Suggestions from Gurbani for Cultivating Humility

Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 12

Continued from Previous Page

Cultivating humility requires the sacrifice of the pride, with a complete departure from self-centeredness and selfishness. In a world that encourages copious consumption, self-indulgence, and reckless acquisition of material wealth as recognition of success, acquiring humility will always be challenging. But, Guru Ji made humility an inseparable part of the Sikh way of life. So, it becomes imperative for a Sikh to cultivate humility, which is professed through the daily activities of a Sikh.

Our Gurus lived their lives full of humility; and their thoughts, words and actions reflected it. In this Chapter we will briefly review several suggestions contained in Guru Ji’s words. We will begin with the start of the day and end with bedtime at night.

1. Begin the day by remembering and acknowledging God:

Guru Ram Das Ji has defined the life style of a Sikh, a learner by suggesting how the day should be initiated:

“Gur Satgur ka joe sikh akhavai so bhal kse uttah har naam dhaivae” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 305)

Meaning: One who calls himself a Sikh of the Guru, the True Guru, shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord's Naam.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji has exactly espoused this in these words:

“Naau prabhaatai shabad dhiaae'eeaai chhoddahu dunee pareetaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1330)

Meaning: Abandoning the worldly entanglements, meditate on the Naam, and the Word of the Shabad, in the early hours before dawn.

Thus, the very first activity prescribed by Guru Ji is getting up early and remembering the Naam. Naam is mindfully reminiscing the feeling of Divine Presence-God, and acknowledging that God is the Creator. He is the driving force behind every creation, activity, and happening. This is the first of the three pillars of Sikh life known as Naam Japna. This activity results in the blossoming of life, as it takes the seeker closer to the Creator. In doing so, negativity and sins are washed away. To that Sikh, God is the Father and the mother and he/she is a little child under His Divine protection. Thus, this remembrance provides security and comfort just like parent’s lap provides the comfort to a baby:

“Har ji mata Har ji pita,har jeeo prathipalak. Har ji maeree saar karae hum Har kae baalak.” — (SGGS, Pg. No.1101)

Meaning: The Dear Lord is my mother, the Dear Lord is my father; the Dear Lord cherishes and nurtures me. The Dear Lord takes care of me; I am the child of the Lord.


“Wah Wah sacae mai teri taek.” — (SGGS, Pg. No.153)

Meaning: Waaho! Waaho! - Great! Great is the True Lord! I seek Your All-powerful Support.

The very survival of human beings is dependent on the breath of life. Thus the breath of life can become a tool, to acknowledge the Creator and remember Him. That is, the breath of life, cannot be created, procured, exchanged, or bartered in any scenario; every breath is reminder of our dependence on it for our own very existence. When the breathing stops the person dies. So, with each inhaling and exhaling, we should try to remember the source on which our life depends.

2. Upon sunrise, recite the morning prayers:

As the day dawns, the Guru Ji says that the Sikh recites the daily morning prayers in devotion.

“Fir charrai dhivas gurabaanee gaavai behadhiaa outhadhiaa har naam dhhiaavai.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 305)

Meaning: Then, at the rising of the Sun, he is to sing Gurbani; whether sitting down or standing up, he is to meditate on the Lord's Naam.

Bhai Gurdaas Ji has shared the purpose of this activity in the following line:

“Shabad surat parchaaa karai, Satgur parchai mun parchae.” — (Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 28.15)

Meaning: He/ She keeps his/ her consciousness merged in the Shabad, and engages the mind to the love of the True Guru.

Thus, by engaging the mind in Gurbani and Naam in the early morning, the torrents of thoughts are ebbed and the mind is calmed. The mind becomes focused razor sharp and awareness is increased. The person starts feeling the divine presence everywhere, and conducts his/her life according to divine laws. In doing so he/she nurtures the divine love that develops within. The benefits have been now scientifically proven, and it is now being promoted as the mindful meditation.

3. Utilize commute/wait time to listen to Gurbani

Our work day starts with a commute, usually with a ride in a public transport or in a private car. With such devices as CD players, smartphones or iPods, the commute time can be used efficiently – it can be the time to lift our spirits. This will be more effective than listening to news or other genres/types of music. This is a kind of self-talk, which lifts the spirit. In doing so, the mind is positively engaged, which takes away the monotony. Instead, the mind is more effectively engaged in reflection, prayer and adoration of the Creator. This is the essence of second part of the first quote about reciting Gurbani in the morning. This way we will be keeping the mind continuously uplifted right from the meditative activities of the morning. This can be practiced at work or in business setting when one has idle time between activities or when one is waiting for customers. The worldly hustle and bustle is not going to dissipate the uplifted state of mind from meditation.

