By Karminder Singh | Sikhi Concepts | Part 6 of 12 |
We have been exploring the premise that Guru Nanak Redefined, in a Revolutionary way – all the spiritual concepts that existed for thousands of years before him.
Guru Nanak’s Portrait of Sikhi was thus one that was Painted Over an existing canvas – a canvas that was said to have existed for 4,000 years prior to Guru Nanak.
The consequence of such REDEFINING was that when we come across the concepts of the old canvas wherever they are MENTIONED in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), we will need to understand the NEW meanings or REDEFINED meanings, or Gurbani meanings of the concepts – to get to the true messages of Gurbani.
In today’s video, we will look at the concept of Heaven and Hell. The Punjabi terms for Heaven are Surag, Bhist and Baikunth. Hell is referred to as Naruk and Dojak.
Let’s begin with Heaven and Hell as advocated by the 4-thousand-year-old Canvas. The primary claim is that the departed soul goes for judgement before an entity named dharam raj. Dhram raj listens to a full accounting of the deeds of the deceased person standing before him from Chitargupt – the reporter who is said to sit on our shoulders and record all our deeds. The claim then is that Dhrm Raj orders the soul to either go to heaven or one of the 21 hells or to reincarnate. The soul obtains salvation if it goes to heaven.
More than 100 billion people have lived and died before you and me. And not a single one of them has come back to tell us story of their trip into heaven or hell.
Yet, the concocted details of these two locations – heaven and hell – are presented as a religious FACT, and religious TRUTH. Heaven and hell are both presented as REALITIES of life. And believed by millions. And accepted by millions more.
What is most chilling really is that this Narative of Heaven and Hell – drawn from the 4K year old canvas – is the one that is presented by our clergy – our granthis, ragis, kirtanias and our parcharaks in our gurdwaras. As Sikhi beliefs, as Gurbani concepts.
The outcome is that – the narrative that is held within the psyche of a vast majority of Sikhs is NOT the narrative of Gurbani, but that of the 4K year old canvas. And this vast majority of Sikhs mistakenly think accept, and believe that Heaven and Hell is indeed the narrative of Gurbani.
Nothing can be further than the truth.
So what is the narrative of Heaven and Hell within Gurbani? We can develop the basic principles by examining some verses that discourse the concept.
The first thing that Gurbani does is to toss out the notions of Heaven and Hell. Gurbani does so by un-equivocally rejecting both.
Let’s begin with this verse of Bhagat Kabir on page 969 of the SGGS.
ਕਵਨੁ ਨਰਕੁ ਕਿਆ ਸੁਰਗੁ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ਸੰਤਨ ਦੋਊ ਰਾਦੇ ॥ ਹਮ ਕਾਹੂ ਕੀ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕਢਤੇ ਅਪਨੇ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੇ ॥ 5 ॥
Kavan Naruk Kya Surag Bichara Santan Dou Radey. Hum Kahu Kee Kaan Na Kadhtey Apney Gur Parsadey.
Bhagat ji is asking: What is this discourse ਬਿਚਾਰਾ Bichara of Heaven and Hell? Why be concerned with this discourse? ਕਵਨੁ ਨਰਕੁ ਕਿਆ ਸੁਰਗੁ Kavan Naruk Kya Surag. The word ਸੰਤਨ Santan refers to seekers of realization of the Creator. All those who seek realization of the Creator within ਸੰਤਨ Santan reject both, rubbish both ਦੋਊ ਰਾਦੇ Dou Radey. The word ਰਾਦੇ Radey comes from the word ਰਦ Rad which means to reject. The word for dustbin in Punjabi is ਰੱਦ ਟੋਕਰੀ Rad Tokri. So Why even bother with this discourse? ਕਵਨੁ ਨਰਕੁ ਕਿਆ ਸੁਰਗੁ Kavan Naruk Kya Surag.
Bhagat ji then says, given the blessings of enlightenment of my Guru ਅਪਨੇ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੇ Apney Gur Parsadey, I am enlightened in knowing that I have to be concerned with neither of them. ਹਮ ਕਾਹੂ ਕੀ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕਢਤੇ Hum Kahu Kee Kaan Na Kadhtey.
Esentially, pyareo, what Kabir is saying in this verse is: What’s the concern with the discourse on heaven and hell – both of which are rubbished by the seekers of realization. By the blessings of enlightenment from my Guru, I have no concern with either.
If a Sikh of Gurbani thinks for himself or herself, this one couplet alone is sufficient to debunk the whole concocted theory of heaven and hell. That is the power of Gurbani when read by ourselves, understood on our own and contemplated within ourselves. One couplet is enough to debunk an entire theory.
