- Marcus Aurelius
My wife and I recently took a trip to India, during which we attended a Sikh Wedding (Anand Karaj) out in the open airs of Goa against the backdrop of Arabian Sea. The whole affair was organized elegantly with love and full respect to the holy Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book). It was late morning and the waves of the sea were lazily playing with each other. On the far-right end of me, a rivulet was rejoicing its union with the sea. The birth and death of waves was reminding me of a quote I once heard likening us all to butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever. The salt-laden air was adding sugary sweetness to the sound of religious music being played. The combined effect of amniotic pull of the vast expanse of the sea and the soulful rendering of gurbani (spiritual hymns) had levitated me to a different plane of consciousness. It could have been a satori (instant enlightenment) moment, but regardless, I was awakened from my trance by the words, “let us take a walk”.
On the same evening, the wedding reception took place. For my antiquated ears, the music was loud and incomprehensible, so I left the hall earlier than others and went for a walk along the beach. The night was cool; stars in a communal honeymoon spirit were out in full force (something you do not get to see in Philadelphia). The words “let us take a walk” were still ringing through my head. I recalled that these words may be from a book which I have been reading titled “Walking with Nanak” by Pakistani author Haroon Khalid. In the book he has chronicled the places Guru Nanak visited in West Punjab (now in Pakistan) during his life time. The thoughts about Baba Nanak were pulling me into a spiritual discourse with myself like a moth being pulled to the flame.
For a moment, I thought that I am quite often drawn to fuzzy spirituality. A fearful thought sprang - what if my ego is playing a pious fraud with me? However, the thought that I must regardless heed such a calling won over my trepidation. I decided to walk into a world of thoughts illuminated; even if it turns out to be a mere bohemian meandering, it will still be soul lifting if I focused on Baba Nanak’s words.
While thinking all these thoughts, I was gazing at infinite patterns of shapes created by clusters of stars. I thought that the sky must be something like this for him as well. When standing on the shore of cosmic ocean and earth, he may have marveled at the beauty of the universe and asked where is the place from which you take care of all the celestial beings including fire, water, human beings and so on and so forth (so dar keha,so ghar keha - SGGS,P7). In this beautiful thought he sent countless salutations to the intelligence behind the universe. The musical cadence of his thought process was dancing in my head. The voice in my head was telling me that Baba Jee’s words of wisdom are like seeds of awe following of which ing would lead to wonder and experience of mystery.
Baba Jee recited that there are thousands and thousands of universes. The wisdom says that there is no end to the universe. Universes come and go as a matter of routine. His mystical vision had taken him to the other side of the infinity, and he could see this scientific truth hundreds of years ago without satellites with microscopes.
For next couple of days, I kept on thinking that Baba Nanak gave us a very simple panth (path) for liberated living. The tapestry of beautiful hymns gifted by him is interwoven with the concept of Naam, Daan, and Isnaan. It is the essential foundation of Sikhism and the code that dictates a Sikh’s moral and ethical life.
Naam stands for mindful awareness and whole-hearted acceptance of divine presence in every sentient and non-sentient being. The vision that we never separated from source and thus from each other runs through Sikh Philosophy. The central belief of Sikhs that all beings belong to same race and everybody is equal in creators eyes is rooted in the principle of Naam.
Daan stands for touching lives that are not ours in a benevolent and generous ways. A good Sikh is supposed to deliberately effort towards cultivation of generosity with gratitude for evolution of higher consciousness.
Isnaan stands for living by high ethical and moral principles of humanity leading to good deeds resulting in cleansing of body and mind from passion, anger, greed, attachment, and jealousy.
Naam, Daan, and Isnaan in their definition include practice of virtues such as kindness, forgiveness, contentment etc. The practice of this principle in life sculpts the human clay to its most exalted form:
Saach Varat Santokh Teerath, Gyan Dhyan Isnaan
Daya Devta Khima Japmali, Sey Manukh Pardhan
- SGGS P 1284, Raga Sarang, Guru Nanak
(Those who hold truth as their fast, contentment as pilgrimage, kindness as their deity and forgiveness as their rosary-they are the most exalted ones).
During the same visit to India, I went to several historical Gurdwaras. I saw Sikh worshippers taking a sip of water from the place where worshippers wash their feet before entering the shrine. It was at the Gurdwara Sisganj in Delhi (Guru Tegh Bahadur, 9th guru, was martyred here). I saw old men and women working selflessly in the kitchens making food for the worshippers. I saw handicapped men doing circumambulation of Golden Temple by being carried by their grandchildren. At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, I lost myself in the beauty and magnetism of hymns being sung by hymns singers.
I was sitting on the second floor in the Golden Temple for some time. I was about to get up when the singing of the following hymn from the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Jee started
Haun Aya Dooron Chal Key, Main Takee to Sharnaye Jiyo
Main Asa Rakhee Chit Meh, Mera Sabo Dukh Gavae Jiyo
- SGGS, P 763, Raga Suhi
(I have come so far seeking the protection of your sanctuary, My mind has put hopes in you that you will take away all my sufferings)
A vulnerable looking middle aged lady who was sitting across me started crying at the onset of this hymn. I do not know whether the tears were expression of melancholic joy or outpouring of all the pain and sufferings. For me, I saw my Baba Nanak in her tears. While leaving the complex of Golden Temple, I turned back to have a last look at the glittering temple and thought of devotees of all kind praying and giving meaning to Naam, Daan, Isnaan in their own unique way. Each one of them, as Baba Nanak said, effable representation of ineffable. I thought of Baba Naank as someone beyond comparison and my eyes could not hold the pride in my heart. The following couplet came on my lips:
Aaina kyon na duun k tamaasha kahein jise
Aisa kahaan se laauun k tum sa kahein jise
(Maybe I should give you a mirror, so that you can watch your own spectacle
Where can I find another, whom people will consider magnificent)