The Realm Without Sorrow
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.
‘Be-gam-pura’ – City’s name is ‘Sorrow-less-ville.’
No pain or anxiety in that place.
No grief, no taxes on commodities.
No fear of error, no fear of loss. 1.
Now I have discovered a great homeland.
O! My brother, there is always goodness there. 1. Reflect.
Sovereignty is always stable.
No second or third, only oneness there.
Always populated and famous.
The contented wealthy dwell there. 2
As they please, so, so, they stroll;
Mansion-knowers, no one blocks their access.
Ravidas, the freed cobbler, says:
One who resides in my town is my friend.
Bhagat Ravidas ji in Rag Gauri | Guru Granth Sahib 345
Transcreation: Inni Kaur & Harinder Singh
ਰਾਗੁ ਗਉੜੀ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਜੀ ਕੇ ਪਦੇਗਉੜੀ ਗੁਆਰੇਰੀ
ੴ ਸਤਿਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
ਬੇਗਮ ਪੁਰਾ ਸਹਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ ॥
ਦੂਖੁ ਅੰਦੋਹੁ ਨਹੀ ਤਿਹਿ ਠਾਉ ॥
ਨਾਂ ਤਸਵੀਸ ਖਿਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਮਾਲੁ ॥
ਖਉਫੁ ਨ ਖਤਾ ਨ ਤਰਸੁ ਜਵਾਲੁ ॥੧॥
ਅਬ ਮੋਹਿ ਖੂਬ ਵਤਨ ਗਹ ਪਾਈ ॥
ਊਹਾਂ ਖੈਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਕਾਇਮੁ ਦਾਇਮੁ ਸਦਾ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੀ ॥
ਦੋਮ ਨ ਸੇਮ ਏਕ ਸੋ ਆਹੀ ॥
ਆਬਾਦਾਨੁ ਸਦਾ ਮਸਹੂਰ ॥
ਊਹਾਂ ਗਨੀ ਬਸਹਿ ਮਾਮੂਰ ॥੨॥
ਤਿਉ ਤਿਉ ਸੈਲ ਕਰਹਿ ਜਿਉ ਭਾਵੈ ॥
ਮਹਰਮ ਮਹਲ ਨ ਕੋ ਅਟਕਾਵੈ ॥
ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਖਲਾਸ ਚਮਾਰਾ ॥
ਜੋ ਹਮ ਸਹਰੀ ਸੁ ਮੀਤੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥੩॥੨॥
Though this sabad is primarily about the practical Begampura in the world, when I was thinking about it, I started to wonder what a Begampura of the mind would look like. What would it look like to operate in the world in a way that allows for some sort of realm without sorrow within my own being? Can I be a walking Begampura? Can I create that space in my brain, make a small mental sorrowless world for myself so that I am able to experience life with sweet perception?
Don’t we all have the power to create small words like that? I have been thinking a lot lately about the ability we have as human beings to create things — worlds and spaces and memories — to make and make and make.
I have been thinking lately about what it means to make a thing. And I have been thinking lately about the Divine in ways that are maybe blasphemous, as a force that keeps creating and creating for the purpose of trying to know themselves better the same way we make things and make things to try and figure out who we are. I have been thinking lately about how maybe the Divine is just trying to uncover and understand all of the infinite facets of themselves in their work — like what are all of the ways I am merciful, what are all of the ways a force like me can be beautiful and majestic and just and loving?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I have been thinking about the way human beings take part in world-making on a smaller scale. World-making is drawing pictures that no one can decipher when you are a kid, painting and getting your hands dirty outside making mud pies with your siblings. World-making is plastering everything that is nice to look at and everything that makes you feel something onto the walls of your bedroom when you are 15 and afraid because the only thing that makes sense when you are trying to figure out who you are and how to get through the not knowing the answers part is to surround yourself with images of the things you love and the things you find beautiful.
It is a way to make sense of the things that don’t always make sense, documenting and trying to fashion some sort of understanding out of things that are much bigger than us.