Our problem is that we let our earn-a-living clergy – our granthis, ragis and parcharaks – people who are beholden to the 4K year old canvas deep within their souls – we let these people give us distorted and corrupted interpretations of Gurbani – and accept it in either good or blind faith.
Come to think of it, what can be clear than ਦੋਊ ਰਾਦੇ Dou Radey – I reject both. What can be clearer than ਹਮ ਕਾਹੂ ਕੀ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕਢਤੇ Hum Kahu Kee Kaan Na Kadhtey – I care for Neither of them. It would be different if someone say, I reject Hell. Saying such would mean – I am expecting to go to heaven. But Gurbani is saying ਦੋਊ ਰਾਦੇ Dou Radey – I reject both. I am throwing both out of my spiritual concern.
ਜਬ ਏਕਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਅਗਮ ਅਪਾਰ ॥ ਤਬ ਨਰਕ ਸੁਰਗ ਕਹੁ ਕਉਨ ਅਉਤਾਰ ॥
Jab Ekhe Har Agum Apaar. Tab Narak Surag Kaho Kaun Autaar.
Guru Ji’s critique is brilliant. He is asking When there was none other than the Omnipresent Creator ਜਬ ਏਕਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਅਗਮ ਅਪਾਰ Jab Ekhe Har Agum Apaar, pray tell me who was lining up to go into heaven and hell then? ਤਬ ਨਰਕ ਸੁਰਗ ਕਹੁ ਕਉਨ ਅਉਤਾਰ Tab Narak Surag Kaho Kaun Autaar.
Logic and Reason has a force of its own. And this is very powerful logic being presented by Guru Arjun. Patshah is reasoning; When the Only Entity in the Entirety of Existance Was the Omnipresent Creator, Who Were the Occupants of Heaven and Hell?
The critique is that there is no such thing as heaven and hell. And that the Creator made no such places. And therefore that heaven and hell is nothing more than the concoction of the clergy.
ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਤਹ ਭਈ ਕਹਾਵਤ ॥ ਕੋਊ ਨਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਸੁਰਗ ਬੰਛਾਵਤ ॥
Paap Punn Teh Bhayee Khavat Koou Narak Kooy Surg Banchavat.
Guru ji is saying this concoction is a two step process. First the notion of what deeds are pious or holy and which ones are sinful was invented. For instance, it is declared that to feed a clergy, to donate to the temple and to make offerings are pious acts and to critique a clergy and not make offerings are sinful acts. A whole list of what is sinful ਪਾਪੁ Paap and what is pious ਪੁੰਨੁ Punn is first concocted. That’s the first part ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਤਹ ਭਈ ਕਹਾਵਤ Paap Punn Teh Bhayee Khavat. The concocting of A,B and C as pious acts and D E F is sinful ones.
For this Narative to work, in other words to get the people to do the concocted acts of piety, and not do the concocted acts of sin, the notion of heaven and hell was concocted. If one did the deeds that were declared pious then one went to heaven in the afterlife, otherwise one went to hell. That’s the second part – ਕੋਊ ਨਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਸੁਰਗ ਬੰਛਾਵਤ Koou Narak Kooy Surg Banchavat. The heaven and hell concocted narrative ensured that the ਪਾਪੁ Paap and ਪੁੰਨੁ Punn narrative worked.
Essentially then, what Guru Arjun ji is saying is that the notion of sinful deeds and pious deeds were concocted as a narrative; to make some to desire heaven and others fit for hell – both of which were also concocted.
ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ 2 ॥ ਕਥਾ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਬੇਦੀਂ ਆਣੀ ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਦੇ ਦੇ ਲੈਣਾ ਲੈ ਲੈ ਦੇਣਾ ਨਰਕਿ ਸੁਰਗਿ ਅਵਤਾਰ ॥
Ktha Kahanni Beydi Aanni Paap Punn Bichar. Dey Dey Laenna Laiy Laiy Denna Naruk Surg Avtar.
The Narrative ਕਥਾ ਕਹਾਣੀ Ktha Kahanni given to the world by the Vedas ਬੇਦੀਂ ਆਣੀ Beydi Aanni is that there are pious deeds and sinful ones ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ Paap Punn Bichar. To give more than one receives ਦੇ ਦੇ ਲੈਣਾ Dey Dey Laenna and, and to receive more than one gives ਲੈ ਲੈ ਦੇਣਾ Laiy Laiy Denna is the basis for becoming a resident of Heaven and Hell.
Heaven and hell is defined in terms of the piety of giving. Its not surprising that the Clergy then says that the highest piousness in giving is to give to him.
