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.

When I Was the Forest - A poem by Meister Eckhart

When I Was the Forest

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing, when I
was the sky

no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
for there was nothing
I could not

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came,
and I wept, I wept. And tears
I had never known

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains. I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged—I begged to wed every object
and creature,

and when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms.
And He did not say,
“Where have you

For then I knew my soul—every soul—
has always held

–Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)

Monday, March 27, 2017

"We don’t always have control of things" - Obama

A couple of meaningful quotes from NY Times Article written towards the end of the Obama presidency: With Obama, Personal is Presidential

“All of us, we make mistakes,” he said. “And at times we are lost. And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things — not even a president does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another.”

“Now, I’m not naïve,” he said. “I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The blessings of langar - A story from Paonta Sahib

Guru Nanak says, "As long as I sing, I live, As soon as I forget, I die. So how can I forget?"  Here is a story to prove Guru Nanak lives and sings among us ... 

'Huge blessing in small virtues'
- by Maj Gen SPS Narang (Retd) in The Tribune:

Huge blessing in small virtues

Last November, I was driving back to Dehradun from Chandigarh — a fascinating four-hour journey, with the added attraction of visiting Paonta Sahib Gurdwara. I had to break on the way to give myself and my car some rest. And what better than entering the abode of the Guru. Besides the soothing kirtan, it is the langar that one savours, seated on the floor among a multitude of people from all walks of life. Some partake of all meals as they have no means to satiate their hunger. Breaking bread with them gives an indescribable spiritual high, and to experience this, one doesn’t have to belong to any one religion.

I, too, enjoyed the langar and came out to get on with my journey. I stopped to buy some knick-knacks from a kiosk outside the gurdwara. Just then, I spotted a family of Gujjars in an intent discussion in front of a tea vendor. The family comprised an elderly couple, two middle-aged couples and four children. Three women were partially veiled. They seemed poor as the eldest gentleman (probably the father) counted coins and some crumpled notes. Undoubtedly, the issue was how much they could afford to buy.

They asked for three cups of tea and four samosas. Gathering courage, I asked him, “Kya aap sab khana khayenge?” They looked at one another with a mix of surprise, apprehension and a hurt self-respect. There was silence. Sometimes, silence can be loud. The innocent eyes of the kids were filled with hope. “Hum kha ke aaaye hain,” he responded. There was an instant retort, “Kahan khayaa hai subeh se kuch bhi, Abba?” Hearing that, a dull ache in my chest caught me by surprise. The stern look in the eyes of the three men and the pleading moist eyes of the women said it all. I insisted that they come with me. They agreed, reluctantly.

We entered the gurdwara. A good feeling descended over me as I deposited their shoes at the jora ghar. The elders were awed by the architectural marvel. However, there was fear in their eyes, which was understandable. They were entering a non-Islamic place of worship for the first time. But the children couldn’t care less, their innocent faces single-mindedly focused on food. Some onlookers flashed strange looks from the corner of their eyes. But then I followed the children, adopting their easy attitude as they excitedly chose head wraps of different colours.

Except for the eldest member, all accompanied me inside, and emulating me, bowed their heads and touched their forehead to the floor. Many others must have noticed, as I did, that these children went through this ritual with utmost reverence. They took parshad from the Bhaiji who asked them if they needed more. The children gladly nodded.

We entered the Langar Hall and I took the kids along to collect thaalis. They did it with joy, like only kids would. Seated opposite us was a newly-married couple. The bride, with red bangles accentuating her charm, asked the children to sit beside her, and two of them sat between them. The way she was looking after them, I could tell she would make a loving mother. Langar was served, and though I had already eaten, I ate a little to make my guests comfortable. One had to see to believe how they relished it. The initial apprehension had vanished and they ate to their fill. I have no words to describe the joy I experienced. The only thing I recall is that my heart was pounding against my rib cage.

