The Divine Game Plan
A God-oriented soul is defined as a person who has no personal biases left to conquer. He is so absorbed in God that he has ceased to have a distinct personality of his own indepedent of the Creator. His union with the Will of God is total and irreversible, rendering his separate entity indistinguishable. In Sikhism, this position has been called the turiya pad. It qualifies for a degree beyond and above the three dimensional mayaic state of the ordinary human beings who revolve under the influence and shades of the ever changing moods which govern them. In a way, the entire human drama is a struggle to step out of the binding hold of the three major tri-guna whims or impulses, restraining a person from free expression and action to the best of his imagination and ability.
The Sikhs believe that God has spread out a game plan in which all creation is running an obstacle race to reach the turiya pad which is ‘home’.
My true Lord has set off a game,
None resembles the other,
He sees with indulgence the diversity,
All pleasures are contained in this body.1
And, yet more affirmative,
Triumph over amor, rage, voracity and avarice,
God is fond of such a game.2
The expression, ‘triumph’ underlines the Guru’s conviction that a Sikh must engage in this competitive game essentially to win. Nischey kar apni jeet karon, the call given by Guru Gobind Singh to rouse the dormant energies of a vanquished race as well as the individual’s moral rejuvenation to live as per the Sikh mode of life.
Actions and retributions are the fate of the people who are caught in the web of this game and trying hard to solve the riddle by their own intellect, whatever the strength and reach of it. Low intellect will obviously produce inferior solutions and better counsel should prevail to achieve higher results. To that end, one has to sharpen one’s intelligence, knowledge, the layout of the Divine game plan before struggling to find his way in a blind alley that is the world. Like the game of ‘Snakes and Ladders,’ one wrong throw of dice may topple all achievements and another may push a person to the top space.
The world uses the Vedic knowledge of tri-guna,
Devoid of contemplation, one undergoes transmigration infinitely,
One gets release by meeting the true Master, obtaining salvation.3
He plays and watches His game,
The game finishes, Nanak, only He remains.4
As each one struggles in fits and starts or by trials and errors, he learns to improve over the past blunders. Or is it the correct dice moved at the right time and place, which boosts his position, one never knows. Is it sheer Grace of the Lord which enhances one’s stock or perhaps His game plan which is beyond a man’s capacity to decipher, but the Guru is so unambiguously positive that rites and ceremonies and injunctions of Code of Conduct, strenuous rituals have no place in reaching ‘the home’. May be some people are favourably placed in life and their approach is correct, so that they can grasp the purport of the turiya pad and live in a state of perpetual vairag, while there are others who strive for small gains which are for ever elusive. In whatever circumstances a man has been placed by Providence, play he must this game, to the best of his ability, and in the limited time assigned to each one.
At this stage, the cleavage between the spiritual ‘Haves and Have-nots’ is widely discernible. The God-oriented who have placed their will and their very being in God live as per His Raza, in sheer contrast to those who neither understand the divine discipline nor favour acceptance of His Will. While the former category of persons have an all-encompassing attitude of non-confrontation, the other contest God and His discipline at each step and apply their intellect at each move for a favourable solution to their advantage. Obviously, the spiritual advice and guidance to either category require a different approach and cannot be uniform and the same.
The God-oriented described as gurmukhs may need only elementary signals to keep to the right path. The ego-centric manmukhs, on the other hand, require detailed discussions and arguments, firstly to make them aware of the limitations of their knowledge and the sheer vastness of the subject, and then to convince them to change their attitude to conform to and assimilate the Prime spiritual authority. The message to the Gurmukhs is, of course, of a depth which cannot be fathomed by the manmukhs, even if they listened to the sabds repeatedly. However, such spiritual discourses are easily understood and routinely absorbed by the gurmukhs. It is evident that the common people read and hear hymns and sing them daily but are unable to conceive the core point, whatever the language employed.
In all societies and cults, the veiled procedures and proceedings are not open to the public unless they are properly initiated into that degree of knowledge and perception. Among the Hindus, a priest is essentially ordained to preside over ceremonies as well as interpret the law. Similarly among other major communities, the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Jains and Buddhists, the rituals and the laws are interpreted for the lay members by their clergy. It is perhaps only in Sikhism that the priestly class was abolished as such. Wherever the Sikhs have re-employed priests, they have been found grossly incompetent and unacquainted with their creed and its basic dogmas. Every Sikh has to delve deep into religion and find his level of understanding.