Further, if the Gurbani is memorized by heart, then this time can be utilized for self-recital without the use of external devices. Nowadays, there is not much emphasis on memorizing the Gurbani; so now a day the personal repertoire of individuals is quite limited. However, in earlier times, although the literacy levels were low, and the availability of audio recordings, print media etc. was limited, still there was a very strong emphasis on memorizing of Gurbani. The idiom, now largely forgotten but was common during those times is:

“Bani kantth paisa gantth.”

Meaning: The bani memorized by heart, is like having money in the pocket (available for use as needed).

When there is money in the pocket, it can be used at any time as needed; no permission or any other consideration is required to use it freely. The money ones used is gone, but this recital becomes an unlimited resource that never depletes but always accumulates.

4. Be grateful in every moment

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one received, acquired or has achieved. Most of the times we feel that it is with our own initiative and efforts; we have achieved success or accomplished a goal. So, we feel that it is alright to pat ourselves on the back for our own efforts, achievements and successes. However, the Sikh knows those thoughts, strengths, and efforts were only possible because of God, and so, he/she is always in a state of gratefulness. When Sikhs experience happy or trying times, they are always in a state of gratitude and constantly remember Him by crediting Him for success. Their credo in life is:

“Joe prabh karai soee bhal maanahu sukh dhukh ouhee dhhiaaeeai rae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 209)

Meaning: Whatever God does, accept that with pleasure; in comfort and in suffering, meditate on Him.

Bhai Gurdaas Ji has also expressed that feeling of gratitude in these words:

“Kaaran karathaa jo karai sir dhhar mun karai sukaraanaa.” — (Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 18.21)

Meaning: Whatever is done by the Creator of all the causes is gratefully accepted by him.

Here Bhai Sahib says consider Creator as the cause, and gratefully accept the situation. This will open new vistas and one would see the same Creator as the doer in others as well. Then one starts to see the Creator in everyone. Guru Ji asks us remember who the Creator of everyone is, in these words:

“Hoe reheeai sagal kee reenaa. Ghatt ghatt rameeaa sabh mehi cheenaa.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 866)

Meaning: Know that Lord is in each and every heart and thus become dust of the feet of all.

Now, science is coming out with research proving that gratitude will increase our well-being and happiness. Guru Ji had made this prescription much earlier for our physical and emotional benefit. Now we are witnessing that many new age teachers are endorsing the viewpoint of gratitude in life.

5. Earn a honest living and share your earning

Honest earning of bread with dignity and labor, then sharing it with the needy-this is the second pillar of Sikhism known as Kirat karna. Guru Ji extorts us to exercise one's God-given skills, abilities, talents, and labor hard for the benefit and improvement of the individual, the family, and the society at large. Bhai Gurdaas has captured this thought in these words:

Kirat virat karr dharam dee, hath-hu daykai bhalaa manaavai.”
— (Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 6.12)

Meaning: Those who earn livelihood honestly and feel grateful to share with others (less fortunate).

Sharing with others is the third pillar of Sikh life known Vand Chakna. Guru Arjan Dev has shed light on the aspect of sharing in these words:

Paroupakaar Nith Chithavathae Naahee Kashh Poch.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 815)

Meaning: They continually think of doing good deeds for others; they harbor no ill will towards anyone.

When one harbors no ill will for others, and is always enthusiastically ready for good deeds, they purge the jealousy from within.

6. Reflect on the wonder of Creation throughout the day:

Nature is filled with wondrous and admirable beauty that is constantly changing and evolving. It is really fun to watch nature; and it produces a calming effect on the mind. However, with our other pre-occupations in life, we fail to take notice and admire the beauty of nature. Every morning the sunrise is always unique and different, so is every sunset. Even the size and the shape of the moon are ever-changing, yet we fail to notice it, as we assume it is the same every day. Whatever little curiosity we had as a child, is also lost in the process of growing up to be ten or twelve. Somehow, we all seem to outgrow our childhood curiosity to wonder and to feel nature. In fact, we feel that we have matured by outgrowing our innate curiosity. But when we read Gurbani, we can see that aspect of awe and wonder in Creation captured artistically. In Assa Dee Vaar, Guru Ji has devoted a full stanza on wondering at nature and it starts with:

“Visamaad naad visamaad vaed. — (SGGS, Pg. No. 463)

Meaning: Wonderful is the sound current of the Naad, wonderful is the knowledge of the Vedas.

