Apr 072014


According to Gurbani, mukti is a state of liberation from maya and the vices that generally control us. It is a state that is achievable while we are alive, rather than what we may be granted after we die. Gurbani discusses mukti and related concepts in the context of our surat rather than that of our physical body. This is because the spiritual journey in Sikhi is that of our surat, and not that of our physical body. Accordingly, rituals performed at the level of our physical body cannot help us achieve mukti. Gurbani offers advice on how living our life according to Guru’s message can lead us to achieving mukti.

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The concept of mukti in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
(Satpal Singh)

First and foremost, I would like to thank the organizers for the honor and the privilege to share some thoughts on mukti, as I understand from Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

I must admit that it is a difficult topic, particularly for someone without any expertise or training in theology. I hope that with input from those who are present here, particularly those with expertise in Sikh theology, we would have a fruitful conversation.

The context in which to understand the concept of mukti

In order to understand the concept of mukti in Gurbani, we first need to understand the overall context in which mukti and related concepts have been discussed in SGGS.

A foundational principle enunciated in SGGS, including in the first pauri of Jap ji Sahib, is that our spiritual journey is the journey of our surat, our consciousness, and not that of our physical body. This important principle underlies various aspects of our spiritual mission.

In response to a question from the yogis, Guru ji said:

ਪਵਨ ਅਰੰਭੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਲਾ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥…॥੪੪॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 943}
The air marks the beginning of life. This life is the time to follow True Guru’s Teachings. The Shabad is the Guru, and my consciousness the disciple.

Neither our Guru (shabad), nor the follower (surat), is a physical body. Thus it is for our surat to undertake the spiritual journey, not for our body.

In addition, all our spiritual striving, including the focus of all our prayers, meditation, and adoration, is related to the Creator itself, and not to any creation. This is independent of whether something has been created directly by the Creator (such as the Stars, the Sun, the Moon, various animals and other living beings, or inanimate objects), or it has been crafted or established by humans or other animals, such as buildings, idols, a specific language, caste, various religions traditions, or other divisions among humanity.

The above principles form the framework for all aspects of our spiritual life, including irrelevance of rituals, the meaning of Guru’s darshan and naam simran, the approach to mukti, the mukti itself, and ultimately the concept of being one with Waheguru.

The concept of mukti in Sikhi

In Sikhi, mukti means liberation from maya and the vices that control us.

ਏਕ ਨਗਰੀ ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਬਸੀਅਲੇ ਬਰਜਤ ਚੋਰੀ ਧਾਵੈ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਹਦਸ ਮਾਲ ਰਖੈ ਜੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਮੋਖ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 503}
In the one village of the body, live the five thieves; they have been warned, but they still go on stealing. One who keeps his spiritual assets safe from the three modes and the ten passions, O Nanak, attains liberation and emancipation.

ਬੰਧਨ ਕਾਟਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਜਨੁ ਭਇਆ ॥ ਜਨਮ ਮਰਨ ਦੂਖੁ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਗਇਆ ॥…॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 289}
The bonds of the humble servant are cut away, and he is liberated. The pains of birth and death, and doubt are gone.

ਕਾਮਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧਿ ਲੋਭਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਮਨੁ ਲੀਨਾ ॥ ਬੰਧਨ ਕਾਟਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨਾ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 804}
The mind is engrossed in sexual desire, anger, greed and emotional attachment. Breaking these bonds, the Guru has liberated me.

Mukti: while we are still alive

In many traditions, mukti and related concepts, like heaven and hell, are generally related to what happens to us after we die, i.e., after we leave our body.

However, according to SGGS, as mentioned above, mukti is a goal for our surat, and not that of our body. Since it is what our surat has to achieve, it can be achieved by the actions of our surat and not those of our body. And since it is liberation from maya and the vices that control us, this liberation can be achieved while we are alive. It is not something that would be granted to us after we die if we perform some designated rituals or live our life in a prescribed way.

