The Message of Guru Nanak
There are many kinds of sounds echoing and re-echoing in the various regions of the creation and may, for convenience, be classified into two categories:
(1) Sound proceeding from the left side. These are negative and material sounds and are connected with the respective ingrained seeds of inner passions. The devotee is willy-nilly attracted by these sounds. If one is fascinated by any one of these siren-songs on the left, one may find oneself hurled down into the deepest depths of the abysmal chasms of the passion to which the particular sound relates, for such sounds have a pull that is outward and downward. In such a sad predicament, the labor of years becomes of no avail and odds go against the pilgrim-soul. These are therefore to he avoided scrupulously, for they lead one astray from the spiritual Path.
(2) Next there are sounds that proceed from the right side. These are sounds from the spiritual planes and as such are positive in character and purely spiritual with a characteristic pull that is inward and upward.
These two kinds of sounds are so very similar and so closely resemble each other that one can hardly distinguish between them. Maulana Rumi, therefore, warns us to be careful in differentiating the right type of sounds. He says: There are sounds of a lower nature which very much resemble those of the higher, Yet they have a downward pull and drag on to one's doom.
The particular Sounds that have an upward pull are five in number, as stated by the various Saints, and may be apprehended through their grace and contacted in Their company. Such Sounds carry with them the effect of the spiritual planes from which they proceed and in turn produce the same effect on him who comes in contact with them. They have their own heavenly melodies, the rapturous strains of which depersonalises the soul by freeing it from the chains of mundane life.
Whoever comes near the fire, gets warmth, no matter whether he does so of his own accord or not. So the Holy Naam or the Divine Song, cannot but influence you when you come in contact with It, whether you will it or not and are in time or out of time. The Power of God cannot but influence you, should you get in touch with it.
The outer music has a marvelous effect
on all living beings. It shakes off the grievous burden of the oppressive
sorrow and unrest under which one incessantly groans and drives away all
thoughts. It washes away the dirt of everyday life by its melodious tunes
and captivates the soul. It withdraws the mind from the tumultuous hubbub
of the objective world. It concentrates the mind, naturally, without having
recourse to any fabricated methods. Music, indeed, has ever been the art
How marvelous is the effect of the external music! What then will be the charm of the internal Divine Melody ? It has its own inimitable fascination. It is exuberant with the spiritual vitality which takes man above all the pains and ills to which the flesh is heir. In times of storm and stress, one may harmonize one's self with the internal tunes and pass off unscathed from the pinching effects of worldly life.
These spiritual sounds are aids on
the spiritual Path. A Competent Master, at the time of initiation, gives
full instructions on how to differentiate between them from plane to plane,
as well as how to catch hold of them on the onward march to the highest
Herein then lies the need for a Master-soul, for He is the inspirer of Hari Naam--the Divine Word, in the depths of one's soul. Without Him, the Eternal Song ever remains a shrouded mystery with no access thereto. As Music personified, it is within His competence to manifest it, make it audible and thus lead one to the seat of the Almighty.
Misery and Pleasure Defined. It is a matter of common experience that we lose ourselves when we are fully engrossed in anything. This blessed state of self-forgetfulness comes only with the fixity of attention and the moment we are forced out of it, we become sensitive to our surroundings and feel upset even with the trivialities of life. Since all our lives we have been seeking pleasure in worldly pursuits and objects, we have become identified with them. Thus, we know nothing of the real and permanent bliss that lies far from them, in the depths of one's own self or soul. We cannot possibly wean ourselves from the so-called pleasures of the world until we are made to introvert and taste something better within.
The whole world is going astray in its search for the center of true happiness or bliss. Material objects cannot give us bliss on account of the constant change to which, by their very nature, they are subject, every moment of their existence. Again, external objects per se have no pleasure in themselves, but it is our attachment to them that gives us pleasing sensations. But these objects, on account of their ephemeral nature, have to follow the changing panorama of existence. By these kaleidoscopic changes, the mind naturally gets bewildered, distracted and very often feels miserable. Everlasting Bliss or True happiness can be had only by attachment to something that is permanent, unchanging and eternal. The evanescent charms of Dame Nature cannot afford man any happiness in the true sense of the word.
