thus, known as a Gurmukh (Enlightened mind) 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 Shabad. (sggs 125).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਹਿ ਮਰਨੇ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ਹੈ ਮਰਉ ਤ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਦੁਆਰ ॥: O Kabeer, I long to die (in the Shabad: ਸ਼ਬਦ ਵਾਲੀ ਮੌਤ); (but, this is possible only) if I die at the Door of the Hari (i.e., if I surrender to the Divine Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 1367).

Some Related Posts:


  1. ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰਹੁ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੀਵਹੁ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਤਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ सबदि मरहु फिरि जीवहु सद ही ता फिरि मरणु न होई ॥ Sabaḏ marahu fir jīvhu saḏ hī ṯā fir maraṇ na ho▫ī. pp604 sggsji

    Means..Dying thru/by SABADu one shall live forever and one shall not die again.
    Such is the greace of SABADu.

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