The Purpose of Human Life
Man is in search of happiness, but has no peace of mind. Even if he succeeds in achieving his objectives, he remains dissatisfied. His search for peace and happiness, therefore, never ends. Saint Augustine says that God gave us the senses for using them properly, but we misuse them by indulging in sensual pleasures; whereas the bliss for which we should have striven remains enshrined in scriptures only.
Man is an ensouled entity gifted with body, mind, and intellect. He takes good care of his body for the sake of his domestic, social and political well-being. Intellectually, he has made strident advances. He has successfully explored the earth, oceans and space and has made atomic bombs. A single atom bomb can destroy millions. Strangely enough, with all his achievements he remains ignorant about the prime source of energy from which his body and mind derive their strength – soul – his True Self. He has so much identified himself with the body that he is unable to distinguish his soul from the body. In fact, he does not know that his Real Self is something separate from the body. Have we ever thought about the propelling force in us? Have we recognised the indweller of the house?
Soul is a conscious entity. Just as any essence has its basic source, soul too has an Ultimate Source – the Oversoul – a vast Ocean of All-Consciousness. The entire universe is His manifestation. The soul is identified with the material body by constant association with the senses. Man does not know that he can have True Happiness only when he is able to disfranchise the self in him from the outer vestures. He is so much entangled with the mind and body that he ever remains unhappy and restless. Soul being conscious and body being material, these cannot coexist amiably.
We pretend to be religious by reading the scriptures without knowing their true import and by offering ceremonial prayers at the places of worship. All that we worship is physical health and worldly riches. We aspire for material well-being and not for God-Realisation. It is said that once Majnu, a legendary lover, was told that God wished to see him. Majnu replied if that was so, God must come in the form of Laila, his beloved. Most of us offer our prayers to God only because we want to fulfil our worldly ambitions. We seek God’s blessings to become physical and intellectual giants. Thus, to us God is only a means to worldly ends. Consequently, we get only that we crave for i.e. the material world and not God.
To know God we must first know ourselves. From time immemorial many have tried to define God philosophically. But He remains undefined as ever.
God cannot be realised by the body or intellect or senses. He can only be experienced by the soul. Unless we know ourselves, the question of knowing God does not arise. Thus, the first step in this direction is self-knowledge which precedes God-Knowledge. Know thyself!, has been the call of Saints and sages. Guru Nanak1 was once asked by a Muslim holy man to define His faith. The Guru replied that He neither claimed to be a Hindu nor a Muslim in the ordinary sense. He explained that His body was composed of five elements – ether, earth, fire, water, and air – and the God-Power was pulsating in Him.
Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji was once asked as to which religion He belonged. He replied:
If God is Hindu, I am a Hindu; if He is Sikh, I am a Sikh; if He is Muslim, I am a Muslim; if He is a Christian, then I am a Christian.
All religions are man-made. God has not put a stamp of religion on anyone. To know the Controlling Power of the universe, it is inevitable and essential to know thyself, as Christ has put it.
Guru Nanak has also said:
Until and unless one analyses one’s self, it is not possible to shed delusion and realise the Reality. Unless your Third Eye is opened, you cannot realise God.
How various Saints have solved the mystery of life is the subject for today. The fact is that Truth is one, but the ways of expression may be different. Our ideal is Truth. Let us see what Swami Ji2 has to say on the subject:
Link your soul with Naam.
We are advised to connect our soul with the Word. It implies that our attention is presently linked with something other than the Word. What is meant by attention? It is consciousness, a state of awakening or awareness. We may call it attention, spirit or soul. It is this Life-Current emanating from our self, soul, which acts as a driving force within us. Swami Ji asks us to link this current with the Word. Now, where is the source of these currents? It is at the seat of the soul between the two eyebrows. What happens at the time of death? Life withdraws from the feet and rises to the back of the eyes. The Power which is concentrated behind the eyes is our Real Self. After that power is withdrawn, the body is of no significance. This is the most important and mostly ignored subject.
In order to probe further into this subject, one has to realise that soul is an entity distinct from the body.
