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At Fifty, The Foot Falters

I with 1Force, Identification & Word-Sound


At Fifty, The Foot Falters

I with 1Force, Identification & Word-Sound

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At Fifty, The Foot Falters

I with 1Force, Identification & Word-Sound

Personal reflections on wrestling with being ‘in the world’ but ‘not of the world’ while the why, what, and how ‘of the world’ keeps creeping in. 

The contemporary world calls the fifty years referenced on this earth a birthday for a golden age. Popular culture uses gold as a traditional theme for the fiftieth jubilee because it symbolizes the timeless quality one supposedly developed in those fifty years. Gold is seen as valuable, coveted, and beautiful. Medical practitioners remind us not to skip screenings, to sleep inadequately, and not to ignore strength training, dentistry, and mental health. The body, for sure, is not timeless; it is withering.

Bhagat Kabir reminds me: “No one can be with the One by donating the gold equivalent to one’s weight; I paid my mind to buy the opportunity to be with the Beautiful Charming One” (Guru Granth Sahib 327). Have I been trying to secure my relationship with IkOankar -- All-Pervasive, Fear-Eliminator, Light, 1Force -- by being a “good” donor? Have I been using my clever thoughts to “forge” a relationship with the beautiful, charming 1Force?

Every morning when I turn on the shower, I utter the most reflective words to me from the graced voice of Guru Amardas Sahib in Anand Sahib: “O my body, after coming into this world, what deeds have you earned?” I have been doing this for more than two decades. In that line filled with Infinite Wisdom is a pause moment for me: “Hari -- the 1Force -- created you, you have not resided that Hari in the mind.” Hari enters my mind but does not reside in my mind. What have I been doing all this time?

I invoke the very light of Wisdom (Guru) and Supreme Being (Parameshvar), Guru Nanak Sahib, to evaluate my five decades on this earth.

ਮਃ ੧ ॥
ਦਸ ਬਾਲਤਣਿ ਬੀਸ ਰਵਣਿ ਤੀਸਾ ਕਾ ਸੁੰਦਰੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥
ਚਾਲੀਸੀ ਪੁਰੁ ਹੋਇ ਪਚਾਸੀ ਪਗੁ ਖਿਸੈ ਸਠੀ ਕੇ ਬੋਢੇਪਾ ਆਵੈ ॥
ਸਤਰਿ ਕਾ ਮਤਿਹੀਣੁ ਅਸੀਹਾਂ ਕਾ ਵਿਉਹਾਰੁ ਨ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
ਨਵੈ ਕਾ ਸਿਹਜਾਸਣੀ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਅਪ ਬਲੁ ॥
ਢੰਢੋਲਿਮੁ ਢੂਢਿਮੁ ਡਿਠੁ ਮੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਗੁ ਧੂਏ ਕਾ ਧਵਲਹਰੁ ॥੩॥
1st Sovereign
Ten in childhood, twenty in playfulness, at thirty is called beautiful.
At forty, the completeness occurs; at fifty, the foot falters; at sixty, the old age comes.
At seventy, the intellect starts to lessen; at eighty, chores can’t be performed.
At ninety, confined to the bed, doesn’t know the essential/root self strength.
Nanak: I searched, I searched, and I saw that this world is a mansion of smoke.
     Guru Granth Sahib 137

I spent the first decade of my human life in childhood. I spent the second decade in playfulness: sports and sexual excitement. At thirty, I felt the beauty in myself and my surroundings. At forty, my body felt the most strength. At fifty, I feel the strides slowing down. At sixty, I will be a senior citizen. At seventy, I will not be able to decipher intellectually. At eighty, I will not be able to attend to my chores. At ninety, I will not be able to move around and assess my core inner strength. Guru Nanak Sahib shares with me that after searching, looking, and seeing, this world looks beautiful but is very temporary.

For almost five decades, I had asked for an understanding of Sikhi and Nam (Identification with 1Force and much more). The Wisdom-Guru graciously kept giving via Sabad (Word-Sound Teachings). Last year while working with The Guru Granth Sahib Project team, a realization occurred: I haven't asked how to live in Nam. I began that quest, that ask, that pleading. It made me very vulnerable. Everything else around me started to get compromised and painful. Eventually, I was ok with it. There is an opportunity cost for everything; you bet! The play of Maya -- the things and the relationships -- is always on. Those things and relationships I accumulated for decades were at the cost of not accumulating Nam.

