THE DIALOGUE - TO DATE
The inner mountain as a metaphor for spiritual growth is commonly used across different faith traditions and also influenced our choice of the term, 'spiritual ascent', as the moniker for our discussion on stanzas 34 -37.
The metaphor, I believe is an apt one, in that it reminds us to live life at an existential peak - that is, living life fully and intensely.
In speaking of the five "khands" or realms that a human needs to traverse - metaphorically speaking - we understood this journey to be an inner one and not to a physical location.
The five "khands" or spheres of activity were understood to be fluid boundaries of different psychological states of the mind that lead, ultimately, to an experience of the Truth that is ineffable.
We saw at the start of this dialogue on the Japji (in the Mool Mantar) how all human faculties are enlisted in praise of God - walking the way with open eyes, with attentive ears, singing and savoring the Word and tasting truth, contentment with Love.
The five "khands" extend that notion by emphasizing that the human faculties can be enlisted fully only on the broad highway (gadhi rah) of daily life - it is a daily affair.
Guru Nanak's message, if correctly understood, has profound implications on how we live individually and socially.
For an individual who experiences this journey, living becomes an existential peak: ordinary living, driven by narrow interests, anxiety, craving and quest for "more living," transforms into a transcendent affirmation of life, where mere living becomes more than living.
An individual becomes an active agent of Hukam
THE MESSAGE - Stanza 38
The final stanza (pauRi) of the Japji which we will consider this week, can be thought of as the essence of the entire message of the Japji.
The allegory of a goldsmith using an alchemical process to transform baser metals to gold beautifully illustrates Guru Nanak's foundational message: that we have to transform our "manmukh" nature into that of a "gurmukh" by aligning to Hukam.
This central teaching has been amplified and explained by succeeding Gurus in no uncertain terms. It is only from this existential fulcrum that a truly fulfilling, purpose-driven life is possible.
The fact is that we too often tend to lose sight of this central message and get side tracked - which serves only to exacerbate the underlying problem.
While we justifiably pride ourselves in worldly knowledge acquired through education and skills, the knowledge being talked about here is knowledge of the self, without which all else is to no avail - in Guru Nanak's estimation.
In this stanza, Guru Nanak lays out the process.
Again, it is to the cultivation of inner virtues that he points to. This is, indeed, the process of becoming a truly cultured and integrated personality, a necessary condition for a successful life.
What is the process? What should we carry in our toolbox?
First, is the cultivation of restraint or a reining in of the senses (jut). Put another way, this implies shifting the focus of one's faculties in the proper direction. Guru Amardas has very beautifully illustrated the right orientation for our senses in Anand Sahib: for instance, eyesight must be accompanied by the insight of seeing the same spark in all sentient beings; hearing must learn to filter out unnecessary noise and listen to the Truth; the tongue must avoid gluttony and so on.
Patience (dhiraj) is a necessary pre-requisite to restraint of the senses and acts as a check to impulsive and addictive tendencies and teaches us how to defer gratification - the underpinning of all creativity and civilization. In an age where speed is of the essence, this is virtue that may be difficult to cultivate.
Patience and restraint must be accompanied by discernment (mut) and knowledge (ved). Discernment is a Christian term but its meaning is not wholly out of place here: it describes the search for one's true vocation or what God has willed for us. In gurmat parlance, the mind (here described as the anvil) must develop this sense of discernment and or discrimination (mut / bibek) for what hukam has in store for us. This is made possible by conditioning the mind with Gurmat (ved) or the way of the Guru.
The inner fire (tup) is ignited by the bellows of divine awe (bao). Point to be noted here that "tup" is generally associated with the fire of austerities; in Sikhi, the austerities are primarily two: walking in hukam and service as social concern.
An authentic Sikh life can thus be likened to a lifelong alchemic process of apprenticeship to the Guru where psychological lead (manmukh) is cast in the mold of love to become spiritual gold (murmukh).
A gurmukh walks in hukam and serves society selflessly.
THE TEXT - RENDERED IN ENGLISH
ਜਤੁ ਪਾਹਾਰਾ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਸੁਨਿਆਰੁ ॥
In the smithy of continence, patience is the goldsmith
ਅਹਰਣਿ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਦੁ ਹਥੀਆਰੁ ॥
Hammering the strokes of knowledge on the anvil of the mind
ਭਉ ਖਲਾ ਅਗਨਿ ਤਪ ਤਾਉ ॥
Blowing the bellows of divine awe, igniting the inner flame
ਭਾਂਡਾ ਭਾਉ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤਿਤੁ ਢਾਲਿ ॥
Pouring the gold of Amrit in the crucible of Love
ਘੜੀਐ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚੀ ਟਕਸਾਲ ॥
In the mint of Truth is the coin of Life cast
ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰਮੁ ਤਿਨ ਕਾਰ ॥
For those who are so graced, it is their daily task
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲ ॥੩੮॥
Says Nanak, they live in unalloyed bliss ||38||