Continued from “Washing with the Color of His Name – Japji Sahib – IX”
Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib – X
Patalan Patal Lakh Agasaan Agas
Orak Orak Bhaal Thake Ved Kahan Ik Vaat
Sahas Atharah Kahan Kateban Asulu Iko Dhaat
Lekha Hoye Tan Likhiye Lekhe Hoye Vinaas
Nanak Vada Akhiye Aape Jaane Aaap
Countless are the nether regions
Infinite is the sky
Millions have searched the frontiers in vain
The Vedas so conclude
The holy texts speak of eighteen thousand spheres
Yet the key element is only One
To write about this one may try
But while writing about infinity one will only die
We can only say that He is great
Yet, His greatness He alone knows
In this Pauri Guru Nanak says that there are millions of nether worlds and infinities of sky. And the Vedas declare that everyone who went out in search, to calculate and determine the boundaries or frontiers of the Cosmos, in the end only exhausted themselves.
The holy books mention eighteen thousand spheres, but what is the key element that binds them all together as Universe? We perceive it but do not see it; it remains mysterious and immeasurable.
How will one then try to express or write about this? And whosoever may try, would have hardly written anything as his time to go would soon arrive. Hence, Guru Nanak says that we can only say that “God is great”. Nothing more, nothing less! For anything added to this expression will put God in a cage and create boundaries and limitations. God is boundless, our diction is limited. We can never know His greatness. He alone can know.
Patalan Patal Lakh, Agasaan Agas
Orak Orak Bhal Thake, Ved Kahan Ik Vaat
This line needs to be understood in a little more detail. There are innumerable planets, comets, stars, asteroids, etc. besides our earth, but they all have the same boundless space – the skies. There is no place in the cosmos which is not connected with the infinity of space. Space is everywhere. All the heavenly bodies – the milky ways, galaxies, stars, planets, comets, asteroids, et al are all moving – rotating, revolving, orbiting – within the vastness of the limitless space.
Mankind’s search since time immemorial has involved the study of constellations, movements of planets, the moon, the placement of the stars in the sky during night, the lunar and solar eclipses, etc. Indeed there has been a lot of information and analysis done in the field of astronomy. The weatherman can today predict a lot. Still, the Vedas conclude, as Guru Nanak says, that mankind’s attempt of trying to limit or define the boundaries of the Cosmos has been in vain. The searchers, the seekers have only ended in despair and frustration.
There is a very strong hint given by Guru Nanak in this Pauri. Our knowledge even today is limited to an assortment of heavenly bodies. Space still remains within abstract concepts with no concrete definition. The reference of space here is a metaphor for the idea of God. If the boundless space which is here, there, everywhere cannot be bundled in a package, how can then the infinite creation “Satnam” (existence absolute) of “Ik Onkar” the name given by Guru Nanak to God – the primordial energy – be confined within the limitations of any holy book?
No wonder then the holy books only give hints about something that cannot really be expressed. Anything said about God is eventually “Neti, Neti”, “Neither This, Nor That”.
We can now attempt to understand the significance of what Guru Nanak means when he says, “Orak Orak Bhal Thake, Ved Kahan Ik Vaat”!
Guru Nanak then further says that the holy books have attempted to quantify or define the boundaries of the several worlds yet the key element behind all these is only one – “Asulu iko Dhaat”.
What is that key element?
Since “that” is inexpressible, Guru Nanak simply gives a hint and proceeds to candidly suggest that whosoever tries to write about it, will only get exhausted and destroyed.
The only thing we can say about the Supreme Lord is that He is great. And, His greatness, only He knows. We do not know. We can know only when we are able to read the unwritten. We can know, not by standing away, but only, by merging and becoming one with God. Only the Infinite can know infinity! Only the ‘Self’ can know the Supreme ‘Self’! Only the silent can hear the sound of sounds from the void.
Salahi Salahi Eti Surti Na Payeea
Nadian Atey Vah Paveh Samund Na Janiah
Samund Sah Sultan Girha Seti Mal Dhan
Kiri Tul Na Hovani Je Tis Manhon Na Visre
Praise and worship
Bring not His perpetual remembrance
Like streams and rivers upon merging
Know not the might of the Ocean
Like kings and emperors with great dominions
Possessing vast treasures
Are not equal to even an ant
Whose heart retains the remembrance of God.
We notice a lot of fervor and frenzy during rituals and festivities. Each one shouts, trying to outdo the other. Does such worship or praise bring awareness or build a constant remembrance (“surati”) − a state of higher consciousness or does it merely reaffirm the distance between the devotee and the devoted?
Guru Nanak says that all praising and parroting does not lead to the dissolution of the ego. It can occur only when “I” the doer ceases and God the Doer takes over. And this happens through continuous remembrance or consciousness of His name at all times.
In our normal day-to-day lives, the best example of one who has total consciousness or remembrance at all times is that of a pregnant woman. Observe her carefully. She is all the time careful and alert about the way she walks, gets up, sleeps, does her diurnal chores, etc. During her pregnancy, she is constantly making adjustments. Her awareness of the developing fetus in her womb is persistent at all times. Even after birth of the baby, as the mother of her child while she can be busy doing different things, yet her “surati” − awareness of the child persists at all times. There is no moment when she forgets the child.
This is what Guru Nanak says that in every situation of our lives, we have to keep His remembrance alive. We have to be aware of Him at all times.
Else, the frenzy of ritualistic worship is like the streams and rivers that keep flowing to eventually merge into the ocean, yet do not know the ocean or like the kings and emperors possessing vast treasures, yet without His remembrance in their conscience are miserable with insecurities. Indeed, they do not even equate the miniscule ant that retains the remembrance of God.
We all, like rivers and streams, flow into God every living moment. Our vital life force, our breath, inhales and exhales constantly, without volition. During this flow, if we are aware or conscious of the remembrance of God the Creator then we are in a state of gratitude and thanksgiving. If not, then our entire search for God through praise and worship is futile.
Continued to “The Endless Expressions”
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