In Gurdwaras, for example, we see signs asking people to leave their shoes (and socks in some Gurdwaras) outside before entering the Gurdwara building. In fact, many Gurdwaras have made special ‘shoe Room’ to place the shoes. Furthermore, some places have separate shoe rooms for men and women.
Gurdwaras were supposed to be the schools of Gurmat, for the purpose of learning the Gur-Giaan or Wisdom.
But, honestly, has anybody seen a sign in any Gurdwara in the world asking people to leave the negativity of their bloated false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ) outside before entering the Gurdwara building!
- ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਖੁ ਮਨੁ ਮੋਹਿਆ ਲਦਿਆ ਅਜਗਰ ਭਾਰੀ ॥: Haumai or false ego-sense is poison (that brings death to divine life of wisdom and Virtues), (man’s) mind remains lured by this (poison of Haumai), and remains loaded by this heavy dragon fat egotism (Haumai). (sggs 1260).
In reality, nobody cannot totally remove his or her egotism (Haumai). It defines our relationship with ourselves and our world, essentially providing meaning to the self to insure survival, success, protection, procreation etc.
However, what we are asked by the Gurbani is to annihilate the negative aspect or negative impact of the FAT or BLOATED egotism (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ), which kills our True Nature. It feels real because we attach our ego to some perceived parameters in some form, such as power, status, beauty, youth, strength, wealth, education or knowledge, possessions, Jaat Paat etc. Prior to the movement of the false ego-sense (Haumai), the Gurbani tells us our mind is Jot Saroop.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਨੀਕਾ ਨਾਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਨੁ ਅਸਥੂਲੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਵਿਚੁ ਦੇ ਜਾਇ ॥: O Nanak! The gate to liberation (from Mayaic attachment or bondage, etc.) is very narrow, only the one who becomes very narrow (i.e., mind with thinned egotism) can pass through it. But if the mind has become fat or bloated with egotism, then how can it pass through this (tiny gate or door)? (sggs 509).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਸੰਕੁੜਾ ਰਾਈ ਦਸਵੈ ਭਾਇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਾ ਨਿਕਸਿਆ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: O Kabeer! The gate of liberation is narrow, less than one-tenth of a mustard seed. (But bloated with egotism) the mind has become as big as an elephant; how can it pass through this gate? (sggs 509).
According to the Gurbani, annihilation of the negative aspect or negative impact of the FAT or BLOATED egotism is accomplished ONLY by the Giaan or Wisdom of our True Nature as Jot Saroop. Due to ignorance of this Jot Saroop, we identify with the body-mind-intellect apparatus. This is the birth of the false ego-sense.
- ਕਰਹਿ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਵਿਥਾਰ ਘਨੇਰੇ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਰਮਿ ਪਇਆ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਲੇਵਹੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਗਇਆ ॥੬॥ (O crazy man) you act in corruption (ਬਿਕਾਰ: lust, anger, greed, etc.), and put on ostentatious shows, but without awareness of the Shabad, you have fallen into doubt or confusion. You are afflicted with greatest pain from the disease of egotism. Following the Gurmat, you can be rid of this disease. ||6|| (sggs 906).
In short, the Gurmat of SGGS is asking us enter the Gurdwara with an open mind (‘ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ-Sir(u) Dhari Talee‘) — a mind which is free of negativity willing to learn the Guru’s Wisdom. In other words, the Gurbani does NOT want us to come to the Guru with a closed or narrow mind (ਤੰਗ ਦਿਮਾਗ ਨਾਲ ਨਹੀ; ਅਪਣਾ ਦਿਮਾਗ ਖੋਲ ਕੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਦੇ ਕੋਲ ਆਣਾਂ).
- ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥ ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥: If you desire to play this game of Divine Love with Me, then step onto My Way putting your head on palm. When you place your foot on this Way, give up your head (false ego-sense), do not be afraid or shrink ||20||. (sggs 1412).
