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From Here To Eternity by I. J. Singh

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by IJSingh, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
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    FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
    by I. J. Singh


    At his very last moment, one who thinks of wealth, and dies in such thoughts, shall be reincarnated over and over again, as a serpent.
    He who dies in thoughts of women shall return as a prostitute.
    One who dies thinking of mansions shall be reincarnated as a goblin.
    …..
    ......
    At his very last moments, one who thinks of the Lord, says Trilochan, shall be liberated; the Lord shall abide in his heart.

    --Trilochan, Guru Granth, page 526

    At a get-together of young and not-so-young Sikhs, in lieu of a direct question, someone handed me a card with these lines of Trilochan and challenged me to respond. How do I interpret them, it demanded to know?
    In this citation roughly translated from the Guru Granth, Trilochan cuts to the chase in words that could not be more blunt, challenging and unambiguous. But I submit that they end up being the most obscure and abstruse.

    These lines and many similar hymns from the Guru Granth are oft-quoted to support the idea of reincarnation and transmigration that is a dominant theme in Eastern religions, primarily Hinduism.

    Most Sikhs, too, are aware of such lines from the Guru Granth because the idea that the soul goes through the cycle of birth and rebirth until liberated seems to occur repeatedly in it. This is a seductively attractive concept because it ties life, death and hereafter to eventual justice.
    We can't take a closer look at it without coming to terms about how we think of God, soul, spirituality and religion in the context of culture and traditions.

    The soul is clearly not amenable to measurement. A materialist's reductionist approach would want to define it as something tangible, but we know that at death, even our most sensitive instruments and analyses cannot detect a loss of matter.

    And, if I take the strictly spiritual approach, then the soul we carry is an immutable part of the God within us. Just as God is indefinable and immeasurable, so is the soul.

    If God is not constructed of any elements we know of and has no color, shape or form, then the soul is no different. The soul is the life force, absolute as is the mind. The fundamental core of a person, his or her essential self, is the soul, without which there is no life, no breath, no heart, and no brain -- just an empty shell of rotting flesh.

    Arguments on whence the soul came, what day of development it entered the fetus, when it left the dead, or how and where it went, seem to be questions that cannot be rationally construed or answered. They are a credit to human intelligence and imagination, however.

    Many models exist to describe death and the hereafter.

    Though there is no official Jewish view on afterlife, like other spiritual traditions, Judaism offers a range of possibilities, including images of a torturous hell and heavenly paradise. Judaic references speak of Sheol, a region in the netherworld where the soul resides after death, and Gan Eden, a heaven-like place, not to be confused with the Biblical Garden of Eden. And there is perhaps a place of both punishment and purification, the Gehinnom, where the period of stay is limited to twelve months, that some see as hell.

    Christians wait the day of Final Judgment as the second coming of Jesus, when all those who have accepted him will be saved and forgiven their sins. (I know the model is more complicated by purgatory and limbo, among other things, but this not the point here.)

    Muslims hypothesize a very fanciful heaven where rewards fulfill the wildest earthly fancies of the true believers, while heathens, infidels, pagans and heretics are condemned to everlasting hell.

    What all this whimsical modeling of heaven and hell does is to effectively create a three-decker universe with a heaven above where God presides, a dreaded hell below, and us mortals in the middle struggling endlessly with our sinful proclivities and lives.

    Hindus, to their credit, have a scheme that revolves around a concept of eventual justice. In this, the soul at death is assigned another body and thus another life in a cycle of birth and rebirth. Where and what species this soul would go to depends entirely on the quality of the life it just went through.

    If it was good, the soul could return as a human; if not, it might come back to haunt us as a cockroach or snake, for instance; it could also return to serve as a faithful dog or terrorize us as a tiger.

    If its sojourn on earth was perfect, it would be freed of the need to return in any form of rebirth, and would supposedly join God for eternity, wherever it is that God resides. Coming back as a human would be reincarnation; returning as a different species is labeled transmigration.
    This concept is exactly what Trilochan seems to be referring to in the hymn that I started with. But, it is not quite so simple.

    (Hindus also believe that it takes the soul a year to travel from its earthly abode to wherever it is that it must go to. That's why they hold an elaborate function before the year ends in which Brahmins, as the intermediaries, are handsomely rewarded to aid the soul along its journey.)

