Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
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What is Rasa: Aesthetic Flavour
KARTAR SINGH: Call it whatever you like. For me the weapon with which you struck me was sharper than the sword, and more pointed and piercing than an arrow, and that is why the wound is deep and painful. Your remarks this morning, on my recitation were subtler and sharper than any weapon. When I was reciting the Sukhmani you said, "There is devotion and eager thirst, but how sad that there is no aesthetic flavour (rasa) in your recitation." I am so seriously disturbed by the last two words of your remarks that I can neither concentrate nor recite my prayers.
AUTHOR: I was greatly impressed by your recitations, its enthusiasm and devotion, but out of pity for your spiritual state, these words slipped out of my lips. I have been noticing this shortcoming for the last six or seven years, In the last prison, we did not get any opportunity to talk to each other. When we did talk among our friends, our companions kept us busy talking about random subjects. The Gurus have said:
If you give your virtues to a person,If the mysteries of inner life are revealed to people who do not deserve to know them they are wasted. Then how to judge who deserves and who does not deserve:
Who knows not their true value,
You will thereby throw them away cheaply.1
The Name of God,So, now, you know what should be the qualities of a person who deserves spiritual knowledge. I have listened to the story of your past life. You got baptised for some selfish interest and not to lead a spiritual life but for some ulterior motive. By seeking the association of religious men you have learnt something about contemplation and meditation or His Name. But you have not acquired that Amrit-rasa, that ambrosial flavour of divine life. Whatever spiritual efforts you made, for that you tried to get a material reward. You always prayed for material goods and material needs. You never prayed for the Light of divine Name, for faith, for self-less service. You always prayed for worldly happiness. While I do not blame you for it, your fate was perhaps such. Every evening we pray to God in Rahiras (Evening Prayer) for the Light of His Name: In this hymn the mystery of aesthetic rasa is revealed.
His divine Music, are precious treasures,
Which God keeps with the saints.
He who accepts the Word of God
As Truth and nothing but the Truth
To him these treasure are revealed.2
O Apostle of God, True Guru, Embodiment of Truth,
I make before Thee, O Enlightener, but one supplication.
We that are low and insignificant worms,
Seek refuge in Thee, O True Guru.
Mercifully inspire me with the Light of True Name.
My Friend, my divine Guru,
Kindle in me the Light of His Name.
The Name of God is my life-breath,
The praise of the Lord is my creed and faith. Refrain.
Blessed and fortunate are the seers of God,
Who have faith in the Lord and are athirst for Him.
The gift of divine Name slakes their thirst.
In the company of the saints their virtues shine forth,
Unfortunate and victims of death are they,
Who have not acquired the divine flavour (rasa) of His Name.
Cursed and blasphemous is the life of those,
Who have not sought the company of the True Guru.
Accursed be the hopes set on living.
Blessed from birth are those,
Who have taken refuge
In the holy company of the True Guru.
Hail, all hail to the holy congregation.
In whose association is acquired,
The sweet savour of His Presence.
In the company of His Apostle O Nanak,
The Light of His Name is revealed.
Rahiris: Guru Ram Das : Rag Gujri.In these words of the Evening prayer there is no word which cannot be easily understood. But have you ever seriously reflected over them.
KARTAR SINGH: I did reflect over these hymns but did not realise that I had not attained the blissful flavour of the hymns. I thought the contemplation of the Name was the divine flavour. So I contemplated the Name day and night as best as I could. For a year or two I was in a state of self-intoxication. My companions thought that something is wrong with my health. I considered myself a contemplative. And now I learn from you that I have not even tasted the flavour of divine inspiration.
AUTHOR: Why do you always talk and brood about the past. What use is it? Why not tread the right path so that you may be blessed with the nectar of divine inspiration? Why cry for mere flavour? You will be blessed with inner peace, inner fragrance and illumination, if you still walk on the right path.
KARTAR SINGH: I wanted to ask you what rasa (aesthetic joy,) is and now you talk of inner tranquillity, fragrance and what not. Do all these things exist. You now say, one should drink ambrosial nectar with every breath. I saw before coming to this prison how the Sikh baptism was conducted but the ceremony is called "taking the Amrita (Nectar) or Sikh baptism. It is however beyond my comprehension how Amrita (E1ixir) can be taken with every breath.