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 522}
O Nanak, meeting the True Guru, one comes to know the Perfect Way. While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, he is liberated.

In fact, many shabads in SGGS directly emphasize that mukti is not something that is granted to us after our death.

ਥਾਕਾ ਤੇਜੁ ਉਡਿਆ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਖੀ ਘਰਿ ਆਂਗਨਿ ਨ ਸੁਖਾਈ ॥ ਬੇਣੀ ਕਹੈ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਰੇ ਭਗਤਹੁ ਮਰਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਿਨਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 93}
Your light has gone out, and the bird of your mind has flown away; you are no longer welcome in your own home and courtyard. Says Baynee, listen, O devotee: who has ever attained liberation after death?

ਮੂਏ ਹੂਏ ਜਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੇਹੁਗੇ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਕੋਇਲਾ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1292}
If You grant liberation after the death, none will even know about such liberation.

ਜਉ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਦੂਰਿ ਕਰਤ ਹਉ ਤਉ ਤੁਮ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬਤਾਵਹੁ ॥ ਏਕ ਅਨੇਕ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਿਓ ਸਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਅਬ ਕੈਸੇ ਭਰਮਾਵਹੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਾਮ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਤਾਰਿ ਕਹਾਂ ਲੈ ਜਈ ਹੈ ॥ ਸੋਧਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਹਾ ਦੇਉ ਕੈਸੀ ਕਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਾਈ ਹੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਤਾਰਨ ਤਰਨੁ ਤਬੈ ਲਗੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਅਬ ਤਉ ਬਿਮਲ ਭਏ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੨॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1104}
If You keep me away from You, then tell me, what is liberation? You, the One, dwell within all of us assuming many forms; how can You confuse me now? ||1|| Waheguru, where will You take me, to save me? Tell me where, and what sort of liberation shall You give me? By Your Grace, I have already obtained it. ||1||Pause|| As long as people don’t understand the essence of reality, they talk of salvation and being saved. I have now become pure within my heart, says Kabeer, and my mind is pleased and appeased. ||2||

Death as spiritual death, not physical death

The concept of mukti, which is the aim of our surat and not that of our body, is related to the concept of being spiritually alive. At many places, SGGS enunciates the fact that it is spiritual death, and not the physical death of our body, that is of consequence in our spiritual journey.

ਆਖਾ ਜੀਵਾ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਉ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 9}
Remembering Waheguru, I live; forgetting Waheguru, I die.

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਤਾਂ ਜੀਵਾਂ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਥੀਵੈ ਹਰਿਆ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1429}
O Nanak, if I am blessed with the Naam, I live, and my body and mind blossom forth.

Thus keeping our conscious attuned to Waheguru is critical to being spiritually alive. At the same time, being attuned to Waheguru is all that is needed to achieve mukti:

ਓਹੁ ਧਨਵੰਤੁ ਕੁਲਵੰਤੁ ਪਤਿਵੰਤੁ ॥ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਜਿਸੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਭਗਵੰਤੁ ॥…॥੮॥੨੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 294}
He is wealthy and prosperous, and of noble birth; he is Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive; in whose heart the Lord God abides.

Viewing it from these points of view, mukti is linked to the state of being spiritually alive as we course through our life, rather than to the state of being bodily dead.

Sacrificing our ‘self’

In a similar way, the act of sacrificing ourselves, or of giving up our head, also relates to our surat, rather than to our body or to our physical head. In fact, giving up our ‘self’ is critical to adopting Guru’s message and to living in Waheguru’s Will.

ਤੈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕੀ ਬਾਤ ਜਿ ਆਖੈ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਆ ਦੀਜੈ ॥ ਸੀਸੁ ਵਢੇ ਕਰਿ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਵਿਣੁ ਸਿਰ ਸੇਵ ਕਰੀਜੈ ॥…॥੧॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 557-558}
One who brings me a message from my Lord and Master — says Nanak, what shall I offer him? Cutting off my head, I shall offer it to him to sit upon; renouncing my ‘self’, I shall serve Him.

