Dear Khalsa Ji, Today, this journey has brought me to the 1st Pauri of 3rd Ashtapadee. What I understand from this Pauri, I share with all of you. In this Pauri Guru Sahib has referred to various methods for spiritual evolution by the religion that was dominant during his time. As no divine will ever condemn the practices of other religious streams, Guru Sahib too have only referred to them, and without criticizing them, has told us – his Sikhs – that the way of contemplation on ‘Naam’ is supreme. This way Guru Sahib has asked Sikhs not to practice the methods other than one recommended by him, for their spiritual evolution. This he has said in 9th and 10th sentence of this Pauri. Why Guru Sahib has asked us not to follow the ways of the ancient religion of our land, i.e. ‘my personal understanding’ of the reasons, I have elaborated after each sentence of this Pauri in italics. It is going to be a long post running to 11 pages, I advise patience to the readers. Before we get into the study of this Pauri, it is important to know the basic difference that makes the Sikh religion ‘new and distinct’ from other religions practiced in the world. This difference makes the Sikh religion a new major religion of the world. This fact we should never loose sight of; it should be firmly installed in our mind and in our being. It is this newness that is the reason for Guru Sahib instructing we ‘The Sikhs’ to discard the baggage of the bygone period and the religion to which our ancestors belonged and live in the freshness of this new great modern religion –‘The Sikh Religion’. I will not be repeating this for each of the sentence of this Pauri, but it applies to all of them. The Sikh Religion is a life-affirming way to divinity. In this religion, life is an opportunity to elevate oneself in spirituality, to link-up with ‘The Sat’ and become divine. It is a religion which demands that its followers live a complete life, including that of a house holder, and yet achieve the ultimate in both – the spiritual world and material world. Most of the other religious streams are life-negating. These religions consider life of a house holder as bondage, the material life as sin and thus both should be avoided by the spiritually inclined individuals. They even consider women as Maya and relegated her to lowest level in the hierarchical caste system, equal to Sudras. The spiritually inclined people were advised to leave the world and live in forests and remain unmarried avoiding all contacts with women. Guru Nanak Dev Ji brought in this innovation of’ complete life’ in the religious life of the Mankind; Guru Sahib advocated a life- affirming way to total evolution – spiritual and material. Guru Sahib swam against the prevailing current, negating much of what was being preached from time immemorial in our land. This was the courageous change of course, which made us – The Sikhs – what we are today, living perpetually in ‘Chhardian Kalan’ (Blissful Ascendancy). This makes ‘The Sikh Religion’, Unique and Distinct and hence ‘A New Religion’. In the Pauri that follows, Guru Sahib has pointed out all those practices of the life-negating religious streams that we have to weed out form our minds and from our lives. Why of it, I will elaborate based on my current understanding. As I have said earlier, this elaboration will be in ‘italics’. 1. jwp qwp igAwn siB iDAwn ] jaap taap gi-aan sabh Dhi-aan. Chanting, intense austerities, knowledge and all meditations. My understanding: Guru Sahib is referring to repeatedly chanting of Shalokas and Mantras, extreme form of denial of basic needs of the body and concentration on objects, which were prescribed to the followers of the ancient religion of our land for their spiritual evolution. The word ‘Jaap’ used, from the context in which it is used, suggests that here it means the Shalokas and Mantras, which are repeated by the followers of some religions. Shalokas and most of the Mantras are group of sentences that have some meaning in their respective language; they all use words of a specific language. These may have meaning in the context of the specific religion. In Tantras, the words used in Mantras do not have a meaning in any language; they are verbal sounds which the person has to keep repeating for a very large number of times; these words sound like Dhim, Thime………etc. It was a practice earlier, and is still so, in many religious streams of our land which asks its followers to keep repeating some Mantras or sets of sentences from their respective scripture. If just by repeating some Shalokas or Mantras one could become divine, then any parrot too can be