In the twenty-first pauri
, the twenty-first step of the ladder, Guru Amardas reveals the path to becoming Wisdom-facing. It involves contemplating the Wisdom within us, both internally and externally, and perpetually abiding in the presence of the Eternal. Moving on to the twenty-second pauri, the twenty-second step of the ladder, Guru Amardas emphasizes a crucial point: if anyone turns away from the Wisdom-Guru, they cannot attain liberation without the eternal Wisdom.
Guru Amardas employs the term "vemukh," also known as "bemukh," signifying someone who is not facing or has turned away from the Wisdom-Guru, implying the cessation of following. We pause to grasp this thought. These individuals once faced the Wisdom-Guru but, at some point, stopped doing so and turned away. Guru Amardas underscores that those who turned away from the Wisdom-Guru cannot achieve liberation or freedom. Liberation is impossible without a connection to the eternal Wisdom–no alternative path exists. Guru Amardas encourages us to seek confirmation from those with discerning intellect and those who have deeply contemplated whether liberation can be attained without the Wisdom-Guru. The "vemukhs" in ignorance continue to wander through countless cycles of life and death. Without the connection with the eternal Wisdom, they remain trapped in this cycle, unable to break free. However, there is hope for the "vemukhs." They can attain liberation by aligning themselves with the "feet"
of the eternal Wisdom-Guru. By doing so, the eternal Wisdom-Guru guides them to attune themselves to Sabad
(the hymn-like stanza embodying the word-sound of Infinite Wisdom). Once more, we are urged to reflect upon this fundamental truth: liberation remains beyond reach without the connection with the eternal Wisdom-Guru. Guru Amardas concludes this ladder step, reiterating that one cannot attain liberation without the eternal Wisdom.
We reflect on the term "mukti
," which appears in every line of this five-line verse. What does “mukti” mean? Why such a profound emphasis on "mukti"? This word encompasses a rich array of meanings: freedom, liberation, emancipation, salvation, and deliverance. It is the zenith of spiritual growth and self-realization, signifying the state of recognition of one’s true nature and connection to the One. Throughout history and today, pursuing "mukti" has been a central quest for humanity. Consequently, a marketplace of spiritualists has emerged, each claiming to offer the key to "mukti." In Sikh thought, "mukti" occurs when there is a shift from the sense of self (Iness) to an awareness of the larger Self (1Ness). It is the ultimate freedom and liberation that arises when our perspective shifts from claiming to be individual rivers to realizing that we are part of the vast ocean. The rivers still exist, but once they merge into the ocean, they no longer identify as separate entities; instead, their narrow Iness transforms into vast 1Ness. This profound understanding comes from a deep knowledge of Nam
, Identification with IkOankar
(One Universal Integrative Force, 1Force, the One). This transformative stage, this profound experience, is facilitated by the Wisdom-Guru. Remarkably, in this verse, there is no condemnation of those who have turned away from the Wisdom-Guru. Many of us may find ourselves in such a state. Why have we turned away? This turning away is attributed to ignorance, doubt, and being entangled in the cyclical patterns of life. Herein lies the compassion and boundless generosity of the Wisdom-Guru—a place of no disapproval. When we desire to cease our aimless wandering and break free from the cycles of existence, the Wisdom-Guru, through the connection to Sabad, can guide us back. This opportunity is open to all, including those who have turned away. With unwavering certainty, we are being told of the paramount importance of "mukti"—freedom. As humans, we often seek validation from experts. Acknowledging this intrinsic aspect of our nature, we are encouraged to seek confirmation from those who have refined their intellect through deep contemplation. Yet, the message is crystal clear: without the guidance of the Wisdom-Guru, true freedom remains elusive. The path to transforming from "vemukhs" (those who have turned away) to “sanmukhs” (those who face the Wisdom-Guru) is unequivocally presented—it is through the Wisdom-Guru. There is no circumventing this process if we genuinely seek "mukti," freedom. The hope that such transformation is attainable is profound. The question beckons: Are we prepared to wholeheartedly attach ourselves to the "feet" of the Wisdom-Guru?
We may ask ourselves: Are we courageous enough to engage in introspection and determine whether we are "vemukhs" or "sanmukhs"? Are we prepared to embrace changes that might facilitate the transformation from being "vemukhs" to becoming "sanmukhs"? Do we genuinely yearn for "mukti" or freedom? If so, are we committed to deepening our connection with the Wisdom-Guru and drawing nearer to the state of "mukti"? Consider the profound symbolism of humility conveyed by the "feet" in this verse. It is an essential force in our spiritual growth. How can we cultivate and embody this virtue within ourselves?