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—