trained in uttering them and thus can become divine; the birth in human form would not have been needed to reach the peak of spirituality. We know that all the religious scriptures of the world say that only humans can reach this stage. From this one can understand that by mere repetition of the Mantras or Shalokas cannot take the person to spiritual heights. With this, I understand as to why Guru Sahib negated the practice of Chanting Shalokas and Mantras for Sikhs. ‘Taap’ i.e. intense austerities, is a method prescribed in some of the religious streams to kill desires. These religious systems hold the belief that this way the devotees can get over there desires. As I see it, austerities give a temporary reprieve from desires. For example: when the person is intensely hungry as a result of austerities, she or he cannot think of sex. The desires for sex will come back the moment the basic requirement of human existence i.e. nourishment is fulfilled. I think it is due to the desire for sex, which is artificially suppressed through austerities, that one sees Manaka – the Apsara, under the influence of hallucination. Science tells us that hallucination can be caused even by high body temperature; the embodied being of ancient times could not have been immune from it; there is a good possibility that this is what actually happened to some of them. This way I can see that austerities do not kill desires, they only temporarily suppress them. As is the case with spring that is kept presses, it jumps up the moment the pressure on it is removed; these desires too bounce back the moment the suppressing agency is removed. There is a hierarchy of human needs/desires, when one get satisfied the next lower one pops up. Austerities can suppress desires that are lower in hierarchy, for some time, but cannot free the individual from them; desires remain waiting in the mind and express themselves in suitable environment. This, I understand must be the basis for Guru Sahib telling us not to follow the path of austerities, suggested by the ancient religions as it is futile. Meditation as practiced in yoga, it asks the Sadhak to concentrate on some object or sound very intensely for long time. This is done basically to subdue the thought process and prevent it from wandering. The moment the person comes out of meditation, depending on the person’s intrinsic tendencies, the mind again starts going astray. This is because the basic process of thought generation does not get trained by mechanical meditation. This, in my understanding, is sufficient reason for Guru Sahib to tell us not to follow the type of meditation recommended by the ancient religious stream of our land as they do not give the intended results; they do not help us evolve in spirituality. Gyan i.e. knowledge, by itself does not make the person spiritual. Sometimes, the awareness that one is knowledgeable makes the person arrogant; this increases the person’s ego; this is what we call Ahamkara. This state is being is called ‘Gyan Vilas’. This way, knowledge about the creation and other entities, by itself, does not make the person spiritual. Guru Sahib wisely cautioned us not to fall into Gyan Vilas, which was and is prevalent in the society. 2. Kt swsqR isimRiq viKAwn ] khat saastar simrit vakhi-aan. Six schools of philosophy and sermons on scripture. My understanding: Ancient thinkers of India had deliberated on creation, the life, its source and purpose. The sum total of their conclusions is classified under six schools of philosophy. Knowledge of all these philosophies and listening to sermons on them do not elevate the person spiritually. In addition these six philosophies have different views about the same reality, ‘The truth’. This means that the authors of these philosophies have perceived ‘The Reality’ differently. Guru Sahib has said that ‘The Reality’ is only ‘One’, i.e. ‘EkOngkar’. Further, understanding of the meaning of scripture is one thing, which comes from learning the scripture of these six philosophies, but to incorporate that understanding into one’s own being and living in accordance with it is a totally different thing. To keep the minds of Sikhs clear of all the confusion and contradiction that these six schools of thought are capable of, Guru Sahib asks us to stay away from living the life suggested by these different philosophies. Guru Sahib gave us a new philosophy for living, which a common house holder can follow. Guru Sahibs demonstrated the effectiveness of their way of life by actually living it. Having given us a perfect alternative, which is base on their person experience of ‘The Sat’, Guru Sahibs are fully justified in asking us to eschew the other philosophies. 