I remember when I first left home for college.
The insecurity of making new friends. The longing for connection. Searching to tell a story about myself that would capture people's interest, create the relationships. Age eighteen, wandering through the dorms, knowing no one, seeking to invent an identity different from what I had as a child - an identity that would work in this boundless and unknown new life.
Slowly, over time, the conversations began. And I remember that so many people found connections with each other, not necessarily by what they loved, or enjoyed; but by sharing their pain with one another. What they had experienced as a child. What injustices they felt in their own lives, and in the world.
Through the months and years, some bonds formed from shared interest. But other bonds formed from the opposite - from what people felt angry about. What they rebelled against. What they wanted to see altered in themselves or in society.
A few years later, a window began to open up inside of me.
A small little glimmer of a voice said, "It is not my wounds that make me beautiful". I began to resist my own self-definition that was rooted in painful memories of the past, or anger at the state of the world. I could feel something else inside - something that didn't need any of that anger or pain - to be worthy, to be special, to be strong, to have friends and create connection.
There was another Identity deep within - pure, happy and light.
Eventually, the Shabad Guru came into my life. And this feeling of defining myself by my inner negative feelings versus defining myself by my inner positive Light took on a whole new dimension.
What I have found by meditating on the Shabad Guru as manifested in the Guru Granth Sahib is that the Guru does not relate to the negative at all. In fact, there's been many a time when I've come across a line and said to myself, "The Guru can't say that, can He?"
The Guru's sayings totally challenge the way I think about the world. Here are a couple of examples:
The one whose touch pollutes the world,
Even he knows Your mercy.
[Ravdas, GGS, p 1106]
So many are
Continually beaten down
By endless pain and hunger.
Are your Gifts to us,
O Great Giver.
[Guru Nanak, Japji: 25]
This poisonous world
That you behold
Is really simply
[Guru Amar Das, Anand: 36]
In my journey since my college days, I have been able to redefine "me" to myself in much more positive terms. But the teachings of the Shabad Guru challenge me to go even further.
The Shabad Guru asks me to see the positive aspect of every and any situation. That no matter how negative it may appear or seem on the surface, the Light of the Divine is at the heart of it. The hand of the Creator is guiding it. It has purpose beyond what my mind can know or imagine.
We see a lot of ugliness in life. We see a lot of pain. And what happens is that when we see this ugliness, somehow our mind decides to live there. To wallow in it. To think that happiness, peace, and bliss rests outside of ourselves. We complain bitterly, or feel victimized when the physical environment does not act the way we want. Or worse - when the environment harms us.
But the Guru's wisdom is a defense against that. The Guru's words ask us to enter into a direct, transcendent experience that the Divine lives in the essence of all things. And whatever is happening is happening by the hand of the One, which guides all and does all. It's a difference of horizon. The mind can have a very finite, limited horizon. This moment. This lifetime. What I want. What I don't want. Constantly measuring every person and event against an idealized fantasy of what would serve "me".
Or the mind can have an infinite horizon. One that sees this life in the context of a vaster, much larger play. One that sees all things, including oneself, being carried along. Even the ugliest, most terrible, awful experiences can be re-framed in a positive way.
That is what the power of the Shabad gives, so that the mind can feel genuinely positive even in the face of the worst situations. That is victory. That is Fateh! And that is a human life worth living.
So, as we celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Guru Gaddi, we learn and re-learn to appreciate the Guru's message of Chardhi Kalaa!
May the songs of Guru Granth Sahib transform our thoughts so that we may leave every negative feeling behind and bask in the bliss.
-Ek Ong Kaar Kaur