“Your life is passing, it is passing you by, purposelessly. Every day you listen to spiritual texts but you do not understand them. When death approaches you, then where will you run?”
– Guru Tegh Bahadur ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 1352)
This scene shows Guru Tegh Bahadur ji writing Gurbani. Behind him we can see hills. On top of one of the hills is the temple that is called Naina Devi.
The story of this scene is that Guru Tegh Bahadur ji has been inviting the Sangati and other people to this area because he wants to start a new city here.
He visited this place before and he thought it was beautiful and he thought that this would be a great place for a city.
So Guru Tegh Bahadur ji is writing Gurbani in the front and then behind him we can see people travelling, bringing in their household items, shops on carts and they’re traveling to this new city of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji.
The city would later come to be known as Anandpur or Anandpur Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh ji would fight many battles against the Hill kings and the Mughal King Aurangzeb and his armies.
So I have sketched the scene out and I have blocked it out with all the colour I’ve added in all the colours and now I’m starting to render out Guru Tegh Bahadur ji’s face
I wanted to show Guru Sahib in a meditative state where he is completely immersed in the writing of hymns, of poetry. After Guru Arjun Dev ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was the last Guru to contribute to Guru Granth Sahib, to Adi Granth as it was known, and it was actually Guru Gobind Singh ji, who added Guru Tegh Bahadur ji’s writings to Guru Granth Sahib.
Life is Passing Away
ਬੀਤ ਜੈਹੈ ਬੀਤ ਜੈਹੈ ਜਨਮੁ ਅਕਾਜੁ ਰੇ ॥ – Guru Tegh Bahadur ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 1352)
In one of the hymns that Guru Tegh Bahadur ji wrote, he talks about how life is just going on, passing away, the flow of time is going, passing away, and he describes the state of the common man and how, as their life passes, they they do not perform those tasks for which they were born.
People carry on living their life and as they live they either they forget what their purpose is in this world or they never find out. Many people do not even attempt to discover the reason for why they were born and so they never get to do those things.
Why would you want to know why you were born?
Isn’t life just what you want it to be?
Does there need to be a purpose for your birth?
When we say purpose we’re talking about doing those things which fulfill you the most, doing those things which give you long-lasting satisfaction.
Gautam Buddh, who is nowadays known as the Buddha, said that life is suffering.
This was an observation he made about the the fundamental truth of life, that life is fundamentally suffering. When we do those things and fulfill the purpose for which we were born then this suffering becomes sweet.
ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ – Guru Arjun Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 394)
Whatever life does, it becomes sweet.
Yes you can go on living life the way you’ve been living before, you can carry on living life not concerned at all about what it is, about what your purpose is, in it, and about how you can fulfill that purpose.
You can carry on living that way but if you get tired of living that way then there is another way of living, which is to become very receptive to life, to welcome life with open arms and doing things, learning and observing.
Many people simply read things or hear things and they start believing as if as if they know that those things were true
they start believing when they have no idea of what the truth is and they hold these beliefs very strongly.
This type of person will never find out what their purpose in life is because they’ve simply closed themselves to life by putting up mental barriers of beliefs.
ਨਿਸਿ ਦਿਨੁ ਸੁਨਿ ਕੈ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਸਮਝਤ ਨਹ ਰੇ ਅਜਾਨ ॥ – Guru Tegh Bahadur ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 1352)
In his hymn, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji says that every day you listen to spiritual texts but you have no idea what they’re saying, you do not understand them.
Many people listen to and read spiritual texts and they just read it and believe whatever it says without really knowing what it is because to know what a certain spiritual scripture is talking about you have to become very receptive to life, and when you become very receptive to life, it hurts, it’s suffering, a lot of it starts out as just complete suffering.
This is why Gautam Buddh said that life is suffering, fundamentally.
But he didn’t stop there, he carried out his mission and explained how the suffering can be alleviated.
Living With Purpose
When there’s a new phone or a console out in the market people will wait for hours and hours in line just to buy it because they’re very excited for this new product they will endure the suffering that comes with trying to obtain it.
When a bodybuilder is in the gym lifting heavy weights he puts his body through a lot of stress, pain, sore muscles, aching muscles. Being unable to move properly, being unable to walk properly,
he suffers a lot but he knows that this is going to lead to him having a better looking body. So he willingly accepts the suffering and that suffering becomes very sweet.
I remember when I was young if my muscles hurt I would be in discomfort and I would not enjoy it. But I work out now and that the same type of discomfort is very sweet.
