Two Types of Living and Dying

The Wisdom of the Gurbani indicates two kinds of living — life, existence, state, “ਜੀਵਨਾ-Jeevanaa“:

  1. Living at the body-level (i.e., Maya)
  2. Living at the Aatmaa or soul-level (i.e., the Gurmukh Lifestyle or Divine Life)

Corresponding to the two kinds of living, death (Maran) is also of two kinds.

  1. Death of the physical body — it’s certain to whosoever is born (“ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ”).
  2.  Death of Consciousness (Aatmak death) — death of Jameer-ਜਮੀਰ (‘ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥’).

Living at the body-level

This is essentially Mayaic lifestyle, living with the consciousness of I-am-the-body-idea which is denoted in the Gurbani as Manmukh -Saakat- Mayadhaaree lifestyle, or a state of “Rol Ghacholaa“. Such lifestyle is oblivious of the Shabad, Naam, Hukam, Divinity (Divine Virtues, Wisdom, Goodness, etc.) within and without, etc — Shreerak-Jeevanaa, ਸਰੀਰ ਦੇ ਤਲ ਤੇ ਜੀਵਨ…

  • ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ਅਤਿ ਅੰਨਾ ਬੋਲਾ ॥: One who is attached to Maya is (spiritually) very much blind and deaf (to the Gur-Shabad…). (sggs 313).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੂੜ ਮਾਇਆ ਚਿਤ ਵਾਸੁ ॥: Residence of the consciousness of the foolish Manmukh is Maya (sggs 222).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਧਾਵਹਿ ॥: Saakat very much chase after Maya (sggs 1029).

Thus, according to the Gurbani, those who live at the body level are Mayadhaaree or mammon worshipers — the world of Maya or senses, doubts, body-consciousness, Haumai, etc. The Gurbani considers such lifestyle to be “Dhrigu-ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ” (cursed, disdainful, etc.), thus disapproved.

  • ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਪੈਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਣਾ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: Cursed is eating and wearing (ਖਾਣਾ ਹੰਢਾਣਾ) of those who are attached to the love of duality (Maya). (sggs 1347).

Living at the Aatmaa or soul level

This is Spiritual Lifestyle — Divine Life, lifestyle of Gurmukh, Daas, Jan, Bhagat, Virtues or Wisdom, etc. (Gurmukht Avasthaa or Aatmic Jeevanaa-ਆਤਮਕ ਤਲ ਤੇ ਜੀਵਨ.).

This Lifestyle is guided by the Shabad-Consciousness, Naam-Consciousness, Hukam-Consciousness, Virtues, Mool-abidance (abidance in the Source, Raam, Hari, Gobind, Allah…), Pure Nature (Jot Saroop), subtle Inner Way of life (“ਸੁਰਤੀ ਕੈ ਮਾਰਗਿ”), etc.

  • ਸੁਰਤੀ ਕੈ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਚਲਿ ਕੈ ਉਲਟੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੀ ॥: Following the Way of Intuitive Awareness (subtle Inner Way, Divine comprehension, ਅੰਦਰ ਦਾ ਰਸਤਾ…), one’s (Inner) Vision becomes Enlightened and one turns away from Mayaic lifestyle (sggs 1329).

The Gurbani approves ONLY this Lifestyle. In fact, the Gurbani speaks at this level!

  • 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).
  • ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਸਹਿਲਾ ਜੀਵੈ ਸੋਇ ॥: (Who) dies through the Shabad, that (person) lives in Peace. (sggs 1344).

Hence, according to the Gurbani, they alone live (“ਸੋ ਜੀਵਤ”), who, while alive, constantly remains engaged in obtaining Spiritual understanding through the Shbaad-Vichaar and remain linked to their Mool.

  • ਸੋ ਜੀਵਤ ਜਿਹ ਜੀਵਤ ਜਪਿਆ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਭਏ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਹ ਛਪਿਆ ॥੨੧॥ : He alone lives, who, while alive, understands. O Nanak! (One who understands) becomes distinguished, and does not remain hidden. ॥੨੧॥ (sggs 254).

Upon dying in the Sahbad, the old being (Manmukh, Saakat, Mayadhaaree) “dies”, and gets “reborn” as a new Spiritual Being called Gurmukh in the Gurbani. Then, as a living dead or living liberated (“ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਣਾ”), he sees without eyes; he hears without ears; he walks without feet; he works without hands; he speaks without tongue…! Only a Gurmukh’s mind is fearless to leave the “Trikutee-ਤ੍ਰਿਕੁਟੀ” and come to rest into the Heart (“Hirdaa-ਹਿਰਦਾ” or “Ghat-ਘਟ” or “Dasavaa Duaaru-ਦਸਵਾ ਦੁਆਰੁ”). The Gurbani confirms this Spiritual State, which is beyond senses:

  • ਅਖੀ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਵੇਖਣਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਕੰਨਾ ਸੁਨਣਾ ॥ ਪੈਰਾ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਚਲਣਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਹਥਾ ਕਰਣਾ ॥ ਜੀਭੈ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਇਉ ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਣਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਣਿ ਕੈ ਤਉ ਖਸਮੈ ਮਿਲਣਾ ॥੧॥: See without eyes (i.e. if we look at the world by removing lust from the eyes etc.), hear without ears (i.e. if we keep the ears from the habit of hearing slander etc.); walk without feet (i.e. if we keep our feet from running in the wrong direction etc.), work without hands (i.e. if we use our hands without doing harm to others etc.); speak without the tongue (i.e. if we remove the habit of slandering others from the tongue etc.); this is how one dies alive. O Nanak! When one understands/recognizes Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature), then one realizes Truth (‘Khasam’-Master etc.). (sggs 139).

Understandably, the Gurbani proclaims he alone is truly alive, who has realized the “One”.

  • 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: System-Rule-Law of Nature…) abides. O Nanak! No one else (i.e., who denies the Hukam…) is truly alive (sggs 142).
  • ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥ ਆਖਣਿ ਅਉਖਾ ਸਾਚਾ ਨਾਉ ॥ : I come alive (Aatmak Jeevan-ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) when I am in a Realized State. The Un-Realized State Brings Spiritual Death (Aatmak Mout-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). The realization of the divine Naam (Giyan-Wisdom/Virtues) is said to be arduous. (sggs 9 – 349).

Two types of death

As there are two types of living, accordingly, there are two types of dying (Maranaa, death).

The Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is that unless one is spiritually Awakened, he is not yet alive — he is as dead (Aatmac Maut-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤੇ ਮਰਿਆ)!

  • 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).

The worldly people (Mamukhs, Saakat, Mayadhaaree…) consider demise of the physical body-frame a real death. Therefore, the worldly people only know dying at the level of the gross body (ਸਰੀਰ ਦੇ ਤਲ ਤੇ ਮਰਨਾ). Consequently, they are scared of death of the body. However, the Gurbani does not consider it real death (Maran):

  • 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).

But, there is an another type of death nobody (except the Gurbani) talks about — dying at the level of the mind (ਮੰਨ ਦੇ ਤਲ ਤੇ ਮਰਨਾ).

Hence, for the Gurbani, dying is of two types:

  1. dying at the level of the gross body, and
  2. dying at the level of the mind.

The Gurmukhs (Bhagat, Daas, Jan…) die at the level of the mind while still living in the body.

The Gurbani defines the real death

According to the Gurbani, the real death is to die while still alive: To become liberated-in-life, to become living dead, to become Jeevanmukta, to become liberated from bondage of worldly life while living in the midst of Maya, to become free of false ego-sense (Haumai)…

  • ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਸੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ॥: He alone is called liberated-in-life, from within whom Haumai (fasle ego-sense) is eradicated. (sggs 1009).

So, by becoming the Gurmukh, the Gurbani asks us to die in the Shabad, while alive. Since the Gurmukh abides in the Divine Hukam instead of self-will (ਅਪਣੀ ਮਰਜੀ), the real death is to give up self-will (Manmukhataa, ਅਪਣੀ ਮਰਜੀ…) — total abandonment of all mental conditioning, without the least reserve.

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੁਢੇ ਕਦੇ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਰਵਹਿ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਹਜ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥ ਓਇ ਸਦਾ ਅਨੰਦਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ਰਹਹਿ ਦੁਖਿ ਸੁਖਿ ਏਕ ਸਮਾਨਿ ॥ ਤਿਨਾ ਨਦਰੀ ਇਕੋ ਆਇਆ ਸਭੁ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮੁ ਪਛਾਨੁ ॥੪੪॥ : The Gurumukh (Enlightened ones who have Internalized the spiritual Message of the Shabad) never age for their Consciousness is ever immersed in divine Giyan-Wisdom. They forever live life of divine Virtues, focusing only on that alone. They always remain in the Bliss and Bibek (discriminating intellect) and they are always steadfast in sorrow and happiness. They see only ONE Omnipresent everywhere (Universal Energy). ||44|| (sggs 1418).

Such stable (unconditioned…) mind is possible through the Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani (Gurmati).

  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਨੁ ਠਹਰਾਈਐ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਿੰਦੁੜੀਏ ਅਨਤ ਨ ਕਾਹੂ ਡੋਲੇ ਰਾਮ ॥: O my Soul! By the “Gurmati” (the Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani), hold the mind steady; (on account of this Divine Wisdom, the mind) does not wander anywhere (sggs 538).

The complete annihilation of the Mayaic mind comes about by dying in the Shabad. This is the Gurbani’s edict.

  • ਸਬਦਿ ਮਰੈ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰੈ ਅਪੁਨਾ ਮੁਕਤੀ ਕਾ ਦਰੁ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੩॥: (Who) dies in the Shabad, annihilates his own mind, and obtains the Door of Liberation. ||3|| (sggs 117).

Clearly, according to the Gurbani, to be born is one thing but to be truly alive quite another!


  1. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ke Fateh,

    This Gurbani Blog explains gurbani in detail and goes further to fully explain the purpose of life.It has been written in a clear and easy to understand way that I have not seen anywhere else;from the great presentation, quotes from gurbani and helpful hyperlinks this blog is unique and truly wonderful!

  2. Sat Sri Akaal Singh saab. Could you please Enlighten me about concepts of ‘Re-birth’ and ‘Re-incarnation’ as per Gurbani and SGGS.
    Thank you

  3. Thank you Bhai Sahib Harbans Lal Ji for taking the time to respond to this post.
    Gurmat is simply a business for the crafty Pujaaree Group. Gurdwara committee members are partner in this business.

  4. Question of life and death in not well described by our parcharaks. Thank you for opening up the subject.

  5. Love and Gratitude to T Singh Ji. Such an enlightening post ! Deluded by imaginations all the time so far I lived in time ! Living as life itself I do not imagine and I am right here right now ! Akaaal ! Love Love and only Love to you!

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