Revelation

I know nothing about revelation. Yet, the previous sentence was revealed. I did not think & write that sentence. That happens to me, often. !

In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about writing on this. Until I met Bhai Baldeep Singh (Anad foundation), who in a very candid conversation cared to explain the difference between something that is composed & otherwise, revealed.

Bhai ji shared a personal story of the time when he was trying to compose a rhythmic composition on Jori. ! He sat for few hours & maybe days (I dont remember the precise details) making an effort, trying to put together a composition. But it didn’t come through. And then he went silent. He invited & courted silence in his mind. He created that space that was required for the composition to be born or better, revealed. After few hours of sitting in silence, it came to him & he started scribbling on his notebook without much thought but with an impeccable flow. A beautiful composition was thus revealed.

Since the day he shared this story, I have been thinking about it. Yesterday this story came up again in a different conversation with another friend of mine, who was present when Bhai ji shared his story. And while listening to the story again, something dawned upon me. And that was why composition & revelation are so different. And what makes them so different.

At a fundamental level, the difference between a composition & revelation lies in the sense of responsibility. Do I consider myself responsible for creating this stuff ? Or I just shake my hands off all responsibility & hand it over to a miraculous & mysterious being who just takes care of me.

Do I view this world as a place where every one is on his own & I have to fight with the last man left to survive ? Do I view this world as a hostile place where every one is here to “get” me & I have to prove myself to be the smartest person anyone could surround himself with ?

Or Do i view this world as a caring, comfortable place where a universal force takes care of not just me but everyone. Do I not understand but “know” that everyone is just the same ? Do I “know” the Oneness of this universe ?

What I have come to understand in my own life is that I have been struggling really hard to compose my life. I want a certain set of experiences & shun the rest. I want a certain kind & type of people in my life, rest are wasting my time. I want to learn a particular skill because that will get me the next job. Heck, I choose to mate on certain days of the month because I want to compose a baby. ! What a composed life.

Why can not I let life reveal itself to me ? Why not have a little faith & embrace all experiences & people & let life live it through me.

For that to happen, my mind has to go silent. My mind has to let go of all the control & really know that at the end of it, it’s not me who’s calling the shots – that’s just an illusion. My mind has to open up to serendipitous experiences of the life.

It’s the same as Baba Nanak lived his revealed life & in the process revealed “ਧੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ” (dhur ki baani) to us.

Nanak says:

ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਰ ਧੁਰਹੁ ਫੁਰਮਾਈ ਆਪਿ ਮੁਆ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰੀ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਹਾ ਰਸੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਨਾਮਿ ਨਿਵਾਰੀ ॥5॥2॥

karanee kaar dhurahu furamaaee aap muaa man maaree |
naanak naam mehaa ras meethaa thrisanaa naam nivaaree |5|2|

 

Composed – 07/12/2015

Dad

11 years ago, to this day, I lost my dad in what was a sudden incident. I was 21 – at the peak of my youthful arrogance. I loved my Dad. He made me into what I am today – literally & figuratively – in fact, in every sense of the word, I am what he made me into. Since childhood, he brought us (our family) up with values, hard work, ethics & an honest living.

I vividly remember each year of growing up, especially after the age of 10 – how he was sitting besides me when I had my surgery, how we used to ride bike to school every day – what words he would whisper in my ears while going to school – i remember it all. I clearly remember how he promised me an ice cream if I noted down the “Mool mantar” written on the Gurdwara notice board. And I did. !

But the early years are wiped out of my memory. What happened from years 0-10 are mostly hidden in my sub conscious and I don’t have any clear picture of that.

However, after being becoming a Dad myself, when I close my eyes, I can almost see a movie in my head of my Dad playing with me when I was 2 years old. How he would have lifted me, tickled me, smiled at me. I remember, even as a teenager, how he wanted to kiss me – especially you know, the nasty kiss where he just wanted to eat my whole cheek off. I do the same thing with my son. He’s 2 year old & obliges readily. But I eat him the same way.

Dad used to tell me stories about his childhood. How they (he & his brothers) used to walk few miles to get to school. I can just visualize my dad wearing shorts & bag on the back, plodding through the dusty streets of my hometown. It’s generates an amazing feeling of love to just imagine this.

A Poem by William Wordsworth comes to my mind,

My heart leaps up when I behold
        A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
       So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
        Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
     I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

especially the line – “The Child is father of the Man”– whatever William Wordsworth had meant by that, but having a child myself teaches me a lot about my father.

Recently, a dear friend who is almost in this 40’s, lost his father to cancer. No matter, how old we grow, Dad will always be Dad. Fatherly love will always be Fatherly love. And it’s beautiful. The memories, the life, the smiles, the joy of being a father surpasses the joy of everything else in the world.

