Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kenopanishad and Gurbani

One Upanishad, that is very close to the essence of Gurbani, is Kenopanishad. One of its first pronouncements is, "सर्वं ब्रह्मौपनिषदं" - "Brahman is all of which the Upanishads speak."

Naming of Kenopanishad is not different from something like Japji Sahib, or Sodar -- where the first few word/s of a poem are used to name the rest of the poem.

In this case, Ken comes from Kena (Sanskrit: केन) which literally means, depending on the object-subject context, "by what, by whom, whence, how, why, from what cause".[4] This root of Kena, in the sense of "by whom" or "from what cause", is found the inquisitive first verse of the Kena Upanishad as follows,

केनेषितं पतति प्रेषितं मनः
केन प्राणः प्रथमः प्रैति युक्तः ।
केनेषितां वाचमिमां वदन्ति
चक्षुः श्रोत्रं क उ देवो युनक्ति ॥ १ ॥[5]

Sent by whom, flies out thither the mind?
Harnessed by whom, roves thither the first breath?[6]
Who sends out the speech which we speak?
Who is the Deva (deity, god) that harnesses the ears and eyes?
—Kena Upanishad 1.1 —Translated by Paul Deussen[7]

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don't be angry with others, look within first!

The word "Ros" means anger.  
Ros Na Kahu Sang Karau - Don't be angry with anyone

All anger rises from desires. And according to many eastern philosophies all desires lead to -- through anger and other negative emotions -- unhappiness.  Guru Nanak claims there is one exception. He says, "The hunger of truth (or oneness) satisfies all hungers and consumes all sorrows" - Sache naam ki Laage Bhookh, Ut Bhookhai khai chaliyeh dookh."

So, there is legitimate anger and that is anger towards actions that stray away from oneness.  Here is an example from Babarvani. Guru Nanak affirms that one should be concerned and angered about atrocities:

ਕਰਤਾ ਤੂੰ ਸਭਨਾ ਕਾ ਸੋਈ ॥
Karathaa Thoon Sabhanaa Kaa Soee ||
O Creator Lord, You are the Master of all.

ਜੇ ਸਕਤਾ ਸਕਤੇ ਕਉ ਮਾਰੇ ਤਾ ਮਨਿ ਰੋਸੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Jae Sakathaa Sakathae Ko Maarae Thaa Man Ros N Hoee ||1|| Rehaao ||
If some powerful man strikes out against another man, then no one feels any grief in their mind. ||1||Pause||

The Spiritual Knowledge Run Off ...

In 1861, farmers and ranchers were praying for rain after two exceptionally dry decades. In December their prayers were answered with a vengeance, as a series of monstrous Pacific storms slammed—one after another—into the West coast of North America, from Mexico to Canada. 

Similarly in 2016-17, we have had similar bountiful rainfall.  

But according to a recent WSJ article, despite the record rainfall most of the water has been wasted: 
Reservoirs and rivers are overflowing as storms have pounded California this winter, and after years of drought that should be good news. The problem is that misguided environmentalism is wasting the water windfall and failing to store it for a non-rainy day.
Overflowing is a great word to describe the amount of spiritual wisdom available these days.  Writing in several journals and magazines focuses on spirituality, more translations and literature are available than there ever was in human history, video content is available mostly for free on youtube, and information is available very easily through the internet.  Spiritual knowledge is overflowing to put it mildly. But, are we retaining any of this knowledge? Are we putting any of this to use?  We are mostly losing it to a run-off. Spiritual knowledge enters through one ear and exits from the other. Because we have not built dams in our minds, most of the spiritual knowledge is running off.  It is being wasted.  

This reminds me of a couplet from Guru Nanak:

ਕੁੰਭੇ ਬਧਾ ਜਲੁ ਰਹੈ ਜਲ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੁੰਭੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ 
ਗਿਆਨ ਕਾ ਬਧਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥: 
Kumbhe badhaa jalu rahai jal bin kumbh n hoi. 
Giaan ka badhaa manu rahai gur bin giaanu n hoi ||5||: 

As the water remains confined in a pitcher, (just so) the mind is restrained by the Spiritual Wisdom. But (as) the pitcher cannot be shaped without the water, (just so) there can be no Spiritual Wisdom without the Guru. ||5|| (SGGS 469).

I'm also reminded of what Paramhansa Yogananda said about the control of the mind:

You may control a mad elephant;
You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
Ride the lion and play with the cobra;
By alchemy you may learn your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito;
Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful;
You may walk in water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.