Guru Nanak says:
searches for Joy Eternal, let him seek that
in All-Pervading Spirit (Naam).--Shalok M.9
To relieve the mind from the outgoing senses, it must be attuned to the sweet symphonies of the inner Music of the soul, the Word, reverberating in and through all. As this is eternal, so also will be our attachment to It and we will know no change and no pain. The mind will no longer wander away to external objects, once it gets steeped in the strains of the Eternal Song. With Its help, the world-weary soul rises into the higher spiritual planes. The Word has Its own innate effulgent Light and Song--ineffable and sweet.
Where there is vibration, there is
sound. It is a scientific truth. Light is also the inevitable result of
vibration as both light and sound go hand in hand.
Guru Nanak has dealt with the countless benefits that accrue from communion with the internal Sound--the Word--from stanzas VIII to XV of Jap Ji.
Naam keeps the mind and body in a state of equipoise. Peace reigns supreme in its devotee; the ramifications of mind are done away with forever- All lusts cease to have their hold on the mind. The brain gets a soothing balm. It puts an end to wasteful hurry, and with it go all nervous tensions and mental strains and stress. Naam gives one immunity from all bodily and worldly pains and troubles. By withdrawing the attention within, the mind is stilled and the soul is freed of all mental conflicts. Even the sense of egotism itself--the most ancient malady--loses itself into airy nothing and with it, the perpetual dance of coming in and going out of the World comes to an end. The process of transmigration of the soul is but the natural concomitant of the self-assertive will or egotism.
Guru Nanak says:
The elimination of egoism is, then, the only remedy for liberation from the unending cycle of births and deaths. It is a clear test of those who have realized at-one-ment with the Ever-Existing Divinity--the spiritual current diffused in the world. All labor undergone for total self-effacement is an effort in the right direction. It is called disimprisonment of the soul from the facts of life or disenfranchisement from all that is worldly. In a word, the secret lies in depersonalising the soul of all that is personal in it, for then one strikes at the root of all evil. The many recipes for this losing of the 'I-consciousness,' that floods the world today, fail to gain for us the goal of liberation. For with such methods, the ego feeds itself and grows from strength to strength and is not effaced. Unless one becomes a conscious co-worker with the Divine Plan, he cannot become selfless.
The very fact that we exist makes us want to understand the process of life. How and whence have we come into existence and what happens after death? The discovery of the theory of evolution by modern science, does not fully satisfy us for it deals with the physical side only and does not account for the higher planes of manifestation, which are the spiritual ones. The ancient sages realized that there could be no evolution without involution. The fact that something cannot come out of nothing proves that involution must precede evolution. To know the latter we must understand the former, just as to know the effect we must know the cause. The two are inseparable.
The gross body is not all. It has two other subtle bodies inside, the astral and the mental, which are composed of finer and less destructible materials. These bodies consist of mind or intellect and the sense of the little ego 'I.' In them are stored up the impressions gathered in various lives. Only by studying the inner man, the mystery of evolution is understood. The soul is perpetually struggling to cast off the bondage of the matter and of the mind and soar upwards to God from whom it emanated. This struggle is ended only when it rises above the three regions: physical, astral and causal, and loses all sense of egoism, the cause of transmigration.
Self-effacement can be achieved by no other means except communion with the Shabd--the Word, as will be evinced from the sayings of the Master.
(1) O Nanak! through the favor of the Guru, we were saved and the ego was consumed in communion with the Shabd (Word). --Wadhans War M.3
(2) In egoism, the peoples of the world are being consumed--they go round the endless cycle of births and deaths. The ignorant (those attached to the cringing nature of the mind), do not realize the Shabd. They will go to the other world as dishonoured. --Siri Rag M.3
(3) The whole world is going astray in the egoistic assertion of I-ness. Without the Shabd (Word), there can be no release from the ego. O Nanak, by communion with the Naam, the ego is effaced and oneness with the True Lord is achieved. --Asa M.3
(4) In misery and pleasure,
the whole world is stuck fast. All their doings are directed by assertion
of egotism. Without the Shabd (Word),
be ended, and the ego cannot be lost. --Siri Rag M.3
(5) All desires and attachments get singed by the Shabd. A Gurmukh finds the Heavenly Light within. --Ramkali M.1
True renunciation within comes through communion with Shabd alone. Nature with all her evanescent charms ceases to have attraction for the renouncer. By renouncing everything, one penetrates into the all-pervading spirit. His attachment to the environments is done away with and his bondage to matter is ended. Thus, no more births and deaths await him. Here-after the life of the senses and the glamour of the world fascinates him not, on his way to the Lord.