In this stanza, one can feel the ecstasy of wonder that Guru Ji feels for every aspect of creation. Guru Ji wonders at the sheer variety of species, their forms and their unique sounds, variety of spiritual knowledge, and even different forms of procreation in species. Guru Ji goes into ecstasy observing the play of the natural elements like air, water, fire, and earth etc.

Bhai Gurdaas has also captured the “wow” factor in these words:

“Visam hoye vismaad lakh, lakh choj vedaanaa.” (Bhai Gurdaas Vaar 13.24)

Meaning: Seeing His wonderful deeds, the elation itself becomes elated.

So, why does Guru Ji want us is to retain our childlike curiosity and admiration? Guru Nanak Dev Ji shared with us what that awareness can deliver:

“Gyanee jeevai sadaa sadaa suratee hee pat hoaae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1412)

Meaning: Only the spiritually wise live forever; they are honored for their intuitive awareness.

So, curiosity is not something that we are supposed to outgrow. Then, how do we preserve our inborn curiosity? We can nurture it by being mindful of whatever we are doing. Even the simple activities like eating and walking should be done mindfully and attentively. With that practice, the walking is not just walking - every step, lifting of our feet and planting it back on ground is noticed. Similarly, every morsel of food put in one’s mouth is done so with full awareness. Then, chewing of that morsel, followed by swallowing it is also done with full awareness. This exercise although simple, is actually difficult, because the mind finds it boring to repeat this activity day in and day out. Today, even the scientific world has realized the significance of being mindful and new research along with volumes of literature are being published on the subject. Even the coaches of professional sports teams are noticing the benefits and have incorporated them in their training regimen. But, when this awareness becomes a habit, then the following transformations take place within:

  • Becoming aware of body – body becomes relaxed.
  • Becoming aware of thoughts – the torrent of thought within subsides, and mind is calmed and is at peace.
  • Becoming aware of mind, feelings, emotions and moods – now the three-mind, body and thoughts get connected together, as one has effect on the other two, so mood-swings subside.
  • Becoming aware of one’s own awareness – this is the ultimate development, as with it one is always aware of the awareness.

Guru Ji has described this state of awareness in these words:

“Surathee surath ralaaeeai eaeth.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 878)

Meaning: Focus your consciousness in deep absorption on the Lord.

It is only when we start practicing awareness that we realize that we had been previously leading a life on an autopilot – i.e. there was a complete lack of awareness. It is only with input of awareness, that information provided by the senses can be completed, otherwise we will have an incomplete or partial picture. So, our decisions when based on partial information, without consideration of all aspects will not be the most appropriate response. In his book “The Art of Living Consciously”, author Dr. Nathaniel Branden has said; “To live consciously means to seek to be aware of everything that bears our actions, purposes, values and goals.” Branden has also shared the fact that living in lucid awareness we will feel deeply to think clearly. As awareness is built when one senses and experiences One-ness with creation. Once being aware becomes a habit, a day will dawn when the watcher, activity being watched and the one being watched will merge and become one.

7. Practice spiritual discipline of prayer, meditation, and understanding Gurbani

We have earlier discussed the subject of prayer and meditation at the start of the day, However these two activities are not to be confined to the morning alone. Rather, prayer and meditation should become a habit and a natural part of all daily activities. In addition, an effort should be made to understand Gurbani. Today, with the availability of numerous tools, delving deeper into Gurbani and gaining a deeper understanding is relatively easier. The Sikh way of life is to transform life according to Gurbani, and this can be initiated only by understanding. Guru Ji has made it clear:


“Sikhee sikhiaa gur veechaar.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 465)

Meaning: Sikhee (Becoming Sikh) is implementing in life Guru’s teachings.

When the Guru’s teaching are understood, internalized and implemented in daily life, it will bring about magical transformation. Guru Ji has shared how it works in these words:

“Gur kee baanee jis man vasai. Dhookh dharadh sabh taa kaa nasai.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1340)

Meaning: All pains and afflictions run away from those, whose minds are filled with the Word of the Guru's Bani.

No wonder Guru Ji suggests that with each breath God should be mediated upon:

“Joe saas giraas dhhiaaeae maeraa har har so gurasikh guroo man bhaavai.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 305)

Meaning: One who meditates on my Lord, Har, Har, with every breath and every morsel of food – that GurSikh becomes pleasing to the Guru’s Mind.

