“Sing, and listen, and let your mind be filled with love” (Japji Sahib)
I recently read a few of Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen’s books translated into English, and I wanted to share some of what I learned in addition to some reflections. The best thing we can do with knowledge is to both apply it to our lives and to share it with other people because it’s a gift. Maskeen Ji reminds us that every relationship is dependent on memory. If you don’t remember the other person’s relation to you, how will there be a relationship? So the first step in meeting God is obviously to remember that we have a relationship with Waheguru! We can’t do simran if we don’t remember our relationship with God. I have to say that after spending years lost in thoughts and maya, I too had a difficult time remembering; after all, maya purposefully keeps us confused, entertained so we will forget our relationship to God. This is the state of the sleeping mind. I remember at the end of the day sometimes I would think oh no, I forgot to remember God all day. I got so wrapped up in my work, I didn’t stop to thank God, I didn’t stop to pray, I didn’t stop to do what I came here (in this human life) to do. In fact back then I didn’t really understand what this path was, what the purpose of life was, what remembering God meant. It wasn’t until I really just fell in love with this path and understood all those things that remembering became easy. In reality, we tend to store the bad things people said to us in our memory, and forget all that Guru Ji taught us. One of the examples in Maskeen Ji’s book was that of Suthra, originally a child that was homeless after his parents kicked him out, and then became a Brahm Gyani after Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji raised him. One day Suthra purposefully bothered the sangat, and then when the sangat complained to Guru Ji, Suthra said he didn’t remember what he had said to them, maybe if the sangat could tell him about the shabad and katha being read at that time, he could remember. Of course no one remembered, they only had remembered the words of Suthra. In this way, he taught them to keep Guru’s words in their minds first and foremost.
Once we remember God, we must listen and pay attention to our own voice (when we do simran) and to what Guru Ji is telling us. Read the following shabad:
“Farid, the path is muddy, and the house of my Beloved is so far away. If I go out, my blanket will get soaked, but if I remain at home, then my heart will be broken. My blanket is soaked, drenched with the downpour of the Lord’s rain. I am going to meet my Friend, so that my heart will not be broken.”
I have heart this shabad almost daily for the last 10 yrs because it is part of a CD that we play at our house all the time, but I had never understood it until reading Maskeen Ji’s katha. He explains that there is a lot of mud on the path that the mind walks (to God), for example kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar. He writes for example, “The mud of the other’s wife and other’s wealth is in the eyes. To hear other’s censure and one’s own praise is the sludge of the ears. The tongue has got the mud of tasting different types of food and speaking lies…” (p. 49 Prabhu Simran). The blanket in this shabad is the mind. If we walk this path, our mind is going to get muddy, meaning we will most definitely experience thoughts of things in maya while we are attempting to focus on simran or prayers. We've all sat down and had our mind wander. Yet as the shabad explains, that too is part of the path to God and you must just keep trying. Maskeen Ji explains that if we don’t try to meet God, we won’t perceive an obstacle: “Only when we start moving forward, the new come to know that it is very difficult to pass through these streets. He who has not moved cannot understand the intricacies of the spiritual path” (page 50, Prabhu Simran). If we keep trying, surely we will reach our destination. Remember, when we take steps towards God, God takes steps towards us. I’ll give you an example from my life recently. Normally, I read a lot of books about Sikhi translated from Punjabi to English. Besides reading children’s books (and Gurbani) I hadn’t tried to read an “advanced” Punjabi book in a really long time because my previous attempts had resulted in slowly stumbling over the complicated words and not understanding what I was reading. When we were buying books my Massi Ji encouraged me to buy just one in punjabi and try to read it so I bought Kiv Koode Tute Paal by Bhai Sewa Singh Ji Tarmala (a 350 page book). I often read sections of the English books to my parents at night-time; it’s a nice way to spend time with family and have everyone learn something together. So before I cracked open this book, I called my mum on the phone (since I’m in Toronto) and started reading. I was surprised that not only was I able to read quickly, but I was also able to understand. I’m now 100 pages into this book, and the fact that somehow my ability to read and understand Punjabi has improved this much is a gift from God because this book was never translated into English. Waheguru!
Lastly, to let the mind be filled with love- this comes naturally if we really do listen. I think the most encouraging kathas I have learned from and the people who have inspired me, are the ones who teach with love to uplift everyone. They spread the message that we can all meet God in this lifetime. Judging others doesn’t have a place in Sikhi- each is on their own path and God has given qualities to people as per their karma. It is kaal (governor of maya) that divides us (as per God’s Hukam). Kaal sends kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar into our minds and thus we have thoughts that do not match those of other people and we fight. If only we could remember that God sent all of us here together (parents, siblings, spouses, friends) by our destiny so that we could work together and meet God together. We should teach our younger generation that our goal is to learn and this is the point of Sikhi. In order to do that, it’s important to let go of our pride. Maskeen Ji writes, “The passion to learn should prevail in every age, under all circumstances and upto the last moment… There is enough to learn and one should consider that he knows nothing, at least about Truth.” You are learning, I am learning. We shouldn’t judge another for what they don’t know, because we didn’t know before we learned. Every effort matters because we need to move through the mud to reach Waheguru.
Prabhu Simran by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Perfect form of Sikhism by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Shabad Guru Surat Dhan Chela by Giani Sant Singh Ji Maskeen (editor Harjit Singh)
Kiv Koode Tute Paal Bhai Sewa Singh Ji Tarmala