We have to learn and practise to withdraw the soul currents from lower centres of the body to the eye focus. This process is similar to the one undergone by the soul at the time of one’s physical death. We have to rise above body consciousness. The theoretical knowledge of this process is not enough. Practice is far more important. An ounce of practice is more than tons of theory.
So we have to link our soul with the Word. Let us now consider what the Word – Naam – signifies? The Word has two aspects. One is an epithet and the other is that Ultimate Power to which the epithet refers.
For example, water itself is one thing, but it is referred to by many names e.g., water, aqua, H2O, etc. Similarly, Truth is One, but sages have described it in various ways.
Guru Nanak says:
I want to sacrifice myself on all Thy names, oh Lord.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, compiled hundreds of Names of God in His work Jaap Sahib. These Names are in addition to those already mentioned in the various scriptures. Despite hundreds of Names, God is One.
Similarly, there are many religions, but their goal is One.
We have to understand the God-Power with the help of spoken Names. This is our first step. Though the name is not different from the Named, yet it seems so until the Named is actually contacted. A person tastes a mango and declares that it is sweet. But one who has neither seen a mango nor tasted sugar, cannot know how sweet it is.
Thus, to realise God is of utmost importance. We have to make a beginning with spoken names. It is unfortunate that people quarrel over the different Names of God as given by the founders of the various religions. All the Names refer to the supreme Lord; and, as such, they all deserve our respect. The real thing is the Power of God which these Names refer to. That Power is Eternal Truth. It is One, will ever remain One, and is called Naam or the Word.
The Word is the source of the entire creation and can be experienced only with the help of a Satguru – True Master.
Guru Nanak has explained this point lucidly in the Jap Ji3:
Whatever has come into being is the creation of the Word.
The Word is the Power that exists in the minutest speck in the universe. That is the Divine Link which connects the body with the soul. When this Link breaks, it brings about physical death. It is the same Link which sustains the universe and higher Spiritual Planes. When this Divine Link is withdrawn, there is total dissolution.
Now, the question arises, if we are connected with the Divine Link, which is the point in the body at which the two meet?
Guru Nanak tells us that the Word can be contacted after one transcends the six chakras – ganglionic centres – and has reached the aggya chakra – behind and between the two eyebrows. The Divine Link can be established only there and not anywhere else in the body.
Rishi Patanjali4 as also other past Saints have explained this process. When one reaches the aggya chakra after rising above the six lower chakras, one is connected with the Celestial Sound Current, the Anhat5 sound, and merges into Sahasrar6, the first Spiritual Plane.
The Anhat sound is the Divine Link; It is the Word, or the Divine Power, which is manifested in every human being. This is the primary source of all existence.
Naam, the Word, says Gurbani7, is invisible, unfathomable, limitless and sweet beyond description. It has an Everlasting Divine Intoxication and Bliss. Whosoever experiences It forgets all worldly pleasures.
The soul is a drop of the Ocean of All-Consciousness, but is covered by numerous sheaths of body, mind and senses. So long as a man is engrossed in the material world, he remains unaware of the Divine Naam within him.
What does the Naam signify?
According to Gurbani, communion with Naam opens within a grand vista of Divine Light – the Light of God. Naam also refers to the Sound Principle – the Sound of unabounding joy.
Thus, there are two expressions of Naam – the God-Power – Light and Sound.
In the Vedas, Naam has been described as Udgit or Nad – Music of the Beyond. According to the Vedas, Nad has created fourteen spheres. Muslim sages call It the Kalma. They also believe that the Kalma has created fourteen tabaks, spheres.
Maulana Rumi8 once prayed:
Oh God, lead me to the place where conversation goes on without words.
In the beginning was the Word, Word was with God and Word was God.
The Gurbani says:
Naam has created the earth and the heaven. All Light has emanated from Naam. All creation has come into being from Naam which is resounding in all human beings.
The Word was there even before the universe came into being. The Word is thus the source of all creation.
Saints of all the religions have expressed parallel thoughts on the subject:
The Word has been the source of salvation to human beings during all the four Yugas9.
God is Wordless, Nameless, and beyond description. When He came into being, It was called Naam, the Word, the Light-Sound Principle. One who communes with Naam is able to establish a contact with God.