8. Seek the company of devotees

The mental influence of company on the mental faculties is not properly understood by everyone, but is clear to those who seek spiritual progress. We're being influenced by the company, whether we’re aware of it or not. Therefore, it is important to seek the company of those who can propel one on the path of spiritual progress. Others will always try to distract/derail our well laid out plans with their own agenda of having fun and good life as they see it. There is great strength and encouragement that can be gained from like-minded communities. Guru Amar Das has advised us:

“Gurmukh sau kar dosatee satgur sau laai chit.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1421)

Meaning: Make friends with those who are Guru oriented (Gurmukhs), and focus your consciousness on the True Guru.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji has shared with us how to seek the company of Guru oriented devotees and to serve them in these words:

“Mai Badhhee Sach Dhharam Saal Hai.Gurasikhaa Lehadhaa Bhaal Kai. Pair Dhhovaa Pakhaa Faeradhaa This Niv Niv Lagaa Paae Jeeo.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 73)

Meaning: I have established the Temple of Truth. I have sought out the Guru's Sikhs, and brought them into it. (There) I wash their feet, and wave the fan over them. Bowing low, I fall at their feet.

This is how the company of like-minded people is sought for, to practice humility and to nurture spiritual growth. Bad company becomes bad influence and it can corrupt good character and stunt spiritual growth. Our company can feed our will power and provide encouragement, nurturing support in our growth. This growth can only take place where there is humility, as without it there is no service. The influence of the company on individual behavior has been recognized and has been studied in social psychology. We are sum total of company we keep. Therefore Guru Ji advice’s is to seek the company of like-minded individuals who can help and support you, not derail you. In fact Kabir Ji has declared about the influence of the company in these words:

“Joe jaisee sangat milai so taiso fal khaai.86.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1369)

Meaning: According to the company it keeps, so are the fruits it eats.

9. Stop worrying, as He cares for you

The uncertainties in life stroke our worries. So, when we are faced with challenges in life, worrying comes naturally, as an auto response, giving us sleepless nights. When someone says, “Don’t worry”, our auto response is to start worrying right away. Guru Ji has observed this trait in us and shared his observation in these words:

“Chintat hee dheesai sabh koe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 932)

Meaning: Everyone seems to be engulfed by worries.

So, how do we cast our worries away? Guru Ji provides us the answer that He cares for us all - big and small. Guru Ji shares about God’s benevolent nature with us:

“Naa kar chinth chinthaa hai karathae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1070)

Meaning:Don't worry (about livelihood) - leave that worry to Creator.

Guru Ji is assuring and advising us to stop worrying about survival in life, as the Creator who has created life has provided for it. He has provided to all – including flying birds, animals on land, worms in the soil, fish in water – for everyone including human beings. And He took care of it before creating life. In fact, this is the most pressing worry that concerns human beings - the feeling of being responsible for providing for ourselves. But Guru Ji has assured us that this should not become our concern, as our Creator will provide for all. These words do offer a great solace and assurance, yet the mind still worries. Why? Worry can only be banished when the root cause of worrying is eliminated. Guru Ji is not advocating passivity or inaction by any means, but is assuring that that there is no need to worry. Guru Ji has declared that all your worries will be banished when you supplicate to God with these words: “Tis aagai jan kar baenanthee jo sarab sukhaa kaa dhaanee hae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1070)

Meaning: Offer your prayers to the One who is the Giver of all peace and joy.

The outcome of trusting God will be:

“Chetahi ek tahee sukh hoe.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 932)

Meaning: He alone finds happiness, who meditates on One Lord.

10. As the day ends

As the day ends, Guru Ji asks us to remember God in prayer again. This formal evening prayer is known as Rehraas or Sodar. Reciting this prayer in the evening is like collecting the spiritual wealth that one can take with the self after death. Bhai Gurdaas has captured the essence of this in these words:

“Sanjhai sodhar gaavanaa man maelee kar mael milandhae.” — (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas 6.3)

Meaning:They sing the Sodar in the evening and heartily associate with others (like minded).

The monetary wealth earned during the day provides for daily needs, but it cannot be taken along after death. Guru Ji has prescribed a lifestyle that will result in ultimate merger with the Supreme Creator. Before going to bed, one not just receives the gift of sleep, but also His protection and His remembrance as expressed in these words:

“Raathee keerath sohilaa kar aarathee parasaadh va(n)dda(n)dhae.” — (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas 6.3)

If we are wondering what the relationship between meditation and humility is, we can ask Guru Ji to clarify it:

“Hul halaemee haalee chith chaethaa vathr vakhath sanjog.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 955)

Meaning: Make humility the plow, consciousness the plowman, meditation the preparation of the soil, and union with the Lord the planting time.