3. jog AiBAws krm DRm ikirAw ] jog abhi-aas karam Dharam kiri-aa. Yoga Practice, actions, performing one’s duties and yogic procedures My understanding: In this sentence Guru Sahib is referring to the discipline of the person who practices Yoga. The person, who follows the path of Yoga, has to practice a lot to become perfect in it. As I understand these Yogic practices, many of them are very good for physical well being of the practitioner; beyond this, I have serious doubt on any achievement that may be claimed by its practitioner. There is another pitfall that is possible in this Yogic path. Some of the Yogic Practices are common with Tantras. The person who may start on the path of Yoga may finally find himself practicing Tantras and all that goes with them (Mansa/meen i.e. meat/fish, madira i.e. wine and mythuna i.e. sex- it is more so in Vamacharya branch of Tantras, which has the potential to lead the individual astray - to perversion. Even the masters of Tantras have pointed this out and asked their masters to select their disciple very carefully). Being aware of all this Guru Sahib asks us not to tread on Yogic Path for spiritual evolution for many reasons (i) it is not a validated path to spirituality (ii) it has scope for perversion and (iii) it is not the path that a house holder can follow. Guru Sahib is referring to the duties (Karma Dharma) that one performs towards the society, family and oneself that are ordained on the individual by the ancient religion of our land. Many of the duties that are part of Karma Dharma are justified and valid even today and will be so in future too, but they do not elevate the individual spiritually. They are very good to keep social order and well being of its people. For spiritual evolution, the path of karma alone is not enough; Guru Sahib knew it very well. Guru Sahib asks us not to consider that as adequate and so, do not follow it for spiritual evolution. Guru Sahib also refers to (Kiri-aa or Kriyyas) the procedures which are prevalent in the ancient religions of our land. To the extent, I know and understand, I find many of these Kriyyas are useful for cleansing in internal parts/systems of the body; they help in keeping human biological systems clean, and in good functioning condition. All these are mechanical procedures, they can only help in cleansing; I do not find them useful for spiritual evolution in any way. For those who are seeking spiritual evolution, this is not the path to be followed and thus Guru Sahib wisely asks Sikhs to follow it. 4. sgl iqAwig bn mDy iPirAw ] sagal ti-aag ban maDhay firi-aa. Giving up every thing and wandering in wilderness. My understanding: In ancient religion of this land, the world and the material life is considered polluting and so not fit for spiritual evolution. Individuals, ardent followers of this view, seeking spiritual evolution, used to leave the family and the worldly material life and live away from civilization in forests, wandering around from one place to another. Guru Sahib is referring to this aspect in the life in this sentence. We are born in human form; this was the will of ‘The Sat’. In this life we have to follow the will of ‘The Sat’ and strive to become an instrument of his will. If ‘The Sat’ wanted us to live in forests, then the birth could have taken place in forest as some wild insect or a tree. Not able to tame their desires in the presence of stimulants, these individuals found a way to escape from the stimulants. Running away from the world, as I understand, is working against the will of ‘The Sat' and so is a sin. By asking Sikhs not to take this course, Guru Sahib has saved us from this sin. 5. Aink pRkwr kIey bhu jqnw ] anik parkaar kee-ay baho jatnaa. Many types of efforts one put in. My understanding: Individuals, in search of truth, try different ways and put in lot of efforts in pursuing them. This is a very simple statement. There are many examples that can be given. Siddhartha, the prince, left his father’s kingdom and his family and wandered around for years following all the possible paths that were suggested to him. He was sincere in his heart, followed the methods suggested by so called evolved individuals, but could not reach the pinnacle of spirituality. All his efforts were wasted. The religious practices that Gautam was asked to follow were either false or incomplete for the end he was seeking. This tells that one complete and comprehensive path is what is needed. It is better to follow a path that has been validated by Gurus and its validity can be verified by historical records. Guru Sahib tells us the human life is too precious, it should not be wasted. That is the reason Guru Sahib has asked us not to keep on drifting and wasting time, a verifiable validated path of Sikh religions is the right one for humanity. 