ਮਃ 1 ॥ ਬੇਦੁ ਪੁਕਾਰੇ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਪਾਪੁ ਸੁਰਗ ਨਰਕ ਕਾ ਬੀਉ ॥ ਜੋ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਉਗਵੈ ਖਾਂਦਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੀਉ ॥
Mehla 1: Beyd Pukarey Punn Paap Surg Naruk Ka Beeo. Jo Beejay So Ughvey Khanda Janney Jio.
The Vedas pronounce ਬੇਦੁ ਪੁਕਾਰੇ Beyd Pukarey that acts of piousness and sin ਪੁੰਨੁ ਪਾਪੁ Punn Paap are the determinants or the seeds of heaven and hell in the afterlife ਸੁਰਗ ਨਰਕ ਕਾ ਬੀਉ Surg Naruk Ka Beeo. What is planted in this life ਜੋ ਬੀਜੈ Jo Beejay will bear fruit ਸੋ ਉਗਵੈ So Ughvey in heaven or hell ਖਾਂਦਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੀਉ Khanda Janney Jio.
The deeper critique here that there is no such thing as heaven and hell. And that the Creator made no such places. And therefore that heaven and hell is the concoction of some people who also concocted the notion of sin and piety ਪੁੰਨੁ ਪਾਪੁ Punn Paap – all to serve their selfish ends of being able to earn a living through the efforts of other people.
ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਚਲਨ ਕਹਤ ਹੈ ਊਹਾਂ ॥ ਨਾ ਜਾਨਉ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੁ ਹੈ ਕਹਾਂ ॥ 1 ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਆਪ ਆਪ ਕਾ ਮਰਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਬਾਤਨ ਹੀ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੁ ਬਖਾਨਾਂ ॥ 1
Sabh Koyi Chalan Khet Hai Uha(n). Na Jano Baikunth Hai Kha(n). Rahao. Aap Aap Ka Marum Na Jana(n). Baatan Hi Baikunth Bkhana(n).
They all ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ Sabh Koyi make claims about knowing the method to get to heaven. ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਚਲਨ ਕਹਤ ਹੈ ਊਹਾਂ Sabh Koyi Chalan Khet Hai Uha(n). And they don’t know where heaven is. They have no clue where or what heaven is. ਨਾ ਜਾਨਉ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੁ ਹੈ ਕਹਾਂ Na Jano Baikunth Hai Kha(n). They know nothing of themselves even ਆਪ ਆਪ ਕਾ ਮਰਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ Aap Aap Ka Marum Na Jana(n). But they have concocted a narrative ਬਾਤਨ ਹੀ Baatan Hi and told the world about it ਬੈਕੁੰਠੁ ਬਖਾਨਾਂ Baikunth Bkhana(n).
The narrative of heaven and hell is just that – a narrative by people who have no realization other than to concoct a narrative. ਬਾਤਨ ਹੀ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੁ ਬਖਾਨਾਂ Baatan Hi Baikunth Bkhana(n).
This critique about clergy making claims about matters that no one knows anything about is a recurring theme within Gurbani when it comes to claims such as after death, soul travel, judgement, dhram raj, heaven and hell, reincarnation, salvation etc.
This is a simple yet powerful logic and our Gurus and bhagats have used this logic to dispel these notions and the fear and anxiety that these fake claims have brought upon mankind.
At the end of the day it is the plain logic of Gurbani that stands up to the illogical but powerful attempt by the clergy to bring about compliance and control of the minds and behaviors of the masses by offering a carrot of heaven if we did their bidding, and the stick of hell if we dared to defy them.
What our Bhagats did was to stand up to these fake claims – to break the chain of compliance and control that the clergy demanded from people.
ਗਉੜੀ ਪੂਰਬੀ ॥ ਸੁਰਗ ਬਾਸੁ ਨ ਬਾਛੀਐ ਡਰੀਐ ਨ ਨਰਕਿ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥ ਹੋਨਾ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ ਮਨਹਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ਆਸ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਮਈਆ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਈਐ ॥ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਪਾਈਐ ਪਰਮ ਨਿਧਾਨੁ ॥ ੧ ॥
Surg Baas Na Bancheay Dareay Na Naruk Nivas. Hona Hai So Hoyi Hai Maneh Na Kejay Aas.
Bhagat ji is saying: I have no desire whatsoever to go reside in heaven ਸੁਰਗ ਬਾਸੁ ਨ ਬਾਛੀਐ Surg Baas Na Bancheay. And I have no fear whatsoever of being sent to reside in hell ਡਰੀਐ ਨ ਨਰਕਿ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ Dareay Na Naruk Nivas.