My Uncle Max is a photographer and an artist, and he has always been so unafraid to make things. He taught me how to use a camera, and when I was in middle school, we used to make stop animation movies out of pinecones and plastic ducks and anything else we could find. He taught me how to make little worlds in my head and how to put them out into this big world. He taught me how to not be afraid. He is the hero of believing in me and in my ability to world-make.
Lately I have been thinking about photography, about photographs as moments burned into my brain, little pieces of magic and big miracles that I might have otherwise missed, things to return to when I am feeling like my days are particularly devoid of magic, feelings of nostalgia that sit right inside the dull and constant aching of my heart and help me understand where the aching comes from, a desire to be in so many places at once so many moments at once, to catch good things in my hands, to sit in only the things that feel like big magic and big miracles (and when my immediate reality does not allow for that, reassuring me that I can always come back to the memories I keep in my pocket).
“quick blurry dream"
I once read a sabad that said this world is a waystation. The world is all moments, I think, a “transitory night-dream,” as transcreated once by Inni Kaur, a “quick blurry dream,” as described by my grandma. Sometimes it is hard to put things into focus (or maybe, hard to put things into perspective). Sometimes we forget to stop and smell the roses because we cannot see them anymore, we are too busy looking ahead or down at our feet, we take things quickly, we deal with hard things by zeroing in on them.
Taking a picture can mean taking a small moment of miracle or magic and blowing it up real big, cementing it in your heart to come back to again and again, so maybe world-making isn’t always just “making things up,” maybe it is more of a change in perspective that you didn’t always know you needed — or a change in perspective you knew you needed, but you did not know how to go about getting to.
I don’t know what it would really look like, to have a small Begampura in my brain, but I would like to think that all of this making has been good practice or a good starting point. Maybe that is the key to the Begampura of the mind: a change in perspective, a refocusing, a deliberate slowing down to look carefully at the whole picture, to hold it up to the light.
Lately, I have been watching some of the people I love fade away from me, because that is life and that is time and it is hard, and I am learning to cope as I go. And I have stopped constantly feeling like things are unfair and started trying to find ways to remember each little thing that I might have missed before, tried to find every beautiful thing I can, tried to document and spend my time holding memories in my hands.
Mummi Ji sometimes forgets things. She tells stories about things that didn’t happen or gets different people confused with one another. One day, I caught myself saying something like “Oh, what she says isn’t reality,” and then I thought to myself, what does that even mean?
It doesn’t mean anything — all of us are busy world-making in our heads and outside of them, so what would that even mean?
So instead, I have been thinking lately about the truths that come out when my grandmother “misremembers,” feelings that are communicated better by the things her new memories reveal. The other day she was talking about her older brother. She was telling me how they were so close growing up, how she felt so completely seen and understood by him, how he knew that when he brought home gifts for his sisters, hers would be different because she didn’t have the same taste in clothing as them — she liked simple, neutral colors with a nice embroidery.
And then, she started telling this story about how when they were younger, her dad gave her brother some money and told him to go into town and use the money to make some investments. But, she said, when her brother went into town, he saw hungry sadhus sitting by a tree and instead of using the money for investments, he used it to buy them all food, and that is how the first langar was started.
She was telling a sakhi (story) about Guru Nanak Sahib. But at that moment, as she sat with tears in her eyes, beaming, it was clear that she could have sworn it was her older brother, this hero of her life, the person who she felt understood her more than anyone. She was telling a sakhi about Guru Nanak Sahib. And if that doesn’t say a whole lot more about how she feels about her brother, about how much she loves him, about the space he occupies in the world she has created in her own mind, then I don’t know what else does.
We say that things are true or they aren’t, but what do we know about True with a capital “T”? Aren’t we constantly world-making, adjusting, creating memories of things in ways that are slightly different from the memories of the others who were there? Don’t we each paint our memories of the same events a little differently?
So tonight, I will sit with Mummi Ji and braid her hair, and she will tell me what she can remember and most of it won’t “true” but maybe it is true now in its own weird way.
Maybe there is something true in the worlds we make, in the realms of imagination and individual perception, in the spaces that help us cope and understand and recenter — in the Begampuras in our minds.
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.