THE DIALOGUE TO DATE:
We used the word "absorption" to describe "Mannai" in our conversation last week, fully aware that "acceptance" could have been used just as well. Regardless, any word used to translate "Mannai" - or another gurmat term, for that matter- can at best approximate or suggest the real meaning. We are left with pointers and intimations that we choose to do with what we will.
"Mannai" signifies the experience or state that results from "sunniyeh" or attentive listening, which is the start of an inner journey, a pilgrimage of self-discovery.
Heeding our inner voice, we travel inwards, plumbing the depths of our souls, healing our fractured relationship with the Ultimate Reality or Consciousness. This brings about a metamorphosis, an inner change that shifts our orientation.
"Mannai" signifies this culmination or shift in our inner consciousness - from acquired belief to authentic faith; from meaning to experience; from passive internalization to active absorption; from acting on handed down cultural scripts towriting one's own story.
In short, from being a manmukh to becoming a gurmukh there is a fundamental shift in orientation implied here: through attentive or mindful listening, we begin to proceed in an inward rather than the usual outward direction. The search shifts to the heights and depths within the self; it is deep within ourselves that we discover the "hidden" divine,homogenized into the essence of our being.
THIS WEEK'S MESSAGE - Stanza 16, 'Panch Parvan'
Stanza 16 of the Japji introduces us to the "Panch" as exemplars of "mannai", or those who embody the spirit of "mannai"; at the same time, another important concept Dharam, first introduced in Stanza 14, is further elaborated. There appears to be an association between 'panch' and 'dharam' - a relationship that we will explore this week.
Interpreters of gurbani have ascribed various meanings to the word 'panch', including the number 'five', the five elements and the mind. But the overwhelming - and correct, I think - opinion is that 'panch' denotes an exemplar, or an iconic figure - someone worthy of being held up as an example. [In current parlance in Punjab, the 'sar-panch' is the headman of the village.]
In gurbani, 'panch' is also used to refer to those who are not caught up in the web of "parpanch", a synonym for Maya. It is in this sense that we have used the meaning here.
Dharam, a term that Guru Nanak introduced in Stanza 14, is re-visited here with a little more elaboration. The concept of dharam or "dharma" has an ancient lineage in Indian and Buddhist thought. Broadly speaking, dharam was used to mean "the way things are", or the "natural order of things" or that which sustains the universe, Natural Law; but a second, narrower meaning also came to be attached to it: duty, or one's role in society.
Guru Nanak uses the term in the sense of that which sustains the physical universe; but he also uses the term to denote moral and ethical law as well, where dharam is the product of compassion.
An understanding or alignment with dharam is the key to becoming a sachiyaar, which, as we have repeatedly seen, is the purpose of human life.
Guru Nanak holds out the 'panch' as exemplars, those whohave scaled the spiritual summit. For sojourners of the spirit, the panch hold out the hope that the divine is accessible, even if it is unseen.
The spiritual summit or the state of "mannai" is an inner state, relating to our consciousness. Just as there are tools and equipment to scale a mountain, is there an inner technology to climb the inner mountain?
Consider the fact that traditional religion usually offers "God-in-a box" authorized versions of reality that demand unquestioned obedience. Is this what Guru Nanak is objecting to when he dismisses ritual, rites, pilgrimages, etc. - which are the outward manifestation of all traditional religions. There is an implication, carried over from the previous stanza, that all traditional paths are missing the mark because dharam or the spiritual essence is "missing". Guru Nanak equates dharam with compassion.
- What does having compassion mean in the context of Guru Nanak's teaching?
- If traditional religions are missing the mark, if we are confusing the map for the territory, does that mean we do not need organized religion?
THE TEXT - Rendered in English
Note on the translation: For the word "panch", several words came to mind: the Elect, the Chosen Ones, the Impeccable Ones, Saints and the Pure in Spirit. Exemplars was used primarily because it seemed to best convey the idea of being iconic figures, people to look up to - spiritual leaders.
Your feedback on the translation is sought and welcome.
The Panch are exemplars: by Your sanction, the chosen ones,
Honoured in Your Court,
Resplendent at Your Door,
They remain transfixed on Your Name.
Mere speech and thought,
Fail to account for Your Creation.
Dhaul, the mythical Bull, is Dharam, the Eternal Law - born of compassion,
With the bond of contentment holding Creation in place;
Those who realize this know the Truth
The weight of Dhaul's load
Extends beyond our Earth - to endless worlds!
Who supports this weight?
All species incarnate, their forms and names,
Are all recorded by the ever-flowing Pen of Hukam.
Who can write this account?
The more one writes, the bigger it becomes!
What power! Behold the beauteous Form!
What bounty! Who knows Your creative potency
That created this vast expanse - with One Sound,
Bringing forth all streams of life.
Your creative force I cannot state
I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.
What pleases You is the only good deed,
You are Eternal, O Formless One!