Look at this picture for a moment:

 

Abundant Joy !
Abundant Joy !

It is of my son, Guransh. There’s an abundant joy, a kind of bliss in his smile. No matter how my day is going, the moment I see this picture, everything else melts away & my heart is filled with a kind of love, that is beyond explanation…

Illusion

By Chetandeep Singh – May 30th 2014

It’s not as we think it is.

It’s seems different.
The reality is completely different.
It’s an illusion !

Since, I am a student -Sikh – which literally means – learn, I am learning & will continue to learn my entire life. I am coming to grasps with the basic illusion of life & that’s what I am sharing in this post.

ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥
ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

This is a shabad from Guru Granth Sahib (Aad Granth) sung (written) by Ravidas.

The literal translation would be:

Friend (God), What to say (desperation), What an illusion I am caught in. The way I believe, in reality, it is not that. !

And just reading, this seizes the attention & points us to the fundamental truth that we are living in an illusion (Matrix, anyone ?)

Naturally, the question arises:- Ravidas Ji, please explain, What is this illusion, you are talking about ? And he explains in the entire shabad with couple of examples:-

ਰਾਗੁ ਸੋਰਠਿ ਬਾਣੀ ਭਗਤ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਜੀ ਕੀ

ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥

ਜਬ ਹਮ ਹੋਤੇ ਤਬ ਤੂ ਨਾਹੀ ਅਬ ਤੂਹੀ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ॥
ਅਨਲ ਅਗਮ ਜੈਸੇ ਲਹਰਿ ਮਇ ਓਦਧਿ ਜਲ ਕੇਵਲ ਜਲ ਮਾਂਹੀ ॥1॥
ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥
ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

When I am there, YOU are not there. Now only YOU are there, I cease to exist. Even though high waves originate in the ocean, all the seemingly separate waves are nothing but ocean itself.

Ravidas points out the fundamental illusion(flaw/truth), which is, the illusion of the mind that thinks itself as the doer. Our mind thinks that I am the doer, that I exist, that I need to make an effortful living & it’s only my effort that will get things done. And precisely this mindset is what Ravidas is calling out to watch for. When I think I am the doer, then God, you dont exist, but NOW, YOU are there, hence I (my ego) have died.

I think, what it points to is or what Ravidas Ji is calling out is to surrender our mind & trust the life (universe/god).

Siddh Sabha vs. Sant Sabha

By Chetandeep Singh – June 14th 2014

Nanak explained the difference between Siddh Sabha & Sant Sabha.

ਸਿਧ ਸਭਾ ਕਰਿ ਆਸਣਿ ਬੈਠੇ ਸੰਤ ਸਭਾ ਜੈਕਾਰੋ ॥

In my limited understanding, Nanak says Siddh Sabha Kar Aasan Baithe – that in the Siddh Goshti, We sat down with the Siddhs & there seems to be a tradition in Siddhas that says “Siddh Sabha di Jai”. But Nanak says, Jaikar (Victory/Glory) to Sant Sabha & not Siddh Sabha.

What is Sant Sabha:-

ਭਾਈ ਰੇ ਸੰਤ ਜਨਾ ਕੀ ਰੇਣੁ ॥
ਸੰਤ ਸਭਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਧੇਣੁ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਸੰਤ ਸਭਾ ਜੈਕਾਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਉ ॥

ਮਿਲਿ ਸੰਤ ਸਭਾ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਂਜੀਐ ਭਾਈ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥

ਸੰਤ ਸਭਾ ਮਹਿ ਇਹੁ ਰਸੁ ਟੋਲਹੁ ॥
ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਖੋਜਿ ਲਹਹੁ ਘਰੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਨ ਗਰਭ ਮਝਾਰਾ ਹੇ ॥4॥

From all these, it seems very obvious that Sant Sabha is something internal to us, inside us & not something outside.

For that, we need to first, define Sant. !

That’s for another post.

Home is what I want …

By Chetandeep Singh – February 7th 2015

I wander outside looking for unknown,

I dabble, I dibble but remain fearful.

I know not myself, more afraid to find out,

stare at walls & sky trying to be quiet.

I am royally confused looking for wisdom,

knowing not that it comes from inside.

Shall I rip apart, or screw open,

looking for the wisdom that eludes.

I compare, I run, I burn,

ashes, ashes and ego …

There’s no respite in sight

friends ask to look inside,

I stare at walls & sky trying to be quiet.

I know not what i want

i consume what I don’t want

mind is foggy, lack of clarity

I am tired of running.

I need to sit but not stare at walls & sky

I need not to look inside but return home

home is where the peace is

home is what I want.