- Paramahansa Yogananda 
Autobiography of a Yogi

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Wonder through Guru Nanak, Kabir and Emily Dickinson's eyes

When I think of wonder, I think of Guru Nanak's Aarti:

Gagan mein thaal rav chand dipak bane, 
tarika mandal janak moti, 
dhoop malyanlo pavan chavro kare 
saal banray phulant joti.

(Notice the commas -- which are not found in the Guru Granth Sahib -- are in a different place than usual, but I believe are correct based on the meaning of these lines).

On my better evenings I hear Guru Nanak sing Arti in his melodious voice, describing how the entire sky is the platter on which the sun and moon are lamps for worship. The stars and the planets are the gems and pearls, the mythical Mount Meru, covered with sandalwood trees is the incense and the wind blowing from all directions is the grand fan for the beloved. See for entire Aarti.

The other lines I think when I think of wonder come from Bhagat Kabir:

Sur Nar Mun Jan Kautak Aaye 
Kot Tentees Ujaana
Keh Kabir Mohe Byaah Chale Hain 
Purakh Ek Bhagwaana

Heavenly creatures have come
in thousands of chariots
As the one true Lord 
whisks me away following our wedding

Every time I read these lines, I think I understand them. But then every time I read these lines, I gain a new perspective on the wonder that is life.  I think I know but I don't.  But that temporary thought of knowing the unknown is beautiful. According to Emily Dickinson, that beautiful place, which enlivens, that is between the knowing and the unknown is wonder. She says, 

Wonder—is not precisely Knowing
And not precisely Knowing not—
A beautiful but bleak condition
He has not lived who has not felt—

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The chess game of life - A poem by Hafiz

The chess game of life

What is the difference between 
the seeker's experience
of existence and
that of the

The seeker 
knows the spiritual path
to be a subliminal chess game with infinity

The limitless has just
made an amazing move
and the entranced seeker 
spurts out in laughter 
“I surrender ... I 

While the rest of the people
seriously think they 
still have a 

A revolutionary couplet from Kabir ...

ਪਾਪ ਪੁੰਨ ਦੁਇ ਏਕ ਸਮਾਨ ॥
Bad and good deeds are both the same.

ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਪਾਰਸੁ ਤਜਹੁ ਗੁਨ ਆਨ ॥੩॥
In your home is Paaras*; renounce all virtues. ||3||

Kabir says something revolutionary here. He says that Vice and Virtue are really the same. They come from the same human need - greed. If your deeds are good, but your mind is impure, what is the point? For the impure mind, vice and virtue are the same - this person might be doing something that seems right, but the reason for doing it make the whole exercise useless. For the pure mind, vice and virtue are the same too - this person might be doing something that seems wrong, but it is pure.

Deeds don’t purify. The purifier is internal.

*the stone that purifies

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The price that Guru Gobind Singh paid for Amrit

Here is a poem about Baisakhi ... The poet imagines a conversation between Guru Gobind Singh and Bhai Dayaa Singh and describes the price that Guru Gobind Singh paid for Amrit.

Background to the poem

Five Sikhs accepted a terrifying challenge from the Guru and offered their heads to become the the first ones to receive pahul. After giving pahul to the five, the Tenth Guru then requested pahul from Bhai Daya Singh ji, the head of the Panj Pyare. As the Guru had asked a price from his Sikhs, so did Bhai Daya Singh demand a price from the Guru in exchange of the pahul. In keeping with his position as the father of the Panj Pyare, the guru couldn’t just get away by offering merely his own head. In this imaginary conversation penned by the poet, the Guru is going through the offerings he shall make to earn the pahul. The poem is a reminder to us how incredibly valuable the pahul is. The Guru has granted us this priceless pahul for free; maybe that’s why we have lost appreciation of its value.

ਦਾਮ ਤੋ ਦੇ ਨਾਂ ਸਕੂੰ ਭੇਟਾ ਮੰਜੂਰ ਕਰੋ
Daam to de na saakun, Bheta manjoor karo
I am incapable of paying the price, but please accept a token offering instead
ਸੁਣੋ ਦਿਆ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਭੇਟ ਮੈਂ ਚੜਾਊਂਗਾ
Suno Daya Singh jo jo bhet mein charaunga
Listen to me O Daya Singh, the offerings I am going to make

