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Derailment From Remembrance

Guru Ji is saying that the insides get burnt in lack of remembrance and it becomes a perpetual cycle....

We have seen the Power of Remembering earlier, so in this article let us explore how the Derailment From Remembrance happens. Let us start it with this question to Guru Nanak Dev Ji about what happens in absence of remembrance? Guru Ji has provided the answer in these words:

ਹਰਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਜੀਉ ਜਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਉ ॥

“Har bin jeeau jal bal jaau.” (SGGS, Pg. No.14)

Translation: Without the (remembrance of) Lord, my soul is scorched and burnt.

Guru Ji has shared the cascading effect of absence of remembrance as:

Without the remembrance 🡺 Getting burnt 🡺 Keeps getting scorched. 

Jiyo Jal Bal Jaao.jpg

Guru Ji is saying that the inner gets burnt which continues. It is a pretty precarious picture that has been painted by Guru Ji. Let us ask Guru Ji if he explored options/alternates. Guru Ji says:

ਮੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਛਿ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਅਵਰੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਥਾਉ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ 

“Mai aapanaa gur poochh dhekhiaa avar naahee thaau. 1. Rahaau.” (SGGS, Pg. No.14)

Translation: I consulted my Guru, and now I see that there is no other option/place at all. ||1||Pause||

Basically, Guru Ji has declared that there is no other alternative. Elsewhere in Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak Ji has shared that forgetting even for a moment is like getting a disease in these words:

ਇਕੁ ਤਿਲੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਵਡਾ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥

“Eik til piaaraa veesarai rog vaddaa mun maeh.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 21)

Translation: Forgetting the Beloved, even for a moment, the mind is afflicted with terrible diseases.

ਇਕੁ ਤਿਲੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਦੁਖੁ ਲਾਗੈ ਸੁਖੁ ਜਾਇ ॥

“Eik til piaaraa visarai dhukh laagai sukh jai.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 59)

Translation: If I forget my Beloved, even for an instant, suffering overtakes me, and (inner) peace departs.

ਮੇਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਬਿਸਰੈ ਹਉ ਮਰਉ ਦੁਖਾਲੀ ॥

“Maeraa prabh bisarai hau marau dhukhaalee.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 796)  

Translation: Forgetting my God, I die in pain.

ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥

"Aakhaa jeevaa visarai mar jaao." (SGGS, Ang. No. 9)

Translation: By remembering it, I live; forgetting it, I die.

So, for Guru Ji forgetting results in being afflicted by suffering and diseases, the inner peace departs as well, and it feels like being dead. The question arises how it is caused, under which scenarios does the derailment from remembrance takes place? Guru Ji has provided the details in the other lines of shabad, while sharing how we get burnt. Guru Ji says that derailment takes place under four scenarios, all of them are human cravings. These are:

  1. Affluence

Guru Ji says that innate human desire is to be successful in life, which is gauged in this world by wealth. The wealth which is exhibited to the rest of the world through a luxurious lifestyle, and comfort. Seeing the opulence, the world puts the person on a pedestal as successful in life, earning recognition, respect in the society. It is exhibited to the world through lavish mansions. Guru Ji says about it:

ਮੋਤੀ ਤ ਮੰਦਰ ਊਸਰਹਿ ਰਤਨੀ ਤ ਹੋਹਿ ਜੜਾਉ ॥ ਕਸਤੂਰਿ ਕੁੰਗੂ ਅਗਰਿ ਚੰਦਨਿ ਲੀਪਿ ਆਵੈ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਮਤੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਭੂਲਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਤੇਰਾ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਨਾਉ ॥੧॥

“Motee ta ma(n)dhar uoosareh ratanee ta hoh jaRaau. Kastoor ku(n)goo agar cha(n)dhan leep aavai chaau. Mut dhekh bhoolaa veesarai teraa chit na aavai naau. 1.” (SGGS, Pg. No.14)

Translation: If I had a palace made of pearls, inlaid with jewels, scented with musk, saffron, agar, and sandalwood, a sheer delight to behold-seeing this, I might go astray and forget You, and Your Name would not enter into my mind. ||1||

Here, Guru Ji has painted a picture of extreme affluence, having a palace with outer walls made of pearls, and the inner walls inlaid with jewels. The finish inside is with fragrances of musk, saffron, agar and sandal woods. The aura created by them is a sheer delight to behold. But Guru Ji is concerned that these could become the cause of forgetting God. 