This is what it means to have a purpose in life and to carry it out.
You know there are small things like when we eat something we wash the dishes.
Washing dishes is not enjoyable, it’s not a fun thing but we know that they will lead to clean plates, which will then allow us to enjoy our food. So we put ourselves through that so we can have clean dishes.
This is a small purpose.
You might own a dishwasher and so you might say well you know what I don’t even do that.
It just snowed a few days ago and everyone was outside shoveling the snow. They knew that if they endure this suffering now, they will not have to endure the larger suffering of having their vehicle blocked off from being able to leave the house at a critical time in the future, whether it’s for their job or for anything else.
This is a smaller purpose for which people will endure the suffering to get to a goal which is much more attractive to them. So having a purpose in life can help to alleviate suffering in this way.
Here we’re not talking about a smaller purpose like washing the dishes or shoveling snow or buying a certain phone or exercising. Here we’re talking about a purpose that is much larger that is the purpose of your life, your birth your of your life, around which you orient all of your activities.
This is the kind of purpose we’re talking about, it’s a much larger purpose, and all other purposes align themselves, all other activities that you do align themselves towards this purpose.
It is different for everybody what their purpose is.
You’ve got to find your purpose. In order to do that, you you have to be receptive to life. You have to be open to it welcome it with open arms.
Observe carefully and watch how your body and your mind respond to the activities that you do. In those activities where the joy is much greater than the suffering in those activities. In those activities you might find your purpose.
You have to do those activities and look to see if that’s what your purpose is. You’ll know when you do it.
One of the ways of of finding out which activity is aligned towards your purpose, one way to know what you’ve been born to do, is to pay attention to the track of time when you’re doing that thing.
Let’s say you’re really into working out at the gym,
when you do this activity, do you completely forget the track of time, the flow of time, do you just completely forget that and become immersed in this activity?
If you do that most likely is an activity that is what you have been born to do.
So life is suffering and one of the best ways to alleviate that suffering is to do those activities which you have been born to do,
to find out what your purpose is in this world and then to fulfill that purpose.
Have a Purpose But Still Suffering?
Let’s say you already know what your purpose is and you’ve been doing it and you are still suffering and you do not find it sweet, you don’t like it one bit.
Let’s say you have found your purpose and you’re doing the activities but you’re not finding the activities to be sweet.
In this hymn, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji is talking to someone who knows his purpose, who knows what they’re going to do in life. He’s a scholar, he studies scriptures.
If you know your purpose and you’re trying to do it that is your responsibility. If you know your purpose, it is responsible to fulfill it but if you do not find the suffering that comes with that to be sweet and it’s putting a great deal of burden on you then one thing is missing.
When we go through life, we experience things and we make a story out of it. That first I did did this and then this happened to me and then I did that and then that happened to me.
This drama of life, we have to be careful of this.
If we think about this drama, the story, of our life too much then whether or not we are carrying out our purpose, we will still be bitter, we will not find it sweet. If while we are carrying out our purpose in this world, we are also thinking about our life story and the drama that’s playing out in the head, we’re going to be overburdened because our purpose itself is a burden on us. The responsibility that we have itself is a burden on us so if while we’re carrying out this burden, we add additional burden on top of that by engaging in mental drama, it’s going to become very heavy for us to life.
In each moment we have to recognize we have to pay attention to our activities, what is in front of us, versus the story of our life, the drama of our life that is playing out in the head, in the mind, thinking why did this this happen to me, this shouldn’t have happened, he shouldn’t have said this, and so on and so forth.
Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve… This is the drama that we have to be careful of.
As we’re going on doing our purpose we have to be very careful of this drama and focus on the purpose of our existence.
Guru Tegh Bahadur ji says (Guru Granth Sahib, 1352) –
ਰਾਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਹੀਏ ਆਨਿ ਛਾਡਿ ਦੇ ਤੈ ਮਨ ਕੋ ਮਾਨੁ ॥
He says let go of the the pride of the mind (clinging to this life story) and that the devotion to Shri Ram ji enter the heart (devotion to the Truth).
Let the let the Truth of what is in front of you, the activity, the process, let that enter your heart, and let go of your emotional drama.
Make some space between what is true and what you believe.
Make a distinction between what you know to be true and what you know to be false.
Make a distinction between what you know and what you don’t know.
Recognizing the Truth in this manner, cuts the drama and allows you to enjoy your purpose and sweetness it brings to your life.