6. puMn dwn homy bhu rqnw ] punn daan homay baho ratnaa. Charity, donation, and offering jewels to fire in Homa. My understanding: In this sentence Guru Sahib is referring to the practice of ancient religion of our land wherein individuals give money as donation for a task considered religious; give money to the deprived people; and even give away jewels in the Homa fire as offering to the God. These are the self satisfying ways of the wealthy people. What can we human give to ‘The Sat’ by way of offerings? The answer is robust ‘Nothing’. All what we think is ours is given to us by ‘The Sat’. It has reached us as a result of the grace of ‘The Sat’. There is no meaning in offering this to ‘The Sat’ in Homa. When this is offered for the well being of the deprived people or to protect environment, the individual is still not offering it to ‘The Sat’, but is simply acting as an instrument of the will of ‘The Sat’, as a servant of ‘The Sat’. The individual can take no credit for it. If the person feels that it happened because her or him, the person is wrong, this person is only feeding her or his ego- the Ahamkara. This individual is degenerating. Sikhs should give donations for use of the Panth/mankind in a sense of service to the fellow being and acting as the servant of ‘The Sat’. 7. srIru ktwie homY kir rwqI ] sareer kataa-ay homai kar raatee. Cut parts of the body and offer it the fire of Homa. My understanding: Guru Sahib is referring to the extreme practice in the ancient religion of our land during which the individuals even offered parts of the body to the fire lighted for Homa. The body, itself is the gift from ‘The Sat’. Dismembering it will certainty not please ‘The Sat’. The gift (the body) that we have received from ‘The Sat’ is not needed by ‘The Sat’ that too dismembered parts of it. This is not the ways of the Sikh religion, which is life- affirming. To me, body is the sacred temple in which ‘The Sat’ resides. It is my duty to keep it hail and healthy for all the time ‘The Sat’ has given it to me. The body is not really mine, it belongs to ‘The Sat’; it is given to me so that I can effectively function as an instrument of the will of ‘The Sat’. I cannot abuse this gift; I cannot give parts of it back to ‘The Sat’ as offering. It was the wisdom and his own experience of ‘The Sat’ that made Guru Sahib tells us not to follow this practice. 8. vrq nym krY bhu BwqI ] varat naym karai baho bhaatee. Practice of fasting and taking vows of various types. My understanding: Guru Sahib is again referring to another practice of fasting (Upavas) which is part of ancient religion of our land. Individuals also used to take vows of different kind in pursuit of their objectives. First I will take up the practice of Fasting by the followers of the ancient religion of our land. It is my considered view that the current view of Upavas that is understood to mean as Fasting is distortion, away from truth. Why of it I share it with you below. Words in Sanskrit, as is the case with other languages, are created by combining other words to give it the intended meaning. For elaboration on this point, I take the word ‘Upanisad’. This word is constituted by combining three words. ‘Upa’ which means lower, ‘ni’ which means near, and ‘sad’ which means to sit. This was logically done. The disciple used to sit (sad) near (ni) the Guru on ground at a lower elevation (Upa) compared to where the Guru Sat and learn about their religion from the Guru. The disciples learnt from the guru orally. When these disciples documented their learning they called it ‘Upanisad’ - the way they had learnt them. In this way words of Sanskrit contain substantial meaning. Now let us analyze the word ‘Upavas’. ‘Upa’, as said earlier, means lower and ‘vas’ means to live. Put together it means to live at a lower level. Since this word is used in the context of ‘Adhyatmicta’ i.e. spirituality, it can be justifiably taken that it is related to ‘The Absolute’. This way this word means to me, to live with ‘The Absolute’ not at equal level, but at a lower level. Living at an equal level would have been called ‘Saihavas’. Next we analyze what living at lower level can mean. As I ponder over it, I come to the conclusion that for the beginners it can be sitting at the feet of the deity or a similar entity of reverence and for the spiritually evolved individual, it means going