My Guru & I: Mind Voices

Here is a beautiful article by Prof. Balbinder Singh Bhogal commemorating the 300th anniversary of GURTA GADDI DIWAS of SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB:

When I talk to my mind, I talk to myself through others.
I thought I'd share some of the things I say to myself as the things others say to me.
The voice of a Sikh Guru does not merely receive the power of the Voice of God in baanii (mysticism), but this revealed voice is also the voice of speaking truth to power (politics). It is not quietist. As Guru Nanak speaks against Babur, so does Guru Gobind Singh speak against Aurangzeb. The Sikh Guru is not meek and mild, he is humble and just - but in a way that is as extraordinary as it is "natural".
If, then, revelation is as much about gaining a voice as it isreceiving a voice, then the writing of my Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib is intimately connected to a politico-mysticalsubjectivity deep within me yet to be born.
If a Gurmukh is not only facing-the-Guru but becoming faceless, then walking the path of Sikhi is as much a path of self-discovery than it is a following of the Gurus. I walk to the Guru, walking backwards into myself. But becoming faceless means there is no inside nor outside. The Name is within and without. I also walk to the Guru when I walk with the truesangat in the world of suffering and justice.
I walk truth when I enter the event of each moment without I.
If God and haumai are mutually exclusive when it comes to love, then meeting my Guru demands the death of my ego; uniting with the Guru is as much a loss of a self I have grown addicted to as it is meeting a Being within my being that I have overlooked and neglected.
If walking in His will, as it is written, is a code beyond formulation (since it involves the uncountable details of everyday life, in complex relations to all beings and things, a code that may be unveiled in any and every lived moment, then I cannot know how to walk it. Walking itself becomes a metaphor. Being and becoming speak more to the reality of such a "walking". I move without moving; to be without being - this is not Shakespeare's dualistic either-or choice.
Sahaj is not "going with the flow". Nor is Sahaj flow itself; it is an unforeseen falling, not knowing when the landing will arrive. The ego trips and falls, for there are always things the ego cannot see nor foresee. That free fall is usually arrested immediately. Too much freedom is hell for the ego. How to accustom the ego to visit this hell more?
One cannot set out to achieve this fall by the ego, since the ego is addicted to calculation and willful behavior. Nor can one be care-free, for so long as the ego maintains centre-stage, being carefree slips into being careless. From one extreme of stubborn self-will to the other of a laissez-faire acquiescence is the world of haumai bound: walking His Will is not a matter of standing by a self-assertion, nor is it letting things be. Walking in His Will is often a mist of love, where visibility is rare but the presence of soft rain invigorates as it soothes.
That mist is a sacred cloud of unknowing in which The Unpredictable and Unexpected circle. To enter the mist - one has to be willing to sacrifice all things, objects, but most difficult of all, ideas - especially about who one thinks one is. Sikhi is not a rulebook of clear and distinct ideas yielding black-and-white injunctions, but a song that enraptures and transports one into a mist of love and insight.
One cannot be rigid and absolutist, for God does not obey human desire. No. There is a surprise essential to life, a mist that blinds. Have you noticed it?
Sahaj is by accident. The beatific moment comes to you despite your practice, it does not come as the culmination of any practice: It finds you, you do not find It. One trips. And then we see that tripping, that slipping, that fall as instigated by the hand of God. There was something I kept overlooking, until someone or something made me slip. Luckily, I did not curse nor judge, but entered the moment of the fall without thought. Then I saw something unexpected.
Then I saw something unexpected. And tears roll down my face.
Like in a dream.
Little wonder dreams are more real than life - we have them in a dark mist of surprise.
I cannot fall by pretending to slip over, for slipping over stops the habituated mind and thus falling cannot be consciously enacted, for one cannot be consciously unconscious. The fall is unpredictable. The out of the blue is out of God. The mist truly blinds the ego and humbles it.
Tripping out of the ego is not something the ego knows how to do. In fact it is the only knowledge the ego will not and cannot master nor entertain - the ego's clumsy attempt fashioning a fall is tripping in the drug sense - which takes us on a false journey only to return us two steps behind where we started, burnt out. We need the Guru to surprise us out of our conscious minds through the unpredictable events that make up our lives.
That's why the Guru does not say this is the truth listen to me, but rather, just mind your step and listen - be awake when you fall, for all beings fall, but few listen without imposing fearful judgments. Absorb the trip and where it takes you: listen to what life is telling you, and you will be shown a world you had not thought possible. But the surprises in dreams, as those rare events in life, are hard to interpret. Interpretation requires maturity of character and a skill that cannot be taught apart from the events of everyday life.
When the accident is listened to without judgment then the slip is fortuitous - it yields a treasure. But this treasure is often contrary to what the ego imagines as treasure; hard to see a treasure in a broken leg, in a broken spine, in a death. Hard indeed. The ego has great difficulty with failure, violence and suffering, needs someone to make the enemy, someone to blame and crucify. Secularism, rationalism are such comfortable blankets for the ego - the trouble is they often come with disguised resentments which do not resolve inner doubt and pain, for blaming the other for one's own myopia never really satisfies.
But when the fall is entered without thought then the Accident becomes the Voice of the Guru.
The Guru arrests the haumai-mind through the event of a fall the ego cannot predict.
The Guru, the Event are before choice arises.
The Word is the surprising turn of events that we cannot write ourselves.
The events I did and did not listen to - that is the backbone to my life. How many events I completely missed, how many I miss-interpreted and how many I half-interpreted. And how odd that when an interpretation is insightful and true, it rarely yields a law beyond the context of one's own life-world.
We move in an unknowable but oddly familiar narrative written by our past actions (karam) "and" the hand of God (nadar). When we look forward, we see only what the ego can imagine (desire). When we look back, we see the unimaginable events of our life, the writing of a mysterious Hand, a great unpredictable narrative that is utterly remarkable, lest we judge and resent the cards dealt us.
But how not to resent our fates? Even so, is it not telling that so many when asked to look back reply "I wouldn't change a thing"?
If His ways, or in short, life, cannot be calculated, then reason is a severely limited tool to forge truth, a small torch in the mist of life. If He cannot be counted and His ways, our events, are beyond rational structure, then I am, at root, a story that cannot be told, a stranger to myself that I can never name. Can I rest in the Unknown and Unknowable, the Incalculable? Can reason countenance the unpredictable as a higher principle? Can the ego come to terms with not knowing? Can I will the death of my own ego without committing suicide? Can the self forget itself by an act of will? Can an ego escape Life's law (hukam)?
How, then, to be true?
How to break the Wall of Falsehood?
How to fall freely and listen? 
How to enter each moment as an Event of unforeseeable possibility?
How to enter the mist?