ਸੁਣਿ ਯਾਰ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਸਜਣ ਇਕ ਕਰਉ ਬੇਨੰਤੀਆ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਮੋਹਨ ਲਾਲ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਹਉ ਫਿਰਉ ਖੋਜੰਤੀਆ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਦਸਿ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰੀ ਉਤਾਰੇ ਇਕ ਭੋਰੀ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 703}
Listen, O my close friend — I have just one prayer to make. I have been wandering around, searching for that enticing, sweet Beloved. Whoever leads me to my Beloved — I would cut off my head and offer it to him, even if I were granted the Blessed Vision of His Darshan for just an instant.

In addition, it is worth noticing here that such offer of sacrifice, or total surrender, is not in exchange for any demand, including the demand for mukti, as that would make it a trade. Instead, it is the expression of pure unconditional love for, and devotion to, one’s beloved.

Since Waheguru communicates to us in the language of unconditional and boundless love…

ਸਾਚਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਨਾਇ ਭਾਖਿਆ ਭਾਉ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥…॥੪॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 2}
Waheguru is eternal, Waheguru’s logic is eternal; Waheguru’s language is boundless love

…it is such complete, unconditional love for, and devotion to, Waheguru and Waheguru’s Will that rids us of our attachments and other afflictions.

ਜਉ ਹਮ ਬਾਂਧੇ ਮੋਹ ਫਾਸ ਹਮ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਬਧਨਿ ਤੁਮ ਬਾਧੇ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਛੂਟਨ ਕੋ ਜਤਨੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਹਮ ਛੂਟੇ ਤੁਮ ਆਰਾਧੇ ॥੧॥ ਮਾਧਵੇ ਜਾਨਤ ਹਹੁ ਜੈਸੀ ਤੈਸੀ ॥ ਅਬ ਕਹਾ ਕਰਹੁਗੇ ਐਸੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 658}
While I had been bound by the noose of emotional attachment, I have bound You with the bonds of my love. How would You escape from this bond of love, Lord; I have escaped by worshipping and adoring You. O Lord, You know my love for You. Now, what will You do?


Even hell and heaven are not physical places that we go to after our death

Gurbani refers to heaven in a similar manner as mukti:

ਅੰਮਾਵਸ ਮਹਿ ਆਸ ਨਿਵਾਰਹੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਸਮਾਰਹੁ ॥ ਜੀਵਤ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰ ॥ ਅਨਭਉ ਸਬਦੁ ਤਤੁ ਨਿਜੁ ਸਾਰ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 343}
Give up your hopes (on fasting, ritualistic bathing etc.) on the day of the new moon. Remember the Lord, the Inner-knower. You shall attain the Gate of Liberation while yet alive. You shall experience Shabad, Waheguru’s Word, and the essence of your own inner being.

ਸਰਬ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਮੋਖ ਪਾਏ ॥ ਏਕ ਨਿਮਖ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਏ ॥…॥੮॥੨੦॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 290}
Everything is obtained: the heavens, liberation and deliverance, if one sings the Lord’s Glories even for an instant.

If mukti, or heaven, were to be granted to us only after death, then what would be the meaning of such attainment through “eyk inmK hir ky gun gwey” (singing Waheguru’s praises for even a moment), since “hir ky gun gwey” is possible only when we are physically alive? For example, if we surmise that singing Waheguru’s praises at this time would qualify us for mukti or heaven after our death, then what would be the consequences of our irresponsible actions once we have attained such early-admission to post-death mukti or heaven?