    The idea of a God as an old man, somewhat like us but often a lot kinder or a bit more capricious is, in my opinion, also inevitable to the concept of eventual judgment, followed by punishment or reward through the cycle of birth and rebirth that is integral to this intriguing model of life after death.
    There are two other views of death and the hereafter that I need to mention before taking on the Sikh point of view.

    One that remains particularly appealing is the outlook that Socrates presented when he was asked if there was life after death. He said in effect that if there was, he would have the company of great minds that have gone before him, and if there was not, then it would be like a dreamless sleep. He was an old man, he held, and needed the rest.
    The other is the framework presented by the prophet of positivism, Norman Thomas. He opined that, much as a fetus cannot know the world outside the womb, similarly death is a veil through which we cannot see. And much as life for the fetus outside the womb will be good after birth, in the same way, whatever exists after death will be good. Thus, it is best not to obsess about it, but to concentrate on the here and now.

    To spend one's life consumed by the idea of death is somewhat like what many students do when they are fearfully fixated on an upcoming exam. My usual response to them is that instead of tormenting themselves about an exam that is yet to come, why not work at the assignment of today. If that is done right, the exam tomorrow will take care of itself. If today is lost in torturing yourself about the exam tomorrow, then neither today nor tomorrow will work out very well.

    Such a view, I believe, is fully consistent with the fact that Sikhi does not posit a fearsome hell or a fanciful heaven. I have dealt with this in more detail elsewhere; suffice it to say that Sikhism speaks of heaven as a life imbued with the universal connectivity that is God and hell as a life separated from that infinite reality.

    The idea, then, of a heavenly angel like St. Peter or Dharamraj, who will weigh the quality of a life, indicates to me not a place or a person with a fixed address in the hereafter who has that responsibility, but the judgment from our inner self that creates a heaven and a hell for us in the here and now.

    Sikhism doesn't direct us to any specific method in how to dispose of the human body at death, when it is no more than an empty shell - one may bury it, cremate it or even cast it into flowing waters.

    Sikhism does not venture any opinion on what day of intrauterine development the soul enters the fetus or when precisely does it leave the body at death for regions unknown.

    Of death, Sikhism provides us some useful imagery. One is of completion of a mission, of a life well and purposefully lived; the other image is of a wave arising from the sea and merging back into it.

    No one is free of death, not even the prophets and seers. No one has ever come back from time spent in heaven or hell to tell us about it.

    What then to make of Trilochan's hymn and the myriad other references to incarnation and reincarnation in the Guru Granth?

    If one takes the Hindu idea of the cycle of birth and rebirth literally, one would then be logically bound to look for one's ancestors in cockroaches, rats, mice or kings and queens, depending upon how their earthly lives were measured by a heavenly judge. It seems to be a logically consistent model, but not a likely or attractive one.

    Therefore, I cannot interpret Trilochan in such literal terms.

    And then just look at the last stanza of his hymn, for instance. Its literal interpretation would tell me that one could sin the whole life to one's heart's content; all that is necessary to be forgiven is to die with the name of God on one's lips. Now, how sensible is that? How does that fit the model of perfect justice?

    The poetry and imagery must be kept in mind in exploring the meaning.
    What Trilochan says to me is that if you were obsessed with mansions all your life, then you may as well be a ghost or a goblin that supposedly haunts such buildings. If money and treasures have defined your life, you may as well be a snake. (In the Indian culture, snakes are reputed to make their home where treasures are buried.)

    Why? Because your character traits have been defined by your preoccupations and values - that is the kind of a person you have become. I interpret all of the examples in his hymn similarly - it is metaphorical language, not to be literally translated.

    To my mind, what Trilochan means here is to question what one has become over a lifetime of habits. "Reincarnation", then, is used as a metaphor (this is poetry, right?), for the biological life cycle. So, until we get it "right", we are going to embody the human (or animal) experience over and over again in this life. Put another way, until we learn to live without a personal stake (haumai), we are going to attach ourselves to desires which, unchecked, lead to addictive/neurotic personalities, and so the cycle continues.

    It is not possible to talk about "here and hereafter" in the traditional Indian culture without reference to reincarnation. Indians take the matter quite literally. It is not an easy matter to upend the whole applecart. The Gurus, therefore, taught in the language of the people and in the context of the times in which they lived.

    This is exactly why the Guru Granth contains this recurring theme on reincarnation and transmigration.

    Some level of prophetic language a la Trilochan may be necessary to goad people into the right behavior. Hence the dire warning of transmigration and reincarnation!

    Since matter and energy may change form but are neither created nor destroyed, it says to me that we will always be around in some shape or form.