There are, thus, no varying levels of Gurmukhs, who live steadfast at the fourth stage, the turiya pad, or spiritual emancipation beyond the tri-guna maya or temporal bondage. The Guru’s voice, the Gurbani, is crystal clear to this class of the Sikhs. They are what Islam calls the ‘blessed lot’. They stay in ‘raza.’ The problem with the others is that they are always struggling, meshed in the uncertainty of duality, between ravenous, unquenchable hunger for selfish gains and craze for glory, and contentment and satiation. As oft stated, it is not to be confused with abandoning of effort by the gurmukh. The daily routine of worldly functions continues to be taken in all seriousness and one remains, rather more committed to all jobs in hand as well as plans for future, but does not crib or become vengeful if his effort does not yield desired results.
This point has been discussed repeatedly to make the materialist distinguish the fine difference between the spiritually charged person and his own lot. Let me relate the story of a person who was an artist and produced a pile of paintings. He held exhibitions of his art repeatedly and eagerly sought the newspapers to read the critics’ evaluation of his efforts. The critics remained either unrelentingly unkind in their brief reviews or ignored him altogether. He ranted and called them insensible to the true art which he supposed, was his forte. He felt that one day people will discover him as had been the case with the world’s famous artists and perhaps it will come late, beyond his life time. He became more aggressive in displays and jacked up the prices of his canvasses which no body cared to buy.
One day, he implored me to go to his house to hear the musical genius his daughter had become. She had completed her Master’s degree in Music and was thoroughly accomplished in theory and practice of Music. I found her lacking in the subtle expression and finer feelings and delicate paroxysm which hold a listener, transcending the heights of emotions. She was theoretically correct, perfect in notes and articulation of the compositions. It was evident that the young lady had worked hard on her music to justify her Master’s certificate. But, somehow, Muses eluded her as much as her father missed out in capturing the verve and spirit of the point he was trying to convey. The father and daughter wistfully dreamt of the thunderous clapping of the surging crowds and the raving Reviews by the critics. I sat quiet, unable to find the strength and words to tell them that the body was indeed there but there was no life, no spirit, nothing unique and soulful in their artistic rendering.
However, it was clear that they wanted to improve their skills in their respective fields. A worse situation would be, not being aware of the deficiency in the first place. Such vain and futile persons are always over-confident of their efforts and stay within that inaccuracy without even knowing and acknowledging it. In this case, they both wanted to improve and attain better qualifications and quality. It is very rarely that a true master comes along, holds the hand of the novice and carries the person to finality. That occasion is called, in artistic expression, a gift, a bequest. The Eastern masters have had a bad reputation of with holding the secrets of excellence, due to a miserly, mean streak in their character to keep hidden the key of the ultimate in knowledge and skill. They are known to conceal the exact core of the matter till they breathed their last, burying or burning the secret with their funeral pyre. The student had to be very ingenious to snatch it from the grip of the master. But how many persons are endowed with the right amount of dexterity. The Sikh Gurus, on the other hand, laid the secret open for all to grasp. It requires complete obedience, total commitment and lovingly waiting for the grace.
Not that the young lady did not engage superb maestros to be her tutors, besides a post-graduate degree in Music, her father wanted her to get the best lessons and capture the highest tradition of music. Additionally, she had learnt musical traditions of Western as well as Chinese lore. Yet there was a lack of that fine touch that transforms music into a melody. Either the teachers did not impart that in-depth secret to her or she could not imbibe it to soar to those heights which she perceived but could not climb. She became haughty and proud of her knowledge of music. It was of no use and no consequence. She could not achieve that recognition for which she craved. It was one of those close moments when she blurted out her anguish and frustration.
I wished so much to tell her the painful secret where she was lacking despite all-out effort. But mere telling does not open the floodgates of right perception. There should be an urge, a push, an insistence and a thrust, which creates an itch, a wander-lust to keep a person sufficiently in passion and no-rest, a constant impatience to attain the impossible. So long as a person feels smug and contented in oneself, that phase of seeking any further eludes him. The question is how to induce the quest? Mystics all over the world are agreed that it cannot be induced by command or personal exertion. For it, one has to await the divine signal to ascend. It beats all logic and scientific contention. Science and logic have no answer to this impasse.
