And that is exactly how I was introduced to a book of his called Pyaare Jeeyo.
I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, a few years into my marriage. I was barely making it through a rough patch concerning my health, when various circumstances changed for the worse.
During a casual phone call to Bombay to my grand-aunt, urged me to read Pyaare Jeeyo.
“It’s a compilation of letters, replies penned by Maharaj ji, to various loved ones, encouraging and guiding them in their hour of need. It will bring you comfort and raise your surat; you will gain renewed strength,” she added.
I have never been in a position to ignore P. Aunty’s suggestions.
So a few days later, I got the book. I opened it randomly and began reading. The following is a translation of one of the letters:
The children of the Emperor are Kings and Queens. When you are of the Emperor, do not consider yourself feeble. Do not get overwhelmed by dukh, instead face the painful circumstances. The one, who faces dukh with resolve, is a true warrior and will eventually emerges victorious.
Dukh is the fire in which your spirit is forged. Dukh hardens your resolve. Wherever Vahiguru ji keeps you, it is done for your eventual advantage. In painful circumstances also know that the Divine Light is there protecting you from suffering.
Stay brave, child of the Bravest!
In your lamp, pour in the oil of your troubles and light it with Nam.
Deeva Mera Ek Nam, Dukh Vich Paya Tel
Un Channan Oh Sokhiya, Chooka Jam Si-you Mel.
As the wick burns it emits light within and burns the (oil of) dukh.’
I fell in love with this explanation. To separate pain from painful circumstances was a novel idea so beautifully explained. The imagery of burning away my troubles, or the pain they give me, still offers me comfort of infinite measure.
I put away the book, the words remained with me. I carried them all day, like a blanket comforting my heart.
The next day, I read another page.
Reading Pyaare Jeeyo daily became part of my routine. A few days later I found this passage:
In your worry, so not slip into fitful agitation. Stay within the calm of Simran. Wherever you find water, you will find all sorts of vegetation, and subsequently various animals, birds and finally, man. In the same manner, the body that rests in Simran, attracts all sorts of goodness and positivity. Dam Khaalee Naa Jaaye! All you need is this mantra – let no breath go in vain! The rest? Hao Pa-rey and let it go! Misconception, suspicions, attachment, enmity – do not let these get to you. The less effective these are, the more you will feel the life-affirming surge of Simran.
Guru Arjan Sahib ji was blessed by his mother, Bibi Bhani ji:
“Poota, Maata ki Asees,
Nimakh na Bisroh Tumko Har Har, Sadaa Bhajo Jagdish.”
Herein lays the essence. This is the true state of the mind. Open, and turned towards Vahiguru. Forever in meditation.
The image of water, of life, thriving around it, the positivity of the message, clarity of explanation and simplicity with which it was delivered, all entered straight into my heart uplifting my spirits.
Under-confident as I am about my Panjabi, I would skip the longer letters that ran into a few pages and choose the ones contained in a single page; and re-read the sentences that would hold me for the rest of the day.
The following are excerpts from one of my favorite letters. Even though it runs over three pages I couldn’t stop reading it despite my decided reluctance. I have learnt so many lessons, realized so many life-truths from his this one reply.
I received your letter. I am neither surprised nor upset with its contents. There exists considerable weakness and corruption in this world. Whenever we pin our hopes on someone we are usually disappointed. This causes us unhappiness. In reality this outcome should not catch us off guard.
But when our hopes are shattered our hearts too, break. We shy away from hard work in our relationships. This is why easier solutions like ‘keep it quiet,’ or ‘simply walk away,’ are so readily recommended. Or, we demonstrate our moral strength by issuing punishments to the hurtful. Or, even rid ourselves of the person when disheartened.
This behavior is in contradiction to that of those who Love. It is we, who are of weak spirit. If we have learnt to walk on the path of goodness we should help others do so as well.
They are unfortunate whose souls are bereft of regard and so not feel the surge of love for their family and fellowmen. They are not despicable but pitiable. They have received detrimental instruction and conduct themselves accordingly. They are ill. They suffer from spiritual malaise and weakness.
It is a healer’s duty to help treat the patient, not aggravate his condition. A doctor does not despise but feels compassion and sympathy for the sick. Instead of despising, punishing or abandoning them, why then, can we not sympathize with the spiritually sick and feeble?
Why can we kindred spirits, blessed with grace not share a portion of our spiritual earnings to help a poor soul?
We too were once spiritually frail, we still are. Someone stronger, wiser and more loving looked past our frailty and faults, and took the trouble to correctly instruct us, hold us in case we faltered, and gently returned us to our path. Why then can we not pass on what we have so generously received?’
Life is difficult and although solutions usually simple are rarely easy. Now and then a reminder is needed. To remain in Chardi Kala is a state of mind. Specifically, the state of an uplifted mind.
Pyaare Jeeyo, simply spoken, sans any fancy philosophy repositions me in the right direction. Like an out-of-whack lotus, gently and firmly redirected me towards the sun again.
It is said that if you have one true friend in this world, consider yourself lucky. I am more so. I had a few wiser, stronger people, hold me, love me, and direct me out of my misery. All the different voices spoke the savant’s words.
Times changed for the better. I returned to Bhai Sahib ji’s poetry and other authors. I stopped reading Pyaare Jeeyo every day but the book is always close-at-hand.
Recently when my father fell ill and I flew out to India to be with him. Pyaare Jeeyo was the first book I packed.
Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh ji is well-known as a saint-poet, prolific author-researcher of Sikh history. But my relationship with him is more personal. He makes up for the physical absence of my support system. He is my guide and mentor. My place of strength and solace.