A Gift Of Grace: The Essence Of Guru Nanak’s Spirituality

Guru Nanak emphasizes the transformative power of listening to the divine Nam. Through active listening, individuals can transcend their ego-mind, overcome spiritual blindness and attain wisdom that leads to a blissful existence free from suffering and sin.
Guru Nanak’s Spirituality

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May 11, 2024 04:18 EDT
Suni-ai saraa gunaa kay gaah.

Suni-ai saykh piir paatisaah.

Suni-ai andhay paavahi raahu.

Suni-ai haath hovai asgaahu.

Naanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas.

Suni-ai duukh paap kaa naas.

Listening makes us attain an ocean of virtues.

Listening brightens our minds,

and makes us spiritual guides and mentors.

Listening makes the spiritually blind find a way.

By listening, fathomless deep truths come under our sway.

O Nanak, those who believe are always in a blissful state!

Listening, our sorrows and sins negate.

As one of the most beautiful creations of God, human beings are empowered to be virtuous. The sacred within us does not readily admit evil in any form. But for several practical reasons, we are quick to lose touch with our divinity. Once this happens, we accept in principle that accommodation with the evil is possible. The worldly attractions, coupled with the power of our ego-mind, are such that we allow the ocean of virtue to diminish. Our eyes cannot see the true self within us. The inner eye, to see virtue’s ocean, has to be developed anew through a slow and arduous process of atonement. We have to regularly listen to the Name[1]  to unravel the mystery of our hidden self. 

The listening process implied here is not passive. Some people believe that listening or hearing means lending our ears to something— the external stimuli pouring into our head. That is not what is suggested here. Listening, in this case, means listening as well as learning. It implies that sensory input is compelling us to search for meaning, thereby awakening our mental abilities to differentiate one sense from another. It also means that we use our heart as well as our mind, logic, and intuition. The mind alone, as the centre of our rational self, lacks the emotional energy to understand the spiritual and mystical undertones of the divine message. Therefore, we have to listen with our heart as well as our mind. We have to capture the meaning as well as the mystery of the message.

Listening to the Name gives us wisdom. It is not the wisdom of being worldly-wise but the wisdom of knowing the ultimate reality, the knowledge that will eventually bring us closer to enlightenment. The reference here is to the wisdom of great shaikhs and pirs in the mystical Sufi tradition. Sufis are known to practice zikr, meaning remembrance, which involves chanting the name of God as part of their prayer and meditation. Through this process, they experience the extinction of their ego (fana), which occurs when the mystic attains a perfect union with God. The difference between ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ disappears, and the self becomes part of the divine. As the Sufi poet Rumi said, ‘This moment this love comes to rest in me, many beings in one being. In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks. Inside the needle’s eye, a turning night of the stars.’

When we recite the Name, the voice comes from within. In a way, we are listening to our voice. But this is no ordinary voice; it is the voice wrapped within a great mystery. The awareness of what is within and what is outside starts disappearing as we reach deeper meditative states. Slowly we learn to put ourselves out of the way and merge into the cosmic cycle that connects our ordinary self with the universal consciousness.

Listening to the Name enables us to overcome our blindness. Again, the meditation does not refer to a physical condition, although miracles do happen to cure physical ailments. This blindness is the blindness of the soul, our inability to see the spiritual nature of our being, and our potential to attain higher levels of consciousness. Only when we overcome our spiritual blindness are we able to see. This will happen when we start listening to the Name and start abiding by its discipline.

Listening to the Name, we shall come to know both the fathomable and unfathomable mysteries of our existence. The fathomable part of our self is more natural to know. It is like knowing our conscious mind. The unfathomable part is much more profound; to find it, we have to delve not only into our ‘personal unconscious’ but into the unknown mysteries of the ‘collective unconscious’, as explained by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The unfathomable space is the seat or centre of our soul. To be in touch with it is to reach the core of our spiritual being—the highest ambition we can carry in our heart.

Listening to the Name confers special blessings. We can live in an eternally blissful state. Such is the power of the Name that suffering of all kinds and sinful actions disappear. Where there is the Name, there is no suffering, there is no sin. Our pain is caused by moving away from God and indulging ourselves in the world of desire, wealth, and fame, mainly driven by our ego-mind. In these pursuits, mental stress is bound to be our companion because we do not wish to fail. We stretch ourselves to the limits of our physical and mental capacities, and then one day the chord breaks. It breaks because there is nothing to support it. The glue of the Word can bind us to our inner reality so that even when we are pursuing our goals, we will not find ourselves distant from the eternal bliss.

*The Lord’s Name. There is only one source of light and grace — Ek Onkaar Sat Naam (One True Name).

[Niyogi Books has given Fair Observer permission to publish this excerpt from A Gift Of Grace: The Essence Of Guru Nanak’s Spirituality, Daler Aashna Deol, Niyogi Books, 2019.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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