Respect

By Chetandeep Singh – January 22nd 2015

Respect – a revered word, used multitude of times especially when the conversation involves our Gurus or Guru Granth. A quick look at the definition explains respect – a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect is usually shown – as in the case of Guru Granth – by wrapping the Guru Granth in specially sewn, high quality fabric like silk or wool & taking utmost care while handling Guru Granth so as not to disrespect. We wash our hands & feet before entering Gurdwara as a measure of hygiene & also respect. We keep Gutkas – small & specialized versions of Guru Granth containing few related hymns – also wrapped in special clothes & take utmost care not to disrespect them by keeping them out of reach of small children.

We do “Prakash” & “Sukhasan” of Guru Granth. We do “Chaur” on Guru Granth. We have “Chandoa” on Guru Granth. We use words like “Chavar Chattar de Maalik” for Guru Granth. All in the name of respect & tradition. Every time we pass by Guru Granth at home or Gurdwara we fold our hands (Think of how many times Gurdwara Bhai Sahib does that in a single day). Not only Guru Granth, we really respect all the photos & pictures of Guru’s that we have in our homes.

We wash Harimandar’s (Golden Temple, Amritsar) floor with tons of Milk every day in the name of respect. We don’t allow women to do Kirtan in Harimandir because women are unclean & there is a risk of disrespect. Talk about Equality in Guru Nanak’s world view !

We also show respect to 5 Kakars. We also show respect to Turban – often by keeping Turban on the ‘right’ side of other lower caste fabrics like socks. Of course socks are worn in the feet & Turban on the head. They aren’t mean to be together.

We show respect to Nanak by referring him as Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji. Siri Sahib Ji. Amritsar Sahib Ji. Everything remotely related to Sikhi should have Sahib at the end. Singh Sahib Ji. Nishaan Sahib. Rumala Sahib. Akhand Path Sahib !

Does Guru Sahib – see, how intuitively I am programmed to call Guru Sahib – intend or expect any respect from us? If he does, in what way, shape or form that respect is expected. More broadly, Does God expects respect from us?

The common answer we all know is that the real respect is by actions & not by words. If we don’t follow what Guru Granth says, what’s the point of respect – ਸੀਸਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਐ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੈ ਕੁਸੁਧੇ ਜਾਹਿ ||੧||

Going back to the definition of respect – a feeling of deep admiration – if we really respect Sikhi ideology then the real respect is to improve our lives in the way Guru intended us to.

As far as the addressing of our Guru’s by first name goes – we can remain mired in the “Sahib” world or we can progress & show what Nanak was & what Nanak did to the entire world. We are scared & afraid of disrespecting by calling Nanak by his first name. By engaging in the fake notions of respect we are loosing an opportunity to showcase Nanak to the world.

Fundamentally, respect and more so, showing respect is irrelevant. Respect has close ties with Ego. Respect & Ego are two sides of the same coin. One expects respect because of ego. Since God or Guru are free of Ego, they don’t expect us to respect them.

Even in our daily lives, at work, social circles, we respect someone either due to fear or due to greed. We respect the Vice President of our company because of his position & in the hope we can get closer to him so that we can benefit from the close ties. We make friends or connections with the people where we anticipate our benefits. Who wants to be friends with a low achiever? Who wants to just connect at a human level? Who sees every human, irrespective (ir-respect-ive) of color, figure, looks, position, money, connections? Who said it more clearly then Kabir:-
ਨਿਰਧਨ ਆਦਰੁ ਕੋਈ ਨ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਲਾਖ ਜਤਨ ਕਰੈ, ਓਹੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਧਰੇਇ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

ਜਉ ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਸਰਧਨ ਕੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਆਗੇ ਬੈਠਾ ਪੀਠਿ ਫਿਰਾਇ ॥1॥

ਜਉ ਸਰਧਨੁ ਨਿਰਧਨ ਕੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਦੀਆ ਆਦਰੁ ਲੀਆ ਬੁਲਾਇ ॥2॥

ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਸਰਧਨੁ ਦੋਨਉ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਕਲਾ ਨ ਮੇਟੀ ਜਾਈ ॥3॥

ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ, ਨਿਰਧਨੁ ਹੈ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥4॥8॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1159}

Most of our life is spent taking care of “respect”. It’s time we change the paradigm & what can be a better paradigm than Honesty – Brutal Honesty with yourself. Am I being honest with myself? Are my actions in line with what Gurbani is teaching us? Am I still entangled in the web of society, respect, honor, ego, position, power, money? Or I have the vision to realize the ephemeral nature of stuff & have the courage to look inside.