The Master says:
Detachment in attachment is also attained only with the aid of Shabd. Whatever he does, he does just with a sense of duty--with no attachment to the fruit thereof. The root-cause of misery lies in the fact of one's attachment. We are caught by whatever we do--in our inability to detach ourselves from everything. We must reserve the power of remaining detached from all things, however precious they may be, or however much one may yearn for them.
Work constantly. Work, but
be not attached to its fruit. Thus learn ye
the secret of work. --Gita
What is it that aids in acquiring the power of detaching ourselves? None else but the communion with the Shabd. The Master speaks of this so beautifully:
Man is now endowed with all higher and supernatural powers. He knows the spirit of the scriptures, the secret of communion, the mystery of Self and of God, and becomes the abode of all virtues. He is overjoyed at the time of death, unlike others who are in dire agony at that time, since he has been accustomed to withdraw life-currents from the body at will. He is saved from all the misery that attends the death process.
This process of withdrawing the spirit
from the physical body is what is enjoined by all the saints, and is absolutely
necessary for a probationer to have access into the higher planes. Guru
Nanak, die (withdraw
your spirit) while you are alive, such a Yoga
you should practise. --Suhi M.1
Learn to die so that you may begin to live. --Bible
Die (withdraw your spirit) before you are dead. --Quran
Maulana Rumi has well defined what this death means. He averred:
Such a liberated one goes to meet death more than half way. At the time of departure from the body, he himself joyously withdraws the spirit currents within, as he has been accustomed to do so as a matter of his daily routine. Such a death is unattended by any kind of pain or misery that awaits all others at the last moment. The Hindu scriptures describe the pain at leaving the body to be as that of a thousand scorpions stinging together at one time. The Muslims compare it to the anguish that would be felt on passing a thorny bush through the alimentary canal right from the rectum to the mouth. Of course, everybody has at one time or another been an eye witness to the death pangs at a death-bed. Lastly, one gains access to the Mansion af God. He is thus saved through communion with the Shabd and made competent to help many another to attain the highest heights of Spirituality.
The application of this practice is
called "the Surat Shabd Yoga--Yoga of the Sound-Current --the communion
with the Divine Lord." It is the only effective means prescribed by Guru
Nanak, for the liberation of the soul from the bondage of the mind and
matter, and for the ultimate complete oneness with the Lord. He says:
Without contact with the Shabd (Word), ye cannot meet the Lord God and thy coming into the world goes in vain.
Without the Shabd none can ford over to the Divine Goal.
All efforts put in for securing communion- with the Shabd (Word) are efforts in the right direction. Guru Granth Sahib amply bears this. out:
Communion with the Word--the Eternal Music--is possible with a life of Simran, or the constant remembrance of the Lord. It does not mean mere mechanical muttering, which is discarded by the Master. Kabir affirmed:
Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain, but take it with some purpose in view. The constant remembrance of the Lord is but another form of love. Whom you love dearly--you think of always. This constant thought of the Lord is what the Master exhorts all to do, for as you think so you become.
Simran is the remembrance of the Lord done mentally (with the tongue of thought), with the heart filled with devoted love, concentrating on a particular center in the body. It is an act of centering the self and occupying the mind with the constant idea of the Lord, casting out all ideas of the objective world. The constant dwelling on our environments, has so taken hold of the mind that we cannot even for a single moment drive away the thoughts of external objects. From infancy onwards, this practice has been going on in full swing, and it has now grown into a regular habit of our lives.
Habit is said to be the second nature of man. It is at this stage rather difficult to extricate the mind from external objects. The more you try to do so, the more it becomes restive and the more it runs out into the mundane affairs of life. It has formed a strong alliance with all that is external. It is always thinking of what is foreign and exotic and is carried away by the glamour and fascination of the world. Whatever habit we have formed, we can unmake it as well. The thoughts of the world and of all that is worldly is the source of bondage to outside things. The Master too uses the same means inwardly as does Dame Nature to bind us to the external world, and makes the mind purely one-pointed. The constant thought of the Lord, by mentally dwelling on the Holy Naam, brings the mind back from the world and holds it to one place. At the outset it is difficult to concentrate as it takes time to bring the mind under control. But there is nothing to be disheartened about. Failures are stepping stones to success. Where there is a will, there is a way. We must stick to the process until the mind is channeled. The glory of Naam always reminds one of the highest ideal of human life. It soothes the mind and prevents it from going astray.