Hafiz Sahib, a Great Persian Mystic Poet, says:
No one knows the abode of the Beloved, but it is certain that sound of bells comes from there.
If you follow the strain of sound, you will reach its source. Thus, the Word – Light and Sound – is the safest means to the end – the Way back to God.
To get in contact with the Divine Light, one has to rise above body consciousness by self-analysis. Only then a contact with the Divine Sound is possible. By contacting Naam one gets peace and Eternal Bliss.
Blessed are they who are linked with the Word, oh Nanak! Whosoever listens to the Eternal Music, attains salvation.
People generally get lost in various Names of God. The whole world talks of Naam, but there are only a few who know the Real Significance of Naam. It is a practical subject. Unless we realise ourselves by rising above body consciousness, soul cannot establish a contact with the Oversoul. We have, therefore, to link our soul with Naam:
Those Who have communed with the Word, Their toils shall end; not only shall They have salvation, oh Nanak, but many more shall find freedom with Them.
The Jap Ji
Again we have in Gurbani:
A Gurumukh – beloved of the Master – can liberate millions of souls by imparting just a particle of His Life-Impulse.
The keynote to success is one’s own thoughts.
To make a mark in any walk of life, you have to concentrate your attention on that particular aspect. Similarly, if you concentrate your attention on Overself, you will become spiritually great.
Bulleh Shah10, a Muslim Saint, inquired from His Spiritual Guide as to how one could find God?
The guide replied:
It is as easy as withdrawing the attention from here (world) and connecting it there (the Word).
Our Very Self is our attention. We are soul and not the body, but we are engrossed in our bodies.
Swami Ji tells us:
Let anyone of us connect his attention with the Word. This body and wealth will not be of any help when confronted with the Negative Power.
The human body is the soul’s first companion. It comes first with the soul when the child is born. But even this companion leaves us at the time of death, not to mention other worldly associations acquired by us. Our own being, having constant attachment with the physical world, has fallen to the latter’s level. As a result, we have to come to this mortal world again and again.
Soul goes where there is attachment.
If we are able to analyse the self in our lifetime and learn to rise above body consciousness by getting a higher contact with Naam, we experience such a bliss as to forget all worldly pleasures and attachments:
Worldly pleasures are nowhere before the Divide Bliss.
That is why Saints have taught:
Oh friend, give up the insipid sensual pleasures, and drink the sweet elixir of Naam.
When one gets a taste of the Real Bliss, the pleasures become insipid. The Real Bliss is either within our Inner Being or in Naam – God-into-action-Power – since soul is its essence.
Soul is a spark of the Divine Essence. It is bliss in itself, and it is a conscious entity. It is the soul which is the source of all bliss and not the body and worldly things. Saints have warned us that worldly objects, in which our attention is engrossed, are not going to be of real help to us. Not only that all these worldly objects will stay back at the time of death, but their constant attachment will bring the soul back again and again to this world.
What does it profit a man to gain the possession of the whole world and to lose one’s own soul.
The soul resides in this house – body. It has to go out of this mortal frame leaving everything behind. When the time comes to vacate this body, one is greatly distressed because of man’s attachment with the body. Repenting then is of no avail. If during one’s lifetime the soul establishes a contact with the beyond, it attains perfect peace. But, we never think of the world beyond.
We generally follow the maxim: Eat, drink, and be merry. If someone reminds us of death, we just ignore it by saying that we will face it when it comes. This is not a wise approach. If a pigeon closes its eyes at the sight of a cat, the cat is not going to spare it. Everyone has to leave the body. There is no exception to the rule.
Emperors or kings, rich or poor, all have but to go in their turn.
We all have to go, but we do not know when. We should be prepared for the change. Are we?
Everyone is scared of death and wishes to live till Eternity; with Guru’s Grace, if one learns to die while alive, one can become a Conscious Co-Worker of the Lord. Whosoever so dies, gets salvation.
If you learn to die by rising above body consciousness, you will attain Life Everlasting.
All Saints tell us that God has bestowed us with three forms:
- supra-mental or causal.
