Whichever day comes, that day goes.
Stay is impermanent, departure is imminent.
Companions are departing. I too will be departing.
Long journey ahead. Death hovering overhead. 1.
O! Ignorant. Wake up! Why are you asleep?
You deem the life in this world to be eternal. 1. Reflect.
The One who gives life, also nourishes.
Inside all beings, dispensing consumables.
Embrace devotion, leave “I” and “mine.”
At dawn, remember Nam1 within the heart. 2.
Life is passing, Path is not beautified.
Dusk descends. Everywhere darkness spreads.
Ravidas says, O! Ignorant, crazy being,
No Remembrance? The world is a perishable house. 3.
- Divine Identification
Bhagat Ravidas in Suhi Rag | Guru Granth Sahib 793
ਜੋ ਦਿਨ ਆਵਹਿ ਸੋ ਦਿਨ ਜਾਹੀ ॥
ਕਰਨਾ ਕੂਚੁ ਰਹਨੁ ਥਿਰੁ ਨਾਹੀ ॥
ਸੰਗੁ ਚਲਤ ਹੈ ਹਮ ਭੀ ਚਲਨਾ ॥
ਦੂਰਿ ਗਵਨੁ ਸਿਰ ਊਪਰਿ ਮਰਨਾ ॥੧॥
ਕਿਆ ਤੂ ਸੋਇਆ ਜਾਗੁ ਇਆਨਾ ॥
ਤੈ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਜਗਿ ਸਚੁ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਜਿਨਿ ਜੀਉ ਦੀਆ ਸੁ ਰਿਜਕੁ ਅੰਬਰਾਵੈ ॥
ਸਭ ਘਟ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਹਾਟੁ ਚਲਾਵੈ ॥
ਕਰਿ ਬੰਦਿਗੀ ਛਾਡਿ ਮੈ ਮੇਰਾ ॥
ਹਿਰਦੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰਿ ਸਵੇਰਾ ॥੨॥
ਜਨਮੁ ਸਿਰਾਨੋ ਪੰਥੁ ਨ ਸਵਾਰਾ ॥
ਸਾਂਝ ਪਰੀ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਅੰਧਿਆਰਾ ॥
ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਨਿਦਾਨਿ ਦਿਵਾਨੇ ॥
ਚੇਤਸਿ ਨਾਹੀ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਫਨ ਖਾਨੇ ॥੩॥੨॥
Sabad is Infinite; we are very finite. We always say that our understanding of a sabad at a moment was different yesterday and may evolve tomorrow, as we deepen our relationship with it. This one has been a constant in my life over the last 13 years, coming to me at moments when I needed it, and bringing me new lessons to learn each time. For that reason, this post will be presented in two parts, exploring the ways my understanding has changed with time, and the ways in which the words of Bhagat Ravidas have helped me through all of this life stuff all these years.
This is the first Hukam I can remember hearing, or maybe the first one I remember hitting me in my heart, getting stuck in all the nooks and crannies. I was twelve years old, sleeping in my room as Papa Ji and Mummi Ji read from the Guru Granth Sahib one morning. They were sitting in the room below mine, and as Papa Ji began to sing with his voice strong and clear and lilting through the air, the sound made its way up to me, and I hopped out of bed to sit with them. I watched in awe at the way he swayed with each note as it left him, each syllable slow and beautiful. And as he sang, I saw his eyes well up with tears and I remember being confused. My grandfather has always been quick to misty-eyed smiles, but this was the first time I saw something other than happy tears. I looked over at Mummi Ji and her eyes glistened with the same sadness, but I did not understand. I remember wondering what words they were reading, what words could possibly fill the room with such weight. I walked over and looked at the page number, memorizing it so that I could find the translation later on. This was the sabad that moved them to tears that day, and from then on, I thought about it all the time, hoping to better understand it as it moved with me through the years.
To this day, it seems to follow me around, and each time it comes to me, it tells me something new, offers a different perspective and a needed push in some direction at whatever stage in my life it happens to find me.
Sometimes it is a reminder that despite how awful things can be, how sometimes it feels like the world is on fire, we must march on. There was the day after the 2016 election. I woke up heartbroken and afraid for the future. I stayed in my room all day, and I sat right in the center of my grief, wrapped in my blanket feeling like a dream had died (or, at least, any sense of hope I had that we could be better than we are). It wasn’t a surprising outcome but that did not make it feel any less horrible. And I had been sitting in my hopelessness and despair for a whole day when this sabad came to me, and I found comfort in the repetition of this line:
ਜੋ ਦਿਨ ਆਵਹਿ ਸੋ ਦਿਨ ਜਾਹੀ ॥
Whichever day comes, that day goes.
Nothing remains stable, and maybe that is a thing I can be further terrified by, but maybe instead there is solace in knowing that all things which come must also go.