  1. Indulgences

Guru Ji first defines the ambience of place for such indulgences in the sensual pleasures, in the company of heavenly beauties:

ਧਰਤੀ ਤ ਹੀਰੇ ਲਾਲ ਜੜਤੀ ਪਲਘਿ ਲਾਲ ਜੜਾਉ ॥ ਮੋਹਣੀ ਮੁਖਿ ਮਣੀ ਸੋਹੈ ਕਰੇ ਰੰਗਿ ਪਸਾਉ ॥ ਮਤੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਭੂਲਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਤੇਰਾ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਨਾਉ ॥੨॥

“Dharatee ta heerae laal jaRatee palagh laal jaRaau. Mohanee mukh manee sohai kare ra(n)g pasaau. Mut dhekh bhoolaa veesarai teraa chit na aavai naau. 2.” (SGGS, Pg. No.14)

Translation: If the floor of this palace was a mosaic of diamonds and rubies, and if my bed was encased with rubies, and if heavenly beauties, their faces adorned with emeralds, tried to entice me with sensual gestures of love -seeing these, I might go astray and forget You, and Your Name would not enter into my mind. ||2||

Guru Ji is concerned that even such dalliances could become trigger for forgetting God. 

  1. Occult Power

ਸਿਧੁ ਹੋਵਾ ਸਿਧਿ ਲਾਈ ਰਿਧਿ ਆਖਾ ਆਉ ॥ ਗੁਪਤੁ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ਬੈਸਾ ਲੋਕੁ ਰਾਖੈ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਮਤੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਭੂਲਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਤੇਰਾ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਨਾਉ ॥੩॥

“Sidh hovaa sidh laiee ridh aakhaa aau. Gupat paragaT hoi baisaa lok raakhai bhaau. Mut dhekh bhoolaa veesarai teraa chit na aavai naau. 3.” (SGGS, Pg. No.14)

Translation: If I were to become a Siddha, and perform miracles, summon wealth, and become invisible and visible at will, so that people would hold me in awe -seeing these, I might go astray and forget You, and Your Name would not enter into my mind. ||3||

Guru Ji is not even interested in occult powers, as those can become the cause of derailment from remembrance. The ability to perform miracles puts the person on a higher pedestal by the masses making him more concerned about being revered to, then to his own remembrance.

  1. Authority or Ruling Power

ਸੁਲਤਾਨੁ ਹੋਵਾ ਮੇਲਿ ਲਸਕਰ ਤਖਤਿ ਰਾਖਾ ਪਾਉ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਹਾਸਲੁ ਕਰੀ ਬੈਠਾ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਭ ਵਾਉ ॥ ਮਤੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਭੂਲਾ ਵੀਸਰੈ ਤੇਰਾ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਨਾਉ ॥੪॥੧॥

“Sultan hovaa mel lasakar takhat raakhaa paau. Hukam haasal karee baiThaa naanakaa sabh vaau. Mut dhekh bhoolaa veesarai teraa chit na aavai naau. 4.1.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 14)

Translation: If I were to become an emperor and raise a huge army, and sit on a throne, issuing commands and collecting taxes-O Nanak, all of this could pass away like a puff of wind. Seeing these, I might go astray and forget You, and Your Name would not enter into my mind. ||4||1||

Guru Ji is not even interested in becoming an authority figure with powers as even those can become the trigger for forgetting. The power over the citizenry can become intoxicating, stimulating a desire for higher control over them, so he prefers remembrance over them. Guru Ji says this power, adulation of masses will pass like a puff of wind, not lasting.  

Four Human Craving.jpg

Thus, in this shabad with four stanzas, Guru Ji captures the four human cravings for affluence, indulgences, and power -both occult and becoming a commanding authority, becoming all consuming. Guru Ji observes that everything that I see is trying to woo me, which Guru Ji does not want. Guru Ji is not against getting the human desires fulfilled, but not at the cost of derailing to remember. All these four cravings are the aspects of Maya alone, whose allure overpowers the mind, and makes one forget God. The cascading effect is described as: 

The strong allure overwhelms 🡺 Stops the flow of the Naam (Divine Name) within 🡺 When the thought of remembering reoccurs, then Naam would not reenter into my mind. 

Guru Ji calls those chasing Maya as ‘faithless cynics’ and wonders how they can find happiness and peace in these words:  

ਸਾਕਤ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਧਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿ ਕਹਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਹਿ ॥

“Sakat maiaa kau bahu dhaaveh. Naam visaar kahaa sukh paaveh.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 1029) 

Translation: The faithless cynics chase after Maya. Forgetting the Naam, how can they find happiness and peace? 

