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|Is There Life After Death? Is The Guru The Only Salvation?
|Saturday, 3/27/1999 3:01 PM MDT
Also, What exactly does the Sri Guru Granth Sahib say about life after death?
From the perspective of Sikh Dharma, these two questions are very connected. So, we'll consider them both together.
First of all we have to understand that, as human beings, our relative experience and our ultimate reality SEEM to be two different things. On the level of relativity, our experience is through the 5 senses. This input goes into our minds, which are based on a focus of duality. Also, the duality of our minds works in two way: 1) we experience ourselves as as a sensing being, the "subject". And "what" we experience is the "object." That is a duality. 2) the mind uses "concepts" and language in order to process. When concepts and languages "say" something, they also do it in two parts. There is a "subject" and a "predicate", the "doer" and "that which is done." This is all about the "relative" mind and the duality which it experiences and understands.
Now, as far as what is "really real," please remember "What is the very first word of Siri Guru Granth Sahib?" (This is the very first word of Japji Sahib, also. It is the very first thing that Guru Nanak spoke as Guru.) It is a very beautiful word, and for our relative minds, it is also a great sticking point. This word is "Ek," which means "ONE." He said Ek Ong Kar, which means "All of the phenomena and manifestations which we experience, all that we have ever experienced and EVER will experience," ALL these manifestations come from ONE, infinite Source ("Ong")."
The problem is that our relative minds, being rooted in what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, cannot handle that kind of Unity (which is "absolute"). Eventually, as Guru Nanak and his successors continue to teach us, we also learn that the essence of the One Creative Source is also the very essence of ourselves. It lives, exists and "breathes" right inside of us, but its reality and quality of Absolute Unity is so foreign to our sense based, dualistic minds that we can't experience it, initially. It's like we're in a room and the lights are off, or we're blindfolded. Certainly something is there with us, humanity has been groping blindly to find it forever, since beginingless time.
Infinity is universal, one and the same with itself. But it affects us relative human beings in various ways: the aspect of Infinity that produces or generates everything that manifests we call Ek Ong Kar. The same Infinity that holds the ultimate, Identity and non-dualistic meaning of all this is called Truth, or Sat Nam. Finally, the awareness aspect of Infinity that experiences and understands the ultimate wisdom of all this is called Wahe Guru ("Absolute Wisdom"). And, there is a little song that a Sikh once wrote which says:
"Ek Ong Kar is what you are,
"Sat Nam is what you'll be,
"And your Siri Wahe Guru,
"Is all you'll ever need say or do."
Realizing the meaning of that song, in one's own life, is the life of a Sikh, and it is the fulfillment of everything that humanity has been searching for, for aeons (millions, and millions, and millions of years, throughout the all the universes and worlds).
The great difference between the relative world of our senses and the Absolute reality of Ek Ong Kar, Sat Nam, and Wahe Guru, is that the relative, physical world is impermanent, it is always changing, it is based on duality, it is causally generated by something that preceded it (karma), and nothing within it will ever last. The absolute reality within us is unchanging, perfect, not affected by karma (action), and it is radically One (it isn't based on duality). Since we, in our ignorance of what is truly within us, base our lives, our choices, our desires and our actions on what is relative and seemingly "outside of us," everything we do falls apart, including physical life itself. Since, the infinite aspect within us, that didn't get recognized and understood, then has nowhere to go (after death) it creates (goes into) a new life and continues. This infinite quality of us has been doing this since primorial time, and we as relative beings have been appearing and disappearing since beginingless, primord
ial time, and we will continue to ride this "roller coaster" until we awaken to our true nature (Sat Nam) and identify and become one with that, rather than temoprary, sensual realities.
So, in answer to your question from the perspective of Sikh Dharma, not only is there life after death, but there's another life, then another death, then another life, et cetera and so on, forever, or until we wake up. One of the great motivators to wake up is that, even though sensual experience is sometimes pleasurable, there is always pain, discomfort, sickness, suffering and death which follows sense pleasure. Eventually, a being gets tired of the futility of going around and around in this circle of karma, birth and death. Then (knowing at least vaguely inside that something else exists) one begins to look for something else, something which is not impermanent, something which is not impure, something which brings true happiness and release from inevitable suffering. Once a person begins to look for something, some higher Truth, then one is ready to find a source for that Truth, a teacher or Guru. Until one is ready, true teachers (Sat Gurus) don't bother to appear. It would be like trying to teach
geometry to a dog or a cat, they just don't get it. Until one has reached this stage of being "fed up with karma and duality," Life just says "Okay, go on and do your own thing, die again, get born again, continue the whole boring routine until you too get fed up and want to discover wisdom, the Truth of your own real nature, and become enlightened and liberated from the karmic repetition of suffering." It's not just that there is "life after death." Rather, life after life after death is inevitable until we earn and enlighten our way out of it, by virtue of the kindness, compassion and Grace of a True Guru who will show us and guide us along the way. That way is called Dharma. We can say that Dharma is only for those fortunate ones who are ready for it, but we can also say that "EVENTUALLY" everybody will be ready for it, sometime or in some life time. And, those who are walking the path and discipline of a True Guru are know as Sikhs ("disciples" of a Guru).
When we walk the path of karma and suffering, we knowingly and unknowingly do harm to ourselves and others, because in our ignorance we are distracted from the Truth within us as we pursue desires for impermanent things outside of us. When we walk on the path of Dharma, when we become Sikhs, we have to reverse that process. We have to stop harming ourselves. We have to stop harming others. And, when we do that by serving and helping others who are suffering from karma, then one amazing thing happens. The amazing thing is that by serving and uplifting others to the the best of our ability, Our Own Suffering Stops. We feel connection with Truth and the Grace of our Guru. And, even if we might experience sickness or pain, as Guru Arjan did on the burning plate of iron and torture, he didn't suffer. He was calm through the physical pain, because his mind was clear, compassionate and focussed on the Truth of Shabd. To ordinary beings, alienated from their own true natures, Guru Arjan was like a "superman."
Actually, every being has this potential. Guru Arjan was so kind to demonstrate for us and for history, that this ultimate Truth can be lived to the utmost. And so can you.
May you and your wonderful questions be blessed by the kind and wonderful intelligence of our Gurus, until you know clearly that Wahe Guru is your own inner nature. May the blessings of all beings be added to, and may their sufferings be relieved, by the kindness and compassion for them that you will discover.
Krishna Singh Khalsa