Guru Ji has clarified the fact that humility becomes the implement, and consciousness is the doer that prepares for union with God. So, we can see that humility becomes the receptacle for Naam and a journey of life with humility will lead to the ultimate achievement possible for mankind. Guru Arjan Dev Ji has shared the benefit of humility in these words:

“Kar kirpa jis kai hirdai garibi basavai. Nanak iha mukat agai sukh pavai.1.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 278)

Meaning: One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility, O Nanak, is liberated here, and obtains peace hereafter; says Nanak.


We started the exploration of this spiritual journey by defining humility. Along the way we explored the importance of humility in the spiritual journey, folly of pride, and how humility nurtures faith. We also explored some incidents of humility in the lives of Guru Ji’s to inspire us. Then we examined what the pinnacle of humility is. We even discussed the benefits of humility, so that an urge can grow within us to cultivate it. In order to nurture humility we saw that we have to become “childlike” again. When we become childlike, we feel like a dependent, and that feeling of dependence helps in setting aside the ego and in cultivating humility. When the feeling of dependency becomes strong, then the prayer flows out of the heart. That heartfelt prayer is a proclamation of self being the lowliest, rolling in the dust, like a worm, full of failings and weaknesses. When our pleadings for help are heard by God, the door of grace opens then He showers His blessings. It is like the ready crop of humility that has been nurtured with prayer and remembrance. With His blessings as the sunshine the crop ripens, from which we can harvest the bumper crop.

The course of action for nurturing humility can be summarized by five cardinal points:

A. Ardas – Prayer for grace
B. Bharosa – Complete Faith that whatever is happening is for my good.
C. Sarnaaee –Seeking protection of Almighty’s sanctuary
D. Sangat – Holy congregation of likeminded for encouragement and inspiration
E. Gur Updesh – Incorporation of Guru Ji’s teachings without any hesitation

Whenever the mind takes a detour and starts to wonder away, we will have to bring it back on track with a gentle reminder:

“Mun toon mat maaN karahi j hu kichh jaaNadhaa guramukhi nimaaNaa hoh.”  — (SGGS, Pg. No. 441)

Meaning: O mind, don't be so proud of yourself, as if you know it all; the Gurmukh is humble and modest.

And if it is still does not return back then another reminder:

“Kahaa chalahu mun rahahu ghare.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 414)

Meaning: Where are you going? O mind, remain in your own home.

Thus, Guru Ji is telling us to constantly remind our mind not to ramp up the ego by claiming to be knowledgeable. Remain grounded and humble by submitting to the Guru. The pride nourishes the ego which engulfs us in the material world creating unabated desires. The desires of mind cannot be fulfilled completely by anyone. The culmination of unabated desires will cause us to go in cycles of birth and death. The only way out of this vicious cycle is through humility and the blessings we can receive from God. So, the journey will be fruitful with Almighty’s blessings alone. With humility in our hearts and prayer on our lips let us seek Guru Ji’s grace.

“Nadharee eh mun vas aaavai nadharee mun nirmal hoi.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 558)

Meaning: By His grace, this mind is controlled, and by His Grace, it becomes pure.

At present we are not aware that we are the progeny of King or God, who is our Creator. Because of this relationship, we are His children, which make us the spiritual offspring or Princes and Princesses. So, in order to become eligible for the King’s throne, we need the qualities of the heir. Those qualities are Naam and humility as we explored earlier. If we refresh our memories from Chapter III, we will recollect that these are two boons that Guru Nanak Dev Ji received from God Himself. When a humble person receives grace he/she is elevated and experiences the virtues within:

“Sareer sarovar guN paragat ke'ae.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 367)

Meaning: The Ocean of the body yields pearls of virtue (by the grace of Guru).

With pearls like virtues within, the inner feelings are transformed as described by Kabir Ji:

“Dhekhiaa tihoon lok kaa peeu. Acharaj bhaeiaa jeev te seeu.13.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 343)

Meaning: Then, one beholds the Father of the three worlds. This is wonderful! The human being has become God!

This is the experience of a drop of water becoming the part of a ocean. This is the ultimate experience, the experience of merger with Supreme. It was made possible when humility became part of our nature. That is, experience of total bliss. Being in bliss is innate human desire and humility is the way to experience it. Together let us start the journey.



More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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Views: 3796      Comments: 1

Comment Spirituality embedded and useful for secular life too.

Varanasi Ramabrahmam
10-Oct-2020 10:59 AM

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