Before milk is poured into a vessel (ਭਾਂਡਾ-Bhaandaa), we wash it clean and dry it out. After making sure the vessel is thoroughly clean and dry, then we pour milk in it. Similarly, before we can pour the milk of the Wisdom of the SGGS (Gur-Giaan) into our mind, it must be thoroughly cleansed of inner garbage.
- ਭਾਂਡਾ ਧੋਇ ਬੈਸਿ ਧੂਪੁ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਤਉ ਦੂਧੈ ਕਉ ਜਾਵਹੁ ॥: (To obtain butter, first) you wash the vessel, let it sit in the sun (so it can dry out), then you go out and get the milk (in that vessel and then curdle it). (sggs 728).
Apparently, the priorities of the Wisdom of the SGGS are different than the priorities of the fat egotism (Haumai) and it negativity.
However, Gurdwaras are no longer the schools of Gurmat of Baabaa Nanak or the SGGS. Suffering from ritual or spiritual indigestion, the Pujaaree-Vaad in collaboration with the management committees of Gurdwaras have turned these places into anti-Gurmat Karamkaand (Brahmanical rituals). They don’t want people to become WISE. Instead, they want people remain ignorant, fearful, Karamkaandee, etc. They know well that they will lose their power and lucrative business (Golak, ਧੰਦਾ) if people were to become Wise.
The result is bloody conflicts in Gurdwaras, legal disputes, lawsuits, assault with deadly weapons, shootings, sword-fights, divisions in the name of Jaat Paat, etc.!
To put it otherwise, before we step on the Way of the SGGS, the Gurbani commands ‘first’ to accept death (‘ਪਹਿਲਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਕਬੂਲਿ’) — death of the mind that is negatively impacted with the bloated egotism or Haumai.
- ਪਹਿਲਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਕਬੂਲਿ ਜੀਵਣ ਕੀ ਛਡਿ ਆਸ ॥ ਹੋਹੁ ਸਭਨਾ ਕੀ ਰੇਣੁਕਾ ਤਉ ਆਉ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੧॥: First accept death and give up the desire for life (i.e., give up attachment to body…). Become the dust of the feet of all (i.e., become truly humble…), then, come to me. ||1|| (sggs 1102).
Removing shoes before entering the Gurdwara building is a sign of respect, a commonsense hygiene. Nothing wrong with it.
However, as time and again indicated in the Gurbani, the negative aspact of the egotism (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) is more despicable then the footwear or the socks!
The Gurbani calls it the great disease (‘ਵਡਾ ਰੋਗੁ’, ‘ਰੋਗੁ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖ’, ‘ਰੋਗੁ ਕਠਿਨ’, ‘ਰੋਗ ਬੁਰੇ’, ‘ਦੀਰਘ ਰੋਗੁ’…) – mighty virus of the mind.
- ਹਉਮੈ ਝਗੜਾ ਪਾਇਓਨੁ ਝਗੜੈ ਜਗੁ ਮੁਇਆ ॥: Through ego, the world is caught in conflict and strife, and it dies (in these quarrels and suffers…). (sggs 790).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗ ਬੁਰੇ ॥: O Nanak! The diseases (born or begotten) of ego are wicked (sggs 1153).
- ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਵਡਾ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: Ego is a massive disease in the world (sggs 1278).
Footwear however have a role to play in our daily lives. For example, they are useful when we are outdoors to get protection from dirt, thorns, etc.
Not so with the negativity of the egotism (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ) — the negative impact (ਬੁਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵ) of Haumai on the mind is always despicable!
- ਹਉਮੈ ਪੈਖੜੁ ਤੇਰੇ ਮਨੈ ਮਾਹਿ ॥: (O fool) your mind is tied with the rope of ‘ego’ (ਪੈਖੜੁ-ਢੰਗਾ: A rope tied to the rear legs of an animal, which does not let the animal run or walk freely!) (sggs 1189).