This is a clear declaration of defiance in which Kabir says, I am neither cowed by the threat of hell, nor enticed by the pull of heaven to do the bidding of what is declared as pious and sinful ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਤਹ ਭਈ ਕਹਾਵਤ Paap Punn Teh Bhayee Khavat.
In the next verse, Kabir ji makes it clear. I will not abide by your narrative of come what may ਹੋਨਾ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ Hona Hai So Hoyi Hai. Why because I have no desire to go to heaven ਮਨਹਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ਆਸ Maneh Na Kejay Aas.
Gurbani tells us that not only are the claims fake, they are an unsurmountable obstacle to our spiritual journey in the Here and Now. They are a barrier.
ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਮਨਿ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਕੀ ਆਸ ॥ ਤਬ ਲਗੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਹੀ ਚਰਨ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥ ੩ ॥
Jub Lag Man Baikunth Ki Aas. Tub Lag Hoey Nhi Charan Nivas.
Gurbani tells us that so long as the desire to get to heaven remains. ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਮਨਿ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਕੀ ਆਸ Jub Lag Man Baikunth Ki Aas. Realization of the Creator within cannot happen ਤਬ ਲਗੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਹੀ ਚਰਨ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ Tub Lag Hoey Nhi Charan Nivas.
Then Kabir says , what do we say of such claims ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਇਹ ਕਹੀਐ ਕਾਹਿ Kho Kabir Eh Kheay Kahe. Being in the company of the Guru ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ Sadhsangat is to have created one’s own heaven ਬੈਕੁੰਠੈ ਆਹਿ Baikunthay Ahe.
The message is clear. The desire to go to heaven is an obstacle because the claim itself is fake. When something does not exist, then having a desire for that non-existant entity becomes an obstacle in life. Imagine living one’s life in desire to go someplace that does not exist.
Here we have to address the question that if we are to create our own heaven in the here and now, where and how in Gurbani is such an assertion made?
In attempting to answer this question, we can also address the claims made by a vast majority of Sikhs that if heaven and hell does not exist out there, then why does Gurbani mention it.
Yes, Gurbani mentions both, but they are REDEFINED. They are given new meanings. They are given Gurbani meanings. They are REDEFINED in a manner that brings them in line with the Canvas of Sikhi, with the Canvas of Guru Nanak that is concerned – NOT with life after death – BUT with our life in the HERE and NOW, our present life.
So one way of saying it is that – Gurbani anchors ALL its concepts, beliefs and principles in the HERE and NOW.
ਸਿਰੀਰਾਗੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੧ ਘਰੁ ੩ ॥ ਅਮਲੁ ਕਰਿ ਧਰਤੀ, ਬੀਜੁ ਸਬਦੋ ਕਰਿ, ਸਚ ਕੀ ਆਬ ਨਿਤ ਦੇਹਿ ਪਾਣੀ ॥ ਹੋਇ ਕਿਰਸਾਣੁ, ਈਮਾਨੁ ਜੰਮਾਇ ਲੈ, ਭਿਸਤੁ ਦੋਜਕੁ ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ ॥ ੧ ॥
Sri Rag Mehla 1 Ghar 3. Amal Kar Dharti Beej Shabdo Kar Sach Ki Aab Nit Deh Panni. Hoey Kirsann Imaan Jamaye Laiy Bhist Dojak Murrey Ev Janni.
Let’s take the final verse first. ਭਿਸਤੁ ਦੋਜਕੁ ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ Bhist Dojak Murrey Ev Janni. The word ਭਿਸਤੁ Bhist means heaven and ਦੋਜਕੁ Dojak refers to Hell. ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ Ev Janni means – know them as such, this is what they are. This is what they really are. The word ਮੂੜੇ Murrey means foolishness, folly, error, fallacy – hence the word ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ Murrey Ev Janni – Know them – know heaven and hell in the afterlife to be what they really are – foolish beliefs, fallacious beliefs ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ Murrey Ev Janni. Heaven and hell in the afterlife are no more than foolish beliefs. ਭਿਸਤੁ ਦੋਜਕੁ ਮੂੜੇ ਏਵ ਜਾਣੀ Bhist Dojak Murrey Ev Janni.