I have been repeating the Sabad, the profound words of Guru Arjan Sahib: “I have not learned how to contemplate Hari. I utter Hari Hari, Guru Guru. I have been named Ram’s das, the servant of the beautiful, charming One. Pause to reflect. (Guru Granth Sahib 612). I have now become aware that I’m almost always saying “Hari Hari Guru Guru'' as a discipline and practice. I long for the moments when I utter “Hari Hari Guru Guru,” “Vahiguru,” or “IkOankar'' as an outpouring of loving devotion!

Bhai Amaru was around sixty years old when he devoted himself to the Wisdom-Guru. He was already a seeker; he heard his nephew’s wife, Bibi Amro, reciting a Sabad (stanza or composition of what’s now available in Guru Granth Sahib; Word-Sound Teaching). And that pierced him! He learned Sikhi, submitted to the Guru, led the Sikhs, organized the Panth, and mandated self-governance. To learn from the Sovereign who became Guru Amardas Sahib in his seventies, I invoke the Sabad, the expanse of Infinite Wisdom, of the Third Embodiment of Guru Nanak Sahib.

ਸੋਰਠਿ ਮਹਲਾ ੩ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਤੁਧੁ ਨੋ ਸਦਾ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਹੈ ਸਾਸਾ ॥
ਇਕੁ ਪਲੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਵਿਸਰਹਿ ਤੂ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਜਾਣਉ ਬਰਸ ਪਚਾਸਾ ॥
ਹਮ ਮੂੜ ਮੁਗਧ ਸਦਾ ਸੇ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸਾ ॥੧॥
ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਤੁਮ ਆਪੇ ਦੇਹੁ ਬੁਝਾਈ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਤੁਧੁ ਵਿਟਹੁ ਵਾਰਿਆ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਤੇਰੇ ਨਾਮ ਵਿਟਹੁ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਹਮ ਸਬਦਿ ਮੁਏ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਾਰਿ ਜੀਵਾਲੇ ਭਾਈ ਸਬਦੇ ਹੀ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥
ਸਬਦੇ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਆ ਹਰਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਮਨਿ ਆਈ ॥
ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰ ਦਾਤਾ ਜਿਤੁ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਤਾ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਈ ॥੨॥
ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਸੇ ਅੰਨੇ ਬੋਲੇ ਸੇ ਕਿਤੁ ਆਏ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਰਸੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਵਾਰੋ ਵਾਰਾ ॥
ਬਿਸਟਾ ਕੇ ਕੀੜੇ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਣੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੁਗਧ ਗੁਬਾਰਾ ॥੩॥
ਆਪੇ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਲਾਏ ਭਾਈ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥
ਜੋ ਧੁਰਿ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਸੁ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਮੇਟੈ ਭਾਈ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰੇ ਸੁ ਹੋਈ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸਿਆ ਮਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਭਾਈ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਦੂਜਾ ਕੋਈ ॥੪॥੪॥
3rd Sovereign in Sorathi
O Hari jiu! May I always praise You, O Beloved, until there are breaths in the body.
O Suami! Forgetting You for a moment or an instant is deemed to be fifty years.
O Brother! I was always a fool and an idiot; the illumination came through the Guru’s Sabad.1
O Hari jiu! You Yourself give understanding.
O Hari jiu! I always adore You only and submit all strength to Your Nam. Pause.1
O Brother! We die with Sabad; Sabad kills and revives, only Sabad liberates.
With Sabad, the mind and the body become filth-free; Hari comes to live in the mind.
Guru is the giver of the Sabad that colors the mind and remains absorbed with Hari.2
They are blind and deaf, who do not know Sabad; they came into the world for what?
They do not obtain Hari’s flavor, lose their life, for it is empty, and are born again and again.
The worms of excrement remain in the excrement; foolish self-mind-centered remain in the darkness.3
O Brother! Own-Self does and sees, puts on the path; there is none except That One.
O Brother! No one can erase whatever is written from the Beginning; whatever the Creator does, that’s what occurs.
Nanak: O Brother! Nam lives in the mind; there is no second or other.4
    Guru Granth Sahib 601

Is Hari -- All-Pervasive, Fear-Eliminator, Light, 1Force -- jiu to me, dearest to me? Do I revere the 1? Is 1 my Beloved? Will I feel the grace to glorify the 1 with my every breath?

Do I relate with I as my Suami, my Sovereign, my Self? How many times did I long for or miss my Suami?

