Srirag is an ancient rag
(musical mode) that is sung at dusk. It invokes a mood of thoughtfulness, introspection, and seriousness. It is one of the most revered rags in the classical world and holds much grace and majesty. In the context of Gurbani/The Guru Granth Sahib, this musical mode is about devotion, dedication, and seriousness. Whatever advice is being given in this mode is advice that the mind is urged to listen to, to take seriously, and to act on. The two saloks
(stanzas) that appear before this pauri
(composition) delve into the priest’s or Brahmin’s prescriptions, which tell one how to engage in ritual and Guru Nanak’s response to and understanding of those prescriptions. This composition is made up of chants
, which do not have any pauses and evoke a sense of layering of desire and longing, an exploration of feeling the presence of the One.
In this composition, there are many players or characters that serve as symbols for something more vast. Who are these characters? First is the young bride-to-be, in her prime in the traditional sense, in that she is deemed ready to get married, in that she is visibly youthful and excited and looking for the spouse. She may not know the way of marriage yet, but she is ready to have this experience. This young bride represents all human-brides — all seekers who are ready to experience union or connection with another character, the Husband or the Spouse, IkOankar
(One Creative and Pervasive Foce, 1Force, the One). She is really and genuinely seeking. Many of us claim to be seekers, or we may deny that we are seeking. We may not know what we want yet as seekers. We may not know who motivates us — are we only seeking because our friends, parents, or companions are telling us to seek? Do we know what we want?
Does that desire for connection come from within us?
The companions of the young bride, or the feminine friends, represent the virtuous ones. These are the ones that seekers aim to be in community with, who help us and guide us in our relationship with the Spouse. These are the people we confide in, consult with, and have fun with. The feminine beings are also all virtuous ones, regardless of gender-identity. All seekers take on this feminine identity in relationship with the One.
Finally, there are two settings described: that of the parents’ house and that of the in-laws’ house. The parents’ house can represent our lives in the world in the classically religious sense or our current
state. The in-laws’ house can represent our lives beyond this world in the classically religious sense or the future
state of connection with IkOankar, which happens while still alive and in the world. In this latter understanding that the state of connection happens here and now, we understand that even in a worldly marriage, the world remains the same. Our perspectives shift when we are in love, and we physically and emotionally change. How we perceive
the presence of IkOankar changes between these two “houses.” It is not that the One is only present in some places and not in others. It is that we begin to feel that presence when we are in a relationship with the One. Our presence, our preparation, our companionship, our goals, and our perceptions all change. Thus, this composition ought to be understood as one that takes from the outer worldly ceremonies to point to an inner world — that uses the imagery and cultural significance of the wedding ceremony to help us as seekers understand a relationship in the worldly sense to the relationship in the transworld sense.
In the first stanza, Guru Ramdas opens with a question: how, by doing what, should the young and ignorant human-bride, the new seeker, experience the 1-Light while living in the world?
This first stanza is one of seeking
. The Guru
shows us how to ask for guidance and attempt to learn the way. The ignorance mentioned here is self-admitted, and it is not negative. This is about the new seeker experiencing a shift, going from an unaware state to an aware state. There is great bravery and vulnerability in saying, I do not know how to do this yet, but I know that I want to. I know what I want to experience. I am so excited even by the feeling of wanting to have this experience. What can I do to have a glimpse of the One?
The answer is given right away and is so simple: the Pervasive One bestows grace. The seeker who becomes Wisdom-oriented is able to learn the deeds that help them live in the Divine presence and Remembrance of the One. Through the grace of the One, we seek to connect with, and through the guidance of the Wisdom, we come to experience connection with and presence of the One, the Spouse.
The Guru repeats that through the guidance of the Wisdom, the young and ignorant human-bride, the new seeker, is able to learn the behaviors that will help them live in the Divine presence and Remembrance of the One. By becoming Wisdom-oriented, the seeker can learn about the next phase, live in the realm of the seeker, and be in constant contemplation or remembrance of the 1-Light. In this state of existence, the seeker is able to cultivate a sense of carefree-ness. The Guru says it is as if the human-bride is swinging their arms in excitement and joy, running around with their companions, and singing wedding songs. In this level of excitement and joy, whatever one’s versions of the afterlife or the Divine Court or the Day of Judgment that exist, those questions and anxieties about what will become of us there are gone. Regardless of ideas about our “accounts” or our “karma” or consequences, we are excited at this new state of seeking and anticipating connection. The 1-Light is also the Fear-Eliminator, and it is in Identification with that Fear-Eliminator that our fears and anxieties are taken care of. In this way, the Guru says, the young and ignorant seeker, through Wisdom-orientedness, is able to experience IkOankar while living in the world. Will we ask for guidance even when we are only beginning to come into awareness? Will we pursue the path with excitement? Will we cultivate a sense of carefree-ness?