Walk in His Will as it is Written. If the unwritable is written, then we can have some access to His Ways. We have the pages of an untellable and unfinishable string of experiences from and within and about the Mist. We're caught and lost somewhere in the middle, always in the middle of the Guru Granth Sahib - a book that has only a middle.
What if the Guru Granth Sahib is such a Book of Mist? Unfinishable. Deep beyond measure - where page 1 is not page 1 and page 1430 is not 1430? What if His Word does not live in words comfortably? What if the Word is too big to be told in words? What if His Name is the World but otherwise - the World we cannot measure and grasp? What kind of world is it when one cannot name it?
Is the world as Name then pure imagination? Where is the Guru talking to me from if not on my reciting and singing tongue? How does the Guru speak to me if not through my own mind? Which voices of my mind are the Guru's? What is the nature of this mist?
What if the Mind is what calculates? Then the mind is that which needs to be sacrificed to hear the Word Name God. One has to leave the mind at the door of the mist - but the entrance is hidden - hidden in the surprise of the event of the everyday - hidden in the quality of one's engagement.
How to listen without the mind?
Like a child, better still, an animal.
The animal, the plant, the elemental is the Mist in raw beauty.
How to love? What to love? Who to love?
Love the Creation as the miraculous work of the Creator, like a fish "loves" the water: without water a fish cannot be, nor is water an object to the fish that it admires or can have likes or dislikes about; the sufferings and challenges that come as the events of our lives are the very stuff that breath life into our lungs. Life is suffering and so much more.
The Khalsa is that being that thrives on this recognition: Life is Death, Live to Die! The very things that most of us try to avoid are the very things that would give us life. How many run after happiness and become grey with abundance of material wealth, and those that suffer daily poverty still share their food, color and conviviality.
Loving life for what it is (storm and calm sea) is not a matter of acceptance, it is not an ideology, nor a thought-system: it involves a severely dashed and broken heart wherein dwells only the love of a fish gasping for water: water is not an object; water is life. God is not a choice; God is the event of renewal.
O mind, love the Lord, as the lotus loves the water.
Tossed about by the waves, it still blossoms with love.
In the water, the creatures are created; outside of the water they die.
       [Sri Rag, Guru Nanak]

