Whenever I see posters, hoardings of present-day saints and self-proclaimed “spiritual gurus” publicising their spirituality, my mind wanders to the great works of art created by unknown artists who considered it quite natural not to “stamp” it with their names. We, the common people, are just the opposite; we want to be praised all the time. Is it our self-centredness? Or is it our ahankar (pride)?
Ahankar is a compound of Sanskrit aham (I) and kar (maker), that is, I-maker which stands for ego, self-conceit and pride. Ahankar or haumai is an undesirable trait. “Haumai is a deadly disease and the cause of the unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth” (Guru Granth Sahib), says Guru Amar Das. Though a common man takes pride in worldly possessions, even spiritual gurus are full of haumai over their spiritual accomplishments.
Guru Tegh Bahadur says, “Pilgrimages, fasting and charities if they lead to guman (pride) go waste like the bath by an elephant (who after bathing besmears his body with dirt”). Also, haumai is the greatest obstacle in the path of realisation.
It will not allow the person to go near God since haumai and remembrance of God’s naam are at variance with each other. The two will not live in the same abode. “Haumai navai nali virodhi hai dui na vasahi ik thai” (The person with haumai is like a stone which even if kept in water for long, remains unsoaked at heart; he allows his senses to be ruled by his passions, his pride stands between him and the Lord). Guru Nanak calls these men manmukh — self-centred and egoistic.
How to get rid of this condition which Guru Ram Das considers as “man antari rogu” (disease within a man’s psyche)? First step is the realisation of vastness of the Almighty and then our miniscule existence.
We have enjoyed some special qualities or privileges only as a result of His nadar (grace). This realisation can happen only when the manmukh turns into a gurmukh — oriented towards the Guru. Gurmukh believes in humility and seva.
Guru Arjan regards humility as a weapon against not only ahankar but all vikars (evil tendencies). Seva instils humility in a person. He remains in a blissful condition sans false pride. He who serves without reward, he alone attains God. With seva, humility and understanding the hukam (will) of the Almighty, one attains liberation.
(Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University )