As per Gurbani everything else besides remembrance is like embracing red-hot pillars, whose outcome will be getting burnt:

ਬਿਸਾਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਬਿਖੈ ਭੋਗਹਿ ਤਪਤ ਥੰਮ ਗਲਿ ਲਾਇ ॥੧॥

“Bisaar har jeeau bikhai bhogeh tapat tha(n)m gal lai. 1.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 1001)

Translation: Forgetting your Dear Lord, you indulge in corrupt pleasures, (as a consequence) you shall have to embrace red-hot pillars. ||1||  

Therefore, Guru Ji finds the allure these human craving as apocalyptic. Guru Ji is well aware of the magical spell such lavish, luxurious lifestyles of comfort can cast and cautions us against them as these can make us go astray, derailing us from our path and aim. Guru Ji finds that forgetting to remember being in grip of maya, which induces meltdown of virtues:

ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤੈ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਬਿਕਲੁ ਭਇਆ ਸੰਗਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥

“Har kaa naam na chetai praanee bikal bhiaa sa(n)g maiaa.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 74)  

Translation: You do not remember the Name of the Lord, as you have become entangled by Maya.

ਮਨ ਏਕੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਸਿ ਮੂੜ ਮਨਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਬਿਸਰਤ ਤੇਰੇ ਗੁਣ ਗਲਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

“Mun ek na chetas mooR manaa. Hur bisarat tere gunn galiaa. 1. Rahaau.” (SGGS, Ang. No. 12) 

Translation: In your mind, you do not remember the One Lord-you fool! As you start forgetting the Lord; your virtues start melting away. ||1||Pause||

Alternate model from Guru Ji

Guru Ji says when the bounties of God are enjoyed, relished in thankfulness, then remembrance can take place. The gifts should become the triggers for remembrance. Guru Gobind Singh Ji words are:

ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਕੇ ਬਚੱਯਾ ਦੂਧ ਪੂਤ ਕੇ ਦਿਵੱਯਾ ਰੋਗ ਸੋਗ ਕੇ ਮਿਟੱਯਾ ਕਿਧੌ ਮਾਨੀ ਮਹਾ ਮਾਨ ਹੋ ॥

“Praan ke bacha'yaa dhoodh poot ke dhiva'yaa rog sog ke miTa'yaa kidhau maanee mahaa maan ho.” (Dasam Granth, Pg. 11)

Translation: Thou art the Savior of life, the Giver of milk (represents good life) and offspring, the remover of ailments and sufferings and additionally You are the Lord of Highest Honor.

So, let us pray for such an understanding, that triggers our remembrance:

ਸਾ ਮਤਿ ਦੇਹੁ ਦਇਆਲ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜਿਤੁ ਤੁਮਹਿ ਅਰਾਧਾ ॥

“Saa mut dheh dhiaal prabh jit tumeh araadhaa.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 677)  

Translation: Bless me with such understanding, O Merciful Lord God, that I might remember You. 

Guru Ji says one cannot be dispossessed from the wealth of remembrance under any circumstances:  

ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਬਚਨੁ ਬਸੈ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲੇ ॥ ਜਲਿ ਨਹੀ ਡੂਬੈ ਤਸਕਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਲੇਵੈ ਭਾਹਿ ਨ ਸਾਕੈ ਜਾਲੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

“Gur kaa bachan basai jeea naale. Jal nahee ddoobai tasakar nahee levai bhaeh na saakai jaale. 1. Rahaau.” (SGGS, Ang. No. 679)  

Translation: The Guru's Word abides with my soul. It does not sink in water; thieves cannot steal it, and fire cannot burn it. ||1||Pause||

When Guru’s word and its remembrance becomes heartfelt, then one sees God everywhere:

ਜਹ ਜਹ ਪੇਖਉ ਤਹ ਹਜੂਰਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਕਤਹੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥
“Jah jah pekhao tah hajoor ḏur katahu na jaee.” (SGGS, Ang. No. 677)

Translation: Wherever I look, there I see Him present; He is never far away.

When God is never far away and always close, then the lure of material comforts, lavish lifestyle, and power recedes. Let this become our life’s journey and experience not to get derailed from remembrance.

Related article: Power of Remembering

  1. Singh, Bhai Vir. Santhiya Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Vol. 1. Pages 220-225.
  2. Singh, Trilochan, et. Al. The Sacred Writing of the Sikhs. Tercentenary Edition. Orient Longmans.
  3. Singh, Sahib, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan, Volume 1. Raj Publishers.

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