- ਹਉ ਮੁਆ ਮੈ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਪਉਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਥਕੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਤਾ ਨਾਇ ॥: So long the mortal is smitten with ‘ego’, a river (of desires, Trishanaa) flow within. O Nanak! Desire is exhausted only when the mind is imbued with the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 1091). (sggs 1091).
Therefore, the Gurbani demands that no time can the negative impact of egotism (Haumai) be entertained.
What’s bad inside the Gurdwara is also bad outside the Gurdwara. Also, what’s bad outside the Gurdwara is also bad inside the Gurdwara!
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਨੋ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵੇਖਦਾ ਜੇਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਚੁਕਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: Everybody in this the world beholds the Satigur. (One is) not liberated by merely seeing (the Satigur), unless the Shabad is Reflected upon. (Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar) the filth of Haumai (false ego-sense) is not removed, and love for the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Divine Virtues, Divine Wisdom, Giaan…) does not get affixed (in the mind). (sggs 594).
The purpose of going to Gurdwara or any other spiritual practice is to learn the great lesson of surrendering the false ego-sense (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) so that we can improve the Inward Journey. To this end, the Gurbani demands that the negative impact (ਬੁਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵ) of Haumai on the mind be removed.
- ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਭੇਦੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਸੋਹੈ ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਿ ॥: Until (one’s mind) is NOT pierced through with the Shabad, (until then one does NOT) look Beautiful at the ‘Gurduaari’ or the Guru’s Door (Inner Beauty: state of Bliss or Anand, abidance in one’s Jot Saroop…). (sggs 19).
Hence, there should also be written on the doormats and walls of the Gurdwaras to leave the false ego-sense (Haumai) outside!
It’s convenient and easier to remove shoes instead of removing the false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ)!
It takes courage to remove negativity of egotism, because removing it is like chewing the steel balls! Since it’s not easy to remove it, the majority of us instead get attracted to Karamkaand (useless rituals or formalities).
The Gurbani’s declaration — ‘With your head in hand-ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ’ — essentially means removing one’s false ego-sense (self-conceit…). Because, the Gurbani says one must serve without negativity of the egotism (‘ਵਿਣੁ ਸਿਰ ਸੇਵ ਕਰੀਜੈ’).
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਗਾਖੜੀ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥: It is very difficult to serve the Satigur (Shabad-Vichaar); (it’s difficult because to do so one must) surrender head (false ego-sense, self-conceit…) – give up ownself or selfhood (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ ਦੂਰ ਕਰ ਕੇ). (sggs 649).
However, the Gurbani dares tell all of us that no one knows how to serve the ‘Gur‘ (ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਈ ॥: Gur kee sev n jaanai koee (sggs 1078)).
Then, let’s ask the SGGS as to how are we supposed to serve (Sevaa) the ‘Gur‘ (‘ਗੁਰ’) or the ‘Satigur‘ (‘ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ’)?
The Gurbani tells us that we can serve the ‘Gur‘ or the ‘Satiguru‘ by churning the Gurbani through the Shabad-Vichaar (Reflecting on the Gur-Shabad, understanding the Gur-Shabad and living by its Brahm-Giaan or Wisdom in daily life…).
- ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: The Gur-Sevaa is Shabad-Vichaar (Reflection on the Shabad — Upadesh, Giaan, Wisdom, Naam…). (sggs 223).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਏ ॥: By becoming the Gurmukh, burn Haumai through the Shabad (sggs 942).
But the Gurbani reminds us that one can truly serve the Satigur only when his negativity or false ego-sense (Haumai) is gone!
Thoughts, actions, or words of such person will be the expression of the Joy and fulfillment he experiences within. Thoughts, actions, or words pour out of him will benefit all being, including himself!
Therefore, the Gurbani reminds us that – in addition to the signs for taking the shoes off outside – perhaps there should also be signs for taking the negativity of the false ego-sense (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) off, outside!
- ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੇਵਾ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਤਾ ਮਨੁ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: In ego, Sevaa cannot be performed so the mind goes wasted (useless, purposeless, troubled, no avail…). (sggs 560).