ਪਿਤਾ ਕਟਵਾਕੇ ਜੈਸੇ ਖੂਨ ਕੀ ਖਿਲਾਈ ਹੋਲੀ
Pita katwake jese khoon ki khilai holi,
Getting my father slaughtered as I played Holi (the Hindu festival of throwing red colour on others) with his blood
ਵੈਸੇ ਹੋਲੀ ਬੇਟੋਂ ਕੇ ਖੂਨ ਸੇ ਖਿਲਾਊਂਗਾ
Vaise holi beton ke khoon se khilaunga
The similar Holi I shall play with the blood of my sons

ਸਿਹਰੇ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀਓਂ ਕੇ ਬਾਂਧ ਕਰ, ਕਰ ਸੰਗ
Sehre kurbanion ke baandh kar, kar sangh
Sacrifice of life shall be the wedding ornament which I will tie on their head
ਮੌਤ ਕੀ ਘੋੜੀ ਬੇਟੇ ਆਪਨੇ ਬਿਠਾਊਂਗਾ
Maut ki ghori bete aapney bithaunga
Death will be their wedding steed on which I will make my sons ride

ਦੋ ਚਮਕੌਰ ਮੇਂ ਕਟਾਊਂਗਾ ਕਟਾਰੋਂ ਸੇ
Do Chamkaur main kataunga kataron sang
Two of them I shall get slaughtered by daggers in Chamkaur
ਦੋ ਸਰਹੰਦ ਕੀ ਦਿਵਾਰੋਂ ਮੇਂ ਚਿਣਾਊਂਗਾ
Do Sirhind ki divaron mein chinaunga
The other two will I get buried alive in walls of Sirhind

ਕਿਸੀ ਤਰਫ ਮਾਤਾ ਔਰ ਕਿਸੀ ਤਰਫ ਬਾਪ ਹੋਗਾ
Kisi taraf mata aur kisi taraf baap hoga
Mother will be led in one direction, and father somewhere else
ਕਿਸੀ ਤਰਫ ਬੇਟੇ ਕਹੀਂ ਮਹਿਲੋਂ ਕੋ ਰੁਲਾਊਂਗਾ
Kisi taraf bete, kahin mehlon ko rulaunga
Sons sent separately, and I will get my wives harassed somewhere else

ਹਾਥ ਪੇ ਨਾਂ ਬਾਜ ਹੋਗਾ ਸੀਸ਼ ਪੇ ਨਾਂ ਤਾਜ ਹੋਗਾ
Haath pe na baaj hoga, seesh pe na taaj hoga
There will be no falcon on my arm, no crown shall adorn my head
ਖੁਸ ਗਿਆ ਰਾਜ ਹੋਗਾ ਲਾਵਾਰਿਸ ਕਹਿਲਾਊਂਗਾ
Khus gaya raaj hoga, lavaris kehlaunga
Banished will be my kingdom, and I will make people say that nobody is left to look after me

ਹੂਂਗਾ ਇਕੇਲਾ ਔਰ ਫਿਰੂਂਗਾ ਜੰਗਲੋਂ ਮੇਂ
Hoonga ikela aur phiroonga jungalon mein
Alone I will wander in the jungles
ਛਾਡ ਕੇ ਪਲੰਗ ਸੇਜਾ ਕਾਂਟੋ ਕੀ ਬਿਛਾਊਂਗਾ
Chhaad ke palang seja kanton ki bichhaunga
Abandoning my comfortable bed, I will lie on a bed of thorns

ਮਾਤਾ ਕਾ ਨਾਂ ਪਿਆਰ ਹੋਗਾ ਬੇਟੋਂ ਕਾ ਨਾਂ ਹਾਰ ਹੋਗਾ
Maata ka no piyar hoga beton ka na haar hoga
Taken away the affection of my mother, no garland of arms of my beloved sons around my neck
ਸੁੰਨਾ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਹੋਗਾ ਸਾਂਈ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਊਂਗਾ
Suuna sansar hoga, saaeen gun gaunga
Lonely will become this world, and I will sing songs of the Lord
ਸੁੱਖ ਕੇ ਸਮੇਤ ਸਰਬੰਸ ਸਭ ਭੇਟ ਕੀਆ
Sukh ke samet sarbans sabh bhet kiya
I am offering all comforts and my whole family in exchange
ਅਬ ਤੋ ਪਿਲਾਦੋ ਪਾਹੁਲ ਸੇਵਕ ਕਹਿਲਾਊਂਗਾ
Aab to pilado pahul sewak kehlaunga.
Now! will you please give me pahul to drink, I wish to be called your servant.