I was listening to Katha (discourse on Gurbaani) at Park Ave Gurdwara a few weeks ago. Giani Ji said that Gurbaani refers to the world as “BHAV-SAGAR”, an ocean. Why has Guru Ji used the metaphor of on ocean with the world? In water you can either SWIM or you can DROWN. Similarly in MAYA (the illusionary world) we can either drown it or we can swim across it and use the world in a positive way in our soul journey.
The Guru Ji is described in Gurbaani as being the boat. Satguru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji says:
ਗੁਰੁ ਜਹਾਜੁ ਖੇਵਟੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਤਰਿਆ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
gur jahaaj khevatt guroo, gur bin tari-aa na ko-e.
The Guru is the Boat, and the Guru is the Boatman (to ferry across this world-ocean). Without the (help of the) Guru, no one can cross over.
ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥
gur parsaad prabh paa-ee-ai, gur bin mukat na ho-e.
By Guru's Grace, one experiences Waheguru. Without the Guru, no one is liberated.
ਗੁਰੁ ਬੋਹਿਥੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਬੇੜੀ ਤੁਲਹਾ ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿ ਪਾਰਿ ਲੰਘਾਇਆ ॥੧॥
gur bohith gur beRee tulhaa, man har jap paar langhaa-i-aa. ||1||
O mind! The Guru is the boat, the ship, the raft (to fery across the world-ocean); (taking refuge in the Guru) meditate on Waheguru, (whoever meditates and chants Waheguru) shall be carried across to the other side. ||1||
On Tuesday night after doing some revision I thought I would for a walk across the Thames and get some fresh air. I put on my iPod and listened and sang along to Gurbani Kirtan while walking. I had the Shabad “Gur Jaisaa Naahee Ko Dev” (which translates as, "There is no deity equal to the Guru.") playing on repeat. I was walking alongside the river going towards the Tower of London and singing “Gur Jaisaa Naahee Ko Dev”. I paused and looked the flowing river. It reminded me of Giani Ji’s Katha. The river flowing looked beautiful. It seemed to flow quite fast; I suppose that’s bit like life. Life rushes along so fast and we get SWEPT AWAY without enjoying the moment and making EACH SWAAS (breath) fruitful.
It was about 10.15pm and so there were quite a few people out eating at restaurants on the riverside or drinking in the pub. While walking I noticed people smoking, drinking, couples engrossed in Kaam and a drunken man staggering. As I walked further up the riverside there was a HUGE SHIP (looked like a war ship) near the Tower Bridge. I have lived in London for three years. However, this was the first time I have walked down that side of the river since starting university. I didn’t even know where the London Dungeons were until Tuesday! Waheguru.
I looked at the huge ship and thought “ਸੱਚੇ ਪਾਤਸ਼ਾਹ, ਤੂੰ ਕਮਾਲ ਹੈਂ! O God, Amazing!” I was in awe looking at the ship. It reminded me of the Shabad that the GURU IS THE BOAT. I thought how wonderful. If you put IRON in water, it will sink to the bottom. Look at this ship! It’s huge, made of metal, and carries a heavy load and yet STILL FLOATING.
A boat can carry so much weight and not sink. A car will sink in a river with its weight. However, a car in a ferry will not sink. How amazing is this. We are imperfect and are full of AUGUNS (demerits). However, even with the weight of past paaps (sins) we can ferry across the world ocean on the boat of the Guru. Look at the Grace Sahib has done on us by offering us NAAM & GURMAT, however it is up to us to get up and take benefit of this gift. We have to commit ourselves to the Guru. As Bhai Gurdaas Jee (the contemporary of the first 6 Guru Sahibs and maternal uncle of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji) says: "Take the one step towards the Guru and the Guru will take millions of steps forward to welcome you."
As I walked back from Tower Bridge, I looked at the drunkards, the couples engrossed in Kaam and people smoking etc and I thought the whole world is drowning in vikaars, the whole world is drowning in KAAM (desires), KRODH (anger), LOBH (greed), MOH (attachment) and HANKAAR (ego). However, does anyone realise this? If you are drowning you need to call for help, but what does one do when he or she doesn’t know they are drowning. Rab Rakha.
“Dhan Satguru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee” and “Aise Gur Ko Bal Bal Jaaee-ai, Aap Mukt Mohe Taare” kept ringing through my ears while seeing the boat and then seeing all these people around me. I thought how lucky are we to be blessed with such a huge boat, such a magnificent ferry, the SHABAD GURU, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Anyone who wishes to grasp hold of Guru Ji’s feet through reading, contemplating and following Gurbaani is ferried across this world ocean. Just as hundreds of cars can be loaded on a ferry and take across the channel to France, anyone who does NAAM JAPNAA and holds onto the Guru's Path will ferry across regarldess of the weight and mistakes they made in our past.
However, it is so sad when we are born as Sikhs, we are drowning in this world-ocean and not knowing that the LIFE-JACKET (i.e. Gurbaani) is right near us. Perhaps it’s so near that we don’t appreciate it. Waheguru. Guru Sahib says:
ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਭੇਟੇ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਨਾ ਥੀਐ ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਲੋਹੁ ਬੂਡਾ ਬੇੜੀ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੩॥
bin satgur bhette kanchan naa thee-ai, manmukh lohu booddaa beRee paas. ||3||
The Manmukh, the self-willed person who follows their mind, is (like) iron, which without meeting with the True Guru - The Philosopher's Stone, cannot become transformed into gold. The boat of the Guru is very close to the iron like person, but he sinks (in the river of vikaars, corruption & wickedness). ||3||
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਹੈ ਬੋਹਿਥਾ ਵਿਰਲੈ ਕਿਨੈ ਵੀਚਾਰਿਆ ॥
satguroo hai bohithaa, virlai kinai veechaari-aa.
The True Guru is the boat, but few are those who realize this.
ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਉਤਾਰਿਆ ॥੧੩॥
kar kirpaa paar utaari-aa. ||13||
Granting His Grace, He carries them across. ||13||