The Spiritual Ascent - Metaphors of Psychological Change
THE DIALOGUE - TO DATE
We have seen in our ongoing discussion that Guru Nanak rejected external piety, renunciation of the world and esoteric practices. The distance to be bridged between us and God is not physical nor is it dependent on time: it follows that there is no need to travel on pilgrimages, and no need to subject the body to yogic exercises.
In short, no merit is to be gained by going to another physical place or allocating fixed times for religious worship.
Stanza 32 actually offers the jugat or way for a householder life style that is a revolutionary sanctification of the everyday - an everyday that includes every time and every person. Think of the implication for women, the aged and the infirm - especially 500 hundred years ago.
In contrast to the wanderings of the ascetic, the everyday endeavor of the householder's ordinary activities express the extraordinary - "Vismaad" in the daily round of life.
THE MESSAGE - Stanzas 34-37
The Japji is probably the most recited, discussed and translated text from the Guru Granth Sahib. Within the Japji, stanzas 34 -37 have been the subject of particular attention because it is felt that, taken together, they not only reiterate, review, and amplify the message of the Japji, but also offer a kind of roadmap - a landscape and a spiritscape, if you will - to guide us in our quest to evolve and grow.
With Guru Nanak as our Guide, let's proceed up the inner Mount Sinai or, depending on your preference, the inner Sumer.
There are five stages or spheres or realms that we will traverse: Dharam Khand, Gyan Khand, Saram Khand, Karam Khand and Sach Khand or the spheres, respectively, of Duty (righteous action), Knowledge, Creative Potency, Grace and Ultimate Reality.
At the outset, we find ourselves located in Dharam Khand, the world of time, space and mind which we inhabit and are most familiar with. The planet Earth is seen as an arena for the practice of Dharma or righteous action.
Similarly, the human body is also seen as Dharam, since it is infused by the same divine spark that animates the universe. It is in this body that we make choices that determine our fate in the Court of the True One.
Note that the noun Dharam is used both in its verbal sense, dhri, (to hold together) to indicate the natural order of things, but also as the moral imperative (actions) that humans are faced with in making choices.
The Hindu notion of adhering to one's caste laws was seen as akin to the laws of action that govern the various animal species: by conforming perfectly to ones dharma, as do the animal species, as do the plants and the stars, it was thought that one was doing one's bit in holding the natural order together.
Guru Nanak rejected the idea of a fixed course of action based on caste affiliations. Humans, unlike the rest of the species, can make conscious, deliberate choices and are expected to make them to be engaged in an internal battle, the "Dharam Yudh." .
Dharam Khand can be viewed as "awakening" to the right orientation: Liv vs. dhat, Manmukh vs. Gurmukh.
The next stanza (35) moves on to the realm of knowledge. A couple of things that are noteworthy: stylistically, Guru Nanak emphasizes the continuity between action and knowledge by not discretely breaking up the stanzas. The first line of stanza 35 is actually a carryover of the discussion on Dharam Khand - a reminder that knowledge and action go hand in hand, that one without the other is futile.
The awakening of knowledge through all its modes reveal the vastness of creation and our relative smallness: we are like a speck (if that) in this vast physical world. While a seeker is expected to seek all modes of knowledge, such a pursuit also reveals the limits of human understanding - a step in the direction of erasing one's inflated sense of self. It is interesting that "knowledge blazes forth." It is a purifying experience.
Saram Khand (stanza 36) has been translated variously. To this writer, creative potency seemed most gratifying. The word "ghariai" or sharpen with respect to the mind, intellect, awareness and sense of discrimination all suggest deepening ones connection with the creative force behind everything so that one can become creative in one's life.
Karam Khand and Sach Khand both share the same stanza, suggesting their close relationship. Guru Nanak's description evokes images of spiritual warriors, those who have wrestled with their base nature and risen above it. In this stanza, the use of the term, "seeto seeta" has been the source of some confusion. This will be one of the points to ponder over.
Sach Khand or the House of the Formless One reveals Infinity and for that reason, Guru Nanak concedes that the nature of this experience cannot really be told.
The somewhat confusing choice of the header for this week's discussion is deliberate. We need to discuss whether these are distinct stages of spiritual development or are they metaphors for different states of consciousness.
Could it be that at any given time what are being referred to as separate stages are in fact present in us at the same time? The state of our consciousness changes quite rapidly in the course of a day. We could be in a "Gurmukh" like consciousness one moment and a Manmukh the next.
The term "seeto seeta mehima maai," needs some clarification. I have used 'stitched and hewed' in the sense of conformance, as in hewing to a line. Thoughts would be welcome.
THE TEXT - RENDERED IN ENGLISH
The nights and seasons, dates and days,
Air, water, fire and the regions below,
To them is bound the Earth for the practice of righteousness.
Here, all species with their myriad of ways abound,
Infinite their forms, beyond count.
Our deeds will we be weighed,
For You are the Truth and true Your Court.
There, the Panch, the exemplars, stand radiant in acceptance,
Bearing the mark of Your benevolent gaze.
There, the half baked are separated from the fully made,
Nanak, this truth is revealed there. //34//
Such is the law on the plane of Dharam
Hear now the workings of the realm of Knowledge
Where endless varieties of air, water and fire are revealed, Where an infinite array of Krishnas, Shivas,
And Brahmas create endless forms, colors and appearances.
Where endless earths and mountains exist, And Dhruvas utter sermons without end.
Where countless Indras, moons and suns, And countless spheres and lands proliferate.
Where countless Siddhas, Buddhas, Naaths And goddesses live in infinite garbs
Where countless angels, demons and silent sages, And precious jewels and deep oceans abound.
How many sources of Creation, varieties of speech and rulers and kings,
How many the forms of consciousness and how many that strive to serve,
Says Nanak, there is no end, simply no end. ||35||
In the realm of Knowledge, the light of knowledge blazes forth
There, mystic melodies and spectacles galore, joy and unalloyed bliss.
In the Creative realm the rapture of beautiful form is resplendent,
Here forms of unequalled splendor are fashioned.
Indescribable is the realm of Creativity
To speak of it is regrettable folly.
Here awareness is heightened, perception is sharpened and the mind awakened.
Here wisdom is deepened and transcendental knowledge gained.//36//
In the realm of Grace, the force of Spirit reigns
Here, nothing else prevails
Save the bravest of the brave
Soaked with the Spirit of Love
And hewed in Divine praise
Their beauty cannot be phrased.
Death and deceit touches them not,
In whose hearts You live.
Here dwell Your loved, no matter where they are from,
Rejoicing in Your presence.
In the realm of Truth is the Formless One
Gazing upon all Creation with Grace and Joy
Here are many regions, universes and galaxies,
To attempt a count would be to count the countless
Here are a multitude of luminous forms
To Hukam they conform,
The Formless One watches, rejoices and contemplates Creation
Says Nanak, to describe this is hard as nails. ||37||