How Can Bithal Exist There?
In SikhRI’s new monthly blog series, Sabads previously transcreated for the Sabad of the Week podcast will be revisited, with the offering of an individual understanding and perspective on the application of the Sabad’s message in daily life.
ਆਨੀਲੇ ਕੁੰਭ ਭਰਾਈਲੇ ਊਦਕ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਉ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ਕਰਉ ॥|
ਬਇਆਲੀਸ ਲਖ ਜੀ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਹੋਤੇ ਬੀਠਲੁ ਭੈਲਾ ਕਾਇ ਕਰਉ ॥੧॥
ਜਤ੍ਰ ਜਾਉ ਤਤ ਬੀਠਲੁ ਭੈਲਾ ॥
ਮਹਾ ਅਨੰਦ ਕਰੇ ਸਦ ਕੇਲਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਆਨੀਲੇ ਫੂਲ ਪਰੋਈਲੇ ਮਾਲਾ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕੀ ਹਉ ਪੂਜ ਕਰਉ ॥
ਪਹਿਲੇ ਬਾਸੁ ਲਈ ਹੈ ਭਵਰਹ ਬੀਠਲ ਭੈਲਾ ਕਾਇ ਕਰਉ ॥੨॥
ਆਨੀਲੇ ਦੂਧੁ ਰੀਧਾਈਲੇ ਖੀਰੰ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਉ ਨੈਵੇਦੁ ਕਰਉ ॥
ਪਹਿਲੇ ਦੂਧੁ ਬਿਟਾਰਿਓ ਬਛਰੈ ਬੀਠਲੁ ਭੈਲਾ ਕਾਇ ਕਰਉ ॥੩॥
ਈਭੈ ਬੀਠਲੁ ਊਭੈ ਬੀਠਲੁ ਬੀਠਲ ਬਿਨੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਨਹੀ ॥
ਥਾਨ ਥਨੰਤਰਿ ਨਾਮਾ ਪ੍ਰਣਵੈ ਪੂਰਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਤੂੰ ਸਰਬ ਮਹੀ ॥੪॥੨॥
Bring a pitcher and fill it with water for bathing the deity.
But 4.2 million creatures live in the water (according to Hindu scriptures) —
How can Bithal* exist there? 1.
Everywhere I go, Bithal is present,
Always enjoying great bliss and play. 1. Reflect
Bring flowers and string a garland for worshipping the deity.
But the bumble-bee has already taken the fragrance—
How can Bithal exist there? 2.
Bring milk and cook pudding for an edible offering to the deity.
But the calf has already contaminated the milk—
How can Bithal exist there? 3.
Here Bithal, there Bithal—There is no world without Bithal.
Namdev submits: You are totally permeating the Universe—
all spaces and interspaces. 4.
Bhagat Namdev ji in Rag Asa | Guru Granth Sahib 485
*Deity in Jain and Vaishnav tradition but All-Pervasive for Bhagat Namdev.
Note: Interplay happening between Bithal and the deity. The religious world wants to always maintain the purity for their deity, but Namdev says the Divine is everywhere, so every space is pure.
Transcreation: Inni Kaur & Harinder Singh
May is mental health awareness month.
I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. I have gone through the waves and the ups and downs and the feelings of numbness and helplessness, the feeling of not wanting to be here anymore, the feeling of suffocating under the weight of what feels like infinite despair, falling into a cavernous pit of sadness, feeling all swallowed up.
This month, it hit me hard. I woke up and I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me, like I was having the wind continually knocked out of me, like someone was stepping on my chest. I have spent the month of April all swallowed up. I had forgotten how awful this feeling can be, the feeling of being weighed down by something heavier than heavy boots.
It is easier to talk about the feeling of teetering on the edge of here and there when you do not feel that way anymore. It is harder when you are right in the middle of it, still teetering. That’s where I’m at right now — and it is hard to admit without feeling scared and guilty, but if we just talked to each other more I think it would make all of this a bit easier for everyone who ever feels this way (let’s talk to each other more).
When I told Harinder Singh about what I was dealing with, he sent me an encouraging message and signed it “Guru Ang Sang,” a phrase I had never heard before but which (upon googling) I learned means something like: the Divine is in every part of you (every limb, every cell). I have thought so much about Ik Oankar, the One Force pervading all of creation, and the logical conclusion that comes from understanding that idea, that the Divine is within me, but I had never thought of it so physically that way before, especially in the middle of dealing with this feeling of wanting to say goodbye or I give up or I cannot do this anymore. It moved me to tears.
It also made me think about this sabad. This sabad has helped me a lot this month, because of how Bhagat Namdev comes to this conclusion:
Here Bithal, there Bithal—There is no world without Bithal.
Namdev submits: You are totally permeating the Universe— all spaces and interspaces.
It is not the conclusion that has helped me through this month. We already know that part, don’t we? That’s what we say, that Ik Oankar is one all-pervading creative Divine Force, a Force that permeates all things, moves through us, exists within us, that everything that exists is a part of this Great Big Oneness. Reminding myself of just that conclusion did not do much to help me in not feeling the way I felt this month. Logically, it should have. But it didn’t.
...reminding myself of Ik Oankar...
