The first composition in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the living spiritual teachings of the Sikhs as experienced through the Word, is Jap Ji Sahib. It is a call to the soul of the Everyman and woman, showing us the steps to becoming a God-conscious being while here on earth. It is composed by Guru Nanak who spoke out for the integrity of the spirit within. He opened the door to the lowest social classes to enjoy a relationship with the Divine without a need for license or permission, special education, social status or family caste. He was considered a Prophet of the poor, of those considered to be outcasts, and he uplifted them to higher states of being.
The first teaching in Jap Ji Sahib is that there is a command or order. Sikhs call it a Hukamnama which is understood as being the Command of God. It is a universal order, in alignment with our soul, and a Sikh is called to bow and surrender before the Will of God.
The second teaching we are given in Jap Ji is to listen to the command.
The third is to obey the command.
When asked how to become a truthful person, Guru Nanak replied that it is by living according to God’s Will and order.
The creation, life, birth, death, joy, sorrow, peace, pain and pleasure, are all under God’s order and all is equal. When we recognise, accept and agree to this, we don’t suffer under the delusion of the ego-mind which is always measuring, judging, strategising, rationalising, trying to gain credit, control and acknowledgement.
God is vast. God is everywhere and seemingly nowhere. And to bring God into focus we need an altar. Yogi Bhajan said the altar is the only alternative; it is a mirror to our highest being, representing the highest principles and virtues which we can aspire to crystallise in this human life.
By being small in front of the same altar everyday gives us focus. We make a commitment to one altar and we are reminded that God is everything and we are nothing. A transmission happens. When we bow our head, we offer our ego-mind to God, and surrender ourselves to God’s Will. All comes from God and all returns to God. There is no credit that belongs to us.
Guru Nanak was the first Sikh Guru. He built the foundation of the Sikh way of life, and He represents the virtue of humility. So this could be considered the first virtue of the spiritual path.
Rare is the one who can walk the path of the Guru. It’s not easy. You need humility to even attempt it and it requires having to keep picking yourself up each time you fall. There is no place for pride.
His poetry deeply expresses the extreme humility of the soul’s state of consciousness. Again and again He refers to himself as the lowest of the low, the servant of the servant, and the dust of the dust. He reduced himself to the smallest particle or unit.
However, to be small, to be humble, isn’t to be humiliated or to diminish our existence. This is the corruption or virus on the other side of the coin of humility. If in life a situation generates a feeling of humiliation, Guru Nanak is there to remind us that we have the opportunity to experience the virtue of humility, so turn the coin over, don’t go down the road of self-destruction – instead, stay on the path that maintains the integrity of our spirit.
The Guru’s teachings also remind us that if we want to serve and express love for God, the way to do this is to serve humanity. It is through humility that we are put into right relation to God and to God’s creation. Selfless service humbles us; not bowing to any one, yet bowing to the God in all.
Humility is a state of being as well as a continual daily process of learning to listen, obey and act upon God’s Hukam. The ten Sikh Gurus were the perfect human embodiment of the highest virtues, starting with Guru Nanak who was a masterful expression of the humility that we feel when we contemplate and experience the oneness of all.
Liberation is to be freed from the shackles and attachments of the ego-mind. We can only achieve liberation while we are here on earth, through our service to God in all and accepting God’s Will in all things. So that “my will” becomes “Thy Will”.
Humility is the first step on the path of liberation and Guru Nanak is the light that guides the way.
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Angad Kaur is Project Manager of the Guru Ram Das Project, a Sikh Chaplain and a Kundalini Yoga teacher and trainer.