Bhagat Ravidas told me to march on.
Sometimes when it comes to me, it is a simple: get moving, girl! There was the time after graduation. I was 23 and standing still, unable to move out of fear of what I might find on the journey to wherever. I was thinking a whole lot, and doing very little, paralyzed by possibility. I kept thinking about how so much of being a human is existing in this constant state of not-always-knowing. I kept thinking about what my grandma said to me a long time ago, about how everything happens because it teaches us something, we just have to figure out what it is. How people constantly think of all of the things they could be doing and stressing about the infinitude of those possibilities, like we have this map of our lives that we are trying to see bird’s-eye style, but we are small. We are small and stuck here on the big ground and so we can't see the whole picture, or the whole map and all the roads that lead to all of the somewheres we could end up in.
I thought about how we overthink and freak out and overwhelm ourselves as if there is no time or space to make mistakes or take the long road or take a different route just to see if there is something we are missing like a nice view or a lake or a field of wildflowers. How we never think to stop along the way, look around, take it in. How we think that once we have started alone along one route there is no going off it or turning back or finding a new place to explore.
I keep thinking about something Papa Ji said to me recently, as I went through another small post-grad crisis. He was saying how life is funny the way it is hard to see from the ground, how bird’s-eye views always come years later, where we can say, “You know, I think that really hard decision I made all those years ago was the right one, and I am glad I listened to my gut instead of worrying about what people would think.” He talked about how trees lose their leaves as the seasons change and those moments of colorless cold and feeling bare-branched and alone are hard, but that spring always comes. All it takes is getting through the waiting. That is how life comes, he said, always in seasons, all on its own, whether we like it or not, whether we notice the seasons changing or not. Hold on to yourself, he said, good days are ahead. So I have learned, from the people in my life, and from Bhagat Ravidas and his impeccable timing, to take my time and take my space and make mistakes and remember that moving forward in any direction is scary but standing still is scarier.
We must not stand still.
Professor Puran Singh in Spirit of the Sikh discusses the Sikh conception of the principles of Nam (Divine-Identification) and Simran (Remembrance). We have this idea, he says, that Nam and Simran in the Sikh context are exactly the same as they are in the Hindu context (or larger Indic context). Both versions of Nam and Simran result in a kind of peace, but the meditative, asceticism-oriented and dead peace of the Indic context is diametrically opposed to the active and creative peace of the Sikh context. One is peace resulting from blissful ignorance — a refusal to see the world as it is and to exist in it — to allow some sort of illusion to become so cemented in your mind that it rusts over, creating an image of the world that is not real, and obscuring from view the world as it exists in reality. The other is a peace resulting from an awareness of the world and the all-pervading One, and an active involvement in the world we have been put in, an understanding of the gift we have been given to create, to take part in one of the abilities of our Creator. It is our responsibility, Professor Puran Singh says, to engage in that creative power, to understand life as an art, to live it all out as an artist moving through the world, making and making, leaving beautiful things in your wake.
We must leave beautiful things in our wake. We must not stand still. Sometimes we think we are doing alright, we think we are not standing still, we think we are living our lives and that being in motion is enough — that going through the motions is enough.
Guru Nanak Sahib in Asa Ki Var discusses the way we can still be standing still even when we think we have cracked the code. Guru Sahib lists out different things that churn, or go in circles, literally alluding to the act of going through the motions, encircling mindlessly the way an eagle might. It is not enough, I know, to move in a direction that distracts us from the Divine Command governing all things. If it means bowing to other commands, other ideas of how our lives should be — whether that be in the form of a passionless 9-5 behind a desk doing consulting work when you’d really rather be an artist because that is what calls your heart, tugs at it in a way that feels like something big and important, or taking a job that makes you enough money to make your parents happy but that slowly eats away at you until you have lived an entire life, whittled away until the very end. It is especially easy now, when we are so interconnected, so keyed into what everyone else is doing, so aware of all of the things we are not — to lose sight of what matters. It is easy to think you are not doing enough or that you are not on the right track or that everyone else has it figured out. It is easy to think that you must align your own life with whatever expectations you have gleaned from the lives of those around you, whether it is your peers from high school or college, or even just the things we have been conditioned to see as acceptable ways to spend our time, things that we use to measure “success.”
So here is where Bhagat Ravidas saying whichever day comes, that day goes, has meant two things to me: it is a reassurance, yes, that the days that suck are transient, but it is also an urgent call to live a life that aligns with that Divine Command. A life that is not just waking up each morning to spend all my time going through the motions.
This sabad has gently nudged me forward, too many times to count — moved me in some tangible direction, reminded me that the hard days — the days when I cannot get myself to do much of anything — are transient. That every time I wake up I get another chance to do something with my day, to take even a single little step towards some discernible path that even slightly aligns itself with the one I am meant to be on. Whichever day comes, that day goes. What a lucky thing.
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.