into Samadhi. The first meaning does not appear to be appropriate as it is only at physical level, the later meaning is more appropriate and so I take it up for further analysis. Now let us understand what the word Samadhi means in real sense. To go into Samadhi, one directs the attention of all the mental faculties towards the perceived ‘Absolute’. This mental involvement is so intense that the conscious part of the brain and most of its deeper layers, except those needed for vital functions of the body like breathing, heart beats etc, suspend their normal operation. During Samadhi even the heart beat rate goes down. All mental energy it directed towards ‘The Sat’. This way the spiritually fully evolved individual link up with ‘The Sat’. Since it is only a link-up, and not a permanent merger, divines have termed it as ‘Upavas’. No one needs to really become divine to understand that while in Samadhi many of the normal function of the brain can get suspended. It is possible to understand from one’s own experiences in life. This happens to all of us sometime or the other, but at a small scale. I elaborate on it below. When a person is very emotionally involved with some other person and is day dreaming; this person’s eyes are wide open and vision perfectly normal, but the person does not see; you wave your hand in front of her or his eyes, it goes unnoticed; you whisper in this person’s ear, she or he does not hear. This day dreamer’s mental faculties are so intensely and totally directed towards her or his beloved that some of the other functions of the brain are temporarily shutdown- this person does not hear or see, the brain is disconnected from this sensory input. The mind directed towards the beloved has become the world itself, this person for the time being is internalized. This is what happens to the person in ‘Samadhi’, but with greater intensity covering many more mental faculties of the brain. The beloved for divines is ‘The Absolute’. When the divine is in ‘Samadhi’, the normal periodic demands of the body and the sensory inputs to the brain stay disables. That is why, while in ‘Samadhi’ the person does not feel hungry or thirsty and so does not eat or drink and yet feel normal without any craving of them. This way any one can see that not eating or drinking is the consequence of ‘Upavas’ and not its intent – fasting has nothing to do with spirituality. If what I have understood is correct then it needs to be explained how the term ‘Upavas’ came to be understood to mean fasting i.e. denying oneself the nourishment and fluids by the commoners; how the consequence of ‘Upavas’ became its intent. This I explain below. When the spiritually evolved individual undertook what I call ‘Upavas’ i.e. she or he went into Samadhi, The commoners saw this divine sitting without eating or drinking any fluid. These commoners respected the divine and must have started imitating him. They could imitate only what they could see; they had no way to know what miracle was taking place deep within the divine sitting in Samadhi. The commoners’ imitation of the divine thus remained limited to abstaining from eating and drinking for a specified period. This in English is called fasting. This is how the consequence ‘Upavas’ for the divine, became the intent of ‘Upavas’ for the commoners (fasting) and it spread. In the society, this distortion had taken place; the result of spiritual evolution was assumed by the commoners to be the way to spirituality. Guru Sahib understood all this much better than all of us put together know. As I understand, it is for this reason Guru Sahib asked Sikhs to refrain from fasting as a practice, it has nothing to contribute for spiritual evolution. 9. nhI quil rwm nwm bIcwr ] nahee tul raam naam beechaar. None are equal to contemplation of Naam My understanding: Guru Sahib here tells us that all these practices of the ancient religions of our land are not equal to the contemplation on ‘The Sat’. Here Guru Sahib has asked us to ponder over all aspects of ‘The Sat’; seriously, with full mental involvement think over it. This is our Jaap, this is our Simran. These are the ways of divines. They do not condemn or even criticize the other ways. It is for this reason that Guru Sahib has call the way suggested by him as the best i.e. the other ways are not equal to it. There is an element of learning in this too, ‘We must not show any irreverence for any other way, even when we do not follow or when we disagree with it. It is my very personal opinion, based on my current understanding that all humans are programmed to naturally link-up with ‘The Sat’ and the key