One of the greatest mysteries is the revelation of the Holy Koran. It is established that Mohammed was totally illiterate and incapable of uttering the sublime expressions and substance of which the holy Koran is made. His wife, Khadija agreed that Mohammed could not make up such refined phrases by himself. There is no other explanation but that Koran was revealed to Mohammed by Providence. The same is claimed by Guru Nanak and his successor Gurus about the revealed word enshrined in the Holy Guru Granth. There are many similar assertions by the prophets of various faiths. Vedas are revealed, created not of human effort but heavenly ordained by Lord Brahma. The Old Testament of the Bible is God’s revelation; so are Ahura Mazda and the scriptures of Bahai tradition. The compositions of many poets, writers, musicians and equations of mathematicians and scientists seem to ‘descend’ to them effortlessly as if a spark is lighted and they merely act as its carriers and bear witness to creativity. A writer wielding a pen, a painter with his brush, a musician with his musical instrument and a thinker with his deep concentration do not attain those master strokes by mere contemplation, hard as they may endeavour. Anybody engaged in creative activity will readily understand this phenomenon, though it may not be conceivable to the common man who considers himself the creator.
The motivating push may orbit around personal accomplishment, yet the results of any effort in whatever field, remain less than objective. It smells of trumpeting and artificiality. Masterpieces are not born of such self-centred efforts. Kabir observed it:
Till the time man is self centred,
Not a single job is accomplished,
When he stops harping on the self,
God consummates the task proficiently.5
This fact was known to the ancient sages in India and was widely recognised. In Mahabharata, the wicked act of publicly disrobing Draupadi continued unabated in spite of her pleadings to all those present, elders and young courtiers, till she gave up her appeals and prayed for Lord’s sanctuary to relieve her. This principle is universally admitted by all serious scholars of Divinity. There are references to other mortals who in their innocence prayed for succour and were rewarded. Of course, the ego-centric person neither understands it nor believes in it. He depends on his prowess of ego, passion, hatred and pride and in greed feels confident of his ability to gain maximum material wealth, more than his needs. He would, perhaps, never feel the need for that spiritual experience. The basic trait is of a general state of harmony and amity, to be at peace with one and all, to have an urge to help and serve whosoever comes. One may say that the two conditions are contradictory. Love which generates such goodwill in a person is not selfish and covetous to rouse passions, but it urges sacrifice to get satiated. By love is not meant necessarily sensual gratification, but to experience a longing to be useful to others. It was one such weird occurrence, which moulded me into finer sensitivity.
A Shastri was engaged to give me Hindi lessons at home as I had, like most others in those days prior to the Independence, elected to study Urdu as vernacular at the school and college level. The Shastri selected the couplets of Kabir to generate my interest in Hindi. More than lessons in Hindi, we had literary and spiritual bouts about the message of Kabir. The Shastri preferred the gloomy and otherworldly drift in Kabir’s poetry while I found him very practical and down to earth. The relationship evolved into mutual religious appreciation, though we were poles apart. One day, the Shastri confided in me on oath of secrecy that he had made certain occult calculations about my life and had observed that my mother, whom I exceedingly loved and cherished her intellectual refinement, was going to die very shortly. It shook me very much. It was not a matter, in any case, to be divulged to her or others. I sat with her, talked to her keeping the usual stance, but every moment it seemed to me that time was slipping away and I was going to lose my mother any moment. Each conversation or meeting seemed to be the final adieu.
I spent my youth in perpetual dread of losing her and a longing to avert it. Nursing this secret made me lonely and thoughtful. The Shastri was, of course, wrong in his calculations and my mother lived to a ripe old age of ninety-three years. But the sword of Domiciles kept hanging over me and it was a bittersweet taste in whatever field I performed and achieved. Perhaps, this occult miscalculation totally recast my personality. A man of the world with robust appetites may not want to live his life under such uncanny and creepy shadows. He will also miss out on the emotional and spiritual evolution and development.
