This composition is from the Third House of Nanak, Guru Amardas, and is titled Anand -
joy, happiness, bliss. It is sung in Ramkali rag
(musical mode), an early morning rag used to evoke feelings of triumph in all conditions. Anand, in the simplistic sense, means happiness and joy—however, the joy that the Guru
shares is different. Our happiness and joys are linked to certain flavors, tastes, things, and events that end at a particular time; they are temporary. However, the anand that the Guru describes does not end; it is eternal. This composition of forty pauris
—literally, steps on a ladder, reveals what joy is, how it happens, why it happens, what shape it takes, and how to experience it.
In the thirteenth pauri, the Guru’s thirteenth step of the ladder, the Guru says that the amrit, the immortal nectar of Nam, which the divine-natured beings and sages seek, I have received that amrit from the Wisdom-Guru.
The word amrit
means beyond death and time—immortal. In the context of the Guru Granth Sahib
, the Sikh scriptural canon, the religious text, and the charter, amrit is synonymous with Nam
(Identification with IkOankar
, 1Force, the One). The Word of Wisdom (Sabad Guru) is often described as amrit,
which connects individuals with Nam. Amrit is sometimes used as an adjective to describe the sweetness or pleasantness of a thing. This amrit, this immortal nectar, this immortal elixir, is sought after by the gods, goddesses, and sages. The Guru emphasizes this sought-after amrit; this precious immortal nectar is received through the grace of the Wisdom-Guru, and now the Eternal resides in the mind. We pause to absorb—this is how the Guru received the amrit, the immortal nectar, the eternality. The Guru then says everything, including all living creatures, is created by the One. He has come to experience the One and touch the One. And That One, the eternal Sovereign, has become pleasing; greed, selfishness, and self-centeredness
have been eradicated. Those the One is pleased with are graced with this gift of immortality from the Wisdom-Guru. The Guru ends this step by saying, I have received that amrit from the Wisdom-Guru.
We reflect on amrit, the gift of nectar, the gift of immortality. Many Indic and global mythologies narrate their gods, goddesses, and divine beings possessing this nectar
. However, the Guru categorically states they are still searching for this nectar. What does that mean for us? It means that we, too, can search for this nectar. It is equally available to all of us. If the gods, goddesses, and sages are searching for this amrit, it means that this immortal nectar cannot be limited to a physical form. Neither can it be positioned in any space nor occur through effort, despite the mythological stories we may have heard. Perhaps gods, goddesses, and sages can provide us with a particular kind of “nectar,” but not amrit that the Guru is telling us. The grace of the Wisdom-Guru gives this immortal nectar, this amrit, to individuals when Eternality comes to reside in their minds. Those rare ones who receive this gift of immortality experience the vastness; they recognize that the One created all living beings. They see the One pervading everywhere. They want to touch the One. Awed, the One becomes endearing and charming to them. They want a relationship with the One. Lovingly and willingly, they submit to the One. Selfishness, smallness, and self-centeredness are removed from them. Only when the eternal Sovereign becomes charming and pleasing will selfishness, smallness, and self-centeredness leave us. This path is for those searching for the amrit, the immortal nectar. It is not for all. This gift is given to those whom the One becomes pleased with. They alone receive this gift of immortality granted by the Wisdom-Guru. They feel the grace; they feel the presence; they transform. We pause. Who are the lucky ones? Why them and not us? If we go down this road, we will get stuck because these questions are never-ending and beyond intellect. This mystery is the mystery of the One alone, beyond our intellectual capacity to unravel. So why go there? It will only lock us. Instead, let’s rise and look at this as a love story. All beings are created by the One, and those whom the One graces receive the gift of immortality. Though flowers bloom everywhere, rare ones see the One in them. This mystery is the mystery of wisdom. This is the mystery of love. This is the mystery of faith, learning, and so much more. Let us focus on receiving what the Guru tells us: who gives this amrit, the immortal nectar, who receives it, and how selfishness, smallness, and self-centeredness are eradicated. Do we want this
nectar? In today’s global reality, the nectars that are being distributed are physical. These nectars cannot eliminate our selfishness, smallness, and self-centeredness. The death of selfishness, smallness, and self-centeredness has not happened. And neither has the eternal Sovereign become charming to us. So how, then, can we be transformed? We all have the potential to receive this gift of amrit, immortality. The path is clearly described for those searching for the amrit, the immortality, the immortal nectar. The gift of immortality from the Wisdom-Guru that the gods, goddesses, and sages search for. We need first to prepare ourselves if we want to receive it.
Many faiths and traditions have forms of nectar within their practice, including the Sikh tradition. What is amrit, the immortal nectar for the Sikhs? The Guru Granth Sahib has multiple references to amrit, the immortal nectar; amrit is Nam, and it is given by the Guru. History tells us that from the time of Guru Nanak to the time of Guru Gobind Singh, amrit was given by the Guru personality. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh created the initiation ceremony, Khande-ki-Pahul.
Taking Khande-ki-Pahul is to be initiated into a particular lifestyle where new learnings begin. Those who want immortality must identify with the Immortal—Nam. Lovers and warriors were and are synthesized into the Order of the Khalsa by the initiation ceremony of the Double-edged sword. Initiation is not an experience. Initiation is not the end goal; it is the first step. The first step in that learning; initiation is a conscious lifestyle change. The physical amrit of the Khande-ki-Pahul ceremony prepares the body to develop the lifestyle to receive the internal non-physical amrit, to become One-like, who is love and justice. At the initiation ceremony, we are nurtured to wake up at amrit
; cleanse, reflect at amrit
; sing the amrit.
It is to train the body to confront death, to die while alive. It is the preparation, the discipline, and the lifestyle so that the mind and body are prepared to receive that undying non-physical amrit from the Wisdom-Guru, which is available to all. The initiation ceremony creates the Guru’s disciple; it is the Guru’s initiation. This is how a seeker becomes the sovereign. In Sikh tradition, Guru’s grace is to take that initiation. In Asa Ki Var,
Song of Hope, Guru Nanak tells us that we must prepare the body’s soil before sowing the seed. The seed cannot grow in unprepared soil. When the eternal Sovereign comes to reside in our mind, the grace of the Wisdom-Guru bestows the amrit, the immortal nectar, on us, eradicating our greed, pettiness, and ego. Do we want our greed, pettiness, and ego to be eliminated? Are we willing to prepare ourselves to be chiseled to receive the non-physical immortal nectar? Are we ready to journey from the seeker stage to the initiation stage?