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Before a beaded string of musical melodies lies a riddle. This riddle, composed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, provides much clarity and purpose when revealed.
Mundavani, one of the final hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib, is sometimes translated as “riddle.” It precedes Raagmala, “the beaded string of musical melodies.” Mundavani is also described as Guru Ji’s “closing seal” of the Guru Granth Sahib as this composition served to authenticate and preclude any apocryphal additions to the bani (sikhiwiki.org). Like most of you, I have been in touch with these six lines since I was a wee little Sikh. And yet for years I only listened. It was only recently that the riddle of light shined within my mind, heart and spirit.
ਮੁੰਦਾਵਣੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
Mundavani, Fifth Mehl:
ਥਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਤਿੰਨਿ ਵਸਤੂ ਪਈਓ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੋ
Upon this Plate, three things have been placed: Truth, Contentment and Contemplation.
ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਾ ਪਇਓ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਸਭਸੁ ਅਧਾਰੋ ॥
The Ambrosial Nectar of the Naam, the Name of our Lord and Master, has been placed upon it as well; it is the Support of all.
ਜੇ ਕੋ ਖਾਵੈ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਭੁੰਚੈ ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੋ ॥
One who eats it and enjoys it shall be saved.
ਏਹ ਵਸਤੁ ਤਜੀ ਨਹ ਜਾਈ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਰਖੁ ਉਰਿ ਧਾਰੋ ॥
This thing can never be forsaken; keep this always and forever in your mind.
ਤਮ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਚਰਨ ਲਗਿ ਤਰੀਐ ਸਭੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਪਸਾਰੋ ॥੧॥
The dark world-ocean is crossed over, by grasping the Feet of the Lord; O Nanak, it is all the extension of God. ||1||
The ਥਾਲ or plate that nourishes us consists of three items: ਸਤੁ or truth or Naam, ਸੰਤੋਖੁ or contentment, ਵੀਚਾਰੋ or contemplation. The three items can be found in the plate of Gurbani. Mindful thinking and critical analysis of His creation and wonder sustains our being. This food for our soul must not just be eaten; let us savor them and allow our palates to absorb each of its distinct flavors.
Naam is an essential ingredient of this plate because it is through Naam that the items are uncovered. The riddle is only unraveled through understanding of the bani and with Waheguru’s kirpa. Once the riddle is grasped it should never be ignored. Rather, it should be enshrined in our heart at all times. Through our devotion and love for Waheguru we are given the strength and fortitude to to swim across the dark world ocean, the sea of fear and ignorance, and the sea of endless cycles of birth and death.
May we always remember the origin and key to this riddle. May I always remain humble when I reflect on this revealed knowledge. May I always be grateful to those who have taught me these lessons. May we swim through our personal obstacles and hurdles with Waheguru’s guidance. May we swim together through the dark sea of hate and intolerance as an enlightened sangat and panth in tune with the melody of the shabad.
I drool (in a completely respectful way) whenever I remember that Sikhi supports scientific theory, design, and thought. I drool when I see nature’s form and function reflected in man-made objects. Stuff that I can’t quite grasp completely (i.e., string theory, genomics, fiber optics, philosophy) also makes me drool. So do nice European accents.
Perhaps this will make you drool as well:
- A lecture on Consciousness: A Glimpse into the Divine
- Sikhism and Science
- Sikhism, Science, and Quantum Physics
- The Handwriting of God
Waheguru is not only the ultimate engineer but he is science itself! He pushes the forces of natural selection and adaptation and sprinkles a bit of random mutations to create efficient elements of nature. He then smiles (and maybe even snickers) as he watches us exert our evolutionary fitness at the expense of other living things, attempt to rationalize the universe through mathematical equations, selfishly proclaim that our equations are elegant and beautiful, and argue over whether we are damning ourselves to a so-called false belief in intelligent design.
His smile probably widens when he sees us plagued with questions of identity and self-purpose– the existential queries of “who am I, what is the meaning of my life.” He smiles when he sees us slap our hands to our foreheads in anxious frustration. He smiles when he watches us struggle with self-doubt and uncertainty. He smiles because he is the force behind each of our unique paths: the occasional bumps, the pleasant coincidences, all of it. It serves as a reminder that as long as we have faith in the Guru we will find ourselves under his protection and guidance and ultimately safe, healthy, and happy.
I don’t have to necessarily see the light at the end of the tunnel because I know it’s already there. Wow. What a concept.
I’m no longer drooling. I’m less anxious. I’m reassured by my faith. I hope you are as well.
May this month of Chet not only reawaken life from winter slumber but also blossom our spirits and minds. With Waheguru’s grace may his disciples always remember him.
I usually find that reading one interpretation is never enough to fully elucidate the poetic depth of Gurbani. A pamphlet published by the Sikh Missionary College gives a nice breakdown of the bani Barah Mahah, or Twelve Months. Two English interpretations, one in regular font and one italicized, of Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s shabad on Chet are provided below:
ਚੇਤਿ ਗੋਵਿੰਦੁ ਅਰਾਧੀਐ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਘਣਾ ॥
In the month of Chet, by meditating on the Lord of the Universe, a deep and profound joy arises.
In the spring month of Chet if we meditate on the Lord, we obtain immense joy
ਸੰਤ ਜਨਾ ਮਿਲਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਭਣਾ ॥
Meeting with the humble Saints, the Lord is found, as we chant His Name with our tongues.
In the company of saints we enjoy the honey-sweet gift of singing God’s Name
ਜਿਨਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਏ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਗਣਾ ॥
Those who have found God-blessed is their coming into this world.
Whoever finds God in themselves, their life blooms
ਇਕੁ ਖਿਨੁ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਜੀਵਣਾ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਜਣਾ ॥
Those who live without Him, for even an instant-their lives are rendered useless.
Each second lived outside God’s Presence is wasted
ਜਲਿ ਥਲਿ ਮਹੀਅਲਿ ਪੂਰਿਆ ਰਵਿਆ ਵਿਚਿ ਵਣਾ ॥
The Lord completely pervades water, land, and all of space. He is contained in the forests as well.
God is present in water, land, sky and in the green forests
ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਕਿਤੜਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਗਣਾ ॥
Those who do not remember God-how much pain must they suffer!
If this Spirit of Life is not remembered, there is pain
ਜਿਨੀ ਰਾਵਿਆ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਤਿੰਨਾ ਭਾਗੁ ਮਣਾ ॥
Those who dwell upon their God have great good fortune.
Those who have made God their companion are fortunate
ਹਰਿ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੰਉ ਮਨੁ ਲੋਚਦਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਪਿਆਸ ਮਨਾ ॥
My mind yearns for the Blessed Vision of the Lord’s Darshan. O Nanak, my mind is so thirsty!
Nanak, to meet this Spirit my mind-heart-soul is thirsty
ਚੇਤਿ ਮਿਲਾਏ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਪਾਇ ਲਗਾ ॥੨॥
I touch the feet of one who unites me with God in the month of Chayt ||2||
In the Spring month of Chet I will joyfully fall at the feet of whoever unites me with the Spirit of Life ||2||
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, page 133 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib