Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Quenching Our Thirst

This morning's shabad from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib reads:

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਖ ਸਹਜੁ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਲਾਹੀ ਸਗਲ ਤਿਖਾ ॥
Says Nanak, I have obtained celestial peace and poise; the Guru has quenched all my thirst.
[Raag Saarang on Pannaa 1212]

Thirst, here, can claim multiple referents: it might speak to the mind's Mayaic material desires, lust, anger, corruption, emotional attachments, envy, stubbornness, fame, etc. - all of which function as instinctive forms of bondage and make us thirsty for liberation. Or, it might speak not to a state of over-attachment, but to one of pervasive emptiness - a feeling of directionlessness and triviality in our lives that hungers for plenitude and fulfillment.

Of course, the two poles may very well be related. At those moments when we experience an isolating sense of aimlessness - a withdrawal from life and from God into the egocentric self - do we not also find ourselves enveloped in the transitory nature of material things?

Bhupinder Singh describes this scene perfectly: when a young child receives a lollypop from her mother, she initially expresses tremendous gratitude to the person who gifted her such joy. With time, however, she becomes so enthralled by the pleasure of eating that she fails to notice as her mother wanders off. Upon finishing, the girl looks up and notices that her mother is nowhere to be found.

So, too, with our spiritual thirst. We must learn to cultivate both a lasting appreciation for the gift of Divine Essence and a willingness to indulge in the impulsive and creative fancies of the world around us, all the while staying present to the temporariness of the now moment. One might conclude: we must discipline our perception through spiritual practice (of whatever form: meditation, recitation of the Naam, prayer, etc.) so as to awaken the affective qualities deep within. In so doing, we will blur the stark distinction between the intangibility of God and the materiality of the universe, allowing us to see divine presence in all. We might even begin to see the world through the eyes of peace and poise.

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