Who is my fellow traveler who I confided in about my ignorance? Who is my Guru, my perfect mentor, the Wisdom? And am I eliminating my doubts, my fears, and my vices from that Perfect Mentor’s Sabad? And what have I learned from the Sabad’s words, teachings, and instructions?

Can I pause to reflect on this: 1 provides all insights. Am I willing to offer everything I profess to possess -- physical, mental, and financial assets -- for that insight? Am I prepared emotionally to deal with all consequences? Am I in love? If so, then it is much more than a sacrifice, an adoration, a devotion. It is my I-self becoming 1-Self! That is how I will live Nam, identify with the 1, in all instances and circumstances.

If and when it occurs, will I share with my fellow travelers that it is only the Sabad -- words, sounds, teaching, and instructions -- that brought the death of vices and worldliness in me; it is only the Sabad that killed my ego and pride to revive my life’s purpose to be connected with Nam, and it is only the Sabad that brought freedom to me, here on this earth, in this lifetime.

Will I submit to my fellow travelers that it is only the Sabad -- words, sounds, teachings, and instructions -- that clean the mind's thoughts and coordinate the body's actions? This is how I understand the connection with the 1 in my mind; this is how I feel the presence of the 1 in my life!

Will I emphatically share that the Wisdom-Guru’s greatest gift is the Sabad -- words, sounds, teachings, and instructions? That Sabad is what imbues love and excites the mind. That Sabad is what enlarges my I-self to 1-Self, and I continue to live in that vastness!

Can I really see the 1 without Sabad? Can I really hear the 1 without the Sabad? If not, why am I wasting time left on this earth? If I don’t learn words, grasp teachings, and follow instructions, I will remain blind and deaf to the 1’s realm! I will not be prepared to play the game of love!

Have I really tasted the 1’s immortalizing nectar, the real elixir of life, the divine flavor? If not, I am wasting my life; I will die without living with the purpose of being like the 1. Do I not want to break the cycle of births and deaths, the cycle of comings and goings, the cycle of remembrance and forgetfulness?

Am I that worm that loves excrement, that maggot that enjoys manure, that negative person that indulgences in negativity? Then, I will remain self-centered, self-directed, or self-oriented. If I have all the answers to all of life’s questions, how can I become Wisdom-centered, Wisdom-directed, or Wisdom-oriented? I will remain in utter darkness, complete ignorance, full disgrace.

Guru Amardas Sahib's words as brotherly loving advice counsel me. The 1 creates everything, watches over everything, and places everything on its path; no one else can do this. I wonder: Is this 1Ness born out of 1Force?

The Perfect-Mentor Immortal-Votary Sovereign continues the brotherly loving advice. The 1 writes, causes, ordains, does everything, the 1 is the source of everything, and the 1 has been doing so from the very beginning of everything. I continue to wonder: Is this how 1Force expands 1Ness?

The Third Sovereign Nanak assures me further in brotherly loving advice. Let the Identification with the 1 in the mind become habitual, effortless, and natural. Then, no other idea, no other behavior, no other love will matter anymore. That’s when there will be no second or other for you. I move further along the wonder: Is this the culture of 1Ness curated from the 1Force and 1-Identification?

I end with a salok (praise) revealed by Saikh Pharid (Sheikh Farid):

ਸਰਵਰ ਪੰਖੀ ਹੇਕੜੋ ਫਾਹੀਵਾਲ ਪਚਾਸ ॥
ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਲਹਰੀ ਗਡੁ ਥਿਆ ਸਚੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਆਸ ॥੧੨੫॥
There is only one bird in the pool; there are fifty trappers.
This body is caught in the waves; O Eternal! You are the hope.
     Guru Granth Sahib 1384

I, a human being, am the bird in the pool of the world trapped by fifty mental and physical trappers. My body is caught in the waves of vices. For me to be free, I really need that eternal 1Force’s help.

Towards that end, in my pangs of separation, via Guru Ramdas Sahib, I ask: “O my revered Wisdom-Eternal friend, reveal to give me Nam-Identification of the beautiful, charming One” (Guru Granth Sahib 10). May Hari and Guru uplift this fallen one. That would be beyond amazing!

Will I change the trajectory of my deeds this month?
Will I invite the fortune this year?
Will I feel the grace this decade?


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Written By

Senior Fellow, Research & Policy

Harinder Singh is the Senior Fellow at the Sikh Research Institute. He holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University, an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Kansas, and an MPhil from Punjab University in the linguistics of the Guru Granth Sahib. 

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