Love God without thought. Feel.
What if the ego that claims respect, only speaks for the body? What about the body of the Name? The body of the Word? The Body of the Guru? The body of the Fish, the Animal, the Child? To remember the elemental body. The body that feels, senses, absorbs.
If I am not (only) my body, for I have emotions, and I am not only my emotions for I have a mind, and I am not only my mind for I have a soul, and I am not only a soul for I am inseparable from That which is, for there is no other nor second (avar-na-duja), then I am not what I think I am and can never be what I think I am. Does this not then make me a permanent stranger to myself?
But this strangeness within me is blissful, fearless, formless, and sovereign - it permeates the animal kingdom in subconscious state. And it is only strange from the perspective of the wounded and dying ego, otherwise it is home. I want to be at home with the animal that I am. I am mystery unfathomable.
If my nature truly is without limit then I am possibility, I am life, I am the force of Nature. I am strength. I am beauty. I am carefree. I am unmovable like a mountain and shapeless as water. I am elemental. I am unimaginable. I am mist. I am beyond morality. I am beyond the human. I am dedicated to being without question. I am a sublime animal - never walking out of line with Natural Law, the writing of Nature, the Body of God functioning unpredictably.
How to recover the animal I already am?
Get the ego to sing of Him, so much so that when the singing no longer has a singer, there is only the song, then I return to the song, the universe in all its petals sings, because singing has no audience, for singing is life. The leaf only sings. The animal only sings. Sky, sea, land sing - nature, creation is a singing.
Have I sung this song yet, the song that Guru Nanak and others sang without thought, without desire to represent some truth? This song that is not an argument but the natural sound of form, that comes freely and touches those capable of hearing, the song that is not sung by a singer, but comes as a Gift to all, like the mist? And has this authorless song evaporated my human self?
But do I believe it can?
Because I know when I am loving I sing, and I disappear momentarily.... and the world blossoms from the dew of my engagement....

This is how I've been talking to myself through others lately. It will change as relations of love always change. I'd like to read, sing, recite a little more of these middle pages of my life, of this dimension-less writing, this incalculable book of unfinishablerasa and mist, my elemental Guru.
My guru and I are not two in the event of life's unpredictable moments - we meet in the mist of surprise, for my Master is perpetually new, and ever and ever the Giver. 
Saahibu meraa niita navaa sadaa sadaa daataaru. GGS:660,Dhanaasarii M1, 1.1

[Dr. Balbinder Singh Bhogal is Associate Professor in Religion and holder of the Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.]


  1. Thank you so much for this amazing writing. post more.

  2. Hi

    I just wanted to know why my comment regarding this article has been taken off. There was nothing offensive written in the article. I am looking forward to reading Mr. Bhogal's article in an upcoming journal as it seems to relate to this article.

  3. Hi,

    I never take any comment off this article. I am wondering what prompted you to think so.

    Anyways, would you please remind me who this is.


  4. I had written about liking teh article and not agreeing with the fact that Mr Bhogal had referred to Guru Granth Sahib Ji as a book... maybe that might help you to remember the message. I enjoyed his article..and thought he had some wonderful insights. I just didn't like that one point.

  5. The post was written in late October/November time. I'd appreciate if you put it back up as readers should be able to read all the posts and not selective ones, unless of course they are offensive, which mine was not :)

  6. I have never deleted any comment from this post. Maybe you thought about posting that comment but you never did.
    I do no delete any comments unless they are offensive or inappropriate otherwise.

  7. I am sorry but I do remembering posting it.It is pointless going back and forth with this and really is no big deal.

    Have a wonderful New Year!


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