Flow of Desires

Baabaa Nanak’s Sikhi is established on the acceptance of reality he called Hukam (Universal System-Rule-Law of Nature, ਕੁਦਰਤੀ ਨਿਯਮ). Since divine Hukam permeates our very existence, Hukam is the lifelong mentor of a Sikh — living entire life within and conforming to Hukam.

That said, it is natural for human beings to have desires. It is the part of Hukam to have desires in us.

However, as the uncontrol fire can cause tremendous devastation, similarly, the uncontrolled desires can cause havoc in an individual’s life.

Aptly, the Gurbani of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches us to restrain the flow of our desires (Kaam-lust, hunger for Maya…) that flow out from the uncontrolled appetite of our defiled senses.

  • ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਤੁਧੁ ਵਸਿ ਕੀਤੇ ਕਾਲੁ ਕੰਟਕੁ ਮਾਰਿਆ ॥ : (O Mind!) overpower – subdue, control – the ‘FIVE’ (Kaam, Krodh, Lobh , Moh, Ahankaar) Doot (of Jum) then you will avoid spiritual death. (sggs 917).
  • ਬਹਤੀ ਮਨਸਾ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਬਾਂਧਿ ॥ : Keep your flowing desires (pulsating from the senses) restrained. (sggs 342).
  • ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਮਾਵਹਿ ਰੋਗੁ ਬੁਰਾ ਬੁਰਿਆਰਾ ਹੇ ॥੭॥ : Trapped by hope and desire, (Manmukh) practice falsehood, and remain afflicted by the terrible disease of corruption. ||7|| (sggs 1029).

Why is it essential to stop the uncontrolled flow of desires? Because, as we are instructed by the Gurbani, the sensory world can never give us any real contentment, satisfaction or happiness. As the pyre burns a dead body, hidden fire of desires and spiritual ignorance burn us alive, within!

  • ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਇਸੁ ਤਨਹਿ ਜਲਾਏ ॥ : Spiritual ignorance and desire burn this human body (sggs 1067).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਅਗਨਿ ਜਲੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੇ ॥ : The world is burning in the fire of Maya (hunger or love of Maya…). (sggs 1049).
  • ਤਿਸਨਾ ਅਗਨਿ ਜਲੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ॥ : The world is burning in the fire of desire (sggs 120).
  • ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਜਗਤ ਪਰਜਾਰੈ ॥ : The fire of corrupt thinking (wickedness, foolishness, ignorance…) is burning up the world (sggs 225).

The Gurbani indicates desires are wounds (‘ਚੋਟ’) of the soul/mind. And it is only by controlling desires one can link with the Creator within (ਮਨਸਾ ਮਾਰਿ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਣੀ ॥ sggs 120).

But how can we put stop to this flow of desires? If we need to restrain or control the flow of a river, we would build a dam or embankment across it to.

Similarly, the SGGS counsels that we can build an embankment (ਬਾਂਧਿ,ਬੰਨ੍ਹ, ਰੋਕ, ਡੱਕਾ, ਰੁਕਾਵਟ, dam, support…) of the Gurbani’s Giyan-Wisdom/Bibek around our outgoing senses and mind in order to stop the uncontrolled flow of desires from them.

The attitude of detachment or Bairaag (also spelt Vairaag) is the quality of shunning worldly attractions or desires. Put simply, detachment is being in this world, but not of it. In other words, it is having a mind open to everything, but attached to nothing. Thus, detachment is an attitude or perspective — letting go of the past and the future, and living in the ‘Here and Now‘.

Therefore, to be detached does not mean running away from life, family, society, one’s duties/responsibilities, being less sensitive or less loving  etc.

A truly detached person does not neglect any of this; but rather selflessly loves and serves the Divine in them and expands that love and service to all other beings without any sense of bondage or emotional attachment. After cultivating such detached attitude through the Divine Knowledge of the Gurbani, then even if one lives amidst the worldly activity (or Maya), he/she will be unattached from it and thus untainted by it, just as the lotus flower remains untainted by the slimy scum it grows in.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥ : O Nanak! Meeting the Satigur (ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ) then one learns the perfect Way to live life. (Thus following that) he is liberated while laughing, playing, dressing and eating (i.e. one remains free from worldly temptations and their corrupting influence while living in the world). (sggs 522).
  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥ : Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).
  • ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥ : Emancipation (ਉੱਚੀ ਆਤਮਕ ਅਵਸਥਾ) is obtained in the midst of children and spouses (i.e., in the midst of family). (sggs 661).
  • ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨਾ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਤਿਨੀ ਵਿਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ : Says Nanak: By the Gur-Grace (Grace of the Gur-Giyan or Wisdom…) who remain connected (to their Mool, True Nature or Jot Saroop, Aatam Giyan or Wisdom…) realize (Bliss, Mukti or liberation etc.) while using Maya (sggs 921).
  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥ : As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does one must remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).