We had nearly finished when an elderly Sikh and a youth with flowing beard (perhaps the head granthi and sewadar) sought me out. I was overcome by fear, and more than me, my guests were scared. I walked up to them with folded hands. He enquired, “Inhaan nu tusi le ke aaye ho? (Have you brought them in?).” I nodded. The next question had me baffled, “Tusi har din path karde ho? (Do you read scripture every day?).” I almost blurted “yes”, but it would have been a lie. So, with utmost humility I said “no”. Expecting an admonishment, he surprised me, “Tuhaanu tha koi lorh hi nahin. Aj tuhaanu sab kuch mil gaya hai ji (You don’t need to. Today you have got everything).” I was flabbergasted. Was it advice or sarcasm?

He added, “Inha nu Babbe de ghar lya ke te langar khva ke tusi sab kuch paa laya. Tuhaada dhanwad. Assi dhan ho gaye (By bringing them to the Guru’s abode for langar, you’ve got everything from God. Thank you. We are blessed).” Then, with folded hands, he walked up to the elderly couple and requested them, “Aap jad bhi idhar aao to langar kha ke jaaiye. Yeh to uparwale da diya hai ji (Whenever you happen to pass through here, please come and have food. It is God’s gift).”

I escorted my guests out of the Langar Hall. Just as we were about to pick our footwear, one of the children said, “Humme aur halwa do naa.” We five went in to get more parshad. Finally, as they were about to depart, the elderly lady whispered to her husband. I enquired, “Koi baat, Miyaji?” Almost pleadingly, he said, “Yeh keh rahin ki, kya aap ke sar par haath rakh sakti hain? I bowed as she blessed me with tears in her eyes. A wave of emotions swept over me.

Is it my imagination, or for real, that I often feel the beautiful hand of a Muslim lady, wrapped in purity and love, on my head?

Monday, March 13, 2017

O survivors of the fire of the womb ...

Image result for fire of the womb

Human birth is a wonder.  There are so many improbabilities that are to be overcome for everything to happen smoothly.  It is a miracle how smoothly things have gone for so many of us on earth. 

Father's seed and mother's blood came together in the fire of the womb to conceive a baby.  And while everything else gets digested in this abdominal firepit, this baby is nourished in the womb for several months. Can you imagine living in a slimy, dark firepit with your head turned upside down. The baby not only survives but thrives in this treacherous place. How?

The baby gets saved because it remembers Satnam, the essence of the truth.  The baby does not have an ego. The baby does not think that he is the doer. The baby acquiesces. The baby completely surrenders to the will of God. In that sense, the baby does not forget God for an instant.

Every birth is a victory among a terrible fire.  Every life has the same opportunity ... the opportunity to win in battle in this burning world.  Those who forget oneness, lose the battle of life. There is no peace for the forgetful.  Peace is found in the remembrance of oneness. Peace is found in the singing of oneness.

O survivors of the fire of the womb, remember that the human birth was a wonder to start with. This life can also become a wonder if you remember to sing the song of oneness.

(From Jaitsri ki vaar by Guru Arjan Dev)

pauVI ] (706-6)pa-orhee.Pauree:

rkqu ibMdu kir inMimAw Agin audr mJwir ] (706-6)rakat bind kar nimmi-aa agan udar majhaar.From egg and sperm, you were conceived, and placed in the fire of the womb.

(nimeya:  nee rakhna, laying a foundation, foundation of birth = conception, like in bhand jamiyeh bhand nimiyeh in Asa ki vaar)

aurD muKu kucIl ibklu nrik Goir gubwir ] (706-7)uraDh mukh kucheel bikal narak ghor gubaar.Head downwards, you abided restlessly in that dark, dismal, terrible hell.

(bikal -from vyakul, confused)

hir ismrq qU nw jlih min qin aur Dwir ] (706-7)har simrat too naa jaleh man tan ur Dhaar.Remembering the Lord in meditation, you were not burnt; enshrine Him in your heart, mind and body.

ibKm Qwnhu ijin riKAw iqsu iqlu n ivswir ] (706-8)bikham thaanahu jin rakhi-aa tis til na visaar.In that treacherous place, He protected and preserved you; do not forget Him, even for an instant.

pRB ibsrq suKu kdy nwih jwsih jnmu hwir ]2] (706-8)parabh bisrat sukh kaday naahi jaaseh janam haar. ||2||Forgetting God, you shall never find peace; you shall forfeit your life, and depart. ||2||