What really helped me was thinking about the questions that lead up to the conclusion. How can the Divine exist in places or situations that we feel are devoid of the One? How can the Divine exist in places where the fragrance has been taken away? When I feel like I am not myself, when I feel like my own Light has been dimmed into almost nothing, when I cannot step myself out of my heavy boots just by reminding myself of Ik Oankar — when I cannot think myself out of the way that I feel?
I have been thinking about what the inside of my house looks like at Golden Hour. How the light sticks and holds on extra tight to the parts of the windows that are scratched and dusty, how beautifully the not-so-perfect parts catch honey in their roughness as the sun sets each day, make shapes with each gust of wind, move and move and move so that each shadow of each leaf makes its way inside, little light shows for us when the day is done.
I have been thinking lately that even in those moments when it feels like the Divine has left me, like I am a shell of a thing, even then — I am full of Light. I can catch it in my roughness. I am not alone.
We have been talking a lot about gratitude these days, about how to ground ourselves in feeling thankful for things, big and small. Ideally, I would be able to focus on the things that I am grateful for even in those moments, and it would help me get out of feeling horrible. But I think it is possible to be grateful and also to feel far away from the Divine. I think it is possible to be grateful for some things and also to acknowledge that you are feeling a certain way that you cannot necessarily fix so easily.
I can tell myself everyday that Ik Oankar is within me, that even when I am all swallowed up I am not alone, that the Divine never leaves us. But I will spend the rest of my life on this earth trying to figure out how to internalize that. To believe it with my every breath.
In the meantime, I will collect things that make me feel gratitude and awe and bewilderment at this thing called life: a yellow house from a day when I felt the opposite of something heavier than heavy boots, to remind me of color and magic and of how we should hold on to ourselves for the good days to come (good days will come); my sister’s laugh, loud and melodic; how being with my friends from college feels like time travel; how I get to memorize the looks on their faces, the ways they laugh and the ways they smile when they are recounting their small epiphanies, like even they are surprised at how all of this life stuff is turning out; how we all got dressed up and drove 2 hours to celebrate a human we have all grown up with, how we danced in the yard while it was raining and laughed big belly laughs and jumped in the pool in the cold, and stayed up late playing the piano and singing and falling asleep in chairs; for the day I spent with my friends that we stretched out in our hands, the slowest day full of suspended moments, the day we went to a country club none of us belong to and went on a walk and skipped rocks and got fries and shakes and rode electric scooters as fast as we could around all the places we have walked so many times before; for days we talked a lot about nothing and also a little about some things, days we did dumb stuff just because, days we refused to act our age, days we walked with our arms wrapped around each other the way teenagers do, unmitigated public displays of affection, carrying and being carried/holding and being held by these people I love so fiercely; days when I did not think about my life at all, not even once, days I felt like myself all the way down to my toes; friends who remind me of who I am, who pull me back into my body and remind me what it feels like to have my feet planted firmly in the earth.
I will remember the day when I was driving home and the air looked like it was made of roses or cotton candy or something pink and warm and good and I thought I was hallucinating but I looked up and the sky was all pink too and I drove home and watched a flock of birds take off one by one from a roof by the parking lot. I will try to remember all of the times I feel like I am in a dream even if they are short because my mom has always told me that it is good to collect small happy things like moments and feelings to keep for days that feel heavy. And I think if I am collecting them I might as well share them so that other people can save them for those days, too, so that we can all have a lot of small and easily-pocketable good things to get us through, so we can close our eyes and remember exactly what all that good stuff feels like for a day when things aren’t so ok.
I will find my somewheres and my sometimes and keep them close, put the people and places I love in the safest smallest nooks of the shelves in my heart so that even when the somewhere or the sometime I need is far far away I can be there anyway (make homes in your heart, I promise you will never run out of room).
My grandparents came to this country in 1964 and moved into a little house in Ithaca, NY. My dad always talks about how their family room was a hexagon and how there were three big windows looking out into the front yard and no furniture, just a carpet, and how the light would come in every morning from the windows and how every morning Papa Ji would sit there in the center of that hexagonal room, cross-legged on the carpet with a shawl loosely draped around his shoulders while he quietly did his prayers to the rising of the sun, a spotlight slowly illuminating him and the words he whispered into each quiet morning. I don't do my prayers as I should, and I don't talk to the Divine the way I want to, but this morning I sat in the center of my room on the center of my carpet with Papa Ji's shawl draped loosely around my shoulders, and I don't know if I was looking for peace or a clear head or closeness to the things around me, or if I was even looking for anything at all but I whispered the same words into the ears of this quiet morning hoping it could hear me and knew I was trying to say "thank you" and "I’m trying" and "I am so happy to be alive." I am so happy to be alive.
And I will try to remember that even in the moments when I feel I have lost my fragrance, when I feel that life has lost its fragrance, when I feel like I am fading fast and like the Divine has abandoned me, that Bithal is present, that the Divine exists in all spaces and interspaces, “good” and “bad,” fragrant or not. There is no place or moment in my life in which I am alone, no place or moment in my life where I do not have the Divine within me and around me. I will try to remember what Bhagat Namdev has been telling me over and over again this month, that I don’t have to do any of it — especially not the hard parts — by myself.
Jasleen Kaur is a lover of poetry and the power of words, of everything outside (especially birds), and of the study of religion. She serves as a researcher at SikhRI.