Bhai Gurdas on Divali

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by Dr Harnaak Singh

There is so much misleading information being penned in relation to Gurbani. In recent days the attack is on Divali. The authors of these articles state that celebrating Divali (ਦੀਵਾਲੀ) is against Gurmat denigrating its practice with extreme language.

Let us see what our scriptures have to say about Divali (ਦੀਵਾਲੀ). The word Divali (ਦੀਵਾਲੀ) occurs in Vaaran Bhai Gurdas Vaar 19 Pauri 6 which is reproduced with English translation (from searchgurbani.com) below.

੬ : ਚੱਲਣ ਜੁਗਤ
ਦੀਵਾਲੀ ਦੀ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੀਵੇ ਬਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Lamps are lighted in the night of divali festival;
ਤਾਰੇ ਜਾਤਿ ਸਨਾਤਿ ਅੰਬਰਿ ਭਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
Stars of different variety appear in the sky;
ਫੁਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਾਗਾਤਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
In the gardens the flowers are there which are selectively plucked;
ਤੀਰਥਿ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਨੈਣ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
The pilgrims going to pilgrimage centres are also seen.
ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਝਾਤਿ ਵਸਾਇ ਉਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ।
The imaginary habitats have been seen coming into being and vanishing.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲ ਦਾਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਮ੍ਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ ॥੬॥
All these are momentary, but the gurmukhs with the help of the Word nourish the gift of the pleasure fruit.

Understanding Vaar 19:
Vaar 19 is generally outlining the interaction of the Gurmukh in Society. It starts by stating that humans are a part of the 84 lakhs of species (Paurdi 2) and that the Gurmukh is a guest in the world and briefs on the need for sustenance as well as maintaining humility while not getting attached to the world (Paurdi 3). While enjoying the provision by the providence (wealth, sport, music, festivities etc – essentially maya) the Gurmukh, contemplating truth follows the spiritual path instilling in oneself the five virtues and sheds the five evils by controlling his mind (Paurdi 4-6). The Gurmukh lives the life as a householder in society, working hard, experiencing happiness and suffering alike and accepting destiny but remains virtuous and achieves God realisation (Paurdi 7-10). The Gurmukh values the human life, cultivates God consciousness, shares one’s knowledge sincerely with love, not expecting returns, helps society with God realisation and always maintaining humility (Paurdi 11-14). The Gurmukh attains material and spiritual wisdom, always immersed in Naam and is a “source of light” for everyone (Paurdi 15-18). Always praising God the Gurmukh knows the truth, becomes perfect, wise, virtuous, is carefree of but enjoys the fruits of maya and becomes steadfast in God realisation (Paurdi 19-21).
Summary of Vaar 19 – The Gurmukh lives a “complete” life in society, always acting to the betterment of society, enjoying but being detached from maya, sheds the five evils and acquires the five virtures, accepts destiny, is always immersed in Naam, acquires wisdom and God realisation. This essentially outlines the three pillars of Sikhism
• immersion in Naam,
• earn a true and honest living and
• share the proceeds of one’s labour (both material and spiritual).

Now to Paurdi 6. The Gurmukh partakes and rejoices in the festivities that are a part of society but at all times is aware that these are maya and temporary and that God realisation is supreme. Examples of festivities mentioned are Divali (ਦੀਵਾਲੀ) and pilgrimages and associated activities of lights, flowers etc.

IT IS WITHOUT DOUBT THAT OUR GURUS TEACH US TO BE INVOLVED AND ENJOY THE ACTIVITIES IN OUR SOCIETY (CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS) BUT ALWAYS BE AWARE THAT THESE ARE TEMPORARY AND OUR TRUE MISSION IS GOD REALISATION.

Anyone who says that enjoying the Divali is MANMAT has not realised the true teaching of our Gurus. Not realising the true meaning, it is easy to denigrate such activities. Such do not look themselves in the mirror and do not realise, using a translated proverb, the elephant sitting on their eyelid BUT being able to see the germ on the bank across the river.

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