    Guru Granth also reiterates, more than once, the Hindu belief that there are 8.4 million species through which the soul may cycle and recycle until liberated. I think the number is not to be taken literally. It is like saying in English that there are a gazillion species; it is not a fixed number.

    If tomorrow, greater or less than 8.4 million species are documented by evolutionary biologists, one must not conclude that the ancient Indian philosophers or the Sikh Gurus were in error. For traditional Indian society, this number forms the basis of their deeply held belief; it was thus used as a point of reference for Sikh teaching. Effective teaching always requires that the cultural context not be ignored.

    My view would be that, metaphorically reinterpreted, the terms reincarnation and transmigration really mean that after death everyone and every species that exhibits life become part of the greater biological life cycle.

    That, then, becomes my understanding of the cycle of birth and rebirth, reincarnation or transmigration.

    In this concept of a larger biological life cycle, it remains immaterial whether one ends up pushing up roses or becoming a feeding frenzy for worms; either is equally meaningful.

    C'est la vie !

    I.J. Singh
     

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  3. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Inder ji,

    Guru Fateh.

    Well said.

    In other words, Reincarnation is just a fancy word for recycling.
     
  4. Kanwaljit Singh

    Kanwaljit Singh India
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    Reposting here another article on Sikhnet discussing the same Shabad:
    Source - http://www.{url not allowed}/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4719&p=26789&hilit=serpent#p26789

    --------------

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

    Quite often the following shabad is interpreted in a way that whatever we do at last moment of life (ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ), that decides which jooni we are going to get in next life. For reference sake, widely accepted meanings of this Shabad are as follows:


    ਗੂਜਰੀ
    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਲਛਮੀ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of wealth, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਸਰਪ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥1॥
    shall be reincarnated over and over again, in the form of serpents. ||1||

    ਅਰੀ ਬਾਈ ਗੋਬਿਦ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਤਿ ਬੀਸਰੈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
    O sister, do not forget the Name of the Lord of the Universe. ||Pause||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, he who thinks of women, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਬੇਸਵਾ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥2॥
    shall be reincarnated over and over again as a prostitute. ||2||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਲੜਿਕੇ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of his children, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਸੂਕਰ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥3॥
    shall be reincarnated over and over again as a pig. ||3||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਮੰਦਰ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of mansions, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਪ੍ਰੇਤ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥4॥
    shall be reincarnated over and over again as a goblin. ||4||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਨਾਰਾਇਣੁ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of the Lord, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਭਦਤਿ ਤਿਲੋਚਨੁ ਤੇ ਨਰ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਪੀਤੰਬਰੁ ਵਾ ਕੇ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਸੈ ॥
    says Trilochan, that man shall be liberated; the Lord shall abide in his heart. ||5||2||

    Some of the issues with current interpretation:

    1) In second para Gurbani is guiding that anyone who dies with thought of women at last moment, gets reincarnated as prostitute. The issue “Is prostitute a Joon or Profession?”.
    2) If someone still comes back into Manukhi Joon (prostitute) by remembering woman, then there shouldn’t be any problem in doing so, because at the end of the day Gurbani advocates that Manukhi joon is supreme joon. If we can come back to supreme joon by remembering woman and escape the 84 Lakh joon cycle, then what is the problem in doing so?
    3) As per gubani even prostitute (Ganika) can get one to one with Akal Purakh. If prostitute can also attain salvation, then what is the problem in coming back as Prostitute? At least we are saved from becoming animals or tree?
    4) In fourth para Shabad guides us that if we get indulged into materialistic world of making assets then we will be reincarnated again and again as goblin (ਪ੍ਰੇਤ). The first thing to consider is “Does Gurbani believe in goblins”? Even if it believes in goblins, they don’t die (as they don’t have body), then how come they are re-incarnated again and again? If something is not dying, how can it’s born again and again?

    The better interpretation of this shabad can be achieved by giving a pause before word joni (ਜੋਨਿ) in each line. Sarap (ਸਰਪ), Beswa (ਬੇਸਵਾ), Sookar (ਸੂਕਰ ) and Pret (ਪ੍ਰੇਤ) are the names given to those people who have lived their current life in different aspects of maya and now there process of reincarnations will start. Gurbani has done such comparisons in many others places. For e.g.


