Living Gurbani: Work of a Lifetime

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In this roundtable forum we showcase and explore jewels from our scriptures. Please share your reflections and experiences.

Satgur ki baani Sat Swaroop hai Gurbani buneay (SGGS Page 304 Guru Ram Das)

Satguru’s Bani is the embodiment of the Truth

The concept of Gurbani emanating from the Creator is quintessential to Sikhi. We revere and venerate Gurbani because it is Guru’s word or the Shabad Guru.

What follows next is intriguing:

Gurbani buneay

Become Gurbani (A rather literal translation)

Guru_Granth_Sahib-6Another possible interpretation of Gurbani buneay  is that buneay  refers to Sat Swaroop  underscoring that Gurbani enables an individual to become the embodiment of Truth.

Gurbani uses metaphors to explain mystical concepts. The usage of the word buneay is fascinating. Whether it alludes to a synthesis with the teachings or transformation into the essence of the Truth (Sat Swaroop), it is essentially the same message: imbibe the teaching so completely that there is no difference between the teacher (Gurbani) and the learner (Student, Sikh).

The metaphor of fusion or blending with the object of love or worship is not uncommon in Sri Guru Granth Sahib:

Tohi mohi mohi tohi antar kaisa Kanak katik jaltarang jaisa (SGGS P93 Bhagat Beni Ji)

You are me, and I am You, what is the difference?

We are like gold and bracelet, or water and waves

Such references are also prevalent in Sufi poetry. Bulleh Shah, the famous 17th century poet, speaks of the love Heer has for Ranjha that makes her blend  with her beloved:

Ranjha Ranjha kardi hun main aape Ranjha hoyee
Saddo mainu Dheedo Ranjha Heer na aakho koyee

Immersed in my love for Ranjha, I have become Ranjha

InnerSanctum-InnerSanctum-1-RCall me Dheedo Ranjha for I am Heer no more
The Guru wants us to be immersed in Gurbani so deeply and completely that we are transformed into its very essence. It is not enough to listen to Gurbani with rapt attention, or be moved to tears by its beauty and expansiveness, or sing it joyfully with our heart and soul immersed in it, or attempt to understand it in all its depth.  We have to live the essence of Gurbani. Discussions and dialogues are great tools to stimulate our interest but they are not enough. We have to walk the razor sharp course Gurbani lays out, give wings to our aspirations, stay constantly tuned to its powerful guidance and practice its teachings with dedication.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher said; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The synchronicity that trained soldiers display during a formal march-past is amazing.  It probably takes hours of daily practice over several years to create the image of oneness.  Similarly, a dancer melts into the dance and becomes poetry in motion after many years of consistent practice. To train the mind to live in perfect accord with Gurbani is an undertaking that is far greater than mastering the movement of the body. It requires perseverance, commitment, and a single-mindedness of purpose that is beyond any physical discipline.

Here is a clue to success. The human mind is highly impressionable. It becomes what it constantly engages with:

Eh mun jaisa seway taisa hovey tehe karam kamaee (SGGS Page 755 Guru Amar Das)

O mind, as you serve, so do you become, and so are the deeds you perform

Guru_Granth_Sahib-1We have to engage with Gurbani in the most personal and profound manner, awaken to its insights and let our choices be guided by its principles. When Gurbani permeates our very breath, and becomes the pulse of our life, our thoughts and actions shall mirror its beauty and purity. This is a monumental task and requires constant vigilance.

Ultimately though, it is only through the Grace of Waheguru that such a transformation takes place. There are temptations and pitfalls along the way. The false glitter of the world ensnares us. Egos create walls. Resolutions weaken. Good intentions break down. Through the peaks and valleys of our life Gurbani illumines our way. Its guidance saves us from temptations, teaches us humility and surrender. Like the beam of a laser, Gurbani cuts through our outer surface. The true essence is revealed.

It is the work of a lifetime, rather several lifetimes to “become” Gurbani or “Sat Swaroop.”

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About Jessi Kaur

Jessi Kaur is the author of Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy, and The Royal Falcon, highly acclaimed children’s books. She is the editor of Sikhpoint, (www.sikhpoint.com) , a web magazine. A theater aficionado, she produced The Royal Falcon Musical, a show that won accolades as the first ever Sikh musical of its kind. She has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and seminars at conferences, Sikh youth camps and has been an invited speaker on Sikh tradition and culture in several interfaith and multicultural events including the Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona and Melbourne, and the Smithsonian Folk Life festival in Washington DC. Her third book The Enchanted Garden of Talwandi based on a childhood legend of Guru Nanak is coming out this year. Ms. Kaur taught English Literature at a Delhi University college before moving to California where she is a Human Resources Consultant for high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley. She is the founder of IGS NOW a non-profit spiritual organization that is committed to working in and towards global synergy, on the board of Kaur Foundation and the editorial board of Sikh-American Love Stories. She is serving her second term as a Fine Arts Commissioner for the city of Cupertino, California.

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  • Karamjeet Singh Arneja

    ‘Wisdom of a lifetime’ is what I fathom – packed in this extremely educative piece.

    Jessi ji, you seem to have summed up the challenges of the monumental task of ‘Living Gurbani’ in this line of yours – “We have to walk the razor sharp course Gurbani lays out, give wings to our aspirations, stay constantly tuned to its powerful guidance and practice its teachings with dedication”.

    But with Waheguru’s blessings, hopefully these challenges will prove surmountable.

    Thanks again for sharing your insightful wisdom with us.

    Regards
    Karamjeet Singh

  • Gaurav Raj Behl

    Satshriakal Jessi,

    You’ve given a wonderful message which mostly people forget, specially in these lines: “The Guru wants us to be immersed in Gurbani so deeply and completely
    that we are transformed into its very essence. It is not enough to
    listen to Gurbani with rapt attention, or be moved to tears by its
    beauty and expansiveness, or sing it joyfully with our heart and soul
    immersed in it, or attempt to understand it in all its depth. We have
    to live the essence of Gurbani. Discussions and dialogues are great
    tools to stimulate our interest but they are not enough.” I am highly encouraged by this article.

    Thanks for sharing this with everybody.

    God Bless You

  • Vikram Singh

    Wonderful article!

  • Tina Kaur

    a well written synopsis of the most relevant message — very difficult to follow but one that needs constant remimder.

  • Tanbir Singh Grewal

    Enjoyed the article and completely agree that it should
    be discussed. Such insights are helpful. I personally have not been able to
    discuss it with anyone, without A) Getting an indifferent response (even from
    the clergy) B) A response, as mystical as the verse.

    Discussions should be regular; interpretations have to be
    linked to ordinary happenings/events and kept as simple as the article.

    Once again. Thanks