The above also brings up another related concept, that to sing Waheguru’s praises does not refer to a physical activity. If that were the case, then one could simply call Waheguru to be great (“hir ky gun gwey”), for just a moment (“eyk inmK”), and achieve mukti (“srb bYkMuT mukiq moK pwey”). The connotation of “hir ky gun gwey” is to be attuned to Waheguru, i.e., for our conscious, our surat, to be completely imbued with the essence of Waheguru, as in:

ਹਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਭਿੰਨੇ ਲੋਇਣਾ ਮਨੁ ਪ੍ਰੇਮਿ ਰਤੰਨਾ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਮਿ ਕਸਵਟੀ ਲਾਇਆ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਸੋਵਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਚਲੂਲਿਆ ਮੇਰਾ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੋ ਭਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਜਨੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮੁਸਕਿ ਝਕੋਲਿਆ ਸਭੁ ਜਨਮੁ ਧਨੁ ਧੰਨਾ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 448-449}
My eyes are drenched with the Nectar of the Lord, and my mind is imbued with His Love, O Lord King. The Lord applied His touch-stone to my mind, and turned it into pure gold. By following the Guru, I have been dyed in the deep red of the poppy, and my mind and body are drenched with His Love. Servant Nanak is drenched with His Fragrance; blessed, blessed is his entire life.

Attaining mukti

As mentioned above, attaining mukti refers to achieving liberation from maya and the vices that control us. It is generally very difficult to liberate ourselves from these afflictions.

ਮਾਇਆ ਮਮਤਾ ਛੋਡੀ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਸੇ ਛੂਟੇ ਸਚੁ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਈ ॥…॥੧੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1024}
Love and attachment to Maya cannot be abandoned. They alone find release, who practice deeds of Truth.

ਹਉ ਵਿਚਿ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਹਉ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਿਆਣਾ ॥ ਮੋਖ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 466}
In ego they are ignorant, and in ego they are wise. They do not know the value of salvation and liberation.

Our misled attempts to attain mukti

In our attempt to attain mukti or heaven we often follow an approach that has been practiced over centuries. It involves actions and rituals associated with our body. However, SGGS emphatically cautions us that such an approach does not work, because anything done at the level of our physical body is irrelevant to attaining a state of mukti or of being in heaven. Waheguru is not naïve to mistake our ablutions and other bodily actions as achievements of our conscious.

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਜੇ ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਕ ਪਤੀਣੇ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਰਾਮੁ ਅਯਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 484}
With filth within the heart, even if one bathes at sacred places of pilgrimage, still, he shall not go to heaven. Nothing is gained by trying to please others — the Lord cannot be fooled.

However, we still keep engaging in such ineffective rituals at the level of our bodies, whether it is observing fasts, dipping in sarovars (bodies of water) or fulfilling the duty of reading Gurbani as an obligation, without living our life according to the message of Gurbani or without even paying attention to what we are reading. We should realize that many of us do engage in rituals that are contrary to the message of Gurbani.

ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਪਾਖੰਡ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਜਮੁ ਜਾਗਾਤੀ ਲੂਟੈ ॥ ਨਿਰਬਾਣ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਵਹੁ ਕਰਤੇ ਕਾ ਨਿਮਖ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਜਿਤੁ ਛੂਟੈ ॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 747}
The religious rites, rituals and hypocrisies that are seen, are plundered by the Messenger of Death, the ultimate tax collector. Without any desires in return, sing the Kirtan of the Creator’s Praises; contemplating Waheguru in meditation, even for an instant, one is saved.

ਅੰਨੁ ਨ ਖਾਇਆ ਸਾਦੁ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੂਜਾ ਭਾਇਆ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 467}
One who does not eat, misses out on the taste. One experiences great pain, in the love of duality.

ਨਾਵਹਿ ਧੋਵਹਿ ਪੂਜਹਿ ਸੈਲਾ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਤੇ ਮੈਲੋ ਮੈਲਾ ॥ ਗਰਬੁ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਸਾਰਥਿ ॥ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਜਪਿ ਹਰਿ ਕਿਰਤਾਰਥਿ ॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 904}
You bathe, wash, and worship stones. But without being imbued with the Lord, you are the filthiest of the filthy. Subduing your ego, you shall receive the supreme guidance of God. Meditating on the Lord, the mortal is liberated.

ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਭਿ ਸਾਸਤ ਇਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਪੜਿਆ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥…॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 747}
One may read all the books of the Vedas, the Bible, the Simritees and the Shaastras, but they will not bring liberation.

Mukti cannot be achieved as a barter in exchange for specific deeds

Anything done with the expectation that we would get mukti defeats the purpose, because by definition it becomes a trade, or a barter deal.

ਧਰਮੀ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਗਾਵਾਵਹਿ ਮੰਗਹਿ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥…॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 469}
The righteous waste their righteousness, by seeking the door of salvation.

ਕਿਰਿਆਚਾਰ ਕਰਹਿ ਖਟੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਇਤੁ ਰਾਤੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਬਾਜੀ ਹਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਮੇਰੇ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਰਖਿ ਲੇਵਹੁ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰੀ ॥ ਕੋਟਿ ਮਧੇ ਕੋ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਹੋਰਿ ਸਗਲੇ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 495}
They perform the four rituals and six religious rites; the world is engrossed in these. They are not cleansed of the filth of their ego within; without the Guru, they lose the game of life.  || 1 ||   O my Lord and Master, please, grant Your Grace and preserve me. Out of millions, hardly anyone is a servant of the Lord. All the others are mere traders.

Does it mean that we should not live by the Naam, or engage in sewa etc? We should, but not because we want something in return. We should do so because we feel love for it, because we get joy in it by itself, because it comes natural to us.

ਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲਾਰੇ ॥…॥੧॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 534}
I do not seek power, and I do not seek liberation. My mind is in love with Your Lotus Feet.

ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ਸੁਣੀ ਦਾਤਾਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਢਾਢੀ ਕਉ ਮਹਲਿ ਬੁਲਾਵੈ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਦੇਖਦਿਆ ਦੁਖ ਭੁਖ ਗਈ ਢਾਢੀ ਕਉ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥…॥੯॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1097}
God, the Great Giver, heard the prayer, and summoned the minstrel to the Mansion of His Presence. Gazing upon God, the minstrel was rid of all pain and hunger; he could not think of anything else to ask.

ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਾਖੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਾਣੀ ਪੀਵਤ ਹੀ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਭਇਆ ॥ ਦਰ ਦਰਸਨ ਕਾ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਬੈਕੁੰਠੈ ਕਰੈ ਕਿਆ ॥੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 360}
The Teachings of the Guru, the Ambrosial Bani — drinking them in, one becomes accepted. Unto the one who loves the Lord’s Court, and the Blessed Vision of His Darshan, of what use is liberation or paradise?

What does help in achieving mukti?

Such unconditional love and devotion, as mentioned above, comes to us with Guru’s bakhshish. We can then be liberated from our spiritual afflictions.

ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਏ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਸਦ ਹੀ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਏ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਤੇ ਮਿਲੈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਨ ਤਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥੯॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 1058}
One who lives the Word of the Guru’s Shabad becomes Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive. He remains forever immersed in the Lord. By Guru’s Grace, one is blessed with glorious greatness; he is not afflicted by the disease of egotism.

ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਨੀਕਾ ਨਾਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਨੁ ਅਸਥੂਲੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਵਿਚੁ ਦੇ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਹਉਮੈ ਗਈ ਜੋਤਿ ਰਹੀ ਸਭ ਆਇ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਜੀਉ ਸਦਾ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਹੈ ਸਹਜੇ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੨॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 509-510}
O Nanak, the gate of liberation is very narrow; only the very tiny can pass through. Through egotism, the mind has become bloated. How can it pass through? Meeting the True Guru, egotism departs, and one is filled with the Divine Light. Then, this soul is liberated forever, and it remains absorbed in celestial bliss.