to this way to link-up is already embedded in our brain. This is what the divines have called the ‘Tenth Dwar’ i.e. the tenth door or opening, the other nine being the physical openings of our bodies. The difficulty that we encounter is that we are not able to access this key. What this means, I explain with the experience common to all of us. Many times we store some key or some other important item very carefully in some place in the house. When some time passes and we need the item, we fail to recollect where we had kept it. It happens because we are not able to access the cell of the brain in which this information about the place where we have kept the item is stored. We struggle intensely, but fail to recollect again and again; tired of it, we stop and then some time, at some odd moment suddenly we remember where we had placed the item. Why it did not happen earlier, I have already explained and why it happened all of a sudden now, I explain. When we very intensely think about some thing repeatedly, brain realizes that it is important. The task which was being performed by the conscious part of the brain, percolated down to the deeper layers of it, which I call subconscious. This subconscious has enormous capacity compared to the conscious part of the brain and keeps works in an autonomous way, to a great extent independent of the conscious part of the brain. It keeps working on the task even when the individual is sleeping. When the individual, who was struggling to recollect the place where she or he has kept the item, the subconscious had joined in this task. It was all the time scanning the brain and trying to reach the cell where the information was store. When the information is located by the subconscious , it passes it on to the conscious part of the brain where it pops up and we exclaim – I had kept the item at such and such place. This process can help us to locate the key of the ‘Tenth Door’i.e. the way to link up with ‘The Sat’. Guru Sahib has asked us to contemplate, i.e. think (Bichaar) intensely about ‘The Sat’ with full mental involvement. He himself has passes through this stage. He knows all about it. He is asking us to do it based on his real personal experience. There is no doubt, it is true. The contemplation should become so intense that the conscious and the entire subconscious starts working towards this end. It will scan the entire brain and then will reach the cell where the key to the way, ‘The tenth Door’ is, the individual can link up with ‘The Sat’. Guru Sahib has put us on track, rest of the work each individual has to with her or his own efforts. With ‘Gurparsadi’ each Sikh will succeed in performing this sacred duty (Manav Dharma) which birth in human form imposes on each one of us. 10. nwnk gurmuiK nwmu jpIAY iek bwr ]1] naanak gurmukh naam japee-ai ik baar. ||1|| O’ Nanak, all this is not equal to chanting of Naam by a Gurmukh even once. My understanding: Guru Sahib lays emphasis on chanting of ‘Naam’. Guru Sahib tells his audience that the way he has prescribed is the real and effective one. Here guru Sahib has gone a step further, compare to the previous one. Guru Sahib has told us how to fill the entire mental space with ‘Naam’ through contemplation. ‘Naam’, as I understand it, is not the name of ‘The Sat’; it is the idea of ‘The Sat’. We cannot give any name to ‘The Sat’. All words and name have content; I explain it. When we utter the word ‘cup’, the image of cup comes to our mind; when we utter the name Krishna, the image of Krishna of Mahabharata comes to our mind. This way each word has its own content conveyed by the image that arises in the mind. ‘The Sat’ cannot be contained, in fact the entire creation is contained it ‘The Sat’; no word can describe ‘The Sat’. When we say ‘Naam’ no image comes to our mind, it does not make any attempt to contain the uncontainable. The word ‘Naam’ brings to our mind the Idea of ‘The Sat’, the thought about the ‘The Sat’. When we very intensely contemplate (think about ‘The Sat’ what ever comes to ones mind about ‘The Sat’) on this idea, progressively the entire mental space will get filled with it. More mental resources will then get allocated for it; purity will dawn on the individual as Naam is every where in the mind. The total mental involvement and the purity of mind will synergize the individual’s effort towards the evolution, which will help the individual to move faster to link up with ‘The Sat’. That is why Guru Sahib has asked us to contemplate on ‘Naam’, i.e. ‘The Idea of ‘The Sat’. Wah-e-Guru With this I close this very long post. With love and respect for all. Amarpal Singh.