Now we look at the first verse. Guru Nanak is saying Perform good deeds ਅਮਲੁ ਕਰਿ ਧਰਤੀ Amal Kar Dharti, inculcate the messages of the shabd ਬੀਜੁ ਸਬਦੋ ਕਰਿ Beej Shabdo Kar, and let your deeds flourish in the glory of the Creator ਸਚ ਕੀ ਆਬ Sach Ki Aab. And do this daily, all the time ਨਿਤ ਦੇਹਿ ਪਾਣੀ Nit Deh Panni. Practice such a life ਹੋਇ ਕਿਰਸਾਣੁ Hoey Kirsann and anchor your spirituality in such ਈਮਾਨੁ ਜੰਮਾਇ ਲੈ Imaan Jamaye Laiy and u will realize the folly of the claim of Heaven and Hell in the afterlife.
And you will also realize the truth and reality of Heaven in Hell in the here and now. Which is that Performing good deeds ਅਮਲੁ ਕਰਿ ਧਰਤੀ Amal Kar Dharti, inculcating the messages of the shabd ਬੀਜੁ ਸਬਦੋ ਕਰਿ Beej Shabdo Kar, and letting your deeds flourish in the glory of the Creator ਸਚ ਕੀ ਆਬ Sach Ki Aab and doing this daily, all the time ਨਿਤ ਦੇਹਿ ਪਾਣੀ Nit Deh Panni, practicing such a life ਹੋਇ ਕਿਰਸਾਣੁ Hoey Kirsann and anchoring your spirituality in such ਈਮਾਨੁ ਜੰਮਾਇ ਲੈ ਲੈ Imaan Jamaye Laiy is your heaven in the here and the now.
ਨਰ ਤੇ ਸੁਰ ਹੋਇ ਜਾਤ ਨਿਮਖ ਮੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਬੁਧਿ ਸਿਖਲਾਈ ॥ ਨਰ ਤੇ ਉਪਜਿ ਸੁਰਗ ਕਉ ਜੀਤਿਓ ਸੋ ਅਵਖਧ ਮੈ ਪਾਈ ॥ ੧ ॥
Nar Tay Sur Hoey Jaat Nimakh Mei Satgur Budh Sikhlayi. Nar Tay Upaj Surg Ko Jitiyeo So Avkhad Mein Payi.
Bhagat Namdev is saying my becoming Human to Divine ਨਰ ਤੇ ਸੁਰ ਹੋਇ Nar Tay Sur Hoey – I acquired through the enlightenment ਬੁਧਿ ਸਿਖਲਾਈ Budh Sikhlayi given by my Creator connecting Guru ਸਤਿਗੁਰ Satgur.
In doing so – in becoming Divine from human ਨਰ ਤੇ ਉਪਜਿ Nar Tay.
I have acquired heaven for myself ਸੁਰਗ ਕਉ ਜੀਤਿਓ Upaj Surg Ko Jitiyeo, and I have found the panacea, the cure, the solution ਅਵਖਧ Avkhad to not having a heaven for myself ਸੋ ਅਵਖਧ ਮੈ ਪਾਈ So Avkhad Mein Payi
When Bhagat ji says I have created my own heaven – it is created in the HERE and NOW. So the message thus far is clear. The notion of heaven and hell after death is a concoction, a fabrication – and more importantly an obstacle to our spirituality in the HERE and NOW.
A Sikh creates his own heaven by doing divine deeds, by living the divine life, by becoming Divine virtues. And in so doing we will find the panacea, the cure so to speak to rid our lives of the daily hell it can become while living a life of human vices.
When You Stop Living the Spirituality of Heaven and Hell, You Start to Live A Present Free From Fear And Anxiety.
When You Stop Waiting to Go to Heaven. You Start to Create Your Own Heaven Here. And You Start to Live in that Heaven you created.
When You Stop Living IN FEAR of Going to Hell After Death. You Start to Ensure Your Life is Not a Living Hell. And You Start Living the Spirituality of LIBERATION
The next video – part 7 of 12 – will examine the concepts of Salvation or Mukti. It will attempt to provide the new, redefined, and Gurbani meanings as outlined within the 1429 pages of the SGGS in our discovery of Gurbani Concepts as contained within Guru Nanak’s canvas.
SIKHI CONCEPTS SERIES BY DR KARMINDER SINGH DHILLON: COMPLETE LINKS TO VIDEOS & LECTURE NOTES
MASTER LINK: Complete links to videos and lecture notes
Sikh thinker, writer and parcharak Karminder Singh Dhillon, PhD (Boston), is a retired Malaysian civil servant. He is the joint-editor of The Sikh Bulletin and author of The Hijacking of Sikhi. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Hijacking Sikhi (Asia Samachar, 19 Dec 2020)
Karminder talks about what shaped his thinking, and his latest books on Sikhi (Asia Samachar, 20 Nov 2020)
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