ਤਜਿ ਅਭਿਮਾਨ ਮੋਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਫੁਨਿ ਭਜਨ ਰਾਮ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਵਉ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਹਤ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪੰਥ ਇਹੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ਤੁਮ ਪਾਵਉ ॥੨॥੫॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 219}
Renounce your egotistical pride and your emotional attachment to Maya; focus your consciousness on the Lord’s meditation. Says Nanak, this is the path to liberation. Attain it by following the Guru.

Once we are liberated from our spiritual afflictions, we attain freedom from suffering in our life. In fact, the very distinction between what we generally consider suffering or happiness just disappears.

ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਏ ਬਾਧੇ ਜਿਹ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਤਿਹ ਤੁਮ ਜਾਨਉ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਤਾਹਿ ਤੁਮ ਮਾਨਉ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਕੋ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ॥੩॥੭॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 220}
Those who are not bound by pleasure and pain — know that they are truly wise. O Nanak, recognize those mortal beings as liberated, who live this way of life.

Such a state of mukti is achievable in our very life, and it does not need us first leaving our body. There are several examples from the life of our Gurus and other Gursikhs. When Guru Arjan Sahib was tortured, it is not just that he was able to bear such brutal torture. He had achieved such spiritual heights that suffering did not matter to him. He had attained the rare state of surat where all there was to it was Waheguru’s Will.

ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥੨॥੪੨॥੯੩॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 394}
Your actions are sweet to me. Nanak seeks the treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord.

With Guru’s bakhshish, we can rise above all distinctions between good and bad. Living in Waheguru’s Will becomes a natural part of our being, our very existence.

ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਆਗਿਆ ਆਤਮ ਹਿਤਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਸੋਊ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਹਰਖੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੋਗੁ ॥ ਸਦਾ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਤਹ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਓਗੁ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਸੁਵਰਨੁ ਤੈਸੀ ਉਸੁ ਮਾਟੀ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤੈਸੀ ਬਿਖੁ ਖਾਟੀ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਤੈਸਾ ਰੰਕੁ ਤੈਸਾ ਰਾਜਾਨੁ ॥ ਜੋ ਵਰਤਾਏ ਸਾਈ ਜੁਗਤਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਓਹੁ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੭॥ {ਪੰਨਾ 275}
One who, in his soul, loves the Will of God, is said to be Jivan Mukta — liberated while yet alive. As is joy, so is sorrow to him. He is in eternal bliss, and is not separated from God. As is gold, so is dust to him. As is ambrosial nectar, so is bitter poison to him. As is honor, so is arrogance. As is the beggar, so is the king. Whatever God ordains, that is his way. O Nanak, that being is known as Jivan Mukta.


About the Author


Dr. Satpal Singh is a former Chairperson of the World Sikh Council – America Region. He frequently speaks on Sikh philosophy and the Sikh way of life in various forums and participates in interfaith dialogues on diversity, religion and peace. He also speaks and writes on the issue of violence against women. He is a professor at the University at Buffalo, N.Y.

 Posted by at 12:17 pm

  One Response to “The Concept of Mukti in Sri Guru Granth Sahib – Dr. Satpal Singh”

  1. Dear Prof. Satpal Singh,
    l was out of san jose during the third annual conference on Sri Guru Granth Sahib. So l started to see the video taped proceedings on Chardikala website. I am very happy to see
    and listen to your learned talk on jeevtayan mar raheiye.
    I remember you from your time as a student in PU Physics Department, then as a researcher in TIFR and finally through our our mutual friend, Prof. Gurmukh Singh in Buffalo.
    I really wish I had been in San Jose at the time of the conference to personally meet you and to personally benefit from your wisdom.
    In case you have a chance to come to San Jose any time, please let me know by email. My son lives here and I spend part of the year with him.
    With best wishes,
    V.S. Bhatia
    ( Retd. teacher, PU, Chandigarh )

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