    ਕੂਕਰ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਗੁਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਪਚੈ ਪਚਾਨੁ ॥
    kookar koorr kamaaeeai gur ni(n)dhaa pachai pachaan ||
    Those who practice falsehood are dogs; those who slander the Guru shall burn in their own fire


    ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਭਏ ਕੂਕਰ ਕਾਮ ॥
    bin simaran bheae kookar kaam ||
    Without meditating in remembrance on the Lord, one acts like a dog


    ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਗਰਧਭ ਕੀ ਨਿਆਈ ॥
    bin simaran garadhhabh kee niaaee ||
    Without meditating in remembrance on the Lord, one is like a donkey.


    ਸੇ ਕੂਕਰ ਸੂਕਰ ਗਰਧਭ ਪਵਹਿ ਗਰਭ ਜੋਨੀ ਦਯਿ ਮਾਰੇ ਮਹਾ ਹਤਿਆਰੇ ॥3॥
    sae kookar sookar garadhhabh pavehi garabh jonee dhay maarae mehaa hathiaarae ||3||
    They are like dogs, pigs and jackasses; they are cast into the womb of reincarnation, and the Lord strikes them down as the worst of murderers. ||3||


    Now let’s come back to main shabad and in light of Gurbani try to re-interpret for better meanings:


    ਗੂਜਰੀ
    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਲਛਮੀ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of wealth, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਸਰਪ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥1॥
    O Serpent - Now you will be reincarnated over and over again. ||1||

    ਅਰੀ ਬਾਈ ਗੋਬਿਦ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਤਿ ਬੀਸਰੈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
    O sister, do not forget the Name of the Lord of the Universe. ||Pause||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, he who thinks of women, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਬੇਸਵਾ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥2॥
    O Prostitute – You shall be reincarnated over and over again. ||2||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਲੜਿਕੇ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of his children, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਸੂਕਰ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥3॥
    O Pig – You shall be reincarnated over and over again. ||3||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਜੋ ਮੰਦਰ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of mansions, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਪ੍ਰੇਤ ਜੋਨਿ ਵਲਿ ਵਲਿ ਅਉਤਰੈ ॥4॥
    O Goblin – You shall be reincarnated over and over again. ||4||

    ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਨਾਰਾਇਣੁ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਐਸੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੇ ਮਰੈ ॥
    At the very last moment, one who thinks of the Lord, and dies in such thoughts,

    ਭਦਤਿ ਤਿਲੋਚਨੁ ਤੇ ਨਰ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਪੀਤੰਬਰੁ ਵਾ ਕੇ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਸੈ ॥
    says Trilochan, that man shall be liberated; the Lord shall abide in his heart. ||5||2||

    This is not the final decision on the meanings of Gurbani. Gurbani is very deep and not possible for our brains to interpret it in same spirit what Bhagats and Gur Sahibaans experienced.

    Please feel free to share this if you advocate with the thoughts and also feel free to provide the feedback on this article.


    Food for thought: Try to unlock the meaning of Ant Ki Baar. Can gursikhi approve the ideology that whatever we do at last minute will decide the future? If Sikhi is about dying while living, then how come one thought at last moment save the reincarnation? Happy finding !!!

    Sikhism is about Spiritualism and not Ritualism
     
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  5. prakash.s.bagga

    prakash.s.bagga
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    In this SABAD there are two important references for understanding.These references are as

    1....ANT KAAL and

    2....JONi of diferent characters like prostitute .......

    My understanding is that the meaning of the words ANT KAAL should not be considered as
    "The very last moment".
    If we look at the words, the word KAAL is with a matra of Sihari with letter L so ANT KAAL here is the reference of a period from start to last moment.

    Secondly the word JONi is reference for the WOMB.
    So the words BESAWAA JONi means The Womb of Prostitute (Womb here categorically is a place of conception and development.)

    If we look at the message of the SABAD with above references the meanings
    can be more clear.
    Prakash.S.Bagga
     
  6. japjisahib04

    japjisahib04 Kuwait
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    My concern is what is 'Ant Kaal'. First question is do anyone know his final moment? Is it Old age? Then what is 'ant kaal'. Is it the moment when one actually dies or think of jumping from top floor to die or 'ant kaal' is when someone plan i.e. to conspire to capture others wealth or right?

    Best regards
    Mohinder Singh Sahni
     
  7. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    It is very simple and straightforward what Ant Kaal is, it is a very small insect that died sometime yesterday
     
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  8. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Ant Kaal----> Dead men/women walking.
     

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