Flow of Desires

The Gurbani tells us to restrain (ਬੰਨ ਕੇ, ਰੋਕ ਕੇ ਰਖਣਾਂ) the flow of our desires (Kaam, hunger for Maya…) that flow out from the uncontrolled appetite of our senses.

  • ਬਹਤੀ ਮਨਸਾ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਬਾਂਧਿ ॥: Keep your flowing desires (pulsating from the senses-ਸਰੀਰਕ ਇੰਦ੍ਰਿਆਂ) 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 indicated in the Gurbani, the sensory world can never give us any real satisfaction or Peace. As the pyre burns a dead body, hidden fire of desires (hunger for Maya-ਮਾਇਆ ਦੀ ਭੁੱਖ…) and spiritual ignorance (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਲੋਂ ਬੇ-ਸਮਝੀ) 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 or the mind. And it is only by controlling desires one can link with the Truth within (ਮਨਸਾ ਮਾਰਿ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਣੀ ॥ sggs 120).

But how can we put stop (ਬਾਂਧਿ, ਬੰਨ੍ਹ, ਰੋਕ, ਡੱਕਾ, ਰੁਕਾਵਟ…) 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, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) indicates that we can build an embankment (ਬਾਂਧਿ,ਬੰਨ੍ਹ, ਰੋਕ, ਡੱਕਾ, ਰੁਕਾਵਟ, dam, support…) of the Gurbani’s Wisdom or Bibek (Aatam-Giaan) around all our outgoing senses and mind in order to stop the flow of desires from them.

The attitude of detachment or Bairaag (also spelt Vairaag or Vairagya ) is the quality of shunning worldly attractions or desires. Simply put: 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 duty and responsibility, or being less sensitive or loving, etc. A truly detached one 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 (Spiritual Wisdom or Aatam Giaan of the Gurbani…), the Gurbani tells us that even if one lives amidst the worldly activity (or Maya), he will be unattached from it and thus untainted by it, just as the lotus flower remains untainted by the slimy scum.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: O Nanak! Meeting the Satigur (i.e. when True Knowledge – ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ – is obtained) then the right Way to live life is found. (Thus) while laughing, playing, dressing and eating (i.e. doing all the work in the world), one remains liberated (i.e. Free from negative impact of Maya, Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, etc.). (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-Giaan or Wisdom…) who remain connected (to their Mool, True Nature or Jot Saroop, Aatam Giaan 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 tells us that Parameshar (the Universal Energy) has given this Wisdom as the Gurbani to all of us as a ‘Bannaa‘ (dam, ‘ਬੰਨਾ’, ਬਾਂਧਿ, ਬੰਨ੍ਹ, ਰੋਕ, ਡੱਕਾ, ਰੁਕਾਵਟ…) to stop the flow of desires or Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride…) emanating from all our senses (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਾਸਤੇ ਵਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਰਾਹ ਵਿਚ ਡੱਕਾ…).

  • ਪਰਮੇਸਰਿ ਦਿਤਾ ਬੰਨਾ ॥… ਧੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਆਈ ॥ ਤਿਨਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਚਿੰਤ ਮਿਟਾਈ ॥: The Universal Energy has given the Support (of Giaan or Wisdom to stop the flow of desires, Bikaars, etc.)…  The Baanee (of Truth, Wisdom, Virtues…) has come from within (ਅੰਦਰੋਂ); by applying (its Wisdom and Virtues to daily life), all anxiety is eradicated. (sggs 627).

Therefore, the Brahm-Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Spiritual Wisdom, Aatam-Giaan…) contained in the Gurbani 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-Giaan (Divine Wisdom).

  • ਕਲਿਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਮਿ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥੨॥੧੧॥: The Divine Naam (Giaan-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).

Hence, 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, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…).

The Gurbani teaches us a practical Way of living. 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 dead people.

To understand and actuate this ‘Bannaa‘-Support (ਬੰਨਾ ਰੂਪ ਬਾਣੀ), we are urged to thoroughly Realize the Aatam-Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Wisdom…) of the SGGS by earnestly engaging in churning the Gurbani and the Shabad-Vichaar, and then constantly living it (i.e., making the Prachand Giaan or Wisdom of the Gurbani the Way of life – the Divine Life, Gurmukh Lifestyle)!

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਹਰਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥: By becoming the Gurmukh (Spiritual Being…), practice the Shabad (Divine Naam, Gurmat, Aatam Giaan, to live according to the Shabad-Giaan, 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).


  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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