We are already active at the physical plane, Pind, through the senses. After leaving the physical body, the soul acquires the astral form. With the astral senses it can traverse the astral plane – And. Similarly, after attaining supra-mental form the soul can enter into causal plane – Brahmand. It is beyond these three planes that the soul gets self-knowledge. It is only at that stage that you will be able to know who you really are.
Swami Ji says:
This is the most opportune time to attain peaceful bliss by avoiding the fire of ceaseless desires.
The world is being consumed by invisible flames of fire.
Guru Nanak has prayed:
This is the fire of desires that has spread all over.
Although we are its victims, we are unable to perceive it. Only Saints know the real magnitude of this fire. Yet only human life is capable of getting away from this blazing furnace. That is why, human life is considered to be the crown of creation. But without sincere effort in the right direction there can be no salvation. For instance, if we have to avoid scorching heat, we have to find shelter in an air-conditioned room. In our context, the air-conditioned room is within us. We shall have to withdraw from outside and enter into it to find blissful solace from all the miseries of the world. This is high time that we introvert ourselves. If we miss this God-given opportunity, we are no better than beasts. The human body has a worth so long as the soul dwells in it. We should make the most of it while it lasts.
Man is enveloped by flames of passionate desires, anger, greed, attachment, and vanity. One can escape himself from delusion only by contacting the Word within. The most important task before us, therefore, is to withdraw our attention from outside and get attuned with the Divine Melody within. Then comes Eternal Peace in the form of the Word.
Whosoever has accomplished this essential task is really successful in life. Otherwise, any amount of learning, name and fame have no real meaning. It is high time that we learn to rise above body consciousness and know the Real Self in us.
Contemplate the form of Satguru, and serve Him true, and He shall lead thee away from all harm.
Swami Ji now tells us how to link the soul with the Naam-Power. He says that three steps should be taken to rise above body consciousness.
First is Simran, contemplation – continuous remembrance of the Almighty. Secondly, service to the Master. Thirdly, control of all desires.
We are always busy in contemplating worldly affairs. If we have to establish a contact with the Word of God, we must first constantly remember Him by any Name of our choice. This should be our first and foremost ideal by inculcating the habit of His contemplation every moment of our life. We have to replace worldly thoughts by contemplating the Word.
Contemplate on Him alone ceaselessly; so much so that you begin to feel the pangs of His separation. Thus, the first step is His remembrance. Remembrance leads to Love which, in turn, results in pangs of separation. This creates a strong urge for the Beloved.
Only One to remember and to sigh for; sing ceaselessly His praise alone. Meditate on Him with all the Love in thee.
Simran should be undertaken with intense Love for God. Love brings concentration. One forgets the whole world while contemplating one’s beloved.
1) Guru Nanak: (1469 – 1539 A.D.): The founder of the Sikh religion.
2) Swami Ji: (1818 – 1878 A.D.): Swami Shiv Dayal Singh, the great Saint of Agra, Who revived the teachings of the Masters like Kabir and Nanak.
3) The Jap Ji: The hymn of Guru Nanak; prologue to the Adi Granth, Holy Book of the Sikhs.
4) Rishi Patanjali: The father of the Yoga system. His Ashtang Yoga, the eight fold path, is the first major attempt to co-relate the many available avenues into a single coherent system for spiritual reintegration of man.
5) Anhat: Unstruck melody.
6) Sahasrar: There are four grand divisions of the universe. These are: (i) Sach Khand or the region of Sat Naam – the region of pure spirit; (ii) Brahmand (causal or supramental). Here spirit and subtle form of matter combine in varying degrees, yet spirit is the ruling force; (iii) And (astral). Here spirit for its manifestation depends on matter. Sahasrar is a stage of this region; and (iv) Pind (physical). Here spirit lies dormant under a heap of matter in its grossest form.
7) Gurbani: The writings of the Sikh Masters.
8) Maulana Rumi: A great Persian Saint, author of the famous Masnavi.
9) Yugas: The four cycles of time: Sat Yuga, Dwapar Yuga, Treta Yuga, and Kal Yuga, which complete the time unit of Parlay or dissolution.
10) Bulleh Shah: (1760 – 1810 A.D.): A saint poet of Punjab. His 'Kufis' constitute a landmark in the mystic Punjabi poetry.
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