In this stanza, the Guru reiterates, yet again, that physical cleaning, while appropriate for the body and clothes, will not remove the taint of sins.
Sin, or spiritual defilement, should be understood in terms of Haumai. It is the hot breath of Haumai that fogs the mirror of our consciousness. It is Haumai that makes us sin (or miss the mark) and taints our spirit.
Naam or the Word is the only solvent that will remove this stain and reveal the Hukam to which we must learn to submit.
Guru Nanak holds us accountable, suggesting that by the choices we make, we create our own experience. Actions, good or bad, will continue to fetter us - unless they stem from a mind that has been cleansed of Haumai.
In the preceding stanzas, Guru Nanak described the range of human activity by listing our pursuits - both sacred and profane. Both stanzas conclude with "jo tuDh bhave, sai bhalee kar." Guru jee appears to be saying that there are multiple paths (good and bad) that countless people pursue.
Do our choices matter? In stanza 20, choices seem to matter. In making choices, does the intent matter?
For example, we could be practicing good deeds outwardly but our motivation or intention could be suspect, i.e., be Haumai driven. In such a situation, do outwardly good deeds (action) matter?
Consider the reverse: if someone steals a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, we would label that "bad" because stealing is bad, but what if the intention was good? What if the person who stole the copy could not afford it but was driven by a desire to engage with the Guru (we would label that "good")?
What is the difference between the two?
Is Guru Nanak pointing to yet another fulcrum from which our actions should emanate -that of a centered, purified mind that is anchored in Naam (liv) as opposed to a mind that is driven by the Maya of personal desire (Dhat or dhaturbazzi)?
Aapay bij aapay he khah "As you sow, so you reap," should occupy our attention because it touches on the notion of karma.
Is there a distinction between the notion of Karma as in Indian thought and Guru Nanak's revelation?
Traditional Indian thought - both Hindu and Buddhist - posits a law of causality (karma) that is at once impersonal and inexorable, allowing little or no room for divine intervention; indeed, it renders God unnecessary, as in Buddhism, or gives rise to a God of fear who tolerates no digression.
In such a deterministic and causal world, the correct ritual takes precedence over right action.
Guru Nanak's God is not a God of Fear but a God of Love, Timeless but with a personality (Akal Purakh), revealed in Creation with a sense of meaning, purpose and direction - expressed through Naam and Hukam.
An authentic Sikh life is one of active participation in the Divine Plan (Hukam) through the cultivation of divine qualities and expression of right intent.
Along the way, mistakes are inevitable, but 'Nadar' is just as certainly available - given the right attitude and disposition.
We saw that we enjoy a measure of free will to act but must submit to the outcome - over which we do not always have control.
This is submission to the Will.
Karam and Nadar become relational opposites and we have to learn to balance between the two.