AUTHOR: It is clear from the event; of your earlier life, why you remained deprived of the Amrit rasa (aesthetic flavour of Elixir) The first mistake you made was to go for baptism without preparing yourself for it. You got baptised just because other people were getting baptised. Either you become baptised to please other people or just for some other ulterior motive, like posing as an orthodox Sikh in Society. The real Amrit (grace of baptism) is achieved thus:
He alone knows what the essence of Amrita isYou did not know what the real value of the grace of baptism was. How could you ever know what Amrit-rasa is.
Who knows what it is worth.3
"The frog resides near the lotus and knows not its fragrance; the bamboo is found close to the sandalwood and remains devoid of its sweet smell; the crane lives near the swan, but cannot detect the pearls as the swan can. The philosopher's stone is found among rocks which are ignorant of its value; and Elixir is generally found near poison. The deer knows not the musk within its own navel; the snake is ignorant of the jewel in its head; the bee near the honey, and a barren woman living near a husband yield no result. The owl gains nothing from the sun, and barley suffers under rain. What are food and clothing to an ailing man? So also the Guru's Wisdom does not sprout in a heart which is like clay and barren soil. Separation from God prevents the seeds from sprouting."4There is no need to worry now. You took Amrit (baptism) only in imitation of other Sikhs or for ulterior motives, without preparing yourself for it. Even then your baptism has born fruit. The Guru has fulfilled many of your desires. You have developed devotion, detachment and deep longing for higher spiritual values. If you persevere in the contemplation of His Name, it is possible that the seeds that have been sown in your barren heart may sprout after the rain of His grace has fallen on them. The plant may develop yielding fruits. I do not blame you alone. Even those who baptised you without seeing and probing whether you deserve it or not, are also to be blamed. They should have tested you, prepared your mind and soul before putting into it the seeds of spiritual life.
KARTAR SINGH: Do you mean to say that the Panj Pyaras (the Five who Baptise) made a mistake. Guru Gobind Singh himself accepted baptism from the Panj Pyaras (the Five Elects ones). People who go and seek baptism are not supposed to question those who baptise. The five are generally selected by the Congregation. I do not doubt that they did not baptise me properly.
AUTHOR: I do not question the ability and spiritual authority of the Panj Pyaras. The question of choosing those who are morally and spiritually competent is a difficult one. Sometimes that does not happen. I have already explained that even in ordinary farming the seeds cannot sprout in barren land or clayish earth. Seeds do not grow even in improperly tilled soil. When seeds are sown out of season and not sufficiently deep they die. There are many saintly Sikhs in the Sikh community. Baptism I conducted by them yields good results. But now a days there are so called preachers (pracharaks) whose sole aim is to please rich people. They do not lead the life of contemplation of divine Name. It is Panj Pyaras (Five who Baptise) selected from such people that yield poor result. How can they inspire a devotee with what they themselves do not believe and practice? They give formal instructions about guru-mantra but cannot give spiritual inspiration of the divine Name. Even those who go for baptism do so with some other motive than entering spiritual and meditative life. Those who baptise are generally devoid of spiritual insight and are therefore incapable of testing those who come for baptism. Many clever preachers thus go on baptising people indiscriminately for the sake of money and popularity. Guru Gobind Singh baptised only those who were prepared to sacrifice their life and possessions for the Guru's cause, but now a days people like to get baptised by politicians who are utterly devoid of spirituality. Those who lead a meditative life avoid using their spiritual powers and gifts and prefer living in solitude.
This is the reason why educated people run after hypocritical saints and impostor gurus, for peace and solace. Some of these impostor guru and hypocritical saints go to the extent of distorting interpretations of certain hymns of Sikh scriptures and explain them away to suit their own tastes and motives. Our so called preachers do not even have fundamental knowledge of Sikhism.
So now come to the point. It is no use entering devious discussion and raising one question after another. Express all your doubts and questions once for all. I will try to explain them all to you.
1. Adi Guru Granth : Guru Amar Das, Maru Var: Shlok G Nanak p. 1086
2. ibid : G. Ram Das, Kalyan, Asht p. 1326
3. ibid: G. Nanak, Maru p. 993
4. Bhai Gurdas, Kabit Sawayyas No. 299
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