The constant remembrance of Naam withdraws the mind from the outer objects and concentrates it on the Divine and the supernatural. It makes the mind self-centred so that desires fail to draw it out and the siren songs of the world lose all their magic attraction. This part of the practice is technically termed by Guru Nanak as Simran. It further helps in the withdrawal of the spirit- current from the body to its seat, situated at the ganglion between and behind the two eyes called Ajana Chakra. Unless the soul current is withdrawn completely at one focus, further ascent of the soul is not possible. This process of withdrawal from the body is the one thing that is absolutely necessary in spiritual advancement, It is achieved through the simple preliminary method of Simran. With the help of a Gurmukh Master, the process of inversion and self-analysis becomes quite easy and natural to practice.
In Simran lie the seeds that help in the development of the soul. Nanak reveals this secret in the concluding portions of stanzas V, VI and XXIII, and at full length in stanza XXXIII of the Jap Ji. Fortunate indeed is the man who always revels in the blessings of his Master.
Attachment to the outer world is the
outcome of constant remembrance which makes man adhere to his environments,
through the law of cause and effect. All impressions ingrained in one's
mind must bear fruit in due course. None can escape the result. It is these
impressions that we have to nullify by constant remembrance of the Lord,
and by making this the ruling principle of our life. In transmigration,
man is led to environments to which he has been mostly attached. When you
think of the Lord all the time, nothing can bind you to matter; hence you
do not have any rebirths, for it is said:
Simran makes man introspective and concentrative. Extraordinary powers inevitably follow as a result of the concentration of mind in the inner planes, for Ridhis and Sidhis (extraordinary powers) are the slaves of Naam." --Gauri M. 5. The Master, however, warns the probationer against the use of them, for these lead him to the outer pursuits and estrange him from the goal he has set up before him. Simran procures true knowledge, high meditation and unerring intellect. It causes one to lose all sense of individuality, which fades away into the Boundless Being, creating a sort of waking trance. This State is utterly beyond words but is a sure reality beyond the ken of death. The hold of the ego is loosened, the spirit-currents are withdrawn and one rises into a halo of light. The body appears as something not of oneself. One's life, as compared to higher life, may be likened as a spark to the sun.
Tennyson, in his poem "The Ancient Sage," gives a description of what can be achieved by repetition even of one's own name. In a letter he also refers to the grander life achieved by him, by meditating on his own name. He says :
"A kind of waking trance I have frequently had quite up from childhood. This has generally come upon me through repeating my own name two or three times to myself, silently, till all at once, as it were, out of the intensity of consciousness of individuality, the individual itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into Boundless Being, and this not a confused state, but the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the surest, the wisest of the wisest, utterly beyond words, where death were an almost laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming but the only true life. I am ashamed of my feeble description." --Memoirs by Hallivor Tennyson
Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, was also accustomed to this practice of concentration. He lost all his consciousness of personality by concentrating upon his own name. The Master, however, enjoins the Simran of the Lord and not of one's own name. Meditation on one's name leads to a dip into one's own consciousness which is small, as compared to the Higher Consciousness of God.
There are several ways of performing Simran. When it is done (i) with the help of the tongue, it is called Baikhri, (ii) When done in ,the gullet by touching the tip of the tongue with the palate, it is known as Madhama, (iii) when done in rhythm with the beat of the heart, it is described as Pashhanti and (iv) with the flow of one's breath, it is called Para. The last method is practiced by Yogins. Masters, however, do not recommend this. The first three methods also do not give complete concentration, as the mind more often than not skips about while repetition is being done mechanically. The Master, therefore, advises mental Simran done with the tongue of thought termed Zikre-i-Ruhi.
The practice of Simran begins with
the repetition of the Lord's objective names slowly with a mental poise.
At first the process is objective, but in course of time it becomes subjective.
Then the Constant thought of the Lord continues without cessation. The
Master refers to this when He says:
Once this starts, the remembrance becomes automatic, continuous and constant and one never forgets the Lord.
Again, the Master says:
Let us pause, and summarize what has been said before we proceed further. According to the Master, the purpose of human life is to achieve complete oneness with the Lord. Aye, we must reunite with the Source from whence we once emanated. But how can we reach this Goal?
Non-assertion of egoism or humility is the way that helps in knowing His Will through Simran. It has already been mentioned that Simran helps in the withdrawal of spirit-currents from the body. After complete withdrawal is achieved, only then the ascent of the soul into higher spiritual planes becomes possible. To understand this and the mystery of self and the universe, requires a brief explanation.