 

Why Nitnem ?

By Chetandeep Singh – January 8th 2015

I started doing complete Nitnem – 5 baanis that every Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh is mandated to do by the Sikh Code of Conduct – around 10 years back in 2004 when I took Amrit. It was not just one day I decided to recite 5 baanis in the morning & 2 more in the evening. It was a process that was instilled in me since childhood – at home, at school. I went to a secular but mostly populated by Sikh students school where the assembly was hymn singing & the zero period was the recitation of Japji (number of pauri’s depended on how old we were) by the entire class in a chorus.

Nitnem – by definition means daily routine – something you do daily. Sikhs around the world have been doing Nitnem for ages – as they were mandated by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of Sikhs around 1699 AD. In the last 10 years, I have been doing Nitnem, I went from a 45 minute sitting-in-one-place-reciting-nitnem routine to doing Japji while showering, listening to Jaap while tying Turban & doing Sawaye, Chaupai & Anand Sahib on the go.

I have experienced the best & the worst of myself while doing Nitnem. The best days were when I woke up at 4:30, showered & sat in a quiet place reciting & listening to the beautiful baanis in my own voice. The worst were repeating the same “Suniye” & “Manne” pauris of Japji 10 times & then realizing that my mind was stuck in a loop fixing a software problem at office. Even worse were times when while doing Japji I would wander off to Rehraas in the “So dar” pauri & realize at the end of Anand Sahib that I had initially started doing Japji.

After first few years I knew baanis by heart & could recite them while sleeping. In those years, I would “preach” people that if they are Amritdhari, they HAVE to do Nitnem no matter what, else they were guilty of breaking the promise with the Guru. In fact, there were days when I felt guilty like hell because I missed 1 baani. I see the same trend all around. My fellow Sikhs try to complete the morning baanis till the clock hits 11:59 pm & take a sigh of relief when they are able to finish it in the tick of the time.

In the last 3 years, I have gone from doing 7 baanis every day to only Japji & Rehraas to only Japji to None now. I am still Amritdhari but I do not do Nitnem – Am I proud of this fact. No. Not at all. In fact, it’s embarrassing. But then, why am I writing about it?

At first, when the decline started, I felt guilty. Slowly, the guilt melted away & the awareness came. Lot (Most) of times I was doing Nitnem through sheer force of willpower & fear. Fear that I have promised Guru that I HAVE to do Nitnem otherwise, either something bad is going to happen to me OR I am not a good Sikh, OR I am breaking my promise to Guru & so on.

Then I realized that to God or Guru, it doesnt matter an inch if I do Nitnem or NOT. God is not going to punish me for doing Nitnem or not. Heck, I could do anything, virtually anything & there’s nothing like good or bad deeds. And especially God or Guru is not going to punish me for this. Importantly, doing it by sheer willpower is not going to help me because all those 10 years when I did Nitnem I was just rushing through the stipulated baanis without stopping to understand a word. Yes, it had an advantage that I will come to in a minute.

I had my own share of arguments with my mom & the community at large on doing Nitnem or not. My mom was heartbroken when she came to know that I am no longer doing Nitnem or I no longer believe in Dasvandh (topic for another post). But in my heart, I know the reasons & I believe that I am a better Sikh than I was before.

At intellectual forums the purpose of Nitnem has been discussed in multitude. One purpose is achieving enlightening or Mukti. Some of us think that recitation & chanting (Nitnem, Naam Simran) leads to enlightenment. We think of enlightenment or Mukti as a Goal. That recitation is a path to achieve this goal.

Thanks to this WSJ article & this article by Scott Adams, I had an Aha! moment about Nitnem.

That enlightenment or Mukti as a goal is setting yourself up for a failure. And especially thinking Nitnem only as a means to achieving Mukti is going to disappoint you in the long run. What I believe is the reason we were given this practice of Nitnem is to set up a system. A system of deliberate practice. A system of being in the place of opportunity. A system of being in the run for Mukti. A system of moving from a place of low odds (No Nitnem) to a place of good odds (Nitnem), where anything might happen.

So our Gurus & Ancestors created a system for us to recite Nitnem every day so that we could be in the hunt. It’s a process & by doing that process we don’t know what might open up – enhanced understanding of Gurbani, improved lifestyle, living in the light of the knowledge of Gurbani – and the possibilities are endless. It’s the same process that I was instilled with when I was a child – just that I didn’t know it was a system.

Will I start doing Nitnem again? I don’t know yet. Looks like the last 10 years have taken a lot of toll on the willpower. I will need to come up with a system that works for me – at least in the case of Nitnem.

Please feel free to share your experience on Nitnem & how it has changed your life.

– Chetandeep Singh