In fact, the SGGS teaches us that the One Creator has given us the Wisdom as a ‘Bannaa-ਬੰਨਾ’ (dam, embankment…) to stop the flow of desire emanating from all our senses.

  • ਪਰਮੇਸਰਿ ਦਿਤਾ ਬੰਨਾ ॥… ਧੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਆਈ ॥ ਤਿਨਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਚਿੰਤ ਮਿਟਾਈ ॥ : The Universal Energy has given the Support (of Giyan-Wisdom to stop the flow of desires, vices/Bikaars, etc.)… The Baani has come to me from within (i.e. from the deepest recessions of Consciousness, same principle Baabaa Nanak promulgated his Baani). That Baani has eradicated all my anxiety (by applying its Wisdom / Virtues to daily life). (sggs 627).

Therefore, the Brahm-Giyan (Divine Wisdom) contained in the Gurbani of the SGGS is applicable to our daily life.

In this way, for a Sikh (learner or student of the SGGS), the entire Gurbani is ‘Rahat‘.

Hence, the Gurbani is not an ordinary poem or song; it is the Brahm-Giyan.

  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥੧੧॥ : The Divine Naam (Giyan-Wisdom, Virtues…) of the One Creator are the Basis for Spirituality for a Worldly Mindset; Nanak thus Utters the Discourse of the Creator (Brahm Beechaar). (sggs 1138).
  • ਲੋਗੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਇਹੁ ਗੀਤੁ ਹੈ ਇਹੁ ਤਉ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥ : People think that the (Gur-Shabad) is (an ordinary) song, but it is a ‘Brahm Beechaar’. (sggs 335).

Having said that, mere nomenclature does not denote a Sikh or ‘Rahat’. As a doll made of salt dissolves itself in the water, only he who dissolves himself in the Gurmat (Wisdom-Giyan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…).

The Gurbani teaches us a practical spirituality and a practical Way of life. It’s the mirror for the mind – it addresses the human mind and Awakens it. As medicine is for the alive people not for dead, similarly the Wisdom of the Gurbani is for the minds of the living people, not for animals, stones, or physically dead people.

To understand and actuate this ‘Bannaa‘-Support (ਬੰਨਾ ਰੂਪ ਬਾਣੀ), we are urged to thoroughly Realize the Giyan-Wisdom of the SGGS by earnestly engaging in churning the Gurbani and the Shabad-Vichaar, and then constantly living it in daily life (the Enlightened/Gurmukh Lifestyle)!

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਹਰਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ : By becoming the Gurmukh (Spiritual Being…), practice the Shabad (Divine Naam, Gurmat, Aatam Giyan, to live according to the Shabad-Giyan, ਸਬਦ ਕਮਾਣਾ, etc.), and ‘Hari’ (-Naam, Virtues) will come to dwell within the mind (i.e., the mind abides in its Mool within) (sggs 67).
  • ਪੜਿਐ ਨਾਹੀ ਭੇਦੁ ਬੁਝਿਐ ਪਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਖਟੁ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੈ ਭੇਖਿ ਕਿਸੈ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਾ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਅਲਖੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਹਾਵਣਾ ॥ : Not by just reading (scriptures), but it is through spiritual Wisdom one Understands this fact (that God is infinite). No one can merge in the eternal God by merely adopting the garbs mentioned in the six Shastras (the Hindu holy books). The eternal God is unfathomable, but revealed through the Guru’s Shabad, He (i.e. Creation, Hukam) looks beautiful. (sggs 148).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਪਸੂ ਭਏ ਬੇਤਾਲੇ ॥੬॥ : Without understanding, people become beast (-nature) and demon ||6|| (sggs 224).

But, the problem is we humans do not recognize or live in harmony with the divine Hukam. Because of not understanding the divine Hukam, we are living in wrong ways like fools. Baabaa Nanak taught us this centuries ago:

  • ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਬਪੁੜੇ ਭੂਲੇ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਗਵਾਰ ॥ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਦੇ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਹੋਹਿ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਾਂਤਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਨਾ ਸਚਿ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥੬॥ : The wretched fools do not know Hukam; they wander around making mistakes. They perform deeds (Karamkaand etc.) stubborn mindedly, (but stuck in Bikaar) are always ruined (disgraced, ਖਜਲ ਖਵਾਰ etc.). They neither attain Peace of mind, nor embrace love for the Creator.  ||6|| (sggs 66).

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  1. Thank you james for taking the time to comment. Welcome to the Gurbani blog.

    Can’t you enjoy these desires while also not being attached to them and recognizing their impermanence?

    Makes sense!

    Possibly related posts that might interest you:

  2. How to stop all desires? Aren’t some desires good, like the desire to make money and support your family/community, the desire to help others, the desire to enjoy pleasurable things? Can’t you enjoy these desires while also not being attached to them and recognizing their impermanence?

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