Conscience is aroused in a person by unabated selfless love and readiness to suffer and sacrifice personal agenda in the process. It is also a great occurrence to receive love exceedingly and appreciate its depth. There are people who do not know how to respond and acknowledge the immense gift of undemanding love. A person may go on waiting for that happening, a great mystical experience. When it comes to pass, there is a total fulfilment of the soul. It is not the lot of every one. It is Providential Grace, which occurs only in the case of a few. Until it comes about, one may not even understand the meaning of Grace. To have loved and be blessed with love, uninhibited, unreserved, unconstrained, total, without a cause and reason, of being guided and looked after like my mother’s whole love, that ensured my growth and gave me a sense of protection. The point is why every body else cannot grasp its significance? For that, one must rip asunder the veil of self-centredness. A senior defence officer was returning from the crematorium after the funeral of his grandmother whom he loved more than his mother. The old lady was, in spite of her advanced years, full of verve and very pleasant. She had the usual problems of her age which did not deter her from enjoying life. We were returning to the city afterwards in my car. He said that he felt relieved as if a big burden was off his shoulders. For many years, he had been nervous and scared, especially when the telephone rang at odd times, because he kept waiting for a call about the passing away of his grandmother whom he loved very much. He would now find peace and sleep well and carry her sweet memories.
It is not essential, of course, to pass through chilling experiences like I had to endure. The perception of true love can be pleasant, but for that, a person has to develop a personality of finesse and innocence. A shrewd intriguing person cannot reach its sublimity.
There were many speculative theories propounded by the established religions to attract the common folk to the righteous path and to make it a tight ropewalk by one’s actions to heaven or hell. There were many escape routes, especially to please the deity by commitment of sins and then recompense it with entreaty and appeasement. These prayers were to melt and soften the gods to one’s lapses and indiscretions without a curative effort to reform the sinner. Prayers had become a necessary tool to erase the sins one continued to commit. Guru Nanak did not subscribe to these rituals and ceremonious routines. It was not for the pleasure of God that one prayed, but to cleanse the self of all transgressions.
He presented God as the Master who had spread a game plan giving people an option to be rid of faults and weak spots to become whole and sublime. Those who understood it got out of the tri-guna Maya to win the race; others got entangled in the web of ignorance.
Penance or atonement has no place in this game. One has to face the consequences; there is no escape or getting away from it. The only remedy is to acknowledge the mistakes one makes and honestly shun the evils. As the character emerges out of tribulations duly reformed, discarding bad old habits, one’s life style changes to angelic mode, bringing peace and accord with self and society. One is totally emancipated. The Master is ever generous and the old accounts are wiped off and forgiven to such a gurmukh. The central theme is that man accomplishes only when God wills it so by bestowing His Grace on him. God benevolently creates a situation so that one finds the perfect teacher to lead him on the way to perfection.
This was a major break-away from the old faiths. It totally changed the face of the quest and its objectivity and terminology. In order to avoid ill-effects of one’s misdemeanour it is held essential to, firstly, understand God’s game plan, give up one’s faults, evil nature and to evolve a strength of character. Such a person proves to be an asset to the society and his environment. He always acts in accordance with God’s discipline and spreads harmony and love.
1. Guru Granth Sahib, p 1056, myrY pRiB swcY ieku Kylu rcwieAw ] koie n iks hI jyhw aupwieAw ] Awpy Prku kry vyiK ivgsY siB rs dyhI mwhw hy ]
2. Guru Granth Sahib, p 1185, kwmu k®oDu loBu mohu jIqhu AYsI Kyl hir ipAwrI ]
3. Guru Granth Sahib, p 1276, byd bwxI jgu vrqdw qRY gux kry bIcwru ] ibnu nwvY jm fMfu shY mir jnmY vwro vwr ] siqgur Byty mukiq hoie pwey moK duAwru ]
4. Guru Granth Sahib, p 292, Awpn Kylu Awip kir dyKY ] Kylu sMkocY qau nwnk eykY]
5. Guru Granth Sahib, p 1162, jb lgu myrI myrI krY ] qb lgu kwju eyku nhI srY ] jb myrI myrI imit jwie ] qb pRB kwju svwrih Awie ]
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All